22

Jul

Israeli and Palestinian Youth Struggle Through Gaza-Israel Conflict

from: www.haaretz.comBy

NEW YORK – Traveling to beautiful seaside San Diego from Jenin or Jerusalem would ordinarily be a huge treat. But right now, for Mariam, Ayala and other Palestinian and Israeli teenagers participating in the Hands of Peace dialogue program, being far from home is excruciating.

“It’s been a hard day for me,” 18-year-old Mariam, who is from a religious Muslim family in Jenin, in the West Bank, tells Haaretz in a Skype interview. “Reading posts on Facebook about children and people dying. My mom just called me. The fact that people are dying and no one is doing anything about it …” Her voice trails off and she begins to cry quietly.

Mariam’s participation in one of Hands of Peace’s programs is controversial in her community. “I come from a very closed-minded society about peace programs,” says Mariam, a computer engineering major at a Nablus college. After her first experience with the program, during the summer of 2012, she was accused by relatives of being “brainwashed.” Her name and those of other participants quoted here have been changed.

She is one of 24 teens in a first-ever Hands of Peace program in California. There are another 43 participants in Chicago, where the organization was founded in 2002; it offers both a summer camp as well as a leadership training program.

HOP describes itself on its website as “an interfaith organization developing peace-building and leadership skills in Israeli, Palestinian and American teens through the power of dialogue.”

The structured dialogue process used in the encounters, in which the Middle Eastern participants, along with American teens of various religious backgrounds, present and defend their people’s narrative before learning to listen to their peers and eventually, in most cases, coming to develop empathy and understanding for them – is always a difficult one, HOP administrators say. But with deadly violence raging in the Gaza Strip and incoming rockets sending Israelis running for shelter – this year the tension has been made far more acute.

When HOP’s programs began on July 6, it was just a few days after Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir’s burned body was discovered in Jerusalem, and a week after the bodies of the three murdered Israeli youths, Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrah, were found near Hebron.

Though the contents of the dialogue sessions are confidential, the mother of one Israeli Jewish participant said her son told her that a Palestinian participant called Zionism a terrorist movement, and “almost fell off his chair” when the son described himself as a Zionist.

“Everybody did come with a level of intensity that we haven’t seen for a long time,” says Julie Kanak, the program’s executive director. “I really thought that we might get some Middle Eastern parents calling and thinking about pulling their kids out,” she adds, but that didn’t happen. “All of the participants are worried about what’s going on at home,” and they are checking “more often” with their families.

A shift in perspective

Ayala, 17, who is from Rishon Letzion and will be a senior in high school, is considering serving in intelligence in the Israel Defense Forces after her induction.

“While we are having the activities during the day, I don’t think about it or feel it,” she says of the grim reality at home, in an interview also conducted by Skype. But when she has time to herself, Ayala says she has “a feeling of guilt that I’m not there. My family can’t go to the beach, has to go to shelters three or four times a day. Knowing that I have friends that have to be in the army all day [and] my parents are taking care of relatives – it doesn’t feel good. Today I was hearing what’s going on the radio and I started crying.”

Mariam and Ayala are in the HOP Extaordinary Leader (XL) training program for teens who previously participated in a summer session. 

Mariam has had a lot to overcome while getting to know Israeli participants: Her family was kicked out of its home by IDF soldiers five times from the time she was 10 to 13 years old, she says in the interview.

“The first time it was Ramadan and my birthday, there was a knock on the door in the middle of the night and they said only ‘take your stuff, get out of the house.’ We never knew when we’d come back. We went to family houses nearby. They never tell you why. I have two sisters and one brother,” Mariam explains.

"My younger sister, she is 13 now, still lives in fear of soldiers. Every time she hears a gunshot she starts crying. My brother still has nightmares. It’s left a lot of anger and hatred, and a feeling of sadness because you don’t have a normal life."

When Mariam had to tell her story at the first HOP program she attended two summers ago, “there were Israelis who didn’t want to hear it. We had Israelis apologizing and we had [other] people arguing that [certain things] needed to happen. When you grow up with the fact that the only Israelis you see are soldiers, you come here expecting that everyone will abuse you, basically.”

Getting to know some Israeli Jewish peers has, however, helped shift her perspective, Mariam says now: “I still believe that the Israeli soldiers are what they are, but I also say that I met some pretty amazing Israelis who want the best for me, like I want the best for them.”

“The dialogues were really hard,” says Ayala. “Just hearing things that you never heard before. It’s eye-opening. I thought I knew everything about the conflict, and then I realized there are so many things Palestinians see us as, and we see them as. You don’t really know what’s going on until you know someone personally, even if you think you’re open-minded.”

