Gaza Awareness

Friday, June 4, 2010

Gaza Flotilla Movement - News and Analysis

See an extensive list of links at the bottom of this page.

Paul McGeough's eyewitness report - 'Prayers, tear gas and terror' -, Jun 4, 2010

Glenn Greenwald - How Israeli propaganda shaped U.S. media coverage of the flotilla attack -, Jun 4, 2010

Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah calls for continuing Gaza aid flotilla-s - Press TV - Jun 4, 2010

Anna Baltzer's eyewitness report - 'A people united will not fall' - AnnaInPalestine blog, Jun 2, 2010

Juan Cole's analysis on UNSC condemnation of Israel, Gaza Blockade - Informed Comment, Jun 1, 2010

Norman Finkelstein speaks on Israeli raid on Gaza flotilla - RussiaToday - May 31, 2010

Sunday, January 25, 2009

How Do We Resolve the Palestine-Israel Conflict?

If history can provide a perspective for the present, consider the following two observations:

Before the UN partition plan was proposed in 1947, the Jews in the historic Palestine owned no more than 6 to 8% of the land. The UN Partition plan, written by the imperial powers of the time, gave 54% of the land to the Jews. The Jews were not even a majority in the land, which shows that the unequal treatment of Palestinians was built into the imperial policies. Within a year of the proposed plan, the Zionists occupied 78% of the land using tactics of deceit and terror. In the Six-Day war in 1967, Israel occupied the remaining 22% of the historic Palestine, including Gaza and the West Bank.[1] Although Israel removed its troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005, it still controls exits and entrances. On the West Bank side, 40% of the land is off limits to Palestinians. There are over 500 checkpoints and roadblocks [2] in the West Bank alone, and the so-called Security Wall separating Palestinians from Israelis extends deep into the West Bank. The illegal Zionist settlements continue to expand by the tens of thousands.[3]

The second observation. Consider the massacres committed by the Zionist state from its very inception. The bombing, carried out by Irgun, a Zionist terrorist organization, at the King David Hotel in Palestine in 1946 killed 92 Britons, Arabs, and Jews. The massacre at Dair Yasin carried out by the Zionist terrorist groups Tsel, Irgun, and Hagana in 1948 killed 250 people. The massacre at Qibya in 1953 killed 67, Khan Yunis in 1956 killed 275, Lebanon in 1982 killed 17,500, Qana in 1996 killed 106, Jenin in 2002 killed 56, Lebanon in 2006 killed 1200. In Gaza, where we witnessed the most recent massacre, although not the first time for this area, Israel killed over 1300 people. These are just to name a few among over 60 massacres that the Zionist state has committed in the last sixty years.[4]

The experience of the last sixty years makes it very clear that the expansions and massacres are built into the project of political Zionsim called the state of Israel. The first Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, made this point very clear when he said in 1944, ''There is no example in history of a people saying we agree to renounce our country, let another people come and settle here and outnumber us.''[5]

Anyone who understands the history and project of the Zionist state would certainly understand that the recent carnage in Gaza was not just about “rocket fire” or “border security”. It was not “retaliation” in “self-defense” by supposedly “peaceful”, “democratic”, and “respectable” Israeli state. The February 10 Israeli elections and the transition of administration in the White House explain the particular timing of Israeli aggression. But the real target was the cause of resistance against the Israeli occupation. With the ostentatious display of savagery in the 22-days, killing over 1300 and injuring another 5000 people, Israel wanted to convey the message to Palestinians and to the rest of the world that it would stop at nothing to maintain its existence.

