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Gaza Update

As a followup to doga’s post about the “dirty game” of “corrupt, interest-based politics” being played in Gaza, and the way we are all being sucked into it “voluntarily or involunarily,” here is a roundup of Gaza news that has appeared over the last few days.

First, everyone is talking about “The Gaza Bombshell,” the article by David Rose in Vanity Fair. A lot of what it reveals has been known for some time, in “bits and fragments” as Missing Links puts it, “but not the whole story.” For example, in May 2007, Tony Karon wrote an article called “Palestinian Pinochet Making His Move?” which makes the same case with the advantage of foresight, rather than hindsight.

Both articles allege that following the Hamas electoral victory in 2006, the Bush administration stoked the flames of civil war in Gaza by feeding money and arms to Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan to use against Hamas, with the intention of putting a government in place that would do Washington’s bidding. The coup failed because Hamas counterattacked before Dahlan was ready. They won the battle, leaving them in control of Gaza and setting up the situation we are in now.

Rose’s article provides valuable background, such as interviews with insiders including Dahlan, and documentatary evidence that has emerged after the fact. Its importance isn’t so much that it breaks new ground, as that it ties the loose ends together. One interesting angle is that Elliott Abrams, who bloodied his hands in the 1980s as one of the key Washington players in the Contra insurgency in Nicaragua, reprised his role 20 years later in Gaza. This is one reason Vanity Fair refers to the Gaza debacle as “Iran-Contra 2.0.”

The article begins in late 2006 with the torture of Hamas militants by Dahlan’s henchmen. In yet another sign of the way that viral media are revolutionizing the way we experience a story, the event was captured on video and can be watched here.

    “They told us they were going to kill us. They made us sit on the ground,” [says Abu Dan]. He rolls up the legs of his trousers to display the circular scars that are evidence of what happened next: “They shot our knees and feet—five bullets each. I spent four months in a wheelchair.” Abu Dan had no way of knowing it, but his tormentors had a secret ally: the administration of President George W. Bush. …
    There is no one more hated among Hamas members than Muhammad Dahlan, long Fatah’s resident strongman in Gaza. Dahlan…has spent more than a decade battling Hamas. Dahlan insists that Abu Dan was tortured without his knowledge, but the video is proof that his followers’ methods can be brutal. Bush has met Dahlan on at least three occasions. … In private, say multiple Israeli and American officials, the U.S. president described him as “our guy.” …
    Vanity Fair has obtained confidential documents…which lay bare a covert initiative, approved by Bush and implemented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams, to provoke a Palestinian civil war. The plan was for forces led by Dahlan, and armed with new weapons supplied at America’s behest, to give Fatah the muscle it needed to remove the democratically elected Hamas-led government from power. … But the secret plan backfired…. Instead of driving its enemies out of power, the U.S.-backed Fatah fighters inadvertently provoked Hamas to seize total control of Gaza. …
    “Everyone here recognizes that Dahlan was trying with American help to undermine the results of the elections,” says Mahmoud Zahar, the former foreign minister for the Haniyeh government…. “He was the one planning a coup.” …
    Years of oppression by Dahlan and his forces were avenged as Hamas chased down stray Fatah fighters and subjected them to summary execution. At least one victim was reportedly thrown from the roof of a high-rise building. By June 16, Hamas had captured every Fatah building, as well as Abbas’s official Gaza residence. Much of Dahlan’s house, which doubled as his office, was reduced to rubble.

This is a story of duplicity and overreaching, just what we’ve come to expect from the Bush administration. In an interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, author David Rose mentions another way that this story fits the pattern of the Bush years. Critical information was kept from Congress which they needed to do their jobs.

    Amy Goodman: Isn’t it openly known that the U.S. is arming and supporting Fatah?
    David Rose: Well, no, it’s not, because, for example, General Keith Dayton, the United States security coordinator who has been in the region now for three or four years…told the Congress on May 23, 2007—that’s just over two weeks before the Hamas coup—that the US was only supplying non-lethal aid to Fatah. He was emphatic about this…. And in fact, just a week before the coup began, the news broke in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that Dayton himself had asked for Israeli clearance to allow an import of armored cars, heavy weapons, machine guns and so forth into Gaza from Egypt…. I don’t think, by any stretch of the imagination, machine guns, ammunition and armored cars can be described as non-lethal aid. …
    Amy Goodman: Are you saying the Bush administration misled Congress, when it comes to—
    David Rose: I’m absolutely saying that. They lied to Congress.

Besides Elliott Abrams’ involvement, one of the reasons it makes sense to call this “Iran-Contra 2.0” is because, like the earlier scandal, it involved going behind the backs of Congress to get money and weapons to paramilitary forces the U.S. was supporting. In this case, rather than the money coming from arms sales to Iran, private donations from right wingers, and sale of cocaine in American cities, it was solicited from the governments of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Egypt was directly involved in training Dahlan’s men. Yet another reason, perhaps, for the people of the Middle East to get their act together and put governments in power that support the interests of their people, rather than doing the bidding of Washington.

