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Category Archives: International Politics

Just listening to some BBC World Service documentaries about Iraq 10 years after the Invasion.

Many Iraqis hate what the Americans did to them.
Its very easy to find local Iraqis who think that Iraq today would be better under Saddam.
Every month since the invasion 2,000 Iraqis have died in sectarian violence.
Up until at least 2008, families in some regions simply did not go outside.
That means children spend their whole lives indoors – no football in the street, no riding on bikes, no going outside. Listen to a kid talk about it at 4:50 into this audio.

Yes of course you can go outside but a truck might drive by with a heavy machine gun mounted on it and just gun you down indiscriminately. You and your friends.

You can buy a Chevrolet or even a Cadillac in Baghdad. Business is quite good apparently. Explosions in the shopping district in the immediate vicinity are down(!) to two a week. Let’s go shopping. Probably won’t get killed. Listen here at 18:00 mins in.
But Saddam. This was a guy who was willing to drain the fertile southern marshes of Iraq and turn them into a dustbowl, just to chase down his enemies.

Maniac. Madman.

Sooner or later he would have fallen and the sectarian violence unleashed in any case.

The American invasion, done simply for Oil, money and power, simply uncorked the civil war sooner than would have otherwise happened. And they did that while irradiating the population with their depleted Uranium weapons dust, occasionally massacring a city like Fallujah with all inhabitants included, bombing everything and killing everybody.

But the sectarian violence which followed would have happened anyway.

Better under Saddam ? Probably yes. Temporarily.


On October 26 2005, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, newly elected President Of Iran, made a speech at the distastefully named ‘World Without Zionism’ conference held by the Islamic Student Associations in the Ministry Of The Interior conference hall in Tehran, also attended by Islamic Jihad and Hamas. In it he made the following remarks in Farsi:

“Imam ghoft een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad.”

IRIB News, an English-language subsidiary of the state-controlled Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), translated the essential content of this sentence as ‘Israel must be wiped off the map’ and filed a story on Ahmadinejad’s speech to the World Without Zionism conference in Asia, entitled: Ahmadinejad: Israel must be wiped off the map.

Western and Israeli leaders, taking the official translation at face value, expressed disgust at Ahmadiniejad’s reported remarks, stating them as proof of Iranian intention to immediately destroy Israel as soon as the Iranian nuclear program reached weapons readiness.

But Ahmadinejad was not making any such declaration. Indeed his Farsi did not even include the words ‘Israel’ or ‘map’. What he actually said would be better translated as ‘the regime occupying Jerusalem must be expunged from the world stage’ with the meaning being ‘the occupation of Palestine must be bought to an end and be replaced by a government embodying the aspirations of the Palestinian people’.

The error in translation lies in the choice of English idiom for the Farsi phrase. The English idiom, ‘wiped off the map’ conveys immediate destruction by overwhelming and irresistible force, whereas the Farsi phrase conveys ‘wiping away of an offensive stain or disgrace’.

The Farsi used by Ahmadinejad is neither passive nor peaceful. But neither does it convey immediate action or escalation of force. In short, the degree of aggression conveyed for the Farsi is far lower than the selected English idiomatic translation.

Ironically, it was the Iranian News Agency‘s own poor translation, later withdrawn and clarified, that gave the Western and Israeli governments their free kick against Ahmedinejad. And they didn’t stop kicking after their internal translators no doubt had properly translated and analysed the speech. It was a propaganda gift from IRIB itself. A golden opportunity.

Correcting such errors in the public mind are near impossible in the face of Western progaganda onslaught, but the truth is available to whomever cares to look. Jonahan Steele of The Guardian put together a good piece on the translation issues, noting that the Israeli running the Middle East Media Reporting Institute (MEMRI) supports a doveish translation of the remarks, as did The BBC, which also originally gave an incorrect translation ‘wiped off the map’ under time pressure to report the remarks. Steele describes the BBC’s translator’s difficultly with the passage, which is not straight forward.

Actually Reading The Speech For a Change

Disputing over the correct translation of a single difficult phrase in Ahmadinejad’s speech is no substitute for actually reading the whole of what he said, or at least a large enough chunk of it provide a proper and full context and allowing an inductive interpretation to emerge.

