Friday, March 30, 2007

Israel, Palestine and Bush

Mike Ghouse July 17, 2006

The Economic and military power corrupts and bloats the ego's of the nations, and they lose the sense of fairness and justice and act as immortals. Power is short lived.

The Palestinian and Israeli leaders are really short sighted, and are out there to get each others blood as if it gives them satisfaction. Power has never solved the problem in the history of mankind and it never will.

What have they given to their people since 1948? Misery, fear, insecurity and uncertainty. Both sides need to realize that they cannot wipe each other out, the Jewish people have survived terrorism from Pharaoh's down to Hezbollah. Neither people are going to be wished away and neither's excuses are to be bought.

I appeal to our President to carve out a place in history. Sir, you have nothing to lose than where you are now. Those boys are shortsighted, but the next generation and history would appreciate you. Forget appeasement and accusations, just take the bold step and get them boys to come to the table. Lay it out on them, put the conditions and do what is right. Have the guts to do it sir, peace is imminent.

Mike Ghouse


Israel in Gaza; Israel in Lebanon

July 17, 2006
An important message!
End the Suffering in the Middle East
By Rabbi Michael Lerner
The people of the Middle East are suffering again as militarists on all sides, and cheerleading journalists, send forth missiles, bombs and endless words of self-justification for yet another pointless round of violence between Israel and her neighbors. For those of us who care deeply about human suffering, this most recent episode in irrationality evokes tears of sadness, incredulity at the lack of empathy on all sides, anger at how little anyone seems to have learned from the past, and moments of despair as we once again see the religious and democratic ideals subordinated to the cynical realism of militarism.
Meanwhile, the partisans on each side, content to ignore the humanity of “the Other,” rush to assure their constituencies that the enemy is always to blame. Each such effort is pointless. We have a struggle that has been going on for over a hundred years. Who tosses the latest match into the tinder box matters little. What matters is how to repair the situation. The blame game only succeeds in diverting attention from that central issue.
Within the context of blame, there’s enough to go around. It all depends on where you start the story. Counting on lack of historical memory, the partisans on all sides choose the place that best fits them into a narrative in which they are the “righteous victims” and the others are the evil aggressors. Palestinians like to start the story in 1948 with the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes during the war on Israel proclaimed by neighboring Arab states, and the refusal of the Israeli government to allow these people to return to once the hostilities ceased. Israelis prefer to start the story when Jews were desperately seeking to escape from the genocide they faced in Europe, and a cynical Arab leadership convinced the British military to side with local Palestinians who sought to prevent those Jewish refugees from joining their fellow Jews living in Palestine at the time. I tell the story, and how to understand both sides, in my book Healing Israel/Palestine.
Or one can start more recently, with this summer’s escalation of violence. But where exactly did that start? Please go to the website of Israeli Human Rights Organization B’tselem to see that each side can point to outrageous acts on the part of the other. Since the death of Yasir Arafat and the assumption of power by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Palestine’s major political factions – Fatah and Hamas – observed a hudna, or ceasfire. Yet Israel, pointing to the fact that Abbas’ police force (decimated by Israeli bombings during the 2nd Intifada of 2001-2003) was unable to fully restrain the violence of Hamas, the Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade and Islamic Jihad—and used that weakness as its reason to claim that there was “nobody to talk to” when the peace forces in Israel pleaded with former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and later with current PM Ehud Olmert that the Palestinian request for negotiations should be accepted. Instead, Israel announced a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and the northern West Bank (implemented in 2005) and from forthcoming sections of the West Bank (to have begun with the removal of illegal outposts this summer) that would de facto create new borders which would incorporate into Israel large parts of the West Bank that Israel had agreed to leave during the 1990s. Tikkun magazine and Israeli peace forces warned that the unilateral withdrawal, opposed by the Palestinian Authority, would add credibility to Hamas’ claim that all the Palestinian Authority’s efforts at non-violence had produced nothing more than Israel refusing to talk, whereas acts of violence by Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza had led to the IDF withdrawing to protect its soldiers.
It wouldn’t be hard to see why Sharon went ahead with the unilateral withdrawal. If his intention was, as stated, to hold on to as much of the West Bank as possible, it would be far easier to convince the world that “there is nobody to talk to” if Hamas would win the coming election, since Hamas was universally recognized to be a terrorist group. When the Palestinian people complied by falling for this trick and establishing a government run by people who refused to acknowledge the right of Israel to exist, it was easy for Olmert to affirm the Sharon unilateralism and announce plans to withdraw from the West Bank that would be the political cover for Israel annexing significant parts of the Occupied Territory. Hamas played its expected role by lobbing Qassam rockets at Israeli population centers, thereby “proving” for the Israeli right that any withdrawal would only intensify Israeli vulnerability and give Israeli hard-liners reason to oppose Olmert’s partial withdrawal as appeasement that had already failed to bring peace in Gaza.