Six of the participants in the 18-day HOP program in San Diego are Jewish Israelis, six are West Bank Palestinians, and three are Palestinian citizens of Israel. There are nine Americans – some Muslim, some Jewish, some Christian and some atheist. The program has operated in the Chicago area since 2003, where at present seven Jewish Israelis, seven Palestinians from the West Bank, four Palestinian citizens of Israel, and 14 American Jewish, Christian and atheist teens are getting to know one another.

The IDF’s ground incursion into Gaza last Thursday began midway through the HOP programs. “There are Palestinian kids who have relatives in Gaza, Israeli kids who have brothers who are soldiers. So far, our kids’ relatives and friends are safe, to the best of our knowledge,” says Scott Silk, the program’s site director at the Pacific Ridge School, in the San Diego suburb of Carlsbad, where he is also a teacher.

When the Israeli army moved in, Azim Khamisa, a California-based trainer in nonviolent communication, and Ami Yares, an American-Israeli who plays music about peace were due to make presentations. Silk and other HOP staff decided to mark the solemnity of the day by asking for a moment of silence to acknowledge the suffering of everyone in the region. Then, Silk says, “an amazing thing happened.” An Israeli-Jewish teenager stood up as a sign of respect. Slowly, one by one, all the others rose as well. “There was not a dry eye in the house,” according to Silk. Jewish kids ended up singing along with Yares in Arabic, and the Palestinian kids in Hebrew, arm in arm.

Last Friday, the group attended services at both a local mosque and a Reform synagogue.

“We as a staff were extremely anxious about this,” says Silk. “We had a three-and-a-half-hour meeting discussing whether or not to attend the services. What would the reaction be from congregants? Would there be dirty stares, someone saying something? What if the Israeli kids got up and walked out of the mosque, and the Palestinian kids from the synagogue? We had tremendous trepidation about what was going to go down.”

But much to the staff’s relief, the visits went smoothly.

The current crisis, Silk notes, “has added a level of heaviness and despair to the program that we hadn’t previously seen, but also shockingly it has really served as a unifier for the kids and has been a very, very powerful thing for them, recognizing the importance of the work they are doing.”

'No one truth'

The launching of Operation Protective Edge led to the cancellation of part of another endeavor in which Americans, Israelis and Palestinians participate: the two-year Building Bridges Middle East-U.S. program for 10th- and 11th-grade girls. Denver, Colorado-based Building Bridges MEUS teaches participants leadership and communication skills that they can employ in their own home communities, and involves regular gatherings in those communities, intense summer sessions, retreats and so on. But don’t call this a coexistence or dialogue program.

“The word coexistence takes on a specific political perspective in Israel and Palestine, and it’s an important part of our approach that we don’t have a particular political ethos or political outcome,” Jennifer Sarche, the co-executive director, told Haaretz. Since 1994, about 1,200 women have graduated from Building Bridges MEUS.

The Israelis and Palestinians in the current cohort were due to gather this week in Turkey. But instead Building Bridges is running an intensive facilitator-training course in Colorado.

“With the current conflict and violence we had concerns about the safety of travelling,” says Sarche. “For the teens it’s very difficult to be away from their families. They want to be with them and it detracts from the community we try to create, which is very focused within.”

Seeds of Peace, operating since 1993, is possibly the longest-running summertime dialogue-and-coexistence program for Israelis and Palestinians operating in the United States. It works with participants from the United Kingdom and South Asia, as well as Middle Eastern countries including Egypt, Jordan, Qatar and Yemen, and also focuses on domestic U.S. immigration issues within various communities.

The program for Israeli and Palestinian participants is due to begin in early August, and staffers from the region are being trained now.

“It’s incredibly hard and we are not naïve to think it isn’t harder for young people to participate in this climate,” says Leslie Adelson Lewin, Seeds of Peace’s executive director. Participants range in age from 14 to 17: A total of 60 Israelis, both Jewish and Palestinian, 45 Palestinians and 15 teens each from Jordan and Egypt will attend the camp in Portland, Maine.

“Campers will have been personally affected on a day-to-day basis, by the pressure of their communities and the fear and hatred we’ve seen over the past couple of weeks,” says Lewin. “There is very real anger, very real frustration and very real emotion that is always part of the process and even more so this year.”

Seeds of Peace continues to work with camp alumni in their home countries long after their summer experience, engaging both the teens and their parents in ongoing dialogues, as well as training conflict mediators. The program has about 5,000 graduates, whom they call “seeds,” around the world.

