Monday, December 29, 2008

Echoes of Lebanon in Gaza

Echoes of Lebanon can be heard in Gaza as Israel carries out its massive military campaign against the civilian population in Gaza. As in Lebanon, the Israelis are using their overwhelming military might and causing large numbers of civilian casualties including Palestinian women and children. As in Lebanon, the United States is justifying the Israeli brutality as self-defense against crude rocket attacks by Hamas militants. The Israeli goal is to "send Gaza decades into the past" and cause the "maximum number of enemy casualties" in the words of Israeli General Yoav Galant. By "enemy" the General clearly means "Palestinian" as the evidence and news reports overwhelmingly suggest.

As in Lebanon, the Western media has chosen to echo the Israeli position. Marc J. Sirois, the managing editor of the Daily Star describes Western media coverage of Gaza in the following words: "Even before the attacks began on Saturday, most Western media outlets - those with the widest reach and therefore the greatest influence - were already parroting the rote Israeli line that whatever happened would be "in retaliation" for rocket fire from the enclave. They helpfully reminded us, too, that it was Hamas - the party that rules Gaza - which "ended" a six-month cease-fire."

Writing for the LRB (London Review of Books), Sara Roy summed up the events leading up to Israel's latest atrocities in Gaza as follows:

"Israel's siege of Gaza began on 5 November, the day after an Israeli attack inside the strip, no doubt designed finally to undermine the truce between Israel and Hamas established last June. Although both sides had violated the agreement before, this incursion was on a different scale. Hamas responded by firing rockets into Israel and the violence has not abated since then. Israel's siege has two fundamental goals. One is to ensure that the Palestinians there are seen merely as a humanitarian problem, beggars who have no political identity and therefore can have no political claims. The second is to foist Gaza onto Egypt. That is why the Israelis tolerate the hundreds of tunnels between Gaza and Egypt around which an informal but increasingly regulated commercial sector has begun to form. The overwhelming majority of Gazans are impoverished and officially 49.1 per cent are unemployed. In fact the prospect of steady employment is rapidly disappearing for the majority of the population."

"On 5 November the Israeli government sealed all the ways into and out of Gaza. Food, medicine, fuel, parts for water and sanitation systems, fertiliser, plastic sheeting, phones, paper, glue, shoes and even teacups are no longer getting through in sufficient quantities or at all. According to Oxfam only 137 trucks of food were allowed into Gaza in November. This means that an average of 4.6 trucks per day entered the strip compared to an average of 123 in October this year and 564 in December 2005. The two main food providers in Gaza are the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the World Food Program (WFP). UNRWA alone feeds approximately 750,000 people in Gaza, and requires 15 trucks of food daily to do so. Between 5 November and 30 November, only 23 trucks arrived, around 6 per cent of the total needed; during the week of 30 November it received 12 trucks, or 11 per cent of what was required. There were three days in November when UNRWA ran out of food, with the result that on each of these days 20,000 people were unable to receive their scheduled supply. According to John Ging, the director of UNRWA in Gaza, most of the people who get food aid are entirely dependent on it. On 18 December UNRWA suspended all food distribution for both emergency and regular programs because of the blockade."

What does Israel hope to achieve with its vicious campaign in Gaza? Here's what Jennifer Lowenstein believes as Israel's end-game:

"Major General Yoav Galant of the Israeli Southern Command declared Saturday that an attack on the Hamas regime must 'send Gaza decades into the past' militarily and must cause the "maximum number of enemy casualties" (Haaretz, 12/28/08; by Uri Blau, By "enemy" he means "Palestinian" as the evidence overwhelmingly shows; and if Galant is to be taken seriously according to his own perceptions of the "enemy" and of the time frame within which an operation of this sort is possible, we have reached a milestone in the history of the Palestinian National Movement and in the life of Gaza that bodes ill for the dream of Palestine while sharpening the regional fault lines that have crystallized beneath the Rafah sands."

