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20 APRIL 2014


The following article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 15 April 2014:

Australia still denies Israel's open secret of a nuclear arsenal

By Phillip Dorling

Israel's nuclear program: did Australia know?

Secret government files reveal that Australian governments, diplomats and spies have known for more than 30 years that Israel has an arsenal of nuclear weapons, while continuing to deny any knowledge of its existence to the point of misleading Parliament.

Previously secret diplomatic files declassified by the National Archives reveal a longstanding policy to turn a blind eye to Israel's nuclear arsenal. Last week the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade again declined to comment on whether the Australian government thinks Israel is an undeclared nuclear weapons state.

Foreign Affairs Department briefing papers prepared for former Labor foreign minister Bill Hayden in 1987 state that ''intelligence assessments are that Israel has a small arsenal of nuclear weapons (possibly about 20). Israel's technological capabilities would enable it confidently to deploy such weapons without recourse to a nuclear test.''

Former Foreign Minister Gareth Evans has publicly described Israel as one of 'nine nuclear-armed states' committed to the 'indefinite retention' of their arsenals. Photo: Peter Rae

In a confidential exchange with International Atomic Energy Agency chief Hans Blix on September 22, 1987, Mr Hayden ''commented that there appeared no doubt that Israel had nuclear weapons''.

Mr Hayden and Dr Blix were talking against the backdrop of the treason trial of Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli nuclear technician who in 1986 disclosed detailed evidence of Israel's nuclear weapons production. The Foreign Affairs Department advised Mr Hayden to publicly deny knowledge of Israel's nuclear weapons capabilities. Mr Hayden told Parliament on September 17, 1987: ''We have no information to corroborate these allegations.''

However, Foreign Affairs' files, declassified in response to applications by Fairfax Media, reveal that Australia had been monitoring Israel's nuclear program from its beginnings in the 1950s.

Australia scooped US and British intelligence when in 1966 its Atomic Energy Commission obtained ''highly sensitive'' information from the French builders of Israel's Dimona nuclear facility, revealing the existence of a chemical processing plant to extract plutonium from spent reactor fuel.

By 1970 Australia's Joint Intelligence Organisation thought ''Israel could have some weapons''.

Australian policy remains unchanged, with the Abbott government deciding last October not to support a UN General Assembly resolution on nuclear proliferation in the Middle East - 169 countries voted for the resolution.

Only five - the US, Israel, Canada, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia - voted against.

Australia abstained.

Former foreign minister Professor Gareth Evans has long been closely engaged with nuclear disarmament issues. Last month he publicly described Israel as one of ''nine nuclear-armed states'' committed to the ''indefinite retention'' of their arsenals.

On Monday Professor Evans declined to explain why Australia had not acknowledged the existence of an Israeli nuclear weapons program, saying only: ''The whole world hasn't acknowledged it. I mean, this is the strange thing, but that's another story for another day.''

27-29 JUNE 2014


The Politics of Panic Mongering in the Middle East - Israel’s Existential Threat


Israel thrives on what it calls “existential threats,” fabricated perils that are just plausible enough to be believed.

As social divisions mount, they help hold Israeli society together. They also keep “diaspora” Jews on board. And they keep Western, especially American, diplomatic, military and economic support coming.

This is crucial now that Western publics are beginning to realize that untrammeled support for a European colonial project, an ethnocratic settler state, in the heart of the Middle East is problematic – not only for moral reasons, but for reasons of national interest as well.

Serviceable existential threats are hard to find. So far, however, Israel has made due.

But times change. Before long, it may actually face a real one, an existential threat worthy of the name. The irony is palpable.

If and when this happens, it will be an object lesson: be careful what you wish for.

* * *

It was easier when the entire Arab world was nominally – though never really – at war with Israel. This hasn’t been the case for decades.

After the 1973 Yom Kippur War, leaders throughout the region began to concoct a more secure modus vivendi than had previously existed. With American help, they made decisive progress.

After the 1978 Camp David Accords and the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty signed the following year, the most threatening of the Arab armies, Egypt’s, could no longer be construed as a threat. This was the good news.

The bad news – for Israel — was the same: an existential threat had gone missing.

Jordan and Israel didn’t actually sign a peace treaty until 1994, but the Hashemite Kingdom had been collaborating with Zionists since even before the state of Israel was established. Lebanon was never much of a problem for Israel either.

There was still Syria, of course; and far off Iraq. But, despite the sense of insecurity to which Israeli and diaspora Jews are prone, and despite the best efforts of the Zionist propaganda machine, it became increasingly difficult to maintain that Israel’s neighbors threatened Israel’s existence – except in their dreams.

Militarily, Palestinians were even less up to snuff; there has never been much they could do that the Israeli juggernaut could not easily withstand.

Nor is there much they can do diplomatically to challenge the Occupation regime under which they suffer; not with the United States backing Israel a thousand percent.

Palestinian resistance – in Israel, they call it “terrorism” — can be a nuisance. It can also be a pretext. But there is no way to sell it as a threat to the state itself.

Palestinian birthrates are another matter. Zionists worry that they are too high, and that Jewish birthrates are too low. Jewish Israelis, secular ones especially, also have high emigration rates.

Members of Israel’s several large and growing extreme Orthodox sects do heed the commandment to “be fruitful and multiply.” But for many – still, probably, most – Jewish Israelis, this is small consolation. Even those who welcome the addition of any and all Chosen people, no matter how benighted, still have cause for concern: the godly folk living in the Promised Land are not nearly fruitful enough.

And so, despite relentless ethnic cleansing and despite aggressive efforts to attract Jewish immigrants from countries where there are no Israel lobbies that could be helpful to the Israeli state, Palestinians “threaten” to outnumber Jewish Israelis throughout Mandate Palestine and, conceivably some day, even within Israel’s internationally recognized borders.

It is instructive to reflect on the kind of threat this is. I’ll return to this question presently.

Since neighboring Arab states no longer pass muster, and since the kind of existential threat Israelis say Palestinians pose doesn’t do much to keep external support flowing in, the next move was all but inevitable: turn Iran into “existential threat” Number One.

Under the Shah, Iran had been Israel’s best friend in the region. This changed after the 1979 Revolution, though not nearly as quickly as is widely assumed. Old habits die hard.

In time, though, thanks to Iran’s unwitting cooperation, the strategy worked. To the relief of Zionists everywhere, Israel had an existential threat adequate for its needs.

The Iranian nuclear program was icing on the cake. It was a godsend. So was Iran’s former President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He could even be cast – not quite correctly, but convincingly enough – as a Holocaust denier.

Too bad for Israel that what the Lord giveth, the Lord doth also take away. Unlike Ahmadinejad, Iran’s new President, Hassan Rouhani, is eminently reasonable in both senses of the term: his views, insofar as they bear on world politics, are well-grounded and evidence-based; and he is disposed to cooperate, even with the United States, for mutual advantage.

This is good news everywhere outside official Tel Aviv.

With the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement on the rise, and with the entire region in turmoil, Israel needs an existential threat now more than ever.

But it is losing the best one it has had since its salad days, when Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser and his confederates were always at the ready.

Poor Benjamin Netanyahu – first Eric Cantor, and now this.

* * *

I have not been able to track down when “existential threat” first entered the political lexicon. I am fairly sure, though, that it was not long ago, and I suspect that Israeli propagandists had a lot to do with it.

They may even have concocted the expression. They had been deploying the concept for decades; why not also name it? With a name, it would be more useful.

The downside, though, is that naming the concept also exposes its problematic nature – by calling attention to the gap between what the words say and the reality that Israeli propagandists use them to describe. Fortunately for the propagandists, hardly anyone notices.

When the words are taken literally, as is plainly the intention, then to say that there is an existential threat is to assert that the existence ofsomething is in jeopardy. What might that something be?

In principle, it could be anything that could fail to exist. In practice, the expression is used more restrictively.

In view of how the expression is used, one might almost think that it applies only to Israel — or only to the kinds of things that concern Israel’s defenders.

Of course, one it was out there, it was inevitable that it would spill over into a broader universe of discourse.

Remarkably, it has not spilled far.

For instance, no one says that people dealing with fatal diseases face existential threats, though they literally are.

Similarly, species face extinction, not existential threats; and it would be odd, to say the least, to use the expression in reference to buildings or neighborhoods about to be demolished.

It is noteworthy too that people seldom use the expression even in reference to countries, especially countries far from the Near East. When they do, it is almost always “regimes,” not countries, that are said to confront existential threats. Israel is the one salient exception.

Thus the demonstrations in 2011 in Tahrir Square and elsewhere throughout Egypt were said to pose an existential threat to “the Mubarak regime,” not to Egypt itself. It was the same with the demonstrations that led to the coup against the elected government of Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

The expression is sometimes also applied to institutions and organizations. This usage is revealing.

It can be said, for example, that public sector unions in the United States face an existential threat from legislation proposed by right-wing financiers, pro-business foundations and opportunistic politicians. But this is only a colorful way of saying that these forces are leading a charge aimed at weakening or destroying public sector unions.

Merely adding dramatic flair, which is all the expression does, can be rhetorically – and therefore politically — useful. Nevertheless, the expression is seldom used in contexts where it might actually do good. It is still too linked to its origins for that.

This is why it sounds odd to say, for example, that the world faces an existential threat from nuclear war or from nuclear accidents, though this is literally true, and the danger is certainly grave enough to merit emphasis by any and all means.

In a similar vein, capitalist firms court ecological disasters that threaten a vast array of living things with annihilation. But, again, the expression is seldom used to refer to impending catastrophes of this kind.

More in line with current uses, one could honestly say that political projects that are genocidal in nature pose existential threats to targeted populations.

For example, it would have been appropriate to maintain that the rise of Nazism and cognate political movements in Europe before and during World War II posed an existential threat to European Jewry. Saying that then might have done some good.

Similarly, it would be fair to say – both factually and rhetorically — that European settlers in the Americas posed existential threats both to indigenous peoples and to their cultures.

The expression could also be used appropriately to describe aspects of the Atlantic slave trade, to cite just one more obvious example.

But “existential threat” is seldom used in salutary ways.

Instead, a smooth talker with an American accent, and a state sponsoredhasbara (public diplomacy/propaganda) campaign led by deceivers skilled in the dark arts of public relations, popularized the concept and the term.

One result is that words that could be helpful, when used without meretricious intent, are now tainted, perhaps irreversibly so.

* * *

The idea that Israeli Jews today – or the Hebrew culture of modern Israel — face a threat that rises to a level that could properly be called “existential” is more than just far-fetched.

To be sure, were the state of Israel to put its own legitimacy in jeopardy domestically or internationally – say, by overreaching egregiously – the regime it superintends might find itself facing a bona fide existential threat.

Then, in that sense, so would Israel itself – but only insofar as “Israel” is understood to designate the ethnocratic regime in place there.

When Communism imploded and the Soviet Union became undone, Russia underwent a very radical transformation. But the country survived along with its people and its culture because, however closely connected they had been, the regime, Communism, and the country, its people, and its culture were not one and the same.

It would be the same for Israel if, like all states based on Enlightenment principles – and from traditions established during the French and American Revolutions — it became a state of its citizens, regardless of their religious or ethnic identities.

This is not likely to happen in the foreseeable future because, at this point, too few Jewish Israelis are willing to give up on the idea of a Jewish state – and they hold a strong enough hand to guarantee that they will get their way.

A “two state solution” is more feasible. Though less satisfactory, it probably is the only way forward, at the present time, to advance justice and peace.

But even were the more radical solution on the agenda – in other words, even if the regime in place now in Israel really did face an existential threat – the Jewish citizens of Israel would be facing nothing of the sort.

Blowback from Israeli depredations in the Occupied Territories puts individual Israelis at risk; changing the regime responsible for blowback would not.

It is the same with the all but inexorable, “demographic bomb.” Palestinian majorities in mandate Palestine – or even behind the so-called Green Line – do not put the lives or fortunes of Jewish Israelis at risk, much less in mortal danger. And neither would they spell the end of the Hebrew culture Zionism brought to life.

All that is safe, as long as the world itself does not become unhinged.

This was a sure thing back when Israel and its existential threats were running true to course. But circumstances sometimes change – abruptly and without warning.

* * *
The problem is not that Israel’s luck in finding existential threats is running out. It is the opposite; instead of no luck at all, Israel now seems to have too much.

Events are now unfolding, so it is too soon to be sure; but it appears that Israel may soon find that it has a genuine existential threat on its hands.

It would be the first time. And it does not bode well – not for Israel, not for the region, and not for the world.

Indeed, the existential threat facing Israel is not even directed at it. The threat to Israel is just one of many possible by-products of a far broader peril that could indeed unhinge our world.

For this, as for so much else, Israel, and all the other affected parties, has America – or rather the ill-led national security state America has become — to thank.

When Barack Obama won in 2008, there was a chance that the worst excesses of the Bush-Cheney era would finally be ended. Instead, we have just gotten more of the same, and worse.

Even the old malefactors are still at it. Some six years into the Age of Obama, they are finally recovering their stride.

Witness, for example, the unreconstructed neoconservatives who are still around causing trouble. Our media give them a platform, and so they keep at it. Remarkably, members of the Bush and Cheney families – reprobates all – are still at it too, and still drawing media attention.

But, by now, everyone else who gives the matter a moment’s thought realizes that starting the Iraq War was a colossal mistake.

Almost every decision the United States made in waging it was wrong-headed too; and it only got worse when the Obama administration took up where its predecessor left off.

In time, Obama did wind down overt combat operations; after seven years, there was little point in keeping them going.

But, by outsourcing most of the killing, his administration only continued the war and occupation in a different, less conspicuous, guise.

