Monday, 24 December 2012

A wishful Christmas carol

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom,
it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope,
it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us,
we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way...
Dickens - A Tale of Two Cities

Hope springs eternal in the human breast, so it's been said. All joy, love and good spirit might we long for in our altruistic Christmas carol.

And, indeed, one does wish enduringly for that better world: of transcending the terror of war, economic privation, eco-extinction and the multiple other afflictions of market-militarist life.

Yet, invoking the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come, what ever really changes in the world of greed politics, corporate destruction and state violence?

'Wise of the West' still cometh

An American president returns to office with still not the slightest inclination towards serving humanity, far less his own country, by seeking to end brutal wars, drone killings or the wicked sanctions now bringing despair to innocent Iranians.

A punitive, hopeless occupation staggers on in Afghanistan. Iraq, conquered, packaged-up and now ridden with daily explosions, remains stuck in the dark ages. And life is now a post-traumatic nightmare for many of those now 'liberated' by Nato from Gaddafi's Libya.

The year also ends with Hillary 'we-came-we saw-he-died' Clinton, David Cameron and the rest of the gun-totin' 'international community' announcing their extended services to the Syrian 'rebels' while warning darkly of Assad's chemical weapons 'threat'.

The absent evidence of any such 'intent' is but a pedantic detail to the more immediate political and media demonisation of another selective foe.

And so the case for this more difficult of 'liberal interventions' ratchets up another notch, despite clear evidence of further rebel atrocities in this most intractable of civil wars.

As Seumas Milne notes:
"You might imagine the multiplication of such incidents and the advance of fundamentalist groups in Syria would give western governments reason to pause before bolstering their support for the rebels. But in fact that's exactly why they insist they need to step up their involvement. David Cameron told parliament this week that there was now a "strategic imperative" to act because the Syrian war (which the west and its Gulf allies have been fuelling) is "empowering al-Qaida-linked extremists". There is an "opportunity", he says, for Britain, the US and autocratic regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan to "shape" the Syrian opposition."
As Milne concludes, the West and its proxies show no appetite for mediation in a war that no side can actually win. Instead, of 'necessary intervention', it's, like Libya, another zero-sum commitment to more violence and massacres.

Holy land's unholy killing
 
It's another year when the same Western posse sat dutifully alongside Obama as Israel once again pulverised Gaza

While Syrian state violence was soundly denounced, Israeli state murder was continuously and quietly approved.

Nor could Obama or the UK bring themselves to support that most basic proposition of Palestine as an observer state at the UN.

Even the subsequent Israeli declaration of 3000 more illegal settler homes in East Jerusalem merited no more than an ambassadorial wrist-slap from Britain and a few Euro others.

How the European Union prided itself in collecting the Nobel Peace Prize while allowing Netanyahu and the 'world's most moral army' to carry on its ethnic cleansing.

As another young Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli soldiers outside a Hebron holy site, there was no such cause for rejoicing across a still brutally occupied West Bank.

Behind the big wall of Israel that cuts off the little town of Bethlehem, the repression carries relentlessly on.

Even an Israeli embassy, it seems, could find no other Christmas overture to Palestinians of the nativity town than a scurrilous message of hate.

Fittingly, Bush, Blair and other war crime associates remain banned from the Church of the Nativity.

Season of darkness

The carols may also carry a sombre tone back in the US, as the year culminates in yet another school massacre, the multiple victims this time twenty small children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

As Michael Moore reiterated after America's last major shooting, it's a timely reminder of that country's insane gun culture - or is 'timely' even relevant anymore given the depressing frequency and likely repetition of such killings?

But, as Moore suggests, there's something much more disturbing at work here.

These killing sprees denote, for those who care to look, or look to care, a society itself deeply disfigured by violence; like the scarred child who grows up in a violent household coming to see violence as somehow natural.

And how is that violence 'normalized' in the mind of the average American, not just the brooding proto-killer?

Besides all the usual exposure to cultural gore, might it also be something to do with the violence of US foreign policy, that country's perennial warmongering and ransacking of other lands, its bullying removal of awkward leaders?

Might it be linked with the brutality of capital punishment and America's other savage ideas of penal 'correction'?

Could it also, somehow, be reflective of the wider do-or-die message of selfish corporate life?

Is it just the lone 'shooters' who are psychopathic or the entire system?  Which, if the latter, explains why, despite Obama's tears for the school victims, despite lofty promises of 'swift action', there's little serious prospect of guns being comprehensively removed from American households.

That's not just due to the power of the NRA gun lobby or right-wing proclamations of 'reserved liberties'. It's because the state itself and the corporate system it serves works on the inviolable rights of property, rather than human beings, with all the violent containment and industry of death that entails.

From locking-up mass numbers of Americans to the torturing of 'militant suspects' in macabre dungeons, from serial renditioning to the beastly incarceration of moral whistleblower Bradley Manning, all 'problems', it seems, have to be addressed, rationalised and 'resolved' through the prism of repression, vengeance and violence.

There's simply nothing that promotes equanimity, humility, peaceful engagement, the core ideals of dialogue, negotiation and wholesome resolution.

As with Clinton's crowing laughter after the execution of Gaddafi, we saw how Obama and his political-military circle gazed approvingly as Navy Seal operatives moved in, apparently live on camera, to murder Osama bin Laden. Recall, likewise, how pumped-up people celebrated openly on Times Square, chanting "USA, USA".

The unashamed gloating over this and other extrajudicial killings tell us much about how that state-approved violence filters down to the American public.

Predatory angels 

Beyond all the caressing words, Obama is himself an executive killer. And, as with his brutal directives against foreign peoples and urgings for violent execution, any grievance, as the school shooter seemingly had with some teachers and his mother, must be effected and 'resolved' with firepower.

The politicians and media lament Adam Lanza, this 'delinquent loner' sitting in a backroom plotting his killing spree. Yet, think of America's Predator drone operations, where anonymous uniforms crouch before computerised screens, pressing buttons to kill people half way around the world.

And make no mistake about the selection of targets: the US military, overseen by Obama, Commander-in-Chief, specifically approves the murder of children.

As revealed in disclosures about Obama's "Terror Tuesday" meetings, this is a president and his cabal operating well beyond any supposed rule of law:
From torture at CIA black site prisons and Abu Ghraib abuses to extraordinary renditions, from TSA body scanners and warrantless wiretaps to the PATRIOT Act, Americans have failed to be outraged by the government's repeated violations of the rule of law [...]

The New York Times' recent revelation that President Obama, operating off a government "kill list," has been personally directing who should be targeted for death by military drones (unmanned aerial assault vehicles) merely pushes us that much closer to that precipitous drop-off to authoritarianism. Should we fail to recognize and rectify the danger in allowing a single individual to declare himself the exception to the rule of law and assume the role of judge, jury, and executioner, we will have no one else to blame when we plunge once and for all into the abyss that is tyranny [...]

