Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Gaza's Ghosts

"I don't think Hamas will be satisfied simply ruling the Gaza Strip" - John Bolton

The world's leaders, politicians and assorted dignitaries have this week come together to mark the centenary of the First World War. Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron had this to say:

"We remember the reasons behind this conflict. Too often it has been dismissed as a pointless war, fought by people who didn't know why they were fighting. But that is wrong.These men signed up to prevent the domination of a continent, to preserve the principles of freedom and sovereignty that we cherish today."

...

"We should never fail to cherish the peace between these nations and never underestimate the patient work it has taken to build that peace. So, 100 years on, it is right that collectively we stop, we pause, and we re-pledge this for the next 100 years.

"We will never forget. We will always remember them."


Back in March this year, US President Barack Obama paid tribute at Flanders Field in Belgium to the US soldiers who died in the war.

From the article:

Obama has laid a wreath at a memorial at Flanders Field in Belgium. That's where hundreds of fallen troops who helped liberate Belgium are buried.

Obama says the visit reminds us never to take progress for granted. He says Belgium and the U.S. stand together forever for freedom, dignity and the triumph of the human spirit.

To those buried at the site, Obama says, quote, "We can say we caught the torch. We kept the faith."

Obama says the war's lessons are still relevant. He's pointing to ongoing efforts to rid Syria of chemical weapons, which were also used [] in the wider area Obama visited.


The leaders of the free world and other dignitaries will have made their speeches and may even have shed their tears. They will have spoken of courage, sacrifice, honour. World War I, we will have once again been told, was a war in which the brave Tommies signed up to 'fight German imperialism and expansionism', to 'win for us all the freedoms we enjoy today'.

The purpose of these solemn occasions is not to honour those who died, but instead to perpetuate the myth that peace is the priority for warmongering powers that profit hugely from the deeply corrupt war industry, and the myth that war is somehow a noble endeavour, resorted to only in defence of freedom and human rights.

We need only examine the words and actions of these same speakers in the modern era to expose their gross insincerity as Israel commits daily atrocities and war crimes in the tiny strip of land accurately (and surprisingly) described by David Cameron in 2010 as a 'prison camp'. The average age of the population of Gaza is 17, and half the population are under 16. According to the UN, more children than adult fighters have been killed in this assault. Despite these facts, both the UK and the US continue to provide massive support to Israel.

Glenn Greenwald reveals on the Intercept website further details.

From the article:

The U.S. government has long lavished overwhelming aid on Israel, providing cash, weapons and surveillance technology that play a crucial role in Israel’s attacks on its neighbors. But top secret documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden shed substantial new light on how the U.S. and its partners directly enable Israel’s military assaults – such as the one on Gaza.

Over the last decade, the NSA has significantly increased the surveillance assistance it provides to its Israeli counterpart, the Israeli SIGINT National Unit (ISNU; also known as Unit 8200), including data used to monitor and target Palestinians. In many cases, the NSA and ISNU work cooperatively with the British and Canadian spy agencies, the GCHQ and CSEC.

The relationship has, on at least one occasion, entailed the covert payment of a large amount of cash to Israeli operatives. Beyond their own surveillance programs, the American and British surveillance agencies rely on U.S.-supported Arab regimes, including the Jordanian monarchy and even the Palestinian Authority Security Forces, to provide vital spying services regarding Palestinian targets.

The new documents underscore the indispensable, direct involvement of the U.S. government and its key allies in Israeli aggression against its neighbors. That covert support is squarely at odds with the posture of helpless detachment typically adopted by Obama officials and their supporters.

...

The new Snowden documents illustrate a crucial fact: Israeli aggression would be impossible without the constant, lavish support and protection of the U.S. government, which is anything but a neutral, peace-brokering party in these attacks. And the relationship between the NSA and its partners on the one hand, and the Israeli spying agency on the other, is at the center of that enabling.


The UK also plays its part:

The Government has been accused of failing to regulate arms sales to Israel following evidence that weapons containing British-made components are being used in the bombardment of Gaza.

Documents shown to The Independent reveal that arms export licences worth £42m have been granted to 130 British defence manufacturers since 2010 to sell military equipment to Israel. These range from weapons control and targeting systems to ammunition, drones and armoured vehicles.

