06 March 2008
Based in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Pepe Escobar writes The Roving Eye for Asia Times Online. He has reported from Iraq, Iran, Central Asia, US and China. He is the author of the recently published Red Zone Blues. Pepe is a regular analyst for The Real News Network.
And Saint Obama and Dame Clinton think...
March 6, 2008 12:01 AM
Gaza: Humanitarian situation worst since 1967
Amnesty International UK, CARE International UK, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Médecins du Monde UK, Oxfam, Save The Children UK and Trócaire.
Poverty and unemployment up, hospitals suffering 12 hour a day power cuts, water and sewage system close to collapse.
The humanitarian situation in Gaza is worse now than it's been at any time since the beginning of the Israeli occupation in 1967, according to a new report published today (6 March) by a coalition of leading humanitarian and human rights organisations. The weekend's upsurge in violence and human misery underlines the urgency of this report.
In their new joint report, the coalition - comprising Amnesty International, CARE International UK, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Médecins du Monde UK, Oxfam, Save The Children UK and Trócaire - warns that Israel's blockade of Gaza is a collective punishment of the entire Gazan civilian population of 1.5 million. The report concludes that the Israeli government's policy of blockade is unacceptable, illegal and fails to deliver security for Palestinians and Israelis alike.
Geoffrey Dennis, Chief Executive of CARE International UK said:
"The recent escalation in violence, both from rocket attacks and military strikes, will make life even more unbearable in Gaza. Unemployment has soared and 80% of people in Gaza are now dependent on food aid compared to 63% in 2006. Water and sewage infrastructure is on the point of total collapse. Unless the blockade ends now, it will be impossible to pull Gaza back from the brink of this disaster and any hopes for peace in the region will be dashed."
According to the report (list of key statistics in notes below), the blockade of Gaza has dramatically worsened levels of poverty and unemployment and has led to deterioration in education and health services. Over 1.1 million people are now dependent on food aid and of 110,000 workers previously employed in the private sector, 75,000 workers have now lost their jobs.
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
"Israel has the right and obligation to protect its citizens, but as the occupying power in Gaza it also has a legal duty to ensure that Gazans have access to food, clean water, electricity and medical care. Punishing the entire Gazan population by denying them these basic human rights is utterly indefensible. The current situation is man-made and must be reversed."
The coalition's 16 page report, "The Gaza Strip: A humanitarian implosion", urges the UK government and EU to press for a new strategy for Gaza. In particular, the report calls on the UK government to:
* Exert greater pressure on the Israeli government to open the crossings into Gaza and stop fuel and electricity cuts in order to stem the worsening humanitarian crisis.
* Help facilitate a process of Palestinian reconciliation that can lead to a credible and effective peace process with Israel.
* Abandon the failed policy of non-engagement and begin negotiations with all Palestinian parties, including Hamas.
The report calls on the Israeli Government and Palestinian armed groups to immediately cease all attacks against civilians. All unlawful attacks must stop: the Government of Israel should put an immediate end to disproportionate attacks in Gaza and Palestinian armed groups should immediately stop indiscriminate rocket attacks into southern Israel.
Christian Aid's Director, Daleep Mukarji, said: "The UK government should acknowledge that a new strategy is needed for Gaza. The current policy does not secure vital security for Israeli citizens, and even if it did the blockade policy would still be unacceptable and illegal. Humanitarian aid can help stave off total collapse but it will not provide a long-term solution. Gaza cannot become a partner for peace unless Israel, Fatah and the Quartet engage with Hamas and give the people of Gaza a future."
"The Gaza Strip: A humanitarian implosion" is a joint report from: Amnesty International UK, CARE International UK, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Médecins du Monde UK, Oxfam, Save the Children UK and Trócaire.
MEDIA BRIEFING: KEY GAZA STATISTICS
80% of families in Gaza currently rely on food aid compared to 63% in 2006. This amounts to approximately 1.1 million people (OCHA, 2007).
In 2007, households were spending approximately 62% of their total income on food compared with 37% in 2004 (WFP, 2007).
During the period of May-June 2007 alone, commodity prices for wheat flour, baby milk, and rice rose 34%, 30% and 20.5% respectively (WFP, 2007).
During the period June-September 2007, the number of households in Gaza earning less than $1.2 per person per day soared from 55% to 70% (WFP, 2007).
In September 2000, some 24 000 Palestinians crossed out of Gaza everyday to work in Israel (World Bank, 2006). Today that figure is zero.
Unemployment in Gaza is close to 40 percent in Gaza and is set to rise to 50 percent (OCHA, 2007).
In the months before the blockade began around 250 trucks a day entered Gaza through Sufa with supplies, now it is only able to accommodate a maximum of 45 trucks a day. In most cases, this number is barely reached.
95% of Gaza's industrial operations are suspended due to the ban on imported raw materials and the block on exports (World Bank, 2007).
40-50 million litres of sewage continues to pour into the sea daily (Oxfam, 2008).
