Understanding ‘Israel’s Pillar of Defence’

A Pillar Built on Sand

John Mearsheimer

In response to a recent upsurge in tit for tat strikes between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza, Israel decided to ratchet up the violence even further by assassinating Hamas’s military chief, Ahmad Jabari. Hamas, which had been playing a minor role in these exchanges and even appears to have been interested in working out a long-term ceasefire, predictably responded by launching hundreds of rockets into Israel, a few even landing near Tel Aviv. Not surprisingly, the Israelis have threatened a wider conflict, to include a possible invasion of Gaza to topple Hamas and eliminate the rocket threat.
There is some chance that Operation ‘Pillar of Defence’, as the Israelis are calling their current campaign, might become a full-scale war. But even if it does, it will not put an end to Israel’s troubles in Gaza. After all, Israel launched a devastating war against Hamas in the winter of 2008-9 – Operation Cast Lead – and Hamas is still in power and still firing rockets at Israel. In the summer of 2006 Israel went to war against Hizbullah in order to eliminate its missiles and weaken its political position in Lebanon. That offensive failed as well: Hizbullah has far more missiles today than it had in 2006 and its influence in Lebanon is arguably greater than it was in 2006. Pillar of Defence is likely to share a similar fate.

Israel can use force against Hamas in three distinct ways. First, it can try to cripple the organisation by assassinating its leaders, as it did when it killed Jabari two days ago. Decapitation will not work, however, because there is no shortage of subordinates to replace the dead leaders, and sometimes the new ones are more capable and dangerous than their predecessors. The Israelis found this out in Lebanon in 1992 when they assassinated Hizbullah’s leader, Abbas Musawi, only to find that his replacement, Hassan Nasrallah, was an even more formidable adversary.

Second, the Israelis can invade Gaza and take it over. The IDF could do this fairly easily, topple Hamas and put an end to the rocket fire from Gaza. But they would then have to occupy Gaza for years to come, since if they left Hamas would come back to power, the rocket attacks would resume, and Israel would be back where it started.

An occupation of Gaza would trigger bitter and bloody resistance, as the Israelis learned in southern Lebanon between 1982 and 2000. After 18 years of occupation they conceded defeat and withdrew all their forces. This experience is the reason the IDF did not try to invade and conquer southern Lebanon in 2006 or Gaza in 2008-9. Nothing has changed since then to make a full-scale invasion of Gaza a viable alternative today. Occupying Gaza would also place another 1.5 million Palestinians under formal Israel control, thereby worsening the so-called ‘demographic threat’. Ariel Sharon withdrew Israeli settlers from Gaza in 2005 to reduce the number of Palestinians living under the Israeli flag; going back now would be a huge strategic reversal.

The final, preferred option is aerial bombardment with aircraft, artillery, missiles, mortars and rockets. The problem, however, is that the strategy does not work as advertised. Israel used it against Hizbullah in 2006 and Hamas in 2008-9, but both groups are still in power and armed to the teeth with rockets and missiles. It is hard to believe that any serious defence analyst in Israel thinks another campaign of sustained bombardment against Gaza will topple Hamas and end the rocket fire permanently.

So what is going on here? At the most basic level, Israel’s actions in Gaza are inextricably bound up with its efforts to create a Greater Israel that stretches from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Despite the endless palaver about a two-state solution, the Palestinians are not going to get their own state, not least because the Netanyahu government is firmly opposed to it. The prime minister and his political allies are deeply committed to making the Occupied Territories a permanent part of Israel. To pull this off, the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza will be forced to live in impoverished enclaves similar to the Bantustans in white-ruled South Africa. Israeli Jews understand this quite well: a recent survey found that 58 per cent of them believe Israel already practises apartheid against the Palestinians.

Creating a Greater Israel will produce even bigger problems, however. In addition to doing enormous damage to Israel’s reputation around the world, the quest for a Greater Israel will not break the will of the Palestinians. They remain adamantly opposed not only to the Occupation, but also to the idea of living in an apartheid state. They will continue to resist Israel’s efforts to deny them self-determination. What is happening in Gaza is one dimension of that resistance. Another is Mahmoud Abbas’s plan to ask the UN General Assembly on 29 November to recognise Palestine as a non-member state. This move worries Israel’s leaders, because it could eventually allow the Palestinians to file charges against Israel before the International Criminal Court. Thus, the dream of a Greater Israel forces Tel Aviv to find ways to keep the Palestinians at bay.

Israel’s leaders have a two-prong strategy for dealing with their Palestinian problem. First, they rely on the United States to provide diplomatic cover, especially in the United Nations. The key to keeping Washington on board is the Israel lobby, which pressures American leaders to side with Israel against the Palestinians and do hardly anything to stop the colonisation of the Occupied Territories.

The second prong is Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s concept of the ‘Iron Wall’: an approach that in essence calls for beating the Palestinians into submission. Jabotinsky understood that the Palestinians would resist the Zionists’ efforts to colonise their land and subjugate them in the process. Nonetheless, he maintained that the Zionists, and eventually Israel, could punish the Palestinians so severely that they would recognise that further resistance was futile.

