Paul Craig Roberts discusses the legal definition of a police state.

The New “Blood Libel”?

Israeli Organ Harvesting

By ALISON WEIR

Last week Sweden’s largest daily newspaper published an article containing shocking material: testimony and circumstantial evidence indicating that Israelis may have been harvesting internal organs from Palestinian prisoners without consent for many years.

Worse yet, some of the information reported in the article suggests that in some instances Palestinians may have been captured with this macabre purpose in mind.

In the article, “Our sons plundered for their organs,” veteran journalist Donald Bostrom writes that Palestinians “harbor strong suspicions against Israel for seizing young men and having them serve as the country’s organ reserve – a very serious accusation, with enough question marks to motivate the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to start an investigation about possible war crimes.”1/

An army of Israeli officials and apologists immediately went into high gear, calling both Bostrom and the newspaper’s editors “anti-Semitic.” The Israeli foreign minister was reportedly “aghast” and termed it “a demonizing piece of blood libel.” An Israeli official called it “hate porn.”

Commentary magazine wrote that the story was “merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of European funded and promoted anti-Israel hate.” Numerous people likened the article to the medieval “blood libel,” (widely refuted stories that Jews killed people to use their blood in religious rituals). Even some pro-Palestinian writers joined in the criticism, expressing skepticism.

The fact is, however, that substantiated evidence of public and private organ trafficking and theft, and allegations of worse, have been widely reported for many years. Given such context, the Swedish charges become far more plausible than might otherwise be the case and suggest that an investigation could well turn up significant information.

Below are a few examples of previous reports on this topic.

Israel’s first heart transplant

Israel’s very first, historic heart transplant used a heart removed from a living patient without consent or consulting his family.

In December 1968 a man named Avraham Sadegat (the New York Times seems to give his name as A Savgat) (2) died two days after a stroke, even though his family had been told he was “doing well.”

After initially refusing to release his body, the Israeli hospital where he was being treated finally turned the man’s body over to his family. They discovered that his upper body was wrapped in bandages; an odd situation, they felt, for someone who had suffered a stroke.

When they removed the bandages, they discovered that the chest cavity was stuffed with bandages, and the heart was missing.

During this time, the headline-making Israeli heart transplant had occurred. After their initial shock, the man’s wife and brother began to put the two events together and demanded answers.

The hospital at first denied that Sadegat’s heart had been used in the headline-making transplant, but the family raised a media storm and eventually applied to three cabinet ministers. Finally, weeks later and after the family had signed a document promising not to sue, the hospital admitted that Sadagat’s heart had been used.

The hospital explained that it had abided by Israeli law, which allowed organs to be harvested without the family’s consent. (3) (The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime includes the extraction of organs in its definition of human exploitation.)

Indications that the removal of Sadagat’s heart was the actual cause of death went unaddressed.

Director of forensic medicine on missing organs

A 1990 article in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs entitled “Autopsies and Executions” by Mary Barrett reports on the grotesque killings of young Palestinians. It includes an interview with Dr. Hatem Abu Ghazalch, the former chief health official for the West Bank under Jordanian administration and director of forensic medicine and autopsies.

Barrett asks him about “the widespread anxiety over organ thefts which has gripped Gaza and the West Bank since the intifada began in December of 1987.”

He responded:

“There are indications that for one reason or another, organs, especially eyes and kidneys, were removed from the bodies during the first year or year and a half. There were just too many reports by credible people for there to be nothing happening. If someone is shot in the head and comes home in a plastic bag without internal organs, what will people assume?” (4)

Mysterious Scottish death

In 1998 a Scot named Alisdair Sinclair died under questionable circumstances while in Israeli custody at Ben Gurion airport.

His family was informed of the death and, according to a report in J Weekly, “…told they had three weeks to come up with about $4,900 to fly Sinclair’s corpse home. [Alisdair’s brother] says the Israelis seemed to be pushing a different option: burying Sinclair in a Christian cemetery in Israel, at a cost of about $1,300.”

The family scraped up the money, brought the body home, and had an autopsy performed at the University of Glasgow. It turned out that Alisdair’s heart and a tiny throat bone were missing. At this point the British Embassy filed a complaint with Israel.

The J report states:

“A heart said to be Sinclair’s was subsequently repatriated to Britain, free of charge. James wanted the [Israeli] Forensic Institute to pay for a DNA test to confirm that this heart was indeed their brother’s, but the Institute’s director, Professor Jehuda Hiss refused, citing the prohibitive cost, estimated by some sources at $1,500.”

Despite repeated requests from the British Embassy for the Israeli pathologist’s and police reports, Israeli officials refused to release either. (5,6,7)

Israeli government officials raise questions

Palestinian journalist Khalid Amayreh reports in an article in CCUN:

“In January, 2002, an Israeli cabinet minister tacitly admitted that organs taken from the bodies of Palestinian victims might have been used for transplants in Jewish patients without the knowledge of the Palestinian victims’ families.

“The minister, Nessim Dahan, said in response to a question by an Arab Knesset member that he couldn’t deny or confirm that organs of Palestinian youths and children killed by the Israeli army were taken out for transplants or scientific research.

“‘I couldn’t say for sure that something like that didn’t happen.’”

Amayreh writes that the Knesset member who posed the question said that he “had received ‘credible evidence proving that Israeli doctors at the forensic institute of Abu Kabir extracted such vital organs as the heart, kidneys, and liver from the bodies of Palestinian youth and children killed by the Israeli army in Gaza and the West Bank.” (8)

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“Our sons are plundered of their organs”

Young Palestinian men throwing stones and bottles at Israeli

Young Palestinian men throwing stones and bottles at Israeli soldiers in the northern West Bank. In this area, Bilal Achmed Ghanan was shot to death and cut up in a hospital. “Our sons are being used as organ reserves,” claim the Palestinians.
Foto: Donald Boström

Bilal Achmed Ghanan, 19, was shot and taken away by Israeli

Bilal Achmed Ghanan, 19, was shot and taken away by Israeli soldiers. The body was returned stitched together from the belly to the neck.
Foto: Donald Boström

Levy Izhak Rosenbaum being led away by FBI agents. Rosenbaum

Levy Izhak Rosenbaum being led away by FBI agents. Rosenbaum is alleged to have functioned as a middleman in the illegal organ trafficking scheme.

Source: Aftonbladet

Palestinians accuse the Israel Defense Forces of taking organs from their victims. Donald Boström writes about an international organ trafficking scandal – and about the time he saw the cut-up dead body of a nineteen-year old Palestinian.

You could call me a ”matchmaker”, said Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, from Brooklyn, USA, in a secret recording with an FBI-agent whom he believed to be a client. Ten days later, at the end of July this year, Rosenbaum was arrested and a vast, Sopranos-like, imbroglio of money-laundering and illegal organ-trade was revealed in New Jersey: Rabbis, politicians and trusted civil servants had for years been involved in money laundering and illegal organ-trade.

Rosenbaum’s matchmaking had nothing to do with romance. It was all about buying and selling kidneys from Israel on the black market. Rosenbaum says that he buys the kidneys for 10 000 dollars, from poor people. He then proceeds to sell the organs to desperate patients in the States for 160 000 dollars.

The accusations have shaken the American transplantation business. If they are true it means that organ trafficking is documented for the first time in the US, experts tell the New Jersey Real-Time News.

On the question of how many organs he has sold Rosenbaum replies: ”Quite a lot. And I have never failed,” he boasts. The business has been running for quite some time.

Francis Delmonici, professor of transplant surgery at Harvard and member of the National Kidney Foundation’s Board of Directors, tells the same newspaper that organ-trafficking, similar to the one reported from Israel, is carried out in other places of the world as well. 5 – 6 000 operations a year, about ten per cent of the world’s kidney transplants are carried out illegally, according to Delmonici.

Countries suspected of these activities are Pakistan, the Philippines and China, where the organs are allegedly taken from executed prisoners. But Palestinians also harbor strong suspicions that young men have been siezed, and made to serve as organ reserve, just as in China and Pakistan, before being killed – a very serious accusation, with enough question marks to motivate the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to start an investigation about possible war crimes.

Israel has repeatedly been under fire for its unethical ways of dealing with organs and transplants. France was among the countries that ceased organ collaboration with Israel in the nineties. Jerusalem Post wrote that ”the rest of the European countries are expected to follow France’s example shortly.”

Half of the kidneys transplanted to Israelis since the beginning of the 2000s have been bought illegally from Turkey, Eastern Europe or Latin America. Israeli health authorities have full knowledge of this business but do nothing to stop it. At a conference in 2003 it was shown that Israel is the only western country with a medical profession that doesn’t condemn the illegal organ trade. The country takes no legal measures against doctors participating in the illegal business – on the contrary, chief medical officers of Israel’s big hospitals are involved in most of the illegal transplants, according to Dagens Nyheter (December 5, -03).

