January 11, 2009

Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land

Red Cross: Israel Has Breached Humanitarian Laws in Gaza

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

Falk, while condemning the rocket attacks by the militant group Hamas, which he points out are also criminal violations of international law, goes on to say that "such Palestinian behavior does not legalize Israel's imposition of a collective punishment of a life- and health-threatening character on the people of Gaza, and should not distract the U.N. or international society from discharging their fundamental moral and legal duty to render protection to the Palestinian people."

December 2008 - January 2009 Gaza ConflictKilled in Gaza Conflict 2008-2009
"When Israelis in the occupied territories now claim that they have to defend themselves, they are defending themselves in the sense that any military occupier has to defend itself against the population they are crushing... You can't defend yourself when you're militarily occupying someone else's land. That's not defense. Call it what you like, it's not defense." – Noam Chomsky

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are cut off in walled ghettos, which former U.S. President Carter has likened to "apartheid." An international human rights group warns that a two-state solution to the 62-year Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been made a practical impossibility due to Israel's continuing expropriation of Palestinian property and denying Palestinian refugees the right to recover their orginal homes and lands. This is one of the main conclusions of the May 2005 report, "Ruling Palestine: A History of the Legally Sanctioned Jewish-Israeli Seizure of Land and Housing in Palestine." It reveals in stark detail how Zionist leaders and later successive Israeli governments manipulated key Ottoman and British laws, as well as the Israeli legal system, to dispossess Palestinians of their land and property. The report clearly documents how Israel has built a domestic legal framework which seeks to legitimize what are clearly discriminatory land and housing policies.

Palestinian Loss of Land 1946-2005
Palestinian Loss of Land 1946-2005

Gaza: Field of Death and Home of the Oppressed

According to the Associated Press on January 9, 2009: "In a surprise move, the United States abstained from a UN Security Council vote Thursday night, which urged an immediate cease-fire in Gaza, saying it wanted to see the results of Egyptian-mediated talks with Hamas and Israel before calling for a halt to military action." Israel has placed the Gaza Strip under a blockade ever since the democratically-elected Palestinian government, Hamas, took control of the coastal area in mid-June 2007. Palestinians had voted overwhelmingly in favor of the Islamic movement in the 2006 parliamentary elections.

Source: Javno
January 10, 2009

The American Senate on Thursday endorsed the Israeli offensive in Gaza. According to them, Israel is just defending itself, adding that they would have done the same in a similar situation. But what they forgot to mention was that Israel breached the Geneva Convention according to which the country committed itself to take care of the civilians in Gaza.

The Palestinians Have No Water, Jobs or Source of Energy

Women, children and elderly people have been living under occupation since 1967, and although the Israeli troops withdrew from the area in 2005, Israel is still controlling the border strip as well as exports and imports, the supply of fuels, and the movement of people. They also control the coast and air traffic. After the Hamas movement strengthened in 2006, so did the Israeli blockade. And the number of diseased people has increased due to poor hygienic conditions.

Israel Quashed the Last Hope for Negotiations

After Israel last year refused to rescind the blockade, Hamas’s shellings became more frequent, and the last glimmer for negotiations was extinguished after Israeli troops killed six Hamas’s operatives in November.

The bloodiest attack on the Palestinian people located in an area 40 kilometres long and only 10 kilometres wide began on December 27 of last year. Since then more than 700 Palestinians lost their lives. Several days ago the United Nations decided to cease all operations in that area after their convoy was attacked, as well as the school they founded. The war reports are coming only from Israel, which is no surprise, because reporters are forbidden to enter the Gaza strip.

Israeli Stance: Palestinians Were Made to be Oppressed

The New York Times writes that there are indications of a war crime being committed, both by the Israeli side and Hamas. Every human life is precious. But the numbers speak for themselves: nearly 700 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed since the conflict broke out at the end of last year. In contrast, there have been around a dozen Israelis killed, many of them soldiers wrote the New York Times.

Negotiations are possible only if Israel lifts its blockade, and although Israel’s politicians daily condemn the deaths of civilians, nobody has done much about it.

This war on the people of Gaza isn’t really about rockets. Far more revealing are the words of Moshe Yaalon, then the Israeli Defence Forces chief of staff, in 2002: “The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people,” the New York Times reported.

The American Proxy War in Gaza

By Ali Abunimah
Originally Published on February 3, 2007

In recent days the unremitting, murderous brutality of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land has been eclipsed by the carnage in Gaza as dozens of Palestinians have been killed in what is commonly referred to as "interfactional fighting" between forces loyal to Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction (and his Presidential Guard), on the one hand, and the Hamas-led government on the other.

The airwaves have been filled with anguished calls from every sector of Palestinian society – political parties, nongovermental organizations, and Christian and Muslim religious leaders – for the fighting to cease and for a return to dialogue. Perhaps for fear of exacerbating the already bitter situation, few of these voices have directly confronted the engine of this violence.

In the fevered minds of Bush administration ideologues, Palestine has become another front in what they conceive of as a new Cold War against "Islamofascism." They see Iran as the central target, and proxy battles are being waged against a phantom enemy from Afghanistan and Pakistan and through Iraq into Palestine, Lebanon, Somalia, and ever onwards wherever Arabs and Muslims are to be found. In every case, local conflicts with specific histories are being escalated and marshalled into this grand narrative. Mahmoud Abbas and Gaza warlord Mohammad Dahlan have become the willing proxies for the Palestine franchise of this wider project, as their tactics and loyalists' statements reveal.

