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Islam and the West ( 7 Jan 2009, NewAgeIslam.Com)

The Real Estate War in Gaza: The History and 'Morals' of Ethnic Cleansing

The Real Estate War in Gaza: The History and "Morals" of Ethnic Cleansing By VICTORIA BUCH

Propaganda, Perception, and Trut: Consider the Realities of Gaza By WILLIAM COOK

"If I Die, I Want to Die Here in My Country": Phoning Home to Gaza By SOUSAN HAMMAD

To be Free, From a Night Without Bombs: Longing in Gaza By MATS SVENSSON

No Child in Gaza is Safe: Abeer's Baby By JEN MARLOWE

"They Made Us Do It": The Madness Among Us By Dr. TRUDY BOND

Despite the Bloodshed, Israel is Failing: What Kind of Security Will This Barbarism Bring Israel? By SAREE MAKDISI

A Galaxy of Partisan Propagandists: Israel is Immune From Criticism By BRIAN CLOUGHLEY

"If I Die, I Want to Die Here in My Country": Phoning Home to Gaza By SOUSAN HAMMAD

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 January 6, 2009

The Real Estate War in Gaza

The History and "Morals" of Ethnic Cleansing

By VICTORIA BUCH

I arrived in Israel 40 years ago. It took me many years to understand that the very existence of my country, as it is today, is based on an ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. The project started many years ago. Its seed can be traced to the basic fallacy of the Zionist movement, which set out to establish a Jewish-national state in a location already inhabited by another nation. Under these conditions, one has, at most, a moral right to strive for a bi-national state; establishing a national state implies, more or less by definition, ethnic cleansing of the previous inhabitants.

Albert Einstein grasped this fallacy a long time ago. A short time after WWI "Einstein complained that the Zionists were not doing enough to reach agreement with the Palestinian Arabs…He favored a binational solution in Palestine and warned Chaim Weizmann against `Prussian style` nationalism"[1]

But such warnings passed un-heeded by the Zionist movement. So here we are, nearly a century later, with a Jewish national state dominated by militaristic and militant nationalists, who diligently pursue colonization and "judaization" of the land under Israeli control, on both sides of the Green Line (1967 border). The project has been pursued continuously and relentlessly under the different Israeli governments, recently under the cover of bogus "negotiations" with President Abbas. Most of the Israeli institutions participate in it. Young Israelis, generation after generation, join the army to provide the military cover. The young folks have been brain-washed to honestly believe that the army pursues Israel's "fight for existence". However it seems evident to the author of this article, as to many others, that the survival of the Jewish community in this country depends on establishing viable mechanisms of coexistence with the Palestinians. Thus, under the slogan of "fight for existence", the State of Israel is pursuing an essentially suicidal project.

This long-standing outlook of the Israeli governing classes was summarized succinctly in a recent book `Palestine Inside Out` by Saree Makdisi, an American academic. His book "suggests that occupation is merely a feature of an ongoing Israeli policy of slow transfer of the native Palestinian population from their lands. This policy predates the founding of the state, and all of the various practices of the occupier: illegal settlement, land confiscation, home demolition and so on, serve this ultimate purpose."[2]

If you do not believe the above assessment, consider several statements by David Ben Gurion himself, from the time before the establishment of the State of Israel (Ben Gurion was the leader of the Zionist movement before 1948 and the first Israeli Prime Minister after 1948):

"The compulsory transfer of the [Palestinian] Arabs from the valleys of the proposed Jewish state could give us something which we never had, even when we stood on our own during the days of the first and second Temples…We are given an opportunity which we never dared to dream of in our wildest imaginings. This is more than a state, government and sovereignty, this is national consolidation in a free homeland." [3]

"With compulsory transfer we [would] have a vast area [for settlement]…I support compulsory transfer. I don't see anything immoral in it."[3]

During the 1948 war, about two-thirds of the Palestinians who would become refugees were in fact expelled from their homes by the nascent Israeli army, and one-third became refugees while escaping the dangers of war. All these people, 0.75-1 million of them, were prevented from returning to Israel after the armistice agreement, while their homes and property were demolished or appropriated by the State of Israel.

Among the common mantras provided to the Israelis to justify the above is the following: "Israel accepted the UN partition plan, and Arabs did not, so what happened afterwards is their own fault". What is conveniently overlooked is that Palestinian Arabs constituted between one third and one half of the population of that designated Jewish homeland (according to various UN reports). Why should these people, whose ancestors lived there for generations, accept living in somebody else's designated homeland? Imagine, for example, the reaction of French Belgians if their country were designated as a "Flemish homeland" by the UN.

But the main mantra drummed into the conscience of an Israeli citizen from kindergarten, is that in 1948 "it was either them or us", "Arabs would have thrown us into the sea if we did not establish a Jewish majority state with a strong army", etc. I have my doubts about that line, too, but let us suppose for the moment that in fact, it was so. And then came the year 1967, and the Six Day War. Another chapter in the Israeli "fight for existence" against recalcitrant Arabs who just keep trying to throw us into the sea. On the face of it, that is how it seemed. I together with most of my compatriots believed for years that 1967 was in fact a moment of existential danger for Israel. Until I stumbled upon some telling quotes, uttered by our very own leaders [4]:

"(a) The New York Times quoted Prime Minister Menachem Begin`s (1977 - 83) August, 1982 speech saying: `In June, 1967, we had a choice. The Egyptian Army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that (President Gamal Abdel) Nasser (1956 - 70) was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.`

(b) Two-time Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (1974 - 77 and 1992 - 95) told French newspaper Le Monde in February, 1968: `I do not believe Nasser wanted war. The two divisions which he sent into Sinai on May 14 would not have been enough to unleash an offensive against Israel. He knew it and we knew it.`

(c) General Mordechai Hod, Commander of the Israeli Air Force during the Six-Day War said in 1978: `Sixteen years of planning had gone into those initial eighty minutes. We lived with the plan, we slept on the plan, we ate the plan. Constantly we perfected it.`

(d) General Haim Barlev, Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Chief told Ma`ariv in April 1972: `We were not threatened with genocide on the eve of the six-day war, and we had never thought of such a possibility.`"

So: instead of "thwarting an existential danger", in 1967 the State of Israel carried out an effective military operation to acquire some real estate. There is nothing new about that "existential danger" propaganda. Acquisition of real estate by conquest has been already called pleasing names by various other conquerors and occupiers, throughout the old and new history: such as "manifest destiny", "white man's burden", "spreading true religion / culture / democracy", whatnot.

The reader may like to know that the 1967 real estate acquisition by the State of Israel was anticipated some twenty years earlier by Ben-Gurion, at the time of the partition plan (which was supposedly accepted by the Zionist leadership). See the following quotes of Ben-Gurion, which can be found in the book by an Israeli historian[5]:

"Just as I do not see the proposed Jewish state as a final solution to the problems of the Jewish people, so I do not see partition as the final solution of the Palestine question. Those who reject partition are right in their claim that this country cannot be partitioned because it constitutes one unit, not only from a historical point of view but also from that of nature and economy".

"After the formation of a large army in the wake of the establishment of the [Jewish] state, we shall abolish partition and expand to the whole of the Palestine".

I wonder if at any point in history there was any association of people who acquired goodies by brute force, and who viewed themselves candidly as such. Times and again, conquerors considered themselves unwilling victims of circumstances, and the barbarians (their own victims!) against whom they have to regretfully protect their rights. Consider the following pronouncements of Benny Morris, a historian who documented the 1948 ethnic cleansing. In a 2004 interview with Morris which was published in Haaretz one reads[6]:

Q: The title of the book you are now publishing in Hebrew is "Victims." In the end, then, your argument is that of the two victims of this conflict, we [Israelis] are the bigger one.

Morris: "Yes. Exactly. We are the greater victims in the course of history and we are also the greater potential victim. Even though we are oppressing the Palestinians, we are the weaker side here. We are a small minority in a large sea of hostile Arabs who want to eliminate us.

The above opinion is representative of the Israeli mainstream. It has been raised to the status of axiom over the years, and no reasonable peace offers (such as the latest Saudi one) are likely to put a dent in it. Israelis are using this slogan to exempt themselves from normal human decency towards Palestinians. Most Israeli Jews have convinced themselves that they have a moral right to expropriate and expel Palestinians because Palestinians are such barbarians, who did not respond to Israel's"generous peace offers" and "only wanted to throw us to the sea". Because we are a nation of Holocaust survivors. My compatriots imagined themselves starring in a modern version of Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" - starring as beautiful elves, of course, who were forced by sad fate to fight ugly goblins the Palestinians (goblins = "terrorists"). Human mercy does not apply to "terrorists". You do not make territorial compromises or peace agreements with "terrorists".

