Gaza: Palestinians “Philosophical,” Israel “foils Foreign Infiltration” during 1957 Occupation (British “Report”)

By Juan Cole

This British “report” suggests that Palestinians in Gaza were all right with being militarily occupied by the Israeli army in 1956-1957 before an absolutely furious President Dwight Eisenhower forced PM David Ben Gurion to withdraw. (Israel, Britain and France had jointly launched an unprovoked war of aggression on Egypt in late October, 1956, during which Israel occupied Gaza and Sinai; when Eisenhower figured out what was going on he angrily denounced the three aggressors as a danger to the United Nations framework of international law). This report configures the Israeli Occupation as natural or indigenous, and speaks of Arab Egyptians as “foreigners” trying to “infiltrate.”

The report does not note that the “refugees” in Gaza (the vast majority of the population) had been ethnically cleansed from their homes and farms in what became southern Israel and then locked up in the Gaza Strip, then temporarily under Egyptian stewardship. Now the Israelis had come after them again. The “report” gives no evidence that the Palestinians (who are not interviewed) were all right with the occupation; as usual, they are just ventriloquist dummies made to say whatever the Western imperial press wanted them to say They had been so impoverished by Israeli aggression against them that they were reduced to living off milk rations from the United Nations. Very philosophical.

British Pathé: “U.N.N.R.A. Aids Gaza Refugees (1957)”

Unlike Iraq, Iran, Libya, N. Korea, Israel has Impunity from Defying UNSC (Gaza Ceasefire)

By Juan Cole

The United Nations Security Council is theoretically a sort of sovereign in international law. If it designates a regime like that of Gaddafi in Libya as a threat to international peace, it can deputize the nations of the world to remove it. One major exception to UNSC authority is Israel, which routinely thumbs its nose at the world body while suffering no sanctions or other punishment.

Defying the UNSC can be extremely dangerous and costly. It demanded that Iraq dismantle its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs and destroy any stockpiles of such unconventional weapons, in a series of resolutions after the Gulf War. The Bush administration alleged that Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein had declined completely to destroy those stockpiles and so was in violation of international law, and therefore claimed a sort of indirect sanction from the UNSC to invade and occupy Iraq in order to finish the job. (Unfortunately for Bush, the Baath regime in Iraq had in fact destroyed the stockpiles; this had not stopped Bush propagandists from continuing to this day to cite Saddam Hussein’s alleged defiance of the UNSC as a justification for the US war on Iraq.) Saddam Hussein was hanged in December 2006.

The UNSC demanded a decade or so ago that Iran mothball its civilian, peaceful nuclear enrichment program, aimed at gaining the capacity to fuel nuclear reactors to produce electricity. Iran refused, citing the pledge in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that guarantees all countries the right to close the fuel cycle. (Note that Israel went for broke to develop a nuclear warhead, of which it has several hundred, and never suffered any sanctions at all.)

As a result of the UNSC resolutions against Iran, the Obama administration was emboldened to impose a financial boycott on Iran, having it kicked off all the major banking exchanges and making it difficult or impossible for Iran to get paid for its petroleum. Then the US went around strong-arming countries like South Korea in a bid to force them to stop importing Iranian petroleum. A simple US congressional resolution would probably not have given the US the legitimacy to pursue this financial blockade against Iran, but the UNSC resolutions were much more persuasive, combined with US threats to sanction companies that traded with Iran.

Iran’s oil export earnings fell to $61.92 billion in 2013, “down 46% from $114.75 billion in 2011.” That was an over $50 bn annual fine for defying the UNSC, even when it wasn’t clear that international law justified the UNSC stance.

UNSC resolutions against the North Korean nuclear weapons program (a kind of military program Iran does not even have) imposed an arms embargo and even permitted other countries to board North Korean vessels at will on the high seas if they suspected that weapons were aboard– a severe attack on the country’s national sovereignty.

