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Wonderful article, but I have one quibble. Lawrence Davidson writes of “genocidal yearnings” as if they were some accidental byproduct of colonial power relations. I would contend that they are a necessary and deliberately cultivated means of achieving strategic ends. Intentionality in genocide should not be sougth in extremist rhetoric – to do so is actually to partake in the dumbing down process that seeks to obfuscate certain instances of genocide. The evidence of intentionality, of “genocidal yearnings”, is to be found in strategic planning which necessitates the effacement of a genos. By documentary evidence and by a clear established pattern of behaviour we know that Israel pursues a strategy with a maximal endpoint of the extinction of the Palestinian genos as such. It follows, much as day follows night, that evinced attitudes should reflect this goal, but often they might actually be disingenuous. Even Hitler wrote (to Martin Borman) “We use the term Jewish race merely for reasons of linguistic convenience, for in the real sense of the word, and from a genetic point of view there is no Jewish race. Present circumstances force upon us this characterization of the group of common race and intellect….” Implicitly he must have felt the Slavic “race” equally a convenient fiction – yet the strategic Generalplan Ost under which Germany expanded eastwards was strategic and genocidal – race was only the “linguistic convenience” deployed with intent in order to effect the strategy.

Occupied Palestine | فلسطين

By Lawrence Davidson | Nov 28, 2012 | Sabbah Report

Genocidal Yearnings

Israel: The last surviving heirs to the dreadful racist heritage

Some History

By the middle of the 19th century the multi-ethnic empire was on its way out as the dominant political paradigm in Europe. Replacing it was the nation-state, a political form which allowed the concentration of ethnic groups within their own political borders. This in turn formed cultural and “racial” incubators for us (superior) vs. them (inferior) nationalism that would underpin most of the West’s future wars. Many of these nation states were also imperial powers expanding across the globe and, of course, their state-based chauvinistic outlook went with them.

Zionism was born in this milieu of nationalism and imperialism, both of which left an indelible mark on the character and ambitions of the Israeli state. The conviction of Theodor Herzl, modern Zionism’s founding father, was that the centuries of anti-Semitism were proof positive that Europe’s

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Media Lens Alert – ‘Flatten All Of Gaza’ – The ‘Benghazi Moment’ That Didn’t Matter

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The short film exposes the structure which perpetuates pro-Israel media bias in the US and then contrasts it with a more balanced reporting – ironically from the BBC which is facing serious criticism for its pro-Israel bias.

Below is a Media Lens alert. For those unfamiliar with Media Lens they, in their own words, “check the media’s version of events against credible facts and opinion provided by journalists, academics and specialist researchers. We then publish both versions, together with our commentary, in free Media Alerts and invite readers to deliver their verdict both to us and to mainstream journalists through the email addresses provided in our ’Suggested Action’ at the end of each alert. We urge correspondents to adopt a polite, rational and respectful tone at all times – we strongly oppose all abuse and personal attack.”

Media Lens are at their best when they are exposing war propaganda and in this alert they deal with an individual whom I find particularly alarming – Dr Juan Cole. I don’t know what sort of person Dr Cole is, although I could proabably hazard a few guesses as to how he comes to be the way he is. What I can say is that at crucial times he does the US government an immense service by selling war to those most likely to vociferously and actively oppose war. To prove the point I have appended clips of his debate with Vijay Prashad on Democracy Now! His efficacy as a war propagandist, even on an avowedly antiwar news outlet, is quite something to behold.

‘Flatten All Of Gaza’ – The ‘Benghazi Moment’ That Didn’t Matter

November 27, 2012 By: David Edwards

On March 30, 2011 – eleven days into Nato’s war on Libya – Professor Juan Cole wrote from his armchair at the University of Michigan:

‘The Libya intervention is legal [sic] and was necessary to prevent further massacres… and if it succeeds in getting rid of Qaddafi’s murderous regime and allowing Libyans to have a normal life, it will be worth the sacrifices in life and treasure. If NATO needs me, I’m there.’

Cole thus declared himself ready to suit up and reach for the sky with Nato’s bombers. It was an extraordinary moment.

The rationale, of course, was the alleged risk of a massacre in Benghazi by Gaddafi’s forces. Cole told Democracy Now!:

‘They mounted tanks, 30, 40, 50 tanks, sent them into the downtowns of places like Zawiyah, and they just shelled civilian crowds, protesters… And then they started rolling the tanks to the east, and they were on the verge of taking the rebel stronghold, Benghazi. And there certainly would have been a massacre there in the same way that there was in Zawiyah, if it hadn’t been stopped at the last moment by United Nations allies.’

This was mostly a product of the fevered atmosphere generated every time state-corporate propaganda targets a ‘New Hitler’ for destruction (Gaddafi, Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, Assad, et al). Two or three weeks of sustained moral outrage from Washington, London and Paris, echoed across the media, are more than sufficient to generate the required hysteria. Almost anything can then be claimed, with even rational questioning denounced as ‘apologetics for tyranny’. In The Politics of Genocide, Edward Herman and David Peterson wrote:

‘The vulgar politicisation of the concept of genocide, and the “emerging international norm” of humanitarian intervention, appear to be products of the fading of the Cold War, which removed the standard pretexts for intervention while leaving intact the institutional and ideological framework for its regular practice during those years.’ (Herman and Peterson, The Politics of Genocide, Monthly Review Press, 2010, pp.10-11)

With mainstream political parties no longer exercising restraint on the war wagon, the need to ‘do something’ can be turned on and off like a tap.