The latest round of fighting began on February 1, 2007, when forces of the Palestinian Ministry of Interior, run by the Hamas government, attempted to interdict a convoy of trucks that crossed into Gaza from Israel. Officials alleged that the trucks were carrying weapons destined for the Presidential Guard, the militia loyal to Abbas. Fatah figures, speaking on the BBC Arabic Service, vehemently denied the allegation, making contradictory claims about the contents of the trucks. One said they contained "food and medicine for the Palestinian people," another "tents and equipment," and another still "electrical generators and spare parts." No two denials matched.

Yet the fact that the Presidential Guard is receiving arms via Israel is common knowledge to Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank and has been talked about openly in the Israeli media for months. Since October, eight truckloads of AK-47 rifles and machine guns and several million rounds of ammunition have entered Gaza from Israel through the Nahal Oz and Kerem Shalom crossings, according to a high-ranking officer of the Force-17 Fatah militia, who conveyed this information to Hebron-based journalist Khaled Amayreh. Not all these guns go solely to the Presidential Guard; many are sold on to the highest bidder. And just days ago, President Bush announced that he would transfer $86 million dollars in the near future to further boost Abbas.

In order to change the subject from the scandal of the Palestinian "presidency" receiving US arms through Israel to use against the Palestinian people, the Presidential Guard launched a counterattack against the Islamic University in Gaza - shelling, burning and destroying parts of it. Abbas' officials claimed that their forces had arrested seven Iranian weapons experts working for Hamas, and labelled Hamas leaders "extremists" and "putschists."

Fatah and Fatah-backed local radio even accused Hamas of burning down the Islamic University themselves in order to blacken Fatah's 'glorious image.' The allegations about Iranians were universally dismissed but they revealed the extent to which Abbas officials have adopted the Israeli and American paradigm as their own.

In several recent demonstrations, Dahlan loyalists have shouted "Shia, Shia" at Hamas supporters. This was perhaps supposed to draw attention to Iranian support for Hamas (the movement, like the rest of the Palestinian Muslim community, is Sunni) but this hateful sectarian incitement, hitherto unknown in Palestinian society, serves (for now) the wider strategic agenda of Abbas' and Dahlan's sponsors.

After Hizbullah defeated Israel last summer, the Lebanese Shia movement, backed by Iran, gained enormous prestige among the region's people, especially Palestinians, as an Arab nationalist and pan-Islamic movement, standing firm against Israeli aggression, in contrast to toothless, unpopular and corrupt governments. Hence the active promotion of Sunni fear of their Shia brethren is designed to limit the influence of Iran – and serve up a good old-fashioned dose of divide and rule. (Thus from this perspective, the carnage in Iraq and the outrage at the brutal televised hanging of the Sunni-identified Saddam Hussein by a Shia-identified militia was a real bonus.)

Abbas is at last doing what Arafat was always urged to do, while Israel and the US watch with glee. As Ha'aretz explained, Israel felt no need to launch a large scale revenge operation against Gaza following the January 29 Eilat bombing: "When Fatah and Hamas are so good at killing each other, why should Israel intervene and spur them to close ranks against the common enemy?"

As the battles were raging in Gaza, the mouthpiece of American policy, the so-called Quartet (made up of representatives of the US, European Union, the United Nations and Russia) met to discuss the long-dead "peace process." The body voiced its "deep concern at the violence among Palestinians and called for respect for law and order." In a repeat of the American approach to last summer's Lebanon war, the Quartet pointedly did not call for a ceasefire.

It did however call "for Palestinian unity behind a government committed to non-violence, recognition of Israel and acceptance of the obligations under the Roadmap," while remaining totally silent about Israel's continued slow-motion ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, particularly last week's announcement by Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert that Israel was extending the illegal West Bank separation wall further east to annex several large Jewish-only colonies. This measure will add twenty thousand to the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians already cut off in walled ghettos that former US President Carter has likened to "apartheid."

The Quartet even "welcomed" US arming of the Presidential Guard, though in diplomatic doublespeak this was euphemized as "efforts to reform the Palestinian security sector and thus to help improve law and order for the Palestinian people."

Bleak as things are, cracks are starting to appear. Although US propaganda asserts that the arming of the Abbas militia is in part a response to growing Iranian influence, the British parliament's International Development Committee last week concluded that it was Western sanctions and isolation that had driven Hamas to seek Iranian support. The committee condemned the UK government's refusal to talk to Hamas, urged it to do so as it did with the IRA, and urged consideration of EU sanctions against Israel, such as suspending the Association agreement granting the Jewish state special trade privileges.

Israeli and American propaganda, now also adopted by the European Union, attempts to obscure the basic understanding that Palestine is the struggle of a colonized people for liberation. The policy of supporting a quisling group to fight as a proxy on behalf of empire, colonizer and occupier will only increase the bloodshed. But it will ultimately fail in Palestine as it did before in Northern Ireland, Southern Africa and Central and Southern America, and as it is failing in Iraq.

Ali Abunimah is the co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.

U.S. Media & the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

The documentary film Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land provides a striking comparison of U.S. and international media coverage of the crisis in the Middle East, zeroing in on how structural distortions in U.S. coverage have reinforced false perceptions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This pivotal documentary exposes how the foreign policy interests of American political elites – oil and a need to have a secure military base in the region, among others – work in combination with Israeli public relations strategies to exercise a powerful influence over how news from the region is reported.

Through the voices of scholars, media critics, peace activists, religious figures, and Middle East experts, Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land carefully analyzes and explains how – through the use of language, framing and context – the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza remains hidden in the news media, and Israeli colonization of the occupied terrorities appears to be a defensive move rather than an offensive one.

The documentary also explores the ways that U.S. journalists, for reasons ranging from intimidation to a lack of thorough investigation, have become complicit in carrying out Israel's PR campaign. At its core, the documentary raises questions about the ethics and role of journalism and the relationship between media and politics.

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