Friday, July 25, 2014

Once And For All!

Uri Avnery
July 26, 2014
                                                           
IN THIS war, both sides have the same aim: to put an end to the situation that existed before it started.
 
Once And For All!
 
To put an end to the launching of rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip, Once And For All!
 
To put an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip by Israel and Egypt, Once And For All!
 
So why don't the two sides come together without foreign interference and agree on tit for tat?
 
They can't because they don't speak to each other. They can kill each other, but they cannot speak with each other. God forbid.
 
THIS IS NOT a war on terror. The war itself is an act of terror.
 
Neither side has a strategy other than terrorizing the civilian population of the other side.
 
The Palestinian fighting organizations in Gaza try to impose their will by launching rockets at Israeli towns and villages, hoping that this will break the morale of the population and compel it to end the blockade that turns the Gaza Strip into an "open-air prison". 
 
The Israeli army is bombing the Gaza Strip population and destroying entire neighborhoods, hoping that the inhabitants (those who survive) will shake off the Hamas leadership.
 
Both hopes are, of course, stupid. History has shown time and again that terrorizing a population causes it to unite behind its leaders and hate the enemy even more. That is happening now on both sides.
 
SPEAKING ABOUT the two sides in a war, one can hardly avoid creating the impression of symmetry. But this war is far from symmetric.
 
Israel has one of the largest and most efficient military machines in the world. Hamas and its local allies amount to a few thousand fighters, if that.
 
The closest analogy one can find is the mythical story of David and Goliath. But this time we are Goliath, and they David.
 
The story is generally misunderstood. True, Goliath was a giant and David a small shepherd, but Goliath was armed with old-fashioned weapons – heavy armor, sword and shield - and could hardly move, while David had a new-fangled surprise weapon, the sling, with which he could kill from a distance.
 
Hamas hoped to achieve the same with its rockets, whose reach was a surprise. Also with the number and efficiency of their tunnels, which are reaching into Israel. However, this time Goliath too was inventive, and the Iron Dome missile batteries intercepted practically all the rockets that could have harmed population centers, including my neighborhood in Tel Aviv.
 
By now we know that neither side can compel the other side to capitulate. It's a draw. So why go on killing and destroying?
 
Ah, there's the rub. We can't talk to each other. We need intermediaries.
 
A CARTOON in Haaretz this week shows Israel and Hamas fighting, and a bunch of mediators dancing in a circle around them.
 
They all want to mediate. They are fighting each other because each of them wants to mediate, if possible alone. Egypt, Qatar, the US, the UN, Turkey, Mahmoud Abbas, Tony Blair and several more. Mediators galore. Each wants to gain something from the misery of war.
 
It's a sorry lot. Most of them pitiful, some of them outright disgusting.
 
Take Egypt, ruled by a bloodstained military dictator. He is a full-time collaborator with Israel, as was Hosny Mubarak before him, only more efficient. Since Israel controls all the other land and sea borders of the Gaza Strip, the Egyptian border is Gaza's only outlet to the world.
 
But Egypt, the former leader of the Arab world, is now a subcontractor of Israel, more determined than Israel itself to starve the Gaza Strip and kill Hamas. Egyptian TV is full of "journalists" who curse the Palestinians in the most vulgar terms and grovel before their new Pharaoh. But Egypt now insists on being the sole broker of the cease-fire.
 
The UN Secretary General is rushing around. He was chosen for his job by the US because he is not outstandingly clever. Now he looks pitiful.
 
But not more pitiful than John Kerry, a pathetic figure flying hither and thither, trying to convince everyone that the US is still a world power. Gone are the days when Henry Kissinger commanded the leaders of Israel and the Arab countries what to do and what not (especially telling them not to talk to each other, but only to him.)
 
What exactly is the role of Mahmoud Abbas? Nominally, he is the president of the Gaza Strip, too. But he gives the impression of trying to mediate between the de facto Gaza government and the world. He is much closer to Tel Aviv than to Gaza.
 
And so the list goes on. The ridiculous figure of Tony Blair. The European Foreign Ministers trying to get a photo opportunity with their neo-fascist Israeli colleague. Altogether, a disgusting sight.
 
I want to cry out to my government and to the Hamas leaders: For God's sake, forget about the whole sorry lot, talk to each other!

THE PALESTINIAN fighting capabilities are surprising everyone, especially the Israeli army. Instead of begging for a ceasefire by now, Hamas is refusing until its demands are met, while Binyamin Netanyahu seems eager to stop before sinking even deeper into the Gaza morass – a nightmare for the army.
 
The last war began with the assassination of the Hamas military commander, Ahmad al-Jaabari. His successor is an old acquaintance, Mohammed Deif, whom Israel has tried to assassinate several times, causing him severe injuries. It now appears that he is far more capable than his predecessor – the web of tunnels, the production of far more effective rockets, the better trained fighters – all this attests to a more competent leader.
 
(This has happened before. We assassinated a Hizbollah leader, Abbas al-Mussawi, and got the far more talented Hassan Nasrallah.)
 
In the end, some kind of cease-fire will come into being. It will not be the end Once And For All. It never is.
 
What will remain?
 
THE HATRED between the two sides has grown. It will remain.
 
The hatred of many Israelis for Israel's Arab citizens has grown considerably, and this cannot be repaired for a long time. Israeli democracy has been hard hit. Neo-Fascist groups, once a fringe, are now accepted in the mainstream. Some cabinet ministers and Knesset members are outright fascist.
 
They are acclaimed now by almost all the world's leaders and repeat parrot-like Netanyahu's most threadbare propaganda slogans. But millions around the world have seen day after day the terrible pictures of devastation and death in the Gaza Strip. These will not be eradicated from their minds by a cease-fire. Israel's already precarious standing in the world will sink even lower.
 
Inside Israel itself, decent people feel more and more uncomfortable. I have heard many utterances by simple people who suddenly talk about emigration. The choking atmosphere inside the country, the awful conformism of all our media (with Haaretz a shining exception), the certainty that war will follow war forever – all this is leading young people to dream about a quiet life with their families in Los Angeles or Berlin.
 
In the Arab world the consequences will be even worse.
 
For the first time, almost all Arab governments have openly embraced Israel in the fight against Hamas. For young Arabs anywhere, this is an act of shameful humiliation.
 
The Arab Spring was an uprising against the corrupt, oppressive and shameless Arab elite. The identification with the plight of the forsaken Palestinian people was an important part of this.
 
