Israel claims an inalienable “right to exist”
while denying the right of a Palestinian state to exist.
Where I Come From
The Zionist dream and support for Israel was part of the mother’s milk I fed on as a child, up to the moment of my Bar Mitvah – that rite of passage into ritual manhood – that my father lovingly prepared me for.
My father (1914-1991), was a direct descendent, and the namesake, of the infamous Seer of Lublin (Poland), one of the early Hassidic (mystical Jewish) masters and a prophet considered as great as the biblical Isaiah. Every male in his lineage was a Hassidic rebbe (teacher), until my father’s father, my grandfather, found his way to Ellis Island and the Roxbury community of Boston, where he painted houses for a very meager living, and where he died too soon of cancer.
But my grandfather’s commitment to Jewish teaching was so great that he painted a different portion of the local synagogue each year in lieu of tuition so that his son, my father, could attend Hebrew School. Though my father was a very good student, because of his family’s poverty his school guidance counselors aimed him away from college. However, my father managed to attend Boston Hebrew Teacher’s College and his first career was teaching Hebrew language and history as well as Talmudic scholarship (the ancient Talmud is the written compilation of centuries of rabbinic oral teachings and commentary on same).
When the United States entered WWII, my father took a commission as a second lieutenant in the Army Medical Corps, and at discharge was able to attend college on the GI Bill, eventually earning a PhD and helping found the field of Social Psychology, in which he worked as a researcher and then a professor until his retirement.
But prior to that, my father absorbed the idealism of his own father, who was an active member of the International Workmen’s Circle or Arbeter Ring, a Yiddish language-oriented American Jewish fraternal organization committed to social justice that sprung from the anti-communist socialist movement in Eastern Europe.
In his teens, my father became a leader in the Hashomer Hatzair (the Youth Guard), a socialist–Zionist, secular Jewish youth movement founded in 1913 in Galicia, Austria-Hungary, and active in the US. He helped train young people to join the kibbutz movement in Palestine, but became disillusioned and finally dropped out after seeing his older peers quitting to assimilate into American culture and chase the American dream rather than the hardship of a settler’s life.
Hashomer Hatzair did help settle four kibbutzim (collective farming communities) in Palestine and formed a political party by the same name which accepted Arab members as equals, supported Arab rights and advocated a bi-national homeland of Palestine with equality between Arabs and Jews.
Though both my parents were ardent Zionists, I began at a young age to question the legitimacy of the policies of the state of Israel (born just four years before me), as I took on my father’s youthful idealism and moved it perhaps beyond where he had been, and certainly beyond where he was willing to stand as an adult American Jew who knew the horrors of the holocaust and perceived Israel as a necessary safe haven from centuries of oppression.
My early opposition to Israeli state policy was part of the same fabric which led me to participate in the 1969, 1970 and 1971 marches against US imperialism in Vietnam and the killings of US college students at Kent State and Jackson State by the National Guard. That growing refusal to be enmeshed in immoral national policies also led me to consider ways to avoid the Vietnam draft (I was 1-A during the last draft lottery in 1973, but was not called up) and to define myself as a conscientious objector to war-making.
When I was working in 1979 as media coordinator for the Clamshell Alliance, the nation’s first grass-roots anti-nuclear power coalition which seeded a national and international movement, I joined a protest against the launching of the first Trident nuclear submarine, which was at that time the most powerful killing machine ever devised, with 24 independently targetable multiple-warhead nuclear ballistic missiles. During my arrest and transfer to prison, I determined that if I would not give my body to the war machine, neither would I contribute the fruit of my body’s labor through the payment of federal income taxes (approximately half of which go to pay the past, present and future costs of war-making), and I have been a war-tax refuser for 35 years, living at a subsistence level to avoid complicity in the American materialist culture that can be sustained only by constant military aggression.
As a life-long war resister, I can no more support Israel’s 66-year history of terrorism followed by military supremacy and aggression than I can the same policies and history of my own country (which largely foots the bill for Israel’s military might).
Ironically, my stand against Israeli policies comes straight from the Hebrew prophetic tradition from which I am descended.
Isaiah 1:17 – Learn to do good, seek justice: help the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.
Micah 6:8 – And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
For the back story on the seemingly endless conflict, see: An Illustrated History of Palestine.
The 2014 Israeli-Palestinian War
I’ve been watching closely the 2014 (third) war on Gaza, and paying attention to its nuances, motives and underlying principles.
There is no shortage of media and blogosphere reportage, analysis and commentary on the current conflict, called Operation Protective Edge, but most of it misses the key elements. It is these which I choose to address here.
Israel’s “Right to Exist” Myth
The following analysis of the myth of Israel’s “right to exist” is from Alan Hart, former Middle East Chief Correspondent for Independent Television News, former BBC Panorama presenter specializing in the Middle East, and author of the three-part series Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews.
Zionism asserts that its state was given its birth certificate and thus legitimacy by the UN Partition Resolution of 29 November 1947. That is nonsense. The truth can be summarized as follows.
In the first place the UN, without the consent of the majority of the people of Palestine, did not have the right to decide to partition Palestine or assign any part of its territory to a minority of alien immigrants in order for them to establish a state of their own.
By the narrowest of margins, and only after a rigged vote, the UN General Assembly did pass a resolution to partition Palestine and create two states, one Arab, one Jewish, with Jerusalem not part of either. But the General Assembly resolution was only a recommendation – meaning that it could have no effect, would not become policy, unless approved by the Security Council.
The General Assembly’s recommendation never went to the Security Council for consideration because the U.S. knew that, if approved, it could only be implemented by force given the extent of Arab and other Muslim opposition to it; and President Truman was not prepared to use force to partition Palestine.
So the partition plan was vitiated (became invalid) and the question of what the hell to do about Palestine – after Britain had made a mess of it and walked away, effectively surrendering to Zionist terrorism – was taken back to the General Assembly for more discussion. The option favored and proposed by the U.S. was temporary UN Trusteeship. It was while the General Assembly was debating what to do that Israel unilaterally declared itself to be in existence – actually in defiance of the will of the organized international community, including the Truman administration.
The truth of the time was that the Zionist state – which came into being mainly as a consequence of pre-planned ethnic cleansing that saw three-quarters of the indigenous Arab inhabitants of Palestine dispossessed of their homes, their land and their rights – had no right to exist and, more to the point, could have no right to exist unless it was recognized and legitimized by those Zionism had dispossessed of their land and their rights.
In international law only the Palestinians could give Israel the legitimacy it craved. And that legitimacy was the only thing the Zionists could not and cannot take from the Palestinians by force.
According to world-renowned linguist and humanist scholar, Noam Chomsky, the term “right to exist” is unique to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict: “No state has a right to exist, and no one demands such a right….In an effort to prevent negotiations and a diplomatic settlement, the U.S. and Israel insisted on raising the barrier to something that nobody’s going to accept….[Palestinians are] not going to accept…the legitimacy of their dispossession.”
American international lawyer John V. Whitbeck argued that Israel’s insistence on a right to exist forces Palestinians to provide a moral justification for their own suffering.
Ironically, Zionists may have taken this notion from the Jewish nemesis: “Germany’s right to exist is now a question of to be or not to be.” – Nazi Party, 1933
In fact, Zionism and Nazism shared a similar extreme nationalist and exclusivist ideology and cooperated closely from 1933-1939, while Zionists in both Palestine and the United States undermined any effort to rescue European Jewry that did not increase the exodus to Palestine. For an extensive examination of that collusion and collaboration, see Zionism and Nazism and Israeli Support for War Criminals and Human Rights Abusers.
