Briefing Paper March 2008

Palestine’s War of Independence

Uri Avneri 18/01/08

In the meantime, the situation in the besieged Gaza Strip gets worse and worse. The number of Palestinians killed every day has doubled. The Chief of Staff boasts about it. The Palestinian organizations, on their part, have doubled the number of Qassam rockets launched at Israel, and this time Hamas, too, is officially assuming responsibility. As usual, each side claims that it is only responding to the acts of the other side.

Among the Palestinians killed was Hussam al-Zahar, the son of the former Foreign Minister of the Hamas government. The Shabak security service claims that the father is now the most extreme Hamas leader. If true, this is significant. 16 years ago, al-Zahar demonstrated together with Israeli peace activists against the expulsion of Islamic figures by Yitzhak Rabin. When the exiles returned, he organized the big assembly in Gaza, in which I was invited to speak (in Hebrew) before hundreds of Sheiks, wearing the two-flag emblem – the flag of Israel and the flag of Palestine.

If such a person has become the most extreme leader, this is undoubtedly the fruit of the occupation. It proves again – if proof is needed – that the oppression, which is supposed to destroy Hamas, achieves the exact opposite: it pushes the Palestinian organization into more and more extreme positions. This week, after al-Zahar lost his second son (the oldest was already killed some time ago) he became the most popular leader in the Arab world.

Heads of states hastened to call him and extend condolences.

Economic warfare in Gaza

Yossi Wolfson, The Electronic Intifada, 21 January 2008

No more lies or twisted tongues. Israel is saying at last what, in the past, it always refused to acknowledge: its war is against the Palestinian population.

Until now, in discussions about the separation wall, closures, blockades, house demolition, and other sorts of collective punishment, the State Attorney’s Office lacked the gumption to admit in court that the aim of such measures is to harm civilians. It always came up with convoluted security claims in order to present some vital military necessity for the sake of the War against Terror. Harm to the population was described as a regrettable side effect.

But now a Rubicon has been crossed. This happened after ten human rights organizations petitioned the High Court on 28 October 2007 against cuts in the supply of electricity and gasoline to Gaza. The petitioners claimed that the cuts amount to collective punishment, which is forbidden under international law. The state might have answered that the cuts are a necessary military measure aimed at stopping the production of Qassam rockets. Or it might have tried some other tongue twister. But no. In their response to the petition, Dana Briskman and Gilad Shirman from the State Attorney’s Office announced openly, without blinking an eye, that the cuts’ main purpose is to exert pressure on the economy as a way of influencing Hamas.

Thus the state clamps the arteries of life for 1.5 million Gazans and describes its action as an economic war. Here it infringes a basic principle of the international laws concerning warfare, which distinguish between the civilian population and the armed forces. One main purpose of these laws is to shield civilians from the battlefield and mitigate the effects war can have on them. The lawyers for the State Attorney do not dispute this principle. Rather they would limit it to strictly military operations. Cutting the supply of electricity or gasoline is not a strictly military operation. In an economic war, they hold, the principle does not apply. Following this logic to its absurd conclusion, we find that it is forbidden to blow up a civilian installation, but it is permissible to disable it by cutting off raw materials. It is forbidden to blow up a power plant, but it’s OK to turn off the electricity.

This is not to imply that Israel abides by the law in its strictly military decisions. In summer of 2006, for example, it did blow up the Palestinian power plant in Gaza, raising the Strip’s dependence on itself for electricity — the same electricity that it today proposes to cut.

The state turns international law on its head. Various provisions regulate civilian supplies in wartime, with the aim of keeping the situation from reaching the threshold of a humanitarian crisis. Israel cites these provisions but interprets them as allowing it to harm civilians as long as it stops short of that threshold, defined by it.

