The truth about Gaza’s tunnels


A thing or two about “terror tunnels”

SAMI KISHAWI

When I visited family in Gaza City in 2011, they reluctantly agreed to take me to see some of the tunnels that had been constructed in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

At the time, there were an estimated 1,200 to 1,500 tunnels criss-crossing their ways underneath Gaza’s border with Egypt. Designed to outsmart the blockade that had essentially cut the coastal territory off from the world since 2006, the tunnels instantly grew in popularity. They were seen as a source of relief. The food, construction materials, and even animals that Israel had banned from entering the Strip was finding another way in.

As Israel and the Egyptian government cooperated to keep even the most basic necessities out of the Gaza Strip, smugglers went to work. In just three to ten minutes, a runner could smuggle anything he wanted from one of the tunnel to the other. Many requests were bold — new cars, tunnel-kfc deliveryhealthy sheep, a family who had waited too long at the border — and some were ridiculous — a family meal from KFC, and why not a wife — but they all got through. So is the quick-witted brilliance of the Palestinian under occupation.

With the popularity grew attention, and the Israeli and Egyptian governments agreed to handle the threatening illusion of freedom with force. Egyptian armed forces demolished any tunnel they uncovered. The Israeli military launched air strikes even during periods of rest with the same purpose in mind.

Since then, the number of tunnels in Gaza has certainly grown. It is a bafflingly elaborate system, and although few people will ever be able to conceptually grasp the full extensiveness of the tunnel network, a quick look at the tunnels themselves reveal just how much time and effort goes into them.tunnel-bride

As I stood at the mouth of a tunnel used primarily to shuttle fish from an Egyptian port, one smuggler gave me a brief rundown of how the tunnels are built and, in some cases, destroyed. Curiously, he had no qualms about me taking photographs. Israel knew everything there was to know about his tunnels, he informed me. The one that smuggled fish and other small food goods had been hit six times already, prompting him to reinforce the interior of his tunnel with steel plates. Three years later, I am unsure if his tunnels still exist.

This is what the tunnels were built for in the first place, and for the most part, this is what they continue to be used for. Israel knowingly targets them, claiming them to be security concerns when all the tunnels really do is relieve a bit of the pressure that people in Gaza have had to face for almost a decade now.

There are other tunnels that are used to connect opposite ends of the Gaza Strip without exposure to Israeli weaponry. These tunnels are used by Palestinian government leaders who constantly have to duck Israeli assassination attempts as well as resistance fighters who are legally entitled to resist their occupier. Never forget this last part, I am always told.

These very same tunnels were the ones used to keep Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit alive when he was captured and taken as a prisoner of war on June 25, 2006. Shalit would later be swapped in a prisoner exchange with the Israeli government.

Lately, however, new tunnels have been uncovered in the northern Gaza Strip that are being used in the defense of Palestine. As part of the Israeli military’s egregious public relations campaign, Israel has officially dubbed them “terror tunnels,” carrying absolutely no context whatsoever.

tunnel-sheepTo Israel, every tunnel — be it one that brings food into an impoverished Gaza Strip where over half of the population depends on food aid or one that delivers sheep to a Khan Younis farmer who lost his other farm animals to a prior Israeli incursion — is a “terror tunnel”. The phrase alone has given Israel the impunity it feels it needs to enact vengeance against the Gaza’s population. After all, “terror tunnels” was the pretext for Israel’s repeated bombardment of the Shuja’iyya neighborhood or the Jabalya Refugee Camp, where hundreds including many children were massacred and thousands displaced.

“Terror tunnels” is also why entire city blocks were wiped off the map, or why every single building in Beit Hanoun is either damaged or demolished, or why Eid Al-Fitr wasn’t celebrated in Gaza. “Terror tunnels” is Israel’s attempt at justifying war crimes and human rights abuses in the Strip, which are increasingly being investigated by the United Nations and other international observers.

Israel’s media strategists and spokespeople have been trained to bring up the “terror tunnels” as often as possible. In some cases, they even present the tunnels with unsubstantiated claims that they were built to ‘massacre’ Israelis.

The message they give is that Palestinians are popping out of the ground like groundhogs, and that Israel is simply hammering them back into the ground. Israel is, in essence, basing its invasion of the Gaza Strip on a hypothetical. But Gaza is all too familiar with this. Each Israeli major military offensive on the Gaza Strip has been announced as a necessary defensive maneuver to keep Israel from being wiped off of the map. Meanwhile, Israel wipes Gaza off the map.

