Saturday, January 24, 2009


(Please visit, and link to your favourites, P U L S E, a new website which I help to run. It's a great source of information and opinion.)

I've recently written to Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Khaled Mahmood MP to complain about their positions on the massacre in occupied Palestine. I've also written to Gerald Kaufman and Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, to praise their calls for an arms embargo on the apartheid state. And I walked into the office of my local MP, Russell Brown, and spoke to Mr Brown's assistant. A few days later I received a letter from Mr Brown which repeats the usual rubbish about 'peace' and the need to disarm the resistance so the oppressor can sleep more soundly at night. At least he bothered to send me a letter. I received responses from Brown, Cameron, Clegg and Kaufman too, but none from Khaled Mahmood. Mr Mahmood was quoted by the Guardian as "dismissing" calls for sanctions and an arms embargo. Mahmood is a Birmingham MP who no doubt receives a lot of votes because he has a Muslim name. Not only is he betraying his Muslim voters who would like to see their representatives develop a peaceful strategy of resisting the murderous British-Zionist alliance, he isn't even capable of replying promptly to letters.

Here's my response to Russell Brown's letter. I won't publish his letter because I don't have permission and because it's on paper, but I quote some of it. You can imagine the rest - it's the standard New Labour magical incantation.

Dear Mr Brown

Thank you for your letter in response to my conversation with Cameron concerning the situation in occupied Palestine.

You write: "It is not difficult to understand the frustration, fear and anger of those Israelis who are the targets of Hamas rocket attacks, and the pressure on Israel's democratic government to take action." You then state the government position, and that of the European Union Presidency, that Israel's use of force is "disproportionate."

With respect, I believe that your analysis of the situation is plain wrong. Firstly, the Hamas rockets almost entirely stopped during the six-month ceasefire. The ceasefire was broken specifically by an Israeli incursion into Gaza which killed six people, and more generally by the siege of Gaza. Before the latest massacre, a Red Cross report described “progressive deterioration in food security for up to 70 per cent of Gaza’s population.” It went on: “Chronic malnutrition is on a steadily rising trend and micronutrient deficiencies are of great concern.” The reason for this seige is that the Palestinians voted 'the wrong way.' It's a bit rich in these circumstances for you to talk about the pressures on Israel's 'democratic' government. What about the pressures on Palestine's democratic government? And I question your description of Israel as a democracy. Israel is an apartheid democracy, in which Jews have full democratic rights, the 'Arab Israelis' are third class citizens, and the people of the West Bank and Gaza are under de facto (and very obvious) Israeli rule but only able to vote for a non-existent authority.

The massacre in Gaza was not a disproportionate response to rockets. The rockets could have been stopped by a renewed ceasefire and the opening of border crossings, as the head of Shin Bet confirmed. But Israel didn't want this. The massacre was all about "searing into Palestinian consciousness that they are a defeated people." Israel began its attack when children were leaving school, it bombed UN food stores, schools, hospitals and ambulances. This is not an accident, and it is not new. In Qana in south Lebanon in 1996 Israel massacred civilians in a UN shelter, and it did exactly the same thing at exactly the same place in 2006. I strongly recommend a book by the Israeli scholar Avi Shlaim called "The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World." The book shows how terrorising civilians and rejecting peace negotiations has been basic to Zionism from the very start.

You write, "Violence is not the answer." For more than six decades, the ancient Canaanite-Palestinian people have been ethnically cleansed, made the victims of apartheid, and repeatedly massacred. Anyone who tells them not to resist must offer an alternative path to liberation. In brief, what has been called in the West a 'peace process' is in fact a pacification process in the old colonial sense. Not for one day in the Oslo years did settlement expansion, cantonisation and confiscation stop. The Palestinians would not need to fight by all means necessary if people around the world boycotted and sanctioned Israel. Yet you reject these peaceful methods of protest.

You write, "The UK does not approve any defence related exports if it is judged that there is a risk that they will be used for external aggression or internal repression." What an Orwellian sentence! In terms of external aggression, Israel illegally occupies Syrian and Lebanese territory. In 2006 it launched a blitzkrieg against Lebanon's civilian infrastructure. As for internal repression, I don't need to repeat myself. Yet the UK still deals in arms with Israel. This reality, and the bureaucratic use of strange sentences like yours, reinforces Britain's growing reputation around the world for hypocrisy and short-sightedness.

I'm sure I'm tiring you, so I won't go on. Thank you again for responding to me. I must say, however, that your response is profoundly unsatisfactory. Standing by and repeating propagandistic narratives while an eastern Mediterranean population is slowly (and now quickly) murdered is immoral, bad for the UK, bad for the Jews, and of course bad for the Arabs. As a result, I won't be voting for you. Instead, I will vote Liberal Democrat, and encourage my friends to do the same, as Nick Clegg has bravely called for an arms embargo on Israel.

