30 November 2012

Palestinians in Gaza celebrate ceasefire
  A Strategic Asset in Danger of becoming a Strategic Liability?

A highly interesting article from Adam Shatz in the latest edition of London Review of Books. Why was the attack on Gaza relatively short-lived and why were the main aims of the attack, the military defeat of Hamas found a ground offensive, not met?

My own view, which coincides with Shatz’s is that as the Middle East slowly changes politically, Israel only has the one option it has ever considered – military force – backed up by a bombastic propaganda offensive that makes more enemies than it wins. As the Chief Rabbi of Britain, Jonathan Sacks let slip in an unguarded moment, this was primarily about Iran. But although he was right to say that it wasn’t about Gaza, he wasn’t necessarily right about the real target being Iran.
rockets take off for Israel and sky lit up beyond
Israel is finding it difficult these days because it has become a litmus test for the post-Arab Spring regimes, as well as Turkey. With concentration on change in Syria, which the West would love to see but which has not been as easy as was forecast, Gaza was a diversion. It was also a threat to Egypt, because the transparent aim of ‘encouraging’ Gazans to flee to Egypt – hence the talk about levelling the place and returning Gaza to the stone-age.

What has been secured is a ceasefire which Israel has no intention of sticking to. But despite its rhetoric about ‘rockets’ anyone with eyes to see can discern the difference between laser-guided missiles fired from American FI6s and a besieged people retaliating with what amounts to pop-guns. There can be no equivalance between the people in Sderot and those in Gaza. The BBC may not find this balance to their liking but to most people it is obvious.

children stick their heads through hole in wall of bombed school

But what the attacks has also disclosed is that Israel’s previous belief that it was the primary if not sole strategic asset in the region for the United States may be an overassumption. In certain circumstances, as David Petreus, former commander of the US’s Iraq Army and the CIA, hinted at, Israel might actually prove to be a unifying symbol for the disparate forces of Arab resistance.
Below Shatz’s article is a similar one by Norman Finkelstein, who when he abandons the batty idea that 2 States is good can still talk some sense.

There is no doubt  that with up to 70% of the Israeli population against the ceasefire that the popular mood in Israel understands, if not the reason for the ceasefire, its implications.

Tony Greenstein

Why Israel Didn’t Win

Adam Shatz

The ceasefire agreed by Israel and Hamas in Cairo after eight days of fighting is merely a pause in the Israel-Palestine conflict. It promises to ease movement at all border crossings with the Gaza Strip, but will not lift the blockade. It requires Israel to end its assault on the Strip, and Palestinian militants to stop firing rockets at southern Israel, but it leaves Gaza as miserable as ever: according to a recent UN report, the Strip will be ‘uninhabitable’ by 2020. And this is to speak only of Gaza. How easily one is made to forget that Gaza is only a part – a very brutalised part – of the ‘future Palestinian state’ that once seemed inevitable, and which now seems to exist mainly in the lullabies of Western peace processors. None of the core issues of the Israel-Palestine conflict – the Occupation, borders, water rights, repatriation and compensation of refugees – is addressed by this agreement.
boy stands in rubble of house

The fighting will erupt again, because Hamas will come under continued pressure from its members and from other militant factions, and because Israel has never needed much pretext to go to war. In 1982, it broke its ceasefire with Arafat’s PLO and invaded Lebanon, citing the attempted assassination of its ambassador to London, even though the attack was the work of Arafat’s sworn enemy, the Iraqi agent Abu Nidal. In 1996, during a period of relative calm, it assassinated Hamas’s bomb-maker Yahya Ayyash, the ‘Engineer’, leading Hamas to strike back with a wave of suicide attacks in Israeli cities. When, a year later, Hamas proposed a thirty-year hudna, or truce, Binyamin Netanyahu dispatched a team of Mossad agents to poison the Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Amman; under pressure from Jordan and the US, Israel was forced to provide the antidote, and Meshaal is now the head of Hamas’s political bureau – and an ally of Egypt’s new president, Mohamed Morsi.
rubble of a destroyed house

Operation Pillar of Defence, Israel’s latest war, began just as Hamas was cobbling together an agreement for a long-term ceasefire. Its military commander, Ahmed al-Jabari, was assassinated only hours after he reviewed the draft proposal. Netanyahu and his defence minister, Ehud Barak, could have had a ceasefire – probably on more favourable terms – without the deaths of more than 160 Palestinians and five Israelis, but then they would have missed a chance to test their new missile defence shield, Iron Dome, whose performance was Israel’s main success in the war. They would also have missed a chance to remind the people of Gaza of their weakness in the face of Israeli military might. The destruction in Gaza was less extensive than it had been in Operation Cast Lead, but on this occasion too the aim, as Gilad Sharon, Ariel’s son, put it in the Jerusalem Post, was to send out ‘a Tarzan-like cry that lets the entire jungle know in no uncertain terms just who won, and just who was defeated’.

Victory in war is not measured solely in terms of body counts, however. And the ‘jungle’ – the Israeli word not just for the Palestinians but for the Arabs as a whole – may have the last laugh. Not only did Hamas put up a better fight than it had in the last war, it averted an Israeli ground offensive, won implicit recognition as a legitimate actor from the United States (which helped to broker the talks in Cairo), and achieved concrete gains, above all an end to targeted assassinations and the easing of restrictions on the movement of people and the transfer of goods at the crossings. There was no talk in Cairo, either, of the Quartet Principles requiring Hamas to renounce violence, recognise Israel and adhere to past agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority: a symbolic victory for Hamas, but not a small one. And the Palestinians were not the only Arabs who could claim victory in Cairo. In diplomatic terms, the end of fighting under Egyptian mediation marked the dawn of a new Egypt, keen to reclaim the role that it lost when Sadat signed a separate peace with Israel. ‘Egypt is different from yesterday,’ Morsi warned Israel on the first day of the war. ‘We assure them that the price will be high for continued aggression.’ He underscored this point by sending his prime minister, Hesham Kandil, to Gaza the following day. While refraining from incendiary rhetoric, Morsi made it plain that Israel could not depend on Egyptian support for its attack on Gaza, as it had when Mubarak was in power, and would only have itself to blame if the peace treaty were jeopardised. After all, he has to answer to the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’s parent organisation, and to the Egyptian people, who are overwhelmingly hostile to Israel. The Obama administration, keen to preserve relations with Egypt, got the message, and so apparently did Israel. Morsi proved that he could negotiate with Israel without ‘selling out the resistance’, in Meshaal’s words. Internationally, it was his finest hour, though Egyptians may remember it as the prelude to his move a day after the ceasefire to award himself far-reaching executive powers that place him above any law.
religious messianism - israeli soldiers pray to a god of destruction

That Netanyahu stopped short of a ground war, and gave in to key demands at the Cairo talks, is an indication not only of Egypt’s growing stature, but of Israel’s weakened position. Its relations with Turkey, once its closest ally in the region and the pillar of its ‘doctrine of the periphery’ (a strategy based on alliances with non-Arab states) have deteriorated with the rise of Erdogan and the AKP. The Jordanian monarchy, the second Arab government to sign a peace treaty with Israel, is facing increasingly radical protests. And though Israel may welcome the fall of Assad, an ally of Hizbullah and Iran, it is worried that a post-Assad government, dominated by the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brothers, may be no less hostile to the occupying power in the Golan: the occasional rocket fire from inside Syria in recent days has been a reminder for Israel of how quiet that border was under the Assad family. Israeli leaders lamented for years that theirs was the only democracy in the region. What this season of revolts has revealed is that Israel had a very deep investment in Arab authoritarianism. The unravelling of the old Arab order, when Israel could count on the quiet complicity of Arab big men who satisfied their subjects with flamboyant denunciations of Israeli misdeeds but did little to block them, has been painful for Israel, leaving it feeling lonelier than ever. It is this acute sense of vulnerability, even more than Netanyahu’s desire to bolster his martial credentials before the January elections, that led Israel into war.

