A Palestinian speaker recounted ten years of success in the BDS campaign against the Israeli Zionist State and asked people to continue with it and, if possible, to step it up.
Riya Hassan addressed a crowd at the Pearse Centre in Dublin’s Pearse Street, just off Dublin City Centre, on Wednesday night. She spoke about the history of the oppression of Palestinians by the Israeli state and the ten-year history of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, explaining its origins in Palestinian society and charting its growth and successes. The three basic aims of the BDS campaign are to pressure Israel to end the colonisation and occupation of Palestinian land, to give equal rights to Arab-Palestinians citizens in the Israeli state and to agree to the right of Palestinian refugees to return home.
Riyah Hassan is European Coordinator of the BDS campaign, herself a Palestinian and, as she later explained when talking about the Israeli destruction of villages in the Negev, from near that area herself. Talking about the current refugee crisis in Europe, she pointed out that many of the refugees taking to sea in what she termed “death boats” (echoes of our own “coffin ships” during the Great Hunger) are in fact Palestinians. They are from refugee camps in Syria and are being made refugees for the second, third or even fourth time.
Speaking on the Palestinian refugee issue, a huge and outstanding one since 1948, Riya Hassan mentioned that their right to return home had been surrendered by the negotiators of the “peace process” at Oslo in the 1980s but that Palestinian society had not accepted this abandonment, whether in Israel, the occupied territory or in the refugee camps elsewhere.
Among a list of successes of the BDS campaign, Riya Hassan mentioned Veolia, a company which had been setting up the transport networks between settlements helping to carve up Palestine, had lost millions due to BDS – as a result, the company has pulled out of Israel (Veolia, by the way, runs the LUAS trams in Dublin). G4 Security, which runs surveillance on Israeli prisons, where there are currently well over 6,000 Palestinian prisoners, have said that they will pull out in 2017 but Riya said they should pull out now and called for pressure to be increased upon them. Another target should be our own Government, which has spent €14.7 million worth of arms and military components from Israel over the last decade (while Irish-based companies have exported €6.42m worth of military and ‘dual use’ hardware to Israel over the past five years). Riya reminded us of the complicity in murder entailed in buying equipment from the Israeli arms industry – an industry which boasts as a marketing point that its deadly equipment is “field tested”!
Among the measures of the impact of the BDS campaign on Israel and abroad, the audience were told that Netanyahu in addressing the recent AIPAC conference in the USA had given a quarter of his speech to attacking the BDS campaign and campaigners, in contrast to the early days when Zionists tended to dismiss the campaign as insignificant. More extraordinarily, perhaps, Hillary Clinton has given a promise, as part of her campaign for the Presidency of the USA, to do what she could against BDS.
Riya Hassan is eloquent, with excellent command of English and spoke clearly and confidently. If anything, she spoke for too long overall. It is hard for a visitor to judge what a typical Irish audience might know or what our cultural expectations are but the room was warm and after about 45 minutes one could hear some people shifting in their seats, a situation that did not improve as the talk extended well past the hour.
However, when the Chair of the meeting turned to the audience, it did not seem that anyone had missed an opportunity to ask questions or to comment and some even took several bites of the cherry.
As chair of the meeting (and of the IPSC) Martin Quigley drew the meeting to an end, he announced a boycott action of Tesco supermarkets for this Saturday and, for those in Dublin, asked them to meet at the IPSC office at 12 noon.
Riyah Hassan sets off over the next few days for Belfast and Cork before leaving our shores again and we wish go néirí an bóthair léithe!
INIGO CABACAS KILLED BY RUBBER BULLET FIRED BY BASQUE POLICE IN 2012 — STILL NO JUSTICE FOR FAMILY OR FRIENDS
Most Basques and especially supporters of their most popular football team, Athletic Bilbao1, were very happy in the early evening of 5th April 2012 .
Their team had beaten a football giant in the UEFA cup twice and another premier European team once. The fans were expecting Athletic to win or at least draw again that evening, in which case Athletic Bilbao were through to the second leg of the quarter-finals. They had no idea that the evening would end with a police riot squad firing rubber bullets into a festive crowd, causing the death of a young fan.
