Archive for the ‘Palestine’ Category
By Stephen Gowans
Pro-Israeli propagandists on the front lines of Israel’s flagging public relations war label the Palestinian resistance as a terrorist movement that threatens Israeli civilians. But the labels “terrorist” and “war criminal” are more aptly applied to Israel.
Prior to Israel launching Operation Protective Edge, not a single Israeli citizen had been killed by rocket or mortar fire out of Gaza since November 2012, when Israel had launched an earlier assault on the territory. Only a small fraction (one-twentieth) of Israelis killed by the Palestinian resistance in the current Gaza conflict have been civilians. By contrast, Israel has killed three Palestinian civilians for every militant it has killed.
Over 99 percent of civilian deaths in the conflict have come at the hands of Israeli forces.
Yesterday, Israel bombed Gaza’s lone power plant. Gazans rely on the plant to power machinery to desalinate their drinking water. Israeli forces also bombed government offices, a radio and TV broadcast building, and the prime minister’s residence. Deliberately destroying civilian infrastructure is a war crime. Israel’s aim in disrupting Gaza’s power supply and disturbing its supplies of drinking water is to exacerbate the already intolerable conditions in the Gaza Strip to turn the population against Hamas. This is terrorism—violence used against a civilian population to achieve political goals.
Israel says it’s pummelling Gaza, killing civilians, and destroying civilian infrastructure to destroy tunnels the Palestinian resistance could use to kill or kidnap civilians. But how many times has the Palestinian resistance emerged from tunnels to kidnap or kill civilians? None. And how many Israeli civilians were killed by rocket fire in the year and half before Operation Protective Edge? Zero.
The use of violence by the Palestinian resistance against Israel is legitimate. Over 700,000 Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes by Jewish settlers in a massive ethnic cleansing operation over six decades ago. None were permitted to return. Today, the exile and diaspora community stands at five million. Palestinians who remained in the 80 percent of their country seized by Zionist settlers are second class citizens—non-Jews in a Jewish state. The remaining 20 percent of historic Palestine remains under the heel of a brutal Israeli military occupation.
To sum up: The violence of the Palestinian resistance is legitimate. The harm it has caused Israeli civilians is minimal. The violence of Israel against Palestinians is illegitimate. It is the violence of the oppressor enforcing its domination. The harm it has caused Palestinian civilians is immense.
Charts based on “Israel destroys home of top political leader for Hamas,” The New York Times, July 29, 2014 and “Dozens die as fighting intensifies in Gaza”, CNN, July 29, 2014 cited by Glen Greenwald, “Terrorism in the Israeli attack on Gaza”, The Intercept, July 29, 2014.
By Stephen Gowans
At least, that was the implication of words spoken by White House press secretary Josh Earnest on Friday.
Earnest was doing his best to mobilize public opinion against what he called “the Putin regime.” That included holding Russian president Vladimir Putin responsible for downing Malaysian Airlines Flight 17. The White House spin doctor explained: “Whether it is the Russians themselves that pulled the trigger or Russian separatists trained by Russians, it’s all the same. It all goes back, ultimately, to Vladimir Putin.”
By the same reasoning, “Whether it is the Americans themselves that pulled the trigger in Gaza, so far killing over 1,000, most non-combatants, or Israeli soldiers equipped with US-supplied weapons, it’s all the same. It all goes back, ultimately, to Barack Obama.”
The difference, however, is that we know the US supplied the Israelis with the weapons that are killing Palestinians, flattening their homes, destroying their mosques, terrorizing their children, and damaging their hospitals, but we don’t know whether the Russians actually provided rebels in Ukraine with missiles capable of bringing down an airliner flying at 33,000 feet. Washington says they did, but has presented no evidence. We don’t even know for sure what brought the airliner down.
We don’t know either whether Russian forces are firing artillery into Ukraine, though the Pentagon says they are. But, again, no evidence is presented.
A Pentagon spokesman says civilian casualties in Ukraine are “of great concern” because artillery fire is imprecise. But the Pentagon doesn’t seem to be concerned about a Human Rights Watch report that says that Ukrainian forces fired unguided missiles into Donetsk, killing 16 civilians. Nor do they appear to be concerned about the casualties in Gaza—that is, concerned enough to pressure the Israelis to stop the slaughter. After all, if the Obama regime can demand that Putin press the Ukrainian rebels to lay down their weapons, surely it can press its Israeli client to do the same.
Comfortable in its accustomed role as the unofficial propaganda arm of US foreign policy, The New York Times reported today that the destruction of Flight 17 “stunned the world.” Nearly 300 were killed. But the newspaper has yet to place the Israeli assault on Gaza in the world-stunning category, even though the Gaza death toll is over three times greater.
That’s not to diminish the airline tragedy, but one does wonder why deaths over Ukraine are said to have “stunned the world” while the higher death toll in Gaza is of an entirely different order…regrettable, but ultimately justifiable.
That, anyway, is how Western leaders spin it. Obama say he mourns the civilian casualties in Gaza but adds that “no nation should be subjected to a hail of rockets or underground incursions.” So, the carnage in Gaza is justified, to protect Israeli civilians.
But as researcher David Morrison points out in a recent report on his website, while all three Israeli assaults on Gaza carried out after Hamas was elected by Palestinians in 2006 have been justified as necessary to protect Israeli civilians, not one resident of Israel was killed by Palestinian rocket attacks or mortar fire in the months leading up to these assaults.
It was only in the midst of the three Israeli military operations that Israelis died. If Operations Cast Lead, Pillar of Cloud, and Protective Edge, were designed to protect Israelis, they failed miserably.
Morrison reminds us that:
o When (the December 2008 to January 2009) Operation Cast Lead was launched, no resident of Israel had been killed by rocket and mortar fire out of Gaza for over six months. Four were killed during it.
o When (the November 2012) Operation Pillar of Cloud was launched, no resident of Israel had been killed by rocket and mortar fire out of Gaza for over a year. Six were killed during it.
o When Operation Protective Edge was launched, no resident of Israel had been killed by rocket and mortar fire out of Gaza since the last major offensive in November 2012. As of this writing, 43 Israelis have been killed during it.
Morrison makes the point that if the Israeli government were genuinely concerned about the safety of its citizens it would abide by the terms of the cease-fires it agrees to with Hamas. The trouble is, it always violates them.
Why, then, does Tel Aviv fail to honor its commitments, repeatedly setting off cycles of violence that slaughter Palestinians, and inevitably produce some Israeli deaths? The answer to that question is the same as the answer to this one: Why did Israel immediately blockade Gaza when Hamas emerged triumphant in the 2006 Palestinian elections? To destroy Hamas. Why? Because Hamas refuses to recognize the Zionist dispossession of the Arabs in Palestine as legitimate.
So here’s the pattern. Israel regularly wheels out its lawn mower (its war machine, paid for by US taxpayers) to weaken resistance to Israel—to do what it calls “mowing the grass.” The result is periodic carnage, misery, and destruction, in which many Palestinians suffer, and a handful of Israelis are killed.
It all goes back to Israel’s arms-supplier Washington. On top of furnishing Israel with a formidable military machine to crush the resistance of Palestinians who legitimately seek self-determination, it vetoes Security Council Resolutions that call Israel to account. Obama and other US presidents may not pull the trigger, but they make the trigger-pulling possible. And that makes Obama culpable in another Gaza slaughter.
