IPS Blog

Hamas Helped, Israel Handicapped by Threats to Their Respective Publics

On Wednesday November 21, under an Egypt-brokered deal, Palestinians and Israelis agreed to end all hostilities against each other after eight days of relentless Israeli attacks on the coastal enclave. Israel also agreed to open all crossings and facilitate the movement of people and goods in and out of the Gaza Strip. But it did not accept a proposal to lift the blockade of the Gaza Strip. Over 160 Palestinians, mostly women and children, were killed and about 1,200 others were injured in over 1,500 Israeli attacks on Gaza that were carried out during the eight-day period of November 14-21. It is too early to tell whether the ceasefire will hold for very long, and if it does, whether its central provisions will be implemented.

For those who still remember the Israeli attack on Gaza four years ago and the slaughter of Palestinian civilians and the repeated violation of ceasefire agreement by the Israelis, the current ceasefire should hold no hope, especially as we have begun to notice similar patterns of violations taking place again. Looking back four years, to the end of ‘Cast Lead’ and since then and up to the beginning of last Israeli attack, 271 Palestinians, according to the Israeli human rights organization B’tselem, have been assassinated by Israeli air strikes, by drones, by planes, by helicopters and ZERO Israelis killed by Palestinian rockets.

Israel has already used excessive violence to disperse Palestinian civilians who gathered on the Gaza side of the border, with a few straying across into Israel, to celebrate what they thought was their new freedom now to venture close to the border. This so-called ‘no-go-area’ was decreed by Israel after its 2005 ‘disengagement’ had been a killing field where 213, including 17 children and 154 uninvolved, had lost their lives. Only in the last few days, Israeli security forces, after firing warning shots, killed one Palestinian civilian and wounded another 20 others with live ammunition. Despite this note of pessimism there are a number of fundamental differences between the situation in Gaza and Hamas fighters in Gaza in 2012 compared to 2008.

First, the change of dynamics resulting from the Arab Spring and change in Egypt. The two regional countries that the U.S. needs badly to act as interlocutors, and isolate Hamas — Turkey and Egypt — are arguably right now the closest and most important allies of Hamas. Israel is more isolated than Hamas and has fewer friends. Even the British Foreign secretary, who under normal circumstances is only good for rubber stamping whatever Israelis does, this time took a cautionary approach and did not offer any support for a ground invasion.

The fact that Israel cannot count on diplomatic support from U.S.-oriented regimes such as Mubarak of Egypt creates a new dynamic in the Middle East and puts far greater pressure on Israeli leaders to be more realistic in their approach to the peace process. This generates a better environment for a more realistic and pragmatic approach to finding a longer lasting, and more permanent peace in the Middle East.

The second difference in my assessment is Hamas’ acquisition of more sophisticated weapons dealt a serious blow to Israeli morale. These long-range missiles allowed Hezbollah in Lebanon during the 2006 Israeli war not only to secure itself against Israeli aggression, most importantly: it created a more symmetrical confrontation by taking the war into cities in the occupied territories that had been immune from any attack for a long time.

The attack on Tel Aviv soon after the first Israeli attack on Gaza in the latest war, not only was a shock to the political leadership in the Israeli government, it heralded a new chapter in the relation between the freedom fighters in Gaza and the Israeli occupying forces. These weapons turned the table of confrontation with Israel in favor of Gaza and made another Israeli victim feel bold enough, if not fully secure, to confront it with a real sting.

One does not need a complicated analysis to conclude that if the fighters in Gaza have gained access to missiles that can reach Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, then they must have acquired anti-tank weapons similar to those that were used by Hezbollah in 2006 with devastating consequences for the Israeli tank divisions and especially for Markova 4 tanks that the Israelis had invested so much in constructing an image of invincibility around it globally.

It became clear soon after the 2006 war with Lebanon that the Achilles heel of the Israelis was the fear factor that demoralized its population. The fact that, in 2012 as in 2006, it was Israel who proposed the truce, clearly indicate that for the military leaders in Israel, a scared population is not the same as the dead Gazans are for Hamas – scared populations would sap the shaky morale in Israel even further, while for the freedom fighters in Gaza, innocent civilian casualties energize them to go an extra-mile to avenge.

Like the 2006 war, the underdog, Hamas, comes out of this confrontation in much more favorable status than the Zionist regime in Tel Aviv. Despite all the military shields, Hamas was able, even in the last hours of the conflict, to attack Israel. This has certainly enhanced Hamas’s prestige among Palestinians and in the Arab world, and, in a ‘zero sum gain’ relationship, any gain of prestige by Hamas by necessity implies a loss for the Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas. It will be more difficult than ever to bolster the Fatah leadership on the West Bank as Hamas grows in stature.

The third outcome of this war is political recognition given to Hamas leadership by a number of Arab leaders. During the attacks several leading foreign ministers from the region visited Gaza and were received by the Hamas governing authorities, thus undermining the Israeli policy of isolating Hamas and excluding it from participation in diplomacy affecting the Palestinian people. As Richard Falk has stated:

. . . throughout this just concluded feverish effort to establish a ceasefire, Hamas was treated as if ‘a political actor’ with sovereign authority to speak on behalf of the people living in Gaza. Such a move represents a potential sea change, depending on whether there is an effort to build on the momentum achieved or a return to the futile and embittering Israeli/U.S. policy of excluding Hamas from diplomatic channels by insisting that no contact with a terrorist organization is permissible or politically acceptable.

The most important outcome of the latest attack has been the strengthening of the argument that the existence of more parity in the region would undermine the hawkish and belligerent Israeli position that so far, with the overt and covert support of the US, has not agreed to implement any treaties agreed upon in the previous negotiations and by implication would lead to a softening of such a position making a long term resolution of this conflict more likely. I hope this realization would lead to less saber rattling about attacking Iran.

Like Hezbollah in 2006, Hamas has punched a big hole in Israel’s overinflated air ego balloon sending the military leaders to the drawing board. This may be an opportune moment for the peace lovers in the region to become more active. They may be able to prevent this carnage from being repeated again.

Ibrahim Kazerooni, originally from Iraq, is finishing a joint Ph.D. program at the Iliff School of Theology and the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies in Denver. More of his work can be found at the Imam Ibrahim Kazerooni Blog.

Letters to the Editor: Readers Respond to Donald Kaul’s Departure, Part IV

As Donald Kaul explained in a column about how he had a heart attack on the Fourth of July, he’s either taking a break after half a century of writing hard-hitting, liberal, and humorous commentaries or he’s retired. Going through the height of election season without his razor-sharp insight has been hard for many of us who revere him. However, I wanted to take a moment to let OtherWords readers know that he’s still on the mend and weighing whether or not to return.