What is the humanitarian threshold in Israel’s view? The blockade of Gaza has been going on at various levels for years. Since Hamas ousted Fatah there in the summer of 2007, the shipment of goods to the Strip has been restricted almost totally to basic foods, medicines, medical equipment, cooking gas, gasoline and electricity. Karni, the main checkpoint for transfer of goods, earlier functioned in a spotty manner, but today it is completely shut. The code for importing goods to Gaza has been deleted from the computers of Israel’s Customs Authority, which (according to the Paris Protocol) is supposed to collect the tariffs. The supply of fuel (except cooking gas) has been cut (without court interference). The electricity cut has not yet been implemented, but the shortage is already severe. Electricity and water are available only intermittently. Most of the industrial plants are closed for lack of raw materials and replacement parts. Hospitals, water and sewage services have been operating for the last year and a half (since Israel blew up the power plant) by means of emergency generators. Because replacement parts are lacking, the infrastructures are running down, and there is increasing danger of disaster. A harbinger was the bursting of the cesspool wall in Um al-Nassar last year, where five people drowned in a river of sewage.

According to statistics from the summer of 2007, [1] before Israel hardened its measures, 87 percent of Gazans lived beneath the poverty line, which was reckoned at $2.40 per day. Already then there were perceived shortages in basic products, and food prices rose by tens of percentage points. According to figures of the World Food Programme, 85 percent of Gazans depend on aid to purchase food.

In the view of Israel, however, the existing supply of goods is above what the law obligates it to allow, and the supplies of electricity and gasoline are even twice the minimum required. Below the humanitarian threshold as defined by it, Israel includes little more than hospitals run by generators, ambulances, supply trucks, and minimal public transport. On 1 November, it repeated its assurances to the court that its measures are carefully weighed and considered. It promised to watch the situation closely to prevent a humanitarian crisis. Yet the government had no up-to-date figures on the likely effects of an electricity cut. The court asked for data, but the state did not provide them. Instead, it became clear that even the partial statistics cited earlier were misleading. [2]

Israel claims in court that it has the right to choose the countries it trades with, as if Gaza were just one independent state among the many. It views a cut in electricity to Gaza as not essentially different from, say, a cut in the sale of diamonds to Spain. This claim conceals the self-righteous notion that Israel, having disengaged, is no longer responsible for the Strip. But who presides over Gaza’s borders? Who rules its air space? Whose jets and attack helicopters are those up there? Who controls Gaza’s sea, preventing the erection of an independent harbor?

Gaza’s economic dependence on Israel is the fruit of a deliberate policy that has been in effect for decades. Here as well as in the West Bank, Israel stymied any fledgling industry that might compete with it. It developed Gaza’s dependence on it for electricity and gas. It turned the Gazans into a cheap labor force to serve Israeli industry — at first by having them commute into Israel and later by developing an industrial area at Erez checkpoint. Israel also benefited from Gazan dependence on its products. When Karni was closed, among the loudest protesters were Israeli farmers. According to reports from the summer of 2007, about a fourth of the fruit grown in Israel was marketed in the occupied territories. The cut in gasoline shipments also made a dent in the income of Dor-Alon, the Israeli energy company supplying Gaza.

Yet Israel’s conceptual change about Gaza is not consistent. Disengaged or not, it can’t resist the temptation to exploit the Strip’s resources. Parallel to the discussion on cutting energy supplies, there is another petition before the High Court that also concerns energy — but here the supply would go from Gaza to Israel. In this petition, two corporate groups are battling for an Israeli license to pump natural gas from the reservoir off Gaza’s coast, a reservoir that — if Gaza belonged to a Palestinian state — would be in its territorial waters. The pumped gas is slated to become a major energy source in Israel’s economy. Did the Justices happen to recall another case they are hearing, in which the state says it no longer occupies Gaza? If so, they haven’t indicated this. Needless to say, no Justice cried in astonishment, “By what right do you intend to exploit the gas reserves of the Gaza Strip? This is against the provisions of international law, which forbid an occupying power from exploiting the natural resources of an occupied territory for its own use!” Finally, we cannot ignore the similarities between Israel’s policies in Gaza and in Lebanon. In southern Lebanon too (if to a lesser degree), Israel for years used the population as a cheap commuting workforce and as consumers of its products, all in the framework of the so-called “Good Fence” policy. This ended, as in Gaza, in a unilateral withdrawal (May 2000). Israel’s interest in controlling the water that flows its way from southern Lebanon brings to mind its interest in Gaza’s gas reserves. Its attack on Lebanon in 2006 also has its Gazan parallels. In both places Israel learned that it has no military answer to the threat of rockets in the hands of militias. With Hizballah as with Hamas, Israel refused to negotiate. In Lebanon too, it hesitated to open a broad ground war, and rightly so. It learned that it cannot rule a hostile area in the face of attrition from guerrillas. When it undertook military action in Lebanon, the weakness of its own armed forces became apparent. This weakness derives from the moral corruption of the military and political leadership. The war revealed an impossible combination: on the one hand, the leadership’s overall contempt for human life, and, on the other, Israeli society’s unwillingness to accept battle casualties.

