November 30, 2012

Timely exposé of bogus allegations of antisemitism

Here's a good long post from Antony Lerman titled Another faulty, pseudo-academic antisemitism initiative:

It was inevitable. Another Gaza offensive by Israel begins, ostensibly to stop Hamas from firing rockets into southern Israel, and within a couple of days accusations of antisemitism were flying around.
Two particularly caught my attention. The first was the claim that Steve Bell, in his Guardiancartoon of 15 November, was ‘get[ting] away with using antisemitic imagery and tropes‘ because it showed Tony Blair and William Hague as puppets of Bibi Netanyahu.
The second was in a tweet about a letter to the Guardian from emeritus professor Leslie Baruch Brent who condemned the ‘disporportionate response of the Israeli government to the Hamas rocket attacks’ and concluded ‘Has the world learned nothing since Guernica?’ The text of the tweet read: ‘Hard to take @guardian opposition to #antisemitism seriously when they publish letter comparing #Israel to Nazis.’
I was especially interested in these accusations because the first was by Mark Gardner, the communications director of the Community Security Trust (CST), the private charity that acts as the defence organization of the UK Jewish community, and the second by Dave Rich, his deputy.
One of the things that is most worrying about what I believe were these false imputations of antisemitism (and I will explain my reasoning for this conclusion in my next blogpost) is that they come not simply from individuals expressing their own views, but from officials of a very influential, major registered charity, writing in their capacity as officials of that organization. The view of the Community Security Trust is seen as, and is intended to be seen as, the view of the organized UK Jewish community. And yet that wider community has no means of calling the CST to account and therefore has to suffer the consequences of its officials’ doubtful and often damaging politically-motivated interventions in public debate.
The whole thing is worth a read and is particularly timely given that yesterday (29/11/2012) saw the publication of the Community Security Trust's "Antisemitic Discourse Report 2011".  I don't know why it took so long to produce a report relating to 2011 and I might not bother reading it yet but a flavour is given by Ha'aretz:

Explicit anti-Semitism is rare in British public life, Britain's Community Security Trust said in a report on anti-Semitic discourse in Britain in 2011.
The 35-page report issued Thursday also reported that anti-Semitic themes alleging Jewish conspiracy, power and hostility to others can resonate within mainstream discourse about Israel and about so-called "Zionists."
Explicit anti-Semitism tends to occur within circles that are also racist or hateful toward other groups, according to the report.
In addition, fears that economic troubles in 2011 would spark anti-Semitism in Britain proved largely unfounded, but the trend to blame "Zionism" for anti-Muslim hatred intensified. This manifested itself, for example, in allegations that Zionism inspired Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik.
The British daily newspaper The Guardian reinforced its reputation as being the most subjective and contentious mainstream newspaper on issues of anti-Semitism in the context of Israel and Zionism, according to the report, despite the paper also warning against anti-Semitism in editorials.

The report also found that fears and concerns about anti-Semitism expressed by mainstream Jewish communities and bodies are routinely ignored, or even maliciously misrepresented, within what are known as progressive circles, including some media, trade unions and churches. Few other minority representative groups, if any, are treated with such reflexive suspicion and ill will, according to the report.
Ah, I think I see why it took so long. It's hard to find genuine instances of antisemitism so a little added breadth to the definition is required and then you can accuse "new antisemitism" sceptics of antisemitism too. Very clever.

UPDATE: See Antony Lerman's note at the foot of his post as follows:
This post was amended on Friday at 13:51 to make it clear that the Tweet by Dave Rich of the CST referred to in the 5th paragraph was wrongly described as being sent expressing the official view of the CST. It was from Dave Rich’s private Twitter account, which makes clear that his tweets are his personal views only. Apologies to Dave for this error.

