August 8, 2014, Issue 206
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1. Upcoming NYC & Hudson Valley Protests
THE WAR IN GAZA
2. Israel-Hamas Truce Collapses In New Violence
3. Why Israel Wanted A Ceasefire Now
4. Phyllis Bennis On Gaza
5. Netanyahu: Help Israel Avoid War Crime Charges
6. Obama: Blockade Can’t Continue Forever
7. Why Israel Lies
8. Proof Israel Targeted UN Buildings
9. Israel Soldier Brags Of Killing Children
10. The Nightmare In Gaza
11. UN : ‘The Impact On Children Most 'Severe'
12. It Is Not Just An Israeli War On Gaza
13. Some Arab Leaders Turn On Hamas
14. ‘Palestine Pre-1948, Before Israel’
THE WAR IN IRAQ
15 US Re-Engages In Iraq
16. U.S. Air Strikes Killing 'Hundreds'
17. Critique Of U.S. Intervention In Iraq
18. UN: Some Rescued From Mountain Siege
19. Isis Surges In Northern Iraq
20. Isis Consolidates its Victories
21. Kurdish Forces Struggle To Counter Isis
22. Turkish Warplanes In Iraq
Things fall apart. This issue is devoted to the two wars — in Gaza and in Iraq. The first articles are about the Israel war against Gaza. These are followed by the U.S. decision to intervene militarily in Iraq against the extreme jihadist ISIS. The Iraq coverage includes a criticism of U.S. involvement by Phyllis Bennis and an important article by Patrick Cockburn on “Isis Consolidates its Victories.” We lead off with reports in new demonstrations tomorrow in our area.
1. AUG. 9 NYC & HUDSON VALLEY PROTESTS
|Huge Washington protest Aug. 2.|
Saturday, Aug. 9, NEW YORK CITY: “The World Stands with Gaza!” is the theme of a mass march to the United Nations. It is sponsored by many peace and justice organizations as well as progressive Arab and Jewish groups. The ANSWER Coalition, which sponsored the Aug. 2 protest in Washington that attracted many tens of thousands, is involved in the New York protest at well. The rally starts at 1 p.m. in Columbus Circle (58th St. and 8th Ave. in Manhattan). People from the Hudson Valley are forming car pools or are taking commercial buses and Metro North. It’s going to be quite a day.
Saturday, Aug. 9 ALBANY: A demonstration against the attack on Gaza begins at 1 p.m. at the New York State Capitol Building (West Capitol Park side) at 198 State St. “This Day of Rage supports the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions Movement. Demand Sanctions on Israel Now.”
Saturday, Aug.9, WOODSTOCK: A protest will be held at the Village Green in Woodstock 12 noon-1 p.m. Information, http://www.mideastcrisis.org.
The rest of August and early September events will be published in a couple of days..
THE WAR IN GAZA
NOTE - DAILY UPDATES ON IRAQ AND GAZA
GAZA TRUCE HOLDS
CAIRO (AP) -- Palestinian officials voiced cautious optimism Thursday, hinting at progress in Egyptian-mediated negotiations with Israel to bring an end to the fighting in Gaza and secure new arrangements for the war-battered territory. But with the sides' demands still seemingly irreconcilable, that optimism may be premature and a deal not so close in the making.
Israel and Hamas are observing a five-day cease-fire which began at midnight Wednesday, in an attempt to allow talks between the sides in Cairo to continue. The negotiations are meant to secure a substantive end to the monthlong war and draw up a roadmap for the coastal territory, which has been hard-hit in the fighting.
Beyond demands for a seaport and airport, Hamas is also seeking an end to a crippling blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt since 2007. The blockade has greatly limited the movement of Palestinians in and out of the territory of 1.8 million people. It has also restricted the flow of goods into Gaza and blocked virtually all exports.
CEASE-FIRE CLOCK TICKING
By Al-Jazeera and Activist Newsletter
The threat of renewed fighting in Gaza loomed Wednesday as the clock ticked toward the end of a three-day cease-fire without a sign of a breakthrough in indirect talks in Cairo between Israel and the Palestinians.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators were tight-lipped Wednesday about whether any agreement on a long-term end to hostilities was near. A Palestinian embassy source said that the talks were continuing and that Palestinian delegates would hold more meetings with Egyptian mediators.
A senior Israeli official told Agence France-Presse there was still a long way to go to agree to an end to the conflict, which erupted on July 8 when Israel launched military operations to halt cross-border rocket fire from Gaza. "The negotiations are difficult and grueling," a Palestinian official said of Monday's opening talks, which lasted almost 10 hours.
Six people, including two journalists, were killed early Wednesday by an unexploded Israeli ordnance in the northern Gaza Strip, Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qedra said, according to Israeli news website Haaretz. The Israeli navy fired warning shots at a Palestinian fishing boat off the southern coast of Gaza, but no injuries were reported.
Meanwhile, at least 57 Palestinians were arrested in Israeli night raids across occupied East Jerusalem, Palestinian news website Maan News reported Wednesday. Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the men and boys were arrested in connection with recent "stone throwing incidents."
Area residents said Israeli police broke into homes without warning in the middle of the night an ransacked them before making arrests, Maan said.
NEW CEASE FIRE STILL HOLDS
By Al Jazeera
Shortly after a new 72-hour cease-fire took effect, Israeli and Palestinian factions were scheduled to resume indirect negotiations in Cairo for another round of talks to bring an end to more than a month of violence.
An Israeli delegation arrived in Cairo on Monday just hours after the truce went into effect, and the Palestinian delegation was already locked in talks with Egyptian intelligence mediators, who will relay the Palestinians’ demands to the Israelis, a Palestinian official said.
Israeli demands include the demilitarization of Gaza and disarmament of Hamas. The Palestinians have laid out a number of conditions, starting with the lifting of Israel’s seven-year blockade of Gaza. They also want the release of about 125 key political prisoners held by the Israelis.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Cairo agreed to the 72-hour humanitarian pause in a “simultaneous consensus,” according to Egyptian negotiators. Egypt called on both sides to use the lull to “reach a comprehensive and permanent cease-fire.”
The level of violence has decreased since the start of the conflict a month ago, with armed groups in Gaza shooting fewer rockets with shorter ranges into Israel since the earlier cease-fire ended. Israeli airstrikes on Gaza have also decreased, but at least four Palestinians, including a 14-year-old boy, were killed in Israeli attacks overnight — raising the Palestinian toll to more nearly 2,000 dead and 10,000 wounded since fighting began in earnest on July 8, Haaretz reported. 64 Israeli soldiers have died in the conflict, and three Israeli civilians have been killed.
On Sunday in a refugee camp in the West Bank city of Hebron, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a 12-year-old Palestinian, Khalil al-Anati, Maan News reported. Israeli troops were reportedly escorting Israeli engineers into Palestinian neighborhoods near the illegal Israeli settlement of Haggay.
“We don’t know what they [the Israelis] were doing,” a weeping Yussef al-Anati told Maan News, his shirt soaked in blood from carrying his nephew to a hospital. As the Israeli soldiers entered the refugee camp, residents began throwing stones, though a witness said Khalil al-Anati did not participate.
“Khalil was playing in front of the house, then we heard gunfire. The kid was screaming and fell down,” Yussef al-Anati said. “He was shot in the back, and the bullet exited through his stomach.”
Israeli forces have killed at least 17 Palestinians over the past month in the West Bank.
2A. ISRAEL AND HAMAS FIGHT ON
Five Palestinians were killed in two Israeli airstrikes on Gaza on Saturday, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said, and Hamas vowed there would be no concessions to Israel as international mediators struggled to broker a new cease-fire.
“We are not going to agree to a cease-fire without having all of our demands met .… We will not go back. We are going to continue the war until we achieve our goal [i.e., the end of the seven-year blockade and siege of Gaza- AN]. This is what our people want,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said.
Medical officials in Gaza said two Palestinians were killed when their motorcycle was bombed, and the bodies of three others were found beneath the rubble of one of three bombed mosques. The airstrikes lasted through the night and hit three houses, and fighter planes struck open areas, the officials said.
The Israeli military said that since midnight it had attacked more than 30 sites in the coastal enclave where Hamas is dominant. It did not specify the targets.
Fighters in Gaza fired six rockets at towns in southern Israel Saturday, setting off alarm sirens but causing no damage or injuries, a military spokeswoman said....
2. ISRAEL-HAMAS TRUCE COLLAPSES
Associated Press 8-8-14, 5 p.m.
JERUSALEM — A three-day-old truce collapsed Friday in a new round of violence after Gaza militants resumed rocket attacks on Israel, drawing a wave of retaliatory airstrikes that killed at least five Palestinians, including three children.
The eruption of fighting shattered a brief calm in the month-long war and dealt a blow to efforts to secure a long-term cease-fire between the bitter enemies.
A delegation of Palestinian negotiators remained in Cairo in hopes of salvaging the talks. But participants said the negotiations were not going well, and Israel said it would not negotiate under fire. The Palestinian delegation met again late Friday with Egyptian mediators.
Azzam al-Ahmad, head of the Palestinian delegation, said the delegation would stay in Egypt, where were held, until it reaches an agreement that "ensures" the rights of the Palestinian people. "We told Egyptians we are staying," he told reporters.
The indirect talks are meant to bring an end to the deadliest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas since the Islamic militant group seized control of Gaza in 2007. In four weeks of violence, more than 1,900 Gazans have been killed, roughly three-quarters of them civilians, according to Palestinian and U.N. officials. Sixty-seven people were killed on the Israeli side, including three civilians.
The Palestinians are seeking an end to an Israel-Egyptian blockade imposed on Gaza after the Hamas took power [seven years ago after winning an honest election in the Palestinian territories – AN].
The blockade, which Israel says is needed to prevent arms smuggling, has restricted movement in and out of the territory of 1.8 million people and brought Gaza's economy to a standstill. Israel says any long-term agreement must include guarantees that Hamas, an armed group sworn to Israel's destruction, will give up its weapons.
In Cairo, Palestinian participants in the talks were pessimistic about the chances of a deal. They said Israel was opposing every Palestinian proposal for lifting the blockade.
For instance, the Palestinians are seeking greater movement of goods through Israeli-controlled cargo crossings, while Israel wants restrictions on "dual-use" items that could potentially be used for military purposes, they said.
Israel also was resisting demands to allow movement between Gaza and the West Bank - Palestinian territories that are located on opposite sides of Israel, they said.
