Juan Cole: Hiati yes, Gaza, no

When Juan Cole writes to this length, he is usually pissed, in this case pissed at the hypocrisy of American foreign policy, especially under Obama, who promised change in his Cairo speech, but seems to be following the 'wink and nod' gesture to Israel of previous American presidents like Clinton and Bush.

Here is the down and dirty about our ig-norance of Gaza, in the context of our large humanitarian response to Haiti:


Title: World Health Agencies Condemn Israeli Blockade of Gaza (Again); Obama's Biggest Mideast Failure

"When a relief plane for the Physicians without Borders isn't allowed to land by US military authorities at the airport in Port-au-Prince, there is an outcry.

But Israeli military authorities will not allow any relief planes at all to land in the Gaza Strip (the Israelis destroyed Gaza's airport in 2001).

We cheer when a Haitian child is rescued from the rubble, but ignore the thousands of Gazan children who are suffering malnutrition and being buried by Israeli policy, a policy that is a war crime. I am of course not the only to be struck by this contrast: see also Phil Weiss and others quoted at his essential site.

On Wednesday, 80 international aid groups called upon Israel to change its policy of blockading civilians in Gaza, because it is having severe negative effects on the health of Gazans.

Admittedly, the situation in Gaza is not as dire as that in Haiti. But it is very, very bad, and it is man-made. The Israeli government imposed a blockade on the Gaza strip in 2007 and has maintained it ever since. It limits the import of fuel and staples, and punishes the whole population. Since half of the 1.5 million Gazans are children, the Israeli siege of the little territory is among the more massive ongoing cases of child abuse in the world. There is a virtual news blackout on this atrocity in the US mass media, and attempts of two sets of activists to get humanitarian aid to Gaza in recent weeks were largely ignored by them.

Nor is the Gaza blockade a mere preoccupation of utopian human rights activists. It has become an element of regional geo-politics. It is part of the reason for significant tensions between Israel and one of its few allies in the Middle East, Turkey. As Turkey has democratized and Muslim sentiments have become more important in its politics, and as it has increasingly emerged as a new Middle Eastern power (some speak of neo-Ottomanism), its concern with issues such as Gaza has become more central. The horrible condition of the Gazans is often the lead story on Arab satellite news channels such as Aljazeera, and public anger about it (expressed as much toward the US and the Egyptian regime as toward the US) is at a boiling point. That anger feeds into terrorism against the West. The Gaza blockade is isolating Israel and fuelling a widespread boycott movement in Europe, Canada and South Africa. And, of course, the blockade makes even the virulently anti-Shiite Sunni fundamentalists of Hamas willing to take aid from Iran, bestowing a toehold in the Levant on Tehran. The French statesman Talleyrand once observed of Napoleon I's murder of the Duc d'Enghien that "It is worse than a crime; it is a blunder." The same could be said of the Gaza blockade from the point of view of any realistic Israeli and US foreign policy.

Last year UNICEF found that about one in ten children in Gaza is severely malnourished, to the point of stunting. The Israeli blockade is deeply implicated in this semi-starvation of tens of thousands of children, as is the Gaza War launched by Israel a little over a year ago, which wrecked nearly one-fifth of farms and deeply hurt agriculture in general. Gaza once flourished agriculturally, but it was cut off by Israel from its natural markets in the Levant, and the US and Egypt have been induced to support the blockade.

The World Health Organization fact sheet on Gaza's plight, issued yesterday, reads like a post-apocalyptic Hollywood film. WHO says:


' The closure of Gaza since mid-2007 and the last Israeli military strike between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009 have led to on-going deterioration in the social, economic and environmental determinants of health.

Many specialized treatments, for example for complex heart surgery and certain types of cancer, are not available in Gaza and patients are therefore referred for treatment to hospitals outside Gaza. But many patients have had their applications for exit permits denied or delayed by the Israeli Authorities and have missed their appointments. Some have died while waiting for referral. . .

Supplies of drugs and disposables have generally been allowed into Gaza. However, there are often shortages on the ground mainly because of shortfalls in deliveries . . . Delays of up to 2-3 months occur on the importation of certain types of medical equipment, such as x-ray machines and electronic devices. Clinical staff frequently lack the medical equipment they need. Medical devices are often broken, missing spare parts or out of date. . .

- Health professionals in Gaza have been cut off from the outside world. Since 2000, very few doctors, nurses or technicians have been able to leave the Strip for training eg to update their clinical skills or to learn about new medical technology. This is severely undermining their ability to provide quality health care. . . .


Rising unemployment (41.5 percent of Gaza's workforce in the first quarter of 2009) and poverty (in May 2008, 70 percent of the families were living on an income of less than one dollar a day per person) is likely to have long term adverse effects on the physical and mental health of the population [the unemployment is a direct result of the Israeli blockade]. . .

