zaterdag 5 juni 2010
Saturday 05 June 2010
by: Jason Leopold, t r u t h o u t | Report
Israeli naval forces seized control of another humanitarian aid ship headed for Gaza early Saturday.
The Irish vessel, the Rachel Corrie, named after the US citizen who was intentionally crushed by an Israeli Army bulldozer in Gaza in 2003, refused demands by Israeli defense forces to dock in Ashdod. It was intercepted in international waters.
According to the New York Times, "there were no resistance or injuries, and the military said the ship’s crew and passengers fully complied with the boarding."
"Our forces boarded the boat and took control without meeting any resistance from the crew or the passengers. Everything took place without violence," a military spokeswoman told Agence France-Press, saying no shots had been fired.
AFP further reported:
The ship and the 15 people on board, most of them Irish or Malaysian activists, was being escorted into the southern Israeli port of Ashdod from where the aid would be transferred to Gaza through land crossings, the military said.
Canada's CTV reported that the Rachel Corrie was "carrying about 1,000 tons of aid, including wheelchairs, medical supplies and cement."
Passengers, CTV news said, included Nobel Laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire and are largely affiliated with the group Free Gaza.
The organization said in statement that the Rachel Corrie was tracked by Israeli ships for two hours prior to the raid and the Israeli navy jammed the vessels equipment.
The capture of the Rachel Corrie took place a week after Israeli commandos stormed a flotilla bound for Gaza from Turkey, killing nine pro-Palestinians and wounding 48 others. Except for the United States, the raid, which also took place in international waters, has drawn widespread condemnation.
The ship, the Mavi Marmara, was one of six vessels that aimed to break the sea blockade of Gaza.
According to Reuters:
...Autopsy results showed that a 60-year-old man, Ibrahim Bilgen, was shot four times in the temple, chest, hip and back, the Guardian said.
A 19-year-old, named as Fulkan Dogan, who also has U.S. citizenship, was shot five times from less than 45 cm (18 inches) away, in the face, the back of the head, twice in the leg and once in the back, it said.
Two other men were shot four times. Five of those killed were shot either in the back of the head or in the back...
Israel said that the commandos were acting in self-defense. In a statement Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued to vilify the Gaza activists aboard the Turkish ship, calling them "Islamic extremists" and alleging they "waited for our troops on decks with axes and knives."
Much of Israel's claims about the events that lead up to the raid aboard the Mavi Marmara and the circumstances behind the deaths of the activists have been wholly discredited.
Netanyahu said Israeli forces who took part in Saturday's raid "used the same procedures for Monday's flotilla" but "were met by a different response" from the activists.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich has called for an independent investigation of the incident.
In a letter addressed to President Barack Obama, which Kucinich is circulating to colleagues for their signature, the Ohio Democrat said "their must be consquences for the Netanyahu administration and the State of Israel."
No one questions the right of Israel to defend its border, but that defense does not extend to shooting innocent civilians anywhere in the world, anytime it pleases.
Israel must account for our support, for the lives of our soldiers, for the investment of billions from our taxpayers. Israel owes the United States more than reckless, pre-meditated violence waged against innocent people.
The attack on the Mavi Marmara requires consequences for the Netanyahu Administration and for the State of Israel. Those consequences must be dealt by the United States. They must be diplomatic and they must be financial. The U.S. can begin by calling for an independent international inquiry of the Mavi Marmara incident. The integrity of such inquiry necessitates that it not be led by the nation whose conduct is under scrutiny. If our nation fails to act in any substantive way, the United States licenses the violence and we are complicit in it and our own citizens will be forced to pay the consequences.
It is unknown how many lawmakers, if any, have signed the letter.
Alice Walker, The Electronic Intifada, 4 June 2010
-- Medgar Evers to Civil Rights Activists in Mississippi, shortly before he was assassinated, 12 June, 1963
My heart is breaking; but I do not mind.
For one thing, as soon as I wrote those words I was able to weep. Which I had not been able to do since learning of the attack by armed Israeli commandos on defenseless peace activists carrying aid to Gaza who tried to fend them off using chairs and sticks. I am thankful to know what it means to be good; I know that the people of the Freedom Flotilla are/were in some cases, some of the best people on earth. They have not stood silently by and watched the destruction of others, brutally, sustained, without offering themselves, weaponless except for their bodies, to the situation. I am thankful to have a long history of knowing people like this from my earliest years, beginning in my student days of marches and demonstrations: for peace, for non-separation among peoples, for justice for Women, for People of Color, for Cubans, for Animals, for Indians, and for Her, the planet.
I am weeping for the truth of Medgar's statement; so brave and so true. I weep for him gunned down in his carport, not far from where I would eventually live in Mississippi, with a box of t-shirts in his arms that said: "Jim Crow Must Go." Though trained in the United States Military under racist treatment one cringes to imagine, he remained a peaceful soldier in the army of liberation to the end. I weep and will always weep, even through the widest smiles, for the beautiful young wife, Myrlie Evers, he left behind, herself still strong and focused on the truth of struggle; and for their children, who lost their father to a fate they could not possibly, at the time, understand. I don't think any of us could imagine during that particular phase of the struggle for justice, that we risked losing not just our lives, which we were prepared to give, but also our children, who we were not.
