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News :: Human Rights
Israel's Operation Stone Age - Defend the Palestinians
11 Jul 2014
Operation Protective Edge is a dangerous illusion that is likely to backfire on the Israeli war machine -

( Photo Credit: Women in Gaza mourn after a rocket attack on Wednesday (AA)
Click on image for a larger version

Summer Rains, Autumn Clouds, Hot Winter, Cast Lead, Returning Echo, Pillar of Defence and now Protective Edge. The names of Israel's assaults on Gaza are a fantasy, an exercise in make believe. They buy Israel neither peace nor deterrence.

They are however extremely effective. They are effective at raising yet another generation of Palestinians committed to Israel's destruction. In this particular case, and at this particular time, nothing but a full scale assault on Gaza could more effectively kill off the idea in the Palestinian mind - regardless of where it resides - that Israelis are prepared to live alongside them peacefully in a separate state.

This is the solution to which liberal Zionists are wedded, because it is the only one which guarantees the survival of a Jewish majority within its 1948 borders. And yet it is precisely this fading solution that Israel's military might is now proceeding to bury in the rubble of its bombardments. A better name for the current offensive would be Operation Stone Age. The stones referred to are those of another intifada.

Khaled Meshaal, Hamas' leader should be listened to when he said on Wednesday that it will not be long before you will not be able to find a Palestinian who dares talk about a state based on the 67 borders. I am guessing, because I have not asked him, but the writer of the following blog which appeared on Tuesday, would probably agree.

"However, the rapid deterioration we're experiencing in the security situation did not come because of the vile murder of Naftali, Eyal and Gil-Ad, may their memories be blessed.

“The deterioration is first and foremost a result of the illusion that the government's inaction on every front can actually freeze the situation in place, the illusion that ‘price tag’ is simply a few slogans on the wall and not pure racism, the illusion that everything can be solved with a little more force, the illusion that the Palestinians will accept everything that's done in the West Bank and won't respond despite the rage and frustration and the worsening economic situation, the illusion that the international community won't impose sanctions on us, that the Arab citizens of Israel won't take to the streets at the end of the day because of the lack of care for their problems."

The author is Yuval Diskin, Shin Bet's director between 2005-2011 and that passage comes from his Facebook page.

Diskin is right. This operation is not a response to the murder of three Israeli teenagers. The plan to attack, or at least the temptation to attack, Hamas in the West Bank and then in Gaza had been building for months for a whole number of reasons: Israel's inability to accept the Palestinian Unity government; the assumption that with the change of regime in Egypt, and loss of money from Iran, Hamas in Gaza was more vulnerable to attack; the US foreclosure of the option of attacking Iran, which has promoted Hamas back into the Premier League of Israel's existential enemies.

Diskin's former colleagues in Shin Bet say Hamas is responsible for the abduction and murder of the youths. They could be right in one sense: Meshaal's decision to form a unity government was controversial within Hamas. A meeting in Doha prior to the announcement saw fierce disagreement particularly from Hamas members in the West Bank, who know that Abbas' continued security cooperation with Israel meant a continued crackdown on them.

Meshaal was attacked within Hamas for giving too much ground to Abbas. A kidnap and murder of three young Israeli settlers in the West Bank could have been conducted by Hamas affiliates in Hebron for the express reason of torpedoing a policy they never had agreed to in the first place. Another motivation for the kidnap could have been an attempt to force a prisoner release which Netanyahu stopped as the talks with Abbas collapsed.

But the idea that Meshaal in Doha or anyone in Gaza would have dreamed this operation up flies in the face of all logic - and say what you will about Hamas, they are logical. Those who planned these abductions wanted to destroy the unity government. That could include a rival Palestinian faction, or Israel, but it could not include Meshaal himself, or Hamas in Gaza who have done everything in word and deed to keep the deal going, and still have not resiled from it to this day.

Israel did not need evidence. It needed a publicly plausible excuse to implement a pre-arranged plan. Thus it was with the invasion of Lebanon in 1982. On 3 June that year Shlomo Argov, the Israeli ambassador to Britain was hit by a burst of submachine gun fire as he left the Dorchester hotel, an attack he survived. Three members of the hit squad were arrested and charged with the crime. They were from Abu Nidal's Fatah Revolutionary Council, but it was the PLO in Beirut who copped it. The same scenario is happening now.

So the question arises: what does Netanyahu hope to achieve? Speaking purely from Israel's own pragmatic interests, there are many elements in the current situation which could make Israel's long-term security worse.

The Palestinian eruption to the racist murder of Mohamed Abu Khdeir took place not in the West Bank or Gaza, but within the borders of Israel itself - in Jerusalem, Nazareth and the northern triangle. Where would you least expect a third intifada to start? In a middle class area of east Jerusalem called Shuafat. Connected to the centre of the city by the new Light Train, this was supposed to be the model of integration, yet it was here that the protest was at its strongest.