Yours Sincerely

Robin Yassin-Kassab

Everyone should watch this. The bulldozing of entire villages is reminiscent of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948, in which at least 485 villages were razed. It is hard to comprehend the horror of what has been done in the last month, let alone over the last six decades. Zionism must be defeated. Anyone with a heart and mind and conscience must dedicate themselves to fighting this monstrous ideology.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Israel Must Lose

I was one of 300 writers and academics who signed this excellent letter, which was published in the Guardian. The letter was an informal effort over only 48 hours. More writers and academics are signing at Znet.

The massacres in Gaza are the latest phase of a war that Israel has been waging against the people of Palestine for more than 60 years. The goal of this war has never changed: to use overwhelming military power to eradicate the Palestinians as a political force, one capable of resisting Israel's ongoing appropriation of their land and resources.

Israel's war against the Palestinians has turned Gaza and the West Bank into a pair of gigantic political prisons. There is nothing symmetrical about this war in terms of principles, tactics or consequences. Israel is responsible for launching and intensifying it, and for ending the most recent lull in hostilities.

Israel must lose. It is not enough to call for another ceasefire, or more humanitarian assistance. It is not enough to urge the renewal of dialogue and to acknowledge the concerns and suffering of both sides. If we believe in the principle of democratic self-determination, if we affirm the right to resist military aggression and colonial occupation, then we are obliged to take sides... against Israel, and with the people of Gaza and the West Bank.

We must do what we can to stop Israel from winning its war. Israel must accept that its security depends on justice and peaceful coexistence with its neighbours, and not upon the criminal use of force.

We believe Israel should immediately and unconditionally end its assault on Gaza, end the occupation of the West Bank, and abandon all claims to possess or control territory beyond its 1967 borders. We call on the British government and the British people to take all feasible steps to oblige Israel to comply with these demands, starting with a programme of boycott, divestment and sanctions.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Against 'Peace' and 'Moderation'

(I'll be talking about Palestine at the Taking Soundings meeting, Room H302, Leeds Metropolitan University Civic Quarter. Wednesday January 21st, 6 - 8 pm. Please come.)

The numbers of the dead don’t mean much any more. It was round about the five hundred mark when I realised the impact of death on my mind was lightening. There are pictures on the internet – burning half bodies, a head and torso screaming, corpses spilt in a marketplace like unruly apples, all the tens and tens of babies and children turned to outraged dust – but how many pictures can you keep in your heart? How much anguish can you feel? Enough anguish to mourn 500 human beings? And of what quality can your anguish be? Can it be as intense as the anguish a bystander to the murder would feel? As intense as that of a friend of a victim, or of a father? What about the fathers who have seen all their children burn?

I remember the days when I was outraged if ten were killed in one go. Ah, happy days! Ten in one go would be good. But of course, this is what the enemy wants: the enemy wants us to value Arab life as little as it does. It wants us to stay in our numbness, to descend deeper in. It wants us to forget.

I use the word 'enemy' consciously. I don’t mean the Jews, or even Israeli Jews per se, but Zionism, and therefore Zionists and their collaborators from all ethnic groups. Large scale Zionist massacres have occurred every few years since the initial ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948, and Zionism has not been held culpable. Two and a half years ago Zionism murdered 1100 Lebanese, the great majority of them civilians, and Zionism was not held culpable. 763 have been murdered so far in starving Gaza, and thousands maimed, out of a population of one and a half million. Again, the great majority are civilians, and again, Zionism is not held culpable. In one incident, Zionist forces ordered a hundred men, women and children of the as-Samouni clan into a house, which they then shelled, killing 30. Israel has bombed Gaza’s university, ambulances, an ‘American-style private school’, residential tower blocks, mosques, students and shoppers in the streets, and schoolchildren on their way home. The murdered ‘Hamas forces’ include hundreds of ordinary policemen.

The first reason for all this is tactical. “For us being cautious means being aggressive,” an Israeli officer told Ha’aretz. “It will take many years in order to restore this area to what it was before. When we suspect that a Palestinian fighter is hiding in a house, we shoot it with a missile and then with two tank shells, and then a bulldozer hits the wall. It causes damage but it prevents loss of life among soldiers.”

This tactic is acceptable to the West so long as it’s not thought about, because this is the way the West habitually deals with non-Western races. It’s what happens in Iraq and Afghanistan; it’s what happened in the traditional colonial period. But it mustn’t be thought about, especially not these days when people like to imagine they’ve internalised the concept of human equality, because to think about it is to realise that it’s the same thing as ‘terrorism’ – murdering as many civilians as you like if you might hit one enemy operative – and that the only difference between this terror and the terror of the non-state actors is a difference of scale. Western terror, Israeli terror, is much much worse.

