Cutting through the bullshit.

Tuesday, 15 August 2006

Without provocation

Writing about Israeli racism, ‘Fighting Jim Crow in Israel’, Mike Whitney, makes some useful points. But he seems to believe that ‘Nations, like people, can change their behavior if they see it is in their own best interests.’ This is unnecessarily naïve. Israel needs to change more than its behaviour. The very racism he identifies in Israeli behaviour arises directly from the racism that underlies the entire Zionist project. In advocating ‘move towards an integrated, multi-ethnic society’, he implicitly rejects this, but offers no more by way of a strategy than ‘Israel should consider the same path that every other democratic, pluralistic society has taken; tear down the walls, amend the laws so that everyone’s rights are respected equally’. As if! And he doesn’t even mention the refugees – one of the central issues that needs to be addressed before justice, and the potential for peace, will come to Palestine.

In his latest brilliant diatribe against the execrable Alan Dershowitz, Harvard Professor of Torture, Norman Finkelstein aptly quotes Hitler’s Commissar Order:

In the fight against Bolshevism it must not be expected that the enemy will act in accordance with the principles of humanity or international law - any attitude of consideration or regard for international law in respect of these persons is an error.

As Finkelstein emphasises, this has an uncannily familiar ring to it. Now, ‘we’ are ‘facing an unprecedented threat’ requiring ‘us’ to dispense with any consideration of civilians in waging ‘war’ against it.

I’m delighted to be able to report that the eminent Robert Fisk shares my scepticism about the Heathrow gatorade terrorism plot, although he doesn’t mention November’s US mid term elections as a factor:

And I'm sure it's quite by chance that the lads in blue chose yesterday - with anger at Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara's shameful failure over Lebanon at its peak - to save the world. After all, it's scarcely three years since the other great Terror Plot had British armoured vehicles surrounding Heathrow on the very day - again quite by chance, of course - that hundreds of thousands of Britons were demonstrating against Lord Blair's intended invasion of Iraq.

He also has intelligent things to say about anti Muslim racism, the terror he and other Beirut residents have been experiencing for over a month, and the real causes of the retail terrorism that the ‘war on terror’ aims to eradicate, or exacerbate, through wholesale terror.

Ha’aretz reports that, in response to accusations by the Palestnian Israeli legal association:

In reference to the incident in Qana, in which many Lebanese civilians were killed in an Israel Air Force strike on a heavily populated building, [attorney Nick] Kaufman [who was the prosecutor at the international former Yugoslavia trial, which ruled, "The international community must not tolerate such crimes, no matter where they may be perpetrated, no matter who the perpetrators are and no matter what the reasons for them may be.”] says that the killing was apparently inadvertent. "It was not malicious, not intentional and not impulsive. This was not a criminal action," he said.

According to Kaufman, there have been instances reminiscent of the current situation in Lebanon that have not been considered in violation of international law, such as the current U.S. military operation in Iraq.

Can’t quibble with that. A perfect illustration that ‘international law’ does not apply to actions, but to actors, protestations to the contrary notwithstanding.

Further to the last post, here is a link to part two of the Shaoul article on the Israeli ‘peace movement’ on WSWS.

There’s been a lot of intelligent commentary on UNSC 1701, but one aspect that nothing I’ve seen so far has touch upon is in Article 6, which:

Calls on the international community to take immediate steps to extend its financial and humanitarian assistance to the Lebanese people, including through facilitating the safe return of displaced persons and, under the authority of the government of Lebanon, reopening airports and harbors, consistent with paragraphs 14 and 15, and calls on it also to consider further assistance in the future to contribute to the reconstruction and development of Lebanon.

Now how does it come to pass that anyone could envisage that it is the responsibility of ‘the international community’, that is, taxpaying grunts around the world, to clean up the mess that Israel made? I suppose US taxpayers footed the bill for the planes and ordnance, and paid for Bush and Rice and Bolton to prevent a timely ceasefire, and underwrote the people who either directed or approved Israel to cause the damage, so they ought to contribute something to the cleanup. But surely the Israelis must bear some responsibility?

For a moving and insightful commentary, Azmi Bishara writes in al Ahram, ‘The peoples of the world are divided into the haves and have-nots of F-15s and F-16s.’

Last night Sam Bahour sent around this timely reminder on his ePalestine list:

“I want to make it clear: This morning’s events were not a terrorist attack but the action of a sovereign state that attacked Israel for no reason and without provocation. The Lebanese government, of which Hezbollah is a member, is trying to undermine regional stability. Lebanon is responsible and Lebanon will bear the consequences of its actions.” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, July 12, 2006

There was an interesting article in yesterday’s NYT providing a blow by blow account of the negotiations leading to UNSC1701. It suggests that the deal on the final wording arose from US concern about Israel losing the war:

As evidence of how committed the United States had become to the notion that an Israeli military victory was no longer an option, Ms. Rice and other administration officials posed pointed questions to the Israelis about the likely consequences of an intensified military push.