Hamas, meanwhile, has been buoyed by the same regional shifts, particularly the triumph of Islamist movements in Tunisia and Egypt: Hamas, not Israel, has been ‘normalised’ by the Arab uprisings. Since the flotilla affair, it has developed a close relationship with Turkey, which is keen to use the Palestinian question to project its influence in the Arab world. It also took the risk of breaking with its patrons in Syria: earlier this year, Khaled Meshaal left Damascus for Doha, while his number two, Mousa Abu Marzook, set himself up in Cairo. Since then, Hamas has thrown in its lot with the Syrian uprising, distanced itself from Iran, and found new sources of financial and political support in Qatar, Egypt and Tunisia. It has circumvented the difficulties of the blockade by turning the tunnels into a lucrative source of revenue and worked, with erratic success, to impose discipline on Islamic Jihad and other militant factions in the Strip. The result has been growing regional prestige, and a procession of high-profile visitors, including the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, who came to Gaza three weeks before the war and promised $400 million dollars to build housing and repair roads. The emir did not make a similar trip to Ramallah.

Hamas’s growing clout has not gone unnoticed in Tel Aviv: cutting Hamas down to size was surely one of its war aims. If Israel were truly interested in achieving a peaceful settlement on the basis of the 1967 borders – parameters which Hamas has accepted – it might have tried to strengthen Abbas by ending settlement activity, and by supporting, or at least not opposing, his bid for non-member observer status for Palestine at the UN. Instead it has done its utmost to sabotage his UN initiative (with the robust collaboration of the Obama administration), threatening to build more settlements if he persists: such, Hamas has been only too happy to point out, are the rewards for non-violent Palestinian resistance. Operation Pillar of Defence will further undermine Abbas’s already fragile standing in the West Bank, where support for Hamas has never been higher.

Hardly had the ceasefire come into effect than Israel raided the West Bank to round up more than fifty Hamas supporters, while Netanyahu warned that Israel ‘might be compelled to embark’ on ‘a much harsher military operation’. (Avigdor Lieberman, his foreign minister, is said to have pushed for a ground war.) After all, Israel has a right to defend itself. This is what the Israelis say and what the Israel lobby says, along with much of the Western press, including the New York Times. In an editorial headed ‘Hamas’s Illegitimacy’ – a curious phrase, since Hamas only seized power in Gaza after winning a majority in the 2006 parliamentary elections – the Times accused Hamas of attacking Israel because it is ‘consumed with hatred for Israel’. The Times didn’t mention that Hamas’s hatred might have been stoked by a punishing economic blockade. It didn’t mention that between the start of the year and the outbreak of this war, 78 Palestinians in Gaza had been killed by Israeli fire, as against a single Israeli in all of Hamas’s notorious rocket fire. Or – until the war started – that this had been a relatively peaceful year for the miserable Strip, where nearly three thousand Palestinians have been killed by Israel since 2006, as against 47 Israelis by Palestinian fire.

Those who invoke Israel’s right to defend itself are not troubled by this disparity in casualties, because the unspoken corollary is that Palestinians do not have the same right. If they dare to exercise this non-right, they must be taught a lesson. ‘We need to flatten entire neighbourhoods in Gaza,’ Gilad Sharon wrote in the Jerusalem Post. ‘Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki too.’ Israel shouldn’t worry about innocent civilians in Gaza, he said, because there are no innocent civilians in Gaza: ‘They elected Hamas … they chose this freely, and must live with the consequences.’ Such language would be shocking were it not so familiar: in Israel the rhetoric of righteous victimhood has merged with the belligerent rhetoric – and the racism – of the conqueror. Sharon’s Tarzan allusion is merely a variation on Barak’s description of Israel as a villa in the jungle; his invocation of nuclear war reminds us that in 2008, the deputy defence minister Matan Vilnai proposed ‘a bigger holocaust’ if Gaza continued to resist.

But the price of war is higher for Israel than it was during Cast Lead, and its room for manoeuvre more limited, because the Jewish state’s only real ally, the American government, has to maintain good relations with Egypt and other democratically elected Islamist governments. During the eight days of Pillar of Defence, Israel put on an impressive and deadly fireworks show, as it always does, lighting up the skies of Gaza and putting out menacing tweets straight from The Sopranos. But the killing of entire families and the destruction of government buildings and police stations, far from encouraging Palestinians to submit, will only fortify their resistance, something Israel might have learned by consulting the pages of recent Jewish history. The Palestinians understand that they are no longer facing Israel on their own: Israel, not Hamas, is the region’s pariah. The Arab world is changing, but Israel is not. Instead, it has retreated further behind Jabotinsky’s ‘iron wall’, deepening its hold on the Occupied Territories, thumbing its nose at a region that is at last acquiring a taste of its own power, exploding in spasms of high-tech violence that fail to conceal its lack of a political strategy to end the conflict. Iron Dome may shield Israel from Qassam rockets, but it won’t shield it from the future.
23 November

Israel’s Latest Assault on Gaza - What Really Happened

by Norman Finkelstein

The official storyline is that Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defence on 14 November, 2012 because, in President Barack Obama’s words, it had "every right to defend itself."

In this instance, Israel was allegedly defending itself against the 800 projectile attacks emanating from Gaza since January of this past year.

The facts, however, suggest otherwise.

From the start of the new year, one Israeli had been killed as a result of the Gazan attacks, while 78 Gazans had been killed by Israeli strikes. The ruling power in Gaza, Hamas, was mostly committed to preventing attacks. Indeed, Ahmed al-Jaabari, the Hamas leader whose assassination by Israel triggered the current round of fighting, was regarded by Israel as the chief enforcer of the periodic ceasefires, and was in the process of enforcing another such ceasefire just as he was liquidated.
Hamas occasionally turned a blind eye, or joined in to prevent an escalation, when Israeli provocations resulted in retaliatory strikes by Hamas’s more militant Islamist rivals. It recoiled at being cast as Israel’s collaborator in the image of the Palestinian Authority.

It has been speculated that Hamas was itching for a confrontation with Israel.

But this past year Hamas has been on a roll. Its ideological soulmate, the Muslim Brotherhood, ascended to power in Egypt. The emir of Qatar journeyed to Gaza carrying the promise of $400 million in aid, while Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was scheduled to visit Gaza soon thereafter. In the West Bank many Palestinians envied (rightly or wrongly) that Gazans fared better economically. Meanwhile, Gaza’s Islamic University even managed to pull off an academic conference attended by renowned linguist Noam Chomsky.

