Is Israel an Apartheid State?

Journalist Jonathan Cook and Israeli human rights lawyer Michael Sfard on apartheid & Israel.

Renown Nezareth-based journalist Jonathan Cook says not only is Israel’s control of the West Bank based on an apartheid system of segregation but also the system inside Israel proper. One of the top Israeli human rights lawyers, Michael Sfard, disagrees. In a Tel Aviv interview with The Real News’ Lia Tarachansky he talks about his conclusion that Israeli control in the West Bank is now only moving towards an apartheid-like system based on the dual legal systems that Israeli settlers and Palestinians get subjected to. He describes that if an Israeli settler and a Palestinian were to be arrested for the same crime, they would be judged, investigated, and convicted in separate legal systems.

Jonathan Cook is a British journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He has written for the GuardianInternational Herald Tribune and Le Monde diplomatique among other publications, and is currently a correspondent for the Abu Dhabi-based National newspaper. He is the author of three books on the Israel-Palestine conflict, the latest being Disappearing Palestine.

Michael Sfard is one of the top Israeli human rights lawyers. His Tel Aviv-based practice represents many Israeli human rights groups and high profile rights cases. Most famous is his firm’s challenge of the separation wall annexing land from the West Bank village of Bil’in. A former conscientious objector, Sfard represents reservists and others who refuse to participate in the occupation of the Palestinian Territories.

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Terror on Aid Ship: “Plan Was to Kill Activists and Deter Future Convoys” by Jonathan Cook

by Jonathan Cook
Global Research, June 2, 2010
– 2010-06-01

Nazareth –An Arab member of the Israeli parliament who was on board the international flotilla that was attacked on Monday as it tried to take humanitarian aid to Gaza accused Israel yesterday of intending to kill peace activists as a way to deter future convoys.

Haneen Zoubi said Israeli naval vessels had surrounded the flotilla’s flagship, the Mavi Marmara, and fired on it a few minutes before commandos abseiled from a helicopter directly above them.

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Jewish Peace News: Cooperative resistance and criminal repression

Dandelion Salad

Crossposted with permission from Jewish Peace News

Jewish Peace News

In this posting:

1) Refusing to serve the killing wall and the killing fields;

2) Israeli leaders preparing for possible charges for war crimes


Refusing to serve the killing wall and the killing fields

In many cases, the English version of Haaretz fails to feature even the highly selective and watered down reports that the Hebrew paper or website carry on oppositional actions inside Israel. The following item, however, according to New Profile activist Haggai Matar, who is quoted in it, was published in English only and will not be printed in Hebrew.

Less visible at present than the recent wholesale killing of children by Israel’s military in Gaza is the ongoing shooting and, often, killing, of activists– including youth and children–in the occupied West Bank. Many such shootings occur in the context of forceful military suppression of resistance to the separation wall, which continues to protect the theft of Palestinian lands, to deny Palestinian livelihoods and basic rights. And yet, in face of violent repression, the movement resisting the wall continues to create and maintain close ties and cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis.

Many of the younger Israeli activists against the wall are also draft resisters, refusing to comply with the law requiring them to serve in the military that forcefully imposes the policies and measures they are struggling to stop. Some of these young people are imprisoned for their refusal and JPN has reported on the most recent group of high school seniors (“Shministim”) who are currently taking this stand.

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Is Gaza a testing ground for experimental weapons? by Jonathan Cook + video

Dandelion Salad

by Jonathan Cook
Global Research, January 13, 2009

Concerns about Israel’s use of non-conventional and experimental weapons in the Gaza Strip are growing, with evasive comments from spokesmen and reluctance to allow independent journalists inside the tiny enclave only fuelling speculation.

The most prominent controversy is over the use of shells containing white phosphorus, which causes horrific burns when it comes into contact with skin. Under international law, phosphorus is allowed as a smokescreen to protect soldiers but treated as a chemical weapon when used against civilians.

The Israeli army maintains that it is using only weapons authorised in international law, though human rights groups have severely criticised Israel for firing phosphorus shells over densely populated areas of Gaza.
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Israel’s aim: To make the Gazan prison even more secure by Jonathan Cook

Dandelion Salad

by Jonathan Cook
Global Research, January 7, 2009

There are two persistent myths about the aim of Israel’s onslaught on Gaza: the first that it is an entirely defensive move, a way to end the rocket fire of Hamas; and the second that it is designed to restore the army’s credibility after its failure to cow Hizbollah in 2006.

No doubt the Israeli army has been itching to repair its battered image, and for sure the rocket attacks from Gaza create domestic pressures that are only too clear to an Israeli government about to face an election.

But it is a gross misunderstanding of what is unfolding in Gaza to believe Israel’s motives are capricious. The politicians and generals have been preparing for this attack for many months, possibly years — a fact alone that suggests they have bigger objectives than commonly assumed.

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Who Will Stop The Settlers? By Jonathan Cook

Dandelion Salad

By Jonathan Cook
November 20, 2008 “Information Clearinghouse

Noise but no action from US over family’s eviction

The middle-of-the-night eviction last week of an elderly Palestinian couple from their home in East Jerusalem to make way for Jewish settlers is a demonstration of Israeli intent towards a future peace deal with the Palestinians.

Mohammed and Fawziya Khurd are now on the street, living in a tent, after Israeli police enforced a court order issued in July to expel them.

The couple have been living in the same property in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood since the mid-1950s, when East Jerusalem was under Jordanian control. The United Nations allotted them the land after they were expelled from their homes in territory that was seized by Israel during the 1948 war.

Since East Jerusalem’s occupation by Israel in 1967, however, Jewish settler groups have been waging a relentless battle for the Khurds’ home, claiming that the land originally belonged to Jews.

In 1999, the settlers occupied a wing of the house belonging to the couple’s son, Raed, though the courts subsequently ruled in favour of the family. The eviction order against the settlers, unlike that against the Khurds, was never enforced.

The takeover of the Khurds’ house is far from an isolated incident. Settlers are quietly grabbing homes from Palestinians in key neighbourhoods around the Old City of Jerusalem in an attempt to pre-empt any future peace deal with the Palestinians.

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Israel’s dark arts of ensnaring collaborators By Jonathan Cook

Dandelion Salad

By Jonathan Cook
September 13, 2008
Jonathan Cook’s ZSpace Page

(Nazareth) Israel’s enduring use of Palestinian collaborators to entrench the occupation and destroy Palestinian resistance was once the great unmentionable of the Middle East conflict.

When the subject was dealt with by the international and local media, it was solely in the context of the failings of the Palestinian legal system, which allowed the summary execution of collaborators by lynch mobs and kangaroo courts.

That is beginning to change with a trickle of reports indicating the extent of Israel’s use of collaborators and the unwholesome techniques it uses to recruit them. “Co-operation”, it has become clearer, is the very backbone of Israel’s success in maintaining its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Collaboration comes in various guises, including land dealers, who buy Palestinian-owned land to sell it to settlers or the Israeli government; armed agents who assist Israeli soldiers in raids; and infiltrators into the national organisations and their armed wings who foil resistance operations.

But the foundation of the collaboration system is the low-level informant, who passes on the titbits of information about neighbours and community leaders on which Israel’s system of control depends.

Recent reports in the Israeli media, for example, suggest that the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, far from reducing the opportunities for collaboration, may actually have increased them. The current siege of the Strip — in which Israel effectively governs all movement in and out of Gaza — has provided an ideal point of leverage for encouraging collusion.

Masterminding this strategy is the Israeli secret police, the Shin Bet, which has recently turned its attention to sick Gazans and their relatives who need to leave the Strip. With hospitals and medicines in short supply, some patients have little hope of recovery without treatment abroad or in Israel.[…]

ZNet – Israel’s Dark Arts.

h/t: Jewish Peace News

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Zionism’s Dead End By Jonathan Cook

Dandelion Salad

By Jonathan Cook in Nazareth
June 27, 2008

Separation or ethnic cleansing? Israel’s encaging of Gaza aims to achieve both

The following is taken from a talk delivered at the Conference for the Right of Return and the Secular Democratic State, held in Haifa on June 21.

In 1895, Theodor Herzl, Zionism’s chief prophet, confided in his diary that he did not favour sharing Palestine with the natives. Better, he wrote, to “try to spirit the penniless [Palestinian] population across the border by denying it any employment in our own country… Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly.”

He was proposing a programme of Palestinian emigration enforced through a policy of strict separation between Jewish immigrants and the indigenous population. In simple terms, he hoped that, once Zionist organisations had bought up large areas of Palestine and owned the main sectors of the economy, Palestinians could be made to leave by denying them rights to work the land or labour in the Jewish-run economy. His vision was one of transfer, or ethnic cleansing, through ethnic separation.

Herzl was suggesting that two possible Zionist solutions to the problem of a Palestinian majority living in Palestine — separation and transfer — were not necessarily alternatives but rather could be mutually reinforcing. Not only that: he believed, if they were used together, the process of ethnic cleansing could be made to appear voluntary, the choice of the victims. It may be that this was both his most enduring legacy and his major innovation to settler colonialism.

In recent years, with the Palestinian population under Israeli rule about to reach parity with the Jewish population, the threat of a Palestinian majority has loomed large again for the Zionists. Not surprisingly, debates about which of these two Zionist solutions to pursue, separation or transfer, have resurfaced.

Today these solutions are ostensibly promoted by two ideological camps loosely associated with Israel’s centre-left (Labour and Kadima) and right (Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu). The modern political arguments between them turn on differing visions of the nature of a Jewish state originally put forward by Labour and Revisionist Zionists.

To make sense of current political debates, and events, taking place inside Israel and in the West Bank and Gaza, let us first examine the history of these two principles in Zionist thinking.

During the early waves of Jewish immigration to Palestine, the dominant Labour Zionist movement and its leader David Ben Gurion advanced policies much in line with Herzl’s goal. In particular, they promoted the twin principles of “Redemption of the Land” and “Hebrew Labour”, which took as their premise the idea that Jews needed to separate themselves from the native population in working the land and employing only other Jews. By being entirely self- reliant in Palestine, Jews could both “cure” themselves of their tainted Diaspora natures and deprive the Palestinians of the opportunity to subsist in their own homeland.

At the forefront of this drive was the Zionist trade union federation, the Histadrut, which denied membership to Palestinians and, for many years after the establishment of the Jewish state, even to the remnants of the Palestinian population who became Israeli citizens.

But if separation was the official policy of Labour Zionism, behind the scenes Ben Gurion and his officials increasingly appreciated that it would not be enough in itself to achieve their goal of a pure ethnic state. Land sales remained low, at about six per cent of the territory, and the Jewish-owned parts of the economy relied on cheap Palestinian labour.

Instead, the Labour Zionists secretly began working on a programme of ethnic cleansing. After 1937 and Britain’s Peel Report proposing partition of Palestine, Ben Gurion was more open about transfer, recognising that a Jewish state would be impossible unless most of the indigenous population was cleared from within its borders.

Israel’s new historians have acknowledged Ben Gurion’s commitment to transfer. As Benny Morris notes, for example, Ben Gurion “understood that there could be no Jewish state with a large and hostile Arab minority in its midst”. The Israeli leadership therefore developed a plan for ethnic cleansing under cover of war, compiling detailed dossiers on the communities that needed to be driven out and then passing on the order, in Plan Dalet, to commanders in the field. During the 1948 war the new state of Israel was emptied of at least 80 per cent of its indigenous population.

In physically expelling the Palestinian population, Ben Gurion responded to the political opportunities of the day and recalibrated the Labour Zionism of Herzl. In particular he achieved the goal of displacement desired by Herzl while also largely persuading the world through a campaign of propaganda that the exodus of the refugees was mostly voluntary. In one of the most enduring Zionist myths, convincingly rebutted by modern historians, we are still told that the refugees left because they were told to do so by the Arab leadership.

The other camp, the Revisionists, had a far more ambivalent attitude to the native Palestinian population. Paradoxically, given their uncompromising claim to a Greater Israel embracing both banks of the Jordan River (thereby including not only Palestine but also the modern state of Jordan), they were more prepared than the Labour Zionists to allow natives to remain where they were.

Vladimir Jabotinsky, the leader of Revisionism, observed in 1938 — possibly in a rebuff to Ben Gurion’s espousal of transfer — that, “it must be hateful for any Jew to think that the rebirth of a Jewish state should ever be linked with such an odious suggestion as the removal of non-Jewish citizens”. The Revisionists, it seems, were resigned to the fact that the enlarged territory they desired would inevitably include a majority of Arabs. They were therefore less concerned with removing the natives than finding a way to make them accept Jewish rule.

In 1923, Jabotinsky formulated his answer, one that implicitly included the notion of separation but not necessarily transfer: an “iron wall” of unremitting force to cow the natives into submission. In his words, the agreement of the Palestinians to their subjugation could be reached only “through the iron wall, that is to say, the establishment in Palestine of a force that will in no way be influenced by Arab pressure”.

An enthusiast of British imperial rule, Jabotinsky envisioned the future Jewish state in simple colonial terms, as a European elite ruling over the native population.

Inside Revisionism, however, there was a shift from the idea of separation to transfer that mirrored developments inside Labour Zionism. This change was perhaps more opportunistic than ideological, and was particularly apparent as the Revisionists sensed Ben Gurion’s success in forging a Jewish state through transfer.

One of Jabotinsky disciples, Menachem Begin, who would later become a Likud prime minister, was leader in 1948 of the Irgun militia that committed one of the worst atrocities of the war. He led his fighters into the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin where they massacred over 100 inhabitants, including women and children.

Savage enough though these events were, Begin and his followers consciously inflated the death toll to more than 250 through the pages of The New York Times. Their goal was to spread terror among the wider Palestinian population and encourage them to flee. He happily noted later: “Arabs throughout the country, induced to believe wild tales of ‘Irgun butchery’, were seized with limitless panic and started to flee for their lives. This mass flight soon developed into a maddened, uncontrollable stampede.”

Subsequently, other prominent figures on the right openly espoused ethnic cleansing, including the late General Rehavam Zeevi, whose Moledet Party campaigned in elections under the symbol of the Hebrew character “tet”, for transfer. His successor, Benny Elon, a settler leader and rabbi, adopted a similar platform: “Only population transfer can bring peace”.

The intensity of the separation versus transfer debate subsided after 1948 and the ethnic cleansing campaign that removed most of the native Palestinian population from the Jewish state. The Palestinian minority left behind — a fifth of the population but a group, it was widely assumed, that would soon be swamped by Jewish immigration — was seen as an irritation but not yet as a threat. It was placed under a military government for nearly two decades, a system designed to enforce separation between Palestinians and Jews inside Israel. Such separation — in education, employment and residence — exists to this day, even if in a less extreme form.

The separation-transfer debate was chiefly revived by Israel’s war on the West Bank and Gaza in 1967. With Israel’s erasure of the Green Line, and the effective erosion of the distinction between Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories, the problem of a Palestinian majority again loomed large for the Zionists.

Cabinet debates from 1967 show the quandary faced by the government. Almost alone, Moshe Dayan favoured annexation of both the newly captured territories and the Palestinian population there. Others believed that such a move would be seen as transparently colonialist and rapidly degenerate into an apartheid system of Jewish citizens and Palestinian non-citizens. In their minds, Jabotinsky’s solution of an iron wall was no longer viable.

But equally, in a more media-saturated era, which at least paid lip-service to human rights, the government could see no way to expel the Palestinian population and annex the land, as Ben Gurion had done earlier. Also possibly, they could see no way of persuading the world that such expulsions should be characterised as voluntary.

Israel therefore declined to move decisively in either direction, neither fully carrying out a transfer programme nor enforcing strict separation. Instead it opted for an apartheid model that accommodated Dayan’s suggestion of a “creeping annexation” of the occupied territories that he rightly believed would go largely unnoticed by the West.

The separation embodied in South African apartheid differed from Herzl’s notion of separation in one important respect: in apartheid, the “other” population was a necessary, even if much abused, component of the political arrangement. As the exiled Palestinian thinker Azmi Bishara has noted, in South Africa “racial segregation was not absolute. It took place within a framework of political unity. The racist regime saw blacks as part of the system, an ingredient of the whole. The whites created a racist hierarchy within the unity.”

In other words, the self-reliance, or unilateralism, implicit in Herzl’s concept of separation was ignored for many years of Israel’s occupation. The Palestinian labour force was exploited by Israel just as black workers were by South Africa. This view of the Palestinians was formalised in the Oslo Accords, which were predicated on the kind of separation needed to create a captive labour force.

However, Yitzhak Rabin’s version of apartheid embodied by the Oslo process, and Binyamin Netanyahu’s opposition in upholding Jabotinsky’s vision of Greater Israel, both deviated from Herzl’s model of transfer through separation. This is largely why both political currents have been subsumed within the recent but more powerful trend towards “unilateral separation”.

Not surprisingly, the policy of “unilateral separation” emerged from among the Labour Zionists, advocated primarily by Ehud Barak. However, it was soon adopted by many members of Likud also. Ultimately its success derived from the conversion to its cause of Greater Israel’s arch-exponent, Ariel Sharon. He realised the chief manifestations of unilateral separation, the West Bank wall and the Gaza disengagement, as well as breaking up Israel’s right wing to create a new consensus party, Kadima.

In the new consensus, the transfer of Palestinians could be achieved through imposed and absolute separation — just as Herzl had once hoped. After the Gaza disengagement, the next stage was promoted by Sharon’s successor, Ehud Olmert. His plan for convergence, limited withdrawals from the West Bank in which most settlers would remain in place, has been dropped, though its infrastructure — the annexation wall — continues to be built.

But how will modern Zionists convert unilateral separation into transfer? How will Herzl’s original vision of ethnic cleansing enforced through strict ethnic separation be realised in today’s world?

The current siege of Gaza offers the template. After disengagement, Israel has been able to cut off at will Gazans’ access to aid, food, fuel and humanitarian services. Normality has been further eroded by sonic booms, random Israeli air attacks, and repeated small-scale invasions that have inflicted a large toll of casualties, particularly among civilians.

Gaza’s imprisonment has stopped being a metaphor and become a daily reality. In fact, Gaza’s condition is far worse than imprisonment: prisoners, even of war, expect to have their humanity respected and to be properly sheltered, cared for, fed and clothed. Gazans can no longer rely on these staples of life.