The high expectations of that evening in Bilbao were the result of a run of wins for the Athletic team. On March 8th 2012, Athletic Bilbao beat Manchester United 3-2 on their own ground, at Old Trafford.
One needs to know a few population statistics to understand what an achievement that was. Manchester United is a football team on the world stage, based in a city with a population of 2.55 million – that is not far from the population figure for the entire Basque Country. In addition, Manchester United’s players are drawn from around the world; Athletic recruits only Basque players from a total population of the Basque Country of less than 3 million.
A week after their win in the northern England city, on March 13th, Athletic faced Manchester United again, this time on the Basque team’s home ground, San Mames, in Bilbao. Manchester Utd. were beaten 2-1 and it seemed that the Basque lions2 were unstoppable.
These wins created a huge interest in the next game, which was with FC Schalke 04 on March 29th at the German team’s home ground. Schalke plays in the top tier of the German football league and have won many championships including one UEFA League. With around 130,000 members, Schalke 04 is the third-largest sports club in the world in terms of membership, behind their compatriot rival FC Bayern Munich and Portuguese club SL Benfica.
Athletic Bilbao is not a sports conglomerate – it is a football club which is owned by its 40,000 members (remember, this is a small country – that’s nearly 1.5% of the whole population! It’s also around 11% of the population of their home base, Bilbao). The management board is elected by the membership.
At Schalke 04’s home ground on March 29th, the Bilbaino team beat them 2-4. The interest was therefore at fever-pitch for Athletic’s return match with the German team at Athletic’s home ground, San Mames on 5th April. The result was a 2-2 draw but Athletic were ahead 6-4 on aggregate and the fans were delighted. Bilbao was, as they say, buzzing.
After matches, young fans especially go to different pubs around town. Inigo Cabacas and many others went to an Herriko Taberna (a “Peoples’ Tavern”, i.e. one managed by the Abertzale [Basque pro-Independence] Left) which is located in an small “square” with planters, connected by alley with Licenciado Poza street. This small “square” is off the María Díaz de Haro street near the stadium; it runs parallell with the San Mames street itself, an area of bars well-known as a destination for fans after a game at the stadium.
The Herriko is too small to accommodate all those who gathered there but that was no problem for the area outside took the overspill. Early in the evening a few people were seen scuffling there and the rest of the crowd around them told them to knock it off, this was a time for celebration, etc. The scuffle ended and the festivities continued.
Some time later, a van load of police arrived. These were the Ertzaintza, a Basque Police force of 7,500 created in 1982 which has had numerous clashes with Basque strike pickets and with the Abertzale (pro-Independence) Left. Supporters of the Abertzale Left and many others refer to the Ertzaintza as “zipayos” (i.e. “sepoys”, local soldiers recruited by colonial occupiers). The Ertzaintza are responsible to the Basque Autonomous Region Government (CAV), a semi-autonomous entity covering three of the four southern Basque provinces.
Some of the youth perceive the arrival of the masked and helmeted police as a provocation and begin to throw bottles at the van.
The police officer in charge of those in the van asks for reinforcements and these are sent. The police emerge from their vans and begin to fire rubber bullets3 at the crowd at quite close range (the “square” is less than 45 metres at its furthest from the street) and everyone scatters except for a small group who are throwing bottles at the police but even they eventually dive for cover. People are sheltering in doorways, huddled up against the walls on each side of the “square”. Some are inside the pub wondering what is going on. A local shop-manager has raised the shutter over his doorway and people crowd in there. Some people are sheltering behind the wooden planters that are in a line down the centre of the narrow square.
After some time three young men walk towards the police with their hands in the air, asking them to stop firing rubber bullets; the police strike them with batons. Meanwhile it comes to the attention of some in the crowd nearby that a person is lying on the ground, apparently unconscious with blood coming from his ear and the rear of his head. People go to his aid and one of his friends recognises Inigo Cabacas. He gets his mobile phone and rushes towards the police telling them that someone has been seriously injured and to call an ambulance. A police officer tells him to drop the mobile. Inigo’s friend repeats his urgent request and the police officer tells him again to drop the mobile and hits him with a truncheon. The man drops his mobile and retreats from the police.