Of course, from the standpoint of Hamas, this was only part of an ongoing struggle to free thousands of Palestinians who continue to be “arrested” (or, from the Palestinian perspective, “kidnapped”) by the IDF, incarcerated without charges or trial for six months in huge prison camps, often subject to torture. Yet Hamas, faced with an economic boycott (including the withholding to Hamas of taxes Israel collected from Palestinians that Israel had previously promised it would give back to the Palestinian Authority) that was preventing it from being able to function as a government, made statements that indicated that it was exploring the idea of de facto recognition in response to the Prisoners document, which threatened to undercut everyone because it was signed by members of every major faction of Palestinians sitting in Israeli jails). For Israeli militarists and the settlers, Hamas recognition of Israel, however partial, would have been a dramatic propaganda defeat. Within days Israelis began shelling inside Gaza (allegedly to stop Hamas’ firing of Qassam rockets against Israeli population centers). One such shell landed on a Gaza beach, killing a family of eight who were simply enjoying the sun and water. A few days later, a Hamas group captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, and Israel used this as its excuse to implement a plan it had developed months before to re-enter Gaza and destroy the Hamas infrastructure.
At this point a huge escalation took place. Instead of narrowly focusing on Hamas’ capacity to make war, the Israelis chose the path of collective punishment, a frequently ineffective counterinsurgency policy used to eliminate public support for resistance movements. In the height of the oppressive summer heat, Israel bombed the electricity grid, effectively cutting off Gaza’s water and the electricity needed to keep refrigeration working, thereby guaranteeing a dramatic decrease in food for the area’s already destitute, million plus population. This act was yet another violation of international law that include the arrests of thousands by Israelis and the shooting of Qassams at population centers by Hamas.In response, Hezbollah fighters who had occupied the land abandoned by Israel when Israel terminated its occupation of southern Lebanon in 2000, launched an attack on Israeli troops inside Israel in clear violation of the understandings that peace would be maintained on that border—understandings that made it politically possible for Israel to withdraw from Lebanon without fear that its northern citizens would once again be subject to rocket fire that had put many Israelis into bomb shelters off-and-on for years since Israel had invaded Lebanon in 1982.
From the standpoint of some in the Arab world, the attack on Israeli troops in northern Israel was an act of Islamic solidarity in face of the huge escalation taken by Israel against the entire population of Gaza. They argue that what really needs to be explained is not why they acted, but why the rest of the world did not act to demand that Israel end its outrageous punishment of a million people for the acts of a few (when the U.N. tried to act, the right-wing government of the U.S. vetoed a resolution supported by the Security Council majority).
Yet from the standpoint of Israel, the attacks by Hezbollah were a blatant violation of the understanding that had kept Israel out of Lebanon for the past seven years. And in fact, it was also a violation of international law and human rights, subjecting a civilian population to random bombings aimed at terrorizing the population. Hezbollah had shown itself to be the vicious terrorist force that Israel always claimed it to be. People living in Haifa or Tsfat or dozens of other locations in Israel are at this very moment living in the same kind of fear that rekindles the fears of earlier experiences in their lives (some, remember, are Holocaust survivors, others the children of survivors, and many have lived through wars that were explicitly aimed at the annihilation of Israel). Those fears are unfortunately likely to be played on by right wing politicians in the coming years. Nor should we underestimate the malevolence of Iran and Syria in attempting to stimulate unrest and destabilization. While there are some in both of these countries who genuinely feel outrage at Israeli behavior toward Muslim co-religionists, the record of indifference to the plight of the Palestinians in their own countries and failure to provide material support for Palestine to build up its own economic infrastructure when it was needed suggests that their assistance to Hezbollah comes more from seeking political advantage and domination in the Middle East than from genuine moral solidarity with the Palestinian people. And the fear of Iran, a country whose president out and out denies that there ever was a Holocaust and who explicitly affirms the goal of destroying the State of Israel gives Israelis real reason to worry when his proxies in Hezbollah or Hamas develop the capacity to shoot rockets into Israeli population centers. What was Israel to do?