Israel has employed this strategy since its founding in 1948, and both Cast Lead and Pillar of Defence are examples of it at work. In other words, Israel’s aim in bombing Gaza is not to topple Hamas or eliminate its rockets, both of which are unrealisable goals. Instead, the ongoing attacks in Gaza are part of a long-term strategy to coerce the Palestinians into giving up their pursuit of self-determination and submitting to Israeli rule in an apartheid state.

Israel’s commitment to the Iron Wall is reflected in the fact that its leaders have said many times since Cast Lead ended in January 2009 that the IDF would eventually have to return to Gaza and inflict another beating on the Palestinians. The Israelis were under no illusion that the 2008-9 conflict had defanged Hamas. The only question for them was when the next punishment campaign would start.

The timing of the present operation is easy to explain. For starters, President Obama has just won a second term despite Netanyahu’s transparent attempt to help Mitt Romney win the election. The prime minister’s mistake is likely to have hurt his personal relations with the president and might even threaten America’s ‘special relationship’ with Israel. A war in Gaza, however, is a good antidote for that problem, because Obama, who faces daunting economic and political challenges in the months ahead, has little choice but to back Israel to the hilt and blame the Palestinians.

The Israeli prime minister faces an election of his own in January and as Mitchell Plitnick writes, ‘Netanyahu’s gambit of forming a joint ticket with the fascist Yisrael Beiteinu party has not yielded anything close to the polling results he had hoped for.’ A war over Gaza not only allows Netanyahu to show how tough he is when Israel’s security is at stake, but it is also likely to have a ‘rally round the flag’ effect, improving his chances of being re-elected.
Nevertheless, Pillar of Defence will not achieve its ultimate goal of getting the Palestinians to abandon their pursuit of self-determination and accept living under the heel of the Israelis. That is simply not achievable; the Palestinians are never going to accept being consigned to a handful of enclaves in an apartheid state. Regrettably, that means Pillar of Defence is unlikely to be the last time Israel bombards Gaza.

Over the long term, however, the bombing campaigns may come to an end, because it is not clear that Israel will be able to maintain itself as an apartheid state. As well as resistance from the Palestinians, Israel has to face the problem that world opinion is unlikely to back an apartheid state. Ehud Olmert said in November 2007, when he was prime minister, that if ‘the two-state solution collapses’ Israel will ‘face a South-African-style struggle’, and ‘as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished.’ One would think Israel’s leaders would appreciate where they are headed and allow the Palestinians to have a viable state of their own. But there is no sign that is happening; instead, Israel foolishly continues to rely on military campaigns like Pillar of Defence to break the Palestinians.

Zulkifli Hasan

With Mayor of Durham

Israel’s Convenient War on Gaza

Israel’s Convenient War on Gaza

By Richard Lightbown Available at: http://palestinechronicle.com/

Two terror attacks in southern Israel on Thursday 18 August caught the army by surprise despite having received a large number of warnings. The official story is that members of the Popular Resistance Committee in the Gaza Strip entered Egypt through tunnels from the Strip and travelled nearly 200 kilometres to near the north of Eilat where the crossed the border. Significantly, no organization in Gaza has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The driver of the first of two buses attacked was reported in Haaretz as saying that two of the gunmen were dressed in Egyptian army uniforms. The second bus was blown up by a suicide bomber. Fourteen people were killed and 31 wounded. In addition Israeli forces shot five gunmen while Egyptian border police killed two more. Many of the attackers, perhaps as many as ten, escaped. It appears that an Israeli military helicopter attempted to give chase and crossed into Egypt territory where it mistakenly attacked an Egyptian army unit, killing five and wounding several others.

A large variety of weaponry is reported to have been used in the attacks including mortar fire, an anti-tank missile and an RPG device that was fired at a pursuing helicopter. Explosives were laid alongside the road. In a further shooting attack in the same area later that afternoon two Israeli soldiers were wounded and three gunmen died. The sophistication and success of this attack demonstrate an unusual level of competence.

Israel’s response has been to launch at least 50 air strikes into civilian areas in the Gaza Strip since Thursday. While the Secretary General of the Salah Ed Deen Brigades and a member of the Popular Resistance Committees are reported killed the total number of casualties on 20 August was 15 dead and 45 wounded. Two of the dead were two years old and another was thirteen. Ten children, eight women and two elderly are amongst the injured, one 15-year-old is said to be seriously hurt. A Facebook account showing photographs depicting some of the truly horrific injuries from these attacks had gone down on Sunday morning, but many of the photographs were still available on the Europalestine website.

In a diplomatic response the Israeli ambassador to the UN lobbied members of the Security Council in an attempt to get a Security Council Presidential Statement condemning the terror attack. The Jerusalem Post said that the US, European members and India were strongly in favour of the statement. At an unofficial discussion of the US draft held on Friday Lebanon asked for the inclusion of an amendment citing the “the escalation in Israeli bombardment of Gaza”. The US and European members are reported to have opposed this but there was no record of any opposition from Indian or from other members which include Russia, China and Brazil. Rather than face criticism in a UNSC Presidential Statement Israel arranged for the proposal to be withdrawn. Their UN ambassador, Ron Proser, made acrimonious comments about the UN’s failure to condemn terror against Israelis, but avoided any comment on the children and other civilians killed by Israeli retaliatory airstrikes.