"Israel in these talks wants to repackage the same old blockade. Our demands are ending the blockade and having free access for people and goods. This is what ending the blockade means. But Israel is not accepting that," said Bassam Salhi, a Palestinian negotiator.
Negotiators said they expected to remain in Cairo for several days. But with violence resuming, it was unclear how much progress could be made.
The Israeli delegation to the Cairo talks left Egypt on Friday morning, and it was not clear if it would return. "There will not be negotiations under fire," Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said.
The original, three-day truce expired at 8 a.m. Friday. But Gaza militants began firing rockets even before then. By late Friday, nearly 60 rockets had been fired. Two Israelis were hurt, and one of the rockets damaged a home. [It is not entirely clear whether one of the smaller groups in Gaza fired the rockets first or Hamas.
Israel responded with a series of airstrikes. Palestinian officials said at least five people were killed in three separate strikes, two of them near mosques. Among the dead were three boys, a 10-year-old and two cousins, aged 12. At least five boys were wounded.
The deaths brought the overall Palestinian toll since July 8 to 1,902, said Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra.
Hamas entered the Cairo talks from a position of military weakness, following a month of fighting in which Israel pounded Gaza with close to 5,000 strikes. Israel has said Hamas lost hundreds of fighters, two-thirds of its rocket arsenal and all of its tunnels under the border with Israel. Egypt has destroyed a network of smuggling tunnels that was once Hamas' economic and military lifeline.
3. WHY ISRAEL WANTED A CEASEFIRE NOW
By Richard Becker, PSL/ANSWER, 8-5-14
After nearly a month of inflicting death and destruction on Gaza, the Israeli occupation forces withdrewon August 5, as part of 72-hour ceasefire agreement. Negotiations are now underway in Cairo over the terms of a more long-range truce. After subverting previous ceasefires, it is clear that Israeli leaders wanted the latest agreement.
Gaza, whose population of 1.8 million is 80% refugees from other parts of Palestine crowded into an area of just 139 square miles, has suffered more than 1,900 killed and 10,000 wounded (as of 8-8-14) since the Israeli military assault began on July 8. The vast majority of the casualties on the Palestinian side were civilian victims of Israel’s indiscriminate bombing and shelling.
On the Israel side, 67 were killed, all but three were soldiers. At least 640 Israel soldiers were wounded. Although the Palestinian losses were exponentially greater, the Israel losses were five times those in the last ground invasion of Gaza in 2008-9.
The U.S.-funded and armed Israeli military deployed a wide range of high-tech air, land and sea weaponry. The Palestinian side has no air force, navy, armored units or air defense system. Thousands of homes were destroyed, schools, hospitals, mosques and Gaza’s only power plant were repeatedly hit. Entire neighborhoods, like Shejaiya in Gaza City were turned into rubble. Most of Gaza has little or no electricity and there are acute shortages of water and other necessities.
The cost to rebuild Gaza is estimated at this point at $4-6 billion, three to four times Gaza’s annual gross domestic product. Isreal won’t pay a dime. It’s come from UN and other contributions, if it comes at all.
While proclaiming their supposed “concern” about civilian casualties, there can be no doubt that Netanyahu and his generals waged a deliberate campaign of terror directed against the population of Gaza as a whole. The repeated bombing and shelling of UN-run facilities in which tens of thousands had taken refuge was neither accident nor mistake. Those attacks were meant to send the message that there was nowhere to run and nowhere to hide, that resistance to Israeli domination was futile and surrender the only option.
It was a campaign of terror carried out by a terrorist state.
It’s the same message that repeated Israeli massacres from Deir Yassin in 1948, to Sabra and Shatila in 1982, to Jenin in 2002, to Gaza in 2014 were meant to convey. But despite the indescribable suffering they have been subjected to over the past century at the hands of imperialism and Zionism, the Palestinians continue to resist.
Why a ceasefire now?
While the Israeli military has once again inflicted unspeakable death and destruction on Gaza, it did not achieve victory, as evidenced by the disarray today inside the Israeli political establishment over the announcement that Israel troops were being withdrawn. A military spokesperson announced that it had “achieved its objective” by destroying 32 military tunnels.
Extreme right wing politicians howled about “not finishing the job.” Typical was Uzi Landau, tourism minister from the Yisrael Beiteinu party, who said “the operation ended with no achievement that ensures quiet.”
The real objective – destroying the Palestinian resistance forces in Gaza – was clearly not achieved.
There were several factors that brought pressure on Israel to claim “success,” announce it was withdrawing its troops, and seek a ceasefire.
1) Failure to achieve military victory, significant army casualties killed and wounded, and the prospects of a protracted and debilitating campaign.
2) Intensifying clashes in the West Bank with at least 10 Palestinians killed and hundreds wounded in protests supporting Gaza. On Aug. 4, one Israeli was killed and soldier wounded in attacks in Jerusalem. The Israeli government feared that continuation of the assault on Gaza could lead to a new intifada or uprising in the West Bank, and possibly extending to the Palestinian population inside the 1948 borders of Israel.
3) Israel’s rapidly deepening international isolation, with many governments condemning the Gaza operation and withdrawing ambassadors, and a worldwide protest movement that brought millions of people into the streets of countries around the world.
4) Growing criticism by the U.S. government, Israel’s principal funder, armor and protector, of Israel’s blatant attacks on civilians. While the U.S. continued its political and military support – including an emergency re-supply of ammunition – the Obama administration was increasingly concerned about being so closely identified with the Israel’s terror campaign, and the prospect of new mass upheavals in the region. In an unusually strong criticism, on August 4 White House spokesperson Josh Earnest described the latest Israeli shelling of a UN school housing 3,000 refugees as “appalling” and “disgraceful,” labels usually reserved for enemy governments.
His thuggish “no one can tell us what to do” rhetoric aside, Netanyahu is no more immune to objective forces than any other political leader or regime. The combination of facts on the ground in Gaza, in Occupied Palestine as a whole, and in the world compelled the Israeli government to take a step back, at least for the time being.
There is no guarantee that a longer term ceasefire will be reached. All those who stand for justice for the Palestinian people must remain on alert, and continue the struggle to immediately end the blockade of Gaza and force the U.S. and Israel to provide reparations. In the long run, real self-determination demands the right of return for all Palestinian refugees, and an end to the Israeli apartheid system
4. PHYLLIS BENNIS ON GAZA
Speaking on Democracy Now 8-8-14, analyst Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies declared: Many of us were very much afraid that this halt in the fighting, this ceasefire, even if it lasted the three days, which it barely did by a moment, was not going to work unless the siege of Gaza could be lifted.
There is no way that there’s going to be a permanent ceasefire while Gaza remains completely surrounded by a wall that is backed by the armed force of the Israeli military; where the skies are controlled by the Israeli Air Force; while the waters, the coastal waters, are controlled by the Israeli Navy, who prohibit the fishermen from going any more than two kilometers out; while nothing is allowed in for rebuilding; when Israel can bomb the power plant, the sewage treatment plants and expect people to simply stop fighting and wait for negotiations, as if that’s going to work. We saw this the last time, after the eight-day Israeli assault on Gaza in November of 2012, when the ceasefire that was negotiated by Hillary Clinton at that time said that within 24 hours of the ceasefire there should begin implementation of lifting the siege.
It never happened. So, not surprisingly, Palestinians — and this is not only Hamas, this is across the board, every political faction—and, we should note, the United Nations are calling very clearly for an end to the siege of Gaza. Without that, no temporary ceasefire is going to work.
5. ISRAEL: HELP US AVOID WAR CRIME CHARGES
By Geoff Earle, N.Y. Post, 8-6-14
WASHINGTON — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked US lawmakers Wednesday to help fend off Palestinian claims that his country engaged in “war crimes” while defending itself against attacks from Gaza, one top lawmaker told The Post.
The Israeli leader later told international reporters that his country employed “extraordinary measures” to avoid civilian deaths in the nearly month-long conflict.
As a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas held for a third day, Netanyahu met with a group of US legislators, including Rep. Steve Israel (D-LI,) to discuss the country’s tense security situation and some fissures in US-Israel relations.
Netanyahu asked the delegation to help Israel stay out of the International Criminal Court, where its attacks on Gaza could come under scrutiny — even while responding to Hamas rockets fired at Israeli urban centers.
Palestinian leaders are getting ready to join the ICC, and met with officials in The Hague recently to discuss the implications of joining.
“The prime minister asked us to work together to ensure that this strategy of going to the ICC does not succeed,” Rep. Israel told The Post by phone from Tel Aviv.
Netanyahu “wants the US to use all the tools that we have at our disposal to, number one, make sure the world knows that war crimes were not committed by Israel, they were committed by Hamas. And that Israel should not be held to a double standard,” the congressman said.
“It’s Hamas that embedded its rockets in hospitals and in homes,” he added. “And now there are some in the international community who want to investigate the Israelis for the war crime of simply defending themselves.”
Netanyahu blamed Hamas for the civilian deaths, saying the group intentionally used innocent people as human shields — and showed a video to international journalists to prove the point.
6. OBAMA: BLOCKADE CAN’T CONTINUE FOREVER
Ongoing peace talks in Cairo are stalling primarily on Israel’s reluctance to agree to anything resembling an end to the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, but President Obama insists something will eventually have to be done.
At a press conference that centered on touting his support for the Israeli war, President Obama said there needed to be some recognition that “Gaza cannot sustain itself permanently closed off from the world.”
Obama didn’t call for an immediate end to the blockade, which is what the Palestinians are pushing for at the talks, but rather said there needed to be “some prospects for the opening of Gaza so that they do not feel walled off.”
That’s an awfully vague call, but is still the closest a U.S. official has come to rejecting the long-standing Israeli blockade yet, and could add some momentum to ending the humanitarian disaster that blockade has wrought.
7. WHY ISRAEL LIES
|Israeli tank. Gaza is without an army, air force, navy, but the people fight back.|
By Chris Hedges
All governments lie, as I.F. Stone pointed out, including Israel and Hamas. But Israel engages in the kinds of jaw-dropping lies that characterize despotic and totalitarian regimes. It does not deform the truth; it inverts it. It routinely paints a picture for the outside world that is diametrically opposed to reality. And all of us reporters who have covered the occupied territories have run into Israel’s Alice-in-Wonderland narratives, which we dutifully insert into our stories—required under the rules of American journalism—although we know they are untrue.
