Friday, June 30, 2006

Clueless in Gaza?

The government is losing its reason

By Haaretz Editorial

Bombing bridges that can be circumvented both by car and on foot; seizing an airport that has been in ruins for years; destroying a power station, plunging large parts of the Gaza Strip into darkness; distributing flyers suggesting that people be concerned about their fate; a menacing flight over Bashar Assad's palace; and arresting elected Hamas officials: The government wishes to convince us that all these actions are intended only to release the soldier Gilad Shalit.

But the greater the government's creativity in inventing tactics, the more it seems to reflect a loss of direction rather than an overall conception based on reason and common sense. On the face of it, Israel wishes to exert increasing pressure both on Hamas' political leadership and on the Palestinian public, in order to induce it to pressure its leadership to release the soldier. At the same time, the government claims that Syria - or at least Khaled Meshal, who is living in Syria - holds the key. If so, what is the point of pressuring the local Palestinian leadership, which did not know of the planned attack and which, when it found out, demanded that the kidnappers take good care of their victim and return him?

The tactic of pressuring civilians has been tried before, and more than once. The Lebanese, for example, are very familiar with the Israeli tactic of destroying power stations and infrastructure. Entire villages in south Lebanon have been terrorized, with the inhabitants fleeing in their thousands for Beirut. But what also happens under such extreme stress is that local divisions evaporate and a strong, united leadership is forged. [my emphasis]

In the end, Israel was forced both to negotiate with Hezbollah and to withdraw from Lebanon. Now, the government appears to be airing out its Lebanon catalogue of tactics and implementing it, as though nothing has been learned since then. One may assume that the results will be similar this time around as well.

Israel also kidnapped people from Lebanon to serve as bargaining chips in dealings with the kidnappers of Israeli soldiers. Now, it is trying out this tactic on Hamas politicians. As the prime minister said in a closed meeting: "They want prisoners released? We'll release these detainees in exchange for Shalit." By "these detainees," he was referring to elected Hamas officials.

The prime minister is a graduate of a movement whose leaders were once exiled, only to return with their heads held high and in a stronger position than when they were deported. But he believes that with the Palestinians, things work differently.

As one who knows that all the Hamas activists deported by Yitzhak Rabin returned to leadership and command positions in the organization, Olmert should know that arresting leaders only strengthens them and their supporters. But this is not merely faulty reasoning; arresting people to use as bargaining chips is the act of a gang, not of a state. [my emphasis]

The government was caught up too quickly in a whirlwind of prestige mixed with fatigue. It must return to its senses at once, be satisfied with the threats it has made, free the detained Hamas politicians and open negotiations. The issue is a soldier who must be brought home, not changing the face of the Middle East. [my emphasis]

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Israel goes into Overkill Mode

Whilst there was some hope that Israel's response to the capture of one of their soldiers, Corporal Gilad Shalit, would be proportionate and responsible, its latest actions can now only be described as "an eye for 64 eyes". Two Gazan bridges have been destroyed, a power station crippled, empty fields shelled by 155 mm artillery, a population terrorised by sonic booms and now finally, in a further escalation, 64 MPs, mostly Hamas, have been arrested.

How all this is somehow going to help the Israelis to get their man back remains a mystery.

More ironically, the fact that both sides are now closer to the brink of all out war than they have been for a long time, comes at a time
when progress towards the recognition issue was starting to be made. This then is what Hamas get in return for a small but significant concession: being rounded up by Israel. What kind of signal is this sending to the Palestinian people and the world at large?

Call me cynical, but at this junction it's difficult to escape the impression the Israeli Government isn't really all that interested in the recognition issue or in negotiations for that matter and that all that really matters to them is unilateral "convergence". Be done with it and be damned, as it were. Who's going to stop them? That's a rhetorical question, of course...

Guardian report.

Amy Goodman on the Gaza Crisis

Israeli forces have invaded the Gaza Strip for the first time since withdrawing ten months ago. Israel says it launched the raid to recover a soldier captured by Palestinian militants. The strikes came just hours after Fatah and Hamas agreed on a document to implicitly recognize Israel within its 1967 borders. We go to Gaza to speak with Palestinian physician Dr. Mona El-Farra and we get comment from former Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami and Palestinian activist Ali Abunimah. [includes rush transcript]

Israeli forces have invaded the Gaza Strip for the first time since withdrawing ten months ago. Israel says it's launched the raid to recover captured soldier Gilad Shalit. Shalit was captured in a Palestinian operation on Sunday. The raid began after Israel rejected Shalit's captors demand for the release of all Palestinian females and Palestinians below the age of eighteen in Israeli prisons. Israel opened the attack with a series of air strikes on three bridges and Gaza's main power station. The attack left the power station in flames and knocked out electricity in most of Gaza City. Palestinian militants have reportedly taken up defensive positions around Gaza - setting the stage for a potential firefight with the invading soldiers.

The strikes came just hours after officials close to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Hamas had agreed on a document to implicitly recognize Israel within its June 1967 borders. Hamas leaders later denied this is the case. Hamas lawmaker Salah al-Bardaweel explained: "We said we accept a state [in territory occupied] in 1967 - but we did not say we accept two states." The deal follows weeks of negotiations between Fatah and Hamas leaders over the terms of a unity government. Palestinians hope the agreement will bring an end to the crippling international aid freeze imposed since Hamas swept to power in elections earlier this year.

Ali Abunimah, a writer, speaker and founder of the website Electronic Intifada. He is author of the book "One Country: A Bold proposal to end the Israeli-Palestinian impasse" which will be published by Metropolitan Books this Fall. He joins on the line from Amman, Jordan.

Shlomo Ben-Ami, has held a number of positions within the Israeli government, including Foreign Minister, Minister of Public Security and Member of Parliament. His latest book is "Scars of Wars, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy." He speaks to us from Madrid, Spain, where he is currently Vice-President of the Toledo Peace Center.

Dr. Mona El-Farra, a physician and community activist in northern Gaza. She was at the hospital that received many of the victims of Friday's bombing. She runs a blog titled "From Gaza, With Love"

AMY GOODMAN: We're joined on the telephone from Spain by Shlomo Ben-Ami. He's the former Foreign Minister of Israel and a former member of the Israeli Knesset. He wrote the book Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy. We're also joined on the line by Ali Abunimah, founder of Electronic Intifada,, speaking to us from Jordan. Ali Abunimah, can you talk about the latest news?

ALI ABUNIMAH: Yes. Good morning, Amy. I’m here in Amman, Jordan, and watching the situation very closely. And it reminds me of the eulogy that Rabbi Yakov Perin gave for Baruch Goldstein, the Israeli settler who murdered 29 Palestinians in Hebron in 1994. He said, “One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail.” And this kind of racism is clearly on display in the Israeli reaction to the capture of its soldier in the Gaza Strip by the Palestinian resistance. In fact, last week here in Amman, the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said explicitly that the lives of Israeli Jews are more important than the lives of Palestinians.

And we see that reflected also in the world reaction. Is it not astonishing that the entire world knows the name and face of the Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, while the hundreds of Palestinian children held in Israel's dungeons, not to mention 10,000 adult prisoners, thousands held without charge and trial, abducted from their homes in the middle of the night by Israeli occupation forces, remain nameless and faceless before a silent world?

And I want to say that it's very deeply painful to me as a Palestinian that while Palestinians in Gaza are demonstrating, the families of prisoners are demonstrating to urge the resistance not to release the soldier until their prisoners and hostages held by Israel are released, that the Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas rushed to condemn the legitimate conventional military operation carried out by the resistance and rushed to send his security forces to hunt for the captured soldier on Israel's behalf, when never once in history has he deployed his forces to protect and defend his own people against Israel's daily massacres. It's becoming unavoidable to many Palestinians, if not most, that Abbas is engaged in open collaboration with the occupation.

And a final point, that as far as Israel is concerned, it is rapidly becoming a failed state, unable to learn any lessons from its past. It's now repeating in Gaza and the West Bank all the mistakes of its invasion and occupation of Lebanon. And I believe that if it doesn't drastically and dramatically change course, it will self-destruct within a decade, perhaps taking everyone else in the region with it. It has become an apartheid pariah state, and its leaders are deluded in thinking that they can bludgeon the indigenous Palestinian population, who are now the majority between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, into submission and servitude.

I call on brave Israelis to understand the lessons, which brave white South Africans understood, and to engage in a voluntary process with Palestinians of dismantling completely, starting today, the system of racist laws, walls and settler colonies that are imprisoning both people in perpetual and endless and escalating bloodshed. It needs to stop now.

AMY GOODMAN: Ali Abunimah speaking to us from Amman. Let's turn to the former Israeli Foreign Minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami. Your response?

SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Response to what?

AMY GOODMAN: To what Ali Abunimah just said?

SHLOMO BEN-AMI: No, no. I’m not going to respond to that. If you have any particular question with regard to this operation, with regard to the abduction, with regard of the political situation on the ground -- I’m not going to go into that wider analysis about South Africa and what have you.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, why don't you start with what is happening right now?

SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Well, what seems to me that is happening right now is that Israel is trying to change the equation that was established by those who took the soldier as hostage. Their equation was one of releasing the soldier for prisoners in Israeli jails, and Israel seems that the present government is not ready for that, although previous governments did negotiate and Rabin negotiated. Even Sharon negotiated to exchange prisoners. This government doesn't seem to be politically confident enough to negotiate, and therefore, they want to change the equation to one that means that we will withdraw from Gaza or we’ll stop -- we’ll interrupt this incursion if the soldier is released.

Is this going to work? I’m not sure it is going to work. I am afraid that these kind of operations tend to have a dynamic that one knows how they start, one doesn't really know how they end. I hope it doesn't end in the collapse of the Palestinian Authority, in the collapse of Abu Mazen, and the rest of it, because the situation is difficult enough without this modicum of stability and legitimacy that is given by the current president and the prime minister is destroyed. So I really expect that things will be controlled in some way.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think that the Israeli government should release prisoners?

SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Should release prisoners? Well, I think that these kind of situations require a sort of political approach, rather than military approach. You see, it's not that easy also to say that they should release prisoners, because that means that every Israeli citizen is a candidate to be taken hostage. The dilemma is not simple. I am for a political solution. These might perhaps take the form of, say -- that the quid pro quo from the point of view of Israel would have to be not to persist in the suffocation, the economic suffocation, of the Gaza Strip, the boycott to the Palestinian Authority. These kind of quid pro quos maybe we can reach through some sort of third party mediation. I’m not sure that exchanging prisoners will work, simply because this means exposing every Israeli citizen to being taken hostage.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think the Israeli government was wrong to reinvade Gaza?

SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Well, yes. I think it was wrong to do that, because -- if only for the reasons that affect the stability of the government itself. You see, the government is engaged now in this idea of disengagement from the West Bank. If the they invade the Gaza Strip, what they are going to show to the Israeli opinion and to public opinion, as a whole, is that disengagement, unilateral disengagement, doesn't work. If you do not coordinate things, either with the Palestinians or through a third party -- the Quartet, for example -- disengagement creates a frontline in a state of war, in a permanent state of war. And therefore, you'll have to reoccupy the territory, so what's the point in disengaging in such a manner? I think the government is exposing the fallacies of its own policy by occupying or reoccupying the Gaza Strip.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to Gaza right now, where Dr. Mona El-Farra is. She is a physician in northern Gaza, a health development consultant for the Union of Health Work Committees in Gaza. What is the situation on the ground right now, Dr. El-Farra?

DR. MONA EL-FARRA: Since the early hours of the morning, the Israeli army did not stop their sonic bombing against the Gaza Strip. They started the operation last night, 10:30. They targeted the infrastructure of the Gaza Strip. Two-thirds -- the main target was the electrical power plant. And now, two-thirds of Gaza Strip are with no electricity.
The population mood is angry, anxious, worried, scared. But despite all this, demonstrations are going in the streets against the release of the soldier, especially by the families of the political prisoners. This is the opinion, feeling.

And I have a comment here to say. There's no balance of power between the Israeli army and the militia or the resistance movement here in Gaza. Israeli knows that very well. So what's happening in Gaza now is collective punishment. I don't understand, why to destroy the infrastructure? Why to deprive the population from the electricity? It is collective punishment. This will not bring the soldier back.

What will bring the soldier back: negotiation, understanding the rights of Palestinian people to exist. The disengagement plan, for example, and the wall in the West Bank, all these measures Israel did to guarantee its security, it did not, anyway, because the security of Israel is not harmed by the resistance or largely harmed by the Palestinian resistance.

The mood is very bad in Gaza and angry. You can see twenty -- 2,000 people last night demonstrated in the middle camps of Gaza Strip against the release of the soldier, or the release of the soldier in swap of the political prisoners. People feel they are humiliated and Israel and the world wants us to kneel down. This is the mood of the people here now in Gaza.

AMY GOODMAN: The issue of collective punishment, Shlomo Ben-Ami, former Foreign Minister of Israel, your response to that?

SHLOMO BEN-AMI: I am not favorable to collective punishment. But, you see, one needs to see the conditions on the ground. When Israel withdraws from the Gaza Strip and then you have every day Kassam missiles being launched against an Israeli township, what would you do then? What is the answer to that? I mean, either to reoccupy the land or to open political negotiations, but that's, for example, President Abbas or even Ismael Haniyeh -- control all the factions in Gaza, do they control Islamic jihad? Do they control the martyrs of Al-Aqsa? So you have here a very serious problem.

We need sometimes to descend from the heights of the conceptual or even of the moral ground to see what can be done on the ground. So the problem is that the government has been trying all kind of ways to stop the launching of Kassam missiles. I’m sure that Ismael Haniyeh is not interested in these attacks. I’m sure that Mahmoud Abbas is not interested. Do they have the capacity to stop it? They don't have it, because the political system or the hierarchy of command, the chain of command, is invertibrate. So what is Israel to do in such a situation?

AMY GOODMAN: Ali Abunimah, your response?

ALI ABUNIMAH: Well, it's amazing, the rhetoric of Shlomo Ben-Ami, who knows much better. I’ve heard him expose the situation more eloquently, even on your show, Amy. He knows very well that this isn't about Gaza. This is about Israel's relentless assault on the Palestinians throughout the Occupied Territories, its expansion of colonies and settlements in the occupied West Bank, and its announced annexation plan, which even he has criticized. But he's not against the annexation of the West Bank. What he believes, he's deluded in believing, is that Palestinians -- they can find Palestinians who will sit and agree to the annexation of Ma’ale Adumim, Ariel and all the settlements around the Occupied Territories.

What he has to realize and what all Israelis have to realize is that the age of colonialism has ended. He said, Shlomo Ben-Ami said, that the so-called convergence plan, the unilateral annexation plan, is Israeli's attempt to preempt the world recognizing that Israel is now a Jewish minority ruling over a Palestinian majority.

He wants to talk about the Quartet and the U.S. and doing things on the ground, because he doesn't want to talk about the big picture, that what is driving the conflict is the radical inequality between the Jewish minority, that rules all of the territory between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and the disenfranchised Palestinian majority, who are paying the price for the luxury that Israel lives in, for the high incomes of Israelis, for the settlements, for the swimming pools, for the security in Tel Aviv and in Hertzliyah and in Jaffa and in Haifa and in Akka, that Israelis live a normal life all around the country, except in Sderot, where they experience the few dozen customs. But what pays for that normality for Israelis is the total disenfranchisement and dispossession of the majority population. And Israel believes that it can hide them behind walls, in ghettos, as was done to Jews in Europe in the 1930s and ‘40s.

And he should be a brave Israeli. He should speak out against the occupation. He should speak out against the apartheid laws inside Israel, not just in the West Bank. He should condemn the law that says that an Israeli citizen can marry anybody in the world, except a Palestinian, that an Israeli who marry a Palestinian has to leave the country. This is a new style of apartheid. It is even, as some have said, a new kind of Nuremberg law. And I’m waiting for Shlomo Ben-Ami to live up to his claimed liberal and progressive credentials and condemn these things and join the struggle to liberate not just Palestinians, but also Israelis, from this devastating system of oppression and apartheid, which will kill all of us --

AMY GOODMAN: Let me put that question to Shlomo Ben-Ami.

SHLOMO BEN-AMI: As I told you, Amy, I really thought we were going to talk about the current crisis, as it is.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I think --

SHLOMO BEN-AMI: I, of course, do not deny things that I say about the convergence plan. I dedicated my political life to trying to reach a settlement, that essentially meant disengaging from Palestinian lands, having the fully fledged Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. These are my credentials. It's not books that I’ve written. It is things that I’ve tried to do.
Now, we have a political crisis there, and we are trying to see how we solve it. My suggestion is, as I said before, not to invade, try to find a different quid pro quo, and that is, stopping the suffocation of the Palestinian economy in Gaza, improving relations with the Palestinian Authorities, and moving to a political phase. This is my solution to the current crisis. I don't want to go now into the wider picture. I have said things, I have written things about it. I don't want to repeat it right now. And frankly, I am in the middle of a business lunch. I had the idea that we are having a very short interview.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let me just ask you --

SHLOMO BEN-AMI: And now I am interrupting the whole reunion.

AMY GOODMAN: I’m very sorry. I just want to ask you one last question: the strikes coming just hours after officials close to Mahmoud Abbas said Hamas had agreed on a document to implicitly recognize Israel within its June ‘67 borders.

SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Yeah. I think it is a very important document. I think that if indeed they sign it, this will at least stem the decline into a potential civil war between Palestinians. I think it is in Israel's interest to have a united Palestinian polity, that is, that subscribes to a shared political plan. I would have preferred them to simply subscribe to the Arab Peace Initiative. I think they have departed from that legitimacy, or from that inter-Arab legitimacy, and created their own. I don't see the logic of it. I think that the Arab Peace Initiative has a worldwide legitimacy, and simply subscribing to it would have meant a lot, in terms of Israeli public opinion. As it is, I think it enhances the unity between Palestinians, but it creates a condition that, I am afraid -- and again, I’m not speaking theory and not generalities -- I’m afraid that the current Israeli government will not see that as a starter.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you for being with us, Shlomo Ben-Ami, former Israeli Foreign Minister, Member of Parliament, book Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy. He is speaking to us from Spain. Thanks for joining us. We will come back to this discussion after break with Ali Abunimah, as well as Dr. El-Farra.

AMY GOODMAN: We are talking to Ali Abunimah, founder of Electronic Intifada; and Dr. Mona El-Farra, physician in northern Gaza. Ali Abunimah, your response to this document, that at least those close to Mahmoud Abbas said that Hamas had agreed to recognizing Israel within the ‘67 borders.

ALI ABUNIMAH: I think if tomorrow Ismael Haniyeh and Khaled Meshaal and all the other leaders of Hamas get down on their knees and say, “We want to give up everything to Israel and accept a state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip and accept to cancel the rights of Palestinian refugees and to abandon our rights to resist the occupation in any form whatsoever,” it would make no difference whatsoever, Amy, because the stumbling block, the fiction, here is that it's the Palestinians who have rejected this. The Hamas leaders, like the leaders of Fatah, have said many times that they're willing to talk to Israel, they're willing to recognize Israel. The Hamas leaders have said, “Okay, we don't want to do that in advance, because the PLO did that in advance during the Oslo Accords and got nothing in return. So we do it on the basis of reciprocity.”

The problem, Amy, is that Israel is still completely 100% committed to colonialism. That is why Israel is continuing to seize land in the West Bank, to build new settler colonies every day, to pave Jewish-only roads in the West Bank, to build the apartheid wall, to treat Gaza as a giant prison. The reason that Israel pulled its settlers out of Gaza, as Shlomo Ben-Ami has said before, is to create the fiction that Israel is not ruling over a Palestinian majority, exactly as South Africa created the Bantustans to try and fool the world into thinking that Blacks had their rights within these so-called independent homelands and didn't need to have rights within the South African state. The same trick will not work in Palestine, as it did not work in South Africa.

And the world needs to recognize that. And I’m thrilled that there's a growing civil society movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions that does. This is what is going to put pressure on Israel to end the colonial practices, no matter what document is signed between Hamas and Fatah. That will make no difference if there is no active worldwide opposition and resistance to Israel's colonialism. That is what will make a difference.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Mona El-Farra, I wanted to give you the last word. When we last spoke -- Shlomo Ben-Ami was talking about the shelling of Kassam, and we last spoke, Dr. El-Farra, when you were at the hospital after the children, the families were -- the explosions on the beach in Gaza and a number of members of one family killed. What is the latest on that situation?

DR. MONA EL-FARRA: Okay. First, just quickly, I totally agree with the analysis of Mr. Abunimah, totally agree with his analysis. Israelis did not try in the excuse of the soldier. The plan was ready to invade Gaza -- not physically invade it. Anyway, Israel did not invade Gaza. They are controlling us from outside.

Regarding the Kassam rockets, I would like to know how many people really were injured by these Kassam rockets. As I told you before, the balance of power is towards Israel. These Kassam rockets and the other rockets is just very primitive devices. It is just a show of -- protesting against what's happening here. But seriously, it doesn't hurt Israeli security. What was your question?

AMY GOODMAN: The latest on the family that we last spoke to you about, that member -- a number of members of the family, of the Galia family, who were killed at the Gaza beach, and the conflicting reports. Human Rights Watch and you, yourself, as a doctor in the hospital, saying that it was as a result of Israeli shelling, and the Israeli military saying it was Palestinian bombs.