In 2002, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported that the Israeli military was specifically studying Nazi Warsaw Ghetto strategies for use in the Palestinian Occupied Territories.
The 47-Year Illegal Occupation of Palestinian Lands
Menachem Begin, the former Irgun terrorist leader who became the head of the Likud party and Israeli Prime Minister, admitted publicly: “In June 1967, we had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that [Egyptian President] Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.”
Golda Meir, a Labor prime minister, said that the Palestinians did not exist, adding in 1971 that Israel’s “borders are determined by where Jews live, not where there is a line on a map”. At the same time she ordered that the Green Line, Israel’s border until the 1967 war, be erased from all official maps.
Article 2 of the UN Charter embodies a prevailing legal principle that there could be “no title by conquest”, and that principle has been expressed through numerous international conferences, doctrines and treaties since the late 19th Century, including the First International Conference of American States in 1890, the United States Stimson Doctrine of 1932, the 1932 League of Nations resolution on Japanese aggression in China, the Buenos Aires Declaration of 1936, and the Atlantic Charter of 1941.
The Palestinian Authority, the EU, the International Court of Justice, the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council consider East Jerusalem to be part of the West Bank and occupied by Israel; Israel considers all of Jerusalem to be its capital and sovereign territory.
The International Court of Justice, the UN General Assembly and the United Nations Security Council regards Israel as the “Occupying Power”. The term “Occupying Power” has taken on a precise legal meaning following the International Court of Justice advisory opinion in July 2004 that Israel is occupying this territory in violation of international law. The Israeli High Court of Justice concurs with this language, and has ruled that Israel holds the West Bank under “belligerent occupation”.
United Nations Security Council Resolution 478 declared the 1980 annexation of Jerusalem “null and void” and required that it be rescinded. UN Security Council Resolution 497 also declared the 1981 annexation of the Golan “null and void”.
Israel unilaterally disengaged from Gaza in September 2005, and declared itself no longer to be in occupation of the Strip. However, as it retains control of Gaza’s airspace and coastline, it continues to be designated as an occupying power in the Gaza Strip by the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly.
The International Committee of the Red Cross sent the Israeli government a confidential position paper making clear that the removal of the Israeli troops and settlers from Gaza will not end the occupation. The paper stated: “Israel will retain significant control over the Gaza Strip, which will enable it to exercise key elements of authority. Thus … it seems at this stage the Gaza Strip will remain occupied for the purposes of international humanitarian law.”
The Harvard Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research wrote a legal brief which stated: “The partial redeployment of Israel’s military presence in and around the territory is not the controlling factor in international law to determine the end of occupation… The end of occupation rests essentially on the termination of the military control of the Occupying Power over the Government affairs of the occupied population that limits the people’s right to self determination.”
Palestinian Acceptance of Israel
In September 1993, the PLO agreed that Resolutions 242 and 338 should be the basis for negotiations with Israel when it signed the Declaration of Principles of the Oslo Accords. UN 242 addresses Israel’s “right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force”.
In 1993, there was also an official exchange of letters between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Chairman Arafat, in which Arafat declared that “the PLO affirms that those articles of the Palestinian Covenant which deny Israel’s right to exist, and the provisions of the Covenant which are inconsistent with the commitments of this letter are now inoperative and no longer valid.”
In 2009 Prime Minister Ehud Olmert then raised the bar further by demanding the Palestinian Authority’s acceptance of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, which the Palestinian Authority (PA) legitimately rejected (more than 20% of Israeli citizens are Arab). The Knesset plenum gave initial approval in May 2009 to a bill criminalizing the public denial of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, with a penalty of up to a year in prison.
In 2010, Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal stated that the 1988 Hamas Charter is “a piece of history and no longer relevant”.
In 2011, the PA Ambassador to India, Adli Sadeq, wrote in the official PA daily: “There are no two Palestinians who disagree over the fact that Israel exists, and recognition of it is restating the obvious. But recognition of its right to exist is something else, different from recognition of its existence.”
In a 2012 CNN interview, Khaled Meshaal said that Hamas would “resort to a peaceful way” if Israel would agree to the creation of a Palestinian state.
In 2013 Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh reiterated that the Palestinian Arabs as a whole will never recognize Israel’s “right to exist”, and certainly not to exist as the Jewish state.
In June 2014, Hamas agreed to a Palestinian unity government that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said would recognize Israel, renounce violence, and abide by the Oslo Accords, which called for a demilitarized Palestinian state.
Gaza analyst Prof. Mkhaimer Abu Saada says, “We know that Hamas is … completely different from radical extremist groups, and it is ready to accept a settlement with Israel that would allow Palestinians to live in a state within the 1967 borders. But basically they cannot come forward now, and recognize Israel, without Israel recognizing the Palestinians.”
On July 27, 2014, through a translator in an interview with “CBS This Morning” co-host Charlie Rose, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said “When we have a Palestinian state, then the Palestinian state will decide on its policies.” Meshaal said that he is “ready to coexist” with Jews, but that “I do not want to live with a state of occupiers”. “We are not fanatics; we are not fundamentalists. We do not actually fight the Jews because they are Jews per se. We do not fight any other races. We fight the occupiers,” he said.
Meshaal called for the right of return to Israel for all Palestinians, including those who are United States citizens, who Meshaal said “long for their home country”. Meshaal lives in Doha, Qatar, and previously lived in Damascus, Syria.
Meshaal blamed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the breakdown in the last round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and laid out his conditions for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. “When Israel practically commits itself to withdraw from Gaza completely and the West Bank without any settlements, and if we have Jerusalem as our capital and the return of the refugees, then we will reach peace,” he told Rose.
Hamas leaders have long since reconciled themselves with a two-state settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and have gone well beyond that in the context of the reconciliation agreement signed on April 23, 2014 between Fatah and Hamas, in which they agreed to the formation of a new government, with neither Hamas nor Fatah in the Cabinet, and that the political program of that government would be the political program of Mahmoud Abbas, who not only accepts the Quartet conditions (nonviolence, adherence to past agreements and recognition of Israel), but also continued security coordination with Israel.
More than 20 years after the 1993 Oslo Accords laid out a framework for a Palestinian state and an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza that began in 1967, Palestinians still have no state. Though Israel withdrew its settlers and troops from Gaza in 2005, it still controls the borders, airspace, and even telecommunications frequencies of both territories. The number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank has tripled since Oslo.
If Israel was willing to engage with the Saudi-backed template for creating a Palestinian state, known as the Arab Peace Initiative, Arab countries could in turn help to stabilize and disarm Gaza, says Gershon Baskin, who has facilitated back-channel negotiations between Israel and Hamas.
The Arab Peace Initiative is a comprehensive plan first proposed in 2002 at the Beirut Summit of the Arab League by then-Crown Prince King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, and re-endorsed at the Riyadh Summit in 2007. The initiative attempts to normalize relations between the entire Arab region and Israel in exchange for a complete withdrawal from the occupied territories (including East Jerusalem) and a “just settlement” of the Palestinian refugee crisis based on UN Resolution 194 (which calls for a diplomatic resolution to the conflict and resolves that any refugees “wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors” should be able to do so or, if they otherwise wish, should be provided with compensation).
