Informed Comment Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion 2016-10-28T15:47:05Z WordPress Juan Cole <![CDATA[Iraq: Barzani pledges Kurdish forces won’t Enter Mosul]]> 2016-10-28T15:47:05Z 2016-10-28T05:43:56Z By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Masoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (a super-province of Iraq) said Thursday that the KRG paramilitary, the Peshmerga, will not enter Mosul.

He also remarked that last week’s Daesh attack on Kirkuk was an attempt to divert attention from the terrorist organization’s failures in Mosul.

At a news conference in Ninewah Province with Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the National Coalition (and of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a Shiite clerically led party), Barzani said, “Peshmerga forces will not enter the city. The counter-terrorism brigades will be the ones who go in . . .” He was referring to the Iraqi army special forces, 3 brigades under the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service, which are crack troops who have been at the forefront of the liberation of Iraqi cities from Daesh (ISIS, ISIL).

Barzani presumably made this announcement to assuage fears of Iraqi Arabs that the KRG would take advantage of the campaign against Daesh to annex Mosul or parts of Mosul to Iraqi Kurdistan, as they annexed Kirkuk province in 2014. It is significant that he said this in the presence of al-Hakim, an important Shiite clerical and political leader who is supporting the government of prime minister Haydar al-Abadi. Barzani is underlining that the Mosul campaign is national and not ethno-sectarian.

Meanwhile, Central Command head, Gen. Joseph Vitel, estimated that in the week and a half of the Mosul campaign, some 900 Daesh fighters have already been killed. There were only an estimated 3500 to 5000 fighters in Mosul when the campaign began, with another 2000 in positions around the city. Presumably most of those killed belong to the latter group, meaning that the outskirts now have as few as 1100 fighters.

Vitel admitted that because the Iraqi army left the western gate of the city open and did not completely encircle Mosul, small bands of Daesh fighters were slipping out of the city in civilian clothing. Letting them escape, he suggested, was preferable to having to fight them all hand-to-hand in Mosul’s back alleys. Moreover, civilians can escape by the same route, and some 10,000 have already fled.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians could be displaced by the campaign, in a city of about 1 million (half its size before it fell to Daesh in 2014).

Related video:

CCTV: ” Operation to take Mosul back from ISIL disrupts Kurdistan Region’s economy”

contributors <![CDATA[Does Trump’s lag prove the end of White Christian America?]]> 2016-10-28T04:30:08Z 2016-10-28T04:30:08Z Robert P. Jones | The Atlantic | (Video News Report) | – –

‘The United States is no longer a majority white, Christian country, and that is already beginning to have profound social and political implications. At 45 percent of the population, white Christians are a shrinking demographic—and the backlash from many members of the group against the increasing diversification of America has been swift and bitter. “People fight like that when they are losing a sense of place, a sense of belonging, and a sense of the country that they understand and love,” says Robert P. Jones, the author of ‘The End of White Christian America,’ in this animated interview. “How do they reengage in public life when they can’t be the majority?”’

The Atlantic: “We’ve Reached the End of White Christian America”

contributors <![CDATA[Int’l Conflict over Aleppo & Mosul is Making local Civil Wars Worse]]> 2016-10-28T04:18:38Z 2016-10-28T04:18:38Z By Christopher Hill | (Project Syndicate) | – –

DENVER – The Middle East’s tragic tale of two cities – Aleppo in Syria and Mosul in Iraq – speaks to a fundamental lack of consensus in the region and within the broader international community. The lack of order in the international order is greatly complicating the task of bringing these conflicts to an end.

When the bloody conflict finally ends in Syria, there will be no victory parades, no moment of national catharsis. More likely than not, what there will be is a political arrangement that leaves Syria within its current borders but with local autonomy that reflects the diversity and – at least for the time being – the mutual distrust of its various ethnic and religious groups. No one will be happy. The accoutrements of a civil state do not exist, and there are no institutions around which to build social consensus or the rule of law.

Until these broad principles can be articulated, the war will never be truly over. Ceasefires work best – and hold the longest – when the combatants finally understand that a set of principles agreed by the broader international community will be the basis for shaping the future of their country.

