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 »

The Murder of Hussein Mumin

November 19, 2008

I know this is a site for discussion about issues  related  to the Middle East but I had to post this story because of the cruel, tragic and senseless nature of the story and the impact it had on me. So please excuse me for posting on a subject on the widest possible margin of this blog.

This is a story about the killing of a homeless man, an Somali immigrant to Australia, Hussein Mumin which I read this morning in the Sydney Morning Herald. Hussein may or may not have been a victim of a racially motivated attack (he had been in the past) but the racial discrimination that Africans- especially the Sudanese and Somalis- have experienced in Australia has been well documented. Hussein was not only an immigrant but also homeless, and combined these two realities made him one of the most invisible members of our society. The horrific nature of his killing is compounded by the neglect of his story in the press and a reminder of how little value our society has for the poor and for minorities. I hope that Hussein’s killers are identified and that the value of the life they took is brought home to them by the judicial system.

Australia’s recent treatment of migrants has been cruel and in numerous cases tantamount to torture. This is case is of an even more heinous nature and is reminder of what can happen when government’s institutionalise and condone racism, as with Kevin Andrew’s comments about Sudanese-Australians last year. The Rudd government has made a good start in overturning this legacy with the apology to indigenous Australians and the embracing of the Obama victory, but much more is still needed to be done to unravel the racialism which was an integral part of the Howard period. A more concerted government effort in battling racism is needed if Australia is to ensure the safety of the numerous African communities that have decided to make Australia their home.  A strongly worded government statement about the tradegy of the death of Hussein Mumin, public condolences and a guarantee that the perpetrators will be caught would send a message that Australia is committed to the protection of all human life, even that of the weakest and most silent members of society. And possibly if this would occur then maybe Hussein’s sister and his friends may start to feel that his brutal death was not in complete vain.

Noah Bassil

Online Resource on the Nakba

June 2, 2008

From The Institute for Palestine Studies:

The Institute for Palestine Studies has created a special online resource to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1948. “1948: Sixty Years On…” draws on the Institute’s rich archives and its flagship Journal of Palestine Studies to provide wide public access to incisive articles, analyses, memoirs, detailed maps, and chronologies. These materials illuminate the events culminating in the establishment of the state of Israel and the beginning of the Palestinian tragedy.

Readers can download PDF versions of landmark JPS articles such as Walid Khalidi’s 1961 “Plan Dalet: Master Plan for the Conquest of Palestine” – the first article in English ever to call attention to a comprehensive Zionist military plan and spell out its details – and a rare memoir by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser about his own participation as an officer in the 1948 war. Scholars, journalists, policy makers and educators will find this online resource timely and useful. Read the rest of this entry »

Palestinian refugees in Lebanon

March 31, 2008

This campaign may be of interest to readers of Khaldoun, and please also forward to anyone you think might be willing to contribute to ANERA’s campaign to address the dire circumstances of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

For those who don’t know, over 30,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon remain displaced after last summer’s siege of the Nahr al-Bared camp and there seems little reason to think that camp will ever be rebuilt for the use of refugees, further exacerbating conditions at the camps (principally Shatila, Burj al-Barajneh and Baddawi) to which the displaced
were forced. Given the already incredibly cramped conditions at all of the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, the influx of the destitute Nahr al-Bared population into the remaining camps has strained limited infrastructure beyond the breaking point. Read the rest of this entry »

Palestine coverage through 4 Mar 08

March 4, 2008

One week has elapsed since the last article summary posted and what a week it has been! Israel managed to kill dozens of civilians in this short period while simultaneously pulling off another of its great PR triumphs, recharacterizing as *defensive* its military attack on a jam-packed tiny strip of land densely populated with trapped refugees possessing no defensive capacity of their own. One of the world’s most sophisticated armies is confronted with the equivalent of gerry-rigged molotov cocktails and responds by pounding the entire civilian population into the ground. Of course per Alan Dershowitz (publishing in today’s WSJ) there is no such thing as a civilian Palestinian or Lebanese, and indeed I would guess on his reasoning there are no Arab civilians more generally if said Arabs are in Israel’s cross-hairs. By his definition, a Palestinian, Lebanese or other Arab killed by Israel is a militant. Well, that’s not the take of B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights group, reporting on the tally of death from Israel’s mindless onslaught of last week — but more on that below. Read the rest of this entry »

Palestine coverage through 7 Feb 08

February 10, 2008

Today’s selection reprises what I think have been some of the better (or sometimes simply noteworthy) pieces since the end of last week. I begin with Darryl Li’s assessment of the situation in Gaza following his own visit there in January. Li was stuck in Gaza during one of the more severe of Israel’s closures, preventing even humanitarian deliveries or entry/exit by internationals from the area. His account of what he witnessed, written for the Israeli organization Adalah, is well worth the read.

The next couple of articles detail the ongoing killing of Gazans by Israeli air strikes and Israeli plans to ensure the total isolation of Gaza by establishing their own fence at the Egyptian-Gaza border. The Christian Science Monitor covers the Dimona suicide bombing as a renewed basis for Israeli construction of the Wall through annexation of Palestinian lands. Princeton’s Dan Kurtzer has a piece about negotiations in the “peace process” in the Lebanese Daily Star, which I
have included. Then there is the Israeli effort to externalize costs of occupation through a call for an international body to be made responsible for “resettlement” of Palestinian refugees. Read the rest of this entry »