So when the UNSC calls on Israel and on Hamas in Gaza to institute an immediate ceasefire, and they refuse, they will attract sanctions, right? These demands, everyone knows, would be full-fledged resolutions if they weren’t watered down by the US. (And let us face it, Israel is the one with the firepower here; it has killed over a thousand in this round of fighting, 80% of them non-combatants; Hamas has killed four dozen or so Israelis, all but three soldiers). I mean, Saddam Hussein was hanged merely for being falsely accused of violating UNSC resolutions! And what if, as with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel not only refuses the demand for an immediate ceasefire but actually accuses the world’s major powers of being accomplices to terrorism? Doesn’t that sound a little bit like Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaking of “global arrogance”?

Wouldn’t the UNSC do something to Netanyahu for sassing them that way? Wouldn’t they devastate the Israeli economy the way they did the Iranian? Wouldn’t they authorize military action to protect civilians in Gaza from Israeli war crimes, as they did in Libya?

Nope.

President Obama will protect Israel from any accountability by wielding his veto.

And that is one of the reasons for the mess in the Mideast. The Israeli leadership is completely fearless because it knows that the US will protect it no matter what it does, up to and including calling high American officials terrorist sympathizers.

The truth is that Mr. Obama could end the madness fairly easily. He could just abstain when the UNSC votes sanctions on Israel for its violations of international law.

The European Union has forwarded the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the US, as an American sphere of influence. The US congress and government more generally, in turn, has been bought and paid for by the Israel lobbies, including the “Christian Zionists.” Unless and until counter-lobbies are formed that effectively contest with AIPAC for influence over US representatives, the problems in the Mideast are unsolvable.

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Related video

Gaza Crisis: ‘Accountability & justice for both sides’ says UN chief Ban Ki-moon- BBC News

Israel’s Gaza Campaign Endangers US Security: Why Obama & Kerry are Furious

By Juan Cole

The United States as a great Power is facing a large number of challenges in the Muslim world, and Israel’s Gaza campaign is endangering both American diplomacy there and the very security of the US. Given the series of setbacks for the US in the Middle East, in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Egypt, Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu could scarcely have chosen a worst time to kill hundreds of Palestinian civilians in the full light of world media.

The ability of an al-Qaeda offshoot, the so-called “Islamic State,” to take substantial territory in Syria and northern Iraq has alarmed Washington. The US embassy in Baghdad is in as much danger as the capital itself from IS violence. IS recruiting, and the radicalization of Muslim youth, is given enormous help by the scenes of Israeli munitions killing Palestinian civilians.

As security deteriorates to unprecedented lows in Libya, the US has had to pull its ambassador and her staff from Tripoli. Fundamentalist radicals in Benghazi and elsewhere, already suspicious of the US, are seeing blood because of America’s statements in support of the Israeli military campaign. The radicals already despise the US, but one doesn’t want to give them recruitment tools among the general population, most of which had been grateful for the help with overthrowing Gaddafi.

Even long-term allies of the US in the region are disturbed by the Israeli campaign. Turkey is a member of NATO, which the US is actually pledged to defend from attack. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has been scathing about the Israeli attack on Gaza, calling it a “genocide.” There is even a possibility that Turkey will send another Mavi Marmara-style aid ship to Gaza, this time flanked by Turkish destroyers. For the US, few dilemmas are more foreboding than a military conflict between its two most important Middle East allies.

Many Egyptians, both civilian and military, blame the US for having supported the Muslim Brotherhood in 2012-2013. In fact, the US was simply dealing with the government then in power. Egyptian anchors speak darkly of a plot by the US to impose fundamentalist rule and to partition Egypt. Many Egyptians deeply dislike Hamas, but virtually the entire population of Egypt wants to see the Israeli attacks on Gaza stop. To have high US officials defend it is distasteful to them.

There have been big pro-Gaza demonstrations in Afghanistan, where the US is trying to draw down its troops. But as the US contingent there shrinks, it because more vulnerable to attack. The Taliban are making a comeback, and public anger over Gaza helps Taliban recruiting and esprit de corps.

