President of the Canadian Green Party channels Mark Regev.

Paul Estrin is the President of the Green Party of Canada. He recently shared his thoughts on the current fighting in Israel and Gaza.

I thought his comments were worth going over in some detail, if only because they’re so incongruous with what I believe to be some fundamental ‘Green’ principles: namely equality, social justice, human rights and self-determination.

So without further ado . . .

On the Israeli ‘withdrawal’ from Gaza in 2005, Estrin writes:

‘Israel decided to leave, fighting its own citizens, showing once more that it sticks to its word about the settlements not being permanent, but instead something to be removed painfully if peace is achievable to be had’.

But Alvaro De Soto, who was the U.N.’s Peace Envoy to the Middle East at the time, gives quite a different version of events.

In a leaked U.N. report from 2007, he writes that:

‘I don’t think the disengagement marked in any way a conversion by Sharon to the idea of an independent and viable Palestinian state – on the contrary, it was basically a spectacular move that killed and put into ‘formaldehyde’ the Road Map, to quote his key advisor. Sharon used the disengagement to gain vital concessions from the U.S. – including the Bush letter of assurances on retention of settlement blocs and non-return of Palestinian refugees to Israel – while proceeding with the construction of the barrier and the implementation of more settlers in the West Bank’.

http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Guardian/documents/2007/06/12/DeSotoReport.pdf – p.8

The number of settlers living in the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem has increased by over 100’000 since 2005, giving credence to De Soto’s analysis.

The De Soto report also disputes that the Israeli occupation of Gaza ever ended, saying that:

‘Since, as I recall, the test of occupation in international law is effective control of the population, few international lawyers contest the assessment that Gaza remains occupied, with it’s connections to the outside world by land, sea and air in the hands of Israel’.

http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Guardian/documents/2007/06/12/DeSotoReport.pdf – p.10

That remains as true in 2014 as it was in 2007, and mainstream Human Rights NGOs like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch concur.

On how Hamas came to be the dominant political force in Gaza, Estrin writes:

‘And then Hamas took power. It has nearly been ten years. Since August 2005, Gazans have been in control of their own destiny’.

It might be worth mentioning here that Hamas actually won parliamentary elections in 2006.

The usual narrative is then to say that Hamas went on to wrest complete control of Gaza in a coup in 2007, driving Fatah out in the process. But that isn’t the full story.

Another facet to the story is that elements in Fatah, working alongside Israel and a George Bush/Condoleezza Rice/Elliot Abrams axis in the U.S., had themselves planned a coup to overthrow Hamas – the democratically elected government of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, remember –  and Hamas had simply got wind and pre-empted it.

This is according a lengthy Vanity Fair article based on leaked documents and the testimony of some of those involved.

Either way, to say that Hamas simply ‘took power’ is to remove some important context (and the claim that ‘Gazans have been in control of their own destiny’ since 2005 is just downright false, for reasons already mentioned).

On the state of the economy in Gaza, Estrin writes:

‘instead of showing openness to the world, or managing, or caring . . . Gaza has instead shown that it is not interested in peace, in building a stable economy, in a secure future’.

Notice here that he’s stopped referring to ‘Hamas’, and is openly referring to Gaza as a whole. And Gaza as a whole is not ‘interested in peace, in building a stable economy, in a secure future’, apparently. Is he implying a kind of collective guilt?

But it is no secret that, since 2007, Israel has been deliberately trying to strangle the Gazan economy, as a means of inflicting collective punishment on the population of Gaza. That’s what the so-called blockade is expressly designed to do.

As the International Committee of the Red Cross put it in 2010:

‘The closure imposed on the Gaza Strip is about to enter its fourth year, choking off any real possibility of economic development . . . The whole of Gaza’s civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility. The closure therefore constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law’.

http://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/update/palestine-update-140610.htm

Estrin is quite simply engaged in victim blaming here. Lambasting Gazans for not building their economy, while Israel has been deliberately implementing policies to prevent them doing so.

And I just wonder how the U.S., U.K. and Canada would manage their economies if a near total ban on imports and exports was placed on them, and their means of production were destroyed via aerial bombardment every couple of years.

On the Hamas charter, Estrin writes:

 ‘In Canada and elsewhere, national charters protect the people. In Gaza, the first article calls for the death of Israel and the Jew. (Let me quote just a bit: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it”‘.

Personally, i’m more perturbed by the fact that whole areas of Gaza are being obliterated right now, than I am about what a Charter written in 1988 says.

