“Five Israeli Talking Points on Gaza—Debunked”

For those who care about the crisis in Gaza and the lives of its civilians, I recommend this article (by Noura Erakat of TheNation.com), which provides some explanations clearing the accusation from Israel on Gaza.

“1) Israel is exercising its right to self-defense.

As the occupying power of the Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian Territories more broadly, Israel has an obligation and a duty to protect the civilians under its occupation. It governs by military and law enforcement authority to maintain order, protect itself and protect the civilian population under its occupation. It cannot simultaneously occupy the territory, thus usurping the self-governing powers that would otherwise belong to Palestinians, and declare war upon them. These contradictory policies (occupying a land and then declaring war on it) make the Palestinian population doubly vulnerable.

The precarious and unstable conditions in the Gaza Strip from which Palestinians suffer are Israel’s responsibility. Israel argues that it can invoke the right to self-defense under international law as defined in Article 51 of the UN Charter. The International Court of Justice, however, rejected this faulty legal interpretation in its 2004 Advisory Opinion. The ICJ explained that an armed attack that would trigger Article 51 must be attributable to a sovereign state, but the armed attacks by Palestinians emerge from within Israel’s jurisdictional control. Israel does have the right to defend itself against rocket attacks, but it must do so in accordance with occupation law and not other laws of war. Occupation law ensures greater protection for the civilian population. The other laws of war balance military advantage and civilian suffering. The statement that “no country would tolerate rocket fire from a neighboring country” is therefore both a diversion and baseless.

Israel denies Palestinians the right to govern and protect themselves, while simultaneously invoking the right to self-defense. This is a conundrum and a violation of international law, one that Israel deliberately created to evade accountability.

2) Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005.

Israel argues that its occupation of the Gaza Strip ended with the unilateral withdrawal of its settler population in 2005. It then declared the Gaza Strip to be “hostile territory” and declared war against its population. Neither the argument nor the statement is tenable. Despite removing 8,000 settlers and the military infrastructure that protected their illegal presence, Israel maintained effective control of the Gaza Strip and thus remains the occupying power as defined by Article 47 of the Hague Regulations. To date, Israel maintains control of the territory’s air space, territorial waters, electromagnetic sphere, population registry and the movement of all goods and people.

Israel argues that the withdrawal from Gaza demonstrates that ending the occupation will not bring peace. Some have gone so far as to say that Palestinians squandered their opportunity to build heaven in order to build a terrorist haven instead. These arguments aim to obfuscate Israel’s responsibilities in the Gaza Strip, as well as the West Bank. As Prime Minister Netanyahu once explained, Israel must ensure that it does not “get another Gaza in Judea and Samaria…. I think the Israeli people understand now what I always say: that there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan.”

Palestinians have yet to experience a day of self-governance. Israel immediately imposed a siege upon the Gaza Strip when Hamas won parliamentary elections in January 2006 and tightened it severely when Hamas routed Fatah in June 2007. The siege has created a “humanitarian catastrophe” in the Gaza Strip. Inhabitants will not be able to access clean water, electricity or tend to even the most urgent medical needs. The World Health Organization explains that the Gaza Strip will be unlivable by 2020. Not only did Israel not end its occupation, it has created a situation in which Palestinians cannot survive in the long-term.

3) This Israeli operation, among others, was caused by rocket fire from Gaza.

Israel claims that its current and past wars against the Palestinian population in Gaza have been in response to rocket fire. Empirical evidence from 2008, 2012 and 2014 refute that claim. First, according to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the greatest reduction of rocket fire came through diplomatic rather than military means. This chart demonstrates the correlation between Israel’s military attacks upon the Gaza Strip and Hamas militant activity. Hamas rocket fire increases in response to Israeli military attacks and decreases in direct correlation to them. Cease-fires have brought the greatest security to the region.

During the four months of the Egyptian-negotiated cease-fire in 2008, Palestinian militants reduced the number of rockets to zero or single digits from the Gaza Strip. Despite this relative security and calm, Israel broke the cease-fire to begin the notorious aerial and ground offensive that killed 1,400 Palestinians in twenty-two days. In November 2012, Israel’s extrajudicial assassination of Ahmad Jabari, the chief of Hamas’s military wing in Gaza, while he was reviewing terms for a diplomatic solution, again broke the cease-fire that precipitated the eight-day aerial offensive that killed 132 Palestinians.

