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Plan D? Zionism devised that plan in 1935 to cleanse the Palestinians from their lands and villages

Plan D or beginning of “war of conquest”.

Zionism had many plans to be executed as the political climate and timing were appropriate. In the 100 years since the implantation of first colonies in Palestine, many plans have been carried out to occupy all of Palestine for the only the Jews, coming from all corners of the world.

With respect to Haifa, IIan Pappé writes:

From the morning after the UN Partition Resolution was adopted in November 1947, the 75,000 Palestinians in the city were subjected to a campaign of terror jointly instigated by the Irgun and the Hagana.

As they had only arrived in recent decades, the Jewish settlers had built their houses higher up the mountain. Thus, they lived topographically above the Arab neighbourhoods and could easily shell and snipe at them. They had started doing this frequently since early December.

They used other methods of intimidation as well: the Jewish troops rolled barrels full of explosives, and huge steel balls, down into the Arab residential areas, and poured oil mixed with fuel down the roads, which they then ignited.

The moment panic-stricken Palestinian residents came running out of their homes to try to extinguish these rivers of fire, they were sprayed with machine-gun fire.

In areas where the two communities still interacted, the Hagana brought cars to Palestinian garages to be repaired, loaded with explosives and detonating devices, and so wreaked death and chaos.

Prominent Israeli historian Ilan Pappé notes that, in Israel’s Plan Dalet (also known simply as Plan D), “veteran Zionist leaders” created “a plan for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.” They dispatched military orders in March 1948, Pappé explains:

“The orders came with a detailed description of the methods to be employed to forcibly evict the people: large-scale intimidation; laying siege to and bombarding villages and population centres; setting fire to homes, properties and goods; expulsion; demolition; and, finally, planting mines among the rubble to prevent any of the expelled inhabitants from returning.”

Plan D “spelled it out clearly and unambiguously: the Palestinians had to go,” writes Pappé.

“The aim of the plan was in fact the destruction of both the rural and urban areas of Palestine,” he adds, and it “contain[ed] a repertoire of cleansing methods that one by one fit the means the U.N. describes in its definition of ethnic cleansing.”

Morris is correct that Plan D did not explicitly call for “expelling as many Arabs as possible from the territory of the future Jewish state”, as Blatman suggests. But neither did it order that “neutral or friendly villages should be left untouched”, as Morris contends.

Under Plan D, brigade commanders were to use their own discretion in mounting operations against “enemy population centers”—meaning Palestinian towns and villages—by choosing between the following options:

—Destruction of villages (setting fire to, blowing up, and planting mines in the debris), especially those population centers which are difficult to control continuously.

—Mounting combing and control operations according to the following guidelines: encirclement of the village and conducting a search inside it. In the event of resistance, the armed force must be wiped out and the population must be expelled outside the borders of the state.[66]

Thus, while Plan D allowed for Arab inhabitants to remain as long as they did not resist the takeover of their villages by the Zionist forces, it did not order Haganah commanders to permit them to stay under such circumstances—as Morris falsely suggests in the second of his responses in Haaretz.

Nor is Morris incognizant of the critical distinction. In 1948, he explicitly notes that “brigade commanders were given the option” of destroying Arab villages (emphasis added)—which would obviously necessitate expelling their inhabitants—regardless of whether any of the villagers offered any resistance.

“The commanders were given discretion whether to evict the inhabitants of villages and urban neighborhoodssitting on vital access roads”, Morris writes (emphasis added). “The plan gave the brigades carte blanche to conquer the Arab villages and, in effect, to decide on each village’s fate—destruction and expulsion or occupation. The plan explicitly called for the destruction of resisting Arab villages and the expulsion of their inhabitants” (emphasis added).[67]

As Ilan Pappé expounds, “Villages were to be expelled in their entirety either because they were located in strategic spots or because they were expected to put up some sort of resistance. These orders were issued when it was clear that occupation would always provoke some resistance and that therefore no village would be immune, either because of its location or because it would not allow itself to be occupied.”[68]

By these means, by the time the war ended, the Zionist forces had expelled the inhabitants of and destroyed 531 villages and emptied eleven urban neighborhoods of their Arab residents.[69]

Pappé further notes how the facts on the ground at the time challenge Morris’s characterization of the Zionist’s operations as having been “defensive” prior to the implementation of Plan D:

The reality of the situation could not have been more different: the overall military, political and economic balance between the two communities was such that not only were the majority of Jews in no danger at all, but in addition, between the beginning of December 1947 and the end of March 1948, their army had been able to complete the first stage of the cleansing of Palestine, even before the master plan had been put into effect. If there were a turning point in April, it was the shift from sporadic attacks and counter-attacks on the Palestinian civilian population towards the systematic mega-operation of ethnic cleansing that now followed.[70]

In Haaretz, Morris adds that in the larger urban areas with mixed populations, under Plan D, the orders were for the Arabs “to be transferred to the Arab centers of those cities, like Haifa, not expelled from the country.” Morris also writes that the Zionists “left Arabs in place in Haifa”, and he cites it as an example of a place where Arabs “were ordered or encouraged by their leaders to flee”—as opposed to them being expelled by the Zionist forces.

But the details Morris provides in 1948 of what happened in Haifa tell an altogether different story.

By the end of March 1948, most of the wealthy and middle-class families had fled Haifa. Far from ordering this evacuation, the Arab leadership had blasted those who fled as “cowards” and tried to prevent them from leaving.[71]

Among the reasons for the flight were terrorist attacks by the Irgun that had sowed panic in Haifa and other cities. On the morning of December 30, 1947, for example, the Irgun threw “three bombs from a passing van into a crowd of casual Arab laborers at a bus stop outside the Haifa Oil Refinery, killing eleven and wounding dozens.”[72] (Ilan Pappé notes that “Throwing bombs into Arab crowds was the specialty of the Irgun, who had already done so before 1947.”[73]

And as Morris points out, Arab militias took note of the methods of the Irgun and Lehi and eventually started copying them: “The Arabs had noted the devastating effects of a few well-placed Jewish bombs in Jerusalem, Jaffa, and Haifa . . . .”[74]) Arab laborers inside the plant responded by turning against their Jewish coworkers, killing thirty-nine and wounding fifty (several Arab employees did try to protect their Jewish co-workers).[75]

The Haganah retaliated by targeted a nearby village that was home to many of the refinery workers. The orders were to spare the women and children, but to kill the men. “The raiders moved from house to house, pulling out men and executing them. Sometimes they threw grenades into houses and sprayed the interiors with automatic fire. There were several dozen dead, including some women and children.”

Ben-Gurion defended the attack by saying it was “impossible” to “discriminate” under the circumstances. “We’re at war. . . . There is an injustice in this, but otherwise we will not be able to hold out.”[76]

Marking “the start of the implementation of Plan D”, writes Morris, was Operation Nahshon in April 1948.[77] By this time, tens of thousands of Haifa’s seventy thousand Arabs had already fled.[78] The Haganah had been planning an operation in Haifa since mid-month, and when the British withdrew their troops from positions between Arab and Jewish neighborhoods on April 21, it provided the Haganah with the opportunity to put it into effect.[79]

The Haganah fired mortars indiscriminately into the lower city, and by noon “smoke rose above gutted buildings and mangled bodies littered the streets and alleyways.” The mortar and machine gun fire “precipitated mass flight toward the British-held port area”, where Arab civilians trampled each other to get to boats, many of which were capsized in the mad rush.[80]

The British high commissioner, Sir Alan Cunningham, described the Haganah’s tactics: “Recent Jewish military successes (if indeed operations based on the mortaring of terrified women and children can be classed as such) have aroused extravagant reactions in the Jewish press and among the Jews themselves a spirit of arrogance which blinds them to future difficulties. . . . Jewish broadcasts both in content and in manner of delivery, are remarkably like those of Nazi Germany.”[81]

It was under these circumstances that the local Arab leaders sought to negotiate a truce, and in a British-mediated meeting in the afternoon on April 22, the Jewish forces proposed a surrender agreement that “assured the Arab population a future ‘as equal and free citizens of Haifa.’”[82] But the Arab notables, after taking some time to consult before reconvening, informed that they were in no position to sign the truce since they had no control over the Arab combatants in Haifa and that the population was intent on evacuating. Jewish and British officials at the meeting tried to persuade them to sign the agreement, to no avail. In the days that followed, nearly all of Haifa’s remaining inhabitants fled, with only about 5,000 remaining.

While in his Haaretz article, Morris attributed this flight solely to orders from the Arab leadership to leave the city, in 1948, he notes that other factors included psychological trauma from the violence—especially the Haganah’s

 

While in his Haaretz article, Morris attributed this flight solely to orders from the Arab leadership to leave the city, in 1948, he notes that other factors included psychological trauma from the violence—especially the Haganah’s mortaring of the lower city—and despair at the thought of living now as a minority under a people who had just inflicted that collective punishment upon them.

Furthermore, “The Jewish authorities almost immediately grasped that a city without a large (and actively or potentially hostile) Arab minority would be better for the emergent Jewish state, militarily and politically. Moreover, in the days after 22 April, Haganah units systematically swept the conquered neighborhoods for arms and irregulars; they often handled the population roughly; families were evicted temporarily from their homes; young males were arrested, some beaten. The Haganah troops broke into Arab shops and storage facilities and confiscated cars and food stocks. Looting was rife.”[83]

This, then, is the situation Morris is describing when he disingenuously writes in Haaretz that the Zionist forces “left Arabs in place in Haifa” and that Arabs fled Haifa because they were “ordered or encouraged by their leaders”.

We can also compare Morris’s account of how the village of Lifta came to be emptied of its Arab inhabitants with Ilan Pappé’s. 1984 contains only one mention of Lifta, a single sentence in which Morris characterizes it as another example of how Arabs fled upon the orders of their leadership: “For example, already on 3–4 December 1947 the inhabitants of Lifta, a village on the western edge of Jerusalem, were ordered to send away their women and children (partly in order to make room for incoming militiamen).”[84]

Pappé tells a remarkably different story, describing Lifta, with its population of 2,500, as “one of the very first to be ethnically cleansed”:

Social life in Lifta revolved around a small shipping centre, which included a club and two coffee houses. It attracted Jerusalemites as well, as no doubt it would today were it still there. One of the coffee houses was the target of the Hagana when it attacked on 28 December 1947. Armed with machine guns the Jews sprayed the coffee house, while members of the Stern Gang stopped a bus nearby and began firing into it randomly. This was the first Stern Gang operation in rural Palestine; prior to the attack, the gang had issued pamphlets to its activists: ‘Destroy Arab neighbourhoods and punish Arab villages.’

The involvement of the Stern Gang in the attack on Lifta may have been outside the overall scheme of the Hagana in Jerusalem, according to the Consultancy [i.e., Ben-Gurion and his close advisors], but once it had occurred it was incorporated into the plan. In a pattern that would repeat itself, creating faits accomplis became part of the overall strategy.

The Hagana High Command at first condemned the Stern Gang attack at the end of December, but when they realized that the assault had caused the villagers to flee, they ordered another operation against the same village on 11 January in order to complete the expulsion. The Hagana blew up most of the houses in the village and drove out all the people who were still there.[85]

The lesson learned was also applied in Jerusalem. On February 7, 1948, Ben-Gurion went to see Lifta for himself and that evening reported to a council of the Mapai party in Jerusalem:

When I come now to Jerusalem, I feel I am in a Jewish (Ivrit) city. This is a feeling I only had in Tel-Aviv or in an agricultural farm. It is true that not all of Jerusalem is Jewish, but it has in it already a huge Jewish bloc: when you enter the city through Lifta and Romema, through Mahaneh Yehuda, King George Street and Mea Shearim—there are no Arabs. One hundred percent Jews.