As a result of fuel and electricity restrictions, hospitals are currently experiencing power cuts lasting for 8-12 hours a day. There is currently a 60-70 percent shortage reported in the diesel required for hospital power generators.
18.5% of patients seeking emergency treatment in hospitals outside Gaza in 2007 were refused permits to leave (WHO, 2007).
The proportion of patients given permits to exit Gaza for medical care decreased from 89.3% in January 2007 to 64.3% in December 2007, an unprecedented low (WHO, 2007).
During the period October-December 2007, WHO has confirmed the deaths of 20 patients, including 5 children (among people awaiting visas) (WHO, 2007).
On the campaign trail both Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have voiced support for Israel following its attack on Gaza. Obama said “The violence in Gaza is the result of Hamas’ decision to launch rocket attacks on Israeli civilians and Israel has a right to defend itself.” Clinton issued a similar statement saying “I deplore and condemn the Hamas rocket attacks on southern Israel, including the city of Ashkelon. Israel has the right to defend its citizens.”
05 March 2008
Ah, yes, the Bush administration's love of democracy is palpable, isn't it? Not that any Democrat that would be let anywhere near the White House would have done (or will do) anything differently.
Add one more impeachable offense to the list, by the way. Not that anyone cares.
Can you say, "US proxy war in the making?" We don't have the troops to attack, well, everyone but Colombia in Latin America, but maybe Uribe will do it for us? Real threat: not "dirty bombs" but alternative development models in Venezuela, Ecuador, Brazil, Chile....
03 March 2008
Gaza and Israel are on the brink of all-out war - before it's too late, let's raise a massive global outcry for a ceasefire to stop the violence and protect civilians:
bloody full-scale invasion, or a cease-fire. With rockets raining down on both sides, Israel launched a ground assault into the Gaza Strip this weekend. Three Israelis and over a hundred Palestinians, many of them civilians and children, lie dead already. The next 48 hours are crucial -- Israel's cabinet will discuss a larger invasion Wednesday. But Hamas floated a Gaza ceasefire months ago, and 64% of Israelis support the idea.
Both sides know they are in a battle for global legitimacy, and international opinion counts. We need a massive global outcry for a cease-fire now -- sign our new emergency petition below, then forward this message to friends and family. We will deliver our petition to senior Israeli and Palestinian leaders this week, as well as in a major billboard campaign:
This is not just a war but a growing humanitarian crisis. Last month we met with EU Middle East envoy Marc Otte and senior advisers in European member states to deliver our 100,000-strong call for an internationally-overseen opening of the Gaza crossings to break the siege of Gaza, and we have seen progress since from the international community.
But the crisis is escalating, and citizens on both sides are desperate for safety. Many experts believe that without a ceasefire to stabilize Gaza, there is no chance for achieving a comprehensive peace and a fair two-state deal. While the US still maintains no-one must talk to Hamas, Israel itself has begun to break that taboo. Public reports and our own contacts indicate that European and Arab officials now support a Gaza ceasefire, as does Palestinian President Abbas.
Like the Hezbollah-Israel war of 2006, this conflict is spinning out of control. Just as it did then, international pressure can help achieve a ceasefire today. The combatants take public opinion very seriously. So let's send a united global message to the warring parties to stop the violence -- sign the new petition and spread the word today:
With hope and determination,
Paul, Galit, Esra'a, Ricken, Ben, Graziela, Pascal and the whole Avaaz team
PS The UN has already called for both sides to cease all acts of violence -- the European Union, Turkey, Russia, the UK, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and many other states have joined the global chorus.
1. "Invasion or ceasefire?" Guardian news report on the Israeli debate:
2. The Times of London news report -- both sides claiming success, 110 dead:
Missiles now reaching the Israeli city of Ashkelon:
3. Reports differ about casualty counts from the weekend operation -- the IDF says 90% of those killed were militants, but respected Israeli human rights organisation Bt'selem reports that 54 of 106 Palestinians killed did not take part in the fighting:
4. 64% of Israelis support ceasefire talks with Hamas:
President Abbas wants to help broker such a ceasefire:
5. European and international policy shifting:
6. UN and EU call for an end to the violence:
Stephen Kinzer on US-Iranian Relations, the 1953 CIA Coup in Iran and the Roots of Middle East Terror
Kinzer interviewed on Democracy Now. Key quote:
[An attack on Iran is] more possible than you’d like to think. In a reality-based, fact-based policy environment in Washington, you’d think that the idea of attacking Iran would be off the agenda now. Not only is there no enthusiasm in the military for this, or even in the Defense Department civilian side, we’re very stretched in Iraq, obviously, and there doesn’t seem to be any public demand or urgency for it. In addition, we had this National Intelligence Estimate, which undercut what had been the principal argument for an attack, which was Iran is just about to develop a nuclear weapon and therefore we need a preemptive attack. Now, our sixteen intelligence agencies have issued this report saying, actually, no, they’re not developing a nuclear weapon nor have they been working on this project for at least five years. So, that also, you would think, would eliminate this possibility.