My own assessment is that the Israelis are counting on the tacit support of PLO's Mahmoud Abbas and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak in their efforts to decimate Hamas. But as the Israelis pursue this goal of destroying Hamas and to strengthen Abbas's hand as Israel's partner in Gaza or pave the way for Egyptian control of Gaza, the Israeli brutality will likely backfire, just as it did in Lebanon. As the death toll mounts in Gaza, Hamas's stature will rise as the staunch defender of Palestinian and Arab rights while Abbas, Mubarak and others opposed to Hamas will be marginalized and isolated by the Palestinians and the Arabs at large. The international repercussions of the Gaza catastrophe, like the Nakbah in 1948, will go far beyond the Middle East with major adverse impact on US and NATO efforts in other parts of the world such as Afghanistan, Iraq, South Asia, Somalia and Indonesia where there are ongoing conflicts. Those opposed to the United States will have an easier time recruiting committed fighters for their causes to wage war against the West and complicate Barack Obama's efforts aimed at improving America's battered image abroad. Obama's conspicuous silence on Gaza shows his reluctance to take on the growing power of the Israeli lobby in the United States. It is clear that the extraordinary power of lobbies such as the Israel lobby will severely limit Obama's policy options domestically and around the world.

Here's a video clip of Zbignew Brazinski on Gaza situation:

Related Links:

Jewish Power Grows in US Congress

The Nakbah

Can India "Do a Lebanon" in Pakistan?

Marching Toward Hell

Obama's Historic Win

Are Jews Culprits of Collapse on Wall Street?


Jadev,India said...

Hurling rockets at civilians and hoping international community will support them is really asking for too much. Israel is hitting at hard targets with precision guided "small diameter bombs", which is an expensive option. They could have easily used 2000-pound JDAMS to do the job. What Hamas is doing is firing rockets at soft targets.I always come across an absolute absurd argument that those rockets only "kill few people". So the implication is that they would luv to have seen more of those infidels dead.Arab world must understand Israel will "never again" be "sheeps to slaughter". Again Israel's new shock and awe doctrine takes into account that much of Lebanese and Gazans are complicit to atrocities against Jewish state. The unbelievable amount of restraint shown in 2006 conflict like airdropping "warning" pamphlets to alerts civilians(when Hezbollah hid rocket caches in hospital basements) and other kid-glove approach resulted in its failing to attain its strategic goals. The ferocity of Gaza air strikes show that Israel will not take more of BS and have switched to high gears.

Abdi said...

What MR Jadev is saying clearly indicates what values he have for the human beings not to mention muslims. For him slaying of few hundred thousand muslims is the rightful duty that his love regime in Israel is doing right now.
I guess he belongs to the clan of individuals who think it is right to wipe out all the communities less the brahimans including the dillits.
With such kind of individuals in India the elusive slogan of "shining india" just means kill them all while indulging the world in their bolly wood charm and pack of lies.

jadev,india said...

"slaying of few 100,000 muslims".. I believe is an out of context over-simplification and gross exaggeration.Hamas is a terrorist organization by any measure. Like a pak minister recently said(about terrorism) we judge by action(terror) not causes(freedom struggle?). Why there was no condemnation from Arab world when Hamas is firing rockets coz of which millions of Israeli civilians have to hide their productive time in bomb shelters and kids cannot go to school. . Hamas is a destructive org which stockpile all the GRADs and Katushyas in ceasefire opportunities and firing those from congested areas in war times.What do u reasonably expect Israel to do when Hamas rescinded cease fire and launch rockets. You people hate Israel more than ur crocodile tears for Palestinians.Al-Jazeera and others always show Palestinians living in poor conditions, so why oil-rich Arab world wasting billions on building ridiculously weird buildings in Dubai..part with couple of millions for raising their std of living if u really care for them. Instead, Iran-Syria etc sends missiles and guns, so that bloodshed continues.It is always seen that Palestinians fire the first bullet and Israel fires that last.Mr Abdi keep ur selective morality to urself. No thank u.