By way of a rare exception, Seumas Milne noted in the Guardian of Gaddafi that ‘there is in fact no evidence – including from other rebel-held towns Gaddafi re-captured – to suggest he had either the capability or even the intention to carry out such an atrocity against an armed city of 700,000’.

But most of the press was untroubled by a lack of evidence – the West was simply right to act. A leader in The Times commented on October 21, 2011:

‘Without this early, though sensibly limited, intervention, there would have been a massacre in Benghazi on the scale of Srebrenica.’ (Leading article, ‘Death of a Dictator,’ The Times)

An Independent editorial agreed:

‘Concern was real enough that a Srebrenica-style massacre could unfold in Benghazi, and the UK Government was right to insist that we would not allow this.’ (Leading article, ‘The mission that crept,’ Independent, July 29, 2011)

‘We Must Blow Gaza Back To The Middle Ages’

With the above in mind, consider that, on November 16, on the third day of Israel’s latest assault on Gaza, with at least 18 Palestinians already killed, the BBC reported:

‘Israel’s aerial bombardment of Gaza has intensified after it authorised the call-up of 30,000 army reservists, amid reports of a possible ground offensive.’

Israel’s cabinet quickly approved the activation of 75,000 reservists, as well as hundreds of Merkava main battle tanks, armoured bulldozers and other assault vehicles, which were transported into position for attack.

Was a massacre looming? The Israeli deputy prime minister Eli Yishai appeared to promise as much on November 18:

‘We must blow Gaza back to the Middle Ages destroying all the infrastructure including roads and water.’

A prominent front-page article in the Jerusalem Post by Gilad Sharon, son of the former Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, openly advocated mass killing:

‘We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too.

‘There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing. Then they’d really call for a ceasefire.’

Was the call to ‘Flatten all of Gaza’ beyond the pale of respectable discourse? Apparently not for the BBC, which quoted a less frenzied comment by Sharon three days later.

Recall the human cost of Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s three-week offensive waged between December 2008 and January 2009. The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem reported:

‘The magnitude of the harm to the population was unprecedented: 1,385 Palestinians were killed, 762 of whom did not take part in the hostilities. Of these, 318 were minors under age 18. More than 5,300 Palestinians were wounded, of them over 350 seriously so.’

There is no question, then, that a ‘Benghazi moment’ had arrived for Gaza around November 16 or shortly thereafter. A Cast Lead-style massacre of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of civilians was a very real possibility. If Hamas rockets had killed more civilians, for example in Tel Aviv, it might well have happened.

Whereas Benghazi was being torn apart by a Western-fuelled insurgency, Gaza is under decades of military occupation and years of siege, greatly strengthening the moral case for external intervention. Escape from a ground assault would have been completely impossible for Gaza’s 1.6 million people, about half of them children. And whereas Benghazi was up against Gaddafi’s tin pot army, Gaza was targeted by the most advanced weaponry US taxpayers’ money can buy. Gaza, certainly, was facing a cataclysm beyond anything Gaddafi could have inflicted on his own people.

By any reasonable accounting, then, the case for a no-fly zone, indeed a no-drive zone – some kind of humanitarian intervention – was far more compelling for Gaza than it had ever been for Libya. And yet our search of the Lexis media database found no mention in any UK newspaper of even the possibility of setting up a no-fly zone over Gaza. There was no reference to Gaza’s ‘Benghazi moment’.

By contrast, many ‘Benghazi moments’ have been identified in Syria. A leader in the Independent commented in July:

‘It was the imminent threat to civilians in Libya’s second city, Benghazi, that clinched the argument at the UN for outside intervention. But with multiplying reports that the fight is on for Syria’s second city, Aleppo, the signs are that even government air strikes will not spur a similar Western and Arab alliance into action. Morally, that has to be deplored.’

We saw no commentary suggesting that Western military action might have been justified to prevent a massacre of civilians in Gaza.

Moral ME – The Armchair Warriors Doze Off

In 1999, David Aaronovitch (then of the Independent) made an announcement on Nato’s war to ‘defend’ Kosovo that equally stunned and inspired readers (Juan Cole among them, perhaps):

‘What would I myself be prepared to sacrifice in order to stop the massacres and to strike an immense blow against the politics of racial and ethnic nationalism? Would I fight, or (more realistically) would I countenance the possibility that members of my family might die?’

His answer:

‘I think so… So yes, for this cause, if the government asked me to, I’d do what was necessary without complaining a lot.’ (Aaronovitch, ‘My country needs me,’ The Independent, April 6, 1999)

Presumably, with Gaza facing another massacre this month, Aaronovitch must again have been eager to swap his armchair for a cockpit to ‘strike an immense blow’ against racial and ethnic nationalism. Not quite:

‘Thinking about how to write about Gaza without just repeating laments of last decade. Sometimes seems little that is both true and useful to say.’

