The charge of the Atlanticist Brigade

The charge of the Atlanticist Brigade

By Peter Lee
Asia Times
July 22, 2014

The bloody farce in the Ukraine took another ugly turn with the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

And to be ugly about it, if the rebels shot the plane down, it shouldn’t matter very much except as a horrible and unexpected catastrophe in a war zone and an overwhelming tragedy to the survivors of the victims on board. Call it an accident, collateral damage, manslaughter, there is no credible version of events in which it was intentional mass murder or terrorism, either by the rebels or Russian technicians that, according to the Ukrainian government, possessed the ability to operate the elderly but complex anti-aircraft systems fingered in the attack.

Recall the US shootdown of Iran Air Flight 655 in 1988 by the USS Vincennes. It was also an ugly business. The Iran Air jet was on a standard civilian flight path with its transponders on; the Vincennes through some bit of naval derring-do had actually intruded into Iranian territorial waters when it shot the plane down (something that was only admitted by the US three years later); 290 people died. The US never apologized, but eventually paid out some money to smooth things over, not in a particularly classy way, according to a 2002 account:

The US had compensated non-Iranian victims about US$2.9 million (not acknowledging any responsibility) but nothing to Iranian family members. In 1996, a $131.8 million settlement was reached that included the ignored families ($61.8 million). Seventy million was to be put into bank accounts and used to “pay off private US claims against Iran and Iran’s expenses for the Iran-US Claims Tribunal, which is handling the claims.” The US stated it was for claims “involving banking matters, not the airliner,” while Iran said that 30 million was for the plane.

The shootdown was accompanied by the usual quotient of dishonest denial and blame shifting.

The following day, the Pentagon held a news conference on the incident. After originally having flatly denied Iran’s version of the event, saying that it had shot down an F-14 fighter and not a civilian aircraft, the State Department (after a review of the evidence) admitted the downing of Iran Air 655. It was claimed that the plane had “strayed too close to two US Navy warships that were engaged in a battle with Iranian gunboats” and, according to the spokesman, that the “proper defensive action” was taken (in part) because the “suspect aircraft was outside the prescribed commercial air corridor”. (Washington Post)

That it “strayed” from its normal, scheduled flight path is factually incorrect. And so was the claim that it was heading right for the ship and “descending” (emphasis, mine) toward it – it was ascending. Another “error” was the contention that it took place in international waters (it did not, a fact only later admitted by the government). Incorrect maps were used when Congress was briefed on the incident.

In an interesting sidebar, the “planeful of naked corpses” conspiracy canard (for which Western journos have repeatedly mocked a Ukrainian rebel militia leader who was, presumably, dumbfounded by the grotesque carnage of the crash) was first deployed by right wing US radio commentators to accuse Iran of staging a provocation by flying a plane of naked corpses at the Vincennes.

The Iran Air shootdown was classified as a goof – although the Iranians declared it rose to the level of criminal misconduct (and have been accused of engineering the Lockerbie bombing as retaliation) – and the captain of the Vincennes was condemned by his fellow officers as a reckless dingbat, per Wikipedia:

Commander David Carlson, commanding officer of the USS Sides, the warship stationed near to the Vincennes at the time of the incident, is reported to have said that the destruction of the aircraft “marked the horrifying climax to Captain Rogers’ aggressiveness, first seen four weeks ago.”[39] His comment referred to incidents on 2 June, when Rogers had sailed the Vincennes too close to an Iranian frigate undertaking a lawful search of a bulk carrier, launched a helicopter within 2-3 miles (3.2-4.8 kilometers) of an Iranian small craft despite rules of engagement requiring a four-mile (6.4 km) separation, and opened fire on small Iranian military boats.

Of those incidents, Carlson commented, “Why do you want an Aegis cruiser out there shooting up boats? It wasn’t a smart thing to do.” He also said that Iranian forces he had encountered in the area a month prior to the incident were “… pointedly non-threatening” and professional. At the time of Rogers’ announcement to higher command that he was going to shoot down the plane, Carlson is reported to have been thunderstruck: “I said to folks around me, ‘Why, what the hell is he doing?’ I went through the drill again. F-14. He’s climbing. By now this damn thing is at 7,000 feet.” Carlson thought the Vincennes might have more information, and was unaware that Rogers had been wrongly informed that the plane was diving.

Craig, Morales & Oliver, in a slide presentation published in M.I.T.’s Spring 2004 Aeronautics & Astronautics as the “USS Vincennes Incident”, commented that Captain Rogers had “an undeniable and unequivocal tendency towards what I call ‘picking a fight.'” On his own initiative, Rogers moved the Vincennes 50 miles (80 km) northeast to join the USS Montgomery. An angry Captain Richard McKenna, Chief of Surface Warfare for the Commander of the Joint Task Force, ordered Rogers back to Abu Musa, but the Vincennes helicopter pilot, Lt Mark Collier, followed the Iranian speedboats as they retreated north, eventually taking some fire:

… the Vincennes jumps back into the fray. Heading towards the majority of the speedboats, he is unable to get a clear target. Also, the speedboats are now just slowly milling about in their own territorial waters. Despite clear information to the contrary, Rogers informs command that the gunboats are gathering speed and showing hostile intent and gains approval to fire upon them at 0939. Finally, in another fateful decision, he crosses the 12-nautical-mile (22 km) limit off the coast and enters illegally into Iranian waters.[42]

Captain Rogers was not officially censured for the shootdown; instead, two years later he was awarded the Legion of Merit for his services while captain of the Vincennes and soon after retired.