Among the manufacturers given permission to make sales were two UK companies supplying components for the Hermes drone, described by the Israeli air force as the “backbone” of its targeting and reconnaissance missions. One of the two companies also supplies components for Israel’s main battle tank.

...

Israel is one of the biggest customers for British exports of so-called “dual-use” equipment capable of both civilian and military deployment in a trade worth more than £7bn last year.

But documents obtained by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) under the Freedom of Information Act reveal for the first time the full extent of sales of military-only equipment, along with the names of the companies granted export licences by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). Of the £42m of so-called “military list” exports approved since 2010, some £10m has been licensed in the last 12 months.

The data reveals that dozens of highly specialised UK defence companies have secured deals with Israeli partners and the Israeli military, ranging from bulletproof garments to naval gun parts and small arms ammunition. The sales are entirely lawful and form part of Britain’s £12bn annual arms export trade.

But evidence exists that British-made components feature in weapons being deployed during Operation Protective Edge. The Israeli military has been criticised for what some see as heavy-handed tactics during its assault on Gaza. Some 1,460 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have died, alongside 63 Israelis, including three civilians.


This latest Israeli attack on Gaza has aroused unprecedented horror and outrage from ordinary people around the world. The reason for this is not only the brutality inflicted upon hundreds of defenceless children by a heavily armed military power: but the fact that this is the first major military campaign to occur during the mass social media age.

[Aside: while the bombing of Libya was technically the first campaign conducted during the mass social media age, this failed to generate significant outrage outside activist circles, probably because Western media demonization of Gaddafi was so successful in its aims]

Images of mind-numbing horror - children cut to pieces by Israel's Western-supplied weaponry - flit around the ether, shared on all social media platforms so that almost every social media user is exposed to them whether they want to be or not. Efforts to convey the 'human side' of this horror have also been made throughout various media:

From an article:

“In the night, I am frightened by the bombings, missiles and the thought of the blood of injured people in the street,” says 8-year-old Karam Abu Shanab.

“I can’t sleep in the night, my mind is filled with bad images from the Israeli bombs,” he tells his mother, who says her other three children: Saleh, Malak and Sjoud are all unable to sleep - after hearing how children were bombed in their sleep at the UNRWA schools in Jabalyia.

Karam is now taking shelter at the al-Rafdeen school in Gaza City. Among the children there is constant talk about it being bombed and how parents cannot put a stop to it all.


Here, another piece conveys the thoughts of a selection of residents of Gaza.

Noam Chomsky also provided valuable insights in an extended (and superb) essay:

Israel’s goal had long been a simple one: quiet-for-quiet, a return to the norm (though now it may demand even more). What then is the norm?

For the West Bank, the norm has been that Israel carries forward its illegal construction of settlements and infrastructure so that it can integrate into Israel whatever might be of value to it, meanwhile consigning Palestinians to unviable cantons and subjecting them to intense repression and violence.

For the past 14 years, the norm has been that Israel kills more than two Palestinian children a week. The latest Israeli rampage was set of by the brutal murder of three Israeli boys from a settler community in the occupied West Bank. A month before, two Palestinian boys were shot dead in the West Bank city of Ramallah. That elicited no attention, which is understandable, since it is routine. “The institutionalised disregard for Palestinian life in the West helps explain not only why Palestinians resort to violence,” the respected Middle East analyst Mouin Rabbani reports, “but also Israel’s latest assault on the Gaza Strip.”


...

The norm in Gaza was described in detail by the heroic Norwegian trauma surgeon Mads Gilbert, who has worked in Gaza’s main hospital through Israel’s most grotesque crimes and returned again for the current onslaught. In June 2014, immediately before the latest Israeli onslaught, he submitted a report on the Gaza health sector to UNRWA, the UN Agency that tries desperately, on a shoestring, to care for refugees.

“At least 57 % of Gaza households are food insecure and about 80 % are now aid recipients,” Gilbert reports. “Food insecurity and rising poverty also mean that most residents cannot meet their daily caloric requirements, while over 90 % of the water in Gaza has been deemed unfit for human consumption,” a situation that is becoming even worse as Israel again attacks water and sewage systems, leaving over a million people with even more severe disruption of the barest necessity of life.

