Human Shields Exposed, Rights Violated

I’ve written before about the bizarre situations which pass for reality in Middle Eastern affairs which concern Israel.  An article from the BBC does little to dispel my view that visitors to the region must be forced to abandon all logic and common sense at customs when they enter:

Large numbers of Palestinians have converged on a home in Gaza belonging to a senior member of the ruling Palestinian militant group Hamas.

The move follows reports the Israeli air force was about to attack it, but there has been no confirmation of this.

Nothing unusual about this: using civilians as human shields has been a weapon in the Palestinians’ armoury for years.  However, Louise Arbour, the UN high commissioner for human rights who was visiting a different town in Gaza, had this to say:

“The violations of human rights in the Palestinian territories are intolerable.  I think it’s clear that civilians are tremendously exposed.”

Well, yes.  They are tremendously exposed.  But perhaps civilians in the Palestinian territories could reduce this exposure somewhat by not deliberately gathering around the target of a proposed airstrike.


An Emirati’s Thoughts

In contrast to the usual mountains of fuckwittery being spouted on the UAE blogs regarding the current Israel-Lebanon conflict, Emirati at An Emirati’s Thoughts has come up with a sensible suggestion of what Israel’s response should have been to the kidnapping of its soldiers by Hezbollah.  There have been very few sensible suggestions of what Israel’s reaction should have been, most advocating that Israel either does nothing or responds with maximum force depending on who you are supporting, and Emirati’s offering – although possibly unworkable in practice – at least addresses the issue calmly and sensibly.  Under the circumstances this is commendable, and I reproduce his proposal in full below.

1.  Protract this conflict to the South of Lebanon. Strike at Infrastructure in the South of Lebanon, all roads that lead to the Northern Parts of Lebanon. Use a ground offensive to push up till the 2000 pre-handover borders. Dont strike at all of Lebanon, because that will not allow you to later play off the Lebanese Government and people against the Hizb. Make Southern Lebanon Uninhabitable forcing the Civilians there to Relocate to other Areas in Lebanon, thus reducing the Amount of Collateral Damage.

2.  Carry out a Series of Special Forces Raids against Hizbollah Targets, Kidnapping and Interrogating them for Information on Positions of Hezbollah forces and Launchers. With Sufficient SO raids, you could capture and parade Hizbollah Members on Television. You could demoralize Hezbollah and Pro Hezbollah Lebanese into accepting an Inevitability. Guerilla Attacks are deeply Demoralizing and allow you to pull off operations with Minimum Loss of Civilian Life.

3.  Jam All Satellite Communications into Lebanon. No Satellite Television, No Cellular Phones. Neutralize any regional stations which broadcast pro Hezbollah Material by taking out their Antennas. In the meantime, Broadcast your own Materal Showing the IDF attacking Hezb Units.

4.  Leave Beirut and its airport Alone. With something to lose, the Lebanese Government will be more inclined to negotiate and cooperate. Restrict Travel into and From Lebanon. The Israeli Airforce will escort any plane bound to Beirut Airport. Any planes bound to Beirut must Stop at Cairo International, Amman International, or an Airport in Cyprus for an Inspection by UN Observers. Get Lebanon caught up in a non lethal beauraucracy in order to be able to put pressure on it without killing people.

5.  Swiftly Involve the United Nations and the rest of the World in this mess to put pressure on the Lebanese Government. Ask the US to provide Economic Incentives to Syria for non Intervention and Possible Cooperation. Promise to Withdraw from Entire South Lebanon Including Sheba Farms if Hezbollah is Disbanded and Replaced by Regular Lebanese Military Units.

6.  If Hezbollah Proves Undisbandable by politics, have Lebanese Government Request American Military Assistance in Neutralizing Hizbollah Threat or threaten to chase Hezbollah all the Way to the Beqaa Valley. The US will beef up Lebanese Military Units with Advisors, Training and Equipment. Lebanon is not Another Afghanistan. A concerted effort by US and Lebanese forces could wipe out the Hezb in a matter of weeks.


Modern Battlefield Protocol: Stay, Observe, Die

This battle that is raging in Lebanon is at times taking on the appearance of a parody of warfare.  Take for example the bombing of the UN outpost, as reported by the BBC:

UN peacekeepers in south Lebanon contacted Israeli troops 10 times before an Israeli bomb killed four of them, an initial UN report says.

The UN report says each time the UN contacted Israeli forces, they were assured the firing would stop.

This could have been lifted straight from the pages of Catch-22.  Here we have an all-out war between a well equipped and agressive army and a well armed and ruthless militia, and in the middle we have what their commanders are laughably calling peacekeepers making observations.

