Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Debate on local BDS action


The following letters were all in response to a BDS/CVS demonstration in Poughkeepsie. †The first letter (Rabbi Loevinger) is at the bottom; then Pat L's response and then mine - so if you read from the bottom it makes more sense. † †Thought MECR might be interested. Eli

Begin forwarded message:
From: Elias Kassirer
Date: February 28, 2012 11:30:28 AM EST

To: DutchessPeace@yahoogroups.com Subject: Re: [DutchessPeace] Letter in today's PoJo Reply-To: DutchessPeace@yahoogroups.com

Good response Pat. †I am sending the following letter to the Journal today. Eli

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To the Editor:
Rabbi Neal Joseph Loevinger, with all due respect, is simply wrong about Dutchess Peace and itís boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. †In truth and in fact, †Israel is the aggressor, the obstacle to peace, and the problem. †Israel enjoys complete military, economic, and media dominance over the Palestinians. †As a result of military occupation, land theft, illegal settlement building, humiliating military checkpoints, extensive home demolitions, imprisonment of children, bombings, and strangulation through the blockade, † Israel has created an apartheid state (ask Jimmy Carter or Desmond Tutu). †Jewish survivors of the Warsaw ghetto have noted the similarities between the horrors of Nazi occupied Warsaw and Israeli controlled Gaza.

Palestinians called for the BDS campaign as a non-violent attempt to pressure Israel to change. †The goals of BDS are to end Israeli military occupation, secure equal rights for all, and to allow Palestinians to return to homes and land that was taken from them. †Of course, Israel has legitimate and very real concerns about security, but Israel will never achieve either through policies of brutality and oppression. †Hopefully, †the non-violent BDS campaign will move Israel in a more human and humane direction. †I would hope that Rabbi Loevinger would spend some time speaking to his congregation about our shared humanity and shared suffering with particular attention to the current plight of the †Palestinian men, women, and children who are attacked, intimidated, and humiliated on a daily basis by Jewish settlers and IDF soldiers.

Eli Kassirer New Paltz


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On Feb 24, 2012, at 3:12 PM, wrote:
The following letter appeared in today's Poughkeepsie Journal. Of course, it must be responded to. My suggestion is, rather than have one letter coming from all of us, as many as feel moved to do so write individual letters. I'm pasting my response below. It's personal and meant to come only from me. Who else wants to write a letter?

Pat

Boycotting Israel won't lead to peace The Dutchess Peace Coalition is a small group of activists for peace and social justice, who are by all appearances both sincere and passionate in their desire to bring about a better world.

If the DPC wants to work toward peace, it must swiftly separate itself from the movement to delegitimize and isolate the State of Israel, otherwise known as BDS: boycott, divestment, and sanctions.

The Peace Coalitionís website lists local actions, such as protesting the sale of Israeli cosmetics in front of drugstores, which will not bring peace, but will instead make peace a more distant goal. The inevitable result of such efforts is that Israel is seen as the sole aggressor, the sole obstacle to peace, the sole problem ó and it most assuredly is not.

Because BDS supporters do not understand or acknowledge the real threats to Israelís security, they strengthen extremist elements on both sides of the conflict, empowering those who think they can destroy Israel by means of war, provoking a more intense defensive posture on the Israeli side.

If the Dutchess Peace Coalition truly wants peace, it should work to promote a two-state solution ó which is the policy of the United States, Europe, Israel, and the mainstream Jewish groups in this country. It is our only real hope of peace.

Boycotting Israel doesnít help two peoples live side by side. Thatís what a real peace would look like, and itís not too late for the Peace Coalition to help bring it about.

Rabbi Neal Joseph Loevinger


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Now, my response:
As a member of Dutchess Peace, I wish to respond to Rabbi Loevingerís letter of February 24.

Dutchess Peace doesnít seek to ìdelegitimizeî Israel. We donít need to ìisolateî Israel; Israel has isolated itself. On February 18, 2011, the United Nations Security Council considered a resolution calling on Israel to withdraw from its illegal settlements. Only the United States opposed the resolution, although Ambassador Susan Rice stated: ìÖwe reject in the strongest terms the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activityÖî The U.N. General Assembly passed a similar, non-binding, resolution, 159 to 6.

The settlements, as well as the border wall (which often extends deep into Palestinian territory and separates Palestinians from their lands and livelihoods ñ another violation of the Geneva Conventions), destroy the possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state. They are the most serious threat to Israelís security, as they make a two-state solution unworkable and create understandable resentment and despair. Dutchess Peace supports a boycott of products such as Ahava, a beauty product made in the settlements and sold at CVS stores and on their web site, to bring peopleís awareness to this injustice and to pressure Israel to abandon this reckless and dangerous policy.