These are Israeli citizens. More importantly, they are Jerusalem residents and they live on the Israeli side of the separation wall.

But the Israeli reaction to the two sets of killings said it all. If Jews are killed, the homes of their suspected Arab killers are blown up before they are arrested, let alone charged. But if an Arab is killed, their Jewish killers get the benefit of due judicial process. All victims are citizens of the same state. There is just a world of difference in how their deaths are treated.

The Palestinian reaction to Israel's military offensive is undoing years and millions of dollars of Israeli work. It is reuniting Palestinians in the West Bank, Israel and Gaza, which Israel has been trying to divide and contain in cantons.

The statements of Meshaal and Mahmoud Abbas both reflect this. For the first time, Hamas put at the top of its conditions for a ceasefire, a demand for Israel to halt all operations in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Previously Hamas had put Gaza first. Not now.

The last truce agreement between Hamas and Israel did not include the West Bank, and Israel's incursions into the West Bank were not seen as an excuse by Hamas to claim that the truce was breaking down. This time however it is the other way round. Israel is using what happened in the West Bank to attack Gaza and it is making a fatal mistake, because it is reuniting two sides it has made great efforts to keep apart.

Regionally, it is making an even bigger miscalculation. Israel is no longer surrounded by buffer states, friendly or hostile, which secure its borders. Syria no longer performs that function and nor indeed does Sisi's Egypt, which is facing a full blown jihadist insurgency in Sinai.

The counter-revolutions and civil wars sparked by the Arab Spring have brought chaos to the region in which groups like the Islamic State thrive. They are no respecter of borders as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Egypt are finding out. By bringing the Palestinian cause once again to the forefront of the Middle eastern stage, Israel is attracting the worst kind of interest from the most extreme elements of radical Islam - especially if it succeeds in crushing Hamas.

Militarily superior and the instigator of most of what happens in its immediate neighbourhood, Israel still has the power to make peace with millions of Palestinians amongst whom it has to live in war or peace. It can still make territorial concessions from a position of strength. The emphasis here is on the word "still." In a few years time, it may not be able to do so.

- David Hearst is editor-in-chief of Middle East Eye. He was chief foreign leader writer of The Guardian, former Associate Foreign Editor, European Editor, Moscow Bureau Chief, European Correspondent, and Ireland Correspondent. He joined The Guardian, from The Scotsman, where he was education correspondent.

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Re: Israel's Operation Stone Age - Defend the Palestinians
11 Jul 2014
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Despite the hand-wringing among Israelis over the deaths of Palestinians, few want to face the true reason such hatred survives: A state-sanctioned sense of superiority


Here we go again. The ritual of the good citizen has begun among Jewish citizens in Israel. Everyone is genuinely ‘shocked’ over the death of Mohamed Abu Khdeir. Everyone is ashamed and trying to understand how it is possible. How can anyone burn a Palestinian boy alive?

Yet in the same breath these citizens offer answers to why this happened: ‘It’s the fault of the extremists in parliament. It’s the fault of extreme religious leaders and (or) it’s because of social media encouraging hate and racism’.

Such arguments are indeed frightening and disturbing. But the extreme in this case is defined by the centre - and it is the centre that concerns me.

Rather than calls for revenge, it is the feelings of liberal, moderate Jews on Facebook over the murder that should be raising questions. Why are expressions being used as such as: ‘I am praying in my heart that it was not Jews who did it.’

I have seen this before. It seems normal, mainstream, law-abiding Israeli citizens need to feel that the violence and the racism are on the margins of society - far from them. This is the only way to construct a calm normality around themselves.

But I have news for these Israelis: Nothing is calm here, and the fault for the hatred on show doesn’t lie with the extremists. The culprit is the racist discourse created and sustained by the leaders of this country.

Racist laws discriminating against Palestinian citizens are regularly proposed in parliament, some of them pass into law while appearing as a natural part of our ethnic democracy. It is very important to stress that these laws did not emanate from some right-wing Jewish terrorist cell. They are part of the foundation of our society.

The army - not three Jewish terrorists - killed 1,384 Palestinian children in the last 14 years (127 Israeli children were killed at the same period by Palestinians). Were any of the killers condemned? Were any accused of murder? Did people question these deaths? In May, two young Palestinian boys were killed by soldiers. No shock was expressed by mainstream Israeli society and very few people saw this as an indication that something is very wrong.

I have been listening to the more moderate leaders these past few days - those who are calling for restraint and who want us to act from our heads rather than from our stomachs. President Shimon Peres said about the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir of Shoafat: “…We did not believe that our people were capable of such a horrible and cruel crime ….we must not be such a people….there is no difference between (Palestinian) blood and (Jewish) blood. Murder that is committed on nationalistic grounds is a horrible crime, we must not accept it….”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also spoken on the issue: ”….just as I condemn slogans that call for death to Jews, I condemn slogans that call for death to Arabs… murder is murder… the place of the murderers of the [Palestinian] boy is not among us – not in Israeli society….that is what makes us different from our neighbors. There [in Palestine] murderers are accepted as heroes, they [Palestinians] name city squares after them….”

