Since the last ZNet update was sent out much has been added to the site,(http://www.zmag.org/weluser.htm) including numerous articles about the Bush administrations drive for war and efforts to stop it, recent demonstrations against the FTAA in Quito, the war on Terror and much more.
Today we have an amazing article by Zeynep Toufe about the upcoming war on Iraq as well as an interview with ZNet contributor Tanya Reinhart about her new book
"Israel/Palestine: How to End the War of 1948".
By Zeynep Toufe
Fairy tales often have a universal appeal and draw children of all nations into their magical world. Pinocchio is no exception where the Blue Fairy rewards moral behavior and grants a puppet flesh-and-blood status.
I do doubt, however, that children in Iraq or Afghanistan could understand why an inanimate, man-made object would ever want to be a child of the flesh and blood kind. In their world, the flesh of children is there for the maiming and the blood for flowing --unlike those beautiful, sacrosanct objects of art which must be preserved and doted on.
As the British Independent reports, "an international band of curators and historians anxious not to repeat the damage inflicted on Iraqi treasures during the Gulf War 11 years ago are appealing to the American government to take the historic sites into account." (http://www.commondreams.org/headlines02/1107-04.htm)
A similar surge of concern was observed when, about six months before the 9/11 attacks, Afghanistan made a brief appearance in the news. The world was outraged then, but not because hundreds of thousands children's lives were flickering away in refuges camps where lack of education, food, and opportunities stole away their childhood and diseases and lack of medical care made sure many never grow into adults. The world was not outraged because the Taliban regime was denying medical care to women (and children) by not allowing women healthcare workers to work and men to take care of women. The outrage was not that the United States had pushed the U.N. to slap economic sanctions on the country -because of its refusal to turn over Osama bin Laden- that made things worse for the worst off, the poorest, the most vulnerable in the country (according to some estimates, the sanctions increased the price of basic medicines up to 50%) without providing leverage or means to make things better.
It was the 1,400-year-old Buddha statues carved into the mountainside at Bamiyan that triggered the heart-rending cries of concern. The New York Times (03/19/01) reported that Taliban envoy Rahmatullah Hashimi explained that the decision was made after an international NGO offered money to restore the statues but refused to allow the money to be used in refugee camps -- where 300 children had just died. Hashimi recounted that the NGO was asked that “instead of spending money on statues, why didn't they help our children who are dying of malnutrition?” Upon being told that “this money is only for statues”, they decided to destroy them.
Germany, Malaysia and Japan joined Russia, India, United States, Egypt and others to decry the barbarity. Offers poured in: money to restore the statues, money to remove the statues for safekeeping somewhere else, money to change the rulers' minds. Money that had not been pouring in for the refugee camps, for food, for clean water.
Now the world's archeologists and curators are afraid a similar outrage will occur to the historical artifacts in Iraq. The Independent quotes Helen McDonald, of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq, based at Cambridge University, who explained that last time the Iraqis had tried to move a great deal of their most important objects out into storage in the countryside and that they have already begun to do so again.
"But some things are immovable, such as huge stones. If a bomb hits a museum or something, that would be it," she said.
Sure enough, she notes, "The British School of Archaeology in Iraq has written [about this]. They wrote to the Foreign Office during the Gulf War to express concern, not just on the humanitarian grounds but the effects that it would have on the culture."
Bombing of stones isn't the only potential cause of horrors, according to Charles Tripp, of the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. He warns that in the wake of the Gulf War, sanctions had inadvertently caused as much damage to the archaeological sites of Iraq as direct attack. Trip notes: "The conditions of poverty had led to much looting of archaeological sites and site museums, which often contained significant finds even after the best items were removed to Baghdad. Numerous finds have turned up on the art market in the West." Dr Tripp observes that "there is a lot of temptation in a destitute country to rip something out that has a saleable value in the West."
Yes, especially since UNICEF reports that at least half a million children have died due to those sanctions. (http://www.scn.org/ccpi/HarpersJoyGordonNov02.html) I can imagine parents looting and prying loose every single stone, rock, tablet, gem or otherwise inanimate object in that country to try to obtain food or simple medicines.