The police advance into the area and reach the injured man who has some people around him; a women is rendering first aid. A policeman tells her to move away. She tells him the man needs and ambulance and that she is applying pressure to stop the bleeding. He says he wants to see for himself and pulls at her arm but after awhile desists and goes away.
Eventually an ambulance arrives and takes Inigo Cabacas, still unconscious, to hospital, where he lies in a coma.
(video of the scene of the incident and interviews with friends and witnesses with English subtitles)
The news runs through a city, a shock in the midst of its celebrations and soon afterwards throughout the Basque Country. The first official reaction is given by the Interior Minister of the Basque Autonomous Regional Government, who declares to the press that the Ertzaintza acted properly and in line with their procedures, although he regrets the unfortunate death of they young man. He also repeats the first line of defence given by the Ertzaintza, that they were called to help someone injured in a fight and that the crowd was preventing the ambulance in attendance from rendering assistance to the injured.
When eye-witnesses give their version and the reporters of some newpapers begin to gather information, it becomes clear that the Minister could not possibly have investigated the incident in the time available. Furthermore, it emerges that no ambulance attended until after the incident with the police and that it appears that no call for one had been made earlier. Furthermore, according to the woman who attended to Inigo at the scene, the ambulance paramedic told her, when she complained at their delay in arriving, that the police had delayed their entrance. Under a storm of criticism from civil society and from the Abertzale Left party, EH Bildu, the Minister promises a full investigation.
Inigo Cabacas dies after three days without having recovered consciousness.
Some time later, a recording of the police communications on the night is made available by GARA, a pro-Independence Basque daily newspaper. The following becomes clear from the recording:
The Controller at Ertzaintza HQ calls a police van leader and directs him to attend the Herriko, saying that a fight has occurred there and that someone is injured.
The van leader reports that they have arrived and that some are throwing bottles at them, that they require reinforcements. No mention of ambulance.
The Controller confirms reinforcements are being sent.
Reinforcements arrive. One of the van leaders now reports that nothing is happening, everything is ok.
The Controller replies that he wants the police to go in and take possession of the area and make any arrests necessary. He emphasises that he wants to be understood clearly, that they are to “go into the Herriko with everything we have”, to take control of the area “and then everything will be ok.”
The van leader replies that the order is understood and soon shots are heard (the firing of rubber bullets).
The family employs a solicitor. A judge is appointed to carry out the investigation but is required to do so along with her other duties. Immediately, the police investigation ceases (according to the family’s lawyer, ithe file contains just three pages), using the excuse of the judicial investigation.
A number of legal applications are made, e.g. for all the police at the incident to be obliged to make a statement, for all police who fired a rubber bullet gun to be identified, for the Controller to be obliged to make a statement, but all are refused by a judge, giving a number of reasons4. Little is established over the following three years, except that threepolice voluntarily admit to having fired rubber bullets and the identity of the Controller on the evening becomes widely known. There is widespread outrage when the senior officer on duty the day of Inigo’s death is appointed Chief of the Ertzaintza.At a recent press conference, the Cabacas family’s lawyer, Jone Goirizelaia, announced that they had possibly identified the officer who had fired the fatal shot.
It emerged during the campaign by supporters of the Cabacas family that no recognised procedure was followed by the police with regard to the incident: debriefing statements were not taken from each of the police participants, guns were not examined to identify which had been fired, no inventory was taken of the number of rubber bullets fired. No attempt was made to contact witnesses after the event to gain a picture of what had occurred. Indeed, some witnesses who approached the police station to give statements were told to go away (see video link posted earlier in this article). It further appears that the Ertzaintza have been issued with no specific operational instructions with regard to the firing of rubber bullets.
According to some sources, the rubber bullets should only be fired at knee-height and at no less than 50 metres from the target. The “square” is, according to locals, less than 45 metres at its furthest from the street and therefore the police from the moment they began firing, were in serious breach of the minimum distance requirements. In addition, the Ertzaintza have frequently been seen aiming their rubber bullet guns at protesters’ faces from as little as a metre or two and also firing from the shoulder with the muzzle parallel to the ground, i.e. directed at head or chest-height of the target. Also, the rubber-coated steel balls bounce uncontrollably.