This is the fourth installment of a series of posts showcasing many of the moving letters Don received following that column and my own tribute. We received at least 200 emails and115 snail-mailed letters and cards between late July and mid-October. Please consider sending me a holiday greeting to forward to him at [email protected] or snail-mailing cards to OtherWords, 1112 16th Street, NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20036. If you’re a devoted fan, you’ll want to read the first, second, and third of these posts if you missed them over the summer.
—Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies.

Say it ain’t so! With Molly Ivins dead, and you retiring, I may have to move to Mexico. I hope your heart heals, and you put your head back to work for us. Thanks for the great work so far.
—Kim Stanley, McPherson, Kansas

I will miss your columns. Have felt we were on the same page for years. I was very surprised to hear of your heart attack. I, too, experienced heart problems. I am lucky to be alive, and I sure hope you are doing better. Suddenly for both of us, the things that seemed to matter are put in perspective. We, too, feel as you do about the political scene. Will miss your take on it all, but understand you situation. Live life for whatever time we have left.
—Mary Anne Frey

I’m glad you’re feeling better. Being in Arizona doesn’t allow those of us who don’t subscribe to the neoconservative and right-wing driven news much journalistic choice, other than what we seek out ourselves. So what I’m hoping is your complete recovery and return to what you do extremely well. Thank you.
—Luis J. Rodriguez

As a teenager growing up in Iowa, reading your articles in the Des Moines Register was a highlight for me in the 70’s. While I never went into journalism, or even had the opportunity to write much, I always admired the literary profession, and the way a well-crafted article could inspire. Your articles seemed to exude such common sense and were written in a way that no one else could. As a bartender at “Aunt Maude’s” in Ames in the Fall of ’83, it was a thrill the day you sat across from me and ordered a drink. I wanted to be so suave, but ended up breaking a glass right over the ice chest, and spent several minutes emptying and replacing the ice when I could have possibly been exchanging witty repertoire with you instead. Alas. Thanks for all the great stories.
—Steve Danielson

Your comments about having a heart attack are apt. As a retired physician I particularly appreciated your description, “…like being sent through a cardiac car wash.” I hope your post-procedure recovery is progressing well and you are adjusting to the new situation.
—Robert J. (Bob) McElroy, MD, Traverse City, Michigan

I have very fond memories of reading your columns with my mother when I was growing up. Not getting to read them will be like losing my mother again.
—Marilu Goodyear

Donald Kaul Signs Off, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

Donald Kaul Signs Off, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

I was so happy to hear you survived your heart attack but I was so sorry that you stopped writing your column. Here in Southwest Missouri, yours is a voice we don’t hear often enough. There are so many true believers (think Todd Akin types) that I always looked forward to reading what you had to say. It was an oasis, a respite from the conservative prattle and overblown importance of the George Wills. I understand your reluctance to spend your hours shouting in the wilderness, but it is lonelier out here without you.
—Elaine Atkinson

You’re my favorite Pulitzer-prize-losing journalist. You’ve done so much already, it’s not a matter of owing anyone. It doesn’t have to be at the pace you’ve been doing it but as much as you see fit. You do make a difference. I hope you are feeling better.
— Christmas Carol Halitsky

Dear Mr. Kaul, or may I call you Don? I have only been reading your columns for the last 40 years. I find myself quoting you from time to time. I’ll tell people that my dad always said two things: “That’s how they get you.” And “They’re all in it together.” But it actually was your dad, not mine, of course.
—Allan Shickman

Your ideas were the subject of discussion at our college booster picnic tonight. Most of us are in our 60s and grew up in your America. We don’t know where that America went. (We pay attention to issues, are involved in local government and vote). We don’t know how our representatives and governor took the politics sideways at the state and federal levels and we can’t believe what they are doing. One man at the table said “I don’t think I want to live here anymore.” Another said “We do not have any rational voter choices.” I’m hoping that you will continue to write, to help Your America understand exactly what is happening and if possible, how to stop it. We’re out here but we feel isolated and alone.
—Kathie Rogers, Pretty Prairie, Kansas

Terribly sorry to hear you suffered a heart attack. I remember when you were great five days a week (an impossibility), and you’re still damned good today. Hope you get back to writing. In any case, you picked the right half century to be a journalist. I used to say that things were always falling apart but never got much worse. Today they get worse. The only explanation is that God, the Great Developer, underbid on the Earth contract and had to cut corners. Mary’s two sons and two of their sons rode in RAGBRAI this year. You and Karras will go to heaven just for starting it. Anyway, good luck and good health.
—Pat Lackey

I was sorry to read of your heart attack in The Progressive Populist. If you’ll keep writing, I’ll keep enjoying your articles, rants and insights. My counsel? Do what gives you pleasure and satisfaction. Don’t, however, expect our population to get any smarter. Nixon: twice. Reagan: twice. Dubya: Need I say it?
—David Gordon

As a kid, I remember my mom and dad agreeing with and chuckling about what you’d written in your Over the Coffee column. My husband and I would do the same with your contribution in the Des Moines Register. Love love love your writing and you are greatly missed! Best wishes on a speedy recovery.
—Rose Brandsgard

I’ve been reading your commentary in the Hanover, Pennsylvania Evening Sun for a while now, and I’ve come to really appreciate your good sense and humor. I hope we’ll see articles from you again sometime in the near future.
—John Nischwitz, Littlestown, Pennsylvania

As one of the very few left-leaning people in Southwest Missouri, I certainly appreciate your columns. I know you will have to do what is best for your family and your own health, but I want you to know that I will really miss hearing your reasonable voice in the wilderness in which I live.
—Deborah Davis, Springfield, Missouri

Over the years I have really enjoyed your well written columns, sometimes funny, sometimes so close to my feelings that it scares me. I hope you have a full recovery and will be back to writing soon. We need writers like you who will tell it like it is and keep the truth in politics. It is sad how the civility of today has changed. I am 80 years young and I have never heard politicians speak so harsh about each other. Take care of your health and I hope to be reading you again in the near future.
—Juanita Jansen, Rogersville, Missouri

Thank you, Donald Kaul, for your previous columns. They mix serious and humorous views, like a living Will Rogers. Take time out to heal your broken heart, but please write more some day! Appeal to OtherWords: please offer Kaul the option of writing without deadlines, whenever he chooses.
—Martha E. Martin

Theft Is Not the Only Threat Militants Pose to Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons

Earlier this month the Stimson Center issued a report by George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace titled The Non-Unitary Model and Deterrence Stability in South Asia. The daunting title notwithstanding, the paper is not only readable for the general reader, but spellbinding for nuclear-weapons specialists. Hint: “non-unitary” in this context means a nation which fails to demonstrate a “tight, coherent line of authority” over hostilities emanating from that state — in this instance, Pakistan. Though I haven’t quite finished reading the 22-page report, the excitement it generates has spurred me to get a jump start on posting about it.

