Tuesday, January 27, 2009

John Updike

John Updike Has Passed

Nicholas Delblanco, a friend of John Updike, read this poem of his on PBS News Hour tonight, the day he died, 1/27/09.

"A Rescue"

"Today I wrote some words that will see print. Maybe they will last forever and that someone will read them there, ink making a light scratch on his mind or hers."

"I think back with greater satisfaction upon a yellow bird, a gold finch that had flown into the garden shed and could not get out, battering its wings on the deceptive light of the dusty, warped, shut window."

"Without much reflection for once, I stepped to where its panicked heart was making commotion, the flared wings drumming, and with clumsy, soft hands pinned it against a pane, held loosely cupped this agitated essence of the air, and through the open door released it like a self-flung ball to all that lovely, perishing outdoors."

A Poem by John Updike

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Excellent Blog, Good Videos

In This Edition:

- Dissenting Justice Blog
- 3 interesting Videos

Dissenting Justice Blog

Darren Lenard Hutchinson
Washington, DC, United States
Education: B.A., University of Pennsylvania; J.D. Yale Law School. I am a Professor of Law at American University, Washington College of Law. I teach and write in the areas of Constitutional Law, Race Relations, Law and Politics, and Gay and Lesbian Rights. As you can probably ascertain from my research interests, I am definitely a progressive, but I take pride in having an open mind, provoking debate, and welcoming criticism. In fact, I started this blog because liberals were absolutely uncritical of Obama during the Democratic primaries and unrelentingly harsh and hypocritical towards the Clintons. I believed that it was my responsiblity to try and shake things up, to challenge orthodox thinking, regardless of the candidate I supported. If there's one thing I hate, it's a lack of debate and dissent. So, if you want honest and open political and legal discourse -- and breaking news and commentary from news media and other blogs -- then this is the blog for you. I look forward to your comments.


David Letterman, Tribute to Great Moments In Presidential Speeches


I Want Some TARP


Olbermann Urges Obama to Go After Bush Admin on Torture
Posted by Nicole Belle, Crooks and Liars at 6:52 AM on January 20, 2009.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Killing Civilians and Other War Crimes as Israel Policy

In This Issue:

- A Quick Note on Gaza. Now that, after weeks of bombing, Israel is finally allowing reporters to enter Gaza, there are emerging reports on American media about the extent of the outrageous Israeli Barbarities in Gaza. Even PBS' News Hour had one good video at the end of their broadcast tonight showing the dropping of phosphorus and shelling of one out of I believe three UN schools, which resulted in the killing and burning of children. Also a blown-up Red Crescent (Red Cross) ambulance. The guests they interviewed were poor choices, as is often the case.

- A Review of Recent US Supported Israeli War Crimes: Noam Chomsky--"Undermining Gaza" (Partial Text & Full MP3)

- Isn't it time for a war crimes tribunal? (Of Course Not): Robert Fisk

- Israel may face UN court ruling on legality of Gaza conflict

- International Court--We Can't Prosecute Israel (Just Serbia, et. al.)

- Inauguration Day, 2009:The Crowning of a Monarch in a Bankrupt Country, Justin Raimondo

- A Time to Break Silence, By Rev. Martin Luther King


Chomsky: Undermining Gaza

Interview by Sameer Dossani "Foreign Policy In Focus" MIT -- January 16, 2009


DOSSANI: The Israeli government and many Israeli and U.S. officials claim that the current assault on Gaza is to put an end to the flow of Qassam rockets from Gaza into Israel. But many observers claim that if that were really the case, Israel would have made much more of an effort to renew the ceasefire agreement that expired in December, which had all but stopped the rocket fire. In your opinion, what are the real motivations behind the current Israeli action?

CHOMSKY: There's a theme that goes way back to the origins of Zionism. And it's a very rational theme: "Let's delay negotiations and diplomacy as long as possible, and meanwhile we'll 'build facts on the ground.'" So Israel will create the basis for what some eventual agreement will ratify, but the more they create, the more they construct, the better the agreement will be for their purposes. Those purposes are essentially to take over everything of value in the former Palestine and to undermine what's left of the indigenous population.

I think one of the reasons for popular support for this in the United States is that it resonates very well with American history. How did the United States get established? The themes are similar.

There are many examples of this theme being played out throughout Israel's history, and the current situation is another case. They have a very clear program. Rational hawks like Ariel Sharon realized that it's crazy to keep 8,000 settlers using one-third of the land and much of the scarce supplies in Gaza, protected by a large part of the Israeli army while the rest of the society around them is just rotting. So it's best to take them out and send them to the West Bank. That's the place that they really care about and want.

What was called a "disengagement" in September 2005 was actually a transfer. They were perfectly frank and open about it. In fact, they extended settlement building programs in the West Bank at the very same time that they were withdrawing a few thousand people from Gaza. So Gaza should be turned into a cage, a prison basically, with Israel attacking it at will, and meanwhile in the West Bank we'll take what we want. There was nothing secret about it.

Ehud Olmert was in the United States in May 2006 a couple of months after the withdrawal. He simply announced to a joint session of Congress and to rousing applause, that the historic right of Jews to the entire land of Israel is beyond question. He announced what he called his convergence program, which is just a version of the traditional program; it goes back to the Allon plan of 1967. Israel would essentially annex valuable land and resources near the green line (the 1967 border). That land is now behind the wall that Israel built in the West Bank, which is an annexation wall. That means the arable land, the main water resources, the pleasant suburbs around Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and the hills and so on. They'll take over the Jordan valley, which is about a third of the West Bank, where they've been settling since the late 60s. Then they'll drive a couple of super highways through the whole territory — there's one to the east of Jerusalem to the town of Ma'aleh Adumim which was built mostly in the 1990s, during the Oslo years. It was built essentially to bisect the West Bank and are two others up north that includes Ariel and Kedumim and other towns which pretty much bisect what's left. They'll set up check points and all sorts of means of harassment in the other areas and the population that's left will be essentially cantonized and unable to live a decent life and if they want to leave, great. Or else they will be picturesque figures for tourists — you know somebody leading a goat up a hill in the distance — and meanwhile Israelis, including settlers, will drive around on "Israeli only" super highways. Palestinians can make do with some little road somewhere where you're falling into a ditch if it's raining. That's the goal. And it's explicit. You can't accuse them of deception because it's explicit. And it's cheered here.

