On Saturday, December 27, 2008, the latest U.S.-Israeli attack on helpless Palestinians was launched. The attack had been meticulously planned for over six months, according to the Israeli press. The planning had two components: military and propaganda. It was based on the lessons of Israel’s 2006 invasion of Lebanon, which was considered to be poorly planned and badly advertised. We may, therefore, be fairly confident that most of what has been done and said was pre-planned and intended.
That surely includes the timing of the assault: shortly before noon, when children were returning from school and crowds were milling in the streets of densely populated Gaza City. It took only a few minutes to kill over two hundred people and wounded seven hundred, an auspicious opening to the mass slaughter of defenseless civilians trapped in a tiny cage with nowhere to flee. (1)
The attack specifically targeted the closing ceremony of a police academy, killing dozens of policemen. The international law division of the Israeli Army (IDF, Israel Defense Forces) had criticized the plans for months, but under army pressure, its director, Colonel Pnina Sharvit-Baruch, gave the department’s approval. “Also under pressure,” Haaretz reports, “Sharvit-Baruch and the division also legitimized the attack on Hamas government buildings and the relaxing of the rules of engagement, resulting in numerous Palestinian casualties.” The international law division adopts “permissive positions” so as “to remain relevant and influential,” the article continues. Sharvit-Baruch then joined the law faculty at Tel Aviv University, over protests by the director of the university’s human rights center and other faculty.
The legal division’s decision was based on the army’s categorization of the police “as a resistance force in the event of an Israeli incursion into the Gaza Strip,” Hebrew University law professor Yuval Shany observed, adding that the principle scarcely “differentiates them from [Israel] reservists or even from 16-year-olds who will be drafted in two years” – hence taking much of Israel’s population to be legitimate targets of terror. (2) To take a different analogy, the IDF rules of engagement justify the terrorist attack on police cadets in Lahore in March 2009, killing at least eight, rightly condemned as “barbaric”; Pakistani elite forces could, however, respond in this case, killing or capturing the terrorists, an option not available to Gazans. The narrow scope of the IDF concept of “protected civilian” is explained further by a senior figure in its international law division: “The people who go into a house despite a warning do not have to be taken into account in terms of injury to civilians, because they are voluntary human shields. From the legal point of view, I do not have to show consideration for them. In the case of people who return to their home in order to protect it, they are taking part in the fighting.” (3)
In his retrospective analysis entitled “Parsing Gains of Gaza War,” New York Times correspondent Ethan Bronner cited the first day’s achievement as one of the most significant of the war’s gains. Israel calculated that it would be advantageous to appear to “go crazy,” causing vastly disproportionate terror, a doctrine that tracks back to the 1950s. “The Palestinians in Gaza got the message on the first day,” Bronner wrote, “when Israeli warplanes struck numerous targets simultaneously in the middle of a Sunday morning. Some 200 were killed instantly, shocking Hamas and indeed all of Gaza.” The tactic of “going crazy” appears to have been successful, Bronner concluded: there are “limited indications that the people of Gaza felt such pain from this war that they will seek to rein in Hamas,” the elected government. (4) Inflicting pain on civilians for political ends is another long-standing doctrine of state terror, in fact its guiding principle. I do not, incidentally, recall the Times retrospective “Parsing Gains of Chechnya War,” though the gains were great.
The meticulous planning also presumably included the termination of the assault. It ended just before the inauguration, thus minimizing the (remote) threat that President Obama might have to say some words critical of these vicious U.S.-supported crimes.
Two weeks after the Sabbath opening of the assault, with much of Gaza already pounded to rubble and the death toll approaching a thousand, the UN agency UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East), on which most Gazans depend for survival, announced that the Israeli military refused to allow aid shipments to Gaza, saying that the crossings were closed for the Sabbath. (5) To honor the holy day, the Palestinians at the edge of survival must be denied food and medicine, while hundreds can be slaughtered on the Sabbath by U.S. jet bombers and helicopters.
The rigorous observance of the Sabbath in this dual fashion attracted little if any notice. That makes sense. In the annals of U.S.-Israeli criminality, such cruelty and cynicism scarcely merit more than a footnote. They are too familiar. To cite one relevant parallel, in June 1982 the U.S.-backed Israeli invasion of Lebanon opened with the bombing of the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, later to become famous as the site of terrible massacres supervised by the IDF. The bombing hit the local hospital – the Gaza Hospital – and killed over two hundred people, according to the eyewitness account of an American Middle East academic specialist. The massacre was the opening act in an invasion that slaughtered some fifteen thousand to twenty thousand people and destroyed much of southern Lebanon and Beirut, proceeding with crucial U.S. military and diplomatic support. That included vetoes of Security Council resolutions seeking to halt the criminal aggression that was undertaken, scarcely concealed, to defend Israel from the threat of peaceful political settlement. This was contrary to useful fabrications about Israelis suffering under intense rocketing, a fantasy of apologists. (6)
All of this is normal, and quite frankly discussed by high Israeli officials. Thirty years ago Chief of Staff Mordechai Gur observed that since 1948 “we have been fighting against a population that lives in villages and cities.” (7) As Israel’s most prominent military analyst, Ze’ev Schiff, summarized his remarks, “the Israeli Army has always struck civilian populations, purposely and consciously .... The Army,” he said, “has never distinguished civilian [from military] targets ... [but] purposely attacked civilian targets.” (8) The reasons were explained by the distinguished statesman Abba Eban: “There was a rational aspect, ultimately fulfilled, that affected populations would exert pressure for the cessation of hostilities.” The effect, as Eban well understood, would be to allow Israel to implement, undisturbed, its programs of illegal expansion and harsh repression. Eban was commenting on a review of Labor government attacks against civilians by Prime Minister Begin, presenting a picture, Eban said, “of an Israel wantonly inflicting every possible measure of death and anguish on civilian populations in a mood reminiscent of regimes which neither Mr. Begin nor I would dare to mention by name.” (9) Eban did not contest the facts that Begin reviewed, but criticized him for stating them publicly. Nor did it concern Eban, or his admirers, that his advocacy of massive state terror is also reminiscent of regimes he would not dare to mention my name.
Eban’s justification for state terror is regarded as persuasive by respected authorities. As the current U.S.-Israel assault raged, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman explained that Israel’s tactics in the current attack, as in its invasion of Lebanon in 2006, are based on the sound principle of “trying to ‘educate’ Hamas, by inflicting a heavy death toll on Hamas militants and heavy pain on the Gaza population.” That makes sense on pragmatic grounds, as it did in Lebanon, where “the only long-term source of deterrence was to exact enough pain on the civilians – the families and employers of the militants – to restrain Hezbollah in the future.” (10) And by similar logic, bin Laden’s effort to “educate” Americans on 9/11 was highly praiseworthy, as were the Nazi attacks on Lidice and Oradour, Putin’s destruction of Grozny, and other notable educational exercises.
New York Times correspondent Steven Erlanger reports that Israeli human rights groups are “troubled by Israel’s strikes on buildings they believe should be classified as civilian, like the parliament, police stations and the presidential place” – and we may add, villages, homes, densely populated refugee camps, water and sewage systems, hospitals, schools and universities, mosques, UN relief facilities, ambulances, and indeed anything that might relieve the pain of the unworthy victims. A senior Israeli intelligence office explained that the IDF attacked “both aspects of Hamas – its resistance of military wing and its dawa, or social wing,” the latter a euphemism for the civilian society. “He argued that Hamas was all of a piece,” Erlanger continues, “and in a war, its instruments of political and social control were as legitimate a target as its rocket caches.” Erlanger and his editors add no comment about the open advocacy, and practice, of massive terrorism targeting civilians, though correspondents and columnist signal their tolerance or even explicit advocacy of such crimes, as noted. But keeping to the norm, Erlanger does not fail to stress that unlike U.S.-Israeli actions, Hamas rocketing is “an obvious violation of the principle of discrimination and fits the classic definition of terrorism.” (11)
Like other familiar with the region, Middle East specialist Fawaz Gerges observes, “What Israeli officials and their American allies do not appreciate is that Hamas is not merely an armed militia but a social movement with a large popular base that is deeply entrenched in society.” Hence when they carry out their plans to destroy Hamas’s “social wing,” they are aiming to destroy Palestinian society. (12)
Gerges may be too generous. It is highly unlikely that Israeli and American officials – or the media and other commentators – do not appreciate these facts. Rather, they implicitly adopt the traditional perspective of those who virtually monopolize the means of violence: our mailed fist can crush any opposition, and if our furious assault has a heavy civilian toll, that’s all to the good – perhaps the remnants will be properly educated.
IDF officers clearly understand that they are crushing the civilian society. Ethan Bronner quotes an Israeli colonel who says that he and his men are not much “impressed with the Hamas fighters.” “They are villagers with guns,” said a gunner on an armored personnel carrier. They resemble the victims of the murderous IDF Iron Fist operations in occupied southern Lebanon in 1985, directed by Shimon Peres, one of the great terrorist commanders of the era of Reagan’s “war on terror.” During these operations, Israeli commanders and strategic analysts explained that the victims were “terrorist villagers,” difficult to eradicate because “these terrorists operate with the support of most of the local population.” An Israeli commander complained that “the terrorist ... has many eyes here, because he lives here,” while the military correspondent of the Jerusalem Post described the problems Israeli forces faced in combating the “terrorist mercenary” “fanatics, all of whom are sufficiently dedicated to their causes to go on running the risk of being killed while operating against the IDF,” which must “maintain order and security” in occupied southern Lebanon despite “the price the inhabitants will have to pay.” The problem has been familiar to Americans in South Vietnam, Russians in Afghanistan, Germans in occupied Europe, and others who find themselves righteously implementing the Gur-Eban-Friedman doctrine. (13)
Gerges believes that U.S.-Israeli state terror will fail: Hamas, he writes, “cannot be wiped out without massacring half a million Palestinians. If Israel succeeds in killing Hamas’s senior leaders, a new generation, more radical than the present, will swiftly replace them. Hamas is a fact of life. It is not going away, and it will not raise the white flag regardless of how many casualties it suffers.” (14)
Perhaps, but there is often a tendency to underestimate the efficacy of violence. It is particularly odd that such a belief should be held in the United States. Why are we here?
Hamas is regularly described as “Iranian-backed Hamas, which is dedicated to the destruction of Israel.” One will be hard put to find something like “democratically elected Hamas, which has long been calling for a two-state settlement in accord with the international consensus” – blocked for more than thirty years by the United States and Israel. All true, but not a useful contribution to the Party Line, hence dispensable.
Such details as those mentioned earlier, though minor in context, nevertheless teach us something about ourselves and our clients. So do others. To mention another one, as the latest U.S.-Israeli assault on Gaza began, a small boat, the Dignity, was on its way from Cyprus to Gaza. The doctors and human rights activists aboard intended to violate Israel’s criminal blockade and to bring medical supplies to the trapped population. The ship was intercepted in international waters by Israeli naval vessels, which rammed it severely, almost sinking it, though it managed to limp to Lebanon. Israel issued the routine lies, refuted by the journalists and passengers aboard, including CNN correspondent Karl Pen haul and former U.S. representative and Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney. (15) That is a serious crime – much worse, for example, than hijacking boats off the coast of Somalia. It passed with little notice. The tacit acceptance of such crimes reflects the understanding that Gaza is occupied territory, and that Israel is entitled to maintain its siege, and is even authorized by the guardians of international order to carry out crimes on the high seas to implement its programs of punishing the civilian population for disobedience to its commands – under pretexts to which we return, almost universally accepted but clearly untenable.
The lack of attention again makes sense. For decades, Israel had been hijacking boats in international waters between Cyprus and Lebanon, killing or kidnapping passengers, sometimes bringing them to prisons in Israel, including secret prison/torture chambers, to hold as hostages for many years. (16) Since the practices were routine, why treat the new crime with more than a yawn? Cyprus and Lebanon reacted quite differently, but who are they in the scheme of things?
