McCain on Obama’s anti-ISIS Airstrikes

McCain has already penned an open letter urging President Obama to widen his bombing campaign of ISIS to include the Syrian Air Force. Is anyone surprised? It’s also funny to hear US media refer to the Arab “coalition” in the US-led anti-ISIS campaign to include 5 “Sunni countries” including Bahrain? When did Bahrain become a Sunni country?

All in all, I can’t remember a US president that didn’t bomb another country. Carter, perhaps?

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Syrian Wars of Proxy

al-Akhbar English: The Syrian war is not only a proxy war. There is a strong internal dimension to the war in Syria but it has been obscured by various layers and dimensions of outside intervention and agendas. The Syrian regime wants to stay in power at any cost while there was certainly a civil popular opposition in Syria when the uprising first began. There are thousands of reasons for the Syrian people to protest against a family dictatorship that has controlled much of their lives since 1970 but the civil protest movement did not erupt by itself, the Western media narrative notwithstanding. Concurrent with the protest movement that erupted in 2011, Turkey and Gulf regimes had already set up armed rebel groups to help bring down a regime. The internal dimension of the war in Syria, however, is now probably marginal to the global and regional war raging in the country today. There are several proxy wars in Syria today and they can be summarized as follows:

1. The internal Wahhabi war: there is no war within Islam in Syria as Thomas Friedman and his ilk keep asserting. There has been a moderate and progressive strand of Islam in Syria and many of its elements have aligned themselves with the regime. And contrary to early claims made by the hired external opposition and its advocates in the West, there was never a moderate and progressive version of Islam among the rebel groups. How could that be the case when the sponsors of Syrian rebel Islam are Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia? Mufti Hassun (although he is an ally and perhaps a tool of the regime, and even the slain Sheikh al-Buti) is far more progressive than any of his adversaries on the other side, including Mu`adh al-Khatib who has railed in the past about the ills of social media, masturbation and Jews, and who praised al-Nusrah Front early on his tenure as leader of the Syrian National Council. The internal Wahhabi war is pitting the various Wahhabi parties in the region against each other. The Saudi regime, Qatari regime, al-Qa`idah (Nusrah Front) and ISIS: all four are Wahhabi and each is trying to dominate the field of the Wahhabi movement.

2. The Iranian-Saudi war: the two sides are engaged in struggles in different parts of the region, from Yemen to Lebanon and Syria. The conflict over political dominance and hegemony.

3. The Sunni-Shia war: this is a rather contrived war that was instigated by the Saudi regime – at the behest of US and Israel – to undermine the basis of Arab support for Hizbullah and Iran in the region.

4. The Russian-American war: this war is reminiscent of the Cold War. The conflict between the Russian government and the American government has never reached this level since the demise of the Soviet Union. The conflict over Ukraine and Syria, among other places, has pushed both sides to resort to the tricks and methods of the Cold War, including proxy wars.

5. Qatari and Saudi conflict: the two Wahhabi regimes are fighting over many issues but they both wish to speak on behalf of political Islam. Qatar banks on the Muslim Brotherhood and some elements of Jihadi Islam, while the Saudi regime banks on the Salafis and some elements of Jihadi Islam. This conflict may explain the conflict between the Nusrah Front and ISIS.

6. The Hezbollah versus the Future Movement: both of those Lebanese movements have been fighting in Syria. The Future Movement is a broad and loose movement which comprises various stands, including Salafis.

7. Clash of Islamic identities: Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran are all hoping to leave their national imprint on the political Islamist movement in the region.

8. The regional conflict between the global organization of the Muslim Brotherhood on one hand and the regional Salafis on the other.

These proxy conflicts now determine the course of events in Syria and the Syrian people themselves, on either sides of the conflict, have very little control over them. The slogans that are being raised by both sides of the conflict merely serve to rationalize the policies and decisions of external patrons.

Dr. As’ad AbuKhalil is a Professor of Political Science at the University of California, a lecturer and the author of The Angry Arab News Service. He tweets @asadabukhalil.

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Israeli intelligence veterans’ letter to Netanyahu and military chiefs

The Guardian: Full Letter

Prime Minister, Mr Benjamin Netanyahu

Chief of General Staff, Benny Gantz

Military Intelligence Director, Major General Aviv Kochavi

Commander of Unit 8200

We, veterans of Unit 8200, reserve soldiers both past and present, declare that we refuse to take part in actions against Palestinians and refuse to continue serving as tools in deepening the military control over the Occupied Territories.

