Gaza in Crisis: Reflections on Israel's War Against the Palestinians Paperback – Nov 9 2010
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About the Author
Ilan Pappe´is professor of history at the University of Exeter in the UK, where he is also co-director of the Exeter Center for Ethno-Political Studies, and director of the Palestine Studies Centre. He is author of the bestselling The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (Oneworld), A History of Modern Palestine (Cambridge), The Israel/Palestine Question (Routledge), and is a long time political activist.
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In June 2008, Israel and Hamas signed a ceasefire agreement, which Israel broke when it sent forces into Gaza on 4 November, and again when it launched its full-scale invasion on 27 December. Israeli forces used US-made white phosphorus shells against civilians, a war crime. In January 2009, the President of the UN General Assembly called Israel's attack on Gaza genocide. Israel still imposes its vicious blockade of Gaza: an ongoing war crime.
Israel could defend itself better by ending its criminal actions in occupied territories and accepting the two-state solution urged by the vast majority of the world (and vetoed at the UN by the USA ever since 1976). The Arab League, Hamas, Iran, Hezbollah, the Palestinian National Council all back the two-state solution (i.e., recognising Israel's right to exist). Only the USA, Israel and a few Pacific island US dependencies oppose it.
In December 2008, the US state opposed UN resolutions calling for `the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination' (it was passed by 173 votes to 5) and for the `universal freedom of travel and vital importance of family reunification' (probably because Israel bans entry to Palestinians from occupied territories who wish to join their Israeli spouses). The USA also voted against regulating the arms trade, against the right to development, and against the right to food. The USA alone opposed this last resolution, an appalling vote in view of the huge global food crisis.
The authors show how the US state sabotages diplomacy and opposes democracy and how the EU always backs the USA.
The book itself was obviously bias in it's presentation of events and some of the "facts" in the book are outright wrong. The book tries to make Israel and, somewhat, the United States look completely unethical and evil. While Israel is not perfect by any means, but it is not the picture that Chomsky and Pappe paint it to be.
I think that there is definitely something to be gain from reading this book though. First of all, it presents the views that many anti-Israel proponents hold. It is important to learn the arguments of both sides and try to find the truth in both. While there are many falsehoods there are also some truths. Israel has made many mistakes and has not treated Palestinians as well as they should be.
The book gives a good insight to some of the sufferings of the Palestinians.
Gaza in Crisis contains a series of relatively short but dense and informative essays and interviews by one or both authors. I find their insights to be highly complementary, as Chomsky generally speaks of the conflict after 1967, while Pappe has conducted extensive research into the events leading up to the 1948 war, relying on the declassified Israeli military archives as well as Palestinian witness accounts.
This book is informative both to people relatively unfamiliar with the conflict and those with more knowledge. While sketching out a broad outline of major events between 1948 and the december 2008 Israel attack on Gaza, there are a few more focused essays presenting material I had no yet encountered in the author's other work. In particular, Pappe has an essay investigating 5 major trends in US politics and society that he identifies as most influential on US Israeli policy, which I found highly thought provoking. In general the authors document the profound government of Israel's profound disregard for human rights and its constant pursuit of expansion over security. The brutal conditions and murderous military attacks to which thousands of innocent people in the occupied territories have been subjected to for decades is discussed at length.
Other essays deal with Nakba denialism, analysis of the one/binational and two state solutions, and the evolution of Israeli policy and brutality in Gaza.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking to better understand this complex issue.
1) It is most likely that the authors are manipulating facts. Since the beginning in fact, the authors state one of their main theses, give some information that supports it, and then proceed to repeat it countless times throughout the book. Then, in the last fifth of the text, the same thesis is repeated adding further information. I argue that this further information has the potential to put said thesis into question (more details and ‘spoilers’ in Annex I). This raises questions on the kind of ‘filter’ used in all of the other claims of the authors.
2) The authors often claim that one side of the conflict systematically filter and distort reality to support their ends. However, the authors themselves are doing exactly the same thing (cfr. Point 1). In such a clumsy way that the proofs of this doing are inside their own work. My brain is feeling insulted.
3) The authors strongly disagree with each other on the role of the US policy. If for the first the US is the master holding Israel’s leash, the other considers the US more or less like the muscular imbecile that follows the lead of the short evil guy (Annex II). It is obvious that no more than one of these interpretations can be correct.