In both cases, Gaza and Lebanon, Israel has made indiscriminate war from the air on civilians while hesitating to commit ground forces. In both it has sought to destroy the economic infrastructure and reduce the civilian population to primitive conditions. By harming them, it was thought, you could get them to pressure their leaders and thus make political gains. This notion proved false in Lebanon, as in Gaza. The Israeli attacks amount to an expression of weakness, but the price will not be paid by those who launch them, rather by civilians on both sides.

This article was originally published by Challenge and is republished with permission.

According to Article II of the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the term is defined as:

“[A]ny of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a)          Killing members of the group;

(b)          Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c)           Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; …”

Morality aside, sinking Gaza into a sea of darkness, poverty, death and despair cannot bode well for Europe. By actively propping up an environment conducive to the rise of fanaticism and desperate violence near its borders, Europe is foolishly inviting havoc to its doorstep.

Omar Barghouti Electronic Intifada 21/01/08

Impossible travel

Amira Hass Ha’aretz 01/01/08

All the promises to relax restrictions in the West Bank have obscured the true picture. A few roadblocks have been removed, but the following prohibitions have remained in place. (This information was gathered by Haaretz, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Machsom Watch)

Standing prohibitions

*             Palestinians from the Gaza Strip are forbidden to stay in the West Bank.

*             Palestinians are forbidden to enter East Jerusalem.

*             West Bank Palestinians are forbidden to enter the Gaza Strip through the Erez crossing.

*             Palestinians are forbidden to enter the Jordan Valley.

*             Palestinians are forbidden to enter villages, lands, towns and neighborhoods along the “seam line” between the separation fence and the Green Line (some 10 percent of the West Bank).

*             Palestinians who are not residents of the villages Beit Furik and Beit Dajan in the Nablus area, and Ramadin, south of Hebron, are forbidden entry.

*             Palestinians are forbidden to enter the settlements’ area (even if their lands are inside the settlements’ built area).

*             Palestinians are forbidden to enter Nablus in a vehicle.

*             Palestinian residents of Jerusalem are forbidden to enter area A (Palestinian towns in the West Bank).

*             Gaza Strip residents are forbidden to enter the West Bank via the Allenby crossing.

*             Palestinians are forbidden to travel abroad via Ben-Gurion Airport.

*             Children under age 16 are forbidden to leave Nabus without an original birth certificate and parental escort.

*             Palestinians with permits to enter Israel are forbidden to enter through the crossings used by Israelis and tourists.

*             Gaza residents are forbidden to establish residency in the West Bank.

*             West Bank residents are forbidden to establish residency in the Jordan valley, seam line communities or the villages of Beit Furik and Beit Dajan.

  • Palestinians are forbidden to transfer merchandise and cargo through internal West Bank checkpoints.

Periodic prohibitions

*             Residents of certain parts of the West Bank are forbidden to travel to the rest of the West Bank.* People of a certain age group – mainly men from the age of 16 to 30, 35 or 40 – are forbidden to leave the areas where they reside (usually Nablus and other cities in the northern West Bank).

  • Private cars may not pass the Swahara-Abu Dis checkpoint (which separates the northern and southern West Bank). This was canceled for the first time two weeks ago under the easing of restrictions.

Travel permits required

*             A magnetic card (intended for entrance to Israel, but eases the passage through checkpoints within the   West Bank).

*             A work permit for Israel (the employer must come to the civil administration offices and apply for one).

*             A permit for medical treatment in Israel and Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem (The applicant must produce an invitation from the hospital, his complete medical background and proof that the treatment he is seeking cannot be provided in the occupied territories).

*             A travel permit to pass through Jordan valley checkpoints.

*             A merchant’s permit to transfer goods.

*             A permit to farm along the seam line requires a form from the land registry office, a title deed, and proof of first-degree relations to the registered property owner.

*             Entry permit for the seam line (for relatives, medical teams, construction workers, etc. Those with permits must enter and leave via the same crossing even if it is far away or closing early).

