What Obama said to get Netanyahu to apologize to Turkey for Mavi Marmara "operational errors"

We really don’t know, yet, what U.S. President Barack Obama said, or did, to get Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu to offer, finally, an apology to Turkey for the deaths of 9 Turkish men [one of them a 19-year-old Turkish-American high school student]… but the fact that one of the dead was a 19-year-old American high school student Furkan Dogan may have been part of Obama’s leverage.

Israel has needed to resolve this situation, in which its apology was required by clear and repeated Turkish demands, for a long time.

There were hints that a breakthrough might be coming, but nothing solid until last night’s surprise announcement.

Obama’s insistence offered Netanyahu a relatively “face-saving” way to do it. An statement issued by the Israeli Prime Minister’s office said that Netanyahu told the Turkish Prime Minister that “the tragic results regarding the Mavi Marmara were unintentional“. UPDATE: The Israeli Government Press Office has just sent around, by email, a new version, which says Netanyahu “made clear that the tragic outcome of the Mavi Marmara incident was not intended by Israel and that Israel regrets the loss of human life and injury“.

Haaretz reported here that “During the conversation, Netanyahu made it clear that ‘the tragic consequences of the Mavi Marmara flotilla were unintentional, and Israel regrets any injury or loss of life’.”

The Israeli statement also said, with notable pride about its own investigation into the “maritime incident”, that “In light of the Israeli investigation into the incident, which pointed out several operational errors, Prime Minister Netanyahu apologized to the Turkish people for any errors that could have led to loss of life and agreed to complete the agreement on compensation“.
[UPDATE: The new version sent around by the Israeli GPO is almost identical to the original, above, but the word “nonliability” has been added.  It now reads as follows: “In light of Israel’s investigation into the incident which pointed to a number of operational mistakes, the Prime Minister expressed Israel’s apology to the Turkish people for any mistakes that might have led to the loss of life or injury and agreed to conclude an agreement on compensation/nonliability”.]

Turkish and Israeli diplomats engaged in months of negotiations about the wording of the apology itself and the compensation Israel would offer. Israel insisted on limiting the blame to “operational errors”.

There was, reportedly, a three-way phone call between Obama, Netanyahu, and Turkish Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan, made from a portable trailer set up on the runway at Ben Gurion Airport. Israeli journalists said it was a 30-minute conversation. The New York Times reported here that the call lasted 10 minutes.

The New York Times reported that “senior Turkish government officials said: ‘The Israeli prime minister, in a phone call that lasted 10 minutes, apologized to the Turkish nation for all operational mistakes evident in an investigation that led to human loses, agreed to offer compensation’.”

Obama announced the result either just before or just after Air Force One was in the air, taking off from Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport en route to Amman.

A short while later, a statement published by the Israeli Prime Minister’s office, and sent by email from the Government Press Office [GPO], said:
“…The Prime Minister expressed regret over the deterioration in bilateral relations and noted his commitment to working out the disagreements in order to advance peace and regional stability. Prime Minister Netanyahu said that he saw Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s recent interview in a Danish newspaper and expressed his appreciation for the latter’s remarks. The Prime Minister made it clear that the tragic results regarding the Mavi Marmara were unintentional and that Israel expresses regret over injuries and loss of life. In light of the Israeli investigation into the incident, which pointed out several operational errors, Prime Minister Netanyahu apologized to the Turkish people for any errors that could have led to loss of life and agreed to complete the agreement on compensation”.

Turkish officials confirmed that Erdogan had, “on behalf of Turkey”, accepted the apology proferred by Netanyahu.

UPDATE: In the new version sent around by the Israeli GPO, the following is omitted: The Israeli statement claimed that “The two men agreed to restore normalization between Israel and Turkey, including the dispatch of ambassadors and the cancellation of legal steps against IDF soldiers”.

The revised Israeli statement is now posted on the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s website, here

The Times of Israel reported here that Erdogan said, shortly after the announcement of the apology + its acceptance, that “it was too early to cancel legal steps against Israeli soldiers who took part in the raid on the Mavi Mamara”.

As the Times of Israel noted, “four IDF generals stand accused of war crimes over the incident. The indictment, prepared last summer, sought ten aggravated life sentences for each officer ostensibly involved in the 2010 raid — including former chief of the IDF General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and former head of military intelligence Amos Yadlin”.

