- ARGUMENT: How to Fix It
- Jimmy Carter calls on US, EU to recognize Hamas
- For Gaza, ‘The Norm’ Is Devastating
- Hollywood takes on Israel
- The recalcitrant Khalid
Posted: 06 Aug 2014 01:01 AM PDT
By: Jimmy Carter, Mary Robinson
Ending this war in Gaza begins with recognizing Hamas as a legitimate political actor.
Israelis and Palestinians are still burying their loved ones as Gaza’s third war in six years continues. Since July 8, when this war began, more than 1,600 Palestinian and 65 Israeli lives have been sacrificed. Many in the world are heartbroken in the powerless certainty that more will die, that more are being killed every hour.
This tragedy results from the deliberate obstruction of a promising move toward peace in the region, when a reconciliation agreement among the Palestinian factions was announced in April. This was a major concession by Hamas, in opening Gaza to joint control under a technocratic government that did not include any Hamas members. The new government also pledged to adopt the three basic principles demanded by the Middle East Quartet comprised of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia: nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and adherence to past agreements. Tragically, Israel rejected this opportunity for peace and has succeeded in preventing the new government’s deployment in Gaza.
Two factors are necessary to make Palestinian unity possible. First, there must be at least a partial lifting of the 7-year-old sanctions and blockade that isolate the 1.8 million people in Gaza. There must also be an opportunity for the teachers, police, and welfare and health workers on the Hamas payroll to be paid. These necessary requirements for a human standard of living continue to be denied. Instead, Israel blocked Qatar’s offer to provide funds to pay civil servants’ salaries, and access to and from Gaza has been further tightened by Egypt and Israel.
There is no humane or legal justification for the way the Israeli Defense Forces are conducting this war. Israeli bombs, missiles, and artillery have pulverized large parts of Gaza, including thousands of homes, schools, and hospitals. More than 250,000 people have been displaced from their homes in Gaza. Hundreds of Palestinian noncombatants have been killed. Much of Gaza has lost access to water and electricity completely. This is a humanitarian catastrophe.
There is never an excuse for deliberate attacks on civilians in conflict. These are war crimes. This is true for both sides. Hamas’s indiscriminate targeting of Israeli civilians is equally unacceptable. However, three Israeli civilians have been killed by Palestinian rockets, while an overwhelming majority of the 1,600 Palestinians killed have been civilians, including more than 330 children. The need for international judicial proceedings to investigate and end these violations of international law should be taken very seriously.
The U.N. Security Council should focus on what can be done to limit the potential use of force by both sides. It should vote for a resolution recognizing the inhumane conditions in Gaza and mandate an end to the siege. That resolution could also acknowledge the need for international monitors who can report on movements into and out of Gaza as well as cease-fire violations. It should then enshrine strict measures to prevent the smuggling of weapons into Gaza. Early discussions have already taken place. The Elders, an international group of elder statesmen of which we are a part, hope these discussions will continue and reach fruition.
At the Palestinians’ request, the Swiss government is considering convening an international conference of the signatory states of the Geneva Conventions, which enshrine the humanitarian laws of warfare. This could pressure Israel and Hamas into observing their duties under international law to protect civilian populations. We sincerely hope all states — especially those in the West, with the greatest power — attend and live up to their obligations to uphold the Fourth Geneva Convention, which governs the treatment of populations in occupied territory.
Unity between Fatah and Hamas is currently stronger than it has been for many years. As Elders, we believe this is one of the most encouraging developments in recent years and welcome it warmly. This presents an opportunity for the Palestinian Authority to reassume control over Gaza — an essential first step towards Israel and Egypt lifting the blockade.