DOSSANI: In terms of U.S. support, last week the UN Security Council adopted a resolution calling for a cease fire. Is this a change, particularly in light of the fact that the U.S. did not veto the resolution, but rather abstained, allowing it to be passed?

CHOMSKY: Right after the 1967 war, the Security Council had strong resolutions condemning Israel's move to expand and take over Jerusalem. Israel just ignored them. Because the U.S. pats them on the head and says "go ahead and violate them." There's a whole series of resolutions from then up until today, condemning the settlements, which as Israel knew and as everyone agreed were in violation of the Geneva conventions. The United States either vetoes the resolutions or sometimes votes for them, but with a wink saying, "go ahead anyway, and we'll pay for it and give you the military support for it." It's a consistent pattern. During the Oslo years, for example, settlement construction increased steadily, in violation of what the Oslo agreement was theoretically supposed to lead to. In fact the peak year of settlement was Clinton's last year, 2000. And it continued again afterward. It's open and explicit.

To get back to the question of motivation, they have sufficient military control over the West Bank to terrorize the population into passivity. Now that control is enhanced by the collaborationist forces that the U.S., Jordan, and Egypt have trained in order to subdue the population. In fact if you take a look at the press the last couple of weeks, if there's a demonstration in the West Bank in support of Gaza, the Fatah security forces crush it. That's what they're there for. Fatah by now is more or less functioning as Israel's police force in the West Bank. But the West Bank is only part of the occupied Palestinian territories. The other part is Gaza, and no one doubts that they form a unit. And there still is resistance in Gaza, those rockets. So yes, they want to stamp that out too, then there will be no resistance at all and they can continue to do what they want to do without interference, meanwhile delaying diplomacy as much as possible and "building the facts" the way they want to. Again this goes back to the origins of Zionism. It varies of course depending on circumstances, but the fundamental policy is the same and perfectly understandable. If you want to take over a country where the population doesn't want you, I mean, how else can you do it? How was this country conquered?

DOSSANI: What you describe is a tragedy.

CHOMSKY: It's a tragedy which is made right here. The press won't talk about it and even scholarship, for the most part, won't talk about it but the fact of the matter is that there has been a political settlement on the table, on the agenda for 30 years. Namely a two-state settlement on the international borders with maybe some mutual modification of the border. That's been there officially since 1976 when there was a Security Council resolution proposed by the major Arab states and supported by the (Palestinan Liberation Organization) PLO, pretty much in those terms. The United States vetoed it so it's therefore out of history and it's continued almost without change since then.

There was in fact one significant modification. In the last month of Clinton's term, January 2001 there were negotiations, which the U.S. authorized, but didn't participate in, between Israel and the Palestinians and they came very close to agreement.

DOSSANI: The Taba negotiations?

Yes, the Taba negotiations. The two sides came very close to agreement. They were called off by Israel. But that was the one week in over 30 years when the United States and Israel abandoned their rejectionist position. It's a real tribute to the media and other commentators that they can keep this quiet. The U.S. and Israel are alone in this. The international consensus includes virtually everyone. It includes the Arab League which has gone beyond that position and called for the normalization of relations, it includes Hamas. Every time you see Hamas in the newspapers, it says "Iranian-backed Hamas which wants to destroy Israel." Try to find a phrase that says "democratically elected Hamas which is calling for a two-state settlement" and has been for years. Well, yeah, that's a good propaganda system. Even in the U.S. press they've occasionally allowed op-eds by Hamas leaders, Ismail Haniya and others saying, yes we want a two-state settlement on the international border like everyone else.

DOSSANI: When did Hamas adopt that position?

CHOMSKY That's their official position taken by Haniya, the elected leader, and Khalid Mesh'al, their political leader who's in exile in Syria, he's written the same thing. And it's over and over again. There's no question about it but the West doesn't want to hear it. So therefore it's Hamas which is committed to the destruction of Israel.

In a sense they are, but if you went to a Native American reservation in the United States, I'm sure many would like to see the destruction of the United States. If you went to Mexico and took a poll, I'm sure they don't recognize the right of the United States to exist sitting on half of Mexico, land conquered in war. And that's true all over the world. But they're willing to accept a political settlement. Israel isn't willing to accept it and the United States isn't willing to accept it. And they're the lone hold-outs. Since it's the United States that pretty much runs the world, it's blocked.

Here it's always presented as though the United States must become more engaged; it's an honest broker; Bush's problem was that he neglected the issue. That's not the problem. The problem is that the United States has been very much engaged, and engaged in blocking a political settlement and giving the material and ideological and diplomatic support for the expansion programs, which are just criminal programs. The world court unanimously, including the American justice, agreed that any transfer of population into the Occupied Territories is a violation of a fundamental international law, the Geneva Conventions. And Israel agrees. In fact even their courts agree, they just sort of sneak around it in various devious ways. So there's no question about this. It's just sort of accepted in the United States that we're an outlaw state. Law doesn't apply to us. That's why it's never discussed.

[Unfortunately, the I haven't located the full text not yet located anywhere. Listen to the mp3 for the full record. - Chris]

Entire Speech:

Download Audio from Information Clearing House at:http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article21788.htm
Or Listen Here: http://www.radio4all.net:8080/files/chuck@wmbr.org/727-1-chomskbla3009.mp3

So, I asked the UN secretary general, isn't it time for a war crimes tribunal?