To being with, it’s doubtful that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are at serious risk of being purloined by Islamist extremist militants. At this time, the greater nuclear risk to which it’s subject, as Perkovich sees it, is the confusion that India experiences when, for example, its parliament was attacked in New Delhi in 2001 and during the Mumbai 2008 assault. Thus the nuclear deterrence model, which, according to conventional thinking [this author, for one, has his reservations], worked for the United States and Russia may not be universally applicable. Why not? Perkovich writes:

… when it comes to functions as portentous and centrally controlled as initiating and managing warfare between nuclear-armed states, it is generally assumed that a tight, coherent line of authority operates approximately in ways consistent with the unitary model. If a state is not functioning as a unitary actor, or claims not to be when it is convenient, or is not perceived to be by those who seek to deter it, the implications for deterrence stability are profound.

Specifically …

When India is attacked by actors [Islamic extremists militants] emanating from Pakistan and with ties to Pakistani intelligence services, it naturally infers that such actions represent the intentions and policies of Pakistani authorities.

The result:

The projection of violence from Pakistan [by non-state actors] into India means that deterrence (through non-nuclear means as well as nuclear) has failed to prevent aggression. The task then remains for India to threaten or undertake punishment to compel Pakistan to redress the offense and to deter Pakistan from repeating it and from escalating the conflict. If Pakistan does not [seek] to detain and prosecute the perpetrators … pressure mounts for India to demonstrate through force that it will not be deterred from escalating the conflict in self-defense.

Perkovich then provides an example of the confusion that can ensue from attacks by Pakistani non-state actors on India.

For example, while India could perceive that the terrorist attacks it attributes to Pakistan signal Pakistani aggressiveness, Pakistani leaders (and the public) [Subtle point alert! — RW] could perceive the initial terrorist attacks as a signal that the Pakistani state does not seek a wider conflict but is merely signaling resolve to press India to make political accommodations, in Kashmir or more broadly.

Trickier still …

This signaling process becomes all the more difficult and precarious if the Pakistani leaders who are presumed to be the authors of Pakistan’s signals and actions deny that the perpetrators of the conflict-triggering violence actually do manifest the policies of the state.

Why? Because …

Indian leaders then face a highly unstable dilemma. They could act as if the initial violence reflects the intentions of Pakistan’s chain of command, and send countervailing signals of retaliatory action according to normal models of deterrence, in which greater credibility and righteousness tend to reside with the defender.

This might only confuse Pakistan though. Perkovich explains.

But if Pakistani leaders [themselves] believe or claim that the perpetrators were not carrying out state policies, and India does escalate, Pakistani leaders will feel that India is the aggressor, significantly changing the dynamics of crisis and deterrence stability. “Normal” models of deterrence do not hold in such a situation.

In the end …

… disunity produces dangerous confusion and ambiguity that interfere in the management of deterrence. Who is sending signals through violence that is perceived to be emanating from the state and/or its territory? What is being signaled? … how does one manage deterrence and escalation processes in such a situation? In this latter scenario, disunity erodes the rationality on which deterrence is predicated.

This Week in OtherWords: November 28, 2012

This week, OtherWords is running three commentaries that highlight electoral milestones: African-American turnout reached record levels, marijuana-legalization ballot initiatives passed in Washington State and Colorado, and voters in a small Ohio town approved a measure declaring that “corporations are not people and money is not speech.”

We’re also distributing an op-ed by Scott Klinger, who points out that the CEOs promoting Social Security cuts have vast pensions and that American businesses have gutted their pension funds. The erosion of the nation’s private pension system makes this earned-benefit program more essential than ever.

And Sam Pizzigati’s latest column highlights his new book: The Rich Don’t Always Win. Please let me know if you would like a review copy.

Scroll down to see all our offerings and please subscribe to our weekly newsletter if you haven’t signed up yet.

  1. A Pension Deficit Disorder / Scott Klinger
    Beware of wealthy CEOs who are lecturing the rest of us about tightening our belts.
  2. The New Normal for African-American Voter Turnout / Leslie Watson Malachi
    As election law changes threatened access to the ballot box this year, African-American turnout operations strengthened.
  3. Washington and Colorado Voters Opt for a Smarter Drug Policy / Austin Robles
    Treating drug use as a criminal act rather than a health problem has harmed our society.
  4. To Move Forward, We Must Learn from Our Progressive Past / Sam Pizzigati
    Yesterday’s ideas about curbing the ultra-rich’s power remain just as relevant as ever.
  5. Shortchanging Our Future / Mattea Kramer
    Lawmakers have long underinvested in young people, and sequestration would make matters even worse.
  6. Democracy Outbreak in Ohio / Jim Hightower
    One small town is standing up to deep-pocketed campaign cash.
  7. The Sleazy League / William A. Collins
    The dark side of corporate-run schools is no longer a secret.
  8. The Ant and the Grasshopper / Khalil Bendib cartoon
The Ant and the Grasshopper, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

The Ant and the Grasshopper, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

Afghan Military Killings of American Troops Underscores Absurdity of Our Afghan Adventure

In an article for the Los Angeles Times, David Zucchino writes about the incident at Kabul International Airport in April 2011 when an Afghan Air Force colonel killed nine Americans.

The nine killings remain the single deadliest incident among insider attacks that have targeted U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan. … Although insider attacks in Afghanistan are persistent — at least 80 attacks and 122 coalition deaths since 2007 — no single incident seems to have registered on the public consciousness in the United States. Few family members of those killed have spoken out.

Until now.

Widows of two of the dead officers [and] retired Air Force Lt. Col. Sally Stenton, a former civilian police investigator who was a legal officer assigned to the airport the day of the attack … have pored over a redacted Air Force report, the Central Command report and a separate Air Force chronology.

They contend that the shooter, Afghan Air Force Col. Ahmed Gul

… had help from fellow Afghan officers. … They point out that 14 Afghans were in the control room when Gul opened fire. None were killed or seriously wounded.

The U.S. Air Force investigation quoted Afghans as saying they fled or took cover when Gul opened fire. The reports, the three women said, indicated the Afghans did not attempt to rescue or treat the wounded advisors.

Furthermore

The three women contend that the [U.S.] Air Force failed to uncover Gul’s radicalization in Pakistan and Kabul — and the vows he made to kill Americans.

Such killings make a senseless war such as Afghanistan that much more so. Questioning the U.S. Air Force may help to make sense out of it, at least it attaches a semblance of honor to the deaths.

Meanwhile, those who lost soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq seek to make sense of their deaths by clinging to the belief that their loved ones died while defending the United States. But many of them know that the Iraq War was unjust and, even if they believe Afghanistan War was warranted, that it has passed its sell-by date. Nothing is more painful than acknowledging the truth of John Kerry’s refrain, “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die” in a war.

Should loved ones also eventually acknowledge the fruitlessness and injustice of those wars, some solace still remains. First, soldiers in any war fight, in large part, to protect (and avenge) their squad mates. Second, those who die are, in effect, occupational casualties. However quotidian it may seem, just like work itself, dying on the job has its own inherent dignity.