Hagai Efrat, 23, is from Mevasseret Zion, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. He attended the Seeds of Peace camp during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, and again in 2008. He was discharged from his army service last March, and in September will begin studying Arabic. He returns to Seeds of Peace this summer as a counselor.

“Both sides are coming from a current trauma, both sides are experiencing war. It will be hard for them to listen to other people,” says Efrat. “It’s hard to hear things whose existence you weren’t aware of.

"I grew up knowing that Israel won the ‘73 [Yom Kippur] War. Egyptians think they know they won. It sounds ridiculous. Hearing that was the first time I understood that there is no one truth. Just different ways of looking at truth,” he adds. “It’s very hard every time it’s done. People are really into their own suffering. It’s going to be especially hard this time.”

Letter written to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sent Today

Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu,

I am the founding publisher of one of the largest circulation publications in California, The Reader Magazine, which is mailed quarterly to 390,000 people from all possible political backgrounds.  

As you may have heard we are growing this publication to be the first media entity in US history to have a journalistic connection with every single American household.  

We have only been able to achieve what we have from a keen sense— developed over 14 years— of understanding where Americans are politically as well as being fair and even handed in our content.

I am writing to you not as a professional but as a fellow-father, to share with you with my deep concern over the loss of life in the present conflict, and in particular the loss of civilians— families like yours and mine— who have no options, and are being killed in unacceptably high numbers.  

I understand from a New York Times article you recently said in a televised address to Israel, “you had laid the diplomatic foundation that has given us international credit to operate”.  

In truth, I believe you are losing credit with tens of millions of people in the United States who are looking at this conflict with a new perspective, who increasingly find themselves in the position of fighting much stronger forces, and will be siding with those who are most like them.    

Finally, I write to you as a father who understands first hand what it is to lose a son in violent and tragic circumstances; it is a loss that creates a hunger to see that others never lose like this.  

Please do everything you can to end this conflict.  It is an incredible burden you bear and I am grateful to you for everything positive that you are doing.  

Thank you,

Christopher M. Theodore
Founder and Publisher
The Reader Magazine

www.readernation.org

Part of a Letter to President Barack Obama sent via White House Website 7/22/14

Dear President Obama,

I am writing to you not as a professional but as a fellow-father, to share with you with my deep concern over what I perceive to be a lack of rhetorical and material support for Palestinian civilians— families like yours and mine— who have no options in this ground invasion.

I can only imagine how difficult your work must be.  I urge you to consider people you met while President, people like our readers, who like other millions across the U.S., understand the inherent immorality of a lopsided fight, who increasingly see themselves in the position of fighting much stronger forces.  

Finally, I write to you as a father who understands first hand what it is to lose a son in violent and tragic circumstances; it is a loss that creates a hunger to see that others never lose like this.  

Please do everything you can to end this conflict.  It is an incredible burden you bear and I am grateful to you for everything positive that you are doing.  

Thank you,

Christopher M. Theodore
Founder and Publisher
The Reader Magazine

www.readernation.org

Josh Smith (American, born 1976)

Josh Smith (American, born 1976)

21

Jul

The Israeli military is using flechette shells, which spray out thousands of tiny and potentially lethal metal darts, in its operation in Gaza.

Six flechette shells were fired towards the village of Khuzaa, east of Khan Younis, on July 17th, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. Nahla Khalil Najjar (37) suffered injuries to her chest, it said. PCHR provided a picture of flechettes taken by a fieldworker last week.

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) did not deny using the shells in the conflict. “As a rule, the IDF only employs weapons that have been determined lawful under international law, and in a manner which fully conforms with the laws of armed conflict,” a spokesperson said in response to a request for specific comment on the deployment of flechettes.

B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organisation, describes a flechette shell as “an anti-personnel weapon that is generally fired from a tank. The shell explodes in the air and releases thousands of metal darts 37.5mm in length, which disperse in a conical arch 300 metres long and about 90 metres wide”.

‘Imprecise weapon’

The munitions are not prohibited under international humanitarian law, but according to B’Tselem, “other rules of humanitarian law render their use in the Gaza Strip illegal.

One of the most fundamental principles is the obligation to distinguish between those who are involved and those who are not involved in the fighting, and to avoid to the extent possible injury to those who are not involved. Deriving from this principle is the prohibition of the use of an imprecise weapon which is likely to result in civilian injuries.”

The legality of flechette munitions was upheld by the Israeli supreme court in 2002, and according to an Israeli military source, they are particularly effective against enemy fighters operating in areas covered by vegetation.

The source said a number of armies around the world deploy flechette shells, and that they were intended solely for use against legitimate military targets in accordance with international law.

