Letter to an Israeli soldier

Israeli-soldiers-cross-ba-001RT

Three weeks into your military assault how does it feel? How does it feel to watch your missiles and shells – delivered from air, land and sea – reduce the Gaza Strip to rubble?

Starved, besieged, yet unbowed, the 1.8 million people you have imprisoned there can do nothing except endure as your bombs and your missiles rain down, targeting hospitals, schools, civic buildings, homes, police stations, and even UN compounds where people had sought sanctuary; still believing, despite decades of disappointment and betrayal, in the sanctity and protection of international law.

Your bombs have sought and found their victims, incinerating and blowing to smithereens young and old alike, at the same time as your government attempts to convince the world that every effort is being made to avoid civilian casualties in what they describe as a military operation to root out terrorism and provide security for its citizens.  It is a lie. Slaughtering children is never done in the name of security. It is done in the name of barbarity.

After the air assault you began your ground invasion – and who could ever forget the pictures of you and your comrades, fully armed and equipped for combat, marching into a part of the world you have ensured remains cut off from the rest of humanity, a punishment you have inflicted on the people living there for daring to resist by electing a government you do not approve of. “But this government refuses to recognise us,” you have asserted time and again, revealing a grotesque expectation to be recognised by a people who’ve been systematically expropriated, brutalised, and dehumanised since 1948, when your state was formed.

Make no mistake, the whole world is watching you and your comrades – soldiers of the ‘most moral army in the world’ – with mounting anger and incredulity that such barbarism can be inflicted by a military superpower on a defenceless civilian population in the 21st century. Even your apologists in the West are finding it difficult to provide you with the political support you have always counted on while violating international law as if not worth the paper it is written on. This collusion by Western governments in your crimes is a crime in itself, one that history will not forgive.

So tell us: when will your thirst for Palestinian blood be satiated? How many dead women and children will be enough before you decide to end this massacre? Gaza is already in ruins, so whatever happens now you can be satisfied that when you return to your family like the brave warrior they think you are you will do so having done your duty.

Meanwhile, the suffering, despair and carnage you leave behind will entitle the rest of us to ask, yet again, if to be born Palestinian is to be born less than human, condemned by the great powers to be considered children of a lesser god – their history, culture and rights denied?

No matter the calumny and lies employed by your government, by their spokesmen and women, who appear on our TV screens with the confidence of those who claim to act in the name of democracy and civilisation, who claim to speak and act in the name of past victims of genocide and mass murder, the Palestinians continue to refuse to play the role chosen for them by you and by your apologists. No, the Palestinians refuse to acquiesce in their own destruction, drawing hope from the truth that no missile or bomb, no tank or military aircraft, could ever come close to matching the power of the human spirit.

For in these three weeks something has changed. The world has seen with its own eyes that Israel is not the victim it claims. The continued dispossession and immiseration of the Palestinian people can no longer be tolerated. In their millions around the world, and increasingly within Israel itself, people are declaring that no longer will they stand by and bear witness to occupation, oppression, and barbarism carried out in the name of progress. Too many times in the past the world has stood by, with the names and dates of past atrocities a warning of the abyss into which humanity has sunk before and could sink again unless the world remains vigilant.

Guernica 1937: the Warsaw Ghetto 1942: My Lai 1968: Fallujah 2003: Gaza 2008/09, 2012, and 2014

It is not vengeance the world seeks, but justice – and justice for the Palestinians can only begin when the injustice that has placed a wall around your own humanity is ended. End the siege, tear down the apartheid wall, remove the checkpoints and settlements, and free not only those you have imprisoned all these years but just as important, free yourself.

You affirm time and again that Israel has the right to exist. Yes, but not as an apartheid state, not as a state which exists at the negation of a people whose only crime is that they continue to exist on land you have long since decided belongs to you. No matter how many tanks, fighter jets, and missiles you may possess in your vast arsenal of weapons, the refusal of this tortured, wretched people to disappear into the night of history weakens you. For it acts as an uncomfortable reminder that when you return to your family each night after doing your duty, you do so with your humanity diminished.