Iron Dome’s Effectiveness Is Not an Argument for Missile Defense

The success of Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, which has intercepted 80 to 90 percent of the rockets launched from Gaza, is viewed by many as a cause for celebration. Worse, it’s being used as evidence that missile defense works.

In fact, the odds that missile defense can protect a state from inter-continental ballistic missiles armed with nuclear weapons are slim to nonexistent.

Equally troublesome, it’s an ongoing bone of contention between the United States and Russia. The United States seeks to implement defense systems in Europe ostensibly to protect the NATO countries from — however hypothetical — a nuclear attack by Iran.

Perhaps partly because of how preposterous the Iran pretext sounds and because it serves the purposes of the Russian defense establishment, Moscow views missile defense in Europe as an even larger affront to the stability of nuclear deterrence than missile defense on American soil. Currently, aside from a radar installation in Turkey, U.S. missile defense in Europe is deployed only on ships in the Mediterranean.

Meanwhile, drawing conclusions about missile defense from Iron Dome is like comparing apples and oranges. At Foreign Policy, Yousaf Butt explains.

That this small battlefield system has been so successful against the relatively slow-moving short-range rockets doesn’t mean that larger and much more expensive missile defense systems, such as the planned NATO system, will work against longer-range strategic missiles that move ten times as fast.

In other words, Iron Dome is not missile defense, it’s rocket defense (which, in fact, is also a subsection of U.S. missile defense).

In contrast to the short-range Hamas rockets, which fly through the atmosphere during their whole trajectory, the longer-range ballistic missiles … spend most of their flight in space. For decades it has been known that trying to intercept a warhead in space is exceedingly difficult because the adversary can use simple, lightweight countermeasures to fool the defensive system [such as] cheap inflatable balloon decoys.

Furthermore

… an 80 percent-effective tactical missile defense system against conventional battlefield rockets — such as Iron Dome — makes a lot of sense. If 10 conventional rockets are headed your way, stopping eight is undeniably a good thing. The possibility of stopping eight of 10 nuclear warheads, however, is less [impressive] since even one nuclear explosion will inflict unacceptable devastation. Just one nuclear-tipped missile penetrating your missile shield is about the equivalent of a million conventional missiles making it through.

Nor should we forget that

Even the largely successful Iron Dome system, while providing a worthy cover has not provided normalcy for Israeli citizens: the terror is still there.

The U.S. and Africa: The Next Four Years

Over the next four years the U.S. will face a number of foreign policy issues, most of them regional, some of them global. Conn Hallinan has been outlining and analyzing them. His first report covered the Middle East.

Africa is probably the single most complex region of the world and arguably its most troubled. While the world concerns itself with the Syrian civil war and the dangers it poses for the Middle East, little notice is taken of the war in the Congo, a tragedy that has taken five million lives and next to which the crisis in Syria pales.

Africa represents 15 percent of the world’s population, yet only 2.7 percent of its GDP, which is largely concentrated in only five of 49 sub-Saharan countries. Just two countries—South Africa and Nigeria—account for over 33 percent of the continent’s economic output. Life expectancy is 50 years, and considerably less in those countries ravaged by AIDS. Hunger and malnutrition are worse than they were a decade ago.

At the same time, Africa is wealthy in oil, gas, iron, aluminum and rare metals. By 2015, countries in the Gulf of Guinea will provide the U.S. with 25 percent of its energy needs, and Africa has at least 10 percent of the world’s known oil reserves. South Africa alone has 40 percent of the earth’s gold supply. The continent contains over one-third of the earth’s cobalt and supplies China—the world’s second largest economy—with 50 percent of that country’s copper, aluminum and iron ore.

But history has stacked the deck against Africa. The slave trade and colonialism inflicted deep and lasting wounds on the region, wounds that continue to bleed out in today’s world. France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal sliced up the continent without the slightest regard for its past or its people. Most of the wars that have—and are—ravaging Africa today are a direct outcome of maps drawn up in European foreign offices to delineate where and what to plunder.

But over the past decade, the world has turned upside down. Formerly the captive of the European colonial powers, China is now Africa’s largest economic partner, followed closely by India and Brazil. Consumer spending is up, and the World Bank predicts that by 2015 the number of new African consumers will match Brazil’s.

In short, the continent is filled with vibrant economies and enormous potential that is not going unnoticed in capitals throughout the world. “The question for executives at consumer packaged goods companies is no longer whether their firms should enter the region, but where and how” says a report by the management consultant agency A.T. Kearney. How Africa negotiates its new status in the world will not only have a profound impact on its people, but on the global community as well. For investors it is the last frontier.

The U.S. track record in Africa is a shameful one. Washington was a long-time supporter of the apartheid regime in South Africa and backed the most corrupt and reactionary leaders on the continent, including the despicable Mobutu Sese Seko in the Congo. As part its Cold War strategy, the U.S. aided and abetted civil wars in Mozambique, Angola, and Namibia. Americans have much to answer for in the region.

Militarization

If there is a single characterization of U.S. policy vis-à-vis Africa, it is the increased militarization of American diplomacy on the continent. For the first time since World War II, Washington has significant military forces in Africa, overseen by a freshly minted organization, Africom.

The U.S. has anywhere from 12,000 to 15,000 Marines and Special Forces in Djibouti, a former French colony bordering the Red Sea. It has 100 Special Forces soldiers deployed in Uganda, supposedly tracking down the Lord’s Resistance Army. It actively aided Ethiopia’s 2007 invasion of Somalia, including using its navy to shell a town in the country’s south. It is currently recruiting and training African forces to fight the extremist Islamic organization, the Shabab, in Somalia, and conducting “counter-terrorism” training in Mali, Chad, Niger, Benin, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Gabon, Zambia, Malawi, Burkina Faso, and Mauretania.

Since much of the U.S. military activities involves Special Forces and the CIA, it is difficult to track how widespread the involvement is. “I think it is far larger than anyone imagines,” says John Pike of GlobalSecurity.org.

As a whole, U.S. military adventures in Africa have turned out badly. The Ethiopian invasion overthrew the moderate Islamic Courts Union, elevating the Shabab from a minor player to a major headache. NATO’s war on Libya—Africom’s coming-out party—is directly responsible for the current crisis in Mali, where Local Tuaregs and Islamic groups have seized the northern part of the country, armed with the plundered weapons’ caches of Muammar el-Qaddafi. Africom’s support of Uganda’s attack on the Lord’s Resistance Army in the Democratic Republic of the Congo resulted in the death of thousands of civilians.

While the Obama administration has put soldiers and weapons into Africa, it has largely dropped the ball on reducing poverty. In spite of the UN’s Millennium Development plan adopted in 2000, sub-Saharan Africa will not reach the program’s goals for reducing poverty and hunger, and improving child and maternal healthcare. Rather than increasing aid, as the plan requires, the U.S. has either cut aid or used debt relief as a way of fulfilling its obligations.