Declaring Obama's actions "without precedent in presidential history," the New York Times describes a process whereby every few weeks, Obama and approximately a hundred members of his national security team gather for their "Terror Tuesday" meetings in which they hand pick the next so-called national security "threat" to die by way of the American military/CIA drone program. Obama signs off personally on about a third of the drone strikes: all of the ones in Yemen and Somalia, and the risky ones in Pakistan [...]

Indeed, Obama's first authorized drone attack in Yemen led to the deaths of 14 women and 21 children, and only one al Qaeda affiliate. Incredibly, the government actually justifies these civilian deaths by suggesting that the individuals must be "militants" or "combatants" simply because of their proximity to the target.
In a society where its own president is driven by fear, paranoia and security psychosis, is it any wonder that the sale of public guns soared in the wake of Newtown? Obama is not, as many arms righters worry, some 'un-American' advocate of gun control, he's a model exponent of gun law.

In a particularly acute analysis, Glenn Greenwald unravels some of the darkest reasons why Obama and Americans at large can weep in deep sincerity over Newtown while feeling little empathy or interest in the murder of Muslim children in foreign lands:
But there are nonetheless two key issues highlighted by the intense grief for the Newtown victims compared to the utter indifference to the victims of Obama's militarism. The first is that it underscores how potent and effective the last decade's anti-Muslim dehumanization campaign has been.
Every war - particularly protracted ones like the "War on Terror" - demands sustained dehumanization campaigns against the targets of the violence. Few populations will tolerate continuous killings if they have to confront the humanity of those who are being killed. The humanity of the victims must be hidden and denied. That's the only way this constant extinguishing of life by their government can be justified or at least ignored. [...]
The violence and rights abridgments of the Bush and Obama administrations have been applied almost exclusively to Muslims. It is, therefore, Muslims who have been systematically dehumanized. Americans virtually never hear about the Muslims killed by their government's violence. They're never profiled. The New York Times doesn't put powerful graphics showing their names and ages on its front page. Their funerals are never covered. President Obama never delivers teary sermons about how these Muslim children "had their entire lives ahead of them - birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own." That's what dehumanization is: their humanity is disappeared so that we don't have to face it. 
But this dehumanization is about more than simply hiding and thus denying the personhood of Muslim victims of US violence. It is worse than that: it is based on the implicit, and sometimes overtly stated, premise that Muslims generally, even those guilty of nothing, deserve what the US does to them, or are at least presumed to carry blame. 
And when we think of such dehumaniztion and the victim "bug-splats" - so goes their cruel terminology - take some time also to reflect on Israel's similar callous conduct and the indifference of many of its citizens to Palestinian suffering.

So many Palestinian children have been snuffed-out in this casual manner, whether by Spot and Shoot joystick operators along Gaza's militarised fence or by missiles from F-16 planes blowing them to bits.

Like Obama's disregard for the children murdered by drones in Pakistan, Yemen and other 'far-off' places, where's the tears and memorials for them?

Tales of two cities and Oliver's twists

All of which dark surveillance and cold detachment marks the same psychopathic phantom we benignly call the corporation.

Akin to the school shooter, corporate forces act ruthlessly, in a manner utterly uncaring of people or their suffering. As with the violent taking of others' land and resources through bombing or other subterfuge, 'free-market' interests are violently rampaging their way to profit.

All across the globe, from Wall Street to the City of London, mammonic greed and financial imperatives prevail, crushing the lowly, wiping out lives.

So passes another year of rampant, class-driven austerity in Britain as George Gideon Oliver Osborne, Cameron's Etonian chum, continues to purge the poor and most vulnerable for the greed and chaos of the bankers. 
 
Despite supposed 'clawbacks', city bankers still enjoy hefty bonuses, while those in cuts-ridden cities languish in poverty, with record numbers of people, including those in work, now in desperate need of food banksDickens himself would be appalled.

There are now widespread reports from many UK cities of starving children stealing bread from supermarkets just to survive.

In another piece of cruel Dickensian legislation, the ConDem government have also ordered disabled people to take compulsory jobs, all part of the grovel-for-your-gruel workhouse ethic that passes these days for a welfare system. 

In the city of Glasgow, as with many others, there's the ongoing scandal of divided life expectancies; a postcode lottery of relative wealth, health and survival.
 
Bleak House it certainly is for many:
"The reality of real poverty can be witnessed all over Glasgow this Christmas. The people who will suffer from its worst effects are simply, in the eyes of our chancellor, the people who live under the stairs. To him, they are beyond consideration while the Labour party long ago abandoned them. [...]

This Christmas in Glasgow’s East End hundreds of mothers will face a dehumanising dilemma. They must choose either to disconnect their gas or electricity supplies so that they can feed their children. Some of them will try to predict from weather bulletins what day will be the coldest of the week and may aim to sleep the entire family in a single heated room that night."
None amongst Osborne's privileged class of city gents and grasping bankers, we can be sure, will be facing that kind of economic chill and worry this Christmas.

A worried FBI memorandum on Frank Capra's famous Christmas film It's a Wonderful Life once warned of its 'subversive' message, fearing that it:
"represented rather obvious attempts to discredit bankers by casting Lionel Barrymore as a "scrooge-type" so that he would be the most hated man in the picture [...] a common trick used by Communists. In addition, [redacted] stated that, in his opinion, this picture deliberately maligned the upper class, attempting to show the people who had money were mean and despicable characters. [...] In summary, [redacted] stated that it was not necessary to make the banker such a mean character [...]"
What kind of similar concerns, one wonders, are being recorded by the current agencies of social control as pariah bankers, city overlords and their political servants continue to scrooge society's most exposed?

And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

Still, just to help us stay collectively cheery this festive time, knowing that we're all one and together in the doomsday stakes, there's always the looming prospect of a planetary collapse - a real earth crisis, that is, rather than the much misinterpreted Mayan one.

Four years and counting.

Reflecting again on the massacre at Newtown, one is struck by the cold indifference of the psychopathic shooter; how he had no apparent feeling or empathy for his victims. Likewise with political crazies like Netanyahu as - still safe and protected, rather than dead or imprisoned - he surveyed the latest massacre of Gaza.

One is reminded of the same casual indifference to humanity when corporations and politicians wantonly approve the massacring of the planet.

Ministers have, for example, just fired-off a policy directive permitting mass gas fracking across the UK, surely understanding the devastating consequences. It's like pumping more and more bullets into the victim without any seeming care or feeling.

And while the political and corporate assassins continue their murderous eco-crimes, a liberal class stands idly by in complicit silence. As David Cromwell of Media Lens laments:
"One of the biggest failures of the liberal class has been its inability to see, far less challenge, the inherently destructive and psychopathic nature of corporations. [...]