Well, had Ariel Sharon been in power, having learned his lesson in Lebanon, he likely would have done the exact same thing he did two years ago when an Israeli businessman was captured by “the enemy”—namely, a prisoner exchange in which hundreds of prisoners are released for a single Israeli. That exchange had been asked for by Hamas and pleaded for by the family of POW Gilad Shalit, but was been rejected by the Israeli government. Please read the analysis of this error, and other articles analyzing the current situation at the daily updates of “Current Thinking” at . The consensus among Israeli peaceniks is that both Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his Labor Party Defense Minister Amir Peretz feel the political need to show that they are “strong” and hence the invasion and attack on Lebanon is their only politically possible strategy. For the sake of their egos and their future political viability, they “must” proceed with the wild escalation of the struggle against the Lebanese people, most of whom had exercised their democratic rights by rejecting Hezbollah’s electoral appeals, voting in a government that had only a small minority of Hezbollah within it.
What could Israel still do? It could redefine these issues as minor border irritants, exchange POWS, and unilaterally announce that it will no longer hold arrestees for more than 3 days without filing formal criminal charges against those who had acted with violence and releasing everyone else, giving speedy and public trials, and punishing any soldier or Shin Bet or Aman officer who engages in torture (or, as they call it, “moderate pressure”) on detainees. It could then immediately announce its intentions to strengthen the position of Palestinian Authority President Abbas by giving to him the tax monies withheld from Hamas, and opening “final status” negotiations within two months. Meanwhile, Israel could begin dismantling the Separation Wall, and promise to rebuild it only on the lines of an international border agreed to by both sides. And Israel could unilaterally censor anti-Palestinian incitement within government-controlled media and instead begin to build a culture of non-violence and educate Israelis about the need for reparations to Palestinian refugees.
What could Palestinians do? President Abbas could announce that he is inviting Israel to form a joint Israeli/Palestinian border force to ensure that there are no more violent attacks on Israeli civilians, in exchange for the immediate opening of “final status” negotiations with Israel before any further West Bank withdrawals are created. There were joint patrols and security coordination until Sept. 2,000 and they contributed to the low level of violence on both sides until Ariel Sharon made his famous provocative trip to the Temple Mount. Abbas could further announce that the Palestinian people who elected him are committed to a non-violent (not passive) struggle for ending the Occupation, but that anyone engaged in violence against Israel or against fellow Palestinians would be tried and, if convicted, would lose their Palestinian citizenship. Abbas could tour the West Bank and Gaza preaching non-violence, implement an immediate end to anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric in the Palestinian press and in their schools, and could announce that he is determined to build a culture of non-violence inside Palestine.
What could the U.S. and other Western states do? They could immediately establish an international conference representing all the nations of the world who were willing to accept the right of Israel to exist within the 1967 boundaries and the right of Palestine to exist within Gaza and the West Bank, and let those countries impose on both sides a settlement that is fair to both sides and enforce such a settlement, guaranteeing peace and security to both sides. Each participant country in this international conference would be allowed in after it had given to a neutral international bank a deposit equal to .01% of its GDP for the purpose of creating the beginning of an inernational fund for reparations as described below.
As the Tikkun Community has outlined in the past, the terms of that settlement should include:1. Permanent boundaries for both states that roughly resemble the pre-67 borders, with some border adjustments mutually agreed to along lines developed in the Geneva Accord (Israel incorporating some of the border settlements into Israel, in exchange for Israel giving equal amounts and quality of land to the Palestinian State).2. Sharing of Jerusalem and its holy sites, with each side entitled to establish their national capital in Jerusalem, Israel to have control over the Jewish and Armenian quarters plus the Wall and adjacent territory, and Palestine to have control over the Temple Mount with its mosques.3. All states participating in the International Conference would dedicate at least .1% of their GDP toward an international fund for reparations for Palestinians who lost property, employment or homes in the period 1947-1967, and to Jews who fled from Arab states in the same period (however, reparations will not be paid to any Arab or Jewish family with current gross assets of more than $5 million dollars). 