The Times of Israel added that, according to the Hurriyet daily, Erdogan also said the exchange of ambassadors between Israel and Turkey would not take place immediately…Erdogan said that, in the past, Israel had ‘expressed regret several times, refusing to offer a formal apology’ over the killings of nine Turkish citizens of the Marmara in 2010 — the incident that led to the freezing of Israeli-Turkish ties. However, Ankara had ‘insisted on an apology’, he said. That apology had finally been delivered by Netanyahu on Friday, he said. ‘All our demands have now been met with that apology which was offered the way we wanted’.”

The Times of Israel also reported, in the same story, that “Erdogan also announced plans to visit Gaza, possibly next month. Hamas’s Gaza prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, calling Netanyahu’s apology ‘a diplomatic victory for Ankara’, confirmed Erdogan would visit ‘in the near future’, and said this trip would mark ‘a significant step to ending the political and economic blockade’ of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip”. According to this report, Erdogan may visit both Gaza and the West Bank in April, “in the context of a general effort to contribute to the resolution process”, Erdogan is quoted as saying.

Other Hamas sources were less enthusiastic about the apology, however.

The Israeli statement said that “Prime Minister Netanyahu also noted that Israel has already lifted several restrictions on the movement of civilians and goods to all of the Palestinian territories, including Gaza, and added that this will continue as long as the quiet is maintained”.

But, this rang a bit hollow a day after four rockets were reportedly fired from Gaza, with two hitting Israeli areas, after which the Israeli Defense Forces announced that they were reinstating crippling restrictions on Gaza’s fishermen that were lifted in a cease-fire agreement with Hamas brokered by Egypt after Operation Pillar of Clouds last November.

In a separate but related development, Hamas “complained to Egypt Friday after Israel suspended part of a Cairo-brokered truce agreement by halving Palestinian access to fishing waters in response to a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip”. This is reported here. It was also reported, in another story, here, that “Gaza’s Hamas rulers have arrested two Salafist militants, sources close to the Palestinian Islamist hardliners said Friday, after a Salafist group claimed a rocket attack on Israel. A coalition of Salafist groups in Gaza, which oppose the Hamas regime, claimed responsibility for the firing of two rockets at southern Israel on Thursday while US President Barack Obama was visiting…”

Reuters reported here that “Ankara expelled Israel’s ambassador and froze military cooperation after a UN report into the Mavi Marmara incident, released in September 2011, largely exonerated the Jewish state. Israel had previously balked at apologizing to the Turks, saying this would be tantamount to admitting moral culpability and would invite lawsuits against its troops. Voicing until now only ‘regret’ over the Mavi Marmara incident, Israel has offered to pay into what it called a ‘humanitarian fund’ through which casualties and their relatives could be compensated. A source in Netanyahu’s office said opening a new chapter with Turkey ‘can be very, very important for the future, regarding what happens with Syria but not just what happens with Syria’.”

UPDATE TWO: Laura Rozen wrote on Al-Monitor here that “Once close Israeli-Turkish ties have been deeply strained since Israel’s 2008 Cast Lead operation against Hamas, and more broadly as Erdogan’s ruling Islamist Justice and Peace (AKP) party has moved against the country’s once dominant secular military commanders. Military ties formed the backbone of the Turkish-Israeli alliance at its height, said Dan Arbell, a former Israeli diplomat studying the relationship as a visiting fellow at the Brookings Instition. Even the restoration of formal diplomatic ties now–as well as brisk economic trade–is not likely to return Israel and Turkey to the level of rapport they enjoyed in the past, given the reduced role the Turkish military plays in the country under Erdogan and the AKP, he said. ‘This begins a process of normalization, but I do not see it bringing the countries back to the level of relations they had between them in the 1990s’, Arbell, Israel’s former Deputy Chief of Mission in Washington, told Al-Monitor in an interview Friday, adding that there has been, however, a growing “’convergence of interests’ between Ankara and Jerusalem, including on the Syria conflict and Iran. Though Turkish-Israeli reconciliation was certain to be on the agenda for discussion during Obama’s conversations in Israel this week, Arbell said he was pleasantly surprised at the speed of the diplomatic breakthrough”.