In many parts of the Middle East, Israel’s war on Gaza’s non-combatants could easily provoke an anti-American reaction. In some places, including Iraq and Afghanistan, it could result in American troop deaths. Even in countries allied to the US, the public anger over American backing for Israel is palpable.

The Obama administration has long hoped that a regularized political Islam that participates in democratic elections could take strength away from al-Qaeda and its satellites. If Muslims can achieve dignity and prosperity toward elections, they might not, Washington seems to reason, turn to terrorism and join Ayman al-Zawahiri. Hamas participated in the 2006 elections and has a strong civil wing, and so Obama and Kerry do not share Netanyahu’s hopes of eradicating it. A Pentagon figure recently said that if Hamas were eradicated, something worse (the Islamic State?) would take its place.

Secretary of State John Kerry turned to Qatar and Turkey for advice on how to tamp down the violence. They are backers of Hamas and through them Kerry could unofficially engage with Hamas and its demands. The peace proposal he showed the Israelis on Friday evening was a non-starter for Israeli hawks on the cabinet, since it was fair to the Palestinians.

The Israeli cabinet, in contrast, was outraged that Kerry would bring them what was essentially a Hamas plan.

On Sunday, Obama called Netanyahu and twisted his arm to cease the attack on Gaza, given the high casualty rates among non-combatants and the consequent deteriorating security climate for American interests in the Middle East. Then the UN security council voted for a ceasefire, which couldn’t have happened without US collusion.

Around 9:30 pm Gaza time on Sunday, Israel stopped its shelling of Gaza. Whether the ceasefire will hold has yet to be seen. But unless there is a political deal and an end to the blockade of Gaza, one can be assured that the war will begin again sometime soon.

——-

Related video:

UN Calls for Immediate Ceasefire

Gaza: Why a ‘Cease-Fire’ is Not enough

By Juan Cole

When ordinary countries fight wars they have war aims. In World War II, the US wanted to defeat Germany militarily, but then to help it return to democracy and to economic health. By 1947 the US would actually be spending a lot of money on Germany’s well-being via the Marshall Plan.

Israel has no strategic war aims in Gaza because it has no large scale, long term strategy concerning the Strip. Its war is all about tactics and minutiae. How many tunnels and rockets can it destroy? How much damage can it inflict on the Hamas leadership? But tunnels and rockets can be rebuilt and the dead leaders’ cousins will take over after them.

It is frankly stupid to think the Israelis can, in Mitt Romney’s words, kick the can down the road forever on making peace with the Palestinians. It hasn’t tried because Israel wants Palestinian land and resources and won’t give them up.

The United Nations has raised the specter that because of the Israeli blockade and the consequent inability of Palestinians in Gaza to build their infrastructure, it may well not be habitable by 2020. Its only native source of water, an aquifer, is 90% polluted. If Gaza fails, where will its by-then 2 million people go? Will Israel just let them thirst to death? Renal failure typically sets in in about 3 days if people don’t have water. That is genocide. Israel gives no evidence of doing any planning to avert that outcome in a territory for which it is responsible in international law.

The one strategy Israel has is to use collective punishment and a blockade on children and other non-combatants in an attempt to weaken Hamas. But even if they could succeed (so far they haven’t), the Israelis don’t seem to realize that the hellhole that is Gaza will always throw up radical groups intent on breaking the 1.7 million Palestinians there out of their large open-air jail, in which Israel is keeping them.

That is, Israel’s only real strategy is causing war, not ending war.

Gaza is not a country, that Israel can be at war with it. It is a tiny strip of land surrounded by Israel from land, sea and air, which is kept from exporting its made goods for the most part, faces severe restrictions on imports, and therefore has had imposed on it a 40% or so unemployment rate. Some 56% of Palestinians in Gaza are food insecure. Gaza is recognized by the international community as an occupied territory, with Israel being the occupying power. If being occupied by Israel were so great, by the way, why is Gaza so badly off?

Hamas keeps rejecting any ceasefire that does not include a provision for the lifting of the siege of the civilian population.