There you have it.

So, by the ordinary standards of murderous military ineptitude, the fallout from the MH17 tragedy would be disorganization and denial, an exhaustive and time-consuming investigation, a belated acknowledgment of responsibility, no legal consequences, and the application of some financial emollient eight or so years down the road.

This is obviously Putin’s goal, whether or not rebel forces were complicit (which I should say is not yet a slam dunk, despite the declarations of the US government), an objective which the US and many of its allies are determined to deny him.

There have been several attempts to frame the accidental shootdown as an episode of Putin barbarism that places him and his government beyond the civilized pale and in the fatal zone of illegitimate pariah state upon whom demands can be made, and whose calls for due process can be swept aside, and fair game for whatever principled skullduggery the democratic powers can concoct.

The first and, to be blunt, most ludicrous episode was “corpse gate”, an attempt to depict the militias, and by extension their purported puppet-master, Putin, as inhumanly callous in their treatment of the remains of the nearly 300 people that had fallen from the sky.

The militias were clearly overwhelmed by the vast disaster scene and the question of how to secure it properly. No doubt there was looting – an endemic problem at all crash sites, even in the civilized United States – and possibly the idea of diddling with evidence and getting the black boxes into friendly Russian hands. As to the disgusting drunkenness allegedly exhibited by some militia members, crash scenes are horrible, they can be extremely traumatic, and it is not out of the question that some militia members turned to alcoholic oblivion to deal with the scenes they had witnessed.

But the media tried to latch on to the idea that the militias were committing a crime against humanity by dragging the rotting bodies hither and yon through the 88-degree heat and eventually loading them into refrigerated rail cars. In this effort the militias worked together with emergency services of the Ukraine government, which somehow made it on site, a fact that was ignored in the accusations of militia barbarism. Once the body bags were put on the train, there was also some attempt to flay the militias for not immediately pulling the train out of the station, even though the root problem seems to have been the Ukrainian government’s inability to come up with dispatch instructions.

Then there was “destruction of evidence gate”. Again, beyond the militias’ fiddling with luggage and removal of bodies, there is no credible reportage that they were attempting to tamper with the key evidence: the immense debris field of plane wreckage.

On US ABC News, an aviation expert, John Nance, pointed out that the key forensic evidence to be gleaned from the crash site would be shrapnel impact on the airframe, which would indicate what struck the plane (SAM, air to air missile or whatever) and where, and is available in abundance across the crash site. The black box recorders would be unlikely to yield useful information on the instantaneously catastrophic event itself, nor would the bodies.

The key evidence for the overall investigation will be the surveillance records of US and Russian satellites and radars, which should be able to identify where the missiles came from, as well as addressing accusations that Kiev fighters were shadowing the jet, etc.  If indeed MH17 was destroyed by a surface to air missile at 30,000 feet, the culprit would appear to be a BUK mobile air defense battery, a Soviet product extensively deployed across the remains of the USSR. The Russians have them – and the Ukrainian government has accused Russia of shuttling units across the border in order to do the dirty on Ukrainian military aircraft. The rebels might have captured one or more units; it’s unclear whether the Ukrainian military actually disabled them before abandoning them, as they claimed. The Ukrainian government also has its own working BUK units; despite government denials that there was any need to deploy anti-aircraft batteries in the east, AP had photographs of a Ukrainian BUK battery trundling through Slavyansk in early July to protect its ATO units against potential Russian airstrikes.

The Russians have already distributed a fair amount of evidentiary chaff of varying quality, claiming that a Ukranian BUK radar was switched on at the time of the incident; Robert Parry’s US defense sources are also telling him there’s a suspicion that a Ukrainian BUK battery was responsible.

So, in an ordinary investigation, plenty of he said/she said, fog of war, bluster, obfuscation and the prospect that a mutually acceptable story will be sorted out months if not years down the road.

As to the “restricting access to crash site gate” the subject of much indignant huffing and a newly minted UN Security Council resolution (which Russia supported) this appears to be a canard.

Most Western journalists in the field have reported that they easily passed through rebel checkpoints and wandered unrestricted through the crash site (one journo was castigated for actually rifling through a victim’s luggage to illustrate his video report), and noted that, if anybody was delaying the arrival of the international investigatory team, it was the Ukrainian government (which held 100+ international experts in Kiev until “security issues” could be sorted out). Further cognitive dissonance was assured when Kiev forces launched several attacks in Donetsk, not exactly conducive to the ceasefire intended to facilitate the investigation, and also endangering the passage of the “corpse train” that everybody was, at least a couple days ago, so worked up about.

To date, the US strategy seems to be to crank up the indignation machine by whatever means come to hand, in this case excoriating Russia for obstructions of the investigation that aren’t occurring, in order to justify immediate further sanctions that would short circuit Russia’s desire for a conventional, legalistic, and protracted investigation.

As of this writing, the international experts have arrived at the crash site, the rebels, after some unedifying back and forth, have coughed up the black boxes, and there seems to be little that the West can currently complain about.

But the United States is perhaps considering this unpalatable contingency.

Will it demand an immediate and intrusive inventory of Russian and rebel BUK units “or else”? Hold Russia responsible for non-appearance of rebel witnesses/suspects? Issue a pre-emptive US declaration that the culprits have been identified, coupled with a demand to produce them? Or content itself with the boilerplate declaration that Russia is not doing enough to rein in the east Ukrainian militias? We shall see.

