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20 Jul

Israel and Palestine, Not a U.S. Government View

*

The Death Of Our Children
*Al Jazeera English Mobile

Gaza’s crisis, Israeli ambition, and US decline

The US should stop enabling Israel’s unfettered freedom of military initiative.

As Israel’s military kills and injures hundreds of civilians in Gaza – whose population Israel is legally obligated to protect as an occupying power – people around the world, including in the United States, wonder why official Washington appears so indifferent to even the most graphic instances of “collateral damage“. The primary reason is that most American policy elites still believe the United States needs to dominate the Middle East, and that Israeli military assertiveness is instrumentally useful to this end – a mindset the Israel lobby artfully reinforces.

Since World War II – and especially since the Cold War’s end – the US political class has seen Middle Eastern hegemony as key to their country’s global primacy. For two decades following Israel’s creation, it contributed little to this; thus, the United States extended it virtually no military or economic assistance, beyond negligible amounts of food aid.

Washington started providing substantial assistance to Israel only after it demonstrated a unilateral capacity, in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, to capture and hold territory from Arab states allied, for the most part, with the Soviet Union. Support for Israel grew through the rest of the Cold War; after the Cold War, US policymakers doubled down on the US-Israeli “special relationship”, calculating that facilitating Israel’s military superiority vis-a-vis its neighbours would help solidify US post-Cold War dominance over the strategically vital Middle East.

The instrumental nature of the “special relationship” also shaped what seems, from outside, Washington’s chronically ineffectual stewardship of the so-called Middle East peace process – especially in seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Notwithstanding rhetorical professions, neither Israel nor the US has ever wanted a two-state outcome.

Palestinian self-determination precluded

Israel’s national security strategy has long rested on a military doctrine – which Israeli officials misleadingly label “deterrence” – requiring that Israel’s military be capable of using force first, disproportionately, and whenever and wherever in its neighbourhood Israeli politicians want. Pursuing a two-state solution seriously would ultimately curb this freedom of unilateral military initiative.

Moreover, for a Zionist project with inherently religious roots, a two-state outcome would mean surrendering too much of the Jewish Biblical homeland to sustain the Jewish immigration on which Israel’s long-term future depends.

Likewise, the US never intended the peace process to help Palestinians achieve real self-determination – for that would inevitably constrain Israel’s exercise of military supremacy over its neighbourhood, attenuating America’s own drive for Middle Eastern dominance. The process has instead been conducted to empower Israel, to subordinate Palestinians and other Arabs into an increasingly militarised US sphere of influence, and to leverage Arab states’ buy-in to this scenario.

These dynamics are vividly displayed in Israeli and US approaches to Gaza. The roots of Gazans’ current trials go back to 2005, when Israel withdrew soldiers and settlers from Gaza. Widely credited with having pushed Israel to take these steps, Hamas won internationally supervised Palestinian elections the following year.

But Gaza’s occupation was far from over. While Israel had withdrawn soldiers and settlers, it hardly let Gazans exercise anything approaching sovereignty: Israel’s military continued exerting strict control over their access to the world – whether by land, sea, or air – and over flows of food, medicine, and other essential goods into their territory. For nearly a decade, this siege has eroded living conditions for 1.7 million people.

After becoming the elected governors of Gaza’s population, Hamas offered Israel a long-term truce, if Israel withdrew to pre-1967 borders. Instead of negotiating with Hamas, to consolidate a sustainable and truly self-governing entity in Gaza that could ground broader conflict resolution, Israel and the US rejected Palestinians’ electoral choice and worked in multiple ways to isolate Hamas and undermine its popularity by increasing civilian suffering in Gaza – including, in 2006, 2008-2009, and 2012, through military assaults inflicting thousands of Palestinian casualties.

In some respects, this approach “succeeded”, for a while. By this spring, Hamas was at what even ardent supporters described as its weakest point, in terms of financial resources and regional backing, since its founding. (To be sure, Hamas contributed to this by abandoning its base in Syria and counting on Egypt’s short-lived Muslim Brotherhood government to become its biggest regional backer.)

US failure

But Israel’s insistence on perpetuating occupation – even without settlements – is renewing Hamas’ resistance agenda. Earlier this week, after Israel accepted an Egyptian ceasefire proposal that would have done nothing to address the ongoing siege, Hamas made its own proposal: a ten-year truce, including a comprehensive ceasefire – if Israel met a set of ten demands.

Among them: opening all land crossings into Gaza, lifting the naval blockade, establishing an international airport and a seaport, freeing all prisoners arrested in the Israeli military’s current campaign, and committing not to re-enter Gaza for a decade.