Immediately preceding Israel’s most recent operation, Hamas rocket and mortar attacks did not threaten Israel. Israel deliberately provoked this war with Hamas. Without producing a shred of evidence, it accused the political faction of kidnapping and murdering three settlers near Hebron. Four weeks and almost 700 lives later, Israel has yet to produce any evidence demonstrating Hamas’s involvement. During ten days of Operation Brother’s Keeper in the West Bank, Israel arrested approximately 800 Palestinians without charge or trial, killed nine civilians and raided nearly 1,300 residential, commercial and public buildings. Its military operation targeted Hamas members released during the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange in 2011. It’s these Israeli provocations that precipitated the Hamas rocket fire to which Israel claims left it with no choice but a gruesome military operation.

4) Israel avoids civilian casualties, but Hamas aims to kill civilians.

Hamas has crude weapons technology that lacks any targeting capability. As such, Hamas rocket attacks ipso facto violate the principle of distinction because all of its attacks are indiscriminate. This is not contested. Israel, however, would not be any more tolerant of Hamas if it strictly targeted military objects, as we have witnessed of late. Israel considers Hamas and any form of its resistance, armed or otherwise, to be illegitimate.

In contrast, Israel has the eleventh most powerful military in the world, certainly the strongest by far in the Middle East, and is a nuclear power that has not ratified the non-proliferation agreement and has precise weapons technology. With the use of drones, F-16s and an arsenal of modern weapon technology, Israel has the ability to target single individuals and therefore to avoid civilian casualties. But rather than avoid them, Israel has repeatedly targeted civilians as part of its military operations.

The Dahiya Doctrine is central to these operations and refers to Israel’s indiscriminate attacks on Lebanon in 2006. Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot said that this would be applied elsewhere:

What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on. […] We will apply disproportionate force on it and cause great damage and destruction there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases.

Israel has kept true to this promise. The 2009 UN Fact-Finding Mission to the Gaza Conflict, better known as the Goldstone Mission, concluded “from a review of the facts on the ground that it witnessed for itself that what was prescribed as the best strategy [Dahiya Doctrine] appears to have been precisely what was put into practice.”

According to the National Lawyers Guild, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, Israel directly targeted civilians or recklessly caused civilian deaths during Operation Cast Lead. Far from avoiding the deaths of civilians, Israel effectively considers them legitimate targets.

5) Hamas hides its weapons in homes, mosques and schools and uses human shields.

This is arguably one of Israel’s most insidious claims, because it blames Palestinians for their own death and deprives them of even their victimhood. Israel made the same argument in its war against Lebanon in 2006 and in its war against Palestinians in 2008. Notwithstanding its military cartoon sketches, Israel has yet to prove that Hamas has used civilian infrastructure to store military weapons. The two cases where Hamas indeed stored weapons in UNRWA schools, the schools were empty. UNRWA discovered the rockets and publicly condemned the violation of its sanctity.

International human rights organizations that have investigated these claims have determined that they are not true. It attributed the high death toll in Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon to Israel’s indiscriminate attacks. Human Rights Watch notes:

The evidence Human Rights Watch uncovered in its on-the-ground investigations refutes [Israel’s] argument…we found strong evidence that Hezbollah stored most of its rockets in bunkers and weapon storage facilities located in uninhabited fields and valleys, that in the vast majority of cases Hezbollah fighters left populated civilian areas as soon as the fighting started, and that Hezbollah fired the vast majority of its rockets from pre-prepared positions outside villages.

In fact, only Israeli soldiers have systematically used Palestinians as human shields. Since Israel’s incursion into the West Bank in 2002, it has used Palestinians as human shields by tying young Palestinians onto the hoods of their cars or forcing them to go into a home where a potential militant may be hiding.

Even assuming that Israel’s claims were plausible, humanitarian law obligates Israel to avoid civilian casualties that “would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.” A belligerent force must verify whether civilian or civilian infrastructure qualifies as a military objective. In the case of doubt, “whether an object which is normally dedicated to civilian purposes, such as a place of worship, a house or other dwelling or a school, is being used to make an effective contribution to military action, it shall be presumed not to be so used.”

In the over thee weeks of its military operation, Israel has demolished 3,175 homes, at least a dozen with families inside; destroyed five hospitals and six clinics; partially damaged sixty-four mosques and two churches; partially to completely destroyed eight government ministries; injured 4,620; and killed over 700 Palestinians. At plain sight, these numbers indicate Israel’s egregious violations of humanitarian law, ones that amount to war crimes.

