| #GazaUnderAttack: Israel awakens the Palestine it tried to crush!

The brutal war unleashed on Gaza has one aim – and it has nothing to do with the three killed settlers. Netanyahu knows he has to crush a collective Palestinian spirit that’s emerged despite Israel’s decades of assimilation efforts.

When the bodies of three Israeli settlers – two teenagers, Aftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaar, both 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19 – were found on 30 June near Hebron in the southern West Bank, Israel went into a state of mourning and a wave of sympathy flowed from around the world. The three had disappeared 18 days earlier in circumstances that remain unclear.

The entire episode, particularly after its grim ending, seemed to traumatize Israelis into ignoring harsh truths about the settlers and the militarisation of their society. For instance, one of the three has since been accused of humiliating Palestinian prisoners, while another was reportedly an occupation soldier.

Amid a portrayal of the three as hapless youths, although one was a 19-year-old soldier, commentators have failed to provide badly needed context to events. Few, if any, assigned the blame where it was most deserved – on expansionist policies which have sown hatred and bloodshed.

Before the bodies’ discovery, the real face of Netanyahu’s notoriously right-wing government was well-known. Few held Illusions about how “peaceful” an occupation can be if run by figures such as Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, and Deputy Defence Minister Danny Danon. But because “children” – the term used by Netanyahu himself – were involved, even critics didn’t expect an exercise in political point-scoring.

The was sympathy elicited for the missing settlers case, but it quickly vanished in the face of an Israeli response (in the West Bank, Jerusalem and later a full-scale war on Gaza) largely seen as in the crucible of world opinion as disproportionate and cruel. Rather than related to the tragic death of three youths, this response obviously reflected Netanyahu’s grand political calculations.

As mobs of Israeli Jews went out on an ethnic lynching spree in Israel, Jerusalem and the West Bank that some likened to a “pogrom”, occupation soldiers conducted a massive arrest campaign of hundreds of Palestinians, mostly Hamas members and supporters.

The Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas said it has no role in the death of the settlers, and this appears plausible since they rarely hesitate to take credit for something carried out by their military wing. Israeli military strategists were well aware of that.

This war on Hamas, however, has little to with the killed settlers, and everything to do with the political circumstances that preceded their disappearance.

Nakba and a new Intifada

On 15 May, two Palestinian youths, Nadim Siam Abu Nuwara, 17, and Mohammed Mahmoud Odeh Salameh, 16 were killed by Israeli soldiers while taking part in a protest commemorating the anniversary of the Nakba, or ‘Great Catastrophe’. Video footage shows that Nadim was innocently standing with a group of friends before collapsing as he was hit by an Israeli army bullet.

The Nakba took place 66 years ago as the so-called Arab-Israeli conflict emerged. An estimated one million Palestinians were forced out of their homes as they fled a Zionist invasion. Israel was established on the ruins of that Palestine.

Nadim and Mohammed, like the youths of several generations since, were killed in cold blood as they walked to remember that exodus. In Israel, there was no outrage. However, Palestinian anger, which seems is in constant accumulation – being under military occupation and enduring harsh economic conditions – was reaching a tipping point.

In some way, the deaths of these Palestinian youths were a distraction from the political disunity that has afflicted Palestinian leaderships and society for years. Their deaths were a reminder that Palestine, as an idea and a collective plight and struggle, goes beyond the confines of politics or even ideology.

Their deaths reminded us that there is much more to Palestine than the whims of the aging Palestinian Authority ‘President’ Mahmoud Abbas and his Ramallah-based henchmen, or even Hamas’s regional calculations following the rise and fall of the ‘Arab Spring.’

The Israeli reaction to the settlers’ death has been different. After the bodies’ discovery, fellow settlers and right-wing Israelis began exacting revenge from Palestinian communities. The mob was united by the slogan “death to the Arabs”, reviving a long-disused notion of a single Palestinian identity that precedes the emergence of Fatah and Hamas.