When in the history of warfare has any neutral bystander deliberately stayed put in no-man’s land when two armies clash in a pitched battle, much less for the purposes of keeping the peace some 12 days after hostilities began?  Of all the numerous examples of battlefield idiocy that history keeps for us, this must surely rank up there with the practice of marching slowly in a straight line towards massed cannon.

And when did it become acceptable practice for a neutral observer to telephone one of the battlefield commanders and ask him to cease fire?  The Israeli commander who took the request must have thought his UN interlocutor had taken leave of his senses.  Can you imagine Wellington at Waterloo receiving a note asking him to lay off the Frenchies for a while because some dickheads in the middle were getting hit with grapeshot?  I mean, take this for example:

A senior Irish soldier working for the UN forces had warned the Israelis six times that their bombardment was endangering the lives of UN staff, Ireland’s foreign ministry said.

It’s no wonder the Irish practice strict neutrality if that’s the kind of soldier they are putting into the field.  Does he not realise that by keeping his staff in situ during a bombardment he is endangering their lives?  Any soldier worth his salt who is not involved in the battle would have high-tailed it out of there after seeing his first request go unheeded by the Israelis, and this chap should have done the same.  But he kept them there even though he had asked no less than six times and each time his plea had been ignored!  Did our hero not get an inkling after the second or third request that the bombardment was going to continue and he really should get his men the fuck out of there?

Jeez, it’s no wonder foreigners’ armies send their best to Sandhurst for training.  If standing around in the middle of a battlefield waiting to get hit is now considered sensible military practice, I’m mighty glad I’m not a conscript in their army.


Russia to fund Hamas

Well done, Russia!  Oh, how very well done.

Russia has said it will grant the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority urgent financial aid, in opposition to the policy of the EU and the US.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made the pledge to authority President Mahmoud Abbas in a telephone call, Moscow said.

Marvellous.  Just as the US and EU, for once agreeing on something, looked as though they were standing firm on not supplying aid to a Hamas government until it recognises the right of Jews to live in the Middle East, Russia throws a lifeline to Islamic terrorists.  Brilliant.

Firstly, a clarification.  The US and EU are right to deny aid to Hamas, and they have every right to.  Contrary to the bleating of idiots like Patrick Seale in the Gulf News that not funding Hamas is equal to blackmail and dismissal of the democratic process, the US and EU have fully recognised that the Palestinians have elected their government of choice and have made no effort to interfere in that choice.  However, electing the government of your choice does not come with a right to have that government’s policies accepted and funded wholesale by anybody outside of the electorate.  If the Middle East is going to adopt democracy as a workable model of government, the people need to understand that democracy entitles you only to be governed by your party of choice for a limited period, and nothing more.  It does not entitle you to foreign aid and endorsement of party politics.  And until Hamas accepts the right of Israel to exist, enlightened liberal democracies should exercise their right to stop funding their activities.

Which brings us on to Russia.  For the last few years, much of Russia’s foreign policy has been a two step process:

1)  See what the US is doing.

2)  Do the opposite.

If this is Russia’s way of gaining friends and influence around the world, it will clearly work.  But it will come at a price, as the USA has found following several decades of propping up dodgy dictatorships and funding terrorists in an effort to contain Communism.  It will eventually come right around and bite Russia on the arse.  But for now, it will win plenty of friends and influence in the Middle East.  Granting aid to Hamas relieves the Arab states of having to dip into their own pockets to fund what could well become a threat to their own positions, but allows them to look on as Israel continues to be attacked.  It will open the door to Russia to supply some juicy arms contracts over the next few years, and it will turn Muslims’ attention away from Russia’s brutal war against the Chechens (they hope).  It also annoys the US and make them look like the bad guys.  All of this at a cost to Russia of a few million dollars, which of course they don’t need anyway, and a few dead Jews on their conscience.  Which has never been a problem before, I think we can all agree.

So what happens now?  A prediction:  the Gulf News will write a gushing article on Russia and how they are supporting the democratic process, and how they are so strong and brave in the face of Israeli pressure.  The US will be denounced loudly.  The UK’s Guardian and Independent will utter not a peep about the irony of having Russia supporting an Islamic terrorist organisation at the same time it is hosting the forthcoming G8 summit, nor will they mention the blindingly opportunistic stance Russia is taking on this issue, and the obvious reasons for it: flogging weapons and other kit to dodgy regimes.  The articles concerned will be highlighting with smug satisfaction the frustration that the US now feels with the Russians, knowing that there’s nothing they can do about it.

And there isn’t much which can be done.  Or maybe Israel should start funding “freedom fighters” in Chechnya and Dagestan, so they can carry out a few more Beslans?  Maybe then Russia will realise the price attached to funding terrorist organisations.


