Friday, January 16, 2009

Bloody Israeli Assault on Gaza Continues

In This Edition:

- 82% of Israeli Jews support the slaughter in Gaza

- Ismail Haniyeh: "My message to the West"

- Rashid Khalidi on Gaza, Media Coverage, and Obama

- Video: "There Will Be Another War" 

Norman Finkelstein

- Avi Shlaim: Israel Committing “State Terror” in Gaza

- Jonathan Cook in Nazareth: "Israel Bars Arab Parties From Election"

- Justin Raimondo: "Is the 'special relationship' over?"

- Video: Anna Baltzer--What You Need To Know About Israel's "Colonies"

- Paul Craig Roberts, "The Humiliation of America"

- Other Articles


82% of Israeli Jews support the slaughter in Gaza

A Jewish Israeli protester of the slaughter in Gaza, said last night on Flashpoints Radio (">">, that 82% of Israeli Jews support the slaughter in Gaza. He was quite disturbed about that. I wonder what Americans think? Do they even, anymore, possess the knowledge and moral/ethical capacity to assess the situation fairly? After years of AIPAC and corporate media inspired pro-Israeli propaganda, have they reached a conclusion similar to the Israelis? If they haven't, would it make any difference to he AIPAC funded prostitutes in the "democratic" Congress and executive branch?

Well, here is one poll:

"Forty-four percent of Americans support Israel's use of force, while only 18 percent considered Hamas' use of force appropriate. Fifty-seven percent think that Hamas is using excessive force, while only 36 percent said Israel was.
. . . .

When it comes to who's to blame for the latest Middle East crisis, Americans blame Hamas hands down: Forty-four percent said Hamas, 14 percent said Israel and 29 percent said they weren't sure. Nine percent said both, and 4 percent said neither."

Just about what you would expect from a public brainwashed by the mainstream American corporate media. After all, Congress, including Hillary Clinton (Obama's Secretary of State and representative to the world) and Senator John Kerry, blame Hamas for breaking the ceasefire, as do most reports from the mainstream media. Their claim is not true, as Israel broke the ceasefire on November 4-5 of 2008, and never ended the siege, as required by the ceasefire agreement.

"It is never right to do wrong or to requite wrong with wrong, or when we suffer evil to defend ourselves by doing evil in return." : Socrates 469 - 399 BC

Ismail Haniyeh: My message to the West

Israel Must Stop the Slaughter

By Ismail Haniyeh, Prime Minister of Gaza

Ismail Haniyeh, the Palestinian Prime Minister, speaking on Al-Aqsa TV in Gaza earlier this week

January 15, 2009 -- - I write this article to Western readers across the social and political spectrum as the Israeli war machine continues to massacre my people in Gaza. To date, almost 1,000 have been killed, nearly half of whom are women and children. Last week’s bombing of the UNRWA (UN Relief Works Agency) school in the Jabalya refugee camp was one of the most despicable crimes imaginable, as hundreds of civilians had abandoned their homes and sought refuge with the international agency only to be mercilessly shelled and bombed by Israel. Forty-six children and women were killed in that heinous attack while scores were injured.

Evidently, Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005 did not end its occupation nor, as a result, its international obligations as an occupying power. It continued to control and dominate our borders by land, sea and air. Indeed the UN has confirmed that between 2005 and 2008, the Israeli army killed nearly 1,250 Palestinians in Gaza, including 222 children. For most of that period the border crossings have remained effectively closed, with only limited quantities of food, industrial fuel, animal feed and a few other essential items, allowed in.

Despite its frantic efforts to conceal it, the root cause of Israel’s criminal war on Gaza is the elections of January 2006, which saw Hamas win by a substantial majority. What occurred next was that Israel alongside the United States and the European Union joined forces in an attempt to quash the democratic will of the Palestinian people. They set about reversing the decision first by obstructing the formation of a national unity government and then by making a living hell for the Palestinian people through economic strangulation. The abject failure of all these machinations finally led to this vicious war. Israel’s objective is to silence all voices that express the will of the Palestinian; thereafter it would impose its own terms for a final settlement depriving us of our land, our right to Jerusalem as the rightful capital of our future state and the Palestinian refugees’ right to return to their homes.

Ultimately, the comprehensive siege on Gaza, which manifestly violated the Fourth Geneva Convention, prohibited the most basic medical supplies to our hospitals. It disallowed the delivery of fuel and supply of electricity to our population. And on top of all of this inhumanity, it denied them food and the freedom of movement, even to seek treatment. This led to the avoidable death of hundreds of patients and the spiralling rise of malnutrition among our children.

Palestinians are appalled that the members of the European Union do not view this obscene siege as a form of aggression. Despite the overwhelming evidence, they shamelessly assert that Hamas brought this catastrophe upon the Palestinian people because it did not renew the truce. Yet we ask, did Israel honour the terms of the ceasefire mediated by Egypt in June? It did not. The agreement stipulated a lifting of the siege and an end to attacks in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Despite our full compliance, the Israelis persisted in murdering Palestinians in Gaza as well as the West Bank during what became known as the year of the Annapolis peace.

None of the atrocities committed against our schools, universities, mosques, ministries and civil infra-structure would deter us in the pursuit of our national rights. Undoubtedly, Israel could demolish every building in the Gaza Strip but it would never shatter our determination or steadfastness to live in dignity on our land. Surely, if the gathering of civilians in a building only to then bomb it or the use of phosphorous bombs and missiles are not war crimes, then what is? How many more international treaties and conventions must Zionist Israel breach before it is held accountable? There is not a capital in the world today where free and decent people are not outraged by this brutal oppression. Neither Palestine nor the world would be the same after these crimes.

