New Age Islam
Sat Jan 23 2021, 06:48 AM


Islam and the West ( 31 Jul 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

World Media on Israel and Gaza Part - 11


Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Desk

01 August, 2014


Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt in Daily Contact over Gaza

By David Hearst

Now Diplomacy Has Failed, Boycotting Israel Might Be the Only Way We Can Protect the People of Gaza

By Yara Hawari

Terrorism in the Israeli Attack on Gaza

By Glenn Greenwald

Why Hamas Is Still Holding Out

By Dr. Mordechai Kedar

Humanize Palestine

By Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh

Palestinian Unity Part of Solving Gaza's Crises

By Daoud Kuttab

Israel Still Looking For a Victory in Gaza

By Ben Caspit

What's Not A Target For Israel?

By Brad Parker

Will There Be Justice For The Crimes Committed In Gaza?

By Toby Cadman

John Kerry Erred In Failing to Undermine Hamas’ Role

By David Ignatius

Palestinian Tunnels Show A Determination To Fight Israeli Rule

By Rami G. Khouri

Israel Unbound in Today’s Middle East

By Joyce Karam

Israel’s PR(Opaganda) Machine Is Backfiring

By Yossi Mekelberg

Gaza: A Stronger Hamas Will Be A Good Outcome

By Dr. Naser Al-Tamimi

Hamas: An Israeli Experiment Gone Wrong

By Mohammad Ahmad



Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt in Daily Contact over Gaza

By David Hearst

25 July 2014

A “joint high command” of Arab states is advising the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu how to press home his ground operation in Gaza, the Debka Net Weeky, a publication of a website close to Israel’s foreign intelligence service Mossad has confirmed.

The website said that Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi are in “constant communication” running daily conferences and sometimes more, according to the website’s sources.

That communication is done over secure telephone lines, but such is the political sensitivity of their close co-operation that for really important messages human couriers are used. A special Israeli plane is parked permanently at Cairo’s military airport, ready to lift off whenever top-secret messages between the Egyptian president and the Israeli Prime Minister need to be delivered by hand. The flight takes less than 90 minutes.

King Abdullah’s point man in this daily dialogue is the man he dismissed as intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, but who has now been re-hired as the King’s special adviser on the Islamic State in Iraq. Bandar maintains "direct contacts” with the Mossad chief Tamir Pardo.

Contact with Egypt is maintained through Shin Bet’s chief Yoram Cohen, who is described as a “frequent visitor” to Cairo. Sisi’s mentor and sponsor, the head of of Egypt’s General Intelligence Directorate Ahmed Fareed al-Tohami, is described by the website as keeping an “open door” to Amos Gilad, the political coordinator of the Israeli Defense Ministry and Yitzhak Molcho, Netanyahu’s top adviser.

The war aims of the troika are described by Debka as smashing Hamas’ military wing, downgrading its political influence, preventing the US from interfering in their policy, and installing a new government in Gaza once Hamas has been crushed. Debka says that in order to get Saudi and Egyptian consent, Netanyahu had to sacrifice one of the central tenets of Israeli policy - to keep Gaza and the West Bank separate. He consented instead to the rise of a unified Palestinian Authority.

But in return, Debka asserts, Netanyahu has obtained precious political coverage:”His reward has been allies who have gone to great lengths to insulate Israel and the IDF from the usual extreme international pressures for halting their mission in mid-stream.“

The troika has repulsed pressure from many quarters to curtail the offensive without delay and had even crafted a ceasefire proposal which, Debka says, they knew Hamas would never accept but which would give Israel the moral high ground.

The Gaza operation is described as the baptism of fire for the Israeli-Saudi-Egyptian alliance, who envisages working with each other on other targets like Iran and Islamists.


Now Diplomacy Has Failed, Boycotting Israel Might Be the Only Way We Can Protect the People of Gaza

By Yara Hawari

30 July 2014

Israel has lost its grip on reality. The death toll in Gaza stands at well over a thousand and continues to rise by the day. The coastal strip has been reduced to rubble. Rather than celebrating Eid this week, Palestinians in Gaza have been burying their dead.

Jon Snow’s poignant message after his return from Gaza on Channel 4 news was heart-breaking. He had been reporting from Al Shifa hospital where he saw many horrific injuries and scores of dead children.

He ended his report with this plea to the public: “If our reporting is worth anything, if your preparedness to listen and watch and read is anything to go by, then together we can make a difference."

This latest massacre of Palestinians has been well documented, with every death recorded and every bombing filmed. Although this has yet to deter Israel, it is still important to keep documenting this assault so that its victims do not fall into the chasms of history.

But individuals in the international community need to go further than this. They need to boycott Israel. It might be the only thing that ends the impunity that is allowing them to repeatedly assault Palestinian human rights.

When airlines began cancelling their flights to Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, Israel panicked. They demanded that the international airlines resume their flights and Netanyahu personally called John Kerry to lift the Federal Aviation Administration ban.

This minuscule moment in time when Israel was threatened with being internationally isolated spoke volumes.

Denmark, Norway and Finland condemned Israel’s attack on innocent civilians and have sent substantial humanitarian aid to assist the people of Gaza. However, so far only two South American countries have actively opposed Israel's war on Gaza. Chile has ceased trade relations with Israel, and Brazil has recalled its ambassador to Tel Aviv.

People are saying that Israel has been defeated morally. But it seems that they don’t care about this, so let us hit them where it hurts. Let us put our efforts into an initiative that helped to end South African apartheid.

The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement started in 2005 and has been gaining momentum ever since. It has gained support from trade unions and various political groups all over world. They have also been endorsed by many celebrities and academics. In the UK they have had some significant victories, including when John Lewis (after BDS pressure) ceased trading with the well-known Israeli company Soda Stream.

Even locally, boycotting is taking place. In Jerusalem there is a noticeable absence of Palestinians in Israeli cafés and shops. This stems from a fear of Israeli violence against Palestinians but also, according to Palestinians I have spoken to, an attempt to boycott and damage the Israeli economy. In Ramallah, people have been placing stickers on Israeli products in shops saying: 16% of the profits go to the Israeli army” in an attempt to dissuade customers from buying them.

So let us step up our action. Let us boycott Israeli academic institutions, Israeli exports and the companies that have ties with Israel. Because even when Israel stops bombing Gaza, it will not be their final attempt to ethnically cleanse the land of Palestinians.


Terrorism in the Israeli Attack on Gaza

By Glenn Greenwald

July 29, 2014

As I’ve written many times before, “terrorism” is, and from the start was designed to be, almost entirely devoid of discernible meaning. It’s a fear-mongering slogan, lacking any consistent application, intended to end rational debate and justify virtually any conduct by those who apply the term. But to the extent it means anything beyond that, it typically refers to the killing of civilians as a means of furthering political or military goals.

Below are two charts reflecting the deaths of civilians, soldiers and “militants” in both Gaza and Israel since the July 8 Israeli attack began. The statistics used are unduly generous toward Israel, since “militants” in Gaza are often nothing more than residents who take up arms to defend their homes against an invading and occupying army. Even with that generous interpretation, these numbers, standing alone, tell a powerful story:

If you landed on earth from another planet this week, knowing nothing other than the most common use of the word “terrorism,” which side do you think would most frequently be referred to as “terrorists”?

Often, the most vivid illustration of the criminality of this attack comes not from data but from isolated stories. Yesterday, for instance, “in Khan Younis, five members of the Najjar family, which lost 21 people in a previous strike, were killed.” Meanwhile, “in the Al Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza, an airstrike from an F-16 killed the mayor, Anis Abu Shamala, and four others in his home, some of whom had taken refuge there from intense artillery shelling nearby.”

At the same time, the Israeli government’s messaging machine quickly switched from hyping rocket attacks, which were causing relatively little damage, to featuring what it began calling “terror tunnels”. The U.S. media dutifully followed suit, with CNN anchor (and former AIPAC employee) Wolf Blitzer touring a “terror tunnel” led around by the IDF and his flashlight, while the New York Times’ Jodi Rudoren did the same in an article headlined “Tunnels Lead Right to the Heart of Israeli Fear,” quoting “Israeli military officials”, “an Israeli military spokesman”, and “Israeli experts”. But a separate article in the NYT highlighted how these “terror tunnels” are actually used:

The strikes during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr came after the latest humanitarian halt to hostilities was punctured by attacks on both sides, culminating in the most deadly incursion yet by Palestinian militants through an underground tunnel from Gaza into Israel.

Colonel Lerner said Tuesday that between four and eight gunmen had burst from the tunnel near a military watchtower near the border and killed five soldiers in an adjacent building with antitank missiles.

In American media discourse, when Palestinians overwhelmingly kill soldiers (95% of the Israeli death toll) who are part of an army that is blockading, occupying, invading, and indiscriminately bombing them and killing their children by the hundreds, that is “terrorism”; when Israelis use massive, brutal force against a trapped civilian population, overwhelmingly killing innocent men, women and children (at least 75% of the Palestinian death toll), with clear intentions to kill civilians (see point 3), that is noble “self-defence.” That demonstrates how skewed U.S. discourse is in favour of Israel, as well as the purely manipulative, propagandistic nature of the term “terrorists.”