“You need an event along the scale of the current event in order for you to be able to go in. After all, had we gone into Gaza three months ago, out of the blue, everyone would have said: Why are you entering Gaza?” Israeli finance minister, Yair Lapid, July 19, 2014 
By Stephen Gowans
The most recent eruption of Israeli military aggression against the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza, and the Palestinians’ consequent retaliation, is part of a permanent war of Zionist aggression against Arabs in Palestine that began soon after the UN promulgated its partition plan for Palestine on November 29, 1947. Formulated over the vehement objections of the Arabs, the plan allocated 56 percent of Palestine to a Jewish state, though Jews made up only one-third of the population and owned only six percent of the land, and 42 percent of the land to the Arabs, who made up the majority. By May 15, 1948, when Jewish settlers proclaimed the state of Israel, the Zionist colonial project, through war and ethnic cleansing, had placed four-fifths of Palestine in the hands of Jewish settlers, and created a refugee population of 700,000 Arabs, displaced to Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and beyond. Today, the Palestinian exile and diaspora community stands at five million, many leading lives—66 years after the Nakba, or day of catastrophe— of forced idleness in teeming refugee camps. In 1967, Israel brought Gaza and the West Bank under its military control, at the same time conquering Syria’s Golan Heights and occupying Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula (since returned to Egypt in exchange for Cairo’s absorption into the US orbit and cooperation with Israel.)
The Palestinians who live within Israel—or occupied Palestine ’48, in the terminology of the Palestinian resistance—have formal rights, but live de facto existences as second class citizens, non-Jews in the Jewish state. Meanwhile, their co-nationals in Gaza and the West Bank, the divided one-fifth of Palestine that is supposed to become the Palestinian side of the two-state solution, lead stifled lives under the heel of the Israeli military. Gaza, the most densely populated territory on the planet, is an open-air prison, its population subjected to an ongoing siege. The West Bank, as Jerusalem, is a stage on which a drama is played out daily of creeping annexation, as Israeli settlements snake out into the remaining Palestinian land, enlarging the frontiers of the Jewish state. What’s left of Palestine, for the endlessly promised Palestinian state which never materializes, is about one-tenth of the land Palestinians began with, before Zionists launched their project of expelling the occupants to make way for Jewish settlers.
There are three days of infamy in the Palestinian calendar.
• November 2, 1917, when the British foreign secretary , Arthur Balfour, whose country had conquered Palestine from the decaying Ottoman Empire, promised the land of one people (the Arabs) to another (the Jews.)
• November 29, 1947, when the UN promulgated its partition plan, effectively denying Palestinians the right of self-determination, and promising the better and best parts of Palestine to a Jewish state.
• May 15, 1948, the Nakba, or proclamation of the state of Israel on four-fifths of Palestinian territory, more than even the indefensible UN partition plan had envisaged.
Nakba Day 2014 saw two Palestinian youths killed by Israeli soldiers while commemorating the anniversary of the catastrophe. Video footage captured the last moments of the life of 16 year-old Nadim Siam Abu Nuwara. Walking placidly, he suddenly falls to the ground, his life extinguished by an Israeli army bullet.  Unlike the abduction of three Israeli settler youths, to come only weeks later, this event was barely registered in the Western media.
Meanwhile, Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement that governs Gaza, was abiding by a cease-fire agreed to with Israel which had held for 20 months. Hamas hadn’t fired a single rocket since the last Israeli army attack on the territory in November 2012, the eight-day Operation Pillar of Defense, which killed 167 Palestinians and left six Israelis dead, emblematic of the gross imbalance of casualties in Israeli-Palestinian confrontations. 
Hamas had agreed to a unity pact with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas in April, after a seven year rift. Israel and its arms supplier the United States—Washington gives the settler state $3 billion in military aid yearly, more than it gives any other country—had reacted angrily to the accord, excoriating Abbas for forging a deal with Hamas. Tel Aviv and Washington oppose Hamas above all else because the resistance group—which blends religious, military, political and social welfare functions—refuses to recognize the Zionist dispossession of Palestinians as legitimate.
Whether Hamas is a terrorist organization—as it is demonized by Israel and Western governments— is a matter of definition. Washington arbitrarily excludes states from its own (and therefore mainstream) definition of terrorism, thereby sanitizing the Pentagon’s and CIA’s violence against non-combatants. No matter how many civilians the United States terrorizes through drone strikes, carpet bombing, “shock and awe”, threats of nuclear annihilation, assassinations and air wars, it cannot, by its own definition, be burdened with the label “terrorist”, since Washington conveniently deems terrorism to be the exclusive preserve of sub-state actors. But surely, what ought to matter in any definition of terrorism is not who uses violence, but the purpose for which violence is used (political change) and who it’s used against (non-combatants.) If we drop the arbitrary provision that terrorism is purely a phenomenon of sub-state actors, and define terrorism as political violence aimed at civilians, then, to be sure, Hamas is a terrorist organization. But so too are the states of Israel and the United States.
Were Palestinian resistance organizations to renounce violence, could they effectively resist the oppression of a racist, settler, colonial, occupation state and oppose the creeping annexation of the remaining Palestinian territory? How many could honestly say that the French Resistance ought to have renounced the use of violence against German occupation of French territory during WWII? Anyone who counselled this would have been justifiably accused of encouraging capitulation. The demand that Hamas renounce violence is no different. It is a demand that Hamas give up its resistance, accept the dispossession of the Palestinians, and endorse the denial of Palestinian self-determination.
Elaborating on this theme, As’ad AbuKhalil writes:
Acts of resistance against Nazi occupation in Europe (are) remembered with fondness and admiration and no one questions the methods even when innocent civilians were killed. Even in the struggle against apartheid South Africa, Americans refrain from questioning the methods in which collaborators were dealt with (necklacing, for those who remember). Yet, the Palestinians are asked…to achieve the impossible: to adhere to standards of combat that no armies and no liberation movements have ever adhered to. 
Referring to demands that Hamas refrain from operating inside populated areas, AbuKhalil rejoins: “This is like asking the members of the French resistance in WWII to live away from population centers and to concentrate in an open field to facilitate their elimination by [the] German air force.” 
Israel sanctimoniously places itself on a higher moral plane than Palestinian resistance groups, arguing that unlike its adversaries who fire missiles into civilian areas, Israeli attacks are never intended to harm non-combatants. That’s debatable. But even were it true that Israel intends no harm to civilians, the reality is that Israeli military operations have produced many times more civilian casualties than the Palestinian resistance ever has. If minimizing harm to civilians is valued, then we should be far more accepting of Hamas’s ‘terrorism’ than Israel’s allegedly international humanitarian law-compliant military campaigns.
The Palestinian Authority’s Mahmoud Abbas has gone a long way to acceding to Western demands to live peacefully with his oppressor, carrying out what some would call a program of collaboration. The kindest description of Abbas’s conciliation with Zionism—he says Arabs should never have rejected the UN’s 1947 partition plan,  concedes that Palestinians have no claim to the greater part of Palestine occupied by Jewish settlers before 1967,  and would deny the right of Palestinians to return to the homes they were dispossessed of in what is now Israel —is that it’s based on the belief that 10 percent of a loaf is better than none. But the so-called peace process—to which Abbas is committed— goes nowhere. It has, instead, turned out to be a delaying tactic used by Israel to devour more Palestinian territory through the construction of new settlements and expansion of existing ones.
Abbas’s unity pact with Hamas was a retaliatory strike at Israel’s play-acting at negotiating. But with one of the world’s largest militaries, Israel is hardly motivated to negotiate. Backed militarily and diplomatically by the world’s hegemonic power, Israel has overwhelming bargaining power. Why would it make even a millimeter’s breadth concession? Better, in the view of the settler state, to use its US-supplied military machine to crush resistance and advance its colonial-settler agenda.
Netanyahu kicked off his new campaign to squeeze Hamas—or “mow the grass”, an Israeli reference to regular offensives against Palestinian resistance—by cutting off the $100 million of monthly tax revenue it collects on the Authority’s behalf. 