The second reason for such massacres is strategic. The Zionist bombing is often random and sometimes specifically targets places of civilian refuge, in order to show the people that they have nowhere to hide and to persuade them to turn against the resistance. Although Zionist terror has only ever solidified anti-Zionist resistance, the strategy follows an old pattern, from Lebanon and Palestine. Yitzhak Rabin ordered his soldiers to suppress the non-violent protests of the First Intifada by holding Palestinian youths down and breaking their limbs with rocks. (Rabin is the man who won the Nobel Peace Prize). In the Second Intifada, a high proportion of the unarmed civilians murdered by Israel were shot in the head or upper body. These include boys playing football and women sweeping their balconies. Extreme violence against civilians in order to influence political reality is a textbook definition of terrorism, so the Western and client Arab media has to keep blatant Israeli statements of this policy – such as Vilnai’s call for “a Holocaust” on Gaza or an IDF chief’s 2006 declaration that his aim was to take Lebanon back to the stone age – as quiet as possible. But the terror policy is obvious if you care to look.

Two days ago Zionism bombed one of the three UN schools it’s hit, and murdered 46 civilians who were sheltering there. Zionist propaganda is repeated in the Western media: Israel believed a Hamas gunman fired from the school gates. Even if the presence of a gunman could justify such slaughter, all the civilian witnesses say Israel's story is a lie. The UN says it is “99.9% certain” that no gunmen were present in the building, that it had informed Israel of the school’s co-ordinates and that displaced civilians were sheltering there, and that it wants an international investigation. But Zionism will not be held culpable. This was a war crime which made a day of bad news for the Zionist media to manage. And nothing else; as there was nothing else after the massacres at Qana in Lebanon, where civilians sheltering in a UN building were slaughtered in 1996, and again in 2006. As there is never anything else for the Palestinian people – the victims of seven decades of ethnic cleansing, occupation, apartheid and butchery. The Arab client regimes, the US, Europe, and their media, are complicit in this ongoing crime.

There is no peace process. There never was. When politicians repeat ‘peace process’ they repeat the incantation of a dream. They are bad illusionists. Yitzhak Shamir announced when he went to Madrid that he’d initiate a ‘process’ to last decades while the colonisation of Palestine continued. The Oslo process was one of cantonisation and pacification, not peace. Land confiscation and settlement expansion didn’t stop for one day. When Arafat was hurried against his will to Camp David (though Arafat was culpable of stupidity and greed for accepting such a ‘process’ in the first place), he was offered a cantonised sub-sovereign state on less than the 22% of Palestine stolen in 1967, with no solution for the refugees or for the ancient Canaanite-Arab city of Jerusalem. Israel would control water, borders and security, and it wouldn’t recognise responsibility for the ethnic cleansing of 1948. In return, Arafat had to declare the conflict resolved for eternity. In the West the Israeli narrative, as usual, has become an orthodoxy: that Arafat turned down a great offer. That the Palestinians ‘never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity’. O yes, the cleansing of an ancient people from their land throws up witty, polished phrases.

Another polished phrase is ‘moderate Arab state’. There are no ‘moderate Arab states’, not unless dictatorship and gangsterism are 'moderate'. Not unless banning Bibles and public floggings and the mass arrests of political opposition and the routine anal rape of detained young men are 'moderate'. It is time to speak plainly. Iran is in many respects a tyranny, but it’s far more democratic than any of the ‘moderate’ Arab states. Syria is a Christian as well as Muslim country, a secular and socially liberal state, but it isn’t considered ‘moderate’ in the way that Saudi Arabia, the home of al-Qa’ida, is. What ‘moderate Arab state’ in fact means is ‘client Arab state’ – a state whose regime obeys America and Israel in return for guns and money.

All the Arab states, ‘moderate’ and otherwise, have repeatedly offered a full peace with Israel in return for a full withdrawal from the lands captured in 67 and a vague ‘solution’ to the refugee issue. Israel has repeatedly ignored them. Hamas has said it will accept a settlement on the 67 border if the Palestinian people accept it. Hamas observed a ceasefire with Israel, and Israel violated it by murder and siege.

Israel is not interested in peace. Even these Amos Ozes and David Grossmans who are trotted out to repeat Zionist propaganda in a more humane tone are not interested in peace.

What, then, can be done? To start with, we can see and speak clearly. We can hold Israel, state and society, culpable. We can stop pretending that peace is on the cards. We can stop the charade of ‘recognising’ the apartheid state’s ‘legitimacy’ or ‘right to exist’. The Zionist state has no more ‘right to exist’ than the apartheid state in South Africa had.