In September, senior NASA climate scientist James Hansen had warned of a ‘planetary emergency’ because of the dangerous effects of Arctic ice melt, including methane gas released from permafrost regions currently under ice. ‘We are in a planetary emergency,’ said Hansen, decrying ‘the gap between what is understood by scientific community and what is known by the public.’As ever, the latest UN Climate Summit in Doha was just another talking shop that paid lip service to the need for radical and immediate action in curbing greenhouse gas emissions in the face of climate chaos. [...]

The failure of the liberal class to rein in, or seriously challenge, corporate power is typified by this appalling gap between climate change rhetoric and reality."
All too typically, a Guardian editorial urges us to do our "patriotic duty" and get out there shopping for the economy.  Any dutiful consideration of the environment goes, of course, unmentioned.

Yet, as the polar ice melts and the atmosphere warms, might we take some comfort from the more resilient weathering of the human spirit?

Even as the planet succumbs to insatiable corporate forces, it's still a wonderful life when we remember those much richer human resources that people continue to uphold, rather than kill for, in rejection of violence, greed, hate and fear. Thus could Robbie Parks, father of one of the children killed in the Newtown school, still find some compassion to include the family of Adam Lanza in his comforting thoughts.

The admirable capacity for consideration of suffering others, even at times of personal loss, economic fear or other life anxiety stands in stark contrast to the malevolence, self-grabbing and unforgiving nature of our political-corporate disorder.  It may be our last hope of earthly salvation.
 
And, finally, as corporations and market forces continue to trash human lives with neoliberal rules and consumer debris this Christmas, here's a remarkable story from a Paraguay landfill site where poverty-stricken people are turning that trash around through inventive craftsmanship and musical resistance. What inspiring humanity.

With a kindly nod to John Winston Lennon (who returned his MBE in rejection of empire, establishment and the fall of Cold Turkey down the charts) even if war on the poorest, the weakest and the weapons-inflicted children is far from over:

 

Monday, 3 December 2012

Palestine, the UN vote and Israeli 'responses'

While the UN's qualified recognition of Palestinian statehood changes little and may even have some regressive effects, it's a welcome landmark in popularising the Palestinian cause, further isolating Israel and shaming its diminishing band of state backers.

The UN vote to upgrade Palestine to observer state was carried overwhelmingly, with 139 states for, 9 against (Canada, Czech Republic, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Nauru, Palau, Panama, United States) and 41 abstentions (including the UK, Germany and Australia).

Although the vote was not for full state membership, it's telling that Israel acted so vehemently in seeking to deny Palestine even this modicum of enhanced standing.

Israel's bitter 'response' to the vote: that it will proceed with building another 3000 houses, thus realising a contiguous link between East Jerusalem and its West Bank settlements.

In summoning the Israeli ambassador, the UK is, apparently, now:
"furious at Israel's decision to take punitive measures in response, including the authorisation of the 3,000 new settler homes and the development of land east of Jerusalem known as E1 for construction. A Foreign Office spokesperson said on Monday: "We deplore the recent Israeli government decision to build 3,000 new housing units and unfreeze development in the E1 block. This threatens the viability of the two-state solution."
Leaving aside its negation of the Palestine bid, Britain's belated 'fury', we can be sure, lies not in any proactive support for the Palestinians but in the discomfort it feels in Israel having upset its default posture of a 'peace processing' 'two-state solution'.

Likewise, Hillary Clinton's muted 'criticism' of the announcement only confirms Washington's own window-dressing and resilient loyalty to a state acting, like the US, as a law unto itself.

As with Israel's previous disregard for such 'warnings', there's a reasonable certainty that this latest illegal construction would have proceeded anyway, with or without the UN vote.

So, while helping to garner global awareness and public support, does the UN's ratification amount to any real advancement of the Palestinian case on the ground?

Again, in terms of the physical occupation/siege, it solves nothing: Israel, as we see from the ongoing expansion, remains in total control.

However, it does alter the political/legal configuration of the issue, as in the new fact that one state, Israel, is now occupying another state, rather than a 'territory', albeit a state with only observer standing.

Moreover, that observer status now permits Palestinian participation in various UN bodies and, more significantly, the International Criminal Court, a more acute concern for Israel, the US and UK.

As Francis Boyle (professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law) specifies: "This can be the start of a ‘Legal Intifadah’":
1. “Palestine can join the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court and file a Complaint with the ICC against the illegal settlements and settlers, who are committing war crimes;
2. “Palestine can join the Statute for the International Court of Justice, sue Israel at the World Court, and break the illegal siege of Gaza;
3. “Palestine can join the Law of the Sea Convention and get its fair share of the enormous gas fields lying off the coast of Gaza, thus becoming economically self-sufficient;
4. “Palestine can become a High Contracting Party to the Four Geneva Conventions [this deals with the laws of war];
5. “Palestine can join the International Civil Aviation Organization and gain sovereign, legal control over its own airspace;
6. “Palestine can join the International Telecommunications Union and gain sovereign legal control over its own airwaves, phone lines, bandwidths.”
Norman Finkelstein argues, in similar vein, that the UN vote represents a significant milestone in the Palestinians' legal standing, a key advancement realised by adhering to "the baseline of international law" - unlike Israel's modus operandi, which is to openly dismiss and flout it.

Yet, while acknowledging these new legal openings and gathering global support for Palestine, Ali Abinimah has strong doubts about the overall worth of the 'upgrade', believing that it merely confirms Palestinians' lowly aspirations in yielding to far less than a full rights agenda, while serving to prop-up a quisling Abbas and his Palestinian Authority.

In the wake of the latest attacks on Gaza, the strong European turn in support of this latest Palestinian bid can also be read as such countries registering their 'concerns' without having to engage in any more serious censure of Israel. It's also something of a rearguard nod to the 'moderate Abbas' rather than having to extend any kind of conciliatory hand towards Hamas.

Hamas's own declaration of support for the UN bid, reflecting its onward rapprochement with Fatah, suggests other valid concerns about a possible watering-down of Palestinian rights.

Joseph Massad also warns that the vote risks abrogating key Palestinian rights, authenticating Israel's racist colonial state and effectively handing over negotiating/spokesperson powers from the PLO to the PA.

As Massad notes, beyond all the claims being made for 'statehood', the principal issue of basic Palestinian rights  - notably, the right of return - is still uppermost for most Palestinians. And any realisation of that, as Ali Abunimah correctly asserts, will require a much more sustained agenda of internal Palestinian resistance and international solidarity.

Yet, despite these valid reservations over the UN 'victory', one can still take some encouragement from the actual vote. As Jonathan Cook (at his public facebook page) notes:
The UN vote in favour of the Palestinians is a small moment of triumph against Israeli bullying that should be celebrated. Observer status may mean little in practice, at least in the short term, but it marks a notable shift in the world community's acceptance of Palestinian rights, a trend that will continue to accelerate. It also complicates Israel's relations with the Palestinians, particularly on the issues of the settlements and war crimes, that may benefit the Palestinians over the longer term.
Despite Israel's vociferous hostility to the resolution and America's 'warning' that it 'sets back a negotiated peace', the vote represents a very public endorsement of Palestinian rights. In the wake of the latest travesty against Gaza, it's another ringing rebuke to Israel, the US and 'pragmatic' abstainers like the UK.