Hamas’s star was slowly but surely rising, at the expense of the hapless Palestinian Authority. The very last thing it needed at that moment was an inevitably destructive confrontation with Israel that could jeopardise these hard-won, steadily accreting gains.

On the other side, many cynical Israelis speculated that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched the operation in order to boost his election prospects in January 2013.

As a general rule, however, Israeli leaders do not unleash major military operations for electoral gain where significant State interests are at stake. The fact that Defence Minister Ehud Barak dropped out of politics soon after the latest operation ended and his popular standing improved suggests that the forthcoming election was not a prime consideration for him.[1]  Why, then, did Israel attack? 
In one sense, Israel was straightforward about its motive. It kept saying, credibly, that it wanted to restore its "deterrence capacity"—i.e., the Arab/Muslim world’s fear of it.
The real question, however, is the nature of the threat it wanted to deter.

The latest assault on Gaza unfolded in the broader context of successive Israeli foreign policy failures.

Netanyahu sought to rally the international community for an attack on Iran, but ended up looking the fool as he held up an Iranian nuclear device "smuggled" into the United Nations. Hezbollah boasted that a drone launched by it had penetrated Israeli airspace, and then reserved the right to enter Israeli air space at its whim. Now, its "terrorist" twin upstart in Gaza was gaining respectability as the Arab/Muslim world thumbed its collective nose at Israel on its doorstep.

The natives were getting restless. It was time to take out the big club again and remind the locals who was in charge.

"At the heart of Operation Pillar of Defence," the respected Crisis Group observed, "lay an effort to demonstrate that Hamas’s newfound confidence was altogether premature and that, the Islamist awakening notwithstanding, changes in the Middle East would not change much at all."
Still, Israel needed a suitable pretext. So, just as it knew that breaking the ceasefire in November 2008 by killing six Hamas militants would evoke a massive response, so it must have known that killing Jaabari would evoke a comparable response.

The actual Israeli assault, however, differed significantly from Operation Cast Lead (OCL) in 2008-9: it was qualitatively less murderous and destructive. Many commentators have therefrom inferred that Israel used more precise weapons this time and, concomitantly, that Israel had "learnt the lessons" from OCL on how to avoid civilian casualties.

In fact, 99 percent of Israeli Air Force attacks during OCL hit targets accurately, while the goal of OCL was—in the words of the Goldstone Report, which was supported by scores of other human rights reports—to "punish, humiliate and terrorise" the Gazan civilian population.

If Israel’s latest rampage proved less lethal by comparison, it was because of unprecedented political constraints imposed on it:

• Turkey and Egypt made abundantly clear that they would not sit idly by if Israel launched a repeat performance of OCL. From early on, both drew a red line at an Israeli ground assault. Although now officially denied, it was reliably reported at the time that Obama, no doubt prodded by these key regional actors, counselled Israel not to invade.

• Israel had hanging over its head the Goldstone Report. It managed to elude, the first time around, prosecution at the International Criminal Court and the exercise by several countries of universal jurisdiction for its war crimes and crimes against humanity. But the second time it might not be so fortunate.

• Gaza was swarming with foreign reporters. Before OCL, Israel had sealed Gaza shut from the outside world with the cooperation of Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt. In the initial phase of the onslaught, Israel enjoyed a near-total monopoly on media coverage. But now, journalists could freely enter Gaza and credibly report Israeli atrocities in real-time.

On account of this trio of factors, Israel mostly targeted sites that could be deemed "legitimate." True, some 70 Palestinian civilians were killed, but that could be chalked up to "collateral damage."

The deaths and injuries of civilians during the Israeli assault, although far fewer than in previous rounds of the conflict, received in-depth and graphic news coverage. When Israel tested the limits of military legitimacy, trouble loomed. After it flattened civilian governmental structures in Gaza, the headline on the New York Times web site read, "Israel targets civilian buildings." A few hours later it metamorphosed into "government buildings" (no doubt after a call from the Israeli consulate). Still, the writing was on the wall: Israeli conduct was being closely scrutinised by outsiders, so it had better tread carefully.

The salient exceptions came during the final ceasefire negotiations when Israel resorted to its standard terrorist tactics in order to extract the best possible terms, and also targeted journalists in the event that the negotiations collapsed and it would have to, after all, launch the murderous ground invasion.

The armed resistance Hamas put up during the eight-day Israeli assault was largely symbolic. Although Israel acclaimed the success of Iron Dome, it almost certainly did not save many and perhaps not any lives. During OCL some 800 projectiles and mortar shells landing in Israel killed three Israeli civilians, while during the recent Israeli assault some 1,400 projectiles and mortar shells landing in Israel killed four Israeli civilians.

It is unlikely that, in the main and allowing for the occasional exception, Hamas used much more technically advanced weapons in the latest round. Through its army of informers and hi-tech aerial surveillance Israel would have been privy to large quantities of sophisticated Hamas weapons and would have destroyed these stashes before or during the first day of the attack. It is also improbable that Netanyahu would have risked an attack just on the eve of an election if Hamas possessed weapons capable of inflicting significant civilian casualties. A handful of Hamas projectiles reached deeper inside Israel than before but these lacked explosives; an Israeli official derisively described them as "pipes, basically."

If Israel ballyhooed Iron Dome, it was because its purported effectiveness was the only achievement to which Israel could point in the final reckoning.

The climax of Israel’s assault came when it was unable to break the spirit of the people of Gaza. On the one hand, it had exhausted all preplanned military targets and, on the other, it couldn’t target the civilian population. Hamas had successfully adapted Hezbollah’s strategy of continually firing its projectiles, the psychological upshot of which was that Israel couldn’t declare its deterrence capacity had been restored, and thereby forcing on it a ground invasion.

Israel could not launch such an invasion, however, without suffering significant combatant losses unless the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) blasted everyone and everything in and out of sight as it cleared a path into Gaza. But, because of the novel circumstances—the regional realignment after the Arab Spring, and Turkey under Erdogan; the threat of a "mega-Goldstone," as a veteran Israeli commentator put it; the presence of a foreign press corps embedded not in the IDF but among the people of Gaza—Israel couldn’t launch an OCL-style ground invasion.

Israel was thus caught between a rock and a hard place. It couldn’t subdue Hamas without a ground invasion, but it couldn’t launch a ground invasion without incurring a politically unacceptable price in IDF casualties and global opprobrium.

It is possible to pinpoint the precise moment when the Israeli assault was over: Hamas leader Khalid Mishal’s taunt to Israel at a 19 November press conference, Go ahead, invade!