There is only one way forward and no other. Our condition for a new ceasefire is clear and simple. Israel must end its criminal war and slaughter of our people, lift completely and unconditionally its illegal siege of the Gaza Strip, open all our border crossings and completely withdraw from Gaza. After this we would consider future options. Ultimately, the Palestinians are a people struggling for freedom from occupation and the establishment of an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital and the return of refugees to their villages from which they were expelled. Whatever the cost, the continuation of Israel’s massacres will neither break our will nor our aspiration for freedom and independence.
Bloody Israeli Assault on Gaza Enters Fourth Week, Palestinian Death Toll Tops 1,100

[please also listen to Robert Knight’s report (From exile in New York City) on Falshpoints: ]

It’s Day 21 of Israel’s assault on Gaza. Israeli warplanes attacked forty targets across Gaza overnight, as Israeli troops backed by tanks have pushed deep into the heart of Gaza City. Since Israel started its bombardment of Gaza, over 1,100 Palestinians have been killed and more than 5,200 wounded. At least 700 civilians are among the dead, including more than 350 children. We speak with Columbia University Professor Rashid Khalidi.

Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University. His forthcoming book is Sowing Crisis: The Cold War and American Hegemony in the Middle East. He joins us in the firehouse studio.

JUAN GONZALEZ: It’s Day 21 of Israel’s assault on Gaza. Israeli warplanes attacked forty targets across Gaza overnight, as Israeli troops backed by tanks have pushed deep into the heart of Gaza City.
The Quds hospital in Gaza is now empty after it had to be evacuated because of a fire caused by a tank shell on Thursday. The evacuees included sick and wounded patients on stretchers and wheelchairs.
Meanwhile, thousands of Gazans are expected to turn out to the funeral of a top Hamas leader who was killed on Thursday. Hamas Interior Minister Said Siam was killed along with his son, brother and two other Hamas officials when his brother’s house in Gaza City was bombed.

The Israeli army has closed all access to the West Bank for the next two days, following a call by Hamas for Palestinians to observe what it called a day of wrath, by staging anti-Israeli protests at Friday prayers.

AMY GOODMAN: Since Israel started its bombardment of Gaza, over 1,100 Palestinians have been killed, more than 5,200 wounded. At least 700 civilians are among the dead, including more than 350 children. Thirteen Israelis have died, ten of them soldiers, including four by so-called “friendly” fire.

The Palestinian Statistics Bureau is reporting Israel’s assault has cost the Palestinian economy at least $1.4 billion. The bureau said 26,000 Gazans were unable to live in their homes and were being housed in temporary shelter. Much of Gaza’s infrastructure lies in ruins. 20,000 residential buildings have been damaged; 4,000 have been destroyed.

On the diplomatic front, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with Palestinian officials in the West Bank city of Ramallah and urged Israel to declare a unilateral ceasefire. Meanwhile, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is due to meet with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington today, and an Israeli envoy was sent to Cairo to discuss ceasefire terms offered by Hamas. Hamas is reported to be offering a year-long truce if Israel withdraws from Gaza and lifts its blockade.

Rashid Khalidi is with us now. He’s the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies and the director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia University here in New York. His forthcoming book is called Sowing Crisis: The Cold War and American Hegemony in the Middle East. He joins us here in our firehouse studio.

Welcome to Democracy Now!

RASHID KHALIDI: Thank you, Amy. Thank you, Juan.

AMY GOODMAN: Your analysis of what’s happening in Gaza right now?

RASHID KHALIDI: The United States is allowing Israel to continue, as it has in every war that I can remember, to move forward—in this case, move over, in effect, the bodies of women and children, as you mentioned. Over 300 of the killed are children. 55 percent of the population of Gaza are children. So, every tank shell, every artillery shell, every bombardment risks killing children, and a huge proportion of the casualties are civilians. We don’t know how many, because there are probably people buried in ruins of neighborhoods that the Israeli army makes too unsafe for rescue people to go into.

AMY GOODMAN: And Israel just says if Hamas stops shelling southern Lebanon with its rockets, they’ll stop.

RASHID KHALIDI: They do. They have carried out one of the most brilliant propaganda campaigns I have ever seen, long before this began. The dehumanization of the Palestinians and the demonization of Hamas laid the groundwork for this. They did what I call “clearing the crime scene before the crime” by removing all witnesses. When I was in Jerusalem in November, Western journalists were complaining bitterly to me that they couldn’t get into Gaza. And, of course, there are no Western journalists in Gaza, because they have basically carried out the recommendations of the Winograd report that was issued after their war in Lebanon in 2006, one of which was you have to control the media. You have to make sure that you manipulate data, control images.

And they’ve done a brilliant job of that, at least in this country and to a lesser extent in Israel. The rest of the world sees what’s going on, because they’re taking the feeds by Palestinian journalists in Gaza, and the pictures and images by themselves and the numbers that you recited tell the story. On the other hand, we have the New York Times (,
which had an article this morning on the bombardment of the United Nations headquarters, the destruction of the entire food and medical supplies of the United Nations, and which managed to give ten paragraphs to Israel’s justification for an attack on the United Nations. I mean, even for the Times, that’s a kind of a record.

JUAN GONZALEZ: The lack of outcry by even Arab governments across the Middle East on this, your sense of how—what the role of the relationship of the Arab governments is to the street, to the Arab street, right now?

RASHID KHALIDI: Well, they are democratic, authoritarian, autocratic governments. They rule in spite of and against the will of their peoples. They have clearly separated themselves, those who have in effect supported or tacitly supported this Israeli offensive, because they desire to see Hamas weakened, governments like that of Egypt. And they are braving popular discontent. There have been quite major demonstrations in places like Alexandria, 50,000-60,000 people, which is unusual for Egypt, because the secret—there are a million—there are a million Muhabarat secret police. They’re huge. I was in Cairo two weeks ago. When the president moves, literally tens of thousands of security people flood the streets. And that’s the kinds of—those are the kinds of regimes that are supporting, in effect, tacitly supporting, this Israeli operation.

AMY GOODMAN: We actually have video of you in Egypt that came over Reuters a week before Israel launched its assault on Gaza. You warned against expecting major changes from Obama’s White House. This is what you said in Cairo in mid-December.

RASHID KHALIDI: The lethal combination of the fear of appearing soft on terrorism, which has sort of replaced the fear of being soft on communism in American public discourse, together with the unparalleled clout of the American military-industrial complex, may unfortunately help to prolong the agony brought on by the current heavy American footprint in the Middle East, whatever intentions President Obama may have.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you elaborate on this?