Unfortunately, though, I think the—first of all, the fact that the possibility is fading a little bit off the public agenda and public opinion is being kind of anaesthetized to this possibility increases the danger, because there doesn’t seem to be any public outcry or any outcry in Congress. Secondly, I think the National Intelligence Estimate might have perversely made the attack more likely in one sense. Before that estimate came out, the US’s policy was going to be: now we’re going to get the Security Council and the European Union to agree to really tight sanctions on Iran, because they’re about to develop a nuclear weapon. And we thought we were going to be able to do that because it was that urgent. But now, the reason why we said those sanctions were so urgent has been undercut by our own intelligence agency, so the sanctions option is more or less off the table. They’re not going to agree to sanctions now. And I think that might lead people in the White House to think, well, sanctions option isn’t there anymore; I guess bombing is the only option.
Here’s the nightmare argument that I could imagine being made inside the Oval Office. We had to suffer 9/11 because wimpy Clinton did not go over there and take care of that threat while it was gathering. There’s a threat gathering in Iran. It could be even more serious with millions killed in a nuclear bomb attack on the West. The next president won’t be able to carry out this drastic action for political reasons. But obeying the call of history, we’re going to realize we’ve got to take care of this threat before it grows out of hand.
I fear that some variation of this argument, particularly as the election approaches later this year, could lead us into a crazy adventure that’s not only going to set back the cause of democracy in Iran by a generation; strengthen the regime that we profess to detest; eliminate the entirely pro-American sentiment that now exists among the population of Iran; probably set off retaliation attacks by Iran on Israel and maybe states in the Persian Gulf; possibly result in the closing of the Strait of Hormuz, which Iran could do by just sinking a couple of tankers, and that’s 20 percent of the world’s oil right there; undoubtedly trigger a huge explosion of anti-American violence in Iraq, probably also in Afghanistan; and it would further destabilize Pakistan, which is already in upheaval. And I think throughout the Muslim world you’d see great upheaval.So you can foresee all these negative effects, but based on what we now know about the long-term effects of the last time we intervened in 1953, I think I could predict one thing; despite all those negative effects, we could predict: history suggests that the worst long-term effects of this operation would be ones that nobody can now imagine. That’s the lesson we learned from the aftermath of 1953. And that’s why that story of 1953 is now so relevant again as we’re preparing possibly for another attack.
A crazy state. From the Nation: "Crisis in Gaza? Not for Obama or Clinton."
Bottom line: neither candidate will say a word as people die in order to get votes. No other explanation.
More here: Over 112 Palestinians Killed in Five-Day Israeli Attack, Mohammed Omer Reports From Gaza
And Media Lens is all over the propaganda response, as per usual:
MEDIA ALERT: Israel’s Illegal Assault On The Gaza ‘Prison’Attacking The Prisoners
Israel has drawn international criticism for its latest series of onslaughts against the ‘prison’ of Gaza, the crowded home to 1.4 million Palestinians. Since last Wednesday (February 27), 112 Palestinians have died under Israeli air attacks and ‘incursions’ by Israeli troops. The dead include many women and children, such as four boys who had been out playing football and even babies killed in their homes. Last Saturday alone saw the deaths of 60 Palestinians under Israeli attacks. Three Israelis have died - one a civilian killed during a rocket attack by Hamas last Wednesday and, since then, two Israeli soldiers.
On February 29, Ron Prosor, Israel's ambassador to the UK, said on the BBC Today programme that:
“We've been restraining ourselves for a very, very long time. But we have a responsibility to defend our citizens. This is the context.” (BBC Radio 4 Today interview with Edward Stourton, Friday, February 29, 2008, 7.30 am;
The same day, a senior Israeli source threatened a “holocaust” in Gaza. Matan Vilnai, the deputy defence minister, warned:
"The more [rocket] fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, they (the Palestinians) will bring upon themselves a bigger holocaust because we will use all our might to defend ourselves." (BBC news online, ‘Israel warns of Gaza “holocaust”,’ February 29, 2008; http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7270650.stm)
The disconnect with the view of the Israeli public was stark: 64% support negotiations with Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza, in an attempt to bring about peace.
Palestinian Terrorism: The "Inevitable Consequence" Of Israeli Occupation.
Just before this latest escalation in violence, the newswire service Associated Press briefly flagged up a report on the Occupied Territories, commissioned by the UN. (Bradley S. Klapper, 'Report: Israeli occupation causes terror', Associated Press, Feb 26, 6:11 PM ET, published on Yahoo news website, http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080226/ap_on_re_mi_ea/un_israel&printer=1). It has since been ignored by the corporate media.