Ever since Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans—the city was not as Jewish as it is now. In many Arab neighbourhoods in the West you do not see even one Arab. I do not suppose it will change. And what happened in Jerusalem and in Haifa—can happen in large parts of the country. If we persist it is quite possible that in the next six or eight months there will be considerable changes in the country, very considerable, and to our advantage. There will certainly be considerable changes in the demographic composition of the country.[86]

Note that all of this happened well before explicit orders were given to destroy villages and expel their inhabitants if anyone resisted occupation by the Zionist forces. From mid-March onward, in Morris’s own words, “In line with Plan D, Arab villages were henceforward to be leveled to prevent their reinvestment by Arab forces; the implication was that their inhabitants were to be expelled and prevented from returning.”[87] The Haganah “embarked on a campaign of clearing areas of Arab inhabitants and militia forces and conquering and leveling villages”.[88] Plan D implemented a

“new policy, of permanently occupying and/or razing villages and of clearing whole areas of Arabs”.[89]

Morris’s contention that what happened wasn’t ethnic cleansing because most Palestinians fled, as opposed to being expelled by the Zionist forces, becomes a moot distinction in light of how, for example, a massacre that occurred in the Arab village of Deir Yassin in April was “amplified through radio broadcasts . . . to encourage a mass Arab exodus from the Jewish state-to-be.”[90]

David Ben-Gurion (center) with Yitzhak Rabin and Yigal Allon during the 1948 war (Israel Defense Forces/CC BY-NC 2.0)

David Ben-Gurion (center) with Yitzhak Rabin and Yigal Allon during the 1948 war (Israel Defense Forces/CC BY-NC 2.0)

In the Galilee, “the Arab inhabitants of the towns of Beit Shean (Beisan) and Safad had to be ‘harassed’ into flight”, according to a planned series of operations conceived in April (“in line with Plan D”, Morris notes). In charge of these operations was the commander of the Palmach, Yigal Allon.[91]

On May 1, two villages north of Safad were captured. Several dozen male prisoners were executed, and the Palmach “proceeded to blow up the two villages as Safad’s Arabs looked on. The bulk of the Third Battalion then moved into the town’s Jewish Quarter and mortared the Arab quarters”, prompting many of Safad’s Arab inhabitants to flee.[92]

After five days, the Arabs sought a truce, which Allon rejected. Even some of the local Jews “sought to negotiate a surrender and demanded that the Haganah leave town. But the Haganah commanders were unbending” and continued pounding Safad with mortars and its arsenal of 3-inch Davidka munitions.

The first of the Davidka bombs, according to Arab sources cited by a Haganah intelligence document, killed 13 Arabs, mostly children, which triggered a panic and further flight. This, of course, was precisely what was “intended by the Palmah commanders when unleashing the mortars against the Arab neighborhoods”—which, “literally overnight, turned into a ‘ghost town’”. In the weeks that followed, “the few remaining Arabs, most of them old and infirm or Christians, were expelled to Lebanon or transferred to Haifa.”[93]

Yigal Allon summed up the purpose of the Palmach’s operations: “We regarded it as imperative to cleanse the interior of the Galilee and create Jewish territorial continuity in the whole of Upper Galilee.” He boasted of how he devised a plan to rid the Galilee of tens of thousands of Arabs without having to actually use force to drive them out. His strategy, which “worked wonderfully”, was to plant rumors that additional reinforcements had arrived “and were about to clean out the villages of the Hula [Valley]”.

 

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How Israel bypassed the signed Oslo Accord as if it didn’t ever existed?

By Jonathan Cook September 13, 2018

There will be no anniversary celebrations this week to mark the signing of the Oslo Accords in Washington 25 years ago. It is a silver jubilee for which there will be no street parties, no commemorative mugs, no specially minted coins.

Oslo never died. It is still doing today exactly what it was set up to do

– Diana Buttu, Palestinian lawyer and former PA adviser

Palestinians have all but ignored the landmark anniversary, while Israel’s commemoration has amounted to little more than a handful of doleful articles in the Israeli press about what went wrong.

The most significant event has been a documentary, The Oslo Diaries, aired on Israeli TV and scheduled for broadcast in the US this week. It charts the events surrounding the creation of the peace accords, signed by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Washington on 13 September 1993.

The euphoria generated by the Norwegian-initiated peace process a quarter of a century ago now seems wildly misplaced to most observers. The promised, phased withdrawals by Israel from the occupied Palestinian territories got stuck at an early stage.

And the powers of the Palestinian Authority, a Palestinian government-in-waiting that came out of Oslo, never rose above managing healthcare and collecting garbage in densely populated Palestinian areas, while coordinating with Israel on security matters.

All the current efforts to draw lessons from these developments have reached the same conclusion: that Oslo was a missed opportunity for peace, that the accords were never properly implemented, and that the negotiations were killed off by Palestinian and Israeli extremists.

Occupation reorganised

But analysts Middle East Eye has spoken to take a very different view.

“It is wrong to think of Oslo being derailed, or trying to identify the moment the Oslo process died,” says Diana Buttu, a Palestinian lawyer and former adviser to the Palestinian Authority. “Oslo never died. It is still doing today exactly what it was set up to do.”

Michel Warschawski, an Israeli peace activist who developed strong ties with Palestinian leaders in the Oslo years, concurred.

“I and pretty much everyone else I knew at that time was taken in by the hype that the occupation was about to end. But in reality, Oslo was about reorganising the occupation, not ending it. It created a new division of labour.

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Palestine, Israel and the Oslo Accords: What you need to know

“Rabin didn’t care much about whether the Palestinians got some indicators of sovereignty – a flag and maybe even a seat at the United Nations.

“But Israel was determined to continue controlling the borders, the Palestinians’ resources, the Palestinian economy. Oslo changed the division of labour by sub-contracting the hard part of Israel’s security to the Palestinians themselves.”

The accords were signed in the immediate aftermath of several years of a Palestinian uprising in the occupied territories – the First Intifada – that had proved costly to Israel, both in terms of casualties and treasure.

Under Oslo, Palestinian security forces patrolled the streets of Palestinian cities, overseen by and in close coordination with the Israeli military. The tab, meanwhile, was picked up by Europe and Washington.

In an interview with the Haaretz newspaper last week, Joel Singer, the Israeli government lawyer who helped to draft the accords, conceded as much. Rabin, he said, “thought it would enhance [Israeli] security to have the Palestinians as the ones fighting Hamas”.

That way, as Rabin once observed, the occupation would no longer be accountable to the “bleeding hearts” of the Israeli supreme court and Israel’s active human rights community.

Less than statehood

The widespread assumption that Oslo would lead to a Palestinian state was also mistaken, Buttu says.

She notes that nowhere in the accords was there mention of the occupation, a Palestinian state, or freedom for the Palestinians. And no action was specified against Israel’s illegal settlements – the chief obstacle to Palestinian statehood.

Instead, the stated goal of the Oslo process was implementation of two outstanding United Nations resolutions – 242 and 338. The first concerned the withdrawal of the Israeli army from “territories” occupied in the 1967 war, while the second urged negotiations leading to a “just and durable peace”.

“I spoke to both Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas [his successor as Palestinian president] about this,” said Buttu. “Their view was that clearer language, on Palestinian statehood and independence, would never have got past Rabin’s coalition.

“So Arafat treated resolutions 242 and 338 as code words. The Palestinian leadership referred to Oslo as a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’. Their approach was beyond naïve; it was reckless. They behaved like amateurs.”

Asad Ghanem, a politics professor at Haifa University and expert on Palestinian nationalism, said the Palestinian leadership was aware from the outset that Israel was not offering real statehood.

“In his memoirs, Ahmed Qurei [one of the key architects of Oslo on the Palestinian side] admitted his shock when he started meetings with the Israeli team,” says Ghanem.

“Uri Savir [Israel’s chief negotiator] said outright that Israel did not favour a Palestinian state, and that something less was being offered. The Israelis’ attitude was ‘Take it or leave it’.”

Sympathy with settlers

All the analysts agreed that a lack of good faith on Israel’s part was starkly evident from the start, especially over the issue of the settlements.

Noticeably, rather than halt or reverse the expansion of the settlements during the supposed five-year transition period, Oslo allowed the settler population to grow at a dramatically accelerated rate.

The near-doubling of settler numbers in the West Bank and Gaza to 200,000 by the late 1990swas explained by Alan Baker, a legal adviser to Israel’s foreign ministry after 1996 and a settler himself, in an interview in 2003.

Most of the settlements were portrayed to the Israeli public as Israeli “blocs”, outside the control of the newly created PA. With the signing of the accords, Baker said, “we are no longer an occupying power, but we are instead present in the territories with their [the Palestinians’] consent and subject to the outcome of negotiations.”

Recent interviews with settler leaders by Haaretz hint too at the ideological sympathy between Rabin’s supposedly leftist government and the settler movement.

Settlers demonstrate in November 1993 against Oslo (AFP)

Israel Harel, who then headed the Yesha Council, the settlers’ governing body, described Rabinas “very accessible”. He pointed out that Zeev Hever, another settler leader, sat with Israeli military planners as they created an “Oslo map”, carving up the West Bank into various areas of control.

Referring to settlements that most had assumed would be dismantled under the accords, Harel noted: “When [Hever] was accused [by other settlers] of cooperating, he would say he saved us from disaster. They [the Israeli army] marked areas that could have isolated settlements and made them disappear.”

Israel’s Oslo lawyer, Joel Singer, confirmed the Israeli leadership’s reluctance to address the issue of the settlements.

“We fought with the Palestinians, on Rabin and [Shimon] Peres’ orders, against a [settlement] freeze,” he told Haaretz. “It was a serious mistake to permit the settlements to continue to race ahead.”

Rabin’s refusal to act

Neve Gordon, a politics professor at Ben Gurion University in Israel’s south, says the critical test of Rabin’s will to tackle the settlements came less than a year into the Oslo process. It was then that Baruch Goldstein, a settler, killed and wounded more than 150 Palestinians at worship in the Palestinian city of Hebron.

“That gave Rabin the chance to remove the 400 extremist settlers who were embedded in the centre of Hebron,” Gordon told MEE. “But he didn’t act. He let them stay.”

Palestinians carry the bodies of dead worshippers killed by Baruch Goldstein in Hebron (AFP)

The lack of response from Israel fuelled a campaign of Hamas “revenge” suicide bombings that in turn were used by Israel to justify a refusal to withdraw from more of the occupied territories.

Warschawski says Rabin could have dismantled the settlements if he had acted quickly. “The settlers were in disarray in the early stages of Oslo, but he didn’t move against them.”

After Rabin’s assassination in late 1995, his successor Shimon Peres, also widely identified as an architect of the Oslo process, changed tactics, according to Warschawski. “Peres preferred to emphasise internal reconciliation [between Israelis], rather than reconciliation with the Palestinians. After that, the religious narrative of the extremist settlers came to dominate.”

That would lead a few months later to the electoral triumph of the right under Benjamin Netanyahu.

The demographic differential

Although Netanyahu campaigned vociferously against the Oslo Accords, they proved perfect for his kind of rejectionist politics, says Gordon.

Under cover of vague promises about Palestinian statehood, “Israel was able to bolster the settlement project,” in Gordon’s view. “The statistics show that, when there are negotiations, the demographic growth of the settler population in the West Bank increases. The settlements get rapidly bigger. And when there is an intifada, they slow down.