The Palestinian Authority cannot manage the task of administering Gaza on its own. It will need the prompt return of the EU Border Assistance Mission, an international effort to help monitor border crossings that was launched in 2005 and suspended in 2007. EU High Representative Catherine Ashton has already offered to reinstate the program, covering not only Rafah but all of Gaza’s crossings. Egypt and Israel would, in turn, cooperate with international monitors to be deployed in Gaza and along its borders, backed by a U.N. Security Council mandate to protect civilian populations. A valuable precedent for trust-building between Egypt and Israel is the international peacekeeping force operating in the Sinai, mandated by the peace treaty signed by the two countries in 1979.
The international community’s initial goal should be the full restoration of the free movement of people and goods to and from Gaza through Israel, Egypt, and the sea. Concurrently, the United States and EU should recognize that Hamas is not just a military but also a political force. Hamas cannot be wished away, nor will it cooperate in its own demise. Only by recognizing its legitimacy as a political actor — one that represents a substantial portion of the Palestinian people — can the West begin to provide the right incentives for Hamas to lay down its weapons. Ever since the internationally monitored 2006 elections that brought Hamas to power in Palestine, the West’s approach has manifestly contributed to the opposite result.
Ultimately, however, lasting peace depends on the creation of a Palestinian state next to Israel.
Leaders in Israel, Palestine, and the world’s major powers should believe that policy changes are within reach that would move Israelis and Palestinians closer to a day when the skies over the Holy Land can forever fall silent.
Posted: 05 Aug 2014 11:38 PM PDT
In op-ed written for Foreign Policy, former US president accuses Israel of ‘deliberate attacks on civilians’ saying there was ‘no humane or legal justification for the way the IDF are conducting this war.’
Former US president Jimmy Carter has called on the United States and EU to recognize Hamas as “not just a military but also a political force” in an op-ed written for Foreign Policy on Monday.
“Hamas cannot be wished away, nor will it cooperate in its own demise. Only by recognizing its legitimacy as a political actor – one that represents a substantial portion of the Palestinian people – can the West begin to provide the right incentives for Hamas to lay down its weapons,” Carter writes.
In his op-ed, the former president accuses Israel of “deliberate attacks on civilians,” saying these are war crimes.
“There is no humane or legal justification for the way the Israeli Defense Forces are conducting this war. Israeli bombs, missiles, and artillery have pulverized large parts of Gaza, including thousands of homes, schools, and hospitals. More than 250,000 people have been displaced from their homes in Gaza. Hundreds of Palestinian noncombatants have been killed. Much of Gaza has lost access to water and electricity completely. This is a humanitarian catastrophe,” he writes.
While he does lay the blame on Hamas for doing the same – indiscriminately targeting Israeli civilians – he draws a comparison between the number of casualties on both sides.
“However, three Israeli civilians have been killed by Palestinian rockets, while an overwhelming majority of the 1,600 Palestinians killed have been civilians, including more than 330 children. The need for international judicial proceedings to investigate and end these violations of international law should be taken very seriously,” he asserts.
Carter pledges his support to the Palestinian unity government, calling it “one of the most encouraging developments in recent years.”
Carter also urges the UN Security Council to vote on a resolution “recognizing the inhumane conditions in Gaza and mandate an end to the siege.”
He stipulates the need for international monitors to control Gaza’s border crossings, as well as report on ceasefire violations, calling for the reinstatement of the EU Border Assistance Mission that was launched in 2005 and suspended in 2007, when Hamas took over the Gaza Strip after a Palestinian civil war.
Posted: 05 Aug 2014 09:29 PM PDT
By: Noam Chomsky
‘We have no dignity, no pride; we are just soft targets, and we are very cheap. Either this situation really improves or it is better to just die.’
Amid all the horrors unfolding in the latest Israeli offensive in Gaza, Israel’s goal is simple: quiet-for-quiet, a return to the norm.
For the West Bank, the norm is that Israel continues its illegal construction of settlements and infrastructure so that it can integrate into Israel whatever might be of value, meanwhile consigning Palestinians to unviable cantons and subjecting them to repression and violence.