I saw small boys baited and killed by Israeli soldiers in the Gaza refugee camp of Khan Younis. The soldiers swore at the boys in Arabic over the loudspeakers of their armored jeep. The boys, about 10 years old, then threw stones at an Israeli vehicle and the soldiers opened fire, killing some, wounding others. I was present more than once as Israeli troops drew out and shot Palestinian children in this way. Such incidents, in the Israeli lexicon, become children caught in crossfire. I was in Gaza when F-16 attack jets dropped 1,000-pound iron fragmentation bombs on overcrowded hovels in Gaza City. I saw the corpses of the victims, including children. This became a surgical strike on a bomb-making factory. I have watched Israel demolish homes and entire apartment blocks to create wide buffer zones between the Palestinians and the Israeli troops that ring Gaza.
I have interviewed the destitute and homeless families, some camped out in crude shelters erected in the rubble. The destruction becomes the demolition of the homes of terrorists. I have stood in the remains of schools—Israel struck two United Nations schools in the last six days, causing at least 10 fatalities at one in Rafah on Sunday and at least 19 at one in the Jebaliya refugee camp Wednesday—as well as medical clinics and mosques. I have heard Israel claim that errant rockets or mortar fire from the Palestinians caused these and other deaths, or that the attacked spots were being used as arms depots or launching sites. I, along with every other reporter I know who has worked in Gaza, have never seen any evidence that Hamas uses civilians as “human shields.”
There is a perverted logic to Israel’s repeated use of the Big Lie—Große Lüge—the lie favored by tyrants from Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin to Saddam Hussein. The Big Lie feeds the two reactions Israel seeks to elicit—racism among its supporters and terror among its victims.
By painting a picture of an army that never attacks civilians, that indeed goes out of its way to protect them, the Big Lie says Israelis are civilized and humane, and their Palestinian opponents are inhuman monsters. The Big Lie serves the idea that the slaughter in Gaza is a clash of civilizations, a war between democracy, decency and honor on one side and Islamic barbarism on the other. And in the uncommon cases when news of atrocities penetrates to the wider public, Israel blames the destruction and casualties on Hamas.
George Orwell in his novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” called this form of propaganda doublethink. Doublethink uses “logic against logic” and “repudiate[s] morality while laying claim to it.” The Big Lie does not allow for the nuances and contradictions that can plague conscience. It is a state-orchestrated response to the dilemma of cognitive dissonance. The Big Lie permits no gray zones. The world is black and white, good and evil, righteous and unrighteous. The Big Lie allows believers to take comfort—a comfort they are desperately seeking—in their own moral superiority at the very moment they have abrogated all morality.
The Big Lie, as the father of American public relations, Edward Bernays, wrote, is limited only by the propagandist’s capacity to fathom and harness the undercurrents of individual and mass psychology. And since most supporters of Israel do not have a desire to know the truth, a truth that would force them to examine their own racism and self-delusions about Zionist and Western moral superiority, like packs of famished dogs they lap up the lies fed to them by the Israeli government. The Big Lie always finds fertile soil in what Bernays called the “logic-proof compartment of dogmatic adherence.” All effective propaganda, Bernays wrote, targets and builds upon these irrational “psychological habits.”
This is the world Franz Kafka envisioned, a world where the irrational becomes rational. It is one where, as Gustave Le Bon noted in “The Crowd: A Study of the Public Mind,” those who supply the masses with the illusions they crave become their master, and “whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim.” This irrationality explains why the reaction of Israeli supporters to those who have the courage to speak the truth—Uri Avnery, Max Blumenthal, Noam Chomsky, Jonathan Cook, Norman Finkelstein, Amira Hass, Gideon Levy, Ilan Pappé, Henry Siegman and Philip Weiss—is so rabid. That so many of these voices are Jewish, and therefore have more credibility than non-Jews who are among Israel’s cheerleaders, only ratchets up the level of hate.
But the Big Lie is also consciously designed to send a chilling message to Gaza’s Palestinians, who have lost large numbers of their dwellings, clinics, mosques, and power, water and sewage facilities, along with schools and hospitals, who have suffered some 1,650 deaths since this assault began—most of the victims women and children—and who have seen 400,000 people displaced from their homes. The Big Lie makes it clear to the Palestinians that Israel will continue to wage a campaign of state terror and will never admit its atrocities or its intentions. The vast disparity between what Israel says and what Israel does tells the Palestinians that there is no hope. Israel will do and say whatever it wants. International law, like the truth, will always be irrelevant. There will never, the Palestinians understand from the Big Lie, be an acknowledgement of reality by the Israeli leadership.
The Israel Defense Forces website is replete with this black propaganda. “Hamas exploits the IDF’s sensitivity towards protecting civilian structures, particularly holy sites, by hiding command centers, weapons caches and tunnel entrances in mosques,” the IDF site reads. “In Hamas’ world, hospitals are command centers, ambulances are transport vehicles, and medics are human shields,” the site insists.
“.... [Israeli] officers are tasked with an enormous responsibility: to protect Palestinian civilians on the ground, no matter how difficult that may be,” the site assures its viewers. And the IDF site provides this quote from a drone operator identified as Lt. Or. “I have personally seen rockets fired at Israel from hospitals and schools, but we couldn’t strike back because of civilians nearby. In one instance, we acquired a target but we saw that there were children in the area. We waited around, and when they didn’t leave we were forced to abort a strike on an important target.”
Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, in a Big Lie of his own, said last month at a conference of Christians United for Israel that the Israeli army should be given the “Nobel Peace Prize .... for fighting with unimaginable restraint.”
The Big Lie destroys any possibility of history and therefore any hope for a dialogue between antagonistic parties that can be grounded in truth and reality. While, as Hannah Arendt pointed out, the ancient and modern sophists sought to win an argument at the expense of the truth, those who wield the Big Lie “want a more lasting victory at the expense of reality.” The old sophists, she said, “destroyed the dignity of human thought.” Those who resort to the Big Lie “destroy the dignity of human action.” The result, Arendt warned, is that “history itself is destroyed, and its comprehensibility.” And when facts no longer matter, when there is no shared history grounded in the truth, when people foolishly believe their own lies, there can be no useful exchange of information. The Big Lie, used like a bludgeon by Israel, as perhaps it is designed to be, ultimately reduces all problems in the world to the brutish language of violence. And when oppressed people are addressed only through violence they will answer only through violence.
— From Truthdig, Aug. 3, 2014. Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. He is a former award-winning foreign correspondent for the New York Times. He has authored 12 books, most recently “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt” (2012), which he co-authored with the cartoonist Joe Sacco.
8. PROOF ISRAEL TARGETED UN BUILDINGS
|Father caries victim of UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun, July 24.|
By Richard Silverstein, 8-5-14 Mideast Peace
From: Tikun Olam-תיקון עולם
An Israeli reporter for Maariv, Aviram Zino, has been embedded with an IDF unit during the current invasion. Noam R writes in his Israeli political blog about Zino’s fawning enthusiastic response to being given the chance of a lifetime to be a reporter in the middle of the “action.” His reporting comes across as cheerleading rather than objective journalism. But in spite of himself, Zino reveals a damning fact that impeaches the IDF’s credibility regarding its denial of deliberately targeting UN buildings housing Palestinian civilian refugees.
Zino reports that the unit commander, Nadav, ordered the firing of a $100,000 Tamuz (aka Spike) heat-seeking anti-tank missile on a UNWRA school in Beit Hanoun on July 24th:
“Nadav tried to clarify what means were available to him. A survey of the field shows clearly fire coming from an UNWRA school in the center of Gaza. The order is given and a Tammuz missile is fired at the school. The commanding general, who arrives later for a press conference, says in response: ‘This is yet another example of Hamas’ cynical use of civilian structures for the purposes of terror.’
“It’s a bit aggravating since the unit tried from the beginning of the Operation to do minimal damage, as best as possible, to the “uninvolved” [military jargon for "civilians"].
15 Palestinian civilians died from this missile and 150 were injured. As Noam R points out in his blog post, this is the first eyewitness, definitive evidence that the IDF deliberately ordered a lethal guided-weapon (not indiscriminate artillery fire) to be fired at a civilian building in Gaza knowing there were unarmed non-combatants inside who would be killed.
Two things to point out about this report. Clearly, Zino didn’t see firing from the school. He trusted the unit commander’s word that such fire had been confirmed. But by whom and how is not mentioned. Second, the commander speaking at the press conference only notes the attack by the IDF on the school without explaining how it justified killing civilians. Zino, in the closing sentence, admits explicitly that the attack was both disproportional and knowingly attacked civilians. As Sara Lee Whitson says in the paragraph below: that “is a war crime.”
In fact, Human Rights Watch’s Sarah Leah Whitson spoke about Israel’s responsibility to Gaza’s civilian population:
“The…presence of…civilians despite a warning to flee cannot be ignored when attacks are carried out, as Israeli forces have done previously. Warning families to flee fighting doesn’t make them fair targets just because they’re unable to do so, and deliberately attacking them is a war .”
In other words, you may not attack a civilian target containing unarmed civilians using heavy lethal weapons, even if you believe there are armed fighters engaged in combat operations against you. The safety of civilians trumps any desire to eliminate the armed threat, if there is one. This is reinforced by the fact that the IDF never presents any proof of its claims that armed fighters are firing from such structures and didn’t do so in this particular case.
There is yet another instance of serious IDF prevarication. Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Lerner told AP 900 Palestinian fighters had been killed during the war. Yet the IDF itself only two days before had put that number at 300. When asked why it jumped so much, AP characterized his response: “Lerner said the figure of 900 militants killed was an approximation, based on reporting from individual Israeli units, but provided no further detail.”
Palestinian and UN reports place the number of dead fighters at 20% of the overall total, which is 1,900. That would mean that 380 militants were killed. My own Israeli source reports more candid IDF claims that 500 fighters have been killed. Certainly, the final number will be somewhere between 380-500, but nowhere near Lerner’s prevaricating claim of 900....
9. ISRAEL SOLDIER BRAGS OF KILLING KIDS
By Middle East Monitor, 08-01-14
"I killed 13 childrens [sic] today and ur [sic] next fucking muslims [sic] go to hell bitches," Israeli sniper David Ovadia posted on his Instagram account yesterday. Ovadia directed the comment at a fellow Instagram user a Palestinian woman.
The comment was made in response to a picture Ovadia posted of himself laying on the ground aiming his sniper rifle (above), while dressed in army fatigues. It was quickly spread across social media networks and his account was subsequently closed down.
Ovadia denied sending the message for days, claiming he was hacked. He finally confessed to Israeli military police and was sentenced to a month in jail. The IDF said the soldier did not actually shoot 13 children, but was instead using the claim to harass and terrorize Palestinians on social media.