The ultimate goal of this extreme form of separation is patently clear: transfer. By depriving Palestinians of the basic conditions of a normal life, it is assumed that they will eventually choose to leave in what can once again be sold to the world as a voluntary exodus. And if Palestinians choose to abandon their homeland, then in Zionist thinking they have forfeited their right to it — just as earlier generations of Zionists believed the Palestinian refugees had done by supposedly fleeing during the 1948 and 1967 wars.

Is this process of transfer inevitable? I think not. The success of a modern policy of “transfer through separation” faces severe limitations.

First, it depends on continuing US global hegemony and blind support for Israel. Such support is likely to be undermined by current American misadventures in the Middle East, and a gradual shift in the balance of power to China, Russia and India.

Second, it requires a Zionist worldview that departs starkly not only from international law but also from the values upheld by most societies and ideologies. The nature of Zionist ambitions is likely to be ever harder to conceal, as is evident from the tide of opinion polls showing that Western publics, if not their governments, believe Israel to be one of the biggest threats to world peace.

And third, it assumes that the Palestinians will remain passive during their slow eradication. The historical evidence most certainly shows that they will not.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto, 2008), and “Disappearing Palestine” (Zed, forthcoming).

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Israel at 60: No Remorse after all these Years by Jonathan Cook + video

Dandelion Salad

by Jonathan Cook
Global Research, May 16, 2008

It has been a week of adulation from world leaders, ostentatious displays of military prowess, and street parties. Heads of state have rubbed shoulders with celebrities to pay homage to the Jewish state on its 60th birthday, while a million Israelis reportedly headed off to the country’s forests to enjoy the national pastime: a barbecue.

But this year’s Independence Day festivities have concealed as much as they have revealed. The images of joy and celebration seen by the world have failed to acknowledge the reality of a deeply divided Israel, shared by two peoples with conflicting memories and claims to the land.

They have also served to shield from view the fact that the Palestinians’ dispossession is continuing in both the occupied territories and inside Israel itself. Far from being a historical event, Israel’s “independence” — and the ever greater toll it is inflicting on the Palestinian people — is very much a live issue.

Away from the cameras, a fifth of the Israeli population — more than one million Palestinian citizens — remembered al-Nakba, the Catastrophe of 1948 that befell the Palestinian people as the Jewish state was built on the ruins of their society.

As it has been doing for the past decade, Israel’s Palestinian minority staged an alternative act of commemoration: a procession of families, many of them refugees from the 1948 war, to one of more than 400 Palestinian villages erased by Israel in a monumental act of state vandalism after the fighting. The villages were destroyed to ensure that the 750,000 Palestinians expelled from the state under the cover of war never return.

But in a sign of how far Israel still is from coming to terms with the circumstances of its birth, this year’s march was forcibly broken up by the Israeli police. They clubbed unarmed demonstrators with batons and fired tear gas and stun grenades into crowds of families that included young children.

Although most of the refugees from the 1948 war — numbering in their millions — ended up in camps in neighbouring Arab states, a few remained inside Israel. Today one in four Palestinian citizens of Israel is either a refugee or descended from one. Not only have they been denied the right ever to return to their homes, like the other refugees, but many live tantalisingly close to their former communities.

The destroyed Palestinian villages have either been reinvented as exclusive Jewish communities or buried under the foliage of national forestation programmes overseen by the Jewish National Fund and paid for with charitable donations from American and European Jews.

There have been many Nakba processions held over the past week but the march across fields close by the city of Nazareth was the only one whose destination was a former Palestinian village now occupied by Jews.

The village of Saffuriya was bombed from the air for two hours in July 1948, in one of the first uses of air power by the new Jewish state. Most of Saffuriya’s 5,000 inhabitants fled northwards towards Lebanon, where they have spent six decades waiting for justice. But a small number went south towards Nazareth, where they sought sanctuary and eventually became Israeli citizens.

Today they live in a neighbourhood of Nazareth called Safafra, after their destroyed village. They look down into the valley where a Jewish farming community known as Zippori has been established on the ruins of their homes.

This year’s Nakba procession to Saffuriya was a small act of defiance by Palestinian citizens in returning to the village, even if only symbolically and for a few hours. The threat this posed to Israeli Jews’ enduring sense of their own exclusive victimhood was revealed in the unprovoked violence unleashed against the defenceless marchers, many of them children.

Like many others, I was there with a child — my five-month-old daughter. Fortunately, for her and my sake, we left after she grew tired from being in the heat for so long, moments before the trouble started.

When we left, things were entirely peaceful. Nonetheless, as we drove away, I saw members of a special paramilitary police unit known as the Yassam appearing on their motorbikes. The Yassam are effectively a hit squad, known for striking out first and asking questions later. Trouble invariably follows in their wake.

The events that unfolded that afternoon have been captured on mostly home-made videos that can be viewed on the internet, including here. The context for understanding these images is provided below in accounts from witnesses to the police attack:

الاشتباكات في مسيرة العودة الى صفورية 2008 8 5


Several thousand Palestinians, waving flags and chanting Palestinian songs, marched towards a forest planted on Saffuriya’s lands. Old people, some of whom remembered fleeing their villages in 1948, were joined by young families and several dozen sympathetic Israeli Jews. As the marchers headed towards Saffuriya’s spring, sealed off by the authorities with a metal fence a few years ago to stop the villagers collecting water, they were greeted with a small counter-demonstration by right-wing Israeli Jews.

They had taken over the fields on the other side of the main road at the entrance to what is now the Jewish community of Zippori. They waved Israeli flags and sang nationalist Hebrew songs, as armed riot police lined the edge of the road that separated the two demonstrations.

Tareq Shehadeh, head of the Nazareth Culture and Tourism Association whose parents were expelled from Saffuriya, said: “There were some 50 Jewish demonstrators who had been allowed to take over the planned destination of our march. Their rights automatically trumped ours, even though there were thousands of us there and only a handful of them.”

The police had their backs to the Jewish demonstrators while they faced off with the Palestinian procession. “It was as if they were telling us: we are here only for the benefit of Jews, not for you,” said Shehadeh. “It was a reminder, if we needed it, that this is a Jewish state and we are even less welcome than usual when we meet as Palestinians.”

The marchers turned away and headed uphill into the woods, to a clearing where Palestinian refugees recounted their memories.

When the event ended in late afternoon, the marchers headed back to the main road and their cars. In the police version, Palestinian youths blocked the road and threw stones at passing cars, forcing the police to use force to restore order.

Dozens of marchers were injured, including women and children, and two Arab Knesset members, Mohammed Barakeh and Wassel Taha, were bloodied by police batons. Mounted police charged into the crowds, while stun grenades and tear gas were liberally fired into fields being crossed by families. Eight youths were arrested.

Shehadeh, who was close to the police when the trouble began, and many other marchers say they saw the Jewish rightwingers throwing stones at them from behind the police. A handful of Palestinian youngsters responded in kind. Others add that the police were provoked by a young woman waving a Palestinian flag.

“None of the police were interested in stopping the Jews throwing stones. And even if a few Palestinian youths were reacting, you chase after them and arrest them, you don’t send police on mounted horseback charging into a crowd of families and fire tear gas and stun grenades at them. It was totally indiscriminate and reckless.”

Clouds of gas enveloped the slowest families as they struggled with their children to take cover in the forest.

Therese Zbeidat, a Dutch national who was there with her Palestinian husband Ali and their two teenage daughters, Dina and Awda, called the experiences of her family and others at the hands of the police “horrifying”.

“Until then it really was a family occasion. When the police fired the tear gas, there were a couple near us pushing a stroller down the stony track towards the road. A thick cloud of gas was coming towards us. I told the man to leave the stroller and run uphill as fast as he could with the baby.

“Later I found them with the baby retching, its eyes streaming and choking. It broke my heart. There were so many families with young children, and the police charge was just so unprovoked. It started from nothing.”

The 17-year-old boyfriend of Therese Zbeidat’s daughter, Awda, was among those arrested. “It was his first time at any kind of nationalist event,” she said. “He was with his mother, and when we started running up the hill away from the police on horseback, she stumbled and fell.

“He went to help her and the next thing a group of about 10 police were firing tear gas cannisters directly at him. Then they grabbed him by the keffiyah [scarf] around his neck and pulled him away. All he was doing was helping his mother!”

Later, Therese and her daughters thought they had made it to safety only to find themselves in the midst of another charge from a different direction, this time by police on foot. Awda was knocked to the ground and kicked in her leg, while Dina was threatened by a policeman who told her: “I will break your head.”

“I’ve been on several demonstrations before when the police have turned nasty,” said Therese, “but this was unlike anything I’ve seen. Those young children, some barely toddlers, amidst all that chaos crying for their parents – what a way to mark Independence Day!”

Jafar Farah, head of the political lobbying group Mossawa, who was there with his two young sons, found them a safe spot in the forest and rushed downhill to help ferry other children to safety.

The next day he attended a court hearing at which the police demanded that the eight arrested men be detained for a further seven days. Three, including a local journalist who had been beaten and had his camera stolen by police, were freed after the judge watched video footage of the confrontation taken by marchers.

Farah said of the Independence Day events: “For decades our community was banned from remembering publicly what happened to us as a people during the Nakba. Our teachers were sacked for mentioning it. We were not even supposed to know that we are Palestinians.

“And in addition, the police have regularly used violence against us to teach us our place. In October 2000, at the start of the intifada, 13 of our unarmed young men were shot dead for demonstrating. No one has ever been held accountable.

“Despite all that we started to believe that Israel was finally mature enough to let us remember our own national tragedy. Families came to show their children the ruins of the villages so they had an idea of where they came from. The procession was becoming a large and prominent event. People felt safe attending.

“But we were wrong, it seems. It looked to me very much like this attack by the police was planned. I think the authorities were unhappy about the success of the processions, and wanted them stopped.

“They may yet win. What parent will bring their children to the march next year knowing that they will be attacked by armed police?”

Jonathan Cook is a journalist and writer living in Nazareth, Israel. His most recent book is “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East”, published by Pluto Press. His website is

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Blood & Religion – A Review of Jonathan Cook’s book

Dandelion Salad

by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, March 27, 2008

Jonathan Cook is a British-born independent journalist based (since September 2001) in the predominantly Arab city of Nazareth, Israel and is the “first foreign correspondent (living) in the Israeli Arab city….” He’s a former reporter and editor of regional newspapers, a freelance sub-editor with national newspapers, and a staff journalist for the London-based Guardian and Observer newspapers. He’s also written for The Times, Le Monde diplomatique, the International Herald Tribune, Al-Ahram Weekly and He is also a frequent contributor to Global Research. In February 2004, he founded the Nazareth Press Agency.

Cook states why he’s in Nazareth as follows: to give himself “greater freedom to reflect on the true nature of the (Israeli-Palestinian) conflict and (gain) fresh insight into its root causes.” He “choose(s) the issues (he) wish(es) to cover (and so is) not constrained by the ‘treadmill’ of the mainstream media….which gives disproportionate coverage to the concerns of the powerful (so it) makes much of their Israel/Palestine reporting implausible.”

Living among Arabs, “things look very different” to Cook. “There are striking, and disturbing, similarities between” the Palestinian experience inside Israel and within the Occupied Territories. “All have faced Zionism’s appetite for territory and domination, as well as repeated (and unabated) attempts at ethnic cleaning.”

Cook authored two important books and contributed to others. His newest one, just published was reviewed by this writer. It’s called “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East.” Advance praise accompanied it, and noted author John Pilger calls it, “One of the most cogent understandings of the modern Middle East I have read. It is superb, because the author himself is a unique witness” to events and powerfully documents them.

Cook’s earlier book was published in 2006. It’s titled “Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish and Democratic State” and is the subject of this review. It’s the rarely told story of the plight of Israel’s 1.4 million Arab citizens, the discrimination against them, the reasons why, and the likely future consequences from it. Israel’s “demographic problem” is the issue Cook addresses. It’s the time when a faster-growing Palestinian population (excluding the diaspora) becomes a majority, and the very character of a “Jewish State” is threatened. Israel’s response – state-sponsored repression and violent ethnic cleansing, in the Territories and inside Israel.

Arab-Israeli citizens are referred to as “Israeli Arabs.” It’s how many of them refer to themselves as do Israelis. They’re the sole remnants of the Palestinian population Israel expelled in its 1948 War of Independence. Palestinians call it the Nakba that describes as follows: ….”the Nakba (cataclysm)….saw the mass deportation of a million Palestinians from their cities and villages, massacres of civilians, and the razing to the ground of hundreds of Palestinian villages.” Noted Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe, believes 800,000 were affected. Cook uses 750,000. Whatever the true figure, it was huge and changed everything for Palestinians henceforth.

Authorities have worked ever since to hide the past and “de-Palestinize” those remaining inside Israel – to erase their “national and cultural memories and turn them into identity-starved ‘Arabs.’ ” So far, it’s failed. There’s been a resurgence of “Palestinian-ness” for at least two reasons. Palestinians believe that Israel won’t ever grant them a viable independent state and will always regard them as a “fifth column.” They’re also denied a national or civic identity. Nonetheless, they prefer Israeli citizenship to life in the Territories where people have no rights under occupation. They live with a hope Israelis are obsessed to deny them – that one day Israel will change from a Jewish State to a democratic one for all its people.

So far, it’s nowhere in sight, Cook documents it in his book, and he states his premise upfront: “Israel is beginning a long, slow process of ethnic cleansing” Israeli Arabs from Israel as well as Palestinians from the parts of the Occupied Territories it wants for a Greater Israel.

Introduction – The Glass Wall

Israel has a penchant for walls, fences and barriers as exemplified by its best known one being erected in the West Bank. It’s mammoth in size and when completed will encircle most of the Territory’s inhabitants and measure nearly 700 km. It’s ghettoizing Palestinian communities, cutting them off from each other, and isolating them all from the outside world. It devours the landscape, uproots ancient olive groves, destroys pastures and greenhouses, and expropriates around 10% of occupied Palestine by an inexorable land-grab masquerading as security.

In 1994, a similar barrier went up in Gaza – an electronic fence around the Territory, and again security was cited. Both walls reflect early Zionist thinking – that Palestinians won’t ever be dispossessed so “unremitting force” has to subdue them. It affects Palestinians under occupation and “rarely mentioned” Israeli Arabs who comprise one-fifth of the population or a slightly greater percentage than when Cook wrote his book. At year-end 2007, Israeli society broke down as follows: 7.24 million total of which 75.6% (5.47 million) are Jews, 20% (1.45 million) Arabs and 4.4% (320,000) Christians and others.

Walls and fences keep those in the Territories constrained. An invisible “glass wall” inside Israel is just as “unyielding and solid as the walls around the West Bank and Gaza.” Its aim is the same – to imprison the people, force them into submission, hide what’s happening from view, and do it for a reason.

Israel’s problem is demographic and its danger is twofold:

— a far higher Palestinian birth rate threatens the Jewishness of the state; and

— right of return UN Resolution 194 guarantees compound the problem.

Walls and fences are meant to solve it – physical and glass, and Cook suggests the latter is the greater obstacle to Middle East peace.

They exist for a purpose – to intimidate and silence captive people in different ways. In the Territories, brute force is used, but inside Israel efforts are more subtle to preserve an image of a democratic state. In other words, “the glass wall is essentially a deception.” It creates the impression of normality that “bears no relation to reality” that, in fact, is harsh, unyielding and has been unrelenting for decades. In a nominal democratic state, Israeli Arab rights are denied, they’re considered hostile non-citizens, and when they demand equal treatment to Jews, it causes “howls of outrage.”

No matter what they do or how they try, they’re Arabs first, and in Israel that’s the “enemy.” In a Jewish State, they’ll “never be equal to a Jew.” The state, in Jewish eyes, belongs to Jewish people, not its non-Jewish citizens, and Israeli courts affirm a Jewish State. Its a legal concept found nowhere else in the world, most countries could never get away with it, yet the world community ignores what Israel does.

Cook notes the racist implications. Nearly all Israeli land is in trust for Jewish people living anywhere. Arab Israelis have no right to it and legally can be excluded from parts of their own country. This notion was embodied in Israel’s Law of Return. It was passed in 1950, and it’s purpose is still relevant – to erase the demographic threat of a Palestinian homeland in a Jewish State. It grants every Jew in the world the right to automatic Israeli citizenship if they choose to live in Israel, and the reason is simple – to ensure a continued Jewish majority in perpetuity. So far it’s worked, but it’s threatened. More on that below.

Israel’s Declaration of Independence enshrined a Jewish State identity. It only recognizes Jewish people, their history and culture as well as Zionist movements. They include the Jewish Agency and Jewish National Fund that legally may discriminate against non-Jews.

Israel is rare in another respect as well. Like the UK, it has no formal constitution although its Declaration of Independence pledged one would be produced in six months. It never was because embodying Jewish values can’t avoid discriminatory language. So Israel instead has 11 Basic Laws, none of which guarantee free speech, religion or equality. Israel’s 1992 Law on Human Dignity and Liberty is the closest it comes, but it, too, excludes equality as a guaranteed right.

Other anomalies also exist. For example, each religious community regulates issues relating to births, deaths and marriages. No civil institutions or courts have authority. As a result, the state has no power over marriages, divorces or to intervene in these matters. In addition, Judaism is privileged, only the Hebrew calendar and Jewish holidays are recognized, and conversions to Judaism are rare and allowed only after rigorous vetting.

On the other hand, suffrage is universal, but two factors dilute it. Arab parties are excluded from government coalitions and decision-making bodies so it makes voting for them largely symbolic. In addition, all political parties must pledge allegiance to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic” state. If Arab Israeli politicians demand a democratic one for everyone, they risk violating the law. Jews profoundly reject the notion of one state for all because it challenges rigid customs:

— a “Jewish and democratic” state favoring Jews;

— Zionism’s founding presumption that Israel was exclusively for persecuted Jews; and most threatening

— democratization in its truest sense could empower a “demographic monster that could devour the Jewish state almost overnight.” An eventual Palestinian majority in Greater Israel would end the Jewish State.

The idea of true democratization emerged in the late 1990s, it became a frightening vision, and state authorities feared it could become a national insurrection once the second Intifada began. It was thus confronted with lethal force inside Israel and the Territories. Palestinians have been harassed ever since, most severely in Gaza, marginally less in the West Bank, but also inside Israel – unreported and out of sight.

