Levy: “we could not get enough of the war”

January 22, 2009

Gideon Levy, an Israeli journalist writing in Haaretz, offers this confronting conclusion to his fellow citizens in the aftermath of the war:

The conclusion [from the international community regarding the war in Gaza] is that Israel is a violent and dangerous country, devoid of all restraints and blatantly ignoring the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, while not giving a hoot about international law. The investigations are on their way.

Graver still is the damage this will visit upon our moral spine. It will come from difficult questions about what the IDF did in Gaza, which will occur despite the blurring effect of recruited media.

So what was achieved, after all? As a war waged to satisfy considerations of internal politics, the operation has succeeded beyond all expectations. Likud Chair Benjamin Netanyahu is getting stronger in the polls. And why? Because we could not get enough of the war.

Read the rest of the article here.

The intentional humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

January 21, 2009

There has been a lot of discussion in the press, not to mention on this board, about the Israel’s motivations in Operation Cast Lead. Many will claim that Olmert, Barak and Livini’s main aim was to stop Hamas from firing rockets into Israel and threatening its population. “Security for Israel” and “Israel has a right to defend itself” are the most often repeated mantras from Israeli officials, their sympathisers and allies. Others on this blog, including myself, have made a case that this war was not about the rockets given that the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas had worked effectively and put an end to hostile fire across the border. Other secondary Israeli motivations include its upcoming elections in February, the outgoing US President Bush and the need for the IDF to restore its reputation after it failed to defeat Hezbollah in 2006.

This 22 day war produced a staggering number of dead civilians – over 1300 – and scores more wounded (estimates range between 4000-5000). Just like the thousand-plus Lebanese civilians who died in 2006, Gaza’s dead have also been reduced to a sad consequence of the war. Casualties are to be expected during such periods of hostility and if they are not intentional then it is somewhat excusable. Following this logic means Israel is, yet again, immune from condemnation and, worse still, from being held to account for its war crimes. Again I have elsewhere argued, following Mirko Bagaric, that the only thing that matters in war are the consequences. This includes the dead civilians even if they are accidently caught in the cross-fire.

Israel and its supporters would like the world to believe that the 1300 dead Gazans are the unavoidable costs of the war. This, however, is not the case. It seems, as Ben White writes in The Guardian, that Israel did deliberately target civilians as part of its war strategy. He writes:

There is . . . no shortage of evidence available that points to rather different Israeli aims [for the war other than Palestinian rockets, Israeli elections, and deterrence] . . . Politicians, diplomats and journalists are by and large shying away from the obvious, namely that Israel has been deliberately targeting Palestinian civilians and the very infrastructure of normal life, in order to – in the best colonial style – teach the natives a lesson.

White goes on list “three alternative purposes” behind the operation in Gaza which move beyond the generic explanations. His three findings are summarised below:

1. The first aim is to humiliate and weaken Hamas. On the one hand, this seems obvious, but contrary to how the goal is often understood, this is not primarily to protect the Israeli public – as pointed out previously, ceasefires and negotiations are far more likely to deliver security for Israeli citizens – but rather it is a political goal. Hamas had withstood isolation, a siege, mass arrests, and an attempted western-backed coup. Moreover, cracks were appearing in the international community’s resolve to parrot Israel’s line on Hamas. The group, with its resilience and ability to deliver on negotiated ceasefires, was threatening the chance to make a deal with the Ramallah “moderates” [i.e. Abbas and the PA].

Read the rest of this entry »

What is in store for Gaza’s population now?

January 20, 2009

Ahdaf Soueif’s article “The Palestinians say: ‘This is a war of extermination’ ” details some of the most horrific scenes the people of Gaza faced in the last three weeks. The stories Soueif records are not new – indeed, despite what Israeli officials have tried to tell the world, images from Gaza substantiate what can be found in the article. In Egypt at the general hospital at el-Arish she asks a Gazan man who he has accompanied there:

“I’m here with my nephew. He’s 19. Shrapnel in his head. He was sitting with his friends. He’s a student. Architecture. The helicopter dropped a bomb and seven of the group were killed and six were injured. They found a boy’s hand on a 3rd floor balcony.”

And Soueif goes on to write:

They [the Palestinians] describe bombs which break into 16 parts, each part splintering into 116 fragments, the white phosphorus which water cannot put out; which seems to die and then flares up again.

No one I spoke to has any doubt that the Israelis are committing war crimes. According to the medics here, to reports from doctors inside the Gaza Strip and to Palestinian eye-witnesses, more than 95% of the dead and injured are civilians. Many more will probably be found when the siege is lifted and the rubble is cleared. The doctors speak of a disproportionate number of head injuries – specifically of shrapnel lodged in the brain.

