Gaza Diary 2

Safa Joudeh is the girl behind the Gaza Diary. She has a Facebook page and this is her latest diary entry:

 

Last night the intense bombardment of nearby areas caused one of our windows to Break.  Usually the windows are left open day and night despite the bitter cold for fear of them blowing in from a nearby explosion.  But last night, the young children staying in the house were sick and we decided to close some of the windows to stop the air draft.  We were glad that the window only cracked and wasn’t shattered, or it could have harmed the little 2 year old boy sleeping on the bed beneath it.

 

The heavy bombardment came as Israeli tanks pushed farther into Gaza.  They’re not very far off now, only about a five minute drive away.  We’re afraid, because the Israel military has been warning that it will implement phase 3 of the assault: a full scale invasion that entails bringing their tanks into the streets of Gaza, backed of course, by the Israeli Air force: destruction at a point blank range.  In such an event, the over 900 people already dead will constitute only a portion of the civilian losses, and the already disfigured streets of our city will be turned to dust.

 

Furthermore, Israel has employed some unnerving and terror-spreading tactics in the Gaza Strip that have caused Gazans to break down with helplessness.

 

The IDF have infiltrated the air waves of local radio stations and TV channels.  As we watch the news all of a sudden the screen goes black and an IDF message appears: “You will witness the unleashing of our wrath!!’.  We turn off the TV and turn to the radio, moments later the broadcasting is interrupted and a harsh voice comes through the speakers: “Leave your area and gather in the center of your town! We are warning you for your own safety! This is the IDF”.

 

Where are people supposed to go? Those in the center of the city such as my family are already being bombarded, and each home is already accommodating at least 1 or 2 families that have fled their areas.  UNRWA shelters are already full and the streets aren’t safe.  So we are people are being forewarned when in reality, they have no option but to stay put.  Many people feel that it would be more merciful not to be warned of the imminent deaths.

 

In other areas, Israel is throwing thousands of flyers from planes in the residential areas, threatening that more attack methods will be practiced against the population, and asking the residents to come forth with information about Hamas fighters, information which, obviously, civilians don’t have.

 

In my home we are taking in as many of our relatives, who live in more dangerous areas, as we can.  At mealtime, several people gather in a couple of circles at 2 tables to eat, as others wait their turn.  We eat in 3 shifts.  When its time to sleep, some people sleep on couches, others in chairs and others on blankets on the floor.

 

During the last 16 days, along with the entire people of Gaza we have learned how to live with the most minimal aspect of comfort, and have experienced the hardships of an impoverished life to their fullest.  When the power lines were fixed 2 days ago, electricity and running water were restored to our homes for 6 hours a day.  The moment the power came on in our neighborhood, you could hear the cry’s of happiness and celebration coming from every apartment and house within hearing, despite the ongoing bombardment.

Comments (25)


1. Akbar Palace said:

Dear Safa Joudeh,

After seeing the pictures below, I think you will agree with me that you, your brothers and your sisters have been used in a cynical passion play of violence by your own people.

You and your family could be living peacefully in Palestine (Gaza and the West Bank) if Palestinians decided to stop fighting Israelis. Ask your parents and your family why it is preferrable to fight Israel than make peace with her. I hope their explaination with bring you solace.

AP

http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/pictures/PalestinianChildAbuse/

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January 14th, 2009, 1:14 am

 

2. jo6pac said:

Little green footballs tells the truth, now there’s a suprise. I wish I could say how sorry I am about the US involvement but nothing I say will help.
jo6pac

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January 14th, 2009, 1:38 am

 

3. Akbar Palace said:

JO6PAC,

Acutally, Little Green Footballs only provided the link to the slideshow (without any words or commentary).

The pictures were not Little Green Football actors or employees, they were all Palestinians preparing their infants and children for “resistance”.

Are you disputing the pictures? Do you think the pictures are fake?

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January 14th, 2009, 2:27 am

 

4. norman said:

By JAY SOLOMON
WASHINGTON — Sen. Hillary Clinton said at her confirmation hearing that the new administration would move quickly to engage Iran and Syria directly, making good on an Obama campaign promise to shift U.S. Mideast policy.

Sen. Clinton also told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday that, if confirmed as secretary of state, she would work to revive key international nuclear-disarmament initiatives that have largely lain dormant in the past eight years.

She specifically cited a renewed U.S. effort to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, as well as to reach accord with Russia on a revised Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which regulates the number of long-range nuclear weapons.

These initiatives, said the former first lady, would be part of the new administration’s focus on using diplomacy, economic aid and commerce, or “soft power,” to build bridges to allies and adversaries often critical of U.S. foreign policy in recent years.

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Xinhua /Landov
Sen. Hillary Clinton testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday.
Sen. Clinton said she would oversee a newly empowered State Department that would play a larger role in projecting U.S. influence overseas. Many U.S. officials, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, have voiced concerns that the military has been drawn into too many aspects of foreign affairs, including diplomacy and economic development.

“America cannot solve the most pressing problems on our own, and the world cannot solve them without America,” Sen. Clinton said in her testimony Tuesday. “The best way to advance America’s interest…is to design and implement global solutions.”

Sen. Clinton said addressing the Arab-Israeli conflict would be among her first priorities, but she didn’t offer any evidence of diverging from Bush administration policy on Israel’s attacks in Gaza. She said that for any cease-fire to hold, the Palestinian group Hamas must stop firing missiles into Israel.