What has happened now is, from the point of view of today's young Arabs, worse, much worse. Egyptian generals, Saudi princes, Kuwaiti emirs and their peers throughout the region stand before their younger generation naked and contemptible, while the Hamas fighters look like shining examples. Unfortunately, this reaction may lead to an even more radical Islamism.
 
WHILE STANDING in an anti-war demonstration in Tel Aviv, I was asked by a nice young man: "OK, assuming that this war is bad, what would you do at 6 o'clock after the war?" (That was the name of a famous World War II Soviet movie.)
 
Well, to start with I would drive away all the mediators and start to talk directly with fighters of the other side.
 
I would agree to put an immediate end to the land, sea and air blockade of the Gaza Strip and allow the Gazans to build a decent port and airport. On all routes, effective controls must ensure that no weapons are let in.
 
I would ask that Hamas, after receiving international guarantees, remove in reasonable stages all rockets and destroy all tunnels under the border.
 
I would certainly release at once all the Shalit-exchange prisoners who were re-arrested at the start of the present crisis. An obligation undertaken under pressure is still an obligation, and cheating by a government is still ugly.
 
I would recognize, and call upon the world to recognize, the Palestinian Unity Government and do nothing to impede free Palestinian presidential and parliamentary elections, under international inspection. I would undertake to respect the results, whatever they may be.
 
I would immediately start honest peace negotiations with the unified Palestinian leadership, on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative. Now that so many Arab governments embrace Israel, there seems to be a unique chance for a peace agreement.
 
In short, put an end to the war Once And For All.  

Israel Provoked This War: It’s up to President Obama to stop it

By HENRY SIEGMAN, Politico, July 22, 2014


There seems to be near-universal agreement in the United States with President Barack Obama’s observation that Israel, like every other country, has the right and obligation to defend its citizens from threats directed at them from beyond its borders.

But this anodyne statement does not begin to address the political and moral issues raised by Israel’s bombings and land invasion of Gaza: who violated the cease-fire agreement that was in place since November 2012 and whether Israel’s civilian population could have been protected by nonviolent means that would not have placed Gaza’s civilian population at risk. As of this writing, the number killed by the Israel Defense Forces has surpassed 600, the overwhelming majority of whom are noncombatants.

Israel’s assault on Gaza, as pointed out by analyst Nathan Thrall in the New York Times, was not triggered by Hamas’ rockets directed at Israel but by Israel’s determination to bring down the Palestinian unity government that was formed in early June, even though that government was committed to honoring all of the conditions imposed by the international community for recognition of its legitimacy.

The notion that it was Israel, not Hamas, that violated a cease-fire agreement will undoubtedly offend a wide swath of Israel supporters. To point out that it is not the first time Israel has done so will offend them even more deeply. But it was Shmuel Zakai, a retired brigadier general and former commander of the IDF’s Gaza Division, and not “leftist” critics, who said about the Israel Gaza war of 2009 that during the six-month period of a truce then in place, Israel made a central error “by failing to take advantage of the calm to improve, rather than markedly worsen, the economic plight of the Palestinians in the [Gaza] Strip. … You cannot just land blows, leave the Palestinians in Gaza in the economic distress they are in and expect Hamas just to sit around and do nothing.”

This is true of the latest cease-fire as well. According to Thrall, Hamas is now seeking through violence what it should have obtained 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.” It is not only Hamas supporters, but many Gazans, perhaps a majority, who believe it is worth paying a heavy price to change a disastrous status quo.

The answer to the second question — whether a less lethal course was not available to protect Israel’s civilian population — is (unintentionally?) implicit in the formulation of President Barack Obama’s defense of Israel’s actions: namely, the right and obligation of all governments to protect their civilian populations from assaults from across their borders.

But where, exactly, are Israel’s borders?

It is precisely Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to identify those borders that placed Israel’s population at risk. And the reason he has refused to do that is because he did not want the world to know that he had no intention of honoring the pledge he made in 2009 to reach a two-state agreement with the Palestinians. The Road Map for Middle East peace that was signed by Israel, the PLO and the United States explicitly ruled out any unilateral alterations in the pre-1967 armistice lines that served as a border between the parties. This provision was consistently and blatantly violated by successive Israeli governments with their illegal settlement project. And Netanyahu refused to recognize that border as the starting point for territorial negotiations in the terms of reference proposed by Secretary of State John Kerry.

But on July 12, as noted in The Times of Israel by its editor, David Horovitz, Netanyahu made clear that he has no interest in a genuine two-state solution. As Horovitz puts it, “the uncertainties were swept aside … And nobody will ever be able to claim in the future that [Netanyahu] didn’t tell us what he really thinks. He made it explicitly clear that he could never, ever, countenance a fully sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank.” The IDF, Netanyahu said, would remain permanently in the West Bank. During the Kerry-sponsored negotiations, he rejected out of hand the American proposal that U.S. and international forces be stationed on the Israeli-Palestinian border, which he insisted would remain permanently under the IDF’s control. Various enclaves will comprise a new Palestinian entity, which Palestinians will be free to call a state. But sovereignty, the one element that defines self-determination and statehood, will never be allowed by Israel, he said.

Why will he not allow it? Why did he undermine Kerry’s round of peace talks? Why is he inciting against the Palestinian unity government? Why does he continue to expand illegal settlements in the West Bank, and why did he use the tragic kidnapping and killing of three Israelis as a pretext to destroy what institutional political (as opposed to military) presence of Hamas remained in the West Bank?

He’s doing all of these things because, as suggested by Yitzhak Laor in Haaretz, he and his government are engaged in a frenzied effort to eliminate Palestinians as a political entity. Israel’s government is “intent on inheriting it all” by turning the Palestinian people into “a fragmented, marginalized people,” Laor writes. It is what the Israeli scholar Baruch Kimmerling described as “politicide” in a book by that name he wrote in 2006.

So exactly who is putting Israel’s population at risk? And what is Obama prepared to do about it?

I’m sure the president’s political advisers are telling him that a congressional election year is not the time to take on the Israel lobby. They are wrong, not only because it is always election time in the United States, but because successive polls have established that American Jews vote constantly and overwhelmingly Democratic for a wide variety of domestic and international reasons, but support for Netanyahu’s policies is not one of them.

