Nov 25, 2012

Gaza redux analysis

Analysis of conflicts and destruction should not be done in the heat of the moment when emotions are high. In wars, everybody loses but to variable degrees.  But certain parties can claim achieving certain goals they set for themselves.  Taking stock of the attack on Gaza, the players in this game come out differently (Civilians, Hamas, Fatah, the Israeli government, the U.S. etc) and it is worth reflecting.

-The civilian population:  As in all modern wars, most of the casualties are civilians.  162 Palestinians and 5 Israelis were killed during the Israeli attack and one Palestinian killed after the ceasefire was declared. This includes 30 Palestinian children.  Over 1000 Palestinians were injured and many will have to live with life-long injuries.  The damage in Gaza to infrastructure and homes is tremendous.  Gaza has not even recovered from the last attack 4 years ago. Donors promised to rebuild but never did. In the West Bank, several Palestinians demonstrating in solidarity with Gaza were killed and many injured and hundreds imprisoned by the Israeli occupation forces.  And Gaza remains the largest prison on earth. The last election war in Israel in 2008-2009 cost 1400  Palestinian lives (13 Israelis).  The number of injured is ten times more and is also skewed 100 to 1 (Palestinian to Israeli injuries).  The damaged structures including infrastructure is not even comparable.  Israeli occupation forces bombed Mosques, residential buildings, electricity grids, media offices, and government offices in Gaza while damage in reprisal attacks in Israel was minimal.  Depleted Uranium and other weapons also continue to increase cancers among civilians.

-Hamas: The recent conflict started when Israel assassinated a moderate military leader who was holding other factions to previous ceasefire understandings. The goal was electoral and for internal preparedness against a possible conflict with Iran. Israel's own estimates is that the stockpile of rockets was 12-14,000 and that Hamas used only10% which they will replenish.  Most analysis predict more money and weapons coming to Hamas since it gained much politically among Palestinians and among others.  The philosophy of Hamas includes things like "what was taken by force can only be reclaimed by force" and that "resistance works."  The ideology was certainly bolstered in the minds of many people.  But Hamas needs to show evidence of a coherent strategy to achieve its own goals beyond slogans and celebration of withstanding and resisting Israeli terror.

-Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian authority in Ramallah (PA) used to describe rockets fired from Gaza as stupid and ineffective.   Hillary Clinton visited to bolster the PA but the US position backing Israeli massacres meant further weakening. The Oslo accords became a distant memory and the PA largely irrelevant.  The long touted Palestinian reconciliation was talked about but few believe leaderships of Hamas or Fatah are genuinely seeking reconciliation.  The increased emphasis on the bid for admission to the UN as a "non-member State" is done without explanations about the exact language that is already being negotiated with the US/Israel to emasculate it from any real meaning.  There are also side agreements being worked out to have a PA promise not to bring Israel before International courts.  Losing face is not something that men, including Arab men, take easily.  Abbas and his colleagues in Fatah who benefited in the past from Oslo find it harder to climb down. But Gaza formed a joint operation room with all resistance fighters. Perhaps the decent people in Fatah who joined the resistance will provide the needed bridge.  Perhaps also people like jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi can help (he called for ending the useless negotiations and security coordination with Israel).  Perhaps with help of Dr. Nabil Shaath, Barghouthi can play a role in allowing for a face-saving exit strategy from the muddy sink hole of Oslo.

- Egypt after the revolution put itself squarely as a major player in Middle East politics and began to shed its Mubarak era image (if not substance) of being a puppet of the US government.  The Egyptian government led by President Morsy brokered the cease fire deal and managed to show diplomatic and maneuvering skills that gained it respect.  But the main audience was the Egyptian street and the anouncement right after the ceasefire deal was of consolidating power for Morsy.  Demonstrations were held in Egypt complaining about the dictatorial powers.  Using Palestine to strengthen internal control is a very old strategy used by many Arab leaders. What Egypt does about the gas fields off of Gaza shore or about allowing arming of the resistance is a more practical barometer of any real change in Egypt.

