Friday, February 29, 2008

They kill babies, don't they

Originally I was going to write about the latest from Obamarama, with quite enlightening facts peeping through about the latest "new hope" of America's politics. But not to unjustly deflect his noteworthy progress aside, I was more emotive ie disgusted, about the latest string of killings in the Gaza Strip, all thanks to our friendly neighbourhood occupier, Israel. I do not think it is unfair that the Obama post was put on the shelf, and in hindsight it is perhaps better off that I refrain from the hysteria that is engulfing Barack. His exploits has been well documented by the blogosphere, all by better and more experienced analysts than myself. So I would just be a small fish in a really big pond, and who needs to be superfluous when it comes to Israel-Palestine.

All Obama aside, Gaza has been raging with its residents screaming. Israel refuses to ease on the blockades, despite the EU and the UN all rightfully reprobating Israel for its misguided policy of "collective punishment". Upon this writing, Israel is continually warning (threatening) of a full-scale invasion of Gaza, letting everyone know that what has happened recently in Gaza is just a precursor of more pain and suffering to come. In fact, it was one particularly event that immediately gained my attention, and should also make the rest of the world balk at the "benevolence" of "the only democracy in the Middle East": a six-month old baby falling victim by Israel's bombs. His name was Mohammed Al-Boraiy.

This is earth shattering news, or it should be. I do not doubt that it will be lost in the midst of other spectacular deaths that too frequent the Palestinians. It is true that there was a casualty in Sderot from a Qassam attack, and this will prove very useful for the two Ehuds in the Knesset: it gives more justification for the kind of acts that we see too plainly, like the one above. Sderot is just the perfect pretext for more death and destruction to be inflicted on Hamas and the Gaza Strip. It matters not to the West that some of Hamas' members were killed previously before the Sderot death: what matters is that an Israeli died, and some Palestinians have to pay for their death, and with record numbers to boot. Poor tiny Mohammed, his life taken away, and he didn't even get a chance to utter his first word. A scant search for an Israeli comment on Mohammed goes unrewarded: the only one I found was a "no comment" and the usual reply that it was in retaliation for Qassams. What could they say about that? What could the media say about it? No CNN google hit, no Fox News google hit, no New York Times article, no Washington Post. Where's Thomas Friedman and his intellectual insight now?

Unfortunately, Mohammed was not the only tragedy in the last few days coming out of the Gaza Strip. Among the numbers were four children, and some reports naming a fifth, "killed while they played football".

"While the Israeli military said it had been targeting militants and rocket-launching squads, the officials said the boys were playing football close to their homes in Jabalya, northern Gaza."

Israel was not content there: they pummelled the home of Ismael Haniyeh, and caused more destruction at a nearby pharmacy, "a disabled centre catering for 400 chronically ill patients". This occupation was already ugly; it has just reared its ugly head yet again. What was Rice's response? "Hamas" is to blame for this purgatory.

More and more pictures, footage and articles appear that reveal that the occupation is not something that can be prettified. Jonathan Cook reported not only the lack of rights for Israeli Arabs, but also on the revelation that the killer of Aseel Asleh will not be punished close to eight years later. Still no justice for the Palestinians. Secondly, the reports that the behaviour of the IDF is purile, exposing themselves to Palestinian shepherds as they expel them from their land. And Hebron has been a haven of incidents:

"Shooting Palestinian bystanders; illegally commandeering cars and going on joyrides; torturing a youth by pressing a heater to his face and beating cuffed prisoners on their way to custody. These are only some of the reported cases of abuse for which Israel Defense Forces soldiers serving in the West Bank are currently on trial."

The article has some hideous testimonies:

"Last July, soldiers from the brigade commandeered a local taxi...The driver, Mohammed Issa Mahrazeh, was also removed, tied up and blindfolded and returned to the vehicle, where he was held for the duration of the incident. He sustained bruises...

According to Israel Radio, IDF soldiers used the cameras on their mobile phones to record themselves abusing detained Palestinians. Some of the soldiers allegedly beat the detainees while one of the soldiers is accused of exposing himself...

"We'd go on a patrol," one soldier told Channel 2 [television]. "If even one kid looked at us the wrong way, he'd be slapped. Rocks were thrown at us during one patrol, and we caught one of the kids who knew the perpetrators. We beat the crap out of him until he told us who did it." The soldier said that he and other soldiers tracked down a boy said to be involved, aged 14, and placed the tips of their rifles in his mouth. "We said, 'You want to die? Just say when and where,'" the soldier recalled...