Anonymous said...

There are parallels to other colonizations. French were brutal in suppressing Algerian but ultimately failed. Africa is another example. Same thing will happen here eventually.

It is also always amusing to see Indian extremists wanting to imitate Israel not realizing a lot Israel hype is an expression of ethnic pride among media personals with Jewish background.

Riaz Haq said...

Robert Fisk of Independent says "The Rotten State of Egypt is too Powerless and Corrupt to Act"

January 04, 2009 "The Independent" -- There was a day when we worried about the "Arab masses" – the millions of "ordinary" Arabs on the streets of Cairo, Kuwait, Amman, Beirut – and their reaction to the constant bloodbaths in the Middle East. Could Anwar Sadat restrain the anger of his people? And now – after three decades of Hosni Mubarak – can Mubarak (or "La Vache Qui Rit", as he is still called in Cairo) restrain the anger of his people? The answer, of course, is that Egyptians and Kuwaitis and Jordanians will be allowed to shout in the streets of their capitals – but then they will be shut down, with the help of the tens of thousands of secret policemen and government militiamen who serve the princes and kings and elderly rulers of the Arab world.

Egyptians demand that Mubarak open the Rafah crossing-point into Gaza, break off diplomatic relations with Israel, even send weapons to Hamas. And there is a kind of perverse beauty in listening to the response of the Egyptian government: why not complain about the three gates which the Israelis refuse to open? And anyway, the Rafah crossing-point is politically controlled by the four powers that produced the "road map" for peace, including Britain and the US. Why blame Mubarak?

To admit that Egypt can't even open its sovereign border without permission from Washington tells you all you need to know about the powerlessness of the satraps that run the Middle East for us.

Open the Rafah gate – or break off relations with Israel – and Egypt's economic foundations crumble. Any Arab leader who took that kind of step will find that the West's economic and military support is withdrawn. Without subventions, Egypt is bankrupt. Of course, it works both ways. Individual Arab leaders are no longer going to make emotional gestures for anyone. When Sadat flew to Jerusalem – "I am tired of the dwarves," he said of his fellow Arab leaders – he paid the price with his own blood at the Cairo reviewing-stand where one of his own soldiers called him a "Pharaoh" before shooting him dead.

The true disgrace of Egypt, however, is not in its response to the slaughter in Gaza. It is the corruption that has become embedded in an Egyptian society where the idea of service – health, education, genuine security for ordinary people – has simply ceased to exist. It's a land where the first duty of the police is to protect the regime, where protesters are beaten up by the security police, where young women objecting to Mubarak's endless regime – likely to be passed on caliph-like to his son Gamal, whatever we may be told – are sexually molested by plain-clothes agents, where prisoners in the Tora-Tora complex are forced to rape each other by their guards.

There has developed in Egypt a kind of religious facade in which the meaning of Islam has become effaced by its physical representation. Egyptian civil "servants" and government officials are often scrupulous in their religious observances – yet they tolerate and connive in rigged elections, violations of the law and prison torture. A young American doctor described to me recently how in a Cairo hospital busy doctors merely blocked doors with plastic chairs to prevent access to patients. In November, the Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry al-Youm reported how doctors abandoned their patients to attend prayers during Ramadan.

And amid all this, Egyptians have to live amid daily slaughter by their own shabby infrastructure. Alaa al-Aswani wrote eloquently in the Cairo paper Al-Dastour that the regime's "martyrs" outnumber all the dead of Egypt's wars against Israel – victims of railway accidents, ferry sinkings, the collapse of city buildings, sickness, cancers and pesticide poisonings – all victims, as Aswani says, "of the corruption and abuse of power". Opening the Rafah border-crossing for wounded Palestinians – the Palestinian medical staff being pushed back into their Gaza prison once the bloodied survivors of air raids have been dumped on Egyptian territory – is not going to change the midden in which Egyptians themselves live.

Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, the Hizbollah secretary general in Lebanon, felt able to call on Egyptians to "rise in their millions" to open the border with Gaza, but they will not do so. Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the feeble Egyptian Foreign Minister, could only taunt the Hizbollah leaders by accusing them of trying to provoke "an anarchy similar to the one they created in their own country."

But he is well-protected. So is President Mubarak.

Egypt's malaise is in many ways as dark as that of the Palestinians. Its impotence in the face of Gaza's suffering is a symbol of its own political sickness.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some interesting excerpts from a piece by Anjum Niaz in Pakistan's Daily Dawn today:

‘If I were a Pakistani, I would worry… there are frightening times ahead,’ Seymour Hersh warned. ‘You guys are next after Iran,’ he told me when I asked about American designs on our nukes. ‘Your nuclear programme is the target.’ Well wired with intelligence sources, not just in the American CIA, but the Mossad in Israel, RAW in India and the ISI in Pakistan; the Pulitzer Prize winner operates via sources crawling around these intelligence agencies who have over the years gladly handed him classified information.

‘If Musharraf was to go down south (exit),’ Hersh said four years ago, ‘there’ll be a traffic jam! There’ll be the CIA, Mossad and RAW jumping in to grab your nuclear facilities. It will be a free-for-all. The ISI and the Pakhtoons are terribly concerned.’ Earlier, he alleged in a November 2001 New Yorker article that Al Qaida was founded at a 1988 meeting in Peshawar. He quoted a former Pakistani diplomat who said, ‘If you go through the officers’ list, almost all of the ISI regulars would say of the Taliban, ‘They are my boys.’’

I pressed on with my questions on Pakistan’s security issues vis-à-vis Iran and India. How would a nearly nuclear armed Iran react if India and Pakistan were to go to war? In his typical New York accent, he answered, ‘Iran is not making nuclear weapons. It’s Israel you should be worrying about. With 600 nukes bristling under its arm, Tel Aviv is the greatest threat to the regional security. Other than Pakistan, there’s no Muslim country with a bomb.’

Castigating the New York Times, Hersh continued, ‘I throw a challenge to the Times to do a critical piece on Israel’s foreign policy and how it influences America. We must separate ourselves from Israeli interests and stop Israel from confusing the issue.’

Except for two walkouts, the rest of the audience, a 1000-strong, clap and cheer when he speaks of Israeli lobbyists infiltrating the power corridors in America to successfully mind-control policy-makers.

‘Hezbollah is not a terrorist organisation nor is it threatening our security one iota! Why then are the NYT and Washington Post pursuing the Israeli storyline? Israeli agents have infiltrated the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) in Vienna. ‘Muslims are not terrorists, as Israel alleges.’

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from an interesting commentary by Juan Cole on the Khost suicide bombing:

"Although Pakistani troops fighting in South Waziristan had found Arab passports and other effects suggesting a small presence of Arab fighters with the TTP, al-Balawi had clearly joined the movement and given it his allegiance. It seems to me an alarming development, as the Aljazeera anchor also noted, that Arab jihadi volunteers might now be enlisting under the banner of the Pakistani Taliban rather than, as in the past, al-Qaeda or one of the Afghan insurgent groups. The Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan is only about 7 years old, there never having been Pakistani Taliban until the early 21st century--it was a phenomenon of the Soviet ethnic cleansing of Afghans, which forced 3 million into refugee camps in Pakistan, where many became radicalized. (And were encouraged in that direction by the Reagan administration).

Many intelligence specialists had insisted that the Khost bombing was the work of the Haqqani Network in North Waziristan. But I read al-Balawi's emotionalism about the Mahsuds as a clear indication that he was working for them rather than for the Haqqanis. He must have repeated seven or eight times that Baitullah Mahsud would be avenged. The militant founder of the TTTP was killed by a US drone strike in South Waziristan in August."