No fighting to be done, it seems, and not even much to be said – it was just all very sad. As Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky commented in Manufacturing Consent of a similar case:

‘While the coverage of the worthy victim was generous with gory details and quoted expressions of outrage and demands for justice, the coverage of the unworthy victims was low-keyed, designed to keep the lid on emotions and evoking regretful and philosophical generalities on the omnipresence of violence and the inherent tragedy of human life.’ (Herman and Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent, Pantheon Books, 1988, p.39)

Leading Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland also shook his head sadly and wondered whether Israelis and Palestinians would be ‘locked in a battle that drags on and on, perhaps till the end of time?’ Freedland focused on ‘the weariness’: ‘I feel it myself, a deep fatigue with this struggle, with the actions of both sides’. ‘So yes, I’m weary’, ‘weary of it’, ‘I’m tired’, ‘I’m tired’, ‘I’m tired’, ‘I’m weary’, ‘And I’m especially tired’, ‘I feel no less exhausted. For I’m weary’, ‘I’m tired, too’, ‘And I’m weary’, ‘this wearying’… and so on.

Prior to the onset of this moral ME, Freedland had been the very picture of interventionist vim and vigour. In March 2011, he wrote an energetic piece on Libya titled, ‘Though the risks are very real, the case for intervention remains strong.’ A key obstacle was that ‘Iraq poisoned the notion of “liberal interventionism” for a generation’. No matter:

‘If those nations with the power to stop these pre-announced killings had stood aside, they would have been morally culpable. Benghazi was set to become another Srebrenica – and those that did nothing would share the same shame.’

Last February, ignoring the chaos he had helped make possible in Libya, Freedland wheeled out the same arguments in response to the Syrian crisis. The article featured a picture of Syrian children holding up a cartoon of a green-headed Assad pointing a Kalashnikov at the head of a little girl holding an olive branch. Freedland wrote:

‘The 2003 invasion of Iraq has tainted for a generation the idea once known as “liberal interventionism”.’

He added: ‘We have new problems now. Fail to see that and we make the people of Homs pay the price for the mistake we made in Baghdad.’

And Tripoli! Freedland had clearly not wearied of the price paid by the victims of ‘liberal interventionism’ in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

‘Terror Attack’ In Tel Aviv

One week into Israel’s Operation Pillar of Cloud, on a day when 13 Palestinians were killed – with more than 136 people in Gaza killed by that point in 1,500 attacks since the operation began on November 14 – 28 people were injured in a Tel Aviv bomb attack. ITV News’s international editor Bill Neely commented: ‘Tel Aviv bus bomb is first terror attack there in 6 years.’ And: ‘Israeli Police confirm terror attack.’

We wrote to Neely: ‘Bill, are the attacks on Gaza “terror attacks”? Have you described them as such?’

Neely replied: ‘Media Lens; Love what U try 2 do – keep us all honest – but pedantry & refusing 2 C balance hs always bn ure weakness.’

Neely wrote again to us and another tweeter: ‘U & Media Lens R absolutely right. Language is v. important. But a bomb on a bus, like a missile, is terror weapon.’

Neely clearly agreed that missiles were also weapons of terror. So we asked him: ‘Bill, agreed. Given that’s the case have you ever referred to Israel’s “terror attacks” in a TV news report?’

Neely responded: ‘Just to be clear, do you think British bombs on Afghanistan are terrorism? Or on Berlin in 44?’

We answered: ‘Very obviously. Winston Churchill thought so, too.’

We sent a comment written by Churchill to Arthur Harris, Commander-in-Chief of RAF’s Bomber Command in 1945:

‘It seems to me that the moment has come that the bombing of German cities simply for the sake of increasing the terror, though under other pretexts, should be reviewed.’ (Blitz, Bombing and Total War, Channel 4, January 15, 2005)

Neely wrote back: ‘States use terror – the UK has in war, but groups do 2 & we shd say so.’

We tried again: ‘Bill, you’re not answering. You’ve described Hamas attacks as “terror” on TV. How about Israeli, US, UK attacks?’

Neely simply wouldn’t answer our question. But how could he? The truth, of course, is that ITV would never refer to these as ‘terror attacks’. Words like ‘terror’, ‘terrorism’, ‘militant’, ‘regime’, ‘secretive’, ‘hermit’ and ‘controversial’ are used to describe the governments of official enemies, not our own government and its leading allies.

‘Is This What They Mean By The Cycle Of Violence?’

The November 21 bus bombing, injuring 28 Israelis (initially reported as ten injured), was a far bigger story for the media than the killing of 13 people in Gaza that day. The bias was reflected in the tone of coverage. The BBC reported ‘Horror in Israel’ whereas they had earlier referred to a ‘difficult night for people in Gaza’ after 450 targets had been struck with scores of people killed.

Ordinarily, the BBC loves to compare the line-up of hardware available to combatants, for example here and here. But during Operation Pillar of Cloud, the broadcaster was far more interested in comparing the ranges of Hamas’ home-made rockets. In this deceptive example of BBC ‘balance’ two maps show ‘Areas hit in Gaza by Israel’ and ‘Areas hit in Israel and the West Bank by Gaza militants’ (only the Palestinians are ‘militants’). The impression given is of two roughly equal threats.

The BBC graphic also shows the exact ‘Range of Hamas rockets.’ But there was no graphic of this kind comparing Palestinian and Israeli firepower. Perhaps the juxtaposition of home-made weapons and a long list of very powerful high-tech weapons would have been too absurd, even embarrassing.

