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March 20, 2011

Hamas attacked Israel fearing Palestinian reconciliation: Haaretz

Despite the escalation, it seems for now that neither Israel nor Hamas is seeking a broad confrontation.

Yesterday’s mortar barrage on the western Negev is the most extensive operation by Hamas since Operation Cast Lead ended in January 2009. The group has been involved in a few incidents with the Israel Defense Forces since then, but usually on a smaller scale, and it has rarely claimed responsibility.

Yesterday, Hamas publicly announced that its people were behind the latest incident. They said the reason was the Israel Air Force’s attack Wednesday on the Hamas training camp in the ruins of the settlement of Netzarim in which two people were killed. That attack had been precipitated by a Qassam strike a few hours earlier near Sderot.

Hamas said – and to a certain extent justifiably – that Israel had exceeded the unwritten rules of the game. The Qassam had been fired by a marginal Palestinian group, and the accepted response would have been a bombing of empty Hamas offices or an escape tunnel without casualties.

As in the previous rounds of violence, the two sides apparently have more in common than they are willing to admit. Hamas coldly calculated the escalation of fire on Israel yesterday, as Israel did in attacking the Netzarim camp.

Officially, Israel says the bombing of a populated camp was not an extreme departure from an acceptable response. It says it had to remind Hamas of its responsibility to rein in the smaller factions.

In fact, it’s not impossible that the response reflected the general atmosphere after the murder of the Fogel family in Itamar in the West Bank and the interception of the ship carrying missiles from Iran bound for the Gaza Strip the day before.

Despite the escalation, it seems for now that neither Israel nor Hamas is seeking a broad confrontation. The shortening of the periods between attacks – the previous escalation was a month ago, when Islamic Jihad fired a Katyusha at Be’er Sheva – increases the risk that things will spin out of control to a broader campaign against Gaza later in the year.

Hamas says that all it wants is to bring back the status quo on the border with the Gaza Strip. But Palestinian sources in Gaza say they doubt Hamas’ explanation.

The sources say the reason for yesterday’s massive barrage is Hamas’ concerns about Fatah’s calls for reconciliation and unity among Palestinian factions. Last Tuesday, the Hamas prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to visit Gaza to reopen discussions on a unity government. Abbas quickly responded that he is ready to come “tomorrow.”

However, Haniyeh’s invitation was issued without the knowledge or approval of Hamas leaders in Damascus and the group’s military wing in Gaza, who see a possible Abbas visit to Gaza as a problem and risk. Reconciliation could lead to elections, which could jeopardize Hamas’ control over the Gaza Strip. A Hamas leader in Damascus, Mohammed Nazzal, said yesterday in an interview on the Hamas website that Abbas’ announcement was mere spin.

Clearly, Hamas has a problem with Abbas’ move and demonstrations throughout the West Bank for reconciliation. While Ramallah is allowing such demonstrations, Hamas is fighting them. It seems that sympathy for Hamas among the Palestinians is waning, and people are daring to protest publicly against it.

If Hamas leaders had thought that the revolution in Egypt and events elsewhere in the Arab world would play into their hands, things now seem more complex. Over the weekend they felt for the first time, even in Damascus – that bastion of Hamas support – the shock waves of the Arab Spring.

Terrorism, Schmerorism by Khalil Bendib

Missiles and planes strike Libya: BBC

The UK, US and France have attacked Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi’s forces in the first action to enforce a UN-mandated no-fly zone.

Pentagon officials say the US and the UK have fired more than 110 missiles, while French planes struck pro-Gaddafi forces attacking rebel-held Benghazi.

Col Gaddafi has vowed retaliation and said he would open arms depots to the people to defend Libya.

Cruise missiles hit air-defence sites in the capital, Tripoli, and Misrata.

Continue reading the main story
Analysis

Allan Little
The capital this morning is relatively calm, with traffic moving around as normal, although the atmosphere is quite tense.

At 0230 there was a loud barrage of anti-aircraft fire, but I could hear no sounds of incoming ordnance, and apart from that there’s been no audible sign of the war here in Tripoli.