And if the president wishes to convince Israelis and Palestinians that Israeli-Palestinian peace is a cause worth taking risks for, should he not be willing to take some domestic political risks as well?

Henry Siegman is president of the U.S./Middle East Project. He served as senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and non-resident research professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London, and is a former national director of the American Jewish Congress.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Absurdities of Israeli spin on Gaza: Haroon Siddiqui

Israel says Hamas has cynically calculated that the worse the situation gets for Gazans, the better it is for Hamas. If so, why is Israel obliging Hamas? 

By: Haroon Siddiqui Columnist, Toronto Star Thursday Jul 24 2014


There is the Israeli spin and there are Israeli actions.

Israel says its fight is with Hamas, not Gazans. Yet it is killing Gazans, 684 as of this writing, most of them civilians, including women and children.

Israel says it is only out to punish Hamas. But it is hitting hospitals, mosques, schools, apartment buildings and entire neighbourhoods full of civilians.

Israel accuses Hamas of being callously indifferent to the lives of Palestinians by hiding its rockets and mortar shells among them. Hamas uses civilians as human shields but Israel goes ahead and bombs them anyway. This is a very strange way for Israel to seek the moral high ground.

Israel says Hamas has cynically calculated that the worse the situation gets for Gazans, the better it is for Hamas. If so, why is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu obliging Hamas?

Israel says it makes great efforts to avoid/minimize civilian casualties. If so, it is failing, day after day and hour after hour.

It peppers Gazans with recorded phone messages and leaflets, and also pings their roofs as warnings to get out ahead of the impending destruction. But, as a Gaza doctor said, “Where can we go? There’s nowhere to go” for the 1.7 million residents of the densely populated coastal territory.

The Israeli army acknowledged that half the casualties, as of July 16, were not involved in terrorism. They were collateral damage, either because of mistaken targeting or because Hamas uses ordinary Palestinians as human shields.

“Not all the casualties are due to mistakes,” an unnamed senior military official told the New York Times this week. Another army spokesperson said that “civilian casualties are a tragic inevitability of the brutal and systematic exploitation of homes, hospitals and mosques.”

That didn’t seem so in the case of four boys blown up at the beach where they had gone because their neighbourhood was under constant attack by air strikes; or of another three children killed while playing on a rooftop; or of homes being hit with people inside at dusk when families gather to break their daylong Ramadan fast; or of targeting the entire Gaza City neighbourhood of Shejaia where more than 60 Palestinians were killed.

The attack on Shejaia was “a hell of a pinpoint operation,” mocked U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, talking to an aide without realizing that his microphone was on.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay suggests that international humanitarian law is being violated, “in a manner that could amount to war crimes.” Other UN agencies as well as Human Rights Watch are accusing Israel of targeting civilians as collective punishment.

“Israel’s rhetoric is all about precision attacks but attacks with no military target and many deaths can hardly be considered precise,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch’s Middle East director.

If the Israeli objective is to inflict the maximum suffering on Palestinians in the hope of turning them against Hamas, that sentiment is yet to manifest itself.

Over the last few years, Hamas has lost support because of its corruption, nepotism and incompetence, not because of the 2008-09 Israeli air and ground operations that killed nearly 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis, or the 2012 air operation — both of which, in fact, ended up propping Hamas’s sinking fortunes. Since then, Hamas has developed or imported rockets that now reach deeper into Israel than ever before.

Whatever one thinks of Hamas or its tactics, its opposition to the suffocating Israeli and Egyptian blockade reflects the desperate needs of the Gazans.

The stated Israeli aim this time is to destroy the tunnels that reach into Israel and also demilitarize but not decapitate Hamas (for fear that its place may be taken up by an Al Qaeda-type outfit). According to Yuval Steinitz, minister for strategic affairs, the immediate goal is “quiet,” but “the strategic goal is demilitarization. We have to finally not be satisfied with a temporary filling, but do a root canal.”

It might prove a temporary respite, at best.

Israel wants peace and quiet without ending its brutal 47-year-old occupation of Palestinian lands. It says it wants a peace agreement with the Arabs. But Netanyahu has thwarted it — by expanding illegal Jewish settlements in occupied lands; refusing to define Israel’s ever-elastic borders; imposing new demands on Mahmoud Abbas, the most pliant of Palestinian leaders; and derailing American efforts to revive the peace talks. And when Abbas recently signed a unity agreement with Hamas, an accord cautiously welcomed by the United States, Netanyahu has tried to undermine it.

Abbas was long accused of not representing all Palestinians. Now that he was on his way to doing so, he has been sabotaged.

“Israel does not want peace,” writes Gideon Levy, the respected Israeli columnist in Haaretz newspaper. “In recent years, Israel has moved away from even the aspiration to make peace . . . The preservation of the status quo has become the true Israeli aim, the primary goal of Israeli policy, almost its be-all and end-all. The problem is that the existing situation cannot last forever. Historically, few nations have ever agreed to live under occupation without resistance . . . 

The Palestinians have made more than one mistake but their mistakes are marginal. Basic justice is on their side and basic rejectionism is the Israelis’ purview. The Israelis want occupation, not peace. I only hope I am wrong.”

But, as Kerry has said, the status quo “cannot be maintained.”

Netanyahu thinks it can be.

The rest is spin.

As Vancouver author Gabor Maté wrote on this page Wednesday:

“The powerful party has succeeded in painting itself as the victim, while the ones being killed and maimed become the perpetrators . . . Israel’s ‘right to defend itself,’ unarguable in principle, does not validate mass killing.”

Haroon Siddiqui’s column appears on Thursday and Sunday.

A Letter From Doctor Mads Gilbert in Gaza

Thursday, 24 July 2014


By Ellen Cantarow, Le Monde Diplomatique | Op-Ed

The email Mads Gilbert, professor of medicine at the University of North Norway (Tromso), sent to a friend on July 19 was a cri de coeur. He had spent two weeks in Gaza during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead attack in the winter of 2008-09, tending to the wounded and the dying in Al-Shifa hospital, and again for another week during a similar assault (Operation Pillar of Cloud) in 2012.


As then, Gilbert is now once again caring for streams of patients rushed into Al-Shifa (the name means “healing”) from the Gaza killing fields. I reproduce the email in its entirety because it is the first lengthy account by a physician writing directly from a hospital about the region’s injured and dying in the course of Israel’s latest hostilities. Al-Shifa has been under bombardment and shellfire; other health care facilities as well as ambulances and medical personnel have been attacked. Gaza’s only rehabilitation hospital, Al-Wafa, has been destroyed. READ MORE....