It has been reported that when a journalist asked Mahatma Gandhi what he thought about Western Civilization, he replied, "it would be a good idea."
Indeed, it would be a good idea; unfortunately, it's unlikely we'll be able to muster that up in short order so we need a more serious, urgent and miraculous intervention.
We need the Blue Fairy who turned Pinocchio into flesh to perform a reverse miracle.
So here goes.
Please, Blue Fairy, turn the children of Iraq into stone. The older the stone better. Stone with cracks and signs of aging and weather damage would be perfect. Hopefully, that will evoke some protective reflexes and caring in their direction.
And, Blue Fairly, while you are at it, please do the same for the children of Afghanistan which is once again facing famine since the investment required and promised has not been delivered, and the children of Southern Africa which is in the midst of a progressing famine due to the drought which might have been triggered partly by global warming, and the children in Central America which is now threatened by famine thanks to the crisis in the coffee industry which never paid farmers more than a pittance of their enormous profit.
If Blue Fairy does not come through, I encourage the Iraqis to start their own make-a-wish foundation, which grants wishes to children with terminal illnesses. Of course, in Iraq, because of the sanctions, easily curable diseases like cholera and treatable childhood problems like leukemia are often terminal and then there are the congenital birth defects in the depleted-uranium-polluted south.
That make-a-wish foundation should take those children, whose childhood we have collectively destroyed, to the precious museums and let them play with all those precious stones and tablets. The children should paint them with indelible ink. They should throw them to the ground from high buildings to see from which floor they pulverize most easily. They should be encouraged to play team games and see which team can hammer a tablet into dust fastest.
Maybe, just maybe, what must surely be the collective wish of all those children and their families will come true. Maybe, amidst the predictable outrage over crushed stone, the world will notice them.
And maybe, just maybe, the biggest miracle of all will happen without the Blue Fairy -- our hearts of stone will turn into flesh and blood.
Zeynep Toufe is a doctoral student in Austin, Texas. She can be reached at [EMAIL PROTECTED]
An Interview With Tanya Reinhart
1) Can you tell ZNet, please, what your new book,"Israel/Palestine- How to End the War of 1948," is about? What is it trying to communicate?
Israel backed by mainstream Western media - describes its war against the Palestinians as a war of defense, a necessary response to Palestinian terror, a noble instance of the global war against terrorism. It is amazing how still now, after two years of massive Israeli destruction of the Palestinian society, so little is known about the real facts of how this war developed, and what Israel's role in it is. The first aim of this book is to bring these facts to light.
The book follows Israel's policies over the three years since Ehud Barak became prime minister, until the summer of 2002 the darkest period in the history of Israel so far. Based on information available in abundance in the Israeli media, we can track a shift of policy right at the start of this period - a shift away from the Oslo conception, which dominated since 1993. This is, of course, a long story, documented in detail in the book, but let me give you the gist of it.
Ever since the Palestinian territories were occupied in 1967, the Israeli military and political elites have deliberated over the question how to keep maximum land (and water) with minimum Palestinian population. A simple solution of annexing the heavily populated Palestinian land would have created a "demographic problem" - the fear that a Jewish majority could not be sustained. Therefore, two basic approaches were formed. The Alon plan of the Labor party proposed annexation of 35-40 percent of the territories, and either a Jordanian rule, or some form of autonomy for the rest of the land, to which the Palestinian residents will be confined. In the eyes of its proponents, this plan represented a necessary compromise. They believed it would be inconceivable to repeat the "solution" of the 1948 Independence war, when much of the land was obtained "Arab-free", following mass expulsion of the Palestinian residents. The second approach, whose most vocal spokesman was Sharon, strived to get more. In its extreme realization it maintained that it should be possible to find more acceptable and sophisticated ways to achieve a “1948 style" solution. It would only be necessary to find another state for as many Palestinians as possible. "Jordan is Palestine" was the phrase Sharon coined in the 1980's.
