Saturday, 31 July 2010
The death of five Israeli servicemen in a helicopter crash in Romania this week raised scarcely a headline.
There was a Nato-Israeli exercise in progress. Well, that’s OK then. Now imagine the death of five Hamas fighters in a helicopter crash in Romania this week. We’d still be investigating this extraordinary phenomenon. Now mark you, I’m not comparing Israel and Hamas. Israel is the country that justifiably slaughtered more than 1,300 Palestinians in Gaza 19 months ago – more than 300 of them children – while the vicious, blood-sucking and terrorist Hamas killed 13 Israelis (three of them soldiers who actually shot each other by mistake).
But there is one parallel. Judge Richard Goldstone, the eminent Jewish South African judge, decided in his 575-page UN inquiry into the Gaza bloodbath that both sides had committed war crimes – he was, of course, quite rightly called “evil” by all kinds of justifiably outraged supporters of Israel in the US, his excellent report rejected by seven EU governments – and so a question presents itself. What is Nato doing when it plays war games with an army accused of war crimes?
Or, more to the point, what on earth is the EU doing when it cosies up to the Israelis? In a remarkable, detailed – if slightly over-infuriated – book to be published in November, the indefatigable David Cronin is going to present a microscopic analysis of “our” relations with Israel. I have just finished reading the manuscript. It leaves me breathless. As he says in his preface, “Israel has developed such strong political and economic ties to the EU over the past decade that it has become a member state of the union in all but name.” Indeed, it was Javier Solana, the grubby top dog of the EU’s foreign policy (formerly Nato secretary general), who actually said last year that “Israel, allow me to say, is a member of the European Union without being a member of the institution”.
Pardon me? Did we know this? Did we vote for this? Who allowed this to happen? Does David Cameron – now so forcefully marketing Turkish entry to the EU – agree with this? Probably yes, since he goes on calling himself a “friend of Israel” after that country produced an excellent set of forged British passports for its murderers in Dubai. As Cronin says, “the EU’s cowardice towards Israel is in stark contrast to the robust position it has taken when major atrocities have occurred in other conflicts”. After the Russia-Georgia war in 2008, for example, the EU tasked an independent mission to find out if international law had been flouted, and demanded an international inquiry into human rights abuses after Sri Lanka’s war against the Tamil Tigers. Cronin does not duck Europe’s responsibility for the Jewish Holocaust and agrees that there will always be a “moral duty” on our governments to ensure it never happens again – though I did notice that Cameron forgot to mention the 1915 Armenian Holocaust when he was sucking up to the Turks this week.
But that’s not quite the point. In 1999, Britain’s arms sales to Israel – a country occupying the West Bank (and Gaza, too) and building illegal colonies for Jews and Jews only on Arab land – were worth £11.5m; within two years, this had almost doubled to £22.5m. This included small arms, grenade-making kits and equipment for fighter jets and tanks. There were a few refusals after Israel used modified Centurion tanks against the Palestinians in 2002, but in 2006, the year in which Israel slaughtered another 1,300 Lebanese, almost all of them civilians, in another crusade against Hizbollah’s “world terror”, Britain granted over 200 weapons licences.
Some British equipment, of course, heads for Israel via the US. In 2002, Britain gave “head-up displays” manufactured by BAE Systems for Lockheed Martin which promptly installed them in F-16 fighter-bombers destined for Israel. The EU did not object. In the same year, it should be added, the British admitted to training 13 members of the Israeli military. US planes transporting weapons to Israel at the time of the 2006 Lebanon war were refuelled at British airports (and, alas, it appears at Irish airports too). In the first three months of 2008, we gave licenses for another £20m of weapons for Israel – just in time for Israel’s onslaught on Gaza. Apache helicopters used against Palestinians, says Cronin, contain parts made by SPS Aerostructures in Nottinghamshire, Smiths Industries in Cheltenham, Page Aerospace in Middlesex and Meggit Avionics in Hampshire.
Need I go on? Israel, by the way, has been praised for its “logistics” help to Nato in Afghanistan – where we are annually killing even more Afghans than the Israelis usually kill Palestinians – which is not surprising since Israel military boss Gabi Ashkenazi has visited Nato headquarters in Brussels to argue for closer ties with Nato. And Cronin convincingly argues an extraordinary – almost obscenely beautiful – financial arrangement in “Palestine”. The EU funds millions of pounds’ worth of projects in Gaza. These are regularly destroyed by Israel’s American-made weaponry. So it goes like this. European taxpayers fork out for the projects. US taxpayers fork out for the weapons which Israel uses to destroy them. Then EU taxpayers fork out for the whole lot to be rebuilt. And then US taxpayers… Well, you’ve got the point. Israel, by the way, already has an “individual co-operation programme” with Nato, locking Israel into Nato’s computer networks.
