Gaza conflict exposes France’s own struggles with xenophobia

A protesters hold a placard reading “We are all Palestinians” as he kneels on a giant Palestinian flag near the Barbes-Rochechouart aerial metro station prior to the departure of a demonstration, banned by French police, in Paris on July 19, 2014 to denounce Israel’s military campaign in Gaza and show support for the Palestinian people. (Photo: Francois Guillot-AFP)
Published Tuesday, July 22, 2014
As Israel continues its deadly onslaught on the Gaza Strip, tens of thousands across the world have descended into the streets in support of the Palestinian people. But amid this wave of international support, France has become the only country so far to ban pro-Palestinian protests, leading to widespread outcry by French activists who denounce this infringement on their freedom of expression and reject accusations of anti-Semitism. With France witnessing the growth of a xenophobic political discourse over the past decade, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become the latest receptacle for tensions in a divided nation.

The violent police operation in this low-income neighborhood of northern Paris, compared to the calmer situation for protesters in more touristic areas, “was a reminder of the most somber hours of the colonial era,” according to protest organizers.

On July 13, an estimated 15,000 people gathered in Paris to call for an end to the Israeli assault on Gaza. However, coverage of the large gathering was quickly overshadowed by clashes between members of the Jewish Defense League (LDJ) and pro-Palestinian demonstrators outside of the Don Isaac Abravanel Synagogue on rue de la Roquette.
It was later revealed that the altercation had been provoked by the LDJ — a far-right Zionist militant group that is banned in both Israel and the United States — whose members had sent taunting tweets calling on “propalo” activists (a derogatory word for pro-Palestinians) to find them near the synagogue of la Roquette. French media was quick to jump on the story, initially framing it as an anti-Semitic attack by pro-Palestinian activists against the synagogue before retracting its coverage in light of testimonies and video footage of the scuffle.
The government, however, strongly condemned the incident. “Anti-Semitism cannot be used because there is a conflict between Israel and Palestine,” President François Hollandesaid on July 14, warning that there would be “no tolerance” for disturbances to public order, adding that he “had asked for these demonstrations to be banned.”
Disregarding the context behind the altercation at la Roquette, a decision was taken on Friday to ban a pro-Palestinian protest planned to take place in Paris on Saturday July 19, as Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve argued that “the conditions [were] not right to guarantee security” and calling on police prefects across the country to consider banning other pro-Palestinian rallies on a “case by case” basis.
Transgressing such a ban is punishable for up to a year in prison and a €15,000 ($20,200) fine, penalties that triple if a demonstrator covers their face. Advertizing a banned demonstration on social media is also a punishable offense, which can reach up to seven years in prison and a €100,000 ($134,800) fine if it the post is found to have sparked violence.
Thousands of demonstrators nevertheless gathered at several locations in the French capital on July 19. French riot police cracked down on the gathering in Barbès, which quickly turned into a full-blown altercation between security forces launching tear gas cannisters and protesters throwing slabs of pavement. The violent police operation in this low-income neighborhood of northern Paris, compared to the calmer situation for protesters in more touristic areas, “was a reminder of the most somber hours of the colonial era,” according to protest organizers, who estimated that some 10,000 people had defied the ban.
Xenophobic climate
The government’s blundering and short-sighted management of the Gaza assault and its repercussions in France has highlighted enduring fractures in French society. Ever since Jean-Marie Le Pen, then-leader of extreme-right party Front National (FN), reached the second round of presidential elections in 2002, France has been struggling with the fact that a growing number of citizens espouse xenophobic or outrightly racist views, often at the expense of its citizens of immigrant origins from former colonies.
Instead of addressing the root causes of this increasingly hostile mentality, including the country’s bleak economic prospects, French politics have shifted further right of the political spectrum in an attempt to capture FN votes. This has led to an increasing focus on Muslim citizens and their public expressions of faith, notably with the 2005 ban of “ostentatious religious symbols” in high schools – ie, the hijab – and the ban of the niqab in 2010, a garment thought to be worn only by an estimated 2,000 women in France.
This crackdown in the name of France’s particular brand of secularism, laïcité, has led many Muslim French citizens to feel ostracized in their own country. The situation is only exacerbated by the strong correlation between immigration, discrimination and poverty in France, a subject that remains taboo in a country skittish about public conversations on race.