I heard the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, speaking after the meeting of diplomats in Paris, and he spoke about a settlement that allowed for the social and economic development of the Palestinians.

What a joke! France is has done nothing practical to end the blockade or allow Palestinians to develop.

So a cease-fire that does not include an end to the blockade on Gaza by Israel is not a cease-fire, it is a pause in the war.

——

Related video:

The Telegraph: “Gaza residents return to scenes of total destruction”

Did Israel go too Far? The Massacre at the UN School/ Refugee Center

By Juan Cole

Sharif Abdel Kouddous reports for The Nation from Gaza on the Israeli shelling of a UN school that killed 16 and wounded 200, even though the school’s coordinates had been given to the Israeli military. Despite Israeli water-muddying, there isn’t any doubt that the Israelis struck the school, nor is there any evidence that the school was an origin point for any Hamas rockets. Indeed, correspondents on the ground find no evidence for Hamas using civilians as human shields.

CBS explains that the Israeli military contacted the UN and told them that the compound would be attacked by Israel. The UN replied that they would need time to move the large number of refugees sheltering there. They tried to cooperate. They never heard back from the Israeli army, and then Israeli tanks opened fire. It is outrageous that Israeli media spokesmen attempted to assert or imply that the school was hit by Hamas rockets. They were lying pure and simple. Because the Israeli generals had already told the UN that they were going to shell the school!

I don’t think it is any accident that soon thereafter, Israel announced a unilateral ceasefire for Saturday (though it had already violated the ceasefire by Saturday morning). The images of dead children and of reckless and illegal shelling of civilian structures where there were no militants or munitions have piled up in the World’s consciousness, and even though the Israeli leadership likes to pose as macho, they are open to being pressured, and they are being heavily pressured, by the outside world.

Likewise, the eruption of large demonstrations on the West Bank must be worrisome to the Netanyahu government, since it would stretch the Israeli army thin to try to have it police both Gaza and the whole West Bank. Worse, the West Bank protesters are secular Fateh types, and are more sympathetic figures to the Arab neighbors like Egypt than are Hamas. Cracking down on them won’t be as relatively cost-free as the Israeli campaign against Hamas, which is disliked by the governments of most of Israel’s Arab neighbors or near neighbors. Still, the ceasefire is so far a phony ceasefire, and unless the siege on Gaza is lifted any ceasefire is just a prelude to another war.

The UN school incident is explained by Tomo News:

Tomo News: Gaza War 2014: UN-run refugee center hit by shells, kill at least 15

Night of Destiny in Palestine: A Third Uprising?

By Juan Cole

A new element entered the current Gaza war on Thursday, as Israel shelled a UN school full of displaced persons taking refuge there and large protests broke out in the Palestinian West Bank. The shelling of the UNRWA school, which killed 15 and injured 200, was a war crime. The UN had given the school’s coordinates to the Israelis, so they knew it was a school and was holding displaced persons. The UN, when informed it would be shelled, asked for more time to evacuate people but were denied it.

Some 10,000 Palestinian protesters marched from the Amaria refugee camp near Ramallah toward Jerusalem, stopping at the infamous Apartheid South Africa-style Qalandia checkpoint that often bars or makes difficult and time-consuming Palestinians access to the third holiest city in Islam. The crowds threw rocks and bottles at the Israeli troops, who replied by firing into the crowd, killing two young men and wounding others.

The march had been called for, in part in reaction to the shelling of the UN school, by “youth groups” and “popular organizations.”

The primary hospital in Ramallah said that they had admitted dozens of “live fire victims.”

Protests were also held in towns throughout the West Bank. There are roughly 2.3 million Palestinians in the West Bank, but they are denied the basic rights of citizenship in a state and are kept stateless and under military occupation by Israel.

There have been demonstrations and protests every night in the West Bank, which is mobilizing against the attack on Gaza in ways it did not in 2012.

