Monday, May 12, 2008

WORDS ABOUT GAZA - Another Nabka

The Human Rights Crime in Gaza

by Jimmy Carter

The world is witnessing a terrible human rights crime in Gaza, where a million and a half human beings are being imprisoned with almost no access to the outside world. An entire population is being brutally punished.

This gross mistreatment of the Palestinians in Gaza was escalated dramatically by Israel, with United States backing, after political candidates representing Hamas won a majority of seats in the Palestinian Authority parliament in 2006. The election was unanimously judged to be honest and fair by all international observers.

Israel and the US refused to accept the right of Palestinians to form a unity government with Hamas and Fatah and now, after internal strife, Hamas alone controls Gaza. Forty-one of the 43 victorious Hamas candidates who lived in the West Bank have been imprisoned by Israel, plus an additional 10 who assumed positions in the short-lived coalition cabinet.

Regardless of one's choice in the partisan struggle between Fatah and Hamas within occupied Palestine, we must remember that economic sanctions and restrictions on the supply of water, food, electricity and fuel are causing extreme hardship among the innocent people in Gaza, about one million of whom are refugees.

Israeli bombs and missiles periodically strike the area, causing high casualties among both militants and innocent women and children. Prior to the highly publicised killing of a woman and her four children last week, this pattern had been illustrated by a report from B'Tselem, the leading Israeli human rights organisation, which stated that 106 Palestinians were killed between February 27 and March 3. Fifty-four of them were civilians, and 25 were under 18 years of age.

On a recent trip through the Middle East, I attempted to gain a better understanding of the crisis. One of my visits was to Sderot, a community of about 20,000 in southern Israel that is frequently struck by rockets fired from nearby Gaza. I condemned these attacks as abominable acts of terrorism, since most of the 13 victims during the past seven years have been non-combatants.

Subsequently, I met with leaders of Hamas -- a delegation from Gaza and the top officials in Damascus. I made the same condemnation to them, and urged that they declare a unilateral ceasefire or orchestrate with Israel a mutual agreement to terminate all military action in and around Gaza for an extended period.

They responded that such action by them in the past had not been reciprocated, and they reminded me that Hamas had previously insisted on a ceasefire throughout Palestine, including Gaza and the West Bank, which Israel had refused. Hamas then made a public proposal of a mutual ceasefire restricted to Gaza, which the Israelis also rejected.

There are fervent arguments heard on both sides concerning blame for a lack of peace in the Holy Land. Israel has occupied and colonised the Palestinian West Bank, which is approximately a quarter the size of the nation of Israel as recognised by the international community. Some Israeli religious factions claim a right to the land on both sides of the Jordan river, others that their 205 settlements of some 500,000 people are necessary for "security".

All Arab nations have agreed to recognise Israel fully if it will comply with key United Nations resolutions. Hamas has agreed to accept any negotiated peace settlement between the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, provided it is approved in a referendum of the Palestinian people.

This holds promise of progress, but despite the brief fanfare and positive statements at the peace conference last November in Annapolis, the process has gone backwards. Nine thousand new Israeli housing units have been announced in Palestine; the number of roadblocks within the West Bank has increased; and the stranglehold on Gaza has been tightened.

It is one thing for other leaders to defer to the US in the crucial peace negotiations, but the world must not stand idle while innocent people are treated cruelly. It is time for strong voices in Europe, the US, Israel and elsewhere to speak out and condemn the human rights tragedy that has befallen the Palestinian people.

It's All About Context

Story for the Ames Tribune, run May 3, 2008
By: Betsy Mayfield

I was just about to write a letter to the editor that wasn't about Israel/Palestine, but, alas, I'm stuck. I just can't let the other side's propaganda go. There are many Palestinians, most, I venture, who desperately want peace with Israel. I speak out for the Palestinians because I have seen their suffering and know how dreadfully it's going for them right now; others favor the Israelis because, I guess, they believe in Zionism and the right for a Jewish state to exist. (Does any particular state have a 'right' to exist? Don't we all have a 'right' to exist? Must we deny one to justify the other?) I just wish the American press would simply publish the news and do so regularly and straightforwardly without trying to influence what we all think. Then, I and the coin's other side could stop this tit-for-tat parley which goes no where. As I see it, neither side thinks their side gets a fair deal from coverage and we're both probably right on that. Certainly, when I know about crimes against humanity going on in Gaza and the West Bank, and there's nothing but silence here in the US, I feel anger and I have to speak or consider myself complicit.