The speech itself was given in the context of a particular development in Palestinian/Israeli international relations which provides the key to Ahmadinejad’s meaning. Furthermore, the overall theme of the speech was ‘endurance despite appearances to the contrary’ not ‘destroy the enemy’ and, tellingly, predictions of Khomeini in regard to the collapse of these regimes are adduced by Ahmadinejad, giving an immediate context to what Ahmadinejad meant by ‘wipe off the map’

The Palestinian issue that Ahmadinejad referred to was the 2005 withdrawal of Israel from the Gaza strip which Ahmadinejad portrayed as a trick invented by Israel and the United States designed to fool the world community into believing that a true Palestinian homeland had been established and that therefore Palestinian struggle was no longer required.

Ahmadinejad said:

Recently they [the Israelis] tried a new trick. They want to show the evacuation from the Gaza strip, which was imposed on them by Palestinians, as a final victory for the Palestinians and end the issue of Palestine with the excuse of establishing a Palestinian government next to themselves. Today, they want to involve Palestinians with mischief and trick them into fighting with one another over political positions so that they would drop the issue of Palestine.

They want to convince some of the Islamic countries that, since they evacuated the Gaza strip with good intentions, the legitimacy of their corrupt regime should be recognized. I hope Palestinian groups and people are aware of this trick.

In relation to his overall theme of ‘endurance despite appearances to the contrary’, Ahmadinejad gave two examples of other regimes which had been wiped off the map. These were the regimes of the Shah Of Iran and of Saddam Hussein

Of The Shah, Ahmadinejad said:

We had a hostile regime in this country which was undemocratic, armed to the teeth and, with SAVAK, its security apparatus of SAVAK [the intelligence bureau of the Shah of Iran’s government] watched everyone. An environment of terror existed. When our dear Imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder the Iranian revolution] said that the regime must be removed, many of those who claimed to be politically well-informed said it was not possible.

Of Saddam Hussein, Ahmedinijad said:

Who could believe that one day we could witness the collapse of the Eastern Empire? But we have seen its fall during our lives and it collapsed in such a way that we have to refer to libraries because no trace of it is left. Imam [Khomeini] said Saddam must go and he said he would grow weaker than anyone could imagine. Now you see the man who spoke with such arrogance ten years ago that one would have thought he was immortal, is being tried in his own country in handcuffs and shackles by those who he believed supported him and with whose backing he committed his crimes.

The two examples that Ahmadinejad provided of regimes that were wiped off the map were examples of seemingly solid, strong, seemingly impossible to defeat even immortal regimes that did regardless collapse. Both of these regimes were ones, like Israel, that Khomeine said must go or be removed and which Khomeini predicted would grow weaker.

To the core of the issue about what Ahmadinejad meant, the regime of the Shah was not wiped off the map by external invasion, but rather by popular uprising of the local population which is precisely what Ahmadinejad exhorts the Palestinians to do.

So, following Ahmadinejad, the comparison with The United States and Israel is exact. Khomeini said these regimes must pass away from the world stage and so, trusting in his wisdom, by struggle and endurance they will, despite their seeming strength and dominance.

Ahemadinejad’s formulation is They say it is not possible to have a world without the United States and Zionism but, to paraphrase, Khomeini said that the regimes of The Shah and Saddam would pass away and they did, Our dear Imam [also] said that the occupying regime [Israel] must be wiped off the map and so it will be.

Ahmadinejad then clarified what he meant by the wiping away of the occupying regime, which was the replacement of an illegitimate occupier by a government embodying the democratic aspirations of the Palestinian people

He said:

The issue of Palestine is not over at all. It will be over the day a Palestinian government, which belongs to the Palestinian people, comes to power; the day that all refugees return to their homes; a democratic government elected by the people comes to power. Of course those who have come from far away to plunder this land have no right to choose for this nation.

This is why when pressed directly on the meaning of his remarks by a Washington Post reporter, Ahmadinejad continually stated that the Palestinian people had a right to democratic self-determination. What appeared to his American interlocutor as evasion on the subject of ‘wipe off the map’ was merely a restatement by Ahmadinejad of what he clearly said in the first place.

Here is an excerpt:

Your suggestion is to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth?

Our suggestion is very clear:…Let the Palestinian people decide their fate in a free and fair referendum, and the result, whatever it is, should be accepted…The people with no roots there are now ruling the land.

You’ve been quoted as saying that Israel should be wiped off the face of the Earth. Is that your belief?