While I regret having to oppose the Israeli government publicly, my Jewish upbringing has taught me to protest against injustice wherever I encounter it. While I condemn all violence on both sides, it is clear to me that it is the Israeli state that is the aggressor and must be stopped.

Pat Lamanna

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Israel – as living conditions deteriorate, more money to army

By Lia Tarachansky, The Real News Network – 11 Jan 2012
http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=767&Itemid=74&jumival=7796

Russians, nearly a quarter of the population, speak about their isolation and economic struggles

During the summer, Israelis rose up in a mass movement inspired by the regional protests of the Arab Spring. On July 14, 26-year-old Daphny Leef set up a tent on Rothschild Boulevard, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Tel Aviv. Within weeks, protest tent cities sprung up throughout the country, and week after week, Israelis poured onto the streets to demonstrate. But in September, as quickly as the tent cities popped up, they disappeared. The weekly protests stopped, and in a sweeping move, the government demolished dozens of tent cities throughout the country.

The Real News’ Lia Tarachansky spoke with Yael Lerer is a writer and founder of Andalus Publishing, who wrote in LeMonde Diplomatique about the exclusivist nature of the mostly-Ashkenazi movement. But the closest, both economically and culturally, to the Ashkenazi elite is the Russian immigration of 1990. Many of the Soviet expats had difficulties acclimating to Israel, but unlike other immigrations of Jews from the Arab world and Ethiopia, Russians were quicker to enter the job market, elect representatives to Parliament,and enter the middle class. Today they make up nearly a quarter of the Israeli society, but by and large they too did not participate in the summer protests. In this story we meet Reuven Moshayev, a 30-year-old convenience store owner, Dimitry Shevchenko, a 32-year-old factory worker, and his younger brother Ivan, a 28 year old industrial abseilingclimber, who immigrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union.

Transcript

LIA TARACHANSKY, TRNN: During the summer, Israelis rose up in a mass movement inspired by the regional protests of the Arab Spring. On July 14, 26-year-old Daphny Leef set up a tent here on Rothschild Boulevard, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Tel Aviv. Within weeks, protest tent cities sprung up throughout the country, and week after week, Israelis poured onto the streets to demonstrate.

CHANTING (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): The people demand social justice. They take away from the poor and give to the rich. What a corrupt country.

TARACHANSKY: But in September, as quickly as the tent cities popped up, they disappeared. The weekly protests stopped, and in a sweeping move, the government demolished dozens of tent cities throughout the country. Yael Lerer is a writer and founder of Andalus Publishing. Writing in Le Monde diplomatique, she says: “After almost three decades of neo-liberal economic policy, living costs are up and salaries down, the jobs market is worsening, social spending is being cut and public services are deteriorating. Israel’s welfare state – always limited and unequal – has disappeared.”

YAEL LERER, FOUNDER, ANDALUS PUBLISHING: From the first moment it was not clear for me that the J14 is a real—what kind of protest. I mean, I didn’t thought about it as a real revolution. A major part of it, it was because it was a very white revolution. Its leadership and most of its participants were Ashkenazi Jews from the elite of the society. I mean, and if we speak about from the richest, richer part in the Israeli society, except in some isolated islands, but not like in the huge crowd, we didn’t see a real massive participations of Palestinian citizens of Israel, Russian voices, Ethiopian voices for sure, and ultra-Orthodox.

TARACHANSKY: But the closest, both economically and culturally, to the Ashkenazi elite is the Russian immigration of 1990. Many of the Soviet expats had difficulties acclimating to Israel, but unlike other immigrations of Jews from the Arab world and Ethiopia, Russians were quicker to enter the job market, elect representatives to Parliament, and enter the middle class. Today they make up nearly a quarter of the Israeli society, but by and large they too did not participate in the summer protests. Reuven Moshayev is a 30-year-old convenience store owner and an immigrant from the former Soviet Union.

TARACHANSKY (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): You chose not to join the protests. Why?

REUVEN MOSHAYEV, SOVIET EMIGRE TO ISRAEL (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): What good came out of it?

TARACHANSKY: Well, they’re fighting for their rights.

MOSHAYEV: What rights? Does anyone think about them? Does anyone think about us? Everything is too complicated in Israel. We are tiny for them.

TARACHANSKY: But we’re a quarter of the population.