The Syrian war is not unprecedented in the region. The Lebanese Civil War was even longer: from 1975 to 1990, that war produced a similar number of casualties and refugees, and when all is said and done, probably a similar number of unsuccessful ceasefires. The Syrian civil war is not yet even half the length of that horrific struggle; but nor is there any sign that the various combatants are fatigued by it.

The international community will likely be affected by Syria’s civil war more than it was by Lebanon’s, owing to its greater global impact. The refugee tide was at first contained within the neighborhood, especially in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and even Iraq. But soon refugees began to flow to Europe and elsewhere, causing political tensions in countries far removed from the conflict. The huddled masses of refugees crossing one European frontier after another soon became a metaphor for what angers so many Europeans in this globalized age.

The lack of international consensus on Syria, reflected in the failure of the United Nations Security Council’s permanent players to agree on a way forward, has caused the situation on the ground to worsen. Fueled by continued support of the combatants by Middle Eastern states (which seem to have no confidence in the international system), and with Russia’s direct participation in the fighting, the crisis has deepened.

Russia’s intervention on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has also caused further deterioration in US-Russian relations, which could fuel danger elsewhere in the world. US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov have so far failed to find any workable way forward to end the fighting.

One longs for the day that Kerry and Lavrov emerge from a negotiating room to announce to the world that they have agreed on a set of principles that will guide Syria’s future and will work to achieve consensus among other members of the international community and with the combatants themselves. Only when the combatants can envision the post-war future can a ceasefire work. Nobody wants to be the last person to die fighting when the future is already known.

In Mosul, the fighting is not a civil war. Unlike in Syria, where there must be tradeoffs among the combatants, in Mosul the struggle against the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) is a war of annihilation. And, in contrast to the Russian and Syrian offensive in Aleppo, the Iraqi Arabs and Kurds and their American advisers most likely worked for months to anticipate issues and to ensure success before the fighting began.

But it is already clear that there is far more at stake in the Mosul campaign than the eradication of ISIS. Depending on how it ends, we will know whether Iraq emerges as a multi-sectarian state or a set of sectarian and ethnic enclaves. Sunnis seem to want no part of the Shia-majority government in Baghdad, even though the Iraqi army (along with the Kurds) is playing the largest role in the fight against ISIS.

Christopher R. Hill, former US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia, was US Ambassador to Iraq, South Korea, Macedonia, and Poland, a US special envoy for Kosovo, a negotiator of the Dayton Peace Accords, and the chief US negotiator with North Korea from 2005-2009. He is currently Dean of the Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver, and the author of Outpost.

Licensed from Project Syndicate


Related video added by Juan Cole:

CCTV: “UN to press on with securing Aleppo evacuation operation”

contributors <![CDATA[Is the Islamic State finished? Five possible scenarios]]> 2016-10-28T03:33:51Z 2016-10-28T04:08:12Z By James L. Gelvin | (The Conversation) | – –

Most military analysts believe it’s only a matter of time before Mosul falls.

Mosul is Iraq’s third largest city. The Islamic State captured it in June 2014 during a campaign that left it in control of territory the size of the United Kingdom. But on Oct. 16, 2016, a coalition of the Iraqi army, military forces from Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region and paramilitary units, began an attack to recapture the city.

Military prowess does not explain IS’ initial success in Iraq. Rather, it depended on the collapse of the Iraqi army and Sunni disaffection with the Shi’i-dominated Iraqi government.

But, then, between 2015 and 2016, IS territory in Iraq shrank by an estimated 50 percent. IS has lost major population centers, including the cities of Tikrit, Ramadi, Kobani, Fallujah and Palmyra.

The next target on the coalition’s agenda is Raqqa, Syria, the capital of IS. It may only be a matter of time before IS’ territorial “caliphate” is no more.

What then will be the fate of IS? Can the group survive without controlling any territory? Will it rebound? Or will it disappear?

Five possible scenarios

Scenario #1: IS goes underground, only to emerge in the future.

This scenario is not very likely. It ignores the unique circumstances that gave rise to IS and enabled it to win victory after victory in 2014: the political and military vacuum created by the Syrian civil war, the dysfunction of the Iraqi government of Nuri al-Maliki, the collapse of the Iraqi army and the indifference of much of the world to the group’s ambitions until it was too late. A similar set of circumstances is unlikely in the future.

Scenario #2: IS will simply set up shop elsewhere.