Incidentally, one such “terror tunnel” made its way onto cameras yesterday when Hamas fighters filmed their infiltration of the Nahal Oz military base in southern Israel. Five Israeli soldiers were reported killed.

In another “terror tunnel” story that happened today, three Israeli soldiers fell into a booby-trapped tunnel entrance in the southern Gaza Strip.

While the Israeli government continues to purport the idea that the tunnels are meant to target thousands of Israelis, we are left with the very obvious: every single military assault carried out by Palestinian fighters that has used an infiltrating tunnel has only ever targeted Israeli soldiers. In other words, armed tunnel activity is targeting armed and active combatants, not civilians or noncombatants. Maybe Israel can learn a thing or two.

Meanwhile, the death toll in Gaza has just exceeded 1,300. Most of the dead, according to the United Nations, are civilians, with over 250 children.

Israel, who says that it acts solely in self-defense, is enacting on Gaza the kind of destruction and misery that it projects to the world as its greatest fear.

Israel, whose spokespeople say it acts “as surgically as is humanly possible,” has no regard for civilians in the Gaza Strip.

Israel, with its seemingly endless supply of advanced and pinpoint-accurate weaponry, has demolished entire neighborhoods and taken so many lives in search of tunnel entrances no larger than two meters in width.

Who Broke the Ceasefire?


By Max Blumenthal, Allison Deger

A beleaguered looking President Barack Obama appeared before the Washington press corps Friday to lash into Hamas for supposedly violating the 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire that his Secretary of State John Kerry and the United Nations had labored so tirelessly to secure.

“I have unequivocally condemned Hamas and the Palestinian factions that were responsible for killing two Israeli soldiers and abducting a third minutes after a cease-fire was announced,” Obama said.

But evidence supporting Obama’s claim of Hamas responsibility has been difficult to come by. Indeed, even the Israeli Army news desk was unable to provide AlterNet with a clear narrative or substantial evidence regarding the incident in question. Moreover, accounts published in Arabic by Hamas’s military wing along with details provided by the PLO indicate that the killing of two soldiers and disappearance of another actually occurred before the cease-fire went into effect — when Israel was assaulting Rafah.

“Today at 9:30, terrorists executed an attack from which two soldiers were killed and an additional is now missing and therefore he is suspected to have been abducted,” an Israeli army spokesperson told AlterNet. The army spokesperson went on to state that Hamas and the army “exchanged shelling,” yet they were unable to provide details on the source of the Palestinian fire. “They used several forms of fire simultaneously,” was all the spokesperson could divulge.

“I cannot confirm at the moment as we are still looking into it, but it may have been live bullets and a suicide belt,” which killed the soldiers, the army spokesperson said.

When asked why the army did not have a solid account of the events that broke the promised 72-hour cease-fire, the army spokesperson maintained, “There were terrorists and they attacked the soldiers, two soldiers didn’t just drop dead.”

Tweets from Gaza contradict official US-Israeli claims

The PLO and Palestinian Authority both insisted to AlterNet that Hamas fighters engaged Israeli soldiers inside Gaza well before the cease-fire took effect – and during an Israeli assault on Rafah leading up to the 8am cease-fire.

“They aborted the cease-fire from the beginning,” said Nabil Shaath from the PLO’s Central Committee.

A veteran negotiator, Shaath has become the de facto liaison between the PLO and Hamas. He confirmed to AlterNet that PA President Mahmoud Abbas received a briefing from Hamas this morning on the incident near Rafah. Shaath’s account reflects details provided directly by Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip.

According to Shaath, at 6am Hamas fighters engaged Israeli forces in Rafah. He maintained that it was then — almost two hours before the cease-fire went into effect — that the two Israeli soldiers were killed and the other went missing.

Shaath’s account was supported by dispatches published before the cease-fire went into effect by the official Twitter account of Hamas’s Qassam Brigades military wing. In a tweet published at 7:34 a.m. on August 1, the Qassam Brigades stated, “At 7 a.m. a group [of Hamas fighters] clashed with [Israeli] forces east of Rafah and caused many injuries and death to them.”

