Sunday, January 4, 2009

Gaza Update #4 - Israel Reveals Its Psychopathic Core

In This Edition:

Ground assault sparks worldwide protests

Top 5 Lies About Israel’s Assault on Gaza - Jeremy R. Hammond

Israel's self-righteous fury - Ilan Pappe

Orwell, Blinding Tribalism, Selective Terrorism - Greenwald

Whatever Happened to Western Morality? - Paul Craig Roberts

Obama Is Losing a Battle He Doesn't Know He's In - Tisdall

The Huffington Post: Israeli-Occupied Territory


What is left to say? Well over 500 dead, Israel targeting mosques and schools, a large percentage of the dead and wounded are Palestinian civilians, and the outrageous massacre continues. The "international community," bereft of ethics, morality, and any respect for international law, looks the other way.

What goes around, comes around.


Ground assault sparks worldwide protests
Civilian casualties mount as Israeli army slices through Gaza

By Chris Marsden
5 January 2009

Israel is engaged in direct conflict with Hamas fighters in the Gaza Strip, after its long-expected ground invasion began Saturday. Verifiable accounts of the fighting are scarce, because Israel continues to refuse access to foreign journalists even after its Supreme Court issued a ruling that allowed a "limited number" into Gaza.

The attack began on Saturday night when Israeli military convoys supported by attack helicopters crossed into northern Gaza at four points. Thousands of soldiers in three brigade-size formations then pushed into Gaza. Since then, Israeli tanks have been reported around Gaza City and the northern towns of Beit Lahiya and the Jabaliya refugee camp.

The territory has been cut in three, with the northern town of Beit Hanoun surrounded and clashes also reported in Rafah, on the southern border with Egypt. Gaza city, with a population of 400,000, is surrounded after an armoured force took over the abandoned Jewish settlement of Netzarim. This gives Israel control of the main north-south road.

At least 63 Palestinians have been reported killed by Israeli tank shells or missiles since the start of the ground offensive Saturday. The real death toll, however, may be far higher, as emergency medical personnel are not able to reach the areas where fighting is taking place.

The total official death toll since Israeli began bombarding Gaza and its 1.5 million people has risen to at least 512, with 87 of those killed children.

An Israeli bombardment of Gaza overnight targeted 40 sites and resulted in more than 20 deaths and many more injuries. Palestinian medics reported that just 3 of the 23 Palestinians killed were Hamas fighters and the rest civilians. Earlier on Saturday, at least 13 people were killed when a missile struck a crowded mosque in Beit Lahiya. Israeli forces also attacked the American school in Gaza, killing a guard. An Israeli spokeswoman declared blithely, "The school...was a site for launching rockets."

A tank shell fired in northern Gaza Sunday reportedly killed 12 people, mostly civilians. And a school in Beit Lahiya and a shopping centre in Gaza City were shelled, killing 5 people and seriously injuring dozens more.

Among those killed in the Israeli ground assault Sunday was a mother and her four children, whose home in the At-Toufah neighborhood of Gaza City was targeted by tank fire, Palestinian medical personnel in Gaza reported. One of the children was only a year old, while another was two.

Also killed in the Israeli attack were three ambulance workers who were struck by a missile as they were aiding wounded civilians.

The ground assault has dramatically intensified the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, cutting off electricity, while food stocks are dwindling fast. Meanwhile, the Egyptian government has closed off its Rafah border crossing to Gaza, preventing aid columns from getting in and the wounded from getting out. The crossing was a lifeline for those seeking medical treatment for wounds suffered in the attacks, as Gaza's own hospitals have become so overwhelmed that they are near breakdown. Medical personnel report running short of critical medicine, while power is maintained only by means of aging generators.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Sunday rebutted the cynical claims by Israeli officials that they are determined to prevent a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

"Bread and wheat are going to run out extremely rapidly, and people are going to start getting extremely hungry," said UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness. "Medical supplies are in critically short supply. When you have a situation where houses are being blown up and women and children are being maimed, I would say that's a humanitarian crisis."

Meanwhile, the Israeli army has given its forces carte-blanche for killing civilians, declaring Saturday, "Anyone who hides a terrorist or weapons in his house is considered a terrorist."

This is only the beginning. There are still around 10,000 Israeli troops and hundreds of tanks massed on the Gaza border, and the government made an urgent call-up of "tens of thousands" more military reservists. Defence officials said this could enable a broader ground offensive in the operation's third phase.

This is likely to target Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon. Israeli warplanes have engaged in continuous incursions into Lebanese airspace over the past week. Two weeks after the last major Israeli offensive against Gaza, in June 2006, a cross border raid by Hezbollah became a casus belli for a brutal month-long assault that killed more than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians. Israel's Defence Minister Ehud Barak said on Saturday, "While we are fighting in Gaza, we will keep an open eye on the sensitive situation on our northern border...we are ready and alert to face any unwarranted development in that area."

In contrast to the Palestinian death toll, the Israeli army said one of its soldiers had been killed by a mortar shell and 30 soldiers have been wounded in the ground offensive, two of them seriously. Rockets fired at southern Israel have left four dead in total.

