Israel’s War Against Palestine: Documenting the Military Occupation of Palestinian and Arab Lands


Creative protest or hurtful provocation? Residents of the religious settlement of Otniel were in for an unexpected surprise Saturday after “hosting” a group of 15 leftist activists, including a woman who they say took her clothes off in a residential neighborhood.

IOA Editor: And a lesson in morality from one of Israel’s most hateful, racist politicians.

Amira Hass: A new military order aimed at preventing infiltration will come into force this week, enabling the deportation of tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank, or their indictment on charges carrying prison terms of up to seven years. When the order comes into effect, tens of thousands of Palestinians will automatically become criminal offenders liable to be severely punished.

IOA Editor: “Infiltration,” an Orwellian term invented by the Occupier, is designed to treat certain Palestinians as having no rights to be present at a given area without special permission that is unlikely to be granted by the IDF. Reminiscent of the Present Absentees (internally displaced Palestinians – IDPs), a post-1948 Israeli classification, this, too, is an attempt to segregate and dispose of elements of the Palestinian people that the Occupation authorities wish to remove — based on political, geographic, or any other criteria, however arbitrary. This newly-formalized authority serves as yet another tool at the hands of the IDF in the long-term process of ethnic cleansing — the removal of the Palestinian people from their land — that Israel has been carrying out since 1948.

But this is Israel. Here… there is almost no public sympathy for Kamm or even Blau. The pair are already being described, both by officials and in chat forums and talkback columns, as traitors who should be jailed, disappeared or executed for the crime of endangering the state. The telling comparison being made is to Mordechai Vanunu, the former technician at the Dimona nuclear plant who exposed Israel’s secret nuclear arsenal. Inside Israel, he is universally reviled to this day, having spent nearly two decades in harsh confinement.

UPDATE: Haaretz… revealed that, in a highly unusual move shortly before Israel’s attack on Gaza, it agreed to pull a printed edition after the army demanded at the last minute that one of Mr Blau’s stories not be published. His report had already passed the military censor, which checks that articles do not endanger national security. Lawyers and human rights groups fear that the army and Shin Bet are trying to silence investigative journalists and send a warning to other correspondents not to follow in Mr Blau’s path. (13 April 2010)

MORE in Jonathan Cook’s
Mossad Operation Threatened Against Reporter

Lia Tarachansky interviews Israeli economists Shir Hever and Shlomo Swirski. The OECD finds Israel has the highest poverty rate in the developed world; the economists blame neo-liberal reforms.

Noam Chomsky: I don’t think that the notion of legitimacy of a state means very much. Is the United States a legitimate state? It’s based on genocide; it conquered half of Mexico. What makes it legitimate? The way the international system is set up, states have certain rights; that has nothing to do with their legitimacy. Every state you can think of is based on violence, repression, expulsion, and all sorts of crimes. And the state system itself has no inherent legitimacy. It’s just an institutional form that developed and that was imposed with plenty of violence. The question of legitimacy just doesn’t arise. There is an international order in which it is essentially agreed that states have certain rights, but that provides them with no legitimacy, Israel or anyone else.

IOA Editor: An illuminating exchange between Noam Chomsky and Gilbert Achcar on the important question of the legitimacy of the state, and how it applies to Israel and other nation-states. Presented in the context of the current wave of accusations that critics of the Israeli occupation, and of Israel’s systematic and ongoing violations of international law, are “delegitimizers” — a recently coined term created by Israeli propaganda experts to “delegitimize the delegitimizers.”

WikiLeaks has released a classified US military video depicting the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad — including two Reuters news staff. Reuters has been trying to obtain the video through the Freedom of Information Act, without success since the time of the attack. The video, shot from an Apache helicopter gun-site, clearly shows the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters employee and his rescuers. Two young children involved in the rescue were also seriously wounded.

IOA Editor:
Clearly, Israeli helicopter crews aren’t the only trigger-happy assassins. Here’s an example of America’s finest, on video, executing Iraqi civilians, including targeting the evacuation of their one visibly helpless, remaining victim who is a threat to no one, and injuring children as well. And then there is a cover up. Sounds familiar? It is. It’s called Murder, Inc. – nowadays a popular school of foreign policy, exercised by the leading World Democracies.

Are Israelis entitled to know that the IDF’s highest ranking officers gave advanced written permission to fire at innocent people during “targeted assassinations?” Isn’t the media’s supreme duty, not only its right, to report this? Are Israel’s citizens entitled to know that IDF commanders approved killing people even when it was possible to apprehend them, in blatant violation of the High Court’s ruling?

In the summer of 1967, Yeshayahu Leibowitz prophesied that Israel’s occupation would corrupt the country and turn it into “a Shin Bet state.” As early as the first intifada, we understood there is no such thing as an enlightened occupation. One nation cannot rule over another for 43 years without behaving cruelly toward the helpless, without executing people without trial, without embittering the lives of women and children, the sick and elderly.