France has still not figured out how to make space for citizens who choose to hold on to their roots, whether religious or national.

France has still not figured out how to make space for citizens who choose to hold on to their roots, whether religious or national. Instances of vandalism by some supporters of the Algerian football team during the World Cup were used as a pretext by Mayor Christian Estrosi to ban the “ostentatious” display of foreign flags in downtown Nice, while current FN leader Marine Le Pen called for an end to dual nationality. Nice, not quite so coincidentally,has also banned some pro-Palestinian protests.
In this context, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resonates deeply with many citizens with origins from former French colonies, who identify with the Palestinian struggle to assert their rights.
As pointed out by Benjamin Joyeux on website Médiapart, France “continues to treat its children from traditionally Muslim popular neighborhoods as second-class citizens.[...] After that, we can’t be surprised that young and old, most of whom having never set foot in Palestine, (who are) victims of a double discourse of the Republic for all but not really, are affected by what the Israeli army is now doing in Gaza, according to international law for all but not really.”
It is important, however, to note the diverse support for the Palestinian cause in France, which brings together anti-racism movements, anti-Zionist Jews, anti-capitalists, environmentalists, communists, as well as secular and Muslim groups. But in a country where 74 percent of respondents in a 2013 Ipsos poll said they felt that Islam was “incompatible with French society,” and a 2011 poll showed that 76 percent thought “foreigners” were not making enough efforts to integrate themselves in France, visibly Arab or pro-Arab public movements make many French citizens and politicians uncomfortable.
This xenophobic discomfort has come to a head with the Gaza protests, even though the vast majority of the demonstrations across France have gone smoothly. Prime Minister Manuel Valls has said that France “will not tolerate attempts to – with violence, words or acts – import the Israeli-Palestinian conflict onto its soil,” a call which has been repeated by Hollande and other major French figures.
This hand-wringing conveniently ignores Valls’ own outspoken pro-Israeli stance, as he once proclaimed that he was “linkedin an eternal way to the Jewish community and Israel” through his marriage to a Jewish woman.
Hollande has also repeatedly supported Israel’s “right to self-defense” since the beginning of Operation “Protective Edge,” without addressing the legitimacy of Gaza’s own self-defense faced with a highly equipped military force - whose nuclear arsenal France has directly contributed to.
The relationship between France and the Israeli occupation goes further, as pointed out by Alain Gresh, the editor of Le Monde Diplo:
”When the Israeli army organized in May 2014 a meeting at the Victoire synagogue to extol its merits and to register recruits, who was creating the link between Israelis and Jews? [...] When a gala is organized in support of the Israeli border police every year in Paris, who is importing the conflict in France? The French ambassador to Tel Aviv doesn’t forget to hail the ‘courageous engagement’ of young French in the Israeli army. What would the French government say if young French Muslims went to fight in Palestine? And yet it accepts that some participate today in the [Israeli] offensive against Gaza.”
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict takes on an even bigger significance in France, home of the third-largest Jewish population in the world and frequently accused by Israel of being rampant with anti-Semitism. In a joint press conferencewith Hollande in 2012, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu openly called on French Jews to immigrate to Israel. This controversial position has been regularly trotted out by Zionist writers over the years, as they argue that France has become uninhabitable for Jews who should seek refuge in Israel.
While France has undisputably witnessed extremely troubling incidents of anti-Semitism in the past several years, including a 2012 shooting in front of a Jewish school which killed four people – not to mention French complicity in the Holocaust during World War II – the Zionist conflation between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism has bled into French discourse in a troubling way; delegitimizing the pro-Palestinian movement by letting the actions of dozens speak louder than the political outcry of thousands.
The very public condemnation of the pro-Palestinian movement compared to the perceived leniency towards the LDJ has also tragically stoked the flames of anti-Jewish resentment for some, directly contributing to religious tensions in the country.
For Pascal Boniface, director of the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS) and author of France ailing from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has called for a more frank discussion of Israel and Palestine in France:
”Forbidding demonstrations in solidarity with Palestinians, as has been suggested by the president of CRIF [Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France], would be a remedy worse than the wrongdoing itself. Or should we then also forbid events in support of Israel, which one would think includes CRIF’s annual dinner? Fear of dividing the public, of heightening tensions, of adding fuel to the fire, means that far too often we don’t tackle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict frankly. The will to not import it is often highlighted. Inasmuch as it is part of our daily lives and that things can only exacerbate it, this is not the good solution. We must to the contrary advocate so that we can discuss it completely freely without restriction.”
A protest in support of Gaza in Paris has been approved for Wednesday, a political recognition, perhaps, that the ban only served to create more national antagonism over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But the situation has highlighted on an international scale the tensions within France and the country’s inability to face full-on its responsibility to its ostracized citizens, as well as the political complacency of the “country of human rights” (as France likes to call itself) with regards to Palestine.
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American airlines have haltedflights to and from Israel’s  following a rocket strike near Ben-Gurion Airport yesterday. According to some reports, the change is due to a decision made by the  Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Many European airlines follow this call and also suspend flights. So you tell me who is under a siege?