Stevie Wonder pulls out of zionist gig in LA

Given his anti-racist credentials he shouldn't have been pulled in in the first place but it is good news that Stevie Wonder will not now be entertaining the Friends of the Israel "Defence" Force (FIDF).  Here's the Jewish Chronicle:

Stevie Wonder has bowed to political pressure and pulled out of a fundraising concert in Los Angeles in support of the Israeli Defence Forces.
The soul singer was due to perform at the annual Friends of the Israel Defense Forces dinner next Thursday, but his involvement with the group made him a target for supporters of a cultural boycott of Israel. A petition on the website called on him not to sing because the IDF was "an institution which promotes, enables, and protects Israel's Apartheid regime".
"We call on Stevie Wonder, as a conscientious American advocate for human rights and dignity not to support the Israeli Defense Force by performing at their gala fundraiser," wrote the petition organiser. Mr Wonder serves as a UN messenger of peace.
The director of FIDF expressed regret at Mr Wonder's decision to "cancel his performance at an important community event of the FIDF, an American organisation supporting the educational, cultural, and wellbeing needs of Israel's soldiers, their families, and the families of fallen soldiers.
Maj Gen Yitzhak Gershon added: "FIDF is a non-political organisation that provides much-needed humanitarian support regardless of religion, political affiliation, or military activity."
Yeah right.

 The question still has to be asked, are these people who agree to appear for or in Israel ignorant of its racist nature? I don't want to minimise the importance of these victories but anti-racists should be saying no to Israel from the word go, not simply after pressure is brought to bear.

November 29, 2012

Muhammed al Durrah remembered

I just tracked a hit from the Media Lens message board.  See this:
Further, and worse that Harold Pinter's "It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it, it wasn't happening. It didn't matter", is the Zionist Apologists tactic of inverting every Israeli crime; they would have us now believe that it was Hamas that killed the BBC cameraman's baby boy. A piece titled "Who Killed Jihad Masharawi’s Son, Omar?" was posted on the Islamophobic/Zionist Site "Harry's Place", but as the Site seems to be down, there a report on it here; 

This is exactly the same muddying, casting doubts & deflection tactics, that were used in the aftermath of the killing of another Palestinian boy, Muhammad_al-Durrah; 

Chutzpah indeed, derived from blood-soaked guilt in denial.
Here's a set of photos showing Muhammed al Durrah's last moments of life while he was being killed by the Israeli army while his father pleaded with them not to kill him:


And here's a shot from Jihad Masharawi's last moments with his son who was killed by the Israeli army:

According to Gert in the comments to my earlier post on Harry's Place trying to blame Hamas for the killing of the eleven month old, their source, Elder of Ziyon, is a West Bank settler. Just the kind of source you'd expect the so-called two states solution advocates at HP to run with.

At the time of writing the Harry's Place site is still down.  According to the twittersphere it's a distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack.  I think Harry's Place sinks so low so often it's better to have people see what they post and the kind of comments their followers submit.  But, hey, that's just me.

Anyway, many thanks to Poster 123 at Media Lens for showing that the killing of a child and the state of denial of the killing of that child doesn't represent some new low for Israel and its supporters.  They're always morally in the gutter.

Finkelstein on Israel's recent defeat by Hamas and the Arab Spring

Many of us have felt let down by Norman Finkelstein recently what with his statements about BDS which didn't quite tally with the reality but he does seem to hit the spot with this piece on the New Left Project website titled Israel’s Latest Assault on Gaza - What Really Happened:

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 man's obviously a tormented moody genius.

World Social Forum Free Palestine

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Sign Petition today/Thursday November 29 to show support for WSF Free Palestine


Dear Supporters of the World Social Forum Free Palestine,

We ask for you to sign onto the following petition as organizations and individuals in order to support the World Social Forum Free Palestine which has been facing pressure from Zionist groups in Brazil, South America and beyond.

Click this link to sign the petition:

We want as many signatures as possible by Thursday, November 29 at 4pm Brasil time (10am PDT/ 12noon, CDT/ 1pm EDT/ 6pm GMT) in order to read the results of the petition at the opening ceremony for the Forum at that time.