The report, authored by UN Special Rapporteur John Dugard, concludes that Palestinian terrorism is the "inevitable consequence" of Israeli occupation. While Palestinian terrorist acts are deplorable, "they must be understood as being a painful but inevitable consequence of colonialism, apartheid or occupation." Dugard, a South African professor of law, accuses the Israeli state of acts and policies consistent with all three. ('Human Rights Situation in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories', Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, John Dugard, United Nations Human Rights Council, A/HRC/7/17; http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G08/402/29/PDF/G0840229.pdf)
The report notes that Israel has attempted to justify its attacks and incursions as “defensive operations” aimed at preventing the launching of rockets into Israel. Dugard states clearly that “the firing of rockets into Israel by Palestinian militants without any military target, which has resulted in the killing and injury of Israelis, cannot be condoned and constitutes a war crime.”
But he also notes that “serious questions arise over the proportionality of Israel’s military response and its failure to distinguish between military and civilian targets. It is highly arguable that Israel has violated the most fundamental rules of international humanitarian law, which constitute war crimes.”
“Above all, the Government of Israel has violated the prohibition on collective punishment of an occupied people contained in article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”
In the days that followed, as killings and injuries rapidly rose under a massive Israeli assault, we could find not a single mention in any UK national newspaper of this important assessment by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Territories.
Exchange With BBC Radio 4 Presenter
On February 29, we wrote to Edward Stourton in response to his interview that morning with Ron Prosor, Israel's ambassador to the UK. First, we pointed out that Stourton had not challenged Prosor's erroneous assertion that Gaza could now run its own affairs following the withdrawal of Israeli military forces in 2005. Prosor claimed: "Israel disengaged completely out of Gaza more than two years ago" so that "the Palestinians would take responsibility, would run Gaza."
Indeed, the thrust of the BBC presenter’s own words, with multiple repetition of the loaded word "disengagement", was that Israel was no longer the occupying power in Gaza.
We pointed out, by contrast, the assessment of John Dugard: "it is clear that Israel remains the occupying Power as technological developments have made it possible for Israel to assert control over the people of Gaza without a permanent military presence."
We asked Stourton whether he was aware of this assessment. Moreover, as we saw above, Dugard had observed that Palestinian terrorism was the “inevitable consequence” of Israeli occupation. We asked why the Today programme had not addressed Dugard’s important new report. On the same day, Stourton responded, but only to the first point:
“This is such a difficult area to get right and I always welcome constructive comments - so thank you for your thoughts. I suppose the only point I would make is that if you challenge every statement in an interview like that it can get a bit arid.”
A similar email to Jeremy Bowen, the BBC’s Middle East news editor, about the corporation’s serious omission, went unanswered.
Stourton’s response was standard for the BBC - friendly, well-meaning but ultimately vacuous. By contrast, in 2004, Tim Llewellyn, the BBC's Middle East Correspondent in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, blew a loud whistle on the deep bias in BBC reporting:
“Watching a peculiarly crass, inaccurate and condescending programme about the endangered historical sites of ‘Israel’ - that is to say, the Israeli-occupied Palestinian Territories - on BBC2 in early June 2003, I determined to try to work out, as a former BBC Middle East correspondent, why the Corporation has in the past two and a half years been failing to report fairly the most central and lasting reason for the troubles of the region: the Palestinians' struggle for freedom.”
He described some of his conclusions:
“In the news reporting of the domestic BBC TV bulletins, ‘balance‘, the BBC's crudely applied device for avoiding trouble, means that Israel's lethal modern army is one force, the Palestinians, with their rifles and home-made bombs, the other ‘force‘: two sides equally strong and culpable in a difficult dispute, it is implied, that could easily be sorted out if extremists on both sides would see reason and the leaders do as instructed by Washington...
“When suicide bombers attack inside Israel the shock is palpable. The BBC rarely reports the context, however. Many of these acts of killing and martyrdom are reprisals for assassinations by Israel's death squads, soldiers and agents who risk nothing as they shoot from helicopters or send death down a telephone line. I rarely see or hear any analysis of how many times the Israelis have deliberately shattered a period of Palestinian calm with an egregious attack or murder. ‘Quiet’ periods mean no Israelis died... it is rarely shown that during these ‘quiet’ times Palestinians continued to be killed by the score.” (See our Media Alert: http://www.medialens.org/alerts/04/040115_Ducking_Palestine_1.HTM)
This is the reality of a systematic BBC bias that works to suppress public awareness of the true gravity of Israel’s human rights abuses.
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 the following editors and ask them why they have not covered the latest assessment by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Territories; in particular that Palestinian terrorism is the “inevitable consequence” of Israeli occupation and that “the collective punishment of Gaza by Israel is expressly prohibited by international humanitarian law.”
Write to: Jeremy Bowen, the BBC’s Middle East news editor
Write to Helen Boaden, the BBC's news director
Write to Ian Romsey, ITN’s head of output
Write to Ian Black, the Guardian’s Middle East editor
Write to Katherine Butler, the Independent’s foreign editor
Please send a copy of your emails to us
This media alert will shortly be archived here:
02 March 2008
As with the last post, from Tikkun; see link in title above....
