Huh. Here I was, thinking the only way to stop nations from unloading their cargo is to murder nine people, wound dozens, and imprison hundreds more. Turns out, you can do it in a totally peaceful manner.
Hundreds of peace activists prevented the unloading of an Israeli ship at the Port of Oakland Sunday by forming a picket line.
Organizers said their goal was to delay the ship”s unloading for 24 hours in protest of the Israeli military”s May 31 open-seas raid on a humanitarian aid flotilla that had been bringing goods to Gaza. The raid ended in the death of nine Turkish citizens.
I realized I haven’t been keeping you fine people up to date with Citizen Radio interviews. Apologies all around. Last week, we interviewed the fantastic Remi Kanazi, a Palestinian poet and activist. We got all shouty about Flotilla, Gaza, and the occupation. You can here Remi (IMHO one of the best and brightest young Palestinian spokespeople in the country) over here.
We also interviewed legendary tattoo artist Guy Aitchison about tattoos, nerds, and the universe. My co-host, Jamie Kilstein, managed to keep his shit together and ask some super interesting questions even though he was getting a half-sleeve from Guy at the time of this taping.
Friday’s episode didn’t have any interviews, but we did discuss corporate blue dogs, the crazy election results, and how Michele Bachmann is – surprise! – a total hypocrite, so if you’d like to hear that stuff, head thisaways.
Israel is currently trying to explain to the world why it was justified in slaughtering civilians aboard the Flotilla. The rationale behind the melee is that Very Dangerous Persons were bringing Very Dangerous Items into Gaza. These items included things like…cement.
You see, according to psychic David Frum, the cement wouldn’t be used to rebuild Gaza’s infrastructure, most of which was totally obliterated during the 2008 conflict (some estimate 70% of Rafah city needs to be rebuilt,) but rather to build bunkers for Hamas. We know the cement would be used for bunkers because Frum tells us so, and Frum knows this because Israel told him.
Israel harbors a plethora of prescient visions about the nefarious ways Palestinians would use all kinds of products. They even have a list! Check it out (via Sully):
These may seem like weird, arbitrary things to ban (Nutmeg?) but a sick thread of authoritarian genius ties these items together. Notice the prohibited items (seeds, chickens, donkeys, horses, goats, cattle, wood for construction). These are tools used by autonomous nations composed of a self-sustaining population.
It’s interesting to watch the extent the American government is willing to go in order to remain strapped to Israel even as Netanyahu and Co. plummet off a cliff. America’s leadership is so eager to not only sabotage its own empire, but also its “friend’s” home, that it has committed the very altruistic act of purchasing the straps that will keep the countries hopelessly bound together as they both fall to their certain deaths.
These binds are costly — $30 billion dollars over the next decade in defense aid for Israel — even as the US endures mass unemployment, crumbling infrastructure, and recently experienced a fatiguing brawl in the spirit of securing some kind of affordable healthcare even as Israel enjoys universal coverage.
Israel’s army is an extension of the US army, and the two countries usually stand in stark, unified contrast to the rest of the world’s vote. A typical United Nations vote calling for a two-state solution based on the right of return and compensation for the Palestinians looks like this: 164 nations in favor, 7 against (Australia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States) and 4 absentions.
Israel, United States, Palau. It’s like the three musketeers if Dumas ended his novel with the IDF mowing down civilians bringing wheelchairs and medicine to Palestinians.
I mean, holy shit. If you asked me the limit of the United States’s willingness to go to bat for Israel over crazy authoritarian behavior, I would probably have said, “Well, there’s no way they would defend the IDF storming an aid ship — like heavily armed pirates — using European legislators and 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire as target practice.”
President Obama has seized upon North Korea’s missile launch to talk about a new approach to nuclear disarmament. Most people agree with the swell commonplaces associated with Obama’s vague rhetoric. Sure, we shouldn’t blow up the planet. Yes, nuclear weapons are extremely dangerous.