They also speak of the extensive burns of white phosphorus. These injuries are, as they put it, ‘incompatible with life’. They are also receiving large numbers of amputees. This is because the damage done to the bone by explosive bullets is so extensive that the only way the doctors in Gaza can save lives is by amputating.

Beyond this, and since writing her article, Soueif has uncovered the beginnings of another Israeli initiative which involves, under the auspices of humanitarian urgency, the permanent transfer of Palestinians from Gaza. Sonja Karkar, from the organization Woman for Palestine, outlines the following: Read the rest of this entry »

Oz protests against the Gaza carnage

January 15, 2009

Dr Gennaro Gervasio asked me to post the below information about scheduled protests all over Australia — Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Hobart, Wollongong, Newcastle — against the war on Gaza.  Sorry I’m so late in doing so, but most of the Thursday protests are scheduled for this evening so there’s still time to mobilize and attend.

–L.L. Wynn

Time: 5.30PM TO 6.30PM
We invite ALL WOMEN to join a silent vigil of mourning.
We condemn the ongoing military attacks on Gaza.
We stand with thousands in Israel and around the world who seek peace with justice for Palestinians.
The vigil is initiated by representatives of Women in Black-Sydney. http://www.wibsydney.org Read the rest of this entry »

Israel admits: NO Hamas rockets during ceasefire

January 15, 2009


For 18 days the Israeli Government has justified to the world that their decision to unleash a massive military campaign against the people of Gaza was as a direct result of Hamas’ breach of the ceasefire brokered by the Egyptian Government.

Hamas has always stated that between June 2008 and November 2008 they did not fire a single rocket into Israel.

In a recent interview given to Channel 4 News, the Israeli Government’s official spokesman Mark Ragev finally admitted that Hamas did not break the ceasefire.


So by their own admission the Israeli Government broke the terms of the ceasefire first and in doing so have slaughtered almost 1000 people and injured over 3000, not to mention wantonly destroying the infrastructure of Gaza.

Israel: Whose Democracy?

January 14, 2009

Josef Federman from Associated Press reports  “Israel bans Arab parties from coming elections”

So much for the claim that Israel is the Middle East’s only democracy. One-fifth of Israel’s population are Arabs. There is no evidence that they would all vote for Arab parties but this recent move is clearly designed to deny Arabs a voice of their own in Israeli politics. In this respect, Israel is not that different from Egypt which denies some oppositional political parties from engaging in the electoral process.(you can also read more here at http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1054867.html)

Anti-War News reports that “Israel indicts Two Journalists for Reporting Start of Gaza Invasion”

Not much room for a free press in Israel either. And the rule of law seems to be an anachronism in Israel as the government and the military have ignored a Supreme Court decision to allow eight foreign journalists into Gaza.

On a related but different matter, I recently received an email which was sent to try and convince me that Israel was a beacon of light in a region of degeneration and primitive tribal conflict (ironic really at this moment that Zionists are making such claims) complete with a photo of Albert Einstein . I am well aware that Albert Einstein was Jewish but also that he was no Zionist and since his death in 1955 Israeli and non-Israeli Zionists have made every effort to attach his name and his legacy to a Jewish only Israel. Other Jewish people have fought to remind people of Einstein’s antipathy to Zionism. Just as a reminder of Einstein’s position on Zionism, at this time of heightened pro-Israeli propaganda, read Albert Einstein’s forewarning of the dangers of Zionism sixty years ago at: http://www.rense.com/general59/ein.htm

Who ends ceasefires, Israel or Hamas?

January 14, 2009

Some interesting research from a group at MIT, led by Nancy Kanwisher, Nancy the Ellen Swallow Richards Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at MIT.  The team plots out and graphs who it is that breaks the peace when there has been a lull in killing between Israel and Palestine.  A quote:

We decided to tally the data to find out. We analyzed the entire timeline of killings of Palestinians by Israelis, and killings of Israelis by Palestinians, in the Second Intifada, based on the data from the widely-respected Israeli Human Rights group B’Tselem (including all the data from September 2000 to October 2008).

The answer?

Thus, a systematic pattern does exist: it is overwhelmingly Israel, not Palestine, that kills first following a lull. Indeed, it is virtually always Israel that kills first after a lull lasting more than a week.

The lessons from these data are clear:

First, Hamas can indeed control the rockets, when it is in their interest. The data shows that ceasefires can work, reducing the violence to nearly zero for months at a time.

Second, if Israel wants to reduce rocket fire from Gaza, it should cherish and preserve the peace when it starts to break out, not be the first to kill.

Check out the original argument for the graphs.  Also, check out this discouraging news report that makes it look like Bush is Olmert’s marionette, with Israel pulling the strings of American foreign policy…