In the summer of 1992, Ehud Olmert, then minister of health, tried to address the issue of organ shortage by launching a big campaign aimed at having the Israeli public register for postmortal organ donation. Half a million pamphlets were spread in local newspapers. Ehud Olmert himself was the first person to sign up.

A couple of weeks later the Jerusalem Post reported that the campaign was a success. No fewer than 35 000 people had signed up. Prior to the campaign it would have been 500 in a normal month. In the same article, however, Judy Siegel, the reporter, wrote that the gap between supply and demand was still large. 500 people were in line for kidney transplant, but only 124 transplants could be performed. Of 45 people in need of a new liver only three could be operated on in Israel.

While the campaign was running, young Palestinian men started to disappear from villages in the West Bank and Gaza. After five days Israeli soldiers would bring them back dead, with their bodies ripped open.

Talk of the bodies terrified the population of the occupied territories. There were rumors of a dramatic increase of young men disappearing, with ensuing nightly funerals of autopsied bodies.

I was in the area at the time, working on a book. On several occasions I was approached by UN staff concerned about the developments. The persons contacting me said that organ theft definitely occurred but that they were prevented from doing anything about it. On an assignment from a broadcasting network I then travelled around interviewing a great number of Palestininan families in the West Bank and Gaza – meeting parents who told of how their sons had been deprived of organs before being killed. One example that I encountered on this eerie trip was the young stone-thrower Bilal Achmed Ghanan.

It was close to midnight when the motor roar from an Israeli military column sounded from the outskirts of Imatin, a small village in the northern parts of the West Bank. The two thousand inhabitants were awake. They were still, waiting, like silent shadows in the dark, some lying upon roofs, others hiding behind curtains, walls, or trees that provided protection during the curfew but still offered a full view toward what would become the grave for the first martyr of the village. The military had interrupted the electricity and the area was now a closed-off military zone – not even a cat could move outdoors without risking its life. The overpowering silence of the dark night was only interrupted by quiet sobbing. I don’t remember if our shivering was due to the cold or to the tension. Five days earlier, on May 13, 1992, an Israeli special force had used the village’s carpentry workshop for an ambush. The person they were assigned to put out of action was Bilal Achmed Ghanan, one of the stone-throwing Palestinian youngsters who made life difficult for the Israeli soldiers.

As one of the leading stone-throwers Bilal Ghanan had been wanted by the military for a couple of years. Together with other stone-throwing boys he hid in the Nablus mountains, with no roof over his head. Getting caught meant torture and death for these boys – they had to stay in the mountains at all costs.

On May 13 Bilal made an exception, when for some reason, he walked unprotected by the carpentry workshop. Not even Talal, his older brother, knows why he took this risk. Maybe the boys were out of food and needed to restock.

Everything went according to plan for the Israeli special force. The soldiers stubbed their cigarettes, put away their cans of Coca-Cola, and calmly aimed through the broken window. When Bilal was close enough they needed only to pull the triggers. The first shot hit him in the chest. According to villagers who witnessed the incident he was subsequently shot with one bullet in each leg. Two soldiers then ran down from the carpentry workshop and shot Bilal once in the stomach. Finally, they grabbed him by his feet and dragged him up the twenty stone steps of the workshop stair. Villagers say that people from both the UN and the Red Crescent were close by, heard the discharge and came to look for wounded people in need of care. Some arguing took place as to who should take care of the victim. Discussions ended with Israeli soldiers loading the badly wounded Bilal in a jeep and driving him to the outskirts of the village, where a military helicopter waited. The boy was flown to a destination unknown to his family. Five days later he came back, dead and wrapped in green hospital fabric.

A villager recognized Captain Yahya, the leader of the military column who had transported Bilal from the postmortem center Abu Kabir, outside of Tel Aviv, to the place for his final rest. ”Captain Yahya is the worst of them all,” the villager whispered in my ear. After Yahya had unloaded the body and changed the green fabric for a light cotton one, some male relatives of the victim were chosen by the soldiers to do the job of digging and mixing cement.

Together with the sharp noises from the shovels we could hear laughter from the soldiers who, as they waited to go home, exchanged some jokes. As Bilal was put in the grave his chest was uncovered. Suddenly it became clear to the few people present just what kind of abuse the boy had been exposed to. Bilal was not by far the first young Palestinian to be buried with a slit from his abdomen up to his chin.

The families in the West Bank and in Gaza felt that they knew exactly what had happened: ”Our sons are used as involuntary organ donors,” relatives of Khaled from Nablus told me, as did the mother of Raed from Jenin and the uncles of Machmod and Nafes from Gaza, who had all disappeared for a number of days only to return at night, dead and autopsied.

– Why are they keeping the bodies for up to five days before they let us bury them? What happened to the bodies during that time? Why are they performing autopsy, against our will, when the cause of death is obvious? Why are the bodies returned at night? Why is it done with a military escort? Why is the area closed off during the funeral? Why is the electricity interrupted? Nafe’s uncle was upset and he had a lot of questions.

The relatives of the dead Palestinians no longer harbored any doubts as to the reasons for the killings, but the spokesperson for the Israeli army claimed that the allegations of organ theft were lies. All the Palestinian victims go through autopsy on a routine basis, he said. Bilal Achmed Ghanem was one of 133 Palestinians killed in various ways that year. According to the Palestinian statistics the causes of death were: shot in the street, explosion, tear gas, deliberately run over, hanged in prison, shot in school, killed at home etcetera. The 133 people killed were between four months to 88 years old. Only half of them, 69 victims, went through postmortem examination. The routine autopsy of killed Palestinians – of which the army spokesperson was talking – has no bearing on the reality in the occupied territories. The questions remain.

We know that Israel has a great need for organs, that there is a vast and illegal trade of organs which has been running for many years now, that the authorities are aware of it and that doctors in managing positions at the big hospitals participate, as well as civil servants at various levels. We also know that young Palestinian men disappeared, that they were brought back after five days, at night, under tremendous secrecy, stitched back together after having been cut from abdomen to chin.

It’s time to bring clarity to this macabre business, to shed light on what is going on and what has taken place in the territories occupied by Israel since the Intifada began.

Donald Boström

Translation from swedish: Henrik Karlsson

Source: Gang members of ‘death squads’ tell about their crimes in Chechnya

The so-called “death squads”, consisted mainly from the Russian Special Forces, participate in the war in Chechnya and in Caucasus.

The murderers were picked on a voluntary basis. They were engaged in killings of relatives of the Mujahideen and those who sympathized with them.

Two Russian “high-ranking officers”, the members of one of the gangs of “death squads”, have told to the British edition of The Times about the “unofficial” methods of struggle with the Mujahideen and with their relatives, as well as the techniques of torture.

According to the newspaper, the murderers presented themselves as “Andrei” and “Vladimir”, not naming their surnames for security reasons. They called themselves “zaichiks (little hares)”.

According to them, the prisoners and the hostages were tortured with a hammer and electricity, the bodies then were either buried in unmarked pits or “pulverized”.

According to the murderers, one artillery shell was placed between the legs of the victim and one over the chest, adding several 200-gram TNT blocks and then the body was blew “to smithereens”.

“The trick is to make sure absolutely nothing is left. No body, no proof, no problem”, they explained.

The murderers told that in such a way they had finished off the 40-year-old Chechen who allegedly was a “recruiter of the female Shaheeds”.

Two “recruited” were detained together with her – one was barely 15.

“At first the older one denied everything, then we roughed her up and gave her electric shocks. She provided us with good information. Once we were done with her we shot her in the head”, the murderers tell.

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Fake Faith And Epic Crimes

By John Pilger

04 April, 2009
The New Statesman

These are extraordinary times. With the United States and Britain on the verge of bankruptcy and committing to an endless colonial war, pressure is building for their crimes to be prosecuted at a tribunal similar to that which tried the Nazis at Nuremberg. This defined rapacious invasion as “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” International law would be mere farce, said the chief US chief prosecutor at Nuremberg, Supreme Court justice Robert Jackson, “if, in future, we do not apply its principles to ourselves.”

That is now happening. Spain, Germany, Belgium, France and Britain have long had “universal jurisdiction” statutes, which allow their national courts to pursue and prosecute prima facie war criminals. What has changed is an unspoken rule never to use international law against “ourselves,” or “our” allies or clients. In 1998, Spain, supported by France, Switzerland and Belgium, indicted the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, client and executioner of the West, and sought his extradition from Britain, where he happened to be at the time. Had he been sent for trial he almost certainly would have implicated at least one British prime minister and two US presidents in crimes against humanity. Home Secretary Jack Straw let him escape back to Chile.

The Pinochet case was the ignition. On 19 January last, the George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley compared the status of George W. Bush with that of Pinochet. “Outside [the United States] there is not the ambiguity about what to do about a war crime,” he said. “So if you try to travel, most people abroad are going to view you not as ‘former President George Bush’ [but] as a current war criminal.” For this reason, Bush’s former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who demanded an invasion of Iraq in 2001 and personally approved torture techniques in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay, no longer travels. Rumsfeld has twice been indicted for war crimes in Germany. On 26 January, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, said, “We have clear evidence that Mr. Rumsfeld knew what he was doing but nevertheless he ordered torture.”

