last night i watched “inside story” with imran garda on al jazeera and was happy to see, finally, some historical context, some useful thinking about the massacre in gaza and the roots of this problem–particularly for the jockeying of power over the palestinians not only by israeli terrorist colonists, but also by regional players who are the pimps and pawns for the west. the historical material i’ve transcribed below, but i strongly recommend watching this discussion, which thankfully has no israeli terrorists spewing their lies, hate, and propaganda; without them one can get at a much richer, much more contextualized analysis. garda interviews journalist robert fisk and mahdi abdul hadi of the palestinian academic society for the study of international affairs in al quds. incidentally, carlos latuff’s latest cartoon was apparently drawn for “inside story,” and al jazeera more generally, to show the lack of media access to gaza, one of the many forms of control the israeli terrorist regime uses to hide its war crimes.
imran garda: is sharm al shaykh a serious summit? the summit that is going on, that is being discussed on sunday? or is it just face-saving for egypt?
mahdi abdul hadi: well, it’s more than face-saving for egypt. it covers europe and the palestinian authority as well as israelis. we witness why the israelis want to unilaterally call for ceasefire and this morning again hamas came with the ceasefire for one week in order to see what lies ahead. sharm al shaykh summit covers 3 aspects.
1. that egypt is again claiming its role as a leader in the region and it has a say;
2. to bring europeans–those who have been very, politically hypocrites looking for israeli security and safety and did nothing, absolutely nothing for the last 22 days of the massacre of the palestinians in gaza. and now they are meeting people halfway for their own society. people are demonstrating in every capitol in europe, as well as looking for humanitarian aid to transfer the palestine question to humanitarian aid. as well as the united nations who accepted to be in one seat in the quartet doing absolutely nothing and run behind condoleeza rice’s decisions. egyptians are trying to balance between the doha conference and the coming kuwait conference–to tell the arab regimes: “i’m here and i have a say.” number one i tried to convince the israelis to hold the ceasefire and they are meeting us halfway while the israelis took the decision a long time ago exactly as mr. robert fisk was saying. in time for obama’s administration, and two to save face for israeli public opinion, and three not to sign a deal with hamas. and they want unilaterally in order not to recognize hamas as they did it exactly with hezbollah in 2006.
the sharm al shaykh conference today is–egypt is saying today–“i’m here, i have a say.” two, europeans are saying “we missed it for 22 days, but we can compensate for humanitarian aid.” three, united nations is saying “we can assist and facilitate.” four, the israelis are all going to open the door for all those hypocrites to say we can do something for those miserable, defeated, beaten, humiliated, destroyed palestinians in gaza.
imran garda: egypt must have fumed when it saw the scenes coming out of the doha summit . here you had hamas on a pedestal. you had khaled mesh’al speaking first alongside all these heads of state, given the legitimacy it so craves and it hasn’t gotten from the israelis and now egypt must have been going ballistic over that.
robert fisk: well, dr. abdul hadi doesn’t mince his words. but i think he’s got it pretty well right. i mean, you gotta realize it’s the fate of autocrats who take money and military assistance from the west as much as the arab potentates, arab kings and princes and presidents do, to have to come to heel and find they are playing second fiddle from time to time. i agree with you on the worthlessness of sharm al shaykh. no one is talking about opening all the borders of gaza to food and fuel, which is what the palestinians want. i think it’s very interesting and i wonder if dr. abdul hadi knows the date today because it is exactly, to this day, the 90th anniversary of the opening of the paris peace conference of 1919 which created the modern middle east through the versailles treaty and crated the whole mess that we’re in now. in fact, on 18th of january 1919, one of the first items on the agenda of the french, and the british, and the germans, and the czechs, and the turks–all of whom are at sharm al shaykh today–was the borders of palestine. well, welcome to the ghosts of the past. i’ll bet they’ll be in sharm al shaykh listening.
imran garda: bashar al assad said at doha that the arab peace initiative of 2002 is dead now. that was his strong declaration. how significant is that statement from the syrian president?
mahdi abdul hadi: just allow me one footnote very quickly to mr. robert fisk. i tend to agree with you as a student of history. 1919 definitely imposed a mandate on the whole arab world and on the region. palestinians were demanding self-determination. and palestinians were demanding to be a part of arab united countries. today we don’t have a paris peace conference of 1919. today we don’t have a madrid conference. we don’t have any of these above conferences. people are waiting to see this young man, obama, and i hope they will not be very much disappointed with him vis-a-vis his agenda in the middle east. israelis jump before anyone else to impose the agenda. security for israel and involving nato and all these european heads of state meeting today in sharm al shaykh to maintain law and order or security for israel first. and then look for the palestinians today as humanitarian aid. and maybe using their assets in order to have a say in daily affairs of palestinian society and try to save mahmoud abbas from sinking in what has really been happening for the last 22 days. to give him sort of legitimacy and recognition after he lost it already from his people. now coming back to bashar al assad’s statement, doha summit was very clear in preparing the agenda for kuwait summit. and that’s why the egyptians today are hosting the sharm al shaykh conference to tell everyone we are concerned not only about the economy, but the palestinian issue and we can have a say in shaping the future of palestine with mahmoud abbas and not with somebody else. doha conference or doha summit put on the agenda that people who are meeting today, wherever they are, under any circumstances, cannot talk any more about the arab initiative of 2002–nor the question of normalization with israel while palestinians are bleeding. this is basically one. number two, to introduce and recognize hamas as sharing the saying of the palestinian future–legitimately elected, responsible, and resistance and having now a say. not only by a statement of mesh’al in doha, but telling the arab summit that tomorrow, in kuwait, you cannot be alone in defeated, divided, weak, no vision, no leadership of fatah and the wider society. these people are resistance and these people are paying the price. and they should be recognized. and the third level, definitely, for europeans who are meeting today in sharm al shaykh, if we want to talk about economy and development, we have to talk from a regional perspective and not limiting it only to gaza. and this is exactly what doha did: it prepared the homework, prepared the draft resolution for kuwaiti summit in order to challenge those who are still wishing to work on the peace process as the old state. today we are entering a new chapter in palestine and the region. the man in the street will not accept the status quo as before. and israelis are very much exposed as liars, as cheaters, as killers, as occupiers, and playing the game of maintaining the status quo and taking the land and transferring the palestine question in terms of people to the arab house: egypt and jordan.
imran garda: interesting that you mentioned the 90th anniversary of the paris peace summit. i wonder in years to come–90 years from now–when people look into the history books and see not only rival factions, but they see rival summits, it will look ridiculous won’t it?
robert fisk: well, we know the man who was at the paris peace conference, who was trying to bring peace to the world, and that was president wilson of the united states, with clemenceau of france there as well, and lloyd george for london. whether we’ll know who nicolas sarkozy is–or gordon brown–in 90 years time–gordon who? nicholas who? look, i think you’ve got to see, i think this summit is intended to enhance mahmoud abbas, who cannot frankly be enhanced. but i think there is an issue that we’re not really dealing with here and that is that i don’t think that hamas won this war. one of the things that struck me in particular is that hamas seemed to think that in its rhetoric that it is the same as hezbollah. and it’s not. that’s a serious error. they do not have the same ability to fight the israeli army as hezbollah had. and what is particularly interesting is their total lack of security. there remains inside gaza, clearly, a forest of collaborators, informers, and spies either working for fatah or working directly for the israelis who were able to give away the addresses of every home and hideout of hamas members and that’s why senior members were killed by the israelis. so what we need to look at is not just hamas as a political organization, but how it really didn’t do very well against the israelis militarily. and i think that it is important to remember these things because hezbollah has a place in the politics of lebanon because militarily it’s worth something, whatever you think of it yourself, whereas hamas i’m not so sure. we’re able to talk about the election in which those pesky palestinians voted for the wrong people, they voted for hamas, but we must also remember the coup in gaza which killed 151 palestinians. i’m not sure that hamas is going to come out of this with its shield shining bright in the sunshine.
imran garda: mahdi abdul hadi had echoes of 1948. he said there might be another partition now. sadly, there might not be a 2 state solution as you had mentioned, but a 3 state solution is something that might be in the cards. what do you make of that?
robert fisk: well that’s pretty well what we’ve got, isn’t it? we’ve got 2 rival governments on the palestinian side, and one government that might be about to lose power to the other one on the israeli side. look, i think it’s a broader argument than just this. the problem is that all these great and good men gathering in sharm al shaykh these wonderful potentate statesmen from the west in particular. they should be dealing with the real issues of the middle east which is really about the subject called justice. instead of that they’re dealing with food and tunnels. for god’s sake. really. what i think that in the middle east, after so many years here, more than 3 decades, is that what everyone tells me they want in the middle east is justice. whether it be about the justice or injustice of dispossession. whether it be about the crust of secret police and secret prisons and torture, which most of the arab regimes impose on their own people with our western support, of course. that’s what people ask for. they don’t ask for human rights, though they’d like some. and they don’t ask for democracy, though we keep throwing it at them and beating them when they don’t vote for the right people. but they want justice and that is what sharm al shaykh should be about. and it’s what doha should have been about. and it’s what kuwait should be about. and again it’s not. the two arab summits are about rivalries between arabs and the sharm al shaykh summit is to clean the hands of western politicians. that is the problem.
one thing that this discussion ignored, however, which most people discussing palestine all too often ignore is that, yes, of course, what we’re looking at is a 3 state solution. that has been true for a long time now. but that 3rd state is not the illegitimate zionist regime; rather, it is the palestinians in 1948 palestine who are always absent. whose voices are far to rarely listened to. who always feel left out of discussions, sold out equally by the palestinian authority, by the united nations, by the west, and by the zionist regime. when abdul hadi, later in the program, talks about how the israeli terrorist regime is crushing palestinian national leadership and pride in the west bank and gaza, he doesn’t mention how this is working in 1948 palestine. i would have loved to see jonathan cook or someone from adalah or the arab human rights association speak to represent this community, especially given its tremendous support for palestinians in gaza throughout the last few weeks and especially because if we want true liberation of palestine they must be included and must be participants in that struggle. i feel like the way they get left out so often is akin to the way in which indians are left out of discussions of south africa which often gets reduced to a black-white issue and it’s not. here, for instance, is what palestinians in 1948 are experiencing as a result of their public support and solidarity with palestinians in gaza:
According to Israeli police reports, at least 763 Israeli citizens, the majority of them Palestinian and 244 under 18 years old, have been arrested, imprisoned or detained for participating in such demonstrations. Most have been held and then released, but at least 30 of those arrested over the past three weeks are still being held in prison.
Ameer Makhoul, director of Ittijah, the Union of Arab Community-Based Associations in Haifa, tells IPS that these demonstrations “are part of the uprising here inside the Green Line, to share responsibility and to share the challenge with the people in the Gaza strip.”
As an organiser of many of these solidarity demonstrations inside Israel, Makhoul himself was arrested by the Shin Bet (the Israeli secret service). “They called me, came to my home and held me for four hours,” he tells IPS. “They accused me of being a terrorist and supporting terror. They said that they are watching me and monitoring me.” Israel, he said, “has become a terror state.”
The Shin Bet has accused Makhoul and the hundreds of others arrested of “being a rebel, threatening the security of the State of Israel during war time.”
Makhoul believes that such threats are being implemented by Israel’s security forces “(in order to) break our will and the spirit of our people. But I think our spirit is much, much stronger here in Haifa and in Gaza than the Israeli oppression.”
i also wonder why all the news media and analysts and these conferences continue to talk about mahmoud abbas as if he is still president. his term expired on january 9th and yet the world still treats this normalizer as if he’s president. ma’an news, of course, acknowledges that he is citizen abbas not president abbas any longer. i think the only place that gave this any note was angry arab on the day his term expired. and then again two days later noting how the western regimes still accept abbas as president without noting his expiration date. i wonder if this will be true tomorrow: perhaps these same countries will go on thinking bush is still president of the u.s. too? apparently, abbas is still trying to form some sort of a unity government. as if he can breathe new life into his failed “leadership” of normalization with israeli terrorists, which of course only lead to more massacres, more confiscation of land, more checkpoints, more dispossession. and ban ki-moon proving that he is ever the tool of the west wants to help bolster abbas. i refer you to fisk’s comments on “inside story” as to the impossibility of “enhancing” abbas. but i also refer you to fisk’s recent op-ed in the independent making some of the same points, but importantly also sarcastically chastising ban:
And history was quite forgotten. The Hamas rockets were the result of the food and fuel siege; Israel broke Hamas’s own truce on 4 and 17 November. Forgotten is the fact Hamas won the 2006 elections, although Israel has killed a clutch of the victors.
And there’ll be little time for the peacemakers of Sharm el-Sheikh to reflect on the three UN schools targeted by the Israelis and the slaughter of the civilians inside. Poor old Ban Ki-moon. He tried to make his voice heard just before the ceasefire, saying Israel’s troops had acted “outrageously” and should be “punished” for the third school killing. Some hope. At a Beirut press conference, he admitted he had failed to get a call through to Israel’s Foreign Minister to complain.
It was pathetic. When I asked Mr Ban if he would consider a UN war crimes tribunal in Gaza, he said this would not be for him to “determine”. But only a few journalists bothered to listen to him and his officials were quickly folding up the UN flag on the table. About time too. Bring back the League of Nations. All is forgiven.
What no one noticed yesterday – not the Arabs nor the Israelis nor the portentous men from Europe – was that the Sharm el-Sheikh meeting last night was opening on the 90th anniversary – to the day – of the opening of the 1919 Paris peace conference which created the modern Middle East. One of its main topics was “the borders of Palestine”. There followed the Versailles Treaty. And we know what happened then. The rest really is history. Bring on the ghosts.
the other thing that i think is important in this discussion is the remarks both fisk and abdul hadi made in relation to the fact that people, generally, seem to continue to look to palestinians as a charity case rather than a group of people whose liberation movement needs sustenance. king abudullah of saudi arabia is but one example who speaks meaninglessly about palestinians, who has blood on his hands because he stands by in collusion with israeli terrorists and yet thinks his millions will repair the damage. of course i also donate both time and money, but i have to say that i find it a form of dehumanization that palestinians are looked at in this manner. by far too many people and by far too many regimes. all these disgusting leaders who DID NOTHING for 22 days and yet now they want to donate. it was the same with lebanon. they stood by in their complicit silence during the bombing and then wanted to pour money into lebanon. the people of south lebanon and the people of gaza do not want your crocodile tears nor your charity i guarantee you. they want your support for justice, as fisk says, and what that means is the liberation of palestine, and their right of return home. instead, what we are getting is more israeli terrorist control over rebuilding efforts as well with the approval of the the west and the arab regimes in the region all of whom continue to submit to the will of israeli terrorism.
i think it is worth thinking about some of that history from 1919 to the league of nations and the british mandate, and how it played out vis-a-vis the analysis of historian rashid khalidi. for as the europeans carved up the region leaving with it the scars of various states of colonialism, including in most places that are no longer directly controlled by the british or the french, forms of neocolonialism and internalized colonialism, they sowed the seeds of eternal dispossession and injustice. here is what khalidi says about how the mandate emerged and played out by foreign colonial powers in his book the iron cage: the story of the palestinian struggle for statehood (note: the emphasis is mine):
The Mandate for Palestine included the entire text of the Balfour Declaration, named for the British foreign secretary, Arthur James Balfour, notably its provisions relating to the establishment in Palestine of a “national home” for the Jewish people. It included six articles (2, 4, 6, 7, 11, and 22) relating to the obligations of the mandatory power to foster and support this endeavor. In both documents, the Palestinians were never once cited by name, whether as Palestinians or as Arabs, and were referred to only as “non-Jewish communities,” possessing solely civil and religious rights; their national and political rights were mentioned in neither. By contrast, national rights were ascribed to the “Jewish people,” and the League of Nations Mandate made it a solemn responsibility of Great Britain to help the Jews create national institutions. The mandatory power was specifically called upon to extend all possible assistance to the growth and development of this national entity, notably by encouraging Jewish immigration and “close settlement on the land.” The tiny Jewish community of Palestine, composing about 10 percent of the country’s population at the time, was thereby placed in a distinctly privileged position. By contrast, the Arab majority, constituting 90 percent of Palestine’s population, was effectively ignored as a national or political entity. While the Mandate’s twenty-eight articles included nine on antiquities, not one related to the Palestinian people per se: they were variously and vaguely defined as a “section of the population,” “natives,” or “peoples and communities.” As far as Great Britian and the League of Nations were concerned, they were definitely not a people.
In consequence of the imposition of this peculiar constitutional structure, the Palestinian people and their leaders faced a cruel dilemma throughout the Mandate period. Starting soon after the British occupation, they repeatedly pressed Great Britain to grant them national rights, notably self-determination, and the political rights, notably representative government, they justifiably considered were their due. They claimed these rights on the basis of the American president Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points, Article 4 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, Allied promises to support Arab independence during World War I, and their natural rights as a people. Each time they did so, however, they were told that they were obliged to accept the terms of the Mandate as a pre-condition for any change in their constitutional position. But these terms denied Palestinians any of these rights, or at best subordinated them completely to the national rights of the Jewish people. Acceptance of the Mandate by the Palestinians would thus have meant their recognition of the privileged national rights of the Jewish community in what they saw as their own country, and formal acceptance of their own legally subordinate position, indeed of their nonexistence as a people. (32-33)
you can see the roots of apartheid from beginning in this history: from the mandate era a jewish minority took control over the land, over the indigenous population. this history speaks to abdul hadi’s comments of specters of the past not only from 1948, but from 1919, 1920 and on down the line. it also demonstrates britain’s continuing hand in this matter. this is why i keep saying that i find it so difficult to watch everyone spinning their wheels, to watch history repeating itself again and again–each time the only difference is that the situation gets worse for palestinians.
for more recent lessons of history i refer you to the blog pulse, which has a really important documentary about the 6 day war in 1967 with an historical corrective in the video it posts, but here is what they say by way of introducing the film clips:
These excellent Dutch videos are an important historical corrective to one of the widely propagated founding myths of the state of Israel, that in 1967 its Six Day wars, which saw Israeli theft and occupation of Palestinian territory, were defensive. These eyewitness accounts and testimonies puts paid to the canard of an ‘existential threat’ that the Israeli political establishment continues to claim — rather, right from the start, the reverse has been true.
A Dutch UN observer in 1966-67, Jan Muhren, describes how he witnessed how Israel provoked their Arab neighbours in the run-up to the Six-Day War on Dutch Nova TV (clips below). The former UN observer in Gaza and the West Bank has said Israel was not under siege by Arab countries preceding the Six-Day War, and that Israel provoked most border incidents, which Muhren surmises was part of its strategy to annex more land.
As the second clip shows, Moshe Dayan admitted as much to Israeli journalist Rami Tal, in an interview only released after Dayan’s death. Dayan corroborates Muhren’s eyewitness accounts that over 80% of the border incidents were Israeli provocations.
meanwhile as the world continues to play with the puppets in the region and with the people’s lives on the ground in egypt, kuwait, qatar, palestinians still have the gruesome task of searching for their loved ones beneath the rubble in gaza. as a result the death toll continues to rise:
They were being treated at Ash-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.
Ambulance crews also uncovered at least 12 corpses of Palestinians killed in the fighting, many of whom may have bled to death awaiting medical care.
Another 50 injured Palestinians were transferred to hospitals in Egypt through the Rafah border, according to the de facto Health Ministry’s Dr Mo’awyeh Hasanein, who directs the Ambulance and Emergency Care Department.
Paramedics found some 100 bodies under the rubble of collapsed buildings and homes on Sunday, when Israeli forces began their withdrawal.
Inhabitants continued to return to their homes on Monday, surveying the damage and examining the rubble for recoverable belongings.
According to the latest statistics from medical sources in the Strip, at least 1,315 Palestinians were killed during the three-week assault on Gaza, while about 5,500 were wounded. Medical officials say a majority of the injured are women and children, and that almost all are civilians.
importantly, contrary to opinions i hear in jordan, palestinians in gaza do not blame hamas. this is true with people i know there, who i speak to on the phone and who i talked to regularly throughout this bloody massacre–friends, mind you, who tend to not be affiliated with any particular political party, but who rightly see this as a reminder of the need for unity and the need to see this as one resistance, one nation, especially because this is a war against all palestinians in gaza:
Initial estimates state that 15 percent or 20,000 of the Gaza Strip’s buildings have been damaged, with nearly 30,000 Palestinians forced to find shelter in UN Relief and Welfare Agency (UNRWA) shelters and with family.
Nearly 1,300 Gazans lost their lives, around a third of these children, with a total of more than half of the deaths civilian. The number of injured is pushing 4,000.
“People are extremely angry and the level of hate against Israel is very high. I have lived and worked in Gaza for many years and I have never seen such hatred from the population,” said Qleibo.
Gazans are not blaming Hamas, contrary to Israel’s wishes. “People laugh at Israel’s claims that this was a war against the Islamic resistance organisation and not one aimed at civilians.
“They see this as a war against all Palestinians. The number of civilians killed and maimed and the destruction wrought was way too extreme,” said Qleibo.
in response to this massacre in gaza people continue to respond with boycott, divestment and sanction ACTIONS as opposed to the empty words of political leaders around the world. the latest is from bahrain:
Sixteen Bahraini political organizations have formed an alliance to implement a series of activities and promote initiatives to defend the cause of the Palestinians. It is expected that one of the objectives of the joint effort will be the reopening of the Israel-boycott office, that had been closed by the government in 2005 as a requirement for the signing of a free trade agreement with the United States. During the 23 days of the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip a growing number of parliamentarians already called for a revision of the government’s decision in 2005.
Furthermore, the sixteen Bahraini organizations plan to set up a national plan of action spearheading calls for rallies and holding seminars and conferences to debate Palestine-related issues and mobilize Bahraini citizens and expatriates to express their solidarity with Palestinians in various forms and through a series of events. The plan was announced by Ali Ahmad, a parliamentarian for the Islamic Menbar, who hosted the meeting of the sixteen organizations. He was seconded by Ibrahim Kamal al-Deen, chairman of the left-wing Waad society, who announced: “We will send a letter to King Hamad Bin Eisa al-Khalifa to convey the popular view that we are against any step towards the normalisation of ties with the Zionist entity and against any contact with its people and institutions. We will also plead for the reopening of the Boycott office and for an end to the move to launch a regional forum that includes the Zionists”. The sixteen organizations released a joint statement in which they called upon all Arab and Islamic states to “assume their responsibilities and sever all forms of relations with the Zionists”, adding “the least they can do as a result of this genocide is to recall their diplomats to protest at the crimes perpetrated by the Zionists against the helpless people in Gaza”.
and rania masri and i have a new version of our call to american academics to boycott the zionist regime on electronic intifada. here is a reminder of our main demand:
We urge our fellow academics to not only support this statement in theory, but also in practice by pushing for academic boycott on your campuses. Supporting the human rights of Palestinians is not anti-Semitic; it is about human rights: Palestinian human rights. If this were any other captive population besieged for nineteen days with US-made materiel, we would be outraged and acting. So we are asking you to act now. It is our tax dollars at work that enables this massacre to take place. Let us make apartheid, in all its forms, only present in history books.
some american academics are building momentum, though not necessarily with respect to boycott because most of them still continue to value israeli speech over palestinian lives. and in lebanon rania continues to seek signatures for the lebanese call not only to boycott but to enforce anti-normalization laws against those lebanese professors who choose to normalize with israeli terrorist professors whose institutions and whose scholarship produces the knowledge necessary to continue to create their bloodbath:
We thus stand, as academics in Lebanon, in urging our colleagues, regionally and internationally, to oppose this ongoing scholasticide and to support the just demand for academic boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel. Specifically, we ask our colleagues worldwide to support the call by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel to comprehensively and consistently boycott and disinvest from all Israeli academic and cultural institutions, and to refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joining projects with Israeli institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid.
We further call on the enforcement of Lebanese anti-normalization laws with Israel, and thus for the prosecution of individuals and institutions in Lebanon that violate those laws and conduct collaborations, associations or investments in Israel or with Israelis.
please click on the link above if you are a professor in lebanon and you want to sign the petition.