The IDF has deployed flechette shells in Gaza and Lebanon before. B’Tselem has documented the deaths of nine Palestinians in Gaza from flechettes in 2001 and 2002. Flechettes have also killed and wounded dozens of civilians, including women and children, in conflicts between Israel and Hizbullah in Lebanon.

Phosphorus shells

The Israeli military deployed artillery shells containing white phosphorus in densely populated areas of Gaza during Operation Cast Lead in 2008 and 2009, causing scores of deaths and extensive burns. It initially issued a categorical denial of reports of its use, but later admitted it, saying the weapon was used to create smokescreens.

Human Rights Watch said its use of the munitions in Operation Cast Lead was indiscriminate and evidence of war crimes.

20

Jul

As Diplomacy Stalls, Civillians and Increasingly Children are the Conflict’s Victims

By Ruadhan MacCormaic

In the neighbourhood, they used to call Mohammad Al-Bakr “The Prince”. The scrawny 11-year-old, the only son of Ramez and Salwa, was in line to take over the fisherman’s mantle that had passed down three generations and was now, due to his father’s chronic back problems, soon to be his. He was good at school, and much of his free time was spent at the nearby beach, where all the Al-Bakr children swam and played football. When it was busy, he made some pocket money by selling tea on the beach, and it was his dream one day to open a fish shop.

In a household where money was scarce, where Mohammad had just a single pair of trousers and two T-shirts, already there was talk about him becoming the breadwinner. A life at sea beckoned. “Our kids, their whole world is the water. They live their lives down there,” says Samia, the boy’s aunt, sitting in a spartan room in the family home. Beside her is Salwa, Mohammad’s mother, who is swaying silently, her legs crossed beneath her on the bed. Around them are more than 20 women and children from the extended family, gathered in grief. “I told them not to go, but he insisted,” Salwa whispers. “He just wanted to play.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Mohammed was among a group of children who were playing on the Gaza city beach when a missile struck a shack on the harbour. The children ran away from the blast towards a hotel beyond some deserted beach cafes, according to witnesses, but within an instant a second missile struck, this one closer to the running children. Four cousins, all under 11, were killed on the beach that afternoon. Four more were injured.

The Al-Bakr family buried their children within hours of their deaths and returned to the family home. But their longest day wasn’t over yet. At 5am, when everyone was in bed, the west-facing windows were suddenly blasted in. An Israeli “knock on the door” warning had fallen on the roof of a house across the road. People recognised it immediately, and they were fleeing. The children, screaming and crying, fell over each other in the panic to run down the street. A few minutes later, an Israeli rocket exploded on some open land across the road, leaving a 10-foot crater and causing extensive damage to adjacent homes. “We just stood there in the street,” says Samia.

The Terror of Daily Life

Ali Abu Hasira watched it all unfold on the beach that day. He’s 42, but he has been fishing here since he was 12, and he knew each of the boys and their family. He points to the spot where the first missile fell, then the second one. He describes how two of the children were flung more than 15 metres in different directions by the force of the blast. “The Israelis don’t care about anybody,” he says. Around us, the beach is deserted. Normally there would be up to 30 fishermen on foot and more than 100 out at sea. Today there are none.”

Heart-wrenching stories of the traumas inflicted by the latest confrontation between Israel and Hamas have abounded this week. Local health ministry figures show that, of the 260 people who were killed in Gaza, the great majority were civilians and 48 were children. Yet the killings on Gaza beach touched a nerve. Outside the enclave, they drew revulsion. Inside, they seemed somehow to multiply the terror of daily life. If four children playing on a beach could be hit, then anyone could.

Even the smallest decision was freighted with risk. Should you stay in, knowing that residential homes have taken the brunt of the bombardment (sometimes taking neighbours’ houses with them) or go out and risk walking down the wrong street at the wrong time?

When 27-year-old Riwaa Bassal opened her Facebook last Saturday night, she read that her younger brother Mohammed had been killed when a bomb hit a building he was walking past in the district of Zeitoun. “My brother was walking in the street,” she says, speaking in the classroom of a UN school that has been converted into a shelter for Gazans who left their homes due to heavy bombing. “He wasn’t carrying a rocket. He was walking peacefully.”

Vast bomb sites There was terror and fear, but boredom too. When a five-hour ceasefire, agreed by Israel and Hamas at the UN’s request, came into effect on Thursday morning, people

spilled out onto the streets. For 10 days, Gaza had been deserted, the shops closed and cars few and far between. Most people hadn’t left their homes. Suddenly the central market was bustling, the traffic jams returned and life took on its old rhythms, however briefly.

