The latest round of violence in Israel/Palestine is sickening. The Australian media coverage of that violence is also sickening.
The news reader reports “seven Israeli’s have now been stabbed by Palestinians”! She then adds (almost as a parenthesis) that “forty Palestinians have also been killed, including several of the attackers”.
Why are the facts always presented this way, as if Israeli lives matter more than Palestinian lives? Given that there were more than five times as many Palestinians than Israelis killed, why aren’t we told first that 40 Palestinians have been killed – the vast majority of whom were apparently not involved in attacking anyone when they were killed.
I appreciate that this is a very small point made with reference to a very small news segment, and yet this was the ABC – Australia’s government-owned national broadcaster!
I have a friend who works for the same broadcaster and she told me last year that ABC presenters were no longer allowed to use the word “Occupied Territories” when referring to the Palestinian West Bank. They now have to say “disputed territories”.
This may again seem like a very small point, and yet this is our government trying to control what we say in order to control what we think, and we simply should not have to tolerate this form of politically-inspired thought control!
The death of Israa Abed
For me nothing sums up the current spate of violence more succinctly than this leaked video of the death of Israa Abed. Be warned that even though you don’t see any of the gory details of her death it is nonetheless gut-wrenchingly difficult to watch.
According to the Times of Israel, Israa Abed was a would-be assassin. According to the Jerusalem Post, she was a ‘female terrorist’. According to both reports she was brandishing a knife and told to put it on the ground before being shot by IDF soldiers.
No knife can be seen in this video. What we see is a girl with her hands in the air. Certainly, even if she’d been carrying a large machete, she would have posed no threat at all to the ten heavily armed soldiers who surrounded her.
Other reports say she was refusing to take off her hijab when she was shot. Her father and her brother (both of whom were arrested after the shooting of Israa) said that she suffered from mental illness. Perhaps that explains why she didn’t remove her clothing when ordered to do so, or perhaps she was just scared?
Israa was 28 and the mother of two children. I’m guessing that she was one of the ‘several attackers’ mentioned in the news report who were amongst the 40 killed. I wonder what the others did that warranted their execution.
I’ve been feeling nothing but cynicism towards this latest round of Israel/Palestine peace talks but I’m encouraged to find that many persons I respect are taking them very seriously.
Warren Clark, Executive Director of ‘Churches for Middle East Peace‘, is one such person. He believes that there have been real and substantial changes since the last round of pointless dialogue – most especially the European Parliament joining the BDS!
Personally, I am still skeptical about both of Clark’s alternatives – ‘soon’ or ‘never’. I really don’t think change is coming soon – not unless the Arab world can suddenly unite and bring real pressure to bear on Israel. At the same time though, I do believe that change will have to come eventually.
The Impossible Dream – It’s Soon or Never
The impossible dream of peace in the Holy Land – the end of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian West Bank; secure and recognized boundaries for Israel and Palestine; a just solution of the refugee problem; a shared Jerusalem with East Jerusalem for a Palestinian state; recognition and normal relations between Israel and the 53 member countries of the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference; and an end of conflict and an end of claims – seems less impossible today than it did only a short time ago. This week Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met in Washington for the first time in three years and have set a nine month timetable for an agreement.
I said here on June 7 that President Obama’s visit to Israel and the West Bank in March and the subsequent efforts of Secretary Kerry seemed to create a fundamental improvement in the outlook for direct talks and progress toward an agreement.
Since then, two other developments have helped cause a tectonic political shift. First was the realization of Israel’s increasing international isolation in response to its settlement expansion. This month the European Union published regulations that distinguish between trade, investment, cultural and other cooperation with Europe and Israeli entities located within the 1967 lines and with those Israeli entities located east of the 1967 lines, including East Jerusalem. While the immediate economic impact of the regulations will be limited, the political message was strong. The European governments not only do not recognize settlements but are willing to sanction Israel for continuing to build them.