Mr Ban said it would not be up to him to launch a war crimes tribunal. It was pathetic

By Robert Fisk:

January 19, 2009 "The Independent"

- It's a wrap, a doddle, an Israeli ceasefire just in time for Barack Obama to have a squeaky-clean inauguration with all the world looking at the streets of Washington rather than the rubble of Gaza. Condi and Ms Livni thought their new arms-monitoring agreement – reached without a single Arab being involved – would work. Ban Ki-moon welcomed the unilateral truce. The great and the good gathered for a Sharm el-Sheikh summit. Only Hamas itself was not consulted. Which led, of course, to a few wrinkles in the plan. First, before declaring its own ceasefire, Hamas fired off more rockets at Israel, proving that Israel's primary war aim – to stop the missiles – had failed. Then Cairo shrugged off the deal because no one was going to set up electronic surveillance equipment on Egyptian soil. And not one European leader travelling to the region suggested the survivors might be helped if Israel, the EU and the US ended the food and fuel siege of Gaza.

After killing hundreds of women and children, Israel was the good guy again, by declaring a unilateral ceasefire that Hamas was certain to break. But Obama will be smiling on Tuesday. Was not this the reason, after all, why Israel suddenly wanted a truce?

Egypt's objections may be theatre – the US spent £18m last year training Egyptian security men to stop arms smuggling into Gaza and since the US bails out Egypt's economy, ignores the corruption of its regime and goes on backing Hosni Mubarak, there's sure to be a "compromise" very soon.

And Hamas has had its claws cut. Israel's informers in Gaza handed over the locations of its homes and hideouts and the government of Gaza must be wondering if they can ever close down the spy rings. Hamas thought its militia was the Hizbollah – a serious error – and that the world would eventually come to its aid. The world (although not its pompous leaders) felt enormous pity for the Palestinians, but not for the cynical men of Hamas who staged a coup in Gaza in 2007 which killed 151 Palestinians. As usual, the European statesmen appeared hopelessly out of touch with what their own electorates thought.

And history was quite forgotten. The Hamas rockets were the result of the food and fuel siege; Israel broke Hamas's own truce on 4 and 17 November. Forgotten is the fact Hamas won the 2006 elections, although Israel has killed a clutch of the victors.

And there'll be little time for the peacemakers of Sharm el-Sheikh to reflect on the three UN schools targeted by the Israelis and the slaughter of the civilians inside. Poor old Ban Ki-moon. He tried to make his voice heard just before the ceasefire, saying Israel's troops had acted "outrageously" and should be "punished" for the third school killing. Some hope. At a Beirut press conference, he admitted he had failed to get a call through to Israel's Foreign Minister to complain.

It was pathetic. When I asked Mr Ban if he would consider a UN war crimes tribunal in Gaza, he said this would not be for him to "determine". But only a few journalists bothered to listen to him and his officials were quickly folding up the UN flag on the table. About time too. Bring back the League of Nations. All is forgiven.

What no one noticed yesterday – not the Arabs nor the Israelis nor the portentous men from Europe – was that the Sharm el-Sheikh meeting last night was opening on the 90th anniversary – to the day – of the opening of the 1919 Paris peace conference which created the modern Middle East. One of its main topics was "the borders of Palestine". There followed the Versailles Treaty. And we know what happened then. The rest really is history. Bring on the ghosts.

Copyright The Independent"

Israel may face UN court ruling on legality of Gaza conflict

Afua Hirsch, legal affairs correspondent
The Guardian, Wednesday 14 January 2009


Israel faces the prospect of intervention by international courts amid growing calls that its actions in Gaza are a violation of world humanitarian and criminal law.

The UN general assembly, which is meeting this week to discuss the issue, will consider requesting an advisory opinion from the international court of justice, the Guardian has learned.

"There is a well-grounded view that both the initial attacks on Gaza and the tactics being used by Israel are serious violations of the UN charter, the Geneva conventions, international law and international humanitarian law," said Richard Falk, the UN's special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories and professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University.

"There is a consensus among independent legal experts that Israel is an occupying power and is therefore bound by the duties set out in the fourth Geneva convention," Falk added. "The arguments that Israel's blockade is a form of prohibited collective punishment, and that it is in breach of its duty to ensure the population has sufficient food and healthcare as the occupying power, are very strong."

A Foreign Office source confirmed the UK would consider backing calls for a reference to the ICJ. "It's definitely on the table," the source said. "We have already called for an investigation and are looking at all evidence and allegations."

An open letter to the prime minister signed by prominent international lawyers and published in today's Guardian states: "The United Kingdom government ... has a duty under international law to exert its influence to stop violations of international humanitarian law in the current conflict between Israel and Hamas."

The letter argues that Israel has violated principles of humanitarian law, including launching attacks directly aimed at civilians and failing to discriminate between civilians and combatants.

The letter follows condemnation earlier this week from leading QCs of Israel's action as a violation of international law, and a vote by the UN's human rights council on Monday on a resolution condemning the ongoing Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip.

"The blockade of humanitarian relief, the destruction of civilian infrastructure, and preventing access to basic necessities such as food and fuel are prima facie war crimes," a group of leading QCs and academics, including Michael Mansfield QC and Sir Geoffrey Bindman, wrote in a letter to the Sunday Times.

Israel has already been found to have violated its obligations in international law by a previous advisory opinion of the ICJ, and is likely to vigorously contest arguments that it is an occupying power. It previously stated that occupation ceased after disengagement from Gaza in 2005.

Its stance raises questions as to the utility of an advisory opinion by the ICJ after Israel rejected its finding in a previous case, which found the wall being constructed in the Palestinian territories to be a violation of Israel's obligations under international humanitarian law.