It is commonly thought that the service in military intelligence is free of moral dilemmas and solely contributes to the reduction of violence and harm to innocent people. However, our military service has taught us that intelligence is an integral part of Israel‘s military occupation over the territories. The Palestinian population under military rule is completely exposed to espionage and surveillance by Israeli intelligence. While there are severe limitations on the surveillance of Israeli citizens, the Palestinians are not afforded this protection. There’s no distinction between Palestinians who are, and are not, involved in violence. Information that is collected and stored harms innocent people. It is used for political persecution and to create divisions within Palestinian society by recruiting collaborators and driving parts of Palestinian society against itself. In many cases, intelligence prevents defendants from receiving a fair trial in military courts, as the evidence against them is not revealed. Intelligence allows for the continued control over millions of people through thorough and intrusive supervision and invasion of most areas of life. This does not allow for people to lead normal lives, and fuels more violence further distancing us from the end of the conflict.

Millions of Palestinians have been living under Israeli military rule for over 47 years. This regime denies the basic rights and expropriates extensive tracts of land for Jewish settlements subject to separate and different legal systems, jurisdiction and law enforcement. This reality is not an inevitable result of the state’s efforts to protect itself but rather the result of choice. Settlement expansion has nothing to do with national security. The same goes for restrictions on construction and development, economic exploitation of the West Bank, collective punishment of inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, and the actual route of the separation barrier.

In light of all this, we have concluded that as individuals who served in Unit 8200, we must take responsibility for our part in this situation and it is our moral duty to act. We cannot continue to serve this system in good conscience, denying the rights of millions of people. Therefore, those among us who are reservists, refuse to take part in the state’s actions against Palestinians. We call for all soldiers serving in the Intelligence Corps, present and future, along with all the citizens of Israel, to speak out against these injustices and to take action to bring them to an end. We believe that Israel’s future depends on it.

Senior Academic Officer Or

First Sergeant Ori

Sergeant Ella

Sergeant ***

Sergeant First Class Amitai

Captain Assaf

Lieutenant Assaf

First Sergeant Ariel

First Sergeant Guy

Sergeant First Class Galia

Lieutenant Gilad

First Sergeant Doron

Captain D

Professional Academic Officer H

First Sergeant T

First Sergeant Tal

Sergeant First Class Yair

First Sergeant Yoav

First Sergeant Yuval

Lieutenant Yonatan

Sergeant First Class Lior

Sergeant Liron

Sergeant Maya

Sergeant Michal

First Sergeant Menahem

First Sergeant Nadav

Sergeant Noa

First Sergeant Sa’ar

First Sergeant Eden

Sergeant Idan

Professional Academic Officer Amir

First Sergeant Amit

Sergeant K

Sergeant Keren

Sergeant First Class Regev

First Sergeant Roi

Sergeant R

First Sergeant Rotem

First Sergeant Shira

Major Shmulik

First Sergeant Schraga

Sergeant Sheri

Senior Academic Officer Tomer

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The West Bank: where Israel’s Gaza propaganda falls apart

Middle East Monitor: Writing in Israeli newspaper Haaretz this week, regular columnist Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie bemoaned the difficult task facing Israel’s supporters internationally, in the aftermath of the devastating, murderous assault on the Gaza Strip.

With the war in Gaza just concluded, Israel’s friends in the West are now immersed in the task of making Israel’s case to a skeptical public…ours is a media age, and the pictures of destruction in Gaza are hard to overcome.

This already tricky PR challenge has now been compounded, Yoffie wrote, by the Netanyahu’s government’s decision to declare a chunk of the West Bank as ‘state land’, a step taken prior to the construction of new settlement housing.

The point of the op-ed was that the land grab is badly-timed and will do Israel’s image no favours after the death and destruction in Gaza. But there is a further point to be made here. Developments in the West Bank do not just hinder Israel’s post-Gaza PR efforts – they actually directly undermine the ‘Operation Protective Edge’ hasbara talking points themselves.

Israel insists that the accusation of war crimes in Gaza is a gross misrepresentation of the military’s operations. Putting aside the copious evidence of atrocities – families bombed at home, youth killed while watching football in a café, indiscriminate shelling in Rafah, and so on – Israeli policies in the West Bank give the lie to the claim that its government and military have even the minimal respect for international law.

And indeed, the mass appropriation of land outside of Bethlehem in the Occupied West Bank is just such an example. Responding to the news, Amnesty International said that “confiscating land for settlements” is not only “illegal under international law” but also leads “to a wide range of violations of Palestinians’ human rights on a mass scale”. Human Rights Watch pointedly noted:

The ICC statute prohibits, as war crimes, the voluntary transfer by an occupying power of its civilians into occupied territory, the seizure of property unless imperative as a matter of military necessity, and the forcible transfer of the local population of the territory – like Israel’s practices in the West Bank. Abbas has repeatedly delayed acceding to the ICC statute.