Zionism is based on the premise that one people is worth more than another people, in currency of lives and comfort and imagination. Zionism says that one people’s dream justifies and even necessitates the destruction of another, inferior, people. Zionism is indeed, as the old UN General Assembly resolution had it, racism. Zionism itself is the enemy. The great post-Zionist Israeli Ilan Pappe writes: “We have to try and explain not only to the world, but also to the Israelis themselves, that Zionism is an ideology that endorses ethnic cleansing, occupation and now massive massacres. What is needed now is not just a condemnation of the present massacre but also delegitimization of the ideology that produced that policy and justifies it morally and politically. Let us hope that significant voices in the world will tell the Jewish state that this ideology and the overall conduct of the state are intolerable and unacceptable, and as long as they persist, Israel will be boycotted and subject to sanctions.”

Novelist and critic John Berger’s statement:

“We are now spectators of the latest - and perhaps penultimate - chapter of the 60 year old conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people. About the complexities of this tragic conflict billions of words have been pronounced, defending one side or the other.

Today, in face of the Israeli attacks on Gaza, the essential calculation, which was always covertly there, behind this conflict, has been blatantly revealed. The death of one Israeli victim justifies the killing of a hundred Palestinians. One Israeli life is worth a hundred Palestinian lives.

This is what the Israeli State and the world media more or less - with marginal questioning - mindlessly repeat. And this claim, which has accompanied and justified the longest Occupation of foreign territories in 20th C. European history, is viscerally racist. That the Jewish people should accept this, that the world should concur, that the Palestinians should submit to it - is one of history’s ironic jokes. There’s no laughter anywhere. We can, however, refute it, more and more vocally.

Let’s do so.”

John Berger
27 December 2008

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Misha'al (and Clegg)

The media love to 'balance' the occupied with the occupier. But if there was really balance, Khalid Misha'al, the leader of Hamas, would have as much airtime as Livni, Barak and Olmert. I congratulate the Guardian for publishing this excellent article by Misha'al. I republish it here because everybody should read it, and because I agree with it.

I do so with reservations, however. Although I support Hamas's resistance, and although I think the Palestinians should be represented by the people they voted for and not by collaborators, I believe Hamas to be a flawed organisation. It is anti-Semitic, for a start; there's no point pretending otherwise. It's understandable that a population brutalised in the name of the Jews might latch on to ready-made racist generalisations about the Jews, but quoting the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in the Hamas constitution is not only morally wrong, but also stupid. It hampers clear analysis of the situation, and of the enemy. I wrote about that here:

And I have a reservation to my reservation: the anti-Semitism of Hamas cannot be compared to the anti-Palestinianism of Zionism. Hamas fumes for justice. If justice comes, Palestinians will fume less. Zionism, meanwhile, has destroyed Palestine, and is doing its best to destroy the Palestinians. It is being helped by Europe, the US, and the client dictatorships of the Arab world. It is time to listen to, and to actively support, the victims.

This Brutality Will Never Break our Will to be Free

For six months we in Hamas observed the ceasefire. Israel broke it repeatedly from the start

Khalid Mishal

For 18 months my people in Gaza have been under siege, incarcerated inside the world's biggest prison, sealed off from land, air and sea, caged and starved, denied even medication for our sick. After the slow death policy came the bombardment. In this most densely populated of places, nothing has been spared Israel's warplanes, from government buildings to homes, mosques, hospitals, schools and markets. More than 540 have been killed and thousands permanently maimed. A third are women and children. Whole families have been massacred, some while they slept.

This river of blood is being shed under lies and false pretexts. For six months we in Hamas observed the ceasefire. Israel broke it repeatedly from the start. Israel was required to open crossings to Gaza, and extend the truce to the West Bank. It proceeded to tighten its deadly siege of Gaza, repeatedly cutting electricity and water supplies. The collective punishment did not halt, but accelerated - as did the assassinations and killings. Thirty Gazans were killed by Israeli fire and hundreds of patients died as a direct effect of the siege during the so-called ceasefire. Israel enjoyed a period of calm. Our people did not.

When this broken truce neared its end, we expressed our readiness for a new comprehensive truce in return for lifting the blockade and opening all Gaza border crossings, including Rafah. Our calls fell on deaf ears. Yet still we would be willing to begin a new truce on these terms following the complete withdrawal of the invading forces from Gaza.

No rockets have ever been fired from the West Bank. But 50 died and hundreds more were injured there last year at Israel's hands, while its expansionism proceeded relentlessly. We are meant to be content with shrinking scraps of territory, a handful of cantons at Israel's mercy, enclosed by it from all sides.The truth is Israel seeks a one-sided ceasefire, observed by my people alone, in return for siege, starvation, bombardment, assassinations, incursions and colonial settlement. What Israel wants is a gratuitous ceasefire.

The logic of those who demand that we stop our resistance is absurd. They absolve the aggressor and occupier - armed with the deadliest weapons of death and destruction - of responsibility, while blaming the victim, prisoner and occupied. Our modest, home-made rockets are our cry of protest to the world. Israel and its American and European sponsors want us to be killed in silence. But die in silence we will not.