-The three architects of this war (Barak, Netanyahu, Lieberman) held a press conference and were grim and unsmiling as they announced that they “achieved their goals” and they will not hesitate to hit Gaza again “if rockets resumed”.  It seems even Israelis did not buy this.  But I think it is too simplistic to describe Israel as having “lost this war” (as some pundits are saying).  The publicly declared goals from this attack on Gaza are actually different from privately held goals.  The public goal to end the “threat to the south” (hence the name pillar of defense) is actually not the real goal.  In any case that goal failed since Hamas came out stronger from this.  But there are other undeclared goals: 1) bolstering election chances, 2) testing the weakest chain of the forces of resistance (Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Iran), and 3) testing the Israeli defense/preparedness mechanisms (a massive and real drill) including the iron dome missile defense system to prepare for wider conflicts to come (with Hizballah and Iran).  In the first, polls will soon show if the three benefited politically for the upcoming election.  To the second goal, the tested subject proved stronger than expected by Israel (the use of longer range Fajr-5 shocked many Israelis especially when these rockets reached Tel Aviv and Jerusalem). The third goal had mixed results but now Israel will spend a few weeks acquiring more iron dome batteries and organizing their warning system in a better way. It augurs poorly for Israel since they spent $750 million for a conflict with imprisoned Gaza Palestinians! A fourth goal may have been to test what the Obama administration does in its second term in office.  Some analysts predicted that Obama will be free in his second term in office to fulfill some of what he said in his Cairo speech nearly four years ago.  But the evidence showed he is still subservient to AIPAC and the Israel lobby in Washington.  Both in Israel and the US, there is a hope that toppling the Syrian regime if done soon may help in the war on the remaining axis (Hizballah and Iran).  Others believe the issue of Iran can’t wait.  In fact, before the ink was dry on ceasefire agreement, Israeli papers were reporting that Iran is moving dirt in one location in ways that suggest they are hiding nuclear activity.  

-Turkey had a hand in moving towards a Gaza settlement.  If the siege on Gaza is indeed reduced as stipulated in the ceasefire deal in significant ways, this will remove one of the three conditions laid down by Ankara on resumption of normal friendly relations with Israel. Overall, Turkey is interested in getting NATO support for its defense capability (including Patriot missiles) and cares more about its own interests than about the interests of people in Gaza.  Turkey would be satisfied with new calmer arrangements in Gaza even if it end-up profiting Israel.

-Iran:  Hamas did acknowledge Iranian help in developing its defense capabilities.  Iran said that Arab and Islamic countries should now see the value of helping the Palestinians and Lebanese defend themselves against US/Israeli aggression and hegemony.  If the ceasefire holds and if Israel improved its iron dome abilities with US support, and if Netanyahu/Lieberman succeed in being elected to form the next government, then it is very likely that Israel will be freer to attack Iran.  The Israeli right wing politicians are trying to get their house in order and to ensure US support to proceed to create more wars (they already started 6 wars in the Middle East with similar patterns).  Iran is obviously studying developments and lessons to deal with the contingencies.  

-The USA: US foreign policy is simply domestic policy as Henry Kissinger once said.  Absent Muslim-American and Arab-American effective lobbies, the Zionist lobby dictate US policy.  This may be changing as US elites realize that unconditional support of Israel has persistently weakened the US economically, politically, and morally.  More and more US citizens are connecting the dots between the frail and unsustainable economy of the US and its domestically generated (anti-American) foreign policy in support of apartheid and repression. People increasingly see that the Israeli push to get the US into a war on Iraq cost thousands of American lives and nearly three trillion dollars.  Hopefully they will see the repercussions of the Israeli push for conflict with Iran before it is too late.

-Perhaps the biggest loser was the truth.  Israel massive propaganda effort paid off as western media showed Israel “defending itself” and failed to report reality. There was no organized counter efforts to tell the real story or to pressure western media which dominate world media to move to balanced reporting.  Social media and electronic transfer of information helped a little by showing the extent of suffering and damage in Gaza but even here the effort could have been far better from the millions who sympathized with Gaza but did little to help get the truth out.  We as people of conscience need to do much better at challenging journalism that is biased, shoddy, and in some cases criminally complicit.

The impact of the latest attack also needs to be analyzed in terms of Israeli plans to cut-off Gaza from the Palestinian equation and dump it southward minus its rich gas fields offshore (which Israel still controls hence preventing fisherman from going to fish lest they disturb the lucrative potential $1 trillion in development). Joing impoverished Gaza with Egypt while keeping the natural resources would relieve a huge demographic problem for colonial Israel (1.6 million Palestinians live in Gaza including 1 million refugees).  This danger of “segregating” Gaza and making some long-term arrangement for it with the help of Egypt would free Israel to focus on building settlements in the West Bank, developing gas fields off Gaza shore line, Judaicizing Jerusalem, and tightening control of the West Bank Palestinians living in shrinking ghettos/people warehouses.  These ghettos can be either declared a state (archipelago state that would be transportationally contiguous via tunnels) or annexed to Jordan (which already has 3.5+ million Palestinians).