DR. MONA EL-FARRA: Yeah, yeah, okay. This is a big joke for me, and I’m totally, like all of us here in Gaza, totally convinced by the fact that it was Israeli shelling. I met the doctors who received the injured. I saw the injured myself, and the site of injuries show that it was not from mines. Minefield injuries are different from shelling injuries. The site of the injuries were in the upper side of the bodies. Beside, the shrapnel we found, it was the same like what we received in the case of Jabalia two years ago. So no matter what Israel is trying to say -- it is Palestinian mines -- this is not acceptable for us. And you forget all this. We don't need to add a new crime to the Israeli crimes. Even if this was from the Palestinian side, we have a large record of Israeli assault against Palestinians.

And just I need somebody to explain to me, why this sonic bombing? And now, since 3:00 in the morning until now, we are under heavy sonic bombing from the sky. This, I consider, collective punishment, and it will not secure Israeli security. It is just they are humiliating us as Palestinians. They want us to kneel down. And I agree with Mr. Abunimah, what Israel is doing now sort of revives the idea of colonialism in the area.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both for being with us, Dr. Mona El-Farra, physician, community activist in northern Gaza, and Ali Abunimah, who is founder of We thank you both for joining us.

Big hat tip to
This Old Brit, find also links, audio and transcripts.

The chicken and the egg: Yet more Gaza blues…

Alex Stein, over at, has an excellent piece on the unravelling situation in Gaza. Although it's already been superseded by the most recent events, the arrests of Hamas leaders, it's well worth the read:

What came first? The chicken or the egg? Recently, scientists claimed to have resolved the issue. It was the egg. Apparently, genetic material doesn’t change during an animal’s life. Hence, in prehistoric times, the chicken must have first existed as an embryo inside an egg. This is, of course, the causality dilemma par excellence. One cannot have one without the other. And somehow, resolving the issue doesn’t prove satisfying in the slightest. Because we still know that we need a chicken to produce an egg, and vice versa. Knowing what came first doesn’t alter those basic parameters.

Cycles of violence are also determined by chicken and egg scenarios. Logically, some argue, if the source of the first act of violence can be traced, then responsibility can be attributed. In the case at hand, that of the escalating chaos in Gaza, the ‘pro-Israelis’ can point the finger at the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, while the ‘pro-Palestinians’ can point the finger at weeks of Israeli ‘restraint’, which left scores of innocent Palestinian civilians dead. In addition, with memories in the Middle East being longer than most, the blame game can be played out over the preceding years, decades and centuries. This is extremely satisfying if you’re in the business of trying to feel morally pure, but not if you are seeking to stop the violence.

The cycle of violence in Israel/Palestine plays itself out in a recognised paradigm: Palestinian attack/disproportionate Israeli response/Palestinian attack yada yada yada. Or Israeli attack/Palestinian response/Israeli attack yada yada yada. In terms of the chicken and the egg, it’s a causality palindrome. Being the weaker party, the Palestinians will always come off worse, at least physically. While they are aware of this, they are also trapped by the logic which suggests they need Israeli escalation in order to demonstrate their plight to the world. Such an approach costs lives.
Read on.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Shalit's father hopes IDF raid won't yield more casualties

By Gideon Alon and Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondents.

Noam Shalit, the father of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Corporal Gilad Shavit, said Wednesday that his family believes that the government decided to carry out a military incursion in the Gaza Strip after deep consideration.

"The emphasis here is on an intelligent, rather than impassioned, operation," Shalit said. "We would like no additional injuries, not among IDF troops and certainly not among innocent civilians on both sides, Israeli and Palestinian. This is of the utmost importance to us."
Read on.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Progress on the Recognition Issue?

From Haaretz.

Hamas, Fatah reach deal on plan that implicitly recognizes Israel

By News Agencies

Hamas and Fatah on Tuesday completed an agreement over a plan that implicitly recognizes Israel, ending weeks of acrimonious negotiations, a top official said.

"We have an agreement over the document," said Ibrahim Abu Najah, coordination of the "national dialogue" over the proposal.

Palestinain Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah has been trying to coax his Hamas rivals into endorsing the document, which calls for a Palestinian state alongside Israel, based on the 1967 borders.

All the obstacles were removed and an agreement was reached on all the points of the prisoners' document," Rawhi Fattouh, a senior aide to Abbas, said after factions meeting in Gaza initialed the accord.

Fattouh said Haniyeh and Abbas would formally announce the deal later in the day. A Hamas spokesman confirmed an agreement was reached.

But the phrasing of the deal between Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas deal appeared to leave the prime minister's movement wriggle room on the issue.

He has endorsed the plan as a way to end crippling economic sanctions against the Hamas-led Palestinian government and pave the way to reopening peace talks.

Western states imposed sanctions on the Palestinian government following Hamas' victory in parliamentary elections earlier this year, in the wake of the group's refusal to recognize Israel, renounce violence or abide by peace treaties signed by its predecessor, Fatah.

Islamic Jihad, another militant group, said it still rejected several points in the document, including the concept of a Palestinian state limited to the West Bank and Gaza.

Jihad Khaled al-Batsh, a senior Islamic Jihad official, said the group would issue a statement later detailing its final position.

Some Palestinian sources said the tense security situation, with the Israel Defense Forces massing troops and tanks on Gaza's border in the wake of the abduction of an IDF soldier, had pushed the factions to intensify their efforts to reach a political agreement.

The Guardian has this:

Fears of an Israeli assault on Gaza have all but overshadowed the agreement between Hamas and Fatah over the so-called "prisoners' document", which brings to an end months of tensions that have seen gun battles between armed forces loyal to the two groups.

Palestinian politics has been torn between president Mahmoud Abbas, who is a member of Fatah, and the more hardline Hamas party that has dominated its parliament since the January elections.

The US and EU imposed sanctions on the Palestinian territories after the elections because it considers Hamas a terrorist group, but the "prisoners' document" is hoped to address international concerns by toning down Hamas' insistence on armed force and its implacable opposition to the existence of Israel.

Negotiator Salah Zeidan said preparations were being made for a formal signing ceremony. "All political groups are prepared for a mutual ceasefire with Israel," he said.

"We have an agreement over the document," said Ibrahim Abu Najah, coordinator of the "national dialogue" over the proposal.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Life in a Palestinian Refugee Camp

Source: Le Monde (07/06/06), translation by (and slightly edited by myself).

Le Monde's middle east reporter Mouna Naïm details here some aspects of the actual daily lives of Palestinians in the Lebanese refugee Camps. She starts with Chatila in Beyrouth, famously known as the place where, in 1982, Israel and Ariel Sharon prepared, watched carefully and helped their Lebanese Christian trained militia massacre Palestinian women and children, after the departure of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) from Beyrouth under international pressures, leaving behind a defenseless population.

A woman and her child at her door in Chatila Camp. On the walls we can read:

On the right: 'Palestine, we will not forget you'
On the left: 'Massacre of Koubayat, October 13th, 1953, 42 houses demolished, 70 martyrs.'

To accommodate his house for his son who just married, Farhat Farhat had to juggle with the tiny space. He covered the adjoining alley to build an extension for the newlyweds. To pay for the cost he rented a part of his tiny house to two Syrian workers. You have to be imaginative when you are an unemployed Palestinian living in the overpopulated camp of Chatila. In the camp, buildings are arranged like Sardines in a can, streets are so narrow that you have your vis-à-vis at arms length. The streets are a chaotic space made of electrical lines and counters, cables, drying clothes and water reservoirs.

Farhat knows that his construction won't last. Like other buildings in the camp, it has no foundations but he does not have a choice. Mounir Maarouf, local director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) lives in the constant fear of an earthquake which, he says, is certain to bring about a terrible humanitarian catastrophe in the camps. One local community worker jokes that the buildings, being so close, couldn't fall because they stand as one gigantic bloc.

The streets: Camp Chatila, April, 2006.

After the creation of Israel, the Lebanese government gave land to the Palestinians to set 12 refugee camps in different locations in Lebanon; north, south, east, and centre, Beyrouth. Officially, construction is forbidden in the camps, as these are refugee camps. However, the interdiction is not applied and not one government has cared for the conditions in which people live in the camps. In five other camps, the UNRWA succeeded in doing some maintenance work on the buildings but they were met with a firm refusal for Chatila, with no explanation from the Lebanese government. Pressures are being exerted by the government on the Palestinians of these camps to control their arms: no arms at all outside the camps and governmental regulation for arms possession inside the camps. In recent history, some extremists Islamists groups have grown out of these camps, manipulated at the time by the Syrians against the PLO.

Lebanese live in the fear (unjustified in my opinion) of an Israeli-Palestinian settlement which leaves out the right of return recognised by UN resolution 194, making Lebanon home to the refugees of the camps. On the other side, Palestinians in Lebanon refuse to stay if there is a settlement. They instantly identify themselves as Palestinians from such and such village (they name their Palestinian villages of origin) and they take great care in passing on the information to younger generations.

According to UNRWA, between 12000 and 13000 live on an estimated 2 square km in Chatila, among them a third are non Palestinians (Kurds, Syrians, Sudanese and Egyptians) immigrant poor workers. UNRWA director of information for Lebanon, Houda Samre Souaiby, thinks that some of the Palestinians registered at Chatila do not actually live in the camp but they want to stay registered with the hope of being able to return if a settlement is reached between Israel and the PA.

At the end of the tunnel Farhat had built as an extension to his house a narrowing alley and one stair down sits Oum Nazem (Nazem's mother) in a small room crossed by a thin ray of light coming from the opened door. Oum Nazem's three sons died in Lebanon, two during the civil war and one killed 'by the Syrians'. Oum Nazem is twice refugee; she lived in the camp of Tel-El-Zaatar located in the eastern part of Beyrouth before having to flee the camp when it was attacked by the Lebanese Christian Forces militia in the first years of the Lebanese civil war. Oum Nazem had left her Palestinian village Caza d'Acca (Saint Jean d'Acres) in 1948 at the age of 12. She still says that her true age is 12 because these were the only years during which she lived a real life.

At the Red Crescent clinic in the camp, around twelve, Dr. Saleh Maarouf is finishing his on call duty. 'Most people living in the camp don't see the sun and live in poor sanitary conditions', he tells Ms Naïm. 'Sewers and other elementary infrastructure are decaying'. 'The recurrent health problems among the camp population are: Pneumonia, Tuberculosis, Diabetes, Anemia, high rate of cancer'. 'We only provide primary and emergency care, we do provide care for poor people from outside the camps and we ask them to pay a symbolic contribution.'

Dr. Maarouf studied Medicine in Cairo, married a Lebanese and succeeded the exam the College of Physicians of Lebanon designed as a prerequisite for its membership but Dr. Maarouf was not able to obtain privileges since Palestinians were forbidden from exercising some 72 professions and jobs in Lebanon, this number was reduced recently to 20 maintaining however the exclusion of the liberal professions in a recent generous move by the Lebanese ministry of Work , through a memorandum (and not a legislation). Dr. Maarouf works only for the Red Crescent inside the camp where he is the director of the camp clinic. He has been working for the last 27 years with a monthly salary of only 387 Euros. Palestinian workers in other jobs are not allowed benefits related to social and medical insurances paid for by the employer, even though the employer is actually paying his due to the government for these social benefits.