The ploy worked for a while because the United States was able to buy off most (evidently, not all) opposition, and because Obama kept the Iraqi government afloat with American taxpayers’ dollars.

And, on the home front, Obama was able to fool most of the people most of the time because, as per usual, the media didn’t do its job. Having been notoriously gung-ho since even before the Iraq War began, the media lost interest as soon as the murder and mayhem began to subside.

Because they couldn’t just ignore what was going on, they therefore took the lazy way out: repeating what the State and Defense Departments told them.

But now, thanks mainly to American ineptitude, the situation on the ground is changing. Suddenly, the occupation structure America contrived over the past decade is crumbling – along with the Iraqi regime itself. Sunni jihadists are on the march, and Shia militias are reconstituting. Civil war is brewing. Arguably, it has already begun.

How ironic that what the Americans put in place is now being replaced by what George Bush and Dick Cheney told the world the U.S. invaded Iraq to prevent: the establishment of a terrorist safe haven in the heartland of the Middle East!

Iraq is not the only country in peril. The Syrian civil war has already spilled over to its neighbor, and vice versa – putting the regional state system established after World War I in jeopardy.

For all this and more, American bungling is largely at fault. Bush and Cheney hadn’t a clue what they were getting into and neither they nor their successor were any better prepared to deal with the situation their machinations had conjured into being.

The question now is how to keep the instability they created in bounds.

Will it spill over into the entire region – into Lebanon, for example? Will it destabilize Jordan? Egypt is already deeply in turmoil. What will be the effect on it?

The one sure thing is that Israel will finally be facing a genuine existential threat.

Even if the threat can be confined just to its Syrian border, that will be more than enough; an out of control regional war waged by bitterly opposed parties who agree only on their hostility to the Israeli state comes as close as one can imagine to putting the seemingly impregnable security Israel provides its Jewish citizens in peril.

Benjamin Netanyahu has been crying wolf for so long that it has become his nature. Now he is about to get what he has been bleating about; and neither he, nor those who think like him, are going to like it one bit.

The consequences of the Bush-Obama Iraq War are coming due. One of those consequences – not the most dire, but certainly the most ironic – is that Israeli panic mongering will soon be overcome by events, putting Israel itself at more risk than it has ever been.

Be careful what you wish for – indeed!

ANDREW LEVINE is a Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, the author most recently of THE AMERICAN IDEOLOGY (Routledge) and POLITICAL KEY WORDS (Blackwell) as well as of many other books and articles in political philosophy. His most recent book is In Bad Faith: What’s Wrong With the Opium of the People. He was a Professor (philosophy) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Research Professor (philosophy) at the University of Maryland-College Park. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

31 JULY 2014



This interview by the BBC Channel 4 of Australian-born Mark Regev, apartheid Israel's spokesperson for the benefit of the general international media is most illuminating - spin, spin, spin!


The Secret Report That Helps Israelis Cover Atrocities
How Israel Spins War Crimes


Israeli spokesmen have their work cut out explaining how they have killed more than 1,000 Palestinians in Gaza, most of them civilians, compared with just three civilians killed in Israel by Hamas rocket and mortar fire.

But on television and radio and in newspapers, Israeli government spokesmen such as Mark Regev appear slicker and less aggressive than their predecessors, who were often visibly indifferent to how many Palestinians were killed.

There is a reason for this enhancement of the PR skills of Israeli spokesmen. Going by what they say, the playbook they are using is a professional, well-researched and confidential study on how to influence the media and public opinion in America and Europe. Written by the expert Republican pollster and political strategist Dr Frank Luntz, the study was commissioned five years ago by a group called The Israel Project, with offices in the US and Israel, for use by those “who are on the front lines of fighting the media war for Israel”.

Every one of the 112 pages in the booklet is marked “not for distribution or publication” and it is easy to see why. The Luntz report, officially entitled “The Israel project’s 2009 Global Language Dictionary, was leaked almost immediately to Newsweek Online, but its true importance has seldom been appreciated. It should be required reading for everybody, especially journalists, interested in any aspect of Israeli policy because of its “dos and don’ts” for Israeli spokesmen.

These are highly illuminating about the gap between what Israeli officials and politicians really believe, and what they say, the latter shaped in minute detail by polling to determine what Americans want to hear. Certainly, no journalist interviewing an Israeli spokesman should do so without reading this preview of many of the themes and phrases employed by Mr Regev and his colleagues.

The booklet is full of meaty advice about how they should shape their answers for different audiences. For example, the study says that “Americans agree that Israel ‘has a right to defensible borders’. But it does you no good to define exactly what those borders should be. Avoid talking about borders in terms of pre- or post-1967, because it only serves to remind Americans of Israel’s military history. Particularly on the left this does you harm. For instance, support for Israel’s right to defensible borders drops from a heady 89 per cent to under 60 per cent when you talk about it in terms of 1967.”

How about the right of return for Palestinian refugees who were expelled or fled in 1948 and in the following years, and who are not allowed to go back to their homes? Here Dr Luntz has subtle advice for spokesmen, saying that “the right of return is a tough issue for Israelis to communicate effectively because much of Israeli language sounds like the ‘separate but equal’ words of the 1950s segregationists and the 1980s advocates of Apartheid. The fact is, Americans don’t like, don’t believe and don’t accept the concept of ‘separate but equal’.”

So how should spokesmen deal with what the booklet admits is a tough question? They should call it a “demand”, on the grounds that Americans don’t like people who make demands. “Then say ‘Palestinians aren’t content with their own state. Now they’re demanding territory inside Israel’.” Other suggestions for an effective Israeli response include saying that the right of return might become part of a final settlement “at some point in the future”. Dr Luntz notes that Americans as a whole are fearful of mass immigration into the US, so mention of “mass Palestinian immigration” into Israel will not go down well with them. If nothing else works, say that the return of Palestinians would “derail the effort to achieve peace”.

The Luntz report was written in the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead in December 2008 and January 2009, when 1,387 Palestinians and nine Israelis were killed.

There is a whole chapter on “isolating Iran-backed Hamas as an obstacle to peace”. Unfortunately, come the current Operation Protective Edge, which began on 6 July, there was a problem for Israeli propagandists because Hamas had quarrelled with Iran over the war in Syria and had no contact with Tehran. Friendly relations have been resumed only in the past few days – thanks to the Israeli invasion.

Much of Dr Luntz’s advice is about the tone and presentation of the Israeli case. He says it is absolutely crucial to exude empathy for Palestinians: “Persuadables [sic] won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Show Empathy for BOTH sides!” This may explain why a number of Israeli spokesman are almost lachrymose about the plight of Palestinians being pounded by Israeli bombs and shells.

In a sentence in bold type, underlined and with capitalisation, Dr Luntz says that Israeli spokesmen or political leaders must never, ever justify “the deliberate slaughter of innocent women and children” and they must aggressively challenge those who accuse Israel of such a crime. Israeli spokesmen struggled to be true to this prescription when 16 Palestinians were killed in a UN shelter in Gaza last Thursday.

There is a list of words and phrases to be used and a list of those to be avoided. Schmaltz is at a premium: “The best way, the only way, to achieve lasting peace is to achieve mutual respect.” Above all, Israel’s desire for peace with the Palestinians should be emphasised at all times because this what Americans overwhelmingly want to happen. But any pressure on Israel to actually make peace can be reduced by saying “one step at a time, one day at a time”, which will be accepted as “a commonsense approach to the land-for-peace equation”.

Dr Luntz cites as an example of an “effective Israeli sound bite” one which reads: “I particularly want to reach out to Palestinian mothers who have lost their children. No parent should have to bury their child.”

The study admits that the Israeli government does not really want a two-state solution, but says this should be masked because 78 per cent of Americans do. Hopes for the economic betterment of Palestinians should be emphasised.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is quoted with approval for saying that it is “time for someone to ask Hamas: what exactly are YOU doing to bring prosperity to your people”. The hypocrisy of this beggars belief: it is the seven-year-old Israeli economic siege that has reduced the Gaza to poverty and misery.

On every occasion, the presentation of events by Israeli spokesmen is geared to giving Americans and Europeans the impression that Israel wants peace with the Palestinians and is prepared to compromise to achieve this, when all the evidence is that it does not. Though it was not intended as such, few more revealing studies have been written about modern Israel in times of war and peace.

PATRICK COCKBURN is the author of The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising.

3 AUGUST 2014

A must-read ARTICLE FROM TRUTHDIG'S Chris Hedges:

Why Israel Lies

By Chris Hedges

Palestinians evacuate a survivor of an Israeli airstrike that hit a family building Sunday in Rafah, in southern Gaza. AP/Eyad Baba

All governments lie, as I.F. Stone pointed out, including Israel and Hamas. But Israel engages in the kinds of jaw-dropping lies that characterize despotic and totalitarian regimes. It does not deform the truth; it inverts it. It routinely paints a picture for the outside world that is diametrically opposed to reality. And all of us reporters who have covered the occupied territories have run into Israel’s Alice-in-Wonderland narratives, which we dutifully insert into our stories—required under the rules of American journalism—although we know they are untrue.

I saw small boys baited and killed by Israeli soldiers in the Gaza refugee camp of Khan Younis. The soldiers swore at the boys in Arabic over the loudspeakers of their armored jeep. The boys, about 10 years old, then threw stones at an Israeli vehicle and the soldiers opened fire, killing some, wounding others. I was present more than once as Israeli troops drew out and shot Palestinian children in this way. Such incidents, in the Israeli lexicon, become children caught in crossfire.

I was in Gaza when F-16 attack jets dropped 1,000-pound iron fragmentation bombs on overcrowded hovels in Gaza City. I saw the corpses of the victims, including children. This became a surgical strike on a bomb-making factory.

I have watched Israel demolish homes and entire apartment blocks to create wide buffer zones between the Palestinians and the Israeli troops that ring Gaza. I have interviewed the destitute and homeless families, some camped out in crude shelters erected in the rubble. The destruction becomes the demolition of the homes of terrorists.

I have stood in the remains of schools—Israel struck two United Nations schools in the last six days, causing at least 10 fatalities at one in Rafah on Sunday andat least 19 at one in the Jebaliya refugee camp Wednesday—as well as medical clinics and mosques.

I have heard Israel claim that errant rockets or mortar fire from the Palestinians caused these and other deaths, or that the attacked spots were being used as arms depots or launching sites. I, along with every other reporter I know who has worked in Gaza, have never seen any evidence that Hamas uses civilians as “human shields.”

There is a perverted logic to Israel’s repeated use of the Big Lie—Große Lüge—the lie favored by tyrants from Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin to Saddam Hussein. The Big Lie feeds the two reactions Israel seeks to elicit—racism among its supporters and terror among its victims.

By painting a picture of an army that never attacks civilians, that indeed goes out of its way to protect them, the Big Lie says Israelis are civilized and humane, and their Palestinian opponents are inhuman monsters. The Big Lie serves the idea that the slaughter in Gaza is a clash of civilizations, a war between democracy, decency and honor on one side and Islamic barbarism on the other. And in the uncommon cases when news of atrocities penetrates to the wider public, Israel blames the destruction and casualties on Hamas.

George Orwell in his novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” called this form of propaganda doublethink. Doublethink uses “logic against logic” and “repudiate[s] morality while laying claim to it.” The Big Lie does not allow for the nuances and contradictions that can plague conscience. It is a state-orchestrated response to the dilemma of cognitive dissonance. The Big Lie permits no gray zones. The world is black and white, good and evil, righteous and unrighteous. The Big Lie allows believers to take comfort—a comfort they are desperately seeking—in their own moral superiority at the very moment they have abrogated all morality.

The Big Lie, as the father of American public relations, Edward Bernays, wrote, is limited only by the propagandist’s capacity to fathom and harness the undercurrents of individual and mass psychology. And since most supporters of Israel do not have a desire to know the truth, a truth that would force them to examine their own racism and self-delusions about Zionist and Western moral superiority, like packs of famished dogs they lap up the lies fed to them by the Israeli government. The Big Lie always finds fertile soil in what Bernays called the “logic-proof compartment of dogmatic adherence.” All effective propaganda, Bernays wrote, targets and builds upon these irrational “psychological habits.”

This is the world Franz Kafka envisioned, a world where the irrational becomes rational. It is one where, as Gustave Le Bon noted in “The Crowd: A Study of the Public Mind,” those who supply the masses with the illusions they crave become their master, and “whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim.” This irrationality explains why the reaction of Israeli supporters to those who have the courage to speak the truth—Uri Avnery, Max Blumenthal, Noam Chomsky, Jonathan Cook, Norman Finkelstein, Amira Hass, Gideon Levy, Ilan Pappé, Henry Siegman and Philip Weiss—is so rabid. That so many of these voices are Jewish, and therefore have more credibility than non-Jews who are among Israel’s cheerleaders, only ratchets up the level of hate.

But the Big Lie is also consciously designed to send a chilling message to Gaza’s Palestinians, who have lost large numbers of their dwellings, clinics, mosques, and power, water and sewage facilities, along with schools and hospitals, who have suffered some 1,650 deaths since this assault began—most of the victims women and children—and who have seen 400,000 people displaced from their homes. The Big Lie makes it clear to the Palestinians that Israel will continue to wage a campaign of state terror and will never admit its atrocities or its intentions.

The vast disparity between what Israel says and what Israel does tells the Palestinians that there is no hope. Israel will do and say whatever it wants. International law, like the truth, will always be irrelevant. There will never, the Palestinians understand from the Big Lie, be an acknowledgement of reality by the Israeli leadership.

