Sunday, July 20. 2014
This week's scattered links, but for one reason or another most still
focus on Israel (for one thing, this weekend has been much bloodier than
the previous week). Having recently read Stephen F Cohen's Soviet
Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War
(2011), I expected to have more to say about the civil war in Ukraine
and the shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines airliner, but in my short
time I didn't run across much that improved upon speculation (one of
the worst pieces was
Bob Dreyfuss: Vladimir Putin Should Take Responsibility for the MH17
Shootdown.) As someone who is inclined to suspect that Putin was
responsible for the Moscow apartment bombings that he used as a pretext
to re-open the Chechen War, there's not much I would put past him, but
neither evidence nor logic is yet compelling, and the unfounded charge
is actively being used to further estrange relations with Russia,
which quite frankly Obama needs to mend even if that means giving up
ground in Ukraine. As I wrote below, Obama has made a colossal error
in re-entering Iraq, on top of making an almost utter hash of Syria,
and the only way out of the latter is some sort of understanding with
Russia. Cohen's book, by the way, is very prophetic about Ukraine --
not necessarily about the country itself but about the massive level
of cold war hangover America's foreign policy nabobs suffer from and
their utter mindlessness in facing anything having to do with Russia.
I've long said that the whole neocon vision was for America to behave
all around the world with the same reckless dominance fetish that
Israel exhibits in the Middle East. In the last two months that's
pretty much what we've been seeing. The only real surprise here is
how pathetic it makes the leaders look: Netanyahu, for instance, is
wailing about how Hamas is forcing Israel to kill Palestinians, as
if he, himself, has no control over his government. Nor does Obama
seem to be any more in control of his policies. It's really quite
Nor am I the only one saying these things. Just looking at my recent
Saree Makdisi: It's quite clear that Israel plunged into its
bombardment, as usual, without any strategic plan in mind. Quite literally
Roger Cohen: John Kerry says Israel "under siege" by Hamas.
Read that once. Read it twice. Three times. It doesn't get any better.
We have a problem here.
Ali Abunimah: Remember, Israel could have had a ceasefire any
time if it agreed to basic humanitarian conditions for people of Gaza.
Sana Saeed: In case you're keeping count: this is the third
IDF offensive against Gaza since the Obama administration came into
[Actually, the third since Obama was elected president, but Operation
Cast Lead occurred before Obama took office. I like to refer to it as
Israel's pre-emptive strike against the Obama administration.]
Also as Michael Poage noted, today's Kansans for Peace in Palestine
demo today in Wichita drew about 500 people. It led on the KWCH News,
ahead of a fairly even-handed report on Gaza that put more emphasis on
dead Palestinians than on live Israelis whining about rockets.
Juan Cole: Falluja and Gaza: Why Counter-Terrorism fails when the Problem
is Political: Yeah, but for a while counter-terrorism is a workable
excuse to avoid talking about political problems. It simply declares that
authorities can manage dissent with violence.
Just as the enemies of the US ultimately prevailed in Falluja, so the
enemies of Israel will prevail in Gaza.
Oppression and occupation produce resistance. Until the oppression
and the occupation are addressed, the mere inflicting of attrition on
the military capabilities of the resistance will not snuff it out.
Other leaders will take the place of those killed.
If Israel really wanted peace or relief from Hamas rockets, its
leaders would pursue peace negotiations in good faith with Hamas (which
has on more than one occasion reliably honored truces). Otherwise,
invading Gaza will have all the same effects, good and bad (but mostly
bad) that the US invasion of Falluja had on Iraq.
Also see Cole's
Israel's Groundhog Day: Reverse Snowballs and the Horror of
Annie Robbins: Israel is in a pickle:
Israel is likely in a pickle. Its stated goal for this invasion is to
stop the missile fire (and dismantle Hamas's control of the strip). To
do that it must locate Hamas' weapons arsenal and thus far, it appears
it is clueless as to where they are. Israel doesn't know the extent of
weaponry Hamas has amassed, either in quality or quantity. All the
blowing up of civilian infrastructure, including homes and hospitals,
won't end the rocket fire because it's extremely unlikely any central
stash of weaponry is stored in homes, schools, hospitals or mosques.
The weapons are probably underground which is why it requires a ground
invasion to find them. This is what "deal with the tunnels" means when
Obama says "the current military ground operations are designed to deal
with the tunnels."
Rudoren claimed Netanyahu "won plaudits from Israeli leftists this
week for embracing an Egyptian cease-fire proposal." Win plaudits from
media pundits he did, but this was not an Egyptian proposal, it was a
proposal cobbled together by Tony Blair after Obama had previously
spoken with Netanyahu and offered to help broker a truce (without any
input from Hamas). A ceasefire catering to Israel represents nothing
more than a surrender for Palestine, a surrender worse than retreating
to the status quo of endless occupation because hundreds of Palestinian
prisoners who were freed in the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap in 2011, were
rearrested from the West Bank during a pogrom hyped as a response to the
claim Hamas kidnapped the 3 Israeli youths, a claim that has never been
backed by even a shred of evidence.