The final death toll of the latest massacre is horrifying: 103 of the 158 people killed in Gaza were civilians. Of these, 30 were children – twelve of them under ten-years-old. More than 1,000 Palestinians were injured. Six Israelis were killed, two of them soldiers. This infographic provides a shocking comparison of numbers killed on both sides since 2000. And this excellent little animation asks: ‘Is this what they mean by the cycle of violence?’

Inevitably, president Obama said: ‘we will continue to support Israel’s right to defend itself’.

Noam Chomsky has been a rare voice making the counter-argument:

‘You can’t defend yourself when you’re militarily occupying someone else’s land. That’s not defense. Call it what you like, it’s not defense.’

Obama also said: ‘There is no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.’

Try telling that to the many bereaved in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen. Irony is dead, it seems – killed by drone-fire!

Suggested Action

The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. If you do write to journalists, we strongly urge you to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone. Write to:

Jonathan Freedland at the Guardian

Email: jonathan.freedland@guardian.co.uk

Twitter: @j_freedland

Email us: editor@medialens.org

Breaking the Silence Testimony – “They enjoyed seeing the misery, the guys were happy talking about it.”

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“No Such Thing As A Person Unfit For Detention” this video is of testimony relating regular violent mistreatment of child detainees.

The testimony comes from Breaking the Silence an organisation publishing such testimonies. An edited volume, Our Harsh Logic: Israeli Soldiers’ Testimonies From the Occupied Territories, 2000-2010, was published in September and co-editor Oded Na’aman published the following through TomDispatch.

“It’s Mostly Punishment…”
Testimonies by Veterans of the Israeli Defense Forces From Gaza and the Occupied Territories
By Breaking the Silence

“There is no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders,” President Barack Obama said at a press conference last week. He drew on this general observation in order to justify Operation Pillar of Defense, Israel’s most recent military campaign in the Gaza Strip. In describing the situation this way, he assumes, like many others, that Gaza is a political entity external and independent of Israel. This is not so. It is true that Israel officially disengaged from the Gaza Strip in August 2005, withdrawing its ground troops and evacuating the Israeli settlements there. But despite the absence of a permanent ground presence, Israel has maintained a crushing control over Gaza from that moment until today.

The testimonies of Israeli army veterans expose the truth of that “disengagement.” Before Operation Pillar of Defense, after all, Israel launched Operations Summer Rains and Autumn Clouds in 2006, and Hot Winter and Cast Lead in 2008 — all involving ground invasions. In one testimony, a veteran speaks of “a battalion operation” in Gaza that lasted for five months, where the soldiers were ordered to shoot “to draw out terrorists” so they “could kill a few.”

Israeli naval blockades stop Gazans from fishing, a main source of food in the Strip. Air blockades prevent freedom of movement. Israel does not allow building materials into the area, forbids exports to the West Bank and Israel, and (other than emergency humanitarian cases) prohibits movement between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. It controls the Palestinian economy by periodically withholding import taxes. Its restrictions have impeded the expansion and upgrading of the Strip’s woeful sewage infrastructure, which could render life in Gaza untenable within a decade. The blocking of seawater desalination has turned the water supply into a health hazard. Israel has repeatedly demolished small power plants in Gaza, ensuring that the Strip would have to continue to rely on the Israeli electricity supply. Daily power shortages have been the norm for several years now. Israel’s presence is felt everywhere, militarily and otherwise.

By relying on factual misconceptions, political leaders, deliberately or not, conceal information that is critical to our understanding of events. Among the people best qualified to correct those misconceptions are the individuals who have been charged with executing a state’s policies — in this case, Israeli soldiers themselves, an authoritative source of information about their government’s actions. I am a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), and I know that our first-hand experiences refute the assumption, accepted by many, including President Obama, that Gaza is an independent political entity that exists wholly outside Israel. If Gaza is outside Israel, how come we were stationed there? If Gaza is outside Israel, how come we control it? Oded Na’aman

[The testimonies by Israeli veterans that follow are taken from 145 collected by the nongovernmental organization Breaking the Silence and published in Our Harsh Logic: Israeli Soldiers’ Testimonies From the Occupied Territories, 2000-2010Those in the book represent every division in the IDF and all locations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.]

1. House Demolition

Unit: Kfir Brigade

Location: Nablus district

Year: 2009

During
your service in the territories, what shook you up the most?

The searches we did in Hares. They said there are sixty houses that have to be searched. I thought there must have been some information from intelligence. I tried to justify it to myself.

You went out as a patrol?

It was a battalion operation.  They spread out over the whole village, took over the school, smashed the locks, the classrooms. One was used as the investigation room for the Shin Bet, one room for detainees, one for the soldiers to rest. We went in house by house, banging on the door at two in the morning. The family’s dying of fear, the girls are peeing in their pants with fear. We go into the house and turn everything upside down.

What’s the procedure?

Gather the family in a certain room, put a guard there, tell the guard to aim his gun at them, and then search the rest of the house. We got another order that everyone born after 1980… everyone between sixteen and twenty-nine, doesn’t matter who, bring them in cuffed and blindfolded. They yelled at old people, one of them had an epileptic seizure but they carried on yelling at him. Every house we went into, we brought everyone between sixteen and twenty-nine to the school. They sat tied up in the schoolyard.

Did they tell you the purpose of all this? 

To locate weapons. But we didn’t find any weapons. They confiscated kitchen knives. There was also stealing. One guy took twenty shekels. Guys went into the houses and looked for things to steal. This was a very poor village. The guys were saying, “What a bummer, there’s nothing to steal.”

