Monday, January 28, 2008

Gaza- People Power revolt shakes Egypt, Israel


Ali Abunimah discusses US presidential candidates on
Democracy Now!

Transcript, Democracy Now!

25 January 2008

http://electronicin v2/article9254. shtml

You can also watch/listen at:
http://www.democrac 2008/1/24/ where_do_ the_presidential _contenders_ stand

As the news out of Gaza makes international headlines,
Democracy Now! took a look at where the Republican and
Democratic presidential contenders stand on the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Democracy Now! spoke with
Electronic Intifada co-founder Ali Abunimah on 24 January:

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Chicago to Ali Abunimah, the
co-founder of the online publication The Electronic
Intifada, author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End
the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Ali Abunimah. Your response to
what's happening now in Gaza, from here in the United

ALI ABUNIMAH: Well, I'd like to say that the suffering in
Gaza has been so unremitting and so horrible and will
continue. But I think we have to recognize and celebrate
the resistance and the power of the people in Gaza. And we
have to recognize that there has been a deliberate siege
on them by Israel, a decision taken by the leaders of
Israel to starve and inflict suffering on a
million-and- a-half people.

The government of Egypt has been complicit in this. They
could have opened the borders months ago. Israel has been
besieging Gaza for almost two years in this way. Egypt
didn't have to wait until Palestinians took matters into
their own hands to free themselves from this barbaric

The United States is complicit. And, by the way, Amy, this
is another setback for the Bush Doctrine. The people of
Gaza have been the victims of an experiment by the Bush
administration and Israel, where, first of all, they had a
democratic election. The US and Israel didn't like that
result, so they tried to overthrow Hamas using
Contra-style militias and using a starvation siege. Hamas
turned the tables on them and got rid of those militias.
So they decided to tighten the siege on the people of
Gaza, and the people of Gaza decided to break out of it

But the thing we have to absolutely focus on is the
responsibility here. Israel, as the occupying power in the
Gaza Strip, remains fully responsible for everything that
happens there. Under Article 55 of the Fourth Geneva
Convention, passed, by the way, after the horrors of World
War II, Israel is legally required to provide as much
food, water, medicine and fuel as the civilian population

And the excuse that the Israelis are using, that they're
doing this in response to rocket fire, we know for a fact
that Israel has rejected ceasefire after ceasefire put
forward by Hamas and other Palestinian factions. We know
for a fact that there are no rockets coming out of the
West Bank. And yet Israel continues to carry out
extrajudicial executions in the West Bank and military
attacks on Nablus, on Balata refugee camp and all the
other places in the West Bank.

We have to be clear that what Israel is trying to do is a
massive experiment in ethnic cleansing to get rid of a
million-and- a-half people who do not fit its demographic
desires and the desire to remain a state where one ethnic
group has special and better rights by virtue of its
religion. That's what's going on.

AMY GOODMAN: Ali Abunimah, I wanted to ask you about the
candidates in the United States. You're speaking to us
from Chicago, so let's start with Barack Obama. The
stances of the presidential Democratic and Republican
candidates on the Israel-Palestine conflict -- I can't
remember when in a debate they were asked about the
mounting crisis there.

ALI ABUNIMAH: I don't know if they've been asked in a
debate, but whenever they have been asked, they have all
gone out of their way to express full support for what
Israel is doing. Barack Obama is not distinguished from
the rest of the pack, except by for how far he has moved
to try to appease AIPAC and pro-Israel movements.

I remember, Amy -- I knew Barack Obama for many years as
my state senator -- when he used to attend events in the
Palestinian community in Chicago all the time. I remember
personally introducing him onstage in 1999, when we had a
major community fundraiser for the community center in
Deheisha refugee camp in the occupied West Bank. And
that's just one example of how Barack Obama used to be
very comfortable speaking up for and being associated with
Palestinian rights and opposing the Israeli occupation.
And just yesterday, he apparently sent a letter to Zalmay
Khalilzad, the US ambassador at the UN, to urge the US not
to allow any resolution to pass criticizing Israel and
saying how Israel was forced to impose this barbaric
medieval siege on [Gaza].

None of the other candidates in the mainstream have spoken
out for Palestinian rights. The only ones who have taken
forceful positions opposing the current US strategy are
Dennis Kucinich on the Democratic side and Ron Paul on the
Republican side. The mainstream are all perfectly
comfortable with the war crimes that Israel is committing,
no matter how much they talk about human rights elsewhere.

AMY GOODMAN: Hillary Clinton, her view on the
Israel-Palestine conflict, specifically also what's
happening now in Gaza?