What I have said has made my position clear. If we look at a map of the Middle East from 70 years ago…

So, the answer is yes, you do believe that it should be wiped off the face of the Earth?

Are you asking me yes or no? Is this a test? Do you respect the right to self-determination for the Palestinian nation? Yes or no? Is Palestine, as a nation, considered a nation with the right to live under humane conditions or not? Let’s allow those rights to be enforced for these 5 million displaced people.

In Conclusion

…an inductive reading of Ahmadinejad’s speech shows that he was calling for the world to recognise a full democratic aspiration for the Palestinian people and specifically to reject the assertion by Israel that their withdrawal from the Gaza Strip accomplished the goal of the establishment of a Palestinian.

… the translation error lies in choosing an English idiom conveying escalation of force and intention for immediate aggression. None of this is present in the Farsi.

… Ahmadinejad made plain that the term wiped off the map encompasses collapse via popular uprising as shown by his example of the Shah.

…’wipe off the map’ is a poor translation of Amhedinjad’s words. They are better translated as ‘the regime occupying Jerusalem must be expunged from the world stage’. While the sentiment conveys action and does not preclude struggle or aggression, it does not convey immediate invasion, escalation of force or immediate intention to destroy

That sentiment is summarized in the following line from his speech:

Those who are sitting in closed rooms cannot decide for the Islamic nation and cannot allow this historical enemy to exist in the heart of the Islamic world

A Contrary View

In 2008, Joshua Teitelbaum of the Jerusalem Centre For Public Affairs put together a compelling document entitled “WHAT IRANIAN LEADERS REALLY SAY ABOUT DOING AWAY WITH ISRAEL: A REFUTATION OF THE CAMPAIGN TO EXCUSE

The document assembles statements of leaders of the Iranian Islamic regime which make it quite clear that Iran supports the physical destruction of Israel.

What is not clear is whether Ahmadinejad’s speech of Oct 2006 was a declaration of that intent.

Titlebaum’s document applies Amadinejad’s words to the destruction of Israel by various means including the following:

– The editorial comment in the Iranian newspaper Resalat two days later which reminded its readers that Muslim nations must actively prepare for a great war with Israel to be launched some time in the near future.

– The April 2005 statements of Ayatollah Nurdi Hamadani who stated that the the prophetic and therefore necessary precondition for the return of the apocalyptic Shiite Hidden Imam was the destruction of Israel.

– The inscription of the phrase ‘Israel must be uprooted and wiped off the pages of history’ on Iran’s Shahab 3 long-rage missiles, capable of reaching Israel from Iran, during military parades.

– Former Iranian President Rafsanjani made the statement in December 2000 that a single atomic bomb would destroy Israel while only causing minor damage to the Islamic world as a whole. (From the Islamic perspective, Israel occupies Muslim land).

It is plain from Tietelbaum’s research that Ahamdinejad and the Shiite theocratic regime directing Iran do wish and plan for the destruction of Israel and that nuclear weapons are not excluded as part of their strategy.

It is nevertheless somewhat of a leap to assert Ahmadinejad’s speech of October 2006 to be a statement of direct intent or immediate assertion of a definite decision to commence nuclear bombardment as soon as possible or even that it would definitely occur as soon as Iran possessed a nuclear missile capacity. To do so requires divorcing Ahmadinejad’s words from the speech in which it is contained and instead attaching them to the wider context of remarks made across the regime.

I do agree that the possibility exists that Ahmadinejad, as a fervent Shiite, could indeed decide to launch a nuclear attack on Israel believing this would immediately precipitate the return of the Hidden Imam, even if Iran itself should be destroyed in retaliation.

However, the content of Ahmadinejad’s speech was tied to the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, the imperative for Palestinians to continue in their struggle and the eventual collapse of seemingly dominant regimes. It was not a drum beat to war or a statement of intent to invade, despite the propaganda machine of the Western powers declaring it so.

In short, I interperet the invocation of Khomeini’s dictum by Ahmadinejad as a ritual courtesy to Khomeini, not a call to Iranian arms, though it was indeed a call to Palestinian arms or continuing resistance along the lines of ‘Keep it up, boys’. I am also making allowances for Middle Eastern oratorial flourish, i.e. belligerent polemic or simply talking tough, which Muslims and those of Middle eastern cultures love to do.