One of Noam Chomsky's latest books -- a conversation with David Barsamian -- is entitled What We Say Goes. It catches a powerful theme of Chomsky's: that we have long been living on a one-way planet and that the language we regularly wield to describe the realities of our world is tailored to Washington's interests.
Juan Cole, at his Informed Comment website, had a good example of the strangeness of this targeted language recently. When Serbs stormed the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade, he offered the following comment (with so many years of the term "Islamofascism" in mind): "…given that the Serbs are Eastern Orthodox Christians, will the Republican Party and Fox Cable News now start fulminating against 'Christofascism?'"
Of course, the minute you try to turn the Washington norm (in word or act) around, as Chomsky did in a piece entitled "What If Iran Had Invaded Mexico?", you've already entered the theater of the absurd. "Terror" is a particularly good example of this. "Terror" is something that, by (recent) definition, is committed by free-floating groups or movements against innocent civilians and is utterly reprehensible (unless the group turns out to be the CIA running car bombs into Baghdad or car and camel bombs into Afghanistan, in which case it's not a topic that's either much discussed, or condemned in our world). On the other hand, that weapon of terror, air power, which is at the heart of the American way of war, simply doesn't qualify under the category of "terror" at all -- no matter how terrifying it may be to innocent civilians who find themselves underneath the missiles and bombs.
It's with this in mind that Chomsky turns to terror of every kind in the Middle East in the context of the car bombing of a major figure in Lebanon's Hizbollah movement. By the way, The Essential Chomsky (edited by Anthony Arnove), a new collection of his writings on politics and on language from the 1950s to the present, has just been published and is highly recommended. Tom
The Most Wanted List: International Terrorism
By Noam Chomsky
On February 13, Imad Moughniyeh, a senior commander of Hizbollah, was assassinated in Damascus. "The world is a better place without this man in it," State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack said: "one way or the other he was brought to justice." Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell added that Moughniyeh has been "responsible for more deaths of Americans and Israelis than any other terrorist with the exception of Osama bin Laden."
Joy was unconstrained in Israel too, as "one of the U.S. and Israel's most wanted men" was brought to justice, the London Financial Times reported. Under the heading, "A militant wanted the world over," an accompanying story reported that he was "superseded on the most-wanted list by Osama bin Laden" after 9/11 and so ranked only second among "the most wanted militants in the world."
The terminology is accurate enough, according to the rules of Anglo-American discourse, which defines "the world" as the political class in Washington and London (and whoever happens to agree with them on specific matters). It is common, for example, to read that "the world" fully supported George Bush when he ordered the bombing of Afghanistan. That may be true of "the world," but hardly of the world, as revealed in an international Gallup Poll after the bombing was announced. Global support was slight. In Latin America, which has some experience with U.S. behavior, support ranged from 2% in Mexico to 16% in Panama, and that support was conditional upon the culprits being identified (they still weren't eight months later, the FBI reported), and civilian targets being spared (they were attacked at once). There was an overwhelming preference in the world for diplomatic/judicial measures, rejected out of hand by "the world."
Following the Terror Trail
In the present case, if "the world" were extended to the world, we might find some other candidates for the honor of most hated arch-criminal. It is instructive to ask why this might be true.
The Financial Times reports that most of the charges against Moughniyeh are unsubstantiated, but "one of the very few times when his involvement can be ascertained with certainty [is in] the hijacking of a TWA plane in 1985 in which a U.S. Navy diver was killed." This was one of two terrorist atrocities the led a poll of newspaper editors to select terrorism in the Middle East as the top story of 1985; the other was the hijacking of the passenger liner Achille Lauro, in which a crippled American, Leon Klinghoffer, was brutally murdered,. That reflects the judgment of "the world." It may be that the world saw matters somewhat differently.
The Achille Lauro hijacking was a retaliation for the bombing of Tunis ordered a week earlier by Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres. His air force killed 75 Tunisians and Palestinians with smart bombs that tore them to shreds, among other atrocities, as vividly reported from the scene by the prominent Israeli journalist Amnon Kapeliouk. Washington cooperated by failing to warn its ally Tunisia that the bombers were on the way, though the Sixth Fleet and U.S. intelligence could not have been unaware of the impending attack. Secretary of State George Shultz informed Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir that Washington "had considerable sympathy for the Israeli action," which he termed "a legitimate response" to "terrorist attacks," to general approbation. A few days later, the UN Security Council unanimously denounced the bombing as an "act of armed aggression" (with the U.S. abstaining). "Aggression" is, of course, a far more serious crime than international terrorism. But giving the United States and Israel the benefit of the doubt, let us keep to the lesser charge against their leadership.
A few days after, Peres went to Washington to consult with the leading international terrorist of the day, Ronald Reagan, who denounced "the evil scourge of terrorism," again with general acclaim by "the world."