At the same time, Washington has increased military aid, including arms sales. One thing Africa does not need is any more guns and soldiers.

There are a number of initiatives that the Obama administration could take that would make a material difference in the lives of hundreds of millions of Africans.

First, it could fulfill the UN’s Millennium goals by increasing its aid to 0.7 percent of its GDP, and not using debt forgiveness as part of that formula. Canceling debt is a very good idea, and allows countries to re-deploy the money they would use for debt payment to improve health and infrastructure, but as part of an overall aid package it is mixing apples and oranges.

Second, it must de-militarize its diplomacy in the region. Indeed, as Somalia and Libya illustrate, military solutions many times make bad situations worse. Behind the rubric of the “war on terror,” the U.S. is training soldiers throughout the continent. History shows, however, that those soldiers are just as likely to overthrow their civilian governments as they are to battle “terrorists.” Amadou Sanogo, the captain who overthrew the Mali government this past March and initiated the current crisis, was trained in the U.S.

There is also the problem of who are the” terrorists.” Virtually all of the groups so designated are focused on local issues. Nigeria’s Boko Haram is certainly a lethal organization, but it is the brutality of the Nigerian Army and police that fuels its rage, not al-Qaeda. The continent’s bug-a-boo, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Meghreb, is small and scattered, and represents more a point of view than an organization. Getting involved in chasing “terrorists” in Africa could end up pitting the U.S. against local insurgents in the Niger Delta, Berbers in the Western Sahara, and Tuaregs in Niger and Mali.

What Africa needs is aid and trade directed at creating infrastructure and jobs. Selling oil, cobalt, and gold brings in money, but not permanent jobs. That requires creating a consumption economy with an export dimension. But the US’s adherence to “free trade” torpedoes countries from constructing such modern economies.

Africans cannot currently compete with the huge—and many times subsidized industries—of the First World. Nor can they build up an agricultural infrastructure when their local farmers cannot match the subsidized prices of American corn and wheat. Because of those subsidies, U.S. wheat sells for 40 percent below production cost, and corn for 20 percent below. In short, African needs to “protect” their industries—much as the U.S. did in its early industrial stage—until they can establish themselves. This was the successful formula followed by Japan and South Korea.

The Carnegie Endowment and the European Commission found that “free trade” would end up destroying small scale agriculture in Africa, much as it did for corn farmers in Mexico. Since 50 percent of Africa’s GNP is in agriculture, the impact would be disastrous, driving small farmers off the land and into overcrowded cities where social services are already inadequate.

The Obama administration should also not make Africa a battleground in its competition with China. Last year US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described China’s trading practices with Africa as a “new colonialism,” a sentiment that is not widely shared on the continent. A Pew Research Center study found that Africans were consistently more positive about China’s involvement in the region than they were about the U.S.’s.

Jacob Zuma, president of South Africa, recently praised the continent’s “relationship with China,” but also said that the “current trade pattern” is unsustainable because it was not building up Africa’s industrial base. China recently pledged $20 billion in aid for infrastructure and agriculture.

One disturbing development is a “land rush” by countries ranging from the U.S. to Saudi Arabia to acquire agricultural land in Africa. With climate change and population growth, food, as Der Spiegel puts it, “is the new oil.” Land is plentiful in Africa, and at about one-tenth the cost in the U.S. Most production by foreign investors would be on an industrial scale, with its consequent depletion of the soil and degradation of the environment from pesticides and fertilizers. The Obama administration should adopt the successful “contract farming” model, where investors supply capital and technology to small farmers, who keep ownership of their land and are guaranteed a set price for their products. This would not only elevate the efficiency of agriculture, it would provide employment for local people.

The Obama administration should also strengthen, not undermine, regional organizations. The African Union tried to find a peaceful resolution to the Libyan crisis because its members were worried that a war would spill over and destabilize countries surrounding the Sahara. The Obama administration and NATO pointedly ignored the AU’s efforts, and the organization’s predictions have proved prescient.

Lastly, the Obama administration should join with India and Brazil and lobby for permanent membership for an African country—either South Africa or Nigeria, or both— in the UN Security Council. India and Brazil should also be given permanent seats. Currently the permanent members of the Security Council are the victors of WW II: the U.S., Russia, China, France and Great Britain.

In 1619, a Dutch ship dropped anchor in Virginia and exchanged its cargo of Africans for food, thus initiating a trade that would rip the heart out of a continent. No one really knows how many Africans were forcibly transported to the New World, but it was certainly in the tens of millions. To this day Africa mirrors the horror of the slave trade and the brutal colonial exploitation that followed in its wake. It is time to make amends.

For more of Conn Hallinan’s essays visit Dispatches From the Edge. Meanwhile, his novels about the ancient Romans can be found at The Middle Empire Series.

Once Again, Israel Comes Out on the Short End Politically of a Military Offensive

Cross-posted from the Colorado Progressive Jewish News

Whatever It Is Called – Operation Pillar of Clouds, or Perhaps, More Accurately, ‘Operation Killing Hope’ … It Failed

The expropriation of Palestinian lands by Israel since 1948.

The expropriation of Palestinian lands by Israel since 1948.

The end of the latest U.S.-supported Israeli air and sea war against Gaza has triggered a global call for immediate comprehensive peace negotiations that would include an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories seized in 1967, the creation of a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with its capital in East Jerusalem, and security guarantees for Israel within its pre-June 1967 borders. Not exactly a new framework, but one that is viable, that will end – or certainly seriously reduce – the cycle of violence, and that will produce a peace with justice.

There might be a ceasefire, broadly welcomed, but little momentum to follow up on it with a serious peace process yet despite the appeals. In the end, either the Israelis and Palestinians will move towards peace or towards another round of war. There is no in-between. Nor will the window for peace-making be open forever.

A global consensus supporting the above framework is still broadly supported. But given U.S. virtually blind support for Israel since 1967 – but most especially in Israel’s three recent wars (2006 Lebanon invasion, 2008 Gaza invasion, 2012 air and naval assault on Gaza), it becomes increasingly difficult, if not impossible, for the United States to claim its position as a unbiased broker in such a process. It will take some doing therefore, not only to get Israel to the negotiating table, but to get the United States to play a more constructive role in such a process. Still there is a ray of hope. Isn’t it time to draw the logical conclusion: that military solutions have run their course and will, in the future, fail and that the conflict between Israel and Palestine can only be resolved politically, through a negotiated settlement based on United Nations resolutions?

If not the cycle of violence will continue. Each time it gets more severe, more difficult from spinning out of control as nearly happened this time. That being the case, the logical thing would be for the parties involved to announce the re-establishing of a negotiating process on all the outstanding issues – final status negotiations – and to move consciously and persistently in that direction. Needless to say, this is not the thinking either in Israel, nor from all appearances in Washington D.C. In Israel, more than 70% of those surveyed would have wanted to see the Israeli Defense Force launch a ground invasion of Gaza. In Washington D.C., as in the past and perhaps even more so, there is no political will to press Israel to the negotiating table and keep it there until an agreement is reached. Instead, Israel is re-armed and drawn ever more closely into U.S.-NATO regional strategic war-making plans.