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   

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Gaza Resistance Uniting us and Netanyahu is Desperate for a Ladder

غزة تقاوم _ ناصر قنديل _ مع الحدث / المنار 23 7 2014

وغزة تجمعنا حتي في لبنان

Lebanese Channels Unite on Gaza: “Palestine, You’re Not Alone”

نتنياهو صعد على الشجرة ولم ينزل

Netanyahu stuck on Gaza tree: To invade or not to invade

"نتنياهو" الذي صعد على الشجرة ولم ينزل

 The Ladder

Stay tuned for The Quds Day surprises – In Gaza

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   
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Israeli military superiority belongs to the past.

By Gilad Atzmon

In his speech to the nation Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged yesterday that the war on Gaza is a battle for the existence of the Jewish State. Netanyahu is correct. And Israel cannot win this battle; it cannot even define what a victory might entail. Surely the battle is not about the tunnels or the militants’ underground operation, the tunnels are just weapons of resistance rather than the resistance itself. The Hamas and Gaza militants lured Israel into a battle zone in which it could never succeed and Hamas set the conditions, chose the ground and has written the terms required to conclude this cycle of violence.

For ten days Netanyahu did all he could to prevent an IDF ground operation. He was facing the reality that Israel lacks a military answer to Palestinian resistance. Netanyahu knew that a defeat on the ground would eradicate the little that remains of IDF’s power of deterrence.

Five days ago, Israel, at least in the eyes of its supporters, held the upper ground. It saw it citizens subject to an endless barrage of rockets, yet it showed relative restraint, killing Palestinian civilians only from afar, which served to convey an imaginary image of strength. But that has changed rapidly since Israel launched its ground operation. Israel is now, once again, involved in colossal war crimes against a civilian population and worse, at least strategically, its elite infantry commandos are being eradicated in a face-to-face street battle in Gaza.  In spite of clear Israeli technological superiority and firepower, the Palestinian militants are winning the battle on the ground and they have even managed to move the battle to Israeli territory. In addition, the barrage of rockets on Tel Aviv doesn’t seem to stop.