Israel, of course, is not about to accede to any of this. And so the world waits to see if a ceasefire can be brokered, or whether Israel’s military, after bombing at least 1,800 sites in Gaza since July 8, is mounting a “boots on the ground” operation there – which, Israeli officials warn, could last “many months“.

Among this situation’s many tragic aspects, one is particularly galling: After strategically failed interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and (by proxy) Syria, it is abundantly evident that Washington’s quest to dominate the Middle East has not just failed. This quest has sapped US capacity to shape positive strategic outcomes in the region and, at least in relative terms, weakened the United States as a global player. Looking ahead, the experience of the Arab Awakening casts further doubt on the long-term plausibility of co-opting unrepresentative Arab governments into a US-led regional order that, among other things, enshrines Israel’s perpetual military ascendancy. Yet, US policy elites stick with their hegemonic script.

The alternatives to Washington’s failed quest for hegemony are twofold: to shift US strategy towards cultivating a stable balance of power in the Middle East and to promote greater reliance on international law and institutions as contributors to regional and global stability. Either or both would compel fundamental revision of US posture towards Israel.

Cultivating a stable regional balance will take serious engagement with all relevant actors, including those (Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran) that seek to constrain Israel through both hard and soft power. It will also require the United States to stop enabling Israel’s unfettered freedom of military initiative, which contributes to regional instability. Similarly, promoting international legal frameworks as strategic stabilisers is meaningless unless Washington stops shielding Israel from the political consequences of thwarting them – whether by regularly violating international humanitarian law or by opting out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and developing the region’s only indigenous nuclear arsenal.

Unfortunately for Gaza’s people and US interests, the US’ political class remains deeply resistant to these imperatives.

Flynt Leverett is professor of international affairs and law at Penn State; Hillary Mann Leverett is senior professorial lecturer at American University’s School of International Service. Their book, Going to Tehran: Why America Must Accept the Islamic Republic of Iran, is now in paperback.

Thousands flee Israeli shelling on east Gaza

People flee their homes by foot after heavy overnight bombardment killed dozens of Palestinians.

Thousands of people fled Gaza’s eastern district of Shujayea as heavy bombardment from the Israeli army continued into the morning, with the Palestinian death toll over the last 13 days reaching 400.

The Palestinian enclave was hit overnight with the heaviest barrage of tank shells since the beginning of Israel’s offensive against Hamas on July 8. The eastern neighbourhoods of Shujayea, al-Shaaf and al-Tuffa were worst hit.

In the early afternoon on Sunday, Israel agreed to observe a two-hour humanitarian ceasefire in Shujayea to allow the evacuation of the wounded, but it was broken less than an hour after it was announced.

Israel’s military said its forces were shot at shortly after the two-hour truce, facilitated by the Red Cross, had begun at 1:30pm (10:30am GMT), and that it had resumed combat operations.

The Palestinian Hamas movement said earlier that it would abide by a temporary truce.

Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker in Gaza witnessed desperate civilians making their way into Gaza City in the morning.

“While driving into the bureau, we were met by hundreds of people on foot carrying their children, carrying plastic bags filled with whatever belongings they could take with them. They couldn’t leave during the night,” our correspondent said.

Dozens of bodies were brought to hospitals from Shujayea on Sunday morning, and more are expected to arrive after ambulances could access the neighbourhoods.

Those killed included the son of senior Hamas leader Khalil al-Hayya, Osama, his wife Hala and their two children.

A Shujayea resident who reached a hospital told Al Jazeera: “It is a massacre taking place in Shujayea. It is a massacre with the full sense of the word, committed by Israel against innocent civilians, there are no armed men among us, the streets of Shujayea are packed with dead bodies.”

Ibtessam Batniji, 29, was walking in the street, looking in vain for a taxi with her children.

“We did not sleep, bombing was everywhere,” she told Al Jazeera. “I don’t know where will we go,” she said as bombs continued to drop.

“Children are scared. We wanted to leave earlier, but we did not dare to go out in the dark. It was like a ghost town, the smell of death and the sound of shooting and shelling everywhere.”

Israel launched its offensive in response to rockets fired from Gaza and says it is targeting military installations of Hamas and other armed groups. However, the vast majority of those killed and injured are Palestinian civilians, many of them children.

Israel announced on Saturday that four of its soldiers were killed in combat with Palestinian fighters, bringing the total death toll on the Israeli side to seven.

‘Heavy psychological impact’

Waleed, a resident of Gaza’s eastern al-Shaff area, told Al Jazeera that he was terrified and stuck with his family of 18 members in a single room and had nowhere to go while Israeli shelling continued through the night.

“We can hear shells and rockets fall on our streets and homes. They’re falling everywhere,” he said.

“We have no electricity, everything has been cut off. The Red Cross can’t reach the area – it’s too dangerous. People are stuck at home. All we hear is shelling.”

Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor working at Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital, told Al Jazeera that most of the casualties brought there were civilians who suffered shrapnel injuries and amputations.

“It’s very disturbing to see the large number of civilians, particularly the children. What is remarkable with the Palestinians in Gaza is the resilience. They don’t give up, they stand tall. I’m amazed to see the calm and coherence in the community and in the hospital among the [hospital] staff.”

He said that three medical doctors had their homes shattered by Israeli attacks late on Saturday.

“What [Palestinians] are [saying] is that how can the world accept the Israelis targeting civilians in an area which is completely shut off? There are no shelters, no early warning systems, no sirens. The population is basically completely naked to the enormously strong Israeli military machine.”

Israel controls land crossings, sea and airspace around Gaza, leaving most of the 1.8 million residents with nowhere to go.

(Hatem Omar / Maan Images)

Israel student union sets up “war room” to sell Gaza massacre on Facebook

Submitted by Ali Abunimah

Students at the IDC Herzliya “war room,” seen here in a screenshot, focus on posting propaganda justifying Israel’s attack on Gaza on Facebook.

As the death toll from Israel’s savage bombardment of Gaza continues to climb, Israel has once again turned to students to sell the slaughter online.

“Although they haven’t been called up to the army yet, they’ve decided to enlist in a civilian mission that is no less important – Israeli propaganda [hasbara],” Ynet’s Hebrew edition reported about a massive initiative organized by the Israeli student union branch at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (IDC Herzliya), a prestigious private university.

Hasbara war room

Hasbara,” literally “explaining,” is the term used in Israel for government propaganda aimed at overseas audiences.

“The goal is to deliver a very clear message to people abroad – Israel has the right to defend itself,” Lidor Bar David told Ynet.

Bar David, a student, and one of the organizers of the “war room,” adds, “We want people abroad who don’t know our reality to understand exactly what is going on here.”

(Update: In a 15 July report, which also links to this post, The New York Times notes that previously “Bar David was a captain in the Israel Defense Forces, serving in the office of the military spokesman’s unit.”)

At least 168 Palestinians have been killed since Israel massively escalated its attack on Gaza on 7 July. Eighty percent of the fatalities are civilians, according to the United Nations.

Thirty-six Palestinian children have been killed and more than 1,200 people have been injured. Thousands are fleeing homes fearing escalating Israeli attacks which have so far destroyed or severely damaged 940 homes, as well as numerous mosques, schools, businesses and charities.

A video accompanying the Ynet report shows rows of students beavering away at computers in a hall with a sign on its door saying “Advocacy Room” in English. In Hebrew, it says “Hasbara war room.”

While Ynet does not reveal specific government ties to this initiative, the National Union of Israeli Students, of which the IDC Herzliya student union is an affiliate, has a history of working on government-funded propaganda schemes, where students are recruited as the country’s “pretty face.”

“Organized lying”

Last year a “covert” Israeli government initiative came to light which planned to pay students for spreading propaganda online.

“The whole point of such efforts is to look like they are unofficial, just every day people chatting online,” Israel expert Dena Shunra told The Electronic Intifada.

“But in fact, these are campaigns of organized lying, orchestrated with government-approved talking points and crowdsourced volunteers and stipend recipients,” Shunra added.

According to Ynet, “The war room was opened in the afternoon of the first day of Operation Protective Edge,” one week ago, by the IDC Herzliya student union, and currently has more than 400 volunteers active in it, all students at the institution.

The IDC Herzliya “war room,” seen in a screenshot from Ynet video, is a continuation of earlier propaganda efforts.

Working in 30 languages, the students working this comment far target online forums including so called “anti-Israel” pages on Facebook and comments sections of online media.

Tomer Amsalem, a second-year year psychology student, acts as one of the war room’s graphic designers.

“In one of our graphics we show the treatment that members of [Hamas leader] Ismail Haniyeh’s and Abu Mazen’s [Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas] families received in Israel, to show we’re even humanitarian to the families of the Palestinian leaders,” he told Ynet.

“In another graphic we show the trauma of the children living around Gaza, which is expressed in drawings of Qassams [rockets]. Another example is a series of cities around the world, being attacked. For example, Berlin – we wrote in German ‘What would you do?’ with a background of Berlin being attacked,’” Amsalem added.

Amsalem is quoted as saying that he sees his work in the “war room” as a civilian equivalent to being called up for military reserves.

Inbal Deutsch, another psychology student who moved to Israel four years ago, responds to comments. She focuses on misattributed photos – photos occasionally circulated online that show scenes that are either not current or not from Gaza. Israel propagandists likely hope that by debunking such pictures they can sow doubt about all too common real pictures of atrocities currently being committed in Gaza.