4) I personally found many of the theses of the authors very difficult to support (Annex III)
To summarize: the book is biased, emotional, technically imprecise, inconsistent and hypocritical. It is admittedly better than sheer propaganda, but still bad.
The authors claim that the origin of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has its roots into a policy of ethnic cleansing pursued by the Israeli government in 1947-48. Such policy started after that the UN had decided to separate Palestine into 2 countries, but before the formal declaration of said countries.
Then, as anticipated, further information is added at pag. 201 (on a total of 244).
More precisely, they add that the ethnic cleansing started only after that the Palestinians attacked Israeli communities and transports, triggering a plan that was prepared in the 1930s as an option. At this point is licit to wonder whether or not that is all or if there is even further information being hidden, as I actually think is the case.
One may in fact argue that the years 1936-1939 were characterized by many episode of violence against the Jew community, which cost the life of 517 Jews. In addition, Arabic countries reacted angrily to the decision of the UN to create the state of Israel. They went as far as to threaten the Jews community on their territory and to use in their rhetoric sentences along the line of “We will make them regret Hitler”. This happened in 1947, so 2 years after the end of holocaust. I personally think such details were worth mentioning.
Chapter 3 of ‘Gaza in Crisis’, cured by Ilan Pappe’, treats the US involvement in the Palestine question. The main thesis of the chapter is that the American policy toward Israel has been controlled for the last decades by a Jewish lobby called AIPAC. In the whole chapter, Cold War dynamics, which most likely would have been much more useful in explaining the topic, are barely mentioned.
The influence of AIPAC is than significantly redefined at pag. 173 by Noam Chomsky which claims that the lobby has indeed influence, but only on those issue that has no actual impact on US interests and main policy. He also adds that other lobbies whose aim is opposite to AIPAC’s also contribute in neutralizing its influence. Chomsky’s view seems actually more reasonable. This however makes the whole third chapter more or less pointless.
Chomsky goes even further at pag. 243 by claiming that Israel cannot do anything except what the US supports. This is probably underestimating the Jewish state. The US-Israel contract is in fact likely based on a ‘support for intelligence and (military) technology’ agreement. If the US were to recede from their contract, nothing prevents Israel to seek another partner, which would be Russia or China; most likely the second. The switch wouldn’t be painless of course, but it could theoretically be done. And the wedding between Chinese stealth airframes and Israeli avionics, not to mention the Chinese strategic penetration almost to the gates of NATO would be more than a nightmare for the Pentagon. On the UN front, American’s veto would simply turn into Chinese veto.
In this Annex only few examples are given. The author’s theses are described in italics, followed by ‘further information’ (for the most part verifiable on Wikipedia) that on my opinion makes the theses themselves difficult to support. Note that many of these ‘problematic’ theses are stated in the already mentioned third chapter (pag. 29 to 64).
Pag. 51: The oil ban from OPEC countries had nothing to do with the Yom Kippur war, but was only an economic maneuver to adjust oil prices.
The oil ban was declared during the Yom Kippur war, 2 days after the US announced the shipment of military equipment to support Israel in said war, the same day that USSR announced a similar operation to support the Arabic countries. Similarly, it was lifted after that Israel withdrew from Egypt and started negotiations to do he same in Syria.
Pag 53: After the Iran-Iraq war, US and Iraq found themselves allied, and the US started to import Iraq’s oil. AIPAC immediately started to plot to undermine such alliance. Of course the Iraqi’s invasion of Kuwait enormously helped the process. However, AIPAC’s contribution is at least as important, if not more.
US oil import from Iraq never approached in magnitude those from Saudi Arabia.
There are two different terms in Arabic to indicate Kuwait: one refers to the modern one, the other to the ancient one, much larger in extension. Most of the ancient Kuwait was conquered by Saudi Arabia in the 1800s. As it was unclear which Kuwait Saddam Hussein was actually aiming at, Saudi Arabia completely panicked after the invasion, urging a military response. I argue this alone would have been more than enough to undermine the new alliance. In addition, saying that Iraq’s invasion ‘enormously helped’ sounds eerily like: ‘The invasion of Poland in 1939 enormously helped in starting World War 2”.