Next, Tel Aviv ordered a June 11 airstrike on Gaza, violating the ceasefire, negotiated after the November 2012 Israeli assault on Gaza. Netanyahu said the airstrike was targeted at a Hamas police officer who had been involved in numerous rocket attacks against Israel. “This is the true face of Hamas,” thundered the Israeli prime minister. “It is continuing to plan terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens even as it is inside the Palestinian government.” 
To intensify pressure, Israel announced it would build 1,500 new housing units in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, “saying it was retaliation for the creation of a Palestinian unity government with the militant group Hamas.” Israel’s housing minister Uri Ariel called the new construction—illegal under international law—”an appropriate Zionist response to the Palestinian terrorist government. I believe that these homes will be just the beginning.” 
On June 12, Israel was handed a pretext to further heighten its crackdown on Hamas. Three Israeli youths, Eyal Yifrach, 19, and two 16-year-olds, Naftali Frankel and Gilad Shaar, were abducted in the West Bank. Netanyahu immediately accused Hamas of kidnapping the teens. While Hamas welcomed the abductions, as did other Palestinian resistance organizations—on grounds that the youths could be used to bargain for the release of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails—it denied that it had carried out the abduction. That didn’t deter Netanyahu. Producing not a speck of evidence to substantiate his claim, the Israeli prime minister insisted Hamas was responsible. Netanyahu, it should be noted, has a long record of fabrication in the service of political goals. As a parliamentarian, the future prime minister announced with utmost certainty that Iran was only three to five years away from making a nuclear weapon. That was in 1991.  In 2002, Netanyahu testified before the US Congress that: “There is no question whatsoever that Saddam is seeking and is working and is advancing towards the development of nuclear weapons–no question whatsoever.”  And now there was no question whatsoever that Hamas had abducted the three teens. And yet, Israel has yet to arrest any suspects. 
The outcome of Israel’s military offensive was consistent with an operation to degrade Hamas more than it was a police operation to locate abductees. The Israelis abducted 640 Palestinians, including Hamas’s top West Bank leadership, but charged none of them with kidnapping the three youths. They re-arrested and re-sentenced 75 Palestinians previously released in a 2011 prisoner exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. They raided 1,000 homes, universities and other facilities, including 10 Hamas-run institutions. And they heaped punishment on Palestinian political prisoners, subjecting them to extra cruelties, including cutting back on visits from their families. Additionally, they killed five Palestinians, and imposed restrictions on Palestinian exit from the West Bank to Jordan and Gaza, at the same time limiting travel around Hebron.  Israeli Brigadier General Moti Almoz explained on July 8 that: “We have been instructed by the political echelon to hit Hamas hard.” 
But hitting Hamas hard also meant hitting the broader population hard, that is, collective punishment. This was a reality the Israeli army acknowledged, and welcomed. A senior Israeli army commander told the Wall Street Journal:
There is a dilemma of how much pressure to put on the terrorists themselves and how much to put on the population. I think the Palestinians understand the situation: Someone did something outside the rules of the game. If there is kidnapping in Hebron, then they will suffer. 
This, by the way, meets the definition of terrorism considered above, namely, visiting misery on a civilian population to create pressure to bring about a desired political goal. It is the terrorism of the oppressor.
With Hamas’s senior West Bank leadership locked up in Israeli jails, the offensive now turned to Gaza, a Hamas stronghold. The impact has been devastating. From July 8 to July 21 :
• 584 Gazans were killed;
• 3,650 were injured;
• More than 1,134 homes were completely or partially demolished;
• 67 mosques were completely or partially destroyed;
• Property damage was inflicted on:
o 14,500 homes;
o 81 schools;
o 5 health centers;
o 3 hospitals;
• 100,000 were displaced;
• 900,000 were affected by the destruction of electricity, water and waste water infrastructure.
Over the same period 25 Israeli soldiers were killed and two Israeli civilians died by rocket and mortar fire.  The destruction continues.
US and Israeli political figures justified the carnage by pointing to Palestinian rocket attacks. Defending the Israeli massacre in Gaza, US president Barack Obama said “no nation should be subjected to a hail of rockets or underground incursions.”  He didn’t say that no nation should be subjected to 66 years of dispossession, abridgment of its rights, ethnic cleansing, repression, occupation, and racism.
Former Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren said: “It’s very difficult to feel compassion for the other when you have rockets aimed at your family.”  He didn’t say it’s very difficult to feel compassion for the other when he has stolen your land and made you a refugee.
What’s the solution? It’s not two states. Palestinians don’t accept it, and nor should they. According to a survey conducted from June 15-17 by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy:
• 70 percent of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank believe that the Palestinian national goal for the next five years should be reclaiming all of historic Palestine or establishing one state in which Arabs and Jews have equal rights.
• Two-thirds believe that even if a two-state solution is successfully negotiated that efforts should continue to liberate all of historic Palestine from Zionist control. 
Officials of the settler state know that Palestinians will never accept the permanent colonial war against them and accordingly count on Abbas and other Palestinian conciliators to accept crumbs from the Zionist feast on Palestine and ride herd on Palestinians who object to the selling off of their rights. Abbas and company accept a two-state solution because they think it’s the only measure of independence that can be practicably secured. This, however, is unrealistic. First, Israel evinces no genuine interest in accepting even a tiny Palestinian state on a small fraction of the land Palestinians originally inhabited before the ethnic cleansing of 1948.  Instead, Tel Aviv uses on-again-off-again negotiations over a two-state solution to gradually devour more of Palestine. Secondly, two states—a large, militarily powerful Jewish state occupying the better and best parts of Palestine dominating a tiny, fractured Palestinian state—will never mollify Palestinians and slake their thirst for justice. A resistance will continue, even if a Palestinian state is negotiated, as the polling data above indicate. No justice, no peace.
The solution–if it can be put that way, or inevitable outcome if it can be put another–is a single, secular, democratic state, in which all are accorded equal rights, regardless of religion or national origin—not a racist state, not a Jewish state, but a democratic one. This is a moral, just, and democratic alternative to the plague of a racist, settler, colonial ideology of dispossessing indigenous people, driving them into exile, denying them the right of return, and blocking their right of self-determination. The solution to Zionism is the same as the solution to fascism: its repudiation and conquest by democracy.
 Anne Barnard and Jodi Rudoren, “Despite Israeli push in Gaza, Hamas fighters slip through tunnels”, The New York Times, July 19, 2014.
 Ramzy Baroud, “Israel awakens the Palestine it tried to crush”, The Palestine Chronicle, July 11, 2014.
 J.J. Goldberg, “How politics and lies triggered an unintended war in Gaza,” the Jewish Daily Forward, July 10, 2014.
 As’ad AbuKhalil, “Western standards of Palestinian justice,” Al Akhbar, July 22, 2014.
 “Arab rejection of ’47 partition plan was error, Palestinian leader says”, The Associated Press, October 28, 2011.
 Joel Greenberg, “Israel’s Netanyahu cool to Abbas’s hint at waiving Palestinian ‘right of return’”, The Washington Post, November 4, 2012.
 Joshua Mitnick, “Abbas signals flexibility on Palestinian refugees”, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 16, 2014.
 Nicholas Casey, “Palestinian unity deal creates stir in Middle East”, The Wall Street Journal, May 2, 2014.
 Isabel Kershner and Fares Akram, “Israeli airstrike in Gaza strip kills Palestinian”, The New York Times, June 11, 2014.
 Nicholas Casey, “Israel plans expanded settlement in retaliation for Palestinian government with Hamas,” The Wall Street Journal, June 5, 2014.
 Scott Peterson, “Imminent Iran nuclear threat? A timeline of warnings since 1979, ”The Christian Science Monitor, November 8, 2011.