Nathan Thrall: How the West Chose War in Gaza: Israel's assault on
Gaza is really a war on Hamas, more specifically on the willingness of
Hamas to participate in a "national consensus" government alongside
Yet, in many ways, the reconciliation government could have served
Israel's interests. It offered Hamas's political adversaries a foothold
in Gaza; it was formed without a single Hamas member; it retained the
same Ramallah-based prime minister, deputy prime ministers, finance
minister and foreign minister; and, most important, it pledged to comply
with the three conditions for Western aid long demanded by America and
its European allies: nonviolence, adherence to past agreements and
recognition of Israel.
Israel strongly opposed American recognition of the new government,
however, and sought to isolate it internationally, seeing any small
step toward Palestinian unity as a threat. Israel's security establishment
objects to the strengthening of West Bank-Gaza ties, lest Hamas raise its
head in the West Bank. And Israelis who oppose a two-state solution
understand that a unified Palestinian leadership is a prerequisite for
any lasting peace. [ . . . ]
Hamas is now seeking through violence what it couldn't obtain through
a peaceful handover of responsibilities. Israel is pursuing a return to
the status quo ante, when Gaza had electricity for barely eight hours a
day, water was undrinkable, sewage was dumped in the sea, fuel shortages
caused sanitation plants to shut down and waste sometimes floated in the
streets. Patients needing medical care couldn't reach Egyptian hospitals,
and Gazans paid $3,000 bribes for a chance to exit when Egypt chose to
open the border crossing.
For many Gazans, and not just Hamas supporters, it's worth risking
more bombardment and now the ground incursion, for a chance to change
that unacceptable status quo. A cease-fire that fails to resolve the
salary crisis and open Gaza's border with Egypt will not last. It is
unsustainable for Gaza to remain cut off from the world and administered
by employees working without pay.
The weird thing about this story is not so much what Israel has done
as how the Obama administration has allowed itself to be paralyzed by
the association of Hamas with terrorism. It's not even has if the US
has never been willing to reclassify an organization once it wound up
on the T-list -- Bush, for instance, made up with Ghaddafi's Libya.
But where Israel is involved, Obama suddenly turns chickenshit. It's
not just that Netanyahu has outfoxed Obama. It's more like Obama is
suffering full-fledged Stockholm Syndrome.
More Israel links:
13 IDF soldiers killed in Gaza as Operation Protective Edge death toll
climbs to 18: The Palestinian death toll is up to
435, although there is no recognition of that in this piece from the
Israeli press. The numbers are increasing quite rapidly as Israel's
"ground incursion" proceeds, and while they are still extremely lopsided,
this is the first indication that Israel will pay a price for its
Massacre in Gaza: At least 60 killed in Shuja'iyeh, over 60,000 in UN
Shelters: This seems to have been the most immediate Israeli response
to the loss of 15 Israeli soldiers.
Mohammed Omer: Gaza Hospitals Can't Cope. No surprise here, but the
problem isn't just increasing demand: it's power plants being disabled,
vital supplies being blockaded, and the occasional Israeli bombing of
Richard Silverstein: Gaza War, Day 14: 18 IDF Dead, 430 Palestinian Dead:
Sums up the above, noting "it is precisely this mounting loss of its own
soldiers which may cause Israelis to take stock of this bloody mess and
step back from the brink. Clearly, Israelis have no sense of proportion
or concern when it comes to Palestinian dead."
Hamas wants to pile up 'telegenically-dead Palestinians for their cause' --
Netanyahu, on television: Israel's propaganda line is that Hamas is
not only responsible for all Palestinian deaths, that they crave more and
more Palestinian deaths in their diabolical scheme to shame Israel. Not
only is Netanyahu saying this, IDF puppet like David Brooks has put it
even more succinctly: "Hamas has basically decided they want to see their
own people killed as a propaganda coup." Or as Bill Clinton put it, "in
the short and medium term Hamas can inflict terrible public relations
damage by forcing (Israel) to kill Palestinian civilians to counter Hamas."
Netanyahu has yet to explain why he fell for this dastardly plan, allowing
his government and the IDF to be so manipulated by Hamas.
Hasbarapocalypse: Naftali Bennett says Hamas committing 'massive
self-genocide': I think Bennett (Israel's Economy Minister, head of
the second largest party in the latest Knesset elections) gets credit as
the first person to describe what's happening in Gaza as "genocide." Most
likely he just mangled the talking point, but maybe added a little wish
Benjamin Wallace-Wells: Why Israel Is Losing the American Media War:
"If Netanyahu is so bothered by how dead Palestinians look on television
then he should stop killing so many of them. But his complaint is in itself
a concession." The author attributes this to social media exposing more of
the actual battleground, but I suspect something that Robbins (above) aludes
to: blockaded off as it is, Gaza is becoming increasingly opaque to Israel
at the same time it is becoming more transparent to the rest of the world.