Questions are also being raised as to whether the international criminal court, which deals with war crimes and crimes against humanity, would have any jurisdiction to hear cases against perpetrators of the alleged crimes on both sides of the conflict. Neither Israel nor the Palestinian territories are signatories to the Rome statute, which brings states within the jurisdiction of the ICC.

More likely, experts say, is the establishment of ad-hoc tribunals of the kind created to deal with the war in the former Yugoslavia and the genocide in Rwanda.

"If there were the political will there could be an ad-hoc tribunal established to hear allegations of war crimes," Falk said. "This could be done by the general assembly acting under article 22 of the UN charter which gives them the authority to establish subsidiary bodies."

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2009

"Israel and the United States are not among the 108 countries that have signed the Rome Statute creating the court, but that would not prevent the ICC from launching an investigation. "

ICC Prosecutor Says Has No Jurisdiction In Gaza

By Reuters

January 14, 2009 -- THE HAGUE, Jan 14 (Reuters) - The International Criminal Court prosecutor in The Hague said on Wednesday it lacks jurisdiction to investigate possible war crimes recently committed in the Gaza Strip.

The prosecutor's statement came after a Palestinian rights group called on the ICC to investigate Israel for committing war crimes during its 19-day-old offensive in Gaza.

The office of the prosecutor said the court's jurisdiction is limited to war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of genocide committed on the territory of, or by a national of, a state party.

"In Gaza at present, the ICC lacks such jurisdiction," the prosecutor said in a statement.

The prosecutor said crimes committed in other situations can come before the ICC if the relevant non-party state voluntarily accepts the jurisdiction of the court on an ad hoc basis or if the United Nations Security Council refers a situation.

Set up in 2000, the Hague-based ICC is the world's first permanent court established to investigate and prosecute war crimes.

Israel and the United States are not among the 108 countries that have signed the Rome Statute creating the court, but that would not prevent the ICC from launching an investigation. (Reporting by Aaron Gray-Block; Editing by Matthew Jones)

Inauguration Day, 2009:
A Day of Mourning
For the victims of future wars, and for our old republic

[The Crowning of a Monarch in a Bankrupt Country]

January 19, 2009
Justin Raimondo

When Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated, he sought to dismantle the evolving Federalist tradition of pomp and circumstance. In a ceremonial sense, royalism seemed to have been restored, or so it appeared to him. As this blogger put it, "Dressed in simple attire, Jefferson walked over to the Capitol with a phalanx of riflemen, friends, and fellow citizens from his home state of Virginia."

In these last days of the American Empire, such austere republicanism would be considered impossibly quaint. Having long ago morphed into Jefferson's worst nightmare, the closer we get to the end, the more glamorous our inaugurals become. The poorer we are, the more millions we'll throw at a ceremony that is really the crowning of a monarch – and not just any old king, but an emperor bestriding the globe.

Appearances must be kept up. Like a bankrupt living on a palatial estate – one step away from foreclosure – we bask in imperial splendor even as the repo man comes knocking at the door.

At a time such as ours, the spectacle of jeweled and gowned courtiers feasting on inaugural canapés is beyond tacky. The Bourbons partied, too, right up to the eve of the French Revolution. Amid all the sounding of trumpets and the hailing of the chief, however, there is something hollow about all this unseemly extravagance.

The Obama cult has imbued our new president with superhuman powers: they expect and enjoy the spectacle. Yet the relentless lionizing of this messianic figure is ironic, because here is an American chief executive who will doubtless become aware of his own limitations rather quickly. America is a bankrupt empire engaged in two overseas wars, with troops on every continent and bases ringing the globe. It's unsustainable, and our ruling elites know it.

The crisis [.pdf] of American state capitalism will consume Obama's presidency until his credibility is reduced to a cinder. The only solution is for the administration to create a new social compact, one in which the government takes not only a major role but the leading role in directing the economic life of the nation. In order to do this, however, a broad coalition is necessary, one that spans – and in a sense transcends – the traditional categories of "Left" and "Right." And this has been a source of Obama's broad appeal: the belief that he is above it all.

Of course, libertarians make the same claim for themselves, yet they do so on ideological grounds. The Obama-ites, on the other hand, disdain all ideology and claim the mantle of pragmatism.

This claim to be non-ideological, and therefore "practical," is a smokescreen for what is clearly an ideology of a very definite sort: it is garden-variety statism, i.e., a belief in the radical extension of governmental power. As in the case of 9/11, when the Bushies launched an invasion of a foreign country in the name of a national "emergency," our economic 9/11 has now become the occasion for a massive invasion of government into the private sector. The nationalization of the banks, the auto industry, and even, it's rumored, the newspaper industry, augur ill for the cause of individual autonomy and for the social base of the Jeffersonian remnant: small business, the middle classes, broadly defined, and the shrinking proportion of the population not entirely dependent on Washington's largess.

In the U.S., the private sector – and I mean this in an ecumenical sense, including the nonprofit and underground sectors – has always been the dominant force in society. The voluntary interactions of consenting adults – the cultural bedrock of our old Republic – have charted the course of the American river, but now the state is directing the flow.

Obama's economic program can be summed up in one word: reflation. Massive government spending, preceded by an orgy of bailouts. Earmarks, which yesterday were anathema, are now presented as a panacea. Spending on this scale requires some degree of bipartisan complicity, but how will Obama get the Republicans to go along? You'll notice he's been courting them rather assiduously, and that's given rise to a whole new brand of "conservatives," the so-called Obamacons.

Most of these were won over on the basis of their growing Bush-hatred, but the rest will come over because of his foreign and military policy. Obama, after all, ran on a platform of increasing an obscenely bloated military budget – misnamed the "defense" budget, but in reality a sum devoted to interfering in the affairs of other nations and peoples on a scale unprecedented by any previous empire. A sum, mind you, more than equal to the military budgets of all other nations on earth combined.

