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Friday, August 8, 2014

Bennis, Avnery discuss historical context, credibility, talking with perceived enemies

United States, Western countries must cease decade’s old-style relations with Middle East
Editing, brief commentary by Carolyn Bennett

U.S. journalist, activist, and political commentator Phyllis Bennis is Director of New Internationalism at the Institute for Policy Studies.  The New Internationalism project “works to challenge U.S. domination of the UN and to help democratize and empower the global organization,” according to its website. It works primarily on Middle East and United Nations issues with key areas of interest including U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Instrumentally, the NI project focuses on “education and activism to change the failed and failing U.S. policies and retool those policies to meet the goals of peace with justice” [http://www.ips-dc.org/projects/new-internationalism/]

Today in light of the U.S. Executive Government’s resumption of overt violent aggression in Iraq and again cloaking unprovoked violence in “humanitarianism” and false mandate to protect, Phyllis Bennis talked with Democracy Now.

Phyllis Bennis
Killing them as they feed them

“The notion that there is going to be the need for airstrikes to protect the few dozen U.S. diplomats and a couple of hundred military people in Erbil,” Phyllis Bennis said, “is widely understood as a legal feint (a ruse, trick, maneuver, hoax, hoodwink)  away from the reality.”

In making such a statement, the U.S. Executive undertakes a military operation without the consent of the co-equal U.S. legislative branch of government. In this amped up aggression against a sovereign nation, the U.S. president ignores the expressed view of the American people at large and the constitutional responsibility of public officials who are supposed to represent the American people at large.

The U.S. president has also in this move to return to war against the people of Iraq bypassed the 192 nations comprising the United Nations. Before this latest move by the U.S. president, Bennis said, the United Nations “had offered the Iraqi government technical help to carry out real humanitarian airlifts to the people stuck on the Sinjar Mountain.”

Echoes of sinister priors

The U.S. act of pretending to help people, dropping food packages while killing them, has a sinister history, she said.  This last time this occurred was November 2001 in Afghanistan; Afghan refugees were fleeing the U.S. bombing of the cities. And U.S. operatives, military personnel simultaneously dropped food packs (Meals Ready to Eat or MREs) “wrapped in strong, bright yellow plastic” as they were also dropping “cluster bombs that also happened to be made with bright yellow plastic of exactly the same color.” Bennis said “no one knows how many children, in particular, were killed running to what they thought were food packages that turned out to be cluster bombs.”

Whose life Humanitarian hoax exposed

Common denominator massacre: As the White House reenters violent aggression against the Iraqi people, the U.S. arms Israel in massacre of Palestinians in Gaza.

The U.S. president’s language, “that there are innocent people facing violations on a massive scale,” Phyllis Bennis said, “describes the situation of Palestinian civilians in Gaza and yet, rather than providing humanitarian aid [to the people of Gaza] and demanding that Israel open the gates of Gaza, that it open the border crossings, the United States instead is sending more weapons and more money to buy more weapons and more ammunition for those Israeli attacks.”

Deliberate Compounding: crises created by war are worsened by more war. Crises created by U.S. violence are worsened by more U.S. violence. This is not only immoral and insensible, it is criminal, unconscionably so.   

Back in Iraq, the situation on the ground, the misery perpetrated endlessly against the people – the 2003 war never ended -- was created, manufactured, exacerbated by one after another U.S. official in high office and their partners in crime.

The Islamic State (IS) also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) the U.S. claims to be protecting whomever from, Bennis said, “is a small operation of somewhere around 10,000 fighters … well armed with U.S.-supplied equipment that they have picked up all over Iraq.” 

Part of the reason the group seems so strong, she said, “is that they are backed by military support from former generals, former strategists, former leaders of the Baathist army in Iraq who lost their jobs, lost their positions, in many cases lost their ability to protect their families at the time of the 2003 U.S. invasion; and have been sort of waiting for an opportunity to challenge the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad.” What now exists in Iraq, Bennis concludes, is “an ugly kind of sectarianism that was put in place by the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003” -- all of which “can be traced back to that [invasion].”

Must Talk cannot be ignored

“I was a member of a terrorist organization when I was 15 years old,” Uri Avnery explained on Democracy Now today.  “I believe,” he said that “I understand the psychology of young people who join organizations which are called terrorists by their enemies, but which themselves think of themselves as freedom fighters.

“Hamas thinks it’s fighting for the freedom of Palestine. They are deeply convinced of this, and therefore they are fighting. And everybody must admit that they are fighting very well, because what you have here during the last month is a guerrilla organization of [roughly] … 10,000 fighters, fighting against one of four biggest and strongest armies in the world.

