Bombing a Prison Camp for Children

Even the shameless Israeli state seems momentarily shamed, as it has announced a five-hour ceasefire in their bombardment of Gaza after having shelled to death four Palestinian children who had been playing soccer on a beach, thereby presumably serving as “human shields” for Hamas fighters ingeniously hiding under the sand.

Over 36 children have now been killed by Israel’s assaults out of 200+ total (mostly civilian) Palestinian deaths. Such a high proportion is hardly surprising, given that a majority of the population in Gaza is under 18, and over 40 percent are age 14 and under. Israel is bombing what is for the most part a vast open-air prison camp for children. This is what the Obama administration refers to as Israel “defending itself.”

“Eye for an eye” probably wouldn’t make the whole world blind. But, “the eyes of your children and neighbors for an eye,” sure as hell will. This bombing campaign of collective punishment is bloodthirsty, rank tribalism of the most primitive sort. Every American should be as aghast as Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder recently expressed himself to be that his tax dollars are paying for it.

Exchange of Projectiles?

Numerous headlines in mainstream American coverage of Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip feature language about Israelis and Palestinians “exchanging rocket fire,” which conveys to the American public the sense that it is a matter of a “battle” between two neighboring “powers,” instead of the bombardment of an occupied territory; as if there was any kind of equivalence between the 400 tons of explosives that have rained down from Israeli jet planes, and the primitive, unguided rockets being lobbed from Gaza. The former has, in just a few days already killed over 100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and including at least 13 children. The latter has resulted in zero Israeli deaths, and only 7 injuries.

It’s rather like a scrum of cops assaulting a prostrate man with batons and tasers, and the media calling that a “fight” instead of a beating, because the man, as he flailed about under the blows raining down on him, kicked the leg one of the cops.

The Palestinians aren’t allowed to leave; the Gaza Strip is a giant open-air prison camp. They have no air raid shelters or sirens. They are like fish in a barrel, being blasted by a shotgun from above. It’s like some of the fish in the barrel pathetically spitting water at the gunman, and calling that a “shooting battle.” Indeed one has to wonder, if the economic blockade and the destruction wrought upon the Palestinians were to reduce them to such penury that they no longer had enough materials for rockets, and were reduced to only throwing rocks while continuing to have 1-ton smart-bombs dropped on their houses, would the American mainstream media call the affair an “exchange of projectiles”?

Playing With Fire, Both Israel and Ukraine Say, “No Truce for You”

The empire is in a particularly testy and truculent mood. Two of its appendages have, virtually simultaneously, eschewed ceasefires in their respective campaigns of aggression. Both have bombarded civilian centers with airstrikes, and Ukraine has been rolling in armored vehicles, while Israel is preparing to do the same. As Jason Ditz reports:

Israeli Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich today ruled out any ceasefire negotiations with Hamas, as the Israeli military continues to escalate airstrikes against the tiny Gaza Strip, and is building up for a ground invasion.

and

Having taken Slovyansk earlier this week, Ukrainian officials are increasingly bellicose about their ongoing civil war, demand unconditional, unilateral disarmament by the rebels before any future discussions. “There will be no more unilateral ceasefires” by Ukrainian troops, announced Defense Minister Valeriy Heletey, while other officials promised a “nasty surprise” for any of the eastern rebels that continue to resist their takeover. (…) “…the Ukrainian military is increasingly using not only airstrikes, but armored vehicles in its offensives.”

With Ukraine, as it always does with Israel, the U.S. government, which funds and arms both, defends its actions as “defending itself.” Propping up such merciless savagery is unbelievably reckless on the part of U.S. policymakers. It is precisely this kind of mass brutalization of Arabs that has resulted in incidents of blowback like 9/11. And now, even as the empire doubles down on this treatment of Arabs, it is so suicidally stupid as to actually extend it to Russian-speaking people, right on the border of nuclear Russia.

Demonize Putin all you want, but never forget that control over Russia’s mountain of H-bombs is, in the final analysis, in the hands of the Russian people. And it is far from impossible that the “blowback” rage and hatred to come from grinding Russian-speakers under the imperial boot will not be dissimilar from the blowback of doing the same to Arabs; only this time with potentially thermonuclear consequences. How, after all, do you think it makes Russians feel to see pictures like this, which is from a Ukrainian airstrike on Russian-speakers in early June?

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And no, you hubris-addled neocons, not even regime-change against Putin would solve the problem. If anything his popularity is putting a lid on the outrage, because the Russians trust him to stand up for them, and therefore give him leeway for compromise.

Stop the madness now.

Five Broken Cameras

From Washington Chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace:

Five Broken Cameras Documentary Shows Israeli Incursions into West Bank Never Before Captured on Camera

Busboys & Poets and Jewish Voice for Peace to sponsor special Peace Cafe discussion following July 15 showing at E Street Cinema

No matter what you think you know about the conditions under which Palestinians must live in the West Bank, or about the resilience of the non-violent resistance movement there, your eyes will be opened by “Five Broken Cameras.” The award-winning documentary is coming to DC, and to facilitate the provocative discussion that follows any viewing of the film, Busboys & Poets and the DC Metro chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace will host a Peace Cafe immediately following the July 15 4:45 p.m. show at the Landmark E Street Cinema, 555 11th St. NW. Tickets are now on sale online. Buy early because we expect the show to sell out!
Continue reading “Five Broken Cameras”

Newt Gingrich and Dave Weigel Will Bomb Knowledge Back to the Stone Age

SEE UPDATE BELOW.