 Peter Hart, “Netanyahu can disinform on Iran just as well as Iraq,” FAIR, June 23, 2014.
 Nicolas Casey, Tamer El-Ghobashy and Joshua Mitnick, “Israel launches ground invasion of Gaza”, The Wall Street journal, July 18, 2014.
 Jodi Rudoren, “Israeli troops kill Palestinian teenager protesting arrests in the West Bank,” The New York Times, June 20, 2014; “The threat is growing of a new, wider war against the Palestinian people”, ANSWER, July 3, 2014; “Palestinian teen abducted, killed in Jerusalem”, Al Akhbar English, July 2, 2014; Nicholas Casey and Joshua Mitnick, “Israel crackdown on Hamas shows new path”, June 18, 2014, “Israel rearrests 51 freed Palestinian prisoners”, Al Akhbar English, June 18, 2014.
 J.J. Goldberg, “How politics and lies triggered an unintended war in Gaza,” The Jewish Daily Forward, July 10, 2014.
 Nicholas Casey, “Hebron bears brunt of Israel’s search for missing teenagers”, The Wall Street Journal, June 20, 2014.
 Palestine News and Information Agency, July 18, 2014; Joshua Mitnick, Tamer El-Ghobashy and Nicholas Casey, “Gaza battles take heavy death toll”, The Wall Street Journal, July 20, 2014; “Hundreds Killed, Thousands Injured, as Israeli Massacre in Gaza Continues,” Palestinian News and Information Agency, July 20, 2014; “520 Palestinians killed, 3162 injured as Israel’s aggression on Gaza continues,” Palestinian News and Information Agency, July 21, 2014; Nicholas Casey and Tamer El-Ghobashy, “Gaza battle deadliest in conflict”, The Wall Street Journal, July 21, 2014; “Death toll hits 584 as Israel kills 13 in Gaza,” Palestinian News and Information Agency, July 21, 2014; Tamer El-Ghobashy and Nicholas Casey, “Humanitarian toll rises as Gazans flee”, The Wall Street Journal, July 21, 2014.
 Joshua Mitnick, Tamer El-Ghobashy and Nicholas Casey, “Gaza battles take heavy death toll”, The Wall Street Journal, July 20, 2014; Jodi Rudoren, “Israel is facing difficult choice in Gaza conflict,” The New York times, July 21, 2014.
 Jodi Rudoren, “A push into Gaza, but the ground has shifted”, The New York Times, July 18, 2014.
 Jodi Rudoren, “In Gaza, epithets are fired and euphemisms give shelter,” The New York Times, July 20, 2014.
 A study prepared by Republican pollster and political strategist Frank Luntz for pro-Israeli propagandists “who are on the front lines of fighting the media war for Israel,” “admits that the Israeli government does not really want a two-state solution.” Luntz says “this should be masked because 78 percent of Americans do.” Patrick Cockburn, “How Israel spins war crimes”, counterpunch.com, July 28, 2014
By Stephen Gowans
Question: Why has Hamas, an Islamist party, so much sway among Palestinians?
Answer: Because on matters central to the Palestinian struggle it’s better than the alternative.
Here’s the alternative: Fatah leader, and Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, on the Palestinians’ right to return to the homes Zionist settlers drove them from and have blocked them from returning to—a fundamental right that is at the heart of the Palestinian struggle.
Israeli TV news correspondent, Udi Segal asks Abbas whether he wants to return to Safed, the town from which Abbas’s family was driven but is prohibited from returning to because it is now part of Israel.
Abbas: “I want to see Safed. It’s my right to see it, but not to live there.”
Segal: “Is it Palestine for you?”
Abbas: “Palestine now for me is the ’67 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. This is now and forever. This is Palestine for me. I am a refugee, but I am living in Ramallah. I believe that the West Bank and Gaza Strip is Palestine, and the other part is Israel.” (1)
Hamas’s supporters took to the streets in Gaza, carrying banners reading “Abbas does not represent me” and “Pioneer of concessions, it’s time to quit.” (2) Or to put it another way, Palestinians who are enraged by Abbas’s willingness to capitulate on fundamental points are supporting Hamas.
In 2005, Abbas said “it is illogical to ask Israel to take five million (the number of refugees descendent from the 750,000 who were driven from their homes by Zionist settlers), or indeed one million.” (3)
Conceding more ground to Hamas, last year, Abbas said “that the Arab world had erred in rejecting the United Nations’ 1947 plan to partition” British mandate Palestine into separate Arab and Jewish states. (4)
It was, however, the UN that erred in approving the partition plan, not the Arabs in rejecting it.
• At the time, Arabs—who favored a unitary state—made up two-thirds of the population, and Jews, who owned only 6 percent of the land, made up one-third, yet the plan allocated 56 percent of the territory to a Jewish state.
• The plan was imposed over the objections of Arab Palestinians—the majority.
• Arab voices were ignored. Not a single Arab was consulted on the plan.
On moral, democratic, and legal grounds, the plan was an abomination. Failing to reject it would have been intolerable, stupid, and criminal.
Still, had the Palestinians meekly accepted the injustice the UN had in store for them, would they be living today in a state comprising the 42 percent of British mandate Palestine the UN was willing to give them, rather than scattered across the globe or living in two non-contiguous territories (Gaza and the West Bank) making up less than 20 percent of their original territory?
If we assume that Zionist leaders would have settled for the 56 percent of mandate Palestine the UN partition plan assigned them, the answer is yes, but the assumption is untenable.
Historian Ilan Pappe points out that for Zionist leaders in 1947, a valid Jewish state comprised most of Palestine, and allowed only a small Arab population. Zionist ideology demanded that Jewish settlers seek as much territory as they could capture militarily, and drive as much of the Arab population off the territory as they could. (5)
It’s doubtful that Arab acceptance of the UN plan would have given Palestinian Arabs more than they have today.
Revolutionaries, it is said, would rather die on their feet than live on their knees. Not Abbas. He’d rather cede title to the family home in return for being allowed to live on his knees in a cramped corner of its attic.
1. Joel Greenberg, “Israel’s Netenyahu cool to Abbas’s hint at waiving Palestinian ‘right of return’”, The Washington Post, November 4, 2012.
2. Jodi Rudoren, “Palestinian’s remark, seen as concession, stirs uproar”, The New York Times, November 4, 2012.
4. “Arab rejection of ’47 partition plan was error, Palestinian leader says”, The Associated Press, October 28, 2011.
5. Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, One World, 2006.
By Stephen Gowans
When in 1916 Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin expounded what historian V.G. Kiernan would later call virtually the only serious theory of imperialism, despite its shortcomings (1), Lenin cited Cecil Rhodes as among the “leading British bourgeois politicians (who) fully appreciated the connection between what might be called the purely economic and the political-social roots of modern imperialism.” (2)
Rhodes, founder of the diamond company De Beers and of the eponymous Rhodesia, had made the following remarks, which Lenin quoted at length in his Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism.
I was in the East End of London yesterday and attended a meeting of the unemployed. I listened to the wild speeches, which were just a cry for ‘bread,’ ‘bread,’ ‘bread,’ and on my way home I pondered over the scene and I became more than ever convinced of the importance of imperialism … My cherished idea is a solution for the social problem, i.e., in order to save the 40,000,000 inhabitants of the United Kingdom from a bloody civil war, we colonial statesmen must acquire new lands to settle the surplus population, to provide new markets for the goods produced by them in factories and mines. The Empire, as I have always said, is a bread and butter question. If you want to avoid civil war, you must become imperialists. (3)
Skip ahead 95 years. Here’s US ambassador to Libya, Gene A. Cretz:
We know that oil is the jewel in the crown of Libyan natural resources, but even in Qaddafi’s time they were starting from A to Z in terms of building infrastructure and other things. If we can get American companies here on a fairly big scale, which we will try to do everything we can to do that, then this will redound to improve the situation in the United States with respect to our own jobs. (4)
New York Times’ reporter David D. Kirkpatrick noted that “Libya’s provisional government has already said it is eager to welcome Western businesses (and)…would even give its Western backers some ‘priority’ in access to Libyan business.” (5)
A bread and butter question. Also a profit-making one.