By now, I think sanctions are an end in themselves for US Russia policy.

My outsider’s impression is that the US foreign policy for Russia has been pretty much captured by doctrinaire anti-Russians in a diplomatic and military deep state that pretty much permeates and survives every incoming administration. The Russia desk has had a reasonably good run since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and I think today the prevailing idea is that oligarch anxieties about the sanctioning of their overseas assets will soon reach a tipping point (see this article about “horror of the oligarchs”), and the “Atlanticists”, perhaps led by that nice Mr Medvedev, will club together against Putin’s “Eurasianists” and pull the plug on his dreams of confronting the West as an equal and opposite force.

Maybe Putin will need more of a shove – he’s an ex-KGB guy with multiple assets in the Russian elite and his current approvals are running over 80% – but there’s an app for that: intensified sanctions.

So sanctions, and more sanctions. Sanctions for Crimea, sanctions for succoring the separatist uprising, now sanctions related to the plane crash. Sanctions that will never go away, no matter what Putin does, as long as he stays in power.

Best case, some combination of popular and elite revulsion pushes Putin from power and a new regime approaches the West as supplicant. Worst case, Russia = Venezuela, neutered by perpetual sanctions, vitriol, economic and political warfare, and subversion.

The key point, at this stage, is for the US to get European buy-in – especially from Angela Merkel, who is demonstrably less than enthusiastic about having a constitutionally dysfunctional relationship with Russia (and not enamored of the continual political heat brought by revelations of US spying) – so that the US is isolating Russia, and not the other way around.

My sense of the situation, especially from the Asian perspective, is that the US is in danger of overplaying its hand, indeed that it has a bad case of tunnel vision in which it is fixated on the goal of sticking it to Putin at the expense of US global interests.

With its almost comical insistence that “the world” is uniting against Russia (which only counts if “the world” is defined as the Atlantic democracies and their close allies and China, India, et al are excluded) and, even more damagingly, the US insistence on peddling the Russia = the world’s greatest monster story even as the United States condones the catastrophic and much more bloody Israel incursion into Gaza, the US is accelerating the natural trend toward disintermediation of America in significant chunks of the global diplomatic and economic system.

The PRC occasionally comes in for mockery for its alleged hubris in wishing to elevate the yuan to the status of an international currency. However, I don’t think the PRC’s near term objective, or even desire, is to assume the glorious but extremely onerous burden of displacing the US dollar as the international reserve currency.

Instead, I think there are tactical as well as strategic forces in play, inspired in part by Russia’s sanctions miseries as well as the PRC’s own experiences with covert as well as overt US financial sanctions relating to China’s Iran and North Korea transactions, which date back to the George W Bush years. The PRC approach reflects the difficulty of sustaining strict capital controls on a national currency when China’s economy is increasingly open to the world; and the risk that a more freely trading Chinese currency can bring to the PRC in its current competition and incipient clash with the United States.

So the PRC internationalizes the yuan in a series of bilateral agreements with key trading partners, so that its financial transactions increasingly exit the dollar and are less vulnerable to US and Western sanctions; it tries to push its investors to look for adequate returns in friendly regions rather than dumping excess funds in Western financial centers; and it cracks down on corruption and capital flight so that its oligarchs will be less exposed to financial and legal blackmail in places like London and the United States.

And for that matter, it offers the enticement to global financial centers of profitable, high-volume trading in yuan, a fungible benefit that can be diverted somewhere else if a jurisdiction turns unfriendly.

And the Xi Jinping regime must take into account the possibility that the outrage and sanctions machine, so intensively deployed against Russia over Ukraine, will be employed against the People’s Republic of China.

The United States is backing off from its stated “honest broker” position in the South China Sea to a tilt toward China’s adversaries, offering the possibility of direct confrontation over the PRC’s maritime claims and use of the sanctions regime to punish PRC misbehavior. Taiwan is inexorably bumping along to a political confrontation between the pro-mainland KMT and pro-independence DPP and student forces, which will offer the US government, if so inclined, a chance to ditch the One China policy and stand up to the PRC militarily and with sanctions.

And, finally, there is Hong Kong.

With that wonderful synchronicity that liberals adore (and their adversaries roll their eyes at) the three UK China-bashing prestige liberal organs – the Economist, the Guardian, and the Financial Times – all recently editorialized that Great Britain should “stand up” to the PRC on behalf of the people of Hong Kong on the issue of whether candidates for the Hong Kong chief executive should be chosen by full suffrage (instead of nominated by a pro-mainland committee).

If Xi Jinping decides now is not the time to countenance defiance of the PRC within China’s borders and cracks down on the sizable number of pro-democracy activists and supporters, sanctions would appear to be the inevitable consequence.

So one consequence of the singleminded US campaign against Russia is that it is being driven into the arms of the PRC; another is that the PRC is making its ability to resist sanctions a national priority. The US Atlanticists may succeed in either subduing Russia to Western tutelage or simply expelling it from the European sphere; but what about the Pacific?

Peter Lee writes on East and South Asian affairs and their intersection with US foreign policy.

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/CEN-01-220714.html

 

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Five Israeli Talking Points on Gaza—Debunked

Five Israeli Talking Points on Gaza—Debunked

Israel claims that it is merely exercising its right to self-defense and that Gaza is no longer occupied. Here’s what you need to know about these talking points and more.