Netanyahu panicked. His bluff was called, and Israel stood exposed, naked, before the whole world. What happened next was a repeat of the 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Unable to stop the Hezbollah rocket attacks but dreading the prospect of a ground invasion that meant tangling with the Party of God, Israel called in Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to negotiate a ceasefire. This time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was summoned to bail Israel out. Not even the 21 November bus bombing in Tel Aviv—which, ceasefire or no ceasefire, would normally have elicited massive Israeli retaliation—shook Netanyahu from his determination to end the operation immediately, before Hamas resumed its taunting.
 The terms of the final agreement marked a stunning defeat for Israel. It called for a mutualceasefire, not one, as Israel demanded, unilaterally imposed on Hamas. It also included language that implied the siege of Gaza would be lifted. Notably, it did not include the condition that Hamas must cease its importation or production of weapons. The reason why is not hard to find. Under international law, peoples resisting foreign occupation have the right (or, as some international lawyers more cautiously phrase it, license) to use armed force. Egypt, which brokered the ceasefire, was not about to accept a stipulation that conceded Hamas’s legal right.  [2]

Israel no doubt hoped that the U.S. would use its political leverage to extract better ceasefire terms from Egypt. But the Obama administration, placing American interests first and consequently wanting to bring the new Egypt under its wing, was not willing (assuming it could) to lord it over Egypt on Israel’s behalf.

If any doubt remained about who won and who lost in the latest round, it was quickly dispelled. Israel launched the attack to restore Gaza’s fear of it. But after the ceasefire and its terms were announced, Palestinians flooded the streets of Gaza in a celebratory mood as if at a wedding party. In a CNN interview with Christiane Amanpour, Hamas’s Mishal cut the figure and exuded the confidence of a world leader. Meanwhile, at the Israeli press conference announcing the ceasefire, the ruling triumvirate—Netanyahu, Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman—resembled grade-schoolers called down to the Principal’s Office, counting the seconds until the humiliation was over.
The ceasefire is likely to hold until and unless Israel can figure out how to militarily prevail given the new political environment. The days of Cast Lead are over, while a Pillar of Defence-type operation will not bear the fruits of victory.

It is unlikely, however, that Israel will fulfil the terms of the final agreement to lift the siege of Gaza. During deliberations on whether to accept the ceasefire, Barak had already cynically dismissed the fine print, saying "A day after the ceasefire, no one will remember what is written in that draft."
It is equally improbable that Egypt will pressure the U.S. to enforce the ceasefire terms on Israel. The respective interests of the new Egypt and Hamas mostly diverge, not converge. Egypt desperately needs American subventions, and is currently negotiating a $5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, where Washington’s vote is decisive. The popularity of President Mohammed Morsi’s government will ultimately hinge on what it delivers to Egyptians, not Gazans.

In the meantime, U.S. political elites are lauding Morsi to high heaven, stroking his ego, and speculating on the "special relationship" he has cultivated with Obama. Those familiar with the psychological manipulations of the U.S. when it comes to Arab leaders—in particular, contemptibly mediocre ones such as Anwar Sadat—will not be surprised by the current U.S. romancing of Morsi.
It is also unlikely that Turkey will exert itself on Hamas’s behalf. Right now it is smarting from Obama’s rebuff of designating Egypt as prime interlocutor in brokering the ceasefire. Turkey was reportedly disqualified because it labelled Israel a "terrorist state" during the assault, whereas Egypt "only" accused Israel of "acts of aggression, murder and bloodletting."

Still, aspiring to be the U.S.’s chief regional partner, and calculating that the road to Washington passes through Tel Aviv, Turkey has resumed negotiations with Israel to end the diplomatic impasse after Israel killed eight Turks aboard a humanitarian vessel headed for Gaza in 2010. On the other hand, its recent operation has brought home to Israel that alienating both its historic allies in the region, Egypt and Turkey, is not prudent policy, so a face-saving reconciliation between Ankara and Tel Aviv (the Turkish government is formally demanding an apology, monetary compensation, and an end to the Gaza siege) is probably in the offing.

The long and the short of it is that, even in the new era that has opened up, definite limits exist on how much regional support the Palestinians can realistically hope to garner.

It appears that many Palestinians have concluded from the resounding defeat inflicted on Israel that only armed resistance can and will end the Israeli occupation. In fact, however, Hamas’s armed resistance operated for the most part only at the level of perceptions—the projectiles heading towards Tel Aviv did unsettle the city’s residents—and it is unlikely that Palestinians can ever muster sufficient military might to compel an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.

But Gaza’s steadfastness until the final hour of the Israeli assault did demonstrate the indomitablewill of the people of Palestine. If this potential force can be harnessed in a campaign of mass civil resistance, and if the supporters of Palestinian rights worldwide do their job of mobilizing public opinion and changing government policy, then Israel can be forced to withdraw, and with fewer Palestinian lives lost than in an armed resistance.

This article benefited from many conversations with Palestinian political analyst Mouin Rabbani and from Jamie Stern-Weiner playing the devil’s advocate.
 Norman Finkelstein is the author of many books on the Israel-Palestine conflict, most recently,
Knowing Too Much: Why the American Jewish Romance with Israel is Coming to an End, and is currently working on a book with Mouin Rabbani on how to resolve the conflict.
[1] It has also been speculated that the governing coalition had to do something to placate popular indignation at the Hamas attacks. But in fact, these attacks have barely registered on Israel’s political radar the past year, the focus being mostly on Iran and domestic issues.
[2] In a diplomatic side note to Netanyahu, Obama vaguely promised to "help Israel address its security needs, especially the issue of smuggling of weapons and explosives into Gaza."

The Transition from Zionist to anti-Zionist

An interesting article from yesterday’s Independent. Although I don’t agree with all his comments, for example his assessment of Gilad Atzmon, the story of his transition from a Zionist to anti-Zionist is fascinating. It is one of an increasing genre, of Jews who having been brought up as Zionists have come to see that it wasn’t the city on a hill, the beacon of justice and a ‘light unto the nations’ that those like Judah Magnes imagined. Instead it is a racist, chauvinist, intolerant society that spawns thugs like Avigdor Lieberman as its representative. It reminds me, in some ways, of a book I’ve just reviewed, Antony Lerman’s ‘The Making & Unmaking of a Zionist’.

Tony Greenstein

Why I am no longer a Zionist - Wayne Myers

In this highly personal guest contribution, a British and Jewish blogger reflects on his youth membership of Zionist movements, the recent conflict in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas, and how his relationship with faith changes as he gets older
Wayne Myer
I'm a nice Jewish boy from North West London. I was brought up in a family that was never particularly religious – we belonged to a Reform synagogue, not an Orthodox one - but where my Jewish identity was considered extremely important, and where support for Israel was an absolute given. Not blanket, unquestioning support, but support nonetheless.

As a teenager I was heavily involved in RSY-Netzer, the Zionist Jewish youth movement affiliated with the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain. In 1987, at the age of 16, I spent a summer in Israel with RSY, and two years later took a gap-year there. Half that year was spent on Kibbutz Lotan, one of the two Reform Synagogue affiliated kibbutzim, and the other half was spent on a course known colloquially as 'Machon', at the Institute For Youth Leaders From Abroad in Jerusalem, run by an arm of the Israeli state known as the Jewish Agency.


On Machon, along with dozens of other young Jews of my own age from a range of different Zionist youth movements, I received training in youth leadership skills, Jewish history, and what is known in Hebrew as 'hasbarah'. Hasbarah literally means 'explaining', but it has another meaning, which is essentially 'propaganda'.