RASHID KHALIDI: Well, we have an absolutely huge presence in the Middle East, unprecedentedly large. Never since World War II has the United States had such an enormous presence. At the height of the Cold War, when the United States was ostensibly facing a formidable rival, the United States did not have this many troops, this many bases, and so on and so forth. There’s an enormous investment in that, and that is something that I think has to be addressed at the root. Why do we have so many forces in these countries? It is very unpopular. Overwhelming majorities of Iraqis in every poll that I have ever seen are against our military presence in Iraq. And I think you’d find the same kinds of numbers in most other countries. This is one aspect of it.

And another aspect of it is the stranglehold of conventional wisdom in Washington, as far as what is to be done. It is distressing to see the same people who have engineered the failures of American policy over three—you could even say four, back to Reagan—successive administrations being considered for positions in the Obama administration dealing with Middle East policy. These are not just retreads. These are people who have comprehensively failed. In fact, many of them have written memoirs talking about how and why they failed. Let us just read what they say and see why we should never put these people anywhere near the levers of power.

AMY GOODMAN: Like who?

RASHID KHALIDI: Well, the most preeminent among them is Dennis Ross, but there are others.

JUAN GONZALEZ: The trajectory of Obama’s positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, from the days—from his earlier days ’til then to the campaign and now to his silence during this period now before his inauguration, could you comment on that?

RASHID KHALIDI: Well, our President-elect is a politician, and he is, I assume, attentive to these wins, as he is to all political wins. There is not in this country a movement, there is not in this country a sustainable major political force able to say—which I think represents a large majority of Americans, if they knew, and even a large—I would guess a majority of the American Jewish community, many of whom do know. On the contrary, what we have is the appearance of a one-sided debate. We don’t have a debate in our political discourse, and in most of what appears in the media, we have what we had in the New York Times this morning: an atrocity and ten paragraphs of the New York Times carrying justifications of that.


RASHID KHALIDI: And—sorry, Amy. And television is far, far worse.

AMY GOODMAN: And yet, you have a growing opposition in this country at the grassroots. I mean, particularly now on Gaza, yes, you have major demonstrations of Arab Americans and Palestinians, but also a growing number of Jewish Americans—


AMY GOODMAN: —who are speaking out all over the country by the thousands.

RASHID KHALIDI: Right. I mean, if I were to say something to any American politician, it would be “Look at the votes in this last presidential election in the American Jewish community.” 76 percent of the American Jewish community—78, by some other figures—voted for Obama. Barack Obama was described as a Muslim. His middle man, Hussein, was stressed. The fact that he had a connection with me, a Palestinian who had political connections, was repeated by the presidential and vice-presidential candidates on the Republican side. In spite of that, he won 76 or 78 percent of the vote. The people who voted for McCain are the people who are really identified with AIPAC and the major American Jewish organizations. The people who voted for Obama, in spite of these things, are people who actually are open-minded on these issues.

AMY GOODMAN: And what did you make of this huge attack at him, especially at the end, if you can call it an attack, with McCain speaking on Larry King, Sarah Palin continually invoking your name—


AMY GOODMAN: —“Rashid Khalidi, Rashid Khalidi,” and putting it together with the word “terrorist.”
RASHID KHALIDI: Well, if I may mix metaphors, it was a failed Hail Mary. I mean, to their enormous credit, the American people didn’t buy it. They voted for Barack Obama and Senator Biden, in spite of the constant invocation of Bill Ayers and terrorism and in spite of the invocation of my name.

AMY GOODMAN: You knew him? Can you speak to him? Can you talk to him now? Do you have access to President Obama, or President-elect for the next few days?

RASHID KHALIDI: I mean, I was—we were his neighbors. We lived in the same neighborhood. We were colleagues at the University of Chicago. We saw each other quite frequently. I could—I mean, it is not easy to reach a president. The cocoons, the layers, are quite formidable.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And in your expectation, once he comes in, do you think that there’s going to be any semblance of a change in policy toward the Middle East?

RASHID KHALIDI: There will be a change in policy. I mean we’re already seeing it insofar as Iraq is concerned. I think we hopefully will see it in other areas. No, there will be a change. The question is how far. And enormous change is needed. I mean, everything we’ve been doing over not just the past administration—it’s easy to criticize George Bush—but what has been done over several administrations has been fundamentally mistaken. And I don’t know how radical a turn he is going to be able to make, even if he’s willing and desirous of doing so.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think he should have spoken out?

RASHID KHALIDI: Over Gaza, you mean?

AMY GOODMAN: Now, before he’s president, what people are calling for.

RASHID KHALIDI: Well, I mean, he’s the President-elect. He managed to deliver himself of pronouncements about Mumbai and about the economy. The only thing he said about Gaza was humanitarian, and he’s concerned about the casualties. I am more hopeful that once he is president, he will speak very directly to all the parties, not just to Israel, but also to the Egyptians and also to the Palestinian Authority. I hope he will change American policy. I think the important thing is when he’s president and when his team is in place, which it is not yet. The people who will actually execute whatever policies are decided at the top have not yet been chosen.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And your sense of the impact of this latest Israeli invasion on the political forces within Palestinian community in the Middle East, the relationship between Hamas and Fatah, and what this is going to mean in the end?
RASHID KHALIDI: Well, we have two extremely weak and unpopular movements, led, in my view, by people whose ideas are bankrupt and mistaken, in Hamas and Fatah. When I was there—I was in the West Bank, I was not able to go to Gaza—when I was in the West Bank and Jerusalem, it was clear that in a free and fair election both groups together wouldn’t get 30 or 35 percent of the vote.

People detest Fatah. They loathe it. And their loathing has increased as a result of its failure to act in defense of its own people, not just during the siege; the Palestinian Authority was complicit in the blockade of Gaza for a year and a half. People who claim to represent the Palestinian people were conniving in the blockade of one-and-a-half million of their citizens, of the people they purportedly represented.