*             Permits to pass from Gaza, through Israel to the West Bank.

*             A birth certificate for children under 16.

  • A long-standing resident identity card for those who live in seam-line enclaves.

Checkpoints and barriers

*             There were 75 manned checkpoints in the West Bank as of January 9, 2007.

*             There are on average 150 mobile checkpoints a week (as of September 2006).

*             There are 446 obstacles placed between roads and villages, including concrete cubes, earth ramparts,

88 iron gates and 74 kilometers of fences along main roads.

*             There are 83 iron gates along the separation fence, dividing lands from their owners. Only 25 of the gates open occasionally.

Yet, the past few days have demonstrated that there is more to the destruction of the Rafah wall than the simple Hamas-Fatah dichotomy or the endless inane commentary of its impact on the “peace process.” Hamas could destroy the wall, but unless Palestinians were willing to cross the borderline and face the threat of Egyptian security forces it would have been a futile gesture. That Palestinians went over that line again and again illustrates the powerful urge for freedom from oppression and occupation. More importantly, it demonstrates what Palestinians can do when they act as a collective body, not along factional lines but as a people.

Gaza prison break

The Electronic Intifada, 29 January 2008

It is 4:30 Friday morning and al-Arish’s souq is alive and packed with people. When asked where they are from, the inevitable reply with a broad grin is “I am from Palestine!” This sleepy Egyptian resort town nestled in the middle of the northern Sinai coast has been virtually transformed over the past 48 hours by a massive influx of Palestinians from Gaza.

Since the towering metal and concrete border wall that Israel began to erect in 2003 was demolished by Hamas early Wednesday morning, hundreds of thousands of Gazans have crossed the border with Egypt daily. Traveling by foot, car, truck, and donkey cart it is an unbelievable –almost indescribable — movement of people. The highway is jammed with packed taxis and pick-up trucks whose beds are filled beyond capacity and racing from Egyptian Rafah to al-Arish. Some journalists have called it a huge “jail break” and while the analogy to a prison is apt it does not accurately describe the horrors and humiliation suffered by Gazans during forty years of occupation and over 18 months of sanctions and siege. While this appears to be a temporary “break” in the siege, perhaps the best description of how Gazans feel is a deep exhale of relief and some joy — both rare commodities here. Gaza’s economy has been devastated by the combination of sanctions since Hamas was elected in January 2006 and the siege after their militia defeated Fatah forces in June 2007. In the first 24 hours after the wall fell, Palestinians rushed to buy needed supplies which had become scare in Gaza, everything from gas to flour. Items barred by the Israelis from entering the territory during the siege were also among the first items purchased,including concrete, the lack of which has brought construction in Gaza to a halt.

As the border stayed open, many Palestinians returned to buy different consumer goods, including televisions and blenders, or stock up on different supplies. Some enterprising Palestinians were buying up as much as possible, either to sell immediately or once the border closed. A liter of gasoline could be purchased in Egypt for 20 Israeli shekels ($5 USD) and then sold in Gaza for 80 ($21 USD). Before the wall fell individual packs of cigarettes were almost unaffordable at 20 Israeli shekels ($5 USD), but by Saturday a carton was available for 70 Israelis shekels ($18 USD). Motorcycles, rare and expensive in Gaza only a week before, were selling briskly. Indeed, those heading back toward Gaza all seem to be carrying some recent purchase, either food, fuel, or a household item.

Although the wall has come down, the siege continues. Rafah, which gets some power supplies from Egypt, still has daily blackouts of eight hours a day. Northern and middle Gaza, including Gaza City, which rely on Israel for the vast majority of their power needs, have less than eight hours of electricity a day. Israel’s resumption of fuel supplies has ensured that only the most basic needs will be met, in particular that of the health sector.

While the media has played up incidents of border violence, what is perhaps most remarkable is how few problems there have been since Wednesday. One is able to cross by foot between an international border with few controls or inspections in a manner that somehow manages to be chaotic and organized at the same time. In al-Arish, young men from across Gaza crowd the souq’s coffee houses and sandwich shops. An even greater number simply hang out, walking the city streets, talking, joking and smoking cigarettes, clearly enjoying the different scenery and “smelling new air.” The different squares in Rafah and al-Arish have become major gathering points, and there is barely a police presence within the towns except to guide traffic. Like Times Square on New Year’s Eve, the streets are littered with the detritus of thousands of plastic wrappers, paper, cans and cigarette butts. Indeed, it feels like a huge holiday, Independence Day and New Year’sEve combined, but neither quite sums up the feelings of a brief respite or the underlying dread of what is to come next.