Nothing protected Medgar, nor will anything protect any of us; nothing but our love for ourselves and for others whom we recognize unfailingly as also ourselves. Nothing can protect us but our lives. How we have lived them; what battles, with love and compassion our only shield, we have engaged. And yet, the moment of realizing we are truly alone, that in the ultimate crisis of our existence our government is not there for us, is one of shock. Especially if we have had the illusion of a system behind us to which we truly belong. Thankfully I have never had opportunity to have this illusion. And so, every peaceful witnessing, every non-violent confrontation has been a pure offering. I do not regret this at all.
When I was in Cairo last December to support CODEPINK's efforts to carry aid into Gaza I was unfortunately ill with the flu and could not offer very much. I lay in bed in the hotel room and listened to other activists report on what was happening around the city as Egypt refused entry to Gaza to the 1,400 people who had come for the accompanying Freedom march. I heard many distressing things, but only one made me feel, not exactly envy, but something close; it was that the French activists had shown up, en masse, in front of their embassy and that their ambassador had come out to talk to them and to try to make them comfortable as they set up camp outside the building. This small gesture of compassion for his country's activists in a strange land touched me profoundly, as I was touched decades ago when someone in John Kennedy's White House (maybe the cook) sent out cups of hot coffee to our line of freezing student and teacher demonstrators as we tried, with our signs and slogans and
songs, to protect a vulnerable neighbor, Cuba.
Where have the Israelis put our friends? I thought about this all night. Those whom they assassinated on the ship and those they injured? Is "my" government capable of insisting on respect for their dead bodies? Can it demand that those who are injured but alive be treated with care? Not only with care, but the tenderness and honor they deserve? If it cannot do this, such a simple, decent thing, of what use is it to the protection and healing of the planet? I heard a spokesman for the United States opine at the United Nations (not an exact quote) that the Freedom Flotilla activists should have gone through other, more proper, channels, not been confrontational with their attempt to bring aid to the distressed. This is almost exactly what college administrators advised half a century ago when students were trying to bring down apartheid in the South and getting bullets, nooses, bombings and burnings for our efforts. I felt embarrassed (to the degree one can permit embarrassment by
another) to be even vaguely represented by this man: a useless voice from the far past. One had hoped.
The Israeli spin on the massacre: that the commandos were under attack by the peace activists and that the whole thing was like "a lynching" of the armed attackers, reminds me of a Redd Foxx joke. I loved Redd Foxx, for all his vulgarity. A wife caught her husband in bed with another woman, flagrant, in the act, skin to skin. The husband said, probably through pants of aroused sexual exertion: All right, go ahead and believe your lying eyes! It would be fun, were it not tragic, to compare the various ways the Israeli government and our media will attempt to blame the victims of this unconscionable attack for their own imprisonment, wounds and deaths.
So what to do? Rosa Parks sat down in the front of the bus. Martin Luther King followed her act of courage with many of his own, and using his ringing, compassionate voice he aroused the people of Montgomery, Alabama to commit to a sustained boycott of the bus company; a company that refused to allow people of color to sit in the front of the bus, even if it was empty. It is time for us, en masse, to show up in front of our conscience, and sit down in the front of the only bus we have: our very lives.
What would that look like, be like, today, in this situation between Palestine and Israel? This "impasse" that has dragged on for decades. This "conflict" that would have ended in a week if humanity as a whole had acted in defense of justice everywhere on the globe. Which maybe we are learning! It would look like the granddaughter of Rosa Parks, the grandson of Martin Luther King. It would look like spending our money only where we can spend our lives in peace and happiness; freely sharing whatever we have with our friends.
It would be to support boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel to End the Occupation of Gaza and the West Bank and by this effort begin to soothe the pain and attend the sorrows of a people wrongly treated for generations. This action would also remind Israel that we have seen it lose its way and have called to it, often with love, and we have not been heard. In fact, we have reached out to it only to encounter slander, insult and, too frequently, bodily harm.
Disengage, avoid, and withhold support from whatever abuses, degrades and humiliates humanity.
This we can do. We the people; who ultimately hold all the power. We the people, who must never forget to believe we can win.
We the people.
It has always been about us; as we watch governments come and go. It always will be.
Alice Walker is a poet, novelist, feminist and activist whose award-winning works have sold over ten million copies.
June 4, 2010
Debriefing: Lawrence Wright on Gaza
Posted by Samantha Henig
It’s only twenty-six miles long and seven miles wide, but once again Gaza has the world’s attention. The Israeli military’s raid of a Gaza-bound flotilla in international waters raised questions from abroad: who attacked whom, who was armed, and was there any legal basis for landing commandos on the ships? (Nine people on the flotilla were killed, one an American citizen.) But beyond all that loomed a larger issue: Why does Israel’s blockade of Gaza exist, and should it be eliminated?
That’s a controversy that Lawrence Wright took on in a piece for the magazine in November. Wright, who spent three weeks in Gaza, tells the story of Hamas’s rise to power; the capture of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier; the theory behind Israel’s sanctions; and the way they have played out on the ground. Wright discusses the recent Gaza developments in this week’s Out Loud podcast. He and I talked further about life in Gaza, whether the flotilla passengers were “Code Pink grandmas” or “Islamist radicals,” and better ways to run blockades. Edited excerpts follow.