4. A joint Israel/Palestine/International Community police force will be set up to enforce border security for both sides. The U.S. and Nato will enter into a mutual security pact for both parties guaranteeing that each side will be protected by the U.S. and Nato from any assault by the other or by any assault from any other country in the world.5. Creation of an Atonement and Reconciliation Commission which will unveil all records of both sides, bring to light all violations of human rights on both sides, bring formal charges against those who do not confess their involvement in those violations and testify to the details, and supervise a newly created peace curriculum for all schools and universities aimed at teaching reconciliation and non-violence in action and communication. The explicit goal of this Commission will be to foster the conditions for a reconciliation of the heart and a new understanding on the part of both peoples that each side has been cruel and insensitive, and need to repent, and that both sides have a legitimate natrrative that needs to be understood and accepted as a legitimate viewpoint by the other side. Who are Israel’s friends and the friends of the Jewish people? Those who support this path toward peace and reconciliation. Who are its enemies? Those who encourage it to persist in the fantasy that it can “win” militarily or politically. Just as the objective enemies of America in the 1960s were those who egged it on to persist in the Vietnam war, and those who were its objective friends were those of its citizens who actively opposed that war, so similarly today the friends of the Jewish people are those who are doing everything possible to restrain it from cheerleadng for Israel’s militarist adventures and refusal to treat the Palestinians as equally entitled to freedom and self-determination as the Jewish people.
Who are Palestine’s friends? Those who encourage a path of non-violence and abandoning the fantasy that armed struggle combined with political isolation of Israel will lead to a good outcome for Palestinians. Who are its enemies? Those who preach ideas like “one state solution” or global economic boycott without offering the Jewish people a secure state in Palestine--paths that will never produce anything positive but continued resistance by Israel and world Jewry.
As for us in the Tikkun Community who are friends of both sides, our orientation is clear. Our goal is to speak truth to both the powerful in Israel and the powerless in Palestine, to tell them that their goals cannot be achieved without a radical reversal in the strategic directions they have been following. This truth will eventually be heard—the only question is whether it will be heard without another generation of Arabs and Israelis losing their lives. Because we care very much about the human suffering on both sides, we pray that this truth will be heard, and our strateges for a solution will be implemented. And we will do more than pray—we will also demonstrate against the governments of the U.S., Israel and Palestine till they all change their directions in the ways suggested here, we will organize and educate, and will take other non-violent stepts to get our message heard.
You can join us. Join the Tikkun Community as a dues paying member at . Or help us get our message printed in Israeli and U.S. media or broadcast on public radio and television in the US and Israel—by sending a tax-deductible donation of $300 or more (if you want your name added to the list of signatories who are putting out this message) or less than $300 if you just want to help us get the monies but don’t want to have your name listed). The reason for these funds: buying media space is very expensive, but it’s also the only way to get our message out to a population that has simply never heard anything like the message of Tikkun’s “progressive middle path.” Send donations to TIKKUN (yes, it can also be in the form of a credit card number, expiration date, and name on the card and billing address) c/o Middle East Peace Ad, 2342 Shattuck Ave, Suite 1200, Berkeley, Ca. 94704.You can take this message and shorten it, write its message as op-eds or letters to the editor. You can ask elected officials or candidates for office in any and every poliical party to endorse it, setting up meetings with their aides if you can’t meet with them, establishing relationships, and continuing to push for this position every few moments. . You can create a local demonstration around this analysis. You can create a study group using Healing Israel/Palestine (North Atlantic Books, 2003) and The Geneva Accord and other Strategies for Middle East Peace (North Atlantic Books, 2004), so that you personally feel empowered to present a progressive middle path as an alternative to the partisans of each side. You can demand of the other peace groups that they work together with Tikkun to create a yearly gathering in Washington, D.C. of all these groups that support this kind of balanced perspective rather than having each meet with elected officials separately in order to build their own separate political power base rather than give the task of changing America’s policies the highest priority (which they’d do by merging with other groups and thus appearing stronger than any group can be on its own). And you can write letters to the governments of Israel and Palestine sharing this perspective, using my words or your own. So don’t just sit there despairing—there is much that can be done, and lives that can be saved.
But lets not abandon prayer, meditation, song and celebration either. We need moments to come together, to nourish our souls, to rekindle our hopefulness, and to joyfully recall all the goodness in the human race, including the goodness of the majority of Israelis, Jews, Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims and everyone else on the planet!
Rabbi Michael Lerner is author of Jewish Renewal: A Path to Healing and Transformation (Harper, 1995), Healing Israel/Palestine (North Atlantic Books, 2003), most recently The Left Hand of God: Taking Back our Country from the Religious Right (HarperSanFrancisco, 2006) and seven other books. He is the editor of Tikkun Magazine in Berkeley (510-644 1200) and rabbi of Beyt Tikkun synagogue which meets in both San Francisco and Berkeley.

