Monday, July 31, 2006

[ePalestine] UPDATE on my entry

Dear friends,

FYI, I just arrived back home after entering from Sheikh Hussein Bridge. I was
given a one month tourist visa, which is the time remaining in the last visa that I had when I
exited.

An elderly Palestinian gentleman in front of me was denied entry.

I will be in touch soon.

Rgds,
Sam

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

[ePalestine] Why Israel is Losing the War in Lebanon (Solid Analysis)

The Palestine Chronicle 
Tuesday July 25, 2006 

Why Israel is Losing the War in Lebanon 

The logic of power politics implies that a no-win situation for Israel is a definite loss, because Israel is the stronger party and thus has the most to lose. 

By Ashraf Ismail 


The world is witnessing what could be a critical turning point in the Arab- Israeli conflict. Israel is now engaged in a war that could permanently undermine the efficacy of its much-vaunted military apparatus. 

Ironically, there are several reasons for believing that Israel’s destruction of southern Lebanon and southern Beirut will weaken its bargaining position relative to its adversaries, and will strengthen its adversaries’ hands. 

First, Israel has no clearly defined tactical or strategic objective, and so the Israeli offensive fails the first test of military logic: there is no way that Israel's actions can improve its position relative to Hamas or Hizballah, much less Syria or Iran. 

The logic of power politics also implies that a no-win situation for Israel is a definite loss, because Israel is the stronger party and thus has the most to lose. In an asymmetric war, the stronger party always has the most to lose, in terms of reputation and in terms of its ability to project its will through the instruments of force. 

The lack of any clearly defined objective is a major miscalculation by Israel and its American patron. 

Second, Israel cannot eliminate Hizballah, since Hizballah is a grassroots organization that represents a plurality of Lebanese society. Neither can Hamas be eliminated for the same reason. By targeting Hizballah however, Israel is strengthening Hizballah's hand against its domestic rivals, such as the Maronite Christians, because any open Christian opposition makes them look like traitors and Israeli collaborators. 

Consequently, while Hizballah will obviously pay a short-term tactical cost that is very high, in the long run, this conflict demonstrates that it is Hizballah, and not the Lebanese government, that has the most power in Lebanon. 

The Shia represent an estimated 35-40 per cent of Lebanese society, while Lebanese Christians are thought to constitute no more than 25-30per cent of the entire population. Furthermore, the Shia community’s fertility rate is thought to be far higher than that of the other religious components within Lebanon. 

Thus, the current confessional division of power in Lebanon, which grants Christians a political position that goes far beyond their minority status, is ultimately unsustainable, which means that the Maronite Christians will lose even more power, and the Shia and Hizballah will inevitably gain more power. 

Third, Israel's failure to achieve anything at all greatly enhances Syria's influence over Lebanon and its bargaining position relative to the U.S. and Israel itself. No solution in Lebanon can exclude Syria, and so now the U.S. and Israelis need Syria's approval, which certainly weakens both the U.S. and Israel. 

And even Israel's accusations against Iran, although largely baseless, greatly enhance Iran's prestige in the region, and may bring about exactly what the Israelis are trying to prevent. While the Arab states look like traitors, Iran looks like a champion of the most celebrated of all Muslim causes. 

Fourth, Bush's impotence is a clear demonstration that America has lost a great deal of global power over the last three years. If Bush cannot control Iran, Syria, Hamas, Hizballah, or Israel, then what real power does the world's "hyper-power" possess? America’s inability to influence any of the actors that are relevant to the current crisis is yet more evidence that America's foreign policy is a form of global suicide. 

Fifth, the age of great power warfare has been replaced by a world in which great powers must live and compete with non-state actors who possess considerable military capabilities. William Lind calls this transformation “4th generation warfare.” 

Consequently, the age of Bismarckian warfare, or what William Lind refers to as "3rd generation warfare,” is effectively over. “Bismarckian warfare” is a term that describes large-scale wars fought by large-scale armies, which require national systems of military conscription, a significant population base, and enormous military budgets. 

Bismarckian warfare seems to have become ineffective in the Arab-Israeli context, because Israel no longer poses the threat that it once did to the Arab regimes, and the Arab regimes much prefer Israel to the rising non- state actors growing within their own borders. 

William Lind has also argued that non-state actors such as Hamas and Hizballah can checkmate the Israelis as long as these Muslim parties never formally assume power. If Muslim parties were to assume the power of states, then they would immediately become targets for traditional Bismarckian warfare. However, as long as Muslim movements retain theirnon-state identity, they are strategically unconquerable. 

Sixth, we must more carefully study the reasons why Bismarckian warfare is no longer effective. 

The global diffusion of the news outlets is obviously important for understanding why Bismarckian warfare has become so ineffective. For instance, Hizballah has its own media network, and can draw upon the global satellite network to get its message out, and can also use the global media to take advantage of Israel's targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure. 

Further, the competition between Arab and Muslim satellite channels is also important, because each station wants to demonstrate its sincerity by spreading news that is not only critical of Israel and the U.S., but ultimately undermines people's trust in the Arab regimes and thereby lends legitimacy to non-state actors. 

And although the American media largely supports Israel, the information about the Americans stranded in Lebanon limits Israel's freedom of action, and makes Israel look like it cares nothing for the lives of American citizens. 

At an even deeper level, the rate and density of global information transfer, and lack of any centralized control over the global distribution of information, is causing the fabric of space and time to contract, and so Israel's crimes can much more quickly create a global backlash. 