When you were in Gaza, what was the public feeling about the blockade?
The whole black market was doing quite well, but the legitimate economy had been destroyed. There were no construction materials allowed into the country to rebuild, so essentially it looked like the day the war stopped.
Given the rampant smuggling through tunnels from Egypt, which you describe in your piece, what’s the point of having a blockade at all?
Egypt was in the process of building a new security fence that was sixty to ninety feet deep to block off those tunnels, so the last remaining outlet for Gaza was being choked off. Egypt’s main goal in all this has been to insure that Gaza remain Israel’s problem.
Egypt has now, because of the incident with the flotilla, opened its border with Gaza, so essentially the blockade has been lifted. Egypt would desperately like to close that door again, I’m sure, because they are very worried about contagion from Hamas affecting the Islamist movement inside Egypt. But there’s going to be tremendous domestic pressures to keep that access to Gaza open, so I can’t see Egypt closing the door any time soon.
Do you think that Israel made a mistake by raiding the ship?
I thought it was a diplomatic catastrophe in so many ways. It’s alienated not only its close friends but its strategic allies, such as Turkey. Turkey was Israel’s best friend and best hope in the region, and this action has placed terrible strains on that relationship. Moreover, it has also created real strains with the U.S. Turkey has been positioned as a bridge between the Islamic region of the Middle East and the West, and as such it has played a very constructive role. Now that role may change to some extent, depending on Israel’s future actions.
Why did this particular incident involve Turkey so much?
The Gaza blockade has been very unpopular in the entire Muslim world, it’s not just in Turkey. It may be because of domestic political considerations that Prime Minister Erdogan has cultivated the Gaza issue, but it’s also possible to believe, as many people do, that there are real humanitarian issues here, and the world has pretty much turned its back on the million and a half people in Gaza who are trapped there. So it’s not surprising to me that the Turkish people, if not the Turkish government, would do something to try to call attention to this, and they’ve succeeded beyond their best dreams.
What have you thought about the media coverage so far? I’m struck by the difference in words people use for the people on the flotilla, whether they’re “activists” or “humanitarians.”
I used to be a student of linguistics, and it reminds me of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, if I can trouble you with explaining what I mean by that.
Oh, please do!
It used to be that trucks that were carrying gasoline said that they were inflammable, and as it happened a lot of people, even people who worked around these trucks, would be found lighting up cigarettes and unfortunately blowing up the trucks. Why would they possibly do that? A pair of linguists discovered that there was this unconscious association with this word inflammable, which they thought meant not flammable. So now all gasoline trucks say “flammable,” which wasn’t even a word beforehand.
I think the Israeli subconscious hypothesis is that they were dealing with “peace activists,” and in their mind that meant Code Pink grandmothers, and that’s not who was on those boats, or at least that wasn’t the entire population of those boats. Now the Israelis are stressing that these are “Islamists” and “radicals”—it’s the very opposite perspective. Language is so charged and so fraught in the region that every way the flotilla and the Israeli response are characterized fails to encompass exactly who these people were on those ships and the multiplicity of perspectives that are actually involved.
That multiplicity of perspectives is also clear in the different versions of videos that are circulating. Do you think there’s any way to get an objective read on the situation?
We’ve entered a new age of a kind of a YouTube dialogue that adds information without necessarily adding perspective. It’s really helpful, it’s eye opening, but it doesn’t necessarily contribute to the wise responses that are called for.
What do you think of America’s response so far?
I think it is confused and divided. The Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is pointing out that the Gaza situation is unsustainable, which is correct, but Vice-President Joe Biden is taking up the Israeli response.
The thing that is most frustrating to me about the Israeli-Palestinian issue is it’s not as hard a political problem as people like to say it is. If you look back at South African apartheid, on paper that was a much more difficult political problem to resolve. But given intense international pressure, the two sides did come to a resolution. It hasn’t succeeded brilliantly, but it’s better than the situation they had in the past, and it has allowed that country to still function. The despair that defeats all potential resolutions to this problem has got to be rooted out. That’s the first thing. This is a problem that can be resolved, given international commitment to resolving it, and honestly acknowledging the problems that both sides face.
You talk in your piece about the three-state solution.
One state, two states, or three states are all better solutions than the continuing Israeli occupation, which is not only degrading to Palestinians but has profound moral consequences for Israel as well.
Do you think the news that one of the people killed was an American will change the way the story plays here?
Not a lot. It takes the focus off the idea that this was strictly a Turkish venture…. There’s an accumulating international consensus that the blockade in Gaza has to be lifted. But within that consensus there’s very little attention paid to the real security concerns that Israel has, and that’s the reason, I think, Israel feels so angry and isolated.
Would it be so hard to have a checkpoint system that blocked weapons and allowed everything else?