But beyond that, the rules for nuclear armament are very hazy. Who can pursue nuclear weapons changes depending on time, place, and what the United States can gain from allowing (or forbidding) nuclear ambitions.
Certainly, reducing armaments is the pathway to abolishing nuclear weapons. However, the United States has placed itself in the position of favoring/allowing some countries’ nuclear pursuits (United States, United Kingdom, France, Israel, India, China, Russia) ahead of other countries’ sometimes-identical quests (Iran, North Korea, Syria). There was some good in Obama’s Prague speech, but there were also bad pockets. Let’s explore the minefield, shall we?
Good: reducing nukes
Few people adopt qualms for statements like this. It would be nice to live in a safer world where we’re not consumed with the fear that some general somewhere has gone bat shit crazy and sold the nuclear armament codes to Al-Qaeda.
Bad: The complete lack of universality
The United States picks and chooses which countries can, and cannot, pursue nuclear technology. Whilst holding Kim Jong-Il’s missiles just out of his reach, America gives an enthusiastic thumbs-up to Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons in an extremely volatile region of the world.
Soon after North Korea’s missile launch, President Obama gave a speech in Prague during which he declared, “Rules must be binding…Violations must be punished. Words must mean something.” True, but what words? What are these rules, and why do sacred rules only apply to certain people?
Furthermore, “nuclear” describes a range of pursuits from missiles and bombs to energy. Iran claims it wants nuclear energy to power its state, while Israel and the United States claim their true interests lie in nuking Israel off the map. Such a move would be pretty dumb, considering Tehran would be obliterated instantly during the retaliation, but there it is – the strange double standard, combined with vague guidelines: Israel may have nukes, but Iran may not pursue nuclear power because we clairvoyantly believe Iran’s true intentions are to nuke Israel. And yes, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch document all kinds of human rights violations on the part of Israel that should lead us to believe it too is a reactionary government incapable of living humanely with its neighbors, and therefore shouldn’t be trusted with nuclear weapons, but nevermind. Step aside: confusing standards to uphold here.
North Korea’s pursuit of a missile is another illustration of such a variance in priorities. While certainly crazy, Kim Jong-Il is hardly a looming threat to the west. His sputtering rocket is the equivalent of a five-year-old’s tantrum. He got the attention he’s been craving, but he’s unlikely to blast Alaska to smithereens. Call this the flexing-for-attention strategy. Sarah Palin needn’t stakeout the coastline with Todd, and her armed children, just yet.
Bad: Fear-mongering for the sake of geopolitical conquest
I recently interviewed activist and author of several books, Tariq Ali, about the volatility at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Obama’s rationale behind expanding the covert drone operation within Pakistan is that we can’t let the Taliban get a nuclear weapon. (Pakistan is one of those “nuclear no-no” countries that we curse having the bomb). Mr. Ali very patiently explained to me how absurd this notion is:
I think this is one of the stupidest, fear mongering things. It is true Pakistan is a nuclear state. It is also true that the Pakistani military is half a million strong, that these nuclear facilities are amongst the most heavily guarded facilities in the country, just like they are in the United States, in Israel, in India, in China, in Russia now. So the notion that any armed group of extremists could even get near these facilities is a joke.
But let’s suppose they do. All the nuclear weapons require codes to be fired. These codes are now imbedded in all these weapons. There’s a handful of top military people who know what these codes are. There are also rumors, by the way, that the United States defense intelligence agency has its own personnel in there. This has been denied, but it wouldn’t totally surprise me if it were true.
So there is no problem on that front unless the Pakistani military splits. Were it to split, then all bets are off. And the only reason it would split is if the United States expanded the war into Pakistan, making it extremely difficult for lots of nationalist-minded military officers to go along with this. Because there is that current and they say, “Well, it is our country. Why is the United States using our military bases to bomb our own people?”
