There are moments, glimpses of eternity, fleeting times when the resonance of history comes through loud and clear.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to bring in Ali Abunimah, who is in Jacksonville, Florida, though usually based in Chicago, founder of the Electronic Intifada. Your comments on the situation, on Mahmoud Abbas, for example, saying that it was Hamas that brought this on?
ALI ABUNIMAH: I want to say, Amy, first of all, that we have to go back to the Warsaw Ghetto or Guernica to find crimes in the modern era of the scale of the viciousness and of the deliberateness of what Israel is committing with the full support of the United States, not just the Bush administration, but apparently as well the incoming Obama administration. We have to recognize the complicity not just of the so-called international community, but also of the Arab regimes, Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak, the Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit of Egypt. Tzipi Livni, when she issued her threats against Gaza, was in Cairo in the biggest Arab capital, and Aboul Gheit stood next to her silently.
Mahmoud Abbas is not a bystander, the so-called president of the Palestinian Authority. For two years since the elections, which Hamas won, he and his coterie have been collaborating with Israel and the United States, first to overthrow the election result and then to besiege Gaza. We have talked before of the Palestinian Contras, funded and armed by the United States, which sought to overthrow Hamas in June 2007 and had the tables turned on them. And now this. The complicity of Mahmoud Abbas is very clear and must be clearly stated. He does not have the authority, moral or otherwise, to call together the Palestinian people for anything. He has gone over to the other side. He has joined the Israeli war against the Palestinian people, and I choose my words very carefully.
And let me say this, as well, Amy, that Israel is trying to produce and promote the fiction that it is engaged in a war with a so-called enemy entity. What Israel is doing is massacring a captive population. You heard—you said in the headlines how Nancy Pelosi, our so-called progressive, liberal, antiwar Speaker of the House, gave her full support to these crimes. Obama has done the same through a spokesman. And that will not change. The United Nations issued a weak statement aimed at covering the backsides, let me say, of those who issued it, not aimed at changing the situation.
What are Palestinians calling for today? Yesterday, the Palestinian National Committee for the Campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions reissued and reaffirmed its call on all international civil society in the United States, in North America, in Europe, everywhere, to redouble the efforts for boycott, divestment and sanctions modeled on the anti-apartheid movement. This is necessary. This is moral. This is the nonviolent resistance we can all participate in. And it is more urgent than ever. Let’s not look back at these crimes like we look at the Warsaw Ghetto and like we look at Guernica and we look at the other atrocities of the twentieth century and say, “We had the chance to act, but we chose silence and complicity.” The time to stop this is now.
And we also have to be clear that those who are accountable—Ehud Barak, his orders over the past few months to withhold insulin, chemotherapy drugs, dialysis supplies, all forms of medicine from the people of Gaza, were just as lethal and just as murderous as the orders to send in the bombers and warplanes to attack mosques, to attack universities. The Islamic University in Gaza is not a military site. It is a university with 18,000 students, 60 percent of them women. Last night, Israeli warplanes attacked a female dormitory in the Islamic University. This is what Israel is attacking. They attacked the fishing port. No food gets into Gaza. People can barely fish enough to sustain them, and Israel has attacked the fishing boats that sustains them. These are historic crimes, and we cannot be silent about them.
And we have to continue this nonsense that there’s fault on both sides. We have a captive occupied population. 80 percent of the people in the Gaza Strip are refugees. 750,000 of them are children. Where else in the world can these crimes be committed while the world looks on, while our elected politicians in Congress, Democrats and Republicans, sit there applauding, when you see the shameful statement of Howard Berman, the Democrat chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, giving his full support to Israel? People have to stand up to this. We cannot sit on our hands anymore and say change is coming. Change is not coming unless we create it.
AMY GOODMAN: We have to break. Then we’re going to come back to this discussion. We are going to put off the playing of the speech of Harold Pinter, the Nobel Prize winner, to tomorrow. He died last week. We’ll play an extended excerpt of that speech tomorrow. We’re talking about what’s happening in Gaza right now, joined by guests from Ramallah, from Gaza City, from Rafah, from Tel Aviv and from the United States. We’ll be back in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: We have on the line with us Dr. Mustafa Barghouti in Ramallah. We’re joined by Dr. Moussa El-Haddad. He is a retired physician in Gaza City. We’re joined by Fida Qishta. She is joining us from Rafah. And Ali Abunimah is on the line with us from Jacksonville, Florida, in studio.
Ali Abunimah, I wanted to ask you about the statements at this point of Barack Obama, or the lack of them. Of course, he’s on holiday right now in Hawaii, but David Axelrod was on the networks. Again, they are continuing to say that there is only one president at a time, and that president is President Bush now. Condoleezza Rice is briefing Barack Obama. But he did say that not only would it be counterproductive for the President-elect to weigh in too deeply, but he said that Obama’s commitment to the "special relationship” between the United States and Israel, in a way that suggested general sympathy for the Jewish state’s actions. I’m reading from the Huffington Post. Your response?