A War With No Winners, Now and in the Future

The NBC online headline reads “After Eight Days of Gaza Violence, Israel Declares ‘Mission Accomplished,’ Hamas Claims Victory.” A bit odd, no? Both sides claim victory? That is not even a half truth. This was, if anything, a war with no winners; given the mismatch in firepower, the fact that the eight-day Israeli air and sea offensive ended in something of a stalemate, and that Israel could not secure a clear-cut military and political victory will be seen as a political victory for Hamas, which it was.

Despite its post-cease fire blustering, Israel got a dose of its own medicine this time, as Palestinian rockets were able to penetrate as far north from Gaza as Tel Aviv and near Jerusalem. The human and property damage Israel suffered, was, compared to the Palestinians, minor (five dead, some property damage), but the psychological shock of Gaza-based missiles landing in major population centers was considerable. It was most probably was a key factor (among many) in Netanyahu not launching a ground war against Gaza. True, Israel’s missile defense system did neutralize about a third of incoming missiles, but two-thirds of them landed.

Israel’s well-worn tactic of playing ‘the victim card’ to somehow cover its role as aggressor is losing its potency. Once again Israel’s ‘precision bombing’ was not very precise. The photos of the victims bely Israeli and Obama Administration contentions that Israel was engaged in a ‘defensive war’. Images of children being torn to pieces, of three generations of Palestinian families bombed to smithereens, of hospitals targeted as well as foreign media outlets (AP, Al Jazeera) do not correspond to a nation ‘defending itself’ from ‘outside aggression. Just the opposite.

The pictures of the human suffering its residents endured, downplayed by the U.S. media but readily available all over the worldwide web, are heartbreaking. A day after it was agreed upon, the ceasefire appears to be holding. Gaza is smoldering but its residents unbowed. Hamas was not weakened by this Israeli attack; rather its prestige has soared, not only among Palestinians but globally. Still, for the second time in four years, Gazans paid a heavy, punishing price.

An incomplete damage report, collected from various sources, just before the ceasefire went into effect, reveals the following:

• At least 145 Palestinians have been killed in IOF attacks on the Gaza Strip. Of those, 29 were children and 12 women. More than 1100 people were wounded, including 326 children and 162 women. At least 865 houses have also been damaged or destroyed, including 92 completely. Of those 92 houses, 44 were directly attacked; including 33 deliberately targeted by direct Israeli attacks using the roof-knocking tactic. Expect all of these statistics to spike somewhat upwards.

• Another 179 houses sustained serious damages. Threats to cut off electrical and water sources did not materialize, but the infrastructure of both suffered once again.

• At this writing, Israeli attacks caused damages to 6 health centers, 30 schools, 2 universities, 15 NGO offices, 27 mosques, 14 media offices, 11 industrial plants, 81 commercial stores, 1 UNRWA food distribution Center, 7 ministry offices, 14 police/security stations, 5 banks, 30 vehicles, and 2 youth clubs. Because of the bombing, some 10,000 Gazans were forced to find shelter from the bombing at U.N.- run schools.

Despite the damage Israel inflicted, militarily, the clash, was something akin to a draw. Politically, regardless of the spin, Israel lost. Now, with U.S. aid, it hopes to recoup politically (through pressure on Egypt) what it failed to accomplish through the F-16-delivered (not very) precision missiles. The Israeli military, by many estimates the world’s fourth largest, was held at bay by what is little more than a rag-tag militia of Hamas defenders with a few short range and (perhaps) anti-tank missiles.

Netanyahu Miscalculated

Netanyahu, itching to launch a major ground assault to punish the Gazans yet again, was forced to put the brakes on such an operation, which entailed too many risks for Israel, the United States, and, strange as it might appear, even a Muslim-brotherhood led Egypt. The ostensible goal of the Israeli assault was to knock out Hamas’ missile capacity, but other factors were at play. Yes, as has been well publicized, on some level Netanyahu hoped to isolate and marginalize his opponents vying for political power in the upcoming Israeli elections.

He also calculated that regardless of how the military operations played out, that it would complicate life for Barack Obama whose re-election Netanyahu shamelessly lobbied against. At the same time, the Israeli prime minister hoped to embarrass and humiliate the Egyptian government, by forcing it to choose between its strategic alliance with the U.S. and the will of the Egyptian people to stand up to Israel.

But the central political goal of this campaign was to kill hope, Palestinian hope that in this, Obama’s second term, there might be a possibility of diplomatic progress towards achieving a political settlement that would lead to a viable West Bank-Gaza Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem. Through a full scale assault – air, sea and with a follow-up ground offensive, Israel intended to strike a crushing blow to the Palestinians once again, to complicate any effort at Palestinian unity, to continue building settlements in West Bank and ultimately to ‘send a message’ that Israel is in control and that there will be no Palestinian state. The occupation would continue as it has since 1967.

A combination of world public opinion fast turning against both Israel and the United States, U.S. pressure on Netanyahu (with its promises of lucrative consolation prize payoffs to Netanyahu), Hamas’ dogged resistance, and Israeli worries that Hamas possibly had anti-tank missiles all merged to end the Israel air and sea offensive and Hamas’ missile response. The Israeli ground offensive never happened.

The Shadow of the 2006 Israeli Military Incursion Into Lebanon Hangs Over Gaza

In many ways how this conflict was fought – and ended – was in large measure dictated by the 2006 Israeli venture into the Lebanon which was, by any objective standard, not just a political but also a military failure in what has been referred to as ‘asymmetrical’ warfare. The limits of Israeli military might were exposed. It might be able to fight a conventional war against another regional power, but is far less prepared to fight the kind of guerilla warfare of the kind that Hezbollah and now Hamas practice. Israel suffered one of its greatest military losses then, its ground offensive stalled as Hezbollah anti-tank missiles disabled several score of Israeli tanks leading the charge into southern Lebanon.

Forced to withdraw its ground troops, Israel responded with a punishing – but largely ineffective – massive air offensive. Hezbollah’s answer was a massive missile attack on northern Israel which forced more than 100,000 Israelis to abandon their homes and seek temporary shelter elsewhere. As will be the case with Hamas today, in 2006 Hezbollah emerged from that war a much stronger force than it had been, not just in Lebanon, but throughout the region.

While in 2008, Israel was able to launch a punishing military offensive against Gaza, this time one might say that it ‘won’ militarily but actually lost politically. That military offensive was little more than an air, sea and ground-based massacre. To call it a war is to mis-characterize what was little more than unprovoked aggression. It did not achieve its goal of eliminating Hamas, which was able to rebuild its structures, cadres and military potential rather quickly. Although Israelis and their U.S. supporters howled against the charges of ‘war crimes’, the moral stain remained. Israel’s prestige in the world – and among American Jewry somewhat – plummeted.

With this current attack on Gaza, Israel’s international standing, despite U.S. support, will continue to tank.

This is the third time in a mere six years that Israel has come out on the short end politically from wars that it has launched. All three times, Israeli military operations have been launched with full support from Washington – be it the Bush or Obama Administrations – and with an ample supply of U.S. made sophisticated weaponry. All three times the thin pretext of ‘Israel’s right to self-defense’ was invoked for what were rather wars of aggression launched on the thinnest of pretexts.

While here in the United States, with the public bombarded with pro-Israeli, anti-Palestinian media spin, the Israeli offensive enjoyed popular support. This was not so in the rest of the world where images of the wanton destruction and killing of Palestinians began to inflame anti-Israeli sentiment everywhere. Outside of the U.S. the argument that ‘Israel has the right to defend itself’ – while somehow the Palestinians don’t have that right – rings surprisingly hollow.

The Forgotten Occupation

For all practical purposes, given the unbalance of power and the oft forgotten fact that Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem are territories illegally occupied by Israel, seized by force in 1967, what took place in Gaza and Israel was not a war. It was rather an attempt by a colonial occupying power, Israel, to yet again strengthen its hold on a colonized – and brutalized – people. While much of the world yearns to see the cycle of violence on both sides end, once one leaves the borders of the continental United States, there are very few voices who would deny the Palestinians the right to defend themselves, as they did this last week in Gaza.

After the 2006 and 2008 Israeli military adventures, the U.S. Congress, speedily and amply provided replacement weaponry throwing in hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Tel Aviv to boot, this above and beyond the annual $3 billion gift. The just-ending Israel attack on Gaza will follow suit. All indications are that Hillary Clinton, with perhaps her 2016 presidential on the line, did not so much ‘negotiate’ a cease fire as she did pay for it, doling out tens if not hundreds of billions to both Israel and Egypt.

Reports have already surfaced that American financial largess – once again – coaxed Israel to accept a ceasefire and Egypt to press Hamas to do likewise. This is the modern American form of diplomacy – buying its way to unstable peace – otherwise known as bribery – whether it is paying Poland $8 billion to join NATO, or ‘brokering’ a cease fire over Gaza. Months before the fighting broke out the United States gave Israel two gifts, one of $270 million and another of $70 million to upgrade its early warning missile defense system. Promises of additional financial aid to Israel – just the opposite message needed to bring Israel to the negotiating table – are already in the offing. Likewise tremendous pressure combined with financial incentives were put upon Egypt to use its influence on Hamas to accept the cease fire.

How to Change Course.

On a radio program where I participated a few days ago (Hemispheres – KGNU-Boulder), one of the participants spoke about how the Middle East has been marred with religious conflict for the past 5,000 years. This is utter nonsense, a way simply to avoid putting forth concrete suggestions for ending the crisis by taking the fatalistic and entirely inaccurate position that the conflict is essentially unsolvable. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a modern political conflict with its roots in the late 19th century; it is primarily not even a religious but a national and colonial conflict.

In his column today, University of Michigan prof Juan Cole offers what he calls ‘10 Steps that are necessary to lasting Israeli-Gaza Peace‘. They include a call for lifting the Israeli blockade of Gaza which continues to choke the Palestinians there, the granting of Palestinians citizenship and statehood, encouraging Egypt to help with Palestinian rapproachment between Hamas and Fateh, encouraging Egypt to press Hamas to renounce terror as a tool for national struggle, renewed Palestinian elections to create a government of national unity, a moratorium on Israeli West Bank settlement building (the main stumbling block to any successful negotiation), the end of Israeli expropriation of property in East Jerusalem and Israel recognizing the right of Palestinians to have their capital in East Jerusalem, Israel not insisting on recognition by its negotiating partners as a pre-condition for starting talks, an Israeli-Palestinian return to the bargaining table for final status talks, and finally that the United States must stop blocking UN Security Council resolutions critical of Israel.

Taken together if implemented, would mark a shift in gears, from war-making to peace-making. It would be a shame, that after this hard won cease fire, if the situation again deteriorated into another war, which could – as this one nearly did – draw in the whole region, if not the world. With such high stakes, peace really is the only option.

U.S. Using Bad Info for Drone Strikes Like It Did for Detainees

As when the United States greased the skids for war with Iraq, it’s ratcheting up tensions with Iran by disseminating misinformation about nuclear weapons. The United States has also failed to learn from other mistakes in the Iraq, as well as Afghanistan.

Remember how the United States offered rewards to the citizens of Afghanistan and Iraq for intelligence on insurgents? That only resulted in populating prisons such as Bagram and Guantánamo with legions of innocents. It seems that in their haste to unearth terrorists, the U.S. military and the CIA had failed to vet their informants. With an eye for the main chance, Iraqis and Afghans saw informing as a way both to cash in and rid their communities of neighbors who’d crossed them, for whatever reason. no matter how trivial.

Using an occupying army to assist you in ridding yourself of local enemies is a time-(dis)honored tradition. One would think that, by this point in history, the military and intelligence agencies would be alert to manipulation. Presumably a perceived need for live bodies to fill quotas over-rode their wariness. Now we see this mistake repeated in designating drone-strike targets.

The landmark report Living Under Drones, released in September by the Stanford International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic and the Global Justice Clinic at NYU School of Law, quotes author Tom Junod. In a piece for the August Esquire titled The Lethal Presidency of Barack Obama, he wrote (emphasis added):

The US detained the “worst of the worst” in Guantánamo for years before releasing six hundred of them, uncharged, which amounts to the admission of a terrible mistake. The Lethal Presidency is making decisions to kill based on intelligence from the same sources. These decisions are final, and no one will ever be let go.

By “decisions to kill,” Junod means drone strikes. Not only is the CIA using bogus intel for drone strikes as it and the military did to net terrorist suspects, it may also be paying Pakistanis to mark houses as targets by depositing computer chips nearby. In addition, GPS’s are attached to cars to turn them, too, into drone fodder.

The report also quotes Clive Stafford Smith writing for the Guardian.

Just as with Guantanamo Bay, the CIA is paying bounties to those who will identify “terrorists.” Five thousand dollars is an enormous sum for a Waziri informant, translating to perhaps £250,000 in London terms. The informant has a calculation to make: is it safer to place a GPS tag on the car of a truly dangerous terrorist, or to call down death on a Nobody (with the beginnings of a beard), reporting that he is a militant? Too many “militants” are just young men with stubble.

Smith reveals another dynamic. Imagine that a Pakistani who contacts the CIA isn’t motivated by the desire to avenge a neighbor for failing to pay back a loan, or something similar. If he’s only in it for the money, why risk fingering a Taliban commander? If discovered, he and perhaps his family would find themselves on the murderous end of Taliban revenge.

