More direct and prophetic words from Noam Chomsky!
I must say that I’m not used to Chomsky speaking in such an unqualified way. It seems that he’s tired of maintaining an appearance of academic impartiality. And why should he? The human cost of this tragedy is far too high to worry about professional protocols. This violence should make us angry – angry enough to pray with passion and to commit ourselves to non-violent activism for justice.
November 8, 2012
Even a single night in jail is enough to give a taste of what it means to be under the total control of some external force.
And it hardly takes more than a day in Gaza to appreciate what it must be like to try to survive in the world’s largest open-air prison, where some 1.5 million people on a roughly 140-square-mile strip of land are subject to random terror and arbitrary punishment, with no purpose other than to humiliate and degrade.
Such cruelty is to ensure that Palestinian hopes for a decent future will be crushed, and that the overwhelming global support for a diplomatic settlement granting basic human rights will be nullified. The Israeli political leadership has dramatically illustrated this commitment in the past few days, warning that they will “go crazy” if Palestinian rights are given even limited recognition by the U.N.
This threat to “go crazy” (“nishtagea”) – that is, launch a tough response – is deeply rooted, stretching back to the Labor governments of the 1950s, along with the related “Samson Complex”: If crossed, we will bring down the Temple walls around us.
Thirty years ago, Israeli political leaders, including some noted hawks, submitted to Prime Minister Menachem Begin a shocking report on how settlers on the West Bank regularly committed “terrorist acts” against Arabs there, with total impunity.
Disgusted, the prominent military-political analyst Yoram Peri wrote that the Israeli army’s task, it seemed, was not to defend the state, but “to demolish the rights of innocent people just because they are Araboushim (a harsh racial epithet) living in territories that God promised to us.”
Gazans have been singled out for particularly cruel punishment. Thirty years ago, in his memoir “The Third Way,” Raja Shehadeh, a lawyer, described the hopeless task of trying to protect fundamental human rights within a legal system designed to ensure failure, and his personal experience as a Samid, “a steadfast one,” who watched his home turned into a prison by brutal occupiers and could do nothing but somehow “endure.”
Since then, the situation has become much worse. The Oslo Accords, celebrated with much pomp in 1993, determined that Gaza and the West Bank are a single territorial entity. By that time, the U.S. and Israel had already initiated their program to separate Gaza and the West Bank, so as to block a diplomatic settlement and punish the Araboushim in both territories.
Punishment of Gazans became still more severe in January 2006, when they committed a major crime: They voted the “wrong way” in the first free election in the Arab world, electing Hamas.
Displaying their “yearning for democracy,” the U.S. and Israel, backed by the timid European Union, immediately imposed a brutal siege, along with military attacks. The U.S. turned at once to its standard operating procedure when a disobedient population elects the wrong government: Prepare a military coup to restore order.
Gazans committed a still greater crime a year later by blocking the coup attempt, leading to a sharp escalation of the siege and attacks. These culminated in winter 2008-09, with Operation Cast Lead, one of the most cowardly and vicious exercises of military force in recent memory: A defenseless civilian population, trapped, was subjected to relentless attack by one of the world’s most advanced military systems, reliant on U.S. arms and protected by U.S. diplomacy.
Of course, there were pretexts – there always are. The usual one, trotted out when needed, is “security”: in this case, against homemade rockets from Gaza.
In 2008, a truce was established between Israel and Hamas. Not a single Hamas rocket was fired until Israel broke the truce under cover of the U.S. election on Nov. 4, invading Gaza for no good reason and killing half a dozen Hamas members.
The Israeli government was advised by its highest intelligence officials that the truce could be renewed by easing the criminal blockade and ending military attacks. But the government of Ehud Olmert – himself reputedly a dove – rejected these options, resorting to its huge advantage in violence: Operation Cast Lead.
The internationally respected Gazan human-rights advocate Raji Sourani analyzed the pattern of attack under Cast Lead. The bombing was concentrated in the north, targeting defenseless civilians in the most densely populated areas, with no possible military basis. The goal, Sourani suggests, may have been to drive the intimidated population to the south, near the Egyptian border. But the Samidin stayed put.
