Thursday, December 20, 2012

"Democracy" crumbles - Zoabi is disqualified

I have mentioned Hanin Zoabi before, once after seeing her speak at the University of Chicago and more recently when she was part of a discussion at a cafe in Tel Aviv. She doesn't hesitate to speak the truth to power - power being the Israeli Knesset of which she has been a member and in which she was the target of an attempted assault by another member.

But now, according to an article in The Guardian newspaper, she is being disqualified from running again for her Knesset seat.

It has been claimed that Voltaire said, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it", but whoever actually said it expressed the foundation of democracy, a system which Israel claims to follow but which it has never possessed. Democracy is not the representation of a select group, but of all who live under it. Israelis who live in settlements are still full Israeli citizens and a powerful force in the Knesset without living in Israel. The Palestinians who are displaced to provide room for the settlers are unrepresented. Zoabi represented the small and deliberately limited number of Arab Israelis who are kept politically powerless without hope of gaining enough seats to have a say in what happens to them. So goes the decline of the state as another voice of dissent is now removed from office.

The good in this is that another part of the makeup crumbles away from the benign face that Israel wants the world to see. Extremism continues its relentless rise and with it the end of the state for only the select comes closer. Colonialism is an anachronism and with its end in Israel it will follow other unmourned things such as slavery into history.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

roof tapping and leaflets - you were warned!

The following is an account from Gaza by Johnny Barber, who reports for counterpunch. I have edited his original piece for brevity and inserted some links for those interested in verifying what is related. I decided to use this article because in one place it describes several things that I have heard about from other sources and pulls together the dire situation of being a Palestinian in Gaza. It does not, of course, get into the difficulties of the Palestinians in the West Bank who, though not under fire from F16's or gunboats from time to time, have to deal with settler assaults, ground water theft and the onerous checkpoints.

From Johnny Barber:
The Israeli Defense Forces insist they protect civilians in Gaza, only targeting terrorists. They have several methods to protect innocent civilians. One method is to call the civilians on the phone, another method is to drop leaflets telling them to flee for their lives, as an attack is imminent. During the latest offensive, Israeli dropped leaflets in the rural areas telling people to flee to the city. In Gaza City, leaflets were dropped warning people to flee to the rural areas. A new, ingenious method they use to protect civilians is to drop ‘loud, non-lethal bombs’ on a home as a warning for the inhabitants as to what will come. They even have a name for this warning. They call it ‘roof tapping’. Then anywhere from 3 minutes to 20 minutes pass before they bomb the house from F-16’s. These bombs are a very large and very lethal. The homes I have seen today have been completely flattened, and the houses around the target are also rendered uninhabitable.

The ‘non-lethal bombs’ penetrate rooftops and can travel through 4 stories. Children or other civilians sitting under these bombs lose limbs, suffer head trauma, shrapnel wounds, and other injuries. The idea behind these warnings is that inhabitants will flee their homes once they are warned. If elders, small children, newborns, or disabled people are in the home, this can be a difficult endeavor. If a child suffers an amputation, fleeing will take a little more precious time. But lets ignore these complications as they just muddy the waters. I am amazed at the generosity of the

After the most recent ceasefire agreement, it was stated that farmers would be able to reach their lands in the buffer zone (see my note on this below - CB). The farmers were thrilled that they would be able to farm on the 300-meter (about 1/4 mile) swath of land known here in Gaza as the no go zone, because if they dared try to access this land they were immediately targeted by Israeli snipers.

On Wednesday we accompanied farmers to the buffer zone in Johr el Deek. It was amazing! We walked right up to the razor wire barrier! We watched as 2 Israeli jeeps approached the fence. I was smiling as they got out of their jeeps, but my smile was erased as they lifted their weapons and fired toward us. Of course, they didn’t shoot us, the ceasefire was in effect for an entire week! I was confused though, as they lobbed tear gas canisters at us, and continued firing over our heads as we retreated. Perhaps the soldiers were as confused as I was about the details of the agreement. After all, unfettered access to the land is a little vague. Perhaps the farmers misunderstood.

The fishermen faced a similar dilemma. After the ceasefire was announced, the fishermen were told that Israel, would allow the fishermen to fish in Gazan waters up to 6 nautical miles from the shore. This was double, the limit that has been in effect for the past 6 years. The fishermen were happy. They would have an opportunity to provide for their families, though the Oslo Accords stated fishermen would have access to 20 nautical miles of the sea back in 1993

The fishermen I spoke with said they had access to the 6-mile limit for two days. Then, Wednesday, exactly one week after the ceasefire agreement, numerous fishing boats, in waters from 3 nautical miles to 6 nautical miles came under heavy attack by the Israeli Navy. One boat was sunk, 3 boats had their engines destroyed by gunfire, one trawler was confiscated and 9 fishermen were arrested.  The Israeli officers made sure the fishermen stripped and jumped into the sea before they sunk the boat. (Over the past few years, B’Tselem has collected dozens of testimonies from fisherman apprehended via the dangerous and humiliating “swimming procedure”: fishermen were compelled to undress at gunpoint and swim from their boat to a navy craft, regardless of weather conditions - CB)

The fishermen received no warnings. Of course everyone realizes that cell phones don’t work so far from shore and dropping leaflets would be impractical as most of the leaflets would fall into the water. And even I know ‘roof tapping’ at sea would be way too dangerous, as the possibility of harming the civilian fishermen would be high.