Please forward this to other Jewish individuals and organizations in order to show the breadth of our support for this initiative.

In common struggle,
-- IJAN at 
the World Social Forum Free Palestine in Puerto Alegre, Brasil

November 28, 2012

Harry on Harry's Place

Harry's Place is down at the moment.  It could be one of those DDOS thingies or it could just be a technical glitch, I'm not sure.  Just before they were zapped they came up with a post that would have many decent folk reaching for the DDOS file but since I don't approve of that kind of thing - as a rule - I'm linking to the cache of a post where they claim that the killing of the eleven month old baby of a BBC cameraman was more likely by Hamas than by Israel.  The post is titled Who Killed Jihad Masharawi’s Son, Omar? and draws heavily on a highly speculative piece on the tastefully named Elder of Ziyon blog - but don't use antisemitic tropes anybody.

Here are two responses that I thought ought to be preserved after the HP sell by date:

  25 November 2012, 7:57 pm
I wonder if you’d write a cheap little essay, full of rampant speculation, if your son had just been blown to bits.
Nah. I doubt it.
  26 November 2012, 2:35 am
[I am trying to post anonymously here because I don't have any email addresses which do not contain my full name (because I have no reason to need them), but I do not wish to encourage those who view cyberstalking of someone with a potentially opposing view as reasonable behaviour.]
I stumbled across this website because of the comments made by the bbc correspondent about bloggers challenging his account of the ‘likely’ cause of the childs death. I was curious to find out if there were conflicting accounts elsewhere.
Having read what was here – I wished (if you don’t mind too much) too make a comment or two before I gradually retreat. I am not here because I have any particular axe to grind with anybody- and I am making no presumption about this site or those who comment here regularly. (Particularly as I haven’t seen enough to do so).
On the BBC account -
[I have worked in the defence industry and munitions in particular for a long time so I have some familiarity with at least part of the multitude of such objects (or varying reliability of performance) we have devised as a species which could cause such an event.]
If you really think that a BBC radio 4 ‘from our own correspondent’ programme journalist would invent a dead baby belonging to a colleague you are living on another planet and unable to be reached with merely human technology such as the internet. (The diversity and quality of this programme is remarkable- check it out!).
Whilst there are many possibilities as to how an apartment could be penetrated by an object and then burn ferociously in a warzone- the fact that it was not flattened is irrelevant as to determining whether this was an IDF strike. Missiles come in all sizes and purposes- as do other types of munitions. The IDF has more experience than most of having to carry out targeted strikes in urban areas where it may wish to have a smaller guided payload weapons to limit collateral damage- such as the those carried on a drone. Likewise a shell -(which does not contain high explosive such as a smoke round) could arrive unguided to the wrong location, penetrate a weak structure then burn with considerable ferocity without being described as an actual incendiary device. (I haven’t seen comment on the use of actual incendiary weapons this time however during cast lead WP shells were used to achieve a similar affect on the UN warehouse in Gaza at least- hence it featuring heavily in their report on that conflict.)
On the recent situation in Gaza -
Is it callously irresponsible that Hamas operates rockets or missiles sites close to civilians thereby attracting israeli fire onto those civilians? – certainly.
However – the gaza strip is a very small area under very close surveillance. Hamas intends to make its weapons – and (at least some of) its fighters difficult to track and spot in peacetime and in war- and wishes to enable such operations to be carried out quickly and with as little opportunity to prevent or observe them being carried out. As a result it is inevitable that this will mean that the weapons move closer to the urban areas where suspicious activity would be harder to detect.
Furthermore Hamas’s command and control probably becomes very rudimentary very quickly in wartime and is intended not to be reliant on any technology which can be jammed, overheard, de-crypted or fail due to long term power blackouts. This may end up degrading to the level of neighbourhood runners.
The effectiveness of the israeli blockade on even simple materials such as concrete and metal would make preparation of the sort of sophistocated tunnel complexes used by hezbollah to hide and move weapons and fighters in south lebanon impossible. (and given the level of surveillance probably impossible to conceal – and therefore pointless unless incredibly strongly constructed….as the israeli firepower is vast and gaza relatively tiny in area).
The more rural areas are presumed by both sides to be a completely free fire zone. With so little cover which will not be levelled if deemed to be even slightly relevant by the IDF – the desire to remain in the fight makes it again inevitable that Hamas will move into the built up area for pragmatic reasons again. (There is very little point in calling this cowardice. Hamas regards itself as the ’state’ in gaza and as such has a responsibility to preserve its ability to function as a military force in the event that a ground invasion occurs- where it would be far more likely to be able to exact casualties on the IDF.)
Incidently such a blockade also makes the construction of shelters for the civilian populace a complete pipe dream.
Whether you despise Hamas’s ideology or not – they are the de-facto government of gaza and have been democratically elected in the past.