The "terrorist attacks" that Shultz and Peres offered as the pretext for the bombing of Tunis were the killings of three Israelis in Larnaca, Cyprus. The killers, as Israel conceded, had nothing to do with Tunis, though they might have had Syrian connections. Tunis was a preferable target, however. It was defenseless, unlike Damascus. And there was an extra pleasure: more exiled Palestinians could be killed there.
The Larnaca killings, in turn, were regarded as retaliation by the perpetrators: They were a response to regular Israeli hijackings in international waters in which many victims were killed -- and many more kidnapped and sent to prisons in Israel, commonly to be held without charge for long periods. The most notorious of these has been the secret prison/torture chamber Facility 1391. A good deal can be learned about it from the Israeli and foreign press. Such regular Israeli crimes are, of course, known to editors of the national press in the U.S., and occasionally receive some casual mention.
Klinghoffer's murder was properly viewed with horror, and is very famous. It was the topic of an acclaimed opera and a made-for-TV movie, as well as much shocked commentary deploring the savagery of Palestinians -- "two-headed beasts" (Prime Minister Menachem Begin), "drugged roaches scurrying around in a bottle" (Chief of Staff Raful Eitan), "like grasshoppers compared to us," whose heads should be "smashed against the boulders and walls" (Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir). Or more commonly just "Araboushim," the slang counterpart of "kike" or "nigger."
Thus, after a particularly depraved display of settler-military terror and purposeful humiliation in the West Bank town of Halhul in December 1982, which disgusted even Israeli hawks, the well-known military/political analyst Yoram Peri wrote in dismay that one "task of the army today [is] to demolish the rights of innocent people just because they are Araboushim living in territories that God promised to us," a task that became far more urgent, and was carried out with far more brutality, when the Araboushim began to "raise their heads" a few years later.
We can easily assess the sincerity of the sentiments expressed about the Klinghoffer murder. It is only necessary to investigate the reaction to comparable U.S.-backed Israeli crimes. Take, for example, the murder in April 2002 of two crippled Palestinians, Kemal Zughayer and Jamal Rashid, by Israeli forces rampaging through the refugee camp of Jenin in the West Bank. Zughayer's crushed body and the remains of his wheelchair were found by British reporters, along with the remains of the white flag he was holding when he was shot dead while seeking to flee the Israeli tanks which then drove over him, ripping his face in two and severing his arms and legs. Jamal Rashid was crushed in his wheelchair when one of Israel's huge U.S.-supplied Caterpillar bulldozers demolished his home in Jenin with his family inside. The differential reaction, or rather non-reaction, has become so routine and so easy to explain that no further commentary is necessary.
Plainly, the 1985 Tunis bombing was a vastly more severe terrorist crime than the Achille Lauro hijacking, or the crime for which Moughniyeh's "involvement can be ascertained with certainty" in the same year. But even the Tunis bombing had competitors for the prize for worst terrorist atrocity in the Mideast in the peak year of 1985.
One challenger was a car-bombing in Beirut right outside a mosque, timed to go off as worshippers were leaving Friday prayers. It killed 80 people and wounded 256. Most of the dead were girls and women, who had been leaving the mosque, though the ferocity of the blast "burned babies in their beds," "killed a bride buying her trousseau," and "blew away three children as they walked home from the mosque." It also "devastated the main street of the densely populated" West Beirut suburb, reported Nora Boustany three years later in the Washington Post.
The intended target had been the Shi'ite cleric Sheikh Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, who escaped. The bombing was carried out by Reagan's CIA and his Saudi allies, with Britain's help, and was specifically authorized by CIA Director William Casey, according to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward's account in his book Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA. Little is known beyond the bare facts, thanks to rigorous adherence to the doctrine that we do not investigate our own crimes (unless they become too prominent to suppress, and the inquiry can be limited to some low-level "bad apples" who were naturally "out of control").
A third competitor for the 1985 Mideast terrorism prize was Prime Minister Peres' "Iron Fist" operations in southern Lebanese territories then occupied by Israel in violation of Security Council orders. The targets were what the Israeli high command called "terrorist villagers." Peres's crimes in this case sank to new depths of "calculated brutality and arbitrary murder" in the words of a Western diplomat familiar with the area, an assessment amply supported by direct coverage. They are, however, of no interest to "the world" and therefore remain uninvestigated, in accordance with the usual conventions. We might well ask whether these crimes fall under international terrorism or the far more severe crime of aggression, but let us again give the benefit of the doubt to Israel and its backers in Washington and keep to the lesser charge.
These are a few of the thoughts that might cross the minds of people elsewhere in the world, even if not those of "the world," when considering "one of the very few times" Imad Moughniyeh was clearly implicated in a terrorist crime.
The U.S. also accuses him of responsibility for devastating double suicide truck-bomb attacks on U.S. Marine and French paratrooper barracks in Lebanon in 1983, killing 241 Marines and 58 paratroopers, as well as a prior attack on the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, killing 63, a particularly serious blow because of a meeting there of CIA officials at the time.