Perhaps paradoxically, the grief and anger provoked by the death of Mohammad Abu Khdeir, 17, who was burnt alive by Israeli settlers as part of this lashing out, has furthered this reawakening of a long-fragmented Palestinian national identity.

An identity that had suffered due to Israeli walls, military tactics and the Palestinians’ own disunity, has been glued back together in a process that resembles the events which preceded the first and second uprisings of 1987 and 2000 respectively.

Much can be said about the hypocrisy in which Western governments have responded to the deaths of Palestinians and Israelis, the sorry state of Arab affairs, the pressure placed on the increasingly collaborative Abbas to find the killers, and the lack of a serious response to Israeli army and settlers abuse of Palestinian youth, including an American-Palestinian boy. But Palestinian collective action is hardly motivated by the renowned hypocrisy of the West. The greatest Palestinian priority for now is finding a common strategy that would cement unity and eventually achieve their national aspirations.

Unity government

However, unlike in the previous Intifadas, the hurdles towards a unified voice this time seem insurmountable. Abbas is a weak leader who has done so much to meet Israel’s security expectations and so very little to defend the rights of his people. He is a relic from a bygone era who merely exists because he is the best option Israel and the US have at the moment.

In the aftermath of the Israeli violent response to the killing of the settlers, Abbas laboured to coordinate with the massive Israeli search. At times, he stayed away as Israeli troops brutalised Palestinians in the West Bank.

It is clear that there can be no third Intifada that leaves Abbas and his wretched political apparatus in place. This is precisely why Palestinian Authority goons prevented many attempts by Palestinians in the West Bank to protest the Israeli violence unleashed in the occupied territories, which finally culminated into a massive war against Gaza that has killed and wounded hundreds. These very PA officers who stood by as the army raided Palestinian homes at will were the ones that swiftly moved to crush Palestinians who tried to assemble in protest.

Whatever credit Abbas supposedly gained by closing ranks with Hamas to form a unity government last June has been just as quickly lost. It has been overshadowed by his own failures to live up to commitment under the unity deal, and the relevance of his ‘authority’ was quickly eclipsed by Israeli violence, highlighting his and his government’s utter irrelevance to Israel’s political calculations.

A Hamas re-launch

When Israel launched its massive arrest campaign, which mainly targeted Hamas in the West Bank, the Hamas’ political wing was already considering “alternatives” to the unity government in Ramallah. This was not seen in statements by Hamas officials, who refused to reveal their frustration with Abbas and his Ramallah echelon, but rather in the clearly worded remarks uttered by senior Hamas official Dr Ahmed Yousef in an interview with Ma’an news agency.

“The (Rami) Hamdallah government has failed to fill” the political vacuum left open by the dismantling of the Hamas government in Gaza, Yousef said. “We are talking about an all-faction leadership to prevent security chaos and solve the crisis of salaries for the Gaza Strip’s civil servants,” he added.

Hamas’s objectives were not being met. The unity deal was meant to achieve several goals: end Hamas’s political isolation in Gaza, resulting from the intensifying of the siege by Egypt’s dictator Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, solving the economic crisis in the Strip, and also allowing Hamas to revert to its old brand, as a resistance movement first and foremost.

Hamas was perhaps hoping for a similar political arrangement like the one enjoyed by Hezbollah in Lebanon: to hold massive political sway, to maintain its military presence and to navigate its way between resistance and politics as it sees fit. It is a difficult model to duplicate though, since the physical topography and political landscape of Palestine is largely different from Lebanon.

Even if Hamas succeeded in establishing a new brand based on resistance/political model, Israel was determined to deactivate any potential for Palestinian unity. Destroying that unity became almost an obsession for Netanyahu.

