As Tipsy Livni shifts the goal posts in traditional Israeli style by refusing to open Gaza’s borders until progress in made on the release of Gilad Shalit, more and more evidence is coming to light of Israel’s barbarity. Obama has said the borders should be open for aid and commerce as part of a lasting peace – expect Israel to serially invent new reasons to maintain its control of the world’s largest concentration camp in Gaza.
Israel has all but ruled out fully reopening border crossings with the Gaza Strip as long as Hamas rules the enclave or stands to benefit from easing of the restrictions, a top adviser to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said.
Hamas has made a shaky ceasefire, which ended Israel’s 22-day offensive in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, conditional on Israel lifting its blockade, which, the adviser made clear, would not happen anytime soon.
Collective punishment is of course a war crime – yet apparently Israel can continue its evil without censure, even-handedness of George Mitchell notwithstanding.
The adviser said Israel would allow the “maximum” flow of food, medicine, oil and gas to the Gaza Strip to help its 1.5 million residents recover from the offensive, which killed more than 1,300 Palestinians, but a wider range of goods, including steel and cement needed for rebuilding, would have to wait.
Israel believes the restrictions will give it leverage to pressure Hamas to free Gilad Shalit, a captured Israeli soldier. Diplomats and aid agencies say the restrictions will doom Gaza’s reconstruction, estimated to cost at least $2 billion.
My disgust could not be greater.
George Mitchell, who helped broker the Good Friday peace accord in Northern Ireland, has been named by Obama as US special envoy for the Middle East.
Syd Walker notes that Abe Foxman, ADL head honcho, is displeased, as George Mitchell is ‘too even-handed’.
In a pleasurably insightful analysis, Jim Lobe gives us some cause for hope that Mitchell will be able to tread the ME tight rope to bring peace.
The Task Force then helpfully goes on to quote from a 2007 article co-authored by Mitchell and Haass regarding lessons learned from the Northern Ireland process:
“Confidence needs to be built before more ambitious steps can be taken. Front-loading a negotiation with demanding conditions all but assures that negotiations will not get under way, much less succeed.
“Parties should be allowed to hold onto their dreams. No one demanded of Northern Ireland’s Catholics that they let go of their hope for a united Ireland; no one required of local Protestants that they let go of their insistence that they remain a part of the United Kingdom.
“They still have those goals, but they have agreed to pursue them exclusively through peaceful and democratic means. That is what matters.
“Including in the political process those previously associated with violent groups can actually help. Sometimes it’s hard to stop a war if you don’t talk with those who are involved in it.”
If that indeed is the vision that Mitchell is authorized to take to the Middle East as ambassador plenipotentiary, then there may be grounds for some hope.
A senior Likud official boasts that
“What matters is that Netanyahu has built up good relations with Obama. There was chemistry between them in their two meetings. Netanyahu’s ties with the Obama administration are so deep that nothing can get in the way.”
Netanyahu praised Obama on Monday, saying that there was symbolism in his election and that the United States “displayed its greatness” when it elected him president.
In other news an Israeli captain escapes conviction by Israeli courts for the murder of a Palestinian school girl a year ago. This accentuates the message that Israelis can kill Palestinian children with impunity within range of Israeli concentration camp outposts.
Capt R then “clarifies” why he killed Iman
“This is commander. Anything that’s mobile, that moves in the zone, even if it’s a three-year-old, needs to be killed. Over.”
Henry Siegelman, in an excellent article in this month’s London Review of Books, outlines the history of Israel’s oppression and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people and points to the collective Western blindness and double standards inculcated by Israeli propaganda.
… when Jews target and kill innocent civilians to advance their national struggle, they are patriots. When their adversaries do so, they are terrorists.
Siegelman highlights the counterproductivity of Israel’s current strategies:
Anthony Cordesman, one of the most reliable military analysts of the Middle East, and a friend of Israel, argued in a 9 January report for the Center for Strategic and International Studies that the tactical advantages of continuing the operation in Gaza were outweighed by the strategic cost – and were probably no greater than any gains Israel may have made early in the war in selective strikes on key Hamas facilities. ‘Has Israel somehow blundered into a steadily escalating war without a clear strategic goal, or at least one it can credibly achieve?’ he asks. ‘Will Israel end in empowering an enemy in political terms that it defeated in tactical terms? Will Israel’s actions seriously damage the US position in the region, any hope of peace, as well as moderate Arab regimes and voices in the process? To be blunt, the answer so far seems to be yes.’ Cordesman concludes that ‘any leader can take a tough stand and claim that tactical gains are a meaningful victory. If this is all that Olmert, Livni and Barak have for an answer, then they have disgraced themselves and damaged their country and their friends.’
Mondoweiss makes a wry observation – that the spreading of jokes about Israel may signal the end of Israel’s victimhood:
The 60 years of pulling the wool over Americans’ eyes and saying it’s equitable to the indigenous population and it makes sense when we drop white phosphorus on their children–it’s over. The politicians will be the last to turn, but when they do, katy bar the door. So my advice is you better get out of the way of the wave right now and join J Street if you want to try and grab the two-state solution. Or try.