Over the years, IS has established franchises in West and North Africa, Libya, Yemen, the Sinai and other locations. In some places, such as Libya, IS deployed fighters from Syria and Iraq to establish its franchises. In others, preexisting groups pledged allegiance to the caliphate. Boko Haram in West Africa is one such group.

IS assumed that each of its franchises would expand the territory under its control until it met up with other franchises and, eventually, with the caliphate based in Syria and Iraq. Observers call this an “ink spot” strategy because each affiliate would widen like an ink spot on blotting paper.

This scenario, too, is unlikely. None of IS’ franchises is doing well, and those that have not already failed are on the verge of failing. Internal conflicts tore some apart, including those in Yemen and West Africa. External enemies have rolled back others, such as those in Libya and Algeria.

IS franchises have not been able to forge alliances with similar-minded groups because IS doesn’t play well with others. Rather than building partnerships, IS insists on unconditional loyalty to its caliphate project and organizational uniformity. It has thus turned potential collaborators into enemies.

Scenario #3: IS fighters continue to wage an insurgency in Syria or Iraq, or both.

This is exactly what the Taliban did in Afghanistan after the American invasion in 2001. Indeed, after the American invasion in Iraq, al-Qaida in Iraq – a precursor of IS – and members of the disbanded Iraqi army who joined IS did the same.

This is a more likely scenario than the first two. However, fighting an insurgency is quite a step down from establishing, defending and expanding a territorial caliphate – what IS devotees consider an epochal event. And establishing, defending and expanding a territorial caliphate is precisely what differentiated IS from al-Qaida and similar groups. IS true believers deem a territorial caliphate cleansed of non-Islamic influences necessary for the survival of true Islam.

IS fighters might continue the struggle. Revenge is a powerful motivator. But IS would no longer be IS were its fighters to limit their vision to waging a guerilla-style campaign. It would be indistinguishable from Jabhat al-Nusra, for example, the former al-Qaida affiliate and IS spin-off fighting the Syrian government. Jabhat al-Nusra’s goal of overthrowing the government of Syria – less grandiose than reestablishing a territorial caliphate that would unite all Muslims – was one of the reasons the split between the two groups occurred.

Scenario #4: IS disappears.

What if IS fighters just give up, or move on to other criminal enterprises? For true believers, the defeat of their caliphate might persuade them that their goal is unobtainable. It might therefore be extraordinarily dispiriting. Those who signed on for the thrill might find their kicks elsewhere, or merely fade back into the woodwork.

This too is a strong possibility, particularly if other nations besides Denmark offer their citizens who have joined IS incentives for returning home. Similar groups, such as al-Qaida, have experienced defections in their ranks as members became disillusioned or discouraged or isolated.

Scenario #5: Former fighters and freelancers continue their attacks globally with or without organizational backing.

This too is a possibility, if only for a while. After all, a number of attacks outside of IS-held territory – including the attack in San Bernardino, California – occurred without the knowledge and assistance of IS.

The destruction of IS’ caliphate could reduce its capacity to produce and disseminate propaganda. This would diminish IS’ ability to capture the imagination of would-be followers in the future. Nevertheless, in the short term, the world is not lacking in gullible and disturbed individuals.

Short shelf-life

Whatever the case, history provides lessons on how to effectively deal with movements and individuals who wage war against the international order.

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, anarchists struck out at rulers and symbols of capitalism throughout the world. Anarchists assassinated the presidents of France and the United States, an empress of Austria, a king of Italy and numerous government ministers in Russia. They also bombed symbols of oppression, from the haunts of the bourgeoisie to Wall Street itself.

Then, suddenly, the wave of anarchist violence ceased. By the onset of the Great Depression, anarchist activity was limited to a few isolated pockets. Historians point to a number of reasons the anarchist moment passed. Anarchism competed for hearts and minds with other dissident groups. Nations undertook political and social reforms that addressed the grievances of potential anarchists. They adopted new methods of policing and surveillance. Police agencies cooperated across borders.

But perhaps most important was the fact that high-risk movements that attempt to realize the unrealizable have a short shelf life. Such might be the case for IS.