Finally in this, I note that Titlebaum’s document records reverence for Khomeini’s words, not Ahamdinejad’s, and this is only logical. The military parades with ‘wipe Israel from the pages of history’ written on missiles occurred in 2003, two years before Ahmadinejad’s speech.

Postscript: Hitchens, Ahmadinejad and Khomeini

While researching this post I can across an article by Christopher Hitchens, whose writing I have frequently admired, which gave a seemingly good case for a hawkish view of Ahmadinejad’s words.

Christopher Hitchens in Slate puts MA’s words in the context of a particular utterance by the infamous Ayatollah Khomeini, traced to a compilation put out by the Institute for Imam Khomeini, located in Iran. Those words were:

Esrail ghiyam-e mossalahaane bar zed-e mamaalek-e eslami nemoodeh ast va bar doval va mamaalek-eeslami ghal-o-gham aan lazem ast…. Here is the translation: Israel has declared armed struggle against Islamic countries and its destruction is a must for all governments and nations of Islam.

Unfortunately for Hitchens, the quote of Khomeini that Ahmedinejad was quoting was not the one cited by Hitchens.

Professor Julian Cole traced Khomeini’s words to a 1980s speech in which he said in Persian “Een rezhim-i eshghalgar-i Quds bayad az sahneh-i ruzgar mahv shaved.” This means, “This occupation regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the arena of time.”

Met up with some friends recently who are ardently pro-Israel. They told me that the Gaza Freedom Flotilla ships had contained weapons in its cargo and that Terrorists were among the persons involved. I decided to check up.

No Weapons

When John told me that the Flotilla had weapons in its cargo, I assumed he meant guns. There were no guns. The most offensive weapons found in the flotilla were a number of slingshots which were ‘deployed’, if one can say that of a slingshot, against the Israeli UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopters. The Black Hawks successfully withstood the withering barrage of marble-fire and managed to rapelle their elite Naval Commando Unit onto the decks of the flotilla craft with no casulaties.

The official photos taken by the Israeli Defense Forces of the weapons cache of the flotilla were enough to make me laugh out loud. Again there are no guns. There are however clubs, a machete-like knife, about fifteen knives suitable for a ships kitchen, four or five other switchblade- or penknike-type knives and an assortment of ships equipment like wrenches, screwdrivers, hammers and chain.

The IDF also reported that chairs and dinner plates were used as improvised weapons. While I would not like to be struck by a chair or dinner plate, these are hardly the kind of thing which comes to mind when the IDF says that there were Terrorists and Weapons on board the Freedom Flotilla.
There are no guns at all in the official IDF photographs despite their claim they came under ‘live fire / from all directions’ before boarding and while advancing through the ships, which shows such claims to be lies.

As a weapons-smuggling operation the Gaza Flotilla would not successfully enarmour a Palestinian against against a mildly motivated Bronx Greaser Gang of the 1950’s, let alone the Israeli Army, though it would provide shock and awe value against a Cro-Magnon hunter-gatherer.

The need of the IDF to augment the weapons cache with ordinary ship’s equipment shows them eager to exaggerate their view of the flotilla and its participants. Flotilla participants admit the slingshots and the UN Palmer Report (p.57) confirms the clubs. Everything else is ships equipment or materiel (confirmed here).

No Terrorists

By ‘Terrorists’ I assumed John meant something like ‘trained guerillas’. The flotilla participants included no guerillas or combat operatives, trained or otherwise.

The IDF listed the names of five ‘Specific Flotilla Passengers’ it says are Active Terror Operatives’ . The first name listed is Ken O’Keefe, a former US Marine who renounced his US citizenship in March 2001.

The IDF, adducing no evidence, claims:

O’Keefe attempted to enter the Gaza Strip in order to form and train a commando unit for [Hamas]

O’Keefe rejects the baseless charge while freely acknowledging he has met the Hamas Party Leader and Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in the course of his activism for the residents of Gaza. O’Keefe’s web-site offers a very full explication of his ideology which is based firmly in action and activism but not on armed combat which he eschews.

The IDF charge against O’Keefe is a mere smear utilizing guilt-by-association

The terrorist accusation against Fatima Mohammadi is also, in the absence of evidence, quite simply made up.

Vehemently anti-Palestinian blogs have dug for evidence that Ms. Mohammadi has supported terrorism but have found none. Here’s a typical piece, full of smears but providing no evidence of wrong-doing on Mohammadi’s part.