The above explains the mass participation of otherwise normal and more-or-less decent Israelis in the ongoing ethnic-cleansing projects. How else can you account for a dying elderly man and his wife being dragged out of their east Jerusalem apartment to make space for Jewish settlers. Building the Jerusalem "Museum of Tolerance" on the site of an ancient Muslim graveyard. Onslaught on West Bank orphanages supported by Islamic charities. State-subsidized Jewish settler-thugs conducting pogroms against Palestinians in Hebron and elsewhere in the Occupied Territories. Widespread sadism practiced by Israeli soldiers against Palestinian detainees. Trashing of Palestinian homes during nightly military incursions in Palestinian towns and villages. Demolitions of Palestinian homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem under the brazen pretext of "illegal construction". Extensive land grab for settlers. And much more.[7]

The Gaza Strip is the place where the self-righteous Israeli sadism has reached new heights. The Strip is densely populated, mostly by descendants of Palestinians expelled in 1948. Well before the Second Intifada, choice Gazan real estate along the beach (about ¼ of the Strip land) was confiscated for a few thousand Jewish settlers. Still, a million and a half Gazan Palestinians had a sort of normal life (under the Israeli occupation) – growing fruits and vegetables, making construction materials and other products for Israeli markets, and working as laborers within the Green Line. Before the second Intifada, very little terror was coming from there to Israel.

However, since the beginning of the Intifada (a year and a half before the first Palestinian rocket landing across the border) the Israeli army embarked on the systematic destruction of the Strip. Incursions were carried out every few weeks and included the destruction of factories and workshops, roads, agricultural land, homes, and whatnot. Access to the Israeli economy was closed. Eventually, desperate Palestinians resorted to shooting Qassam rockets which rarely caused casualties or real damage but served as an excellent pretext for Israeli military "action".

And then Sharon carried out his brilliant propaganda move of "disengagement" from Gaza. The whole operation was marketed as a demonstration of Israeli good will. The Israeli settlements in Gaza were in fact removed, but the army was redeployed around the Strip, and the Strip was converted to a large scale prison. The economic strangulation of Gaza was tightened to a draconian extent, especially after the Hamas government suppressed the Israel-cum-USA sponsored Fatah putsch. (I am no fan of Hamas but their government was democratically elected by the Palestinians) Hamas offered several times to conduct negotiations with Israel, based on 1967 borders, but the offers were under-reported and ignored. It is likely that such negotiations would have stopped the Qassams, but Israeli leaders appeared interested in continuation of the violence. The Qassams created a great opportunity for more "poor little us" propaganda, and a great pretext to wiggle out of legitimate international requests to stop the massive colonization of the West Bank.

Finally, a truce with Hamas was negotiated. Since the beginning of the truce defense minister Barak commenced preparations for a massive attack on Gaza[8]. On November 14th the working truce with Hamas was deliberately broken on Barak's orders, by killing several Hamas fighters. A totally predictable Palestinian response ensued - cancellation of the truce and a barrage of rockets. The barrage was used by Barak as a pretext for that large-scale operation, including the slaughter of hundreds of people in Gaza with missiles deployed from airplanes. This muscle-flexing is an obvious part of Barak's and Livni's forthcoming election campaign, at the price of hundreds of Palestinian casualties, and several Israeli ones (as meanwhile Palestinians have improved their aim). In a forthcoming ground operation Israeli soldiers are also likely to pay with their lives for this form of electioneering.

Do you know what mainstream Israelis make of the above? 'We, Israelis, in an act of self-sacrifice, removed poor Jewish settlers from their "homes" in the Gaza Strip and gave Palestinians a chance for free and happy existence. But the Palestinians spurned our peace efforts and preferred instead to pursue their addiction to "throwing Jews to the sea." Gaza could have become a new Singapore, but the Gazans chose instead to shoot rockets at Israelis.'

The disengagement was thus an act of brilliance on part of that evil genius, Sharon. He provided mainstream Israelis with a sweeping moral absolution. Palestinians "disappointed" them. Now the Israeli leaders can do anything they wish to Palestinians. Do not expect a squeak of public protest from the Israeli Jewish public, except for a tiny minority of "self hating Jews" like yours truly.

Believe me, these Jewish-Israeli mainstreamers are not natural-born monsters. They just do not know any better. Alas, I used to be one of them. Then one day I stumbled, more or less by chance, into the West Bank with a group of activists. I acquired some Palestinian friends and finally understood the criminality of the treatment of the Palestinians by my country. And I learned to ignore the daily portion of preposterous propaganda which is provided to my compatriots by the media in lieu of "news". But how to convince my compatriots not to listen to this propaganda? I do not know.

Then again, it does not have to be so. In addition to four million or so stateless Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories, there are about a million Palestinians living within the Green Line and carrying Israeli citizenship. Despite the very considerable internal racism, many of these Palestinian citizens are deeply involved in Israeli society. You meet Arab doctors and nurses in Israeli hospitals, Arab students in Israeli universities etc. There is quite an element of coexistence and cooperation between Jews and Arabs there. But a mainstream Jewish-Israeli colleague who might treat his or her Arab co-worker perfectly decently would still be proud of a soldier son who is "serving the country" in the Occupied Territories. He or she would still repeat racist propaganda about the "demographic danger" to the State of Israel from its Arab citizens, and believe the bloodthirsty speeches of generals and ex-generals on the TV. And vote for any of the three major Zionist parties, Likud, Kadima and Labour, whose leaders have been dedicated ethnic cleansers over the years.

For the sake of both nations living in this country, this outrage must be stopped. It must be stopped by pressure from outside, because at present within Israel there are no significant political forces to oppose it. Please do something, my friends, and do it urgently. And kindly ignore the endless "negotiations" between our government and the powerless Palestinian Authority, they are just a cover for more ethnic cleansing. If you do not believe me, come and see the massive settlement construction in East Jerusalem and West Bank. And the walls of the Palestinian ghettos.
Source:
http://www.counterpunch.org/buch01062009.html


Victoria Buch is an Israeli academic and anti-Occupation activist. Her email: vvbb54@yahoo.com

[1] From "The Pity of It All", a book by Amos Elon on German Jews.
[2] From a review of Makdisi's book: `Palestine Inside Out`, by Lena Khalaf Tuffaha, IMEU 2008.
[3] From "Righteous Victims" by Benny Morris
[4] Collected by Stephen Lendman, see http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/15348)
[5] From The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities,by Simha Flapan
[6] The full text of the interview can be found in the Counterpunch website
[7] *Information can be found, e.g., in the Occupation Magazine, the website of Israeli anti-Occupation activists.
[8] "Disinformation, secrecy and lies: How the Gaza offensive came about" By Barak Ravid, Haaretz http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1050426.html

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January 5, 2009

Propaganda, Perception, and Truth

Consider the Realities of Gaza

By WILLIAM COOK

“How dreadful knowledge of the truth can be”

-- Oedipus Rex, Scene I

As the Israeli military launched an “all out war” with Hamas in the Gaza strip, as casualties mounted to 400 dead and another 1450 wounded, as tanks and troops massed in the area just outside the wall that imprisons the people of Gaza, as preparations for a ground assault into the “closed military zone” around the Gaza strip moved forward, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Saturday the 27th “… instructed the Foreign Ministry to take emergency measures to adapt Israel’s international public relations to the ongoing escalation in the Gaza Strip.” (Haaretz, 12/28/08). “An aggressive and diplomatic international public relations campaign” needed to be launched simultaneously with the estimated “60 raids” that now pummel Gaza each day, raids that, in human terms, have taken the lives of five children, all girls, of the Ba’losha family killed in Bait Lahia City north of Gaza and three children from the Al Absi family in Rafah refugee camp as Israeli rockets collapsed their roof. (freepalestine.ps, Sameh, Habeeb).

I provide names and locations of these families to give reality to the statistics that numb the mind; multiply the suffering of these families as 400 lie dead from this “turkey shoot” against fenced in civilians launched by this compassionate Olmert administration that closes out its criminal tenure in office awaiting the election of yet another militaristic administration.