With condemnation from numerous countries – including strong allies of Israel – it is important to note here that for Israel, its own colonisation priorities, domestic political reasons or, in the words of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, simply the “consensus in Israeli society”, all trump international law. Yet in Gaza, we are meant to believe that the Israeli military scrupulously abides by the same standards it is trampling on a few dozen miles away.

Then there is the killing of Palestinian civilians. The Israeli military has produced no end of infographics and conducted numerous ‘off the record’ briefings – as well as of course, the regular robotic performances by media spokespersons – all in an attempt to ‘explain’ the mass slaughter of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, including hundreds of children.

Yet while homes were being pulverised in Gaza, Israeli forces unleashed lethal violence against occupied, unarmed Palestinian civilians in the West Bank: according to the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department, 32 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem between June 13 and August 26, and another 1,397 injured by the army and settlers.

Implausibly, and disgustingly, Israel tries to justify the killing of children in their homes in Gaza by reference to ‘rockets’, ‘terror tunnels’, and the ‘terrorist infrastructure’ of al-Qassam Brigades. But what about Khalil Anati, the 10-year-old boy shot dead by Israeli forces in al-Fawwar refugee camp near Hebron? Or 19-year-old footballer Mohammed Al-Qatari, and 45-year-old father of three Hashem Abu Maria – both shot dead by Israeli forces in the West Bank while Gaza burned.

But this is standard for ‘The Most Moral Army In the World’. 14-year-old Yousef al-Shawamrah was out picking plants when he was killed by the brave and precise “IDF” – not assembling rockets. Nadim Siyam Nawarah and Muhammad Mahmoud Salameh were not firing mortars or digging tunnels when Israeli forces killed them both in May. Yet in Gaza, we are meant to believe that the Israeli military would never deliberately kill civilians – the same way it does a few dozen miles away.

Finally, Israel tells us that it has a responsibility to protect its citizens – that its attacks on Gaza were about ‘security’ and a right to self-defence. Again, this is easily deconstructed on its own terms – but, instructively, Israel conducts illegal and discriminatory policies in the West Bank on precisely the same basis. There, the absurd disingenuousness of the security excuse is even clearer.

Checkpoints and roadblocks fragment the West Bank as part of a regime of segregation that exists purely for the benefit of the Jewish settlers living in colonies surrounded by citizenship-less Palestinians. Olive groves are demolished, farmers and herders expelled from their land. The Wall, of course, de facto annexes chunks of the West Bank – in the name of ‘security’.

Yet in Gaza, we are meant to believe that the Israeli military would never use a ‘security’ excuse as cover for collective punishment and colonial disciplining – the same way it does a few dozen miles away.

The standard Israeli version of events in Gaza is itself refutable. But the propaganda is even flimsier when you consider that, not far away from the fenced-in, battered enclave, the Israeli government and army have been doing exactly what they swear blind they were not doing in Gaza: violating international law, deliberately killing civilians, and carrying out punitive, unchecked colonialism in the name of ‘security’.

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Going Back to School in Gaza

Gaza.2

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Aerial Footage of Israeli Destruction of Gaza

The footage is only a glimpse of Israel’s murderous bombing campaign in Gaza.

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Holocaust survivors and their descendants accuse Israel of ‘genocide’

The Independent: Dozens of Holocaust survivors, together with hundreds of descendants of Holocaust survivors and victims, have accused Israel of “genocide” for the deaths of more than 2,000 Palestinians in Gaza since the conflict erupted in July.

In an open letter released by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network and published as an advert in The New York Times, the group calls for a full economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel over its “wholesale effort to destroy Gaza”.

“Genocide begins with the silence of the world,” the statement reads, “We must raise our collective voices and use our collective power to bring about an end to all forms of racism, including the ongoing genocide of Palestinian people.”

The statement also condemns the United States for its financial and diplomatic support of Israel.

The signatories express alarm at “the extreme, racist dehumanization of Palestinians in Israeli society, which has reached a fever pitch.”

This condemnation was designed as a response to a widely-published advertisement from Nobel prize-winning author Elie Wiesel that condemned Hamas for its “use of children as human shields”.

The statement reads: “We are disgusted and outraged by Elie Wiesel’s abuse of our history […] to justify the unjustifiable.”

Of the 327 signatories, 40 survived the Holocaust and the other 287 are descendants of Holocaust survivors or victims.

Recent today reports refer to the destruction of an high rise office building in the southern town of Rafah, and the bombing of an apartment building in Gaza City amid attempts from the Egyptian government to establish a durable ceasefire.