“So Oslo was ideal for Israel’s colonial project.”

It was not only that, under the pressure of Oslo, religious settlers ran to “grab the hilltops”, as a famous army general and later prime minister, Ariel Sharon, put it. Gordon pointed to a strategy by the government of recruiting a new type of settler during the initial Oslo years.

In the early 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Sharon and others had tried to locate Russian-speaking new immigrants in large settlements like Ariel, in the central West Bank. “The problem was that many of the Russians had only one child,” says Gordon.

Israel was able to bolster the settlement project… Oslo was ideal for Israel’s colonial project

– Neve Gordon, politics professor at Ben Gurion University

So instead, Israel began moving the ultra-Orthodox into the occupied territories. These fundamentalist religious Jews, Israel’s poorest community, typically have seven or eight children. They were desperate for housing solutions, noted Gordon, and the government readily provided incentives to lure them into two new ultra-Orthodox settlements, Modiin Ilit and Beitar Illit.

“After that, Israel didn’t need to recruit lots of new settlers,” Gordon says. “It just needed to buy time with the Oslo process and the settler population would grow of its own accord.

“The ultra-Orthodox became Israel’s chief demographic weapon. In the West Bank, Jewish settlers have on average two more children than Palestinians – that demographic differential has an enormous impact over time.”

Palestinian dependency

Buttu pointed to another indicator of how Israel never intended the Oslo Accords to lead to a Palestinian state. Shortly before Oslo, from 1991 onwards, Israel introduced much more severe restrictions on movement, including an increasingly sophisticated permit system.

“Movement from Gaza to the West Bank became possible only in essential cases,” she says. “It stopped being a right.”

That process, Ghanem noted, has been entrenched over the past quarter century, and ultimately led to a complete physical and ideological separation between Gaza and the West Bank, now ruled respectively by Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah.

Gordon observed that Oslo’s economic arrangements, governed by the 1995 Paris Protocol, stripped the Palestinians of financial autonomy too.

“The Palestinians did not get their own currency, they had to use the Israeli shekel. And a customs union made the Palestinians a dependent market for Israeli goods and empowered Israel to collect import duties on behalf of the PA. Refusing to transfer that money was a stick Israel has regularly wielded against the Palestinians.”

According to the analysts, those Palestinian leaders like Arafat who were allowed by the Oslo process to return from exile in Tunisia – sometimes referred to as the “outsiders” – were completely ignorant of the situation on the ground.

On 12 September 1993, Yasser Arafat leaves Tunis for Oslo signing ceremony in Washington, DC (AFP)

Gordon, who was at that time head of Israel’s branch of Physicians for Human Rights, recalled meeting young Palestinian-Americans and Canadians in Cairo to discuss the coming health arrangements the PA would be responsible for.

“They were bright and well-educated, but they were clueless about what was happening on the ground. They had no idea what demands to make of Israel,” he says.

“Israel, on the other hand, had experts who knew the situation intimately.”

Warschawski has similar recollections. He took a senior Palestinian recently arrived from Tunis on a tour of the settlements. The official sat in his car in stunned silence for the whole journey.

“They knew the numbers but they had no idea how deeply entrenched the settlements were, how integrated they were into Israeli society,” he says. “It was then that they started to understand the logic of the settlements for the first time, and appreciate what Israel’s real intentions were.”

Lured into a trap

Warschawski noted that the only person in his circle who rejected the hype around the Oslo Accords from the very beginning was Matti Peled, a general turned peace activist who knew Rabin well.

“When we met for discussions about the Oslo Accords, Matti laughed at us. He said there would be no Oslo, there would be no process that would lead to peace.”

They couldn’t move forward towards statehood because Israel blocked their way. But equally, they couldn’t back away from the peace process either

– Asad Ghanem, politics professor at Haifa University

Ghanem says the Palestinian leadership eventually realised that they had been lured into a trap.

“They couldn’t move forward towards statehood, because Israel blocked their way,” he says. “But equally, they couldn’t back away from the peace process either. They didn’t dare dismantle the PA, and so Israel came to control Palestinian politics.

“If Abbas leaves, someone else will take over the PA and its role will continue.”

Why did the Palestinian leadership enter the Oslo process without taking greater precautions?

According to Buttu, Arafat had reasons to feel insecure about being outside Palestine, along with other PLO leaders living in exile in Tunisia, in ways that he hoped Oslo would solve.

“He wanted a foot back in Palestine,” she says. “He felt very threatened by the ‘inside’ leadership, even though they were loyal to him. The First Intifada had shown they could lead an uprising and mobilise the people without him.

“He also craved international recognition and legitimacy.”

Trench warfare

According to Gordon, Arafat believed he would eventually be able to win concessions from Israel.

“He viewed it as trench warfare. Once he was in historic Palestine, he would move forward trench by trench.”

Warschawski noted that Arafat and other Palestinian leaders had told him they believed they would have significant leverage over Israel.

“Their view was that Israel would end the occupation in exchange for normalisation with the Arab world. Arafat saw himself as the bridge that would provide the recognition Israel wanted. His attitude was that Rabin would have to kiss his hand in return for such an important achievement.

“He was wrong.”

Yasser Arafat and Yitzahk Rabin shake hands for the first time at the Oslo signing ceremony on 13 September 1993 (AFP)

Gordon pointed to the early Oslo discourse about an economic dividend, in which it was assumed that peace would open up trade for Israel with the Arab world while turning Gaza into the Singapore of the Middle East.

The “peace dividend”, however, was challenged by an equally appealing “war dividend”.

“Even before 9/11, Israel’s expertise in the realms of security and technology proved profitable. Israel realised there was lots of money to be made in fighting terror.”

In fact, Israel managed to take advantage of both the peace and war dividends.

Thanks to Oslo, Israel became normalised in the region, while paradoxically the Palestinians found themselves transformed into the foreign object

– Diana Buttu, Palestinian lawyer and former PA adviser

Buttu noted that more than 30 countries, including Morocco and Oman, developed diplomatic or economic relations with Israel as a result of the Oslo Accords. The Arab states relented on their boycott and anti-normalisation policies, and major foreign corporations no longer feared being penalised by the Arab world for trading with Israel.

“Israel’s peace treaty with Jordan [in 1994] could never have happened without Oslo,” she says.

“Instead of clear denunciations of the occupation, the Palestinians were saddled with the language of negotiations and compromises for peace.

“The Palestinians became a charity case, seeking handouts from the Arab world so that the PA could help with the maintenance of the occupation rather than leading the resistance.

“Thanks to Oslo, Israel became normalised in the region, while paradoxically the Palestinians found themselves transformed into the foreign object.”

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

Noam Chomsky: Israel’s Actions in Palestine are “Much Worse Than Apartheid” in South Africa

Web Exclusive AUGUST 08, 2014

“In the Occupied Territories, what Israel is doing is much worse than apartheid,” Noam Chomsky says. “To call it apartheid is a gift to Israel, at least if by ‘apartheid’ you mean South African-style apartheid.

What’s happening in the Occupied Territories is much worse. There’s a crucial difference. The South African Nationalists needed the black population. That was their workforce. … The Israeli relationship to the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories is totally different. They just don’t want them. They want them out, or at least in prison.

(Actually, until recently, Israel relied on the Palestinians to build the settlements, and cultivate the land. And they started to bring African immigrants to replace them, and now they want these immigrants out also)

AMY GOODMAN: And yet, Noam, you say that the analogy between Israel’s occupation of the territories and apartheid South Africa is a dubious one. Why?

NOAM CHOMSKY: There’s a crucial difference. The South African Nationalists needed the black population. That was their workforce. It was 85% of the workforce of the population, and that was basically their workforce. They needed them. They had to sustain them. The Bantustans were horrifying, but South Africa did try to sustain them. They didn’t put them on a diet. They tried to keep them strong enough to do the work that they needed for the country. They tried to get international support for the bantustans.

The Israeli relationship to the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories is totally different. They just don’t want them. They want them out, or at least in prison. And they’re acting that way.

If you look inside Israel, there’s plenty of repression and discrimination. I’ve written about it extensively for decades. But it’s not apartheid. It’s bad, but it’s not apartheid. So the term, I just don’t think is applicable. (A rogue terrorist state?)

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to get your response to Giora Eiland, a former Israeli national security adviser. Speaking to The New York Times, Eiland said, quote, “You cannot win against an effective guerrilla organization when on the one hand, you are fighting them, and on the other hand, you continue to supply them with water and food and gas and electricity. Israel should have declared a war against the de facto state of Gaza, and if there is misery and starvation in Gaza, it might lead the other side to make such hard decisions.” Noam Chomsky, if you could respond to this?

NOAM CHOMSKY: That’s basically the debate within the Israeli top political echelon: Should we follow Dov Weissglas’s position of maintaining them on a diet of bare survival, so you make sure children don’t get chocolate bars, but you allow them to have, say, Cheerios in the morning? Should we—

AMY GOODMAN: Actually, Noam, can you explain that, because when you’ve talked about it before, it sort of sounds—this diet sounds like a metaphor. But can you explain what you meant when you said actual diet? Like, you’re talking number of calories. You’re actually talking about whether kids can have chocolate?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Israel has—Israeli experts have calculated in detail exactly how many calories, literally, Gazans need to survive. And if you look at the sanctions that they impose, they’re grotesque. I mean, even John Kerry condemned them bitterly. They’re sadistic. Just enough calories to survive. And, of course, it is partly metaphoric, because it means just enough material coming in through the tunnels so that they don’t totally die. Israel restricts medicines, but you have to allow a little trickle in.

When I was there right before the November 2012 assault, I visited the Khan Younis hospital, and the director showed us that there’s—they don’t even have simple medicines, but they have something. And the same is true with all aspects of it. Keep them on a diet, literally. And the reason is—very simple, and they pretty much said it: “If they die, it’s not going to look good for Israel. We may claim that we’re not the occupying power, but the rest of the world doesn’t agree.

Even the United States doesn’t agree.

We are the occupying power. And if we kill off the population under occupation, not going to look good.” It’s not the 19th century, when, as the U.S. expanded over what’s its national territory, it pretty much exterminated the indigenous population.

Well, by 19th century’s imperial standards, that was Not problematic. This is a little different today. You can’t exterminate the population in the territories that you occupy. That’s the dovish position, Weissglas. The hawkish position is Eiland, which you quoted: Let’s just kill them off.

AMY GOODMAN: And who do you think is going to prevail, as I speak to you in the midst of this ceasefire?

NOAM CHOMSKY: The Weissglas position will prevail, because Israel just—you know, it’s already becoming an international pariah and internationally hated. If it went on to pursue Eiland’s recommendations, even the United States wouldn’t be able to support it.

(Israel needs the trade with Gaza, but the Gulf States stopped funding the Palestinians and the USA followed suit. Gaza basically relies on the EU for everything to survive)

AMY GOODMAN: You know, interestingly, while the Arab countries, most of them, have not spoken out strongly against what Israel has done in Gaza, Latin American countries, one after another, from Brazil to Venezuela to Bolivia, have. A number of them have recalled their ambassadors to Israel. I believe Bolivian President Evo Morales called Israel a “terrorist state.” Can you talk about Latin America and its relationship with Israel?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Yeah, just remember the Arab countries means the Arab dictators, our friends. It doesn’t mean the Arab populations, our enemies.