It is utterly illogical to pretend this is not a war between states (in hte eyes of the combatants at least) whether the military imbalance makes the nature of the conflict into a bizarre alternate model. ie where being completely slaughtered (along with those you are supposed to have protected) becomes a ‘victory’ simply through your organisation continuing to exist in any form.
Also given the ongoing economic crisis in gaza during the blockade there are unfortunately hundreds of priorities which could come before shelters.
On the conflict in general-
I have lived long enough to have seen israel spurn enormous quantities of admiration, respect and goodwill across the world. I grew up in a world amazed by the bravery and the skill of the IDF.
This change in attitude is not due to infantile siding with the underdog. It is not due to anyone forgetting the lesson of the holocaust. It is down to talking about peace whilst continuously building settlements outwith the 67 borders. It is also about exacting collective punishment on the palestinian population as a group for their refusal to meekly accept a ridiculously miserable life in a few fragments of the country which their predecessors lived in. (Sometimes within sight of their former homes and land within the renamed towns and cities of Israel. Their cultural memory of the country which existed in those places prior to Israel is just as inconvenient as they are.)
Those who are friends of israel should understand that whilst the continuation of low level conflict alongside settlement building in the West Bank may appear a successful model to the israeli state (as the facts on the ground -within their area of control- continue to move in their favour), this is merely making it impossible for them to have any eventual overture for peace be remotely credible.
If the Palestinian people chose extremists like Hamas -that reflects on the duplicitous way that moderate leaders have been co-opted and then made ridiculous by israeli violations of previous agreements.
If zionism places the rights of jews above non jews, and this is inherent in the nature of the legal framework of the current israeli state then what palestinian leader could agree a one or two state solution which guarantees all or part of the palestinian people being left as second class citizens in perpituity?
In the name of security laws discriminating citizens by race and religion which are incompatible with the view israel holds of its own place as an honourary ‘western’ democracy are in effect.
The changes demanded to make the israeli state not a ‘zionist’ state (and meet the criteria of co-existence with Hamas and other in a two or one state settlement) are merely a recalibration back to the basic level of equal rights that are a pre-requisite for the democratic state israel proclaims itself to be.
Any such nonsense of the palestinian’s being in the grip of a death cult and seeking leadership who will lead them through fire until israel in any form is wiped off the map is nothing but drivel.
Israel now posseses the power to make peace on incredibly favourable terms.
Surely this must be better than perpetual war?
Otherwise what is the endpoint-
War in the west until the last gazan has been driven to the slums of cairo – and hamas are still raiding and rocketing from the sinai whilst becoming egypt’s hezbollah?
Or squeezing the life out of the west bank until jordan (already majority palestinian demographically) is racked by civil war due to a further influx of palestinians and ceases being neutral to become a hostile palestinian majority governed neighbour?
Surely there must be a better future than a victory (at best) requiring longer and bigger fences and israeli’s still unable to travel in the entire middle east – and at worst further sporadic bouts of conflicts with a choice of hostile neighbours.
The unconditional financial assistance from the USA underpins the israel economy, its military prowess, its research and development – releases Israel’s own tax revenue from other purposes to fund settlement (including duplicating infrastructure and the security walls).
It also affords the sponsoring of new immigrants with little or no connections to Israel who are willing to serve as settler militia to protect their new and better life. This sort of shameless policy of expansion by any means via hired economic migrants makes a fool of any palestinian politician who even suggests Israel is still interested in peace.
If the continuation of such generous assistance by the US was made conditional on a genuine pursuit of peace – this conflict could end very quickly.
As the deal which could be made now is far in advance of that which previous generations of israeli’s could ever have dreamed of- it is not unreasonable for a friend of israel to intervene in such a way.
Especially in return for its unceasing genorosity and the considerable difficulty caused to a hundred other foreign policy concerns ham-strung as the price of unequivocal support of Israel.
The flipside to this is this eventually a politician in america may effectively galvanise the american taxpayer to the inconsistency of massive aid to Israel versus the industrial regeneration, public services, improved military equipment, infrastructure which they are being told is unaffordable.
The worst thing anyone supportive of israel could do is work on the assumption that a lasting and workable peace is irrelevant as the american financial aid will be affordable in perpetuity- thereby leaving the risk to israeli security that such support may be withdrawn without suitable adjustment at a time not of israel’s choosing.
Anyhoo…that’s my tuppence worth.
Best wishes for the future.
No name bloke.
Well done those blokes and many thanks to the comrade who wades through all the repugnant dross at HP so you and I don't have to.

