Saturday, March 21, 2009

Israeli Holy War on Gaza: Hamas Rockets, What Rockets?

Jihad has become known in the popular culture as holy war. The propaganda has been that modern and Western Israel is facing a Jihad from the religious fanatics of Hamas and other Islamists who are driven by religious zeal.

It seems the Islamists have intellectual company in the Israeli army rabbis who are on a holy war against the Palestinians.

Cliff Churgin writes in an article entitled "Israeli Soldier says fights was religious- Army was told Palestinian Lives less Important, he says" published in the Detroit Free Press of March 21, 2009:

'Rabbis affiliated with the Israeli army urged troops heading into Gaza to reclaim what they said was God-given land and "get rid of the gentiles"- effectively turning the 22-day Israeli intervention into a religious war, according to the testimony of a soldier who fought in Gaza.'
'Literature passed out to soldiers by the army's rabbinate "had a clear message- we are the people of Israel, we came to the land of Israel, we came by a miracle to the land of Israel, now we need to struggle to get rid of the gentiles that are interfering with our conquest of the land," the soldier told a forum of Gaza veterans."

Needless to say, there was no mention in this religious literature of the rudimentary Hamas rockets that were allegedly the reason for the war on Gaza.

Where is the Outrage?Israel Continues to Block Gaza Humanitarian Aid

So many voices have loudly protested the rudimentary Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza but very few voices are being heard condemning Israeli crimes in denying Gazan access to food and other necessities.

In "US Complains of Blocked Gaza Aid" Chares Levinson writes in the Wall Street Journal of March 13, 2009:

"The US has complained to Israel over the holdup of aid shipments to Gaza of items as basic as jam, toothpaste, and toilet paper, which US officials say are being frequently trapped amid an erratic decision-making process...On Thursday, Israel rejected a shipment of 960 boxes of tuna, canned meat, diapers, wet wipes, sterile gauze, blankets, and candles, along with 184 boxes of flashlights."

It is wrong for the Gazan to fire rockets indiscriminately at Israeli civilians. Is it not a violation of international law to block the Palestinians from receiving humanitarian aid? Where is the outrage? Are Palestinian lives not equal to Israeli lives in international law?

Years ago suicide bombing was talked about as the be all end all of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Recently, the firing of rockets from Gaza was dealt with as the be all end all of the conflict. This fixation on sporadic suicide bombing and rocket firing ignores the daily indignities and violations that Israel has been engaging in with impunity against the occupied and persecuted Palestinians.

A muted moral outrage to Israeli crimes and violations helps perpetuate the vicious cycle of conflict.

Fouad Ajami and the Iraqi Sunnis

In "Obama's Afghan Struggle," Fouad Ajami writes in The Wall Street Journal of March 20, 2009 that:

"The [Iraqi region] Anbar turned only when the Sunni insurgents had grown convinced that the Americans were here to stay and that the alternative to accommodation with the Americans, and with the Baghdad government, is a sure and widespread Sunni defeat."

A political scientist who ignores political forces and focuses only on the military part of the equation. Ajami's analysis ignores three political factors:

1. The importance and success of Americans efforts for meaningful inclusion of the Sunnis in the Iraqi political process.

2. The American realization, despite efforts by the likes of Ajami to distract policy makers, that Shiite sectarian militias are just as dangerous to Iraq as the Al Qaeda terrorists.

3. The campaign to rid government ministries of Shiite fanatics who used the government's authority to persecute the Sunnis of Iraq.

If only the Shiite Ajami was not mistreated at one time and mocked in the Arab world for being of Persian descent. Maybe he would not have had a love fest in Baghdad with sectarian fanatics like al Hakim and his pro- Iranian gang. Perhaps he would have been less anti- Sunni in his analysis of the Middle East politics.

US State Department 2008 Israel Country Report: Israel Discriminates Against Its Arab Citizens

It is often stated that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. Defenders of Israel point to "Arab Israelis" as evidence of the inclusiveness of Israel despite its having a Jewish identity. The US State department 2008 country report indicates that Israel discriminates against its Arab citizens, Palestinians who, for a number of reasons, stayed in what became in 1948 the State of Israel.

Arab Education: Separate and Unequal
There is a big gap in educational achievement between the Arab and the Jewish citizens of Israel. This is attributable to discrimination in educational opportunities. "Institutional, legal, and societal discrimination against Arabs" continued and the "government maintained unequal educational systems for Arab and Jewish students." The report adds "Academic institutions and advocacy groups have long charged that resources devoted to the education of Arab children were inferior to those devoted to Jewish children in the public education system. The State Comptroller's February 10 report on local governments noted that in the 28 Arab communities surveyed, there was a combined shortage of 1,082 classrooms in local schools."

Freedom of Religion: 20% Get 4%
There is also discrimination in state funding of religious groups. Non-Jewish groups, who comprise more than 20% of the population get only 4% of the government funds. "According to Israeli government numbers, "Religious minorities, which comprised slightly more than 20 percent of the population, received approximately 65 million NIS ($18.6 million), or just less than 4 percent of total funding."

