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If a Genocide Falls in the Forest

9:04 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Israeli tank

There’s a wide and mysterious chasm between the stated intentions of the Israeli government as depicted by the U.S. media and what the Israeli government has been doing in Gaza, even as recounted in the U.S. media.

With the morgues full, Gazans are packing freezers with their dead children. Meanwhile, the worst images to be found in Israel depict fear, not death and suffering. Why the contrast? If the Israeli intent is defensive, why are 97% of the deaths Gazan, not Israeli? If the targets are fighters, why are whole families being slaughtered and their houses leveled? Why are schools and hospitals and children playing on the beach targeted? Why target water and electricity if the goal is not to attack an entire population?

The mystery melts away if you look at the stated intentions of the Israeli government as not depicted by the U.S. media but readily available in Israeli media and online.

On August 1st, the Deputy Speaker of Israel’s Parliament posted on his FaceBook page a plan for the complete destruction of the people of Gaza using concentration camps. He had laid out a somewhat similar plan in a July 15th column.

Another member of the Israeli Parliament, Ayelet Shaked, called for genocide in Gaza at the start of the current war, writing: “Behind every terrorist stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in terrorism. They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.”

Taking a slightly different approach, Middle East scholar Dr. Mordechai Kedar of Bar-Ilan University has been widely quoted in Israeli media saying, “The only thing that can deter [Gazans] is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped.”

The Times of Israel published a column on August 1st, and later unpublished it, with the headline “When Genocide Is Permissible.” The answer turned out to be: now.

On August 5th, Giora Eiland, former head of Israel’s National Security Council, published a column with the headline “In Gaza, There Is No Such Thing as ‘Innocent Civilians’.”  Eiland wrote: “We should have declared war against the state of Gaza (rather than against the Hamas organization). . . . [T]he right thing to do is to shut down the crossings, prevent the entry of any goods, including food, and definitely prevent the supply of gas and electricity.”

It’s all part of putting Gaza “on a diet,” in the grotesque wording of an advisor to a former Israeli Prime Minister.

If it were common among members of the Iranian or Russian government to speak in favor of genocide, you’d better believe the U.S. media would notice. Why does this phenomenon go unremarked in the case of Israel? Noticing it is bound to get you called an anti-Semite, but that’s hardly a concern worthy of notice while children are being killed by the hundreds.

Another explanation is U.S. complicity. The weapons Israel is using are given to it, free-of-charge, by the U.S. government, which also leads efforts to provide Israel immunity for its crimes. Check out this revealing map of which nations recognize the nation of Palestine.

A third explanation is that looking too closely at what Israel’s doing could lead to someone looking closely at what the U.S. has done and is doing. Roughly 97% of the deaths in the 2003-2011 war on Iraq were Iraqi. Things U.S. soldiers and military leaders said about Iraqis were shameful and genocidal.

War is the biggest U.S. investment, and contemporary war is almost always a one-sided slaughter of civilians. If seeing the horror of it in Israeli actions allow us to begin seeing the same in U.S. actions, an important step will have been taken toward war’s elimination.

Yes, how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn’t see?
The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

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Guess Who Cheers When Cease-Fires Collapse

6:11 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Among those who cheer when a cease-fire ends and killing resumes are those who want more Palestinians slaughtered as a form of mass punishment for fictional offenses.  Also among those cheering are certain mainstream U.S. newspaper columnists.  In fact, at least one person is clearly in both of the above categories.

My local newspaper in Charlottesville, Va., printed a column on Friday from Thomas Sowell, distributed by Creators Syndicate but actually written for the right-wing Jewish World Review. Sowell writes:

“It is understandable that today many people in many lands just want the fighting between the Israelis and the Palestinians to stop. Calls for a cease-fire are ringing out from the United Nations and from Washington, as well as from ordinary people in many places around the world. According to the New York Times, Secretary of State John Kerry is hoping for a cease-fire to ‘open the door to Israeli and Palestinian negotiations for a long-term solution.’ President Obama has urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to have an ‘immediate, unconditional humanitarian cease-fire’ — again, with the idea of pursuing some long-lasting agreement.”

Here is where Sowell might logically object to Washington shipping Israel more weaponry in the midst of proposing cease-fires and mumbling quietly about the inappropriateness of particular bits of the mass-murder underway.  John Kerry doesn’t hope for a long-term solution any more than he knew Syria used chemical weapons or Putin shot down a plane or Iraq deserved to be destroyed before it didn’t but after it did.  John Kerry knows the U.S. provides the weaponry and the criminal immunity to a nation intent on completing the process of eliminating its native peoples, as Kerry’s own nation effectively did long ago.  There’s no solution possible in that context other than a Final Solution for Palestinians. But this is not what Sowell goes on to say.