In 1993, in Oslo, it seemed that the Alon plan triumphed. This was enabled also by Arafat's cooperation. In the past, the Palestinians always opposed the Alon plan, which robs them of much of their land. But in 1993 Arafat was about to loose his grip on Palestinian society, with endless protest over his one man rule, and the corruption of his organizations. An apparent "smashing victory" seemed the only thing that could save him in power. Behind the back of the local Palestinian negotiating team headed by Haider Abd al-Shafi, Arafat accepted an agreement that leaves all Israeli settlements intact even in the Gaza strip, where 6000 Israeli settlers occupy one third of the land, and a million Palestinians are crowded in the rest. As years went by since Oslo, Israel extended the "Arab-free" areas in the occupied Palestinian territories to about 50% of the land. Labor circles began to talk about the "Alon Plus" plan, namely - more lands to Israel. However, it appeared that they would still allow some Palestinian self-rule in the other 50%, under conditions similar to the Bantustans in South Africa.
On the eve of the Oslo agreements, the majority of Israelis were tired of war. In their eyes, the fights over land and resources were over. Haunted by the memory of the Holocaust, most Israelis believe that the 1948 war of independence, with its horrible consequences for the Palestinians, was necessary to establish a state for the Jews. But now that they have a state, they just long to live normally on whatever land they have. Like the majority of Palestinians, the Israeli majority let itself be fooled into believing that what we were witnessing were just "interim agreements" and that eventually the occupation will somehow end, and the settlements will be dismantled. With this conception of what is ahead, two third of the Jewish Israelis supported the Oslo agreements in the polls. It was obvious that there was no majority for any new war over land and water.
But the ideology of war over land never died out in the army, or in the circles of politically influential generals, whose careers moved from the military to the government. From the start of the Oslo process, the maximalists objected to giving even that much land and rights to the Palestinians. This was most visible in military circles, whose most vocal spokesman was then chief of staff, Ehud Barak, who objected to the Oslo agreements from the start. Another beacon of opposition was, of course, Ariel Sharon.
In 1999, the army got back to power through the politicized generals - first Barak, and then Sharon (the book surveys their long history of collaboration). The road was open to correct what they view as the grave mistake of Oslo. In their eyes, Sharon’s alternative of fighting the Palestinians to the bitter end and imposing new regional orders may have failed in Lebanon in 1982 because of the weakness of “spoiled Israeli society”. But now, given the new war philosophy established through U.S. military operations in Iraq, Kosovo, and, later, Afghanistan, the political generals believe that with Israel’s massive air superiority, it might still be possible to execute that vision. However, in order to get there, it was first necessary to convince the "spoiled" Israeli society that, in fact, the Palestinians are not willing to live in peace, and are still threatening Israel's very existence. Sharon alone could not have possibly achieved that, but Barak did succeed with his "generous offer" fraud.
By now, much was written already about Barak's non-offer in Camp David. Nevertheless, a careful examination of the information in Israeli media reveals more about the extent of the fraud, and a chapter in the book surveys all the details. In fact, Barak's Camp David was the second round of his mastery of deception of public opinion. Several months before, he did the same with Syria, letting Israelis and the world believe that Israel is willing to withdraw from the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. In the polls, 60% of the Israelis supported enthusiastically dismantling all settlements in the Golan Hights. But the end of this round of peace negotiations was just the same as the later end of the negotiations with the Palestinians. Israelis became convinced that the rejectionist Asad would not be willing to get his territories back and make peace with Israel. Since then, the possibility of war with Syria has been in the air. Military circles explain openly that "Hezbollah, Syria and Iran are trying to trap Israel in a 'strategic ambush' and that Israel has to evade that ambush by setting one of its own... The circumstances could be created during or near the end of an American offensive against Iraq" (Amir Oren, Ha'aretz, July 9, 2002).
