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Archive for the ‘Israeli/Palestinian Conflict’ Category

Where is Bush? Where is Obama?

Over 500 civilians have been killed in the last few days of the Israeli invasion and bombing raids in Gaza. One Israeli soldier has been reported killed during the fighting.

500 civilians to 1 soldier.

And for those that are about to jump on the “Israel is protecting its borders from rocket fire!” bandwagon, let’s take a look at the context, and roll back a few months:

Last summer, Egypt brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is Gaza. This ceasefire lasted through October. By November, the ceasefire continued (for the most part) to be upheld on both sides. Israeli casualties during this period were zero according to reports I’ve seen.

Hamas offered repeatedly to extend the truce, even after Israel failed to meet its side of the bargain, which included allowing in humanitarian aid. Israel only did so after pressure from outsiders, including the U.S., yet didn’t permit as much aid as was agreed and rejected outside NGO workers, so the supplies were poorly distributed and likely never made it to the people that needed them most.

On November 4, Israel broke the ceasefire and invaded Gaza, directing attacks at “militants in Gaza.” Several Palestinians… civilians and “suspected militants” alike were killed. Home-made rocket fire from Gaza began sailing over Israel’s borders again in response.

The Obama team seems content to carry on the Bush torch and re-write history regarding Israel and Gaza:

First, they remain silent despite the enormous bombardment, aggression and violence perpetrated by Israel, hiding behind the “There is only one president.” bullshit line that hasn’t held up for the economy, the Mumbai massacre or nearly anything else that has come up during the transition. Yet it’s conveniently used now so Obama doesn’t have to publicly condemn the actions of Israel.

Second, an Obama spokesperson reported on the news that it was Hamas who broke the ceasefire, apparently forgetting the Nov. 4 attacks by Israel into Gaza.

So why is Israel attacking now? Why have they been mentally preparing the Israeli public for a large military operation through daily news reports and other means for nearly a month now?

Elections are coming up in Israel soon and it’s chillingly customary for the incumbent to show their toughness with an often horrific and deadly military display just prior. And, since Lebanon was such a failure in 2006 to wipe out Hezbollah (even though, like this massacre, the Lebanese civilian-to-Israeli soldier casualty ratio was off the scale), it’s always good to wipe away the failures of past military ventures with new ones before the voters hit the polling booths.

For those that need a refresher on 2006:

The Lebanese top police office and the Lebanon Ministry of Health, citing hospitals, death certificates, local authorities, and eye witnesses, put the death toll at 1,123 — 37 soldiers and police officers, 894 identified victims, and 192 unidentified ones.[145] The Lebanon Higher Relief Council (HRC) put the Lebanese death toll at 1,191,[26] citing the health ministry and police, as well as other state agencies.[145] The Associated Press estimated the figure at 1,035.[145] In February 2007, the Los Angeles Times reported that at least 800 Lebanese had died during fighting,[147] and other articles have estimated the figure to be at least 850.[148][149] Encarta states that “estimates… varied from about 850 to 1,200” in its entry on Israel,[150] while giving a figure of “more than 1,200” in its entry on Lebanon.[151] The Lebanon Higher Relief Council estimated the number of Lebanese injured to be 4,409,[26] 15% of whom were permanently disabled.[152]

The death toll estimates do not include Lebanese killed since the end of fighting by land mines or unexploded Israeli cluster bombs.[145] So far, these have killed 29 people and wounded 215 — 90 of them children.[153]

Source

Cynical as that might sound, you can look at Israel’s election history and it’s usually peppered with some sort of military incursion a month or two before voting day.

Fast forward to today: The BBC is reporting 500 civilians dead in Gaza and the first Israeli soldier was killed this weekend… after 7 days of fighting.

500:1 is a massacre, people. It’s time to stand up and speak out.

Sure, Israel has a right to defend its borders… and no one is denying them that right… but invading another territory and (clearly) killing indiscriminately is not a legitimate way to secure its homeland or reach its goals.

Write your Congresspeople or your elected officials or whatever representatives you have and demand action from your leaders. There needs to be a resounding voice from the world that puts an end to this bloodshed.

Would we tolerate any other country invading another territory and killing civilians in a 500:1 or even a 50:1 ratio? No, we wouldn’t no matter the supposed “cause” or “reason” for the aggression.

Obama’s first foreign policy test is on the docket and right now he’s failing. If we speak up now and he might not flunk the thing altogether.

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The recent events regarding the breach in the comparatively short 40-foot security fence that runs between Gaza and Egypt at the end of January have brought some long-needed attention back onto the much larger Israeli West Bank Barrier. Back in July of 2004, I was condemning this larger security wall, pointing to the unanimous World Court decision that found the barrier to violate International law. Thanks to U.S. backing, Israel ignored the Court’s decision and has been expanding the wall steadily for over four years. The Barrier is now more than 260 miles long and while its route runs mostly along the 1949 Armistice line, or “Green Line,” much of the infrastructure deviates from several typically agreed border lines and cuts into Palestinian land.