Dave Weigel is a history buff:

[Newt Gingrich’s] last full-on grapple with Romney came when the former governor attacked him, in a sort of more-in-sorrow-than-anger way, for saying that the Palestinians were an “invented people.” That, said Romney, was complicating things for Israelis.

“The Israelis are getting rocketed every day,” snorted Gingrich. “We’re not making life more difficult. The Obama administration is making life more difficult.” Plus, he was right on the facts. “Palestinian did not become a common term until after 1977.” That’s the sort of knowledge-bomb that Republicans dream of dropping on Obama—they feel like this is right, but here’s a candidate who can say so.

I suppose we could argue over the definition of “common term.” I did a very fast, very lazy search for “Palestinian” on EBSCOhost. Five seconds’ work turned up references to Palestinians — in the Oxford English Dictionary sense of “an Arab born or living in the area of the former mandated territory of Palestine; a descendant of such an Arab” — going back to 1922.

Winning the future by annihilating the past.
That earliest reference was in The Nation, which used the term fairly often in the Twenties. But maybe The Nation lacks the common touch. What about Time magazine? Is that common enough for Newt and Dave? The magazine recommended by four out of five dentists began using “Palestinian” in the relevant sense in 1951. For a while, Time used it only before “Arab,” if that makes any difference, but as early as November 1957 the Arab part seemed to be understood:

At one time Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser commended himself to the world as a strongman of reason, more concerned to put his impoverished country on its feet than to stir trouble in the Middle East. But Nasser has increasingly resorted to the incendiary propaganda of the totalitarian dictator, has persistently used his radio Voice of the Arabs to incite the Palestinian refugees in Jordan, who brood in bitter idleness over their lost lands across the border in Israel.

By November 1960, Time considered “Palestinian” a noun:

Last week Pakistan’s Moslem President Mohammed Ayub Khan arrived in Cairo and throwing away a diplomatically phrased set speech, delivered the sharpest criticisms of Moslems by a Moslem heard in many a year.

Ayub spoke plainly on his view of the long-festering problem of refugees along the Israeli border, where more than a million Palestinians—those who fled or were ejected by Israel, and the children born to them since—still inhabit squalid detention camps in Jordan, Syria and the Gaza Strip.

In fairness, I have yet to discover the first use of “Palestinian” in Highlights or the works of Michael Bay, so you can keep believing Newt Gingrich if you like.

Weigel link via Daniel Larison.

UPDATE: Dave Weigel, to his credit, has revised the article in question.

If That Ain’t (a) Country, It’ll Harelip the Pope

Noah Feldman discusses a possible outcome of the Palestinian statehood bid:

He [Mahmoud Abbas] could also still do what most expected him to try this week: Take his request for statehood to the UN General Assembly, where the U.S. has no veto. A two-thirds vote there would upgrade Palestine from “observer entity” to “observer state,” like the Vatican.

Winning in the General Assembly might be particularly effective after losing in the Security Council since it would give countries the chance to repudiate the U.S. veto. And an observer state can participate in UN bodies and commissions.

International Court Jurisdiction

More practically, recognition as an observer state might help the Palestinian Authority reach its goal of getting the International Criminal Court to pronounce on Israel’s behavior in the territories and perhaps even declare the building of settlements a war crime. While the Palestinian leadership has asked the tribunal to take jurisdiction as if Palestine were a state, the ICC has never said “yes” or “no.” If Palestine becomes an observer state at the UN, however, that might strengthen its case.

Israel would certainly argue that a UN observer still isn’t a real state in the sense meant by the ICC treaty. Israel would also point out that the ICC can’t act if a country that has jurisdiction over an alleged crime has adequately investigated it. Israel’s robust judicial system regularly examines claims of war crimes against its soldiers and government. The question is whether the court would buy those arguments — and whether leverage would be gained for the peace process as a result.

Consider me skeptical about the virtues of giving the International Criminal Court a bigger caseload. Brendan O’Neill and Rob Lyons have raised timely objections to that institution’s image as a guarantor of peace and justice. At best, ICC charges against Israeli officials will achieve nothing. At worst, they will make the Israeli government — and, therefore, the U.S. government — even more intransigent.

Before you start typing that furious comment, let me explain something. I don’t think or write about Israeli-Palestinian issues much anymore, for two main reasons. One, I have enough tedium, futility, and hopelessness in my life already without the “peace process,” thanks, and two, any mention of Israel attracts the sort of people (on both sides) who could make a sunnier person than I wish that an asteroid would wipe out our sorry species. All I care to say about the matter these days — and I know that it’s terribly uncosmopolitan — is that the U.S. government should completely withdraw from the dispute and let the people who actually live there resolve their differences. Or not resolve them. Withdrawal might not lead to the lion lying down with the lamb, but it would solve the only problem that the U.S. government is capable of solving: the blowback that comes from intervening in other people’s fights.

Who will disarm the papists?
Who will disarm the papists?

As for the Palestinian ploy at the United Nations, perhaps it will result in an entirely new framework for fruitless discussion. For instance: Are the Vatican and Palestine real states, magically endowed with moral prerogatives to kill and dispossess that individuals and voluntary associations don’t have? Stay tuned!