Archive for the ‘APARTHEID IN ISRAEL’ Tag

JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: SHOULD ISRAEL TALK TO HAMAS?   Leave a comment

SHOULD ISRAEL TALK TO HAMAS?

John Chuckman

It is so elemental a question, yet one rarely mentioned in the mainline press. Hamas has been demonized so thoroughly and with so little genuine reason that its situation provides prima facie evidence for the immense reach of the Israel lobby.

The world is horrified by Israel’s bombing of Gaza’s densely populated area, and rightly so, but the bombing is only a more intense horror than the blockade.

The word “blockade” comes so easily, so cleanly, without any feeling for what it reality means. It is one of that class of terms you find dissected in Orwell’s great essay, “Politics and the English Language.” It truly means here an entire population is abused and tortured for months because it voted the wrong way.

I do think most of us, if treated in this fashion in our homes by a foreign power, would use any means at hand of protesting and fighting back, even if that fighting is hopeless, as it is. It was, I believe, a former Israeli Prime Minister who said that if he were a Palestinian, he would be a terrorist.

The blockade and the bombing and the invasion have little to do with homemade rockets. Those rockets long predate the Hamas government.

Defenders of Israel’s bloody excesses insist on muddying the water by saying that the rockets are the reason for the current mass murder in Gaza, for that is just what it is, mass murder.

Israel’s secret service, Shin Bet, quietly subsidized Hamas for years, deliberately creating a future competitor for Fatah.

It clearly never feared Hamas. And why should it?

If Israel were to stand back, even today, and say to Hamas, “Okay, give me your best punch,” the results would be small and ineffectual. On the other hand, we all know Israel possesses the capacity to virtually annihilate all Palestinians.

Hamas prospered after Israel’s secret subsidy. Why? Partly because it served many humanitarian needs in Palestine with perhaps ninety percent of its work being humanitarian, but also, of course, because of the endless, grinding oppression of Israel’s Apartheid system. People need hope.

When Hamas finally was elected in a cleaner election than that of George Bush, it was also in large part because the poor people of Palestine had become exhausted by the corruption of Fatah. Just as Americans with Obama, Palestinians wanted a fresh start with some people that seemed to be doing something right.

Yes, Hamas mouths anti-Israel stuff, but so what? Israel is full of people saying ugly anti-Arab stuff. It is not hard to find a number of disturbing quotes by fairly prominent Israelis calling Palestinians “roaches” and “vermin.” There are also prominent advocates of simply driving all the Palestinians under an artillery barrage across the Jordan River. Others are on record as saying the Palestinians should be “eliminated,” whatever was meant by that chilling word.

As in international affairs generally – what someone like Nixon or Bush has said of Russia or Cuba – I do not focus on such statements, they are for domestic consumption, and they also represent an unpleasant release of stress. But when a government does focus on them, as Israel’s government does, you know it is being dishonest. Governments and politicians everywhere make statements that do not reflect their actual behavior. And just so, Hamas.

It is always actions that count. So what have Israel’s actions been?

Israel immediately said an elected government was a bunch of terrorists.

Israel refused even to talk to the government although that government indicated on more than one occasion it was willing to talk to Israel and to work towards some kind of modus vivendi.

You really do not have to like your neighbor to get along with him or her. Peace requires that, often. It is the common experience across much of humanity. And with so much at stake, you might expect Israel to show some slight flexibility and even generosity. Look at the immense sacrifice of Anwar El Sadat for peace.

And it was not Arabs who gave the world the Holocaust, the event that gave the final impetus to the foundation of a state that had been talked and written about for a century previously. Yet it was Arabs who were made to pay the price with land and homes and olive groves that go back countless centuries. Now they continue to pay with abuse and severely oppressive conditions. They can’t even vote for governing their own
internal affairs without horrible consequences.

After all, events around Israel’s creation as a state – especially including the bloody terror of gangs like the Stern, Irgun, and Lehi – did create the circumstances of these unfortunate people, as every honest Israeli knows. So why not some flexibility and generosity towards future peace? But we never see that from Israel. We only see one-sided conditions set even for talks decade after decade, the one-sided conditions today including the arbitrary removal of an elected government.

