13 January, 2009

Gaza: Democracy Among the Dead and Wounded

While our horrified attention is captured by falling bombs and rising bodycounts, Israel makes a mockery of the idea that it remains a vibrant democracy:

If there's a reasonable justification for this, it doesn't come to mind.

Israel on Monday banned Arab political parties from running in next month's parliamentary elections, drawing accusations of racism by an Arab lawmaker who said he would challenge the decision in the country's Supreme Court.

The ruling by parliament's Central Election Committee reflected the heightened tensions between Israel's Jewish majority and Arab minority caused by Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip. Arabs have held a series of demonstrations against the offensive.

Parliament spokesman Giora Pordes said the election committee voted overwhelmingly in favor of the motion, accusing the country's Arab parties of incitement, supporting terrorist groups and refusing to recognize Israel's right to exist. Arab lawmakers have traveled to some of Israel's staunchest enemies, including Lebanon and Syria.

The 37-member committee is composed of representatives from Israel's major political parties. The measure was proposed by two ultranationalist parties but received widespread support.

There are Arab members of the predominantly Jewish parties and Israel's communist party, but the move doesn't affect them. One-fifth of Israel's population is Arab. No good can come of a decision like this one.

Israel has treated its Arab population as second-class citizens for a very long time, all the while proclaiming that its Arabs have rights and a voice and so nothing to complain about. I remember this argument being made again and again in books I've read about their history. They were proud of the fact that they gave their Arab citizens a voice within their democracy.

It looks like they've decided that weak voice was far too loud.

But Israeli PM Olmert's is ringing out loudly enough to leave the U.S. cowering in a corner:

Last week, the U.S. curiously abstained from a voting on a United Nations Gaza ceasefire resolution, “an apparent reversal of earlier promises to Arab states.” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, despite voicing support for the resolution, raised concerns about “Egyptian mediation efforts” in explaining the abstention.

But in reality, Rice was essentially ready to support the resolution — until a last-minute intervention from President Bush. In a speech in Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert bragged that he called Bush at the last minute, urging that the U.S. not vote to support the resolution. Bush acquiesced to Olmert’s demands:

“In the night between Thursday and Friday, when the secretary of state wanted to lead the vote on a ceasefire at the Security Council, we did not want her to vote in favour,” Olmert said.

“I said ‘get me President Bush on the phone’. They said he was in the middle of giving a speech in Philadelphia. I said I didn’t care. ‘I need to talk to him now’. He got off the podium and spoke to me.”I told him the United States could not vote in favour. It cannot vote in favour of such a resolution. He immediately called the secretary of state and told her not to vote in favour.”

Rice had worked extensively on the resolution with Arab, British, and French foreign ministers. “She was left shamed. A resolution that she prepared and arranged, and in the end she did not vote in favour,” Olmert said.

I wonder how Bush likes being this gloating fuck's little bitch? At least we won't have to wonder who's going to be the girlfriend if the Hague throws them both in the same prison cell for war crimes.

Bush, along with the vast majority of the war-obsessed neocon fuckwits who love to cheerlead while other people get killed, is probably swooning over Olmert's tough-guy rhetoric:

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stood within Hamas rocket range Monday and warned Islamic militants that they face an "iron fist" unless they agree to Israeli terms for an end to war in the Gaza Strip. Hamas showed no signs of wavering, however, with its leader, Ismail Haniyeh, saying the militants were "closer to victory."


As diplomats struggled for traction in truce efforts, Olmert said Israel would only end military operations if Hamas stops rocketing Israel, as it has done for years, and is unable to rearm after combat subsides.

"Anything else will be met with the Israeli people's iron fist," Olmert said. "We will continue to strike with full strength, with full force until there is quiet and rearmament stops."


At least 20 Palestinians died Monday, some of them from wounds suffered on previous days, Gaza health officials said.

A girl, a doctor and a Hamas militant were killed in the northern Gaza Strip, said Basim Abu Wardeh, head of Kamal Adwan hospital.

The doctor rushed to evacuate the wounded from a building where two airstrikes had taken place and was killed by a third, Abu Wardeh said. Four other medics were injured, one critically.