Sen. Clinton’s nomination is expected to be unanimously approved by the Senate Thursday. Democrats and Republicans praised the New York legislator for her work on international affairs, both in the White House and as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Republican senators stressed, however, that Sen. Clinton’s confirmation would be contingent upon a strict accounting procedure being implemented to track former President Bill Clinton’s foundation activities and to guard against conflicts of interest with his wife’s work. “The core of the problem is that foreign governments and entities may perceive the Clinton Foundation as a means to gain favor with the secretary of state,” said Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations panel.

Sen. Lugar said the best approach to guard against such conflicts might be for the Clinton Foundation to forswear donations from these foreign sources during Sen. Clinton’s time at the State Department.

President-elect Barack Obama’s pledge to directly engage U.S. adversaries, such as Iran and Syria, was a hot-button issue during last year’s presidential campaign. Sen. Clinton at one stage called Mr. Obama “naive” for thinking diplomacy alone could change the practices of despotic governments in Tehran, Damascus and Pyongyang.

Tuesday, however, Sen. Clinton indicated that, as Washington’s top diplomat, she would quickly push ahead with Mr. Obama’s engagement strategy. Some Iran experts have suggested the new U.S. administration should refrain from reaching out to Tehran until after June presidential elections, fearing it could bolster hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But Sen. Clinton said in written testimony that Washington might not have the luxury to wait that long, given Iran’s rapid expansion of its nuclear program.

“The elections should not prevent us from starting a dialogue if we determine that there is a genuine intent to engage,” Sen. Clinton said.

Obama’s Cabinet
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Clinton Aims to Boost State Dept. CloutClinton testimony as prepared for deliveryFull text of Clinton’s responses to Lugar’s questions: Foreign affairs management issues | Memorandum of understandingChu Commits to Aggressive Renewable PolicyAre any of Obama’s cabinet picks at risk of becoming a liability for the administration?The Obama administration also views efforts to engage Syria as central to U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. Sen. Clinton acknowledged that the U.S. has continued concerns about Damascus’s support of terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. But she said Washington should test Syria’s willingness to break its strategic alliance with Iran and these extremist groups.

“I believe that engaging directly with Syria increases the possibility of making progress in changing Syrian behavior,” Sen. Clinton said in her written testimony, noting Washington would directly support Syrian-Israeli peace talks.

Sen. Clinton suggested the Obama administration wouldn’t shift too drastically from the Bush administration’s policy toward North Korea and the Arab-Israeli conflict. But she echoed comments by Mr. Obama that a softening toward Cuba could be imminent. She said, in particular, the new administration would move to lift restrictions on family visits and cash remittances to the communist country.

Finally, Sen. Clinton said as secretary of state she would work to engage Russia and China and bring them more fully into the international community. She stressed, however, the U.S. would continue to focus on human rights in these countries and their responsibility to abide by global economic and legal norms.

“We want a positive and cooperative relationship with China, one where we deepen and strengthen our ties…and candidly address differences,” Sen. Clinton said.

Write to Jay Solomon at jay.solomon@wsj.com

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January 14th, 2009, 3:42 am

 

5. Shami said:

Lebanese town names street after ‘real man’ Chavez for expelling Israeli envoy
By Agence France Presse (AFP)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009
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BIREH: The north Lebanese town of Bireh has named a street after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for expelling Israel’s ambassador because of its onslaught on the Gaza Strip, the mayor says. “It’s the least we can do for this great man who revived hope in our hearts and took revenge for us on the Zionist entity,” Mohammad Wehbe told AFP, saying the move was to “honor him and raise our spirits.”

The main road to Bireh, 45 kilometers north of the port city of Tripoli, was lined with banners reading: “The nation needs men like Chavez” and “Chavez expelled the Israeli ambassador. When will you do that, Arab rulers?” Portraits of Chavez are plastered all over the town with a population of 17,000.

“We saw Chavez kick out the Israeli ambassador and hoped Arab leaders would do the same,” Wehbe said.

Egypt and Jordan have diplomatic relations with Israel and have come under fire for not breaking off contacts after Israel began its offensive on the Gaza Strip that has killed at least 900 Palestinians since December 27.

Sunni cleric Bilal Rifai told the AFP: “We don’t have a direct relationship with Chavez. We are not of the same religion. We don’t speak the same language. But he shared our pain and this deserves our appreciation and respect.”

Chavez’s portrait took center stage at protests in Beirut last week when demonstrators raised his portrait with a slogan directed at Arab leaders that read: “This is what real men are like.”

Chavez expelled Israel’s ambassador to Caracas on January 6 and Israel retaliated a day later, saying it was expelling Venezuela’s charge d’affaires. – AFP

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January 14th, 2009, 4:29 am

 

6. norman said:

Anne Penketh: Gaza negotiations are the battleground for Egyptand Syria’s ‘Arab Cold War’

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

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Egypt and Syria are exploiting their negotiations with Hamas in a titanic struggle that will determine Arab leadership in the Middle East, according to analysts.

An “Arab Cold War” is raging between the two countries for supremacy over the Gaza crisis, said the Chatham House Middle East analyst Nadim Shehadi. In the Egyptian camp are other US allies such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia, while behind Syria are Qatar, Yemen and Algeria as well as its political (non-Arab) ally Iran, which backs Hamas and the Shia fighters of Hizbollah in Lebanon.

While Egypt has long been the negotiator of choice for the West with Hamas, “the Syrians are trying to snatch the leading role from Egypt”, said Mr Shehadi. It is a struggle with global implications should there be a shift of strategic power to Damascus, he added. “The whole balance of power in the region will change radically if Egypt loses its role.”

