(Reuters) - A top Pentagon intelligence official warned on Saturday that the destruction of Hamas would only lead to something more dangerous taking its place, as he offered a grim portrait of a period of enduring regional conflict.
The remarks by Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, the outgoing head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, came as Israeli ministers signaled that a comprehensive deal to end the 20-day-old conflict in the Gaza Strip appeared remote.
At least 1,050 Gazans - mostly civilians - have been killed, and 42 Israeli soldiers and three civilians in Israel have died.
Flynn disparaged Hamas for exhausting finite resources and know-how to build tunnels that have helped them inflict record casualties on Israelis. Still, he suggested that destroying Hamas was not the answer.
"If Hamas were destroyed and gone, we would probably end up with something much worse. The region would end up with something much worse," Flynn said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.
"A worse threat that would come into the sort of ecosystem there … something like ISIS," he added, referring to the Islamic State, which last month declared an "Islamic caliphate" in territory it controls in Iraq and Syria.
Confined in the crowded, sandy coast enclave of 1.8 million, where poverty and unemployment hover around 40 percent, weary Gazans say they hope the battle will break the blockade that Israel and Egypt impose on them.
Israeli officials said any ceasefire must allow the military to carry on hunting down the Hamas tunnel network that criss-crosses the Gaza border.
Flynn’s comments about the conflict came during a gloomy, broader assessment of unrest across the Middle East, including in Syria and Iraq. Flynn said bluntly: “Is there going to be a peace in the Middle East? Not in my lifetime.”
Some 5,000 Israelis on Saturday evening protested the war in Gaza under the banner, ”No more deaths – Israeli-Palestinian peace, now.” The protest took place at Rabin Square in central Tel Aviv.
Speakers included Hadash MK Dov Khenin, an Israeli and Palestinian veteran from the organization Combatants for Peace, and Yifat Solel, the head of the Meretz party’s anti-occupation forum. Meretz, however, did not back the demonstration as a party. The speakers criticized the government for its attitude toward peace negotiations, and for resorting to war as a default policy. Demonstrators chanted “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies,” called for an end to the occupation and the siege on Gaza, and lit candles to commemorate the victims.
Roughly 300 right-wing counter-protesters were on the scene trying to reach the main demonstration. A large police presence circled the square in order to keep the sides separate. Four were arrested.
Some two hours before the protest was set to begin, police canceled it, citing fear of a rocket attack. The permit for the demonstration was reinstated only an hour before it began – by which time busses of protesters en route for Tel Aviv had turned back. Police ended the protest at around 10 p.m. – according some reports, because rockets were fired from Gaza at Israel, two hours before the a “humanitarian ceasefire” was to expire, and according to others, in order to prevent violence on the part of the counter-protesters.
Israeli government officials now admit that Hamas was not responsible for the kidnap and murder of three Israeli teens which sparked the recent escalation of hostilities, despite clearly stating early on that Hamas was responsible. Katie Zavadski, who wrote the article linked above, points us to Musa al-Gharbi, who argues that Israeli officials were deliberately provoking Hamas:
All the illegal and immoral actions related to Operation Brother’s Keeper were justified under the premise of finding and saving the missing teens whom the Israeli government knew to be dead — cynically exploiting the tragedy to whip up public outcry in order to provoke and then confront Hamas. This pattern of deception continues under the ongoing military offensive in Gaza. For example, last week in collaboration with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and Abbas, in its efforts to alienate Hamas, Israel announced a bad-faith cease-fire proposal, which Hamas was not consulted on and never agreed to but whose violation supposedly justified Israel’s expansion and intensification of the military campaign into Gaza.
If it’s true that the Israeli government lied about the time and cause of death for three Israeli teens in order to whip up support for a new war with Hamas, then it’s pretty clear that this was a war of choice. And while attempts to organize a ceasefire continue, it may too late to keep the number of casualties minimal, since some Palestinians in the West Bank are now claiming to have started the Third Intifada:
The epicenter of the protests was the Qalandiya checkpoint, which separates Jerusalem and Ramallah, while smaller protests reportedly took place in the West Bank towns of Bethlehem and Nablus. At least two Palestinians were killed and 200 others were injured after IDF troops returned fire to the protestors during Laylat al-Qadr, a holiday marking the night the first verses of the Quran are believed to have been revealed to the prophet Muhammad.