Mohammadi’s non-existent ‘ties to Hamas’ appear to be similar to that of O’Keefe, in that Mohammadi has participated in a delegation to Gaza as part of her activism, in her case on behalf of Viva Palestina, an NGO of which she is a US national organiser.

The other three are baselessly accused by the IDF of providing finacial support to Islamic terror organisations and/or being terror operatives themselves. German newspaper Der Spiegel investigated these accusations and could find no evidence to support them.

IDF Retracts Terrorist Claim

Soon after the impounding of the flotilla, the IDF issued a press release stating that 40 Al-Quaida operatives were amongst the flotilla members. After some simple questions were asked of the IDF in relation to this, the IDF reissued the notice to merely state 40 persons without identification papers were on the flotilla. The IDF was thus caught out in a direct propaganda lie.

As it happens, those 40 were not innocent humanitarian activists, but nor were they terrorists either. Of them, more below.

If the flotilla was truly a gun-running Jihadist-ferrying Trojan Horse the IDF would need only to present the straightforward evidence. Its need to resort to lies about weaponry and flotilla participants shows that the flotilla was not what the IDF portrayed it to be. Such propaganda is then digested uncritically by anti-Palestinian and anti-Islamic commentators and enters the public consciousness as a true record.

If the IDF wishes to be respected, let it communicate truthfully.

To summarize: The Gaza Freedom Flotilla was not running weapons to Gaza and there were no terrorists aboard.

In the next sections I will investigate various other accusations made against the flotilla participants.

Islamic War Cry

An anti-flotilla article on the blog ‘Peace With Realism’ entitled ‘Orwell In Gaza’ documents the disturbing truth that flotilla participants chanted an islamic Battle Cry before sailing for Gaza.

The true intentions of this supposed mission of “peace” became evident as the participants shouted this chilling battle cry, on footage taken aboard the flotilla just before its departure:

“Remember Khaybar, Khaybar, O Jews! The army of Muhammad will return!” Khaybar is the name of the last Jewish village destroyed by Muhammad in 628, marking the beginning of the end of any Jewish presence in Arabia. It has become a rallying cry for Islamic extremists, threatening death to Jews throughout history. You probably did not see this footage if you live in the West, but it was broadcast on Al-Jazeera.

The accusation that the ‘Khaybar War Cry’ was sung on the Mavi Marmara is true, but Peace With Realism makes the error, following Israeli propaganda, of ascribing the militant Islamist sentiment of the singers to every person on the flotilla. In fact, of the 594 flotilla participants only a sub-group of 42 who embarked seperately to the main flotilla sang this chant.

It was this group of 40 that violently resisted the Israeli Commandos, attacking them with metal bars fashioned from the ship’s railing, knives from the ship’s kitchen, chain and anything else at their disposal. At least one, perhaps as many as seven, expressed a wish to become a martyr.

Serious investigations into the flotilla incident, such as the UN Palmer Report, the BBC Panorama documentary ‘Death In The Med’ and the Israelis themselves when they are being honest (Palmer Report p.30)are consistent in differentiating between the 40 ‘hard-core’ Islamic activists and the majority other 550 or so flotilla participants. Anti-Palestinian, anti-flotilla blogs and Israeli propaganda lazily impugn the entire flotilla membership as Islamists or haters of Israel.

IHH: Not Really A Charity

The Gaza Freedom Flotilla was co-organised by the Free Gaza Movement and the Turkish NGO İnsan Hak ve Hürriyetleri Vakfı (Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief) (IHH). The IHH does indeed perform charitable works, but its true purpose is to support Islamist and Jihadist activities.

This article ‘The Gaza Flotilla: Facts and Official Reactions’, by Max Gerstenfeldt of the Jerusalem Centre For Public Affairs contains a detailed analysis of the Islamist/Jihadist motivation of the IHH and its President.

Some extracts:

According to a 2006 report by the Danish Institute for International Studies, the IHH had links to Al-Qaeda and global Islamist networks during the 1990s.

The IHH was the subject of a Turkish criminal investigation in 1997, when sources revealed that senior IHH activists were purchasing automatic weapons from other Islamist groups. When they searched the IHH offices, Turkish security services found weapons, explosives, instructions for manufacturing IEDs (improvised explosive devices), and documents indicating that IHH members were planning to participate in terror activities in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Chechnya.