For Gaza, the norm is a miserable existence under a cruel and destructive siege that Israel administers to permit bare survival but nothing more.
The latest Israeli rampage was set off by the brutal murder of three Israeli boys from a settler community in the occupied West Bank. A month before, two Palestinian boys were shot dead in the West Bank city of Ramallah. That elicited little attention, which is understandable, since it is routine.
"The institutionalized disregard for Palestinian life in the West helps explain not only why Palestinians resort to violence," Middle East analyst Mouin Rabbani reports, "but also Israel’s latest assault on the Gaza Strip."
In an interview, human rights lawyer Raji Sourani, who has remained in Gaza through years of Israeli brutality and terror, said, "The most common sentence I heard when people began to talk about cease-fire: Everybody says it’s better for all of us to die and not go back to the situation we used to have before this war. We don’t want that again. We have no dignity, no pride; we are just soft targets, and we are very cheap. Either this situation really improves or it is better to just die. I am talking about intellectuals, academics, ordinary people: Everybody is saying that."
In January 2006, Palestinians committed a major crime: They voted the wrong way in a carefully monitored free election, handing control of Parliament to Hamas.
The media constantly intone that Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel. In reality, Hamas leaders have repeatedly made it clear that Hamas would accept a two-state settlement in accord with the international consensus that has been blocked by the U.S. and Israel for 40 years.
In contrast, Israel is dedicated to the destruction of Palestine, apart from some occasional meaningless words, and is implementing that commitment.
The crime of the Palestinians in January 2006 was punished at once. The U.S. and Israel, with Europe shamefully trailing behind, imposed harsh sanctions on the errant population and Israel stepped up its violence.
The U.S. and Israel quickly initiated plans for a military coup to overthrow the elected government. When Hamas had the effrontery to foil the plans, the Israeli assaults and the siege became far more severe.
There should be no need to review again the dismal record since. The relentless siege and savage attacks are punctuated by episodes of "mowing the lawn," to borrow Israel’s cheery expression for its periodic exercises in shooting fish in a pond as part of what it calls a "war of defense."
Once the lawn is mowed and the desperate population seeks to rebuild somehow from the devastation and the murders, there is a cease-fire agreement. The most recent cease-fire was established after Israel’s October 2012 assault, called Operation Pillar of Defense.
Though Israel maintained its siege, Hamas observed the cease-fire, as Israel concedes. Matters changed in April of this year when Fatah and Hamas forged a unity agreement that established a new government of technocrats unaffiliated with either party.
Israel was naturally furious, all the more so when even the Obama administration joined the West in signaling approval. The unity agreement not only undercuts Israel’s claim that it cannot negotiate with a divided Palestine but also threatens the long-term goal of dividing Gaza from the West Bank and pursuing its destructive policies in both regions.
Something had to be done, and an occasion arose on June 12, when the three Israeli boys were murdered in the West Bank. Early on, the Netanyahu government knew that they were dead, but pretended otherwise, which provided the opportunity to launch a rampage in the West Bank, targeting Hamas.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed to have certain knowledge that Hamas was responsible. That too was a lie.
One of Israel’s leading authorities on Hamas, Shlomi Eldar, reported almost at once that the killers very likely came from a dissident clan in Hebron that has long been a thorn in the side of Hamas. Eldar added that "I’m sure they didn’t get any green light from the leadership of Hamas, they just thought it was the right time to act."
The 18-day rampage after the kidnapping, however, succeeded in undermining the feared unity government, and sharply increasing Israeli repression. Israel also conducted dozens of attacks in Gaza, killing five Hamas members on July 7.
Hamas finally reacted with its first rockets in 19 months, providing Israel with the pretext for Operation Protective Edge on July 8.
By July 31, around 1,400 Palestinians had been killed, mostly civilians, including hundreds of women and children. And three Israeli civilians. Large areas of Gaza had been turned into rubble. Four hospitals had been attacked, each another war crime.