The ground invasion was green-lighted by US President Bush, who on Friday took the extraordinary decision to release the transcript of his Saturday radio broadcast in which he declared that a ceasefire was only possible if it prevented Hamas from re-arming. "Another one-way ceasefire that leads to rocket attacks on Israel is not acceptable," he said.
The US blocked a cease-fire motion at an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council Saturday night.

Global wave of protest

Demonstration in London against the Israeli assault on Gaza.
Israel's bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza have unleashed a global wave of protest.

The most important and sizeable protest took place in Sakhnin, a Palestinian town within Israeli boundaries. The 1.4-million-strong Arab community makes up about 20 percent of Israel's population and has organised several protests in recent days. But the protest organised by the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee was one of the largest held by Israeli Arabs since October 2000. Organisers estimated that at least 100,000 people took part in protest, which stretched throughout the Sakhnin.
Crowds waving Palestinian flags and brandishing pro-Palestinian placards chanted, "Gaza will not surrender to the tanks and bulldozers!" and "Don't fear, Gaza, we are with you!" Some protesters called Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak a "coward" and accused him of "collaborating with the Americans."

Thousands of police were deployed on the outskirts of the town and across northern Israel.

Palestinian members of the Israeli Knesset were present from several parties. Hadash Chairman Mohammad Barakeh MK said, "There are three clear objectives: the first is solidarity with the people in the Strip who are suffering from seven days of major Israeli attacks.

"The second objective is to the Israeli government urging it to stop the unjust aggression.... We are also saying to the Palestinian people, to all of us, it is time for reconciliation. There is no place for division when facing this level of attack."

Following a minute's silence, Sakhnin Mayor Mazem Ghanaim called for an immediate halt to the Gaza offensive. "The Israeli occupation force is conducting crimes in Gaza before the eyes of the international community," he said. "This is the biggest procession in the history of the Palestinian people in Israel. The level of crowdedness in Gaza is one of the highest in the world, and yet the Israel Air Force jets are bombing and murdering innocent people. I call on Israel to end the war immediately and lift the siege."

Wassil Taha MK (Balad) said, "This is one of the greatest demonstrations we have seen because it affects each and every family. People seek to express their pain by showing solidarity with the members of our nation."

Ibrahim Zabidat, who led the rally, said, "The Israeli killing machine must stop. I call from here to the people in Gaza and say: Don't be afraid, don't give up, block them with your blood in order to build the state of Palestine, whose capital is Jerusalem."
The chairman of the Balad Party, MK Jamal Zahalka, said there is a need to "try Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defence Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi in an international war crimes tribunal for their role in the killing of civilians in the Gaza Strip."

There was also a large protest by Palestinians in the West Bank city of Hebron.

Thousands demonstrated in Tel Aviv on Saturday, with police forces struggling to separate anti-war protesters from right-wing counter demonstrations.

Peace protesters in Rabin Square waved Palestinian flags and shouted, "Barak, Barak, Defence Minister, how many children have you murdered today?" "Stop the bombing, stop the killing."
Hundreds of thousands also protested across Europe.

In Paris, police admit to 21,000 demonstrators marching through the city's luxury shopping district shouting, "We are all Palestinians" and "Israel assassin." The protest was prevented from reaching the Israeli embassy.

CRS riot police clashed with 400-500 youths wearing Palestinian flags and kaffiyehs in the evening. Protesters reportedly set cars on fire, and several luxury store windows, such as the Louis Pion watch store, were smashed and looted.

A section of the London protest

Massive pro-Palestinian protests took place simultaneously in other major French cities.

In London, tens of thousands of demonstrators marched. (See "Video: London demonstrators protest Israeli assault on Gaza") Many of them threw shoes in front of the Downing Street residence of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown as they made their way along Whitehall in homage to the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoe at President George W. Bush during a press conference last month.

Several people were injured when riot police began hitting and kicking protesters in an underpass in Piccadilly. In the evening, police officers penned in several thousand demonstrators who were protesting outside the Israeli embassy and began hitting them with shields and batons, leaving even more wounded. U-Tube Video: (

Protesters on the London demonstration

Organisers made an official complaint to the Metropolitan Police, saying officers provoked the crowd by charging at them.
In the afternoon, speakers at Trafalgar Square drew attention to the terrible plight of the Palestinian people, but the perspective promoted by the march organisers—the Stop the War Coalition, Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Muslim organisations—was largely one of putting pressure on governments or the United Nations to intervene.

Former Labour MP Tony Benn condemned the Bush government for its full support of Israeli aggression and the way the US uses Israel to control the Middle East. He said it was necessary to "mobilise world opinion" for a free Palestine and an end to Western domination.

Respect MP George Galloway likened the Palestinian people to those in the Nazi ghettos saying, "those who are murdering them are the equivalent of those who murdered the Jews in Warsaw in 1942." He singled out the Egyptian regime for special mention as jointly responsible for the situation in Gaza and declared its President Hosni Mubarak an international criminal. He called on the "great people of Egypt, the heroic armed forces of rise up and sweep away this tyrant."

Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone criticised the Israeli government for using the invasion as a means of gaining votes in the upcoming elections. He appealed to the British government to intervene, saying, "I heard Gordon Brown denounce apartheid [in South Africa] year after year, I want him to denounce the attacks on the Palestinian people."

The singer Annie Lennox, warned of an Israeli ground invasion within hours, adding, "We call on ministers of all nations to take responsibility, speak out and demand an immediate ceasefire now"

Comedian Alexei Sayle said that "Israel purports to speak in our name, purports to somehow give us a home or provide protection" but said that the Israeli government "does not act in my name." He criticised the way the way the government condemns any criticism of Israel as anti-semitism. "I want to be proud of my people. If only Jewish people could turn away from violence, what an amazing thing that would be."

Human rights activist Bianca Jagger called on Barack Obama to "express an opinion on what is happening and demand an immediate halt to the shelling against the civilian population in the Gaza Strip." She called on the international community to "ensure the immediate cessation by Israel of the use of excessive and unlawful and disproportionate force."

Smaller rallies were held in other British cities, including Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow

In Germany, 7,000 people gathered in freezing temperatures in Berlin for a march along Unter den Linden boulevard. More than 4,000 people demonstrated in Duesseldorf, and some 5,000 in Frankfurt. Protesters carried banners declaring, "Germany, look! Where is your sense of justice?"

In Austria, 2,500 people demonstrated in Salzburg. In Spain, there was a protest outside the Foreign Ministry in Madrid.
In the Turkish capital of Ankara, 5,000 demonstrators shouted "Killer Israel!" at a rally in the city centre. Demonstrations were also held Sunday.

In Athens, Greece, 5,000 protested, and there were clashes with police outside the Israeli embassy. In Cyprus, about 2,000 people demonstrated, and some pelted riot police with rocks, sticks, shoes and oranges near the Israeli embassy in Nicosia.
In the Netherlands, thousands marched through Amsterdam. One banner read, "Anne Frank is turning in her grave."
Hundreds more marched in the Swedish cities of Malmo and Uppsala, while in Oslo, Norway, demonstrators marched from the parliament to the Israeli Embassy.

Top 5 Lies About Israel’s Assault on Gaza

http://www. foreignpolicyjournal. com/articles/2009/01/03/hammond_top-5-lies-about-israels-assault-on-gaza. html


Jeremy R. Hammond

Lie #1)
Israel is only targeting legitimate military sites and is seeking to protect innocent lives. Israel never targets civilians.
The Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated pieces of property in the world. The presence of militants within a civilian population does not, under international law, deprive that population of their protected status, and hence any assault upon that population under the guise of targeting militants is, in fact, a war crime.

Moreover, the people Israel claims are legitimate targets are members of Hamas, which Israel says is a terrorist organization. Hamas has been responsible for firing rockets into Israel. These rockets are extremely inaccurate and thus, even if Hamas intended to hit military targets within Israel, are indiscriminate by nature. When rockets from Gaza kill Israeli civilians, it is a war crime.

Hamas has a military wing. However, it is not entirely a military organization, but a political one. Members of Hamas are the democratically elected representatives of the Palestinian people. Dozens of these elected leaders have been kidnapped and held in Israeli prisons without charge. Others have been targeted for assassination, such as Nizar Rayan, a top Hamas official. To kill Rayan, Israel targeted a residential apartment building. The strike not only killed Rayan but two of his wives and four of his children, along with six others. There is no justification for such an attack under international law. This was a war crime.

Other of Israel’s bombardment with protected status under international law have included a mosque, a prison, police stations, and a university, in addition to residential buildings.
Moreover, Israel has long held Gaza under siege, allowing only the most minimal amounts of humanitarian supplies to enter. Israel is bombing and killing Palestinian civilians. Countless more have been wounded, and cannot receive medical attention. Hospitals running on generators have little or no fuel. Doctors have no proper equipment or medical supplies to treat the injured. These people, too, are the victims of Israeli policies targeted not at Hamas or legitimate military targets, but directly designed to punish the civilian population.

Lie #2)
Hamas violated the cease-fire. The Israeli bombardment is a response to Palestinian rocket fire and is designed to end such rocket attacks.

Israel never observed the cease-fire to begin with. From the beginning, it announced a “special security zone” within the Gaza Strip and announced that Palestinians who enter this zone will be fired upon. In other words, Israel announced its intention that Israeli soldiers would shoot at farmers and other individuals attempting to reach their own land in direct violation of not only the cease-fire but international law.

Despite shooting incidents, including ones resulting in Palestinians getting injured, Hamas still held to the cease-fire from the time it went into effect on June 19 until Israel effectively ended the truce on November 4 by launching an airstrike into Gaza that killed five and injured several others.

Israel’s violation of the cease-fire predictably resulted in retaliation from militants in Gaza who fired rockets into Israel in response. The increased barrage of rocket fire at the end of December is being used as justification for the continued Israeli bombardment, but is a direct response by militants to the Israeli attacks.
Israel's actions, including its violation of the cease-fire, predictably resulted in an escalation of rocket attacks against its own population.