In a separate tweet published at 6:22 a.m. on the say day, the Qassam Brigades declared, “At 6:30 a.m., a group of the Qassam infiltrated behind enemy lines at east Rafah and bombed a house that the enemy had taken as a stronghold with a Tandem missile after the enemies bombed the whole area.”

The following day, Qassam Brigades reiterated its description of the incident in an official statement: “The clashes began at 7.00am, before the proposed truce was in effect, while the enemy launched its attack on civilians at 10 a.m, blatantly violating the truce in aims of finding a missing soldier.”

Qassam Brigades added that it had “no knowledge regarding the soldier missing in action [Lt. Hadar Goldin] or his location or the circumstances of his disappearance” — a departure from previous instances when it trumpeted claims that it had captured Israeli troops. Despite the denial, Obama vehemently demanded that Hamas unconditionally release Goldin.

The cease-fire was first violated at 8:30 a.m., according to Shaath, when the Israeli army destroyed 19 buildings in an operation to demolish tunnels. “Destroying tunnels is destroying houses,” Shaath said, noting that the cease-fire allowed hostile Israeli forces to continue to operate inside the Gaza Strip, making violence almost inevitable. “We do not accept a cease-fire that allows the invader to attack and murder,” he declared.

Conflicting claims and evidence ignored

In announcing the brief cease-fire, Kerry said its terms authorized Israeli forces to carry out“defensive” operations against tunnels. He seemed unaware of the ramifications of such an agreement, or what Israel’s attacks on tunnels actually entailed. A glimpse at Human Rights Watch’s bracing report on the Israeli army’s brutal assault on Rafah in 2004, “Razing Rafah,” which it conducted under the auspices of anti-tunnel operations, would have offered a glimpse of what was to come. (American activist Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli bulldozer during the 2003 attack on Rafah).

Following the incident in Rafah that left two Israeli soldiers dead and one presumed missing, Kerry immediately declared that Hamas had committed an “outrageous violation of the cease-fire.” White House Press Secretary Joshua Earnest echoed Kerry by accusing Hamas of “a barbaric violation of the cease-fire agreement.”

But sources offer starkly conflicting accounts of the incident in question. The Israeli army claimed to AlterNet that Lt. Hadar Goldin went missing at 9:30 a.m., an hour and a half after the cease-fire was declared. Yet Obama claimed that the attack occurred “minutes after the cease-fire began.” For their part, Qassam reported engaging and killing Israeli soldiers well before 8 a.m.

So when did the incident actually occur? And why was Obama’s information so dramatically different from details the Israeli army was furnishing journalists with?

More importantly, why was the Obama administration so quick to jump to conclusions?

Framing Hamas, driving the death toll

Perhaps the answer was credulousness or sheer laziness, with its diplomatic corps and intelligence services neglecting to examine sensitive details from sources on the ground. But the more likely explanation is that Washington has sought to frame Hamas as the aggressor to enable Israel to intensify military operations disproportionately directed against a besieged civilian population.

Since violence escalated in mid-July, the Obama administration has demonstrated a disturbing pattern of legitimizing suspect Israeli claims about Hamas’s malevolence and bad faith. In each case, the administration provided political cover for disproportionate Israeli violence, deepening the damage to civilian life in the West Bank and Gaza. And in each case, Washington’s claims were ultimately discredited — but only after Israel had ratcheted the violence up to a frightening new stage.

The first case of irresponsible enabling by the Obama administration occurred in the immediate wake of the kidnapping of three Israeli teens in the occupied West Bank on June 12. It was on June 15, before evidence was made public about the kidnapping suspects’ identities, that Kerry pointed the finger at Hamas, suggesting that the organization’s leadership had authorized the crime. His words helped justify Operation Brother’s Keeper, an army rampage through the West Bank in which thousands of Palestinian homes were raided, over 500 were arrested without charges, and 6 civilians were killed.

A month later, Israeli Police Spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld finally admitted what was widely known and had been extensively documented: Hamas leadership had no role in or advance knowledge of the kidnappings. But by then, the damage to the West Bank had already been done. Kerry has yet to retract his demonstrably false and damaging claim.