Meanwhile the more compliant Quartet of the Middle East was prevailed upon to issue strong condemnation of the attacks in southern Israel, which it incorrectly described as “cowardly” (hardly an accurate word for a person who risks death or deliberately blows themselves up, whatever the morality of the action). Token concern was expressed for the situations in Gaza and Sinai. The Quartet’s special representative, Tony Blair also condemned the attack in Israel but made no comment on the attacks in Gaza which have caused a higher toll of dead and injured.

The authenticity of claims of a Gaza link to the attacks in Israel has been questioned by Joseph Dana who pointed out that the Haaretz account was based entirely on anonymous sources and government hearsay accounts. (Nonetheless most of the international media outlets published the same line.) IMEMC has referred to a denial by the North Sinai Governor who said that the claims of Palestinians infiltrating into Egypt through the border were impossible to believe. He added that Egypt has full control over the border with Gaza and the security presence was not affected by the regime change in Egypt. It should also be remembered that previous attacks on the Sinai gas pipeline from Egypt to Israel (there have been five such attacks this year) have usually been accredited to Bedouin. So IDF Spokesperson Lt. Colonel Avital Leibovitz did not instil much confidence when she told the Real News that intelligence information from the bodies showed that the gunmen used Kalashnikov bullets and rifles and that these are very common in Gaza. The Kalashnikov after all is the most widely available weapon on the planet, and accounts for an estimated 20% of all firearms available worldwide.

An Israeli government unpopular at home because it cannot or will not face up the cause of social protests must at least show that it can act with determination to protect Israel’s security. And who better to blame than the residents of the Gaza Strip, whom the international community has shown over decades to be unwilling to help or defend? So it was that two-year-olds in Gaza died to atone for the death of Israeli citizens, who perhaps may have been victims of Al-Qaeda terror, so what? Israel can no longer attack Egypt with impunity, so the usual suspects will have to suffice.

However this still leaves the problem of the Egyptian soldiers who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and an Egyptian public that has more of a voice on Egyptian foreign policy that it did under the Mubarak dictatorship. While an adventurer in Cairo scaled the fifteen storey-building to remove the Israeli flag from the embassy roof protesters outside demanded that their ambassador be recalled and also protested the bombardment of Gaza. The interim government itself seems undecided as to whether it will or won’t recall its ambassador from Tel-Aviv after Jerusalem refused to issue an apology for the killings. Most governments would probably have honoured such a demand under the circumstances, but the Israeli government is not well practiced in the art of diplomacy. (Later Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak expressed ‘regrets’ for the killings). t is also contemporaneously being pressured to give an apology to Turkey over the assault on the Mavi Marmara; an apology it is most unwilling to give for fear of facilitating the prosecution of members of its armed forces. Quite possibly that piece of international arrogance and contempt has come round yet again to embarrass and impede Mr Netanyahu. Notwithstanding, the longer this row continues, the more the Egyptian stance is likely to harden.

As the anger in Gaza personifies itself by mortars and rockets fired at southern Israel the target population is learning that the much-vaunted Iron Dome is not a guaranteed defence against projectiles fired from Gaza. The 200,000 people in Beersheva along with the populations of Sderot and Ashdod remain at risk and in fear from these attacks. But Israeli options are not so straightforward. Launching Cast Lead 2 could trigger an onslaught from Hezbollah in Lebanon, which is reputed to have up to 30,000 missiles at its disposal for a war with its southern neighbour. Meanwhile Israel’s Southern Command remains at a low strength following years of cold peace with Egypt.

As terrorists aim sparks at the tinder box that is the Near East the time has come for wise heads to prevail. Yet with a high proportion of fanatics in the Knesset, Benjamin Netanyahu more interested in political survival that statehood, AIPAC puppets controlling the White House and Congress, and a weak Palestinian leadership in Ramallah there appears to be little cause for hope. Unless Israelis on the streets can take the lead and join with those who advocate an end to violence the options for regional peace currently appear to be very remote.

Notes: Let us pray for our brothers and sister in Gaza.

“O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle — be Thou near them! With them — in spirit — we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved fire sides to smite the foe.

O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells;
help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain;
help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire;
help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst,
sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.” By Mark Twain

Best Regards

Who cares in the Middle East what Obama says?

Who cares in the Middle East what Obama says?

President Obama has shown himself to be weak in his dealings with the Middle East, says Robert Fisk, and the Arab world is turning its back with contempt. Its future will be shaped without American influence

By Robert Fisk Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/who-cares-in-the-middle-east-what-obama-says-2290761.html

This month, in the Middle East, has seen the unmaking of the President of the United States. More than that, it has witnessed the lowest prestige of America in the region since Roosevelt met King Abdul Aziz on the USS Quincy in the Great Bitter Lake in 1945.

While Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu played out their farce in Washington – Obama grovelling as usual – the Arabs got on with the serious business of changing their world, demonstrating and fighting and dying for freedoms they have never possessed. Obama waffled on about change in the Middle East – and about America’s new role in the region. It was pathetic. “What is this ‘role’ thing?” an Egyptian friend asked me at the weekend. “Do they still believe we care about what they think?”