And there are in fact real questions over just how relevant to Hamas’ political program the 1988 charter is anymore.

In January 2009, Jeremy Greenstock – who is a former U.K. ambassador to the U.N., and who has negotiated with Hamas leaders as part of his work with the Ditchley Foundation – told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that Hamas:

‘ . .  . are not intent on the destruction of Israel. That is a rhetorical statement of resistance . . . The charter was drawn up by a Hamas linked Imam some years ago, and has never been adopted, since Hamas was elected as the Palestinian government in January 2006, as part of their political program. This is a grievance based organisation desperate to end the occupation’.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_7823000/7823746.stm

Greenstock is Establishment to the bone, and yet even he recognises that the focus on Hamas’ charter is a red herring while Israel continues to build settlements in the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, thus making a just two-state solution a virtual impossibility.

On Gaza Vs Syria, Estrin writes:

‘It looks very bad for Israel. 800+ Gazans dead. 1000s injured. Lots of destruction. Meanwhile, in Syria, how many hundreds of thousands of people, including so many Palestinians, are dead or injured … where are the inflammatory protests …’.

This is basically a claim that Israel is being unfairly singled out as compared to Syria.

First and foremost, it’s worth pointing out that the regime in Israel is heavily supported by the governments of the U.K., U.S.A. and Canada. That support takes the form of military sales, economic aid, general praise and diplomatic protection (e.g. the U.S. using its veto to thwart attempts by the U.N.S.C. to hold Israel accountable for its serial war crimes).

I suspect that protests against Israel in the U.K., U.S.A and Canada are as much designed to get the respective governments in those countries to stop facilitating Israeli crimes as they are designed to express outrage at Israel itself.

Such support for the Assad regime, however, hasn’t been forthcoming from said same governments, and so there have been no protests designed to stop it.

You could argue that there should still have been more protests against the Assad regime regardless, but that doesn’t change this basic context.

And indeed, in other important ways, Israel is actually being given highly preferential treatment as compared to Syria. There is no talk of formally sanctioning Israel, for example. No talk of ‘no-fly zones’ or ‘humanitarian intervention’, and no talk of equipping Palestinian rebels with high-tech weaponry so they can better defend themselves and their people.

Compare that to Syria now or Libya in February 2011, when some or all of those things were put on the agenda pretty much straight away, and were then carried out to a greater or lesser degree (for reasons that had nothing to do with humanitarianism or human rights, obviously).

Israel is literally getting away with mass murder scot free, for the third time in five years, and so the idea of Israel being singled out is simply untenable.

On the people who have attended protests against Israeli state violence over the last couple of weeks, Estrin writes:

 ‘if it is anti-Israel it is an easy band-wagon to get on, to get their anti-Israel war-paint on and join their friends between potlucks, veggie smoothies and coffee breaks’.

Seriously, why didn’t he just call them Long Haired Hippy Freaks and have done with it?

On Israel’s military tactics, Estrin writes:

‘Military experts look at Israel’s military strategy: No carpet bombing, no quick actions, but instead pinpoint strikes whilst warning the enemy in advance of what their plans are, and slow movements . .  . What other military calls up the enemy on their phone to tell them that their building will be bombed, to kindly leave, yes, you have enough time to leave, just thought it would be the neighbourly thing to do … anyone else in war, and that is what Hamas is calling this time in Gaza, would simply bomb, kill and destroy’.

Once again, research carried out by mainstream human rights organisations belies this claim that the IDF is a profoundly moral army that tries its hardest to avoid inflicting civilian casualties.

On July 16th, Human Rights Watch published a short report documenting how:

‘Israeli air attacks . . .  have been targeting apparent civilian structures and killing civilians in violation of the laws of war . . . Recent documented cases in Gaza sadly fit Israel’s long record of unlawful airstrikes with high civilian casualties’.

On July 21st, Amnesty International published a short report documenting how:

‘Israel’s continuing bombardment of civilian homes in several areas of the Gaza Strip, as well as the shelling of a hospital, add to the list of possible war crimes that demand an urgent independent international investigation’.

http://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/israelgaza-attacks-hospitals-are-possible-war-crimes

Also on July 21st, Medicins Sans Frontieres published a short report documenting how:

‘Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip, the majority of the dead and wounded in Gaza are civilians and medical workers are also coming under fire’.

http://www.msf.org/article/gaza-strip-israel-must-stop-bombing-trapped-civilians

Circa 1000 Palestinian civilians now lie dead, hundreds of homes have been destroyed, and over 100’00 civilians have been displaced. ‘Hell of a pin-point operation’, as John Kerry said.