Looking at it more deeply one finds that the Israeli aggression in Gaza was part of a larger project, a grand strategy, which seeks to create a “New Middle East” (as Condoleezza Rice told the world openly in the 2006 War on Lebanon. The agenda has echoes of the “New World Order” pronounced by the Bush senior in 1991). The objective is to re-write the political geography of the region. Pursuing its hegemonic ambitions, the U.S. is a co-author of this grand strategy and has secured the support of corrupt Arab status regimes (Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia) and a few other important players. Israel and the US are using all the means at their disposal, harassing or bribing the neighbors and securing trade agreements and diplomatic ties for Israel and by attacking or destabilizing any force - religious or secular - that may create obstacles in the way of their ambitions. All-out military aggression is one method to destroy a people’s will to resist. Encouraging sectarian hatred is another to divide up the masses. The Israeli wars in 2006 (Lebanon) and 2008-9 (Gaza) as well as the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were all part of the same grand strategy.[6] The outcomes, however, did not always match the original expectations.[7]

If this larger political context is clear, then despite the complexities and confusions in the details, the whole scenario boils down to two sides. One that supports Zionism and the US global hegemony. The other that resists that. The resistance is not about supporting particular groups (organizations, religions, ethnicities). It is not a war between Islam and Judaism. The resistance is against a racist and oppressive ideology – political Zionism - and what this ideology has materialized into - the state of Israel. It is about supporting certain principles and values: dignity, freedom, compassion, and justice. It is about struggling against the root cause of the violence and oppression. As seen in the recent Gaza protests worldwide, these values and principles are serving as the common ground to bring together people from across the religious, ethnic, and ideological divides.

Zionism is the question that should be asked before any other. The violence and bloodshed will continue in the Middle East as long as one group of people will be forced to pay the price for another group’s comfort. The major task for our movements, especially in the West, is to discredit Zionism.

Given the track record of the Zionist state, it also should be clear that until the US stops its relentless and unconditional support for Israel, massacres like those in Sabra-Chatila, Qana, Beirut, and Gaza will continue to occur.

How realistic is the Two-State solution?

We must have a clear understanding of what we mean by “End the Occupation” and “Free Palestine”. There are two key issues here: One, the right of return for the Palestinian refugees and their descendants (vis-a-vis UN Resolution 194). Two, which of the two – the one-state or two-state solution – can best resolve the conflict?

Of course, the people of Palestine and their rightful leaders have the ultimate right to decide their future.[8] But if we were to have an opinion or could do something, in terms of educating the general public or pressurizing the governments, consider the following.

One state for the Jews and Palestinians may not be the perfect solution, but it is the only viable solution in this conflict, morally and realistically.[9] Four major reasons are summarized below:

One, the sixty years of Israeli obstructionist policies are a clear indicator that Israel is not willing to concede even the two-state solution, let alone the one-state. The international community would have to use pressure in either case. The widely acclaimed scholar, Norman Finkelstein, who supports the two-state solution, notes in a recent column [10] that in an attempt to sabotage the peace offer by Yasser Arafat in 1982, which would have involved a settlement on June 1967 borders, Israel provoked PLO, breaking a year-long truce, and finally invaded Lebanon. He argues that same logic was underlying the recent aggression on Gaza. This time the purpose was to sabotage any peace deal with Hamas.

Two, the two-state solution will give yet another example to the rest of the world that if an occupied force can hold long enough, by force and deceit, despite over 60 UN Resolutions [11] condemning its policies, it can turn the wrong into right. The message would be that might is indeed right.

Three, imagine what kind of two states would be created based on hatred and dehumanization of each other? How long lasting will those territorial boundaries be based on exclusion and difference? What kind of suspicions and tensions would these boundaries create between the neighbors? Would the two people ever trust each other with their holy sites which are spread all over the historic Palestine? Moreover, what will happen to thousands of those belonging to the opposite group (around 1.3 million Arabs in ‘Israel proper’, for example) or neither of the two main groups (Catholics, for example) who live all over the land? The late Palestinian intellectual, Edward Said, points out that a “two-state solution will create an unacceptable security threat to Israel. An armed Arab state, presumably in the West Bank, would give Israel less than 10 miles of strategic depth at its narrowest point.” Said sums up the problem with the two-state solution in these words, “Palestine is multicultural, multiethnic, multireligious. There is as little historical justification for homogeneity as there is for notions of national or ethnic and religious purity today.” The territorial separation will only solidify the hatred and distrust.