Rubber bullets against Palestinians
Rubber bullets are regularly fired by the Israeli army at Palestinians. A Palestinian source reports: “Israeli professor Michael Krausz and colleagues at the Rambam Medical Centre in Haifa analysed the medical records of 595 casualties admitted to hospital during the October 2000 protests by Palestinians living inside Israel (typically described as “Israeli Arabs” by the media). Of those, 152 were found to have been injured by rubber-coated metal bullets. Injuries were distributed randomly across their bodies but were most common on the patients’ arms and legs, and on their head, neck and face.
“The doctors said their findings dismissed the theory that “rubber bullets” were safe. Rubber-coated metal bullets with some of their rubber coating removed, revealing their hard steel core. Fired at speeds of what must be several hundred feet a second, these are munitions that cause enough damage that their manufacturers feel compelled to describe them as only ‘less lethal’.
“Writing in the Lancet, they said firing the bullets at civilians made it ‘impossible to avoid severe injuries to vulnerable body regions such as the head, neck and upper torso, leading to substantial mortality, morbidity and disability.’ They added: ‘We reported a substantial number of severe injuries and fatalities inflicted by use of rubber bullets ….. This type of ammunition should therefore not be considered a safe method of crowd control. “The study, ‘Blunt and penetrating injuries caused by rubber bullets during the Israeli-Arab conflict in October, 2000: a retrospective study’ (The Lancet, Volume 359, Issue 9320, Page 1795), also highlighted previous research which suggested that even plastic bullets may not be safe and may cause more severe head injuries.” (Sourced at http://electronicintifada.net/content/misleading-terminology-rubber-bullets/4000)
It emerged in 2013 during a compensation case taken by a Derry man blinded in 1972 that the authorities knew that the missiles were potentially lethal even before they issued them. (http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2013/jun/11/mod-rubber-bullets-lethal-records) It is clear also from a wealth of evidence that the missiles were regularly fired by soldiers and police not only at close range but also aimed at chest or head. In addition, a deadly ‘game’ was played by some British soldiers. Knowing that rubber and plastic bullets were collected by children as mementoes and objects to sell to tourists, soldiers would fire some into an open area and wait for children to run forward to collect them, then see if they could hit the children with subsequent rounds.
Rubber bullets in the Spanish state
The Spanish state continues to allow its police forces to carry and to fire rubber-coated metal bullets, in particular at protesting Basques and Catalans (see video link at bottom below article). Recently, the EU expressed concern at Spanish police firing at migrants attempting to swim into the Spanish state from Morocco, an occasion when 11 of the migrants drowned. But no international protest criticises them for firing potentially lethal missiles at their own citizens. Police in the Spanish state enjoy impunity and none more so than in the Basque and Catalan countries as well as with regard to African migrants.This week, a motion was put to the Basque Parliament to ban the use of rubber bullets in the area under its control (CAV). Instead a proposal was accepted to “restrict” the use of the missiles to “situations of grave danger” to the police, and to “definitely seek a replacement” for them. The Spanish right-wing PP, the liberal Spanish unionist UPyD, along with the PNV (Basque Nationalists), currently in power, voted for it, along with the Basque version of the Spanish social-democrats, the PSE. The only party to vote against the amendment was EH Bildu, party of the Abertzale (pro-Independence) Left; they had proposed the original motion, seeking a total ban and the removal of the missiles.
Among those in the public gallery at the discussion were the parents of Inigo Cabacas. Afterwards, in the corridor outside, they confronted the spokesperson of the PNV, Joseba Egibar. During the exchange, another PNV parliamentarian, Luke Uribe-Etxebarria, tried to prevent its filming by the Basque TV station ETB. That attempt will be the subject of a complaint to the President of the Parliament by EH Bildu; they view it as particularly serious since Uribe-Etxebarria is also on the management board of the TV station and the filming was taking place in areas open to the public.
“I’m never coming to this Parliament again …. I feel cheated,” said Manuel Cabacas, father of the deceased, speaking about the majority decision. “My son is dead …. I only wanted to ensure that it would never happen to anyone else ….”