Israel's decision to withhold Palestinian tax revenues also helps expose its full vengeful nature - as does the deeply hateful and racist outpourings of Israel's own UNICEF 'peace ambassador' Judy Salom Nir-Mozes.

With typical chutzpah, Israel's UN ambassador Ron Prosor twisted the UN defeat thus:
"A defeat for Israel? I see it differently. The Arabs have an automatic majority at the UN. Only 87 of the 193 members of the UN are countries defined as democracies. In other words, more than 100 members of the UN are countries living under repressive regimes."
Might it ever occur to the 'maligned' Prosor that his is one of the most repressive, apartheid-driven regimes on earth, stealing ever-more land, starving and bombing Gazans into submission and denying basic democratic rights to its Arab 'citizens'?

In stark contrast to Israel's own selective 'democracy' and contempt for international law, the Palestinian win at the UN will be seen, in world opinion, as the actions of a courageous underdog standing up to a cocky bully and its playground protectors. Whatever long and difficult task ahead in breaking the occupation and realising true Palestinian rights, the value of such moral and popular publicity should not be underestimated.

John

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Palestinian UN bid - under Britain's preconditioned wing


Whatever the outcome of the Palestinian UN bid today, we can take great comfort from the benevolent concerns of UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and Britain's long-standing efforts to help achieve a just resolution of the Palestine-Israel conflict.

The selfless manner in which our country countenances restraint from awkward Palestinian preconditions - like seeking to join the International Criminal Court - that would jeopardise Israel's sincere commitment to the peace process is nothing short of inspiring.
 
And when that liberating day of a two-state, free bantustanised West Bank/Gaza/East Jerusalem does finally arrive, with none of those messy removal of settlements or international war crime worries burdening Israel, we can look back and give thanks to Mr Hague and the UK for mediating heartfelt Israeli-US anxieties and keeping those pushy Palestinians on the straight and narrow.  
 
Sometimes I just feel so proud to be British.
 
John  

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Gaza: essential street reading

Informing the street: key truths on Gaza from
Jonathan Cook, Media Lens and Seumas Milne

Media Lens alert and email to Jonathan Freedland

Another defining piece on Gaza from Media Lens, noting the double standards of 'weary' liberals, 'armchair warriors' and other evasive journalists.

A short letter, by way of response, to the Guardian's Jonathan Freedland:

Dear Jonathan Freedland

On the case for 'humanitarian intervention' in Libya in 2011, you wrote: ‘Though the risks are very real, the case for intervention remains strong.’

In considering the ruthless assault on Gaza, resulting in 158 dead - mostly civilians, including 30 children - and over a thousand injured, you state: ‘I feel it myself, a deep fatigue with this struggle, with the actions of both sides’.

Leaving aside the spurious claims made by Nato over Libya and the indecent haste with which so many liberal writers endorsed them, I wonder if you can find the intellectual depth to recognise the gross double standards at play here? Moreover, does it not dishonour the dead, injured and traumatised of Gaza to read of your 'deep fatigue' over 'the actions of both sides'?

In addition to the latest worthy indictment from Media Lens, perhaps you might also reflect on Seumas Milne's fine piece It's Palestinians who have the right to defend themselves, which, in stark contrast to your own 'weary' feelings and 'two sides' narrative, takes readers to the essential heart of this painful and prolonged issue: Israel's oppression of an occupied and besieged people?

In many ways, output like yours is much worse than standard reactionary support for Israel. For its 'middle-moderated' take and liberal gravitas helps authenticate the 'equal castigation' and 'two-sides-to-blame' line, thus offering that more vital cover for Israel's primary guilt and fabrications.

As Desmond Tutu succinctly puts it:

"If you are neutral in situations of justice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."

It would be good to read your responses to Media Lens.

Kind regards
John Hilley

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Israel's last day killing spree

As an uneasy truce holds over Gaza today, evidence unfolds of the particularly wilful carnage inflicted yesterday by Israel.

The object, we may assume: kill as many Palestinian civilians as possble before the ceasefire comes into effect.

As detailed by Chris McGreal from Gaza City:
The doctors, the ambulance drivers, the human rights monitors all said it was one of the worst days. But no one could be sure just how bad until the reports from the morgues, or of funerals held without fanfare, or of the recovery of another body from under the rubble, dribbled in.

By Wednesday afternoon, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) was reporting 31 Palestinians killed in the Israeli assault over the previous 24 hours – 21 of them civilians – in perhaps the worst bloodletting yet of the military campaign against Gaza.

And even as a ceasefire was announced on Wednesday evening, the bombs and missiles were still falling and the death toll rising with a strike in the south of the enclave that killed two men on motorcycles, and bodies were still being pulled from a bombed Gaza City government complex.

The latest victims included Ibrahim Mahmoud Nasser Abu Nasser, 80, and his 14-year-old grandson, Ameera, who were cropping olive trees in Abassan village to the east of Khan Yunis refugee camp when a missile shot from the sky killed them both.

There were the two 16-year-olds – Mahmoud Khalil al-Arja and Ibrahim Ahmed Hamad – who died in an air strike near the southern Gaza border. Ambulance men could not reach their bodies for hours because of the continuing air assault.

Adding to the tally was 14-year-old Ahmed Awadh Abu Olayan, who died of wounds sustained on the first day of the Israeli attack on Gaza.

The Palestinian health ministry puts the total death toll at more than 150, although officials concede they may not know about all of those killed. The PCHR says at least 90 of those are civilians, including about 30 children.
Why the need, any reasonable person will ask, for so much concentrated killing, knowing that a truce was ready to come into force?

As McGreal goes on, even the 'humanitarian warnings' had been cynically calculated:
But as the reports of the killings emerged, there was something more.

The places people died told that the assault by land, sea and air – delivered from tanks, huge naval guns, attack helicopters and fighter jets – had shifted more firmly towards the tightly packed neighbourhoods of Gaza City and small towns and refugee camps.

Those were the very places thousands of Palestinians had fled to after the Israeli military dropped leaflets warning people to get out of border areas to the north and east. In Khan Yunis refugee camp in the south, residents received phone calls with a similar warning to leave or risk harm from the missiles.

The UN Palestinian refugee agency said it was sheltering thousands of people in 13 schools it runs. They arrived by donkey carts and pick-up trucks piled with mattresses.

Dozens of strikes on Gaza City killed nine civilians, including two children. A plane hit two cars with a missile each. Five people died. The PCHR said they were all civilians.

Another missile struck a garden, killing a man and wounding his eight-year-old grandchild. About 15 minutes later, a plane fired a missile into a busy road, Baghdad Street. Four died, including an 18-year-old woman. Again, all were believed to be civilians.