UPDATE 26/3/2013:
Apparently the speculation on Harry's Place that a bomb which killed a Palestinian baby may have come from Hamas turned out to be correct.  The UN is now saying the child was probably killed by a Hamas device. Of course that wasn't the only point of the comment from "mynameisnotimportant".

November 27, 2012

Minor victory for the antisemitism card

There have been many grotesque caricatures of Jews in the past and, of course, more recently.  One recurring theme is the power of Jews to manipulate apparently powerful politicians.  But what do we do when reality resembles these antisemitic caricatures?

Just recently Israel embarked on its equivalent of Super Tuesday.  It slaughtered a batch of Palestinians following the announcement of a general election.  In spite of Israel's clear escalation of the situation, Tony Blair, Israel's envoy to The Quartet, and William Hague, the UK foreign minister, both parroted Netanyahu's excuse which was something about Hamas firing rockets, without any mention of why Hamas might be firing those rockets.  As I posted earlier, Steve Bell, of the Guardian, ran a cartoon depicting Blair and Hague as glove puppets of Netanyahu.  Now this resembled an antisemitic cartoon of yore.

There were predictable complaints from the usual sources, here and here and of course not just there and there.  And eventually the Guardian readers' editor, Chris Elliott,  got on the case.  It's a strange title, readers' editor, because his job seems to be responded to the complaints of people for whom the Guardian can do nothing right. He set out a few complaints plus a defence of his own position by Steve Bell before concluding thus:
I don't believe that Bell is an antisemite, nor do I think it was his intention to draw an antisemitic cartoon. However, using the image of a puppeteer when drawing a Jewish politician inevitably echoes past antisemitic usage of such imagery, no matter the intent.
The Holocaust and its causes are still within living memory. While journalists and cartoonists should be free to express an opinion that Netanyahu is opportunistic and manipulative, in my view they should not use the language – including the visual language – of antisemitic stereotypes.
 Now how on earth did the subject morph from the sycophancy of western leaders towards the State of Israel to the holocaust?  Never mind.  It just did, that's all.  The Guardian readers' editor has come out in support of the zionists on this one and nowhere in his piece does it mention what gave rise to the cartoon in the first place, ie, the Israeli attack on Gaza and Tony Blair and William Hague's support for it.  It did mention Netanyahu's manipulativeness but not what it was deployed for.  So the last word in the Guardian on Israel's latest attack on Gaza is mention of the holocaust and condemnation of the kind of behaviour by Israel and its allies that resembles an antisemitic caricature.

