Hamas Will Refuse to Disarm: Khaled Meshaal

Gaza City:  Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal on Thursday rejected any attempt to disarm his Palestinian Islamist movement in Gaza as demanded by Israel.

"The weapons of the resistance are sacred and we will not accept that they be on the agenda" of future negotiations with Israel, Meshaal told a news conference in Doha where he lives in exile.

Israel has consistently linked the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, devastated during its 50-day war with Hamas that ended on Tuesday, to the territory's demilitarisation.

  • Published in World

The Muses and Death

When the muses thunder, the guns stay silent. The adage, habitually inverted, is inaccurate.

The propaganda sirens are never as loud as when the cannons, the planes and helicopters buzz and spit their fire. The television chains, in Israel and elsewhere, with their journalists, commentators and special correspondents have, between the advertising, presided over the spilled blood which few amongst them appear to attach much importance.

A majority of the viewers and listeners, not least the leaders of the Western world, have reacted no differently. The latter, after having expressed their support to the Israeli operation, have waited until the onset of the humanitarian catastrophe to utter a discrete rebuke. It is simpler to lament past tragedies (the ‘duty of memory’), than to open one’s eyes, wide, to the tragedies before us.

In Israel, the population would prefer for Gaza to disappear; but it does want to keep the Golan Heights. Israel has left Gaza; it wants only to quietly colonize its ‘Judea and Samaria’ (the West Bank), without its ambitions being inhibited by a cruel enemy. In Israel, the country prays for the extermination of Hamas and its partisans, and the hardliners add the young who are presumed destined to become Hamas supporters. Meanwhile, Jewish Israelis aspire to develop and reinforce the Jewish character of the Israeli state, rendering invisible a quarter of the citizens, not defined as Jewish.

‘No normal state can accept being the target of rocket fire’, claimed the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, at the beginning of the war. He’s quite right. But it should have also been necessary to remind Netanyahu that no normal state could accept that, in its capital, the capital of Jewish people, one-third of its inhabitants should be deprived of sovereignty and lack democratic rights. Equally there are few states that obstinately refuse, for years, to establish definitive borders, in the hope, ill-concealed, of expanding them further. Does there exist, perhaps, any link between all these things that characterize Israel’s ‘abnormality’?

It is well known that, in the wars of modern history, it is always the enemy that initiated hostilities. That is why the Jewish state, peace-loving, asserts that it is only responding to attacks of which it is a victim. Is that so? Is that how history is written? Is there not, in this latest tragedy, a short history and a long history that differ, and rather disturbingly?

In the 1950s, when I was a child, my father took me to the cinema to watch Westerns. He loved the open spaces. As for me, I loved the cowboy pioneers, and I hated the Indians. It was pretty much always the same script: a convoy of settlers travelling slowly and calmly, and, suddenly, it is attacked by riders, half-naked, with painted and wicked faces. One hears the cries, the arrows come from everywhere, women and children are hit. Happily, the courageous heroes succeed in repelling the attackers. The wagons are able to tranquilly continue on their journey to conquer new lands and to colonize the desert. By the end, in the movies, we come out victors – me and my white heroes.

But by the end of the 1960s, Hollywood has undergone a devious transformation which has destroyed the pious images of my childhood. I have then watched other scenarios – horrible settlers steal the land and massacre the indigenes, the survivors being crammed into reservations.

Later, while studying history, my political and moral options are narrowed. Since then, I find myself on the side of the victims, of those who, even if they are unsavory, have cause to demand their land and the right to live freely. If I have become ‘leftist’, one of the reasons is that, even if today I belong to the camp of the strong, I remain a descendant of yesterday’s victims.

Here, the story begins about 130 years ago, when anti-Semitic Eastern Europe spews out its Jews. Contrary to the bulk of the refugees and emigrants who head for the new Promised Land in North America, a small Zionist minority decided that they preferred their own state in historic Canaan. Thus has begun its colonization in the Middle East, in invoking the Bible, after the fashion of the Puritan settlers, but without religious motivation.