That’s not hard at all, and that’s the way it’s usually done. Netanyahu said, if we open up the blockade, Gaza will become a port for Iran. But it’s completely possible to maintain a ban on weapons just by inspecting what’s coming into the country without shutting out everything. Unfortunately, among the materials they consider dangerous are building supplies, which might be used, the Israeli authorities say, for constructing weapons. For instance, in the handmade missiles that were such a feature of the Hamas artillery, cement was used as ballast. On the other hand, people’s homes are destroyed, they are living in tents or under cardboard shelters, there’s a desperate humanitarian need to provide shelter, which is why cement and other building supplies are so urgently needed. As long as people are forced to live outside in handmade shelters with minimum daily calories and no work to do, radicalism will flourish.
Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2010/06/lawrence-wright-on-gaza.html#ixzz0q0TwczVN
Sabotaging "Delegitimizers" of Israel
By JAMES MARC LEAS
While a report by an Israeli think tank has been widely condemned
for advocating that the Israeli government use its intelligence services to
attack and sabotage non-violent human rights advocates, the report is worth
detailed study because it is chock full of admissions of illegitimate
features of the Israeli government it desperately seeks to protect.
The report, “Building a Political Firewall Against Israel’s
Delegitimization,” is the product of a year of research by a team of Tel
Aviv-based Reut Institute
investigators and includes contributions from more than 100 individuals in
Israel, the United Kingdom, and the United States. While the Israeli
government did not commission the report, Reut officials gave a PowerPoint
presentation, “The Challenge of Delegitimacy to Israel’s National Security,”
to the Israeli Cabinet in February 2010 and to a large conference of Israeli
government officials in March 2010.
The report describes the “new strategic threat” created by the human rights
activists’ “fundamental delegitimization” of the Israeli government.
But the report also:
Validates two of the three demands of the rapidly growing Boycott,
Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign: for ending the occupation and for
equal rights for all Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel
Admits the concern that Israel will become a pariah state if it fails to
end the occupation and provide equal rights
Asserts that “earnest and consistent commitment to ending occupation” and
“to the equality and integration of its Arab citizens” are critical to
Notwithstanding the previous points, asserts that the demand for equal
rights is one that “unbundles Israel’s elimination,” and therefore, actually
providing equal rights is incompatible with the Israeli government’s
Admits that the Israeli government requires the ability to continue
unilaterally launching “harsh” militarily attacks
Admits that the delegitimization crisis is “crippling” the Israeli
government’s freedom to launch such military attacks
Admits the crucial importance for the Israeli government to overcome that
crisis to restore its unbridled freedom to act militarily
Admits that in the past the Israeli government was successful at using
peace moves to obtain the legitimacy it needed for its next war
Admits that its widely publicized withdrawals from Lebanon in 2000 and
Gaza in 2005 were not effective to achieve legitimacy for its attack on
Lebanon in 2006 or its most recent massive attack on Gaza
Admits that the failure of those peace moves to achieve legitimacy for
the attack on Gaza had consequences that accelerated the delegitimization.
Admits that “following Operation Cast Lead,” the intense criticism of the
government “was expressed in the Goldstone report and in legal proceedings
against IDF officers and Israeli politicians.” Admits that the legal
proceedings restricted Israel military and political leaders’ freedom to
travel “due to application of universal legal jurisdiction.”
Admits that “the Jewish world is growing more distant from Israel” and
that “criticism of Israel is more prevalent within the Jewish world than in
Admits that “too few of our people … are able to effectively respond to
Palestinian claims or to campaigns which seek to de-legitimize the moral
basis for Israel”
Admits that the so-called “delegitimizers” are a loose network of
non-violent activists who “punch above their weight”
Despite the well-deserved condemnation the report has received for its
proposal to attack human rights advocates, the admissions included in the
report, taken together, make it a valuable resource: through these
admissions the Reut Institute paints the Israeli government as essentially a
rogue state needing to “overhaul” its methods to maintain its ability to
continue being one. But the desperate methods the Reut Institute recommends
risk further accelerating its decline in legitimacy, as happened when
Israeli border guards denied entry to Noam Chomsky into the West Bank on May
16, 2010. <http://www.counterpunch.org/
The Expanding Repression of Human Rights Activists and Organizations
Identifying human rights activists in certain cities as the catalysts
creating its legitimacy problems, the Reut report recommends that the
Israeli government use its intelligence services to repress human rights
activists in London, Toronto, Madrid, and the San Francisco Bay Area. If
implemented, this policy would extend the repression of non-violent human
rights groups that the Israeli government is carrying out inside Israel and
in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) to people and groups in
countries that are beyond the Israeli government’s nominal control.
In a recent interview, *Haaretz* correspondent Gideon Levy described the
Israeli government’s “systematic” efforts in curbing the activities of human
rights activists inside Israel and the OPT.
“In the last year there have been real cracks in the democratic system of
Israel. [The authorities have been] trying to stop demonstrators from
getting to Bilin [a West Bank village, scene of frequent protests against
Israel's wall]. But there's also a process of delegitimizing all kinds of
groups and [nongovernmental organizations] and really to silence many
voices. It's systematic -- it's not here and there. Things are becoming much
harder. They did it to "Breaking the Silence" [a group of soldiers critical
of the Occupation] in a very ugly but very effective way. Breaking the
Silence can hardly raise its voice any more. And they did it also to many
other organizations, including the International Solidarity Movement, which
are described in Israel as enemies.”
