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TO US, WAR CRIMES LOOK NORMAL:

2009 is Starting Off with a Shameful and Criminal Bang

by Dave Lindorff
Thursday, 1 January 2009
It is as if some of the long-suffering poor of Detroit, MI or of Newark, NJ, were to begin firing crude rockets into the suburbs, and the US were to cordon off the ghettos of those cities, and then launch a weeks-long aerial assault on them by the USAF.
The deafening silence from American government officials and from the US media regarding the criminal Israeli assault against civilians in Israel’s ghetto of Gaza, where nearly 1.5 million Palestinians are trapped every bit as brutally as were the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto, is beyond unconscionable.

As Israeli shells and bombs and rockets rain down on university buildings, clearly marked ambulances, and homes, it has to be pointed out that much of the ammunition being used, as well as the planes that are delivering this death and mayhem, are provided by the United States and by American taxpayers—with no strings attached.

Media outlets like the New York Times may call “evenhandedly” for a cease-fire by “both sides,” as though the handful of home-made unguided rockets fired into Israel by Hamas are in any way comparable to the massive assault by the IDF. But the reality is that it is the Israeli forces, which, thanks to their overwhelming US-supplied and financed firepower, are killing Palestinians on purpose, at a rate of 100:1 compared to Hamas.

It is true that Hamas has been firing its rockets at Israeli towns. These rockets cannot be aimed except in the crudest fashion. Whether Hamas rockets hit a house or a school or a military installation is a matter of chance. And as observers of the conflict have pointed out, the cities being targeted by Hamas pretty much all have military installations located in them, which by the logic of US military strategists, makes them legitimate military targets. This is not to justify the killings of civilians by Hamas rockets—all such killing is evil and tragic—merely to point out that Hamas is not doing anything that American military forces haven’t done routinely in places like Vietnam, or, more recently, in cities like Baghdad and Fallujah.

Israel, however, does not have the excuse of poor technology to justify its atrocities. Israel is using the same “smart” bombs that American forces use. It has elaborate satellite and aerial surveillance images to work with. The same military technology that can pinpoint the location of Hamas commanders and hit them with precise rocket fire, is clearly able to identify whether a vehicle is an ambulance before blasting it with a rocket or a bomb, as the Times reports was done yesterday, killing a Palestinian doctor on a mercy mission. So let’s be honest here. The goal of Israel’s attack on Gaza (like America's attacks on Fallujah and the Sadr City slum in Baghdad) is a terrorist one—to frighten the population of Gaza into rejecting the Hamas government that they elected in the last free and fair elections there.

Israel has gone to great lengths to ensure that the world does not know the extent of its crimes against humanity inside of Gaza. Reporters have been barred from the 10-mile-by-1-mile walled-off ghetto. Israeli gunboats, patrolling off the coast of Gaza, have driven off boats that have sought to bring reporters and other witnesses to the assault.

In Israel itself, there are protests against this war on a captive people. Thousands have gathered to protest in Tel Aviv. Citizens called up as reservists to prepare for a possible land assault on Gaza have refused service, risking jail. None of this is being reported in the American corporate media, which is largely cheerleading the Israeli attack, primarily by “evenhandedly” reporting on the attacks in Gaza and the rockets launched by Hamas into Israel.

As Dov Khenin, an Israeli Knesset member from the leftist Jewish/Arab opposition political party Hadash stated in an interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, “Well, the most important thing to realize is that there is an opposition inside Israel to the war and to everything going on around right now in Gaza. This position is a Jewish-Arab one. On Saturday night, we had a demonstration in Tel Aviv of 2,000 young people, mainly Jews, and there are a lot of demonstrations all over Israel of Jews and Arabs opposing the war policy of the current government. This opposition is growing steadily. It is very important to know this and to understand that there are other voices in Israeli society who (oppose) a war, and they believe there is a better alternative for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

The ludicrous claim by Israel that its assault on the people of Gaza is justified by the “right of self-defense” is absurd on its face. Gaza is not a foreign country attacking another sovereign nation. It is a ghetto, maintained by Israel, which controls the walled-in community’s very life—the flow of fuel for its electric generators, its water, its food, and its medical supplies, and which determines who can enter and who can leave. Granted, there is a narrow border with Egypt, but Israel, backed by the US, has also used diplomatic efforts to keep that border tightly controlled too, with the complicity of an autocratic Egyptian regime not anxious to be flooded with Palestinian refugees.

It is as if some of the long-suffering poor of Detroit, MI or of Newark, NJ, were to begin firing rockets into the suburbs, and the US were to cordon off the downtowns of those cities, and then launch a weeks’-long aerial assault on them by the USAF.

Perhaps Americans would be as silent about such a domestic atrocity as they are being about the one Israel is visiting on Gaza today, but I doubt it. The national outrage at what was done, by acts of commission and omission, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to the poor residents of the city of New Orleans suggests not. That we remain callously silent at the ongoing crime against humanity being perpetrated by Israel today on the people of Gaza, with weapons that we have provided, is, I hope, more a reflection of the failure of our jingoistic media to do its job honestly, than of a blind support of those attacks.

The American government—including the government in waiting which, from Barack Obama on down, has maintained a shameful silence over the attacks, with Obama himself even offering support for the Israeli attacks—has no such excuse.

2009, and the new Obama administration, are off to a terrible start.


Dave Lindorff in Washington

About the author: Philadelphia journalist Dave Lindorff is a 34-year veteran, an award-winning journalist, a former New York Times contributor, a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, a two-time Journalism Fulbright Scholar, and the co-author, with Barbara Olshansky, of a well-regarded book on impeachment, The Case for Impeachment. His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net.



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This story was published on January 2, 2009.