Time and space, as we experience them, are contracting because the global diffusion of technical and scientific knowledge is permitting events in one part of the world to increasingly influence events in other parts of the world, and events that once took years or even decades to unfold can now occur within mere months or weeks. 

As a consequence, the disenfranchised peoples of the world are developing the ability to affect the lives of the more privileged members of humanity, which means that anything that Israel does to the Palestinians or Lebanese will have effects upon Israel that are more direct and more negative than ever before, and that further, these effects will occur in an accelerated time scale. 

Thus, as it becomes self evident that Israeli military power is no longer as effective as it once was, this will surely accelerate the flow of Jewish settlers out of Israel. Information regarding emigration of Jews out of Israel is a closely guarded secret, but using Israeli government statistics, we can infer that immigration to Israel has rapidly declined over the last several years, and that Israel may even be experiencing a net outflow of Jewish migrants. According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, the number of Jewish immigrants to Israel declined to 21,000 in 2004, which is a 15-year low. In 2005, the number of immigrants rose slightly to 23,000, which is still dramatically lower than the 60,000 that immigrated in 2000. Furthermore, Israel became a net exporter of its citizens in 2003, when9,000 more Israelis left the country than entered, and in the first two months of 2004, this figure rose to 13,000. 

The global micro-diffusion of military technology is also critical, and so military innovation and its global diffusion will only strengthen grassroots rebellions and allow them to more effectively resist the instruments of Bismarckian control, as well as the depredations of the military hippopotami that are the ultimate guarantors of statism and statist regimes. 

For all of these reasons, Israeli attempts to impose terms on Lebanon, or to redraw the political map of Lebanon, or even to impose a NATO force upon Southern Lebanon, are not militarily feasible nor politically achievable, and if attempted, will prove ultimately unsustainable. 

As will soon be demonstrated by events on the ground, Israel will not be able to destroy or even disarm Hizballah. Neither will Hamas, Hizballah, Lebanon, or Syria permit Israel or America to dictate terms to them. Consequently, if Israel lingers too long in Southern Lebanon, its presence will be paid for at such a high cost, that it will be forced to withdraw in ignominy, as it has so many times in the past. 

In the end however, Israel's loss of power will make it even more dangerous, because the more threatened the Israelis feel, the more likely they will launch destructive wars against the Palestinians and Israel's other adversaries. 

Finally, the same can be said of the U.S., with respect to its loss of global power. Instead of becoming more careful with its use of force, the erosion of America’s global dominance will likely make the U.S. government more aggressive, as it attempts to re-assert its former position relative to its adversaries and competitors. 

And it is precisely because America and Israel are losing influence over global events, that an American attack upon Iran in 2007 becomes more likely. 

God help us all. 

-Ashraf Isma’il is an academic whose interests range from international relations, international economics and international finance, to global history and mathematical models of geo-strategy. 



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Sunday, July 23, 2006

[ePalestine] The Shame of Being An American (Ex-Assistant Secretary of the Treasury)

July 22-23, 2006 

The Shame of Being An American 

By PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS 

Do you know that Israel is engaged in ethnic cleansing in southern Lebanon? Israel has ordered all the villagers to clear out.  Israel then destroys their homes and murders the fleeing villagers.  That way there is no one to come back and nothing to which to return, making it easier for Israel to grab the territory, just as Israel has been stealing Palestine from the Palestinians. 

Do you know that one-third of the Lebanese civilians murdered by Israel’s attacks on civilian residential districts are children?  That is the report from Jan Egeland, the emergency relief coordinator for the UN.  He says it is impossible for help to reach the wounded and those buried in rubble, because Israeli air strikes have blown up all the bridges and roads. Considering how often (almost always) Israel misses Hizbollah targets and hits civilian ones, one might think that Israeli fire is being guided by US satellites and US military GPS.  Don’t be surprised at US complicity.  Why would the puppet be any less evil than the puppet master? 

Of course, you don’t know these things, because the US print and TV media do not report them. 

Because Bush is so proud of himself, you do know that he has blocked every effort to stop the Israeli slaughter of Lebanese civilians.  Bush has told the UN “NO.”  Bush has told the European Community “NO.”  Bush has told the pro-American Lebanese prime minister “NO.”  Twice.  Bush is very proud of his firmness.  He is enjoying Israel’s rampage and wishes he could do the same thing in Iraq. 

Does it make you a Proud American that “your” president gave Israel the green light to drop bombs on convoys of villagers fleeing from Israeli shelling, on residential neighborhoods in the capital of Beirut and throughout Lebanon, on hospitals, on power plants, on food production and storage, on ports, on civilian airports, on bridges, on roads, on every piece of infrastructure on which civilized life depends?  Are you a Proud American? Or are you an Israeli puppet? 

On July 20, “your” House of Representatives voted 410-8 in favor of Israel’s massive war crimes in Lebanon.  Not content with making every American complicit in war crimes, “your” House of Representatives, according to the Associated Press, also “condemns enemies of the Jewish state.” 

Who are the “enemies of the Jewish state”? 

They are the Palestinians whose land has been stolen by the Jewish state, whose homes and olive groves have been destroyed by the Jewish state, whose children have been shot down in the streets by the Jewish state, whose women have been abused by the Jewish state.  They are Palestinians who have been walled off into ghettos, who cannot reach their farm lands or medical care or schools, who cannot drive on roads through Palestine that have been constructed for Israelis only.  They are Palestinians whose ancient towns have been invaded by militant Zionist “settlers” under the protection of the Israeli army who beat and persecute the Palestinians and drive them out of their towns.  They are Palestinians who cannot allow their children outside their homes because they will be murdered by Israeli “settlers.” 

