Forced to Admit…

February 23, 2009


“The Obama administration should immediately suspend U.S. military aid to Israel,” Smart said.Much of the key equipment used by the IDF in the Gaza bombing campaign is produced in the United States, including the F-16 fighter and Apache AH-64 helicopter.

Many of the controversial weapons used in the campaign, such as white phosphorus shells and flechettes, also originate in the United States.


Even after the start of the current conflict and reports of serious violations of international humanitarian law by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in Gaza, U.S. authorities continued to authorize large shipments of U.S. munitions, including white phosphorus munitions, to Israel. 

Amnesty International researchers found fragments and components from munitions used by the Israeli Army — many U.S.-made — littering school playgrounds, in hospitals and in people’s homes. They included artillery and tank shells, mortar fins and remnants from Hellfire and other airborne missiles, large F-16 delivered bombs, and still-smoldering, highly incendiary white phosphorus remains.


According to Article 16 of the International Law Commission’s Articles on Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts, “A State which aids or assists another State in the commission of an internationally wrongful act by the latter is internationally responsible for doing so if: (a) that State does so with knowledge of the circumstances of the internationally wrongful act; and (b) the act would be internationally wrongful if committed by that State.”



Medea Benjamin, in this article for AlterNet, tells us that “Compassion, the greatest virtue in all major religions, is the basic human emotion prompted by the suffering of others, and it triggers a desire to alleviate that suffering.” After seeing the photo that accompanies this essay, after remembering the voices of the many, many apathetic, misguided or ideologically subservient members of the American Congress, the Israeli news network and our own president, I am not quite so sure. 

Visiting Gaza filled me with unbearable sadness. Unlike the primitive weapons of Hamas, the Israelis had so many sophisticated ways to murder, maim and destroy-unmanned drones, F-16s dropping “smart bombs” that miss, Apache helicopters launching missiles, tanks firing from the ground, ships shelling Gaza from the sea. So many horrific weapons stamped with Made in the USA. 



The line, “Who could describe, even in words set free? ” is from Dante’s The Inferno.

The Novelist in Wartime

February 21, 2009

(Thanks Najla!)

What is the meaning of this metaphor? In some cases, it is all too simple and clear. Bombers and tanks and rockets and white phosphorus shells are that high, solid wall. The eggs are the unarmed civilians who are crushed and burned and shot by them.

This is not all, though. It carries a deeper meaning. Think of it this way. Each of us is, more or less, an egg. Each of us is a unique, irreplaceable soul enclosed in a fragile shell. This is true of me, and it is true of each of you. And each of us, to a greater or lesser degree, is confronting a high, solid wall. The wall has a name: it is “the System.” The System is supposed to protect us, but sometimes it takes on a life of its own, and then it begins to kill us and cause us to kill others — coldly, efficiently, systematically.


Go Haruki Murakami!!

Why Palestine?

February 18, 2009

I watched this link today.
“Israel is the last Western, settler, colonial project in the world… there is a moral problem here, an inadmisibility of the racist, exclusive ideology which Israel refuses to acknowledge.” This is from Ali Abunimah, author of One State: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli Palestinian Impasse

“Silence is complicity… non-Jewish Americans who are afraid to speak out for fear of being labelled anti-Semitic.” 

Questioning Israeli’s “special status” and right to self defense.

The fourth panelist was the Hampshire leader of Students for Justice in Palestine. On February 7th, Hampshire became the first college campus in the US to completely divest from Israel and other arms manufacturing companies. They were also the first to divest from apartheid South Africa in 1977. As a former college student, studying anti-colonialism, I identified with his statement about taking what one has learned in the classroom and then looking out into the “real world” to see Gaza as an occupied place.  “You can’t remain neutral on a moving train.” -Howard Zinn (or when your university is invested in military, arms and technology companies.) 

“These students have done a courageous thing… something that none of our politicians have been willing to do… a battle they have won… for peace and justice.” -Ali Abunimah “As scholars, activists, citizens, students, we are required to take a stance on this.”

“Resistance to Israel is also resistance to US hegemony in the region.” He makes the point that Barack Obama will not make significant foreign policy gains as long as he remains “silent or worse than silent… continues to endorse Israeli massacres.” 

Some American activists pointed out “a peversely two-tiered system…” within Israel. Israelis “did not deny the apartheid or the second-class citizenship but they justified it.” 