The Spanish high court is currently investigating a former Israeli defence minister and six other top Israeli officials for their role in the killing of civilians, mostly children, in Gaza. Henry Kissinger, who was largely responsible for bombing to death 600,000 peasants in Cambodia in 1969-73, is wanted for questioning in France, Chile and Argentina. Yet, on 8 February, as if demonstrating the continuity of American power, President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, James Jones, said, “I take my daily orders from Dr. Kissinger.”

Like them, Tony Blair may soon be a fugitive. The International Criminal Court, to which Britain is a signatory, has received a record number of petitions related to Blair’s wars. Spain’s celebrated Judge Baltasar Garzon, who indicted Pinochet and the leaders of the Argentinian military junta, has called for George W. Bush, Blair and former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar to be prosecuted for the invasion of Iraq — “one of the most sordid and unjustifiable episodes in recent human history: a devastating attack on the rule of law” that had left the UN “in tatters.” He said, “There is enough of an argument in 650,000 deaths for this investigation to start without delay.”

This is not to say Blair is about to be collared and marched to The Hague, where Serbs and Sudanese dictators are far more likely to face a political court set up by the West. However, an international agenda is forming and a process has begun which is as much about legitimacy as the letter of the law, and a reminder from history that the powerful lose wars and empires when legitimacy evaporates. This can happen quickly, as in the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of apartheid South Africa — the latter a spectre for apartheid Israel.

Today, the unreported “good news” is that a worldwide movement is challenging the once sacrosanct notion that imperial politicians can destroy countless lives in the cause of an ancient piracy, often at remove in distance and culture, and retain their respectability and immunity from justice. In his masterly Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde R.L. Stevenson writes in the character of Jekyll: “Men have before hired bravos to transact their crimes, while their own person and reputation sat under shelter … I could thus plod in the public eye with a load of genial respectability, and, in a moment, like a schoolboy, strip off these lendings and spring headlong into the sea of liberty. But for me, in my impenetrable mantle, the safety was complete.”

Blair, too, is safe — but for how long? He and his collaborators face a new determination on the part of tenacious non-government bodies that are amassing “an impressive documentary record as to criminal charges,” according to international law authority Richard Falk, who cites the World Tribunal on Iraq, held in Istanbul in 2005, which heard evidence from 54 witnesses and published rigorous indictments against Blair, Bush and others. Currently, the Brussels War Crimes Tribunal and the newly established Blair War Crimes Foundation are building a case for Blair’s prosecution under the Nuremberg Principle and the 1949 Geneva Convention. In a separate indictment, former Judge of the New Zealand Supreme Court E.W. Thomas wrote: “My pre-disposition was to believe that Mr. Blair was deluded, but sincere in his belief. After considerable reading and much reflection, however, my final conclusion is that Mr. Blair deliberately and repeatedly misled Cabinet, the British Labour Party and the people in a number of respects. It is not possible to hold that he was simply deluded but sincere: a victim of his own self-deception. His deception was deliberate.”

Protected by the fake sinecure of Middle East Envoy for the Quartet (the US, EU, UN and Russia), Blair operates largely from a small fortress in the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem, where he is an apologist for the US in the Middle East and Israel, a difficult task following the bloodbath in Gaza. To assist his mortgages, he recently received an Israeli “peace prize” worth a million dollars. He, too, is careful where he travels; and it is instructive to watch how he now uses the media. Having concentrated his post-Downing Street apologetics on a BBC series of obsequious interviews with David Aaronovitch, Blair has all but slipped from view in Britain, where polls have long revealed a remarkable loathing for a former prime minister — a sentiment now shared by those in the liberal media elite whose previous promotion of his “project” and crimes is an embarrassment and preferably forgotten.

On 8 February, Andrew Rawnsley, the Observer’s former leading Blair fan, declared that “this shameful period will not be so smoothly and simply buried.” He demanded, “Did Blair never ask what was going on?” This is an excellent question made relevant with a slight word change: “Did the Andrew Rawnsleys never ask what was going on?” In 2001, Rawnsley alerted his readers to Iraq’s “contribution to international terrorism” and Saddam Hussein’s “frightening appetite to possess weapons of mass destruction.” Both assertions were false and echoed official Anglo-American propaganda. In 2003, when the destruction of Iraq was launched, Rawnsley described it as a “point of principle” for Blair who, he later wrote, was “fated to be right.” He lamented, “Yes, too many people died in the war. Too many people always die in war. War is nasty and brutish, but at least this conflict was mercifully short.” In the subsequent six years at least a million people have been killed. According to the Red Cross, Iraq is now a country of widows and orphans. Yes, war is nasty and brutish, but never for the Blairs and the Rawnsleys.

Far from the carping turncoats at home, Blair has lately found a safe media harbour — in Australia, the original murdochracy. His interviewers exude an unction reminiscent of the promoters of the “mystical” Blair in the Guardian of than a decade ago, though they also bring to mind Geoffrey Dawson, editor of The Times during the 1930s, who wrote of his infamous groveling to the Nazis: “I spend my nights taking out anything which will hurt their susceptibilities and dropping in little things which are intended to sooth them.”

With his words as a citation, the finalists for the Geoffrey Dawson Prize for Journalism (Antipodes) are announced. On 8 February, in an interview on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Geraldine Doogue described Blair as “a man who brought religion into power and is now bringing power to religion.” She asked him: “What would the perception be that faith would bring towards a greater stability …[sic]?” A bemused and clearly delighted Blair was allowed to waffle about “values.” Doogue said to him that “it was the bifurcation about right and wrong that what I thought the British found really hard” [sic], to which Blair replied that “in relation to Iraq I tried every other option [to invasion] there was.” It was his classic lie, which passed unchallenged.

However, the clear winner of the Geoffrey Dawson Prize is Ginny Dougary of the Sydney Morning Herald and the Times. Dougary recently accompanied Blair on what she described as his “James Bondish-ish Gulfstream” where she was privy to his “bionic energy levels.” She wrote, “I ask him the childlike question: does he want to save the world?” Blair replied, well, more or less, aw shucks, yes. The murderous assault on Gaza, which was under way during the interview, was mentioned in passing. “That is war, I’m afraid,” said Blair, “and war is horrible.” No counter came that Gaza was not a war but a massacre by any measure. As for the Palestinians, noted Dougary, it was Blair’s task to “prepare them for statehood.” The Palestinians will be surprised to hear that. But enough gravitas; her man “has the glow of the newly-in-love: in love with the world and, for the most part, the feeling is reciprocated.” The evidence she offered for this absurdity was that “women from both sides of politics have confessed to me to having the hots for him.”

These are extraordinary times. Blair, a perpetrator of the epic crime of the 21st century, shares a “prayer breakfast” with President Obama, the yes-we-can-man now launching more war. “We pray,” said Blair, “that in acting we do God’s work and follow God’s will.” To decent people, such pronouncements about Blair’s “faith” represent a contortion of morality and intellect that is a profananation on the basic teachings of Christianity. Those who aided and abetted his great crime and now wish the rest of us to forget their part — or, like Alistair Campbell, his “communications director,” offer their bloody notoriety for the vicarious pleasure of some — might read the first indictment proposed by the Blair War Crimes Foundation: “Deceit and conspiracy for war, and providing false news to incite passions for war, causing in the order of one million deaths, 4 million refugees, countless maiming and traumas.”

These are indeed extraordinary times.

In 1948, 750 000 Palestinians were expelled from their homeland. One hundred thousand of them fled to Lebanon. They live there now, in crowded refugee camps where disease runs rife. This documentary visits the camps. Survivors of Ariel Sharon’s Sabra and Shatilla camp massacre tell their story.

SABRA AND SHATILA

By Robert Fisk
Counter Currents

What we found inside the Palestinian camp at ten o’clock on the morning of September 1982 did not quite beggar description, although it would have been easier to re-tell in the cold prose of a medical examination. There had been medical examinations before in Lebanon, but rarely on this scale and never overlooked by a regular, supposedly disciplined army. In the panic and hatred of battle, tens of thousands had been killed in this country. But these people, hundreds of them had been shot down unarmed. This was a mass killing, an incident – how easily we used the word “incident” in Lebanon – that was also an atrocity. It went beyond even what the Israelis would have in other circumstances called a terrorist activity. It was a war crime.

Jenkins and Tveit were so overwhelmed by what we found in Chatila that at first we were unable to register our own shock. Bill Foley of AP had come with us. All he could say as he walked round was “Jesus Christ” over and over again. We might have accepted evidence of a few murders; even dozens of bodies, killed in the heat of combat. But there were women lying in houses with their skirts torn up to their waists and their legs wide apart, children with their throats cut, rows of young men shot in the back after being lined up at an execution wall. There were babies – blackened babies because they had been slaughtered more than 24-hours earlier and their small bodies were already in a state of decomposition – tossed into rubbish heaps alongside discarded US army ration tins, Israeli army equipment and empty bottles of whiskey.

