Gaza: it’s Hamas’s move now

Hamas must seize the initiative if there is ever to be an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestine

So it has happened again. Nearly 18 months after the Israelis bombed Gaza to a wasteland, with barely a load of building materials allowed in since then, Turkey has taken the brunt of an operation of humanitarian assistance gone wrong.

The UN must establish the facts impartially and independently and, if laws have been broken, those responsible must be held to account. Political demonstrations posing as relief flotillas go wrong too easily and Israel understandably has to prevent weapons being smuggled into Gaza. But was this really the best way to bring the ships to shore for examination? A commando attack on civilian ships looks callous and disproportionate. No one should have been hurt, whatever the emotions behind all this.

Why is Gaza under siege in the first place? Under international law, the Israelis are responsible as the occupying force for the proper administration of the territory; and half the point of Israel is not to be above the law. Yet they are creating a traumatised territory of 1.5m neighbours, many of whose children seem to want to grow up to be suicide bombers. They are also pouring fertiliser on al-Qaida’s ground.

The director of UNRWA operations in Gaza, John Ging, gave a speech in London this week entitled “Illegal, inhuman and insane: a medieval siege on Gaza in 2010”. This objective humanitarian practitioner should be listened to. How has Israel, the only democracy in its region and a symbol of the need for racially inspired violence to end, come to risk any claim to international legitimacy in its handling of this situation?

Hamas are the enemy of Israel, but they do not have to be. They preach violent resistance too readily, yet over the past 17 months they have been trying to control the militant groups intent on threatening Israel with rockets – imperfectly perhaps, but not a single Israeli citizen has been killed (alas, one immigrant worker was) by a rocket since the Gaza bombing stopped in January 2009. They are also the implacable opponents of al-Qaida. They won a fair election in 2006 and claim to respect democracy. Let’s test them on that. At present, Hamas security people are being sniped at by the Israeli Defence Forces when they try to arrest other militant groups. This is genuinely getting insane.

The unwisdom of reliance on angry military responses is all the clearer when the mood in Palestine, in both the West Bank and Gaza, is steadily moving towards a negotiated end to the occupation. I am convinced from my own direct experience that Hamas is prepared to establish and respect a long-term ceasefire so that the talking can start without the threat of violence, and that they would enter in good faith, if that were reciprocated, into negotiations to establish two states in the disputed territories, Israel and Palestine, with their own rights and responsibilities under international law. The distortion of their position, a little of it the fault of their own PR, does no side any good.

If a comprehensive negotiation is too much to expect for now, what about a first step? I believe an arrangement to end the blockade is within reach if only Israel, Egypt and Gaza would test the possibilities of dialogue. Hamas have indicated that they could cease all attacks on Israeli soil, close the tunnels, release Gilead Shalit and stop the import of arms into Gaza if the blockade was ended, an agreed number of Palestinian prisoners were released and Gaza began to be rebuilt.

The Palestinians of course have work to do on their own internal reconciliation, while the relationship between Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza remains so bad. But the UN, the US, Russia, the EU and the Arab world must make a much more serious attempt to test the possibilities, putting ordinary Israelis and Palestinians first, not their own political comfort.

We are coming close to losing the chance of a two-state solution. US policy, based on a West-Bank-only approach, is locked in a cul-de-sac if Gaza is left out of the equation, because majority Palestinian support will be lacking. Israel is confident in the knowledge that it cannot be militarily defeated.

But that ignores the huge danger of losing the political, diplomatic, legal and moral high ground. This matters in today’s world, as the US and the UK discovered in Iraq, because government authority and public opinion interact closely, and legitimacy breeds support.

Israel’s relationship with Turkey was the key to a broader understanding with the Islamic community and others beyond the west. That now lies in tatters. If Israel is left as the permanent occupier, or controlling a one-state structure with part of its population downgraded or imprisoned, it will truly be a disaster for its people and what they stand for.

I hope that Hamas will not sit back and enjoy Israel’s discomfiture. They have so far, for a political organisation, attracted much too narrow a range of international support. If they wish to be widely accepted as a negotiating partner, they must unequivocally accept the only fully justified condition set by the international Quartet – the cessation of violence – underline that their objective is a two-state settlement, and win international friends for the ending of the occupation. In whoever’s hands, bombs, bullets, rockets and iron bars will achieve nothing. But a push for justice will.

• This article was originally written for the Times but not published

Ref: Guardian

WELCOME TO ISRAHELL: Fully supported by whiteness building the apartheid state

Amnesty: Israel repeatedly violated rules of war in Gaza

A new Amnesty International report has accused Israel of repeatedly violating the laws of armed conflict during the three-week Israel Defense Forces offensive in the Gaza Strip in December 2008 and January 2009.