What Ahmadinejad really said at the UN
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s address to the 66th UN General Assembly meeting provided the Iranian president with the usual occasion to make the usual points and the Western media the usual occasion to misrepresent them.
Wall Street Journal reporter Jay Solomon wrote that Ahmadinejad “sought to stoke controversy by again questioning the Holocaust,” (6) reminding readers that Ahmadinejad had once called for Israel to be “wiped off the map”, a distortion that will live on in history through its mere retelling. (What the Iranian president really said was that Israel would dissolve as the Soviet Union had.)
I read the transcript of Ahmadinejad’s address, but found no questioning of the Nazi-engineered holocaust.
Here are his remarks on Zionism and the Holocaust.
They view Zionism as a sacred notion and ideology. Any question of its very foundation and history is condemned by them as an unforgivable sin.
Who imposed, through deceits and hypocrisy, the Zionism and over sixty years of war, homelessness, terror and mass murder on the Palestinian people and countries of the region?
If some European countries still use the Holocaust, after six decades, as the excuse to pay fine or ransom to the Zionists, should it not be an obligation upon the slave masters or colonial powers to pay reparations to the affected nations?
By using their imperialistic media network which is under the influence of colonialism they threaten anyone who questions the Holocaust and the September 11 events with sanctions and military action. (7)
It would have been more accurate for Solomon to have written that Ahmadinejad sought to stoke controversy by again questioning the legitimacy of Zionism and the manipulative use of the Nazi-perpetrated holocaust to justify it.
But these themes are unmentionable in the Western corporate media.
It is common practice to capitalize the Nazi-engineered effort to exterminate the Jews as the ‘Holocaust’, as if there had never been any other holocaust—or any at rate, any other worth mentioning. Even the transcript of Ahmadinjad’s address refers to ‘the Holocaust’ rather than ‘a holocaust.’
The Justice Process
It seems that the only argument US president Barack Obama could muster for why Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas shouldn’t seek recognition of a Palestinian state at the UN is that the ‘peace process’ would be derailed.
Let’s lay aside the obvious difficulty of Barak the Bomber caring about peace, and that the ‘peace process’ has been off the rails for some time. His objection missed the point. Recognition of a Palestinian state isn’t a question of the peace process but of the justice process, and hardly a very satisfying one at that. What justice is there in Palestinians settling for one fifth of their country? Which is what, in any practical sense, UN recognition of the Palestinian territories as a state would amount to.
But it’s better than the status quo and a starting point.
For Zionists, the peace process is a little more appealing, but is the opposite of the justice process. It means getting Palestinians to settle for even less than one-fifth of their country, and to acknowledge the theft of it as legitimate.
An aside: Over 30 countries do not recognize Israel, among them Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, Iran and Syria.
Do those who promote what Keynes called the fallacy of thrift (or fallacy of austerity, to give it a contemporary spin) really believe what they preach: that cutting pensions, laying off public servants, raising taxes on the poor, and closing government programs, is the way to avert a deeper economic crisis for the bulk of us?
Do they even care about the bulk of us?
Or is austerity simply a way of bailing out bankers and bondholders by bleeding the rest of us dry?
British prime minister David Cameron, on a trip to Canada to compare notes with fellow deficit-hawk Stephen Harper, the Canadian PM, remarked that “Highly indebted households and governments simply cannot spend their way out of a debt crisis. The more they spend, the more debts will rise and the fundamental problem will grow.” (8)
This was reported with tacit nods of approval in Canada’s corporate press, as if Cameron’s utterings were incontrovertible, rather than the ravings of an economic illiterate (in the view of economists), or the words of a political con artist (in the view of class struggle literates.)
Highly indebted governments simply cannot cut their way out of an economic crisis. The more they cut, the more aggregate demand weakens and the worse it gets. Greece’s continued slide into economic ruin underscores the point. The United States’ inability to drag itself out of the depths of the Great Depression, until arms orders brought the economy back to life, strikes an historical cautionary note.
But recessions are not without benefits for corporate plutocrats. It’s easier to cut wages, salaries and benefits during downturns, and to enjoy bigger profits as a result. Small competitors can be driven out of business. Unions can be weakened. And governments have an excuse to slash social programs that have pushed the balance of power a little too far in labor’s direction. Indeed, all manner of sacrifices can be extracted from most of us if we’re persuaded that debt is the cause of the problem and that belt-tightening is the physic that will cure it.
My bet is that Cameron and his fellow water carriers for moneyed interests are no dummies — but they’re hoping the rest of us are.
Knowing Who Your Friends Are
Here is the widely reviled (by Western governments) Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe, at the 66th session of the UN General Assembly.
After over twenty thousand NATO bombing sorties that targeted Libyan towns, including Tripoli, there is now unbelievable and most disgraceful scramble by some NATO countries for Libyan oil, indicating thereby that the real motive for their aggression against Libya was to control and own its abundant fuel resources. What a shame!
Yesterday, it was Iraq and Bush and Blair were the liars and aggressors as they made unfounded allegations of possessions of weapons of mass destruction. This time it is the NATO countries the liars and aggressors as they make similarly unfounded allegations of destruction of civilian lives by Gaddafi.
We in Africa are also duly concerned about the activities of the International Criminal Court (ICC) which seems to exist only for alleged offenders of the developing world, the majority of them Africans. The leaders of the powerful Western States guilty of international crime, like Bush and Blair, are routinely given the blind eye. Such selective justice has eroded the credibility of the ICC on the African continent.
My country fully supports the right of the gallant people of Palestine to statehood and membership of this U.N. Organisation. The U.N. must become credible by welcoming into its bosom all those whose right to attain sovereign independence and freedom from occupation and colonialism is legitimate. (9)
It’s clear why he’s reviled by imperialists, but also by leftists?
If the Movement for Democratic Change’s Morgan Tsvangirai, favorite of the West, ever becomes president, expect a very different kind of address at future General Assembly meetings.
1. V.G. Kiernan, Marxism and Imperialism, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1974.
2. V. I. Lenin, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, International Publishers, New York. 1939. p 78.
3. Ibid. p 79.
4. David D. Kirkpatrick, “U.S. reopens its embassy in Libya”, The New York Times, September 22, 2011.
6. Jay Solomon, “Iran adds Palestine statehood wrinkle”, The Wall Street Journal, September 23, 2011.
8. Campbell Clark, “Cameron, Harper preach restraint in teeth of global ‘debt crisis’”, The Globe and Mail, September 22, 2011
By Stephen Gowans
There are many ways in which the press is biased. One way is that it tends to be chauvinist. On foreign affairs, the press of the United States consistently reflects the view of the US State Department, while the Chinese press reflects the perspective of the Chinese state, the Russian press the point of view of the Russian state, and so on. Since the major press in each country is invariably owned by the class that holds state power, this is inevitable.
A national press also reflects the viewpoint of its government’s key foreign allies.
In the US press, for example, Israeli positions tend to dominate coverage of affairs in former mandate Palestine, consistent with Israel’s status as an instrument of US Mideast foreign policy. US news stories tend to be written from the perspective of Israelis, with Palestinian viewpoints largely ignored.
A blatant example of this is provided by a November 15 New York Times story reported by Ethan Bronner (whose son, at least as of earlier this year, was a solider in the Israeli armed forces) and Mark Landler (A 90-Day Bet on Mideast Talks).