A further goal might have been to drive them beyond the border. From the earliest days of the Zionist colonization it was argued that Arabs have no real reason to be in Palestine: They can be just as happy somewhere else, and should leave – politely “transferred,” the doves suggested.
This is surely no small concern in Egypt, and perhaps a reason why Egypt doesn’t open the border freely to civilians or even to desperately needed supplies.
Sourani and other knowledgeable sources have observed that the discipline of the Samidin conceals a powder keg that might explode at any time, unexpectedly, like the first Intifada in Gaza in 1987, after years of repression.
A necessarily superficial impression after spending several days in Gaza is amazement, not only at Gazans’ ability to go on with life but also at the vibrancy and vitality among young people, particularly at the university, where I attended an international conference.
But one can detect signs that the pressure may become too hard to bear. Reports indicate that there is simmering frustration among young people – a recognition that under the U.S.-Israeli occupation the future holds nothing for them.
Gaza has the look of a Third World country, with pockets of wealth surrounded by hideous poverty. It is not, however, undeveloped. Rather it is “de-developed,” and very systematically so, to borrow the term from Sara Roy, the leading academic specialist on Gaza.
The Gaza Strip could have become a prosperous Mediterranean region, with rich agriculture and a flourishing fishing industry, marvelous beaches and, as discovered a decade ago, good prospects for extensive natural gas supplies within its territorial waters. By coincidence or not, that’s when Israel intensified its naval blockade. The favorable prospects were aborted in 1948, when the Strip had to absorb a flood of Palestinian refugees who fled in terror or were forcefully expelled from what became Israel – in some cases months after the formal cease-fire Israel’s 1967 conquests and their aftermath administered further blows, with terrible crimes continuing to the present day.
The signs are easy to see, even on a brief visit. Sitting in a hotel near the shore, one can hear the machine-gun fire of Israeli gunboats driving fishermen out of Gaza’s territorial waters and toward land, forcing them to fish in waters that are heavily polluted because of U.S.-Israeli refusal to allow reconstruction of the sewage and power systems they destroyed.
The Oslo Accords laid plans for two desalination plants, a necessity in this arid region. One, an advanced facility, was built: in Israel. The second one is in Khan Yunis, in the south of Gaza. The engineer in charge at Khan Yunis explained that this plant was designed so that it can’t use seawater, but must rely on underground water, a cheaper process that further degrades the meager aquifer, guaranteeing severe problems in the future.
The water supply is still severely limited. The U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which cares for refugees but not other Gazans, recently released a report warning that damage to the aquifer may soon become “irreversible,” and that without quick remedial action, Gaza may cease to be a “livable place” by 2020.
Israel permits concrete to enter for UNRWA projects, but not for Gazans engaged in the huge reconstruction efforts. The limited heavy equipment mostly lies idle, since Israel does not permit materials for repair.
All this is part of the general program that Dov Weisglass, an adviser to Prime Minister Olmert, described after Palestinians failed to follow orders in the 2006 elections: “The idea,” he said, “is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.”
Recently, after several years of effort, the Israeli human rights organization Gisha succeeded in obtaining a court order for the government to release its records detailing plans for the “diet.” Jonathan Cook, a journalist based in Israel, summarizes them: “Health officials provided calculations of the minimum number of calories needed by Gaza’s 1.5 million inhabitants to avoid malnutrition. Those figures were then translated into truckloads of food Israel was supposed to allow in each day … an average of only 67 trucks – much less than half of the minimum requirement – entered Gaza daily. This compared to more than 400 trucks before the blockade began.”
The result of imposing the diet, Middle East scholar Juan Cole observes, is that “about 10 percent of Palestinian children in Gaza under age 5 have had their growth stunted by malnutrition. … In addition, anemia is widespread, affecting over two-thirds of infants, 58.6 percent of schoolchildren, and over a third of pregnant mothers.”
Sourani, the human-rights advocate, observes that “what has to be kept in mind is that the occupation and the absolute closure is an ongoing attack on the human dignity of the people in Gaza in particular and all Palestinians generally. It is systematic degradation, humiliation, isolation and fragmentation of the Palestinian people.”