The Israel Defense Forces website is replete with this black propaganda. “Hamas exploits the IDF’s sensitivity towards protecting civilian structures, particularly holy sites, by hiding command centers, weapons caches and tunnel entrances in mosques,” the IDF site reads. “In Hamas’ world, hospitals are command centers, ambulances are transport vehicles, and medics are human shields,” the site insists.

“... [Israeli] officers are tasked with an enormous responsibility: to protect Palestinian civilians on the ground, no matter how difficult that may be,” the site assures its viewers. And the IDF site provides this quote from a drone operator identified as Lt. Or. “I have personally seen rockets fired at Israel from hospitals and schools, but we couldn’t strike back because of civilians nearby. In one instance, we acquired a target but we saw that there were children in the area. We waited around, and when they didn’t leave we were forced to abort a strike on an important target.”

Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, in a Big Lie of his own, said last month at a conference of Christians United for Israel that the Israeli army should be given the “Nobel Peace Prize … a Nobel Peace Prize for fighting with unimaginable restraint.”

The Big Lie destroys any possibility of history and therefore any hope for a dialogue between antagonistic parties that can be grounded in truth and reality. While, as Hannah Arendt pointed out, the ancient and modern sophists sought to win an argument at the expense of the truth, those who wield the Big Lie “want a more lasting victory at the expense of reality.” The old sophists, she said, “destroyed the dignity of human thought.” Those who resort to the Big Lie “destroy the dignity of human action.” The result, Arendt warned, is that “history itself is destroyed, and its comprehensibility.” And when facts no longer matter, when there is no shared history grounded in the truth, when people foolishly believe their own lies, there can be no useful exchange of information. The Big Lie, used like a bludgeon by Israel, as perhaps it is designed to be, ultimately reduces all problems in the world to the brutish language of violence. And when oppressed people are addressed only through violence they will answer only through violence.

18 JULY 2014

A must-read ARTICLE FROM CounterPunch Weekend Edition:


It’s Money, Not Blood


While many articles have debunked the myth that Israel is acting out of “self-defense,” very few have attempted to establish why Israel is continuing its assault on Palestine through Operation Protective Edge, aside from the supposition that Zionists have a fanatic penchant for drawing Palestinian blood. Behind the operation, behind the mass Israeli and U.S. propaganda attempting to justify the massacre, and behind the death of every child in Gaza is a conflict rarely discussed, an imperialist conflict and a contradiction that rests on Israel’s ambitions to appropriate and profit from Gaza’s natural gas resources.

To provide some background, the natural gas issue arose in the year 2000 when British Gas (BG) discovered what they claimed to be $4 billion worth of natural gas reserves off the coast of Gaza. The Palestinian Investment Fund (PIF) and British Gas (BG) both invested in the project, with BG holding 60% of the rights. Since then, more gas has been found in the region. Michel Chossudovsky, a Canadian economist, has estimated that the amount of gas in Palestine is so grand that it could make Palestine as rich as Kuwait. In due reaction, since 2000, Israel has strengthened its maritime blockade on Gaza, denying Palestine basic rights over its territorial waters, driving away Palestinian fishing boats, and contaminating the waters so heavily from its naval attacks that the fishing industry essentially collapsed. “On its coastal littoral,” reported Peter Beaumont from Gaza several years ago, “Gaza’s limitations are marked by a different fence where the bars are Israeli gunboats with their huge wakes, scurrying beyond the Palestinian fishing boats and preventing them from going outside a zone imposed by the warships.” It is discernible that this is directly due to Israel’s appetite for Palestinian gas.

In recent years, Israel’s energy crisis has deepened, as marked by a letter by two Israeli scientists. “We believe Israel should increase its [domestic] use of natural gas by 2020 and should not export gas,” the letter reads. “The Natural Gas Authority’s estimates are lacking. There’s a gap of 100 to 150 billion cubic meters between the demand projections that were presented to the committee and the most recent projections. The gas reserves are likely to last even less than 40 years!” As the need for energy has grown in Israel, so have their ruthless attempts to seek it.

After the election of Hamas in 2006, Israel began negotiating with BG since, according to the former chief of staff of the IDF Moshe Ya’alon, the previously negotiated investment meant that a portion of the revenue could fall into the hands of Hamas and ‘threaten’ Israel. In other words, Israel wanted the gas, but they did not want part of the revenue to go to Hamas. Their solution, therefore, was to get rid of Hamas. More accurately, it is safe to affirm that Israel both desires a financially and militarily weaker opposition as well as a more subservient entity that may agree to willingly hand over its natural gas to Israeli profiteers.

Operation Cast Lead began in June 2008, at the exact same time that Israel contacted BG to discuss critical negotiations around Gaza’s natural gas. As these negotiations continued, Israel was killing 1,417 Palestinians, displacing over 50,000 Gazans and destroying over 4,000 homes through air strikes and a deadly ground invasion with the declared purpose of securing areas within the Gaza strip that rockets were fired from. In reality, it had nothing to do with the rockets, or a notion of “self defense”, considering how disproportionate the casualties were—just as they are now under operation protective edge. It was merely a means as part of Israel’s overall goal of appropriating Palestinian natural gas, both through territorial control and the failed attempt to defeat Hamas.

While Israel was fighting to get rid of Hamas, they were simultaneously supporting and negotiating with Fatah. In 2011, a new round of negotiations with Fatah completely excluded Hamas from the process; in turn, Hamas declared these talks as illegitimate. Even more shocking,wikileaks cables from December 2010 confirmed that Fatah had asked Israel to attack Hamas. Yuval Diskin, the head of Israel’s security agencyShin Bet, made comments on Israel’s desire to strengthen Fatah. “Fatah is in a very bad shape in Gaza. We have received requests to train their forces in Egypt and Yemen. We would like to get them to get the training they need, and to be more powerful, but they do not have anyone to lead them”. Before that, in 2006 after the election of Hamas, Israel authorized the delivery of “light weapons and ammunition” to armed forces loyal to Fatah.

All in all, it is clear that Fatah, heavily criticized by the People’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and other liberation-seeking groups in Palestine, has at least to a great extent sold itself out to Israel. It is also evident that Israel would much prefer Fatah over Hamas in negotiations on natural gas. Operation Protective Edge, very much like Operation Cast Lead, has neither anything to do with self-defense (as the right may tell us), nor is it a meaningless slaughter motivated principally by a hatred for Palestinians (as the confused left may believe). It is very clear what it is: a war driven by the hankering yet callous lust of the imperialist capital of a colonial state to expand its appropriation of Palestinian natural resources and profit at the severe expense of the Palestinian people.

While Palestine must receive the full support of people around the world in its struggle for national liberation, Israel must be unequivocally condemned for its indefensible war crimes and occupation of Palestine. It is clear that Israel’s Operation Protective Edge is a misnomer, as it should be renamed to something along the lines of Operation Capital-driven Genocide. The truth is, Israel’s brutality will continue and Palestine will never be free until the Zionist apparatuses of colonialism and occupation are dismantled once and for all.

Tascha Shahriari-Parsa is a student from Vancouver, British Columbia, who has recently found himself unable to allow an hour to pass by without seeking updates on the situation in Palestine. Angered and frustrated by the horrors of Israeli war crimes and occupation, he has been involved in Palestine-solidarity activism and does what he can to spread the truth about Palestine in his community. More generally, he is interested in the liberation of the oppressed from their oppressors across the globe and in the contradictions that necessitate such liberation.

12-14 SEPTEMBER 2014

Yet again a must-read ARTICLE FROM CounterPunch Weekend Edition:

Breaking the Last Taboo: Gaza and the Threat of World War


“There is a taboo,” said the visionary Edward Said, “on telling the truth about Palestine and the great destructive force behind Israel. Only when this truth is out can any of us be free.”

For many people, the truth is out now. At last, they know. Those once intimidated into silence can’t look away now. Staring at them from their TV, laptop, phone, is proof of the barbarism of the Israeli state and the great destructive force of its mentor and provider, the United States, the cowardice of European governments, and the collusion of others, such as Canada and Australia, in this epic crime.

The attack on Gaza was an attack on all of us. The siege of Gaza is a siege of all of us. The denial of justice to Palestinians is a symptom of much of humanity under siege and a warning that the threat of a new world war is growing by the day.

When Nelson Mandela called the struggle of Palestine “the greatest moral issue of our time”, he spoke on behalf of true civilisation, not that which empires invent. In Latin America, the governments of Brazil, Chile, Venezuela, Bolivia, El Salvador, Peru and Ecuador have made their stand on Gaza. Each of these countries has known its own dark silence when immunity for mass murder was sponsored by the same godfather in Washington that answered the cries of children in Gaza with more ammunition to kill them.

Unlike Netanyahu and his killers, Washington’s pet fascists in Latin America didn’t concern themselves with moral window dressing. They simply murdered, and left the bodies on rubbish dumps. For Zionism, the goal is the same: to dispossess and ultimately destroy an entire human society: a truth that 225 Holocaust survivors and their descendants have compared with te genesis of genocide.

Nothing has changed since the Zionists’ infamous “Plan D” in 1948 that ethnically cleansed an entire people. Recently, on the website of theTimes of Israel were the words: “Genocide is Permissible”. A deputy speaker of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, Moshe Feiglin, demands a policy of mass expulsion into concentration camps.

An MP, Ayelet Shaked, whose party is a member of the governing coalition, calls for the extermination of Palestinian mothers to prevent them giving birth to what she calls “little snakes”.

For years, reporters have watched Israeli soldiers bait Palestinian children by abusing them through loud-speakers. Then they shoot them dead. For years, reporters have known about Palestinian women about to give birth and refused passage through a roadblock to a hospital; and the baby has died, and sometimes the mother.

For years, reporters have known about Palestinian doctors and ambulance crews given permission by Israeli commanders to attend the wounded or remove the dead, only to be shot through the head.

For years, reporters have known about stricken people prevented from getting life-saving treatment, or shot dead when they’ve tried to reach a clinic for chemotherapy treatment. One elderly lady with a walking stick was murdered in this way – a bullet in her back.

When I put the facts of this crime to Dori Gold, a senior adviser to the Israeli prime minister, he said, “Unfortunately in every kind of warfare there are cases of civilians who are accidentally killed. But the case you cite was not terrorism. Terrorism means putting the cross-hairs of the sniper’s rifle on a civilian deliberately.”

I replied, “That’s exactly what happened.”

“No,” he said, “it did not happen.”

Such a lie or delusion is repeated unerringly by Israel’s apologists. As the former New York Times reporter Chris Hedges points out, the reporting of such an atrocity invariably ends up as “caught in the cross-fire”. For as long as I have covered the Middle East, much if not most of the western media has colluded in this way.

In one of my films, a Palestinian cameraman, Imad Ghanem, lies helpless while soldiers from the “most moral army in the world” blew both his legs off. This atrocity was given two lines on the BBC website. Thirteen journalists were killed by Israel in its latest bloodfest in Gaza. All were Palestinian. Who knows their names?

Something is different now. There is a huge revulsion across the world; and the voices of sensible liberalism are worried. Their hand wringing and specious choir of “equal blame” and “Israel’s right to defend itself” will not wash any more; neither will the smear of anti-Semitism. Neither will their selective cry that “something must be done” about Islamic fanatics but nothing must be done about Zionist fanatics.

One sensible liberal voice, the novelist Ian McEwan, was being celebrated as a sage by the Guardian while the children of Gaza were blown to bits. This is the same Ian McEwan who ignored the pleading of Palestinians not to accept the Jerusalem Prize for literature. “If I only went to countries that I approve of, I probably would never get out of bed,” said McEwan.

If they could speak, the dead of Gaza might say: Stay in bed, great novelist, for your very presence smoothes the bed of racism, apartheid, ethnic cleansing and murder – no matter the weasel words you uttered as you claimed your prize.

Understanding the sophistry and power of liberal propaganda is key to understanding why Israel’s outrages endure; why the world looks on; why sanctions are never applied to Israel; and why nothing less than a total boycott of everything Israeli is now a measure of basic human decency.

The most incessant propaganda says Hamas is committed to the destruction of Israel. Khaled Hroub, the Cambridge University scholar considered a world leading authority on Hamas, says this phrase is “never used or adopted by Hamas, even in its most radical statements”. The oft-quoted “anti-Jewish” 1988 Charter was the work of “one individual and made public without appropriate Hamas consensus …. The author was one of the ‘old guard’ “; the document is regarded as an embarrassment and never cited.

Hamas has repeatedly offered a 10-year truce with Israel and has long settled for a two-state solution. When Medea Benjamin, the fearless Jewish American activist, was in Gaza, she carried a letter from Hamas leaders to President Obama that made clear the government of Gaza wanted peace with Israel. It was ignored. I personally know of many such letters carried in good faith, ignored or dismissed.

The unforgivable crime of Hamas is a distinction almost never reported: it is the only Arab government to have been freely and democratically elected by its people. Worse, it has now formed a government of unity with the Palestinian Authority. A single, resolute Palestinian voice – in the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court – is the most feared threat.

Since 2002, a pioneering media unit at Glasgow University has produced remarkable studies of reporting and propaganda in Israel/Palestine. Professor Greg Philo and his colleagues were shocked to find a public ignorance compounded by TV news reporting. The more people watched, the less they knew.

Greg Philo says the problem is not “bias” as such. Reporters and producers are as moved as anyone by the suffering of Palestinians; but so imposing is the power structure of the media — as an extension of the state and its vested interests — that critical facts and historical context are routinely suppressed.

Incredibly, less than nine per cent of young viewers interviewed by Professor Philo’s team were aware that Israel was the occupying power, and that the illegal settlers were Jewish; many believed them to be Palestinian. The term “Occupied Territories” was seldom explained. Words such as “murder”, “atrocity”, “cold-blooded killing” were used only to describe the deaths of Israelis.

