Tuesday, December 30, 2008

U.S. Arms Attack: Oppose Israeli War Crimes Against Gaza

Much of the world has shuddered in revulsion and protested loudly Israel's "all-out" air assault against Hamas in the teeming, crowded ghetto mini-state that is Gaza. Hundreds have been killed in the bombings, and over a thousand injured -- mostly women and children -- and the attack continues.

In the United States, the protest is muted, as U.S. politicians tout the "special relationship" of the U.S. with Israel. Using new U.S.-supplied "smart" bunker-buster bombs -- the GPS-guided GBU-39 missile, manufactured by Boeing and Lockheed Martin -- the Israelis have spent months planning the attack, which in its disproportionate "response" to crude missiles that Hamas forces have sent into Israel, constitutes a "war crime."

The GBU-39, whose 250-lb. size is touted "the next evolution of miniature munition weapons development," has already been deployed in Iraq by the U.S. Air Force. Last September, Congress authorized the sale of 1000 of these missiles to Israel.

Daily Kos readers, who have been subjected to weeks of banner advertising by the Aerospace Industries Association, should question the feasibility at this point of allowing this advertising to continue, as AIA is implicated in promoting just the kind of bombs (called SDBs, or Small Diameter Bombs) as the Israelis are using, i.e., the GBU-39 mentioned just above.

AIA describes itself as "implementing solutions to industry-wide issues related to national and homeland security, civil aviation, and space," and "the premier organization representing the U.S. aerospace, defense, and homeland security industry and its collective interests." Behind these high-sounding words lies the reality of their product, in the dead and mangled bodies of men, women and children in the ruins of Gaza.

From AIA's newsletter, The Supplier's Voice, May 2004 (alternate non-PDF link):
The U.S. Air Force recently selected AIA Associate Member Marotta Controls as part of The Boeing Company team for continued development of the Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) system for manned and unmanned aircraft....

The Small Diameter Bomb, 70 inches long and 7.5 inches wide, allows for an increased weapons load on each aircraft.
War Crimes and Deadly Cynical politics

Calling the Israeli attack a war crime is not just my opinion. That's the conclusion of Richard Falk, the special investigator for the UN High Commission for Refugees regarding Israeli actions in the Palestinian Territories. Falk, who is also professor emeritus of international law and practice at Princeton University, cites the Israelis' disproportionate military response, in this instance, and the targeting of the civilian population via the doctrine of collective responsibility viz. the population of Gaza for the rockets fired into Israel. The rockets have killed approximately a dozen Israelis over the last six years.

But this vicious shock-and-awe attack was not meant for retribution against "terrorists." As Tariq Ali pointed out in the Guardian:
The assault on Gaza, planned over six months and executed with perfect timing, was designed largely, as Neve Gordon has rightly observed, to help the incumbent parties triumph in the forthcoming Israeli elections. The dead Palestinians are little more than election fodder in a cynical contest between the right and the far right in Israel. Washington and its EU allies, perfectly aware that Gaza was about to be assaulted, as in the case of Lebanon in 2006, sit back and watch....

The moth-eaten Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt and Nato's favourite Islamists in Ankara failed to register even a symbolic protest by recalling their ambassadors from Israel. China and Russia did not convene a meeting of the UN security council to discuss the crisis.

Of course, it matters little to U.S. leaders and opinion makers that Hamas was democratically elected to their positions in Hamas, that they have been the inheritors of a situation in the Middle East where Palestinians have been increasingly marginalized and pushed off lands, squeezed into bantustans with the economic choke hold points held by Jerusalem. The recent Israeli blockade of Gaza was a humanitarian disaster:
...the bombs dropped on Gaza are only a variation in Israel's method of killing Palestinians. In recent months they died mostly silent deaths, the elderly and sick especially, deprived of food, cancer treatments and other medicines by an Israeli blockade that targeted 1.5 million people -- mostly refugees and children -- caged into the Gaza Strip. The orders of Ehud Barak, the Israeli defense minister, to hold back medicine were just as lethal and illegal as those to send in the airplanes.

"Terrorism" and Repression

As Tariq Ali put it, "Western enthusiasm for democracy stops when those opposed to its policies are elected to office." Instead, the Israeli government labels Hamas terrorists, and declares anyone harboring them will suffer their fate.

Long ago, the Zionists who sought a homeland in Palestine, chased out of Europe by genocidal anti-semitism, were themselves branded terrorists by the Western powers, most infamously the Irgun, one of whose leaders, Menachem Begin, became a Prime Minister of Israel, despite his involvement in the 1946 terrorist bombing of Jerusalem's King David hotel, killing almost 100 people. But then, "terrorist" is really an epithet used to denounce your opponent and declare them outside the pale of ordinary treatment, whether that be the laws of war, or civilized codes regarding the treatment of prisoners or civilians in the zones of conflict.