Who cares, for example, if the editors of Lebanon’s Daily Star, generally pro-Western, write,
Some 1.5 million people in Gaza are being subjected to the murderous ministrations of one of the world’s most technologically advanced but morally regressive military machines. It is often suggested that the Palestinians have become to the Arab world what the Jews were to pre-World War II Europe, and there is some truth to this interpretation. How sickeningly appropriate, then, that just as Europeans and North Americans looked the other way when the Nazis were perpetrating the Holocaust, the Arabs were finding a way to do nothing as the Israelis slaughter Palestinian children. (17)
Perhaps the most shameful of the Arab regimes is the brutal Egyptian dictatorship, the beneficiary of the most U.S. military aid, apart from Israel.
According to Lebanese scholar Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, Israel still “routinely abducts Lebanese civilians from the Lebanese side of the Blue Line [the international border], most recently in December 2008.” And of course “Israeli planes violate Lebanese airspace on a daily basis in violation of UN Resolution 1701.” That too has been happening for a long time. In condemning Israel’s double standards after its invasion of Lebanon in 2006, Israeli strategic analyst Ze’ev Maoz wrote that “Israel has violated Lebanese airspace by carrying out aerial reconnaissance missions virtually every day since its withdrawal from Southern Lebanon six years ago. True, these aerial overflights did not cause any Lebanese casualties, but a border violation is a border violation. Here too, Israel does not hold a higher moral ground.” And in general, there is no basis for the “wall-to-wall consensus in Israel that the war against the Hezbollah in Lebanon is a just and moral war,” a consensus “based on selective and short-term memory, on an introvert world view, and on double standards. This is not a just war, the use of force is excessive and indiscriminate, and its ultimate aim is extortion.” (18)
Maoz also reminds his Israeli readers that overflights with sonic booms to terrorize Lebanese are the least of Israeli crimes in Lebanon, even apart from its five invasions since 1978:
On July 28, 1988 Israeli Special Forces abducted Sheikh Obeid, and on May 21, 1994 Israel abducted Mustafa Dirani, who was responsible for capturing the Israeli pilot Ron Arad [when he was bombing Lebanon in 1986]. Israel held these and 20 other Lebanese who were captured under undisclosed circumstances in prison for prolonged periodds without trial. They were held as human “bargaining chips.” Apparently, abduction of Israelis for the purpose of prisoners’ exchange is morally reprehensible, and militarily punishable when it is the Hezbollah who does the abducting, but not if Israel is doing the very same thing. (19)
And on a far grander scale and over many years.
Israel’s regular practices are significant even apart from what they reveal about Israeli criminality and Western support for it. As Maoz indicates, these practices underscore the utter hypocrisy of the standard claim that Israel had the right to invade Lebanon once again in 2006 when Israeli soldiers were captured at the border, the first cross-border action by Hezbollah in the six years since Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon, which it occupied in violation of Security Council orders going back twenty-two years. Yet during these six years after withdrawal Israel violated the border almost daily with impunity, and is met only with silence here.
The hypocrisy is, again, routine. Thus Thomas Friedman, while instructing us on how the lesser breeds are to be “educated” by terrorist violence, writes that Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 2006, once again destroying much of southern Lebanon and Beirut while killing another thousand civilians, was a just act of self-defense, responding to Hezbollah’s crime of “launching an unprovoked war across the U.N.-recognized Israel-Lebanon border, after Israel had unilaterally withdrawn from Lebanon.” Similarly, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair John Kerry, speaking at the Brookings Institutions, laments “the failure of Israel’s unilateral disengagements from Southern Lebanon and Gaza to bring peace” (we will return to its “disengagement” from Gaza). Putting aside the deceit, by the same logic, terrorist attacks against Israelis that are far more destructive and murderous than any that have taken place would be fully justified in response to Israel’s criminal practice in Lebanon and on the high seas, which vastly exceed Hezbollah’s crime of capturing two soldiers at the border. The veteran Middle East specialist of the New York Times surely knows about these crimes, at least if he reads his own newspaper. For example, the eighteenth paragraph of a story on prisoner exchange observes, casually, that thirty-seven of the Arab prisoners “had been seized recently by the Israeli Navy as they tried to make their way from Cyprus to Tripoli,” north of Beirut. (20)
Of course all such conclusions about appropriate actions against the rich and powerful are based on a fundamental law: This is us, and that is them. This crucial principle, deeply embedded in Western culture, suffices to undermine even the most precise analogy and the most impeccable reasoning.
The new crimes that the United States and Israel were committing in Gaza as 2009 opened do not fit easily into any standard category – except for the category of familiarity; I have just mentioned several examples, and will return to others. Literally, the crimes fall under the official U.S. government definition of “terrorism,” but that designation does not capture their enormity.. They cannot be called “aggression,” because they are being conducted in occupied territory, as the United States tacitly concedes, and as serious scholarship recognizes. In their comprehensive history of Israeli settlement in the occupied territories, Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar point out that after Israel withdrew its forces from Gaza in August 2005, the ruined territory was not released “for even a single day from Israel’s military grip or from the price of occupation that the inhabitants pay every day.” they write, “Israel left behind scorched earth, devastated services, and people with neither a present nor a future. The settlements were destroyed in an ungenerous move by an unenlightened occupier, which in fact continues to control the territory and kill and harass its inhabitants by means of its formidable military might” (21) – which can be exercised with extreme savagery, thanks to firm U.S. support and participation.
The U.S.-Israeli assault on Gaza escalated in January 2006, a few months after the formal withdrawal, when Palestinians committed a truly heinous crime: they voted “the wrong way” in a free election. Like others, Palestinians learned that one does not disobey with impunity the commands of the master, who never ceases to orate about his “yearning for democracy” without eliciting ridicule from the educated classes, another impressive achievement.
Since the terms “aggression” and “terrorism” are inadequate, some new term is needed for the sadistic and cowardly torture of people caged with no possibility of escape, while they are being pounded to dust by the most sophisticated products of U.S. military technology. That technology is used in violation of international and even U.S. law, but for self-declared outlaw states that is just another minor technicality.
Also a minor technicality is the fact that on December 31, 2008, while terrorized Gazans were desperately seeking shelter from the ruthless assault, Washington hired a German merchant ship to transport from Greece to Israel three thousand tons of unidentified “ammunition.” The new shipment “follows the hiring of a commercial ship to carry a much larger consignment of ordnance in December from the United States to Israel ahead of air strikes in the Gaza Strip,” Reuters reported. (22) “Israel’s intervention in the Gaza Strip has been fueled largely by U.S. supplied weapons paid for with U.S. tax dollars,” said a briefing by the New America Foundation, which monitors arms trade. (23) The new shipment was hampered by the decisions of the Greek government to bar the use of any port in Greece “for supplying of the Israeli army.” (24)
All of this is separate from the more than $21 billion in U.S. military aid provided by the Bush administration to Israel, almost all grants. Obama intends to ensure that the largesse extends far into the future, whatever circumstances might be down the road. He calls for “sending up to $30 billion in unconditional military aid to Israel over the next 10 years,” foreign policy analyst Stephen Zunes reports, a 25 percent increase over the Bush administration, and “a bonanza for U.S. arms manufacturers,” who contribute to candidates “several times what the ‘pro-Israel’ PACs contribute,” and tirelessly “promote massive arms transfers to the Middle East and elsewhere.” (25)
Greece’s response to U.S.-backed Israeli crimes is rather different from the craven performances of the leaders of most of Europe. The distinction reveals that Washington may have been quite realistic in regarding Greece as part of the Near East, not Europe, until 1974. Perhaps Greece is just too civilized to be part of Europe.
For anyone who might find the timing of the new arms deliveries to Israel curious, the Pentagon has an answer: the shipment would arrive too late to escalate the Gaza attack, and the military equipment, whatever it may be, is to be pre-positioned in Israel for eventual use by the U.S. military. (26) That is quite plausible. One of the many services that Israel performs for its patron is to provide it with a valuable military base at the periphery of the world’s major energy resources. It can therefore serve as a forward base for U.S. aggression – or to use the technical terms, to “defend the Gulf” and “ensure stability.”
The huge flow of arms to Israel serves many subsidiary purposes. Middle East policy analyst Mouin Rabbani observes that Israel can test newly developed weapons systems against defenseless targets. This is of value to Israel and the United States “twice over, in fact, because less effective versions of these same weapons systems are subsequently sold at hugely inflated prices to Arab states, which effectively subsidizes the U.S. weapons industry and U.S. military grants to Israel.” (27) These are additional functions of Israel in the U.S.-dominated Middle East system, and among the reasons why Israel is so favored by the state authorities, along with a wide range of U.S. high-tech corporations, and of course military industry and intelligence.
Apart from Israel, the United States is by far the world’s major arms supplier. The recent New America Foundation report concludes that “U.S. arms and military training played a role in 20 of the world’s 27 major wars in 2007,” earning the United States $23 billion in receipts, increasing to $32 billion in 2008. Small wonder that among the numerous UN resolutions that the United States opposed in the December 2008 UN session was one calling for regulations of the arms trade. In 2006, the United States alone in voting against the treaty, but in November 2008 it was joined by a partner: Zimbabwe. (28)
There were other notable votes at the December UN session. A resolution on “the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination” was adopted by 173-5 (United States, Israel, Pacific Island dependencies; the United States and Israel added evasive pretexts). The vote reaffirms U.S.-Israeli rejectionism, in international isolation. Similarly a resolution on “universal freedom of travel and the vital importance of family reunification” was adopted over the opposition of the United States, Israel, and Pacific Island dependencies, presumably with Palestinians in mind: Israel bars entry to Palestinians from the occupied territories who wish to join their Israeli spouses.
In voting against the right to development the United States lost Israel but gained Ukraine. In voting against the “right to food,” the United States was alone, a particularly striking fact in the face of the enormous global food crisis, dwarfing the financial crisis that theatens Western economies.
It is easy to understand why the UN voting record is consistently unreported and dispatched deep into the memory hole by the media and conformist intellectuals. It would not be wise to reveal to the public what the record implies about their elected representatives.
One of the heroic volunteers in Gaza, Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert, described the scene of horror as an “all-out war against the civilian population of Gaza.” He estimated that half the casualties were women and children. Gilbert reported that he had scarcely seen a military casualty among the hundreds of bodies. That is not too surprising. Hamas “made a point of fighting at a distance – or not at all,” Ethan Bronner reports while “parsing the gains” of the U.S.-Israeli assault. So Hamas’s manpower remains intact, and it was mostly civilians who suffered pain: a positive outcome, according to widely held doctrine. (29)
These estimates were confirmed by UN humanitarian chief John Holmes, who informed reporters that it is “a fair presumption” that most of the civilians killed were women and children in a humanitarian crisis that is “worsening day by day as the violence continues.” But we could be confirmed by the words of Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni, the leading dove in the ongoing electoral campaign, who assured the world that there is no “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza, thanks to Israeli benevolence. (30)
Like others who care about human beings and their fate, Gilbert and Holmes pleaded for a cease-fire – but not yet. “At the United Nations, the United States blocked the Security Council from issuing a formal statement on Saturday night calling for an immediate cease-fire,” the New York Times mentioned in passing. The official reason was that “there was no indication Hamas would abide by any agreement.” (31) In the annals of justifications for slaughter, this pretext must rank among the more cynical. That of course was Bush and Rice, soon to be displaced by Obama, who compassionately repeated, “If somebody was sending rockets into my house, where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that.” He was referring to Israeli children, not the many hundreds being torn to shreds in Gaza by U.S. arms. Beyond that Obama maintained his silence. (32)
A few days later, on January 8, the Security Council passed a resolution calling for a “durable cease-fire.” The vote was 14 to 0, United States abstaining. Israel and U.S. hawks were angered that the United States did not veto the resolution, as usual. The abstention, however, sufficed to give Israel at least a yellow light to escalate the violence, as it did virtually right up to the moment of the inauguration, as had been predicted.