MOSHAYEV: We don’t have influence. They always reject us. Always. Before, it was with words. Today, maybe with looks. By the way I don’t think they look at me different because I look like them. I’m not light-skinned. And most of the Russian-speakers stand out in the Israeli society.

TARACHANSKY (ENGLISH): During the last major demonstration, where nearly half a million Israelis poured onto the streets, I met Dimitry Shevchenko, a 32-year-old factory worker, one of the few Russian speakers to attend the protests. His younger brother Ivan is 28 years old and works as an industrial abseiling climber. He chose not to participate in the demonstrations. We sat down to talk in their hometown of Rishon LeZion before the local protest tent city was demolished.

DIMITRY SHEVCHENKO, FACTORY WORKER, RISHON LEZION (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Many in the Russian community, especially the generation of my father and grandfather, they don’t know how to influence politics, how it’s possible to oppose the government.

IVAN SHEVCHENKO, INDUSTRIAL ABSEILING CLIMBER, RISHON LEZION (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): We basically knew nothing about this country. We just knew it was a Jewish country that accepts Jews from all over the world, that promises a better life than here, from the point of view of government, that it treats its citizens as citizens and not as milking cows.

LERER: Seventy-four percent of the Israeli wage, they have—their salary is less than EUR 1,400, about ILS 7,000 a month, which is the French minimum wage. It is significant, because when we think about poverty in Israel, actually, the most—the poor in Israel are basically the Palestinian citizens in Israel and the ultra-Orthodox Jews. We’re speaking these both, in society, about 60 percent of the families are below the poverty line. And the poverty line—and this is also very important—in Israel is very low.

I. SHEVCHENKO: All of the expats worked incredible hours when they first arrived, and in principal continue to work like that to this day, maybe because most of them didn’t find work in professions they had back there. So when they do get the opportunity to tell their kids, get up and go to the demonstration because it will help, they don’t have that kind of time. And the state of extreme competition and depression of new immigrants is transferred to the children.

TARACHANSKY: According to a poll conducted by the Israeli Democracy Institute in 2009, when asked to self-evaluate their class before and after immigrating to Israel, more said they belonged to the lower and middle class in Israel than they did in the Soviet Union. The class difference was much higher for the upper classes: many more said they belonged to the upper-middle and elite classes in the Soviet Union, rather than in Israel.

MOSHAYEV: Russians have their own kinds of problems.

TARACHANSKY: What does that mean?

MOSHAYEV: I’m telling you they feel like they’re isolated. They get chased after when some party needs votes in elections. Then Russians are 1.5 million in Israel. That’s a very serious percentage of the population. But for students, to lower the prices on rent, housing, etc., etc., they don’t turn to the Russians. That’s what I think.

TARACHANSKY: One of the stated successes of the summer movement was its ability to open unprecedented spaces of dialog. Dozens of discussion groups took place every day at Rothschild Boulevard. At the end of August, Russian Israelis organized a discussion group with Palestinian citizens of Israel.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): This is the first time I’m doing something. And you know how much time I knew something has to be done? I did a few little things, but you know, you have this thing hovering over you. And I’m from a bit of an outspoken family. But everyone’s head is lowered, very lowered. You know what it was like to be a Jew there?

UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): We can’t talk about coexistence or why the Russians are right-wing or why the Arabs don’t like Russians and all of that without giving account to the fact that one of the reasons we’re here is because this country had an interest, and that one of the reasons I’m here is to battle the demographic war against the Palestinians.

TARACHANSKY: The government’s response to the demonstrations was to establish a committee headed by economist Manuel Trachtenberg. The committee published its recommendations in late September, and despite many in the protest movement rejecting the process, the Israeli parliament approved it in early December. Some of the Trachtenberg recommendations include unfreezing construction on social housing, more taxation on the rich, free education from age three, and minimal cuts to the defense budget.

MOSHAYEV: This committee won’t lead to anything. They’re always promising something. They always blame everything on security. Money, security. Security, money. Security. For war, jet planes, antimissile shields, etc., etc. It all ends with money in defense.

TARACHANSKY: Indeed, on Monday the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, rejected the proposal to divert funds from the defense budget and instead increased it by $700 million, saying the Arab Spring created new security concerns for Israel. “I have reflected on this question, but in view of what has happened in the region, I have reached the conclusion that cutting the defence budget would be a mistake, even a big mistake … [The Israeli army] is the shield of the country, which is why we must increase its means.” For The Real News, I’m Lia Tarachansky in Tel Aviv

Netanyahu’s war wish

By Moshé Machover, Weekly Worker – 9 Feb 2012
www.cpgb.org.uk/article.php?article_id=1004712

The threat of a military provocation by Tel Aviv against Iran is very real

One thing is beyond any doubt: a major aim of Israel’s foreign policy is the overthrow of the Iranian regime. What is not generally understood are the motives behind this aim, and the present Israeli government’s preferred means of achieving it. In this article I would like to say something about the motives, and then explain why prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s preferred means is war – one likely to ignite a major conflagration.