Israel’s media strategy: What lies beneath

Marwan Bishara

How the Israeli government is misleading the world one press conference at a time.

Do you wonder why there are many questions left unanswered regarding the Israeli escalation in Gaza? Why the questions are so meek, the responses so murky, the phrases come in cliches and soundbites you’ve heard before? Do you feel watching certain interviews is an assault on your intelligence?

Do you wonder why official Israeli spokespersons sound so calm, smiley and kind when their popular base sounds so angry, so aggressive, and so racist? How they are likely to say something like, “thank you it’s nice to be with you”, even after being grilled by a probing frustrated anchor. Why, when asked about the expansion of illegal settlements, Israeli spokespersons speak of the need for a peace settlement, and when asked about bombing civilians, they speak of a better future for all children, Israeli and Palestinian?

Wonder no more. This is all part of a well-thought, well-orchestrated media strategy to mystify, mislead and even misrepresent the reality. And much of it can be found in The Israel Project’s 2009 Global Language Dictionary.

But this is not unique to Israel. Governments set up entire ministries and/or institutions to defend their policies and advance their narrative, at times to mislead their enemies or competitors. Indeed, it’s naive to expect otherwise. Like cynicism, gullibility is especially dangerous for journalists.

Don’t say that, say this

Five years ago, US-based “The Israel Project” asked a Zionist Republican pollster, Frank Luntz, to prepare a new updated media guide for “leaders who are on the front lines of fighting the media war for Israel”. The project builds on some of the best examples of Israeli leaders’ own success at mystification, in order to devise a strategy that neutralises Israel’s critics and promotes and improves its media standing.

It’s a step-by-step guide that underlines “the words that work” and the “words that don’t work” when speaking to westerners. Like any marketing or PR campaign, much of the suggested code words, phrases and sound bites are based on polls.

The report came after Israel’s 2008 Gaza war and following US President Barack Obama’s denouncement of Israeli settlements and his overtures towards Iran. It was prepared for internal use only and kept secret, until it was finally leaked in the fall of 2009.

So for example, how to sell Americans on the Israeli settlements: “Be positive. Turn the issue away from settlements and toward peace. Invoke ethnic cleansing.”

And how to gain the support of viewers: The pro-Israel pundits are instructed to be careful with their tone.

“A patronising, parental tone will turn Americans and Europeans off” because it’s at a time in history when Jews in general – and Israelis in particular – are “no longer perceived as the persecuted people”.

Among sophisticated, educated, opinionated American and European audiences, “Israelis are often seen as the occupiers and the aggressors. With that kind of baggage, it is critical that messages from the pro-Israel spokespeople not come across as supercilious or condescending.”

And since the US evangelical base already supports Israel, the Dictionary warns against using religious arguments when speaking to western leftists or liberals. But since to “much of the Left”, both sides are equally at fault, and because the Israelis are more powerful, the most effective way to build support for Israel is to talk about “working toward a lasting peace” that “respects the rights of everyone in the region”.

And why is it so important to always speak of peace? The report signals two reasons: One: If Americans see no hope for peace – if they only see a continuation of a 2,000-year-long episode of “Family Feud”  - Americans will not want their government to spend tax dollars or their president’s clout on helping Israel. Reason two: “The speaker that is perceived as being most for peace will win the debate.”

And this is one of my favourite attempts at deception:

“Americans agree that Israel has a right to defensible borders. But it does you no good to define exactly what those borders should be. Avoid talking about borders in terms of pre- or post-1967, because it only serves to remind Americans of Israel’s military history. Particularly on the left, this does you harm.”

Gaza sequel

Chapter six of the 18-chapter, 117-page guide focuses on the lessons from the last Gaza war and proposes a more effective public diplomacy for the next time around, i.e. this round.

One of the first recommendations goes as follows:

“Israel made painful sacrifices and took a risk to give peace a chance. They voluntarily removed over 9,000 settlers from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, abandoning homes, schools, businesses, and places of worship in the hopes of renewing the peace process.”

And “Despite making an overture for peace by withdrawing from Gaza, Israel continues to face terrorist attacks, including rocket attacks and drive-by shootings of innocent Israelis. Israel knows that for a lasting peace, they must be free from terrorism and live with defensible borders.”

Needless to say, much of the formulation is misleading. Most of the illegal settlers had already moved out because of mounting Palestinian resistance, pushing Israel to finally redeploy its military without any coordination with the Palestinian Authority. The decision was motivated by the need to disengage demographically from 1.5 million impoverished Palestinians and was based on cost-benefit analysis, not peace strategy. All of which partially explains why Israel has being laying siege to Gaza and reckons it has the right to intervene militarily at will ever since.