Recently, a BBC reporter, David Loyn, was critical of another British journalist, Jon Snow of Channel 4 News. Snow was so moved by what he had seen in Gaza he went on YouTube to make a humanitarian appeal. What concerned the BBC man was that Snow had breached protocol and been emotional in his YouTube piece.

“Emotion,” wrote Loyn, “is the stuff of propaganda and news is against propaganda”. Did he write this with a straight face? In fact, Snow’s delivery was calm. His crime was to have strayed outside the boundaries of fake impartiality. Unforgivably, he didn’t censor himself.

In 1937, with Adolf Hitler in power, Geoffrey Dawson, editor of The Times in London, wrote the following in his diary: “I spend my nights in taking out anything which will hurt [German] susceptibilities and in dropping in little things which are intended to soothe them.”

On 30 July, the BBC offered viewers a masterclass in the Dawson Principle. The diplomatic correspondent of the programme Newsnight, Mark Urban, gave five reasons why the Middle East was in turmoil. None included the historic or contemporary role of the British government. The Cameron government’s dispatch of £8 billion worth of arms and military equipment to Israel was airbrushed. Britain’s massive arms shipment to Saudi Arabia was airbrushed. Britain’s role in the destruction of Libya was airbrushed. Britain’s support for the tyranny in Egypt was airbrushed.

As for the British invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, they didn’t happen, either.

The only expert witness on this BBC programme was an academic called Toby Dodge from the London School of Economics. What viewers needed to know was that Dodge had been a special adviser to David Petraeus, the American general largely responsible for the disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan. But this, too, was airbrushed.

In matters of war and peace, BBC-style illusions of impartiality and credibility do more to limit and control public discussion than tabloid distortion. As Greg Philo pointed out, Jon Snow’s moving commentary on YouTube was limited to whether the Israeli assault on Gaza was proportionate or reasonable. What was missing – and is almost always missing – was the essential truth of the longest military occupation in modern times: a criminal enterprise backed by western governments from Washington to London to Canberra.

As for the myth that “vulnerable” and “isolated” Israel is surrounded by enemies, Israel is actually surrounded by strategic allies. The Palestinian Authority, bankrolled, armed and directed by the US, has long colluded with Tel Aviv. Standing shoulder to shoulder with Netanyahu are the tyrannies in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar — if the World Cup ever gets to Qatar, count on Mossad to run the security.

Resistance is humanity at its bravest and most noble. The resistance in Gaza is rightly compared with the 1943 Jewish uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto – which also dug tunnels and deployed tactics of subterfuge and surprise against an overpowering military machine. The last surviving leader of the Warsaw uprising, Marek Edelman, wrote a letter of solidarity to the Palestinian resistance, comparing it with the ZOB, his ghetto fighters. The letter began: “Commanders of the Palestine military, paramilitary and partisan operations – and to all soldiers [of Palestine].”

Dr. Mads Gilbert is a Norwegian doctor renowned for his heroic work in Gaza. On 8 August, Dr. Gilbert returned to his hometown, Tronso in Norway which, as he pointed out, the Nazis had occupied for seven years. He said, “Imagine being back in 1945 and we in Norway did not win the liberation struggle, did not throw out the occupier. Imagine the occupier remaining in our country, taking it piece by piece, for decades upon decades, and banishing us to the leanest areas, and taking the fish in the sea and the water beneath us, then bombing our hospitals, our ambulance workers, our schools, our homes.

“Would we have given up and waved the white flag? No, we would not! And this is the situation in Gaza. This is not a battle between terrorism and democracy. Hamas is not the enemy Israel is fighting. Israel is waging a war against the Palestinian people’s will to resist. It is the Palestinian people’s dignity that they will not accept this. “In 1938, the Nazis called the Jews Untermenschen – subhuman. Today, Palestinians are treated as a subhuman people who can be slaughtered without any in power reacting.

“So I have returned to Norway, a free country, and this country is free because we had a resistance movement, because occupied nations have the right to resist, even with weapons – it’s stated in international law. And the Palestinian people’s resistance in Gaza is admirable: a struggle for us all.”

There are dangers in telling this truth, in breaching what Edward Said called “the last taboo”. My documentary, Palestine Is Still the Issue, was nominated for a Bafta, a British academy award, and praised by the Independent Television Commission for its “journalistic integrity” and the “care and thoroughness with which it was researched.” Yet, within minutes of the film’s broadcast on Britain’s ITV Network, a shock wave struck – a deluge of emails described me as a “demonic psychopath”, “a purveyor of hate and evil”, “an anti-Semite of the most dangerous kind”. Much of this was orchestrated by Zionists in the US who could not possibly have seen the film. Death threats arrived at a rate of one a day.

Something similar happened to the Australian commentator Mike Carlton last month. In his regular column in the Sydney Morning Herald, Carlton produced a rare piece of journalism about Israel and the Palestinians; he identified the oppressors and their victims. He was careful to limit his attack to “a new and brutal Israel dominated by the hard-line, right-wing Likud party of Netanyahu”. Those who had previously run the Zionist state, he implied, belonged to “a proud liberal tradition”.

On cue, the deluge struck. He was called “a bag of Nazi slime, a Jew-hating racist.” He was threatened repeatedly, and he emailed his attackers to “get fucked”.

The Herald demanded he apologise. When he refused, he was suspended, then he resigned. According to the Herald’s publisher, Sean Aylmer, the company “expects much higher standards from its columnists.”

The “problem” of Carlton’s acerbic, often solitary liberal voice in a country in which Rupert Murdoch controls 70 per cent of the capital city press — Australia is the world’s first murdocracy — would be solved twice over. The Australian Human Rights Commission is to investigate complaints against Carlton under the Racial Discrimination Act, which outlaws any public act or utterance that is “reasonably likely … to offend, insult, humiliate another person or a group of people” on the basic of their race, colour or national or ethnic origin.

In contrast to safe, silent Australia — where the Carltons are made extinct — real journalism is alive in Gaza. I often speak on the phone with Mohammed Omer, an extraordinary young Palestinian journalist, to whom I presented, in 2008, the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. Whenever I called him during the assault on Gaza, I could hear the whine of drones, the explosion of missiles. He interrupted one call to attend to children huddled outside waiting for transport amidst the explosions. When I spoke to him on 30 July, a single Israeli F-19 fighter had just slaughtered 19 children. On 20 August, he described how Israeli drones had effectively “rounded up” a village so that they could savagely gunned down.

Every day, at sunrise, Mohammed looks for families who have been bombed. He records their stories, standing in the rubble of their homes; he takes their pictures. He goes to the hospital. He goes to the morgue. He goes to the cemetery. He queues for hours for bread for his own family. And he watches the sky. He sends two, three, four dispatches a day. This is real journalism.

“They are trying to annihilate us,” he told me. “But the more they bomb us, the stronger we are. They will never win.”

The great crime committed in Gaza is a reminder of something wider and menacing to us all.

Since 2001, the United States and its allies have been on a rampage. In Iraq, at least 700,000 men, woman and children are dead as a result. The rise of jihadists – in a country where there was none – is the result. Known as al-Qaeda and now the Islamic State, modern jihadism was invented by US and Britain, assisted by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The original aim was to use and develop an Islamic fundamentalism that had barely existed in much of the Arab world in order to undermine pan-Arab movements and secular governments. By the 1980s, this had become a weapon to destroy the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The CIA called it Operation Cyclone; and a cyclone it turned out to be, with its unleashed fury blowing back in the faces of its creators. The attacks of 9/11 and in London in July, 2005 were the result of this blowback, as were the recent, gruesome murders of the American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff. For more than a year, the Obama administration armed the killers of these two young men — then known as ISIS in Syria — in order to destroy the secular government in Damascus.

The West’s principal “ally” in this imperial mayhem is the medieval state where beheadings are routinely and judicially carried out — Saudi Arabia. Whenever a member of the British Royal Family is sent to this barbaric place, you can bet your bottom petrodollar that the British government wants to sell the sheiks more fighter planes, missiles, manacles. Most of the 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, which bankrolls jihadists from Syria to Iraq.

Why must we live in this state of perpetual war?

The immediate answer lies in the United States, where a secret and unreported coup has taken place. A group known as the Project for a New American Century, the inspiration of Dick Cheney and others, came to power with the administration of George W Bush. Once known in Washington as the “crazies”, this extreme sect believes in what the US Space Command calls “full spectrum dominance”.

Under both Bush and Obama, a19th-century imperial mentality has infused all departments of state. Raw militarism is ascendant; diplomacy is redundant. Nations and governments are judged as useful or expendable: to be bribed or threatened or “sanctioned”.

On 31 July, the National Defense Panel in Washington published a remarkable document that called for the United States to prepare to fight six major wars simultaneously. At the top of the list were Russia and China – nuclear powers.

In one sense, a war against Russia has already begun. While the world watched horrified as Israel assaulted Gaza, similar atrocities in eastern Ukraine were barely news. At the time of writing, two Ukrainian cities of Russian-speaking people – Donetsk and Luhansk – are under siege: their people and hospitals and schools blitzed by a regime in Kiev that came to power in a putsch led by neo-Nazis backed and paid for by the United States. The coup was the climax of what the Russian political observer Sergei Glaziev describes as a 20-year “grooming of Ukrainian Nazis aimed at Russia”. Actual fascism has risen again in Europe and not one European leader has spoken against it, perhaps because the rise of fascism across Europe is now a truth that dares not speak its name.

With its fascist past, and present, Ukraine is now a CIA theme park, a colony of Nato and the International Monetary Fund. The fascist coup in Kiev in February was the boast of US assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland, whose “coup budget” ran to $5 billion. But there was a setback. Moscow prevented the seizure of its legitimate Black Sea naval base in Russian-speaking Crimea. A referendum and annexation quickly followed.

Represented in the West as the Kremlin’s “aggression”, this serves to turn truth on its head and cover Washington’s goals: to drive a wedge between a “pariah” Russia and its principal trading partners in Europe and eventually to break up the Russian Federation. American missiles already surround Russia; Nato’s military build-up in the former Soviet republics and eastern Europe is the biggest since the second world war.

During the cold war, this would have risked a nuclear holocaust. The risk has returned as anti-Russian misinformation reaches crescendos of hysteria in the US and Europe. A textbook case is the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner in July. Without a single piece of evidence, the US and its Nato allies and their media machines blamed ethnic Russian “separatists” in Ukraine and implied that Moscow was ultimately responsible. An editorial in The Economist accused Vladimir Putin of mass murder. The cover of Der Spiegel used faces of the victims and bold red type, “Stoppt Putin Jetzt!” (Stop Putin Now!) In the New York Times, Timothy Garton Ash substantiated his case for “Putin’s deadly doctrine” with personal abuse of “a short, thickset man with a rather ratlike face”.

The Guardian’s role has been important. Renowned for its investigations, the newspaper has made no serious attempt to examine who shot the aeroplane down and why, even though a wealth of material from credible sources shows that Moscow was as shocked as the rest of the world, and the airliner may well have been brought down by the Ukrainian regime.

With the White House offering no verifiable evidence – even though US satellites would have observed the shooting-down — the Guardian’sMoscow correspondent Shaun Walker stepped into the breach. “My audience with the Demon of Donetsk,” was the front- page headline over Walker’s breathless interview with one Igor Bezler. “With a walrus moustache, a fiery temper and a reputation for brutality,” he wrote, “Igor Bezler is the most feared of all the rebel leaders in eastern Ukraine …nicknamed The Demon … If the Ukrainian security services, the SBU, are to be believed, the Demon and a group of his men were responsible for shooting down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 … as well as allegedly bringing down MH17, the rebels have shot down 10 Ukrainian aircraft.” Demon Journalism requires no further evidence.

Demon Journalism makes over a fascist-contaminated junta that seized power in Kiev as a respectable “interim government”. Neo-Nazis become mere “nationalists”. “News” sourced to the Kiev junta ensures the suppression of a US-run coup and the junta’s systematic ethnic cleaning of the Russian-speaking population of eastern Ukraine.

That this should happen in the borderland through which the original Nazis invaded Russia, extinguishing some 22 million Russian lives, is of no interest. What matters is a Russian “invasion” of Ukraine that seems difficult to prove beyond familiar satellite images that evoke Colin Powell’s fictional presentation to the United Nations “proving” that Saddam Hussein had WMD. “You need to know that accusations of a major Russian ‘invasion’ of Ukraine appear not to be supported by reliable intelligence,” wrote a group of former senior US intelligence officials and analysts, the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“Rather, the ‘intelligence’ seems to be of the same dubious, politically ‘fixed’ kind used 12 years ago to ‘justify’ the U.S.-led attack on Iraq.”

The jargon is “controlling the narrative”. In his seminal Culture and Imperialism, Edward Said was more explicit: the western media machine was now capable of penetrating deep into the consciousness of much of humanity with a “wiring” as influential as that of the imperial navies of the 19th century. Gunboat journalism, in other words. Or war by media.

Yet, a critical public intelligence and resistance to propaganda does exist; and a second superpower is emerging – the power of public opinion, fuelled by the internet and social media.

The false reality created by false news delivered by media gatekeepers may prevent some of us knowing that this new superpower is stirring in country after country: from the Americas to Europe, Asia to Africa. It is a moral insurrection, exemplified by the whistleblowers Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange. The question begs: will we break our silence while there is time?

When I was last in Gaza, driving back to the Israeli checkpoint, I caught sight of two Palestinian flags through the razor wire. Children had made flagpoles out of sticks tied together and they’d climbed on a wall and held the flag between them.

The children do this, I was told, whenever there are foreigners around, because they want to show the world they are there — alive, and brave, and undefeated.

