Sunday, January 18, 2009

They made a desert and called it peace

Israeli troops began their withdrawal from Gaza, today:
Israeli soldiers danced on top of a tank and gave "V" for victory signs as they pulled out of Gaza, but the war moved to a close on an ambiguous note.

[...] While both sides put their best spin on the conflict's seeming conclusion, noncombatants were the biggest losers. More than half of the 1,259 slain Palestinians were civilians, according to medics, human rights groups and the UN.

Aid groups sought to funnel more supplies to hospitals and food distribution sites from Egyptian and Israeli border crossings.

At least 13 Israelis, 10 of them soldiers, were killed, according to Israel. Hamas fired hundreds of rockets at southern Israel, intensifying the fear of hundreds of thousands of people who had lived under the threat for years.

"We did a good job. Now we're going home," an Israeli soldier told Israeli television. His name was not released in line with military restrictions on the release of information. Smiling infantry soldiers walked toward the border in the rain, and a rainbow emerged from the clouds behind them.
How is that for a made-for-TV ending? You know, after three weeks of looking at all those anguished parents and mangled bodies, it's about time someone MGMed this war up!

Not that you haven't tried, corporate media. No. Night after night you did your level best to tell us this was what 'self-defense' looks like. Of course, it is easier to say stuff like this when you don't have the smell of incinerated children burning your nostrils. In the words of Bill Moyers: no attention to those Washington pundits cheering the fighting in Gaza as they did the bloodletting in Iraq. Killing is cheap and war is a sport in a city where life and death become abstractions of policy.
But those so-called 'women and children?' They voted for terrorists who use innocent civilians as human shields! Well, that is interesting, because I seem to recall another militant group army doing the same thing, not too long ago...
B'Tselem's initial investigation indicates that, during an incursion by Israeli forces into Beit Hanun, in the northern Gaza Strip, on 17 July 2006, soldiers seized control of two buildings in the town and used residents as human shield.
...oh, well, isolated incident, right?
Article 28 of the Convention expressly prohibits the use of civilians as human shields by placing them alongside soldiers or military facilities, with the hope of attaining immunity from attack. The official commentary of the Convention refers to this practice, which was common in the Second World War as "cruel and barbaric." The Convention, in Articles 31 and 51, also prohibits the use of physical or moral coercion on civilians or forcing them to carry out military tasks.

Despite these prohibitions, for a long period of time following the outbreak of the second intifada, particularly during Operation Defensive Shield, in April 2002, the IDF systematically used Palestinian civilians as human shields, forcing them to carry out military actions which threatened their lives. It was not until a High Court petition was filed by Israeli human rights organizations opposing such action, in May 2002, that the IDF issued a general order prohibiting the use of Palestinians as "a means of 'human shield' against gunfire or attacks by the Palestinian side.'"
But they're still 'terrorists,' aren't they? Everybody says so! They're firing rockets indiscriminately. Ladies & Gentlemen, here's where I turn you over to Avi Shlaim, a professor of international relations at Oxford University who served in the Israeli army in the mid-1960s. He is the author of 'The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World.' Here is Prof. Shlaim speaking with Amy Goodman last week, on Democracy Now:
Before the ceasefire came into effect in July of 2008, the monthly number of rockets fired—Kassam rockets, homemade Kassam rockets, fired from the Gaza Strip on Israeli settlements and towns in southern Israel was 179. In the first four months of the ceasefire, the number dropped dramatically to three rockets a month, almost zero. I would like to repeat these figures for the benefit of your listeners. Pre-ceasefire, 179 rockets were fired on Israel; post-ceasefire, three rockets a month. This is point number one, and it’s crucial.

And my figures are beyond dispute, because they come from the website of the Israeli Foreign Ministry. But after initiating this war, this particular table, neat table, which showed the success of the ceasefire, was withdrawn and replaced with another table of statistics, which is much more obscure and confusing. Israel—the Foreign Ministry withdrew these figures, because it didn’t suit the new story.
But they broke the ceasefire! Prof. Shlaim:
The new story said that Hamas broke the ceasefire. This is a lie. Hamas observed the ceasefire as best as it could and enforced it very effectively. The ceasefire was a stunning success for the first four months. It was broken not by Hamas, but by the IDF. It was broken by the IDF on the 4th of November, when it launched a raid into Gaza and killed six Hamas men.

And there is one other point that I would like to make about the ceasefire. Ever since the election of Hamas in January—I’m sorry, ever since Hamas captured power in Gaza in the summer of 2007, Israel had imposed a blockade of the Strip. Israel stopped food, fuel and medical supplies from reaching the Gaza Strip. One of the terms of the ceasefire was that Israel would lift the blockade of Gaza, yet Israel failed to lift the blockade, and that is one issue that is also overlooked or ignored by official Israeli spokesmen. So Israel was doubly guilty of sabotaging the ceasefire, A, by launching a military attack, and B, by maintaining its very cruel siege of the people of Gaza.
Ok, but how is Israel supposed to live in peace when Hamas is intent on "her" destruction? (always the defenseless damsel in distress, you know). Prof. Shlaim is no apologist for Hamas. He is not even anti-Zionist--far from it. Here is his take:
Its charter is extreme. Its charter denies the legitimacy of a Jewish state. The charter calls for an Islamic state over the whole of historic Palestine. The charter has not been revived, but since coming to power, the leadership of Hamas has been much more pragmatic and stated that it is willing to negotiate a long-term ceasefire with the state of Israel for twenty, thirty, forty, maybe even fifty years.

