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.

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.

Let’s make this huge: Demo in support of Gaza, Saturday 19 July, London

Gaza demo, London, July 19 2014On SU we don’t publicise a lot of events – it’s a full-time job to keep track of the amazing array of events in the fight for social justice, against racism, against attacks on the disabled, the elderly, the young, Muslims and so on.

This one’s vital though. The mainstream media is complicit in Israel’s crimes against the people of Gaza, as is the government. The silence is part of Israel’s power. We have almost no power to do anything to stop this, but one thing we can do is take to the streets in huge numbers, to try to break through the wall of silence, to try to shame our government – and to show our sisters and brothers in Gaza that the people of the world are with them.

With that in mind, please, please try to get to this demo. It’s on Saturday, the weather looks like it’ll be amazing. It’s our chance to show our anger at our government, which gives diplomatic and military support to Israel no matter what crimes it commits. William Hague has given full support to Israel. But as we’ve asked, and had no reply to, how many children should the people of Gaza put up with being killed before the British government will make the same statement, declaring that Palestine has the right to defend itself against attack?
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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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Solidarity with Gaza

Gaza attackAs ever, the dominant narrative being presented to us on the current conflict in Gaza is that Israel is defending itself and its civilians against unprovoked aggression by Palestinian terrorists. And as expected, it is the same narrative being pushed in Washington and London, as like a well-rehearsed play the actors involved perform their respective roles with the same old aplomb.

It is the same narrative we have been subjected to over countless years, one intended to paint Israel, that democratic outpost of Western civilisation surrounded by barbarian hordes intent on its destruction, as perennial victim.

But as in the past, so as now, it is a lie.

The truth is the current conflict has little if anything to do with Hamas or its rockets. It does however have everything to do with the state of Israel’s decades-long policy of occupation, embargo, siege, collective punishment, expropriation, ethnic cleansing and apartheid. Israel’s war is not with Hamas but with the Palestinian people in their entirety, both the 1.5 million in Gaza and the 3 million in the West Bank. It is a war waged every hour of every day there is occupation, checkpoints, and settlements. It is a war waged every hour of every day there is an economic embargo, siege, and collective punishment. It is a war being waged every second of the indignity and humiliation suffered by its victims.
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Children of a Lesser God

For anyone with a Kindle, my new novel – Children of a Lesser Godis available free for the next three days as part of an Amazon promotion.

Here’s a brief synopsis:

‘The Gaza border, January 2009, just before the IDF launches a land invasion of the Gaza Strip as part of Operation Cast Lead – Israel’s land, sea and air assault designed to destroy the capability of the Palestinian resistance to launch rockets at Israeli towns and settlements adjacent to the Strip.

Waiting for the Israelis are members of the Palestinian resistance. Among them is 22 year old Azzam. On the other side, waiting to begin the assault with IDF’s elite Golani Brigade, is Gabi.

The story of both men unfolds in the hours preceding the assault. It is the story of a decades long struggle between two peoples who refuse to accept they are the Children of a Lesser God.’

The Gaza war – initial thoughts on the outcome

Following on from his article earlier this week, leading Palestine solidarity activist Kevin Ovenden responds to the latest events in Gaza

It is far too early to provide a comprehensive account of the impact of the latest Gaza War on the prospects for the Palestinian struggle, Israel and the region as a whole.

But it is clear that the seven day war demonstrated both Israel’s continuing preparedness to seek to solve its ongoing crisis and internal political impasse through war, and at the same time the tighter constraints that exist on account of the Arab revolutionary process and continued resistance to imperialism and Israeli aggression.

In response to questions from and out of conversations with many friends, however, here are some schematic observations and opinions that may stimulate a wider discussion.

1) Friends in Gaza, from across the spectrum, report a great sense of relief. And grief. At least one close friend lost his mother when a bomb hit their apartment block. There is also defiance from withstanding the Israeli assault and from the prevention (whatever people ascribe that to) of a ground invasion. Hamas has been boosted internally. People in Gaza do have a genuine sense of “victory”. There is hope that the siege will fall – quickly and totally.

2) Hamas is also boosted externally and is in the spotlight of diplomacy in the region, despite its continuing proscription in the US, Britain and much of Europe. The political siege imposed since Hamas won the 2006 election is already ended and the West is having to adjust to that. In reality, and through back channels and intermediaries, it already has.

3) Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi and his leadership in the Muslim Brotherhood are also lifted. As every correspondent reported, he received warm praise from Washington, London and even Tel Aviv for his role in the ceasefire. He was able to continue to balance deftly the groundswell of support for the Palestinians in Egypt and maintaining relations with the West and the Camp David accord with Israel. There were, however, significant demonstrations in Egypt from those who rightly feel that Morsi should go much further.
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