Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Israel Speaks: "We Purposefully Attack Civilian Targets... Because They Deserve It" [NEW UPDATE]

In a video recording dated in [2001], Netanyahu can be seen speaking to what presumably are family members, women and children, completely unawares to the fact that his remarks are being recorded the entire time.  Netanyahu explains that, “The main thing, first of all, is to hit them [the Arabs].  Not just one blow, but blows that are so painful that the price will be too heavy to be borne,” a policy doctrine we are now seeing play out in Israel’s current assault on Gaza in which the ‘price’ that is intended to be ‘too heavy to be borne,’ is measured in the indiscriminate murder of innocent civilian lives- their homes, their playgrounds, their beaches, their schools, their mosques, their hospitals; Israel has shown in Protective Edge that no one and no place in Gaza, not even children’s playgrounds and hospitals in which no militants whatsoever are present, is immune from the all-powerful roar of the highly-tuned, well-oiled and technologically sophisticated multi-billion dollar US-made killing machine that it has now descended upon the mostly defenseless, economically strangled, and poverty-induced population of Gaza (a WikiLeaks cable quoted an Israeli official in 2008 telling the US that they would “keep Gaza’s economy on the brink of collapse,” to ensure that the economy was “functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis.”)

The UN reports as of 29 July that a total of 1,118 people have been killed in the now 23 day assault on Gaza, 827 (or 74%) of which are innocent civilians.  Updated figures for 30 July from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights put the current death toll at 1324, of which 1130 (or 85%) are innocent civilians, along with 5,924 wounded; Gaza’s Health Ministry has confirmed the death of at least 1,359; a number of 7,677 wounded has been confirmed by emergency service spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra. 

These figures clearly tell us that only a very small amount of the targets are actually military targets, Hamas militants or resistance fighters, given that they account for only 20-25% of the deaths.  The vast majority of those killed have been innocent civilians, this despite the IDF’s sophisticated US-made and financed military technology capable of precision striking and advanced intelligence capabilities, including joint cooperation between Mossad and the NSA.

These figures make more sense however when you put them in the context of advice given to the IDF from Israeli lawyers and statements by top military and political officials.

Don’t Make Me Shoot You

Nafeez Ahmed reports that, 
White highlights a Ha’aretz report from 2009 which revealed that “IDF officers were receiving legal advice that allowed for large numbers of civilian casualties and the targeting of government buildings.” 
“The people who go into a house despite a warning do not have to be taken into account in terms of injury to civilians, because they are voluntary human shields,” said one senior official of the international law division (ILD) of the Israeli Military Advocate General’s Office. “From the legal point of view, I do not have to show consideration for them. In the case of people who return to their home in order to protect it, they are taking part in the fighting.” (emphasis added)
This statement presupposes that Israel has the right to order people out of their homes, without having to give a justification, without having to prove that it is a military outpost, just an arbitrary pronouncement by the military and either the civilians must flee or be murdered in cold blood by the IDF, in which case they will be referred to as ‘human shields’ and their extrajudicial slaughter justified in the eyes of the military machine and its legal aides; even if the civilian does flee, Israel presupposes the right to destroy their homes, property, and belongings- in other words, their property (and as well their lives) belong to us, because we say so.

According to U.S. Army Manuals terrorism is defined as, the “calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear. It is intended to coerce or intimidate governments or societies ... [to attain] political, religious, or ideological goals." [U.S. Army Field Manual No. FM 3-0, Chapter 9, 37 (14 June 2001)] (emphases added) 

Israel’s actions are therefore the exact definition of terrorism according to the U.S. army, where even just the threat of violence to obtain political goals is terrorism; Israel is saying to the civilian population “leave your homes, or else,” while then presupposing that if their orders are not heeded they are thus absolved from the responsibility of the murder which they will then go about committing.  Even if they were just to threaten the use of violence to get people out of their homes it would be an extreme terroristic crime, let alone when they actually go through with the bombing, indiscriminate of who is inside. 

What this amounts to is basically the military/war-time equivalent of holding a gun to someone’s head and saying “don’t make me shoot you,” and then demanding that they give you their wallet… or else.  When the person doesn’t comply with your terror demands and use of intimidation, you then shoot them dead and claim that it was their fault for not giving you the money, I wonder how well that defense would hold up in a US court of law?  Yet this is exactly what Israel is doing in Gaza, this is exactly what their lawyers and military generals are attempting to justify and codify into law.

Take Away Half the Land; Say the Dead Killed Themselves

Israel has used this terror tactic in order to take away 44% of Gaza’s land, drawing up a 3km buffer zone around the borders and then proceeding to hold the gun to the head of every innocent civilian living within that area and saying “don’t make us shoot you,” instructing them to leave their homes “immediately” or thus end up as ‘human shields,’ in which case, according to the IDF and their lawyers, their deaths will be their own fault. 

Pepe Escobar thus points out, “Translation: Israel, in one stroke, is creating OVER 400,000 REFUGEES. But refugees INSIDE the same cage/concentration camp/gulag – a major CRIME under international law. This huge area is now off-limits. All civilians staying behind will be deemed as “combatants”.”

Just as a 75-80% civilian death rate figure falsifies the claim that only military infrastructure and personnel are being targeted, so too does this 3km buffer zone falsify that claim as well; there is no justifiable military reason to annex almost half of Gaza’s land to military invasion and wholesale destruction, the whole ‘tunnel’ argument the least of which as it is pure nonsense coming from a military perspective, and one that has also been used previously, 
“The pretext for the [November 4, 2008] raid was that Israel had detected a tunnel in Gaza that might have been intended for use to capture another Israeli soldier. The pretext is transparently absurd, as a number of commentators have noted. If such a tunnel existed, and reached the border, Israel could easily have barred it right there. But as usual, the ludicrous Israeli pretext was deemed credible.” (Noam Chomsky, Peace News, February 2009)
Murder Civilians; Put Pressure on Hamas

In an exchange between former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and former Isreali UN Ambassador and Isreali Labor Party Foreign Minister Abba Eban, published in the Israeli press in August of 1981, Mr. Eban wrote, “The picture that emerges is of an Israel wantonly inflicting every possible measure of death and anguish on civilian populations in a mood reminiscent of regimes which neither Mr. Begin nor I would dare to mention by name.”(1) (emphases added)

Prominent and noted scholar Edward Herman analyzes further the exchange, 
“Eban is harshly critical of Begin’s letter because of the support it gives to Arab propaganda; he does not contest the facts. He even defends the earlier Israeli attacks on civilians with the exact logic which orthodox analysts of terrorism attribute to-and use to condemn-retail terrorists: namely, that deliberate attacks may properly be made on innocent parties in order to achieve higher ends. Eban writes that, “there was a rational prospect, ultimately fulfilled, that afflicted populations [i.e., innocent civilians deliberately bombed] would exert pressure for the cessation of hostilities. 
“Begin’s list is indeed “partial.” It is supplemented by former Chief of Staff Mordechai Gur, whom stated that “For 30 years, from the War of Independence until today, we have been fighting against a population that lives in villages and cities,” offering as examples the bombardments that cleared the Jordan valley of all inhabitants and that drove a million and a half civilians from the Suez canal area, in 1970, among others. The Israeli military analyst Zeev Schiff summarized General Gur’s comments as follows: “In South Lebanon we struck the civilian population consciously, because they deserved itthe importance of Gur’s remarks is the admission that the Israeli Army has always struck civilian populations, purposely and consciously the Army, he said, has never distinguished civilian [from military] targets [but] purposely attacked civilian targets when Israeli settlements had not been struck.(2) (emphases added)

 This history is particularly important, it gives a clear context to the recent historical findings which echo the exact same sentiments, and thus prove that the strategic military doctrine has not much changed throughout the years, and that these genocidal policies are instead longstanding and rooted in tradition.