A brief video is at http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2014/07/31/373518/israeli-sniper-admits-killing-13-kids/
10. THE NIGHTMARE IN GAZA
Noam Chomsky, 8-7-14
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 settlercommunity 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 weremurdered 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 2008-2009.
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.
— Noam Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.
11. UN: 'THE IMPACT ON CHILDREN MOST SEVERE'
By Lauren McCauley, Common Dreams, 8-6-14
Israel's attack on Gaza will be felt most severely among the Palestinian children, a top United Nations official said on Aug. 5 Addressing a UN conference by phone, Pernille Ironside, who runs the UNICEF field office in Gaza, said the agency estimates that roughly 373,000 Palestinian children have had some kind of direct traumatic experience as a result of the attack and will require immediate psycho-social support. This is in addition to the 408 children reported as killed and the thousands left wounded after three weeks of heavy shelling by Israeli forces.
Asking, "How can a society cope with this? This is a deep, deep, deep wound," Ironside quoted Nishant Pandey, head of Oxfam in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel as saying: “Public health conditions in Gaza are getting worse by the hour, and with water running out the threat of disease is spreading fast. The ceasefire alone will not be enough to end Gaza's suffering —t he blockade of Gaza must also end if there is to be real recovery and lasting peace for both Israelis and Palestinians.”
In a piece published in +972 Magazine on Aug. 5, Olivia Watson, advocacy officer with Defense for Children International-Palestine — which is independently verifying all child-deaths in the conflict — writes that for even those children "who manage to escape physical injury, the psychological effects of this latest operation will be hidden, but severe and resounding.... Many have lost one or both parents, or other family members. Some have lost their entire extended families. All have experienced violence, fear and instability at close quarters."
Relief workers who have spent time with Palestinian children after the wars in 2008-9 and 2012 say that children who lost family members exhibit real physical manifestations of their trauma including: night terrors, inability to sleep, loss of bladder control, as well as refusing to eat, and aversion to eye contact or physical touch.
Danny Muller, a coordinator with the Middle East Children's Alliance, told Common Dreams that in
addition to the direct trauma of losing a loved one, children also experience more indirect trauma like the loss of a playground, a mosque, or a home.
addition to the direct trauma of losing a loved one, children also experience more indirect trauma like the loss of a playground, a mosque, or a home.
Muller explained that because of the ongoing blockade and repeated attacks by Israel, children in Palestine sustain "ongoing" traumatic stress. The blockade has made families in Palestine food insecure for years, Muller said, as he cited a consistent lack of access to drinking water and high rates of unemployment, "all of which directly impacts the level of safety and security they feel in their homes and communities."
"The children have an incredible level of fear," Muller said.
According to Mufeed al-Hasayneh, the Palestinian Minister of Public Works, Israel has caused over $5 billion dollars in damage to homes and infrastructure in the Gaza strip. Al-Hasayneh estimates that some 10,000 homes have been completely destroyed, and 30,000 homes partially destroyed.
On Aug. 5, Oxfam International warned that Gaza is on the brink of an international health crisis after recent bombing destroyed wells, pipelines and reservoirs, leaving water dangerously scarce while remaining reserves are contaminated with raw sewage. According to the group, 15,000 tons of solid waste now fills the streets, water pumping stations are on the verge of running out of fuel, and many neighborhoods have been without power for days.
12. IT IS NOT JUST AN ISRAELI WAR ON GAZA
Pictures of two U.S. Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza July 20 in clashes with Hamas guerrillas when their armored vehicle was struck by a shoulder-launched anti-tank missile July 20.
Top Nissim Sean Carmeli, 21, of South Padre Island, Texas.
Top Nissim Sean Carmeli, 21, of South Padre Island, Texas.
Bottom, Max Steinberg, 24, from Los Angeles. Citizens from a number of countries are fighting in the Israeli Army.
By Ramzy Baroud, 7-32-14
To some, US secretary of state John Kerry may have appeared to be a genuine peacemaker as he floated around ideas during a Cairo visit on 25 July about a ceasefire between Israel and resisting Palestinian fighters in Gaza. But behind his measured diplomatic language, there is a truth not even America’s top diplomat can easily hide. His country is very much involved in fighting this dirty war on Gaza that has killed over 1,050, injured thousands more, and destroyed much of an already poor, dilapidated space that is barely inhabitable to begin with.
US economic and military aid to Israel is measured annually in the billions, and the US government continues to be Israel’s strongest and most ardent ally and political benefactor. In fact, the US-Israel “special relationship” is getting more “special” by the day even though Israel is sinking further into the abyss of a well-deserved isolation.
True, there are some, even in the justice for Palestinians camp, who oddly speak of how exceptional and fair the Barack Obama Administration has been in comparison to its predecessors. However, they neglect the fact that aside from a few particularly strong-worded statements, Obama has been a dedicated stalwart on behalf of Israel and its security by going as far as defending Israel’s ‘Operation Protective Edge’ war – the slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians in Gaza.
But America’s support for Israel is crossing new red lines. There are reportedly over 1,000 US citizens fighting in the Israeli army according to reports that are now resurfacing due to the recent killing of two US-Israeli soldiers – Max Steinberg, 24, of California, and Nissim Sean Carmeli, 21, of Texas. Like the rest of the IDF soldiers killed in recent fighting, they were killed while invading parts of the besieged Gaza Strip. But the number must be an understatement since some of Israel’s most ardent Jewish settlers are also American, and happen to be armed and dangerous. Although this is causing a bit of a media buzz, there is no political crisis. Instead, only condolences are offered to the families of the Americans fighting the genocidal war on Gaza.
The US is not alone in this. European governments display an incredible amount of hypocrisy as they continue to utilize doublespeak in their approach to Middle East conflicts in general, and the situation in Palestine in particular. The pressure mounting from European civil society makes it a bit more challenging for EU governments to endow Israel with the same unconditional love and support as that bestowed upon it by the US. EU hypocrisy is too palpable even for clever politicians to hide. The British government is shamelessly on the Israeli side, even while entire families in Gaza are being pulverized by western weapons and military technology. Meanwhile, the French government imposed a ban to prevent French society from showing its solidarity with the besieged and massacred Palestinians in Gaza.
But why ban mere demonstrations of solidarity while France, the US and other Western governments are allowing their Jewish citizens to be enlisted in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) which is actively killing Palestinian civilians? Shouldn’t that be a much greater concern to the duplicitous French government than some protesters chanting some slogans during a solidarity rally that may or may not be deemed anti-Semitic?
Indeed, not only are western governments providing Israel with arms, funds and political cover to sustain its occupation and war, but they are also contributing thousands of military experts and boots on the ground in order to fight a war in Gaza where war crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed on an hourly basis.
Belgium also stands accused of allowing such criminality. Although Belgian civil society is one of Palestine’s strongest supporters, their government is cloaked with unmistakable dishonesty. Many Belgian citizens are also taking part in Israel’s lethal wars in Gaza and military occupation of the occupied territory, with little or no protest from their government.
Western involvement in the war on the Palestinian people is indeed going beyond the usual and known support of funds, military technology and economic aid, to actual participation in the slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza. This is not a matter than can be addressed within the larger argument of Western double standards in Israel and Palestine, but an urgent issue that demands immediate attention.
It is one thing to fail to stop war crimes from being committed, it is a whole other level of failure to defend, finance and take active part in carrying out these war crimes. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not the only leader culpable of Gaza’s bloodbath; others in western capitals should also be.
— Ramzy Baroud is a PhD scholar in People’s History at the University of Exeter (UK). He is the Managing Editor of Middle East Eye. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).
13. SOME ARAB LEADERS TURN ON HAMAS
By David D. Kirkpatrick, N.Y. TIMES 7-31
CAIRO — Battling Palestinian militants in Gaza two years ago, Israel found itself pressed from all
sides by unfriendly Arab neighbors to end the fighting. Not this time.
sides by unfriendly Arab neighbors to end the fighting. Not this time.
After the military ouster of the Islamist government in Cairo last year, Egypt has led a new coalition of Arab states — including Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — that has effectively lined up with Israel in its fight against Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip. That, in turn, may have contributed to the failure of the antagonists to reach a negotiated cease-fire even after more than three weeks of bloodshed.
Arab monarchs and dictators, such as Egypt’s
Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, Side with Israel.
Although Egypt is traditionally the key go-between in any talks with Hamas — deemed a terrorist group by the United States and Israel — the government in Cairo this time surprised Hamas by publicly proposing a cease-fire agreement that met most of Israel’s demands and none from the Palestinian group. Hamas was tarred as intransigent when it immediately rejected it, and Cairo has continued to insist that its proposal remains the starting point for any further discussions.
But as commentators sympathetic to the Palestinians slammed the proposal as a ruse to embarrass Hamas, Egypt’s Arab allies praised it. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia called President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt the next day to commend it, Mr. Sisi’s office said, in a statement that cast no blame on Israel but referred only to “the bloodshed of innocent civilians who are paying the price for a military confrontation for which they are not responsible.”
“There is clearly a convergence of interests of these various regimes with Israel,” said Khaled Elgindy, a former adviser to Palestinian negotiators who is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. In the battle with Hamas, Mr. Elgindy said, the Egyptian fight against the forces of political Islam and the Israeli struggle against Palestinian militants were nearly identical. “Whose proxy war is it?” he asked.
The dynamic has inverted all expectations of the Arab Spring uprisings. As recently as 18 months ago, most analysts in Israel, Washington and the Palestinian territories expected the popular uprisings to make the Arab governments more responsive to their citizens, and therefore more sympathetic to the Palestinians and more hostile to Israel.
But instead of becoming more isolated, Israel’s government has emerged for the moment as an unexpected beneficiary of the ensuing tumult, now tacitly supported by the leaders of the resurgent conservative order as an ally in their common fight against political Islam.
Egyptian officials have directly or implicitly blamed Hamas instead of Israel for Palestinian deaths in the fighting, even when, for example, United Nations schools have been hit by Israeli shells, something that occurred again on Wednesday.
And the pro-government Egyptian news media has continued to rail against Hamas as a tool of a regional Islamist plot to destabilize Egypt and the region, just as it has since the military ouster of President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood one year ago. (Egyptian prosecutors have charged Hamas with instigating violence in Egypt, killing its soldiers and police officers, and even breaking Mr. Morsi and other Brotherhood leaders out of jail during the 2011 uprising.)
The diatribes against Hamas by at least one popular pro-government talk show host in Egypt were so extreme that the government of Israel broadcast some of them into Gaza.