Egypt has led intense talks with Hamas envoys from the Gaza Strip and from the group’s exiled leadership in Syria for more than a week, but with no signs of a breakthrough.

Egypt and the West have said the way forward after an immediate ceasefire lies through a Palestinian reconciliation between Hamas and the Islamist movement’s secular rivals in Fatah on the West Bank, led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. But it is difficult to know how Hamas could be reconciled with its sworn rivals, whom they ousted from Gaza by force in June 2007. As reports in the Egyptian press spoke of difficulties in the talks with Hamas, President Hosni Mubarak yesterday flew to Saudi Arabia, accompanied by his chief fixer, the head of Egyptian intelligence Lieutenant General Omar Suleiman, for urgent consultations with King Abdullah. Egypt and Saudi Arabia are fighting off proposals from Qatar – which supports Hamas – for an emergency summit on Gaza which would further expose Arab divisions.

Hamas may be split between its “pragmatic” leadership now underground in Gaza and the hardliners in Damascus, a suggestion strongly denied yesterday by Mohammad Nazal of the Hamas political bureau. He described such reports as “meant to stir up confusion” over the Hamas position and denounced them as part of Israel’s “psychological warfare”.

However, after a meeting in Cairo last week, the Hamas negotiators appeared to have accepted the Egyptian ceasefire initiative. When they returned to Damascus, the influential speaker of the Iranian parliament, Ali Larijani, turned up. Then the Damascus-based leadership responded negatively to the Egyptian proposals.

Some commentators are critical of Egypt’s handling of the negotiations as mediator. President Hosni Mubarak has always been hostile to Hamas, an offshoot of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood which is banned in Egypt. He has been quoted as telling European foreign ministers in Cairo last week that Hamas “must not be allowed to emerge from the fighting with the upper hand”.

“Mubarak has a vitriolic dislike of the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist movements. It’s a poor way of talking,” said Alastair Crooke, the Beirut-based director of Conflicts Forum, on Egypt’s hectoring of Hamas. “It is about communication. It’s not a one-way street.” Mr Crooke, who works with political Islamic groups, believes the West has been imprisoned by its strict adherence to the principles of the Middle East Quartet, which call on Hamas to recognise Israel, end violence and respect previous agreements as a precondition for talks.

He points out that Hamas has in the past made gestures on the first two conditions. As for the third, he says: “What about the Conservatives in Britain? Do they recognise every previous EU agreement signed by previous governments?”

Western diplomats said it was unlikely that the Quartet – representing the EU, US, UN and Russia – was about to rip up its criteria, even under President Barack Obama.

But support for engaging with Hamas is growing. Sir Jeremy Greenstock, a former British ambassador to the United Nations, argued the case in favour on the Today programme on Monday. Mr Shehadi pointed out that Hamas now spoke for the Palestinians. “It is now the interlocutor. They are making a ceasefire with it. They are weakening Abu Mazen [Mr Abbas]. If Egypt fails, the stakes are really high.”

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January 14th, 2009, 5:18 am

 

7. Joe M. said:

who teaches their children to glorify violence?
http://www.bdsmovement.net/?q=node/3

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January 14th, 2009, 5:45 am

 

8. Shami said:

A teary-eyed Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited wounded Palestinians hospitalized at Atatürk Teaching and Research Hospital in the Turkish capital yesterday.

http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/detaylar.do?load=detay&link=164054

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January 14th, 2009, 6:37 am

 

9. Shami said:

http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/english/domestic/10771639.asp?gid=244

Gov’t tells kids to pay respect to Gaza

ANKARA – In the latest move of the Turkish government to show its disapproval of the recent conflict in Gaza, the Education Ministry issued a directive to primary and high school administrations calling for a minute’s silence for Palestinians killed in the Israeli offensive in Gaza.

Turkish school students all eround the country stood silently for one minute at 11 a.m. yesterday in accordance with the directive issued by Education Minister Hüseyin Çelik.

The directive said, “With this stand in silence the atrocities in Palestine are condemned. This is also an act of solidarity with the Palestinian people,” reported the Anatolia news agency.

“Fifteen million Turkish students manifested their sense of solidarity, a democratic reaction was expressed,” Çelik said responding to journalists questions about the moment of silence.

He also said they previously planned to hold a drawing and literary competition among primary schools under the subject “Drama of Humanity in Palestine” but the idea was dropped with the concern that “people may turn this into anti-Semitist propaganda.”

“Our government is definitely against accusing a whole nation. It is unacceptable, however, it is also out of the question for us to stay silent when children, mothers and fathers are dying there openly because of Israel’s attacks,” he said. “If one day the same thing would happen to Israeli children, we would give the same reaction.” He said the ministry would hold a campaign for Palestinian children. “Gaza’s infrastructure is paralyzed. They need the world’s help to raise this place back onto its feet,” Çelik said.

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January 14th, 2009, 6:47 am

 

10. Shami said:

Turkish people wave Turkish flags and Palestinian flags during a protest in front of the Syrian parliament building in Damascus, against Israel’s attacks on Gaza January 13, 2009.
http://www.daylife.com/photo/0c3r5VdaU59uh/turkish
http://www.daylife.com/photo/0b1GeH4cx88Gh/turkish

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January 14th, 2009, 8:48 am

 

11. Honest Patriot said:

Seeds of hope can sometimes be glimpsed:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=99316557&ft=1&f=1001

Fla. Jews, Muslims Seek Common Ground On Gaza
by Greg Allen

Audio for this story will be available at approx. 9:00 a.m. ET Jan 14, 2009 on npr.org

“Yeah, this is our way of riding the bike with Jewish and Muslim relations. We’ll fall off a couple of times, and then we’ll get back on.”
Mohammed Malik, South Florida Palestine Solidarity Network

NPR Morning Edition, January 14, 2009 ·
In Europe, Asia and in some American cities, the ongoing conflict in Gaza has led to rising tensions and, in some cases, violence.