The Financial Times has, however, attributed the attack on the Marine barracks to Islamic Jihad, not Hizbollah. Fawaz Gerges, one of the leading scholars on the jihadi movements and on Lebanon, has written that responsibility was taken by an "unknown group called Islamic Jihad." A voice speaking in classical Arabic called for all Americans to leave Lebanon or face death. It has been claimed that Moughniyeh was the head of Islamic Jihad at the time, but to my knowledge, evidence is sparse.
The opinion of the world has not been sampled on the subject, but it is possible that there might be some hesitancy about calling an attack on a military base in a foreign country a "terrorist attack," particularly when U.S. and French forces were carrying out heavy naval bombardments and air strikes in Lebanon, and shortly after the U.S. provided decisive support for the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, which killed some 20,000 people and devastated the south, while leaving much of Beirut in ruins. It was finally called off by President Reagan when international protest became too intense to ignore after the Sabra-Shatila massacres.
In the United States, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon is regularly described as a reaction to Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) terrorist attacks on northern Israel from their Lebanese bases, making our crucial contribution to these major war crimes understandable. In the real world, the Lebanese border area had been quiet for a year, apart from repeated Israeli attacks, many of them murderous, in an effort to elicit some PLO response that could be used as a pretext for the already planned invasion. Its actual purpose was not concealed at the time by Israeli commentators and leaders: to safeguard the Israeli takeover of the occupied West Bank. It is of some interest that the sole serious error in Jimmy Carter's book Palestine: Peace not Apartheid is the repetition of this propaganda concoction about PLO attacks from Lebanon being the motive for the Israeli invasion. The book was bitterly attacked, and desperate efforts were made to find some phrase that could be misinterpreted, but this glaring error -- the only one -- was ignored. Reasonably, since it satisfies the criterion of adhering to useful doctrinal fabrications.
Killing without Intent
Another allegation is that Moughniyeh "masterminded" the bombing of Israel's embassy in Buenos Aires on March 17, 1992, killing 29 people, in response, as the Financial Times put it, to Israel's "assassination of former Hizbollah leader Abbas Al-Mussawi in an air attack in southern Lebanon." About the assassination, there is no need for evidence: Israel proudly took credit for it. The world might have some interest in the rest of the story. Al-Mussawi was murdered with a U.S.-supplied helicopter, well north of Israel's illegal "security zone" in southern Lebanon. He was on his way to Sidon from the village of Jibshit, where he had spoken at the memorial for another Imam murdered by Israeli forces. The helicopter attack also killed his wife and five-year old child. Israel then employed U.S.-supplied helicopters to attack a car bringing survivors of the first attack to a hospital.
After the murder of the family, Hezbollah "changed the rules of the game," Prime Minister Rabin informed the Israeli Knesset. Previously, no rockets had been launched at Israel. Until then, the rules of the game had been that Israel could launch murderous attacks anywhere in Lebanon at will, and Hizbollah would respond only within Israeli-occupied Lebanese territory.
After the murder of its leader (and his family), Hizbollah began to respond to Israeli crimes in Lebanon by rocketing northern Israel. The latter is, of course, intolerable terror, so Rabin launched an invasion that drove some 500,000 people out of their homes and killed well over 100. The merciless Israeli attacks reached as far as northern Lebanon.
In the south, 80% of the city of Tyre fled and Nabatiye was left a "ghost town," Jibshit was about 70% destroyed according to an Israeli army spokesperson, who explained that the intent was "to destroy the village completely because of its importance to the Shi'ite population of southern Lebanon." The goal was "to wipe the villages from the face of the earth and sow destruction around them," as a senior officer of the Israeli northern command described the operation.
Jibshit may have been a particular target because it was the home of Sheikh Abdul Karim Obeid, kidnapped and brought to Israel several years earlier. Obeid's home "received a direct hit from a missile," British journalist Robert Fisk reported, "although the Israelis were presumably gunning for his wife and three children." Those who had not escaped hid in terror, wrote Mark Nicholson in the Financial Times, "because any visible movement inside or outside their houses is likely to attract the attention of Israeli artillery spotters, who… were pounding their shells repeatedly and devastatingly into selected targets." Artillery shells were hitting some villages at a rate of more than 10 rounds a minute at times.
All of this received the firm support of President Bill Clinton, who understood the need to instruct the Araboushim sternly on the "rules of the game." And Rabin emerged as another grand hero and man of peace, so different from the two-legged beasts, grasshoppers, and drugged roaches.
This is only a small sample of facts that the world might find of interest in connection with the alleged responsibility of Moughniyeh for the retaliatory terrorist act in Buenos Aires.
Other charges are that Moughniyeh helped prepare Hizbollah defenses against the 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, evidently an intolerable terrorist crime by the standards of "the world," which understands that the United States and its clients must face no impediments in their just terror and aggression.