It is why we say to you now that you are living on the wrong side of history – in a cold, lonely place called dishonour.

The Israel boycott is working

World Observer Online

Israel’s Finance Minister Yair Lapid has warned that the world, United States included, is losing sympathy and patience with Israel

Speaking to a group of representatives from American Jewish organizations on Monday, Yesh Atid party chairman Lapid warned that the increasing boycott campaigns against Israel will have devastating effects on the economy.

After a top US academics union ASA decided to boycott Israeli academics and educational institutions that operate in and support illegal settlements in the West Bank, Dutch pension giant PGGM and Denmark’s Danske Bank also boycotted Israeli banks for the same reason.

Meanwhile, Germany’s largest bank, Deutsche Bank (DB), has blacklisted the Israeli Hapoalim bank as an “unethical company” due to its funding of illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank, Israel’s Maariv newspaper reported.

Dutch firm Boskalis Westminister and Italian firm Condote de Agua also withdrew bids to build private seaports in Ashdod and Haifa, fearing political reprecussions for working with Israel.

According to the Israeli Haaretz, they join Spanish companies FCC and Cyes, as well as Germany’s Möbius Bau, who also dropped out of the bidding process months back, citing threats to their business interests in the Middle-East.

Last year, boycotts on products like dates and grapes grown in the occupied Jordan Valley caused a $29 million loss for illegal Jewish settlers in the region. As reported in the Washington Post, income from exports dropped 14%, mainly due to big supermarket chains in Europe deciding to boycott the products.

David Elhayani, head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council, told the Washington Post, “In effect, today, we are almost not selling to the (Western) European market anymore.”

Zvi Avner, head of the agriculture committee in the Jordan Valley, said that sales of peppers and grapes to Western Europe have dropped by about 50% and fresh herbs by up to 40%.

In 2009, the UK gradually started labeling or completely boycotting settler products. Together with Scandinavian countries, the UK has made the 550,000 odd illegal Jewish settlers in the West Bank very nervous.

Marks & Spencer, Morrisons and Waitrose are among many British firms to stop selling settler goods in recent years. Germany’s Kaiser Supermarket has also made a moral decision against selling settler products.

Many feel that a trend is slowly starting to develop in the West against Israel, similar to that which brought down the apartheid regime in South Africa.

Wiltshire GMB members working for Babcock vote 100% for industrial action

File:Derelict tank, Imber range, Salisbury Plain - geograph.org.uk - 536861.jpg

25 GMB members employed by Babcock Land, working at the Warminster Garrison in Wiltshire for MOD, have returned a 100% vote for industrial action in a dispute over pay cuts.

Changes would have the knock- on effect of the members losing overtime which enables many of them to live on the wages they are paid by Babcock says GMB

Carolle Vallelly, GMB Regional Officer, said “These GMB members were forced into taking this action when the management insisted on pushing through annualised hours contracts for new employees. This would have the knock- on effect of the members losing the overtime which currently is the only thing that enables many of them to live on the wages they are paid by Babcock.

GMB has been resisting these changes since last year when the Company wanted to invite all employees to move on to the new contract, which was structured in such a way that they would have no home life, and would be continually at the beck and call of their employers.

All these members employed by Babcocks are drivers for the MOD. They do an incredibly difficult job, often sleeping overnight in a tent on a freezing Salisbury Plain. They frequently go above and beyond what is required of them, and deserve better from their employer.”

picture, creative commons: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Derelict_tank,_Imber_range,_Salisbury_Plain_-_geograph.org.uk_-_536861.jpg

Deserving of a special place in hell

Palestinian boyOf all the heart-rending images to emerge from Israel’s murderous assault on the people of Gaza, this one got me more than any other.

The terror and human suffering it reveals, along with the shattering of that most sacred human instinct and duty to cherish and protect the children, says more than any number of articles and polemic ever could when it comes to understanding the reality of state-sponsored racism and apartheid.

It has past the stage where anyone with any credibility can justify Israel’s violence and oppression. The political class and media, with few exceptions, are complicit in this ongoing barbarity. Never has such a yawning disconnect existed between the establishment and ordinary people than when it comes to this issue.