This is the grand bargain that will be struck, the one that will give us guns and butter. The conservatives will be won over by what John T. Flynn described as their "devotion" to "military might." As the economic crisis deepens, military Keynesianism will bring the two parties together, as Flynn foresaw, because "militarism is the one great glamorous public-works project upon which a variety of elements in the community can be brought into agreement." The propaganda of fear will become an economic necessity:

"Inevitably, having surrendered to militarism as an economic device, we will do what other countries have done: we will keep alive the fears of our people of the aggressive ambitions of other countries and we will ourselves embark upon imperialistic enterprises of our own."
Rest at URL Above.

A Time to Break Silence

By Rev. Martin Luther King

By 1967, King had become the country's most prominent opponent of the Vietnam War, and a staunch critic of overall U.S. foreign policy, which he deemed militaristic. In his "Beyond Vietnam" speech delivered at New York's Riverside Church on April 4, 1967 -- a year to the day before he was murdered -- King called the United States "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."

Time magazine called the speech "demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi," and the Washington Post declared that King had "diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people."

MLK's speech, text and video:


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Punishing the Palestinians

In This Issue:

- Ralph Nader: Punishing the Palestinians

- Mearsheimer: Israel is Not More Secure (The Record of the "Ceasefire" & perhaps the most important interpretation on these pages.)


Friday, January 16. 2009

Punishing the Palestinians
Ralph Nader

In the long sixty-year tortured history of the Palestinian expulsion from their lands, Congress has maintained that it is always the Palestinians, the Palestinian Authority, and now Hamas who are to blame for all hostilities and their consequences with the Israeli government.

The latest illustration of this Washington puppet show, backed by the most modern weapons and billions of taxpayer dollars annually sent to Israel, was the grotesquely one-sided Resolutions whisked through the Senate and the House of Representatives.

While a massive bombing and invasion of Gaza was underway, the resolution blaming Hamas for all the civilian casualties and devastation—99% of it inflicted on Palestinians—zoomed through the Senate by voice vote and through the House by a vote of 390 to 5 with 22 legislators voting present.

There is more dissent against this destruction of Gaza among the Israeli people, the Knesset, the Israeli media, and Jewish-Americans than among the dittoheads on Capitol Hill.

The reasons for such near-unanimous support for Israeli actions—no matter how often they are condemned by peace advocates such as Bishop Desmond Tutu, United Nations resolutions, the World Court and leading human rights groups inside and outside of Israel, are numerous. The pro-Israeli government lobby, and the right-wing Christian evangelicals, lubricated by campaign money of many Political Action Committees (PACs) certainly are key.

There is also more than a little bigotry in Congress against Arabs and Muslims, reinforced by the mass media yahoos who set new records for biased reporting each time this conflict erupts.

The bias is clear. It is always the Palestinians’ fault. Right-wingers who would never view the U.S. government as perfect see the Israeli government as never doing anything wrong. Liberals who do not hesitate to criticize the U.S. military view all Israeli military attacks, invasions and civilian devastation as heroic manifestations of Israeli defense.

The inversion of history and the scope of amnesia know no limits. What about the fact that the Israeli government drove Palestinians from their lands in 1947-48 with tens of thousands pushed into the Gaza strip. No problem to Congress.

Then the fact that the Israeli government cruelly occupied, in violation of UN resolutions, the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 and only removed its soldiers and colonists from Gaza (1.5 million people in a tiny area twice the size of the District of Columbia) in 2005. To Congress, the Palestinians deserved it.

Then when Hamas was freely elected to run Gaza, the Israeli authorities cut off the tax revenues on imports that belonged to the Gaza government. This threw the Gazans into a fiscal crisis—they were unable to pay their civil servants and police.

In 2006, the Israelis added to their unrelieved control of air, water and land around the open-air prison by establishing a blockade. The natives became restless. Under international law, a blockade is an act of war. Primitive rockets, called by reporters “wildly inaccurate” were fired into Israel. During this same period, Israeli soldiers and artillery and missiles would go into Gaza at will and take far more lives and cause far more injuries than those incurred by those rockets. Civilians—especially children, the infirm and elderly—died or suffered week after week for lack of medicines, medical equipment, food, electricity, fuel and water which were embargoed by the Israelis.

Then the Israeli bombing followed by the invasion during the past three weeks with what prominent Israeli writer Gideon Levy called “a brutal and violent operation…far beyond what was needed for protecting the people in its south.” Mr. Levy observed what the president of the United Nations General Assembly, Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann called a war against “a helpless and defenseless imprisoned population.”

The horror of being trapped from fleeing the torrent of the most modern weapons of war from the land, air and seas is reflected in this passage from Amira Hass, writing in the leading Israeli newspaper Haaretz:

“The earth shaking under your feet, clouds of choking smoke, explosions like a fireworks display, bombs bursting into all-consuming flames that cannot be extinguished with water, mushroom clouds of pinkish-red smoke, suffocating gas, harsh burns on the skin, extraordinary maimed live and dead bodies.”

Ms. Hass is pointing to the use of new anti-civilian weapons used on the Gazan people. So far there have been over 1100 fatalities, many thousands of injuries and the destruction of homes, schools, mosques, hospitals, pharmacies, granaries, farmer’s fields and many critical public facilities. The clearly marked UN headquarters and UN school were smashed, along with stored medicines and food supplies.

Why? The Congressional response: “Hamas terrorists” everywhere. Sure, defending their Palestinian families is called terrorism. The truth is there is no Hamas army, airforce and navy up against the fourth most powerful military in the world. As one Israeli gunner on an armored personnel carrier frankly said to The New York Times: “They are villagers with guns. They don’t even aim when they shoot.”