Unfortunately some ministry officials had to interrupt their vacations to return immediately to their posts abroad. Their purpose, like Livni’s, to “explain the rationale for the expanded IDF operations in the Gaza Strip.” (Haaretz, 12/28/08). The ministry also seeks speakers of foreign languages, especially Arabic, Italian, Spanish, and German to ensure that its message is received by all. An international media broadcast outlet opened on Sunday in Sderot, the hapless Israeli town that has been the recipient of most of Hamas’ rockets over the past 8 years. Tours are planned for “foreign media and diplomatic figures.” Livni noted that “Israel expects the support and understanding of the international community, as it confronts terror, and advances the interest of all those who wish the forces of peace and co-existence to determine the agenda of this region.” (Haaretz)

Not mentioned by Livni, though reported in the same newspaper on the same day, was an article by Barak Ravid, “Disinformation, secrecy and lies: How the Gaza offensive came about.” Ravid discloses that Olmert had “instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for the operation over six months ago, even as Israel was beginning to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with Hamas.” Interesting how propaganda precedes perception and negates reality. In 1958 Aldus Huxley commented in “Brave New World Revisited” that “truth is great” but “silence about truth is greater still.” Hitler used just this “silence about truth” to imprison the minds of his civilians by silencing his actions in the media and creating instead a “new” truth from fabricated lies that cloaked reality in acceptable clothing by redefining actuality. 
While Livni’s hordes roam the world’s TV talk shows and pen articles about “scores” or “showers” or “barrages” of “rockets” pouring on Sderot or other towns near Gaza, Olmert meets with his cabinet for “five hours of discussion about the operation” reserving “one line devoted to the situation in Gaza, compared to one whole page that concerned the outlawing of 35 Islamic organizations.” In short what the public is told by Livni’s PR campaign is not the reason Israel has attacked Gaza. The reason for this invasion is to wipe out Palestinian resistance, something the British had to face in the 1930s and 1940s as Jewish “gangs,” in reality organized and trained military forces (Irgun, Stern, and Hagana), confronted their rule as determined by the UN under the Mandate. But the deception did not end there. Israel continued “to send out disinformation in announcing it would open the crossings to the Gaza strip” and that Olmert “would decide whether to launch the strike following three more deliberations on Sunday – one day after the actual order to launch the operation was issued.” Hamas, which had vacated its headquarters because of these announcements, returned just in time to be killed, a deception comparable in its consequence to that 1946 “false flag” operation that destroyed the King David Hotel killing 91.

The world has been and is again being told how the people of Israel are victims of Hamas’ rockets that “pour” or “shower” their villages. Let’s consider the reality rather than the propaganda. Israel sets up Sderot as the suffering example of this terrorist action and provides tours for journalists and diplomats including Barak Obama. One step into Gaza and you will see real devastation, not remains of rockets that landed in fields or hit a building causing no deaths. Both Gaza and the West Bank speak vividly the results of military incursions, home demolitions, bulldozed farm land and fruit trees, and the most insidious icon of human brutality, the Wall of Fear erected by Ariel Sharon.

So let’s consider the reality not the propaganda. In 8 years an estimated 6000 rockets have been shot at Israel. That’s a slightly exaggerated number but one that will allow for increased attempts by Hamas or others to send additional rockets into Israeli towns. That means that on average 750 have been hurled at Israel each year, or 62.5 per month or 2 per day. In all that time 23 Israeli or non-Israelis living in Israel have been killed. That represents about 2.8 a year. This past week, as Israel “showers” Gaza with $300,000 precision missiles that unfortunately do not distinguish in their accuracy civilians from resistance fighters, more rockets have been launched per day by Hamas and other factions at Israel and at least 4 more have died. Now we can see how numbing statistics are. Those twenty three should never have been killed nor the four who died this week. But for Israel to use the rockets as the basis for this past weekend’s horrific slaughter of Palestinians is inexcusable by any measure. Four hundred and fourteen dead in (Guardian, UK, 1/2/2009) as Israeli missiles hammer civilian neighborhoods with, as they claim, precision, is nothing short of outright murder and the slaughter continues beyond the 325 sites struck in those first days by land sea and air, a true “rain” of death, devastation and psychological trauma.

Consider the conditions on the ground, the reality not the propaganda, as Israel attacks the residents of Gaza: for the past two years Israel has put Gaza under constant siege closing all gates thus preventing egress and ingress; it has destroyed the infrastructure of Gaza including sewage, electricity and water; it has barred international shipments of humanitarian goods and fuel; and it has maintained, even during the agreed upon cease fire, constant daily incursions into Gaza killing randomly and destroying at will. (PCHRGAZA Weekly Reports). Little or none of this is reported in American papers or on TV news broadcasts, only reference to terrorists and rockets constantly threatening the existence of Israel.

Consider as well the irony of this situation not the propaganda offered by Israel apologists. The people of Gaza are collectively refugees of Jewish forces driven from their homes, like Ashkelon, that is now hit randomly by Gazan rockets. They fire at their own land, at homes they used to live in before well equipped and trained, “unofficial” military of the Jewish Agency during the Mandate years ethnically pushed them into Gaza. The Israelis, of course, do not mention that they stole Ashkelon from the very people who now send rockets into it.

Consider the reality, not the propaganda: the Palestinian people can go no where; they cannot escape through the Israeli controlled gates; they can not flee by car, rail, air, boat or on foot; they are caged in a steel enclosed land area blocked on the west by Israeli gunboats. This is comparable in its way to the “highway of death” that slaughtered thousands of Iraqis as they fled from Kuwait in the 1991 war, surrounded and at the mercy of those hurling missiles from the air and the hills that overlooked their death throes.

Consider Livni’s public relations campaign, the reality not the propaganda, as it thunders forth the desperate condition the Israelis face as Hamas builds its strength in imitation of Hizbullah. Estimates reported in Ynet News (4/10/08) by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center place Hamas’ “military-security force” at 20,000, up from an estimated 13,000 in 2007 as reported in Haaretz (7/21/07). These numbers threaten the Israeli military despite the fact that Israel can field an estimated two million troops; despite its state of the art military that is considered the fourth largest in the world; and despite its possession of 200 to 400 nuclear weapons. All of this force against weapons smuggled into Gaza through tunnels; there’s no other way to bring them in since they are under constant guard by the IDF.

Consider as well the Israeli effort to claim victim hood based on Hamas’ terrorism against its civilians; consider the reality not the propaganda. The following statistics come from B’Tselem as recorded bywww.ifamericaknew.org: 4,897 Palestinians killed since 9/29/00 to 11/30/08; 1062 Israelis killed during that same time period. Of these numbers, 1050 were Palestinian children and 123 Israeli; 2,227-3149 were Palestinian civilians and 727 were Israeli civilians. Since June28, 2008, in Gaza, the start of the cease fire, a total of 247 were killed up to October 6, 2008, 155 of these were civilians and 57 were children.

Add to these horrific numbers the tally the Israeli’s accumulated on December 27th, approximately a week ago, of 251 Palestinians killed, most civilians including 20 children and 9 women with another 584 wounded 130 of them children (PCHR). The death toll for Palestinians has exceeded that of the American casualties in Iraq, and continues to climb above 5200 as each day passes with no end in sight.   

And so we must ask, why? What drives this merciless military machine that is the government and armed forces of Israel? Can it be true as Livni attests that “Israel expects the support and understanding of the international community, as it confronts terror, and advances the interest of all those who wish the forces of peace and co-existence to determine the agenda of this region.” What is terror if not the forced imprisonment of 1.5 million people locked behind gates and walls of steel while a state of the art military including land, air and sea forces pummel the people day and night in a merciless barrage of devastation and mayhem? What civilized state in this community of nations could believe that Israel “advances the interest of all” by such devastation of a helpless neighbor? What civilized state could support, what Livni, without blushing, calls the “forces of peace and co-existence” that determine the agenda in the mid-east? Consider the reality not the propaganda.

Why? In July of 2004, Khalid Amayreh, writing inwww.infoimagination.org, in a study of Israeli military strategy, noted the following: “Israel’s hawkish Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon last week lashed out at the Knesset’s influential committee on defense and foreign affairs, accusing some members of disclosing ‘classified army secrets.’” The reason for the tongue lashing? That the Israeli occupation army “provoked the Palestinians into escalating the violence during the first few months of the second intifada in order to give the army a pretext to hit hard on the Palestinian society and bully it into unconditional surrender.” How was this done? 1,300,000 bullets were fired by “occupation soldiers on Palestinian population centres and other targets.” “This massive firepower, which had no operational justification … showed that the Israeli army was interested more in decimating and harming Palestinians and less in ending the violence.” Compare this newest incursion with its massive firepower against a people that have no where to go, but must live through the agony of a rain of death, a people that have had to endure a merciless siege for two years that has left them physically weakened, emotionally drained, psychologically distraught, and personally humiliated by unemployment, and helpless to alter the situation imposed on them. Before he was “extra-judicially executed,” Abd al-Aziz Rantisi, former Hamas Gaza leader, made this observation, “Israel is offering us two choices, either to die a meek lamb’s death at the slaughter house or as martyr-bombers.” Consider the reality not the propaganda.
Let me return now to the quote from Oedipus Rex that headlined this piece: “How dreadful knowledge of the truth can be.” The nations of the world are faced with a pulverizing public relations blitz by the Israeli government to justify its disproportionate destruction of the Palestinian people and their property. Silencing truth, the reality that exists behind a cloak of lies, destroys justice just as it destroys the people of Gaza. I look back at Hamas’ victory at the election booth, at their offer for peace following that election, both the Hamas offer to consider the Saudi Prince’s 2002 peace plan and Mahmoud Abbas’ offer for an International Peace Conference in Oslo, and realize that Israel and the United States ignored their offers, intentionally ignored their offers just as President Bush, earlier this fall, ignored, by refusing to reply, to a Hamas offer for an on-going ceasefire so that peace could be achieved. A different agenda is at work here, an agenda that seeks the total elimination of the Palestinian people as a people, subject to the authority and control of the Israeli government. As Mohammed Barakeh, an Arab member of the Israeli Knesset remarked about Israel‘s strategy in 2004, “Israel sought to and almost succeeded in convincing the world that its violent onslaught against the Palestinian society was in reaction to Palestinian terror. This simplified and erroneous claim ignores the simple fact that Israel’s violent and racist occupation of the Palestinian homeland is the root cause of all violence.” Once again, the government of Israel has determined that it can, by stealth of propaganda, control how the world views its occupation and military conquest of the Palestinian people. Let’s hope reality overcomes deception.