Shifting the focus of the debate, Said argues, “The question, I believe, is not how to devise means for persisting in trying to separate them but to see whether it is possible for them to live together as fairly and peacefully as possible.” [12] Perhaps in the South African experience of ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’, while noting its successes and disappointments, we can find a place to start. And given the way different communities in the historic Palestine were enmeshed into each other historically, there is good reason to believe that it may actually work.

Four, in addition to demographic and cultural interconnectedness, the geographic and economic connection between Gaza, West Bank, Jerusalem, and ‘Israel proper’ also makes the idea of two states very impractical. And that is one major reason why Israel itself is against having two sovereign states. For example, Israel depends on fresh water supply from the West Bank. In the case of division, Israel would no longer be able to steal it from Palestinians, which it is doing right now, and would have to negotiate for it in the open market in a region where water is very valuable. That would be too costly for Israel.[13] The solution that the Israeli leadership has come up with is quarantines like Gaza, which is still under Israel’s control but the people are given no citizenship status or rights. This tactic is meant to avoid the possibility of a “struggle for one-man-one-vote” along the lines of the anti-apartheid movement while Israel can effectively control all of the historic Palestine and its resources. What complicates the picture for Israel is that demographers predict that in a few years the Palestinian population under the Israeli rule – in the occupied territories and the ‘Israel proper’ – will outnumber the Jewish population. This is without counting the Palestinian refugees displaced in other countries. Israel is of course aware of this threat (the demographic “time bomb”) to its exclusivist Jewish statehood and that if this demographic trend continues Israel would more and more resemble the apartheid South Africa.

The above four points show that the two-state solution is actually quite unrealistic and unsustainable. For as long as Israel continues to be an exclusivist Jewish state, violence and injustice will continue. A multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, democratic state for all the people of the region is the most viable solution available. And only it can ensure self-determination for both the Palestinian and the Jewish peoples.

If the idea of imagining an alternative to the Israeli state sounds ‘radical’ or ‘unimaginable’ (“Israel would never allow this to happen”, or, “If Israelis do not agree, it cannot happen”), understand that it is not because the idea is morally unjust or unrealistic. It is because of the ineffectiveness of the international community and the relentless and unconditional support of the US (which has vetoed 41 Security Council resolutions against Israel in the last three decades [14] and gives Israel billions of dollars in military and non-military aid each year). History also shows that the only tool that has proven effective against the Israeli ambitions is resistance, by the people in Palestine and Lebanon as well as the people in the rest of world (through their activism and protests). While acknowledging that such a solution is “not easy to imagine”, Edward Said nonetheless exhorted, “Unfortunately, injustice and belligerence don't diminish by themselves: they have to be attacked by all concerned.”[15]

Not many saw the breakup of Soviet Union or the end of apartheid South Africa coming. They were unimaginable at the time. But they did happen.


[1] On the circumstances surrounding the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Norman Finkelstein makes an interesting observation: “Preserving its deterrence capacity has always loomed large in Israeli strategic doctrine. Indeed, it was the main impetus behind Israel's first-strike against Egypt in June 1967 that resulted in Israel's occupation of Gaza (and the West Bank). … After Israel threatened and laid plans to attack Syria, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser declared the Straits of Tiran closed to Israeli shipping, but Israel made almost no use of the Straits (apart from the passage of oil, of which Israel then had ample stocks) and, anyhow, Nasser did not in practice enforce the blockade, vessels passing freely through the Straits within days of his announcement. In addition, multiple U.S. intelligence agencies had concluded that the Egyptians did not intend to attack Israel and that, in the improbable case that they did, alone or in concert with other Arab countries, Israel would -- in President Lyndon Johnson's words -- "whip the hell out of them." … The predicament for Israel was rather the growing perception in the Arab world, spurred by Nasser's radical nationalism and climaxing in his defiant gestures in May 1967, that it would no longer have to follow Israeli orders. Thus, Divisional Commander Ariel Sharon admonished those in the Israeli cabinet hesitant to launch a first-strike that Israel was losing its "deterrence capability...our main weapon -- the fear of us."[8] Israel unleashed the June 1967 war "to restore the credibility of Israeli deterrence" (Israeli strategic analyst Zeev Maoz).[9]” [Italicized in the original] See the full text: “Foiling Another Palestinian “Peace Offensive”: Behind the Bloodbath in Gaza.” Norman Finkelstein. Jan 19, 2009.