Noura Erakat
The Nation
July 25, 2014

Israel has killed almost 800 Palestinians in the past twenty-one days in the Gaza Strip alone; its onslaught continues. The UN estimates that more than 74 percent of those killed are civilians. That is to be expected in a population of 1.8 million where the number of Hamas members is approximately 15,000. Israel does not deny that it killed those Palestinians using modern aerial technology and precise weaponry courtesy of the world’s only superpower. In fact, it does not even deny that they are civilians.

Israel’s propaganda machine, however, insists that these Palestinians wanted to die (“culture of martyrdom”), staged their own death (“telegenically dead”) or were the tragic victims of Hamas’s use of civilian infrastructure for military purposes (“human shielding”). In all instances, the military power is blaming the victims for their own deaths, accusing them of devaluing life and attributing this disregard to cultural bankruptcy. In effect, Israel—along with uncritical mainstream media that unquestionably accept this discourse—dehumanizes Palestinians, deprives them even of their victimhood and legitimizes egregious human rights and legal violations.

This is not the first time. The gruesome images of decapitated children’s bodies and stolen innocence on Gaza’s shores are a dreadful repeat of Israel’s assault on Gaza in November 2012 and winter 2008–09. Not only are the military tactics the same but so too are the public relations efforts and the faulty legal arguments that underpin the attacks. Mainstream media news anchors are inexplicably accepting these arguments as fact.

Below I address five of Israel’s recurring talking points. I hope this proves useful to newsmakers.

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.

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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.

http://www.thenation.com/article/180783/five-israeli-talking-points-gaza-debunked

 

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Israel Must Stop Its Campaign of Terror

Israel Must Stop Its Campaign of Terror

As world leaders fail to end the bloodletting in Gaza, it is up to civil society to demand justice for Palestinians.

The Editors
The Nation
July 30, 2014

More than three weeks after Israel launched its latest assault on the Gaza Strip, and with no durable truce on the horizon, the situation in Israel/Palestine has descended into new and uncharted horrors. What began as a brute incursion by Israel, accompanied by a hail of Hamas rockets, has exploded into something shockingly worse: a bloodletting that, as The Nation went to press, had killed more than 1,200 Palestinians and fifty-six Israelis and pummeled Gaza into a landscape of human despair. Meanwhile in the West Bank, where thousands of Palestinians have poured into the streets for the largest protests in years, Israeli soldiers have responded with live ammunition; ten Palestinians were killed in a four-day period. And in Israel, where an empowered far right is ascendant, nationalist mobs have attacked Palestinian and Jewish antiwar protesters on several occasions.

The widening gyre of violence is terrible news for the entire region, but for none more than the 1.8 million Palestinians trapped in the battered sliver of the Gaza Strip. There, the “precision” bombs of the Israeli military have obliterated entire families of twenty and thirty; young boys have been blown apart while playing soccer on a beach; and whole neighborhoods have been leveled by the overwhelming Israeli firepower. The United Nations has estimated that as many as 74 percent of the Palestinians killed in Gaza have been civilians, with an average of one child dying every hour during one particularly bloody two-day stretch. With the borders closed and even UN schools under attack, there is simply no place for Palestinians to flee to.

“They told us it was safe,” Hussein Shinbari told Nation contributor Sharif Abdel Kouddous after the UN school in Beit Hanoun, where Shinbari’s family had taken shelter, was struck by a blast that killed sixteen people. (Israel has denied responsibility for the fatal strike.) Shinbari was the only one of his family who survived.

In the face of such horrors, the world’s increasingly alarmed top diplomats have taken to hopscotching the globe, hoping to patch together a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, as they have during the past two Gaza conflicts, in 2008–09 and 2012. “In the name of humanity, the violence must stop,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon implored on July 28. Yet with nothing but a string of failures to show for their efforts—most notably, a proposal hammered out by Secretary of State John Kerry for a seven-day trial truce, during which both sides could work out a permanent one—the situation in Gaza continues to unravel.

“We must be prepared for a prolonged campaign,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced just days after rejecting the Kerry effort.

There are any number of reasons these overtures have failed, leaving Kerry and his international cast of diplomats flailing in the wings. Certainly the leaders of both Israel and Hamas are dug in—caught in fantasies of regime change, collective punishment and security, in the case of Israel; survival, resistance and revenge, in the case of Hamas. That the countries negotiating on their behalf barely get along themselves has not helped matters. As The New York Times summarized: “The United States does not deal directly with Hamas. And the countries with the closest ties, Qatar and Turkey, have fraught relations with Egypt, whose cease-fire plan has provided the broad framework for Mr. Kerry’s efforts.”

Just as debilitating has been the skewed nature of the cease-fire process itself: the attempt to frame a flagrantly asymmetrical conflict between occupier and occupied as a fight between equals, and, further, to place a highly biased superpower in the position of lead broker. Even now, as Israel has deployed its powerful military to flatten parts of Gaza, American leaders, from the president to Congress, have lined up to affirm Israel’s “right to self-defense.” And in a blunt display of support for impunity, the United States provided the sole opposing vote on a UN Human Rights Commission resolution to investigate violations of international law—including possible war crimes— committed in the occupied Palestinian territories during the present onslaught.

Recently there have been signs of a shift, however fractional, at the highest levels, as Kerry and, to a lesser degree, President Obama have expressed frustration with Israel’s shattering disregard for Palestinian lives. “Palestinians need to live with dignity, with some freedom, with goods that can come in and out,” Kerry said in a statement that presaged the draft cease-fire he submitted on July 25. That draft enraged Israeli leaders, who refuse to even contemplate lifting the seven-year siege of Gaza. But as Kerry flew home with the tailwinds of defeat at his back, it was clear that the United States is a long way from using the most powerful arrows in its quiver: the threat of withdrawing all or part of its annual $3 billion in military aid to Israel.