A protest in Brussels last weekend over Israel’s offensive against Hamas ended with demonstrators smashing windows and overturning police cars. In Miami, a recent rally led to a dozen arrests. But some Palestinian and Jewish activists in Florida are seeking common ground.

Scarcely a day goes by in South Florida that there’s not at least one rally in support of Israel, or a protest against the Israeli assault in Gaza. Florida is home to both sizeable Jewish and Muslim populations.

Muhammed Malik is organizing rallies that include both Palestinians and Jews —which some people might consider risky, even foolhardy. Tensions flared at the first event, earlier this month in Miami, with taunts and jeers being thrown by both sides until police stepped in.

He says there were maybe a dozen hotheads out of a crowd of more than 1,000 people.

“When you take that 1 percent, it ruined the rest for everyone else,” says Malik, of the South Florida Palestine Solidarity Network. “We all know the media likes to focus on violence, because it’s sexy and attracts a lot of advertisers … . But we hope that peace will also be sexy, too.”

United In Protest

This week, a group of Jews and Palestinians decided to try again with a rally for peace in downtown Miami. That sounds simple, but it requires something not usually found at rallies: sensitivity to the other side’s position.

Things didn’t start well. A few dozen Palestinians and their supporters held up signs and waved Palestinian flags. One of the Jewish organizers, Yatir Nitzany, told Palestinian activist Samia Ahmad that he didn’t like what he was seeing.

“Listen, this is an anti-Israel rally,” Nitzany said. “The signs, OK, the signs ‘Free Palestine’ — that’s blaming Israel. Everyone has a little banner, ‘Free Palestine,’ ‘End the Occupation.’ There’s a sign there that says, ‘Stop the Holocaust’ that Israel’s doing to the Palestinians.”

After a few minutes, it worked out. The offending signs were removed, and more Jewish activists showed up after being stuck in traffic. Not long after, the still-sparse crowd was waving Israeli flags along with Palestinian ones.

‘Our Way Of Riding The Bike’

One of the demonstrators was Jack Lieberman of the Jewish Arab Dialogue Association. He says he hopes that Jews and Palestinians in this country can agree on just one idea: the need for peace. If so, he says perhaps they can encourage the incoming Obama administration to resume the United States’ role as a peace broker — which he believes is in Israel’s best interests.

“I want Israel to be a prosperous, democratic state,” Lieberman says. “It cannot be a prosperous, democratic state while it’s at war and while it’s occupying the West Bank and Gaza.”

Just a few dozen people attended the Miami rally — a fraction of the nearly 2,000 people who showed up at pro-Israel demonstrations in the area a day earlier.

Malik says it takes time for people to lower their guard and put aside their distrust of those on the other side. He says missteps, harsh words and flaring tempers have to be expected.

“It’s like when you first learn how to ride a bicycle, you fall a couple times,” says Malik. “So, if this is the first time people are coming together, maybe they might disagree here, maybe not be perfect, but you can’t expect perfection. Yeah, this is our way of riding the bike with Jewish and Muslim relations. We’ll fall off a couple of times, and then we’ll get back on.”

It’s a basic human response.

Faced with the renewed violence in the Middle East, Palestinians and Jews who live in the United States are speaking out for friends and relatives caught in the conflict. The question a few people in South Florida are asking is: Can it be possible to speak out without bringing the conflict and hatred here?

(Because of intense interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, NPR makes available free transcripts of its coverage.)

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January 14th, 2009, 9:54 am

 

12. gliker said:

What say everyone here about the rocket fire from Lebanon this AM?

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January 14th, 2009, 10:07 am

 

13. Chris said:

Gliker,

It’s probably some splinter group of Hezbollah members not following orders. If Hezbollah had decided to enter the war they would probably fire a barrage of rockets rather than a couple today and a couple last Thursday. Whoever it was definitely seeks to broaden the conflict, with full knowledge that hundreds of their compatriots would almost certainly die in any ensuing conflict with Israel.

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January 14th, 2009, 10:37 am

 

14. Chris said:

Perhaps this is a sign that Hezbollah is becoming increasingly Lebanese and Iran’s influence is diminishing relative to its Lebanese concerns.

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January 14th, 2009, 10:51 am

 

15. ugarit said:

http://www.counterpunch.org/neumann01132009.html

January 13, 2009
Slave Revolts and Passionate Evasions
Hamas and Gaza

By MICHAEL NEUMANN

This time, Americans disgusted with Israeli’s treatment of the Palestinians are not an isolated few. Even among American Jews, the outrage is palpable, and the trickle of condemnation has become a deluge. Some polls indicate that almost as many American join in this condemnation as repudiate it. So there is an opportunity here; a chance that Americans will outgrow their infatuation with Zionism and Israeli ‘democracy’. That might possibly mean relief for Palestine.