An independent investigation into the IDF by the Jerusalem-based Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) in the wake of Operation Cast Lead states that, “The policy of protecting soldiers' lives, even at the cost of harming uninvolved civilians, cannot by itself explain the large number of casualties,” and so too can this statement be ascribed to the current death toll figures.  The report explains this discrepancy however, “in the beginning of October 2008, the Commanding Officer of the IDF's Northern Command, Maj. General Gadi Eisenkott, gave an interview to Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, in which he unveiled what he called the "Dahiye Doctrine":
"What happened in the Dahiye Quarter of Beirut in 2006, will happen in every village from which shots are fired on Israel. We will use disproportionate force against it and we will cause immense damage and destruction. From our point of view these are not civilian villages but military bases. 
This is not a recommendation, this is the plan, and it has already been authorized. [Yedioth Ahronoth (Hebrew), I have incredible power, I’ll have no excuse, Saturday Supplement, October 3, 2008, by Alex Fishman and Ariela Ringel-Hoffman.]
According to the approach expressed in the Dahiye Doctrine, 
“Israel has to employ tremendous force disproportionate to the magnitude of the enemy’s actions. The intent of this… is to harm the civilian population to such an extent that it will bring pressure to bear on the enemy combatants. Furthermore, this policy is intended to create deterrence regarding future attacks against Israel, through the damage and destruction of civilian and military infrastructures which necessitate long and expensive reconstruction actions which would crush the will of those who wish to act against Israel.” (emphasis added)
“…two months before Operation Cast Lead, the Institute for National Security Studies, a think-tank at the Tel Aviv University which reflects the mainstream of Israeli military thinking, published an article by Dr. Gabriel Siboni, a colonel in IDF reserves.  In the article Siboni expresses an identical approach to that of Eisenkott, which he relates in greater detail:

"With an outbreak of hostilities, the IDF will need to act immediately, decisively, and with force that is disproportionate to the enemy's actions and the threat it poses. Such a response aims at inflicting damage and meting out punishment to an extent that will demand long and expensive reconstruction processes. The strike must be carried out as quickly as possible, and must prioritize damaging assets over seeking out each and every launcher.  Punishment must be aimed at decision makers and the power elite… attacks should both aim at Hezbollah's military capabilities and should target economic interests and the centers of civilian power that support the organization."
After “What happened in the Dahiye Quarter of Beirut in 2006,” Israel’s then Army Chief of Staff Lt-Gen Dan Halutz threatened that his military would “turn back the clock on Lebanon by 20 years.”  A troubling statement given the next paragraph of the PCATI’s report, “Siboni makes it clear that: "This approach is applicable to the Gaza Strip as well.

Dan Halutz also made a previous appearance in a 2002 Hareetz article when he was asked to describe the emotions that are felt by a pilot that drops a bomb that kills civilians, one which perhaps gives more insight into this psychology, Dan replied, 
“No. That is not a legitimate question and it is not asked. But if you nevertheless want to know what I feel when I release a bomb, I will tell you: I feel a light bump to the plane as a result of the bomb's release. A second later it's gone, and that's all. That is what I feel.” (emphases added)
In the opening days of Operation Cast Lead of December ’08 – January ’09 the head of the Israeli army command in Gaza, Yoav Galant, echoed Lt-Gen Halutz’s statements when he confirmed that the attack was designed to “send Gaza decades into the past.”  

With the recent headlines depicting the carnage and the slaughter currently plaguing Gaza today, one would be hard pressed to doubt the seriousness of these statements.

They Will Say We Are Defending

Understanding the civilian death toll in this context makes much more sense than listening to the Israeli governments pronouncements of using all necessary means to protect civilian life (a claim which is usually followed by some form of ‘under law’ or ‘all necessary lawful means,’ which given the above is equally as troubling.)  However all of this is predicated upon the fact that “Israel has a right to defend itself,” since “Hamas struck first,” but as respected scholar Nafeez Ahmed points out, 
“Then three Israeli boys were kidnapped in early June of this year. As an investigation by the Jewish Daily Forward found, Netanyahu’s government knew almost immediately that the boys had been killed, and who had killed them – but pretended to know neither to justify a brutal crackdown. 
“It was clear from the beginning that the kidnappers weren’t acting on orders from Hamas leadership in Gaza or Damascus.” 
Thus ensued an 18-day ‘search-and-rescue operation,’ involving soldiers entering “thousands of homes, arresting and interrogating hundreds of individuals.” To justify the operation, Netanyahu “maintained the fiction” that they hoped to find the boys alive “as a pretext to dismantle Hamas’ West Bank operations.” 
In the process, the IDF killed more than half a dozen Palestinians – while a Palestinian teenager was burned to death by settlers.”

And these crimes were then followed by Israel’s unprovoked attacks on Gaza, as the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs recounts, 
“On 11 June, the Israeli Air Force targeted an alleged member of an armed group riding on a motorcycle together with a ten-year old child, in the Beit Lahiya area. The man died instantly and the child, who sustained serious injuries, died three days later; two civilian bystanders were also injured. 
Following this incident and through the rest of the week, Palestinian armed groups launched a number of rockets at southern Israel.” (emphasis added)
As I noted here, despite all of these provocations and attacks, Hamas still did not fire any rockets and therefore had abided by the 2012 November ceasefire… until Israel struck them first.  After the month long military attack and raid of the West Bank, and the subsequent military aerial bombing raids in Gaza that provoked other Palestinian armed groups to retaliate, on June 29th an Israeli air strike killed 3 Hamas militants, after which Hamas launched its first rocket attack on Israel since 2012, in retaliation to Israel’s attack.  Hamas then immediately called for the institution of a ceasefire, their conditions: that the stipulations of the 2012 ceasefire be re-instated, the same one that Israel repeatedly broke.  Israel considered the proposal, but later refused, instead deciding to launch another air strike against Hamas on July 6th, Hamas responded the next day, and the day after Operation Protective Edge was launched.

It is within this context that the first round of Hamas rockets were unleashed, and it is through this that we must analyze the claims that Israel is acting defensively.

In the leaked recording of Netanyahu mentioned at the beginning of this report, the Prime Minister further clarifies the ‘pain’ he wished to inflict upon the Arabs, “A broad attack on the Palestinian Authority, to bring them to the point of being afraid that everything is collapsing.”  A women can then be heard asking the question, “Wait a moment, but then the world will say ‘how come you’re conquering again?’” 
Netanyahu’s reply?

The world won’t say a thing.  The world will say we’re defending.”

1.)    Abba Eban, “Morality and warfare,” The Jerusalem Post, August 16, 1981 in cited in Edward Herman, The Real Terror Network, (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1982), p. 77. 
2.)   Edward Herman, The Real Terror Network, (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1982), p. 77-78. For further discussion of what Edward Herman describes as “Israel’s Sacred Terrorism,” see p. 76-79. 
[This article was made possible by the contributions and reporting of Eva Bartlett at, Twitter - @EvaBartlettGaza]

UPDATE - More information has come to my attention regarding the leaked video of Netanyahu mentioned in this article.  I stated before that the leaked video was dated to 2012, however Jonathan Cook reports here that, "The film was shot, apparently without Mr Netanyahu’s knowledge, nine years ago (in 2001), when the government of Ariel Sharon had started reinvading the main cities of the West Bank to crush Palestinian resistance in the early stages of the second intifada.

At the time Mr Netanyahu had taken a short break from politics but was soon to join Mr Sharon’s government as finance minister.

On a visit to a home in the settlement of Ofra in the West Bank to pay condolences to the family of a man killed in a Palestinian shooting attack, he makes a series of unguarded admissions about his first period as prime minister, from 1996 to 1999.

Seated on a sofa in the house, he tells the family that he deceived the US president of the time, Bill Clinton, into believing he was helping implement the Oslo accords, the US-sponsored peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, by making minor withdrawals from the West Bank while actually entrenching the occupation. He boasts that he thereby destroyed the Oslo process.

He dismisses the US as “easily moved to the right direction” and calls high levels of popular American support for Israel “absurd”.

He also suggests that, far from being defensive, Israel’s harsh military repression of the Palestinian uprising was designed chiefly to crush the Palestinian Authority led by Yasser Arafat so that it could be made more pliable for Israeli diktats.