Hamas was extremely unpopular for firing rockets at Israel, to no purpose except causing civilian casualties and bringing fire and brimstone down on the heads of a million and a half innocent civilians.

So, both have been, I would argue, weakened. I would—my guess is the Palestinian Authority and Fatah much more. The Arab regimes, I think, have been weakened. Their position is detested and loathed by most of their people. People are ashamed of what their governments have done, all over the Arab world.

AMY GOODMAN: What could they do? What can the Arab governments do now?

RASHID KHALIDI: What could they do? They could insist on a ceasefire, I mean, very simply.

AMY GOODMAN: And why aren’t they?

RASHID KHALIDI: Well, many of them are in agreement with the goal of weakening Hamas, very simply. I mean, in Egypt, this is a domestic security issue. Hamas is connected to the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is the main opposition movement. It couldn’t be simpler. The same is true in Jordan: the Muslim Brotherhood is the main—or it is actually the main opposition movement in Jordan. And so forth. So, for these regimes, keeping their chairs, keeping their thrones, keeping their money, their power, is the only thing that’s really important. Their people? They don’t care about their people.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to break, and when we come back—I know you have family in Gaza—we’re going to go to a professor, to an astrophysicist here in this country who has just lost his son, who was eleven years old. We’re talking to Professor Rashid Khalidi. He is a professor at Columbia University, the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies. He’s also director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia.

[Story of Suleiman Baraka, astrophysicist, teacher at Virginia Tech, whose son was killed when Israel dropped a one-ton bomb on his house in Gaza.]

RASHID KHALIDI: I mean, what can one say when one hears that kind of thing? There are 1,100 stories like that. 1,100 people have been killed, most of them civilians, 300 of them children—350 of them children. One can’t say anything. Nothing justifies the slaughter of children. Nothing. Nothing.

AMY GOODMAN: We will leave it there.

"There Will Be Another War" 

Norman Finkelstein - Hezbollah, the Honour of Lebanon:

Leading Israeli Scholar Avi Shlaim: Israel Committing “State Terror” in Gaza Attack, Preventing Peace

The assault on Gaza is entering its nineteenth day, with no end in sight. Israel continues its intense bombardment of the territory as Israeli troops edge closer to the heart of Gaza City. Nearly 1,000 Palestinians have been killed, more than 4,400 injured, many of them women and children. Thirteen Israelis have died over the same period, ten of them soldiers. We speak with Oxford professor Avi Shlaim. He served in the Israeli army in the mid-1960s and is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading authorities on the Israeli-Arab conflict. [includes rush transcript]
Avi Shlaim, a professor of international relations at Oxford University who served in the Israeli army in the mid-1960s. He is the author of numerous books, most notably The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World. His latest book is Lion of Jordan: King Hussein’s Life in War and Peace. Avi Shlaim is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading authorities on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
AMY GOODMAN: The Israeli assault on Gaza is entering its nineteenth day, with no end in sight. Israeli warplanes are continuing their bombardment, launching over sixty air strikes overnight. Meanwhile, Israeli troops have edged closer to the heart of the densely populated Gaza City and are engaged in street fighting with militants.

Since Israel’s offensive began on December 27th, nearly 1,000 Palestinians have been killed. More than 4,400 have been injured, and an estimated 90,000 have fled their homes. Thirteen Israelis have died over the same period, ten of them soldiers, including four by so-called “friendly” fire.

As the war continues, humanitarian concerns are mounting. The chief UN aid official for Gaza, John Ging, has appealed to the international community to protect Gaza’s civilians, calling it a “test of our humanity”.

Meanwhile, a UN watch group has accused Israel of showing a “manifest disrespect” for the protection of children in Gaza. According to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, more than 40 percent of those killed in Gaza are women and children.

On Tuesday, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross visited Gaza and said what he saw was shocking. ICRC president Jakob Kellenberger said, “It is unacceptable to see so many wounded people. Their lives must be spared and the security of those who care for them guaranteed.”

Despite a UN Security Council ceasefire resolution last week, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the military operation will continue.

Our next guest is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading authorities on the Arab-Israel conflict. Avi Shlaim served in the Israeli army in the mid-1960s. He is now a professor of international relations at Oxford University. In an article in The Guardian newspaper of London, he says he has never questioned the legitimacy of the state of Israel within its pre-1967 borders. But he says its merciless assault on Gaza has led him to devastating conclusions. Professor Avi Shlaim is the author of a number of books, most notably The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World. His latest book is Lion of Jordan: King Hussein’s Life in War and Peace. Avi Shlaim joins us today from Oxford University in Britain.
We welcome you to Democracy Now!

AVI SHLAIM: Thank you. I’m happy to be on your program in these very sad times.

AMY GOODMAN: As you look at what’s happening in Gaza from your vantage point, well, many miles away in Britain, can you talk about the kind of trajectory your evaluation has taken, where you started in your thoughts about Israel and where you are now?

AVI SHLAIM: As you mentioned, I did national service in the Israeli army in the mid-1960s. And in those days, Israel was a small state surrounded by enemies, and the nation was united in face of the surrounding Arab states. We all felt total commitment to the state of Israel and to the defense of the state of Israel. The Israeli army is called the Israel Defense Forces, and it was true to its name.

But 1967, the war of June 1967, was a major turning point in the history of Israel and the history of the region. In the course of the war, Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria, the West Bank from Jordan and Sinai from Egypt. After the war, Israel started building civilian territories in the occupied territories in violation of international law. So Israel became a colonial power and an imperial power.

And I, for my part, have never questioned the legitimacy of the Zionist movement. I saw it as the national liberation movement of the Jewish people. Nor did I ever question the legitimacy of the state of Israel within its pre-1967 borders. What I reject, what I reject totally, absolutely and uncompromisingly, is the Zionist colonial project beyond the 1967 borders. So we have to distinguish very clearly between Israel proper, within its pre-1967 borders, and Greater Israel, which began to emerge in the aftermath of the June ‘67 war and has completely derailed the Zionist project.