The report claims that 1400 Palestinians died in the offensive – including 300 children – and that 5000 people were wounded.

The Amnesty report accuses IDF soldiers of violating the laws of armed conflict over and over again by directly attacking civilians and civilian structures and by causing an immeasurable number of civilian casualties when attacking Palestinian fighters.

It also mentions Israel’s justification for the offensive: that it attacked Gaza to prevent war and to stop armed Palestinians from shelling cities and towns in southern Israel with rockets. The report goes on to detail that three Israeli civilians were killed during the Gaza operation, adding to seven Israeli civilians killed by home-made rockets and other Palestinian attacks launched from Gaza in 2008.

According to the Amnesty International report, the sudden conflict came following a period of a year-and-a-half in which the IDF imposed an uncompromising blockade on the residents of Gaza, which almost completely prevented the movement of people and goods into the Gaza Strip and led to a humanitarian crisis.

The blockade almost completely strangled economic life, the report goes on to accuse, claiming that even those on their death bed were not permitted to leave the Strip for medical attention.

The report also accuses Israeli security forces of destroying many Palestinian homes in the West Bank on the pretext that they were built illegally.

erusalem-based watchdog NGO Monitor responded to the report by accusing Amnesty International of focusing disproportionately on Israeli policy in Gaza and of not paying enough attention to the firing of rockets at Israel civilians.

The watchdog, headed by Bar Ilan University Professor Gerald Steinberg, added that Amnesty’s biased and disproportionate obsession with Israel reached its peak during the latest conflict in Gaza.

According to NGO Monitor, Amnesty International published more than 20 declarations during the Gaza offensive, most of them critical of Israel, even while violations of human rights included a massacre of more than 600 villagers by Ugandan rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo to which Amnesty devoted minimal attention.

Ref. Haaretz

Amnesty.org

Also read: “Israeli war crimes were daily and too numerous to count”

Israel ‘using tourist sites to assert control over East Jerusalem’

Peace groups say government’s secret plans with settler groups could prevent two-state solution

Israel is quietly extending its control over East Jerusalem in alliance with rightwing Jewish settler groups, by developing parks and tourist sites that would bring a “drastic change of the status quo in the city”, according to two Israeli groups.

Ir Amin, a group working for a shared Jerusalem, said the purpose of the “confidential” plan was to link up several areas of East Jerusalem surrounding the Old City with the goal of asserting Israeli control and strengthening its claim to Jerusalem as its capital city. Israel captured East Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed it, a move not recognised by the international community.

The accounts come ahead of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI, who arrives in Jerusalem tomorrow for a week-long pilgrimage, during which he is likely to hear detailed concerns from Palestinians over their future in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Under an eight-year plan, worth 75m shekels a year (£12m), a series of nine national parks, trails and tourist sites based on apparent Jewish historical spots would be established, most under the control of settler groups working together with the Israeli government. The sites would also create a link to Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The parks would be a “biblical playground” built on public and private land and would be fenced in, the group said.

“This act will limit the possibility of territorial compromise in Jerusalem to its northern and southern parts only, outside of areas surrounding the Old City,” said Daniel Seidemann, an Israeli lawyer and founder of Ir Amin.

He said the programme was supported by the Israeli prime minister’s office and was being conducted without any public debate or transparency. “This policy fans the flames of the conflict and threatens to change it from a national conflict that can be controlled and solved, into a pointless regional confrontation,” Seidemann said.

Both Israel and the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital. Palestinians, who live in the east, make up a third of the city’s population.

Peace Now, another Israeli group, released similar information about the plan, based on a government budget document, saying it feared the proposal was “possibly preventing the ability to reach a two-state solution”.

An Israeli government official told AP the new development was to benefit all Jerusalem. “The government will continue to develop Jerusalem, development that will benefit all of Jerusalem’s diverse population and respect the different faiths and communities that together make Jerusalem such a special city,” the official said.

Ref: Guardian

Also read the report – Israeli Government’s Plans to Deepen hold over Jerusalem – May 2009

Inside USA – US interference in Bolivia + Bolivia: a Coup in the Making?

 

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Yesterday, in Bolivia, Minister of Government, Alfredo Rada, accused the right-wing autonomist leader Branko Marinkovic, and Santa Cruz prefect, Rubén Costas, of orchestrating a wave of violence as part of a “civic governors’ coup d’état.” Rada accused Marinkovic of having just returned from the United States where he allegedly received instructions for fomenting the coup attempt.