Then there were the targets. The Israeli army said: "The sites that were targeted were positively identified by precise intelligence over the course of several months." But many seemed to have little military value. A football stadium blown to bits. The house of a bank director flattened. Media offices wrecked.
Such is the true psychopathic nature of 'the world's most moral army'. How cynically they snuff-out innocent lives simply to terrify and demonstrate Israel's 'superiority'.

As with the above article, much of the murder, destruction and trauma have been compassionately covered by on-the-ground correspondents, such as Channel 4's Alex Thomson. In one touching report, he revisits a little boy, Awadh, after filming him and other kids taking refuge from the bombing of a UN school:
 Now he’s home. He smiles, his flitting unfocused gaze transformed since yesterday when he sat, alone, banging his head on a school desk. He suffers a serious mental disability, but now on the doorstep of home his brother Mahmoud has an arm round him. Cousin Ihab is gently shelling peanuts and offering them. He is at home again, and at peace.
There was also some humanitarian words from BBC reporters Jon Donnison and Wyre Davies. Indeed, Davies may have strayed a little too uncomfortably from 'objective' text in saying:
What has shocked me most over the last eight days - during which I have reported exclusively from Gaza, with BBC colleagues complementing in Israel - is the appallingly high number of children killed and injured. I saw four children under the age of 10 buried amid the rubble of a house when it was hit by a huge Israeli missile. Israel initially acknowledged making a mistake, but later clarified its position, saying it meant to hit the house, but that its intended target - a senior Hamas commander - was not there. The four children and several other civilians were there and were killed.
Yet, even though the over 150 dead of Gaza have been charted, some Israeli claims questioned and heart-rending accounts of human suffering dispatched, BBC and other media 'interest' will now end, another 'upsurge' duly 'covered'. Gaza, overnight, the 'truce now holding', is no longer 'newsworthy'.

Despite examples of caring journalism, the BBC, in particular, leave behind their own 'collateral damage' of imbalanced headlines and other flagrant bias by language, omission and general deference to power.

As the excellent News Unspun site note:
Last night a ceasefire came into effect after a week of attacks on Gaza which left over 150 Palestinians dead (at least 40 of them children) and rocket fire into Israel which left 5 Israelis dead. Before the news of the ceasefire became the front-page headline on the BBC News website, the headline story for the entire day concerned the bus bombing in Tel Aviv, which injured 21 civilians. Luckily this attack did not result in civilian deaths, however it was still deemed more newsworthy than the 13 Palestinians in Gaza who were killed by air strikes that same day. The news coverage was another glaring example of the different value assigned to life by our media, depending on which side of the Gaza border it resides
Likewise, Davies's call for 'breaking the cycle of violence' steers well clear of identifying the West, and America in particular, as central players in facilitating Israel and perpetuating that cycle. That's where the real questioning of big power counts.

And while the murder of Gaza has been going on, let's not forget the brutal repression continuing across the West Bank through the shooting of protestors and mass arrests. As with its usual negation of daily brutality there, little of this has been reported by the BBC.

As the guns fall silent, one can claim a political and moral 'victory', of sorts, for the Palestinians in managing to resist Israel's massive firepower and realise strategic gains.  But, of course, there can be no real resolution of the overall situation for Gaza and the West Bank until the fundamental issue of the occupation is addressed. And that includes being critically addressed by the media.

Meanwhile, as Gazans bury their dead and try to repair their shattered buildings, they know that the current truce is only a likely interlude to further Israeli massacres.

As Alex Thomson concludes, it's still not a real peace, only a ceasefire:
"everything that was in place to begin the fighting remains there. And Gaza, its government and people remain in the open mass prison of the blockade."
John

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Gaza: twisted language and the right to resist

Eight more Palestinians have been killed today, Wednesday, as the death toll rises relentlessly in Gaza.

Two brothers have been killed as fearful Gazans endured another night of Israeli bombardment. Three Palestinian journalists are also dead after their car was blown up.

Last night on BBC News at Ten (20 Nov), amid scenes of devastation, Jeremy Bowen said of the killings:
"Now, I can't find much anger or sadness or even surprise about what's happened. That's partly because around here they've seen a lot of violent death. But also because in Gaza there is a strong culture of martyrdom."
But does, as Bowen crassly intimates, the 'glory of death' for Palestinians outweigh any other human emotion?

Similar insidious claims can be seen in dispatches from New York Times correspondent Judi Roderon:
"I've been surprised that when I talk to people who just lost a relative, or who are gathering belongings from a bombed-out house, they seem a bit ho-hum."
Are Palestinians predisposed to being 'less caring of life' or 'martyrs'?  Or are they just ordinary people who, subject to brutal occupation, want to live peaceful lives like anyone else?

Similar crude media presumptions and qualifications apply in portraying Israeli and Palestinian attacks. While the former is the prerogative of a 'state defending itself', the latter is 'militant provocation'.

The truth can be more prosaically stated: according to the United Nations and its legally-defined documents, Gaza is still an occupied territory.

All of which means that Palestinians, both in the West Bank and Gaza, have a legitimate right to defend themselves.

Seumas Milne puts it clearly in a fine defence of Palestinian rights:
"Despite Israel's withdrawal of settlements and bases in 2005, the Gaza Strip remains occupied, both effectively and legally – and is recognised as such by the UN. Israel is in control of Gaza's land and sea borders, territorial waters and natural resources, airspace, power supply and telecommunications. It has blockaded the strip since Hamas took over in 2006-7, preventing the movement of people, materials, and food supplies in and out of the territory – even calculating the 2,279 calories per person that would keep Gazans on an exemplary "diet". And it continues to invade the strip at will. So Gazans are an occupied people and have the right to resist, including by armed force (though not to target civilians), while Israel is an occupying power that has an obligation to withdraw – not a right to defend territories it controls or is colonising by dint of military power."
Among the Guardian's usual whitewash on this issue, Milne's article is a courageous reclaiming of the 'right to defence'.  Moreover, like him, one can see the core, rightful reasons for such Palestinian responses without necessarily accepting their practical or moral usefulness.  

The use of other generic language provides a vital means of disguising the issues.  For example, the word 'violence' itself here permits the impression of a 'generalised mayhem' which, from afar (notably, the west), denotes little more than an incomprehensible warring of two sides.

Another is the imbalanced use of the word 'fear'.

Take this typical line from a BBC story on a UK footballer feeling "scary" about playing in Israel while rockets are being fired from Gaza:
"More than 100 people have died in the Gaza Strip in six days of violence, Hamas officials say, with talks over a ceasefire ongoing to prevent more bloodshed."
At first glance, this seems fine. But why not say, more accurately: 'More than 100 people have been killed (if not murdered) in the Gaza Strip during six days of Israeli attacks'?

Again, what chance here of acknowledging the comparative fear, the much more scary anticipation in Gaza of death, injury, trauma and homelessness?

Might not the BBC have used the above story to mention the 13-year-old Palestinian boy killed by an Israeli shell while playing football in the street, a key part of the timeline events largely omitted by the BBC, which led to this latest upsurge?