But what you said about Latin America is very significant. Not long ago, Latin America was what was called the backyard: They did whatever we said. In strategic planning, very little was said about Latin America, because they were under our domination. If we don’t like something that happens, we install a military dictatorship or carry—back huge massacres and so on. But basically they do what we say. Last 10 or 15 years, that’s changed.

And it’s a historic change in Latin America.

For the first time in 500 years, since the conquistadors, Latin America is moving toward degree of independence of imperial domination and also a degree of integration, which is critically important.

And what you just described is one striking example of it. In the entire world, as far as I know, only a few Latin American countries have taken an honorable position on this issue: Brazil, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, El Salvador have withdrawn ambassadors in protest. They join Bolivia and Venezuela, which had done it even earlier in reaction to other atrocities. That’s unique.

And it’s not the only example. There was a very striking example a year or so ago. The Open Society Forum did a study of support for rendition. Rendition, of course, is the most extreme form of torture. What you do is take people, people you don’t like, and you send them to your favorite dictatorship so they’ll be tortured. Grotesque.

That was the CIA program of extraordinary rendition. The study was: Who took part in it? Well, of course, the Middle East dictatorships did—you know, Assad, Mubarak and others—because that’s where you sent them to be tortured—Gaddafi. They took part.

Europe, almost all of it participated. England, Sweden, other countries permitted, abetted the transfer of prisoners to torture chambers to be grotesquely tortured.

In fact, if you look over the world, there was only really one exception: The Latin American countries refused to participate. Now, that is pretty remarkable, for one thing, because it shows their independence. But for another, while they were under U.S. control, they were the torture center of the world—not long ago, a couple of decades ago. That’s a real change.

And by now, if you look at hemispheric conferences, the United States and Canada are isolated. The last major hemispheric conference couldn’t come to a consensus decision on the major issues, because the U.S. and Canada didn’t agree with the rest of the hemisphere.

The major issues were admission of Cuba into the hemispheric system and steps towards decriminalization of drugs. That’s a terrible burden on the Latin Americans. The problem lies in the United States. And the Latin American countries, even the right-wing ones, want to free themselves of that. U.S. and Canada wouldn’t go along. These are very significant changes in world affairs.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to Charlie Rose interviewing the Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal. This was in July. Meshaal called for an end to Israel’s occupation of Gaza.

KHALED MESHAAL: [translated] This is not a prerequisite. Life is not a prerequisite. Life is a right for our people in Palestine. Since 2006, when the world refused the outcomes of the elections, our people actually lived under the siege of eight years. This is a collective punishment. We need to lift the siege. We have to have a port. We have to have an airport. This is the first message.

The second message: In order to stop the bloodletting, we need to look at the underlying causes. We need to look at the occupation. We need to stop the occupation. Netanyahu doesn’t take heed of our rights. And Mr. Kerry, months ago, tried to find a window through the negotiations in order to meet our target: to live without occupation, to reach our state. Netanyahu has killed our hope or killed our dream, and he killed the American initiative.

AMY GOODMAN: That is the Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal. In these last few minutes we have left, Noam Chomsky, talk about the demands of Hamas and what Khaled Meshaal just said.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, he was basically reiterating what he and Ismail Haniyeh and other Hamas spokespersons have been saying for a long time. In fact, if you go back to 1988, when Hamas was formed, even before they became a functioning organization, their leadership, Sheikh Yassin—who was assassinated by Israel—others, offered settlement proposals, which were turned down. And it remains pretty much the same. By now, it’s quite overt. Takes effort to fail to see it. You can read it in The Washington Post.

What they propose is: They accept the international consensus on a two-state settlement.

They say, “Yes, let’s have a two-state settlement on the international border.” They do not—they say they don’t go on to say, “We’ll recognize Israel,” but they say, “Yes, let’s have a two-state settlement and a very long truce, maybe 50 years. And then we’ll see what happens.” Well, that’s been their proposal all along.

That’s far more forthcoming than any proposal in Israel. But that’s not the way it’s presented here. What you read is, all they’re interested in is destruction of Israel.

What you hear is Bob Schieffer’s type of repetition of the most vulgar Israeli propaganda. But that has been their position. It’s not that they’re nice people—like, I wouldn’t vote for them—but that is their position.

AMY GOODMAN: Six billion dollars of damage in Gaza right now. About 1,900 Palestinians are dead, not clear actually how many, as the rubble hasn’t all been dug out at this point. Half a million refugees. You’ve got something like 180,000 in the schools, the shelters. And what does that mean for schools, because they’re supposed to be starting in a few weeks, when the Palestinians are living in these schools, makeshift shelters? So, what is the reality on the ground that happens now, as these negotiations take place in Egypt?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, there is a kind of a slogan that’s been used for years: Israel destroys, Gaza people rebuild, Europe pays.

It’ll probably be something like that—until the next episode of “mowing the lawn.” And what will happen—unless U.S. policy changes, what’s very likely to happen is that Israel will continue with the policies it has been executing.

No reason for them to stop, from their point of view. And it’s what I said: take what you want in the West Bank, integrate it into Israel, leave the Palestinians there in Non viable cantons, separate it from Gaza, keep Gaza on that diet, under siege—and, of course, control, keep the West Golan Heights—and try to develop a greater Israel.

This is not for security reasons, incidentally. That’s been understood by the Israeli leadership for decades.

Back around 1970, Ezer Weizmann, later the Air Force general, later president, pointed out, correctly, that taking over the territories does not improve our security situation—in fact, probably makes it worse—but, he said, it allows Israel to live at the scale and with the quality that we now enjoy. In other words, we can be a rich, powerful, expansionist country.

AMY GOODMAN: But you hear repeatedly, Hamas has in its charter a call for the destruction of Israel. And how do you guarantee that these thousands of rockets that threaten the people of Israel don’t continue?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Very simple. First of all, Hamas charter means practically nothing. The only people who pay attention to it are Israeli propagandists, who love it.

It was a charter put together by a small group of people under siege, under attack in 1988. And it’s essentially meaningless. There are charters that mean something, but they’re not talked about.

For example, the electoral program of Israel’s governing party, Likud, states explicitly that there can never be a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River. And they not only state it in their charter, that’s a call for the destruction of Palestine, explicit call for it.

And they don’t only have it in their charter, you know, their electoral program, but they implement it. That’s quite different from the Hamas charter.

‘I don’t think we can convert people with talk’– says Larry Commodore, First Nations Soowahlie community passenger on Gaza boat

“Why are you Israeli soldiers wearing masks, only criminals wear masks?”

Activism

 on 
Kim Jensen (www.kimjensen.org) is a Baltimore-based writer, poet, and educator who spends a great deal of time in historic Palestine. Her books include a novel, The Woman I Left Behind, and two collections of poems, Bread Alone and The Only Thing that Matters.

Larry Commodore is a long-time indigenous rights activist and former elected chief of the Soowahlie community of the Stó:lō Nation, near Vancouver.

Larry was invited to participate in the Freedom Flotilla, and was a passenger on the al-Awda when masked, armed Israeli soldiers violently surrounded and boarded the vessel in international waters.

Screen shot of Larry Commodore speaking before he embarked on the Freedom Flotilla, July 16, 2018. (Video: Canada Boat to Gaza)

His foot and bladder were injured when the Israeli forces dragged him off the boat in Ashdod. In Givon prison in Ramle, he was verbally abused and denied treatment for his bladder for two days, despite the urgency of his condition.

He finally got the catheter he needed. After four days of detention, Larry was deported and is now safely back in the Soowahlie community.

Larry Commodore and I were able to talk by telephone a few nights ago. His voice was full of a beautiful Northern First Nations lilt, emanating a gentleness and modesty of character that are still lingering in my spirit.

With his permission, I have edited our conversation for length and clarity.

Kim Jensen: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me.

Larry Commodore: Thank you.

KJ: Can you tell me about where you come from?

LC: I live in the Soowahlie community. There are 24 communities in the Stó:lō  Nation. We are called the People of the River, and we are also part of the Ts’elxwéyeqw tribe. The Soowahlie community is a small place. There are about 350 people living on the rez here.

KJ: What’s it like there? What is the economy?

LC: We live close to a resort here, the Cultus Lake resort community. It has water-slides and swimming and boating—all that kind of stuff. In terms of economy, we don’t have a lot going here. We’ve got a campsite and a gravel operation. That’s about our main source of revenue on the rez. We are kind of small in acreage. We only have 100 acres.

KJ: Oh, that’s really small.

LC: It’s because we are a non-treaty people. Our land was stolen from us. In 1864 they laid out the Soowahlie Indian reserve, and a promise was made—it was called the Crown’s Promise—that this reserve would be protected, but we would also get revenue from the rest of our traditional territory.

But that promise didn’t come through. That was how we became impoverished. We are not a rich community at all. Far from it. Traditionally, before contact, we were considered one of the wealthiest of the original first nations because of the abundance of our natural resources.

KJ: So now you have a gravel mine and a campsite. Is that where people going to the resort stay?

LC: Yup. It gets pretty busy up here in the summer.

KJ: How do you feel about that?

LC: [Laughs] Well, I rarely go up to Cultus Lake. Like most of the locals, we just kind of put up with it.

KJ: How is what you have just described connected with the story of Palestine?

LC: Well, the whole basis of settler colonialism is to exploit the resources, to take the land from the natives.

That’s the whole program—and that’s what’s happening in Palestine and here. Our resources are being exploited and we’re not benefiting from it. And the settler-colonialists are. BC, Canada is one of the wealthiest places in the world, and it’s because they stole it from us. And that’s what’s happening to Palestinians too.

In Gaza I guess there’s some offshore oil or gas resources that Israel wants to exploit, so they’re getting rid of the people.

KJ: When did you first learn about this?

LC: About 30 years ago. I came across something that Yasser Arafat had said—that the Palestinians are the Red Indians of the Middle East and that kind of gave me pause, kind of resonated with me.

So I started looking more into it. I read Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Edward Said, and other writers and of course, and started following the news. It really outraged me.

KJ: Was there a specific event that spurred you to want to be more actively involved?

LC: Two years ago, I went to a Palestinian solidarity conference at a university just down the road from me here and I met up with Rachel Corrie’s parents. I had known about Rachel Corrie from the time she was murdered in the early 2000’s.

And I could really relate to her parents. I could really relate to their loss. A lot of indigenous community members have lost family members. I’ve lost family members too, so we know what loss is like. I could really identify with Cindy and Craig there.

KJ: They are such amazing people.

JC: And then of course there were Palestinians too, and we developed a rapport right away. And I met a Jewish friend of mine there, Sid Shniad from Independent Jewish Voices. But the person that had the most impact was Hanna Kawas.

He’s with the Canadian Palestine Association—and has been in exile here a few years and has worked with other native activists too. And I met with other Palestinian activists too and learned about their struggles. So when I was asked to go on the boat to break the blockade Gaza, of course I wanted to go.

Palestinians take part in a rally to support with the “Freedom Flotilla 2”, at the Seaport of Gaza City, on July 9, 2018. (Photo: Abed Abu Ryash/APA Images)

KJ: You were aboard the al-Awda for the last leg of its journey from Palermo to Palestine. What memories of the trip will stay with you?

LC: Well, there were 22 of us and each of the others were extraordinary people in their own right. I was quite impressed with my shipmates. Most of our intimate time was standing on watch—we had two of four-hour watches a day—so we really got to know each other. We really had a great time singing, telling jokes, being silly on the watch, making up songs.

KJ: Sounds fun! What kind of songs?

LC: [Laughs] Well Mikkel, the radio operator, he knew a few sea songs there. And the Norwegians had a strong sea background—more than the rest of us—they had some sea songs, but most of the time we were making up songs, and being silly, and not worrying about too much else. We were just a group of loving, caring people being together.