The failure of the cease-fire proposals have left a void where impunity continues to flourish. Yet the diverse and humane currents of international civil society have been responding, issuing demands Washington is too timid to make. This includes the sixty-four Nobel laureates and public figures—among them Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Noam Chomsky—who have called for an international arms embargo on Israel. They include legal experts like John Dugard, Noura Erakat and Peter Weiss, who have demanded an end to Israel’s collective punishment in Gaza and the beginning of “procedures to hold accountable all those responsible for violations of international law.” They include Jewish groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, which has been tireless in defending Palestinian rights, and J Street, which is pressing for an end to the siege of Gaza. And they include the Palestinian civil society groups that have been steadfast in calling for nonviolent resistance by means of boycott, divestment and sanctions.

Together these actors are sketching out a blueprint, at once necessary and aspirational, to end the crisis. Although they may not agree on every point, their calls form the outline of a just resolution: an immediate end to Israel’s siege and bombing of Gaza; cease-fire monitors to hold the parties accountable; investigations into war crimes committed by Israel and Hamas; and an end to the great sin of the occupation.

All of these recommendations face massive obstacles, and they will never happen until Israel, the United States and Hamas are pushed to enact them. But as the cycle of impunity continues, the demands of civil society are the Palestinians’—and Israelis’—best hope.

http://www.thenation.com/article/180826/israel-must-stop-its-campaign-terror

 

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Why Is Washington Risking War With Russia?

Why Is Washington Risking War With Russia?

Kiev’s siege of the Donbass, supported by the Obama administration, is escalating an already perilous crisis.

Katrina vanden Heuvel and Stephen F. Cohen
The Nation
July 30, 2014

As The Nation has warned repeatedly, the unthinkable may now be rapidly unfolding in Ukraine: not just the new Cold War already under way but an actual war between US-led NATO and Russia. The epicenter is Ukraine’s eastern territory, known as the Donbass, a large industrial region heavily populated by Russian-speaking Ukrainian citizens and closely tied to its giant neighbor by decades of economic, political, cultural and family relations.

The shoot-down of Malaysian jetliner MH17 on July 17 should have compelled the US-backed government in Kiev to declare a prolonged cease-fire in its land and air attacks on nearby cities in order to honor the 298 victims, give international investigators safe access to the crash site, and begin peace talks. Instead, Kiev, with Washington’s backing, immediately intensified its attacks on those residential areas, vowing to “liberate” them from pro-Russian “terrorists,” as it brands resisters in eastern Ukraine, killing more innocent people. In response, Moscow is reportedly preparing to send heavy weapons to the “self-defenders” of the Donbass.

Now, according to a story in The New York Times of July 27, the White House may give Kiev sensitive intelligence information enabling it to pinpoint and destroy such Russian equipment, thereby, the Times article also suggests, risking “escalation with Russia.” To promote this major escalation, the Obama administration is alleging, without firm evidence, that Russia is already “firing artillery from its territory into Ukraine.” Virtually unreported, however, is repeated Ukrainian shelling of Russia’s own territory, which killed a resident on July 13.

In fact, Kiev has been Washington’s military proxy against Russia and its “compatriots” in eastern Ukraine for months. Since the political crisis began, Secretary of State John Kerry, CIA Director John Brennan and Vice President Joseph Biden (twice) have been in Kiev, followed by “senior US defense officials,” American military equipment and financial aid. Still more, a top US Defense Department official informed a Senate committee that the department’s “advisers” are now “embedded” in the Ukrainian defense ministry.

Indeed, Kiev cannot wage this war on its own citizens—a UN spokesperson says nearly 5,000 civilians have been killed or wounded, which may constitute war crimes—without the Obama administration’s political, economic and military support. Having also created hundreds of thousands of fleeing refugees, Ukraine is bankrupt, its industrial infrastructure damaged, and it is in political disarray, using ultranationalist militias and conscripting men up to 60 years of age.

All of this is unfolding in the context of Washington’s misleading narrative, amplified by the mainstream media, that the Ukrainian crisis has been caused entirely by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “aggression.” In reality, his role has been mostly reactive:

In November 2013, the European Union, with White House support, triggered the crisis by rejecting Putin’s offer of an EU-Moscow-US financial plan and confronting Ukraine’s elected president, Viktor Yanukovych, with an unnecessary choice between “partnership” with Europe or with Russia. The proposal was laden with harsh financial conditions as well as “military and security” obligations. Not surprisingly, Yanukovych opted for a considerably more favorable financial offer from Putin. Imposing such a choice on the president of an already profoundly divided country was needlessly provocative.

By February, street protests against Yanukovych’s decision turned so violent that European foreign ministers brokered a compromise agreement tacitly supported by Putin. Yanukovych would form a coalition government; Kiev street militias would disarm; the next presidential election would be moved up to December; and Europe, Washington and Moscow would cooperate to save Ukraine from financial collapse. The agreement was overthrown by ultranationalist street violence within hours. Yanukovych fled, and a new government was formed. The White House quickly endorsed the coup.

If any professional “intelligence” existed in Washington, Putin’s reaction was foreseeable. Decades of NATO expansion to Russia’s border, and a failed 2008 US proposal to “fast-track” Ukraine into NATO, convinced him that the new US-backed Kiev government intended to seize all of Ukraine, including Russia’s historical province of Crimea, the site of its most important naval base. In March, Putin annexed Crimea.