That's Israel's iron fist. While Olmert and his military pretend it's all about smiting militants, their iron fist crushes little girls and doctors. They have killed more people in a single day than they've lost during the entire duration of this war. And those ratios would be impressive if they weren't bloated by so many civilians on the Palestinian side. That turns this war from a tour-de-force into a massacre.

But that's okay. After all, these people are nothing. They're just trash:

On Wednesday, Illinois Republican Congressman Mark Kirk spoke at a rally in Washington:

U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Frank Wolf (R-Va.) all also strongly backed the Jewish state's actions at the hourlong rally.

"To misquote Shakespeare, something is rotten in Gaza and now it's time to take out the trash," Kirk said.

No mention of diplomacy or of the brutality and human suffering on both sides. Just "taking out the trash."


I guess, for some people who’ve never been in the thick of the fighting in a combat zone, it’s easy to lose sight of what that process entails. And when people lose that perspective during a conflict, they sometimes make stupid statements aimed at burnishing their own credentials as big, tough, fighting men, even though that’s not what they are.

People who throw around such cavalier remarks have never watched a civilian bleed to death on a battlefield after being cut down in the crossfire. To people like Congressman Kirk, combat doesn’t involve real people in real situations. Just numbers, ideologies, terrorists, and "trash." It’s the same reckless attitude that birthed George W. Bush’s "bring’em on" statement and many others like it.

Brandon Friedman's essay includes a photo of what the "trash" looks like. It's a very young Palestinian girl's body being carried to a stretcher.

I wonder, if people like Kirk and Olmert and Bush had to carry the bodies of dead children out of the debris of the bombs they ordered dropped, if we would still hear phrases like "bring 'em on" and "iron fist" and "time to take out the trash."

But they're not faced with that. They very carefully insulate themselves from the horrors they unleash, and ignore anyone who doesn't cheer their efforts. The voices of those who demand they stop the killing of innocents may as well be mute. They don't hear them.

Once again, the UN issues a condemnation Israel will be only too happy to ignore:

The United Nations Human Rights Council condemned Israel today for “grave violations” of human rights of the people of Gaza. The adopted resolution drafted by Arab, Asian, and African countries also called for the urgent dispatch of an international mission to investigate Israeli behavior in the Gaza Strip, and called on Israel to cooperate with it by immediately ending its attacks and withdrawing its military forces from Gaza:

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay stressed to told the Council on Friday that international human rights law must apply in all circumstances and at all times, and strongly urged the parties to the conflict “to fulfil their obligations under international humanitarian law to collect, care for and evacuate the wounded and to protect and respect health workers, hospitals, and medical units and ambulances.

“Accountability must be ensured for violations of international law,” she said.

The resolution also called for an end to “launching of the crude rockets against Israeli civilians that resulted in the loss of 4 civilian lives” but noted that Israeli attacks had brought some 900 Palestinian deaths and injured around 4,000. Canada cast the only negative vote for the non-binding resolution, which received the support of 33 of the Council’s 47 members, while 13 countries abstained.

Don't be too surprised by the fact that Canada voted against condemning Israel. Remember that Stephen Harper and his merry band of neocons have done their level best to live up to the example Bush has set. And they, too, have their lobby of religious nuts wanting Israel to bring the whole world to Armageddon.

This is a perfect storm of compliant Western powers, religious insanity, and a refusal on all sides to face up to some harsh reality:
For many years, Israel has adhered to a number of basic assumptions that have never proven right. Some of these theories contributed to the operation in Gaza this time. According to one such assumption, inflicting hardship on Palestinian civilians will make the population rise up against its leaders and choose more “moderate” ones. Hence, when Hamas took over Gaza in 2007, after a short, sharp struggle with its secular rivals in Fatah, Israel imposed a blockade on the strip, pushing 1.5 million Palestinians to the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe. But Hamas has only become stronger. And here’s another false Israeli assumption: that Hamas is a terrorist organization. In fact, it’s also a genuine national and religious movement supported by most of the people in Gaza. It cannot be simply bombed away.
That voice of reason provided by an Israeli Jew.

Peace hasn't been able to survive such spectacularly wrong assumptions. Based on Israel's actions yesterday, it seems that democracy will soon be joining peace in its grave.

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