"Al-Balawi's sad biography in fact ties together the whole history of Western, including Israeli, attacks on the Middle East. Al-Balawi's family is Palestinians displaced from Beersheba by Zionist immigrants into British Mandate Palestine, who in 1948 ethnically cleansed about 700,000 Palestinians from what became Israel. Most Palestinians in Jordan are bitter about the loss of their homes, for which they never received compensation, and some still live in refugee camps. The British Empire and the United States supported this displacement of the Palestinians and to this day the US government often attempts to criminalize even charitable aid to the suffering Palestinian people."

"The Arabic press is confirming that al-Balawi was further enraged by the Israeli war on poor little Gaza last winter. A physician, he volunteered to be part of a group that intended to go to Gaza to do relief work for the victims of Israel's brutal targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure. (The Israelis were trying to destroy the fundamentalist Hamas party, which rules Gaza, and gave as their pretext the occasional rockets Hamas fired into Israel, though in fact there had been a truce for much of 2008, a truce of which the Israelis coldly took advantage to plan their war.)

The Jordanian secret police arrested al-Balawi to prevent him from going to Gaza. It may be that he had to agree to work for it as a quid pro quo to regain his freedom."

Riaz Haq said...

Israelis claim the right to defend themselves against Palestinian attacks. But Prof Noam Chomsky, as quoted by Occupy New Hampshire, disagrees and says as follows:

"When Israelis in the occupied territories claim 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 are militarily occupying someone else's land. That's not defense. Call it what you like, it's not defense."

Riaz Haq said...

How Israel Helped to Spawn Hamas

Surveying the wreckage of a neighbor's bungalow hit by a Palestinian rocket, retired Israeli official Avner Cohen traces the missile's trajectory back to an "enormous, stupid mistake" made 30 years ago.

"Hamas, to my great regret, is Israel's creation," says Mr. Cohen, a Tunisian-born Jew who worked in Gaza for more than two decades. Responsible for religious affairs in the region until 1994, Mr. Cohen watched the Islamist movement take shape, muscle aside secular Palestinian rivals and then morph into what is today Hamas, a militant group that is sworn to Israel's destruction.

Instead of trying to curb Gaza's Islamists from the outset, says Mr. Cohen, Israel for years tolerated and, in some cases, encouraged them as a counterweight to the secular nationalists of the Palestine Liberation Organization and its dominant faction, Yasser Arafat's Fatah. Israel cooperated with a crippled, half-blind cleric named Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, even as he was laying the foundations for what would become Hamas. Sheikh Yassin continues to inspire militants today; during the recent war in Gaza, Hamas fighters confronted Israeli troops with "Yassins," primitive rocket-propelled grenades named in honor of the cleric.

Last Saturday, after 22 days of war, Israel announced a halt to the offensive. The assault was aimed at stopping Hamas rockets from falling on Israel. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert hailed a "determined and successful military operation." More than 1,200 Palestinians had died. Thirteen Israelis were also killed.

Hamas responded the next day by lobbing five rockets towards the Israeli town of Sderot, a few miles down the road from Moshav Tekuma, the farming village where Mr. Cohen lives. Hamas then announced its own cease-fire.

Since then, Hamas leaders have emerged from hiding and reasserted their control over Gaza. Egyptian-mediated talks aimed at a more durable truce are expected to start this weekend. President Barack Obama said this week that lasting calm "requires more than a long cease-fire" and depends on Israel and a future Palestinian state "living side by side in peace and security."

A look at Israel's decades-long dealings with Palestinian radicals -- including some little-known attempts to cooperate with the Islamists -- reveals a catalog of unintended and often perilous consequences. Time and again, Israel's efforts to find a pliant Palestinian partner that is both credible with Palestinians and willing to eschew violence, have backfired. Would-be partners have turned into foes or lost the support of their people.

Israel's experience echoes that of the U.S., which, during the Cold War, looked to Islamists as a useful ally against communism. Anti-Soviet forces backed by America after Moscow's 1979 invasion of Afghanistan later mutated into al Qaeda.