Thursday’s demonstration at Qalandiya was the biggest since the 2nd uprising of 2000-2005. The first uprising broke out in the late 1980s and led to the Oslo Peace Process. That process was deliberately destroyed by Binyamin Netanyahu, something he has boasted about on video. The buzz on the web is about the possibility of a third uprising.

The Night of Power is the holiest night in the Muslim calendar and involves people staying up late to pray.

Related video:

AP: “Raw: Protesters, Soldiers Clash in West Bank”

Gaza War Devastates Israeli Tourism Revenue, Points to Fragile Apartheid Future

By Juan Cole

A Hamas rocket hit and destroyed a house in Yahoud, a town only a mile from Ben Gurion Airport in Israel on Tuesday, raising severe alarm in among the international airlines and leading most of them to cancel flights to Tel Aviv. The US Federal Aviation Administration called for a 24 hour moratorium on US flights to Israel, and United Airlines, U.S. Airways and Delta Air lines said they would cease flying there “until further notice.” The European Aviation Safety Agency likewise cautioned European airlines from flying to Israel, and Lufthansa and other major carriers cancelled their flights.

Israel’s Transportation Ministry, in its charming way, stridently denounced the airlines as accomplices of terrorists, saying “there is no reason whatsoever that American companies would stop their flights and hand terror a prize…” In fact, the downing of MH17 over eastern Ukraine is obviously the context for the airlines being spooked. And, if a rocket can land one mile from the airport, it can land on a plane at the airport just as easily.

Israeli tourism brought in $11 billion last year, some 4.5% of its nominal GDP. Tourism employs 100,000 workers, two-thirds of them in the hotel industry. In other words, a full loss of tourism would cost Israel $30 mn a day and could idle nearly 3% of the country’s workforce. (Since El Al is still flying, there hasn’t been a full loss of tourism, but El Al is probably flying many planes that aren’t full and may take an economic hit on that account alone; jet fuel is expensive and nowadays full planes are necessary to avoid losing money).

Here are the major countries of origin for the tourists last year:

US: 623,000
Russia: 603,000 tourists
France 315,000
Germany 254,000
United Kingdom 217,000
Italy 173,000
Ukraine 134,000

A quarter of all visitors described themselves as pilgrims. Over half said they were Christians and a little over a quarter were Jewish.

Some observers assumed that the FAA and EASA decisions were made at the behest of political leaders in the US and Europe and were intended to pressure the Israeli government to wrap up its Gaza War. These allegations were denied by the two agencies. But then they would say that, wouldn’t they? The US State Department has also issued a travel advisory for Israel.

If the airlines cease flying to Israel for a long while, the economic pain would be great, a loss of hundreds of millions to as much as $900 mn. a month. It is likely that the business classes in Israel will begin pressuring PM Binyamin Netanyahu to end the Gaza engagement as soon as possible, given how bad it is for business.

The true significance of the airlines’ decision and that of the aviation regulation agencies lies not in its short term effect on the Israeli economy. Rather, it is a demonstration effect of how Israel is becoming vulnerable. When Netanyahu attacked Gaza in 2012, life and the economy went on normally in Israel. But in 2006 during the Israeli attack on Lebanon, Hizbullah rockets made fully a fourth of Israelis move out of their homes, away from the north, as they went to stay in with friends further south. But the rockets are gaining in range.

In essence, Hamas by targeting the airport (it wasn’t trying to hit a house in Yahoud but rather the runway at Ben Gurion International) has hit upon a new strategy, of imposing willy nilly an international boycott on Israeli aviation.

The airlines’ decision will likely motivate the Netanyahu government to attempt to disarm Gaza permanently and to attempt to make sure that Hamas can never again put the Tel Aviv airport in danger. But wanting to disarm Hamas and doing it aren’t the same thing. And once Israel leaves Gaza, what will stop Hamas from restocking?

Israel’s Likud government ought to (but won’t) take the opposite lesson from the airlines’ decision. It is that Israel is vulnerable economically unless it makes peace with the Palestinians by giving up its settler-colonial enterprise. It has to stop sending in squatters on Palestinian land and make preparations for pulling the settlers out.