What is being visited on Gaza today was visited on Yasser Arafat before. When he refused to bow to Israel's dictates, he was imprisoned in his Ramallah headquarters, surrounded by tanks for two years. When this failed to break his resolve, he was murdered by poisoning.

Gaza enters 2009 just as it did 2008: under Israeli fire. Between January and February of last year 140 Gazans died in air strikes. And just before it embarked on its failed military assault on Lebanon in July 2006, Israel rained thousands of shells on Gaza, killing 240. From Deir Yassin in 1948 to Gaza today, the list of Israel's crimes is long. The justifications change, but the reality is the same: colonial occupation, oppression, and never-ending injustice. If this is the "free world" whose "values" Israel is defending, as its foreign minister Tzipi Livni alleges, then we want nothing to do with it.

Israel's leaders remain in the grip of confusion, unable to set clear goals for the attacks - from ousting the legitimately elected Hamas government and destroying its infrastructure, to stopping the rockets. As they fail to break Gaza's resistance the benchmark has been lowered. Now they speak of weakening Hamas and limiting the resistance. But they will achieve neither. Gaza's people are more united than ever, determined not to be terrorised into submission. Our fighters, armed with the justice of their cause, have already caused many casualties among the occupation army and will fight on to defend their land and people. Nothing can defeat our will to be free.

Once again, Washington and Europe have opted to aid and abet the jailer, occupier and aggressor, and to condemn its victims. We hoped Barack Obama would break with George Bush's disastrous legacy but his start is not encouraging. While he swiftly moved to denounce the Mumbai attacks, he remains tongue-tied after 10 days of slaughter in Gaza. But my people are not alone. Millions of freedom-loving men and women stand by its struggle for justice and liberation - witness daily protests against Israeli aggression, not only in the Arab and Islamic region, but worldwide.

Israel will no doubt wreak untold destruction, death and suffering in Gaza. But it will meet the same fate in Gaza as it did in Lebanon. We will not be broken by siege and bombardment, and will never surrender to occupation.

• Khalid Mish'al is the head of the Hamas political bureau

And here's an excellent interview from the Counterpunch newsletter, in which Misha'al gives good answers to the 'terrorism' and 'not recognising Israel' questions:

Khaled Meshal, leader of Hamas, on the Palestinian Resistance, the Occupation, and Israel’s downward path

In mid-May of 2008, CounterPunchers Alexander Cockburn and Alya Rea were among a group of Americans who sat down in a house in a Damascus suburb for two hours with Khaled Meshal, chairman of the political bureau of Hamas. Significant portions of the exchange follow.
Meshal: We, as Palestinians, have the honor of representing a just issue. We have endured atrocities and occupation. Because of the Israeli occupation, half of the Palestinian people live under occupation inside Palestine, and the other half is living without homes outside. Today we, as a Palestinian people, a Palestinian nation, are looking only to live in a peace without occupation. We reject the occupation. We reject the atrocities. And we reject being without a home and away from home. We have no problems with any religion in the world, nor any race in the world. We learned very well that the almighty god Allah created human beings with different races and different religions and he asked us to accommodate these diversities. Hence, we request the same with the nations all over the world to accommodate this just issue.
Our problem is with unfair policies in the international community: pre-eminently the policies of the American administration. And, of course, we do not consider the people of America responsible for that. I have visited America many times. And I know very well that the American people are very kind people. But our problem is with the foreign policies of successive American administrations. We accepted a state of Palestine on the borders of 1967. The international community failed to pressure Israeli to do the same. So, what is left for Palestinians to do, except resist? For our part, we prefer the peaceful path. But we find the peaceful path blocked. Hence, the Palestinians are left with no option but the resistance. And this is what explains why the Palestinian people elected Hamas and why, amid famine and hunger and siege inflicted on the Palestinian people today, you find the same thing- the Palestinian people are supporting Hamas.

Gaza is the biggest detention camp in history. Remember Newton’s law that to every action there is always an equal opposing reaction. The Israeli occupation is the action, and resistance is the reaction. Whenever you increase the level of atrocities in an occupation, at the same level you increase the reaction of the resistance. So our rockets come within this formula. If the atrocities and occupation stopped, the rockets would stop.

Israel’s habit is to set its own agenda, to put its match to the fire any time it wants and to stop the fire anytime it wants. They don’t want a reciprocal commitment. You know why? Because they feel that the Arabs are weak. Why should they respect them? Why should they manufacture any reciprocal formula with them? Hence, I say that the peace cannot be made between a weak party and a strong one. Peace is manufactured by strong parties. We are ready for peace, but one forged from competition and reciprocity, without atrocities and without occupation.