It is also necessary to remember that, from the beginning, the settlers generally did not intend to integrate with the local population, but rather to found their own Jewish state. For 130 years, they have devoted themselves to supplanting the natives, and they have succeeded in conquering the whole of the country. Each time, since 1929, when a settler group has been violently attacked, it has always triumphed. It has completed its journey, not at San Fransisco, but at Jericho, and in place of creating Las Vegas, it has founded its colonies in the Jordan Valley.

Israel’s ‘cardinal fault’ rests in the fact that, contrary to those who moved to North America, it has not exterminated the majority of the indigenes. As an eminent Israeli historian has underlined, it has erred in not expelling them all and far from its new state. In its blindness, it has not thought ahead, letting some of them remain living within the expanding Jewish state, with others amassed on its borders.

When I see, on television, the images originating from Gaza, I can’t prevent myself thinking that at least 70% of the people filmed are descendants of refugees who once lived in the places where I live and work – to the north of Tel-Aviv (Shah Muwannis), at Jaffa or at Majdal (now called Ashkelon). At the same time, I remember the American Indian reservations of the 19th Century which, out of despair, violently rebelled, before surrendering ultimately to White power.

A story from the here and now deserves a long term perspective. “Suddenly, and without warning, Hamas starts bombarding us with rockets”, exclaims to the world the Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman. But there also, the story began in a fashion markedly different. Three young people from the settlements, un-armed, were kidnapped and cruelly murdered in the West Bank, not far from the residence of this same Minister of Foreign Affairs, who lives outsides the territory of his own state, in the frontiers of the land that God has promised him. Compared to past situations, Hamas denied being responsible for the crime or having authorized it. (Israel has only found the ‘proof’ that Hamas could have sponsored the abduction until after the onset of the war.)

However, the Israeli government, caring little for the lack of identification of those responsible, while seeking the killers it simultaneously engages in a generalized test of force against Hamas in the West Bank. In contempt of the acknowledged rules of the game, it has not hesitated to arbitrarily arrest, yet again, an important number of prisoners, members of Hamas in the West Bank, who had been freed at the time of the accord involving the exchange for Gilad Shalit. At the same time, and without arousing the least attention, five young Palestinians, unarmed, were killed during protest demonstrations in the West Bank, and a Palestinian adolescent was burned alive by a gang of Jewish Israelis.

Did the Israeli leaders imagine that Hamas would not be forced to react after such a declaration of war against it? Were they persuaded that, in view of the balance of forces, Israel as occupying power would have free rein? One could also infer that after the failure of the fictive peace process negotiations, and the rapprochement between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, the Israeli government has deliberately decided to break up the progress of an intra-Palestinian compromise.

In other words, was the intended humiliation of Hamas at the price of a new war, encouraged by the arrival to power of the military dictatorship in Egypt that is hostile to Hamas. Saudi Arabia has equally secretly expressed its support. Moreover, the Israeli government has reasonably assumed that it is able to eternally subject to silence the West Bank, neighbor of the Jewish state.

Benjamin Netanyahu who, in his great generosity, would like to see every Jew acquire a villa in ‘Judea and Samaria’, exclaims, shocked, “They have built tunnels against us, instead of building schools, hospitals and hotels” – thus the grounds for a new war against them. As if a population enclosed in a densely populated area, submitted to a long blockade and completely cut off from the world, and who are prevented from building an airport and port, would bother to invest in real estate and not in underground tunnels! I am convinced that if the Gazans acquired some fighter planes, helicopters and tanks from the US, they would have no need to transform themselves into moles to, one fine day, emerge and break by force the siege that is imposed on them.