The Palestinians who confront Israeli evil are called “terrorists.”  When Bush forced free elections on Palestine, the people voted for Hamas.  Hamas is the organization that has stood up to the Jewish state.  This means, of course, that Hamas is evil, anti-semitic, un-American and terrorist.  The US and Israel responded by cutting off all funds to the new government. Democracy is permitted only if it produces the results Bush and Israel want. 

Israelis never practice terror.  Only those who are in Israel’s way are terrorists. 

Another enemy of the Jewish state is Hizbollah.  Hizbollah is a militia of Shia Muslims created  in 1982 when Israel first invaded Lebanon.  During this invasion the great moral Jewish state arranged for the murder of refugees in refugee camps.  The result of Israel’s atrocities was Hizbollah, which fought the Israeli army, defeated it, and drove it, with its tail between its legs, out of Lebanon.  Today Hizbollah not only defends southern Lebanon but also provides social services such as orphanages and medical care. 

To cut to the chase, the enemies of the Jewish state are any Muslim country not ruled by an American puppet friendly to Israel.  Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the oil emirates have sided with Israel against their own kind, because they are dependent either on American money or on American protection from their own people.  Sooner or later these totally corrupt governments that do not represent the people they rule will be overthrown. It is only a matter of time. 

Indeed Bush and Israel may be hastening the process in their frantic effort to overthrow the governments of Syria and Iran.  Both governments have more popular support than Bush has, but the White House Moron doesn’t know this.  The Moron thinks Syria and Iran will be “cakewalks” like Iraq, where ten proud divisions of the US military are tied down by a few lightly armed insurgents. 

If you are still a Proud American, consider that your pride is doing nothing good for Israel or for America. 

On July 20 when “your” House of Representatives, following “your” US Senate, passed the resolution in support of Israel’s war crimes, the most powerful lobby in Washington, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), quickly got out a press release proclaiming “The American people overwhelming support Israel’s war on terrorism and understand that we must stand by our closest ally in this time of crisis.” 

The truth is that Israel created the crisis by invading a country with a pro- American government.  The truth is that the American people do not support Israel’s war crimes, as the CNN quick poll results make clear and as was made clear by callers into C-Span. 

Despite the Israeli spin on news provided by US “reporting,” a majority of Americans do not approve of Israeli atrocities against Lebanese civilians. Hizbollah is located in southern Lebanon.  If Israel is targeting Hizbollah, why are Israeli bombs falling on northern Lebanon?  Why are they falling on Beirut?  Why are they falling on civilian airports?  On schools and hospitals? 

Now we arrive at the main point.  When the US Senate and House of Representatives pass resolutions in support of Israeli war crimes and condemn those who resist Israeli aggression, the Senate and House confirm Osama bin Laden’s propaganda that America stands with Israel against the Arab and Muslim world. 

Indeed, Israel, which has one of the world’s largest per capita incomes, is the largest recipient of US foreign aid.  Many believe that much of this “aid” comes back to AIPAC, which uses it to elect “our” representatives in Congress. 

This perception is no favor to Israel, whose population is declining, as the smart ones have seen the writing on the wall and have been leaving. Israel is surrounded by hundreds of millions of Muslims who are being turned into enemies of Israel by Israel’s actions and inhumane policies. 

The hope in the Muslim world has always been that the United States would intervene in behalf of compromise and make Israel realize that Israel cannot steal Palestine and turn every Palestinian into a refugee. 

This has been the hope of the Arab world.  This is the reason our puppets have not been overthrown.  This hope is the reason America still had some prestige in the Arab world. 

The House of Representatives resolution, bought and paid for by AIPAC money, is the final nail in the coffin of American prestige in the Middle East. It shows that America is, indeed, Israel’s puppet, just as Osama bin Laden says, and as a majority of Muslims believe. 

With hope and diplomacy dead, henceforth America and Israel have only tooth and claw.  The vaunted Israeli army could not defeat a rag tag militia in southern Lebanon.  The vaunted US military cannot defeat a rag tag, lightly armed, insurgency drawn from a minority of the population in Iraq, insurgents, moreover, who are mainly engaged in civil war against the Shia majority. 

What will the US and its puppet master do?  Both are too full of hubris and paranoia to admit their terrible mistakes.  Israel and the US will either destroy from the air the civilian infrastructure of Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Iran so that civilized life becomes  impossible for Muslims, or the US and Israel will use nuclear weapons to intimidate Muslims into acquiescence to Israel’s desires. 

Muslim genocide in one form or another is the professed goal of the neoconservatives who have total control over the Bush administration. Neocon godfather Norman Podhoretz has called for World War IV (in neocon thinking WW III was the cold war) to overthrow Islam in the Middle East, deracinate the Islamic religion and turn it into a formalized, secular ritual. 

Rumsfeld’s neocon Pentagon has drafted new US war doctrine that permits pre-emptive nuclear attack on non-nuclear states. 

Neocon David Horowitz says that by slaughtering Palestinian and Lebanese civilians, “Israel is doing the work of the rest of the civilized world,” thus equating war criminals with civilized men. 

Neocon Larry Kudlow says that “Israel is doing the Lord’s work” by murdering Lebanese, a claim that should give pause to Israel’s Christian evangelical supporters.  Where does the Lord Jesus say, “go forth and murder your neighbors so that you may steal their lands”? 