“Jews have to speak up for justice… that there is not this blind support for Israel… to make Israel accountable and to make the US accountable… no more blank cheques.” “I can understand in 1945… but by now, people should have learned better… that land was not empty… one of those myths of history that created so much damage.”



“People are afraid to live normal lives, to express their opinions freely,” Alami said. “There is no freedom of speech, of movement, of travelling or having real healthcare. Hamas is raising George Bush’s policy: those not with us are against us.”

“Politicians and the media think that there is a simple division between Gaza and the West Bank, between Hamas and Fatah … The majority of the Palestinian people today are with none of them.”


Rami Khouri’s editiorial in the METimes today: 

This is a core dilemma for Israel as a whole: The more they rely on military force to kill and control Palestinians and other Arabs, the greater resistance they elicit from the Arabs, and the less secure all Israelis feel. Israelis broadly remain blind to the need to find true peace and security by coming to terms with Palestinian nationalism, and addressing their share of the blame for the dismemberment of Palestinian society and the birth of the refugee problem in 1947-48.



The CBS 60 Minutes special on Exposing Israeli Apartheid is available here:

The most striking image in this video, according to my neighbor, is the settler women clutching a fistful of dirt and declaring, “this is God’s land, we will fight until the day we die to live here and to build here.” She said she would fight even if the government of Israel came to evict her. Settlements are the leading thorn in the side of the current peace process. It seems like Israel has no choice because dismantling them would lead to a violent civil war. What to do? 

Notes and Sources

February 6, 2009

Here is the classic article on the planning behind Israel’s Operation Cast Lead:

The minister added: “Everyone fully understood what sort of period we were heading into and what sort of scenarios this could lead to. No one could say that he or she did not know what they were voting on.” 

While Barak was working out the final details with the officers responsible for the operation, Livni went to Cairo to inform Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, that Israel had decided to strike at Hamas. 

In parallel, Israel continued to send out disinformation in announcing it would open the crossings to the Gaza Strip and that Olmert would decide whether to launch the strike following three more deliberations on Sunday – one day after the actual order to launch the operation was issued. 



Laila’s heart-breaking article:

With Israel’s draconian blockade of Gaza, imposed as punishment for the election of Hamas and backed by the US and Europe, my grandfather’s life was transformed yet again… Bakeries now had to resort to baking bread with animal feed and sewage treatment plants were crippled as fuel ran out, forcing the water authority to dump millions of liters of waste into the Mediterranean Sea… Israel’s blockade caused a slow starvation of the entire population, as malnutrition rates spiked upwards of 75 percent among the strip’s 1.5 million residents. As in most siege situations, children suffered the most from hunger and disease.

I asked my mother why my grandfather did not leave Gaza while its gates were still open… “Because that’s where he feels he belongs,” she said. “He was always homesick before. Gaza is where his parents were buried. It’s where he wants to die.”


A New Approach Towards Gaza

February 6, 2009

Laurel Harig

January 2009


A New Approach Towards Gaza


I was in Beirut during the recent Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip. I was participating in a program of cross-cultural dialogue between American and European students and Lebanese and European politicians, journalists and lawmakers. We expected to cover a broad range of issues, from regional human rights to local areas of concern. Instead, we spent our afternoons and evenings with eyes glued to the television, in horror and shock at what was happening, again. The situation in Gaza, the war against Gaza, dominated many of our discussions. Most of them ended with a frustrated lament of, if only the US would end its unconditional support for Israel, if only the US would stop using its Security Council veto to stop international efforts to check Israel’s arrogant policies. In Beirut, mobs of protestors demonstrated outside the US Embassy in Awkar. In the Arab world, anger does not rise for no reason. Rather, it has been the ongoing marginalization, terrorizing and finally, slaughter of the Palestinian people that has given fervor to anti-American sentiment around the world. 

Jon Stewart is a genius in his January 5th 2009 episode of The Daily Show, available online. He has exposed the relentless bias towards Israel in American punditry. Gazans are “emotionally disturbed” according to Mayor Bloomberg, for no other reason than an inborn hatred of American values. No other explanation, specifically, no other explanation that will humanize the Palestinian people is allowed to make it past the media filter. The human cost of Gaza has been completely ignored in the United States. Women standing in the rubble of their kitchens, relatives crying as they learn that their uncles, cousins, wives, children will never again laugh with them or eat are mentally lumped together with “insane” bearded militants with Qurans and Kalshnikovs in their hands.

