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“The question is just when”: Max Blumenthal on war in the Gaza Strip’s past — and its future

Author of “The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza” tells Salon what he saw in the rubble of a land under seige

  

"The question is just when": Max Blumenthal on war in the Gaza Strip's past — and its futureCover detail from the book “The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza” (Credit: Nation Books)

If for whatever reason you are one of the very few people on this Earth who wants to go into, rather than get out of, the Gaza Strip, you may want to know what to expect.

Because although it’s been just a bit less than a year since the Israeli-Gaza conflict of 2014 — or “Operation Protective Edge,” as the Israeli Defense Force called it — came to a halt, you shouldn’t expect to find a society rebuilding. No, according to “The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza,” the new book from Max Blumenthal, the journalist behind 2013′s incendiary “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel,” what you’ll see instead is mountains of rubble, barely any less than there was at the conclusion of the war.

Based on his contacts in Gaza as well as his own first-hand reporting, Blumenthal’s book does two things, neither of which are especially welcome in U.S. politics and the mainstream media. Blumenthal not only provides a methodical breakdown of the run-up to the conflict — one that differs in crucial respects from the narrative most commonly found in American media — but also offers a more detailed accounting of what was happening behind the fog of war. He also tries to answer some of the still-vexing questions about the war: Why did it last so long? Why so many civilian casualties? And what was even accomplished?

Recently, Salon spoke over the phone with Blumenthal to discuss the book, the history of Gaza many Americans don’t know, why he believes the war was an almost deliberate result of longstanding Israeli policy, and why he believes it won’t be the last. Our conversation is below and has been edited for clarity and length.

You argue that last summer’s war cannot really be understood in isolation, that one has to see it in a larger context. For example, why do you think the situation today is a consequence of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s “disengagement” from Gaza in 2005?

The withdrawal of religious nationalist Israeli settlers (who numbered about 9,000) from the Gaza Strip was celebrated by liberals, because they saw these fanatics being forced by Israeli troops from an area that Israel [had] occupied. This actually should have been a scenario, this unilateral withdrawal, that anyone who had any concern for the people in the Gaza Strip would have opposed, because the agenda was very clear and out in the open. It was to remove [Israel] from the obligations of the Geneva Convention regarding the Gaza Strip, to claim that it was no longer occupied.

What did that new footing do for Israel?

It enabled it to establish a panopticon-style system, where it controls the exterior; the sky, the sea; and can place the Gaza Strip under a very high-tech siege, a robotically-controlled siege. Secondly, it allowed Israel to retrench its control of the major settlement blocks around East Jerusalem. They received a letter from George W. Bush [requesting] the unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, and guaranteeing these gigantic settlements on top of the Palestinian aquifer — which cut deep into the heart of the West Bank and will eventually separate the West Bank from itself — will remain in permanent Israeli hands under any US negotiated peace agreement. That’s point number two.

And point number three?

Point number three is that withdrawal, in the words of then Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter, allows the military more “freedom of action” in the Gaza Strip. If there aren’t Jewish Israelis in the Gaza Strip, that allows you to start using 150-mm artillery shells during these barrages of the border regions; that allows you to use 2,000-pound fragmentation bombs. As soon as the withdrawal took place, you started seeing the use of experimental weapons, like dime weaponry. Gaza started to become a laboratory for the Israeli weapons industry, and for the entire mechanism of control that Israel’s trying to market and export to the word as field-tested.

I just want to make one more point: we have to understand to what the Gaza Strip is, in the grand scheme of things — not just since 2005, but since 1948.

What do you mean?

Seventy-two to 80 percent of the Gaza Strips’ population qualify as refugees. That means that they are the descendants of people who, during “the Nakbah,” between 1947 and 1948, were forcibly expelled from what is now Israel. These people can’t be allowed to return to their homes under the Right of Return — which is guaranteed to them under UN Resolution 194 — because they’re not Jewish. If they come back, Israel’s Jewish demographic majority will be compromised.

That is how the rulers of Israel, who also rule all Palestinians, see it. They see the population of the Gaza Strip as a demographic threat. So the Gaza Strip is a human warehouse for a surplus population — it’s anachronistic in the modern world. A population is being warehoused because they are of the wrong ethnicity. That’s why the Gaza Strip resists. To me, that is really the essence of the crisis.