This article is adapted from John Pilger’s Edward Said Memorial Lecture, delivered in Adelaide, Australia, on 11 September. Pilger can be reached through his website:

10 OCTOBER 2014

Article from Mondoweiss:

After South African Jewish leader compared Tutu to Hitler, new Jewish group leaped into action

By Dorothy Zellner

Tutu as Hitler in South African Jewish Report ?????

I just got back from an astounding trip to South Africa where, among other things, I was privileged to meet Archbishop Desmond Tutu. I also spent quite a bit of time with members of the nascent group South African Jewish Voices for a Just Peace in Cape Town and Johannesburg–really fabulous people. Lately, for instance, they read out the names of children killed in Gaza at an action at Constitution Hill, an iconic historical site that symbolizes the destruction of apartheid and the rule of law.

And readers of this site may remember this post on an article in the South African Jewish Report on September 10 by one Leon Reich (who is also head of something called Likud South Africa) that trashed the beloved Tutu, comparing him to Hitler in a vicious photo-cartoon and saying that the two men were similar in their desire “to kill Jews,” all because of Tutu’s criticisms of Israel.

The cartoon and article were pulled within hours from the SAJR website but they sent ripples of dismay throughout the world, especially in the South African Jewish community.

Members of Jewish Voices for a Just Peace seized on the case and are pressing for action against Reich. First they fired off a letter to the Cape Times, which ran as the lead letter under the title “Hateful likening of Desmond Tutu to Hitler does not speak for all Jewish people.” (Note that in South Africa the word “struggle” is capitalized. Spelling is in the British style.) Here it is, in full.

Cape Times, September 17, 2014, Opinion, p. 8 (unfortunately the newspaper does not supply links to letters) We South African Jewish Voices for a Just Peace (JVJP) refer to the op-ed article in the South African Jewish Report (SAJR) online dated September 10 in which chairperson of Likud SA and regular contributor to the SAJR, Leon Reich, compares Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu to Hitler and Stalin and refers to Tutu as a “self-appointed midget.” Reich also refers to Tutu’s “anti-Semitism.”

An image of Hitler with Tutu’s face superimposed on it, appeared with this article.

Given Desmond Tutu’s history and character as a Struggle stalwart and one of the great and unwavering contemporary moral voices in this country and the world, as South African Jews we cannot emphasise enough how strongly we condemn the article and the position of its author.

We utterly reject the assumption that dissent from Zionism is equivalent to anti-Semitism.

We also take issue with the article’s distorted and dishonest representation of the Palestinian solidarity movement as a movement invested in the “destruction of Jews.” This is an age-old myth that is perpetrated by Zionist Jews to maintain a siege mentality among Jews in South Africa.

We are also offended by the tone of the so-called apology published by the editor of the SAJR online.

The apology is more concerned with the way in which the article may have offended some Jews with its reference to the Holocaust than it is with making amends to Tutu by offering a sincere and unequivocal apology as would be fitting under the circumstances. We note that the writer of the offending article, Leon Reich, has as yet not apologised.

The reason we speak out as Jews against this offensive article is that this attack on Tutu’s character was launched by a Jewish organization, speaks to a Jewish audience, and frequently invokes the collective “we” which assumes that the Jewish community is homogeneous in its views.

For this very reason, we feel it is important to state that we will not sit in silence while hateful utterances such as these are said in the name of all South African Jews.

As proud South African Jews, we reject the comparison of the Arch to Hitler. This comparison is hate-speech, libellous and morally offensive.

We also reject the petulant apology and call on the SAJR to immediately issue a sincere statement unequivocally apologizing to Tutu for the verbal and visual comparison to Hitler.

Reich is writing in a South Africa where hate speech is unacceptable. We are of the view that charges should be laid against Reich with the relevant South African authorities and that he should be prosecuted for libel.

South African Jewish Voices for a Just Peace (JVJP) are a group of South African Jews who reject the equating of the religion and culture of Judaism with the political project of Zionism.

We recognize that Palestinians live under a particularly brutal military occupation which is based on a violation of their rights.

We support the formation of a society based on equality and respect for human rights for all who live in Israel-Palestine.

Emma Daitz, David Sanders, Moira Levy, Leonard Shapiro and Shereen Usdin
Jewish Voices for a Just Peace (JVJP)

Cape Town

JVJP insisted that Reich apologize within 24 hours or they would go to the authorities. Reich refused, saying that everything he had said was “true.”

Not only did they write a letter to the newspaper, but JVJP made a formal complaint some days later to the South African Human Rights Commission charging libel, slander and hate speech against “the Arch,” as he is commonly called (even by himself). The Commission responded last week, formally acknowledging receipt of the letter and stating that if the complaint was beyond their jurisdiction, they would send it on to authorities who could deal with it.

A member of JVJP told me yesterday that the Commission is “not a toothless tiger.” He is hopeful that some kind of action against Reich will result.

- See more at:Mondoweiss List, Email Campaign

6 MARCH 2015

Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel, who runs the United States government, was invited by the republican congress to address the congress.

This was done in such a way as to bypass the president of the United States, Barak Obama.

Some of the Democratic members of Cngress walked out, but the zionist supporters felt they couldn't do it and remained behind to hear the ongoing zionist propaganda about why Israel should be allowed to nuke Iran before Iran has nukes and is able to nuke Israel.

Of course, nobody knows that Israel is a nuclear power!!!

26 JANUARY 2017

14 MAY 2017

Item from the Sydney Morning Herald:

Hunger strike: Palestinians aim to put Israel's jails at top of agenda

By Farid Farid

Cairo: Two days before starting a hunger strike alongside over 1000 Palestinian prisoners, Marwan Barghouti was in good spirits.

"Marwan would go out for small runs in the jail every morning with other prisoners and he was at his best physically and mentally before going on hunger strike," his lawyer and longtime friend Elias Sabbagh told Fairfax Media.

Protesters gather under a banner of jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti in the West Bank city of Ramallah earlier this month. Photo: AP

The strike, called by Barghouti to protest the conditions in which Palestinians are held and the use of administrative detention by Israeli military courts in the occupied territories, is now entering its fourth week. There are around 6500 Palestinian prisoners, with estimates of over 400 children detained.

Barghouti, 58, a key leader in the Fatah party who rose to prominence during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, is a more popular figure among Palestinians than his nominal superior, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, who recently met with US President Donald Trump.

Palestinian activists stand around a portrait of Marwan Barghouti in the occupied West Bank. The protests come as the 50th anniversary of Israel's occupation approaches. Photo: AP

But he has been imprisoned by Israel since 2002, serving five life sentences on charges of spearheading attacks during the second intifada that killed five people. Barghouti has rejected the legitimacy of the Israeli courts.

As recently as 2011, a report by Israel's military courts - which handle cases against Palestinians living in occupied territory - revealed that the conviction rate for accused Palestinians was 99.74 per cent.

"This is not a legal matter anymore. This is a national and political case that all Palestinians care about – their own prisoners," Sabbagh added.

Fadwa Barghouti, Marwan's wife, has not heard from him as visitation rights have been cut - a common occurrence for Palestinian families.

Fadwa Barghouti, centre, in front of a picture of her husband during the third week of the hunger strike with Qaddoura Fares, right, who heads an advocacy group for Palestinian prisoners. Photo: AP

"There's no news from him. The only thing we received is a curt letter from the International Red Cross informing us that he sends us his best," she told Fairfax Media from Ramallah.

She sent a message to Pope Francis this week imploring him to talk about the suffering of political prisoners, including her husband.

Graffiti in Arabic reads "hunger and not kneeling", on a wall overlooking Israel's Ofer prison in the occupied West Bank. Photo: AP

Last week, the Israel Prison Service (IPS) released footage purporting to show that Barghouti had broken his salt-and-water hunger strike by secretly snacking. The footage was broadcast widely on Israeli media.

But when Pizza Hut tried to capitalise on the controversy to market its services, mockingly suggesting Barghouti could have ordered one of its pizzas, the backlash among Palestinians and across the Arab world forced the multinational to apologise and pull the ad.

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#pizzahut PIzza Hut mocks Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli jails in a very disgusting advert!! #Boycott_pizzahut 3:29 PM - 9 May 2017

A few days into the hunger strike, which started on April 17, a group of Israeli settlers held a barbecue outside Ofer prison in an effort to taunt and demoralise the prisoners.

Earlier this month, Israel's Channel 2 television network reported that the IPS was considering the use of foreign doctors to force-feed prisoners on hunger strike, as the Israeli Medical Association has consistently refused to allow its members to participate in such actions.

For years, international human rights groups as well as the United Nations have condemned arrests of Palestinians under military law and incidents of medical neglect, torture and isolation of prisoners. The conditions in Israeli prisons are particularly harsh on minors, according to experts.

"The law for Palestinian children is different than for Israeli children," said Mikko Joronen, a researcher at Tampere University in Finland who has studied the treatment of Palestinian children in detention.

"Stone throwing, for example, is considered in Israeli military law as a serious security violation which can carry a sentence of up to 20 years," he said.

The hunger strike comes as the 50th anniversary of Israel's occupation of the West Bank during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war approaches.

Donald Trump is scheduled to visit Israel on May 22, but hopes that the standoff with the hunger strikers will be over by then are not high.

Sabbagh's hope is that the plight of the prisoners moves the international community to put legal pressure on Israel.

"Ultimately there's a major demand from the Palestinian people after 50 years of occupation - it is time to free the Palestinian people and release their prisoners," he said.

"The prisoners are living in tight isolated jail cells and the Palestinian people are living in an open-air prison whether in [the] West Bank or Gaza or Jerusalem."

22 JULY 2018

Report from Al JAZEERA:

Israel has finally come out as an ethno-religious state

The only thing left for Palestinians to do is fight for one state espousing democracy and secularism.

By Haidar Eidby Haidar Eid
Knesset member Oren Hazan takes a selfie with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after a Knesset session that passed the 'nation-state' bill in Jerusalem on July 19 [AP Photo/Olivier Fitoussi] more on Palestine Gaza resident: I am very worried about a future war today Israel has finally come out as an ethno-religious state yesterday Gaza reporter: 'My brother's body was in pieces in front of me' yesterday Gaza protests: All the latest updates 3 days ago

In Palestine, we are dealing with a complex situation: We have a settler-colonial project that denies its colonialism and argues it is a democracy and we have its victims whose victimisation has been dismissed for decades and whose national liberation struggle has been defamed.

The colonisers have been successful in manipulating the narrative on what is going on, rewriting history and whitewashing their crimes. Various countries around the world have bought into their lies and kept a "neutral" stance, claiming their positions are "balanced".

What is there to balance, when one side has one of the most advanced armies in the world, financed and supplied by an allied superpower, and the other side has been altogether abandoned by allies and well-wishers and has only the determination and strength of its people to rely on?

But these claims of "neutrality" and "balance" are no longer tenable. Israel has stopped playing the democracy pretence game and has revealed itself for what it really is: an apartheid state. On July 19, the Israeli Knesset voted to pass the so-called "nation-state law" which declares Israel "the national home of the Jewish people". It is now officially an exclusive ethno-religious state.

Unveiling the ethno-religious state of Israel

For us Palestinians, this law reiterates the obvious: namely, that the Zionist ideology is inherently racist and undemocratic.

The political goal of Zionism was to engineer a demographic shift in Palestine, making the minority Jewish population (which was just 7.6 percent in 1914) a majority through massive Jewish immigration and settlement building and expulsion of the Palestinians.

AL JAZEERA WORLD: Against the Wall - activists using non-violent resistance to oppose the construction of Israel's wall (47:31)

Inevitably, the expropriation of land went hand-in-hand with the violation of rights of the Palestinian majority. Zionists have always looked at Palestinians as invisible if not absent, or rather "present absentees". The identity of those who remained within the boundaries of what was to become Israel was erased through the term "Israeli Arab" and their rights curbed by a myriad of laws ("the nation-state law" being just the latest iteration).

This is because, contrary to modern liberal thinking, in Israel, citizenship and nationality are two separate, independent concepts. In other words, Israel is not the state of its citizens, but the state of the Jewish people. Thus Palestinians in Israel have Israeli passports but they do not have rights equal to those of Jewish citizens.

With the new "nation-state law", Palestinians in Israel are now considered "native aliens" or foreigners in their own homeland, because Israel is defined by its law as " the historical homeland of the Jewish people" i.e. not the state of all of its citizens. This is the direct result of Zionism and its ideology of racism.

It is also the direct result of prevailing undemocratic sentiments among Israel's Jews. The contradiction between professed ideals and actual behaviour, which has been the engine of political change in many places around the world, does not exist in Israel because the democratic creed, or civic democracy, is absent in Israeli society.

There is no promise of equality for all citizens in Israeli political culture and praxis. And there is no tradition of civil liberties in Israel because such a tradition is incompatible with Zionism.

Hence, one can understand the antagonism of the establishment to calls for the creation of one state for Palestinians and Jews, one secular democratic state run by parliamentary elections and majority rule in historical Palestine. This idea has been rejected outright by Israeli Jewish society because it would effectively mean the end of Zionism.

And as Israel effectively turns into an exclusive ethno-religious state, we have to ask uncomfortable questions: does this mean that Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, etc can also be the basis of modern states? And if we still insist that religion should be separate from state, then where is the international outrage? Why isn't mainstream media obsessing about the Jewish state, the way it was about the "Islamic state"? How is Israel different from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant that sought to establish a state for Muslims only through violence and dispossession?

The fight against apartheid is on

The passing of the "nation-state law" should eliminate whatever doubt there still is among "neutral" observers that Israel is, in fact, an apartheid state.