Founded in 1973 by Menachem Begin, the Likud Party achieved victory in the 1977, 1996, 2003, 2009 and 2013 elections, putting Benjamin Netanyahu in the Prime Minister’s seat.
The 1999 Likud charter emphasizes the right of settlement:
“The Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are the realization of Zionist values. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defense of the vital interests of the State of Israel. The Likud will continue to strengthen and develop these communities and will prevent their uprooting.”
Similarly, they claim the Jordan River as the permanent eastern border to Israel and it also claims Jerusalem as belonging to Israel.
The ‘Peace & Security’ chapter of the 1999 Likud Party platform rejects a Palestinian state:
“The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river. The Palestinians can run their lives freely in the framework of self-rule, but not as an independent and sovereign state. Thus, for example, in matters of foreign affairs, security, immigration and ecology, their activity shall be limited in accordance with imperatives of Israel’s existence, security and national needs.”
While Netanyahu has given lip service to a two-state solution to appease Israel’s international supporters, particularly in the US, his policies have made a Palestinian state all but impossible.
Though there is ample evidence of Israeli support for the formation of Hamas*, an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, in 1987 (during the First Intifada), as a foil to Yaser Arafat of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the Islamist party has become a useful, perhaps necessary, foil to Israel and an excuse to continue its obstructionist policies. For this reason, Netanyahu made plain that his goal in the military response in Gaza was not to eliminate Hamas, as he feared that the truly radical elements of Islamic Jihad, al Qaeda or ISIS would fill the void.
[* "Hamas, to my great regret, is Israel's creation", says retired Israeli official Avner Cohen, a Tunisian-born Jew who worked in Gaza for more than two decades, responsible for religious affairs in the region until 1994. "Israel for years tolerated and, in some cases, encouraged them as a counterweight to the secular nationalists of the Palestine Liberation Organization and its dominant faction, Yasser Arafat's Fatah."]
When Hamas joined Fatah in mid-2014 to represent the Palestinian people with a single voice, Netanyahu began an aggressive assault on Hamas to prevent such a unified front for Palestinian statehood.
Who Started the 2014 War?
[See Israel’s War on Hamas – Israel’s War against Peace for more detail.]
Time-Line to Conflict
April 9 – Israel undermines peace talks with the Palestinian Authority by refusing to fulfill its promise to release Palestinian prisoners and then announces the construction of 700 new illegal settlement units in East Jerusalem.
April 23 – Fatah and Hamas leaders shake hands in Gaza to announce a new Unity Government which would not include any Hamas members and would abide by the three conditions for Western aid: nonviolence, adherence to past agreements and recognition of Israel. Netanyahu immediately condemns the pact and uses it as an excuse to terminate US-brokered peace talks.
Hamas maintains the 2012 cease-fire agreement for 19 months and polices other Islamic groups to prevent their use of force, according to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) [even though Israel reneged on their 2012 cease-fire agreement to lift the blockade of Gaza]. The ITIC is a private Israeli think tank with close ties to the country’s military leadership and whose weekly reports regarding rocket fire are frequently quoted on the Israeli government’s web site. The Jerusalem Post had reported in May 2013 that Hamas was policing other groups to prevent rocket fire.
May 15 – Israeli forces shoot and kill two young Palestinian boys, aged 15 and 17, during a demonstration in the West Bank to commemorate the Nakba (catastrophe) of 1948, and three other youths are injured by live fire.
June 12 – After the kidnapping of three Israeli settler teens (blamed on Hamas, though the IDF had identified as its prime suspects a rogue faction with a history of defying Hamas’ leadership and sabotaging the group’s peace-building efforts), Israeli forces attack 60 targets in Gaza over three weeks in June. (ITIC)
June 17 – Israel re-arrests 54 Palestinian prisoners set free in 2011 as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap with Hamas, in violation of its armistice agreement.
June 12 to July 2 – Operation Brother’s Keeper is the most extensive military operation in the West Bank for more than a decade. The Palestine Center for Human Rights reports that Israeli forces and settlers killed 11 Palestinians and wounded 51 during 369 incursions into the West Bank. More than 1,200 homes were searched, in violation of the Oslo Accord which requires collaboration with the Palestine Authority.
Mid-June – The IDF moves Iron Dome batteries into southern Israeli cities, in apparent anticipation of a war with Hamas. Netanyahu calls on Palestinian Authority President Abbas to dissolve the unity government with Hamas.
June 30 – Several jihadist groups, including one linked to al Qaeda, claim responsibility for the three Israeli teen murders, but Netanyahu maintains that “Hamas is responsible and Hamas will pay”.
June 30 – The Times of Israel reports that Hamas had fired missiles for the first time since the November 2012 cease-fire “in revenge for an Israeli airstrike several hours earlier”. Previous rocket fire came from other groups in Gaza which, the article notes, Hamas had tried to stop.
July 2 – Palestinian teen Muhammad Abu Khdeir, 16, is found burned alive in a Jerusalem forest, the day after the burial of the three Israeli teens. Israeli settlers are found to be responsible.
July 3 – Human Rights Watch reports that “Israel’s military operations in the West Bank following the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers have amounted to collective punishment. The military operations included unlawful use of force, arbitrary arrests, and illegal home demolitions” and that “Israeli forces have arrested about 700 Palestinians since June 12, 2014, and are currently detaining at least 450, some during the large-scale military incursions.”
July 3 – Tareq Abu Khdeir, the 15-year-old American cousin of slain Palestinian teen Muhammad Abu Khdeir, is brutally beaten to unconsciousness by masked Israeli police in occupied East Jerusalem, denied medical care for five hours and held without charge. On July 18, hours after the boy was released under international pressure to fly home, his Palestinian family’s home was raided, and his uncle and two other cousins arrested without charge.
July 7 – IDF kills 6 Hamas members in Gaza with Israeli warplane and tank bombardment, and the Israeli Air Force attacks approximately 50 more “terrorist targets” in the Gaza Strip. (ITIC)
July 7 – Hamas begins retaliatory rocketing of Israel after weeks of provocations by Israel.
July 8 – Israeli government agrees to call up to 40,000 reservists, launches Operation Protective Edge and prepares for a ground invasion.
July 14 – Egypt’s anti-Islamist military government offers a cease-fire agreement without consulting Hamas or including any of its conditions, and Israel accepts it, knowing that Hamas will not, as a justification for expanding the conflict.
July 16 – Hamas offers a 10-year truce in return for ending the blockade of Gaza and interference in Palestinian internal politics, which Israel ignores, and an Israeli gunboat kills four Palestinian children playing on the beach as international journalists watch.
July 17 – Israel accepts a 5-hour UN-brokered humanitarian cease-fire, during which time the IDF repositions its assets to launch its ground invasion, which was begun at 10:30 PM that day.
July 26 – A UN-brokered humanitarian 12-hour cease-fire allows the IDF to continue its search & destroy mission for cross-border tunnels in a civilian no-go buffer zone that reduces the Gaza population to 56% of its land, making the remaining Gaza more densely populated than Hong Kong or Singapore. The no-go zone contains the homes of about 250,000 people, Gaza City’s Shijaiyah neighborhood and the entire city of Beit Hanoun.
July 30 – Israel continues to target UN refugee shelters, mosques, hospitals, journalists, homes and public markets, in their usual calculus of “proportionality” which results in hundreds of Palestinian civilian deaths, including women and children, for each Israeli civilian death (only 2 to date and 1 visiting worker).