Gilbert reports that “Palestinian children in Gaza are suffering immensely. A large proportion are affected by the man-made malnourishment regime caused by the Israeli imposed blockage. Prevalence of anaemia in children <2yrs in Gaza is at 72.8%, while prevalence of wasting, stunting, underweight have been documented at 34.3%, 31.4%, 31.45% respectively.” And it gets worse as the report proceeds.


...

A 72-hour humanitarian truce was supposed to go into effect at 8am on August 1. It broke down almost at once. As I write, a few hours later, there are conflicting accounts and a good deal remains unclear. According to a press release of the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza, which has a solid reputation for reliability, one of its field workers in Rafah, at the Egyptian border in the south, heard Israeli artillery firing at about 8:05am. By about 9:30am, after reports that an Israeli soldier had been captured, intensive air and artillery bombing of Rafah was underway, killing probably dozens of people and injuring hundreds who had returned to their homes after the ceasefire entered into effect, though numbers could not yet be verified.

The day before, on July 31, the Coastal Water Utility, the sole provider of water in the Gaza Strip, announced that it could no longer provide water or sanitation services because of lack of fuel and frequent attacks on personnel. Al Mezan reports that by then, “almost all primary health services have stopped in the Gaza Strip due to the lack of water, garbage collection and environment health services. UNRWA had also warned about the risk of imminent spreading of disease owing to the halt of water and sanitation services.” Meanwhile, on the eve of the cease-fire, Israeli missiles fired from aircraft continued to kill and wound victims throughout the region.


...

Could US policy change? It’s not impossible. Public opinion has shifted considerably in recent years, particularly among the young, and it cannot be completely ignored. For some years there has been a good basis for public demands that Washington observe its own laws and cut off military aid to Israel. US law requires that “no security assistance may be provided to any country the government of which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.” Israel most certainly is guilty of this consistent pattern, and has been for many years. That is why Amnesty International, in the course of Israel’s murderous Cast Lead operation in Gaza, called for an arms embargo against Israel (and Hamas). Senator Patrick Leahy, author of this provision of the law, has brought up its potential applicability to Israel in specific cases, and with a well-conducted educational, organizational, and activist effort such initiatives could be pursued successively. That could have a very significant impact in itself, while also providing a springboard for further actions not only to punish Israel for its criminal behavior, but also to compel Washington to become part of “the international community” and to observe international law and decent moral principles.

Nothing could be more significant for the tragic Palestinian victims of many years of violence and repression.


Brian Eno wrote an impassioned open letter to the American people here:

Today I saw a picture of a weeping Palestinian man holding a plastic carrier bag of meat. It was his son. He'd been shredded (the hospital's word) by an Israeli missile attack - apparently using their fab new weapon, flechette bombs. You probably know what those are - hundreds of small steel darts packed around explosive which tear the flesh off humans. The boy was Mohammed Khalaf al-Nawasra. He was 4 years old.

I suddenly found myself thinking that it could have been one of my kids in that bag, and that thought upset me more than anything has for a long time.

Then I read that the UN had said that Israel might be guilty of war crimes in Gaza, and they wanted to launch a commission into that. America won't sign up to it.

What is going on in America? I know from my own experience how slanted your news is, and how little you get to hear about the other side of this story. But - for Christ's sake! - it's not that hard to find out. Why does America continue its blind support of this one-sided exercise in ethnic cleansing? WHY? I just don't get it. I really hate to think its just the power of AIPAC… for if that's the case, then your government really is fundamentally corrupt. No, I don't think that's the reason… but I have no idea what it could be.

The America I know and like is compassionate, broadminded, creative, eclectic, tolerant and generous. You, my close American friends, symbolise those things for me. But which America is backing this horrible one-sided colonialist war? I can't work it out: I know you're not the only people like you, so how come all those voices aren't heard or registered?


While these insights, especially those of Noam Chomsky, are vital for common understanding, no written description can hope to convey the horror and desperation of those living in constant fear of violent death with practically no hope for any kind of decent future, especially with regard to the children - half the population, as already observed. Readers outside this nightmare can not possibly understand the feelings elicited in a small child by the distinctive sounds of armed drone aircraft as they approach or circle overhead, or the sound of artillery, just as no one can truly appreciate how it really was to be in the trenches in World War I.