Just as apartheid South Africa gave citizenship to white South Africans and relegated blacks to "independent homelands", Zionism gives all Jews the right to citizenship in the state of Israel, while denying citizenship to Palestinians - its indigenous inhabitants.


Bulldozing Palestine, one village at a time

By Mariam Barghouti

While South Africa's apartheid used race to determine citizenship, the state of Israel uses religious identification to determine citizenship. Just as apartheid South Africa made laws criminalising free movement of blacks on their ancestral land, Israel controls every aspect of Palestinians' lives thro ,hugh a military occupation infrastructure composed of checkpoints, Jewish-only settlements and roads, and the Wall, combined with a web of legal regulations.

The parallels between Israel and apartheid South Africa are infinite. And probably the only major difference between the two is that Israel gets away with its crimes with unprecedented impunity, as evidenced by its latest war crimes in Gaza.

So what is left for the Palestinian people after the approval of this blatantly racist bill? Well, we definitely are not foolish enough to expect anything from the so-called "international community".

Years of "negotiations" created only bantustans in the West Bank and a concentration camp in Gaza. Palestinians are still at the receiving end of merciless assaults by racist Israeli troops hidden in their US-made helicopters and F16's.

What all US envoys to the region have been trying to do is reach a "solution" in accordance with Israeli conditions, disregarding Security Council resolutions and international law. Neither the current US right-wing administration nor the spineless EU has a fair plan for how to resolve the crisis in Palestine.

The only thing that we, Palestinians, can count on is the power of people, just as South Africans did when, through a sustained global campaign, they forced governments to boycott their apartheid regime.

We will continue to expand the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement and will continue marching to the fence in Gaza until we bring this madness to an end. We will also continue working on an alternative model, both democratic and secular, which guarantees equality and abolishes apartheid, bantustans and separation in Palestine altogether. We will not give up the fight.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial stance.
Israel: A law that divides and discriminates Inside Story Israel: A law that divides and discriminates ABOUT THE AUTHOR Haidar Eid Haidar Eid zsa.Haidar Eid is an associate Professor at Al-Aqsa University in Gaza.

24 AUGUST 2018

Report from CounterPunch:

A Short History of Collective Punishment: From the British Empire to Gaza

By Stanley L. Cohen

Photo by Felton Davis | CC BY 2.0

As old as war itself, collective punishment has long been the most damning and destructive weapon of all. Not satisfied with engaging combatants alone and directly, historically, it has fueled state reprisal against families, communities and entire populations in a drive to “win” a given conflict, military or otherwise, at all costs.

With roots that trace, literally, to the start of time, reprisal has evolved as modern warfare became more proficient and popular resistance more prevalent. Nowhere has collective punishment proved more evident and efficient than it has in the West where it has long run the gamut from civil sanctions, to population displacement, to political penalty, to imprisonment, to outright slaughter. Of late, it has grown more subtle, yet no less pernicious, through state censorship that seeks to control the narrative of the day.

In the American Civil War, during his “march to the sea”, General Sherman ordered his troops, when faced with any resistance from guerillas, to “enforce devastation more or less relentless according to the measure of such hostility.” In doing so, his troops targeted non-combatants causing more than one-hundred million dollars in property damage. Today that destruction would be valued at more than one-and half billion dollars.

The strategy known as “hard war” was defined by widespread destruction of civilian supplies, infrastructure and property, which disrupted the South’s economy and transportation networks. Foragers, known as “bummers“, seized food from local farms for the Army while they destroyed railroads, manufacturing and agricultural infrastructure in the South.

As troops marched through Georgia, they took whatever horses, mules and wagons, owned by civilians, for military use. In leaving Atlanta, all buildings and structures that might have had a military “value”, including rail depots, roundhouses, arsenals and storage areas, were disassembled and burned. Although monitored, the “controlled” fires resulted in heavy damage, if not widespread destruction, to civilian homes located throughout Atlanta.

Sherman’s “scorched earth” policy was not new and was to continue after the Civil War as military forces targeted non-combatants in particular indigenous communities as an essential part of an early European colonial project.

Thus, in 1863, after a small group of miners were killed, the US military laid the blame at a band of nearby “defiant” Shoshone Indians. During the four hour onslaught that followed, 200 soldiers killed several hundred Shoshone, including at least 90 women, children and infants. They were shot, stabbed and battered to death. Others were driven into the icy river to drown or to freeze.

In 1864, following an unsolved murder of a settler family not far from a reservation at Sand Creek Colorado, the territorial governor called on citizens to “kill and destroy . . . hostile natives.” Seeking the “chastisement” of the Indians, a military raid followed.

According to one soldier, “… hundreds of women and children were coming towards us, and getting on their knees for mercy, only to be shot and have their brains beat out.” Of the 200 defenseless Cheyenne and Arapaho that were murdered, all but 60 were women and children. The dead, women and men alike, were scalped… with their ears and genitals cut out.

Dance has always played an essential role in religious practice and ceremony among indigenous communities in North America. Following the civil war, traditional Native dance was increasingly viewed as a threat to white “settlers” as they moved further west.

Seeing religious practice as a potential flashpoint for an Indian uprising, the U.S. and Canadian governments passed laws banning cultural and religious rituals… including all forms of traditional dance. That ban was to lead to the massacre at Wounded Knee, South Dakota.

Early one December morning in 1890, a large contingent of heavily armed soldiers of the Seventh Cavalry surrounded several hundred Lakota Sioux at a makeshift camp along the banks of Wounded Knee Creek where some were practicing the Ghost Dance… a new and spreading ritual seen as a bridge between the living and the spirits of the dead… to bring unity to natives throughout the region. Sent to arrest the native participants for their Ghost Dance, a gunshot unleashed a barrage of fire… including a military machine gun… that slaughtered several hundred Lakota men, women and children caught in crossfire as they fled to find safety in a nearby ravine.

Half a century later on the eve of the surrender of Germany a series of bombing raids were carried out on the city of Dresden by 800 American and British aircraft. Known as the “Florence of the Elbe,” Dresden was a medieval city renowned for its artistic and architectural treasures. It played no role whatsoever in war-production and had no major industry.

The two days of bombing, which involved 3,400 tons of explosives, unleashed a veritable firestorm which continued burning for days. When the fire ended, the streets were littered with charred corpses… including many children. Although the exact number of those, mostly civilians, killed remains unknown it is estimated that upwards of 135,000 lost their lives and were buried in mass graves… many within the eight square miles of the city that lay in ruins. While various rationales have been raised, the consensus is the attack was simply a mission to collectively punish the Germans and weaken their morale.

Six months later, on August 6, 1945, an American B-29 bomber dropped the world’s first deployed atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The explosion wiped out 90 percent of the city and immediately killed 80,000 people. Three days later, a second B-29 dropped another A-bomb on Nagasaki… killing an estimated 40,000 people. Tens of thousands more would later die of radiation exposure in and around both cities. Already defeated before the use of the atom bombs, Japan’s Emperor surrendered a week later citing the mass destruction and punishment wrought by “a new and most cruel bomb.”

As shown by its participation in the firebombing of Dresden, historically the British have embraced collective punishment, using it often during its once long reign as the world’s leading colonial power. In response to the Boston Tea Party, Britain’s Parliament enacted the “Intolerable Acts” . The Acts closed the Port of Boston, revoked the Massachusetts Charter and, thus, home rule, moved trials of rebels outside North America and required the colonies to quarter the King’s troops, thereby, imposing mass punishment upon much of the colonies for the acts of a few.

During the Second Boer War of 1899-1902, the British rounded up more than a hundred thousand of the Boer civilian population, mostly women and children, and detained them in camps. Overcrowded, with little nourishment, and prone to outbreaks of disease, some twenty-seven thousand Boers and an unknown number of black Africans died.

In April of 1919, peaceful protestors defied a government ban and demonstrated against British Colonial rule in India. Trapped inside a walled off garden, they were fired upon by Gurkha soldiers who kept shooting until they ran out of ammunition. After 10 minutes, the firing stopped… leaving upwards of a thousand protestors dead and another 1,100 injured.

Although precise figures are unknown, it is estimated between 12 and 29 million Indians died of starvation, while under the control of the British Empire… as millions of tons of wheat were exported to Britain even while famine raged throughout India.

In 1943, up to four million Bengalis starved to death when Winston Churchill diverted food to British soldiers and countries such as Greece while a deadly famine swept through Bengal. When asked about the famine Churchill said: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion. The famine was their own fault for breeding like rabbits.”

In 1956, in Cyprus, Britain evicted families from their homes and closed shops in neighborhoods where British soldiers and police had been attacked, purportedly to obtain information about the attackers.

During the so-called Mau Mau uprisings in “British” Kenya, Kikuyu tenants who lost their land to white settlers were detained, en masse, in camps known as “British gulags” where many suffered from torture and sexual assault. It is estimated that during 1951-1960 between 20k and 100k Kikuyu lost their lives.

In 1935-36, Italian troops carried out mass reprisals following their invasion and occupation of Ethiopia. Fascists used mustard gas against civilian communities, bombed Red Cross hospitals and ambulances, destroyed monasteries and shot “witch-doctors” who foretold the end of Italian rule. Following a partisan grenade attack that wounded the Italian viceroy, some 19,000 civilians were murdered in Addis Ababa during a three day rampage carried out by local fascist militias, colonial troops and Italian soldiers. Victims were shot, hanged, burned to death, beaten with clubs and shovels and drowned… being thrown down wells or into the river.

The German Punishment

During World War II, collective punishment was very much the norm as German and Japanese troops engaged in targeted reprisals against persons and communities as revenge for the acts of the few or for purposes of population control.

Following attacks by the Serbian resistance in October of 1941 German soldiers raided the town of Kragujevac in Yugoslavia seizing some ten-thousand civilians… including high school students while in class. Beginning the next day, they were executed in groups of four hundred at a time. When the massacre ended over 5,000 civilians, including women and children, were dead.

To understand where collective punishment would eventually lead, at the hands of Nazi Germany, one must look to its activity well before World War II. Thus, in the early 1930’s, it began to target its civil population by virtue of nothing more than their trade union and political activities and beliefs or religion.

Soon after the election of May 2, 1933, the SA (Nazi paramilitary) and SS (initially Hitler’s bodyguards) began to attack all forms of political opposition… beginning with raids on trade unions offices whose leaders were arrested and imprisoned. Later that year, they raided offices of political opposition parties… destroying equipment, confiscating funds and arresting their leaders. By the middle of that year, Nazis had banned all opposition parties.

In May 1933, the first book burnings under the Nazis occurred outside of the University of Berlin with university students leading the torch lit parade. In 1817, over 100 years earlier, students had initiated book burning with the goal of unifying the patchwork Germany of the time. Among the first works thrown into the fire in 1933 were those of Sigmund Freud’s. In what was clearly prophetic, German Jewish poet Heinrich Heine had written, one-hundred years earlier, “any people that burn books, will one day burn people.”

As Hitler consolidated power, thousands of communists, socialists, church leaders and anyone else who might oppose the Nazis were rounded up. Initially, these prisoners were held in local prisons and police stations. There were so many prisoners that makeshift buildings were converted to house them. Eventually, the Nazis solution to the inefficiency of the buildings was found in establishing large, purpose-built camps to hold these prisoners. These they called concentration camps. The first camp was established on 1 April 1933 at Dachau.

Between 1933 and the end of the war, some dozen years later, many thousands of people resisted the Nazis using both violent and non-violent means. Among the earliest opponents were Communists, Socialists, and trade union leaders. As punishment against this movement thousands were executed including German theologians such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer who opposed the regime.

As millions of Jews, Communists, Socialists, Gypsies, gays and political opposition were murdered in concentration camps throughout Germany and Europe, resistance continued to grow in Nazi-occupied areas outside of Germany.

In France, Denmark, the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Greece and Poland, guerrilla fighters engaged in anti-Nazi sabotage. After Czech agents assassinated Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazi governor of Bohemia and Moravia, the Nazis shot all of the men in the Czech village of Lidice none of whom had any involvement in the assassination.

Warsaw was, perhaps, the most legendary of all uprisings by an urban population in German-occupied territory. On April19, 1943 an armed revolt was begun by a group of Warsaw ghetto dwellers.The Jewish Fighter Organization (ZOB) led the insurgency and battled, for a month, using weapons smuggled into the ghetto. The Nazis responded by bringing in tanks and machine guns. In massive collective punishment, the Nazis burned blocks of buildings and destroyed the ghetto in its entirety. Ultimately, many of the 60,000 remaining residents, most of whom had nothing to do with the uprising, were executed or lost their lives as buildings were bombed or set aflame.

In the French village of Oradour-sur-Glane more than 600 men, women and children were murderedas collective punishment for acts of the resistance. Similar reprisals occurred in the Dutch village of Putten, the Italian village of Sant’Anna di Stazzema and the Soviet village of Kortelisky.

The Japanese Punishment

Beginning long before the onset of World War II, during the 2nd Sino-Japanese War, Japan made widespread use of biological and chemical weapons, created in the infamous Unit 731 labs, in their drive to reduce and control China’s population through weapons of mass destruction.

From 1931 through 1945, Japan employed thousands of biological and chemical weapons throughout China. The provinces of Hunan, Jiangsu, Jilin, Kwangtung and Zhejiang were among those targeted. The attacks in Zhejiang offer a chilling view of Japan’s use of biological or germ warfare as a weapon of collective punishment against a civil population.

On October 4, 1940, a Japanese airplane dropped plague-infected fleas (causing bubonic and other plagues) over Quzhou, a small town in western Zhejiang Province. Within days the first victims died.

Within a year more than a two- thousand others perished.