“If this was the first outbreak of violence between the Palestinians and the Israelis, such hopes might make sense. But where have the U.N., Kerry and Obama been during all these decades of endlessly repeated Middle East carnage?”

Well, the same place all of their Republican and Democratic predecessors have been, supporting endless armaments for Israel and most of its neighbors, and vetoing any U.N. resolutions that would impose any consequences for Israel’s occupation, blockade, and Apartheid repression on the basis of religion and race.

“The Middle East must lead the world in cease-fires. If cease-fires were the road to peace, the Middle East would easily be the most peaceful place on the planet.”

Stop for a moment and appreciate the unfathomable stupidity of that remark.  One might as well say the Middle East must lead the world in U.S. weapons imports or the Middle East must lead the world in wars.  If these were paths to peace, the Middle East would easily be the most peaceful place on the planet.  One might also just as easily say the Middle East must lead the world in the brevity of its cease-fires, with cease-fires elsewhere lasting longer, and with as many broken agreements lying in the sand of the Middle East as anywhere since the last big batch of promises made to Native Americans.  One might even just as easily say the Middle East must lead the world in resumptions of fighting, rather than in halts to fighting. But that’s not where Sowell is headed.  He’s out to reverse Benjamin Franklin’s notion that there has never been a good war or a bad peace.

“‘Cease-fire’ and ‘negotiations’ are magic words to ‘the international community.’ But just what do cease-fires actually accomplish? In the short run, they save some lives. But in the long run they cost far more lives, by lowering the cost of aggression.”

Here it comes.  Just as the Jewish World Review wants to make poor people “self-sufficient” by denying them any assistance, Sowell wants to teach the people of Palestine a lesson for their own good.  Of course people dispossessed of their land, made refugees, entrapped and blockaded, and targeted with missiles that level their homes and explode in their schools and hospitals and shelters are unusual suspects to accuse of aggression.  And for those who shoot rockets, so ineffectively and counter-productively, into Israel, the lesson Sowell wants to teach through mass slaughter is demonstrably not taught.  Everyone in Gaza will tell you that Israeli violence increases support for Palestinian violence.  Not every Palestinian understands that the reverse is also true, that the rockets fuel Israeli attacks, but that hardly justifies their murder or creates a lesson where Sowell imagines Israeli missiles teaching one.

“At one time, launching a military attack on another nation risked not only retaliation but annihilation. When Carthage attacked Rome, that was the end of Carthage.”

Ah, the good old days, when any colony or challenger that stepped out of line could be wiped out, starved out, and cleansed from the earth.

“But when Hamas or some other terrorist group launches an attack on Israel, they know in advance that whatever Israel does in response will be limited by calls for a cease-fire, backed by political and economic pressures from the United States.”

The political pressure of Kerry groveling before Netanyahu? Of Susan Rice explaining to the world that Kerry never meant to negotiate and has always been 100% in Israel’s camp? Of Obama joining Sowell in blaming the victims? The economic pressure of the free weapons continuing to flow from the U.S. to Israel?  What sort of fantasy is this?

One possibility is that it’s a fantasy of racism or culturalism.  Americans are rational beings in this fantasy.  It would only make sense to apply obvious points of pressure for a cease-fire once you’ve proposed one.  Arming the Middle East for peace would be insanity.  So, Sowell perhaps fantasizes that sanity and rationality prevail.  Except in places like Palestine or Iran:

“Those who say that we can contain a nuclear Iran, as we contained a nuclear Soviet Union, are acting as if they are discussing abstract people in an abstract world. Whatever the Soviets were, they were not suicidal fanatics, ready to see their own cities destroyed in order to destroy ours. . . .  Even if the Israelis were all saints — and sainthood is not common in any branch of the human race — the cold fact is that they are far more advanced than their neighbors, and groups that cannot tolerate even subordinate Christian minorities can hardly be expected to tolerate an independent, and more advanced, Jewish state that is a daily rebuke to their egos.”

Since when does Iran not tolerate minorities? Since when is it populated by 76 million suicidal fanatics?

You see, not only do the Gazans want to die, in the view of Sowell and so many others we’ve been hearing from via our so-called public airwaves, because it makes good footage, because they have a culture of martyrdom — you’ve heard all the explanations for Gazans stubbornly remaining in their homes and hospitals rather than swimming to Cyprus as normal people would do — but the source of Gazans’ irrational aggression against the benevolent power that stole their land and starves their children and bans the importation of books is — wait for it — jealousy. It’s wounded egos.  Just as poor Americans are jealous of the success of those with the wisdom and fortitude to be born into the families of billionaires, so Palestinians resent the superiority, the Ubermenschness of the people who have been clever enough to get born into Pentagon subsidies.