Cook’s book mostly addresses Israeli Arabs and contends the following – that their treatment is key to understanding why reaching a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is so elusive. At its root is Israel’s refusal to end discrimination because that would force it to do what it can’t and won’t – atone for its War of Independence crimes that have been carefully suppressed for 60 years. Further, Zionism conceptually sanctifies Israel as the “Promised Land” for Jews alone. That, in turn, legitimizes expropriating resources from non-Jews. It also condones violence and advocates ethnic cleansing to maintain a majority Jewish population as a natural right of the Jewish people.

That’s been the strategy since the second Intifada’s onset in September 2000, and Cook examines it through “two prisms” – security and demography. Israeli Arabs are considered “security threats” because of their perceived dual loyalties. In addition, the demographic problem of a higher Arab birth rate threatens a Jewish majority. These problems require drastic action from which a visible trend is emerging:

— blurring the distinction between Palestinians in the Territories and inside Israel; and

— a determined effort to separate Arabs from Jews.

Cook contends the following – Israel wants a “phantom state” in the Territories and intends to unilaterally transfer Israeli Arabs’ citizenship rights to the new entity. It’s a grave breach of international law and a risky strategy, so why do it. Most likely to create an illusion of a Palestinian state, remove Israel’s glass wall and transfer it to the Territories. With no Palestinians inside Israel, Jewish democracy will be affirmed and the Jewish State preserved.

For their part, Palestinians will be marginalized, and enclosed behind walls and barricades in “little more than open-air prisons, guarded by the Israeli army.” It’s been the scheme since the early 1990s, and the idea is similar to South Africa’s Bantustan solution under apartheid. Israel wants the same type homelands for Palestinians, and policy has been moving that way for years. Cook is dubious and states: “It is futile to believe such an arrangement – rigid ethnic separation on Israel’s terms – will bring peace to the region.” It’s hard to disagree as Palestinians continue to resist.

Israel’s Fifth Column

Israel used the second Intifada politically – presenting it as a well-planned assault on the Jewish State and blaming it on Arafat. He was unfairly scapegoated for rejecting Camp David in 2000 even though Israel designed talks to fail. Ehud Barak insisted Arafat sign a “final agreement,” declare an “end of conflict,” and give up any legal basis for additional land in the Territories. Nothing was in writing, and no documents or maps were presented. The deal was so duplicitous that had Arafat accepted it any hope for peace would have been dashed. He didn’t, was unfairly blamed, and “government spin-doctors” went further.

They claimed Arafat wanted Camp David as a demographic weapon against Israel:

— to demand the right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees; and

— use his demographic advantage to destroy Israel’s Jewishness and make the entire area “Greater Palestine.”

Israeli officials jumped on him with wild accusations – that he unleashed the Intifada in retaliation. Initially the notion was accepted, but years later it was “finally and irreversibly discredited” as a politically-concocted lie. Israel’s own intelligence exposed it when a senior army officer broke the silence. He revealed no evidence existed and available intelligence suggested that Arafat wanted compromise, not conflict, but not on one-way terms. Israel’s duplicity spawned the Intifada, and it sprang from the grassroots. People felt betrayed and reacted after Ariel Sharon’s provocative al-Aqsa Mosque visit in September 2000.

Thereafter, violence erupted and a police-led onslaught ensued. In the first week of October, 12 unarmed Palestinian civilians and a Gaza laborer were killed and hundreds more seriously injured. Arab Israelis began demonstrating and were also targeted. Their citizenship offered no protection.

Israeli police react like the army as both security forces are connected. How so? National military service is compulsory for non-Orthodox Jews. They’re conscripted after leaving school at age 18 and required to serve for three years. Police have completed the requirement, are familiar with military weapons, and have absorbed the security-conscious culture, including a profound distrust of Arabs. The result – their mindset is hard line and racist, and it shows on Arab streets.

Months after demonstrations subsided, Arabs were still targeted, and hundreds continued to be arrested. Deaths occurred, cover-ups followed, and when Israeli unrest reacted to Arab protests, police responded much differently, avoided violence, no Jews were killed and few, if any, were injured.

Arabs, in contrast, were accused of orchestrating large-scale violence. Some called it a second front or a fifth column, Arafat was blamed, and it was claimed he schemed to overthrow Israel “through a mix of demographic war and armed Intifada.” It was ludicrous, yet the idea took hold. It spread through the media and became permanently fixed in the public mind even after later evidence disproved it. It suggested no armed insurrection occurred, Arab protesters were unarmed, and no Jewish community was threatened or invaded. The very notion stretches credulity and proves the truth about Goebbels’ maxim: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually….believe it.” Or the Churchill one about “a lie get(ting) halfway around the world before the truth (gets) its pants on.”

It makes Arabs easy targets when leaders are profoundly racist, and it shows in Ehud Barak’s comments. In a summer 2002 interview, he called Palestinians “products of a culture in which to tell a lie….creates no dissonance. They don’t suffer from the problem of telling lies that exists in Judeo-Christian culture. Truth (for them) is seen as an irrelevant category.”

In the same interview, Barak repeated the second front accusation many other Jews believe – that Israeli Arabs want to transform Israel from a Jewish state to one for all its citizens. “This is their vision,” and Barak and Sharon were convinced (or said they were) that Arafat was behind it since the early post-Oslo days. He was offered an illusion of a future Palestinian state but “wanted to keep a strategic foot in Israel,” promote the right of return, and demographically destroy Israel. It led to Arafat’s downfall. He was imprisoned in his Ramallah compound in 2001, became ill and died suspiciously in November 2004 in a Paris hospital. His personal physician claimed he was poisoned and evidence seemed to confirm it.

A False Reckoning

Defending accused Arabs in Israel and the Territories is risky, thankless, and not a way to win legal victories. Nonetheless, courageous lawyers try, and one Cook cites is Hassan Jabareen of the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. The name means “justice” in Arabic.

Since its founding in 1996, Adalah has been chipping at Israel’s glass wall, advocating in the Territories, and its 1999 annual report showed what it’s up against: racism, relentless discrimination, futile battles for justice without end, bucking stone walls in court, and violations against Arabs of everything imaginable – rights relating to language, religion, education, land, housing, women, prisoners, political and social issues, and economic and employment ones. In all these matters and more, Israel grossly discriminates against Arabs and gets away with it.

Still, Adalah persists, and Cook cites examples of its struggles for justice. Most often, they’re hopeless, small victories are relished, but even then they turn out hollow after court rulings favor Arabs, state authorities ignore them, things get worse, and courts won’t intervene.

On its web site, Adalah states its advocacy mission as follows: Its “legal actions include filing petitions to the Supreme Court of Israel; filing appeals and lawsuits to the District, Magistrate and Labor Courts; submitting pre-petitions to the Attorney General’s Office; filing complaints with Mahash (the Ministry of Justice Police Investigation Unit) about police brutality; and sending letters to government ministries and agencies, detail legal claims, and demanding compliance with the law.” Adalah is also involved in “providing legal commentary on proposed and pending Knesset bills to NGO advocacy coalitions and staff of Arab MKs.” In addition, it “provides legal consultation to numerous Arab public institutions, NGOs, student committees and individuals.”

Adalah and Jabareen drew public attention in February 2001. At the time, the Or Commission began investigating 13 unarmed Arab demonstrators Israeli security force killings at the start of the second Intifada. They were wanton acts demanding justice, but try getting it for Palestinians, and that was evident early on under Supreme Court Justice Orr.

He denied an Adalah lawyer official standing before the Commission so he could prepare a proper defense. As a result, he couldn’t issue subpoenas, cross-examine witnesses, see most state evidence, or get advance word of issues to be raised. At the same time, the Israeli public got a steady commentary diet about Arafat-led fifth column Arabs.

Israeli police prepared in advance of the Intifada, and Adalah got details of their tactics. They included preparatory exercises as part of operation “Magic Tune” – a code name for a full-scale military operation involving special anti-riot training and more. It established protocols for snipers and excessive force to disperse protesters, even those doing it peacefully. It assumed trouble was coming, security forces would exacerbate it, harsh responses would follow, so civilians would be targeted with live ammunition to subdue it.

In September 2003, the Commission report was issued, and hopes for justice were dashed. It was a “sore disappointment to the families (of victims) and Adalah.” In session for two and a half years, it called 350 witnesses, yet its conclusions were “tepid and lack(ed) teeth.” The report criticized police for “substantial professional failures,” several officers got minor punishment, other senior ones were reprimanded, but no prosecutions followed because no policemen responsible for the killings were identified. For petitioners, it was a crushing defeat.

In addition, the report said nothing about the Justice Ministry’s failure to investigate killings, its conspiracy of silence about using live ammunition and snipers, and a final comment added insult to injury. The Commission unjustly described street protests as “unprecendented riots” and accused three leading Arab figures of incitement. In all, it was a painful conclusion to lengthy hearings and a lesson for Arab petitioners – expecting justice in Israel is futile because the state denies it to them no matter what the circumstances.

The Battle of Numbers

In 2003, the Knesset passed a temporary amendment to the landmark 1952 Nationality Law – the Nationality and Entry into Israel Law. It denies Israeli Arabs a residency permit for a Palestinian spouse living outside Israel or the right to bring that spouse into Israel.

International and human rights groups were outraged, and B’Tselem called the legislation a violation Israel’s Basic Law on Human Rights and Liberty. Still, it’s the law, it supercedes previous ones, and Shin Bet’s (Israel’s internal security service) Avi Dichter claimed it was “vital for Israel’s security.” Others were more forthright about its true purpose – to prevent Palestinian applications for citizenship through marriage from eroding the country’s Jewish majority. That was Ariel Sharon’s view in these public comments: “The Jews have one small country, Israel, and must do everything so that this state remains a Jewish state in the future….”

Haaretz later reported that there was “broad agreement in the government and academia (for a strict policy to) make it hard for non-Jews to obtain citizenship in Israel” or even residency. Moreover, children of an Israeli and a non-Jew would henceforth be ineligible for citizenship rights.

These measures reflect Israel’s growing concern about its demographic problem, and it led to Sharon’s “sudden conversion to the cause of ‘unilateral separation.’ ” It became his “Gaza Disengagement Plan,” first announced in February 2004, then implemented in August and September 2005. It was a small price to pay for a big benefit. It let Israel dispose of an unwanted population, now around 1.5 million, and tried to defuse world opinion (if unconvincingly) that Israel governed like apartheid South Africa. It also squarely aimed at the threat of two populations approaching parity with Israeli Jews about to be overtaken by a higher Palestinian birth rate.

Removing Gaza bought time for a more permanent solution to the core issue – Israel’s growing Arab minority that’s more pressing than Palestinians in the Territories. The small 150,000 Israeli Arab population in 1948 now numbers 1.5 million, and historian Benny Morris calls it a “time bomb” needing decisive action to defuse. His solution is mass expulsion. Israelis call it “transfer.” World ethicists call it “ethnic cleansing.” International law experts call it illegal.

Israel’s founders foresaw the problem and planned accordingly. When Israel became a state in May 1948, the leadership attacked demography three ways:

— mass expulsion under cover of war;

— encouraged massive Jewish immigration and blocked right of return; key was passage of the 1950 Law of Return that gives anyone of Jewish ancestry the right to Israeli citizenship; three million Jews took advantage, including one million after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990;

— incentivizing Jewish birth rates by financial and other means while denying similar benefits to Israeli Arabs.

At the time, Gen-Gurion set an upper Arab population limit of 15%. Despite a birth rate twice that of Israel, the level wasn’t exceeded thereafter and is barely above it now. It was 13.6% in 1949, 12.5% in 1970, about 16% today, and a key topic at the first Institute of Policy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Centre conference in Herzliya in 2000. It shaped Sharon’s thinking, helped him formulate disengagement ideas, and spotlighted Israel’s “demographic threat.”

The conference report stated: “The increase in the demographic share of the Arab minority in Israel tests directly Israel’s future as a Jewish-Zionist-democratic state.” A range of solutions were proposed to maintain a Jewish majority, including:

— policies to encourage a higher Jewish birth rate;

— “encourag(ing) Israeli Arabs to transfer their citizenship to a Palestinian state;” and

— moving the densely populated “Little Triangle” Arab heartland to Palestinian Authority (PA) control as part of a land swap deal; the idea was to transfer small West Bank settlements to Israel in return and have a similar arrangement for Arab East Jerusalem.

Post-2000, “transfer” caught on as a euphemism for ethnic cleansing and was popularized in the mainstream, the media, academia, and in the Israeli Knesset. It was no longer taboo in public to express former Military Intelligence chief Shlomo Gaziti’s view that “Democracy has to be subordinated to demography.”

More extreme notions were also heard from extremists like former general, Sharon Tourism Minister, and outspoken racist, Rehava’am Ze’evi. He advocated “transfer(ing)” Palestinians to other Arab states and remove them by state-imposed policies of economic hardship, unemployment and restrictions of land, water and other essential services. Two other times he was more extreme. In a 2001 radio interview, he referred to Palestinians as a “cancer (and) We should get rid of the ones who are not Israeli citizens the same way you get rid of lice, but he topped that one in 1990 after Saddam invaded Kuwait. Then he advocated expulsion to Jordan where they could be human shields if Iraq attacked Israel.

He wasn’t alone in his views, and earlier, closely related ones were around and a policy called “Judaisation.” Under it, state-sponsored Jewish settlements populated Arab heartlands in the Galilee and Negev, expropriated Palestinian land, and displaced its inhabitants incrementally. Polls during the second Intifada showed most Israelis approve, and that helped legitimize the development of “uncompromising policies to tackle the ‘demographic threat.’ “

An early scheme was to discriminate in child allowances by cutting them 20% for parents who hadn’t served in the army. It targeted Arab families because few among them perform military service. Other benefits were also cut: tax credits, employment opportunities, mortgage relief, housing grants and more with a simple idea in mind – economic warfare to reduce the Arab birth rate. At the same time, the defunct Demography Council was reestablished to devise ways to raise it for Jews and discourage abortions.

More went on as well. In May 2002, the Interior Ministry imposed an administrative freeze to effectively ban newly married mixed-couples from living together inside Israel. In July 2003, the Knesset made this part of the Nationality Law. It placed established couples in legal limbo and prevented Palestinian spouses from upgrading their temporary residency status. It got worse in mid-2005 when the Knesset prohibited Israeli citizens from bringing Palestinian spouses into Israel, except under rarely granted circumstances.

The move had a clear purpose – to harden “ethnic consolidation” and treat Arabs the way the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) described it: an intolerantly “endemic, systematic and pervasive bias against non-Jews….trampling on their legal rights.”

Israel’s Population Registry of the Interior Ministry was empowered to do it through the Nationality Law to “put a legal gloss on existing racist practices” against Arabs. In addition, a definitive immigration policy was devised to impose strict conditions on naturalizing non-Jews to ensure a “solid Jewish majority….”

Amnon Rubinstein got the task as a well-credentialed law professor, Israel’s foremost constitutional expert, and a cheerleader for the hawkish right. He publicly supported the amended Nationality Law and believed in the guiding principle that “the key for entering the Israeli home (should be) held by the Jews.”

Israeli professor Yoav Peled called the new law a watershed, viewed it with alarm, and believed it’s “a very dangerous turning point” in the country. Previously, Israeli laws disguised discrimination. No longer. Henceforth, according to Peled: “Palestinian citizens who are (moved) will not be transfered to another state – a Palestinian state where they can realise their rights – because there will be no other state. Their citizenship will not be transferred; it will be revoked.”

Citizens would, by law, become non-citizens. They’d be moved against their will to a “pseudo-state” under Israeli rule and striped of their voice entirely. “Palestinian citizens will move from being Israelis with rights to residents of the occupied territories – and residents of the occupied territories have no rights at all.”

Redrawing the Green Line

Professor Arnon Sofer heads up geopolitics at Haifa University. He also counts Jews and Arabs and expresses concern for what he finds. In his opinion, “in the next 15 years either we will see Israel surviving or we will see the end of the Zionist dream….We are counting down to the end of Israel.” Only one viable option remains – partitioning the land. “We can no longer think about Greater Israel; we have to think about divisions.” Why? Because Palestinians, especially in Gaza, reproduce faster than Jews.

For Sofer, the same problem exists inside Israel, and swift action, in his judgment, is needed to address it. “We have the Israeli Arabs in the Triangle and the Galillee. What to do about them?” Referring to the Triangle and its quarter million Palestinians, he’s “ready to get rid of Wadi Ara and Taibe – no problem. We can change our borders and lose the Triangle but we cannot give up the Galilee….Muslims must be isolated….we must use a carrot and stick. There is no right or left at the moment. It’s Jews versus Arabs,” and that includes Israeli Arab citizens.

Since the 1967 war, Israel forestalled territorial division, built Israeli settlements in the Territories, and continue expanding them in the West Bank after the Gaza disengagement. Today, Palestinians and Jews are so entwined in neighboring communities that separating them can only happen in one of three ways:

— evacuating settlers that’s politically impossible (except for isolated settlements);

— expelling the Palestinians that’s highly probable; or

— dramatically redrawing the Green Line as another likely choice.

More than ever today, Israel covets occupied Palestine’s choicest parts, including East Jerusalem, and it’s no secret why – to complete its dream of “Eretz Israel,” and since the 1967 war, to use settlers as pawns to expropriate Palestinian land for a Greater Israel. The process has gone on ever since but was stepped up post-Oslo.

The historic agreement ostensibly was for peace in the spirit of compromise. In fact, it was a Trojan horse. It established a vaguely-defined negotiating process, specified no outcome, and left major unresolved issues for indefinite later final status talks. It granted Palestinians nothing in return for renouncing armed struggle, recognizing Israel’s right to exist and being its enforcer. In contrast, Israel got what it wanted – the right to continue land seizures, colonize the Territories and move inexorably toward territorial separation of an enlarged Israeli state from a smaller adjacent Palestinian one in name only.

Post-1993, settlements grew dramatically and now exceed 200. According to various sources like B’Tselem, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and others, their population tops 400,000. UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine John Dugard estimates 460,000, and included is over 220,000 in occupied East Jerusalem (Dugard’s figure is 253,000) where Palestinians are being squeezed out entirely.