Motives

In my 2008 article ‘Zionism: propaganda and reality’,[1] I quoted a recent Jerusalem Post report on a conference at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies. That report deserves to be read very carefully, so here it is again:

“Iran’s success in obtaining a nuclear capability will deter Jews from immigrating to Israel, cause many Israelis to leave and will be the end of the ‘Zionist dream’, former deputy defence minister Ephraim Sneh said Tuesday.

“‘A nuclear weapon in Iranian hands will be an intolerable reality for Israel,’ Sneh said during a conference on Iran’s nuclear programme at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv. ‘The decision-making process in Israel will be under constant [Iranian] influence – this will be the end of the Zionist dream.’

“Former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy slammed Israeli political leaders for calling Iran’s nuclear threat ‘an existential threat’. ‘There is something wrong with informing our enemy that they can bring about our demise,’ Halevy said. ‘It is also wrong that we inform the world that the moment the Iranians have a nuclear capability there is a countdown to the destruction of the state of Israel. We are the superpower in the Middle East and it is time that we began behaving like [a] superpower,’ he said.

“Iran’s real goal, Halevy said, was to turn itself into a regional superpower and reach a ‘state of equality’ with the United States in their diplomatic dealings.

“Sneh said that, while the military option was not preferred, Israel needed to keep it on the table, since such a possibility was the motivation for the international community’s efforts to use diplomacy to stop Iran. Sneh added that he was confident that the [Israeli Defence Force] was capable of successfully carrying out a military strike against Iran. ‘We grew up in a place that when the political echelon wanted something, the professional echelon knew how to do it,’ he said. ‘I believe this has not changed in 2008.’”[2]

Two points in this report are particularly noteworthy. First, one of the experts, a former chief of the Mossad (Israel’s counterpart of MI6 and the CIA) is talking here about the prospect of Iranian nuclear capability rather than actual production and possession of a nuclear weapon. As all experts are well aware, there is no evidence that Iran has a programme for producing such a weapon. This is as true today as it was in 2008. Indeed, the US defence secretary, Leon Panetta, confirmed this quite recently.[3] (Nuclear capability is the ability to produce a usable nuclear weapon at fairly short notice. It is a policy pursued by several other governments, and is not prohibited by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, of which Iran – but not Israel! – is a signatory.)

Second, contrary to Israeli and western hype, neither expert claims that Iran is actually planning to attack Israel, let alone subject it to a nuclear holocaust. The former Mossad chief is dismissive of the scaremongering propaganda alleging that Iran poses a credible military threat to Israel. Ephraim Sneh, a former brigadier general and senior Labour Party politician, does mention the (purely hypothetical) prospect of Iran producing a nuclear weapon, but even he believes that the threat it would pose to Israel is political rather than a direct military one.

Indeed, Israel’s worry regarding Iran is the real political threat it poses to Israel’s regional hegemony, not the imaginary threat of being attacked by the Islamic Republic. Possession of nuclear capability is certainly a component of this political threat, inasmuch as it would contribute to Iran’s diplomatic muscle in its dealings with other Middle Eastern states and with the US. But it is only a component. Even without the nuclear issue, the Zionist state has a clear interest in replacing the present Iranian regime by one compliant with global US hegemony.

Divergence

As far as this aim is concerned, the interests of US and Israel are in complete agreement. But, as regards the means, there appears to be a divergence between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government.

The US, smarting from the wounds of its adventurous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, would like to avoid an outright open military conflict with Iran, a state that can inflict serious damage to its attackers. Moreover, in the present economic climate a sharp rise in the price of oil – an inevitable concomitant of war in the Middle East – may have catastrophic consequences for the global capitalist economy. True, the scary game of ‘chicken’ the Obama administration is playing against Iran can inadvertently get out of hand and lead to disastrous unintended consequences. (Recall the classic James Dean film, Rebel without a cause …). But the administration is hoping to keep this danger under control and avoid outright war – at least for the time being.