On September 28, 2000, Sharon, with Barak's approval, threw a match into the boiling frustration which was accumulating in Palestinian society, with his provocative visit to Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. The massive security forces that surrounded him used rubber bullets against unarmed demonstrators. When these events triggered further demonstrations the next day, Barak escalated the shooting and ordered Israeli forces and tanks into densely populated Palestinian areas. By all
Israel defines its military action as a necessary defense against terrorism. But in fact, the first Palestinian terrorist attack on Israeli civilians inside Israel occurred on November 2, 2000. That was after a month during which Israel used its full military arsenal against civilians, including live bullets, automatic guns, combat helicopters, tanks, and missiles.
What is particularly astounding is that most the military plans underlying Israel’s actions in the coming months, had already been conceived right at the start, in October 2000 including the destruction of the Palestinian infra structure ("Field of Thorns" plan). The political strategies aimed at discrediting Arafat and the Palestinian Authority were also ready right from the start. Barak's political circles prepared a manuscript known as the "White Book", which announced that Arafat had never deserted the "option of violence".
Amid the propaganda, a theme that had already emerged in October 2000 was the analogy linking present circumstances to the war of 1948. Major General Moshe Ya'alon, then deputy chief of staff (and the present chief of staff), explained that "this was Israel's most critical campaign against the Palestinians, including Israel's Arab population, since the 1948 war - for him, in fact, it is the second half of 1948" (Amir Oren, Ha'aretz, November 17, 2000). After two years of brutal Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the leading military and political circles in Israel that produced this analogy still believe that "the second half" - a completion of the ethnic cleansing that started in 1948 - is necessary and possible.
My second aim in the book is to show that despite the horrors of the last two years, there is still also another alternative open to end the war of 1948 the road of peace and real reconciliation. It is amazing how simple and feasible would be to achieve that. Israel should withdraw immediately from the territories occupied in 1967. The bulk of Israeli settlers (150,000 of them) are concentrated in the big settlement blocks in the center of the West bank. These areas cannot be evacuated over night. But the rest of the land (about 90% - 96% of the West bank and the whole of the Gaza strip) can be evacuated immediately. Many of the residents of the isolated Israeli settlements that are scattered in these areas are speaking openly in the Israeli media about their wish to leave. It is only necessary to offer them reasonable compensation for the property they will be leaving behind. The rest - the hard-core “land redemptions” fanatics - are a negligible minority that will have to accept the will of the majority.
Such immediate withdrawal would still leave under debate the 6 to 10 percent of the West bank with the large settlement blocks, as well as the issues of Jerusalem and the right of return. Over these, serious peace negotiations should start. However, during these negotiations Palestinian society could begin to recover, to settle the land that the Israelis evacuated, to construct democratic institutions, and to develop its economy based on free contacts with whomever it wants. Under these circumstances, it should be possible to address the core issue of what is the right way for two peoples who share the same land to jointly build their future.
In Israel, the call for immediate withdrawal is drawing some public support since Amy Ayalon (former head of the security services) has openly called for it, and was joined in February 2002 by the Council for Peace and Security a body of about 1000 establishment members. To judge by the polls, this plan has the support of 60 percent of the Jewish Israelis. This is not surprising, as it is the same majority that has been consistently supporting the dismantlement of settlements since 1993. In a Dahaf poll of May 6 2002, solicited by Peace Now, 59 percent supported a unilateral withdrawal of the Israeli army from most of the occupied territories, and dismantling most of the settlements. They believe that this will renew the peace process, and that this solution is the most hopeful of the options outlined in the survey. This majority is, of course, not represented at all by the political system, but it is there.
(2) Can you tell ZNet something about writing the book? Where does the content come from? What went into making the book what it is?
I began writing the book during the first months of the Palestinian uprising. It started as columns in the Israeli paper Yediot Aharonont, and more extended internet articles for Znet and Israel Indymedia, that were following the events as they took place. But I then extended the research into a full coverage of the period. The first draft was completed in February 2002, and appeared in April in French as Detruire la Palestine, ou comment terminer la guerre de 1948 (France: La Fabrique, 2002) The present English version covers also the period between April and the summer of 2002, when Israel entered its new and most cruel stage of the destruction of Palestine, with its operation "Defensive Shield," and the horrors in the refugee camp of Jenin.