RSY-Netzer was at that point one of the three most left-wing Zionist youth movements - the other two are the explicitly socialist Habonim-Dror and HaShomer HaTzair. We were encouraged – and at the age of 18 or 19 we needed no encouragement – to spend much time discussing and arguing the fine points of Zionist ideology and Israeli politics both among ourselves and with members of the other movements.

The left-wingers among us were highly critical of many of Israel's actions from the War in Lebanon to the whole of the Occupation, and we all argued strenuously that it was a fundamental necessity for Israel to behave ethically at all times; moreover we left-wingers argued that it was of prime importance that we as Zionists stood up and criticised Israel when it did not do so.

However, none of that criticism was ever allowed to cross the red line of rejecting the idea of the Jewish State itself. We did not go so far as to accept the idea that Zionism was racism or that Israel ought not exist – indeed we had special sessions on Machon where we were explicitly taught strategies for arguing against these ideas. The concept of a democratic secular one-state solution for all inhabitants of the Holy Land, under which Jews and Palestinians would be equal citizens in the eyes of the law, was not at any point on the table.

Unlike most of my colleagues on the Machon course, I made a particular point of learning Hebrew, and while in Jerusalem I met and fell in love with Ayelet, an Israeli girl my own age. She was not long out of basic Army training and had taken up a post as a remedial Hebrew teacher at an Israeli Army school. We spoke only in Hebrew and were for a while very much in love, though she thought I was a complete lunatic not just for being a Zionist – among Israelis the word 'Zionist' means something somewhat different to its meaning in the wider Jewish community – but also for being on the Machon course at all and for seriously considering moving to Israel permanently: her ambition at the time was to move to New York.

Sexual Zionism

I remember joking then that the most potent form of Zionism was not Religious Zionism, Revisionist Zionism, Political Zionism, or Cultural Zionism, all of which we had been taught about in class at Machon, but was rather Sexual Zionism, which we had not been taught about even once. Looking back, I now understand why hardly anyone, Ayelet included, found my joke funny.

As a Jew, despite being born in London, I had and still have the right at any time to move to Israel and immediately take up Israeli citizenship under the Israeli Law of Return. The only reason that I did not do so straight away was that I had a place at Oxford for which, as a state-school applicant, I had worked very hard, and on which I had no intention of missing out. My plan at the time was to get my degree from Oxford and move to Israel afterwards.

Once back in the UK, my obsession with Zionism continued. At Oxford I changed my degree from Maths and Philosophy to Oriental Studies (Hebrew), a course comprising Hebrew literature and Jewish history; on the history side I made a special study of Zionism up to 1948. It astonished me at the time that my parents were implacably against the idea of me becoming an Israeli, but I was 19 and – like all 19 year olds – knew deeply that I was as right about everything as my parents were wrong about everything.

Life at university was something of a shock for two reasons. The first was that as a state-schooler at Oxford, surrounded by the products of public and private school educations, the trappings of extreme privilege to which most of my contemporaries were so effortlessly accustomed seemed enormously strange and discomforting to me. Despite this I largely fit in well at my college, Balliol, which had a reputation for being very left-wing. The second shock was that for the first time in my life I was meeting both Jewish and non-Jewish anti-Zionists.

All my Hasbarah training came out.

I became involved with both the
Oxford Jewish Society and the Oxford Israel Society, and ended up spending a lot of time arguing with people about Israel on all sides. With those on my right, I was arguing that Israel was not and had not for some time been behaving ethically, and that it was the absolute duty of anyone who called themselves a Zionist or a supporter of Israel to stand up and call Israel out on these ethical transgressions. With those on my left I was arguing that while Israel might indeed be as ethically dubious a state as any other state on the planet, nothing that it did in any way impinged on its right to exist as a Jewish State.

Many of my left-wing friends at Balliol were utterly shocked to find that I was a Zionist, but I continued to argue passionately for a position on the extreme left of Zionism; I was critical of Israel's moral transgressions, critical of the Occupation, supportive of the putative Palestinian state, supportive of the idea that Jerusalem should be again partitioned de jure (as it already is de facto) so it could be both the capital of that Palestinian state as well as the capital of Israel, but at no point did I dare to cross the red line that questioned the legitimacy of the Jewish State itself.


While I was at Balliol, Ariel Sharon was invited to speak at the Oxford Union; this resulted in an extremely busy time for me. I was involved in organising the pro-Zionist counter-demonstration to the anti-Zionist demonstration outside the Union; as a Zionist critical of Israel, I was also involved in ensuring that strong criticisms of Israel in general and Sharon in particular were made during the debate. Later that evening, as a guest of the L'Chaim Society, an alternative Jewish student organisation then run by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, I ended up having dinner with Sharon, along with thirty or forty other people, and was astonished at how charming he seemed in person, for all that I strongly disagreed with all aspects of his politics.

I was also pleasantly shocked by Sharon's stories of how his closest friends were not other Israelis at all but were rather Palestinians living in the West Bank for whom – he explained - hospitality and personal relationships trumped any notion of tribal hostility.

By 1993, when I left Oxford, things in my personal life had changed. Ayelet, quite reasonably unwilling to spend three years of her early twenties in a long-distance relationship with a complete lunatic, had left me, and I was now romantically involved with Abigail, a rather posh Jewish girl from one of the old established Anglo-Jewish families from before the wave of immigration from Eastern Europe at the beginning of the 20th century that had brought my own great-grandparents to London. Abigail was about as likely to move to Israel as she was to grow feathers and a beak, and I found myself strongly reconsidering my decision to move there myself.

My political position, however, did not change. As a Zionist I felt passionately that it was of prime importance that Israel's moral transgressions – especially those in the Lebanon war of 1982 and the ongoing indefensible occupation of the West Bank and Gaza - be censured. I felt that the Occupation had to end, and end now, and that the Two State Solution was the only way forward. Since the idea of the right of national self-determination was at the core of my support for Zionism, I found it hard to understand how any Zionist could be against the two state solution.

If the Jews should have self-determination in Israel, I argued, surely it is only logical that the Palestinians should also have self-determination in Palestine. I simply could not understand how those Zionists to my right – which was basically all of them – could not see this.

On Jerusalem, I also could not understand the mainstream Zionist position. Having lived there for some time, and being well aware that the city was effectively divided into Jewish West Jerusalem, where you could safely go, and Palestinian East Jerusalem, which was dangerous and to be avoided at all costs, I simply could not grasp any of the stuff about the 'unification' of Jerusalem that I had been taught.

It might have been unified legally as far as a Zionist was concerned but it certainly wasn't unified in any way in practice, and it seemed to me only right that a repartitioned East Jerusalem should be the capital of the forthcoming Palestinian state just as much as West Jerusalem should remain the capital of the Israeli state. I was sure that Palestinians felt just as passionately about Jerusalem as I did myself, and repartition seemed to me to be the just and reasonable answer to this question.


In 1994/5 I spent a further year in Jerusalem on the One Year Graduate Program at the Hebrew University. This was supposed to be my year to 'check out' whether or not I really wanted to go and live in Israel, before I made a final decision. Jerusalem is and was a miserable and tedious place for a young secular man in his early twenties; it soon became clear to me that I did not wish to live there after all, and I began drinking heavily.