[S]oldiers at roadblocks choked 10-year-old Palestinians with their bare hands until the children passed out."

Why there has been another report in Hebron of IDF soldiers beating a Palestinian and forcing him to dance naked. This is all too indicative of the moral decay that is happening within the IDF ranks as well as the Israeli Jewish mentality. The sheer humiliation that is being inflicted upon the Palestinians is sick pleasure for the IDF, high on the euphoria of their superiority, drunk with power, and now subject to capriciousness and whimsy as sick as their mind can take them. See what they can do to a pathetic Palestinian: reduce him to an animal, cage them in, brand them with ID cards, burn their olive trees, bulldoze their home, split their land, make him dance naked. We can even bomb their children and get away with it. This is what Palestinians see when they talk of the "only democracy in the Middle East". Gaza is a living experiment, and the prison is threatening to break out in a violent rage.

In fact, there's been a slippage of sorts, as Israel's Deputy Israeli Defense Minister Matan Vilnai reportedly called for a "bigger Holocaust" on the Gaza Strip. Ali Abunimah recalled that Vilnai used the Hebrew term "shoah" which is what the Jews use to refer to the Nazi Holocaust. Now Israel's officials are in deep damage control as they want to distance themselves from Vilnai's Freudian slip or attempt to downplay its intention that Vilnai only exclaimed for it to be a "disaster or a catastrophe". Now even Israel's leaders are invoking themselves as Nazis as they undertake a search and destroy mission in the Gaza Strip.

Further review of Abunimah's article only iterates that the call for the culling or removal of Palestinians is not something new.

"On 28 February, Vilnai's colleagues added their own inflammatory statements. Cabinet minister Meir Sheetrit stated that Israel should "hit everything that moves" in Gaza "with weapons and ammunition," adding, "I don't think we have to show pity for anyone who wants to kill us."

This is what we're growing accustomed to. Israeli Chief Rabbi Metgzer advocates a Palestinian state in the Sinai where "the plan would be to "take all the poor people from Gaza to move them to a wonderful new modern country with trains buses cars, like in Arizona - we are now in a generation where you can take a desert and build a city." Unfortunately we're not reciting any silly fantasies here: as Abunimah has alerted, the call for Palestinian displacement is quite normal among Rabbis.

Vilnai's slip-up is not really that big of a deal when we're dealing with the Palestinians. It is just another in the archives of Israel's intention to dehumanise their enemies and reduce them to rubble. We're going to get more hard words from each leader and Mohammed's death is going to be used to further fan the flames of aggression, just like the infamous bombing at a Gaza beach during Operation Summer Rain back in 2006. It is no accident though that we have forgotten about that incident, just like further down the road many will forget about what happened to Mohammed. The violence is just too much and we're inured to it. "Shit happens" during war: I find it hard to believe that Mohammed's parents will take solace in that reasoning.

Although the call for a "new Holocaust" has not balked many as of yet, it is in glaring constrant with the current polling statistics that has Israelis wanting a dialogue with Hamas: a gesture that was advocated here over and over. Not to toot my own horn but it was foreseen that the only way for the Qassams to really be stopped is to negotiate with Hamas, give them legitimacy and let them have the power over who to police the rocket fire. Just upon finishing Abunimah's book One Country: A Bold Proposal To End the Israeli-Palestininan Impasse, where he responds to a critic of his against a one-state solution he writes

"Give people rights and conflict diminshes...

When people's rights are recognized, it is possible to stop seeing them as terrorists and murderers and start seeing them as national assets and fellow citizens." [pg 174]

Just a small gesture to talk to Hamas will go a long way as it will give Hamas a reason to believe that Israel sees them as something significant, or of importance, or even of equal margin as Israel. With some trust, maybe the distance between enemies will be reduced. They don't have to be best friends: Egypt and Jordan both have peace deals with Israel and they don't recognise the Jewish state. They have "normalisation": why can't this be the same model for Hamas?