The disappearance of the settlers gave Netanyahu’s quest a new impetus. He immediately began a campaign pressuring Abbas to break away from Hamas. In fact, Abbas became the target for a Zionist campaign that goes beyond Israel. His language was closely monitored, and criticized by the likes of the pro-Israel Anti-defamation league. ADL, which is always supportive of Israeli wars on Gaza, fumed when Abbas used the term ‘genocide’ to describe the killing campaign.

While Abbas was surviving in a state of political irrelevance, Hamas launched a fierce resistance campaign in Gaza. It united various resistance groups, including those affiliated with Abbas’s own party, Fatah, and began responding with barrage of rockets into Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem and elsewhere. Although few Israelis were hurt, at least at the time of writing this article, while hundreds of Palestinians were killed and wounded, Hamas’s show of prowess further alienated Abbas, now growingly seen, along with his authority as ‘collaborators’ with Israel.

Majdi, a 28-year-old from Deheisheh refugee camp put it best: “The Palestinian police are mercenaries for the Israeli occupation; they just watch and do nothing.”

An embattled Bibi

Netanyahu has focused his attacks on Hamas. He wants to eradicate them from the West Bank, per his own statements, then strike them and other resistance groups in Gaza. His motivations are many, including the need for periodic strikes that constantly erode the preparedness of the resistance every few years – past assaults were launched in 2006, 2007, 2008-9, 2012 and now 2014.

But this time there were new objectives inspired by new circumstances, including the fact that Netanyahu’s own government, which stood on a very shaky ground since its inception – partly due to constant infighting between Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni and others on the far right – is in political trouble.

Livni’s last threat to leave the government was made on June 11, a day before the settlers disappeared. The right wing union, between the prime minister’s own Likud party, and that of Liberman’s Yisrael Beitenu was dissolved on July 07.

Such cracks in Netanyahu’s coalitions seem too deep for even a massive war on Gaza to remedy.


There is still more to Israel’s war on Gaza than this. Fearing an intifada that would unite Palestinians, threaten the PA, and slow down the construction of illegal settlements, Netanyahu’s war on Gaza means to distract from the slowly building collective sentiment among Palestinians throughout Palestine, and among Palestinian citizens in Israel.

This unity is much more alarming for Netanyahu than a political arrangement by Fatah and Hamas necessitated by regional circumstances. The targeting of Hamas is an Israeli attempt at challenging the emerging new narrative that it’s no longer about Gaza and its siege anymore, but the entirety of Palestine and its collectives regardless on which side of the Israeli “separation wall” they live.

A true Palestinian unity, culminating in a massive popular Intifada is the kind of war Netanyahu cannot possibly win.

– Ramzy Baroud is a PhD scholar in People’s History at the University of Exeter. He is the Managing Editor of Middle East Eye. Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).

Photo credit: Lebanese children protest the airstrikes of Israel to Gaza in Beirut, Lebanon on July 11, 2014 (AA)


| How Obama could stop those Israeli Settlements!

How Obama Could Stop Those Israeli Settlements ~ Robert Wright, The Atlantic.

 According to former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Bibi Netanyahu has delivered “the worst possible slap in the face” to President Obama. Olmert was referring, of course, to Netanyahu’s announcement that Israel will proceed with a settlement project that, the New York Times reported, “has long been condemned by Washington as effectively dooming any prospect of a two-state solution.” (An article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz seconds Washington’s assessment–see headline above.)

Olmert may be overstating things, but not by much. Certainly Netanyahu’s settlement surprise isn’t the show of gratitude Obama had reason to expect after the US voted with Israel against Palestine’s bid for nonmember observer status at the UN–a bid so reasonable and innocuous that Israel and the US, in opposing it, were in a minority of 9 out of 147 voting nations. And some of those 9 were on our side only because of American arm twisting. (Olmert himself thought it was a mistake for Israel to oppose the resolution.)