I am absolutely certain that when international investigators get into Gaza and research these attacks in more detail, they will conclude that Israel has indeed been wilfully targeting civilian infrastructure, and systemically as well, to the extent that both war crimes and Crimes against Humanity have been committed by them.

On ‘Gaza’s’ respect for human life, Estrin writes:

‘And that is it in a nutshell: Whilst Israel does all that is in its power to protect the lives of all its citizens and the lives of those it is attacking, Gaza does all in its power to have all the more die’.

Once again, Estrin is engaged in shameless victim blaming here, and once again he is referring to ‘Gaza’ as a whole. They are trying to get themselves killed in large numbers, see, to make Israel look bad.

But I wouldn’t be at all surprised if, as on previous occasions, the claim that Hamas uses Palestinians as ‘human shields’ turns out to be without foundation – Israeli propaganda, in other words.

For example, the BBC’s senior middle east correspondent, Jeremy Bowen, recently wrote in an article for the New Statesman:

‘I saw no evidence during my week in Gaza of Israel’s accusation that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields’.

http://www.newstatesman.com/world-affairs/2014/07/jeremy-bowens-gaza-notebook-i-saw-no-evidence-hamas-using-palestinians-human

And as they are doing now, Israeli spokespeople also continually accused Hamas of using ‘human shields’ during Operation Cast Lead in 2008/2009, but the Goldstone Report found:

‘ . . . no evidence . . . to suggest that Palestinian armed groups either directed civilians to areas where attacks were being launched or that they forced civilians to remain within the vicinity of the attacks’.

http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/12session/A-HRC-12-48.pdf – p.18

They did, however, uncover:

‘ . . . four incidents in which the Israeli armed forces coerced Palestinian civilian men at gunpoint to take part in house searches during the military operations . . .  The Mission concludes that this practice amounts to the use of Palestinian civilians as human shields and is therefore prohibited by international humanitarian law’.

http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/12session/A-HRC-12-48.pdf – p.22/23

So if anything, it is the IDF, and not Hamas, who have form for using Palestinians as ‘human shields’ in this kind of operation.

To conclude:

Only in the bizarro world inhabited by apologists for Israeli state violence is Gaza free from occupation, and Israel keen on ending the settlement enterprise in the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Only in the bizarro world inhabited by apologists for Israeli state violence are Gazans responsible for the ruination of their own economy, and desperate to get themselves killed.

And only in the bizarro world inhabited by apologists for Israeli state violence does the IDF make strenuous efforts to avoid civilian casualties.

In the real world inhabited by the rest of us, the complete opposite is true, and demonstrably so.

Estrin has apparently chosen to firmly ensconce himself in that bizarro world, and its to the detriment of the Green Party of Canada.

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The Times amplifies Israeli propaganda.

 

And what The Goldstone Report found the last time Israel fired on hospitals in Gaza, and then accused Hamas of using them as military bases:

‘The Mission did not find any evidence to support the allegations that hospital facilities were used by the Gaza authorities or by Palestinian armed groups to shield military activities and that ambulances were used to transport combatants or for other military purposes. On the basis of its own investigations and the statements by UN officials, the Mission excludes that Palestinian armed groups engaged in combat activities from UN facilities that were used as shelters during the military operations’.

http://unispal.un.org/unispal.nsf/2f86ce183126001f85256cef0073ccce/7762c5ef0b1dea24852576650053d1aa?OpenDocument

The Israeli government are proven liars in this regard, and no-one should be surprised if they are lying this time around as well.

That they are proven liars in this regard apparently isn’t enough to stop The Times taking the Israeli government at their word, and then publishing cartoons which can only have the effect of helping to justify war crimes.

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War crime in Afghanistan.

Al Jazeera America on how a U.S. backed paramilitary unit carried out the extrajudicial executions of three men in Alizai, a village in eastern Afghanistan, on June 1st 2014.

Mohammad, Nasrullah and Fazaldin, as they were known, had been detained along with a 100 or so other men from the village (remember, for the Obama regime the definition of a ‘militant’ is ‘military aged male’ ) in a joint U.S./Afghan night raid only hours previously. They were then apparently removed from the larger group while U.S. soldiers looked on, driven to the outskirts of the village, and then shot ‘more than 100 times’ before being thrown into a ditch.

The article quotes a U.N. Official saying they had ‘verified allegations of extrajudicial killings of three men by a pro-government militia’, adding that ‘there has so far been no accountability for these executions’.