In contrast, Gaza’s streets are empty and eerily quiet. Gaza City is a ghost town and its al-Rimal district, once the center of the Oslo boomtown days, is deserted. Jundhi al-Majhool square adjacent to the Palestinian parliament building, once alive with activity in the afternoon, is now empty save a few children selling tea or candy and a Hamas security patrol shooing away curious photographers. Nor I am told, is this just because of the opening of the border. Since the fighting between Hamas and Fatah broke out over a year ago this area is no longer a meeting place for young couples and families.

It remains a fluid situation, fueled by constant rumors and speculation of when the border will be closed. Friday night Egyptian security forces, hoping to get Palestinians to return to Gaza, made a half-hearted announcement in al-Arish that the border would be closing. Although a greater number of forces were deployed Saturday morning, cars bearing Palestinian tags were in Egypt and Egyptian cars were seen in Gaza for the first time since the occupation began in 1967. The movement of cars was aided by the full opening of the Salah al-Din Gate by Hamas, using a bulldozer to push open the massive steel doors that were once an entry point for Israeli tanks and D-9 Caterpillar bulldozers.

However, by Saturday evening Egyptian security forces were turning Palestinians back from al-Arish. Many made the long trek home by foot on a cold winter evening with scattered rain showers because taxi drivers had dramatically raised their rates, one indication of the subtler means of cutting the flow of Palestinians into the Sinai.

Walking the length of the now partially demolished Rafah wall one is struck by two contrasting and competing realities. On the one side lies the sliced and twisted remnant of Israel’s siege policy backed and underwritten by Washington, a clear demonstration that a people can only be suppressed and oppressed for so long. On the other side is the human cost, the over 3,000 houses demolished by Israel in plain view of the world, as they built the wall in preparation for their “withdrawal” from Gaza.

The remnants of those houses remain, creating a vast moonscape of blasted concrete and sand, roughly a kilometer wide and several kilometers long. My friend Fida, a teacher and blogger from Rafah, points out where her house once stood, as well as those of her grandfather, grandmother, uncles, aunts, and other relatives. Beyond the sea of demolished houses are those still inhabited but riddled with bullet and shell holes, some dating from the beginning of the second intifada in 2000 and others more recent. Her young cousin Walaa explains, “this is our life,” and it sums up both realties.

Whether the destruction of the Rafah wall will change the reality of life in Gaza remains to be seen. Whatever the outcome, Hamas has managed to shock and embarrass the coalition allied against it for the third time in 24 months. It has demonstrated yet again that those who continue to try and ignore and isolate Hamas do so not only at their own detriment, but only prolong the inevitable and in the process increase the toll of human misery in a region that has already seen enough.

In part this has been due to the arrogance, incompetence, and maliciousness of its opponents in Israel, the United States, the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Egypt. Rather than attempting to negotiate with Hamas, and in the process helping to moderate some of its policies, the coalition pursued a policy of collective punishment of the Palestinian people. However, Hamas must now demonstrate an ability to build upon these actions and demonstrate that it can do more than just upset American and Israeli policies, but more importantly help build a future for the Palestinian people, especially in Gaza.

It is also unclear how the anti-Hamas coalition will respond. Although Fatah still has strong support in Gaza, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ continued refusal to engage in national unity talks and power sharing appears to make him complicit in the siege of Gaza. In addition, Hamas has demonstrated that they could achieve what Abbas’ negotiations have not, a break in the siege, however brief. In spite of the attempts at damage control, for Israel and the United States this is nothing short of disastrous. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert could hardly afford another blunder after the Lebanon War debacle and he now has one.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration’s policy of punishing Gaza while “rewarding” the West Bank with aid and attention, while still supporting Israel’s occupation of both with even greater aid, is now in tatters. Moreover, the renewed peace process, which has yet to demonstrate a single improvement in the lives of Palestinians in spite of the claims of some delusional and self-serving proponents, will now be under even greater pressure to show results. It will be up to Washington to deliver them.