IDF’s defeat in Gaza leaves the Jewish State with no hope. The moral is simple. If you insist on living on someone else’s land, military might is an essential ingredient to discourage the dispossessed from acting to reclaim their rights.  The level of IDF casualties and the number of bodies of Israeli elite soldiers returning home in coffins send a clear message to both Israelis and Palestinians. Israeli military superiority belongs to the past. There is no future for the Jews-only-State in Palestine; they may have to try somewhere else.




By Mosab Qashoo

 The military operations undertaken by both Israel and Gaza bear many resemblances to what occurred in 2008 and 2012. Military might is still just as disproportionate, with Israel dropping hundreds of tonnes of explosives in 1,600 bombings and Hamas firing 1,500 non-explosive projectiles and rockets. Similarly, while it is unjust to compare casualties, the enormous gap between the over 265 Gazans and the 2 Israelis killed is telling. Of course Israeli weaponry is ever advancing with the assistance of US tax dollars.
Despite the loss of its tunnels into Egypt and its severed relationship with the Syrian regime, Hamas has launched rockets farther than ever before and has sent surveillance drones and SCUBA divers into Israel. Interestingly, both Hamas and the Israeli government have implemented new tactics meant to warn civilians of impending attacks. Many news networks have focused on so-called “warning rockets” or “roof tapping”, very friendly sounding words that, no doubt, were crafted and injected into the conversation by Israeli Hasbarists. This media sculpting is very skillful, considering that these “warning rockets” are likely more powerful than Hamas’ most advanced rocket. Not to mention that most of these smaller bombs hit less than a minute before a massive bombing, giving Gazans little time to move to a slightly safer location, and certainly not enough time to gather family photos, identity documents, money or other valuables. They also announced their ground invasion in advance, though there is little Gazans could do to prepare. Hamas has provided slightly more meaningful warnings through text messages and TV broadcasts hours prior to launching rockets, a reasonable time for Israeli citizens to take care of their business and get into their bomb shelters. It is as if there is a side battle of who can appear to be giving the most warning to the other side.
The use of social media is a much loved topic in most news outlets. In this instance, the interest lies not in the use of social media to allow for citizen journalism or political participation, but instead for its application in military scenarios. For example, Israel now has a smartphone app that warns Israelis of approaching rockets and projectiles. On July 14th, Hamas hacked into the most watched Israeli TV station during prime time and also managed to send blanket text messages to Israeli cell phones in order to convey, in Hebrew, a message stating that Israeli children are not more important than Palestinian children, and that their projectiles would continue as long as Israel continued to target Gazan children, houses, hospitals and schools. Hamas may have learned to focus its media message on the Israeli public rather than the international community from Hezbollah during its conflict with Israel in 2006, the idea being that Israelis will hear these messages and encourage their government to tone down aggression.
While social media is a “sexier” topic, the biggest media story is the traditional news coverage in Egypt. In 2008, Hosni Mubarak knew that he could tap into sympathy for Palestinians in order to gain favor with the Egyptian people. While it was (and continues to be) actually complicit in the strangulation of the Gazan population, Egypt presented itself as a protector of the Palestinian people. In 2012, a government genuinely sympathetic to Hamas was in brief control of Egypt, and the Rafah crossing was opened. The current regime, having just squelched Hamas’ relative, the Muslim Brotherhood, currently displays a vitriol towards Hamas that even Israel has not matched. They have obliterated the tunnels and allowed only very few gravely injured people to leave Gaza for medical attention. Egypt continued this behavior by colluding with Israel to draft a “cease-fire”, that was in effect a proposed demilitarization of Gaza with no concessions or release of the Israeli grip on the territory, all without consulting or even warning Hamas prior to public announcement.