The next case of Obama administration enabling came on July 15 as the military regime of Egypt – a ferocious antagonist of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas – introduced a cease-fire proposal developed in intimate collaboration with Israel that would not have lifted the 8-year-long siege of Gaza. Hamas had not been consulted on the proposal or even briefed on its details, exposing it as a hollow document conceived as a ruse to frame the Palestinian faction as rejectionists. Kerry brought the Israeli-Egyptian scheme to its fulfillment when he launched into an indignant condemnation of Hamas for rejecting the Egyptian proposal, accusing the group of “purposely playing politics.”

Kerry’s statement was a political boon to Netanyahu, providing the Prime Minister with all the cover he sought to initiate and expand ground invasion of Gaza. Hamas’s refusal to accept the proposal “gives Israel full legitimacy to expand the operation to protect our people,” Netanyahu declared on July 15.

Human catastrophe with no end in sight

Some thousand civilian deaths later, with morgues filled with the bodies of children and the UN no longer able to care for the 25% of the Gaza Strip forced to flee from sectors of the Gaza Strip that resemble post-apocalyptic moonscapes, the Obama administration was at it again. As before, they blamed Hamas without the benefit of anything remotely resembling substantial evidence.

In turn, Washington provided political legitimacy to military operations aimed at an occupied and vulnerable civilian population with nowhere to flee, allowing the killing to continue unabated. Following the collapse of the cease-fire, Israel bombarded Rafah with US-supplied F-16’s and tank artillery, decimating the center of the city and killing over 70. At the time of publication, the death toll is rapidly rising.

Meanwhile, the talks scheduled to take place in Egypt over the next 72 hours seem to have fallen into shambles.

Obama has described the scenes of human misery pouring out of the Gaza Strip as “heartbreaking.” If only he and his administration had demanded evidence before enabling Israeli aggression, he might have been able to forgo the empty displays of hand-wringing. More importantly, hundreds of innocent lives might have been spared from a marauding army operating behind a shroud of impunity.

Why Israel Lies


Chris Hedges

All governments lie, as I.F. Stone pointed out, including Israel and Hamas. But Israel engages in the kinds of jaw-dropping lies that characterize despotic and totalitarian regimes. It does not deform the truth; it inverts it. It routinely paints a picture for the outside world that is diametrically opposed to reality. And all of us reporters who have covered the occupied territories have run into Israel’s Alice-in-Wonderland narratives, which we dutifully insert into our stories—required under the rules of American journalism—although we know they are untrue.

I saw small boys baited and killed by Israeli soldiers in the Gaza refugee camp of Khan Younis. The soldiers swore at the boys in Arabic over the loudspeakers of their armored jeep. The boys, about 10 years old, then threw stones at an Israeli vehicle and the soldiers opened fire, killing some, wounding others. I was present more than once as Israeli troops drew out and then shot Palestinian children in this way. Such incidents, in the Israeli lexicon, become children caught in crossfire. I was in Gaza when F-16 attack jets dropped 1,000-pound iron fragmentation bombs on overcrowded hovels in Gaza City. I saw the corpses of the victims, including children. This became a surgical strike on a bomb-making factory. I have watched Israel demolish homes and entire apartment blocks to create wide buffer zones between the Palestinians and the Israeli troops that ring Gaza. I have interviewed the destitute and homeless families, some camped out in crude shelters erected in the rubble. The destruction becomes the demolition of the homes of terrorists. I have stood in the remains of schools—Israel struck two United Nations schools this past week, causing at least 10 fatalities at one in Rafah on Sunday and at least 19 at one in the Jebaliya refugee camp Wednesday—as well as medical clinics and mosques. I have heard Israel claim that errant rockets or mortar fire from the Palestinians caused these and other deaths, or that the bombed spots were being used as arms depots or launching sites. I, along with every other reporter I know who has worked in Gaza, have never seen any evidence that Hamas uses civilians as “human shields.”

There is a perverted logic to Israel’s repeated use of the Big Lie—Große Lüge—the lie favored by tyrants from Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin to Saddam Hussein. The Big Lie feeds the two reactions Israel seeks to elicit—racism among its supporters and terror among its victims.

By painting a picture of an army that never attacks civilians, that indeed goes out of its way to protect them, the Big Lie says Israelis are civilized and humane, and their Palestinian opponents are inhuman monsters. The Big Lie serves the idea that the slaughter in Gaza is a clash of civilizations, a war between democracy, decency and honor on one side and Islamic barbarism on the other. And in the uncommon cases when news of atrocities penetrates to the wider public, Israel blames the destruction and casualties on Hamas.