AMY GOODMAN: And then, specifically talk about Gaza, how it has developed and where it is today, right now under assault by the Israeli military.

AVI SHLAIM: In a long-term historical perspective, I would begin with the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. I wrote a book, which you mentioned in your introduction, called The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World. It is a history of the Arab-Israeli conflict since 1948. It’s a very long book, but I can summarize it for you in one sentence, that throughout its sixty years, Israel has been remarkably reluctant to engage in meaningful negotiations with its Arab opponents to resolve the dispute between them and only too ready to resort to military force in order to impose its will upon them. And the current vicious Israeli onslaught on the people of Gaza is the climax of this longstanding Israeli policy of shunning diplomacy and relying on brute military force.

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest right now is Oxford University Professor Avi Shlaim. He teaches international relations at Oxford University. He’s speaking to us from Oxford right now, leading authority in the world on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
We’ve had a number of debates here on Democracy Now!, Professor Shlaim, over the past weeks about what’s happening in Gaza and those who support the Israeli military continually say that in 2005, three years ago, Israel pulled out of Gaza entirely. You have a different picture of what happened under Ariel Sharon in August of 2005. Explain how you see the withdrawal of Israeli military at that time.

AVI SHLAIM: President Bush described Ariel Sharon as a man of peace. I’ve done a great deal of archival research on the Arab-Israeli conflict, and I can honestly tell you that I have never come across a single scintilla of evidence to support the view of Ariel Sharon as a man of peace. He was a man of war, a champion of violent solutions, a man who rejected totally any Palestinian right to self-determination. He was a proponent of Greater Israel, and it is in this context that I see his decision to withdraw unilaterally from Gaza in August of 2005.

The withdrawal was officially called the unilateral Israeli disengagement from Gaza. I would like to underline the word “unilateral.” Ariel Sharon was the unilateralist par excellence. The reason he decided to withdraw from Gaza was not out of any concern for the welfare of the people of Gaza or any sympathy for the Palestinians or their national aspirations, but because of the pressure exerted by Hamas, by the Islamic resistance, to the Israeli occupation of Gaza. In the end, Israel couldn’t sustain the political, diplomatic and psychological costs of maintaining its occupation in Gaza.

And let me add in parentheses that Gaza was a classic example of exploitation, of colonial exploitation in the postcolonial era. Gaza is a tiny strip of land with about one-and-a-half million Arabs, most of them—half of them refugees. It’s the most crowded piece of land on God’s earth. There were 8,000 Israeli settlers in Gaza, yet the 8,000 settlers controlled 25 percent of the territory, 40 percent of the arable land, and the largest share of the desperately scarce water resources.

Ariel Sharon decided to withdraw from Gaza unilaterally, not as a contribution, as he claimed, to a two-state solution. The withdrawal from Gaza took place in the context of unilateral Israeli action in what was seen as Israeli national interest. There were no negotiations with the Palestinian Authority on an overall settlement. The withdrawal from Gaza was not a prelude to further withdrawals from the other occupied territories, but a prelude to further expansion, further consolidation of Israel’s control over the West Bank. In the year after the withdrawal from Gaza, 12,000 new settlers went to live on the West Bank. So I see the withdrawal from Gaza in the summer of 2005 as part of a unilateral Israeli attempt to redraw the borders of Greater Israel and to shun any negotiations and compromise with the Palestinian Authority.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Avi Shlaim, Israel says the reason it has attacked Gaza is because of the rocket fire, the rockets that Hamas is firing into southern Israel.

AVI SHLAIM: This is Israeli propaganda, and it is a pack of lies. The important thing to remember is that there was a ceasefire brokered by Egypt in July of last year, and that ceasefire succeeded. So, if Israel wanted to protect its citizens—and it had every right to protect its citizens—the way to go about it was not by launching this vicious military offensive, but by observing the ceasefire.

Now, let me give you some figures, which I think are the most crucial figures in understanding this conflict. Before the ceasefire came into effect in July of 2008, the monthly number of rockets fired—Kassam rockets, homemade Kassam rockets, fired from the Gaza Strip on Israeli settlements and towns in southern Israel was 179. In the first four months of the ceasefire, the number dropped dramatically to three rockets a month, almost zero. I would like to repeat these figures for the benefit of your listeners. Pre-ceasefire, 179 rockets were fired on Israel; post-ceasefire, three rockets a month. This is point number one, and it’s crucial.

And my figures are beyond dispute, because they come from the website of the Israeli Foreign Ministry. But after initiating this war, this particular table, neat table, which showed the success of the ceasefire, was withdrawn and replaced with another table of statistics, which is much more obscure and confusing. Israel—the Foreign Ministry withdrew these figures, because it didn’t suit the new story.

The new story said that Hamas broke the ceasefire. This is a lie. Hamas observed the ceasefire as best as it could and enforced it very effectively. The ceasefire was a stunning success for the first four months. It was broken not by Hamas, but by the IDF. It was broken by the IDF on the 4th of November, when it launched a raid into Gaza and killed six Hamas men.
And there is one other point that I would like to make about the ceasefire. Ever since the election of Hamas in January—I’m sorry, ever since Hamas captured power in Gaza in the summer of 2007, Israel had imposed a blockade of the Strip. Israel stopped food, fuel and medical supplies from reaching the Gaza Strip. One of the terms of the ceasefire was that Israel would lift the blockade of Gaza, yet Israel failed to lift the blockade, and that is one issue that is also overlooked or ignored by official Israeli spokesmen. So Israel was doubly guilty of sabotaging the ceasefire, A, by launching a military attack, and B, by maintaining its very cruel siege of the people of Gaza.

AMY GOODMAN: Israel calls Hamas “terrorist.” What is your definition of “terror”?

AVI SHLAIM: My definition of “terror” is the use of violence against civilians for political purposes. And by this definition, Hamas is a terrorist organization. But by the same token, Israel is practicing state terror, because it is using violence on a massive scale against Palestinian civilians for political purposes. I don’t hold a brief for Hamas. Hamas is not a paragon of virtue. Its leaders are not angels. They harm civilians indiscriminately. Killing civilians is wrong, period. That applies to Hamas, and it applies equally to the state of Israel.