The man responsible for ordering the executions, a paramilitary leader known only as Abdullah, has even admitted culpability, saying that ‘I killed these three people’, claiming that they were ‘Taliban’ (and therefore fair game). Abdullah also claims that the ‘weapons, salaries and other equipment’ used by his paramilitary unit are provided by the U.S..

Despite the U.N. establishing that these executions did take place, the perpetrator of the executions owning up to it, and U.S. military personnel being present when the men were snatched, the U.S. military have denied all knowledge, saying they ‘found no information that substantiates the allegations’.

You have to admire the bare faced chutzpah, I suppose.

Allegations of this nature – extrajudicial killings and death squad activity by U.S. Special Forces and their Afghan proxies, basically – do surface occasionally in the press, and i’m willing to bet decent money that they are far more widespread than is reported.

But there doesn’t seem to be any great clamour to properly investigate the issues, let alone campaign for the perpetrators to be held responsible. It’s just something that (if you ask me) a lot of journalists, pundits, analysts and columnists sort of know or suspect is going on, but generally ignore anyway, even in the left wing media and blogosphere (which can at least point to a genuine lack of resources and access as a reason for the dearth of indepth coverage).

The war, occupation and their attendant horrors – at least 27’000 Afghan ‘casualties’ in 2013 alone, with a minimum of 630’000 internally displaced –  do continue apace though, even if you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise.

 

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Owen Jones on having empathy for the devil.

In an article in Sunday’s Guardian, Jones writes about why he doesn’t think demonizing Israelis for supporting their governments current onslaught in Gaza is particularly useful.

He says:

‘For those who want peace – including an end to the occupation and the dismantling of every settlement – it is tempting to demonise Israeli supporters of this latest offensive. But it is futile and self-defeating. The occupation will not end until the rationales that sustain it are understood. As Palestinian children are killed, that may seem like a lot to stomach, but it is no less necessary’.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/20/gaza-occupation-occupier-israelis-peace

It’s not an unreasonable point, if you ask me. I don’t think there can ever be too much understanding in the world, as long as that understanding doesn’t tip over into outright apologia (and it obviously doesn’t for Jones here).

It’s an argument that is frequently made whenever the subject of ‘terrorism’ comes up, for example – there’s an acceptance, especially on the left, that we need to understand why people might feel the need to resort to such acts, and why others might support them. That obviously doesn’t equate to supporting the acts themselves.

What a contrast, though, to something Jones wrote in March 2011, when the newspapers were full of stories about Muamar Gadaffi’s crimes (real or imagined), and there were bloodcurdling cries from the professional punditocracy to bomb Libya, and bomb it now.

As the bombs were about to start falling, Jones wrote that:

‘Other than a few nutters, we all want Gaddafi overthrown, dead or alive’.

http://owenjones.org/2011/03/20/the-case-against-bombing-libya/

(There is no suggestion here that Jones was himself in any way supportive of bombing Libya, because he wasn’t)

He then followed that up by saying:

‘I will not caricature supporters of the bombing campaign as frothing-at-the-mouth neo-cons or born-again Paul Wolfowitzs. There are those who otherwise sing from the same hymn sheet as me on the other side of this debate’.

So, don’t demonize or caricature those Israelis who are currently supporting what is essentially a massacre of innocents in Gaza

And don’t demonize or caricature those people in the U.K. who wanted a couple of serially criminal and abusive states – namely, the U.S. and U.K. – to go and drop their humanitarian/freedom bombs on Libya.

But what about those who didn’t in fact want to see Muamar Gadaffi overthrown, ‘dead or alive’, for a variety of reasons?

They could be safely dismissed as ‘a few nutters’, their political opinions pathologised (‘nutter’, by the way, is a horribly ableist term, especially used in this context, and Jones should know better). 

No call for empathy, understanding or context here – just outright demonization of those ‘on the other side of the debate’ to him.

And I wonder if that’s because it’s more acceptable, from the point of view of upholding your reputation in a deeply corrupted corporate media system, to allow empathy and understanding for our Devils, than it is to allow empathy and understanding for Theirs.

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Ex-NYT editor Jill Abramson on how flak and ‘anti-terrorism’ help discipline corporate media.

She didn’t quite put it in those words, but it’s essentially what she’s saying: that the U.S. government would contact the New York Times and tell them that publishing this, that or the other story would ‘help the terrorists’. And that the New York Times would take those threats seriously and bring the story to a halt (even if they did eventually work out that the U.S. government’s intentions may not always have been entirely honourable).