August 1 – Israel breaks the 72-hour UN-brokered cease-fire when an IDF soldier is allegedly captured in Gaza and Israel retaliates with heavy bombardment of Rafah, killing another 200 Palestinian civilians. Many Rafah residents reported that intensive shelling began at 8:30 AM, one hour before the alleged attack on IDF soldiers, and did not abate for three more days.
August 3 – Israel announces that the “captured” soldier was killed in action, but fails to note that he was almost certainly obliterated by a retaliatory Israeli air strike (as the Hamas military wing had previously stated).
The Hannibal Directive
The Hannibal Directive or “Hannibal Procedure” is a secret directive of the Israel Defense Forces with the purpose of preventing Israeli soldiers being captured by enemy forces in the course of combat.
In 2011, Israel agreed to release 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in return for IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit after five years of captivity. This was seen as a major victory for Hamas and a significant embarrassment for Israel, one which Israel swore never to allow again. In fact, one of the myriad provocations by Israel that preceded the renewal of Hamas rocket attacks after 19 months of cease-fire, was the June 17 re-arrest of 54 Palestinian prisoners set free in the 2011 Gilad Shalit prisoner swap.
The Hannibal Directive, drawn up in 1986 by a group of top Israeli officers, states that at the time of a kidnapping the main mission becomes forcing the release of the abducted soldiers from their kidnappers, even if that means injury to Israeli soldiers. It allows commanders to take whatever action is necessary, including endangering the life of an abducted soldier, to foil the abduction.
Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin went missing on August 1st, following an attack on IDF troops attempting to destroy a Hamas tunnel near Rafa in southern Gaza when two of his party was killed by heavy fire and a suicide vest-wearing militant. Israel announced that he had been captured and immediately engaged in massive bombardment of the Rafa area in an alleged effort to close off escape routes, but that was seen by others as retaliatory and contributed to the deaths of at least 150 Palestinians, with up to 400 injured, according to the Gaza health ministry.
Hamas issued a statement saying, “We have lost contact with the group of fighters that took part in the ambush and we believe they were all killed in the [Israeli] bombardment. Assuming that they managed to seize the soldier during combat, we assess that he was also killed in the incident.”
The IDF announced the next day that Goldin was killed and confirmed this through DNA evidence on August 3rd. The fact that the IDF has stated only that “he fell in battle” and that no body has been found, when even the suicide-vest-wearing militant’s body was noted at the scene, strongly indicates that Hamas was correct that Goldin was obliterated by an Israeli air strike in a stunning example of the Hannibal Procedure to prevent Israeli embarrassment and any perception of victory by its enemies.
The Dahiya Doctrine – Collective Punishment & State Terrorism
The Dahiya doctrine is a military strategy put forth by the Israeli general Gadi Eizenkot, now the Deputy Chief of General Staff, that pertains to asymmetric warfare in an urban setting, in which the army deliberately targets civilian infrastructure as a means of inducing suffering for the civilian population, thereby establishing deterrence. The doctrine is named after a southern suburb in Beirut which was flattened by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) during the 2006 Lebanon War.
The first public announcement of the doctrine was made by General Eizenkot, then commander of the IDF’s northern front, in October 2008. He said that what happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 would, “happen in every village from which shots were fired in the direction of Israel. We will wield disproportionate power against [them] and cause immense damage and destruction. From our perspective, these are military bases… This isn’t a suggestion. It’s a plan that has already been authorized… Harming the population is the only means of restraining Nasrallah [the Hezbollah leader].”
The 2009 UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict makes several references to the Dahiya doctrine, calling it a concept which requires the application of “widespread destruction as a means of deterrence” and which involves “the application of disproportionate force and the causing of great damage and destruction to civilian property and infrastructure, and suffering to civilian populations”. Both the Fact Finding Mission and a 2009 report by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel concluded that the Dahiya doctrine was fully implemented during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2008-09, in which more than 1400 Palestinians lost their lives, including 313 children.
Richard Falk, American professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University and former UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian occupied territories since 1967, wrote that under the doctrine, “the civilian infrastructure of adversaries such as Hamas or Hezbollah are treated as permissible military targets, which is not only an overt violation of the most elementary norms of the law of war and of universal morality, but an avowal of a doctrine of violence that needs to be called by its proper name: state terrorism.” [emphasis added]
Then IDF Northern Commander General Eisenkot approved the application of a military strategy that would target and destroy an entire civilian area rather than fight to overtake fortified positions one by one. This was in an effort to minimize IDF casualties while at the same time holding the entire civilian populace accountable for the actions of a few, as a form of collective punishment. The doctrine did away with the effort to distinguish between militant and civilian targets, as required by international law.
By targeting indiscriminately, the IDF hopes to deter further military attacks against Israel, destroy its enemies, as well as influence the population to oust the militants seen as the primary target. The result in the current Operation Protective Edge in Gaza has been that as many as 80% of Palestinian war deaths have been of civilians, and more than 14,000 homes, 138 schools, 26 medical facilities and at last six UN buildings (several housing refugees) have been damaged or destroyed, while a quarter of the 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza are internally displaced with nowhere to avoid the carnage.
Additional Protocol 1, Article 51 (3) of the Geneva Conventions is designed to provide civilians immunity from attack “unless and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities”. Articles 76 (women) and 77 (children), 15 (civilian medical personnel and religious) and 79 (journalist) provide special protections for each category respectively. Israel is not a signatory to Protocol 1, but the Palestinian Authority signed the accord on February 4, 2014.
As events have unfolded in Gaza since July 7, it has become clear that Israel has killed more than 1500 Palestinian civilians (disproportionately women and children), injured nearly 9,000 more and displaced almost half a million people, while targeting homes, mosques, schools, hospitals, journalists, public markets, essential civilian infrastructure (such as electrical generation), and UN refugee stations.
The United States and Israel both oppose Palestine’s full membership in the UN specifically because it would allow the Palestinians to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), and bring war crime charges.
In 2009, Palestine gained recognition as a nonmember observer state, and according to Luis Moreno Ocampo, a former ICC prosecutor, may qualify as a state and gain full status as an ICC member. This would enable Palestine to bring war crimes charges against Israel under a provision that allows for the charges of crimes committed before gaining state recognition as long as the alleged crimes occurred after the formation of the ICC in 2002.
Operation Protective Edge Reveals the Truth about Israeli Exceptionalism
Events in Gaza demonstrate the realization of these two little-discussed, and probably little-known, official policies of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF): The Dahiya Doctrine and the Hannibal Directive.
Together, these two official Israeli military doctrines put the lie to the much-propagated and widely-believed pretense of Israel being the morally exceptional state amidst savages and barbarians.
While representatives of Fatah, Hamas and even the Islamic Jihad headed to Cairo on Saturday, August 2nd, Netanyaho announced that Israel would not bother with Egyptian-brokered peace negotiations but would instead finish its search and destroy mission for cross-border tunnels and withdraw from Gaza on its own unilateral terms without any kind of cease-fire agreement, let alone a path to peace.
The Israeli goal is another period of “quiet”, during which the US will help it rearm and prepare for the next war against Palestinian statehood and justice in the Middle East.