Why Hamas is Still Holding Out

By Dr. Mordechai Kedar

July 31, 2014

Before the start of Operation Protective Edge, an entire bevy of so-called "experts" appeared on Israeli media informing us of the weak state of Hamas, how its oxygen supply is cut off because the smuggling tunnels from the Sinai are closed and Egypt has turned against it, as has Saudi Arabia; it cannot pay salaries, it wants to preserve the state it has created in Gaza at all costs - and so on and so forth.

Because of that, they concluded, its power of resistance is limited and since we have the Iron Dome to protect us, our decision makers can act judiciously, using our military power – particularly from the air – which is immeasurably more massive than that of Hamas. Even the world is on our side, they said, and surprisingly, supports us.

Now, after four weeks of air attacks and two weeks of a ground operation, Gaza has seen over 1,200 of its people killed and 7,000 wounded, and has not capitulated, has not raised a white flag, continues to launch rockets to Tel Aviv and the south, and the Gazan population has not rebelled. Just imagine what would happen to Israel's government if something like that, G-d forbid, happened here. It has suddenly become clear that all the "weakness factors" attributed to Hamas – the closed smuggling tunnels that Sisi sealed, Saudi Arabia, money and state – do not have the effect the "experts" predicted for the organization. Perhaps Hamas is not exactly the organization these "experts" painted for us.

Unfortunately, our mistakes result from continuing to look at the enemy through our own cultural lenses: we need money, a strong army, protection from rockets, friends in the region and international approval, and we think that if Hamas has none of these, it will be as weak as we would be if we lacked them. There is no greater error than that line of thought, because Hamas is the product of a vastly different culture where the strength and weakness factors are totally different from ours.

1. The Spiritual Element

The basic and most deep-seated difference between us is that Hamas depends on a "power player" in the form of Allah, who dwells on high. The organization's raison d'etre is a plan whose end goal is Allah's reign over the entire world and Hamas' activity is aimed at succeeding in that Jihad for Allah. Hamas fighters are filled with fervor and the bandanna on their heads says the "Shahada", the testimony that there is no deity besides Allah and that Mohammed is his prophet.

Our army is fighting valiantly for our nation, people and land, all of which are human and tangible, and if a commander dares to write his soldiers something with an allusion to religion, he is attacked by the thought police of Haaretz, and defamed along with the Jewish message he was trying to put forward. (An allusion to IDF Brigadier General Winter, who wrote his soldiers a letter of encouragement using biblical expressions from the fight of David and Goliath and was attacked by anti-religious-coercion advocates). Many of us have distanced ourselves from the "Power Player" who dwells on high and have erased the concept from our cultural experience. Hamas continues to stick to spiritual goals and in this regard, has the advantage.

2. Culture and Ethos

Our culture sanctifies life, health, education, progress and economic, scientific and civil success. Death negates all of these and therefore, naturally, we try to prevent it when it comes to our lives and also those of our enemies. The terror organizations in our region, on the other hand, sanctify death for Allah, and even mothers rejoice when their sons go out to die.

This difference explains the fact that the over 1200 dead do not bring Hamas to ask for a ceasefire. As long as the dead are called "Shaheeds", they are considered not dead, according to the Koran: "Do not think that those who have been killed for Allah are dead; they are alive and nourished by the hand of Allah (Chap. 3, v. `69).

Hamas terrorists are proud of their often-used slogan: "The Jews wish for life and we wish for death."

This is the reason for their using human shields, for even if those "shields" are killed, they are not really dead, so their death is not seen as something bad. In general, in the Middle East there is no dividing line between citizens and combatants, everyone is considered "the enemy".

3. Attitude to the Media

The media has a critical role to play in wartime, as it has direct influence on large audiences worldwide and determines the public’s opinion of the operation.

Public opinion has immediate influence on politicians, who try to act in accordance with their voter's inclinations. Israel adheres to journalistic ethics and limits its announcements to the media, refraining from showing bodies, body parts and other horrors that can influence viewers. Hamas, on the other hand, does not care about causing people to be shocked by horrible pictures of the dead and wounded, and supplies photographs that are intended to create a sympathetic audience.

4. Legal Restrictions

Israel is a country based on law; it limits military actions to the strictures of international law. Soldiers and officers can find themselves facing the Israeli courts or international ones. Hamas is not a state, does not act like one and does not limit its activities to the accepted laws of warfare.

The obvious example: Israel attempts to prevent harm to non-involved citizens, while Hamas intentionally launches deadly rockets to heavily populated Israeli areas.

5. International Support

We have been hearing that "the world understands us" from the beginning of hostilities and therefore, that it supports our actions. However, this is a highly fragile support, easily shaken by one picture of a rocket – even a Hamas rocket – hitting a school.

The change in America's position is a gigantic plug for Hamas' steadfastness, for even the US president has adopted Hamas conditions for ceasefire, first among them removing the sea blockade of Gaza, although at the beginning of the operation he supported Israel and its right to defend itself.

Hamas enjoys unlimited and unquestioning outside support from Qatar and Turkey. Despite the losses and destruction in Gaza, those two countries will stream material and financial aid to Gaza, including building materials that will allow it to rehabilitate the organization, its weapons arsenals and rockets, enlist new soldiers, train and equip them as well as dig more tunnels so as to infiltrate Israel and sow death. 

6. Consensus from Within

There was wall-to-wall consensus in Israel at the beginning of the ground operation aimed at destroying the tunnels Hamas had built in order to attack civilian targets in Israel. As the number of losses grows, support is declining somewhat and criticism – almost nonexistent at first – is being voiced. Hamas has no internal critics, as anyone who has lived in Gaza for the seven years during which Hamas has ruled the area, knows well what will happen to he who dares to criticize Hamas.

In conclusion, these six differences create an asymmetrical combat reality. We will say that we have won, but Hamas will say the same. Even if most of its people are dead or taken prisoner, all its weapons confiscated and all its tunnels blown up, the organization's leader will come up out of his underground shelter wearing a blood-soaked bandage, stand on the ruins of a home and raise his fingers in  a "V" salute. The rest of us may find it infuriating, delusional, and weird and grotesque, but he knows the truth: within a year at most, he will enlist thousands and train them, within three years, he will rearm and resupply his rockets and missiles arsenal completely and therefore, and he sees the victory as his.

He feels that the future is his because he is fighting the battle of Allah and Allah has come to his aid. He is not afraid to die and the lives of citizens mean nothing to him. He takes cynical advantage of international and national law manipulates world opinion using a compliant media.

Hamas leaders have a new goal and it is to have the war continue for 33 days, the number of days of the Second Lebanon War. It wants to prove that it can hold on longer than Hezbollah. This is part of the Sunni (Hamas) vs. Shiite (Hezbollah) rivalry played on the backdrop of the war in Syria. The competition also explains the fact that Hezbollah has not launched rockets from the north. It has no desire to help Hamas, which did not come to Assad's aid against Syrian rebel forces. It is hard to predict if the schism between them will continue to hold fast.

That's the situation in Gaza. These are the reasons for it. Let us hope for the best.

Written for Arutz Sheva, translated from the Hebrew by Rochel Sylvetsky


Humanize Palestine

By Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh

29 July, 2014

The holiday at the end of Ramadan brings mixed feelings and we could sense this here in Bethlehem on the faces of our Muslim neighbours, friends and colleagues. They tell us of their sadness at the massacres of whole families but they also tell proudly of resistance, persistence, resilience, self help and help to other. It is still a month of blessings. I was at the bank of Palestine on Saturday and saw lines of people sending money to colleagues and friends in Gaza. We had cloth and food drives. Convoys bringing medical aid are finally being allowed to enter even as 150 bodies were pulled from under the rubble in one neighborhood alone. Israeli soldiers speak to Haaretz of large scale destruction of civilian neighbourhoods in Gaza and surprise and fear at the resistance fighters. Most people understand that Gaza is a big crowded prison that is being subjected to a most ruthless occupation that destroyed its economy and means of livelihood. Yet, some Zionists want to convince people that somehow resistance should not come from within this population! But there are no winners in the latest conflict started by Israel even though both resistance forces and Israel claim victory. Israel can claim victory by destroying so many neighbourhoods, killing nearly a thousand civilians (very few resistance fighters). This they hope will teach a lesson not to resist. That is a foolish dream for all this does is stoke hatred and call for revenge from the killers and not decrease support among the population for resistance. Israeli intelligence agents know this (see for example below interview with ex-head of the Shin Bet). Israeli leaders know that with every strike on "Arabs" as they like to call us, resistance actually grows in strength and supporters. Hamas and other resistance forces gain in stature and Netanyahu appeared tough and gained some voters from teh racist right quarters in Israeli politics. Yet, Palestinians lives are lost that are irreplaceable and faith in human dignity tarnished as western leaders were forced to defend an ongoing genocide so that they can please their Zionist lobbyists. The price paid by all humanity is far too high.