Your mentioning the demographic angle brings me to Arnon Soffer, whose colleagues nicknamed him “The Arab Counter.” Who is he? Why is he important?

Arnon Soffer is a chief adviser on demographic engineering — i.e., how to forcibly engineer a Jewish majority in areas under Israeli control — to successive Israeli governments. He conceived of not only the unilateral disengagement from Gaza, but also the separation wall. In each case, he said that they wouldn’t lead to greater national security for Israel, but they would lead to the maintenance of a Jewish [demographic] majority. He’s obsessed with maintaining a threshold of 70 percent. His last name, Soffer, means “counter” in Hebrew; so his colleagues at Haifa University refer to him as “Arnon, the Arab Counter.”

He anticipated that his policy recommendations would reduce Israel’s national security, all in the name of maintaining a demographic majority?

Listen to his words. As he was explaining the need for the unilateral disengagement from Gaza, he said, “When 2.5 million people live in a closed off Gaza, it’s going to be a human catastrophe. These people will be even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane, fundamentalist Islam. Pressure at the border will be awful; it’s going to be a terrible war. If we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day.”

He said that to the Jerusalem Post — and this is when he was a close adviser to Sharon. Sharon credited Soffer with convincing him to disengage [from the Gaza Strip]. It was printed in Israel, but not in the U.S.. I don’t endorse Soffer’s racist language or ideology, but what he said has come true. What we saw last summer with Operation Protective Edge was the fulfillment of his bloody prophecy: “kill, and kill, and kill every day.” That is what the Israeli army did for 51 days.

What caused last summer’s conflict? What lit the spark and caused that 51-day war?

The war was an extension of an ongoing campaign to destroy the Palestinian national movement.  It’s what the Israeli sociologist Barruch Kimmerling called “politicide,” which is the destruction of an entire political identity. He’s extrapolating out of the term “genocide,” which is the destruction of an entire people. I think it’s a really accurate distillation of the long-term Israeli strategy.

I don’t think that Israel has any intention of physically exterminating Palestinians by the hundreds of thousands. It simply wants to eliminate them as a national movement, and make them into wandering Arabs who are either confined to Bantustans in the West Bank; a human warehouse in the Gaza Strip; fourth class citizenship and providing menial labor in Israel proper, or just simple refugee status. But with no political leadership, and no nationalistic goal.

see full article @ source

Elias Isquith is a staff writer at Salon, focusing on politics. Follow him on Twitter at @eliasisquith.

Terror in the service of Jewish immigration

 

Palestinians are saying that the terrorist operation in the kosher supermarket, which was carried supposedly on their behalf, only caused them more harm.

By Amira Hass | Jan. 12, 2015 | 4:10 AM |  2

 

French police evacuate hostages after launching an assault at a kosher grocery store in eastern Paris, Jan. 9, 2015.Photo by AFP
French police evacuate hostages after launching an assault at a kosher grocery store in eastern Paris, Jan. 9, 2015.Photo by AFP

Only a few hours after the Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris last Wednesday, the theory that the Mossad was behind the terrorist attack was heard among Palestinians. The goal: To convince France that Islam in being Islam is the problem, and so they should forget about the Israeli occupation.

Adopting the latest conspiracy theory allowed people to navigate between two poles: They expressed disgust over the murders, but avoided renouncing the murderers themselves, the motives given for the murders (protecting the honor of Islam and the prophet Mohammed) and from the assumed internal motives: discrimination and racism against non-whites within France.

Palestinians cannot but help identifying with other victims of discrimination and racism. But they also feel from up close, and personally, the dread of Arab infighting and the terror of Islamic organizations. It is easy to count the dozens of Palestinians who have been drawn to Islamic State, but it is hard to quantify the continual fear of all Palestinians for the well-being of their families, friends and acquaintances in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan – victims of those same internal wars, terror and brutalization – and in the past week, the homeless victims of the cold. Therefore the two polar opposite feelings are the essence of the Palestinian position on the events in Paris.