All in all, it’s good to have such a stout ally as Israel on our side, even if its army is a rabble and some of its men war criminals. Come to that, why don’t we ask Hizbollah to join Nato as well – just imagine how its guerrilla tactics would benefit our chaps in Helmand. And since Israel’s Apache helicopters often kill Lebanese civilians – a whole ambulance of women and children in 1996, for example, blown to pieces by a Boeing Hellfire AGM 114C air-to-ground missile – let’s hope the Lebanese can still send a friendly greeting to the people of Nottinghamshire, Middlesex, Hampshire and, of course, Cheltenham.
By Michael Jansen
Israel’s easing of the siege and blockade of Gaza is largely cosmetic and self-serving. Israel has opened the gates to all food and clothing items but only 150 lorry loads enter Gaza when the crossings are open. Consequently, the volume of goods entering Gaza has only increased from 17 per cent of the amount before Israel began to impose its blockade in 2006 to 25 per cent at the present.
Furthermore, Israel is not permitting Gaza to import the materials the strip’s 1.5 million Palestinians need most: cement, concrete, iron bars and building materials to reconstruct the houses, ministries, industries and infrastructure Israel destroyed in its 2008-09 war.
The UN Relief and Works Agency, which provides for Gaza’s 1 million refugees, complains that only a fraction of the building materials required urgently by the agency has been allowed into the strip.
Israel is also refusing to allow Gazans to import raw materials and machinery so that industrialists and businessmen can rebuild the economy, destroyed by Israeli restrictions and bombs. Only about 30 per cent of Gaza’s 4,000 factories and workshops are operational, many at reduced capacity and relying on supplies from smuggling tunnels stretching under the border with Egypt. Only a few hundred factories can be expected to restart work due to the easing of the blockade even though the European Union is set?to provide 22 million euros in start-up funds to around 900 businesses.
Until the economy is revived, unemployment will continue to hover around the 40 per cent mark. Of course, joblessness is far higher than 40 per cent, because a person is counted as unemployed only if he or she is still looking for a job. Thousands of Gaza’s former earners have given up hope and resigned themselves and their families to life on the dole.
It is ironic that Israel is making money by easing its blockade without actually helping the people of Gaza. Most of the articles allowed into the strip are Israeli manufactured or produced. Israeli industrialists, farmers and traders benefit. The Israeli state collects tariffs and transit dues. But trade will not really prosper unless Israel permits Gaza to revive its economy.
Gazans do not have the money to buy most of the high-priced products Israel is allowing in, such as milk powder for coffee and various kinds of breakfast cereals which Palestinians do not normally consume in any case. Hamas, which rules Gaza, should prohibit the import of such goods and insist that only goods actually needed by Gazans be allowed into the strip.
So far, the “easing” of blockade has, therefore, been an all-too-obvious fraud perpetrated by Israel with the objective of reducing international pressure to lift the blockade altogether. So far, few members of the international community have gone along with this charade. Even US President Barack Obama has said weakly that the blockade should be lifted, and not simply eased.
The pressure will not cease. The call for a lifting of the blockade by the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, during her latest visit to Gaza, reveals that the West is weary of Israeli intransigence. The success in Europe of the campaign to boycott Israeli goods, firms and academic institutions, and to withdraw investments from Israeli companies is gathering strength.
The right-wing Israeli parliament is so worried about divestment and boycott that it is contemplating legislation to outlaw boycotts and divestment and penalise Israelis and non-Israelis who engage in these activities, including by forcing them to pay compensation to those targeted.
The European demand for an end to the blockade was recently echoed by the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations meeting at summit level in Vietnam. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Muhammad provided funding for three of the ships involved in the May flotilla that included the Turkish cruise ship where nine activists were killed when attacked by Israeli commandos.
Although the organisers of a Libyan ship, loaded with supplies for Gaza, agreed to off-load in Egypt’s El Arish port and to allow the goods to be transported to Gaza overland, there will be other ships, flotillas even, dedicated to the busting of Israel’s blockade. The Free Gaza movement that broke through in 2008 is planning a new voyage for September.
Canadian activists have begun raising funds to buy a boat to not only break through Israel’s navy but to enable Gazans to export their produce and manufactured goods to the rest of the world. The group, called Gaza Freedom March, is determined to open a sea route to the coastal enclave.
This is a short 10 minute rushed video account of over 12 hours on the bridge crossing from Jordan to occupied Palestine on 29 July 2010. Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, professor at Bethlehem University, explains what happened to him, not an unusual experience under occupation. He was finally released but with an order to appear before yet another colonial apartheid officer (a Captain Leor) on 9 August 2010. You can stay tuned and connect with Dr. Qumsiyeh via his website http://qumsiyeh.org.