This conclusion has been confirmed by many other sources. In The Lancet, a leading medical journal, Rajaie Batniji, a visiting Stanford physician, describes Gaza as “something of a laboratory for observing an absence of dignity,” a condition that has “devastating” effects on physical, mental and social well-being.
“The constant surveillance from the sky, collective punishment through blockade and isolation, the intrusion into homes and communications, and restrictions on those trying to travel, or marry, or work make it difficult to live a dignified life in Gaza,” Batniji writes. The Araboushim must be taught not to raise their heads.
There were hopes that Mohammed Morsi’s new government in Egypt, which is less in thrall to Israel than the western-backed Hosni Mubarak dictatorship was, might open the Rafah Crossing, Gaza’s sole access to the outside that is not subject to direct Israeli control. There has been a slight opening, but not much.
The journalist Laila el-Haddad writes that the reopening under Morsi “is simply a return to status quo of years past: Only Palestinians carrying an Israeli-approved Gaza ID card can use Rafah Crossing.” This excludes a great many Palestinians, including el-Haddad’s own family, where only one spouse has a card.
Furthermore, she continues, “the crossing does not lead to the West Bank, nor does it allow for the passage of goods, which are restricted to the Israeli-controlled crossings and subject to prohibitions on construction materials and export.”
The restricted Rafah Crossing doesn’t change the fact that “Gaza remains under tight maritime and aerial siege, and continues to be closed off to the Palestinians’ cultural, economic and academic capitals in the rest of the (Israeli-occupied territories), in violation of U.S.-Israeli obligations under the Oslo Accords.”
The effects are painfully evident. The director of the Khan Yunis hospital, who is also chief of surgery, describes with anger and passion how even medicines are lacking, which leaves doctors helpless and patients in agony.
One young woman reports on her late father’s illness. Though he would have been proud that she was the first woman in the refugee camp to gain an advanced degree, she says, he “passed away after six months of fighting cancer, aged 60 years.
“Israeli occupation denied him a permit to go to Israeli hospitals for treatment. I had to suspend my study, work and life and go to sit next to his bed. We all sat, including my brother the physician and my sister the pharmacist, all powerless and hopeless, watching his suffering. He died during the inhumane blockade of Gaza in summer 2006 with very little access to health service.
“I think feeling powerless and hopeless is the most killing feeling that a human can ever have. It kills the spirit and breaks the heart. You can fight occupation but you cannot fight your feeling of being powerless. You can’t even ever dissolve that feeling.”
A visitor to Gaza can’t help feeling disgust at the obscenity of the occupation, compounded with guilt, because it is within our power to bring the suffering to an end and allow the Samidin to enjoy the lives of peace and dignity that they deserve.
Noam Chomsky’s most recent collection of columns is “Making the Future: Occupations, Interventions, Empire and Resistance.” Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.
Source URL: www.alternet.org…
A courageous and unambiguous statement from one of the greatest minds of this generation!
Chomsky Statement on Israel’s War on Gaza
It is not a war, it is murder.
The incursion and bombardment of Gaza is not about destroying Hamas. It is not about stopping rocket fire into Israel, it is not about achieving peace.
The Israeli decision to rain death and destruction on Gaza, to use lethal weapons of the modern battlefield on a largely defenseless civilian population, is the final phase in a decades-long campaign to ethnically-cleanse Palestinians.
Israel uses sophisticated attack jets and naval vessels to bomb densely-crowded refugee camps, schools, apartment blocks, mosques, and slums to attack a population that has no air force, no air defense, no navy, no heavy weapons, no artillery units, no mechanized armor, no command in control, no army… and calls it a war. It is not a war, it is murder.
When Israelis in the occupied territories now claim that they have to defend themselves, they are defending themselves in the sense that any military occupier has to defend itself against the population they are crushing. You can’t defend yourself when you’re militarily occupying someone else’s land. That’s not defense. Call it what you like, it’s not defense.
Avnery writes: “Was there an alternative [for Israel]? Obviously, the situation along the Gaza Strip had become intolerable. One cannot send an entire population to the shelters every two or three weeks. Except hitting Hamas on the head, what can you do? A lot.”