With Egypt acting in lockstep with Israel, it no longer can serve as a mediator as it did in 2008 and 2012. Mahmoud Abbas and the PLO are also out of the picture, despite the recent Hamas-PLO unity deal. Many hypothesize that Israel is acting so severely in order to break up this political unity but Abbas and his political establishment have made it clear that their unity deal has no tangible effects. During the first several days of Israeli bombing of Gaza, PLO officials attended coexistence conferences in the Israeli resort city of Herzliya and in Tel Aviv. In a more extreme example, the new Minister of Health of the unity government, who had been a Fattah appointee, returned to Gaza from the US a full nine days after the bombing campaign began. Given the vast number of casualties and the overall medical crisis in Gaza, his prolonged absence demonstrates an extreme disregard. When he attempted to enter at Rafah, he was greeted by a barrage of stones and shoes thrown by those who had lost homes, limbs and family members. Some Palestinians believed that Fatah only engaged in the unity government in order to make it appear that its failure to resolve the “Palestinian Question” was a result of its relationship with Hamas, rather than its corruption and declining local and international relevance.
With Egypt and the PLO out of the picture, I predict that this latest bout will be resolved by Turkey and possibly Qatar. Both countries maintain a good relations with Hamas and a relationship, albeit strained, with Israel. 
[Alex: Palestinians are paying the price for Hamas sins - Relation with Qatar and Turkey - and Hamas is paying the price for Brotherhood's historical sins - in particular pulling Hamas out of the axis of Resistance]
Neither country needs the kind of international (read: US) backing that the traditional arbiters, Egypt and Jordan, have enjoyed. Their regional interests are very different from those of Egypt or Jordan, who share physical borders with Palestinian territories, and therefore are impacted by the security situations there. Qatar may well benefit from a partner located where Gaza is on the map. Their backing of the Muslim Brotherhood helped pave the way for a port in Sinai with exclusive Qatari access. Now that the Brotherhood has been destroyed, Qatar could conceivably propose a peace plan wherein they maintain control over Gaza’s nautical border. Turkey tried to widen the moderate Islamist bloc in both Egypt and Syria, but has failed to do so. Taking a Hamas government under its wing could strengthen its bloc against the now dominant fundamentalist UAE-Saudi bloc. With these new players with radically different agendas, we could see a whole host of new options on the table, not only to end this latest flare up, but also for more permanent solutions moving forward.
[Alex: As long as Hamas is under the wing of Turkey and Qatar Gaza will continue to bleed. The only way out is RESISTANCE, reinforcement of  the Palestinian's  UNITY,  the return of Hamas as a national resistance movement which would  pave the way for good relations with Syria and Egypt because they share physical borders with Palestinian territories, that Explain why Islamic Jihad insists that there would be no solution without Egypt]
“Mosab Qashoo grew up in an agricultural village outside of the West Bank town of Qalqilia, his youth bookended by the first and second intifadas. He studied Information Technology, Industrial Engineering and Conflict Management at the Arab American University in Jenin and An-Najah University in Nablus, where he was involved in student activities on campus, as well as non-violent international activism across the West Bank.
“Now based in NYC, Mosab is also a farmer/writer and founded Palestine Farm Project, which uses visitor farmstays and skillsharing to create cross cultural unity and support a sustainable agricultural economy in the West Bank.”

