Occupied Palestine: some general information

Jonathan Cook discusses Israel’s military ‘doctrine’: destroy everything, kill everybody. ‘Israel’s destruction of Gaza continued with unrelenting vigour to the very last moment, even though according to reports in the Israeli media the air force exhausted what it called its “bank of Hamas targets” in the first few days of fighting. The military sidestepped the problem by widening its definition of Hamas-affiliated buildings. Or as one senior official explained: “There are many aspects of Hamas, and we are trying to hit the whole spectrum because everything is connected and everything supports terrorism against Israel.” That included mosques, universities, most government buildings, the courts, 25 schools, 20 ambulances and several hospitals, as well as bridges, roads, 10 electricity generating stations, sewage lines, and 1,500 factories, workshops and shops. Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah estimate the damage so far at $1.9 billion, pointing out that at least 21,000 residential apartment buildings need repairing or rebuilding, forcing 100,000 Palestinians into refugeedom once again. In addition, 80 per cent of all agricultural infrastructure and crops were destroyed. The PA has described its estimate as “conservative”.
None of this will be regretted by Israel. In fact the general devastation, far from being unfortunate collateral damage, has been the offensive’s unstated goal. Israel has sought the political, as well as military, emasculation of Hamas through the widespread destruction of Gaza’s infrastructure and economy. This is known as the “Dahiya Doctrine”, named after a suburb of Beirut that was almost levelled during Israel’s attack on Lebanon in summer 2006. The doctrine was encapsulated in a phrase used by Dan Halutz, Israel’s chief of staff, at the time. He said Lebanon’s bombardment would “turn back the clock 20 years”. The commanding officer in Israel’s south, Yoav Galant, echoed those sentiments on the Gaza offensive’s first day: the aim, he said, was to “send Gaza decades into the past”. Beyond these soundbites, Gadi Eisenkot, the head of Israel’s northern command, clarified in October the practical aspects of the strategy: “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. This is not a recommendation. This is a plan.”’