Lie #3)
Hamas is using human shields, a war crime.

There has been no evidence that Hamas has used human shields. The fact is, as previously noted, Gaza is a small piece of property that is densely populated. Israel engages in indiscriminate warfare such as the assassination of Nizar Rayan, in which members of his family were also murdered. It is victims like his dead children that Israel defines as “human shields” in its propaganda. There is no legitimacy for this interpretation under international law. In circumstances such as these, Hamas is not using human shields, Israel is committing war crimes in violation of the Geneva Conventions and other applicable international law.

Lie #4) Arab nations have not condemned Israel’s actions because they understand Israel’s justification for its assault.

The populations of those Arab countries are outraged at Israel’s actions and at their own governments for not condemning Israel’s assault and acting to end the violence. Simply stated, the Arab governments do not represent their respective Arab populations. The populations of the Arab nations have staged mass protests in opposition to not only Israel's actions but also the inaction of their own governments and what they view as either complacency or complicity in Israel's crimes.

Moreover, the refusal of Arab nations to take action to come to the aid of the Palestinians is not because they agree with Israel’s actions, but because they are submissive to the will of the US, which fully supports Israel. Egypt, for instance, which refused to open the border to allow Palestinians wounded in the attacks to get medical treatment in Egyptian hospitals, is heavily dependent upon US aid, and is being widely criticized within the population of the Arab countries for what is viewed as an absolute betrayal of the Gaza Palestinians.

Even Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been regarded as a traitor to his own people for blaming Hamas for the suffering of the people of Gaza. Palestinians are also well aware of Abbas' past perceived betrayals in conniving with Israel and the US to sideline the democratically elected Hamas government, culminating in a counter-coup by Hamas in which it expelled Fatah (the military wing of Abbas' Palestine Authority) from the Gaza Strip. While his apparent goal was to weaken Hamas and strengthen his own position, the Palestinians and other Arabs in the Middle East are so outraged at Abbas that it is unlikely he will be able to govern effectively.

Lie #5)
Israel is not responsible for civilian deaths because it warned the Palestinians of Gaza to flee areas that might be targeted.

Israel claims it sent radio and telephone text messages to residents of Gaza warning them to flee from the coming bombardment. But the people of Gaza have nowhere to flee to. They are trapped within the Gaza Strip. It is by Israeli design that they cannot escape across the border. It is by Israeli design that they have no food, water, or fuel by which to survive. It is by Israeli design that hospitals in Gaza have no electricity and few medical supplies with which to treat the injured and save lives. And Israel has bombed vast areas of Gaza, targeting civilian infrastructure and other sites with protected status under international law. No place is safe within the Gaza Strip.
Posted on: http://www. foreignpolicyjournal. com/articles/2009/01/03/hammond_top-5-lies-about-israels-assault-on-gaza. html Jeremy R. Hammond is the editor of Foreign Policy Journal, a website dedicated to providing news, critical analysis, and opinion commentary on U. S. foreign policy from outside of the standard framework offered by government officials and the mainstream corporate media, particularly with regard to the "war on terrorism" and events in the Middle East. He has also written for numerous other online publications. You can contact him at jeremy@foreignpolicyjournal. com.

Orwell, Blinding Tribalism, Selective Terrorism, and Israel/Gaza

Published on Sunday, January 4, 2009 by

by Glenn Greenwald

Former McCain-Palin campaign spokesman and current Weekly Standard editor Michael Goldfarb notes that Israel, a couple of days ago, dropped a 2,000-pound bomb on a Gazan home which killed a top Hamas leader . . . in addition to 18 others, including his four wives and nine of his children. About the killing of those innocent civilians, Goldfarb writes (h/t John Cole via email):

The fight against Islamic radicals always seems to come around to whether or not they can, in fact, be deterred, because it's not clear that they are rational, at least not like us. But to wipe out a man's entire family, it's hard to imagine that doesn't give his colleagues at least a moment's pause. Perhaps it will make the leadership of Hamas rethink the wisdom of sparking an open confrontation with Israel under the current conditions.

That, of course, is just a slightly less profane version of Marty Peretz's chest-beating proclamation that the great value of the attack on Gaza is to teach those Arabs a lesson: "do not fuck with the Jews."

There are few concepts more elastic and subject to exploitation than "Terrorism," the all-purpose justifying and fear-mongering term. But if it means anything, it means exactly the mindset which Goldfarb is expressing: slaughtering innocent civilians in order to "send a message," to "deter" political actors by making them fear that continuing on the same course will result in the deaths of civilians and -- best of all, from the Terrorist's perspective -- even their own children and other family members.

To the Terrorist, by definition, that innocent civilians and even children are killed isn't a regrettable cost of taking military action. It's not a cost at all. It's a benefit. It has strategic value. Goldfarb explicitly says this: "to wipe out a man's entire family, it's hard to imagine that doesn't give his colleagues at least a moment's pause."