Death to Arabs
The British soccer fans are known for acting violently after soccer games. In Israel, it is normal for the Jewish fans to chant "death to Arabs." The State department report states: "soccer fans from certain teams chanted "death to Arabs" and anti-Muslim slogans during games between Israeli Jewish and Arab teams." There is no indication that the government of Israel or the educational establishment is doing anything about this blatant death wish. We hear so much about the so-called "glamorizing martyrdom" in the Arab world but here the Jewish fans, on a regular basis, chant death to the Arabs. Given this death wish, the devastation in South Lebanon and Gaza is put in its proper context.

Harsh and Degrading Treatment of Foreign Nationals with Muslim or Arab Names:
ADC Concerns Validated

A number of Arab Americans have complained to the State department about mistreatment at Israel's border entry points. The American Arab Anti discrimination Committee (ADC) and the Arab American Institute have raised this issue with the State Department. It seems this mistreatment is not limited to Arab Americans. The report states " there were numerous reports of foreign nationals with Arab or Muslim names subjected to harsh and degrading treatment at border crossings. Diplomatic missions regularly protested such treatment regarding their nationals."

Arab Victims of Violent Attacks
One often hears in the media about Arabs attacking Jews but not the opposite. the report states: "According to press reports, "Jewish residents of Jerusalem perpetrated at least 20 violent assaults against Palestinian residents of Jerusalem during the year, most often using knives, clubs, and other weapons. Many of these attacks were reportedly premeditated."

Ala Sudorehem Baqoon: Im el Fahm lil Kenesset
The Palestinian citizens of Israel are seen as a threat and as a burden. One Palestinian candidate for member of Knesset from the Arab town of Im El Fahm campaign slogan was "we [Arab Israelis] stay on your chest [Israel], we will not budge." The report states: "On September 9, a number of Jewish local and district-level government leaders held a conference under the banner of the Renewing Zionism Movement in the Galilee town of Kfar Tavor, during which the leaders urged the need to "Judaize" the Galilee and warned of dire consequences if Jews lose their majority in the Galilee." There is strong support for expulsion of Arabs from Israel. The report states that " in a March poll commissioned by the Knesset television station, 75 percent of the Jewish public supported the transfer of at least some Arab Israelis as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians, including 28 percent who believed all Arab Israelis should be forcibly transferred." Israel has the dubious distinction in the world in blatantly discriminating on the grounds of characteristics protected by the UN declarations on Human Rights while at the same time claiming to be a moral entity and a democracy. The report adds:"During the year the Israel Land Fund NGO launched a program to purchase Arab land in the Galilee and market it at discounted rates to Jewish buyers by distributing flyers to synagogues throughout the region stating the time was ripe to redeem the "Land of Israel."

Employment Discrimination: 20 % Get 1 % Employment

The report states that "Arab Israelis continued to suffer various forms of discrimination in public and private life." There is clear evidence of discrimination in government employment: "As of December 2007, Arabs (including Druze and Circassians) filled 51 of 528 board seats of state-run companies. Of the 55,000 persons working in government companies, 1 percent were Arab."

Israeli Hubris

In summary, Israel discriminates against its Arab citizens in all possible ways. It talks loudly about the need to get rid of them and "redeem the land." It has divided their historical land Palestine and split and uprooted their families. Millions of relatives of Israeli Arab citizens continue to live in exile as refugees. Israel continues in its occupation of the West bank and has turned Gaza into a besieged and impoverished ghetto. It continues to occupy Lebanese and Syrian land. At the same time, in classic colonial hubris, it asks its Arab citizens to "prove their loyalty" and to support its wars of aggression and occupation against its Arab neighbors.

A Call for a Consistent US Foreign Policy

The US government is always pressing governments, especially in the Arab world, for better treatment of their minorities. It is time to be consistent by openly criticizing and pressuring Israel, a major recipient of US largesse, to treat its Arab citizens better. The aid given to Israel should be dependent on its treatment of its religious and ethnic minorities.

For the full report:

Monday, March 9, 2009

House Demolitions and Settlements: Israel's Version of Suicide Bombing

Kamikaze, Tamil Tigers then Hamas

Suicide bombing is a vile tactic that has been used by myriad groups to advance their political agendas. The most famous users of this tactic were the Japanese pilots, the kamikazes "divine wind", who attacked allied ships and sank a number of them. More recently, the Tamil Tigers, neither Arab or Muslim, were the number one users of this tactic until the Palestinian group Hamas used it between 2001 and 2004 unleashing over 100 such attacks on Israeli civilians.

This tactic was callously and misguidedly supported at the time by a number of influential voices in the Arab and Muslim world. In the absence of the needed blanket condemnation of this tactic, over time, this tactic was used by Muslims and Arabs against each other resulting in the carnage seen in Iraq and Afghanistan.

How and Why Suicide Bombing Failed?

Suicide bombing as a Palestinian tactic failed miserably. It nearly decimated the Israeli left and center. It entrenched the Israeli right in power. Internationally, it diminished the moral standing of the Palestinians' claim to be the morally wronged people and the just cause. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who used to work in Israel lost their jobs. This tactic provided a pretext to Israel to use draconian measures against the Palestinians. One of these measures is the excessive use of checkpoints that makes the movement of people and goods take much longer time and expense- thus choking the already troubled Palestinians economy.