Mostly this went on at a bar called 'Mike's Place' run by a burned out Canadian ex-photo-journalist called Mike, and populated almost exclusively by Israeli leftists and members of the international press corps who were old friends of Mike's. Abigail came to visit, and hated it all even more than I did. I began to make arrangements to go home early.

Before I left, however, I was befriended at Mike's Place by a member of the press corps, an American called Stefan Ellis, who considered his time in Jerusalem to be basically R&R away from the really hideous places in the world he had worked before, like Cambodia. Stefan was horrified by my youthful ideological support of Israel. Life as a photo-journalist specialising in war-zones had inoculated him against all forms of ideology. As far as he was concerned, all sides committing atrocities, everywhere, were all as bad as each other.

It was his job as a journalist to get close to those atrocities in order to document them so that the rest of the world could see. Of course they wouldn't – he was all too aware of this - but it was his job nonetheless.

I did not, at the time, remotely understand him.

Fast-forward to 2008.

I'd long split up with Abigail. I was still in London. I'd had two failed careers, first as a freelance journalist, and then as a computer programmer. Both had gone wrong as I'd also been trying to pursue music in a serious way; there are only so many hours in a day and as a result of pursuing multiple career goals I'd made myself seriously ill twice and (just) survived a complete nervous breakdown. I was at last pursuing music full-time and, as part of this, had finally received my London Underground busking licence. I'd finally recorded and released an album of original music, not that anyone had noticed. At least, I felt, I was now on the right path.

My position on Israel had not changed.

I had by this time met Daphna Baram, an Israeli journalist and Guardian contributor effectively in exile in London for her anti-Zionist views. Despite our differences of opinion over Israel we had become close friends, and spent many nights staying up late arguing in a mixture of English and Hebrew over the fine points of whether or not Achad Ha-am, the founder of Cultural Zionism, would have supported the actions of the current Israeli state, or whether the 1947 position of the Zionist youth movement Hashomer HaTzair, that
British Mandate Palestine should be formed into a bi-national state for both Jews and Palestinians, had any relevance today.

Daphna was the first to put to me directly the astonishing proposition that the best solution for the Israel-Palestine problem was a single genuinely democratic state in which all citizens were treated equally regardless of ethnic origin. Currently, that is not the case. While the state of Israel makes just as reasonable a claim to be a democracy as, say, Belarus or Russia, the fact is that Jewish and non-Jewish citizens are not treated equally.


It is true that there are Israeli Arab Knesset members and that Israeli Arabs can vote, but it is also true that there are huge differences in the way that Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews are treated by the state, ranging from whether or not they are required to join the army at the age of 18 to whether or not their home town or village gets a reasonable annual budget to cover municipal requirements. It is painfully obvious from available statistics that Israeli Arab areas get substantially less support from the Israeli state than equivalent size Jewish settlements, and that in general, while Israeli Arabs may not offically be second-class citizens of Israel, that is certainly what they are in practice.

Then, in late 2008, Operation Cast Lead began. Having previously largely withdrawn from Gaza in 2005 (though still keeping it surrounded and effectively cut off from the West Bank), Israel began in December 2008 to bombard it indiscriminately, in the name of ending rocket fire into Israel from within the Strip. For the life of me, I could not see how this was supposed to work. I could not see any way of defending this action. As the number of Palestinian casualties grew – far out of proportion to the number of casualties on the Israeli side - it just got worse and worse.

For the first time in my adult life I began wondering whether the Jewish State was actually worth defending at all on any level if this was the price. I was watching a blatant and brutal massacre of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, utterly disproportionate to the attacks that had provoked it, which had in turn been provoked by earlier Israeli incursions, in an endless back-and-forth cycle, in order to defend what?

An Israeli State that would allow me – born in London – to become a citizen at a moment's notice, while Palestinian friends of friends actually born in the Holy Land itself could never become citizens of anything anywhere? Exactly what convoluted justification would stand that up?

I couldn't do it any more. On Machon, I'd had training in how to argue against the proposition that Zionism was racism, but no training in how to argue in defence of the indiscriminate massacre of civilian children. That one hadn't come up.

I began to consider the possibility that I'd been misled.

It looked terribly plausible. It was horribly embarrassing and deeply painful, but it began to seem to me an awful lot as if Achad Ha-am, founder of Cultural Zionism, and a somewhat flawed but deeply ethical character, would have himself been implacably against anything calling itself a Jewish State that behaved like this.

Around the same time, I took up the saxophone, as part of an effort to give up smoking, and had a one-off lesson with the best local saxophonist I could find, who happened to be another Israeli exile by the name of Gilad Atzmon. This was an incredible stroke of luck, as without exaggeration I can promise you that Gilad is one of the best saxophonists alive anywhere in the world; he is also a lovely guy in person and a fantastic music teacher. Additionally, he is highly politically active as an anti-Zionist, and is considered so extreme that most other anti-Zionists consider him totally beyond the pale; he is widely accused by both anti-Zionists and Zionists alike of actual anti-semitism.

This is of course utter rubbish. It was clear to Gilad from the second he met me that I was Jewish – we even discussed the fact during my first pre-lesson meeting - and had he been a real anti-semite he would never have agreed to teach a Jew to play the saxophone.

His views are, nonetheless, extreme; for example he is against the concept of secular Jewish anti-Zionist organisations, and believes them all, along with any concept of secular Jewish identity, to be a stalking horse for Zionism itself. This stems from his deeply philosophical approach to the whole Israel-Palestine question, and his view that any secular expression of Jewish identity is inherently somehow supremacist; this has led him – as I understand it - to hold that any kind of Jewish identity itself is deeply flawed outside of the religious context.

Secular and positive

I do not agree with Gilad on that. I do believe that it is possible to be a secular Jew with a positive Jewish identity that does not in any way believe in Jewish supremacy. I do not even agree with his view that Zionism is inherently racist. For example, the pre-1948 position of the Zionist youth movement Hashomer HaTzair, which argued, as Zionists, for a secular binational state to be shared equally between Jews and Palestinians, puts paid to that.

In the 1920s Martin Buber, a humanist philosopher who had absolutely no truck with racism, developed a branch of Zionism centered politically around the concept of a binational state, and sadly, like Hashomer HaTzair, got nowhere. Today it is clear that the racist branches of Zionism have prevailed. But it does not take much more than a cursory view of the history to see that those were not the only branches.

Nevertheless, post 1948, it is very hard to argue that Zionism has not behaved, since Independence, in a de facto racist way. On that at least, Gilad, Daphna and I can all agree. Right now in 2012 we are watching aghast at yet another massacre of Palestinian civilians in Gaza. Yet again this comes just before the Israeli elections; this time we are hearing Israeli ministers such as Eli Yishai assert that "the goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages."

Not only can I no longer defend any of this, I can no longer defend Zionism at all, not even in an abstract philosophical sense outside of any context involving the actions of the Israeli state. The Law of Return, under which I - an occasional tourist who just happens to be Jewish – can claim Israeli citizenship at a moment's notice, while a Palestinian actually born in, say, Haifa, but subsequently exiled cannot – that is a racist law. The notion of a Jewish state? That is – as far as it has been put into practice since 1948 - a racist notion.