AC: What do you think Israel’s ultimate strategy or vision is? What is its idea of a solution?
Meshal: I believe that Israel wants to keep the land of Palestine. Gaza is an exceptional case. Because of Gaza’s high population density and size, it was OK for the Israelis to leave. But because of religious considerations, issues of access to water, military outposts, Israel will never surrender the West Bank. Yes, they may offer to withdraw from 60 or 70 per cent of it. Sometimes they offer 40 or 50 per cent of the land. But this is a temporary tactic in order to win time, to build or to establish a "reality on the ground," to expand settlements, and chop up the land in such a way that it is impossible build any national entity. In any peace proposal, Israel always wants to keep four settlement blocs on the West Bank. The biggest is the one surrounding Jerusalem; the second bloc is the northern area of the West Bank. The third is in the southern area of the West Bank and the fourth in the Jordan Valley. So, what is left of the West Bank then?

When former President Carter visited over here, I told him that the circumstances surrounding the Camp David peace agreement between Egypt and Israel no longer exist. In those days, Israel was compelled or pressured to sign the agreement for two reasons. First, the war of 1973. By then, the Israelis understood that Egypt was not an easy country to defeat. The second reason is that the then Prime Minister Begin saw that Israel had a major interest in isolating Egypt from the general Arab constituency. Today, Israel is not under the weight of any such compulsions. We told former President Carter that the Palestinian resistance is the only power to force Israel to move.

Q. Would you accept a single state?

Meshal: The problem is not with what

the Palestinians or the Arabs might accept. The Palestinians have accepted many things. And the Arabs have accepted many things. But Israel refused. Even what the Israelis did endorse, under the auspices of the Americans, the American organizations, Israel did not abide by. The main question is: is Israel going to accept or not? The mistake in Arab strategy and in the strategy of the former Palestinian leadership consists in the various easy offers, duly rejected by the Israelites. We will not adopt that track. Israel has to offer. They have to propose what they want to accept. Then we will respond.

AC: You’ve said that force and the ability to resist is the only thing that Israel and its backers will understand. How will this resistance continue and unfold under the leadership of Hamas?
Meshal: The resistance in Palestine is living in a very abnormal situation. Under classical conditions of resistance, there should be no resistance in Palestine. There’s no international party, which supports us. The Arab neighborhood and the regional neighborhood do not welcoming the resistance, though there are some regional parties who collaborate with the resistance. So, from a holistic perspective, the "whole" wins against the resistance. So, what is the secret behind the steadfastness of the resistance? First of all, the ferocity of the occupation. Hence, with such pressure there is a reaction from the people, which is the resistance. The second element is Israeli intransigence. The Palestinians have tried the negotiation option, and they gave chance for the peace process to succeed: with Oslo agreements, its aftermath, with 1991 and the Madrid conference. The Palestinian people tracked the peace process, the negotiations, and the result was negative. Hence, the Palestinian people understood that all other paths are blocked. This reality has pushed the Palestinians to steadfastness in their resistance. Third, there is no other party internationally that the Palestinians can depend on. An American administration could pressure the Israelis, but they don’t do so. When we talk about the international community, they are helpless in front of Israel.

Hence, the Palestinian people consider resistance not as an option or as an alternative but as a way of life, a way to survive. Now, does this resistance have a future or is time against it? I would say that the future is for the resistance and the future is for the Palestinian people. Today, Israel refuses the proposals offered by the Arabs and the Palestinians: it’s Israel’s loss because the future is not in its favor.

Q: Is Hamas willing to accept a two-state solution if Israel withdraws to the ’67 borders?
Meshal: In order to unify the Palestinian position politically, we agreed on one political platform in 2006, in a document we signed. We called it the National Conciliation Document. And we said in it that we accepted a state of Palestine on the basis of the borders of 1967, including Jerusalem, without settlements and with the right of return to the refugees. This is a platform we agreed upon. But we, in Hamas, have a very important issue and that is not to recognize Israel. But not recognizing it does not imply war with Israel. What we want is a state of Palestine on the borders of 1967. Then, there will be a cease-fire between us and Israel. We say that international relations between states are not always established on the basis of reciprocal recognition. And when a Palestinian state is established, it will specify the level of relation with Israel. The big challenge for all of us today is to give a chance to Palestinians to live in peace. The problem today is that the Palestinian people are the victim. Half live under Israeli occupation amid deadly conditions. The rest are refugees in the camps, without a homeland. And so the victim here – the Palestinian people – is being asked to recognize Israel? This is unfair.

Q: You mean, they’re saying, "Recognize Israel now." They’re asking the Palestinians to say, "It’s okay to go ahead and steal our land, we forgive you."
Meshal: Of course.

AC: If we’d been having this conversation 30 years ago, there would’ve been a mention of the U.N., but no one here today has mentioned the U.N. Do you think now the U.N. is purely an instrument of the United States?