The Self-Defense Defense
John Dugard, former U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories and emeritus professor of international law at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, said:
“It’s very important for Israel that it should portray itself as the victim in the present conflict. And President Obama and both houses of Congress have endorsed the view that Israel acts in self-defense. But as I see the situation, it is very different. Gaza is part of the occupied Palestinian territory. The fact that Israel has withdrawn its ground troops, or had before the present incursion, does not mean that it is no longer the occupying power, because it has always retained effective control, over the territory of Gaza. That’s the test in international law: effective control. Israel controls Gaza by means of the land crossings, by controlling the air space and the sea space, and by carrying out repeated incursions into the territory.”
“So given the fact that Gaza is an occupied territory, it means that Israel’s present assault on Gaza is simply a way of enforcing the continuation of the occupation, and the response of the Palestinian militants should be seen as the response of an occupied people that wishes to resist the occupation. It has taken this resistance into Israel itself, but it still remains resistance… It’s an occupied territory, and if Israel uses force against the occupied territory, it’s not acting in self-defense. It’s acting as an occupying power.”
Israel’s Sophisticated Media War
In the wake of Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman’s July 20 comment that the IDF is the “most humane and bravest army in the world”, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, in an address delivered before Christians United for Israel on July 22, remarked that Israel’s armed forces merited a Nobel Prize in recognition of the “unimaginable restraint” they had exercised during the Operation.
A confidential 112-page study, with each page marked “not for distribution or publication”, on how to influence the media and public opinion in America and Europe is guiding all public Israeli statements on the current conflict. Written by the Republican pollster and political strategist Dr Frank Luntz, the study was commissioned five years ago, in the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead, by a group called The Israel Project, with offices in the US and Israel, for use by those “who are on the front lines of fighting the media war for Israel”. It includes a whole chapter on “isolating Hamas as an obstacle to peace”.
Frank I. Luntz is an American political consultant, pollster, and Republican Party strategist associated with Pat Buchanan, Ross Perot, Newt Gingrich, and the administration of George W. Bush, for whom he helped frame the public debate surrounding estate taxation around the infamous “death tax” messaging. He is the author of the 2007 New York Times Best Seller, Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear.
His report prescribes “Show Empathy for BOTH sides!” In a sentence in bold type, underlined and with capitalization, Dr Luntz says that Israeli spokesmen or political leaders must never, ever justify “the deliberate slaughter of innocent women and children” and they must aggressively challenge those who accuse Israel of such a crime. The study admits that the Israeli government does not really want a two-state solution, but says this should be masked because 78% of Americans do.
A Story of Folly
Ze’ev Maoz is a Professor of Political Science and Director of the Correlates of War Project at the University of California, Davis, as well as Distinguished Fellow at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, Israel. He was the President of the Peace Science Society (International) during 2007-08. Before coming to UC-Davis he was head of the Graduate School of Government and Policy at Tel-Aviv University. He also served as the Head of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies (1994–1997), as the Academic Director of the M.A. program of the National Defense College of the IDF (1990–1994), and as Chairman of the Department of Political Science at the University of Haifa (1991–1994). Maoz received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. He also held visiting appointments at Carnegie Mellon University, New York University, Rice University, and the University of Michigan.
In his book Defending the Holy Land, Maoz goes through all the wars Israel has been involved in one by one to determine what happened. Among his conclusions, Mr. Maoz writes that:
“… 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.”
“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.”
The Bottom Line
Uri Avnery was born in Germany in 1923, and his family fled the Nazis and moved to what was then Palestine. As a youth, he joined the Irgun Zionist paramilitary group, which he later quit to become a leading peace activist in Israel. In 1950, he founded the news magazine, HaOlam HaZeh (This World). Fifteen years later, he was elected to the Knesset on a peace platform. In 1982, he made headlines when he crossed the lines during the Siege of Beirut to meet Yasser Arafat, head of the then-banned Palestine Liberation Organization. In 1993, he started the Gush Shalom (Peace Coalition) peace movement. He is the author of many books, including 1948: A Soldier’s Tale – The Bloody Road to Jerusalem, Israel’s Vicious Circle and My Friend, the Enemy. He will soon turn 91 and still writes a weekly column.
The following is excerpted from an interview aired on Democracy Now! on 8/8/2014:
“The root of the problem is that Israel is occupying the Palestinian territories – the territory of the West Bank and the territory of the Gaza Strip. As long as the occupation lasts, there will be no peace. In order to achieve peace with the Palestinian people, Israel must end the occupation, withdraw from the Occupied Territories and enable the Palestinians to set up their own independent nation and state, the state of Palestine. That’s what it’s all about. Everything else flows from this basic problem.”
“I was a member of a terrorist organization when I was 15 years old. I believe I understand the psychology of young people who join organizations which are called terrorists by their enemies, but which think of themselves as freedom fighters. Hamas thinks it’s fighting for the freedom of Palestine. They are deeply convinced of this.”
“One of the basic problems at this moment is that Israelis and Hamas do not talk to each other… there’s a very simple solution to this… Israel and Hamas must talk to each other.”
“Hamas cannot and will not agree to a long-lasting ceasefire if there is a blockade on the Gaza Strip. You have 1.8 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. It’s a tiny, tiny, little territory. It’s suffering from a blockade for at least eight years. A blockade means that all the borders are closed, including the sea border, and you cannot get in anything except by the permission of Israel, and you cannot get anything out at all.”
“Hamas is not a militia. Hamas is not a military organization. Hamas is a Palestinian political party, which in the last Palestinian elections, supervised by ex-President Carter, had a majority of the Palestinian people. When a Palestinian government was set up by Hamas, it was destroyed by Israel and the United States and Europe. It was brought down. It was then that Hamas took over power in the Gaza Strip by force.”
“You cannot wish Hamas away. You can do to Hamas whatever you want. You can kill all the 10,000 fighters of Hamas, but Hamas will remain, because Hamas is an ideology, and Hamas is a political party accepted by the Palestinian people. So, whatever we do, in the end, after all the killing and after all this terrible destruction, we’ll have to talk with Hamas.”
“This government of Israel, which represents the extreme right in Israel, with some openly fascist elements in it, but supported by a majority of the Israeli people, does not want to give up the occupied territories of the West Bank and the indirectly occupied territories of Gaza. If we are ready to give up this territory and allow the Palestinians to set up their own nation and state of Palestine, then the problem is solved and we shall have peace. If you put up settlements in the West Bank, you cannot have a Palestinian state.”
“One must realize, the West Bank and Gaza together, the Occupied Territories, constitute 22% of the historic land of Palestine in which the Palestinians desire and are ready to set up their own nation and state of Palestine. The question is: Do we agree to live side by side with an independent, sovereign state of Palestine? If not, then every further discussion is superfluous. We shall have war, and again and again and again and again, until the end of time.”
The Palestinian Perspective
Susan Abulhawa is a Palestinian-American writer and human rights activist. She is the author of a bestselling novel, Mornings in Jenin (2010).
Abulhawa’s parents, born in Jebel al Tur in Jerusalem, were refugees of the 1967 war. Her father, according to one account, “was expelled at gunpoint; her mother, who was studying in Germany at the time, was unable to return and the couple reunited in Jordan before moving to Kuwait, where Abulhawa was born in 1970″. Susan was sent to live with an uncle in the US, where she stayed until she was five years old. She was then “passed between various family members in Kuwait and Jordan; at 10, she was taken to Jerusalem but ended up in an orphanage”. At age 13, she was sent to Charlotte, North Carolina, where she was a foster child. She has been in the US since, and completed a Master’s Degree in Neuroscience.