Not so the Israeli government: there are increasing signs that Netanyahu and his defence minister, Ehud Barak, are considering – against the advice of some of their military and intelligence experts – a provocation that would lead to a major war. This causes the Obama administration serious worry: they do not wish to be dragged into such a war by their Israeli junior partner.

On January 20, while on an unadvertised and little noticed visit to Israel (no press conference, no public statement), general Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, “told Israeli leaders … that the United States would not participate in a war against Iran begun by Israel without prior agreement from Washington … Dempsey’s warning, conveyed to both prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak, represents the strongest move yet by president Barack Obama to deter an Israeli attack and ensure that the United States is not caught up in a regional conflagration with Iran.”[4]

His warning seems to have fallen on deaf ears. On February 2, Associated Press reported:

“US defence secretary Leon Panetta won’t dispute a report that he believes Israel may attack Iran this spring in an attempt to set back the Islamic republic’s nuclear programme.

“Panetta was asked by reporters to comment on a Washington Post opinion column by David Ignatius that said Panetta believes there is a ‘strong likelihood’ that Israel will attack in April, May or June. Ignatius did not say who told him this.

“Asked whether he disputes the report, Panetta said, ‘No, I’m just not commenting’ …

“He noted that Israel has stated publicly that it is considering military action against Iran. He said the US has ‘indicated our concerns’.”[5]

In my opinion this is not just sabre-rattling on Israel’s part. There is reason to believe that Netanyahu is seriously considering a provocation designed to trigger off a major Middle East conflagration, despite the enormous risks, that include Iranian retaliation causing loss of many Israeli lives.

To explain Netanyahu’s reckless calculation we need to turn our attention to Zionism’s nightmare: the Palestinian ‘demographic peril’.

One state, Zionist style

By now most people are aware that the present Israeli government has done all in its power to torpedo a so-called ‘two-state solution’. What is less well known is that opposition to a sovereign Palestinian state in any part of Eretz Yisrael is not a mere quirk of a rightwing Israeli government, but a deep-seated and fundamental principle shared by all mainstream Zionist parties.

In 1975, General Moshe Dayan put it like this: “Fundamentally, a Palestinian state is an antithesis of the state of Israel … The basic and naked truth is that there is no fundamental difference between the relation of the Arabs of Nablus to Nablus [in the West Bank] and that of the Arabs of Jaffa to Jaffa [in Israel] … And if today we set out on this road and say that the Palestinians are entitled to their own state because they are natives of the same country and have the same rights, then it will not end with the West Bank. The West Bank together with the Gaza Strip do not amount to a state … The establishment of such a Palestinian state would lay a cornerstone to something else … Either the state of Israel – or a Palestinian state.”[6]

Thus, for mainstream Zionism any admission that “the Palestinians are entitled to their own state because they are natives of the same country and have the same rights” would undermine the legitimacy of the Zionist state, and eventually its very existence.

This has remained a cornerstone of Israel’s political strategy. For this reason, no Israeli government has ever signed a legally binding commitment to accepting a Palestinian Arab state. This applies, in particular, to the Oslo accords of 1993, which the second government of Yitzhak Rabin co-signed with the Palestinian leadership under Yasser Arafat. In this treaty there is no mention of a Palestinian state. This was not an accidental omission: when presenting the Oslo accords to the Knesset for ratification – on October 5 1995, a month before he was assassinated – Rabin pointedly stressed that what Israel was going to insist on was a Palestinian “entity which is less than a state”.

Many observers have been puzzled by Israel’s adamant rejection of any Palestinian sovereign state, however small, west of the Jordan River. This seems terribly short-sighted. For, if the whole of pre-1948 Palestine is to remain under Israeli sovereignty, that would mean that Israel would have to rule over a hostile Palestinian Arab people. In effect, the whole of that territory will be one state. Right now there is a rough numerical parity between the two national groups. Since no large-scale Jewish immigration is expected, and since the natural rate of increase of the Palestinian population is higher than that of the Hebrew population, the former will considerably outnumber the latter within a few decades. Surely, the Palestinian majority cannot indefinitely be denied equal rights; but equal rights would lead to the demise of the Jewish state. For Zionism this ‘demographic peril’ is worse even than a sovereign Palestinian mini-state. So it would seem that by sabotaging the creation of such a state, Israel is heading for what its own ruling ideology regards as the abyss.

This apparent contradiction disregards a third option: neither a two-state solution, nor a single state with an Arab majority, but ‘population transfer’. Large-scale ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Arabs would result in a single state in the entire territory, with a large Jewish majority, which is the ultimate aim of all mainstream Zionist parties.