Meshal: Unfortunately, United Nations is rendered a joke.

Q: You’re with the Israelis on that point.

AC: Earlier you said the future of Israel is not that good, not that bright. Could you elaborate on that?

Meshal: When we tried to read the future, we read it with the perspective of the past and the present. And we read it with the measurements of the nation’s values and the people. Is there any future for occupation and settlement? Is there any nation in the history of the world that insisted to establishing its own rights and failed to do so? Third question: since 1948, if we want to draw a curve of Israel’s progress, do you think that this curve is still heading up, or maybe is at a plateau, or is heading down? I believe that the curve is now in descent. And today, the military might of Israel is not capable of concluding matters to Israel’s satisfaction.

Since 1948, you may notice that Israel has defeated 7 armies. In ’56 they defeated Egypt. In ’67 they defeated 3 countries: Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. In ‘73, the war was somewhat equal 0n both sides between Egypt and Israel; if not for Nixon’s airlift to Israel’s forces at that time, the map of the world would be different. In ’82 Israel defeated the PLO in Beirut. But since ’82, 26 years ago, Israelis has not won any war. They did not defeat the Palestinian resistance, and they did not defeat the Lebanese resistance. Since that time, Israel has not expanded but has contracted. They have withdrawn from southern Lebanon and from Gaza.

These are indicators that the future is not favorable to Israel. Then today Israel, with all its military capabilities – conventional and unconventional – are not enough to guarantee Israel’s security. Today, with all these capabilities, they can’t stop a simple rocket from being launched from Gaza.

Hence the big question is, can military might ensure security? Hence, we may say that when Israel refusing the Arab and the Palestinian offer, a state of Palestine on the border of 1967, Israel is losing a big opportunity. Some years down the road, a new Palestinian generation, new Arab generations, may not accept those conditions, because the balance of power may not be in Israel’s favor.

Alya R.: My question is about using violent means. When people use violent means, inevitably innocent people suffer, in particular children – not only on the Palestinian side, but Israeli children too. What do you think about the use of violence?

Meshal: Good question. We do not like to see any victim, such as a child or a woman, even on the Israeli side, even though at the start it was the Israelis who attacked us. But, unfortunately, the insistence on violent repression by our assailants leads to innocent blood on the street. Since 1996, 12 years ago, we have proposed to exclude civilian targets from the conflict (on both sides). Israel did not respond to that. When Israel insists on killing our kids, our elders and senior citizens and women, and bombard houses with the guns ships, F16s and Apaches, when Israel continues these attacks, what is left for the Palestinians to do? They are defending themselves with whatever they have. If the situation was such that we had a smart missile, we would never launch it, unless at a military target. But our missiles and rockets are very crude. Hence we fire it, within its own capabilities, in reaction to Israeli atrocities. And we do not know specifically what it will target. Had it been that we had smart missiles – and we wish that some countries could give us these – rest assured that we will never aim at anything except the military targets. CP

From Misha'al to Nick Clegg, leader of Britain's Liberal Democrats, who has called for an arms embargo on Israel and for suspension of the EU cooperation agreement with Israel. He is the only British party leader to have suggested that Israel should be punished in some way, that Israel is culpable, and he's the only one to call for practical action against the aggressor. Clegg is unlikely to win an election (Britain is stuck in a two-party charade, like America), but his position at least shifts the debate a little. And that's enough for me: I'll be voting Liberal Democrat from now on, and I encourage everybody else to do so too. I will post Clegg's statement below. I don't agree with his obligatory attachment of the 'terrorist' label to Hamas, or his comments about the Qassam rockets, but for a mainstream British politician this is remarkable:

We Must Stop Arming Israel

Nick Clegg

Article from The Guardian, 7th January 2009

Brown has to stop sitting on his hands, halt British weapons exports and insist the EU do the same

The world watched in horror yesterday as the conflict in Gaza claimed its latest innocent victims in the rubble of a UN school. Any hopes of reconciliation are being snuffed out as anger spills into protests around the world.

The past two weeks have been a telling indictment of the international community. We have an outgoing US president sanctioning Israel’s military response and an aching silence from the president-elect. We have a European Union encumbered by clumsy decision-making and confused messages.

And at home we have a prime minister talking like an accountant about aid earmarked for Gaza without once saying anything meaningful about the conflict’s origins. Gordon Brown, like Tony Blair, has made British foreign policy effectively subservient to Washington. But waiting for a change of heart in Washington is intolerable given the human cost.

Of course, Israel has every right to defend itself. It is difficult to imagine what it must be like to live with the constant threat of rocket attacks from a movement which espouses terrorist violence and denies Israel’s right to exist. But Israel’s approach is self-defeating: the overwhelming use of force, the unacceptable loss of civilian lives, is radicalising moderate opinion among Palestinians and throughout the Arab world. Anger in the West Bank will make it virtually impossible for Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, to continue to talk to Israeli ministers.