Disengagement, separation barriers, and a fragmented Palestinian state are parts of the scheme – in three disconnected cantons: around Nablus and Jenin in the north, Salfit and Ramallah in the center, and Bethlehem and Hebron in the south. Wedged between them are Israeli settlements around Ariel in the north and the Ma’ale Adumim “envelope” to the East of Jerusalem. On the West Bank’s east side, Israel would control the Jordan Valley. East Jerusalem would then be severed from the rest of the West Bank. In the end, Palestinians would have an illusory state under Israeli control that few analysts believe can be “viable.”

Israel is shaping it, the West Bank’s choicest parts are being taken, ethnic cleansing continues, borders are being redrawn, the Green Line is a fiction, Palestinians are impotent, and Washington is on board. Where will it lead? Three possible outcomes are suggested:

— Palestinians will be confined to urban ghettos; they’ll grow poorer and more desperate; lacking a future, middle-class and ambitious ones will emigrate to neighboring Arab states;

— Palestinians will settle for a cantonized “prison state,” according to Jeff Halper, director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions; Israel will relax its military harshness and replace it with colonial exploitation masquerading as economic development; the process is well-advanced, Palestinian cities are ghettos, agricultural land is disappearing, Israel plunders the land, intends to exploit an expendable cheap labor pool, and the Territories are being “asphyxiated;” and/or

— Israel will create two unconnected Palestinian mini-states: an “Eastern Palestine” in the West Bank identified with Jordan and a “Western Palestine” tied to Egypt.

The scenarios aren’t mutually exclusive. They also ignore what senior political and military officials may have in mind – a far more radical reshaping of the region to Israel’s advantage. At its core is ethnic separation and transfering Arab Israelis to a future Palestinian state. They’re concentrated in the “Little Triangle” along the Green Line, the Galilee in the north, and Negev in the south.

For decades in the Galilee and Negev, Israel pursued “fierce state-sponsored programmes of ‘Judaisation,’ ” much like settlement expansions in the Territories. It tipped the population to Israel’s favor in the Negev by a three to one margin. So far in the Galilee, it 50 – 50, but the long-term trend in both regions disadvantages Israel. A higher Palestinian birth rate is the threat, but efforts are being made to counter it.

In 2003, settling Jews in the two regions became a priority, establishing new towns were ordered, and International Zionist organizations were recruited to help populate them. In addition in late 2002, the Jewish Agency announced a planned 350,000 Galilee and Negev expansion by 2010 to ensure a “Zionist majority” in both areas.

At the same time, the government confronted its greatest Judaisation threat – small “unrecognized” Bedouin Negev farming communities. Their population numbers around 70,000, as many or more live in the Galilee, and Israel so far failed to cluster them in “planned township” reservations.

Today, no new communities are allowed, and existing ones are denied essential municipal services like clean water, electricity, roads, transport, sanitation, education, healthcare, postal and telephone service, refuse removal and more because under the Planning and Construction Law they’re illegal.

In 2003, the Sharon government took further measures:

— it allocated millions of dollars over five years for forceable relocation;

— reclassified Bedouins as “trespassers” on state land;

— encouraged settlers (through extra compensation) to colonize the Galilee and Negev;

— after 2002, the Interior Ministry destroyed village crops by herbicide spraying until courts halted the practice in mid-2004; and

— after the 2005 Gaza disengagement, announced “Negev 2015” – to clear the area of “scattered” Bedouin communities by house demolitions and replace them with new Jewish settlements.

Cook believes these policies suggest a dramatic shift in Israeli priorities – concentrating on “Judaisation inside Israel over settlements in those parts of the occupied territories that will one day have to be abandoned (for) a new ‘Palestinian state.’ It reflects a decisive scaling back of Israel’s territorial ambitions.” Israel instead is focusing on protecting the Jewish state from a growing Arab population, yet it can’t put off the inevitable – confronting its demographic problem by “separat(ing) absolutely from its Palestinian citizens.”

How at this time isn’t known but under consideration is redrawing the Green Line to exclude dense Arab areas like the “Little Triangle.” Remaining Israeli Arabs will then be pressured to “identify with the new Palestinian state,” carrot and stick approaches will be used, and the latter kind will include denying non-Jews essential benefits to encourage them to leave.

Holdouts will be forced to sign loyalty oaths pledging allegiance to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state.” Added pressure will be made to get them to:

— transfer their citizenship to the Palestinian state;

— downgrade them to permanent residents or guest workers;

— deny them their former rights (meager as they were); and

— henceforth subject them to the whims of Israeli authority that may in the end expel them.

The process is underway, legislation to complete it exists, and all that remains is a “pretext” to enforce it “ruthlessly.” What better one than the illusion of a “Palestinian state” next door. It’s being constructed inside enclosed West Bank walls that include fences and barriers to incarcerate a quarter million Palestinians in walled-off ghettos on the “Israeli side.” The argument then goes: if Jews can be uprooted from Gaza and isolated West Bank homes, why not Israeli Arabs as well.

Zionism and the Glass Wall

In 1937, David Ben-Gurion was blunt about his vision: “A partial Jewish State is not the end, but only the beginning.” Today it means “an Arab Israeli is not a real Israeli” because they’re as much part of the regional conflict as Palestinians in the Territories. An influential minority of hardcore Zionists believe Israel is the Promised Land, Jews are God’s Chosen People, and they have a “divine obligation to settle the whole of Greater Israel.” According to them, Jews have as much right to Gaza, Hebron and East Jerusalem as they do to Tel Aviv and Haifa.

Until the second Intifada’s outbreak, Israel’s main fault line was political. Labor wanted a maximum of land with a minimum of Arabs. “Likud (in contrast) wanted a maximum of land, period,” and it allied them naturally with religious Zionists. The tie was threatened, however, when Sharon opted for territorial separation, abandoned Likud’s traditional position, and adopted Labor’s vision.

As political fault lines closed, a secular and religious one widened. It threatens severe West Bank clashes if Israel plans significant settler withdrawals to solve its demographic problem. Cook believes settlers, in the end, will seek compromise, not a showdown, but whatever happens, disengagement will be traumatic enough to “have profound effects on the future of religious Zionism.” Analysts speculate what’s next, and Hebrew University professor Moshe Halbertal suggests a possibility – that religious Zionists won’t “break the(ir) bond with mainstream Israel.” A critical mass of them will place Jewish unity above other considerations.

It’s another matter, however, when it comes to Jewish versus democratic. When Jews are united, Arabs lose. The challenge for future leaders is how to forge an ethnic consensus, ideologically consolidate a Jewish state, and do it successfully by addressing issues important to secular and religious Jews alike. Ensuring a “family-type feeling” may be the way “to carry out the required surgery of partitioning the country without civil war,” according to Hebrew University Professor Alexander Jacobson.

Arabs are the “Other,” and if secular and religious Jews unite, they become “the enemy.” They’re “unwelcome, intruder(s), saboteur(s) (and) terrorist(s).” Solution – leave or be forced out. Religious symbolism becomes crucial, and nowhere more than on most sacred land for Arabs and Jews – the Noble Sanctuary or Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City. Fundamentalist Jews covet it with clear aims in mind – to destroy its mosques, erect a Third Temple, and await the Messiah’s arrival. Palestinians resist and demand Jerusalem’s Old City for their capital.

Battle lines are drawn; Palestinians are weak, divided, unaided and without allies; and who dares predict what’s next in their struggle for justice long denied. At its epicenter is Islam’s third most sacred site, the holiest one for Jews, and what Ehud Barak calls “the Holy of Holies.” It’s fundamentally symbolic for both sides, each is united and firm, and here’s where things stand. Israelis claim sovereignty over what all Islam won’t relinquish.

Try imagining what’s ahead. Opinions differ but one thing is sure – more turmoil, oppression, killings and unimaginable human suffering with Palestinians, by far, paying the greatest price for what they hope in the end will be worth it.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to The Global Research News Hour on Mondays from 11AM to 1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions on world and national topics with distinguished guests.

The CRG grants permission to cross-post original Global Research articles on community internet sites as long as the text & title are not modified. The source and the author’s copyright must be displayed. For publication of Global Research articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact: contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

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“Israel & the Clash of Civilisations” by Stephen Lendman (Jonathan Cook)

Jonathan Cook


Palestine: Two-state dreamers by Jonathan Cook

Dandelion Salad

by Jonathan Cook
Global Research, March 12, 2008

If one state is impossible, why is Olmert so afraid of it?

NAZARETH. If the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the world’s most intractable, much the same can be said of the parallel debate about whether its resolution can best be achieved by a single state embracing the two peoples living there or by a division of the land into two separate states, one for Jews and the other for Palestinans.

The central argument of the two-staters is that the one-state idea is impractical and therefore worthless of consideration. Their rallying cry is that it is at least possible to imagine a consensus emerging behind two states, whereas Israelis will never accept a single state. The one-state crowd are painted as inveterate dreamers and time-wasters.

That is the argument advanced by Israel’s only serious peace group, Gush Shalom. Here is the view of the group‘s indefatiguable leader, Uri Avnery: “After 120 years of conflict, after a fifth generation was born into this conflict on both sides, to move from total war to total peace in a Single Joint State, with a total renunciation of national independence? This is total illusion.”

Given Avnery’s high-profile opposition to a single state, many in the international solidarity groups adopt the same position. They have been joined by an influential American intellectual, the philosopher Michael Neumann, who wrote the no-holds-barred book The Case against Israel. He appears to be waging a campaign to discredit the one-state idea too.

Recently in defence of two states, he wrote: “That Israel would concede a single state is laughable. … There is no chance at all [Israelis] will accept a single state that gives the Palestinians anything remotely like their rights.”

Unlike the one-state solution, according to Neumann and Avnery, the means to realising two states are within our grasp: the removal of the half a million Jewish settlers living in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Both believe that, were Israel to withdraw to the pre-1967 borders, it would be possible to create two real states. “A two-state solution will, indeed, leave Palestinians with a sovereign state, because that’s what a two-state solution means,” argues Neumann. “It doesn’t mean one state and another non-state, and no Palestinian proponent of a two-state solution will settle for less than sovereignty.”

There is something surprisingly naive about arguing that, just because something is called a two-state solution, it will necessarily result in two sovereign states. What are the mimimum requirements for a state to qualify as sovereign, and who decides?

True, the various two-state solutions proposed by Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and George Bush, and supported by most of the international community, would fail according to the two-staters’ chief criterion: these divisions are not premised on the removal of all the settlers.

But an alternative two-state solution requiring Israel’s withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders might still not concede, for example, a Palestinian army – equipped and trained by Iran? – to guard the borders of the West Bank and Gaza. Would that count? And how likely do the campaigners for two real states think it that Israel and the US would grant that kind of sovereignty to a Palestine state?

Importantly, Neumann and Avnery remind us that those with power are the ones who dictate solutions. In which case we can be sure that, when the time is right, Israel and its sponsor, the United States, will impose their own version of the two-state solution and that it will be far from the genuine article advocated by the two-state camp.

But let us return to the main argument: that the creation of two states is inherently more achievable and practical than the establishment of a single state. Strangely, however, from all the available evidence, this is not how it looks to Israel’s current leaders.

Prime minister Ehud Olmert, for example, has expressed in several speeches the fear that, should the Palestinian population under Israeli rule — both in the occupied territories and inside Israel proper — reach the point where it outnumbers the Jewish population, as demographers expect in the next few years, Israel will be compared to apartheid South Africa. In his words, Israel is facing an imminent and powerful “struggle for one-man-one-vote” along the lines of the anti-apartheid movement.

According to Olmert, without evasive action, political logic is drifting inexorably towards the creation of one state in Israel and Palestine. This was his sentiment as he addressed delegates to the recent Herzliya conference:

“Once we were afraid of the possibility that the reality in Israel would force a bi-national state on us. In 1948, the obstinate policy of all the Arabs, the anti-Israel fanaticism and our strength and the leadership of David Ben-Gurion saved us from such a state. For 60 years, we fought with unparalleled courage in order to avoid living in a reality of bi-nationalism, and in order to ensure that Israel exists as a Jewish and democratic state with a solid Jewish majority. We must act to this end and understand that such a [bi-national] reality is being created, and in a very short while it will be beyond our control.”

Olmert’s energies are therefore consumed with finding an alternative political programme that can be sold to the rest of the world. That is the reason he, and Sharon before him, began talking about a Palestinian state. Strangely, however, neither took up the offer of the ideal two-state solution — the kind Avnery and Neumann want — made in 2002. Then Saudi Arabia and the rest Arab world promised Israel peace in return for its withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders. They repeated their offer last year. Israel has steadfastly ignored them.

Instead an alternative version of two states — the bogus two-state solution — has become the default position of Israeli politics. It requires only that Israel and the Palestinians appear to divide the land, while in truth the occupation continues and Jewish sovereignty over all of historic Palestine is not only maintained but rubber-stamped by the international community. In other words, the Gazafication of the West Bank.

When Olmert warns that without two states “Israel is finished”, he is thinking primarily about how to stop the emergence of a single state. So, if the real two-state camp is to be believed, Olmert is a dreamer too, because he fears that a one-state solution is not only achievable but dangerously close at hand. Sharon, it seems, suffered from the same delusion, given that demography was the main impulse for his disengaging from Gaza.

Or maybe both of them understood rather better than Neumann and Avnery what is meant by a Jewish state, and what political conditions are incompatible with it.

In fact, the division of the land demanded by the real two-staters, however equitable, would be the very moment when the struggle for Israel to remain a Jewish state would enter its most critical and difficult phase. Which is precisely why Israel has blocked any meaningful division of the land so far and will continue to do so.

In the unimaginable event that the Israel were to divide the land, a Jewish state would not be able to live with the consequences of such a division for long. Eventually, the maintenance of an ethnic Israeli state would (and will) prove unsustainable: environmentally, demographically and ultimately physically. Division of the land simply “fast-forwards” the self-destructiveness inherent in a Jewish state.

Let us examine just a few of the consequences for the Jewish state of a genuine two-state solution.

First, Israel inside its recognised, shrunken borders would face an immediate and very serious water shortage. That is because, in returning the West Bank to the Palestinians, Israel would lose control of the large mountain acquifers that currently supply most of its water, not only to Israel proper but also to the Jewish settlers living illegally in the occupied territories. Israel would no longer be able to steal the water, but would be expected to negotiate for it on the open market.

Given the politics of water in the Middle East that would be no simple matter. However impoverished the new sovereign Palestinian state was, it would lose all legitimacy in the eyes of its own population were it to sell more than a trickle of water to the Israelis.

We can understand why by examining the current water situation. At the moment Israel drains off almost all of the water provided by the rivers and acquifers inside Israel and in the occupied territories for use by its own population, allowing each Palestinian far less than the minimum amount he or she requires each day, according to the World Health Organisation.

In a stark warning last month, Israel’s Water Authority reported that overdrilling has polluted with sea water most of the supply from the coastal acquifer — that is the main fresh water source inside Israel’s recognised borders.

Were Palestinians to be allowed a proper water ration from their own mountain acquifer, as well as to build a modern economy, there would not be enough left over to satisfy Israel’s first-world thirst. And that is before we consider the extra demand on water resources from all those Palestinians who choose to realise their right to return, not to their homes in Israel, but to the new sovereign Palestinian state.

In addition, for reasons that we will come to, the sovereign Jewish state would have every reason to continue its Judaisation policies, trying to attact as many Jews from the rest of the world as possible, thereby further straining the region’s water resources.

The environmental unsustainability of both states seeking to absorb large populations would inevitably result in a regional water crisis. In addition, should Israeli Jews, sensing water shortages, start to leave in significant numbers, Israel would have an even more pressing reason to locate water, by fair means or foul.

It can be expected that in a short time Israel, with the fourth most powerful army in the world, would seek to manufacture reasons for war against its weaker neighbours, particularly the Palestinians but possibly also Lebanon, in a bid to steal their water.

Water shortages would, of course, be a problem facing a single state too. But, at least in one state there would be mechanisms in place to reduce such tensions, to manage population growth and economic development, and to divide water resources equitably.

Second, with the labour-intensive occupation at an end, much of the Jewish state’s huge citizen army would become surplus to defence requirements. In addition to the massive social and economic disruptions, the dismantling of the country’s military complex would fundamentally change Israel’s role in the region, damage its relationship with the only global superpower and sever its financial ties to Diaspora Jews.

Israel would no longer have the laboratories of the occupied territories for testing its military hardware, its battlefield strategies and its booming surveillance and crowd control industries. If Israel chose to fight the Palestinians, it would have to do so in a proper war, even if one between very unequal sides. Doutbless the Palestinians, like Hizbullah, would quickly find regional sponsors to arm and train their army or militias.

The experience and reputation Israel has acquired — at least among the US military — in running an occupation and devising new and supposedly sophisticated ways to control the “Arab mind” would rapidly be lost, and with it Israel’s usefulness to the US in managing its own long-term occupation of Iraq.

Also, Israel’s vital strategic alliance with the US in dividing the Arab world, over the issue of the occupation and by signing peace treaties with some states and living in a state of permanent war with others, would start to unravel.

With the waning of Israel’s special relationship with Washington and the influence of its lobby groups, as well as the loss of billions of dollars in annual subsidies, the Jewish Diaspora would begin to lose interest in Israel. Its money and power ebbing away, Israel might eventually slip into Middle Eastern anonymity, another Jordan. In such circumstances it would rapidly see a large exodus of privileged Ashkenazi Jews, many of whom hold second passports.

Third, the Jewish state would not be as Jewish as some might think: currently one in five Israelis is not Jewish but Palestinian. Although in order to realise a real two-state vision all the Jewish settlers would probably need to leave the occupied territories and return to Israel, what would be done with the Palestinians with Israeli citizenship?

These Palestinians have been citizens for six decades and live legally on land that has belonged to their families for many generations. They are also growing in number at a rate faster than the Jewish population, the reason they are popularly referred to in Israel as a “demographic timebomb”.

Were these 1.3 million citizens to be removed from Israel by force under a two-state arrangement, it would be a violation of international law by a democratic state on a scale unprecedented in the modern era, and an act of ethnic cleansing even larger than the 1948 war that established Israel. The question would be: why even bother advocating two states if it has to be achieved on such appalling terms?

Assuming instead that the new Jewish state is supposed to maintain, as Israel currently does, the pretence of being democratic, these citizens would be entitled to continue living on their land and exercising their rights. Inside a Jewish state that had offically ended its conflict with the Palestinians, demands would grow from Palestinian citizens for equal rights and an end to their second-class status.