Beyond the body count and reference to law, which is a product of power, the question to ask is, What is Israel’s end goal? What if Hamas and Islamic Jihad dug tunnels beneath the entirety of the Gaza Strip—they clearly did not, but let us assume they did for the sake of argument. According to Israel’s logic, all of Gaza’s 1.8 million Palestinians are therefore human shields for being born Palestinian in Gaza. The solution is to destroy the 360-kilometer square strip of land and to expect a watching world to accept this catastrophic loss as incidental. This is possible only by framing and accepting the dehumanization of Palestinian life. Despite the absurdity of this proposal, it is precisely what Israeli society is urging its military leadership to do. Israel cannot bomb Palestinians into submission, and it certainly cannot bomb them into peace.”

“Obama needs to play the honest broker in the Mideast”

35ca197c-bb2e-4f32-8afd-44d249d6ab02.imgMy lunch, not a bad read though, recommend this article.

FT : by Edward Luce, 27 July 2014

“Here we are again. Benjamin Netanyahu is reacting like the avenging angel to rockets from Gaza. US President Barack Obama is torn between wanting to censure Israel and the desire not to reward Hamas for its aggression. The response is an exercise in futility. At some point, a sullen ceasefire will be struck and the Arab-Israeli conflict will continue on its downward trajectory. Wounds will deepen and fester. For all his frustrations with the Israeli prime minister, Mr Obama will have to keep biting his tongue. Such is the logic that imprisons him.

But the rote quality of America’s role masks changes taking place on Mr Obama’s watch. For decades, Washington has kept up the pretence of being an even-handed broker in the Arab-Israeli dispute. The policy rested on two pillars. For the most part, Israel’s governments have paid lip service to the two-state solution, and in some cases (notably that of Yitzhak Rabin), genuinely desired it. Whatever the tragedy of the moment, this made it far easier for the US to back the only bona fide democracy in the Middle East.

Second, US-Jewish support for Israel has almost always held strong. This is illustrated by the near-legendary power of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, often ominously referred to as the “Jewish lobby”. The only real exception was President George Bush senior, whose secretary of state, James Baker, said: “They [Jews] didn’t vote for us anyway.” President George Bush Junior did his best to rectify that. But his father’s administration was an aberration. For decades, unquestioning US support for Israel has been as close as you come to an iron law of global relations.

Both pillars are showing cracks. On the first, Mr Netanyahu has mocked Mr Obama’s attempts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He killed Mr Obama’s initial effort by continuing to build settlements in the West Bank. He challenged and outplayed Mr Obama on his home turf in a speech at Aipac’s conference in Washington.Mr Obama is sometimes criticised for a lack of warmth but not often for open dislike. Mr Netanyahu is the exception. Rarely have relations between a US president and an Israeli prime minister bred such antipathy.

By all accounts, relations have grown far worse in the past few weeks. Not only did Mr Netanyahu cripple another Obama effort to foster talks – this time led by the nuclear-fuelled John Kerry (who had to abandon them earlier this year after almost a year of Sisyphean exertion). This month the Israeli leader said out loud what most people knew he thought all along: he does not believe in the two-state solution. “There cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan,” he said. In other words, the West Bank would never control its own defence or foreign policy. Unless he reneges on that stance, there is no point in any more US-led initiatives other than trying to broker ceasefires.

The second pillar is also showing signs of wobbling. In previous crises, the US media was often accused of pro-Israel bias. This time, it is nearer the reverse. Aipac and other groups have complained bitterly about the television networks’ emotive coverage of the deaths of women and children from Israeli shelling at UN protected schools and other facilities in Gaza. Many have kept score sheets of Israeli deaths (more than 40 at the time of writing) versus Palestinian (more than 1,000). A majority of the US public still support Israel’s right to protect itself by targeting Hamas militants, even if it results in heavy civilian deaths. But the numbers reverse for younger Americans. According to Gallup, 51 per cent of millennials disapprove of Israel’s actions versus 23 per cent who approve.

It is too soon to conclude Aipac’s power is waning. It remains one of Washington’s most formidable advocacy groups. But it is losing its monopoly on the debate. At moments such as this, it commands reflexive support; the US Senate voted 100-0 in support of Israel’s response to the rockets. Its sway has notably waned in other areas, however. It failed in February to persuade Congress to impose tougher sanctions on Iran. And its recommendation for a bill authorising force against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria looked set to be rejected last year. Aipac and Mr Obama were saved by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Other groups, such as J Street, which promotes “moderate and sane” (as opposed to blind) support for Israel, are growing in influence.