Where were the murderers? Or to use the Israelis’ vocabulary, where were the “terrorists”? When we drove down to Chatila, we had seen the Israelis on the top of the apartments in the Avenue Camille Chamoun but they made no attempt to stop us. In fact, we had first been driven to the Bourj al-Barajneh camp because someone told us that there was a massacre there. All we saw was a Lebanese soldier chasing a car thief down a street. It was only when we were driving back past the entrance to Chatila that Jenkins decided to stop the car. “I don’t like this”, he said. “Where is everyone? What the f**k is that smell?”

Just inside the the southern entrance to the camp, there used to be a number of single-story, concrete walled houses. I had conducted many interviews in these hovels in the late 1970’s. When we walked across the muddy entrance to Chatila, we found that these buildings had been dynamited to the ground. There were cartridge cases across the main road. I saw several Israeli flare canisters, still attached to their tiny parachutes. Clouds of flies moved across the rubble, raiding parties with a nose for victory.

Down a laneway to our right, no more than 50 yards from the entrance, there lay a pile of corpses. There were more than a dozen of them, young men whose arms and legs had been wrapped around each other in the agony of death. All had been shot point-blank range through the cheek, the bullet tearing away a line of flesh up to the ear and entering the brain. Some had vivid crimson or black scars down the left side of their throats. One had been castrated, his trousers torn open and a settlement of flies throbbing over his torn intestines.

The eyes of these young men were all open. The youngest was only 12 or 13 years old. They were dressed in jeans and coloured shirts, the material absurdly tight over their flesh now that their bodies had begun to bloat in the heat. They had not been robbed. On one blackened wrist a Swiss watch recorded the correct time, the second hand still ticking round uselessly, expending the last energies of its dead owner.

On the other side of the main road, up a track through the debris, we found the bodies of five women and several children. The women were middle-aged and their corpses lay draped over a pile of rubble. One lay on her back, her dress torn open and the head of a little girl emerging from behind her. The girl had short dark curly hair, her eyes were staring at us and there was a frown on her face. She was dead.

Another child lay on the roadway like a discarded doll, her white dress stained with mud and dust. She could have been no more than three years old. The back of her head had been blown away by a bullet fired into her brain. One of the women also held a tiny baby to her body. The bullet that had passed into her breast had killed the baby too. Someone had slit open the woman’s stomach, cutting sideways and then upwards, perhaps trying to kill her unborn child. Her eyes were wide open, her dark face frozen in horror.

“…As we stood there, we heard a shout in Arabic from across the ruins. “They are coming back,” a man was screaming, So we ran in fear towards the road. I think, in retrospect, that it was probably anger that stopped us from leaving, for we now waited near the entrance to the camp to glimpse the faces of the men who were responsible for all of this. They must have been sent in here with Israeli permission. They must have been armed by the Israelis. Their handiwork had clearly been watched – closely observed – by the Israelis who were still watching us through their field-glasses.

When does a killing become an outrage? When does an atrocity become a massacre? Or, put another way, how many killings make a massacre? Thirty? A hundred? Three hundred? When is a massacre not a massacre? When the figures are too low? Or when the massacre is carried out by Israel’s friends rather than Israel’s enemies?

That, I suspected, was what this argument was about. If Syrian troops had crossed into Israel, surrounded a Kibbutz and allowed their Palestinian allies to slaughter the Jewish inhabitants, no Western news agency would waste its time afterwards arguing about whether or not it should be called a massacre.

But in Beirut, the victims were Palestinians. The guilty were certainly Christian militiamen – from which particular unit we were still unsure – but the Israelis were also guilty. If the Israelis had not taken part in the killings, they had certainly sent militia into the camp. They had trained them, given them uniforms, handed them US army rations and Israeli medical equipment. Then they had watched the murderers in the camps, they had given them military assistance – the Israeli airforce had dropped all those flares to help the men who were murdering the inhabitants of Sabra and Chatila – and they had established military liason with the murderers in the camps.

U.S. Perpetuates Mass Killings In Iraq
By Peter Phillips
18 July 2008

Project Censored

The United States is directly responsible for over one million Iraqi deaths since the invasion five and half years ago. In a January 2008 report, a British polling group Opinion Research Business (ORB) reports that, “survey work confirms our earlier estimate that over 1,000,000 Iraqi citizens have died as a result of the conflict which started in 2003…. We now estimate that the death toll between March 2003 and August 2007 is likely to have been of the order of 1,033,000. If one takes into account the margin of error associated with survey data of this nature then the estimated range is between 946,000 and 1,120,000”.

The ORB report comes on the heels of two earlier studies conducted by Johns Hopkins University published in the Lancet medical journal that confirmed the continuing numbers of mass deaths in Iraq. A study done by Dr. Les Roberts from January 1, 2002 to March 18 2003 put the civilian deaths at that time at over 100,000. A second study published in the Lancet in October 2006 documented over 650,000 civilian deaths in Iraq since the start of the US invasion. The 2006 study confirms that US aerial bombing in civilian neighborhoods caused over a third of these deaths and that over half the deaths are directly attributable to US forces.

The now estimated 1.2 million dead, as of July 2008, includes children, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, cab drivers, clerics, schoolteachers, factory workers, policemen, poets, healthcare workers, day care providers, construction workers, babysitters, musicians, bakers, restaurant workers and many more. All manner of ordinary people in Iraq have died because the United States decided to invade their country. These are deaths in excess of the normal civilian death rate under the prior government.

The magnitude of these deaths is undeniable. The continuing occupation by US forces guarantees a mass death rate in excess of 10,000 people per month with half that number dying at the hands of US forces— a carnage so severe and so concentrated at to equate it with the most heinous mass killings in world history. This act has not gone unnoticed.

Recently, Dennis Kucinich introduced a single impeachment article against George W. Bush for lying to Congress and the American people about the reasons for invading Iraq. On July 15 The House forwarded the resolution to the Judiciary Committee with a 238 to 180 vote. That Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction and Iraq’s threat to the US is now beyond doubt. Former US federal prosecutor Elizabeth De La Vega documents the lies most thoroughly in her book U.S. Vs Bush, and numerous other researchers have verified Bush’s untrue statements.

The American people are faced with a serious moral dilemma. Murder and war crimes have been conducted in our name. We have allowed the war/occupation to continue in Iraq and offered ourselves little choice within the top two presidential candidates for immediate cessation of the mass killings. McCain would undoubtedly accept the deaths of another million Iraqi civilians in order to save face for America, and Obama’s 18-month timetable for withdrawal would likely result in another 250,000 civilian deaths or more.

We owe our children and ourselves a future without the shame of mass murder on our collective conscience. The only resolution of this dilemma is the immediate withdrawal of all US troops in Iraq and the prosecution and imprisonment of those responsible. Anything less creates a permanent original sin on the soul of the nation for that we will forever suffer.

Peter Phillips is a Professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University and director of Project Censored a media research group. He is the co-editor with Dennnis Loo of the book Impeach the President: The Case Against Bush and Cheney.

Gaza war crime claims gather pace as more troops speak out

Peter Beaumont
The Observer, Sunday 22 March 2009

An investigation by a group of former Israeli soldiers has uncovered new evidence of the military’s conduct during the assault on Gaza two months ago. According to the group Breaking the Silence, the witness statements of the 15 soldiers who have come forward to describe their concerns over Operation Cast Lead appear to corroborate claims of random killings and vandalism carried out during the operation made by a separate group of anonymous servicemen during a seminar at a military college.

Although Breaking the Silence’s report is not due to be published for several months, the testimony it has received already suggests widespread abuses stemming from orders originating with the Israeli military chain of command.

“This is not a military that we recognise,” said Mikhael Manekin, one of the former soldiers involved with the group. “This is in a different category to things we have seen before. We have spoken to a lot of different people who served in different places in Gaza, including officers. We are not talking about some units being more aggressive than others, but underlying policy. So much so that we are talking to soldiers who said that they were having to restrain the orders given.”

Manekin described how soldiers had reported their units being specifically warned by officers not to discuss what they had seen and done in Gaza.

The outlines of the evidence gathered comes hard on the heels of the disclosure by the Oranim Academy’s pre-military course last week of devastating witness accounts supplied by soldiers involved in the fighting, including the “unjustified” shooting of civilians.

The claims appear to add credence to widespread claims of Israeli soldiers firing on civilians, made by Palestinians to journalists and international investigators and lawyers who entered Gaza at the end of the conflict and in its aftermath.

With Israeli newspapers threatening new disclosures, the New York Times has weighed in with an interview with a reservist describing the rules of engagement for the Gaza operation. Amir Marmor, a 33-year-old military reservist, told the newspaper that he was stunned to discover the way civilian casualties were discussed in training talks before his tank unit entered Gaza in January.