Bronner and Landler write that: ”The West Bank, although inhabited by millions of Palestinians, is the heartland of much ancient Jewish history, so for many Israelis, giving it up is a painful prospect…”
What the New York Times reporters neglect to mention is that for millions of Palestinians who live in the West Bank, the prospect of being driven from their homes by the steady expansion of illegal Jewish settlements is surely a good deal more painful. And yet it is the Zionists’ metaphorical pain of failing to consolidate their goal of ethnically cleansing all of mandate Palestine that figures in Bronner’s and Landler’s reporting and not the very real Palestinian pain of being ethnically cleansed.
It’s as if denied conquest of all of Europe, reporters had written that for many Nazis, giving up the dream of Lebensraum was a painful prospect, saying not a word about the devastation wrought by the Nazi’s Lebensraum policy.
The US media accord Arab Palestinians as much importance as the Nazis accorded their Untermenschen, the Slavs. Arab Palestinians—who have consistently been denied the right of self-determination by great powers—have long been treated as Untermensch, whose lives and rights matter not a fig, and whose lives and rights these days are subordinate to the interests of US foreign policy, and inasmuch as US foreign policy depends on a Western imperialist presence in the Middle East, are in turn subordinate to the interests of Zionist Jews. Accordingly, in the US newspaper of record, the metaphorical pain of Israeli religious fanatics matters; the real-life pain of Palestinians merits not even a passing mention.
By Stephen Gowans
The Obama administration’s recent get tough policy on Israel over expansion of West Bank settlements may seem to signal a welcome reversal in Washington’s Israel-first foreign policy, but it is anything but. On the contrary, it drives toward the same aims that have structured US Middle Eastern policy for decades: pacifying the Palestinians.
The program of quieting Palestinian resistance was set back when Hamas, an uncompromising opponent of the Zionist project of colonial settlement of historic Palestine, won Palestinian Legislative Council elections in 2006. Israel, which had warned it would not tolerate a Hamas government, whether democratically elected or not, garnered US and EU support for a blockade to destabilize the newly elected government.
A Palestinian civil war eventually split the population, with Hamas, disinclined to sacrifice fundamental goals to immediate gains, ruling in the Gaza Strip, and Fatah, willing to compromise on just about everything, ruling in the West Bank.
Israel and Egypt imposed a total blockade on Gaza. The blockade prohibits entry of all goods – including the building materials Gaza’s residents need to rebuild hospitals, homes and infrastructure destroyed by Israeli forces earlier this year. The only goods that make their way in are those which can be smuggled through tunnels and the food and medicine that Israel and Egypt allow in.
“The aim is to keep Gaza at subsistence and offer a contrast with the West Bank, which in theory benefits from foreign aid and economic and political development. Hamas supporters will then realize their mistake,” (1) withdraw their support of Hamas, and overthrow the government. In subsequent elections, Gazans will vote for Hamas’s rival, Fatah, fearing a return of the blockade if they repeat the mistake of voting for Hamas. Hosannas will be sung to the birth of democracy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and all — from the narrow perspective of the Western media – will be well.
The problem with this scenario – and the reason why the blockade hasn’t worked — is that it ignores the reasons Palestinians voted for Hamas in the first place. Under Fatah’s watch, poverty and misery got worse, while Fatah’s leaders lived lives of growing extravagance. By contrast, Hamas’s leaders continued to live modestly, side by side with ordinary Palestinians.
Equally vexing were Fatah’s conspicuous political failures. Fatah led Palestinians into the “peace process” but had nothing to show for it. Israel continued to expand its settlements, was adamant that it would never honor the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, and insisted Jerusalem would remain in Israeli hands – the eternal and permanent capital of a Jewish state. Fatah had presented the peace process as a way of making compromises to secure concrete gains. Compromises were made, but the promised gains never materialized.
Instead, Palestinians were presented with an increasingly collaborationist Fatah leadership, ever more willing to settle for a state comprised of an agglomeration of disconnected areas, making up a tiny fraction of the land Palestinians had been dispossessed of, its borders controlled by the Israeli military, without a capital, and with no adequate redress for refugees.
What’s more, Fatah’s leader, Mahmoud Abbas, owes his allegiance more to Washington, which funds and trains his security force and keeps him in power in the West Bank, than to the goals of Palestinian national liberation and self-determination. Abbas recently appointed himself president of the Palestinian Authority (with the full support of the self-declared champion of democracy, the United States), and, as leader of the dominant party of the PLO, sole legitimate spokesman for the Palestinians. This, despite his electoral mandate having lapsed and despite his party having lost the last elections.
With Abbas unable to command much popular support, Washington is in the position of having to do something to make their man in Ramallah more appealing to Palestinians. The latest tactic is to demand Israel cease expansion of its settlements in the West Bank. Washington has made this demand countless times before, only everyone knew US officials didn’t mean it, and there were no consequences if Israel chose to ignore it (which it always did.) But this time Washington means it, or says it does. Not because it has leaned a tiny fraction toward the Palestinians and away from the Israelis, but because administration officials believe this stance “will bolster Mr. Abbas.” (2) If Abbas is going to dance to Washington’s tune, he had better get something – even a lagniappe – to show for it; otherwise his credibility with Palestinians will continue to falter.
We shouldn’t, therefore, think that the US administration’s latest moves represent a victory for the Palestinians or a shift in US foreign policy objectives. On the contrary, by coming down firmly on the side of Abbas, Washington is trying to strengthen the position of a leader favored for his willingness to compromise, capitulate and collaborate. The intended victor is Israel, who, if Washington is successful, will have a tractable and more attractive Palestinian Authority, led by Abbas and whatever fellow Quislings follow.
(1) Ethan Bronner, “Misery hands over Gaza despite pledges of help,” The New York Times, May 29, 2009.
(2) Helene Cooper, “Obama calls for swift move toward Mideast peace talks,” The New York times, May 29, 2009.
By Stephen Gowans
When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, Washington replied by launching the Gulf War to reverse the invasion and punish Baghdad for its serial aggressions. Or so Washington said. Iraq was indeed a serial aggressor, having attacked and waged a long war with Iran in the 1980s, followed by an invasion of Kuwait. What Washington and the compliant US media minimized was that the US had prodded Iraq to attack Iran, soon after the country sloughed off US domination by toppling the Pahlavi regime through which US influence in the country was exercised. With prodding came military aid to Iraq and the weapons of mass destruction that Washington would later use as the basis for a murderous sanctions regime that killed over one million Iraqis, many of them children. In 1989, when Iraq sounded out the US ambassador, April Glaspie, about a possible invasion of Kuwait, she raised no objection. How odd it must have seemed to Iraq, then, that after fighting one war with US prodding, and launching another with what seemed like implicit US support, that Washington should point to Iraq’s serial aggressions as a pretext for launching its own string of anti-Iraq aggressions beginning in 1990 and lasting to the current day.
The US itself is no stranger to serial aggressions, having intervened militarily in countless countries, often without provocation and with the sole objective of enforcing US domination. Whereas the Nazi’s serial aggressions were limited to Europe (and direct military assistance to their Italian allies in northern Africa), those of the US have been carried out on a global scale. The tenth anniversary of one such US-inspired aggression, the 78-day Nato terror bombing of Yugoslavia, has recently passed, without the fanfare usually associated with the exercise of US military power. Where were the media retrospectives, the self-adulation commending the West for its humanitarian intervention? If any mainstream news organization ran a story on how much better off Serbia is 10 years after Nato’s humanitarian bombing, I haven’t seen it. Perhaps the absence is due to the reality that anyone setting foot in Belgrade today would be forced to confront what Serbia has become – a state dismembered from a multicultural federation whose once publically- and socially-owned assets have been sold off to investors and corporations from the same countries that sent their air forces to drop ordnance on schools, factories, bridges, a radio-TV building, the Chinese embassy, and civilians.