An attack today on a Tel Aviv bus produced more examples of power-serving language. Unlike the Israeli 'strikes' visited on Gaza, this was a 'terror attack'.

Even in its seemingly 'straight-reporting', the words are loaded with assumptions of Israeli superiority.

Thus, the BBC's John Donnison tweets:
"If bus explosion confirmed as attack in Tel Aviv could be a game changer. #Gaza #Israel"
How revealing that journalists fall immediately into responsive line in seeing any attack on Israel as 'game changing'. This isn't, one suspects, just about reporting the possible 'reality' of Israel's 'heavy response' - as though their actions weren't already heavy - but something much deeper about being conditioned to regard any assault on Israel as 'more significant', 'more dangerous', more 'far-reaching' than the killing of Palestinians.

Why wasn't the atrocious murder of the entire Dalou family reported as a 'game changer' - or any self-examining discussion offered as to why it wasn't depicted as a 'game changer'?

Honest media reflection on those kind of questions would, of course, be career 'game over' for many journalists.

Ilan Pappe has talked of the resourcefulness of the Israeli PR machine in twisting and reconstituting the language for public consumption. Media language seems to follow in default mode.  One of the words Pappe would like to see banished from the narrative here, however difficult, is 'conflict'.

There is, he asserts, no truth in the standard notion of 'conflict' between Palestinians and Israel, a term which denotes equivalence and parity, disguising the line between occupied and occupier, between those transgressed against and outright aggressor.

Likewise, Hillary Clinton can fly into the region in 'support of a peace deal', declare her unequivocal support for Israel, denounce the bus bombing, ignore the ruthless killing of families in Gaza and still be treated by the media as an 'impartial' player seeking to 'stem the violence' and 'end the conflict'.

Thus, from the Guardian:
"The bombing comes as Hillary Clinton held meetings with Netanyahu and the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, in an effort to bring an end to the bloody conflict, after arriving in the region on Tuesday."
Where is the suggestion from the BBC, Guardian and others that Clinton is not an unblemished person of peace, trying to 'end a bloody conflict', but a central player in the continuing occupation and killing?

Whatever greater global awareness of Israel's brutal conduct, the propaganda narrative of Israel's 'right to self-defence' remains a powerful one.

And so, driven by a media in automated service to power - with some welcome exceptions - a spectrum of popular messages prevails, from 'the Palestinians are to blame and must pay the price of their own violence', to 'they're all just as bad as each other'; a promotion of myths, confusions and hand-wringing liberal evasions on the 'terrible violence' and 'intractable conflict' all serving to blame, castigate and deny justice to the real victims.

The distortion would be laughable if it weren't so tragic.

John



Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Israel's 'mercy' and blaming the victims


Another two children are among the 15 murdered in Gaza (so far) today.

As traumatised Gazans pick through the rubble of more flattened homes, ITN's John Irvine has 'reassuring' words for them. 

Israel's Iron Dome interceptor system is, apparently, "helping to save Palestinian  lives", as, without it, and particularly if a Hamas rocket had hit Tel Aviv, ground forces would already have entered Gaza.  Irvine's emphatic conclusion: Iron Dome is "more peacemaker than weapon" (ITN Early Evening News, 19 Nov).

Not a word, of course, from Irvine about the perpetual war on Gaza or the inhuman blockade that forces Palestinians to respond with their paltry ordnance, thus providing the 'need' for Iron Dome - much to the multi-million dollar approval of the US arms companies delivering it.

Such is the quality of what passes for 'journalistic analysis'. Never let a lack of basic context get in the way of hasbara-friendly news.    

The loaded images of Israel's 'defensive' arsenal are as important as the loaded words of media
correspondents. Thus, reporting from Ashkelon, the BBC's Ben Brown stands, foreground, clad in blue flak-jacket, the Dome missile batteries prominently behind. The picture's intended message needs little further intimation.

The range of journalistic enquiry into the main aggressor and massive imbalance of forces is as feeble as the rockets supposedly threatening Tel Aviv.

Amid all the fear-inducing talk of rockets raining down on Tel Aviv, most media have failed to mention that many of these projectiles are, in fact, barely more than metal tubes, stripped of their warheads in order to gain some extra mileage.

Rockets from Gaza do, of course, pose a certain threat, but why the stark media imbalance in reporting the gross military imbalance? 

As noted by former UN Rapporteur Richard Falk:
"There is such a gross disproportion in the capacity of the two sides to inflict damage and suffering due to Israeli total military dominance as to make perverse this reversal of concerns to what might befall Israeli society if the attack on Gaza further intensifies."
Alex Thomson at Channel 4 News at least seems willing to shed some true perspective on military capabilities, levels of attack and, of course, victims.

Thomson cites the critical statement from Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights, who have teams across Gaza recording incoming blasts, and their findings:
“Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights is calling on the UN Commissioner and EU countries to take a clear stand against the ongoing Israeli breaches of the international law in Gaza, and to take urgent steps to end the continuing bloodbath among civilians.”
  • There have been an estimated 1,643 Israeli missile strikes in six days: 364 missiles were fired by the Israeli navy, there were 1,114 air strikes and 165 artillery shells.
  • One hundred and ten Palestinians have been killed including 25 children, 14 senior citizens and 12 women. Seventy-two per cent were civilians.
  • Eight hundred and ninety one Palestinians, including 277 children, 164 women and 62 seniors have been wounded.
  • There have been 664 rockets fired from Gaza which have hit southern Israel.
  • Three Israeli civilians have been killed and 10 civilians and four soldiers injured.
  • Israel has bombarded 822 government and civilian buildings in Gaza, completely destroying 71, and severely damaging 187 and partially damaging 559. 

  • In a further piece, Thomson relates in chilling detail how over forty members of the Khouli family were woken at 3am with a phone call from the Israelis giving them five minutes to flee their home before it was blown up:
    “This is the Israeli Defence Force – you have five minutes to leave your house.”
    “Why?” He answered, “why do you want to attack our house? What for?”
    The voice came back: “Do not start asking why. Get out of the house. You have five minutes, starting now.”And the line went dead.
    This account offers a small, rare insight not just into Israel's barbaric attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, but their shameful efforts to mitigate such war crimes through token 'warnings'.

    Yet, where is the wider media effort to expose such unspeakable cruelty? Gaza is already a prison, a concentration camp, a desperate affront to humanity. What further level of calculated suffering is needed before 'impartial' journalists are willing to say: 'Israel, alone, is the principal aggressor and responsible for this historic crime'?    

    With the death toll in Gaza now standing at 110, and a reported ceasefire in the offing, there's no apparent truce in the wider media message that Hamas has brought all this terror through Gaza's own school windows and family doorways. 

    As devastated Palestinians pray for nominal respite, the hasbara-media bombardment continues unabated, blaming the victims for their 'own deliverance'.