What I am saying to you is now news to the administration. There are intelligent people behind Obama, who know all this. And that is why its puzzling as to why they trying to destabilize the country.
Someone explain to Mr. Ali that the United State’s policies don’t have to make sense. The U.S. has nukes, so it gets to make the rules. You don’t have to make sense when you can kill the world with your arsenal of deadly, deadly weapons. Of course, if the U.S. disarms, it may have to shield itself with logic and justice instead of contradictory ideologies, gross favoritism, and the ability to vaporize the world a hundred times over.
If Part 1 of Obama’s Al-Qaeda-with-nukes fear-mongering is Al-Qaeda’s ability to steal a nuke, part 2 is Al-Qaeda’s ability to build a nuclear weapon, a claim impressively more absurd than the one made in part 1.
Building a nuclear weapon isn’t like cooking up some meth in the back of a Chevy Chevette. It takes decades to enrich uranium (ask Iran). With a halfway competent intelligence community (something I would never accuse the U.S. of having, but rather something they should aspire to have,) we’d spot something suspicious in no time. Namely, dodgy, bearded dudes crouching in caves, their faces aglow in an eerie green light from their tubes of uranium.
While Obama’s pursuit (meaning, something beyond pretty words) of nuclear disarmament would be noble, there are other problems with the U.S.’s nuclear philosophy that needs his attention. Double standards, favoritism, and fear-mongering are cancerous elements that rob the U.S. of respect and leverage in the nuclear debate.
He is, all at once, its most distinguished novelist, its most passionate defender, and its most notorious “traitor”
The unlikely story of the state of Israel – 60, sullied, surviving – is intertwined with the unlikely story of Amos Oz. He is, all at once, its most distinguished novelist, its most passionate defender, and its most notorious “traitor” – a word he uses about himself. His friend David Grossman says “Amos is the offspring of all the contradictory urges and pains within the Israeli psyche.” To spend a day in his company – to follow his story from the birth of the state to the suicide of his mother, from Zionist idealism to a broken heart – is to tour the dizzying dissonances of the Jewish state as it staggers into the 21st century.
Note from Allison: I highly recommend reading Roger Cohen’s columns from the past 3 weeks. It’s encouraging, not because Cohen is suddenly a leftist radical when it comes to Israel, but because he’s very much a mainstream voice in a mainstream newspaper. This is a clear indication that the Israel dialogue is shifting to a more sane place.
Anyone who doubts that there has been a substantial — and very positive — change in the rules for discussing American policy towards Israel should consider two recent episodes: (1) the last three New York Times columns by Roger Cohen; and (2) the very strong pushback from a diverse range of sources against the neoconservative lynch mob trying, in typical fashion, to smear and destroy Charles Freeman due to his critical (in all senses of the word) views of American policy towards Israel. One positive aspect of the wreckage left by the Bush presidency is that many of the most sacred Beltway pieties stand exposed as intolerable failures, prominently including our self-destructively blind enabling of virtually all Israeli actions.
First, the Cohen columns: Two weeks ago, Cohen — writing from Iran –mocked the war-seeking cartoon caricature of that nation as The New Nazi Germany craving a Second Holocaust. To do so, Cohen reported on the relatively free and content Iranian Jewish community (25,000 strong). When that column prompted all sorts of predictable attacks on Cohen from the standard cast of Israel-centric thought enforcers (Jeffrey Goldberg, National Review, right-wing blogs, etc. etc.), Cohen wrote a second column breezily dismissing those smears and then bolstering his arguments further by pointing out that “significant margins of liberty, even democracy, exist” in Iran; that “Iran has not waged an expansionary war in more than two centuries”; and that “hateful, ultranationalist rhetoric is no Iranian preserve” given the ascension of Avigdor Lieberman in Benjamin Netanyahu’s new Israeli government.