In theory, after the terror attack on the kosher supermarket Hyper Cacher in Porte de Vincennes on Friday and the murder of four French Jews (of North African origin, and two of them at least had “an Arab appearance”), the conspiracy theory was shaken. But then came the reports that Israel would encourage the emigration of the Jews of France and Europe to Israel – and now the conspiracy theory received a boost: The attack served Zionist and colonialist interests.

How far this theory took hold among the Palestinians, it is hard to measure or know. In the meantime, not only Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned and sent his condolences, Hamas did too. The Palestinian Liberation Organization and nongovernment organizations in the West Bank, including the journalists’ union, called for a mass rally on Sunday afternoon for “solidarity with France, the friendly nation, against terror.” And Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, in a level-headed and logical speech, said the heretical terror is harming Islam more than any cartoon or book.

To the same extent, Palestinians may realize that the terrorist operation in the kosher supermarket, which was carried supposedly on their behalf, only caused them more harm. Mass immigration of Jews to Israel is not just a point in a statistical competition over the demographic balance. This immigration allows and justifies taking control over more Palestinian land, on both sides of the Green Line. Even before they have arrived in the country, Jews have greater rights here than the Palestinians who were born here. On their arrival, they will receive rights that are denied to Palestinians.

For example: The Jews of France can live in Jerusalem and continue to hold French citizenship. At the same time, Israel is revoking the residence status of Palestinians from Jerusalem who for reasons of work or family acquired permanent status in other countries. In practice, they are expelled from the country. A French Jew can have two homes in Israel and another in France. A Palestinian who lives in Area C, and his family also has a home in Area A, is sentenced to expulsion from his home in Area C. And that is how the West, which enables Jews to hold dual citizenship, is a partner in the discrimination and expulsion of Palestinians.

Palestinians (and other Arabs) who are divided between supporters of the regime in Syria and its opponents are unanimous over one issue: The West, Western imperialism and the close allies of the United States – Qatar and Saudi Arabia – have a hand in creating the disaster: if by supporting repressive Arab regimes, if through indirect and direct support for militias and terrorist movements that operate in the name of Islam that accepts increasingly outlandish and murderous interpretations. The goal: To allow the continued Western control over oil resources, to guarantee the continued profitable economic involvement (weapons, and after the destruction – construction) and to always guarantee the well-being and security of Israel.

The global attention that focused on the dead in Paris reinforces the Palestinian theory in particular, and that of the Third World in general: As far as it is a matter of the policy considerations of the Western powers, the lives of non-whites are not taken into account, only the well-being and comfort of the whites, including among them Jews and Israelis.

And here once again is the unavoidable comparison: Jews, with equal rights in France and with a comfortable economic and social status, who are afraid of attacks by Muslims, will be welcomed with open arms in Canada, and maybe in other Western countries, not just in Israel. Palestinian refugees in Syria whose lives are in danger every moment have nowhere to seek refuge. Europe accepted just a handful of them (and of the refugees from Syria.) Not a single Western leader apparently considers demanding that Israel allows Palestinian refugees from Syria to be absorbed by their close families: in the West Bank, and yes – also within Israel.

Citizens of France from an Arab-North African and Muslim origin are sensitive to this sort of discrimination in European attitudes, and find in it an ancient colonialist approach. If France and Europe want to not only draw intelligence lessons but also sociological and political ones, they must conclude that the continual expulsion and dispossession of the Palestinians is really a central part of the problem, and a truly aggressive policy against the Israeli occupation is part of the solution.

Amira Hass tweets at @Hass_Haaretz

source

 

Tell me More. Please…

Posted: 13 May 2014 10:49 AM PDT

Please, tell me more about your “Resistance” project, and how you are fighting the good fight against imperialism and occupation and cultural hegemony. About how you think the necktie is a remnant of the uniform worn by the old Knights Templar (it’s not but I like to see you keep bringing that up). Tell me more about how the freedom of the individual, this so-called negative and positive freedom you keep liking to invoke, is so, so, very important to the historic struggles of the brown man as he shakes off the yoke of his oppressor. Tell me about your amazing plan to liberate Jerusalem, for the dignity of all Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims (no dignity to any of them until then, of course). Tell me about your glorious leaders and martyrs, about “keeping your word” with a brutal dictator who has butchered the Syrian people just so that he can be a president like his Daddy.