House Demolitions and Settlement Activity

The Israelis also utilize a morally reprehensible tactic that achieves the same results that suicide bombing does. This tactic is house demolitions and land confiscation/settlement activity. Just like suicide bombings' impact on the Israeli side, house demolitions and settlement activity strengthen the militants and weaken the moderates on the Palestinian side. House demolitions and settlement activity make a mockery of the peace process.

House Demolition as Ethnic Cleansing

To most people losing a home is the biggest financial disaster that can befall them. In the US one's insurance would pay for such a loss. There is no insurance that compensates Palestinians for the loss of demolished homes on the hands of Hurricane Israel; the inhabitants become homeless. The goal of the demolition is to make space for Jewish-only housing. The Palestinian are pushed into ever contracting ghettos of unemployment and poverty.

Settlement Activity

Settlements are built in the West bank to further alter its demographics and create facts on the ground that make the creation of a Palestinian state impossible. As to the lives of the Palestinians of the West Bank, settlement activity means more theft of their ancestral land and homes. Also, the settlers come filled with hubris, religious zeal and hate for the Palestinians- intent on making Palestinian lives harder by attacking them and stealing their crops in the name of a so-called Biblical title to the land. With new settlers, more Israeli soldiers arrive, more Israeli- only roads are built on stolen Palestinians land. The Palestinians have to take longer roads to go anywhere in their own towns.

US Reaction to Settlements and Demolitions

Clearly, both tactics suicide bombing and settlements activity/home demolitions, are equally abhorrent and clear violations of international law. However, while the US, justifiably, used clear language to condemn suicide bombing, the US has been coy in responding to the crimes of demolitions and settlement activity, while at the same time being the patron saint of Israel- providing it with relatively huge economic and military aid as well as shielding it from international censure and sanctions. The US, as a supporter of Israel, has to go beyond mere spineless diplomatic rhetoric of "unhelpful" and "counter productive." The same moral clarity that prevails in response to suicide bombings has to exist when the issue is settlements and house demolitions. The US can do more to change the reality for Israel and the Palestinians. In 1991 President Bush senior threatened to withhold guarantees on loans to Israel unless settlement activity stopped proving that the US has the ability to alter Israeli behavior if it wanted.

Will President Obama be more Like President Bush senior?

Only when the US deals with house demolitions and settlement activity with the same moral clarity it requires of Arabs and Muslims in reacting to suicide bombing is there be a real possibility of moving the peace process forward.

The Palestinians Will not Go the Way of the Phoenicians

The Palestinian issue will not go away. The Palestinians will not disappear in history with little historical record like the Phoenicians and other ancient peoples have. For most in the Arab and Muslim world the lack of democracy, the lack of bread and the lack of clean water do not spur violence . The Palestine issue is probably the only political issue that would get Arabs and Muslims from various backgrounds angry enough to want to fight. Naturally, Palestine is the most powerful recruitment tool for Islamic militants.

The Solution We Know

If President Obama does not hold the Israelis accountable for their settlement activity and duplicity toward the peace process, we are looking into a future of more bloodshed and groups that are perhaps more deadly than even Al-qaeda. We know how to deal with the conflict: Israel has to return to the armistice line of 1967. Jerusalem has to be divided and East Jerusalem made the capital of the Palestinians state. The Palestinian refugees must have the right of return recognized.

Respect = Palestine

President Obama promised to respect the Arab and Muslim world. Karen Hughes, President Bush's envoy to the Arab and Muslim world, on her listening tours asked about what issues of concern Arabs and Muslims have with the US. Unlike what the know nothings but loud enough to be heard say, Hughes found that "they don't hate our freedoms." Karen Hughes heard nothing about Britney Spears and The Advocate- what she kept hearing about is Palestine- the main thorn in the side of the US-Arab and US- Muslim relationship.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Hamas Hypocrisy: Screaming Crusade, Grubbing for "Crusader" Money

Strange is the logic of the radical/militant Islamists of the Hamas variety.

They are too eager to embrace the inventions of the West- the West that they so despise and want to change with their own vision of an ideal society imposed on it. They are so quick to use the Internet and email- all inventions of the "corrupt West" that they want to reform.

Now the militants of Hamas, who day and night promote the bogus clash of civilization thesis, and claim that the West in engaging in a Crusade against Islam, are none but too eager to get their hands on European and American money, that is mainly Christian, money.

This duplicity and the gall is nauseating.

After stealing UNRWA supplies at gunpoint in Gaza, thuggery that UNRWA never experienced before even though the Palestinians ran an alphabet soup of factions of all sorts of ideological persuasion. Now Hamas wants the West to hand it its funds to it to spend as it sees fit- that is to reward its supporters and punish its opponents- taking credit for the funds that "it won to the Palestinian people."

The message of these radicals is this:

We hate and despise your way of life and your democracy and you are engaging in a Crusade against Islam and Muslims- but business is business- give us your money. And no thank you.