Today, Cohen returns with his most audacious column yet. Noting the trend in Britain and elsewhere to begin treating Hezbollah and Hamas as what they are — namely, “organizations [that are] now entrenched political and social movements without whose involvement regional peace is impossible,” rather than pure “Terrorist organizations” that must be shunned — Cohen urges the Obama administration to follow this trend: the U.S. should ”should initiate diplomatic contacts with the political wing of Hezbollah” and even ”look carefully at how to reach moderate Hamas elements.” As for the objection that those two groups have used violence in the past, Cohen offers the obvious response, though does so quite eloquently:
Speaking of violence, it’s worth recalling what Israel did in Gaza in response to sporadic Hamas rockets. It killed upward of 1,300 people, many of them women and children; caused damage estimated at $1.9 billion; and destroyed thousands of Gaza homes. It continues a radicalizing blockade on 1.5 million people squeezed into a narrow strip of land.
At this vast human, material and moral price, Israel achieved almost nothing beyond damage to its image throughout the world. Israel has the right to hit back when attacked, but any response should be proportional and governed by sober political calculation. The Gaza war was a travesty; I have never previously felt so shamed by Israel’s actions.
No wonder Hamas and Hezbollah are seen throughout the Arab world as legitimate resistance movements.
So absolute has the Israel-centric stranglehold on American policy been that the U.S. Government has made it illegal to broadcast Hezbollah television stations and has even devoted its resources to criminally prosecuting and imprisoning satellite providers merely for including Hezbollah’s Al Manar channel in their cable package. Not even our Constitution’s First Amendment has been a match for the endless exploitation of American policy, law and resources to target and punish Israel’s enemies. But this trilogy of Cohen columns reflects the growing awareness of just how self-destructive is that mentality and, more importantly, the growing refusal to refrain from saying so.
* * * * *
The still-expanding battle over the appointment of Charles Freeman by Obama’s DNI, Adm. Dennis Blair, provides even more compelling evidence. I’m not going to detail all of the facts surrounding this controversy because so many others have done such an excellent job of arguing the case — particularly Andrew Sullivan (all week) and Stephen Walt – and the crux of the matter was summarized perfectly last night by Josh Marshall:
The real rub, the basis of the whole controversy, however, is that [Freeman] has been far more critical of Israeli policy than is generally allowed within acceptable debate in Washington. . .
The whole effort strikes me as little more than a thuggish effort to keep the already too-constricted terms of debate over the Middle East and Israel/Palestine locked down and largely one-sided. . . . But the gist is that campaigns like this are ugly and should be resisted. Not just on general principles, but because the country needs more diversity of viewpoints on this issue right now.
Precisely. The Atlantic‘s James Fallows and Daniel Larison both compellingly document that the real issue here is whether the suffocating prohibition on government officials’ questioning U.S. policy toward Israel will continue, or whether the range of permissive debate on this vital question will finally be expanded. The Freeman appointment is so important precisely because it signals that rejecting the long-standing orthodoxy on Israel is no longer disqualifying when it comes to high level government positions [and, perhaps as importantly, that it's now even permissible to raise the previously verbotenpoint that perhaps one of the reasons why many Muslims want to attack the U.S. is because the U.S. (both on its own and through Israel) has spentdecades continuously attacking, bombing, invading, occupying and otherwise interfering in Muslim countries].
Ezra Klein argues, persuasively, that even if Freeman ends up being appointed, the lynch-mob smear campaign will still have achieved its purpose:
But for Freeman’s detractors, a loss might still be a win. As Sullivan and others have documented, the controversy over Freeman is fundamentally a question of his views on Israel. Barring a bad report from the inspector general, Chas Freeman will survive and serve. But only because his appointment doesn’t require Senate confirmation. Few, however, will want to follow where he led. Freeman’s career will likely top out at Director of the NIC. That’s not a bad summit by any means. But for ambitious foreign policy thinkers who might one day aspire to serve in a confirmed capacity, the lesson is clear: Israel is off-limits. And so, paradoxically, the freethinking Freeman’s appointment might do quite a bit to silence foreign policy dissenters who want to succeed in Washington.