ALI ABUNIMAH: Isn’t it convenient that we only have one president at a time, when it suits Barack Obama to stay silent on something that is enflaming the whole world? Apparently, we don’t have one president at a time when it comes to the economy or Iraq or Afghanistan or other issues. But on this, Barack Obama is content to remain silent and, in fact, to give, through the statements of David Axelrod, his more or less open support for what Israel is doing, which fits with the policies that he has enunciated consistently of supporting Israel’s attacks on Gaza, supporting the blockade of Gaza, supporting the Israeli war on Lebanon in 2006.
And this is why Israel feels so comfortable carrying out these sorts of atrocities, which cross every red line of the Fourth Geneva Conventions, of the Nuremberg Principles, of all of the laws of war that were developed in the twentieth century. Israel feels totally comfortable crossing them, because it knows that it will have full support from any US administration, no matter what political shade it is.
And this is why it’s crucially important that people don’t sit by waiting ’til January 20th. January 20th, the calendar flipping is not going to change anything. What’s going to change things is boycott, divestment and sanctions, people rising up and demanding an end to impunity, demanding, for example, that Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni be brought to account before an international war crimes court for the orders that they have given for these massacres of the civilian population of Gaza. That’s what’s going to bring change, and that’s what people must call and organize for.
JUAN GONZALEZ: I’d like to bring in Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, again. The issue of what is the potential for reaction in the West Bank and in the Arab street, as opposed to the complicity of many of the Arab governments at this point—your sense of, if this continues much further, what will be the reaction?
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Well, let me explain one very specific point. Israel is very proud, with the complicity of some Arab regimes and some of the people in the Palestinian Authority, about what’s going on. But I want to remind you that what is happening in Gaza and in the West Bank is nothing but also a slaughter of democracy. We have, as Palestinians—we, the civil society in Palestine, we, the Palestinian democratic forces, jointly with many others—managed to have the best democratic experience ever in the Arab world. Everybody knows that, and President Carter reported it when we had the last elections. And I think this complicity of some certain Arab sides are specifically because they don’t want this democracy to happen. They don’t want this democracy to survive. And if Israel is very proud to be in alliance with dictatorships, then that reveals how democratic Israel itself is.
Israel has been claiming that it’s the only democracy and so on, but why is it slaughtering Palestinian democracy? They did that in 1976, when we had elections for the first time for our municipalities, and within one year, because they didn’t like the elected people, they either bombarded them or deported them or arrested them. And now, after 2006 elections, they are putting forty-five members of our parliament in jail. One of the leaders, one of the members of parliament, is not Hamas. His name is Ahmed Saadat. He’s from the left, from the secular democratic left. He was just sentenced to thirty years in jail, just because he is the secretary-general of a Palestinian organization. It’s amazing how the world is silent about this slaughter of democracy. And if Israel is happy with being in alliance with some dictator, then it is the one that is losing.
The main question here, that I want to come back to some myths that Israel is spreading. They keep stressing that they are attacking Hamas. This is not on Hamas; this is on the whole Palestinian population. They claim that they ended occupation in Gaza. This is not true. They never ended occupation in Gaza. They continue to occupy Gaza. Now they’re changing the form of occupation again, and they’re threatening to complete the invasion again and destroying people’s lives. Third, they claim that it was the Palestinians who broke the ceasefire. This is false. This is incorrect. Israel broke the ceasefire. And now the party that is refusing to have ceasefire is Barak, the Defense Minister of Israel, and he’s the one who is refusing to allow ceasefire to happen again.
At the same time, I must say that Israel is not only attacking the Gaza Strip. Practically, Israel in the West Bank has created a system that can only be described as an apartheid system, a much worse apartheid than the one that prevailed in South Africa at one point of time. Why do we have all these problems? For one very simple fact: the violence is a symptom of the disease. The disease has been there all the time, for forty-one years, and it is the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian territories. And because the Israeli government does not want to stop this occupation, that’s why we keep running from one conflict into another. Please.
Gaza massacres must spur us to action
Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 27 December 2008
Palestinians carry the body of a victim of an Israeli air strike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, 27 December 2008. (Hatem Omar/MaanImages)
"I will play music and celebrate what the Israeli air force is doing." Those were the words, spoken on Al Jazeera today by Ofer Shmerling, an Israeli civil defense official in the Sderot area adjacent to Gaza, as images of Israel's latest massacres were broadcast around the world.
A short time earlier, US-supplied Israeli F-16 warplanes and Apache helicopters dropped over 100 bombs on dozens of locations in the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip killing at least 195 persons and injuring hundreds more. Many of these locations were police stations located, like police stations the world over, in the middle of civilian areas. The US government was one of the first to offer its support for Israel's attacks, and others will follow.