مع الحدث _ سهيل الناطور / المنار 22 07 2014


Naomi Klein: Enough. It’s time to Boycott Israel

Posted on 

by angelajoya

It’s time. Long past time. The best strategy to end the increasingly bloody occupation is forIsrael to become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa. In July 2005 a huge coalition of Palestinian groups laid out plans to do just that. They called on “people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era”. The campaign Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions was born.

Every day that Israel pounds Gaza brings more converts to the BDS cause – even among Israeli Jews. In the midst of the assault roughly 500 Israelis, dozens of them well-known artists and scholars, sent a letter to foreign ambassadors in Israel. It calls for “the adoption of immediate restrictive measures and sanctions” and draws a clear parallel with the anti-apartheid struggle. “The boycott on South Africa was effective, but Israel is handled with kid gloves … This international backing must stop.”

Yet even in the face of these clear calls, many of us still can’t go there. The reasons are complex, emotional and understandable. But they simply aren’t good enough. Economic sanctions are the most effective tool in the non-violent arsenal: surrendering them verges on active complicity. Here are the top four objections to the BDS strategy, followed by counter-arguments.

Punitive measures will alienate rather than persuade Israelis.

The world has tried what used to be called “constructive engagement”. It has failed utterly. Since 2006 Israel has been steadily escalating its criminality: expanding settlements, launching an outrageous war against Lebanon, and imposing collective punishment on Gaza through the brutal blockade. Despite this escalation, Israel has not faced punitive measures – quite the opposite. The weapons and $3bn in annual aid the US sends Israel are only the beginning. Throughout this key period, Israel has enjoyed a dramatic improvement in its diplomatic, cultural and trade relations with a variety of other allies. For instance, in 2007 Israel became the first country outside Latin America to sign a free-trade deal with the Mercosur bloc. In the first nine months of 2008, Israeli exports to Canada went up 45%. A new deal with the EU is set to double Israel’s exports of processed food. And in December European ministers “upgraded” the EU-Israel association agreement, a reward long sought by Jerusalem.

It is in this context that Israeli leaders started their latest war: confident they would face no meaningful costs. It is remarkable that over seven days of wartime trading, the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange’s flagship index actually went up 10.7%. When carrots don’t work, sticks are needed.

Israel is not South Africa.

Of course it isn’t. The relevance of the South African model is that it proves BDS tactics can be effective when weaker measures (protests, petitions, backroom lobbying) fail. And there are deeply distressing echoes of apartheid in the occupied territories: the colour-coded IDs and travel permits, the bulldozed homes and forced displacement, the settler-only roads. Ronnie Kasrils, a prominent South African politician, said the architecture of segregation he saw in the West Bank and Gaza was “infinitely worse than apartheid”. That was in 2007, before Israel began its full-scale war against the open-air prison that is Gaza.

Why single out Israel when the US, Britain and other western countries do the same things in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Boycott is not a dogma; it is a tactic. The reason the strategy should be tried is practical: in a country so small and trade-dependent, it could actually work.

Boycotts sever communication; we need more dialogue, not less.

This one I’ll answer with a personal story. For eight years, my books have been published in Israel by a commercial house called Babel. But when I published The Shock Doctrine, I wanted to respect the boycott. On the advice of BDS activists, including the wonderful writer John Berger, I contacted a small publisher called Andalus. Andalus is an activist press, deeply involved in the anti-occupation movement and the only Israeli publisher devoted exclusively to translating Arabic writing into Hebrew. We drafted a contract that guarantees that all proceeds go to Andalus’s work, and none to me. I am boycotting the Israeli economy but not Israelis.

Our modest publishing plan required dozens of phone calls, emails and instant messages, stretching between Tel Aviv, Ramallah, Paris, Toronto and Gaza City. My point is this: as soon as you start a boycott strategy, dialogue grows dramatically. The argument that boycotts will cut us off from one another is particularly specious given the array of cheap information technologies at our fingertips. We are drowning in ways to rant at each other across national boundaries. No boycott can stop us.

Just about now, many a proud Zionist is gearing up for major point-scoring: don’t I know that many of these very hi-tech toys come from Israeli research parks, world leaders in infotech? True enough, but not all of them. Several days into Israel’s Gaza assault, Richard Ramsey, managing director of a British telecom specialising in voice-over-internet services, sent an email to the Israeli tech firm MobileMax: “As a result of the Israeli government action in the last few days we will no longer be in a position to consider doing business with yourself or any other Israeli company.”

Ramsey says his decision wasn’t political; he just didn’t want to lose customers. “We can’t afford to lose any of our clients,” he explains, “so it was purely commercially defensive.”

It was this kind of cold business calculation that led many companies to pull out of South Africa two decades ago. And it’s precisely the kind of calculation that is our most realistic hope of bringing justice, so long denied, to Palestine.