As a contrasting view of the world to Sowell’s allow me to offer this new Willie Nelson video (http://youtu.be/MezGqmMCrwo):

Should Israel Teach the Holocaust Less?

6:52 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Humans almost invariably imagine humans to be far more imaginative and original than they are. But most of our ideas come from (often imperfect and improvised) imitation. And even more powerful than our tendency to imitate is our inability to refrain from imitating, to shake an idea out of our heads once it’s there, to “not think of an elephant.”

An Israeli High School

Does an emphasis on teaching the holocaust lead to Israel’s violence?

Anthropologists have found cultures whose members cannot conceive of killing. “Why won’t you shoot an arrow at those slave raiders?” “Because it would kill them.”

In Western culture, children hear of killing in fairy tales, cartoons, Harry Potter books, video games, the TV news, the newspaper, the games played in the park. It’s everywhere. Usually it’s frowned upon, although often a distinction is made between bad killing by bad guys and good killing by good guys, or inexplicable random killing and killing justified and sanctified by bitter revenge.

But even when a behavior is frowned upon, the listener or viewer has now heard of that behavior. There have been studies of children’s responses to stories and television dramas in which fictional children misbehave for three-quarters of the episode and then learn an important moral lesson at the end. Guess what? Kids don’t retroactively view the whole story as a package and wipe the bad behavior out of their minds. Instead they display a tendency to try out the behavior demonstrated to them in so many of the isolated moments that they lived while watching or listening to the story.

Humans also almost invariably imagine humans to be far kinder and far more selfless than they are. Most of us very much want others to be kind to us, and we try our best to be kind to others. So, when we see behaviors and institutions that cause horrendous suffering, we like to imagine there is a rational cause, a greater good, or that the explanation is incompetence or stupidity — anything other than the most obvious explanation: vicious, evil sadism.

We are often encouraged to picture vicious cruelty and irrational evil in certain foreign groups of humans. But usually this perspective is intended to help us avoid seeing cruelty in those who are supposedly like ourselves.

These thoughts arise as I’m confronted by the polling showing that 95% of Israelis deem the slaughter of Gazans to be just, and the realization that for many in Israel “just” is a rather disgusting euphemism for “satisfyingly sadistic.” People are sitting on hills watching the missiles hit the homes, some of them telling cameras they want everyone killed, and then explaining that their thoughts are “a little bit fascist.”

This week we’ll be remembering Harry Truman’s bombing of Japan with nuclear weapons, and we’ll be told that he must have believed those acts of mass murder would help end the war, even though the evidence shows he knew otherwise. Truman had earlier advocated aiding the Russians or the Germans, whoever was losing, so that as many people as possible would die, he said. Top U.S. military officials wanted Japan cleansed of all human life. The most likely explanation for the nukes, namely that Truman viewed killing lots of Japanese as an advantage to be weighed along with impressing the Russians and so forth, is too ugly, so we turn away. We even have to turn away from his own statement on the occasion, which justified the bombing in terms of revenge, not in terms of ending the war.

Also this week we’ll mark 50 years since the Gulf of Tonkin fraud. We like to imagine such incidents, even when they result in the deaths of 4 million foreigners, as misunderstandings. But during the course of the savagery that followed, how was progress gauged? That’s right: by body counts.

Examples of evil policies, in one’s own or other parts of the world, flood in the moment you begin to look for them. The evidence is clear that locking kids up in juvenile prisons makes them more likely, not less likely, to grow into criminals. But we just go on locking them up for other motives we don’t care to examine too closely. We’ve learned what it’s impolite to mention. Support for wars in Afghanistan or Iraq is discussed on television in terms of “strategic interests” and other such blather, but the counter-demonstrators across the street from a peace rally sometimes have different desires, including the death of foreigners — and of the peace activists with them.

Courageous peace activists in Israel have been facing hostile counter-demonstrations from those in their society who have moved in a different direction.

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The Palestinian Right and the American Left

10:12 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Only Self-Defense? ~  Gaza/Israel: Peace Needs other Weapons

Only Self-Defense? ~ Gaza/Israel: Peace Needs other Weapons

Chris Hedges says that Palestinians have the right to self-defense in the form of rockets, without including any consideration of whether the rockets make the Palestinians more or less defended.  There is, after all, a reasonable argument that the rockets are counter-productive and endangering, rather than protecting, Palestine.

Legally, if we ignore the Kellogg-Briand Pact and stick to the U.N. Charter, much less its frequent abuse by the powerful nations of the world, there is no doubt that Hedges is correct.  If demolishing Iraqi or Afghan or Libyan or Pakistani or Yemeni homes is “defense” of the United States, then surely the people of Gaza, under actual attack, have the legal right to shoot rockets at Israel.  That’s just basic Western consensus with the hypocrisy removed.