KJ: Well that’s lovely. I mean that’s what it is all about, right? The brotherhood and sisterhood we share.

LC: Exactly. I guess you can say we were modeling how societies should work.

KJ: Speaking of how societies should work, the Freedom Flotilla Coalition has committed itself to nonviolent resistance in its actions, and that leaves you very vulnerable out on the open sea. Were you afraid?

LC: I was more angry than afraid. I had prepared pretty well for how I would react if something happened directly to me, but what I hadn’t prepared enough for was my reaction when my shipmates were being assaulted.

KJ: What was that like? To see your shipmates being beaten and tasered?

LC:  Well that’s what got me going. That is what got me really quite angry—when I watched one of our guys on the deck being put down by an Israeli commando. It pissed me off. It was hard to hold my tongue. When the Israelis were guarding us, I was so pissed off. I was asking them, “Why are you wearing masks, only criminals wear masks?” They were really quite brutal.

KJ: And you were assaulted too. When you arrived at port, they verbally assaulted you and dragged you off the boat. In prison, they stitched up your gashed foot, but denied you care for the bladder until the last day. After all of this, I’m wondering if are you planning to try to get compensation.

LC: We’re looking into that. That’s going to be our next step. I spoke with David Heap, and we’re putting together our case. Because everything that I had with me was stolen, except my passport. Everything was stolen. And the other participants, all of their money was stolen too. So at the last count, there was about $4,000 stolen.

KJ: Well they better give it back. It’s not their property.

LC: Exactly. I mean, what kind of professional army stoops to petty thievery?

KJ: Yes, it’s looting.

LC: Yup. It’s what pirates do. So that’s what we’re working on now, but there is still a good bit of evidence to be collected.

KJ: Are you facing criminal charges in Israel?

LC: No, I’m not. But they banned me for 10 years. I’m not allowed to Israel for 10 years [laughs]. Well, it’s kind of strange because I wasn’t planning to go to Israel. They’re the ones who dragged me into Israel. They dragged me in, then kicked me out again [Laughs].

KJ: How do these first-hand experiences reinforce the similarities between your people’s struggles and the Palestinians?

LC: It’s that settler colonial mindset. It’s all about exploiting our land and our resources, and using the thin veneer of “the rule of law” to acquire our resources. It’s more the rule BY law, rather than the rule OF law that is used to oppress us. I’ve always said that there’s no justice in the colonizer’s court. There in Palestine, and in Canada too.

KJ: The rule BY law, not the rule OF law.

LC: Another similarity is what’s happening to the fishermen in Gaza. They are being killed, not infrequently, and are prevented from pursuing their indigenous right to fish. We, the Stó:lō people, we are people of the river. Our main source of protein comes from the wild salmon. It’s been our main source of protein for thousands of years. They say our bones are made of it.

KJ: And what are the differences that you see?

LC: I guess the big difference right now is the level of violence.

For us, there’s not that scale of violence, at least not right now. And that really concerns me, because we’re dealing with what they call inter-generational trauma.

Our parents were brought into residential schools where they were abused—sexually, psychologically, mentally, and physically. And one of the doctors who has studied trauma is finding out about how this affects the DNA of generations of people. And so I wonder how the greater level of violence will impact the children of Palestine. Dr. Gabor Maté is the one who did that research.

KJ: This thought is making me so sad. To think of the violence that the children of Gaza are being subjected to.

LC: But there is a beautiful thing to remember. This is a worldwide grassroots effort. The Freedom Flotilla Coalition has given us a beautiful opportunity to engage with our own communities. Because of this trip, my community has been really worried about me, and now they are holding a dinner and a ceremony for me. This is an opportunity for me to engage with them, to explain some of what’s going on in Gaza.

So as a grassroots organizer, I’m quite grateful to the coalition for giving me this opportunity. Of course in the whole area up here, people are talking a lot, and it’s been in the media. It’s been quite an experience in the last few days. Literally hundreds of people have sent their regards, encouraging me, and telling me that I did a good thing.

KJ: I’m glad to hear that. So here comes that well-worn interview question. If you could talk to the Israeli people as a whole, what would you say?

LC: Well, I’m not so sure talking really does much. Here in Canada, we’ve been told that we’ve got to educate the non-natives. I’ve heard that for a couple of generations. I’m 63 now. So I get kind of cynical about this question. I don’t think we can convert people with talk. I think actions, like the one we just did, speak a lot more than just verbal communication.

KJ: I agree. So will you go on any more Freedom Flotilla actions in the future?

LC: [Laughs] Yup. With no hesitation at all.

Any existential reason for Iraq Abadi PM to hurriedly back Trump’s embargo and sanctions on Iran?

Where are the interests of Iraq and its people for this mindless and hurried agreement of the PM to align with Trump’s policies on Iran?
The trade between Iran and Iraq amount to $8 bn
Each year, 3 million Iranians come for pilgrimage to Iraq
These sanctions are unilateral and Not sanctioned by the UN
When ISIS was about to enter Baghdad, Iran dispatched forces within hours. It took the US 6 months for its first airstrike against Daesh
There are 1,500 km shared borders between the 2 countries and thousands of years of common trade and cultural affinities, while the US shares nothing of the above
And the USA invaded Iraq more than once and totally demolished it and killed million with its sanctions and weapons of depleted uranium.
Are there any military agreement of the US with Iraq similar with the Gulf Emirates? No, there is none.
Has the PM any legitimacy in proclaiming this statement without discussion with the Iraqi institutions?

العقوبات الامريكية على ايران والمصلحة العراقية || الدكتور حميد فاضل استاذ العلوم السياسية

الجمعة 10 أب 2018 : 12:44 pm

العقوبات الامريكية على ايران والمصلحة العراقية || الدكتور حميد فاضل استاذ العلوم السياسية في جامعة بغداد

خرج السيد رئيس الوزراء الدكتور حيدر العبادي في مؤتمر صحفي ليعلن انه ضد مبدأ الحصار والعقوبات ضد الدول ولكنه سيلتزم بتلك التي قرر الرئيس ترامب فرضها على ايران لان ذلك في اعتقاده يحقق مصلحة عراقية!!

فهل فعلا تتحقق المصلحة العراقية؟!

1- العقوبات قرار سيادي لدولة الولايات المتحدة ضد دولة اخرى وهي ايران، وبالتالي ليس هناك اَي غطاء قانوني دولي يشرعن هذه العقوبات.

2- وعلى أساس النقطة أعلاه فهذه العقوبات والحصار الاقتصادي ليس مشابها لذلك الذي فرض على العراق عقب غزو نظام صدام لدولة الكويت، ففي حينها فرض الحصار وفق القرار 661 في 1990/8/6 وبموجب الفصل السابع من الميثاق وهي ملزمة التطبيق للدول الأعضاء بعكس العقوبات الامريكية التي ليس لها اَي الزام قانوني.

3- الحصار على العراق استفادت منه بعض الدول المجاورة له، الاْردن بالمقام الاول وتركيا بدرجة اقل، التي تذرعت بالمادة (50) من الميثاق التي سمحت للدول المتضررة من اَي عقوبات ان لا تلتزم بها.

وإذا كان الاستثناء يصح في إطار الميثاق والأطر القانونية فلماذا لا يصح في إطار العلاقات السياسية، لماذا لم ولا يطلب العراق من الولايات المتحدة استثناءه منها ان كان ملتزم معها سياسيا؟!

4- يبلغ حجم التبادل التجاري السنوي بين العراق وإيران 8 مليار دولار، وهو رقم كبير يعكس عمق العلاقة الاقتصادية والتجارية بينهما، ولا يمكن لقرار سياسي تقويضها او تعويضها سريعا.

5- هناك قرابة 3 مليون سائح ديني إيراني يزور العراق سنويا، وهو يشكل موردا اقتصاديا مهما للعراق لو أحسن توظيفه بشكل صحيح. فهل لدى واشنطن او غيرها ما يعوض العراق هذه الدورة الاقتصادية الفعالة.

6- على فرض عدم وجود هذه الفاعلية الاقتصادية في العلاقة بين البلدين، هل يمكن التغاضي عن العلاقات العسكرية بين البلدين، فطهران احتاجت لبعض ساعات فقط لتهب لنجدة العراق من خطر داعش في حين احتاجت واشنطن لقرابة 6 أشهر لتنفذ طائراتها أولى ضرباتها المحدودة.

7- التخلي عن العلاقة مع طهران واستبدالها بواشنطن يحتاج الى اطر وتعهدات مكتوبة فهل هناك اتفاقية عسكرية بين العراق والولايات المتحدة شبيهة بتلك التي وقعتها واشنطن مع إمارات الخليج؟

وعلى فرض انها موجودة او ستكون كذلك هل هي كافية؟
لقد كان بيننا اتفاقية الإطار المشترك ولَم تحرك واشنطن شيئا وطائراتها وأقمارها تراقب وتسجل مرور المئات من الارهابين من سوريا الى العراق!!

8- اذا تجاوزنا الروابط الثقافية والحضارية بين البلدين، هل تتحق المصلحة العراقية برفض بلد مجاور تمتد الحدود معه لمسافة 1458 كم والصداقة والتحالف مع بلد تفصلنا عنه 9 آلاف ميل بكل ما فيها من بحار ومحيطات وانهار وقارات ودوّل وشعوب؟!

9- اخيراً أسأل هل المصلحة العراقية تتطلب سرعة اعلان الموقف العراقي؟

لا أقول كان علينا ان نرفض هذه العقوبات كما فعلت دول اخرى، لكن أسئل عن الدبلوماسية والمناورة، لماذا غابت عن رئيس الوزراء؟! ولا اعتقد انه يجهلها فقد اظهر السيد العبادي براعة كبيرة فيها خلال المرحلة الماضية ولكن ربما هي رغبة أطراف اخرى، وإلا كيف يأخذ مثل هذا الموقف ومعركة الولاية الثانية لم تحسم لصالحه بعد، وربما هذا الموقف احد أدوات الحسم فيها!؟!!

بقي تسأؤل محوري يتعلق بموقف مثل هذا:
هل ينفرد به رئيس الوزراء على أساس ان الدستور منحه صلاحيات رسم السياسة الخارجية للبلد ام ان الموضوع يتعدى رئيس الوزراء لانه يتعلق بمصير دولة ومستقبل شعب؟!!

قناة آفاق الفضائية

‘Disturbing’ & ‘Misleading’

The New York Review of Books

FEBRUARY 7, 2013

Steve Coll

It is not unusual for filmmakers to try to inject authenticity into a movie’s first frames by flashing onscreen words such as “based on real events.”

Yet the language chosen by the makers of Zero Dark Thirty to preface their film about events leading to the death of Osama bin Laden is distinctively journalistic: “Based on Firsthand Accounts of Actual Events.”

As those words fade, “September 11, 2001” appears against a black screen and we hear genuine emergency calls made by victims of al-Qaeda’s attack on the World Trade Center. One caller describes flames spreading around her and says that she is “burning up”; she pleads against death and then her voice disappears.

Before any actor speaks a single fictional line, Zero Dark Thirty makes two choices: it aligns its methods with those of journalists and “historians”, and it appropriates as drama what remains the most undigested trauma in American national life during the last several decades.

Since Zero Dark Thirty’s release in New York and Los Angeles in December (it opens nationwide on January 11), the film has provoked a split reaction.

Critics have celebrated it for its pacing, control, and arresting but complicated depictions of political violence.