Fighting jihad for Israel

Foreign fighters drawn from Europe and the US contribute to Israel's military occupation of the Palestinian territories.


Last updated: 22 Jul 2014 




Hanine Hassan is a PhD candidate at Columbia University. Her research focuses on the long-term effects of humiliation as a tool of oppression by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Her name is Katie. She is from the Netherlands, and chose to serve in the Israeli navy instead of remaining in her country.

Will her government label her and the rest of the hundreds of Dutch youth serving in the Israeli military asjihadstrijders (jihad fighters), the name given to the hundred or so that went to Syria? Katie, a Dutch- Israeli dual citizen, is after all a jihadist in occupied Palestinian lands.

Israel's genocidal campaign in the Gaza Strip is entering its second week. The death toll has risen to more than 600, with thousands more injured and displaced - alongside arbitrary arrests, the demolition of family homes and a policy of apartheid towards Palestinians both in the West Bank and within the state of Israel. What's more, these war crimes are directly supported by the recruits from Europe and the United States that land at Ben Gurion airport throughout the year.

The notion of Europeans and Americans serving in the Israeli army isn't new.

Before the creation of the state of Israel, thousands of western volunteers were recruited by the Zionist movement - in a process named Mahal or volunteers from abroad to take part in Zionist military operations in Palestine during the British Mandate.

In the 1948 war, as many as 4,000 World War II veterans from the US, Canada and Europe carried out military operations against Palestinians, serving the Zionist project with their expertise in warfare, artillery, naval and aerial combat.

A bigger role than fighting

Within the historical context of western support for the Zionist project, it wasn't the number of Mahal combatants that was significant. The role of foreign recruits was to be found in the political and demographictransformation of Palestine.

The late Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, later attributed the successful outcome of the war to the support of foreign fighters: "They came to us when we most needed them, during those hard and uncertain days of our 1948 war of independence."

In supporting and developing Israel's military power, these western recruits deliberately contributed to the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian towns, the dispossession and depopulation of Palestinian communities, and the massacres inflicted on them.

But Mahal recruitment did not end with the creation of the Israeli state. It continues to this day.

Thousands of volunteers, from more than 40 countries, stream to Israel to serve in all branches of the Israeli military - many in combat units. The online Mahal recruitment programme ostensibly aims to "defend" Israel and strengthen the connection of these volunteers to the Israeli military. Non-Israeli nationals of Jewish descent can join the ranks of the armed forces for an 18-month tour and be in the same front-line combat units as Israeli conscripts, including those operating in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Support groups

Around 100 British nationals are currently serving in the Israeli army. It's a significant number. British mothers even have support groups to exchange experiences of having a child serving in the Israeli military.

In 2009, Baron Ahmed of Rotherham asked Britain's House of Lords, the UK parliament's upper chamber, whether any British citizens were serving in the Israeli military or its reserves.

Lord Malloch-Brown, minister of state at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, responded, "Other than press reports, the UK government does not possess information about whom the Israeli government have called up to serve in the Israel Defense Forces or the Israeli Defense Reserves, including any dual nationals. Only the Israeli government would have this information... Anybody who has broken the fourth protocol of the Geneva Convention deserves to meet justice in some court or another." So much for the oversight of the British intelligence and security services.

In April 2014, a British parliamentary report outlined - in 246 pages - counterterrorism approaches towards British Muslims fighting in Syria, Somalia and Afghanistan. Nowhere did it mention the threat of indoctrinated British citizens returning home from serving in the Israeli military. Nor did it mention that serving in an occupying army remains a crime in violation of the Foreign Enlistment Act 1870, which criminalises British citizens who serve in the armed forces of another country.

Recruitment

The Mahal network spans the globe. Max Steinberg and Sean Carmeli were two US citizens enlisted in the Israeli military. They were taking part in the Israeli ground offensive in the Gaza Strip which resulted in the deaths of at least 70 Palestinian civilians in Shujayea when they came under fire. The US State Department announced their deaths on July 20. And yet recruitment continues.

In May 2014, the Israeli embassy in Paris informed the local Jewish community of the arrival of a representative of the military who would give a lecture on their recruitment policies, "followed by a question and answer session".

In November 2013, a Ukrainian citizen that had served for six years in the Israeli army stated nonchalantly on a Ukrainian television show that she had killed Palestinian children with full immunity from European and Ukrainian law - since Israeli law does not apply when Palestinian children are killed.

Approximately 5,000 Jews carry the title "Lone Soldier" - given in Israel to volunteers from abroad, new immigrants or orphans who have served in the Israeli army. Lone soldiers receive special rights and benefits, such as financial assistance, help with housing and time to visit family abroad.

In May 2014, the Tel Aviv Lone Soldier Center, where lone soldiers can relax and unwind together, was opened thanks to funding from a Dutch NGO named Israel Actie, which is affiliated to the Amsterdam Sar-El branch. Sar-El are civilian volunteer groups who undertake non-combat work for the Israeli military. Jews, non-Jews, and non-Israelis - eligible from the age of 16 - can volunteer their time, money and efforts, wearing army uniforms, to reinforce the Israeli military.

It is represented in more than 30 countries and hundreds of volunteers join each year.

Israel is applying outright treachery in its recruitment of young Jews worldwide, through tens of programmes.Israel Experience is a Zionist project that aims to create new allies for Israel. It targets western youngsters from the age of 13, recruiting them for what appears at first to be a programme of fun and amusement. But these children end up in a simulation, spending between one and six weeks exposed to guns, reproducing military manoeuvres and receiving "educational" classes on Zionism and the Israeli military.

Entertainment also features on the side. These indoctrinated children are then sent back to their parents and countries as advocates to justify occupation, apartheid and the defence of Israel at all costs. Israeli recruitment programmes have different dimensions but one and the same goal: the strengthening of the Israeli army and the networks of the state's mindless supporters. 

Complicit in war crimes

The power dynamics of European countries is a game of constant duplicity. Western intelligence services turn a blind eye to citizens that decide to wear the Israeli military's uniforms and occupy Palestinian lands and resources, and commit war crimes in violation of international law.