That was said in a conversation among the soldiers?

Yeah. They enjoyed seeing the misery, the guys were happy talking about it. There was a moment someone yelled at the soldiers. They knew he was mentally ill, but one of the soldiers decided that he’d beat him up anyway, so they smashed him. They hit him in the head with the butt of the gun, he was bleeding, then they brought him to the school along with everyone else. There were a pile of arrest orders signed by the battalion commander, ready, with one area left blank. They’d fill in that the person was detained on suspicion of disturbing the peace. They just filled in the name and the reason for arrest. There were people with plastic handcuffs that had been put on really tight. I got to speak with the people there. One of them had been brought into Israel to work for a settler and after two months the guy didn’t pay him and handed him over to the police.

All these people came from that one village?

Yes.

Anything else you remember from that night?

A small thing, but it bothered me — one house that they just destroyed. They have a dog for weapons searches, but they didn’t bring him; they just wrecked the house. The mother watched from the side and cried. Her kids sat with her and stroked her.

What do you mean, they just destroyed the house?

They smashed the floors, turned over sofas, threw plants and pictures, turned over beds, smashed the closets, the tiles. There were other things — the look on the people’s faces when you go into their house. And after all that, they were left tied up and blindfolded in the school for hours. The order came to free them at four in the afternoon. So that was more than twelve hours. There were investigators from the security services there who interrogated them one by one.

Had there been a terrorist attack in the area?

No. We didn’t even find any weapons. The brigade commander claimed that the Shin Bet did find some intelligence, that there were a lot of guys there who throw stones.

2. Naval Blockade

Unit: Navy

Location: Gaza Strip

Year: 2008

It’s mostly punishment. I hate that: “They did this to us, so we’ll do that to them.” Do you know what a naval blockade means for the people in Gaza? There’s no food for a few days. For example, suppose there’s an attack in Netanya, so they impose a naval blockade for four days on the entire Strip. No seagoing vessel can leave.  A Dabur patrol boat is stationed at the entrance to the port, if they try to go out, within seconds the soldiers shoot at the bow and even deploy attack helicopters to scare them. We did a lot of operations with attack helicopters — they don’t shoot much because they prefer to let us deal with that, but they’re there to scare people, they circle over their heads. All of a sudden there’s a Cobra right over your head, stirring up the wind and throwing everything around.

And how frequent were the blockades? 

Very. It could be three times one month, and then three months of nothing. It depends.

The blockade goes on for a day, two days, three days, four, or more than that?

I can’t remember anything longer than four days. If it was longer than that, they’d die there, and I think the IDF knows that. Seventy percent of Gaza lives on fishing — they have no other choice. For them it means not eating. There are whole families who don’t eat for a few days because of the blockade. They eat bread and water.

3. Shoot to Kill

Unit: Engineering Corps

Location: Rafah

Year: 2006

During the operations in Gaza, anyone walking around in the street, you shoot at the torso. In one operation in the Philadelphi corridor, anyone walking around at night, you shoot at the torso.

How often were the operations?

Daily. In the Philadelphi corridor, every day.

When you’re searching for tunnels, how do people manage to get around — I mean, they live in the area.

It’s like this: You bring one force up to the third or fourth floor of a building. Another group does the search below. They know that while they’re doing the search there’ll be people trying to attack them. So they put the force up high, so they can shoot at anyone down in the street. 

How much shooting was there?

Endless.

Say I’m there, I’m up on the third floor. I shoot at anyone I see?

Yes.

But it’s in Gaza, it’s a street, it’s the most crowded place in the world.

No, no, I’m talking about the Philadelphi corridor.

So that’s a rural area?

Not exactly, there’s a road, it’s like the suburbs, not the center. During operations in the other Gaza neighborhoods it’s the same thing. Shooting, during night operations — shooting.

It there any kind of announcement telling people to stay indoors?

No.

They actually shot people?

They shot anyone walking around in the street. It always ended with, “We killed six terrorists today.” Whoever you shot in the street is “a terrorist.”

That’s what they say at the briefings?

The goal is to kill terrorists.

What are the rules of engagement?

Whoever’s walking around at night, shoot to kill.

During the day, too?

They talked about that in the briefings: whoever’s walking around during the day, look for something suspicious. But something suspicious could be a cane.

4. Elimination Operation

Unit: Special Forces

Location: Gaza Strip

Year: 2000

There was a period at the beginning of the Intifada where they assassinated people using helicopter missiles.

This was at the beginning of the Second Intifada?

Yes. But it was a huge mess because there were mistakes and other people were killed, so they told us we were now going to be doing a ground elimination operation.

Is that the terminology they used? “Ground elimination operation”?

I don’t remember. But we knew it was going to be the first one of the Intifada. That was very important for the commanders and we started to train for it. The plan was to catch a terrorist on his way to Rafah, trap him in the middle of the road, and eliminate him.

Not to arrest him?