But implementing ethnic cleansing on a sufficiently large scale – while technically quite easy, as explained by the Israeli military theorist, Martin van Creveld[7] – is politically very tricky. It cannot be done in normal, politically tranquil circumstances. It requires what in Zionist parlance is called she’at kosher: an opportune moment of major political, and preferably military, crisis.

Interestingly, quite a long time ago, on November 16 1989, a junior minister in the Shamir government made precisely this point in a speech delivered at Bar-Ilan University, a hotbed of clerical ultra-chauvinist Zionism.

The Jerusalem Post of November 19 1989, quoting a tape recording of the speech, reported that the deputy foreign minister (roughly equivalent to parliamentary under-secretary of state in Westminster) “has called for Israel to exploit political opportunities in order to expel large numbers of Palestinians from the [occupied] territories”. He told students in a speech at Bar-Ilan University that “the government had failed to exploit politically favourable situations in order to carry out ‘large-scale’ expulsions at times when ‘the damage would have been relatively small. I still believe that there are opportunities to expel many people’.”

Oh, the name of that junior minister: Binyamin Netanyahu.

A sacrifice worth making

A war with Iran would present a golden opportunity for large-scale expulsion of Palestinians, precisely because (unlike the Iraq invasion of 2003) fighting would not be over too soon, and major protests and disturbances are likely to occur among the masses throughout the region, including the Palestinian Arabs under Israeli rule. What better way to pacify such disturbances than to “expel many people”.

Of course, a decision to ignite a war against Iran is not one that any Israeli leader would take lightly. There is a non-negligible risk that Israel would suffer many casualties. This is not a price that even the most adventurous prime minister would consider paying, unless the expected prize is extremely high. But in this case the prize is the highest possible one from a Zionist point of view: eliminating the demographic threat to the future of Israel as a Jewish ethnocracy. So Netanyahu will be sorely tempted to make a sacrifice of his own people for the greater national good.

I assume that American policy-makers are aware of Israel’s special interest in a military denouement of the conflict with Iran, an interest not quite shared by the US. This is why they are worried, and issue stern warnings to Netanyahu and Barak – discreetly and behind the scenes, of course, because especially in this election year, when he will face Republican crazies, Obama cannot afford to appear pusillanimous.

However, Netanyahu cannot flagrantly go ahead and start a war without US approval. Therefore the most likely scenario is a series of provocations instigated by Israel, mostly by devious and covert means, in order to escalate the conflict and drag the US by degrees into mission creep.

I do not wish to sound too alarmist, but the coming few months may well be ‘interesting’ in the Chinese sense.

Notes

1. Weekly Worker September 18 2008.

2. ‘Iranian nukes mean end of Zionism’ The Jerusalem Post internet edition, September 9 2008.

3. ‘Panetta: Iran has not yet decided to make a nuclear bomb’ Associated Press, January 8 2012; reported by Fox News: www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/01/08/panetta-iran-has-not-yet-decided-to-make-nuclear-bomb.

4. IPS report, February 1 2012: http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=106621.

5. Washington Post February 2 2012.

6. Ha’aretz December 12 1975.

7. Martin van Creveld, ‘Sharon’s plan is to drive Palestinians across the Jordan’ The Sunday Telegraph April 28 2002: www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/1392485/Sharons-plan-is-to-drive-Palestinians-across-the-Jordan.html.

On anniversary of Gaza war, we will remember IDF soldiers who destroyed Palestinian families


By Amira Hass, Haaretz – 2 Jan 2012

While Yoav Galant’s name is most prominently mentioned in the context of the third anniversary of Operation Cast Lead, we must recall the other, nameless soldiers, guided by the spirit of the army’s top brass

On the third anniversary of the Cast Lead onslaught, we remember the anonymous soldiers who fired on a red car, in which a father, Mohammed Shurrab, and his two sons were returning home from their farm lands. It is not fair that the officer who then served as GOC Southern Command of the Israel Defense Forces, Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant, will be the only one remembered on this anniversary. Indeed, the list of fighters who should be mentioned and recalled is long.

We will remember the pilot who delivered the bomb that killed Mahmoud al-Ghoul, a high-school student, and his uncle Akram, an attorney, at the family’s home in northern Gaza. We will remember the soldiers who analyze photographs taken by drones, who decided that a truck conveying oxyacetylene cylinders for welding, owned by Ahmad Samur, was carrying Grad rockets – a decision that led to an order to bomb the vehicle from the air which, in turn, led to the deaths of eight persons, four of them minors.