Also predictably, the Kremlin’s reaction to developments in Kiev further aroused the rebellion in southeastern Ukraine already under way against the February coup. Within weeks, Ukraine was in a civil war that threatened to become international.

Since April, Putin and his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, have repeatedly called for a cease-fire and negotiations between Kiev and the rebels. Kiev, backed by the Obama administration, has refused to enact any cease-fire long enough to give negotiations a real chance, instead intensifying its war on its fellow citizens as “terrorists.” The White House, according to the Times article, is considering a further escalation, possibly with more dire consequences.

This, too, is a matter of “intelligence,” if any is being heeded in Washington. For historical, domestic and geopolitical reasons, Putin—or any other imaginable Kremlin leader—is unlikely to permit the Donbass to fall to Kiev, and thereby, as is firmly believed in Moscow, to Washington and NATO. If Putin does arm the Donbass defenders more heavily, it may be because it is his only alternative to direct Russian military intervention, as Moscow’s diplomatic overtures have been rejected. The latter course could be limited to deploying Russian warplanes to protect eastern Ukraine from Kiev’s land and air forces, but perhaps not. Kremlin hawks, counterparts to Washington’s, are telling Putin to fight today in the Donbass or tomorrow in Crimea. Or as the head of the Carnegie Moscow Center summarizes their position, “It is no longer just a struggle for Ukraine, but a battle for Russia.”

If the hawks on both sides prevail, it might well mean full-scale war. Has there been any other occasion in the modern history of American democracy when such a dire possibility loomed without any public protest at high levels or debate in the establishment media? Nonetheless, the way out is obvious to every informed observer: an immediate cease-fire, which must begin in Kiev, enabling negotiations over Ukraine’s future, the general contours of which are well known to all participants in this fateful crisis.

http://www.thenation.com/article/180825/why-washington-risking-war-russia

 

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The NSA’s New Partner in Spying: Saudi Arabia’s Brutal State Police

The NSA’s New Partner in Spying:  Saudi Arabia’s Brutal State Police

By Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain
The Intercept
July 25, 2014

The National Security Agency last year significantly expanded its cooperative relationship with the Saudi Ministry of Interior, one of the world’s most repressive and abusive government agencies. An April 2013 top secret memo provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden details the agency’s plans “to provide direct analytic and technical support” to the Saudis on “internal security” matters.

The Saudi Ministry of Interior—referred to in the document as MOI— has been condemned for years as one of the most brutal human rights violators in the world. In 2013, the U.S. State Department reported that “Ministry of Interior officials sometimes subjected prisoners and detainees to torture and other physical abuse,” specifically mentioning a 2011 episode in which MOI agents allegedly “poured an antiseptic cleaning liquid down [the] throat” of one human rights activist. The report also notes the MOI’s use of invasive surveillance targeted at political and religious dissidents.

But as the State Department publicly catalogued those very abuses, the NSA worked to provide increased surveillance assistance to the ministry that perpetrated them. The move is part of the Obama Administration’s increasingly close ties with the Saudi regime; beyond the new cooperation with the MOI, the memo describes “a period of rejuvenation” for the NSA’s relationship with the Saudi Ministry of Defense.

In general, U.S. support for the Saudi regime is long-standing. One secret 2007 NSA memo lists Saudi Arabia as one of four countries where the U.S. “has [an] interest in regime continuity.”

But from the end of the 1991 Gulf War until recently, the memo says, the NSA had a “very limited” relationship with the Saudi kingdom. In December 2012, the U.S. director of national intelligence, James Clapper, authorized the agency to expand its “third party” relationship with Saudi Arabia to include the sharing of signals intelligence, or “SIGINT,” capability with the MOD’s Technical Affairs Directorate (TAD).

“With the approval of the Third Party SIGINT relationship,” the memo reports, the NSA “intends to provide direct analytic and technical support to TAD.” The goal is “to facilitate the Saudi government’s ability to utilize SIGINT to locate and track individuals of mutual interest within Saudi Arabia.”

Even before this new initiative in 2012, the CIA and other American intelligence agencies had been working with the Saudi regime to bolster “internal security” and track alleged terrorists. According to the memo, the NSA began collaborating with the MOD in 2011 on a “sensitive access initiative… focused on internal security and terrorist activity on the Arabian Peninsula”; that partnership was conducted “under the auspices of CIA’s relationship with the MOI’s Mabahith (General Directorate for Investigations, equivalent to FBI).”

The NSA’s formal “Third Party” relationship with the Saudis involves arming the MOI with highly advanced surveillance technology. The NSA “provides technical advice on SIGINT topics such as data exploitation and target development to TAD,” the memo says, “as well as a sensitive source collection capability.”

The Saudi Ministry of Defense also relies on the NSA for help with “signals analysis equipment upgrades, decryption capabilities and advanced training on a wide range of topics.” The document states that while the NSA “is able to respond to many of those requests, some must be denied due to the fact that they place sensitive SIGINT equities at risk.”

Over the past year, the Saudi government has escalated its crackdown on activists, dissidents, and critics of the government. Earlier this month, Saudi human rights lawyer and activist Waleed Abu al-Khair was sentenced to 15 years in prison by a so-called “terrorist court” on charges of undermining the state and insulting the judiciary. In May, a liberal blogger, Raif Badawi, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes; in June, human rights activist Mukhlif Shammari was sentenced to five years in prison for writing about the mistreatment of Saudi women.