To give the CIA some wiggle room, perhaps it assumes it won’t be provided with bogus info because potential informants would fear the CIA demand return of the money if the lead turned out to be false or that it would even detain them. But, as the NYU-Stanford report indicates, the CIA or U.S. military rarely investigate the aftermath of drone strikes to determine whether civilians were killed.

Perhaps then the CIA assumes that informants would be loath to turn in innocents for fear of reprisal from the families of those killed. When deciding who to finger, though, informants may be targeting victims whose families lack the wherewithal to take revenge. Or, with what, in effect, is an astronomical sum to them, informants may factor in paying retribution money to the families of those killed.

The longer this type of cynical use of indigenous peoples continues, the further one’s respect for the CIA diminishes.

American Jews Still Reject Zionism at Their Own Risk

Cross-posted from Progressive Avenues.

In the 1940’s and 50’s, I was raised on the North Shore of Chicago, in a suburb named Glencoe. The town was at least 95% Jewish, and everyone knew who the 3 black families were, knew the handful of Christians and “others” who resided near us. We understood that we comprised one of the wealthiest, fanciest Jewish ghettos in the United States, and perhaps the world. The great majority of us went to temple at the North Shore Congregation Israel, and donated $5.00 a shot for stickers to purchase “trees” to plant in the new State of Israel. We were going to transform the desert into a promised land and help the oppressed Jews of Europe to create a homeland where pogroms, ghettos and the Holocaust were a thing of the past. For literally decades, Zionists had perpetuated the myth that the territory that would become the State of Israel was “a land without a people, for a people without a land.” How noble and just it all seemed.

If anyone would have asked us why we were planting trees in Israel, when the Holy Land was already covered with Olive trees planted by Arab families for more than 5 centuries, we would have accused them of rank anti-semitism. If someone had suggested that we were purchasing guns, and missiles, instead of agricultural tools, we would have fought them on the spot. Yet history judges us harshly and we now have a reckoning to deal with.

I represented men and women on death row in California for over 25 years. All of the defendants on death row, without exception, were brutalized as young children, either by their parents, or their community. The great majority of prisoners were victims of brutality, and they responded to the society that brutalized them by killing in return.

One would have expected that those who were brutalized as children would have recognized how horrible the experience was and rejected such behavior when it was their turn to have authority over others. But that is simply not so. Humans, unfortunately, by and large, grow up to perpetrate the same atrocities that were perpetrated upon them against those they are close to. While this phenomenon is not universal, it is so common as to be the expectation for law enforcement and the society at large. Children of convicts are expected to become criminals when they grow up, and the society does everything in its power to ensure that that expectation is met. Young black children in this country have to be saints to stay out of reformatories and prisons. One out of three black people in the United States are in prison or on parole.

So, too, do we watch this phenomenon being tragically repeated in the State of Israel. One would expect that a people who had been subjected to the atrocities of World War II, to the Holocaust, to the discrimination and slaughter perpetrated against the Jews, would be the first nation on earth to oppose a similar oppression against others. Yet, the sad reality is that the racism and violence perpetrated against Palestinians in the State of Israel is outlandish and inexcusable.

Gaza is nothing short of a concentration camp. Children are starving there and Israel will kill any individual or group that attempts to bring food or water into that land. Israel is the last country on the face of the earth that has dared to impose a formal state of apartheid against an indigenous population. Israeli checkpoints are the precise duplicates of what the Nazi checkpoints at the borders of the ghettos looked like in 1938 Germany. The excuses and rationalizations used by Israel to perpetuate this oppression against the Palestinian people are precisely those used by the Nazis: Palestinians pose a threat to the security of the nation; they will steal jobs and security from the rightful people of the nation; they are untrustworthy, and owe no allegiance to the nation. The parallels are terrifying.

That this should be the situation in 2012 is so pathetic as to be comical in an historical context. The anti-semitism of the prevailing nations of World War II, the United States and Great Britain was so profound as to obviate the possibility that Jews would be permitted to immigrate or seek sanctuary in either of those victorious countries. The Christian majorities of those countries so hated the Jews that allowing them to seek sanctuary in either country was out of the question.

Instead, anti-semitic nations decided to give the Jews who survived the Holocaust land that belonged to the Palestinians. Kill two birds with one stone. Keep Jews out of the U.S. and Great Britain, and give them the land of a bunch of Muslims that, according to the U.S. and Great Britain, were little more than savages. Certainly, the Western powers could control any opposition the local population might put up to prevent the Jews from entering the new state of Israel. It would be a walk in the park for these countries to disenfranchise the Palestinian people, who had lived on the land for centuries. The fact that Jews had lived in Palestine for centuries without undergoing the sort of atrocities perpetrated by European Christians upon them was quickly overlooked. Give us our land, said the Zionists, and we will take care of the rest.

So now, we are confronted with the situation where there is not a Muslim on the face of the earth that does not see Israel’s occupation of the Holy Land as an unjustified invasion of their land. The only difference between this and the initial colonization of the United States of America, is that, unlike what happened to the American Indians, Caucasians, whether Christian or Jewish, have not been able to eradicate sufficient numbers of indigenous people to take over the land without opposition. The Muslims have not acceded to the colonial expansion of the “settlers” in Israel, to the U.S. demand for expansion of the militarist Israeli state, or to the eradication of those who inhabited the land before the Jews arrived.

In virtually every temple and Jewish Community Center in the United States, Israel is seen as “the good guy” in the Middle East, and the Arabs are seen as devils. The impact this has had on Jews in the United States is to divide the community into two totally distinct communities: those who are Zionists and those who identify with being Jewish, but reject the racism and violence perpetrated by Israel against the entire Muslim world. It is impossible for Jews who take pride in their heritage, to participate in their own communities without endorsing the atrocities perpetrated by Israel against Arabs throughout the world. Jews who reject Zionism are outcasts in the established Jewish communities. They have no base and no community. We are either anti-Muslim or invisible. We are left with no alternatives within the broader community.

The U.S. is perfectly content to let Israel serve as the buffer between hostile Arab nations and U.S. imperialism. After all, it is the Jews who are fighting Muslims on a daily basis, not Americans. But once the State of Israel is defeated because of its bellicose intransigence and intolerance to those with whom they should be sharing the land, Jews everywhere will suffer the consequences and be at risk. One could not write a more ironical conclusion. Non-Zionist Jews are like the non-existent Left in the United States – we are simply not included in the debates of our nation or among our people; and, because Zionists permit no rational debates or discussions, they are without a clue as to the international implications of their cruelty toward the Palestinian peoples. The world will not put up with this indefinitely. It is just a matter of time.

Luke Hiken is an attorney who has engaged in the practice of criminal, military, immigration, and appellate law.

Page 41 of 239« First...102030...3940414243...506070...Last »