Apparently, in the eyes of Israel and its western allies, having Jewish roots is adequate justification to defend an illegal occupation of territories - while it is unacceptable for Palestinians to resist the illegal expansion of Israeli settlements and theft of land and water resources. In its recent offensive on Gaza, Israeli troops have shown no respect for human lives and have breached the laws of armed conflict, indiscriminately attacking civilians and targeting civilian homes and institutions.

There are many faces to the Israeli occupation, some of which are well-known, and some of which are hidden. The indirect reinforcement of the Israeli army with European and American soldiers is one such opaque form of complicity.

If European leaders are serious about preventing international fighters crossing their borders, or returning home with weapons training and a grudge to bear, they should pay equal attention to all European fighters taking part in conflicts across the Middle East. European governments have a moral duty towards Palestinians. They have to stop the flow of European killers deliberately involved in crimes against humanity.

Israel has turned the Gaza Strip into an experimental laboratory for its high-tech weapon industry and chemicals. It is the obligation of the international community to sanction Israel, and enforce a military embargo in light of the Israeli violations of human rights.

Hanine Hassan is a PhD candidate at Columbia University. Her research focuses on the long-term effects of humiliation as a tool of oppression by Israel in the occupied Palestinian Territories.

Follow her on Twitter: @Hanine09

Massacre in Gaza

Published on Thursday, 24 July 2014 

By Richard Falk.

Richard Falk is Albert G Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Research Fellow, Orfalea Center of Global Studies. He is also Former UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights.


What has been happening in Gaza cannot usefully be described as "warfare". The daily reports of atrocities situate this latest Israeli assault on common humanity within the domain of what the great Catholic thinker and poet, Thomas Merton, caIled "the unspeakable". Its horror exceeds our capacity to render the events through language.

The events in Gaza are essentially a repetition of prior Israeli incursions with heavy sophisticated weaponry in which the people of Gaza are the helpless victims of Israeli firepower, with no place to hide, and increasingly without even such necessities of life as water and electricity, whose facilities have been targeted by Israel's precision weaponry.

By now we should all understand that one-sided violence whether in the form of torture or state terror is criminal behaviour. When it leads to many civilian deaths on one side and few civilian casualties on the other side, then such state terror is best characterised as a massacre, epitomised by the high civilian death toll on July 20 in the Gaza City neighbourhood of Shujayea where a crowded residential district was repeatedly shelled by heavy IDF artillery. The latest casualty figures on the Palestinian side are more than 600 killed, over 3,000 injured, 75 percent of whom are estimated to be civilians. On the Israeli side, 29 killed, all but two were soldiers. 

As with earlier massive Israeli military operations carried out against the people of Gaza 2008-2009, and 2012, the defenceless Gazan population is again being cruelly victimised. If an adversary of the West was behaving as Israel has since July 8, it would be branded an aggressor whose leaders would likely be held accountable before the International Criminal Court (ICC) or some other tribunal with the authority to prosecute persons accused of international crimes which have distressed the US government and its allies. 

Was this not the response to Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, and Muammar Qaddafi whose criminality stood in the path, blocking Western interests? But what of George W Bush, Tony Blair, and Barack Obama whose crimes are shrouded in a thick cloud of impunity?

This contrast manifests the geopolitical logic of world order for all who have eyes that want to see "the real" as opposed to heeding the "reigning hegemonic myths". It is this geopolitical logic that is shaping the application of international criminal law: accountability for enemies of the West, impunity for the West and its friends. Such double standards highlight the tensions between law and justice. There is currently no greater beneficiary of this deformed political culture of impunity than the political leadership and military command structure of Israel.

And yet there does exist an international criminal law and procedures for its application, and although so far successfully manipulated by the geopoliticians, the endgame of criminal accountability has yet to be played. Those who are victimised should not ignore its unrealised potential for justice, and the challenge posed to all who consider themselves "citizen pilgrims" - on a life journey of human solidarity and faith in a better future: Law from above, justice from below. This is the populist equation that can guide us towards thought, feelings, and actions on the "right side of history".

'Sign or leave!'

In this connection, I was moved by reports of the young activists in Ramallah and other cities in the West Bank putting forth the demand that Mahmoud Abbas "sign or leave!" That is, sign the Rome Treaty on behalf of Palestine, and thereby join the International Criminal Court, or give up the presidency of the Palestinian Authority, because not fit to lead.

Such an impassioned call for criminal accountability expresses a populist demand that justice must finally be rendered by a court of law, and Palestinian victimisation authoritatively confirmed and vindicated by overwhelming evidence of Israel's multi-dimensional criminality. It is the faith of those who believe that the ICC is a tribunal of justice and not an instrument used as a moralising convenience by power-wielders shielding their own greater criminality.

In practice, even if Palestine is accepted as a party to the ICC, and should the prosecutor, as seems unlikely, proceed to investigate, indict, and issue arrest warrants, the prospects of adjudication, conviction, and punishment are near zero. And yet the demand "sign or leave!" makes political sense. Legal literalism misses the point.

For one thing, since Israel so intensely opposes Palestine's adherence to membership in the ICC, such an initiative should be presumed helpful for Palestinians. For another, mere recourse to the ICC would make a significant contribution to the struggle between Israel and Palestine for the high moral and political ground, generating commentary and dialogue.

We need to keep in mind that it is the outcome of this legitimacy struggle that will, in the end, likely decide this long conflict in favour of the Palestinians, as it has determined the outcome of every prior anti-colonial struggle of the last 70 years.

The BDS movement

And finally, such moves towards Palestinian control over the legitimacy discourse would help mobilise global support for the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaign and an arms embargo on Israel. It will also push governments and the United Nations finally to support the Palestinian call for pressure on Israel, use leverage and non-violent coercion to obtain a sustainable peace that realises Palestinian rights under international law, especially, the right of self-determination and the right of return.

Palestinians have suffered for nearly a century as a result of what the international community decided on their behalf without seeking their approval, or even their consent. It is time that all of us, including those who act in solidarity, to be sure that it is the Palestinian national movement that decides what self-determination means for Palestinians.

At this stage, the most authentic expression of Palestinian views on a just peace is contained in the declaration of 2005 by a coalition of 171 Palestinian civil society organisations (NGOs and labour unions) that initiated the worldwide BDS campaign. BDS made three demands from the outset of its campaign:

"Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;

Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194."

It is an illuminating commentary on the confusing political situation that it is the BDS leadership that is presently best able to serve as a more authentic and legitimate voice of the Palestinian people than either the Palestinian Authority or Hamas.