But Israel wasn’t satisfied with just ignoring and calling an elected government names: it arrested illegally a major part of that government, literally kidnapping them. Likely, they have been tortured for information, as Israel has practiced torture on prisoners from its founding. And it boldly assassinated many other members of Hamas using Hellfire missiles from its jets, killing scores civilian bystanders in the process.

These arrests are of course on top of something like 9,000 illegally-held Palestinians in Israeli prisons, Israel releasing a token couple of hundred every once in a great while, with great fanfare and publicity, to bolster the public image of Abbas and a party which was rejected in free elections.

Hamas, of course, achieved precisely the early promise of Israel’s secret service by ending up fighting Fatah. The events weakened the voice of Palestinians and gave Israel fresh themes in its ceaseless efforts against Palestinian nationalism.

Once Hamas was left with only Gaza – a weak and vulnerable place, effectively the world’s largest outdoor prison camp, surrounded by fence, and with no ability to receive anything by land, air, or sea except with Israel’s permission – the stage was set for today’s events. Hamas in Gaza was ready to be strangled.

The leader of Fatah, Abbas – a weak and ineffectual man whose party, in fact, lost an election but “leads” and is the only figure Israel even pretends to talk to – was left in the West Bank with Israeli and American protection and help, Israel actually supplying guns to Fatah during the struggle.

Abbas appears to be a man with whom Israel can work, but that means a man with no democratic position, a weak voice, and a somewhat step-and-fetch-it public posture. What does this say of Israel’s genuine respect for democracy and human rights?

The day Israel completely gives up on the idea of Greater Israel and the day it begins treating its neighbors with respect as human beings is the day we will see the foundations of peace. It truly is that simple.

For sixty years Israel has maintained what an early Zionist advocated, an “iron wall” towards its neighbors. And it has manipulated events time and again with black ops – as Shin Bet’s subsidizing Hamas or the horrific attack on an American spy ship during the 1967 war in an effort to draw the U.S. in, or the assistance towards Apartheid South Africa’s becoming a nuclear power in exchange for strategic materials.

Well, you cannot make peace with an iron wall.

Posted June 8, 2009 by JOHN CHUCKMAN in Uncategorized

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JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: BLACK HOLES   Leave a comment

BLACK HOLES

John Chuckman

One of the great discoveries of the late 20th century was the existence of black holes.

Their existence was implied by Albert Einstein’s relativity theory, and their necessary characteristics were worked out by Stephen Hawking and others. Eventually, a new generation of powerful visible-light telescopes and x-ray observatories gave us direct observations supporting what had only been theory.

As every kid fascinated by science knows, black holes come from stars that collapse as their fusion engines sputter out of fuel. The resulting, unimaginably-dense bits of mass have the remarkable ability to grow by capturing matter and energy entering their space-bending gravitational fields.

Modern Israel started as a bright star of an idea, a place of refuge for a horribly abused people, but many observers today might agree that the bright star appears to be collapsing into a dark mass bending the geopolitical space of the entire planet.

The world waits for Mr. Bush to launch a terrible war against Iraq. The only purpose for this war is a preemptive strike at Israel’s most tireless opponent. But the honesty of national debate in America is so distorted by massive gravitational tides, even many of the war’s opponents do not understand what it is they are opposing.

No meaningful evidence has been offered for Mr. Bush’s shrill assertions. An argument for protecting intelligence sources might be accepted as reason for not releasing details to the general public, but what is ridiculous is that no evidence has been supplied to the leaders of major NATO allies. France and Germany would not require the “report” now being quickly cobbled together for Mr. Powell were the case otherwise.

Iraq has bothered no one for twelve years, so why the sudden rush to war before weapons inspectors even complete their work? The only explanation appears to be so that the furious, temporary momentum of American public opinion generated by 9/11 can be harnessed for a war that would not be supported otherwise.

Never mind the deliberately-misleading, invented term weapons of mass destruction, there is no evidence that Iraq has strategically-significant weapons. There is virtual certainty that Iraq has no fissile materials for nuclear weapons, and we know from the previous chief weapons inspector that Iraq’s costly facilities for manufacturing fissile materials were destroyed.

There is no evidence that Saddam Hussein had any past dealings with al Qaeda. Indeed, it is known there was considerable animus between Hussein and bin Laden.