The report also notes that the current president of the IHH and organizer of the “Freedom Flotilla,” Bulent Yildrim, had galvanized anti-American sentiment, and incitement against U.S. troops, in these areas during the Iraq War.

A report by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy notes that “in the mid-1990s, Yildrim was directly involved in ‘recruit[ing] veteran soldiers in anticipation of the coming holy war [jihad]. In particular, some men were sent to war zones in Muslim countries in order to acquire combat experience.'”

In July 2010, a group of Italian lawmakers under the lead of legislator Fiamma Nirenstein proposed that IHH be included in the European Union’s list of terrorist organizations. “The Islamic fundamentalist nature of IHH has been documented by numerous declarations praising martyrdom and Israel’s destruction,” said Nirenstein.

In Germany, the Coordinating Council of German Nongovernmental Organizations against Anti-Semitism likewise called on the government to place the IHH on the EU list of terrorist organizations, because “like Hamas the IHH is an anti-Semitic organization that promotes terrorism.”

Former French judge Jean-Louis Bruguière, who investigated the IHH in the late 1990s, said the group was connected to a 1999 plot by Al-Qaeda to bomb Los Angeles International Airport. He described the IHH as having “clear, long-standing ties to terrorism,” and stated that the group was “basically helping Al-Qaeda when Bin Laden started to want to target U.S. soil.”

It is plain, in my opinion, that IHH intended to engineer a confrontation with Israel using humanitarian activists as pawns. No firearms were bought on to the Flotilla, but the hard-core IHH sub-group premeditated to use dangerous ships materiel as improvised weapons against the Israeli Commandos. The IHH members fully expected they would be killed in the operation, but hoped to kill some Commandos in the process. This intention was kept secret to the wider Flotilla community which numbered 718 at the outset of the voyage, reducing to 594 due to mechanical problems in one or two flotilla craft.

Flotilla Jihadist

In view the above it is true to say that the Gaza Flotilla was organized with a Jihadist purpose. That purpose was only known to a small minority (42/718) of the flotilla participants. The vast majority were humanitarian activists.

The Jihadist purpose was to apply pressure to Israel to end the Gaza blockade so that rockets and other weapons could once again freely enter Gaza. That pressure was intended to come by provoking Israel into a violent conflict which would disgrace Israel in the eyes of the international community. The 40 IHH Jihadis chose to enter the confrontation with virtually no arms beyond found items on the ship augmented by some wooden clubs and metal poles which they cut from the ships railing. By this they hoped to disgace Israel which they calculated would use deadly force to overcome opponents with approximations of Bronze Age armaments.

IHH Deceit

The IHH has made some headway towards its goals, acheiving this by deceitfully tricking sincere humanitarians into participation into an operation IHH calculates as helping to bring about increased Rocket attacks on the Israeli civilian populations with a view to the ultimate destruction of the state of Israel.

Neither the IHH, nor its co-coordinator, the Free Gaza Movement have been honest about the Islamist and Jihadist nature of the IHH. The statements of FGM and IHH to the effect that they are motivated purely by humanitarianism are shameless lies and propaganda.

IHH Success

The Israeli naval blockade of Gaza was directed at preventing Rockets and other weaponry entering Gaza. The Palmer Report (pp. 39-40) succintly describes how militants in Gaza fired approx. 5,000 rockets between 2005 and Jan 2009 into an area heavily populated by Israeli citizens. The naval blockade, which was a response to this, has contributed to a reduction in attacks.

The IHH did not achieve an annulment of the naval blockade, but considerable criticism has been levied against Israel and both the naval blockade and restricted land crossings into Gaza are viewed with jaundice by a significant sector of educated opinion as well as centrist and left-leaning political parties in the Western Hemisphere.

As a consequence of the impoundment of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, the publicity surrounding its actions and the killing of nine flotilla participants (and wounding of fifty-three) by the IDF the Palmer Report notes (p. 69)

  • The Government of Israel has taken significant steps to ease the restrictions on goods entering Gaza
  • On 5 July 2010, in a step which was welcomed by the Secretary-General, the Government of Israel switched from a positive list of goods allowed into Gaza to a negative list of goods whose entry is prohibited or restricted.
  • On 8 December 2010, Israel decided to allow exports from Gaza, consistent with security conditions.