As the cease-fire (theoretically) went into effect, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights released its figures for the final days of the assault: 54 Palestinians killed, including 43 unarmed civilians, 17 of them children, while the IDF continued to bombard civilian homes and UN schools. The death toll, they estimated, mounted to 1,184 including 844 civilians, 281 of them children. The IDF continued to use incendiary bombs across the Gaza Strip, and to destroy houses and agricultural land, forcing civilians to flee their homes. A few hours later, Reuters reported more than 1,300 killed. The staff of the Al Mezan Center, which carefully monitors casualties and destruction, visited areas that had previously been inaccessible because of incessant heavy bombardment. They discovered dozens of civilian corpses decomposing under the rubble of destroyed houses or rubble removed by Israeli bulldozers. Entire urban blocks had disappeared. (33)
The figures for killed and wounded are surely an underestimate. And it is unlikely that there will be any serious investigation of these atrocities, despite calls for an inquiry into war crimes by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. Crimes of official enemies are subjected to rigorous investigation, but our own are systematically ignored. General practice, again, and understandable on the part of the masters, who rigorously adhere to a variant of the “too big to fail” insurance policy granted to major financial institutions by Washington, which provides them with great competitive advantages in a form of protectionism that is protected from the usage of the unfavorable term protectionism. The United States is just “too big to hold to account,” whether by judicial inquiry, boycott and sanctions, or other means.
The January 8 Security Council resolution called for stopping the flow of arms into Gaza. The United States and Israel (Rice-Livini) soon reached an agreement on measures to ensure this result, concentrating on Iranian arms. There is no need to stop smuggling of U.S. arms into Israel, because there is no smuggling: the huge flow of arms is quite public, even when not reported, as in the case of the arms shipment announced as the slaughter in Gaza was proceeding. It was later learned that shortly after the end of its military attack on Gaza, Israel apparently also bombed Sudan, killing dozens of people and sinking a ship in the Red Sea. (34) The targets were suspected to be arms shipments intended for Gaza, so there was no reaction. An Iranian effort to impede the flow of U.S. arms to the aggressor would have been regarded as a horrendous terrorist atrocity, which might well have led to nuclear war.
The resolution also called for “ensur[ing] the sustained re-opening of the crossing points on the basis of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access between the Palestinian Authority and Israel”; that agreement determined that crossings to Gaza would be operated on a continuous basis and that Israel would also allow the crossing of goods and people between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
the Rice-Livini agreement had nothing to say about this aspect of the Security Council Resolution. The United States and Israel had abandoned the 2005 agreement as part of their punishment of Palestinians for voting the wrong way in the January 2006 election. Rice’s press conference after the 2009 Rice-Livini agreement emphasized Washington’s continuing efforts to undermine the results of the one free election in the Arab world: “There is much that can be done,” she said, “to bring Gaza out of the dark of Hamas’s reign and into the light of the very good governance the Palestinian Authority can bring” – at least, that it can bring as long as it remains a loyal client, rife with corruption and willing to carry out harsh repression, but obedient. (35)
Returning from a visit to the Arab world, Fawaz Gerges strongly affirmed what others on the scene had reported. The effect of the U.S.-Israeli offensive in Gaza has been to infuriate the populations and to arouse bitter hatred of the aggressors and their collaborators. “Suffice it to say that the so-called moderate Arab states [that is, those that take orders from Washington] are on the defensive, and that the resistance front led by Iran and Syria is the main beneficiary. Once again, Israel and the Bush administration have handed the Iranian leadership a sweet victory.” Furthermore, “Hamas will likely emerge as a more powerful political force than before and will likely top Fatah, the ruling apparatus of President Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority,” (36) Washington’s current favorite.. That conclusion was reinforced by a poll by the independent Jerusalem Media and Communications Center (JMCC), which found that support for Hamas in the West Bank rose from 19 percent the preceding April to 29 percent after the Gaza attack, while support for Fatah dropped from 34 percent to 30 percent. Far from weakening militant Islamist groups and their sponsors, the JMCC, concluded, “the war weakened and undermined to a very large extent the moderates – not only in Palestine but also in the region.” Fifty-three percent of West Bank Palestinians felt that Hamas had won the war; only 10 percent overall saw it as an Israeli victory.” (37)
It is worth bearing in mind that the Arab world was not scrupulously protected from the only regular live TV coverage of what was happening in Gaza, namely the “calm and balanced analysis of the chaos and destruction” provided by the outstanding correspondents of Al Jazeera, offering “a stark alternative to terrestrial Israeli channels,” as reported by the London Financial Times. In the 105 countries lacking our efficient modalities of self-censorship, people could see what was happening hourly, and the impact is said to be very great. In the United States, the New York Times reports, “the near-total blackout ... is no doubt related to the sharp criticism Al Jazeera received from the United States government during the initial stages of the war in Iraq for its coverage of the American invasion.” Cheney and Rumsfeld objected, so, obviously, the independent media could only obey. (38)
There is much sober debate about what the attackers hoped to achieve. Some of objectives are commonly discussed, among them, restoring what is called “the deterrent capacity” that Israel lost as a result of its failures in Lebanon in 2006 – that is, the capacity to terrorize any potential opponent into submission. There are, however, more fundamental objectives that tend to be ignored, though they seem fairly obvious when we take a look at recent history.
Israel abandoned Gaza in September 2005. Rational Israeli hardliners, like Ariel Sharon, the patron saint of the settlers’ movement, understood that it was senseless to subsidize a few thousand illegal Israeli settlers in the ruins of Gaza, protected by a large part of the IDF while they used much of the land and scarce resources. It made more sense to turn all of Gaza into the world’s largest prison and to transfer settlers to the West Bank, much more valuable territory, where Israel is quite explicit about its intentions, in word and more importantly in deed. One gal is to annex the arable land, water supplies, and pleasant suburbs of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv that lie within the separation wall, irrelevantly declared illegal by the World Court. That includes a vastly expanded Jerusalem, in violation of Security Council orders that go back forty years, also irrelevant. Israel has also been taking over the Jordan Valley, about one-third of the West Bank. What remains is therefore imprisoned, and, furthermore, broken into fragments by salients of Jewish settlement that trisect the territory: one to the east of Greater Jerusalem through the town of Ma’aleh Adumin, developed through the Clinton years to split the West Bank; and two to the north, through the towns of Ariel and Kedumim. What remains to Palestinians is segregated by hundreds of mostly arbitrary checkpoints.
The checkpoints have no relation to security of Israel, nor does the wall, and if intended to safeguard settlers, they are flatly illegal, as the World Court ruled definitively. (39) In reality, their major goal is to harass the Palestinian population and to fortify what Israeli peace activist Jeff Halper calls the “matrix of control,” designed to make life unbearable for the “drugged roaches scurrying around in a bottle” who seek to remain in their homes and land. All of that is fair enough, because they are “like grasshoppers compared to us” so that their heads can be “smashed against the boulders and walls.” The terminology is from the highest Israeli political and military leaders, in this case the revered “princes” (Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan and Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir). And similar attitudes, even if more discreetly expressed, shape policies. (40)
The racist rhetoric of political and military leaders is mild as compared to the preaching of rabbinical authorities. They are not marginal figures. On the contrary, they are highly influential in the army and in the settler movement, which Zertal and Eldar describe for good reason as the “lords of the land,” with enormous impact on policy. One of the memorable paragraphs from the Gaza war showed three orthodox Jews in traditional black garb with the caption “Israelis, like these men, have come to hills near Gaza to watch their forces pound the Palestinian enclave in an attempt to stop Hamas rocket attacks” (an attempt to which we return). The story in the Wall Street Journal describes how Israelis, orthodox and secular, come to hilltops that have “become the war’s peanut gallery ... some with sack lunches and portable radios tuned to the latest reports of the battle raging in front of them ... [some] ... to egg on friends and family members in the fight,” some shouting “Bravo! Bravo!” as they watch the exploding bombs, hardly able to contain their glee, some with their binoculars and lawn chairs criticizing the Israeli attacks for hitting the wrong targets, much like fans at sporting events who criticize the coach. (41)
Soldiers fighting in northern Gaza were afforded an “inspirational” visit from two leading rabbis, who explained to them that there are no “innocents” in Gaza, so everyone there is a legitimate target, quoting a famous passage from Psalms calling on the Lord to seize the infants of Israel’s oppressors and dash them against the rocks. The rabbis were breaking no new ground. A year earlier, the former chief Sephardic rabbi wrote to Prime Minister Olmert, informing him that all civilians in Gaza are collectively guilty for rocket attack, so that there is “absolutely no moral prohibition against the indiscriminate killing of civilians during a potential massive military offensive on Gaza aimed at stopping the rocket launching,” as the Jerusalem Post reported his ruling. His son, chief rabbi of Safed, elaborated: “If they don’t stop after we kill 100, then we must kill a thousand, and if they do not stop after 1,000 then we must kill 10,000. If they still don’t stop we must kill 100,000, even a million. whatever it takes to make them stop.” (42)
Similar views are expressed by prominent American intellectuals. When Israel invaded Lebanon in 2005, Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz explained in the liberal online journal Huffington Post that all Lebanese are legitimate targets of Israeli violence. Lebanon’s citizens “pay the price” for supporting “terrorism” – that is, for supporting resistance to Israel’s invasion. Accordingly, the vast majority of Lebanese civilians are no more immune to attack than Austrians who supported the Nazis. The fatwa of the Sephardic rabbi applies to them. In a video on the Jerusalem Post website, Dershowitz went on to ridicule talk of excessive kill ratios of Palestinians to Israelis: they should be increased to a thousand to one, he said, or even a thousand to zero, meaning that the brutes should be completely exterminated. Of course, he is referring to “terrorists,” a broad category that includes victims of Israeli power, since “Israel never targets civilians,” he emphatically declared. It follows that Palestinians, Lebanese, Tunisians, in fact anyone who gets in the way of the ruthless armies of the Holy State is a terrorist, or an accidental victim of their just crimes. (43)
It is not easy to find historical counterparts to these performances. It is perhaps of some interest that they elicit virtually no censure and are thus apparently considered entirely appropriate in the reigning intellectual and moral culture – when they are produced on “our side,” that is. From the mouths of official enemies such words would elicit righteous outrage and calls for massive preemptive violence to punish the villains.
The claim that “our side” never targets civilians is familiar doctrine in violent states. And there is some truth to it. Powerful states, like the United States, do not generally try to kill particular civilians. Rather, they carry out murderous actions that they and their educated classes know will slaughter many civilians, but without specific intent to kill particular ones. In law, the routine practices might fall under the category of depraved indifference, but that is not an adequate designation for standard imperial practice and doctrine. It is more similar to walking down a street knowing that we might kill ants, but without intent to do so, because they rank so low that it just doesn’t matter. Thus Clinton’s bombing of the main pharmaceutical plant in a poor African country (Sudan) might be expected to lead to the deaths of tens of thousands of people, as it apparently did. But since we did not aim at particular ones, there is no guilt, Western moralists assure us. And the same holds in much more extreme cases, which are all too easy to enumerate. The same is true when Israel carries out actions that it knows will kill the “grasshoppers” and “drugged roaches” who happen to infest the lands it “liberates.” There is no good term for this form of moral depravity – arguably worse than deliberate slaughter and all too familiar.