“Shoot and don’t worry about the consequences” was the message from commanders, said Marmor. Describing the behaviour of a lieutenant-colonel who briefed the troops, Marmor added: “His whole demeanour was extremely gung-ho. This is very, very different from my usual experience. I have been doing reserve duty for 12 years, and it was always an issue how to avoid causing civilian injuries. He said that in this operation, we are not taking any chances. Morality aside, we have to do our job. We will cry about it later.”

These are not the first allegations of war crimes levelled at the Israeli military. Last Thursday, the special rapporteur to the UN Human Rights Council, Richard Falk, said that the assault on Gaza appeared to be a “war crime of the greatest magnitude” and called on the UN to establish an experts’ group to investigate potential violations.

Attempts by the Israeli media to publish the rules of engagement for the Gaza campaign have been blocked by the military censor, but in the past couple of weeks the contents of those rules have begun to to emerge in anecdotal evidence – suggesting strongly that soldiers were told to avoid Israeli casualties at all costs by means of the massive use of firepower in a densely populated urban environment.

Worrying new questions have also been raised about the culture of the Israeli military, indicating a high level of dehumanisation and disregard for Palestinians among the chain of command and even among the military rabbinate.

An investigation by reporter Uri Blau, published on Friday in Haaretz, disclosed how Israeli soldiers were ordering T-shirts to mark the end of operations, featuring grotesque images including dead babies, mothers weeping by their children’s graves, a gun aimed at a child and bombed-out mosques.

Another T-shirt designed for infantry snipers bears the inscription “Better use Durex” next to a picture of a dead Palestinian baby, with his weeping mother and a teddy bear beside him. A shirt designed for the Givati Brigade’s Shaked battalion depicts a pregnant Palestinian woman with a bull’s-eye superimposed on her belly, with the slogan, in English, “1 shot, 2 kills”.

The claims have sparked a bitter debate within Israel’s defence forces and wider society over the “morality” of the IDF and its behaviour in Gaza.

Since the first claims appeared, other Israeli media have run articles criticising the head of the military academy who revealed the soldiers’ testimony, while others have run interviews with soldiers denying that the IDF had been involved in any wrong-doing and questioning the motives of those who had come forward.

“I don’t believe there were soldiers who were looking to kill [Palestinians] for no reason,” 21-year-old Givati Brigade soldier Assaf Danziger was quoted by Yedioth Aharonot. “What happened there was not enjoyable for anyone; we wanted it to end as soon as possible and tried to avoid contact with innocent civilians.”

While I object to the author’s dismissal of Israel’s pre-1967 crimes, this article offers a thoughtful response to the Zionist propaganda mantras.

What’s So Bad About Israel?

By Michael Neumann
July 6, 2002

CounterPunch

It’s hard to say what’s so bad about Israel, and its defenders–having nothing better to use–have seized on this. Some do so soberly, like Harpers publisher John R. MacArthur, who thinks Israel comes off no worse than the Russians in Chechnya, and much better than the Americans in Vietnam (Toronto Globe and Mail, May 13th, 2002). Others do so defiantly. True, Israel has taken the land of harmless people, killed innocent civilians, tortured prisoners, bulldozed houses, destroyed crops, yada yada yada. Who cares? What else is new?

I completely sympathize with this point of view. The appetite for world-class atrocity may be adolescent, but it belongs to an adolescence that many of us never outgrow. The facts are disappointing. Even compared with post-Nazi monsters like Pol Pot or Saddam Hussein, the Israelis have killed very few people; their tortures and oppression are boring. How could these mediocre crimes compete for our attention with whatever else is on TV?

They couldn’t; in fact they are designed not to do so. Yet Israel is a growing evil whose end is not in sight. Its outlines have become clearer as times have changed.

Until sometime after the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel’s sins were unspectacular, at least from a cynic’s perspective. Israel was born from an understandable desire of a persecuted people for security. Jews immigrated to Palestine; acquired land by fair means or foul, provoked violent reactions. There ensued a cycle of violence in which the Jews distinguished themselves in at least one impeccably documented and truly disgusting massacre at Deir Yassin, and probably many more that Jewish forces succeeded in concealing. The new state accorded full rights only to its Jewish inhabitants, and defeated its Arab opponents both in battle and in a propaganda campaign that effectively concealed Israeli racism and aggression. It was said then, as now: what’s so bad about that? The answer is, nothing. Of course the perpetrators of these crimes deserve no state, but only punishment: what else is new? Isn’t this the normal way that states are born?

Israel’s pre-1967 crimes, then, are not a part of its special evil, though they did much to create it. The past was glorified, not exorcised. Both Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, indisputably responsible for the worst pre-1967 brutalities, went on to become prime minister: the poison of the early years is still working its way through Middle East politics. But the big change, post-1967, was Israel’s choice of war over peace.

Sometime after 1967, Israel’s existence became secure. It didn’t seem so during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, but soon it became clear that Israel would never again be caught with its guard down. Its vigilance has guaranteed, for the foreseeable future, that Arab nations pose no serious threat. As the years pass, Israel’s military advantage only increases, to the point that no country in the world would care to confront it. At the same time, and to an increasing extent, Palestinians have abandoned any real hope of retaking pre-1967 Israeli territory, and are willing to settle for the return of the occupied territories.

In this context, the Israeli settlement policy, quite apart from its terrible effect on Palestinians, is outrageous for what it represents: a careful, deliberate rejection of peace, and a declaration of the fixed intention to dispossess the Palestinians until they have nothing left. And something else has changed. Israel could claim, as a matter of self-interest if not of right, that it needed the pre-1967 territory as a homeland for the Jews. It cannot say this about the settlements, which exist not from any real need for anything, but for three reasons: to give some Israelis a cheap deal on housing, to conform to the messianic expectations of Jewish fundamentalists, and, not least, as a vengeful, relentless, sadistically gradual expression of hatred for the defeated Arab enemy. In short, by the mid-1970s, Israel’s crimes were no longer the normal atrocities of nation-building nor an excessive sort of self-defense. They represented a cold-blooded, calculated, indeed an eagerly embraced choice of war over peace, and an elaborate plan to seek out those who had fled the misery of previous confrontations, to make certain that their suffering would continue.

So Israel stands out among other unpleasant nations in the depth of its commitment to gratuitous violence and nastiness: this you expect to find among skinheads rather than nations. But wait! there’s more! It is not just that times have changed. It also has to do with the position Israel occupies in these new times.

Though we might wish otherwise, the political or historical ‘location’ of a crime can be a big contributor to its moral status. It is terrible that there are vestiges of slavery in Abidjan and Mauritania. We often reproach ourselves for not getting more upset about such goings-on, as if the lives of these far-off non-white people were unimportant. And maybe we should indeed be ashamed of ourselves, but this is not the whole story. There is a difference between the survival of evil in the world’s backwaters and its emergence in the world’s spotlight. If some smug new corporation, armed with political influence and snazzy lawyers, set up a slave market in Times Square, that would represent an even greater evil than the slave market in Abidjan. This is not because humans in New York are more important than humans in Abidjan, but because what happens in New York is more influential and more representative of the way the world is heading. American actions do much to set standards worldwide; the actions of slave-traders in Abidjan do not. (The same sort of contrast applies to the Nazi extermination camps: part of their specialness lies, not in the numbers killed or the bureaucracy that managed the killing, but in the fact that nothing like such killing has ever occurred in a nation so on the ‘cutting edge’ of human development.) Cultural domination has its responsibilities.

What Israel does is at the very center of the world stage, not only as a focus of media attention, but also as representative of Western morality and culture. This could not be plainer from the constant patter about how Israel is a shining example of democracy, resourcefulness, discipline, courage, toughness, determination, and so on. And nothing could be more inappropriate than the complaints that Israel is being ‘held to a higher standard’. It is not being held to one; it aggressively and insolently appropriates it. It plants its flag on some cultural and moral summit. Israel is the ultimate victim-state of the ultimate people–the noblest, the most long-suffering, the most persecuted, the most intelligent, the Chosen Ones. The reason Israel is judged by a higher standard is its blithe certainty, accepted by generations of fawning Westerners, that it exists at a higher standard.

Other countries, of course, have put on similar airs, but at least their crimes could be represented as a surprising deviation from noble principles. When people try to understand how Germans could become Nazis, or the French, torturers in Algeria, or the Americans, murderers at My Lai, it is always possible to ask–what went wrong? How could these societies so betray their civilized roots and high ideals? And sometimes plausible attempts were made to associate this betrayal with some fringe elements of the society–disgruntled veterans, dispossessed younger sons, provincial reactionaries, trailer trash. If these societies had gone wrong, it was a matter of perverted values, suppressed forces, aberrant tendencies, deformed dreams. With Israel, there is no question of such explanations. Its atrocities belong to its mainstream, its traditions, its founding ideology. They are performed by its heroes, not its kooks and losers. Israel has not betrayed anything. On the contrary, its actions express a widely espoused, perhaps dominant version of its ideals. Israel is honored, often as not, for the very same tribal pride and nation-building ambitions that fire up its armies and its settlers. Its crimes are front and center, not only on the world stage, but also on its own stage.