On the third anniversary of the killing of Inigo “Pitu” Cabacas, among many commemorative vents in the Basque Country, 10 minutes’ silence was observed in the San Mames stadium. Alongside Inigo Cabacas; many are also remembering Aitor Zabaleta, fan of the Real Sociedad team, murdered in Madrid in 1998 by fascist ultras of Club Atletico Madrid. Many Basques around the world will be conscious of the three years that have passed since Inigo’s killing without anyone being even charged in connection with his death or any noticeable change, whether in Basque police behaviour, procedure or their use of rubber-coated steel projectiles. A change of political control of the Basque Regional Government from the social-democratice party of Patxi Lopez to the Basque Nationalist Party .(PNV) of Urkullu has had no effect.
It is true that for ordinary people, in capitalist society, the wheels of justice move very slowly; in this case it is hard to see that they are moving at all.
NB:DUBLIN: A group of Basques plan to hold a commemorative event on Tuesday 28th April, on the day of a Basque derby, Bilbao Athletic v. Real Sociedad. They plan to hold a protest picket at the O’Connell Monument in Dublin’s O’Connell Street at 7pm for a short while and afterwards to go to watch the Basque derby (kick-off at 9pm) at the Living Room bar, Cathal Brugha St. Some Dublin-based Irish people have undertaken to support the Basques by participation in both events. Poster for event: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10153291310864390&set=gm.1624681737767253&type=1&theater
Short but shocking Guardian video of Catalan police using rubber bullets and the testimonies of victims who have lost an eye to the missiles:
1 Based in Bilbao, it is the most popular and most successful (two things that often go together) but not the only football team; there are also Real Sociedad, based in Donosti/San Sebastian and Osasuna, based in Iruña/ Pamplona.
2 A roaring lion is the emblem of the team, arising from the legend of St. Mames, to whom the local church is dedicated and which gives its name to the area, street and stadium. English-language football commentators persisted in calling the team “the Spanish lions” or “the Spanish cavaliers” (??!), in total ignorance, one hopes, of quite how insulting that would be perceived by the players and their fans. The Basque Country is not even politico-geographically Spain, it is divided between the Spanish and French states. And Bilbao Athletic is most certainly not, nor has it ever been, a Spanish team. When the Spanish King attends finals or semi-finals between Barcelona and Athletic in, yes, a Spanish football league, and the Spanish national anthem is played, the stadium fills with howls of derision, hoots and whistles from the supporters of both teams.
3 These are about the size of a tennis ball, perhaps a little smaller, of steel and coated in rubber.
4 E.g., the Controller could not be held responsible for the shooting by the police; individual police would have to be accused of firing the fatal shot if they were to be obliged to make a statement …
Palestinian supporters and other critics of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza have long complained about the western mass media’s reporting of the conflict in Palestine. The complaints have outlined reporting slanted in the Israeli state’s favour and/or specifically against the Palestinians and their representatives.
Umberto Ecco once defined language as a system of communication through which one could tell lies. There is no doubt but that our mass media uses language. Their editors and reporters herd us as sheep are herded by trained dogs, sometimes with barks and snaps of teeth but more usually through nudges and subtle changes of posture. They direct us to the pen where we are wanted or, at the very least, away from freedom.
In order to demonstrate the techniques used I have taken an example of reporting on the conflict and analysed it. The piece chosen is far from being one of the worst pro-Israeli or anti-Palestinian pieces of journalism – it is actually quite mild and even points out the statistical imbalance in the killing of civilians by Israel’s armed forces on the one hand and by Palestinian guerrillas on the other hand. The report is by the Irish on-line newspaper The Journal and was put up by them in the middle of August 2014.
The piece opens by saying that“Palestinian negotiators have been considering an Egyptian proposal to end the month-long Israel-Hamas war as the latest 72-hour ceasefire in the Gaza Strip is due to expire.”