And it is true. Obama’s failure to support the Arab revolutions until they were all but over lost the US most of its surviving credit in the region. Obama was silent on the overthrow of Ben Ali, only joined in the chorus of contempt for Mubarak two days before his flight, condemned the Syrian regime – which has killed more of its people than any other dynasty in this Arab “spring”, save for the frightful Gaddafi – but makes it clear that he would be happy to see Assad survive, waves his puny fist at puny Bahrain’s cruelty and remains absolutely, stunningly silent over Saudi Arabia. And he goes on his knees before Israel. Is it any wonder, then, that Arabs are turning their backs on America, not out of fury or anger, nor with threats or violence, but with contempt? It is the Arabs and their fellow Muslims of the Middle East who are themselves now making the decisions.

Watching the hundreds of refugees pouring from Syria across the northern border of Lebanon, the Turkish government is now so fearful of a repeat of the great mass Iraqi Kurdish refugee tide that overwhelmed their border in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf war that it has drawn up its own secret plans to prevent the Kurds of Syria moving in their thousands into the Kurdish areas of south-eastern Turkey. Turkish generals have thus prepared an operation that would send several battalions of Turkish troops into Syria itself to carve out a “safe area” for Syrian refugees inside Assad’s caliphate. The Turks are prepared to advance well beyond the Syrian border town of Al Qamishli – perhaps half way to Deir el-Zour (the old desert killing fields of the 1915 Armenian Holocaust, though speak it not) – to provide a “safe haven” for those fleeing the slaughter in Syria’s cities.

The Qataris are meanwhile trying to prevent Algeria from resupplying Gaddafi with tanks and armoured vehicles – this was one of the reasons why the Emir of Qatar, the wisest bird in the Arabian Gulf, visited the Algerian president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, last week. Qatar is committed to the Libyan rebels in Benghazi; its planes are flying over Libya from Crete and – undisclosed until now – it has Qatari officers advising the rebels inside the city of Misrata in western Libya; but if Algerian armour is indeed being handed over to Gaddafi to replace the material that has been destroyed in air strikes, it would account for the ridiculously slow progress which the Nato campaign is making against Gaddafi.

Of course, it all depends on whether Bouteflika really controls his army – or whether the Algerian “pouvoir”, which includes plenty of secretive and corrupt generals, are doing the deals. Algerian equipment is superior to Gaddafi’s and thus for every tank he loses, Ghaddafi might be getting an improved model to replace it. Below Tunisia, Algeria and Libya share a 750-mile desert frontier, an easy access route for weapons to pass across the border.

But the Qataris are also attracting Assad’s venom. Al Jazeera’s concentration on the Syrian uprising – its graphic images of the dead and wounded far more devastating than anything our soft western television news shows would dare broadcast – has Syrian state television nightly spitting at the Emir and at the state of Qatar. The Syrian government has now suspended up to £4 billion of Qatari investment projects, including one belonging to the Qatar Electricity and Water Company.

Amid all these vast and epic events – Yemen itself may yet prove to be the biggest bloodbath of all, while the number of Syria’s “martyrs” have now exceeded the victims of Mubarak’s death squads five months ago – is it any surprise that the frolics of Messrs Netanyahu and Obama appear so irrelevant? Indeed, Obama’s policy towards the Middle East – whatever it is – sometimes appears so muddled that it is scarcely worthy of study. He supports, of course, democracy – then admits that this may conflict with America’s interests. In that wonderful democracy called Saudi Arabia, the US is now pushing ahead with a £40 billion arms deal and helping the Saudis to develop a new “elite” force to protect the kingdom’s oil and future nuclear sites. Hence Obama’s fear of upsetting Saudi Arabia, two of whose three leading brothers are now so incapacitated that they can no longer make sane decisions – unfortunately, one of these two happens to be King Abdullah – and his willingness to allow the Assad family’s atrocity-prone regime to survive. Of course, the Israelis would far prefer the “stability” of the Syrian dictatorship to continue; better the dark caliphate you know than the hateful Islamists who might emerge from the ruins. But is this argument really good enough for Obama to support when the people of Syria are dying in the streets for the kind of democracy that the US president says he wants to see in the region?

One of the vainest elements of American foreign policy towards the Middle East is the foundational idea that the Arabs are somehow more stupid than the rest of us, certainly than the Israelis, more out of touch with reality than the West, that they don’t understand their own history. Thus they have to be preached at, lectured, and cajoled by La Clinton and her ilk – much as their dictators did and do, father figures guiding their children through life. But Arabs are far more literate than they were a generation ago; millions speak perfect English and can understand all too well the political weakness and irrelevance in the president’s words. Listening to Obama’s 45-minute speech this month – the “kick off’ to four whole days of weasel words and puffery by the man who tried to reach out to the Muslim world in Cairo two years ago, and then did nothing – one might have thought that the American President had initiated the Arab revolts, rather than sat on the sidelines in fear.