[2] The New York Times. March 31, 2008. “Israelis Agree to Reduce West Bank Roadblocks

[3] On Israeli settlements and land grabbing see and

[4] On close to sixty massacres that the Israeli state has committed since its inception, see SoundofEgypt and IsraeliMassacres.

[5] “The One-State Solution.” Edward Said. January 10, 1999.

[6] See the investigative writings of Seymour Hersh (particularly the articles published in the New Yorker), Jonathan Cook, John Pilger, Robert Fisk, Dahl Jamail, among others.

[7] Given the team of pro-Israel, ‘Hawkish-Pragmatists’ that Obama has assembled in his cabinet, if that is any indicator, chances are very slim for any significant policy shift on the Palestine-Israel issue in the near future.

[8] Not the corrupt Palestinian leaders and their collaborators from among the masses, but those who have over the years proved their loyalty and sincerity through their sacrifices and through their devotion to the cause of dignity and freedom.

[9] On a variety of arguments supporting the One-State Solution, see the following readings: “The One-State Solution.” Edward Said. Ibid. January 10, 1999; “One State or Two? Neither.” Jonathan Cook. March 12, 2008; “Israel: The Alternative.” Tony Judt. October 23, 2003; “One State or Two? The Debate over Israel and Palestine.” Kathy Christison. March 11, 2008.

[10] “Foiling Another Palestinian “Peace Offensive”: Behind the Bloodbath in Gaza.” Norman Finkelstein. Jan 19, 2009. See also, "The Myth of the Generous Offer" by Seth Ackerman,, July/August 2002.

[11] This link cites over 60 UN resolutions that Israel has ignored between 1955 and 1992. The details are taken from Paul Findley’s Deliberate Deceptions (1998, pages 192-4). Another very important resolution, the UN Resolution 194, passed in December 1948, recognizes the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their land and receive compensation for their damages. Even if, technically, the descendants of the original refugees are not covered by that resolution, the spirit of the resolution recognizes the legit grievances of the Palestinians.

[12] Ibid.

[13] “One State or Two? Neither.” Jonathan Cook. March 12, 2008.

[14] Newsweek. January 24, 2009. “Israel Has Fewer Friends Than Ever, Even In America.

[15] Ibid.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

What Gaza Asks From Supporters?

We must not stop at the ceasefire. We must turn our sporadic protests into a sustained movement and demand a real ‘change’ in the American foreign policy. Because until America stops its relentless and unconditional support for Israel, massacres like those in Sabra-Chatila, Qana, Beirut, and Gaza will continue to occur. For that movement to develop we need a well-grounded understanding of the politics in the region and a vision for sustained activism in the West. In this connection, below are a few thoughts and observations for your consideration.

Have an informed perspective:

Understand the larger politics behind the Israeli aggression in Gaza. There are at least three objectives.

First, the present aggression is not about "rocket fire" or "border security" per se. The real target is the cause of resistance against the occupation. Israel wants to crush any voice, any force that is in the way of the new status quo (or the 'New Middle East', as Condy Rice would have it) that it wants to establish, together with the US, and with the support of Arab status-quo regimes (Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia). That was the plan behind the elections in January 2006. They wanted Mahmoud Abbas and his corrupt party to win the elections and play as their security officer in the West Bank and Gaza. But to their surprise, Hamas won the elections.