In the former Palestine, the rightful owners (by divine decree, according to the “lord of the land”) may decide to grant the drugged roaches a few scattered parcels. Not by right, however: “I believed, and to this day still believe, in our people’s eternal and historic right to this entire land,” Prime Minister Olmert informed a joint session of Congress in May 2006 to rousing applause. (44) At the same time he announced his “convergence” program for taking over what is valuable in the West Bank, as outlined earlier, leaving the Palestinians to rot in isolated cantons. He was not specific about the borders of the “entire land,” but then, the Zionist enterprise never has been, for good reasons: permanent expansion is an important internal dynamic. If Olmert was still faithful to his origins in Likud, he might have meant both sides of the Jordan, including the current state of Jordan, at least valuable parts of it, though the 1999 Likud electoral platform – the program of current Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – is ambiguous. It declares, “the Jordan Valley and the territories that dominate it shall be under Israeli sovereignty.” What “dominates” the Jordan Valley is not defined, but it certainly includes everything to the west of the Jordan, the former Palestine, to remain under Israeli sovereignty. Within that territory there can never be a Palestinian state and settlement must be unconstrained, the platform declares, since “settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel.” (45)
For Olmert and his Likud successor, our people’s “eternal and historic right to this entire land” contrasts dramatically with the lack of any right of self-determination for the temporary visitors, the Palestinians. As noted earlier, the lack of any such right was reiterated by Israel and its patron in Washington in December 2008, in their usual isolation and accompanied by the usual resounding silence. (46)
The plans that Olmert sketched in 2006 were later abandoned as not sufficiently extreme. But what replaces the convergence program, and the actions that proceed daily to implement it, are approximately the same in general conception. In 2008, West Bank settlement construction rose by 60 percent, according to a report by Peace Now, which monitors settlement. Housing starts in West Bank settlements rose by 46 percent over the previous year, while they declined in Tel Aviv by 29 percent and in Jerusalem by 14 percent. Peace Now reported further that some six thousand new units had been approved with fifty-eight thousand waiting approval: “If all the plans are realized,” the report said, “the numbers of settlers in the territories will be doubled.” There are many ways to expand the settlement project without eliciting protest from the paymasters in Washington, for example, setting up an “outpost” that is later linked to the national electricity and water grids and over time slowly becomes a settlement or a town. Or simply by expanding the “rings of land” around a settlement for alleged security reasons, seizing Palestinian lands, all processes that continue. (47)
These devices, which have roots in the pre-state period, trace back to the earliest days of the occupation, when the basic idea was formulated poetically by Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, who was in charge of the occupied territories: “The situation today resembles the complex relationship between a Bedouin man and the girl he kidnaps against his will ... You Palestinians, as a nation, don’t want us today, but we’ll change your attitude by forcing our presence on you.” You will “live like dogs, and whoever will leave, will leave,” while we take what we want. (48)
That these programs are criminal has never been in doubt. Immediately after the 1967 war, the Israeli government was informed by its highest legal authority, Teodor Meron, that “civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes the explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention,” the foundation of international humanitarian law. Israel’s justice minister concurred. Dayan conceded that “settling Israelis in occupied territories contravenes, as is known, international conventions, but there is nothing essentially new in that,” so the issue can be dismissed. The World Court unanimously endorsed Meron’s conclusion in 2004, and the Israeli High Court technically agreed while disagreeing in practice, in its usual style. (49)
In the West Bank, Israel can pursue its criminal programs with U.S. support and no disturbance, thanks to its effective military control and by now the cooperation of the collaborationist Palestinian security forces armed and trained by the United States and allied dictatorships. It can also carry out regular assassinations and other crimes, while settlers rampage under IDF protection. But while the West Bank has been effectively subdued by terror, there is still resistance in the other half of Palestine, the Gaza Strip. That too must be quelled for the U.S.-Israeli programs of annexation and destruction of Palestine to proceed undisturbed.
Hence the invasion of Gaza.
The timing of the invasion was widely assumed to be influenced by the coming Israeli election. Defense Minister Ehud Barak of the centrist Labor Party, who was lagging badly in the polls, gained one parliamentary seat for every forty Arab killed in the early days of the slaughter, Israeli commentator Ran HaCohen calculated. (50)
That changed, however. The Israeli far right gained substantially from the invasion, though as the crime passed beyond what the carefully honed Israeli propaganda campaign was able to suppress, even confirmed supporters of the invasion became concerned about the way the outside world was perceiving Israel’s just war. The highly regarded political scientist and historian Shlomo Avineri offered an analysis of these “critical differences of opinion” between Israel and outsiders. Among the causes, he explained, were “the harsh images – a consequence of the firepower Israel used, as magnified by the media – as well as disinformation and, undoubtedly, plain old hatred of Israel.” But he discerned a deeper reason: “The name given to the operation, which greatly affects the way in which it will be perceived. Israelis associate the Hebrew for Cast Lead, as the operation was called, with a line written by poet Haim Nahman Bialik that is part of a Hanukkah song typically sung by cute little children. The fact that the operation began around Hanukkah sharpened that association. Abroad, however, it was seen differently. In English, not to mention German, Cast Lead has a whole other association. Lead is cast into bullets, bombs and mortar shells. When the word reported on Cast Lead it sounded militaristic, brutal and aggressive; it was associated with death and destruction rather than spinning dreidels. Even before the first shot was fired or the first speech explaining Israel’s case was made, the operation had already acquired an image of belligerence,” a terrible failure of Israel hasbara. Perhaps it should have been called something more gentle, Avineri felt, “like the Gates of Gaza, which also has a historical ring to it.” (51) [This is a great step! For me.]
Other war supporters warned that the carnage is “destroying [Israel’s] soul and its image. Destroying it on world television screens, in the living rooms of the international community and most importantly, in Obama’s America” (Ari Shavit). Shavit was particularly concerned about Israel’s “shelling a United Nations facility ... on the day when the UN secretary general is visiting Jerusalem,” an act that is “beyond lunacy,” he felt. (52)
Adding a few details, the “facility” was the UN compound in Gaza City, which contained the UNRWA warehouse. The shelling destroyed “hundreds of tons of emergency food and medicines set for distribution today to shelters, hospitals and feeding centres,” according to UNRWA director John Ging. Military strikes at the same time destroyed two floors of the al-Quds hospital, setting it ablaze, and also a second warehouse run by the Palestinian Red Crescent society. The hospital in the densely populated Tal-Hawa neighborhood was destroyed by Israeli tanks “after hundreds of frightened Gazans had taken shelter inside as Israeli ground forces pushed into the neighbourhood,” Al Jazeera reported.
There was nothing left to salvage inside the smoldering ruins of the hospital. “They shelled the building, the hospital building,” paramedic Ahmad Al-Haz told the Associated Press. “It caught fire. We tried to evacuate the sick people and the injured and the people who were there. Firefighters arrived and put out the fire, which burst into flames again and they put it out again and it came back for the third time.” It was suspected that the blaze might have been set by white phosphorus, also suspected in numerous other fires and serious burn injuries. (53)
The suspicions were confirmed by Amnesty International (AI) after the cessation of the intense bombardment made inquiry possible. Israel had sensibly barred all journalists, even Israeli, while its crimes were proceeding in full fury. Israel’s use of white phosphorous against Gaza civilians is “clear and undeniable,” AI reported, condemning its repeated use in densely populated civilian areas as “a war crime.” AI investigators found white phosphorous edges scattered around residential buildings, still burning, “further endangering the residents and their property,” particularly children “drawn to the detritus of war and often unaware of the danger.” Primary targets, they report, were the UNRWA compound, where the Israeli “white phosphorus landed next to some fuel trucks and caused a large fire which destroyed tons of humanitarian aid” after Israeli authorities “had given assurance that no further strikes would be launched on the compound.” On the same day, “a white phosphoros shell landed in the al-Quds hospital in Gaza City also causing a fire which forced hospital staff to evacuate the patients... White phosphorus landing on skin can burn deep through muscle and into the bone, continuing to burn unless deprived of oxygen.” Whether purposely intended or beyond depraved indifference, such crimes are inevitable when the weapon is used in attacks on civilians. (54)
The white phosphorus shells where U.S.-made, AI reported. In a report reviewing use of weapons in Gaza, AI concluded that Israel used U.S.-supplied weapons in “serious violations of international humanitarian law,” and called on “the U.N. Security Council to impose an immediate and comprehensive arms embargo on the Jewish state.” (55) Through conscious U.S. complicity is hardly in doubt, it is excluded from the call for punishment by the analogue of the “too big to fail” doctrine.
It is, however, a mistake to concentrate too much on Israel’s severe violations of jus in bello, the laws designed to bar wartime practices that are too savage. The invasion itself is a far more serious crime. And if Israel had inflicted horrendous damage by bows and arrows, it would still be a criminal act of extreme depravity.
It is also a mistake to focus attention on specific targets. The campaign was far more ambitious in scope. Its goal was “the destruction of all means of life,” officials warned. A large part of the agricultural land was destroyed, some perhaps permanently, along with poultry, livestock, greenhouses, and orchards, creating a major food crisis, the World Food Program reported. The IDF also targeted the Ministry of Agriculture and “the offices of the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees in Zaitoun – which provides cheap food for the poor – ransacked and vadalised by soldiers who left abusive graffiti.” Large areas were flattened by bulldozers. Beyond “the physical damage done by Israeli bulldozers, bombing and shelling, land has been contaminated by munitions, including white phosphorus, burst sewerage pipes, animal carcasses and even asbestos used in roofing. In many places, the damage is extreme. In Jabal al-Rayas, once a thriving farming community, every building has been knocked down, and even the cattle killed and left to lie rotting in the fields.” Leaders of Gaza’s business community, generally apolitical, “say that much of the 3 per cent of industry still operating after the 18-month shutdown caused by Israel’s economic siege has now been destroyed” by Israeli forces using “aerial bombing, tank shelling and armoured bulldozers to eliminate the productive capacity of some of Gaza’s most important manufacturing plants,” destroying or severely damaging 219 factories, according to Palestinian industrialists. (56)
To impede potential recovery, the IDF attacked universities, largely destroying the agriculture faculty at al-Azhar University (considered pro-Fatah, Washington’s favored faction), al-Da’wa College for Humanities in Rafah, and the Gaza College for Security Sciences. Six university buildings in Gaza were razed to the ground and sixteen damaged. Two of those destroyed housed the science and engineering laboratories of the Islamic University in Gaza. (57) The pretext was that they contributed to Hamas military activities. By the same principle, Israeli (and U.S.) universities are legitimate targets of large-scale terror.
They were occasional reports of the Israeli navy firing on fishing boats, but these conceal what appears to be systematic campaign in recent years to drive the fishing industry toward shore – thereby destroying it, because the vast pollution caused by Israel’s destruction of power stations and sewage facilities makes fishing impossible near shore. Citing recent incidents, the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza, which has been a highly reliable source, “strongly condemn[ed] the continuous escalation of the IOF [Israeli Occupation Forces] offensive against Palestinian civilians, including fishermen.” International human rights observers report regular attacks on fishing vessels in Gazan territorial waters. Accompanying Palestinian fishers, they report having “witnessed countless acts of Israeli military aggression against them whilst in Gazan territorial waters, despite a six-month cease-fire agreement holding at the time,” and now again after the January cease-fire. “Gaza’s 40,000 fishermen have been deprived of their livelihood” by Israel naval attacks, Gideon Levy reported from the bedside of a nineteen-year-old Gaza fisherman, severely wounded by Israeli gunboats who attacked his boat without warning near the Gaza shore on October 5, a month before the cease-fire was broken by Israel’s invasion of Gaza, events to which we turn. “Every few days the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) publishes reports from its volunteers in Gaza about attacks on fishermen. Sometimes the naval boats ram the wretched craft, sometimes the sailors use high-pressure water hoses on the fishermen, hurtling them into the sea, and sometimes they open lethal fire on them,” Levy reported. (58)
The international observers report that attacks on fishing boats began after the discovery of quite promising natural gas fields by the BG Group in 2000, in Gaza’s territorial waters. The regular attacks gradually drove fishing boats toward shore, not by official order but by threat and violence. Oil industry journals and the Israeli business press report that Israel’s state-owned Israel Electric Corp. is negotiating “for as much as 1.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas from the Marine field located off the Mediterranean coast of the Palestinian controlled Gaza Strip.” It is hard to suppress the thought that the Gaza invasion may be related to the project of stealing these valuable resources from Palestine, which cannot take part in the negotiations. (59)
Aggression always has a pretext: in this case, that Israel’s patience had “run out” in the face of Hamas rocket attacks, as Ehud Barak put it. The mantra that is endlessly repeated is that Israel has the right to use force to defend itself. The thesis is partially defensible. The rocketing is criminal, and it is true that a state has the right to defend itself against criminal attacks. But it does not follow that it has a right to defend itself by force. That goes far beyond any principle that we would or should accept. Putin had no right to use force in response to Chechen terror – and his resort to force is not justified by the fact that he achieved results so far beyond what the United States achieved in Iraq that if General Petraeus had approached them, he might have been crowned king. (60) Nazi Germany had no right to use force to defend itself against the terrorism of the partisans. Kristallnacht was not justified by Herschel Grynszpan’s assassination of a German Embassy official in Paris. The British were not justified in using force to defend themselves against the (very real) terror of the American colonists seeking independence, or to terrorize Irish Catholics in response to IRA terror – and when they finally turned to the sensible policy of addressing legitimate grievances, the terror virtually ended. It is not a matter of “proportionality,” but of choice of action in the first place: Is there an alternative to violence? In all these cases, there plainly was, so the resort to force had no justification whatsoever.