By the way, I commented on the readers' editor's piece. I wonder if it will stay in place.
Israel's recent attack on Gaza follows a pattern of Israel killing lots of civilians in the run up to an Israeli election. Netanyahu offered a bogus excuse for the attack, as did Tzipi Livni before him, as did Shimon Peres over his attack on Qana. This time, Blair and Hague repeated Netanyahu's excuse as if it was a genuine explanation. That is, they behaved like glove puppets of Netanyahu. And there's the rub. There have been grotesque caricatures of Jews in the past but whose fault is it if an Israeli leader and high profile politicians in the west behave like those caricatures?
It's sad that one of the letters supporting Steve Bell says, "Mark Gardner can't be allowed to get away with the old trick of pretending all criticism of the Israeli government is antisemitic.". Unfortunately, looking at the last couple of paragraphs of the article above, he does seem to have got away with it. Shame.
Comments are still open at the time of writing.

November 26, 2012

Moshe Arens wants more people killed on both sides next time

Here's a bizarre article in Ha'aretz from former Israeli cabinet minister, Moshe Arens, arguing that Israel didn't achieve its objective in the recent, Pillar of Defence, attack on Gaza.

I can't agree with any of his assumptions:
If the mission of Operation Pillar of Defense was to free the civilian population of southern Israel from the recurrent threat of rocket attacks by terrorists from the Gaza Strip, this mission was not accomplished. They are today, after the cease-fire, as exposed to this threat as they were before.
These ferocious attacks by Israel are becoming a staple of incumbent governments' electioneering. The idea that defence was the aim is just one bogus assumption.  There is also the unmentioned assumption that Israel couldn't possibly consider negotiating with any Palestinians in good faith.  They've never done it before, why start now?  But let's repeat the stated aim a couple of times:
The government was quite modest in defining the operation's goal and received compliments from many quarters for this sober behavior. No goal that might be beyond reach was announced. Presumably the lessons of the past had been learned - a modest goal was set that could be matched by modest achievements. To "change the security situation," the government announced was the aim
But look, Arens has noticed something:
As modest as the announced aim was, the result of the eight-day long operation was even more modest. Has the security situation really changed substantially in the wake of the operation?
Now this could be because his assumption that the stated aim was the true aim was simply wrong.
The arsenal of rockets in the Gaza Strip is today substantially diminished. So is the Israeli arsenal of "Iron Dome" missiles. Both will, no doubt, be replenished in short order. The active manpower of terrorist organizations has been hit by air strikes, but there will be no shortage of replacements for those who are gone. The terrorist command infrastructure has been hurt, but will be rebuilt. In terms of the physical balance, it will not be long before it will be difficult to observe a substantial change in the security situation as compared to what existed before the operation.
Oh please consider the fact that it wasn't really about the security situation.....
Was there really no alternative at this time to a cease-fire brokered by Morsi, an ideological ally of Hamas? To bring about a real change in the security situation in the south the rocket arsenal of the Gaza terrorists and their rocket manufacturing facilities would have to be destroyed, and the renewal of supplies through the Sinai would have to be blocked. Considering the small size of the Gaza Strip this is not an impossible mission for the IDF. However, it could not be accomplished solely from the air. It would require an incursion into the Gaza Strip by IDF ground troops.
Is it not possible that Morsi wasn't simply talking to Israel and Hamas but also to the US and Turkey?  After all, what direct pressure could Egypt and Hamas bring to bear on Israel?  Hilary Clinton thanked Morsi.  They must have spoken during the operation.  Arens is assuming, taking him at face value, that Israel ceased firing because it was persuaded of something by Egypt.