This first of all says that the conflict is a war which also implies some kind of equal balance in fighting forces and also a share in blame. But it is not a war between any two sides; if it can be called a war at all, it is a war by Israel only. Israel is the fourth-largest military power in the world, with an army, navy and air force equipped with some of the latest armament and surveillance equipment. The Palestinians have a number of guerrilla groups, operating as infantry and no air or naval force at all. Their “artillery” are low-level rockets and mortars which cause very little damage to Israeli civilians and even less to the Israeli armed forces (except at close quarters, if Israeli soldiers invade territory held by the guerrillas). Israel’s armament causes huge damage to Palestinian infrastructure, huge loss of civilian life and does cause some damage to the guerilla groups.
The phrasing also suggests that Hamas is the only opponent of Israel on the Palestinian side. However, Israel has been in conflict with the Palestinians since the very day it came into existence and long before Hamas appeared on the scene. Even today, there are a number of Palestinian political and military organisations that are opposed to Israel and its actions and all together they represent the whole of Palestinian society inside the occupied territories, inside the 1948 borders of the state of Israel and in the refugee camps and settlements. In the sense that one could say that there is a war going on, it is Israel waging war against the Palestinian people.
The very next paragraph in the Journal’s piece says that “Since the truce, which will expire at midnight, went into effect on Sunday, Israel has halted military operations in the coastal territory and Gaza militants have stopped firing rockets.”
We see presented here that on the one side we have “Israel” and on the other, “Gaza militants”. As in bourgeois media reporting “militants” usually has a negative connotation, this is already tending to turn the reader against the Palestinians in Gaza. On the other hand, we have “Israel” which we can interpret either as “a legitimate state” or as the Biblical “promised land of the Jews”. And that is being opposed by “militants” in Gaza. The phrasing legitimises the status of one side while de-legitimising the other.
We are also told that Israel has halted “military operations”, two words that hardly convey the sustained bombardment of Gaza’s civilian houses, schools, mosques, civil administration facilities, power plant, water treatment plant, factories, hospitals and emergency vehicles in recent weeks. It does not bring to mind the slaughter of over 2,000 Palestinians, the vast majority of them civilians and including 430 children. Not to mention the 9,567 wounded, including 2,878 children and hundreds of injured jamming the remaining ill-equipped hospital treatment centres.
The paragraphs states that in return for the cessation of “military operations” by the Israelis, the Palestinians have “stopped firing rockets”. Actually, if this report had just gone into a little detail, how pitiful by comparison with Israeli deadly ordnance would be the Palestinian rockets! Nevertheless, it is the rockets that are recently used as propaganda excuses by Israelis (before them it was something else) to justify the unjustifiable, the terrorising and collective punishment of a largely civilian population. So it is very rare indeed that western media reports omit any mention of the rockets.
“The ceasefire was meant to give the two sides time to negotiate a more sustainable truce and aroadmap for the coastal territory.”
Again, “two sides” gives the impression of some kind of equal antagonists in balance. The “roadmap” may be a vague reference to some future deal but may also be a reference to something that was much bandied about in Clinton’s time as President of the USA. This “roadmap” was supposed to lead to a two-state solution and, apart from the fact that it completely supported the supposed right of the European settlers who created the state of Israel to steal Palestinian land, has now been rendered completely inoperable. This is due to the continuing Israeli Zionist greed for land and building of illegal settlements throughout much of what was imagined as being part of the Palestinian state. And besides, the “roadmap” did not apply to the Palestinian refugees, who were given no right to return to their land. But it is useful for zionist-friendly propaganda purposes to pretend that this “roadmpap” ‘solution’ still exists and is viable.
“A member of the Palestinian delegation to Egyptian-brokered talks in Cairo said today that his team was considering an Egyptian proposal, which was tabled yesterday. Egyptian mediators have been ferrying between the Palestinians and their Israeli counterparts in an attempt overcome the differences between the sides.”
While it is true that Egypt has been “brokering talks”, that state is hardly an innocent bystander. Egypt has kept the Rafah Crossing, the only official exit point from Gaza not entirely controlled by Israel, closed or constricted. Egypt has also worked to destroy the tunnels which the people of Gaza used to smuggle in those items of daily life and, no doubt the arms they need, which Egypt is preventing from getting through the Rafah Crossing. The Egyptian state could nullify much of the Israeli blockade of Gaza, merely by opening their crossing into Gaza for normal traffic 24 hours a day.