Or not. The old attitudes and biases are still dominant, and something in all the indignant protest undermines its chances of capturing mainstream opinion. It seems that, when the rights and wrongs of a situation are unclear, sympathy doesn’t go very far. That, presumably, is why no one gives too much of a shit that three or four million innocent people have been killed in the Congo’s unspeakable but obscure conflicts. Why then are we so upset about the suffering of the Palestinians? Why are we so sure that Israel is monstrously so monstrously in the wrong? It may seem that these questions have been answered in abundance, but they haven’t. Instead, people who, often for legitimate but rather personal reasons, have focused on the Israel/Palestine conflict, rant at one another as if they were confronting the issues. But they aren’t, and this does not play well in the mainstream. To grasp the opportunity before us, we need to be a bit more frank about the events we deplore. What follows tries to indicate, first, what has been evaded, and second, how the evasions can be overcome.

Part I: The Evaders

It’s only human to shrink from hard choices. Current leftist writing on Gaza shrinks from an easy choice. A hard choice would be whether to fight for Hamas. An easy one would be whether, in safety and comfort, to speak honestly about what Hamas actually does. This isn’t happening.

It needs to happen, and not out of some puritanical concern for honesty. Current writing on Gaza is crippled by cop-outs when it comes to Palestinian resistance. Hamas fires rockets which it knows can harm only innocent civilians, including children, who certainly bear no responsibility for Palestinian woes. Even the adults often bear little if any responsibility – some are Israeli Arabs, others are opposed to Israel’s occupation, others are apolitical, which may be reprehensible but probably isn’t deserving of violent death.

Every fifth-rate mainstream commentator notices this. Some of them recoil at the anguish engulfing Gaza. However they also know that nations and populations have a right to defend themselves. When someone sets out to kill innocents, or to fire weapons which can only be expected to kill civilians, that right looms large. In response to this, the left has, with great sincerity and passion, changed the subject. This hurts the Palestinians. Their defenders come over as anything from merely blinkered to cowardly, manipulative or, most often, selectively and implausibly tender-hearted. This doesn’t capture hearts and minds; it just invites contempt.

Every kind of evasion surfaces.

Tariq Ali (“From the ashes of Gaza”, Guardian, 30 December) is among the most adept. We hear that the attack on Gaza is timed to influence Israel’s elections, that Israel’s collective punishment of Gaza has to be considered when the rockets are called a provocation, that the supposedly democratic West doesn’t accept democratic r?gimes it dislikes, that Hamas shows discipline in its cease-fires, that Palestinians are human beings. How does any of that justify the rocket attacks, which harm and try to harm people entirely innocent of Israeli crimes? (Let’s not join American military creeps and talk about unintended ‘collateral damage’ here.) Apparently none of it does: “All civilian deaths are to be condemned, but since Israel is their principal practitioner, Euro-American cant serves only to expose those who utter it.” Oh really? If Hamas’ attacks are to be condemned, something Tariq Ali seems to be doing at the length of a fifty-foot pole, why shouldn’t Israel try to stop them?

Richard Falk (“Understanding the Gaza Catastrophe”, The Huffington Post, 2 January 2009) suggests Israel attacked “not simply to stop the rockets or in retaliation, but also for a series of unacknowledged reasons” – not just election opportunism but also a desire to efface the defeat in Lebanon. But so what if Israel has unacknowledged, perhaps lousy reasons? Maybe it also has good reasons. Maybe defending its innocent civilians is one of them.

Joseph Massad goes beyond mere evasion by writing on the situation without even mentioning rockets or missiles. (“The Gaza Ghetto Uprising”, 4 January 2009) Oren Ben-Dor (The self-defense of Suicide”, Counterpunch, 1 January 2009) very plausibly argues that Israel’s strategy is self-defeating – which hardly explains why Hamas should attack civilians. Robert Fisk takes a similar tack: “Yes, Israel deserves security. But these bloodbaths will not bring it.” (“Leaders lie, civilians die, and lessons of history are ignored”, The Independent, 29 December 2008) Again, the attacks are not explained, nor is there anything beyond mere assertion to dismiss the possibility that Israel’s response will bring, if not security, at least an end to the rocket fire.

Some think fiery rhetoric will do: “Let us get one thing perfectly straight. If the wholesale mutilation and degradation of the Gaza Strip is going to continue; if Israel’s will is at one with that of the United States; if the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and all the international legal agencies and organizations spread across the globe are going to continue to sit by like hollow mannequins doing nothing but making repeated “calls” for a “ceasefire” on “both sides”; if the cowardly, obsequious and supine Arab States are going to stand by watching their brethren get slaughtered by the hour while the world’s bullying Superpower eyes them threateningly from Washington lest they say something a little to their disliking; then let us at least tell the truth why this hell on earth is taking place.”

And what is this truth? We get one mention of the rockets: “Islamist policies and politics…. have nothing to do with primitive rockets being fired over the border.” But the Israeli assault? Does that have nothing to do with the rockets? Focus, focus.

This could go on for many pages. The articles are decent and humane yet, for all their deep sincerity, dishonest as well. The truth is we are all prepared to see children maimed and screaming to further the goals we approve. The first and most important thing we cannot face is our own morality.

Ever since World War II it has been crystal clear that, if defeating evil involves air power, we will bravely let the children scream. We know their fate but we’re stuck with endorsing contemporary military responses to genocide and even mere aggression. In this respect it is we, not Bush or the neocons, who seem out to give Israel carte blanche. If someone is rocketing our cities, however inefficiently, are we to wait until their technology improves, or our population displays an appropriate number of bloody stumps? And if the enemy is lodged in a densely populated area, must we hold off? It seems not – otherwise why can we bomb strategic targets even when we’re certain that civilians will die in the process?