Media Lens provides us with an expert analysis of the corporate media's coverage of the Gaza 'offensive':

Soon after Malaysian Airlines MH17 crashed near Donetsk, Ukraine on July 18, killing 298 people, the BBC website quickly, and rightly, set up a 'LIVE' feed with rolling reports and commentary on the disaster. This was clearly an important and dramatic event involving horrific loss of life with serious political implications. The public would, of course, be searching for the latest news.

However, since July 8, ten days prior to the crash, Israeli armed forces had been bombarding the trapped civilian population of Gaza with airstrikes, drone strikes and naval shelling. As the massive Israeli assault ramped up on July 9, the World section of the BBC News website had this as its headline:

'Israel under renewed Hamas attack'

By July 18, around 300 people had been killed in Gaza, 80% of them civilians. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a key political issue of our time, one that was clearly developing by the minute after July 8. And yet at no point had the BBC set up a 'LIVE' feed with rolling news.

That finally changed on July 20 after so many days in which so many Palestinians had been killed. Why July 20? The answer appears to be found in the fourth entry of the live feed under the title 'Breaking News':

'Some 13 Israeli soldiers were killed overnight in Gaza, news agencies, quoting Israeli military sources, say. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to address the nation shortly.'

Despite this small number of military deaths compared to the Palestinian toll, it seems clear that the killing of the Israeli troops triggered the BBC live feed.


...

Remarkably, on the morning of July 23, when 18 Palestinians were killed, the BBC set up a live feed for the wrecked Italian cruise liner Costa Concordia, which showed the ship being towed to Genoa. There was no live feed for Gaza.

The BBC has supplied names, ages, pictures and emotive background stories of the Malaysian air crash victims while, with rare exceptions, Palestinian dead have been presented as nameless figures, briefly mentioned, then forgotten.

The level of BBC bias was emphasised by an article headline that placed inverted commas around the siege in Gaza, as if it were a matter for debate: "Palestinian PM says lift Gaza 'siege' as part of ceasefire". The BBC subsequently changed the title, but a tweet promoting the article with the original wording remains.


[Aside: the full alert is very enlightening and highly recommended (as always)]

The MSM is also exploiting the current focus on war to hype up pointless fluff pieces to capitalize on public outrage and generate more clicks (to drive up advertizing revenue) like the Russell Brand-Sean Hannity dust-up, divisions in Hollywood over the issue, and - inevitably - 'wreathgate'.

The UK's bastion of the 'pacifist, liberal left', the Guardian must be singled out for criticism. The message 'Winner of the Pulitzer Prize' is carried proudly at the top of the front page, and it is true that this newspaper has carried some superb reporting, but the true barometer for judging a media organ is not the heights to which is rises, but the depths to which it falls, and in the case of the Guardian, with its smear campaign against the brave and pioneering Julian Assange and its long history of support for Western warmongering, those depths are low indeed.

Beyond the fluff, and with the MSM desperate to avoid terminology that will have irate Israeli representatives on the phone ('We wait in fear for the phone call from the Israelis'), it is left to ordinary observers of this tragedy to find the correct term to describe it.

That term is 'genocide'.

From a 99.99998271% article last year (on the Rohingya genocide):

Daniel Goldhagen's harrowing documentary on genocide, 'Worse than War', sheds light on factors common to all genocides:

Leaders choose to initiate the killing.

Ordinary people make a conscious choice to participate.

Killers can be friends and neighbors.

Genocide is always the decision of one leader or one small group of leaders. Leaders' goals vary depending on time, place and circumstances.

Killers frequently believe the victims will come to kill, enslave or dominate them if they do not strike first.

Other common themes: target population is expelled from the country, herded into camps, and subjected to planned rape and slaughter. Cruelty is a key element. Victims are often 'brutalized in a way that far exceeds what is needed to kill them'.

Genocide is never just about killing. Perpetrators want to eliminate all or a substantial part of the group. After all, if the purpose is just to wipe people out, why do we see so much cruelty and murderous passion, especially against women and children?

