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Commentary Last Updated: Jan 15th, 2009 - 01:47:08

Eight years of insanity: Bush, Israel, and the slow destruction of Palestine
By Mike Cowie
Online Journal Guest Writer

Jan 15, 2009, 00:28

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Yes, �n� how many years can some people exist
Before they�re allowed to be free?
Yes, �n� how many times can a man turn his head,
Pretending he just doesn�t see?

--Bob Dylan, �Blowin� In The Wind�

What�s going on in Gaza right now is so incredibly tragic and unjust, not to mention unbelievably brutal and barbaric.

But I�m not here to discuss how it is we came to this horrific situation. No, that has been written about much more eloquently by others, people such as Avi Shlaim, an Oxford professor of international relations and an Israeli himself. I�d strongly recommend that everyone read his recent piece, �How Israel brought Gaza to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe.� It�s a definite must-read for anyone wanting to really understand this conflict and the whole long, sordid tale of Israel�s brutal treatment of the Palestinian people.

A sample:

�The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the June 1967 war had very little to do with security and everything to do with territorial expansionism. The aim was to establish Greater Israel through permanent political, economic and military control over the Palestinian territories. And the result has been one of the most prolonged and brutal military occupations of modern times.�

To further understand the terrible reality of this occupation I�d highly recommend that everyone also read Jennifer Loewenstein�s recent piece, �If Hamas Did Not Exist: Israel Has No Intention of Granting a Palestinian State.�

So, no, I�m not here to write about the historical causes that led to the rise of Hamas, or Israel�s shameful treatment of the Palestinian people over the past 60 years, or the especially cruel treatment the people of Gaza have been forced to endure over the past three years.

Nor am I here to discuss the American media�s apparent indifference to the suffering of the Palestinian people and its blind unthinking support for Israel, no matter how horrific that country�s actions may be.

What I am here to talk about, however, is how over the past eight years America�s Middle East policy, under the wretched leadership of George W. Bush, has become so completely indefensible and morally bankrupt. Furthermore, I�d also like to express my -- and most of the world�s -- deep hope for a significant change in American policy once Barack Obama comes to power later this month.

It certainly can�t get any worse

American policy has always been unequivocally pro-Israel, with a callous and shocking disregard for the fate of the Palestinian people, but the fact is no American administration before this one has ever taken such an extremely one-sided position.

Not Nixon, not Reagan, not Bush The Elder, and definitely not Clinton -- no one has ever taken such an immoral, unprincipled, black and white approach to the whole Middle East conflict before.

I mean, seriously, the Bush administration�s position is about as fair and balanced as Dick Cheney is lovable . . . or as George W. Bush is eloquent . . . or as Donald Rumsfeld is humble.

In other words, it�s about as fair and balanced as FOX News.

From the moment Bush took power in 2001 and right on up until the present, Israel has been free to do pretty much whatever it pleases, including a) breaking whatever international laws it so chooses; b) using as much disproportionate and brutal force as it so desires; and c) dishing out whatever forms of collective punishment it so sees fit -- all in an attempt to break the Palestinians� will by putting them through as much suffering and humiliation as possible.

And, through it all, America has sat back and watched, only speaking out in order to declare the Israelis �victims of terror� who have done only that which was needed in order to protect themselves -- the reality (of who�s actually terrorizing whom) be damned. No matter how crushing the Palestinians� oppression, Israel has constantly had America�s 100 percent backing . . . and $3 billion in aid each year.

Like victims of terror everywhere

It�s always funny to see the oppressors claiming to be the victims, especially when they�re the ones with ALL the power and military might. You know, like those poor Russians in Chechnya, those horribly downtrodden Chinese in Tibet, and those tragically oppressed whites in South Africa during the apartheid years. And let�s not forget those poor Germans who suffered so many dreadful attacks from so many terrifying terrorist groups (resistance fighters, partisans, rebels, what have you) all across Europe during WWII.

Seriously, is anyone so simple-minded and gullible as to see Israel as the victim of anything? Even the mindless pro-Israel propagandists must stop themselves every once in a while and laugh at how ridiculous their message has become.

Complete loss of credibility

Much has been made of how the invasion of Iraq, the continuing cancer that is known as the Guantanamo Bay gulag, and the Bush Regime�s open use of torture -- among other things -- have all led to a massive growth in anti-American sentiment throughout the Middle East and elsewhere. But the truth is that Bush�s black and white approach to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict has had as much to do with America�s lack of standing in the Arab and Muslim world as anything else.

The illegal land grab that is the wall running through Palestine, cutting the West Bank in half; the open-air prison camp that is the Gaza Strip; the ten thousand Palestinians being held in other Israeli prisons; the continuing enlargement and expansion of the illegal settlements on Palestinian land in the West Bank; the collective punishment that�s dished out in all its varied forms (such as the demolition of hundreds of homes each year and the daily harassment that takes place at the numerous checkpoints throughout the West Bank); and now the massive destruction and mass slaughter going on in the Gaza Strip. None of this has been condemned in any way over the past eight years by Washington. In fact, to hear the Bush Regime explain it, the Palestinians should be thankful to live under such kind, benevolent rulers.

From Warsaw to Gaza: Troublemaking terrorists terrorizing

And, really, like those involved in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising before them, how dare these terrorists from Gaza rise up against their oppressors? Can�t they just accept their fate and stop causing so much trouble? Can�t they just forget all this crap about human dignity, self-respect, self-defense, etc.? Can�t they just give up the whole resistance thing and be a bit more like the Welsh?