Yet, the past few days have demonstrated that there is more to the destruction of the Rafah wall than the simple Hamas-Fatah dichotomy or the endless inane commentary of its impact on the “peace process.” Hamas could destroy the wall, but unless Palestinians were willing to cross the borderline and face the threat of Egyptian security forces it would have been a futile gesture. That Palestinians went over that line again and again illustrates the powerful urge for freedom from oppression and occupation. More importantly, it demonstrates what Palestinians can do when they act as a collective body, not along factional lines but as a people.

The destruction of the Rafah wall was quite simply a victory of and for the Palestinian people. As I stare at the rusted hulk and watch children climbing and playing along and on top of it and the steady movement of people between the two Rafahs, I am reminded of my previous trips to Gaza and similar moments of elation that turned to bitter disappointment and tragedy. I can only hope that this time will be different and that this is but the first wall of many to fall in Palestine.

“Gaza is on the threshold of becoming the first territory to be intentionally reduced to a state of abject destitution, with the knowledge, acquiescence and–some would say–encouragement of the international community,” the commissioner-general of UNRWA warned recently.          The Nation 01/02/08

The US Plan to Start a Palestinian Civil War

The Electronic Intifada

United States officials including President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice participated in a 4 March 2008 conspiracy to arm and train Contra-style Palestinian militias nominally loyal to the Fatah party to overthrow the democratically-elected Hamas government in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, an investigative article in the April 2008 issue of Vanity Fair has revealed. [1]

The allegations of such a conspiracy, long reported by The Electronic Intifada, are corroborated in Vanity Fair with confidential US government documents, interviews with former US officials, Israeli officials and with Muhammad Dahlan, the Gaza strongman personally chosen by Bush.

The article, by David Rose, recounts gruesome torture documented on videotape of Hamas members by the

US-armed and funded militias under Dahlan’s control. Hamas had repeatedly alleged such torture as part of its justification for its move to overthrow the Dahlan militias and take full control of the interior of the Gaza Strip in June 2007.

Vanity Fair reported that it has “obtained confidential documents, since corroborated by sources in the US and Palestine, which lay bare a covert initiative, approved by Bush and implemented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams to provoke a Palestinian civil war.” The magazine adds that the plan “was for forces led by Dahlan, and armed with new weapons supplied at America’s behest, to give Fatah the muscle it needed to remove the democratically-elected Hamas-led government from power.”

Abrams was one of the key Reagan administration figures involved in the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s, whereby the US illegally armed militias in Nicaragua to overthrow the ruling Sandinista government. Abrams was convicted and later pardoned for lying to Congress. While it has been known that the US engaged in covert activity to subvert Palestinian democracy and provoke Palestinians to shed each other’s blood, the extent of the personal involvement of top US officials in attempting to dictate the course of events in Palestine — while publicly preaching democracy — has only now been brought to light.

Letter to then Israeli defense minister

Shaul Mofaz Muhammad Dahlan’s 13 July 2003.

Bush met and personally anointed Dahlan as “our guy” in 2003. In July 2007, The Electronic Intifada reported on a leaked letter written by Dahlan and sent to the Israeli defense minister in which he confirmed his role in a conspiracy to overthrow then Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat for whose replacement Bush had publicly called. Dahlan wrote: “Be certain that Yasser Arafat’s final days are numbered, but allow us to finish him off our way, not yours. And be sure as well that … the promises I made in front of President Bush, I will give my life to keep.” (

The US planning to overthrow the government elected by Palestinians under occupation began immediately after the Hamas movement won a clear victory in the January 2006 election for the Palestinian Legislative Council. Hamas, however, proved “surprising resilient.”

At a meeting at Abbas’ Ramallah headquarters in October 2006, Rice personally ordered Abbas to dissolve the government headed by Hamas’ Ismail Haniyeh “within two weeks” and replace it with an unelected “emergency government.”