Both Hamas and Israel propagated the myth that there are two sides to the issue in occupied Palestine and that it is a religious conflict.  But you cannot equate occupier with occupied, colonizer with colonized.  Israel is an advanced country with the fifth or sixth strongest army on earth (or as one Israeli academic put it an army which has a country).  Palestinians are occupied colonized people, two third of us are refugees or displaced people.  Further, the struggle here is not between Israelis and Palestinians (or worst between Jews and Muslims) but a struggle between those who support apartheid (of all religions and backgrounds) and those who oppose it (of all religions and backgrounds). 

Many of us believe this is the time to push forward our human and humane vision of one democratic state in historic Palestine.  This pluralistic state would solve once and for all the historic injustice that afflicted the Palestinian people with the advent of Zionism.  It would lead to a durable peace.  The only available alternative is now seen to be a balance of terror for years to come and this is not appealing to anyone except those who mistakenly think it could allow them to form or retain their religious state. But history shows that Palestine was always multiethnic and multireligious and always rejected becoming a monolithic society.

Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
Bethlehem University

Nov 16, 2012

Gaza Redux

For Gaza friends and others: How to stay connected if the internet is shut down
have a rooted android phone? You can install this app to make mesh network calls when the cell towers go down.

Actions: Emergency global actions for Gaza

Israel forces have been attacking Gaza, destroying power grids, destroying infrastructure and killingcivilians.  They intensified the brutal attack after two home made rockets landed in Tel Aviv. Hospitals in Gaza are at the breaking point trying to deal with casualties while under siege for years.  But resistance forces in Gaza also reported dowing an Israeli jet.  Israeli authorities are caught lying to their own people about the extent of damage coming from the resistance (e.g. saying the rockets were intercepted and did not fall while Israeli citizens see them fall, fires breaking and ambulances rushing in. I myself heard the sirens blaring in the settlements of Gush Etzion and heard the thud of one largeb rocket (presumably of the long range Fajr type). But now for an analytical comment.

Is history repeating itself?  The Israeli attack on Gaza this week is happening between the US Presidential elections and the Israeli (early) elections.  The attack on Gaza four years ago also happened after the US elections and before Israeli elections. Some Israeli citizens thus put an advertisement in an Israeli paper titled "No to the election war!"  Netanyahu and company today are trying to repeat what Olmert and company tried to do four years ago: pound Gaza into submission while gaining right-wing votes. This attack could also be a test of preparedness for a coming war on Iran (Gaza is weaker than Lebanon or Iran).  Early results show that the Israeli hasbara spin machine failed to make the attack on Gaza appear as "self-defense" and will fail at all its other goals just like happened in 2006 and 2008.  During the last attack on Gaza four years ago Israeli forces murdered 1400 Palestinians including nearly 400 Children in a period of just three weeks.  It was and remains a difficult propaganda task to hide the scale of atrocities against natives especially when all human rights groups and the UN describe such actions as war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

In Gaza just in the last 48 hours, the martyred Palestinians included two babies 10 and 11 months old.  Netanyahu hopes the Zionist media network and his bombing campaigns succeed in 2012 at what they failed to achieve in 2008.  Israel as an occupier/colonizer hopes to get away with murder while labeling any resistance from the occupied people as "terrorism."  In the age of instant communication it is difficult.  After repeated aggressive wars (e.g. in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1982, 2000, 2006, 2008, and now 2012), the world is finally waking up.  People of the Arab world who engaged in real democratic revolutions now demand real change.  It is symbolically significant that high level officials from Egypt and Tunisia traveled to Gaza during the current attacks.

People know that Israeli lobbies like AIPAC (whose website was hacked by Anonymous this week) keep pushing for wars including an illegal war on Iran in the same way as they pushed for the illegal war on Lebanon and Iraq before. The latter war was foisted on the Western public using lies (connections of Iraq to terror actions of 11 September 2001 and weapons of mass destruction).  The war cost thousands of American lives, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, and $3 trillion in direct cost to US taxpayers.  People know that Gaza is still under occupation per international law as the UN itself reported.  Even Israeli spokespersons and an Israeli document released by court order showed Israel is engaged in collective punishment of Gaza population, a crime against humanity per international law. The UN warned of a humanitarian catastrophe if the Israeli siege of Gaza continues.  Israel also continues to target any and all humanitarian ships trying to break the siege.