George Orwell in his novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” called this form of propaganda doublethink. Doublethink uses “logic against logic” and “repudiate[s] morality while laying claim to it.” The Big Lie does not allow for the nuances and contradictions that can plague conscience. It is a state-orchestrated response to the dilemma of cognitive dissonance. The Big Lie permits no gray zones. The world is black and white, good and evil, righteous and unrighteous. The Big Lie allows believers to take comfort—a comfort they are desperately seeking—in their own moral superiority at the very moment they have abrogated all morality.

The Big Lie, as the father of American public relations, Edward Bernays, wrote, is limited only by the propagandist’s capacity to fathom and harness the undercurrents of individual and mass psychology. And since most supporters of Israel do not have a desire to know the truth, a truth that would force them to examine their own racism and self-delusions about Zionist and Western moral superiority, like packs of famished dogs they lap up the lies fed to them by the Israeli government. The Big Lie always finds fertile soil in what Bernays called the “logic-proof compartment of dogmatic adherence.” All effective propaganda, Bernays wrote, targets and builds upon these irrational “psychological habits.”

This is the world Franz Kafka envisioned, a world where the irrational becomes rational. It is one where, as Gustave Le Bon noted in “The Crowd: A Study of the Public Mind,” those who supply the masses with the illusions they crave become their master, and “whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim.” This irrationality explains why the reaction of Israeli supporters to those who have the courage to speak the truth—Uri Avnery, Max Blumenthal, Noam Chomsky, Jonathan Cook, Norman Finkelstein, Amira Hass, Gideon Levy, Ilan Pappé, Henry Siegman and Philip Weiss—is so rabid. That so many of these voices are Jewish, and therefore have more credibility than non-Jews who are among Israel’s cheerleaders, only ratchets up the level of hate.

But the Big Lie is also consciously designed to send a chilling message to Gaza’s Palestinians, who have lost large numbers of their dwellings, clinics, mosques, and power, water and sewage facilities, along with schools and hospitals, who have suffered some 1,650 deaths since this assault began—most of the victims women and children—and who have seen 400,000 people displaced from their homes. The Big Lie makes it clear to the Palestinians that Israel will continue to wage a campaign of state terror and will never admit its atrocities or its intentions. The vast disparity between what Israel says and what Israel does tells the Palestinians that there is no hope. Israel will do and say whatever it wants. International law, like the truth, will always be irrelevant. There will never, the Palestinians understand from the Big Lie, be an acknowledgement of reality by the Israeli leadership.

The Israel Defense Forces website is replete with this black propaganda. “Hamas exploits the IDF’s sensitivity towards protecting civilian structures, particularly holy sites, by hiding command centers, weapons caches and tunnel entrances in mosques,” the IDF site reads. “In Hamas’ world, hospitals are command centers, ambulances are transport vehicles, and medics are human shields,” the site insists.

“… [Israeli] officers are tasked with an enormous responsibility: to protect Palestinian civilians on the ground, no matter how difficult that may be,” the site assures its viewers. And the IDF site provides this quote from a drone operator identified as Lt. Or. “I have personally seen rockets fired at Israel from hospitals and schools, but we couldn’t strike back because of civilians nearby. In one instance, we acquired a target but we saw that there were children in the area. We waited around, and when they didn’t leave we were forced to abort a strike on an important target.”

Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, in a Big Lie of his own, said last month at a conference of Christians United for Israel that the Israeli army should be given the “Nobel Peace Prize …  a Nobel Peace Prize for fighting with unimaginable restraint.”

The Big Lie destroys any possibility of history and therefore any hope for a dialogue between antagonistic parties that can be grounded in truth and reality. While, as Hannah Arendt pointed out, the ancient and modern sophists sought to win an argument at the expense of the truth, those who wield the Big Lie “want a more lasting victory at the expense of reality.” The old sophists, she said, “destroyed the dignity of human thought.” Those who resort to the Big Lie “destroy the dignity of human action.” The result, Arendt warned, is that “history itself is destroyed, and its comprehensibility.” And when facts no longer matter, when there is no shared history grounded in the truth, when people foolishly believe their own lies, there can be no useful exchange of information. The Big Lie, used like a bludgeon by Israel, as perhaps it is designed to be, ultimately reduces all problems in the world to the brutish language of violence. And when oppressed people are addressed only through violence they will answer only through violence.