When Abbas failed to act promptly on Rice’s order, the US stepped up its efforts to arm Dahlan in preparation for the attempted coup. Hamas foiled the coup plot by moving preemptively against Dahlan’s gangs, many of whom refused to fight despite being furnished with tens of millions of dollars in weapons and training. The US-conceived “emergency government” headed by a former World Bank official, Salam Fayyad, was eventually appointed by Abbas, but its authority is limited to parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

While the United States and Israel were the driving forces behind the civil war and coup plot, others had a hand including several Arab states and their intelligence services. “The scheme,” Rose writes, “bore some resemblance to the Iran-contra scandal” in that “some of the money for the [Nicaraguan] contras, like that for Fatah, was furnished by Arab allies as a result of US lobbying.”

Endnotes [1] “The Gaza Bombshell,” Vanity Fair, April 2008,

Israeli sniper bullet takes 12-year-old girl’s life Sami Abu Salem, Jabaliya refugee camp, 10 March 2008

“I put my hand on her chest to stop the streaming blood. She told me that she could not breathe, her body trembled and she closed her eyes,” said Ra’d Abu Saif of his 12-year-old daughter Safa’s last moments after she was shot by an Israeli sniper last Saturday.

Safa was shot in the left side of her chest while she was inside her home in Jabaliya, northern Gaza. An ambulance tried to reach her but Israeli soldiers opened fire at it,wounding a paramedic and causing the tires to lose air, and so she bled to death three hours after she was wounded.

Her 39-year-old father Ra’d, 37-year-old mother Samar, and the rest of Safa’s family surrounded her, praying for her safety. Her father pressed on the wound while her brother Ali held her hands as her body was severely trembling. She asked her father to help her to breathe.”Dad, I cannot breathe, all of you leave me please, let me breathe, enough, enough,” were Safa’s last words, according to her father.

Ra’d tried CPR, but he failed. No more pulse and no more breath.

Safa had gone to fetch some clothes from the second floor when, according to Ra’d, “the Israeli sniper on a nearby building shot her in her chest.”The gunshot penetrated both her chest and the door of the room, and blood poured from her chest and back.

“I heard a gunshot and soon her scream filled the house. I went upstairs, [and saw] her knees gave in and slowly she fell down while calling for her mother,” said her 17-year-old brother Ali.Her father carried his wounded daughter and tried to evacuate her to the hospital but when he reached the door of the house, his brothers prevented him from leaving as Israeli snipers were shooting anything moving.

Several phone calls later, the ambulance center told the family to evacuate the girl. Her mother Samar carried Safa but as soon as she left the house, the Israeli soldiers opened fire at her and the wounded girl fell to the ground.

Samar dragged her into the house.

While Safa laid dying, the family waited as explosions, gunshots, drones and helicopters sounded all around them. Israeli forces cut the electricity and shot the water tanks on the roof. The radio and mobile phone batteries lost their power. “We used water only for drinking; the smell of the toilet filled our home and we used [text messaging for communication] to conserve batteries,” said her brother Ali.

“My uncle Nabil, 28, crawled from our house to his house and brought a kerosene lamp, but it went out the same night,” Ali added.

The following day the Red Cross intervened and coordinated with the Israeli troops. The ambulance arrived and took Safa’s lifeless body; the Israeli soldiers allowed only her father to join her.”Near the door of our house there were dead bodies; the Israeli soldiers prevented paramedics from carrying them away,” Ali said.

Ali began to cry as he recalled his “clever sister,” who shared many of his interests. “She likes sport like me; she is also a good volleyball player and used to participate in school championships.”The family could not afford paints for Safa to practice her favorite hobby. “She used to [draw] landscapes with a pencil, [there was] no money for colors,” Ali said.

A Defeated Policy, not a Defeated People

Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 07/03/08

For decades Israel has been exercising with ever-escalating brutality this deliberate strategy to crush through force and starvation a civilian population in rebellion against colonial rule. To Israel’s vexation, the Palestinians are not playing their part. After sixty years of expulsions, massacres, assassinations of their leaders, colonization, torture, and mass imprisonment, the Palestinians have utterly failed to understand that they are a “defeated people.”

Compared with the international silence that surrounded Israel’s recent massacres of Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Gaza Strip, condemnation and condolences for the victims of the shooting attack that killed eight students at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem has been swift.

“I have just spoken with [Israeli] Prime Minister [Ehud] Olmert to extend my deepest condolences to the victims, their families, and to the people of Israel,” US President George W. Bush said. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moonadded his “condemnation” and “condolences,” as did EU High Representative Javier Solana.