Israeli officials laud the humanity of what it calls "the most moral army in the world," which informs residents that their homes will be bombed. The practice is "sadism, sanctimoniously disguising itself as mercy," in the words of Israeli journalist Amira Hass: "A recorded message demanding hundreds of thousands of people leave their already targeted homes, for another place, equally dangerous, 10 kilometers away."
In fact, there is no place in the prison of Gaza safe from Israeli sadism, which may even exceed the terrible crimes of Operation Cast Lead in 2008 to 2009.
The hideous revelations elicited the usual reaction from the most moral president in the world, Barack Obama: great sympathy for Israelis, bitter condemnation of Hamas and calls for moderation on both sides.
When the current attacks are called off, Israel hopes to be free to pursue its criminal policies in the occupied territories without interference, and with the U.S. support it has enjoyed in the past.
Gazans will be free to return to the norm in their Israeli-run prison, while in the West Bank, Palestinians can watch in peace as Israel dismantles what remains of their possessions.
That is the likely outcome if the U.S. maintains its decisive and virtually unilateral support for Israeli crimes and its rejection of the long-standing international consensus on diplomatic settlement. But the future will be quite different if the U.S. withdraws that support.
In that case it would be possible to move toward the "enduring solution" in Gaza that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called for, eliciting hysterical condemnation in Israel because the phrase could be interpreted as calling for an end to Israel’s siege and regular attacks. And—horror of horrors—the phrase might even be interpreted as calling for implementation of international law in the rest of the occupied territories.
Forty years ago Israel made the fateful decision to choose expansion over security, rejecting a full peace treaty offered by Egypt in return for evacuation from the occupied Egyptian Sinai, where Israel was initiating extensive settlement and development projects. Israel has adhered to that policy ever since.
If the U.S. decided to join the world, the impact would be great. Over and over, Israel has abandoned cherished plans when Washington has so demanded. Such are the relations of power between them.
Furthermore, Israel by now has little recourse, after having adopted policies that turned it from a country that was greatly admired to one that is feared and despised, policies it is pursuing with blind determination today in its march toward moral deterioration and possible ultimate destruction.
Could U.S. policy change? It’s not impossible. Public opinion has shifted considerably in recent years, particularly among the young, and it cannot be completely ignored.
For some years there has been a good basis for public demands that Washington observe its own laws and cut off military aid to Israel. U.S. law requires that "no security assistance may be provided to any country the government of which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights."
Israel most certainly is guilty of this consistent pattern, and has been for many years.
Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, author of this provision of the law, has brought up its potential applicability to Israel in specific cases, and with a well-conducted educational, organizational and activist effort such initiatives could be pursued successively.
That could have a very significant impact in itself, while also providing a springboard for further actions to compel Washington to become part of "the international community" and to observe international law and norms.
Nothing could be more significant for the tragic Palestinian victims of many years of violence and repression.
Posted: 05 Aug 2014 09:02 PM PDT
Israel's military offensive in Gaza and the mounting toll of civilian casualties has become a divisive issue in Hollywood as well as in Washington.
Film, music and sports celebrities have stepped up their criticism of Israeli military strikes, which have led to the deaths of more than 1,800 Palestinians.
Actor John Cusack over the weekend re-tweeted an article comparing conditions in Gaza to those in Soweto, a black township in South Africa, during apartheid.
Cusack, who starred in "High Fidelity" and "Bullets Over Broadway," also declared on Twitter, "Mass bombing of civilians is wrong no matter who does it – ok?"
Actors Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz signed a letter published in a Spanish newspaper that denounced the Israeli offensive as "genocide."
Mark Ruffalo, who played the Hulk in "The Avengers," has used Twitter to highlight the destruction of the el-Wafa hospital in Gaza and called "blowing up" hospitals something he thought "all human beings could agree was off limits."