There is, by design, definitely a chilling effect to these smear campaigns. Freeman is being dragged through the mud by the standard cast of accusatory Israel-centric neocons (Marty Peretz, Jon Chait, Jeffrey Goldberg,Commentary, The Weekly Standard‘s Michael Goldfarb, etc. etc., etc.), subjected to every standard, baseless smear, as a warning to others who think about challenging U.S. policy towards Israel in a similar way. Ultimately, though, I think that each time one of these swarming, hate-campaigns is swatted away, they incrementally lose their efficacy, emboldening others to risk their weakening wrath.
Ultimately, the greatest weapon to defeat these campaigns is to highlight the identity and behavior of their perpetrators. Just consider who is behind the attack on Freeman; how ugly and discredited are their tactics and ideology; and, most importantly, how absurd it is, given their disgraceful history, that they — of all people — would parade around as arbiters of “ideological extremism” and, more audaciously still, as credible judges of intelligence assessment. Sullivan compiled a comprehensive time line demonstrating that the attacks on Freeman originated and were amplified by the very same people for whom American devotion to Israel is the overriding if not exclusive priority and who have been so glaringly wrong about so much. Though they have since tried, with characteristic deceit and cowardice, to disguise their agenda by pretending to oppose Freeman on other, non-Israel grounds (such as their oh-so-authentic concern for Chinese human rights), that masquerading effort — as Matt Yglesias notes here – is so transparently dishonest as to be laughable.
Indeed, some of them, early on, were perfectly honest about the fact that Freeman’s views on Israel is what has motivated their opposition, including theIsrael-based “concerns” over the appointment voiced by Sen. Chuck Schumer to Rahm Emanuel. And — demonstrating that these taboos are still formidible — Schumer’s sentiments have since been echoed by unnamed “Democratic leaders.” Chuck Schumer, along with Dianne Feinstein, single-handedly enabled the confirmation of Michael Mukasey as Attorney General despite Mukaseky’s refusal to say that waterboarding was torture (and Schumer evenvoted to confirm Michael Hayden as CIA Director despite his overseeing Bush’s illegal NSA program). Yet Obama appoints someone who is critical of Israel and who questions American policy towards Israel, and Schumer springs into action by calling Rahm Emanuel to express “concern” over the appointment.
It’s not a mystery what is behind this attack on Freeman. As Spencer Ackerman wrote last week:
Basically, Freeman’s major sin is that he doesn’t take a simplistic or blinkered view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and a number of mostly-right-wing Jewish writers at Commentary, the Weekly Standard, the Atlantic and The New Republic have been arguing that he’s not fit to serve.
That’s really the crux of the issue here: are we going to continue to allow these actual extremists to define “extremism” and dictate the acceptable range of views when it comes to Middle East policy?
As Ackerman noted the other day, one of the leading anti-Freeman generals is AIPAC’s Steve Rosen, who has been indicted for passing American secrets onto the Israeli Government. That’s almost satire: an AIPAC official accused of spying for a foreign country purporting to lead the charge against Freeman based on Freeman’s ”extremism” and excessive ties to another Middle Eastern country.
Or consider the Washington Post Op-Ed by The New Republic‘s Jonathan Chait railing that Freeman — who opposed the attack on Iraq – is an “ideological fanatic.” That’s the very same Jonathan Chait who spent 2002 and 2003 running around demanding that we invade Iraq and who even went on national television to declare: ”I don’t think you can argue that a regime change in Iraq won’t demonstrably and almost immediately improve the living conditions of the Iraqi people.” That’s someone who — after spending years working for Marty Peretz — thinks he’s in a position to demonize others as being “ideological extremists” and unfit to assess intelligence reports and to define the legitimate parameters of the debate over U.S. policy in the Middle East. To describe Chait’s view of himself is to illustrate its absurdity.