Actually, there is one possibility which I have overlooked.  Maybe Russia is agreeing to fund Hamas in order to give it more elbow room with which to pitch in with the US and EU against Iran.  Perhaps Russia is playing a fairly clever game here, working its way into a position whereby it can pressure Iran without appearing to be anti-Islamic or too pro-American.  Time will tell. 


Business as usual

Meanwhile, further down the page of the Gulf News, it is back to normal.  Here is their take on the Jericho prison siege:

The barbaric offensive by Israel on the Jericho prison, literally under the noses of the two Western great powers, explains once again why the peace process in the Middle East remains a mirage.

Well, no.  The attack did not take place under the noses of two Western great powers, because those monitors had been withdrawn by the British government through fears for their safety.  Jack Straw, the British foreign secretary, said in parliament on Tuesday that he had seen the conditions under which the monitors were working deteriorate to the point where he was going to withdraw them in the autumn, but took the risk of keeping them in situ.  The Quartet (US, EU, UN, and Russia) had warned the Palestinian Authority that the situation was unacceptable, and their security concerns were not being addressed, yet these warnings went unheeded.  Then earlier in the week, the armed guard who were responsible for the monitors’ protection was withdrawn without warning or reason, hence the monitors, fearing for their safety, were withdrawn.  Hence, when the attack to place, there were no noses of Western powers anywhere near.

As long as the Israeli government continues to flout international laws, build new colonies, starve the Palestinians and target their leaders, no roadmap will ever help the process reach its final destination.

True.  And as long as the Palestinians renege on previous agreements regarding the imprisonment of terrorists, threaten the lives of international monitors, and set fire to the British Council building, then indeed – no roadmap will ever help the process reach its final destination.

In attacking the prison and arresting Ahmad Sa’adat and others, with perhaps the blessing of the United States and Britain, Israel again undermined the leadership of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Firstly, the US was in no way involved in this as their monitors were not around at the time.  So we can end this piece of low-grade hack journalism here and now.  Secondly, there is no evidence whatsoever that the attack on the prison was carried out with the blessing of the UK, and both parties have denied any collaboration in full.

The attack showed him unable to protect his people. It also provided Palestinian factions, some of which do not recognise the peace process, with more reasons to continue their armed struggle.

What curious logic!  Mahmoud Abbas was shown to be unable to control his own people, yet somehow this has turned into protect his own people.  And in confronting an armed Palestinian faction which did not recognise the peace process, Israel has somehow given it an extra reason to continue with its armed struggle. 

The attack also shows the double standards of US and British policies. Sa’adat and other activists were being jailed in a local prison based upon international guarantees that Israel would not target them. These guarantees, however, do not seem to matter when it comes to Israel.

Either the Gulf News has not done the basic research expected of a national newspaper, or it is deliberately misleading its readers.  The international guarantees in place which prevented Israel from attacking the prison also required Ahmad Sa’adat and others to be held in certain conditions which would be verified by international monitors.  The reports from the monitors have repeatedly stated that the Palestinians have never fully implemented their obligations under the agreement, and this culminated in those who control the prison threatening the lives of the monitors and preparing to release the prisoners.  Only once this international agreement was in tatters and the prisoners about to be released did Israel respond.

I was wondering how the Gulf News was going to spin this story when I was watching the events unfold on TV.  The answer seems to be by turning all conventions of logic on their head, leaving out half the story, presenting events in the wrong chronological order, inventing collaborations between Britain and Israel, and displaying moral indignation at a story which bears little relation to reality.

Business as usual, then.


The shorter James Zogby

Dr James Zogby could have saved a barrel or two of ink when writing the article that appears in today’s Gulf News:

The situation unfolding in Gaza and the West Bank is, in some significant ways, an inevitable consequence of factors beyond the control of the Palestinians.

The lawlessness, the intra-Palestinian violence and the general social unrest, were all predictable. When any society has been subjected to prolonged repression and deprivation, it usually reacts with violence, first directed against the perceived source of the oppression. Only in later stages, after this repressive situation has been sustained over a long period of time, does the violence turn inward in self-destructive and anti-social behaviour.

In large measure, of course, Israel bears significant responsibility for this tragedy.

A shorter version could have read:

Palestinians cannot help shooting the shit out of each other, and it’s wrong to expect any better of them. But it’s all Israel’s fault anyway.

Dr James Zogby is the president of the Arab American Institute in Washington, DC. Shame he thinks so little of his Palestinian brethren that he considers them unable to do anything other than carry out acts of violence.


As surprising as Christmas

In June 2004, the Gulf News reported the following:

10 leading Palestinian militant groups have called upon Egypt – and Jordan – not to interfere in the internal security affairs of Palestine. Their reasoning is that with neighbouring Arab states assisting in the security of Gaza, it will imply that it is the Palestinians who are the problem, not the Israelis.