Actress Mia Farrow questioned why Israeli forces are bombing homes in Gaza while claiming a primary objective of their campaign is to shut down tunnels used by Hamas fighters. She has suggested the offensive will spawn more violence.
"What is Israel's long-term plan for Gaza? They can't kill everyone. Those who survive can never forget. They will want to be martyrs," she wrote on Twitter.
Jonathan Demme, who won an Oscar for directing “Silence of the Lambs,” has spoken up for Palestinians caught in Israeli air strikes.
"I don’t see this as being politics or statehood for Palestine or Hamas," Demme told The Associated Press. "I think it’s about taking innocent lives and the destruction of a culture. … I’ve never been ashamed of my pacifist point of view of things at any time since I became a card-carrying hippie back in the ’60s."
Singer-songwriter John Legend said he was "so sick of watching our secretary of State have to grovel so hard to tell Israel how much he loves them while Israeli cabinet sh—ts on him."
Rob Schneider, a veteran of “Saturday Night Live” who went on to play Deuce Bigalow, tweeted, "To not be outraged at the killing of children is to risk your very soul. #Gaza."
Members of Congress have generally been quick to back Israel's war as justified, and the Obama administration has repeatedly underlined Israel's right to defend itself.
Still, there has been some sharp criticism in recent days from the Obama administration over Israeli strikes that have killed civilians.
On Sunday, the State Department issued a statement criticizing as "disgraceful" an Israeli strike outside a United Nations-operated school and shelter that killed 10 Palestinians.
President Obama, who has received campaign contributions from many of the stars criticizing Israel’s actions, said Friday that "innocent civilians in Gaza caught in the crossfire have to weigh on our conscience."
Many of the celebrities who have criticized the military offensive in Gaza have given campaign contributions to Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks fundraising.
Other celebrities have defended Israel's actions and slammed fellow stars who have suggested Israel has shown little regard for civilian casualties.
Jon Voight slammed Bardem and Cruz in a guest column for the Hollywood Reporter.
"I am heartsick that people like Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem could incite anti-Semitism all over the world and are oblivious to the damage they have caused," he wrote.
"You should hang hour heads in shame," he added. "You should all come forth with deep regrets for what you did and ask forgiveness from the suffering people in Israel."
Bardem and Cruz, who are married, have backed off their public criticism since it was published.
Bardem said his decision to sign the letter was "solely meant as a plea for peace."
"Destruction and hatred only generate more hatred and destruction," he added.
Cruz conceded, "I'm not an expert on the situation" and said her only wish in signing it was "the hope that there will be peace in both Israel and Gaza."
Charlie Barrett, the founder of The Barrett Company, a publicity firm based in Los Angeles that represents television and motion picture industry clients, said celebrities who weigh in on Gaza won't likely see any negative impact on their careers.
"If a film producer wants to cast someone in a film, I don't think they think so much about their politics, they think about the kind of artist they are," he said.
Barrett said the publicity from speaking out on Gaza or another highly charged political issue does not have any benefit but it likely doesn't cause damage either.
"I don't think it's good probably, from what I've read and heard but I frankly don't know of any case where someone's career was destroyed by their politics or something they may believe in," he said.
Schneider, however, tweeted on Monday that he suspects some powerful Hollywood players might want to retaliate against actors and directors who have spoken out against the military campaign.
"Jon Voight is proof that Hollywood is always ready to start a new Blacklist!" he wrote.
Posted: 05 Aug 2014 08:51 PM PDT
The refusal of Khalid Ibrahim to tender his resignation as Menteri Besar of Selangor is disobedience to the express direction of his political party, PKR, and is without precedent. Malaysia's system of parliamentary democracy from Merdeka has been based on political parties, or, more accurately, coalitions. The Alliance coalition comprising Umno, MCA and MIC representing the 3 principal races negotiated independence, and became the governing coalition in 1957. In 1974, the Alliance transformed into the Barisan Nasional ("BN"), which is now a 14 party coalition.