Most importantly, they would insist on two rights that challenge the very basis of a Jewish state. They would expect the right, backed by international law, to be able to marry Palestinians from outside Israel and bring them to live with them. And they would want a Right of Return for their exiled relatives on a similar basis to the Law of Return for Jews.

Israel’s Jewishness would be at stake, even more so than it is today from its Palestinian minority. It can be assumed that Israel’s leaders would react with great ferocity to protect the state’s Jewishness. Eventually Israel’s democratic pretensions would have to be jettisoned and the full-scale ethnic cleansing of Palestinian citizens implemented.

Still, do these arguments against the genuine two-state arrangement win the day for the one-state solution? Would Israel’s leaders not put up an equally vicious fight to protect their ethnic privileges by preventing, as they are doing now, the emergence of a single state?

Yes, they would and they will. But that misses my point. As long as Israel is an ethnic state, it will be forced to deepen the occupation and intensify its ethnic cleansing policies to prevent the emergence of genuine Palestinian political influence — for the reasons I cite above and for many others I don’t. In truth, both a one-state and a genuine two-state arrangement are impossible given Israel’s determination to remain a Jewish state.

The obstacle to a solution, then, is not about dividing the land but about Zionism itself, the ideology of ethnic supremacism that is the current orthodoxy in Israel. As long as Israel is a Zionist state, its leaders will allow neither one state nor two real states.

The solution, therefore, reduces to the question of how to defeat Zionism. It just so happens that the best way this can be achieved is by confronting the illusions of the two-state dreamers and explaining why Israel is in permanent bad faith about seeking peace.

In other words, if we stopped distracting ourselves with the Holy Grail of the two-state solution, we might channel our energies into something more useful: discrediting Israel as a Jewish state, and the ideology of Zionism that upholds it. Eventually the respectable façade of Zionism might crumble.

Without Zionism, the obstacle to creating either one or two states will finally be removed. And if that is the case, then why not also campaign for the solution that will best bring justice to both Israelis and Palestinians?

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His new book, “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” is published by Pluto Press. His website is

The CRG grants permission to cross-post original Global Research articles on community internet sites as long as the text & title are not modified. The source and the author’s copyright must be displayed. For publication of Global Research articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact: contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

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The meaning of Gaza’s ‘shoah’: Israel plots another Palestinian exodus by Jonathan Cook

The meaning of Gaza’s ‘shoah’: Israel plots another Palestinian exodus by Jonathan Cook

Dandelion Salad

by Jonathan Cook
Global Research, March 8, 2008

Israeli Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai’s much publicised remark last week about Gaza facing a “shoah” — the Hebrew word for the Holocaust — was widely assumed to be unpleasant hyperbole about the army’s plans for an imminent full-scale invasion of the Strip.

More significantly, however, his comment offers a disturbing indication of the Israeli army’s longer-term strategy towards the Palestinians in the occupied territories.

Vilnai, a former general, was interviewed by Army Radio as Israel was in the midst of unleashing a series of air and ground strikes on populated areas of Gaza that killed more than 100 Palestinians, at least half of whom were civilians and 25 of whom were children, according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

The interview also took place in the wake of a rocket fired from Gaza that killed a student in Sderot and other rockets that hit the centre of the southern city of Ashkelon. Vilnai stated: “The more Qassam fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, they [the Palestinians of Gaza] will bring upon themselves a bigger shoah because we will use all our might to defend ourselves.”

His comment, picked up by the Reuters wire service, was soon making headlines around the world. Presumably uncomfortable with a senior public figure in Israel comparing his government’s policies to the Nazi plan to exterminate European Jewry, many news services referred to Vilnai’s clearly articulated threat as a “warning”, as though he was prophesying a cataclysmic natural event over which he and the Israeli army had no control.

Nonetheless, officials understood the damage that the translation from Hebrew of Vilnai’s remark could do to Israel’s image abroad. And sure enough, Palestinian leaders were soon exploiting the comparison, with both the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and the exiled Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal, stating that a “holocaust” was unfolding in Gaza.

Within hours the Israeli Foreign Ministry was launching a large “hasbara” (propaganda) campaign through its diplomats, as the Jerusalem Post reported. In a related move, a spokesman for Vilnai explained that the word “shoah” also meant “disaster”; this, rather than a holocaust, was what the minister had been referring to. Clarifications were issued by many media outlets.

However, no one in Israel was fooled. “Shoah” — which literally means “burnt offering” — was long ago reserved for the Holocaust, much as the Arabic word “nakba” (or “catastrophe”) is nowadays used only to refer to the Palestinians’ dispossession by Israel in 1948. Certainly, the Israeli media in English translated Vilnai’s use of “shoah” as “holocaust”.

But this is not the first time that Vilnai has expressed extreme views about Gaza’s future.

Last summer he began quietly preparing a plan on behalf of his boss, the Defence Minister Ehud Barak, to declare Gaza a “hostile entity” and dramatically reduce the essential services supplied by Israel — as long-time occupier — to its inhabitants, including electricity and fuel. The cuts were finally implemented late last year after the Israeli courts gave their blessing.

Vilnai and Barak, both former military men like so many other Israeli politicians, have been “selling” this policy — of choking off basic services to Gaza — to Western public opinion ever since.

Under international law, Israel as the occupying power has an obligation to guarantee the welfare of the civilian population in Gaza, a fact forgotten when the media reported Israel’s decision to declare Gaza a hostile entity. The pair have therefore claimed tendentiously that the humanitarian needs of Gazans are still being safeguarded by the limited supplies being allowed through, and that therefore the measures do not constitute collective punishment.

Last October, after a meeting of defence officials, Vilnai said of Gaza: “Because this is an entity that is hostile to us, there is no reason for us to supply them with electricity beyond the minimum required to prevent a crisis.”

Three months later Vilnai went further, arguing that Israel should cut off “all responsibility” for Gaza, though, in line with the advice of Israel’s attorney general, he has been careful not to suggest that this would punish ordinary Gazans excessively.

Instead he said disengagement should be taken to its logical conclusion: “We want to stop supplying electricity to them, stop supplying them with water and medicine, so that it would come from another place”. He suggested that Egypt might be forced to take over responsibility.

Vilnai’s various comments are a reflection of the new thinking inside the defence and political establishments about where next to move Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians.

After the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, a consensus in the Israeli military quickly emerged in favour of maintaining control through a colonial policy of divide and rule, by factionalising the Palestinians and then keeping them feuding.

As long as the Palestinians were too divided to resist the occupation effectively, Israel could carry on with its settlement programme and “creeping annexation” of the occupied territories, as the Defence Minister of the time, Moshe Dayan, called it.

Israel experimented with various methods of undermining the secular Palestinian nationalism of the PLO, which threatened to galvanise a general resistance to the occupation. In particular Israel established local anti-PLO militias known as the Village Leagues and later backed the Islamic fundamentalism of the Muslim Brotherhood, which would morph into Hamas.

Rivalry between Hamas and the PLO, controlled by Fatah, has been the backdrop to Palestinian politics in the occupied territories ever since, and has moved centre stage since Israel’s disengagement from Gaza in 2005. Growing antagonism fuelled by Israel and the US, as an article in Vanity Fair confirmed this week, culminated in the physical separation of a Fatah-run West Bank from a Hamas-ruled Gaza last summer.

The leaderships of Fatah and Hamas are now divided not only geographically but also by their diametrically opposed strategies for dealing with Israel’s occupation.

Fatah’s control of the West Bank is being shored up by Israel because its leaders, including President Mahmoud Abbas, have made it clear that they are prepared to cooperate with an interminable peace process that will give Israel the time it needs to annex yet more of the territory.

Hamas, on the other hand, is under no illusions about the peace process, having seen the Jewish settlers leave but Israel’s military control and its economic siege only tighten from arm’s length.

In charge of an open-air prison, Hamas has refused to surrender to Israeli diktats and has proven invulnerable to Israeli and US machinations to topple it. Instead it has begun advancing the only two feasible forms of resistance available: rocket attacks over the fence surrounding Gaza, and popular mass action.

And this is where the concerns of Vilnai and others emanate from. Both forms of resistance, if Hamas remains in charge of Gaza and improves its level of organisation and the clarity of its vision, could over the long term unravel Israel’s plans to annex the occupied territories — once their Palestinian inhabitants have been removed.

First, Hamas’ development of more sophisticated and longer-range rockets threatens to move Hamas’ resistance to a much larger canvas than the backwater of the small development town of Sderot. The rockets that landed last week in Ashkelon, one of the country’s largest cities, could be the harbingers of political change in Israel.

Hizbullah proved in the 2006 Lebanon war that Israeli domestic opinion quickly crumbled in the face of sustained rocket attacks. Hamas hopes to achieve the same outcome.

After the strikes on Ashkelon, the Israeli media was filled with reports of angry mobs taking to the city’s streets and burning tyres in protest at their government’s failure to protect them. That is their initial response. But in Sderot, where the attacks have been going on for years, the mayor, Eli Moyal, recently called for talks with Hamas. A poll published in the Haaretz daily showed that 64 per cent of Israelis now agree with him. That figure may increase further if the rocket threat grows.

The fear among Israel’s leaders is that “creeping annexation” of the occupied territories cannot be achieved if the Israeli public starts demanding that Hamas be brought to the negotiating table.

Second, Hamas’ mobilisation last month of Gazans to break through the wall at Rafah and pour into Egypt has demonstrated to Israel’s politician-generals like Barak and Vilnai that the Islamic movement has the potential, as yet unrealised, to launch a focused mass peaceful protest against the military siege of Gaza.

Meron Benvenisti, a former deputy mayor of Jersualem, noted that this scenario “frightens the army more than a violent conflict with armed Palestinians”. Israel fears that the sight of unarmed women and children being executed for the crime of trying to free themselves from the prison Israel has built for them may give the lie to the idea that the disengagement ended the occupation.

When several thousand Palestinians held a demonstration a fortnight ago in which they created a human chain along part of Gaza’s fence with Israel, the Israeli army could hardly contain its panic. Heavy artillery batteries were brought to the perimeter and snipers were ordered to shoot protesters’ legs if they approached the fence.

As Amira Hass, Haaretz’s veteran reporter in the occupied territories, observed, Israel has so far managed to terrorise most ordinary Gazans into a paralysed inactivity on this front. In the main Palestinians have refused to take the “suicidal” course of directly challenging their imprisonment by Israel, even peacefully: “The Palestinians do not need warnings or reports to know the Israeli soldiers shoot the unarmed as well, and they also kill women and children.”

But that may change as the siege brings ever greater misery to Gaza.

As a result, Israel’s immediate priorities are: to provoke Hamas regularly into violence to deflect it from the path of organising mass peaceful protest; to weaken the Hamas leadership through regular executions; and to ensure that an effective defence against the rockets is developed, including technology like Barak’s pet project, Iron Dome, to shield the country from attacks.

In line with these policies, Israel broke the latest period of “relative calm” in Gaza by initiating the executions of five Hamas members last Wednesday. Predictably, Hamas responded by firing into Israel a barrage of rockets that killed the student in Sderot, in turn justifying the bloodbath in Gaza.

But a longer-term strategy is also required, and is being devised by Vilnai and others. Aware both that the Gaza prison is tiny and its resources scarce and that the Palestinian population is growing at a rapid rate, Israel needs a more permanent solution. It must find a way to stop the growing threat posed by Hamas’ organised resistance, and the social explosion that will come sooner or later from the Strip’s overcrowding and inhuman conditions.

Vilnai’s remark hints at that solution, as do a series of comments from cabinet ministers over the past few weeks proposing war crimes to stop the rockets. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, for example, has said that Gazans cannot be allowed “to live normal lives”; Internal Security Minister, Avi Dichter, believes Israel should take action “irrespective of the cost to the Palestinians”; and the Interior Minister, Meir Sheetrit, suggests the Israeli army should “decide on a neighborhood in Gaza and level it” after each attack.

This week Barak revealed that his officials were working on the last idea, finding a way to make it lawful for the army to direct artillery fire and air strikes at civilian neighbourhoods of Gaza in response to rocket fire. They are already doing this covertly, of course, but now they want their hands freed by making it official policy, sanctioned by the international community.

At the same time Vilnai proposed a related idea, of declaring areas of Gaza “combat zones” in which the army would have free rein and from which residents would have little choice but to flee. In practice, this would allow Israel to expel civilians from wide areas of the Strip, herding them into ever smaller spaces, as has been happening in the West Bank for some time.

All these measures – from the intensification of the siege to prevent electricity, fuel and medicines from reaching Gaza to the concentration of the population into even more confined spaces, as well as new ways of stepping up the violence inflicted on the Strip – are thinly veiled excuses for targeting and punishing the civilian population. They necessarily preclude negotiation and dialogue with Gaza’s political leaders.

Until now, it had appeared, Israel’s plan was eventually to persuade Egypt to take over the policing of Gaza, a return to its status before the 1967 war. The view was that Cairo would be even more ruthless in cracking down on the Islamic militants than Israel. But increasingly Vilnai and Barak look set on a different course.

Their ultimate goal appears to be related to Vilnai’s “shoah” comment: Gaza’s depopulation, with the Strip squeezed on three sides until the pressure forces Palestinians to break out again into Egypt. This time, it may be assumed, there will be no chance of return.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His new book, “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East”, is published by Pluto Press. His website is

The CRG grants permission to cross-post original Global Research articles on community internet sites as long as the text & title are not modified. The source and the author’s copyright must be displayed. For publication of Global Research articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact: contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

For media inquiries:
© Copyright Jonathan Cook, Global Research, 2008
The url address of this article is:


Israeli Minister Warns of Palestinian Holocaust By Liam Bailey

US plot to overthrow elected Palestinian government exposed

Gaza Under Siege by Ralph Nader

Encounter Point – The Documentary + trailer

Statement on Gaza Bill By Ron Paul

The CIA Plot To Overthrow Hamas (videos)

Revealed: the US plan to start a Palestinian civil war

Condoleezza Rice News Conference in Ramallah


Academic freedom? Not for Arabs in Israel by Jonathan Cook

Dandelion Salad

by Jonathan Cook
Global Research, February 29, 2008

In the strange world of Israeli academia, an Arab college lecturer is being dismissed from his job because he refused to declare his “respect for the uniform of the Israeli army”. The bizarre demand was made of Nizar Hassan, director of several award-winning films, after he criticised a Jewish student who arrived in his film studies class at Sapir College in the Negev for wearing his uniform and carrying a gun.

The incident raises disturbing questions about the freedom of Israeli academics, sheds light on the veneration of the military in Israeli public life, and exposes the close, verging on incestuous, ties between the army and Israeli academia.

Meanwhile, for many of Israel’s 1.2 million Palestinian citizens, who are nearly a fifth of the country’s population, Hassan’s treatment confirms their fears that decades of discrimination, especially in higher education, are far from over.

Hassan has faced a storm of criticism, including claims that he is anti-Semitic, since the Israeli media mistakenly reported back in November that he had thrown out of class one of his students, Eyal Cohen, over the way he was dressed. Hassan and most of the students present say Cohen was simply warned not to attend class in future wearing his uniform.

The story soon gained a life of its own, becoming the subject of incensed talk shows and newspaper columns. A group of rightwing college staff and students lobbied for Hassan, the only Arab lecturer in the film school, to be dismissed, and the Knesset’s Education Committee denounced him.

Critics claim, apparently without irony, that Hassan humiliated the student, abused the concept of academic freedom and impugned the reputation of the Israeli army.

Condemnation has come from surprising quarters, including the journalist Gideon Levy, better known for his articles attacking the army’s treatment of the Palestinians under occupation.

But more predictable has been outrage from the right. Last month two leaders of extremist Jewish settlers in Hebron, Baruch Marzel and Itimar Ben Gvir, announced that they had enrolled on Hassan’s course. “I would love for him to ask me about my army service,” said Marzel. “I can only assure you that he will be the one walking out of the classroom.”

The army added its voice too, with senior officers, including the Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, putting pressure on Sapir College to publicly rebuke the film-maker and punish him.

A letter from the head of army personnel, General Elazar Stern, accused the college of failing to act with “proper determination” and urged that Hassan face “sharp, public, official condemnation”. Stern added that Hassan must be made to apologise or be sacked, otherwise the army would end its funding of places for hundreds of soldiers who attend courses at Sapir.

Most academic institutions in Israel not only depend on such funding but receive special grants and endowments for research in security-related subjects. The Israeli revisionist historian Ilan Pappe, who was forced out of Haifa University last year, estimates that half of lecturers in Israeli universities have ties to the security services.

In Sapir College’s case, links to the army have been reinforced by its location in Sderot, a poor development town close to Gaza that is the target of most of the Qassam rockets fired into Israel.

Under growing pressure, the college’s Academic Council suspended Hassan without offering him a hearing. It also appointed for the first time in the college’s history an academic committee to investigate the incident and report on what disciplinary action should be taken.

The committee published its report late last month, conceding that he is an “outstanding teacher” but offering only a cursory examination the events at the centre of the controversy. Instead the members harshly criticised Hassan’s behaviour and personality and recommended that he apologise to Cohen or face dismissal.

The college’s president, Zeev Tzahor, intervened by contributing his own condition. He wrote to Hassan telling him that in his apology “you must refer to your obligation to be respectful to the IDF uniform and the full right of every student to enter your classroom in uniform.”

Hassan refused and, according to reports last week, the college has begun proceedings to dismiss him.

“The whole reaction has been hysterical,” Hassan, who lives in Nazareth, said. “It really surprised me, as did the lies that were told about what had happened.”

His students say the issue has been blown out proportion and that Hassan has never hidden his opposition to militarism, wherever it exists.

Enass Masri, one of two Arab students in Hassan’s film class, said: “When he saw Cohen wearing his uniform, he explained that all military uniforms — of the Israeli army, of Fatah or of Hamas — are symbols of violence and that he does not allow them into his classroom.

“His concerns about the blurring in Israeli society of the boundaries between the civil and military are well known.”

She added that the mistaken reports about Cohen being thrown out of class may have been part of a long-standing campaign to oust Hassan from his job. He had made himself unpopular with some staff and students by speaking his mind, she said. “Some people at the college are not prepared to accept the kind of things he says from an Arab.”