Here’s a quote from an interview Abramson recently gave to Cosmopolitan:

‘Sometimes the CIA or the director of national intelligence or the NSA or the White House will call about a story . . . You hit the brakes, you hear the arguments, and it’s always a balancing act: the importance of the information to the public versus the claim of harming national security . . . Over time, the government too reflexively said to the Times, ‘you’re going to have blood on your hands if you publish X’ and because of the frequency of that, the government lost a little credibility . . . But you do listen and seriously worry . . . Editors are Americans too . . . We don’t want to help terrorists’.

http://www.salon.com/2014/07/16/jill_abramson_government_repeatedly_told_us_wed_have_blood_on_our_hands_for_publishing_stories/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=socialflow

Interesting, as well, that Abramson seems to be suggesting that being ‘against terrorists’ – or at least, people who the U.S. government claim are terrorists –  is somehow an inherent part of being an American, like it’s a national religion or something.

Which for the political and media classes, I suppose it is – except when it comes to the terrorism of the U.S. government and its allies, in which case being ‘against terrorism’ is blasphemous.

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David Cameron spoke to Benyamin Netanyahu today. Here’s what was said.

From the Gov.uk website:

‘The Prime Minister spoke to Prime Minister Netanyahu earlier this evening about the situation in Israel. The Prime Minister strongly condemned the appalling attacks being carried out by Hamas against Israeli civilians. The Prime Minister reiterated the UK’s staunch support for Israel in the face of such attacks, and underlined Israel’s right to defend itself from them’.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/pm-call-with-israeli-prime-minister

So then, Israel simply defending itself from Hamas’ attacks on Israeli civilians.

The actual facts, of course, speak of a somewhat different reality. According to medical sources in the Gaza strip:

  • Number of Israelis killed since the launch of ‘Operation Protective Edge': 0

  • Number of Palestinians killed since the launch of ‘Operation Protective Edge': ‘at least 47′, of which 41 were civilians, and 12 children.

Nevermind that the very idea of ‘defending yourself’ against a people you have spent decades occupying, dispossessing, racially oppressing, collectively punishing and generally brutalising is a complete nonsense.

It doesn’t need me to point out that David Cameron’s supposed ‘humanitarianism’ and commitment to ‘freedom’ – which we are told was behind his decision to bomb Libya, and to almost bomb Syria – is a complete sham. He is simply the latest mouthpiece for a British Establishment that has long both committed and supported the perpetration of war crimes and atrocities in the service of colonial domination, while talking the language of human rights and freedom.

But statements like that one help to drive the point home.

And they illuminate where the BBC have been taking their lead from, perhaps:

(BBC News Online front page, circa 01:00 A.M., July 9th 2014)

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Recently published U.N. General Assembly report on ‘Children and armed Conflict’.

The report purports to give an overview of all the ways in which children were adversely affected – to put it mildly – in various conflict zones around the world in 2013.

The section on Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories makes for interesting reading, especially given the current furore around, and widespread condemnation of, the recent kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the Occupied West Bank.

From the report we learn that:

  • In 2013, eight Palestinian children were killed by Israelis, and no Israeli children were killed by Palestinians – p.17/50

  • In 2013, 1265 Palestinian children were injured by Israelis, and eight Israeli children were injured by Palestinians – p.17/50

  • 1004 Palestinian children were arrested by Israeli security forces, with 107 of them (including five children under the age of 12) reporting ‘cruel and degrading ill-treatment by the Israel Defense Forces and the Israeli police, including painful restraint, blindfolding, strip-searching, verbal and physical abuse, solitary confinement and threats of violence’ – p.18/50

  • There were 58 education related incidents affecting over 11’000 Palestinian children, with 41 of them involving ‘Israeli security forces operations near or inside schools, forced entry without forewarning, the firing of tear gas canisters and sound bombs into school yards and, in some cases, structural damage to schools. In 15 of the incidents, Israeli security forces fired tear gas canisters into schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), some during class hours, without forewarning – p.19/50

As should be utterly uncontroversial, then – at least to anybody who reads mainstream human rights reports –  the vast majority of violence against children within the context of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands is perpetrated by Israeli security forces and settlers against Palestinian children.

While there were also instances of Palestinian armed groups or protesters targeting Israeli children, these instances are – while still inexcusable – negligible in comparison.

But as the media analysts at Media Lens have suggested in their most recent Media Alert, you’d be forgiven for thinking things were actually the other way around, because of the way Establishment media widely reports Israeli deaths and injuries, while all but ignoring the far greater number of Palestinian ones.

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