But look what Arens wants rather than a brokered cease fire that might collapse just in time for the election after this one.
an incursion into the Gaza Strip by IDF ground troops.
But in spite of his refusal to face let alone state reality, he is at the end of the day, a realist:
Such an operation would, no doubt, involve losses. But it is high time that soldiers replace the civilians in the front line. The civilians have been at the front for too long. This should have been done during the first few days of the operation. Thereafter, the international pressure for a cease-fire agreement became difficult to resist. [Aha, so it was the USA thanks to Egypt and Turkey]
Now, very few Israeli civilians have been killed by these rockets and there are various means by which Israel could stop them which don't involve killing lots of people but these would involve the dangerous precedent of good faith negotiations.  But Arens doesn't want good faith negotiations, he wants more people killed on both sides than has been the case so far.  What a wonderful shitty little country.

Gaza Hasbara for UK children on BBC's Newsround

I received this from a friend a few days ago but I only got the chance to look at it just now.  Now read on:
What UK children are told about Israel and the Palestinians

Up to 40 per cent of 6 to 12 year olds in the UK saw this BBC1 Newsround programme that went out at 5.00pm on 21 November 2012, giving the background to the current situation in Gaza and the longer term history behind it.
That's my friend's intro.

Here's the text from relevant page from the Newsround website:
Israelis and Arabs have been fighting over Gaza on and off, for decades. It's part of the wider Arab Israeli conflict.
After World War II and the Holocaust in which six million Jewish people were killed, Jewish people wanted their own country.

They were given a large part of Palestine, which they considered their traditional home but the Arabs who already lived there and in neighbouring countries felt that was unfair and didn't accept the new country.
In 1948, the two sides went to war. When it ended, Gaza was controlled by Egypt and another area, the West Bank, by Jordan. They contained thousands of Palestinians who fled what was now the new Jewish home, Israel.
Israel's recognition
But then, in 1967, after another war, Israel occupied these Palestinian Territories and Israeli troops stayed there for years. Israelis hoped they might exchange the land they won for Arab countries recognising Israel's right to exist and an end to the fighting.
Israel finally left Gaza in 2005 but soon after, a group called Hamas took control there. Much of the world calls Hamas a terrorist organisation. It refuses to recognise Israel as a country and wants Palestinians to be able to return to their old home - and will use violence to achieve its aims.
Since then, Israel has held Gaza under a blockade, which means it controls its borders and limits who can get in and out.
Life in Gaza
Life for the many of the 1.5 million Palestinians who live in the Gaza Strip is difficult.
Israel controls its coastline and all the entry and exit crossings into Israel. There is another crossing point into Egypt. There is no working airport. Because access is so restricted, not many goods get into or out of Gaza. Food is allowed in, but aid agencies say families are not eating as much meat or fresh vegetables and fruit as they used to. There are often power cuts.
Large numbers of people are unemployed because businesses can get very few of their products out of Gaza to sell, and people don't have much money to buy things.
Palestinian refugees
During the 1948 and 1967 wars hundreds of thousands of Palestinians left, or were forced out of, their homes and moved to neighbouring countries to become refugees.
More than 4.6 million Palestinians are refugees and their decendants, many living in camps in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. They get help from the United Nations.
Violence in Gaza
Though the Palestinians don't have an army, rockets are regularly fired from Gaza into Israel. Israelis living in border towns are used to having to take shelter and adapting their lives to deal with the rockets.
The last time major violence broke out was in December 2008, when Israel sent soldiers into Gaza to stop Hamas firing rockets over the border. More than 1300 people in Gaza and 13 Israelis died in that conflict and people around the world hope it won't get to that point again.
Peace Process
Other countries, particularly America, have worked hard to settle the fighting between the Arabs and Israelis but so far nothing has worked. Many people want Gaza and the West Bank to be turned into a new country - Palestine. Israel won't agree to this unless it feels safe - and Hamas accepts its right to exist. The other sticking points are what will happen to Israelis who've settled in the West Bank, who will run Jerusalem and what will happen to the Palestinian refugees.
I still haven't seen the programme and the last I checked it was inaccessible but if anyone can find it for me, please let me know.  I think it only remains on line for a week so there's only two days to go.