Perhaps it is because the US has woven a long string of aggressions into its history that its media are inclined to ignore the aggressions of Uncle Sam’s extension in the Middle East, Israel. When they’re not ignoring them, they’re excusing them. It is a matter of some astonishment that Israel can launch attack after attack outside its ceaselessly expanding and amorphous borders and it hardly registers on the consciousness of North Americans, whose media hide these aggressions in plain view.
Israeli warplanes violated Sudanese airspace in January, on a mission to destroy a convoy of trucks said to be carrying arms to be smuggled to resistance fighters in Gaza. While Iranian warplanes bombing a convoy of trucks in Iraq would be met by howls of outrage by the White House and State Department, Israel’s bombing raid in Sudan was sanitized, even celebrated, in The New York Times, as a “daring military operation,” and then quickly forgotten. Official enemies launch illegal attacks; allies carry out daring military operations.
The bombing of Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981 was another of Israel’s vaunted military operations. This illegal act remains accepted in Western media discourse as a legitimate operation, justified as a preventive measure against Iraq acquiring a nuclear weapon. According to official doctrine, it was only a matter of time before Saddam Hussein acquired the means to send a nuclear warhead hurtling toward Tel Aviv. What makes this scenario implausible is that such a temerarious act would trigger an obliterating counter-strike by the United States. Unless you believe the Iraqi president was insane or had a death wish, neither of which propositions rest on the slightest evidence, this is pure political fantasy.
Iraq may indeed have intended to develop nuclear weapons, but its reasons for doing so probably (if indeed it was heading in this direction) had much to do with the reality that Israel, a country with no shortage of aggressive military operations under it belt, has an estimated 200 nuclear weapons, receives $3 billion annually in military aid from Uncle Sam, and has a penchant for sending its troops and warplanes into battle.
Let’s consider Israel’s serial aggressions, all of which have been motivated by the desire to acquire territory to expand the borders of the Jewish colonial state, or to defend itself against the backlash its expansionist aggressions provoke. We can begin with the 80 percent of Palestinian territory Zionist forces seized by force in 1948, after the UN allocated 56 percent to a Jewish state, a more than generous allotment, considering that Jews made up only one-third of the population, owned less than 10 percent of the land, and were favored by the UN with the fertile coastal areas. There was nothing fair or legitimate about the UN offer. It was carried out over the objections of the majority, but even this corruption of justice was not enough to satisfy the Zionist craving for other people’s land.
In 1956, Israel struck a deal with France and Britain to invade Egypt. France was irritated by Egyptian President Gamal Nasser’s support for the national liberation movement in Algeria, and Britain wanted the return of the recently nationalized Suez Canal to the hands of British capital. In exchange for marching on the Suez Canal, France would transfer nuclear technology to Israel, providing the Zionist state with the basis for its nuclear arsenal. The operation proved to be a contretemps, with the US ordering the conspirators to withdraw. But it did demonstrate to Washington that Israel could be a useful tool in enforcing US foreign policy in the region.
In 1967, Israel seized Gaza from Egypt, the West Bank from Jordan and the Golan Heights from Syria. Later, it launched a series of operations in Lebanon beginning with Operation Litani in 1978, aimed at driving the PLO north of the Litani River. This culminated in an occupation of southern Lebanon that lasted 18 years, from 1982 to 2000, followed by yet another attack in the summer of 2006. Lebanon today has the highest per capita debt in the world, largely thanks to the costs of rebuilding infrastructure Israel destroyed. (1)
Added to Israel’s aggressions are its amply documented violations of the laws of war. Israeli war crimes are a delicate matter in North America, where politicians and the media either steer clear of mentioning them, or step nimbly around them, seeking to avoid the inevitable backlash against anyone who suggests that Israel may not be the shining beacon of democracy in what’s calumniated as the otherwise benighted Middle East. The British press, The Guardian in particular, show fewer reservations. Condemnatory reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch on Israel’s January 2009 assault on Gaza barely received any attention in the North American media, in stark contrast to the high profile that similarly condemnatory reports receive when they’re aimed at official enemies. By comparison, The Guardian covered a February 23, 2009 Amnesty International report that called on the US to cut off military aid to Israel, because “as a major supplier of weapons to Israel, the USA has a particular obligation to stop any supply that contributes to gross violations of the laws of war and human rights.” (2) Last week, The Guardian reported on a Human Rights Watch investigation that found that Israel had repeatedly and indiscriminately fired white phosphorus over crowded areas of Gaza, killing and injuring civilians, a war crime. White phosphorus burns through tissue and can’t be extinguished. It must burn itself out, a process that may take days. In a 71-page report, the rights group concluded that Israel’s “repeated use of air-burst white phosphorus artillery shells in populated areas of Gaza was not incidental or accidental.” (3) Significantly, Israel initially denied it had used white phosphorus. When the evidence became overwhelming, it admitted it had, but countered that its use was fully in accord with international law. When that was disproved, Israel announced it would launch its own investigation.
In a move that would be considered foolishly gutsy in the United States, The Guardian undertook its own investigation of Israeli war crimes in Gaza, concluding that Israel violated the laws of war. (4) The conclusions drawn by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and The Guardian were corroborated by Israeli soldiers themselves. An Israeli squad commander said,
“What’s great about Gaza — you see a person on a path, he doesn’t have to be armed, you can simply shoot him. In our case it was an old woman on whom I did not see any weapon when I looked. The order was to take down the person, this woman, the minute you see her. There are always warnings, there is always the saying, ‘Maybe he’s a terrorist.’ What I felt was, there was a lot of thirst for blood.” (5)
Worse than being brutally indifferent to Palestinians, Israeli soldiers are completely morally calloused, wearing t-shirts bearing messages that evince absolute contempt for Arabs. “A shirt designed for the Givati Brigade’s Shaked battalion” depicted “a pregnant Palestinian women with a bull’s-eye superimposed on her belly, with the slogan, in English, ‘1 shot, 2 kills.’” (6)
While the utter brutality of Israeli troops was being laid bare in the pages of The Guardian, across the Atlantic, Israeli war crimes were being minimized in The Globe and Mail, Canada’s newspaper of record. Foreign correspondent Patrick Martin wrote that the failure to distinguish between combatants and civilians “is found in almost every military force (think Serbs in Bosnia, Americans at Abu Ghraib and Canadians in Somali) and has existed as long as there has been war.” (7) What Martin didn’t point out was that Serbs were prosecuted by Nato’s Hague Tribunal for failures to distinguish civilians from combatants, but that US and Canadian atrocities – including those in connection with the terror bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 — have gone unpunished. Martin also failed to mention the warrant issued by the International Criminal Court for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Omar, too, is accused of war crimes, but unlike those committed by Americans, Canadians and Israelis, his have become the subject of prosecution by an international court, one that has yet to issue indictments against anyone but Africans. The court will never prosecute Americans, Russians, and Chinese, who have chosen not to be bound by the court and are able, by virtue of being permanent members of the UN Security Council, to veto any Security Council resolution ordering the court to undertake an inquiry. Likewise, these countries can veto court inquiries into crimes committed by nationals of allied countries, like Israel, which have also rejected the court’s authority. War crimes, it seems, are intolerable when committed by countries the West seeks a pretext to dominate, but when the same crimes are committed by Americans, Canadians and Israelis, the “everyone is doing it” defense applies.