Why do I say this? I’ve gotten two Israel jokes in my email in the last couple days. Americans are making Israel jokes. More important: they get the joke.
An Israeli landed at Kennedy Airport in New York
At the control the officer asked:
– ” Occupation ? ”
The Israeli answers:
– ” No, just for visit. ”
Joke 2. This is from The Onion:
Vacation To Israel Canceled Due To History Of Israel
HOBOKEN, NJ—With only three weeks to go before embarking on a much-anticipated vacation to Israel, 34-year-old Jeff Kaufmann made the difficult decision to cancel his trip yesterday, citing unfavorable exchange rates and the entirety of the Jewish nation’s 60-year existence. “I’d been looking forward to this for months, but hotel prices started going up, things got kind of crazy at work, and also Israel’s whole history is basically a decades-long horror show of ethnic violence, harsh reprisals, and geopolitical madness.” Kaufmann said. “The Negev Desert is supposed to be amazing, but on the other hand, ever since its founding in 1948, Israel has been spinning downward in a chaotic spiral of fear, hatred, and death. So it’s a tough call.” Kaufmann added that he hopes the Arab and Jewish peoples will be able to put aside a century of bloodshed before his travel voucher expires in June.
Also from the London Review of Books, which this month offers a compendium of views on Israel’s pogrom against the Gazan people, are the thoughts of Tariq Ali –
The war on Gaza has killed the two-state solution by making it clear to Palestinians that the only acceptable Palestine would have fewer rights than the Bantustans created by apartheid South Africa. The alternative, clearly, is a single state for Jews and Palestinians with equal rights for all. Certainly it seems utopian at the moment with the two Palestinian parties in Israel – Balad and the United Arab List – both barred from contesting the February elections. Avigdor Lieberman, the chairman of Yisrael Beiteinu, has breathed a sigh of satisfaction: ‘Now that it has been decided that the Balad terrorist organisation will not be able to run, the first battle is over.’ But even victory has its drawbacks. After the Six-Day War in 1967, Isaac Deutscher warned his one-time friend Ben Gurion: ‘The Germans have summed up their own experience in the bitter phrase “Mann kann sich totseigen!” — you can triumph yourself to death. This is what the Israelis have been doing. They have bitten off much more than they can swallow.’
Five hundred courageous Israelis have sent a letter to Western embassies calling for sanctions and other measures to be applied against their country, echoing the 2005 call by numerous Palestinian organisations for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) on the South African model. This will not happen overnight but it is the only non-violent way to help the struggle for freedom and equality in Israel-Palestine.
Eric Hobsbawm comments on the negative effect on Jews of Israel’s horrific behaviour:
For three weeks barbarism has been on show before a universal public, which has watched, judged and with few exceptions rejected Israel’s use of armed terror against the one and a half million inhabitants blockaded since 2006 in the Gaza Strip. Never have the official justifications for invasion been more patently refuted by the combination of camera and arithmetic; or the newspeak of ‘military targets’ by the images of bloodstained children and burning schools. Thirteen dead on one side, 1360 on the other: it isn’t hard to work out which side is the victim. There is not much more to be said about Israel’s appalling operation in Gaza.
Except for those of us who are Jews. In a long and insecure history as a people in diaspora, our natural reaction to public events has inevitably included the question: ‘Is it good or bad for the Jews?’ In this instance the answer is unequivocally: ‘Bad for the Jews’.
Yitzhak Laor delivers the meta view:
Israel is engaged in a long war of annihilation against Palestinian society. The objective is to destroy the Palestinian nation and drive it back into pre-modern groupings based on the tribe, the clan and the enclave. This is the last phase of the Zionist colonial mission, culminating in inaccessible townships, camps, villages, districts, all of them to be walled or fenced off, and patrolled by a powerful army which, in the absence of a proper military objective, is really an over-equipped police force, with F16s, Apaches, tanks, artillery, commando units and hi-tech surveillance at its disposal.
John Mearsheimer may have it right:
The Gaza war is not going to change relations between Israel and the Palestinians in any meaningful way. Instead, the conflict is likely to get worse in the years ahead. Israel will build more settlements and roads in the West Bank and the Palestinians will remain locked up in a handful of impoverished enclaves in Gaza and the West Bank. The two-state solution is probably dead.
‘Greater Israel’ will be an apartheid state. Ehud Olmert has sounded a warning note on this score, but he has done nothing to stop the settlements and by starting the Gaza war he doomed what little hope there was for creating a viable Palestinian state.
The Palestinians will continue to resist the occupation, and Hamas will still be able to strike Israel with rockets and mortars, whose range and effectiveness are likely to improve. Palestinians will increasingly make the case that Greater Israel should become a democratic binational state in which Palestinians and Jews enjoy equal political rights. They know that they will eventually outnumber the Jews, which would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state. This proposal is already gaining ground among Israel’s Palestinian citizens, striking fear into the hearts of many Israelis, who see them as a dangerous fifth column. This fear accounts in part for the recent Israeli decision to ban the major Arab political parties from participating in next month’s parliamentary elections.