The complicity of the American public in these heinous crimes will damn America for all time in history. 

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration.  He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at: paulcraigroberts@yahoo.com 



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[ePalestine] Manuel Hassassian: The failure of Israeli unilateralism

The failure of Israeli unilateralism 

Manuel Hassassian, The Electronic Intifada, 22 July 2006 

In less than four weeks, the civil infrastructure of two emerging Middle Eastern democracies has been laid to waste, and over 400 Palestinians and Lebanese, mostly civilians, have been killed by Israeli forces.  

The urgency of finding a just solution to the Israeli- Palestinian dispute has never been more compelling. But if calm is to be restored, the international community must convince Israel that security comes not through warfare but through peace. 

While Israel enjoys the security rewards of peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, it has been strangely reluctant to pursue the same with Lebanon or the PLO. 

Instead, at the heart of Israeli policymaking today lies a deluded faith in the benefits of unilateral action over diplomatic engagement; in tactical military redeployments over comprehensive military withdrawal, and in conflict "management" over conflict resolution. 

Nowhere has the faulty logic of Israel's approach been more transparent than in its purported disengagement from occupied Gaza. When Israel pulled its soldiers and settlers out of Gaza last year, the move was marketed internationally as a brave step that would bring the Middle East closer to peace. 

Yet Israel itself sabotaged that opportunity. Israel could have responded to President Mahmoud Abbas's invitation to use the impetus of the Gaza withdrawal to repair the diplomatic process and create a political horizon. It could have ended the occupation of the Gaza Strip instead of retaining effective control over Gaza's borders, sea- and airspace. 

Instead, Israel chose a strategy of collective punishment by prohibiting goods and people from moving between Gaza and the West Bank, blockading Gaza from international markets and denying its residents such basics as flour, milk and sugar. 

The U.S.-led boycott of the Palestinian Authority that followed our democratic parliamentary elections in January only exacerbated the economic and humanitarian crisis. 

Meanwhile, Israel's bombardment of civilian population centers aggravated tensions. In the month leading up to the capture of the Israeli soldier now held by Palestinian militants, Israel assassinated eight Palestinian leaders and killed 28 civilians, including nine children and a pregnant woman. 

Despite the dismal failure of the disengagement policy, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert appears determined to repeat its mistakes. Israel is entrenching its control over those areas of the West Bank that are essential to the viability of a future Palestinian state through accelerated construction of the wall and settlements. 

The resulting political geography would concretize the imprisonment of over two million Palestinians in a fractured West Bank, just as 1.4 million Palestinians are currently caged up in Gaza. Needless to say, there is no possibility of establishing a Palestinian state under such conditions. 

In order to continue its occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands, Israel perpetuates the myth that it lacks a Palestinian interlocutor with whom to negotiate. When Fatah and Hamas unveiled the National Conciliation Document, offering united support for a two-state solution, Israel drowned out the good news by pummeling Gaza's civil infrastructure and terrorizing its residents. 

There is a way out of this spiraling crisis. Israel originally committed itself to releasing hundreds of Palestinian prisoners during the Sharm el-Sheikh summit in February 2005. 

Palestinians have proposed that the Israeli corporal be returned safely to Israel in exchange for a fraction of the more than 9,000 Palestinians Israel has imprisoned or detained, including 120 women and nearly 400 children. 

But Israel is refusing to negotiate a prisoner exchange. Instead, it abducted 33 Palestinian ministers and parliamentarians and intensified its bombardment of Gaza. 

Israeli unilateralism is founded on the false premise that Israelis can attain peace and security without affording Palestinians their liberty and independence. 

Ten months after Israel's redeployment from Gaza, the escalating crisis throughout the Middle East demonstrates the resounding failure of this policy. 

It is a failure that must be rectified immediately, and one that none of us can afford to see repeated. 

Manuel Hassassian is the Palestine Liberation Organization representative to Britain. This article was first published on July 21, in the International                                                             
Herald Tribune.



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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

[ePalestine] If Israel has the right to use force in self defence, so do its neighbours

If Israel has the right to use force in self defence, so do its neighbours

The west appears to insist that only one side in the conflict is able to intervene militarily across borders. That will never be accepted

Ahmad Samih Khalidi
Tuesday July 18, 2006
The Guardian

Much has been made in recent days - at the G8 summit and elsewhere - of Israel's right to retaliate against the capture of its soldiers, or attacks on its troops on its own sovereign territory. Some, such as those in the US administration, seem to believe that Israel has an unqualified licence to hit back at its enemies no matter what the cost. And even those willing to recognise that there may be a problem tend to couch it in terms of Israel's "disproportionate use of force" rather than its basic right to take military action. 

But what is at stake here is not proportionality or the issue of self-defence, but symmetry and equivalence. Israel is staking a claim to the exclusive use of force as an instrument of policy and punishment, and is seeking to deny any opposing state or non-state actor a similar right. It is also largely succeeding in portraying its own "right to self-defence" as beyond question, while denying anyone else the same. And the international community is effectively endorsing Israel's stance on both counts. 

From an Arab point of view this cannot be right. There is no reason in the world why Israel should be able to enter Arab sovereign soil to occupy, destroy, kidnap and eliminate its perceived foes - repeatedly, with impunity and without restraint - while the Arab side cannot do the same. And if the Arab states are unable or unwilling to do so then the job should fall to those who can. 