At any rate, the guide suggests that defenders and promoters of Israel’s war need to use the kind of language that “may be hard for some of you to say, but every result of research confirms that an approach like this is the best way for an Israeli spokesperson to truly be heard and therefore make a difference”.

Consider these choice tidbits: “Israel should not be bombing Gaza. I will repeat that. Israel should not be forced into a situation where they have to bomb Gaza. Likewise, Hamas should not be deliberately firing rockets into civilian areas of Israel. If the rockets stop, we can achieve that peace where Palestinian and Israeli children live in safety.”

“When it comes time to talk about rockets, the best word is ‘deliberate’. Don’t say that Hamas is ‘randomly rocketing Israel’. Do say ‘Hamas is deliberately firing rockets into Israeli towns, communities, and civilian populations’.”

“Paint a vivid picture of what life is like for Israeli civilians and children under the constant threat of rocket attack. You have to humanise why Gaza happened and what Israel has faced for weeks, months, even years.”

Five-step guide to winning hearts

The guide advises the pro-Israel camps to “use rhetorical questions to gain permission from the audience for Israel’s actions”.

For example: “What should Israel do? Imagine, if thousands of rockets were fired into your community every day and every night? What would your country do? What would you want them to do? Don’t we have a duty to protect our citizens?”

And here comes the worst bit of deception:

“Americans recognise that rocket attacks are an impediment to peace; but they do not accept rockets as an excuse to abandon peace. It is utterly expected that Israeli spokespersons will talk about proportionality and prevention of rocket attacks. But if you take the unexpected approach of talking about another ‘p’ word – the most important ‘p’ word to the public – you generate immense credibility.”

So here’s the five-step approach to talking about civilian casualties in Gaza:

The guide concludes this chapter on the worst possible advice: “Israel should not give any more land for peace, because every time it does, it just gets more war.”

Marwan Bishara is the senior political analyst at Al Jazeera.

Can Israel be stopped?

Larbi Sadiki

New geopolitical realities have cleared the way for the ongoing Israeli offensive against Gaza.

It is a myth that the war between Hamas and Israel was triggered by the murder of several children, Israeli and Palestinian, in recent weeks. It is also a myth that Palestinian fighters alone are to blame for the ongoing military offensive in Gaza.

The current war is a logical consequence of the frustration over failed negotiations and anger over the crippling siege of the overcrowded Gaza strip, the continuous building of settlements, the uprooting of Palestinian trees, and confiscation of land and houses.

Israel fights simply because it can. As it steps up its war against Hamas with a ground invasion, it looks unstoppable. What happens next will depend on the readiness of Hamas, which has declined an Egypt-mediated truce that would have neither lifted the siege on Gaza nor given it political manoeuvrability to negotiate all Palestinian matters with the international community as an equal to Fatah.

Israel’s offensive on Gaza happens at a time when international diplomacy is distracted by the escalation of conflicts in other areas (e.g. Ukraine and Iraq). Besides, a great deal has changed since the last war in 2012 when Cairo had a government sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. Hamas has since lost that support and, like the Muslim Brotherhood, counts among Arab states more foes than friends.

Indeed, Israel knew it was an opportune time to strike.

New realities

Back in 2012, when Israel launched a military assault on Gaza, then-President Mohamed Morsi could and did play a role in defusing the conflict. In fact, Egypt sent not only humanitarian aid to the strip, but also sent then-Prime Minister Hesham Qandil, who visited for three hours. At the time, Cairo manoeuvred as a mediator to broker a ceasefire with the diplomatic backing of regional and global powers. Hamas and other Palestinian groups in Gaza were brought into the bargaining process.

Now, the situation has certainly changed. There is no longer an alignment of regional and global interests which could support a serious campaign to defuse the current violence. Furthermore, the regime in Cairo, led by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is openly hostile towards Hamas.

Being no longer welcome in the capital of the largest Arab state in the region, Hamas has been politically marginalised once again. Losing support in Cairo has meant that Hamas no longer has a mediator through whom to engage the EU and the US. And since the overthrow of the Morsi government in July 2013, Egypt has tightened the blockade on Gaza even further.

The Egyptian foreign minister’s remarks condemning Israel’s actions last week were finally transformed into an effort to initiate a ceasefire to end the conflict. Tony Blair’s encouragement of Sisi to take a more active role appears to have been the impetus behind the recent diplomatic overture. Blair has taken to shuttle diplomacy between Sisi and Netanyahu but the end result was a ceasefire that was not going to break the political impasse or Gaza’s siege.

Israel’s initial agreement was simply Netanyahu’s government going through the motions to gain greater international legitimacy. However, the exclusion of Hamas from ceasefire negotiations has served to illustrate the incapacity or unwillingness of the Sisi government to engage with all political players involved in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which is a must, if Cairo is to be perceived as an honest broker for peace.