At first glance, this ‘affair’ has to do with the transfer of classified material to Haaretz correspondent Uri Blau, the very act of which was supposedly “harmful to national security.” In reality, however, the crime in question is far more severe – the one committed by the security apparatus (GOC Central Command in particular) in ignoring a High Court order and approving the targeted assassination of wanted men who could otherwise have been detained, in strikes that claimed the lives of innocent civilians.

Tony Judt: “[T]he ‘de-legitimization’ issue is a fraud… I know no one in the professional world of political commentary, however angry about Israel’s behavior, who thinks that the country has no right to exist… ‘De-legitimization’ is just another way to invoke antisemitism as a silencer, but sounds better because [it’s] less exploitative of emotional pain.”

Nancy Kricorian: “This is only a way of changing the subject… All we want is [for] Israel to respect human rights and international law. I don’t see how that delegitimizes Israel.”

IOA Editor: As always, the organized Jewish Community first tries to label us “anti-Semites” or “Self-Hating Jews,” but this doesn’t work nearly as well these days. Since the completion of the Reut ‘study’ — a consulting project conducted by propaganda experts for the Netanyahu government — the new term, “delegitimizers,” is in vogue. Much like the others, it is an empty charge designed to avoid the very specific reality of the Occupation and Israel’s legal responsibilities in connection with it.

When we criticize the Israeli Occupation (daily, on these pages), we surely point to the complete immorality, illegality — indeed, outright criminality — of the Occupation. We are hardly alone in pointing this out: the UN Goldstone Report, and numerous others, have challenged the legality of Israeli actions. None of this is a challenge to the legitimacy of Israelis as a people. As for the legitimacy of Israel as a state, there are many views one can take: that no state is legitimate; that colonial-settler states are illegitimate; or that Israel is as legitimate as any other state. Whatever one’s views on these matters, they are logically distinct from the condemnation of the Occupation and of the policies of the Israeli government — these are systematically and persistently in clear violation of international laws and conventions.

UPDATE: More of the same in Haaretz (13 April 2010), Want to delegitimize Israel? Be careful who you mess with

More on the important question of legitimacy of the state, and how it applies to Israel and other nation-states: Noam Chomsky, Gilbert Achcar: On the Legitimacy of the State

The Anat Kamm affair raises serious suspicions that the law enforcement agencies in question – the Israel Defense Force’s information security unit, the Shin Bet, Israel Police and the State Prosecutor’s Office – are good at coming down hard on the powerless, while overlooking similar suspicions when attributed to senior officials. It’s the “sentinel syndrome”: the weak are persecuted and dealt with a heavy hand, while the deeds of the strong are slighted.

IOA Editor: Melman is the primary reporter covering the Israeli secret service agencies for Haaretz. As always, his is an Israeli-centered focus. This article is important because it covers the mode of operation of Israel’s various “security” agencies, and how they deal with those Israeli-Jews they deem to be their enemies.

Anat Kam, the journalist and ex-soldier suspected of “serious espionage” for allegedly giving classified information to a reporter from Haaretz regarding the IDF’s rules of engagement has been made a scapegoat, her defense attorney told Army Radio Thursday. “Where’s the intent to undermine state security? The fact that she handed the information over to a journalist for him to publish,” Avidgor Feldman told Army Radio.

IOA Editor: While the story of the whistleblower — an innocent, well-meaning, and very naive young woman — is important, it is far more important not to forget the message while focusing on the fate of the messengers. The original news story was about senior IDF generals, including Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, knowingly violating Israeli Supreme Court ruling by ordering the assassinations of West Bank Palestinians who could have been captured alive. Much as it is important to cover Israel’s censorship practices and the limits to its democracy (which are both profound and numerous), the important story behind the current expose is the ongoing story of the Occupation: Israel’s 43-year long Occupation has been fraught with assassinations — “targeted,” mass-produced, or just random and wanton, the distinctions largely depend on circumstances, media vogue, or the commentator.

Liberal circles in the US and Israel, that are particularly critical of the current Israeli government, focus on this latest story as though it were the most important issue of the day. It is not. Important as it is to expose the IDF’s plans to act in contravention of Israeli Supreme Court decisions — as if these are the only legal matters the IDF routinely contravenes — it is the Occupation that looms large, and is consistently ignored or minimized by, among others, the very same critics who now cry foul about IDF violations of freedom of speech. The IDF record of violations is far, far worse than violating the right of publishing reports of its own planned crimes. Much as this is obvious to some of us, it appears many others conveniently overlook the most significant crime involved here: the Occupation itself.