The Conversation

James L. Gelvin, Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History, University of California, Los Angeles

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

CCTV: “Battle for Mosul: ISIL sends ‘suicide squads’ to Iraqi stronghold”

Juan Cole <![CDATA[Starstruck & Party-Fanatic: The Moral Paradox of Trump Support]]> 2016-10-27T06:02:59Z 2016-10-27T06:02:59Z By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Donald J. Trump’s poll numbers in California have cratered down to 28%. If he actually does that poorly in the election, he will set a record for poor performance of a presidential candidate in California. Ever.

What is difficult to explain is why he isn’t doing that poorly everywhere. Let’s just review what Trump says he stands for:

* Manhandling of women without their consent

* Torture

* Suggested that crime in Baltimore spiked because we have an African-American president

* Jail time for women who have an abortion.

* Reducing taxes paid by billionaires.

* Stigmatizing Latinos as rapists and felons

* Revival of the Ku Klux Klan without the sheets

* Carpet-bombing civilian cities to get at ISIL

* Unconstitutional treatment of US citizens of Muslim faith

* Passage of political libel laws as a means to censor the press

Most Americans are opposed to these planks of the Trump platform. So why is he still winning any states in the polls?

I think there are two things going on here that give Trump a floor in many states that he does not have in California. Those two things are his celebrity status and blind party loyalty.

Trump is a celebrity of a sort we have never had run for president. Ronald Reagan, a B actor in his youth, was not in the same category. When Reagan ran for president in 1980 his acting days were long behind him and few people in the electorate cared about his old black and white films. Trump, in contrast, was on a popular reality show for 11 seasons and until just before he announced his run. Early in its run, the Apprentice got as many as 20 million viewers. It is true that the audience rapidly dropped thereafter, but nevertheless Trump was before millions of people a week.

Most politicians have to spend time introducing themselves to the public. Most everybody knew who Trump was. I have a strong suspicion that this name recognition has inflated Trump’s poll numbers in the generals. That is, there are a lot of Americans who don’t follow politics. 42% of them don’t bother to vote in a typical presidential election. Many of the rest aren’t paying much attention until September and October just before Election Day. So in most years when pollsters call in August and ask people who they are voting for and name the two candidates, I think they probably get a lot of suspicious answers because some proportion of their sample has never heard of that person or can’t describe what the candidate stands for.

Not so in the case of Donald Trump. (Hillary Clinton, of course, also probably has high name recognition, but she hasn’t been in people’s living rooms the way Trump has. And no, I don’t mean it that way.)

Moreover, Americans are often forgiving of their celebrities’ foibles. Celebrities are there to entertain us or offer us power fantasies, not to behave themselves. Los Angeles prosecutors notoriously have an uphill battle in getting jurors to convict even obviously guilty celebrities. Whereas Americans at least always used to be puritanical in their expectations of politicians, they are tolerant of moral lapses in the Hollywood set. Trump confuses many of them because he is both a celebrity and a politician, but many are more willing to be lenient with him than they likely would be with some lawyer they’d never heard of who was running for office.

The other distorting variable here is party loyalty. Perhaps the rise of social media has cemented party polarization in the US. There were people in the old days who voted Clinton and then voted Bush (white Protestant women did so in droves). But party loyalty seems to have solidified with the rise of social media. Maybe it is embarrassing to switch sides in public when you’ve been involved in Twitter or Facebook slamming matches on behalf of the last party you voted for.

A lot of Republicans are clearly clinging to Trump despite the Billy Bush tape and subsequent charges from the women he’s groped. These include evangelicals and ‘blue hairs’ (the little old white ladies who are reliably Republican and usually morally censorious). Some 82% of self-identified Republican women are still supporting Trump, groping and all.

So why is California different here? Well, in part it just no longer has many Republicans. About half of the some 40 million Californians are registered to vote. About 28.9 % of those registered voters are Republicans. So the party-loyalty distorting factor may still be at work there. But the GOP in California long ago tied itself to the declining white population (now a minority) and so suffered an implosion. National GOP policy and certainly that of Trump is making the same mistake, which is why they can’t win national presidential elections any more.

Second, Trump has lost many women independents, those famous ‘soccer moms’ who voted for Bill Clinton and then switched to W.

So we should expect Trump everywhere to be getting about the same percentage support as the percentage of registered voters who are Republicans. Hence, he wins in Alabama. And he might even do a little better than that, gaining those independents (especially men) willing to wink at a celebrity’s hi jinx if only he will get the Federal government off their backs and halt immigration.