Any resort to force carries a heavy burden of proof, and we have to ask whether it can be met in the case of Israel’s effort to quell any resistance to its daily criminal actions in Gaza and in the West Bank, where they still continue relentlessly after more than forty years. Perhaps I may quote myself in an interview in the Israeli press on the legitimacy of Palestinian resistance: “We should recall that Gaza and the West Bank are recognized to be a unit, so that if resistance to Israel’s destructive and illegal programs is legitimate within the West Bank (and it would be interesting to see a rational argument to the contrary), and then it is legitimate in Gaza as well.” (61)
Palestinian-American journalist Ali Abunimah observed that “there are no rockets launched at Israel from the West Bank, and yet Israel’s extrajudicial killings, land theft, settler programs and kidnappings never stopped for a day during the truce. The western-backed Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas has acceded to all Israel’s demands. Under the proud eye of United States military advisors, Abbas has assembled ‘security forces’ to fight the resistance on Israel’s behalf. None of that has spared a single Palestinian in the West Bank from Israel’s relentless colonization” – thanks to firm U.S. backing. The respected Palestinian parliamentarian Dr. Mustapha Barghouti adds that after Bush’s Annapolis extravaganza in November 2007, with much uplifting heroic rhetoric about dedication to peace and justice, Israeli attacks on Palestinians escalated in the West Bank, along with a sharp increase in settlements and Israeli checkpoints. Obviously these criminal actions are not a response to rockets from Gaza, though the converse may well be the case. (62)
The actions of people resisting brutal occupation can be condemned as criminal and politically foolish, but those who offer no alternative have no moral standing to issue such judgments. The conclusion holds with particular force for Americans who choose to be directly implicated in Israel’s ongoing crimes – by their words, their actions, or their silence. All the more so because there are very clear nonviolent alternatives – which, however, have the disadvantage that they bar the programs of illegal expansion that the United States strongly supports in practice, while occasionally issuing a mild admonition that they are “unhelpful.” (63)
Israel has straightforward means to defend itself: put an end to its criminal actions in the occupied territories and accept the long-standing international consensus on a two-state settlement that has been blocked by the United States and Israel for over thirty years, since the United States first vetoed a Security Council resolution calling for a political settlement in these terms in 1976. I will not once again run through the inglorious record, but it is important to be aware that U.S.-Israeli rejectionism today is even more blatant than in the past. The Arab League has gone even beyond the consensus, calling for full normalization of relations with Israel. Hamas has repeated called for a two-state settlement in terms of the international consensus. Iran and Hezbollah have made it clear that they will abide by any agreement that Palestinians accept. (64)
One can seek ambiguities and incompleteness, but not in the case of the United States and Israel, which remain in splendid isolation, not only in words.
The more detailed record is informative. The Palestinian National Council formally accepted the international consensus in 1988. The response of the Shamir-Peres coalition government, affirmed by James Baker’s State Department, was that there cannot be an “additional Palestinian state” between Israel and Jordan – the latter already a Palestinian state by U.S.-Israeli dictate. The Oslo Accord that followed explicitly put to the side potential Palestinian national rights: the Declaration of Principles signed with much fanfare on the White House lawn in September 1993 referred only to UN Resolution 242, which grants nothing to the Palestinians, while pointedly ignoring subsequent UN declarations, all blocked by Washington, which respect Palestinian national rights. The threat that these rights might be realized in some meaningful form was systematically undermined throughout the Oslo years by Israel’s steady expansion of illegal settlements, with U.S. support. Settlement accelerated in 2000, President Clinton’s and Prime Minister Barak’s final year, when negotiations took place at Camp David against that background.
After blaming Yasser Arafat for the breakdown of the Camp David negotiations, Clinton backtracked and recognized that the U.S.-Israeli proposals were too extreme to be acceptable by any Palestinian. In December 2000, he presented his “parameters,” vague but more forthcoming. He then announced that both sides had accepted the parameters, while both expressed reservations. The two sides met in Taba, Egypt, in January 2001 – four months after the outbreak of the intifada – and came very close to an agreement. They would have been able to do so in a few more days, they said in their final press conference. But the negotiations were canceled prematurely by Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak. That week in Taba is the one break in over thirty years of U.S.-Israeli rejectionism. There is no reason why that one break in the record cannot be resumed. (65)
The preferred vision, reiterated by Ethan Bronner, is that “many abroad recall Mr. Barak as the prime minister who in 2000 went further than any Israeli leader in peace offers to the Palestinians, only to see the deal fail and explode in a violent Palestinian uprising [the intifada] that drove him from power.” It is quite true that “many abroad” believe this deceitful fairy tale, thanks to what Bronner and too many of his colleagues call “journalism.” (66)
It is commonly claimed that a two-state solution is now unattainable because if the IDF tried to remove settlers, it would lead to a civil war. That may be true, but much more argument is needed. Without resorting to force to expel illegal settlers, the IDF could simply withdraw to whatever boundaries are established by negotiations. The settlers beyond those boundaries would have the choice of leaving their subsidized homes to return to subsidized homes in Israel in Israel or to remain under Palestinian authority. The same was true of the carefully staged “national trauma” in Gaza in 2005, so transparently fraudulent that it was ridiculed by Israeli commentators. It would have sufficed for Israel to announce that the IDF would withdraw, and the settlers who were subsidized to enjoy their life in Gaza would have quietly climbed into the trucks provided to them and traveled to their new subsidized residences in the other occupied territories. But that would not have produced tragic photos of agonized children and passionate calls of “never again,” thus providing a welcome propaganda cover for the real purpose of the partial “disengagement”: expansion of illegal settlement in the rest of the occupied territories. (67)
To summarize, contrary to the claim that is constantly reiterated, Israel has no right to use force to defend itself against rockets from Gaza, even if they are regarded as terrorist crimes. Furthermore, the reasons are transparent. The pretext for launching the attack is without merit.
There is also a narrower question. Does Israel have peaceful short-term alternatives to the use of force in response to rockets from Gaza? One such alternative would be to accept a cease-fire. Sometimes Israel has formally done so, while quickly violating it. The most recent and currently relevant case is June 2008. The cease-fire called for opening the border crossings to “allow the transfer of all goods that were banned and restricted to go into Gaza.” Israel formally agreed, but immediately announced that it would not abide by the agreement and open the borders until Hamas released Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas in June 2006. (68)
After the Gaza invasion, Israel continued to reject Hamas proposals of a long-term truce, again citing the capture of Shalit. Partly on the same grounds, it refused to permit any reconstitution, even the import of macaroni, crayons, tomato paste, lentils, soap, toilet paper, and other such weapons of mass destruction – eliciting some polite queries from Washington. (69)
The steady drumbeat of accusations about the capture of Shalit is, again, blatant hypocrisy, even putting aside Israel’s long history of kidnapping. In this case, the hypocrisy could not be more glaring. One day before Hamas captured Shalit, Israeli soldiers entered Gaza City and kidnapped two civilians, the Muamar brothers, bringing them to Israel to join the thousands of other prisoners held there, hundreds reportedly without charge. Kidnapping civilians is a far more serious crime than capturing a soldier of an attacking army, but as is the norm, it was barely reported in contrast to the furor over Shalit. And all that remains in memory, blocking peace, is the capture of Shalit, another illustration of the depth of imperial mentality in the West. Shalit should be returned – in a fair prisoner exchange. (70)
It was after the capture of Shalit that Israel’s unrelenting military attack against Gaza passed from merely vicious to truly sadistic. But it is well to recall that even before his capture, Israel had fired more than 7,700 shells at northern Gaza after its September withdrawal, eliciting virtually no comment. (71)
After immediately rejecting the June 2008 cease-fire it had formally accepted, Israel maintained its siege. We may recall that a siege is an act of war. In fact, Israel has always insisted on an even stronger principle: hampering access to the outside world, even well short of a siege, is an act of war, justifying massive violence in response. Interference with Israel’s passage through the Straits of Tiran was a large part of the justification offered for Israel’s invasion of Egypt (with France and England) in 1956, and for its launching of the June 1967 war. The siege of Gaza is total, not partial, apart from occasional willingness of the occupiers to relax it slightly. And it is vastly more harmful to Gazans than closing the Straits of Tiran was to Israel. Supporters of Israeli doctrines and actions should therefore have no problem justifying rocket attacks on Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip.
Of course, again we run into the nullifying principle. This is us, that is them.
Israel not only maintained the siege after June 2008, but did so with extreme rigor. It even prevented UNRWA from replenishing its stores, “so when the ceasefire broke down, we ran out of food for the 750,000 who depend on us,” UNRWA director John Ging informed the BBC. (72)
Despite the Israeli siege, rocketing sharply reduced. According to the spokesperson for the prime minister, Mark Regev, there was not a single Hamas rocket among the few that were launched from the onset of the June 2008 cease-fire until November 4, when Israel violated it still more egregiously with a raid into Gaza, leading to the death of six Palestinians and a retaliatory barrage of rockets (with no injuries). The raid was on the evening of the U.S. presidential elections, when attention was focused elsewhere. The pretext for the raid was that Israel had detected a tunnel in Gaza that might have been intended for use to capture another Israeli soldier; a “ticking tunnel” in official communiques. The pretext was transparently absurd, as a number of commentators noted. If such a tunnel existed, and reached the border, Israel could easily have barred it right there. But as usual, the ludicrous Israeli pretext was deemed credible, and the timing was overlooked. (73)
What was the reason for the Israeli raid? We have no internal evidence about Israeli planning, but we do know that the raid came shortly before scheduled Hamas-Fatah talks in Cairo aimed at “reconciling their differences and creating a single, unified government,” British correspondent Rory McCarthy reported. That was to be the first Fatah-Hamas meeting since the June 2007 civil war that left Hamas in control of Gaza, and would have been a significant step toward advancing diplomatic efforts. There is a long history of Israel provocations to deter the threat of diplomacy, some already mentioned. This may have been another one. (74)
The civil war that left Hamas in control of Gaza is commonly described as a Hamas military coup, demonstrating again their evil nature. The real world was a little different. The civil war was incited by the United States and Israel, in a crude attempt at a military coup to overturn the free elections that brought Hamas to power. That has been public knowledge at least since April 2008, when David Rose published a detailed and documented account of how Bush, Rice, and Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams “backed an armed force under Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, touching off a bloody civil war in Gaza and leaving Hamas stronger than ever.” The account was corroborated by Norman Olsen, who served for twenty-six years in the Foreign Service, including four years working in the Gaza Strip and four years at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, and then moved on to become associate coordinator for counterterrorism at the Department of State. Olsen and his son detail the State Department shenanigans intended to ensure that their candidate, Abbas, would win in the January 2006 elections – in which case it would have been hailed as a triumph of democracy. After the election-fixing failed, the United States and Israel turned to the punishment of Palestinians for voting the wrong way, and began arming a militia run by Dahlan. But “Dahlan’s thugs moved too soon,” the Olsens write, and a Hamas pre-emptive strike undermined the coup attempt. (75)
The Party Line is more convenient.