That, of course, is the very same logic that leads Hamas to send suicide bombers to slaughter Israeli teenagers in pizza parlors and on buses and to shoot rockets into their homes. It's the logic that leads Al Qaeda to fly civilian-filled airplanes into civilian-filled office buildings. And it's the logic that leads infinitely weak and deranged people like Goldfarb and Peretz to find value in the killing of innocent Palestinians, including -- one might say, at least in Goldfarb's case: especially -- children.
* * * * *

One should be clear that this sociopathic indifference to (or even celebration over) the deaths of Palestinian civilians isn't representative of all supporters of the Israeli attack on Gaza. It's unfair to use the Goldfarb/Peretz pathology to impugn all supporters of the Israeli attack. It's certainly possible to support the Israeli offensive despite the deaths of these civilians, to truly lament the suffering of innocent Palestinians but still find the war, on balance, to be justifiable.

Those who favor the attack on Gaza due to that calculus are certainly misguided about the likely outcome. And many war supporters who fall into this more benign category are guilty of insufficiently weighing the deaths of Palestinian innocents and, relatedly, of such overwhelming emotional and cultural attachment to Israel and Israelis that they long ago ceased viewing this conflict with any remnant of objectivity.

I can't express how many emails I've received in the last week from people identifying themselves as "liberals" (and, overwhelmingly, American Jews); telling me that they agree with my views in almost all areas other than Israel; and then self-righteously insisting that I imagine what it's like to live in Southern Israel with incoming rocket fire from Hamas, as though that will change my views on the Israel/Gaza war. Obviously, it's not difficult to imagine the understandable rage that Israelis feel when learning of another attack on Israeli civilians, in exactly the way that American rage over the 9/11 attacks was understandable. But just as that American anger didn't justify anything and everything that followed, the fact that there are indefensible attacks on Israeli civilians doesn't render the (far more lethal) attacks on Gaza either wise or just -- as numerous Jewish residents of Sderot themselves are courageously arguing in opposing the Israeli attack .

More to the point: for those who insist that others put themselves in the position of a resident of Sderot -- as though that will, by itself, prove the justifiability of the Israeli attack -- the idea literally never occurs to them that they ought to imagine what it's like to live under foreign occupation for 4 decades (and, despite the 2005 "withdrawal from Gaza," Israel continues to occupy and expand its settlements on Palestinian land and to control and severely restrict many key aspects of Gazan life). No thought is given to what it is like, what emotions it generates, what horrible acts start to appear justifiable, when you have a hostile foreign army control your borders and airspace and internal affairs for 40 years, one which builds walls around you, imposes the most intensely humiliating conditions on your daily life, blockades your land so that you're barred from exiting and prevented from accessing basic nutrition and medical needs for your children to the point where a substantial portion of the underage population suffers from stunted growth .

So extreme is their emotional identification with one side (Israel) that it literally never occurs to them to give any thought to any of that, to imagine what it's like to live in those circumstances. Nor does this thought occur to them:

I was trained from an early age to view this group as my group, to identify with them emotionally, culturally, religiously. Maybe that -- and not an objective assessment of these events -- is why I continuously side with that group and see everything from its perspective and justify whatever it does, why I find the Dick Cheney/Weekly Standard/neoconservative worldview repellent in every situation except when it comes to Israel, when I suddenly find it wise and vigorously embrace it.

Those who defend American actions in every case, or who find justification in attacks on Israeli civilians, or who find simplistic moral clarity in a whole range of other complex and protracted disputes where all sides share infinite blame, are often guilty of the same refusal/inability to at least try to minimize this sort of ingrained tribalistic blindness.
* * * * *

Still, there is a substantial difference between, on the one hand, basically well-intentioned people who are guilty of excessive emotional and cultural identification with one side of the dispute and, on the other, those who adopt the Goldfarb/Peretz psychopathic derangement of belittling rage over widespread civilian deaths as mere "whining" or even something to view as a strategic asset. The latter group is a subset of war supporters and evinces every defining attribute of the Terrorist.

Those who giddily support not just civilian deaths in Gaza but every actual and proposed attack on Arab/Muslim countries -- from the war in Iraq to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon to the proposed attacks on Iran and Syria and even continued escalation in Afghanistan -- are able to do so because they don't really see the Muslims they want to kill as being fully human. For obvious reasons, one typically finds this full-scale version of sociopathic indifference -- this perception of brutal war as a blood-pumping and exciting instrument for feeling vicarious sensations of power and strength from a safe distance -- in the society's weakest, most frightened, and most insecure individuals .

Here's right-wing blogger (and law professor) Glenn Reynolds revealing that wretched mindset for all to see :
“Cycles of violence” continue until one side wins decisively. Personally, I’d rather that were the Israelis, since they’re civilized people and not barbarians.

Or, as Goldfarb put it: "it's not clear that they are rational, at least not like us."