But there are two points I would like to make about Hamas, and that is—the first point is that it was elected in a fair and free election in January 2006. It was an impeccable election, monitored by a number of international observers, including President Jimmy Carter. So it is not just a terrorist organization. It is a democratically elected government of the Palestinian people and the representative of the Palestinian people in Gaza, as well as the West Bank.

And the second point that I would like to make is that since coming to power, Gaza has moderated its political program. Its charter is extreme. Its charter denies the legitimacy of a Jewish state. The charter calls for an Islamic state over the whole of historic Palestine. The charter has not been revived, but since coming to power, the leadership of Hamas has been much more pragmatic and stated that it is willing to negotiate a long-term ceasefire with the state of Israel for twenty, thirty, forty, maybe even fifty years.

Thirdly, Hamas joined with Fatah, the rival group, the mainstream group, on the West Bank in a national unity government in the summer of 2007. That national unity government lasted only three months. Israel, with American support, helped to sabotage and to bring down that national unity government. Israel refused to deal with a Palestinian government which included Hamas within it. And shamefully, both the United States and the European Union joined in Israel in this refusal to recognize a Hamas-dominated government, and Israel withdrew tax revenues, and European Union withdrew foreign aid, in a shameful attempt to bring down a democratically elected government.

So, I do not defend Hamas, but I think that it hasn’t received a fair hearing from the international community, and Israel has done everything to sabotage it all along.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Shlaim, you say it’s done everything to sabotage it, except at the beginning, when you say it supported Hamas to weaken Fatah, which it now supports.

AVI SHLAIM: Indeed. Israel has always played the game of divide and rule. This is a very good tactic in times of war, to divide your enemies and pick them off one by one. No one can complain about that. But divide and rule isn’t a good tactic in times of peace. If your aim is to achieve peace with the Arabs, then you should want unity among the Palestinians and unity in the Arab world. But Israel continued to play this game of divide and rule.

Hamas emerged in the course of the First Intifada in the late 1980s. It is the Islamic resistance movement. The mainstream movement, Fatah, was led by Yasser Arafat. And Israel gave tacit encouragement and support to the Islamic resistance in the hope of weakening the secular nationalists led by Yasser Arafat. It was a dangerous game to play, because the end result of this game was that Hamas emerged as the strongest Palestinian political party.

And Israel helped Hamas inadvertently in another way, because Fatah signed the Oslo Accord with Israel in 1993. It expected the Oslo Accord to lead to a two-state solution. And yet, Israel, after the election of Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996, reneged on the Israeli side of the deal. So, the Oslo Accord, the Oslo peace process wasn’t doomed to failure from the start. It failed because Israel, under the leadership of the Likud, reneged on its side of the deal. So that left the Palestinians with nothing but misery and poverty and frustration and ever-growing Israeli settlements on the land. And it was this context that led to the success of Hamas at the last elections. So Israel has a lot to explain in the rise to power of the Hamas movement.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Avi Shlaim, we only have a minute, but I want to ask you where you see the solution at this point. Barack Obama will be president on Tuesday in just a few days. Hillary Clinton will be Secretary of State.

AVI SHLAIM: The solution—this is a political conflict, and there is no military conflict to—there is no military solution to this conflict. The only solution lies in negotiations between Israel and Hamas about all the issues involved. President-elect Obama is a very impressive man and a very intelligent man and a very fair-minded man. He hasn’t demonstrated any courage in the course of this crisis. He hasn’t taken any position. He hasn’t called for an immediate ceasefire. So the first step is an immediate ceasefire, and the next step would be negotiations between all the sides about restoring the ceasefire and then moving on to stage two, which is a political settlement to this tragic hundred-year-old conflict.

AMY GOODMAN: And Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, who said in her confirmation hearing yesterday she wouldn’t negotiate with Hamas?

AVI SHLAIM: Yes, but there are other signs from the Obama campaign that they would be willing to consider low-level, indirect contacts with Hamas. And one has to be grateful for small mercies, so small, minor, low-level contacts with Hamas could lead to a proper dialog in due course. So I remain optimistic that sanity and rationality would take over in American foreign policy after the dreadful last eight years.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Avi Shlaim, thank you very much for being with us. Professor Avi Shlaim, professor of international relations at Oxford University, served in the Israeli military—among his books, Lion of Jordan: King Hussein’s Life in War and Peace—known as one of the leading authorities in the world on the Israel-Palestine conflict and Arab-Israel conflict. Among his other books, The Iron Wall.

Israel Bars Arab Parties From Election

Left Claims Ban is ‘Patriotic’

By Jonathan Cook in Nazareth

January 16, 2009 "Information Clearinghouse" -- The only three Arab parties represented in the Israeli parliament vowed yesterday to fight a decision by the Central Elections Committee to bar them from running in next month’s general election.

In an unprecedented move signalling a further breakdown in Jewish-Arab relations inside Israel, all the main Jewish parties voted on Monday for the blanket disqualification. Several committee members equated the Arab parties’ vocal support for the Gazan people with support for terrorism.

The decision follows the arrest of at least 600 Arab demonstrators since the outbreak of the Gaza offensive and the interrogation by the secret police of dozens of Arab community leaders. The three parties -- the National Democratic Assembly, the United Arab List and the Renewal Movement -- have seven legislators out of a total of 120 in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset.

The elections committee barred all three from putting up candidates for the Feb 10 election on the grounds that they had violated a 2002 law by refusing to recognise Israel as a Jewish state and by supporting a terrorist organisation.

Ahmed Tibi, the leader of Renewal, denounced the decision as “a political trial led by a group of fascists and racists who are willing to see the Knesset without Arabs and want to see the country without Arabs”.

A petition against the disqualification will be heard by a panel of Supreme Court justices this week.

Hassan Jabareen, the director of the Adalah legal rights group, which represents the Arab parties, noted that the disqualification motion had been introduced by far right-wing parties.

