Newsletter 14 Mar 2008
1. Hamas calls for truce and outlines terms – Toni O’Loughlin – Guardian 13th March 2008
2. Poll: Most Israelis back direct talks with Hamas on Shalit
3. Gaza: Humanitarian situation worst since 1967
4. Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967
5. To blame the victims for this killing spree defies both morality and sense – Seumas Milne – Guardian 5 March 2008
6. ‘Restraint’ is deceitful, and ‘forbearance’ is vain – Gideon Levy – Ha’aretz, 2 March 2008
7. On the Mercaz Harav yeshiva shootings. Heads to the Right – Gideon Levy – Ha’aretz, 9 March 2008
8. To rescue the two-state solution, Israel must make peace with Syria – Jonathan Freedland – Guardian, 12 March 2008
9. The Gaza Bombshell – David Rose – Vanity Fair dated-lined April 2008
10. High-tech in the service of the rabbis – Avirama Golan – Ha’aretz, March 03, 2008
11. Rachel Corrie, Five years on, the Observer, 2 March 2008
12. The first time I was called a self-hating Jew – Mike Marqusee – Guardian
13. Israeli Deaths Matter More, Media Lens, 11 March 2008
14. Never mind the media, what about the crisis? – Ian Black – Guardian online 12 March 2008 (including David Landau, Ha’aretz editor, on media coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict)
Toni O’Loughlin, Guardian 13th March 2008
Hamas called for a ceasefire with Israel yesterday, demanding a “reciprocal, comprehensive and simultaneous” cessation of the conflict in Gaza and the West Bank.
Yossi Verter reported in Ha’aretz (27 Feb 2008) that: “Sixty-four percent of Israelis say the government must hold direct talks with the Hamas government in Gaza toward a cease-fire and the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit. Less than one-third (28 percent) still opposes such talks…
The survey also showed that Likud voters are much more moderate than their Knesset representatives. About half (48 percent) support talks with Hamas. In Kadima, 55 percent are for talks, while among Labor voters, the number jumps to 72 percent.”
Amnesty International UK, CARE International UK, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Médecins du Monde UK, Oxfam, Save The Children UK and Trócaire have produced a joint 16-page report “The Gaza Strip: A humanitarian implosion”
They report that the humanitarian situation in Gaza is worse now than it’s been at any time since the beginning of the Israeli occupation in 1967 and warn that Israel’s blockade of Gaza is a collective punishment of the entire Gazan civilian population of 1.5 million. The report concludes that the Israeli government’s policy of blockade is unacceptable, illegal and fails to deliver security for Palestinians and Israelis alike.
Some points made:
* The number of people living in absolute poverty in Gaza has increased sharply. Today, 80% of families in Gaza currently rely on humanitarian aid compared to 63% in 2006.
* In 2008, there are over 1.1 million people – some three-quarters of Gaza’s population – who are dependent on food aid.
* Unemployment in Gaza is close to 40% and is set to rise to 50%.
* In June 2005, there were 3,900 factories in Gaza employing 35,000 people. One and a half years later, in December 2007, there were just 195 left employing only 1,700.The blockade is destroying public service infrastructure in Gaza.
The latest is now available. In it John Dugard deals briefly and effectively with criticisms made of previous reports by concerned states: that his reports are repetitive, ignores the issue of terrorism and fails to condemn Palestinian human rights violations.
* “In short, reports are repetitious because the same violations of human rights and humanitarian law continue to occur in the OPT.”
* “Terrorism is a scourge… Common sense, however, dictates that a distinction must be drawn between acts of mindless terror, such as acts committed by Al Qaeda, and acts committed in the course of a war of national liberation against colonialism, apartheid or military occupation. While such acts cannot be justified, they must be understood as being a painful but inevitable consequence of colonialism, apartheid or occupation. History is replete with examples of military occupation that have been resisted by violence – acts of terror.”
* “In the present international climate it is easy for a State to justify its repressive measures as a response to terrorism – and to expect a sympathetic hearing. Israel exploits the present international fear of terrorism to the full.”
* “The Special Rapporteur is aware of the ongoing violations of human rights committed by Palestinians upon Palestinians and by Palestinians upon Israelis. He is deeply concerned and condemns such violations. However, they find no place in this report because the mandate requires that the report be limited to the consequences of the military occupation of the OPT by Israel.”
In the summary introduction to the detailed report, Dugard makes the following points
* Israel’s obligations as an occupying Power have not diminished as a result of the prolonged nature of the occupation.
* Israel remains the occupying Power in Gaza despite its claim that Gaza is a “hostile territory”.
* The human rights situation in the West Bank has worsened.