What matters here is not Israel’s arrogance, but its stature. Israel stands right in the spotlight and crushes an entire people. It defies international protests and resolutions as no one else can. Only Israel, not, say, Indonesia or even the US, dares proclaim: “Who are you to preach morality to us? We are morality incarnate!” Indonesia, or Mauritania, or Iraq do not welcome delegations of happy North American schoolchildren, host prestigious academic conferences, go down in textbooks as a textbook miracle. Characters on TV sitcoms do not go off to find themselves in the Abidjan slave markets as they do on Israel’s kibbutzim.

Israel banks on this. Its tactics seem nicely tuned to inflict the most harm with the least damage to its image. They include deliberately messy surgical strikes, halting ambulances, uprooting orchards and olive groves, destroying urban sanitation, curfews, road closures, holding up food until it spoils, allocating five times the water to settlers as to the people whose land was confiscated, and attacks on educational or cultural facilities. Its most effective strategies are minimalist, as when Palestinians have to sit and wait at checkpoints for hours in sweltering cars, risking a bullet if they get out to stretch their legs, waiting to work, to get medical care, to do anything in life that requires movement from one place to another, as likely to be turned back as let through, and certain to suffer humiliation or worse. Israel has pioneered the science of making life unlivable with as little violence as possible. The Palestinians are not merely provoked into reacting; they have no rational choice but to react. If they didn’t, things would just get worse faster, with no hope of relief. Israel is an innovator in the search for a squeaky-clean sadism.

The worse things get for the Palestinians, the more violently they must defend themselves, and the more violently Israel can respond. Whenever possible, Israel sees to it that the Palestinians take each new step in the escalation. The hope is that, at some point, Israel will be able to kill many tens of thousands, all in the name of self-defense.

And subtly but surely, things are changing still further. Israel is starting to let the mask drop, not from its already public intentions, but from its naked strength. It no longer deigns to conceal its sophisticated nuclear arsenal. It begins to supply the world with almost as much military technology as it consumes. And it no longer sees any need to be discreet about its defiance of the United States’ request for moderation: Israel is happy to humiliate the ‘stupid Americans’ outright. As it plunders, starves and kills, Israel does not lurk in the world’s back-alleys. It says, “Look at us. We’re taking these people’s land, not because we need it, but because we feel like it. We’re putting religious nuts all over it because they help cleanse the area of these Arab lice who dare to defy us. We know you don’t like it and we don’t care, because we don’t conform to other people’s standards. We set the standards for others.”

And the standards it sets continue to decline. Israel Shahak and others have documented the rise of fundamentalist Jewish sects that speak of the greater value of Jewish blood, the specialness of Jewish DNA, the duty to kill even innocent civilians who pose a potential danger to Jews, and the need to ‘redeem’ lands lying far beyond the present frontiers of Israeli control. Much of this happens beneath the public surface of Israeli society, but these racial ideologies exert a strong influence on the mainstream. So far, they have easily prevailed over the small, courageous Jewish opposition to Israeli crimes. The Israeli government can afford to let the fanatical race warriors go unchecked, because it knows the world would not dare connect their outrages to any part of Judaism (or Zionism) itself. As for the dissenters, don’t they just show what a wonderfully democratic society Israel has produced?

As Israel sinks lower, it corrupts the world that persists in admiring it. Thus Amnesty International’s military adviser, David Holley, with a sort of honest military bonhomie, tells the world that the Israelis have “a very valid point” when they refuse to allow a UN investigative team into Jenin: “You do need a soldier’s perspective to say, well, this was a close quarter battle in an urban environment, unfortunately soldiers will make mistakes and will throw a hand grenade through the wrong window, will shoot at a twitching curtain, because that is the way war is.”(*) We quite understand: Israel is a respectable country with respectable defense objectives, and mistakes will be made. Soldier to soldier, we see that destroying swarthy ‘gunmen’ who crouch in wretched buildings is a legitimate enterprise, because it serves the higher purpose of clearing away the vermin who resist the implantation of superior Jewish DNA throughout the occupied territories. It is this ability to command respect despite the most public outrages against humanity that makes Israel so exceptionally bad. Not that it needs to be any worse than ‘the others’: that would be more than bad enough. But Israel does not only commit its crimes; it also legitimates them.

That is not a matter of abstract moral argument, but of political acceptance and respectability. As the world slowly tries to emerge from barbarism–for instance, through the human rights movements for which Israel has such contempt– Israel mockingly drags it back by sanctifying the very doctrines of racial vengeance that more civilized forces condemn. Israel brings no new evils into the world. It merely rehabilitates old ones, as an example for others to emulate and admire.

Michael Neumann is a professor of philosophy at Trent University in Ontario, Canada. He can be reached at: mneumann@trentu.ca

“If you don’t have tears in the eyes, you cry in the heart.”

The BBC’s Panorama documentary surveys the damage in Gaza, investigating what took place during the Israeli invasion. It includes interviews with an Israeli military spokesman, a member of the Hamas military wing, and victims of the massacre.

Gaza: Out of the Ruins

Watch it in higher quality here: BBC iplayer (only until Sunday 15 February).

Behind the Bloodbath in Gaza
Foiling Another Palestinian “Peace Offensive”

By NORMAN FINKELSTEIN
January 28, 2009

Counterpunch

Early speculation on the motive behind Israel’s slaughter in Gaza that began on 27 December 2008 and continued till 18 January 2009 centered on the upcoming elections in Israel. The jockeying for votes was no doubt a factor in this Sparta-like society consumed by “revenge and the thirst for blood,” where killing Arabs is a sure crowd-pleaser. (Polls during the war showed that 80-90 percent of Israeli Jews supported it.) But as Israeli journalist Gideon Levy pointed out on Democracy Now!, “Israel went through a very similar war…two-and-a-half years ago [in Lebanon], when there were no elections.” When crucial state interests are at stake, Israeli ruling elites seldom launch major operations for narrowly electoral gains. It is true that Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s decision to bomb the Iraqi OSIRAK reactor in 1981 was an electoral ploy, but the strategic stakes in the strike on Iraq were puny; contrary to widespread belief, Saddam Hussein had not embarked on a nuclear weapons program prior to the bombing. The fundamental motives behind the latest Israeli attack on Gaza lie elsewhere: (1) in the need to restore Israel’s “deterrence capacity,” and (2) in the threat posed by a new Palestinian “peace offensive.”

Israel’s “larger concern” in the current offensive, New York Times Middle East correspondent Ethan Bronner reported, quoting Israeli sources, was to “re-establish Israeli deterrence,” because “its enemies are less afraid of it than they once were, or should be.” 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). To justify the onslaught on Gaza, Israeli historian Benny Morris wrote that “[m]any Israelis feel that the walls…are closing in…much as they felt in early June 1967.” Ordinary Israelis no doubt felt threatened in June 1967, but—as Morris surely knows—the Israeli leadership experienced no such trepidation. 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 head of the Mossad told senior American officials on 1 June 1967 that “there were no differences between the U.S. and the Israelis on the military intelligence picture or its interpretation.” 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.” Israel unleashed the June 1967 war “to restore the credibility of Israeli deterrence” (Israeli strategic analyst Zeev Maoz).

The expulsion of the Israeli occupying army by Hezbollah in May 2000 posed a major new challenge to Israel’s deterrence capacity. The fact that Israel suffered a humiliating defeat, one celebrated throughout the Arab world, made another war well-nigh inevitable. Israel almost immediately began planning for the next round, and in summer 2006 found a pretext when Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers (several others were killed in the firefight) and demanded in exchange the release of Lebanese prisoners held by Israel. Although Israel unleashed the fury of its air force and geared up for a ground invasion, it suffered yet another ignominious defeat. A respected American military analyst despite being partial to Israel nonetheless concluded, “the IAF, the arm of the Israel military that had once destroyed whole air forces in a few days, not only proved unable to stop Hezbollah rocket strikes but even to do enough damage to prevent Hezbollah’s rapid recovery”; that “once ground forces did cross into Lebanon…, they failed to overtake Hezbollah strongholds, even those close to the border”; that “in terms of Israel’s objectives, the kidnapped Israeli soldiers were neither rescued nor released; Hezbollah’s rocket fire was never suppressed, not even its long-range fire…; and Israeli ground forces were badly shaken and bogged down by a well-equipped and capable foe”; and that “more troops and a massive ground invasion would indeed have produced a different outcome, but the notion that somehow that effort would have resulted in a more decisive victory over Hezbollah…has no basis in historical example or logic.” The juxtaposition of several figures further highlights the magnitude of the setback: Israel deployed 30,000 troops as against 2,000 regular Hezbollah fighters and 4,000 irregular Hezbollah and non-Hezbollah fighters; Israel delivered and fired 162,000 weapons whereas Hezbollah fired 5,000 weapons (4,000 rockets and projectiles at Israel and 1,000 antitank missiles inside Lebanon). Moreover, “the vast majority of the fighters who defended villages such as Ayta ash Shab, Bint Jbeil, and Maroun al-Ras were not, in fact, regular Hezbollah fighters and in some cases were not even members of Hezbollah,” and “many of Hezbollah’s best and most skilled fighters never saw action, lying in wait along the Litani River with the expectation that the IDF assault would be much deeper and arrive much faster than it did.” Yet another indication of Israel’s reversal of fortune was that, unlike any of its previous armed conflicts, in the final stages of the 2006 war it fought not in defiance of a U.N. ceasefire resolution but in the hope of a U.N. resolution to rescue it.