The U.S.-Israel responded to the failed coup attempt by introducing far harsher measures to punish the people of Gaza, and to ensure that the plague of disobedience would not spread to the rest of Palestine. Together with Jordan, the United States undertook to arm and train a more efficient Palestinian “security force” to maintain order in the West Bank, under the direction of U.S. general Keith Dayton. Israeli military officers participate as well, Ethan Bronner reported in the New York Times, describing how “an Israeli officer inaugurated the firing range here, shooting a Palestinian weapon to test it and give his seal of approval.” The major achievement of the new paramilitary force, Bronner elaborated, was to have “maintained tight order” to prevent any kind of “uprising” – that is, significant show of sympathy and support – while Israel slaughtered Palestinians in Gaza and reduced much of it to rubble.
The effective performance of these forces also impressed Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair John Kerry. In his address to the Brookings Institution, he spoke eloquently of “the need to give the Israelis a legitimate partner for peace,” which they evidently lacked during the decades of unilateral U.S.-Israeli rejection of the international consensus on a peace settlement, which the Palestine Liberation Organization supported, along with the Arab states (and the world, outside the U.S. and Israel). We must overcome this failure, Kerry explained, suggesting several ways to weaken the elected government and strengthen our man Mahmoud Abbas. “Most importantly,” Kerry went on, “this means strengthening General Dayton’s efforts to train Palestinian security forces that can keep order and fight terror.... Recent developments have been extremely encouraging: During the invasion of Gaza, Palestinian Security Forces largely succeeded in maintaining calm in the West Bank amidst widespread expectations of civil unrest. Obviously, more remains to be done, but we can help do it.” (76)
So we can. The United States has had a century of rich experience in developing paramilitary and police forces to pacify conquered populations and to impose the structure of a long-lasting coercive security state that undermines nationalist and popular aspirations and sustains obedience to the wealthy classes and their foreign associates. (77)
After Israel broke the June 2008 cease-fire (such as it was) in November, the siege was tightened further, with even more disastrous consequences for the population. According to Sara Roy, the leading academic specialist in Gaza, “On Nov. 5, Israel sealed all crossing points into Gaza, vastly reducing and at time denying food supplies, medicines, fuel, cooking gas, and parts for water and sanitation systems.... During November, an average of 4.6 trucks of food per day entered Gaza from Israel compared with an average of 123 trucks per day in October. Spare parts for the repair and maintenance of water-related equipment have been denied entry for over a year. The World Health Organization just reported that half of Gaza’s ambulances are now out of order” – and the rest soon became targets of Israeli attack. Gaza’s only power station was forced to suspend operation for lack of fuel, and could not be started up again because it needed spare parts, which had been sitting in the Israeli port of Ashdod for eight months. Shortage of electricity led to a 300 percent increase in burn cases at Shifaa’ hospital in the Gaza Strip, resulting from efforts to light wood fires. Israel barred shipment of chlorine, so that by mid-December in Gaza City and the north access to water was limited to six hours every three days. The human consequences are not counted among Palestinian victims of Israeli terror. (78)
After the November 4 Israeli attack, both sides escalated violence (all deaths were Palestinian) until the cease-fire formally ended on December 19 and Prime Minister Olmert authorized the full-scale invasion.
A few days earlier Hamas had proposed to return to the original July cease-fire agreement, which Israel had not observed. Historian and former Carter administration high official Robert Pastor passed the proposal to a “senior official” in the IDF, but Israel did not respond. The head of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, was quoted in Israeli sources on December 21 as saying that Hamas is interested in continuing the “calm” with Israel, while its military wing is continuing preparations for conflict.
“There clearly was an alternative to the military approach to stopping the rockets,” Pastor said, keeping to the narrow issue of Gaza. There was also a more far-reaching alternative, which is rarely discussed: namely, accepting a political settlement including all of the occupied territories. (79)
Israeli senior diplomatic correspondent Akiva Eldar reports that shortly before Israel launched its full-scale invasion on Saturday, December 27, “Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal announced on the Iz al-Din al-Qassam Web site that he was prepared not only for a ‘cessation of aggression’ – he proposed going back to the arrangement at the Rafah crossing as of 2005, before Hamas won the elections and later took over the region. That arrangement was for the crossing to be managed jointly by Egypt, the European Union, the Palestinian Authority presidency and Hamas,” and as noted earlier, called for opening of the crossings to desperately needed supplied. (80)
A standard claim of the more vulgar apologists for Israeli violence is that in the case of the current assault, “as in so many instances in the past half century – the Lebanon War of 1982, the ‘Iron Fist’ response to the 1988 intifada, the Lebanon War of 2006 – the Israelis have reacted to intolerable acts of terror with a determination to inflict terrible pain, to teach the enemy a lesson. The civilian suffering and deaths are inevitable; the lessons less so” (New Yorker editor David Remnick). (81) The 2006 invasion can be justified only on the grounds of appalling cynicism, as already discussed. The reference to the vicious response to the 1988 intifada is too depraved even to discuss; a sympathetic interpretation might be that it reflects astonishing ignorance. But Remnick’s claim about the 1982 invasion is quite common, a remarkable feat of incessant propaganda, which merits a few reminders. The lessons, particularly about American intellectuals, are all too easy to recognize, though hardly “inevitable.”
Uncontroversially, the Israel-Lebanon border was quiet for a year before the Israeli invasion, at least from Lebanon to Israel, north to south. Through the year, the PLO scrupulously observed a U.S.-initiated cease-fire, despite constant Israeli provocations, including bombing with many civilian casualties, presumably intended to elicit some reaction that could be used to justify Israel’s planned invasion. The best Israel could achieve was two light symbolic responses. It then invaded with a pretext too absurd to be taken seriously.
The invasion had nothing to do with “intolerable acts of terror,” though it did have to do with intolerable acts: of diplomacy. That has never been obscure. Shortly after the U.S.-backed invasion began, Israel’s leading academic specialist on the Palestinians, Yehoshua Porath – no dove – wrote that Arafat’s success in maintaining the cease-fire constituted “a veritable catastrophe in the eyes of the Israeli government,” since it opened the way to a political settlement. The government hoped that the PLO would resort to terrorism, undermining the threat that it would be “a legitimate negotiating partner for future political accommodations.”
The facts were well understood in Israel, and not concealed. Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir stated that Israel went to war because there was “a terrible danger.... Not so much a military one as a political one,” prompting the fine Israeli artist B. Michael to write that “the lame excuse of a military danger or a danger to the Galilee is dead.” We “have removed the political danger” by striking first, in time; now, “Thank God, there is no one to talk to.” Historian Benny Morris recognized that the PLO had observed the cease-fire, and explained that “the war’s inevitability rested on the PLO as a political threat to Israel and to Israel’s hold on the occupied territories.” Others have frankly acknowledged the unchallenged facts. (82)
In a front-page think piece on the latest Gaza invasion, New York Times correspondent Steven Lee Myers writes that “in some ways, the Gaza attacks were reminiscent of the gamble Israel took, and largely lost, in Lebanon in 1982 [when] it invaded to eliminate the threat of Yasser Arafat’s forces.” Correct, but not in the sense he has in mind. In 1982, as in 2008, it was necessary to eliminate the threat of political settlement. (83)
The hope of Israeli propagandists has been that Western intellectuals and media would buy the tale that Israel reacted to rockets raining on the Galilee, “intolerable acts of terror.” And they have not been disappointed.
It is not that Israel does not want peace: everyone wants peace, even Hitler. The question is: on what terms? From its origins, the Zionist movement has understood that to achieve its goals, the best strategy would be to delay political settlement, meanwhile slowly building facts on the ground. Even the occasional agreements, as in 1947, were regarded by the leadership as temporary steps toward further expansion. (84) The 1982 Lebanon war was a dramatic example of the desperate fear of diplomacy. It was followed by Israeli support for Hamas so as to undermine the secular PLO and its irritating peace initiatives. Another case that should be familiar is Israeli provocations before the 1967 war, designed to elicit a Syrian response that could be used as a pretext for violence and takeover of more land – at least 80 percent of the incidents, according to Defense Minister Moshe Dayan. (85)
The story goes far back. The official history of the Haganah, the pre-state Jewish military force, describes the assassination of the religious Jewish poet Jacob de Haan in 1924, accused of conspiring for an accommodation between the traditional Jewish community (the Old Yishuv) and the Arab Higher Committee. And there have been numerous examples since. (86)
The effort to delay political accommodation has always made perfect sense, as do the accompanying lies about how “there is no partner for peace.” It is hard to think of another way to take over land where you are not wanted.
Similar reasons underlie Israel’s preference for expansion over security. Its violation of the cease-fire on November 4, 2008, is one of many recent examples.
When Israel broke the June 2008 cease-fire on November 4, Amnesty International reported that the cease-fire
has brought enormous improvements in the quality of life in Sderot and other Israeli villages near Gaza, where before the cease-fire residents lived in fear of the next Palestinian rocket strike. However, nearby in the Gaza Strip the Israeli blockade remains in place and the population has so far seen few dividends from the cease-fire. Since June 2007, the entire population of 1.5 million Palestinians has been trapped in Gaza, with dwindling resources and an economy in ruins. Some 80 percent of the population now depend on the trickle of international aid that the Israeli army allows in. (87)
But the gains in security for Israeli towns near Gaza were evidently outweighed by the felt need to deter diplomatic moves that might impede West Bank expansion, and to crush any remaining resistance within Palestine.
The preference for expansion over security has been particularly evident since Israel’s faithful decision in 1971, backed by Henry Kissinger, to reject the offer of a full peace treaty by President Sadat of Egypt, offering nothing to the Palestinians – an agreement that the United States and Israel were compelled to accept at Camp David eight years later, after a major war that was a near disaster for Israel. A peace treaty with Egypt would have ended any significant security threat, but there was an unacceptable quid pro quo: Israel would have had to abandon its extensive settlement programs in the northeastern Sinai. Security was a lower priority than expansion, as it still is. (88)
Today, Israel could have security, normalization of relations, and integration into the region. But it very clearly prefers illegal expansion, conflict, and repeated exercise of violence, actions that are not only criminal, murderous, and destructive but are also eroding its own long-term security. U.S. military and Middle East specialist Andrew Cordesman writes that while Israel military force can surely crush defenseless Gaza, “neither Israel nor the US can gain from a war that produces [a bitter] reaction from one of the wisest and most moderate voices in the Arab world, Prince Turkic al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia, who said on January 6 that ‘The Bush administration has left [Obama] a disgusting legacy and a reckless position towards the massacres and bloodshed of innocents in Gaza.... Enough is enough, today we are all Palestinians and we seek martyrdom for God and for Palestine, following those who died in Gaza.’” (89)
One of the wisest voices in Israel, Uri Avnery, writes that after an Israeli military victory, “What will be seared into the consciousness of the world will be the image of Israel as a blood-stained monster, ready at any moment to commit war crimes and not prepared to abide by any moral restraints. This will have severe consequences for our long-term future, our standing in the world, our chance of achieving peace and quiet. In the end, this war is a crime against ourselves too, a crime against the State of Israel.” (90)
There is good reason to believe that he is right. Israel is deliberately turning itself into one of the most hated countries in the world, and is also losing the allegiance of the population of the West, including younger American Jews, who are unlikely to tolerate its persistent shocking crimes for long. Decades ago, I wrote that those who call themselves “supporters of Israel” are in reality supporters of its moral degeneration and probable ultimate destruction. Regrettably, that judgment looks more and more plausible.
Meanwhile we are quietly observing a rare event in history, what the late Israeli sociologist Baruch Kimmerling called “politicide,” the murder of a nation – at our hands. (91)
1. Mouin Rabbani, “Birth Pangs of a New Palestine,” Middle East Report Online, January 7, 2009, www.merip.org/mero/mero010709.html.
2. Uri Blau and Yotam Feldman, “How IDF Legal Experts Legitimized Strikes Involving Gaza Civilians,” Haaretz, January 22, 2009; Yotam Feldman and Uri Blau, “Consent and Advise,” Haaretz, January 29, 2009.