Second, with such an ostentatious display of savagery in Gaza in the last three weeks, Israel wants to tell the rest of the world that for its security and sovereignty it will stop at nothing, and that the perceived defeat in the 2006 Lebanon war should not give any wrong ideas to its neighbors. The goal is to regain its reputation of military invincibility.

Third, for the upcoming elections in Israel on February 10, the current administration wants to tell the Israeli people that it has the will and competence to protect them from any outside attacks, and that they can be as aggressive as their opponent, the notoriously militarist politician, Benjamin Netanyahu, who has accused them of failing to uphold Israel’s security. The current administration wants to create a ‘success story’ out of this conflict.

In view of the above three objectives, the success story that Israel may be hoping for is probably on the following lines. One, they know that they cannot destroy Hamas militarily, but they would like to weaken it domestically against Mahmoud Abbas/Fatah. (Israel would also bolster the latter in the post-war reconstruction of Gaza.) Two, they want to force Hamas into a truce or settlement with conditions of their choosing. Israel will have no problem with lifting the economic blockade of Gaza and giving more freedom to Hamas, like it has given to Fatah, if Hamas would be willing to abandon its popular mandate of resisting the occupation. The least they are hoping is that Hamas would stop firing rockets.

Beware of media twists:

Question not only the facts but also the underlying assumptions in the mainstream media when it reports the conflict in the Middle East.

For example, to frame the whole conflict in terms of “an endless cycle of violence” is a distortion and misrepresentation of the ground reality. Because often the underlying presumption is that both sides are equally responsible for the violence. But the two sides are not equal. One is an occupier, the other is occupied. One has a far more superior war machine (fighter jets, helicopter gunships, nuclear weapons, precision missiles, tanks, you name it), the other has rocks and mostly homemade rockets. One continues to expand its colonial settlements, the other tries to resist that. One continues to ignore over 60 UN resolutions against its colonial policies, the other laments the ineffectiveness of the international community.

There may be some uses of engaging in the discussion of who fired the rocket first and broke the ceasefire. But was there a ceasefire in the first place? Because a basic condition of the agreed upon ceasefire was that Israel would lift off the siege of Gaza. Israel never did. So even if the rockets were fired from the Gaza side first, Israel is still responsible. It is also clear that Israel was actively preparing for the current onslaught right from the beginning of the ceasefire (See Barak Ravid, Ha'aretz, Dec 31, 2008).

But take this argument on another level. What if tomorrow the Islamic resistance in Palestine or Lebanon makes a proactive move (captures Israeli soldiers or attacks some other Israeli interest)? Would it be justified? Well, not, if we are still in that frame of who did it first. But this frame reinforces the current status quo (‘let things be like they are now’), in other words, the Israeli occupation. The resistance in both of these countries is precisely about breaking that status quo. We must emphasize that the root cause of the conflict and bloodshed is the occupation.

We must also emphasize the historical origins and the experience of last sixty years of Israeli occupation in the media. This history is alive in the collective memories of the Palestinians. It is unfortunate that sometimes in the media you hear demands that Palestinian people should forget all that in exchange for their life and whatever remaining land they have. An appreciation of the history in the media and among general public can reframe the whole issue from ‘Israeli security vs. terrorism’ to ‘Israeli occupation vs. Palestinian resistance’.

Also beware of the arguments that truth is relative or truth lies in the middle of two extreme positions. That is certainly not the case in the ongoing tragedy in Gaza. Nothing can justify the starving of a whole population for months and then indiscriminately killing over a thousand people in just 20 days. Nothing can justify targeted attacks on schools, hospitals, markets, mosques, and other civilian places. Nothing can justify the use of depleted uranium or white phosphorous on civilians or otherwise.

Protests do matter:

It is said that Israel fights half of its war in the media, especially in the US media. Why media? Because it shapes public opinion. That is where the real power lies - in knowledge, in public perceptions. Without the support of the policy makers and a general approval (or, lack of understanding) of the masses in the US, Israel would not have dared to commit the kind of atrocities it has over these years. Understand that through protests, vigils, teach-ins, informal conversation with friends, co-workers, and others, you can do your part to counter Israel’s war of information. There is a lot that is needed to be done on this front.