Source: http://www.counterpunch.org/cook01052009.html

William Cook is a professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California and author of Tracking Depception: Bush's Mideast Policy. He can be reached at: cookb@ULV.EDU
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January 5, 2009

"If I Die, I Want to Die Here in My Country"

Phoning Home to Gaza

By SOUSAN HAMMAD

My family was in Denver for the holidays when we awoke to peddling images of bombardment. Gaza was on fire. 250 people dead. From our television set we quickly tuned into the perversions of war, watching reports from both American and Arab media. We are safe. We do not smell burned flesh, hear cries of agony or see before us military planes. We view from a distance, but feel none of the anxiety and melancholy that the rest of our family feels in the besieged coastal strip.

Scattered throughout the refugee camps of Khan Younis, Beit Lahya and Jabalya, my relatives are living through another war.  We try to call each and every relative to ascertain their safety, but mostly to see whether or not they are still living. The telephone networks were either busy or not working at all. We forgot that Gaza only gets electricity for six hours a day.

After failed attempts to contact my family in Jabalya (due to Israel's bombing of the Jawal towers, which is Gaza's only mobile provider), we get through the landline network to my cousin Anan. He had no desire to speak, mentioning only that the Israeli army was 3 km away from the camp. He then passed the phone to his wife, but she too did not feel at ease on the phone, she was distressed, her children constantly crying, the youngest only 6-weeks-old.

Thirteen years ago my father moved back to Gaza and bought a home in Beit Lahya. He died two years ago, leaving the house to his nephew. Now my cousin and his family live in the house.

We call Beit Lahya. No answer.

Finally, we decide to call our family in Khan Younis. My cousin's mobile is working. The Jawal towers appear to be intact in Khan Younis. Mohamad, a 26-year-old father of two, works as an executive director for the Palestinian Student Care Association, a non-profit organization that promotes formal education to Palestinians in Gaza.

Comforted to hear my voice, like a prisoner receiving a call from the outside world, he asks me how I am doing. Baffled by his question, I don't know: is he is being earnest or polite? I answered by repeating his question.
"We haven't been able to leave the camp since the ground invasion began. Israeli tanks are blocking all entrances to the camp," Mohamad says, "Of course, nobody has been to work or school for the past ten days, we are all staying in our homes at the moment."

80 percent of Gazans cannot support themselves and are dependent on humanitarian assistance, according to a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

"Right now, flour and sugar are not available," Mohamad is weary, "If we want bread we have to be at the bakery by 5 am, and all we get is 1 or 2 loaves."

Food supplies are depleting and with Israel's complete restriction over movement into and out of Khan Younis, many residents are coping with what little they have, resorting to tediously baking their own bread using the taboon, an oven made of clay, which requires long hours of watching the bread to make sure each side is equally cooked.

Thinking of Mohamad's children I ask him how they are coping with sights and sounds of death.

Mohamad said his 6-year-old son Munir stands at the window and pretends to shoot down Israeli apaches and fighter jets that fly overhead. His two-year-old daughter Saja cries every time she hears renewed sounds of bombardment and runs to hide.

"Yesterday we got electricity at 8 p.m. and we immediately turned on the television to watch the news. My children are frightened not just by the sounds of the bombing and gunfire, but by the images they see on the news. They see the Israeli tanks in the camp and they correlate the tank with death."

Mohamad says he doesn't believe that any outside government will intervene, especially that of Arab countries.

"They [Arab governments] have never helped in the past, so why would they help us now? This is something natural that we have come to accept. The Egyptian government won't even open Rafah for Palestinians in need of urgent medical care without permission from Israel."

I asked him if he would leave Gaza if the Rafah border were to miraculously open.
 "Of course not," he says, "If I die, I want to die here in my country and most Palestinians you ask will say the same thing."

Mohamad laughs into the phone. He asks me if I know why he is laughing.  Though I said nothing, there was the thought that maybe war hysteria had finally begun to set in.

"I'm laughing because this is a very complex situation," he says, "Every party wants to govern Palestinians, whether it's Hamas, Fatah or Islamic Jihad. They all look out for their own self-interests. Palestine as a whole has never been their priority. The Israelis are different. Their priority is focused on the Jewish State, and this is why they are successful."

I turn off the phone and turn to the news frenetically searching for some sort of meaning to all this bombardment. With the help of the press displaying the war as something needed to create security or harmony for Israel, giving justification to Israel's rocket rhetoric and dubious claims that this war is a war on Hamas, I become more disenchanted with the docility of the press. This war has only created more chaos for Palestinians, a chaos intended to lead Palestinians to give up their fight against the Zionist state, to becoming subservient to the collaborative Palestinian president. What victory do Israel and the Palestinian Authority seek  in Gaza. A place with no food, no army, no state.

Sousan Hammad is a writer, and coordinator for the Houston Palestine Film Festival. She can be reached at sousan.hammad@gmail.com

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 To be Free, From a Night Without Bombs

Longing in Gaza

By MATS SVENSSON

I am hanging my first photo exhibition in Ramallah at the Sakakini Gallery. It consists of large photographs of the wall, photos from Gaza, the sea and Rafah. There are also some photos of the golden dome in the Old City of Jerusalem. A young woman helps me. We began the day before. Cleaned away some litter. Drunk many cups of coffee. Hung photos up in one place and then switched them around. Everything had to be in tune. Light photos in the darker room and dark photos in the room that had daylight flowing through the small windows. After two days, eighty photos are hanging on the beautiful white sandstone walls. The gallery was earlier a dwelling house and has been redone into a gallery. We are just about done when I suddenly see the woman sitting on the floor. She starts to cry and says:

- I long for the sea!

- What do you mean? I ask.

- I can see the houses, the skyscrapers in Tel Aviv from my apartment on the sixth floor. But I can’t see the sea. I always long for it. I want to show my daughter the sea.

- When were you there last? I ask.

- 1998, she replies. And now I can’t get there.

* * *

- I long for the red and white bird, says the girl who since three weeks sits in a refugee camp in northern Gaza. Three weeks earlier, bulldozers crushed her family’s house. Now she longs for the little bird that used to come every morning to the small balcony.

- Every morning, my mother gave me breakfast and the bird got crumbs from me.

* * *

- We had a dream about establishing a life here in my parents’ building in Al Ram. My loved one comes from Haifa, she is an Israeli Arab. Last week, the wall was closed. Everything suddenly became impossible. Every day, my six-year-old son has to pass by arbitrary, young soldiers.


- We long for freedom, to be free, free, free.

* * *

- Yesterday my youngest daughter gave birth to her first child. When I was going to visit her in the hospital in Nablus I was stopped by a young Israeli girl. I felt sorry for her, she was so young. She was just a girl, a soldier who in one day had left the longing of youth and happiness for the masquerade of death. 22 years ago, I gave birth to my daughter at the hospital in Nablus. Now I wanted to see my grandchild. Now I was not allowed. I long to see my grandchild.

* * *

- I will never again be able to see the olive hill to which my father used to bring me. It is on the other side of the wall. It was there that he taught me everything about animals. It was there that he used to sit and think and yearn for another time. It was there that we had the best view of the Old City in Jerusalem, of the Dome of the Rock. The grey dragon, the wall has now come in between. It kills everything. It even kills the dream. I long to be able to walk the fifty meters up to the olive hill.

* * *

- We long to be able to celebrate Easter in Jerusalem. Every year we apply for a permit. Every year we have the same dream. We have four children. We apply early, five months before Easter. Now the wall is complete. We are confined. It is more difficult for a Christian from Bethlehem to walk on Via Dolorosa than for a Swedish tourist. We need permits from the military, the Swedish tourist does not.

* * *

-We long for a calm night, says the woman in Gaza; a night without bombs, without children screaming, without helicopters, without ambulances, one single night.