That is not to say targets on the periphery of the city have not been hit. State TV says 48 civilians have been killed and more than 100 wounded. Last night the speaker of the parliament said hospitals were filling up and that there had been a bombardment of a civilian part of the city, but there’s been no independent confirmation of that.

We’re reporting under restricted circumstances and can’t go out independently. It’s easy to find people swearing undying loyalty to Col Gaddafi – and there’s no doubting their sincerity – but you wonder what’s in the heads of the many millions who do not take part in these angry demonstrations of support for the leader.

Libyan state TV broadcast footage it says showed some of the 150 people wounded in the attacks. It said 48 people had been killed. There was no independent confirmation of the deaths.

Military officials are said to be assessing the damage from the overnight raids before deciding on their next move.

At least 14 bodies were lying in and around the remains of military vehicles which littered the road leading to Benghazi after the French strikes, Reuters reports.

Rebel forces are now heading from Benghazi to the town of Ajdabiya, which has been the scene of fierce fighting in recent days, the agency says.

Hundreds of Col Gaddafi’s supporters have gathered at his Bab al-Aziziyah palace and the international airport to serve as human shields, state TV said.

The AFP news agency reports that bombs were dropped near the palace, which the US also attacked in 1986.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, heavy bursts of anti-aircraft fire arced into the sky above Tripoli and several explosions were heard.

Sources in Tripoli told BBC Arabic that the attacks on the city had so far targeted the eastern areas of Sawani, Airport Road, and Ghasheer. These are all areas believed to host military bases.

The Western forces began their action on Saturday, after Libyan government forces attacked the main rebel-held city of Benghazi – Col Gaddafi’s allies accused the rebels of breaking the ceasefire:

A French plane fired the first shots against Libyan government targets at 1645 GMT on Saturday, destroying military vehicles near Benghazi, according to a military spokesman
At least 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from US destroyers and submarine, said a Pentagon official
A British submarine and Tornado jets fired missiles at Libyan military targets, the UK Ministry of Defence said
There were also strikes near the western city of Misrata
France has denied Libyan claims to have shot down a French plane
A naval blockade against Libya is being put in place.
“It’s a first phase of a multi-phase operation” to enforce the UN resolution, said US Navy Vice-Adm William E Gortney.

The BBC’s Kevin Connolly, in the rebel-held eastern city of Tobruk, says that once the air-defence systems are taken out, combat aircraft can patrol Libyan airspace more widely and it will then become clear to what extent they will attack Col Gaddafi’s ground forces.

This will determine the outcome of the campaign, he adds.

Russia and China, which abstained from the UN Security Council resolution approving the use of force in Libya, have urged all parties to stop fighting, as has the African Union.

After the missile bombardment and the air strikes, Col Gaddafi made a brief speech calling on people to resist.

“Civilian and military targets in the air and sea will be liable to serious danger in the Mediterranean,” he said.

The Libyan leader called the attacks “a colonialist crusade of aggression. This can lead to open a new crusade war.”

Our correspondent says it is now clear that Col Gaddafi’s strategy is to portray the attacks as an act of colonialist aggression and rally enough of the Libyan people behind him to maintain his grip on power.

‘Legal and right’
US President Barack Obama, speaking during a visit to Brazil, said the US was taking “limited military action” as part of a “broad coalition”.

“We cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people there will be no mercy,” he said.

He repeated that no US ground troops would take part.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron said that launching military action against Libya was “necessary, legal and right”.

The international community was intervening to stop the “murderous madness” of Col Gaddafi, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said.

“In Libya, the civilian population, which is demanding nothing more than the right to choose their own destiny, is in mortal danger,” he warned. “It is our duty to respond to their anguished appeal.”

Canada is also sending warplanes to the region, while Italy has offered the use of its military bases.

Rebels in Benghazi said thousands of people had fled the attack by Col Gaddafi’s forces, heading east, and the UN refugee agency said it was preparing to receive 200,000 refugees from Libya.

Col Gaddafi has ruled Libya for more than 40 years. An uprising against him began last month after the long-time leaders of neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt were toppled.