The odds are that, once the dust settles in Gaza, Washington will let the situation drift. It is arguably the fourth of Mr Obama’s Middle East crises after Iraq, Iran and Syria. Why waste more capital on it? The answer lies as much within the US as in the Middle East. Unless Mr Obama is prepared to play the role of a genuinely neutral broker, talks are always likely to fail. If, as a growing number of American Jews and a brave minority of Israelis argue, Israel is digging its grave by undercutting moderate Palestinians, it is time for more thoughtful friends in the US to speak out. Why should Aipac be the one with the megaphone?

Peter Beinart, a leading backer of J Street, recounts a story where a senior Democrat made precisely this point to Mr Obama. “ ‘I can’t hear you,” Obama replied. My friend began repeating himself,” writes Mr Beinart. “The president cut him off. ‘You don’t understand,’ Mr Obama said. “I . . . can’t . . . hear . . . you.’ ”

The Innocents

“No nation can accept being imprisoned, being besieged by land, by air, by sea and deprived of the most basic requirements of a decent life: freedom of movement, clean water. For seven years they have been under a brutal and lethal Israeli siege … You shell them and you bomb them; you destroy homes, you destroy whole neighbourhoods. You obliterate, annihilate, whole families, and then you come and say that this is self defence?” (Hanan Ashrawi, PLO official spoke to Hamish Macdonald, Australia journalist, during a televised interview)

I watched another video which just can’t leave but still aches my mind : a less than one year old Gazan child was dead and being wrapped in a white cloth, they wrapped her/him so neatly so carefully, as if it is a toy, a gift to be given to someone later on… I am shouting “fascism” at the same time!  I read that there is an open letter written to Obama by Dr Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian surgeon working at Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital, “the incomprehensible chaos of bodies, sizes, limbs, walking, not walking, breathing, not breathing, bleeding, not bleeding humans. Humans! Ashy grey faces – Oh no! Not one more load of tens of maimed and bleeding. We still have lakes of blood on the floor in the emergency room, piles of dripping, blood-soaked bandages to clear out … the cleaners, everywhere, swiftly shovelling the blood and discarded tissues, hair, clothes, cannulas – the leftovers from death – all taken away… to be prepared again, to be repeated all over.” (source of above quotes : Mike Cariton, 26 July 2014)

While Israel is waging war against the world of people with good conscience and civility who demand peace, the media is under another battle.  The last 20 days I kept on reading and listening to CNN, Washington Post, part of BBC …  I am keen to but shocked to find out how these media agents (under political motivations?), deceit the general public in reporting this tragedy – the way they twist the facts, “reorganise” the sequence of events, to understate the truth by misleading statements and headlines … I feel pity for those who have no time to dig into other media for neutral reportings,  but being misinformed by such low quality journalism! 

Two days ago I listened to the ‘defence’ of Israel, in a televised interview Israel’s Danny Danon stressed that deaths of civilians in Gaza are unavoidable, he even remarked that the drones US is applying today in the world demonstrate this fact.  “Voilà”, that’s what I said to myself, so true, USA and Israel is a perfect couple in determining and waging war, simply because they have power and resources.  It is notorious that USA is backing Israel with huge foreign aid (military aid), with US taxpayers’ hundreds-billions dollars cumulatively… 

“The fact is my administration’s commitment to Israel’s security has been unprecedented. Our military and intelligence cooperation has never been closer. Our joint exercises and training have never been more robust. Despite a tough budget environment, our security assistance has increased every single year. We are investing in new capabilities. We’re providing Israel with more advanced technology – the types of products and systems that only go to our closest friends and allies. And make no mistake: We will do what it takes to preserve Israel’s qualitative military edge . . . .” (President Barack Hussein Obma–AIPAC speech, 2012) 

I just think how convenient, in this round, US directly or indirectly standby and stand behind Israel, as if ‘hiring’ Israel as its front line killer ‘cleansing up’ those races refused to be US’ puppets.  When USA still chants, from time to time, “God Bless America”, I wonder what is the real sense behind it – fooling God as much with such imperative?  Or is it challenging God’ patience?

Respect for the right of life …

I am watching the news and all of a sudden I have a strange thought, what if time could ever go backward to 16 days ago, could these two major tragedies be avoided (Israel-Gaza conflicts ; MH17 being brought-down).  What if the involved parties be allowed to view the consequences ahead of time, before deciding if committing these unnecessary aggressions, or not? 

to the Gazan children

to the Gazan children

Today The Netherlands holds a National Day of mourning for its loss of lives in MH17, in a solemn respectful manner when the dead bodies are transported back to their homeland.  While the aggression is still continuing in Gaza, despite mediation efforts are on the way. I am thinking of how the dead bodies will be buried, what if the graveyards are bombed too?  Those little souls of the children must have been carried straight to heaven, in a paradise where they can play freely without being bombed!