* * *

Everybody is longing, everyone longs after something. The occupation has ensured that longing fills everyone’s day. Everyone speaks about it, speaks about what has been lost, about what was recently possible. It is not about the big dreams, but about being able to go to the sea, dip feet into the salty water, to be able to see the red and white bird, to look into the eyes of a grandchild, to be able to walk onto the father’s olive hill, to be able to celebrate Easter with the family, a night without bombs, to be free.

Mats Svensson, a former Swedish diplomat working on the staff of SIDA, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, is presently following the ongoing occupation of Palestine.  He can be reached at isbjorn2001@hotmail.com.   

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January 5, 2009

No Child in Gaza is Safe

Abeer's Baby

By JEN MARLOWE

Abeer was excited when I called her today.

“It’s my time, Jen!” she told me breathlessly. “The baby might come today or tomorrow—any moment now!”

Last time I saw Abeer, a year ago, she had shown me pictures of her fiancé, who is a teacher, and last time we spoke, months ago, she told me she was pregnant. But I had no idea how far along she was and that she was about to give birth now.

Now, of all times.

Abeer lives in the Gaza Strip. She has been waiting for her water to break as missiles rained down, killing over 380 Palestinians.

I wanted to express whole-hearted joy. This will be Abeer’s first child, her parents’ first grandchild. But I felt panic at the news. Gaza is enduring the bloodiest, most vicious attack in over forty years of Israeli occupation. I couldn’t imagine Abeer, whom I have known since she was fifteen and have visited many times in her cramped home in Khan Younes refugee camp, giving birth with the sound of explosions in the background.

Abeer expressed some trepidation herself. “I’m frightened,” she told me. “The situation in Gaza is really terrible. And bringing a child into the world is such a huge responsibility. How can I guarantee my baby’s safety?”

I was concerned, too, for Abeer’s safety. What if air-strikes came as her contractions increased and it was time for her to go to the hospital? Even if she made it to the hospital safely, would they have room for her? There are 1500 hospital beds in Gaza public hospitals and perhaps another 500 in private clinics, but the bombings of the last four days alone have left over 1,900 Palestinians injured. Assuming there is space for Abeer, what kind of medical care will she receive? Doctors are forced to operate without surgical gloves, anesthetics, even gauze. The medical system in Gaza had already been devastated by the sixteen month siege of the strip’s 1.4 million inhabitants. Now, it is on the verge of total collapse.

I was reluctant to mention my fears to Abeer. If she wasn’t already worried herself, what good could it possibly do? A thin and wiry 24 year old woman with dark, smoldering eyes, a warm voice, fierce laugh and a tight hug, Abeer is, above all else, extremely strong. This will not be the first baby in the world born with bomb blasts in the background. It certainly wouldn’t be the first baby born with no guarantee of medical care during delivery. Chances are, Abeer will give birth to a healthy baby and be fine herself.

The reality Abeer is bringing her child into is the truly terrifying thought. The potentially life-threatening shortages of food, electricity, water, cooking gas, car fuel—and on top of it all, relentless, inescapable, pointless violence. Abeer is right. She cannot guarantee her baby’s safety. No child in Gaza is safe.

It was difficult to end my conversation with Abeer. I didn’t know what words to leave her with. “Stay strong,” or “I’ll be thinking of you,” felt horribly inadequate.

“You’re going to be a great mother, Abeer,” I finally said. “This baby will be surrounded by so much love.”

Abeer laughed quietly. “I hope so, Jen.”

I told Abeer I would call her in a few days and asked her to try to get me word if she delivered before then.

As the grim news from Gaza continues to pour in, I think about my friend and her unborn child. My closing comment was honest: Abeer will be a wonderful mother. Her strength, her warmth, her fierce intensity will all be harnessed in the service of caring for and protecting her infant. In the midst of the terror that is Gaza, there will be the joy of a new, precious life.

I find a measure of comfort in knowing how much this baby will be treasured, and yet, this is not enough. It doesn’t compensate for what Abeer’s child will lack. Beyond the humanitarian disaster, rubble-strewn streets and constant fear of new assaults, there is this horrific reality: no matter how precious Gaza’s children are to their mothers, their well-being, their safety, their very lives are held hostage by all those who execute, support and benefit from the continuing violence.

Jen Marlowe, a Seattle-based documentary filmmaker and human rights activist, is the author of Darfur Diaries: Stories of Survival (Nation Books). She is now directing and editing her next film, Rebuilding Hope, about South Sudan, and writing a book about Palestine and Israel. Her most recent film was Darfur Diaries: Message from Home. She serves on the board of directors of the Friends of the Jenin Freedom Theatre and is a founding member of the Rachel's Words initiative. Her email address is: jenmarlowe@hotmail.com

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January 5, 2009

"They Made Us Do It"

The Madness Among Us

By Dr. TRUDY BOND

The current simplistic mantra of the Israeli government as they bomb and maim and kill and destroy in Gaza is "They made us do it." Similar posturing is found in decisions and actions by the U.S. government and military during the last eight years, too numerous to mention. Why did our government pay bounties for hundreds of Muslims, lock them up in a prison by the sea, and eliminate all their human rights? "They made us do it."

Yet after an 18-month investigation of detainee abuse by the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Committee's Executive Summary and Conclusions states that, rather than finding the actions of the government and military toward detainees justified, the investigation determined culpability. The Committee's Summary and Conclusions both places the responsibility for torture directly in the White House, as Dick Cheney has proudly affirmed, and connects the participation and responsibility of psychologists in that torture.

Bush's team has focused on justification and rationalization of torture, (or as Doug Feith said, "The problem with moral authority [was] people who should know better . . . siding with the assholes, to put it crudely."), while the American Psychological Association has practiced deception and misinformation in attempts to evade the reality of their involvement in torture.

According to the recently-released findings of the Senate Committee:

At about the same time, a dispute over the use of aggressive techniques was raging at GTMO over the interrogation of Mohammed al-Khatani, a high value detainee. Personnel from CITF and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) had registered strong opposition, to interrogation techniques proposed for use on Khatani and made those concerns known to the DoD General Counsel's office. Despite those objections, an interrogation plan that included aggressive techniques was approved. The interrogation itself, which actually began on November 23, 2002, a week before the Secretary's December 2, 2002 grant of blanket authority for the use of aggressive techniques, continued through December and into mid-January 2003.

It was psychologist and APA member John Leso who was instrumental in developing and implementing the above-referenced interrogation plan as detailed in documents released by the Senate hearings in June, 2008. Minutes of a Counter Resistance Strategy Meeting on 10/2/02 document Major John Leso and Major Burney as the Behavioral Science Consultation Team describing for others present at the meeting the reversed-engineered SERE Psychological Training, which included a specific discussion of al-Qahtani, "recalling how he has responded to certain types of deprivation and psychological stressors." Notably, the date of 10/2/02 indicates that APA member Leso and cohorts had already been abusing and torturing al-Qahtani (spelled Khatani in the Senate report) months before the Defense Secretary's grant of blanket authority.

The Committee's Conclusions continue:

That same day, GTMO suspended its use of aggressive techniques on Khatani. While key documents relating to the interrogation remain classified, published accounts indicate that military working dogs had been used against Khatani. He had also been deprived of adequate sleep for weeks on end, stripped naked, subjected to loud music, and made to wear a leash and perform dog tricks. In a June 3, 2004 press briefing, SOUTHCOM Commander General James Hill traced the source of techniques used on Khatani back to SERE, stating: “The staff at Guantanamo working with behavioral scientists [John Leso], having gone up to our SERE school and developed a list of techniques which our lawyers decided and looked at, said were OK.” General Hill said “we began to use a few of those techniques ... on this individual...” [Mohammed al-Qahtani]

On May 13, 2008, the Pentagon announced in a written statement that the Convening Authority for military commissions “dismissed without prejudice the sworn charges against Mohamed al Khatani.” The statement does not indicate the role his treatment may have played in that decision.

Charges were dismissed without prejudice as it became very clear that Leso and Burney, the psychologist and psychiatrist who formed the Behavioral Science Consultation Team charged with developing the Special Interrogation Plan for Mohammed al-Qahtani, had crossed the line into torture and no charges could be proven.

Thus Stephen Behnke, attorney, psychologist and director of ethics for the American Psychological Association since 2000, has spent much of the last six years falsifying APA's position. He has yet to explain in any of his many interviews and letters why Dr. Leso has been allowed to create, collude and condone the abuse of al-Qahtani and remain a member of APA without any sanctions or accountability.

In a letter to Harper's on November 22, 2007, he wrote, "The position of the American Psychological Association is unequivocal: For more than 20 years, the association has absolutely condemned any psychologist participation in torture . . ."