It is beyond obvious that violence is sometimes justified. In some cases, we undoubtedly sanction the use of air power, a clumsy standoff weapon almost guaranteed to kill and mutilate civilians. Hamas uses exactly this sort of standoff weapon. What’s more, Hamas, for the sake of military convenience, has adopted a weapon even more certain to detonate among civilians than when brave anti-fascist pilots took off to fight a genocidal Nazi regime. Jennifer Lowenstein gets it precisely wrong: “Slave owners were also human beings, some of whom suffered unjustifiably violent attacks at the hands of their slaves. What do we do with this information? Sum it up by saying “therefore both sides were wrong”? or try to make people understand what led slaves to lash out in ways that were often so brutal? This changes the entire equation without sanctioning acts of murder or violence.” No, we do indeed sanction acts of murder and violence, in just such circumstances.

These evasions are just what make the defenders of the Palestinians look like sleaze next to the forthright pigs who revel in the brutality we merely try to sneak by our audience. It doesn’t work; it has never worked; it never will work. We all live in the same world and we all know what goes on in it, and how brutal we have become. We cannot and will not go back, not in this millennium. What is happening in Gaza is indeed a horror, and indeed terribly, incontrovertibly wrong. But to show this requires using the morality we have, not the morality we like to pretend we have.

Part II: Credible Condemnation

It is no good saying Israel provoked the rocket attacks; the attacks harm people who had nothing to do with the provocation. It is no good saying Israel’s tactics are atrocious, because neither we nor Hamas forswear atrocious tactics. We share this callousness with anyone who has ever endorsed any modern war or armed operation, or who ever would do so. Since these claims will invite a ‘who’s we?’, the point needs belabouring: if you aren’t against twiddling your thumbs through the Rwandas and Mauthausens and Nankings of history, you’re for atrocities on some occasions, or you’re in denial about what it means to participate in a real war. It is wishful thinking to suppose that we are in a moral position to complain about IDF tactics. The vilest of Israel’s defenders are absolutely right when they say that the IDF is less brutal than some militaries which have been feted as heroes: when Berlin fell in 1945, for instance, as many as 150,000 civilians lost their lives. Even the most humane armies can be counted on, under pressure, to turn inhumane.

For our purposes, then, the morality of war turns not on its conduct but on the reasons for fighting. Iraq and Afghanistan offer proof that good intentions don’t make for good reasons: when well-meaning idiots kill multitudes on the basis of faulty intelligence and twisted idealism, good intentions are no excuse at all. As for any alleged good consequences which might justify a war, we really have no idea what the ultimate consequences are in most cases, and certainly in this one. So the only way of assessing the rights and wrongs of this war, and most wars, is to fall back on the most universally accepted of all moral standards – a right of self-defense.

It’s not complicated. The Palestinians in the occupied territories are in a state equivalent to slavery. The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza are not sovereigns. Israel has supreme authority in both areas. That means it can do literally whatever it likes to their inhabitants. This population has no political input whatever into their sovereign’s decisions; the Palestinians in the occupied territories can’t vote in Israeli elections. So the Israeli government has absolute power over these people, and they have no say at all in how they are treated. This is slavery without the muss and fuss of ownership. Slave revolts frequently involved the murder of innocent civilians, but I haven’t seen much hand-wringing about the terrible morals of the rebels. Slaves and occupied peoples are accorded very generous rights of resistance. I doubt anyone today would condemn antebellum slaves on a plantation outside Charleston if they had used indiscriminate standoff weapons against that city. Allegedly freedom-loving Americans should therefore be particularly sympathetic to Palestinian resistance.

But what of Israel’s right of self-defense? It exists, but it doesn’t apply.

Israel, when it conquered the occupied territories in 1967, could have established a sovereign Palestinian state. This would have made the Palestinians, not a subject people at the mercy of their conqueror, but an independent people, responsible for their own acts and for keeping the peace with other sovereign states. Had the Palestinians then attacked Israel, Israel would have had the right to respond in self-defense.

But Israel didn’t do that. Instead, it kept the Palestinians at its mercy, and its mercy didn’t materialize. Israel embarked on a settlement policy that amounted to a declaration of war on a helpless population. The settlements were part of a project to take the Palestinians’ land, all of it, for the use and enjoyment of the Jewish people. Of course Israel did not explicitly say it was going to take from the Palestinians the very ground on which they stood. But the settlements kept spreading, mopping up an increasing share of vital resources, and behind them was a settler movement, hugely powerful not only in the occupied territories but in Israel itself. This bunch of coddled fanatics, many of them American, quite openly proclaimed their determination to secure the whole of Biblical Israel for exclusively Jewish use. The Israeli government backed these racial warriors with unlimited military protection and extensive financial support.

These trends continue to the present day. Sure, Israel got the settlers out of Gaza, and I’m convinced that even Ariel Sharon, not to mention his successors, truly desired to resolve the conflict by withdrawing from the occupied territories and allowing something like a Palestinian state. But my convictions have no weight against what any reasonable Palestinian, or any reasonable human being, has to conclude: that given the continued strength of the settler movement, the continued popularity of the Israeli right, the continued military protection of the West Bank settlements, their continued expansion, and the Israeli government’s all-too-obvious readiness to fight for whatever is politically popular to the last drop of Palestinian blood… given all this, the Palestinians are still faced with a mortal threat. They are still faced with a sovereign whose intentions, if not entirely clear, clearly countenance alternatives leading to an extreme humanitarian disaster for the Palestinians, and perhaps to the entire expropriation of most Palestinians’ necessities of life.

