As is the practice and policy of Israel, following the confession from 3 out of 6 Israelis arrested over the murder of the Palestinian teen – I would like to ask the question: Is Israel going to demolish their family homes, and of those who still remain as suspects?
While it is unlikely that the escalating violence in Gaza will be placed into proper context by United States media, who report on it in the context of Israel’s blockade and occupation of Palestinian land, it is also just as unlikely that there will be any meaningful coverage on how Israel justifies bombing civilian infrastructure in Gaza.
Israel decimated the Gaza City office of Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who was elected in the legislative elections in 2006 but later dismissed by President Mahmoud Abbas. He has continued to exercise authority and is a head of state yet, if one saw the headline at the New York Times they would not see a headline explaining how a Gaza Prime Minister’s office was bombed. They would see one that read, “Israel Destroys Hamas Prime Minister’s Office.”
The Times reported spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mark Regev, stated, “Government buildings had been targeted because Hamas ‘makes no distinction between its terrorist military machine and the government structure…We have seen Hamas consistently using so-called civilian facilities for the purposes of hiding their terrorist military machine, including weapons.”
Under this concept, it is hard to see how Israel would not be able to justify hitting any part of Gaza and killing any person inside or nearby that infrastructure. Saturday morning, according to Haaretz, Israel’s air force targeted Gaza’s police headquarters, other government buildings and a mosque in Rafah. It also is impossible to see how a cease-fire can be brokered if Israel is going to destroy the offices of political leaders elected in disputed or undisputed Palestinian elections.
The United Nations’ fact-finding mission in 2009, after the Gaza conflict that year that left over 1400 Palestinians dead, did not accept Israel’s concept of Hamas “supporting infrastructure.” The mission found it “particularly worrying” as it “appeared to transform civilians and civilian objects into legitimate targets.” This made it possible for Israeli political and military leaders to make it seem like in order to respond to Hamas it had to carry out “disproportionate destruction” and create “maximum disruption in the lives of many people as a legitimate means to achieve not only military but also political goals.”
The mission determined Israeli armed forces had launched “numerous attacks against buildings and persons of the Gaza authorities.”
…As far as attacks on buildings are concerned, the Mission examined the Israeli strikes against the Palestinian Legislative Council building and the Gaza main prison…Both buildings were destroyed and can no longer be used. Statements by Israeli Government and armed forces representatives justified the attacks arguing that political and administrative institutions in Gaza are part of the “Hamas terrorist infrastructure”. The Mission rejects this position. It finds that there is no evidence that the Legislative Council building and the Gaza main prison made an effective contribution to military action. On the information available to it, the Mission finds that the attacks on these buildings constituted deliberate attacks on civilian objects in violation of the rule of customary international humanitarian law whereby attacks must be strictly limited to military objectives… [emphasis added]
This indicated Israel had committed a “grave breach of extensive destruction of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.”
It believed four years ago that it was acceptable to strike the office of Ismail Haniyeh. This was a statement the government made claiming it did not need to distinguish between military and civilian targets:
…While Hamas operates ministries and is in charge of a variety of administrative and traditionally governmental functions in the Gaza Strip, it still remains a terrorist organization. Many of the ostensibly civilian elements of its regime are in reality active components of its terrorist and military efforts. Indeed, Hamas does not separate its civilian and military activities in the manner in which a legitimate government might. Instead, Hamas uses apparatuses under its control, including quasi-governmental institutions, to promote its terrorist activity…
Because Israel considers the democratically elected Hamas to be a “terrorist organization,” Gaza technically has little in the way of structures for administrative or traditional government functions that could not be characterized in some way as part of Hamas’ “terrorist organization.” And so, that is why it is not a war crime to Israel to hit an office where he met Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil the day before.
The United States, which provides $150 million in military aid or more each year to Israel, has no problem with this concept justifying the targeting of civilian infrastructure. Deputy national security adviser for strategic communication for US President Barack Obama stated, according to Haaretz, “The Israelis are going to make decisions about their own military tactics and operations. What we want is the same thing the Israelis want, which is an end to the rocket fire coming out of Gaza. We wouldn’t comment on specific targeting choices by the Israelis other than to say that we of course always underscore the importance of avoiding civilian casualties. But the Israelis again will make judgments about their military operations.”
