Sunday, January 4, 2009


Simon Tisdall, Guardian UK - Obama has remained wholly silent during the Gaza crisis. His aides say he is following established protocol that the US has only one president at a time. Hillary Clinton, his designated secretary of state, and Joe Biden, the vice-president-elect and foreign policy expert, have also been uncharacteristically taciturn on the subject.

But evidence is mounting that Obama is already losing ground among key Arab and Muslim audiences that cannot understand why, given his promise of change, he has not spoken out. Arab commentators and editorialists say there is growing disappointment at Obama's detachment - and that his failure to distance himself from George Bush's strongly pro-Israeli stance is encouraging the belief that he either shares Bush's bias or simply does not care.

The Al-Jazeera satellite television station recently broadcast footage of Obama on holiday in Hawaii, wearing shorts and playing golf, juxtaposed with scenes of bloodshed and mayhem in Gaza. Its report criticizing "the deafening silence from the Obama team" suggested Obama is losing a battle of perceptions among Muslims that he may not realize has even begun. . .

Obama's absence from the fray is also allowing hostile voices to exploit the vacuum. "It would appear that the president-elect has no intention of getting involved in the Gaza crisis," Iran's Resalat newspaper commented sourly. "His stances and viewpoints suggest he will follow the path taken by previous American presidents. . . Obama, too, will pursue policies that support the Zionist aggressions."

Whether Obama, when he does eventually engage, can successfully elucidate an Israel-Palestine policy that is substantively different from that of Bush-Cheney is wholly uncertain at present.

To maintain the hard line US posture of placing the blame for all current troubles squarely on Hamas, to the extent of repeatedly blocking limited UN security council ceasefire moves, would be to end all realistic hopes of winning back Arab opinion - and could have negative, knock-on consequences for US interests in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf.

Yet if Obama were to take a tougher (some would say more balanced) line with Israel, for example by demanding a permanent end to its blockade of Gaza, or by opening a path to talks with Hamas, he risks provoking a rightwing backlash in Israel, giving encouragement to Israel's enemies, and losing support at home for little political advantage. . .

On the campaign trail, Obama (like Clinton) was broadly supportive of Israel and specifically condemnatory of Hamas. But at the same time, he held out the prospect of radical change in western relations with Muslims everywhere, promising to make a definitive policy speech in a "major Islamic forum" within 100 days of taking office.

"I will make clear that we are not at war with Islam, that we will stand with those who are willing to stand up for their future, and that we need their effort to defeat the prophets of hate and violence," he said.

As the Gaza casualty headcount goes up and Obama keeps his head down, those sentiments are beginning to sound a little hollow. The danger is that when he finally peers over the parapet on January 21, the battle of perceptions may already be half-lost.


At January 5, 2009 12:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the majority of Muslims are actually opposed to what Israel is doing, then why are Muslim nations such as Egypt cooperating and working with Israel to blockade Gaza? Why don't they open the borders and let the Gazans travel in their country? Why? Because they know the truth.

Mr. Tisdall obviously doesn't know much about American politics (or Muslim politics for that matter). It would be political suicide for Obama to state that he does not believe in the right of self-defense, and state that he would not defend the American people from rocket attacks. There are very, very few people in the world who do not believe in the right of self-defense.

At January 5, 2009 11:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Jan 5 12:11 AM

What Israel is doing is called "ethnic cleansing" and what Obama is doing is called "maintaining the status-quo".

As for the "Why don't they open the borders and let the Gazans travel in their country?" Who cares? It's their land why the hell should they be forced to leave it?

Self defense my arse.

(Cue charges of "anti-semitism" in three, two, one...)

At January 5, 2009 3:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Top 5 Lies About Israel’s Assault on Gaza

Jeremy R. Hammond
Dissident Voice
Monday, Jan 5, 2008

Lie #1) Israel is only targeting legitimate military sites and is seeking to protect innocent lives. Israel never targets civilians.

The Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated pieces of property in the world. The presence of militants within a civilian population does not, under international law, deprive that population of their protected status, and hence any assault upon that population under the guise of targeting militants is, in fact, a war crime.

Moreover, the people Israel claims are legitimate targets are members of Hamas, which Israel says is a terrorist organization. Hamas has been responsible for firing rockets into Israel. These rockets are extremely inaccurate and thus, even if Hamas intended to hit military targets within Israel, are indiscriminate by nature. When rockets from Gaza kill Israeli civilians, it is a war crime.

Hamas has a military wing. However, it is not entirely a military organization, but a political one. Members of Hamas are the democratically elected representatives of the Palestinian people. Dozens of these elected leaders have been kidnapped and held in Israeli prisons without charge. Others have been targeted for assassination, such as Nizar Rayan, a top Hamas official. To kill Rayan, Israel targeted a residential apartment building. The strike not only killed Rayan but two of his wives and four of his children, along with six others. There is no justification for such an attack under international law. This was a war crime.

Other of Israel’s bombardment with protected status under international law have included a mosque, a prison, police stations, and a university, in addition to residential buildings.

Moreover, Israel has long held Gaza under siege, allowing only the most minimal amounts of humanitarian supplies to enter. Israel is bombing and killing Palestinian civilians. Countless more have been wounded, and cannot receive medical attention. Hospitals running on generators have little or no fuel. Doctors have no proper equipment or medical supplies to treat the injured. These people, too, are the victims of Israeli policies targeted not at Hamas or legitimate military targets, but directly designed to punish the civilian population.

Lie #2) Hamas violated the cease-fire. The Israeli bombardment is a response to Palestinian rocket fire and is designed to end such rocket attacks.

Israel never observed the cease-fire to begin with. From the beginning, it announced a “special security zone” within the Gaza Strip and announced that Palestinians who enter this zone will be fired upon. In other words, Israel announced its intention that Israeli soldiers would shoot at farmers and other individuals attempting to reach their own land in direct violation of not only the cease-fire but international law.

Despite shooting incidents, including ones resulting in Palestinians getting injured, Hamas still held to the cease-fire from the time it went into effect on June 19 until Israel effectively ended the truce on November 4 by launching an airstrike into Gaza that killed five and injured several others.

Israel’s violation of the cease-fire predictably resulted in retaliation from militants in Gaza who fired rockets into Israel in response. The increased barrage of rocket fire at the end of December is being used as justification for the continued Israeli bombardment, but is a direct response by militants to the Israeli attacks.

Israel’s actions, including its violation of the cease-fire, predictably resulted in an escalation of rocket attacks against its own population.

Lie #3) Hamas is using human shields, a war crime.

There has been no evidence that Hamas has used human shields. The fact is, as previously noted, Gaza is a small piece of property that is densely populated. Israel engages in indiscriminate warfare such as the assassination of Nizar Rayan, in which members of his family were also murdered. It is victims like his dead children that Israel defines as “human shields” in its propaganda. There is no legitimacy for this interpretation under international law. In circumstances such as these, Hamas is not using human shields, Israel is committing war crimes in violation of the Geneva Conventions and other applicable international law.

Lie #4) Arab nations have not condemned Israel’s actions because they understand Israel’s justification for its assault.

The populations of those Arab countries are outraged at Israel’s actions and at their own governments for not condemning Israel’s assault and acting to end the violence. Simply stated, the Arab governments do not represent their respective Arab populations. The populations of the Arab nations have staged mass protests in opposition to not only Israel’s actions but also the inaction of their own governments and what they view as either complacency or complicity in Israel’s crimes.

Moreover, the refusal of Arab nations to take action to come to the aid of the Palestinians is not because they agree with Israel’s actions, but because they are submissive to the will of the US, which fully supports Israel. Egypt, for instance, which refused to open the border to allow Palestinians wounded in the attacks to get medical treatment in Egyptian hospitals, is heavily dependent upon US aid, and is being widely criticized within the population of the Arab countries for what is viewed as an absolute betrayal of the Gaza Palestinians.

Even Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been regarded as a traitor to his own people for blaming Hamas for the suffering of the people of Gaza. Palestinians are also well aware of Abbas’ past perceived betrayals in conniving with Israel and the US to sideline the democratically elected Hamas government, culminating in a counter-coup by Hamas in which it expelled Fatah (the military wing of Abbas’ Palestine Authority) from the Gaza Strip. While his apparent goal was to weaken Hamas and strengthen his own position, the Palestinians and other Arabs in the Middle East are so outraged at Abbas that it is unlikely he will be able to govern effectively.

Lie #5) Israel is not responsible for civilian deaths because it warned the Palestinians of Gaza to flee areas that might be targeted.

Israel claims it sent radio and telephone text messages to residents of Gaza warning them to flee from the coming bombardment. But the people of Gaza have nowhere to flee to. They are trapped within the Gaza Strip. It is by Israeli design that they cannot escape across the border. It is by Israeli design that they have no food, water, or fuel by which to survive. It is by Israeli design that hospitals in Gaza have no electricity and few medical supplies with which to treat the injured and save lives. And Israel has bombed vast areas of Gaza, targeting civilian infrastructure and other sites with protected status under international law. No place is safe within the Gaza Strip.

At January 6, 2009 10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gee, 11:56 and 3:44, I have one small question: why can neither of you answer rhe first point to be made in 12:11's comment, namely that if the Muslim sttes are in such great opposition to Israeli actions then why are a number of them co-operating with Israel's blockade of Gaza? Why have these muslim states for decades consistently refused to open their borders to the Palestinians, for that matter?

Objectivity, my arse. The pair of you spout the same blowhard shit vis-a-vis the conflict that it's now become fashionable to spout, but when asked any hard questions with regard to your Muslim pals, 'duck and evade' becomes the manouever of choice.

At January 6, 2009 10:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

how about this for starters? Israel stole Gaza with their preemptive occupation of 1967 and Egypt would prefer they once again controlled the area rather than have the land ceded to the Palestinians.

At January 6, 2009 10:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

published in this weel's Americans For Peace Now Peace Report [APN is the American extention of the Israeli organization, Peace Now}

HAMAS QUESTION DIVIDES ARAB, MUSLIM LEADERS: “The involvement of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in pushing a ceasefire indicates primarily the deep-seated differences between the Syria-Hamas-Iran axis and the Egypt-Saudi Arabia-Palestinian Authority axis,” writes Haaretz columnist Zvi Bar’el on Thursday.
“Saudi Arabia and Egypt,” Bar’el explains, “seek to prevent Hamas from not only setting the ceasefire terms, but from gaining the status of a sovereign authority, an almost-government, undermining Mahmoud Abbas’ authority and becoming an equal to Israel or any other partner in the ceasefire. Egypt is concerned that a separate ceasefire with Hamas, under Arab and international pressure, could be considered recognition of Gaza’s separation from the West Bank, turning the Strip into a Syrian-Iranian satellite on Egypt’s border.”
The other axis, Bar’el writes, “sees Turkish brokering as a chance to achieve full partnership in the crisis management, and later, as a veto-holder over the rest of the Israel-Palestinian negotiations… Hamas is opposed for the moment to the Egyptian plan that delegitimizes it as a governmental authority, and demands total control of the crossings, a ceasefire contingent on Israel stopping all ‘acts of aggression’ and opening the crossings between Israel and Gaza.”
In this context, Bar’el believes that “Hamas can already chalk up a few achievements in this conflict. It didn’t seek the ceasefire – Egypt, the Arab League, the Palestinian Authority and France are trying to convince it and Israel to accept one. Thus Hamas moves itself and Gaza from a local conflict between Israel and the organization into the international and inter-Arab arenas. Hamas, which has conquered Arab public opinion, has also won the status of a legitimate and critical partner in the dialogue in which the legitimacy of the Israel’s attack is crumbling…”
The rivalry between Hamas and Fatah is playing out on the sidelines of the Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian police cracked down on protests organized by Hamas in the West Bank on Friday. “We will prohibit any signs and slogans that are hostile to the Palestinian Authority, and prohibit incitement,” PA Information Minister Riad Malki told Haaretz. “Security forces have been instructed to deal with these demonstrations.” On Sunday, the Jerusalem Post reported that Hamas militiamen are lashing out against Fatah activists for fear that they might exploit the crisis to undermine Hamas’ rule. Some Fatah supporters have been detained. Others have reportedly been shot in the leg or had their hands broken. More than 35 Gazans are said to have been executed under suspicion that they had collaborated with Israel. (Haaretz, 1/1 & 1/2/08; Jerusalem Post, 1/4/08)

At January 6, 2009 11:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ January 6, 2009 10:00 AM

The answer is actually quite simple: we refuse to get bogged down in irrelevant minutiae.

Understand this: Thousands and thousands of people no longer believe Israeli propaganda because the internet makes it impossible for Israel to hide its crimes.

The fact that you are frothing at the mouth is a prime indication of Israel losing the P.R. war.

Israel will go the way of Apartheid South Africa, you can be sure of this.

Have a nice day.

At January 6, 2009 12:00 PM, Anonymous T. Lassiter Jones said...

I fail to see the point of the piece. Obama has never said or implied anything other than total support for unilateral Israeli militarism, as shown by his stated opposition to a "two-state" solution in Palestine (putting him to the right of even George Bush), and by his stacking of the incoming administration with virulent anti-Palestinian war hawks.

The amount of wishful thinking and sheer delusional projection that people impose on Obama, despite his clearly stated words and actions to the contrary, is one of the great mysteries of contemporary politics.

At January 6, 2009 1:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Irrelevant minutiae"?!

That is a KEY QUESTION, 11:03! If you can really fob off a reply of that degree of astounding stupidity and believe that you've answered anything, then further discussion with you would be as pointless as discussion of the theory of evolution with a die hard fundamentalist. You're deluded, and nothing will ever shake you from your delusions, apparently.

At January 6, 2009 7:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's close to impossible for me to believe that anyone, even an American Jew, can be so deluded and protected , he doesn't know Hamas abided by the last ceasefire while IDF violated it often and at will. The real dispute between Hamas and Israel was the blockade; that's why they were shooting those crappy little rockets. Hamas had offered to sign the Arab league proposal (recognition and peace for Israel, pre-sixty- seven borders. right of return, self determination, and East Jeruselem for Palestine) I recently read an account with substantive proof of how UK trained Khmer Rouge, and US (mainly via Kissinger) funded and otherwise supported Pol Pot. Now they're at it again US and UK stirring up the shit, standing on the sideline yelling,"Kick his ass!" Well I"m tired of paying for shit that turns my stomach and so are most of my countrymen, jewish and otherwise.

At January 6, 2009 8:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Even an American Jew"?

How nicely worded, 7:30. You're batting a thousand in the ignorant remarks department--let's see if you can keep it up.

Or we could all just sit around growing cobwebs waiting for your silly ass to say something remotely intelligent.

At January 6, 2009 9:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What? I'm supposed to feel badly or intimidated? Obviously an American Jew would likely see things from Israel's viewpoint as a Palestininian would see things from the perspective of, say, a murdered child. I am neither Palestinian or Jew but I see you throw around words like intelligent . What does intelligence matter if you have no heart? If all that matters is you must have your way because you think you are smart and you think you are better ?. For that children must die? Who in the fuck do you think you are?

At January 7, 2009 6:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

save it, 8:48 is a provocative troll

At January 7, 2009 7:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fortunately for them, and for us, a genuinely pro-Israel policy -- one that cares about the peace and security of the Israeli people -- will and must oppose the militaristic policies of the current Israeli leadership. The only way for Israel to achieve peace is to recognize the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to their own fully independent and completely viable state in all of the West Bank and Gaza -- with no Israeli settlements or security roads or military personnel left in Palestine; with the Palestinians left alone to have whatever government they democratically choose, even a government devoted to Islamic principles; with no surreptitious Israeli policies undermining the political and economic success of the Palestinian state; with the Israeli people living in peace and safety, within the borders of June 4, 1967 (with minor border rectifications mutually agreed upon, if necessary); with the Palestinian people compensated, both monetarily and by formal Israeli apology, for the injustice and suffering they have endured for sixty years.

This is the truly pro-Israel policy. It's the only one that can break down the wall -- both literal and psychological -- that Israeli Jews have created to separate themselves from their neighbors. It's the only one that can give Israel peace and security and release the energies of its people to realize the Zionist dream, to fulfill the highest aspirations of the Jewish people. It calls for the Jewish people to give up nothing that is truly their right and due.

It's also pro-Palestinian and pro-peace. It opens the way to productive cooperation between Jews and Palestinians, living side in two secure states, not merely in grudging toleration but in genuine friendship and mutuality.

If enough of the "movable" people in congress and the Obama administration start making that argument, both in public and in private, U.S. policy will begin to change -- very slowly, to be sure, but it will change. And that will produce fundamental change in the Middle East. Regardless of what Israeli leaders say to win votes at home, in fact they need U.S. support to continue their policies of occupation and force.

So even if your only goal is to relieve the suffering of the Palestinians, the best strategy right now is to avoid the appearance of being a one-sided "pro-Palestinian" advocate. The best strategy is to declare that you are pro-Palestine, pro-Israel, and pro-peace. Demand an end to the Israeli occupation and a guarantee of full independence for Palestine, but at the same time insist over and over that you support this program because you want the best for everyone in the region, Israelis as well as Palestinians.

This is the program being advocated by Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, J Street, and other Jewish peace organizations in the U.S., as well as by Gush Shalom and other Jewish movements in Israel, which can still bring thousands into the streets to demonstrate for peace and justice. The best way to help the Palestinian people now is to forge a powerful alliance between these groups and the many groups advocating Palestinian rights, recognizing that ultimately we all want the same thing.

At January 7, 2009 11:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Far better a provocative troll than a gibbering idiot, 6:58. At least the troll's provocations might end up stimulating some thought. 9:53's comment leads me to suspect he's a troll (and I mean 'troll' in the traditional sense of the word in his case as referring to an ugly, mentally or morally deformed imp) who tends to take any display of intelligence issuing from his opponent as a personal insult or threat. Which in his case it very likely is.


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