The best approach is to simply start firing from hundreds of meters away as the gunboats accelerate toward the fishing trawlers. This gives the fishermen at least 3 minutes to pull up their nets and escape back to port. I am not certain what changed on the third day for these fishermen, but few fish were caught.

We also visited the homes of children who were killed. One was 9-year old Fares al-Basyouni, killed in his home as he slept. Shrapnel that penetrated the wall decapitated Fares. His father described the horrific scene. ‘We didn’t hear the bombs. We woke to the sound of windows shattering and the house shaking. The house was full of smoke. My daughters and sons were screaming as I moved from room to room to find them.’ Fare’s lifeless torso landed on top of his 14-year old brother, who ran screaming from the house into the night.

Didn’t they receive the warnings? Hassan’s cousin Mohammed confirmed leaflets fell from the sky 20 minutes after the attack. So, you see, they were warned.
NOTE: from the B'Tselem website regarding the no-go zone: 

A 2010 report by the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) maintains that, in practice, the areas to which Palestinian access was restricted and where any person was at high risk of injury encompassed 62.6 square kilometers and ranged from 500 to 1,500 meters from the fence. These areas comprise 17% of the total area of the Gaza Strip and some 35% of its farmland. Ninety-five percent of the areas with restricted access were cultivated farmland.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

the problem is the State of Israel

Here, reproduced in full because you never know when web documents will disappear, is an article by Eamonn McCann in the Belfast Telegraph published November 22, 2012 after the latest assault on Gaza.

How destruction of Gaza was planned over six decades ago

By Eamonn McCann
Thursday, 22 November 2012

It was written “Imagine that not so long ago, in any given country you are familiar with, half of the entire population had been forcibly expelled within a year, half of its villages and towns wiped out, leaving behind only rubble and stones.

Imagine now the possibility that somehow this act will never make it into the history books and that all diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict that erupted in that country will totally sideline, if not ignore, this catastrophic event.

“Imagine, that is, trying to understand what’s happening between Israel and Gaza today without taking into account how the conflict began.”

The quote is from the introduction to Ilan Pappe’s ‘The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine’. Pappe, a senior lecturer in political science at the University of Haifa until 2007, is currently a professor at the University of Essex and director of its European Centre for Palestine Studies. He is foremost among Israeli ‘New Historians’ who, since the publication in the 1980s of Israeli and British documents from the period, have radically rewritten the history of the Jewish State’s foundation and the flight of 700,000 Palestinians from its territory.

Pappe argues that the exodus was not a mere by-product of terror and chaos but the result of a deliberate strategy designed to facilitate the consolidation and expansion of the new Jewish State. The key document which he and others cite is Plan Dalet (Dalet is the Hebrew letter D).

Plan Dalet was drafted and distributed to leaders of the Hagannah in March 1948. Its formal adoption reflected the transformation of the clandestine organisation into the core element of a regular army. The drafting “commission” included about a dozen military and political leaders under the chairmanship of Israel’s “founding father” and first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.

Four months earlier, in November 1947, the UN General Assembly had voted to divide Palestine into a Jewish State covering 56% of the territory and a Palestinian State on 42% — with the remaining 2%, Jerusalem, designated an “internationalised zone”. The scheme was plainly unfair to the Palestinians. But, backed by the US, the Soviet Union and the other major powers, it was handed down as the consensus view of what’s now called “the international community”.

However, it is clear from the material which has subsequently become available that Zionist leaders of the time saw the UN plan not as a compromise settlement but as a stepping-stone towards their objective of a state based on Jewish religious identity to include all of the “Land of Israel” — the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem as well the territory allocated to Israel. Which meant clearing the Palestinians out.
Pappe quotes Ben Gurion on December 3, 1947: “They can either be mass arrested or expelled; it is better to expel them.”

It is a striking aspect of contemporary accounts that Zionist military leaders were more open and honest about their intentions than diplomacy might have dictated. Hagannah commander Yigael Yadin told other Zionist groups in January 1948 to give over with the rhetoric about “retaliation”: “This is not what we are doing: this is an offensive and we need to initiate preemptive strikes; no need for a village to attack us (first)”.
Plan Dalet, then, represented not a new path but the codification and strengthening of a practice already well under way. Anyone wanting to inform their own views of the rights and wrongs of what’s afoot in Gaza today should read Plan Dalet. An English-language text is easily accessible on the internet. The Plan does not call for massacre in so many words. And it can be read (although some of us regard this as rather implausible) as a contingency plan rather than an order for immediate implementation.

Nevertheless, the strategy is clearly outlined and describes with chilling accuracy what, in the event, was about to unfold.

Under the heading, ‘Mounting operations against enemy population centres located inside or near our defensive system in order to prevent them from being used as bases by an active armed force,’ the Plan calls for the “destruction of villages (setting fire to, blowing up, and planting mines in the debris), especially those population centres which are difficult to control continuously” (Who might be the target of mines buried in the debris of previous attack?) .Under ‘Mounting search and control operations’, the Plan recommends “encirclement of the village and conducting a search inside it.In the event of resistance, the armed force must be destroyed and the population must be expelled outside the borders of the state”.

It all happened back then exactly as Planned. It’s happened since, again and again and again and again.
It is happening in Gaza today. The problem does not have to do with “ancient hatreds”, with the belligerence of this side or that or both, or with something wicked in Judaism or Islam or both. The problem is the state of Israel.