If you see Palestinians as something less than civilized human beings: as "barbarians" -- just as if you see Americans as infidels warring with God or Jews as sub-human rats -- then it naturally follows that civilian deaths are irrelevant, perhaps even something to cheer. For people who think that way, arguments about "proportionality" won't even begin to resonate -- such concepts can't even be understood -- because the core premise, that excessive civilian deaths are horrible and should be avoided at all costs, isn't accepted. Why should a superior, civilized, peaceful society allow the welfare of violent, hateful barbarians to interfere with its objectives? How can the deaths or suffering of thousands of barbarians ever be weighed against the death of even a single civilized person?

So many of these conflicts -- one might say almost all of them -- end up shaped by the same virtually universal deficiency: excessive tribalistic identification (i.e.: the group with which I was trained to identify is right and good and just and my group's enemy is bad and wrong and violent), which causes people to view the world only from the perspective of their side, to believe that X is good when they do it and evil when it's done to them. X can be torture, or the killing of civilians in order to "send a message" (i.e., Terrorism), or invading and occupying other people's land, or using massive lethal force against defenseless populations, or seeing one's own side as composed of real humans and the other side as sub-human, evil barbarians. As George Orwell wrote in Notes on Nationalism -- with perfect prescience to today's endless conflicts (h/t Hume's Ghost ):
All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side ... The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.

For those who evaluate moral questions from that blindingly self-regarding perspective, anything and everything becomes easily justifiable.

Copyright ©2009 Salon Media Group, Inc.
Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act? ," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy ", examines the Bush legacy.

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Whatever Happened to Western Morality?


Saturday, Jan 3, 2008

On the last day of the old year in CounterPunch, two Israelis, Jeff Halper who heads the Israeli peace movement ICAHD and Neve Gordon who is chairman of the department of politics and government at Ben-Gurion University, asked, “Where’s the Academic Outrage Over the Bombing of a University in Gaza?”

“Not one of the nearly 450 presidents of American colleges and universities who prominently denounced an effort by British academics to boycott Israeli universities in September 2007 have raised their voice in opposition to Israel’s bombardment of the Islamic University of Gaza earlier this week,” report Halper and Gordon. They note that Columbia University president Lee C. Bollinger, who has in the past ignorantly insulted Islamic representatives, “has been silent.”

It is the goyim moralists who are silent, not the Jews. It is the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, not the goyim media, that provides reports of Israel’s abuse of Palestinians. Gideon Levy’s “The Neighborhood Bully Strikes Again” was published in Haaretz (29 December), not in the goyim press. Levy’s words–“Once again, Israel’s violent responses, even if there is justification for them, exceed all proportion and cross every red line of humaneness, morality, international law and wisdom”–are not words that can appear in American print or TV media. Such words, printed in Israeli newspapers, never reach the goyim.

The extent of Americans’ ignorance is breathtaking. Israel has the Palestinians jammed into tightly controlled ghettos known as Gaza and the West Bank. With Egypt’s help, Israel controls the inflows of food, medicines, water, and energy into Gaza. Palestinians in Gaza are not permitted to enter Israel or Egypt. Last week a humanitarian ship bringing food and medicine was rammed by Israeli gunboats and turned away.

In the West Bank Palestinians are walled off from their fields, jobs, medical care, education, water, and from one another by endless checkpoints, roads for “Jews only,” walls, barbed wire, and machine gun towers. Palestinians are being evicted from their towns house by house, block by block.

Israel’s slow theft of Palestine is illegal under international law but protected by US “diplomacy.”

The Palestinians are no more of a threat to Israel than Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto were a threat to the Nazi state. Yet, everywhere in America–Congress, the executive branch, the print and TV media, the universities, evangelical Christian institutions–there is the belief that Israel is on the verge of annihilation by Palestinian terrorists. This ignorance, so carefully cultivated by the Israel Lobby, turns genocidal aggression into self-defense.

It fools Americans, but it doesn’t fool Israelis. The Israelis have always known that “self-defense” is a cloak for a Zionist policy of territorial expansion. The policy is controversial within Israel. Many Israelis object, just as many Americans object to President Bush’s illegal wars and violations of US civil liberties. Many Israelis give voice to their moral conscience, but they are overwhelmed by vested interests.

Karl Marx declared morality to be merely a mask for vested interests. The writings of Marx and Engels are scornful of good will and moral ideals as effective forces in history. The Israeli state epitomizes Marx’s doctrine that power alone is the effective force.

Many American conservatives share the Israeli state’s belief in the efficacy of power. Conservatives who turned against Bush’s wars did so because the US was not brutal enough. They turned away from Bush’s long inconclusive wars in the way that fans desert a losing team.

Americans used to say that “the pen is mightier than the sword,” but this hasn’t been the case for US and Israeli aggression. The success the two regimes have had in instilling fear into their populations is part of the explanation for the impotence of morality. Another part of the explanation is that vested interests are a powerful constraint on morality.

Consider the case of Lee Bollinger. Columbia University is dependent on Jewish money, faculty and students. If Bollinger were to take a stand against Israel’s mistreatment of the Palestinians, he would be denounced as an anti-Semite. Presidents of competitor universities would not come to his defense. They would pile on in hopes of recruiting Columbia’s top faculty and students and redirecting the flow of financial resources from Columbia to themselves.