Pag. 56: The main reason for Iraq’s invasion in 2003 was to protect Israel from mass destruction weapons allegedly developed by Saddam Hussein
Pag. 99: The reason why US sell advanced weapons to Israel is to allow the Jewish State to test these new weapons on defenseless targets, the authors referring to Gaza’s inhabitants.
It is my knowledge that decoys in firing ranges also cannot defend themselves, so the additional value of testing on Gaza’s inhabitants is at the very least dubious. In addition, the final test for a newly developed weapon is against an enemy that can defend itself. Explicative is the experience of the US in the skirmishes with Iraqi’s armed forces while enforcing the no-fly zones on that country. Not to mention the fact that many of the new weapons are actually equipped with reduced effect warheads (the technical term is Focused-Effect) specifically developed to reduce the number of innocent lives lost.
After 9/11 the US waged an ongoing war to Islam.
While not being an expert, I think that if I were to wage war to Islam I would start sending cruise missiles on the Black Stone in La Mecca, than I would level to the ground every single Muslim temple in Jerusalem, just to make clear that the allowed monotheisms are not any more three, but only two, and then I would invade Saudi Arabia and Iran. I definitely would not attack such a non-influent country like Afghanistan (with all due respect) nor the least Islamist regime in the area (Iraq). US policy in the post 9/11 may be criticized of course, but hardly as war to Islam.
Israel targets civilians on purpose, and always have done it. At Pag 211, referring to operation Cast Lead, the authors go as far as saying that he nature of the military operation also displayed an Israeli military wish to experiment new weapons, all intended to kill civilians. Among other arguments, they proceed to give some number about the Palestinian casualties in both operation Cast Lead and Summer Rains,
I am going to compare here operations Cast Lead and Summer Rains with the first phase of the Jordan civil war against the Palestinians, known into the Arab world as Black September.
Operation Cast Lead lasted three weeks and resulted in 1200-1400 Palestinian casualties (Wikipedia). In ‘Gaza in Crisis’ the given number is 1500, of which more than 200 in ‘few minutes’ (pag. 87); I am going to use 300 as the number of casualties of the first day.
About Summer Rains, the authors would just report that it lasted 4 months and caused an average of 8 casualties per day during September. The death toll of the operation should be around 400.
Black September lasted 11 days, from 15th to 27th of September 1970. According to Jordanian sources, it caused 3400 casualties, while Arafat claimed that the Jordanian army killed between 10000 and 25000 Palestinians. Other Palestinian sources often use the number 5000, which I will also used as a reference to calculate an average daily number of casualties of 450.
It is pretty obvious that Black September puts to shame Cast Lead for both absolute and daily number of casualties, and even more Summer Rains.
One may also consider that:
a) Modern Israeli’s weaponry is surely much more effective than that used by Jordan in 1970.
b) During Black September, the Jordanian army could not use all of its military force against the Palestinians, as it had to repel a Syrian invasion in support to the PLO and held watch against Iraqi’s military units stationing on Jordan’s territory.
c) Gaza is much more densely populated than Jordan.
d) During Black September nobody accused the Palestinian authority to use human shields, as it is presently the case.
I found no data about the militant-civilian partitioning of the Palestinian casualties in 1970, however sources seem to agree that the Jordan army used artillery against villages and refugee camps, therefore I highly doubt that the majority of casualties were militants.
These numbers and considerations hardly support the thesis that the Israeli military targets civilians on purpose. It rather supports the complete opposite conclusion.
No mention of Black September can be found in ‘Gaza in Crisis’; Jordan itself is only mildly criticized, while by contrast Egypt is more often and directly reproached, being portrait as a ‘collaborationist’ of the US-Israeli axis. This is somehow surprising considering that Jordan occupied a far greater part of Palestine, for a longer period of time and that there is no such thing as an Egyptian civil war against the Palestinian authority.
As for the authors’ remark at pag. 211, the mere notion of an advanced military specifically developing weapons to kill civilians is absolutely absurd. Virtually any weapons, even the very primitive ones, are extremely effective in killing civilians, even by mistake. That is the problem. One of the main reasons for developing guided munitions (together with greater effectiveness against a conventional enemy) was to reduce collateral damages, and hence criticism from public opinion. The same goal was the only reason for developing reduced potential weapons.