"In the West Bank, we need to take our resistance efforts to a higher level," a student named Na’el Halabi told Al Jazeera. "Gaza is not alone: we are part of the same struggle.”
This “day of rage” was evidently called for by Fatah, the party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Often considered the preferred, more moderate alternative to Hamas by Western leaders, Fatah has recently felt pressure to build up support among its constituency by standing up to the West. Thursday’s protests are believed to be the largest since the end of the 2000–2005 uprising. Organized as the “48K March,” they were quickly branded with the “Third Intifada” hashtag on Twitter[.]
Maybe calling this the “Third Intifada” is just exaggeration from over-zealous protesters. But either way, it is bad news for both sides. Dropping bombs in Gaza is a sure way to provoke violence in the West Bank. If these mass protests and clashes with security forces in the West Bank continue, the Israeli government may be looking at a lot more bloodshed than it originally anticipated.
“My parents escaped from [Nazi] Germany. ‘Never again’ was always understood by me to mean never again for anyone. Speaking as a Jew, [what’s happening in Palestine] is a shonde. We’re driven by our tradition that says, ‘you shall not stand idly by,’ and we won’t stand idly by. I was shot at and arrested for principles of equal rights. I want a state where Israelis and Palestinians are safe [with] equal rights for all.”—Dorothy Zellner
Staff in Gaza said their 11th floor bureau was hit by two Israeli bullets as a crew was preparing to broadcast live from the balcony. “Two very precise shots were fired straight into our building,” said Stefanie Dekker. “We are high up in the building so we had a very strong vantage point over the area. But we have evacuated.” Al-Jazeera aired footage of their staff standing outside the building.
Nothing says freedom and democracy like shooting at the press.
LTMC: Must have been ”hiding Hamas’s rockets.” More human shields, right?
“Three years ago, a team of Israeli documentary-makers produced a brilliant film about the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank entitled The Gatekeepers. For this, they persuaded five former heads of the Shin Bet, the nation’s security service, to be interviewed on camera. The outcome was fascinating, and devastating. Each chief in turn described the ruthless policies he had enforced to sustain Israeli dominance. Most agreed that repression had been counter-productive. Part of the explanation, they said, was that since the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin by a Jewish fanatic back in 1995, no Jerusalem government has pursued a serious political strategy for peace. The security forces have simply been left to impose varying degrees of repression, while Jewish settlers grab ever-larger areas of the West Bank and Jerusalem. In a remarkable moment of frankness, one former Shin Bet chief said: ‘Occupation has made us a cruel people.’”—Max Hastings
“I think my ancestors who were persecuted, tormented and exiled down the centuries for being Jews would be horrified to see what is being done in their name today. Maybe it’s crass to put words in the mouths of your dead relatives, but right-wing hawks have been putting their opinions in the mouths of my dead relatives for weeks, so I think I’m entitled to a say, too.”—Laurie Penny
“Just as some within the Jewish community condemn Israel’s violent operation in Gaza by decrying “Not in my name,” we too must speak out against the unthinkable acts of violence that threaten to take place in ours. Anyone who claims to speak for Palestine while condoning acts of bigotry against our Semitic brothers and sisters should not be speaking on our behalf at all, let alone for those suffering in Gaza. Palestinians know firsthand what it’s like to be oppressed on the basis of identity; the last thing we should allow is for our peers and allies to hypocritically do the same.”—Yasmeen Serhan, discussing recent violence by pro-Palestinian protesters in Paris.
More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the nation’s reserve force, citing regret over their part in a military they said plays a central role in oppressing Palestinians, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
“We found that troops who operate in the occupied territories aren’t the only ones enforcing the mechanisms of control over Palestinian lives. In truth, the entire military is implicated. For that reason, we now refuse to participate in our reserve duties, and we support all those who resist being called to service,” the soldiers wrote in a petition posted online and first reported by the newspaper.
While some Israelis have refused to serve in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank, the military’s structure is such that serving in any capacity forces one to play a role in the conflict, said the soldiers, most of whom are women who would have been exempted from combat.
“Many of us served in logistical and bureaucratic support roles; there, we found that the entire military helps implement the oppression of the Palestinians,” they said.
Their comments come as the conflict in Gaza continues to escalate, displacing thousands more Palestinians in the battered territory even as the United States presses both sides for an immediate ceasefire and longer-term peace plan.