An American newspaper or TV network that took a stand against Israel’s abuse of Palestinians would be confronted with an advertising boycott organized by AIPAC. American politicians who criticize Israel go down to defeat by Israel Lobby money.

Hegel gave too much emphasis to ideas, Marx too much to material interests. Both forces operate in the world. There are times in history when revolutionary ideas shatter material interests. Other times the two coexist in a balance of power. In other times material interests prevail over morality.

We are living in the latter time. Financial interests, the military-security complex, and the Israel Lobby are the powers that rule America. They are buttressed by neoconservatives and Christian Zionists and by the patriotic hubris that America is the main force for good operating in the world. The evils America commits are dismissed as necessary to the service of good. The destruction of Iraq, for example, is justified as “bringing freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people.”

A number of commentators, including myself, predict a decline in America’s economic power. As this occurs, Israel will have to abandon its policy of violence. With the accumulated hatred that its policies have fomented, Israel will be vulnerable.

The world will need to remember that although Israel is a Jewish state, it is a state whose policies many Jews find objectionable, just as a majority of American Jews oppose President Bush’s wars of aggression in the Middle East and his unconstitutional policies at home. We must not confuse Israel’s Zionist government with world Jewry, just as we must not confuse the American people with the war criminals in the Bush Regime.
Consider, who do you trust with your civil liberties, the US Department of Justice or the ACLU’s phalanx of Jewish attorneys?

We must avoid the mistake that was made by blaming the German people for Hitler. It was the aristocratic German military that tried to remove Hitler. In contrast, Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi blocked the attempt to impeach George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Pelosi is a discredit to California, but shall we blame all of America for Pelosi’s defense of war criminals? How can we do so when US Rep. Dennis Kucinich courageously read out the articles of impeachment on the House floor?

Are all Americans guilty because Kucinich did not prevail?

Obama Is Losing a Battle He Doesn't Know He's In

by Simon Tisdall

Barack Obama's chances of making a fresh start in US relations with the Muslim world, and the Middle East in particular, appear to diminish with each new wave of Israeli attacks on Palestinian targets in Gaza. That seems hardly fair, given the president-elect does not take office until January 20. But foreign wars don't wait for Washington inaugurations.
Obama has remained wholly silent during the Gaza crisis. His aides say he is following established protocol that the US has only one president at a time. Hillary Clinton, his designated secretary of state, and Joe Biden, the vice-president-elect and foreign policy expert, have also been uncharacteristically taciturn on the subject.

But evidence is mounting that Obama is already losing ground among key Arab and Muslim audiences that cannot understand why, given his promise of change, he has not spoken out. Arab commentators and editorialists say there is growing disappointment at Obama's detachment - and that his failure to distance himself from George Bush's strongly pro-Israeli stance is encouraging the belief that he either shares Bush's bias or simply does not care.

The Al-Jazeera satellite television station recently broadcast footage of Obama on holiday in Hawaii, wearing shorts and playing golf, juxtaposed with scenes of bloodshed and mayhem in Gaza. Its report criticizing "the deafening silence from the Obama team" suggested Obama is losing a battle of perceptions among Muslims that he may not realize has even begun.

"People recall his campaign slogan of change and hoped that it would apply to the Palestinian situation," Jordanian analyst Labib Kamhawi told Liz Sly of the Chicago Tribune. "So they look at his silence as a negative sign. They think he is condoning what happened in Gaza because he's not expressing any opinion."

Regional critics claim Obama is happy to break his pre-inauguration "no comment" rule on international issues when it suits him. They note his swift condemnation of November's terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Obama has also made frequent policy statements on mitigating the impact of the global credit crunch.
. . . .
More at URL Above

The Huffington Post: Israeli-Occupied Territory
Why is the Huffington Post carrying water for the IDF? Follow the money …

Pat Buchanan was widely vilified by the neocons and the politically correct left when he famously described the Congress of the United States as "Israeli-occupied territory." Oh, what a conniption the liberals and the Commentary crowd had! That was during the countdown to the first Gulf War, when almost no one rose to object – and those who did, like Pat, were smeared for their trouble. Today, such an observation is hardly considered controversial: it is simply a known fact.

There is more discussion in the Knesset over the pros and cons of US intervention in the Middle East on Israel's behalf than there is in on Capitol Hill. There's a sense in which this sort of uniformity must be a little embarrassing for the Lobby, in that it underscores their fear that a real debate will suddenly break out. The regularity with which the American Congress endorses every fresh Israeli atrocity has a certain deadening metronomic quality about it – and, while we're on the subject of monotony, the American media, too, plays an identical role as advocate and staunch defender of the Israeli case, as a matter of course. The "mainstream" televised and dead-tree-media has historically been a reliable "reporter" of the merits of the Israeli case. Now, the wannabe "alternative" online media is following suit, with an alacrity that is none too surprising.

It is especially unsurprising in the case of the Huffington Post, which founder Arianna Huffington touts as a "people's media" in which "truth" is the highest value. As she put it to the San Francisco Bay Guardian:

"Our highest responsibility is to the truth. The truth is not about splitting the difference between one side and the other. Sometimes one side is speaking the truth ... The central mission of journalism is the search for the truth."