Such parties include Yisrael Beiteinu, which campaigns for the country’s 1.2 million-strong Arab minority to be stripped of citizenship.

“It is absurd that the committee is backing a motion from racist parties in the Knesset to exclude the Arab parties whose platform is that Israel must be made into a proper democracy treating all its citizens equally.”

The elections committee is composed of representatives from all the major parties. Although it has voted for disqualification of Arab candidates before, it is the first time both that the left-wing Labor Party has backed such a motion and that all the Arab parties have been included in the ban.

Mr Jabareen accused the right-wing parties of exploiting the war atmosphere. Labor’s secretary general, Eitan Cabel, called his party’s conduct in voting for the disqualification “patriotic”.

All the Arab parties have harshly criticised the attack on Gaza. This week Mr Tibi described Israeli actions as “genocide”, while Ibrahim Sarsour, of the United Arab List, said Israel was seeking to “eliminate the Palestinian cause”.

In the past, Arab Knesset members have also upset their Jewish colleagues by travelling to neighbouring Arab states, defying a change in the law to prevent such visits.

Following the vote on the ban, Avigdor Lieberman, leader of Yisrael Beiteinu, suggested his party had additional goals: “The next battle is making [the National Democratic Assembly] illegal because it is a terrorist organisation whose objective is harming the state of Israel.”

Mr Lieberman and other legislators have been hounding the NDA for years, chiefly because it is led by Azmi Bishara, an outspoken proponent of equal rights for Arab citizens. Israeli secret police forced Mr Bishara into exile two years ago, accusing him of treason after the 2006 Lebanon war.

During the 2003 election, when the committee barred the NDA and Mr Tibi from running, the decision was overturned by a majority of the Supreme Court. But few of the justices from that hearing are still on the bench.

“There are reasons to be fearful,” Mr Jabareen said. “The Supreme Court is also susceptible to the current war atmosphere and its authority has been greatly eroded over the past year. It has been forced on to the defensive over claims from the Right that its decisions support the Left.”

If the ban is upheld, some Arab representation in the Knesset is likely to continue. The joint Arab and Jewish Communist Party is allowed to stand, and the three major Jewish parties include one or two Arab candidates on their lists, though not always in electable positions.

Meanwhile, Israeli police admitted they arrested about 600 people involved in protests against the Gaza offensive, some of them for stone-throwing. Adalah lawyers said more than 200 people, most of them Arab, were still in jail.

“We’re talking about mass arrests,” said Abeer Baker, adding that Israel was exploiting a 30-day window before an indictment had to be filed to hold suspects without producing evidence.

In addition, the Shin Bet, Israel’s secretive domestic security service, has called in dozens of Arab leaders for interrogation. Ameer Makhoul, head of the Ittijah organisation, which promotes Arab causes in Israel, was detained last week. He said a security official who interrogated him threatened to jail him over demonstrations he helped to organise in support of Gaza.

“The officer called me a rebel threatening the security of the state during time of war and said he would be happy to transfer me to Gaza,” Mr Makhoul said.

Haaretz, a leftist Israeli daily newspaper, has called the interrogations “intimidation tactics to prevent legitimate protest”.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest book is “Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is

A version of this article originally appeared in The National (, published in Abu Dhabi.

What You Need To Know About Israel's "Colonies"

Anna Baltzer, a young Jewish American, went to the West Bank to discover the realities of daily life for Palestinians under the occupation. What she found would change her outlook on the conflict forever.


January 16, 2009
Israel versus America
Is the 'special relationship' over?

Justin Raimondo

The role played by Israel as the catalyst for war in the Middle East was dramatically underscored the other day, when David Sanger of the New York Times reported Israel had requested access to "bunker-buster" bombs developed by the US, and also clearance for flying over Iraqi airspace to get at Iran. Both requests were denied.

Tensions within the "special relationship" have been escalating ever since. The first public eruption occurred over the UN Gaza resolution, when Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the world how he had yanked the President of the United States "off the podium" and demanded the US abstain from the Security Council vote. The United States isn't exactly calling Olmert a liar, but, then again, in the course of denying it, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack went out of his way to issue a stinging rebuke. Olmert's comments, he averred, "are wholly inaccurate as to describing the situation, just 100-percent, totally, completely not true." He tartly advised the Israeli government to correct the record.

Is the US-Israel "special relationship" fraying around the edges? After all, this is hardly the sort of talk one hears between the two: Mr. and Mrs. Perfect Couple are usually careful to conduct their occasional spats behind closed doors. That this repartee is being exchanged on the international stage is extraordinary behavior indeed. It suggests a fundamental shift in US policy, in part dictated by objective circumstances, and propelled, as well, by increased Israeli assertiveness, which has widened the fault-lines that have always existed between Washington and Tel Aviv.

Over at the Center for American Progress blog, Matt Yglesias disapproves of Olmert's boorishness: "It seems both telling and unseemly that Olmert is going around bragging about this." Unseemliness has never stopped the Israelis from pressing their demands, but Yglesias is right: it is telling. It tells us who is used to giving orders, and who is accustomed to obedience.

Yet those power relations, in force throughout the first and much of the second Bush term, started undergoing a radical shift in the latter days of the Bush era. After the neoconservatives had left the administration, in disgrace, the divergence of US and Israeli interests began to come out in the open: most of these were little noted, such as the end of the visa arrangements between the US and Israel that had given Israelis practically unlimited rights to travel and stay in the US. Another and not so subtle signal: the arrest of two top officials of AIPAC, Israel's powerful lobbying organization, The duo were accused of stealing classified information, via Larry Franklin, a veteran of Douglas Feith's shadowy "Office of Special Plans," and a neoconservative of the Ledeen school. Franklin pled guilty to charges of espionage, and was given a 12 year sentence, a hefty fine – and a chance to work off some or all of that time by testifying at the trial of the two ringleaders, Steve Rosen (formerly AIPAC's chief lobbyist) and Keith Weissman (their Iran expert), whose arrest was prefigured by two FBI raids on AIPAC's Washington headquarters.
. . . .

