Michael Warschawski on Gaza: Blaming the `two sides'; International intervention now!


Melbourne, December 30, 2008. Photo by by Margarita Windisch

By Michael Warschawski

December 30, 2008 -- Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, defence minister Ehud Barack, foreign minister Tzipi Livni and army chief Gabi Ashkenazi will one day have to answer to war crimes charges in an international court of justice, like other war criminals. Accordingly, our duty today is to document their acts and statements in order to be sure they will pay for the massacres they ordered and commit.  

There is, however, a second category of criminals who may escape the tribunals. They do not dirty their hands with the blood of civilians, but instead provide the intellectual and pseudo-moral justifications for the murderers. They are the propaganda unit of the killers' government and army. Israeli writers Amos Oz and A.B. Yehoshua are a typical example of such miserable intellectuals. And not for the first time! In every war they volunteer for the Israeli war effort, without even having been officially drafted. Their first function is to provide the justifications for the Israeli offensive, then, later on, they cry about their lost virginity while accusing the other side of having forced us to behave brutally.  

The justification provided by Oz (in Corriera de la Serra) and Yehoshua (in La Stampa) is, of course, the need to react to the rockets fired on Sderot, as if everything started with these rockets. "I had to explain to the Italians", said Yehoshua to Haaretz (December 30, 2008) "why the Israeli action was necessary”.

Both Yehoshua and Oz have forgotten the nineteen months of Israel’s brutal siege imposed on one and a half million human beings, depriving them of even the most basic supplies. They have forgotten the Israeli and international boycott of the democratically elected Palestinian government. They have forgotten the forced separation of Gaza and the West Bank, a separation made in order to isolate and punish the Gaza population for its incorrect democratic choice.

After having chosen to re-write the chronology of events, Oz and Yehoshua are using the symmetry argument: violence is used by both sides and there are innocent civilian victims in both Gaza and in Israel. Indeed, and every civilian killed is an innocent victim. Chronology and quantity, however, are not irrelevant: three Israeli civilians were killed in the south of Israel, but only after the Israeli Air Force committed its planned massacre in the center of Gaza city, killing over 300.

This position of Israel’s most prominent intellectuals serves as a moral justification to the left-zionist Meretz Party’s support for minister of defence Barak’s criminal aggression. Meretz too will, in due time, express its opposition to the killings, i.e., when the international community will express its concern regarding Israeli misdeeds. Right now, however, that international community is remaining silent and is even quite happy for the Israeli contribution to their holy crusade against the Islamic global threat.

In order to show concern, Europe is sending (symbolic) humanitarian assistance to the population of Gaza. While listening to French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner supporting the Israeli action, while simultaneously announcing the decision to send humanitarian supplies to Gaza, I could not but remember the broadcasted International Red Cross delegations coming to Nazi extermination camps with chocolate and cookies. I know, it is not at all the same, but no-one can control his mind's associations…

Bernard Kouchner, however, has one extenuating circumstance: the Arab regimes, in particular Hosni Mubarak's, are also supporting the Israeli aggression. And they also will send chocolate and cookies to the children of Gaza. Except, of course, to those lying dead in Shifa hospital.

International intervention now!

December 31, 2008 -- No doubt, the international community will interfere and put pressure on the Israeli government to stop its murderous aggression against the civilian population of Gaza. The Quartet will definitely call upon Israel to stop, but only after Israel finishes the job. Politics is a matter of timing and concerning the timeframe, there exists a broad consensus between the Israeli leaders and their international counterparts. Such an agreement is based on a more substantial fiction: the attack in Gaza is justified because a) Israel is the victim of Palestinian rockets; b) Israel is always reacting because Israel is always the victim; c) Israel is defending “our values”, i.e., democracy, freedom, human rights … and free enterprise; d) Israel is ready to sacrifice itself in the global war against the Islamist threat, and therefore deserves international gratitude.

The holy crusade for the defence of human rights has one interesting particularity: one possesses the right to violate every single human right, in order to defend human rights. Beginning with the right to life. The international community has given a green light to the state of Israel to massacre hundreds of Palestinian women, men and children in order to protect human rights from Islam in Gaza, as it is doing in Afghanistan and in Iraq.

That green light, however, has a time limit, and in a few days pressures will commence. The most clever politicians and intellectuals in Israel understand this and propose to stop the massacre now, before being obliged to do so. David Grossman, for example, says that “Now, after the first and strong Israeli strikes on Gaza, it will be wise to stop and to tell the leaders of Hamas: until last Saturday, Israel refrained itself despite the hundreds of Qassam rockets fired from the Gaza Strip. Now you understand how tough can our reaction be…” (Haaretz, December 12, 2008).

As his friends Oz and Yehoshua, David Grossman refuse to understand that not only the Hamas leaders, but every child in Gaza has “understood”, a long time ago, the Israeli toughness throughout years of air strikes, ground attacks, shellings and an inhuman state of siege that has lasted for a year and a half, and the present aggression hasn’t taught them anything new, but only strengthens the feeling that Israel is not populated by human beings but by beasts with whom no peace can ever be possible. Dear David, stop teaching Palestinians and use your moral authority to teach our leaders and our public opinion to behave as a civilised entity, if they still want to have a future in this area.