Rabbi Lerner will be teaching a course on Re-introduction to Judaism in Berkeley from Friday evening August 11th to Sunday at p.m. August 13th-- both for people who have never heard a spiritually progressive account of Judaism and those who have never heard a coherent interpretation of Judaism ever (i.e. both for non-Jews, Jews who stopped learning about Judaism when they were “confirmed” or bar or bat mitzvahed, and Jews who know a lot about Judaism but have never heard a spiritual progressive account). It deals with everything from the way to read deep meaning in Torah to the reasons for the Holocaust and how a progressive Jew can deal with the realities of Israel. Registration info: or call 510 528 6250. For a thrilling spiritual experience, come to SF for Rabbi Lerner’s Jewish High Holy Day services, Friday night Sept. 22, Sat. Sept 23, Sunday, Sept. 24, Sunday night Oct. 1st and Monday Oct. 2nd (more info at by August 1st).


Noam Chomsky:

U.S.-Backed Israeli Policies Pursuing "End of Palestine"

Hezbollah Capture of Israeli Soldiers "Very Irresponsible Act" That Could Lead To "Extreme Disaster"

Democracy Now

Israel has intensified its attacks on Lebanon as warplanes launched fresh strikes on Beirut airport, communication networks, Lebanese roads and a power plant.

Meanwhile, the US has vetoed a UN Security Council Resolution condemning Israel's attack on the Gaza Strip.

MIT professor Noam Chomsky says the US and Israel are punishing Palestinians for electing Hamas, and says Hezbollah's capture of Israeli soldiers subjects Lebanese "to terror and possible extreme disaster" from Israeli strikes.

We also get comments from Middle East analyst Mouin Rabbani in Jerusalem. [includes rush transcript]
Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is author of dozens of books, including his latest "Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy." In May he traveled to Beirut where he met, among others, Hezbollah leader Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah. He joins us on the line from Massachusetts.
Mouin Rabbani, senior Middle East analyst with the International Crisis Group and a contributing editor of Middle East report. He joins us on the line from Jerusalem.

AMY GOODMAN: We're joined on the phone right now by Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, author of dozens of books. His latest is Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy. In May, he traveled to Beirut, where he met, among others, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. He joins us on the phone from Masachusetts. We welcome you to Democracy Now!


AMY GOODMAN: It's good to have you with us. Well, can you talk about what is happening now, both in Lebanon and Gaza?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, of course, I have no inside information, other than what's available to you and listeners. What's happening in Gaza, to start with that -- well, basically the current stage of what's going on -- there's a lot more -- begins with the Hamas election, back the end of January. Israel and the United States at once announced that they were going to punish the people of Palestine for voting the wrong way in a free election. And the punishment has been severe.

At the same time, it's partly in Gaza, and sort of hidden in a way, but even more extreme in the West Bank, where Olmert announced his annexation program, what’s euphemistically called “convergence” and described here often as a “withdrawal,” but in fact it’s a formalization of the program of annexing the valuable lands, most of the resources, including water, of the West Bank and cantonizing the rest and imprisoning it, since he also announced that Israel would take over the Jordan Valley. Well, that proceeds without extreme violence or nothing much said about it.

Gaza, itself, the latest phase, began on June 24. It was when Israel abducted two Gaza civilians, a doctor and his brother. We don't know their names. You don’t know the names of victims. They were taken to Israel, presumably, and nobody knows their fate. The next day, something happened, which we do know about, a lot. Militants in Gaza, probably Islamic Jihad, abducted an Israeli soldier across the border. That’s Corporal Gilad Shalit. And that's well known; first abduction is not. Then followed the escalation of Israeli attacks on Gaza, which I don’t have to repeat. It’s reported on adequately.

The next stage was Hezbollah's abduction of two Israeli soldiers, they say on the border. Their official reason for this is that they are aiming for prisoner release. There are a few, nobody knows how many. Officially, there are three Lebanese prisoners in Israel. There's allegedly a couple hundred people missing. Who knows where they are?
But the real reason, I think it's generally agreed by analysts, is that -- I’ll read from the Financial Times, which happens to be right in front of me.
“The timing and scale of its attack suggest it was partly intended to reduce the pressure on Palestinians by forcing Israel to fight on two fronts simultaneously.”