The following is a good example of the sinister use of the word "terrorist," and just the kind of treatment Gaza civilians are getting. From the Jerusalem Post:
Sunday, Military Intelligence's Psychological Warfare Department broke into radio broadcasts in Gaza and warned Palestinian civilians not to cooperate with Hamas terrorist activity.

Palestinians reported that they received phone calls to their cellular phones and landlines from the IDF. The phone call, the Palestinians said, conveyed a recorded message ordering the immediate evacuation of homes that were next to Hamas infrastructure or being used by the terrorist organization.

On Sunday, head of the Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration Col. Moshe Levy was interviewed by several Arab news outlets during which he stressed that Israel was not against the Palestinian public in Gaza but was operating against Hamas.

Defense officials said Sunday that Israel would, however, not hesitate to target the homes of civilians who protected Hamas terrorists throughout the operation.

"We will go after every Hamas operative, no matter where he is," one official said. "We urge the Palestinians not to cooperate with terrorists."
If memory were to be invoked, was it not the doctrine of collective punishment and the epithet terrorist thrown at the citizens of the Czech village of Lidice, many of them children, brutally massacred, some shot, some gassed, for their "collective responsibility" for the "terrorist" attack that resulted in the death of Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the Reich Security Main Office (which included the Gestapo and SD)? Whether the comparison be with Lidice or with the Nazi assault on the Warsaw Ghetto, the cynical and calculated attack by the Zionist state resembles those two in its viciousness. Some of the Israeli press have responded with condemnation, but in the U.S., it's business as usual: silence, tsk-tsking, and the ring of cash registers in the midnight plants of war armament factories.

A World System in Chaos
The Israeli government, along with the various Arab regimes, have used the Palestinian people as a political football for decades, while thousands of Palestinians have been dispossessed, or languish in refugee camps that date back decades. The Palestinian leadership has not done well by its own people, either, engaging in internecine warfare that has left it either increasingly politically isolated with little program for a road forward (Hamas), or nothing but a shill for U.S./EU interests (the rump of the PLO).

It was the tragedy of the Palestinian leadership to seek a nationalist alliance in a world where it could not find a powerful enough bloc partner to ensure its claims of statehood. The Palestinians are not the only nation to fail to achieve its own state, or be held in occupation for decades. Just ask the Turkish Kurds, or the Chechens, or the Sikhs, or a hundred other oppressed peoples; nor should we forget those historically defeated nations, banished to reservations, refugee camps, or outright exterminated by disease and "superior" firepower. The vaunted "most powerful nation in the world," we should not forget, was built up out of a war of extermination and isolation of its native tribes, and the sweat and life's blood of generations of black slaves.

Humankind is at a crossroads in its history. Will it continue to operate as a barbaric chaos of nation states, with prejudices, wars, sectarian massacres, while the big imperialist powers make billions off the guns, bombs, shells, rockets and mines with which they ply the various warring states? Or will human beings find their way forward to an organization of society that transcends current injustices?

These questions project far into the future, beyond the lifespans of anyone reading this. In the meantime, it is essential that we stand up to denounce crimes such as Israel's bombing attack on Gaza. There should be an immediate cease-fire. U.S. citizens should call for their government to stop sending arms and money to the Zionist state. And the appropriate international institutions and courts should consider war crimes charges against the leaders of Israel.

Of course, this is just as likely as the same thing happening to the leaders of the U.S., who have killed thousands of times more innocent civilians in their varied imperialist adventures, from Vietnam to Iraq.

I'll close with a story on the human cost of the Israeli attack published in today's Guardian:
An Israeli bomb struck the refugee camp's Imad Aqil mosque around midnight, destroying the building and collapsing several shops and a pharmacy nearby. The force of the blast was so massive it also brought down the Balousha family's house, which yesterday lay in ruins. The seven eldest girls were asleep together on mattresses in one bedroom and they bore the brunt of the explosion. Five were killed where they lay: Tahrir, 17, Ikram 15, Samer, 13, Dina, eight and Jawahar, four....

... Anwar, 40, sat in another house where a mourning tent had been set up. He was pale and still suffering from serious injuries to his head, his shoulder and his hands. But like many other patients in Gaza he had been made to leave an overcrowded hospital to make way for the dying. Yesterday his house was a pile of rubble: collapsed walls and the occasional piece of furniture exposed to the sky. He spoke bitterly of his daughters' deaths. "We are civilians. I don't belong to any faction, I don't support Fatah or Hamas, I'm just a Palestinian. They are punishing us all, civilians and militants. What is the guilt of the civilian?" Like many men in Gaza, Anwar has no job, and like all in the camp he relies on food handouts from the UN and other charity support to survive.

"If the dead here were Israelis, you would see the whole world condemning and responding. But why is no one condemning this action? Aren't we human beings?" he said. "We are living in our land, we didn't take it from the Israelis. We are fighting for our rights. One day we will get them back."
For a list of links to humanitarian groups trying to aid the suffering in Gaza, click here to go to a diary by droogie6655321 at Daily Kos.

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