November 25, 2012

Another why oh whine from Jonathan Freedland

Here he is in today's (or yesterday's) Guardian:
I'm weary of those who get so much more exercised, so much more excited, by deaths in Gaza than they do by deaths in, say, Syria. An estimated 800 died under Assad during the same eight days of what Israel called Operation Pillar of Defence. But, for some reason, the loss of those lives failed to touch the activists who so rapidly organised the demos and student sit-ins against Israel. You might have heard me make this point before, and you might be weary of it. Well, so am I. I'm tired, too, of the argument that "We hold western nations like Israel to a higher standard", because I see only a fraction of the outrage that's directed at Israel turned on the US – a western nation – for its drone war in Pakistan which has cost an estimated 3,000 lives, nearly 900 of them civilians, since 2004.
Well it's easy to simply say, it's the ethnic cleansing stupid!  That is the ethnic cleansing, recent, current and on-going, without which Israel could not exist as a state for Jews that rubs a lot of people up the wrong way.  Those of us who remember apartheid in South Africa remember being told that there were more human rights abuses elsewhere in Africa but racist rule, enshrined in a state's basic laws was considered a no-no.

There is also the fact that Israel has apologists throughout the western media and enablers and supporters in all western governments.  This doesn't apply in the case of Syria.

The question about the USA could be more serious.  Remember that Jonathan is:
tired, too, of the argument that "We hold western nations like Israel to a higher standard", because I see only a fraction of the outrage that's directed at Israel turned on the US – a western nation – for itsdrone war in Pakistan which has cost an estimated 3,000 lives, nearly 900 of them civilians, since 2004.
Here the media cover for the US is about the same as it is for Israel but he might be wondering, why demonstrations against America's wars tend to be smaller than demonstrations against Israel. Unfortunately the basic premise is wrong. Demonstrations against America's wars tend to be between 10 and 20 times the size of Palestine Solidarity demos. Actually, I think there should still be more outrage against Israel because of its core lack of legitimacy than there is against America. After all, if America stopped the drone strikes the USA would still be the USA. If Israel stopped the colonial settlement, the ethnic cleansing and the segregation it  would no longer be Israel and then it's periodic culls would end and so, I'm guessing, would the outrage they cause.

Jonathan Freedland's problem with getting his head around the sheer repugnance of the State of Israel in the eyes of humanist opinion is that he, like the Israel he supports, is in a perpetual state of denial.

One slips through the net

I first saw this clip on Louis Proyect's Unrepentant Marxist site:

It's Independent journalist, Owen Jones on BBC's Question Time a few nights ago.

November 23, 2012

National Demonstration - Solidarity with Gaza - End the Siege Now

From Stop the War:

National Demonstration
Solidarity with Gaza
End the Siege Now
Saturday 24 November
Assemble Downing Street 12 Noon
March to the Israeli Embassy

Speakers include: Bianca Jagger, Ahdaf Soueif, Andy Slaughter MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Jean Lambert MEP, Manuel Hassassian Palestinian Ambassador to the UKSeumas Milne journalist, Victoria Brittain journalist, Bruce Kent CND, Andrew Murray UNITE, Steve Bell CWU, Lindsey German Stop the War, Kamel Hawwash Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Glyn Secker Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Daud Abdullah Middle East Monitor, Ismail Patel Friends of Al-Aqsa, Tariq Tahboub PFIB


Stop the War has drained its resources in our campaign against Israel's war crimes in Gaza. We urgently need funds to finance this week's activities leading up to Saturday's demonstration. We rely entirely on contributions from our supporters and members. Please donate whatever you can to Stop the War's Campaign for Gaza Appeal. DONATE NOW HERE...