The Haaretz report noted that “Over the past few months, Israel and Turkey have been trying to reach an agreement over the wording of an apology, in an attempt to end the bilateral crisis. Just a few weeks ago, Turkey’s Undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry Feridun Sinirlio?lu met in Rome with Israel’s National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror and envoy Joseph Ciechanover. But during this meeting the parties failed to reach a magic formula to bring the crisis to an end. Part of the reason the reconciliation talks between Turkey and Israel encountered difficulties was because of Erdogan’s inflammatory comments a few weeks ago. During a United Nations Conference in Vienna, Erdogan called Zionism a ‘crime against humanity’, and compared it to fascism. Erdogan’s comments caused great anger in both Jerusalem and Washington”.

Perhaps Erdogan said something placatory today, too.

[Israel’s former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, now chairman of the Knesset Foreign Relations + Defense Committee, said that unless Erdogan apologized as well, in today’s phone call, for his “crime against humanity” accusation, Israel’s dignity would be compromised”. Brent Sasley wrote here a blog post today saying that “It’s hard to avoid noticing that the apology was only realized with Avigdor Lieberman gone from the Foreign Ministry. Blustering and belligerent, Lieberman was never the right choice for the position. If Bibi’s apology can warm his relationship with Obama, reset the relationship with Turkey, and lead to the inclusion rather than exclusion of Israel in global and regional forums, conferences, and exercises, then it’s hard to argue bringing Lieberman back is a good thing. In fact, the obvious conclusion is the opposite one: Israel can accomplish much with Foreign Minister who’s pragmatic and has a broader sense of Israel’s position in the world”.]

Now, back to the opening question: what did Obama do to get Netanyahu to take this step?  Here’s one strange theory, from The Washington Institute’s Robert Satloff: “It is no coincidence that Netanyahu spoke by phone with Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan just as President Obama was departing Israel for Jordan, opening the door to a mutual return of ambassadors. Mending ties between the two leaders has long been a U.S. objective. The fact that Obama delivered a highly symbolic (if indirect) rebuke to Erdogan by visiting the tomb of Theodor Herzl — implicitly endorsing the ideology that the Turkish leader recently called a “crime against humanity” — almost certainly gave cover for Netanyahu to reach out to Ankara”... This is posted here.

Guest Post: There are people who are hurting in Gaza

British humanitarian health workers
barred entry into Gaza

By Peter Smith and Catherine Thick

Although passage to and from Gaza via Israel’s crossing points is severely restricted by the Israeli military, until now we have been fortunate to be granted entry permits. But, our recent request for entry has been refused – without explanation — despite the Israeli general claim that restrictions are easing.

As osteopaths and acupuncturists we have volunteered in Gaza and the West Bank over the last five years, treating those with limited access to health care. We have made eight trips to Palestine since 2008 , and worked three times in Nablus before concentrating more on Gaza. Our motivation is neither political nor religious, but rather simply to help relieve suffering.

We are, however, strongly opposed to the inhumane treatment of the people of Gaza, and concerned at media under-reporting of the lives of the Palestinian people.

This leaves room for virtually-unanswered parodies about the high life lived by some of Gaza’s rich and privileged – a life which the international media sees and even shares during their visits to the Gaza Strip. These parodies have been devised and promoted by Israeli government officials whose responsibilities include dealing with the media. Pro-Israeli organizations working to influence the media have also produced similar pointed commentaries.

But, the existence of this apparent paradox does not in any way negate the reality facing many of Gaza’s 1.6 million Palestinian residents who are poor and suffering and struggling.

Waiting once at the Erez crossing, we spoke to a foreign journalist who explained that Israel banned all its journalists from working in Gaza after Israel’s “disengagement” in 2005.

While Israelis are now barred from personally witnessing what is going on in Gaza, the vast majority of Palestinians in Gaza, meanwhile, have no way to move in or out of Gaza, from which Israel carried out its unilateral “disengagement” of some 8,000 Israeli settlers and the Israeli forces protecting them in September 2005. The “protection” the Israeli forces offered in Gaza, however, was only for the Israelis; the Palestinian population living under Israel’s military occupation suffered from severe clamp-downs on their own internal movement, and the military firing that constituted much of that “protection”.

We witnessed life in Gaza under the sanctions imposed in mid-2007 by the Israeli government and administered by the Israeli military, when Hamas took control in Gaza after its rout of Fatah/Palestinian security services. There have been recurring hostilities ever since, including two large-scale Israeli military operations against Gaza.