November 17, 2012
Another Superfluous War
HOW DID it start? Stupid question.
Conflagrations along the Gaza Strip don’t start. They are just a continuous chain of events, each claimed to be a [or “in”] “retaliation” for the previous one. Action is followed by reaction, which is followed by retaliation, which is followed by …
This particular event “started” with the firing from Gaza of an anti-tank weapon at a partially armored jeep on the Israeli side of the border fence. It was described as retaliation for the killing of a boy in an air attack some days earlier. But probably the timing of the action was accidental – the opportunity just presented itself.
The success gave rise to demonstrations of joy and pride in Gaza. Again Palestinians had shown their ability to strike at the hated enemy.
HOWEVER, THE Palestinians had in fact walked into a trap prepared with great care. Whether the order was given by Hamas or one of the smaller more extreme organizations – it was not a clever thing to do.
Shooting across the fence at an army vehicle was crossing a red line. (The Middle East is full of red lines.) A major Israeli reaction was sure to ensue.
It was rather routine. Israeli tanks fired cannon shells into the Gaza Strip. Hamas launched rockets at Israeli towns and villages. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis rushed to their shelters. Schools closed.
As usual, Egyptian and other mediators went into action. Behind the scenes, a new truce was arranged. It seemed to be over. Just another round.
The Israeli side did everything to get back to normal. Or so it seemed. The Prime Minister and the Defense Minister went out of their way (to the Syrian border) to show that Gaza was off their minds
In Gaza, everybody relaxed. They left their shelters. Their supreme military commander, Ahmad Ja’abari, climbed into his car and drove along the main street.
And then the trap closed. The car bearing the commander was blown up by a missile from the air.
SUCH AN assassination is not carried out on the spur of the moment. It is the culmination of many months of preparation, gathering of information, waiting for the right moment, when it could be executed without killing many bystanders and causing an international scandal.
Actually, it was due to take place a day earlier, but postponed because of the bad weather.
Ja’abari was the man behind all the military activities of the Hamas government in Gaza, including the capture of Gilad Shalit and the successful five-year long hiding of his whereabouts. He was photographed at the release of Shalit to the Egyptians.
So this time it was the Israelis who were jubilant. Much like the Americans after the Osama bin-Laden assassination.
THE KILLING of Ja’abari was the sign for starting the planned operation.
The Gaza Strip is full of missiles. Some of them are able to reach Tel Aviv, some 40 km away. The Israeli military has long planned a major operation to destroy as many of them as possible from the air. Intelligence has patiently gathered information about their location. This is the purpose of the “Pillar of Cloud” operation. (“And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud, to lead them the way – Exodus 13:21).
While I am writing this, I don’t know yet how the whole thing will end. But some conclusions can already be drawn.
FIRST OF All, this is not Cast Lead II. Far from it.
The Israeli army is rather good at discreetly drawing lessons from its failures. Cast Lead was celebrated as a great success, but in reality it was a disaster.
Sending troops into a densely populated area is bound to cause heavy civilian casualties. War crimes are almost inevitable. World reaction was catastrophic. The political damage immense. The Chief of Staff at the time, Gabi Ashkenazi, was widely acclaimed, but in reality he was a rather primitive military type. His present successor is of a different caliber.
Also, grandiose statements about destroying Hamas and turning the Strip over to the Ramallah leadership have been avoided this time.
The Israeli aim, it was stated, is to cause maximum damage to Hamas with minimum civilian victims. It was hoped that this could be achieved almost entirely by the use of air power. In the first phase of the operation, this seems to have succeeded. The question is whether this can be kept up as the war goes on.
HOW WILL it end? It would be foolhardy to guess. Wars have their own logic. Stuff happens, as the man said.
Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, the two men in overall command, hope the war will wind down once the main aims are achieved. So there will be no reason to employ the army on the ground, enter the Gaza Strip, kill people, lose soldiers.
Deterrence will be restored. Another truce will come into force. The Israeli population surrounding the Strip will be able to sleep soundly at night for several months. Hamas will be cut down to size.
But will this whole exercise change the basic situation? Not likely.