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Related video:

AP: Airlines Halt Travel to Israel Amid Violence

Is Rula Jebreal right about US Media Bias against Palestinians?

By Juan Cole

Palestinian journalist Rula Jebreal points to the overwhelming bias in US media against the Palestinians, calling NBC to account for having tried to remove an Arab-American reporter from Gaza after he reported the Israeli navy’s deliberate killing of children on the beach. She also points to the stranglehold the American Israel Public Affairs Committee lobby has on congressional politics toward Israel. She doesn’t mention but should the pressure organizations like CAMERA, well-heeled and powerful fanatics devoted to punishing American journalists who tell the truth about Israel and Palestine. I actually think NBC is better than some others on this issue, so it is a little unfortunate that they should take the brunt of Jebreal’s understandable frustration.

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 3.18.38 AM

I don’t think either of the people she was talking to understood the problem. The show begins with Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu and promises more of him. No Palestinian leader is interviewed or apparently considered for an interview! It is alleged to Jebreal that her being allowed to complain on air at all is a mercy (she isn’t actually allowed to say much about the war). It is also alleged that just reporting on all the children the Israeli military has killed is somehow even-handed; in fact if the killings are represented as necessary that isn’t true. Almost no US media admits that indiscriminate fire in civilian areas is a war crime. (Rula comes in at about 7 minutes, below).

Ronan Farrow, MSNBC

There isn’t actually any doubt about US media bias against the Palestinians. Yousef Munayyar looked at CNN’s coverage of the 2012 Gaza flare-up.

Mohamad Elmasry summarizes the study:

” It revealed that a total of 45 Israeli officials were interviewed by CNN, compared to just 20 Palestinian officials. An ongoing, but incomplete, analysis of this year’s [2014] violence by the Palestine Center shows that this is happening once more. Between 30 June and 9 July [2014], CNN interviewed a total of 17 Israeli officials, but just one Palestinian official.”

As Greg Philo notes below, it isn’t just a matter of who is interviewed and how often, though that is important. It is also a matter of history and context. From most American media you would assume that the Israelis were minding their own business and the Palestinians of Gaza just irrationally started firing rockets at them. With rare exceptions, we aren’t told that most truces have been broken by Israel, not Hamas. We aren’t told that over 70% of Gaza’s population used to live in Israel and was ethnically cleansed and left penniless. We aren’t told that Israel has a blockade on Gaza that does not allow it to export most of what it produces, that this blockade has thrown 40% of the working population into unemployment and left 56% of families food insecurity (just on the verge of going to bed hungry). We aren’t told that Israeli occupation has left 90% of [the strip's aquifer non-potable] people in Gaza without potable water. * We aren’t told that Gaza’s Palestinians demand an end to being kept in a big concentration camp. If Israelis were being treated as the Palestinians are, what do you think they would do about it?

There are some exceptions. See the brave and informed and Arabic-speaking Richard Engel on Hardball last night– he told it like it is, including disputing Israeli claims of care not to hit civilians and explaining the conditions in Gaza that cause people to reject mere restoration of the status quo (comes in at 2:35):

And, I should declare my interest by saying that MSNBC’s All in with Chris Hayes had me on to discuss the issue last Thursday:

Here is a vigorous and informed discussion of the question of over-all media bias:

MiddleEastMonitor: “Greg Philo – ‘Do the Media Aid Israel?’ Amnesty International London”

____

*The original wording here, now crossed out, was an error pointed out to me by Politifact. Juan Cole regrets the error.