David Hearst, who knows this area well, describes it, I think this morning, as a display of solidarity with suffering people, the clinching impulse.
It's a very -- mind you -- very irresponsible act. It subjects Lebanese to possible -- certainly to plenty of terror and possible extreme disaster. Whether it can achieve any result, either in the secondary question of freeing prisoners or the primary question of some form of solidarity with the people of Gaza, I hope so, but I wouldn't rank the probabilities very high.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Noam Chomsky, in the commercial press here the last day, a lot of the focus has been pointing toward Iran and Syria as basically the ones engineering much of what's going on now in terms of the upsurge of fighting in Lebanon. Your thoughts on these analyses that seem to sort of downplay the actual resistance movement going on there and trying to reduce this once again to pointing toward Iran?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, the fact is that we have no information about that, and I doubt very much that the people who are writing it have any information. And frankly, I doubt that U.S. intelligence has any information. It's certainly plausible. I mean, there's no doubt that there are connections, probably strong connections, between Hezbollah and Syria and Iran, but whether those connections were instrumental in motivating these latest actions,

I don't think we have the slightest idea. You can guess anything you’d like. It's a possibility. In fact, even a probability. But on the other hand, there's every reason to believe that Hezbollah has its own motivations, maybe the ones that Hearst and the Financial Times and others are pointing to. That seems plausible, too. Much more plausible, in fact.

AMY GOODMAN: There was even some reports yesterday that said that Hezbollah might try to send the Israeli soldiers that it had captured to Iran.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Israel actually claims that it has concrete evidence that that's what was going to happen. That's why it's attempting to blockade both the sea and bomb the airport.

NOAM CHOMSKY: They are claiming that. That's true. But I repeat, we don't have any evidence. Claims by a state that's carrying out the military attacks don't really amount to very much, in terms of credibility. If they have evidence, it would be interesting to see it. And in fact, it might happen. Even if it does happen, it won't prove much. If Hezbollah, wherever they have the prisoners, the soldiers, if they decide that they can't keep them in Lebanon because of the scale of Israeli attacks, they might send them somewhere else. I’m skeptical that Syria or Iran would accept them at this point, or even if they can get them there, but they might want to.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky , we have to break. When we come back, we'll ask you about the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations comments about Lebanon. We'll also be joined by Mouin Rabbani, speaking to us from Jerusalem, Middle East analyst with the International Crisis Group. Then Ron Suskind joins us, author of The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America's Pursuit of its Enemies Since 9/11. Stay with us.

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest on the phone is Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His latest book is Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy. I wanted to ask you about the comment of the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations. He defended Israel's actions as a justified response. This is Dan Gillerman.

DAN GILLERMAN: As we sit here during these very difficult days, I urge you and I urge my colleagues to ask yourselves this question: What would do you if your countries found themselves under such attacks, if your neighbors infiltrated your borders to kidnap your people, and if hundreds of rockets were launched at your towns and villages? Would you just sit back and take it, or would you do exactly what Israel is doing at this very minute?

AMY GOODMAN: That was Dan Gillerman, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations. Noam Chomsky, your response?

NOAM CHOMSKY: He was referring to Lebanon, rather than Gaza.


NOAM CHOMSKY: Yeah. Well, he's correct that hundreds of rockets have been fired, and naturally that has to be stopped. But he didn't mention, or maybe at least in this comment, that the rockets were fired after the heavy Israeli attacks against Lebanon, which killed -- well, latest reports, maybe 60 or so people and destroyed a lot of infrastructure. As always, things have precedence, and you have to decide which was the inciting event. In my view, the inciting event in the present case, events, are those that I mentioned -- the constant intense repression; plenty of abductions; plenty of atrocities in Gaza; the steady takeover of the West Bank, which, in effect, if it continues, is just the murder of a nation, the end of Palestine; the abduction on June 24 of the two Gaza civilians; and then the reaction to the abduction of Corporal Shalit. And there's a difference, incidentally, between abduction of civilians and abduction of soldiers. Even international humanitarian law makes that distinction.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what that distinction is?

NOAM CHOMSKY: If there's a conflict going on, aside physical war, not in a military conflict going on, abduction -- if soldiers are captured, they are to be treated humanely. But it is not a crime at the level of capture of civilians and bringing them across the border into your own country. That's a serious crime. And that's the one that's not reported. And, in fact, remember that -- I mean, I don’t have to tell you that there are constant attacks going on in Gaza, which is basically a prison, huge prison, under constant attack all the time: economic strangulation, military attack, assassinations, and so on. In comparison with that, abduction of a soldier, whatever one thinks about it, doesn't rank high in the scale of atrocities.

JUAN GONZALEZ: We're also joined on the line by Mouin Rabbani, a senior Middle East analyst with the International Crisis Group and a contributing editor of Middle East Report. He joins us on the line from Jerusalem. Welcome to Democracy Now!


JUAN GONZALEZ: Could you tell us your perspective on this latest escalation of the conflict there and the possibility that Israel is going to be mired once again in war in Lebanon?