Earlier this month, Israel said it was mobilizing more reservists in anticipation of increased fighting.
In the petition, the soldiers pointed to the army’s structure and fundamental role in Israeli society as reasons for being unable to decouple any form of service from the fighting.
“The military plays a central role in every action plan and proposal discussed in the national conversation, which explains the absence of any real argument about non-military solutions to the conflicts Israel has been locked in with its neighbors,” the soldiers wrote.
“To us, the current military operation and the way militarization affects Israeli society are inseparable.”
They said they opposed the Israeli Army and conscription law because of how women are limited to low-ranking secretarial positions and because of a screening system that discriminates against Jews whose families originate from Arab nations.
Most 18-year-olds must serve up to three years in the Israeli Defense Forces.
Some groups, such as ultra-Orthodox Jewish seminary students, had been exempted from service, but legislators this year moved to lift that exemption on such students starting in 2017.
Arab-Israelis are exempt from compulsory service.
For more examples of Jewish-Israeli civil disobedience and anti-war activism, click here.
“5:40pm Sunday, July 20 : The words of Mark Regev reach my unbelieving ears. I look outside and see huge mountains of thick grey smoke, the same smoke that has engulfed Gaza for the last 12 days, the same smoke that has blocked out the sun and the blue Mediterranean Sea for the last 24 hours. This spokesman of the apartheid Israeli regime is justifying the killing of Palestinian civilians in Shujayea because the most “moral” army in the world dropped pamphlets to tell people to leave their homes before they bombed. “Leave your homes or we will kill and rape you” - that’s what the Haganah and the Stern Gang told my parents in 1948; my parents died dreaming of returning to their Zarnouqa. There was no satellite television then, no Facebook, no Twitter, no cell phones, no way to tell the world what was happening to them. So much technology, so much communication, so many words, so little action, so little change. Gaza oh my Gaza! Palestine, oh my Palestine! My land of sad oranges!”—
Earlier this month, after three Israeli teens and one Palestinian teen were murdered in the occupied West Bank, 500 members of the St. Louis Jewish community came together to mourn the loss of human life. Since those horrible events, more than 40 Palestinian children in Gaza have been killed by the Israeli army from airstrikes and now a ground invasion — and over 200 adults (at the time this was written). Four young Palestinian boys were killed while playing on a beach in Gaza, attempting to run away when an Israeli missile hit them. In the West Bank, in addition to the torturous murder of 15-year-old Mohammad Abu Khdair, who was kidnapped, beaten and burned alive by Jewish settlers, there have been 7 Palestinians killed, mostly youth, and over 320 arrested in the past few weeks.
As Jews, many of us were raised with values of social justice, standing up to oppression and for the “little guy,” and remembering anti-Semitism and pledging to stop it. That is why we are calling on the St. Louis Jewish community to join us and speak out against the Israeli government’s occupation and bombing of Gaza.
When an Israeli dies, the American Jewish community is quick to mourn, to condemn their death, to pray for peace. But where is the American Jewish community when the Israeli government mistreats, invades and kills Palestinian families on a daily basis? Where is the American Jewish community’s commitment to justice when Israel has illegally occupied the West Bank and Gaza for over 47 years?
Our social justice values compel us to speak out against violence against Palestinians just as we mourn violence against Israelis. Once we start to do that, we can see just how one-sided this “conflict” really is — how for decades Palestinians have lived with relentless violence from the ongoing occupation, how Palestinian families constantly face the threat of eviction from their homes, how thousands of Palestinian adults and children have been arrested and detained in the last decade, how a giant wall has ripped families apart and impeded freedom of movement for many going to work. This is not a “war” — it is an assault by a military power with infinite resources on a population held hostage.
The Israeli government’s actions happen far too often in the name of protecting Judaism, thereby conflating Zionism with Judaism. As Jews, we must not let the Israeli government use our heritage to excuse its morally unexcusable actions. Our Jewish values will not let us.
We call on our fellow Jewish leaders here in St. Louis — on Andrew Rehfeld and the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, on Phyllis Markus and Batya Abramson-Goldstein and the Jewish Community Relations Council, on Rabbi Susan Talve and the Central Reform Congregation, on Karen Aroesty and Anti-Defamation League — to join us in speaking out against the Israeli assault on Gaza and occupation of the West Bank. We as Jews can do better than allow oppression and violence to continue in our names.
Arielle Klagsbrun, Hedy Epstein and Maya Harris are members of St. Louis Jewish Voice for Peace.
Over 2,000 Palestinians were killed in all three military operations in Gaza, not including the Second Intifada. Most of them were civilians. I’ve exchanged emails with people in Gaza in the past few days. These are people who don’t care much for Hamas in their everyday lives, whether due to its fundamentalist ideology, political oppression or other aspects of its rule. But they do support Hamas in its war against Israel; for them, fighting the siege is their war of independence. Or at least one part of it.
For the Palestinians, the choice is between occupation by proxy in the West Bank and a war in Gaza. Both offer no hope, and neither are forms of freedom. The Israeli promise — that an end to armed struggle will bring freedom — is not trustworthy, as the experiences of past years has shown. It simply never happens. The quiet years in the West Bank have not brought the Palestinians any closer to an independent state, while the truce in between wars in Gaza has not brought about a relief from the siege. One can debate the reasons for why this happened, but one cannot debate reality.
Hamas tells the Palestinians the simple truth: freedom comes at the cost of blood. The tragedy is that we usually provide the evidence. After all, the evacuation of settlements in Gaza came after the Second Intifada, not as a result of negotiations. The Oslo Accords came after the First Intifada; before that, Israel turned down even the convenient London Agreement between Shimon Peres and Jordan’s King Hussein.
Israelis are convinced they are fighting a terror organization driven by a fundamentalist Islamic ideology. Palestinians are convinced Israelis are looking to enslave them, and that as soon as the war is over the siege will be reinforced. Since this is exactly what Israel intends to do, as our government has repeatedly stated, they have no reason to stop fighting.
An interview between Michael Sfard, an Israeli human rights lawyer, and Raji Sourani, founder of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights:
M: So, how was last night?
R: Well last night was difficult, the worst in the last two weeks. This is incredible evil. Ambulances weren’t able to reach the areas which were under heavy bombardment by tanks and F16s. And F22s were used too last night. And these kinds of bombs that we are not familiar making the houses last in an earthquake. You know, it just shakes for a few seconds.
M: There are no warnings before?
R: No no no. It just on the top of the people, on their heads. It is a war zone, not bombing. You see slain [people]. Six to eight bombed per minute. Not for 10 minutes, or one hour, all the east side of Gaza, Zeiton, Shujaiyeh, eastern Jabaliya, nothern area, eastern Khan Younis, eastern Rafah…
M: Israeli friends reported that the IDF, the Israeli army made notifications that the civilians could go to some areas. Are there any areas that are safe to be?
R: No, there is not safe place in Gaza. You can be in the street, in my office or home and you will be bombed and away from my house, sixty meters a house was bombed by an F16. This can [be] anywhere, whether it [is] a drone, F16, and tonight they used F22. Gaza, Michael, I’m telling you, 350 square kilometers, two million people are living in it. It is one of the most densely populated areas on earth. Anywhere you move. You can ask people from the northern or eastern areas to move but you are taking about 400,000. They ask eastern Khan Younis, where to go? So far there is 70,000-80,000 [civilians] that moved since mid-day yesterday (July 19), but where are the people can go? UNRWA? Each school hold 1,500-2,000 people. There is shortages in the UNRWA schools. It’s madness. I have never seen anything like this in my life.
M: Do you think it is worse than Cast Lead?
R: That was a joke. This is very, very serious. I think the army is losing their minds. They really want to inflict pain and terror on the civilians. I have no objection to do that with Fatah, with Hamas, with PFLP, they are competent, they are resistance. But I’m telling about hitting the flash, they are bombarding randomly. Bombing the civilians houses. Many, That is why many families fled. I challenge if in Gaza, one million people, if any of them slept.
Nonetheless, it appears that the U.S. Senate is still reliably in Netanyahu’s pocket. Via TruthDig:
On Thursday, all 100 U.S. senators—including progressives Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Al Franken and Sherrod Brown—voted to pass an AIPAC-drafted resolution supporting the Netanyahu government’s military invasion of the Gaza Strip.
AIPAC stands for American Israel Public Affairs Committee. It lobbies Congress and the White House in the interests of Israel and is a source of campaign funds for both Democrats and Republicans.
M.J. Rosen, a former senior foreign policy fellow at Media Matters Action Network, wrote of the agreement in a mass email: “There is not one word of compassion for Palestinians killed or injured, not a word calling for peace, not a word indicating that the Senate would perhaps prefer to see the invasion end. On the other hand, it calls for dissolution of the Palestinian unity government which has been Netanyahu’s goal since it was established.”
While rocket attacks have become the preferred method of resistance for militants in Palestine, it’s important to remember that these sorts of indiscriminate attacks can also kill Arab citizens as well:
A 32-year-old Bedouin man was killed Saturday after being hit by a rocket near the town of Dimona in Israel’s south. Four of his relatives were wounded, including an infant.
According to Ma’an News Agency, Israeli air strikes killed 34 Palestinians across the Gaza Strip on Saturday. The deaths follow the deadliest day in the conflict so far, after Israel killed at least 63 Palestinians and injured more than 400 on Friday.
Ma’analso reportsthat four members of a Palestinian family were killed in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday afternoon, as at least 10 Israeli shells hit the area around the Beit Hanoun Hospital. Medics told Ma’an that Mahmoud Zuwaid, his wife Daliah, and their children Nagham, 3, and Ruyah, 2, were killed in the attack. Another woman who was not yet identified was also killed in the same shelling.
The military wing of Hamas said earlier on Saturday morning that it had breached “enemy lines” in the northern Gaza Strip and had engaged Israeli forces.
Four Israeli soldiers were also wounded Saturday morning after Palestinian gunmen crossed into Israeli territory from the Strip. Two were moderately wounded, and the others were lightly hurt.
According to Haaretz, a unit of gunmen breached the Israeli border on Saturday morning near Kisufim, launching an anti-tank missile at an IDF unit. The IDF returned fire, killing one of the militants.
B’Tselem notes that at at least nine Palestinians have been killed by rocket fire since 2004. Ryan Broderick, a fierce critic of Israeli policy, has nonetheless stated that Palestinians deaths from rocket fire are an indicator of the "criminal stupidity of this tactic," while also noting that the Israeli military’s conduct in the Occupied Territories only tends to the problem worse.
After describing a few cases where parents were arrested for “parenting mistakes,” Radley Balko writes:
You needn’t approve of the parents’ actions in any of these cases to understand that dumping them into the criminal justice system is a terribly counterproductive way of addressing their mistakes. (And I’m not at all convinced that three of the four stories were even mistakes.) The mere fact that state officials were essentially micromanaging these parents’ decisions is creepy enough. That the consequences for the “wrong” decision are criminal is downright scary. It doesn’t benefit these kids in the least to give their parents a criminal record, smear their parents’ names in their neighborhoods and communities and make it more difficult for their parents to find a job.
Mehdi Hasan's ruminations are worth observing at length:
For its many supporters in the west, Israel is being unfairly singled out for criticism. As the country’s former foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami angrily said to me in an interview for al-Jazeera English in 2013: “You are trying to turn Israel into a special case.”
According to the likes of Ben-Ami, there are much more vile regimes, and more violent groups, elsewhere in the world. Why pick on plucky Israel? What about the Chinas, Russias, Syrias, Saudi Arabias, Irans, Sudans and Burmas? Where are the protests against Isis, Boko Haram or the Pakistani Taliban?
There are various possible responses to such attempts at deflection. First, does Israel really want to be held to the standards of the world’s worst countries? Doesn’t Israel claim to be a liberal democracy, the “only” one in the Middle East?
Second, isn’t this “whataboutery” of the worst sort? David Cameron told those of us who opposed the Nato intervention in Libya in 2011: “The fact that you cannot do the right thing everywhere does not mean that you should not do the right thing somewhere.” Well, quite. And the same surely applies to criticism of Israel – that we cannot, or do not, denounce every other human-rights-abusing regime on earth doesn’t automatically mean we are therefore prohibited from speaking out against Israel’s abuses in Gaza and the West Bank. (Nor, for that matter, does the presence of a small minority among the Jewish state’s critics who are undoubtedly card-carrying anti-Semites.)
Trying to hide Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians behind, say, Syria’s barrel bombs, China’s forced labour camps or Russia’s persecution of gays won’t wash. After all, on what grounds did we “single out” apartheid South Africa in the 1980s for condemnation and boycott? Weren’t there other, more dictatorial regimes in Africa at the time, those run by black Africans such as Mengistu in Ethiopia or Mobutu in Zaire? Did we dare excuse the crimes of white Afrikaners on this basis?
Taking a moral stand inevitably requires us to be selective, specific and, yes, even inconsistent. “Some forms of injustice bother [people] more than others,” wrote Peter Beinart, the author of The Crisis of Zionism, in December 2013. “The roots of this inconsistency may be irrational, even disturbing, but it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t act against the abuses they care about most.”
Third, Israel is “singled out” today, but by its friends and not just by its enemies. It has been singled out for unparalleled support – financial, military, diplomatic – by the western powers. It is indeed, to quote Ben-Ami, a “special case”.
Which other country is in receipt of $3bn a year in US aid, despite maintaining a 47-year military occupation in violation of international law? Which other country has been allowed to develop and stockpile nuclear weapons in secret?
Which other country’s prime minister could “humiliate” – to quote the newspaper Ma’ariv – a sitting US vice-president on his visit to Israel in March 2010, yet still receive 29 standing ovations from Congress on his own visit to the US a year later? And which other country is the beneficiary of comically one-sided resolutions on Capitol Hill, in which members of Congress fall over each other to declare their undying love and support for Israel – by 410 to eight, or 352 to 21, or 390 to five?
Indeed, which other country has been protected from UN Security Council censure by the US deployment of an astonishing 42 vetoes? For the record, the number of US vetoes exercised at the UN on behalf of Israel is greater than the number of vetoes exercised by all other UN member states on all other issues put together. Singling out, anyone?
This war will only end when Hamas either stops shooting rockets into Israel, or runs out of rockets, whichever comes first. Also, if Hamas doesn’t want a hospital to be bombed, then stop shooting rockets from the hospital!
This is a very common response directed towards people who criticize Israel’s use of force in the Occupied Territories. I think it is unpersuasive, for the following reasons.
The logic being employed here looks a lot like victim-blaming. The IDF, to its credit, in what seems to be an acknowledgment that not every single person living in Palestine is a terrorist, called the Director of the Hospital and told him to evacuate the building. But this probably means that militant Hamas members who may have been occupying the building would also have evacuated it as well. Will this deny them a base of operations? Perhaps. But only temporarily. Hamas is waging something akin to a guerrilla war against Israel. History suggests that the militant wing of Hamas will find other places to go, and the rockets will not in fact stop. So in the end, all that was likely achieved by the hospital strike was that a vital civilian resource—a hospital—was destroyed.
Hamas may not care if a hospital gets bombed, but the patients who rely on that hospital probably do. Not every Palestinian living in Gaza supports Hamas, but the Israeli military often behaves as if this were true. Some claim that Hamas forces civilians to act as human shields. But if that’s true, then those civilians are unwilling participants in the violence. They are therefore still “innocent,” and however despicable this tactic may be on the part of Hamas, it is equally despicable to carry out military strikes in disregard for these peoples’ lives. This idea that the residents of Gaza are all expendable in the fight against Hamas is morally objectionable. To risk an analogy, few people would agree that it’s ok to shoot through a hostage to kill their captor. But that is precisely what the Israeli military does every time it bombs civilian infrastructure in Gaza, and then justifies civilian deaths by claiming that Hamas is forcing civilians to be “human shields.”
As I’ve said many times on this blog, the reason why Hamas has the degree of political influence they have is because the Israeli government actively empowers them through its policies in the Occupied Territories. Gaza and the West Bank are open-air prisons. Freedom of movement, commerce, and expression is restricted in numerous ways by the Israeli Government in a manner which most reasonable people would view as intolerable. To take one example: A former U.S. diplomat once noted in a leaked cable that the policy of the Israeli Government is to “keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge,” and to keep the Palestinian economy "functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis." Dov Weisglass, a former senior Israeli official, put it this way: “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” It should come as no surprise that at least a portion of the Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories have become so frustrated and angry by the mistreatment they receive at the hands of the Israeli government that they take up arms to violently resist. Which brings me to my next point…
What is it that keeps the rockets coming? Ostensibly, there are two primary reasons: the first is that some members of Hamas views Israel as an illegitimate state and will never accept its right to exist under any circumstances. There is little, if anything that Israel can do to change this. However, another reason why these rockets keep coming is that it remains one of the few accessible ways that residents of the Occupied Territories have to fight back against an occupying force—one they view as the source of their oppression. When that oppression ends, support for Hamas will dry up considerably. And—I humbly submit—the number of rockets being fired into Israel will also shrink considerably.
Whether the Israeli government likes it or not, this is a guerrilla war. The Israeli government has blown up hospitals before. It has blown up schools before. It has blown up homes before. Yet the rockets always keep coming. They keep coming in part because the IDF can’t be everywhere all the time. But mostly they keep coming because residents of the Occupied Territories find a new reason to legitimate Hamas’s violence every time another Palestinian house, business, or family gets blown to pieces by an Israeli bomb.
With all this being said, the greatest impetus for rocket fire into Israel, in my opinion, is the Israeli government’s ongoing military occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. The Israeli government’s policies toward the residents of these areas generate resentment, anger, and hatred in those affected by them. As a result, a portion of the Palestinian population is invariably radicalized by the trauma of enduring the Israeli government’s policies, and they come to view violent resistance as reasonable. This violent resistance is in turn empowered by foreign sponsors who sympathize with the plight of the Palestinian people (e.g. Iran, Hezbollah).
That’s why the rockets won’t stop coming until Israel ends the Occupation. Militants will always find ways to commit violence against Israel. The only true way to stop these attacks is to remove the impetus for them. That impetus is, for the most part, the Occupation. The Occupation is the lifeblood of Palestinian resentment towards Israel. It is the Occupation that radicalizes the Palestinian population. It is the Occupation that empowers militants through the sympathy of foreign sponsors. And it is the Occupation that continues to put the lives of Israelis in danger every day.
One final note: it bears mention that I’m not suggesting that ending the Occupation will mean Israel never suffers another terrorist attack. What I am suggesting is that Israel’s policies in the Occupied Territories are a large motivator for those attacks, and changing those policies would reduce the number of rocket attacks considerably. It would also deprive Hamas of political legitimacy, because ending the Occupation robs Hamas of most of their talking points. This would deprive Hamas of political power, which would reduce their ability to finance their militant wing. That means less rocket attacks, and a safer Israel.
The Finnish capital has announced plans to transform its existing public transport network into a comprehensive, point-to-point “mobility on demand” system by 2025 – one that, in theory, would be so good nobody would have any reason to own a car.
Helsinki aims to transcend conventional public transport by allowing people to purchase mobility in real time, straight from their smartphones. The hope is to furnish riders with an array of options so cheap, flexible and well-coordinated that it becomes competitive with private car ownership not merely on cost, but on convenience and ease of use.
Subscribers would specify an origin and a destination, and perhaps a few preferences. The app would then function as both journey planner and universal payment platform, knitting everything from driverless cars and nimble little buses to shared bikes and ferries into a single, supple mesh of mobility. Imagine the popular transit planner Citymapper fused to a cycle hire service and a taxi app such as Hailo or Uber, with only one payment required, and the whole thing run as a public utility, and you begin to understand the scale of ambition here.
That the city is serious about making good on these intentions is bolstered by the Helsinki Regional Transport Authority’s rollout last year of a strikingly innovative minibus service called Kutsuplus. Kutsuplus lets riders specify their own desired pick-up points and destinations via smartphone; these requests are aggregated, and the app calculates an optimal route that most closely satisfies all of them.
A dialogue with the Executive Director of the Al Wafa hospital in Gaza, which was just bombed by Israeli military:
Nora Barrows-Friedman Hi, Basman, I’m so glad I got you and that you’re safe. I’ve been hearing reports that the hospital has come under heavy Israeli attack?
Basman Alashi: Yes, it is, and they have destroyed much of it, and we are in the process of moving patients out. Many of my nurses are unable to stand up on their feet because of the tragedy they are facing, even the young men have not experienced such horrific and terrorizing bombing by the Israelis. They left the patients helpless because they are unable even to help themselves. I had to send ambulances and outside help to the hospital, so they can help in moving these patients, the paralyzed patients, out from their beds to another hospital. And right now, I am in the office and the Israeli army called me through the Red Cross, asking how much time we need to evacuate the building so they can halt the bombing.
And I gave them the message of two hours, I returned the call to the Red Cross [saying] two hours, so I believe the Red Cross is cooperating with them to destroy … an internationally-prohibited act. They are helping them in this act, and I don’t understand.
NBF: Dr. Alashi, can you talk about when the bombing started, what happened inside the hospital?
BA: It started just before nine, they started it and it continued every other minute, firing at the hospital. They started on the fourth floor, continued to the third, then from the back of the hospital, then to the side, then to the front, then they cut the electricity, we have fuel everywhere, I don’t know the extent of the damage but it reached a point where my nurses were unable to function, unable to stand, unable to help the patients. So they left the hospital, and right now we are in the process of evacuating my patients to help with them and the handicapped.
NBF: Where can these patients go, I understand that the hospitals around Gaza are already full?
BA: It’s called Mujamma al-Sahaba al-Tibbi, it’s not a hospital, but it has private clinics, it’s a clinic and offices. I am there right now, and I need to go to check on my patients.
“Hamas is not stupid. It understands all too well that Israel can cause Gaza unimaginable damage. It knows that targeted assassinations conducted by Israel make survival rates among the heads of the party fairly low, and that their families are also at risk. But Hamas has its back to the wall. For two months, Israel has been preventing the transfer of funds that would go to pay the salaries of Hamas civil servants in Gaza; the party’s political leadership in the West Bank was arrested following the murder of the three Israeli teens; and even prisoners who were released as part of the Shalit deal found themselves behind bars. At this point, the cost and benefit balance for Hamas begins to change, and opening fire on a much stronger adversary becomes a reasonable choice. Then Israel has the right, even the duty, to retaliate; and this is how we end up where we are.”—Noam Sheizaf
Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, expressed his distaste for an independent, sovereign Palestine at a news conference last week, as reported and analyzed by David Horovitz, founding editor of the online news site Times of Israel. He quoted the prime minister, speaking in Hebrew, as saying, “I think the Israeli people understand now what I always say: that there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan.”
Horovitz, who seems to have insight into where the Netanyahu government is going, added this analysis: “Not relinquishing security control west of the Jordan, it should be emphasized, means not giving a Palestinian entity full sovereignty there. It means not acceding to … Abbas’s demands, to Barack Obama’s demands, to the international community’s demands. This is not merely demanding a demilitarized Palestine; it is insisting upon ongoing Israeli security oversight inside and at the borders of the West Bank. That sentence, quite simply, spells the end to the notion of Netanyahu consenting to the establishment of a Palestinian state. A less-than-sovereign entity? Maybe, though this will never satisfy the Palestinians or the international community. A fully sovereign Palestine? Out of the question.”
In other words, a Palestine run by the Israelis who would regulate Palestinians’ freedom, restricting them to areas under strict Jewish control and away from the rapidly expanding settlements.
Bill also has some harsh words for Hamas, which you can read here.
A federal judge in Orange County ruled Wednesday that California’s death penalty violates the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney, ruled on a petition by death row inmate Ernest Dewayne Jones, who was sentenced to die nearly two decades ago.
Carney said the state’s death penalty has created long delays and uncertainty for inmates, most of whom will never be executed.
He noted that more than 900 people have been sentenced to death in California since 1978 but only 13 have been executed.
“For the rest, the dysfunctional administration of California’s death penalty system has resulted, and will continue to result, in an inordinate and unpredictable period of delay preceding their actual execution,” Carney wrote.
Carney’s ruling can be appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Carney, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, said the delays have created a “system in which arbitrary factors, rather than legitimate ones like the nature of the crime or the date of the death sentence, determine whether an individual will actually be executed,” Carney said.
In overturning Jones’ death sentence, Carney noted that the inmate faced “complete uncertainty as to when, or even whether” he will be executed.
The “random few” who will be executed “will have languished for so long on Death Row that their execution will serve no retributive or deterrent purpose and will be arbitrary,” Carney said.
“No rational person,” Carney wrote, “can question that the execution of an individual carries with it the solemn obligation of the government to ensure that the punishment is not arbitrarily imposed and that it furthers the interests of society.”
Natasha Minsker, a director of the ACLU of Northern California, said Wednesday’s ruling marked the first time that a federal judge had found the state’s current system unconstitutional. She said it was also “the first time any judge has ruled systemic delay creates an arbitrary system that serves no legitimate purpose and is therefore unconstitutional.”
A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge in 1995 sentenced Jones to death for the 1992 rape and killing of Julia Miller, his girlfriend’s mother. Jones killed Miller 10 months after being paroled for a previous rape.
A spokesman for Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris said only that her office was reviewing the decision.