You’ll only be happy to, I am sure. But right now there is something you’re not telling me. Right now the so-called “Zionist Enemy” has, through their courts and laws, imprisoned a former president on charges of rape, and that there is a former prime minister who will now serve six years in prison on charges of bribery. Maybe they’re not as good at picking their leaders as you are. And you definitely don’t want to tell me about how your torture chambers make anything the villainous “Empire” can think of, including Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib – yes, especially them – look like Disney land in comparison. You don’t want to tell me that your pet dictator and the militias you send to support him have killed more Syrians than everybody killed by US drone strikes since 2001. That they have displaced in three years more Syrians than the “Zionist enemy” ever did when it took part of Palestine in 1948, and then the rest of it in 1967. I guess these are things you don’t want to tell me about…

An Interview with a Journalist Who Was Tortured for Investigating Hezbollah

Rami, pictured middle right

Rami Aysha was investigating Hezbollah’s curious practice of selling arms to the Syrian rebels – despite sending fighters to aid the side of Assad – when he was kidnapped at gunpoint. After being held, beaten and interrogated by Hezbollah, he was handed over to the Lebanese authorities, who released him on bail on trumped up charges of arms smuggling. Rami was tried in absentia as he was out of the country at the time of sentencing. He was also sentenced by a military court, despite being a civilian. So when the judge threw out his defence that he was a journalist investigating a story, he didn’t feel that justice had been served all that well.

Neither did Reporters Without Borders, who have called for the withdrawal of all proceedings against Aysha and have described his arrest as “unacceptable” and stated that “it is crucial that the Lebanese judicial authorities distinguish between journalistic investigation and illicit trafficking”. Lest you doubt his journalistic credentials, Aysha runs TIME Magazine‘s Lebanese bureau and has worked with many major foreign news organisations throughout the Middle East, including VICE.

Rami returned to Beirut yesterday. He went to court and his sentence was reduced from six months to two weeks. The fact that he was already locked up for over two weeks means that he should be released straight away, sources told Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper. He is now taking his case to the supreme court in order to be declared innocent. We caught up with him for a chat.

Rami, chilling out

VICE: Hey Rami, can you tell us how this whole situation started?
Rami:
On the 30th of August I was doing a report about arms dealing and arms trafficking in Lebanon when I was kidnapped by Hezbollah and tortured for three hours. The torture continued after I was handed to Lebanese intelligence, who kept me without water, food and sleep for three days. A week after my arrest I saw the military judge who issued an arrest warrant against me and I stayed in prison for one month. After that, I was released on bail and since then I have been attending the hearings.

What did you find out that was so important that Hezbollah felt it necessary to kidnap you?
Well, I discovered that due to the corruption of Hezbollah and the overloading of their their warehouses with weapons, they are selling them to the Syrian opposition. They had no other option to stop such a report because I was so close to providing evidence to the whole world that Hezbollah is corrupt and they are sending their poison to destroy the whole region and instigate the fighting in Syria.

So Hezbollah are fighting with Assad but arming the rebels. Why do you think they are doing this?
As I said before, due to the huge stocks of weapons in their warehouses some of their commanders are selling weapons to make money out of it. It is purely a business thing. I wanted to use my report to show that Hezbollah is not part of the resistance any more, it is a militia causing a lot of chaos in the region. Add to this most of the weapons sold in Lebanon are actually coming from these warehouses, which I was so close to visiting and filming.

What happened to you while you were in captivity?
I was kidnapped in the middle of the street, in front of eyewitnesses and driven to one of Hezbollah’s secret prisons. They tried to make me confess that I was purchasing arms but I insisted I was reporting. My camera which was smashed over my head by Hezbollah members; they even asked me which hand I write with and when I answered left-handed, they started hammering it with a gun. I was badly tortured and badly beaten, I had a broken nose, fingers, ribs and bruises all over my body. I was bleeding for three hours and screaming from the pain. I even passed out twice during my torture.

They knew that you were a just a journalist doing your job, right?
They knew because I identified myself as a journalist and said that I was doing a report. But they didn’t care. They just kept torturing me. They even told me several times that they promised to make me stop writing till the “end of days”.