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Infants, children killed in Rafah stored in a commercial freezer until a ceasefire so that they can be buried

Infants, children killed in Rafah stored in a commercial freezer until a ceasefire so that they can be buried

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Israel Provoked This War


…as if you didn’t already know that?!?!?! This is par for the course type of behavior for one of the most ruthless governments known to civilized man.  It doesn’t belong among semitic peoples of the Middle East; rather it belongs among its colder hearted brethren of the European hinterlands who love war, destruction and genocide.  It has taken its playbook from Nazi Germany in the way it has systematically destroyed Palestinian hopes and aspirations for self-determination and to live in peace with its neighbors.  If it were any other country in the Middle East, America would have invaded Israel right now for its crimes against humanity conducted against the Palestinians. Saddam Hussein was guilty of far fewer atrocities and he was hung to the glee of the neocons of the Bush administration. Henry Siegman has written the brilliant, thought provoking piece below

There seems to be near-universal agreement in the United States with President Barack Obama’s observation that Israel, like every other country, has the right and obligation to defend its citizens from threats directed at them from beyond its borders.

But this anodyne statement does not begin to address the political and moral issues raised by Israel’s bombings and land invasion of Gaza: who violated the cease-fire agreement that was in place since November 2012 and whether Israel’s civilian population could have been protected by nonviolent means that would not have placed Gaza’s civilian population at risk. As of this writing, the number killed by the Israel Defense Forces has surpassed 600, the overwhelming majority of whom are noncombatants.

Israel’s assault on Gaza, as pointed out by analyst Nathan Thrall in the New York Times, was not triggered by Hamas’ rockets directed at Israel but by Israel’s determination to bring down the Palestinian unity government that was formed in early June, even though that government was committed to honoring all of the conditions imposed by the international community for recognition of its legitimacy.

 The notion that it was Israel, not Hamas, that violated a cease-fire agreement will undoubtedly offend a wide swath of Israel supporters. To point out that it is not the first time Israel has done so will offend them even more deeply. But it was Shmuel Zakai, a retired brigadier general and former commander of the IDF’s Gaza Division, and not “leftist” critics, who said about the Israel Gaza war of 2009 that during the six-month period of a truce then in place, Israel made a central error “by failing to take advantage of the calm to improve, rather than markedly worsen, the economic plight of the Palestinians in the [Gaza] Strip. … You cannot just land blows, leave the Palestinians in Gaza in the economic distress they are in and expect Hamas just to sit around and do nothing.”

This is true of the latest cease-fire as well. According to Thrall, Hamas is now seeking through violence what it should have obtained through a peaceful handover of responsibilities. “Israel is pursuing a return to the status quo ante, when Gaza had electricity for barely eight hours a day, water was undrinkable, sewage was dumped in the sea, fuel shortages caused sanitation plants to shut down and waste sometimes floated in the streets.” It is not only Hamas supporters, but many Gazans, perhaps a majority, who believe it is worth paying a heavy price to change a disastrous status quo.

The answer to the second question — whether a less lethal course was not available to protect Israel’s civilian population — is (unintentionally?) implicit in the formulation of President Barack Obama’s defense of Israel’s actions: namely, the right and obligation of all governments to protect their civilian populations from assaults from across their borders.

But where, exactly, are Israel’s borders?

It is precisely Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to identify those borders that placed Israel’s population at risk. And the reason he has refused to do that is because he did not want the world to know that he had no intention of honoring the pledge he made in 2009 to reach a two-state agreement with the Palestinians. The Road Map for Middle East peace that was signed by Israel, the PLO and the United States explicitly ruled out any unilateral alterations in the pre-1967 armistice lines that served as a border between the parties. This provision was consistently and blatantly violated by successive Israeli governments with their illegal settlement project. And Netanyahu refused to recognize that border as the starting point for territorial negotiations in the terms of reference proposed by Secretary of State John Kerry.

But on July 12, as noted in The Times of Israel by its editor, David Horovitz, Netanyahu made clear that he has no interest in a genuine two-state solution. As Horovitz puts it, “the uncertainties were swept aside … And nobody will ever be able to claim in the future that [Netanyahu] didn’t tell us what he really thinks. He made it explicitly clear that he could never, ever, countenance a fully sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank.” The IDF, Netanyahu said, would remain permanently in the West Bank. During the Kerry-sponsored negotiations, he rejected out of hand the American proposal that U.S. and international forces be stationed on the Israeli-Palestinian border, which he insisted would remain permanently under the IDF’s control. Various enclaves will comprise a new Palestinian entity, which Palestinians will be free to call a state. But sovereignty, the one element that defines self-determination and statehood, will never be allowed by Israel, he said.