(more…)

By RAMZY BAROUD
22 January 2009
Source: ramzybaroud.net

My three-year-old son Sammy walked into my room uninvited as I sorted through another batch of fresh photos from Gaza.

I was looking for a specific image, one that would humanise Palestinians as living, breathing human beings, neither masked nor mutilated. But to no avail.

All the photos I received spoke of the reality that is Gaza today – homes, schools and civilian infrastructure bombed beyond description. All the faces were either of dead or dying people.

I paused as I reached a horrifying photo in the slideshow of a young boy and his sister huddled on a single hospital trolley waiting to be identified and buried. Their faces were darkened as if they were charcoal and their lifeless eyes were still widened with the horror that they experienced as they were burned slowly by a white phosphorus shell.

It was just then that Sammy walked into my room snooping around for a missing toy. “What is this, daddy?” he inquired.

I rushed to click past the horrific image, only to find myself introducing a no less shocking one. Fretfully, I turned the monitor off, then turned to my son as he stood puzzled. His eyes sparkled inquisitively as he tried to make sense of what he had just seen.

He needed to know about these kids whose little bodies had been burned beyond recognition.

“Where are their mummies and daddies? Why are they all so smoky all the time?”

I explained to him that they are Palestinians, that they were hurting “just a little” and that their “mummies and daddies will be right back.”

The reality is that these children and thousands like them in Gaza have experienced the most profound pain, a pain that we may never in our lives comprehend.

“I think that Gaza is now being used as a test laboratory for new weapons,” Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor who had recently returned from Gaza told reporters in Oslo.

“This is a new generation of very powerful small explosives that detonates with extreme power and dissipates its power within a range of five to 10 metres

“We have not seen the casualties affected directly by the bomb, because they are normally torn to pieces and do not survive, but we have seen a number of very brutal amputations.”

The dreadful weapons are known as dense inert metal explosives (DIME), “an experimental kind of explosive” but only one of several new weapons that Israel has been using in Gaza, the world’s most densely populated regions.

Israel could not possibly have found a better place to experiment with DIME or the use of white phosphorus in civilian areas than Gaza.

The hapless inhabitants of the strip have been disowned. The power of the media, political coercion, intimidation and manipulation have demonised this imprisoned nation fighting for its life in the tiny spaces left of its land.

No wonder Israel refused to allow foreign journalists into the tiny enclave and brazenly bombed the remaining international presence in Gaza.

As long as there are no witnesses to the war crimes committed in Gaza, Israel is confident that it can sell a fabricated story to the world that it is, as always, the victim, one that has been terrorised and, strangely enough, demonised as well.

The Jerusalem Post quoted Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on January 15.

“Livni said that these were hard times for Israel, but that the government was forced to act in Gaza in order to protect Israeli citizens.

“She stated that Gaza was ruled by a terrorist regime and that Israel must carry on a dialogue with moderate sources while simultaneously fighting terror.”

The same peculiar message was conveyed by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as he declared his one-sided ceasefire on January 17.

Never mind that the “terrorist regime” was democratically elected and had honoured a ceasefire agreement with Israel for six months, receiving nothing in return but a lethal siege interrupted by an occasional round of death and destruction.

Livni is not as perceptive and shrewd as the US media fantasises. Blunt-speaking Ehud Barak and stiff-faced Mark Regev are not convincing men of wisdom. Their logic is bizarre and wouldn’t stand the test of reason.

But they have unfettered access to the media, where they are hardly challenged by journalists who know well that protecting one’s citizens doesn’t require the violation of international and humanitarian laws, targeting medical workers, sniper fire at children and demolishing homes with entire families holed up inside. Securing your borders doesn’t require imprisoning and starving your neighbours and turning their homes to smoking heaps of rubble.

Olmert wants to “break the will” of Hamas, i.e. the Palestinians, since the Hamas government was elected and backed by the majority of the Palestinian people.

Isn’t 60 years of suffering and survival enough to convince Olmert that the will of the Palestinians cannot be broken? How many heaps of wreckage and mutilated bodies will be enough to convince the prime minister that those who fight for their freedom will either be free or will die trying?

Far-right politician Avigdor Lieberman, a rising star in Israel, is not yet convinced. He thinks that more can be done to “secure” his country, which was established in 1948 on the ruins of destroyed Palestinian towns and villages. He has a plan.

“We must continue to fight Hamas just like the United States did with the Japanese in World War II,” said the head of ultra-nationalist opposition party Yisrael Beitenu.

A selective reader of history, Lieberman could only think of the 1945 atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. But something else happened during those years that Lieberman carefully omitted. It’s called the Holocaust, a term that many are increasingly using to describe the Israeli massacres in the Gaza Strip.

It is strange that conventional Israeli wisdom still dictates that “the Arabs understand only the language of force.” If that were true, then they would have conceded their rights after the first massacre in 1948. But, following more than 60 years filled with massacres new and old, they continue to resist.

“Freedom or death,” is the popular Palestinian mantra. These are not simply words, but a rule by which Palestinians live and die. Gaza is the proof and Israeli leaders are yet to understand.

My son persisted. “Why are Palestinians so smoky all the time, Daddy?”

“When you grow up, you’ll understand.”

– Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been published in many newspapers, journals and anthologies around the world. His latest book is, “The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle” (Pluto Press, London).

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The Guardian

Fuelling the cycle of hate
By Neve Gordon and Yigal Bronner
Tuesday 27 January 2009

Israeli soccer matches were suspended during the assault on Gaza. When the games resumed last week, the fans had come up with a new chant: “Why have the schools in Gaza been shut down?” sang the crowd. “Because all the children were gunned down!” came the answer.

Aside from its sheer barbarism, this chant reflects the widespread belief among Israeli Jews that Israel scored an impressive victory in Gaza – a victory measured, not least, by the death toll.

Israeli pilots and tank commanders could not really discriminate between the adults and the children who hid in their homes or huddled in the UNRWA shelters, and yet they chose to press the trigger. Therefore, it is not at all surprising that the lethal onslaught left 1,314 Palestinians dead, of which 412 – or nearly one third of all of the casualties – were children.

This latest assault underscores that Israel, not unlike Hamas, readily resorts to violence and does not distinguish between civilians and combatants (only the weapons at Israel’s disposal are much more lethal). No matter how many times the Israeli government tries to blame Hamas for the latest Palestinian civilian deaths it simply cannot explain away the body count, especially that of the children. In addition to the dead, 1,855 Palestinian children were wounded, and tens of thousands of others have likely been traumatised, many of them for life.

Every child has a story. A Bedouin friend recently called to tell us about his relatives in Gaza. One cousin allowed her five-year-old daughter to walk to the adjacent house to see whether the neighbours had something left to eat. The girl had been crying from hunger. The moment she began crossing the street a missile exploded nearby and the flying shrapnel killed her. The mother has since been bedridden, weeping and screaming, “I have let my girl die hungry”.

As if the bloody incursion was not enough, the Israeli security forces seem to be keen on spreading the flames of hatred among the Arab population within Israel. Hundreds of Palestinian citizens of Israel have been arrested for protesting at the Israeli assault and more than 200 of them are still in custody. One incident is enough to illustrate the psychological effect these arrests will likely have on hundreds more children.

A few days after the ceasefire, several men wearing black ski masks stormed the home of Muhammad Abu Humus. They came to arrest him for protesting against the killings in Gaza. It was four in the morning and the whole family was asleep when the men banged on the door. After entering the house, they made Abu Humus’s wife Wafa and their four children Erfat (12), Shahd (9), Anas (6) and Majd (3) stand in a corner as they searched the house, throwing all the clothes, sheets, toys, and kitchenware on the floor. With tears in their eyes, the children watched as the armed men then took their father away and left.

Chance would have it that Abu Humus, a long-time peace activist and member of the Fatah party, is a personal friend of ours. In 2001, he joined Ta’ayush Arab-Jewish Partnership, and since then has selflessly organised countless peace rallies and other joint activities. During the past eight years, we have spent many hours at each other’s homes and our children have grown up respecting and liking one other. It is hard to believe that just one month ago he attended the Bar Mitzvah of Yigal’s son in a Jerusalem synagogue.

Muhammad and Wafa Abu Humus have tried over the years to instil in their children a love and desire for peace, and while the security forces may not have destroyed this, the hatred they have generated in one night cannot be underestimated. Indeed, what, one might ask, will his children think of their Jewish neighbours? What feelings will they harbour? And what can we expect from those children in Gaza who have witnessed the killing of their parents, siblings, friends and neighbours?