“[M]any Palestinians, especially young men trapped in overcrowded hovels where they have no work and little dignity,” writes Hedges, “will risk immediate death to defy the slow, humiliating death of occupation. I cannot blame them.”

Here are the false choices framed: either we blame the victims of Israel’s vicious and massive assault on a trapped population, blame them for reacting as virtually anyone else in the so-called developed world would, or we advocate for the right to fight defensive wars — regardless of whether it helps or hurts the situation.  Those are not the only options.

I’m not sure I can prove that the rockets hurt the situation, but to render the question inadmissible seems fatally flawed.  The justification that the U.S. Congress and White House use for arming Israel and seeking to shelter Israel from legal consequences is always and exclusively the rockets.  The justification that Israeli spokespeople use on television is likewise almost entirely the rockets.  In a world without the rockets, would other excuses prove successful? It’s hard to say for sure.  But the rockets provide the public packaging for Israeli war-making, accomplish virtually nothing in military terms, and almost certainly do more to frighten and enrage the people of Israel than to bring Israelis around to sympathizing with the plight of their government’s victims.

I’ve just spoken by phone with a smart writer in Gaza named Sarah Ali for an upcoming edition of Talk Nation Radio.  She explained to me quite eloquently how Israeli attacks on Gaza were generating support for Hamas and violence against Israel.  She described the emotional need to fight back.  So, I asked her if rocket attacks on Israel weren’t likewise counterproductive. No, she said, she imagined that Israelis saw the rockets and began to understand the point of view of Palestinians.  In the absence of any evidence of that phenomenon, I can only say that I’ll believe it when I see it.  In every case I’m aware of in which one nation has militarily attacked another, it has done far more to enrage than to stimulate sympathy in the people coming under attack.

Of course, I have no right to tell the people of Gaza what to do or not do from the comfort of my home in the heart of the imperial monster that is funding their apocalypse.  Of course I cannot know the situation as they know it.  But it’s not clear to me that every Gazan has as deep a familiarity with Israelis or every Israeli with Gazans as one might imagine from their geographic vicinity.  The division between these two societies is extreme.  How else could Israelis imagine children as their enemies?  And how else could those children’s parents imagine that firing rockets would win over hearts and minds? Read the rest of this entry →

This is the Israeli Military Calling: Civilizing War Has Failed

9:17 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

 

Probably the biggest news story of 1928 was the war-making nations of the world coming together on August 27th and legally outlawing war.  It’s a story that’s not told in our history books, but it’s not secret CIA history.  There was no CIA.  There was virtually no weapons industry as we know it.  There weren’t two political parties in the United States uniting in support of war after war.  In fact, the four biggest political parties in the United States all backed abolishing war.

Cue whining, polysyllabic screech: “But it didn’t wooooooooork!”

I wouldn’t be bothering with it if it had. In its defense, the Kellogg-Briand Pact (look it up or read my book) was used to prosecute the makers of war on the losing sides following World War II (an historic first), and — for whatever combination of reasons (nukes? enlightenment? luck?) — the armed nations of the world have not waged war on each other since, preferring to slaughter the world’s poor instead. Significant compliance following the very first prosecution is a record that almost no other law can claim.

The Kellogg-Briand Pact has two chief values, as I see it. First, it’s the law of the land in 85 nations including the United States, and it bans all war-making. For those who claim that the U.S. Constitution sanctions or requires wars regardless of treaty obligations, the Peace Pact is no more relevant than the U.N. Charter or the Geneva Conventions or the Anti-Torture Convention or any other treaty. But for those who read the laws as they are written, beginning to comply with the Kellogg-Briand Pact makes far more sense than legalizing drone murders or torture or bribery or corporate personhood or imprisonment without trial or any of the other lovely practices we’ve been “legalizing” on the flimsiest of legal arguments. I’m not against new national or international laws against war; ban it 1,000 times, by all means, if there’s the slightest chance that one of them will stick. But there is, for what it’s worth, already a law on the books if we care to acknowledge it.

Second, the movement that created the Pact of Paris grew out of a widespread mainstream international understanding that war must be abolished, as slavery and blood feuds and duelling and other institutions were being abolished. While advocates of outlawing war believed other steps would be required: a change in the culture, demilitarization, the establishment of international authorities and nonviolent forms of conflict resolution, prosecutions and targeted sanctions against war-makers; while most believed this would be the work of generations; while the forces leading toward World War II were understood and protested against for decades; the explicit and successful intention was to make a start of it by outlawing and formally renouncing and rendering illegitimate all war, not aggressive war or unsanctioned war or inappropriate war, but war.