The Israeli parliament is considering several new laws that could seriously impact the ability of citizens to criticise the government, according to rights groups. Human Rights Watch is reporting a crackdown on political activists who criticise Israeli’s treatment of the Palestinians. In what rights groups consider part of an alarming pattern, Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, recently admitted to spying on a young Australian activist in the West Bank. Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros reports from Jerusalem.
8000 rockets are no excuse
Suicide bombers, it’s all just a ruse
Unless you’re Israel, self-defense is right
A Jewish army response is disproportionate might
The activists sailed to deliver their aid
Jihad cash is what they were paid
Turkish delight in the media’s glare
Slashing knives don’t seems fairAnd the song goes on…
This is how I sat listening to the charming power of music: a strikingly amazing Israeli piece made me on the verge of crying, sympathizing with the poor defenseless Israelis against the terrifically heavily-armed and fanatic Palestinians.
However, while I sat staring at the young lady, as she gently played the piano with her slight fingers, a sudden immense collection of images kept turning up in my mind: images of bloody corpses lying lifelessly on the ground amidst the rubble; a huge devastated area, which had just been bombarded by a US-made F16, covered with an enormous, rising, thick, black smoke; images of phosphorus bomb, thousands of serpentine white braids descending like white lines of smoke creeping towards the earth to burn; images of a mother tearing her hair, crying over the death of her eldest son who hasn’t been married for more than a month, the agonizing wails of the mother are drastically intensified by the dumb silence of the wife who retreated to a corner of her crammed room, covered in black, and staring at the crying women; images of women and children endlessly queuing up in the early morning in front of a bakery waiting for their lot of bread; images of a firefighter standing before a huge burning fire, which lit the dead night, holding on to the water hose while helicopters hovering above in the sky in the aftermath of shelling a mosque; images of trickling blood, trickling tears, corpses, destruction and debris; sounds of wails, cries, whines, snivels, bombs, overhead drones, and prayer calls. All these images, and others far more disconcerting, filled my mind as the song went on.
The Jewish girl poured her magical voice out while this series kept turning in my mind. The girl apparently believed that she is oppressed, for she was singing with all her heart, with a sad and melancholic expression on her face, which I believe would make way better sense on the faces against whom she sang. At any rate, I would have no problem to believe she is oppressed, but from this video it is unclear – who is oppressing who? I would have been the first to side with the girl had she chosen to be another one’s enemy (perhaps ‘enemy’ here is unpleasant to describe such a sensitive delicate girl, but this is the actual fact).
Let’s keep ourselves away from illusive political talk and unceasing historical arguments and pose the ultimate question: who is in power? Who is murdering the other? Who is besieging the other? Who is occupying the other? Who is waiting at checkpoints for long hours in mid-day under the burning sun of September? Who has lost 1500 in less 22 days? Who is spending the nights in the dark? There is an unending series of ‘who is’?
‘Only Israel’ was the name of the song. Only Israel doesn’t have the right to self-defense. Only Israel doesn’t have the right to respond. Only Israelis are not cared for. Only Israel is discriminated against while the Palestinians, who are never mentioned in the song, are surrounded by cousins flowing with oil demanding the Israelis to give up their land! It would have given me a stoic smile to have watched myself listen to these words. Can’t she take herself as far back as to 1948? Who has taken the other’s land? Can’t she open up her eyes and see things better than that? How accurate it would have been had “Israel” been replaced with “Palestine!” It is only Israel, young lady, who has the right to talk, attack, kill, bomb, besiege others, seize their land, expel them, build settlements, own weapons and the list continues.
It is only Israel.
The music was no longer charming, and the words were a greater ruse than the ‘suicide bombers’ she spoke of, for we both had not heard of a suicide bomber in the region for long (perhaps the disproportionate bombing helped wipe them out). The words were a ruse, for the 8000 rockets certainly look different when you consider how many Israelis were killed or even hurt by these rockets. It might amuse the young lady to know that these 8000 rockets put together will almost certainly weigh less than just eight of the several hundred bombs that Israel dropped in only one area in the last war. It is a ruse.
I am not going to refute the lyrics of the song one by one, nor am I to defend myself against the song. I will only backtrack to the one moment where I felt myself going with the rhythm, abandoning my people’s misery in the blink of an eye. I twitched. I felt the grave sin of my treachery and knew I should tell no one of how fragile my faith and I are against the poignant influences of a short piece of music.
Yes, young lady, the song is all just a ruse: It is only Palestine.
Mohammed Rabah Suliman, 21, is a student of English Literature at the Islamic University of Gaza. He blogs at http://msuliman.wordpress.com/.