Let me start by actual pictures and names of those Israel murdered. They are not just numbers (1070 murdered so far including over 200 children). PLEASE take time to get to know some of them

(There were also at least 45 Israeli soldiers killed by resistance fighters and in some cases directly by Israeli forces; see below)

Now what is the real reason for the Gaza carnage? Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Hamas for taking three young Israeli settlers (colonial squatters in occupied areas). It turns out even Israeli police knew that Hamas leaders were not involved (even though teh suspects were never apprehended let alone charged). Hamas itself said it was not involved. see

But maybe this is the real reason: Armed robbery in Gaza: Israel, US, UK carve up the spoils of Palestine's stolen gas


Governments lie, people die. Netanyahu is a consummate liar interested in one thing only: his political and economic career. Most Israelis know that he told them lies about this latest attack on Gaza, most know he lied to them about settlements and why he opposed Oslo accords. Most know their government lied to them about the success of the so called Iron Dome" (a scam to make millions with success rate below 30%). After all they could see for themselves falling homemade rockets on their cities regularly. They also know much more. They know that Israeli forces sometimes do the unthinkable: e.g. Israel Murders IDF Soldier to Prevent His Capture

Yuval Diskin was the director of Israel's internal security service Shin Bet between 2005 and 2011 and he recently 24 July 2014 had an Interview with Der Spiegel/Reuters. He was asked " Is Israel not essentially driving Palestinians into the arms of Hamas? He answered "It looks that way, yes. The people in the Gaza Strip have nothing to lose right now, just like Hamas. And this is the problem. As long as Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was in power in Egypt, things were going great for Hamas. But then the Egyptian army took over and within just a few days, the new regime destroyed the tunnel economy between Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula, which was crucial for Hamas. Since then, Hamas has been under immense pressure; it can't even pay the salaries of its public officials."

Divkin also stated that "The army is now trying to destroy the tunnels between Israel and the Gaza Strip with a kind of mini-invasion, also so that the government can show that it is doing something. ...It is in equal parts action for the sake of action and aggressive posturing." But then he even reveals something that all Israeli leaders know but choose to ignore: "They [Palestinians] will never accept the status quo of the Israeli occupation. When people lose hope for an improvement of their situation, they radicalize. That is the nature of human beings. The Gaza Strip is the best example of that. All the conditions are there for an explosion. So many times in my life I was at these junctions that I can feel it almost in my fingertips."

He goes on to predict accurately increased shifts to extremism in Israeli society and admitted that Israel deals with Palestinian terror different than it does with Jewish terror. Full interview here:

His observations while from a Zionist colonial perspective concords in predicting a pressure cooker about to explode with other observers for example see this from someone who lived in Jenin for a while: The Paper Thin Underpinnings to Peace: Occupation and Intifada in 2014

Those of us who cut through the lies act. There were demonstrations in over 100 cities including Tokyo, Paris, London, Chicago, New York, Washington, Cairo, Tunis, Rabat etc). Some had tens of thousands and some over 100,000 participants. Here are just some inspiring photos:

There was even a demonstration of a few thousand in Tel Aviv objecting to the slaughter in Gaza. Some Israeli soldiers and reserves refused orders to mobilize to Gaza. All these demonstrations had mixed groups of people (all ethnicities and all religions). The few demonstrations for Israel and in support of killing Palestinians were tiny and included only Jewish Zionists (the largest was as expected in New York with a few hundred particularly angry and racist ones). We must concentrate on doing more positive actions and publicizing them. "Lighting a candle instead of cursing the darkness" as the old Chinese saying goes. I leave you with poignant note that a Church in Gaza is now home to dozens of displaced Muslim families. The pastor said that Islamic prayers in his church are welcome as Israel destroys mosques. That is the Palestine I love. That is the Palestine that will win. Decent Jewish citizens in the US were arrested as they demonstrated inside the NY offices of "Friends of the IDF" (a group supporting child killers’ tax deductible). That is the humanity that I love.

Let me end again with the pictures of Gaza Palestinians. Meet them and remember them

One neighborhood: Before and After the most moral army shelled it with US taxpayer funding Best Mazin #Gaza_under_attack

Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh teaches and does research at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities in occupied Palestine. He serves as chairman of the board of the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People and coordinator of the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements in Beit Sahour He is author of "Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human rights and the Israeli/Palestinian Struggle" and “Popular Resistance in Palestine: A history of Hope and Empowerment”


Palestinian Unity Part of Solving Gaza's Crises

By Daoud Kuttab

July 31, 2014

Two contradictory arguments are being discussed at various levels concerning postwar Gaza. One suggests that the war has brought an end to the Israeli-induced artificial separation between Gaza and the West Bank. The other suggests that Israel’s war, and more specifically the tunnels and the general Hamas-led resistance to Israel, has made the possibility of Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank that much more difficult.

Israel’s leading political columnist, Nahum Barnea, launched the first salvo when he publicly exposed the failure of Israel's strategy to divorce the West Bank from Gaza. Tucked in a 4,000-plus-word column was an insightful thought rarely stated so clearly in public and certainly not by a leading Israeli analyst: “The Israeli government must aim for a fundamental change in the reality in Gaza, and perhaps, finally, even change the very nature of Israel's relations with the Palestinians as a whole,” Barnea argued. “Israel's attempt to separate the West Bank from Gaza, to divide and conquer, has failed. Vision is needed. Hope is needed. Not only for Israelis, but Gazans too.”

The veteran Israeli commentator also addressed Israeli relations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, writing, “Netanyahu has started to talk about Abu Mazen [Abbas] not as a problem, but rather as a solution.” The public discussion of Netanyahu’s warming to Abbas will not be welcomed in Ramallah, where some will worry that it furthers the image of the Palestinian leader as a kind of quisling for the Israelis. The Palestinian government and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) have not fared well during the Gaza conflict, with Abbas appearing powerless and with numerous cease-fire announcements by Ramallah backfiring as Hamas militants in Gaza rejected them.

What will be welcome in Ramallah and Gaza, however, is that the unity government has survived and will be the main instrument of support for Gaza. The reconciliation agreement between the PLO and Hamas, publicly trashed by Netanyahu and arguably one of the reasons for the war on Gaza, has now become acceptable for practical reasons: Israel wants Gazans to be able to receive money, including salaries, the day after the war ends. Earlier, the United States, with encouragement from Israel, denied an attempt by Qatar to transfer money directly to Hamas to pay public servants.

While Palestinians and international experts have known for some time that the justification for the Gaza blockade and internal restrictions of movement was political, the issue gains importance when it is supported by a leading Israeli pundit. Barnea admits that the extreme restrictions on the movement of Palestinians between Gaza and the West Bank was a strategic decision based on the colonial theory of “divide and rule” and unrelated to any security issue, as is often alleged.

The schism between Gaza and the West Bank might increase even more, according to some Israelis. Zvi Bar’el sarcastically wrote, “We love you Gaza,” in arguing that with every rocket coming out of Gaza, Israel’s hold on the West Bank is strengthened. Bar’el observed, “If before, it had been possible to fantasize about some sort of peace, now the fate of the West Bank has been sealed and the settlers can relax.”

The question that needs to be answered is whether the Israeli establishment will indeed internalize this issue and move toward finding a solution to the situation in Gaza that takes into consideration contiguity between the West Bank and Gaza.

Marwan Muasher, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Al-Monitor that he is sceptical of the Israeli government’s interest in a viable political settlement. He said, “We have seen three ground wars into Gaza in the last six years, and this is bound to be repeated. I don't see any viable chances for a political settlement that would have Israel withdraw from the West Bank.” Muasher, a former Jordanian foreign minister, also said a peaceful third intifada might be “the only point of pressure that would get Israelis to rethink their future.”

The winners and losers of the war on Gaza will become clear in the coming weeks, but it is certain that the idea that Gaza would somehow disappear into the sea — a fantasy of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin — is no longer valid. Whatever emerges in the cease-fire agreement, Israelis, Palestinians and the international community cannot simply wish Gaza away. The need for a serious, long-term solution that incorporates the nearly two million Gazans with their fellow Palestinians in the West Bank can no longer be ignored.


Israel Still Looking For A Victory In Gaza

By Ben Caspit

July 31, 2014

As the picture becomes clearer, so do the details about the Israeli failures relating to Gaza. Chief among them is the intelligence blunder concerning Hamas’ intentions. All along, Israeli leaders — from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and the Cabinet ministers — believed that Hamas was not interested in escalation and that it had no interest in seeing the situation deteriorating. Hamas, or so we were told, was looking for a way out. Even before the ground operation and even before the escalation in rocket fire which triggered Operation Protective Edge — that was the prevailing assessment. But it was wrong and caused heavy damage to Israel.

The current confrontation started with both sides having a completely different view of it. Israel believed it was embarking on a “round of fighting,” whereas Hamas knew it was entering a war. There’s an abysmal difference between a “round of violence” and war. And that’s the reason Israel is working around the clock to reach a cease-fire. It wants to understand what has happened here. Hamas, on the other hand, continues to carry out its orderly plan, exactly the way it was conceived beforehand. Israel is caught in a “round” whereas Hamas is caught in a war of existence. From Hamas’ perspective, it might even be termed a war of independence.