In truth, I ignore what Benjamin Netanyahu and his Ministers think – I leave to future historians the task of interpreting it. On the other hand, I know that Israel has never left Gaza, and that, as a consequence, Gaza will not leave Israel any time soon. In the meantime, the outcome, peculiar and dreadful, of this cruel war is that Hamas has fired indiscriminately on civilians yet has killed mostly combatants, whereas Israel, which claims to want to strike only combatants has overwhelmingly killed civilians. At some point, in spite of the abundance of sophisticated high-tech American armaments, the confrontation has turned into merciless mass murder.

The muses who will cry tomorrow for the victims of both sides will certainly evoke this imbalance. For lack of an equitable solution to the conflict, the images of thousands of women, of children, and of the elderly, descendants of the refugees of 1948, wandering among the houses in ruins in the summer of 2014, will continue to feed hatred, indefinitely.

Shlomo Sand is the author of, among other books, The Invention of the Jewish People (2009) and The Invention of the Land of Israel (2012). This article was published on the French site Mediapart, translated from the original Hebrew by Michel Bilis. It has been translated from the French by Evan Jones.

Noam Chomsky: US role crucial to Israel's crimes

Hideous. Sadistic. Vicious. Murderous. That is how veteran academic and author Noam Chomsky describes Israel’s month-long offensive in Gaza that killed at least 2000 people and left almost 10,000 injured.

Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalezspoke to the US intellectual and world-renowned dissident, who has written extensively about Israel and Palestine, about Israel’s latest bloody campaign of terror. An abridged version of the first part of the interview is underneath. The full interview, in two parts, can be watched at the bottom.

* * *

Forty years ago, you published Peace in the Middle East?: Reflections on Justice and Nationhood. Your 1983 book, The Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians, is known as one of the definitive works on the Israel-Palestine conflict. What is your comments on what has just taken place?

It’s a hideous atrocity, sadistic, vicious, murderous, totally without any credible pretext.

It’s another one of the periodic Israeli exercises in what they delicately call “mowing the lawn”. That means shooting fish in the pond, to make sure that the animals stay quiet in the cage that you’ve constructed for them.

After this, you go to a period of what’s called “ceasefire”, which means that Hamas observes the ceasefire while Israel continues to violate it.

Then there is an Israeli escalation and Hamas reaction. Then you have a new period of “mowing the lawn”. This one is, in many ways, more sadistic and vicious even than the earlier ones.

What of the pretext that Israel used to launch these attacks? Does it have any validity?

As high Israeli officials concede, Hamas had observed the previous ceasefire for 19 months. The previous episode of “mowing the lawn” was in November 2012.

There was a ceasefire. The ceasefire terms were that Hamas would not fire rockets — what they call rockets — and Israel would move to end the blockade and stop attacking what they call militants in Gaza.

Hamas lived up to it. Israel concedes that.

In April, an event took place which horrified the Israeli government: A unity agreement was formed between [the governments of] Gaza and the West Bank, between Hamas and Fatah.

Israel has been desperately trying to prevent that for a long time. Israel was furious. They got even more upset when the US more or less endorsed it, which is a big blow to them. They launched a rampage in the West Bank.

What was used as a pretext was the brutal murder of three settler teenagers. There was a pretence that they were alive, though Israel knew they were dead.

Of course, they blamed it right away on Hamas. In fact, their own highest leading authorities pointed out right away that the killers were probably from a kind of a rogue clan in Hebron, the Qawasmeh clan, which turns out apparently to be true. They’ve been a thorn in the sides of Hamas for years. They don’t follow their orders.

But that gave the opportunity for a rampage in the West Bank, arresting hundreds of people, re-arresting many who had been released, mostly targeted on Hamas. Killings increased.

Finally, there was a Hamas response: the so-called rocket attacks. And that gave the opportunity for “mowing the lawn” again.
Why does Israel do this periodically?
Because they want to maintain a certain situation. For more than 20 years, Israel has been dedicated, with US support, to separating Gaza from the West Bank.