Hamas’ other regional options are no longer viable. Iran’s financial support has dwindled markedly and military aid has completely petered out. Hezbollah is neither a friend nor exactly a foe. And all ties with Syria, which used to host its external leadership, are severed.

Can the war be stopped?

The two warring parties are not “rational actors”, as war theorists would assume in a calculation of costs and benefits. The expected gains for either party are not worth the current escalation in terms of loss of human life and destruction, yet both have proceeded.

Both Israel and Hamas are seeking political gains. Israel is hoping to avoid international isolation after the failed negotiations and US-Iran rapprochement. Hamas, on the other hand, is seeking international legitimacy to fight an unstoppable coloniser that kills indiscriminately and disproportionately.

Yet avoiding the savagery of Israel’s war machine is the best the Palestinians can do given the inauspicious Arab-Arab relations (not to mention Palestinian-Palestinian divisions) marked by a deep chasm over the role Islamists may play in politics. As for Israel, if the ground invasion is planned to grab territory in the Gaza Strip or remove Hamas’ rocket-making and launching capacity, this might be a gamble the gains of which could be outweighed by the costs incurred.

The costs are too high for the Palestinian side to reject any kind of truce that offers Gazans, including traumatised children, relief from the Israeli offensive. For Netanyahu and his government there is also a significant risk that excessive use of force will significantly diminish its ability to justify it as a “legitimate response” to the international community, and the US, specifically.

In these circumstances, Israel seems unstoppable, as its political leadership does not deem the risk of a Gaza invasion high enough to deter it. At the same time, the Palestinian side has no military parity to deter aggression when facing an overwhelming offensive by ground, sea and air.

Israel’s strategy of disproportionate use of military power against a defenceless civilian population, in total disregard for human loss, appears to be winning, since it is drawing only limited condemnation from the international community.

The response of the Obama administration to the Israeli offensive against Gaza was weak at best. “The tragic event makes clear that Israel must take every possible step to meet its standards for protecting civilians from being killed,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, who went on to condemn Hamas for firing rockets at Israel.

Without any pressure from the US and the West in general, Israel will continue to bomb Gaza and take Palestinian lives with impunity.

Likewise, for as long as Arabs fight each other brutally as in Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and do little or nothing to stand up for Gaza, Israel will in the foreseeable future keep attacking on a whim. Hapless Gazans will continue to suffer the biggest moral and political tragedy of our time in the Middle East.

Larbi Sadiki is a specialist in Arab democratisation, revolution and transitions, and has been an academic at Australian National University, Exeter University, Westminster University and Qatar University.

On ‘human shielding’ in Gaza

Nicola Perugini, Neve Gordon

The Israeli army has tried to justify striking civilian areas.

All fighting within cities and all bombardments of urban spaces, even the most “precise and surgical”, is a potential death trap for civilians. Consequently, the permeation of war into cities inevitably transforms their inhabitants into potential human shields.

For Palestinians living in Gaza today, simply spending time in their own homes, frequenting a mosque, going to a hospital or to school has become a dangerous enterprise since any one of these architectural edifices can become at any moment a target. One can no longer safely assume that the existence of masses of human bodies – even the bodies of children – in civilian spaces can serve as defence of the weak against the lethal capacity of the hi-tech states.

But since hi-tech states can and do kill hundreds or thousands of civilians, they have to provide moral justification for their action in order to preserve their standing in the international arena; they have to demonstrate that they are protecting the principles of liberal democracy. It is precisely within this context that we should understand the series of posters recently disseminated by the Israeli military through its Twitter account, Facebook and blogs.

The poster “Where do Gaza Terrorists Hide Their Weapons” is a paradigmatic example, where the subtext does the speaking: Houses, mosques, schools, and hospitals are legitimate targets because they are presumed to be weapon depositories.

This is also the message in “When Is A House a Home?” which simply zooms in on one of the images in the previous poster, showing how Palestinians presumably hide rockets in civilian homes.

The logic is straightforward: insofar as Hamas hides weapons in houses (illegitimate), Israel can bomb them as if they were military targets (legitimate). Within this framework, a single function (hiding weapons) out of many existing functions (home, shelter, intimacy, etc) determines the status of an urban site (in our case the house), so that the edifice’s form loses its traditional signification.

The question “when does it become a legitimate military target?” is merely rhetorical. Its real meaning is: “All houses in Gaza are legitimate targets” since all houses are potentially non-homes.

Not unlike colonial as well as other vastly asymmetrical wars, Israel’s legitimisation for its indiscriminate bombing is premised upon a profound moral disjuncture between Israelis and Palestinians. In the poster “Israel uses weapon to protect its civilians. Hamas uses civilians to protect its weapons”, Palestinians are depicted as barbarians who ignore the elementary grammar of international law.