Nobel Oeace Prize Winner strikes Again, by Carlos Latuff

Is entertaining dictators worse than normalizing apartheid?: The Electronic Intifada

Nada Elia and Laurie King, 3 March 2011

Muammar Gaddafi speaking on Libyan TV.

As revolutions continue to sweep the Arab world, and the days of dictators seem numbered, we are learning a lot about the ties and alliances that have long characterized the west’s dealing with tyrants around the globe. “Stability,” apparently, requires us to make deals with the devil. And so we discover that the United States has long known about the human rights abuses of deposed Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, deposed Tunisian president Zine el-Abedine Ben Ali, and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. But it was willing nonetheless not only to turn a blind eye to these, but even to enable and fund, directly or indirectly, oppressive regimes, for the sake of what exactly? Oil? Corporations? The so-called “peace process?” Iraqi “freedom?” Israel’s security?

And as Arab tyrants are challenged, one by one, social media are abuzz with the embarrassing and numerous compliments and kind remarks that western heads of state, academics, pundits, and entertainers have given these deposed dictators. In a typical statement, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for example, said in 2009: “I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family.” Apparently, the Clinton-Mubarak friendship goes back about 20 years. Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam, a close friend of Prince Andrew, Queen Elizabeth’s second son and fourth in line to the British throne, has been a guest at Windsor Castle and Buckingham palace. The list is long.

But as the people seem determined to overthrow all those oppressive regimes, liberal Americans are openly questioning the wisdom and morality of “dealing with the devil.” In a highly critical segment on Anderson Cooper’s program AC 360, Cooper, a CNN journalist exhibiting an unusual level of courage and integrity among mainstream American media personalities, called out the various US presidents who have welcomed Gaddafi into their diplomatic circles, even as they acknowledged his tendency towards malice and mental instability, best epitomized by Ronald Reagan’s name for him: “the madman of the desert” (KTH: The West and Gadhafi’s regime,” 24 February 2011).

In that same episode, Cooper was critical of American artists Beyonce, Usher, and Mariah Carey, all three of whom gave private performances for the Gaddafis. Carey apparently received one million dollars for performing four songs for the Gaddafis on New Year in 2009. The following year, it was Beyonce and Usher who graced the Libyan dictator’s New Year’s celebration. Cooper asked why artists would perform for tyrants, and suggested that they donate the money they received to the Libyan people.

The news item was quickly picked up by other media. Rolling Stone magazine also ran an article stating that the music industry is lashing out at these artists, and quoting David T. Viecelli, agent for Arcade Fire and many other acts, as saying “Given what we know about Qaddafi and what his rule has been about, you have to willfully turn a blind eye in order to accept that money, and I don’t think it’s ethical” (Industry Lashes Out at Mariah, Beyonce and Others Who Played for Qaddafi’s Family,” 25 February 2011).

Amid all this uproar, Canadian singer Nelly Furtado announced on Twitter that she would donate to charity a one million dollar fee she received to perform for the Gaddafi family in 2007 (“Nelly Furtado to give away $1 million Gaddafi fee,” Reuters, 1 March 2011).

Those of us who have long been engaged in Palestine justice activism cannot help but notice glaring double-standards in these denunciations of the various deals with devils. And at this critical point in the history of the Arab world, we must request that our readers begin to “connect the dots” throughout the region. Is entertaining dictators a lesser crime than normalizing Israeli apartheid?

Why hold artists accountable for performing at the behest of tyrants, and let them off the hook for whitewashing Israel’s regime which engages in massive human rights abuses, all subsidized by the United States government?

Why not call artists who have performed in Israel, a state which practices a form of apartheid worse than anything the South African apartheid government had ever done? In 1973, the United Nations General Assembly defined the crime of Apartheid as “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.” As Israel’s official policy privileges Jewish nationals over non-Jewish citizens, creating de facto and de jure discrimination against the indigenous Palestinian people, it is hard to dispute that this supposed “democracy” is in reality an apartheid state.