As for the global civil society activists, our urgent call is to pressure their own governments to interfere in order to stop the bloodshed, and to interfere NOW, not in few days. To send an international force of interposition and protection for the population of Gaza. They can break the Israeli naval siege of Gaza, as the Free Gaza Campaign has demonstrated; they can send a protection force, as the International Civil Campaign for the Protection of the Palestinian people has demonstrated during the last eight years. International intervention is vital for the Palestinian people, and it has to be done now, before it will be too late.

[Michael Warschawski is from the Alternative Information Center. These articles first appeared on the AIC web site and have been posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal in the interests of reflected all views. The AIC is an internationally oriented, progressive, joint Palestinian-Israeli activist organisation engaged in dissemination of information, political advocacy, grassroots activism and critical analysis of the Palestinian and Israeli societies as well as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.] 


Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani, The Electronic Intifada, 19 January 2009


CAIRO (IPS) - Since the outset of Israel's war on the Gaza Strip, calls have been renewed for an "international force" to protect the civilian population. But Palestinian resistance factions, chief among them Hamas, reject the idea outright.

"The resistance will not accept international forces [in the Gaza Strip]," Khaled Meshaal, head of Hamas's Damascus-based political bureau said recently on Syrian state television. "We know that such forces would only serve Israel and its occupation."

On Saturday, 10 January, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas called for an "international presence" to "protect Palestinian civilians" in the Gaza Strip, which has been governed by Hamas since the summer of 2007. "We want the international force to be deployed in Gaza, not on the Egyptian border," he told reporters in Cairo.

Abbas added that he had "no objection" to the deployment of an international force to the PA-controlled West Bank as well as to the Gaza Strip. According to media reports, several countries, including Turkey and a handful of European Union member states, have expressed readiness to contribute troops.

On the same day, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul-Gheit ruled out deployment of an international force along Egypt's 14-kilometer border with the besieged territory. "International troops will not be on the Egyptian side," Aboul Gheit said at a press conference.

He did not, however, expressly dismiss the notion of an international force inside the Gaza Strip.

The idea has been floated before. Following Hamas's seizure of the strip from the PA in June 2007 (after Hamas won the elections in 2006), Abbas made public calls for an international force to be sent to the territory. "We have insisted on the necessity of deploying an international force in the Gaza Strip to guarantee the delivery of humanitarian aid and to allow citizens to enter and leave freely," Abbas said at the time.

But with the exception of Abbas's United States-backed Fatah party, the idea was quickly dismissed by Palestinian resistance factions as a non-starter. Hamas declared it "will not under any circumstances" allow international forces to enter the Gaza Strip, adding that such forces would be "greeted with artillery shells and missiles."

Cairo, too, ruled out the idea at the time. An international deployment to Gaza would, a diplomatic source said, "have a negative effect on [Palestinian] national unity, on the [Egypt-Gaza] border and on Egyptian national security."

Although Abbas's proposal eventually fizzled out, it found endorsement by Israeli Cabinet Minister Avigdor Lieberman, head of the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu Party. At the time, Lieberman went so far as to visit several North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member states in an effort to garner support for NATO-led Gaza deployment.

This time around, Palestinian resistance factions in Gaza -- after three weeks of punishing Israeli assaults from air, land and sea -- are no more willing to countenance the idea.

Answering Abbas's latest proposition on the same day, leaders of ten Damascus-based Palestinian resistance factions -- including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine's General Command -- declared their "total refusal of any international forces or 'observers' in the Gaza Strip." In a 10 January joint statement, the factions reiterated their "rejection of any security arrangements that infringe on the [Palestinian] resistance or its right to resist the [Israeli] occupation."

Moussa Abu Marzouk, vice-president of Hamas's political bureau, called the idea of an international force to protect Palestinian civilians in Gaza "ridiculous."

"We've seen how international institutions have protected their schools and offices thus far," he said, in a reference to the 6 January bombing of a United Nations agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) school in which some 45 people -- mostly women and children -- were killed by Israeli artillery. "How can they be expected to protect the Palestinian people?"

"The [Palestinian] resistance is the sole and fundamental means of defending the Palestinian people," Abu Marzouk was quoted as saying in independent daily Egyptian Al-Masri Al-Youm on Monday, 12 January. "The resistance will not be delivered into the hands of the UN."

According to Abdelaziz Shadi, coordinator of Cairo University's Israeli studies program, Abbas's call to internationalize Gaza -- given political realities on the ground -- stands little chance of success.

"As long as Hamas controls Gaza, no international force will be allowed in," Shadi told IPS. "This latest appeal by Abbas, whose popularity in the West Bank has nosedived since the beginning of the Israeli aggression in Gaza, is just empty words."

Aymen Abdelaziz Salaama, professor of international law at Cairo University, says that under Chapter 6 of the UN charter, international forces can only be sent with the express permission of the host country.

"The problem is that neither Hamas in Gaza nor the PA in the West Bank represents a sovereign Palestinian state," Salaama explained. "Therefore, if Article 7 were to be invoked -- which allows for the deployment of an armed 'peacekeeping' mission without the consent of the host -- Hamas and the resistance could be legally powerless to stop it."

All rights reserved, IPS - Inter Press Service (2009). Total or partial publication, retransmission or sale forbidden. Jim Lobe in Washington contributed to this article.