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CNN’s Jake Tapper: Palestinians Want to Die (Update: Tapper Responds)

6:33 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

 

In this latest assault on Gaza, Israel had by Thursday already killed 69 Palestinians including 22 children and 13 women, plus 469 wounded including 166 children and 85 women, and 70 houses destroyed. These numbers have since increased significantly.

Jake Tapper speaking at a microphone before an audience

On Palestine, Tapper echoes the rhetoric of warmongers throughout history.

In this video from Thursday on CNN, Jake Tapper interviews Diana Buttu, a former advisor to the PLO. After failing to persuade her of Israel’s complete innocence, he tells her that Hamas is instructing women and children to remain in their homes to die as Israel bombs them. She responds by expressing doubt that people want to die. Oh no, says Tapper, Palestinians live in a culture of martyrdom; they want to die.

William Westmoreland once remarked on Vietnam, where the United States killed 4 million men, women, children, and infants: “The Oriental doesn’t put the same high price on life as does a Westerner. Life is plentiful. Life is cheap in the Orient.”

Banastre Tarleton stood up in Parliament and defended the slave trade on the grounds that Africans did not object to being slaves.

President William McKinley said little brown Filipinos appreciated being conquered and dominated.

The view that the people you are abusing don’t mind it has a long history of being employed to distract from the evil being done.

Just as powerful, if not more so, is the view that no evil is being done at all.

ABC News’ Diane Sawyer told her viewers that scenes of destruction in Gaza were actually in Israel, and was later forced to apologize, but did not note that scenes like those she’d shown do not exist in Israel, rather leaving the impression that a simple mistake had swapped out similar scenes from one country for the other.

Polls have found that people in the United States believe Iraq benefited from the war that destroyed it and that Iraqis are grateful, while the United States itself suffered.

If people cannot be depicted as evil, because we see images of them, and they are 3 years old and have their limbs ripped off, and if our cruelty cannot be depicted as for their own good, then the cruelty must itself be denied. We must completely avert our eyes or invert the facts. Or we must blame someone else for it. Blame Israel for getting a bit carried away after so many years of innocent suffering.

But it is with billions of dollars of weaponry provided free of cost courtesy of U.S. taxpayers that the Israeli military is bombing civilian neighborhoods in occupied Gaza. The ongoing occupation is at the root of the crisis, but this new turn to large-scale violence was produced by fraud. The Israeli government learned that three Israelis had been killed, falsely blamed Hamas, and falsely claimed to believe the young men might still be alive. This fraud was used to justify a search-and-rescue operation that left numerous dead and hundreds under arrest.

Small-scale violence by Palestinians is not justified by Israel’s ongoing brutality. It is deeply immoral as well as absurdly counterproductive. But if individual murders justified the mass killing of war, the United States would have to launch a full-scale war on itself every day of the year. And it is the United States’ weaponry, provided under the euphemism of “aid,” that is pounding the homes of the people of Gaza.

Jewish Voice for Peace says, in an open letter that you too can sign:

In this time of tremendous suffering and fear, from Jerusalem to Gaza, and from Hebron to Be’er Sheva, we reaffirm that all Israelis and Palestinians deserve security, justice, and equality, and we mourn all those who have died.

Our unshakeable commitment to freedom and justice for all compels us to acknowledge that this violence has fallen overwhelmingly on Palestinians. And it compels us to affirm that this violence has a root cause: Israel’s illegal occupation.

We are united in our belief that:

The denial of Palestinian human rights must end.
Illegal settlements must end.
Bombing civilians must end.
Killing children must end.
Valuing Jewish lives at the expense of others must end.

Only by embracing equality for all peoples can this terrible bloodshed end.

Editor’s Note: Jake Tapper responded to MyFDL when we tweeted out the headline of this story.

In the interview, Jake Tapper says the following:

It’s horrific but I can’t believe you tell me people don’t want to die. There is a culture of martyrdom that we hear about all the time. One of the big differences between the horrific incident of Mohamed Khedair being killed and the three Israeli teens being killed is that whoever killed the three Israelis, it’s possible that they’ll have streets named after them and they will get money from Hamas …

We encourage readers to listen to the full exchange at the top of this post. -MyFDL Editor

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The Story of Gaza

8:47 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Young authors of fiction from Gaza, some of whom say they are finding Palestine on the internet while unable to see it exist in reality, have just published Gaza Writes Back, a collection of stories written in English. The anthology marks the five-year anniversary of the 23 days from December 27, 2008, until Obama’s inauguration, during which Israel bombed the people of Gaza far more heavily than usual.  They’re publishing a new excerpt of the book each of these 23 days on their FaceBook page. You can talk with them in an upcoming Google Hangout.

Cover: Gaza Writes Back

David Swanson examines a new collection of short fiction by young Palestinian writers.