As they stocked up on food and other essentials, people admitted that after more than a week of sitting inside waiting for the bombs to fall, they were relieved to be out again, and to catch up with friends and family. “We got bored at home,” said Ayman, whose men’s clothes shop at the entrance to Zawiya market had opened for the first time in 10 days even though he didn’t expect to do any business.

“We’re not selling anything,” he said, pointing to the huge stock of jeans and shirts he imported from Turkey in the hope of a busy Eid. “People are only buying food and drink, but we opened so we could be outside and see people.”

In normal times, daily life in this crowded, impoverished sliver of land is a struggle. With the bombings, the strip has been left disfigured as well. Families sift through vast bomb sites where their homes once stood. Charred rockets sit in craters at the side of the road. At the overstretched Shifa hospital, there are barely enough spaces in the ramshackle morgue to meet demand. Children in shock – inert, rigid, exuding fear – are a disturbingly common sight.

Yet the real tragedy is that these dystopian scenes, like much else about the latest conflagration, in so many ways recall the events in 2009 and 2012, when Israel and Hamas last confronted one another from either side of the buffer zone. And while both sides will claim to have made short-term gains, few expect the landscape that emerges once the smoke has cleared to be meaningfully different to that of 10 days ago.

Last Sunday night in Tel Aviv, big crowds turned out to watch the World Cup final on big screens in expensive bars and cafes around the city. With its elegant beachfront, its clean, orderly streets and its thriving social scene, Israel’s commercial heart felt like a European Mediterranean city that night – and a world away from the chaos just a few hours to the south. But while only one Israeli has been killed by a militant rocket from Gaza (a 37-year-old who was delivering food to Israeli soldiers near the border with Gaza, killed by a fragment of mortar fire) and the Iron Dome missile defence system has succeeded in shielding urban areas, the psychological effect of hearing wailing sirens in public places several times a day weighs heavily on public opinion.

Up to 90 per cent of Israelis, according to opinion polls, support the government’s actions in Gaza. Notwithstanding the pressure prime minister Binjamin Netanyahu faces on his right flank, the public is firmly behind him. For Hamas, the conflict brought the risk of huge losses but also some strategic opportunities. Hamas has been at a low point recently. Isolated in the wake of the upheaval in Egypt and the civil war in Syria, and under financial pressure since the closure of Gaza’s southern border with Egypt, which deprived it of goods and tax revenues, the organisation recently opted to transfer formal authority over the civic administration in Gaza to the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah. That led to a reconciliation agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation on terms that were seen as casting Hamas, the winner of an election in Gaza in 2006, as the weaker partner.

Now, however, it finds itself back in a central role, presenting itself in a defensive posture and enhanced in the eyes of its supporters.

As columnist Chemi Shalev wrote in the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz this week, “The Israeli bombing raids on Gaza and the casualties inflicted on its civilian population have cast Hamas once again as the main pillar of resistance against the evil Zionists and placed them in perfect position to play hard to get in the upcoming efforts led by Secretary of State John Kerry to broker a cease fire.”

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority chairman, appears sidelined. On the streets of Gaza this week it was difficult to find anyone who would criticise Hamas, at least in public. “May God protect Hamas,” says Ghalia al-Sawarka, who left her home in the north of Gaza in the middle of the night after the Israelis dropped leaflets warning of a bombardment in the area. “Without Hamas, we’d be completely lost.”

On the ground in Gaza, the situation changes by the hour. Thursday began with a ceasefire and ended with Israel mounting a ground operation that involved tanks, drones, fighter jets, Apache helicopters and naval gunships. So far that operation has been limited. Israeli government ministers have said it is focused on militant tunnels along the border, and an Israel Defence Forces spokesman said it was not aimed at “toppling Hamas”.

The widespread belief is that Netanyahu does not want to re-occupy the strip, but Israel may be calculating that by tightening its grip and ensuring Hamas cannot resupply, the militants will be forced to agree to a ceasefire.

Hamas warns that Israel will “pay a heavy price” for the ground invasion and insists it will only agree to a truce if Israel agrees to lift the siege of Gaza and to release the dozens of prisoners freed in the 2011 deal for captured Israel soldier Gilad Shalit, who were rearrested recently in the wake of the killing of three kidnapped Israeli children.

Neither side has an interest in prolonging the war; in that sense, their needs are aligned. For Israel, a full invasion would risk heavy casualties and require a huge long-term investment in the security and development of the strip. Domestic public opinion might baulk at that, while removing Hamas by killing its leaders would run the risk of seeing it replaced with something even more unpalatable to Israel.