Palestinians may suffer from what has been widely identified as a leadership deficit, but this is being offset by an innovative surge of democracy from below, and how this might yet produce the first global intifada that will be the next, and hopefully, emancipatory stage in the Palestinian struggle.

-For Immediate Release- NCCM condemns anti-Semitic vandalism in GTA

(Ottawa - July 24, 2014) The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) condemns the recent anti-Semitic vandalism in Thornhill. 

According to media reports, a swastika and the word "F--k Israel" were spray painted on a bus shelter, which is situated in the predominantly Jewish neighbourhood. This attack comes just days after a similar incident targeting a mosque in the area with anti-Muslim and anti-Arab graffiti.

In a statement, NCCM Executive Director Ihsaan Gardee said:

"The NCCM stands with our fellow Canadians in unequivocally denouncing this act of hate and intimidation.

"These incidents appear to be brought on by an overseas conflict and exacerbated by our government's one-sided and uncritical support of Israel's military attacks which now appears to be jeopardizing the safety of Canadian Muslims, Arabs and now Jews.

"We believe that the government has a responsibility to tone down its rhetoric around the current conflict in the Middle East and speak out clearly against these latest attacks on Canadian Muslims and Jews. We hope the perpetrators of these acts will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

The NCCM is an independent, non-partisan, and non-profit grassroots organization that is a leading voice for Muslim civic engagement and the promotion of human rights.

CONTACT: Ihsaan Gardee, Executive Director, 613.254.9704 or613.853.4111

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EGYPT: 23 Rights Organizations Demand that the Government Stop Fighting Civil Society and Review Its Policy towards NGOs



Bahey eddin Hassan, the director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), submitted a memo signed by 23 Egyptian human rights organizations to Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab this morning, Thursday, 24 July 2014. The memo stated the position of these organizations towards the repressive draft law on associations, which was presented by the Minister of Social Solidarity, and towards the escalating steps recently taken by the Ministry of Social Solidarity against civil society in general.

The meeting, held at the cabinet building, was held at the request of Bahey eddin Hassan following the sudden announcement by the Ministry of Social Solidarity of a new repressive draft law on associations. This bill would lead to the “nationalization” of civil society, transforming it into a quasi-governmental sector and subjecting it to unrestricted prerogatives of the security apparatus. The bill further represents a flagrant violation of the constitution. Today’s meeting came in light of a notice issued by the Ministry of Social Solidarity and published in the Ahram newspaper on page 22 of the 18 July 2014 issue, warning what it calls the “entities” carrying out civil society work that they will be dissolved within 45 days. The organizations which signed onto the memo consider this to be a blatant attack on other long-establish legal systems which regulate companies in the fields of law and other activities related to development, academia, and culture. Such a step could severely undermine the Egyptian legal framework and destroy any remaining confidence in the legal and judicial systems. Furthermore, it may very well lead to the closure of a large number of human rights organizations and the imprisonment of those who work in them.

The Prime Minister considered this meeting to be a preliminary meeting, to be followed by a larger meeting with human rights organizations.

The human rights organizations which signed onto the memo called on the government to take a number of serious, immediate measures to put a stop to the ongoing deterioration of the state of human rights in Egypt and to provide a positive indication about the sincerity of its intentions to establish a state based on the rule of law and respect for the constitution. These measures include that the Ministry of Social Solidarity return to the associations bill which was drafted by a committee formed by the former Minister of Social Solidarity, Dr. Ahmed Bora’I, at the end of 2013, and which was then presented by the Egyptian government to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, such that this bill might be the basis for a societal debate on the law with the aim of improving it to become more consistent with international standards. These steps were taken in preparation for the bill to be presented to the new parliament once elections were held. The organizations further emphasized the importance of requesting technical consultations with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights when drafting the associations law, in order to guarantee that the law complies with Egypt’s international commitments under Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Egypt is party. The organizations also demanded that the government retract the notice issued by the Ministry of Social Solidarity in the Ahram newspaper, as previously described.

It should be noted that during the Universal Periodic Review of the state of human rights in the country in 2010, Egypt committed itself before the United Nations to improve the environment in which NGOs work and to amend the infamous associations law no. 84/2002 to bring it into compliance with international standards. However, the Egyptian government until now has not fulfilled these commitments; rather, it has raided a number of Egyptian and international organizations and referred some of those working with them to court, imprisoning some of these workers as well. At the same time, preparations are being taken for the evaluation of Egypt’s human rights record during its second Universal Periodic Review before the United Nations, set to take place in October and November of this year.

To review the memo submitted to the Prime Minister: Here

Who is dying in Afghanistan’s 1,000-plus drone strikes?

On the afternoon of September 7 last year, a truck made its way along a remote road in Watapur, a region in Afghanistan’s Kunar province. A local farmer, Miya Jan, heard a buzzing overhead, and looked up to see a drone above him, he told the Los Angeles Times. Minutes later, he heard an explosion.

Reaching the site, he realised the mangled vehicle belonged to his cousin. Among the bodies, he recognised his brother and his brother’s family. "There were pieces of my family all over the road," he told the newspaper. "I picked up those pieces from the road and from the truck and wrapped them in a sheet to bury them."

But in the strike's aftermath, military authorities and a UN team disagreed over how many civilians died in the attack, with the UN estimating 10 non-combatant deaths and the military acknowledging just three.

Afghanistan is the most heavily drone-bombed country in the world - the Watapur strike is one of more than 1,000 such attacks known to have taken place in the country.

Almost nothing is known about where and when those strikes took place, or who they killed. But what little information emerges raises troubling questions about civilian deaths.

A new study by the Bureau published today, examines the official opaqueness that surrounds drone operations and explores whether outside organisations – such as the Bureau – might be able to lift this veil of secrecy.

The Bureau’s two-month study was supported by the Remote Control Project, an initiative backed by the Network for Social Change. Report below: 

Who is dying in Afghanistan’s 1,000-plus drone strikes?