Events are rapidly reaching a dramatic climax, and Gaza is just the start. Even as Israel makes the case that it represents the West, and deserves our support, it becomes less Western, and more like a typical Middle Eastern despotism garbed in the somewhat soiled raiment of "democracy." The banning of the Arab parties, and the rise of Avigdor Lieberman, a racist and a theocrat, as a leading Israeli politician, augur ill for the future of Israel as a liberal democracy. As the Israelis hurl themselves into a furious campaign to push outward and establish the old dream of a "Greater Israel," the claim that they are the region's only democracy becomes an ever more hollow boast.
For whole article, see URL above.

The White House Moron Stumbles to the Finish

The Humiliation of America


“Early Friday morning the secretary of state was considering bringing the cease-fire resolution to a UNSC vote and we didn’t want her to vote for it,” Olmert said. “I said ‘get President Bush on the phone.’ They tried and told me he was in the middle of a lecture in Philadelphia. I said ‘I’m not interested, I need to speak to him now.’ He got down from the podium, went out and took the phone call.”

"Let me see if I understand this,” wrote a friend in response to news reports that Israeli Prime Minister Olmert ordered President Bush from the podium where he was giving a speech to receive Israel’s instructions about how the United States had to vote on the UN resolution. “On September 11th, President Bush is interrupted while reading a story to school children and told the World Trade Center had been hit--and he went on reading. Now, Olmert calls about a UN resolution when Bush is giving a speech and Bush leaves the stage to take the call. There exists no greater example of a master-servant relationship.”

Olmert gloated as he told Israelis how he had shamed US Secretary of State Condi Rice by preventing the American Secretary of State from supporting a resolution that she had helped to craft. Olmert proudly related how he had interrupted President Bush’s speech in order to give Bush his marching orders on the UN vote.

Israeli politicians have been bragging for decades about the control they exercise over the US government. In his final press conference, President Bush, deluded to the very end, said that the whole world respects America. In fact, when the world looks at America, what it sees is an Israeli colony.

Responding to mounting reports from the Red Cross and human rights organizations of Israel’s massive war crimes in Gaza, the United Nations Human Rights Council voted 33-1 on January 12 to condemn Israel for grave offenses against human rights.

On January 13, the London Times reported that Israelis have gathered on a hillside overlooking Gaza to enjoy the slaughter of Palestinians in what the Times calls “the ultimate spectator sport.”

It is American supplied F-16 fighter jets, helicopter gunships, missiles, and bombs that are destroying the civilian infrastructure of Gaza and murdering the Palestinians who have been packed into the tiny strip of land. What is happening to the Palestinians herded into the Gaza Ghetto is happening because of American money and weapons. It is just as much an attack by the United States as an attack by Israel. The US government is complicit in the war crimes.

Yet in his farewell press conference on January 12, Bush said that the world respects America for its compassion.

The compassion of bombing a UN school for girls?

The compassion of herding 100 Palestinians into one house and then shelling it?

The compassion of bombing hospitals and mosques?

The compassion of depriving 1.5 million Palestinians of food, medicine, and energy?

The compassion of violently overthrowing the democratically elected Hamas government?

The compassion of blowing up the infrastructure of one of the poorest and most deprived people on earth?

The compassion of abstaining from a Security Council vote condemning these actions?

And this is a repeat of what the Israelis and Americans did to Lebanon in 2006, what the Americans did to Iraqis for six years and are continuing to do to Afghans after seven years. And still hope to do to the Iranians and Syrians.

In 2002 I designated George W. Bush “the White House Moron.” If there ever was any doubt about this designation, Bush’s final press conference dispelled it.

Bush talked about connecting the dots, but Bush has failed to connect any dots for eight solid years. “Our” president was a puppet for a cabal led by Dick Cheney and a handful of Jewish neoconservatives, who took control of the Pentagon, the State Department, the National Security Council, the CIA, and “Homeland Security.” From these power positions, the neocon cabal used lies and deception to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, pointless wars that have cost Americans $3 trillion, while millions of Americans lose their jobs, their pensions, and their access to health care.

“These obviously very difficult economic times,” Bush said in his press conference, “started before my presidency.”

Bush has plenty of liberal company in failing to connect a $3 trillion dollar war with hard times. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities blames Bush’s tax cut, not the wars, for “the fiscal deterioration.”

Bush told the White House Press Corps, a useless collection of non-journalists, that the two mistakes of his invasion of Iraq were: (1) Putting up the “mission accomplished” banner on the aircraft carrier, which, he said, “sent the wrong message,” and (2) the absence of the alleged weapons of mass destruction that he used to justify the invasion.

Although Bush now admits that there were not any such weapons in Iraq, Bush said that the invasion was still the right thing to do.

The deaths of 1.25 million Iraqis, the displacement of 4 million Iraqis, and the destruction of a country’s infrastructure and economy are merely the collateral damage associated with “bringing freedom and democracy” to the Middle East.

Unless George W. Bush is the best actor in human history, he truly believes what he told the White House Press Corps.

What Bush did not explain is how America is respected when its people put a moron in charge for eight years.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at:

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"We Are The Authors Of This Tragedy"

By George Galloway - Video

George Galloway's powerful speech in the House of Commons debate on Gaza, Thu 15 Jan 2009 (5.30pm), highlighting the hypocrisy and brazen double-standards of Western foreign policy towards Israel policies, including assassinations and other war crimes.

[Notice that Mr. Galloway does not speak from a prepared speech, notes, or a computer screen.]

UN General Assembly demands immediate ceasefire in Gaza
Special report: Palestine-Israel Conflicts

·UN General Assembly Friday adopted a resolution demanding full respect for UNSC resolution 1860.
·The resolution demands an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire in Gaza.
·More than 1,000 Palestinians have been killed in the three-week Israeli military attacks.
UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- The UN General Assembly (GA)Friday adopted a resolution demanding full respect for the Security Council resolution 1860, which calls for an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire in Gaza, where more than 1,000 Palestinians have been killed in the three-week Israeli military attacks.

The General Assembly adopted the resolution with 142 voting in favor, 4 against and 8 abstentions.

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