On the other side, Hamas also needs the conflict to end. Its arsenal is depleting fast, Gazans are growing impatient and there are signs of divisions between the political and military camps within the organisation.

Both sides need a way out, yet the military momentum is building all the time. The longer diplomacy stalls, the higher the chances that Israel and Hamas will be drawn into a deadly, drawn-out war that both sides have an interest in averting.

Palestinian medics treat a wounded girl at the emergency room of the Shifa hospital in Gaza City. AP/Khalil Hamra
By Chris Hedges
Raul Hilberg in his monumental work “The Destruction of the European Jews” chronicled a process of repression that at first was “relatively mild” but led, step by step, to the Holocaust. It started with legal discrimination and ended with mass murder. “The destructive process was a development that was begun with caution and ended without restraint,” Hilberg wrote.

The Palestinians over the past few decades have endured a similar “destructive process.” They have gradually been stripped of basic civil liberties, robbed of assets including much of their land and often their homes, have suffered from mounting restrictions on their physical movements, been blocked from trading and business, especially the selling of produce, and found themselves increasingly impoverished and finally trapped behind walls and security fences erected around Gaza and the West Bank.

“The process of destruction [of the European Jews] unfolded in a definite pattern,” Hilberg wrote. “It did not, however, proceed from a basic plan. No bureaucrat in 1933 could have predicted what kind of measures would be taken in 1938, nor was it possible in 1938 to foretell the configuration of the undertaking in 1942. The destructive process was a step-by-step operation, and the administrator could seldom see more than one step ahead.”

There will never be transports or extermination camps for the Palestinians, but amid increasing violence against Palestinians larger and larger numbers of them will die, in airstrikes, targeted assassinations and other armed attacks. Hunger and misery will expand. Israeli demands for “transfer”—the forced expulsion of Palestinians from occupied territory to neighboring countries—will grow.


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The Palestinians in Gaza live in conditions that now replicate those first imposed on Jews by the Nazis in the ghettos set up throughout Eastern Europe. Palestinians cannot enter or leave Gaza. They are chronically short of food—the World Health Organization estimates that more than 50 percent of children in Gaza and the West Bank under 2 years old have iron deficiency anemia and reports that malnutrition and stunting in children under 5 are “not improving” and could actually be worsening. Palestinians often lack clean water. They are crammed into unsanitary hovels. They do not have access to basic medical care. They are stateless and lack passports or travel documents. They live with massive unemployment. They are daily dehumanized in racist diatribes by their occupiers as criminals, terrorists and mortal enemies of the Jewish people.
“A deep and wide moral abyss separates us from our enemies,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said recently of the Palestinians. “They sanctify death while we sanctify life. They sanctify cruelty while we sanctify compassion.”

Ayelet Shaked, a member of the right-wing Jewish Home Party, on her Facebook page June 30 posted an article written 12 years ago by the late Uri Elitzur, a leader in the settler movement and a onetime adviser to Netanyahu, saying the essay is as “relevant today as it was then.” The article said in part: “They [the Palestinians] are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.”

The belief that a race or class is contaminated is used by ruling elites to justify quarantining the people of that group. But quarantine is only the first step. The despised group can never be redeemed or cured—Hannah Arendt noted that all racists see such contamination as something that can never be eradicated. The fear of the other is stoked by racist leaders such as Netanyahu to create a permanent instability. This instability is exploited by a corrupt power elite that is also seeking the destruction of democratic civil society for all citizens—the goal of the Israeli government (as well as the goal of a U.S. government intent on stripping its own citizens of rights). Max Blumenthal in his book “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel” does a masterful job of capturing and dissecting this frightening devolution within Israel.

The last time Israel mounted a Gaza military assault as severe as the current series of attacks was in 2008, with Operation Cast Lead, which lasted from Dec. 27 of that year to Jan. 18, 2009. That attack saw 1,455 Palestinians killed, including 333 children. Roughly 5,000 more Palestinians were injured. A new major ground incursion, which would be designed to punish the Palestinians with even greater ferocity, would cause a far bigger death toll than Operation Cast Lead did. The cycle of escalating violence, this “destructive process,” as the history of the conflict has illustrated, would continue at an accelerating rate.
The late Yeshayahu Leibowitz, one of Israel’s most brilliant scholars, warned that, followed to its logical conclusion, the occupation of the Palestinians would mean “concentration camps would be erected by the Israeli rulers” and “Israel would not deserve to exist, and it will not be worthwhile to preserve it.” He feared the ascendancy of right-wing, religious Jewish nationalists and warned that “religious nationalism is to religion what National Socialism was to socialism.” Leibowitz laid out what occupation would finally bring for Israel:


The Arabs would be the working people and the Jews the administrators, inspectors, officials, and police—mainly secret police. A state ruling a hostile population of 1.5 to 2 million foreigners would necessarily become a secret-police state, with all that this implies for education, free speech and democratic institutions. The corruption characteristic of every colonial regime would also prevail in the State of Israel. The administration would suppress Arab insurgency on the one hand and acquire Arab Quislings on the other. There is also good reason to fear that the Israel Defense Force, which has been until now a people’s army, would, as a result of being transformed into an army of occupation, degenerate, and its commanders, who will have become military governors, resemble their colleagues in other nations.


Israel is currently attacking a population of 1.8 million that has no army, no navy, no air force, no mechanized military units, no command and control and no heavy artillery. Israel pretends that this indiscriminate slaughter is a war. But only the most self-deluded supporter of Israel is fooled. The rockets fired at Israel by Hamas—which is committing a war crime by launching those missiles against the Israeli population—are not remotely comparable to the 1,000-pound iron fragmentation bombs that have been dropped in large numbers on crowded Palestinian neighborhoods; the forced removal of some 300,000 Palestinians from their homes; the more than 160 reported dead—the U.N. estimates that 77 percent of those killed in Gaza have been civilians; the destruction of the basic infrastructure; the growing food and water shortages; and the massing of military forces for a possible major ground assault.
When all this does not work, when it becomes clear that the Palestinians once again have not become dormant and passive, Israel will take another step, more radical than the last. The “process of destruction” will be stopped only from outside Israel. Israel, captive to the process, is incapable of imposing self-restraint. 
A mass movement demanding boycotts, divestment and sanctions is the only hope now for the Palestinian people. Such a movement must work for imposition of an arms embargo on Israel; this is especially important for Americans because weapons systems and attack aircraft provided by the U.S. are being used to carry out the assault. It must press within the United States for a cutoff of the $3.1 billion in military aid that the U.S. gives to Israel each year. It must organize to demand suspension of all free trade and other agreements between the U.S. and Israel. Only when these props are knocked out from under Israel will the Israeli leadership be forced, as was the apartheid regime in South Africa, to halt its “destructive process.” As long as these props remain, the Palestinians are doomed. If we fail to act we are complicit in the slaughter.

Palestinian medics treat a wounded girl at the emergency room of the Shifa hospital in Gaza City. AP/Khalil Hamra

By Chris Hedges

Raul Hilberg in his monumental work “The Destruction of the European Jews” chronicled a process of repression that at first was “relatively mild” but led, step by step, to the Holocaust. It started with legal discrimination and ended with mass murder. “The destructive process was a development that was begun with caution and ended without restraint,” Hilberg wrote.

The Palestinians over the past few decades have endured a similar “destructive process.” They have gradually been stripped of basic civil liberties, robbed of assets including much of their land and often their homes, have suffered from mounting restrictions on their physical movements, been blocked from trading and business, especially the selling of produce, and found themselves increasingly impoverished and finally trapped behind walls and security fences erected around Gaza and the West Bank.

“The process of destruction [of the European Jews] unfolded in a definite pattern,” Hilberg wrote. “It did not, however, proceed from a basic plan. No bureaucrat in 1933 could have predicted what kind of measures would be taken in 1938, nor was it possible in 1938 to foretell the configuration of the undertaking in 1942. The destructive process was a step-by-step operation, and the administrator could seldom see more than one step ahead.”

There will never be transports or extermination camps for the Palestinians, but amid increasing violence against Palestinians larger and larger numbers of them will die, in airstrikes, targeted assassinations and other armed attacks. Hunger and misery will expand. Israeli demands for “transfer”—the forced expulsion of Palestinians from occupied territory to neighboring countries—will grow.

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The Palestinians in Gaza live in conditions that now replicate those first imposed on Jews by the Nazis in the ghettos set up throughout Eastern Europe. Palestinians cannot enter or leave Gaza. They are chronically short of food—the World Health Organization estimates that more than 50 percent of children in Gaza and the West Bank under 2 years old have iron deficiency anemia and reports that malnutrition and stunting in children under 5 are “not improving” and could actually be worsening. Palestinians often lack clean water. They are crammed into unsanitary hovels. They do not have access to basic medical care. They are stateless and lack passports or travel documents. They live with massive unemployment. They are daily dehumanized in racist diatribes by their occupiers as criminals, terrorists and mortal enemies of the Jewish people.