In a way this was more than a slap at Obama. It was a slap at the United States. Terrorism is one of America’s main national security threats, and the hatred of America by some Arabs and Muslims is the most valuable asset terrorist recruiters have. So stoking that hatred by voting to thwart the legitimate aspirations of Palestinians makes America less secure. To put a finer point on it: Stoking that hatred makes our children more likely to die a violent death 5, 10, 15 years from now.

I’m not saying this UN vote alone increased the chances of terrorism by much. In fact, it increased them by only a very tiny bit. But that’s more than zero, and every increment matters. And, however tiny the increment, it was only increased when Netanyahu then turned around and announced an epically indefensible settlement project; America, especially after its display of loyalty to Israel at the UN, is naturally seen as complicit in things like that. (And, no, toothless diplomatic protests by the US don’t do much to change that perception.)

So Obama needs to stop this settlement project–not just to save face, but to protect Americans. He needs to show Arabs and Muslims–and everybody else–that no nation, including Israel, can take America’s support completely for granted; that America won’t stand by impotently as Israel embarks on a project that shows contempt for the Palestinian peopleand for world opinion.

Obama’s leverage with Netanyahu is limited, because Congress has so much influence over purse strings. But the president has enough leverage to do what needs to be done. Here’s how he should proceed:

[1] Write out a statement that he’s willing to deliver on TV. It should criticize Netanyahu sharply and say something that will shock the Israeli people: If the prime minister is going to behave this outrageously, America can no longer guarantee that it will stand by Israel’s side at the United Nations. It can no longer guarantee that it will veto Security Council resolutions that declare West Bank settlements in violation of international law. Indeed, America may now introduce such a resolution–that’s how outrageous this latest settlement project is.

[2] Call Netanyahu, read him the statement, and tell him that if the settlement plans haven’t been reversed within 48 hours, Obama will deliver the statement on TV.

And Obama has to mean it. He has to be ready to deliver the statement–because then Netanyahu will sense that he means it, in which case Obama won’t have to deliver the statement.

The Israeli people care very much about their relationship with the United States–especially when so much of the world is rejecting their policies toward the Palestinians. So Netanyahu doesn’t want to head into the coming election as the prime minister who has done more to jeopardize that special relationship than any Israeli leader in memory. He’ll cave.

He’ll hate caving, because he’ll look foolish, and the whole episode will have hurt him politically. But it won’t hurt him as much as something approaching an actual breach with the United States.

And if for some reason he doesn’t cave, and Obama has to deliver his statement, I predict that Obama will find–to the surprise of many–that he pays no significant political price (or, at most, a price that a second-term president can easily tolerate). The reason is that pretty much everyone who’s paying attention to this issue realizes how indefensible Netanyahu’s behavior has been. Most people will realize, too, that Obama is acting in Israel’s best interests by trying to strongarm it into limiting its alienation of the world.

Even if Netanyahu doesn’t cave, Obama will have strengthened America’s national security, because he will have shown the world that America will actively and forcefully oppose at least some unjust and illegal encroachments on Palestinian territory. Terrorist recruiters will be very disappointed to hear this.

I’m not suggesting that we should always do whatever minimizes hatred of America. There are principles worth fighting for, and there are principles whose defense will require increasing our exposure to terrorism. But Israel’s freedom to build more settlements on occupied territory–in violation of international law and of the world’s sense of decency–isn’t one of those principles. Obama would be helping both Israel and America by making that clear.

[Postscript: I hope it’s clear that I’m not saying Obama will take this approach; obviously, it would be out of character for him to be so bold. I’m just saying that if he did take this approach it would work. I’m also saying that if he doesn’t dosomething to rein Netanyahu in, he’s not doing his duty as president.]

Robert Wright is a senior editor at The Atlantic and the author, most recently, of The Evolution of God, a New York Timesbestseller and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.


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| When Will the Economic Blockade of Gaza End?

When Will the Economic Blockade of Gaza End? ~ Robert Wright, The Atlantic.