Thirdly, Hamas joined with Fatah, the rival group, the mainstream group, on the West Bank in a national unity government in the summer of 2007. That national unity government lasted only three months. Israel, with American support, helped to sabotage and to bring down that national unity government. Israel refused to deal with a Palestinian government which included Hamas within it. And shamefully, both the United States and the European Union joined in Israel in this refusal to recognize a Hamas-dominated government, and Israel withdrew tax revenues, and European Union withdrew foreign aid, in a shameful attempt to bring down a democratically elected government.
Oh, but if only Israel had a partner in peace like, uhhh....Fatah?! Isn't that the strangest thing you ever did hear? Likudniks and their North American mouthpieces pining for the days of Arafat? Please. In the beginning, Israel actually supported Hamas as a force against Fatah. Divide 'n Conquer, etc. How is that working out? But Fatah was notoriously corrupt and Hamas capitalized and promised to deliver. And Gazans, like other life-forms on the planet who like to eat and drink and send their offspring to school...well, they liked the sound of that. Those greedy buggers, eh?

Ok, ok, so maybe the civilians living in Gaza don't deserve to be incinerated in a hailstorm of creepy experimental weaponry. But why don't the other Arab states take the Gazans? Can't the Egyptians have them?

Who? Mubarek? That's a riot, Alice. That guy is so afraid of the populist Hamas coming over his border that he helped Israel seal it right up, effectively trapping the Gazan people in a hunk of land no bigger than the GTA. Remember: Gazans have had some practise at this democracy stuff and they know a thing or two about throwing-out corrupt governments. Can't have that kind of tomfoolery in Egypt.

There is so much more to say on this subject, but I am not equal to the challenge tonight. I am so angry and so sad by these events, and can't believe what has happened to Canada's voice in these matters. When our government bothers to speak at all, it is only to out-Likud and out-AIPAC the USian bleating from the beltway. This saddens me terribly.

For now, I will leave you with a story that epitomizes this brutal turn the world has taken--and a picture that I saw last night and will probably see over and over again in my head.

Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish, a Palestinian doctor who trained in Israel, has been a regular fixture on Israeli television during the 21-day-old war against Hamas militants, bringing witness accounts of the medical crisis facing Gazans to Israeli living rooms.

His report Friday was drenched in grief as he sobbed through a cell phone that three of his daughters and a niece were killed by an Israel Defense Forces shell.

Abu al-Aish said he hoped his three daughters would be the last victims of the fighting in Gaza, and that their deaths would help bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

[...]Gazan officials identified Al-Aish's deceased daughters as 22-year-old Bisan, 15-year-old Mayer and 14-year old Aya. His niece was identified as 14-year-old Nour Abu al-Aish.

[...] "Everyone knew we were home. Suddenly we were bombed. How can we talk to Olmert and (Foreign Minister) Tzipi Livni after this?" Abu al-Aish told television reporters at the border crossing. "Suddenly, today when there was hope for a cease-fire, on the last day...I was speaking with my children, suddenly they bombed us. The doctor who treats Israeli patients."

(edited to add link to Moyers' show)


Blogger susansmith said...

And, "10 of them soldiers, were killed, according to Israel", where half of them were killed by friendly fire.
But we must not let small facts get in the way of massaged story.

1/19/2009 12:04 AM  
Blogger Godammitkitty said...

I forgot about the friendly fire deaths--you're right. I think there were four on one day, so that would be 4/10 IDF fatalities that weren't due to rockets.

Thanks so much for reading, Jan!

1/19/2009 12:14 AM  
Blogger Beijing York said...

Damn Kitty, you're back in full force. You certainly filled in the blanks where I barely touched on the outrage of what is going on. Brava!

1/19/2009 2:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You nailed it, Kitty. Well done.

On the subject of the number of civilian deaths, British MP Gerald Kaufman, who was raised in an orthodox and Zionist household and whose Grandmother was murdered as she lay in her bed by the Nazis, had this to say:

'On Sky News a few days ago, the spokeswoman for the Israeli army, Major Leibovich, was asked about the Israeli killing of, at that time, 800 Palestinians—the total is now 1,000. She replied instantly that

“500 of them were militants.”

That was the reply of a Nazi.'


1/19/2009 7:53 AM  
Blogger Chrystal Ocean said...

Your posts are worth waiting for. Brava!

1/19/2009 11:10 AM  
Blogger Godammitkitty said...

Thanks so much for reading! It means a lot to know I'm not shouting into the void.

1/19/2009 9:48 PM  
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