This means that Israel is the aggressor in this conflict, and the Palestinians fight in self-defense. Under these circumstances, Israel’s right of self-defense cannot justify Israeli violence. Israel is certainly entitled to protect its citizens by evacuation and other non-violent measures, but it is not entitled to harm a hair on the head of a Palestinian firing rockets into Israeli cities, whether or not these rockets kill innocent civilians.

Self-defense gives you the right to resist attacks by any means necessary, and therefore, certainly, by the only means available. The Palestinians don’t have the option of using violence which hits only military targets – apparently even the Israelis, with all their intelligence data and all their technological might, don’t have that option! But suppose a bunch of thugs install themselves, with their families, all around your farm. They have taken most of your land and resources; they’re out for more. If this keeps up, you will starve, perhaps die. They are armed to the teeth and abundantly willing to use those arms. The only way you can defend yourself is to make them pay as heavy a price as possible for their siege and their constant encroachment on your living space. You’re critically low on food and medical supplies, and the thugs cut off those supplies whenever they please. What’s more, the only weapons available to you are indiscriminate, and will harm their families as well as the thugs themselves. You can use those weapons, even knowing they will kill innocents. You don’t have to let the thugs destroy you, thereby sacrificing your innocents (including yourself) to spare theirs. Since innocents are under mortal threat in either case, you needn’t prefer the attackers’ to your own.

This may not be the most high-minded conclusion. However it’s a conclusion we are forced to accept – we who very clearly countenance the killing and maiming of civilians in situations not nearly so precarious as what it is to be a Palestinian in the conquered, shrinking occupied territories. The thugs should keep their families from harm by ceasing their onslaught and withdrawing from the scene. Israel’s obligation is similar. It must defend itself at the least cost to others. It should keep its families from harm by giving the Palestinians complete control of their external borders and allowing the creation of a Palestinian state. After this, if Israel is attacked, it can respond. Before, its response is not legitimate self-defense but continued aggression.

This is not about good and bad arguments for Palestinian resistance. It’s about whether the defenders of the Palestinians want to vent, or whether they want to at least try to make a difference. If the bad or evasive arguments are effective, fine. My feeling is, they’re not.

Michael Neumann is a professor of philosophy at Trent University in Ontario, Canada. Professor Neumann’s views are not to be taken as those of his university. His book What’s Left: Radical Politics and the Radical Psyche has just been republished by Broadview Press. He contributed the essay, “What is Anti-Semitism”, to CounterPunch’s book, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. His latest book is The Case Against Israel. He can be reached at: mneumann@trentu.ca

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January 14th, 2009, 11:46 am

 

16. Akbar Palace said:

Ugarit,

Why is it you guys on this forum keep quoting “9-11 Trufers”? And Michael Neumann is clearly another in a long-line anti-Jewish polemics:

University faculty members published antisemitic canards as well. For example, Michael Neumann, professor of philosophy at Trent University, wrote in the 4 January 2003 edition of Counterpunch magazine: “We should almost never take antisemitism seriously…” He also went on to say that Jews around the world who do not explicitly condemn Israel are “complicit in its crimes.” In an e-mail correspondence which ensued in light of this incident, Neumann wrote that his sole concern was to “help the Palestinians” and he went on: “I am not interested in the truth, or justice, or understanding, or anything else, except so far as it serves that purpose… If an effective strategy means that some truths about the Jews don’t come to light, I don’t care. If an effective strategy means encouraging reasonable antisemitism, or reasonable hostility to Jews, I also don’t care. If it means encouraging vicious racist antisemitism, or the destruction of the State of Israel, I still don’t care.”
A professor teaching a course on critical thinking at the University of Toronto initiated a discussion on the much-circulated conspiracy theory that the 9/11 attacks were a ‘Jewish-perpetrated plot’. Many students agreed with this statement, and it appeared that the teacher had given this theory credence. At the same university, a professor told her students that the Jews use the Holocaust as a trumped-up excuse to avoid criticism.

http://www.tau.ac.il/Anti-Semitism/asw2003-4/canada.htm

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January 14th, 2009, 12:53 pm

 

17. offended said:

Not sure how reliable this site is, but I thought I’d share anyway.

L’attaque israélienne contre Gaza, est une option préparée de longue date. La décision de l’activer a été prise en réponse aux nominations de l’administration Obama. Les changements stratégiques à Washington sont défavorables aux visées expansionnistes de Tel-Aviv. Israël a donc cherché à forcer la main de la nouvelle présidence états-unienne en la plaçant devant le fait accompli. Mais pour organiser son opération militaire, Israël a dû s’appuyer sur de nouveaux partenaires militaires, l’Arabie saoudite et l’Égype, qui constituent désormais un paradoxal axe sioniste musulman. Riyad finance les opérations, révèle Thierry Meyssan, tandis que Le Caire organise des paramilitaires.

http://www.voltairenet.org/article158933.html

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January 14th, 2009, 1:41 pm

 

18. Akbar Palace said:

Offended,

Voltairenet looks like, gulp, another “9-11 Trufer” website.

Articles already calling Obama the “First Jewish President”, articles delegitimizing Israel’s right to exist, and article calling into question the basic 9-11 Commission findings.

The “Co-Director, Centre of Peace Studies” sure has a long road to haul on his “tolerant” website.

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January 14th, 2009, 2:16 pm

 

19. J Thomas said:

Akbar palace, when you say to ignore various writing because it is written in places where some people are antisemitic, I have to wonder.

After all, israel is a nation in perpetual war. They censor and spread disinformation. Surely we shouldn’t believe anything the israeli government says, or israeli media, or things from zionists. And yet….