We emphasise the Palestinian children because so many of them have been killed and terrorised in the past month. Yet it is clear that Israeli children are suffering as well, particularly those who have spent long periods in shelters for fear of being hit by rockets.

The one message that is being conveyed to children on both sides of this fray is that the other side is a bloodthirsty monster. In Israel, this was instantly translated into gains for the hate-mongering Yisrael Beytenu party headed by the xenophobic Avigdor Lieberman, who is now the frontrunner in mock polls being held in many Jewish high schools, with the hawkish Binyamin Netanyahu coming in second.

Hatred, in other words, is the great winner of this war. It has helped mobilise racist mobs, and as the soccer chant indicates it has left absolutely no place for the other, undermining even basic empathy for innocent children. Israel’s masters of war must be happy: the seeds of the next wars have certainly been sown.

This article offers insight into the tribal thinking and moral blindness of Western supporters of Israel. Please note I do not necessarily share all of the author’s views expressed here…
www.salon.com

Orwell, blinding tribalism, selective Terrorism, and Israel/Gaza
By Glenn Greenwald
Sunday Jan. 4, 2009

Former McCain-Palin campaign spokesman and current Weekly Standard editor Michael Goldfarb notes that Israel, a couple of days ago, dropped a 2,000-pound bomb on a Gazan home which killed a top Hamas leader . . . in addition to 18 others, including his four wives and nine of his children.  About the killing of those innocent civilians, Goldfarb writes (h/t John Cole via email):

The fight against Islamic radicals always seems to come around to whether or not they can, in fact, be deterred, because it’s not clear that they are rational, at least not like us. But to wipe out a man’s entire family, it’s hard to imagine that doesn’t give his colleagues at least a moment’s pause. Perhaps it will make the leadership of Hamas rethink the wisdom of sparking an open confrontation with Israel under the current conditions.

That, of course, is just a slightly less profane version of Marty Peretz’s chest-beating proclamation that the great value of the attack on Gaza is to teach those Arabs a lesson:  “do not fuck with the Jews.”

There are few concepts more elastic and subject to exploitation than “Terrorism,” the all-purpose justifying and fear-mongering term.  But if it means anything, it means exactly the mindset which Goldfarb is expressing:  slaughtering innocent civilians in order to “send a message,” to “deter” political actors by making them fear that continuing on the same course will result in the deaths of civilians and — best of all, from the Terrorist’s perspective — even their own children and other family members.

To the Terrorist, by definition, that innocent civilians and even children are killed isn’t a regrettable cost of taking military action.  It’s not a cost at all.  It’s a benefit.   It has strategic value.  Goldfarb explicitly says this:  “to wipe out a man’s entire family, it’s hard to imagine that doesn’t give his colleagues at least a moment’s pause.” 

That, of course, is the very same logic that leads Hamas to send suicide bombers to slaughter Israeli teenagers in pizza parlors and on buses and to shoot rockets into their homes.  It’s the logic that leads Al Qaeda to fly civilian-filled airplanes into civilian-filled office buildings.  And it’s the logic that leads infinitely weak and deranged people like Goldfarb and Peretz to find value in the killing of innocent Palestinians, including — one might say, at least in Goldfarb’s case:  especially — children.

* * * * *

One should be clear that this sociopathic indifference to (or even celebration over) the deaths of Palestinian civilians isn’t representative of all supporters of the Israeli attack on Gaza.  It’s unfair to use the Goldfarb/Peretz pathology to impugn all supporters of the Israeli attack.  It’s certainly possible to support the Israeli offensive despite the deaths of these civilians, to truly lament the suffering of innocent Palestinians but still find the war, on balance, to be justifiable.

Those who favor the attack on Gaza due to that calculus are certainly misguided about the likely outcome.  And many war supporters who fall into this more benign category are guilty of insufficiently weighing the deaths of Palestinian innocents and, relatedly, of such overwhelming emotional and cultural attachment to Israel and Israelis that they long ago ceased viewing this conflict with any remnant of objectivity.  

I can’t express how many emails I’ve received in the last week from people identifying themselves as “liberals” (and, overwhelmingly, American Jews); telling me that they agree with my views in almost all areas other than Israel; and then self-righteously insisting that I imagine what it’s like to live in Southern Israel with incoming rocket fire from Hamas, as though that will change my views on the Israel/Gaza war.  Obviously, it’s not difficult to imagine the understandable rage that Israelis feel when learning of another attack on Israeli civilians, in exactly the way that American rage over the 9/11 attacks was understandable.  But just as that American anger didn’t justify anything and everything that followed, the fact that there are indefensible attacks on Israeli civilians doesn’t render the (far more lethal) attacks on Gaza either wise or just — as numerous Jewish residents of Sderot themselves are courageously arguing in opposing the Israeli attack

More to the point:  for those who insist that others put themselves in the position of a resident of Sderot — as though that will, by itself, prove the justifiability of the Israeli attack — the idea literally never occurs to them that they ought to imagine what it’s like to live under foreign occupation for 4 decades (and, despite the 2005 “withdrawal from Gaza,” Israel continues to occupy and expand its settlements on Palestinian land and to control and severely restrict many key aspects of Gazan life).  No thought is given to what it is like, what emotions it generates, what horrible acts start to appear justifiable, when you have a hostile foreign army control your borders and airspace and internal affairs for 40 years, one which builds walls around you, imposes the most intensely humiliating conditions on your daily life, blockades your land so that you’re barred from exiting and prevented from accessing basic nutrition and medical needs for your children to the point where a substantial portion of the underage population suffers from stunted growth

So extreme is their emotional identification with one side (Israel) that it literally never occurs to them to give any thought to any of that, to imagine what it’s like to live in those circumstances.  Nor does this thought occur to them:

I was trained from an early age to view this group as my group, to identify with them emotionally, culturally, religiously.  Maybe that — and not an objective assessment of these events — is why I continuously side with that group and see everything from its perspective and justify whatever it does, why I find the Dick Cheney/Weekly Standard/neoconservative worldview repellent in every situation except when it comes to Israel, when I suddenly find it wise and vigorously embrace it.

Those who defend American actions in every case, or who find justification in attacks on Israeli civilians, or who find simplistic moral clarity in a whole range of other complex and protracted disputes where all sides share infinite blame, are often guilty of the same refusal/inability to at least try to minimize this sort of ingrained tribalistic blindness.

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Anti-Arab racism and ongoing imperial savagery

Killing on Tape and the Broader War Criminality
by Paul Street

Dissident Voice
November 18, 2004

Why do they hate us? Because “we” are, among other things, war criminals. If you are Arab and/or Muslim today, chances you have been watching, hearing about, discussing, and feeling deep rage over some terrible film footage. It’s been the story of the day on Al-Jazeera, played and discussed and denounced over and over again.

The white imperial Marines walk into a mosque in ravaged Fallujah, where the bodies of dead and injured resistance fighters lay prone on the floor. We hear one Marine speak to another, talking about one of the wounded: “He’s f**king faking that he’s dead.” Response: “yeah, he’s breathing.” The American release video goes black but we are permitted to hear a rifle shot. “He’s dead now.”

The Arab-release video is more graphic, showing the full imperial snuff job. The American corporate state censors — the masters of imperial war propaganda — might have helped construct an Orwellian and therefore officially amnesiac society but they are not entirely ignorant of history. They don’t want to repeat the notorious imagery of 1968, when American television viewers watched a “Viet Cong” resistance fighter fall to the ground with blood spurting out of his head after being crudely executed by a “free world” South Vietnamese officer.

Sorry Semper Fi: that’s a war crime.

But probably not all that out of the ordinary… probably closer to standard operating procedure in a bloody occupation that has designated key parts of Iraq as de facto “free fire zones.”

What’s out of the ordinary is that the atrocity has been caught on tape and released for partial public view.

The action we see is certainly consistent with the training and rhetoric handed down from the higher-level military authorities, from the much bigger war criminals, who speak of the Fallujah “enemy” as “Satan” (never forget that this is a “new crusade,” as Rahul Mahajan says). The bigger mafiosi tell the smaller US military personnel that they are avenging 9/11 in Iraq (despite the fact that Iraqis and 9/11/al Qaeda had nothing to do with one another). The big dons certainly encourage the GIs to kill as many “sandniggers” and “ragheads” as they can.

Anti-Arab racism is critical to this ongoing imperial savagery, making it possible for the White House and the military authorities to easily blend Osama and Saddam, al-Qaeda and Iraq, 9/11 and Baghdad in the first place and providing the essential moral lubricant of dehumanization that makes it possible for supposed moral agents of “freedom” and “democracy” to kill more than 100,000 of their fellow human beings in a distant land. These damaged men and women, these hit-men of American empire, will return home as dangers to themselves and others, bearing evil inner demons that will carry a considerable cost in the imperial “homeland” (lovely word that).

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