We will remember the soldiers who turned the Abu Eida family home in eastern Jabalya into a base and place from which to shoot, and confined in one room an elderly invalid, a blind woman and two older women. We will remember how these soldiers did not allow these four persons to go to the restroom for nine days. We will remember the soldiers who herded members of the Samouni family into one house and were themselves positioned 80 meters from it when it was shelled, with all its residents inside, under orders from brigade commander Ilan Malka – someone else whom we will remember, of course.

The list goes on and on, and we ask forgiveness from those we haven’t cited due to lack of space. But on this occasion we shall especially remember the soldiers at a certain post in the eastern part of Khan Yunis.

On Saturday, January 17, 2009, at 8:46 (a day before the cessation of the attacks ), I received the following letter from the United States in my inbox: “My father and two brothers were attacked yesterday [Friday, January 16th] while driving home from their farm. One brother [Kassab - 27] died, but the father [Mohammed Shurrab - 64] and the remaining brother [Ibrahim - 17] are now wounded and stranded in an Israeli Defense Force (IDF ) controlled area. They were attacked between 1:00-1:30 P.M. local time during the cease-fire time, and emergency services are unable to reach them.”

The IDF did not allow an ambulance to approach this area; the letter writer, Amer Shurrab, believed that media pressure would help bring about such authorization. “We are very desperate, and trying as many avenues as possible to get aid to reach them. If you know even a foot soldier who might be able to push the ball by calling a local commander we would really appreciate any help,” he wrote.

Shurrab did not know that while he was writing this desperate appeal to a person he did not know, his second brother was already dead, after bleeding in his father’s arms for 10 hours. The bereaved brother also did not know that from 6 A.M. that same Saturday, Tom, a field worker for the Physicians for Human Rights nonprofit organization, was in touch with me.

This was a case of death on via live broadcast: Until the battery of the father’s cell phone went dead, Shurrab phoned his relatives in Gaza and the United States, as well as the Red Crescent and the Red Cross, Tom from PHR, and local journalists.

The humanitarian cease-fire, as it was called by the IDF, had lasted on that Friday from 10 A.M. to 2 P.M. The father, who was driving, and his two sons passed an IDF checking position, and were allowed to continue on. Around 1 P.M. they reached the Abu Zeidan supermarket, in the Al Fukhary neighborhood in eastern Khan Yunis, whose residents had fled at the start of the ground attack. The neighboring house, the largest building on the street, had been turned into an army base two weeks beforehand. Shots were fired from this base at the Shurrab car. Wounded in his chest, Kassab got out of the jeep, collapsed and died. Ibrahim jumped out of the vehicle, and was then wounded in his leg by unrelenting gunfire.

The father was wounded in the arm, but managed to drag his surviving son to a nearby wall. He saw a tank, and soldiers coming and going. The soldiers could see him. At 11 P.M., 10 hours after the shooting, still pinned against the wall, the father noticed that his bleeding son was becoming cold and that his breathing was becoming labored. He managed to carry his son back to the gunshot-riddled vehicle, hoping it would be warmer there. But half an hour after midnight, between Friday and Saturday, the son drew his last breath, in his father’s arms.

All this occurred some 50 or 100 meters from the soldiers. Periodically, the newly bereaved father spoke on the phone with Tom who, stationed in his Tel Aviv home throughout the night, joined the Red Cross in efforts to persuade the army to allow an ambulance to come immediately to the scene. The European Gaza Hospital is located some two kilometers, a one- or two-minute ride, from this area.

Around 9:30 Saturday morning Tom was informed that the IDF had given authorization for the ambulance to come at noon that day.

At the time, the IDF Spokesman relayed that, “In general, during the cease-fire the IDF opened fire only when rockets were fired at Israel, or shots were fired at the IDF. We are unable to investigate and retrieve the facts of every incident, or to verify or deny each piece of information that is brought to our attention. The ambulance’s entry was allowed only after an assessment was made of the situation in the field, and a decision was reached that operational conditions allowed such entry. The wounded persons [!!] were evacuated by the Palestinian health ministry, and brought to the hospital in Rafah.”

I well remember those anonymous solders who destroyed the Shurrab family. Upon my arrival at the site on January 24, I discovered that they had left behind not only the usual images of destruction, and the routine filth, at the Palestinian home from which they fired shots against this family: They also left behind the inscription, “Kahane was right.”

www.haaretz.com/print-edition/features/on-anniversary-of-gaza-war-we-will-remember-idf-soldiers-who-destroyed-palestinian-families-1.405012

Welcome to the world’s first bunker state


Room for Jews only in Israel’s ‘villa in the jungle’

By Jonathan Cook 18 January 2012

Nazareth – The wheel is turning full circle. Last week the Israeli parliament updated a 59-year-old law originally intended to prevent hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees from returning to the homes and lands from which they had been expelled as Israel was established.