All of these claims have obvious parallels with the current situation, when Mr Netanyahu is again Israel’s prime minister facing off with a White House trying to draw him into a peace process that runs counter to his political agenda." (emphasis added)

With this new information it now appears that the revelations in this video, coming straight from the mouth of the Prime Minister, are much more damaging and revealing then I had previously reported- not only has Netanyahu exhibited here his knowledge that whatever Israel does, aggressively or not, the world will thus portray the events as if Israel is merely defending itself, he is also clearly admitting that he has blocked the peace process extensively and that the long-standing military aggression and occupation was meant, not for defensive purposes, but to destroy the governments of Palestine and thereby make the Arab population more 'pliable for Israeli diktats.'

These are startling revelations and statements given that they come straight from the Prime Ministers himself, however they are unfortunately only validations and confirmations of what has already been known for decades by anyone paying close attention to these matters and who study them with an objective and critical eye. [SMC 8/3/14]

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Is Israel's Assault on Gaza a Response to Hamas Rockets? Would Cessation of Rockets from Gaza Stop the Atrocities?

Israel claims that its recent invasion and destruction of Gaza civilians, infrastructure, and society, being only one in an extremely long list of others we must remember, is a just action necessary to protect its citizens from rockets emanating from Hamas militants, “If Hamas does not allow Israelis to live in peace, and then we too will be forced to carry out actions that we don’t fundamentally wish to perform, and that are not our primary goal,” said Israel’s Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni, who also oversees the country’s peace talks with the Palestinians.  Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said that, "Hamas will pay a heavy price for firing on Israeli citizens… The operation will expand and continue until the rocket firing on our cities stops.”  The Israel Defense Forces stated that Operation Protective Edge has commenced, “…in order to stop the terror Israel’s citizens face on a daily basis.” 

Israel states that its current use of force against Gaza, one of the most densely populated areas in the world, with approximately 1.8 million inhabitants, with the world’s 13th highest population growth rate, a crippling economic situation with 22.5% unemployment (ranked 170th in the world), where 38% of the population lives below the poverty line, who’s means of defending itself are extremely limited and altogether dwarfed by the formidable size and strength of the Israel Defense Forces, is a necessary action needed to protect itself. 

The CIA admits that,
Israeli security controls imposed since the end of the second intifada have degraded economic conditions in the Gaza Strip.  Israeli-imposed border closures… have resulted in high unemployment, elevated poverty rates, and a sharp contraction of the private sector that had relied primarily on export markets. Changes to Israeli restrictions on imports in 2010 resulted in a rebound in some economic activity, but regular exports from Gaza still are not permitted. Standard-of-living measures remain below levels seen in the mid-1990s.” (emphasis added)
Gaza is often described as an “open air prison,” this assessment is in many ways accurate; in addition to the ongoing economic blockade, Israel and Egypt have closed the borders on either side preventing the people of Gaza from leaving.  Israel controls the borders around Gaza and the waters that surround it.  Only the injured, sick and those with foreign passports are allowed to leave, “Gaza is unique in the annals of modern warfare in being a conflict zone with a fence around it, so civilians have no place to flee,” said Chris Gunness, spokesman for the U.N relief agency for Palestinian refugees; the people of Gaza are trapped.

Throughout the years, Gaza has been kept just above the level of bare survival whilst being imprisoned by land, sea and air.  The May 2013 United Nations Relief and Works Agency report found that,
“the situation in relation to water and sanitation for the Palestinians in Gaza is critical.  Today 90 per cent of water from the aquifer is not safe to drink without treatment.  Most Palestinians in Gaza do not have access to clean water.  As a result, the average water consumption in Gaza is 70 to 90 liters per person per day, below the global WHO standard of 100 liters per person per day.”

Gaza’s inhabitants face regular power cuts affective private businesses and homes, health services, wastewater treatment plants, and schools.” 
It states that impoverished Palestinians are, “unable to afford the fees charged at Ministry of Health and private clinics and hospitals,” and there is, “a chronic shortage of medicines and medical supplies in the Ministry of Health central pharmacy,” and that “most public health facilities are unable to provide safe and adequate services,” and that “there are frequent breakdowns of medical equipment resulting from power interruptions and water impurities, among other factors.  For this and other reasons, many patients are forced to seek treatment outside Gaza for a wide range of medical problems, which is difficult due to movement restrictions imposed by the blockade.” (emphases added)
In contrast Israel has one of the world’s most advanced military systems, provided to them through aid from the world’s largest military superpower and through contracts from the world’s wealthiest weapons manufacturers here in the United States.  In the 2014 fiscal year the US gave Israel $3.1 billion in aid, and according to the official Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, “Almost all U.S. bilateral aid to Israel is in the form of military assistance.”  Hamas, on the other hand, is estimated to have a total budget of only $70 million, with much of that sum being devoted to an extensive social services network that funds schools, orphanages, mosques, health clinics, soup kitchens, sports leagues, and more, leaving very little room for defense spending.  “Approximately 90 percent of its [Hamas’] work is in social, welfare, cultural, and educational activities," writes Israeli scholar Reuven Paz.

Despite these asymmetries, Israel maintains that its current, forceful use of its awesome military might against a literally trapped, militarily primitive, and economically crippled Gaza population is necessary for Israeli security.  These justifications are parroted by the United States government, Secretary Kerry stated in an interview with NBC recently that, “Israel has been under attack by rockets. I don’t think any nation in the world would sit there while rockets are bombarding it,” the White House also issued a statement immediately following Israel’s commencement of Operation Protective Edge stating, “We strongly condemn the continuing rocket fire inside of Israel and the deliberate targeting of civilians by terrorist organizations in Gaza. No country can accept rocket fire aimed at civilians and we support Israel's right to defend itself against these vicious attacks,” and President Obama wrote recently, “As I’ve said time and again, neither I nor the United States will ever waver in our commitment to the security of Israel and the Israeli people.”

A few elementary questions need to be answered to assess the validity of these statements: Is this current military operation and aerial bombing campaign a result of Hamas rocketing Israel?  And further, would the cessation of Hamas rockets be sufficient to halt the current Israeli attacks?

Is Israel’s current military assault on Gaza a result of Hamas rocket attacks on Israel?

This narrative, although useful for Israel and its apologists, is entirely false and doesn’t stand up to even the most cursory level of scrutiny.  The current escalations of conflict did not begin with Hamas attacks against Israel, quite the contrary.

The escalations are instead widely believed to have started with the abduction of 3 Israeli teenagers from settlements in the West Bank on 12 June 2014, of which Prime Minister Netanyahu immediately blamed on Hamas.  No evidence for this existed whatsoever, and Netanyahu knew it, but before that is explored it is perhaps pertinent to bring up something that is authoritatively known and proven to have occurred in relation to youth atrocities in relation to the Israel-Palestine conflict.  Much is heard about the injustice and horror of the 3 Israeli youths, and rightly so, however barely a peep has been uttered in relation to the fact that just a few weeks prior on May 15th, the Israel Defense Forces shot and killed 2 Palestinian youths.  One, Nadeem Siam Nawara, was 17, the other, Mohammad Mohmoud Odeh, was only 16 years old.  As irrefutable video evidence shows, these youths posed no threat whatsoever, not even throwing rocks or stones at the time of their murders, and were actually retreating and moving backward when their lives were taken from them.  In this case it is known emphatically that Israeli government forces were behind the indiscriminate killings, so therefore should Hamas be justified in raiding through the homes and villages of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, kidnapping and detaining scores of innocent Israeli citizens, while murdering them as well because the IDF shot and killed these 2 innocent teenagers?  No, of course not, but then why should it be any different for Israel?