It slightly eases my negative emotion when hearing UN Human Rights Chief, Navi Pillay condemns Israel’s military actions in the Gaza Strip, saying that war crimes may have been committed.  She also openly cited a number of cases of intentional killings in the past 16 days, and stressed that the killing of civilians, especially children, raised concerns over Israel’s precautions and respect for proportionality.  In another occasion, Pillay mentioned that “Respect for the right of life to civilians, including children, should be a foremost consideration.  Not abiding by these principles may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.”  I thought having these words from the chief of a recognised international organisation on human rights, could at least pay some respects to those innocent victims in Gaza, even though the thorough investigations to bring forth justice is still a remote path …

USA is deplorable! The World is watching!

It disgusts me to read this news just now :

‘ The US‬ has promised $47 million in humanitarian aid to help Palestinians‬ hit by Israel’s military campaign in the Gaza Strip.

“We are deeply concerned about the consequences of ‪‎Israel‬‘s appropriate and legitimate effort to defend itself,” Kerry said in Cairo on as he met United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

“But always, in any conflict, there is concern about civilians – about children, women, communities that are caught in it.” ‘

I can’t believe USA endorses Israel’s aggression to such an extent (alongside its hundreds-billions dollars’ aid to Israel, promoting war rather than peace), disregarding the illegitimacy of war crime (under Fourth Geneva Convention and War Crimes defined by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court).  Kerry’s choice of words “appropriate” “legitimate” to describe Israel’s criminal act is shocking.

USA is deplorable!

Pablo Casals and Bach’s Six Cello Suites, and more … Peace!

“As I got on with the study I discovered a new world of space and beauty, the feelings I experienced were among the purest and most intense in my artistic life!”, that’s what Pablo Casals once remarked on Bach’s Six Cello Suites.

Perhaps I repeat the story here, all cellists and cello lovers pay tribute to Casals as he is the one who discovered the old edition of Bach’s Cello Suites in an antique bookshop in Barcelona, in 1889 when Casals was 13 years old : “a sheaf of pages, crumbled and discolored with age. They were unaccompanied Suites by Johann Sebastian Bach – For the Cello only! …. For the following eighty years the wonder of my discovery has continued to grow on me …. I studied and worked at them every day for the next twelve years, and I would be twenty-five before I had the courage to play one of the Suites in public”.

The Six Cello Suites not only opened a whole new world for Casals, but also become the cellists’ bible. However, the respect for Casals is beyond his found of the lost Cello Suites of Bach (composed in 1717-23), but also his wisdoms and persona, his attitude to life with supreme integrity, resilience against adversity, his love for his country and the world, and of course his devotion to music.

He lived 96 years till 1973, had survived the cruel history : two world wars, Spanish civil war, Franco régime ….. Casals knew exactly what’s meant for him when facing death “I face death without fear. Dying is just as natural as being born but certain things do cause me pain. It causes me pain to leave the world, whose situation is so sad. It hurts me to bring sorrow to Martita (my wife), my family and friends. Of course I’m leaving to go and play and to rehearse and even if I was to live again for another hundred years, I would still do the same. I could not let my old friend down : the cello”.

I clip here Casals’ performance on El Cant dels Ocells (Song of the Birds), on a UN Day in 1971 when he was 94 years old, the piece is a Catalanian folklore, that Casals used to play to complete his many public concert programmes.  Casals’ urge for peace, as much as we crave for it today!  It is much despair when seeing the present Gaza crisis, my thoughts go to the innocent deaths, those children being deprived of growth and sent straight to heaven, and those weeping mothers…

___________

Reference and Further Reading : “Joys and Sorrows : Reflections, Pablo Casals” ; “Pablo Casals : The Musician and the Man (Classical Notes)”; Casals’ recording on Bach’s 6 Cello Suite BWV1007-1012


 

Bach’s Cantata BWV 54, Widerstehe doch der Sünde

I desperately need this music tonight, I feel sick after watching a number of liar speaking in front of the public through interviews, announcement or whatsoever, those faces of murderers, killers, deceitful creatures – Obama, Kerry, Netanyahu …, I almost vomit!  Could they give the world a break, some peace!

Widerstehe doch der Sünde,
Sonst ergreifet dich ihr Gift.

Laß dich nicht den Satan blenden;
Denn die Gottes Ehre schänden,
Trifft ein Fluch, der tödlich ist

**********

Pray resist sin,
lest its poison seize you.

Don’t let Satan blind you;
for those who defile God’s honor
will incur a curse that is deadly.