In September of 1941 the plague was carried to another village causing the death of one thousand more civilians. In 1942 Japan unleashed a series of anthrax and glanders (a rare infectious disease) attacks on villages throughout Zhejiang leading to the painful deaths of three thousand additional villagers.

Population displacement has also been a mainstay of collective punishment. Though the world map has frequently been reconfigured to reflect changing political winds, two displacements, in particular, provide insight into how political priorities and retribution have directed the forced movement of people in contravention of international law.

In 1944, Stalin deported the entire population of the North Caucasus… more than half a million people from the republics of Ingushetia, Chechnya, and North Ossetia… to the Soviet republics of Central Asia based on an assumption they were “collaborating” with the Nazis.

The gun-point displacement used crowded cattle-cars which simply dropped victims in a barren wilderness with no means of survival. In an earlier displacement it is estimated that beginning in 1941 more than three-million Russian Poles and Latvians, Lithuanians and Estonians were deported to Siberia and the Central Asian republics. It is estimated almost half of them died of diseases and malnutrition.

As “reparations” after the war the allies forcibly expelled some 14 million German speaking civilians from their homes in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia, and Poland removing them to the rubble of Allied-occupied Germany. Most of them were women, the elderly and children.

Along the way perhaps half a million died due to starvation, disease, attacks and executions. Tens of thousands of others perished in forced labor camps. Many of these had been concentration camps which remained in operations for years after the cessation of hostilities.

The Israeli Punishment

Collective punishment is the alluring call of the desperate tyrant. It is a shameless group stab that targets communities when a despot’s aim, at the few, falls short of their coveted mark. To them, how much easier it is to break a people’s step by spreading anguish among all… the young, the old, those waiting to take their turn.

Collective punishment comes in many shapes. Some short, explosive and deadly. Others the kind that hang heavy like an amorphous throb that just never seems to go away… an ache always there to remind that there’s something about your race, religion or heritage that panics tyranny. And, then, there is the kind that confronts every breath you take, every step you make… day in and out… generation after generation. The sort that demands you walk or run off into the past and never return to a future that is yours to claim. No tomorrow. No vision. No voice. No hope.

That is the collective punishment begun by European Zionists decades before the United Nations ripped Palestine from Palestine… when they unleashed a spree of death, dispossession and destruction that has continued unabated for more than ninety years. No modern collective punishment has been as long, as public or as perversely proud.

Though the Nakba began on May 14, 1948, it unfolded decades before when Balfour issued an open invitation to terrorists such as the Irgun, Palmach or Lehi (the Stern Gang) to commence a deadly colonial project that came to know no bounds.

For years, Palestinians were targeted in their homes, businesses, and marketplaces for no reason but their easy mark. Men, women and children were butchered by bombs or slain by shots… not as armed opposition but as civilians swept up in a pogrom of collective punishment.

No one can erase the terrorist blast of the King David Hotel by the Irgun in1946 that took ninety-one lives including some four dozen Palestinians. Nor can the massacres at Deir Yassin and Ein al-Zeitun by the Irgun or Lehi in April and May of 1948, be apologized away as the unfortunate loss from competitive battle. Hundreds of executed civilians, many tethered and shot, others mutilated and raped, is not warfare but collective punishment of the worst kind… the type designed to spread mass terror through a despicable feed upon the most vulnerable in two defenseless, age-old, rural villages.

If these were to be the explosive benchmarks of early shared punishment, for more than a decade before, thousands of Palestinians were murdered or injured in a rampage of non-stop terrorism that determined life and death by little more than mere happenstance.

Crowded Souqs (marketplaces) in Jerusalem, Jaffa and Haifa were a particular favorite for collective punishment as bombs exploded… some hidden on donkeys or under fruit stands, others tossed into crowds of shoppers from passing vehicles. Many were shot and killed in random drive-bys. Small lodges, town halls, political headquarters, cinemas and trains were the scene of repeated carnage caused by explosives or ambush. More than once, the Damascus Gate of the Old City was attacked by barrel bombs or strafed by gun fire. In Jaffa, more than one hundred homes were burned to the ground as part of a coordinated bombing attack. And in a precursor of what was to come, soon, en masse, on the night of December 31, 1947- January 1, 1948, the village of Balad al-Shaykh was attacked by paramilitary forces that proceeded to blow up homes and execute 70 Palestinians as retaliation for an earlier battle elsewhere between Zionist and Palestinian fighters.

With the establishment of Israel, over night, collective punishment took on a new, more odious, meaning as mass displacement became a prime weapon of choice throughout Palestine. Fearing advancing Israeli troops or another Deir Yassin massacre by marauding militias, some eight hundred thousand Palestinians fled, or were expelled, from their age-old homes, to become stateless refugees strewn throughout the Middle East.

In the days that followed, between 400 and 600 Palestinian villages were sacked… reduced to little more than rubble. As panic spread, Israeli troops patrolled urban centers using vans and loudspeakers to order terrified inhabitants to evacuate their homes.As mass flight took hold it became clear to international observers and journalists, alike, that cleansing Palestine of its civil population had become a formal Israeli policy. Not long thereafter, a series of laws were passed by Israel which prevented Palestinians from returning to their homes.

It sealed the fate of millions of Palestinians who 70 years later continue to suffer from an unprecedented formalized state policy of mass collective punishment and exile.

“The IDF began to attack civilian targets, including population centers, with the goal of causing the residents to understand the price of escalation and placing Hamas in a problematic situation.”

With these words, a recent newspaper article in the Hebrew-language version of Haaretz confirmed what informed observers had long known: that Israel sees itself above international law in its use of collective punishment as an essential element of its drive to complete its goal of ethnic cleansing throughout Palestine.

To understand the contemporary reality of collective punishment in Palestine, for context one need only look back some thirteen years to the electoral victory of Hamas in Gaza. In the years since, the Israeli government has targeted its two million civilians for direct and unremitting punishment for little more than their electoral will and political determination. Parallel to this attack has been a simultaneous one, of a different nature, on the Palestinian civil population throughout the Occupied West Bank.

Even before the on-going bloodbath in the Great Return March, few can deny Israel’s frequent use of collective punishment on non-combatants in the Gaza strip. Predictably, each time, it has blamed “terrorists” within the civil society itself for the “unfortunate” and substantial casualties and widespread destruction of infrastructure, buildings and homes that ensued.

On January 3, 2009, Israel began a ground offensive in Gaza. When it ended some two weeks later more than eight-hundred civilians lay dead, including those who lost their lives seeking shelter in U.N. compounds that were targeted by Israel. In one such attack 43 were killed by an Israeli shelling on January 6.

In what was to become the rai·son d’être of future assaults, Israel destroyed homes, university and apartment buildings, schools, factories and infrastructure describing them as part of the Hamas “support network.” Damage estimated in excess of $3 billion further strained the already dire humanitarian situation in Gaza leaving 46,000 displaced persons in UNRWA shelters.

Less than three years later, on November 14, 2012, Israel once again attacked Gaza using planes, mortar fire and tanks throughout the embattled enclave. According to a reportby the UNHCR, during the onslaught 174 Palestinians were killed including 33 children, 13 women and three journalists by air strikes on their cars. Hundreds of others were wounded, among them at least 88 under the age of five. On November 19, 2012, an Israeli airstrike killed ten members of the Dalu family, including five children and two neighbors.

In what can only be described as an all-out attack on civil society, Al Mezan, reported that, in just one week, the Israeli army destroyed 124 homes and damaged more than 2000 others while targeting numerous residential communities and apartment blocks.

When the attack ended, 52 places of worship, 25 NGO’s, 97 schools, 15 health institutions, 14 journalist offices and 16 government buildings lay in ruins. Fifteen factories and 192 trade shops, twelve water wells and large agricultural tracts were damaged or destroyed… as was the main bridge connecting Gaza City with the rest of the enclave.

In 2014, Israel undertook its most recent coordinated military assault on Gaza as it once again targeted its two millions civilians with massive disproportionate force. According to a United Nations report “the scale of the devastation was unprecedented… tallying more than 6,000 airstrikes, 14,500 tank shells and 45,000 artillery shells unleashed between July 7 and Aug. 26.”

Many of these explosive devices, in particular artillery and mortars, were used in densely populated areas and designed to have a “wide-area” impact to ensure that anyone or anything within the contact area would likely be killed, injured or damaged due to their explosive power and imprecision. By design the haphazard use of these weapons destroyed entire neighborhoods.

When the carnage ended, 2310 Palestinians were killed… the majority of them civilians including 551 children and 299 women. More than 11,000 others were wounded, a third of them children, with over 1,000 left permanently disabled. Many of the killed or maimed had sought refuge in various shelters including U.N. schools which were hit despite the fact their coordinates had been provided to Israel in advance of the attack.

The collective punishment unleashed on Gaza during the attack of 2014 was meant to cause lasting devastation on a civil community already overwhelmed by poverty and still reeling from the last assault on its infrastructure just a few years earlier.

During the 50 day attack, Israel struck more than 5,200 targets including thousands of homes that were destroyed or severely damaged. Hundreds of factories, dairy farms (with livestock) and orange groves were destroyed, as were the lone power station and major sewage pipe in Gaza, serving 500,000 residents.138 schools and 10 out of 26 hospitals were damaged or destroyed along with 203 mosques and two of Gaza’s three Christian churches.

For those in need of a painful primer on what explosive collective punishment looks and feels like today, these deadly mass attacks upon the civil society, indeed life, of Gaza leave nothing to the imagination. Each assault caused substantial casualties among non combatants and crippled essential infrastructure and support services for the health, welfare and safety of some two million men, women and children.

Make no mistake about it, carpet bombing is not an isolated military misstep. It is a determined, strategic call. Repeat targeted attacks upon residential neighborhoods and schools, shelters and hospitals by “wide area” impact weapons are not intended to minimize civilian suffer but, rather, to serve as triggers for horrific collective punishment.

Yet, military assault is but one deadly adjunct to a systematic choke upon Gaza, now in its thirteenth year of Israeli occupation, that has denied its civil population sufficient food, water, clothing, medicines, fuel, shelter, bedding, hospital equipment and freedom of movement. Recognized as guaranteed humanitarian rights, these are not mere commodities of privilege or luxuries of life. To be sure, their absence is the core distinction between victims of collective punishment and those who impose it.

Completely surrounded by walls and fences, years of Israeli attacks and a suffocating embargo on produce and supplies have left Gaza reeling from an absence of an infrastructure capable of meeting the needs of its people. Whether its electricity, clean water, healthcare, or sewage treatment and waste management, it is undergoing a humanitarian crisis now entering its second decade.

In Gaza, abject poverty is rampant. At 41.1 percent, the unemployment rate is the highest in the world. Its youth unemployment is 64 percent.

Although thousands of homes damaged or destroyed during Israel’s attacks remain in need of repair, the construction sector is idle. More than a hundred thousand live in cramped shelters or remain homeless. Sixty per cent of Gaza lives under the poverty line. According to UNICEF a third of Gaza’s children suffer from chronic malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies that can stunt development and affect overall health.

According to the WHO, power cuts and fuel shortages have created constant crises for Gaza’s 14 public hospitals; threatening the closure of essential health services leaving thousands of people without access to life-saving medical care. For well over a year electricity for Gaza has dropped to a total of just three hours daily. At any given time, power loss threatens the lives of hundreds of new-borns and adults in neonatal and intensive care units.

Only three percent of the entire water supply in Gaza is fit for human consumptionwith the rest contaminated and dangerous because of untreated sewage, agricultural chemicals and a large concentration of chloride.

With the shortage of clean water looms the fear of a deadly cholera epidemic particularly in a community with a young population with increasing numbers showing signs of acute malnutrition and severe wasting.

According to the World Bank, 56 % of all Palestinians have no access to “reasonable and customary” healthcare in Gaza. Dozens of basic drugs are unavailable. Currently, more than eight thousand chemotherapy patients including hundreds of children are unable to obtain life saving treatment due to the absence of drugs needed to sustain them.

According to Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHRI), the public health system is not able to provide specialized treatments for complex medical problems in a variety of fields including neonatal care, cardiology, orthopedics and oncology.

So far this year, 30 patients have died after their exit permits to obtain treatment were either denied or not granted in time. Not long ago three seriously ill babies died after permits to grant them treatment in Israel were denied. Earlier this year, 2 children died while waiting permission from Israel to leave for external treatment.

Seeds of Collective Punishment

In November of 1998, the Yasser Arafat Airport, located between Rafah and Dahaniya, was opened with much fanfare. Capable of handling some 700,000 passengers per year, it was seen as an important step forward in the establishment of Palestinian statehood as it provided the only transit into and out of Gaza beyond the control of Israel. In 2001, Israel destroyed its radar station and control tower, in a bombing attack, after the start of the Al Aqsa Intifada in the occupied West Bank. Never again would the airport be used.

After 38 years of internal occupation in southern Gaza, the Israeli army and 21 “settlements” with almost ten-thousand settlers were, in 2005, driven from the coastal enclave. Though Israel has long claimed it was a voluntary “withdrawal” for security reasons, it is clear that increasing confrontations and resistance by Palestinian fighters in Gaza was the cause of the evacuation.

Not long after the victory of Hamas in the Palestinian legislative elections of 2006, Israel declared the Gaza strip “hostile territory.” Soon thereafter it imposed a series of political, economic and military sanctions to isolate and destroy Hamas and to punish Gaza’s population for the exercise of its political will.

In its thirst for collective punishment, Israel imposed a naval blockade which limited offshore fishing zones and initiated a siege that resulted in the closure of border crossings, for people, goods and services. It also implemented a “buffer zone” within the territory.