Rami, chilling out again

After this they handed you to the authorities, what was their behaviour like?
Even during my interrogation by the Lebanese intelligence they were more focused on who I met, what reports I was working on – it was more about the nature of my job. Even the judge told me that if I solved my problems with Hezbollah he would release me. This shows how Hezbollah controls the judiciary system and especially the military tribunals in Lebanon. During my interrogation, I urged the judge to extend his investigation and try to arrest those who kidnapped me but he refused.

Do you think that in this instance the authorities are working for Hezbollah?
Sure. It’s not a secret that Hezbollah controls the army, intelligence and military tribunals and they can fabricate any story they want against you. You can never have a fair trial if your opponent is Hezbollah.

Have any charges been brought against the people involved in the arms smuggling?
For the dealers, no, because it directly involves Hezbollah but for the buyers, yes they are convicted.

So despite being able to provide evidence against Hezbollah nothing has happened to any of the members involved?
Nothing has happened to them and no one punished those who kidnapped and tortured me.

What evidence was presented against you?
I challenge them to show one piece of evidence against me. I challenge them to extend the investigation. What makes you feel sorry for Lebanon is that the criminal becomes a hero and the victim becomes a criminal. I am now convicted with the failed attempt of arms purchasing. My only weapon that night was my camera.

What do you think this says about press freedom in Lebanon?
There is no press freedom in Lebanon and freedom of speech has dropped to a dangerous level. We are turning into a real dictatorship. Journalists are facing their worst moment in the history of Lebanon and freedom of speech has disappeared.

But didn’t your sentence get reduced?
There’s no difference between two weeks and six months for me because being judged as guilty threatens my career as a journalist. My annual press credentials are needed to work as an official journalist – especially due to the nature of the topics I cover, they are very sensitive. Today, we take my case to the supreme court hoping to get innocence because I believe I was prosecuted for political reasons. I will fight for justice and innocence until the very end.

Thanks Rami. Good luck.

Follow Rami on Twitter: @ramiaysha

Follow Oz on Twitter: @OzKaterji

source

First Lebanese Battalion in FSA After Hezbollah’s Call

15SaturdayJun 2013

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Lebanese individuals might have been involved in Syria’s war from early days. Sheikh Ahmad Al-Aseer declared Jihad and went himself there couple of months ago with his fighters too for a show-off exercise, but permanent or independent Lebanese fighting battalion are not known to be present as of yet.

Hezbollah has institutionalised the Lebanese involvement in Syria with his recent public involvement in the battle of Qusair. Hassan Nasrallah has publicly called his Lebanese opponents “to meet them in Syria to fight”. Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese state and government and obviously has a regional weight – which means Iran.

The lebanese government, which is supposed to be adopting a dissociation policy, is in coma status with no comment whatsoever. Even more, “sovereign” Michel Aoun has defended Hezbollah’s intervention on the basis they are fighting the takfirees (beyond our borders.)

Sadly, some Lebanese will meet Hezbollah’s divisive call and go to Syria. This will expand Syria’s war into a sectarian regional one, and allow the war to spread to Lebanon too without a shadow of a doubt.

Below is the video of the 29 years old Lebanese Fadi AbdulKader declaring the formation of the Free Battalion of “Ikleem el Kharoub” under the Free Syrian Army command to fight Hezbollah. If you don’t know it, Ikleem el Kharoub is a Sunni area in the mostly mixed Druze and Christian Chouf district.

In what could be the first video of its kind for a Lebanese, Fadi AbdulKader shows a copy of his Lebanese passport (which expired last month) confirming his ID and date of birth. The video is done on the style of previous videos for defections from the Syrian army. He declares he wants to defend his religion and land in both Syria and Lebanon. Funnily enough, he gives The Lebanese Republic a new name by calling it the Arab Republic of Lebanon.

Hezbollah, which always prided itself not be part of the Lebanese civil war, is now creating a Lebanese civil war on Syrian land and contributing to the Syrian civil war. Hezbollah has officially turned into a militia, and seeking other Lebanese militias on the opposite side. This can only get worse for everyone.

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source

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