One of the by-products of this situation is that Israel did not plan the events. Let’s compare it to the two previous rounds, which were meticulously planned. Operation Pillar of Defense began with the killing of Hamas’ chief of staff, Ahmed Jabari, on Nov. 14, 2012. There’s your victory photo right off the bat. It worked out because it was planned well in advance. Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09 started with a broad, surprise attack by the Israeli air force on 12 Hamas bases, during which 220 of its militants were killed during the first airstrike. That, too, is your victory photo. In today’s Operation Protective Edge, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are still looking for their victory photo. Hamas leaders do not raise their heads out of their bunkers. Its fighters emerge out of the tunnels or withdraw into the inner parts of Gaza City. Hamas is harassing the IDF with booby-trapped buildings, antitank missiles and explosive tunnels.

Hamas’ downfall rests in that none of the surprises it had up its sleeve for Israel’s citizens succeeded. Thanks to the Iron Dome defence system, its rockets don’t kill Israelis. Its drones have been intercepted. Its commando force that tried assaulting kibbutz Zikim was destroyed.

What Hamas has been able to do, however, is to exploit the tunnels to harm the IDF. Out of five tunnel-based assaults, three saw partial success. In the first incident, a group of Israeli officers reconnoitring and studying the Israeli side of the border were injured. In the second one, the commander of a prestigious Israeli battalion and some of the troops were wounded. In the third incident, an Israeli guard outpost near kibbutz Nahal Oz was destroyed. In that last incident, the terrorists were also able to return safely to Gaza, which was not the case in the two prior incidents.

Hamas did not take advantage of the tunnels to assault women and children in nearby communities. Usually, Hamas terrorists have no problem doing that. After all, they have already spilled the blood of hundreds of Israeli citizens. This time around, however, they acted more prudently, realizing there is a struggle over global, international legitimacy. Hamas understood that a terrorist attack on a kindergarten inside a kibbutz would provide the IDF with the legitimacy to destroy Gaza. It doesn’t want to see Gaza destroyed. On the other hand, once its militants do rear their heads out of the bunkers, they will find out that Gaza has been destroyed.

The second Israeli blunder pertains to the tunnels, which has already been discussed here. Although Israel knew about them, that knowledge did not really sink in. The third blunder was coming to terms with the establishment of a hostile military on the western part of the land of Israel. For years, Israel’s defence doctrine was predicated on the notion that the establishment of a foreign military in the area between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River was a kind of casus belli. That was considered a “red line” with which Israel could not put up. That’s the reason why the future Palestinian state should be demilitarized, the way Gaza used to be. That is, until Hamas rose to power.

Now it’s time to make amends. We need to investigate how Hamas was able to build this massive terror machine in Gaza and primarily how it was funded, with the full agreement and cooperation of every Israeli government, as well as the Bank of Israel, which is in charge of monetary policy. We need to find out how Hamas funded the procurement of munitions, research and development, the construction of rocket production lines, the seminar in Malaysia where militants were taught to use powered parachute gliders to mount terror attacks and, above all, the construction of the tunnel infrastructure.

That costs a fortune. The tunnels were dug by tens of thousands of people. A very high-ranking Israeli officer with whom I spoke a few weeks ago (before the operation) told me, “At any given time in Gaza, there are at least a thousand people digging tunnels.” Now it is allowed to reveal that those diggers were working eight-hour shifts around the clock. They were replaced every eight hours. Each tunnel saw anywhere between eight to 16 diggers, including a shift supervisor. They were well paid. They poured huge quantities of concrete. The entire lengths of the tunnels were lined with concrete. They were equipped with communication networks and three-phase electric power. They had land lines every few hundred meters. They had bifurcations in which militants can hide. They also enabled militants to alter their direction and modus operandi: from assaulting an Israeli community to assaulting a military outpost.

Over the years, continual criticism has been levelled at Israel’s policy, which allowed the regular transfer of hundreds of millions and even billions of shekels from Israel to Gaza. Furthermore, whenever a decision to “rehabilitate” the Gaza Strip was made, the world injected billions of dollars into it. Large parts of this money were essentially used to bolster Hamas and help it to build its terrorist army.

Here’s a report that was published in the Israeli press in March 2009, shortly after the Sharm el-Sheik Summit, which focused on the need to rehabilitate Gaza after Operation Cast Lead. The world’s upper crust and crème de la crème gathered there, announcing how much money they were willing to donate. Incidentally, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a $900 million American special aid package that was to be distributed between Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister in the West Bank ($600 million), and the Gaza Strip ($300 million.) All told, $5 billion were donated to the Gaza Strip, although the donor nations said they would not transfer the money via Hamas so as not to strengthen it.

The following is the last paragraph of that article in Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth: “The Israeli defence establishment has said that Hamas is the one that stands to gain the most from the donor summit in Sharm el-Sheik. According to security officials, Hamas will enjoy the rehabilitation of Gaza, but will not let go of its rule. In the end, it will be relieved of the burden of assisting and rehabilitating the residents. It will be able to cement its power and tighten its grip, the sources said, and instil the Islamic hegemony in the Gaza Strip.”

This prophecy fully materialized. But there’s more to it. “The main problem,” says Israeli analyst Eyal Ofer, who has devoted the last 10 years to studying this topic, “is the cash money, in dollars, that UNRWA transfers monthly to Gaza and to which Israel agrees.”

We’re talking about a monthly sum of $13 million that UNRWA — the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East — transfers to Gaza with Israel’s approval. It's believed that since Operation Cast Lead, UNRWA transferred some $800 million to Gaza. Ofer, as well as quite a few Israeli military experts, is convinced that most of this money helped to fund Hamas terrorism. By the way, during Operation Protective Edge, rockets ready to be fired at Israel were discovered in three UNRWA schools. On July 30, three IDF soldiers from an elite unit were killed when a booby-trapped UNRWA clinic collapsed on them.

According to Ofer, Hamas’ weaponry smuggling and production industry is yearning for dollars — only dollars. The Iranians, Libyans, North Koreans and Syrians (before the outbreak of the civil war) refuse to accept Israeli currency as a means of payment. Hamas needs dollars. What UNRWA brings into Gaza under the pretext of buying goods from Gaza’s merchants goes into that. Israel could force UNRWA to bring in goods directly, but it doesn’t. Israel continues to be the pipeline through which money is funnelled and used to fuel the terrorist flames, which turn into a big forest fire every year or two. And then we need to go to war and bury our soldiers. And then — surprise, surprise — we go back to “rehabilitating Gaza,” which never gets rehabilitated, simply because it doesn’t want to be.


What's Not A Target For Israel?

By Brad Parker

30 Jul 2014

Israeli forces have killed more than 200 Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip over the past 23 days. In order to obfuscate this harsh reality, Israeli officials claim "self-defence" and contend that civilian deaths are justified because Hamas allegedly uses Palestinians in Gaza as human shields. Israel is an occupying power that is attacking and destroying an occupied Palestinian civilian population. These civilian deaths are not collateral damage. They are war crimes.

On July 20, around 2:20 am, 16-year-old Anas Mahmoud Hussein Muammar from Rafah went out onto the second-floor balcony of his home to join his older brothers for a cup of coffee. Soon after, an Israeli drone-fired missile directly targeted him and his brothers, according to documentation collected by Defense for Children International Palestine. His brothers were killed instantly. Anas suffered fatal injuries and was pronounced dead at Abu Yousef An-Najjar Hospital about 10 minutes later.

A complete disregard of international humanitarian law and the direct targeting of civilian homes, schools, hospitals, and civilians such as Anas have so far characterised Israel's military offensive on Gaza.

For Palestinians in Gaza, where 43 percent of the population is under 14 years of age, Israeli military offensives are not new. Over the past 14 years, not including the most recent killings, Israeli forces are responsible for the death of over 1,400 children in the occupied Palestinian Territory, including over 1,000 in Gaza alone. Most recently in November 2012, 33 children were killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza. Between December 2008 and January 2009, Israeli forces killed at least 353 children.

To justify the current onslaught on the Palestinian civilian population of the Gaza Strip, Israeli officials repeatedly assert that Hamas uses civilians as human shields. Speaking by phone recently to his Canadian counterpart, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said "Hamas uses innocent civilians as a human shield for terrorist activity." Israeli military spokesperson, Lt Col Peter Lerner, alleged Palestinian armed groups were "intentionally abusing" hospitals and "other international protected symbols to indiscriminately attack Israel."

To be clear, the use of civilians as human shields is prohibited under international law and involves forcing civilians to directly assist in military operations or using them to shield a military object or troops from attack. The rhetoric continually voiced by Israeli officials regarding "human shields" amounts to nothing more than generalisations that fall short of the precise calculation required by international humanitarian law when determining whether something is actually a military object.

Civilians, including children, must never be targeted, and civilian structures and infrastructure are presumed not to be legitimate targets, yet Israel continues to carry out direct attacks on civilian homes, schools, hospitals and mosques.

In order to qualify as a military objective, the object must be used for a military purpose and its total or partial destruction would result in a definite military advantage. Only military objectives can be lawful or legitimate objects of an attack. This standard is inflexible and does not change based on another party's conduct.