“Bolivia on the Brink,” is a phrase too often uttered by passing journalists unaccustomed to the country’s regular politics of the streets. But events of the last two weeks cannot be passed off as the ordinary business of protest. Rather, a right-wing coup attempt is in the offing in the five departments (states) governed by the right-wing opposition to President Evo Morales, of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party. The critical “media luna” departments of the eastern lowlands – Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni, and Pando – have been joined in part by far-right elements in the government of the department of Chuquisaca. Thus far, these right-wing autonomists have not achieved critical support within the military, but the passivity of the Morales government in the face of ferocious racism, violence, and the takeover of state institutions and airports on an unprecedented scale, does not bode well for the future of Bolivia.

One indication of the seriousness of the situation is that Morales just announced that US ambassador Philip Goldberg is no longer welcome in Bolivia and will be asked officially to leave the country in the coming hours. Morales accused Goldberg of meeting with the oppositional prefects (governors) of the five departments in rebellion, to help coordinate what has become a full-scale destabilization campaign.

The campaign is being led by the Consejo Nacional Democrático (National Democratic Council, CONALDE), which brings together the prefectures and civic committees of Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, Tarija, and Sucre, under the banner of “departmental autonomy.” These prefectures and civic committees in turn represent the agro-industrial, petroleum, and financial elite of these departments. While they are led by the bourgeoisie, the autonomists have won over substantial sectors of the popular classes by manipulating real democratic desires for decentralized “autonomous” self-governance, as opposed to alienating central state control. If the civic committees and prefects are the pretty face of autonomism, a growing network of proto-fascist youth groups linked to them are the clenched fist in the streets.

The immediate objective of the autonomist right is to destabilize the Morales government and to weaken left-indigenous forces throughout the country. One longer term goal is to reaffirm and consolidate private elite control over the natural gas and agricultural wealth of the country that is currently under threat due to widespread popular sentiment in favour of expropriation, nationalization, redistribution, and the establishment of social control over Bolivia’s riches. A related long-term objective of the autonomist right is to re-conquer state power at the national level.

Read the whole artical here

Ref: Counterpunch

Is Colonialism in Israel Untouchable?

Since the pages have turned in commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Nakba, do new headlines and reports covering stories other than Palestine suggest that its business as usual in Israel?

Indeed it would be an injustice to confine solidarity activism to calendar events such as “birthdays” for this will overlook other dimensions underpinning the creation and support of Israel by Western colonial powers. One such intriguing chapter in the narrative of the Nakba is the forgotten role of Israeli involvement in opposing anti-colonial struggles in the region.

This hidden history possibly accounts for the reason why former theaters of liberation have by and large abandoned the unfinished anti-colonial battle against Israel and instead have embraced the faulty rationale of Zionism through diplomatic, military, economic and other channels.

Is it not strange that for many nations in the Third World gaining their independence in the ‘50s and ‘60s, Palestine which had become a symbolic issue for them – matched only by the issue of apartheid South Africa in the intensity and frequency with which it had been raised – has all but forgotten?

Is it really amnesia? Or are their other issues providing a different form of justification to explain why the Palestinian quest for liberation has been marginalized and tragically reduced to a series of commemorative events?

Perhaps it is fear of being labeled as anti-Semitic? Heribert Adam and Kogila Moodley in “Seeking Mandela” point out that the majority of the Jewish diaspora rallies behind Israeli government policy, regardless of that policy’s consequences. This results in an “uncritical ethnic solidarity that falsely equates critiquing the government with denying Israel’s right to exist – or, with harboring anti-Semitic views”.

This tool has undeniably been used as an effective counter-measure to silence anti-Israeli critique. Many legitimate voices have been targeted, as indeed has been the experience of credible commentators such as John Pilger, Robert Fisk and Johann Hari. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has also been smeared in the past and such vindictiveness has surfaced yet again to tarnish his personality and discredit his current probe of the 2006 Gaza massacre by the Israeli regime.

Even my colleagues and I in the Media Review Network (MRN) have not been spared. We have been accused of promoting anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. These charges have emanated from mainstream Jewish and Zionist organizations in South Africa and documented as “fact” by the Stephen Roth Institute in Israel. These libelous lies and deliberate fabrications have been pedaled in order to deny us space in the public domain – especially the media.

The puzzle for them though which confounds them profusely is our intensely close relations with Jewish activists, academics and politicians who are as determined as we are to oppose Israeli apartheid and violations of Palestinian rights. For instance, they find it perplexing that “supporters of terrorism” – a euphemism used for MRN – would join hands with an Israeli human rights activist such as Uri Davis and publish works motivated by a common value orientation.