These measures have had a devastating impact on the living standards and life of all of Gaza and destroyed any prospect of economic development or independence. They have created a grave and protracted humanitarian crisis that has only been exacerbated by three unwarranted and excessive military onslaughts that have killed thousands of Palestinians and laid waste to Gaza’s infrastructure.

Thirteen years later, Israel controls Gaza’s air and maritime space, and six of its seven land crossings; Egypt rules the seventh. It controls Gaza’s population registry and arbitrarily decides who comes into and out of the world’s largest open air prison. Gaza remains dependent on Israel for its water, electricity, telecommunications, and other utilities.

And what of that buffer zone? As shown by the Great Return March, it’s proved deadly… as Israeli snipers decide who will live and who will die from the safety of their mounds for the daring of Gaza’s voice.

The Law of Collective Punishment

Throughout history, during times of armed conflict and occupation, military forces have repeatedly used acts of collective punishment on groups of persons without regard to whether or not they bore personal responsibility for the very acts, it was claimed, that required a response. The use of collective punishments and infliction of cruel punitive measures upon civil populations is not new. For many years, belligerent reprisals have been little more than illegal means of repression or intimidation often imposed under the guise of legitimate law enforcement.

Unable to locate insurgents responsible for so-called hostile acts, invading armies and occupation powers have long used collective punishment in the hopes of suppressing resistance and ensuring willful obedience. Ultimately, the goal of deterrence is little more than a pretext for tyranny.

International law has responded to this military ritual by increasingly restricting and outlawing the practice of collective punishment

Of the many prohibitions set forth under international law, the one most frequently ignored, yet, clearly defined, is the ban on collective punishment. The prohibition of collective punishment in international humanitarian law is based on one of the oldest, and most basic, tenets of criminal law… the principle of individual responsibility. Article 3 of the Fourth Geneva Convention Section 1 Art. 33 provides that: “No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.”

This convention codifies the Hague Regulations of 1899 which provide “No general penalty, pecuniary or otherwise, can be inflicted on the population on account of the acts of individuals for which it cannot be regarded as collectively responsible” The Hague Resolution of 1907 Section 3 Art 50 affirmed this rule with only a slight modification amending “collective responsible” to “jointly and severally responsible.”

Article 4, par. 2(b), of Protocol II of the Convention further defines collective punishment as “penalties of any kind inflicted on persons or entire groups of persons in defiance of the most elementary principles of humanity, for acts that these persons have not committed.” The Commentary on Protocol II emphasizes that collective punishment should be given the widest possible application and includes any kind of sanction.

Under International law, the law of wars (humanitarian law) is no less applicable to conflicts between non-international combatants than it is fighting among international forces. Accordingly, although political debate may arise over whether which category the decades old conflict between Israel and Palestinians in the Occupied Territories may fall, for purposes of humanitarian law it is difference without a distinction.

Both Israel and the resistance forces of Palestine are obligated to observe article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 (“common article 3”), the Second Additional Protocol of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions (Protocol II), applicable to non-international armed conflicts, and relevant customary international law.

In relevant part, humanitarian law forbids deliberately harming civilians and other persons no longer taking part in hostilities, including wounded. It also establishes specific rules on the conduct of hostilities to minimize unnecessary suffering.

These provisions prohibit violations of the right to life, torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment, arbitrary arrest and detention, and unfair trials. They also provide for the rights to the protection of the home and family, and particularized protection of children in times of armed conflict.

Persons under the control of government in an internal armed conflict must, in all cases, be treated in accordance with international humanitarian law, which incorporates important human rights standards.

Violations of international humanitarian and human rights law provide for personal criminal liability for those individuals found in breach of their prohibition. Human rights abuses committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against any civilian population are crimes against humanity.

In sum, international human rights laws prohibit the arbitrary deprivation of life and, at all times, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

At their core, a fundamental principle of international humanitarian law is that parties to a conflict must distinguish between combatants and civilians, and may not deliberately target civilians or civilian objects.

Protocol II states, in no uncertain terms, “civilian population and individual civilians shall enjoy general protection against the dangers arising from military operations.” They are not to be the object of attack and all acts or threats of violence with the primary purpose to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited.

Customary international humanitarian law prohibits attacks directed against civilian objects, such as homes and places of worship. Protocol II specifically bans attacks, destruction, or removal of objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population including food-stuffs, agricultural areas, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies, and irrigation works. Pillage or plunder – the forcible taking of private property – is also prohibited.

Collective punishments are prohibited under international humanitarian law in all circumstances. The prohibition on collective punishments applies not just to criminal sanctions against persons for actions for which they do not bear individual criminal responsibility but, also, “all sanctions and harassment of any sort, administrative, by police action or otherwise.”

Article 4 of Protocol II also sets out the fundamental guarantees of humane treatment, which explicitly includes a prohibition on collective punishments, acts of terrorism, and pillage. Commentaries of the International Committee of the Red Cross on Protocol II and customary international law make clear that these articles leave no room for reprisals in non-international armed conflict.

With respect to individual responsibility, serious violations of international humanitarian law include the mistreatment of persons in custody and deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian property, and when committed with criminal intent amount to war crimes.

Criminal intent requires purposeful or reckless action. Individuals may also be held criminally liable for attempting to commit a war crime, as well as assisting in, facilitating, aiding or abetting a war crime. Responsibility may also fall on persons ordering, planning, or instigating the commission of a war crime. Even in the absence of a formal state policy, commanders and civilian leaders may be prosecuted for war crimes as a matter of command responsibility when they knew or should have known about the commission of war crimes and took insufficient measures to prevent them or punish those responsible.

The Israeli Punishment… Continued

In Palestine the use of collective punishment began long ago through a rampage of indiscriminate bombings, kidnappings, arson and random shootings that targeted civil society. After the establishment of Israel, population displacement and exile turned upwards of eighty percent of the indigenous community into stateless refugees. Ethnic cleansing was then well underway.

In the years since the Irgun became the IDF, collective punishment has become very much the norm as the Israeli military has routinely embraced mass murder and reprisal as a strategic weapon of choice in Gaza. Wholesale destruction of homes, schools, hospitals, houses of worship and essential infrastructure has become very much the wretched political norm in Israel.

At the same time, Israel has imposed an embargo on the import of necessary food, medicine, water, and reconstruction materials and placed a stranglehold on a once flourishing maritime industry while reducing movement in and out of Gaza to a trickle. Beginning more than a decade ago, these steps were imposed against the entire civil society of Gaza as punishment for its political will and for the lawful resistance acts of the few.

Although qualitatively different, collective punishment in the occupied West Bank is no less pernicious, every bit as illegal and, beyond question, another conscious step by Israel to strip millions of occupied people of their indigenous identity and rights in violation of international law.

As in Gaza, there is no shortage of evidence of Israel’s decade’s old systematic attack upon the civil society and institutions of the occupied West Bank. As in Gaza, ultimately, all Israeli policies there are driven by the subterfuge of necessity.

Whether it is forced population displacement or the ever present dividing walls and checkpoints or a dozen other illegal military sanctions, Israel punishes some two and a half-million civilians for the drive of their political will or the legitimate military resistance of the relatively few.

Simply put collective punishment at its worst.

Thus, since the occupation began in 1967 mass incarceration has become the norm with more than 800,000 Palestinians from the West Bank imprisoned. Almost all have been denied any modicum of due process and were prosecuted, tried and convicted by military tribunals. Jews living in the Occupied Territory are, of course, prosecuted in civil courts and receive the full panoply of their civil criminal rights.

Most of the 800,000 were charged on the basis of unreliable secret evidence. Using the talisman of “security,” those imprisoned over the years include many tens of thousands prosecuted for little more than their politics beliefs, or their speech, association or movement.

Prisons come in many forms. There are those with cellblocks and bunks and others with walls and checkpoints which keep those at liberty nonetheless prisoner to their plight. Throughout the West Bank these walls and checkpoints not only limit movement and illegally divide families into crafted segregated communities, but deny students equal education and the frail and infirm quality medical care.

Throughout the occupation mass displacement of indigenous communities, including those of Bedouin families and neighborhoods, in East Jerusalem that date back millennium, have been undertaken or razed to accommodate illegal settlements.

To date, more than 800,000 settlers reside in the West bank with much of it now annexed in clear violation of international law. Often Muslims, and increasingly Christian Palestinians, are denied the right to exercise their religious beliefs due to their age, through embargoes on travel or closure of Mosques or churches due to “security” … including the Al Aqsa Mosque and compound. It has become common place for settlers or Israeli soldiers or police to attack Al Aqsa causing damage to the third holiest site in Islam or casualties, including death, to those in prayer.

During other periods, East Jerusalem has been hard hit by Israeli “security” steps… including dozens of military checkpoints and concrete roadblocks at entrances to various neighborhoods and internal community roads causing great disruption to the lives of several hundred thousand Palestinian residents.

Typically, as an adjunct to such neighborhood closures, policing operations are undertaken in which thousands of residents, of all ages, are stopped, searched and questioned for nothing more than living on a given street. More than a few reported abusive encounters with Israeli police and soldiers including sexual harassment either by comments or physical contact.

These measures, which arbitrarily targeted large segments of the East Jerusalem population, bear no nexus to the commission of attacks that had occurred earlier, elsewhere, in East Jerusalem. As a result tens of thousands of Palestinians had their rights to freedom of movement, access to healthcare and to maintain their standard of living unreasonably disrupted.

While many of these restrictions have been lifted, some neighborhoods continue to suffer from on-going and severe access restrictions as well as abusive policing operations. Overall, these arbitrary security measures have adversely impacted the local and whole Palestinian economies and reduced employment opportunities to a community already suffering from high rates of joblessness.

On occasion, entire villages or towns have been sealed off in the West Bank because of military operations, once again unrelated to local acts of violence, thereby disrupting the lives and livelihoods of their residents. These measures constitute prohibited collective punishment.

Elsewhere, other Palestinians have not been so “fortunate” as to merely suffer from checkpoint harassment on their way back home. Punitive home demolitions have long been a mainstay of the Israeli military targeting the families and relatives of Palestinians allegedly involved in attacks, even in the absence of any evidence that the families had any prior knowledge of, or participated in, them. Although intermittent, these demolitions have destroyed dozens of homes leaving several hundred Palestinians homeless… including almost one-hundred children.

Punitive demolitions of Palestinian homes also violate a number of core human rights including the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to family life, the right to freedom of movement and physical and mental health.

Although the practice eventually reached the Israeli High Court, it was upheld on the basis that the destruction was necessary on “deterrence and security grounds.” It was not the first time the Court ignored well-settled international prohibitions against collective punishment and if history is, indeed, the guidepost of what is yet to come… it will not be the last.


What greater crime can there be than to steal a child’s smile… to snatch their hope, health and happiness. Yet, today, that heartless theft has become so much the norm throughout the world. Neither warrior, nor foe, they have become the soft side of hard hearts that embrace collective punishment as the sure path to conquest.

In the last three months alone, 23 Palestinian children have been murdered by Israeli snipers; their crime… the audacity to march for a dream. Just last week, in Yemen, 40 children lost their future to a bomb dropped on a school bus by a Saudi Jet supplied by a US company. Last year 50,000 Yemini children lost their lives to a measured more twisted death, one caused by starvation or disease through an embargo that has long denied its civil population food, medicine and water. In Syria it is estimated children are one out of every four who have lost their lives to bombing campaigns of the United States and Russia. Tens of thousands of others have been killed by guns and ground explosives. Greater than four hundred thousand Rohingya children now live in refugee camps in Bangladesh, fleeing genocide in Myanmar. Thousands are orphans… many of them work in the sprawling sex trade having been greeted in their flight by utter poverty and rape.

This is the face of collective punishment in all its horror. Our collective future lost to our failed past.

Battered and bruised, more than a hundred and fifty years ago, some in the community of nations began to ponder the madness that had long consumed non combatants for the folly of a fight that was not theirs to pick.

In the midst of the mayhem that was the US Civil War, the nascent Red Cross began to speak of humanitarian relief. In Europe, others stunned by seeming decades of on-going, widespread conflict began to explore the plight of the wounded.

From this discussion grew the Geneva Convention of 1864. Other conventions and protocols were soon to follow ultimately extending to the protection of civilians in enemy and occupied territories. Known simply as a ban on collective punishment, it was to be the wishful panacea that would protect most of the world from the ravage of the few. It has failed.

To walk down these roads from afar is a painful journey as so much a witness to events and places that have unfolded with tragic eyes before us, but not nearly as difficult and destructive as it has been for those who have lived it.

We of exceptional position, whether born of race, opportunity or mere providence, are witness today to an unprecedented attack on the most vulnerable among us… millions lost to the callous crosshairs of dispute and despair, some age-old, others of recent vintage.

Long ago, at the opening of the war crimes tribunal at Nuremberg, a simple question was posed that remains no less probative or powerful today than it was more than seventy years ago:

“Under the law of all civilized peoples, it has been a crime for one man with his bare knuckles to assault another. How did it come that multiplying this crime by a million, and adding fire arms to bare knuckles, makes it a legally innocent act?”

Prohibition of collective punishment is the long settled law of the international community. Yet it remains very much but a tease… a sanction without a herald.

It is a message lost to the powerful. But as we approach the midnight of our shared fate there is still time for it to become our collective call.

If not… we are all doomed, deserving victims to our own indifference.

More articles by:Stanley L. Cohen
Stanley L. Cohen is lawyer and activist in New York City.

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 1

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 2

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 3

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 4

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 5

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 6

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 7

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 8

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 9a

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 9b

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 10

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 11

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 12

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 13

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 14

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 15

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 16

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 17

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 18

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 19

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 20

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 21



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This page was created on 16 APRIL 2014 and updated on 3 SEPTEMBER 2018