Injured Gazans are dying in damaged hospital corridors, bleeding to death because rescuers are not permitted to reach them or are endangered themselves. Thousands of units of blood donated by Jordanians are stopped by the Israeli blockade. Israel has kept the international press out of the Gazan killing fields.

What is going on in Gaza is what Bill Moyers called it earlier this month – “state terrorism.” Already about 400 children are known to have died. More will be added who are under the rubble.

Since 2002, more than 50 Arab and Muslim nations have had a standing offer, repeated often, that if Israel obeys several UN resolutions and withdraws to the 1967 borders leaving 22 percent of the original Palestine for an independent Palestinian state, they will open full diplomatic relations and there will be peace. Israel has declined to accept this offer.

None of these and many other aspects of this conflict matter to the Congress. Its members do not want to hear even from the Israeli peace movement, composed of retired generals, security chiefs, mayors, former government ministers, and members of the Knesset. In 60 years these savvy peace advocates have not been able to give one hour of testimony before a Congressional Committee.

Maybe members of Congress may wish to weigh the words of the founder of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, years ago when he said:

“There has been anti-Semitism the Nazis Hitler Auschwitz but was that their [the Palestinian’s] fault? They only see one thing: We have come here and stolen their country.”

Doesn’t that observation invite some compassion for the Palestinian people and their right to be free of Israeli occupation, land and water grabs and blockades in the 22 percent left of Palestine?

Jan. 26, 2009

The Gaza offensive has succeeded in punishing the Palestinians but not in making Israel more secure.

By John J. Mearsheimer


Israelis and their American supporters claim that Israel learned its lessons well from the disastrous 2006 Lebanon war and has devised a winning strategy for the present war against Hamas. Of course, when a ceasefire comes, Israel will declare victory. Don’t believe it. Israel has foolishly started another war it cannot win.

The campaign in Gaza is said to have two objectives: 1) to put an end to the rockets and mortars that Palestinians have been firing into southern Israel since it withdrew from Gaza in August 2005; 2) to restore Israel’s deterrent, which was said to be diminished by the Lebanon fiasco, by Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, and by its inability to halt Iran’s nuclear program.

But these are not the real goals of Operation Cast Lead. The actual purpose is connected to Israel’s long-term vision of how it intends to live with millions of Palestinians in its midst. It is part of a broader strategic goal: the creation of a “Greater Israel.” Specifically, Israel’s leaders remain determined to control all of what used to be known as Mandate Palestine, which includes Gaza and the West Bank. The Palestinians would have limited autonomy in a handful of disconnected and economically crippled enclaves, one of which is Gaza. Israel would control the borders around them, movement between them, the air above and the water below them.

The key to achieving this is to inflict massive pain on the Palestinians so that they come to accept the fact that they are a defeated people and that Israel will be largely responsible for controlling their future. This strategy, which was first articulated by Ze’ev Jabotinsky in the 1920s and has heavily influenced Israeli policy since 1948, is commonly referred to as the “Iron Wall.”

What has been happening in Gaza is fully consistent with this strategy.

Let’s begin with Israel’s decision to withdraw from Gaza in 2005. The conventional wisdom is that Israel was serious about making peace with the Palestinians and that its leaders hoped the exit from Gaza would be a major step toward creating a viable Palestinian state. According to the New York Times’ Thomas L. Friedman, Israel was giving the Palestinians an opportunity to “build a decent mini-state there—a Dubai on the Mediterranean,” and if they did so, it would “fundamentally reshape the Israeli debate about whether the Palestinians can be handed most of the West Bank.”

This is pure fiction. Even before Hamas came to power, the Israelis intended to create an open-air prison for the Palestinians in Gaza and inflict great pain on them until they complied with Israel’s wishes. Dov Weisglass, Ariel Sharon’s closest adviser at the time, candidly stated that the disengagement from Gaza was aimed at halting the peace process, not encouraging it. He described the disengagement as “formaldehyde that’s necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.” Moreover, he emphasized that the withdrawal “places the Palestinians under tremendous pressure. It forces them into a corner where they hate to be.”

Arnon Soffer, a prominent Israeli demographer who also advised Sharon, elaborated on what that pressure would look like. “When 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it’s going to be a human catastrophe. Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam. The pressure at the border will be awful. It’s going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day.”

In January 2006, five months after the Israelis pulled their settlers out of Gaza, Hamas won a decisive victory over Fatah in the Palestinian legislative elections. This meant trouble for Israel’s strategy because Hamas was democratically elected, well organized, not corrupt like Fatah, and unwilling to accept Israel’s existence. Israel responded by ratcheting up economic pressure on the Palestinians, but it did not work. In fact, the situation took another turn for the worse in March 2007, when Fatah and Hamas came together to form a national unity government. Hamas’s stature and political power were growing, and Israel’s divide-and-conquer strategy was unraveling.

To make matters worse, the national unity government began pushing for a long-term ceasefire. The Palestinians would end all missile attacks on Israel if the Israelis would stop arresting and assassinating Palestinians and end their economic stranglehold, opening the border crossings into Gaza.

Israel rejected that offer and with American backing set out to foment a civil war between Fatah and Hamas that would wreck the national unity government and put Fatah in charge. The plan backfired when Hamas drove Fatah out of Gaza, leaving Hamas in charge there and the more pliant Fatah in control of the West Bank. Israel then tightened the screws on the blockade around Gaza, causing even greater hardship and suffering among the Palestinians living there.

Hamas responded by continuing to fire rockets and mortars into Israel, while emphasizing that they still sought a long-term ceasefire, perhaps lasting ten years or more. This was not a noble gesture on Hamas’s part: they sought a ceasefire because the balance of power heavily favored Israel. The Israelis had no interest in a ceasefire and merely intensified the economic pressure on Gaza. But in the late spring of 2008, pressure from Israelis living under the rocket attacks led the government to agree to a six-month ceasefire starting on June 19. That agreement, which formally ended on Dec. 19, immediately preceded the present war, which began on Dec. 27.