Ben White in the Guardian similarly states the real aims of the Gaza massacres: ‘(T)he analytical emphasis has remained on Palestinian rockets, Israeli elections, and deterrence. I would like to suggest three alternative purposes for Israel’s Operation Cast Lead that go beyond the usual perspectives, and presuming with Yale professor David Bromwich that “if Israel in 2009 reduces to rubble a large portion of the Gaza Strip and leaves tens of thousands homeless, there is a strong chance that this was what it intended to do”. The first aim is to humiliate and weaken Hamas. On the one hand, this seems obvious, but contrary to how the goal is often understood, this is not primarily to protect the Israeli public – as pointed out previously, ceasefires and negotiations are far more likely to deliver security for Israeli citizens – but rather it is a political goal. Hamas had withstood isolation, a siege, mass arrests, and an attempted western-backed coup. Moreover, cracks were appearing in the international community’s resolve to parrot Israel’s line on Hamas. The group, with its resilience and ability to deliver on negotiated ceasefires, was threatening the chance to make a deal with the Ramallah “moderates”, and so: ‘A hammer blow that shattered the movement, launching some of the resulting splinters in directions that once again put all of them beyond the pale, was the most effective way to keep at bay those third parties reaching the conclusion that engaging rather than excluding Hamas could enhance the prospects of peace.’ Back in December, before both the end of the six-month truce and the start of Operation Cast Lead, foreign minister Tzipi Livni stated that an extended truce “harms the Israel strategic goal, empowers Hamas, and gives the impression that Israel recognizes the movement”. By the end of the month, Livni would be telling a press conference that “Hamas wants to gain legitimacy from the international community” and stressing that it is “important to keep Hamas from becoming a legitimate organisation” (apparently winning a democratic election isn’t enough to confer legitimacy). The second aim of Israel’s war is to teach a lesson to the Palestinians in Gaza, and elsewhere, that the only way to avoid the wrath of the Israeli military is to accept Israel’s idea of a two-state solution, a generous concession to be gratefully received by Abbas and fellow moderates. It is a reflection of the approach outlined by the IDF chief of staff, Moshe Ya’alon, in 2002 that “the Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people”. On 4 January, Israeli President Shimon Peres said that Hamas needed “a real and serious lesson”; days later, he was more explicit, reportedly declaring Israel’s aim to be “to provide a strong blow to the people of Gaza so that they would lose their appetite for shooting at Israel”. The next day, the Washington Post also described how Israeli officials were hoping that the attacks would mean “that Gazans become disgusted with Hamas and drive the group from power”. This Israeli strategy was previously deployed in Lebanon in 2006, when senior military commanders redefined civilian villages as “military bases” which would be subjected to “disproportionate force” causing “great damage and destruction”. As I previously noted, the lessons learned in Lebanon were not just wrong, but criminal: a retired IDF major general and former adviser to the prime minister, Giora Eiland, reflected in a paper that “the destruction of homes and infrastructure and the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people are consequences that can influence Hezbollah’s behaviour more than anything else”. Ironically, the same Peres who now justifies collective punishment, in 2002 chastised Avigdor Lieberman for suggesting that the IDF should bomb civilian targets, warning the minister that such a tactic would be a war crime. The last three weeks show that proposals made by Israel’s political extremists and originally considered outlandish, do not take long to become normal policy. Deliberately targeting civilians and vital infrastructure for political purposes links smoothly, into the post-conflict phase, with the Israeli and US plan to try and rescue the deeply discredited image of the Palestinian Authority through a politicised reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. As US state department spokesman Sean McCormack coyly put it, the “military solution” must be followed up by investing in infrastructure and helping the population “so that they can make a different kind of political decision”. The third aim of Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip is to further “catastrophise” the territory, reducing the capacity for continued existence to the barest of minimums – perhaps to bring about “an end to the persistence of Gaza’s ordinary people in wanting the chance of a peaceful and dignified life”. One obvious benefit to Israel of pulverising “civilian Palestinian infrastructure” is that “people who lack collective institutions and are reduced to scrabbling for their very survival are easier to dominate”. Yet, there is more going on here. Israel seeks to turn the Gaza Strip into a depoliticised humanitarian crisis, always on the brink of catastrophe, always dependent; its population reduced to ration-receiving clients of international aid. Yitzhak Rabin famously wished that Gaza “would just sink into the sea”, but perhaps the best Israel can do is to share the problem with the international community, possibly to the extent of troops on the ground. Increasingly focusing on Egyptian responsibility is also part of this, whether in terms of arms smuggling, aid supplies, or for some, direct rule. In all of this, the Gaza Strip has become a laboratory for future possible scenarios in the West Bank (where a process of “development-isation” and NGO-funded occupation is well established). All three of these Israeli aims – to delegitimise and sideline Hamas, to persuade Palestinians to give up their resistance and to shirk responsibility for a shattered Gaza Strip – require the deliberate commission of war crimes and gross human rights abuses. As time will tell, they are also doomed to fail.’