I usually don’t hold people’s votes against them on moral grounds. People make their own judgments in politics and there are good people in both parties.

But I think there is a moral deficit in anyone still willing to vote for Trump, despite all the racism, fascism, sexism, and sexual predation. If our two-party system and our current modes of communication have led us to this place, it is time to rethink them. Otherwise the Republic is in danger.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

CNN: ” Polls: Gains for Trump in Florida, New Hampshire”

contributors <![CDATA[Megyn Kelly-Newt Gingrich Blow-up on Fox: Are White Women deserting Trump?]]> 2016-10-27T03:30:39Z 2016-10-27T04:17:01Z Farron Cousins | (Ring of Fire Video Report) | – –

“Newt Gingrich tried to tell Megyn Kelly of Fox News that she was obsessed with sex. Ironic coming from a man who spent years obsessing over Bill Clinton’s sexual escapades.”

The Ring of Fire: “Fox’s Megyn Kelly Hammers Pervert Newt Gingrich”

contributors <![CDATA[AT&T Profits by Spying on You for Gov’t, Killing 4th Amendment]]> 2016-10-27T03:15:06Z 2016-10-27T04:12:11Z By Nadia Prupis, staff writer | ( | – –

If companies are allowed to operate in this manner without repercussions, our democracy has no future.’

Telecommunications giant AT&T is spying on Americans for profit and helped law enforcement agencies investigate everything from the so-called war on drugs to Medicaid fraud—all at taxpayers’ expense, according to new reporting by The Daily Beast.

The program, known as Project Hemisphere, allowed state and local agencies to conduct warrantless searches of trillions of call records and other cellular data—such as “where a target is located, with whom he speaks, and potentially why”—for a massive range of investigations, the Beast‘s Kenneth Lipp reports. In one case examined by the news outlet, a sheriff’s office in Victorville, California used Hemisphere to track down a homicide suspect.

Hemisphere was first revealed by the New York Times in 2013, but was described at the time as a “partnership” between AT&T and drug enforcement agencies used in counter-narcotics operations.

Neither, it turns out, is entirely true.

Lipp writes:

AT&T’s own documentation—reported here by The Daily Beast for the first time—shows Hemisphere was used far beyond the war on drugs to include everything from investigations of homicide to Medicaid fraud.

Hemisphere isn’t a “partnership” but rather a product AT&T developed, marketed, and sold at a cost of millions of dollars per year to taxpayers. No warrant is required to make use of the company’s massive trove of data, according to AT&T documents, only a promise from law enforcement to not disclose Hemisphere if an investigation using it becomes public.

The details were revealed as AT&T seeks to buy out Time Warner in a mega-merger that media watchdogs are warning would create “dangerous concentrations of political and economic power.”

Evan Greer, campaign director at the digital rights group Fight for the Future, said Tuesday, “The for-profit spying program that these documents detail is more terrifying than the illegal [National Security Agency] surveillance programs that Edward Snowden exposed. Far beyond the NSA and FBI, these tools are accessible to a wide range of law enforcement officers including local police, without a warrant, as long as they pay up.”

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“It makes me sick to my stomach thinking about it,” Greer said.

While the government can request that private companies hand over user data, the documents show that AT&T went above and beyond to make the operation profitable, Lipp writes. ACLU technology policy analyst Christopher Soghoian told the Beast, “Companies have to give this data to law enforcement upon request, if they have it. AT&T doesn’t have to data-mine its database to help police come up with new numbers to investigate.”

And because the contract between the telecom company and the U.S. government stipulates only that agents not speak about Hemisphere if a probe using it becomes public, investigators may be left with no choice but to create a false narrative to explain how they obtained certain evidence, according to Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) attorney Adam Schwartz.

“This document here is striking,” Schwartz told Beast. “I’ve seen documents produced by the government regarding Hemisphere, but this is the first time I’ve seen an AT&T document which requires parallel construction in a service to government. It’s very troubling and not the way law enforcement should work in this country.”

“At a minimum there is a very serious question whether they should be doing it without a warrant. A benefit to the parallel construction is they never have to face that crucible. Then the judge, the defendant, the general public, the media, and elected officials never know that AT&T and police across America funded by the White House are using the world’s largest metadata database to surveil people,” he said.