While omitting passages referring to Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the drafters still wanted

to give the force the power that France, the United States and Israel felt it needed to keep Hezbollah from reoccupying southern Lebanon.

But southern Lebanon is where Hizballah were born and raised and have always lived. Why shouldn’t they occupy it? Unless of course, ethnic cleansing is the name of the game.

I heard last night that the ceasefire was holding, at the same time as they reported that Israeli troops had killed one ‘Hisballah fighter’ who was threatening them. It was probably just some poor guy coming to give them a cake or something.

Robert Fisk is predicting that the ceasefire will not last:

But if the ceasefire collapses, as seems certain, neither the Israelis nor the Americans appear to have any plans to escape the consequences. The US saw this war as an opportunity to humble Hizbollah's Iranian and Syrian sponsors but already it seems as if the tables have been turned. The Israeli military appears to be efficient at destroying bridges, power stations, gas stations and apartment blocks--but signally inefficient in crushing the "terrorist" army they swore to liquidate.

"The Lebanese government is our address for every problem or violation of the [ceasefire] agreement," Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, said yesterday, as if realising the truce would not hold.

And that, of course, provides yet another excuse for Israel to attack the civilian infrastructure of Lebanon.

I have often wondered when reading George Lakoff whether he is actually aware of the ‘frames’ he is using himself. It seemed implausible, but my inclination was to give him the benefit of the doubt, despite his weird notion that the Democratic party was, or could become, if they framed their policies correctly, a progressive force. Robert Jensen shares my concern in his review of Lakoff’s latest book:

Ironically, Lakoff's new book -- Whose Freedom? The Battle over America's Most Important Idea -- demonstrates that problem all too well. His worldview seems to keep him from the very critical self-reflection that he counsels for liberal/progressive people.

Information Clearing House posted an interesting piece by Antony D’Amato this morning dissecting UNSC1701.

OP1. Calls for a full cessation of hostilities based upon, in particular, the immediate cessation by Hezbollah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations;

Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah has called this provision unfair: it only bars "offensive" military operations by Israel while prohibiting "all" Hezbollah attacks. Yet this is what lawyers would call a distinction without a difference. So long as Hezbollah ceases all attacks, Israel would not have any justification for offensive or defensive operations.

The problem with this analysis is that the distinction does make a difference. Israel claims that its devastation of Lebanon over the last month was entirely defensive. Indeed, I’m not aware of any military action Israel has ever engaged in, whether against neighbouring states or against the Palestinians under their occupation, that was anything other than defensive in character. This is patently rubbish, as anyone can attest. But when push comes to shove, it will be up to the US, in the guise of John Bolton who will determine whether Israel has violated the letter or the spirit of 1701, and I don’t think there is any doubt how that will swing. Meanwhile, Hizballah is banned from taking any military action whatsoever against the Israeli troops occupying their country. So go figure.

D’Amato considers article OP6, calling on ‘the international community’ to clean up Israel’s mess, ‘A sound humanitarian provision to which no one could object.’ Well, maybe not quite no one, as noted above.

He anticipates that OP8, which creates a ‘security zone’ from the Blue Line to the Litani, will be an ‘economic bonanza’ for the region. That must be why they decided to create it on Lebanese territory, rather than on the Israeli side of the line! He goes on to envisage, ‘Not only will displaced Lebanese civilians return to the area, but Palestinian refugees might also emigrate there to take up the many jobs that will be created.’ So it will also assist in the Israeli ambition to transfer the Palestinians out of Palestine.

And finally, today’s Times reports:

The Lebanese war also raises even more serious questions, suggests Shai Feldman, director of the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis, about the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Israel respected the international border with Lebanon as verified by the United Nations, and it was Hezbollah that violated the border. “If international borders mean nothing,” Mr. Feldman asked, “why should the Israeli public support a withdrawal from the West Bank to create a Palestinian state?”

Preserving the idea of a two-state solution is one reason Mr. Olmert went to war, Mr. Feldman said. And it is one reason the Security Council acted as strongly as it did to defend the integrity of the international border and mandate an expanded United Nations force to protect it. But whether Israelis will trust those guarantees is yet another open question.

In NYT parlance, apparently, daily flights across the border with sonic booms over populated areas for a period of years constitutes respect for the border. Steven Erlanger may be right to assert that Olmert’s objective was to preserve the idea of a two state solution, but surely everything he’s said and done shows that he will go to any length to avoid the idea becoming a reality. In any case, creating a sectarian non Jewish state alongside the sectarian Jewish state has never been a solution to anything.

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