Sapir College calls itself “a lighthouse in the Negev”, and its film school once had a reputaton for encouraging dissenting social and political opinions.

In other Israeli colleges, discussion of “politics” — a euphemism for views not officially sanctioned — is rarely allowed.

For example, at Haifa University, which has the largest Arab student body in the country, all protests on campus are banned unless licensed by the vice-chancellor. Unofficial demonstrations, however peaceful, are broken up and usually filmed by security staff. Video evidence is used as grounds for suspending or expelling students.

Sapir’s president, Tzahor, recently told the Haaretz newspaper that his motto is: “Politics — only as far as the classroom door.”

However, the college’s definition of “politics” appears selective. In another recent incident at Sapir, lecturer Shlomit Tamari told a Bedouin student to remove her head-covering, telling her it was a sign of her oppression. No disciplinary action was taken against Tamari, who is unrepentant: “I told the college that I have academic freedom, and I can talk about that subject and I am continuing to do so.”

Enass Masri said she was also shocked that the college committee did not question the students in Hassan’s class about what took place. “We thought we would be able to put the record straight, but we were never invited to testify.

“Almost all of the students are on Hassan’s side, and we wrote a letter to the college authorities in protest at his treatment.”

Instead, she says, the committee interpreted the “meaning” of what happened, accordng to their own view of Hassan. “They looked at him not as a human being but as an Arab, and Arabs are not allowed to have an opinion on Israeli militarism.”

Hassan takes a slightly different view. Describing his questioning by the committee, he said: ”They wanted me to be the Palestinian in the room, and I refused to oblige. They wanted to believe that I object to the army uniform because I am Palestinian. But I reject the uniform because it is opposed to my universal and human values. I acted as I did because I am a teacher and a human being.

“What shocked me was that the committee refused to believe that could be my motivation.”

Certainly the committee’s report dismisses Hassan’s arguments, claiming: “Nizar abused his status and his authority as a teacher to flaunt his opinions, feelings and frustrations as a member of the Arab national minority in Israel, cloaking himself in a ‘humane’ and ‘universal’ garb, whereas in fact he demonstrated a stance of brute force bearing a distinctly nationalist character.”

Haim Bresheeth, an Israeli film-maker who was dean of Sapir’s film school between 1996 and 2002, until he was hounded out over his anti-Zionist views, wrote to Tzahor, the college president, arguing that he was making an “irrational and immoral demand” in expecting Hassan to respect the army’s uniform.

Bresheeth, referring to the reserve duty that most Israeli Jewish men perform well into their forties, added: “You are a soldier first, and only then an academic … I call on the historian Zeev Tzahor to refuse the orders of Major Zeev Tzahor.”

As in most other areas of Israeli life, the country’s Palestinian minority faces systematic discrimination in higher education. No public university is located in an Arab community or teaches in Arabic, and, though the minority is a fifth of the population, fewer than 1 per cent of lecturers are Arab.

In addition, the number of Arab students is third of their proportion in the population — an under-representation that is apparently intentional. In 2003, psychometric tests biased towards Western culture were scrapped in an effort to help “weaker sections” of society gain acceptance to university. However, when the Committee of University Heads learnt that the number of Arabs entering university had risen sharply as a result, the tests were immediately reinstated.

Several leading Israeli academics are outspoken racists, including David Bukay and Arnon Sofer at Haifa University and Raphael Israeli at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The latter was called as an “expert” witness by the state at a trial in 2004 in which he stated that the Arab mentality was composed of “a sense of victimization”, “pathological anti-Semitism” and “a tendency to live in a world of illusions”.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His new book, “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” is published by Pluto Press. His website is

Jonathan Cook is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Jonathan Cook

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Quaker teacher fired for changing loyalty oath

“Israel & the Clash of Civilisations” by Stephen Lendman (Jonathan Cook)

Dandelion Salad

by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, February 4, 2008

A Review of Jonathan Cook’s book

Jonathan Cook is a British-born independent journalist based (since September 2001) in the predominantly Arab city of Nazareth, Israel and is the “first foreign correspondent (living) in the Israeli Arab city….” He’s a former reporter and editor of regional newspapers, a freelance sub-editor with national newspapers, and a staff journalist for the London-based Guardian and Observer newspapers. He’s also written for The Times, Le Monde diplomatique, the International Herald Tribune, Al-Ahram Weekly and In February 2004, he founded the Nazareth Press Agency.

Cook states why he’s in Nazareth as follows: to give himself “greater freedom to reflect on the true nature of the (Israeli-Palestinian) conflict and (gain) fresh insight into its root causes.” He “choose(s) the issues (he) wish(es) to cover (and so is) not constrained by the ‘treadmill’ of the mainstream media….which gives disproportionate coverage to the concerns of the powerful (so it) makes much of their Israel/Palestine reporting implausible.”

Living among Arabs, “things look very different” to Cook. “There are striking, and disturbing, similarities between” the Palestinian experience inside Israel and within the Occupied Territories. “All have faced Zionism’s appetite for territory and domination, as well as repeated (and unabated) attempts at ethnic cleaning.”

Cook authored two important books and contributed to others. His first one in 2006 was titled “Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish and Democratic State.” It’s the rarely told story of the plight of the 1.4 million Palestinian Israeli citizens living inside the Jewish State, the discrimination against them, the reasons why, and the likely future consequences from it. Israel’s “demographic problem” is the issue as Cook explains. It’s the time when a faster-growing Palestinian population (aside from the diaspora) becomes a majority, and the very character of a “Jewish State” is threatened. Israel’s response – state-sponsored repression and violent ethnic cleansing to prevent it – in the Territories as well as and in Israel.

Cook’s newest book, just published, is called “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East.” It’s the subject of this review in the wake of advance praise. Noted author John Pilger calls it “One of the most cogent understandings of the modern Middle East I have read. It is superb, because the author himself is a unique witness” to events and powerfully documents them. This review covers them in-depth along with some of this writer’s reflections on the region from America.

Introducing his topic, Cook begins with Iraq and states upfront that “civil war and partition were the intended outcomes of invasion.” Separation and conflict were planned, they serve America’s interests, they’re not haphazard post-invasion events, and they originated far from Washington.

From the early 1980s, it was Israeli policy to subdue the Palestinians, fragment Arab rivals, and foster ethnic and religious discord to maintain unchallengeable regional dominance. Bush administration neocons chose the same strategy. Like Israel, they want to neutralize the region through division and separation and make it work even though prior to invading Iraq, Sunni and Shia neighborhoods were indistinguishable, and the country had the highest intermarriage rate in the region.

The scheme is “Ottomanisation,” and it worked for Ottoman Turkey against a more dominant Islam. Israel sees four advantages to it:

— divided minorities are easier to exploit, and Sunni – Shia conflict can achieve a greater aim – subverting Israel’s main threat – secular Arab nationalism united against the Jewish State;

— greater military dominance lets Israel maintain its favored status as a valued Washington ally;

— regional instability may lead to the breakup of Saudi-dominated OPEC, weaken the kingdom’s influence in Washington, and diminish its ability to finance Islamic extremists and Palestinian resistance; and

— Israel becomes freerer to ethnically cleanse Palestinians from Israel and the Occupied Territories.

Washington supported the scheme post-9/11, the “war on terror” was born, a clash of civilizations ensued, and the idea was that “Control of oil could be secured on the same terms as Israeli regional hegemony: by spreading instability across the Middle East” and Central Asia through a new-type divide and conquer strategy. For Israel, it weakens regional rivals and dampens Palestinian nationalism and their hopes for “meaningful statehood.”

Regime Overthrow in Iraq

Removing Saddam Hussein was justified to disarm a dangerous dictator threatening the region. It was untrue and based on “False Pretenses” according to a study by two nonprofit journalism organizations. On January 22, it was posted on the Center for Public Integrity web site. It’s “an exhaustive examination of the record” that shows the President and his seven top officials “waged a carefully orchestrated campaign of misinformation about the threat” Iraq posed to galvanize public opinion and go to war “under decidedly false pretenses.”

At least 532 separate speeches, briefings, interviews, testimonies and more provide the evidence. They show a concerted web of lies became the administration’s case for war even though it’s clear Iraq had no WMDs or any ties to Al-Queda. Numerous bipartisan investigations drew the same conclusion, including those by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in 2004 and 2006, the multinational Iraq Survey Group’s “Duelfer Report,” and even the dubious 9/11 Commission.

The study cites 232 false Bush statements alone about WMDs and 28 others about links to Al-Queda. Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and others put out the same lies that increased after August 2002 and spiked much higher in the weeks preceding invasion. In all, the study documented 935 false statements, the dominant media spread them, their deception is now revealed, and yet the administration avoided any responsibility for its actions and the media is unapologetic. In addition, there are no congressional investigations, and the war is still misportrayed as a liberating one when its clear intent was to erase a nation, divide and rule it, turn it into a free market paradise, use it as a launching platform to dominate the region, and control its oil.

Saddam was never a credible threat. In addition, he’d been effectively disarmed in the early 1990s, but US officials suppressed what UN weapons inspectors’ learned – the Gulf War neutralized Iraq and “there were no unresolved disarmament issues.” Further, Saddam’s son-in-law, Hussein Kamel, ran the country’s WMD program in the 1980s and early 1990s. In 1995, he defected to the West, was thoroughly debriefed, and confirmed that there was no nuclear program, and “Iraq destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons stocks and the missiles to deliver them.”

The story was widely reported at the time, including a front page New York Times August 12 article headlined “Cracks in Baghdad” plus several subsequent follow-ups as events developed. It was then buried, however, and never resurfaced in the run-up to March, 2003. For Iraqis, the consequences were horrific, and they began after Saddam was tricked into invading Kuwait.

Four days later, Operation Desert Shield was launched, economic sanctions followed, a large US troop buildup began, and a sweeping Kuwait-funded PR campaign prepared the public for Operation Desert Shield. It began on January 17, 1991, ended on February 28, caused mass killing, and all essential to life facilities were destroyed, effectively returning the country to its pre-industrial condition.

Twelve years of the most comprehensive, genocidal sanctions followed. They included a crippling trade embargo and an air blockade to enforce it. Adequate humanitarian essentials were restricted, and the 1995 UN Oil-for-Food Program was a well-planned scam. Until it ended after March 2003, it provided the equivalent of 21 cents a day for food and 4 cents for medicines. In addition, vital drugs and other essentials were banned because of their claimed potential “dual use.”

The toll was horrific and got two UN heads of Iraqi humanitarian relief to resign with Dennis Halliday saying in 1998 that he did so because he “had been instructed to implement a policy that satisfies the definition of genocide: a deliberate policy that has effectively killed over one million individuals, children and adults,” including 5000 Iraqi children a month in his judgment.

Conditions got worse post-March 2003 with street violence commonplace; mounting deaths and injuries; and a total breakdown of essential services, including electricity, clean drinking water, sanitation, medical care, and education made worse by mass unemployment and poverty – an occupation-created humanitarian disaster of epic proportions that continues to worsen.

Four million refugees left the country or are internally displaced, one-third of the population needs emergency aid, millions can’t get enough food, malnourishment is rampant, medical care barely exists, and the British medical journal The Lancet published the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health study on the death toll in October 2006. It estimated 655,000 violent deaths since March 2003 that could be as high as 900,000 at the time (and now much higher) because interviewers couldn’t survey the country’s most violent areas and omitted from the study thousands of families in which all members were killed.

Cook quoted a Palestinian academic, Karma Nabulsi, citing similarities between Iraq and occupied Palestine – two populations “living in a Hobbesian vision of an anarchic society: truncated, violent, powerless, destroyed, cowed, ruled by disparate militias, gangs, religious ideologues and extremists, broken up into ethnic and religious tribalism and co-opted collaborationists.” Palestinians and Iraqis resist, demand their freedom, and polls shows overwhelming numbers want the occupations to end. In Iraq, almost no one thinks America came to liberate them or establish democracy.

Nearly everyone knows Washington’s real intent – permanent occupation to control the country’s oil so Big Oil giants can exploit it for profit, deny Iraqis their own natural wealth, and give America “veto power” over rivals and potential ones to assure their compliance.

A September 1978 Joint Chiefs of Staff memorandum is particularly notable. It listed three US Middle East objectives:

— “assure continuous access to petroleum resources,

— prevent an inimical power or combination of powers from establishing hegemony, and

— assure the survival of Israel as an independent state in a stable relationship with contiguous Arab states.”

Of great concern to US planners, then and now, is “curbing and crushing (Arab and Iranian) nationalism that might inspire Middle Eastern states” to claim the right to their own resources and deny the West their benefits. Twentieth century history documents how Britain and America controlled the region, installed puppet rulers, backed repressive dictators, removed uncompliant ones, and looted oil-rich states for their gain. Iraq is now exploited, local industry was crushed, US corporations plunder the country, and the so-called hydrocarbon law gives Big Oil the same right to the nation’s oil – if it’s enacted but so far it’s stalled.

The Iraqi cabinet approved it last February, but that’s where things now stand because of mass public opposition to a blueprint for plunder. If the puppet parliament passes it, foreign investors will reap a bonanza of resources leaving Iraq with just slivers. Its complex provisions, still being manipulated, give the Iraqi National Oil Company exclusive control to less than one-fifth of the country’s operating fields with all yet-to-be-discovered deposits (most of Iraq’s reserves) set aside for Big Oil. Even worse, contracts (under “production sharing agreements”) up to 35 years will be granted, all earnings may be expropriated, and foreign interests have no obligation to invest in Iraq’s economy, partner with Iraqi companies, hire local workers, respect union rights, or share new technologies.

Earlier in the 20th century, America coveted Middle East oil once its potential was realized. Post-WW I, however, Britain occupied Iraq and Kuwait, benefitted most until WW II, miscalculated on Saudi’s importance, and let the Roosevelt administration secure an oil concession in the 1930s that began close ties between the two nations. The President and King ibn Saud struck a deal. America guaranteed the kingdom’s security in return for a steady supply of oil at stable prices, and later on, the recycling of huge petrodollar profits into US investments and military hardware.

Thereafter, the region was key, and the Carter Doctrine highlighted it after engineering the Shah’s removal in 1979. Carter stated – “Let our position be absolutely clear: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America (and) will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”

Post-9/11, the Bush Doctrine applied Carter policy globally in the 2002 National Security Strategy (NSS), later revised and made harsher in 2006. It’s an imperial grand plan for world dominance, preventive wars are the strategy, the Middle East and Central Asia are its main targets, and the powerful Israeli Lobby assures Washington and Tel Aviv interests are in lockstep. More on that below.

The Long Campaign against Iran

The January 2007 Herzliya, Israel conference was notable for what’s become the country’s premiere political event. This one differed from others in two respects. Forty-two past and present US policy makers were invited, and attention focused on a Shia “arc of extremism” with debates and discussion highlighting Iran and Hezbollah.

Participants claimed Iran spread regional instability, was close to developing nuclear weapons, and would use them against Israel. There were similar echoes from the January 2008 conference with comments from speakers like Ehud Barak saying “The Iranian nuclear threat remains critical (and) We will not accept an Iran which possesses a nuclear capable military.” General Ephraim Sneh added “Our problem is not the nuclear problem, but rather the Iranian regime. (It) incorporates imperial ambition, hatred of Israel, increasing military strength, and an unlimited budget.” Ignored was common knowledge or any glimmer of truth – that the late Ayatollah Khomeini banned nuclear weapons development, today’s Iranian officials repeatedly stress the country’s only nuclear aim is commercial, and Tehran represents no threat to Israel or any other country in or outside the region.

Since the early 1990s, Israel claimed otherwise – that Iran sought nuclear weapons, represented an existential threat, and had to be confronted. By 1994, Haaretz reported that the country’s top priority was neutralizing Iran to thwart its regional aspirations because Tehran threatened to acquire nuclear weapons, long-range missiles, and had the ability to export terrorism and revolution to subvert secular Arab regimes. Iraq was already under sanctions, but Israel saw both countries as a combined threat. Weakening one would only strengthen the other, so both had to be smashed.

With Iraq under occupation, Iran’s now called the center of world terrorism and packaged with Syria and Hezbollah as Israel’s axis of evil with Hamas added later after its early 2006 electoral victory. Israel has big aims – to become a regional hegemon, prevent a rival power from influencing the “peace process,” and deny the Palestinians any hope of ending the occupation. It thus manufactured an Iranian threat and along with Washington blocks dialogue and negotiation.

Claiming Iran is a nuclear menace runs counter to the facts. Tehran is years away from producing nuclear power, and IAEA head Mouhammad el-Baradei reports no evidence that Iran is building or seeks to build nuclear weapons. He also told the press last August that “Iran is ready to discuss all outstanding issues which triggered the crisis in confidence. It’s a significant step. There are clear guidelines (and Iran is not) dallying with the agency (or) prolong(ing) negotiations to avoid sanctions….Iran (deserves) a chance to prove its stated goodwill.”

IAEA also reported Iran’s uranium enrichment program slowed, operates well below capacity, and isn’t producing nuclear fuel in significant amounts. It had only 1968 centrifuges functioning, several hundred others in various stages of assembly or testing, and its enrichment level is well below what’s needed to build a nuclear bomb. In addition, in December 2007, the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) reported that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 (without evidence one ever existed) and has none of these weapons in its arsenal.

The Bush administration and Israel sidestepped NIE and denounced the IAEA, called it an Iranian ploy to buy time, and “There was no (Israeli) debate about which country should be targeted after Iraq.” The goal was to isolate Iran, end its threat to Israel, but avoid the mistake of invading and occupying another country with Iraq already out of control. Other choices were preferable – stoking internal conflict, inciting instability, attacking by air, and deciding which reports to believe.

An August 2007 one called “Considering a war with Iran: A discussion paper on WMDs in the Middle East” was particularly alarming. British experts Dan Plesch and Martin Butcher prepared it, other evidence of impending conflict supported it, no date was given, but they stated things are too far along in planning to stop. They wrote the Pentagon has plans for a “massive, multi-front, full-spectrum” shock and awe-type attack with no ground invasion. Its aim is to target 10,000 sites with bombers and long-range missiles, destroy the country’s military capacity, nuclear energy sites, economic infrastructure and other targets to destabilize and oust its regime or reduce the country to a “weak or failed state.”