    John  

    Monday, 19 November 2012

    Messaging the blame over Gaza

    As the death toll in Gaza continues to mount, it's clear that, as in 2008/9, much of the public is being subjected to a highly-distorted set of messages over who is primarily to blame for the conflict.

    At the most generalised level, political and media 'presentation' of the issue serves to instill four basic points of 'understanding':

    1. The Palestinians are to blame for initiating rocket attacks on Gaza.
    2. Hamas brought the killing on itself and Palestinian civilians by starting the conflict.
    3. Israeli bombing is a legitimate response to Hamas provocation.
    4. Israel is merely defending itself from attack.

    A second, more 'liberal', set of interpretations, no less false or hand-wringing, can also be discerned:

    1. Israel and Hamas are both guilty of creating the conflict.
    2. Both sides are to blame for prolonging it.
    3. Both sides are engaged in an intractable war.
    4. Neither side has any interest in a truce.

    Even where some of these commonly-pitched messages, or elements thereof, are questioned, the cumulative effect is, at the very least, to cast the Palestinians as 'largely responsible' and to remove the taint of Israel as principal aggressor.

    Crucial in the distortion is the selective omission of key detail and core context. Thus, most of the public will be unaware that, as in the attacks of 2008/9, Israel deliberately broke an agreed ceasefire, allowing the killing to escalate, while the actual, central cause of the conflict - Israel's illegal occupation and brutal siege - will not remotely figure in mainstream reporting or discussion.

    Nor are we encouraged to consider the possibility that Israel actually welcomes Palestinian resistance.  If Hamas, or any faction, hadn't been engaged in rocket fire, Israel would have found a way of pressing them towards violence. That's because Netanyahu needs the political cover of 'threat-and-fear' to keep him protected, while the Israeli military need the same pretext in order to wield their pre-emptive stick and keep Gaza/Hamas in check.

    These and many more incisive facets of the deceit are contained in the brilliant analysis from Jonathan Cook:

    Why Gaza Must Suffer Again

    If only the BBC and other establishment media permitted a fraction of such honest, informed reporting.

    John

    Some further reading from 2009 on the same themes:
    The Four Big Lies of Palestine-Israel Media Coverage
    Six facets of bias: letter to the BBC

    Israeli public approve Gaza suffering


    Israel has murdered the entire Dalou family, including five women and four children. All nine, along with two people passing the house, were killed when their home in the Sheikh Radwan district was shelled on Sunday. Amid the devastation, chaos and bewilderment:
    "Diggers at the scene of the explosion were scooping rubble from flattened buildings as rescuers tried to locate survivors. Witnesses said there were chaotic scenes as the dead and injured were brought to the Shifa hospital, which has been on emergency footing since the start of Operation Pillar of Defence. The bodies of four young children lay on two metal trays in the morgue, covered in dust and blood. A crowd of onlookers outside became increasingly distressed as the body of the children's mother was wheeled in, covered in blankets."
    Another family of two adults and two children have also been wiped out after a shell levelled two houses.

    Early Monday, the death toll stood at 84.

    Israel claims that it 'mistakenly' bombed the Dalou home due to a 'technical error'. It would seem beyond belief that anyone could even conceive of such a wicked conceit:
    "With the cynicism typical of Israeli government spokesmen, Moshe Yaalon, minister for strategic affairs, blamed the Palestinians themselves for the deaths of women and children. “When they use civilians as human shields, what is our choice?” he said at a press conference in Jerusalem. He was referring to Hamas officials, living at home with their families, who are targeted by Israeli missiles and bombs.Yaalon’s remarks underscored the ruthlessness of the Israeli aggression. “We operate slowly, identify the target and clean the area around it,” he said, as though he was referring to the extermination of vermin, not human beings. “If they position rockets in densely-populated areas, such as mosques and schoolyards, we should not be blamed for the outcome,” he continued. In fact, there were no rockets near the high-profile targets hit this weekend, which included the offices of the Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, and the building used as a media center by many journalists in Gaza."
    The Israeli hasbara (propaganda) machine is nothing if not brazen in projecting the message that such acts are all in 'necessary defence'. Hence, the Orwellian title given to its latest 'Operation'.  As with the mass killing of 2008/9, should we even dignify Israel's inhumanity by acknowledging the titles given to such slaughter?

    The related, dismal truth is that an overwhelming part of the Israeli public endorse their state's brutal treatment of the Palestinians. As Jonathan Cook comments (at his Facebook page):
    Netanyahu will be scanning this morning's papers for the results of a survey of Israeli public opinion about his attack on Gaza. There is not too much for him to worry about. An astonishing 84 per cent of ALL Israelis back Operation Pillar of Defence. That means just about every Israeli Jew is behind him, given that Palestinians inside Israel are nearly a fifth of the population. (Haaretz cautiously states only that "more than 90 per cent" of Israeli Jews back the operation. But unless significant numbers of Palestinians in Israel do too, the figure must be much nearer 100 per cent.) The only good news is that a minority of Israelis – 30 per cent – want a ground invasion. In other words, they are happy for Palestinians in Gaza to carry on dying from the rain of bombs and missiles as long as no Israeli soldiers are put in danger's way.
    Such is the depressing Israeli view of mass suffering in Gaza.  And little wonder given the venomous language of Israeli media, like this from Gilad Sharon in the Jerusalem Post:
    "A strong opening isn’t enough, you also have to know how to finish – and finish decisively. If it isn’t clear whether the ball crossed the goal-line or not, the goal isn’t decisive. The ball needs to hit the net, visible to all. What does a decisive victory sound like? A Tarzan-like cry that lets the entire jungle know in no uncertain terms just who won, and just who was defeated. To accomplish this, you need to achieve what the other side can’t bear, can’t live with, and our initial bombing campaign isn’t it."
    His bloodthirsty 'solution':
    "We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too. There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing. Then they’d really call for a ceasefire. Were this to happen, the images from Gaza might be unpleasant – but victory would be swift, and the lives of our soldiers and civilians spared."
    How, we may ask, can people speak in such a zero-sum way about murdered and oppressed others? It's a salutary reminder of how a relentless hasbara message of fear and hatred has been foisted by a permanent-war-driven state and endorsed by its ideologically-bombarded populace.

    John

    Sunday, 18 November 2012

    Gaza: the horror goes on

     

     
    The death toll is in Gaza is mounting, as Israel bombs another home, killing 11 civilians.

    As of Sunday 18 November, 65 Palestinians have been killed, 19 today alone, including 9 children.

    Among the victims lie the babies, murdered not with indiscriminate disregard, but with conscious intent to inflict the greatest terror and the most painful possible suffering.

    Little Omar died when a shell hit the family home.  Omar's father, Jihad Misharawi (shown here holding his son) is an Arabic picture editor for the BBC. His sister-in-law was also killed in the attack and his brother badly injured.

    Another of the victims, so far, includes Marwan al-Qumsan, a teacher at a UN school in Jabalia.