3. Sabrina Tavernise, “Rampage Shows Reach of Militants in Pakistan,” New York Times, March 31, 2009; Feldman and Blau, “Consent and Advise.”
4. Ethan Bronner, “Parsing Gains of Gaza War,” New York Times, January 19, 2009. On the 1950s concept, “We will go crazy” (nitshtagea) if crossed, see Chomsky, Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians (Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 1999), 467f.
5. Craig Whitlock and Reyham Abdel Kareem, “Combat May Escalate in Gaza, Israel Warns: Operation in Densely Packed City, Camps Weighted,” Washington Post, January 11, 2009.
6. For sources and details, See Fateful Triangle, and Cheryl Rudenberg, Journal of Palestine Studies, special issue, “The War in Lebanon” vol. 11, no. 4-vol. 12, no. 1 (Summer-Autumn 1982): 62-68.
7. Interview with General Mordechai Gur, Al Hamishmar (May 10, 1978), quoted in Noam Chomsky, Towards a New Cold War (New York: Pantheon, 1982), 320.
8. Ze’ev Schiff, Haaretz, May 15, 1978.
9. Eban quoted in Jerusalem Post, August 16, 1981. See also Meiron Benvinisti, Sacred Landscape: The Buried History of the Holy Land since 1948 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000) and Ehud Sprinzak, The Ascendance of Israel’s Radical Right (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991)
10. Thomas Friedman, “Israel’s Goals in Gaza?” New York Times, op-ed, January 14, 2009.
11. Steven Erlanger, “Weighing Crimes and Ethics in the Fog of Urban Warfare,” New York Times, January 17, 2009.
12. Fawaz Gerges, “Gaza Notebook,” Nation, January 16, 2009.
13. Ethan Bronner, “Israel Lets Reports See Devastated Gaza Site and Image of a Confident Military,” New York Times, January 16, 2009; Chomsky, Pirate and Emperors Old and New (New York: Claremont Research and Publications, 1986; extended version, Boston: South End Press, 2002), 44f.
14. Gerges, “Gaza Notebook.”
15. “Gaza Relief Boat Damaged in Encounter with Israeli Vessel,” CNN.com, December 30, 2008, www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/meast/12/30/gaza.aid.boat/index.html; “Mckinney on Boat in Gaza Crash,” video, CNN.com, www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/meast/12/30/gaza.aid.boat/index.html#cnnSTCVideo; “Israeli Patrol Boat Collides with Aid Ship off Gaza,” Agence France-Presse December 30, 2008; Zeina Karam, “Gaza Protest Boat Sails into Lebanon,” Associated Press (30 December 2008); “Israel Accused of Ramming Gaza Aid Ship,” Guardian Unlimited (30 December 2008); and Stefanos Evripidou, “Gaza Mercy Mission Rammed by Israeli Navy,” Cyprus Mail, December 31, 2008.
16. See note 20, below. See also Gilbert Achcar, Noam Chomsky, and Stephen Shalom, Perilous Power (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2007), 239.
17. “Arabs Fiddle and Squabble, Again, as Palestine Bleeds and Burns, Again,” editorial, Daily Star (Lebanon), January 14, 2009.
18. Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, “Will Hizbullah Intervene in the Gaza Conflcit?” Daily Star (Lebanon), January 13, 2009 and Zeev Maox, “The War of Double Standards,” July 24, 2006, http://psfaculty.ucdavis.edu/zmaoz/The%20War%20of%20Double%20Standards.pdf.
20. Friedman, “Israel’s Goals in Gaza?”; “Senator Kerry’s Speech on the Middle East to the Brookings Institution,” Senator Kerry’s Online Office, release, http://kerry.senate.gov/cfm/record.cfm?id=309250, March 9, 2009; and Pirate and Emperors, 63, citing David Shipler, “Palestinians and Israelis Welcome Their Prisoners Freed in Exchange,” New York Times, November 25, 1983.
21. Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar, Lord of the Land (New York: Nation Books, 2007), xii, 450.
22. Stefano Ambrogi, “U.S. Seeks Ships to Move Arms to Israel,” Reuters, Alert-Net, January 9, 2009, www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L9736369.htm.
23. Cited in Thalif Deen, “U.S. Weaponry Facilitates Killings in Gaza,” Inter Press Service, January 8, 2009, http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=45337.
24. Cited in Nikos D.A. Arvanites, “U.S. Resupplying Israel from Port in Greece,” Ekonom:east Media Group, January 13, 2009, www.emg.rg/en/news/region/75403.html.
25. Stephen Zunes, “Obama and Israel’s Military: Still Arm-in-Arm,” Foreign Policy in Focus, March 4, 2009, www.fpif.org/articles/obama_and_israels_military_still_arm-in-arm.
26. “US Cancels Israel Arms Shipment over Greek Objections,” Agence France-Presse, January 13, 2009.
27. Quoted in Thalif Deen, “U.S. Weaponry Facilitates Killings in Gaza,” Inter Press Service, January 8, 2009.
28. William Hartung and Frida Berrigan, “U.S. Weapons at War 2008: Beyond the Bush Legacy,” NewAmerica.net, www.newamerica.net/publications/policy/u_s_weapons_war_2008_0; Ali Gharib, “U.S. Arms Deployed in Wars Around the Globe,” Inter Press Service, December 11, 2008; Jim Wolf, “U.S. Arms Sales Seen Booming in 2009,” Reuters, December 15, 2008; and Geraldine Baum, “U.S. Opposes Arms Trade Treaty,” Los Angeles Times, November 1, 2008.
29. Mads Gilbert, “Doctor Decries Israeli Attacks,” video, YouTube.com, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ev6ojm62qwA; and Bronner, “Parsing Gains of War in Gaza.”
30. John Heilprin, “UN Contradicts Israel over Depth of Crisis in Gaza,” Associated Press, January 6, 2009.
31. Ethan Bronner, “Israeli Attack Splits Gaza; Truce Calls Are Rebuffed,” New York Times, January 6, 2009.
32. Quoted in Steven Lee Myers and Helene Cooper, “Gaza Crisis Is Another Challenge for Obama, Who Defers to Bush for Now,” New York Times, December 29, 2009.
33. “22nd Day of continuous IOF Attacks on the Gaza Strip,” press release, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, January 17, 2009. A later careful count revealed higher figures. “Israeli Troops Head Out of Devastated Gaza,” Reuters, January 19, 2009; “IOF Unilaterally Ceases Fire; Redeploys inside Gaza – Dozens of Decomposed Bodies Found under Houses Rubble and Enormous Destruction in Neighborhoods,” press release, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, January 18, 2009.
34. Yoav Stern and Yossi Melman, “ABC: IAF Attacked 3 Times in Sudan,” Haaretz, March 29; Charles Levinson and Jay Solomon, “U.S., Egypt Push Sudan about Arms,” Wall Street Journal, March 29, 2009.
35. Akiva Eldar, “Israeli Rejection of Gaza Deal May Topple Abbas,” Haaretz.com, January 9, 2009, www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1054143.html; quoted in Mark Landler, “U.S. Pact Seen as Step Toward Gaza Cease-Fire,” New York Times, January 16, 2009.
36. Gerges, “Gaza Notebook.”
37. Tobias Buck, “Gaza Offensive Boosted Hamas, Poll Concludes,” Financial Times, February 6, 2009.
38. Andrew England, “Al-Jazeera Journalists Become the Faces of the Frontline,” Financial Times, January 14, 2009; Noam Cohen, “Few in U.S. See Jazeera’s Coverage of Gaza War,” New York Times, January 12, 2009.
39. If security of Israel’s were the concern, then the wall could be built at the Green Line, the internationally recognized border, and there would be no objections – except from Israelis whose free access to occupied territory would be impeded.
40. Quotes are from Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan and Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. See Fateful Triangle for these and other examples.
41. Charles Levinson, “Israelis Watch the Fighting in Gaza from a Hilly Vantage Point,” Wall Street Journal, January 8, 2009. See also the photograph of orthodox Jews dancing on a hilltop, with the caption “From a hill just outside the Gaza Strip, Israelis watch the air assaults on Gaza and dance in celebration of the attacks, January 8, 2009. Newcom,” at http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10215.html.
42. Anshil Pfeffer, Haaretz.com, January 9, 2009, www.haaretz.co.il/hasite/spages/1056116.html (Hebrew). Matthew Wagner, “Rabbis Order Soldiers and Police to Refuse Dismantle Outposts. But Major Insubordination Seen as Unlikely,” Jerusalem Post, May 27, 2009. On the role of the religious nationalist Rabbis, see Zertal and Eldar, Lord of the Land. One of their most revered figures, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook, said, “we are in the middle of redemption,” and the state is “entirely sacred and without blemish,” extending over the entire Land of Israel; quoted in Gershom Gorenberg, The Accidental Empire (New York: Times Books, 2006), 275.
43. Alan Dershowitz, “Lebanon Is Not a Victim,” Huffington Post, August 7, 2006, www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-dershowitz/lebanon-is-not-a-victim_b_26715.html?view=print; Alan Dershowitz. (video), www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCShwgO6M1M.
44. Ehud Olmert, speech to Joint Session of (U.S.) Congress, May 24, 2006. For full transcript, see “Address by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Joint meeting of US Congress,” Embassy of Israel Web site, www.israelnewsagency.com/israelolmertcongress48480524.html.
45. Likud Party platform, see the Knesset website, www.knesset.gov.il/elections/knesset15/elikud_m.htm.
46. In an interview in Israel as he was resigning under corruption charges, Olmert withdrew all his previous positions, accepting the international consensus for the first time. Ethan Bronner, “Olmert Says Israel Should Pull Out of West Bank,” New York Times, September 30, 2008. It is hard to know what to make of this, since his subsequent actions continued to conform to his illegal expansionist program.
47. Report on Israeli Settlements, Foundation for Middle East Peace, January-February 2009; Ghassan Bannoura, “Report: Peace Now Annual Settlement Report Shows an Increase of Constructions,” International Middle East Media Center, January 28, 2009; Mark Landler, “Clinton Expresses Doubts about an Iran-U.S. Thaw,” New York Times, March 3, 2009, A6; Sara Miller, “Peace Now: Israel Planning 73,300 New Homes in West Bank, Haaretz, March 2, 2009. Miller notes Knesset member Yaakov Katz of the right-wing National Union Party, who is expected to join Netanyahu’s cabinet in April 2009, told Army Radio, “We will make every effort to realize the plans outlined by [Peace Now official Yariv] Oppenheimer...I expect that, with God’s help this will all happen in the next few years, and there will be one state here.” What is critical, as always, is how much help he can expect from Washington. On the modes of settlement expansion, see Zertal and Eldar, Lords of the Land. On expanding “rings of land,” see B’Tselem, Access Denied: Israeli Measures to Deny Palestinians Access to Land around Settlements, September 2008, www.btselem.org/english/publications/summaries/200809_access_denied.asp.
48. Quoted in Gorenberg, Accidental Empire, 82. Yossi Beilin, Mehiro shel Ihud (Tel-Aviv: Revivim, 1985), 42, an important review of cabinet records under the Labor governments that held power until 1977.
49. Quoted in Gorenberg, Accidentail Empire, 99f, 110-1, 173. For careful analysis of the court decisions, see Norman Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2008, expanded paperback edition), postscript, 227-70.
50. Ran HaCohen, “Pacifying Gaza,” Antiwar.com, December 31, 2008, http://antiwar.com/hacohen?articleeid=13970.
51. Shlomo Avineri, Haaretz, March 18, 2003. Perhaps this was intended as irony, though it seems not. It is often hard to tell. The term in Hebrew for Israeli propaganda is hasbara (explanation). Since whatever Israel does is necessarily right and just, it is only necessary to explain it to confused outsiders.