A version of this column was published in the Nation (

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   

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Nine Things the Israeli Ambassador, Daniel Taub, Conveniently Didn’t Say About Gaza

The suffering in Gaza continues unabated. The strip is blockaded from land, sea and air and bombed from land, sea and air. The death toll has climbed past 550, including at least 100 Palestinian children.

Yet, still, silver-tongued Israeli officials continue to take to the airwaves to defend the indefensible. On Tuesday I appeared alongside Israel’s ambassador to the UK, Daniel Taub, on BBC Radio 2′s The Jeremy Vine Show, to discuss the Gaza crisis. I wasn’t able to debate the ambassador directly: I answered Vine’s questions first while Taub sat silently next to me; then he answered Vine’s questions while I (with great difficulty and much self-restraint) sat silently next to him. You can listen to the full interviews below, including my points about Israel’s brutal ‘Dahiya doctrine’ and the horrific effects of the siege on Gaza’s 1.7m-strong populace.

Given I wasn’t able to respond to Taub’s points on the show, however, and given the ambassador was able to have the last word, I thought I’d deal with some of the myths he pushed, live on air, in this particular blogpost.

Here are nine things that the Israeli ambassador to the UK conveniently didn’t mention – or got flat wrong – during his radio interview yesterday, based on nine of his quotes from that interview:

1) “We pulled out of the Gaza Strip in 2005… we pulled out of every inch.”

Israel likes to pretend that the occupation of Gaza ended with Ariel Sharon’s ‘unilateral disengagement’ from the strip in August 2005. It didn’t. Israel is still, legally, the occupying power and continues to control Gaza’s territorial borders, coastal waters and airspace. In fact, as Harvard University Middle East expert Sara Roy noted in the Boston Globe in 2012: “Israeli-imposed buffer zones — areas of restricted access — now absorb nearly 14 percent of Gaza’s total land and at least 48 percent of total arable land. Similarly, the sea buffer zone covers 85 percent of the maritime area promised to Palestinians in the Oslo Accords, reducing 20 nautical miles to three…” Israel also continues to control the Palestinian Population Registry, which has the power to define who is a “Palestinian” and who is a legal resident of Gaza. Does Gaza sound sovereign, independent or un-occupied to you?

2) “Hamas took over the Gaza Strip by force.”

Yes it did, in June 2007, after being elected to office in January 2006. But what Taub omitted to mention is that it did so in order to pre-empt a coup planned by the Bush administration and egged on by the Israelis. As investigative journalist David Rose pointed out in his acclaimed Vanity Fair piece on the coup, based on leaked documents from the US State Department, it was “President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and Deputy National-Security Adviser Elliott Abrams [who] backed an armed force under Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, touching off a bloody civil war in Gaza and leaving Hamas stronger than ever.”

3) “At the end of the day democracy is… some sort of commitment to basic democratic values.”

Put to one side the fact that Israel rules over millions of Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem while denying them the right to vote in Israeli elections, let’s take a look for a moment at the ‘democratic’ fate of Palestinians who live legally inside of Israel as citizens of the Jewish State. There are, according to Ha’aretz, “695 communities, located in regional councils that control about 80 percent of the state’s land” which have vetting committees, protected by law, that prevent Palestinian citizens of Israel from buying or renting property in those communities. Israel also operates discriminatory citizenship laws – chief among them, the 1950 Law of Return and the 1952 Citizenship Law – which privilege Jewish citizens over Palestinian citizens. What happened to “basic democratic values”?

4) “Hamas has brutalised the people of Gaza.”

Yes it has. Hams is undoubtedly guilty of massive human rights abuses inside Gaza. But does that excuse Israel’s 47-year brutalisation of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Territories? Consider this Reuters report from June 2013: “A United Nations human rights body accused Israeli forces on Thursday of mistreating Palestinian children, including by torturing those in custody and using others as human shields. Palestinian children in the Gaza and the West Bank, captured by Israel in the 1967 war, are routinely denied registration of their birth and access to health care, decent schools and clean water, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child said.” Is this not brutalisation? Is this not a massive abuse of Palestinian human rights? How about bombing a cafe in which Gazans were watching the World Cup? Or bombing a shelter for Gaza’s disabled residents?