Despite the fact that no evidence whatsoever existed connecting the abduction of the 3 Israeli settlers to Hamas, the Netanyahu government launched an altogether illegal military invasion and attack on Palestine on June 12th, dubbed “Operation Brother’s Keeper.”  The stated goal was focused on, “bringing our boys who were abducted, home,” and, “operating against Hamas.”  What followed was a widespread 18-day military assault on the population in the West Bank in which thousands of soldiers, together with security agents, police, and special forces scoured through Palestinian towns, refugee camps, and villages, invading thousands of innocent Palestinian homes at the barrel of a gun, stealing upwards of $3 million dollars USD from these victims, arresting and detaining between 550-800 West Bank residents without charge, and murdering at least 6-10 innocent civilians who had absolutely nothing to do with the abduction of the Israeli settlers. 
Human Rights Watch said the military operation, “included unlawful use of force, arbitrary arrests, and illegal home demolitions,” and a coalition of human rights organizations, “made clear that the abductions constitute a violation of the fundamental principles of law and morals and must be condemned… These actions have caused, and continue to cause, disproportionate harm to the basic rights of Palestinians, including the right to safety, health, freedom of movement and the right to earn a living.  Furthermore, the imposition of restrictive and punitive conditions on Palestinian prisoners solely because of their organizational affiliation is a blatant violation of the prohibition against collective punishment.”
The illegal military attack on the West Bank is an act of war in which “collective punishment” is being given to the Palestinian civilians for the perceived and suspected actions of another, one that has not been proven.  Collective punishment is a war crime and a direct violation of international law.  The Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 33 states,
“No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed.”  Article 33 also states that, “Pillage is prohibited.  Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited,” 
this makes Israel guilty on all counts of atrocity and war crime, as they not only raided and terrorized the population, they as well stole their property and currency as well. 

What makes Israel’s act of aggression even more egregious and illegal is the fact that its pretext was a total fabrication; Israel knew within hours after the abduction of the 3 Israeli youths that they had been killed, however they put a gag order on this information, barred the newspapers from reporting it, even lied to the parents by telling them their sons were still alive when they knew that they weren’t, and used this false pretext as an excuse to carry out what they referred to as a search and rescue mission to find the lost teenagers, justifying all of their incredible crimes against humanity and indisputable war crimes under the pretext of attempting to find the kidnappers of the 3 Israeli teenagers, of whom they already knew were dead. 

Israel has engaged in a cover-up of what they knew to be a murder by saying that the abductees were still alive, all in order to wage a war of aggression against the occupied, economically crippled, and oppressed Palestinian population.
 “Israeli police, intelligence officials and Netanyahu knew within hours of the kidnapping and murder of the three teens that they had been killed. And they knew who the prime suspects were less than a day after the kidnapping was reported. 
Rather than reveal these details to the public, Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence agency imposed a gag order on the national media, barring news outlets from reporting that the teens had almost certainly been killed, and forbidding them from revealing the identities of their suspected killers. The Shin Bet even lied to the parents of the kidnapped teens, deceiving them into believing their sons were alive. 
Instead of mounting a limited action to capture the suspected perpetrators and retrieve the teens’ bodies, Netanyahu staged an aggressive international public relations campaign, demanding sympathy and outrage from world leaders, who were also given the impression that the missing teens were still alive. 
Meanwhile, Israel’s armed forces rampaged throughout the occupied West Bank and bombarded the Gaza Strip in a campaign of collective punishment deceptively marketed to Israelis and the world as a rescue mission. 
Critical details that were known all along by Netanyahu and the military-intelligence apparatus were relayed to the Israeli public only after the abduction of more than 560 Palestinians, including at least 200 still held without charges; after the raiding of Palestinian universities and ransacking of countless homes; after six Palestinian civilians were killed by Israeli forces; after American-trained Palestinian Authority police assisted Israeli soldiers attacking Palestinian youths in the center of Ramallah; after the alleged theft by Israeli troops of $3 million in US dollars; and after Israel’s international public relations extravaganza had run its course.” (Max Blumenthal, The Electronic Intifada, 7/8/2014)

 “Knowing that the teens were already dead, the Israeli government even sent the mothers of the abductees to the United Nations’ Human Rights Council to raise international awareness and plead for their boys’ safe return. Then the IDF launched Operation Brother’s Keeper, the most extensive military operation in the West Bank for more than a decade, under the auspices of saving the missing teens whom, again, they knew to be deceased. 
On June 17, Israel rearrested 50 Palestinian prisoners set free in 2011 as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap with Hamas — a bold provocation that violates its armistice with Hamas. Without cause, the IDF also rounded up a number of clerics, intellectuals and politicians affiliated with or known to be sympathetic toward Hamas. It also raided hundreds of Palestinian sites, including homes, businesses, universities and clinics — in the process pillaging more than $3 million in cash and property, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Scores of Palestinian civilians were killed in these operations — again, before rockets were fired from Gaza. The misery of the civilian population was compounded by IDF checkpoints and curfews that severely restrict the movement of the Palestinian people, during Ramadan, no less. 
In mid-June, in preparation for the reprisal attacks from Hamas that the IDF was attempting to provoke, it moved its Iron Dome batteries into southern Israeli cities. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu then called on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to dissolve the unity government with Hamas — reiterating previous threats of punitive measures unless the union is suspended. Meanwhile, the IDF began calling up reserve troops in anticipation of the ground assault. 
All these provocations came weeks before Hamas fired the first rockets into Israel. As such, contrary to Obama’s claims and the widely held narrative in Western media, it was in fact Hamas that was acting in self-defense. Israel doggedly sought out this war, and Hamas gave it to them.” (Musa al-Gharbi, Al Jazeera, 7/22/14)

The bodies of the teens were not found until June 30th, and they were not even found by government forces, instead being discovered by civilian volunteer searchers who happened to stumbled upon them, which is not surprising given the false nature of the search, the cover-up of information regarding the abductions, and the exploitation of the atrocity used as a justification for a war of aggression.  Netanyahu immediately said that, “Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay,” despite knowing that there was absolutely no evidence to this effect and a lot of evidence to the contrary.  Recently what was already widely known and suspected was confirmed: Hamas didn’t kidnap and kill the 3 Israeli teens, but instead a “lone cell” was responsible.

There can be no doubt that the exploitation of an atrocious murder of teenagers, the sociopathic deceit with which their deaths were covered up, the murderous and punitive military operation that was justified on the basis of the false claim, and the false association of blame on Hamas when there was no evidence and furthermore when there was an enormous amount of evidence on the contrary that it indeed was not Hamas, coupled with the incitement of violent, racist anti-Arab sentiments that started at the top with Netanyahu and a number of other high Israeli officials, one being Israeli lawmaker Ayelet Shaked who called for the genocide of the Palestine people, “including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure,” as well as calling for the slaughter of Palestinian mothers who give birth to “little snakes,” which trickled down and engulfed a highly indoctrinated and militarized Israeli population into a frenzy of hatred, Ayelet Shaked’s statement on Facebook garnering more than 5 thousands ‘likes’ and more than one thousand shares, the frenzy of which is further illustrated by the joy and euphoria in which members of the Israeli population sat in lawn chairs and cheered the death of Palestinians as they watched the bombs being dropped over their heads from the comfort of their Israeli neighborhoods, the subsequent revenge slaying by Israeli citizens of 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir, the brutal police beating of his 15-year-old cousin, the Palestinian-American Tareq Abu Khdeir, and the mobs shouting “death to the Arabs,” across Israel prove that even before the first rockets were fired from Hamas, the Israeli government was involved in extreme provocations and direct attacks upon Palestine, including the incitement of racial hatred and violent-frenzy amongst their own population. 

No true scholar can honestly say that this latest military assault was a result of Hamas attacking Israel; this has absolutely nothing to do with defense.

Would the cessation of Hamas rockets be sufficient to halt the current Israeli attacks?

In November of 2012 a ceasefire agreement was brokered between Israel and Hamas that ended Israel’s 8 day military offensive “Operation Pillar of Defense.”  After the cease-fire agreement, not one rocket was fired into Israeli territory from Gaza… until Israel broke the ceasefire. 

As confirmed by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “On the morning of February 26, 2013, a rocket hit was identified south of the Israeli city of Ashqelon. It was the first rocket fired from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory since November 21, 2012, the end of Operation Pillar of Defense.”  What the Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not point out however, is that it was Israel, and not militants from Gaza, who had already broken the ceasefire prior to this attack.

The Jerusalem Fund, a Washington D.C. non-profit, recorded all of the reported violations and subsequent Palestinian projectile attacks in the chart below, they conclude from their findings that,
“Israeli cease-fire violations [after the 2012 agreement] have been persistent throughout and have routinely resulted in Palestinian injuries and deaths. Palestinian launches have been rare and sporadic and occurred almost always after successive instances of Israeli cease-fire violations. You can see a steady escalation from around week 48 and onward. This corresponds with mid-December during which Israel committed several cease-fire violations resulting in multiple Palestinian casualties. There was no Palestinian projectile fire in the two weeks prior to these Israeli violations which inflicted high causalities. This means that this week was the escalation point and it was Israel doing the escalating.”