In the Rachidiyyé camp next to the southern city of Tyre, Hiba is preparing for university where she would like to study law. However, as she cannot work as a lawyer in Lebanon, she has to renounce her project and plan a career in engineering. Even with a degree as an engineer, she is not sure she will be able to find work easily because Lebanese prefer to hire Lebanese. There is also the immediate problem of the cost of a university degree. Hiba's father works in the fields and earns about 8 dollars a day when he is working (he works seven to eight months a year). His wife earns some money by making embroideries. She makes the bread and is very careful as to provide her six children with the necessary. Both parents value the education of their children. As other Palestinians, they consider that the education of the children is the biggest investment of their lifetime. They want their children to learn English and they worry that the children might be discouraged by not finding a job after a university degree. One of the sons wants to study medicine. The youngest child goes to a French educational Program offered in the camps, Enfants Refugiés du Monde, providing children in the Palestinian camps with extracurricular activities, fun and games. Oum Hassan wishes they can learn English also with this program.

Planted in the middle of the orchards and facing the Mediterranean Sea, Rachidiyyé is less gloomy than other Palestinian camps. However, inside the small 'houses', families who live on subsidies and salaries from the PLO have not received a dime since January. First, the families started buying on credit but the grocery stores inside the camps, unable to recover their credit, are not renewing merchandise. Children are sorting out the garbage in the hope of finding something worthy to trade on. Some are resorting to theft and grocery owners are staying to guard their shops during the night. Only UNRWA employees benefit from a regular pay check, all others, including those who work for NGO's, are not receiving any money. NGO's depend on donations and donations to Palestinian refugees are not fashionable these days, explains Abu Kamal...

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Ann Coulter on Newsnight

I haven't read much of Ann Coulter's utterances: some quotes, the odd op-ed and reports of yet another polemic here or there; that's about it. I'm not really about to start my further education on this Doberman pincer of the American Far Right either. Coulter is living proof that if one somehow manages to get one's outrageous and obnoxious views dissipated by the MSM, a substantial revenue stream follows, as sure as night follows day. You get the impression Coulter simply doesn't believe in what she says or writes, that she is merely a rather caricatural persona, invented only for the purpose of topping bestseller lists.

Last night Jeremy Paxman had the honour of meeting Coulter via video link on Newsnight, in what cannot reasonably be described as an "interview", rather a series of sputtering attempts to get something going. Paxman was definitely not asking the right questions and as a consequence didn't get much by way of answers. Coulter kept her game up, confirming ubiquitously that she "believes in everything she writes", including the ridiculous crap about "Darwinism is a faith belief system without any evidence to support it".

You can see the actual interview here.

And here are some noteworthy quotes from the SS storm trooper of the American Right, courtesy of a US blogger.

  • "I think [women] should be armed but should not [be allowed to]vote."

  • "I think there should be a literacy test and a poll tax for people to vote."

  • To a disabled Vietnam vet: "People like you caused us to lose that war."

  • "God gave us the earth. We have dominion over the plants, the animals,the trees. God said, 'Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It's yours.'"

  • "My only regret with [Oklahoma City bomber] Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building,"

  • "I would like evolution to join the roster of other discredited religions, like the Cargo Cult of the South Pacific...It may sound silly, but in defense of the Cargo Cult, they did not wait as long for evidence supporting their theory as the Darwinists have waited for evidence supporting theirs."

  • "Perhaps we could put aside our national, ongoing, post-9/11 Muslim butt-kissing contest and get on with the business at hand: Bombing Syria back to the stone age and then permanently disarming Iran."

  • "I think the government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport, dropping daisy cutters wantonly throughout the Middle East and sending liberals to Guantanamo."

  • Describing Muslims: "camel jockeys", "jihad monkeys", and "tent merchants"

  • "It would be a much better country if women did not vote. That is simply a fact. In fact, in every presidential election since 1950— except Goldwater in 64 — the Republican would have won, if only the men had voted."

  • "But while some Americans express pride in their slave-trading ancestors by calling themselves "African-Americans" and donning African garb, pride in Confederate Catholic vote, Democrats could demand that those Masonic symbols be removed from the The Great Seal of the United States. And how about the American eagle? The eagle is a bird of prey and hence offensive to rodents, a key Democrat constituency.

You might be tempted to believe that with such a level of gratuitous vacuousness, the American Right shouldn't be to difficult to defeat, but you'd probably be wrong... G-d Bless Amewikah.

Liberalism failed to set us free. Indeed, it enslaved us

The doctrine was meant to get the state off our backs, but instead it has granted the government licence to interfere

Peregrine Worsthorne
Wednesday June 21, 2006
The Guardian, Comment is Free

Liberalism has much to its credit. But as John Stuart Mill said about Christianity, "all truths need fundamental re-examination from time to time"; and if that was true of Christianity in the 18th century, I think that it is just as true of liberalism in the 21st. For today the great and the good, at any rate in the west, intone their belief in liberal pieties as mindlessly as their predecessors in the 18th century proclaimed their belief in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost.

Take freedom of the press. The liberal argument for the importance of a free press was that it gave voters the necessary information on which they could vote intelligently. Of all the British newspapers today, only the Guardian even tries to do that. The rest concentrate on misinformation or even disinformation - sophisticated and clever disinformation in the case of the broadsheets, and untreated sewage in the case of the tabloids. So, far from helping to guide the reader into the real world - the world for which he or she is meant to take responsibility - they offer him or her a way out of that real world into one of fantasy, muddying rather than clarifying the democratic waters.

The same goes for that other liberal piety, the autonomy of the individual. Of course this was an important principle 200 years ago when the individual had far too few rights. But today it is very plain that man standing alone - as against man locked into society - is beginning to get too many rights. So what was once a noble principle has been degraded into a crass and selfish form of "me-firstism": an attitude wholly incompatible with the team spirit required to make any institution - family, school, college, regiment, hospital, police force or even government department - work. Even the foreign service has been infected, with our former ambassador in Washington not hesitating to tell tales out of school about his colleagues.

Then there is that other liberal fetish, meritocracy. Of course it made sense in John Stuart Mill's day to replace hereditary aristocracy, of which there was too much, with a system of careers open to talent, of which there was too little. But surely anybody looking at the subject with an open mind should be able to see that today, 200 years later, there is something quite other to worry about; and the new problem, which is getting worse all the time, is the deeply unattractive and unimpressive nature of an exclusively self-made meritocratic ruling class: a ruling class made up of men and women exceptionally gifted only in the horrible rat-race arts of elbowing their way to the top. Aristocracy may have its faults but ratocracy, which is what in practice a meritocratic system produces, is proving even worse - which is possibly why the public seems so eager to welcome the return of the English gentleman in the shape of David Cameron.

But my main concern is not with liberalism so much as with liberal triumphalism. The triumphalism that flared forth after the west's victory in the cold war left liberalism as the only ism still backed by a world superpower. There was another countervailing ism - communism, also highly successful at claiming the moral high ground. Today, however, liberalism is the only ism in a position not only to dream of world hegemony but to try to make that dream come true - a case of absolute power tending to corrupt absolutely, if ever there was one. Onward liberal soldiers marching as to war. Not so much Pax Americana as Bellum Americanum.

In other words, the Iraq war is only the first move in a liberal jihad aimed at spreading to all mankind a secular and materialist religion, the central tenet of which - free thought - can be relied upon to dissolve people's faith in any transcendental religion far more certainly than could communist repression. So it is no wonder that Islamic fundamentalists are reacting so fiercely. They have seen what liberalism has done for Christianity in the western world and quite understandably don't want the Muslim faith to suffer the same fate.

Nor is this new overweening form of liberalism to be found only in foreign affairs. It is also pretty rampant on the domestic front, at least in Britain, where the two restraining isms of socialism and high Toryism have been ground into the dust by the Thatcherite revolution. Politicians of all parties, including the Conservatives, are liberal now. But theirs is a novel and almost unbelievably power-dependent form of liberalism. It starts from the assumption that, with the old dragons of despotic kingship, religious intolerance, patrician insolence and, finally, totalitarianism successfully dispatched, another window of opportunity has opened for liberalism to declare war on human, and even eventually animal, pain and suffering - regardless of the fact that this limitlessly ambitious new war must assuredly involve a vast extension of governmental power to enforce political correctness. So with remarkable rapidity, from being a doctrine designed to take government off the backs of the people, liberalism has become a doctrine designed to put it back again.

Liberalism used to be dedicated to doubt, cynical about certainty and, above all, suspicious of power. All I am urging is that liberalism should start applying these attitudes as rigorously to its own powers and certainties as in the past it applied them to everybody else's.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Israel can no longer rely on the support of Europe's Jews

The feeling is growing that Jewish honour and heritage have been more convincingly preserved in the diaspora

Max Hastings
Tuesday June 20, 2006
The Guardian, Comment is Free

Whatever the outcome of the current Palestinian chaos, meaningful negotiations with Israel seem unlikely. The most plausible scenario is that Ehud Olmert will proceed unilaterally to draw new boundaries for his country, which will absorb significant Palestinian land, and institutionalise such dominance of the West Bank as to make a Palestinian state unworkable.

If this is the future, it is likely to yield fruits as bitter for Israelis as for Palestinians. The world, far from becoming more willing to acquiesce in Israel's expansion, is becoming less so. The generation of European non-Jews for whom the Holocaust is a seminal memory is dying. With them perishes much vicarious guilt.

Younger Europeans, not to mention the rest of the world, are more sceptical about Israel's territorial claims. They are less susceptible to moral arguments about redress for past horrors, which have underpinned Israeli actions for almost 60 years. We may hope that it will never become respectable to be anti-semitic [my emphasis]. However, Israel is discovering that it can no longer frighten non-Jews out of opposing its policies merely by accusing them of anti-semitism.

There is also evidence of growing disenchantment with Israel in the Jewish diaspora. Feelings have changed since 1948 and the days when Jews around the world thought it a duty to support "their" nation in the promised land right or wrong, in good times or bad. David Goldberg, the former rabbi of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London, has just published a book that will rouse plenty of wrath in Israel. Entitled The Divided Self, its theme is that in modern times the Jews of the diaspora have preserved the honour and heritage of the Jewish people far more convincingly than Israel's citizens.

Goldberg, whom I should acknowledge as a friend, rejects the Zionist conceit that the only proper place for Jews is in Israel. He discerns an unhealthy artificiality about the society constructed beside the Mediterranean since 1948: "to assert itself, it must be rigid and inflexible". He notes that while genealogy has become a popular enthusiasm of diaspora Jews, Israelis prefer archaeology, "pursuing the distant past to authenticate an ancient connection with the land" in the absence of any more recent claim.