No, direct elimination. Targeted. But that operation was canceled, and then a few days later they told us that we’re going on an arrest operation. I remember the disappointment.  We were going to arrest the guy instead of doing something groundbreaking, changing the terms. So the operation was planned…

Anyway, we’re waiting inside the APC [armored personnel carrier], there are Shin Bet agents with us, and we can hear the updates from intelligence. It was amazing, like, “He’s sitting in his house drinking coffee, he’s going downstairs, saying hi to the neighbor” — stuff like that. “He’s going back up, coming down again, saying this and that, opening the trunk now, picking up a friend” — really detailed stuff.  He didn’t drive, someone else drove, and they told us his weapon was in the trunk. So we knew he didn’t have the weapon with him in the car, which would make the arrest easier. At least it relieved my stress, because I knew that if he ran to get the weapon, they’d shoot at him.

Where did the Shin Bet agent sit?

With me. In the APC. We were in contact with command and they told us he’d arrive in another five minutes, four minutes, one minute. And then there was a change in the orders, apparently from the brigade commander: elimination operation. A minute ahead of time. They hadn’t prepared us for that. A minute to go and it’s an elimination operation.

Why do you say “apparently from the brigade commander”?

I think it was the brigade commander. Looking back, the whole thing seems like a political ploy by the commander, trying to get bonus points for doing the first elimination operation, and the brigade commander trying, too. . . everyone wanted it, everyone was hot for it. The car arrives, and it’s not according to plan: their car stops here, and there’s another car in front of it, here. From what I remember, we had to shoot, he was three meters away. We had to shoot.  After they stopped the cars, I fired through the scope and the gunfire made an insane amount of noise, just crazy. And then the car, the moment we started shooting, started speeding in this direction.

The car in front?

No, the terrorist’s car — apparently when they shot the driver his leg was stuck on the gas, and they started flying. The gunfire increased, and the commander next to me is yelling “Stop, stop, hold your fire,” but they don’t stop shooting. Our guys get out and start running, away from the jeep and the armored truck, shoot a few rounds, and then go back. Insane bullets flying around for a few minutes. “Stop, stop, hold your fire,” and then they stop. They fired dozens if not hundreds of bullets into the car in front.

Are you saying this because you checked afterward?

Because we carried out the bodies. There were three people in that car. Nothing happened to the person in the back. He got out, looked around like this, put his hands in the air. But the two bodies in the front were hacked to pieces…

Afterward, I counted how many bullets I had left — I’d shot ten bullets. The whole thing was terrifying — more and more and more noise. It all took about a second and a half. And then they took out the bodies, carried the bodies. We went to a debriefing. I’ll never forget when they brought the bodies out at the base.  We were standing two meters away in a semicircle, the bodies were covered in flies, and we had the debriefing. It was, “Great job, a success. Someone shot the wrong car, and we’ll talk about the rest back on the base.” I was in total shock from all the bullets, from the crazy noise. We saw it on the video, it was all documented on video for the debriefing. I saw all the things that I told you, the people running, the minute of gunfire, I don’t know if it’s twenty seconds or a minute, but it was hundreds of bullets and it was clear that the people had been killed, but the gunfire went on and the soldiers were running from the armored truck. What I saw was a bunch of bloodthirsty guys firing an insane amount of bullets, and at the wrong car, too. The video was just awful, and then the unit commander got up. I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot from him.

What do you mean?

That he’ll be a regional commanding officer or the chief of staff one day. He said, “The operation wasn’t carried out perfectly, but the mission was accomplished, and we got calls from the chief of staff, the defense minister, the prime minister” — everyone was happy, it’s good for the unit, and the operation was like, you know, just: “Great job.” The debriefing was just a cover-up.

Meaning?

Meaning no one stopped to say, “Three innocent people died.” Maybe with the driver there was no other way, but who were the others?

Who were they, in fact?

At that time I had a friend training with the Shin Bet, he told me about the jokes going around that the terrorist was a nobody. He’d probably taken part in some shooting and the other two had nothing to do with anything. What shocked me was that the day after the operation, the newspapers said that “a secret unit killed four terrorists,” and there was a whole story on each one, where he came from, who he’d been involved with, the operations he’d done. But I know that on the Shin Bet base they’re joking about how we killed a nobody and the other two weren’t even connected, and at the debriefing itself  they didn’t even mention it.

Who did the debriefing?

The unit commander. The first thing I expected to hear was that something bad happened, that we did the operation to eliminate one person and ended up eliminating four. I expected that he’d say, “I want to know who shot at the first car. I want to know why A-B-C ran to join in the big bullet-fest.” But that didn’t happen, and I understood that they just didn’t care.  These people do what they do.  They don’t care.

Did the guys talk about it? 

Yes. There were two I could talk to. One of them was really shocked but it didn’t stop him. It didn’t stop me, either. It was only after I came out of the army that I understood. No, even when I was in the army I understood that something really bad had happened. But the Shin Bet agents were as happy as kids at a summer camp.

What does that mean?

They were high-fiving and hugging. Really pleased with themselves. They didn’t join in the debriefing, it was of no interest to them. But what was the politics of the operation? How come my commanders, not one of them, admitted that the operation had failed? And failed so badly with the shooting all over the place that the guys sitting in the truck got hit with shrapnel from the bullets. It’s a miracle we didn’t kill each other.

5. Her limbs were smeared on the wall

Unit: Givati Brigade

Location: Gaza Strip

Year: 2008

One company told me they did an operation where a woman was blown up and smeared all over the wall. They kept knocking on her door and there was no answer, so they decided to open it with explosives.  They placed them at the door and right at that moment the woman came to open it. Then her kids came down and saw her. I heard about it after the operation at dinner.  Someone said it was funny that the kids saw their mother smeared on the wall and everyone cracked up. Another time I got screamed at by my platoon when I went to give the detainees some water from our field kit canteen. They said, “What, are you crazy?” I couldn’t see what their problem was, so they said, “Come on, germs.” In Nahal Oz, there was an incident with kids who’d been sent by their parents to try to get into Israel to find food, because their families were hungry. They were fourteen- or fifteen-year-old boys, I think.  I remember one of them sitting blindfolded and then someone came and hit him, here.

On the legs.

And poured oil on him, the stuff we use to clean weapons.

6. We shot at fishermen

Unit: Navy

Location: Gaza Strip

Year: 2007

There’s an area bordering Gaza that’s under the navy’s control. Even after Israel disengaged from the Strip, nothing changed in the sea sector. I remember that near Area K, which divided Israel and Gaza, there were kids as young as four or six, who’d get up early in the morning to fish, in the areas that were off-limits. They’d go there because the other areas were crowded with fishermen. The kids always tried to cross, and every morning we’d shoot in their direction to scare them off. It got to the point of shooting at the kids’ feet where they were standing on the beach or at the ones on surfboards. We had Druze police officers on board who’d scream at them in Arabic. We’d see the poor kids crying.

What do you mean, “shoot in their direction”?

It starts with shooting in the air, then it shifts to shooting close by, and in extreme cases it becomes shooting toward their legs.

At what distance?

Five or six hundred meters, with a Rafael heavy machine gun, it’s all automatic.

Where do you aim?

It’s about perspective. On the screen, there’s a measure for height and a one for width, and you mark where you want the bullet to go with the cursor. It cancels out the effect of the waves and hits where it’s supposed to, it’s precise.

You aim a meter away from the surfboard?

More like five or six meters. I heard about cases where they actually hit the surfboards, but I didn’t see it. There were other things that bothered me, this thing with Palestinian fishing nets. The nets cost around four thousand shekels, which is like a million dollars for them. When they wouldn’t do what we said too many times, we’d sink their nets. They leave their nets in the water for something like six hours. The Dabur patrol boat comes along and cuts their nets.

Why?

As a punishment.

For what?

Because they didn’t do what we said. Let’s say a boat drifts over to an area that’s off-limits, so a Dabur comes, circles, shoots in the air, and goes back. Then an hour later, the boat comes back and so does the Dabur. The third time around, the Dabur starts shooting at the nets, at the boat, and then shoots to sink them.

Is the off-limits area close to Israel?

There’s one area close to Israel and another along the Israeli-Egyptian border… Israel’s sea border is twelve miles out, and Gaza’s is only three. They’ve only got those three miles, and that’s because of one reason, which is that Israel wants its gas, and there’s an offshore drilling rig something like three and a half miles out facing the Gaza Strip, which should be Palestinian, except that it’s ours… the Navy Special Forces unit provides security for the rig. A bird comes near the area, they shoot it. There’s an insane amount of security for that thing. One time there were Egyptian fishing nets over the three-mile limit, and we dealt with them. A total disaster.

Meaning?

They were in international waters, we don’t have jurisdiction there, but we’d shoot at them.

At Egyptian fishing nets?

Yes. Although we’re at peace with Egypt.

Oded Na’aman is co-editor of Our Harsh Logic: Israeli Soldiers’ Testimonies from the Occupied Territories, 2000–2010 (Metropolitan Books, 2012).  He is also a founder of Breaking the Silence, an Israeli organization dedicated to collecting the testimonies of Israel Defense Force soldiers, and a member of the Israeli Opposition Network. He served in the IDF as a first sergeant and crew commander in the artillery corps between 2000 and 2003 and is now working on his PhD in philosophy at Harvard University.  The testimonies in this piece from Our Harsh Logic have been adapted and shortened.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch and join us on Facebook.  Check out the newest Dispatch book, Nick Turse’s The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare.

Copyright 2012 Breaking the Silence

Why Israel Desires to be Hated by Palestinians » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

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This video is entitled “Imagine if London was Occupied” – it deals with the issue of checkpoints in the West Bank.

Why Israel Desires to be Hated by Palestinians » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names.

 

Gaza 2012: On the Use and Abuse of Hatred and Violence

Why Israel Desires to be Hated by Palestinians

by OREN BEN-DOR

Yet another massacre is unfolding in Gaza, the largest prison in the world.  We are surrounded by familiar chatter: ‘Israel’s right to defend itself’; ‘Palestinians’ legitimate resistance to (the 1967) occupation’; ‘who started it this time?’ Most insidious, however, is the stale refrain, sung by a chorus which includes President Obama, that the violence is disastrous for the ‘peace process’ aimed at a ‘two-state solution’.

While it has been noted that one motivation for the Israeli government, in the run-up to elections in January, is to unite voters behind a ‘no choice’ rhetoric, there is a deeper motivation at stake here – to restrict the horizons of political debate, to control what should be regarded as a litmus test for ‘realistic’, ‘moderate’ and ‘reasonable’ voices.

War is useful because the passion it arouses prevents people from asking two basic questions that must be addressed if the core of silencing and violence that we are witnessing is to be grasped and, in turn, if progress is ever to be made towards justice and enduring peace. First, what kind of state is Israel?  Second, who are the Palestinians that this state is in conflict with?

Israel was established to be a Jewish state. Its institutions have always been shaped and constrained so as to ensure the continued existence of a Jewish majority and character.  Passing a test of Jewishness entitles someone to Israeli citizenship regardless of where in the world she lives.  Furthermore, her citizenship comes with a bundle of political, social and economic rights which are preferential to that of citizens who do not qualify as Jewish.  This inbuilt discriminatory premise highlights the apartheid nature of the state.  Butapartheid is not an accidental feature of Israel. Its very creation involved immense injustice and suffering.  Shielding and rationalizing this inbuilt premise prevents the address of past injustices and ensures their continuity into the future.  It is a premise that, in matters of constitutional interpretation, takes precedence over, and thus involves the imposition of ‘reasonable’ limitations on, equality of citizenship.

The Palestinians, we are told, are a people who live in the West Bank and Gaza. The impression forced on us is that the conflict concerns a compromise to be made the correct border between Israel and a Palestinian state.  We are led to believe that a partition into two-states would satisfy both genuine and realistic aspirations for justice and peace.  In this view, the violence in Gaza is just an unreasonable aberration from an otherwise noble peace process.

But Palestinians actually comprise three groups.  First, those whose families originate in the territories that were occupied by Israel in 1967 (Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem). Second, the descendants of the approximately 750,000 non-Jews who were ethnically cleansed in 1947-9 in order to ensure a Jewish majority in the new Jewish state.  This group is dispersed around the world, mostly in refugee camps in the territories occupied in 1967 and the neighbouring states. Israel has persistently denied them their internationally recognized legal right to return.  The majority in Gaza consists of refugees from villages which are now buried under Israeli towns and cities that were created explicitly for Jewish citizens, places which include Ashkelon and Tel Aviv that were hit by rockets in the current conflict.   The third group of Palestinians, which Israel insists on calling by the euphemism ‘Israeli Arabs’, are the non-Jews who managed to evade ethnic cleansing in 1947-49 and who now live as second-class citizens of Israel, the state which likes to claim that it is ‘Jewish and democratic’.

Until 1948, the territory of Palestine stretched from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean. The violence that has afflicted the area ever since is the direct result of an event whose true nature our society seems determined to deny.  Violence keeps erupting because of the silencing and marginalization of a simple truth surrounding any partition policy: that the injustice that afflicts Palestine can not be partitioned.  It is because of the desire to preserve a Jewish state that first, the legal dualism that exists in the 1967 Occupied Territories as well as the horror at the ‘Separation Wall’ have become the dominant political discourses of apartheid, second, that the refugees are remained dispossessed and, thirdly, that both actual and potential non-Jew Arab citizens do, and would, suffer discrimination.   The two-state vision means that the inbuilt apartheid within Israel, and in turn the injustice to two groups of Palestinians, does never become the central political problem.

The range of reactions to the current carnage shows just how successful violence has been in sustaining the legitimacy of Israel by entrenching the political focus merely on its actions rather than on its nature.  These reactions keep the discourse that calls forcriticizing Israel rather than for replacing it with an egalitarian polity over the whole of historical Palestine.

Israel desires to be hated by Palestinians.  By provoking violence Israel has not merely managed to divert the limelight from itsapartheid nature.  It has also managed to convince that, as Joseph Massad of Columbia University once captured, it has the right  to occupy, to dispossess and to discriminate, namely the claim that the apartheid premise which founds it should be put up with and rationalized as reasonable.  Would anybody allow such a right-claim to hold sway in apartheid South Africa?  How come that the anti-apartheid and egalitarian calls for the non-recognition of Israel right to exist are being marginalized as extreme and unrealizable?  What kind of existential fetters cause the world to exhibit such blindness and a drop of compassion?  Is there no unfolding tragedy that anticipates violence against Jews precisely because past violence against them in Europe is being allowed to serve as a rationalizing device of an apartheid state?

Israel has already created a de facto single state between the river and the sea, albeit one which suffers from several apartheid systems, one within Israel and another in the occupied territories. We must not let Israeli aggression prevent us from treating as moderate and realistic proposals to turn this single state into one where all would have equal rights.

Oren Ben-Dor grew up in the State of Israel.  He is a Professor of Law and Philosophy in the Law School, University of Southampton, UK. He can be reached at: okbendor@yahoo.com.

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Today In Gaza

23 November 2012

This morning I accompanied an international delegation on a tour of some of the scenes of destruction in Gaza City. Here is a little of what we saw……

These are but a small taste of the bitter pill of Israeli criminality.

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Freedom to Palestine

The Story Has Commenced

Thirty-two-year-old Issawi is from Issawiyeh to the north east of Jerusalem. On April 15th, ‏2002 while being in a tower to the north of Jerusalem, he was captured by Israeli Operation Defensive Shield.  At that time, ‏he was sentenced to thirty years on charges of owning weapons and forming military groups. Nearly 10 years after his captivity, ‏an Egypt-brokered deal between Hamas and the Israeli regime about the captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, had been brought to the spotlight after staying under the shadow of hot arguments and meetings lingering for more than five years. Consequently, 476 Palestinian prisoners were released including Issawi.

Wondering why he has been detained only after eight months of his last release, I phoned Samir’s family to delve more in their son’s case. I could not make a call at first; ‏I had a shaking voice and trembling hands and did not even know how…

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