(A list of all of the news reports that were recorded in this chart can be found catalogued here.)

Despite the consistent violations and attacks by Israel, as the chart above depicts, Palestinian retaliation has been minimal.  The official Israeli Security Agency website states, “2013 saw a sharp decrease in the rate of terror attacks originating in the Gaza Strip, as opposed to 2012: 55 attacks as opposed to 1,130 in 2012.”  They note that, “The circumstances that lead to this decrease were the Pillar of Defense ceasefire agreement in late 2012 (14-21 November) which curbed terrorism from the Gaza Strip.”  This is due to the fact that Hamas was highly effective at reducing rocket fire from jihadi militants in an effort to abide by the ceasefire, even arresting and jailing those who still fired rockets at Israel; the result was a substantial reduction in rocket fire, none of which came from the Hamas government themselves, despite the widespread violations from Israeli forces.

In the current escalation of tensions, as noted before, Israel has engaged in a series of provocations and attacks, which provoked some rocket attacks in Gaza (at least 62 according to Reuters), but none were from Hamas.  If Israel had abided by the 2012 ceasefire agreement, and hadn’t sought to turn the tragedy of 3 teenagers abduction and murder into a phony justification to launch on assault on Palestine, the escalation of attacks would have been halted, however Israeli officials were not interested in peace, and were waiting until Hamas launched rockets in order to then announce their military offensive against them.  However, despite all of the provocations, none came, until Israel conducted an air strike (one of 80 since the beginning of June) in Gaza on June 29th that killed a Hamas gunman and wounded 2 others.  This caused a retaliation a few hours later on June 30th where Hamas launched their first rocket attacks at Israel since 2012

Shortly after this, from the very first day after Hamas and Israel began exchanging fire, Hamas had called for an end to the hostilities and a reinstating of the November 2012 ceasefire, the one that Hamas respected and Israel continuously violated.  Hamas has, 
“asked for the ceasefire conditions from the last major round of fighting with Israel in 2012 to be reinstated, for the re-release of prisoners freed by Israel in exchange for the kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, who were rounded up again by Israeli after the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers, later found murdered, and an end to what it says is Israeli meddling in the Palestinian unity government.” (Peter Beaumont, The Guardian, 7/9/2014)

“In other words, Hamas mostly wants Israel to abide by agreements it has already made. 
In November 2012, Israel agreed to “stop all hostilities in the Gaza Strip [by] land, sea and air including incursions and targeting of individuals." 
Another crucial condition of the November 2012 ceasefire agreement, to which Hamas remains committed is:
 Opening the crossings and facilitating the movements of people and transfer of goods and refraining from restricting residents’ free movements and targeting residents in border areas and procedures of implementation shall be dealt with after 24 hours from the start of the ceasefire.  
But especially since the coup in Egypt last year, the siege, from all sides, has been tighter than ever. 
As this graphic, made by Ben White and Rachele Richards using UN data in early 2013, shows, Israel’s gross violations of the ceasefire began immediately. “Ceasefire” meant, in practice, that the Palestinians ceased fire while Israel continued to attack, invade and kill.”

(Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 7/15/2014)

Israel rejected the ceasefire proposal, peaceful means to end the hostilities that they themselves had already agreed to back in 2012, and instead launched an air strike on July 6th in Gaza, in which 9 Hamas militants were killed.  Hamas responded with an escalation of rocket attacks on July 7th.  The next day on July 8th, the Israel Defense Forces launched Operation Protective Edge.

This not only constitutes a war crime, it is the greatest war crime of them all, that of unprovoked aggression.  At the Nuremberg trials following the Holocaust, the International Military Tribunal said that, “to initiate a war of aggression… is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”  The military siege on Gaza that began on June 12th in the West Bank with Operation Brother’s Keeper, and the subsequent aggressive assault on Gaza in Operation Protective Edge, were deliberate acts of war, ones that contained no justifiable pretext whatsoever, and therefore “contains within [themselves] the accumulated evil of the whole.”  And the “whole” is unfortunately pretty horrendous. 

These facts run in direct contrast to the accepted mainstream discourse in the West, and the documented historical record of the conflict completely and utterly disprove the Israel and US line that Israel is simply responding in defense to Hamas rockets, and engaging in military campaigns that it is pained to participate in, all in an effort to benevolently protect its citizens from an outside security threat. 

And honest scholars understand this façade. 

According to what is widely held to be the most comprehensive analysis to date of Israel’s national security and foreign policy, “Defending the Holy Land” by Zeev Maoz, Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Davis, former head of the Graduate School of Government and Policy and of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, and former academic director of the M.A. Program at the Israeli Defense Forces’ National Defense College:
“Most of the wars in which Israel was involved were the result of deliberate Israeli aggressive design. None of these wars – with the possible exception of the 1948 War of independence – was what Israel refers to as Milhemet Ein Berah (war of necessity).  They were all wars of choice.”(1) (emphasis added) 
“I review a number of peace-related opportunities ranging from the Zionist-Hashemite collusion in 1947 through the collapse of the Oslo Process in 2000. In all those cases I find that Israeli decision makers – who had been willing to embark upon bold and daring military adventures – were extremely reluctant to make even the smallest concessions for peace. I also find in many cases Israel was engaged in systematic violations of agreements and tacit understandings between itself and its neighbors.”(2)

In conclusion, it is obvious that this current escalation of tensions, in line with the historical record of the previous escalations, are a result of Israel’s aggression and inability to hold to peaceful agreements.  In the past Hamas has abided by ceasefire agreements while drastically reducing the occurrence of jihadi rocket launches into Israel from Gaza, while Israel has violated them.  Therefore, it follows that if a peaceful negotiation is reached in this current conflict, there would be no guarantee that the cessation of hostilities from Hamas and Gaza would be sufficient to halt another Israeli attack.
As The Jerusalem Fund notes, “Previous cease-fire agreements, like the one brokered by Egypt in June of 2008 were shattered by extrajudicial assassinations carried out by Israel. The biggest question after the cease-fire agreement, as I made clear here, was who would hold Israel to account for cease-fire violations? Egypt was not going to play this role. The U.S. was not going to play this role. So effectively, Israel could fire into Gaza without accountability, provoke a reaction and then claim self-defense.” 
“The biggest challenge to the cease-fire agreement is persistent Israeli violation and the lack of any accountability for them. The politics of the Gaza Strip are complex. Israel says it wants Hamas to control projectile fire from other factions and yet it persistently violates the truce putting Hamas in a position of having to defend Israel's violations. By targeting groups other than Hamas and by expecting Hamas to crack down on their responses, Israel is playing a dangerous and deadly game of divide and conquer in Gaza that will likely lead to the unraveling of the cease-fire.
“Once again, Israel has proven security is not its aim, subjugation is.”

Despite all of this, the most important violation of international law that was committed here has been overlooked.  Nations do have a right to defend themselves, yes, however only after peaceful means have been exhausted are they allowed to do so.  This follows from an elementary understanding of morality and human decency as well as from established international law.  So one more elementary question needs to be asked: did Israel exhaust all peaceful means to end the hostilities?  Given what has already been discussed, the answer is emphatically no, however it is useful to analyze further what peaceful means are still available.