Judge the outcome of your activism not by any immediate political outcomes (like a policy change), but by the number of hearts you may have changed. Before anyone else, you must turn your activism into an opportunity to change yourself. Develop an informed perspective and connect your heart with all the oppressed people of the world.

Engage proactively:

Strategically speaking, Israel does not have much time left in the ongoing conflict. Consider that it chose the timing of the current aggression very carefully, when the administration in the White House is in transition, the potentially most radical segment of the population in America, the students, are away from campuses and could not be mobilized easily, and the general public in America (and elsewhere) are still recovering from the Christmas and New Year celebrations, and are also preoccupied with the economic recession. Still, to the Israeli surprise, regular protests with huge turn outs have been occurring in the US and around the world, stripping off the deceptive cover of being ‘peaceful’, ‘democratic’, and ‘civilized’ from Israel’s face. The protests and alternative media sources deserve much credit in this regard.

What’s important to understand here is that if we are just demanding a ceasefire, it is already part of Israel’s strategy in this conflict. There are good chances that Israel will end its aggression within a week, before the new administration assumes office in the White House, or the latest, by the February 10 elections. Israel also knows that most people come out for protest only in reaction. Once the aggression ends, the protests will subside, and the new White House administration would not be pressed to issue a drastic statement. (And that’s only to the extent of issuing a statement, something on the line that Israel should observe ‘restraint’. The Bush administration did not bother to do even this much. Given the team of pro-Israel, ‘Hawkish-Pragmatists’ that Obama has assembled in his cabinet, if that is any indicator, chances are very slim that we will see a significant policy shift immediately.)

Most likely, Israel will keep itself to the outskirts of Gaza. Because its Merkava tanks cannot enter the narrow alleys of the central Gaza and the Israeli soldiers will be forced out in the open. Considering the upcoming elections, the current administration would not like to place a large number of its soldiers in the firing line. Consider also that anything beyond the goal of creating a ‘success story’ story for the elections will require a permanent military reoccupation of Gaza. That would be a reversal of Israel’s ‘disengagement policy’ since 2005 (and the trend since the Oslo process of the early 1990s). It would require a heavy financial and military commitment. Israel would have to provide welfare to the local population and police the area regularly against activities of the local resistance. That is too much. Israel would rather prefer a Yasser Arafat or Mahmoud Abbas like security officer in Gaza.

The next few days are going to be very crucial. The carnage is likely to continue at the same pace, if not intensify. Israel will try to create conditions that will allow it to declare a ‘victory’. On the other end, the resistance in Gaza would try to stay firm against pressures and resist any ceasefire that comes with humiliating conditions.

Whatever the outcome, the mainstream media in the US will put the blame squarely on the resistance, like it did during and after the 2006 Israeli war in Lebanon.

We must not stop at demanding just a ceasefire when we define the goals and logistics of our activism in the West. The ceasefire should not be the end of our activism. We must go on even after the present carnage is over. Our goal must be to turn these sporadic protests into a sustained movement and demand a real ‘change’ in the American foreign policy. As stated earlier, until America stops its relentless and unconditional support for Israel, massacres like those in Sabra-Chatila, Qana, Beirut, and Gaza will continue to occur.

Connect your hearts with Gaza's:

The plight of the oppressed Palestinians and the cause of resisting the occupation are good enough reasons for people of conscience from different backgrounds to come together. This movement is not about particular individuals or organizations – religious or secular – over in Palestine or in the West. Some of us may not agree with everything that others believe in or have done in the past. But, people can still come together on the basis of their common belief in compassion and justice for humanity.

It’s also important that we do not lose sight of the distinction between the political Zionists and the general Jewish people. Not all Jews are Zionists and not all Zionists are Jews (for example, the right wing Christian supporters of Israel in America). What should distinguish us from the Zionist oppressors are our morals/principles. It would be a shame and a moral defeat if in the process of resisting the oppression we become like the oppressors and start stereotyping and targeting a whole ethnic/religious group.

