Sunday, January 25, 2009

After Gaza

Gaza war ended in utter failure for Israel - By Gideon Levy - Ha'aretz, January 22, 2009

Another War, Another Defeat - By John J. Mearsheimer, The American Conservative, January 26, 2009

How do we resolve the Palestine-Israel Conflict? - By Ali A., Gaza Awareness, January 25, 2009

Obama orders closure of Guantanamo in a year, the fate of prisoners remains unclear

A friend forwarded the following. Quite thoughtful.


I don't recall receiving too many emails regarding the closing of Guantanamo Bay Prison, which Pres. Obama signed an executive order to close within the next year.
This brings up several questions:
  • There are approx. 250 prisoners still kept at the prison, what will happen to them?
    • Of the ones who are proven guilty, what will be their fate?
    • Of the ones who are proven innocent, what will be their fate?
  • What reparations will be made to the prisoners and their families of those who were innocent all these years?
  • How many of the prisoners will receive a fair trial?
    • Will secret evidence be used?
    • Will evidence that was obtained while using (illegal forms of) torture be used?
  • Where will the innocent prisoners go?
    • The US is unwilling to offer any of them to settle in the US.
    • They have no say in where they will be sent and may be sent to countries where their families cannot join them.
    • Many of their countries of origin have revoked their citizenship/legal status and/or are unwilling to take them back
    • The US has repeatedly asked its allies to accept the prisoners, most are unwilling and the ones that are take only a few at a time.
    • Until a country is willing to host these individuals, they have to remain in confinement, which may take years (and has for some of the prisoners already released).
  • When will the international community challenge the US for using methods that go against the Geneva Conventions?
  • What will Congress do when all these issues will be given to them to sort out?
  • What is the future of the US's policies on imprisonment, extraordinary rendition, and torture?
If interested, some movies discussing this topic include:
Road To Guantanamo
Taxi to the Dark Side
OUTLAWED: Extraordinary Rendition, Torture and Disappearances in the "War on Terror"

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Robert Fisk: Why do they hate the West so much, we will ask

Why do they hate the West so much, we will ask
By Robert Fisk, The Indepdent, January 7, 2009


"So once again, Israel has opened the gates of hell to the Palestinians. Forty civilian refugees dead in a United Nations school, three more in another. Not bad for a night's work in Gaza by the army that believes in "purity of arms". But why should we be surprised?

Have we forgotten the 17,500 dead – almost all civilians, most of them children and women – in Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon; the 1,700 Palestinian civilian dead in the Sabra-Chatila massacre; the 1996 Qana massacre of 106 Lebanese civilian refugees, more than half of them children, at a UN base; the massacre of the Marwahin refugees who were ordered from their homes by the Israelis in 2006 then slaughtered by an Israeli helicopter crew; the 1,000 dead of that same 2006 bombardment and Lebanese invasion, almost all of them civilians?

What is amazing is that so many Western leaders, so many presidents and prime ministers and, I fear, so many editors and journalists, bought the old lie; that Israelis take such great care to avoid civilian casualties. "Israel makes every possible effort to avoid civilian casualties," yet another Israeli ambassador said only hours before the Gaza massacre. And every president and prime minister who repeated this mendacity as an excuse to avoid a ceasefire has the blood of last night's butchery on their hands. Had George Bush had the courage to demand an immediate ceasefire 48 hours earlier, those 40 civilians, the old and the women and children, would be alive.

What happened was not just shameful. It was a disgrace. Would war crime be too strong a description? For that is what we would call this atrocity if it had been committed by Hamas. So a war crime, I'm afraid, it was.
"The Sabra and Chatila massacre was committed by Israel's right-wing Lebanese Phalangist allies while Israeli troops, as Israel's own commission of inquiry revealed, watched for 48 hours and did nothing. When Israel was blamed, Menachem Begin's government accused the world of a blood libel. After Israeli artillery had fired shells into the UN base at Qana in 1996, the Israelis claimed that Hizbollah gunmen were also sheltering in the base. It was a lie. The more than 1,000 dead of 2006 – a war started when Hizbollah captured two Israeli soldiers on the border – were simply dismissed as the responsibility of the Hizbollah. Israel claimed the bodies of children killed in a second Qana massacre may have been taken from a graveyard. It was another lie. The Marwahin massacre was never excused. The people of the village were ordered to flee, obeyed Israeli orders and were then attacked by an Israeli gunship. The refugees took their children and stood them around the truck in which they were travelling so that Israeli pilots would see they were innocents. Then the Israeli helicopter mowed them down at close range. Only two survived, by playing dead. Israel didn't even apologise.