The cause of the Palestinian people is the cause of humanity in our time.

Malaysian passenger aircraft tragedy shouldn’t blind us to where responsibility lies for prolonging the Ukrainian conflict

The downing of a Malaysian passenger aircraft over eastern Ukraine is a terrible tragedy. Almost 300 people have been killed in the most awful circumstances and though it is self evident that a full and thorough investigation must follow to find out what happened, its conclusions will be scant comfort to the families and loved ones of those who perished.

That said, the mind boggles that a civilian passenger aircraft should be flying anywhere near a war zone, especially one in which fighter jets, military aircraft, and military transport aircraft are playing such a key role in hostilities.

The alacrity with which Washington and its allies have sought to exploit this tragedy to attack Russia is as unedifying as it’s despicable. Whoever was responsible for downing the Malaysian passenger jet, it was clearly an accident. Moreover, the underlying causes of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, despite efforts to argue otherwise, is the toppling of the last legitimate democratically elected Ukrainian government of Viktor Yanukovich by an armed mob in Kiev in February, in which avowed fascists and neo-Nazis played a key role. Those fascists now occupy ministerial offices in the regime led by Petro Poroshenko and are prevalent in the violence that has been visited on the people in the east of the country, who have risen up in resistance to Kiev and its sponsors in the West.

The need for a political solution to the conflict is beyond dispute, and has been for some time now. The Russian government has been calling for a de-escalation in hostilities since the ill fated Geneva peace conference back in April, and has shown remarkable restraint in holding back from mounting a military intervention in response to the Poroshenko regime’s brutal military assault on Ukrainian citizens across its western border with tanks, artillery, fighter jets, and attack helicopters.

Let’s be clear: if Russia decided to deploy its military forces against those of Kiev it would crush them in a matter of hours. Sadly, though, when it comes to the US and its allies restraint when it comes to war and conflict is anathema. Indeed, the very word has been stricken from the dictionary where they are concerned. Consequently, Russia’s restraint has been taken for weakness, evidenced in a ramping up of the conflict since Poroshenko’s election as President of western Ukraine in May.

The recent signing of an association agreement between the EU and the regime in Kiev has brought the EU into disrepute. Just think about this for a moment: the EU has entered a state into its ranks which is bathed in the blood of its own citizens.

The pressure being brought to bear against Russia, exploiting this tragedy as a pretext, shouldn’t blind anyone as to the role of the West in fomenting and prolonging the ongoing military conflict for its own geopolitical interests. Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Palestine – their crimes would shame all the devils in hell.

Only when Washington and its allies understand that their days of uncontested hegemony and unipolarity are over will there be a chance for a new global framework in which respect for national sovereignty and international law is returned to prominence and upheld as the non negotiable arbiter of international affairs and foreign policy. The alternative is more conflict and more of the chaos we are witnessing today.

 

 

 

 

The proposed ceasefire offered the Palestinians of Gaza nothing

Gaza demo, London, July 19 2014Many people are under the misconception that Hamas turned down the offer of “peace” by rejecting the Egyptian ceasefire proposal, influenced by the Middle East peace envoy himself – Tony Blair. It is therefore vital to understand why this so-called ceasefire is bogus