* The right of self-determination of the Palestinian people is seriously threatened by the separation of Gaza and the West Bank resulting from the seizure of power by Hamas in Gaza in June 2007. Every effort must be made by the international community to restore Palestinian unity.
* The new peace process “must take place within a normative framework that respects international law, international humanitarian law and human rights. The Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is an essential feature of this framework and cannot be overlooked by the Annapolis peace process, the Israeli and Palestinian authorities, the Quartet and the United Nations. The Secretary-General as the representative of the United Nations must ensure that the Advisory Opinion, which represents the law of the United Nations, is respected by all parties engaged in the Annapolis process.”
The report was due to be presented to the Human Rights Committee in March. However because of “scheduling problems” (sic!) it has now been postponed to June…
Seumas Milne, Guardian 5 March 2008
“The attempt by western politicians and media to present this week’ carnage in the Gaza Strip as a legitimate act of Israeli self-defence – or a best the latest phase of a wearisome conflict between two someho equivalent sides – has reached Alice-in-Wonderland proportions.
“What else can Israel do to stop the rockets, its supporters ask. The answer could not be more obvious: end the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories and negotiate a just settlement for the Palestinian refugees, ethnically cleansed 60 years ago – who, with their families, make up the majority of Gaza’s 1.5 million people. All the Palestinian factions, including Hamas, accept that as the basis for a permanent settlement or indefinite end of armed conflict. In the meantime, agree a truce, exchange prisoners and lift the blockade. Israelis increasingly seem to get it – but the grim reality appears to be that a lot more blood is going to have to flow before it’s accepted in Washington.”
Gideon Levy Ha’aretz, 2 March 2008
“Our desperate attempt to have our cake and eat it, too, to claim that there is no ‘major operation’ at a time when the IDF is killing dozens every day, is nothing new. It has existed since the days of the ‘enlightened occupation’ and ‘purity of arms,’ through ‘the major operation that has yet to begin’ – all of them impossible desires. A senior minister who was asked last week about the siege on Gaza replied: ‘Occupation of Gaza is less moral.’ In this way, we have once again established ourselves a relative and distorted values system, with no absolute morality, only a double standard. Behind every action of ours in Gaza, even the terrible one this weekend, hides an option that is even worse. The fact that we are not yet carrying it out helps us to present ourselves in a positive light, to boast how moral we are.”
Gideon Levy Ha’aretz, 9 March 2008 – On the Mercaz Harav yeshiva shootings
“The flagship of religious Zionism” was the common expression used, the “holy of holies”; there was even a hyperbolic comparison to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in terms of sanctity. Some of the praise of the yeshiva is certainly well deserved, and nothing, of course, can justify the horrible killing of young boys in a library. Still, it would be appropriate to recall, even at this difficult hour, what this yeshiva has brought forth…
“Without the settlement enterprise, peace might have reigned here already; without the Gush Emunim movement, supported by successive Israeli governments, there would be no settlements; and without the Mercaz Harav yeshiva, there would be no Gush Emunim. This institution, then, was the cradle of the settlement enterprise and its driving force.”
On the yeshiva see also “Israeli massacre seminary blocks visit by Ehud Olmert” Times Online, 10 March 2008
The yeshiva refused to allow Ehud Olmert to visit to pay his condolences, saying that the Prime Minister’s land-for-peace talks with the Palestinians were a betrayal of the seminary’s nationalist goals. “We cannot receive a Prime Minister who advocates against the spirit of the Torah and accept that Israel withdraws from a part of the land of Israel,” said Mr Steiner, a senior official.
On the yeshiva see also Israeli massacre seminary blocks visit by Ehud Olmert Times Online, 10 March 2008
The yeshiva refused to allow Ehud Olmert to visit to pay his condolences, saying that the Prime Minister’s land-for-peace talks with the Palestinians were a betrayal of the seminary’s nationalist goals.
“We cannot receive a Prime Minister who advocates against the spirit of the Torah and accept that Israel withdraws from a part of the land of Israel,” said Mr Steiner, a senior official.
Jonathan Freedland Guardian 12 March 2008
A very good description of the problems of the peace process and a run-through of possible ways of breaking the deadlock: bring in Hamas now in the sarch for a csasefire; including Hamas in the diplomatic search for an agreement – or making peace with Syria first as a way of breaking the deadlock. It’s a distant hope, sicne Freedland is unclear as to whether Syria really want it, whether Olmert could deliver and whether the White House would wear it. “Put it down as one more reason why the world waits, ever more impatiently, for January 20 2009 – the day George W Bush will at last be gone.”
David Rose, Vanity Fair, dated-lined April 2008
This investigative article confirms, in great and gory detail, much of what has long been suspected. It is a must read for anyone wanting to understand the realities of US foreign policy today.