There was an interesting linguistic collapse in the president’s language over those critical four days. On Thursday 19 May, he referred to the continuation of Israeli “settlements”. A day later, Netanyahu was lecturing him on “certain demographic changes that have taken place on the ground”. Then when Obama addressed the American Aipac lobby group (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) on the Sunday, he had cravenly adopted Netanyahu’s own preposterous expression. Now he, too, spoke of “new demographic realities on the ground.” Who would believe that he was talking about internationally illegal Jewish colonies built on land stolen from Arabs in one of the biggest property heists in the history of “Palestine”? Delay in peace-making will undermine Israeli security, Obama announced – apparently unaware that Netanyahu’s project is to go on delaying and delaying and delaying until there is no land left for the “viable” Palestinian state which the United States and the European Union supposedly wish to see.

Then we had the endless waffle about the 1967 borders. Netanyahu called them “defenceless” (though they seemed to have been pretty defendable for the 18 years prior to the Six Day War) and Obama – oblivious to the fact that Israel must be the only country in the world to have an eastern land frontier but doesn’t know where it is – then says he was misunderstood when he talked about 1967. It doesn’t matter what he says. George W Bush caved in years ago when he gave Ariel Sharon a letter which stated America’s acceptance of “already existing major Israeli population centres” beyond the 1967 lines. To those Arabs prepared to listen to Obama’s spineless oration, this was a grovel too far. They simply could not understand the reaction of Netanyahu’s address to Congress. How could American politicians rise and applaud Netanyahu 55 times – 55 times – with more enthusiasm than one of the rubber parliaments of Assad, Saleh and the rest?

And what on earth did the Great Speechifier mean when he said that “every country has the right to self-defence” but that Palestine would be “demilitarised”? What he meant was that Israel could go on attacking the Palestinians (as in 2009, for example, when Obama was treacherously silent) while the Palestinians would have to take what was coming to them if they did not behave according to the rules – because they would have no weapons to defend themselves. As for Netanyahu, the Palestinians must choose between unity with Hamas or peace with Israel. All of which was very odd. When there was no unity, Netanyahu told us all that he had no Palestinian interlocutor because the Palestinians were disunited. Yet when they unite, they are disqualified from peace talks.

Of course, cynicism grows the longer you live in the Middle East. I recall, for example, travelling to Gaza in the early 1980s when Yasser Arafat was running his PLO statelet in Beirut. Anxious to destroy Arafat’s prestige in the occupied territories, the Israeli government decided to give its support to an Islamist group in Gaza called Hamas. In fact, I actually saw with my own eyes the head of the Israeli army’s Southern Command negotiating with bearded Hamas officials, giving them permission to build more mosques. It’s only fair to say, of course, that we were also busy at the time, encouraging a certain Osama bin Laden to fight the Soviet army in Afghanistan. But the Israelis did not give up on Hamas. They later held another meeting with the organisation in the West Bank; the story was on the front page of the Jerusalem Post the next day. But there wasn’t a whimper from the Americans.

Then another moment that I can recall over the long years. Hamas and Islamic Jihad members – all Palestinians – were, in the early 1990s, thrown across the Israeli border into southern Lebanon where they spent more than a year camping on a freezing mountainside. I would visit them from time to time and on one occasion mentioned that I would be travelling to Israel next day. Immediately, one of the Hamas men ran to his tent and returned with a notebook. He then proceeded to give me the home telephone numbers of three senior Israeli politicians – two of whom are still prominent today – and, when I reached Jerusalem and called the numbers, they all turned out to be correct. In other words, the Israeli government had been in personal and direct contact with Hamas.

But now the narrative has been twisted out of all recognition. Hamas are the super-terrorists, the “al-Qa’ida” representatives in the unified Palestinian leadership, the men of evil who will ensure that no peace ever takes place between Palestinians and Israeli. If only this were true, the real al-Qa’ida would be more than happy to take responsibility. But it is not true. In the same context, Obama stated that the Palestinians would have to answer questions about Hamas. But why should they? What Obama and Netanyahu think about Hamas is now irrelevant to them. Obama warns the Palestinians not to ask for statehood at the United Nations in September. But why on earth not? If the people of Egypt and Tunisia and Yemen and Libya and Syria – we are all waiting for the next revolution (Jordan? Bahrain again? Morocco?) – can fight for freedom and dignity, why shouldn’t the Palestinians? Lectured for decades on the need for non-violent protest, the Palestinians elect to go to the UN with their cry for legitimacy – only to be slapped down by Obama.

Having read all of the “Palestine Papers” which Al-Jazeera revealed, there is no doubt that “Palestine’s” official negotiators will go to any lengths to produce some kind of statelet. Mahmoud Abbas, who managed to write a 600-page book on the “peace process” without once mentioning the word “occupation”, could even cave in over the UN project, fearful of Obama’s warning that it would be an attempt to “isolate” Israel and thus de-legitimise the Israeli state – or “the Jewish state” as the US president now calls it. But Netanyahu is doing more than anyone to delegitimise his own state; indeed, he is looking more and more like the Arab buffoons who have hitherto littered the Middle East. Mubarak saw a “foreign hand” in the Egyptian revolution (Iran, of course). So did the Crown Prince of Bahrain (Iran again). So did Gaddafi (al-Qa’ida, western imperialism, you name it), So did Saleh of Yemen (al-Qa’ida, Mossad and America). So did Assad of Syria (Islamism, probably Mossad, etc). And so does Netanyahu (Iran, naturally enough, Syria, Lebanon, just about anyone you can think of except for Israel itself).