West Bank Barrier

Furthermore, since it’s inception, the barrier has cut off, split up and been one more excuse for Israel to raze Palestinian homes, worsening the endless crisis of internally displaced persons already set into motion by Israeli settlements and occuptation. Without the Wall, refugees could, in time, move on to some other place and reestablish themselves. Now, the Wall gives them no where to go and no way to get there even if they had a destination. In addition, the wall has cut off supplies including food and medicines. The intense need for these basic materials was highlighted by flood of goods that gushed over the border immediately following the breach of the Gaza-Egypt wall. Additionally, the Security Barrier actively strangles the Palestinian economy by not only restricting the flow of goods in and out of the West Bank but by denying Palestinian workers the freedom of movement–specifically their ability to get to and from work on a daily basis. And perhaps even more troubling is that the Barrier is future-proofing suffering by cutting off children from their schools, which will have long term impacts on the Palestinian economy and job markets.

The negative wake of this Barrier is already manifesting itself. Hard evidence has been gathered in the form of general misery and frustration on one end of the spectrum and a rising body count on the other. People can only go so long without their homes, access to foods, medicines and basic services, or a freedom of movement. Even the most critical cases, such as medical emergencies, routinely face the reluctance of the Israeli border guard to allow passage.  And, of course, I think it’s essential to point out that the Barrier is not even 60 percent complete.  The finished version is projected to span 436 miles and that means hundreds more destroyed homes, displaced peoples and more pain and misery to come as families and communities are split into pieces.

So the question is, is the Barrier worth it? Well, if you scan the headlines of the U.S. media, you’ll probably get caught up in the statistics that show that infiltrations into the Israeli homeland have been greatly reduced. In other words, where the barrier is complete, attackers are intercepted or are otherwise thwarted. This is a good thing, at least at face value. However, closer examination shows that, as journalist Amos Harel of Haaretz points out, “The security fence is no longer mentioned as the major factor in preventing suicide bombings, mainly because the terrorists have found ways to bypass it.” Even the Shin Bet (the Israeli equivalent of the U.S. FBI) believes the reduction in terrorist attacks is more likely due to better police work, the increased influence of Hamas, and most importantly, a general truce among Palestinian militant groups.

So while there have been fewer attacks on the Israeli homeland, and I’m sure the Barrier has played some factor in that reduction, the question about whether or not the ends justify the means remains open for debate. However, I refuse to narrow my moral playing field this myopically. I cannot agree with those who justify the Wall by pointing out the potential security gains. In the end, every person considered “protected” by this Barrier was made so by the blood, displacement and misery of others.

For me, the question is, “How many people need to have their lives destroyed before it becomes wrong?”

Sources and Further Information:

World Court Says Israeli Barrier Violates International Law – NYT:

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/09/international/middleeast/09CND-WALL.html?ex=1202965200&en=2f2937d8fe096a70&ei=5070

Shin Bet: Palestinian truce main cause for reduced terror:

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/objects/pages/PrintArticleEn.jhtml?itemNo=664916

Displaced by the Wall:

http://www.badil.org/Wall-Report.pdf

General assembly establishes register of damage arising from construction of wall by Israel in occupied Palestinian territory – U.N.: http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2006/ga10560.doc.htm

Israeli West Bank Barrier:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli_West_Bank_barrier

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I heard something very unexpected the other day on the way home. I was listening to NPR and caught a blurb taken from Bush’s speech regarding the Israeli/Palsetinian conflict. He mentioned the typical shit: Palestinians needing to stop their violence against the Israeli “defense” forces. Israel needing to halt any “unauthorized” new settlements. I made careful note that this was an unfortunate departure from the earlier rhetoric that called for an end to all new settlements. Essentially, Bush was once again providing a way for Isreal to shirk its obligations to the Palestinian people.

I felt my blood warming up in disgust as tends to be the case whenever I hear one of his blunderous performances. And then I heard something odd. A single word… that, for all intents and purposes, had no reason to appear in a Bush speech on the Mideast conflict.

He uttered the word, contiguous. Specifically, he said, “The vision of a Palestinian state is one of contiguous territory…. Swiss cheese isn’t going to work when it comes to the territory of a state.” Now, for anyone with any understanding of what Israel’s been doing for the last 40 years, these words are huge. “Swiss cheese” is a very good analogy, in fact, and to have Bush stand up and say it “isn’t going to work” means that I may have to concede that I, for once, agree with the guy. As much as it hurts me to say this… the guy is right this (one and only) time.

Now, do I think his speech will actually bring about an end to the apartheid-like condiditons that Israel has been imposing against the Palestinian people for the last 40 years? No. But… but… this single speech may spark the chance for a new vocabulary to enter the discourse, and that chance, while remote, is very significant. After all, sometimes finding the right words is all one needs to shift the thinking of those who might otherwise prefer to keep their eyes and ears closed.

Here’s hoping.

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