She later turned to journalism and fiction. She has contributed to three anthologies and has been published in major and minor US and international newspapers and other periodicals. Mornings in Jenin (originally published in 2006 as The Scar of David) was her debut novel. It is an international bestseller published in at least 26 languages. In 2013, Abulhawa published a collection of poetry entitled “My Voice Sought The Wind”.
Abulhawa is the founder of Playgrounds for Palestine, an NGO that advocates for Palestinian children by building playgrounds in Palestine and UN refugee camps in Lebanon. The first playground was erected in early 2002.
She is now heavily involved in the campaign for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions and as a speaker for Al Awda, the Right to Return coalition.
Does Israel Really Have a Right to Exist?
June 16th, 2009
Following Netanyahu’s much anticipated policy speech, politicians and journalists, like mindless automatons, have set about repeating Israel’s tired mantra that Palestinians should recognize Israel’s right to exist. Never mind the fact that the PLO and Palestine Authority have obliged this ludicrous call, not once, but four times. And never mind that Israel has always denied Palestine’s right to exist, not only as a nation, but as individuals seeking a dignified life in our own homeland.
Does anyone find it interesting that Israel is the only country on the planet going around with this incessant insistence that everyone recognize her right to exist? Given that we Palestinians are the ones who have been dispossessed, occupied, and oppressed, one might expect that we should be the ones making such a demand. But that isn’t the case. Why? Because our right to exist as a nation is self-evident. We are the natives of that land! We know we have that right. The world knows it. That’s why Palestine doesn’t need Israel or any other country to recognize her right to exist. We are the rightful heirs to that land and this can be verified legally, historically, culturally, and even genetically. And as such, the only true legitimacy Israel will ever have must come from us abdicating our inheritance, our history, and our culture to Israel. That’s why Israel insists we declare she had a right to take everything we ever had – from home and property, cemeteries, churches and mosques, to culture and history and hope.
Israel is a country that was founded by Europeans who came to Palestine, formed terrorist gangs who set about a systematic ethnic cleansing of the native Palestinians from their homes on 78% of Historic Palestine in 1948. Those Palestinians and their descendants still languish in refugee camps. Israel attempted a similar scenario in 1967 when they conquered the remainder of Palestine, but Palestinians then couldn’t be dislodged from their homes as easily. This remains true, despite 40 years of Israel’s violent and oppressive military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Despite home demolitions, land confiscations, rapacious building of Jewish-only colonies, endless checkpoints, targeted assassinations, bombings of schools, hospitals, municipal buildings and malls, closures and denials; despite the massive human rights abuses, the imprisonment and torture of men, women and children alike, the separation of families, the daily humiliations; despite the massive killings – Palestinians remain. We still resist. We still live, love, and have babies. As much as we can, we rebuild what Israel destroys. Such are rights!
Rights are inherent and inherently just, like the right to live with dignity and to be master of one’s own fate. It is a human right not be persecuted and oppressed because you happen to belong to one religion and not another.
That Israelis simply take property belonging to Palestinians is not a right. That is theft. That Israel cuts off the movement of food, medicine and other basic goods to the Gaza strip, causing massive malnutrition, economic collapse and misery because Palestinians elected particular leaders is not a right. That is an affront to humanity. That Israel rains death from the skies on an already battered and starved Gaza, murdering over 3000 human beings and maiming thousands more in a single month is not a right. It’s a war crime. That Israel has employed every imperialistic tactic to subjugate, humiliate, break, and expel an entire nation of principally unarmed civilians because of their religion is not a right. It is a moral obscenity. That every Jew from Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Australia be entitled to dual citizenship – one in their native country and one in Israel – while the rightful heirs to the land linger as refugees without citizenship anywhere is not a right. It is an outrage.
I’m sure my words will be twisted in some way to imply that I’m advocating pushing Israelis “into the sea”. So let me be explicit: We all have the right to exist, to live, to be master of our own destiny. We all have the right not to be oppressed by others. Such rights are inherent to every individual living in that land: Jew, Muslim, or Christian. But Israelis do not have the right to create particular religious demographics by causing the demise of the natives. To be a Jewish [or Muslim or Christian] state, where privilege is accorded to those belonging to a particular religion at the expense of those who do not is not a right.
A nation that discriminates against and oppresses those who do not belong to a particular religious, racial, or ethnic group is not a light unto nations. It is a blight. And to recognize such racism as a human or national right goes against every tenet of international law. It defies the basic sense that the worth of a human being should not be measured by their religion, any more than it should be measured by the color of their skin or the language they speak.
The Israeli Perspective
Moshe Zalman Feiglin (born 1962) is an Israeli politician and columnist. He is one of ten Deputy Speakers of the Knesset, Knesset Member (since January 22, 2013), and head of the Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) faction of Israel’s governing Likud party. In 1993, Feiglin helped found Zo Artzeinu (This Is Our Land), a coalition of religious Zionists who considered the Oslo Accord a violation of Jewish law. For Feiglin, Netanyahu, who became Prime Minister in 1996, was too soft and too given to territorial compromise. So Feiglin organized Manhigut Yehudit to move Likud towards a more uncompromising position.
Feiglin advocates full Israeli sovereignty on the Temple Mount and in Jerusalem, revoking the Oslo Accords, affording the Arabs of Judea and Samaria permanent residency status, and encouraging non-Jews to emigrate. He opposes a two-state solution, advocates that Israel annex the West Bank and Gaza, and opposes equal citizenship for Israel’s Arab minority.
A poll published May 25, 2014, of Israelis who voted Likud in the last election, put Moshe Feiglin as the fourth most popular member of Knesset (Israel’s parliament) among Likudniks.
Just before his 2013 election to the Knesset, Feiglin attended the Third Conference for the Application of Israeli Sovereignty over Judea and Samaria (aka the West Bank), at which the only question discussed was how soon.
My Outline for a Solution in Gaza
by Moshe Zalman Feiglin
Published: Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Ultimatum – One warning from the Prime Minister of Israel to the enemy population, in which he announces that Israel is about to attack military targets in their area and urges those who are not involved and do not wish to be harmed to leave immediately. Sinai is not far from Gaza and they can leave. This will be the limit of Israel’s humanitarian efforts. Hamas may unconditionally surrender and prevent the attack.
Attack – Attack the entire ‘target bank’ throughout Gaza with the IDF’s maximum force (and not a tiny fraction of it) with all the conventional means at its disposal. All the military and infrastructural targets will be attacked with no consideration for ‘human shields’ or ‘environmental damage’. It is enough that we are hitting exact targets and that we gave them advance warning.
Siege – Parallel to the above, a total siege on Gaza. Nothing will enter the area. Israel, however, will allow exit from Gaza. (Civilians may go to Sinai, fighters may surrender to IDF forces).
Defense – Any place from which Israel or Israel’s forces were attacked will be immediately attacked with full force and no consideration for ‘human shields’ or ‘environmental damage’.
Conquer – After the IDF completes the “softening” of the targets with its fire-power, the IDF will conquer the entire Gaza, using all the means necessary to minimize any harm to our soldiers, with no other considerations.
Elimination – The GSS and IDF will thoroughly eliminate all armed enemies from Gaza. The enemy population that is innocent of wrong-doing and separated itself from the armed terrorists will be treated in accordance with international law and will be allowed to leave. Israel will generously aid those who wish to leave.