But as this nonsense continues, so the tectonic plates shudder. I doubt very much if the Palestinians will remain silent. If there’s an “intifada” in Syria, why not a Third Intifada in “Palestine”? Not a struggle of suicide bombers but of mass, million-strong protests. If the Israelis have to shoot down a mere few hundred demonstrators who tried – and in some cases succeeded – in crossing the Israeli border almost two weeks ago, what will they do if confronted by thousands or a million. Obama says no Palestinian state must be declared at the UN. But why not? Who cares in the Middle East what Obama says? Not even, it seems, the Israelis. The Arab spring will soon become a hot summer and there will be an Arab autumn, too. By then, the Middle East may have changed forever. What America says will matter nothing.


BBC is ‘confusing cause and effect’ in its Israeli coverage

BBC is ‘confusing cause and effect’ in its Israeli coverage

Tim Llewellyn Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/may/23/bbc-israeli-conflict-coverage

British broadcasters’ coverage of the Arab awakening over recent months has been brave and honest. These are difficult and dangerous stories. But the BBC – and in this article I am going to concentrate on the BBC, because it is the broadcaster we are taxed to enable and sets worldwide standards of fairness – and its teams have made every effort to report with balance and application.

However, the BBC coverage of Israel and Palestine, where another state continually kills and oppresses Arabs, is replete with imbalance and distortion.

I covered the Middle East for the BBC from the mid-1970s to the early 1990s, and am aggrieved by my ex-employer’s continuing inability to describe in a just and contextualised way the conflict between military occupier and militarily occupied. There is no attempt to properly convey cause and effect, to report the misery, violence and pillage that demean and deny freedom to the Palestinians and provoke their (limited) actions.

Greg Philo and Mike Berry, in their book More Bad News from Israel, prove by textual analysis and follow-up interviews with viewers and listeners that I am right – and so are an increasing number of people who are becoming aware that the BBC sells them short on Israel. Philo and Berry’s book, an updated edition of Bad News From Israel (2004), examines coverage of the Israeli blitz on Gaza, analysing BBC TV and ITV early evening bulletins between its beginning on 27 December 2008, and the ceasefire on 17 January 2009.

Siege and blockade

They find that the Israeli explanation of why it went to war on a mainly defenceless Gazan population is the one broadly accepted by the BBC. It was a “response” to Palestinian rockets. The Palestinian case, that the Israelis violated a ceasefire that had held for nearly five months in November 2008, and that the Gazans had endured many years of intensifying siege and blockade, which had reduced them to stagnation and penury, was rarely put, if at all. “The story was unpacked,” the authors write, “in the manner of the Israeli view.”

In the bulletins they examined, the BBC gave 421.5 lines of text to Israeli explanations of why they attacked Gaza: the “need for security”, “enemy rockets”, “to stop the smuggling of weapons”. The BBC devoted 14.25 lines to references to the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian territories and 10.5 lines to the blockade. The BBC repeatedly stressed the word [Israeli] “retaliation”, and also implied that police stations bombed by the Israelis were military targets, describing other casualties as “civilian”. It described these civilian installations as “targets”. Newspapers such as the Guardian did point out the distinction.

“The offer that Hamas was said to have made, to halt this exchange [rockets v shells and air strikes] … was almost completely absent from the coverage,” say the authors. They cite a BBC reporter saying: “Israel feels itself surrounded by enemies, with reason.” They add: “We have not found a commentary noting that ‘Palestinians feel themselves to be subject to a brutal military occupation, with reason.’ Israel’s official view is given as fact, they say, but the Palestinian view, on the rare occasions it is found at all, is not. Israelis “state”, Palestinians “claim”.

When the BBC and ITV did start reporting the horrific civilian casualties in Gaza and the use of phosphorus, Israeli spokespersons were immediately on hand to deny, explain or obfuscate. The Palestinians, especially Hamas, were rarely able to answer allegations. The Palestinians in situ usually lacked the resources or opportunity to make their case. The many articulate Palestinians in London available to help were rarely called on, whereas, as one BBC insider said, “the Israeli ambassador was practically camped at TV Centre”.

More than two years on, the BBC continues to confuse cause and effect – Israeli attacks are always reported as retaliation to Palestinian violence or rockets, and the idea that Palestinian rockets, however ineffective, are armed resistance to Israel’s hammering from land, sea and air is rarely broadcast. The daily indignities and brutalities of the siege and the occupation and the shelling and shooting of civilians are virtually absent from BBC consciousness unless an attack on Israel sparks interest.

Headline news

Philo and Berry quote the BBC correspondent Paul Adams, a Middle East expert: what is missing from the coverage, he says, is the view that the Palestinians are engaged in a war of national liberation, trying to throw off an occupying force. Any Israeli casualty is headline news, shown in high quality images. BBC teams are based in West Jerusalem, de facto Israeli territory, and are on hand. Arab casualties may be shown in reports of a funeral, usually agency film, the victim anonymous. The Israelis, it seems, are for the BBC “people like us”. The Arabs are “the other”.