Why will he not allow it? Why did he undermine Kerry’s round of peace talks? Why is he inciting against the Palestinian unity government? Why does he continue to expand illegal settlements in the West Bank, and why did he use the tragic kidnapping and killing of three Israelis as a pretext to destroy what institutional political (as opposed to military) presence of Hamas remained in the West Bank?

 He’s doing all of these things because, as suggested by Yitzhak Laor in Haaretz, he and his government are engaged in a frenzied effort to eliminate Palestinians as a political entity. Israel’s government is “intent on inheriting it all” by turning the Palestinian people into “a fragmented, marginalized people,” Laor writes. It is what the Israeli scholar Baruch Kimmerling described as “politicide” in a book by that name he wrote in 2006.

So exactly who is putting Israel’s population at risk? And what is Obama prepared to do about it?

I’m sure the president’s political advisers are telling him that a congressional election year is not the time to take on the Israel lobby. They are wrong, not only because it is always election time in the United States, but because successive polls have established that American Jews vote constantly and overwhelmingly Democratic for a wide variety of domestic and international reasons, but support for Netanyahu’s policies is not one of them.

And if the president wishes to convince Israelis and Palestinians that Israeli-Palestinian peace is a cause worth taking risks for, should he not be willing to take some domestic political risks as well?

 

 

Debunking Israeli myths/lies


A well written article appears here about Israeli talking points and how they have been proven to no where approach  reality.  It’s still strange to see, hear spokes people for the Israeli government parroting these lies although they know they’ve been proven untrue.  Perhaps they’re banking on most people not knowing about what’s written below:

Palestinians just endured an exceptionally brutal weekend: In Gaza, the death toll crossed the appalling benchmark of 1,000, overwhelmingly civilians. In the West Bank, Israeli soldiers and settlers also killed at least nine Palestinians amid protests against the devastation of Gaza. I recently debunked Israel’s misleading “human shields” argument attempting to deflect responsibility for the killing of hundreds of Palestinian civilians; but more important to expose is the false narrative of how we found ourselves in this crisis and who is responsible for its perpetuation.

Invisible Bias

For most media outlets, the current crisis began with the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens in the West Bank. This is, of course, an arbitrary starting point. Just one day before the kidnappings, a Palestinian man and a 10-year-old child were killed in Gaza by an Israeli airstrike. Why wasn’t that the starting point of the violence? Has the media internalized Israel’s narrative to such an extent that they only see Israel as “responding” to violence rather than initiating it?

Israel initially blamed Hamas for the teens’ kidnapping, and “responded” by going on aviolent rampage in the West Bank, invading homes, killing demonstrators, and arresting hundreds of Palestinians, including 60 Hamas members who had been freed in an earlier prisoner swap. Imagine the opposite scenario for a moment:  When Israeli troops were caught on tape killing unarmed Palestinian teens just a few weeks before the kidnapping of the Israeli teens, imagine if Hamas responded by invading Israeli homes, shooting Israeli demonstrators and kidnapping hundreds of Israeli troops. Would media outlets cover such actions with the same sympathy and understanding afforded to Israel’s actions?

Hamas, Rockets and Kidnappings

We hear a lot about how many rockets Hamas fired, but rarely in a proper timeline. Hamas had been strictly observing a cease-fire agreement since it was brokered in 2012, and was even arresting Palestinian militants from rival factions who fired rockets at Israel as recently as last month. Hamas ultimately did resume firing rockets into Israel, but only after the massive crackdown Israel initiated against Hamas in the West Bank (and by some accounts, even after an Israeli airstrike on Gaza).

And it turns out the initial crackdown against Hamas was also without basis. Israeli officials now acknowledge, in direct contradiction to statements by Israel’s prime minister, that Hamas was actually not responsible for the kidnappings of the three Israeli teens after all. And this is not just a realization Israel made over the weekend: Israeli intelligence officers reportedly noted as early as June 30 that there was no evidence implicating Hamas as an organization.

Why Now?