Ja’abari will be replaced. Israel has assassinated dozens of Arab political and military leaders. Indeed, it is the world champion of such assassinations, politely referred to as “targeted preventions” or “eliminations”. If this were an Olympic sport, the Ministry of Defense, the Mossad and the Shin Bet would be festooned with gold medals.
Sometimes one gets the impression that the assassinations are an aim by [in] themselves, and the other operations just incidental. An artist is proud of his art.
What have the results been ? Overall – nothing positive. Israel killed Hizbollah leader Abbas al-Moussawi, and got the vastly more intelligent Hassan Nasrallah instead. They killed Hamas founder Sheik Ahmad Yassin, and he was replaced by abler men. Ja’abari’s successor may be less or more able. It will make no great difference.
Will it stop the steady advance of Hamas? I doubt it. Perhaps the opposite will happen. Hamas has already achieved a significant breakthrough, when the Emir of Qatar (owner of Aljazeera) paid Gaza a state visit. He was the first head of state to do so. Others are bound to follow. Just now, in the middle of the operation, the Egyptian prime minister arrived in Gaza.
Operation “Pillar of Cloud” compels all Arab countries to rally around Hamas, or at least pretend to. It discredits the claim of the more extreme organizations in Gaza that Hamas has gone soft and lazy, enjoying the fruits of government. In the battle for Palestinian opinion, Hamas has gained another victory over Mahmoud Abbas, whose security cooperation with Israel will look even more despicable.
All in all, nothing basic will change. Just another superfluous war.
IT IS, of course, a highly political event.
Like Cast Lead, it takes place on the eve of Israeli elections. (So, by the way, did the Yom Kippur war, but that was decided by the other side.)
One of the more miserable sights of the last few days has been the TV appearances of Shelly Yachimovich and Ya’ir Lapid. The two shining new stars in Israel’s political firmament looked like petty politicians, parroting Netanyahu’s propaganda, approving everything done.
Both had hitched their wagons to the social protest, expecting that social issues would displace subjects like war, occupation and settlements from the agenda. When the public is occupied with the price of cottage cheese, who cares about national policy?
I said at the time that one whiff of military action would blow away all economic and social issues as frivolous and irrelevant. This has happened now.
Netanyahu and Barak appear many times a day on the screen. They look responsible, sober, determined, experienced. Real he-men, commanding troops, shaping events, saving the nation, routing the enemies of Israel and the entire Jewish people. As Lapid volunteered on live television: “Hamas is an anti-Semitic terrorist organization and must be crushed.”
Netanyahu is doing it. Adieu, Lapid. Adieu Shelly. Adieu Olmert. Adieu Tzipi. Was nice seeing you.
WAS THERE an alternative? Obviously, the situation along the Gaza Strip had become intolerable. One cannot send an entire population to the shelters every two or three weeks. Except hitting Hamas on the head, what can you do?
First of all, you can abstain from “reacting”. Just cut the chain.
Then, you can talk with Hamas as the de facto government of Gaza. You did, actually, when negotiating the release of Shalit. So why not look for a permanent modus vivendi, with the involvement of Egypt?
A hudna can be achieved. In Arab culture, a hudna is a binding truce, sanctified by Allah, which can go on for many years. A hudna cannot be violated. Even the Crusaders concluded hudnas with their Muslim enemies.
The day after the assassination, Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin, who had been involved in mediating Shalit’s release, disclosed that he had been in contact with Ja’abari up to the last moment. Ja’abari had been interested in a long-term cease-fire. The Israeli authorities had been informed.
But the real remedy is peace. Peace with the Palestinian people. Hamas has already solemnly declared that it would respect a peace agreement concluded by the PLO – i.e. Mahmoud Abbas – that would establish a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, provided this agreement were confirmed in a Palestinian referendum.
Without it, the bloodletting will just go on, round after round. Forever.
Peace is the answer. But when visibility is obscured by pillars of cloud, who can see that?
More Avnery articles online: zope.gush-shalom.org…
“The first casualty in war is the truth.”
Here’s today’s news: Israel News – Haaretz. Demonstrations protesting Israel’s latest assault on Gaza are being organized thruout the civilized world. Demonstrations have been scheduled in Israel, as well: Gush Shalom joins call for anti-war protests.