On April 5, 2010, the *New York Times* published an article by Isabel
Kershner, “Israeli Rights Groups View Themselves as Under Siege,” which
confirmed Levy’s account and demonstrated that Reut Institute concerns about
delegitimization were well received at the highest level of the Israeli
government. In her article, Kershner described the “increasingly hostile
environment” in which various prominent Israeli human rights organizations
are forced to operate. In addition, Kershner reported that Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu had identified “the delegitimization of Israel abroad” as
“a major strategic threat.” Referring to international rights groups that
have been critical of Israel, such as Human Rights Watch, Kershner quotes a
senior Netanyahu aide saying that the Israeli government was “going to
dedicate time and manpower to combating these groups.” Consistent with that
statement, a newly proposed law within the Israeli Knesset would stifle the
work of Israel-based human rights NGOs involved in efforts to prosecute
Israeli officials for “breaches of International Humanitarian Law, or war
Thus, at the highest level, the Israeli government recognized the strategic
threat posed by the loss in Israeli government legitimacy and, consistent
with the Reut Report, declared that the legitimacy war is on for human
rights critics both domestically and internationally.
Identifying Israel’s “Delegitimizers”
Consistent with traditional divide and rule strategy, the Reut report
distinguishes between those who merely “criticize” Israeli policies and
those who “delegitimize” the State, inviting repression against
“delegitimizers” while advocating engagement with less severe “critics.”
According to the report, delegitimizers include those who: (1) single out
the Israeli government for its failure to abide by international law and
seek to hold its political and military leaders accountable under universal
jurisdiction; (2) label recent Israeli military attacks on Palestinians and
neighboring countries war crimes, crimes against humanity, or aggression;
(3) describe Israeli settlements in the occupied territories as “illegal and
immoral”; (4) demand an end to discrimination against Palestinians within
Israel’s 1967 boundaries; (5) criticize the Israeli blockade of Gaza as
illegal collective punishment; (6) label the Israeli government as a
“pariah, apartheid state”; (7) refuse to accept Israel’s “right to
or the right of the Jewish people to self-determination; or (8) call for a
one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
According to the Reut report, these “delegitimizers” also include supporters
of the BDS campaign. The BDS movement was inspired by the US civil rights
movement, the United Farm Workers grape boycott, and the boycott, divestment
and sanctions campaigns against South African apartheid. It had been
building outside of Israel and the Occupied Territories for several years
and was reinvigorated in 2005 when hundreds of Palestinian non-governmental
organizations called upon activists to focus their efforts on three concrete
objectives: (1) ending Israel’s occupation and colonization of land acquired
by force in 1967 and dismantling the wall; (2) equal rights for all
Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel; and (3) permitting the return of
Palestinian refugees to their homes and villages within Israel and the OPT.
These demands were chosen, in part, because each is thoroughly supported in
international legal instruments and customary legal norms binding upon the
While dividing the opposition is crucial to the strategy proposed by the
Reut Institute, the strategy could backfire if human rights workers subject
to attack are able to maintain unity and parry the illegitimate tactics with
broad based campaigns to defend any human rights workers subject to attack.
Israel’s Loss of Legitimacy: Strategic Costs for Israel
The report makes clear that re-establishing Israel’s global reputation and
legitimacy is not merely a matter of Israeli pride, but also a strategic
necessity. The Reut report states:
“In the past few years, Israel has been subjected to increasingly harsh
criticism around the world, resulting in an erosion of its international
image, and exacting a tangible strategic price. (par. 1)”
The report details the extensive political and military costs suffered by
the Israeli government as a result of progress the “delegitimizers” are
supposedly making toward “branding Israel as a pariah state.” (par. 106)
!. Ability to make war
The report states that the delegitimacy crisis is “crippling Israel's
unilateral option by limiting military use-of-force.” (par. 106). Thus, the
report admits concern that, having “come to represent violence, aggression,
disregard for human rights, etc.” (par. 120) the Israeli government’s
ability to act on its own to launch further attacks on neighboring countries
and further bombard civilians living under occupation is being limited by
the Israeli government’s loss of legitimacy.
While this is a source of deep concern for the Reut Institute, if true, it
is, of course, a source of guarded relief for others.
*2. Weakened ability to use peace moves to gain legitimacy for making
In connection with its discussion of maintaining the “unilateral” option to
militarily attack, the report includes startling admissions about Israel’s
decisions to withdraw its military forces from Lebanon and Gaza. According
to the report, the Israeli government leveraged its withdrawals from Lebanon
and Gaza to obtain legitimacy for future “harsh military responses.” The
“Israel’s unilateral withdrawals from Lebanon (May 2000) and Gaza (August
2005) reflected a logic that, in the absence of a partner for a political
process, Israel could unilaterally withdraw to a recognized international
boundary, and thus secure international legitimacy for harsh military
responses in case of future provocations across the border. The combination
of military force and international legitimacy were expected to create
effective deterrence. (par. 106)”
As such, the report admits that the Israeli government used peace moves to
“secure [the] international legitimacy” necessary to give the government
greater latitude to engage in harsh military operations. But the report
notes that this strategy was only “partially successful” during Operation
Cast Lead when Israeli military forces harshly attacked the civilian
population in Gaza and drew intense international criticism.