The sanctions include denying millions of Palestinians the right to travel to and from Gaza, and are still in effect, although they were “adjusted” after the international outcry following Israel’s May 2010 interception of the Freedom Flotilla and boarding of the large Turkish passenger ship, the Mavi Marmara, during which 9 Turkish men were killed.

These sanctions, however, are collective punishment – which is forbidden under international law.

On one visit, we walked through the Israeli crossing at Erez and out through a long cage in “no-man’s land” inside Gaza, and were waiting for a car to take us to the Hamas border control, when a bomb exploded uncomfortably close. An old man sitting on the ground looked up at us and said “bad”. That pretty much sums up life for many, as we saw it, who are now locked inside Gaza.

During our work in Gaza, we treated a 65 year old man with very painful advanced osteoarthritis of the knees. He was a qualified accountant but could not get a job in his profession and works as a builder’s labourer for 12 hours every day which exacerbated his pain. He was desperate for relief so that he could continue working to support his family. “Those of us who are fortunate to have a job often have to support an extended family which puts us under great pressure”. he said. “Hourly wages are very low so we have to work long hours. We Palestinians are hard-working but we cannot use our skills. We used to manufacture and export furniture to many countries.” But now, he said gloomily, “We can do nothing.”

Another patient drove a truck, delivering and collecting goods at the commercial crossing[s]. “The catastrophe in Gaza is not an earthquake or a flood, it’s man-made,” he said. Shutdowns were frequent and truck drivers are angry about the exorbitant prices exacted by the export companies and Hamas. “They operate like a mafia,” he shouted, “Israel, Egypt, and our government, everybody, are all restricting movement at the crossing and the people of Gaza are paying the price.”

Continue reading “Guest Post: There are people who are hurting in Gaza”

World Press Photo 2013 – Photo of the Year First Prize – by Paul Hansen for Dagens Nyheter

Israeli’s Operation Defensive Pillar a/k/a Operation Pillar of Clouds was the source of a number of prize-winning news photos this year.

The World Press Photo of the Year, [Spot News, 1st prize singles, 2013] announced on 15 February is “Gaza Burial – 20 November 2012”, by Swedish photographer Paul Hansen who has worked for the daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter since 2000. One of the judges said that he’d looked at “a lot of powerful material” from Syria and Gaza among this year’s entries.

The winning photo was published by Le Nouvel Observateur here.

"Gaza Burial" - 20 November 2013 - World Press Photo of the Year by Paul Hansen
Gaza Burial” – 20 November 2013 – World Press Photo of the Year taken by Swedish photographer Paul Hansen of Dagens Nyheter

The light and color of Paul Hansen’s winning photo is extraordinary — it almost looks like a theater or stage set.

The NYTimes wrote here that the image draws some of its power “from its striking — almost stylized — lighting and tones. Mr. Hansen, 48, said the unusual look resulted when light bounced off the walls of the alley for just a few moments”. It added that “Santiago Lyon, vice president and director of photography for The Associated Press, was chairman of the jury … Mr. Lyon said the jury carefully examines the winning images for post processing. He said they decided Mr. Hansen’s photo was ‘within the acceptable industry parameters’. He added: “Everybody has different standards about these sorts of things, but as a group we felt that it was O.K.”

Here’s how the photo is identified on the World Press Photo website

Gaza Burial
20 November 2012
Gaza City, Palestinian Territories
Photo caption: “Two-year-old Suhaib Hijazi and  older brother Muhammad [three or four years old] were killed, along with their father Fouad, when their house was destroyed in an Israeli missile strike. Their mother was put in intensive care. Fouad’s brothers carry the children to the mosque for the burial ceremony and his body is carried behind on a stretcher“.

UPDATE: Yousef Munayyer of The Palestine Center and The Jerusalem Fund wrote here that, based on a Human Rights Watch account,  “On November 19 at around 7:30 p.m., a single munition struck the house of the Hijazi family in Block 8 of the Jabalya refugee camp. The small, two-story cinderblock house was mostly demolished while 10 family members were inside. The strike killed Fouad Hijazi, a 46-year-old janitor at the Hamad secondary school, along with two of his children, Mohamed, 4, and Sohaib, 2. His wife, Amna, was wounded, as were three of their sons and a daughter”.