That’s in direct violation of the terms of the Oslo Accord 20 years ago, which declared that the West Bank and Gaza are a single territorial entity whose integrity must be preserved. But for rogue states, solemn agreements are just an invitation to do whatever you want.

So Israel, with US backing, has been committed to keeping them separate.

And there’s a good reason. If Gaza is the only outlet to the outside world for any eventual Palestinian entity, whatever it might be, the West Bank — if separated from Gaza — is essentially imprisoned. It has Israel on one side, the Jordanian dictatorship on the other.

Furthermore, Israel is systematically driving Palestinians out of the Jordan Valley — sinking wells, building settlements. They first call them military zones, then put in settlements.

That means that whatever cantons are left for Palestinians in the West Bank, after Israel takes what it wants and integrates it into Israel, they would be completely imprisoned. So keeping them separate is a key goal of US and Israeli policy.

The unity agreement threatened that. Because one of Israel’s arguments is: How can they negotiate with the Palestinians when they’re divided?

What do you make of the continued refusal of one United States administration after another despite official US opposition to settlement expansion, to call Israel to table over this?
Your phrase “officially opposed” is correct. But you have to distinguish the rhetoric of a government from its actions, and the rhetoric of political leaders from their actions.

We can easily see how committed the US is to this policy. For example, in February 2011, the UN Security Council considered a resolution calling on Israel to terminate its expansion of settlements.

What happened? [US President Barack] Obama vetoed the resolution. That tells you something.

Furthermore, the official statement to Israel about the settlement expansion is accompanied by what in diplomatic language is called a wink — a quiet indication that we don’t really mean it. So, for example, Obama’s latest condemnation of the recent, as he puts it, violence on all sides was accompanied by sending more military aid to Israel.

What about Israel’s argument that Hamas is refusing to negotiate a ceasefire?
The broad response is that 100% of the casualties and the destruction and the devastation and so on could have been avoided if Israel had lived up to the ceasefire agreement from November 2012, instead of violating it constantly.

With the siege of Gaza, Israel has been keeping Gaza on what they’ve called a “diet”, Israeli official Dov Weissglas’s famous comment. This meaning just enough calories allowed so they don’t all die — because that wouldn’t look good for Israel’s fading reputation — but nothing more than that.

Israeli experts calculated precisely how many calories would be needed to keep the Gazans on their diet, under siege, blocked from export, blocked from import.

Fisherfolk can’t go out to fish. The naval vessels drive them back to shore. A large part, probably over a third and maybe more, of Gaza’s arable land is barred from entry to Palestinians. That’s the diet.

Meanwhile Israel continues the ongoing project of taking over the parts of the West Bank that Israel intends to annex in some fashion, as long as the United States continues to support it and block international efforts to lead to a political settlement.

What’s your assessment of the impact on the already abysmal relationship between the US government and the Arab and Muslim world?

First of all, we have to distinguish between the Muslim and Arab populations and their governments—striking difference. The governments are mostly dictatorships. And when you read in the press that the Arabs support us on so-and-so, what is meant is the dictators support us, not the populations.

The dictatorships are moderately supportive of what the US and Israel are doing. That includes the military dictatorship in Egypt, a very brutal one. Saudi Arabia is the closest U.S. ally in the region, and it’s the most radical fundamentalist Islamic state in the world. It’s also spreading its Salafi-Wahhabi doctrines throughout the world, extremist fundamentalist doctrines.

The US prefers radical Islam to the danger of secular nationalism and democracy.

And these Arab regimes hate Hamas. They have no interest in the Palestinians. They have to say things to mollify their own populations, but again, rhetoric and action are different.
But it’s not just the Muslim populations. So, for example, there was a demonstration in London recently, which probably had hundreds of thousands of people, protesting the Israeli atrocities in Gaza. And that’s happening elsewhere in the world, too.