    Key evidence now reveals that Israel deliberately lured Hamas figure Ahmed al-Jabari  into the open in order to kill him, his murder and violation of the truce intended to escalate the crisis:
    "Gershon Baskin, founder of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, told Channel 4 News that negotiations were in progress and Ahmed al-Jaabari might have been persuaded to suspend rocket attacks on the Jewish state had he not been targeted for assassination."
    Baskin also insists that Hamas have consistently asked for intemediary help in getting ceasefires put in place:
    "He told Channel 4 News: "I know that Jaabari was interested in a ceasefire. He has enforced ceasefires in the past months and he was prepared, we hoped, to engage in activities that would prevent attacks against Israel, thereby preventing a pre-emptive Israeli strike that kills people and causes people on the Gaza side of the border to throw rockets at Israel. "Every time there was a round of rocket fire I would get phone calls from Hamas: 'Please tell the Israelis we don't want to escalate. We want a ceasefire.' As it would escalate, I would get more and more phone calls with greater intensity.""
    Today, as Netanyahu again promises to "widen" the offensive, Alex Thomson of Channel 4 News reports from Gaza on Israel's attack on a building housing journalists:
    "Israel admits it knew journalists were in the two buildings they hit. A cameraman Khader al Zahhar lost his leg."
    Thomson describes more of the fear and pain on the ground:
    ""Drones overhead. Kids playing street football outside TV building that got hit," Channel 4's Alex Thomson tweeted. He was visiting the main hospital in Gaza City on Sunday where he said relatives were trying to collect the bodies of family members including a 13-year-old girl." 
    As in 2008/9, it appears that Israel's defining motive is to terrorise and kill any civilian.

    Meanwhile, as the slaughter continues, so too does the relentless BBC bias, as collated here by Amena Saleem.

    For another fine piece denoting stark BBC distortion and the "sequence of recent events, so lacking in 'mainstream' reports, that led to Israel's massive attacks on Gaza", see the latest Media Lens alert, Gaza Blitz - Turmoil And Tragicomedy At The BBC.

    John

    Saturday, 17 November 2012

    Gaza and the thoughts of Rabbi Sacks

    The UK's Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has inadvertently revealed something of his inner thoughts on what he believes lies behind the current violence in Gaza.

    As noted at the Guardian:
    "The BBC has apologised to the chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, after Radio 4's Today presenter Evan Davis asked him a question about the violence in Gaza without telling him he was live on air.
    When Sacks finished his Thought for the Day on Friday morning, Davis asked him to comment on the Gaza situation before he left the studio. Sacks, seemingly unaware that he was live, said "I think it's got to do with Iran, actually", before Davis' co-presenter Sarah Montague whispered: "We, we're live." His tone then changed markedly and he called for "a continued prayer for peace, not only in Gaza but for the whole region, no one gains from violence". According to a number of BBC sources, Sacks was said to be "angry" about the incident and made his feelings known to Today's production team."
    Besides such anger, the incident says much about what gets to be aired, accidentally or otherwise, from within establishment organisations like the BBC.

    Yet, now that his comment is in the public domain, perhaps we will see rabbi Sacks elaborate more concisely on what he means by it.

    Is he suggesting that Israel is deceptively using Iran as an excuse to attack Hamas and Gaza, or, more likely, that it is justified in doing so?

    Whatever the fuller explanation to come, it would seem that his principal concerns lie with the 'threat' to Israel. As reported at the Telegraph:
    "In an official statement on the escalating crisis between Gaza and Israel yesterday, he offered support for the Israelis’ right to defend themselves. “In the past week alone over 275 rockets have been fired into southern Israel from Gaza,” he said. “No nation on earth can be expected to live under this constant threat to innocent life. “The people of Israel are entitled, as is any other nation, to live in peace and safety. We mourn with all the bereaved families, and pray for an end to the hostilities from which both sides suffer.”"  
    Yet what, one wonders, of the Palestinians' right to self-defence? Are they "expected to live under [such] constant threat to innocent life"?  Are they also "entitled, as is any other nation, to live in peace and safety"?

    Of course, Palestine is not, in any official capacity, a nation. But does that invalidate their human rights? Indeed, given their denial of statehood through occupation and siege, shouldn't that merit even more concern over their entitlement to peace and safety?

    Moreover, in what usefully moral sense can we say that Israel itself has this 'right' to defend itself?

    It's analogous to a crazed killer going into a house, wiping out a large family and a last terrified member of that family hitting out in a defensive effort to stay alive. Can the killer, the person who has invaded that house and already unleashed such violence, claim the same right to defend himself? How do we derive such a moral 'right' from such a gross wrong?

    In addition to what rabbi Sacks has already stated and intimated on the issues, it's useful to reflect a little further on what he concluded in his actual Thought for the Day piece - dedicated, in all irony, to Children in Need day - before his off-guarded comment:
    "What Judaism and Christianity are saying in their respective stories is that children are holy. Each one is a kind of miracle and needs our special care. Never let us be deaf to the cry of a child."
    It's a thought that would be almost universally shared by any humanitarian thinking person, whether of a particular religious persuasion or none.

    Yet, one is ineluctably drawn again to the suffering children of Gaza. Surely they, like all other children, need our special care? How can we be deaf to the cries of Palestinian children as they cower, terrified under the onslaught of Israeli shells?

    The additional comment of rabbi Sacks (after alerted to being live on air) is also worth recording:
    "No-one gains from violence. Not the Palestinians, not the Israelis. This is an issue here where we must all pray for peace and work for it.
    Here, rabbi Sacks is surely right when we consider the ultimate uselessness of violence, though one suspects he might again have differentiated views on which party here has an equivalent 'right' to violence.

    What possible gain for besieged and occupied Palestinians in being the daily target of sustained state violence? What arguable gain for those same Palestinians who feel no choice but to resort to violence in desperate resistance only to see ever greater violence inflicted upon them? And what gain to find themselves unjustly castigated as the main instigator of such violence?

    For Israel, what long-term gain in being the principal perpetrators of that violence, and having to continually use violence in order to maintain its oppression? And what gain for Israelis who now find themselves at the relative receiving end of the violence which their state has locked them into?  

    It may be important, for rabbi Sacks and others, to pray for peace and non-violence. But how do we actually work for it? Do we allow ourselves the moral pretence that blanket condemnation of violence can deliver any sort of just peace? And do we qualify that in saying that Israel has the right to defence and protection of its people but the Palestinians don't?

    If rabbi Sacks wants to work, as well as pray, for true peace, he might reflect more deeply on what the violence being inflicted on Gaza really has to do with Iran.

    In doing so, he might come to the reasoned conclusion that it's another smokescreen 'issue' being used to control and punish an imprisoned and brutalised population.

    And, in pursuing this line of thought, he might bring himself to acknowledge that, as courageously and consistently stated by many other Jews, 'Israel does not act or speak in our name' when it bombs and murders Palestinians under the mendacious pretext of 'rightful response' or 'self-defence'. 

    John