Philo and Berry go on to interview viewers and listeners, all in higher education. They find that these focus groups were largely unaware of the Israeli occupation, often believing the Palestinians are the occupiers. Few knew that Hamas had been democratically elected in January 2006. “I had the impression they were a terrorist group from watching the BBC,” said one respondent. In most cases, the assumption was that Palestinian rockets brought the invasion onto their own people’s heads.

To complain means the official complaints procedure and dealing with the army of lawyers and layers of bureaucracy the BBC now deploys to see off all but the most assiduous. Editors and producers rarely respond individually to complaints and, if they do, do so with question-raising answers and self-justification.

For example, the BBC consistently describes illegal Israeli settlements as “held to be illegal”. But they are illegal. Even the Foreign Office says so. The BBC always adds “Israel disputes this.” Well it would, wouldn’t it? Why these caveats? Why this reporting of a shout of denial from the convicted prisoner in the dock?

More than a month after I made an official complaint about this I have had no reply or acknowledgement. People who complained about Panorama’s travesty of a documentary on the deaths caused when Israeli commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara, part of the Gaza aid flotilla, had to go through an obstacle course of form-filling and stonewalling.

The BBC Trust found the programme guilty on some counts but said it had not breached BBC guidelines of accuracy and impartiality. Why negotiate all this to end up with such contortionist, self-serving judgments?

Final arbiter

The BBC is on the defensive: the castle wall is the labyrinthine complaints procedure. It must be time for an independent body like Ofcom to be the final arbiter on BBC journalism, not the BBC itself. The BBC Trust, the highest court of appeal in these matters, is now chaired by Lord Patten, who has told us all how closely he intends to work with the director general, Mark Thompson: judge and potential defendant.

Why is BBC reporting like this? The book addresses this in Chapter 4. In my view, the rot set in during 2001, after 9/11. Israel and its friends were quick to capitalise on “terror” and “Arabs” and massively enhanced their propaganda effort here, gaining access to BBC staff at all levels. BBC managers and editors do not like being shouted at, and they are soft toys when someone makes a loud and apparently convincing case. The Palestinians have no such machinery. As one BBC producer says in More Bad News: “We all fear the phone call from the Israeli embassy.”

The BBC’s main Middle East bureau in west Jerusalem is liable to Israeli pressure, and it is in Israel that the BBC perspective on the regional conflict is formed.

Editorially, Israeli spokesmen are easily available and producers love that. As Peter Oborne pointed out on Channel 4 in late 2009, each of our three main political parties is amenable to the “Friends of Israel” lobby. Our coalition leadership duo have both pledged themselves publicly to Israel. So did Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

The BBC, like a well-kicked hound, does not in its post-Hutton malaise wish to antagonise politicians. It goes with reporting that’s as low-profile as possible on this most sensitive of issues. It lives in horror of being accused of anti-semitism, Israel’s ultimate smear. Reporters and editors know they have to pitch the Israel story in a certain manner to get it on the air – in effect, self-censorship.

Perhaps the most overwhelming distortion of the BBC in its coverage of Israel and Palestine is what I term “spurious equivalence”: that the Palestinians and Israelis are two equal sides “at war” over “disputed” territory and may the best man win. Or, come on chaps, shouldn’t reason prevail? The BBC knows that the Palestinians are a people fighting for independence, but its coverage does not tell it like it is.

In 2006, an independent panel appointed by the BBC governors assessed impartiality in coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Their review came after many complaints and the first edition of this book, which examined in similar form the BBC’s distorted reporting of the Al-Aqsa (second) intifada and the subsequent Israeli bombardments and invasion of the cities of the West Bank.

The commission confirmed many of the Philo/Berry criticisms: “BBC output does not consistently give a full and fair account of the conflict. In some ways the picture is incomplete and, in that sense, misleading.”

Five years on, it remains so, and the BBC has put the commission’s report under “File and Forget”.

Tim Llewellyn was BBC Middle East correspondent from 1976-80 and 1987-92. More Bad News from Israel, by Greg Philo and Mike Berry, is published in paperback by Pluto Press at £15

Best Regards

Tears of Gaza

“1.6 billion Muslims and 57 OIC countries. Qatar stands at number one with the highest per capita income in the world $83,841 and Brunei is at number five with per capita income $49,110. 22 OIC member countries are currently classified by the World Bank as Low-income countries and 28 are Middle-income countries (20 lower middle-income and 8 upper middleincome). In contrast, only 7 OIC member countries are classified as high-income countries. World Bank classification by level of indebtedness, 22 OIC member countries are considered as Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs), potentially eligible to receive debt relief”. Source: Annual Economic Report of the OIC Countries 2010. Click Annual Economic Report 2010

As a reflection to the above, just watch the video below.