He tells a good story of returning on a boat from Israel to Marseilles in 1958, after a stint on a kibbutz. His efforts to make headway with pretty blond American passengers were thwarted by the presence of a tanned, muscular Israeli paratrooper, who effortlessly cut him out. When the boat stopped at Naples, this hero of Sinai announced that he was off to buy a watch. Beware of fakes, advised Goldberg, magnanimous in sexual defeat. The soldier ignored him, and was later seen hurling a worthless purchase into the sea.

If we were talking about Christians here, it might be called a parable. Goldberg believes that Israel has allowed military prowess to blind it to wisdom: "the Jewish fox knows many things, the Jewish hedgehog only one big thing". Or you may prefer a Talmudic saying: "better a live dog than a dead lion".

Goldberg defines the virtues of diaspora Jews, "adapting to novel circumstances and responding to changing times", in terms that would rouse the contempt of many Israelis. "Two thousand years of powerlessness have honed the antennae to detect where self-interest lies, what is on or not on ... The experience ... of learning to live circumspectly among more numerous and powerful neighbours is a surer guarantee of survival than the triumphalist illusions of a mere 50-odd years of statehood."

Some Israelis would say that this is the language of the ghetto, reflecting a willingness to defer, even to cringe; of exactly the kind their state was created to remove from the Jewish psyche. Yet Goldberg's book reflects a declining willingness among many diaspora Jews to write blank cheques for Israel, either literally or figuratively.

It is a painful experience for some Jews who achieve good and even great things in their own societies to find themselves cast as sin-eaters for the Jewish state. Most are reluctant to speak out as frankly against Israel's West Bank policies as Goldberg has, and as did the late and great Rabbi John Rayner, who came here from Germany with the kindertransport. But with each generation the emotional distance between Israel and the diaspora is growing.

In some respects, this reflects a situation Amos Oz prophesied. "People like you," he said to me almost 30 years ago, "who want Israel to go on behaving like a European society, are heading for disappointment. Israel is becoming a Middle Eastern country. In future, I hope that it will not behave worse than other Middle Eastern countries, but I doubt that it will behave any better."

As long as Israel retains US support, its rulers may feel they can shrug off the alienation not only of non-Jewish Europeans, but also of growing numbers of European Jews. Yet if David Goldberg is right that diaspora Jews today contribute far more to the "universal values" of civilisation than the people of Israel, then the Jewish state has a far more profound problem than that of frontiers.

A Muslim Manifesto from France

by Tewfik Allal

“We are of Muslim culture. We oppose misogyny, homophobia,
anti-Semitism, and the political use of Islam. We reassert a living

Ed. Note: Dissent does not usually publish manifestos, but when we
learned of the remarkable one below, we decided to make an exception.
It was written by Tewfik Allal, an unemployed French proofreader and
union activist who was born in Morocco of Algerian parents. Allal
attended one of the demonstrations last winter protesting the recent
law banning the Muslim head scarf in French schools and was shocked at
the political slogans being chanted by Muslim fundamentalists and
their sympathizers. He went home and wrote this Manifesto in
collaboration with his wife, Brigitte Bardet, a teacher and feminist
activist. This Manifesto seems to have inaugurated a small movement,
with several hundred signatories and a list of “Les Amis du Manifeste”
(Friends of the Manifesto) composed of non-Muslim intellectuals
expressing their solidarity. Readers can find the original French
version of the Manifesto and the list of signatories at

We are women and men of Muslim culture. Some of us are believers,
others are agnostics or atheists. We all condemn firmly the
declarations and acts of misogyny, homophobia, and anti-Semitism that
we have heard and witnessed for a while now here in France and that
are carried out in the name of Islam. These three characteristics
typify the political Islamism that has been forceful for so long in
several of our countries of origin. We fought against them there, and
we are committed to fighting against them again-here.

Sexual Equality: A Prerequisite for Democracy

We are firmly committed to equal rights for both sexes. We fight the
oppression of women who are subjected to Personal Status Laws, like
those in Algeria (recent progress in Morocco highlights how far
Algeria lags behind), and sometimes even in France via bilateral
agreements.* We believe that democracy cannot exist without these
equal rights. Accordingly, we unambiguously offer our support for the
“20 ans, barakat!” (20 years is enough!) campaign of the Algerian
women’s associations, demanding the definitive abolition of the
two-decades-old family code.

It is also for this reason that we oppose wearing the Islamic head
scarf, even if among us there are differing opinions about the law
banning it from schools in France. In various countries, we have seen
violence or even death inflicted on female friends or family members
because they refused to wear the scarf. Even if the current enthusiasm
for the head scarf [among some Muslims] in France was stimulated by
discrimination suffered by immigrant children, this cannot be
considered the real cause of the desire to wear it; nor can memories
of a North African lifestyle explain it. Behind this so-called
“choice” demanded by a certain number of girls is the promotion of a
political Islamic society based on a militant ideology which aims to
promote actively values to which we do not subscribe.

Stopping Homophobia
For Islamic fundamentalists (as for all machos and fundamentalists),
“being a man” means having power over women, including sexual power.
In their eyes, any man who favors equality of the sexes is potentially
subhuman, or “queer.” This way of thinking has proliferated since the
rise of political Islamism. Its ferocity is equaled only by its
hypocrisy. One of the organizers of the demonstration on Saturday,
January 17, 2004, in favor of the head scarf declared that “It is
scandalous that those who claim to be shocked by the head scarf are
not shocked by homosexuality.” Undoubtedly he thinks that a virtuous
society hides women behind head scarves or puts homosexuals behind
bars, something we have already seen happen in Egypt.

We shudder at what the triumph of these attitudes implies for
“shameless” persons in society-like women who fail to wear the head
scarf or homosexuals or non-believers.

In contrast, we believe that recognition of the existence of
homosexuality and the freedom for homosexuals to live their own lives
as they wish represent undeniable progress. As long as an
individual-heterosexual or homosexual-does not break the laws
protecting minors, each person’s sexual choices are his or her own
business and do not concern the state in any way.

Fighting Anti-Semitism

Finally, we condemn firmly the anti-Semitic statements made recently
in speeches in the name of Islam. Just like “shameless” women and
homosexuals, Jews have become the target: “They have everything and we
have nothing,” was something that we heard in the demonstration on
January 17. We see the use of the Israel-Palestine conflict by
fundamentalist movements as a means of promoting the most disturbing
forms of anti-Semitism.

Despite our opposition to the current policies of the Israeli
government, we refuse to feed primitive images of the “Jew.” A real,
historical conflict between two peoples should not be exploited. We
recognize Israel’s right to exist, a right recognized by the PLO
congress in Algiers in 1988 and the Arab League summit meeting in
Beirut in 2002. At the same time, we are committed to the Palestinian
people and in support of their right to found a state and to be
liberated from occupation.

Living Secularism

Islam has not received sufficient recognition in France. There is a
lack of places to pray. There are not enough chaplaincies nor enough
cemeteries. We are aware that young French people, the sons and
daughters of Muslim immigrants, are still held back socially and
suffer discrimination. All monitoring bodies recognize this.
Consequently, “French-style” secularism has lost a great deal of value
in the eyes of these young people. Two possibilities lie before them.
They can rediscover the strength of a real, living secularism; that
is, political action on behalf of their rights and to demand the
social gains fought for by their fathers and mothers-who belonged to
social classes, cultures, peoples, and nations before they belonged to
Islam. Or they can see themselves in an imaginary, virtual “umma”
[Islamic community - Eds.] that no longer corresponds to reality, and
then masquerade in republican or tiers-mondistes (third-worldist)
rags. This only ends up securing unequal, repressive, and intolerant
societies. This latter path cannot be ours.

Hat tip: David Zarnett's blog.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Death on Gaza Beach: Some Suggestions

Regarding the killing of a Palestinian family on Gaza beach as a result of an explosion, Palestinian and Israeli narratives have now completely diverged. We may never get to the truth behind this tragedy. The following blogger (this is a blog that is well worth following) suggest an independent inquiry. I'm all for it.

Alex Stein, at

(Alex Stein is the Abba Eban Scholar in International Relations (M.Phil) at Queens' College, Cambridge)

1. There is one easy way to clear up who was responsible for the Gaza beach deaths – an independent inquiry. If both sides are confident that they aren’t responsible, there should be nothing to fear. Israel’s latest move has been to attribute responsibility to a Palestinian mine, an unconvincing claim in the light of the evidence. The IDF acknowledges that it fired six artillery shells at Gaza on Friday afternoon, and that it cannot trace what happened to the sixth. Furthermore, it admits that the other shells all landed between 100 metres and 200 metres from the beach. It seems a bit too much of a coincidence that, just as this is all taking place, a Palestinian mine suddenly goes off. It seems especially strange when there has been no evidence of Hamas using this tactic before. Where are all the other mines planted to stop Israeli commandos? Either way, though, an independent investigation would clear this all up. Both sides say the shrapnel retrieved from bodies point to their side of the story. If this is true, neither side should have much to worry about, should they?
2. Leaving aside the events of Friday afternoon, twenty civilians have been killed from the shelling of Gaza, as Israel has pursued a futile policy of one hundred artillery rounds for every Qassam fired. Someone needs to remind the IDF of the word proportionality. Predictably, it doesn’t work. Riling up the civilian population simply makes things worse. I’ve stated my views on targeted assassinations elsewhere. A couple of weeks ago the army sent Special Forces in. They waited for the rocket launchers to arrive and then took them out. That’s the way to do it. There’s no easy way to say this, but it is better that IDF soldiers die than Palestinian civilians.
3. As is well known, Qassam rockets are notoriously inaccurate. While it must be pretty awful living under fear of rocket attack, the threat they pose is minimal. The IDF has deployed the Red Dawn early defence system – this detects the rockets as they are launched and gives civilians 20 seconds warning, thus minimising much of the threat. And Israel is due to purchase Skyshield, a Swiss designed rapid fire anti-aircraft system, designed to counter Qassams. Despite this, there is always the fear that constant Qassam fire could turn into constant Katyusha fire. But here’s a tactic that hasn’t been tried – taking it. Israel could make huge soft power gains by cutting down on its military response and improving its defensive measures. It’s hard to make the point that your towns are needlessly under siege when the only people being killed are Palestinians.
4. Hamas came to power promising to bring law and order to the areas under PA control. The policy of using the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) as a proxy for firing rockets runs counter to this aim. If I had been wounded on Friday, and Ismail Haniyeh had come and visited me in hospital, I would have been pretty angry. The rocket-launching is already futile, illegal and immoral. The fact that the rocket-launchers operate in civilian areas makes it doubly so.
5. I don’t usually agree with Zacharia Zubeidi, the head of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in Jenin, but he has come up with one good idea. He has suggested that all sides should have a cease-fire during the entirety of the World Cup. This could have shades of Christmas Day during World War One. Football is one of the things that might be able to unite the Israeli and Palestinian populations. The idea should be taken seriously.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The blood on our hands

By Bradley Burston (Haaretz).