Our minister of defense, Yaalon, has also said: “The Jewish murderers are terrorists…they are despised, they do not represent the Jewish people….”

These are fine words on the surface, but behind these strong clear words there is a not-so-subtle subtext reflecting and helping to sustain a culture. The subtext is that we are better than them. Jews are morally better than Arabs.

This subtext justifies everything that the state is doing. Even the murder of Abu Khdeir is cynically used for this great scheme: Our leaders tell us to note how shocked we are and how quickly we found the killers. We are moral and we punish our strays.

On the other hand the army’s investigation into the killing of the two Palestinian boys in May is still going on. It seems that it is very difficult to conclude how they were killed, although the investigators know which soldiers were at the scene, they have cameras which documented the killings and the army controls the area. It is important to unravel the mindset of the liberal moderate Israelis who can actually be quite critical until it comes to security issues. That is when they give their support to the military and to the courts.

Many years ago I taught a class in one of the universities based on dialogue between Jewish and Palestinian students regarding the nature of the conflict. One day a young Jewish man who had recently completed his regular army service began to tell the group about horrible things that he had taken part in as a soldier.

This is something that is rarely heard - especially in front of Palestinians. He had hardly begun his story before the young Jewish women in the group aggressively told him to stop. They accused him of lying and exaggerating. It can’t be true, they said, because we live with soldiers. Our husbands and boyfriends could not have committed such crimes. The young man appeared to have disturbed their sense of superiority and entitlement, disrupting their ability to live in denial.

I walk in fear among my people and I wonder where the killers are of the other 1,384 Palestinian children? Is my doctor among them? My lawyer? My student? My children’s teacher? My car mechanic?

- Michal Zak is a political educator, expert in Jewish-Palestinian dialogue and a resident of the Palestinian –Jewish community of Wahat al Salam-Neve Shalom, in Israel.
Re: Israel's Operation Stone Age - Defend the Palestinians
11 Jul 2014
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Where's the Outrage Over a Boy Burnt to Death The Atrocity by URI AVNERY

Bombs are raining on Gaza and rockets on Southern Israel, people are dying and homes are being destroyed.


Again without any purpose. Again with the certainty that after it’s all over, everything will essentially be the same as it was before.

But I can hardly hear the sirens which warn of rockets coming towards Tel Aviv. I cannot take my mind off the awful thing that happened in Jerusalem.

If a gang of neo-Nazis had kidnapped a 16-year old boy in a London Jewish neighborhood in the dark of the night, driven him to Hyde Park, beaten him up, poured gasoline into his mouth, doused him all over and set him on fire – what would have happened?

Wouldn’t the UK have exploded in a storm of anger and disgust?

Wouldn’t the Queen have expressed her outrage?

Wouldn’t the Prime Minister have rushed to the home of the bereaved family to apologize on behalf of the entire nation?

Wouldn’t the leadership of the neo-Nazis, their active supporters and brain-washers be indicted and condemned?

Perhaps in the UK. Perhaps in Germany.

Not here.

This abominal atrocity took place in Jerusalem. A Palestinian boy was abducted and burned alive. No racist crime in Israel ever came close to it.

Burning people alive is an abomination everywhere. In a state that claims to be “Jewish”, it is even worse.

In Jewish history, only one chapter comes close to the Holocaust: the Spanish inquisition. This Catholic institution tortured Jews and burned them alive at the stake. Later, this happened sometimes in the Russian pogroms. Even the most fanatical enemy of Israel could not imagine such an awful thing happening in Israel. Until now.

Under Israeli law, East Jerusalem is not occupied territory. It is a part of sovereign Israel.

The chain of events was as follows:

Two Palestinians, apparently acting alone, kidnapped three Israeli teenagers who were trying to hitchhike at night from a settlement near Hebron. The objective was probably to use them as hostages for the release of Palestinian prisoners.

The action went awry when one of the three succeeded in calling the Israeli police emergency number from his mobile phone. The kidnappers, assuming that the police would soon be on their tracks, panicked and shot the three at once. They dumped the bodies in a field and fled. (Actually the police bungled things and only started their hunt the next morning.)

All of Israel was in an uproar. Many thousands of soldiers were employed for three weeks in the search for the three youngsters, combing thousands of buildings, caves and fields.

The public uproar was surely justified. But it soon degenerated into an orgy of racist incitement, which intensified from day to day. Newspapers, radio stations and TV networks competed with each other in unabashed racist diatribes, repeating the official line ad nauseam and adding their own nauseous commentary – every day, around the clock.