The purpose of the draconian 1954 Prevention of Infiltration Law was to lock up any Palestinian who managed to slip past the snipers guarding the new state’s borders. Israel believed only savage punishment and deterrence could ensure it maintained the overwhelming Jewish majority it had recently created through a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

Fast-forward six decades and Israel is relying on the infiltration law again, this time to prevent a supposedly new threat to its existence: the arrival each year of several thousand desperate African asylum seekers.

As it did with the Palestinians many years ago, Israel has criminalised these new refugees – in their case, for fleeing persecution, war or economic collapse. Whole families can now be locked up, without a trial, for three years while a deportation order is sought and enforced, and Israelis who offer them assistance risk jail sentences of up to 15 years.

Israel’s intention is apparently to put as many of these refugees behind bars as possible, and dissuade others from following in their footsteps.

To cope, officials have approved the building of an enormous detention camp, operated by Israel’s prison service, to contain 10,000 of these unwelcome arrivals. That will make it the largest holding facility of its kind in the world – according to Amnesty International, it will be three times bigger than the next largest, in the much more populous, and divine retribution-loving, US state of Texas.

Israeli critics of the law fear their country is failing in its moral duty to help those fleeing persecution, thereby betraying the Jewish people’s own experiences of suffering and oppression. But the Israeli government and the large majority of legislators who backed the law – like their predecessors in the 1950s – have drawn a very different conclusion from history.

The new infiltration law is the latest in a set of policies fortifying Israel’s status as the world’s first “bunker state”- and one designed to be as ethnically pure as possible. The concept was expressed most famously by an earlier prime minister, Ehud Barak, now the defence minister, who called Israel “a villa in the jungle”, relegating the country’s neighbours to the status of wild animals.

Barak and his successors have been turning this metaphor into a physical reality, slowly sealing off their state from the rest of the region at astronomical cost, much of it subsidised by US taxpayers. Their ultimate goal is to make Israel so impervious to outside influence that no concessions for peace, such as agreeing to a Palestinian state, need ever be made with the “beasts” around them.

The most tangible expression of this mentality has been a frenzy of wall-building. The best-known are those erected around the Palestinian territories: first Gaza, then the areas of the West Bank Israel is not intending to annex – or, at least, not yet.

The northern border is already one of the most heavily militarised in the world – as Lebanese and Syrian protesters found to great cost last summer when dozens were shot dead and wounded as they approached or stormed the fences there. And Israel has a proposal in the drawer for another wall along the border with Jordan, much of which is already mined.

The only remaining border, the 260km one with Egypt, is currently being closed with another gargantuan wall. The plans were agreed before last year’s Arab revolutions but have gained fresh impetus with the overthrow of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak.

Israel is not only well advanced on the walls of the bunker; it is also working round the clock on the roof. It has three missile-defence systems in various stages of development, including the revealingly named “Iron Dome”, as well as US Patriot batteries stationed on its soil. The interception systems are supposed to neutralise any combination of short and long-range missile attacks Israel’s neighbours might launch.

But there is a flaw in the design of this shelter, one that is apparent even to its architects. Israel is sealing itself in with some of the very “animals” the villa is supposed to exclude: not only the African refugees, but also 1.5 million “Israeli Arabs”, descendants of the small number of Palestinians who avoided expulsion in 1948.

This has been the chief motive for the steady stream of anti-democratic measures by the government and parliament that is rapidly turning into a torrent. It is also the reason for the Israeli leadership’s new-found demand that the Palestinians recognise Israel’s Jewishness; its obsessions with loyalty; and the growing appeal of population exchange schemes.

In the face of the legislative assault, Israel’s Supreme Court has grown ever more complicit. Last week, it sullied its reputation by upholding a law that tears apart families by denying tens of thousands of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship the right to live with their Palestinian spouse in Israel – “ethnic cleansing” by other means, as leading Israeli commentator Gideon Levy noted.

Back in the early 1950s, the Israeli army shot dead thousands of unarmed Palestinians as they tried to reclaim property that had been stolen from them. These many years later, Israel appears no less determined to keep non-Jews out of its precious villa.

The bunker state is almost finished, and with it the dream of Israel’s founders is about to be realised.

Jonathan Cook won the 2011 Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.