Munayyer indicated his information is based on a HRW account posted here, which said this was the result of an aerial bomb strike, one of 18 Apparently Unlawful Airstrikes During the November 2012 Fighting [with no apparent military objective>].

Munayyer picks up HRW’s material that adds this: “The surrounding buildings in the densely packed area were only lightly damaged, except that there was slightly more substantial damage to one side of one adjacent house. The damage suggests that an Israeli aircraft dropped a bomb at the site. Human Rights Watch found no munition remnants at the site.  A neighbor who lives across a very narrow street – too small for a car – from the Hijazi home said he heard no shooting of rockets from the area at the time or at other times during the 8-day conflict. There were no other explosions in the area that night, he said. He and other local residents said they did not know or understand why the Hijazi family home had been hit, saying that the family had no connection to any of Gaza’s armed groups. One of Fouad’s other sons had been killed by an Israeli strike about five years earlier, one neighbor said, but he was a civilian who was killed accidentally.  The IDF did not make any announcements about specific strikes in Jabalya at the time. The Israeli Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center stated that the three victims were ‘non-involved’ civilians”.

The NYTimes noted that “World Press Photo is a 56-year-old nonprofit foundation with headquarters in Amsterdam, where the announcement of this year’s winners was made on Friday morning”.

On 9 February, Paul Hansen won First Place as Newspaper Photographer of the Year [one of two portfolio honors awarded each year by POYi] for a photo he took in Afghanistan for Dagens Nyheter. This winning photo is posted here.

Photo of the Year international – First Place General News – "Last Kiss"

Picture of the Year - First Place General News - Last Kiss - Gaza 18 Nov 2012
Last Kiss - First Place - Photo of the Year international - General News

This is a gorgeous and moving photo.  The composition, the color, the gesture, the hands — gorgeous, and immensely emotional.  It was taken in Gaza, during the IDF’s Operation Pillar of Defense or Pillar of Clouds last November.

“Last Kiss” won First Place in the General News Category of the Photo of the Year International [POYi] contest.

Its caption reads: “A Palestinian man kisses the hand of a dead relative in the morgue of Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012”

The photo was taken by Spanish photographer Bernat Arnangue, of Associated Press, currently based in the Middle East covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Last Kiss” was announced as the First Place winning photo in the General News category today, and it’s published here.

H/T to journalist Ana Cardenes, currently based in Jerusalem, who Tweeted the announcement of the winning photo:
@AnaCardenesPicture Of the Year. General News. First Place @BernatArmangue´s Last Kiss. #Gaza #POY pic.twitter.com/ohvE6CJJ

Winning photographs in all categories judged during the first session are posted on the POYi Web site at www.poyi.org.

The POYi website days that “Photographs are posted without credits until judging is complete. This is to protect the anonymity of entrants across all categories because many images are entered in multiple categories. Once judging has concluded and POY has verified all winning entries, final results will be announced”. Judging judging of all categories will be concluded on 27 February. The Photo of the Year International contest [POYi] is a program of the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (www.rjionline.org) at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Yes, Hamas leadership does support Mahmoud Abbas' UNGA move to upgrade Palestine status

In a report from Amman, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA said today that “President Mahmoud Abbas Monday received a phone call from Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in which he confirmed his support for the Palestinian bid to the United Nations General Assembly to gain a non-member state status”. This is posted here.

There has been confusion about this since last week, when WAFA published something similar, just after the cease-fire announced from Cairo. But some Hamas people denied the report.

This time, there is no denial.

Ma’an News Agency then wrote a corroborating report, posted here, saying: “Hamas chief-in-exile Khalid Mashaal telephoned President Abbas on Monday to confirm the Islamist movements’ support for the upcoming UN bid, the official news agency Wafa reported”.

UPDATE: On Tuesday, Ismail Haniyeh told reporters in Gaza that he supported the move in the UNGA:  “nobody is against statehood, and (my government) supports any political movement to establish a Palestinian state on the occupied Palestinian territory…Our vision is to have a state based on inalienable Palestinian principles, and a state on the pre-1967 borders does not mean ceding the rest of Palestinian land”. This is published here.

We reported this Hamas position last week — see our earlier report here.

Reflections on the Gaza war [Operation Pillar of Clouds]: Giora Eiland says Gaza is a de facto independent state, so its "national infrastructure" could have been hit harder [to deter Hamas]

This man’s remarks deserve a separate entry all to themselves.

