Friday, March 20, 2009

Compounding the mistakes of the past

If you want to learn some of the facts behind the early strategies conceived for Israel's control of the Middle East, as well as details on last year's rocket attacks, there is no better place to start than the January 26, 2009 edition of the American Conservative magazine. Here are two excellent articles that take on subjects forbidden to public discussion by that Lobby that does not exist.

In "Captive Nation: How Gaza became a Palestinian prison," Israeli author Avi Shlaim describes the thousands of refugees crammed into a tiny strip of land with no infrastructure or natural resources as a "uniquely cruel case of deliberate de-development."

In "Another War, Another Defeat," John Mearsheimer, co-author of the much-acclaimed and much-defamed The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, debunks the notion that Israel was ever serious about making peace with the Palestinians in 2005. He says, "Even before Hamas came to power, the Israelis intended to create an open-air prison for the Palestinians in Gaza and inflict great pain on them until they complied with Israel’s wishes."

Mearsheimer reveals that, after Israel's withdrawal from Gaza, Ariel Sharon's adviser, Dov Weisglass, candidly stated that the disengagement from Gaza was aimed at halting the peace process, not encouraging it. Israel was checkmated in March 2007, when Fatah and Hamas came together in unity and pushed for a long-term ceasefire, promising to end all missile attacks, if the Israelis ceased arresting and assassinating Palestinians, and ended the economic blockade of their territory. Faced with such a deal, what was the great rogue state to do?

Not only did Israel's leaders reject this offer, they realized that, in order to keep the Palestinians in disarray (the ongoing goal), they had to keep Hamas and Fatah divided, and they set about fomenting a civil war between the two groups. Mearsheimer details how this was done.

Avi Shlaim, who served in the Israeli military, describes how, from the very beginning, "Local industry was actively impeded so as to make it impossible for the Palestinians to end their subordination and establish the economic underpinnings essential for independence." Although Israeli settlers were withdrawn from Gaza, he reports, "Israeli soldiers continued to control all access to the Gaza Strip. The Israeli air force enjoyed unrestricted freedom to drop bombs, make sonic booms by flying low and breaking the sound barrier, and terrorize the hapless inhabitants." [Read Avi Shlaim's The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World.]

He asks how any people can tolerate being so demonized, while trying to survive the years-long blockade of their trade – their exports, incoming supplies and medicines. Shlaim concludes, "Israel’s real aim is not peaceful coexistence with its Palestinian neighbors but military domination. It keeps compounding the mistakes of the past with new and more disastrous ones."

[See Philip Weiss commentary, "Was there an intentional Israeli policy in Gaza to kill civilians?"]

"Shoot and cry" used to just be an Israeli cliche about the guilt soldiers felt after committing unspeakable acts while serving the Israeli occupation. Now it appears to have become official military doctrine.

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