The mention of “civilian casualties” is a token gesture to a Palestinian people the US is willing allow Israel to continue to subject to a blockade in Gaza and policies of apartheid.
Moreover, Haaretz has reported that Interior Minister Eli Yishai said on Israel’s operation in Gaza: “The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages. Only then will Israel be calm for forty years.” It is hard not to interpret that as a commitment to further devastate Gaza to force it to submit even more to Israeli dominion.
Calling for Palestinian capitulation, not peace and liberation, Netanyahu delivered a litany of lies, fabrications, misstatements, and half-truths to AIPAC members on May 23, saying:
— “Israel is unjustly accused of not wanting peace with the Palestinians. Nothing could be further from the truth.” In fact, he once called the peace process “a waste of time,” governing accordingly to avoid it.
— Peace “can only come through….mutual trust,” he said, adding that he envisions “peace in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the Jewish state.” In fact, they’re preconditions solely for them, no other states with which Israel has diplomatic relations, including peace treaty terms with Egypt and Jordan.
— “Israel stands ready to make compromises necessary for peace.” In fact, Israel never had a peace camp. For decades, efforts were stillborn, obstructing it, perpetuating conflict, and denying Palestinians a sovereign independent state or a viable one-state solution for all its people.
— “(O)ne thing I will never compromise is our security.”
In fact, claimed existential “security” threats are bogus, a red herring, mischaracterizing Israel as vulnerable, surrounded by hostile Arab states. Nuclear armed, it’s a regional superpower, unthreatened since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Addressing Congress on May 24, he repeated the same canards, including saying he’s ready to “make painful compromises (for) peace,” while remaining obstructionist against it, a viable Palestinian state, Jerusalem as its capital, Hamas/Fatah unity, and the inviolable right of return.
In response, New York Times writers Helene Cooper and Ethan Bronner headlined, “Netanyahu Gives No Ground in Congress Speech,” saying:
“….Palestinians will not get a right of return to Israel…. Jerusalem will never again be divided,” and Israel’s 1967 borders aren’t defensible. New ones must incorporate expanding settlements, an IDF presence along the Jordan River, and Palestinians confined to isolated cantons in ghetto communities or worthless scrubland, an offer no responsible leader will accept.
Moreover, he demanded abandonment of Palestinian unity as a precondition for negotiations, saying Hamas rejects Israel’s right to exist. In fact, it accepts it in return for a viable Palestinian state within 1967 borders, 22% of historic Palestine, a major concession Israel rejects, wanting all valued parts of Judea and Samaria.
No matter. Congress treated him like visiting royalty, Cooper and Bronner saying he got “so many standing ovations that at times it appeared that the lawmakers were listening to his speech standing up.”
Rejecting Netanyahu’s Obstructionism
In response, Mahmoud Abbas said he offered “nothing we can build on.” In fact, he “traveled far from peace,” subverting it by dictating terms, remaining obstructionist like all Israeli leaders.
A May 25 Haaretz editorial was just as harsh, headling “Netanyahu wasted his chance to present a vision for peace,” saying:
Instead of new ideas, a constructive vision, and genuine willingness to negotiate equitably, “we were witness to the same old messages,” dictating terms, offering nothing substantive in return.
He ignored all essentials for peace, including “leav(ing) a decisive majority of West Bank territory in the hands of the Palestinians.” As a result, he’s “leading Israel and the Palestinians into a new round of violence, along with Israel’s isolation” at a time of Arab spring uprisings. “The time has come for….Israel(is) who seek peace to be heard. Israel deserves a different leader.”
Like America, in fact, most Israel parties differ little on core issues, including Likud, Kadima, Labor, Yisrael Beiteinu, and Shas, endorsing hardline militancy and neoliberal toughness, offering no concessions for equity and peace.
On May 24, an Al Jazeera editorial said “leading Democrats and Republicans….support(ed) Netanyahu in his tricks to justify the continuation of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, as well as his incitement against Arabs and Muslims.”
“His speech was a blueprint (on) how (to) defend Israel in refusing to end the occupation, oppression, and subjugation of the Palestinian people. The focus on the Jewishness of the Zionist state has been the new ploy to block any peaceful resolution.” Palestinians reject it as should everyone for equal rights and peace.
