Friday, January 02, 2009

Destroying the Destitute

Israel is poised as we speak for a ground invasion of the Gaza strip after launching a week long bombing campaign that has now killed close to 500 Palestinians and injured over 2000 more, many of them non-combatants including women and children clearly not responsible for the rocket attacks fired into Israel, the reason cited for the bombing campaign and impending invasion. As one uncovers the truth, it gets worse.

Liza provided a link to a good Chris Hedges article at truthdig that effectively relates the extent of the humanitarian horrors unfolding in Gaza. Reuters Alertnet has a Situation Map that illustrates the location and nature of the carnage and an executive summary sheet showing some key facts. Among those listed is that 79 percent of the Palestinians in Gaza live below the poverty line. That's four out of five.

From the Hedges piece:
The U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, former Princeton University law professor Richard Falk, has labeled what Israel is doing to the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza "a crime against humanity." Falk, who is Jewish, has condemned the collective punishment of the Palestinians in Gaza as "a flagrant and massive violation of international humanitarian law as laid down in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention." He has asked for "the International Criminal Court to investigate the situation, and determine whether the Israeli civilian leaders and military commanders responsible for the Gaza siege should be indicted and prosecuted for violations of international criminal law."

In what I consider deeply ironic, Falk compared what is happening in Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto at the hands of the Nazis, where an entire population is systemically deprived of food and medicine. The facts of this humanitarian plight would play most differently if the people being oppressed were Europeans. Think Sarajevo. Remember the front pages of Time, Newsweek, and the rest?

The upcoming February 10 Israeli elections play a role in this, after which prime minister Ehud Olmert will step down. The Israeli cabinet approved the attack in principle on December 24th, leaving the timing to Olmert, defense minister, Ehud Barak, and the foreign minister, Tzipi Livni. Barak has been lagging far behind Livni and Binyamin Netanyahu, the opposition Likud leader (the link is his campaign Web site), in the election campaign. Netanyahu asserts at his site, "We've restrained ourselves long enough."

Last week Barak mounted a countrywide campaign on billboards and on the Internet, admitting that he is "not nice", "not cuddly", and "not trendy".


If the pummeling of the Palestinians in Gaza goes better than the 2006 effort against Hezbollah, perhaps Barak can score some anti-nice and anti-cuddly points, apparently perceived to be of value with the electorate.

Not surprisingly, Bush is touting his same oversimplified rhetoric, i.e., Israel is simply defending itself against terrorists in Gaza. Condoleeza Rice chimed in with a desire for a cease-fire "as soon as possible" once "rocket attacks can no longer occur." I don't know how to draw an interpretation different from "Go for it."


Anonymous Mariana said...

I have a childish impulse (read "obsession") to find a solution to every problem. The usual outcome is dinner burnt on the stove and misspelled comments.
Intellectually, I am aware of the complexity of the situation but I cannot help thinking that it MUST be a solution out there, we just don't see it (yet). Gravity existed before Newton and we wrote messages before sticky post-it pads were commercially available.
So, here is my solution "du jour": Gaza goes back to Egypt, put UN peace keepers on the border (or not)
I'll keep yo informed if I have other revelations.

1/03/2009 6:49 AM  
Blogger Liza said...

Juan Cole has a good post today that puts the current Israeli invasion of Gaza within a historical context.

I have read a lot of comments about these latest events in Gaza and it is truly astonishing how little Americans know about the history of Israel's conflicts in the region.

Do Americans really think this is about rockets? Israel has been planning this invasion FOR SIX MONTHS!

It is also interesting to me that certain provoking events get reported and others don't. This is from the December 24 broadcast of "Democracy Now:"

Gaza Rocket Fire Follows Israeli Killing of 3 Palestinians

In Israel and the Occupied Territories, three Palestinians were killed Tuesday in an Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip. Earlier today, Palestinian militants began firing rockets at Israel in what Hamas called a retaliatory strike. The rockets have landed near Israeli towns with no reported injuries. A six-month ceasefire between Israel and Hamas expired last week. Hamas spokesperson Mahmoud al-Zahar said the violence will continue so long as Israel maintains its economic and humanitarian blockade.

Mahmoud al-Zahar: “Practically, they closed the border. They violated the agreement through the Egyptian side, so we are putting the responsibility on the other side. And now they started to attack our people. We are running self-resistance by all means.”

Interesting how they would know six months ago that they would have to respond to a provocation that apparently was a response to another provocation. Self-defense, yes indeed.