Next, the British newspaper The Guardian presents a report about the effects of Israeli sanctions imposed on Gaza since Hamas gained power there. According to a coalition of British aid groups, even before Israel’s latest invasion, the people of Gaza were suffering “their worst humanitarian crisis since the 1967 war.”

    Movement is all but impossible and supplies of food and water, sewage treatment and basic healthcare can no longer be taken for granted. The economy has collapsed, unemployment is expected to rise to 50%, hospitals are suffering 12-hour power cuts and schools are failing—all creating a “humanitarian implosion”….
    The situation in Gaza is “man-made, completely avoidable, and with the necessary political will can be reversed,” say the groups, which include Oxfam, Amnesty and Save the Children.

Yet the worst is yet to come for the people of Gaza, according to a story translated from Arabic by Missing Links, because the Israelis intend to prevent future rocket attacks by forcing tens of thousands of people living in northern Gaza to flee their homes. Apparently this plan will be implemented soon.

    Channel Two of Israeli Television disclosed yesterday, Wednesday, that the Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak has gotten the green light from the Security and Political Council of Ministers…to plan for the removal of tens of thousands of Palestinians from the northern Gaza Strip, namely from the region that the resistance uses for the launch of [Qassam] rockets, and to move them toward Gaza City and to confine them there. … The reporter said that once the plan becomes operational, it would start immediately: In the first stage there would be a drop of leaflets advising residents to leave their homes…and in the event residents didn’t obey the warnings, the occupation army would begin bombing the inhabited areas in order to compel them to leave their homes and go to Gaza City.

Finally, in their usual display of slavish devotion to Israel, the U.S. Congress voted 404-1 on Wednesday to label the Israeli slaughter of civilians “inadvertent” and blame it on the Palestinians themselves. The resolution was originally written back in January, but new language was added just before the vote to justify Israel’s recent actions.

    Those responsible for launching rocket attacks against Israel routinely embed their production facilities and launch sites amongst the Palestinian civilian population, utilizing them as human shields. … The inadvertent inflicting of civilian casualties as a result of defensive military operations…while deeply regrettable, is not at all morally equivalent to the deliberate targeting of civilian populations as practiced by Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist groups.

Of the 435 members of Congress, the overwhelming majority of both Republicans and Democrats endorsed these views. The only “No” vote came from maverick presidential candidate Ron Paul.

Amid all this cynicism and despair, there is one small piece of optimistic news. A worldwide coalition of Muslim intellectuals has issued a “Call to Peace, Dialogue and Understanding” that seems to be receiving a positive response from the Jewish community. Tariq Ramadan, whom I wrote about here, is one of the signatories of this document.

    It is our contention that we are faced today not with “a clash of civilizations” but with “a clash of ill-informed misunderstandings.” Deep-seated stereotypes and prejudices have resulted in a distancing of the communities and even a dehumanizing of the “Other.” We urgently need to address this situation. …
    Although many Muslims and non-Muslims only know of Muslim-Jewish relations through the prism of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there needs to be an awareness of other positive encounters at different stages of our history….
    Prejudice and bigotry towards each other have been perpetuated by our lack of knowledge about the other, and yet the pursuit of knowledge is at the core of both our religious traditions. …
    At this moment, there is no challenge more pressing than the need to bring to a closure some of the historical and long lasting estrangements between the Jews and Muslims. …
    At the core of the Muslim-Jewish tension lies the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. … Most Muslims would hope that the sufferings Jews have experienced over many centuries would make them more sensitive to the sufferings of others, especially the Palestinian people.


Comment from leblase
Time: March 9, 2008, 11:20

For some of your readers who read French, here is a link to some articles published on this blog dedicated to prospective:

I also recommend to your readers the purchase of “Marching toward hell: America and Islam after Irak”, by Michael Scheuer, the CIA ex-chief operative of Mid-East covert-operation.
This is a very interesting book, coming from such an insider.
He rightly points out how the West cheated on the democratic game, for which they supposedly fight, by supporting Fatah in spite of the fact that Hamas won what everybody recognizes were fair and honest elections.

Comment from Hisham
Time: March 9, 2008, 16:07

“The worst is yet to come”!?

My goodness! Who will ever stop them? The Israelis have reached a level of arrogance and effrontery which betrays the almost total control they now have, thanks to their American supporters, over major international bodies and over US’s foreign policy and at every level of the American state apparatus.

What, apart from violence, this State can ever understand?

This coalition of intellectuals would be a good initiative if Muslims had the ability to “force” respect and negotiations. Nothing will deter Israelis from their premeditated plan, unless they’re forced to change course!

Comment from Loula
Time: March 10, 2008, 18:47

Eatbees, sorry to post such comment under such, as always great, posting. You’ve been tagged.

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