US Aid To Israel - The Real Deal

List of Palestinians Killed Between 7/8 and 7/24

This list is constantly updated due to the ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza since July 8th. The following 697 names have been confirmed. At least 4640 Injured. We realize the number of slain Palestinians is higher than this, but we are still awaiting confirmation of some names.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Report documents government orchestration of US “terror” plots

By Fred Mazelis 


23 July 2014

A new report issued by Human Rights Watch (HRW) provides a revealing if only partial look at the role of US government informants and agents in instigating and orchestrating fake terrorist plots in the years since the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The 214-page report, produced in collaboration with Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute, examines 27 major federal cases. It is based on more than 200 interviews with defendants, members of their families, defense attorneys, judges, prosecutors, government officials, academics and others. There have been more than 500 terrorism-related cases in the past 13 years, and the conclusions of this report apply to many if not most of them.

In a statement that confirms, in an understated fashion, what has been increasingly obvious in many cases and has been reported by the World Socialist Web Site over the past decade, Human Rights Watch concludes that “the FBI may have created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals by suggesting the idea of taking terrorist action or encouraging the target to act.”

“Americans have been told that their government is keeping them safe by preventing and prosecuting terrorism inside the US,” said HRW deputy Washington director Andrea Prasow. “But take a closer look and you realize that many of these people would never have committed a crime if not for law enforcement encouraging, pressuring, and sometimes paying them to commit terrorist acts.”

This statement would have been more accurate if it made clear that many of these individuals never even committed “terrorist acts.” They were supplied by government informants with fake bombs and other materials, and many were convicted on conspiracy counts, not for terrorist acts.

READ MORE.....

US Provides Israel the Weapons Used on Gaza

Wednesday, 23 July 2014 10:12

By Ken Klippenstein and Paul Gottinger, Truthout | News Analysis

The United States exported to Israel a substantial amount of the same types of weapons Israel is using to kill Gazans, a new analysis of US Census Bureau export data reveals. For example, in 2013, the United States sent Israel at least $196 million in parts for military airplanes and helicopters, a category that includes F-16 fighter jets and Apache helicopters, both of which Israel is currently using to attack Gazan homes, offices and farmland. Between January and May 2014, the United States had already exported $92 million in parts for military airplanes and helicopters.

The military airplanes and helicopters that the United States sent comprise the largest category, in dollar terms, of all weapons exports to Israel that are publicly available via the US Census Bureau (see charts). READ MORE.....

Saudi arms sale “unprecedented”

Posted on July 22, 2014



Canada’s deal to equip Saudi Arabia with armoured vehicles is even larger than previously thought, according to official data obtained by Project Ploughshares through an Access to Information request (Kenneth Epps, “New facts confirm unprecedented size of Canadian arms deal to Saudi Arabia,” Project Ploughshares, 22 July 2014).

Information gathered from the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) indicates that the two contracts awarded by the CCC to General Dynamics Land Systems Canada to sell military equipment to the Gulf monarchy totaled $14.8-billion.

“These contracts are unprecedented in the history of the CCC, a crown corporation in Ottawa that arranges back-to-back contracts between Canadian suppliers and foreign governments,” says Kenneth Epps, senior program officer at Project Ploughshares. “Each contract dwarfs recent CCC awards for military exports to other Canadian-based contractors.”

Combined, the deals account for the lion’s share of the $15.5 billion in military contracts awarded by the CCC during fiscal year 2013-2014.

In fact, “this latest total is an order of magnitude greater than equivalent annual totals for the majority of years in this century,” said Epps.

The deal is so big that the Gulf kingdom has displaced the United States as the largest annual benefactor of CCC-brokered military export contracts. Canadian military exports to the U.S. shrank to $592.2 million during 2013-14.

“The new contracts change the norm, making Saudi Arabia the alternative major recipient of Canadian arms exports for years to come,” notes Epps.

Based on information provided by the government in February, Epps estimates “that they will span at least 10 years, with average annual shipments worth at least $1-billion. This means that Saudi Arabia is slated to be a major, if not the largest, recipient of Canadian military exports for the next decade or more.”

The CCC hasn’t been neglecting other military clients, however. Back in 2010 the CCC chose a Director of Global Defence Sales to advertise Canadian military exports in untapped markets. Recent export figures point to the success the corporation has obtained, especially in the global South.

The data released to Project Ploughshares indicate that the crown corporation secured contracts with various Canadian companies appraised at $36.2 million for Mexico, $18.8 million for Argentina, $10.9 million for Peru, and $2.3 million for Norway.

Beyond the significant scale of the armoured vehicles deal, the Saudi contracts raise important questions about the efficacy of Canadian export control standards, which are supposed to “closely control” arms exports to human rights violators and regions at risk of armed conflict:


The Saudi government’s abysmal human rights record is well documented. In directing a crown corporation to actively seek out the contracts, the Canadian government has ignored the high risk that Canadian vehicles will become tools of repression. The risk will escalate if Saudi Arabia experiences an “Arab Spring” movement calling for basic rights and freedoms.

Saudi Arabia also boasts the largest military budget in the Middle East, the world’s most militarized region. Huge military expenditures by the Saudi regime provide perhaps the single clearest example of the ‘excessive and destabilizing accumulation of conventional weapons’ warned about by many international agreements to which Canada is a party.

Photo credit: DND

A Debate on Gaza: Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada vs. J.J. Goldberg of The Jewish Daily Forward

The Canada Revenue Agency becomes an arm of the PMO


JULY 22, 2014

There is a salty expression that seems apt at the moment: "Don’t p*ss on me and tell me it's raining." A number of charities that have spoken out against various policies of the current Harper administration might well echo the sentiment expressed in that injunction.

The Canada Revenue Agency is currently auditing several Canadian charities, sniffing around for suspect "political activity." The list of targets reads like a Who's Who of Canadian charitable institutions: Amnesty International Canada is included, and so is Kairos, stupidly denounced as "anti-Semitic" a few years back by the egregiously dishonest Minister Jason Kenney; the David Suzuki Foundation, Tides Canada, Equiterre, Environmental Defence, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, PEN Canada, Canada Without Poverty, even the United Church of Canada.

It appears, and by no coincidence, that the Knights of Columbus and the Fraser Institute,both of which wade frequently into politics, have been spared a visit from the Grand Inquisitor.

But CRA claims, apparently with a straight face, that its hounding of charities whose missions and goals are not aligned with those of the Harper government has nothing to do with their progressive orientation. Mon oeil.

It's selectively seeking out environmental, human rights and international aid groups, and organizations receiving donations from labour unions. And it's spinning the process out, in order to bleed as many resources as it can from the charities under the gun, which have been forced to divert their scarce funds and staff to answering the incessant demands of auditors camped on their doorsteps, sometimes for years. Only one revocation of charitable status has been made--a doctors' charity in 2012 -- since the government's omnibus bill C-38 was passed in that year, setting aside millions to launch the current persecution. But CRA has now made its witchhunt (for that is what it clearly is) a permanent feature of its organization.

