Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Netanyahu Backtracks

The night before his up-set election, Netanyahu vowed that there would never be a Palestinian state on his watch.  The day after his election, he said that he was committed to a two state solution.  What is amazing is that he is having difficulty understanding how anyone can see these statements as contradictory.  “My position has always been the same.”  In Israel, the Prime Minister, as long as the people vote for him, is the law and whatever he says is the truth.   

Nahum Barnea, columnist for Yediot Ahronot, wrote:

            Netanyahu’s promises are like something written on ice on a very hot day”[1]

I wish Netanyahu would backtrack… about sixty years or so and establish a Constitution for Israel to protect all its citizens.  However, until that happens, he is free to shoot from the hip.  He has run Israel for about ten years now and I can think of many ways he could backtrack with dignity.

I wish he could pull the bombs he dropped on the defenseless people of Gaza back up into his planes.  Just this week, on Meet the Press, Ron Dermer, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., referred to the ineffective, crude rockets Hamas fired into southern Israel. At the same time, he failed to complete the picture and mention the 800 tons of bombs Israel dropped on Gaza, killing thousands of people, including 500 children, and causing such destruction that Oxfam says will take a hundred years to rebuild.  Yet according to Ron Dermer, Netanyahu is committed to peace and Hamas is nothing more than a terrorist organization.

I wish Netanyahu could suck back up the white phosphorous bombs which burned to the bone causing uncontrollable agony to anyone unlucky enough to come in contact with this gas. Its use is condemned by international law. When the planes came, as they did for 20 days last summer, children looked up with absolute terror in their eyes. Yet, according to Israel and the US media, the Palestinians, not Israel, are the terrorist.

I wish Netanyahu could backtrack and restore the arms and legs of the victims of his his slaughter of Gaza, offer medical care for the more than 11,000 injured and the more that 1000 children permanently disabled.  And rebuild the schools, hospitals and power plants and the tens of thousands of homes he destroyed in Palestine. And rebuild the economy his policies have wrecked by blocking imports and exports to and from the occupied territories.  I wish he could bring back the life of the fisherman his gunboats killed last week who was fishing within the “allowed” six mile limit Israel imposed upon those seeking food for their families.  However,  Netanyahu “put 1.8 million Gazans on a diet.” According to the UNRWA, 1.5 million Palestinians are food insecure because of Israel’s blockade at the entrance gates.

Yes, I wish Benjamin Netanyahu could wash the blood off of his hands.

The world press is accusing him of back tracking. But, unfortunately, he is not backtracking in anyway that could make a difference.  He is the same Netanyahu who can do anything he wants to do and say anything he wants to say because according to him, and most of the members of the US Congress, he is the only game in town.  Add to that, the support of fifty million Christian Zionists who preach that Israel is God’s chosen people and right away, Israel gets a pass, no matter what it does. Even worse, Netanyahu himself actually believes he is “special,” above accountability to international law, human decency, or to God.   

While Israel gets money, legitimacy and protection because of our “special relationship,” the question is: what do we, the people of the US, get?

We get to bury 34 sailors serving on the USS Liberty in 1967, killed by Israel. Of course, Israel backtracked the next day, claiming that it was a “mistake.”  Admiral Thomas Moorer, Chair of the Joint Chief of Staff, said, “I will never buy the idea that the pilots did not know this was an American ship. The attack was deliberate.”  Our Congress has yet to demanded an investigation.

We get to honor the life of a 23 year old American girl crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer as she stood up to protest the demolition of a Palestinian's home.  Our congress has never demanded an investigation and that was twelve years ago.

We get to have an American humanitarian worker refused entrance into Israel. Without any explanation, a U.S. citizen, at great inconvenience and personal financial cost, is  denied the right to enter Israel in spite of our “special relationship.”  
Perhaps it is we, the people of the United States, and not Netanyahu, who should backtrack.

Thomas Are
March 25, 2015

[1] Quoted by Thomas L. Friedman,  Go Ahead, Ruin my Day, New York edition, March 18, 2015, p.A25.

Friday, March 6, 2015

How Can He Keep a Straight Face?

September 2, 2002,  a year and a day after the 9/11 attack, Benjamin Netanyahu stood before our congress and said, “There is no question whatsoever that Saddam is seeking and working and advancing toward the development of nuclear weapons --- no question whatsoever. Saddam is hell bent upon achieving atomic bomb capabilities as soon as he can. I believe that even free and unfettered inspections will not uncover these portable manufacturing sites of mass destruction “

Representative Dan Burton summarized, “Your statement boils down to one thing, that is, do we react to another attack on America after hundreds of thousands or millions of lives have been lost or do we preempt that kind of action from happening in the first place?”

Rachel Maddow says, “Which is what we did. We preempted. We invaded Iraq and none of the things said about Saddam Hussein turned out to be true.”

In 2002 congress invited Benjamin Netanyahu to speak as an expert witness, an expert on why the US had to start a preemptive war against Saddam Hussein and Iraq, or, as he explained, it would be the end of the world. That was 2002.

Now, in 2015, house republicans invited him back to make a case again about the end of the world. This time though, he sees it coming from Iran.  “That deal will not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. It would almost guarantee that Iran gets those weapons.  Iran could have the means to deliver that nuclear arsenal to the far corners of the earth including every part of the United States.  The Middle East would soon be crisscrossed by nuclear trip wires, a region where small skirmishes can trigger big wars, would turn into a nuclear tinder box, would face a much more dangerous Iran.  The Middle East littered with nuclear bombs in a count down to a potential nuclear nightmare.”[1]

While our congress pledges allegiance to the head of another state, those of us who are less intimidated by AIPAC wonder how he can keep a straight face.  He screams bloody murder because Iran could someday get a nuclear weapon while all along knowing Israel built nuclear bombs, has refused to become a party to the Treaty of Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and has never opened its sites to inspectors. Netanyahu brags that for the first time in history, Israel has the means of defending itself.  What he means is that for the first time in history, Israel has the power to annihilate other people.

John F. Kennedy said that Israel with a bomb would initiate a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. So, Israel lied to the whole world about it, including the United States,.

According to non-Israeli sources, simulated control rooms were built, the entrances to underground levels were bricked up, and pigeon droppings were scattered around some buildings in which the forbidden installations were housed to give the impression that they were not in use.[2]

No wonder Netanyahu is panicked.  For its whole life, modern Israel has been the bully of its neighborhood.  But its hegemony in the Middle East is coming to an end and he knows it.  Sooner or later, a hostile nation will “get the bomb.” Then another.  Israel pressured our Congress into destroying Iraq. Now, twelve years later, wearing his paranoia like a badge of honor, Netanyahu demands that the US go to war with Iran.  And our congress applauded.

With a straight face, Netanyahu said, “We need to stop the aggression in the Middle East.” Then, he referred to the goons in Gaza, the lackeys in Lebanon and the revolutionary guards on the Golan Heights as, “clutching Israel with tentacles of terror.”   Does he think that anyone with even the intelligence of congress would not recognize Gaza, Lebanon and the Golan Heights as three lands Israel illegally invaded in its program of expansion?

It is amazing that he would even mention Gaza. Eight years of siege and three bombardments in six years has left Gaza destitute. Last summer, Israel dropped 800 tons of explosives, including phosphorous cluster bombs on 750 locations, killing 2,100 people, mostly civilians including 500 children. Israel destroyed 18,000 homes in Gaza, leaving 24,000 displaced, deliberately targeted hospitals, schools, and old age nursing homes. When winter came, Netanyahu cut off electricity and blockaded fuel. As he spoke to our congress, children were still sick and without medical care. Some have frozen to death.  Yet, Netanyahu portrays Israel as the victim, and he does it with a straight face.

Palestinians are the occupied. Israel is the occupier. An occupier does not defend itself against an occupied population. The occupier controls the power structure. The occupier is the dominant force militarily and economically. The occupier determines what goes in and what comes out of the territories it occupies.  Even under international law, an occupier must provide security for the people it occupies. Yet, we consistently hear about Israel’s need to ensure its security.[3]

Netanyahu said that we must, "stop Iran’s conquest, subjugation and terror." And he said it with a straight face.  Then he adds, "if Iran wants to be treated like a normal country, then let it act like a normal country."  Was he looking in a mirror? 

Under Netanyahu’s leadership, the Israeli government has ramped up illegal settlement buildings, increasing the population of Jewish settlers by over 23%, made the biggest land grab in a generation, committed countless human rights abuses and killed thousands of citizens in the West Bank and Gaza, and done everything possible to maintain the status quo of Israeli occupation and domination.[4]

It’s time for those of us who yearn for a peaceful world to say with a straight face to Netanyahu and Israel, “If Israel wants to be treated like a normal country, then let it act like a normal country.”

Thomas Are
March 6, 2015

[1] Both of these quotes, 2002 and 2015 are a matter of public record.  I lifted them from the Rachel  Maddow, Program March 3, 2015..
[2] Ari Shavit, My Promised Land,  (Spiegel and Grau, New York, 2013) p. 186
[3] Deanna Othman,  Sawyer Blunder indicative of Noxious Bias against Palestinians in American Journalism,   Huffington Post.  July 11, 2014
[4] Philip Weiss, State Dept says Netanyahu Speech is not inappropriate, disrespectful, humiliating or embarrassing.,  Mondoweiss,  January 28, 2015

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Can't Have it Both Ways

Even Bibi can’t have it both ways.  On the one hand, he appeals to Jews all over the world, especially Europe, saying come to Israel, it is the only place on the globe where a Jew can be safe.

Then, he turns around and addresses our US congress declaring that Israel and all its citizens are on the verge of being wiped off the face of the earth by Iran.  For two decades now, Netanyahu has declared Iran about one year from getting “the bomb,” which will immediately be dropped on Israel.

So, is Israel a safe place or not? Even Bibi can’t have it both ways.

I am inclined to think Israel is not a safe place, but not because of threats from Iran.  It is because of Gaza, West Bank and the US.  The international conscience for justice and fair play will someday turn against Israel.

GAZA – Israel’s latest bombardment of Gaza which left over 2,100 Palestinians dead, including over 500 children, and destroyed thousands of buildings, including schools, mosques, power plants and water supplies, will not be forgotten anytime soon by those who suffer from it or those who have seen it.

Oxfam published on February 27, 2015 concerning the conditions in Gaza:

Since July, the situation has deteriorated dramatically. Approximately 100,000 Palestinians remain displaced this winter, living in dire conditions in schools and makeshift shelters not designed for long-term stay.  Scheduled power cuts persist for up to 18 hours a day… With severe restrictions on movement, most of the 1.8 million residents are trapped in the coastal enclave, with no hope for the future.

Bearing the brunt of this suffering are the most vulnerable, including the elderly, persons with disabilities, women and nearly one million children, who have experienced unimaginable suffering in three major conflicts in six short years.

Catherine Essoyan, Oxfam’s Regional Director said:

Families have been living in homes without roofs, walls or windows for the past six months. Many have just six hours of electricity a day and are without running water. Every day that people are unable to build is putting more lives at risk. It is utterly deplorable.[1]

Strip away my dignity, call me an animal and treat me as such, as Israel has done to the people of Gaza for 67 years, give me the opportunity and I will hit back.  Israel has a lot of making up to do if it is to ever feel safe.

WEST BANK - Though the focus of attention has been on Gaza since last year’s massacre by Israel, life in the West Bank continues under Israeli harassment.  In 2014, Israel demolished 1,177 Palestinian homes in West Bank, an average of nine Palestinian buildings per week.[2] In January, alone, Israel destroyed 77 buildings, leaving 110 people, half of whom were children, homeless in the frigid cold of winter. When a home is destroyed, Israel declares the area abandoned and confiscates it for Jewish only homes, roads, checkpoints or to make room for their apartheid wall. Israel talks of a “Two-State Solution,” if the Palestinians would just be reasonable, all the while pushing them off their land in West Bank back onto less than 39% of the least desirable land for agriculture, while systemically cutting off water and electricity. 

According to the United Nations, last year, Israel killed 54 Palestinians in the West Bank and injured 5,866 others, including 1,187 children.  The average home invasion for search and arrest was 98. There were 330 incidents of Israeli settler-related violence including the destruction of 9,400 trees.[3]

US - Of course, Israel could never keep its boot on the Palestinian neck were it not for the support and encouragement of the United States.   As I write this, there is much talk in the media about the strained relationship between Israel and the US because Netanyahu is scheduled to speak to congress in a few days.   I am sure the view from Palestine blurs when trying to see the rift.   When the Palestinian Authority appealed to the UN for help, Obama’s UN ambassador, Samantha Powers called it “deeply imbalanced.” And when Mahmoud Abbas speaks of going to the International Criminal Court, the US said it would “damage the atmosphere.”  Ali Abunimah claims that the atmosphere is already severely damaged:

I challenge Ms. Powers to go and repeat her words to any of the 100,000 Palestinians in Gaza still living in the damp and freezing rubble of their homes, to the surviving parents of more than 500 children killed in the Israeli attack or to the thousands who will live with lifetime injuries. … Few Palestinians will forget that when Israeli fire was raining down on them, the Obama administration authorized the transfer of grenades and mortar rounds to resupply the Israeli army.[4]

And what does the US government have to say about all this?  Only that Israel has a right to defend itself.  No matter what Israel does, our US government supports it and every Palestinian knows it.  

Mike Coogan may help us to understand why such blind support by the US:

“You see this napkin? In twenty-four hours, we could have the signatures of seventy senators on the napkin.”  These are the words of Stephen Rosen, official of AIPAC, describing the power of the pro-Israel lobby... Four years earlier, while boasting about his bad faith implementation of the Oslo Accords to a group of Israeli settlers, Benjamin Netanyahu said, “America is a thing you can move very easily.”[5]

So, as Netanyahu comes to address our Congress as to why he thinks we ought to go to war against Iran for the safety of Israel, our US media is baffled to understand why the Palestinians just can’t make peace.

Ben Gurion understood why years ago:

Why should the Arabs make peace? If I was an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does it matter to them? Our God is not theirs. We come from Israel, it’s true, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing.  We have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that?

And Ben Gurion knew nothing of the history above. All he knew was the Nakba of 1948. But, he also knew what Bibi Netanyahu seems to not understand. Israel can strive to be a good neighbor, or Israel can be at war until it is destroyed as a Zionist state. But, he can’t have it both ways.

Thomas Are
March 1, 2015


[1] Andrea Gemanos, Gaza Rebuilt Effort Could Take 100 Years: Oxfam, Published by Common Dreams, February 27, 2015
[2] Ben Norton,  UN: In 2014, Israel Demolished 1,177 Palestinian homes in the West Bank.  Reported in Mondoweiss, February 2, 2015
[3] UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Defense of Children International.
[4] Ali Abunimah, For Suffering Palestinians, the Obama-Netanyahu “rift” is a Side Show,  Published in Huffington Post,  February 20, 2015.
[5] Announced to journalist Jeffrey Goldberg.  Reported by Mike Coogan, Netanyahu is a Paper Tiger,  Mondoweiss, February 3, 2015.