It would do well for Egypt and Jordan to accept the violence from Palestinians is due to Israeli occupation and the heavy-handed measures meted out by its troops. Once the Israelis withdraw from the Occupied Territories and return the land to the rightful owners, there will be no need for further violence.

My comment at the time consisted in its entirety of: Let’s see shall we? Let’s just wait and see.

We need wait no longer, for Gloria Salt has been rounding up the latest news from Gaza, now free of Israel’s heavy-handed troops.

– In the first attack by Palestinians on a UN target inside the territories, gunmen descended on the United Nations Club after last night’s New Year’s celebrations, tied up the security guard, pistol-whipped him, set explosives, and blew the place up

– Fatah gunmen opened fire on the car of their own administration’s ambassador to Pakistan, Yussef al-Rabi, injuring the driver and terrorizing the ambassador and his wife, who was with him in the car. They snatched al-Rabi’s diplomatic passport, smashed the windows of the car and forced him to run for his life

– About 100 Palestinian police went “on a rampage” at the beleaguered Rafah crossing in violent protest against the clan-warfare murder of one of their colleagues

– “Dozens of gunmen” besieged a Palestinian police station in Gaza to forcibly free a friend, and in the process accidentally killed a 14-year-old Palestinian boy

– a passionately pro-Palestinian British aid worker and her visiting parents were kidnapped at gunpoint and held until their kidnappers “receiv[ed] assurances that Britain and the European Union would seek an end to the Israeli buffer zone”, a no-go area in the northern Gaza Strip that the gunmen find inconvenient

– foreign election monitors were forcibly thrown out of their Nablus hotel by a group of Fatah gunmen

– warnings were issued by said gunmen to any other lingering foreign election monitors to get out of town

– Fatah gunmen occupied several government buildings in Gaza, demanding “jobs and money”

– Fatah gunmen blockaded the Rafah border crossing and stated that they will forcibly prevent foreigners from crossing until further notice

No need for further violence, eh? Gloria has more:

Today’s embarrassment was the storming of the Rafah crossing into Egypt – only just handed over to the Palestinians – by about 100 irate, weapons-wielding Palestinian policemen. They were upset by the murder of one of their number in an intra-Palestinian family feud. In a collective action that I don’t think is in the playbook of too many police forces, they demanded that the perpetrator be seized and immediately executed. The EU observers on the spot at Rafah did the logical thing: they hightailed it to the nearest Israeli army base until the mess blew over.

Murderous family feuds, policemen running amok, election offices stormed and robbed, gangs ruling local streets in Nablus and Tulkarem: this is the face of Fatah, and its purported leader is a well-coiffed empty suit.

Remember, neighbouring states should keep their noses out. To do otherwise would imply that it is the Palestinians who are the problem, not the Israelis.


Gloria on Gaza

A great post by Gloria Salt on the non-reaction of the sections of the West to the recent violence in the Gaza Strip:

But what about the rest of the world? All those activists on campuses in Britain, for example. And those editorial writers at the Guardian. Where is Sue Blackwell, champion of the anti-Israel academic boycott by the British Association of University Teachers? Where is Mona Baker, Egyptian-born editor of the British academic journal The Translator, who was so offended by the occupation that she forcibly removed two Israeli academics from the editorial boards of her publications (now that’ll teach ‘em)? Where is the International Solidarity Movement, sponsors of flag-burning “peace missions” to occupied Gaza? I could have sworn they all held some pretty strong views on the basic human right of Palestinians to live in safety and build their nation. Innocent Palestinians — little girls, taxi drivers, civilians of every stripe — have been dying in Gaza since disengagement was completed. Don’t these people have anything to say?

Well, no. The problem is not, and has never been, Palestinian suffering per se. The problem is Palestinian suffering at the hands of Israelis. And just as the Palestinians cannot be blamed for their acts of grotesque violence against Israelis, nor can they be blamed for their acts of grotesque violence against each other. Why not? Because unlike the Israelis, who, like “us”, should know better, they just can’t help it. This is how “they” behave. It is not for us to interfere, or even comment.

The great irony, of course, is that these arbiters of righteousness — these staunch defenders of the moral high ground — class us, the contemptible Israelis, along with them. We are to be held to what (in a weak moment) they might define as a civilized standard of behavior, while the Palestinians do not warrant such an exacting standard. In the view of their advocates abroad, the Palestinians are simply not capable of meeting it. So for all their cringing at the sight of their own names next to Israeli ones on journal mastheads, the Sue Blackwells and Mona Bakers of the world believe we’re in their club.

(via PooterGeek)