Twelve years earlier, another Israeli helicopter attacked an ambulance carrying civilians from a neighbouring village – again after they were ordered to leave by Israel – and killed three children and two women. The Israelis claimed that a Hizbollah fighter was in the ambulance. It was untrue. I covered all these atrocities, I investigated them all, talked to the survivors. So did a number of my colleagues. Our fate, of course, was that most slanderous of libels: we were accused of being anti-Semitic.

And I write the following without the slightest doubt: we'll hear all these scandalous fabrications again. We'll have the Hamas-to-blame lie – heaven knows, there is enough to blame them for without adding this crime – and we may well have the bodies-from-the-cemetery lie and we'll almost certainly have the Hamas-was-in-the-UN-school lie and we will very definitely have the anti-Semitism lie. And our leaders will huff and puff and remind the world that Hamas originally broke the ceasefire. It didn't. Israel broke it, first on 4 November when its bombardment killed six Palestinians in Gaza and again on 17 November when another bombardment killed four more Palestinians."

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Dr. Shahid Masood on Gaza - Jan 03 2009 - Urdu

Dr. Shahid Masood, GeoTV, covers the developments in the ongoing Gaza crisis. He laments the shameful role of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi, and other Arab countries for their failure to support the poor Gazans and their complicity in the American-supported Israeli aggression.

For basic demographics and number of casualties in Palestine, see IfAmericansKnew and B'Tselem.

Some useful readings:

On Hamas' elections and the response of the Arab world and the US, see Robert Fisk Welcome to 'Palestine'.

On Israeli violation of the ceasefire, see Barak Ravid in Haaretz and Rory McCarthy in Guardian.


Jonathan Cook, The real goal of the slaughter in Gaza, Electronic Intifada, Jan 1, 2009

Joseph Levine, History Matters: Why we must acknowledge the claims of the Palestinians, Boston Review, Sep/Oct 2008

Neve Gordon, What, exactly, is Israel’s mission?, CounterPunch, Dec 29, 2008

Joseph Massad, The Gaza Ghetto Uprising, Electronic Intifada, Jan 4, 2009

Ziyaad Lunat, On collaboration and resistance of the oppressed, Electronic Intifada, Jan 03, 2009

Robert Fisk's Why bombing Ashkelon is the most tragic irony, Independent, Dec 30, 2008

Friday, January 2, 2009

The real goal of the slaughter in Gaza

The real goal of the slaughter in Gaza
By Jonathan Cook, The Electronic Intifada, January 1, 2009

Ever since Hamas triumphed in the Palestinian elections nearly three years ago, the story in Israel has been that a full-scale ground invasion of the Gaza Strip was imminent. But even when public pressure mounted for a decisive blow against Hamas, the government backed off from a frontal assault.

Now the world waits for Ehud Barak, the defense minister, to send in the tanks and troops as the logic of this operation is pushing inexorably towards a ground war. Nonetheless, officials have been stalling. Significant ground forces are massed on Gaza's border, but still the talk in Israel is of "exit strategies," lulls and renewed ceasefires.

Even if Israeli tanks do lumber into the enclave, will they dare to move into the real battlegrounds of central Gaza? Or will they simply be used, as they have been in the past, to terrorize the civilian population on the peripheries?

Israelis are aware of the official reason for Barak's reticence to follow the air strikes with a large-scale ground war. They have been endlessly reminded that the worst losses sustained by the army in the second Palestinian intifada took place in 2002 during the invasion of Jenin refugee camp.

Gaza, as Israelis know only too well, is one mammoth refugee camp. Its narrow alleys, incapable of being negotiated by Merkava tanks, will force Israeli soldiers out into the open. Gaza, in the Israeli imagination, is a death trap.

Similarly, no one has forgotten the heavy toll on Israeli soldiers during the ground war with Hizballah in 2006. In a country such as Israel, with a citizen army, the public has become positively phobic of a war in which large numbers of its sons will be placed in the firing line.

That fear is only heightened by reports in the Israeli media that Hamas is praying for the chance to engage Israel's army in serious combat. The decision to sacrifice many soldiers in Gaza is not one Barak, leader of the Labor Party, will take lightly with an election in six weeks.