Rest assured that Israel’s penal system will deal with the offending messengers as it knows best: Ms. Kam is likely to spend many years in jail (a-la Mr. Vanunu), and Mr. Blau, should he return to Israel from his self-imposed exile, will face a similar fate. The arch-criminals are not about to surrender their empire on account of a whistleblower. Thus, even as we focus on the journalists, let’s be sure to keep a steady eye on the actual criminals, and on their empire.

RELATED: Shin Bet chief Diskin: “Enemy states dream about getting their hands on such documents” (pdf)

B’Tselem: “B’Tselem would like to reiterate that this case deals with documents which indicate that the military has been conducting assassinations in the West Bank in the guise of arrest operations, thus contradicting Israel’s official statements and in violation of a High Court ruling…. B’Tselem research has shown that in many cases soldiers have been conducting themselves in the territories as if they were on a hit mission, as opposed to arrest operations.”

Code Pink [On the killing of innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, and subsequent cover up, by the US military]: Investigate, don’t cover up! We strongly condemn the cover-ups and the move to censor media outlets that expose the truth. The truth is not a threat to our national security, however the flagrant lack of accountability is certainly a threat to our democracy.

IOA Editor: Clearly, Israeli helicopter crews aren’t the only trigger-happy assassins. Here’s an example of America’s finest, on video, executing Iraqi civilians, including targeting the evacuation of their one visibly helpless, remaining victim who is a threat to no one, and injuring children as well. And then there is a cover up. Sounds familiar? It is. It’s called Murder, Inc. – nowadays a popular school of foreign policy, exercised by the leading World Democracies.

Please add your signature to the Code Pink protest (no citizenship or location is required for doing so).

Dr Hanan Ashrawi, the first woman to be elected a member of the PLO’s Executive Committee, is skeptical that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas could deliver if U.S. President Barack Obama indeed goes ahead with a new Middle East peace plan.

I believe, even today, in the importance of the two-state solution. But with every passing day I see what can only be described as Israel’s dogged determination to block such an outcome. The time has come to tell Washington that the viability of the two-state solution is being destroyed on Barack Obama’s watch.

I understand the need to keep details of a court case quiet. That’s a gag I can respect. But blacking out news of Kam’s arrest itself is a strike against free speech and freedom of the press. As Kam’s lawyer put it when I interviewed him, “these are the foundations of democracy.”

Americans are heavily involved in the conflict: from funding (the US provides Israel with roughly $3 billion annually in military aid) to corporate investments (Microsoft has one of its major facilities in Israel) to diplomatic support (the US has vetoed 32 United Nations Security Council resolutions unsavory to Israel between 1982 and 2006).

“I cannot imagine what my factory has to do with the ongoing situation,” Dalloul said. “Can you see a homemade rocket? Can you see a single bullet? Can you see a gun? Why did they attack my dairy?”

IOA Editor: Indeed, the factory has a great deal to do with the “ongoing situation:” As Richard Goldstone commented in some detail, Israel has consistently targeted Gaza food production centers. Israel’s war is not with the few Palestinians launching primitive rockets; rather, it is with Palestine – the future State of Palestine, however theoretical a concept it is today – and its people. Dairy and other food plants nourish the people of Palestine, especially the children who are the future of Palestine. The less nourishing, the lesser is the future of Palestine.

The biggest trap is the growing gap between the general population and the layer of society that represents that population to the outside (in politics, in the NGOs, the media and culture). It is impossible to blame only the occupation for this. You don’t have to directly embezzle funds to live exceptionally well.

Also: Ramallah is not Palestine

Richard Falk argues that a Palestinian victory in the legitimacy war with Israel would not necessarily produce the desired political results and that it is vital that the Palestinians exercise “patience, resolve, leadership and vision, as well as sufficient pressure” if they are to win their just rights.

The policy of closing the country’s doors to visitors based on their political ideology is foreign to democratic countries. The fact that the group’s Jewish members were ultimately allowed to stay while the Swedes of Palestinian origin were not colors the affair with more than a tinge of race-based discrimination.

IOA Editor: This is part of a broad Israeli campaign against resistance to the Occupation – including the most peaceful and non-violent resistance. As noted here already, the threat of peace is Israel’s greatest fear. Any opportunity, however small, which supports a dialog is therefore promptly crushed. Equal treatment under the law cannot be expected from a state that runs a 43-year long Occupation — which is entirely racially-based, as is the state itself — and the term “democracy” simply doesn’t apply.

Richard Silverstein: “In what kind of country does a journalist simply disappear with other journalists and news outlets having no recourse to publish about it? China? Cuba? Vietnam? Iran? North Korea? Is that what Israel is aiming for? To be no better than countries ruled by despots?”