Giora Eiland, a retired Major-General in the Israeli Defense Forces, and former head of Israel’s National Security Council, has written a piece published by YNet, here, in which he attempts to justify attacks on what he called “national infrastructure targets” – in Gaza, in this case.

Eiland — apparently trying to amend longstanding principles of international war — wrote that that national infrastructure targets should be considered more military than civilian targets. “Such targets, which include government buildings, fuel caches, communication centers, bridges and the power system, are legitimate in the event of a military conflict between two countries, and this was the exact situation between us and Hamas”.

Eiland’s new argument depends on seeing Gaza as a state. As he wrote today, “Israel is not fighting terror organizations but a state. Gaza became a de facto independent state in as early as 2007, and that’s a good thing. Israel is always better off facing a political entity which serves as a clear address, both for deterrence purposes and for an agreement, than a situation in which the government is formally in the hands of one body but the ability to use fire is in the hands of others”.

By this line of argument, the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority is not a “clear address”, as the IDF rules the West Bank.

Eiland continues: “Because Gaza is a state which initiated ongoing rocket fire on Israel, in a military conflict the right thing to do is to hit all the targets serving the rival regime and allowing it to continue controlling and conducting a war against us“.

Therefore, Eiland writes, “The operation can and should be expanded against the state of Gaza, yet not necessarily through a ground offensive but by causing much greater damage to the infrastructure there”.

“Had there been an ongoing shortage of water and fuel in Gaza, had the power system been seriously damage, had the landline communication system gone out of order, had the roads connecting the different parts of the Strip been
destroyed, and had the government buildings and police stations been destructed, we could have estimated with greater confidence that deterrence had been achieved. This is an important lesson ahead of the next war, and as important in regards to Lebanon. If we conduct the ‘Third Lebanon War’ exclusively against Hezbollah’s military targets, we may lose it”.

Eiland’s argument ignores the Israeli Supreme Court ruling in late January 2008 saying that because Israel has a “historical responsibility” for Gaza, the Israeli military must ensure that it does not cause a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. [The Supreme Court, however, did not define “humanitarian crisis”…]

There it is: the reason to attack “national infrastructure” is to ensure winning a war. The justification is created separately, by merely inventing a new category in which targets, it will be argued, are not civilian [but maybe “dual-use? A lot of mileage can be gotten by trotting out a “dual use” justification.]

Eiland writes: “Hamas is the establishment in the state of Gaza … [and] we missed an opportunity to extensively damage Hamas’ ruling abilities, guaranteeing even greater deterrence, which was the main goal of the operation”.

Reflections on the Gaza war [Operation Pillar of Clouds]: Sara Roy [Boston.com] + Rashid Khalidi [NPR]+ Eyal Weizmann [LRB] + a JPost editorial

Sara Roy, a economist who’s done extensive work on Gaza over years, now senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University, wrote an article entitled “Where’s our humanity for Gaza”, which is published here on Boston.com. In it, she reports that:

“The Gaza Strip is now in its 46th year of occupation, 22nd year of closure, and sixth year of intensified closure. The resulting normalization of the occupation assumes a dangerous form in the Gaza Strip, whose status as an occupied territory has ceased to matter in the West; the attention has shifted — after Hamas’s 2006 electoral victory and 2007 takeover of the territory — to Gaza’s containment and punishment, rendering illegitimate any notion of human rights or freedom for Palestinians. The Israeli government has referred to its siege policy as a form of ‘economic warfare’ … which was achieved through an Israeli-imposed blockade that ended all normal trade”.

Continue reading “Reflections on the Gaza war [Operation Pillar of Clouds]: Sara Roy [Boston.com] + Rashid Khalidi [NPR]+ Eyal Weizmann [LRB] + a JPost editorial”

Reflections on the Gaza war [Operation Pillar of Clouds]: Adam Shatz [in LRB] + Daniel Levy [The Daily Beast]

Adam Shatz has just written an article entitled “Why Israel didn’t win” in the current issue of the London Review of Books, in which he says:
“The ceasefire agreed by Israel and Hamas in Cairo after eight days of fighting is merely a pause in the Israel-Palestine conflict. It promises to ease movement at all border crossings with the Gaza Strip, but will not lift the blockade. It requires Israel to end its assault on the Strip, and Palestinian militants to stop firing rockets at southern Israel, but it leaves Gaza as miserable as ever … The fighting will erupt again, because Hamas will come under continued pressure from its members and from other militant factions, and because Israel has never needed much pretext to go to war” … This is posted here.