In the early decades of independence, the opposition parties were fragmented, disunited and never presented an alternative coalition to BN for the Malaysian electorate to choose. Whether it was PMIP (as PAS used to be known). DAP, the Labour Front or the PPP, multiple candidates stood for general elections to the benefit of BN. The establishment of the Pakatan coalition and the decision to field a single candidate in every constituency on the Pakatan platform nationwide meant that both in GE12 and GE13 Malaysian voters had, in effect, a choice of 2 coalitions. It is now accepted that Pakatan can become the federal government of the day.
In GE13, 1,744,620 votes were cast for the 56 seats in the Selangor State Legislative Assembly. Out of that total, 1,050,664 (60.22%) votes went to Pakatan, while 693,956 (39.78%) were cast for BN. Pakatan won 44 seats, and Umno secured 12 seats. No other BN component party won a seat in Selangor in May 2013. The 60% support for Pakatan in Selangor was well over the 52% it received nationally. But more significantly, very few of the 1 million odd votes who voted for Pakatan in Selangor voted for any individual candidate. Neither did many vote because Khalid was going to be returned as menteri besar. Instead, the vast majority voted for the Pakatan coalition. That is the political reality surrounding the Khalid problem.
Just like voters of Selangor did not vote for Khalid to become menteri besar in 2008 or 2013, the political reality is that voters have no say in his dismissal from office. Thus, the 6 Prime Ministers and all the Menteri Besar in all the states of Malaysia have been nominated by their party, and some likewise removed. The Westminster system that we follow is not presidential in nature, and personalities are not critical. Can one imagine any Umno Menteri Besar refusing to obey his political masters if they directed him to resign. It would be unthinkable.
Even the once mighty Harun Idris was removed by Umno as Selangor menteri besar in the mid-1970s. Umno changed its menteri besar in Terengganu as recently as May 2014, with Razif Rahman replacing Ahmad Said. Removal from political office by one's own political party across the democratic world is never rational, but is an occupational hazard: remember Margaret Thatcher, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.
However, the sad fact is that party discipline does not seem to exist in PKR. The 3 line whip system, which is essential for a proper running of a parliamentary democracy system, obviously does not operate with them. Anwar Ibrahim and other senior PKR leaders realized very quickly after GE13 that they had erred in re-appointing Khalid for a second term. Rather than just removing Khalid, as Umno and any other self-respecting political party would have done, the very complex "Kajang move" was set in motion. When Anwar was announced as the Kajang candidate with the objective of replacing Khalid as Menteri Besar, Umno was spooked. The prison sentence imposed by the Court of Appeal disqualified Anwar. That explains the candidacy of Wan Azizah.
If Khalid expects to stave off a motion of no confidence in the Selangor State Assembly, he would have to rely on the 12 Umno votes and all the 15 PAS votes. With his vote, a tie would ensue. But that would signal the end of Khalid's political career because he would be expelled from PKR, and would become either an independent member or a member of Umno or PAS. PAS has intimated that it will finally decide on its position on Khalid on Sunday, 10th August. PAS has a straight-forward choice: Khalid or Pakatan, that is, an individual or a political coalition. PAS should remember that the voters of Selangor elected the Pakatan coalition, and pushing the state to snap polls just 15 months after GE13 is not in the interests of Selangor and its electorate.
In any event, Umno as a wily, experienced political party may not be happy to go to bed with PAS and Khalid. Any pact between PAS and Umno cannot be limited to Selangor; instead, it will have national repercussions. Umno is aware of such baggage. The 1974-78 partnership between Umno and PAS had left scars on both sides of the divide. Finally, one must not assume that all the 15 PAS Assemblymen will take a united position on Khalid, and public factions in PAS may emerge.
The golden rule in politics is that a leader who has lost the confidence of his political party must resign. Khalid can thus avoid all these eventualities if he behaved honorably and resigned. It is still not too late to save his reputation.
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