Since Hamas did not initiate this confrontation, the question remains: Why did Israel pick this fight with them now? The answer requires a bit of context: For more than two decades, Palestinians and Israelis have been engaged in a so-called peace process, which aims to establish a Palestinian state on the occupied territories, the small areas from which Israel is legally required to withdraw. But that peace process failed time and again because Israel was never serious about allowing a viable Palestinian state to exist, and insisted on swallowing up more and more Palestinian land through relentlesssettlement expansion, in direct violation of international law. More recently, Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu candidly (though only in Hebrew) ruled out the possibility of allowing a sovereign Palestinian state to exist.

But because global perceptions are important, Israel is always looking for a way to deflect responsibility for the failure of the peace process onto the Palestinians. One of the talking points used to that end is the claim that there is “no partner for peace” on the Palestinian side because the leadership was divided. So when Hamas and the Palestinian Authority agreed to end their division in recent months, Netanyahu’s government freaked out and demanded Western governments boycott the new united Palestinian leadership. When, to Netanyahu’s bitter disappointment, the U.S. insisted on dealing with the new Palestinian government anyway, Israel seems to have opted for a direct confrontation with Hamas to break up the unity government. One can see the cynical exploitation of the teens’ kidnapping to this end simply by looking at theJerusalem Post headline, which reads: “Netanyahu to Kerry: PA’s Hamas-backed unity government to blame for missing teens.” Evidence for this sort of nonsense, of course, is nowhere to be seen.

Occupation and Self-Defense

Beyond the tit-for-tat of “who started it” many are busy debating, it is crucial to emphasize that Israel has illegally occupied the Palestinian territories for many decades, is actively engaging in land theft through illegal settlement expansion, and is imposing a system of apartheid. Under those circumstances, Israel’s very posture is offensive, and it cannot claim to be engaging in “self-defense” against the very people whose land it has illegally usurped.

To personalize this for a moment, imagine a bully sitting on a smaller child, and every time someone objects to the fact that the bully is beating the smaller child with an iron rod, the bully exclaims, “Well, he tried to slap me, so I was forced to defend myself.” No, you can’t claim that you’re beating the smaller child with an iron rod in self-defense, especially when you can end the entire confrontation simply by getting off him. Back to the political reality, Norman Finkelstein put it best: “The refrain that Israel has the right to self-defense is a red herring: the real question is, does Israel have the right to use force to maintain an illegal occupation? The answer is no.”

Israel’s Message to Palestinians

When you take into account everything I mentioned so far, you begin to realize that the ubiquitous talking point “Israel was forced to defend itself from Hamas rockets” is wrong on three counts: 1) This round of violence did not start with Hamas rockets; 2) Israel was not “forced” into this confrontation; and 3) Israel as the occupying power is certainly not “defending” itself.

Under these circumstances, the atrocious bombing of Gaza and the killing of hundreds of civilians makes clear that Israel’s message to Palestinians is this: You will live under our boot, occupied, besieged, dispossessed and humiliated without any semblance of freedom. On occasion, we may even go on a violent rampage against you, but you better not respond. Because if any of you ever dare respond to our violence with violence, we will be forced to “defend ourselves” by using our overwhelming military might to beat your entire society into submission.

Ending the Violence

By now, you’ve probably heard news outlets accuse both Israel and Hamas, on alternating occasions, of rejecting cease-fire proposals. The accusations against both are true, and this merely has to do with the terms of each proposal: Israel wants a cease-fire that effectively ends the fighting while allowing Israel to keep its boot on Gaza’s neck. Hamas, on the other hand, insists on some humanitarian conditions, including ending the siege and economic suffocation of Gaza, the introduction of international peacekeeping forces at Gaza’s borders, and the freeing of prisoners rounded up in recent weeks, many held without charge or trial.

Whatever cease-fire terms end up being accepted by both sides will only matter in the short term. In the long term, only true justice (an end to Israel’s occupation and apartheid) can end this conflict. Here, the responsibility of American citizens is paramount: If we can end our government’s unconditional military and diplomatic support for Israel’s most destructive policies, or condition such support on Israel abiding by its legal and moral obligations, we can begin to work toward that real justice all Israelis and Palestinians deserve.

Omar Baddar is a Middle East political analyst based in Washington, DC. You can follow him on Twitter at @OmarBaddar

 

 

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