President Obama and Bibi Netanyahu are on the same page when it comes to the justification for Israel’s bombardment of Gaza. Netanyahu : “No country in the world would agree to a situation in which its population lives under a constant missile threat.” Obama: “There’s no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.”

It’s true that if, say, Canada were lobbing missiles into the US, the US wouldn’t tolerate it. But here’s another thing the US wouldn’t tolerate: If Canada imposed a crippling economic blockade, denying America the import of essential goods and hugely restricting American exports. That would be taken as an act of war, and America would if necessary respond with force–by, perhaps, lobbing missiles into Canada.

This is the situation Gaza has faced for years: a crippling economic blockade imposed by Israel. Under international pressure, Israel has relaxed the import restrictions, but even so such basic things as cement, gravel, and steel are prohibited from entering Gaza. The rationale is that these items are “dual use” and could be put to military ends. But this logic doesn’t explain the most devastating part of the blockade–the severe restrictions on Gaza’s exports.

Gazans can’t export anything to anyone by sea or air, and there are extensive constraints on what they can export by land. They can’t even sell things to their fellow Palestinians in the West BankAccording to the Israeli NGO Gisha, the number of truckloads of goods that leave Gaza each month is two percent of what it was before the blockade was imposed. (A black market trade via tunnels to Egypt has taken up some, but by no means all, of the slack.)

No wonder Gaza’s unemployment rate has risen to 28 percent. No wonder 70 percent of Gazans receive humanitarian aid. No wonder there’s a shortage of schools–it’s hard to build them without construction materials.

If you mention the blockade to the average reasonably well-informed American or Israeli, you’ll likely get a reply such as: Well, if the Gazans don’t like economic strangulation, Hamas should quit firing missiles at Israel; or Hamas should recognize the state of Israel; or it should do something else Israel wants it to do.

So, over the past couple of days, I tried to find out exactly what actions on the part of Hamas would suffice to end the blockade. And, after contacting various experts by email, I discovered that the answer is: nothing would suffice. At least, nothing we know of. Apparently Israel hasn’t articulated clear conditions under which the blockade would end.

As law professor Noura Erakat has written in a journal article:

Despite claims of self-defense, Israel has not defined a definitive purpose for the blockade, the achievement of which would indicate its end. Official Israeli goals have ranged from limiting Hamas’s access to weapons, to seeking retribution for the pain caused to Israeli civilians, and to compelling the Palestinian population to overthrow the Hamas government…

This seems kind of strange. I thought sanctions and blockades and the like were supposed to have specific purposes. The sanctions against South Africa, for example, would end when apartheid ended. So when will the blockade of Gaza end? If there’s no answer, why should anyone expect the situation in Gaza to improve? If the Gazan people are being treated this harshly, and there’s no end in sight, why does President Obama sound so surprised and outraged that violence against Israel would emanate from Gaza?

I’m not saying the blockade justifies the firing of missiles. And I’m not saying it doesn’t–I’m just not getting into that messy issue right now, and I’d have to study up on international law before I did. But I’m saying that, when you subject people to treatment like this, without even specifying the conditions under which the treatment would change, human nature pretty much ensures that bad things, including violent ones, will happen.


There is nothing nefarious about defending oneself from armed attack. Making it nefarious writes the Palestinian right to resist out of history, reserving righteous violence and force for the Western powers that already almost monopolize it.



* UK National Demonstration
Stop Israel’s War on Gaza
End the Siege Now
Saturday 24 November
Assemble Downing Street 12 Noon
March to the Israeli Embassy

(Nearest tube Charing Cross or Westminster)

Please publicise the demonstration as widely as you can and urge everyone you know to be there.

Gaza is one of the most densely populated places in the world, with 1.7 million people packed into a strip of land at its narrowest barely six miles wide. It is facing a barbaric onslaught by the world’s fourth most powerful military.

Our demonstration for Gaza starts at Downing Street to tell David Cameron and the British government that the green light they have given to Israel is not in our name.