Greer added: “Customers trusted AT&T with some of their most private information, and the company turned around and literally built a product to sell that information to as many government agencies and police departments as they could. Not only did they fail to have any safeguards to prevent unauthorized use of the data, they actually required law enforcement to keep the program secret and dig up or fabricate other evidence, to hide the fact that they’d received information from AT&T.”

Fight for the Future called on AT&T to shut down the program and on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate Hemisphere and reveal all the cases in which it was used.

“If companies are allowed to operate in this manner without repercussions, our democracy has no future,” Greer said.

contributors <![CDATA[Israel’s Blockade of Gaza is Inherently Violent]]> 2016-10-27T04:01:13Z 2016-10-27T04:01:13Z By Mike Merryman-Lotze | (Otherwords) | – –

Every day Palestinians live in fear of another U.S.-funded attack by the Israeli government.

This fall, the U.S. agreed to provide $38 billion in military aid to Israel over the next ten years, ensuring America’s continued role in funding the occupation of Palestine. Meanwhile, my friends and colleagues here in Gaza live in fear of another significant Israeli attack in the near future.

They have every reason to fear another major escalation — violence is a daily reality in Gaza. In two recent incidents, a rocket was fired from Gaza into Israel without causing damage or injuries, and in both instances Israel responded by bombing targets throughout Gaza.

In August alone, Israel bombed more than 50 locations in the small territory.

The simple story told about these events focuses on action and reaction: Palestinians attacked Israel with a rocket and Israel responded. We hear this logic after nearly every event of this sort, but it’s woefully incomplete.

In both instances, the rockets fired weren’t fired by Hamas, but rather by small radical armed groups at odds with Hamas, which governs Gaza. These groups seek to incite Israeli attacks on Hamas with the goal of destabilizing its control over Gaza, because they see Hamas as too comfortable with the status quo.

Since seizing power in 2007, Hamas has worked to control and limit violence from the territory. Outside of periods of defined military escalation — which tend to be precipitated by Israeli attacks — they have effectively stopped attacks against Israel from Gaza.

This explains why, as noted by the Israeli press, there were only 14 rockets fired from Gaza towards Israel between January and August this year. None were fired by Hamas, so Israel’s decision to target Hamas as a response makes no sense.

Of course, 14 rockets fired from Gaza is 14 too many for those of us committed to ending all violence, and none of this should be taken as an apology for other violence perpetrated by Hamas.

But, as the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories reports, there were also 45 Israeli military incursions into Gaza this year, resulting in 7 Palestinian deaths and, on average, injuring five Palestinians in Gaza every week.

This is the part of the story that isn’t told.

Gaza also remains under an Israeli-imposed blockade that severely limits travel, trade, and life for Gazans. Despite assurances that restrictions would be lifted in the 2014 Hamas-Israel ceasefire agreement, the blockade remains in effect.

Israel, with support from the U.S. government, claims this decades-long blockade is in place to pressure the people of Gaza to rise up against Hamas and provide security for Israelis.

If those are Israel’s raisons d’etre, then it’s a complete failure. It hasn’t stopped violence, it hasn’t weakened Hamas, and it hasn’t brought Israelis or Palestinians security.

While the blockade hasn’t succeeded in achieving the changes Israel claims to be seeking, its impact on the civilian population of Gaza has been immense.

Over two years after the end of the last large military operation there, much of Gaza remains in ruins.

Of the 100,000 Palestinians in Gaza who were displaced during the 2014 Israeli bombardment, over 65,000 remain homeless, as 70 percent of the homes seriously damaged or destroyed haven’t been rebuilt. This is largely because reconstruction materials remain blocked from entering Gaza.

This important context is too often missing as U.S. pundits and politicians consider the situation in Gaza.

Given the blockade and regular military incursions imposed by Israel, the firing of less than 2 rockets per month by Palestinians cannot be seen as the core reason for violence.

If the U.S. is serious about promoting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, preventing future violence in Gaza, and guaranteeing security, then it must recognize the violence inherent in the Israeli occupation and end the blockade.

The next attack on Gaza, feared by my friends who live there, is an inevitable reality if nothing changes.



Related video added by Juan Cole:

TeleSur: “Photo Gallery Highlights Lack of Reconstruction in Gaza”