It was easy for us, much, much too easy, to have gone through this entire weekend, and still not see the blood on our hands.

One reason is that we don't watch Al Jazeera. Another is that we don't really see ourselves.

We immediately found no end of ways to disengage from the tragedy of a family erased for the crime of picnicking on a beach.

The World Cup was one method. Another was reflex.

The ineffable anguish in the image of a girl running on a beach where her family lay in pieces on the sand, was shown again and again and again on Al Jazeera, but it passed swiftly from Israeli television screens and from the Israeli consciousness, replaced, in many cases, with indignation over the world's propensity to pre-judge and condemn us.

It wasn't us, we told ourselves. And if it was us, we were more than justified.

"I categorically reject all the attempts to impugn the morality of the Israel Defense Forces," said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, opening the cabinet session on Sunday.

"The Israel Defense Forces is the most moral army in the world. It has never conducted a policy of harming civilians, and is not doing so today."

Were we, in fact, at fault?

The army's front commander for Gaza, Major General Yoav Galant, said Sunday that "the picture is unclear. The artillery fire has been well-analyzed, and the question marks are multiplying as to whether the artillery fire was the cause of the incident."

Say he's right. Say it wasn't our fault. Say we dismiss as irrelevant the fact that five IDF shells landed nearby at the same time, and that the trajectory of the sixth is unaccounted-for.

Pretend, for argument's sake, that the army's statements on the incident were not meant to confabulate, that is, to unconsciously replace fact with fantasy in someone's memory.

Make believe that it was only coincidence that when Army Radio said the probe was to determine who was responsible for the killing of the Ghalia family, it suggested that the choices were "an Israeli artillery shell, or a Palestinian Qassam rocket that landed in the area by mistake."

And while you're at it ...

Say the blood that is on our hands is not that of Ali Ghalia, the father of the family, his wife Ra'isa, four of his daughters, one aged 2, and his eight-month-old son

Say the blood is not that of Mohammed Dura, the 12-year-old boy killed early in the Intifada in a crossfire between Israelis and Palestinians.

For every Mohammed Dura, there have been hundreds and hundreds of Palestinians killed by the IDF in error, in conjunction with the killing of terrorists, or because overwhelming force and remote technology was applied in order to minimize the risk to Israeli troops.

There was no news crew to film them, so the world cares nothing for them. And neither do we. Their tragedies are no less unbearable, surely no less unbearable than the hundreds of our own the world cares nothing for.

We can live with it, as we live with the idea of sending thousands and thousands of artillery shells into one of the most crowded districts on the planet, in order to try to hit three-man mobile crews firing a rocket not much bigger than a broom - the equivalent of going after a fly with a pile-driver.

We live with it because we Can't Just Do Nothing, as if thousands of shells, many of them directed at open spaces calculated precisely to hit nothing, are the only possible alternative.

We can live with it, fundamentally, because we don't know what else to do, and because the only thing left for us to believe, is that it's wrong to negotiate.

"The entire protest was ugly from the standpoint of morality," said senior Likud lawmaker Yuval Steinitz, referring to a small demonstration of leftists near the house of IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz Saturday morning - a rally that included Olmert's daughter Dana.

The demonstration was over the killing of the Ghalia family in Gaza, and in favor of resuming peace talks, even with a government with whom we share only mutual abhorrence.

"Instead of demonstrating against the side that fires Qassams with malice aforethought against civilians, Israeli civilians, the civilians of Sderot," Steinitz added, "they protest against the side that, as a last resort, must defend its citizens, is obligated to defend its citizens, and responds with fire."

In the long run, if we are to be able to live with it, it will be because in fighting Qassams, we have developed smarter and smarter ways kill fewer and fewer Palestinian civilians. On Sunday, soon after a 60-year-old Sderot man was critically wounded when a Qassam slammed into a school, the IAF attacked a Hamas rocket crew as they prepared to fire another, killing two of them and wounding the third. There were no civilian casualties.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Haditha: the worst US atrocity since Vietnam … Iraqi women and children massacred by American marines. How did it happen?


CIVILIANS who spent time at the Haditha Dam base of the Third Battalion of the First Marines describe the place as something out of Apocalypse Now or Lord Of The Flies. It was “feral” one said. Soldiers didn’t wash. They had abandoned regulation billets and had built make-shift, primitive huts bearing skull-and-crossbone signs. The place stank. One American civilian engineer attached to the camp, with the task of keeping the huge hydro-electric dam nearby operating, said he was terrified of the soldiers he had to live alongside.

Kilo Company was part of the Third Battalion. At 7.15am on November 19 last year, as a column of Kilo Company Humvees drove down the Hay al-Sinnai Road in Haditha, a bomb exploded under the last vehicle – the “tail-end charlie” – killing the driver, 20-year-old Lance Corporal Miguel Terrazas.

What happened next will go down in US military history as the worst deliberate atrocity carried out against unarmed civilians by American forces since the notorious massacre at My Lai in Vietnam when GIs killed around 500 people – mainly women, children and the elderly.

Minutes after Terrazas died, the remaining 13-strong unit of marines went on a bloody rampage, wiping out whole families, killing women, children and an elderly man in a wheelchair, and hurling grenades into homes. In all, 24 Iraqi civilians were murdered by American troops. The killings are already having a corrosive effect on US society, war-weary from scandals such as the torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib and the ever-mounting death toll of American troops. US government sources say some of the marines involved will be put on trial, and could face the death penalty for their crimes.

The men of Kilo Company have been involved in some of the worst horrors of the Iraq war, including the assault on Fallujah which involved close-up killing and hand-to-hand fighting. Many of the marines in Kilo Company were on their second tour of duty in Iraq at the time of the massacre in Haditha.

As soon as the shooting stopped, the marines started to lie and cover up the truth about the Haditha killings. The faked-up version of events went something like this: as a taxi drove up Hay al-Sinnai Road towards the Humvee column, the marines waved to it to stop. When the Humvees and the taxi came to a halt, a bomb detonated, indicating, the marines claimed, that the taxi was either meant to lure the Humvees over the bomb or that someone in the taxi detonated the bomb. The marines claimed they immediately came under fire from nearby houses once the bomb exploded.
The four passengers in the taxi and the driver fled, the marines claimed, and were all shot dead. Soldiers then returned fire on the positions shooting at them, killing eight insurgents. Fifteen civilians, they said, also died in the explosion which killed the Humvee driver Terrazas.

Investigations by the military, accounts by survivors and reports by human rights organisations and medics have proved that this version of events contains barely a grain of truth.

Eman Waleed, a nine-year-old girl, was a few minutes walk from the site of the bomb which caught the Humvee, at the home of her grandfather Abdul Hamid Hassan Ali, an 89-year-old amputee in a wheelchair. Eman recalls the moment the killings started. “We heard a big noise that woke us all up. Then we did what we always do when there’s an explosion – my father goes into his room with the Koran and prays that the family be spared any harm.”

While her father prayed, Eman, her mother, grandfather, grandmother, two brothers, two aunts and two uncles stayed together in the main room. Eman recalls sitting in her pyjamas and hearing shooting as the marines moved towards her home. They stormed into the house, went to the room where Eman’s father was praying and shot him dead. Then they entered the room where the rest of the family were huddled together.

“I couldn’t see their faces very well,” said Eman, “only their guns sticking into the doorway. I watched them shoot my grandfather, first in the chest and then in the head. Then they killed my granny.”

The marines started to spray the corner of the room with automatic fire where Eman and her eight-year-old brother Abdul were being shielded by the other adults. Both Eman and Abdul were wounded but survived. Eman’s aunt fled the house as the shooting started, taking her five-month-old niece with her. She escaped. Her husband, who also tried to escape, was shot in the head. In total, seven family members died. Eman’s grandfather was shot nine times. His death certificate notes that his intestines had spilled through the exit wounds in his back.

Only one of the adults in the house that day survived. Eman and her brother hid under a bed, with their family lying dead around them, and waited two hours before Iraqi soldiers arrived to help them.

The marines then moved to the house of Younis Salim Khafif, which he shared with his wife, Aida, and their six children. Aida was in bed recovering from an operation so her sister was in the house to help out with family chores. A neighbour says he heard Younis beg for his life, telling the marines in English: “I am a friend, I am good.” They shot him anyway. Eight people in the house that day – everybody apart from a 12-year-old girl – were murdered as the marines opened fire and then lobbed in hand grenades. The children who died were aged 14, 10, five, three and one.
The surviving child, Safa, said she lay on the ground, pretending to be dead and covered in her sister’s blood. She recalls the blood spurting out of her sister like water from a tap, and the soldiers kicking the bodies of the dead. “I was wishing to be alive,” she said. “Now I wish I had died with them.”

Further up the street, four brothers aged between 20 and 38 were at home. The women inside the house were forced outside at gunpoint by the marines – then the men were shot dead. A relative said the Americans put the brothers in a wardrobe and machine-gunned them.

Finally, back at the bomb site, a taxi entered the street and was stopped by marines. The four students inside and the driver were ordered out of the car and shot dead. Of the 24 people killed, only one had been carrying a weapon.

When the killings were over, the marines cordoned off the area. They later took the dead to Haditha hospital – they left them in body bags in the garden and drove off.

Taher Thabet, an Iraqi journalism student, later filmed the bodies in the morgue and the scenes of the killings. He passed the tape on to the Iraqi organisation the Hammurabi Human Rights Group and it confirmed that the civilians were killed not by the booby trap which took the life of Terrazas, but by Terrazas’s enraged comrades. The rooms where the civilians were killed were riddled with bullets and splattered with blood.

A doctor at the hospital said there were no signs of shrapnel wounds from explosives on the bodies, instead “the bullet wounds were very apparent”. “Most of the victims were shot in the chest and head from close range.” Death certificates for all the murdered Iraqi civilians also showed they were all shot – many in the head and chest.

One marine who had to help clear up the aftermath of the murders and remove the bodies, Lance Corporal Roel Ryan Briones, said he was traumatised by what he’d seen. “They ranged from little babies to adult males and females,” he said. “I’ll never be able to get that out of my head. I can still smell the blood. This left something in my head and heart.”

Briones’s mother added: “He had to carry a little girl’s body. Her head was blown off and her brain splattered on his boots.”

After the killings a group of elders from Haditha, led by the mayor, protested to local marine commanders. They were dismissed with the claim that the killings were an accident. Even when the videotape was handed to marine commanders, they claimed it was “AQI [al-Qaeda in Iraq] propaganda”.

When it became clear that the civilians had been shot by US soldiers, the marines switched to saying that the deaths were the fault of insurgents who “placed non-combatants in the line of fire as the marines responded to defend themselves”. However, that claim also fell apart when other senior US commanders in Baghdad saw the tape and a criminal investigation was opened.

Military police travelled to Haditha, examined the murder scenes, spoke to survivors and interviewed marines. The marine’s story quickly collapsed and members of Kilo Company started to implicate each other.