ALI ABUNIMAH: Again, we saw Hillary Clinton, the moment
her political ambitions became pronounced, shift. You'll
remember, when she spoke in the 1990s in favor of a
Palestinian state, since then she has become one of the
most anti-Palestinian hawks. For example, a couple of
years ago, she went and staged a photo opportunity in an
Israeli settlement by the apartheid wall and talked about
how the wall was necessary. This wall, of course, which
has been condemned as illegal by the International Court
of Justice, which has ordered Israel to tear it down,
Hillary Clinton went and stood in front of it and endorsed

And we've seen that time and again. John Edwards, the
same, staunchly pro-Israel. On the Republican side, you
have John McCain, who talks like a maverick on other
issues, but on this one he has gone out of his way to
offer full support for Israel. You have Huckabee, who is
on the Christian evangelical right, that is historically
not very friendly towards Jewish people, but is very
strongly pro-Israel for reasons of biblical prophecy. And
Huckabee, who is -- according to a report in The Jerusalem
Post, talked about a Palestinian state in Egypt or Saudi
Arabia, so really talking about the forced transfer or
ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians as a solution. That,
unfortunately, is the level of discourse.

And maybe it's because there's such a consensus in the
mainstream on unconditional support for Israel, no matter
how illegal its actions or how harmful they are to the
United States, perhaps because there's such a consensus,
that's why there's no debate.

AMY GOODMAN: Governor Romney?

ALI ABUNIMAH: Governor Romney, I haven't heard his
specific words, except that he has been particularly
outspoken in claiming that Islamic militancy, of which he
claims Palestinians are a part, is the greatest threat to
the United States. And what we've seen is this debate
happening, this discussion happening in a broader context,
Amy, where many of the candidates, not just on the
Republican side, whereas they claim to be running against
Bush or at least away from Bush, have actually absorbed
some of the basic tenets of Bush's world view, which sees
the United States and the West engaged in this massive
civilizational struggle against Islam. It's a very
dangerous and false idea.

And many Muslims feel that they are now the targets of a
hysteria, which is similar or has even become worse than
the anti-communist hysteria of the 1950s, where Islamic
militancy is under every bed and where any form of
resistance, any form of resistance to US imperialism, to
Israeli colonization and occupation, is defined as
extremism. And there's nobody who's -- you're not even
allowed to go and get food for your family from Egypt if
you're starving without being called an extremist, without
being accused of militancy or terrorism. That's level
we've reached.

No resistance is permitted, Amy. But what we've seen from
Gaza and what we've seen time and again in Lebanon is that
resistance will continue, that people will not quietly
accept the fate that has been designed for them in the
boardrooms of the Pentagon and the White House and the
Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv. People will resist.

AMY GOODMAN: Ali Abunimah, I want to thank you very much
for joining us from Chicago, co-founder of The Electronic
Intifada. His book is called One Country: A Bold Proposal
to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.

************ ********* ********* ********* ********* **

Sword dancing while Gaza starves

By Osamah Khalil

The Electronic Intifada
24 January 2008

http://electronicin v2/article9249. shtml

A staggering disparity in images has emanated from the
Middle East over the past two weeks. While US President
George W. Bush received a warm welcome during his tour of
the Persian Gulf, Israel pounded Gaza killing over 40
Palestinians, nearly half of them civilians. Bush
participated in sword dancing ceremonies, watched the
prowess of hunting falcons, and in the United Arab
Emirates he was finally greeted with the flowers that he
once believed American troops would receive in Iraq. The
obscene displays of wealth and extravagant gifts by the
Gulf states, whose coffers are flush with cash from
near-record oil prices, contrasted sharply with the images
of death and destruction unleashed on impoverished Gaza.
This was compounded by Israel's total closure of the tiny
strip late last week, leaving the 1.5 million Palestinian
inhabitants with dwindling food and fuel supplies. As the
only power plant in Gaza shut down Sunday night,
Palestinian children in a candle-light march covered by Al
Jazeera asked, "Where are the Arabs?" Yet, the Arabs
weren't the only ones absent from the scene. Indeed, Gaza
appears to have been abandoned by the entire world,
further revealing the state of fragmentation and isolation
of the Palestinian national movement.

Responding to the crisis, the Arab states again
demonstrated their impotence and callous disregard for
Palestinian suffering. In the diplomatic equivalent of a
sword dance, an emergency meeting of the Arab League was
held in Cairo on Monday. The result was a request by the
League that the UN investigate Israel's actions. [1]
However, it is unlikely that any such investigative body
will be created. Even if impaneled, it is unlikely to have
any impact, as was demonstrated with the UN investigative
committee into Israel's 2002 invasion of the Jenin refugee

Displaying the height of cynicism, Egyptian President
Hosni Mubarak deployed 300 riot control troops to the
Rafah border crossing rather than send food or fuel.
Egypt, which has come under pressure from Israel and the
US Congress for its inability to stop black-market tunnel
traffic into Gaza, clearly wanted to demonstrate that
while it publicly denounced the closure and privately
mediated with the Israeli government, it was not about to
unilaterally lift the siege. Instead, Hamas demonstrated
on Wednesday that it could, as its militia destroyed 200
meters of the metal barrier separating Egyptian and
Palestinian Rafah, allowing Palestinians to stream through
and get needed supplies. Mubarak later claimed he ordered
his troops not to interfere and that Palestinians could
"come in and buy food" and return to Gaza as long as they
were unarmed. [2]