The more vulgar apologists for U.S. and Israeli crimes solemnly explain that, while Arabs purposely kill people, the U.S. and Israel, being democratic societies, do not intend to do so. Their killings are just accidental ones, hence not at the level of moral depravity of their adversaries. That was, for example, the stand of Israel's High Court when it recently authorized severe collective punishment of the people of Gaza by depriving them of electricity (hence water, sewage disposal, and other such basics of civilized life).
The same line of defense is common with regard to some of Washington's past peccadilloes, like the destruction in 1998 of the al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan. The attack apparently led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people, but without intent to kill them, hence not a crime on the order of intentional killing -- so we are instructed by moralists who consistently suppress the response that had already been given to these vulgar efforts at self-justification.
To repeat once again, we can distinguish three categories of crimes: murder with intent, accidental killing, and murder with foreknowledge but without specific intent. Israeli and U.S. atrocities typically fall into the third category. Thus, when Israel destroys Gaza's power supply or sets up barriers to travel in the West Bank, it does not specifically intend to murder the particular people who will die from polluted water or in ambulances that cannot reach hospitals. And when Bill Clinton ordered the bombing of the al-Shifa plant, it was obvious that it would lead to a humanitarian catastrophe. Human Rights Watch immediately informed him of this, providing details; nevertheless, he and his advisers did not intend to kill specific people among those who would inevitably die when half the pharmaceutical supplies were destroyed in a poor African country that could not replenish them.
Rather, they and their apologists regarded Africans much as we do the ants we crush while walking down a street. We are aware that it is likely to happen (if we bother to think about it), but we do not intend to kill them because they are not worthy of such consideration. Needless to say, comparable attacks by Araboushim in areas inhabited by human beings would be regarded rather differently.
If, for a moment, we can adopt the perspective of the world, we might ask which criminals are "wanted the world over."
Noam Chomsky is the author of numerous best-selling political works. His latest books are Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy and What We Say Goes, a conversation book with David Barsamian, both in the American Empire Project series at Metropolitan Books. The Essential Chomsky (edited by Anthony Arnove), a collection of his writings on politics and on language from the 1950s to the present, has just been published by the New Press.
For an entire day, the Israel Defense Forces raised the level of hysteria in Israel by announcing they were preparing for the possibility that thousands of Gazans would try to break through the checkpoints. It is easy now for the army to say that the breakthrough did not occur only because of the warnings that Hamas would be held responsible for the blood that would be shed. But anyone who is attentive to the Palestinians as an occupied people rather than as "an intelligence objective" (which openly provided the information that women and children would demonstrate against the siege on Monday), was aware they did not have a plan to topple the barriers at the Erez and Karni crossing points.
The well-publicized army preparations had a racist subtext: Look how Hamas is prepared to send children and women to absorb the bullets. In other words, Hamas is indifferent to people's lives and can also set them in motion like pawns. But even the youngsters who two days ago threw stones at the Erez checkpoint walls, thus putting themselves in danger of being shot at and hit by the IDF, and who were arrested, did not do so because someone had "sent" them. In contrast to Israel, the Palestinians do not have compulsory military service. Everyone who puts himself in danger of dying in what appears to him and his society as the national struggle against the occupation, does so not because "the state" obliges him to do so and sends him but rather because that is what he chooses to do.
A young man from Beit Hanoun told me on the eve of the "breakthrough" that wasn't: "We know the army will shoot to kill, and that is why no one will take the risk." Only on Saturday, his relative, Mohammed Za'anin, aged 22, and two of his friends had been killed by an IDF missile. The IDF, of course, claimed they had been armed. An independent examination revealed that the three friends from their high school days - one a student, another a policeman and the third a bank employee - had gone out to smoke a narghile together and to prepare a late lunch for themselves and some friends in a hut in the shade of a field, about 1.2 km from the border.
It is not only the events of Monday that prove the hysteria was premature. Day after day, the checkpoints in the heart of the occupied West Bank prove that the Palestinians are forgoing, meanwhile, the option of a popular unarmed struggle against the siege. They wait in their masses for their turn to cross over, obediently - but with controlled and growing anger. They do not remove the hundreds of roadblocks that the IDF has set up between the villages and at the exits to the roads. That is because they are not suicidal. The Palestinians do not need warnings or reports to know the Israeli soldiers shoot the unarmed as well, and they also kill women and children.
The correct question is not whether and how the Palestinians are prepared to be killed but rather to what extent we Israelis are prepared to kill. The question is, if and when the Palestinians decide to claim their right to freedom of movement and to break through checkpoints en masse, will the order be to shoot at them with guns? First at their legs and then at their heads? Women, elderly people and babies? Or perhaps with cannons? And how many soldiers will not obey the order? Two, three or hundreds? Is there a quorum for the number of people who can be killed in one go, at the road blocks, that will extricate Israeli society from its indifference and its denial? Five or six? Hundreds of dead?