IOA Editor: When even neoconservative darling Judith Miller runs a story on Israeli censorship, you know Israel is in trouble. The media interest in Israeli censorship is legitimate, and almost commendable. However, what is glaringly missing is a direct condemnation of Israel’s assassination practices, as revealed in this only-most-recent example – both “domestically,” in the Occupied Territories, and abroad where it is an essential “foreign policy” component: murder as an alternative to peacemaking, which is entirely possible but would involve “painful sacrifices” — e.g., compliance with international law and UN resolutions — that no Israeli leader (“Left” or “Right”) is prepared to accept.

MORE: Richard Silverstein’s Tikun Olam blog story

UPDATE: The IOA welcomes the many new readers from “The Only Democracy in the Middle East” who cannot read this story in local media due to Israeli censorship. Please come back to read more about the Occupation and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (6 April 2010)

Amira Hass: Israeli authorities on Thursday deported three Swedish citizens who arrived in the country earlier that day in a delegation of seven young people with Jewish and Palestinian roots.

IOA Editor: The threat of peace is Israel’s greatest fear. Any opportunity, however small, which supports a dialog is therefore promptly crushed.

Mr. Wahdan: “This particular class of the bourgeoisie exploited the people who fought the struggle. We did this for their benefit. They were the ones who got something out of it.” Wahdan’s 15-year-old grandson: “They wanted us, with no weapons, to [make the] sacrifice. Their kids have cars and villas, they own phone companies. There’s no equality between someone like that and someone like me, who lives in a house that’s falling apart, and whose father may or may not have enough money to bring bread or have clothes.”

We have rights not just in this land, but also rights over this land. This is a historic axiom. Even if the generation that experienced the events of Land Day in 1976 does not get to see the desired change, our message will be passed to all future generations as they mark Land Day each year.

Gideon Levy: “Israel has never depended so much on the United States like it does today. Until now Obama has made all the possible mistakes. His first year was wasted… But I’m afraid their main goal now is to get rid of Netanyahu. And if this is the case, it will not lead anywhere. Anyone who will replace him will be more of the same, just nicer. It will be again this masquerade of peace process, of photo opportunities, of niceties which don’t lead anywhere. From this point of view, I prefer a right-wing government. At least, what you see is what you get.

Israeli and Palestinian activists old enough to remember the start of the Occupation will remember Hava Foguel who was fighting it from 1967. Hava passed away earlier this week in Jerusalem. She was a truly amazing woman: always thinking about others, most generous, understanding and accepting of the other and the different; and always thinking about the oppressed, whoever and wherever they are: Palestinians, abused women, minorities and immigrants in the US, and the homeless. She fiercely stood on the side of justice, and for many years fought against the Occupation. (31 March 2010)

BDS demonstration at the Paris H&M store – 20 March 2010

The Brighton PSC (Palestine Solidarity Campaign) and J-Big (Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods) disrupted yesterday a London concert and live radio broadcast of Jerusalem Quartet, which is closely affiliated with the IDF.

A cross-party group of MPs will call today for a review of the way arms sales are approved after the government admitted British equipment was “almost certainly” used in the assault on Gaza last year… Amnesty International called on the government to act swiftly to close loopholes allowing “brass-plate” companies registered in the UK to trade arms to countries where human rights violations were committed.

Recent poll reveals steep rise in racist views against Arabs in Israel; many participants feel hatred, fear when overhearing Arabic, 75 percent don’t approve of shared apartment buildings. Over half of the Jewish population in Israel believes the marriage of a Jewish woman to an Arab man is equal to national treason, according to a recent survey by the Geocartography Institute.

Norman Finkelstein: “Goldstone did not perform the role of the Jewish liberal… which is to be anguished, but no consequences. And all of a sudden Israeli liberal Jews are discovering, hey, there are consequences for committing war crimes. You don’t just get to walk into the sunset and look beautiful. They can’t believe it. They are genuinely shocked. ‘Aren’t our tears consequences enough?’ Aren’t our long eyes and broken hearts consequences enough?’ ‘No,” he said, ‘you have to go to the criminal court.’”

IOA Editor: Read Chris Hedges’ Is America ‘Yearning for Fascism’?

Netanyahu mixed together Romantic-nationalist cliches with a series of historically false assertions. But even more important was everything he left out of the history, and his citation of his warped and inaccurate history instead of considering laws, rights or common human decency toward others not of his ethnic group.

[T]he signs are that Barack Obama could be just as ready to accommodate the Israeli consensus on East Jerusalem as the previous Bush administration was in backing Israel’s position on keeping the overwhelming majority of West Bank settlers in their homes on occupied Palestinian land.

The biggest Swedish pension fund said Monday it had barred Israeli arms maker Elbit Systems from its investment portfolios… “The Ethical Council recommended that Elbit Systems Ltd should be excluded from each portfolio because it deems that the company can be linked to violations of fundamental conventions and norms.”