At the time of the al-Khair sentencing, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki issued a statement saying, “We urge the Saudi government to respect international human rights norms, a point we make to them regularly.”

Asked if the U.S. takes human rights records into account before collaborating with foreign security agencies, a spokesman for the office of the director of national intelligence told The Intercept: “Yes. We cannot comment on specific intelligence matters but, as a general principle, human rights considerations inform our decisions on intelligence sharing with foreign governments.”

https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/07/25/nsas-new-partner-spying-saudi-arabias-brutal-state-police/

 

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Terrorism in the Israeli Attack on Gaza

Terrorism in the Israeli Attack on Gaza

By Glenn Greenwald
The Intercept
July 29, 2014

As I’ve written many times before, “terrorism” is, and from the start was designed to be, almost entirely devoid of discernible meaning. It’s a fear-mongering slogan, lacking any consistent application, intended to end rational debate and justify virtually any conduct by those who apply the term. But to the extent it means anything beyond that, it typically refers to the killing of civilians as a means of furthering political or military goals.

Below are two charts reflecting the deaths of civilians, soldiers and “militants” in both Gaza and Israel since the July 8 Israeli attack began. The statistics used are unduly generous toward Israel, since “militants” in Gaza are often nothing more than residents who take up arms to defend their homes against an invading and occupying army. Even with that generous interpretation, these numbers, standing alone, tell a powerful story:

graph (1)

 

graph (2)

If you landed on earth from another planet this week, knowing nothing other than the most common use of the word “terrorism,” which side do you think would most frequently be referred to as “terrorists”?

Often, the most vivid illustration of the criminality of this attack comes not from data but from isolated stories. Yesterday, for instance, “in Khan Younis, five members of the Najjar family, which lost 21 people in a previous strike, were killed.” Meanwhile, “in the Al Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza, an airstrike from an F-16 killed the mayor, Anis Abu Shamala, and four others in his home, some of whom had taken refuge there from intense artillery shelling nearby.”

At the same time, the Israeli government’s messaging machine quickly switched from hyping rocket attacks, which were causing relatively little damage, to featuring what it began calling “terror tunnels”. The U.S. media dutifully followed suit, with CNN anchor (and former AIPAC employee) Wolf Blitzer touring a “terror tunnel” led around by the IDF and his flashlight, while the New York Times’ Jodi Rudoren did the same in an article headlined “Tunnels Lead Right to the Heart of Israeli Fear,” quoting “Israeli military officials”, “an Israeli military spokesman”, and “Israeli experts”. But a separate article in the NYT highlighted how these “terror tunnels” are actually used:

The strikes during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr came after the latest humanitarian halt to hostilities was punctured by attacks on both sides, culminating in the most deadly incursion yet by Palestinian militants through an underground tunnel from Gaza into Israel.

Colonel Lerner said Tuesday that between four and eight gunmen had burst from the tunnel near a military watchtower near the border and killed five soldiers in an adjacent building with antitank missiles.

In American media discourse, when Palestinians overwhelmingly kill soldiers (95% of the Israeli death toll) who are part of an army that is blockading, occupying, invading, and indiscriminately bombing them and killing their children by the hundreds, that is “terrorism”; when Israelis use massive, brutal force against a trapped civilian population, overwhelmingly killing innocent men, women and children (at least 75% of the Palestinian death toll), with clear intentions to kill civilians (see point 3), that is noble “self-defense.” That demonstrates how skewed U.S. discourse is in favor of Israel, as well as the purely manipulative, propagandistic nature of the term “terrorists.”

https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/07/29/terrorism-israelgaza-context/

 

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The Lying Game: Failing in Gaza

The Lying Game:  Failing in Gaza

by Mitchell Plitnick
LobeLog
July 21, 2014

We’ve all seen it in movies and television shows. A man with a gun is pointing at an innocent, making demands of the “good guys.” When our heroes do not deliver, the man shoots the innocent and tells our heroes that it was their fault. Do we buy it? Of course not.

On or around August 6, 1945, US Air Force jets dropped copies of two leaflets on Japanese cities, including Nagasaki, according to the Harry S. Truman Library. Both included a similar message: You saw what we did to Hiroshima. If you don’t want the same thing to happen to you, overthrow your emperor. Failing that, flee your cities.

In fact, the leaflets were dropped on Nagasaki (and Hiroshima) only after the city had been hit with an atomic bomb. Previously, leaflets had been dropped on dozens of Japanese cities warning of devastating bomb attacks (these did not reference atomic bombs), and indeed those cities were devastated. But, of course, with so many cities being targeted, it would not have been possible for Japanese citizens to flee in great numbers even if their government would have permitted such mass flight.

So why drop the leaflets at all? This memo describes the purpose as psychological warfare aimed at Japan. It has been noted elsewhere that it has the ancillary benefit of making these strikes, both the carpet bombings and the atomic attacks, seem much more humane to US citizens and the rest of the world. Does all of this sound familiar?

It should, because we’ve heard much the same story coming from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from the moment the latest Israeli onslaught against the Gaza Strip began. We’ve been told ad nauseum about the great care Israel takes to avoid Palestinian casualties. They drop little bombs on rooftops just before the big bombs. They send text messages and automated phone calls. And yes, they drop leaflets.

So why, with all these extraordinary measures, are the vast majority of the dead and injured in Gaza civilians? Why have more than 100 Gazan children been killed? Why are 35-50,000 Gazans displaced, and why are all of these numbers growing and getting more disproportionate with each passing day?