*3. Discrimination and Segregation Within Israel*
According to the report, the legitimacy crisis risks “breaching of Israeli
sovereign discretion and internationalization of the issue of Israel's Arab
citizens.” (par. 106). Thus, the report admits that the crisis is allowing
world involvement in the government’s systematic discrimination against
non-Jewish populations inside Israel. Human rights organizations, both
inside and outside Israel, have criticized the lack of equal rights in
Israel, including both de jure and de facto segregation and discrimination
against Israel’s Arab citizens on the job, in schools, and across Israeli
society. In a report addressing legitimacy, it is remarkable that the Reut
report fails to mention the numerous international legal instruments that
make provision of equal rights mandatory for legitimacy, including the UN
Charter, UN General Assembly Resolution 181, the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The report identifies as delegitimizers both those who call for equal rights
and those who respect the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their
homes within Israel’s 1967 borders. According to the report, these demands
“unbundle Israel's elimination:”
“Delegitimizers make a set of separate demands from Israel that together
amount to elimination of Israel or to the rejection of the right of Jews for
self-determination. For example, they call for 'the return of individual
Palestinian refugees to their homes' or for 'full and equal right of the
Arab minority in Israel'. (par. 102)”
Along with equal rights, the right of refugees to return is one of the most
fundamental articles of international law, supported by the Fourth Geneva
Convention, the 1907 Hague Regulations, UN General Assembly Resolution 181,
UN Security Council Resolution 194, the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, UN Security Council Resolution 242, and the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights.
By claiming that respect for Palestinian rights, whether as refugees or as
Israeli citizens, would result in the “elimination” of the Israeli state,
the Reut Institute gives its stamp of approval to the view that
underpinnings of the Israeli government are incompatible with universally
accepted human rights codified in basic instruments of international law.
Thus, without intending, the Reut Institute lends its authoritative voice to
human rights advocates who condemn the discriminatory Israeli form of
government as outside the law and therefore illegitimate.
*4. The Occupation*
In discussing the occupation, the report notes that the Israeli government
faces a “conundrum” that threatens its national security:
“[A]ny territory Israel withdraws from will be used as a platform for
hostile military activities against it. This threat will increase if the
Palestinian state controls its own airspace and borders. According to this
logic, Israel must retain control in the West Bank, and potentially renew
its control over Gaza. (par. 108)”
The report, however, also acknowledges the strength of certain practical
arguments in favor of ending the occupation:
“Israel's political logic: To leave – If Israel fails to end its rule over
the Palestinian population in the West Bank or reoccupies Gaza, demographic
trends will erode Israel's fundamental legitimacy, and ultimately render it
a pariah state. As such, Israel must urgently end its control of the West
Bank. (par. 108)”
However, the report separately mentions the “foundational value” of Zionism
of “sovereignty, ownership, or control of the Land of Israel, which
represents the cradle of Hebrew civilization.” (par. 76). The foundational
Zionist goal of obtaining, maintaining, and expanding control over
Palestinian land may do more to explain the reluctance to withdraw from
occupied territory than the pretext concerning national security.
It is also remarkable that a report focused on legitimacy should omit
mention of the numerous legal instruments and decisions that render the
Israeli occupation of Palestinian and Syrian territory illegal and
illegitimate: the continued occupation places the Israeli government in
violation of UN Security Council resolution 242, General Assembly resolution
2625, article 2, section 4 of the UN Charter, the 2004 decision of the
International Court of Justice, the 150-6 vote by the UN General Assembly
demanding Israeli compliance with that decision on July 20, 2004, and the
157-7 vote by the UN General Assembly in 2006 supporting the rights of the
Palestinian people to self-determination and to an independent state, and
which stressed the need for the Israeli government to withdraw from the
Palestinian territory it has occupied since 1967. Furthermore, the
introduction and maintenance of settlers in Palestinian and Syrian occupied
territory places the Israeli government in violation of the Fourth Geneva
Convention and UN Security Council resolution 465. Also, the “targeted
killing” of civilians, torture or inhumane treatment of prisoners, unlawful
confinement of civilians, and the extensive destruction and appropriation of
property not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and
wantonly in Gaza and the West Bank places the Israeli government in grave
breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
But even the practical argument against the occupation provided in the
report validates the view that continuing occupation, rather than efforts of
“delegitimizers” is increasingly responsible for the Israeli government
losing legitimacy and becoming a pariah state.
5. The BDS Campaign
The report notes the negative effects the BDS campaign has had on Israel’s
international image: “Although the tangible economic implications of the BDS
campaign have been limited, the thrust of its damage has been in branding
Israel as a pariah state.” (par. 106). At the same time, however, amazingly,
the report admits that two of the three demands of the BDS campaign are
legitimate. The report’s authors deserve credit, if not for acknowledging
the justice of these demands, at least for acknowledging their importance to
“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict provides the main leverage for Israel's
fundamental delegitimization. Clearly, Israel's earnest and consistent
commitment to ending 'occupation' is critical to combating delegitimization
and failure to exhibit such a commitment adds fuel to its fires. (par. 48)”
“Clearly, here too Israel's credible commitment to the equality and
integration of its Arab citizens is vital to combating delegitimization,
while failure to exhibit such a commitment will create fertile grounds for
its cultivation. (par. 48)”
However, the Reut Institute does not wholeheartedly advocate changing
policies to actually achieve legitimacy in these two areas. The express
purpose is merely to combat delegitimization. Something less than an actual
change in Israeli policy is indicated by the report’s insistence that full
and equal rights for Palestinians “unbundles Israel’s elimination.” The
report appears to be suggesting that the Israeli government can resolve its
legitimacy crisis merely by exhibiting a commitment toward ending the
occupation and providing equal rights, but can stop short of actually
realizing these objectives.