Sovereignty – Gaza is part of our Land and we will remain there forever. Liberation of parts of our land forever is the only thing that justifies endangering our soldiers in battle to capture land. Subsequent to the elimination of terror from Gaza, it will become part of sovereign Israel and will be populated by Jews. This will also serve to ease the housing crisis in Israel. The coastal train line will be extended, as soon as possible, to reach the entire length of Gaza.
According to polls, most of the Arabs in Gaza wish to leave. Those who were not involved in anti-Israel activity will be offered a generous international emigration package. Those who choose to remain will receive permanent resident status. After a number of years of living in Israel and becoming accustomed to it, contingent on appropriate legislation in the Knesset and the authorization of the Minister of Interior, those who personally accept upon themselves Israel’s rule, substance and way of life of the Jewish State in its Land, will be offered Israeli citizenship.
In an August 1st posting on his Facebook page, Feiglin calls for the “conquest of the entire Gaza Strip, and annihilation of all fighting forces and their supporters”.
Feiglin’s posting is the text of a letter he addressed to Netanyahu, in which he urges Netanyahu to “turn Gaza into Jaffa, a flourishing Israeli city with a minimum number of hostile civilians”. Jaffa is a major Palestinian coastal city that was ethnically cleansed by Zionist militias in 1948 and incorporated into present-day Israel.
Feiglin writes that the Israeli army must “designate certain open areas on the Sinai border, adjacent to the sea, in which the civilian population will be concentrated, far from the built-up areas that are used for launches and tunneling. In these areas, tent encampments will be established, until relevant emigration destinations are determined.”
“The supply of electricity and water to the formerly populated areas will be disconnected,” he adds.
He then calls for the “formerly populated areas” to be “shelled with maximum fire power. The entire civilian and military infrastructure of Hamas, its means of communication and of logistics, will be destroyed entirely, down to their foundations.” The Israeli army would then “exterminate nests of resistance, in the event that any should remain.”
“Israel will start searching for emigration destinations and quotas for the refugees from Gaza,” Feiglin writes, but “those who insist on staying, if they can be proven to have no affiliation with Hamas, will be required to publicly sign a declaration of loyalty to Israel, and receive a blue ID card similar to that of the Arabs of East Jerusalem.”
In an interview from 1995 published in Haaretz, Feiglin said, “Hitler was an unparalleled military genius. Nazism promoted Germany from a low to a fantastic physical and ideological status. The ragged, trashy youth body turned into a neat and orderly part of society and Germany received an exemplary regime, a proper justice system and public order. Hitler savored good music. He would paint. This was no bunch of thugs. They merely used thugs and homosexuals.”
“There can be no doubt that Judaism is racist in some sense”, Feiglin went on to say in that interview. “And when they asserted at the United Nations that Zionism was racist, I did not find much reason to protest. The people who take racism to mean a distinction between races – and this is a very primitive distinction – must argue that Zionism is racist.”
Later in the interview, Feiglin said, “There is no Palestinian nation. There is only an Arab-speaking public which has suddenly identified itself as a people, a negative of the Zionist movement, parasites. The fact that they hadn’t done so earlier only serves to prove how inferior they are. The Africans have no nations either. Only Zulus, Tutsis.”
The Real Story – Noam Chomsky at the UN
On October 14, 2014, Noam Chomsky – at age 85 still one of the most lucid thinkers on the planet – spoke in the hall of the UN General Assembly at an event sponsored by the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. Here is a summary of his address:
Many of the world’s problems are so intractable that it’s hard to think of ways even to take steps towards mitigating them. The Israel-Palestine conflict is not one of these. On the contrary, the general outlines of a diplomatic solution have been clear for at least 40 years.
The basic outlines were presented here in a resolution brought to the U.N. Security Council in January 1976. It called for a two-state settlement on the internationally recognized border “with guarantees for the rights of both states to exist in peace and security within secure and recognized borders”. The resolution was brought by the three major Arab states: Egypt, Jordan, Syria. Israel refused to attend the session. The resolution was vetoed by the United States.
That has set the pattern that has continued since. The most recent US veto was in February 2011 – that’s President Obama – when his administration vetoed a resolution calling for implementation of official US policy opposition to expansion of settlements. And it’s worth bearing in mind that expansion of settlements is not really the issue; it’s the settlements, unquestionably illegal, along with the infrastructure projects supporting them.
For a long time, there has been an overwhelming international consensus in support of a resolution along these general lines. The pattern that was set in January 1976 continues to the present. Israel rejects a settlement on these terms and for many years has been devoting extensive resources to ensuring that it will not be implemented, with the unremitting and decisive support of the United States – military, economic, diplomatic and indeed ideological.
Last August, August 26th, a ceasefire was reached between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. And here, too, there is a definite pattern: A ceasefire is reached; Israel disregards it and continues its steady assault on Gaza, including continued siege, intermittent acts of violence, more settlement and development projects, often violence in the West Bank; Hamas observes the ceasefire, as Israel officially recognizes, until some Israeli escalation elicits a Hamas response, which leads to another exercise of “mowing the lawn” in Israeli parlance, each episode more fierce and destructive than the last.
The first of the series was the Agreement on Movement and Access in November 2005. It called for a crossing between Gaza and Egypt at Rafah for the export of goods and the transit of people, continuous operation of crossings between Israel and Gaza for the import and export of goods and the transit of people, reduction of obstacles to movement within the West Bank, bus and truck convoys between the West Bank and Gaza, the building of a seaport in Gaza, the reopening of the airport in Gaza that Israel had recently destroyed. These are essentially the terms of successive ceasefires, including the one just reached a few weeks ago.
The timing of the November 2005 agreement is significant. This was the moment of Israel’s disengagement, as it’s called, from Gaza – the removal of several thousand Israeli settlers from Gaza. Now, this is depicted as a noble effort to seek peace and development, but the reality is rather different. The reality was described by the Israeli official who was in charge of negotiating and implementing the ceasefire, Dov Weissglas, close confidant of then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. As he explained to the Israeli press, the goal of the disengagement was “the freezing of the peace process” so as to “prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state” and to ensure that diplomacy “has been removed indefinitely from our agenda”.
The reality on the ground is described by Israel’s leading specialists on the occupation – a respected historian Idith Zertal, Israel’s leading diplomatic correspondent Akiva Eldar, wrote the major book, the standard work on the settlement project, called Lords of the Land. They say, “the ruined territory was not released for even a single day from Israel’s military grip, or from the price of the occupation that the inhabitants pay every day. After the disengagement, Israel left behind scorched earth, devastated services, and people with neither a present nor a future. The settlements were destroyed in an ungenerous move by an unenlightened occupier, which in fact continues to control the territory and to kill and harass its inhabitants by means of its formidable military might.”
The Oslo Accords, 20 years ago, established that Gaza and the West Bank are an indivisible territorial unity, whose integrity cannot be broken up. For 20 years, the United States and Israel have been dedicated to separate Gaza and the West Bank in violation of the accords that they had accepted. And a look at the map explains why. Gaza offers the only access to the outside world. If Gaza is separated from the West Bank, whatever autonomy might ultimately be granted in the West Bank would be imprisoned – Israel on one side, a hostile Jordan, ally of Israel, on the other side.