Second, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s political rhetoric has changed. While he said in 2009 for the first time under U.S. pressure that he supported the idea of a Palestinian state under certain circumstances, his continued support of settlement expansions suggested he had little interest in advancing the two state goal. However, the Prime Minister has said recently that a bi-national state would be “disastrous” for Israel and that he believes peace talks are necessary to prevent that.
There remains great skepticism that after so many false starts that any agreement can be reached. Palestinians fear that talks without an agreement will be used to buy more time for Israeli expansion into the West Bank as it was in the 1990s during the Oslo “peace process” when the settler population doubled to 400,000 (it is now over 500,000) and no agreement was reached. The failure of talks then led to the terrible violence of the second intifada. The same specter of violence exists should these talks fail again.
To overcome Palestinian distrust, Israel has agreed to a phased release of 104 “heavyweight” Palestinian prisoners who were jailed for capital crimes before the Oslo talks began more than 20 years ago.
For their part, Palestinians have apparently agreed not to use their political leverage against Israel as long as the talks continue – namely, a bid to sanction Israel in the UN system, especially in the International Criminal Court, and perhaps to bid for full UN membership.
The question remains whether any real chance of an agreement exists after decades of failed peace efforts, including Oslo, Taba, the Wye River, the Arab League plan, the Roadmap and Annapolis. The status quo remains far less tolerable for Palestinians living under occupation than for the more prosperous and secure Israelis, but that balance seems to be changing.
read the rest of this article here.
Uri Avnery – as usual, full of insight and solid wisdom – writes about the latest tragic round of violence in Israel/Palestine. Read all of Uri’s articles on his website: www.gush-shalom.org…
All Quiet on the Southern Front
“What have you learned in school today, my son?”
“There was no school today. There is an emergency!”
“And what have you learned from that, my son?”
ACTUALLY, QUITE a lot.
This week’s “round”, as the army likes to call it, followed a well-established pattern, as formal as a religious ritual.
It started with the assassination (or “targeted elimination”) of a hitherto unknown Palestinian resistance (“terrorist”) leader in the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinians responded with a rain of missiles, which lasted for four whole days. More than a million Israelis around Gaza stopped working and stayed with their children near their shelters or “protected areas” (meaning nothing more than relatively safe rooms in their homes.) One million Israelis roughly equate to 10 million Germans or 40 million Americans, in relation to the population.
A proportion of these rockets were intercepted in their flight by the three batteries of the “Iron Dome” anti-missile defense. There were some Israeli injured and some minor material damage, but no Israeli dead.
Israeli manned and unmanned aircraft struck and there were 26 Palestinian dead in the Gaza Strip.
After four days and nights, both sides had had enough, and Egyptian mediators achieved an unwritten Tahdiyeh (Arabic for “Quiet”).
Everything as usual.
EXCEPT FOR the details, of course.
It all started with the killing of one Zuhair al-Qaisi , the General Secretary of the “Popular Committees”. He has been in this position for only a few months.
The “Popular Committees” are a minor resistance/terrorist group, the third by size in the Strip. They are overshadowed by Hamas, which did not take part in this round, and “Islamic Jihad”, which took up the cause of the “committees” and launched most of the rockets.
The number of launches was a surprise. During the four days, 200 rockets were launched – an average of some 50 per day. 169 fell in Israel. There was no sign that the Jihad was running out of stock. Hamas, of course, is a much larger organization, with a much bigger arsenal. In the Gaza Strip, one must assume, there are now huge quantities of missiles, almost all the more sophisticated ones provided by Iran. How they made the long journey can only be guessed.
One must assume that in Hizbollah-dominated South Lebanon, the stockpiles of missiles are even greater.
On the other side (ours) the Iron Dome has chalked up a huge success, a source of great pride for the contractor, the army and the country at large.
This is a sophisticated system, made in Israel, which initially evoked a lot of skepticism. For that reason, there are at this moment only three batteries in action, each protecting one city (Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beer Sheva). A fourth battery is scheduled to be provided soon.
The system does not intercept every rocket, which would be enormously costly. Instead, the system itself calculates whether a rocket would fall in open space (and could be ignored) or on a populated area (when the interceptor would be launched), all in seconds. Of these, more than 70% were intercepted and destroyed, a great success by any reckoning.