For five years, the world — just like Obama — has overwhelmingly been “looking forward” when it comes to crimes committed by nations aligned with the U.S. government.  But the crimes in Gaza then and now, and in other countries, have been exposed to unprecedented “looking present” through immediate real-time blogging available to those actively looking, even in the places responsible for the far-away terrorism-too-big-to-call-by-that-name. If everyone turned off their television and searched on a computer for news about their own country as reported in other countries, injustice, rather than our natural environment, would be endangered.

The telling of truer-than-news stories by these young Gazans has the potential to reach many more minds, and to set an example that just might scare off the next “humanitarian war” no matter where it’s targeted.  If victims of military benevolence can have their stories read by people who matter, or who could matter if they acted, and if those stories inevitably effect understanding of the obvious-but-always-denied fact that they are like we, that those people are people just like these people, that something has “brought out their humanity,” then the shock and awe might have to move from its fictional location in the streets of non-humans’ cities to a real existence in the offices of Lockheed Martin.

The stories in this book are of childhood and family, love and loss, soccer and toothaches. As with any story, people are placed in particularly special circumstances. A visit to the doctor is a visit to someone making decisions of triage: Will your father be sent to a specialist to be saved, or will this baby who has a better chance at living be sent instead? Two farmers, a Gazan and an Israeli unknowingly stand just inches or feet away from each other, separated by an impenetrable wall.  A Gazan and an Israeli are perhaps attracted to each other, but blocked by a wall that needs no physical presence. A child is listening to a bedtime story when a missile strikes the house. Who will live? And who will be traumatized? Or was everyone pre-traumatized already?

I spent that night thinking of Thaer’s home, of the distant life in Mama’s eyes. I kept wondering what’s more torturous: the awful buzz of the drone outside or the sounds of some tough questions inside. I guess I eventually slept with no answer, thanking the drone for not giving my inner uproar any chance to abate.

Children in Gaza know the names of books, of toys, of movies, of trees, and of deadly flying aircraft. Some of the latter are called “Apaches,” named after a people marched, and imprisoned, and slaughtered by the U.S. military, people kept in camps that inspired the Nazis’, whose camps in turn inspired what the nation of Israel now does to non-Jewish African immigrants.  How long will it be before little children in China are pointing to the sky in fear of a swarm of “Gazas?”

These stories are of people and of land, and of efforts to understand other people on the land. Understanding is a challenge:

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How to Criticize the Israeli Government

10:40 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

The other day I tweeted an article that reported on a rather horrible story.  It seems that the Israeli government gives African women drugs that keep them from reproducing.

Cover of Our Hash Logic

Our Harsh Logic: Israeli Soldiers' Testimonies from the Occupied Territories 2000-2010

I think if this story had been about Canada, Korea, France, or Brazil people would have read it.  The conversation would not have immediately shifted to my alleged hatred of all Canadians.

Since it was about Israel, some people chose to announce that I hated Jews.  Such a response is not only baseless and nonsensical, but it shifts attention to me and away from the story, which in the end isn’t seen.

Now, I don’t know any more about that story than what I’ve read at that website (the website of a Jewish organization, as it happens).  The report may be accurate or not.  Israeli newspapers seem to report it as fully established, neither doubted nor challenged.  The story at least seems to merit investigation.  The point is that nobody told me it was inaccurate (news that would have delighted me).  Instead, they told me that I was anti-Semitic.

This happens with the United States too, of course.  If I criticize the U.S. government a few thousand times, and if the president is a Republican, I’ll hear from some disturbed individual who wants to recommend that I leave the country since I hate it so much.  Why one would try so hard to reform the government of a country he hated is never really explained.

With Israel, such nonsense is triggered much more swiftly.  I haven’t made a career of trying to reform Israel’s government.  All I had to do was tweet a link to an article.  Those who have gone to greater lengths to criticize the crimes of the government of Israel have, in some cases, seen themselves censored, vilified, and their careers derailed.  Many persevere despite this climate.

There is, however, a way to speak openly and honestly about Israel.  Not everyone can do it.  The trick is to be a veteran of the Israeli military.  This approach helps people whose “service” was years ago.  And it helps those whose memories of what they did “for their country” are very fresh.  Not only does such status shield one from a great deal of criticism, but it provides a substantive advantage in being able to report first-hand on what the Israeli military has been doing.  Just as Veterans For Peace are able to speak with some legitimate authority in the United States against the use of war (see Winter Soldier now if you haven’t), members of the Israeli military, and those who recently were Israeli soldiers, command attention.