Noam Chomsky answers this question in relation to the 2012 offensive Operation Pillar of Defense and the subsequent ceasefire agreement, however the same conclusions could be applied today, and the same lessons learned when relating his words to the current escalation of conflict that the people of Gaza are facing now, 
“The pretexts for the [November 2012] assault were also the usual ones.  We can put aside the predictable declarations of the perpetrators in Israel and Washington, but even decent people ask what Israel should do when attacked by a barrage of missiles.  It’s a fair question, and there are straightforward answers. 
One response would be to observe international law, which allows the use of force without Security Council authorization in exactly one case: in self-defense after informing the Security Council of an armed attack, until the Council acts (UN Charter, Article 51).  Israel understands that well.  That is the course it followed at the outbreak of the June 1967 war, but of course Israel’s appeal went nowhere when it was quickly ascertained that it was Israel that had launched the attack.  Israel did not follow this course in November, knowing well what would be revealed in a Security Council debate. 
Another narrow response would be to agree to a truce, as appeared quite possible before the operation was launched on November 14, as often before. 
There are more far-reaching responses.  By coincidence, one illustration is discussed in the current issue of the journal National Interest.  The authors, Asia scholars Raffaello Pantucci and Alexandros Petersen, describe China’s reaction after rioting in western Xinjiang province “in which mobs of Uighurs marched around the city beating hapless Han [Chinese] to death.” Chinese president Hu Jintao quickly flew to the province to take charge, senior leaders in the security establishment were fired, and a wide range of development projects were undertaken to address underlying causes of the unrest.18 
In Gaza too a civilized reaction is possible.  The US and Israel could end the merciless unremitting assault and open the borders, and provide for reconstruction – and if it were imaginable, reparations for decades of violence and repression. 
The cease-fire agreement stated that the measures to implement the end of the siege and the targeting of residents in border areas “shall be dealt with after 24 hours from the start of the ceasefire.” There is no sign of steps in this direction.  Nor is there any indication of US-Israeli willingness to rescind their policy of separating Gaza from the West Bank in violation of the Oslo Accords, to end the illegal settlement and development programs in the West Bank designed to undermine a political settlement, or in any other way to abandon the rejectionism of the past decades. 
Some day, and it must be soon, the world will respond to the plea issued by the distinguished Gazan human rights lawyer Raji Sourani while the bombs were once again raining down on defenseless civilians in Gaza: “We demand justice and accountability. We dream of a normal life, in freedom and dignity.”19

As to the actual motivations behind the current assault, well, it is in part the usual reasonings that we are familiar with, as Nafeez Ahmed succinctly put it, IDF's Gaza assault is to control Palestinian gas, avert Israeli energy crisis, amongst the other usual desires of hegemony, control, and suppression of dissenting voices that stand in the way of those aims.


1.) Zeev Maoz, Defending the Holy Land (University of Michigan Press, January 2009), pg. 35.

2.) Zeev Maoz, Defending the Holy Land (University of Michigan Press, January 2009), pg. 40

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The "Threat" of Iran? Or the Threat of Saying "No" to Washington?

Much has been spoken among American elite circles and the political classes of the threat of Iran.  Almost as if it’s become a sort of dogma in Washington, amongst Republicans and moderate-Republicans (often referred to as Democrats) alike, Iran is considered as, “a state sponsor of terrorism,” an, “an existential threat to the United States as well as Israel,” if it possessed a nuclear weapon, and Sen. John McCain reminds us that, “We must also remember that the threat posed by the Iranian regime goes far beyond its nuclear program. Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and the lifeline of terrorist organizations…” The “threat” is so awesome and formidable that high level US officials continuously threaten the bombing and amelioration of Iran, not if it attacked anyone, but merely for possessing a nuclear weapon, often times only if they are in the process of manufacturing one.  Recently Secretary of State John Kerry stated that, “…if they [Iran] decided they’re going to… start enrichment again… guess what? If they do that, then the military option that is available to the United States is ready and prepared to do what it would have to do.” Obama reiterated Secretary Kerry’s remarks saying that in the event that Iran doesn’t halt their nuclear program that, “all options are on the table.”

Now despite the fact that Iran thinks this is a big joke, it seems plausible to ask the obvious question, what exactly is this “threat?”  If Iran were to be found merely manufacturing nuclear weapons, would this pose such an ‘existential’ security threat that bombing them would be necessary?  Is the threat really so great as to be openly provoking and threatening the country with military action as often and haphazardly as top US officials continue to do?  A quick look at the Department of Defense’s annual report on the military power of Iran gives us an authoritative answer to this question.

The Department of Defense each year produces an unclassified report to the Pentagon regarding this question, spending tens of thousands of US tax payer dollars in the process ($22,000 in 2012), and using this exorbitant amount of resources they have come up with the following conclusions.  They admit in the opening words that, 
“There has been no change to Iran’s strategies over the past year,” 
of which they elaborate, 
“Iran’s security strategy remains focused on deterring an attackIran’s principles of military strategy remain deterrence, asymmetrical retaliation, and attrition warfare.”
Therefore, the threat of Iran, of which US leaders continue to escalate hostilities against with threats of invasion and sanctions, of which they have proven to have done to others who weren’t a threat, didn’t have nuclear weapons, and of whom they had no reason whatsoever to attack, is simply the “threat” that Iran would have the power to deter a US attack.  
“Iran has placed significant emphasis on developing and fielding ballistic missiles to counter perceived threats from Israel and Coalition forces in the Middle East and to project power in the region.”  
The DoD concludes that Iran’s doctrine is one based upon diplomacy rather than aggression, something they cannot say about their own (Wolfowitz doctrine/ the doctrine of ‘containment’), and one designed for Iran to defend itself if attacked, but only long enough to negotiate a diplomatic solution, 
“Iran’s military doctrine remains to slow an invasion; target its adversaries’ economic, political, and military interests; and force a diplomatic solution to hostilities while avoiding any concession that challenge its core interests… Iran also has threatened to launch missiles against U.S. interests and our allies in the region in response to an attack…”
The “existential threat to the United States,” that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was cautioning against, the, “world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism,” who’s, “nuclear ambitions,” Sen. McCain was warning us was, “looming above all of these growing dangers (speaking in regards to sectarian conflict in Iraq, the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria, and extremist terrorism like Al Qaeda),” is exactly the kind of threat that scares US politicians the most: the threat of being able to stop Washington from attacking and destroying their country if the US, in the pursuit of freedom and democracy and human rights, deems it right and just to do so.  Iran does not pose any kind of threat to the US despite perhaps having limited power to say no to orders emanating from its policy makers.

This US policy of deterring anyone the right to become sufficiently powerful enough to say ‘no’ goes back to the containment policy of the Wolfowitz doctrine, which states, 
“The U.S. must show the leadership necessary to establish and protect a new order that holds the promise of convincing potential competitors that they need not aspire to a greater role or pursue a more aggressive posture to protect their legitimate interests. In non-defense areas, we must account sufficiently for the interests of the advanced industrial nations to discourage them from challenging our leadership or seeking to overturn the established political and economic order. We must maintain the mechanism for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role.”  
It also states that, 
“Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to general global power.”
This doctrine is significant given what another influential and leading mind in terms of government and US policy wrote in relation to the threat of the Soviet Union.  Samuel P. Huntington, then Professor of the Science of Government at Harvard, explained during the beginning of the Raegan years that, 
you may have to sell [intervention or other military action] in such a way as to create the misimpression that it is the Soviet Union that you are fighting.  This is what the United States has been doing ever since the Truman Doctrine.”(1)  
So it is not only that no one should have the means of saying ‘no’ to us if we want to invade and destroy them, it is also that a perceived outside threat is needed in order to sell military intervention abroad so as to maintain global hegemony and domination of the world’s strategic resources.  This concept was also well understood and articulated by President Obama advisor and mentor, and former National Security Advisor to President Carter Zbigniew Brzezinski when he wrote in 1997 that, 
“Never before has a populist democracy attained international supremacy. But the pursuit of power is not a goal that commands popular passion, except in conditions of a sudden threat or challenge to the public's sense of domestic well-being.”(2)  
Brzezinski followed up by stating, 
“Moreover, as America becomes an increasingly multi-cultural society, it may find it more difficult to fashion a consensus on foreign policy issues, except in the circumstance of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat.”(3)  
External threats, whether actual or perceived, are needed to “fashion a consensus on foreign policy issues,” and to create conditions where democracy is not, “inimical to imperial mobilization,”(4) and to prevent others from, “dominating a region whose resources would… be sufficient to generating global power.”  It is in these contexts that we must assess the continued statements of the “Iranian threat.”