“They use it to say, ‘See, your supposed friends are encouraging us to kill you!’ ” Maisam Abumorr, a Palestinian student in Gaza City, said in a telephone interview.
Some pro-government Egyptian talk shows broadcast in Gaza “are saying the Egyptian Army should help the Israeli Army get rid of Hamas,” she said.
At the same time, Egypt has infuriated Gazans by continuing its policy of shutting down tunnels used for cross-border smuggling into the Gaza Strip and keeping border crossings closed, exacerbating a scarcity of food, water and medical supplies after three weeks of fighting.
“Sisi is worse than Netanyahu, and the Egyptians are conspiring against us more than the Jews,” said Salhan al-Hirish, a storekeeper in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya. “They finished the Brotherhood in Egypt, and now they are going after Hamas.”
Egypt and other Arab states, especially the Persian Gulf monarchies of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are finding themselves allied with Israel in a common opposition to Iran, a rival regional power that has a history of funding and arming Hamas.
For Washington, the shift poses new obstacles to its efforts to end the fighting. Although Egyptian intelligence agencies continue to talk with Hamas, as they did under former President Hosni Mubarak and Mr. Morsi, Cairo’s new animosity toward the group has called into question the effectiveness of that channel, especially after the response to Egypt’s first proposal.
As a result, Secretary of State John Kerry turned to the more Islamist-friendly states of Qatar and Turkey as alternative mediators — two states that grew in regional stature with the rising tide of political Islam after the Arab Spring, and that have suffered a degree of isolation as that tide has ebbed.
But that move has put Mr. Kerry in the incongruous position of appearing to some analysts as less hostile to Hamas — and thus less supportive of Israel — than Egypt or its Arab allies.
For Israeli hawks, the change in the Arab states has been relatively liberating....
14. ‘PALESTINE PRE-1948, BEFORE ISRAEL’
By the Activist Newsletter
This headline is the name of 10-minute video that should be seen by everyone interested in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. It doesn’t discuss the whole story but concentrates on one historical element. Find it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jxTseoru6g.
In the several decades leading up to the UN partition of Palestine in 1947, Jewish and Christian Zionists often repeated the myth of “a land without a people for a people without a land.” Palestine was the “land without a people,” and Jews were the “people without a land.”
Palestine, however, was not a land without people, whether under the Ottomans or manipulated by British imperialism. In 1925 there were 780,568 non-Jewish citizens of Palestine (largely Muslims). Due to increasing immigration beginning at the start of the 1900s, the Jewish population at that time was 137,484 or 15% of the population. In 1946, the non-Jewish population consisted of 1,339,763 people. In addition there were 602,586 Jews, including a flood of additional immigrants escaping from the horrors of World War II in Europe, amounting to 31% of the population.
Zionists usually depicted Palestine as a backward country with backward people who evidently couldn’t even “make the desert bloom,” but that wasn't quite the story, as you will see from the rare images of people and infrastructure in different Palestinian cities during the 1920s,’30s and ’40s, before the creation of the State of Israel.
The UN split Palestine into two sectors — 55% to the minority Jews (who previously owned just 6% of the land), and 45% for the Arab population. After the war of 1948-49 Israel ended up with 77%. Following the war of 1967 Israel illegally occupied much of remaining Arab Palestine and in time began to develop many Jewish settlements on this territory, protected by police and soldiers — but this happened years after the images in this film, which shows the abundance of people and their lifestyles in this pre-partition “land without people.”
THE WAR IN IRAQ
Note: The New York Times today published a useful map on How ISIS Came to Control Large Portions of Syria and Iraq. It is at http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/07/03/world/middleeast/syria-iraq-isis-rogue-state-along-two-rivers.html
MALIKI STEPS DOWN
By Al-Jazeera and Activist Newsletter
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's resignation on Thursday, reported by Iraqi state TV, was preceded by a rare consensus this week among major stakeholders in Iraq: From Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States, to longstanding domestic political supporters and opponents, there was near unanimous agreement that Maliki’s time was up – it was Maliki’s own Shia political bloc, in fact, that dumped him as its prime minister-nominee. The U.S. supported the ouster, as did Iran.
The unprecedented series of events was aided by the rapid battlefield gains of the ISIS insurgency in recent months, which helped tip the balance against Maliki’s fortunes given ongoing political paralysis in Baghdad.
But while the many parties with divergent interests could agree on ousting a divisive and dysfunctional figure and on the need to combat the Islamic State, there remains little consensus at home or abroad over how to govern a post-Maliki Iraq going forward.
In terrible news today, Iraq confirmed ISIS fighters have killed at least 500 members of Iraq's Yazidi minority – including many women and children – burying some alive and taking hundreds of women as slaves. Iraq’s human rights minister, Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, accused ISIS – who have ordered the Yazidi, whom they regard as "devil worshippers" to convert to Islam or be killed – of celebrating "a vicious atrocity" with cheers and weapons waved in the air.
His remarks came as U.S. forces carried out airstrikes for a third day against Islamic State fighters. U.S. planes also continued to drop food and water for thousands of Yazidis who are trapped on a mountain and threatened with slaughter by the armed group. The U.S.. expressed confidence that the remainder would reach safety.
Maliki is one of a long line of Iraqi leaders the U.S. assisted to prominence and then engineered to oust. Washington blames the prime minister for the split in Iraq between the minority Arab Sunnis (about 20%), the minority Kurdish Sunnis and other smaller religious sects, and the ruling Shi’ites (about 65%).
The split has resulted in substantial Arab Sunni support for the religio-fascist ISIS, now marauding throughout sectors of northern Syria and Iraq. The Kurds in both Iraq and Syria oppose ISIS militarily. Maliki’s sectarianism is a factor in the split. Another major element, however, is Washington’s long effort to divide and conquer Iraq starting with its unjust and illegal invasion in 2003.
At this stage, the specter of ISIS is haunting not only the U.S., Iraq, and Iran, but Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies, Jordan, Egypt and Turkey.
SYRIAN KURDS SAVING YAZIDIS
MALIKIYA, Syria (AP) -- In a dusty camp here, Iraqi refugees have new heroes: Syrian Kurdish fighters who battled militants to carve out an escape route for tens of thousands trapped on a mountaintop.
While the U.S. and Iraqi militaries struggle to aid the starving members of Iraq's Yazidi minority with supply drops from the air, the Syrian Kurds took it on themselves to rescue them. The move underlined how they - like Iraqi Kurds - are using the region's conflicts to establish their own rule.
For the past few days, fighters have been rescuing Yazidis from the mountain, transporting them into Syrian territory to give them first aid, food and water, and returning some to Iraq via a pontoon bridge.
BIG COMPLICATIONS IN IRAQ
15A. OBAMA: BATTLING ISIS A 'LONG-TERM PROJECT'
By Al Jazeera, Aug. 9, 2014
President Barack Obama said Saturday that he would not give a timetable for the United States' intervention in Iraq, and warned that the current operation there could "take some time" as the U.S. military airdropped more supplies to thousands of members of an Iraqi minority who were trapped on a mountaintop after they fled the advance of the Islamic State armed group.
U.S. airstrikes launched in Iraq this week have focused on ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) or Islamic State fighters as they are also known, who have captured hundreds of women from the Yazidi religious minority, according to an Iraqi official. Thousands of other civilians have fled in fear. The U.S. said the strikes are also meant to protect American personnel stationed in Irbil, the capital of the country's autonomous Kurdistan region, where the extremists have been closing in.
Speaking at a news conference from the White House's South Lawn on Saturday morning, Obama said that "so far these strikes have successfully destroyed arms and equipment that [Islamic State] terrorists could have used against Irbil." [Ibril (or Erbil) is the largest city and capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region of or northern Iraq with population of about 1.5 million. It is 55 miles east of Mosul — Iraq’s second largest city, which was recently captured by ISIS. – AN]
"I'm not going to give a particular timetable [on strikes] because as I’ve said from the start, wherever and whenever U.S. personnel and facilities are threatened, it’s my obligation, my responsibility as commander-in-chief to make sure that they are protected," Obama said.
…. In his weekly address Saturday, Obama sought to reassure Americans wary of involvement in a country the U.S. withdrew forces from in 2011. “I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq,” Obama said. “American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq, because there’s no American military solution to the larger crisis there.”
.... For the U.S. military, which withdrew its forces from Iraq in late 2011 after more than eight years of war, the re-engagement began on Friday, when two jets dropped 500-pound bombs on a piece of artillery and the truck towing it. The Pentagon said the militants had been using the artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending Irbil, the site of a U.S. consulate and about three dozen American military trainers.
Later Friday, the U.S. launched a second round of airstrikes near Irbil, U.S. officials said. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the strikes publicly, said unmanned aircraft hit a mortar and four Navy F/A-18 fighter jets destroyed a seven-vehicle convoy.
.... Expanding from their stronghold of Mosul, ISIS fighters have captured a string of towns and Iraq's largest hydroelectric dam and reservoir in recent weeks. Ethnic and religious minorities, fearing persecution and slaughter, have fled as their towns fell.
According to the United Nations, more than 500,000 people have been displaced by the violence in Iraq since June, bringing the total this year to well over 1 million.
In contrast to Washington's decision to invade Iraq more than a decade ago, both the airdrop and the authorization of military action against the Islamic State group were widely welcomed by Iraqi and Kurdish officials fearful of the movement's advance.
15 US RE-ENGAGES IN IRAQ
WASHINGTON (AP, Friday 8-8-14) -- U.S. fighters dropped bombs on Islamic militants in Iraq Friday, the Pentagon said, carrying out President Barack Obama's promise of military force to counter the advancing militants and confront the threat they pose to Iraqi civilians and Americans still stationed there.
Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said that two F/A-18 jets dropped 500-pound bombs on a piece of artillery and the truck towing it. Kirby said the fighters had taken off from the aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush in the Persian Gulf to conduct the mission. He said it wasn't clear how many militants might have been killed in the strike.
The Pentagon said the militants were using the artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending Irbil.
For the United States, it was a re-engagement in the long sectarian war from which American combat forces had been withdrawn - on President Barack Obama's orders - in late 2011.
In a televised speech Thursday night, Obama threatened to renew U.S. military involvement. At the same time, he announced that U.S. military planes already had carried out airdrops of food and water, at the request of the Iraqi government, to tens of thousands of Iraqi religious minorities atop a mountain surrounded by militants and desperately in need of supplies. "America is coming to help," Obama declared.
Speaking to reporters while traveling in India Friday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the U.S. military has sufficient intelligence resources and assets in place to launch strikes by both manned and unmanned aircraft in the region.
Asked if the Islamic State group could successfully hide among civilians to evade strikes, Hagel said if the Islamic State moves against Irbil, Baghdad or the refugees trapped on a mountain, "it's pretty clear who they are, and they would be pretty identifiable where our airstrikes could be effective."
The Yazidis, who follow an ancient religion with ties to Zoroastrianism, fled their homes after the Islamic State group issued an ultimatum to convert to Islam, pay a religious fine, flee their homes or face death.
"Earlier this week, one Iraqi in the area cried to the world, `There is no one coming to help.' Well, today, America is coming to help," Obama said. "We're also consulting with other countries - and the United Nations - who have called for action to address this humanitarian crisis."
The announcement reflected the deepest American engagement in Iraq since U.S. troops left.
Obama, who made his remarks in a steady and somber tone, has staked much of his legacy as president on ending what he once called the "dumb war" in Iraq.
|Dropping aid to refugees on mountain.|
new round of U.S. military action would be a cause for concern among many Americans. He vowed anew not to put American combat troops back on the ground in Iraq and said there was no U.S. military solution to the crisis."As commander in chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq," Obama said.
Even so, he outlined a rationale for airstrikes in the event the Islamic State militants advanced on American troops in Irbil and the U.S. consulate there in the Kurdish region of Iraq. The troops were sent to Iraq earlier this year as part of the White House response to the extremist group's swift movement across the border with Syria and into Iraq.
"When the lives of American citizens are at risk, we will take action," Obama said. "That's my responsibility as commander in chief."
He said he had also authorized the use of targeted military strikes if necessary to help the Iraqi security forces protect civilians.
The Pentagon said the airdrops were performed by one C-17 and two C-130 cargo aircraft that together delivered a total of 72 bundles of food and water. They were escorted by two F/A-18 fighters from an undisclosed air base in the region.
The planes delivered 5,300 gallons of fresh drinking water and 8,000 pre-packaged meals and were over the drop area for less than 15 minutes at a low altitude....
16. U.S. AIR STRIKES KILLING 'HUNDREDS'
From International Business Times
The US military has launched air strikes against militants of the Islamic State in northern Iraq, according to the Pentagon. Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby tweeted: "US military aircraft conduct strike on Isil [Islamic State] artillery. Artillery was used against Kurdish forces defending Erbil, near US personnel.
Two F-18 fighters dropped laser-guided 500-pound bombs on the mobile artillery target. Militants of the Islamic State were using artillery that has been abandoned by the Iraqi army when it fled to shell Kurdish forces defending the regional capital of Kurdistan.
US airstrikes were very small and very targeted and the Peshmerga Kurdistan forces are waiting for more strikes by the US fighter jets, according to reports.
Khalid Jamal Alber, an official for the semi-autonomous Kurdish government in northern Iraq, said: "We thank Barack Obama". Iraqi army chief of staff Lieutenant General Babaker Zebari said he predicted "huge changes on the ground in the coming hours.”
17. CRITIQUE OF U.S. INTERVENTION IN IRAQ
From Democracy Now, 8-8-14
|Obama announcing Iraq engagement.|
Progressive foreign news analyst Phyllis Bennis was interviewed on Democracy Now today, Aug. 8, about the U.S. decision to intervene military in the Iraq conflict. She is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies who has written a number of books, including “Ending the Iraq War.” One of her recent pieces is headlined "Don’t Go Back to Iraq!: Five Steps the U.S. Can Take in Iraq Without Going Back to War."
Amy Goodman opened by asking her response to President Obama announcing that there will be possible airstrikes in Iraq, both because of what’s happening on the Sinjar Mountain and because Americans are threatened in Erbil.
PHYLLIS BENNIS: You know, there’s no question that the people that are particularly those that are exposed out on Sinjar Mountain are at great risk. It’s a terrible situation for civilians throughout that region. Having said that, the question of U.S. airstrikes is almost certainly going to make things worse and not better. This should have been the lesson we learned from what President Obama called the "dumb war." He admitted this time around there is no American military solution, and yet he’s authorizing American military actions. It doesn’t make any sense. There’s no logic to it.
The notion that there is going to be the need for airstrikes to protect the few dozen U.S. diplomats and a couple of hundred military people in Erbil, I think, is widely understood as a legal feint away from the reality. This is what allows the president, in his mind, apparently, to use military force without consulting Congress. We didn’t hear anything about his understanding of the War Powers Act, his understanding of his obligations to consult with Congress.
There were reports earlier yesterday afternoon that there had been consultations between the White House and Congress—not in any two-way sense, but that members of Congress were informed—but there’s been no details about what that consultation was about. This is simply the White House making the announcement that they may be about to go back to war. President Obama indicated that he’s aware of the widespread antiwar sentiment. I think the last polls indicated it was somewhere between 78 and 82 percent of people in the United States who are absolutely opposed to going back to Iraq militarily.
He said that we are uniquely capable. We are not uniquely capable. The United Nations, even before this move by President Obama, had offered the Iraqi government technical help to carry out real humanitarian airlifts to the people stuck on the mountain in Sinjar Mountain. The U.S. history of linking airdrops of food and water with bombing raids is not a good one. If we look back to the last time this happened, it was in November 2001 in Afghanistan, when you had the United States simultaneously dropping food packs — at that time, they were using MREs, Meals Ready to Eat, that were wrapped in strong, bright yellow plastic to make them easy to spot. They were being dropped to Afghan refugees who were fleeing the U.S. bombing of the cities, but at the same time the U.S. was dropping cluster bombs that also happened to be made with bright yellow plastic of exactly the same color. And no one knows how many children, in particular, were killed running to what they thought were food packages that turned out to be cluster bombs. This is not a safe way to carry out a humanitarian operation.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ (co-host): It’s four presidents now, in a quarter of a century, that the United States has been involved in some sort of military conflict connected to Iraq, beginning with the first President Bush beating back Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, then 10 years of no-fly zones and military sanctions, then the invasion by the second George Bush, and now this latest reversal of his own policy by President Obama. If there’s a definition of a quagmire, this is it. Your sense of why this continues now for, essentially, a generation?
|U.S. jet attacking northern Iraq.|
This is a situation where there is a huge set of dangers in the region as a result of this attack. There is no question that in Iraq any U.S. military attack now is going to be widely viewed as being in support of the incredibly corrupt, unpopular government of al-Maliki. Today, Friday, is supposed to be the deadline for the Parliament to choose a new prime minister. Maliki is under enormous pressure from the Parliament to step down. So far he has refused to do that, and the U.S. has said, "Oh, we’re not going to take a position on who should be the prime minister of Iraq, although we think there should be an inclusive government." Maliki has made clear his government is a sectarian government based on empowering the Shia community in Iraq to the detriment of Sunni, Christians, Yazidis and all other minorities. In that context, this is viewed widely as direct U.S. support for al-Maliki, and it seems to me that there is almost no way that al-Maliki is going to step down now.
People in and around Iraq are talking about the fact that the Sunni tribes will be prepared to move against the Islamic State, once they are clear that there is a government in Baghdad that is not a sectarian government in its own right. People welcomed ISIS (or (IS), the Islamic State. They welcomed them, not because they agree with them. They’ve been horrific in social terms, in terms of these communities. But they were welcome, particularly by Sunnis across Iraq, precisely because they represented an alternative to what was seen as the worse situation, being under the domination of this sectarian government in Baghdad.
So, the role of the U.S. now, with increasing military involvement back in Iraq, returning to Iraq, is going to put the U.S. in a situation where it’s widely going to be blamed for the continuing rise of sectarianism.
And in the region more broadly, it’s going to be pointed out what hypocrisy it is, where the United States is arming Israel to kill Palestinians in Gaza. The language that President Obama used, that there are innocent people facing violations on a massive scale, that describes the situation of Palestinian civilians in Gaza. And yet, rather than providing humanitarian aid, demanding that Israel open the gates of Gaza, that it open the border crossings, the United States instead is sending more weapons and more money to buy more weapons and more ammunition for those Israeli attacks. So, the question of how the U.S. is going to be blamed for this is even wider because of the simultaneous crisis underway in Gaza.
AMY GOODMAN: Phyllis, the president raised, the humanitarian issue of airdrops. The other issue was saving Americans in Erbil, the military advisers, the U.S. workers who are there. The other possibility is to move them.
PHYLLIS BENNIS: Exactly. If there was so much concern about these 40 or so diplomats and a couple of hundred military advisers — I’m not quite sure that they’re as threatened as some reports have indicated, but if there was that concern, that’s a completely doable thing to simply get them onto helicopters and planes and move them out. That’s a false, you know, rationale. It’s being used because both at the public level and, I think, for the Obama administration, their understanding of how they can use the limitations on acting unilaterally without consulting with Congress is shaped by the notion that American lives are at stake. If American lives are at stake on an emergency basis, it’s possible, under some circumstances, for the president to move. In this situation, there hasn’t been a move yet. There isn’t that level of urgency. You know, this is not a situation where there are not cellphones, where members of Congress cannot be called back to Washington, if necessary. They can be on a conference call. Technology makes many things available. We should let the White House know that; they seem to have forgotten. But if this was really so dangerous for those couple of hundred people, put them on a plane and get them out. That’s not a problem.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Phyllis, what about this issue of the threat to Erbil? We’re talking about the Kurdish region that was relatively peaceful compared to the rest of Iraq and supposedly had a military force that was quite capable, yet ISIS has managed to roll back the Kurdish forces, as well.
PHYLLIS BENNIS: Well, that’s right, Juan, except for, the thing that I think is important for us to understand is that ISIS is not operating alone. ISIS, or IS, the Islamic State, is a small operation of somewhere around 10,000 fighters. They are good fighters. They are well armed, with U.S.-supplied equipment that they have picked up all over Iraq. And it’s exactly what the danger is if the U.S. decides to send more weapons to Syria: We will see the same thing with the Islamic State fighters getting those weapons because they’re stronger fighters. But they have overcome the Kurdish fighters, the Peshmerga, only in one area, in the area near the dam, which does in fact threaten Erbil, in theory. But what’s important about IS is that part of the reason they appear so strong is that they are backed by military support from former generals, former strategists, former leaders of the Baathist army in Iraq who lost their jobs, lost their positions, lost their ability to protect their families, in many cases, at the time of the U.S. invasion in 2003 and have been sort of waiting for an opportunity to challenge the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad. And they also have the support, in many areas, of the Sunni tribal leaders and their militias.
Now, right now they’re not fighting in a massive scale. They were early on this year. They’ve pulled back. But there are every indication now that if there were a change in Baghdad, in the government, that the tribes would rise again against IS. That would place those tribal militias, as well as the other forces of the Peshmerga, against the former Baathists that are now fighting with IS. It’s an ugly kind of sectarianism that was put in place by the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. All of this sectarianism really can be traced back to that.
But I think it is important that we not see this as somehow a magic of this Islamist organization that somehow has such incredible power on its own to overcome the Peshmerga fighters, to overcome government forces. They are powerful because, one, they have really good weapons that are made here in the U.S., and, two, they have leadership and military capacity strengthened by these Baathist military forces that remain in Iraq.
18. UN: SOME RESCUED FROM MOUNTAIN SIEGE
|Yazidi minority family that fled from ISIS.|
The militants' capture of the nearby town of Sinjar, ancestral home of the Yazidi ethnic minority, had prompted tens of thousands of people to flee to the surrounding mountains.
"We’re just receiving the information right now. We’ve just heard that people over the last 24 hours have been extracted and the U.N. is mobilizing resources to ensure that these people are assisted on arrival," David Swanson said by phone from Iraq.
"This is a tragedy of immense proportions, impacting the lives of hundreds of thousands of people," he said.
"Over the past couple of days, almost 200,000 people have made their way northwards to Iraq’s Kurdistan region, Dohuk governorate, or to disputed border areas inside Ninewah," he said. “We have also received reports that thousands more may have fled across the border into Syria, and are waiting to cross back into Iraq, but I have no concrete confirmation of that.”
Sinjar district previously had a population of 308,000.
19. ISIS SURGES IN NORTHERN IRAQ
By AntiWar.com, 8- 7-14
ISIS continues to take advantage of its momentum in northern Iraq today, advancing keeper into Kurdish-held territory and seizing several new cities along the Kurdish frontier.
Among the most important cities to fall was Bakhdida (also known as Qaraqosh), a city in the Nineveh Province and the largest city of Iraqi Christians remaining.
Bakhdida normally only has around 50,000 residents, but was also housing a number of Iraqi Christian refugees from in and around Mosul since the ISIS takeover of that city in June.
Nearby villages, also mostly Christian, were overrun as well, and another influx of refugees is coming out of ISIS-held territory and into neighboring Iraqi Kurdistan.
Note: Some of the reports this article is based on came out of Iraqi Kurdistan. Though traditionally reliable sources of information, Kurdistan is openly lobbying for US military involvement at this point, and therefore efforts to “manage” information coming out of the region cannot be ruled out.
20. ISIS CONSOLIDATES ITS VICTORIES
By Patrick Cockburn
|ISIS troops praying for victories to consolidate their proposed Caliphate in Iraq and Syria.|
From London Review of Books, Aug. 21 issue, but written just before U.S. involvement
As the attention of the world focused on Ukraine and Gaza, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) captured a third of Syria in addition to the quarter of Iraq it had seized in June. The frontiers of the new Caliphate declared by ISIS on June 29 are expanding by the day and now cover an area larger than Great Britain and inhabited by at least six million people, a population larger than that of Denmark, Finland or Ireland.
In a few weeks of fighting in Syria ISIS has established itself as the dominant force in the Syrian opposition, routing the official al-Qaida affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, in the oil-rich province of Deir Ezzor and executing its local commander as he tried to flee. In northern Syria some 5,000 ISIS fighters are using tanks and artillery captured from the Iraqi army in Mosul to besiege half a million Kurds in their enclave at Kobani on the Turkish border. In central Syria, near Palmyra, ISIS fought the Syrian army as it overran the al-Shaer gasfield, one of the largest in the country, in a surprise assault that left an estimated 300 soldiers and civilians dead. Repeated government counter-attacks finally retook the gasfield but ISIS still controls most of Syria”s oil and gas production. The Caliphate may be poor and isolated but its oil wells and control of crucial roads provide a steady income in addition to the plunder of war.
The birth of the new state is the most radical change to the political geography of the Middle East since the Sykes-Picot Agreement was implemented in the aftermath of the First World War. Yet this explosive transformation has created surprisingly little alarm internationally or even among those in Iraq and Syria not yet under the rule of ISIS. Politicians and diplomats tend to treat ISIS as if it is a Bedouin raiding party that appears dramatically from the desert, wins spectacular victories and then retreats to its strongholds leaving the status quo little changed. Such a scenario is conceivable but is getting less and less likely as ISIS consolidates its hold on its new conquests in an area that may soon stretch from Iran to the Mediterranean.
The very speed and unexpectedness of its rise make it easy for Western and regional leaders to hope that the fall of ISIS and the implosion of the Caliphate might be equally sudden and swift. But all the evidence is that this is wishful thinking and the trend is in the other direction, with the opponents of ISIS becoming weaker and less capable of resistance: in Iraq the army shows no signs of recovering from its earlier defeats and has failed to launch a single successful counter-attack; in Syria the other opposition groups, including the battle-hardened fighters of al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, are demoralized and disintegrating as they are squeezed between ISIS and the Assad government. Karen Koning Abuzayd, a member of the UN's Commission of Inquiry in Syria, says that more and more Syrian rebels are defecting to ISIS: “They see it”s better, these guys are strong, these guys are winning battles, they were taking territory, they have money, they can train us.” This is bad news for the government, which barely held off an assault in 2012 and 2013 by rebels less well trained, organized and armed than ISIS; it will have real difficulties stopping the forces of the Caliphate advancing west.
In Baghdad there was shock and terror on 10 June at the fall of Mosul and as people realized that trucks packed with ISIS gunmen were only an hour”s drive away. But instead of assaulting Baghdad, ISIS took most of Anbar, the vast Sunni province that sprawls across western Iraq on either side of the Euphrates. In Baghdad, with its mostly Shia population of seven million, people know what to expect if the murderously anti-Shia ISIS forces capture the city, but they take heart from the fact that the calamity has not happened yet. “We were frightened by the military disaster at first but we Baghdadis have got used to crises over the last 35 years,” one woman said. Even with ISIS at the gates, Iraqi politicians have gone on playing political games as they move ponderously towards replacing the discredited prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.
“It is truly surreal,” a former Iraqi minister said. “When you speak to any political leader in Baghdad they talk as if they had not just lost half the country.” Volunteers had gone to the front after a fatwa from the grand ayatollah, Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s most influential Shia cleric. But these militiamen are now streaming back to their homes, complaining that they were half-starved and forced to use their own weapons and buy their own ammunition. The only large-scale counter-attack launched by the regular army and the newly raised Shia militia was a disastrous foray into Tikrit July 15 that was ambushed and defeated with heavy losses. There is no sign that the dysfunctional nature of the [U.S.-trained] Iraqi army has changed. “They were using just one helicopter in support of the troops in Tikrit,” the former minister said, “so I wonder what on earth happened to the 140 helicopters the Iraqi state has bought in recent years?”
Probably the money for the missing 139 helicopters was simply stolen. There are other wholly corrupt states in the world but few of them have oil revenues of $100 billion a year to steal from. The sole aim of many officials has long been to get the largest kickback possible and they did not much care if jihadi groups did the same.
|ISIS troops murdereing Iraqi soldiers last month.|
In the face of these failures Iraq's Shia majority is taking comfort from two beliefs that, if true, would mean the present situation is not as dangerous as it looks. They argue that Iraq”s Sunnis have risen in revolt and ISIS fighters are only the shock troops or vanguard of an uprising provoked by the anti-Sunni policies and actions of Maliki. Once he is replaced, as is almost certain, Baghdad will offer the Sunnis a new power-sharing agreement with regional autonomy similar to that enjoyed by the Kurds. Then the Sunni tribes, former military officers and Baathists who have allowed ISIS to take the lead in the Sunni revolt will turn on their ferocious allies. Despite all signs to the contrary, Shia at all levels are putting faith in this myth, that ISIS is weak and can be easily discarded by Sunni moderates once they've achieved their goals. One Shia said to me: “I wonder if ISIS really exists.”
Unfortunately, ISIS not only exists but is an efficient and ruthless organisation that has no intention of waiting for its Sunni allies to betray it. In Mosul it demanded that all opposition fighters swear allegiance to the Caliphate or give up their weapons. In late June and early July they detained between 15 to 20 former officers from Saddam Hussein”s time, including two generals. Groups that had put up pictures of Saddam were told to take them down or face the consequences. “It doesn”t seem likely,” Aymenn al-Tamimi, an expert on jihadists, said, “that the rest of the Sunni military opposition will be able to turn against ISIS successfully. If they do, they will have to act as quickly as possible before ISIS gets too strong.” He points out that the supposedly more moderate wing of the Sunni opposition had done nothing to stop the remnants of the ancient Christian community in Mosul from being forced to flee after ISIS told them they had to convert to Islam, pay a special tax or be killed. Members of other sects and ethnic groups denounced as Shia or polytheists are being persecuted, imprisoned and murdered. The moment is passing when the non-ISIS opposition could successfully mount a challenge.
The Iraqi Shia offer another explanation for the way their army disintegrated: it was stabbed in the back by the Kurds. Seeking to shift the blame from himself, Maliki claims that Erbil, the Kurdish capital, “is a headquarters for ISIS, Baathists, al-Qaida and terrorists.” Many Shia believe this: it makes them feel that their security forces (nominally 350,000 soldiers and 650,000 police) failed because they were betrayed and not because they wouldn't fight. One Iraqi told me he was at an iftar meal during Ramadan “with a hundred Shia professional people, mostly doctors and engineers and they all took the stab-in-the-back theory for granted as an explanation for what went wrong.” The confrontation with the Kurds is important because it makes it impossible to create a united front against ISIS. The Kurdish leader, Massoud Barzani, took advantage of the Iraqi army's flight to seize all the territories, including the city of Kirkuk, which have been in dispute between Kurds and Arabs since 2003. He now has a 600-mile common frontier with the Caliphate and is an obvious ally for Baghdad, where Kurds make up part of the government. By trying to scapegoat the Kurds, Maliki is ensuring that the Shia will have no allies in their confrontation with ISIS if it resumes its attack in the direction of Baghdad. ISIS and their Sunni allies have been surprised by the military weakness of the Baghdad government. They are unlikely to be satisfied with regional autonomy for Sunni provinces and a larger share of jobs and oil revenues. Their uprising has turned into a full counter-revolution that aims to take back power over all of Iraq.
At the moment Baghdad has a phoney war atmosphere like London or Paris in late 1939 or early 1940, and for similar reasons. People had feared an imminent battle for the capital after the fall of Mosul, but it hasn”t happened yet and optimists hope it won”t happen at all. Life is more uncomfortable than it used to be, with only four hours of electricity on some days, but at least war hasn”t yet come to the heart of the city. Nevertheless, some form of military attack, direct or indirect, will probably happen once ISIS has consolidated its hold on the territory it has just conquered: it sees its victories as divinely inspired. It believes in killing or expelling Shia rather than negotiating with them, as it has shown in Mosul. Some Shia leaders may calculate that the US or Iran will always intervene to save Baghdad, but both powers are showing reluctance to plunge into the Iraqi quagmire in support of a dysfunctional government.
Iraq's Shia leaders haven't grappled with the fact that their domination over the Iraqi state, brought about by the US overthrow of Saddam Hussein, is finished, and only a Shia rump is left. It ended because of their own incompetence and corruption and because the Sunni uprising in Syria in 2011 destabilised the sectarian balance of power in Iraq. Three years on, the ISIS-led Sunni victory in Iraq threatens to break the military stalemate in Syria. Assad has been slowly pushing back against a weakening opposition: in Damascus and its outskirts, the Qalamoun mountains along the Lebanese border and Homs, government forces have been advancing slowly and are close to encircling the large rebel enclave in Aleppo. But Assad's combat troops are noticeably thin on the ground, need to avoid heavy casualties and only have the strength to fight on one front at a time. The government's tactic is to devastate a rebel-held district with artillery fire and barrel bombs dropped from helicopters, force most of the population to flee, seal off what may now be a sea of ruins and ultimately force the rebels to surrender. But the arrival of large numbers of well-armed ISIS fighters fresh from recent successes will be a new and dangerous challenge for Assad. They overran two important Syrian army garrisons in the east in late July. A conspiracy theory, much favoured by the rest of the Syrian opposition and by Western diplomats, that ISIS and Assad are in league, has been shown to be false.
ISIS may well advance on Aleppo in preference to Baghdad: it's a softer target and one less likely to provoke international intervention. This will leave the West and its regional allies – Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey – with a quandary: their official policy is to get rid of Assad, but ISIS is now the second strongest military force in Syria; if he falls, it's in a good position to fill the vacuum. Like the Shia leaders in Baghdad, the US and its allies have responded to the rise of ISIS by descending into fantasy. They pretend they are fostering a “third force” of moderate Syrian rebels to fight both Assad and ISIS, though in private Western diplomats admit this group doesn”t really exist outside a few beleaguered pockets. Aymenn al-Tamimi confirms that this Western-backed opposition “is getting weaker and weaker”; he believes supplying them with more weapons won't make much difference. Jordan, under pressure from the US and Saudi Arabia, is supposed to be a launching pad for this risky venture but it's getting cold feet. “Jordan is frightened of ISIS,” one Jordanian official in Amman said. “Most Jordanians want Assad to win the war.” He said Jordan is buckling under the strain of coping with vast numbers of Syrian refugees, “the equivalent of the entire population of Mexico moving into the US in one year”.
The foster parents of ISIS and the other Sunni jihadi movements in Iraq and Syria are Saudi Arabia, the Gulf monarchies and Turkey. This doesn”t mean the jihadis didn't have strong indigenous roots, but their rise was crucially supported by outside Sunni powers. The Saudi and Qatari aid was primarily financial, usually through private donations, which Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, says were central to the ISIS takeover of Sunni provinces in northern Iraq: “Such things do not happen spontaneously.” In a speech in London in July, he said the Saudi policy towards jihadis has two contradictory motives: fear of jihadis operating within Saudi Arabia, and a desire to use them against Shia powers abroad. He said the Saudis are “deeply attracted towards any militancy which can effectively challenge Shiadom.” It”s unlikely the Sunni community as a whole in Iraq would have lined up behind ISIS without the support Saudi Arabia gave directly or indirectly to many Sunni movements. The same is true of Syria, where Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former Saudi ambassador to Washington and head of Saudi intelligence from 2012 to February 2014, was doing everything he could to back the jihadi opposition until his dismissal. Fearful of what they've helped create, the Saudis are now veering in the other direction, arresting jihadi volunteers rather than turning a blind eye as they go to Syria and Iraq, but it may be too late. Saudi jihadis have little love for the House of Saud. On 23 July, ISIS launched an attack on one of the last Syrian army strongholds in the northern province of Raqqa. It began with a suicide car-bomb attack; the vehicle was driven by a Saudi called Khatab al-Najdi who had put pictures on the car windows of three women held in Saudi prisons, one of whom was Hila al-Kasir, his niece.
Turkey”s role has been different but no less significant than Saudi Arabia's in aiding ISIS and other jihadi groups. Its most important action has been to keep open its 510-mile border with Syria. This gave ISIS, al-Nusra and other opposition groups a safe rear base from which to bring in men and weapons. The border crossing points have been the most contested places during the rebels” “civil war within the civil war.” Most foreign jihadis have crossed Turkey on their way to Syria and Iraq. Precise figures are difficult to come by, but Morocco”s Interior Ministry said recently that 1,122 Moroccan jihadists have entered Syria, including 900 who went in 2013, 200 of whom were killed. Iraqi security suspects that Turkish military intelligence may have been heavily involved in aiding ISIS when it was reconstituting itself in 2011. Reports from the Turkish border say ISIS is no longer welcome, but with weapons taken from the Iraqi army and the seizure of Syrian oil and gasfields, it no longer needs so much outside help.
For America, Britain and the Western powers, the rise of ISIS and the Caliphate is the ultimate disaster. Whatever they intended by their invasion of Iraq in 2003 and their efforts to get rid of Assad in Syria since 2011, it was not to see the creation of a jihadi state spanning northern Iraq and Syria run by a movement a hundred times bigger and much better organised than the al-Qaida of Osama bin Laden. The war on terror for which civil liberties have been curtailed and hundreds of billions of dollars spent has failed miserably. The belief that ISIS is interested only in “Muslim against Muslim” struggles is another instance of wishful thinking: ISIS has shown it will fight anybody who doesn”t adhere to its bigoted, puritanical and violent variant of Islam. Where ISIS differs from al-Qaida is that it”s a well-run military organisation that is very careful in choosing its targets and the optimum moment to attack them.
Many in Baghdad hope the excesses of ISIS – for example, blowing up mosques it deems shrines, like that of Younis (Jonah) in Mosul – will alienate the Sunnis. In the long term they may do just that, but opposing ISIS is very dangerous and, for all its brutality, it has brought victory to a defeated and persecuted Sunni community. Even those Sunnis in Mosul who don”t like it are fearful of the return of a vengeful Shia-dominated Iraqi government. So far Baghdad's response to its defeat has been to bomb Mosul and Tikrit randomly, leaving local people in no doubt about its indifference to their welfare or survival. The fear will not change even if Maliki is replaced by a more conciliatory prime minister. A Sunni in Mosul, writing just after a missile fired by government forces had exploded in the city, told me: “Maliki”s forces have already demolished the University of Tikrit. It has become havoc and rubble like all the city. If Maliki reaches us in Mosul he will kill its people or turn them into refugees. Pray for us.” Such views are common, and make it less likely that Sunnis will rise up in opposition to ISIS and its Caliphate. A new and terrifying state has been born.
21. KURDISH FORCES STRUGGLE TO COUNTER ISIS
Various reports indicated the Islamic State extended its territorial gains Aug. 7, with peshmerga forces withdrawing from areas near Mosul including Hamdania, Bashiqa and Qosh. Other reports indicated that peshmerga forces might have withdrawn from Makhmur as well, though the Kurdistan Regional Government's Ministry of Peshmerga denies this.
According to unconfirmed reports from Kurdish officials, U.S. air assets struck Islamic State targets near Sinjar to support embattled minorities suffering from an ever-growing humanitarian disaster. Senior Pentagon official John Kirby has since denied these reports, however.
Hamdania, Bashiqa and Qosh had been under Kurdish Regional Government control since 2003. Peshmerga forces seized the Makhmur oil field and nearby Bai Hassan oil field July 11, but ongoing skirmishes with Islamic State forces leave the fate of these fields in question. Western oil companies have reportedly pulled personnel out of unspecified locations in Kurdish Regional Government territory.
The fighting in the contested border area between Islamic State forces and peshmerga forces remains highly fluid, with the peshmerga taking some towns and the Islamic State taking others. Recent Islamic State attacks near Kurdish Regional Government territory have been confined to areas with well-known Sunni militancy and to territories that the peshmerga recently expanded into but in which they had not yet solidified their presence. In terms of territory alone, the Islamic State is still superior, though the fighting is far from over.
The Islamic State's primary advantage is in its mobility. Offensively, Islamic State militants tend to flow and mass where the Iraqi and Kurdish security presence is weak. As the peshmerga maneuver to concentrate on certain threats and counterattack, Islamic State elements flank defending forces in surprise attacks. The peshmerga's current difficulties therefore are not losing conventional battles with the Islamic State, but rather being forced to decline battle and retreat in order to regroup forces to better defend strategic positions at energy infrastructure and population centers. The peshmerga can harden and secure important places, but the Islamic State retains the ability to exploit and perform deep raids through gaps that open.
22. TURKISH WARPLANES IN IRAQ
By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com 8-7-17
Turkish media are reporting that F-16s from Turkey are now looming overhead in northern Iraq, and some reports suggest they may have carried out bombing sorties against ISIS, the first stage of a growing international war in Iraq.
President Obama has announced his intentions to commence a US air war in northern Iraq, authorizing airstrikes against ISIS targets in the area, as well as rescue missions to save Yazidis trapped on a mountaintop.
It won’t just be the US and Turkey, either, as France has also pledged non-specific “technical support” to the international war effort to expel ISIS from the region, though at this point French sources say that sending troops is not being considered.
Iran is already involved in the ISIS war, with troops participating in the defense of Iraqi territory. Syria has also carried out some airstrikes against ISIS along what was once the Iraq-Syria border, but now simply straddles the ISIS caliphate.
It’s an unusual collection of nations to be involved in a war, and reflects growing regional concern about the growing ISIS nation, and in particular its recent moves into Iraqi Kurdistan.
Note: Some of the reports this article is based on came out of Iraqi Kurdistan. Though traditionally reliable sources of information, Kurdistan is openly lobbying for US military involvement at this point, and therefore efforts to “manage” information coming out of the region cannot be ruled out.