The official Israeli position blames Hamas for undermining the ceasefire. This view is widely accepted in the United States, but it is not true. Israeli leaders disliked the ceasefire from the start, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the IDF to begin preparing for the present war while the ceasefire was being negotiated in June 2008. Furthermore, Dan Gillerman, Israel’s former ambassador to the UN, reports that Jerusalem began to prepare the propaganda campaign to sell the present war months before the conflict began. For its part, Hamas drastically reduced the number of missile attacks during the first five months of the ceasefire. A total of two rockets were fired into Israel during September and October, none by Hamas.

How did Israel behave during this same period? It continued arresting and assassinating Palestinians on the West Bank, and it continued the deadly blockade that was slowly strangling Gaza. Then on Nov. 4, as Americans voted for a new president, Israel attacked a tunnel inside Gaza and killed six Palestinians. It was the first major violation of the ceasefire, and the Palestinians—who had been “careful to maintain the ceasefire,” according to Israel’s Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center—responded by resuming rocket attacks. The calm that had prevailed since June vanished as Israel ratcheted up the blockade and its attacks into Gaza and the Palestinians hurled more rockets at Israel. It is worth noting that not a single Israeli was killed by Palestinian missiles between Nov. 4 and the launching of the war on Dec. 27.

As the violence increased, Hamas made clear that it had no interest in extending the ceasefire beyond Dec. 19, which is hardly surprising, since it had not worked as intended. In mid-December, however, Hamas informed Israel that it was still willing to negotiate a long-term ceasefire if it included an end to the arrests and assassinations as well as the lifting of the blockade. But the Israelis, having used the ceasefire to prepare for war against Hamas, rejected this overture. The bombing of Gaza commenced eight days after the failed ceasefire formally ended.

If Israel wanted to stop missile attacks from Gaza, it could have done so by arranging a long-term ceasefire with Hamas. And if Israel were genuinely interested in creating a viable Palestinian state, it could have worked with the national unity government to implement a meaningful ceasefire and change Hamas’s thinking about a two-state solution. But Israel has a different agenda: it is determined to employ the Iron Wall strategy to get the Palestinians in Gaza to accept their fate as hapless subjects of a Greater Israel.

This brutal policy is clearly reflected in Israel’s conduct of the Gaza War. Israel and its supporters claim that the IDF is going to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties, in some cases taking risks that put Israeli soldiers in jeopardy. Hardly. One reason to doubt these claims is that Israel refuses to allow reporters into the war zone: it does not want the world to see what its soldiers and bombs are doing inside Gaza. At the same time, Israel has launched a massive propaganda campaign to put a positive spin on the horror stories that do emerge.

The best evidence, however, that Israel is deliberately seeking to punish the broader population in Gaza is the death and destruction the IDF has wrought on that small piece of real estate. Israel has killed over 1,000 Palestinians and wounded more than 4,000. Over half of the casualties are civilians, and many are children. The IDF’s opening salvo on Dec. 27 took place as children were leaving school, and one of its primary targets that day was a large group of graduating police cadets, who hardly qualified as terrorists. In what Ehud Barak called “an all-out war against Hamas,” Israel has targeted a university, schools, mosques, homes, apartment buildings, government offices, and even ambulances. A senior Israeli military official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, explained the logic behind Israel’s expansive target set: “There are many aspects of Hamas, and we are trying to hit the whole spectrum, because everything is connected and everything supports terrorism against Israel.” In other words, everyone is a terrorist and everything is a legitimate target.

Israelis tend to be blunt, and they occasionally say what they are really doing. After the IDF killed 40 Palestinian civilians in a UN school on Jan. 6, Ha’aretz reported that “senior officers admit that the IDF has been using enormous firepower.” One officer explained, “For us, being cautious means being aggressive. From the minute we entered, we’ve acted like we’re at war. That creates enormous damage on the ground … I just hope those who have fled the area of Gaza City in which we are operating will describe the shock.”

One might accept that Israel is waging “a cruel, all-out war against 1.5 million Palestinian civilians,” as Ha’aretz put it in an editorial, but argue that it will eventually achieve its war aims and the rest of the world will quickly forget the horrors inflicted on the people of Gaza.

This is wishful thinking. For starters, Israel is unlikely to stop the rocket fire for any appreciable period of time unless it agrees to open Gaza’s borders and stop arresting and killing Palestinians. Israelis talk about cutting off the supply of rockets and mortars into Gaza, but weapons will continue to come in via secret tunnels and ships that sneak through Israel’s naval blockade. It will also be impossible to police all of the goods sent into Gaza through legitimate channels.

Israel could try to conquer all of Gaza and lock the place down. That would probably stop the rocket attacks if Israel deployed a large enough force. But then the IDF would be bogged down in a costly occupation against a deeply hostile population. They would eventually have to leave, and the rocket fire would resume. And if Israel fails to stop the rocket fire and keep it stopped, as seems likely, its deterrent will be diminished, not strengthened.

More importantly, there is little reason to think that the Israelis can beat Hamas into submission and get the Palestinians to live quietly in a handful of Bantustans inside Greater Israel. Israel has been humiliating, torturing, and killing Palestinians in the Occupied Territories since 1967 and has not come close to cowing them. Indeed, Hamas’s reaction to Israel’s brutality seems to lend credence to Nietzsche’s remark that what does not kill you makes you stronger.

But even if the unexpected happens and the Palestinians cave, Israel would still lose because it will become an apartheid state. As Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recently said, Israel will “face a South African-style struggle” if the Palestinians do not get a viable state of their own. “As soon as that happens,” he argued, “the state of Israel is finished.” Yet Olmert has done nothing to stop settlement expansion [a violation of international law] and create a viable Palestinian state, relying instead on the Iron Wall strategy to deal with the Palestinians.