Reports said that many of the dead were Palestinian police officers. Among those Israel labels "terrorists" were more than a dozen traffic police officers undergoing training. An as yet unknown number of civilians were killed and injured; Al Jazeera showed images of several dead children, and the Israeli attacks came at the time thousands of Palestinian children were in the streets on their way home from school.
Shmerling's joy has been echoed by Israelis and their supporters around the world; their violence is righteous violence. It is "self-defense" against "terrorists" and therefore justified. Israeli bombing -- like American and NATO bombing in Iraq and Afghanistan -- is bombing for freedom, peace and democracy.
The rationalization for Israel's massacres, already being faithfully transmitted by the English-language media, is that Israel is acting in "retaliation" for Palestinian rockets fired with increasing intensity ever since the six-month truce expired on 19 December (until today, no Israeli had been killed or injured by these recent rocket attacks).
But today's horrific attacks mark only a change in Israel's method of killing Palestinians recently. In recent months they died mostly silent deaths, the elderly and sick especially, deprived of food and necessary medicine by the two year-old Israeli blockade calculated and intended to cause suffering and deprivation to 1.5 million Palestinians, the vast majority refugees and children, caged into the Gaza Strip. In Gaza, Palestinians died silently, for want of basic medications: insulin, cancer treatment, products for dialysis prohibited from reaching them by Israel.
What the media never question is Israel's idea of a truce. It is very simple. Under an Israeli-style truce, Palestinians have the right to remain silent while Israel starves them, kills them and continues to violently colonize their land. Israel has not only banned food and medicine to sustain Palestinian bodies in Gaza but it is also intent on starving minds: due to the blockade, there is not even ink, paper and glue to print textbooks for schoolchildren.
As John Ging, the head of operations of the United Nations agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA), told The Electronic Intifada in November: "there was five months of a ceasefire in the last couple of months, where the people of Gaza did not benefit; they did not have any restoration of a dignified existence. We in fact at the UN, our supplies were also restricted during the period of the ceasefire, to the point where we were left in a very vulnerable and precarious position and with a few days of closure we ran out of food."
That is an Israeli truce. Any response to Israeli attacks -- whether peaceful protests against the apartheid wall in Bilin and Nilin in the West Bank is met with bullets and bombs. There are no rockets launched at Israel from the West Bank, and yet Israel's attacks, killings, land theft, settler pogroms and kidnappings never ceased for one single day during the truce. The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah has acceded to all of Israel's demands, even assembling "security forces" to fight the resistance on Israel's behalf. None of that has spared a single Palestinian or her property or livelihood from Israel's relentless violent colonization. It did not save, for instance, the al-Kurd family from seeing their home of 50 years in occupied East Jerusalem demolished on 9 November, so the land it sits on could be taken by settlers.
Once again we are watching massacres in Gaza, as we did last March when 110 Palestinians, including dozens of children, were killed by Israel in just a few days. Once again people everywhere feel rage, anger and despair that this outlaw state carries out such crimes with impunity.
But all over the Arab media and internet today the rage being expressed is not directed solely at Israel. Notably, it is directed more sharply than ever at Arab states. The images that stick are of Israel's foreign minister Tzipi Livni in Cairo on Christmas day. There she sat smiling with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Then there are the pictures of Livni and Egypt's foreign minister smiling and slapping their palms together.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported today that last wednesday the Israeli "cabinet authorized the prime minister, the defense minister, and the foreign minister to determine the timing and the method" of Israel's attacks on Gaza. Everywhere people ask, what did Livni tell the Egyptians and more importantly what did they tell her? Did Israel get a green light to turn Gaza's streets red once again? Few are ready to give Egypt the benefit of the doubt after it has helped Israel besiege Gaza by keeping the Rafah border crossing closed for more than a year.
On top of the intense anger and sadness so many people feel at Israel's renewed mass killings in Gaza is a sense of frustration that there seem to be so few ways to channel it into a political response that can change the course of events, end the suffering, and bring justice.
But there are ways, and this is a moment to focus on them. Already I have received notices of demonstrations and solidarity actions being planned in cities all over the world. That is important. But what will happen after the demonstrations disperse and the anger dies down? Will we continue to let Palestinians in Gaza die in silence?
Palestinians everywhere are asking for solidarity, real solidarity, in the form of sustained, determined political action. The Gaza-based One Democratic State Group reaffirmed this today as it "called upon all civil society organizations and freedom loving people to act immediately in any possible way to put pressure on their governments to end diplomatic ties with Apartheid Israel and institute sanctions against it."
The global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement for Palestine (http://www.bdsmovement.net/) provides the framework for this. Now is the time to channel our raw emotions into a long-term commitment to make sure we do not wake up to "another Gaza" ever again.
Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah is author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse (Metropolitan Books, 2006).
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