Or review the rank propaganda and/or glaring ignorance spread by anti-Freeman crusade leader Jeffrey Goldberg before the Iraq War. Or just read this painfully deceitful, humiliatingly error-plagued 2003 column fromFreeman critic Michael Moynihan of Reason. And that’s to say nothing of the rest of the Weekly Standard and National Review propagandists purporting to sit in judgment of what constitutes mainstream views towards Israel. Just looking at the opponents of Freeman and their reckless history powerfully conveys how disastrous it would be to continue to allow this extremist clique, of all people, to continue to dictate the scope of legitimate debate over Israel, the Middle East and our intelligence policies generally. It’s like allowing Dick Cheney and John Yoo to dictate what constitutes mainstream legal opinion and to reject prospective judges as being “extremists” on Constitutional questions.
Summing up the attacks on Freeman, Andrew Sullivan wrote that he finds “the hysterical bullying of this man to be repulsive.” There’s no question about that. Hysterical bullying — rank character smearing — is what they’ve been doing for many years in an attempt to intimidate people out of dissenting from their so-called ”pro-Israel” orthodoxies. But last night, Sullivan made the more important observation about this controversy:
The idea that Obama should not have advisers who challenge some of the core assumptions of the Bush years, especially with respect to Israel-Palestine, seems nuts to me. And the impulse to blackball and smear someone as a bigot is reprehensible.
It’s destructive enough to artificially limit debate on a matter as consequential as U.S. policy towards Israel. We’ve been doing that for many years now. But it’s so much worse that the people who have been defining and dictating those limits are themselves extremists in every sense of that word when it comes to Israel and U.S. policy towards that country. Their demands that no distinctions be recognized between Israeli and Americans interests have been uniquely destructive for the U.S. Few things are more urgent than an expansion of the debate over U.S. policy in this area, which is exactly why this radical lynch mob is swarming with such intensity to destroy Freeman’s reputation and fortify the limitations on our debates which, for so long, they have thuggishly enforced. If someone like Freeman can occupy a position like Chair of the National Intelligence Council — handpicked by Obama’s DNI, an Admiral — the taboos they are so desperate to maintain will erode just that much further.
Amnesty International released a report Nov. 5 stating that a five-and-a-half-month ceasefire between Israel and Hamas “has brought enormous improvements in the quality of life in Sderot and other Israeli villages near Gaza.” However, it warned that a spate of Israeli and Palestinian attacks and counter-attacks in the previous 24 hours could “once again put the civilian populations of Gaza and southern Israel in the line of fire.”
Seven weeks later, Israel launched a massive military offensive into Gaza that shocked much of the world while gaining widespread support inside the Jewish state.
The Gaza offensive took 13 Israeli lives, including three civilians. Meanwhile more than 1,300 Palestinian lives were lost, more than half of which were civilians, including at least 400 children. At least 5,000 were injured. The price tag for the reconstruction of 21,000 homes, schools, hospitals, mosques and other infrastructure destroyed is estimated at more than $2 billion. The conflict destroyed half of Gaza’s agricultural industry, which provided a quarter of its food.
Gaza is one of the most crowded places on earth; it holds 1.5 million people, half of whom are children under 15. The majority of Gazans are the descendants of Palestinians who were forced to flee during the founding of Israel in 1948. Eighty percent of Gazans subsist on less than $2 a day and depend on the United Nations for basic survival. Israel has imposed a 19-month-long blockade, stopping food, fuel and medical supplies from reaching Gaza despite U.N. pleas that the restrictions be lifted.
Israel stands accused of firing on and killing civilians waving white flags, those it ordered to flee their homes and on aid workers. Israel has also been accused of refusing to let the injured get medical care by impeding and firing on ambulances. A coalition of nine Israeli human rights groups called for an investigation into whether Israel committed war crimes, protesting the “wanton use of lethal force” against Palestinian civilians. The U.N.’s special rapporteur to Palestine said Israel could be in violation of the U.N. Charter, the Geneva Conventions, international law and international humanitarian law. The Israeli explanation for high civilian casualties is that Hamas fighters concealed themselves within the civilian population.