The New York Film Critics Circle has named the film best picture of 2012, and it has been nominated for five Academy Awards, including one for the best picture of the year.

The qualities some critics admire in the film are familiar from The Hurt Locker, the previous collaboration—about an American bomb squad in Iraq—between the scriptwriter, Mark Boal, and the director, Kathryn Bigelow. (The film made Bigelow the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director, in 2009, and it also won an Oscar for Best Picture. Another misleading movie)

At the same time, a number of journalists and public officials—including 3 US senators—have excoriated Zero Dark Thirty. Their main complaint is that the film greatly overstates the role played by torture—or “enhanced interrogation techniques,” in the CIA’s terrifying euphemism—in extracting from al-Qaeda-affiliated detainees information that ultimately led to the discovery of Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where he was killed by NavySEALs on May 2, 2011.

“The film creates the strong impression that the enhanced interrogation techniques…were the key to finding Bin Laden,” Michael Morell, the acting CIA director, wrote to agency employees in December. “That impression is false.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein and the two senior members of the Armed Services Committee, Democrat Carl Levin and Republican John McCain, coauthored a letter calling the movie’s version of recent counter-terrorism history “grossly inaccurate.”

The senators said the film’s flaws have “the potential to shape American public opinion in a disturbing and misleading manner.”

Boal is a former journalist who conducted interviews with CIA officers, military officers, and White House officials as he prepared to write Zero Dark Thirty.

The Obama administration and CIA leaders reportedly authorized at least some of these interviews, apparently in the belief that the public would appreciate the movie that resulted.

Boal has said that he conducted other reporting on his own initiative. Boal and Bigelow have offered two main responses to the criticism they have received. One is that as dramatists compressing a complex history into a cinematic narrative, they must be granted a degree of artistic license.

(Since when artistic requirement means blatant lies and corruption of public opinion on hideous activities?) 

That is unarguable, of course, and yet the filmmakers cannot, on the one hand, claim authenticity as journalists while, on the other, citing art as an excuse for shoddy reporting about a subject as important as whether torture had a vital part in the search for bin Laden, and therefore might be, for some, defensible as public policy.

Boal and Bigelow—not their critics—first promoted the film as a kind of journalism. Bigelow has called Zero Dark Thirty a “reported film.” Boal told a New York Times interviewer before the controversy erupted, “I don’t want to play fast and loose with history.”

Boal has said that he believes his script captures “a very complex debate about torture” because it shows some prisoners giving up information under duress, while others dissemble.

There is no reason to doubt that Boal and Bigelow intended to depict the role of torture in the search for bin Laden ambiguously.

The Hurt Locker was a film of understated complexity drawn out through action, not didactic explication. Yet The Hurt Locker’s story offered a microcosm of war that did not try too hard to address the larger subject of the tragic invasion of Iraq, and so a viewer had no cause to compare the film’s choices to a record of historical fact.

(Just alluding to doing it right is a serious sin and evil doing)

Zero Dark Thirty has the inverse shape: it is an epic history that the filmmakers try to compress into a microcosm, by telling the story of the decade-long bin Laden hunt, which involved many hundreds of CIA officers and military personnel, primarily through the experience of a single analyst, “Maya,” who is played by Jessica Chastain, and who is based on a real-life CIA employee whom Boal reportedly met.

In the film, the personal story of Maya’s pursuit of bin Laden—which is original and convincing—is juxtaposed against explosive external events, such as the terrorist attack in London on July 7, 2005, and the bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan, in 2008.

As much as the filmmakers’ claims to journalistic method, this narrative approach—the summoning of recent, dramatic public events—invites the viewer into judgment about the film’s reliability.

The first problem in assessing Zero Dark Thirty’s fealty to the facts about torture is that most of the record about the CIA’s interrogation program remains secret, including the formally sanctioned use of waterboarding and other brutal techniques between roughly 2002 and 2006.

So does the full record of the CIA’s search for bin Laden after September 11.

Documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups, as well as work by investigative journalists such as Dana Priest of The Washington Post, Jane Mayer of The New Yorker, Mark Danner in this journal, and Adam Goldman of the Associated Press, have brought forward some details about the CIA’s interrogation program. Yet the record remains riddled with gaps and unanswered questions.

An estimate of how large the chasm is between what the public knows and what still-secret records describe can be drawn from accounts of a recently completed Senate Intelligence Committee staff report about the CIA program.

The staff report is said to run to 6,000 pages, based upon a review of about six million CIA documents and cables to and from “black sites” where just fewer than one hundred al-Qaeda suspects were held and where at least some of them were interrogated brutally, as depicted in Zero Dark Thirty. The Senate report remains highly classified, however, and is unlikely to be released in full anytime soon.

The result of such secrecy is that what is often described as America’s “debate” about the use of torture on al-Qaeda suspects largely consists of assertions, without evidence, by public officials with security clearances who have access to the classified record and who have expressed diametrically opposed opinions about what the record proves.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, for example, has said that waterboarding and other harsh techniques were “not central” in developing the clues that led to Osama bin Laden’s hideout.

Yet Michael Hayden, the final CIA director of the Bush administration, wrote last year that information gleaned from detainees who were “subjected to some form of enhanced interrogation” proved “crucial” to the search. The most thorough, independent account published on the bin Laden hunt to date—Manhunt, by the journalist Peter Bergen1 —mainly supports Feinstein’s view, but the CIA and other officials Bergen interviewed also asserted that some al-Qaeda detainees who were tortured provided relevant pieces of evidence.

The easiest question to consider is what Zero Dark Thirty actually depicts about the part torture played in locating bin Laden. As best as is known, the CIA’s crucial discovery was to identify a courier, who was known to al-Qaeda colleagues by his nom de guerre, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti.

Agency officers then traced the courier to Abbottabad. Many detainees and other sources contributed information that confirmed the courier’s identity and importance. Ultimately, in the film, Maya tells one detainee that twenty sources have helped to describe al-Kuwaiti’s role.

There can be no mistaking what Zero Dark Thirty shows: torture plays an outsized part in Maya’s success.

The first detainee she helps to interrogate is Ammar. He is tortured extensively in the film’s opening sequence, immediately after we hear the voices of World Trade Center victims.

Ammar’s face is swollen; we see him strung up by ropes, waterboarded, sexually humiliated, deprived of sleep through the blasting of loud music, and stuffed into a small wooden box. During his ordeal, Ammar does not initially give up reliable information. After he has been subdued and fooled into thinking that he has already been cooperative while delirious, however, he gives up vital intelligence about the courier over a comfortable meal.

Some viewers might regard Ammar’s final confession in the midst of warm hospitality as an example of torture that did not work, or worked only partially.

In fact, this sequence of the film depicts precisely how the CIA’s coercive interrogation regime was constructed to break prisoners, according to Jose Rodriguez Jr., a former leader of the CIA Clandestine Service, who has described and defended the interrogation regime in a memoir, Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives.2

For if a CIA detainee initially refused to cooperate, interrogators applied “enhanced” techniques in an escalating sequence until the prisoner reached what Rodriguez calls “the compliant stage.” Once the detainee “became complaint and agreed to cooperate,” the harsh methods stopped, Rodriguez wrote, and the prisoner might be fed and coddled in reward for confessions he had not previously made.

We later see Maya review videotaped interrogations of half a dozen other prisoners who provide information about al-Kuwaiti. It is not clear in the film whether these detainees are in CIA custody or in the custody of friendly Arab or other governments.

We see the videotapes over Maya’s shoulder. The images are dark and menacing. Many of the prisoners appear to be in the process of being tortured or to have recently been tortured.

Later, Maya conducts two additional interviews directly. In the first, her subject agrees to cooperate with her only after declaring, “I have no desire to be tortured again.”

Her last interview is with Abu Faraj al-Libi, an al-Qaeda operations leader. We watch al-Libi undergo waterboarding and physical abuse. Al-Libi denies knowing the bin Laden courier, but by now, Maya has so many other sources that she takes his denial as evidence that the courier is so important that al-Libi would endure torture to protect his identity.

In virtually every instance in the film where Maya extracts important clues from prisoners, then, torture is a factor. Arguably, the film’s degree of emphasis on torture’s significance goes beyond what even the most die-hard defenders of the CIA interrogation regime, such as Rodriguez, have argued.

Rodriguez’s position in his memoir is that “enhanced interrogation” was indispensable to the search for bin Laden—not that it was the predominant means of gathering important clues.

coll_2-020713.jpgJonathan Olley/Columbia PicturesChristopher Stanley, Jessica Chastain, and Alex Corbet at a covert base following the death of Osama bin Laden in Zero Dark Thirty

As troubling as what Zero Dark Thirty includes about torture’s role in the bin Laden hunt is what it leaves out. The record we have about the CIA interrogation program may be thin, but it tells a fuller story than the film does.

For example, at some “black sites” where CIA prisoners were interrogated, agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation were also present. Because these agents were trained to conduct interrogations that could withstand scrutiny in American courts, and because FBI training is rooted in police traditions, not counter-terrorism or warfare, some of the agents on site objected vehemently to the CIA’s harsh methods.

They denounced the agency’s “enhanced” techniques as counterproductive and morally wrong.

There is no secret about this strain of dissent within the government about the CIA program. Not only FBI agents, but also some CIA officers expressed qualms about waterboarding and sleep deprivation, as has been described in detail by the former FBI agent Ali H. Soufan in his 2011 book, The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda.3 

Soufan recalls commiserating over the use of “enhanced techniques” with a CIA officer who tells him, “There are the Geneva Conventions on torture. It’s not worth losing myself for this.” Soufan also describes an argument he had with a CIA interrogator about whether torture can produce reliable information from hardened ideologues. When the agency interrogator declared that he would make an al-Qaeda prisoner “fully compliant,” Soufan replied, as he recalls it:

These things won’t work on people committed to dying for their cause…. People like [him] are prepared to be tortured and severely beaten. They expect to be sodomized and to have family members raped in front of them! Do you really think stripping him naked and taking away his chair will make him cooperate?

None of this sort of argument is available to viewers of Zero Dark Thirty. It would hardly have undermined the film’s drama to have included such strong dissents, even in passing, in the interest of journalism that was more complete.

The only qualms any of the CIA characters in the film express about torture are oblique and self-protecting. Dan, an interrogator portrayed by the actor Jason Clarke, laments wearily, as he rotates back to headquarters, that he has seen too many men naked, and that he fears the political environment in Washington that once created a permissive atmosphere for his dark arts may now be turning against them.

As cinema, the film’s torture scenes are at once rough and bland. Ammar’s degradation is obviously intended to shock but his mistreatment on screen is hardly more severe than what is routinely shown on television programs such as Homeland or 24.

Ammar is stripped naked but we see him mainly from behind. Maya and Dan remark at one point that Ammar has lost control of his bowels but we see nothing of this humiliation directly.

The film’s torture scenes depart from the historical record in two respects. Boal and Bigelow have conflated the pseudoscience of the CIA’s clinical, carefully reviewed “enhanced techniques” such as waterboarding with the out-of-control abuse of prisoners by low-level military police in places such as Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo. Dan puts Ammar in a dog collar and walks him around in an act of ritualized humiliation, but this was never an approved CIA technique.

More importantly, Zero Dark Thirty ignores what the record shows about how regulated, lawyerly, and bureaucratized—how banal—torture apparently became at some of the CIA black sites.

(How evil -doing can become banal and is banal)

A partially declassified report prepared by the CIA’s former inspector general, John Helgerson, indicates that physicians from the CIA’s Office of Medical Services attended interrogation sessions and took prisoners’ vital signs to assure they were healthy enough for the abuse to continue.