MOUIN RABBANI: Well, it's difficult to say. I couldn't hear Professor Chomsky's comments. I could just make out every sixth word. But I think that Israel is now basically, if you will, trying to rewrite the rules of the game and set new terms for its adversaries, basically saying, you know, that no attacks of any sort on Israeli forces or otherwise will be permitted, and any such attack will invite a severe response that basically puts the entire civilian infrastructure of the entire country or territory from which that attack emanates at risk. Judging by what we've seen so far, it more or less enjoys tacit to explicit international sanction. And I think the possibilities that this conflict could further expand into a regional one, perhaps involving Syria, is at this point quite real.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about the UN resolution, a vote in the draft resolution, 10-to-1, on Gaza with the U.S. voting no and for countries abstaining -- Britain, Denmark, Peru and Slovakia?

MOUIN RABBANI: Well, I think it would have been news if that resolution had actually passed. I think, you know, for the last decade, if not for much longer, it’s basically become a reality in the United Nations that it's an organization incapable of discharging any of its duties or responsibilities towards maintaining or restoring peace and security in the Middle East, primarily because of the U.S. power of veto on the Security Council. And I think we've now reached the point where even a rhetorical condemnation of Israeli action, such as we’ve seen in Gaza over the past several weeks, even a rhetorical condemnation without practical consequence has become largely unthinkable, again, primarily because of the U.S. veto within the Security Council.

AMY GOODMAN: Mouin, what do you think is going to happen right now, both in Gaza and in Lebanon?

MOUIN RABBANI: Well, I think it's probably going to get significantly worse. I mean, in Lebanon, it seems to be a case where Hezbollah has a more restricted agenda of compelling Israel to conduct prisoner exchange, whereas Israel has a broader agenda of seeking to compel the disarmament of Hezbollah or at least to push it back several dozen kilometers from the Israeli-Lebanese border. You know, the Israeli and Hezbollah perspectives on this are entirely incompatible, and that means that this conflict is probably going to continue escalating, until some kind of mediation begins.

In Gaza, it’s somewhat different. I think there Hamas has a broader agenda, of which effecting a prisoner exchange with Israel is only one, and I would argue, even a secondary part. I think there Hamas's main objective is to compel Israel to accept a mutual cessation of hostilities, Israeli-Palestinian, and I think, even more important, of ensuring their right to govern. And I think, at least as far as the Israeli-Palestinian part of this is concerned, Hamas's main objective has been to send a very clear message, not only to Israel, but to all its adversaries, whether Israeli, Palestinian or foreign, to remind the world that political integration and democratic politics for them are an experiment, that they have alternatives, and if they're not allowed to exercise their democratic mandate, that they will not hesitate, if necessary, to exercise those alternatives.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Noam Chomsky, right now industrial world leaders gathered in St. Petersburg for the G8 meeting. What role does the U.S. have in this?

NOAM CHOMSKY: In the G8 meeting?

AMY GOODMAN: No. What role -- they're just gathered together -- in this, certainly the issue of Lebanon, Gaza, the Middle East is going to dominate that discussion. But how significant is the U.S. in this?

NOAM CHOMSKY: I think it will probably be very much like the UN resolution that you mentioned, which is -- I’m sorry, I couldn't hear what Mouin Rabbani was saying. But the UN resolution was -- the veto of the UN resolution is standard. That goes back decades. The U.S. has virtually alone been blocking the possibility of diplomatic settlement, censure of Israeli crimes and atrocities. When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, the UN vetoed several resolutions right away, calling for an end to the fighting and so on, and that was a hideous invasion. And this continues through every administration. So I presume it will continue at the G8 meetings.

The United States regards Israel as virtually a militarized offshoot, and it protects it from criticism or actions and supports passively and, in fact, overtly supports its expansion, its attacks on Palestinians, its progressive takeover of what remains of Palestinian territory, and its acts to, well, actually realize a comment that Moshe Dayan made back in the early ’70s when he was responsible for the Occupied Territories. He said to his cabinet colleagues that we should tell the Palestinians that we have no solution for you, that you will live like dogs, and whoever will leave will leave, and we'll see where that leads. That's basically the policy. And I presume the U.S. will continue to advance that policy in one or another fashion.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky , I want to thank you for being with us. His latest book is Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy. And Mouin Rabbani, senior Middle East analyst with the International Crisis Group, joining us from Jerusalem. Thank you both.