The US State Department was quick to issue a statement: US says Israel has right to defend itself, must spare civilians: (AFP). How inadequate. How lame. How very, very lame. There is speculation that President Obama is forever beholden to wealthy Jewish donors who contribute generously to both parties whenever there’s an election in the USA. There’s also speculation that President Obama is disgusted with the whole situation and is organizing a pushback in the near future, perhaps at the Helsinki Conference. Whatever the case, Human Beings are being slaughtered in Gaza. It’s “like shooting fish in a barrel”.
The eyes of the International Community are on Israel. Elections in Israel are scheduled for January 22. Netanyahu’s party is leading in the polls. Avigdor Lieberman and Ehud Barak are standing by his side, reminding Israelis of the Holocaust, promising them “security”, etc. “God’s Chosen” will make a momentous decision in January. The article pasted below is making the rounds on the Internet. It’s a repeatable. The highlights are mine. Please read on.
(highlights courtesy of Father Roy)
John Glaser: Israel´s Latest Assault on Gaza – The Lie of Who Started It
Israel has again attacked Gaza. In its aerial and ground assault that began on Saturday, November 10th, at least 7 Palestinians have been killed, 5 of them civilians, 3 of whom were children. Up to 52 others, including 6 women and 12 children, have been wounded.
As in every vicious military offensive Israel carries out in Gaza, the dominant narrative is that it is a response to rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel. This is how it’s being reported in the US, and this is how virtually every American understands it.
And it’s a lie.
It’s true that on Saturday, prior to the expanded Israeli bombardment, the military wing of the Popular Front For the Liberation of Palestine shot an anti-tank missile at an Israeli Defense Forces vehicle near the Gaza border, wounding four Israeli soldiers. But what prompted the firing of the anti-tank missile?
First, on Monday, November 5th, Israeli forces shot and killed 23 year old Ahmad Nabhani when he “approached the border fence with Israel.” According to at least one account, Nabhani was mentally challenged.
Then, on Thursday, November 8th, the Israeli Occupation Forces – eight tanks and four bulldozers, to be exact – invaded southern Gaza, shooting and killing a 13-year old boy. Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (via):
According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 16:30 on Thursday, as a result of the indiscriminate shooting by IOF military vehicles that had moved into the ‘Abassan village, 13-year-old Ahmed Younis Khader Abu Daqqa was seriously wounded by a bullet to the abdomen. At the time he was shot, Ahmed had been playing football with his friends in front of his family’s house, located nearly 1,200 meters away from the area where the IOF were present.
So, even if honest observers brush to the side the cruel and inhumane Israeli blockade on Gaza and refuse to let it influence the equation of exactly which side started this flare up of violence, it is clear Israel started this latest clash. And in response to the response, Israel has waged a harsh, disproportionate military assault.
This would be a simple thing to understand if, for example, Western media bothered to ask the other side what happened. Palestinian news media immediately reported that the anti-tank missile Israel was supposedly responding to was admitted to by the Popular Resistance Committees, who described it as “revenge” for preceding Israeli violence on Gaza. But that basic task of honest journalism is apparently out of the question.
Every single Israeli incursion or attack on Gaza is accompanied by the same narrative: Israel fairly responded to unprovoked Palestinian rocket fire. The last major war on Gaza, Operation Cast Lead in December ’08-January ’09, also carried this narrative. Israel committed war crimes in that one-sided conflict, targeting and killing hundreds of civilians, using indiscriminate weapons, and intentionally destroying civilian infrastructure. It has become an accepted fact – even among critics of Israel – that the offensive was a response to Hamas rocket fire. The rocket fire did indeed occur immediately before the assault, but it was in response to Israel’s breaking of the six-month cease-fire, which even Israeli officials in WikiLeaks cables admitted Hamas had kept to.
Hear these words Benjamin Netanayahu spoke on Monday, 12 November. Bibi is a perfidious man. He’s preparing his people for an Israeli attack on Gaza. By convincing them that they, the Israelis, are the injured party in the conflict. Peers, we can’t allow Bibi to get away with this. Contact the White House. Internationals can write, too. Spread the word. Peace, Father Roy