In Khan Younis on July 20, 19 children from the Abu Jami' family were killed when an Israeli fighter jet targeted and destroyed their home where they were sheltering. Israeli officials stated that the intended target was a Hamas member visiting the house at the time of the strike.

The mere alleged presence of a member of a Palestinian armed group is an insufficient justification for an attack on a family home. Based on a preliminary investigation, the Abu Jami' home was not being used for any military purpose at the time of the attack and was unlawfully targeted by Israeli forces.

A civilian home, school, or hospital that is in some way deemed by Israeli forces to be "affiliated" with Hamas or another Palestinian armed group does not in itself provide legal justification under international humanitarian law to direct an attack at that object. The standard demands much more, and requires an exacting calculation. Precision is necessary because imprecision leads to war crimes.

Palestinian civilians must not be blamed for their own deaths. Even if Hamas or another Palestinian armed group may have violated the laws of war and used civilians as human shields, this does not relieve Israel from its obligations under international law nor does it justify an attack on civilians or civilian structures.

A generation of Palestinian children in Gaza have been shot, shelled and bombed since the outbreak of the second intifada in September 2000. Their homes and schools have been attacked and destroyed, sometimes repeatedly, and they have come of age witnessing death and suffocated by a life under siege. They have lost parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins, and entire families.

In addition to an immediate ceasefire, the international community, including the US, must demand an end to Israel's illegal blockade of Gaza and challenge systemic impunity by investigating allegations of war crimes and holding perpetrators accountable.

Brad Parker is a staff attorney and international advocacy officer with Defence for Children International Palestine, an independent child-rights organisation dedicated to defending and promoting the rights of children living in the occupied Palestinian Territory. DCI-Palestine provides free legal assistance to children, collects evidence and conducts advocacy targeting various duty bearers.


Will There Be Justice For The Crimes Committed In Gaza?

By Toby Cadman

30 Jul 2014

Toby Cadman is an international criminal law specialist. He is a barrister member at Nine Bedford Row International Chambers in London and a member of the International Criminal Bureau in The Hague.

On July 25, Palestinian officials filed a criminal complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. The complaint accuses Israel of war crimes as a result of its ongoing campaign in Gaza, which has now left more than 1,200 Palestinians and 53 Israeli soldiers dead. The filing alleges crimes including the crime of apartheid, attacks against civilians, excessive loss of human life and crime of colonisation.

The immediate response from the Israeli government is that it will need to consider the new filing, but according to Foreign Ministry Spokesman, Paul Hirchson, "The Israeli military is working 100 percent within the dictates of international humanitarian law." There are now counter allegations emerging from Tel Aviv that the responsibility lies with Hamas and not the Israeli Defence Force (IDF).

It is important to point out that the ICC investigates situations and therefore if it opens an investigation, it will look into the conduct of all sides to the conflict, including Hamas, IDF and other groups involved in the hostilities. It will then determine responsibility.

Will There Be An Investigation?

There are a number of issues that the ICC will have to take into consideration before launching an investigation.

First is the question of jurisdiction. It has to be determined whether the conduct in question falls within the crimes set out in the Rome Statute. On July 23, the outgoing UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, condemned both Israel and Hamas for failing to protect civilians and stated that "there seems to be a strong possibility that international law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes."

The Israeli position is that it has only selected military targets and is acting in self-defence, but it is difficult to understand how the targeting of a hospital or a school constitutes a legitimate military target. There is also strong evidence of Israel targeting unarmed civilians, including children.

While the debate will continue for some time, there does not appear to be any dispute, irrespective of whether one adopts the Palestinian or Israeli line, that crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC have been committed.

Second, the ICC is limited to dealing with crimes that have occurred since the Rome Statute went into effect on July 1, 2002. This requirement has been clearly met.

Third, the ICC has to weigh territorial jurisdiction; that is, whether the state in question has ratified or accepted the jurisdiction of the ICC or the situation has been referred to the ICC following a UN Security Council resolution.

There is a provision according to which the ICC can exercise jurisdiction over "The State of which the person accused of the crime is a national." For example, if the ICC gained jurisdiction over Palestine (either by state party referral, Security Council referral, or proprio motu request), it could have jurisdiction over an Israeli committing a war crime on Palestinian territory even though Israel remains a non-state party.

Conversely, the court could have jurisdiction over a British or French national accused of having committed crimes on Palestinian or Israeli territory, as the UK and France are state parties.

While Israel is not a state party, the Palestinian Authority has issued a declaration accepting the ICC jurisdiction over Palestine. Palestine has a non-member observer status at the UN and in April 2014 sought to ratify a number of international treaties including the Geneva Conventions.

Palestine's acceptance of ICC jurisdiction was not accepted in 2012, as the former ICC Prosecutor, Moreno Ocampo, could not make a determination on whether Palestine was a state within the meaning of the statute.

Many countries, as well as UNESCO, have now recognised Palestine as a state. That, in addition to the granting of special status in the UN, may now give the new ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda the cover she needs to open a preliminary inquiry. This is not likely to be an easy decision and significant pressure is likely to be exerted by the US and Israel.

In the event that this argument fails, Palestine would need to seek a UNSC referral. This of course is far from assured. To enable such a resolution to be passed, the five permanent members must agree not to veto. Considering that only two permanent members are state parties and two others (US and Russia) have vested interests in supporting Israel, it is unlikely to succeed.

Moreover, the US recently voted against a UN Human Rights Council resolution calling for an international investigation in Gaza, and the UK and France abstained. It should also be recalled that while the US recently supported a French-sponsored resolution for the situation in Syria to be referred to the ICC, this was on the condition that such a referral would not include any potential investigations into alleged crimes in the Golan Heights.

It is therefore clear that any proposed resolution in the UNSC is unlikely to succeed, notwithstanding the scale of casualties on both sides.

Delivering Justice

In terms of ensuring accountability, let us not forget where the current military campaign started. The recent incursion by Israel followed the tragic abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers. This was followed by mass arrests of Palestinians which culminated in the abduction and brutal murder of a Palestinian teenager. Both sets of circumstances were tragic and require justice to take its natural course.

Should the ICC refuse to investigate, then the international community, and in particular the US, will have to revaluate its policies towards Israel.

The support that US and other western countries lends to Israel allows it to disregard accusations that it has breached international law on many occasions.

The fear of confronting Israel and its appalling human rights record must stop. It must be subject to the same high standards as the rest of the world. By the same token, so must Palestine. If one is to criticise Israel for its disregard for human rights protection and accuse it of apartheid policies, the targeting of Israeli civilians and any anti-Semitism must be equally condemned. The same standards must apply universally.

It is clear that both sides in the conflict have now engaged in conduct that may constitute war crimes. There is an overwhelming need for a system of truth, justice and accountability. In the event that the ICC prosecutor is not granted the authority to investigate the situation in Palestine, the international community will have to come up with a comprehensive and long-term strategy to settle the conflict and deliver justice for the crimes committed.

Any brokered ceasefire will have little chance of success and there will not be long-term stability unless those responsible, on both sides of the conflict, are brought to justice through a credible process.

Toby Cadman is an international criminal law specialist. He is a barrister member at Nine Bedford Row International Chambers in London and a member of the International Criminal Bureau in The Hague.


John Kerry Erred In Failing to Undermine Hamas’ Role

By David Ignatius

Jul. 31, 2014

Secretary of State John Kerry has made a significant mistake in how he’s pursuing a Gaza cease-fire – and it’s not surprising that he has upset both the Israelis and some moderate Palestinians.

Kerry’s error has been to put so much emphasis on achieving a quick halt to the bloodshed that he has solidified the role of Hamas, the intractable, unpopular Islamist group that leads Gaza, along with the two hard-line Islamist nations that are its key supporters, Qatar and Turkey. In the process, he has undercut not simply the Israelis but also the Egyptians and the Fatah movement that runs the Palestinian Authority, all of which want to see an end to Hamas rule in Gaza.

A wiser course, which Kerry rejected in his hunt for a quick diplomatic solution, would have been to negotiate the cease-fire through the Palestinian Authority, as part of its future role as the government of Gaza. Hamas agreed last April to bring the PA back to Gaza as part of a unity agreement with Fatah that was brokered by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Kerry has been motivated by two understandable short-term needs: First, he wants to stop the horrific slaughter in Gaza, with its heavy loss of life among Palestinian civilians, including children. Second, he seeks to fulfill the instructions of President Barack Obama, who wants an immediate cease-fire and has become sceptical about solving the knotted Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Kerry’s approach has ignited a firestorm in Israel, with commentators left and right accusing him of taking Hamas’ side and betraying Israel. That criticism is unfair, and it prompted a complaint Sunday from Obama in a phone call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Kerry’s mistake isn’t any bias against Israel, but a bias in favor of an executable, short-term deal. A case can be made for this “kick the can down the road” approach, as I did last week in discussing Kerry’s recent diplomatic negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program and with rival political leaders in Afghanistan.