If anyone doubts “how Israeli leaders control the US government,” watch congressional and other pro-Israeli groups’ fealty to Israel, subverting any chance for justice.
Haaretz writer Gideon Levy headlined, “Netanyahu’s speech to Congress shows America will buy anything,” saying:
“It was an address with no destination, filled with lies on top of lies and illusions heaped on illusions.” Rarely do foreign leaders address Congress. Perhaps none ever presented “such a pile of propaganda and prevarication, such hypocrisy and sanctimony” as Netanyahu to repeated standing ovations, a bipartisan hallelujah chorus loving it. If most Americans did also, “we’re in big trouble,” said Levy.
Imagine, Netanyahu praises Israeli democracy when he’s hammered it with mortal blows. His coalition Knesset partners passed racist, fascist laws, vilifying anyone not Jewish, denying their basic rights, including treating Israeli Arabs as existential threats when, in fact, they’re citizens like all Jews.
Palestinian Authority (PA) spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said:
“What Netanyahu said does not lead to peace. Peace for us means a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. We will not accept any Israeli presence inside the Palestinian state, particularly on the River Jordan. (P)eace should be based on international resolutions and negotiations, and not by putting preconditions and more obstacles in the way of the peace process.”
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said his speech “makes the continuation of negotiations with the Zionist entity….wrong and pointless.”
The Israeli peace bloc Gush Shalom also reacted critically, saying:
His speech was “composed of dozens of gimmicks and empty cliches, talk of peace which he does not intend to conclude and of a fictional Palestinian state which he has no intention of seeing become reality. (Instead, he intends) to continue occupation rule over millions of people by (brute) force, against their will,” perpetuating decades-long harshness.
Praise from Hardline Israeli-Firsters
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) “praised (Netanyahu) for making clear to the US Congress and the world (about) Hamas’ call for the worldwide murder of every Jew and his reiteration that Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian Authority (PA)/Hamas unity government nor return to the perilous 1949 armistice lines.”
Its statement echoed Netanyahu’s lies and racist condemnation of an entire people for their faith and ethnicity.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) also applauded Netanyahu’s “commitment to negotiating a lasting peace with the Palestinians,” adding:
“He made a powerful case for Israel’s unique relationship with the US as the only democracy and stable American ally in a turbulent region,” as well as highlighting “Israel’s need for security.”
Commentary magazine’s Jonathan Tobin called his speech “a triumph….eloquent and brilliant (laying) out Israel’s desire for peace,” when, in fact, it spurned it since 1948.
A Final Comment
Instead of embracing peace, Netanyahu spurns it. In his book, “The End of the Peace Process,” Edward Said said:
“(N)o negotiations are better than endless concessions that simply prolong the Israeli occupation. Israel is certainly pleased that it can take the credit for having made peace, and at the same time continue the occupation with Palestinian consent.”
Peace, in fact, depends on evenhanded give and take, resolving divergent issues equitably for both sides. It can’t solely be on Israeli terms, demanding capitulation, leaving Palestinians isolated in a wasteland of destruction and human misery, enduring appalling indignities for their faith, ethnicity and presence.
As a result, their liberating struggle continues for:
— ending occupation;
— a government of their own choosing;
— sovereign independence within 1967 borders, 22% of historic Palestine with mutually agreed on land swaps to assure it;
— Jerusalem as its capital;
— the inviolable right of return; and
— full recognition as a UN member state with all rights and privileges.
On November 15, 1988, the Palestine National Council (PNC) proclaimed an independent Palestinian state. According to the 1925 Palestine Citizenship Order in Council, Palestinians, their children and grandchildren are automatically citizens, including refugees.
Provisionally, Washington recognizes Palestinian independence. Under UN Charter Article 80(1), its position can’t be reversed by vetoing SC resolutions, calling for its UN admission. Doing so is illegal, subject to SC action under the Charter’s Chapter VI, despite Obama telling AIPAC that no UN vote “will ever create an independent Palestinian state.”
The Security Council, in fact, recommends admissions. The General Assembly affirms them by a two-thirds majority. In December 1988, it did so, granting Palestine all member rights except to vote. PA leaders will seek it in September. Washington and Israel object, spurning peace, reconciliation, and potential challenges to their dominance. No longer can that agenda be tolerated.