OPERATION "CAST LEAD" -- IMPACT ON HEALTH FACILITIES AND STAFF [I.e. the Israeli war on Gaza in winter 2009-2010]

- 16 health workers killed and 25 injured on duty

- Damaged health services infrastructure:
+ 15 of 27 Gaza's hospitals
+ 43 of its 110 Primary Health Care services
+ 29 of its 148 ambulances

- The lack of building materials is affecting essential health facilities: the new surgical wing in Gaza?fs main Shifa hospital has remained unfinished since 2006. Hospitals and primary care facilities, damaged during operation ?Cast Lead?, have not been rebuilt because construction materials are not allowed into Gaza.'

The UN complained that while Israel has a fair record of allowing treatment of Gazans in Israeli hospitals, and that record has improved, some 300-400 requests a month are met with substantial delays or turned down. This issue was foregrounded by a lot of the wire services who picked up the story, but it seems to me not the most important problem. The blockade is the problem.

The Israeli blockade is aimed at weakening Hamas, a fundamentalist party-militia that won power in the Palestine Authority in the elections of January 2006. (Ironically, the Israelis had supported Hamas the late 1980s in hopes of splitting the Palestinians) When the Bush administration and Israel successfully induced the Palestine Liberation Organization of Mahmoud Abbas to make a coup in the West Bank and dislodge the elected Hamas government there, Hamas managed to hang on to power in Gaza, in part because of strong public support. Hamas has committed terrorism against Israeli civilians, and launched small rockets at nearby Israeli towns. It had however made a truce with Israel in 2008, which it observed until Israel broke it, and no Israelis had been killed by Hamas rockets in the lead-up to Israel's war on the small territory.

Collectively punishing 1.5 million Gazans in order to weaken Hamas is in any case strictly illegal in international law and is a war crime. According to Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949:

'Article 33. No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.

Pillage is prohibited.

Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.'

Not only is today's ongoing blockade a war crime, but it follows on and continues destructive policies of the Israeli military during the Gaza War, as the Goldstone Report for the United Nations concluded. The Boston Globe reported Goldstone's defense of his findings at Brandeis University (h/t Mondoweiss.

' Goldstone said his central criticism of Israel is that its strategy intentionally applied disproportionate force in Gaza to inflict widespread damage on the civilian population. His report found that the Israeli air and ground attacks destroyed 5,000 homes; put 200 factories out of operation, including the only flour factory in the country; systematically destroyed egg-producing chicken farms; and bombed sewage and water systems. “If that isn’t collective punishment, what is?’’ Goldstone asked.'

Very little of this destruction deliberately visited on civilians has been repaired, in large part because the Israelis won't allow the materiel in necessary for rebuilding.

Until President Obama does something to end the Gaza siege and its attendant horrors, his Mideast policy will remain an abject failure." 

By permission, links in the original.


AP covers Israel's campaign against protest and dissent

Adam Horowitz writing for Mondoweiss:

The AP has picked up the story on the ongoing Israeli campaign against nonviolent protest against the occupation. Ben Hubbard connects the dots between the arrests of Abdullah Abu Rahmeh, Jamal Juma’, Mohammed Othman and the recent tougher response to the protests in Bil’in, Naalin and Sheikh Jarrah. The article opens, "Israel is arresting a growing number of prominent opponents to its policies toward the Palestinians, say critics who are accusing the government of trying to crush legitimate dissent."

Is it just me or does this whole article just reek of panic from the Israeli government? It seems that Israel has been caught flatfooted as activists have changed tactics. Hubbard writes:

The arrests come at a time of shifting tactics in the protests against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and annexation of east Jerusalem, territories the Palestinians want for their future state. Israel captured both from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war.
The violence of the second Palestinian uprising, with mass marches and violent attacks, has given way to carefully calibrated protests and legal action in which Israeli and Palestinian activists now often work together.

And of course Israel has responded in the only way they ever do – force.

The article also includes an interesting tidbit on Mohammad Othman’s case and the type of interrogation he faced during his detention:

Othman, who was arrested upon his return from an advocacy trip to Norway, said he was interrogated almost daily. "The questions focused on the boycott movement, ‘How do you work on this and who are your contacts?’" said Othman, 33.
Interrogators searched his computer, his cell phone and e-mail accounts, he said. He had to pay a $2,700 bond.

Sure seems someone has noticed the BDS movement, don’t you think?

For those not aware, BDS means Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions.

Perhaps due to the pressure of the news media, Juma and Othman were recently released. Rahmeh, however, remains jailed. Further news, the AP story was actually carried by the Washington Post. Now that's a new one.



Obama capitulates to Israeli colonialism

Just who is the world's Superpower? America?

Bruce Wolman who reports from Mondoweiss tells us:


[Mitchell's] main message will be the need to apply pressure, especially from the Arab states, on the Palestinian Authority to resume negotiations with Israel. At last week’s meeting of the Quartet, Mitchell told the delegates there was no prospect of Israel agreeing to a complete halt in construction in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians have been demanding.

We are seeing the complete capitulation of the Obama administration to the Netanyahu government and the Israeli Lobby. Once again American Mideast foreign policy becomes a mere extension of US domestic politics. As in the Clinton years, it is demanded of the Palestinians that they be the ones to adjust to American and Israeli political realities.

As Americans, we should be ashamed of this capitulation to Israel, which is using our funding and military equipment to continue its ethnic cleansing and colonization of lands belonging to the Palestinian people.