Moreover, although Israel remains effective at manipulating key parts of the
media -- I could assemble a half dozen links on how distorted coverage has
been in the Washington Post -- there are just too many alternative
sources of news and analysis for them to control. Moreover, there are too
many people in the media who know better -- I'm not seeing the link now,
but there was an amusing report about Barney Frank feeling he was being
ganged up on defending Israel on a CNN interview.
Thalif Deen: Why No Vetoed Resolutions on Civilian Killings in Gaza?
Partly because Russia and China have vetoed resolutions condemning Assad
in Syria, so they don't have a lot of moral authority to go after Israel,
and given that all they would get out of it is a bit of embarrassment for
the US (a country which has already vetoed hundreds of resolutions on
Israel) that's evidently not worth the effort. Turns out all the world's
powers have axes to grind -- not with each other so much as with the
various people unfortunate enough to fall under the thumbs of their
Dead Gazans Missing From Senate Endorsement of Israeli Invasion:
All 100 US senators, including some you might expect to know better,
voted in favor of an AIPAC-authored, which this piece quotes in toto.
While taken as an endorsement of Israel's bombardment and invasion
of Gaza, it actually says no such thing: it denounces Hamas rocket
attacks (which currently threaten 5 million Israelis), declares them
"unprovoked," reaffirms "Israel's right to defend its citizens and
ensure the survival of the State of Israel," and demands that Abbas
"dissolve the unity governing arrangement with Hamas and condemn the
attacks on Israel." To the Senate's knowledge, no Palestinians have
As Israel attacks Gaza, 110 Palestinians injured and 12 detained in clashes
at Al-Aqsa compound: One of Kate's roundups of Israeli press reports,
showing among other things that Israel has not let up on arrests in the
West Bank, that settlers continue to run amok, and that protests against
Israel's operations in Gaza are being brutally suppressed. Also more details
Lawrence Weschler: Israel Has Been Bitten by a Bat: Basically a rant,
and a couple days old, but worth reading: "I know, I know, and I am bone
tired of being told it, when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,
there is plenty of blame to go around, but by this point after coming on
almost 50 years of Israeli stemwinding and procrastinatory obfuscation,
I'd put the proportionate distribution of blame at about the same level
as the mortality figures -- which is, where are we today (what with
Wednesday morning's four children killed while out playing on a Gaza
beach)? What, 280 to 2?" The title refers to rabies.
Also, a few links for further study:
Hayes Brown: What You Need to Know About the Tunnels That Bring Life -- and
Death -- Into Gaza: Some useful background on the Gaza tunnels that
Israel is so desperately attempting to destroy. The key point is that since
Israel tightened its blockade of Gaza after removing its settlements in
2005 -- Israel referred to this as "putting Gazans on a diet" -- the tunnels
have become an indispensible lifeline, at least partly alleviating the
suffering that Israel imposes:
All told, what passes through the tunnels makes up a substantial portion,
if not the vast majority, of the Gazan economy at this point. In October
2011, United Nations figures estimated that "800,000 liters (around 5,000
barrels) of fuel, 3,000 tons of gravel, 500 tons of steel rods and 3,000
tons of cement" passed through the tunnels daily.
Of course, missiles and other contraband enter Gaza through the tunnels,
but as long as the tunnels are needed for importing essentials like food
and building materials there will be no popular support for shutting them
Dahr Jamail: Incinerating Iraq: Probably the best journalist working
in Iraq since the US invasion -- see his Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches
from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq (2007) -- brings us up
to date. From early on the US was responsible for stirring up Sunni-Shiite
civil war in Iraq, and when things got out of hand the US was able to shift
alliances, offering protection to Sunni tribal leaders willing to turn on
"Al-Qaeda in Iraq" and thereby temporarily reducing the violence. When US
troops left, they advised Maliki to ease up on the Sunnis, but true to form --
this was, after all, why the Americans installed him in the first place --
he kept pushing down the Sunnis and wound up with an explosion engulfing
the northwestern third of Iraq and threatening Baghdad. If Obama had any
sense, he would have backed away from Maliki, offering US aid to negotiate
a diplomatic solution (preferably extending the talks to Syria, now that
Assad isn't looking so awful). Instead, he reaffirmed his support for the
discredited post-occupation Iraqi government, the only way Americans seem
to know how: by sending bombers, "advisers," and special forces troops,
a commitment that will convince Maliki that he doesn't have to reform a
thing, that he can win outright, and one that puts Obama on the slippery
slope of having to send more and more reinforcements in to stave off a
face-loosing debacle. This was possibly the single dumbest decision in
month chock full of foreign policy disasters (e.g., Ukraine/Russia,
Israel/Gaza, Syria, Afghanistan/Pakistan).