Gaza Humanitarian Crisis

The allieviation of economic conditions in Gaza as a consequence of relaxation of import controls via land is a temporary impediment to the US-Israel objective of removing Hamas by economic immiseration of the Gazan civilian population.

The Israeli policy, endorsed by the US is to keep Gaza on the verge of humanitarian crisis in order to make Hamas unpopular and engineer a change of government.

According to Reuters, via Wikileaks, a cable from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv says Israeli officials have confirmed on multiple occasions that they want Gaza’s economy

‘functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis.’

Notes the blog ‘Moral Low Ground’

The blockade of Gaza banned, at one time or another, all of the following items– and this is just a partial list: canned goods; plastic sheeting; toys; books; electric appliances; auto parts; fabrics; threads; needles; light bulbs; candles; matches; books; musical instruments; crayons; clothing; shoes; mattresses; sheets; blankets; cutlery; crockery; cups; glasses; animals; pasta; tea; coffee; sausages; chocolate; sesame seeds; nuts; margarine; salt; artificial sweetener; legumes; yeast; diapers; sanitary napkins and toilet paper.

The situation in Gaza is awful. In Gaza City, many houses have running water only once a week. Sanitation services are inadequate for the population such that untreated sewage was entering the water processing system and food chain at points likely to compromise health.

From the Palmer Report (p. 69)

Furthermore, socio-economic conditions in Gaza have deteriorated badly in the aftermath
of […] the Israeli-imposed restrictions on goods entering Gaza via the land crossings. Since these restrictions began in 2007, most private businesses have closed. The functioning of hospitals has been severely affected. The provision of electricity has been reduced and is intermittent. There has been a deterioration of water supply and sanitation services. Israel’s report admits Israel’s land crossings policies […]were designed to weaken the economy […]

Given that Israel has created the shocking living conditions in Gaza as a matter of deliberate policy, it can hardly be surprised that humanitarian activists may wish to participate in actions designed to change that policy of deliberate immiseration of local populations; nor should it complain or cry foul when the inhuman consequences of that policy are loudly and publicly pointed out.

Illegitimate And/Or Stupid

The strangulation of Gaza in order to delegitimize Hamas takes many forms including coercing Banks to deny services to Hamas members.

Hamas, lest we forget, is the democratically elected administration within Gaza. The people of Gaza voted for Hamas to be their government. For many ardent pro-Israelis and anti-Palestinians, the decision of Gazans to elect Hamas was an act of collective stupidity, proving that Palestinians are not responsible enough or too much in the grip of irrational hatred to know how to vote properly. Thus whatever Israel or the USA should decide to do to Gaza and Gazans is justified.

There is no justification for electing Jihadist government, so the deprivations visited upon Gaza by Israel are the fault of Gazans themselves. For this reason they shall be denied adequate sanitation, water and electricity. They shall endure sewage in their food and water; be deprived of sanitary napkins, vegetables and shoes; they shall be denied adequate medical supplies and otherwise flogged until they learn better.

Of course the mirrored Islamic view that the governments of Israel and the USA are illegitimate because they are non-Islamic or have committed war crimes against Muslim non-combatants is not regarded as sane. Osama Bin Laden may be assasinated by a crack Commando team and his body dumped in the ocean, but GW Bush may not be kidnapped, beheaded then incinerated. That would merely prove the blood-lust of Islam.

Who’s To Blame ?

There’s more than enough blame to share around. The IHH engineered a violent confrontation. The Israelis, for public-relations purposes, prefer the effects and intention of their blockade of Gaza not to be publicized and hence would have preferred no confrontation. But when it came they did not resile from shooting dead a few of its enemies. The pattern of gunshot wounds indicates that IHH Jihadists were shot from speedboats, helicopters, from behind, when wounded and defenceless and in general mercilessly executed.

In addition, the treatment of flotilla passengers by the IDF on the boats and in Israel was disgusting. It is apparent from reading the IDF submissions to the Palmer Report that the Israelis had exact knowledge of where the 40 dangerous IHH activists were, and while they disciminated their use of deadly force on this basis, they did not much differentiate in degrading, beating and robbing the remainder of the flotilla participants. (See Palmer Report pp.51-66).

The non-Jihadist flotillans, on the other hand, provided protection and first aid for the Israeli Commandos, eschewed the use of firearms confiscated from them and otherwise conducted themselves in a manner superior to that which they received from the IDF.

What To Do ?