A new book called Our Harsh Logic: Israeli Soldiers’ Testimonies from the Occupied Territories 2000-2010, collects the accounts of numerous Israeli soldiers, although withholding their names.  Videos of some of the soldiers telling their stories can be seen online.  The online database sorts the stories into categories: › AbuseAssassinationsBriberyCheckpointsConfirmation of killingCurfews/closuresDeathsDestruction of propertyHuman shieldsHumiliationLootingLoss of livelihoodRoutineRules of engagementSettlementsSettler violence.

“Supporting the troops” is usually understood to exclude listening to the troops.  But these troops should be listened to.  Their experiences are very similar to those of the U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq.  But their war has lasted much, much longer, and with no end in sight.  Their testimonies make clear that their tactics do not serve the supposed purpose of reducing violence, and are in fact not intended to do any such thing.  The bizarre ordeals imposed on the soldiers outdo Kafka and pale in comparison to the nightmares imposed on Palestinians.  The driving forces are quite clearly racism, sadism, imperialism, and excessive obedience.

A very few of the many samples I was tempted to provide:

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Freedom Riding to Gaza

5:53 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Fifty years ago, freedom riders traveled by bus into the U.S. South.  Now American freedom riders are joining their allies from around the world on a flotilla bound for Gaza.  The U.S. ship is called The Audacity of Hope.

The heroes on this ship have pledged to sail unarmed and to refuse to use violence. The Israeli military, which continues to illegally blockade Gaza, causing endless suffering to the Gazan people, has pledged to use violent force to prevent the ships getting through.

Last May, the Israeli military, in international waters, illegally boarded another ship on a similar mission, the Mavi Marmara, killing nine people, including one American, and wounding dozens. Israel claimed, in its defense, that the Mavi Marmara carried no humanitarian aid, that all such supplies were on other ships in the flotilla.

The 36 American passengers (plus 4 crew and 10 members of the press) on board The Audacity of Hope have publicly stated that they will carry only letters: “thousands of letters of support and friendship from people throughout the U.S. to the women, children and men of Gaza.”

This selfless courage will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with these freedom riders. Some of the ones I know best and am deeply concerned for the safety of are Ann Wright, Ray McGovern, Kathy Kelly, Medea Benjamin, Paki Wieland. These are people who habitually take risks for others. One comes to expect it of them, but also to expect them to always be there doing it. Robert Naiman will be on this ship, and Alice Walker, and Hedy Epstein. Below are videos of 17 of these heroes explaining why they are going.

The Freedom Riders of 1961 asked the U.S. government to protect them. Its efforts to do so were too little too late. The Freedom Riders of 2011 have also asked the U.S. government to protect them, and thus far received no such commitment. We can ask the U.S. State Department to ask Israel (recipient of billions of dollars in U.S. weaponry every year) not to assault this flotilla, and to allow those transporting aid and letters of good will to reach the suffering people of Gaza unharmed.

CONTACT THE U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT

 

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,

You have urged our fellow citizens not to participate in an unarmed nonviolent humanitarian mission to Gaza by sea.

But have you urged Israel not to interfere with ships in international waters?

Have you urged Israel not to harm unarmed activists engaged in an actual humanitarian mission, the very thing your government pretends its wars are?

Have you urged Israel to lift the illegal and murderous blockade of Gaza?

We encourage you to take these steps to ensure the safety of Americans on board The Audacity of Hope sailing for Gaza in the Freedom Flotilla. And we encourage you to pressure Israel in the way that only a nation providing Israel with billions of dollars worth of weapons every year can, by threatening to cut them off.

We look forward to your response.

In Peace,

 

_____________________________

 

ADD YOUR NAME TO THE PETITION WHICH WILL BE DELIVERED TO SECRETARY CLINTON

 

Videos and other resources at the same link.

At Stake in Egypt: Reading Gaza Mom

6:41 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

The danger of permitting the Egyptians democracy, rather than replacing a dictator with his (and our) torturer lies, let us be honest, not in the possibility that Egyptian politics will approach the religiosity of our own Republican Party, and not in the possibility that the civil liberties we have helped deny Egyptians for decades won’t all be immediately established, and certainly not in the possibility that the Egyptians would commit collective suicide by attempting to attack the United States, but rather in the possibility that other peoples would be inspired to attempt self-rule as well, and — more directly — in the probability that Egypt would cease to uphold the collective punishment of the people of Gaza.

Gaza is about twice the size and has about twice the population of Washington, D.C. In DC the schools are lousy, the houses cost too much, there are too many guns, and there’s no corporate stooge like the rest of the United States has to misrepresent you in Congress. But if you are in Washington, D.C., and not in an actual prison, you are permitted to go to Maryland or Virginia or anywhere else you like. You can acquire a U.S. passport and travel abroad. You can find just about any type of food or building material or medical supply. Injured children are generally taken to hospitals that have beds available.