The Egyptian armed forces, the real power in that country, are clients of the USA – another power which is hardly innocent but which on occasion tries to present itself as impartial in the conflict, despite its massive funding of the state of Israel. But those are not facts that the western media wish to disclose about the USA, Egypt or the conflict in Palestine.
Another thing, notice that while Egypt is “brokering”, it is “ferrying” between the Palestinian and Israeli negotiators. Clearly the antagonists are not face-to-face. If we think about that at all, as readers we are left with a feeling that maybe each side hates the other so much that they can’t bear to be in the same room. Or we might even think that Hamas, since it doesn’t recognise the right of Israel to exist, might not deign to speak to them directly. But actually, the reverse is true — as throughout most of its history, Israel is refusing to speak to the Palestinians directly. But no point telling the readers about that, is there? Who knows what they might come to think of such an attitude and behaviour of the Israeli state?
“The Egyptian proposal calls for easing parts of the Israeli blockade of Gaza, bringing some relief to the territory, according to Palestinian officials in the talks. But it leaves the key areas of disagreement, including Hamas’ demand for a full lifting of the blockade and Israeli calls for Hamas to disarm, to later negotiations.”
This is a bald enough statement which seems neutral but notice the unchallenged call for Hamas to disarm. From a state that is granted legitimacy to an insurgent force often painted as illegitimate, such a call seems reasonable. It has been and continues to be the basis for “peace (i.e. pacification) processes” throughout the world. But is there a call for Israel to disarm? Of course not. Yet it is the most heavily-armed power in the Middle East, the only one in possession of a nuclear arsenal and the one which has most often attacked its neighbours (not to mention the Palestinians). And the piece above leaves us to draw the conclusion that the lifting of the Israeli blockade may require Hamas disarming — a ‘fair exchange‘. And a reasonable reason, if Hamas does not comply, for Israel to continue its blockade on the whole population of Gaza.
“The Palestinian negotiator said he had some reservations about the proposal and would try to improve it. “We would like to see more cross-border freedom, and also to have the question of a Gaza seaport and airport discussed,” he said.
Note no reason is given for the Palestinian wishes – they seem trivial almost and no reason not to agree to a truce. “Cross-border freedom” might seem like being free to go on shopping trips or holidays abroad. “Gaza seaport and airport” likewise may facilitate daytrips and holidays, or tourist traffic or imports of luxuries. Maybe even exports of craftwork, or olives from remaining trees not destroyed by Israel. Such phrases and word do not give us a picture of over 1,816,300 people locked into a piece of land of 5,046 square kilometres (13,069 square miles), under permanent hostile control and sporadic bombardment and invasion, short of clean water and with other water polluted, destroyed infrastructure, destroyed hospitals, schools, mosques and churches, ruined industries and agriculture, infrequent power supply for lighting and heating, hardly any transport, a polluted coast and Israeli attacks on fishermen.
During the existence of the USSR and its satellite states, the western media regularly attacked them for their restrictions on most of their citizens’ travel beyond their borders. They never did then — nor do they now – inform their readers of the much stricter Israeli control on travel by Palestinians, not only beyond Israel’s 1948 borders but also beyond the borders of Palestine occupied by Israel in the years since. In fact, even travel within the occupied territories is extremely difficult for Palestinians.
The next four sentences of the Journal’s piece are unproblematic enough as far as reporting goes although it could have commented on why lifting the blockade on Gaza might have been of such concern to Hamas and to the people of Gaza:
An Israeli government spokesman had no comment on the negotiations.
In recorded remarks broadcast on Hamas radio, Ismail Haniyeh, the top Hamas leader in the region, said that “achieving a permanent truce can come only through lifting the blockade on Gaza”.
Amid the ceasefire, an Associated Press video journalist and a freelance Palestinian translator working with him were killed today when ordnance left over from the war exploded as they covered a story about the conflict’s aftermath.
Italian national Simone Camilli, 35, and Ali Shehda Abu Afash, 36, died when an unexploded missile believed to have been dropped in an Israeli airstrike blew up as Gazan police engineers worked to neutralise it in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya.