Brown must stop sitting on his hands. He must condemn unambiguously Israel’s tactics, just as he has rightly condemned Hamas’s rocket attacks. Then he must lead the EU into using its economic and diplomatic leverage in the region to broker peace. The EU is by far Israel’s biggest export market, and by far the biggest donor to the Palestinians. It must immediately suspend the proposed new cooperation agreement with Israel until things change in Gaza, and apply tough conditions on any long-term assistance to the Palestinian community.

Brown must also halt Britain’s arms exports to Israel, and persuade our EU counterparts to do the same. The government’s own figures show Britain is selling more and more weapons to Israel, despite the questions about the country’s use of force. In 2007, our government approved £6m of arms exports. In 2008, it licensed sales 12 times as fast: £20m in the first three months alone.

There is a strong case that, given the Gaza conflict, any military exports contravene EU licensing criteria. Reports, though denied, that Israel is using illegal cluster munitions and white phosphorus should heighten our caution. I want an immediate suspension of all arms exports from the EU, but if that cannot be secured, Brown must act unilaterally.

Finally, the world’s leaders must accept that their response to the election of Hamas has been a strategic failure. The removal of the EU presence on the Egypt border in response to Hamas’s election, for example, has made it easier for the rockets being fired at Israel to get into Gaza in the first place. An EU mission with a serious mandate and backing from Egypt and Israel would help Israel deal proportionately and effectively with the threat from weapons smuggling.

Attempts to divide and rule the Palestinians by isolating and punishing Gaza will not succeed. To secure peace in the Middle East, Hamas must turn its back on terrorism, and help create Palestinian unity. Only unified leadership in the West Bank and Gaza can offer Israel the security guarantees that it rightly seeks.

My proposals to stay Israel’s hand in this conflict may be unwelcome to some, but they have the country’s long term interest at heart. No terrorist organisation has ever been defeated by bombs alone. Only a new approach will secure lasting peace for Israel itself.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Dear Prime Minister

Dear Prime Minister

I am very pleased that you have been calling for an immediate ceasefire in Israel-Palestine. This marks a clear difference from the statements not only of President Bush but also of Tony Blair during the 2006 assault on Lebanon. Your stand shows some degree of British independence, and I thank you for it.

I am much less pleased to read this Downing Street statement: “We are working urgently with international partners to address the underlying causes of the conflict, including trafficking of arms into Gaza. Moderation must prevail.”

‘Trafficking of arms into Gaza’ is a symptom of the conflict, as you must know, and not an underlying cause. And ‘moderation must prevail’ seems a much less useful statement than ‘occupation must stop.’

The ceasefire was not broken by Gaza’s homemade rockets, but by Israeli attacks on the West Bank and Gaza, and Israel's refusal to allow economic activity in the Strip. Jews for Justice in the Middle East report, “Israeli forces have carried out an average of 33 incursions, 42 arrests or detentions, 12 woundings and 0.84 killings a week in the West Bank during the ceasefire.”

You will put your calls for moderation down to ‘balance’, which sounds very fair to people who know nothing of the conflict. I would ask how useful (or useful to whom?) is ‘balance’ for treating a situation in which the two sides are so very unequal? At the time of writing, 440 Palestinians and 4 Israelis have been killed. This is the immediate context. Expanding the perspective just a little bit, before the latest massacre Gaza was, according to the Red Cross, suffering “chronic malnutrition.” To punish the Palestinians for electing Hamas, Israel has worked to destroy Gaza’s economic infrastructure and social fabric over the last eighteen months. It is remarkable that a population on the Mediterranean is being quite literally starved with not a murmur from Europe. Indeed, European governments have collaborated in this crime as much as the client Arab dictatorships usually called ‘moderate’. Europe imposed sanctions on the occupied. As the siege bit deeper, the EU upgraded its relations with the occupier.

Before the siege, Gaza, 80% of whose inhabitants are refugees, was already impoverished and brutalised by occupation. Israel was born in ethnic cleansing and has continued through occupation and apartheid. (According to Bishop Tutu, Israeli apartheid is “worse” than the apartheid regime in South Africa.) Even people who sympathise with the causes of Zionism should be able to recognise this: in Palestine the natives have been ethnically cleansed and occupied by a much more powerful incoming population. This is the root of the conflict. Decades of imaginary ‘peace processes’ have not changed the base reality one jot.

It is time to abandon ‘balance’ and speak plainly. To speak, at least. Real peace will only come with honesty and justice. Continuation of the current diplomatic charade will eventually seal the doom of Israeli Jews as well as Palestinian Arabs, and will solidify the current Western-Muslim divide.

Yours sincerely