Agency officers typed out numbingly detailed cables and memos about the enhanced interrogation sessions, as the available outline of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s classified investigation makes clear. Videotapes were recorded and logged. This CIA office routine might have been more shocking on screen than the clichéd physical abuse of prisoners that the filmmakers prefer.

Zero Dark Thirty ultimately fails as journalism because it adopts shortcuts that most reporters would find illegitimate. From the Janet Cooke affair at The Washington Post onward, editors and journalism professors have cautioned against the dangers of employing a “composite” character that may stand in for several real people.

Such characters offer the possibility of literary exposition, but they also falsify. Zero Dark Thirty reinforces this view. Boal told the Times that Ammar, the most fully realized al-Qaeda character in the film, is a composite. Yet the film is salted with details that suggest Ammar’s similarity to an actual former CIA detainee, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, whose nom de guerre was Ammar al-Baluchi.

The real Ali is a thirty-five-year-old nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the admitted mastermind of the September 11 attacks. He was arrested in Pakistan in 2003 and held in secret CIA prisons until he was transferred to Guantánamo in 2006, where he now faces capital charges before a military commission. He is accused of sending, at his uncle’s instructions, as much as $200,000 to the hijackers and providing them with other logistical support.

Zero Dark Thirty’s composite Ammar is described at various points as “KSM’s nephew,” who is “tight” with his uncle and has fingerprints “on 9/11 money,” and particularly as someone responsible for transferring $5,000 to the hijackers.

The film’s Ammar is depicted as a doomed man who will spend his entire life behind bars without resort to lawyers or justice. In an early interrogation scene, Maya pulls off her black mask before entering to face the prisoner because Dan assures her that Ammar will never be free to menace her. We are invited to appreciate Ammar’s subjugation.

The truth about Ali is perhaps more interesting.

He has been an active, defiant participant in Guantánamo court proceedings and his lawyers have sought permission from military judges to introduce evidence in his defense that he was tortured while in CIA custody, and to pursue information about the identities of the agency officers who interrogated him.

That request has been refused on the grounds that what happened to Ali while in CIA prisons is classified. Zero Dark Thirty’s indirect depictions of Ali’s abuse might be the only accounting the real-life prisoner receives in public before he is sentenced to death. Yet the film does nothing to acknowledge its connection to this reality.

Zero Dark Thirty was constructed to bring viewers to the edges of their seats, and judging by its critical reception, for many viewers it has succeeded in that respect. Its faults as journalism matter because they may well affect the unresolved public debate about torture, to which the film makes a distorted contribution.

On his second day in office, President Obama outlawed torture by executive order, but he has declined to order investigations to expose publicly or otherwise hold to account the CIA’s detention regime during the Bush years.

In the recently concluded election campaign, Mitt Romney declared that he would revive the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

Official torture is not an anathema in much of the United States; it is a credible policy choice.

In public opinion polling, a bare majority of Americans opposes torturing prisoners in the struggle against terrorism, but public support for torture has risen significantly during the last several years, a change that the Stanford University intelligence scholar Amy Zegart has attributed in part to the influence of “spy-themed entertainment.

Even if torture worked, it could never be justified because it is immoral. Yet state-sanctioned, formally organized forms of torture recur even in developed democracies because some public leaders have been willing to attach their prestige to an argument that in circumstances of national emergency, torture may be necessary because it will extract timely intelligence relevant to public safety when more humane methods of interrogation will not.

There is no empirical evidence to support this argument. Among other things, no responsible social scientist would condone peer-reviewed experiments to compare torture’s results to those from less coercive questioning. Defenders of torture in the United States therefore argue by issuing a flawed syllogism: the CIA tortured al-Qaeda suspects; those suspects provided information that helped to protect the public; therefore, torture was justified and even essential. In his recent statement to agency employees about Zero Dark Thirty, acting CIA director Morrell gave this argument implicit support when he said that the ongoing debate over the CIA’s treatment of al-Qaeda suspects after 2002 “never will be definitively resolved.”

That is a timid tautology; it is also evidence of a much wider political failure. As with discourse about climate change policy, the persistence of on-the-one-hand, on-the-other forms of argument about the value of officially sanctioned torture represents a victory for those who would justify such abuse.

Zero Dark Thirty has performed no public service by enlarging the acceptability of that form of debate.

This will sicken you: Eyewitness describes hateful act of piracy by Israel against Norwegian boat on mercy mission

Dr Swee Ang

Introduction by Stuart Littlewood

Malaysian-born Swee Ang is the first female Orthopaedic Consultant appointed to St Bartholomew (‘Barts’) and the Royal London Hospitals.

In the 1980s and 1990s she worked as trauma and orthopaedics consultant in the refugee camps of Lebanon and later for the United Nations in Gaza, and the World Health Organisation in the West Bank and Gaza.

Ang is Founder and Patron of the British charity Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP).

She also treated the victims of the Pakistan (Kashmir) earthquake, and as consultant trauma and orthopaedic surgeon operated on and looked after the victims of the 7 July 2005 suicide bombs in the Royal London Hospital.

Dr Ang is the co-author of War Surgery and Acute Care of the War Wounded, and also wrote From Beirut to Jerusalem documenting her experience in the Palestinian Refugee Camps in Lebanon and Gaza. 

She was aboard the Al-Awda sailing for Gaza with urgently needed medical supplies when the vessel was violently assaulted and hijacked in international waters a week ago and taken to an Israeli port.

Passengers and crew were roughed up (some seriously injured) and abused, thrown in an Israeli jail and had their possessions and money stolen.

This is Dr Swee’s account, word for word.

Events from 29 July when the Israeli Navy stormed the Freedom Flotilla Al-Awda hijacked and diverted it from its intended course to Gaza to Israel. 

By Dr Swee Ang, medical doctor on board the Al-Awda, 4 August 2018

The last leg of the journey of Al-Awda (the boat of return) was scheduled to reach Gaza on 29 July 2018. We were on target to reach Gaza that evening. There are 22 on board including crew with US$ 15,000 of antibiotics and bandages for Gaza.

At 12.31 pm we received a missed call from a number beginning with +81… Mikkel was steering the boat at that time. The phone rang again with the message that we were trespassing into Israeli waters. Mikkel replied that we were in International waters and had right of innocent passage according to maritime laws.

The accusation of trespassing was repeated again and again with Mikkel repeating the message that we were sailing in international waters. This carried on for about half an hour, while Awda was 42 nautical miles from the coast of Gaza.

Prior to the beginning of this last leg, we had spent 2 days learning non-violent actions and had prepared ourselves in anticipation of Israeli invasion of our boat.

Vulnerable individuals especially those with medical conditions were to sit at the rear of the top deck with their hands on the deck table. The leader of this group was Gerd, a 75 year old elite Norwegian athlete and she had the help of Lucia a Spanish nurse in her group. 

The people who were to provide non-violent barrier to the Israelis coming on deck and taking over the boat formed 3 rows – two rows of threes and the third row of 2 persons blocking the wheel house door to protect the wheel house for as long as possible.

There were runners between the wheel house and the rear of the deck. The leader of the boat Zohar and I were at the two ends of the toilets corridor where we looked out at the horizon and inform all of any sightings of armed boats.

I laughed at Zohar and said we are the Toilet Brigade, but I think Zohar did not find it very funny. It was probably bad taste under the circumstances. I also would be able to help as a runner and will have accessibility to all parts of the deck in view of being the doctor on board.

Soon we saw at least three large Israeli warships on the horizon with 5 or more speed boats (zodiacs) zooming towards us.

As the Zodiacs approached I saw that they carried soldiers with machine guns and there was on board the boats large machine guns mounted on a stand pointing at our boat.

From my lookout point the first Israeli soldier climbed on board to the cabin level and climbed up the boat ladder to the top deck. His face was masked with a white cloth and following him were many others, all masked. They were all armed with machine guns and small cameras on their chests. 

They immediately made to the wheel house overcoming the first row by twisting the arms of the participants, lifting Sarah up and throwing her away.  

Joergen the chef was large to be manhandled so he was tasered before being lifted up. They attacked the second row by picking on Emelia the Spanish nurse and removed her thus breaking the line.

They then approach the door of the wheel house and tasered Charlie the first mate and Mike Treen who were obstructing their entry to the wheel house. Charlie was beaten up as well. Mike did not give way with being tasered in his lower limbs so he was tasered in his neck and face.

Later on I saw bleeding on the left side of Mike’s face. He was semi-conscious when I examined him.

They broke into the wheel house by cutting the lock, forced the engine to be switched off and took down the Palestine flag before taking down the Norwegian flag and trampling on it.

They then cleared all people from the front half of the boat around the wheel house and moved them by force and coercion, throwing them to the rear of the deck.

All were forced to sit on the floor at the back, except Gerd, Lucy and the vulnerable people who were seated around the table on wooden benches around her. Israeli soldiers then formed a line sealing off people from the back and preventing them from coming to the front of the boat again.

As we entered the back of the deck we were all body searched and ordered to surrender our mobile phones or else they will take it by force. This part of search and confiscation was under the command of a woman soldier. Apart from mobile phones – medicines and wallets were also removed. No one as of today (4 August 2018) got our mobile phones back.

I went to examine Mike and Charlie. Charlie had recovered consciousness and his wrists were tied together with plastic cable ties. Mike was bleeding from the side of his face, still not fully conscious. His hands were very tightly tied together with cable ties and the circulation to his fingers was cut off and his fingers and palm were beginning to swell.

At this stage the entire people seated on the floor shouted demanding that the cable ties be cut. It was about half an hour later before the ties were finally cut off from both of them.

Around this time Charlie the first mate received the Norwegian flag. He was visibly upset telling all of us that the Norwegian flag had been trampled on. Charlie reacted more to the trampling of the Norwegian flag than to his own being beaten and tasered.

The soldiers then started asking for the captain of the boat. The boys then started to reply that they were all the captain.

Eventually the Israelis figured out that Herman was the captain and demanded to take him to the wheel house.

Herman asked for someone to come with him, and I offered to do so. But as we approached the wheel house, I was pushed away and Herman forced into the wheel house on his own.

Divina, the well known Swedish singer, had meanwhile broken free from the back and went to the front to look through the window of the wheel house. She started to shout and cry “Stop –stop they are beating Herman, they are hurting him”.  

We could not see what Divina saw, but knew that it was something very disturbing. Later on, when Divina and I were sharing a prison cell, she told me they were throwing Herman against the wall of the wheel house and punching his chest. Divina was forcibly removed and her neck was twisted by the soldiers who took her back to the rear of the deck.

I was pushed back to the rear of the boat again. After a while the boat engine started. I was told later by Gerd who was able to hear Herman tell the story to the Norwegian Consul in prison that the Israelis wanted Herman to start the engine, and threatened to kill him if he would not do so.

But what they did not understand was that with this boat, once the engine stopped it can only be restarted manually in the engine room in the cabin level below. Arne the engineer refused to restart the engine, so the Israelis brought Herman down and hit him in front of Arne making it clear that they will continue to hit Herman if Arne would not start the engine.

Arne is 70 years old, and when he saw Herman’s face went ash colour, he gave in and started the engine manually. Gerd broke into tears when she was narrating this part of the story. The Israelis then took charge of the boat and drove it to Ashdod.

Once the boat was on course, the Israeli soldiers brought Herman to the medical desk. I looked at Herman and saw that he was in great pain, silent but conscious, breathing spontaneously but shallow breathing.