It’s worth remembering that—you go back a couple decades, Israel was one of the most admired countries in the world. Now it’s one of the most feared and despised countries in the world.

Israeli propagandists like to say, well, this is just anti-Semitism. But to the extent that there’s an anti-Semitic element, which is slight, it’s because of Israeli actions. The reaction is to the policies. And as long as Israel persists in these policies, that’s what’s going to happen.

When you pursue a policy of repression and expansion over security, there are things that are going to happen. There will be moral degeneration within the country. There will be increasing opposition and anger and hostility among populations outside the country.

You may continue to get support from dictatorships and the US, but you’re going to lose the populations.

It’s not the only example in history. There are many analogies drawn to South Africa, most of them pretty dubious, in my mind. But there’s one analogy which I think is pretty realistic.

In 1958, the South African government, which was imposing the harsh apartheid regime, recognised that they were becoming internationally isolated.

We know from declassified documents that in 1958 the South African foreign minister called in the US ambassador. He essentially told him, “Look, we’re becoming a pariah state … everyone is voting against us in the United Nations. We’re becoming isolated.

“But it really doesn’t matter, because you’re the only voice that counts. And as long as you support us, doesn’t really matter what the world thinks.”

If you look at what happened over the years, opposition to South African apartheid grew. There was a UN arms embargo. Sanctions began. Boycotts began.

It was so extreme by the 1980s, that even the US Congress was passing sanctions, which Reagan had to veto. He was the last supporter of the apartheid regime.

As late as 1988, Reagan declared Mandela’s African National Congress to be one of the more notorious terrorist groups in the world. So the US had to keep supporting South Africa.

Finally, even the United States joined the rest of the world, and very quickly the apartheid regime collapsed.

Now that’s not fully analogous to the Israel case. There were other reasons for the collapse of apartheid, two crucial reasons.

One of them was that there was a settlement that was acceptable to South African and international business, simple settlement: keep the socioeconomic system and allow some Black faces in the limousines.

That’s pretty much what’s been implemented, though not totally. There’s no comparable settlement in Israel-Palestine.

But a crucial element, not discussed here, is Cuba. Cuba sent military forces and tens of thousands of technical workers, doctors and teachers and others, and they drove the South African apartheid regime’s military out of Angola, and forced them to abandon illegally held Namibia.

And more than that, as in fact Nelson Mandela pointed out as soon as he got out of prison, the Cuban soldiers, who incidentally were Black soldiers, shattered the myth of invincibility of the white supermen. That had a very significant effect on both Black Africa and the white South Africa.

It indicated to the South African government and population that they’re not going to be able to impose their hope of a regional support system that would allow them to pursue their operations inside South Africa and their terrorist activities beyond.

And that was a major factor in the liberation of black Africa.

What about US rhetoric in criticising some of Israel’s actions?

What we have to ask is: What are they doing? There are things that the US could do very easily. You can look at the Indonesia-East Timor case. When the United States, [former president Bill] Clinton, finally told the Indonesian generals, “The game’s over”, they pulled out.

US power is substantial. And in the case of Israel, it’s critical, because Israel relies on virtually unilateral US support.

There are plenty of things the US can if it wanted. In fact, when the US gives orders, Israel obeys. That’s happened over and over again. That’s completely obvious why, given the power relationships. So things can be done.

Various Actors Points of View on Israel

Richard Gere:  Arabs are a burden on the world and should be annihilated.
 
Sean Connery:  We are talking from the point of strength, what if we were the weak ones?
 
Mel Gibson:  Zionists are the source of destruction, I wish I can fight against them.
 
Tom Cruise:  The Arabs are the source of terrorism, they don't spare anyone without attacking them.  I hope that Israel destroys all of them.
 
Anthony Hopkins:  Israel means war and destruction and we Americans are behind this war and I am ashamed of being American.
 
Al Pacino:  Take a look at Israel's history and you would knwo who the terrorist is.
 