Not to be left out, the UN held its own diplomatic sword
dance in New York on Tuesday. Ambassador Riyad Mansour of
the Palestinian Observer Mission to the UN, who five
months ago blocked an effort by Qatar and Indonesia for a
Security Council Resolution on the pending humanitarian
crisis in Gaza, finally found the "specific need" absent
in August. [3] Mansour called the situation "absolutely
untenable" and argued that Israel was "creating a
humanitarian catastrophe. " [4] However, the resolution
faltered in the Security Council, like many before it due
to American pressure. Instead, the Security Council
expressed "deep concern" in a non-binding and ultimately
meaningless Presidential Statement. [5] While world
leaders converged on Paris last month to shower money on
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in an
attempt to bolster the "peace process," their silence on
Gaza is deafening.

Back in Washington from its trip to the region, the Bush
administration appears content to give Israel free reign
and diplomatic cover in Gaza. Indeed, the escalation of
Israeli military incursions and attacks began with Bush's
arrival in Tel Aviv and climaxed last week as the trip was
winding down. In his joint press conference appearance
with Abbas, Bush called Gaza a "tough situation" that was
unlikely to be "solved in a year." [6] The time table for
that solution appears to have accelerated.

Rocket fire from Gaza has provided Israel with a
convenient excuse to pursue punishing attacks and tighten
its siege of the territory. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud
Olmert justified Israel's actions by stating that "a war
is going on in the south, every day, every night." [7]
Meanwhile, Israel's supporters in the US, echoing Israeli
government spokesmen, argue that Israel cannot be expected
to sit still while its cities are targeted by Palestinian
rockets. Yet, no rockets have emanated from the West Bank
and the occupation not only continues there, it is further
entrenched through settlement expansion, continued
construction of the Apartheid Wall, and near daily
military incursions, arrests and assassinations. All of
this occurring under the watchful eye of American
mediators designated to judge Israeli and Palestinian
compliance with the terms agreed at November's Annapolis
conference. After Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel
claimed that Hamas had an "interest in exaggerating, "
Israel relented slightly by allowing enough fuel to
restart Gaza's power plant on Tuesday. [8] However,
implicit in the shipment was the threat of continued cuts
and closures.

Perhaps most disturbing of all has been the actions of the
Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA). While Abbas has
publicly uttered words of sympathy for Palestinians in
Gaza and condemnation of Israeli actions, privately his
officials have continued their ongoing whispering campaign
against Hamas. An anonymous PA official explained to The
Jerusalem Post that "'We hope the residents of the Gaza
Strip will now realize that Hamas has only brought
disaster upon them'" and added, "'the only way to resolve
the crisis is by getting rid of Hamas.'" [9] More telling
has been Abbas' unwillingness to suspend negotiations with
Israel until the blockade is lifted. If Gaza's children
ponder Arab inaction, the same can surely be said for the
PA in Ramallah.

Nor is Hamas blameless in this crisis. It has been almost
two years since its stunning election victory, and the
movement has yet to decide whether it wants to be a
resistance movement or a government -- it cannot be both.
If it is solely a resistance movement then it must begin
to elucidate a clear political and military strategic
vision for its followers, other political factions and the
Palestinian people as a whole that demonstrates how it
will achieve its goals. If it is an elected representative
government, then it must begin to compromise and
accommodate alternate points of view, even those it
disagrees with. In addition, the movement cannot continue
to behave like the opposition party when it has assumed
the role of governing authority in Gaza. Although Israel
bears ultimate responsibility as the occupying power in
the West Bank and Gaza, Hamas wanted and took control of
Gaza, and is at least partially responsible for the
actions that occur within the territory and the
consequences for the population. While this does not
excuse Israel's brutality or the criminality of its
actions, the Palestinian people are owed an explanation
from Fatah, Hamas and the other factions for the political
and military strategies they pursue and their
implications. The failure of these groups to reconcile and
their continued adoption of tactics that have proven to be
detrimental to the national movement demonstrate their
selfish myopia and expose their negligence and

As the region is gripped by the coldest winter in memory,
the sword dancing will continue. Gaza will remain under
siege with Israel allowing the minimal amount of food and
fuel supplies into the territory, attempting to slowly
punish the Palestinians living there. The US, the EU, the
UN, the Arab League, and even other Palestinians will sit
back and allow it to happen in a conspiracy of silence and
complicity. One can only hope that the people of Gaza will
forgive the world's silence and inaction. But they have no
reason to, nor should they.

Osamah Khalil is a Palestinian- American doctoral candidate
in US and Middle East History at the University of
California at Berkeley, focusing on US foreign policy in
the Middle East.