There is airplane noise in DC, but it’s not the sonic boom of war planes flying low threatening to strike. While you may get mugged on the street, you can be pretty sure the street and its buildings will be there tomorrow. And when a handful of lunatics crash an airplane into the Pentagon across the river, millions of innocent people you’ve never seen have their lives destroyed or ended in response. If downtown DC were hit day after day with bombs and white phosphorous and depleted uranium and cluster bombs, you can be pretty sure that there would be some sort of response, sane or otherwise. Such horrors would not be ignored.

The ideal remedy to the ignoring of Gaza, I think, would be if we had a writer and speaker who was from Gaza but also lived frequently right here in the Washington, D.C., area, someone who was a news reporter who could get the facts and report them, but also someone who could tell a human story of life as a Gazan, and someone up to speed on the most useful current forms of communication: a blogger, and a blogger whose best work had been excerpted and collected into a well-edited book. That would be ideal and is also Laila El-Haddad of http://gazamom.com and now of “Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything in Between.”

When Emerson said that novels would eventually become autobiographies he grasped what blogs can now produce. Here is a collection of writings from the Gaza Mom blog from 2004 through 2010, covering a period of worsening hardship in Gaza that was launched with Israel’s supposed ending of the occupation. Ending an occupation while blockading entrance or exit from a small territory and murdering its people at will turns out not to be what most people envisioned as the ending of an occupation. El-Haddad tells this story with great skill and humanity, with neither overpowering bitterness nor the simulation of robotic indifference expected of corporate journalists. El-Haddad gives birth to a little boy and raises him in Gaza and the United States, and towards the end of the book gives birth to his little sister. This is, in fact, a book about parenting — which, like everything else, is unique for Gazans while still familiar to people everywhere.

El-Haddad’s husband is a Palestinian refugee, as are a large percentage of the world’s refugees, and he is not permitted into Gaza, so his wife and kids live in Maryland with him, he visiting his family in Lebanon and she hers in Gaza — or trying to. International travel is not simple for Gazans, whose citizenship anywhere is not widely recognized, and whose ability to enter their own country through Egypt is controlled by the top two long-term recipients of foreign U.S. “aid,” Israel and Egypt. El-Haddad’s little boy took his first steps while waiting weeks in Egypt to get into Gaza. On another occasion, they were not permitted out of Cairo’s airport and were forcibly sent back to the United States because Egypt was only permitting Gazans who had permanent residency status somewhere else to enter Gaza.

“Kafkan” is a word that El-Haddad uses, as everyone does, to describe the huge percentage of Gazans’ hours that is spent waiting, and waiting, and waiting. But the book that hers most brought to mind for me was Albert Camus’ “The Plague” which tells the story of a city closed off and dying because of a contagious disease. The lives of the people in that story may have taken inspiration from World War II’s occupied France but I think more closely resemble the lives of the people of Gaza today. There is also an element of the Italian film “Life Is Beautiful” in “Gaza Mom.” At one point she half-convinces her little boy that the bombing around them is popcorn popping.

El-Haddad records her reactions to events, often on a daily basis. On a couple of occasions I did not think those reactions were ideal. On one she writes of “Weepy Settler Syndrome” objecting to the media’s narrow focus on the point of view of Israeli settlers forced to abandon illegal settlements, excluding from the story the suffering of the people whom the settlers had displaced from their lands. But the deceptions of propaganda and the relative scales of suffering can be addressed without mocking the tears of human beings. On other occasions, as many people do, El-Haddad records encounters — including with bigoted Americans — and then runs through possible ideal things she could have said that didn’t come to her in the heat of the moment, and her inclinations seem pretty good to me. When her child asks whether the people who keep closing the border to Gaza are like “the bad guys” in stories, El-Haddad says yes, but to her credit she publishes a letter that she sends to the Israeli Minister of “Defense” asking him how she should have answered her son’s question. And late in the book (in a blog from 2008) El-Haddad discusses a growing interest in nonviolent resistance in Gaza and in Hamas.

I strongly recommend picking up this informative and entertaining book:
http://www.justworldbooks.com

And reading this blog:
http://www.gazamom.com

And joining El-Haddad at Busboys and Poets in DC today!
http://www.gazamom.com/2011/02/reading-busyboyspoets-feb-6

And watching this video of El-Haddad on GRIT tv:
http://www.gazamom.com/2011/01/lizzy-ratner-and-i-discuss-the-goldstone-…

And reading this excerpt of Naomi Klein’s introduction to a book about the Goldstone Report:
http://www.alternet.org/rights/149792/goldstone_report_details_a_massive…

And reading that report:
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/specialsession/9/factfind…

And considering what is really at stake in the efforts of the people of Egypt to take control of their government away from the gang of thugs our own nation has backed and funded for decades.