Military investigators have now briefed a group of US congressmen, telling them a number of men in Kilo Company may soon be charged with murder. There are also likely to be other charges of dereliction of duty and making false statements. Representative John Kline, a Republican and a former marine, said: “This was a small number of marines who fired directly on civilians and killed them. This is going to be an ugly story … There is no doubt that the marines allegedly involved in doing this lied about it. They certainly tried to cover it up.”

John Murtha, an anti-war Democratic congressman and decorated marine war veteran, said: “They killed innocent civilians in cold blood and that’s what the report [by the military into the killings and cover-up] is going to tell. It is as bad as Abu Ghraib, if not worse.”

So far, three marine officers, including the commander of Kilo Company and the commander of the third battalion, have been relieved of duty. The investigation is centred on the NCO who was leading Kilo Company on the day, and was allegedly at the scene of nearly every killing, and a number of other soldiers who are said to have taken part directly in the killings. Sources close to the investigation have named the ranking marine as 25-year-old Sgt Frank Wuterich. Up to nine other men witnessed the killings but did nothing.

President Bush has said of the marine massacre that “those who violated the law will be punished”. Bush also apparently roasted his secretary of defence, Donald Rumsfeld, for not informing him of the killings promptly when Rumsfeld learned of the events in March.

Following the killings, Iraq’s current prime minister, Nouri Maliki, heavily criticised what he described as habitual attacks on civilians by coalition forces. He said many troops had “no respect for civilians … and killed on a suspicion or a hunch”.

In response, US army commanders ordered that troops would undergo a two-hour course on “moral and ethical values”. The US army denied it was a limp and late face-saving exercise.

Suspicions have been raised that senior commanders were aware of what was happening in Haditha. Although some Iraqis claim that US marines burned houses in the area, others said warplanes dropped bombs on a number of homes. Senior commanders would have had to green light such an action.

So far, the marines have paid out $2500 (just over £1300) to each of the families of 15 of the victims. The senior officer who ordered the payments ruled that those killed had not taken part in any attacks on US forces.

Shortly after the massacre, Kilo Company held a memorial service for their dead comrade Terrazas. Messages such as “TJ you were a great friend” were written on stones and piled up in a funeral mound.

The bodies of the 24 men, women and children killed in the hours after Terrazas’s death are in a cemetery known as the martyrs’ graveyard. On a nearby wall graffiti reads: “Democracy assassinated the family that was here.”

Waleed Mohammed, a lawyer representing some of the families, said the survivors were waiting desperately for news of criminal charges being pressed against the marines of Kilo Company. “They are convinced that the sentence will be like one for someone who has killed a dog in the United States,” he said, “because Iraqis have become like dogs in the eyes of Americans.”

Related post.

Hat tip:
This Old Brit.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

War is Peace - Lebanon 1982

From Fateful Triangle, Noam Chomsky, 1999

Full excerpt.

On June 6, 1982, a massive Israeli expeditionary force began the long expected invasion, Operation "Peace for Galilee," a phrase "which sounds as if it comes directly out of the pages of 1984," as one Israeli commentator wrote:

Only in the language of 1984 is war-peace and warfare-humane. One may mention, of course, that only in the Orwellian language of 1984 can occupation be liberal, and there is indeed a connection between the "liberal occupation" [the Labor Party boast] and a war which equals peace. 93

Excuses and explanations were discarded almost as quickly as they were produced: the Argov assassination attempt, defense of the border settlements, a 25-mile limit. In fact, the army headed straight for Beirut and the Beirut-Damascus highway, in accordance with plans that had long been prepared and that were known in advance to the Labor opposition (see section 6.3). Former chief of military intelligence Aharon Yariv of the Labor Party stated: "I know in fact that going to Beirut was included in the original military plan,"94 despite the pretense to the contrary, dutifully repeated by the U.S. government, which could hardly have been in much doubt about the facts if U.S. intelligence was not on vacation.

* See TNC W chapter 13. See Ze'ev Schiff, "Green Light, Lebanon," for further discussion of the tacit authorization from Washington of the invasion it knew to be imminent.

5.1 Extermination of the Two-Legged Beasts

The first target was the Palestinian camp of Rashidiyeh south of Tyre, much of which, by the second day of the invasion, "had become a field of rubble." There was ineffectual resistance, but as an officer of the UN peace-keeping force swept aside in the Israeli invasion later remarked:

"It was like shooting sparrdws with cannon." The 9000 residents of the camp-which had been regularly bombed and shelled for years from land, sea and air-either fled, or were herded to the beach where they could watch the destruction of much of what remained by the Israeli forces. All teen-age and adult males were blindfolded and bound, and taken to camps, where little has been heard about them since.95

This is typical of what happened throughout southern Lebanon. The Palestinian camps were demolished, largely bulldozed to the ground if not destroyed by bombardment; and the population was dispersed or (in the case of the male population) imprisoned. Reporters were generally not allowed in the Palestinian camps, where the destruction was worst, to keep them from witnessing what had happened and was being done. There were occasional reports. David Shipler described how after the camps were captured the army proceeded to destroy what was left. An army officer, "when asked why bulldozers were knocking down houses in which women and children were living," responded by saying: "they are all terrorists."96 His statement accurately summarizes Israel's strategy and the assumptions that underlie it, over many years.

There was little criticism here of Israel's destruction of the "nests of terrorists," or of the wholesale transfer of the male population to prison camps in Lebanon and Israel-or to their treatment, discussed below. Again, one imagines that if such treatment had been meted out to Jews after, say, a Syrian conquest of Northern Israel, the reaction would have been different, and few would have hesitated to recall the Nazi monsters. In fact, we need not merely imagine. When a PLO terrorist group took Israeli teen-age members of a paramilitary (Gadna) group hostage at Ma'alot, that was rightly denounced as a vicious criminal act. Since then, it has become virtually the symbol of the inhuman barbarism of the "two-legged beasts." But when Israeli troops cart off the Palestinian male population from 15 to 60 (along with many thousands of Lebanese) to concentration camps, treating them in a manner to which we return, that is ignored, and the few timid queries are almost drowned in the applause-to which we also return-for Israel's display of humanitarian zeal and moral perfection, while aid is increased in honor of this achievement. It is a scene that should give Americans pause, and lead them to raise some questions about themselves.

Israel's strategy was to drive the Palestinians to largely-Muslim West Beirut (apart from those who were killed, dispersed or imprisoned), then to besiege the city, cutting off water, food, medical supplies and electricity, and to subject it to increasingly heavy bombardment. Naturally, the native Lebanese population was also severely battered. These measures had little impact on the PLO guerrilla fighters in Beirut, but civilians suffered increasingly brutal punishment. The correct calculation was that by this device, the PLO would be compelled to leave West Beirut to save it from total annihilation.97 It was assumed, also correctly, that American intellectuals could be found to carry out the task of showing that this too was a remarkable exercise in humanity and a historically unique display of "purity of arms," even having the audacity to claim that it was the PLO, not the Israeli attackers, who were "holding the city and its population hostage"-a charge duly intoned by New York Times editors and many others. (See section 8.2.3.)

Dan Connell, a journalist with wartime experience and Lebanon project officer for Oxfam, describes Israel's strategy as follows:

The Israeli strategy was obvious. They were hitting a broad belt, and they kept moving the belt up toward the populated area and pushing the people in front of it. The Israelis forced an increasing concentration of people into a smaller space, so that the casualties increased geometrically with every single shell or bomb that landed.

The attackers used highly sophisticated U.S. weapons, including "shells and bombs designed to penetrate through the buildings before they explode," collapsing buildings inwards, and phosphorus bombs to set fires and cause untreatable burns. Hospitals were closed down or destroyed. Much of the Am el-H ilweh refugee camp near Sidon was "flat as a parking lot" when Connell saw it, though 7-8000 Palestinians had drifted back-mostly women and children, since the men were "either fighting or arrested or dead." The Israelis bulldozed the mosque at the edge of the camp searching for arms, but "found 90 or 100 bodies under it instead, completely rotted away." Writing before the Beirut massacres but after the PLO had departed, he notes that "there could be a bloodbath in west Beirut" if no protection is given to the remnants of the population.98

The Israeli press also reported the strategy of the invading army. One journalist observing the bombardment of Beirut in the early days describes it as follows:

With deadly accuracy, the big guns laid waste whole rows of houses and apartment blocks believed to be PLO positions. The fields were pitted with craters. . . Israeli strategy at that point was obvious-to clean away a no-man's land through which Israeli tanks could advance and prevent any PLO breakout. 99

The military tactics, as widely reported by the Israeli and foreign press, were simple. Since Israel had total command of the air and overwhelming superiority in firepower from land, sea and air, the IDF simply blasted away everything before it, then sent soldiers in to "clean out" what was left. We return to some descriptions of these tactics by Israeli military analysts. The tactics are familiar from Vietnam and other wars where a modern high technology army faces a vastly outmatched enemy. The difference lies in the fact that in other such cases, one rarely hears tales of great heroism and "purity of arms," though to be accurate, these stories were more prevalent among American "supporters" than Israeli soldiers, many of whom were appalled at what they were ordered to do.

Economist Middle East correspondent G. H. Jansen describes Israel's tactics in the first days of the war as follows: to surround cities and towns "so swiftly that civilian inhabitants were trapped inside, and then to pound them from land, sea and air. After a couple of days of this there would be a timid probing attack: if there were resistance the pounding would resume."* "A second striking aspect of Israeli military doctrine exemplified in the Lebanese campaign," he notes, "is the military exploitation of a cease-fire. Israel has done this so often, in every one of its wars, that perhaps one must assume that for the Israeli military 'cease-fire' only means 'no shooting' and is totally unconnected with any freezing of positions on the ground along a 'cease-fire' line." We have, in fact, noted several earlier examples of exploitation of cease-fire: the conquest of Eilat in 1949 and of the Golan Heights in 1967. "The Israelis, in this war, have refined their cease-fire-exploitation doctrine by declaring cease-fires unilaterally, at times most advantageous to them. This has left them free to switch cease-fires on and off with a show either of peaceful intent or of outraged indignation. For the Israelis the cease-fire is not a step towards a truce or an armistice, it is simply a period of rest, reinforcement and peaceful penetration-an attempt to gain the spoils of war without fighting."100 Such tactics are possible because of the huge military advantage that Israel enjoyed.

* Israeli troops in fact often warned inhabitants to leave before the land sea and air pounding, but many report, not surprisingly that they were unaware of the warnings see Michael Jansen, The Bathe of Beirut Furthermore the leaflets sometimes were dropped well after the bombardment of civilian targets began as in Sidon (see Israet in Lebanon p 72, citing "the detailed diary of a reputable representative of a relief organisation among other evidence). It has repeatedly been claimed that Israel suffered casualties because ofthe policy of warning inhabitants to leave but it remains unexplained how this came about in areas that were sure to be next on the list, warning or not and how casualties could be caused by the use of the tactics just described, which are repeatedly verified in the Israeli press (see p. 218 and below, for many examples). Danny Wolf, formerly a commander in the Paratroopers, asks "If someone dropped leaflets over Herzliya [in Israel] tomorrow, telling the civilians in iliding to evacuate the town within two hours, wouldn't that be a war crime?' (Amir Oren, Koteret Rashit, Jan.19, 1983). It would be interesting to hear the answer from those who cite these alleged IDF warnings with much respect as proof of the noble commitment to "purity of arms."