Daniel Levy [Senior Fellow and the Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations and a Senior Research Fellow at the New America Foundation — and the real drafter for Yossi Beilin + the Israeli team of the Geneva Initiative] wrote in an article titled “Seven Takeaways from the Gaza Ceasefire”, published in The Daily Beast:
“At times, operation Pillar of Defence and the lessons being taken from its conclusion sounded like déjà-vu all over again: featuring an Israel that addresses political problems with military solutions and that wastes whatever quiet is achieved by refusing to take diplomatic initiatives…the Netanyahu-Lieberman axis does have its own thinking on the Palestinian question, and…Israeli politics has significantly shifted. [Netanyahu + Lieberman] have no interest in pursuing a solution that would seem decent or realistic to any neutral observer. They are not two-staters in any recognizable way”. Daniel Levy’s analysis is posted here and here.

Continue reading “Reflections on the Gaza war [Operation Pillar of Clouds]: Adam Shatz [in LRB] + Daniel Levy [The Daily Beast]”

Reflections on the Gaza war [Operation Pillar of Clouds]: B'Tselem

B’Tselem [summary executions are categorically prohibited]: “International law categorically prohibits the extrajudicial killing of civilians – regardless of the allegations against them”.  This is written in a statement concerning the public killing of 7  men during the IDF’s Operation Pillar of Clouds who were accused of being “collaborators” with Israel.  Some senior Hamas officials, including deputy politburo chief, Mousa Abu Marzook, condemned these executions. [See here.] It is not clear whose idea these executions were. This B’Tselem statement is posted here.

B’Tselem [media sites are not legitimate military targets]: “international humanitarian law is very clear on the subject: Neither reporters nor any other civilians may be intentionally targeted, and every feasible precaution must be taken to protect them from the impact of hostilities. Additionally, the media – including those belonging directly to the parties to the conflict – are not legitimate military targets, even if they are used to disseminate propaganda. Where there exists any doubt as to whether or not a target is military or civilian – that target is to be presumed to be civilian … In a statement issued by the IDF Spokesman immediately following the first attack, on the a-Shuruk Building, the Israeli military stated that the attack had been directed at ‘antennas used by Hamas for military operations against the State of Israel in the northern Gaza Strip’. In a later statement, the IDF Spokesman clarified that both attacks were directed against the communications infrastructure of Hamas, which it claims Hamas uses to communicate operational instructions and disseminate propaganda …

Continue reading “Reflections on the Gaza war [Operation Pillar of Clouds]: B'Tselem”

Notes on the cease-fire

Worries that the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas was weak and wobbly increased on Friday when a large group of some 300 Palestinian men reportedly entered the no-go zone inside the perimeter fence east of Khan Younis.

One Palestinian was killed and 23 injured by Israeli troops.  Anwar Abdul Hadi Qudaih, 20, reportedly was hit in the head with a live bullet.

According to Maan News Agency, “A relative of the dead man, who was at the scene, told Reuters that Qudaih had been trying to place a Hamas flag on the fence”.   That was Friday.  Maan also reported that some 200 Palestinians had approached the perimeter fence the day before, Thursday.

Anwar Qdeih

A photo said to be of Anwar Qudaih or Qdaih, standing on the Israeli-built fence, posted with the Al-Jazeera story published here.

Al-Jazeera reported that “Most of those approaching the fence were young men, the Associated Press news agency reported, but the crowds also included farmers hoping they could check on their farm lands in the buffer zone…Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnston, reporting from Gaza City, said the farmers may have been confused about the current terms of access to the 300-metre wide buffer zone as Wednesday’s truce stipulates easing of travel restrictions.  They may have thought that they can now travel there, she said…”

Israel declared the  no-go zone in recent years, and from time to time increased it.   The “rules” could change at any time, and were never completely clear, except when the Israeli Army shot at people, some were wounded or killed.  Haaretz’s Aluf Benn wrote after the cease-fire that “The current confrontation broke out after Hamas tried to create a counter-perimeter on the Israeli side”… Continue reading “Notes on the cease-fire”