Well, the November 2005 agreement lasted for a few weeks. In January 2006, a very important event took place: the first full, free election in the Arab world, carefully monitored, recognized to be free and fair. It had one flaw. It came out the wrong way: Hamas won control of the Parliament. The US and Israel didn’t want that. The US instantly decided, along with Israel, to punish the Palestinians for the crime of voting the wrong way; a harsh siege was instituted, other punishments; violence increased; the United States immediately began to organize a military coup to overthrow the unacceptable government. The European Union, to its shame and discredit, went along with this. There was an immediate Israeli escalation. That was the end of the November agreement, followed by major Israeli onslaughts.
In 2007, a year later, Hamas committed even a greater crime than winning a fair election: It preempted the planned military coup and took over Gaza. That’s described in the West, in the United States, as Hamas’s taking over Gaza by force – which is not false, but something is omitted. The force was preempting a planned military coup to overthrow the elected government. The attack on Gaza increased substantially at that point, major Israeli onslaughts. Finally, in January 2008, another ceasefire was reached. Terms were pretty much the same as those that I quoted. Israel publicly rejected the ceasefire, said that it would not abide by it. Hamas observed the ceasefire, as Israel officially recognizes, despite Israel’s refusal to do so.
Now, that continued until November 4th, 2008. On November 4th, which was the day of the US election, Israeli forces invaded Gaza, killed half a dozen Hamas militants. That led to Qassam rockets attacking Israel, huge Israeli response, lots of killings – all Palestinians, as usual. By the end of December, Hamas offered to renew the ceasefire. The Israeli Cabinet considered it and rejected it and decided to launch the next major military operation.
That was Cast Lead, which was a horrible operation, so much so that it caused a very substantial international reaction, investigations by a United Nations commission, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch. In the middle of the assault – incidentally, carefully timed to end immediately before President Obama’s inauguration – so he therefore could respond to the questions by saying, “Well, now is not the time to look at the past, let’s look forward to the future.”
The Security Council did pass a resolution – unanimously, US abstaining – calling for an immediate ceasefire with the usual terms. That was January 8th, 2009. It was never observed, and it broke down completely with the next major episode of “mowing the lawn” in November 2012. Seventy-nine people were killed, 78 of them Palestinians – the usual story.
After the November assault, there was a ceasefire reached with the usual terms. Nathan Thrall, a leading Middle East analyst for the International Crisis Group, writes that Israel recognized that Hamas was observing the terms of the ceasefire, and “therefore saw little incentive” in doing the same. The military attacks on Gaza increased, along with more stringent restrictions on imports. Exports were blocked. Exit permits were blocked.
That continued until April 2014, when Palestinians committed another crime: Gaza-based Hamas and West Bank-based Palestinian Authority signed a unity agreement. Israel was infuriated – infuriated even more when the world mostly supported it. Even the United States gave weak, but actual, support. Unity between Gaza and the West Bank, between the two movements, would threaten the long-standing policies of separating the two. A unity government undermines one of the pretexts for Israel’s refusal to participate in negotiations seriously – namely, how can we negotiate with an entity that is internally divided? Well, if they’re unified, that pretext disappears. Israel was infuriated. It launched major assaults on the Palestinians in the West Bank, primarily targeting Hamas. Hundreds of people arrested, mostly Hamas members. Also Gaza killings.
The pretext was that three Israeli teenagers in the settlements had been captured and murdered. Israel claimed officially that they thought that they were alive, so therefore launched a several weeks’ assault on the West Bank, alleging that they were trying to find them alive. It turns out that they knew immediately that they had been killed. Now, they also knew immediately that it was very unlikely that Hamas was involved. The government said they had certain knowledge that Hamas had done it, but their own leading specialists, like Shlomi Eldar, had pointed out right away that the assault – which was a brutal crime – was very likely committed by members of a breakaway clan, the Qawasmeh clan in Hebron, which was not given a green light by Hamas and had been a thorn in their sides. And that, apparently, is true, if you look at the later arrests and punishments. Anyway, that was a pretext for this assault that finally elicited a Hamas response. Then came Operation Protective Edge, the one which was just completed, and more brutal and destructive even the ones that preceded it.
The latest ceasefire was reached on August 26th. It was followed at once by Israel’s greatest land grab in 30 years, almost a thousand acres in the Gush Etzion area near what’s called Jerusalem, Greater Jerusalem, about five times the size of anything that Jerusalem ever was, taken over by Israel, annexed in violation of Security Council orders. The US State Department informed the Israeli Embassy that “Israeli activity in Gush Etzion undermines American efforts to protect Israel at the United Nations,” and urged that Israel shouldn’t provide ammunition for “those at the United Nations who would interpret Israel’s position as hardening”. Actually, that warning was given 47 years ago, in September 1967, at the time of Israel’s first illegal colonization of Gush Etzion. Israeli historian Gershom Gorenberg recently reminded us of this. Little has changed since, in the last 47 years, apart from the scale of the crimes, which continue, without a break, with constant US support.
The picture that’s presented is that there are two alternatives: either the two-state settlement, which represents an overwhelming international consensus, and if that fails there will have to be one state – Israel will take over the West Bank, the Palestinians will hand over the keys. Palestinians often have favored that. They say then they will be able to carry out a civil rights struggle, maybe modeled on the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, fight for civil rights within the one state controlled by Israel. Now, Israelis criticize that on the grounds of what is called “the demographic problem” – the fact that there will be too many non-Jews in a Jewish state – in fact, pretty soon a majority.
My own opinion is that this is a total illusion. There are two alternatives, but they’re different ones. One alternative is the international consensus on a two-state settlement, basically the terms of January 1976. By now, it’s virtually everyone – the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic States, includes Iran, Europe, Latin America. The other option, the realistic one, is that Israel will continue doing exactly what it is doing right now with US support.
Israel is taking over what they call Greater Jerusalem, which includes many Arab villages being dispossessed, destroyed, bringing settlers in. All the settlements are illegal, as determined by the Security Council, and the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice. But the Jerusalem settlements are doubly illegal, because they’re also in violation of explicit Security Council orders going back to 1968, with the US actually voting for them at that time, barring any change in the status of Jerusalem.
Israel has no official policy of taking it over, but they’re pursuing the policy in the way that has been carried out now for a hundred years, literally – small steps so nobody notices, or at least people pretend not to notice, establish a military zone. The Palestinians who live there have to be displaced because it’s a military zone, no settlement allowed, and pretty soon there’s a military settlement, and another, then, sooner or later, it becomes an actual settlement. Meanwhile, dig wells, dispossess the population, set up green zones – a large variety of techniques which have, by now, reduced the Arab population from about 300,000 in 1967 to roughly 60,000 today.
I don’t think Israel has any intention of taking over the Palestinian population concentrations, which are left out of these plans. There are analogies often made to South Africa, but they’re quite misleading. South Africa relied on its black population. That was 85% of the population. It was its workforce. And they had to sustain them, just like slave-owners have to maintain their capital. Israel has no such attitude toward the Palestinians. They don’t want to have anything to do with them. If they leave, that’s fine. If they die, that’s fine. In standard neocolonial pattern, Israel is permitting the establishment of a center for Palestinian elites in Ramallah, where you have nice restaurants and theaters and so on. Every Third World country under the colonial system had something like that.
If it continues, Israel will not face a demographic problem. When these regions are integrated slowly into Israel, the proportion of Jews in Greater Israel will increase. There are very few Palestinians there. Those who are there are being dispossessed, kicked out. I think that’s the realistic alternative to a two-state settlement. And there’s every reason to expect it to continue as long as the United States supports it.
by Robert Riversong: may be reproduced only with attribution for non-commercial purposes