The utter lack of action by APA to ethical complaints against John Leso and other APA members is evidence that APA's position does not meet the definition of "unequivocal." Better adjectives might include equivocal, imprecise, inexact, unclear, cryptic, enigmatic and ambivalent, as Behnke continued in his letter to Harper's: " . . . Given the concerns that have been expressed let me state clearly and unequivocally [he likes that word] the 2007 Resolution should never be interpreted as allowing isolation, sensory deprivation and over-stimulation, or sleep deprivation either alone or in combination to be used as interrogation techniques to break down a detainee in order to elicit information.”

More recently, in a radio broadcast on WHYY "Radio Times" on October 30, 2008, Dr. Behnke stated: "Well, an ethical interrogation is one in which fully protects (sic) the human rights of the detainee, and that is what the American Psychological Association has been fighting with policies that allow torture or abuse. Our position has been called by the national media a rebuke of the Bush administration interrogation policy. So what we have been doing is fighting any policy that permits torture or abuse and that does not fully protect the human rights of the detainees."

27 November 2002

1000: Control puts detainee in swivel chair at MAJ L’s [Major Leso's] suggestion to keep him awake and stop him from fixing his eyes on one spot in booth . . . Control used 'onion' analogy to explain how detainee’s control over his life is being stripped away. Control gives detainee three facts: we are hunting down Al Qaida every day, we will not stop until they are captured or killed, we control every aspect of your life.

Postscript: After leaving Guantanamo, John Leso was sent to the U.S. Embassy in Austria for a time. As recently as 2007, John Leso was back in the U.S. and stationed at Fort Rucker, Alabama, which includes the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape school (SERE) for Army Aviation. Mohammed al-Qahtani remains in a cell at Guantanamo, in limbo, having all charges against him dropped.

Source:  http://www.counterpunch.org/bond01052009.html

Dr. Trudy Bond is a psychologist in Toledo, Ohio. She can be reached at ar_mordilo@yahoo.com.

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January 7, 2009

Despite the Bloodshed, Israel is Failing

What Kind of Security Will This Barbarism Bring Israel?

By SAREE MAKDISI

Israel has killed and wounded almost four thousand men, women and children so far in its assault on Gaza; it has entombed whole families together in the ruins of their homes. As I write these words, news is breaking that Israeli bombs have killed at least 40 civilians huddling in a UN school which they mistakenly thought would be safer than the homes from which Israel’s relentless barrage—and its deliberately terrorizing “warning” leaflets and prerecorded phone calls—had already driven them. (I still have one of the leaflets the Israelis dropped on besieged Beirut in 1982 and the language is exactly the same—“flee, flee for your lives!”). Mosques, schools, houses, apartment buildings, have all been brought down on the heads of those inside.

All this death and destruction comes supposedly in retaliation for rocket attacks that had not inflicted a single fatality inside Israel in over a year. What happened to “an eye for an eye?”

As horrific as the toll of dead and injured already is, the scale of Israel’s bombing, and its targeting of ambulances and medical and rescue crews—several doctors and paramedics have been killed or wounded so far—means that the true totals are actually unknown. Countless numbers of victims have bled to death in the streets or in the ruins of their smashed homes. Calls for help aren’t getting through Gaza’s phone networks, battered to pieces along with the rest of the civilian infrastructure—its water, sewage, electricity systems, all already crumbling as a result of the years of siege. The victims that are evacuated—as often, these days, in civilian cars as in the remaining ambulances—make it to hospitals that are overwhelmed; many will die that might have otherwise been saved.

Any hospital would be overwhelmed under the circumstances: how then for a hospital that has already been cut off by the three year old Israeli blockade of Gaza from urgently needed supplies, medicines, drugs, anesthetics, spare parts, fuel for generators? In fact, the true story of what Israel is doing to the people of Gaza is to be seen in the besieged territory’s hospitals: the smashed, burned, dusty bodies of children being carried in on makeshift blankets (there aren’t enough stretchers to go around); the morgue drawers full of bodies; the emergency rooms with badly hurt, crying people scattered on stretchers, on beds, on the blood-washed floors, as the doctors run from one to another trying to figure out who can be saved and who must be attended to first—the boy with his feet blown off? the old woman with the huge gash in her head? the young man with his guts hanging out of his stomach? the anguished little girl thrashing about in pain, in fear, in agony and begging for her mother who vanished in some monstrous explosion? And outside, on the crowded sidewalks, the other side of the human suffering that Israel has chosen to inflict on an entire population: the wailing mothers, fathers and children; the weeping young men; the panicked people rushing around trying to find loved ones after each new Israeli bombing.

All this to make Israelis feel secure? What security is this kind of barbarism ever likely to gain them?

These are the scenes that every Palestinian and every Arab around the world sees every single day on the uncensored, unedited, unfiltered and relentlessly, brutally honest coverage broadcast on the Arabic Al-Jazeera channel. Unlike the US and UK networks, Al-Jazeera has correspondents and camera crews all over Gaza; they are Arabs, some of them are Palestinians, and they all live among the people whose suffering they record for the whole world to see; they can communicate with them in their own language and in the language of the audience as well. The coverage continues continuously 24 hours a day.

Ordinary people around the rest of the world are seeing the version of events that gets filtered through the editing suites, the cutting rooms, the editorializing of foreign media, and that, in the case of the US, finally makes it to their living room largely (if not entirely) sanitized, and packaged to them in two-minute sound bites by correspondents posted safely outside of Gaza and inside Israel. The coverage broadcast from Israel is heavily monitored, controlled and censored. The Israeli army found in 2006 that its panicked soldiers in Lebanon were using cell phones to call home for help; this time it made sure to inspect all of its soldiers to make sure that none takes a phone with him into Gaza. The army imposes a smothering control over the flow of information; nothing that is reported from or datelined Israel can be read at face value or taken for granted.

If you get your news from an American television network, no matter how horrible you think what’s happening in Gaza is, the reality that you are not seeing is much, much, much worse. (Perhaps that’s why the English-language Al-Jazeera channel, widely followed in the rest of the world, is unofficially banned here—not a single cable or satellite provider carries it).

And yet even with this imperfect coverage it must be said that people all over the world, including in the US, are protesting what they are seeing. Huge, million-person demonstrations have been held, from Melbourne to Jakarta, from Calcutta to Istanbul, and from Vienna to London, not to mention the huge popular protests in Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Amman, across the length and breadth of the West Bank, and in some of the largest protests ever held in Palestinian communities inside Israel. Across the US, too, people have been protesting, holding vigils, writing letters to the editors of the newspapers demanding more balance to the warped coverage of the events that we see here, especially in papers like the New York Times. And the internet has been a major source of information for all those millions who have figured out that they will never learn what they need to learn from the New York Times or the Washington Post or ABC or CNN. Sites like Counterpunch, Electronic Intifada, Alternet, Truthdig, Huffington Post, Salon and many others besides have carried extraordinarily intelligent and detailed pieces by a range of commentators whose sense of what is happening far exceeds what is made available by professional journalists in the mainstream press—including many superb pieces by Jewish Americans who give the lie, once and for all, to the absurd notion that their community is solidly behind Israel’s violence.

Indeed, it seems clear that the writing now being posted on alternative media outlets is also starting to outweigh the clumsy efforts still being churned out by America’s army of paid and unpaid cheerleaders for Israel, who have forsaken what little remained of their own humanity and blinded themselves to suffering that ought to move any rational, caring, sentient human being to tears—the Dershowitzes and Foxmans, the Orens and Boots, the Krauthammers and Peretzes, the Bards and Goldfarbs, the cynical apparatchiks of CAMERA and AIPAC and the mindless busybodies and shuffling zombies of Stand With Us, the Israel Project and the Israel on Campus Coalition—who persist with their stubborn, craven defense of the indefensible. About these misanthropes there is much to be said, most of it too unpleasant to print, so I’ll shift the burden here to those memorable closing lines of Wilfred Owen’s war poem “Insensibility:”

But cursed are dullards whom no cannon stuns,
That they should be as stones.
Wretched are they, and mean
With paucity that never was simplicity.
By choice they made themselves immune
To pity and whatever mourns in man
Before the last sea and the hapless stars;
Whatever mourns when many leave these shores;
Whatever shares
The eternal reciprocity of tears.”

As for Israel itself: once again it has revealed its true nature to the world. It was only after the first reports came in of their own serious fatalities—soldiers caught in an ambush, though the censored news reports from Israel claim that it was all friendly fire—that the Israeli media suddenly started carrying reports wondering whether things have gone too far. “The Price of Stubbornness over Gaza Exit is Dead Soldiers,” write Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff in Ha’aretz. “For the first time, Israeli TV broadcasts raised the question of whether it was worthwhile for the operation to continue.” Until this point, the Israeli media—and most of the country’s liberal intelligentsia, never mind the militant right wing—had been moralistically defending the bombing, and sometimes actually cheering it on. Starting the attacks on a Saturday was a “stroke of brilliance,” the Guardian’s Seamus Milne quotes the country’s biggest selling paper Yediot Aharonot as saying; “the element of surprise increased the number of people who were killed.” The daily Ma’ariv agreed: “We left them in shock and awe.” The rational and genuinely ethical voices of Amira Hass and Gideon Levy have never seemed more isolated.