Consider also that you and I are part of the same society that we complain is so apathetic. Change starts from within, and once we have, it's impossible that we won't affect those around us.

Educate yourself, join the protests, and boycott the companies that are known for supporting the oppressive Israeli state.

Connect your heart with the oppressed people in Gaza and elsewhere in the world. Feel their pain. Hear their voices. Don’t let your busy life make you oblivious to their plight.

Honor the memories of the victims of the Gaza massacre. They were killed because they dared to dream a life of dignity and freedom for themselves and their children. Honor them in your commemorative vigils in years to come.

Honor them by your continued activism. Generate emergency funds in your localities through donation and public service. Establish these funds as part of a regular project (with a target amount to be generated each year) to help victims in Palestine and elsewhere.

Honor them by saving their memories and their cause from getting distorted in media and history writing, especially once the ongoing Israeli aggression is over and things resume to normal. Remain in touch with the latest developments and continue to write those op-ed columns and letters to your local and national newspapers and to your governments and local and international human rights groups.

Keep that spirit of activism alive!

See the bottom of this page for a number of useful links. Photo credits:

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Gaza Crisis - Talking Points

The Ground Reality

1. Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas on the face of the earth. It houses around 1.5 million people. According to some estimates, more than half of this population is under 15 years of age. 70% of the population of Gaza is extremely poor and depends on foreign aid. 50% of the population is malnourished.

2. 80% of people in Gaza are from families of those Palestinians who were expelled from their ancestral lands (now called Israel) in 1948.

3. Israel effectively controls the ground, sea, and air routes of Gaza, even after it removed its troops and settlers in 2005. Its forces enter the area at will. The Israeli siege has turned Gaza into a roughly 140 square miles prison, currently under bombardment from above and across. Due to the economic blockade for the last 18 months, food and medical supplies have run out. Until recently, before the current Israeli attacks started on December 27, the people in Gaza were forced to use underground tunnels to Egypt to get these basic supplies. Now even those passages have been blocked due to the bombardment.

4. Israel has been bombing Gaza non-stop for the last 12 days targeting schools, universities, hospitals, playgrounds, homes, markets, mosques, police stations and other civilian infrastructure. The intensity and scope of the Israeli aggression is worst in 40 years (Israel captured the city and the Gaza Strip during the 1967 Six Day War).

5. Israel has killed over 700 Palestinians in the last 12 days and injured close to 3100. That is more than the number of Israelis killed in the last 7 years. Many are missing and unaccounted for because of the collapsed buildings.

History Matters

1. The images in the news may give the impression that a bunch of bearded anti-Semitic Islamist lunatics suddenly popped up in the slums of Gaza and began firing missiles into peace-loving, democratic Israel. And what Israel is doing is merely retaliation, self-defense, and righteous vengeance. But history did not begin yesterday. What is often forgotten is that 80% of people in Gaza are from families of those Palestinians who were expelled from their ancestral lands (now called Israel) in 1948. The five sisters who were killed in the Jabalya camp had grandparents who came from the very land whose more recent owners have now bombed them to death. For the last forty years Israel has effectively kept Gaza (and the rest of the occupied Palestine) under siege.

2. History matters because it is alive in the collective memories and 60-year long experience of Palestinians under the Israeli occupation. It’s unrealistic and unfair to ask the Palestinians to forget about their land, their freedom, and their rights in return for peace from their occupier, Israel. This informed perspective shifts the dynamic of the peace process from concern for Israel’s security to commitment to redress for the Palestinians.

3. In this perspective the conflict would be framed not in terms of “security” for Israel where Israel is forced to retaliate against “terrorism”. Instead, it would be framed in terms of “occupation” where Israel is practicing colonial and apartheid policies and Palestinians are “resisting” that occupation, using both violent and non-violent means. In this view, the state of Israel is a belligerent and illegal military occupation, and the Palestinian people have the right to defend their land, their honor, and their identity. An appreciation of the history also provides a perspective from which to better understand how Israel’s current practices reflect a sixty-year history of colonial expansion.