The security services of the Palestinian Authority, which collaborated throughout with the Israeli security services, played a major role in discovering early on the identity of the two kidnappers (identified but not yet caught). Mahmoud Abbas, the PA president, stood up in a meeting of the Arab countries and condemned the kidnapping unequivocally and was branded by many of his own people as an Arab Quisling. Israeli leaders, on the other hand, called him a hypocrite.

Israel’s leading politicians let loose a salvo of utterances which would be seen anywhere else as outright fascist. A short selection:

Danny Danon, deputy Minister of Defense: “If a Russian boy had been kidnapped, Putin would have flattened village after village!”

“Jewish Home” faction leader Ayala Shaked: “With a people whose heroes are child murderers we must deal accordingly.” (“Jewish Home” is a part of the government coalition.)

Noam Perl, world chairman of Bnei Akiva, the youth movement of the settlers: “An entire nation and thousands of years of history demand: Revenge!”

Uri Bank, former secretary of Uri Ariel, Housing Minister and builder of the settlements: “This is the right moment . When our children are hurt, we go berserk, no limits, dismantling of the Palestinian Authority, annexation of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), execution of all prisoners who have been condemned for murder, exile of family members of terrorists!”

And Binyamin Netanyahu himself, speaking about the entire Palestinian people: “They are not like us. We sanctify life, they sanctify death!”

When the bodies of the three were found by tourist guides, the chorus of hatred reached a new crescendo. Soldiers posted tens of thousands of messages on the internet calling for “revenge”, politicians egged them on, the media added fuel, lynch mobs gathered in many places in Jerusalem to hunt Arab workers and rough them up.

Except for a few lonely voices, it seemed that all Israel had turned into a soccer mob, shouting “Death to the Arabs!”

Can anyone even imagine a present-day European or American crowd shouting “Death to the Jews?”

The six arrested until now for the bestial murder of the Arab boy had come straight from one of these “Death to the Arabs” demonstrations.

First they had tried to kidnap a 9-year old boy in the same Arab neighborhood, Shuafat. One of them caught the boy in the street and dragged him towards their car, choking him at the same time. Luckily, the child succeeded in shouting “Mama!” and his mother started hitting the kidnapper with her cell phone. He panicked and ran off. The choking marks on the boy’s neck could be seen for several days.

The next day the group returned, caught Muhammad Abu-Khdeir, a cheerful 16-year old boy with an engaging smile, poured gasoline in his mouth and burned him to death.

(As if this was not enough, Border Policemen caught his cousin during a protest demonstration, handcuffed him, threw him on the ground and started kicking his head and face. His wounds look terrible. The disfigured boy was arrested, the policemen were not.)

The atrocious way Muhammad was murdered was not mentioned at first. The fact was disclosed by an Arab pathologist who was present at the official autopsy. Most Israeli newspapers mentioned the fact in a few words on an inner page. Most TV newscasts did not mention the fact at all.

In Israel proper, Arab citizens rose up as they have not done in many years. Violent demonstrations throughout the country lasted for several days. At the same time, the Gaza Strip frontline exploded in a new orgy of rockets and aerial bombings in a new mini-war which already has a name: “Solid Cliff”. (The army’s propaganda section has invented another name in English.) The new Egyptian dictatorship is collaborating with the Israeli army in choking the Strip.

The names of the six suspects of the murder-by-fire – several of whom have already confessed to the appalling deed – are still being withheld. But unofficial reports say that they belong to the Orthodox community. Apparently this community, traditionally anti-Zionist and moderate, has now spawned neo-Nazi offspring, which surpass even their religious-Zionist competitors.

Yet terrible as the deed itself is, to my mind the public reaction is even worse. Because there isn’t any.

True, a few sporadic voices have been heard. Many more ordinary people have voiced their disgust in private conversations. But the deafening moral outrage one could have expected did not materialize.

Everything was done to minimize the “incident”, prevent its publication abroad and even inside Israel. Life went on as usual. A few government leaders and other politicians condemned the deed in routine phrases, for consumption abroad. The soccer world cup contest elicited far more interest. Even on the Left, the atrocity was treated as just another item among the many misdeeds of the occupation.

Where is the outcry, the moral uprising of the nation, the unanimous decision to stamp out the racism that makes such atrocities possible?

The new flare-up in and around the Gaza Strip has obliterated the atrocity altogether.

Sirens sound in Jerusalem and in towns north of Tel-Aviv. The missiles aimed at Israeli population centers have successfully (up to now) been intercepted by counter-missiles. But hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are running to the shelters. On the other side, hundreds of daily sorties of the Israeli Air Force turn life in the Gaza Strip into hell.

When the cannon roar, the muses fall silent.

Also the pity for a boy burnt to death.

URI AVNERY is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom.