The Plot Against Gaza

Israel has justified its assault on Gaza as entirely defensive, intended only to stop Hamas firing rockets on Israel’s southern communities. Although that line has been repeated unwaveringly by officials since Israel launched its attack on 27 December, it bears no basis to reality. Rather, this is a war against the Palestinians of Gaza, and less directly those in the West Bank, designed primarily to crush their political rights and their hopes of statehood.

The most glaring evidence contradicting the Israeli casus belli is the six-month ceasefire between Hamas and Israel that preceded the invasion. True, Hamas began firing its rockets as soon as the truce came to an end on 19 December, but Israel had offered plenty of provocation. Not least it broke the ceasefire by staging a raid into Gaza on 4 November that killed six Hamas members. Even more significantly, it maintained and tightened a blockade during the ceasefire period that was starving Gaza’s 1.5 million inhabitants of food, medicine and fuel. Hamas had expected the blockade lifted in return for an end to the rockets.

A few days before Israel’s attack on Gaza, Yuval Diskin, the head of Israel’s domestic security service, the Shin Bet, noted Hamas’ commitment to the ceasefire and its motives in restarting the rocket fire. “Make no mistake, Hamas is interested in maintaining the truce,” he told the cabinet. “It seeks to improve its conditions — a removal of the blockade, receiving a commitment from Israel that it won’t attack and extending the lull to the Judea and Samaria area [the West Bank].” In other words, had Israel wanted calm, it could have avoided invading Gaza simply by renegotiating the truce on more reasonable terms.

Israel, however, had little interest in avoiding a confrontation with Hamas, as events since the Islamic group’s takeover of Gaza in early 2006 show.

It is widely agreed among the Israeli leadership that Hamas represents a severe threat to Israel’s ambition to crush the Palestinians’ long-standing demands for a state in the West Bank and Gaza. Unike Fatah, its chief Palestinian political rival, Hamas has refused to collude with the Israeli occupation and has instead continued its resistance operations. Although Hamas officially wants the return of all the lands the Palestinians were dispossessed of in 1948, at the establishment of Israel, it has shown signs of increasing pragmatism since its election victory, as Diskin’s comments above highlight. Hamas leaders have repeatedly suggested that a long-term, possibly indefinite, truce with Israel is possible. Such a truce would amount to recognition of Israel and remove most of the obstacles to the partition of historic Palestine into two states: a Jewish state and a Palestinian one.

Rather than engaging with Hamas and cultivating its moderate wing, Israel has been preparing for an “all-out war,” as Ehud Barak, the defense minister, has referred to the current offensive. In fact, Barak began preparing the attack on Gaza at least six months ago, as he has admitted, and probably much earlier.

Barak and the military stayed their hand in Gaza chiefly while other strategies were tested. The most significant was an approach espoused in the immediate wake of Hamas’ victory in 2006. Dov Weisglass, former prime minister Ariel Sharon’s fixer in Washington, gave it clearest expression. Israel’s policy, he said, would be “like an appointment with a dietician. The Palestinians will get a lot thinner, but won’t die.”

John Wolfensohn, envoy to the Quartet of the United States, the United Nations, Europe and Russia through most of 2005, has pointed out that the US and Israel reneged on understandings controlling the border crossings into Gaza from the moment of Israel’s disengagement in summer 2005. In an interview with the Israeli media, he attributed the rapid destruction of the Gazan economy to this policy. However, although the blockade began when Fatah was still in charge of the tiny enclave, the goal of Weisglass’ “diet” was to intensify the suffering of Gaza’s civilians. The rationale was that, by starving them, they could be both reduced to abject poverty and encouraged to rise up and overthrow Hamas.

But it seems the Israeli army was far from convinced a “diet” would produce the desired result and started devising a more aggressive strategy. It was voiced last year by Israel’s deputy defense minister, Matan Vilnai. He observed that, if Hamas continued firing rockets into Israel (in an attempt, though he failed to mention it, to break the blockade), the Palestinians “will bring upon themselves a bigger shoah because we will use all our might to defend ourselves.” The Hebrew word “Shoah” has come to refer exclusively to the Holocaust.

Though his disturbing comment was quickly disowned, Vilnai is no maverick. He is a former major general in the army who maintains close ties to the senior command. He is also a friend of his boss, Ehud Barak, the Labor leader and Israel’s most decorated soldier. The reference to the “shoah” offered a brief insight into the reasoning behind a series of policies he and Barak began unveiling from summer 2007.

It was then that hopes of engineering an uprising against Hamas faded. The diet regime had patently failed, as had a Fatah coup attempt underwritten by the United States. Hamas struck a pre-emptive blow against Fatah, forcing its leaders to flee to the West Bank. In retaliation the Israeli government declared Gaza a “hostile entity.” Barak and Vilnai used Gaza’s new status as the pretext for expanding the blockade of food and medicines to include electricity, a policy that was progressively tightened. At the same time they argued that Israel should consider cutting off “all responsibility” for Gaza. The intention of Barak’s blockade, however, was different from the Weisglass version. It was designed to soften up Gazan society, including Hamas fighters, for Israel’s coming invasion.

Far from being threatened by the intensifying blockade, Hamas turned it to its advantage. Although Israel controls two of the land borders and patrols the coast, there is fourth short land border shared with Egypt, close by the town of Rafah. There Gaza’s entrepreneurs developed a network of smuggling tunnels that were soon commandeered by Hamas. The tunnels ensured both that basic supplies continued to get through, and that Hamas armed itself for the attack it expected from Israel.

From March 2008 Barak and Vilnai began pushing their military strategy harder. New political formulations agreed by the government suggested the whole population of Gaza were to be considered complicit in Hamas actions, and therefore liable for retaliatory military action. In the words of the daily Jerusalem Post newspaper, Israeli policy makers took the view that “it would be pointless for Israel to topple Hamas because the population [of Gaza] is Hamas.”

At this point, Barak and Vilnai announced they were working on a way to justify in law the army directing artillery fire and air strikes at civilian neighborhoods of Gaza, as has been occurring throughout the current Gaza campaign. Vilnai, meanwhile, proposed declaring areas of the tiny enclave “combat zones” in which the army would have free rein and from which civilians would be expected to flee — again a tactic that has been implemented over the past three weeks.

Although Israel is determined to crush Hamas politically and militarily, so far it has been loathe to topple it. Israel withdrew from Gaza precisely because the demographic, military and economic costs of directly policing its refugee camps were considered too high. It will not be easily dragged back in.

Other options are either unpalatable or unfeasible. A Fatah government riding in on the back of Israeli tanks would lack legitimacy, and no regime at all — anarchy — risks losing forces more implacably opposed to a Jewish state than Hamas, including al-Qaeda. Placing Gaza under a peacekeeping force faces other hurdles: not least, the question of which countries would be prepared to take on such a dangerous burden.

Instead Israel is planning to resort to its favorite diplomatic maneuver: unilateralism. It wants a solution that passes over the heads of Hamas and the Palestinians. Or as Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister, put it: “There is no intention here of creating a diplomatic agreement with Hamas. We need diplomatic agreements against Hamas.” The formula currently being sought for a ceasefire will face opposition from Israel unless it helps achieve several goals.

Israel’s first is to seal off Gaza properly this time. Egypt, although profoundly uncomfortable at having an Islamic group ruling next door, is under too much domestic pressure to crack down on the tunneling. Israel therefore wants to bring in American and European experts to do the job. They will ensure that the blockade cannot be broken and that Hamas cannot rearm with the the help of outside actors like Iran. At best, Hamas can hope to limp on as nominal ruler of Gaza, on Israeli sufferance.

The second goal has been well articulated by the Harvard scholar Sara Roy, who has been arguing for some time that Israel is, in her words, “de-developing” Gaza. The blockade has been integral to achieving that objective, and is the reason Israel wants it strengthened. In the longer term, she believes, Gazans will come to be “seen merely as a humanitarian problem, beggars who have no political identity and therefore can have no political claims.”

In addition, Gazans living close to the enclave’s northern and southern borders may be progressively “herded” into central Gaza — as envisioned in Vilnai’s plan last year. That process may already be under way, with Israeli leafletting campaigns warning inhabitants of these areas to flee. Israel wants to empty both the Rafah area, so that it can monitor more easily any attempts at tunneling, and the northern part because this is the location of the rocket launches that are hitting major Israeli cities such as Ashkelon and Ashdod and may one day reach Tel Aviv.

The third and related goal, as Barak and Vilnai proposed more than a year ago, is to cut off all Israeli responsibility for Gaza — though not oversight of what is allowed in. Ghassan Khatib, a Palestinian analyst, believes that in this scenario Israel will insist that humanitarian supplies into Gaza pass only through the Egyptian crossing, thereby also undercutting Hamas’ role. Already Israel is preparing to hand over responsibility for supplying Gaza’s electricity to Egypt — a special plant is under construction close by in the Sinai.

Slowly, the hope is, Gaza’s physical and political separation from the West Bank will be cemented, with the enclave effectively being seen as a province of Egypt. Its inhabitants will lose their connection to the wider Palestinian people and eventually Cairo may grow bold enough to crack down on Hamas as brutally as it does its own Islamists.

The regime of Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank, meanwhile, will be further isolated and weakened, improving Israel’s chances of forcing it to sign a deal annexing East Jerusalem and large swaths of the West Bank on which the Jewish settlements sit.

The fourth goal relates to wider regional issues. The chief obstacle to the implementation of Israel’s plan is the growing power of Iran and its possible pursuit of nuclear weapons. Israel’s official concern — that Tehran wants to attack Israel — is simple mischief-making. Rather Israel is worried that, if Iran becomes a regional superpower, Israeli diktats in the Middle East and in Washington will not go unchallenged.

In particular, a strong Iran will be able to aid Hizballah and Hamas, and further fan the flames of popular Muslim sentiment in favor of a just settlement for the Palestinians. That could threaten Israel’s plans for the annexation of much of the West Bank, and possibly win the Palestinians statehood. None of this can be allowed to pass by Israel.

It is therefore seeking to isolate Tehran, severing all ties between it and Hamas, just as it earlier tried — and failed — to do the same between Iran and Hizballah. It wants the Palestinians beholden instead to the “moderate” block in the Arab world, meaning the Sunni dictatorships like Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia that in turn depend on Washington for their security.

The prospects of Israel achieving all or even some of these goals seems improbable. Too often Israeli meddling in its neighbors’ affairs has ended in unintended consequences, or “blowback.” It is a lesson Israel has been all too slow to learn.

Insight-info

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The Barbaric treatment of a Palestinian by Zionist soldiers

A non-governmental agency in the occupied territories issued a photograph where a Zionist soldier shoots a Palestinian with a rubber bullet in close range.

The Palestinian was a protestor and had his hands tied and eyes covered. He was standing in front of the soldier while another officer held his arms.

According to this agency he was Ashraf Abu Rahmah, 27 years old and was injured in this incident.

 After this agency protested this event and put the film and picture on television, the Israeli army announced that it will conduct the necessary investigations.

 We must all stand up and not let such things happen to our Muslim brothers in the occupied territories. Wherever we are we can do something – in the west we can increase people’s awareness of what is really going on: an informational Jihad.

www.insight-info.com

 

Wind of change blows over Lebanon

The following is the speech of the Secretary General of Hezbollah, Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah, on the occasion of the 8th anniversary of the Resistance and Liberation Day, May 26, 2008, in southern Beirut, Lebanon.

hasan nasrallah may 2008

First of all, great greetings to every pure spirit of the resistance and homeland martyrs, especially to the leader of resistance martyrs Seyyed Abbas al-Mousawi, the sheikh of the resistance martyrs Raghib Hareb and our dear brother whom we miss today leader Al-Hajj Imad Moughniyah.

I would like to welcome you to the 8th anniversary of the Resistance and Liberation Day. Your presence here today justifies your reality and identity and testifies once again that you are the most honorable, precious and the purest of people.

As God Almighty has said in his Glorious Book:

In the name of Allah, the most Merciful and Gracious,
Pharaoh had tyrannized on Earth, divided people into groups. He oppressed one group on behalf of the others, slaughtering its children, and ravishing its women. Indeed, he was among those corruptors.

The Pharaohs of our time are the USA and its right hand, Israel. Allah has promised:

We want to bestow upon those who were oppressed on Earth and make them precedents and successors; and we will consolidate their position on Earth to show what Pharaoh, Haman, along with their soldiers have been worried from.

God Almighty speaks the truth!

Brothers and sisters, today marks the day of resistance and the liberation of our homeland and nation coincides with the anniversary of the calamity and the loss of Palestine as well as the establishment of the extorter’s existence.

It also coincides with the 30th anniversary of Israel’s 1978 occupation of southern Lebanon and the establishment of the occupied territory, which was later expanded. This coincidence must provoke us to think twice, evaluate the situation and draw lessons and conclusions that will benefit Lebanon as well as the Muslim and Arab worlds.

Although this occasion has its own intellect, emotion, literature, rights and ethics, today I will not confine myself to introductions, as there is much to talk about.

Starting from Lebanon and its resistance… the latter has demonstrated two strategies, one of liberation and driving away occupiers, and the other of defending the homeland and people against any attack, invasion or threat.

This is the stratagem and vision of resistance: liberation and defense. These are also the clear and joint messages of the resistance in Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon.

As a result of the Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon and the occupation of a part of our land in 1978, the Security Council issued the Resolution 425. We submitted ourselves to the will of the international community and waited for its implementation. At the time, it was suggested that Lebanon was too weak to face Israel and it would therefore need a strategy of Arab unity.

The UNSC decision, however, was not implemented and an Arab strategy was never found. The international community and the Arab world took no action, and the will to confront was lost. It was at this time that the Imam and leader Seyyed Moussa al-Sadr proposed that the people of southern Lebanon put their trust in God Almighty and resist by any means possible.

What resulted from the false proposals of inaction? Israel weakened Lebanon and thought we were too weak to respond. This resulted in the great invasion of 1982 aiming to ultimately make Lebanon part of Israel.

As has been proven throughout history that a divided country can easily be conquered, such was the case of Lebanon at the time of the Israeli invasion in 1982 and so was the case of Palestine. The same applies to Iraq and shall apply to other countries as well. In the face of occupation, people are divided into various groups and categories:

Some remain neutral toward the occupation while some rule the country and have an extent of authority do not feel the impact of the occupation as the most important thing for them is to eat, drink and enjoy life. Another group are spies and mercenaries, cheap tools such as Antoine Lahid’s army who despite being Lebanese committed shameful acts. Another group consists of the internally defeated elite who cooperate with the occupiers for their own benefits and theoretically believe they can minimize national casualties.

Also, is a group that tacitly defies the occupation but is not willing to endure hardships and pay for freedom with their blood. Finally, there is the group that believes it has an ethical, national, religious and humanitarian responsibility to liberate their fatherland from occupation. They are ready to pay the price whatever it may be. This is the group of resistance. This is the group that takes the necessary action.

This division is not exclusive to Lebanon; it is a natural, historical and social trend stemming from the loss of national unity.

To those claiming that there is no national agreement regarding resistance in Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq I would say that there is also no national agreement on neutrality, treachery, cooperation or carelessness. Every group decides on its own. This is also true in Lebanon.

As always, I advise nations under occupation not to wait for a national or public agreement on resistance, but to pick up weapons and fight for the liberation of their land, nation and prisoners of war and regain their dignity and glory. This cannot be achieved other than by weapons, giving blood and making great sacrifices.

The resistance and the Lebanese people are intertwined with one another. Whether Muslim or not and regardless of sect and political parties, we have given countless martyrs. Self-reliance, jihad, various operations and our male and female youths have brought the resistance so far. Both the Arab and Muslim worlds were duty-bound to offer help. Many, however, have refrained to take action. It was Syria and the Islamic Republic of Iran who actively supported us.

We first achieved victory from 1982 to 1985 and another historical victory was won on May 25, 2000: a magnificent victory for Lebanon, Arabs and the nation and an utter defeat for Israel that shattered its dream of expanding its territory from the Nile to the Euphrates.

Israel has been cut off from southern Lebanon and western Bikaa and the Zionists have suffered a shameful defeat without gains, guarantees or concessions. While the liberating strategy adopted by the resistance succeeded, the negotiation strategy beginning from Madrid was not even able to free an inch of our land.

The strategy of inaction has done nothing but strengthen our enemy and weaken our country. Subsequently, it was the librating strategy adopted by the resistance, which similarly brought success in 2000.

After the 1984 calamity, Palestinians hopelessly waited for Arab support and international intervention.

In Iraq, America has occupied the country under the banner of establishing a democracy. The truth is that the American occupation was aimed at monopolizing the country’s resources. Their true objectives becoming more clear every day. How? After the invasion, similar to other occupied nations I mentioned before, Iraqis were divided into two relatively large groups.

One seeks a political process and the other prefers resistance, specifically an armed one. Based on our religious, ideological, intellectual, political experience as well as reality, we the Hezbollah are zealous toward resistance. Those supporting the political process have wasted a great deal of time and are today faced with an extremely difficult test, which is to determine the stance they will take now that America is attempting to impose a security deal on Iraqis, the finalization of which only requires the signatures of the Iraqi government and parliament.

Complete speech: http://www.insight-info.com