Genocidal leaders have learned that, in the main, the international community rarely intervenes (at least not until it is too late) and therefore that they can act with impunity.

Gregory H Stanton, Research Professor in Genocide Studies and Prevention at George Mason University in Fairfax County, Virginia, United States and President of Genocide Watch wrote a report entitled 'The Eight Stages of Genocide'. The report is summarized briefly here but it should be read in full as it also contains suggestions of preventive measures at each stage of the cycle. The eight stages of genocide are:

1. Classification: An 'us and them' mentality in which there is little or no common ground

2. Symbolization: Target groups are given specific names or distinguished by colors or dress.

3. Dehumanization: One group dehumanizes the other, comparing them to 'animals, vermin, diseases or insects'. This helps overcome the natural human revulsion toward killing. Hate propaganda vilifying the target group is found throughout various media.

4. Organization: Genocide is always organized, usually at the state level, with local militias often used in order to aid in government denials of responsibility.

5. Polarization: Groups are driven physically apart by extremist groups. Moderates from the perpetrators' own group can be targeted and killed as they are the main threat to the genocide proceeding at this stage.

6. Preparation: Victims are identified and separated out; death lists are drawn up; property of victims is expropriated; victims are segregated or deported into ghettos or camps - or confined to famine-stricken regions and starved.

7. Extermination: Mass killing begins - called 'extermination' by the killers because they see victims as less than human. It is sponsored and organized by the state but security forces often work with local militias to kill. If the victims are organized or have access to weapons, this can result in bilateral genocide. At this stage, only rapid and/or large-scale intervention can hope to end the cycle of killing.

8. Denial: Perpetrators dig up mass graves, burn bodies, intimidate witnesses and/or attempt to cover up evidence. Crimes are denied and the victims are often blamed. Official investigations are blocked and perpetrators continue to govern until removed by force.


A significant number of the above points will be familiar to anyone following the situation in Gaza, both in the long and short-term. Indeed, as journalist Jonathon Cook notes, genocidal language is now entering the mainstream in Israel. The shocking reports of Israeli civilians viewing from hillsides and cheering as bombs drop are only too credible when one understands that Israel is engaged in a genocidal campaign against a trapped and helpless people.

One that would not be possible without the active support, in terms of both matériel/surveillance and mass media propaganda, of the elected governments of the self-proclaimed beacons of democracy: the UK and the US. The adjective 'Orwellian' no longer suffices to describe the hubris and insanity that now dominates world affairs through these amoral, malignant and voracious imperialistic entities and their powerful proxies and allies.

When the leaders of the enlightened, peace-loving West made their speeches to mark the centenary of the 'Great War', what they did not do was reveal the truth: that they countenance industrial murder for the enormous profits engendered by the arms industry and the strategic, geopolitical benefits garnered; even the murder of small children and babies. This murderous farce has afflicted humanity for centuries, sometimes openly in military dictatorships, other times hidden behind the glossy sheen of freedom and democracy, enforced always by thugs who possess the fatal, unfortunate ability to beguile and deceive the (sometimes voting) public.

More than anything, Gaza underlines the murderous passivity and powerlessness [read: complicity] of the very organs charged with ensuring world peace like the United Nations. The citizens of the world are now all too aware that no entity has the power to rein in neo-imperialism.

Only one thing can hope to end this, but it requires a brave decision: a decision to speak up against an entity with the power to crush you. However, it becomes easier when one recognizes that the little children of Gaza as well as the little children dying in the silent holocaust of poverty and starvation (21,000 people every day), and the little children trafficked into sexual slavery have no other advocate but you.

It becomes easier still if everyone speaks up against this outrage in unity. Even just sharing articles to spread awareness is a vital action - an important start. But if the indiscriminate slaughter of toddlers in Gaza is not sufficient to move you to action, however small, it is time to ask yourself just what will.

Written by Simon Wood

Twitter: @simonwood11

[Special Note: If you are an editor of a widely-read magazine or newspaper and would like this author to contribute articles, please contact me directly at swooddda@gmail.com. The human rights and democracy issues covered by this daily blog (and the main blog) desperately need a wider audience]

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