My major source of information is the Israeli media. In the Israeli papers you can find much more about what is going on than in any outside coverage. One often hears statements interpreting this as signifying that the Israeli media is more liberal and critical than other Western media. This, however, is not the explanation. With the notable exception of courageous and conscientious journalists like Amira Hass Gideon Levi, and a few others, the Israeli press is as obedient as elsewhere, and it recycles faithfully the military and governmental messages. But part of the reason it is more revealing is its lack of inhibition. Things that would look outrageous in the world, are considered natural daily routine.
For example, on April 12, 2002, following the Jenin atrocities, Ha’aretz innocently reported what “military sources” had told the paper: ”The IDF [Israeli army] intends to bury today Palestinians killed in the West Bank camp… The sources said that two infantry companies, along with members of the military rabbinate, will enter the camp today to collect the bodies. Those who can be identified as civilians will be moved to a hospital in Jenin, and then on to burial, while those identified as terrorists will be buried at a special cemetery in the Jordan Valley.” Apparently, no one in Israel was particularly concerned at the time about issues of international law, war crimes and mass graves. Israeli TV even showed, the evening before, refrigerator trucks that were waiting outside the Jenin camp to transfer bodies to “terrorist cemeteries”. It was only after international attention began to focus on Jenin that this information was quickly concealed and reinterpreted using any absurd reasoning to explain that nothing of the sort had ever happened. This is how the respectable analyst Ze’ev Schiff of Ha’aretz later summarized the event: “Toward the end of the fighting, the army sent three large refrigerator trucks into the city. Reservists decided to sleep in them for their air conditioning. Some Palestinians saw dozens of covered bodies lying in the trucks and rumors spread that the Jews had filled trucks full of Palestinian bodies.” (Ha’aretz, July 17, 2002).
(3) What are your hopes for Israel/Palestine How to End the War of 1948? What do you hope it will contribute or achieve, politically? Given the effort and aspirations you have for the book, what will you deem to be a success? What would leave you happy about the whole undertaking? What would leave you wondering if it was worth all the time and effort?
In the present political atmosphere in the US and Europe, anybody who dares express criticism of Israel is immediately silenced as an anti-Semite. Part of the reason why the Israeli and Jewish lobby has been so successful in forcing this accusation is the massive lack of knowledge about what is really happening. Without the facts, the dominant narrative remains that Israel is struggling to defend its mere existence. Attention focuses only on the horrible and despicable Palestinian terror, so that if you criticize Israel, you are accused of justifying terror. My hope, then, is to give the readers the weapons to face such accusations a detailed knowledge of the facts.
My second hope is to restore hope. As I said, a sane and rational solution is still possible. People have managed in the past to move from a history of bloodshed into peaceful coexistence, Europe is being the most well known example. After two years of horror, a majority in both the Israeli and Palestinian people is still willing to open a new page. I show this in detail in the book, and I end the book with the story of the many Palestinian and Israeli activists who are struggling together for the only future worth living a future based on basic human values. What is needed to give hope a chance is for the people of the world to intervene and stop the Israeli military Junta, which does not even represent the Israeli majority.
Finally, and perhaps most important, I try to give some picture of the Palestinian tragedy the best I can from my privileged position as a member of the oppressing society. With the U.S. backing, and the silence of the Western world, there is a serious danger that what we have seen so far is only the beginning, and that under the umbrella of a war in Iraq, the Palestinian people may be destined to a choice between annihilation or a second exile. Arundhati Roy’s description of the situation in Afghanistan at the time seems so painfully applicable to what the Palestinians are enduring: “Witness the infinite justice of the new century. Civilians starving to death while they are waiting to be killed.” My biggest hope and plea is - save the Palestinians! Make ‘stop Israel!’ a part of any struggle against the US war in Iraq. If the governments of the world will not do that, my hope is that the people of the world still can.