But Gaza has suffered from a generation of brutal expediency. Any deal that reinforces Hamas’ stranglehold – rather than building a path toward change of government, elections and eventual disarmament – is misconceived. In the name of stopping bloodshed this week, it all but guarantees it in the future. That’s why public opinion polls show a strong majority of Gazans back the idea of returning to Palestinian Authority control – because they want an end to the cycle of intermittent warfare.

Israel has undermined its own cause with statements that appear to be insensitive to Palestinian loss of life. One example is Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer’s claim that “the Israeli Defense Forces should be given the Nobel Peace Prize” for showing “unimaginable restraint,” at a time when photos and videos provide wrenching evidence of civilian casualties in Gaza.

Kerry’s initial plan was to support Egypt’s demand that Hamas accept a cease-fire. When Hamas rejected what it viewed as surrender, Kerry turned away from Egyptian mediation toward Turkey and Qatar, which as friends and financial backers of Hamas were thought to have more leverage. That put the deal first, and a stable solution to Gaza’s problems second.

By turning to Turkey and Qatar, Kerry also enhanced their position in the regional power game. That’s contrary to the interests and desires of America’s traditional allies, such as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the moderate Palestinian camp headed by Abbas.

If Kerry has been short-sighted about seeking a path toward a more stable Gaza, so has Netanyahu’s government. The Israeli premier denounced the Palestinian unity agreement forged by Abbas last spring, even though it opened the way for an alternative non- Hamas government.

More important, Netanyahu consistently has failed to give Palestinian moderates concessions that might enhance their power in both the West Bank and Gaza. When Palestinians heard Netanyahu say recently that Israel must maintain military control of the West Bank for decades, they ask: What’s the point of negotiating a two-state solution?

Whether Kerry gets a permanent cease-fire or not, the same basic issue will haunt Gaza going forward, which is how to establish the Palestinian Authority as a responsible government that actually controls the territory.

That’s the right long-term question to be negotiating – and it’s where Kerry should be spending U.S. diplomatic capital, rather than in another pursuit of an interim deal.

David Ignatius is published twice weekly by THE DAILY STAR.


Palestinian Tunnels Show a Determination to Fight Israeli Rule

By Rami G. Khouri

Jul. 31, 2014

A press report earlier this week said that an Israeli military task force that had studied the network of tunnels that Hamas has built in recent years to infiltrate their fighters into Israel was “stunned by the sophistication” of the extent and complexity of the tunnels system. In turn, I am stunned that the Israelis were stunned, because they seem unable to grasp the nature of the conflict they are engaged in against all Palestinians.

Anyone who uses traditional political, diplomatic or military criteria to analyze the current conflict between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza will only become hopelessly lost, and miss the realities that drive both sides – as the stunned Israelis have demonstrated. The intensity and savagery of the fighting, and the will to fight and die if necessary on both sides, takes this round of fighting well beyond all previous ones which ended with cease-fire agreements and a few years of calm, before the eruption of a new round of fighting.

Things are different now because of the failure of two doctrines that have dominated Israeli-Palestinian relations during the past two decades: the Israeli military doctrine of “mowing the lawn,” which requires a hard attack against Palestinian resistance groups and civilian infrastructure in Gaza every few years; and Fatah’s and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ negotiating endlessly with Israel without achieving a peace that could result in two states living peacefully together.

Both those approaches have failed to achieve their intended goals. The insincerity of Israel in negotiating a peace agreement was clarified by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week. He stated that even after any peace agreement, Israel would have to maintain permanent military control of much of the West Bank, which rules out any viable Palestinian state.

Consequently, the demise of peace talks and the futility of Israel’s repeated attacks against Gaza have shifted this conflict from the realm of the 20th-century Western, liberal, negotiated conflict resolution mode and thrown both sides back into a biblical-era existential battle that can end only in either survival or extinction.

The third option, which Israel seems to prefer, is unworkable and inhuman, because it is essentially a perpetuation of 19th-century colonial rule. Its aim is a pacified and demilitarized population in Gaza that can be savagely attacked every time it tries to resist Israeli subjugation, with Israeli military controls defining all other Palestinian borders.

The ancient Hebrew Bible is full of examples and exhortations about the Hebrews-Israelites, Amalekites, Edomites and others annihilating and removing each other from the face of the earth, often with God’s approval or even divine command. Israelis and Palestinians today understand in their bones the fears of national extermination, exile or decimation, because they have felt it in some manner. Pre- Israel European Jews experienced the genocidal crimes of the Nazis and pogroms in Central Europe and Russia, and Palestinians in their own world experienced the ethnic cleansing and colonial domination of the Zionists who came and created an Israeli state in a land that was over 93 percent owned and inhabited by Palestinian Arabs. This is not a Bible lesson; it is a seminar in ugly contemporary history, where you either win and survive, or lose and die.

The intensity and savagery of the Israeli attacks against (mostly) civilians in Gaza are being well documented in media outlets these days, as is the ability of the Palestinian resistance fighters to hit back and kill (mostly) Israeli troops. The problem for Israel is that its overwhelming military strength that allows it to “mow the lawn” every few years has not achieved its goal of a pacified Palestinian population that accepts its subjugated fate.

The sophistication of the tunnel system that Israel now seeks to destroy reflects the determination of the Palestinians living under a colonial-style siege in Gaza to fight back and achieve their freedom, even at the risk of death. It is impossible to miss the fact that during the last half-century every increase in the use of force by Israel has generated enhanced resistance by the Palestinians, including enhanced will and technical proficiency. The Palestinians have done this to achieve three goals that cannot be separated: to stop Israeli military attacks on Gaza; to end the siege on Gaza and allow its people to live a normal life; and to seek a redress of grievances and end the Palestinians’ refugee status in an internationally legitimate manner.

The short-term consequences of this round of fighting revolve around how to achieve a cease-fire might that will lead to long-term quiet and normalcy for both peoples. Yet neither side can ignore anymore the more important longer-term development, that all concerned must seek a resolution that is based on the core question in the conflict: How can Jewish Zionists and Christian and Muslim Arab Palestinians live in peace, legitimacy and security in the land they both call home?

A conflict that drives the most powerful survival instincts on both sides cannot be resolved by traditional means, such as shuttle diplomacy, American mediation, or confidence-building measures. Returning to the situation of last month is not feasible for Gazans, who would remain under siege and attack, while the Israeli, American and Palestinian governments persist in their moribund diplomacy.

The latest round of attacks by Israelis and Palestinians may prove to be most significant for pushing all concerned to seek a permanent resolution of the Israeli-Palestinians conflict, rather than letting it fester in 19th-century colonial mode, as has been the case for decades.

Rami G. Khouri is published twice weekly by THE DAILY STAR


Israel Unbound In Today’s Middle East

By Joyce Karam

31 July 2014

Amidst unprecedented regional turmoil, inter-Arab disputes and a sharp decline in U.S. influence, Israel seems to be acting with little to no restraint in the Middle East. In both war and peace, the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu seems to be setting its own terms with the Palestinians as it pummels Gaza and shrugs off the negotiations with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Netanyahu, by evoking the mantra of “radical Islam” and drawing comparisons between the Palestinian militant group Hamas and the extremist Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), seems to be taking advantage of the regional divisions and the new paranoia of the Muslim Brotherhood among the governments of Syria, Egypt and the Arab Gulf with the exception of Qatar. It is this strategy that is driving Israel to denounce the Turkish or Qatari mediation to end the 23-days-old assault on Gaza, in an attempt to court Egypt and abuse the regional divide.

Humiliating Kerry

Not even John Kerry, the U.S. secretary of state who complained of “Israel being under siege by a terrorist organization” just last week, was able to apply pressure on Netanyahu to accept a ceasefire. Kerry, like no U.S. secretary of state before him, was humiliated and ridiculed by the Israeli press for doing his job, reaching out to all regional actors including UAE and Qatar. That was the mechanism that his predecessor Hillary Clinton utilized in 2012, albeit with different leadership in Egypt under deposed President Mohammad Mursi.

But that was then, and this is now. Kerry’s plan collapsed, and Israel has since his departure expanded the operation to include Hamas’ infrastructure, TV stations and Gaza’s only power plant. The escalation was accompanied by sharp criticism in the Israeli press targeting Kerry for apparently ruining the ceasefire talks, and asking U.S. President Barack Obama to stay out of the situation or in the words of Israeli Construction Minister Uri Ariel “leave us alone” and “go focus on Syria.”

While this is the most vocal rejection of the U.S. role, it is neither surprising nor unpredictable. For five years, Netanyahu has brushed off U.S. demands in the peace process, expanding illegal settlements, outmanoeuvring Obama sometimes, in my understanding, through backdoor channels with Republicans in the U.S. Congress apparently including Eric Cantor, the former representative from Virginia and someone I am told is a good friend of Netanyahu. Both George Mitchell and Martin Indyk failed to deal with Netanyahu as U.S. peace envoys, and resigned before any significant progress was made.

Netanyahu challenged Obama’s resolve in 2009 on the issue of settlement freezing and when the U.S. president backed down a year later, the Israeli prime minister exploited the weakness, which was later displayed with hesitation inside of the White House to back Kerry in his peace efforts. Today, Netanyahu knows all too well the extent to which Obama is willing to go on Gaza as he faces a decline in U.S.’ regional leverage and a cramped International Agenda.