Palestinian Zaid Nabulsi talks about zionism: a disease of the mind. ‘To deny the existence of a vibrant community such as the Palestinian society in the early twentieth century and describe Palestine as “a land without a people for a people without a land” is a disease of the mind.
To assert property claims over real estate after the lapse of more than 2000 years with the same certainty of title as if one resided there yesterday is a disease of the mind.
To describe the colonial immigration to Palestine of a European people with no proven historical link to the ancient Israelites – and whose great recorded ancestors have never set foot there – as some kind of a “return” to that land is indicative of a perverted misunderstanding and misapplication of the verb to “return” and can only be a result of a disease of the mind.
To blame the Palestinians for being unreasonable in rejecting a partition plan in 1947 which gave the Jews, who only owned 7 percent of the land, an astonishing half of Palestine, is a disease of the mind.
To demand of the Arabs at the time to peacefully succumb to such partition, where 86 percent of the land designated for the proposed Jewish state was Palestinian-inhabited and owned land, is a disease of the mind.
To eventually grab 78 percent of Palestine through war and to force the flight of the population through deliberate massacres and then call it a war of independence is a disease of the mind.
To deny the orchestrated massacres and eradications of hundreds of Palestinian villages in 1948 and then denounce the Israeli historians who later exposed this truth as self-hating Jews is a disease of the mind.
To claim that having escaped the horrors of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, and Dachau is a justification for the murder, expulsion, and occupation of another guiltless people is a disease of the mind.
To legislate that any resident of Poland, Hungary, New York, Brazil, Australia, Iceland, or even Planet Mars, who happens to be blessed with a Jewish mother (yet cannot point to Palestine on the map) has a superior right to “return” and settle in Palestine to someone who has been expelled from his very own land, confined to a squalid refugee camp, and still holds the keys to his house, is a disease of the mind.
To blame God for the theft and occupation of someone else’s land by claiming that it was He who had pledged this land exclusively to the Jews, and to seriously promote the myth of a land promised by the Almighty to His favorite children as an excuse for this crime, is a disease of the mind.
To milk the pockets of the world for the atrocities of the Nazis, while stubbornly refusing a simple admission of guilt, let alone compensation or repatriation, for the catastrophe that befell the Palestinian people is a disease of the mind.
To keep reminding and blackmailing the world of the plight of the Jews under Hitler 70 years ago, while at the same time inflicting on the Palestinians today the same fate of the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto, is a disease of the mind.
To impose a collective guilt overshadowing Western civilization for the Holocaust and then to criminalize all legitimate historical debate of the nature and extent of that horrific event is a disease of the mind.
To virtually incarcerate the Palestinian people inside degrading cages, destroying their livelihoods, confiscating their lands, stealing their water and uprooting their trees, and then to condemn their legitimate resistance as terrorism is a disease of the mind.
To believe you have the right to chase the Palestinians into an Arab capital city in 1982 and to indiscriminately bombard its civilians for a relentless three months, murdering thousands of innocent people is a disease of the mind.
To encircle the civilian camps of Sabra and Chatila after evacuating the fighters and to unleash on them trained dogs (while providing them with night-illuminating flares for efficiency) and then deny culpability for the carnage is a disease of the mind.
To publicly declare a policy of breaking the bones of Palestinian stone-throwers to prevent them from lifting stones again and to enact this policy is a disease of the mind.
To have the sadistic streak of exacting vengeance on the innocent families of suicide bombers by punishing them with the dynamiting of their home is a disease of the mind.’

For an Israeli confirmation of this truth, here’s another article on historian Shlomo Sand’s study ‘Why and How Was the Jewish People Invented?’ (English translation forthcoming), which I discussed in an earlier post on this blog, Debunking the myths of zionism: ‘Dr Sand argues that the idea of a Jewish nation – whose need for a safe haven was originally used to justify the founding of the state of Israel – is a myth invented little more than a century ago.(…) He argues that the Jews were never exiled from the Holy Land, that most of today’s Jews have no historical connection to the land called Israel and that the only political solution to the country’s conflict with the Palestinians is to abolish the Jewish state.’

And finally, Jonathan Cook again on how the ever increasing number of West Bank colonisers are lavishly financed by the Israeli state: ‘The poll reveals that, far from being as embattled as media reports suggest, the half million settlers are in fact enjoying a boom time in the occupied territory. The findings have led one of Israel’s main newspapers to conclude that the settlers’ entrenchment in the West Bank is creating a separate state – “the State of Judea” – in parallel to Israel, with its own laws and a better-funded welfare system. The report (…)’s main finding is that the settler population has more than doubled over the past 12 years, despite the fact that the settlements are in violation of international law and that the Israeli government has committed itself to dismantle settlement outposts. In 1995, in the early days of the Oslo peace process, there were 130,000 settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Now, after the settlers’ withdrawal from Gaza, the figure stands at 270,000 in the West Bank alone. More than 200,000 settlers living in East Jerusalem are not included in the survey because Israel does not regard the city’s eastern half as occupied. (…) The findings show that 92 per cent of settlers are satisfied with their lives, 10 percentage points higher than in Israel. Family income is also noticeably higher than the Jewish population in Israel, and settler children do better at school. The figures also show that 91 per cent of settlers report their health as good to very good, compared with 73 per cent of Israelis. The possible reason for this contentment was provided by a survey conducted by Haaretz, a daily newspaper, in 2003. It showed that the homes, education and infrastructure of the settlements had been massively subsidised by the government for many years. Using conservative estimates, it revealed that the settlers had received US$12 billion (Dh44bn) in welfare benefits over what would have been made available to them if they had remained inside Israel. A later official inquiry, the Sasson report of 2005, also found secret but systematic collusion between the settlers and government bodies. Regarding the Sasson report, Haaretz concluded that, despite large cuts in services and welfare payments to Israelis in Israel, “a glorious welfare state is flourishing” for the settlers.’


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