Notwithstanding these limitations, the report’s admissions that the Israeli
government fails to meet legal standards concerning equal rights and ending
occupation validate the position of human rights organizations and
Actual Sources of the Legitimacy Crisis: Operation Cast Lead
During Operation Cast Lead from December 27, 2008 to January 18, 2009,
Israeli planes, ships, artillery and invading ground soldiers attacked
Palestinian civilians, civilian housing, and civilian infrastructure,
including hospitals, schools, and UN facilities. News media showed dramatic
bombings with white phosphorus. Evidence gathered by investigators from such
human rights organizations as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the
National Lawyers Guild, and Physicians for Human Rights Israel presented
compelling evidence that Israeli forces intentionally targeted civilians.
As a result of the largely unexpected worldwide criticism of the Israeli
government during and following the operation, the United Nations Human
Rights Council launched an independent mission under Justice Richard
Goldstone to investigate violations of international law committed by
civilian and military authorities in Israel and Gaza. Substantial evidence
gathered by his UN mission demonstrated that Israeli political and military
leaders willfully failed to distinguish between military and civilian
targets, used disproportionate force, and targeted civilians in violation of
international law. The resulting report, known as the Goldstone Report
“While the Israeli Government has sought to portray its operations as
essentially a response to rocket attacks in the exercise of its right to
Mission considers the plan to have been directed, at least in part, at a
different target: the people of Gaza as a whole. (Goldstone par. 1883)”
Rather than analyzing whether Israeli government acts could have been
illegal and therefore could have contributed to its legitimacy crisis, the
Reut Report instead recommends solutions to prevent, control, and limit
criticism by targeting the human rights activists who gave it voice. With
such advocacy, the Reut Report implicitly acknowledges the hopelessness of
refuting the charge that Israeli leaders directed their forces to act
outside the law. Instead, the Reut Institute chillingly seeks to retain for
Israeli government officials the freedom to act militarily without
restriction on targeting civilian populations.
Comparison with Apartheid South Africa
For the report’s authors, attempts by activists to draw parallels between
the actions of the Israeli government and apartheid South Africa are
particularly troubling. In this connection, the report discusses “the
ideological foundation for comparing Israel with apartheid South Africa”:
“Israel's delegitimizers claim that both cases involve a foreign minority –
in both cases white, rich, and powerful – that took control of land
belonging to local indigenous populations, dispossessed them of their
property, and exploited them as labor while employing brute force. In recent
years, the Delegitimization Network has significantly succeeded in branding
Israel as an apartheid state by deploying related terminology and using
similar means to wage a global campaign against it.” (par. 96)”
Thus, the Reut Institute clearly articulates the case for the comparison.
But the report does not attempt to distinguish Israeli government behavior
from apartheid South Africa’s. By contrast, Israeli historians, including
Benny Morris, who, in *Righteous Victims,* and Ilan Pappe, who, in *The
Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine*, each confirm the violent ethnic cleansing
and dispossession of the indigenous population.
Highlighting the seriousness of the situation for the Israeli government,
the report points to South Africa and the USSR, countries with powerful
conventional and unconventional military forces, that were “brought down by
delegitimization,” (par. 19, 82, and 120).
However, the Reut report omits mention of an ironic fact that although South
Africa’s apartheid system was “brought down,” South Africa remained in
existence and has fully regained its legitimacy post-apartheid. One could
conclude from this fact that those who participated in the worldwide
movement to end South African apartheid actually did much to legitimize
South Arica while those who supported the racist apartheid regime were
actually the true “delegitimizers.”
With the South African model in mind, one could well argue that it is such
supporters of the Israeli government as the Reut Institute who are its
foremost delegitimizers, while the human rights activists who hold Israeli
political and military leaders accountable to ensure that the Israeli
government solidly conforms to international law who are its true
Recommendations likely to further erode Israel’s legitimacy
The report’s recommendations are likely to further contribute to the erosion
of Israel’s legitimacy. Calls to “attack,” “sabotage,” create “a ‘price-tag’
for attacking Israel,” and mount “a counter-offensive” against non-violent
human rights advocates (par. 124) are unlikely to effectively stop the
criticism or bolster Israel’s international legitimacy, and they open both
the Israeli government and those of its supporters who accept the call to
implement such tactics to further severe criticism.
As demonstrated by U.S. civil rights and anti-war activists in the 1960s,
the Reut Institute’s recommendation to “attack” and “sabotage” those who
speak out for human rights is likely to be counterproductive. While state
and federal governments used similar tactics in the 1960s and early 1970s to
counter civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements, campaigners were able
to respond with broadly supported free speech movements and mass defense
campaigns. As in the aftermath of the shootings by the National Guard at
Kent State and Jackson State in 1970, these mass campaigns were often
effective, not only at countering undemocratic government tactics but also
at winning even more support for the activists’ underlying demands.