Amnesty International accused Israel of using white phosphorus “in densely populated residential neighborhoods, [which] is inherently indiscriminate,” adding, “Its repeated use in this manner … is a war crime.” Israel has also been accused of using cluster bombs in densely populated areas, as well as using experimental weapons that are illegal under international law, including dense inert metal explosives (DIME) and GPS-guided mortars. A former U.S. Department of Defense official, now with Human Rights Watch, stated, “Experimenting has a different meaning for Americans. We think animal experimenting, but [its use was] indeed a field test.” Israel has dismissed all accusations of using illegal weapons and promised to protect its soldiers from prosecution.
It is difficult to say how many Israeli soldiers and reservists refused to take part in the fighting as the Israeli military was sending military resisters quietly home rather than jailing them and risking puncturing an aura of shared national purpose. One military resister who went public with his opposition was Yitzchak Ben Mocha, who refused to fight in Gaza because, “It’s not a war of defense. … You can’t separate the war in Gaza from the fact that the Palestinian nation is under occupation for more than 40 years.”
A DIFFERENT PATH FORWARD
According to the Israeli group Peace Now, Israel has escalated settlement expansion by 57 percent over the past year. The scope of the Israeli government’s complicity came into focus Jan. 30. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz revealed that a secret database developed by the Israeli military confirms that many settlements are built on private Palestinian land and considered illegal under Israeli law. According to Haaretz, “in the vast majority of the settlements — about 75 percent — construction, sometimes on a large scale, has been carried out without the appropriate permits or contrary to the permits that were issued. The database also shows that, in more than 30 settlements, extensive construction of buildings and infrastructure (roads, schools, synagogues, yeshivas and even police stations) has been carried out on private lands belonging to Palestinian West Bank residents.”
It has been reported that President Barack Obama may start indirect low-level talks with Hamas, similar to those that the Carter administration held with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in the late 1970s. In 1982, Israel responded to the PLO’s willingness to negotiate by invading Lebanon, where the PLO was based, in a war that killed as many as 25,000 people. Twenty-seven years later the PLO’s Fatah party has been reduced to the role of collaborating in the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, and in spite of 16 years of negotiations it has been unable to stop Israeli expansion onto Palestinian lands.
It has been argued that the objective of Israel’s assault on Gaza was to knock out Hamas because it opposes the Israeli annexation of the West Bank and Jerusalem. According to a leading Israeli expert on the conflict Avi Shlaim, the “definition of terror is the use of violence against civilians for political purposes.” So while Hamas is a terrorist organization, “by the same token, Israel is practicing state terror, because it is using violence on a massive scale against Palestinian civilians for political purposes.”
An internationally-backed peace agreement has been on the table for more than 30 years: the creation of a Palestinian state in Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank. With Hamas now indicating it is willing to negotiate along these lines, the main obstacle to peace remains the U.S.-backed Israeli occupation, which only the U.S. public has the power to end.
To read more coverage on the Arab-Israeli conflict and related activism, click here.
Note from Allison: This is made all the more perverse by the fact that the US is set to give $900 million in aid to Gaza, while also giving $30+billion in aid to Israel. We’re giving aid to one side in order to rebuild the shit that gone blown up by the other side, who we’re arming. And no one sees anything devious or hypocritical about any of this?
In a report released today, Amnesty International detailed the weapons used and called for an immediate arms embargo on Israel and all Palestinian armed groups. It called on the Obama administration to suspend military aid to Israel.
The human rights group said that those arming both sides in the conflict “will have been well aware of a pattern of repeated misuse of weapons by both parties and must therefore take responsibility for the violations perpetrated”.