Is Zionism racism? It didn't have to be. There were historical strands within Zionism that were not racist. Martin Buber – Zionist founder, in 1925, of the Brit Shalom organisation advocating a binational state, was not a racist, and nor were the pre-1948 Hashomer Hatzair.

But right now?

It's really very hard indeed to argue otherwise.

And it's such a blessed relief to feel that I am no longer obligated to attempt to do so.

That relief does not, however, in any way reduce the anger I feel at the current massacre of civilians in Gaza. 

This article originally appeared at conniptions.org

28 November 2012

Murder of Journaliss - The ‘Only Democracy in the Middle East’ Deliberately Targeted Palestinian Journalists

Mark Regev – the Goebbels of Israeli PR - justifies the murder of Palestinian journalists.  

Avital Leibovitch and Mark 'Goebbels' Regev.

Here is Mark Regev said, justifying Israel's bombing of Palestinian media buildings in Gaza:
“After a second Israeli attack on a media building in two days, this time killing two journalists, the spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister, Mark Regev explains to al-Jazeera English that because the journalists were Palestinian the Israel military considered them legitimate “targets.” Regev’s remarks were made just a few hours after the November 19, 2012 bombing of al-Shuruq Tower and another building used to house the offices of several media outlets, including both Palestinian and international networks.
Speaking to al-Jazeera, Regev said,
“We took out the target that we wanted to take out.” When pressed by al-Jazeera over the injuries of eight journalists the previous day, where one lost his leg, Regev continued:

    “Oh you’re talking about… oh first of all maybe we have a discussion about who is a journalist and if you’ll allow me I will elaborate on this. There is the al-Aqsa station, which is a station that is a Hamas command and control facility, just as in other totalitarian regimes; the media is used by the regime for command and control and also for security purposes. From our point of view that’s not a legitimate journalist.”

Palestinian journalists protest at Israeli military attacks
Al-Jazeera’s correspondent then followed-up by asking, “So what are you saying? That a local Arab journalist life is any less than an internationalist journalist?”Apparently for Regev, yes, in Gaza there are no legitimate Palestinian journalists, only targets.”

It is one of the best examples of the police state nature of Western ‘democracies’ today that their military and leaders need to physically prevent opinions they don’t like being broadcast.

It is no surprise therefore than its war on ‘Hamas’ (for which substitute the Palestinians of Gaza) Israel targeted and bombed buildings housing journalists in Gaza.  The justification of Israeli  PR ghoul, Mark Regev, is not surprising.

Israeli aircraft hit two Gaza media buildings on Sunday, wounding eight journalists
Hamas , for better or worse, is the elected government in Gaza.  It runs the administration.  To therefore say one targets Hamas is to say that one targets any form of Gazan administration. It is also of course a lie.  Hamas runs schools, roads, sewerage plants (presumably also harbouring terrorists since they are regularly bombed) and much else, besides organising resistance to Israeli attacks.

The purpose of the bombing was to return Gaza to the stone age.  Indeed this was exactly what Israel’s racist Interior and Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai, of the religious medieval Shas Party said when he urged the Israeli military "to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages" and destroy its infrastructure.

Journalists aren’t part of the medieval society that Yishai aspires to.  He has presided over the sending back of asylum seekers to their torturers in Eritrea, established concentration camps for refugees in the Negev and admitted just one asylum seeker in the past year.

It is little wonder that Yishai has been praised by the holocaust denying British National Party, who can only gaze in wonder and appreciation that a ‘Jewish’ state has elected such a racist monster to high office. BNP praises Israel minister on foreigners.  Even the Zionist rag, the Jewish Chronicle has had to admit to that (see bnp praises israel minister foreigners) Martin Bright and Anshel Pfeffer, November 5, 2009

Of course there are good precedents.  George Bush bombed the Al Jazeera offices in Kabul during the invasion of Afghanistan and discussed bombing Al Jazeera’s HQ in Quatar with Tony Blair. David Keogh, a civil servant at the Cabinet Office, and Leo O'Connor, a research assistant to former Labour MP Tony Clarke, (who disgracefully handed back the memo of a conversation between the two to Downing Street) was jailed under the Official Secrets Act 1989 for 6 and 3 months respectively, but not before the Daily Mirror had published the memo.
Palestinian journalists protest against Israeli attack on Gaza medi
It is an example of the attitude of Western leaders and war-makers to any version of the truth but their own.  In the above case, the BBC justified the Blair-Bush conversation as a ‘joke’, though as Andreas Whittam-Smith ex-editor of the Independent wrote, note-takers rarely record jokes.  Likewise the US attacked journalists in its savage attack on the Iraqi city of Fallujah.

Journalists demand UN probe into why Israel targeted them in Gaza

Jillian Kestler-D'Amours
The Electronic Intifada
Ramallah, 25 November 2012

Journalists in Hebron protest against deadly Israeli targeting of media in Gaza

(Mamoun Wazwaz / APA images)

RAMALLAH (IPS) - As people anxiously wait to see if the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas will hold, local and international human rights groups are calling for investigations into Israeli human rights abuses committed during its eight-day assault on the Gaza Strip, including flagrant attacks on journalists.

“We want an international investigation into what happened in Gaza,” Abdal Nasser Najjar, chairman of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, said. “We want to put an end to this [Israeli] policy of killing and injuring journalists. There is no difference between a journalist: Israeli, Palestinian, or international. We want to do our jobs only, as journalists.”

In its most recent assault on the Gaza Strip, which Israel called Operation Pillar of Defense, 162 Palestinians were killed and more than 1,100 injured. Three Palestinian journalists were killed and more than a dozen injured in targeted Israeli air strikes.

According to MADA, the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms, the Israeli army has killed 18 journalists, including two foreign journalists, in the past decade.

They have classified journalists as enemies. They don’t want the world to know what they’re doing in Gaza, what the crimes of the Israeli soldiers are. I think they didn’t want the information to go from Gaza to outside,” Najjar, who is managing editor of the daily newspaper Al-Ayyam, said.

On 20 November, two Palestinian cameramen from al-Aqsa TV were killed instantly when an Israeli missile hit their car, which was reportedly marked with the letters “TV” in neon letters. The two journalists — Hussam Mohammed Salama, 30, and Mahmoud Ali al-Koumi, 29 — were on their way to al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City to document the admission of injured Palestinians.

The same day, a third journalist, Mohamed Abu Aisha, director of al-Quds Educational Radio, was killed when a missile hit his car.


Reporters Without Borders called the Israeli attacks “deliberate” and, in a statement released Wednesday, stated that “journalists are entitled to the same protection as civilians and should not be regarded as military targets.”

Almost a dozen reporters were also injured when Israeli air strikes hit buildings housing local and foreign media offices in Gaza City on three separate occasions. These buildings housed the offices of al-Arabiya, Agence France Presse, the Palestinian news agency Ma’an, and Russia Today, among others.