However, the report could have gone on to tell us that the explosion also killed the four Gaza police engineers trying to neutralise the explosives and that another four people, including AP photographer Hatem Moussa, were badly injured. Unimportant details? News that might make us think worse of the Israeli armed forces? Or sympathise with courageous Palestinian police and at-risk civilians?
But it is not long before the more suspect reporting reemerges:
“The war began on July 8 with Israel’s air campaign against Gaza’s Hamas rulers, whom Israel blamed for the kidnapping and murder in June of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank. Nine days later, Israel sent in ground troops to destroy Hamas’ underground cross-border tunnels constructed for attacks inside Israel.
Here Hamas are presented as “rulers”, as distinct and opposed to – once again – the state of Israel, conferring legitimacy on one party to the conflict, the aggressor, while subtly suggesting that the other antagonist is anything but legitimate and perhaps even despotic.
But the paragraph goes beyond that and suggests that Israel has a legitimate claim that Hamas kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teenagers. The three were in fact kidnapped and murdered and, although Israel wrongly accused Hamas of responsibility, its intelligence organisation Shin Bet later admitted that it no longer believed that. It may have been some other smaller Palestinian group or even individual members that carried it out but it was not the Hamas organisation nor its leadership. But this paragraph leaves us with the impression that Hamas’ culpability was a reasonable supposition by Israel and a reasonable cause of it going to war against Gaza.
The paragraph goes on to accept Israel’s public rationale for the bombardment and invasion, viz. “to destroy Hamas cross-border tunnels for attacks inside Israel”. Israel first quoted the deaths of the three teenagers as their reason for attack and now it is the “Hamas tunnels”. So if the stated reasons change, doesn’t that suggest that they are suspect, not to be relied on, with maybe the real reason unspoken? No comment from the media. Where are the tunnels? Which “border” are they crossing (putting aside for the moment the fact that Israel has never defined its borders)? Where are they attacking “inside Israel”? When was the most recent Hamas attack “inside Israel”? If this is a reference to the paltry rockets Hamas has fired, Israel has never claimed that these were fired at it from “inside Israel”. If it is not a reference to the rockets, then to what? We are not told but instead left with a feeling that Israel’s concerns could somehow be legitimate.
“The fighting has so far killed more than 1,900 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, Palestinian and UN officials say. On the Israeli side, 67 people have died, all but three of them soldiers.
This is an unadorned statement of the shocking facts and we could not fault this paragraph.
But how about the very next sentence?
“The latest outbreak of fighting is the third between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since Hamas took over control of the densely-populated territory in 2007.”
Here we have a repeat of that formulation which we saw earlier: the conflict, we are being asked to see, is between the ‘legitimate’ state of Israel on the one hand and “Palestinian militants” on the other. And it is “fighting” between the two sides, rather than the truth: the attack of Israel’s military force upon the population of Gaza and the Palestinian guerrilla forces’ attempts to reply with their meagre resources.
Also, we are told that “Hamas took over control” of Gaza in 2007. In an invasion, perhaps? A coup d’etat? The fact, uncomfortable for the western media, is that it was in a democratic general election while Israel and western agents poured out anti-Hamas propaganda. And Hamas won not just in Gaza, incidentally – but in the West Bank too, although others are currently in power there. Are we told that Israeli political parties in government “took over control” of Israel? Of course not.
Continuing, the report states that“Hamas has been consistently pushing for an end of an Israeli Gaza blockade, which Israel says is necessary to prevent the group from gaining access to weapons and munitions it deploys against Israelis.”
In this sentence, we learn that Hamas wants an end to Israel’s blockade but not why. We are not told that it is so that they can have sufficient fuel for heating and transport, food, medicine, clean water, industrial and building materials, teaching and learning materials, spare parts, etc, etc. Nor are we told that Gaza could then actually export products and gain some self-sufficiency. Nor are we told that Israel is illegally holding monies, such as tax revenues, that belong to Gaza. But we ARE told why Israel wants the blockade — “to prevent the group from gaining access to weapons and munitions it deploys against Israelis.” Well, there you are – that’s only reasonable, surely? !!