Taking Ms. Huffington at her word, one can only conclude that, when it comes to Israel's rape of Gaza, the Huffington Post is siding with the rapist. Their "news" coverage of the ongoing devastation is heavily slanted toward the Israelis, with those journalistically unique paragraph-long lead-story headlines never mentioning Palestinian casualties (a number would suffice). When a genuinely antiwar voice is allowed on the site, it is prefaced by an apologia, as our own Jeremy Sapienza reports:

"Huffington Post was so very kind this week to give space to almost frustratingly moderate Palestinian intellectual Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi. In his well-reasoned article, ‘Palestine's Guernica and the Myths of Israeli Victimhood,' he supplied all the basic facts behind the problems in Palestine. … But what gives with the long disclaimer marring the top of Barghouthi's article?

"HuffPo runs all kinds of commentary from all over the political spectrum (or at least its leftish side), but only those who dare speak against the sainted Israelis seem to require an editorial explanation that resembles an apology.

"Shame on Huffington Post for its disgusting lack of integrity."

Shame? Jeremy is a fine lad, and very smart, but perhaps a bit naïve in believing these people even accept the concept of shame, applied to themselves: indeed, they oppose it as a matter of high principle. There's a ready explanation of why, as the Israelis pound Gaza, the formerly antiwar Huffington Post has become a cheerleader for the IDF: it is due entirely to this.

When Arianna nabbed $25 million from Oak Investment Partners, of Palo Alto, California, she was acquired by a financial network that also has significant investments in the Israeli arms industry – an industry, I might add, directly subsidized and controlled by the Israeli government. For example, Oak Investment has invested in IET/Intelligent Electronics, now morphed into Clickservice Software, an Israeli-based company that makes sophisticated weapons systems and sells them to clients such as "an unnamed Far Eastern country." Oak Investment partner Fred Harman now sits on the Huffington Post's board.

Case closed. Mystery solved.

Since Arianna is so into "truth," how about a little when it comes to how she's financing a $25 million media gig that still refuses to pay bloggers! Not only that, but they were recently forced to apologize to a Chicago media outlet for brazenly stealing content. Whatever her contributions to the journalistic profession, let alone the pursuit of "truth," Arianna is sure giving tackiness a bad name.

What's so galling is that the Huffington Post poses as an "alternative" media outlet, the virtual embodiment of the new online populism that gave rise to the blogosphere. The nerve it takes to pose as an opponent of "corporate greed," and war, while taking a $25 million "investment" from an exemplar of both is simply breathtaking – but about par for the course for Arianna. In her odyssey from the Newt Gingrich right to the Obama-ite left, the founder of the Huffington Post personifies the utter vacuity of our age, the emptiness that has nothing at its core but an ideological vacuum waiting to be filled by the dictates of fashion and commerce.

From her days as the high priestess of the "John Roger" cult in California – a New Age outfit grouped around a charismatic and controversial leader "John Roger" – Ms. Huffington has always been an ideological weathervane, taking on the colors of whatever ideological craze is in season. As a kind of Greek sibyl interpreting the divine zeitgeist, her style has lately become even more magisterial, now that she's getting closer to real power. "I only text three people," she boasted at a London dinner, "my two teenage children and Barack Obama."

God help us if that woman has the President's ear, if only because we'll have to endure four long years of relentless name-dropping.

More seriously, though, the Huffington Post's disgraceful performance on the Gaza issue is really just a reflection of the laughable uniformity of Western coverage of Middle Eastern issues, and this is especially true when it comes to Israel and its interests in the region. It's a widely-noted irony that the nature and extent of the "special relationship" is never discussed as openly in the US as it is in the Israeli media. How and why this came about is well-documented by professors John Mearshemier and Stephen Walt, in their book, The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy [short version here], but a new riff on their theme is the extent to which the online media have been co-opted by the Lobby – in this case, bought outright.


I've gotten a couple of letters noting that, this very morning, the editors of have chosen to link to an informative piece by Yale University professor David Bromwich on the Huffington Post that contradicts the above. Yet that does little to undermine my main point, which is that Ms. Huffington's alleged devotion to “truth” – as expressed in her declaration “the truth is not about splitting the difference between one side and the other” because “sometimes one side is speaking the truth” – is deemed as somehow not applicable to the Gaza massacre. In any case, please don't anyone try to tell me that the presence of a major investor in the rather extensive (and profitable) Israeli military-industrial complex doesn't have a major effect on the Huffington Post's editorial decisions. Of course it does, and the Bromwich piece doesn't change this – it is merely “splitting the difference between one side and the other,” as Arianna put it to the Bay Guardian – the difference between truth and lies.

Another point: by running the Bromwich piece – which didn't have the embarrassing and unnecessary editorial note attached to the Mustafa Barghouthi blog – we at are hoping to encourage whatever advocates of editorial sanity remain on the Huffington Post staff. For the inside scoop on what those poor wretches have to endure, go here, here, and here.

~ Justin Raimondo

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