Ashamed, Obama!


UN Special Rapporteur calls for Israeli sanctions

....unless it lifts the Gaza blockade.

This report was dated December 31, 2009, the anniversary of the Gaza massacre, amidst the efforts of 1,300 or so Gaza Freedom Marchers from 42 countries who protested in Cairo to gain entry into Gaza, and Egypt's harassment of 400 or so internationals comprising the Viva Palestina aid convoy en route to the same place.

Two weeks earlier, Israel detained Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur, at Ben-Gurion airport then deported him. Why? Just a week earlier, Falk issued a scathing report on the approaching famine in Gaza and the world's silence.

Adam Horowitz reported for Monoweiss:

From the UN News Centre:

The United Nations independent expert on Palestinian rights has again called for a threat of economic sanctions against Israel to force it to lift its blockade of Gaza, which is preventing the return to a normal life for 1.5 million residents after the devastating Israeli offensive a year ago.
“Obviously Israel does not respond to language of diplomacy, which has encouraged the lifting of the blockade and so what I am suggesting is that it has to be reinforced by a threat of adverse economic consequences for Israel,” Richard Falk, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, told UN Radio.

The article also notes:

In a new policy brief, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), entrusted with promoting the integration of developing countries into the world economy, reported that more than 80 per cent of Gaza’s population are now impoverished; 43 per cent unemployed; and 75 per cent lack food security. “In view of the eroded productive base, poverty is likely to widen and deepen unless reconstruction begins in earnest and without further delay,” it warned.


Given Israel's response to this humanitarian cry from Falk, it is obvious that Israel's concern for Palestinians has reached a new low. And the world silence referred to is no doubt loudest from the US, who is funding it all. By contrast, the EU, governments and people alike, are becoming more intolerant Israel-US-Egypt's inhuman starvation of Gaza's people.

We saw a similar catastrophe in Iraq during the Clinton administration when the silly notion that Saddam could be overthrown if sanctions were imposed, instead led to the death of nearly a million people of starvation, especially infants and children.

Zionist group goes after Columbia's Rashid Khalidi

That organization of course is Campus Watch, Daniel Pipes effort to monitor American college professors for their unwillingness to keep Israel criticism off campus, to remain silent. Pipes is well known for his audacious attempts to silence American professors with threats of blackmail, including arrogant demands from tainted professors that they submit their course curriculums to him, personally, for approval. There is a history of professors deprived of tenure because of organizations like Campus Watch.

I'm not kidding. Check out Pipes' org here: http://www.campus-watch.org/

But this latest attempt at censorship, this attack against Rashid Khalidi really pissed off Cecile Sarasky of Muzzlewatch:

Academic freedom, CampusWatch goes after Columbia’s Rashid Khalidi and PARC

"Is space opening up or shutting down for professors who criticize Israel or express sympathy for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement?

One answer is that academic McCarthyite group CampusWatch is, unfortunately, still in business. In fact, they just published yet another hopefully meaningless attack on the Palestinian American Research Center (PARC) and keynote speaker at their October conference, the preeminent Middle East scholar (and famously, former-friend-of-Obama) Rashid Khalidi, Columbia University’s Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies. Why do they want PARC to stop receiving funding from the Department of Education? Because in his speech at a conference on Palestine, Khalidi criticized Israel, and worse, criticized Campus Watch! Comical, yes. Imagine, one of the country’s most respected Middle East scholars having the audacity to criticize Israel and CampusWatch at a conference called “Palestine: What We Know.” CampusWatch’s Jonathan Schanzer smears Khalidi with a charge he denies, that he was ever an official spokesperson for the PLO, and insists:

While Khalidi undoubtedly has the right to express his opinion, the American public has as a right to know that they paid for it. PARC receives controversial Title VI funding from the U.S. State Department and the Department of Education for “Palestinian studies.” By inviting Khalidi, PARC spent fungible taxpayer money to bring a notorious former spokesman for a terrorist organization to Washington to rail against Israel and complain about a group that critiques him.

Meanwhile, Nora Barrows-Friedman’s new article in the Electronic Intifada about academic freedom suggests the answer to the question, is there more space on campus for debate on Israel/Palestine?, is both yes and no.

UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Richard Falk, says:

“There seems to be diverging trends in relation to academic freedom for those who express sharply critical views of Israel or Zionism,” Falk remarked. “On the one side there is growing sympathy for the Palestinian struggle, and this is exhibited by the spreading BDS campaign. On the other side, there are increased efforts by organized Zionist groups to exert covert and overt pressure on university administrations to punish those seen as critics of Israel. As a result, we can expect some inconsistent outcomes in this period.”

Caught up in that tension are professors like UC Santa Barbara’s William Robinson who called down the wrath of the Anti-Defamation League and others for criticizing Israel’s attack on Gaza: in June 2009, the university threw out charges of faculty misconduct. And Columbia’s Joseph Massad and Barnard’s Nadia Abu El Haj who both survived extensive campaigns to deny them tenure." 

Read on here: http://www.muzzlewatch.com/

Interesting stuff. Only in America.



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