Many of the discriminatory measures Israel practices today were unthought of in apartheid South Africa. In his powerful essay, “Apartheid in the Holy Land,” penned shortly after his return from a visit to the West Bank, Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote: “I’ve been very deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land; it reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa” (“Apartheid in the Holy Land,” The Guardian, 29 April 2002).

In 2009, a comprehensive study by South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council confirmed that Israel is practicing both colonialism and apartheid in the occupied Palestinian territories.

That study was inspired by the observations of John Dugard, South African law professor and former UN special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, who wrote in 2006: “Israel’s large-scale destruction of Palestinian homes, leveling of agricultural lands, military incursions and targeted assassination of Palestinians far exceeded any similar practices in apartheid South Africa. No wall was ever built to separate blacks and whites.” And no roads were ever built for whites only in South Africa either, while Israel continues to build Jewish-only roads, cutting through the Palestinian landscape.

Israel’s form of apartheid includes the crippling blockade of Gaza; the ongoing seizure of Palestinian land and water sources; construction of the West Bank apartheid wall declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in The Hague; the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem; the denial of the rights of Palestinian refugees and discriminatory laws and mounting threats of expulsion against the 1.2 million Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship.

And as word inevitably gets out, because we are no longer pleading for permission to narrate, but seizing our right to expose these crimes, Israel is hard at work trying to fix its image, without changing the policies and actions that have tarnished that image. As it cements its apartheid policies, Israel is funneling millions of dollars into burnishing its public image as a culturally vibrant, progressive, and thriving democracy.

Among its PR moves is the cultural “Re-Brand” campaign. Israel is intentionally inviting international artists to such “hip” places as Tel Aviv to mask the ugly face of occupation, apartheid, displacement, and dispossession. If we are to hold artists accountable for their choice of performance venues and income sources — as indeed we should — then we should hold them accountable for complicity in normalizing apartheid no less than for entertaining dictators.

In an important article that appeared in The Grio, Lori Adelman also asks: “Why are black pop stars performing at the behest of dictators?” before making the comparison to Sun City, the extravagant whites-only entertainment resort city in apartheid South Africa. And she reminds her readers of the impact of the Artists United Against Apartheid music project, which contributed one million dollars for anti-Apartheid efforts and, most importantly, raised awareness about the global power of artists to influence political discourse on human rights issues (“Why are black pop stars performing at the behest of dictators?,” 24 February 2011).

Today, there is global awareness of Israel’s numerous crimes. And there is a call for artists to boycott Israel, until the country abides by international law. The call was issued in 2005 by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (www.pacbi.org/). In the US, where we live, the campaign is coordinated by the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. When we learn of an artist who is planning to perform in Tel Aviv, we contact them, inform them of the reality on the ground (should they need such information), and urge them to reconsider and cancel any concerts they may have scheduled. Many have already done so, including the industry’s biggest names: Carlos Santana, Bono, The Pixies, Elvis Costello and Gil Scott-Heron. Folk legend Pete Seeger also recently announced his support for boycotting Israel.

In what may be the most eloquent statement to date, Costello wrote: “One lives in hope that music is more than mere noise, filling up idle time, whether intending to elate or lament. Then there are occasions when merely having your name added to a concert schedule may be interpreted as a political act that resonates more than anything that might be sung and it may be assumed that one has no mind for the suffering of the innocent. … Some will regard all of this an unknowable without personal experience but if these subjects are actually too grave and complex to be addressed in a concert, then it is also quite impossible to simply look the other way” (“It Is After Considerable Contemplation …,” 15 May 2010).

Today, Artists Against Apartheid are still around, and they are active in promoting the boycott of a country that is practicing apartheid in the 21st century, namely Israel. The question should be, then, if artists boycotted Sun City, shouldn’t they also boycott Tel Aviv? Why the outrage when Beyonce entertains Gaddafi, but not when Madonna, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, and so many more, entertain apartheid in Israel?

Editor’s note: this article originally incorrectly stated that Mariah Carey and Usher had performed in Israel but they have not done so. This version of the article reflects that correction.

Laurie King, an anthropologist, is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada.

Nada Elia is a member of the Organizing Committee of USACBI, the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (Facebook).

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