Our media controls what we see and what we think. Most people parrot what they hear on the news. Our sad irony is something that we cannot export. The human cost of war has not diminished the resistance even as it has burdened their hearts. A heart in pain does not stop crying for justice, in fact, it cries louder with anguished screams. Behind that, a deep reserve of cynicism makes the kind of dialogue which Barack Obama calls for a more distant possibility. You can wake up from a dream but not from reality. This is the sad irony of Gaza. Perhaps our physical distance from the Middle East allows us to compartmentalize these things. On the other hand, America, no it doesn’t. 

So, in all seriousness, could we call Israel’s recent invasion of Gaza as a bizarre exercise of its “sound and fury” without a plan and without the need to explain to the world what was happening!? This lack of accountability is the most troubling part. International law presumes the willingness of all nations to give up some of their autonomy for the common welfare and security of all. We are not living in two separate realities! One blood-stained and the other sanitized, one liberal and the other inhuman and unrecognizeable. The problem is not that we see the face of the Other in violence and bloodshed, the problem is that we see our own face. 

The moment now, in Gaza, is a terrific (and terrifying) opportunity to repair relations with the Muslim world. The US, despite being allied with Israel, could step in to deliver humanitarian aid, build schools, start after-school lunch programs, rebuild houses and provide healthcare. By doing this, they would strengthen the democratically elected government of Hamas, but isn’t it far better to have one central authority with whom you can negotiate (terrorist or no) than a mob of disaffected angry traumatized youth who keep firing rockets from random points? Do not overestimate the authority of Hamas, which is widely known in the Arab world to be ineffective, weak and challenged by Fatah. If there cannot be one government in Palestine then I have no other solution. Why do we not demand from our government that it live up to the ideals of freedom and democracy that have been maimed by being used as justifications for war? 

The solution is simple, if implausible as conditions currently exist. Israel must acknowledge and commit publicly to its Arab and Semitic heritage. Imagine an Israel with two official languages, Hebrew and Arabic. Instead of clinging to a mythologized European racial status, Israel needs the humility and the true strength to reach out to a people it has alienated for the past 60 years. With the Palestinians and with its neighbors, Israel could become a regional force for leadership on economic, environmental and social issues. Unfortuntely, this ideal seems as far away from reality today as the earth from the moon. Tzipi Livni’s recent statement calling for the “transfer” of all Israeli Arabs out of Israel into Lebanon or Jordan is haunting and haunted by the memory of the Holocaust that informs most or perhaps all of the modern Israeli state’s policy toward its neighbors. 

Hamas has emerged from this most recent attempt to decimate it almost completely unscathed. Hospitals, roads, factories, schools, government buildings are in ruins. It seems, strangely, that a war meant to stop the production and launch of missiles from Gaza into Israel has instead completely crippled its civil society. This begs the question, is this what Israel intended all along? A military strategy without a military goal, the Israeli excursion into Gaza was perhaps intended to cripple the government of Palestine and drive a wedge between the already isolated West Bank and Gaza Strip. It seems the old colonial strategy of “divide and conquer,” still rules today. What can we do? 

Peace is not inaction or lack of conviction. It is crossing one option off the list and going to battle with every other option; diplomacy, sanctions, creative thinking and cross-cultural dialogue. They are by far the harder options because they require us to examine our own predjudices and engage in the art of compromise. In this case, however, before we can talk about a peace process, we must talk about a justice process. Israel must stand trial for war crimes in Gaza, including the illegal use of white phosphorus, lack of respect for the dead and indiscriminate slaughter of civilians in a densely populated area. The complex history of the region will not have it any other way. 

As Americans, we cannot just fold our hands and think that electing Obama has cleared us of the responsibility to be engaged citizens. We must do so much more than we have been doing. Obama was elected as a result of a huge grassroots effort, one that hoped and dreamed and created a leader in its own image. This is democracy, this is the power of people. Whether or not Israel and Hamas, as the current balances of power lay and after the upcoming elections, are willing or able to compromise on a situation that has so recently caused so much bloodshed remains to be seen. Americans, however, have their work cut out for them.