To be accurate, 64 % want Israel to talk with Hamas about a ceasefire and the release of Shalit (remember him?). That is a great margin and one that is gaining "public traction". More revealing is the fact that the Likud (48 %), Kadima (55 %) and Labour (72 %) are all a majority being in favour for a Hamas negotiation. Why then, does not Olmert put his guns down and talk to Hamas? His public wants him to, and even his coalition are in favour of it (except Barak of course)? Is this going to be another case of the population showing more common sense than its government? I believe it is more evidence that it is the public who truly feels the rockets being launched and its ramifications as Israel's officials sit in their safe offices and put more Sderot residents in harm's way just to make a point of not "talking to our enemy who wishes us dead". They're not doing that good of a job if that is their intention as Israel is leading the way by far on the dead campaign. Or is this the way for a "new Holocaust"?

The moral bankruptcy of the occupation is turning for the worse. It could be these unenlightening facts that is making young Jews in America turn away from the "pro-Likud" line that Obama rightfully rues as the way toward mutual destruction. And it is a possibility that that is what they see in Obama when they talk of "change": it is a very new development when a Presidential candidate talks so clearly about the Israel issue in America. While Clinton and McCain both aim to be more hawkish on Israel's front, Obama is making us breathe a fresher air when he reminds Israel that

"there was a tension that arose between the African American and the Jewish communities during that period when we were dealing with apartheid in South Africa, because Israel and South Africa had a relationship at that time."

Obama is opening up the debate even more, and it is more than welcome. Being too precocious when it comes to Israel is a big mistake especially when the consequences are so dire. We have children dying here so whenever Obama puts Israel in its place, it is more than backed up by circumstantial evidence when Mohammed is recalled. And Obama is right when he says that a "pro-Likud" thinking is not necessarily what most American Jews want. Here's Glenn Greenwald's account:

"With regard to virtually every issue, the right-wing American Jewish factions which act as arbiters for what views are "pro-Israel" and what views signify "anti-Israeli" animus or even anti-Semitism actually represent a minority -- often a small minority -- of Jews generally, and their views are sometimes even rejected by a majority of Israelis."

And it's Israelis again who are embarrassing Americans and Israel's government yet again. Debates are fierce in Israel; in the US the only debate is whether your criticism is anti-Semitic or not and that does a great disservice for not only Israelis who desire peace and normalisation in the Middle East, but those who truly see themselves as a great ally to Israel. Right now, the calling for a "new Holocaust" is not one that will end good, and for the Palestinians, it could be close to extinction.

Maybe it is a little too late to engage Hamas now when another Palestinian toddler is slain. As I was typing this, the report came in that there were more casualties inflicted, and this time a 13 month old baby was killed. That's two babies in the span of two days.

"The bloodletting began before midnight Friday in the northern town of Beit Hanoun, where a 13-month-old girl, Malak Karfaneh, was killed by shrapnel."

Sadly the report does indicate that it was the Qassam firers who were responsible as their launch fell short and landed in the area of the baby's house. Now this cycle of violence is really on the tipping point. Maybe this may make Hamas rethink their position too but I somehow doubt it. Hamas is not as guilty as Israel but their insistence to retaliate is not helping matters anymore. It's true that they have to show Israel that there is a price to occupy but now we're stuck in a turmoil and little children are being killed. "In all, more than 70 Palestinians, including around 40 civilians, have been killed since fighting flared on Wednesday." That's a tragedy right now.

Condoleezza Rice is on her way back to the Middle East for "conflict resolution" but she still laments Hamas over all of this. The polls say talk to Hamas and Rice just continually blames them. This is not the way to go. Hamas were voted in for a reason. Mark Perry has been quoted that "Hamas is moderate" as well as Tony Karon. NOT to engage with him is a policy that will lead to nowhere but more Qassam rockets. As Sderot hears more alarms, Gaza ends up burning. And Olmert is not phased by any of this.

It might be safe to say that Annapolis is effectively over. Abbas is unable to do anything to appease the situation, even as the West attempts to bolster his image as the sole provider for the Palestinians. Hamas is resisting but it seems that their campaign is falling short as the world calls for them to be implemented. Annapolis could have been a guide to a better talk and we know that it could have been better than what we see happening in Gaza, but instead we were still stuck with the "ideological" battle over "good vs evil" that Daniel Levy warned us about. Back in November, Levy said if Bush and Olmert are intent on upholding the fact that Hamas is not someone to talk to then Annapolis is over and done with before it begins. Look where we are now: can you say that Levy was wrong?