Dustin Hoffman:  Humanity seized to exist when Israel was established.
 
Ralph Fiennes:  We are now living in a jungle where the strong eats the weak.  We are not better than the Arabs to despise them.
 
Wil Smith:  Both sides are wrong and the killing must be stopped.
 
George Clooney:  Bush, Sharon, Blair and Rice are names that history will damn.
 
Angelina Jolie:  Arabs and Muslims are not terrorits.  The world should unite against Israel.
  • Published in Culture

Israel, Hamas agree to extend ceasefire 5 days

Israel and Hamas agreed to extend a temporary ceasefire for five days, Egyptian and Palestinian officials announced Wednesday, permitting the sides to continue to negotiate a substantive deal to end the war in Gaza.

Yet even as the extension was announced just minutes before a previous truce was set to expire at midnight, violence spiked, with Palestinian militants firing five rockets at Israel and Israel targeting sites across the Gaza Strip in response. It was not clear if the fighting was isolated or might shatter the truce.

Egypt's foreign ministry and the head of the Palestinian negotiating team announced the extension, which began at midnight local time. A spokesman for Israel's prime minister had no immediate comment.

The ceasefire extension is meant to grant both sides additional time to negotiate a longer-term truce and a road map for the coastal territory.

"We have agreed on a ceasefire for five days," said Azzam al-Ahmad, the head of the Palestinian delegation to the Cairo talks. He noted that there had been "significant progress," but that disagreements remained over the wording regarding security arrangements, reconstruction efforts for the Gaza Strip and the permissible fishing area.

The lull in violence had been a welcome reprieve for Israelis and Palestinians living in Gaza. During the temporary ceasefire, Israel halted military operations in the war-battered coastal territory and Gaza militants stopped firing rockets, aside from the ones late Wednesday.

The two sides were considering an Egyptian proposal that partially addresses their demands, but deep differences have kept the deal in doubt.

Hamas is seeking an end to a crippling blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt in 2007. The blockade has greatly limited the movement of Palestinians in and out of the territory of 1.8 million people. It has also restricted the flow of goods into Gaza and blocked virtually all exports.

Israel says the closure is necessary to prevent arms smuggling, and officials are reluctant to make any concessions that would allow Hamas to declare victory.

Israel wants Hamas to disarm, or at least be prevented from rearming. Hamas has recovered from previous rounds of violence with Israel, including a major three-week ground operation in January 2009 and another week-long air offensive in 2012. It now controls an arsenal of thousands of powerful rockets, some with long ranges. Gaza militants fired more than 3,000 rockets toward Israel during the war.

Neither side is likely to see all of its demands met, but the Egyptian proposal tabled Tuesday offered some solutions. A member of the Palestinian delegation at the Cairo talks said the proposal calls for easing parts of the Israeli blockade of Gaza, bringing some relief to the territory.

The proposal leaves the key areas of disagreement, including Hamas' demand for a full lifting of the blockade and Israeli calls for Hamas to disarm, to later negotiations.

The Palestinian negotiator said he had some reservations about the proposal and would try to improve it.

"We would like to see more cross-border freedom, and also to have the question of a Gaza seaport and airport discussed," he said.

The Palestinian official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss negotiations with journalists.

As the talks continued, Hamas indicated it was sticking to its demands.

In recorded remarks broadcast on Hamas radio Wednesday, Ismail Haniyeh, the top Hamas leader in Gaza, said that "achieving a permanent truce can come only through lifting the blockade on Gaza."

Israel, meanwhile, signalled it was ready to respond to renewed fire from Gaza following the end of the ceasefire.

 

  • Published in World

Hamas Says Gaza War Not Over Until Demands Met

Gaza City:  A senior Hamas official told supporters at a Gaza City rally on Thursday that the war with Israel won't be over until the group's demands for a lifting of the Gaza blockade are met, insisting that its fighters would never give up their arms.

  • Published in World
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