But there is another concern that has given him equal cause to hesitate.

Despite the popular rhetoric in Israel, no senior official really believes Hamas can be destroyed, either from the air or with brigades of troops. It is simply too entrenched in Gaza.

That conclusion is acknowledged in the tepid rationales offered so far for Israel's operations. "Creating calm in the country's south" and "changing the security environment" have been preferred over previous favorites, such as "rooting out the infrastructure of terror."

An invasion whose real objective was the toppling of Hamas would, as Barak and his officials understand, require the permanent military reoccupation of Gaza.

But overturning the disengagement from Gaza -- the 2005 brainchild of Ariel Sharon, the prime minister at the time -- would entail a huge military and financial commitment from Israel. It would once again have to assume responsibility for the welfare of the local civilian population, and the army would be forced into treacherous policing of Gaza's teeming camps.

In effect, an invasion of Gaza to overthrow Hamas would be a reversal of the trend in Israeli policy since the Oslo process of the early 1990s.

It was then that Israel allowed the long-exiled Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, to return to the occupied territories in the new role of head of the Palestinian Authority. Naively, Arafat assumed he was leading a government-in-waiting. In truth, he simply became Israel's chief security contractor.

Arafat was tolerated during the 1990s because he did little to stop Israel's effective annexation of large parts of the West Bank through the rapid expansion of settlements and increasingly harsh movement restrictions on Palestinians. Instead, he concentrated on building up the security forces of his Fatah loyalists, containing Hamas and preparing for a statehood that never arrived.

When the second Palestinian intifada broke out, Arafat proved he had outlived his usefulness to Israel. His Palestinian Authority was gradually emasculated.

Since Arafat's death and the disengagement from Gaza, Israel has sought to consolidate the physical separation of the Strip from the much-coveted West Bank. Even if not originally desired by Israel, Hamas's takeover of Gaza has contributed significantly to that goal.

Israel is now faced by two Palestinian national movements. The Fatah one, based in the West Bank and led by a weak president, Mahmoud Abbas, is largely discredited and compliant. The other, Hamas, based in Gaza, has grown in confidence as it claims to be the true guardian of resistance to the occupation.

Unable to destroy Hamas, Israel is now considering whether to live with the armed group next door.

Hamas has proved it can enforce its rule in Gaza much as Arafat once did in both occupied territories. The question being debated in Israel's cabinet and war rooms is whether, like Arafat, Hamas can be made to collude with the occupation. It has proved it is strong, but can it be made useful to Israel, too?

In practice that would mean taming Hamas rather than crushing it. Whereas Israel is trying to build up Fatah in the West Bank with carrots, it is using the current slaughter in Gaza as a big stick with which to beat Hamas into compliance.

The ultimate objective is another truce stopping the rocket fire out of the Strip, like the six-month ceasefire that just ended, but on terms even more favorable to Israel.

The savage blockade that has deprived Gaza's population of essentials for many months failed to achieve that goal. Instead, Hamas quickly took charge of the smuggling tunnels that became a lifeline for Gazans. The tunnels raised Hamas's finances and popularity in equal measure.

It should come as no surprise that Israel has barely bothered to hit the Hamas leadership or its military wing. Instead it has bombed the tunnels, Hamas's treasure chest, and it has killed substantial numbers of ordinary policemen, the guarantors of law and order in Gaza. Latest reports suggest Israel is now planning to expand its air strikes to Hamas's welfare organizations, the charities that are the base of its popularity.

The air campaign is paring down Hamas's ability to function effectively as the ruler of Gaza. It is undermining Hamas's political power bases. The lesson is not that Hamas can be destroyed militarily but that it that can be weakened domestically.

Israel apparently hopes to persuade the Hamas leadership, as it did Arafat for a while, that its best interests are served by cooperating with Israel. The message is: forget about your popular mandate to resist the occupation and concentrate instead on remaining in power with our help.

In the fog of war, events may yet escalate in such a way that a serious ground invasion cannot be avoided, especially if Hamas continues to fire rockets into Israel. But whatever happens, Israel and Hamas are almost certain in the end to agree to another ceasefire.

The issue will be whether in doing so, Hamas, like Arafat before it, loses sight of its primary task: to force Israel to end its occupation.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is