Since the western press was regularly accused in the United States of failing to recognize the amazing and historically unique Israeli efforts to spare civilians and of exaggerating the scale of the destruction and terror-we return to some specifics-it is useful to bear in mind that the actual tactics used were entirely familiar and that some of the most terrible accounts were given by Israeli soldiers and journalists. In Knesset debate, Menachem Begin responded to accusations about civilian casualties by recalling the words of Chief of Staff Mordechai Our of the Labor Party after the 1978 invasion of Lebanon under the Begin government, cited on p.181. When asked "what happens when we meet a civilian population," Our's answer was that "It is a civilian population known to have provided active aid to the terrorists... Why has that population of southern Lebanon suddenly become such a great and just one?" Asked further whether he was saying that the population of southern Lebanon "should be punished," he responded: 4'And how! I am using Sabra language [colloquial Hebrew]: And how!" The "terrorists" had been "nourished by the population around them." Our went on to explain the orders he had given: "bring in tanks as quickly as possible and hit them from far off before the boys reached a face-to-face battle." He continued: "For 30 years, from the war of independence to this day, we have been fighting against a population that lives in villages and in towns..." With audacity bordering on obscenity, Begin was able to utter the words: "We did not even once deliberately harm the civilian population. all the fighting has been aimed against military targets..."

Turning to the press, Tom Segev of Ha'aretz toured "Lebanon after the conquest" in mid-June. He saw "refugees wandering amidst swarms of flies, dressed in rags, their faces expressing terror and their eyes, bewilderment..., the women wailing and the children sobbing" (he noticed Henry Kamm of the New York Times nearby; one may usefully compare his account of the same scenes). Tyre was a "destroyed city"; in the market place there was not a store undamaged. Here and there people were walking, "as in a nightmare." "A terrible smell filled the air"-ofdecomposing bodies, he learned. Archbishop Georges Haddad told him that many had been killed, though he did not know the numbers, since many were still buried beneath the ruins and he was occupied with caring for the many orphans wandering in the streets, some so young that they did not even know their names. In Sidon, the destruction was still worse: "the center of the town-destroyed." "This is what the cities of Germany looked like at the end of the Second World War." "Half the inhabitants remained without shelter, 100,000 people." He saw "mounds of ruins," tens of thousands of people at the shore where they remained for days, women driven away by soldiers when they attempted to flee to the beaches, children wandering "among the tanks and the ruins and the shots and the hysteria," blindfolded young men, hands tied with plastic bonds, "terror and confusion."

Danny Rubinstein of Davar toured the conquered areas at the war's end. Virtually no Palestinians were to be found in Christian-controlled areas, the refugee camps having been destroyed long ago (see the description by Attallab Mansour pp 1 8&7). The Red Cross give the figure of 15,000 as a "realistic" estimate 'of the number of prisoners taken by the Israeli army. In the "ruins of Am el-Hilweh," a toothless old man was the youngest man left in the camp among thousands of women, children and old men, "a horrible scene." Perhaps 350-400,000 Palestinians had been "dispersed in all directions" ("mainly women, children and old men, since all the men have been detained"). The remnants are at the mercy of Phalangist patrols and Haddad forces, who burn houses and "beat the people." There is no one to care for the tens of thousands of refugee children, "and of course all the civilian networks operated by the PLO have been annihilated, and tens of thousands of families, or parts of families, are dispersed like animals." "The shocking scene of the destroyed camps proves that the destrudtion was systematic." Even shelters in which people hid from the Israeli bombardments were destroyed, "and they are still digging out bodies"-this in areas where the fighting had ended over 2 months earlier. 101 An Oxfam appeal in March 1983 states that "No one will ever know how many dead are buried beneath the twisted steel of apartment buildings or the broken stone of the cities and villages of Lebanon."

By late June, the Lebanese police gave estimates of about 10,000 killed. These early figures appear to have been roughly accurate. A later accounting reported by the independent Lebanese daily An-nahar gave a figure of 17,825 known to have been killed and over 30,000 wounded, including 5500 killed in Beirut and over 1200 civilians killed in the Sidon area. A government investigation estimated that 90% of the casualties were civilians. By late December, the Lebanese police estimated the numbers killed through August at 19,085, with 6775 killed in Beirut, 84% of them civilians. Israel reported 340 IDF soldiers killed in early September, 446 by late November (if these numbers are accurate, then the number of Israeli soldiers kifled in the ten weeks following the departure of the PLO from Lebanon is exactly the same as the number of Israetis killed in all terrorist actions across the northern border from 1967). According to Chief of Staff Fitan, the number of Israeli soldiers killed "in the entire western sector of Lebanon" - that is, apart from the Syrian front - was 117. Eight Israeli soldiers died "in Beirut proper," he claimed, three in accidents. If correct (which is unlikely), Eitan's figures mean that five Israeli soldiers were killed in the process of massacring some 6000 civilians in Beirut, a glorious victory indeed. Israel also offered various figures for casualties within Lebanon. Its final accounting was that 930 people were killed in Beirut including 340 civilians, and that 40 buildings were destroyed in the Beirut * 350 in all of Lebanon. The number of PLO killed was given as 4000.

The estimates given by Israel were generally ridiculed by reporters and relief workers, though solemnly repeated by supporters here. Within Israel itself, the Lebanese figures were regularly cited; for example, by Yizhar Smilanski, one of Israel's best-known novelists, in a bitter denunciation of Begin (the "man of blood" who was willing to sacrifice "some 50,000 human beings" for his political ends) and of the society that is able to tolerate him. 104 In general, Israeli credibility suffered seriously during the war, as it had in the course of the 1973 war. Military correspondent Hirsh Goodman reported that "the army spokesman [was] less credible than ever before." Because of repeated government lies (e.g., the claim, finally admitted to be false, that the IDF returns fire only to the point from which it originates), "thousands of Israeli troops who bear eye-witness to events no longer believe the army spokesman" and "have taken to listening to Radio Lebanon in English and Arabic to get what they believe is a credible picture of the war." The "overwhelming majority of men-including senior officers"-accused lsraeli military correspondents of "allowing this war to grow out of all proportion to the original goals, by mindlessly repeating official explanations we all knew were false." The officers and men "of four top fighting units. . accused [military correspondents] of covering up the truth, of lying to the public, of not reporting on the real mood at the front and of being lackeys of the defence minister." Soldiers "repeated the latest jokes doing the rounds, like the one about the idiot in the ordnance corps who must have put all Israeli cannon in back to front. 'Each time we open fire the army spokesman announces we're being fired at..."' Goodman is concerned not only over the deterioriation in morale caused by this flagrant lying but also by Israel's "current world image."105 About that, he need not have feared too much. At least in the U.S., Israeli government claims continued to be taken quite seriously, even the figures offered with regard to casualties and war damages.

As relief officials and others regularly commented, accurate numbers cannot be obtained, since many-particularly Palestinians-are simply unaccounted for. Months after the fighting had ended in the Sidon area inhabitants of Am el-Hilweh were still digging out corpses and had no idea how many had been killed, and an education officer of the Israeli army (a Lieutenant Colonel) reported that the army feared epidemics in Sidon itself "because of the many bodies under the wreckage"106. Lebanese and foreign relief officials observed that "Many of the dead never reached hospital," and that unknown numbers of bodies are believed lost in the rubble in Beirut; hospital figures, the primary basis for the Lebanese calculations cited above, "only hint at the scale of the tragedy." "Many bodies could not be lodged in overflowing morgues and were not included in the statistics."'107

106Organization were unable to convince the Jews of West Beirut to immigrate to Israel. "'Why should we leave,' they asked? Here are our houses and our friends."'
107Or what is left of them.

The Lebanese government casualty figures are based on police records, which in turn are based on actual counts in hospitals, clinics and civil defense centers. These figures, according to police spokesmen, do "not include people buried in mass graves in areas where Lebanese authorities were not informed."108 The figures, including the figure of 19,000 dead and over 30,000 wounded, must surely be underestimates, assuming that those celebrating their liberation (the story that Israel and its supporters here would like us to believe) were not purposely magnifying the scale of the horrors caused by their liberators. Particularly with regard to the Palestinians, one can only guess what the scale of casualties may have been.

A UN report estimated 13,500 severely damaged houses in West Beirut alone, thousands elsewhere, not counting the Palestinian camps (which are-or were-in fact towns).109 As for the Palestinians, the head of the UN Agency that has been responsible for them, Olof Rydbeck of Sweden, said that its work of 32 years "has been wiped out"; Israeli bombardment had left "practically all the schools, clinics and installations of the agency in ruins.""110 Israel made much of the fact that one UNRWA school had been converted to a PLO military training center, unknown to UNRWA. "The Israelis are entitled to be indignant," the London Economist observed. "Their protest would carry more weight if they had not looted the college's educational equipment, reduced its student roll to about 150 and reduced the nearby refugee camp, from which many of the students were drawn, to a mass of rubble."111 Some older Israelis must have winced at the show of indignation, those who recalled UNRWA's earlier incarnation as UNRRA, established to care for other refugees. The Chief of UNRRA Operations in Germany, 1945-6, writes in his memoirs that "Military training of Jewish D.P.'s was taking place in [UNRRA] camps, presumably in preparation for active participation in the war of liberation from the British Mandate on their arrival in Palestine. Instructors were found to be N.C.O.s from British and U.S. armies, in uniform, absent without, but I fancy sometimes with, leave from their units."112 All illegal, a violation of UNRRA's commitment, and one of the proud moments in the history of the foundation of the State of Israel. It k, once again, uncanny to see how history is being replayed, with a change in the cast of characters that will become still more macabre before we conclude, with future chapters that one hesitates to imagine.

John Kifner reported that "there was not much left standing" in the Palestinian camps after Israel's bombardment, and that in the south, "the Israelis have bulldozed refugee camps to make them uninhabitable."113 Contrary to a standard propaganda claim, reporters found "no heavy artillery or well-fortified positions" in the Sabra, Shatilla and Bourj al-Barajneh camps in Beirut, which had "taken a terrible pounding" since June 6 (actually, June 4), causing the flight of half of their 125,000 population in the first few weeks of the war."114 The areas to which they escaped, particularly the Fakhani quarter in Beirut, were also mercilessly bombed. Since Palestinians are by definition all terrorists, or mothers of terrorists, or future terrorists-so different from Begin, Shamir and Sharon for example-whatever was done to them was regarded as legitimate.

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