“We demand the United Nations set up a committee to carry out a full investigation into these attacks and take action against the Israeli government. Moreover, the international community must respond immediately to this heinous act,” Jim Boumelha, the president of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), said in a statement.

On 21 November, the Israeli military spokesperson’s office posted the following message on its official Twitter feed: “Warning to reporters in Gaza: stay away from Hamas operatives & facilities. Hamas, a terrorist group, will use you as human shields.”

The Israeli government also insinuated that since al-Aqsa TV — one of the media outlets targeted by the Israeli air strikes — is affiliated with Hamas, its employees are not real journalists.

There is the al-Aqsa station, which is a station that is a Hamas command and control facility. Just as in other totalitarian regimes, the media is used by the regime for command and control and also for security purposes. From our point of view, that’s not a legitimate journalist,” said Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev in a heated televised interview on Al Jazeera. “We don’t target journalists. We target Hamas,” Regev said.

“Just a pretext”

According to Issam Younes, director of the Gaza-based Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, Israel’s questioning of Palestinian journalistic standards is only a pretext to justify its destructive attacks on the Gaza Strip.

“Imagine if Hamas said that those commentators on [Israeli news stations] Channel 2 and Channel 10 are [Israeli intelligence agency] Shabak people, then they are legitimate targets for Hamas to attack? It’s just a pretext,” Younes said.

Movement in and out of the Gaza Strip is almost entirely controlled by Israel; Egypt operates the southern Rafah border crossing. At the start of its latest military offensive, Israel allowed the entry of dozens of international journalists into Gaza.

This was a change from past Israeli policies. During its 2008-09 military operation in Gaza, known as Operation Cast Lead, Israel barred the entry of foreign journalists into Gaza, and declared the Israel-Gaza boundary, including a two-kilometer zone inside present-day Israel, and large areas inside Gaza as “closed military zones.”

It also used extreme violence against local journalists who were documenting the three-week Israeli assault from inside Gaza.

Al-Aqsa TV’s Gaza offices were completely destroyed during the offensive, resulting in a financial loss of approximately six million dollars, and the offices of the weekly newspaper al-Risala were also damaged.

There aren’t any red lines anymore,” Younes said. “Everything might be a target, as long as there is this political cover and as long as [the Israelis] believe that they are immune, above the law, and can do whatever they want without being investigated.”

AFP Gaza office hit by Israeli strike, 3 Palestinian reporters killed in other attacks

One person was killed when Israel struck AFP’s Gaza bureau for the second time in two days. The IDF claimed the media buildings, which included the AFP bureau, were being used by Hamas to direct military operations, and were legitimate targets.

The IDF has targeted Gaza media buildings for three consecutive days as part of Israel’s ongoing ‘Pillar of Defense’ operation. On Tuesday, two Israeli strikes killed three Palestinian journalists. The building housing AFP was hit in another attack later, and no casualties were reported. A Wednesday attack on AFP’s building killed a two-year-old child.

"The child Abdul Rahman Majdi Naeem was martyred and another citizen was wounded in the targeting of the Naama building,"
Health Ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qudra told AFP.

Mahmoud al-Koumi and Husam Salameh, camera operators for local TV station al-Aqsa, were killed in a car marked as a press vehicle near the al-Wihda towers in Gaza. Both journalists were 30 years old and had four children.

Two other al-Aqsa employees were wounded in the first strike. The second attack killed the director of al-Quds Educational Radio, Muhammad Abu Aisha, in his car.

A series of explosions followed by a widespread blackout were also reported near the Al Shorook building in Gaza, which houses several media outlets.

Later on, air strikes targeted two hotels in Gaza where reporters covering the Israeli assault were staying. No deaths were reported, but Press TV correspondent Akram al-Sattari was injured. Hugh Naylor of the National newspaper told Ma'an news agency said the blasts blew out windows in the Deira and Beach hotels.

Following Tuesday’s attacks, the IDF wrote on Twitter that its air forces “surgically targeted a Hamas operations center on the 7th floor of a media building in Gaza,” with a “direct hit confirmed.” The IDF also tweeted a warning to all journalists to stay away from Hamas facilities within Gaza territory, claiming that the group will use them as human shields.

The al-Qassam Brigades wrote back: “Warning to Israelis: Stay away from Israeli #IDF = #IOF, We just targeting Israeli soldiers, fighter jets, tanks and bases."

Israel's minister of incitement

Yishai has urged the IDF to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages, and destroy the enclave's infrastructure.

Haaretz Editorial    Nov.20, 2012       

The public debate on Operation Pillar of Defense has been slightly more restrained than during similar operations in the past, giving the impression that Israeli society has matured and moderated. Interior Minister Eli Yishai is the notorious exception. In the past few days he has missed no opportunity to rant, rave and rile people up.

Yishai has urged the Israel Defense Forces "to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages" and destroy the enclave's infrastructure. Yishai supports a sweeping ground offensive in the Strip.

Of all the ministers, the one whose party represents a dark, medieval culture is inciting us to send Gaza back to those very days. Many of his party's elected officials and voters don't serve in the IDF, yet their leader is exhorting the IDF to get entangled in Gaza, kill and be killed.

Yishai isn't the only one making radical proposals. Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz and other politicians have said unacceptable things. But Yishai is the most prominent - he's a deputy prime minister.

Yishai makes these statements solely to curry favor with his voters. He has always done so, inciting and instigating, sowing hatred and fear against the migrants from Africa, gay people and other minorities. Society should have sent Yishai packing long ago. The prime minister also bears responsibility - he should have reprimanded his deputy. Yishai speaks for the government and the state.

Since 1948 Gaza has been a disaster area. Poverty, population density and misery ruin its residents' lives. Many of them are refugees - add to that the Israeli occupation, the severance from the West Bank and the blockade.

Destroying Gaza's already meager civil infrastructure isn't only inhuman and a war crime, it doesn't do Israel any good. Israel has tried it more than once. It has demolished roads and bridges, destroyed power stations and water supplies and turned the lives of Gaza's 1.5 million people into hell.

As a result, Hamas has only grown stronger, the people's suffering has worsened and with it the hatred for Israel. Israel should seek the complete opposite: Gaza's prosperity. So anyone who wants to "send Gaza back to the Middle Ages" is a despicable politician and a bad adviser.

25 November 2012

15,000 Gaza Demonstration in Pictures - Central London

Despite Ceasefire – Large Demonstration Shows How Israel’s Support has Vanished

It was both a march of anger and a march of triumph.  Despite having no weapons worthy of the name, facing the world's 4th strongest military power, the people of Gaza had triumphed.  Netanyahu, Liebermann and Barak had wanted to level Gaza back to the stone-age.  Gilad Sharon, the corrupt son of the corrupt mass murderer Ariel Sharon (8 years later still on a life support machine!) called for nuclear weapons to be used to level Gaza - in essence a call for Auschwitz methods, an example of the barbarity of today's Zionists - Israel was forced to pull back.  

Slowly but surely, as a result of the Arab Spring, Israel is finding that it can't do everything it wants.  As the balance of power in the region changes, Zionism and its bastard fruit is found wanting.

Israel wants to be the regional gendarme, but it is unable to prevent the deep social changes arising from below.