Israeli politicians find it convenient every few years to launch a massive war to keep the "home-front" scared and united and hope to bolster their political careers. "Rooting out terrorism" and keeping "Israeli citizens safe" are now seen even by Israelis as simply propaganda.  Israeli intelligence reports submitted to the Israeli government showed that Hezbollah became even stronger after the Israeli attacks of 2006 and that Hamas came out stronger after the Israeli attack in 2008.  Impoverished Gaza is teaching all lessons.  Olmert and Livni discovered that war crimes do not necessarily translate into votes.  A more important lesson that may take longer to sink in is that safety does not come from oppression and ethnic cleansing, the two pillars of Zionism. Safety comes from justice.  Israel is a racist apartheid and militarized state that caused the largest remaining refugee population on earth (7 million of the 12 million Palestinians are refugees or displaced).  Peace can come by acknowledging wrongs and engaging in restorative justice.  After the return of the Palestinian refugees (including the one million in Gaza) to their homes and lands occupied in 1948, we can all live here regardless of religious or other backgrounds in one secular democratic state.  I suspect the Israeli immoral and cruel attacks on Gaza will hasten this inevitable outcome.

*Anonymous pulled AIPAC website down (this is the website of the third column that is destroying the American economy for the sake of Zionism)

Mazin Qumsiyeh

Nov 12, 2012

Doubling money for settlement

Today, Jewish settlers came to Beit Sahour to look over the area they want to build the new settlement on. Last night, settlers tried to burn a Palestinian family home in Tequa. This week, Israeli ministers give speeches that says they support new settlements and expanding existing colonial settlements.   The Jewish state's  finance minister even admitted doubling the financial support for these settlements built on stolen native Palestinian lands.  The last few days there was an escalation of the Israeli bombing raids in Gaza.  US-made airplanes, paid for by US taxpayers, and painted with the star of David, were used to kill several Palestinian civilians and at least two Palestinian militants (extrajudicial assassinations). Israeli occupation forces are threatening more strikes and more colonialism.  Many Palestinians were relieved to see Obama win the US presidency and some 80% of Arab Americans voted for him.  But Obama said nothing about these atrocities since his election.  

The US position is what it is and will change only when more Americans are made aware of the Zionist damage to US public and economic interests.  The Israeli position is also predictable until more Israelis can transcend their brainwashing.  What is less understandable and more disturbing is that we still hear the same rhetoric from the two "Palestinian authorities" which have no authorities and whose terms in office expired nearly three years ago: Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank. Some "leaders" of these factions reserve their most bitter verbal and even physical attacks against the other faction or anyone who might question the status quo.  Hamas "security" beat women in Gaza protesting for unity and Fatah "security" regularly arrest and imprison Hamas activists in the West Bank or even normal ordinary citizens who they suspect are not agreeing to their policies.  This included one of my own students who missed important lectures as he was being questioned by fellow Palestinians.

Absent a reasonably responsible leadership that puts the Palestinian cause ahead of factional and financial interests, this leaves most Palestinians desperate and frustrated.  Decent people are in all Palestinian factions but they are afraid to speak out within their own faction.  But then again, I say the Palestinians need to stop looking for salvation from current leaders, from Obama, from the Arab Spring or from anyone else.  The 1936 uprising started when the young people took to the streets despite the bickering Nashashibis vs Husseinis of that era.  It is time to do what young people have always done: depend on themselves unencumbered by the baggage carried by the older generation. I see this spirit in the young when I browse facebook pages in Palestine.  We need to only put our own necks out and also help our children show courage to liberate us all from the corruption that has become like an illness spread among families and among factions.  History will not be kind to those of us who join the corruption nor will it be kind to those who are apathetic and sit and wait. 

Relevant links for today:

Kairos Palestine: Christians of the Holy Land ask you to act this advent/christmas

What Zionism means to Uri Zakheim

Israel is responsible for "price tag" attacks, not just a few settler extremists Philip Bato

Israel Doubles West Bank Settlements Budget   

Palestinian Fighter killed In Gaza, Seven Palestinians Killed Since Saturday Evening

The Rothschild family wealth was critical in the formation of Israel.  Money still directs interests of wealth Zionist leaders who profit while poor Israelis and millions of Palestinians suffer. For a background on the family, see

Still having "joyful participation in the worroes of this world" and inviting you to come visit us in Bethlehem, the birthplace of the prince of peace

Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD