Saturday, January 17, 2009

Genocide in Gaza

Following are the articles received from A World To Win News Service on the genocide of palastinians

Gaza: The political goals of both sides and possible outcomes of this war

12 January 2009. A World to Win News Service. Gaza suffered terrible civilian casualties during "stage one" of Israel's assault, the aerial bombardment of one of the world's most densely populated areas. As Israeli ground troops moved in for "stage two", the number of dead and injured grew enormously, as did the proportion of civilian casualties among the overall dead and wounded. Children under 16 and women accounted for 40 percent as of 11 January, according to Gaza medical personnel (Al Jazeera, BBC). Many families dare not move through the streets to take their dead to hospital.

Unbearable atrocities

As the Israeli army added tank, mortar and sniper fire to the weapons being used against Gaza, they began to commit atrocities even more horrendous than the initial bombings. Among them were:

• Three shellings of schools run by the UN being used as civilian shelters. Israeli mortars killed more than 40 people outside one school in the Jabalya refugee camp. The Israeli armed forces had been informed of the geographical coordinates of these schools. The head of the United Nations refugee relief agency (UNWRA) in Gaza refuted Israeli claims that the school had been used by Hamas, and called for a war crimes investigation. Israel responded by releasing a video purportedly showing Hamas fighters in the building, but later had to admit that the footage was from 2007, when the UNWRA was not using the school. (Haaretz, 9 January)

• The shelling of homes in Zeitun, near Gaza City. Israeli troops surrounded the area, building earthen barriers and keeping out rescue teams for four days. When paramedics eventually entered 7 January, in one destroyed home they found four half-dead children clinging to the corpses of their mothers in the rubble.

• In a warehouse, they found the bodies of about 25 members of the Samouni extended family, 10 adults and the rest children. Israeli troops had destroyed five of their homes, and then told them to take shelter in the unfinished building. Some of them were escorted there by Israeli soldiers. When a small group ventured outside the next day to bring in other relatives, they were hit by a tank shell. Then another shell or a missile hit the roof. When the survivors came out, carrying improvised white flags and shouting, "We have kids" in Hebrew, Israeli soldiers shot at them. The soldiers later gave some children first aid, but detained some adults in their firing positions to use as human shields. Not long after the rescue convoy led by the International Committee of the Red Cross arrived, Israeli gunfire forced them to flee without searching for more bodies (as many as 70 of the 100 family members may have been killed). Some injured were reportedly left behind.

• Israeli snipers have been filmed shooting at ambulances and medical personnel on foot trying to reach the wounded and dead lying in the streets. The World Health Organisation counted 21 medical workers killed as of 12 January. (UK Telegraph, 8 January; Independent, 10 January; UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs)

• The UN temporarily suspended aid conveys ferrying emergency supplies into Gaza when Israelis fired at several of them, killing three drivers, even though the Israeli army had cleared the trucks to enter at the border. A tank shell killed a forklift driver as he loaded supplies for one of these convoys. The International Committee of the Red Cross also suspended operations when Israeli troops fired on a convoy transferring intensive care patients to Egypt, again after the Israel army had cleared the vehicles to travel. (Independent, 9 January)

• Amnesty International accused the Israelis of "frequently" forcing civilians to remain in the ground floor of their homes while using the upper floors for sniper positions or as observation posts for extended periods. It also charged Hamas with firing at the invaders from homes, but refuted Israeli claims that this justifies attacking civilians: "The army is well aware gunmen usually leave the area after having fired and any reprisal attack against these homes will in most cases cause harm to civilians," an Amnesty director said.

• When asked on Al Jazeera (11 January) to confirm or deny reports that his government was using white phosphorous bombs in Gaza, Israeli spokesman Mark Regev implicitly confirmed them by arguing that his government was not using any weapons banned by international law, and that at any rate, Nato forces, too, are equipped with the substance and have plans to use it (as the U.S. did in Falluja, Iraq). While it is true that international conventions do not prohibit the use of these incendiary bombs for illumination or to produce smoke to hide troop movements, their use against humans is illegal, especially civilians, because they set fire to everything they touch until the phosphorous burns itself out. The tell-tale dazzling white plumes over Gaza City visible to the whole world on television verify what hospitals on the ground have reported: that the Israelis are burning human flesh.

These atrocities are not just the inadvertent side effects of Israel's targeting of Hamas, which is itself a crime, since Israel is admittedly trying to kill anyone associated in any way, armed or not, with the elected government of Gaza. They are an integral part of the strategy guiding Israel's war: the collective punishment of all of Gaza's people in order to weaken the influence of Hamas. Israel is trying to bend or break Hamas, but it is doing more than that. It is trying to teach the people of Gaza a lesson: submit or die. In this sense, Israel massacres in Gaza serve the same purpose as the year-and-a-half- long blockade before the massive assault began.

What goals these atrocities serve

All wars and armed actions are meant to achieve political goals. Israel's central and long-term aim is unchanged from what it pursued before this war: "The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people." (Moshe Yaalon, then chief of staff of the Israeli armed forces, in 2002, quoted by professor Rashid Khalidin, International Herald Tribune, 9 January 2009)

At the same time, it's impossible to understand Israel's ferocity without taking the broader context into account. Many commentators have said that Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak at first resisted pressure from others in his government to invade Gaza, although when he decided to do so, he went all out. ("Ending the war in Gaza," International Crisis Group, 5 January 2009) The New York Times wrote, "Barak never took Hamas as serious as many others did, considering it a relatively small strategic challenge whose rockets and arms build-up could be tolerated for a while to allow bigger problems to be handled... 'His eyes are focused on Iran,' noted Gilead Sher, who was Barak's chief of staff when he was prime minister a decade ago. 'Hamas and Hezbollah largely worry him in relation to Iran.'" (NYT, 9 January 2009).

By attacking the much weaker and geographically isolated Hamas, Israel wants to get revenge and prove its might after the humiliating setbacks it suffered at the hands of the Islamic movement Hezbollah in its 2006 invasion of Lebanon. "For Israel, it was important to persuade not only Hamas but others in the region that the Islamist movement could not extract concessions through violence — that it was not Israel's equal." (International Crisis Group)

Israel did not live up to the terms of its ceasefire with Hamas by opening Gaza's borders for food and other supplies because it did not want the Islamic organisation to show Palestinians that it could rule despite Israeli opposition. When in retaliation, Hamas let a few rockets be fired, and after Hamas responded to an Israeli attack by firing more in December in what the Crisis Group calls an armed attempt at obtaining a stronger negotiating position, Israel felt it had to prove that it alone had a monopoly on the use of violence. This is the point no matter what it decides to do next — whether Tel Aviv accepts a ceasefire that might weaken Hamas but lets it survive, for fear that no one else could restrain Palestinians like this Islamic group, a solution that the ICG favours, or whether, as the ICG warns, "the dynamics of warfare ... push the undertaking much further."

Hamas has its own political goals in this war. It never even dreamed of defeating Israel militarily at this point. It may need only to survive to gain a political victory, bolstering its standing as the leadership of any possible Palestinian resistance. In the ICG's analysis, Israel faces the contradiction that the more they attack Hamas, the more they improve its political standing. This could lead Israel to stop short at some point, or it could lead it to fight for a more drastic solution.

Either way, from the start Israel's decision to assault Gaza was intended to draw civilian casualties. A former senior Israeli defence ministry advisor told the Crisis Group, "Israel decided to play the role of mad dog for the sake of future deterrence." The fact that these massacres are a part of a cold-blooded strategy makes them all the more criminal.

What the U.S. and Israel share

As the U.S. government arrogantly admits, it has acted to prevent a ceasefire until Israel's aims are accomplished. If and when this particular assault halts, the U.S and Israel will continue to pursue those aims in new forms. Israel's war aims are shared by the U.S., which also shares the infamy for the deaths inflicted with American weapons and munitions. These aims include the protection of the Jewish state, the U.S.'s only thoroughly reliable outpost in a region whose population seethes with indignation. They also include confronting Islamic fundamentalism and the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is a central necessity in the US crusade to more thoroughly impose its will on the region and achieve the incontestable world hegemony on the political and economic fronts that has so far eluded the world's only superpower.

The U.S.'s unabashed support for Israel means that it also shares the risks inherent in this war: that it "will inflame the region, and Iran will take advantage of this," as a Hamas leader told the ICG. Hamas is just as logical in its thinking as Israel, both in its acceptance of the existence of Israel under present world conditions and in its hopes for what Israel fears, a radical change in that world situation.

The Crisis Group, an international advisory organisation whose aim is to maintain the present world order, which inherently means the imperialist economic and political system that underlies it, cynically fears that civilian deaths may bring "political damage (regional polarisation and radicalisation, further discrediting of any 'moderates' or 'peace process'… What is required is a Lebanon-type diplomatic outcome."

Certainly any diplomatic outcome will be as squarely aimed at the Palestinian people as this war has been. Israel can't solve its "Palestinian problem" without wave after wave of oppression and cruelty. Therefore, no matter what the terms are, more "radicalisation" seems possible. What form that radicalisation may take — what political goals and ideology guide it — is a critical question for the future of the Palestinian people and the region. That also applies to the mounting radical anger we have seen in protests on every continent.

- end item-

The Nazi genocide of Europe's Jews and Israel's massacres of Palestinians

12 January 2009. A World to Win News Service. The following is excerpted from a longer article in AWTWS 31 January 2005, with new beginning and final paragraphs.

It's intolerable for the Nazi genocide of Europe's Jews to be used as an argument to support the murders committed by Israel. Now, as in the past, these imperialist powers and their leaders have never had any special love for Jews, and still less have they ever really opposed any oppression.

The truth is that the U.S. and UK failed to lift a finger to stop that genocide, covered it up while it was happening, and after the war protected the men who did it.

When the Nazis came to power in the German elections of 1933, they aimed to drive the Jews out of Germany. But few countries let them in. In fact, only one welcomed them in unlimited numbers: the then socialist U.S.SR. In 1938, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt convened the Evian Conference, a meeting of 32 countries held in France, to decide what to do about Jewish refugees. Although the U.S. and UK were admitting tens of thousands of a year, ten times more were applying for visas. The two main powers asked other countries to take them instead. France refused. The only country in attendance that agreed to increase its quotas was the Dominican Republic. The Nazi press saluted the conference as a sign that the world was coming around to its racial policies.

The SS Saint Louis departed Hamburg, Germany, in May 1939 bound for Cuba with 937 desperate refugees aboard, nearly all German Jews. Most had applied for visas to the U.S. Cuba had given them permission to land there while they waited for an answer. Just before they arrived, the U.S. pushed Cuba to change its mind and forbid the refugees to leave the ship. No other Latin American country would take them either. The ship sailed so close to American shores that passengers could see the lit streets of Miami at night. It waited offshore for a response to a cable sent to Roosevelt asking for humanitarian refuge. The U.S. government had already decided against them, but sent no reply. In June, the ship was forced to return to Europe, where many of its passengers ended up in Nazi death camps.

By 1941, when the Nazis officially forbade Jewish emigration, more than 80 percent of German Jews had already left. But the German invasion of Poland had brought Europe's main concentration of Jews under the control of the Third Reich. As the Nazi armies moved through Eastern Europe and into the Soviet Union, rampaging through heavily Jewish areas in Byelorussia and Ukraine, many millions of Jews came under their boot. In January 1942, at a conference in a leafy green suburb of Berlin called Wansee, they adopted a plan for "the final solution": all Jews would be sent to camps in the east. Those too weak to work would be exterminated. The rest would be worked and starved to death. Those who survived would also be exterminated.

The Western Allies knew about this, but kept it secret. When the World Jewish Council in Geneva sent the U.S. State Department a cable detailing the Wansee plans, the government not only ignored it but also told a leading American rabbi who had also received the report to keep his mouth shut. The Vatican knew the full story from the beginning through Catholic sources, but despite requests from below, Pope Pius XII refused to make a public statement against killing Jews, whom the Church still officially considered "Christ killers". Today the Vatican is trying to have that pope declared a saint.

In the Warsaw ghetto, a Jewish fighting organisation led by communists and other resistance forces sent scouts through the sewers and beyond the walls where the Nazis had locked them in. They followed the trains that were taking families away by the thousands to an unknown destination. At the end of the line was Auschwitz, where eventually more than a million Jews, 75,000 non-Jewish Poles, 18,000 Roma (Gypsies) and 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war were to perish, killed by poison gas, their bodies burned in ovens.

A representative of the pro-British Polish government overthrown by the Nazis was brought into the ghetto to hear their story. They described the camp and told him that the trains were carrying 10,000 Jews a day to their deaths from Warsaw alone. Although not particularly inclined toward Jews, he agreed to slip out of Poland and tell the British and American authorities, thinking that as a political ally they would listen to him. He was the kind of man who expected to meet with Churchill, and he had a long talk with Roosevelt. Nothing happened.

Auschwitz, like the other concentration camps, was fed its constant intake of Jewish lives and coal by rail starting in 1942. Without those railroad tracks, the death factory would have ground to a halt and the gas ovens grown cold. Why didn't the Allies bomb them?

Auschwitz was approaching its infernal climax. Poland was emptied of Jews. The trains brought 440,000 Hungarians, half of the country's Jewish population, to their deaths over the course of only a few weeks in May and June. The U.S. and Britain merely watched.

In August and September of that year, the U.S. Air Force staged bombing runs on an industrial complex less than five minutes by air away from the gas chambers. An Auschwitz survivor speaking in a recent BBC documentary bitterly recalls how she and other prisoners watched hundreds of warplanes pass over their heads. They said to each other, Why don't they bomb this place? Even if they kill many of us, that's the only chance any of us have to live.

October 1944 saw one of the known prisoner revolts at Auschwitz. Hundreds of prisoners attacked the guards with axes and rocks. They used smuggled explosives to blow up a gas chamber and set a crematorium on fire. The Allies were considering airdropping guns on the camp. They never did.

In fact, the camps continued running without outside interference until 27 January 1945, when the Soviet Red Army arrived at its gates. They found about 7,000 survivors, all too weak to walk. The Nazis had taken another 58,000 with them on a death march as they fled to the west. They were determined that even if they were defeated, no Jews would remain alive.

The crimes of the U.S., however, did not stop on that date. Very few Nazi leaders and executioners were ever brought to justice for the simple reason that the U.S. protected them. Shortly after the war, the U.S. recruited many former leading Nazis as partners in their efforts against the Soviet Union.

The vicious Allied powers identified three million Germans as having committed crimes during the war. A million were tried. Eleven were sentenced to death. A few received short prison sentences. Most of the rest had to pay a fine or were briefly ineligible to hold public office. In 1951, almost all of them were amnestied. Big capitalists like Krupp whose factories had used concentration camp labour were given their fortunes back. The Nazi commandant at Auschwitz was hung. But of the 10,000 members of the elite Nazi SS who administered the murders there, only about 750 suffered even the slightest punishment.

As recently reaffirmed by the book U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis by Norman J. W. Goda, based on official American archives, thousands of Nazis and SS officers were brought to the U.S. where "they could be useful in countering communist leanings in immigrant communities, " as an Associated Press article put it. The Catholic Church and American military intelligence worked together to smuggle some of the most notorious Nazis out of Germany. In fact, Goda says, the CIA took a group of German officers who had been responsible for intelligence on the Eastern Front and used them as the core around which to build West Germany's future intelligence service, still at work today.

One big reason explaining the conduct of the U.S., UK, France and other Western powers during the war is this: If the truth about the extermination camps became known, public pressure to do something about it would have interfered with their freedom to set military priorities according to their overall war aims. They also believed, not without justification, that many Jews were sympathetic to the Soviet Union. The Bolsheviks emancipated the Jews in a country, Tsarist Russia, which had been a hellhole for them for centuries. They welcomed Jews into the revolutionary movement and the public life from which they were previously banned. In the course of World War 2, the Red Army saved the lives of 1.5 million of the 4 million Jews in German-occupied or invaded territory. (Arno Mayer, Why Did the Heavens Not Darken?)

If you want to know what the U.S.'s aims were, look at what came out of it when they won: America became the chief imperialist power, able to fatten on exploitation around the world. The UK, although taken down a peg from its former position, survived as a major power and became the U.S.'s chief partner. Germany and Japan, which had tried and failed to achieve the kind of global dominance the U.S. did achieve, had no choice but to become associate members in the U.S.-led crime syndicate. The U.S. and UK could not spare a single bomb to save Jewish lives because they had other aims. They protected Nazis after the war for the same kind of imperialist reasons.

Today, in one of history's most cruel ironies, the rulers of all the Western powers — today's representatives of the same monopoly capitalist ruling classes active or complicit in the genocide of Europe's Jews — use it to justify yet more murder: Israel's oppression and massacres of the Palestinian people. The U.S., in particular, with the support of all the other imperialist powers, has built up Israel as a key outpost in the enforcement of imperialist interests in the region, not because of supposed Jewish influence in public life but for the same reasons they allowed the Jewish genocide in the first place: imperialist interests.

Today's ruling reactionaries equate opposition to Israel with anti-Semitism in a cynical effort to cover up the real nature of Israel and the role it plays, which many Jews oppose. Israel does have a special relationship with Washington, as American politicians so often proclaim, because its citizens enjoy benefits from their country's services to the U.S., while people in other countries in the region reap misery from their country's subservience to it. But while equating Israel and Jewish people in general promotes Zionism, it also foments anti-Semitism, as if the reason for the crimes that fill most of humanity with revulsion were some supposedly inherent Jewish nature and not imperialism and its Zionist partners.

Some pro-Palestinian protestors in Europe have been carrying signs that cut to the heart of the matter: "Gaza = Warsaw ghetto". That's a correct position in the face of the efforts to use a genocide to justify massacres.

We shouldn't take events out of their historical context, like the promoters of Zionism do, and get lost in unscientific comparisons. But one profound lesson of the genocide of the Jews is the same as what we're seeing in Gaza and Palestine today: the imperialist system will produce horrors, again and again, in different forms and often beyond our imagination, until it is overthrown throughout the world. In building opposition to the crimes of today, we need to link this to ending a criminal system

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