More than 2,100 Palestinians, including 500 children have been killed in the conflict, according to Palestinian health officials and UN figures. Israel has lost 64 soldiers and four civilians.

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Video: Israeli Historian Describes Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine in 1948

Ilan Pappe on Israel’s ethnic cleansing in 1948 and why it matters today.

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Oakland protest blocks unloading of Israeli cargo ship

SF Chronicle: Activists protesting Israel’s military action in the Gaza Strip converged on the Port of Oakland on Sunday afternoon in an effort to block the unloading of an Israeli cargo ship, the second such action in two days.

The activists formed pickets at several Port gates to prevent workers from unloading the Piraeus, a vessel from Zim Integrated Shipping Services, Israel’s largest shipping firm. The ship docked at 5 p.m. at the port’s Oakland International Container Terminal, and protesters communicating via Twitter said port employees were honoring their picket lines.

“It’s my understanding that labor did not report to work for the 7 p.m. shift at the Oakland International Terminal,” port spokeswoman Marilyn Sandifur said Sunday evening. “All other port operations are unaffected.”

With tensions still high between the Israeli government and Hamas, the Piraeus has become the focus of attention for Bay Area activists.

Organizing under the motto “Block the Boat,” they first expected the ship to reach Oakland early Saturday morning. Word that the ship’s arrival had been delayed led activists to rally at the port Saturday afternoon instead, in a large procession waving Palestinian flags and signs reading “Let Gaza Live.”

Then, as the ship neared the Golden Gate on Sunday afternoon, tracked by the online service Marine Traffic, activists returned to the port.

Organizers describe the action as part of a larger international movement to boycott Israeli goods and force companies to divest from the country.

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Resisting Nazis, He Saw Need for Israel. Now He Is Its Critic.

The New York Times: THE HAGUE — In 1943, Henk Zanoli took a dangerous train trip, slipping past Nazi guards and checkpoints to smuggle a Jewish boy from Amsterdam to the Dutch village of Eemnes. There, the Zanoli family, already under suspicion for resisting the Nazi occupation, hid the boy in their home for two years. The boy would be the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust.

Seventy-one years later, on July 20, an Israeli airstrike flattened a house in the Gaza Strip, killing six of Mr. Zanoli’s relatives by marriage. His grandniece, a Dutch diplomat, is married to a Palestinian economist, Ismail Ziadah, who lost three brothers, a sister-in-law, a nephew and his father’s first wife in the attack.

On Thursday, Mr. Zanoli, 91, whose father died in a Nazi camp, went to the Israeli Embassy in The Hague and returned a medal he received honoring him as one of the Righteous Among the Nations — non-Jews honored by Israel for saving Jews during the Holocaust. In an anguished letter to the Israeli ambassador to the Netherlands, he described the terrible price his family had paid for opposing Nazi tyranny.

“My sister lost her husband, who was executed in the dunes of The Hague for his involvement in the resistance,” he wrote. “My brother lost his Jewish fiancée who was deported, never to return.”

Mr. Zanoli continued, “Against this background, it is particularly shocking and tragic that today, four generations on, our family is faced with the murder of our kin in Gaza. Murder carried out by the State of Israel.”

His act crystallizes the moral debate over Israel’s military air and ground assault in the Gaza Strip, in which about 2,000 people, a majority of them civilians, have been killed. Israel says the strikes are aimed at Hamas militants who fire rockets at Israeli cities and have dug a secret network of tunnels into Israel.

Mr. Zanoli transformed over the decades from a champion to a critic of the Israeli state, mirroring a larger shift in Europe, where anguish over the slaughter of six million European Jews led many to support the founding of Israel in 1948 as a haven for Jews worldwide.

But in the years since Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza during the 1967 war, Europeans have become more critical. Israel blames anti-Semitism, which has grown in Europe with the rise of right-wing politicians. Some European protests against Israeli military action have been marred in recent weeks by open anti-Semitism, blurring the line between criticism of Israeli policy and hate speech against Jews. But many other critics, like Mr. Zanoli, say their objection to Israeli policy is not anti-Jewish but consistent with the humanitarian principles that led them to condemn the Holocaust and support the founding of a Jewish state.

“I gave back my medal because I didn’t agree with what the state of Israel is doing to my family and to the Palestinians on the whole,” Mr. Zanoli said in an interview Friday in his spare but elegant apartment, adding that his decision was a statement “only against the state of Israel, not the Israeli people.”

“Jews were our friends,” said Mr. Zanoli, a retired lawyer who uses a motorized scooter but remains erect and regal, much as he appears in a yellowing 1940s photograph archived at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.