The brute fact of the matter is that, as long as their air force is killing an entirely defenseless people, the Israeli public and media do cheer them on. As soon as they start paying any kind of price—no matter how grotesquely out of proportion to the level of damage their soldiers are inflicting on unarmed and innocent people—their bloodlust quickly cools. In Gaza, the Israeli infantry won’t take a single step forward unless the ground in front of them—and everything and everyone in it, armed, unarmed, whoever and whatever they are—has been safely cleared away for them by the air or by artillery. “These are ‘Georgia rules,’ which are not so far from the methods Russia used in its conflict last summer,” write Harel and Issacharoff in Ha’aretz. “The result is the killing of dozens of non-combatant Palestinians. The Gaza medical teams might not have reached all of them yet. When an Israeli force gets into an entanglement, as in Sajaiyeh last night [where three Israeli soldiers were killed], massive fire into built-up areas is initiated to cover the extraction. In other cases, a chain of explosions is initiated from a distance to set off Hamas booby-traps. It is a method that leaves a swath of destruction taking in entire streets, and does not distinguish military targets from the homes of civilians.” I’m not sure where the “Georgia” reference comes from: the Israelis used the very same tactics in Jenin and Nablus in 2002, and in southern Lebanon in 2006 and 1982. And it would be an act of futility to point out—for the millionth time—that the Israeli method of warfare takes place in sweeping disregard for the principles of international humanitarian law, not to mention total contempt for innocent human life. This is not to mention that most of the casualties pouring into Gaza’s morgues and hospitals are the victims of the sheer indiscriminate unleashing on densely populated civilian areas of high explosive ordnance from land, sea and air that has been characteristic of Israel’s military style since at least the 1970s.

Israel’s disregard for innocent human life is not motivated only by a desire to forestall the political consequences—especially during an electoral campaign—of Israeli military casualties. It is also a clear indicator of the contempt that Israel has for Palestinian life in general. The cold, hungry, tired, desperate, and terrified men, women and children that Israel is now sweeping away by the dozen in balls of fire and showers of shrapnel are the very same people that it had already reduced to what one UN official months ago warned was “a subhuman existence,” the deliberate product of the siege that Israel has imposed on Gaza for over three years, beginning in 2005, before the election of Hamas. They are the same people whose political and human rights Israel has been stifling since the occupation of 1967—twenty years before the creation of Hamas. They are the same people who were ethnically cleansed from their land in 1948 because, as non-Jews, they were inconveniently cluttering up the land that European Zionists wanted to turn into a Jewish state, no matter what the land’s actual population had to say about it.

Israel’s disregard for Palestinian life in Gaza today is, in short, a direct extension of its disregard for Palestinian life since 1948, and what is happening in Gaza today is the continuation of what happened six decades ago. Eighty percent of the people crammed into Gaza’s hovels and shanties are refugees or the descendants of refugees that armed Zionist gangs, which eventually coalesced into the infant Israeli army, terrorized from their homes elsewhere in southwestern Palestine in 1948. They have been herded, penned, and slaughtered by a remorseless power that clearly regards them as subhuman. If you think I’m stretching the point, I’m not. Listen to the words of Professor Arnon Sofer, the government consultant who did so much to help plan the isolation and imprisonment of Gaza, in a interview with the Jerusalem Post in 2004: “When 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it’s going to be a human catastrophe,” Sofer predicted. “Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam. The pressure on the border is going to be awful. It’s going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day.” Sofer admitted only one worry with all the killing, which will, he says, be the necessary outcome of a policy that he himself helped to invent. “The only thing that concerns me,” he says, “is how to ensure that the boys and men who are going to have to do the killing will be able to return home to their families and be normal human beings.”

Meticulously and clinically thought through even before the first rocket from Gaza claimed a life inside Israel, the slaughter in Gaza today has nothing to do with rockets or with Hamas. As Sofer himself explains, it is the purest and most distilled expression of Zionist ideology. “Unilateral separation doesn’t guarantee ‘peace,’” Sofer says in that same interview; “it guarantees a Zionist-Jewish state with an overwhelming majority of Jews.”

And that—taken right from the horse’s mouth—is what the slaughter of innocents in Gaza is fundamentally about: the people being killed today are the ones for whom there is no room in the Zionist vision of the state. They are regarded as an excess population. Not even Malthus thought that a redundant population should just be lined up and shot, or bombed into the ground. But, clearly, times have changed since 1798.

This inhuman madness will end only with the end of the violent ideology that spawned it—when those who are committed to the project of creating and maintaining a religiously and ethnically exclusivist state in what has always been a culturally and religiously heterogeneous land finally relent and accept the inevitable: that they have failed.

Source: http://www.counterpunch.org/

Saree Makdisi is a professor of English and comparative literature at UCLA and the author of Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation.

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January 5, 2009

A Galaxy of Partisan Propagandists

Israel is Immune From Criticism

By BRIAN CLOUGHLEY

The state of Israel has descended – plummeted – to one of the lowest levels of conscious barbarity that is currently evident in this horrible world. 

Any nation that has behaved towards a subject people, as Israel has to Palestinians, is worthy only of utter contempt. On Sunday January 4 I heard a rabbi on the BBC's morning religious program saying that he supported Israel's air strikes on Gaza. A man of God actually endorsed the killing of hundreds of people. To say that I was – and am – aghast at the sentiment expressed is to put it very mildly. This religious leader, a person supposed to spread and preach tolerance, patience, charity and peace, was supporting war crimes of immense gravity. His approval of the killing of Arabs was blood-chilling. 

And this rabbi was British. Here we have a British citizen supporting hatred and bigotry on a BBC religious program. But of course he isn't really British. He is an Israeli religious propagandist of British citizenship whose main allegiance is to Israel. There are thousands like him in the UK and the US. They unconditionally promote Tel Aviv's plans and policy and wield amazing influence over politicians and businesses. Killing Palestinians is Israeli policy, and these people spare no effort to justify it.

Here's a resident of Gaza talking to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz about the horrors experienced by Palestinians (and congratulations to Haaretz for having the courage to print it): "I keep the children away from the windows because the F-16s are in the air; I forbid them to play below because it's dangerous. They're bombing us from the sea and from the east, they're bombing us from the air. When the telephone works, people tell us about relatives or friends who were killed. My wife cries all the time. At night she hugs the children and cries. It's cold and the windows are open; there's fire and smoke in open areas; at home there's no water, no electricity, no heating gas. And you [the Israelis] say there's no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Tell me, are you normal?"

No, they're not, is the short answer, and the ruthlessness is epitomised by the evil Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, who is using the Gaza war to establish her credentials as a reliably hard-nosed barbarian. She declares "there is no humanitarian crisis in the [Gaza] Strip and therefore there is no need for a humanitarian truce."

It was reported on January 5 that Israeli troops are using white phosphorus (WP) artillery shells in Gaza, supposedly to create smoke screens to conceal their advance.

American troops used WP – fondly known as Willy Pete – in their destruction of the Iraqi city of Fallujah, and the US tried to lie its way out of the war crime, but junior officers unintentionally blew the lies apart by writing in the magazine Field Artillery that "WP proved to be an effective and versatile munition. We used it for screening missions . . . and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against insurgents in trench lines and spider holes . . . We fired 'shake and bake' missions at the insurgents using WP to flush them out and high explosive shells (HE) to take them out." In fact WP is an effective killer, and anyone who inhales particles will suffer a particularly hideous and painful death. As recorded by The Independent newspaper in Britain "In the aftermath of the battle [at Fallujah], the State Department's Counter Misinformation Office issued a statement saying that WP was only "used very sparingly in Fallujah, for illumination purposes. They were fired into the air to illuminate enemy positions at night [which isn't the propose of a smoke-shell], not at enemy fighters." When The Independent confronted the State Department with the first-hand accounts of soldiers who participated, an official accepted the mistake and undertook to correct its website." Big deal. Lie, lie and lie again, until you're found out and it's impossible to deny the facts. And the Israelis seem to be taking the example, as usual, and are stoutly denying what has been seen by independent witnesses. 

Article two, Protocol III of the 1980 UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons states: "It is prohibited in all circumstances to make the civilian population as such, individual civilians or civilian objects, the object of attack by incendiary weapons." But Israel is only following the US example. "Shake and bake" is such an attractive military option that it would be a shame to spoil their fun, especially when it has rabbinical approval. 

Here is part of what is laid out in Protocol 1, Additional to the Geneva Conventions, 1977 . . . General Protection Against Effects of Hostilities: "Among others, the following types of attacks are to be considered as indiscriminate: An attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated."