What's more sickening to think of is that neither side seems willing to go back. Olmert wants to make Gazans pay. Hamas wants to show it can still be effective in taking some chunk out of Israel. The occupation just gets uglier by the day as the West Bank is carved up and East Jerusalem is severed from Palestinian life. The sole light right now is Obama, as hopes could be pinned on him on turning back this path toward a "new Holocaust". The bad news is that Obama can only be sworn in in 2009, and even if he does win, there really is no indication that he can take on a spineless Congress whose pockets are stuffed with AIPAC money. But just as Israeli officials are in damage control over Vilnai's slip, the Jewish quarter are also in major damage control over Obama's ascendence into the prime candidate for the Democratic party. Their methods are well-known but it only seems to give more steam to the Obama train.

Now I am not ready to endorse the man but he seems quite the reasonable option. He is talking a good talk (lately) and he does have Robert Malley as an advisor. Maybe there might be a Democrat whom we could vote for. It is still premature but Obama's latest exploits have made me warm up to him. And with recent events we can only hope for more of Obama's sternness in front of Israel's crowd.

Note: I had this written out yesternight but lost the heart of it due to a terrible computer malfunction. Vilnai's comments should not be easily forgotten, as it evokes the Nazis but only this time, it is Israel that is being compared to them (although some scholars have done so previously). Vilnai's quote reminds me of a statement that I found on Palestine Remembered:

"Through their own words do they damn themselves."

The Zionists have been on record through diaries and memoirs stating their intention for the removal of Palestinians, the existence of Palestinians and their plans to provoke response against Arab states in order for more war to gain territory or recognition that Israel is under constant attack. This is just another quote in a big archive dating back to Herzl upon the birth of Zionism. Upon further understanding of what Zionism really meant for the Palestinians, it is painstakingly clear that what drives the Zionists today is the same thing that drove the Stern Gang, the Irgun and the Haganah back in the 40s: the realisation of the total Jewish majority in historic Palestine. When given this information, the conflict is given a deeper meaning than just politics over rights and terrorism and "peace processes". There is internal debate over whether to give up the occupied territories, but not many question the need for a Jewish state that champions Jews over Palestinians. Vilnai only went a step further that most will not say in public but think in private.

Now I do feel quite remorseful thanks to the latest numbers. But what's more telling is there really is no end in sight now. I doubt the offer of a ceasefire will be on the table for much longer. Hamas is being arrested in the West Bank and Israel wants to continue with their failed policy of liquidation.

And it could not be any more logical: the open arms of Osama Bin Laden and co will be welcoming such Israeli bombing. The ignorance of this is too telling as Iraq provides the perfect lesson that no one is learning from. Here's the thing: more deaths will only mean more martyrs. Mohammed will be lifted to this profile I'm sure of it.

It is the same case for Israel: another death in Sderot only means that Hamas is not really sincere with their gesture of a ceasefire. But Israel has the means to put an end to this: Gaza is still being controlled fully by Israel (along with Egypt, the EU and the US). The easement of the sanctions can slow down Qassams. A bilateral talk with Hamas would show that you are serious about Hamas' concern and they would match that with an offer that would deal with Israel's concern about security. Hamas oversaw a unilateral ceasefire for a year. It can be done if Israel wants to.

I do not want more people to die but Hamas needs something to cling to or else other factions will take the lead in the resistance front and by the looks of how things are turning out, it is those peripheral groups that are being proven right: there's no legal way of dealing with Israel when it comes to Palestinian concern. Fatah was neutered, going from a large resistance movement with arms, turning into a hapless party with no power and full of corrupt officials. Hamas condemned the PLO of being just another tool of the occupation: now they are part of it. What's Hamas to do now when they played with the cards that the occupier gave them and they still come out with a losing hand? Islamic Jihad's contention that Israel has NO intention of ever conceding anything to Palestinians unless you threaten them with an armed struggle is looking more alluring to estranged Gaza youth who get killed while they play football. Not only that, they lose limbs, get beaten up, see their relatives shot at, and have their freedom of movement taken away. This is not a way to make friendly neighbours.

We are no closer to a mediation. Ironically, we're closer to "new Holocaust". Can we invoke those two words "never again"?

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