52. Ari Shavit, “Gaza Op May Be Squeezing Hamas, but It’s Destroying Israel’s Soul,” Haaretz, January 16, 2009.
53. “UN Press Conference on Gaza Humanitarian Situation,” United Nations, January 15, 2009, www.un.org/news/briefings/docs/2009/090115_Gaza.doc.htm. Tobias Buck, Andrew England, and Heba Saleh, “Assault Kills Top Hamas Leader,” Financial Times, January 15, 2009. Al Jazeera, “Gazans Count the Cost of War,” January 16, 2009, http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/01/2009116144139351463.html; Tamer Saliba and Patrick Quinn, “UN Says Gaza Faces Humanitarian Catastrophe,” Associated Press, January 16, 2009.
54. Amnesty International, “Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories: Israel’s Use of White Phosphorus Against Gaza Civilians ‘Clear and Undeniable,’” January 19, 2009, www.amnesty.org/en/for-media/press-releases/israeloccupied-palestinian-territories-israel039s-use-white-phosphorus-a; and “Foreign-supplied Weapons Used Against Civilians by Israel and Hamas,” February 20, 2009, www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/foreign-supplied-weapons-used-against-civilians-israel-and-hamas-20090220. AI also called for an embargo on Hamas, but that is clearly meaningless.
55. Sheera Frenkel, “Amnesty International: Gaza White Phosphorus Sheels were US Made,” Times (London) online, February 24, 2009, www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article5792182.ece; “Amnesty International Says Israel Misused US-Supplied Weapons in Gaza,” VOA news, February 23, 2009, www.voanews.com/english/2009-02-23-voa17.cfm.
56. Peter Beaumont, “Gaza Desperately Short of Food after Israel Destroys Farmland,” Observer, February 1, 2009; Donald Macintyre, “An Assault on the Peace Process,” Independent, January 26, 2009.
57. IRIN-UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “Tough Times for University Students in Gaza,” March 26, 2009, www.irinnews.org/PrintReport.aspx?ReportId=83655.
58. Gideon Levy, “The Ebb, the Tide, the Sighs,” Haaretz, November 16, 2008; “Al Mezan Center Condemns the Escalation of Israeli Violations against Palestinian Fishers and Calls on the International Community to Act, and Civil Society to Intensify its Solidarity Campaigns,” Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, press release, March 25, 2009, www.mezan.org/en/details.php?id=8594&ddname=fishermen&id_dept=9&id2=9&p=center; International Solidarity Movement, “Gazan Coast Becoming a ‘No-go’ Zone,” February 16, 2009; “Gaza Marine Project – and Who Owns It?” video, www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyPtd6qKLVE&feature=channel_age.
59. Platts Commodity News, February 3, 2000. See also Platts Commodity News, December 3, 2008; “Israel Power Firm Sends Top Team to London for Talks with BG,” Platts Commodity News, February 16, 2009, reporting that IEC “is sending a high level delegation to London for talks with BG on purchase of natural gas from the Marine Gaza field”; Economist Intelligence Unit, January 20; Amotz Asa-El, “Gas Discovery Tempers Israeli recession Blues,” Market Watch (Jerusalem), “BG Group at Centre of $4bn Deal to Supply Gaza Gas to Israel,” Times (London), May 23, 2007; Michael Chossudovsky, “War and Natural Gas: The Israeli Invasion and Gaza’s Offshore Gas Fields,” Center for Research on Globalization, January 8, 2009, www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va?aid=11680. Also Martin Barillas, “Massive Natural Gas Deposits Found Off Israel,” January 19, 2009, SperoNews, www.speroforum.com/a/17732/Massive-natural-gas-deposits-found-off-Isr.
60. See “Good News, Iraq and Beyond,” chap. 5 in Hope and Prospects (Chicago: Haymarket, 2010).
61. “Apocalypse Near,” Noam Chomsky, interview by Merav Yudilovitch, Ynet, August 4, 2006, www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3286204,00.html.
62. Ali Abunimah, “We Have No Words Left,” Guardian, December 29, 2009. Mustapha Barghouti, “Palestine’s Guernica and the Myths of Israeli Victimhood,” http://palestinethinktank.com/2008/12/29/mustafa-barghouti-palestines-guernica-and-the-myths-of-israeli-victimhood/, December 29, 2008.
63. Hillary Clinton’s stern admonition when Israel demolished eighty more Arab homes in East Jerusalem in Sue Pleming and Mohammed Assadi, “Clinton Criticises Israel over E. Jerusalem Demolition,” Reuters, March 4, 2009.
64. Among others, on Hamas see Ismail Haniyeh, “Aggression Under False Pretenses,” Washington Post, July 11, 2006; Khalid Mish’al, “Our Unity Can Now Pave the Way for Peace and Justice,” Guardian, February 13, 2007. Guy Dinmore and Najmeh Bozorgmehr, “Iran ‘Accepts Two-state Answer’ in Mideast,” Financial Times, September 2, 2006; “Leader Attends Memorial Ceremony Marking the 17th Departure Anniversary of Imam Khomeini,” The Center for Preserving and Publishing the Works of Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei, June 4, 2006, http://english.khamenei.ir/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=442&Itemid=2. See also Iran scholar Ervand Abrahamian, “Khamenei Has Said Iran Would Agree to Whatever the Palestinians Decide,” in David Barsamian, ed., Targeting Iran (San Francisco: City Lights, 2007), 112. Hassan Nasrallah has repeatedly expressed the same position.
65. For brief review of the record, and sources, see Failed States. See further Norman Finkelstein, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict (London: Verso, 1996; new edition 2003). For a detailed critical analysis of Israel’s security strategy from the outset, revealing clearly the preference for expansion over security and diplomatic settlement, see Zeev Maoz, Defending the Holy Land (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2006).
66. Ethan Bronner, “Gaza War Role Is Political Lift for Ex-Premier,” New York Times, January 8, 2009.
67. See Failed States, 193ff.
68. Gareth Porter, “Israel Rejected Hamas Ceasefire Offer in December,” Inter Press Service, January 9, 2009, www.ipsnews.net/print.asp?idnews=45350. For detailed analysis of the record of violation of cease-fires in the pst decade, see Nancy Kanwisher, Johannes Haushofer, and Anat Biletzki, “Reigniting Violence: How Do Ceasefires End?” Huffington Post, January 6, 2009, www.huttingtonpost/nancy-kanwisher/reigniting-violence-how-d_b_155611.html. Their analysis “shows that it is overwhelmingly Israel that kills first after a pause in the conflict...Indeed, it is virtually always Israel that kills after a lull lasting more than a week.”
69. Dion Nissenbaum, “Israel Ban on Sending Pasta to Gaza Illustrates Frictions,” McClatchy Newspapers, February 25, 2009; Joshua Mitnick and Charles Levinson, “World News: Peace Holds in Gaza; U.N. Chief Blasts Israel,” Wall Street Journal, January 21, 2009; and many others. On Hamas post-invasion truce offers, reiterating those rejected by Israel before the attack, see Khaled Abu Toameh, “Haniyeh: Hamas will consider cease-fire initiatives. Fatah official says leader in hiding has ‘raised the white flag.” Jerusalem Post, January 13, 2009; Stephen Gutkin, “Hamas Officials Signal Willingness to Negotiate,” Associated Press, January 29, 2009. On Israel’s rejection of truce offers shortly before the attack, see Porter, “Israel Rejected Hamas Ceasefire”; Peter Beaumont, “Israel PM’s Family Link to Hamas Peace Bid: Olmert Rejected Palestinian Attempt to Set Up Talks through Go-Between Before Gaza Invasion,” Observer, March 1, 2009, 33.
70. Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, “IDF Carries Out First Arrest in Gaza Strip Since Pullout,” Haaretz, June 24, 2006, www.haaretz.com/news/idf-carries-out-first-arrest-in-gaza-strip-since-pullout-1.191233; Caleb Carr, “A War of Escalating Errors,” Los Angeles Times, August 12, 2006. Noam Chomsky, Interventions (San Francisco: City Lights, 2007), 188.
71. Howard Friel and Richard Falk, Israel-Palestine on Record (New York: Verso, 2007), 136, citing Human Rights Watch, June 30, 2006.
72. Quoted in Jeremy Bowen, “Bowen Diary: the Days Before War,” BBC News, January 10, 2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7822048.stm.
73. Regev interviewed by David Fuller, Channel 4, UK, (video), www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6e-elrgYL0. Editorial, “The Other Israel,” Holon Israel, December 2008-January 2009.
74. Rory McCarthy, “Gaza Truce Broken as Israeli Raid Kills Six Hamas Gunmen,” Guardian, November 5, 2008.
75. David Rose, “The Gaza Bombshell,” Vanity Fair, April 2008. Norman Olsen, “An Inside Story of How the US Magnified Palestinian Suffering,” Christian Science Monitor, January 12, 2009.
76. Ethan Bronner, “U.S. Helps Palestinians Build Force for Security,” New York Times, February 27, 2009. Kerry, “Speech on the Middle East.”
77. On the origins of these methods in the Philippines after the U.S. invading army destroyed the popular forces that had effectively liberated the country from Spanish rule, slaughtering hundreds of thousands of Filipinos in the process, and the ways in which these new methods fed back to imposing surveillance and population control at home, see Alfred McCoy, Policing America’s Empire: the United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2009). Among other studies, see Martha Huggins, Political Policing: the United States and Central America (Chapel Hill, NC: Duke University Press, 1998); Patrice McSherry, Predatory States: Operation Condor and Covert War in Latin America (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005).
78. Sara Roy, “If Gaza Falls...” London Review of Books, January 1, 2009, 26; Sara Roy, “Israel’s ‘Victories’ in Gaza Come at a Steep Price,” Christian Science Monitor, January 2, 2009; Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Emergency Gaza Update 28.12.2008, www.phr.org.il/default.asp?pageid=190&itemid=430.
79. Porter, “Israel Rejected Hamas”; Beaumont, “Israel PM’s family link to Hamas peace bid,” Observer (UK), March 1, 2009.
80. Akiva Eldar, “White Flag, Black Flag,” Haaretz, January 5, 2009, www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1052621.html.
81. David Remnick, “Homelands,” New Yorker, January 12, 2009.
82. See Fateful Triangle, 201ff. Pirates and Emperors, 56f.
83. Stephen Lee Myers, “The New Meaning of an Old Battle,” New York Times, January 4, 2009.
84. David Ben-Gurion, “the strongman of the Yishuv...accepted the UN partition plan, but he did not accept as final the borders it laid down for the Jewish state,” expecting them to be established by “a clear-cut Jewish military victory.” Avi Shlaim, The Iron Wall (New York: W.W. Norton, 2000), 28-9. In internal discussion Ben-Gurion made it clear that “there are no final arrangements in history, there are no eternal borders, and there are no ultimate political claims. Changes and transformations will still occur in the world.” We accepted the loss of Trans-Jordan (Jordan), but “we have the right to the whole of western Palestine,” and “we want the Land of Israel in its entirety.” Uri Ben-Eliezer, The Making of Israeli Militarism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998), 150-1.
85. Maoz, Defending the Holy Land, 103.
86. Chomsky, Towards a New Cold War, 461-462n, citing Toldot HaHaganah, vol.2, 251f. He was accused of “pathological” behavior for referring (correctly) to the opposition of native-born Jews to Zionism (and for homosexuality).
87. Amnesty International, “Gaza Ceasefire at Risk,” November 5, 2008, www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/news/gaza-ceasefire-at+risk-200801105.
88. Fateful Triangle, 64f. For substantial evidence supporting this conclusion, see Maoz, Defending the Holy Land.
89. Andrew Cordesman, “The War in Gaza: Tactical Gains, Strategic Defeat?” Center for Strategic and International Studies. January 9, 2009, http://csis.org/publication/war-gaza. For Turki al-Faisal’s own words, see “Saudi Arabia’s Patience Is Running Out” Financial Times, January 23, 2009.
90. Uri Avnery, “How Many Divisions?” Gush Shalom-Israeli Peace Bloc, January 10, 2009, http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/avnery/1231625457.
91. Baruch Kimmerling, Politicide: Ariel Sharon’s War against the Palestinians (London: Verso, 2003).