The purpose seems evident: to muzzle dissent -- nothing new, of course, for the Harper government -- and to paralyze the charitable operations of these organizations.

And it's working. As researcher Gareth Kirkby notes: "The government is attempting with some success to narrow society's important policy conversations. READ MORE.....
"

The deafening silence around the Hamas proposal for a 10-year truce

Francesca Albanese on July 22, 2014


During its first 14 days, the Israeli military aggression on the Gaza Strip has left atoll of over 500 dead, the vast majority of whom civilians, and many more injured. Thousands of houses were targeted and destroyed together with other essential civilian infrastructures. Over one hundred thousand civilians have been displaced. By the time you will read this article the numbers will have grown higher and, despicably, no real truce seems in sight. When I say real, I mean practicable, agreeable to both sides and sustainable for some time.

The Israeli government, followed suit by Western media and governments, was quick to put the blame on Hamas for that. Hamas – they claim – had an opportunity to accept a truce brokered by Egypt – and refused it. Others have already explained at length why this proposal crafted without any consultations with Hamas, was hard to accept by Hamas.

Much less noticed by the Western media was that Hamas and Islamic Jihad had meanwhile proposed a 10 year truce on the basis of 10 – very reasonable – conditions. While Israel was too busy preparing for the ground invasion, why didn’t anyone in the diplomatic community spend a word about this proposal? The question is all the more poignant as this proposal was in essence in line with what many international experts as well as the United Nations have asked for years now, and included some aspects that Israel had already considered as feasible requests in the past.

The main demands of this proposal revolve around lifting the Israeli siege in Gaza through the opening of its borders with Israel to commerce and people, the establishment of an international seaport and airport under U.N. supervision, the expansion of the permitted fishing zone in the Gaza sea to 10 kilometers, and the revitalization of Gaza industrial zone. None of these demands is new. The United Nations among others have repeatedly demanded the lifting of the siege, which is illegal under international law, as a necessary condition to end the dire humanitarian situation in the Strip. The facilitation of movement of goods and people between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip had already been stipulated in the Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA) signed between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority in 2005. Even the construction of a port and the possibility of an airport in Gaza had already been stipulated in the AMA, though the actual implementation never followed. The requested increase of the permitted fishing zone is less than what envisaged in the 1994 Oslo Agreements and it was already part of the 2012 ceasefire understanding. Unhindered fishermen’s access to the sea, without fear of being shot or arrested and having boats and nets confiscated by Israeli patrols is essential to the 3000 Gaza fishermen struggling to survive today by fishing in a limited area which is overfished and heavily polluted. The revitalization of the Gaza industrial zone, which has progressively been dismantled since the 2005 disengagement and by continuous military operations, was already considered a crucial Palestinian interest at the time of the 2005 Disengagement.

The proposed truce also demands the withdrawal of Israeli tanks from the Gaza border and the Internationalization of the Rafah Crossing and its placement under international supervision. The presence of international forces on the borders and the withdrawal of the Israeli army requested by Hamas is unsurprising, considered the heavy toll of casualties by Israeli fire in the Access Restricted Areas near the Israeli border (i.e. an area of 1.5km along the border comprising 35% of Gaza land and 85% of its whole arable land). The international presence should guarantee that Egyptian and Israeli security concerns are equally met.

The proposal also requests Israel to release the Palestinian prisoners whom had been freed as part of the deal to liberate Gilat Shalit and were arrested after the killing of the three Israeli youths in June 2014 in the West Bank; that Israel refrains from interfering in the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah; and that the permits for worshippers to pray at the Al Aqsa Mosque be eased.

Not only are these conditions sensible in light of previous agreements but, especially those who pertain to the lift of the siege, are the minimum standards that Hamas and the people of Gaza could accept in the current circumstances. As Raji Sourani reports, the most common sentence from people in Gaza after the announcement of the Egyptian ‘brokered’ ceasefire was “Either this situation really improves or it is better to just die”. The dire circumstances under which Gazans have lived in the last 7 years have indeed evoked in many the image of the enclave as “the world’s largest open air prison”. A prison which is overcrowded and where in 6 years there will no longer be enough drinkable water or capacity to provide other essential services, as a recent UN report denounces. Facing this gloomy context, for many the continuous launch of rockets from Gaza is a response to the siege and the harsh conditions imposed by the occupation.

One could imagine that an agreement on the basis of the Hamas proposal could not only stop the current round of hostilities but also pave the way towards a lasting solution of the conflict. However Israel has shown no interest in considering this proposal and continues to prefer the military option. As a result one wonders whether Israel really wants a long lasting resolution of the conflict. This resolution would necessarily require compromises on the Israeli side, including relinquishing control over the West Bank and Gaza. Netanyahu recently made it perfectly clear that this option is off the table. An eventual agreement between Israel and Hamas would further strengthen the legitimacy of Hamas in the newly achieved Palestinian unity, which is a prerequisite for any lasting peace. Legitimizing the Palestinian unity is something the Israeli government is avoiding like the plague as it would push forward their quest for justice in the international arena.

Perhaps more surprisingly, the international community – with the exception of Turkey and Qatar – has spent no words on the Hamas truce proposal although many of the points of the proposal already enjoy international support. This refusal to deal with the proposal is particularly problematic in the current context. Without any pressure by the international community, Israel, the party who has the upper hand in this conflict, will feel legitimized to keep refusing negotiations for a real truce with Hamas. Truces and negotiations are made with enemies not friends. International organizations and Western leaders, echoing Israel and the United States, maintain that Hamas is a terrorist organization and thus any direct negotiations with it are embargoed.

Hamas resorts to violence, which is often indiscriminate and targets civilians – also due to the lack of precision weapons. But so does Israel – no matter how sophisticated its weaponry is. If the point is to help parties negotiate, both parties have to be treated equally, encouraged to consider measures other than military ones and accept compromises based on international law. Especially when sensible proposals are on the table as in this case. The firm refusal to engage with Hamas at this point epitomizes the failure of the international community to deal with the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Unless the international community reverts this pattern by taking a honest stand grounded in international law and diplomacy, the plight of Gaza and of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will continue.