Israel wants you to think that Hamas is using these civilians, the children as well, as human shields. At this point, there are only three groups of people who could possibly believe that in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary: 1) Those who are simply ignorant; 2) Those who will believe anything Israel says no matter what; and 3) The congenitally stupid. Sadly, it seems these groups comprise a very large part of the population in the West.

Despite that unfortunate reality, there does appear to be a strong sense that Israel is acting, at the very least, disproportionately or irresponsibly. Much, though far from all of the mainstream coverage of the fighting has focused on the devastation being experienced in Gaza. It is reminiscent of the 2008-09 onslaught, dubbed Operation Cast Lead, but in that event, the comparatively (and one must stress that word) negative coverage of Israel’s action took much longer to coalesce.

Really, it is astounding that people can continue to cling to the frankly absurd notion that “Hamas is responsible” for the civilian casualties in Gaza. I oppose almost everything Hamas stands for; they are a regressive, anti-democratic, faith-based organization with antiquated ideas about women, and with repressive ideas of government. The organization clearly did rise to prominence through acts of terrorism, and they continue to commit war crimes.

But their crimes are clearly dwarfed by Israel’s actions. Columnist Dalia Scheindlin described Gaza as “…an area that [Israel] has already imprisoned by occupation from 1967, and then through suffocating border, movement, import and export control since 2007. Its residents have been stateless since 1948.” None of that just happened; Israel did that, and security concerns cannot justify such actions, according to international law. Not to mention basic ethics.

In this case, however, loathe as I am to admit it, it is Hamas that is the one standing and seeing the innocent being held hostage, and who has to watch as Israel kills the innocent for Hamas’ refusal to surrender. One can question, as I certainly have, whether Hamas made the right choice in rejecting a ceasefire which they had good reason to see as little more than terms of a surrender in order to stop Israel before it pushed things even further, as it did this past weekend in the Gazan town of Shujaya. But that doesn’t change the fact that it was Israel holding the gun to the head of the Palestinian civilians. It is not, and has never been, the other way around.

The notion that Israel is trying to avoid civilian casualties is belied by the reality that Israel has made no secret of the fact that it targets the homes of Hamas leaders where their children, and their families live. It is belied by eyewitness accounts of Israeli actions. Even the United States has told Israel it is “not doing enough” to prevent civilian casualties in Gaza. Coming from America, that is a very damning indictment indeed to be directed at Israel in what is generally perceived here in the US as a time of war.

Finally, one has to ask the Israeli government this question: when you tell the Palestinians to run, where, in one of the most overcrowded places in the world with sealed borders, are they supposed to run?

Secretary of State John Kerry forgot he was at Fox News when, during a commercial break, he spoke on the phone to an aide and said, sarcastically about Israel’s efforts, “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation.” Fox aired it immediately to put Kerry on the spot, and Kerry of course scrambled to cover his tracks, but his perspective was already out.

There can be little doubt that the US and our good friend in Egypt, General-President al-Sisi would love to see Netanyahu wipe out all of Hamas, but that is not possible. Meanwhile the Obama administration has to be concerned about the potential for the latest Gaza onslaught to cause the West Bank to boil over, and possibly even get intertwined with broader regional conflicts. Every civilian death raises that possibility a little higher.

But there remains a steadfast refusal to confront Israel, especially on a “security matter,” and never mind that Netanyahu willfully set this entire scenario up from the moment he heard about the deaths of the three young Israeli settlers last month. Incredibly, on the same day as his gaffe, Kerry told CNN that “Israel is under siege by” Hamas. Apparently, Hamas is sealing off Israel’s borders, ports and airspace and severely limiting most goods and almost all exports from crossing the borders. This is turning reality on its head. But it is no less than what we have come to expect from public US pronouncements.

Still, it seems like much of the global public, and even much of the mainstream media, is starting to understand that this Israeli government, much more than the ones in the past, is the one holding the gun to the heads of innocents. Perhaps the massive rise in street hooliganism so reminiscent of fascism and right-wing authoritarianism in so much of the world is attributing to this growing reality.

Whatever the cause, it cannot have escaped Israel’s notice that even the United States is having a hard time supporting Netanyahu’s story with a straight face given the blatant discrepancy between the facts as everyone sees them and the Israeli line. As with the US in 1945, the purpose of the leaflets is to sell the story, not to protect civilians. But this isn’t 1945, and people can see a lot more for themselves. In any case, Israel may have used this tactic one time too often.

About the Author

Mitchell Plitnick is the former Director of the US Office of B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories and was previously the Director of Education and Policy for Jewish Voice for Peace. He is a widely published and respected policy analyst. Born in New York City, raised an Orthodox Jew and educated in Yeshiva, Mitchell grew up in an extremist environment that passionately supported the radical Israeli settler movement. Plitnick regularly speaks all over the country on current issues. His writing has appeared in the Jordan Times, Israel Insider, UN Observer, Middle East Report, Global Dialogue, San Francisco Chronicle, Die Blaetter Fuer Deutsche Und Internationale Politik, Outlook, and in a regular column for a time in Tikkun Magazine. He has been interviewed by various outlets including PBS News Hour, the O’Reilly Factor and CNBC Asia. Plitnick graduated with honors from UC Berkeley in Middle Eastern Studies and wrote his thesis on Israeli and Jewish historiography.

http://www.lobelog.com/the-lying-game-failing-in-gaza/

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