Israel’s warfare is, however, not only about the re-signification of architectural structures, but also about the transformation of human beings into collateral damage, subjects who can be killed without violating international law. This is the subtext of the poster featuring Israel’s Chief of Staff saying: “Even as we carry out strikes, we remember that there are civilians in Gaza. Hamas has turned them into hostages.”

Again, the logic is clear. All civilians in Gaza are being held hostage by Hamas, which is considered a war crime and a gross violation of international law governing armed conflict. This, then, provides legal and moral justification against the accusation that Israel is the one killing civilians. Presumed human rights violations carried out by Palestinians against Palestinians – taking hostages and human shielding – thus become the legitimisation of lethal and indiscriminate violence on the part of the occupying force.

Hence, the use of human shields is not only a violation. In contemporary asymmetric urban wars, accusing the enemy of using human shields helps validate the claim that the death of “untargeted civilians” is merely collateral damage. When all civilians are potential human shields, when each and every civilian can become a hostage of the enemy, then all enemy civilians become killable.

In order for all this to be convincing, the Israeli military depicts the asymmetric context in which it unleashes its violence against a whole population as symmetric. This is carried out, for instance, through the poster “Some bomb shelters shelter people, some shelter bombs”. Here a radically disproportionate situation is presented as if it were balanced.

The residents of Gaza are bombed by cutting edge F-16 fighter jets and drones, yet they do not have bomb shelters, and they have nowhere to flee. Israel’s residents are bombed mostly by makeshift rockets, many of which have been intercepted by Iron Dome missiles. The majority of the population in Israel has access to shelters and can flee out of the rocket’s range.

These powerful images, spread by the Israeli military through social media, attempt to transform the very presence of civilians as suspect in the areas it bombards, regardless of the fact that the areas it bombs are urban centres.

The crux of the matter is that in the context of contemporary asymmetric warfare, the weak do not have many options. When there are no bomb shelters, people remain at home during extensive bombardment. And if, like in the case of the Palestinians in Gaza, fleeing is not an option – because all exits from the strip have been closed, or because the neighbour’s house is under the exact same threat as one’s own, or because one is already a refugee and does not want to become a refugee anew – staying put, which the high-tech states term “illegal human shields,” constitutes a form of resistance.

Neve Gordon is the author of Israel’s Occupation.

Nicola Perugini is Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Italian Studies and Middle East Studies at Brown University. His forthcoming book is entitled The Human Right to Dominate.

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20 Jul

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Train containing victims of MH17 in Torez, Ukraine

MH17 victims put into train bound for unknown destination

International monitors inspect wagons accompanied by convoy of heavily armed and nervous rebels

Palestinians flee homes in Gaza

Palestinians flee their homes in Gaza’s eastern Shejaiya district on Sunday after heavy Israeli shelling. Photograph: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

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20 Jul

Afghanistan & Iraq Occupation Casualties & News

11142

Results of Our Insane Foreign Policy

The McGlynn: And for what?!

Afghan girl

Photographer Muhammed Muheisen took an impressive series of portraits of Afghan refugee children in Islamabad. Here is six-year-old Laiba Hazrat in a slum on the outskirts of the city.

Other Occupation News

Roadside bomb in Nimroz kills 3 civilians, injures 3 more.

NATO drone attack said to kill 12 Taliban in Herat province.

A NATO airstrike in Pul-e-Alam, Logar,  kills 16 militants.

Vote audit briefly suspended due to a dispute between the candidates  but it appears to have resumed.

A 10 year old girl who was raped by a Mullah faces honor killing. Yes folks, this is really how traditional Afghan society works. According to Khaama,

According to reports, the family of the young rape victim is under the pressure by village elders, who are insisting to kill the girl because “she had brought shame to them.”
The girl was reportedly protected in a women’s shelter in Kunduz province but was returned to her family on Tuesday. According to an official indictment, the rape was so brutal and had nearly died because treatment as delayed. She had suffered a break in the wall between the vagina and rectum, the New York Times reported.
In the meantime, the 45-year-old Mullah has claimed that the girl had promised to marry him and rejected that she is 10-year-old. The mullah has claimed that the girl was 17-year-old, but the mother of the victim has said she was only 10-year-old. Hospital records indicate the child weighed just 40 pounds and had yet to start menstruating.

The full account from the New York Times is here. Additional details are, believe it or not, even more appalling.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, the 12th Century marches on as Christians flee Mosul under threat of a special “tax” or forced conversion. Seven explosions in Shiite districts of Baghdad on Saturday killed 24 people, with the Islamic State claiming responsibility for at least 4 of them. An all female armed brigade enforces strict laws on women in Raqqa, including full coverage in public and male chaperonage. More than 1 million refugees have entered Kurdistan. Kurdish National Security Director Masrour Barzani says the Iraqi army cannot defeat IS and that western powers will need to intervene. He also says that the peshmerga will need heavy arms to confront the equipment stolen by IS from the Iraqi army, should the IS eventually try to attack Kurdistan. (For now, the expanded borders of Kurdistan are secure, as IS chooses to confront the weak Baghdad state.)