New Regional Dynamic

As he exploits apparent U.S. weaknesses, Netanyahu seems also to be taking full advantage of the regional divisions. The Israeli prime minister has transformed the Palestinian struggle into a chess piece in a regional rivalry game, with Qatar and Turkey seemingly backing one side and Egypt’s Abdel Fattah Sisi and the rest of the Arab Gulf backing another or staying on the sideline. This is a master stroke for Netanyahu helping him to isolate Hamas internally and externally, as well as diminish the core of the Palestinian struggle against the Israeli occupation and for statehood.

Gaza is more or less standing alone today. The Rafah crossing remains closed and Sisi’s Egypt, I believe, is operating on a security agenda and what it perceives as a tie between the Muslim Brotherhood (Hamas’ paternal organization) and extremist threats inside Sinai. While Qatar and Turkey seem to be supporting Gaza in theory, the hurdles of geography and Israeli intransigence are keeping it from materializing.

Iran on the other hand - formerly a strong backer of Hamas - has its hands tied in Syria and Iraq and could have been disappointed with the Palestinian group’s position opposing the regime of Bashar al-Assad. While Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah has tried to bridge these differences in the last speech and through phone calls to Hamas’ leader Khaled Meshaal in Doha and Islamic Jihad’s Ramadan Shallah, there is little that Hezbollah can do today. The Lebanese militant group is dragged into a deep battle in Syria, draining the party’s resources and hindering any efforts to open a new front on the Lebanese-Israeli border.

It is this status-quo that unrestrained Netanyahu in Gaza, backed by strong support from the Israeli cabinet and the public. The war in Gaza will likely deepen the regional divide, whatever its outcome is, and further restrict Obama’s hand in the Middle East. Such dynamic only helps Netanyahu in confronting what he sees as existential threats down the road in dealing with Iran and the new threat of “radical Islam.”

Joyce Karam is the Washington Correspondent for Al-Hayat Newspaper, an International Arabic Daily based in London. She has covered American politics extensively since 2004 with focus on U.S. policy towards the Middle East. Prior to that, she worked as a Journalist in Lebanon, covering the Post-war situation. Joyce holds a B.A. in Journalism and an M.A. in International Peace and Conflict Resolution.


Israel’s PR(Opaganda) Machine Is Backfiring

By Yossi Mekelberg

31 July 2014

I have been visiting family in Cheyenne, Wyoming this last week. It is a time of the year when this small Wild West town becomes the world capital of rodeo and country music. The war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza seemed, at least on the surface, of very little interest for the thousands of cowboy hat and boot wearing men and women, who came early in the morning to the town’s Depot Plaza. They arrived for a massive communal breakfast of pancakes with maple syrup accompanied by strong coffee. Yet, even there as everyone was enjoying their food and listening to old country music favorites, the loudspeakers of the local radio broadcasted an interview with an Israeli official doing his best to explain Israeli policies in this tragic war. It sounds anecdotal, but it was just another piece of evidence, in my eyes, of the relentless PR(opaganda) machine, trying to win over people around the world.

Both Hamas and the Israeli government are cognisant of the importance of winning over international public opinion in support of their cause and methods. They flooded social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, with information that contains more than a slant of bias, in an effort to convince the world of their just stand in this war and in the conflict as a whole. Official, and less official, spokespersons have become familiar faces and voices on all media outlets. The Israeli PR machine is very sleek. It employs many people who command a range of languages and are very well versed in presenting Israeli policies, while smearing and dismissing the Palestinian ones. Hamas’ media effort might not be able to match that of the Israelis in its sleekness, however, the strength of its website and Twitter presence is that it appears authentic for a government with little resources and under severe military attack. The irony is that this relentless competition on the hearts and minds of people, is very often surpassed by the millions of other pages of media outlets, organizations and individuals, who post verbal evidence and images that are often more impactful than those of the official ones.

Israel Enjoyed the Upper Hand

At the beginning of the hostilities Israel enjoyed the upper hand in most media fronts, not to mention the support of the governments whose policies matter to her. This support has worn off gradually as the war increasingly claimed the lives of innocent Palestinian civilians, especially as a consequence of the Israeli ground invasion of Gaza. To a large extent, this erosion can be attributed to the role of the international media and especially the social media networks where much of this public relations war is conducted.

Increasingly the power of images has taken over the debate. The adage that “a picture is worth thousand words” is becoming even more powerful in the internet age. One of the most memorable photos from the Vietnam War is that of the nine-year-old Kim Phuc fleeing naked with a group of civilians from her village when the American war planes mistook them for soldiers and bombed them with napalm. Similarly, the image of the Tank Man in Tiananmen Square, standing in front of a column of tanks, dressed in a white shirt and holding a shopping bag, is still in the collective memory twenty-five years later. It epitomized the brutality of the regime against defenseless protestors and also the courage of individuals in the face of this brutality. Since the beginning of the war in Gaza, there has been a stream of disturbing images on Twitter and Facebook, depicting the misery inflicted on the people of Gaza. For instance, a picture in the Times of London shows a young person in front of massive flames, captioned “Nowhere to hide in Gaza attacks.” Even the American media, which are typically Israeli friendly, are dominated by images of distressed Palestinians. Time Magazine featured a photo of the 18-month-old Razel Netzlream, who was killed in an Israeli airstrike, being carried in the arms of her father during her funeral in Rafah.

This image brought home to many around the world the devastating impact of this war on civilians. Needless to say, the images of children and babies killed in the war are the most chilling reminder that war claims mainly the lives of the most innocent and vulnerable. This war in which capabilities and casualties are that lopsided evokes in my mind the story of David and Goliath, in which I believe that Israel has been cast in the unfavorable role of Goliath.

Public Relations Campaigns

Israeli official websites and those who support Israeli policies focus their public relations campaign on two main arguments. The first one is that the Hamas is a terror organization that apparently indiscriminately attacks Israeli towns and villages in an attempt to harm as many Israelis as possible. The other line of argumentation claims that the high number of civilian casualties among the Palestinians is the direct consequence of Hamas militants hiding among civilians and storing ammunition in schools and hospitals. Hence they say Israel is justified in her actions. While at the beginning of the warlike operation there was considerable sympathy for Israel’s position among foreign leaders and a large part of the media, not much of it is left as a result of the high level of civilian casualties among the Palestinians. Israel might have a more sophisticated and well-spoken PR machine, but it cannot win over public opinion when the images relayed from the battlefield are so disturbing.

Interestingly enough, the media is accused by both pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian campaigners for showing bias, either for ideological reasons or to appease pressure groups. For many years Israel and her supporters have accused the BBC, for instance, of siding with the Palestinians, though with very sketchy evidence. This time around a demonstration was held in front of the BBC headquarter offices in London, accusing it of propagating an “anti-Palestinian bias” and for lack of context in reporting the war in Gaza. This claim was supported by a group of intellectuals and activists such as Noam Chomsky, Ken Loach and Brian Eno. The debate about the objectivity of the media will not be resolved easily. On more than one occasion the criticism reflects the critics’ dissatisfaction that their opinions do not dominate the headlines rather than a lack of objectivity by the media. Yet, it demonstrates the importance attributed by everyone concerned with the war in winning the public opinion battle. It is becoming more complex because there is a difference in messages that both belligerents are sending to their domestic constituency and the image they would like to portray abroad. These messages are many times contradictory and confusing. Both portray themselves as victims rather than aggressors, searching for peace rather than war, but at the same time taking pride in harming each other.

When the war is over, Israel will have to embark on a soul searching exercise on how it lost the support of public opinion in a matter of a few weeks. The answer might be quite simple. No spin doctor can convincingly sway public opinion to support a flawed policy. The need to gain support to stop rocket attacks on Israel resonated with many around the world, who were ready to ignore the context of these attacks. However, this was not a carte blanche for Israel to inflict destruction and carnage on many innocent Gazans in its war with Hamas and its allies. Taking these measures inevitably led to the media to turn against Israel and the loss of support vis–à–vis public opinion, support which will take long time to recover.

Yossi Mekelberg is an Associate Fellow at the Middle East and North Africa Program at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, where he is involved with projects and advisory work on conflict resolution, including Track II negotiations. He is also the Director of the International Relations and Social Sciences Program at Regent’s University in London, where he has taught since 1996. Previously, he was teaching at King’s College London and Tel Aviv University. Mekelberg’s fields of interest are international relations theory, international politics of the Middle East, human rights, and international relations and revolutions. He is a member of the London Committee of Human Rights Watch, serving on the Advocacy and Outreach committee. Mekelberg is a regular contributor to the international media on a wide range of international issues and you can find him on Twitter @YMekelberg.


Gaza: A Stronger Hamas Will Be A Good Outcome

By Dr. Naser Al-Tamimi

31 July 2014

Following the events in Gaza from afar gives the impression that there is a war between two states or two armies battling on the border areas. But the truth, in my view, id that it is an unequal war; on one side there is the Israeli war machine and on the other side 1.8 million innocent civilians among them some Palestinians fighters armed with light weapons which are no match against the stronger army.