5) “Israel has been trying to show restraint.”

If “restraint” results in 500-plus dead in a matter of days, the vast majority of them civilians, including kids on beaches and disabled people in shelters, then I wouldn’t want to see what Taub defines as a lack of restraint. Also, as I mentioned in my remarks to Vine, Israel is using the Dahiya doctrine which, as the 2009 United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict noted, is an Israeli security concept coined by former IDF general Gadi Eizenkot that involves “the application of disproportionate force and the causing of great damage and destruction to civilian property and infrastructure, and suffering to civilian populations”. Targeting civilian populations and properties isn’t evidence of “restraint”, it’s evidence of war crimes.

6) “This was a [ceasefire] proposal that was presented to both Israel and Hamas.”

This isn’t true and Taub knows it. The proposed ceasefire deal last week was struck between Egyptian president al-Sisi and Israeli prime minister Netanyahu, with the help of ‘peace envoy’ Tony Blair – but without any Hamas involvement. Hamas official, Mushir al-Massri, told Al Jazeera, “that the group was never involved in the formulation of the ceasefire and only learned about it from media reports. He said his group rejected the proposal ‘in style because no body consulted with us in formatting it, [and] in content because its articles are a free service to the [Israeli] occupation’.” To quote Sharif Nashashibi: “It is extraordinary that a supposed mediator between two warring parties would exclude one of them from the process.”

7) “Hamas has been obstructing people from getting the food and the medicines that they need.”

Maybe, but are we expected to believe that the Israelis care about the health and well-being of the people of Gaza? According to a ‘secret’ US State Department cable, based on conversations between US diplomats and senior Israeli officials, revealed by Wikileaks in 2011: “Israeli officials have confirmed to Embassy officials on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis.. As part of their overall embargo plan against Gaza, Israeli officials have confirmed … on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge.” Also, official Israeli documents, released to the Gisha human rights organisation under Freedom of Information legislation, showed that “the Israeli military made precise calculations of Gaza’s daily calorie needs to avoid malnutrition during a blockade imposed on the Palestinian territory between 2007 and mid-2010″ and then refused to allow in enough trucks of food to meet those “daily calorie needs”.

8) “I have absolutely no idea what reports [about flechette shells] you’re referring to.”

Perhaps Taub, who stuttered as he responded to Vine’s very simple question on flechette use, should read the Guardian: “The Israeli military is using flechette shells, which spray out thousands of tiny and potentially lethal metal darts, in its military operation in Gaza. Six flechette shells were fired towards the village of Khuzaa, east of Khan Younis, on 17 July, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. Nahla Khalil Najjar, 37, suffered injuries to her chest, it said. PCHR provided a picture of flechettes taken by a fieldworker last week. The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) did not deny using the shells in the conflict… The munitions are not prohibited under international humanitarian law, but according to B’Tselem, ‘other rules of humanitarian law render their use in the Gaza Strip illegal.’”

9) “The tragedy is that Hamas… are stopping civilians leaving from the areas of fighting.”

Whether or not Hamas is indeed “stopping civilians” from leaving “the areas of fighting”, where are those Palestinian civilians in Gaza supposed to go? Which part of their “prison camp”, to quote David Cameron in 2010, can they legitimately and safely take shelter in, given Israel is bombing houses, schools and mosques on the grounds that they’re all allegedly being used by Hamas to hide their rockets? To quote the inimitable Jon Stewart, of the Daily Show: “Evacuate to where? Have you f**king seen Gaza? Israel blocked this border, Egypt blocked this border. What, are they supposed to swim for it?”


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