OIC member countries 57 GDP

1-Turkey: 1,028,897,000,000 – 13.138
2 – Indonesia: 907,264,000,000 – 3.600
3-Iran: 839,438,000,000 – 8.400
4 – Saudi Arabia: 601,200,000,000 – 13.100
5-Egypt: 445,300,000,000 – 3.900
6-Pakistan: 401,900,000,000 – 2.400
7-Bangladesh: 376,300,000,000 – 2.100
8-Malaysia: 327,030,000,000 – 12,000
9-Algeria: 274,500,000,000 – 7.200
10-Nigeria: 234,500,000,000 – 1,400
11-United Arab Emirates: 208,100,000,000 – 45.200
12-Morocco: 204,300,000,000 – 4.100
13-Kazakhstan: 173,800,000,000 – 8.300
14-Kuwait: 156,100,000,000 – 20.300
15-Sudan: 149,890,000,000 – 2.100
16-Tunisia: 131,850,000,000 – 8.200
17-Qatar: 124,420,000,000 -$83,841
18-Libya: 121,000,000,000 – 11.800
19-Iraq: 104,310,000,000 – 1.800
20 – Syria: 93,760,000,000 – 3.900
21-Uzbekistan: 88,360,000,000 – 1.900
22-Azerbaijan: 72,990,000,000 – 5.400
23-Uganda: 66,390,000,000 – 1.800
24-Oman: 65,750,000,000 – 13.500
25-Cameroon: 53,140,000,000 – 2.300
26-Turkmenistan: 49,580,000,000 – 7.900
27-Ivory Coast: 45,850,000,000 – 1.600
28-Jordan: 37,180,000,000 – 4.700
29-Mozambique: 28,460,000,000 – 1.300
30-Lebanon: 22,780,000,000 – 6.000
31-Afghanistan: 21,500,000,000 – 800
32-Senegal: 20,570,000,000 – 1.800
33-Yemen: 19,360,000,000 – 900
34-Albania: 18,870,000,000 – 5.300
35-Guinea: 18,650,000,000 – 2,000
36-Burkina Faso: 16,660,000,000 – 1.200
37-Bahrain: 15,900,000,000 – 23.100
38 – Chad: 13,980,000,000 – 1,400
39-Mali: 13,610,000,000 – 1.200
40-Niger: 11,590,000,000 – 1,000
41-Kyrgyzstan: 10,080,000,000 – 2,000
42-Gabon: 9,739,000,000 – 7,000
43-Togo: 8,802,000,000 – 1.600
44-Tajikistan: 8,617,000,000 – 1.200
45-benin: 8,419,000,000 – 1.100
46-Mauritania: 6,901,000,000 – 2.200
47-Brunei: 6,842,000,000 -$49,110
48-Sierra Leone: 4,939,000,000 – 800
49-Somalia: 4,809,000,000 – 600
50-Guyana: 3,439,000,000 – 4,500
51-The Gambia: 3,034,000,000 – 1.900
52-Suriname: 2,893,000,000 – 6.600
53-Maldives: 1,250,000,000 – 3.900
54-Guinea-Bissau: 1,171,000,000 – 800
55-Djibouti: 619,000,000 to 1.000
56-Comoros Islands: 441,000,000 to 600
57-Palestine (not available )

Palestine News: The True Colour of Fatah

Fatah ‘tipped off’ about Gaza war

Available at: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2010/11/201011301553933160.html

Leaked US diplomatic cable says Israel raised the possibility with Fatah and Egypt about taking control of Gaza Strip.

The leaked cable said that Barak, left, made the comments at a meeting at the US embassy in Tel Aviv [EPA]

A leaked US diplomatic cable has raised the possibility that Fatah, the Palestinian group in power in the occupied West Bank, knew that Israel was planning an attack on the Gaza Strip before it launched its deadly offensive in December 2008.

The conflict, which ended in January 2009 after three weeks, led to more than 1400 Palestinian deaths and left vast swathes of the Gaza Strip completely destroyed.

According to a June 2009 US embassy cable released on the WikiLeaks website, Ehud Barak, Israel’s defence minister, told a US congressional delegation that his country had asked Fatah and Egypt “prior to Operation Cast Lead” whether “they were willing to assume control of Gaza once Israel defeated Hamas”.

Barak said that neither Fatah nor Egypt responded positively to the question, but the suggestion that Palestinian leaders knew in advance of the attack on Gaza could prove massively embarrassing for Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president.

The cable is part of a huge trove of classified US diplomatic documents that WikiLeaks started to release on Sunday, infuriating Washington which regretted the leak and called it an “attack on the international community”.

The June 2 cable said that Barak made the comments at a meeting at the US embassy in Tel Aviv aimed at reviving the peace process and providing security in the occupied Palestinian territories.

‘No consultation’

Fatah has denied that Israel contacted them ahead of the offensive, what Israel calls Operation Cast Lead.

“Nobody consulted with us, and that is the truth,” Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator with Israel, said. “Israel doesn’t consult before going to war.”

Egypt did not immediately respond to the allegations.

Salah al-Bardaweel, Hamas’ spokesman, said after the cable revelation: “We have not ruled out that Fatah and the Palestinian Authority [that Fatah leads] could have contributed in one way or another in the war against Gaza for political reasons, such as bringing down the Hamas movement and regaining control.

“The Zionist enemy does not take a permission from Fatah or anybody else when they want to launch a war on Gaza but they may seek the opinion of others regarding such a war.”

Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip from Fatah in a coup in 2007. Israel immediately imposed a crippling blockade on the territory, and attacked at the end of 2008 in a bid to destroy Hamas after suffering rocket attacks on southern Israeli towns.

Best Regards

  • The cemetery at the Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina. More than 8000 Muslims were killed here in 1995 during the Bosnian war.