The current Israeli policy that aims to crush Hamas and relies on collective punishment and the confiscation of Palestinian lands amid tightening the blockade on the Gaza Strip will fail, I believe. This foolish policy inevitably will lead to catastrophic consequences for all, I feel.

Killing the Peace Camp

The Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas will be the first victim of the Israeli military offensive on the Gaza Strip. Dangerously, I feel that large segments of the Palestinian people started to consider it (the PA) as a tool of the Israeli occupation. This is accompanied with the apparent death of the so-called peace process, which will ultimately erode the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. As a result, the Palestinian youth in the West Bank, which have become increasingly radicalized, will be looking for organizations that can challenge Israel.

In Gaza, tightening of the blockade accompanied with Hamas’ inability to break the siege or to achieve a decisive military victory will without doubt force Hamas confront a dangerous political impasse with two difficult options: either to make political concessions or continue to live under a siege that could be even tougher than before.

The Israeli Plan

From the Israeli perspective, any political concessions by Hamas may lead to a split in the the movement. Meanwhile, if Hamas stuck to its political agenda, this could lead to further political isolation and tighten the economic blockade. This situation may increase the frustration among the local populations, ultimately leading to a collision between the people of Gaza and Hamas.

In this context, I do not think it would be surprising to see some emerging jihadist movements inside Palestine challenging the powers of Fatah and Hamas alike. Eventually, the Palestinian political situation will increasingly become fragile and give the jihadists organizations a rare opportunity to penetrate the Palestinian society in a dramatic way.

Of course, there are many in Israel who may welcome these developments, because they increase the isolation of the Palestinians and deepen political divisions. It may also provide a golden opportunity for Israel to move forward with plans never dreamed of in the past.

Palestinians Mini Road Map

Through the above analysis we can determine that several key issues need to be addressed in order to unite the Palestinians, at least at this stage. First, continue to support the Palestinian national unity government, whereby the main task will be to rebuild what was destroyed by the brutal Israeli war machine, and then prepare for Palestinian elections to choose the next members of parliament and the president. Second, the lifting of the blockade on Gaza must be a necessary condition and should not be waived under any circumstances. Finally, improve the relationship with Egypt.

There are of course some inside Palestine and Egypt who would not be happy to see the emergence of a stronger Hamas. Nevertheless, the continuation of the blockade on Gaza and a weaker Hamas will gradually tear the political fabric of Palestine and open the way for the possibility of a worse alternative with disastrous results for both the Palestinians and Egypt.

Dr Naser al-Tamimi is a UK-based Middle East analyst and author of the forthcoming book “China-Saudi Arabia Relations, 1990-2012: Marriage of Convenience or Strategic Alliance?” He is an Al Arabiya regular contributor, with a particular interest in energy politics, the political economy of the Gulf, and Middle East-Asia relations.


Hamas: An Israeli Experiment Gone Wrong

By Mohammad Ahmad

August 01, 2014

Media clippings showing most respectful treatment of the Jewish victims and the stark difference when it comes to the mortal remains of non-Jews is too visible to be ignored

The state of Palestine was the dream of all Palestinians, Muslims and Christians included. The struggle for such a state was, since Israel’s creation, spearheaded by freedom fighters who wanted the land for its entire people, not just the Muslims. Both political and military resistance to Israel’s creation and then its occupation of Arab lands had its participation across religions. The freedom struggle was secular in character and even the military resistance had fair numbers from among the Palestinian Christians and, surprisingly, the liberated Jews as well. It was a period in time when military resistance was tolerated around the globe and the Irish Republican Army in Ireland, UNITA in Angola and others elsewhere were active in a manner that brought the civilian population into harm’s way yet they were not termed as terrorists. In such a permissive environment, Palestinian groups like Al Fatah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and others were formed to fight the occupation. Both these organisations had members across religions. George Habbash and Leila Khalid, both Christians, were household names at the time. Similarly, Uri Davis and Ilan Halevi are worth-mentioning names as they became senior members of the organisations formed later for the liberation of Palestine. Ilan Halevi rose to become an advisor to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. While the manner in which some groups conducted their struggle was questionable, as they targeted the innocent as well thereby taking away the moral high ground, their struggle was for all the people of their land and was secular in character. They may have talked of wiping out Israel as a state but were not anti-Semitic in any manner. Their war was not against the Jews.

Collectively, the Palestinian struggle was, for decades, led by the PLO of which both Al Fatah and PFLP were members. Few in the world branded the PLO a terrorist outfit. The PLO had championed the cause of the Palestinians for decades and its secular approach carried global appeal. This situation did nor suit Israel; it needed to break Palestinian unity and fragment the resistance in all possible ways. Israel knew that diluting its secular character by dividing the resistance along religious lines would diminish the global appeal of the Palestinian cause. For Israel, the icing on the cake would have been the transfer of the leadership of the Palestinians’ struggle to a religious extremist group as the west too was wooing such elements in its cold war with the Soviet Union. Israel was looking for an opportunity to arise.

When Israel first encountered the so-called Islamists in Gaza in the 1970s and 1980s, the Israeli government officially recognised a precursor to Hamas called Mujama al Islamiya, registering it as a charity. It allowed Mujama members to set up an Islamic university and build mosques, clubs and schools. When the so-called Islamists and their secular left-wing Palestinian rivals battled for influence in both Gaza and the West Bank, Israel tactically stood aside even if the clashes became violent. In Gaza, Israel hunted down members of Fatah and other secular PLO factions but removed restrictions imposed on the so-called Islamic activists by the territory’s pre-occupation Egyptian rulers. In Gaza, the Muslim Brotherhood, led by Sheikh Yassin, was free to spread its message openly. Thus, in addition to launching various charities, Sheikh Yassin collected money to reprint the writings of Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian member of the Brotherhood who is the founding ideologue of so-called Islamic militancy. After it failed to oust secularists from the leadership of the Palestinian Red Crescent (globally the Red Cross) in Gaza, Mujama staged a violent demonstration, storming the Red Crescent building. These so-called Islamists also attacked shops selling liquor and cinemas, while the Israeli military mostly stood on the sidelines as a spectator. Till after the first Palestinian intifada in Gaza, Israel perceived the so-called Islamists as an ally against the PLO. While chasing the PLO, it let Hamas grow into what it is today as a perceived ally.

Israel’s efforts to find a pliant Palestinian partner that was both credible for the Palestinians and willing to cooperate with it backfired as its would-be partner turned against it. Israel’s experience replicates that of the US, which, during the Cold War, looked towards the so-called Islamists as an ally against communist advance. The same anti-Soviet forces that were allied to the US after Moscow’s 1979 invasion of Afghanistan later mutated into al Qaeda. Hamas released its charter in 1988. The portion concerning Israel is a very interesting read. Under part III, ‘Strategies and Methods, Article 11’, it reads: “The strategy of Hamas: Palestine is an Islamic Waqf. The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine has been an Islamic Waqf throughout the generations and until the Day of Resurrection, no one can renounce it or part of it, or abandon it or part of it. No Arab country nor the aggregate of all Arab countries, and no Arab King or President nor all of them in the aggregate, have that right, nor has that right any organisation or the aggregate of all organisations, be they Palestinian or Arab, because Palestine is an Islamic Waqf throughout all generations and to the Day of Resurrection.”

While this portion of the Hamas charter negates the likelihood of durable peace in the region, fuel to such a position is provided by Israel’s discriminatory attitude towards non-Jews. It allowed Gaza to become a ghetto under its total control while Israel developed its own towns and settlements on occupied lands on the most modern lines. This discrimination is not confined to living alone as Israel’s treatment of the non-Jewish dead is also discriminatory. Media clippings showing most respectful treatment of the Jewish victims and the stark difference when it comes to the mortal remains of non-Jews is too visible to be ignored. The sanctity of a person by virtue of being a human is compromised by such discriminatory treatment. Until Israel recognises the sanctity of all human life, non-Jewish and Jewish equally, the problem will remain. If it does that, its response to any action by militants would be proportionate and not involve civilians. Israel claims its current action in Gaza to be a response to the firing of rockets by Hamas. Even if this argument is accepted, its disproportionate response and targeting of civilians substantiates the findings recorded earlier. Innocent Palestinians are being used as trading chips by both Hamas and Israel.

All parties to the conflict deserve peace. The long-term solution to the Middle East problem will always elude the parties as long as the Israeli constitution is not radically modified to make the country truly secular. Were it to happen, people of all faiths and races that have a stake in the land and have contributed to its cultural development over centuries, will have a reason to live peacefully together. Then, one day, Israel may have a Palestinian as its president with Jewish votes and a Jew as the prime minister elected with majority votes by the Palestinians.

Living in fear of war should not be the future for the children of the region. It needs to be understood that freedom, justice and equality cannot be maintained in isolation. Israel is a democracy and, in this respect, has an edge over many of its neighbours. It needs to become truly secular as well. If it becomes secular in substance, the basis of hostilities in so many places will evaporate. The parties to this conflict are not answerable for what may have been done centuries ago but are indeed answerable for what they do today. It is time all sides show wisdom and take action for the common good of mankind.