It is important to bear in mind that in both the case of the Hamas raid that led to the invasion of Gaza and the Hizbullah attack that led to the assault on Lebanon it was Israel's regular armed forces, not its civilians, that were targeted. It is hard to see how this can be filed under the rubric of "terrorism", rather than a straightforward tactical defeat for Israel's much- vaunted military machine; one that Israel seems loth to acknowledge. 

Some of this has to do with the paradox of power: the stronger the Israeli army becomes, the more susceptible and vulnerable it becomes to even a minor setback. The loss of even one tank, the capture of one soldier or damage done to one warship has a negative-multiplier effect: Israel's "deterrent" power is dented out of all proportion to the act itself. Israel's retaliation is thus partly a matter of restoring its deterrence, partly sheer vengeance, and partly an attempt to compel its adversaries to do its bidding. 

But there is also something else at work: Israel's fear of acknowledging any form of equivalence between the two sides. And it is precisely this that seems to provide the moral and psychological underpinning for Israel's ongoing assault in both Gaza and Lebanon - the sense that it may have met its match in audacity, tactical ingenuity and "clean" military action from an adversary who may even have learned a thing or two from Israel itself, and may be capable of learning even more in the future. 

There has of course been nothing "clean" about Israeli military action throughout the many decades of conflict in Palestine and Lebanon. Israel's wanton disregard for civilian life during the past few days is neither new nor out of character. For those complaining about violations of Israeli sovereignty by Hizbullah or Hamas, it may be useful to recall the tens of thousands of Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty since the late 60s, the massive air raids of the mid-70s and early 80s, the 1978 and 1982 invasions and occupation of the capital Beirut, the hundreds of thousands of refugees, the 28-year-old buffer zone and proxy force set up in southern Lebanon, the assassinations, car bombs, and massacres, and finally the continuing violations of Lebanese soil, airspace and territorial waters and the detention of Lebanese prisoners even after Israel's withdrawal in 2000. 

It is unnecessary here to recount the full range of Israel's violations of Palestinian "sovereignty", not least of which is its recent refusal to accept the sovereign electoral choice of the Palestinian people. Israel's extraterritorial, extrajudicial execution of Palestinian leaders and activists began in the early 70s and has not ceased since. But for those seeking further enlightenment about Hamas's recent action, the fact is that some 650,000 acts of imprisonment have taken place since the occupation began in 1967, and that 9,000 Palestinians are currently in Israel's jails, including some 50 old-timers incarcerated before and despite the 1993 Oslo accords, and many others whom Israel refuses to release on the grounds that they have "blood on their hands", as if only one side in this conflict was culpable, or the value of one kind of human blood was superior to another. 

If there ever was a case for establishing some form of mutually acknowledged parity regarding the ground rules of the conflict, Hamas and Hizbullah have a good one to make. And if there ever was a case for demonstrating that what is good on one side of the border should also good on the other, Hamas and Hizbullah's logic has strong appeal to Arab and Muslim public opinion - regardless of what the supine Arab state system may say. 

Indeed as George Bush and other western leaders splutter on about freedom, democracy, and Israel's right to defend itself, Tony Blair's repeated claim that events in the region should not be linked to terrible events elsewhere is looking increasingly fatuous. 

The slowly expanding war in Afghanistan, the devastation of Iraq, the death and destruction in Gaza and the bombing of Beirut are all providing a slow but sure drip feed for those who believe that the west is incapable of taking a balanced moral stance, and is directly or indirectly complicit in a design meant to break Arab and Muslim will and subjugate it to untrammelled Israeli force. 

Contrary to what Blair seems to believe, the use of force is unlikely to breed western style- liberalism and moderation. What is at issue here is not democracy but the right to resist Israeli arrogance and be treated on a par with it in every respect, including the use of force. If Israel has the right to "defend itself" then so has everyone else. 

Furthermore, there is nothing in the history of the region to suggest that Israel's destruction of mass popular movements such as Hamas or Hizbullah (even if this were possible) would drive their successors closer to western-style democracy, and every reason to believe the opposite. Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982 did away with the PLO and produced Hizbullah instead, the incarceration and elimination of Arafat only served to strengthen Hamas, and the wars in Afghanistan, the Gulf and Iraq gave birth to Bin Ladenist terrorism and extended its reach and appeal. And we should not be surprised if the summer of 2006 produces more of the same. 

However Israel's latest adventure ends, it will not produce greater sympathy and understanding between west and east, or a downturn in extremism. Indeed the most likely outcome is that a new wave of virulent and possibly unconventional anti-western terrorism may well crash against this and other shores. We will all - Israelis, Arabs and westerners - suffer as a result. 

· Ahmad Samih Khalidi is a senior associate member of St Antony's College, Oxford, a former Palestinian negotiator and the co-author, with Hussein Agha, of A Framework for a Palestinian National Security Doctrine (Chatham House, 2006) aswk@yahoo.com 




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[ePalestine] BAHOUR: Game Over

Game Over 

The Israeli-Palestinian peace charades ended with Israel’s aggression on Gaza and Lebanon. Now, peace with justice is the only way out. 

By Sam Bahour 

In case anyone had any remaining doubts, the flawed Middle East peace process and the international community’s half-hearted efforts have miserably failed, culminating in Israel’s most recent aggression in Gaza and Lebanon.  Following the Palestinian’s democratic legislative elections which brought Hamas to power, Israel announced that its goal was to topple the Palestinian government at any cost.  When that misguided plan proved harder than expected, Israel did what any good Western ‘democracy’ would do; it sought to turn world attention elsewhere: Hezbollah provided the perfect pretext for this by violating Israel's sovereignty, allowing Israel to claim its all-out aggression against Lebanon is justified. 