In his seminal book “Israeli Apartheid” jointly published by MRN and Zed Books, Davis outlines this vision: “The vision is the vision of justice: the desire to contribute to the removal of the institutions of colonization, dispossession and occupation imposed by Israel on the Palestinian Arab people, and the replacement of these institutions with a better and more just, social and political order.”

They are also confounded by our close relationship with Ronnie Kasrils, who apart from being Jewish, was actively involved with the banned African National Congress (ANC), its military wing Umkhonto we Sizwe and the South African Communist Party (SACP). In keeping with his struggle credentials, Kasrils has consistently campaigned against the idea of a mono-ethnic exclusivist Jewish state that he correctly viewed as akin to apartheid and an injustice to Palestinians.

How could MRN as unashamed agitators for Palestinian rights who regularly question the legitimacy of Israeli statehood enjoy public endorsements and acknowledgements from a Jewish hero of the anti-apartheid struggle?

Indeed Kasrils’ understanding that Israel had come into existence as a settler state through the forceful dispossession of the land of a people who had lived there for centuries, and whose description of Israel as a “hijack state” which he shares with John Rose the author of “The myths of Zionism,” has had a profound impact on a group of 300 SA Jews leading to the formation of “Not in my Name”.

However as is evident in the wider global reluctance by nation-states to confront Israeli intransigence, Kasrils correctly argues that the legacy of the Holocaust has left far too many people in the world “woefully silent in the face of Israel’s crimes”. Being Jewish did not automatically equate with being Zionist or pro-Israel. Neither did criticism of Israel imply anti-Semitism.

Hence the following scathing observation by a UK-based rabbi Dr David Goldberg about Israel as the “last colonial power in the world” ought to galvanise a sustained campaign to restore Palestinian sovereignty without being handicapped by lies and smears.

– Iqbal Jassat is the chairman of the Media Review Network – http://www.mediareviewnet.com. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

Ref: Palestine Chronicle by By Iqbal Jassat

Israel ‘has 150 nuclear weapons’

Ex-US President Jimmy Carter has said Israel has at least 150 atomic weapons in its arsenal. The Israelis have never confirmed they have nuclear weapons, but this has been widely assumed since a scientist leaked details in the 1980s.

Mr Carter made his comments on Israel’s weapons at a press conference at the annual literary Hay Festival in Wales.He also described Israeli treatment of Palestinians as “one of the greatest human rights crimes on earth”. Mr Carter gave the figure for the Israeli nuclear arsenal in response to a question on US policy on a possible nuclear-armed Iran, arguing that any country newly armed with atomic weapons faced overwhelming odds.
“The US has more than 12,000 nuclear weapons; the Soviet Union (sic) has about the same; Great Britain and France have several hundred, and Israel has 150 or more,” he said.

Israel’s Dimona reactor is understood to provide plutonium for the country’s nuclear weapons
“We have a phalanx of enormous capabilities, not only of weaponry but also of rockets to deliver every one of those missiles on a pinpoint accuracy target.”

Most experts estimate that Israel has between 100 and 200 nuclear warheads, largely based on information leaked to the Sunday Times newspaper in the 1980s by Mordechai Vanunu, a former worker at the country’s Dimona nuclear reactor.

The US, a key ally of Israel, has in general followed the country’s policy of “nuclear ambiguity”, neither confirming or denying the existence of its assumed arsenal. However, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert included Israel among a list of nuclear states in comments in December 2006, a week after US Defence Secretary Robert Gates used a similar form of words during a Senate hearing.

Former Israeli military intelligence chief Aharon Zeevi-Farkash told Reuters news agency he considered Mr Carter’s comments “irresponsible”.
“The problem is that there are those who can use these statements when it comes to discussing the international effort to prevent Iran getting nuclear weapons,” he said.

‘Imprisonment’
During the press briefing, Mr Carter expressed his support for Israel as a country, but criticised its domestic and foreign policy. “One of the greatest human rights crimes on earth is the starvation and imprisonment of 1.6m Palestinians,” he said.

The former US president cited statistics which he said showed the nutritional intake of some Palestinian children was below that of children in Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as saying the European position on Israel could be best described as “supine”. Mr Carter, awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, brokered the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace treaty, the first between Israel and an Arab state.
In April he controversially held talks in the Syrian capital Damascus with Khaled Meshaal, leader of the militant Palestinian movement Hamas. The former US president’s Carter Center was unavailable for further comment.

Ref: BBC