07/19/14 KP: 6 Afghan army soldiers martyred in separate IED attacks

07/19/14 KP: US drone strike leaves 4 militants dead in Kunar province

07/19/14 KP: 33 militants killed, 28 others injured in Afghan army operations

07/19/14 Reuters: Afghanistan worried about safety of its airspace after Ukraine crash

Afghanistan Occupation Casualties, Exclusive of Civilians

Fatalities By Country

71214

U. S. Casualties Total To Date:Killed: 2335

Recently Identified Color denotes today’s confirmation:

Pvt. 2nd Class Aaron S. Toppen, 19, of Mokena, Illinois, assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colorado, died June 9, in Gaza Village, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered while engaged in a combat operation. The incident is under investigation.

Cpl. Justin R. Clouse, 22, of Sprague, Washington, assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colorado, died June 9, in Gaza Village, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered while engaged in a combat operation. The incident is under investigation.

Spc. Justin R. Helton, 25, of Beaver, Ohio, assigned to the 18th Ordnance Company, 192nd Ordnance Battalion, 52nd Ordnance Group, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, died June 9, in Gaza Village, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered while engaged in a combat operation. The incident is under investigation.

 Staff Sgt. Jason A. McDonald, 28, of Butler, Georgia, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Fort Campbell, Kentucky, died June 9, in Gaza Village, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered while engaged in a combat operation. The incident is under investigation.

Staff Sgt. Scott R. Studenmund, 24, of Pasadena, California, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Fort Campbell, Kentucky, died June 9, in Gaza Village, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered while engaged in a combat operation. The incident is under investigation.

 Spc. Terry J. Hurne, 34, of Merced, California, died June 9, in Logar province, Afghanistan, from a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 710th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, New York.

.Deaths in Afghanistan: A look at the faces of American lives lost

 

 Afghanistan Occupation Confirmed U.S Casualties – Since June 1, 2009

Iraq Occupation Casualties, Exclusive of Civilians

51714

U. S. Casualties Total To Date:Killed: 4486

Recently IdentifiedColor denotes today’s confirmation

None

 

Deaths in Iraq: A look at the faces of American lives lost

IIraq Occupation Confirmed U.S Casualties – Since June 1, 2009

Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Trained consultants are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and can be contacted by dialing 1-800-273-TALK1-800-273-TALK (8255) or by visiting their website at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org .The Military Crisis Line offers free and confidential support to service members in crisis or anyone who knows a service member who is. The service is staffed by caring, qualified responders from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), many who have served in the military themselves. Support is offered through the crisis line, online chat, and text-messaging services for all service members (active, National Guard and reserve) and veterans 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year by visiting the Military Crisis Line website at http://www.militarycrisisline.net ; Online Chat at: http://www.veteranscrisisline.net/ChatTermsOfService.aspx ; sending a text to: 838255 or calling toll free at: 1-800-273-82551-800-273-8255, Press 1; in Europe Dial: 00800 1273 8255 or DSN 118. Services are available even if members are not registered with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs or enrolled in VA health care.The Army’s comprehensive list of Suicide Prevention Program information is located at http://www.preventsuicide.army.mil . Information about the Army’s Ready and Resilient campaign is located at http://www.army.mil/readyandresilient . Army leaders can access current health promotion guidance in the revised Army Regulation 600-63 (Health Promotion) at: http://www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/r600_63.pdf and in Army Pamphlet 600-24 (Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention) at http://www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/p600_24.pdf .Suicide prevention training resources for soldiers, leaders, Department of the Army civilians and family members can be accessed at http://www.armyg1.army.mil/hr/suicide/training_sub.asp?sub_cat=20 (requires Army Knowledge Online access to download materials). Information about Military OneSource is located at www.militaryonesource.com or by dialing the toll-free number 1-800-342-96471-800-342-9647 for those residing in the continental U.S. Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource web site for dialing instructions for their specific location. Information about the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness Program (CSF2) is located at http://csf2.army.mil/ .The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) Outreach Center can be contacted at 1-866-966-10201-866-966-1020, via electronic mail at Resources@DCoEOutreach.org and at www.dcoe.health.mil . The website for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is http://www.afsp.org/ , and the Suicide Prevention Resource Council site is found at http://www.sprc.org/index

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19 Jul

Our Children in Gaza

.Our childrena

palestinians-with-dead-children

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