A monster of their own making . . . exactly as intended

But, to be serious, I�m not here to defend Hamas and their fundamentalist streak of Islam; however, the truth is that severe and long-term oppression almost always leads to the radicalization of those being oppressed -- and few people on earth have suffered such prolonged and horrific oppression and loss of dignity as the people of Gaza.

When you come right down to it, for all intents and purposes Hamas was created by Israel. As I�ve said for years now, the classic strategy that Israel has so clearly followed over the past decade or more has been one of divide and rule. Nothing suits the hardliners in Israel more than the growth of Hamas. Pragmatic leaders such as those in Fatah simply cannot be demonized in the same way as the radicalized Islamists of Hamas.

And, again, let me stress that I�m no fan of Hamas, but Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian elections fair and square and no true believer in democracy can simply turn around and call them �terrorists� as some sort of excuse to ignore those results. No matter how much anyone -- myself included -- might despise fundamentalists of any stripe, the fact is they won the elections and they are the elected representatives of the Palestinian people.

Israel itself has elected terrorists such as Menachem Begin to power, not to mention war criminals such as Ariel Sharon. And fanatical racist parties that call for the expulsion of all Palestinians from Palestine have joined governing coalitions in the country over the years. But never do you hear anything from America about shunning Israel over any of this. The hypocrisy is beyond belief.

Current slaughter

As for the lead up to the current killing spree going on in Gaza -- you know, the one where hundreds of civilians have been killed so far, including close to 250 children -- I�ll let Avi Shlaim, the Oxford professor, take it from here:

�The figures speak for themselves. In the three years after the withdrawal from Gaza, 11 Israelis were killed by rocket fire. On the other hand, in 2005-2007 alone, the IDF [Israeli Defense Force] killed 1,290 Palestinians in Gaza, including 222 children.

�Whatever the numbers, killing civilians is wrong. This rule applies to Israel as much as it does to Hamas, but Israel�s entire record is one of unbridled and unremitting brutality towards the inhabitants of Gaza. Israel also maintained the blockade of Gaza after the ceasefire came into force which, in the view of the Hamas leaders, amounted to a violation of the agreement. During the ceasefire, Israel prevented any exports from leaving the strip in clear violation of a 2005 accord, leading to a sharp drop in employment opportunities. Officially, 49.1% of the population is unemployed. At the same time, Israel restricted drastically the number of trucks carrying food, fuel, cooking-gas canisters, spare parts for water and sanitation plants, and medical supplies to Gaza. It is difficult to see how starving and freezing the civilians of Gaza could protect the people on the Israeli side of the border. But even if it did, it would still be immoral, a form of collective punishment that is strictly forbidden by international humanitarian law.�

As for the tactics, Shlaim continues, �Far from taking care to spare civilians, Israel is guilty of indiscriminate bombing and of a three-year-old blockade that has brought the inhabitants of Gaza, now 1.5 million, to the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe.�

So, blockaded and embargoed, shunned, humiliated and starved, with their children killed in the hundreds, the Palestinians of Gaza fight back by firing a few primitive rockets into Israel -- and, according to Bush, it�s all their own fault. If only they could be more civilized like the Israelis then there wouldn�t be any problem at all.

Ah, the subtle nuance.

Waiting for the Hope-And-Change guy to give us some real hope and change

Much has been made of the timing of this attack on Gaza, with Israel striking now to crush the Prison Camp Revolt before their cheerleaders in the White House leave office on January 20.

I just hope that, once he finally comes to power, Barack Obama, despite all of his black and white pro-Israel rhetoric during the election campaign, will take a very different approach -- if not an outright fair and balanced approach to the conflict, at the very least a more traditional, less blatant pro-Israeli position, one which at least encompasses a few shades of grey.

And, so, there you have it, as the destruction of Gaza and the radicalization of a once secular and progressive people continues, Bush cheers it all on and the world waits hopefully for a more fair approach by America under Obama.

My personal hope would be for the rest of the world to stand up for the Palestinians, but the reality is that Israel simply laughs off criticism from all others. Only America, with its billions of dollars in handouts to Israel each year and its continued support at the U.N., has any real leverage in trying to bring about some true justice to the situation.

Let�s just hope Obama�s fear of the pro-Israel lobby won�t stop him from doing the right thing. After all, there�s really no other place on earth where America still so openly backs such flagrant oppression and horrific crimes against humanity. The days of America backing the likes of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Augusto Pinochet in Chile, and all those other fascist regimes throughout Latin America, Africa, and Asia (�our fascists�) are long gone. So why continue supporting the appalling oppression of the Palestinian people in their own land?

Come on Obama, you can do the right thing!

Yes you can!

What can you do?

As for all of us, I say that until this brutal occupation ends we all heed Naomi Klein�s call for an economic boycott of Israel, like the one that helped bring down the similarly evil apartheid regime in South Africa.

And don�t let anyone try to label such a boycott as �anti-Semitic.� Like Naomi Klein, Avi Shlaim, Jennifer Loewenstein, Noam Chomsky, and many of my own personal friends, tens of thousands of other justice-seeking Jews out there are as sickened by this oppression as everyone else. It simply has to end.

Mike Cowie is a 41-year-old writer, originally from Victoria, b.c. He�s spent 15 years living, travelling and working overseas, but now lives with his wife and son just outside of Vancouver. Aside from his website, MikesAndDislikes, he�s presently also writing a book about a three-year backpacking trip across Asia, from Hong Kong to Istanbul.

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