Some may pronounce the beginning of the end of the Oslo Peace Accords was the very day they were signed, given the lopsided agreements put Palestinians at a structural disadvantage that provided a perfect and sophisticated framework for failure.  However, having lived through the agreements from the start of there implementation – or attempt thereof – I believe that the beginning of the end of the peace process started on November 4, 1995, when an extremist Israeli Jewish student assassinated then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.  Throughout his bloody career, Rabin surely did his part to add to the Palestinian’s disadvantage, but upon his assassination – by one of Israel’s own products of extremism - Israel started spiraling out of control. 

Five successive Israeli governments in a short 10 year period have all miserably failed to address the source of the Middle East conflict, Israel’s 39 year old military occupation of the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.  Furthermore, each and every Israeli government slapped humanitarian and international law in the face by refusing to implement scores of UN resolutions and internationally agreed upon rules of engagement.  Israel made a mockery of the rule of law while claiming to be the only democracy in the Middle East. 

Now, as we listen to the Israeli military publicly calling for Lebanese civilians to leave there homes and we painfully watch entire families flee the fighting by crossing the border into Syria, carrying their children and what little belongings they can on their backs, it reminds anyone who has any inkling of knowledge of the Middle East conflict of how Israeli military aggression forced Palestinians from there homes in 1948, 1967, 2000 and continues to do so even today.  Jonathan Cook, a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel, recently wrote in the newsletter Counterpunch of how the naked Israeli onslaught of Gaza, which provoked the Hezbollah capturing of the two Israeli soldiers may be read in the larger context.  He wrote, “This is how ethnic cleansing looks when it is designed not by butchers in uniforms but by technocrats in suits.”  Israel’s continuous collective punishment of Palestinians and Lebanese is a blatant war crime, and should be treated as such by the US and international community. 

Israel’s disregard for the rule of law, let alone the well-being of its own captured soldiers, coupled with the US’s blind and public support of every Israeli violation of UN resolutions and acts of aggression is the foundation that was poured to allow for Israel’s current rampage.  If Israel was a person, she would be admitted into the psychiatric ward of the nearest hospital, but it is not.  Rather, Israel is a nuclear and regional military superpower that has chosen time and again to attempt to forcefully instill a ‘might is right’ equation to further its skewed national interests.  Israel has been unable to internalize the simple fact that there is no military solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.  Justice, historical and otherwise, must be served if a lasting peace is to be realized. 

As in all formal military funerals, Israel’s attack on Lebanon is equivalent to a 21 gun salute announcing the formal end to any remaining hope that the peace process could be restarted on the same terms of Oslo.  The Palestinian leadership should finally wake up to this reality and dismantle Palestinian Authority and demand Israel assumes its full legal responsibilities to those it occupies. 

The official Israeli and US government lines are that the destruction of Lebanon and Gaza are happening because Israeli combat soldiers were taken prisoners, 3 in total.  The international community’s state of amnesia seems to forget the 9,000 Palestinians that are currently lingering in Israeli prisons, of which over 1,000 had no charges brought against them.  If so many civilians were not being killed in Lebanon, Palestine and Israel, the Israeli and US positions would be laughable.  Even small town USA newspaper editorials are becoming aware of the US being on the wrong side of history in this conflict.  The editorial of the Youngstown Vindicator of July 14 noted, “…the United States should have thought longer and harder before giving Israel unqualified support.” 

The words of Arik Diamant, an Israeli military reservist and the head of the Courage to Refuse organization, sheds light on a growing sentiment within Israeli ranks that mainstream media is refusing to cover.  Mr. Diamant recently wrote of his experience in arresting one of the thousands of Palestinians that the Israelis have illegally imprisoned over the years, he said, “No one wrote about it in the paper. European diplomats were not called to help him. After all, there was nothing out of the ordinary about the kidnapping of this Palestinian kid. Over the 40 years of occupation we have kidnapped thousands of people, exactly like Gilad Shalit was captured: Threatened by a gun, beaten mercilessly, with no judge or jury, or witnesses, and without providing the family with any information about the captive.” 

Provocation clearly comes in many sizes and shapes.  Israel’s mere refusal to end its military occupation of Palestinians is a level of provocation that most of the world could never even imagine.  Taking prisoners of war, if this can even be called a war, is yet another provocation.  There was no international outcry in 1989 when Israeli commandos crossed the Lebanese border and snatched Sheikh Abd al-Karim Obeid, a Hizballah leader of south Lebanon, and imprisoned him in Israel.  The Israeli government even introduced legislation to maintain his imprisonment and called him a pawn to be used later.  Israel repeated this again in 1994 when Mustafa Dirani was kidnapped from his home in Lebanon by Israeli commandos during the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Adha.  Although provocations vary and are made by all sides in this conflict, no action, whatsoever, justifies the destruction of a civilian population’s infrastructure and wonton killing of civilians.  Such acts only breed more violence and more hatred. 