“It’s not an even fight yet they are standing there—they are still standing there after more than a month.…”

Israeli writer and founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement Uri Avnery was born in Beckum, Germany, as Helmut Ostermann of a German Jewish family that in 1933, after Adolf Hitler’s rise to power, emigrated to “Mandatory Palestine”. Thirty-two years later, he created a political party called HaOlam HaZeh – Koah Hadash, and in the 1965 Israeli election won a seat in the Knesset. In late 1975, Avnery was among the founders of the Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace. After the 1977 election, he served in the legislature as a member of the Left Camp of Israel. He was also involved with the Progressive List for Peace, “a left-wing political party in Israel formed from an alliance of both Arab and Jewish left-wing activists.” [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uri_Avnery]

On Democracy Now today, Uri Avneri reflected that the situation today between Hamas and Israel is similar to the situation with Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization

Uri Avnery

Before his death on November 11, 2004, Yasser Arafat, who had spent his lifetime fighting for Palestinian self-determination, was Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), President of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), and leader of the Fatah political party and former paramilitary group, which he founded in 1959.  Background reports on the decade’s long crisis in Palestine show one of the most severe PLO cross-border raids extending to March 11, 1978, when a force of nearly a dozen Fatah fighters landed their boats near a major coastal road connecting the city of Haifa with Tel Aviv-Yafo. There they hijacked a bus and sprayed gunfire inside and at passing vehicles. Thirty-seven civilians died. Israeli Defense Forces then launched Operation Litani aimed at taking control of Southern Lebanon up to the Litani River. On June 6, 1982, the Lebanon war began when Israel again invaded this country for the purpose of attacking the Palestine Liberation Organization. An estimated 1,000 to 8,000 civilians died and the Israeli army laid siege to Beirut. In 1985 Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat narrowly survived an Israeli assassination attempt when Israeli Air Force F-15s participating in “Operation Wooden Leg” bombed his headquarters in Tunisia. Seventy-three people died. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli%E2%80%93Lebanese_conflict; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yasser_Arafat]

“One of the basic problems at this moment,” Uri Avnery said, “is that Israelis and Hamas do not talk to each other.” Currently Egypt siding with Israel against Hamas is also “appearing as a negotiator, as a mediator, an honest broker," which is as "ridiculous [as] the American mediation was ridiculous. America is a very, very, very close ally of Israel,” Avnery noted. The U.S. president “repeats like a parrot the most basic Israeli propaganda, and so does [the U.S. Secretary of State]. So we don’t have somebody who can mediate and who’s being trusted by both sides.

Hamas went to the recent ceasefire negotiations in Cairo “full of apprehension, full of distrust towards Egypt.”

For eight years the people of Gaza have been suffering under a blockade, meaning that “all the borders are closed, including the sea border and you cannot get in anything except by the permission of Israel; and you cannot get anything out at all. There is no export from the Gaza area.… The Palestinians, Hamas cannot and will not agree to a real ceasefire, a long-lasting ceasefire, if there is a blockade on the Gaza Strip. This is a basic, local problem.”

Hamas cannot be ignored, Avnery said. People abroad and in Israel have completely distorted what Hamas is. But Hamas is neither “militia” nor “military organization.” It is “a Palestinian political party which, in the last Palestinian elections, supervised by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter,” won by a majority vote: “Majority of the Palestinian people, including the Gaza Strip, voted for Hamas.”

But “when a Palestinian government was set up by Hamas, it was destroyed by Israel and the United States and Europe. It was brought down. It was then that Hamas took over power in the Gaza Strip by force, but it took power after it won a big majority in free elections in the Gaza Strip. So it’s much more complicated than just a fight between Israel and a military or terrorist or whatever-you-want-to-call-it organization.”

The simple solution Avnery sees to ending the suffering and violence is conversation. He said, “When people are firing on each other and trying to kill each other—indeed, killing each other—the best solution is that they start to talk with each other.

If the Israelis and the Palestinians would sit together opposite each other at one table and thresh out their real problems, trying to understand, be able to understand each other, the whole thing would look very differently.

Indicating that he has spoken many times with many Hamas leaders and found them to be people with whom he does not necessarily agree but with whom he can talk, he says, 
You cannot wish Hamas away. You can do to Hamas whatever you want. You can kill all the 10,000 fighters of Hamas but Hamas will remain because Hamas is an ideology and Hamas is a political party accepted by the Palestinian people. In the end, he said, “after all the killing and after all this terrible destruction…, we will have to talk with Hamas.

Sources and notes

“As U.S. Airstrikes in Iraq Begin, Will Military Intervention Escalate Growing Crisis? August 8, 2014, http://www.democracynow.org/2014/8/8/as_us_air_strikes_in_iraq

“Uri Avnery on Gaza Crisis, His Time in a Zionist "Terrorist" Group & Becoming a Peace Activist,” August 8, 2014, http://www.democracynow.org/2014/8/8/uri_avnery_on_gaza_crisis_his

Sinjar Mountain also Shengar/Shengal Mountains: a single ridge of mountains inhabited by Yazidis located in Nineveh Governorate in northwestern Iraq. It is situated near a city of the same name (Sinjar). Reportedly in August 2014, “an estimated 40,000 Yazidis fled to the mountains” after attacks on the city of Sinjar “by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)” [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinjar_Mountains]

Yazidi is a religious sect found primarily in the districts of Mosul, Iraq; Diyarbakır, Tur.; Aleppo, Syria; Armenia and the Caucasus region; and in parts of Iran; the religion is reportedly a fusion or combination “of Zoroastrian, Manichaean, Jewish, Nestorian Christian, and Islāmic elements.” [Britannica]

Also Wikipedia and Institute for Policy Studies   

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