Furthermore, the intent to paint Iran as some kind of aggressive and belligerently militant nation is not based in fact.  Not even taking into account the fact that the US and Saudi Arabia are the leading state sponsors of terrorism, that the US is the only power to ever conduct a massive global terrorist campaign in the form of drone warfare, or that the global consensus unanimously sees the US as the greatest threat to peace in the world time and time again (with Iran falling so far below and in such small percentages that it’s not even worthwhile to point them out), the US faces no existential security threat from Iran.  A top US analyst, Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a former national security aide to Sen. John McCain, published a research paper last year in which he stated that because Israel has been working for years to extend the range of its missiles in preparation for a nuclear Iran, that Iran, and not Israel, faces a direct existential threat, 
“Israel now poses a more serious existential threat to Iran than Iran can pose to Israel in the near term... Israel long ago extended the range of its nuclear-armed land-based missiles, probably now targets Iran with thermonuclear weapons, and is examining option for sea launched cruise missiles.”  
Yoel Goldman reports from the Times of Israel that, 
“According to Cordesman, Iran will not have the ability to threaten Israel with a long-range nuclear warhead for several years. Today, the Islamic Republic can attack Israel with small bombs from the sea, or with long-range non-nuclear missiles, he noted.  “It seems likely that Israel can already deliver an ‘existential’ nuclear strike on Iran, and will have far more capability to damage Iran than Iran is likely to have against Israel for the next decade,” Cordesman wrote.”
To further illustrate how the Iranian “threat” amounts to nothing more than a threat of deterrence to the US, we must also reject the common conception that Iran has been aggressively unwilling to compromise on its nuclear capabilities.  Noam Chomsky writes in a December 2013 article, 
“In mainstream discourse, it is considered natural that Iran alone should make concessions. After all, the United States is the White Knight, leading the international community in its efforts to contain Iran - which is held to be the gravest threat to world peace - and to compel it to refrain from its aggression, terror and other crimes. 
“There is a different perspective, little heard, though it might be worth at least a mention. It begins by rejecting the American assertion that the accord breaks 10 years of unwillingness on Iran's part to address this alleged nuclear threat. 
“Ten years ago Iran offered to resolve its differences with the United States over nuclear programs, along with all other issues. The Bush administration rejected the offer angrily and reprimanded the Swiss diplomat who conveyed it. 
“The European Union and Iran then sought an arrangement under which Iran would suspend uranium enrichment while the EU would provide assurances that the U.S. would not attack. As Selig Harrison reported in the Financial Times, "the EU, held back by the U.S. ... refused to discuss security issues," and the effort died. 
“In 2010, Iran accepted a proposal by Turkey and Brazil to ship its enriched uranium to Turkey for storage. In return, the West would provide isotopes for Iran's medical research reactors. President Obama furiously denounced Brazil and Turkey for breaking ranks, and quickly imposed harsher sanctions. Irritated, Brazil released a letter from Obama in which he had proposed this arrangement, presumably assuming that Iran would reject it. The incident quickly disappeared from view. 
“Also in 2010, the NPT members called for an international conference to carry forward a long-standing Arab initiative to establish a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the region, to be held in Helsinki in December 2012. Israel refused to attend. Iran agreed to do so, unconditionally.”
In conclusion, we should look critically at the validity of any media or politicians claims in relation to the existence of an outside threat, we should understand that the US is the world’s largest and quite possible will be the only truly global, hegemonic superpower, and that a superpower of this magnitude, and power systems in general, necessitate a perceived outside threat as a means of mobilizing popular support for imperialistic military ventures, as well as to justify the containment of other powers, the domination of strategic regions, and the acquisition of resources conducive to global power and influence.  It is in this context, and not within some fantastical and arbitrary protestations of “national security threats,” that we must understand the “threat” of Iran, of Russia, of Assad, of ISIS (now IS), of Al Qaeda, or of any other supposed boogeymen that the neoliberal, capitalist, globalist elites choose to throw at us as a means of scaring us into supporting acts of war that don’t protect us, and that, in the end, only serve the betterment and avarice of the politicians, the corporate elites, the military industrial complex, and the profiteers of imperialism and state terror.

1.)    Samuel Huntington, Vietnam Reappraised, 6.1 INT’L SECURITY, 14 (Summer 1981).
2.)    Zbigniew Brzezinski, “The Eurasian Chessboard,” The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And It’s Geostrategic Imperatives (New York, 1997), pg. 35-36.
3.)    Ibid., “Conclusion,” pg. 211
4.)    Ibid., “The Eurasian Chessboard,” pg. 36.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Israel-Palestine; Population Demographics, Who Was the Indigenous Population?

The other day I got into a debate with a Zionist supporter about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Our discussion started by him pointing out the recent attacks on Israeli children and me then pointing out to him the overwhelming number of attacks on Palestinian children in comparison; a figure that comes out to about 10 to 1.  I pointed out to him the statistical fact that 1 Palestinian child has been killed every 3 days from the period between 2000 up till the present day in 2014.  These numbers can easily be verified by consulting B’Tselem’s figures here under the heading ‘Fatalities.’  B’Tselem is an Israeli NGO, “established in February 1989 by a group of prominent academics, attorneys, journalists, and Knesset members,” according to their website.  Key founders include Knesset members David Zucker, Haim Oron, and later Knesset member Zehava Gal-On.  On May 9, 2013 The Jerusalem Post reported a ‘legal sea change,’ in which the positions of B’Tselem and the IDF were now closer than ever; this can hardly be called an anti-Israeli or Arab-biased organization.

From here our debate trailed off into my interlocutor attempting to debunk my claims that Israeli Zionist settlers colonized the land from the indigenous Arab population.  He would go on to state that the Arabs were not indigenous at all, and that their increased population numbers were only a result of immigration that occurred after the Zionist first appeared there in large numbers in the beginning years of the 20th century.  Needless to say, these were extremely wild claims, ones not held by scholars on the subject; what my debater seemed to be doing was trying to efface the realities of the indigenous Palestinian population, and completely reject the history of the Arab national movement that stood in opposition to the Zionists, attempting to paint these claims as propaganda meant to discredit Israel instead of as they truly are: the Zionist ethnical cleansing of the indigenous Arab population.

However I was not able to accurately depict this reality in detail and with citation to him at the time, and so I endeavored to further do an extensive study into these claims and uncover the exact truth of the specific realities regarding the population make-up of Palestine during the 19th century until the first quarter of the 20th, the time in which the Zionist incursion into Palestine began.  These are my findings:

Tourism and pilgrimage traffic into Palestine grew rapidly in the latter half of the 19th century, mainly due to the improved travelling conditions and the abating Muslim hostility to foreigners which was noted to be widespread during the first half of the century.  During the 1870s between 10-20,000 pilgrims visited Jerusalem annually, the biggest contingent coming from Russia.  French Catholic missionaries journeyed to the region to conduct a, ‘peaceful crusade,’ German Templars attempted to settle in Palestine and Christianize it by establishing agricultural colonies, and Protestant missionaries from England and America sought converts from the Jewish population living there, however the majority of Jews who came to Palestine during most of the century did so for personal religious motives, seeking pilgrimage to ancient Israel, many to die there.  By 1890 the Jews comprised the majority of the population in Jerusalem, the main city for Jewish migration during the 19th century.  “And between 1895 and 1914, 40,000 Jews entered Palestine, often not for religious reasons but to colonize it and establish a base for the future restoration of Palestine as Israel.  As Zionists they were more interested in establishing agricultural colonies than in settling in the cities.”(1)

The question of immigration to Palestine during the beginning of the 20th century raises some questions as to the nature of the population increase during that period.  In 1850 Palestine had about 350,000 inhabitants; roughly 85% were Muslim, 11% were Christian and 4% were Jews, this total number increased to about 650,000 by 1914.(2)  Was this due to natural causes or by immigration, including Arabs from outside Palestine?  How many were Arab immigrants compared to Jewish immigrants?  “Israeli and other scholars of the question have concluded that a natural increase in the overwhelmingly Arab population of Palestine from the 1840s would account for an Arab component of the 1914 estimate (650,000) of between 555,000 and 585,000.  Taking the lower figure of 555,000 and adding a Jewish population of about 80,000 in 1914 still allows for an additional 25,000 to 40,000 settlers, whether other Europeans or Arabs.  Arabs undoubtedly did migrate to Palestine or were settled by Ottoman officials there during this seventy-year period, but they probably comprised no more than 8 percent of the Arab population of Palestine in 1914.  Jews constituted approximately 14 percent of the population, with the 25,000 Zionist immigrants 31 percent of that community.”(3)

What this means is that the Arab population constituted the majority in Palestine from 1840 onward, and Alexander Scholch’s numbers put them at 85% of the total in 1850 and in 1914 they still comprised about 85% when taking the lower estimates of 555,000 out of 650,000 total.  This means that the overwhelming majority of the population during the beginning of the Zionist incursion into Palestine (1895-1914) in which 40,000 Jews migrated there, was still Arab.  During the entire 70 year period between 1840-1914, Arab immigration to Palestine constituted no more than 8% of the total Arab population; Jews constituted approximately 14% of the total population in 1914 (80,000), and Zionist immigrants (25,000) made up around 31% of that community.  This allows for an additional 25,000 to 40,000 settlers, whether they be Europeans or Arabs.  Claims that the number of Arab immigrants equaled that of Jewish immigrants has been the subject of sensationalist studies, one that is wholly rejected by scholars.  The truth of the matter is that Arabs made up the majority of the population during these years, even after the influx of Jewish immigrants that raised Jewish population numbers in the region from 4% in 1850 to 14% by 1914.  Arabs did undoubtedly immigrant to Palestine during these years, however their majority in the population was not a result of this, instead only a small percentage of the majority Arab population was a result of Arab immigration.(4)

However, as historian Charles D. Smith points out, this predominately Arab population does not necessarily indicate a widespread existence of a Palestinian Arab national consciousness at this time.  “The concept of nationalism was a recent European phenomenon, just beginning to be known in the Arab world, that often collided with the family and village loyalties that predominated along with one’s religious identity.  On the other hand, as Haim Gerber has shown, sources dating from the seventeenth century, and possibly earlier, indicate that educated Palestinians were conscious of living in a region called “Palestine” that was distinct from, even if a part of, a larger territory called “Syria.”(5) This awareness cannot be called nationalism in the European sense of the term, which defined the bonds linking a people to a specific piece of land as the source of their primary identity.  Nationalism was a secular concept, although it could be justified by a religious legacy, as Zionism did for secular Jewish nationalism.  Nationalism would not have defined a Palestinian’s primary awareness of himself as an Ottoman subject of Muslim, Christian, or Jewish religious persuasion, who nonetheless lived in that part of the empire known as Palestine.  This new scholarship does suggest, however, that educated Palestinian Arabs considered themselves to live in Palestine, establishing an identity with a region defined by boundaries.  This identification was not simply the result of their encounter with Jewish nationalism in the form of Zionism, as has often been assumed.”(6)[Emphasis mine]

Therefore, Palestinians during the beginning of the 20th century did have an awareness of identity based upon the regional boundaries in which they lived, however this identity could not be called a nationalistic one in the European sense of the word, yet this nascent national identity of Palestinians predates their encounter with Zionism, as Haim Gerber points out that sources dating back to the 17th century have shown that educated Palestinians were conscious of existing within a region dubbed ‘Palestine.’ Palestinians were conscious of their regional identity in the beginning of the 20th century, however their primary identity was more-so determined by the family, village loyalties, and by ones religious identity.  “Arab conceptions of identity varied.  Beyond local and family ties, Muslims considered themselves to be Ottoman subjects and gave allegiance to the sultan/caliph as head of the Islamic community.  Christians, especially the Greek Orthodox, seem to have been more aware of living in a specific region called Palestine, and it is among them that there emerges the dominant journalistic opposition to Zionism.  Nevertheless, as noted, there seems to have existed a general conception of Palestine as an area distinct from Syria, even if considered part of it for administrative purposes, reflected in documents and in the Ottoman government’s term ‘the land of Palestine.’”(7)

The first noted journalistic opposition to Zionism, Jewish immigration, and agricultural settlements came from the Orthodox Christian population, who seemed to be more aware than the Arab population of living within a specific region called Palestine.  At first general Arab opposition did not arise, and most peasants accepted Jewish landownership because they allowed them to work the soil and receive income from it.  This practice was condemned by the more strident labor Zionist, most emigrating from Russia.  This type of labor Zionism openly opposed Jewish employment of Arabs and instead called for a completely separate Jewish entity in Palestine.  The increased predominance of this exclusive labor Zionism coupled with the growing awareness of the special rights and privileges afforded to Jewish landowners by the capitulations given to Europeans from the Ottoman authorities, increased the opposition movements that were spear-headed at first by the Christians, and also increased Arab opposition and support of/ closer ties with the Christian opposition. “While most Palestinian Muslims remained loyal to Ottoman authorities, they usually agreed with those Palestinian Christians who led the public opposition to Zionist immigration, land purchases, and, in a general way, Jewish exclusiveness… A key issue was the fact that the Zionists, as European Jews, were protected by the capitulations while bringing in wealth lacking to the Arabs:(8) “they [rely] on the special rights accorded to foreign powers in the Ottoman Empire and on the corruption and treachery of the local administration.  Moreover, they are free of most of the taxes… on Ottoman subjects.”(9)

In conclusion the Arabs constituted the majority of the population during the 19th century and beginning of the 20th before the Zionist incursion and immigration into Palestine; the majority Arab population was not a result of immigration after the Zionists and was not a result of Arab immigration altogether.  The indigenous majority population of Arabs in Palestine were aware of their regional identity as living within an area known as Palestine, however this did not constitute their primary source of identification and therefore could not be seen as a nationalistic identity in the European sense of the term.  Zionists however was a nationalistic and secular movement, which had religious justifications, with a goal to immigrate and create an agricultural and societal base in Palestine for the later institution of a Jewish state within the region.  Jewish immigration, land-purchases, and overall Zionist exclusivity, displayed in their labor practices and ideological pronouncements and writings, contributed to a closer identity between the Palestinians and a more cohesive conception of Palestinian nationality.  Palestinians at first did not object to Jewish immigration and landownership, and peasants gradually grew to accept it as they were afforded employment and income on Jewish lands.  However the rise of a more strident form of labor Zionism, which opposed Jewish employment of Arabs and sought to create an exclusive Jewish entity in the region, gave rise to opposition movements, at first coming primarily from the Greek Orthodox Christian population who had a firmer conception of a national identity in Palestine.  Soon however, the Muslim population began to agree with the Palestinian Christians, forming a closer bond between them in opposition to Jewish exclusivity.  A main reason for the opposition was the foreign wealth the Jewish population brought in which was disproportionate to the Arab populations, and the special rights and privileges afforded to the Jews given their European status and the backing they received from foreign European powers who gained capitulations from the Ottoman authorities.  Therefore, the Arab-Israeli conflict is modern and secular in origin, and was a result of the emergence of Zionism, the Jewish nationalist movement that strove to establish a Jewish presence in Palestine as a forerunner to a Jewish state.  This statehood would deny rights to the indigenous Arab population in favor of those of the Jewish population, and for this reason it was opposed by Christians and Muslims alike.  

1.       Charles D. Smith, “Palestine in the Nineteenth Century,” Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History With Documents (New York, 2004), 25.
2.       Alexander Scholch, “The Demographic Development of Palestine, 1850-1882,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 17 (November 1985): 485-505
3.       Charles D. Smith, “Palestine in the Nineteenth Century,” Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History With Documents (New York, 2004), 25.
4.       Haim Gerber, “The Population of Syria and Palestine in the Nineteenth Century,” Asian and African Studies 13 (1979): 58-80; Yehoshua Ben-Arieh, “The Population of the Large Towns in Palestine during the First Eighty Years of the Nineteenth Century according to Western Sources,” in Ma’oz, ed., Studies on Palestine, 49-69; Alexander Scholch, “The Demographic Development of Palestine, 1850-1882,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 17 (November 1985): 485-505: and Justin McCarthy, The Population of Palestine: Population Statistics of the Late Ottoman Period and the Mandate (New York, 1990).
5.       Haim Gerber, “’Palestine’ and Other Territorial Concepts in the 17th Century,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 30 (November 1998): 563-72
6.       Charles D. Smith, “Palestine in the Nineteenth Century,” Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History With Documents (New York, 2004), 25.
7.       Charles D. Smith, “The Arab Response to Zionism,” Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History With Documents (New York, 2004), 36.
8.       Ibid, 38-39.
9.       Mandel, The Arabs, 81.