  • The Sisi-led junta in Egypt has been murdering, imprisoning and torturing Hamas’s political allies. They are no friends of Hamas. They have, however, been in discussions with Israel over military co-operation. Hamas has no reason to trust Egypt.
  • Egypt did not even contact Hamas before announcing the ceasefire offer. It wasn’t a serious offer. If you were in dispute with someone, and someone else simply announced to the world “I want them to both stop fighting, and I’m not going to even discuss it with them”, you wouldn’t take them seriously.
  • A ceasefire is not some magical potion. Israel routinely and regularly breaks ceasefires. One thing the Palestinians are good at is meticulously documenting Israeli attacks. All this time when you hear about rockets from Gaza, the documented truth is that Israel has drones in the sky firing missiles at people it doesn’t like. This goes back decades. The invasion of Lebanon by Israel in 1982 happened because the PLO adhered to the ceasefire and Israel created pretexts for breaking it.
  • What would this proposed ceasefire mean in practice? It would mean the existing air attacks by Israel would stop. But in the few weeks before it started, Israel was still shooting Palestinian children, Gaza fishermen etc. Israel has just arrested 6,000 Palestinians and re-arrested all those who had been freed during previous ceasefires. This is what Israel, the Egyptian government, and Tony Blair expects the people of Gaza to revert to. It would not be a ceasefire under the commonly understood meaning of it. It would be “a slight reduction in how many children Israel kills”. Why would Hamas accept it? Any negotiation, even negotiations while children are being killed, has to be serious. Not just “we’ll agree to anything if you’ll just stop killing us!”
  • It would not provide Hamas any diplomatic room in which to improve a status quo of siege, embargo, and immiseration. The brutal truth is Israel will only stop killing Palestinians with impunity when it is forced to. We are talking here about a state that is already in massive violation of the UN Charter, chemical weapons conventions and the Geneva Conventions.
  • Just a few days ago, Netanyahu announced that Israel has no interest in a ceasefire. That was about 12 hours before Egypt offered it and Israel accepted it. What changed? Did Netanyahu receive assurances from Sisi and Blair that the ceasefire on offer gives Hamas nothing in return but is more an exercise in alleviating the growing international condemnation of Israel’s brutal military assault whilst ending the rockets being fired from Gaza in a pitiful and desperate attempt at resistance?
  • Rather than concoct a bogus ceasefire, why hasn’t the Egyptian government opened the Rafah crossing? Their refusal to do so, except to allow Egyptians and other foreigners to leave Gaza, makes them complicit in Israel’s assault. lf they expect Hamas to take them seriously, they would have opened the Rafah crossing to allow people to escape and the injured to be evacuated by now.
  • THERE WAS ALREADY A CEASEFIRE. Israel is violating it right now. I know enough about Hamas to be able to say with confidence that if Israel offered to adhere to the original ceasefire, Hamas would be willing to talk. What they actually want is a ceasefire that means something, that starts negotiation on prisoner release and on the loosening/ending of the siege – so that medicines can flow in, cement can be imported etc. Israel doesn’t allow these ‘luxuries’, leaving resistance as the only option.
  • Hamas is a social organisation as well as a political one. It has roots in every part of Gaza society. I am not a supporter of Hamas. But Hamas has a better idea of what Israel’s aims and motives are, and what the people of Gaza want it to do to resist them than anybody looking on from the safety and privilege of the West ever could.

The reality is that Egypt wants to carry on crushing the Muslim Brotherhood, which Hamas is a part of. This ceasefire was a diplomatic gift from Egypt to Israel. Israel always intended to carry on attacking Gaza – but they wanted the diplomatic victory which this fraudulent ceasefire gives it.

The ceasefire was and is a lie.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Following the publication of this article, which was mostly speculative analysis based on recent history & experience, Haaretz published an article which pretty much proved what I was saying here.

Did Israel really think Hamas would turn the other cheek?

This is another good article by Gideon Levy, locating things the way any honest journalist would: it’s not ‘Israel the victim’, it’s Israel, pushing again and again and again, and Hamas hitting back.

Israelis in Sderot - they watch for explosions in Gaza and cheer when they see and hear them. That's what Israel has becomeFollowing the kidnapping of three teenaged Israelis in the territories and their murders, Israel wildly arrested some 500 Palestinians, including members of parliament and dozens of freed prisoners who had no connection at all to the kidnapping. The army terrorized the entire West Bank with a dragnet and mass arrests, whose declared aim was “to crush Hamas.” A racist campaign raged on the Internet and led to a Palestinian teenager being burned alive. All this followed Israel’s punitive campaign against the effort to establish a Palestinian unity government that the world was prepared to recognize, its violation of its commitment to release prisoners, a halt of the diplomatic process and a refusal to propose any alternate plan or vision.

Did we really think the Palestinians would accept all this submissively, obediently, and calmly, and that peace and quiet would continue to prevail in Israel’s cities?
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