Israel, supported energetically by Washington (and using US-supplied aircraft, bombs and rockets), has caused "incidental loss of life" and general civilian casualties on an enormous scale. The Israeli military and the Israeli people knew full well that their genocidal attack on Gaza would kill civilians. The use of white phosphorous in built-up areas is worthy of the Nazis at their most brutal. Stalin and Mao would nod approvingly. It wasn't considered important that there would be countless civilian deaths. Nobody cares, and least of all American politicians. The next secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, refuses to comment on the atrocities. The incoming vice-president has been silent. President-elect Obama? As Reuters reported : "Obama . . . has not commented on the Middle East crisis since Israel launched attacks on Gaza nine days ago. His advisers insist that only President George W Bush can speak for America until then." But it was noted that "The president-elect has commented on the global economic crisis and his plans to try to pull the US economy out of recession."

Of course he has. And were it not for the power of Israel in America he would no doubt comment adversely on the slaughter in Gaza, because he is a decent man.

But Mr Obama dare not criticize Israel, even for its use of chemical shells. Nor can any American who wishes to enter or remain engaged in politics. The kiss of political death in the United States of America is to censure Israel. It can't be done.

And that is why apartheid is permitted in Israel; it's why the mass-punishment blockade was enforced months before the attack went in; and it's why the near-genocide in Gaza is allowed to continue.

Does anyone remember the hearing on the so-called Israeli-Palestine peace process in the US House of Representatives in February 2007? Of course not. It was a farce. And why was it such a revolting and hideous charade? – Because it was a three card trick.

The main witness, of the three cards who were called, was one Martin Indyk, a former official of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee which is the richest and most powerful lobby group in the country (two of whose members are currently under a mysteriously delayed investigation for spying for Israel). From there, inevitably, he went to be US ambassador in Tel Aviv. (And, incidentally, whose book on the Middle East was the subject of a glowing review in last week's Economist.) Another witness was David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (founded by Indyk; it's all very chummy in pro-Israel sewers), which is funded extensively by American interests that support Zionism. (Among other connections, it is closely associated with the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.) And was the third witness a counter-balance to two energetic supporters of Zion? Could he or she present a rather less biased view of the Middle East? Perhaps a person who would make the point that Israel has contemptuously ignored UN Security Council resolutions concerning illegal occupation of Palestinian lands? 

Not a bit. The third member was a comic quasi-intellectual character called Daniel Pipes who once declared that Muslim immigrants to the US were "brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and not exactly maintaining Germanic standards of hygiene." (Germanic? – How quaint.) Pipes founded the Middle East Forum (MEF) which encourages university students in America to report lecturers and professors who they consider to be anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian. (In Hitler's Germany there were awards given to young people who identified and reported those they thought to be pro-Jewish; I know a very elderly German lady who did this when she was 15. She is now terribly ashamed at the memory, because she actually informed on her own father. How times change. Or don't, of course.)

In 2006 Pipes was given the 'Guardian of Zion' award, an annual prize to a prominent supporter of Israel, by the Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Israel.

With a galaxy of partisan propagandists like Indyk, Makovsky and Pipes being the only people selected to give evidence on Israel-Palestine to the nation's legislators in Washington, there was no chance whatever that the Congressional Sub-Committee would be presented with a balanced view of the Israel-Palestine problem. The deck was stacked, and the legislators listened. They had no choice, because of the power of the Israel lobby. They've been shaken and baked.

There is little doubt that the bias towards Israel will continue in the legislature and administration of the United States of America, no matter what Obama might really think, and no matter how many Palestinian children the Zionists have slaughtered. The Israelis are behaving like genocidal filth, but those who stay silent about their atrocities are not far behind in the gutter stakes.

Source: http://www.counterpunch.org/cloughley01052009.html

Brian Cloughley's book about the Pakistan army, War, Coups and Terror, has just been published by Pen & Sword Books (UK) and will be published in the US in May by Skyhorse (New York).
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January 5, 2009

"If I Die, I Want to Die Here in My Country"

Phoning Home to Gaza

By SOUSAN HAMMAD

My family was in Denver for the holidays when we awoke to peddling images of bombardment. Gaza was on fire. 250 people dead. From our television set we quickly tuned into the perversions of war, watching reports from both American and Arab media. We are safe. We do not smell burned flesh, hear cries of agony or see before us military planes. We view from a distance, but feel none of the anxiety and melancholy that the rest of our family feels in the besieged coastal strip.

Scattered throughout the refugee camps of Khan Younis, Beit Lahya and Jabalya, my relatives are living through another war.  We try to call each and every relative to ascertain their safety, but mostly to see whether or not they are still living. The telephone networks were either busy or not working at all. We forgot that Gaza only gets electricity for six hours a day.

After failed attempts to contact my family in Jabalya (due to Israel's bombing of the Jawal towers, which is Gaza's only mobile provider), we get through the landline network to my cousin Anan. He had no desire to speak, mentioning only that the Israeli army was 3 km away from the camp. He then passed the phone to his wife, but she too did not feel at ease on the phone, she was distressed, her children constantly crying, the youngest only 6-weeks-old.

Thirteen years ago my father moved back to Gaza and bought a home in Beit Lahya. He died two years ago, leaving the house to his nephew. Now my cousin and his family live in the house.

We call Beit Lahya. No answer.

Finally, we decide to call our family in Khan Younis. My cousin's mobile is working. The Jawal towers appear to be intact in Khan Younis. Mohamad, a 26-year-old father of two, works as an executive director for the Palestinian Student Care Association, a non-profit organization that promotes formal education to Palestinians in Gaza.

Comforted to hear my voice, like a prisoner receiving a call from the outside world, he asks me how I am doing. Baffled by his question, I don't know: is he is being earnest or polite? I answered by repeating his question.
"We haven't been able to leave the camp since the ground invasion began. Israeli tanks are blocking all entrances to the camp," Mohamad says, "Of course, nobody has been to work or school for the past ten days, we are all staying in our homes at the moment."

80 percent of Gazans cannot support themselves and are dependent on humanitarian assistance, according to a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

"Right now, flour and sugar are not available," Mohamad is weary, "If we want bread we have to be at the bakery by 5 am, and all we get is 1 or 2 loaves."

Food supplies are depleting and with Israel's complete restriction over movement into and out of Khan Younis, many residents are coping with what little they have, resorting to tediously baking their own bread using the taboon, an oven made of clay, which requires long hours of watching the bread to make sure each side is equally cooked.

Thinking of Mohamad's children I ask him how they are coping with sights and sounds of death.

Mohamad said his 6-year-old son Munir stands at the window and pretends to shoot down Israeli apaches and fighter jets that fly overhead. His two-year-old daughter Saja cries every time she hears renewed sounds of bombardment and runs to hide.

"Yesterday we got electricity at 8 p.m. and we immediately turned on the television to watch the news. My children are frightened not just by the sounds of the bombing and gunfire, but by the images they see on the news. They see the Israeli tanks in the camp and they correlate the tank with death."

Mohamad says he doesn't believe that any outside government will intervene, especially that of Arab countries.

"They [Arab governments] have never helped in the past, so why would they help us now? This is something natural that we have come to accept. The Egyptian government won't even open Rafah for Palestinians in need of urgent medical care without permission from Israel."

I asked him if he would leave Gaza if the Rafah border were to miraculously open.
 "Of course not," he says, "If I die, I want to die here in my country and most Palestinians you ask will say the same thing."

Mohamad laughs into the phone. He asks me if I know why he is laughing.  Though I said nothing, there was the thought that maybe war hysteria had finally begun to set in.

"I'm laughing because this is a very complex situation," he says, "Every party wants to govern Palestinians, whether it's Hamas, Fatah or Islamic Jihad. They all look out for their own self-interests. Palestine as a whole has never been their priority. The Israelis are different. Their priority is focused on the Jewish State, and this is why they are successful."

I turn off the phone and turn to the news frenetically searching for some sort of meaning to all this bombardment. With the help of the press displaying the war as something needed to create security or harmony for Israel, giving justification to Israel's rocket rhetoric and dubious claims that this war is a war on Hamas, I become more disenchanted with the docility of the press. This war has only created more chaos for Palestinians, a chaos intended to lead Palestinians to give up their fight against the Zionist state, to becoming subservient to the collaborative Palestinian president. What victory do Israel and the Palestinian Authority seek  in Gaza. A place with no food, no army, no state.

Source: http://www.counterpunch.org/hammad01052009.html

Sousan Hammad is a writer, and coordinator for the Houston Palestine Film Festival. She can be reached at sousan.hammad@gmail.com

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islam-and-the-west/the-real-estate-war-in-gaza--the-history-and-"morals"-of-ethnic-cleansing-/d/1104

 

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