However, as demonstrated by the South African example, there is a more
straightforward solution for the legitimacy crisis than the one presented by
the report. Namely, the Israeli government will gain legitimacy by meeting
the requirements of the law. Under this approach, the Israeli government
will gain legitimacy by going further than the Reut report’s recommendation,
and actually ending the occupation and providing equal rights for all living
under Israeli government rule, as well as by implementing the right of
Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and villages and observing
international law strictures against launching military attacks.
In the meantime, human rights workers who have been sharply critical of the
Israeli government can take satisfaction from the fact that the Reut
Institute has given its stamp of approval to many of their criticisms, even
if it is also calling on the Israeli government to take illicit action
*James Marc Leas* is a Jewish patent lawyer who is a co-chair of the
National Lawyers Guild Free Palestine Subcommittee. He participated in the NLG
delegation to Gaza in February,
The author wishes to thank Noura Erakat for valuable editorial contributions
but responsibility for the content rests entirely with the author.
Israel’s Lawlessness with Spying and Smear
by Naomi Klein; “Reut Institute Maps Israel’s Intelligence War Against
by Richard Silverstein; “Israel’s new strategy: ‘sabotage’ and ‘attack’ the
global justice movement<http://
by Ali Abunimah and his post of the original, uncensored
the Reut Report; “Israel’s losing battle against the new world
by Cecilie Surasky and “Think tank tells Israeli government to declare war
on peace groups<http://www.muzzlewatch.
also by Cecilie Surasky.
non-partisan non-profit policy team that supplies its services pro-bono
solely to the Government of Israel. . . They are described as ‘very
influential and highly respected’ by Ido Aharoni, spokesman to Israeli
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who noted that virtually every key ministry in
the government has utilized Reut’s services.”
the risks is the fact that more than 140 media
the story about the Israeli government’s May 16, 2010 decision to deny entry
to MIT Professor Noam Chomsky for a scheduled lecture at Bir Zeit University
in Ramallah. An editorial in the Israeli newspaper
that “Israel looks like a bully who has been insulted by a superior
intellect and is now trying to fight it, arrest it and expel it.” A news
article in the *New York
by Ethan Bronner on May 17, 2010 quoted an article in the Israeli newspaper
legal commentator Boaz Okun: “Put together, [barring Chomsky and other
recent follies] may mark the end of Israel as a law-abiding and
freedom-loving state, or at least place a large question mark over this
notion.” A news article in the *Boston Globe* described an email to the
Globe from Chomsky<http://www.boston.com/
“Chomsky said he believed he was being singled out for his criticism of
Israel, as well as his plans to speak at a Palestinian university. ‘They are
carrying out an action of a kind that I’ve never heard of before, except in
totalitarian states,’’ he said.” As the Israeli peace group Gush Shalom put
it in their weekly ad in *Haaretz* on May 21, 2010, “Those Who prevented
Noam Chomsky From entering The country –Aided and abetted The worldwide
campaign To boycott the Israeli universities.” With the wide reporting of
the Israeli government’s own academic boycott against the world’s leading
public intellectual, the Israeli government and its supporters may have
trouble credibly arguing ragainst boycott as a form of non-violent
resistance to occupation, discrimination, aggression, targeting civilians,
siege and collective punishment of Gaza, and unwillingness to allow refugees
to return to their homes because of their ethnicity.
“delegitimizers” stand on solid ground: the idea that Israel, or any
country, has a “right to exist” contradicts long-held democratic values. For
example, the US Constitution <http://www.usconstitution.
not recognize any rights for the government, including the right to exist.
Under the constitution government branches are granted or vested only with
powers; rights are secured exclusively for the people, and these rights
restrict the powers of the government. The constitution implements the idea
articulated by Jefferson in the
Independence in 1776 that people are endowed with inalienable rights, that
governments are created to secure these rights, and that “governments derive
their powers from the consent of the governed.” In furtherance of this view,
the declaration provides that “when a long train of abuses, and usurpations,
pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under
absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such
government and to provide new guards for their future security.”
The Reut Report, and much of Israeli propaganda, turns western democracy on
its head, promoting the contrary view that it is the government that has a
“right to exist” and that millions of people living under the rule of a
brutal government can be required to accept that “right.”
article 6 of the Charter of the International Military
in 1945 by the United States, France, UK, and USSR defined crimes against
humanity to include “deportation and any other inhumane acts committed
against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial or
religious grounds.” Of course, in calling for refugees’ right of return,
human rights advocates provide only a partial remedy for the illegal ethnic
cleansing of Palestine. In addition, those responsible for, and those who
participated in, the illegal ethnic cleansing operations should be held
government’s own Ministry of Foreign Affairs website shows that the Israeli
government had already stopped Hamas rocket fire with a June 19, 2008
ceasefire. That ceasefire remained successful until Israel violated it with
a lethal attack on Hamas members in Gaza on November 4, as more fully
described in an article by the present author, “Israeli Government
Contradicts its own Self-defense
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