Mr. Zanoli said he had never publicly criticized Israel “until I heard that my family was the victim.”

In Gaza, Mr. Zanoli’s in-laws say his gesture is a fitting response to the losses of their family and others who have lost multiple relatives in strikes on homes. Those in-laws include Hassan al-Zeyada, a psychological trauma counselor who is an older brother of Ismail Ziadah. Their mother, Muftiyah, 70, was the oldest family member to die in the bombing.

Like Mr. Zanoli, Dr. Zeyada, 50, who works to treat the many Palestinians in Gaza traumatized by war and displacement, has given much thought to the fact that Israel was founded after the Holocaust, one of history’s greatest collective traumas.

Dr. Zeyada, who transliterates his family name differently from his brother, said Friday that he admired Mr. Zanoli and his family for their struggle in World War II against “discrimination and oppression in general and against the Jews in particular.”

“For them,” he added, “it’s something painful that the people you defended and struggled for turn into aggressors.”

Dr. Zeyada said last month that none of his family members were militants. Israel says that it takes precautions to avoid killing civilians, and that Hamas purposely increases civilian casualties by operating in residential neighborhoods. It has offered no information on whether the Zeyada family home was hit purposely, and if so, what the target was and whether it justified a strike that killed six civilians. The military told the left-leaning Israeli newspaper Haaretz, which first reported Mr. Zanoli’s decision, only that it was investigating “all irregular incidents.”

At Yad Vashem, where a leafy garden commemorates the 25,000 people named Righteous Among the Nations, a spokeswoman said Friday that Mr. Zanoli’s renunciation of the prize was “his decision,” but “we regret it.”

More than 5,000 Dutch have received the honor; only Poles have been honored more.

In 1943, Mr. Zanoli’s father was detained by the Nazis for his work in the Dutch underground resistance movement. Soon after, according to Yad Vashem’s citation, also awarded posthumously to Mr. Zanoli’s mother, Jans, Mr. Zanoli traveled to Amsterdam to get Elchanan Pinto, 11, an Orthodox Jewish boy whose parents and siblings would all die in the death camps.

“Jans Zanoli knew very well the risks involved by then in hiding a Jewish youngster in her home, but felt the moral obligation to do so,” the citation reads. “Elchanan found a warm and loving home with them.”

After the Allied victory in 1945, an uncle of Elchanan’s took him to a Jewish orphanage. In 1951, the citation says, Elchanan immigrated to Israel, where he changed his last name to Hameiri. An Elchanan Hameiri is listed in phone directories as living in Israel, but could not be reached on Friday.

In his letter to the Israeli ambassador, Mr. Zanoli noted that among the bereaved were “the great-great grandchildren of my mother.”

He relinquished the honor “with great sorrow,” he wrote, because keeping an honor from Israel’s government would be “an insult to the memory of my courageous mother” and to his Gaza family.

He added that his family had “strongly supported the Jewish people” in their quest for “a national home,” but that he had gradually come to believe that “the Zionist project” had “a racist element in it in aspiring to build a state exclusively for Jews.”

He referred to the displacement of Palestinians — including members of the Ziadah family — during the war over Israel’s founding as “ethnic cleansing” and said Israel “continues to suppress” and occupy Palestinian areas. Israel still occupies the West Bank; it pulled troops out of Gaza in 2005 but retains control over its seafront, airspace and most of its borders.

Israel says it maintains control to curb Palestinian militants like those with Hamas, which in the past has killed several hundred Israelis in suicide bombings. Palestinians see the continuing conflict as a struggle for self-determination — they use Mr. Zanoli’s word for his anti-Nazi work, resistance — and say Israel is obstructing the establishment of a Palestinian state with policies like settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Mr. Zanoli said he could envision a situation in which he would take the medal back.

“The only way out of the quagmire the Jewish people of Israel have gotten themselves into is by granting all living under the control of the State of Israel the same political rights and social and economic rights and opportunities,” he wrote. “Although this will result in a state no longer exclusively Jewish it will be a state with a level of righteousness on the basis of which I could accept the title of ‘Righteous among the Nations’ you awarded to my mother and me.”

In that event, he concluded, “be sure to contact me or my descendants.”

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Map of Israel’s Missile Attacks on Gaza

To put things into perspective, here is a map of the GPS locations of all of Israel’s missile attacks on Gaza in its latest bombardment of the strip. Keep in mind that Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas of the world with 1.8 million Palestinians trapped under a blockade in an area equal to twice the size of tiny Washington DC (according to The Washington Post)

jvp

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The no-state solution

state

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Nearly 500 Palestinian children have been killed in Gaza

birds

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