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HAARETZ – Israel – Mon., July 17, 2006 Tamuz 21, 5766
Operation Peace for the IDF

By Gideon Levy
Every neighborhood has one, a loudmouth bully who shouldn't be provoked into anger. He's insulted? He'll pull out a knife. Spat in the face? He'll draw a gun. Hit? He'll pull out a machine gun. Not that the bully's not right - someone did harm him. But the reaction, what a reaction! It's not that he's not feared, but nobody really appreciates him. The real appreciation is for the strong who don't immediately use their strength. Regrettably, the Israel Defense Forces once again looks like the neighborhood bully. A soldier was abducted in Gaza? All of Gaza will pay. Eight soldiers are killed and two abducted to Lebanon? All of Lebanon will pay. One and only one language is spoken by Israel, the language of force.
The war that the IDF has now declared on Lebanon and before it on Gaza, will never be considered another "war of no choice." Let's save that debate from the historians. This is unequivocally a war of choice. The IDF absorbed two painful blows, which were particularly humiliating, and in their wake went into a war that is all about restoring its lost dignity, which on our side is called "restoring deterrent capabilities." Neither in Lebanon nor certainly in Gaza, can anyone formulate the real goals of the war, so nobody knows for sure what will be considered victory or an achievement. Are we at war in Lebanon? With Hezbollah? Nobody knows for sure. If the goal is to remove Hezbollah from the border, did we try hard enough over the last two years through diplomatic channels? And what's the connection between destroying half of Lebanon and that goal? Everyone agrees that "something must be done." Everyone agrees that a sovereign state cannot remain silent when it is attacked within its own borders, though in Israel's eyes Lebanese sovereignty was always subject to trampling, but why should that non-silence be expressed solely by an immediate and all-out blow? In Gaza, a soldier is abducted from the army of a state that frequently abducts civilians from their homes and locks them up for years with or without a trial - but only we're allowed to do that. And only we're allowed to bomb civilian population centers.
The painful steps taken in Gaza, which included dropping a one-ton bomb on a residential building, or killing an entire family of seven children under cover of darkness in Lebanon, killing dozens of residents, bombing an airport, cutting off electricity and water to hundreds of thousands of people for months were a response lacking any justification, legitimacy or proportion. What goal did it serve? Was the soldier released? Did the Qassams stop? Was deterrence restored? None of that happened. Only lost honor was supposedly restored, and immediately the next evil wind showed up, this time from the north. Two more soldiers were abducted and it was clearly proven that the deterrent power was not restored, while IDF failures repeated themselves. How does one erase those searing failures? On the backs of innocent populations. In Lebanon, the situation is more complicated. There is no Israeli occupation and no justification for provoking Israel. If Hezbollah is so worried about its Palestinian brethren, it should have first of all done something for the hundreds of thousands of refugees living in camps in Lebanon in conditions that are just as bad as those under the Israeli occupation, before it grabbed soldiers in their name. But does the fact that Hezbollah is a cynical organization that exploits the misery of Palestinians for its own purposes justify the disproportionate reaction? The concept that we have totally forgotten is proportionality. While we're in no hurry to get to the negotiating table, we're eager to get to the battlefield and the killing without delay, without taking any time to think. That deepens suspicions that we need a war every few years, with terrifying repetition, even if afterward we end up back in exactly the same position. The war we declared on Lebanon has already exacted from us, and of course from Lebanon, too, a heavy price. Did anyone give any thought to the question whether it should be paid? Everyone knows how this war begins, but does anyone know how it ends? Heavy casualties in the Israeli rear? A war with Syria? A general war? Is it all worth it? Look what a new rookie government can do in such a short time. Behind the operations in Lebanon and Gaza is the same foolish idea about pressure on the population leading to political changes that Israel wants. In the history of the Israeli-Arab conflict, that concept has only led us from one disaster to the next. We "cleansed" southern Lebanon of Palestinians in 1982, and what did we get? Hezbollahstan instead of Fatahland. Hamas won't fall because Gaza is in the dark, and not even because we bombed the Palestinian Foreign Ministry building at the weekend - another nonsensical move; Hezbollah won't be smashed because the international airport in Beirut has been put out of commission.
Israel once again is not distinguishing between a justified war against Hezbollah and an unjust and unwise war against the Lebanese nation. The camouflage concealing the war's real goals was ripped off by this defense minister, who says what he means: "Nasrallah is going to get it so bad that he will never forget the name Amir Peretz," he bragged, like a typical bully. Now at least we know that Israel went to war so that the name Amir Peretz is never forgotten. It's the war for the perpetuation of the name Peretz and the blurring of Dan Halutz's failures. And to hell with the cost.

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