The sting is that one of the Palestinian rockets costs only a few hundred shekels, while one single Iron Dome missile costs 315 thousand shekels. During the four days, 17.6 million shekels’ worth of missiles was spent by the Israeli side. This apart from the very high price tag of the batteries themselves.
The Air Force sorties over the Gaza Strip cost another tens of millions – one hour of flight costs some 100 thousand shekels (almost 25 thousand dollars).
THE FIRST question to be asked was therefore: was the whole exercise worthwhile?
Israelis rarely ask themselves such questions. They believe that those in charge know what they are doing.
But do they?
It all hinges on the necessity to kill al-Qaisi, even for those who believe in such killings as a solution.
Al-Qaisi was in his position as leader of the “Popular Committees” only since the assassination of his predecessor in similar circumstances. A replacement will easily be found. He may be better or worse, but will hardly make much difference.
The Minister of Defense, Ehud Barak, gave a strangely convoluted explanation for the assassination: “(al-Qaisi) was one of the heads of Popular Committees who were, it seems, busy preparing a large attack. I cannot yet say whether this attack was averted.” It seems. I cannot say.
Unofficially it was said that al-Qaisi may have been involved in sending a group of militants from Gaza to the Egyptian Sinai, to attack Israeli territory from there. Last year there was such an attack near Eilat, with several Israeli dead, al-Qaisi’s predecessor was blamed for that and killed before an investigation had even started.
So was it worthwhile to endanger the lives of so many people, send a million people to the shelters and spend tens of millions of shekels on such grounds?
My guess is that al-Qaisi was killed because an opportunity presented itself to do so – such as information on his movements.
WHO MADE the decision?
Targeted assassinations are based on information received from the Shabak (aka Shin Bet). In practice, it is this security service that makes the decision to kill people – acting as gatherer of the information, the assessor of it, and the judge at the same time. No independent analysis of the information, no review, no judicial process of any kind. Questioning the Shabak almost amounts to treason, no politician and no journalist would dare to do so, even if he were so inclined- which he or she is not.
After the Shabak has decided to kill somebody, this is brought to a tiny group of men: the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense, the army Chief of Staff and perhaps the officer commanding. Nobody with an independent outlook.
Did any of these people ask the relevant questions? I doubt it.
For example: Binyamin Netanyahu prides himself on his huge success in America, indeed in the entire world: he has managed to get everybody deeply concerned about the (not yet existing) Iranian nuclear bomb. The Palestinian issue has been completely wiped off the map. And here he sets in motion another round of fighting that reminds people everywhere that the Palestinian issue is alive and kicking, and that it may explode at any moment. Does that make sense even from the point of view of a Netanyahu or a Barak?
ANOTHER INTESTING political aspect of this “round” was the role Hamas played in it, or, rather, didn’t.
Hamas rules the Gaza Strip. The Israeli government does not officially recognize this rule, but somehow still considers Hamas responsible for everything that happens in the Strip, whether Hamas was involved or not.
Until now Hamas entered the fight whenever Israel attacked objects in Gaza. This time, it stayed outside the fray, and even emphasized this fact in telephone interviews on Israeli TV.
Why? Hamas is closely connected with the Muslim Brotherhood, which now dominates the Egyptian parliament. It is under pressure to create a unity government with Fatah in Palestine and join the PLO. Taking part in the armed fight against Israel at this moment would jeopardize this effort. The more so as the Islamic Jihad is closely connected with Iran, the rival of Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
ISRAELI TV correspondents have the annoying habit of concluding their reports with a disturbingly banal sentence. For example, a report about a fatal road accident will almost invariably end with the words: “…and he (or she) only wanted to get safely home.”
This week, almost all the final reports about the mess in the south ended with the words: “Quiet has returned to the South – until the next time!”
Everybody assumes that “next time” the rockets coming out of Gaza will have a greater range and perhaps reach the outskirts of Tel Aviv, and everybody in Israel hopes that the Iron Dome missile will become even more effective.
Until then, All Quiet on the Southern Front.