The Gaza Freedom Flotilla incident is a manifestation of the wider issue of the intractable Israel/Muslim State animosity, a problem which appears truly unsolvable, but…

As to future ‘Freedom Flotillas’, I don’t think the IDF will kill you if you’re not Islamist, but they will probably taser, beat, and degrade you. Go with a Western charity and not one that’s associated with Islamism like the IHH.

And if you do decide to go on a little boat trip with the IHH or another Islamic ‘Charity’ be aware that Islamic humanitarianism includes the concept of beating Jews with metal poles and promoting activities calculated to contribute to the demise of the State Of Israel.

How did the Libyan NFZ proposal succeed in the Security Council ?

My short answer, following Chomsky: The West must periodically dump its favourite dictators when their crimes become obvious to the the general population of Western democracies.

Marcos, described by GH Bush as ‘pledged to democracy’ adding that ‘[the US] love[s] your adherence to democratic principle and to the democratic processes’ was dumped for Aquino due to mass public protest. Others, including Mubarrak, have met the same fate. Now its Gaddaffi’s turn.

The average Western voter, unaware of Gaddaffi’s general working relationship with the US thinks of Gaddaffi as an anti-Western psycho-tyrant. This is a left-over from his ‘official enemy of civilisation’ status earnt around the time of the Lockerbie bombing. For the westerner in the street, Gaddaffi’s ‘official enemy’ status has never been revised or rescinded despite his aforesaid working relationship with the US and the West. The eruption of civil war in Libya including air-force strikes on civilians and rebels rightly disgusts Norm and Noreen Everage who expect the innocent to be protected. So there is domestic political expectation in the West, grounded in basic decency, that our governments will enact a NFZ.

But governments, naturally, approach the situation based on realpolitik and self-interest.

The crucial political factor which allowed the NFZ proposal to succeed is the alliance of common interest between Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations with the US.

While significant chunks of the grass roots Arab citizenry may hate the US, their governments rather enjoy selling the US oil and receiving Megatons of military equipment as part of various perverse aid and friendship packages. The Americans base the bulk of their Persian Gulf fleet in Bahrain , to name just one important aspect of this relationship.

The Arab League does not wish to succour the highly energetic and successful protest movements swelling under their feet, so to provide a precedent of supporting a rebel movement in Libya must have stuck in their craw and contributed to a great deal of hesitation in their agreement with the UN/NATO.

The Arab League is a Sunni organisation. Iran is not a member. This makes the Arab League easier to deal with for the US/West than the Organisation Of The Islamic Conference, of which Iran, a trenchant opponent if the USA is a member. I think this is why the US/NATO sought agreement with the Arab League rather than the OIC. Iran would have it harder for the Saudis to make a deal which was predicated partly on the basis of Shiites being massacred in Bahrain.

As to why Saudi planes (or the Arab League generally) are not doing the bombing runs, well, they have to save face with their own population. Its not great internal press to openly bomb other Muslims. If the Brits do it then that may just distract the rebel movements a little into an anti-Western lacuna.

But the Saudis wlll happily massacre as many Shiite Bahranis as they have bullets, or Apache helicopters.

The typical Western voter, unaware of the basic alliance between Arab and Western governments, and with no pre-existing mental image of Bahraini royalty except a vague negative Arab/Muslim sterotype will consider the Bahraini massacres an internal Arab matter and will not expect Western intervention. Besides which, war with Saudi Arabia is beyond the comfort level of most of the sane.

But in regard to Libya, the West needed the NFZ deal to save face with its own populace – particularly the British, whose royalty are friends with Gaddaffi’s son and whose famous London School Of Economics received bequests from the psycho-tyrant himself.

So I would guess the essence of the deal with the Arab League would be “Let us do a NFZ in Libya and we’ll look the other way while you massacre as many as you want elsewhere, starting with Bahrain and Yemen’

How China and Russia were talked into abstaining, I don’t know, but it would have cost the West a barrel of favours that would make even a FIFA junket look trivial.

So, the NFZ is not a specific imperialialist gambit or lunge for Libyan oil, but rather an unfortunate turn of events where popular protest has forced the West to abandon one of its murderous clients.

This happens regularly and is very distressing because revolution is more unpredicatable than Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates and who the West gets to deal with next will have to be cultivated/managed/bombed or bribed into compliance which is costly, time-consuming and has no guarantee of success.