The Israeli Army doctor was trying to persuade Herman to take some medicine for pain. Herman was refusing the medicine. The Israeli doctor explained to me that what he was offering Herman was not army medicine but his personal medicine. He gave me the medicine from his hand so that I could check it. It was a small brown glass bottle and I figured that it was some kind of liquid morphine preparation probably the equivalent of oromorph or fentanyl.

I asked Herman to take it and the doctor asked him to take 12 drops after which Herman was carried off and slumped on a mattress at the back of the deck. He was watched over by people around him and fell asleep. From my station I saw he was breathing better.

With Herman settled I concentrated on Larry Commodore, the Native American leader and an environmental activist. He had been voted Chief of his tribe twice. Larry has labile asthma and with the stress all around my fear was that he might get a nasty attack, and needed adrenaline injection. I was taking Larry through deep breathing exercises.

However Larry was not heading for an asthmatic attack, but was engaging an Israeli who covered his face with a black cloth in conversation. This man was obviously in charge.

I asked for the Israeli man with black mask his name and he called himself Field Marshall Ro…..Larry misheard him and jumped to conclusion that he called himself Field Marshall Rommel and shouted how can he an Israeli take a Nazi name. Field Marshall objected and introduced himself as Field Marshall ? Ronan.

As I spelt out Ronan he quickly corrected me that his name is Ronen, and he Field Marshall Ronen was in charge. 

The Israeli soldiers all wore body cameras and were filming us all the time.

A box of sandwiches and pears were brought on deck for us. None of us took any of their food as we had decided we do not accept Israeli hypocrisy and charity.

Our chef Joergen had already prepared high calorie high protein delicious brownie with nuts and chocolate, wrapped up in tin foil to be consume when captured, as we know it was going to be a long day and night. Joergen called it food for the journey.

Unfortunately when I needed it most, the Israelis took away my food and threw it away. They just told me ”It is forbidden” I had nothing to eat for 24 hours, refusing Israeli Army food and had no food of my own.

As we sailed towards Israel we could see the coast of Gaza in total darkness. There were 3 oil /gas rigs in the northern sea of Gaza. The brightly burning oil flames contrasted with the total darkness the owners of the fuel were forced to live in.

Just off the shore of Gaza are the largest deposit of natural gas ever discovered and the natural gas belonging to the Palestinians were already being siphoned off by Israel.

As we approached Israel, Zohar our boat leader suggested that we should start saying goodbye to each other. We were probably 2-3 hours from Ashdod. We thanked our boat leader, our Captain, the crew, our dear chef, and encouraged each other that we will continue to do all we can to free Gaza and also bring justice to Palestine. Herman our Captain, who managed to sit up now, gave a most moving talk and some of us were in tears.

We knew that in Ashdod there will be the Israeli media and film crews.

We will not enter Ashdod as a people who had lost hope as we were taken captive. So we came off the boat chanting “Free Free Palestine” all the way as we came off. Mike Treen the union man had by then recovered from his heavy tasering and led the chanting with his mega-voice and we filled the night sky of Israel with Free Free Palestine as we approached. We did this the whole way down the boat into Ashdod.

We came directly into a closed military zone in Ashdod. It was a sealed off area with many stations. It was specially prepared for the 22 of us. It began with a security x-ray area. I did not realise they retained my money belt as I came out of the x-ray station.

The next station was strip search, and it was when I was gathering up my belongings after being stripped when I realised my money belt was no longer with me. I knew I had about a couple hundred Euros and they were trying to steal it. I demanded its return and refused to leave the station until it was produced. I was shouting for the first time. I was glad I did that as some other people were parted from their cash. The journalist from Al Jazeera Abdul had all his credit cards and USD 1,800 taken from him, as well as his watch, satellite phone, his personal mobile, his ID.

He thought his possessions were kept with his passport but when he was released for deportation he learnt bitterly that he only got his passport back. All cash and valuables were never found. They simply vanished.

We were passed from station to station in this closed military zone, stripped searched several times, possessions taken away until in the end all we had was the clothes we were wearing with nothing else except a wrist band with a number on it.  

All shoe laces were removed as well. Some of us were given receipts for items taken away, but I had no receipts for anything. We were photographed several times and saw two doctors.

At this point I learnt that Larry was pushed down the gangway and injured his foot and sent off to Israeli hospital for check-up. His blood was on the floor.

I was cold and hungry, wearing only one teeshirt and pants by the time they were through with me. My food was taken away; water was taken away, all belongings including reading glasses taken away.

My bladder was about to explode but I am not allowed to go to the toilet. In this state I was brought out to two vehicles – Black Maria painted gray. On the ground next to it were a great heap of ruqsacks and suit cases. I found mine and was horrified that they had broken into my baggage and took almost everything from it – all clothes clean and dirty, my camera, my second mobile, my books, my Bible, all the medicines I brought for the participants and myself, my toiletries.

The suitcase was partially broken. My ruqsack was completely empty too. I got back two empty cases except for two dirty large man size teeshirts which obviously belonged to someone else. They also left my Freedom Flotilla teeshirt. I figured out that they did not steal the Flotilla teeshirt as they thought no Israeli would want to wear that teeshirt in Israel.

They had not met Zohar and Yonatan who were proudly wearing theirs. That was a shock as I was not expecting the Israeli Army to be petty thieves as well.

So what had become the glorious Israeli Army?

I was still not allowed to go to the toilet. (They insist on detained people to dirty themselves?) I was pushed into the Maria van, joined by Lucia the Spanish nurse and after some wait taken to Givon Prison. I could feel myself shivering uncontrollably on the journey.

The first thing our guards did in Givon Prison was to order me to go to the toilet to relieve myself. It was interesting to see that they knew I needed to go desperately but had prevented me for hours to!

By the time we were re-x-rayed and searched again it must be about 5 – 6 am. Lucia and I were then put in a cell where Gerd, Divina, Sarah and Emelia were already asleep. There were three double decker bunk beds – all rusty and dusty.

Divina did not get the proper dose of her medicines; Lucia was refused her own medicine and given an Israeli substitute which she refused to take. Divina and Emelia went straight on to hunger strike.

The jailors were very hostile using simple things like refusal of toilet paper and constant slamming of the prison iron door, keeping the light of the cell permanently on, and forcing us to drink rusty water from the tap, screaming and shouting at us constantly to vent their anger at us.

The guards addressed me as “China” and treated me with utter contempt.

On the morning of 30 July 2018, the British Vice Consul visited me. Some kind person had called them about my whereabouts. That was a blessing as after that I was called “England” and there was a massive improvement in the way England was treated compared to the way China was treated.

It crossed my mind that “Palestine” would be trampled over, and probably killed.

At 6.30am 31 July 2018, we heard Larry yelling from the men’s cell across the corridor that he needed a doctor. He was obviously in great pain and crying. We women responded by asking the wardens to allow me to go across to see Larry as I might be able to help.

We shouted “We have a doctor” and used our metal spoons to hit the iron cell gate get their attention. They lied and said their doctor will be over in an hour. We did not believe them and started again. The doctor actually turned up at 4 pm, about 10 hours later and Larry was sent straight to hospital. 

Meanwhile to punish the women for supporting Larry’s demand, they brought hand cuffs for Sarah and took Divina and me to another cell to separate us from the rest.

We were told we were not going to be allowed out for our 30 minutes fresh air break and a drink of clean water in the yard. I heard Gerd saying “Big deal”

Suddenly Divina was taken out with me to the courtyard and Divina given 4 cigarettes at which point she broke down and cried.

Divina had worked long hours at the wheel house steering the boat. She had seen what happened to Herman. The prison had refused to give her one of her medicines and given her only half the dose of the other.

Divina was still on hunger strike to protest our kidnapping in international waters. It was heart-breaking to see Divina cry. One of the wardens who called himself Michael started talking to us about how he will have to protect his family against those who want to drive the Israelis out. And how the Palestinians did not want to live in peace…and it was not Israel’s fault.

But things suddenly changed with the arrival of an Israeli Judge and we were all treated with some decency even though he only saw a few of us personally.

The judge job was to tell us that a Tribunal will be convened the following day and each prisoner had been allocated a time to appear, and we must have our lawyer with us when we appear. 

Divina by the end of the day became very giddy and very unwell so I persuaded her to come out of hunger strike, and also she agreed to sign a deportation order.

Shortly after that possibly at 6 pm since we had no watches and mobile phones, we were told Lucia, Joergen, Herman, Arne, Abdul from Al Jazeera and I would be deported within 24 hours and we would be taken to be imprisoned in the deportation prison in Ramle near Ben Gurion airport immediately to wait there.

It was going to be the same Ramle Prison from which I was deported in 2014.

I saw the same five strong old palm trees still standing up proud and tall. They are the only survivors of the Palestinian village destroyed in 1948.

When we arrived at Ramle prison Abdul found to his horror that all his money, his credit cards, his watch, his satellite phone, his own mobile phone, his  ID card were all missing – he was entirely destitute. We had a whip round and raised around a hundred Euros as a contribution towards his taxi fare from the airport to home. How can the Israeli Army be so corrupt and heartless to rob someone of everything?

Conclusion

We, the six women on board Al-Awda had learnt that they tried to completely humiliate and dehumanise us in every way possible. We were also shocked at the behaviour of the Israeli Army especially petty theft and their treatment of international women prisoners.

Men jailors regularly entered the women’s cell without giving us decent notice to put our clothes on.

They also tried to remind us of our vulnerability at every stage.

We know they would have preferred to kill us but of course the publicity incurred in so doing might be unfavourable to the international image of Israel. (As if they cared if Trump them gave the green light)

If we were Palestinians it would be much worse with physical assaults and probably loss of lives. The situation is therefore dire for the Palestinians.

As to international waters, it looks as though there is no such thing for the Israeli Navy. They can hijack and abduct boats and persons in international water and get away with it.

They acted as though they own the Mediterranean Sea. They can abduct any boat and kidnap any passengers, put them in prison and criminalise them.

We cannot accept this. We have to speak up, stand up against this lawlessness, oppression and brutality.

We were completely unarmed. Our only crime according to them is we are friends of the Palestinians and wanted to bring medical aid to them.

We wanted to brave the military blockade to do this. This is not a crime.

In the week we were sailing to Gaza, they had shot dead 7 Palestinians and wounded more than 90 with live bullets in Gaza.

They had further shut down fuel and food to Gaza. Two million Palestinians in Gaza live without clean water, with only 2-4 hours of electricity, in homes destroyed by Israeli bombs, in a prison blockaded by land, air and sea for 12 years. 

The hospitals of Gaza since the 30 March had treated more than 9,071 wounded persons, 4,348 shot by machine guns from a hundred Israeli snipers while they were mounting peaceful demonstrations inside the borders of Gaza on their own land.

Most of the gun-shot wounds were to the lower limbs and with depleted treatment facilities the limbs will suffer amputation.

In this period more than 165 Palestinians had been shot dead by the same snipers, including medics and journalists, children and women.

The chronic military blockade of Gaza has depleted the hospitals of all surgical and medical supplies. This massive attack on an unarmed Freedom Flotilla bringing friends and some medical relief is an attempt to crush all hope for Gaza.

As I write I learnt that our sister Flotilla, Freedom, has also been kidnapped by the Israeli Navy while in international waters.

BUT we will not stop, we must continue to be strong to bring hope and justice to the Palestinians and be prepared to pay the price, and to be worthy of the Palestinians.

As long as I survive I will exist to resist.  To do less will be a crime.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

September 2018
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