“A deep and wide moral abyss separates us from our enemies,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said recently of the Palestinians. “They sanctify death while we sanctify life. They sanctify cruelty while we sanctify compassion.”

Ayelet Shaked, a member of the right-wing Jewish Home Party, on her Facebook page June 30 posted an article written 12 years ago by the late Uri Elitzur, a leader in the settler movement and a onetime adviser to Netanyahu, saying the essay is as “relevant today as it was then.” The article said in part: “They [the Palestinians] are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.”

The belief that a race or class is contaminated is used by ruling elites to justify quarantining the people of that group. But quarantine is only the first step. The despised group can never be redeemed or cured—Hannah Arendt noted that all racists see such contamination as something that can never be eradicated. The fear of the other is stoked by racist leaders such as Netanyahu to create a permanent instability. This instability is exploited by a corrupt power elite that is also seeking the destruction of democratic civil society for all citizens—the goal of the Israeli government (as well as the goal of a U.S. government intent on stripping its own citizens of rights). Max Blumenthal in his book “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel” does a masterful job of capturing and dissecting this frightening devolution within Israel.

The last time Israel mounted a Gaza military assault as severe as the current series of attacks was in 2008, with Operation Cast Lead, which lasted from Dec. 27 of that year to Jan. 18, 2009. That attack saw 1,455 Palestinians killed, including 333 children. Roughly 5,000 more Palestinians were injured. A new major ground incursion, which would be designed to punish the Palestinians with even greater ferocity, would cause a far bigger death toll than Operation Cast Lead did. The cycle of escalating violence, this “destructive process,” as the history of the conflict has illustrated, would continue at an accelerating rate.

The late Yeshayahu Leibowitz, one of Israel’s most brilliant scholars, warned that, followed to its logical conclusion, the occupation of the Palestinians would mean “concentration camps would be erected by the Israeli rulers” and “Israel would not deserve to exist, and it will not be worthwhile to preserve it.” He feared the ascendancy of right-wing, religious Jewish nationalists and warned that “religious nationalism is to religion what National Socialism was to socialism.” Leibowitz laid out what occupation would finally bring for Israel:

The Arabs would be the working people and the Jews the administrators, inspectors, officials, and police—mainly secret police. A state ruling a hostile population of 1.5 to 2 million foreigners would necessarily become a secret-police state, with all that this implies for education, free speech and democratic institutions. The corruption characteristic of every colonial regime would also prevail in the State of Israel. The administration would suppress Arab insurgency on the one hand and acquire Arab Quislings on the other. There is also good reason to fear that the Israel Defense Force, which has been until now a people’s army, would, as a result of being transformed into an army of occupation, degenerate, and its commanders, who will have become military governors, resemble their colleagues in other nations.

Israel is currently attacking a population of 1.8 million that has no army, no navy, no air force, no mechanized military units, no command and control and no heavy artillery. Israel pretends that this indiscriminate slaughter is a war. But only the most self-deluded supporter of Israel is fooled. The rockets fired at Israel by Hamas—which is committing a war crime by launching those missiles against the Israeli population—are not remotely comparable to the 1,000-pound iron fragmentation bombs that have been dropped in large numbers on crowded Palestinian neighborhoods; the forced removal of some 300,000 Palestinians from their homes; the more than 160 reported dead—the U.N. estimates that 77 percent of those killed in Gaza have been civilians; the destruction of the basic infrastructure; the growing food and water shortages; and the massing of military forces for a possible major ground assault.

When all this does not work, when it becomes clear that the Palestinians once again have not become dormant and passive, Israel will take another step, more radical than the last. The “process of destruction” will be stopped only from outside Israel. Israel, captive to the process, is incapable of imposing self-restraint. 

A mass movement demanding boycotts, divestment and sanctions is the only hope now for the Palestinian people. Such a movement must work for imposition of an arms embargo on Israel; this is especially important for Americans because weapons systems and attack aircraft provided by the U.S. are being used to carry out the assault. It must press within the United States for a cutoff of the $3.1 billion in military aid that the U.S. gives to Israel each year. It must organize to demand suspension of all free trade and other agreements between the U.S. and Israel. Only when these props are knocked out from under Israel will the Israeli leadership be forced, as was the apartheid regime in South Africa, to halt its “destructive process.” As long as these props remain, the Palestinians are doomed. If we fail to act we are complicit in the slaughter.

Neil Postman wrote:

What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of informatio­n. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevanc­e. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupie­d with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifuga­l bumblepupp­y. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertaria­ns and rationalis­ts who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractio­ns.” In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that our desire will ruin us.”