The notion that secret national weapons programs, if any have been reconstituted since weapons inspectors left Iraq in 1998, can be successful when teams of well-equipped inspectors, kept informed by intelligence agencies, roam over the Iraqi countryside, free at any time to enter any facility, truly is delusional. And delusional notions are a mighty dangerous basis for going to war.

To reassure Israel, all reasonable parties are willing to see a strict inspection regime maintained in Iraq, but this is not enough for the single-minded American President who insists on going to war and inflicting more horror on Iraqi civilians. And it is certainly not enough for Mr. Sharon who cheers Mr. Bush on and proclaims maniacally that Iran should be attacked next.

How easily people forget, or perhaps they do not care, that modern war means killing civilians in large numbers. The proportion of civilians killed to military personnel killed has grown exponentially since World War I. America’s focus on overwhelming air power and its reluctance to accept any casualties of its own only makes the trend worse. The question of going to war now is one in which Americans take little account of death, for the deaths are almost all on the other side and remain unseen by a comfortable public thinking itself informed by its heavily-biased press.

General Schwarzkopf’s well-staged press briefings with highly-edited film clips during Desert Storm left the impression that precision munitions have turned war into a neat, almost bloodless computer game. The truth is that about 95% of the munitions used in Desert Storm were not precision. Precision munitions are extremely costly, they slow operations down, and they can themselves go wrong, so they are reserved for special applications. Good old-fashioned dumb bombs and artillery are the only thing to use when you want to do a lot of killing in a hurry. Something like a hundred thousand Iraqi civilians were killed by American munitions that were not precision.

As we wait for this war, we feel the world’s economy buckling and yielding to the threats and uncertainty of a vast, destructive enterprise, to the promise of inflation and dislocation that always accompany war, and to unavoidable, crazed gyrations in the price of oil.

As we wait for this war, the President addresses an uneasy world in the cadences of a fundamentalist tent-preacher thumping his pulpit and threatening hell’s fire, offering the five and three-quarters billion people who live outside America but are still affected by its arbitrary decisions, such reassuring observations as, “The course of this nation does not depend on the decisions of others.”

This President compounds economic uncertainty by running huge deficits and offering to keep preoccupied Americans happy with huge tax cuts – a bizarre, economically illiterate version of, “You can have it all and have it all now!”

As we wait for this war, Israel reduces the West Bank to an utterly bleak and hopeless landscape. All past commitments, as those of the Oslo Accord, are ignored. All the many past resolutions of the United Nations imposing obligations on Israel remain ignored, even while the U.S. asserts Iraq must be attacked precisely for ignoring other United Nations’ resolutions. The leader of the Palestinians is degradingly treated as a criminal virtually under a form of house arrest with whom no discussion can possibly be held.

No more worthy foes of injustice and hatred breathe than Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. They have made unmistakably clear what they see in the West Bank – a repeat in virtually every detail of South Africa’s hateful apartheid regime, but the collapsing star’s force field sucks in even the sympathetic emotions these observations should elicit from Americans.

As we wait for this war, Israel has approached the United States for another $10 billion or more in assistance, over and above the $3 billion it receives automatically each year (and, by rights, we should add the $2 billion paid annually to keep Egypt quiescent). This money is deemed necessary because Israel is run on a war-footing seemingly in perpetuity.

Israel behaves as a regional geopolitical-miniature replica of the United States, even to the extent of now building a triad of nuclear forces (land-based missiles, bombers, and submarine-based missiles – all nuclear-capable) – this in a country whose population is about the size of Ecuador’s, about one-tenth of one percent of the world’s people. The costly wastefulness of this is almost beyond description.

Bush’s War on Terror, rather than being a clearly-focused campaign against those actually responsible for 9/11, has become the label on a portfolio of grudges against all those in the world who balk at or oppose American foreign policy. The War on Terror is itself an emerging black hole sucking in resources, energy, and principles.

It’s not as though a good deal of the world does not understand what is happening. Voices of reason are heard from France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Egypt, South Africa, Russia, China, and other lands, but Bush announces he is willing “to go it alone” if necessary, meaning the entire planet, willy-nilly, must be dragged into a great vortex of destruction.

Posted May 27, 2009 by JOHN CHUCKMAN in Uncategorized

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