There is also little chance that people around the world who follow the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will soon forget the appalling punishment that Israel is meting out in Gaza. The destruction is just too obvious to miss, and too many people—especially in the Arab and Islamic world—care about the Palestinians’ fate. Moreover, discourse about this longstanding conflict has undergone a sea change in the West in recent years, and many of us who were once wholly sympathetic to Israel now see that the Israelis are the victimizers and the Palestinians are the victims. What is happening in Gaza will accelerate that changing picture of the conflict and long be seen as a dark stain on Israel’s reputation.

The bottom line is that no matter what happens on the battlefield, Israel cannot win its war in Gaza. In fact, it is pursuing a strategy—with lots of help from its so-called friends in the Diaspora—that is placing its long-term future at risk.

Copyright © 2009 The American Conservative

John J. Mearsheimer is a professor of political science at the University of Chicago and coauthor of
The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Note on Israel From an Uruguayan Journalist & Writer

Operation Unpunished Lead

Posted by: "Pedro Prieto" papp20032000@yahoo.com papp20032000

Sat Jan 17, 2009 6:39 am (PST)

Operation Unpunished Lead

Friday, January 16th. 2009.

Eduardo Galeano


[I found this on the Yahoo Energy Resources Group. English is perhaps even a little worse than mine, but you will catch his drift. I made a few corrections for readability.]

To excuse itself, the State terrorism manufactures terrorists: it
plants hatred and harvest alibis.

Everything indicates that the Gaza carnage, whose authors claim is to
finish with the terrorists, will multiply them. From 1948,
Palestinians live in perpetual humiliation. They can not even breath
without permit. They have lost their homeland, their lands, water;
their liberty, their everything. They do not have even the right to
elect their rulers. When they vote to whom they shouldn't, they are
punished. Gaza is being punished. It became a mousetrap without
exits, since Hamas clearly won the elections in 2006. Something
similar to what happened in 1932, when the Communist Party won the
elections in El Salvador. Salvadorians atoned for their misbehaviour
with a bloodshed and they were submitted to military dictatorships
ever since. The democracy is a luxury that not everybody deserves.
The hand made rockets are [the] sons of powerlessness that the Hamas
militants, cornered in Gaza, bad shot on the lands that have
previously been Palestinian and were usurped by Israel. And
desperation, in the banks of the suicide madness, is the mother of
all bravados denying the right to the existence of the Israeli State,
effectiveless shouts, whilst the very efficient extermination war is
denying, since many years, the right to the existence of Palestine.

Little Palestine is left. Step by step, Israel is erasing it from the
map. The settlers invade and after them, the soldiers go and mend the
borders. Bullets are sacralising the plundering, in legitimate
defence. Hitler invaded Poland to avoid Poland invading Germany. Bush
invaded Iraq to avoid Iraq invading the world. In each of its
defensive wars, Israel has swallowed a piece of Palestine and the
banquet continues. The devouring is justified by the Bible title
deeds given for the two thousand years of persecutions of the Jewish
people and for the panic created by Palestinians lying in wait.
Israel is the country that never complies with the UN recommendations
or resolutions; it never abides to the sentences of the international
juries; the one mocking the international laws and is also the only
country legalizing the torture of prisoners. Who gave them the right
to deny all the rights? Where does the impunity, with which Israel is
executing the Gaza carnage, comes from? The Spanish government
wouldn't have been able to bomb with impunity the Basque country to
end the ETA, nor the could the British government have harassed Ireland
to liquidate the IRA. Does the tragedy of Holocaust perhaps imply
an eternal impunity policy? Or is the green light flashing from the
bigshot power, having in Israel its most wholehearted vassal?
The Israeli army, the world most modern and sophisticated one, knows
who is killing. They are not killing by error, but by horror. The
civil victims are called "collateral damage" as per the dictionary
of other imperial wars. In Gaza, out of each collateral damage,
three are kids. And the mutilated are counted in thousands, victims
of a human chopping into pieces technology, that the military
industry is successfully testing in this ethnic cleansing operation.
And always the same, as usual: In Gaza one hundred to one. For each
one hundred Palestinians killed, one Israeli.

Dangerous people, they tell us in the other bombardment; that of the
manipulative massive media. That media inviting us to believe that
the 200 atomic bombs of Israel are humanitarian and that a nuclear
power called Iran was the responsible of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Does it exist the so called 'international community'?
Is it something else than a merchants, bankers and warrior's club? Is
it something else than the nick name used by the US when performing
in the theatre?

In front of the Gaza tragedy, the world hypocrisy shows off once
again. As usual, the indifference, the empty speeches and
declarations, the grandiloquent declaims, the ambiguous stands, pay
tribute to the sacred impunity.

In front of the Gaza tragedy, the Arab states wash their hands. As
always. And as always, the Western countries rub their hands.
The old Europe, so capable of both beauty and perversity, spills a
tear or two, while it celebrates in secret this master stroke. Because
the Jew's hunting was always an European tradition, but since half a
century, this historic debt is being charged to the Palestinians, who
are also Semites and never were anti-Semitic. They are paying, in
cash blood, somebody else's bill.

(This article is dedicated to my Jewish friends killed by the Latin
American dictatorships advised by Israel)


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 (http://aud1.kpfa.org/data/20090115-Thu1700.mp3">http://aud1.kpfa.org/data/20090115-Thu1700.mp3">http://aud1.kpfa.org/data/20090115-Thu1700.mp3), 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: http://aud1.kpfa.org/data/20090115-Thu1700.mp3 ]

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 (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/16/world/middleeast/16mideast.html?_r=1&em),
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 www.jkcook.net.

A version of this article originally appeared in The National (www.thenational.ae), 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.

Video: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article21761.htm

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: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com

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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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