4. To even frame the whole conflict in terms of “an endless cycle of violence” is to distort reality. Because often the underlying presumption is that both sides are equally responsible for the violence. But the two sides are not equal. One is an occupier, the other is occupied. One has far more superior war machine (fighter jets, helicopter gunships, nuclear weapons, precision missiles, tanks, you name it), the other has rocks and mostly homemade rockets. One continues to expand its colonial settlements, the other tries to resist that. One continues to ignore over 60 UN resolutions against its colonial policies, the other laments the ineffectiveness of the international community.

5. If terrorism is defined as unlawful violence intended to frighten or coerce a people or government in order to achieve a political or ideological agenda, Israel is operating as a terrorist state in the true sense of the word. Israel has especially used these tactics in both the July 2006 Lebanon War and the ongoing December 2008 Gaza War to scare and collectively punish whole populations to turn them against their resistance movements. The carnage and humanitarian crisis that Israel has created in Gaza isn’t really about “stopping rockets” or “restoring Israel’s deterrence”. Its real goal is to force the resistance to abandon its popular mandate of ending the occupation.

6. Consider also the more recent history. After the elections, Hamas made an intentional shift away from violence towards a mainstream political agenda. It stopped its attacks and began offering the Palestinian people an alternative to the corruption of Fatah. Hamas was democratically elected and immediately strangled by a US-led boycott, preventing the government from functioning. Hamas continued to hold to its one-sided ceasefire (totaling almost 2 years), meanwhile the US and Israel began to train and arm the opposition government, Fatah, which they preferred. In response to plans for a coup in Gaza (anti-democratic takeover by the US-supported opposition government), Hamas secured its control (again, democratically- elected whether or not we like them) over Gaza, and continues to offer Israel an indefinite ceasefire--no more violent attacks, period--if Israel lifts off the siege of Gaza and complies with international law. The Arab League (comprised of 22 Arab nation members) has offered the same. These offers are dismissed by Israel and silenced in the US media. Israel says it has tried everything else, but it has not tried the most obvious: complying with international law and accepting repeated offers for a peaceful resolution.

7. For the sake of argument, if we assume that Israel is acting in "self-defense”, the question is does Israeli actions of denying food, water, electricity and medicine to the resident of Gaza guarantee the security of Israel or does it create more reasons for violent reactions? The Palestinian people must be given some hope of freedom from the Israeli occupation and domination. Israel's immoral and illegal collective punishment of the Palestinian people living in Gaza must end immediately.

8. America must stop its over $3 billion annual aid (military and non-military) to Israel and another 2 to 3 billion in loan guarantees and special grants (amounting to a staggering $14 million per day, most of which come straight from our tax dollars). It should also stop vetoing dozens of resolutions in the UN against Israeli atrocities. America must support a just and comprehensive resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that takes into account the history, moral rights, and responsibilities of all parties. And, if needed, it should impose sanctions to ensure Israeli compliance.

For more information:

The above points have been gathered from various sources. Basic demographics and number of casualties could be found at IfAmericansKnew and B'Tselem.

On Hamas' election and the response of the Arab world and the US, see Robert Fisk in The Independent (June 16, 2007). On Israeli violation of the ceasefire, see Barak Ravid in Ha'aretz (Dec 31, 2008) and Rory McCarthy in The Guardian (Nov 5, 2008). Also see Rashid Khalidi’s op-ed in NY Times (Jan 7, 2009). On over 60 UN resolutions that Israel has ignored between 1955 and 1992, see here. Another very important resolution, the UN Resolution 194, passed in December 1948, recognizes the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their land and receive compensation for their damages.

The theoretical points have been informed by Jonathan Cook (Electronic Intifada, Jan 1, 2009), Joseph Levine (Boston Review, Sep/Oct 2008), and Neve Gordon (CounterPunch, Dec 29, 2008), among others.
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