1/04/2009 1:17 PM  
Blogger Liza said...

Chris Hedges has another good commentary today about Gaza and Israel.

Hedges states that Israel "broke the truce" and links to an article that has a multitude of links going back to November 4 when Israel killed six Palestinians in Gaza and Hamas responded by firing rockets.

This is from the on Nov 5:

Hamas militants fired more than 35 rockets into Israel today, hours after the Israeli army killed six people in the Gaza Strip in the first major exchange of fire since a truce took effect in June.

The violence came after the Israeli army said its forces had uncovered a tunnel 250 metres inside Gaza that it said militants planned to use to abduct Israeli soldiers.

Israel launched airstrikes that killed five people and shot dead a gunman during an incursion into the enclave yesterday, saying it had done so after militants attacked soldiers who had gone to destroy the tunnel.

I think it is worthwhile to note that Israel was the first to break the truce. The strategy is reminiscent of Lebanon in 2006. Plan the big invasion, provoke on the border, and propagandize the response into the provoking event.

However, even though I said what I just said, I strongly believe that none of this can be judged outside the context of it's history. That is why unconditional and unquestioning support for the actions of Israel should be subject to debate and not just a permanent fixture in our foreign policy. Most Americans don't know their own history let alone that of Israel and Palestine.

1/04/2009 5:11 PM  
Blogger Liza said...

Actually, Lebanon in 2006 was different in that Hezbollah crossed into Israel and captured two soldiers, supposedly to exchange for Lebanese prisoners held in Israel. It was a fairly mundane border skirmish escalated to an event worthy of a full scale invasion. Self defense, of course.

1/04/2009 5:41 PM  
Blogger The Navigator said...

I must confess I am one of those who was not too familiar with the situation. The whole thing is sickening beyond words. The planet is clearly divided into populations where life has different value. In the US, England, Israel, Germany, etc., an event that kills 100 citizens is seen as cataclysmic.

If they are Palestinians, however, 100 is chump change. In places like Sudan or Somalia, it seems like 10,000 dead won't even hit the news.

I think the Israelis have calculated that they can do this, and that the opposition is marginalized in the current world situation. Events have left the Palestinians with few friends, and probably no friends that would actually do anything other than voice token objection and disapproval. Some at the UN called for an immediate ceasefire.

The US blocked the resolution.

1/04/2009 6:39 PM  
Blogger Liza said...

It is a massacre, pure and simple.

There will be enough blowback to last several generations, as if 60 years isn't enough.

1/04/2009 7:50 PM  
Blogger Liza said...

Continuing the conversation I am having with myself here...

I do not read any local blogs anymore except for this one. I just checked Tedski's blog and Blog for Arizona. Not a word about Gaza on either one.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is ignored by Democrats because, of course, the pro-Israel American Jews are Democrats and they expect that all Democrats should just fall in line behind, "Israel has the right to defend itself" and "Israel is fighting terrorists" and so forth. This rhetoric seems to work for everyone from neo-conservative Republicans who want to rule the world to liberal Democrats who will discuss anything except the actions of Israel.

I guess the local Democratic blogs are just waiting for it to blow over, same as usual, and they can get back to talking about everything else except this.

Continue to ignore this at your own peril, Democrats. You believe that you just voted against the Bush/Cheney foreign policy, but apparently you did not. Do you really believe that this will be addressed differently by Obama and Secretary of State Hillary "We Will Obliterate Iran" Clinton?

Democrats haven't even got the spine to discuss this, let alone change it or even allow the humanitarian crisis to be addressed, for that matter.

1/05/2009 2:11 PM  
Anonymous Mariana said...

Liza, you are talking about some Democrats, the politicians. Most of the ones I know, here in Tucson, agree with x4mr, you and me. As for the two blogs you mentioned, they do "their thing", that's how they maintain their relevance.

1/05/2009 8:14 PM  
Blogger The Navigator said...

What I think Liza is pointing to (and I completely agree) is the profound lack of outrage and any speaking out against what is increasingly clear as an atrocity.

She named some local blogs, about which I could not care less, but her point applies even more powerfully higher up the chain. No one expects any indication of thought from the White House, but one would think some in Congress would have a reaction.

Based on material both Liza and x4mr have linked to (and subsequent material linked to by those articles), I don't know how one can fail to conclude that this is tantamount to a calculated "what the world will accept" level of genocide.

1/05/2009 9:02 PM  

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