Not long ago, I attended a talk by Marda Dunsky, author of Pens and Swords: How the American Mainstream Media Report the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Dunsky focused her attention on the lack of context that Americans get through press accounts of the Middle East conflict. Unless a reader really wants to delve into the topic, few ever get to the bottom of the Israeli/Palestinian debacle, even though it's pretty clear from my research (and Jimmy Carter's, as well) that Israel has the upper hand and, like a pit bull with big teeth, will not let go until there's nothing left of the Palestinians and, maybe, all the Arabs in the Arab World. Maybe that's where 'the right' comes from–might makes right, no? I once heard an elderly lady here in Ames exclaim, "Things will be fine in the Middle East when all the Palestinians are dead." I wanted to cry. But, this lady, hopefully venting a misinterpretation, didn't know enough about the situation to fit it into context. Evidently, she could not envision horrors like those happening now in Gaza. After all, if she had only heard about the Qassam rocket throwing and had no knowledge of the horrendous control Israel maintains over Gaza (and the West Bank) from checkpoints to the seas to the skies to the water supply to medical aide to daily food rations, what could she think? When does the press tell us about all this? We hear about Israel's 60th Year Anniversary, but we do not have an equally realistic story about the displacement and occupation of the Palestinian people that began 60 years ago, also.

Lately, Ames was given a stellar chance to see for themselves the difference between public relations and propaganda. I have never appreciated The Tribune more than the day the paper gave thumbs down to the documentary, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. (Cheers & Jeers", April 19) My husband and I saw the film and came away appalled at the misrepresentation and omission of key points. Remarks of those interviewed were taken out of context and used only to bolster one idea: the film maker's perspective. The film used dark images taken completely out of context to imply that the issue is one of good against evil, the tradition of religion against the consensus of science. I, always thinking of Israel/Palestine, thought that the creator of the film used the same techniques that are used by the Israeli propaganda machine to deflect discussion away from the real issues and to make Israel the eternal innocent victim which it is not.

Maxwell Anderson, a playwright who wrote in verse about British royalty, gave his character Elizabeth I a great line: "It's not what happens that matters, it's what people believe to have happened. . .and they will believe the worst of you (Mary, Queen of Scots) and the best of me." Remember that line and, maybe, the value of considering what you hear within context will allow you a better interpretation of truth.

More Wisdom from Hauptman

'Maybe we should live together'
To the Editor: Ames Tribune
From: John Hauptman
Just read the originals, "Righteous Victims" by Benny Morris, "The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine" by Ilan Pappe, and "One Palestine, Complete" by Tom Segev. Do not believe the incessant repeated lies of the Israel lobby. All three authors are Israeli and Jewish. You can receive these books in a plain brown wrapper from

There are also humane books of great beauty, such as "The Other Side of Israel" by Susan Nathan, and "A Witness in Palestine" by Anna Baltzer, both sensitive, intelligent and thoughtful Jewish women who see all of this with a clarity we men often miss. Susan Nathan talks of the similar rituals of life, the spices used in cooking, the gentle often shy women at tea. Anna Baltzar talks of peaceful non-violence and the resilient lives of people under duress.

The constant demonization of the Palestinians is wearing thin. These historically completely innocent people have been slandered and murdered at will. Bringing up Husseini and Hitler ignores the illegal British military occupation of Palestine as the result of the European First World War (which Palestinians had nothing to do with).

Anyone can play this game. For example, Adolf Eichmann was in Jerusalem twice, the second time to get his neck stretched, and the first time to swing a deal with David ben Gurion for sending German Jews to Palestine. It was a deal in their common interest. I repeat Jane Haddad: "People always seemed to know half of history, and to get it confused with the other half."

Conflating Palestinian with Arab, and further claiming historic hostility between Palestinians and Jews is a falsehood. Jews were safe in Palestine for nearly 2,000 years while European Jews were murdered, slandered and driven from country to country by Christian religious fervor (and stupidity). The Palestinians absorbed Jewish refugees, their fellow Semites.

As for the larger Arab world, there are still vibrant Jewish communities in Iran and Turkey, for example, who refuse to emigrate to Israel. Hostility began in the 1920s after the illegal British Balfour Declaration when Palestinians were driven from their farms and their land. Of course there was subsequent hostility.

This is not a simple or easy subject, and one-sided letters are easy to write. (For example, the above two paragraphs are one-sided: I did not emphasize the degree of persecution of Jews, nor the anti-Semitism of Americans as late as two generations ago.) There have been historic wrongs, mainly by Europeans, and both Jews and Palestinians have been maligned.

The words of Karen Armstrong in her book "Holy War," an excellent history of Palestine from the Crusades to the present, come to mind: when the Crusaders reached Jerusalem "we could not tell the difference between Muslim and Jew, so we killed them all," and that "the blood in the streets of Jerusalem was up to the knees of our horses."

She claims that the ways of thinking have not changed since then. Not a good sign.

Whenever anyone in the U.S. media says something good about the Palestinians, such as the library film series a few years ago, there is a torrent of invective and threats coming from one small group. But, as far as I can tell, everything in the U.S. media is 1,000-to-1 pro-Israel. In contrast, the Israeli press is far more balanced, even the right-wing correctly acknowledging that the Israeli army created Hamas and Hizbollah by their brutal suppression of Palestinian civilians in Gaza (2000) and Lebanon (1982).

As one older Israeli man spoke in the newspaper Ha'aretz, "when we came here, we thought that the Palestinians would be willing to leave, and it would be all ours. But, they have an attachment to the land and don't want to leave. So, we need another plan. Maybe we should live together." The voice of reason.