Lebanon is only the latest bloody chapter of Israeli aggression in the region. Immediately preceding this latest bout of Israeli military adventurism, and continuing to this day, albeit buried from the media due to the extremity of Lebanon, is the destruction of the civilian infrastructure of Gaza, yet again. Hopefully, the scenes of horror and sheer magnitude of death and destruction emerging from Lebanon will shock the international community to acknowledge their collective failure and emerge from their coma to finally and unequivocally impose international sanctions and a global boycott on Israel until it brings itself in line with the international rule of law.  Anything less, would be tantamount, to merely turning a page of history in a blood- stained textbook that Palestinians and Lebanese, and now Israelis, are writing with their children’s blood. 

Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American businessman living in the Israeli- occupied Palestinian city of El-Bireh, currently visiting his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio. He is co-author of HOMELAND: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians (1994) and can be reached at sbahour@palnet.com 


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Sunday, July 16, 2006

[ePalestine] Israeli Daily YNET: Look who's been kidnapped!

Opinion 

Look who's been kidnapped! 

Hundreds of Palestinian 'suspects' have been kidnapped from their homes and will never stand trial 

Arik Diamant 

It's the wee hours of the morning, still dark outside. A guerilla force comes out of nowhere to kidnap a soldier. After hours of careful movement, the force reaches its target, and the ambush is on!y in seconds, the soldier finds himself looking down the barrel of a rifle. 

A smash in the face with the butt of the gun and the soldier falls to the ground, bleeding. The kidnappers pick him up, quickly tie his hands and blindfold him, and disappear into the night.

This might be the end of the kidnapping, but the nightmare has just begun. The soldier's mother collapses, his father prays. His commanding officers promise to do everything they can to get him back, his comrades swear revenge. An entire nation is up-in-arms, writing in pain and worry. 


Nobody knows how the soldier is: Is he hurt? Do his captors give him even a minimum of human decency, or are they torturing him to death by trampling his honor? The worst sort of suffering is not knowing. Will he come home? And if so, when? And in what condition? Can anyone remain apathetic in the light of such drama? 

Israeli terror 

This description, you'll be surprised to know, has nothing to do with the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit. It is the story of an arrest I carried out as an IDF soldier, in the Nablus casbah, about 10 years ago. The "soldier" was a 17- year-old boy, and we kidnapped him because he knew "someone" who had done "something."  

We brought him tied up, with a burlap sac over his head, to a Shin Bet interrogation center known as "Scream Hill" (at the time we thought it was funny). There, the prisoner was beaten, violently shaken and sleep deprived for weeks or months. Who knows.  

No one wrote about it in the paper. European diplomats were not called to help him. After all, there was nothing out of the ordinary about the kidnapping of this Palestinian kid. Over the 40 years of occupation we have kidnapped thousands of people, exactly like Gilad Shalit was captured: Threatened by a gun, beaten mercilessly, with no judge or jury, or witnesses, and without providing the family with any information about the captive. 


When the Palestinians do this, we call it "terror." When we do it, we work overtime to whitewash the atrocity. 

Suspects? 

Some people will say: The IDF doesn't "just" kidnap. These people are "suspects." There is no more perverse lie than this. In all the years I served, I reached one simple conclusion: What makes a "suspect"? Who, exactly suspects him, and of what? 

Who has the right to sentence a 17-year-old to kidnapping, torture and possible death? A 26-year-old Shin Bet interrogator? A 46-year-old one? Do these people have any higher education, apart from the ability to interrogate? What are his considerations? I all these "suspects" are so guilty, why not bring them to trial? 

Anyone who believes that despite the lack of transparency, the IDF and Shin Bet to their best to minimize violations of human rights is naïve, if not brainwashed. One need only read the testimonies of soldiers who have carried out administrative detentions to be convinced of the depth of the immorality of our actions in the territories. 

To this very day, there are hundreds of prisoners rotting in Shin Bet prisons and dungeons, people who have never been – and never will be – tried. And Israelis are silently resolved to this phenomenon. 

Israeli responsibility 

The day Gilad Shalit was kidnapped I rode in a taxi. The driver told me we must go into Gaza, start shooting people one-by-one, until someone breaks and returns the hostage. It isn't clear that such an operation would bring Gilad back alive. 

Instead of getting dragged into terrorist responses, as Palestinian society has done, we should release some of the soldiers and civilians we have kidnapped. This is appropriate, right, and could bring about an air of reconciliation in the territories. 

Hell, if this is what will bring Gilad home safe-and-sound, we have a responsibility to him to do it. 

Arik Diamant is an IDF reservist and the head of the Courage to Refuse organization 

(07.05.06, 12:35) 



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Saturday, July 15, 2006

[ePalestine] Israeli Prof. Tanya Reinhart: What Are They Fighting For (A MUST READ)

What Are They Fighting For 
By Prof. Tanya Reinhart
07/13/06

"Information Clearing House" -- -- Whatever may be the fate of the captive soldier Gilad Shalit, the Israeli army’s war in Gaza is not about him. As senior security analyst Alex Fishman widely reported, the army was preparing for an attack months earlier and was constantly pushing for it, with the goal of destroying the Hamas infrastructure and its government. The army initiated an escalation on 8 June when it assassinated Abu Samhadana, a senior appointee of the Hamas government, and intensified its shelling of civilians in the Gaza Strip. Governmental authorization for action on a larger scale was already given by 12 June, but it was postponed in the wake of the global reverberation caused by the killing of civilians in the air force bombing the next day. The abduction of the soldier released the safety-catch, and the operation began on 28 June with the destruction of infrastructure in Gaza and the mass detention of the Hamas leadership in the West Bank, which was also planned weeks in advance. (1) 

In Israeli discourse, Israel ended the occupation in Gaza when it evacuated its settlers from the Strip, and the Palestinians’ behavior therefore constitutes ingratitude. But there is nothing further from reality than this description. In fact, as was already stipulated in the Disengagement Plan, Gaza remained under complete Israeli military control, operating from outside. Israel prevented any possibility of economic independence for the Strip and from the very beginning, Israel did not implement a single one of the clauses of the agreement on border-crossings of November 2005. Israel simply substituted the expensive occupation of Gaza with a cheap occupation, one which in Israel’s view exempts it from the occupier’s responsibility to maintain the Strip, and from concern for the welfare and the lives of its million and a half residents, as determined in the fourth Geneva convention.  