There is no reason to think that Israel’s Jewish citizens would accept a binational state, and it’s safe to assume that Israel’s supporters in the diaspora would have no interest in it. Apartheid is not a solution either, because it is repugnant and because the Palestinians will continue to resist, forcing Israel to escalate the repressive policies that have already cost it significant blood and treasure, encouraged political corruption, and badly tarnished its global image.
Israel may try to avoid the apartheid problem by expelling or ‘transferring’ the Palestinians. A substantial number of Israeli Jews – 40 per cent or more – think that the government should ‘encourage’ their fellow Palestinian citizens to leave. Indeed, Tzipi Livni recently said that if there is a two-state solution, she expects the Palestinians inside Israel to move to the new Palestinian state.
Why would American and European leaders intervene? The Bush administration, after all, backed Israel’s creation of a major humanitarian crisis in Gaza, first with a devastating blockade and then with a brutal war. European leaders reacted to this collective punishment, which violates international law, not to mention basic decency, by upgrading Israel’s relationship with the European Union.
Many in the West expect Barack Obama to ride into town and fix the situation. Don’t bet on it. As his campaign showed, Obama is no match for the Israel lobby. His silence during the Gaza war speaks volumes about how tough he is likely to be with the Israelis. His chief Middle East adviser is likely to be Dennis Ross, whose deep attachment to Israel helped squander opportunities for peace during the Clinton administration.
In a recent op-ed about the Gaza war, Benny Morris said that ‘it would not be surprising if more powerful explosions were to follow.’ I rarely agree with Morris these days, but I think he has it right in this case. Even bigger trouble is in the offing for Israel – and above all for the Palestinians.
Fatah is losing support in the West Bank. Husam Kadr points to the realities on the ground:
The Islamic movement Hamas is taking over from Fatah, the party created by Yasser Arafat, as the main Palestinian national organisation as a result of the war in Gaza, says a leading Fatah militant. “We have moved into the era of Hamas which is now much stronger than it was,” said Husam Kadr, a veteran Fatah leader in the West Bank city of Nablus, recently released after five-and-a-half years in Israeli prisons.
“Its era started when Israel attacked Gaza on 27 December.”
The sharp decline in support for Fatah and the discrediting of Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, because of his inertia during the 22-day Gaza war, will make it very difficult for the US and the EU to pretend that Fatah are the true representatives of the Palestinian community. The international community is likely to find it impossible to marginalise Hamas in reconstructing Gaza.
The rise of Hamas and the demise of Fatah is best explained by the failure of President Abbas to achieve anything through negotiations for ordinary Palestinians. “We in Fatah have failed to remove a single Israeli checkpoint,” admits Mr Kadr. “It takes me as long to reach Ramallah 50 kilometres away as it would to fly from Jordan to Ankara.”
He believes the Gaza war has spread the seeds for another Palestinian uprising. “The coming uprising will be very hard for both the Palestinians and the Israelis,” he warns, though he does not forecast when it will occur. He points to a television in his office on which a young Palestinian girl called Dalal is shown picking through the ruins of her house in Gaza where all her family had died and only her cat had survived. “Can you imagine how Palestinians feel when they see this?” he asks.
Iran states the obvious – that people resisting colonialist movements such as the Zionists’ have a right to arms.
It is fanciful, today, to believe that, left to their own devices, Israel and the Palestinians will agree on where to set the border between them, on how to share Jerusalem, or on the fate of Palestinian refugees and Israeli settlements. A two-state solution, if one is to be achieved, will have to be imposed by the international community, based on a consensus that already exists in international law (UN Resolutions 242 and 338), the Arab League peace proposals, and the Taba non-paper that documented the last formal final-status talks between the two sides in January 2001.
Robert Fisk thinks Obama has missed the point on Gaza so far despite George Mitchell’s appointment.
Hanan Ashrawi got it right. The changes in the Middle East – justice for the Palestinians, security for the Palestinians as well as for the Israelis, an end to the illegal building of settlements for Jews and Jews only on Arab land, an end to all violence, not just the Arab variety – had to be “immediate” she said, at once. But if the gentle George Mitchell’s appointment was meant to answer this demand, the inaugural speech, a real “B-minus” in the Middle East, did not.
Disgracefully, Israel has shelled UK and Australian war graves in Gaza.
UPDATE FEB 6
Slow to react, Veterans Affairs Minister Alan Griffin says “he is deeply distressed by the news and is seeking more information from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.”
The Federal Government says the war graves of about 10 Australian soldiers have been damaged by the recent surge of fighting in the Gaza strip.
The story fails to mention the graves were clearly damaged by Israeli mortar fire. This is a further example of the bias in the Australian media toward Israel.