Washington also pressured the UN to impose sanctions on Iran. In July 2006, the Security Council passed Resolution 1696 demanding Tehran halt enriching uranium by August 31 or be sanctioned. UN Resolution 1737 followed in December, cited the country’s nuclear program and imposed limited sanctions with further ones applied after UN Resolution 1747 passed in March. On January 22, 2008, the five permanent Security Council members and Germany agreed to a third round of sanctions that was less than what the Bush administration wanted.

The cat and mouse game continues, the threat of wider war remains, and nothing may be resolved with the current administration in power. Nor is there much chance for change under a new one in 2009 as hawkish candidates from both parties dominate the race and support Israel’s design on Iran.

The Islamic Republic remains Target One, but on July 12, 2006 the Olmert government surprised. It attacked Lebanon in a blatant act of aggression. It later came out the war was long-planned, Washington was on board, and a minor incident became the pretext to launch it. The target was Hezbollah, and the scheme was to remove what former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage once called “the A-team of international terrorism.” That was his way of noting a long-time Israeli irritant that was able to liberate Lebanon’s south by ending the IDF’s 22 year occupation in May 2000.

By summer 2006, strong rhetoric suggested a wider war with Iran and Syria. Both countries were accused of supplying Hezbollah with thousands of rockets to “wipe Israel off the map,” and they were being indiscriminately used to do it.

In fact, Hezbollah was founded as a national liberation movement after Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982. It’s not an Islamist or terrorist organization as its founding mission statement reveals. It was an “open letter to all the oppressed in Lebanon and the world” stating its aims – to drive the US, French and Israeli occupiers out of Lebanon, defeat the right wing Christian Maronite Phalange party allied with Israel, and give our people “liberty (in) the form of government they desire.” It added “we don’t want to impose Islam upon anybody. We don’t want Islam to reign in Lebanon by force as is the case with the Maronites today.”

Today, Hezbollah is a legitimate political and social organization that maintains a military wing for self-defense. It represents Lebanon’s Shia population (40% of the total) and is respected for running a comprehensive network of schools, health facilities and other social services available to anyone in need, not just Shias. Nonetheless, it’s been unfairly branded anti-Jewish, accused of wanting to destroy Israel, and Washington put it on its Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) list in 1997.

In summer 2006, Hezbollah responded to Israeli aggression as its legitimate right. It targeted military, not civilian, sites with spotty accuracy, hit some, and proved to Israel’s embarrassment that its forces, Iran and Syria knew site locations that could be struck more accurately with more powerful weapons in retaliation if attacked.

The threat is real, but Hezbollah was the first order of business. Its rockets had to be eliminated as Seymour Hersh reported. Otherwise, “You hit Iran (or Syria first), Hezbollah then bombs Tel Aviv and Haifa,” but more was at stake as well. Backing Lebanon’s Siniora government against a weakened Hezbollah and asserting the army’s control in the south was key. In addition, with Iran and Syria potential targets, the Pentagon wanted Israel to field test its bunker-buster bombs to learn their effectiveness in advance.

Hezbollah was more formidable than expected, it prevailed against Israel’s might, its leader, Sheik Hassan Nasralah, is stronger than ever, his support extends beyond his Shia base in the south, the IDF suffered a humiliating defeat, and that’s where things now stand. Had the Olmert government prevailed, Cook reports that an air attack on Syria was planned, President Bashar Assad apparently knew it, a credible Washington source revealed it, and the Israeli media suggested the Bush administration wanted Israel to proceed.

Further hawkishness came from Hebrew University professor Martin van Creveld, a respected military historian “with intimate knowledge of the army’s inner workings and its collective ethos.” His March 2007 Jewish Daily Forward commentary argued that Syria planned to attack Israel no later than October 2008, possibly with chemical weapons, but no evidence was cited. He merely said the Assad government “had been on an armaments shopping spree in Russia” and let readers draw their own conclusions. Israel, he claimed, was thus justified to attack preemptively even though there was credible evidence that Syria sought resolution on the Golan issue, made overtures to negotiate, and the Olmert government believed Assad was serious.

Nonetheless, he was rebuffed and hard line Washington and Tel Aviv officials prevailed. Appeasing Iran and Syria was off the table, removing their “dire threat” had to be confronted, and it hardly mattered that none existed. Then came November 2006. Olmert’s approval rating was dismal, and a newspaper poll showed Netanyahu would best him in fresh elections. US Republicans were just as weak. The November 2006 congressional elections sent a strong message – end the war and bring home the troops. For the first time since 9/11, neocon dominance was uncertain, tensions surfaced in the administration, and a change of direction looked possible.

James Baker’s Iraq Study Group recommended one in December. It argued that US forces should be gradually withdrawn from Iraq, Iran and Syria should be engaged to help stabilize “what was clearly a failed state,” and the home front battle lines were drawn. Key Bush advisors continued to claim Iran was the problem by trying to undermine Washington in Iraq. It was stirring up Shia resistance, arming the Sunnis, and countering Tehran required greater US involvement, not an exit.

For a while, it wasn’t clear how things would turn out, but in the end the administration remained hard line, and in early 2007 announced a 30,000 troop surge, stepped up pressure against Iran, and positioned a major naval strike force in the Gulf. At the same time, President Ahmadinejad became another “Hitler” and was misquoted as saying he was trying to “wipe Israel off the map.” He actually said “this regime that is occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time” in a reference to its military conquest, illegally occupying Jerusalem, colonizing the Occupied Territories, and repressing the Palestinian people. Ultimately, these policies will fail, and respected analysts say the same thing.

Ahmadinejad made no reference to Jews, only a racist Israeli government that relegates non-Jews to second class status or worse. Regardless of his words and meaning, every move and comment he now makes is scrutinized for any way to attack him.

End of the Strongmen

Cook asks why were Israel and the US extending the “war on terror” to the strongest Middle East state, Iran, since it’s the one most able to alleviate crisis in Iraq? Why turn a “clash of civilisations” into an added Sunni-Shia struggle and risk making an unstable situation worse? Many Middle Eastern states are “uncomfortable amalgams of Sunni and Shia populations” because they were combined into unnatural states post-WW I. By late 2006, internal conflicts destabilized Iraq and Lebanon, threatened to spread, and Washington and Tel Aviv were encouraging it.

By confronting Iran and Syria, things may only worsen, but White House reasoning is that this as preferable to a united resistance targeting its occupation. Israel has the same view, and it lay behind the summer 2006 Lebanon war. At its start, it was hoped conflict would unite Christians and Sunnis against Hezbollah and repeat the sectarian civil war that ravaged the country from 1975 to 1990. Instead, the nation united against Israel, and Hezbollah’s power and overall status was enhanced, the opposite of what Tel Aviv planned.

The same strategy is playing out in the Occupied Territories, but its outcome is unresolved. After Hamas’ electoral victory, Israel refused recognition, and the US and West went along. All outside aid was cut off, an economic embargo and sanctions were imposed, and the legitimate government was isolated. Stepped up repression followed along with repeated IDF incursions and attacks, and the idea was to foment internal conflict on Gaza streets. It went on for months, then subsided (with occasional flare-ups) when Hamas prevailed against Fatah. It defeated Mahmoud Abbas’ heavily US-Israeli-armed paramilitaries that were led by Mohammed Dahlan. In spite of defeat, Israel achieved a long-standing aim. It split the Palestinians into two rival camps in Gaza and the West Bank and recognized the unelected Abbas government as legitimate.

Israel plans the same fate for Syria, but Cook says its “closed society (is) more difficult to read.” Nonetheless, Congress passed the Syria Accountability Act in late 2003 to justify a US and/or Israeli future attack on any pretext that’s never hard to find. A clause in the law states Syria is “accountable for any harm to Coalition armed forces or to any United States citizen in Iraq if the government of Syria is found to be responsible” even without proof. Whatever Syria does, it’s thwarted despite clear evidence it seeks peace with the West and Israel and will make concessions in return for resolution to long-outstanding issues like the Golan.

Cook thus wonders “who controls American foreign policy? Does the dog wag the tail or the opposite given the power of Israel to influence policy? One camp argues the former with distinguished figures like Noam Chomsky believing Washington has a “consistent, predictable and monolithic view of American interests abroad” and how best to secure them.

How to explain Iraq then since the administration rejected the advice of many of its key policy advisors, including what Big Oil wanted. Instead, it opted for a messy “regime overthrow,” not a simpler “regime change” that worked well in the past without war and occupation. In addition, attacking Iran guarantees regional turmoil, greater instability, regimes likely toppling, intensified Iraq conflict targeting Americans, higher oil prices, possible world recession, and no assurance of a favorable outcome.

Why risk it when Iran sought dialogue for years, but Washington consistently refuses. Cook cites two US academics, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt and might have included James Petras’ work and his powerfully important book titled “The Power of Israel in the United States.” This writer reviewed it in-depth and was greatly struck by its persuasive content. It documents the Lobby’s depth and breath at the highest levels of government, throughout Congress, business boardrooms, academia, the clergy (especially dominant Christian fundamentalists) and the mass media. Together they assure full and unconditional support for most Israeli interests most of the time going back decades. Wars included – in the Occupied Territories, against Lebanon, the Gulf War, the current Iraq war as well as all Israeli wars since 1967 and the prospect of engaging Iran and Syria despite strong opposition at home.

Cook presents his own view saying “the dog and tail wag each other,” and that’s Israel’s strategy by making both countries dependent on the other for dominance in and outside the region. He believes Israel persuaded administration neocons that both countries shared mutual goals. It worked because it placed US interests of global domination and controlling oil at the heart of strategy.

Consider also a long-standing “special relationship” between the two countries going back decades. Senate Foreign Relations Committee private meeting transcripts before and after the 1967 war reveal it. They explain, early on, that Washington valued Israel as a strategic ally in a vitally important part of the world. Aside from oil, the Johnson administration called Israel a useful Cold War asset at a time Russia courted leading Arab states and made progress. Its regional wars were also helpful to confront the kind of nationalist threat Egypt’s Nasser represented. They split regional states into irreconcilable camps – weak Gulf ones like the Saudis needing US protection; stronger regimes in Egypt, Jordan and Iran under the Shah; and outliers like Syria, Libya, Iraq and Iran after 1979.

Cook recounts Ariel Sharon’s vision of empire as a regional superpower in an early 1980s speech he never made. He radically departed from Israel’s traditional strategy of either seeking peace or directly confronting hostile neighbors. His new thinking was to extend Tel Aviv’s influence to the whole region by achieving qualitative and technological weapons superiority.

Sharon was a seasoned general, his views were respected, and he greatly influenced younger officers who rose in prominence and, in the case of Ehud Barak, became Prime Minister like himself. He believed Israel should impose its dictates and force other regional states to comply or be punished.

The “Sharon Doctrine,” as its called, also reflected the views National Security Adviser, General Uzi Dayan, and Mossad head, Ephraim Halevy stated in December 2001. They called 9/11 a “Hannukkah miracle” because it gave Israel a chance to marginalize and confront its enemies. Henceforth, all “Islamic terror” elements could be grouped together as threats to the region’s rulers. Confronting it was crucial, so after Afghanistan Iraq, Iran and Syria were next “as soon as possible.” It was Dick Cheney’s vision of permanent “war that won’t end in our lifetimes.”

In 1982, Israeli journalist and former Foreign Affairs Ministry senior advisor, Oded Yinon, proposed an even more radical idea. Like Sharon, he advocated transforming Israel into a regional power with an added goal: breaking up Arab states into ethnic and confessional groupings that Israel could more easily control. Similar to Huntington’s “clash of civilizations,” Yinon suggested we were witnessing cataclysmic times, the “collapse of the world order,” and he identified the threat: “The strength, dimension, accuracy and quality of nuclear and non-nuclear weapons will overturn most of the world in a few years.” He believed an age of terror emerged that would challenge Israel with growing Arab militancy.

His remedy – install minority population leaders who are dependent on colonial powers even after nominal independence. It worked in Lebanon under the Maronites, in Syria under the Alawis, and in Jordan under Hashemite monarchs. Yinon believed these states were weak, as were oil-rich ones, could be easily dissolved, and doing it was key to forcibly displacing Palestinians from the Territories and inside Israel. Furthermore, achieving dominance depended on dissolving Arab states so Israel would be unchallengeable and able to complete its ethnic cleansing process.

Remaking the Middle East

After the Soviet Russia dissolved, Israel’s military had to convince Washington it could be useful in a post-Cold War world. Would it be a bullying enforcer or a regional guarantor of US and Israeli dominance by sowing disorder and instability? In the 1990s, “two new kinds of Middle Eastern political and paramilitary actors” emerged – Sunni jihadis called Al-Queda and elements like the Taliban in Afghanistan and Hezbollah in south Lebanon. They represent formidable challenges that aren’t easily intimidated or bullied.

In this type world, threats are at a sub-state level, so Yinon’s scheme was appealing – encourage discord and feuding within nations, destabilize them, and arrange their dismemberment into mini-states. Tribes and sectarian elements could be turned on each other, and alliances with non-Arab, non-Muslim groups like Christians, Kurds and Druze could be cultivated to advantage.

One problem remains, however – the possibility that another Middle East state may develop nuclear weapons, challenge Israel’s dominance and get away with it. Nonetheless, Israel planned “organized chaos” across the region and convinced administration neocons the scheme was sensible. They had every reason to approve, and powerful opposition at home aside, they’re destabilizing the region along with Israel. There’s no guaranteed outcome, the subsequent fallout is unpredictable, but consider the possibilities. The administration is quite able to vaporize Iran and Syria and end the homeland republic if that’s the plan. It’s also what other states have to fear.

Cook considers why Israel and Washington chose this agenda despite the risks:

— by controlling Iran and Iraq, oil production can be increased and prices brought down to a desired level;

— Israel’s rivals will be economically and politically crippled as will Palestinians in the Territories and inside Israel;

— Gulf states will also be weakened, including Saudi Arabia; and one major out-of-region goal may be achieved –

— containing China by controlling its main oil source; it may also be easier to dismember the country the way the Soviet Union was dissolved.

The goal is grandiose, risky and its chance of succeeding highly improbable. Consider Russia under Vladimir Putin. Contained under Boris Yeltsin, it’s no longer a pushover. In a largely ignored June 2007 speech, Putin highlighted deteriorating US-Russian relations post-9/11 with alarm. Bush administration policies were threatening and endangered his country’s security:

— US military bases encircle it;

— former Soviet states were recruited into NATO;

— offensive missiles were installed on its borders on the pretext of missile defense;

— allied Central Asian regimes were toppled to Washington’s advantage; and

— US-backed Serbian, Ukrainian and Georgian “pro-democracy” groups incited political instability in Moscow.

These actions convinced Russian hard-liners that America plans regime change and further fragmentation of the Federation. China sees this, too, and knows it may be next. It’s gotten both powers to ally in two organizations for their own self-defense and to compete with the US for control of Central Asia’s vast reserves – the Asian Energy Security Grid and the more significant Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) that was formed in 2001 for political, diplomatic, economic and security reasons as a counterweight to an encroaching US-dominated NATO. Other regional powers may also join one or both alliances, including India, Iran and even South Korea and Japan as a new millennium Great Game unfolds.

On the other side are the US and Israel with the Occupied Territories a test laboratory for what they have in mind for the region. Israel has been at it since the 1967 war when the idea was to expel Palestinians to Jordan because “Jordan is Palestine.” The only debate was how to do it.

At the same time, Israel long considered dismembering Arab countries into feuding mini-states, and in the early 1980s, Haaretz’s military correspondent, Ze’ev Schiff, wrote that Israel’s “best” interests would be served by “the dissolution of Iraq into a Shi’ite state, a Sunni state and the separation of the Kurdish part.” Ever since, Israel implemented this practice in the Territories along with testing urban warfare tactics, new weapons and crowd control techniques. Workable or not, it’s been a boon to business and it’s built Israel’s economy around responding to violence at home and everywhere.

Israeli technology firms pioneered the homeland security industry, still dominate it, and it’s made the country the most tech-dependent one in the world and its fourth largest arms exporter after the US (far and away the biggest), Russia and France. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is one of its biggest customers for high-tech fences, unmanned drones, biometric IDs, video and audio surveillance gear, air passenger profiling, prisoner interrogation systems, thermal imaging systems, fiber optics security systems, tear gas products and ejector systems and much more.

With products like these and lessons learned from the Territories, Israel believes it can abandon the old puppet strongman model of controlling populations. It wants no part of a “Palestinian dictator” who might encourage Palestinian nationalism, challenge Israeli rule, and disrupt settlement development plans in the Territories. Building them depends on keeping Palestinians divided, weak, unable to resist, and easier to remove from land Israel wants to incorporate into a greater Israel that includes south Lebanon.

After the 1967 war, Israel prevented new Palestinian leaders from emerging and first tried to manage the population along family or communal lines by co-opting its leaders or eliminating ones who became obstacles. By 1981, Sharon (as defense minister) refined the scheme into what was named “Village Leagues” that were local anti-PLO militias. The system was abandoned, however, when Palestinians rebelled against their collaborating leaders so Israel tried new approaches.

Most important was the Muslim Brotherhood (that had roots in Egypt) that later became Hamas in the late 1980s. Israel, at the time, believed traditional Islamic elements were more easily managed than PLO nationalists, would later learn otherwise, and it led to a radically new experiment – the Oslo process. It began secretly with a post-Gulf War weakened PLO, specified no outcome, and let Israel delay, refuse to make concessions, and continue colonizing the Territories. For their part Palestinians renounced armed struggle, recognized Israel’s right to exist, agreed to leave major unresolved issues for indefinite later final status talks, and got nothing in return.

Yasser Arafat and his cohorts got what they wanted – a get-out-of-Tunis free pass where they were in exile following the 1982 Lebanon war. They got to come home, take charge of their people and become Israel’s enforcer. Interestingly, Cook points out a little known fact. Many high-level Israeli security figures opposed Oslo. They saw it giving Arafat an “internationalist platform” to encourage Palestinian nationalism that might undermine Israel. After Rabin’s assassination, it wasn’t surprising that the spirit of Oslo died, Arafat became isolated, spent much of the second intifada a prisoner in his Ramallah compound, and died in a Paris hospital in November 2004, the victim of Israeli poisoning with convincing evidence to prove it.