Israel does not need this piece of land, one of the most densely populated in the world, and lacking any natural resources. The problem is that one cannot let Gaza free, if one wants to keep the West Bank.  A third of the occupied Palestinians live in the Gaza strip.  If they are given freedom, they would become the center of Palestinian struggle for liberation, with free access to the Western and Arab world. To control the West Bank, Israel needs full control Gaza. The new form of control Israel has developed is turning the whole of the Strip into a prison camp completely sealed from the world. 

Besieged occupied people with nothing to hope for, and no alternative means of political struggle, will always seek ways to fight their oppressor. The imprisoned Gaza Palestinians found a way to disturb the life of the Israelis in the vicinity of the Strip, by launching home-made Qassam rockets across the Gaza wall against Israeli towns bordering the Strip. These primitive rockets lack the precision to focus on a target, and have rarely caused Israeli casualties; they do however cause physical and psychological damage and seriously disturb life in the targeted Israeli neighborhoods. In the eyes of many Palestinians, the Qassams are a response to the war Israel has declared on them. As a student from Gaza said to the New York Times, “Why should we be the only ones who live in fear? With these rockets, the Israelis feel fear, too. We will have to live in peace together, or live in fear together.” (2) 

The mightiest army in the Middle East has no military answer to these home-made rockets. One answer that presents itself is what Hamas has been proposing all along, and Haniyeh repeated this week - a comprehensive cease-fire. Hamas has proven already that it can keep its word.  In the 17 months since it announced its decision to abandon armed struggle in favor of political struggle, and declared a unilateral cease-fire (“tahdiya” - calm), it did not participate in the launching of Qassams, except under severe Israeli provocation, as happened in the June escalation. However, Hamas remains committed to political struggle against the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. In Israel's view, the Palestinians elections results is a disaster, because for the first time they have a leadership that insists on representing Palestinian interests rather than just collaborating with Israel's demands. 

Since ending the occupation is the one thing Israel is not willing to consider, the option promoted by the army is breaking the Palestinians by devastating brutal force. They should be starved, bombarded, terrorized with sonic booms for months, until they understand that rebelling is futile, and accepting prison life is their only hope for staying alive. Their elected political system, institutions and police should be destroyed. In Israel's vision, Gaza should be ruled by gangs collaborating with the prison wards. 

The Israeli army is hungry for war. It would not let concerns for captive soldiers stand in its way. Since 2002 the army has argued that an “operation” along the lines of “Defensive Shield” in Jenin was also necessary in Gaza. Exactly a year ago, on 15 July (before the Disengagement), the army concentrated forces on the border of the Strip for an offensive of this scale on Gaza. But then the USA imposed a veto. Rice arrived for an emergency visit that was described as acrimonious and stormy, and the army was forced to back down (3). Now, the time has finally came. With the Islamophobia of the American Administration at a high point, it appears that the USA is prepared to authorize such an operation, on condition that it not provoke a global outcry with excessively-reported attacks on civilians.(4) 

With the green light for the offensive given, the army's only concern is public image. Fishman reported this Tuesday that the army is worried that "what threatens to burry this huge military and diplomatic effort" is reports of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Hence, the army would take care to let some food into Gaza. (5) From this perspective, it is necessary to feed the Palestinians in Gaza so that it would be possible to continue to kill them undisturbed. A shorter version of this article was scheduled to appear Thursday, July 13 in Yediot Aharonot, but postponed to next week because of the developments in Southern Lebanon. (*) 

*Parts of this article were translated from Hebrew by Mark Marshall. 

(1) Alex Fishman, Who is for the elimination of Hamas, Yediot Aharonot Saturday Supplement, June 30, 2006. See also Alex Fishman, The safety- catch released, Yediot Aharonot June 21, 2006 (Hebrew), Aluf Benn, An operation with two goals, Ha'aretz, June 29 2006. 

(2)   Greg Myre, Rockets Create a 'Balance of Fear' With Israel, Gaza Residents Say. The New York Times, July 9, 2006. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/09/world/middleeast/09rockets.html?ex=1310 097 

(3) Steven Erlanger, “U.S. Presses Israel to Smooth the Path to a Palestinian Gaza”, New York Times, August 7 2005. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/07/international/middleeast/07israel.html? ex=1281067200&en=82f12ac7eed5ee24&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss The planned July 2005 offensive is documented in detail in my The Road Map to Nowhere - Israel Palestine since 2003, Verso, September 2006. 

(4) For a detailed survey of the U.S. administration's present stands, see Ori Nir, U.S. Seen Backing Israeli Moves To Topple Hamas, The Forward, July 7, 2006. http://www.forward.com/articles/8063 

(5) Alex Fishman, Their food is finished, Yediot Aharonot, July 11, 2006. 

Copyright Tanya Reinhart http://www.tau.ac.il/~reinhart/ 




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