The US has long been the largest arms supplier to Israel; under a current 10-year agreement negotiated by the Bush administration the US will provide $30bn (£21bn) in military aid to Israel.
“As the major supplier of weapons to Israel, the USA has a particular obligation to stop any supply that contributes to gross violations of the laws of war and of human rights,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa programme director. “To a large extent, Israel’s military offensive in Gaza was carried out with weapons, munitions and military equipment supplied by the USA and paid for with US taxpayers’ money.”
For their part, Palestinian militants in Gaza were arming themselves with “unsophisticated weapons” including rockets made in Russia, Iran and China and bought from “clandestine sources”, it said. About 1,300 Palestinians were killed and more than 4,000 injured during the three-week conflict. On the Israeli side 13 were killed, including three civilians. Amnesty said Israel’s armed forces carried out “direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects in Gaza, and attacks which were disproportionate or indiscriminate”. The Israeli military declined to comment yesterday.
Palestinian militants also fired “indiscriminate rockets” at civilians, Amnesty said. It called for an independent investigation into violations of international humanitarian law by both sides.
Amnesty researchers in Gaza found several weapon fragments after the fighting. One came from a 500lb (227kg) Mark-82 fin guided bomb, which had markings indicating parts were made by the US company Raytheon. They also found fragments of US-made white phosphorus artillery shells, marked M825 A1.
On 15 January, several white phosphorus shells fired by the Israeli military hit the headquarters of the UN Relief and Works Agency in Gaza City, destroying medicine, food and aid. One fragment found at the scene had markings indicating it was made by the Pine Bluff Arsenal, based in Arkansas, in October 1991.
The human rights group said the Israeli military had used white phosphorus in densely populated civilian areas, which it said was an indiscriminate form of attack and a war crime. Its researchers found white phosphorus still burning in residential areas days after the ceasefire.
At the scene of an Israeli attack that killed three Palestinian paramedics and a boy in Gaza City on 4 January, Amnesty found fragments of an AGM114 Hellfire missile, made by Hellfire Systems of Orlando, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The missile is often fired from Apache helicopters.
Amnesty said it also found evidence of a new type of missile, apparently fired from unmanned drones, which exploded into many pieces of shrapnel that were “tiny sharp-edged metal cubes, each between 2 and 4mm square in size”.
“They appear designed to cause maximum injury,” Amnesty said. Many civilians were killed by this weapon, including several children, it said.
Rockets fired by Palestinian militants were either 122mm Grad missiles or short-range Qassam rockets, a locally made, improvised artillery weapon. Warheads were either smuggled in or made from fertiliser.
The arsenal of weapons was on a “very small scale compared to Israel”, it said, adding that the scale of rocket arsenal deployed by Hizbullah in the 2006 Lebanese war was “beyond the reach of Palestinian militant groups”.
Armed for war
Israelis Missiles launched from helicopters and unmanned drones, including 20mm cannon and Hellfire missiles. Larger laser-guided and other bombs dropped by F-16 warplanes. Extensive use of US-made 155mm white phosphorus artillery shells and Israeli-made 155mm illuminating shells that eject phosphorus canisters by parachute. Several deaths caused by flechettes, 4cm-long metal darts packed into 120mm tank shells, and fragments of US-made 120mm tank shells.
Palestinians Militants fired rockets into southern Israel including 122mm Grad rockets of either Russian, Chinese or Iranian manufacture, and smaller, improvised Qassam rockets often made inside Gaza and usually holding 5kg of explosives and shrapnel.
Here in New York, several dozen student activists have barricaded themselves inside a cafeteria at New York University. The group Take Back NYU has submitted several demands, including the establishment of a socially responsible committee, a full disclosure of the school’s annual budget and support for Palestinian students in the Gaza Strip.
Student: “The first two orders of the socially responsible finance committee will be an in-depth investigation of all investments in war and genocide profiteers, as well as companies profiting from the occupation of Palestine.”