“After failing to anticipate Hamas’s victory over Fatah in the 2006 Palestinian election, the White House cooked up yet another scandalously covert and self-defeating Middle East debacle: part Iran-contra, part Bay of Pigs. With confidential documents, corroborated by outraged former and current U.S. officials, David Rose reveals how President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and Deputy National-Security Adviser Elliott Abrams backed an armed force under Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, touching off a bloody civil war in Gaza and leaving Hamas stronger than ever.” Bush has described Dahlan as “our guy”.
10. High-tech in the service of the rabbis
Avirama Golan, Ha’aretz, March 03, 2008
The Israeli government, trying to deal with extreme poverty in the ultra-Orthodox “community of learners”, approved a deal whereby orthodox women get training which enables them to work for high-tech firms like the Matrix Talpiot project, which employs about 400 women and is looking for more. The rabbis have turned the scheme into, as Aviram Golan puts it, “a new channel to rehabilitate the collapsing society of Torah learners, via an old and familiar method: the oppression of women.”
All the firms are pleased with the arrangement and are considering expanding it. They explain that these women are cheaper and more obedient than Indians, and more accessible and reliable than East Europeans. Ultra-Orthodox women, they all report, do not waste time chatting, surfing the Internet or drinking coffee. For NIS 5,000 [c.£691] or less per month, they work diligently from 7 am to 4 pm, under a contract that does not include pay for overtime… “Three months a year,” said an engineer in one of the firms, “they are absent [on maternity leave], and they return like clockwork. They asked the rabbis if it was permitted to go out for a few minutes to pray, and they were reprimanded and told that it wasn’t…”
Louise France, The Observer, 2 March 2008
In a moving account, Louise France revisits the life of Rachel Corrie, the International Solidarity Movement volunteer who was bulldozed to death in Rafah. Her diaries have just been released.
In one of her final emails home Rachel said, ‘This has to stop! I think it is a good idea for us all to drop everything and devote our lives to making this stop.’ That was five years ago…
Mike Marqusee, Guardian
It was America in the 1960s, and his parents were civil rights activists who encouraged their children to speak their minds. Until, aged 14, Mike Marqusee criticised Israel. In this extract from his new book, he recalls his father’s fury…
This is an edited extract from “If I Am Not for Myself: Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew”, by Mike Marqusee, published by Verso at £15.99.
13. Israeli Deaths Matter More
Media Lens, 11 March 2008
“The horrific shooting of eight young people at a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem last Thursday was followed by saturation media coverage. International statesmen lined up with condemnations of the attack and condolences for the victims and their families… The Guardian’s front page declared: “the descent into violence in the Middle East accelerated last night” in a “dramatic escalation”. (Rory McCarthy, ‘Eight dead as gunman hits Jerusalem religious school’, The Guardian, March 7, 2008). A Daily Mirror headline read: ‘Kids Murdered In The Library’ (Allison Martin, March 7, 2008). The Telegraph asserted that the attack “is likely to be remembered as the moment the Middle East peace process died.” (Tim Butcher, ‘Hopes of peace in the Middle East are blown away in a hail of bullets’, Daily Telegraph, March 7, 2008) The contrast to reactions to the killing of over 120 Palestinians, including many women and children, in occupied Gaza the previous week could hardly be more striking. On one day alone, 60 people died in a hail of Israeli firepower using F-16 planes, Apache helicopter gunships, tanks, armoured bulldozers and ground troops. No Western leader was heard condemning the Israeli assault on Gaza as “an attempt to strike a blow at the very heart of the peace process.” To our knowledge, no reporter suggested that “the peace process” had now “died”. No headlines screamed of Palestinian babies “murdered” in their beds. In short, news reports from the Gazan bloodbath typically lacked the anguished details and tone that suffused the reporting from Jerusalem less than a week later.”
Ian Black, Guardian online, 12 March 2008
Outgoing Ha’aretz editor David Landau spoke at the closing session of London Jewish Book Week:
“It is high time that the Anglo-Jewish community and intelligentsia stopped devoting an inordinate amount of its pro-Israel energies to a minute parsing of what the BBC or the Guardian wrote about Sderot today or yesterday…The problem of Sderot and Gaza is not how many times the BBC refers to it. The problem is that Israel is mortally, existentially threatened. It has no long-term future if it can’t resolve its conflict with the Palestinians,” Landau added.
He also said he had been ‘outraged’ by Chris McGreal’s articles on Israel and apartheid but that now: “I don’t feel like that any more. I don’t feel that my outrage did sufficient justice to that piece of journalism because I feel that we in Israel have got ourselves into a situation in which we will indeed be facing a South African dilemma… [T]he outrage which I gave voice to was an inadequate reaction. The reaction should have been: ‘has he got a point?'”
The url also contains a link to a 2 minute clip of David Landau’s speech.