How about this. When it comes to what happened, a lot of people lie a lot. We just have to be careful believing stuff. But when it comes to analysis, isn’t it clearly better to look at what they say and decide on the merits? If you try to shut off communication based on who says things, then you really shouldn’t post anywhere except zionist places, places where nobody will post who disagrees with you much.

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January 14th, 2009, 3:23 pm

 

20. J Thomas said:

A professor teaching a course on critical thinking at the University of Toronto initiated a discussion on the much-circulated conspiracy theory that the 9/11 attacks were a ‘Jewish-perpetrated plot’. Many students agreed with this statement, and it appeared that the teacher had given this theory credence.

When I looked at that question, I found there was no evidence at all against the idea that it was an israeli plot, and only very weak evidence that it was. So I chose to keep an open mind about the possibility unless some reliable evidence shows up. If some of the critical thinking students decided it was true, I hope they saw different evidence than I did. It was certainly correct for the teacher not to discredit the idea if he was teaching a course on critical thinking. You don’t want to tell people the right answer in that case, or the expected answer. Or maybe do that late in the course. After looking at argument by authority and how critical thinkers avoid it, then provide an argument by authority as the teacher who gives out the grades and see how many students fall for it.

At the same university, a professor told her students that the Jews use the Holocaust as a trumped-up excuse to avoid criticism.

Do you have some complaint with that statement? How it it legitimate to use the Holocaust to excuse israeli atrocities?

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January 14th, 2009, 3:34 pm

 

21. Akbar Palace said:

J Thomas,

My suggestion:

1.) If you don’t like Israel, don’t live there like the 7 million or so people who already do.

2.) If you hate Israel, fight against her with whatever you have at your disposal.

If you want to “fight” by being a “9-11 Trufer”, you’ll either be surrounded by kooky friends or be laughed at. The choice is yours.

http://www.9-11commission.gov/report/911Report.pdf

Do you have some complaint with that statement?

Yes, I don’t know “use” the Holocaust as an “excuse” for anything. For example, the Jews I know defend the criticism of the Gaza War on the right of self-defence.

How it it legitimate to use the Holocaust to excuse israeli atrocities?

What excuse? What atrocities?

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January 14th, 2009, 4:08 pm

 

22. jad said:

We have this “drama” by AP from time to time, it intense in the crises (it’s also the case of Chris or JOHN THE BAPTIST as he believes.)
AP has two words he flips between when he doesn’t like the facts, either Anti-Semitics which sounds so smart when he calls us ‘the Semitic’ an anti-Semitic (he actually still doesn’t know the meaning of Semitic) or the ‘9-11 conspiracy’, lately he changed the word to “9-11 Trufer’ as if he knows who believes in it among us…he is a bit 6ashme but he doesn’t know.

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January 14th, 2009, 5:00 pm

 

23. Ghat Albird said:

How does one ” Classify the true Measure of a People?”

Israeli Sightseers Flock to Border to Watch Gaza Killings*

Parash Hill, a nature reserve in southern Israel, is a great spot for a picnic. With lush green fields and a view all the way to the Mediterranean, it is a serene and picturesque place where residents of Sderot come to quietly enjoy nature.

But in a nation obsessed with the glories of its latest military adventure, Parash Hill is now a place for Israelis to gather and watch the death unfold.

They come with binoculars. They bring their families and take pictures. They rationalize away the deaths of hundreds of children by reasoning that “when they grow up they’ll also probably be terrorists.”

Its like the fourth of July, only instead of watching fireworks and listening to crappy instrumental music on the radio they watch with barely restrained jubilation as their neighbors are killed under a heavy military bombardment and ground forces continue to pour deeper into the Gaza Strip.

The obsession with watching the violence unfold in the Gaza Strip is creeping-out even some of their fellow Israelis, who have dubbed the site “The Hill of Shame” and watch disapprovingly as others participate in Israel’s newest spectator sport.

*As reported in Antiwar.com

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January 14th, 2009, 7:19 pm

 

24. Dan said:

Ghat – How does one classify the true measure of a people?
By noting that most Israelis are saddened by the loss of life, many oppose the war in Gaza and have protested against.
The Palestinians, on the other hand, distribute candy after suicide bombings. When was the last time you heard them condemning their acts of violence?

In the report you posted:
“The obsession with watching the violence unfold in the Gaza Strip is creeping-out even some of their fellow Israelis, who have dubbed the site “The Hill of Shame” and watch disapprovingly as others participate in Israel’s newest spectator sport.

Compare:
“the Palestinians threatened news organizations and their workers in an effort to stop the broadcast of video, and the publishing of photographs, showing large crowds of Palestinians in Nablus and Ramallah joyfully celebrating the deadly 9/11 terrorist attacks against Americans. ”
http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=7&x_issue=17&x_article=265

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January 14th, 2009, 9:43 pm

 

25. Dan said:

Who Israel is fighting against:
“I once asked Abdel Aziz Rantisi where he learned what he called “the truth” of the Holocaust — that it didn’t happen — and he referred me to books published by Hezbollah. Hamas and Hezbollah also share the view that the solution for Palestine lies in Europe. A spokesman for Hezbollah, Hassan Izzedine, once told me that the Jews who survive the Muslim “liberation” of Palestine “can go back to Germany, or wherever they came from.” He went on to argue that the Jews are a “curse to anyone who lives near them.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/14/opinion/14goldberg-1.html

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January 14th, 2009, 9:45 pm

 

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