Meanwhile, as nuclear-armed Israel adds to its string of outrages on the sovereignty of neighboring countries with its bombing raid into Sudan, the Western media spotlight shines on north Korea, the northern half of a peninsula whose division was imposed by outsiders, and has never attacked another country. While official doctrine holds that north Korea invaded south Korea in 1950, it’s hardly possible for Koreans to have invaded Korea. What’s more, the question of who started the war – both sides clashed on and off for up to a year before major hostilities broke out – remains murky. Deciding on what event precipitated the war is like deciding when a hill becomes a mountain. Any attempt to abstract a discrete event from a complex of richly interconnected events as the cause of the war is to play with arbitrariness. Even deciding when the war began and ended (has it ended?) involves an arbitrary demarcation. Hugh Deane argued that the war began in 1945, the moment the US army arrived and suppressed the national liberation People’s Committees. Conceived as a struggle to free the peninsula from foreign domination, the war has never ended, and has lasted 99 years.
Korea, it should be recalled, was colonized by Japan from 1910 to 1945. No sooner had Koreans declared their independence, did US military forces arrive to establish a military government, shot through with former Japanese collaborators. While the Soviets, who agreed to the division of the peninsula, occupied the north, they withdrew their forces in 1948 and allowed the maximal guerrilla leader, Kim Il Sung, to rise to power, rather than imposing their own man, as the United States was to do in the south, when it brought the anti-communist Sygman Rhee, a long-time US resident, to Korea. US troops remain on Korean soil to this day.
The reason the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, (DPRK is the north’s official name), is receiving considerable Western media attention is because it plans to launch a satellite. The launching, it is said by US officials, and repeated uncritically by the US media, is a cover for testing an intercontinental ballistic missile that could deliver a nuclear payload as far away as the shores of Alaska. In case north Korea’s launching a satellite strikes anyone as being far from belligerent – certainly not in the same league as flying bombers into another country to destroy its nuclear facilities (as Israel did in Iraq and threatens to do in Iran) the new US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, assures us that, appearances aside, the launching is “a provocative act.” This is duly reported, but nobody asks why. Why should the launching of a satellite, even if the rocket technology is dual-purpose (it can be used to launch satellites and warheads) be provocative? Doesn’t the United States have rockets, satellites and warheads in abundance? The cause for alarm certainly can’t be because the DPRK has launched aggressions against other countries. It hasn’t. On the other hand, the United States and Japan, both with notorious records of employing military force to violate other conutries’ sovereignty, are sounding the alarm. The real reason the DPRK’s satellite launching is depicted as provocative is the same reason its nuclear test was depicted as provocative. Having nuclear warheads and the technology to deliver them expresses the threat of potential self-defense.
So it is that the North American media, playing its accustomed role as private propagandist for US foreign policy, has striven to elevate north Korea’s satellite launching to the provocative act Clinton says it is. The launching of a satellite has become, in The New York Times’ headlines, a missile launching (8), inducing the Japanese to ready their missile interceptors. (9) The Washington Post does The New York Times one better by calling the launching a nuclear test. (10) Even if the DPRK is testing rocket technology that could be used to deploy a nuclear warhead, is this any more reason to be alarmed than the reality that Israel can annihilate its neighbors with nuclear weaponry in numbers and sophistication far greater than north Korea can ever hope to match? The idea that Israel is a responsible country committed to the stability of the Middle East is a fiction; Israel is the main source of instability in the Middle East and has been since 1948. Had Zionists not arrived in Palestine to displace an Arab majority that had lived peacefully with Jews and Christians for centuries, there never would have been an armed struggle waged by the PLO, or an Islamic Jihad and Hamas to carry it on once the PLO’s dominant party, Fatah, faltered with a series of capitulations. Nor would there have been an Israeli invasion and occupation of southern Lebanon aimed at destroying the PLO, and therefore no basis for the rise of Hezbollah. As for the idea that Israeli leaders are level headed, look at the carnage Israel visited upon Gaza, ostensibly to deter rocket attacks that have killed 20 people in the last eight years. (11) Or consider this:
“The winter assault on the Gaza Strip was officially portrayed in Israel as an attempt to quell rocket fire by militants of Hamas. But some soldiers say they also were lectured about a more ambitious aim: to banish non-Jews from the biblical land of Israel. ‘This rabbi comes to us and says the fight is between the children of light and the children of darkness,’ a reserve sergeant said, recalling a training camp encounter. ‘His message was clear: ‘This is a war against an entire people, not against specific terrorists.’ The whole thing was turned into something very religious and messianic.’” (12)
Lebensraum comes to mind.
While US officials may contrive to regard north Korea’s satellite launching as provocative, it pales in comparison to the provocation of the United States and south Korea holding annual war games exercises along north Korea’s borders, this year larger than ever, and after the new government in Seoul of Lee Myung Bak has departed from the conciliatory line of the previous government, adopting a decidedly hostile posture.
Lest anyone think that north Korea’s impending satellite launching amounts to even a slight threat, consider the testimony of US Navy Admiral Timothy J. Keating before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 19, 2009. Keating said he does not regard the planned north Korean launching as a threat. “’It is a normal notification process, which they didn’t do in 2006, when they attempted a launch from the same facility,’ Keating said. Keating added that U.S. intelligence cannot yet say whether the launch will be of a communications satellite, as North Korea has asserted, or of a missile with intercontinental range. But he and two other commanders said they think it will be a satellite launch because of the public announcements from Pyongyang, including coordinates of the ocean area where the booster rocket is likely to fall.” (13)
Nuclear armed Israel carries out a massacre in Gaza, backed by a rabbinate echoing the Nazi’s rationale for territorial expansion, while Israeli soldiers wear t-shirts depicting Palestinians as vermin to be exterminated, and Israeli warplanes violate the sovereign airspace of Sudan. Soon after, the hostile Lee Myung Bak government of south Korea, more interested in picking fights with the north than seeking peaceful reunification, escalates the country’s annual war games with the United States, aimed at intimidating the north. These aggressive and provocative acts are minimized by the North American media – either barely acknowledged, sanitized or celebrated. In the meantime, north Korea’s planned satellite launching is depicted as a provocation meriting stepped up sanctions and escalated efforts to bring down the government in Pyongyang. It can be hardly doubted that the North American media are an apparatus of public persuasion in the service of US foreign policy. In its hands black becomes white, the oppressed become oppressor, serial aggressors become keepers of the peace, and self-defense becomes provocation.
1. Augustus Richard Norton, Hezbollah: A Short History, Princeton University Press, 2007.
2. Rory McCarthy, “Amnesty calls on US to suspend arms sales to Israel,” The Guardian (UK), February 23, 2009.
3. Rory McCarthy, “Israel accused of indiscriminate phosphorus use in Gaza,” The Guardian (UK), March 25, 2009.
4. Clancy Chassay and Julian Borger, “Guardian investigation uncovers evidence of alleged Israel war crimes in Gaza,” The Guardian (UK), March 24, 2009.
5. Ethan Bronner, “Soldiers’ accounts of Gaza killings raise furor in Israel,” The New York Times, March 20, 2009.
6. Peter Beaumont, “Gaza war crime claims gather pace as more troops speak out,” The Observer (UK), March 22, 2009.
7. Patrick Martin, “Israel’s principle of purity of arms sacrificed in Gaza, soldiers say,” The Globe and Mail (Toronto), March 20, 2009.
8. “N. Korean missile reportedly in place,” New York Times, March 26, 2009.
9. “Japan readies missile interceptor” New York Times, March 29, 2009.
10. “North Korean nuclear test a growing possibility,” The Washington Post, March 27, 2009.
11. Rory McCarthy, “Amid the ruins, a fragile truce and a fragile future for Gaza,” The Guardian (UK), January 18, 2009.
12. Richard Boudreaux, “Israeli army rabbis criticized for stance on Gaza assault,” The Los Angeles Times, March 25, 2009.
13. “US could hit N. Korean missile, says commander,” The Washington Post, March 20, 2009.