The day before the Jerusalem attack, Amira Abu ‘Aser was buried in Gaza. She had lived just 20 days on this earth before being shot in the head by Israeli occupation forces who attacked the house of friends she and her family were visiting. Needless to say, she had not been firing rockets at Sderot when she was killed. One of the house’s inhabitants was found the next day, shot dead and his head crushed by an army jeep, an apparent victim of an extrajudicial murder by Israeli forces.

But confirming their status in the eyes of the “international community” as less than complete human beings, neither Amira’s killing, nor any of the dozens of Palestinian civilian victims of Israel’s onslaught in Gaza have merited condemnation or condolences.

The fallacy that lies behind the differential concern for the lives of innocent Israelis and Palestinians is that the massacre in Jerusalem and the massacres in Gaza can be separated. Israeli deaths are “terrorism,” while Palestinian deaths are merely an unfortunate consequence of the fight against “terrorism.” But the two are intricately linked, and what happened in Jerusalem is a direct consequence of what Israel has been doing to the Palestinians for decades.

Let me be clear that the killing of civilians, Israeli or Palestinian, is wrong, repugnant, and cannot bring this one-hundred-year war caused by the Zionist colonization of Palestine to an end. There will be an Israeli propaganda effort — as always — to present Palestinian violence as being simply motivated by hatred, and divorced from the context of brutal occupation that Palestinians live under. What greater proof could you need than an attack on religious students, devoting their life to the study of the Torah?

We cannot expect much analysis in the media of why the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva might have been chosen as a target. Was it mere coincidence that the school, named for Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, and led after his death by his son Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, is the ideological cradle of the militant, Jewish supremacist settler movement Gush Emunim?

Unlike other sects in Israel which sought exemption of their students from military service, Gush Emunim encouraged its followers to join the army and become the armed wing of religious nationalist Zionism. Gush Emunim settlers, many of them, like Moshe Levinger, graduates of Mercaz HaRav, founded the most extreme and racist settlements in the Occupied West Bank, including the notorious colonies in and near Hebron whose inhabitants have made life miserable for Palestinians in the city and forced many of them out of their homes. It is the militant settlers of Gush Emunim who still honor Baruch Goldstein who murdered 29 Palestinians in Hebron in February 1994. It is in Hebron that the Gush Emunim settlers spray “Arabs to the gas chambers” on Palestinian houses.

In 2002, Israeli army chief Moshe Yaalon declared that “the Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people.” This would be achieved by the massive and constant application of force until they got the message. The same philosophy was elaborated in 2004 by Professor Arnon Soffer, one of the architects, with former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, of the 2005 Gaza “disengagement.”

Soffer, an avid supporter of turning Gaza into a hermetically-sealed pen for unwanted Palestinians, explained that if Palestinians fire a single rocket over the fence into Israel, “we will fire 10 in response. And women and children will be killed, and houses will be destroyed. After the fifth such incident, Palestinian mothers won’t allow their husbands to shoot Qassams [rockets], because they will know what’s waiting for them.”

Soffer predicted that in a few years’ time, “when 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it’s going to be a human catastrophe. Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam.” With Palestinians closed in, “The pressure at the border will be awful,” Soffer predicted. “It’s going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day.”

To be fair, Soffer did display a human side: “The only thing that concerns me is how to ensure that the boys and men who are going to have to do the killing will be able to return home to their families and be normal human beings” (“It’s the demography, stupid,” The Jerusalem Post, 21 May 2004).

For decades Israel has been exercizing with ever-escalating brutality this deliberate strategy to crush through force and starvation a civilian population in rebellion against colonial rule. To Israel’s vexation, the Palestinians are not playing their part. After sixty years of expulsions, massacres, assassinations of their leaders, colonization, torture, and mass imprisonment, the Palestinians have utterly failed to understand that they are a “defeated people.”

The vast majority of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank endure unprecedented oppression by the Israeli army and settlers without resorting to violence in response, but they maintain an inextinguishable determination to endure until they regain their rights. If the methods the Palestinian resistance has sometimes used are reprehensible, they have also been typical for anti-colonial resistance movements throughout time, as William Polk shows in his book Violent Politics: A History of Insurgency, Terrorism and Guerilla War from the American Revolution to Iraq, and Robert Pape demonstrated through his study of suicide bombing in Dying to Win.

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