In the meanwhile, Israel scrapped Oslo and tried a new approach – cantonizing Gaza and the West Bank to crush organized resistance and dissolve Palestinian nationalism. It began with checkpoints and curfews. Then it was hardened into forced separation, displacement, willful harassment, land seizures, home demolitions, bypass roads, and state-sponsored violence matching lightly-armed people against the world’s fourth most powerful military with every imaginable weapon at its disposal and no hesitancy using them against civilians.

At the same time, Israel chose a co-optable Mahmoud Abbas over the legitimate Hamas government. Its leaders will only recognize Israel if Palestinians are recognized in return and given an independent homeland inside pre-1967 borders or there’s one state for all Israeli citizens. Israel, of course, refuses, and continues expanding settlements on expropriated land. In addition, with Abbas’ Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza, Israel assures the two sides remain divided and continue fighting each other for control. That’s the strategy to keep Palestinians marginalized and Israel confident that what’s now working in the Territories can be applied advantageously across the region.

That became Bush administration strategy early on with extremist neocons in charge led by Dick Cheney. They knew all along that invading and occupying Iraq would unleash sectarian violence “on an unprecedented scale.” Cook notes that the scheme came out of a 1996 policy paper called “A Clean Break” that was written by key neocons behind the war – David Wurmser, Richard Pearle and Douglas Feith. They predicted that after Saddam fell Iraq would “be ripped apart by the politics of warlords, tribes, clans, sects and key families” because Sunni leadership maintained unity through state repression.

Pre-war, Britain knew it as well, and, in May 2007, a US Senate Intelligence Committee reported that US intelligence documents warned of post-invasion chaos because Iraq is one of the least cohesive Middle East states with rival Sunni, Shia and Kurdish populations. This, however, fits perfectly with the type occupation Washington wants. It also justifies the “war on terror,” and prepares things for the final solution Israel advocates – splitting the country into three mini-states: a Kurdish one in the North, Shias in the South, and Sunnis between them.

Making it work won’t be easy, however, because Iraq’s largest cities have mixed populations. It’s the reason the Pentagon plans to cantonize them Israeli-style by enclosing neighborhoods with barricades and walls and require special IDs for entry. Israel plans the same thing for Lebanon where a large Shia population has been marginalized under the country’s “confessional” system. It allocates public office along religious lines, gives disproportionate power to Christian and Sunni minorities, but Hezbollah is challenging the pro-western government with things so far unresolved.

After the 2006 war, Hezbollah got stronger, Washington supports the Siniora government, and is promoting a “Cedar Revolution” like the “Orange” and “Rose” ones it successfully engineered in Ukraine and Georgia. Assassinations and car bombings are part of the scheme, they’re blamed on Syria without evidence, but a more likely culprit is Mossad that has a long history in the region engineering this type violence. Cook quotes former US counter-terrorism expert, Fred Burton, saying the technology used in Lebanon’s recent assassinations is available only to a few countries – the US, Israel, Britain, France and Russia.

The Pentagon and CIA are also active in “black operations” in Iran, have been for many months, and it’s no secret why. As in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine, it’s to create ethnic tensions throughout the country, promote conflict, and hope it will destabilize the government and force it into a mistake Washington can jump on in response. A Pentagon source told Seymour Hersh that their operatives are working with Azeris in the north, Baluchis in the southeast, Kurds in the northeast, and their own special forces in-country as well. The pot is bubbling, and Iran knows it.

It’s a new version of the older colonial “divide and rule” scheme that so far proved ineffective, and Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, thinks he knows what’s going on. He says Israel and Washington want to partition Iraq, Iran, Lebanon and Syria. If he’s right, as seems likely, it means the idea is to change the way colonial powers ruled post-WW I, and Cook challenges it. He believes making it work is “improbable (and) little more than a deluded fantasy.” It worked in Yugoslavia, but the Arab world is different.

He concludes his book saying a generation of Washington policy makers have been “captivated” by thinking the Middle East can be remade by “spreading instability and inter-communal strife.” Instead, Cook sees a different outcome – new political, religious and social alliances forming across the region. If Washington pursues its “war on terror,” he sees continued “war without end” with no victory. After the chaotic Bush years, it’s hard disagreeing with him.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at Also visit his blog site at

Stephen Lendman is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

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Israel gearing up for Another War

Defending Israel to the “End Times” By Bill Berkowitz

Strong Doubts Israeli Air Strike On Syria Hit Nuclear Complex By Sherwood Ross

Three Internet Cables Slashed in a Week: Has Iran lost all Internet Connectivity? by Mike Whitney

War Crimes: Evidence of Israeli ‘cowardly blending’ comes to light by Jonathan Cook



War Crimes: Evidence of Israeli ‘cowardly blending’ comes to light by Jonathan Cook

Dandelion Salad

by Jonathan Cook
Global Research, January 4, 2008

It apparently never occurred to anyone in our leading human rights organisations or the Western media that the same moral and legal standards ought be applied to the behaviour of Israel and Hizbullah during the war on Lebanon 18 months ago. Belatedly, an important effort has been made to set that right.

A new report, written by a respected Israeli human rights organisation, one representing the country’s Arab minority not its Jewish majority, has unearthed evidence showing that during the fighting Israel committed war crimes not only against Lebanese civilians — as was already known — but also against its own Arab citizens. This is an aspect of the war that has been almost entirely neglected until now.

The report also sheds a surprising light on the question of what Hizbullah was aiming at when it fired hundreds of rockets on northern Israel. Until the report’s publication last month, I had been all but a lone voice arguing that the picture of what took place during the war was far more complex than generally accepted.

The new report follows a series of inquiries by the most influential human rights groups, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, to identify the ways in which international law was broken during Israel’s 34-day assault on Lebanon. However, both organisations failed to examine, except in the most cursory and dismissive way, Israel’s treatment of its own civilians during the war. That failure may also have had serious repercussions for their ability to assess Hizbullah’s actions.

Before examining the report’s revelations, it is worth revisiting the much-misrepresented events of summer 2006 and considering what efforts have been made subsequently to bring the two sides to account.

The war was the culmination of a series of tit-for-tat provocations along the shared border following Israel’s withdrawal from its two-decade occupation of south Lebanon in 2000. Almost daily for those six years Israel behaved as though the occupation had not ended, sending war planes into Lebanese air space to create terrifying sonic booms and spy on the country. (After the war, it resumed these flights almost immediately.)

In response Hizbullah, a Shia militia that offered the only effective resistance during Lebanon’s period of occupation, maintained its belligerent posture. It warned repeatedly that it would capture Israeli soldiers, should the chance arise, in the hope of forcing a prisoner exchange. Israel had held on to a handful of Lebanese prisoners after its pullback.

Hizbullah also demanded that Israel complete its withdrawal from Lebanon in full by leaving a fertile sliver of territory, the Shebaa Farms. Israel argues that the area is Syrian territory, occupied by its army along with the Golan Heights in 1967, and will be returned one day in negotiations with Damascus. UN catrographers disagree, backing Hizbullah’s claim that the area is Lebanese.

The fighting began with a relatively minor incident (by regional standards) and one that was entirely predictable: Hizbullah attacked a border post, capturing two soldiers and killing three more in the operation. Hizbullah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah proposed a prisoner swap. Israel declared war the very same day, unleashing a massive bombing campaign that over the next month killed nearly 1,200 Lebanese civilians.

An editorial in Israel’s leading newspaper Haaretz noted again this week that, by rejecting Hizbullah’s overtures, “Israel initiated the war”.

In the last days of the fighting, as a UN-brokered ceasefire was about to come into effect, Israel dropped more than a million cluster bombs on south Lebanon, of which several hundred thousand failed to detonate. Since the end of the war, 39 Lebanese civilians have been killed and dozens more maimed from these small landmines littering the countryside.

Israel’s own inquiry into its use of the cluster munitions wrapped up last month by exonerating the army, even while admitting that many of the bombs had been directed at civilian population centres. In Israel’s books, it seems, international law sanctions the targeting of civilians during war.

Veteran Israeli reporter Meron Rapoport recently noted that his newspaper, Haaretz again, has evidence that the army’s use of cluster munitions was “pre-planned” and undertaken without regard to the location of Hizbullah positions. The only reasonable conclusion is that Israel wanted south Lebanon uninhabitable at any cost, possibly so that another ground invasion could be mounted.

Human Rights Watch, which has carried out the most detailed examination of the war, was less forgiving than Israel’s own investigators — as might have been expected in the case of such a flagrant abuse of the rules of war. Still, it has failed to condemn Israel’s actions unreservedly. In a typical press release it noted the wide dispersal of cluster bombs over civilian areas of south Lebanon but concluded only that their use by Israel “may violate the prohibition on indiscriminate attacks contained in international humanitarian law”.

In this and other respects, HRW’s reports have revealed troubling double standards.

During the war two charges were levelled against Hizbullah, mainly by Israel’s supporters, and investigated by the human rights group: that the Shia militia fired rockets on northern Israel either indiscriminately or in a deliberate attempt to target civilians; and that it hid its fighters and weapons among its own Lebanese civilians (thereby conveniently justifying Israel’s bombing of those civilians).

Hizbullah was found guilty of the first charge, with HRW arguing that it was irrelevant whether or not Hizbullah was trying to hit military targets in Israel as its rockets were not precision-guided. All its rockets, whatever they were aimed at, were therefore considered indiscriminate by the organisation and a violation of international law. Worthy of note is that HRW expressed certainty about the impermissibility of Hizbullah firing imprecise rockets but not about Israel’s use of even less precise cluster bombs.

On the second charge Hizbullah was substantially acquitted, with HRW failing to find evidence that, apart from in a handful of isolated instances, the militia hid among the Lebanese population.

Regarding Israel, the human rights organisations investigated the charge that it violated international law by endangering Lebanese civilians during its bombing campaigns. Given that Israel’s missiles and bombs were supposed to have pinpoint accuracy, the large death toll of Lebanese civilians provided indisputable evidence of Israeli war crimes. HRW agreed.

Strangely, however, after submitting both Israel and Hizbullah to the same test of whether their firepower targeted civilians, HRW deemed it inappropriate to investigate Israel on the second allegation faced by Hizbullah: that it committed a war crime by blending in with its own civilian population. Was there so little prima facie evidence of such behaviour on Israel’s side that the organisation decided it was not worth wasting its resources on such an inquiry?

HRW produced two lengthy reports in August 2007, one examining events in Lebanon and the other events in Israel. But the report on what happened inside Israel, “Civilians under Assault”, failed to examine Israel’s treatment of its own civilians and focused instead only on proving that Hizbullah’s firing of its rockets violated international law.

HRW did made a brief reference to the possibility that Israeli military installations were located close to or inside civilian communities. It cited examples of a naval training base next to a hospital in Haifa and a weapons factory built in a civilian community. Its researchers even admitted to watching the Israeli army firing shells into Lebanon from a residential street of the Jewish community of Zarit.

This act of “cowardly blending” by the Israeli army — to echo the UN envoy Jan Egeland’s unwarranted criticism of Hizbullah — was a war crime. It made Israeli civilians a potential target for Hizbullah reprisal attacks.

So what was HRW’s position on this gross violation of the rules of war it had witnessed? After yet again denouncing Hizbullah for its rocket attacks, the report was mealy-mouthed: “Given that indiscriminate fire [by Hizbullah], there is no reason to believe that Israel’s placement of certain military assets within these cities added appreciably to the risk facing their residents.”

In other words, Israel’s culpability in hiding its war machine inside civilian communities did not need to be assessed on its own terms as a violation of international law. Instead Israel was let off the hook based on the assumption that Hizbullah’s rockets were incapable of hitting such positions. It is dubious, to put it mildly, whether this is a legitimate reading of international law.

An additional criticism, one that I made on several occasions during the war, was that Israel failed to protect its Arab communities from rocket attacks by ensuring they had bomb shelters or early warning systems — unlike Jewish communities. On this issue, the HRW report had only this to say: “Human Rights Watch did not investigate whether Israel discriminated among Jewish and Arab residents of the north in the protection it provided from Hezbollah attacks.”

Of Hizbullah’s indiscrimination, HRW was certain; of Israel’s discrimination, it held back from judgment.

Fortunately, we no longer have to rely on Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International for a full picture of what took place during what Israelis call the Second Lebanon War. Last month the Arab Association for Human Rights, based in Nazareth, published its own report, “Civilians in Danger”, covering the ground its much bigger cousins dared not touch.

The hostile climate in Israel towards the fifth of the population who are Arab has made publication of the report a risky business. Azmi Bishara, Israel’s leading Arab politician and a major critic of Israel’s behaviour during the Lebanon war, is currently in exile under possible death sentence. Israel has accused him of treason in helping Hizbullah during the fighting, though the secret services have yet to produce the evidence they have supposedly amassed against him. Nonetheless they have successfully intimidated most of the Arab minority into silence.

Also, much of the report’s detail, including many place-names and maps showing the location of Hizbullah rocket strikes, has had to be excised to satisfy Israel’s strict military censorship laws.

But despite these obstacles, the Human Rights Association has taken a brave stand in unearthing the evidence to show that Israel committed war crimes by placing much of its military hardware, including artillery positions firing into Lebanon, inside and next to Arab towns and villages. These were not isolated instances but a discerible pattern.

The threat to which this exposed Arab communities was far from as theoretical as HRW supposes. Some 660 Hizbullah rockets landed on 20 Arab communities in the north, apparently surprising Israeli officials, who believed Hizbullah would not target fellow Arabs. Of the 44 Israeli civilians killed by the rockets, 21 were Arab citizens.

Israel has cited these deaths as further proof that Hizbullah’s rocket fire was indiscriminate. The Human Rights Association, however, reaches a rather different conclusion, one based on the available evidence. Its research shows a clear correlation between an Arab community having an Israeli army base located next to it and the likelihood of it being hit by Hizbullah rockets. In short, Arab communities targeted by Hizbullah were almost exclusively those in which the Israeli army was based.

“The study found that the Arab towns and villages that suffered the most intensive attacks during the war were ones that were surrounded by military installations, either on a permanent basis or temporarily during the course of the war,” the report states.

Such findings lend credibility to complaints made during the war by Israel’s Arab legislators, including Bishara himself, that Arab communities were being used as “human shields” by the Israeli army — possibly to deter Hizbullah from targeting its positions.

In early August 2006, Bishara told the Maariv newspaper: “What ordinary citizens are afraid to say, the Arab Knesset members are declaring loudly. Israel turned the Galilee and the Arab villages in particular into human shields by surrounding them with artillery positions and missile batteries.”

Such violations of the rules of war were occasionally hinted at in reporting in the Israeli media. In one account from the front line, for example, a reporter from Maariv quoted parents in the Arab village of Fassuta complaining that children were wetting their beds because of the frightening bark of tanks stationed outside their homes.

According to the Human Rights Association’s report, Israel made its Arab citizens vulnerable to Hizbullah’s rockets in the following ways:

* Permanent military bases, including army camps, airfields and weapons factories, as well as temporary artillery positions that fired thousands of shells and mortars into southern Lebanon were located inside or next to many Arab communities.

* The Israeli army trained soldiers inside northern Arab communities before and during the war in preparation for a ground invasion, arguing that the topography in these communities was similar to the villages of south Lebanon.

* The government failed to evacuate civilians from the area of fighting, leaving Arab citizens particularly in danger. Almost no protective measures, such as building public shelters or installing air raid sirens, had been taken in Arab communities, whereas they had been in Jewish communities.

Under the protocols to the Geneva Conventions, parties to a conflict must “avoid locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas” and must “endeavour to remove the civilian population … from the vicinity of military objectives”. The Human Rights Association report clearly shows that Israel cynically broke these rules of war.

Tarek Ibrahim, a lawyer and the author of the Association’s report, says the most surprising finding is that Hizbullah’s rockets mostly targeted Arab communities where military installations had been located and in the main avoided those where there were no such military positions.

“Hizbullah claimed on several occasions that its rockets were aimed primarily at military targets in Israel. Our research cannot prove that to be the case but it does give a strong indication that Hizbullah’s claims may be true.”

Although Hizbullah’s Katyusha rockets were not precision-guided, the proximity of Israeli military positions to Arab communities “are within the margin of error of the rockets fired by Hizbullah”, according to the report. In most cases, such positions were located either inside the community itself or a few hundred metres from it.

In its recommendations, the Human Rights Association calls for the removal of all Israeli military installations from civilian communities.

(Again noteworthy is the fact that Israel has built several weapons factories inside Arab communities, including in Nazareth. Arab citizens are almost never allowed to work in Israel’s vast military industries, so why build them there? Part of the reason is doubtless that they provide another pretext for confiscating Arab communities’ lands and “Judaising” them. But is the criticism by Arab legislators of “human shielding” another possible reason?)

The report avoids dealing with the wider issue of whether the Israeli army located in Jewish communities too during the war. Ibrahim explains: “In part the reason was that we are an Arab organisation and that directs the focus of our work. But there is also the difficulty that Israeli Jews are unlikely to cooperate with our research.”

Israel has longed boasted of its “citizen army”, and in surveys Israeli Jews say they trust the military more than the country’s parliament, government and courts.

Nonetheless, the report notes, there is ample evidence that the army based itself in some Jewish communities too. As well as the eyewitness account of the Human Rights Watch researcher, it was widely reported during the war that 12 soldiers were killed when a Hizbullah rocket struck the rural community of Kfar Giladi, close to the northern border.

A member of the kibbutz, Uri Eshkoli, recently told the Israeli media: “We deserve a medal of honor for our assistance during the war. We opened our hotel to soldiers and asked for no compensation. Moreover, soldiers stayed in the kibbutz throughout the entire war.”

In another report, in the Guardian newspaper, a 19-year-old British Jew, Danny Young, recounted his experiences performing military service during the war. He lived on Kibbutz Sasa, close to the border, which became an army rear base. “We were shooting missiles from the foot of this kibbutz,” he told the paper. “We were also receiving Katyushas.”

So far the Human Rights Association’s report has received minimal coverage in the Hebrew media. “We are facing a very difficult political atmosphere in Israel at the moment,” Ibrahim told me. “Few people inside Israel want to hear that their army and government broke international law in such a flagrant manner.”

It seems few in the West, even the guardians of human rights, are ready to hear such a message either.

Jonathan Cook is a journalist and writer based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest book, “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East”, is published by Pluto Press. His website is

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