From Kerry to Selena Gomez & Rihanna, Israel’s Claims of Precision, Compassion are Dissed

By Juan Cole

You always wonder where John Kerry the anti-Vietnam War activist went, who compared the US campaigns in Southeast Asia to the predations of the Mongols. It turns out he is still in there somewhere, just not allowed to appear before the cameras. But in a ‘hot-mic’ moment on Fox on Sunday, Kerry appeared to reference the Israeli massacre at al-Shuja`iya in Gaza by Israeli planes and/or artillery, which left 60 dead & 200 wounded. Kerry called sardonically “a hell of a pinpoint operation.” His reference is to Israeli propagandists who keep saying that Israel’s airstrikes in densely populated Gaza are “precision strikes” when very obviously they are massive and indiscriminate, having killed over 500 as of Sunday night, over 70% of them noncombatants, including women and children. Although Hamas, the combatants, are fair game, the noncombatants are not. Israel doesn’t get off the hook by saying Hamas uses human shields. First, most of those people Israel killed were not being used as human shields. Second, international law forbids military commanders to strike if it seems likely they will kill a lot of innocents.

Newsy Politics: “Fox’s Hot Mic Catches Kerry Remark On Israel-Gaza Conflict”

Kerry’s exasperation with Israeli brutality is shared around the world, though, as with Kerry, most public figures won’t express it in the open.

But some politicians and celebrities are daring to speak out.

British deputy prime minister Nick Clegg accused Israel of a “deliberately disproportionate” response to Hamas. That would would be a war crime if true.

Channel 4′s Jon Snow asked an Israeli spokesman all those same questions everyone else would like to, including why in the world Israel is bombing hospitals and old people’s homes and whether there is something wrong with their equipment or whether they have simply decided to commit war crimes if that is what it takes. Compare Snow’s actual journalism with any anchor on US network news and it is American journalism that stands shamed.

Some resorted to the tactic of tweeting “Free Palestine” and then deleting the tweet, claiming it was all a misunderstanding. This was the path chosen by Rihanna and Dwight Howard.

Rihanna is from Barbados and has Third-Worldist sympathies, occasionally deploying Arabesque imagery in her music videos.

But the award for bravery under fire must go to Selena Gomez, who posted this to her Instagram and Twitter accounts:

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 3.55.32 AM

She has declined to delete the message, and it has garnered 500,000 retweets. She did say this:

But of course when you say “Pray for Gaza,” you have chosen sides, since the Israeli right wing is fighting this war in part to crush Gaza further.

Gomez’s hashtag on this post was #wearethenextgeneration and I think she got that one absolutely correct. The Millennials are a new generation with their own perspective on world affairs. They’re less interested in organized religion than their elders. In the US, they are substantially less Northern European in their heritage and tastes (this is also true in France e.g.) The Millennials have only seen the 2006, 2008-9, 2012, and the current wars, in which Israel is the superpower and its opponents lack tanks, artillery or planes. Palestinians in such an encounter look like the underdogs, not a powerful threat. I don’t think the Israeli leadership has the slightest conception of how the tide is turning against them over their colonial policies and tactics.

Mosul w/out Christians for First time in 1,900 Years as Radical Fundamentalists Threaten Minorities

By Juan Cole

For the first time in nearly 2000 years, there are virtually no Christians in the city of Mosul in northern Iraq. The community is reported to have fled en masse after the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) of radical fundamentalists warned them that they faced the choice of converting to Islam, paying a poll tax, fleeing the city, or… the sword. The incorrectly named “Islamic State,” which is a kind of criminal cartel, said that if they chose to depart, the Christians of Mosul would only be allowed to leave with the clothes on their backs, and their homes and property would be confiscated by IS. There were an estimated 3,000 Christians in Mosul, a city of about 2 million.

IS allegedly set fire to an ancient church in Mosul that goes back to the early centuries of Christianity, though some reports dispute this allegation.

Christianity may have spread to the Jews of Babylon in the time of St. Peter. Penny Young writes:

“It is thought that the Christian population of Iraq is one of the oldest in the world. In his book By the Waters of Babylon (1972) James Wellard hypothesizes that when St Peter referred to ‘the Church at Babylon’, he may have been referring to an actual Jewish Christian community in the region of the Mesopotamian city, similar to other Nazarene communities which were springing up all over the Roman Empire to the west. The word ‘church’ was figurative. The earliest dated church building to have been found in the world so far is at Dura Europos in Syria on the Euphrates close to today’s border with Iraq. The murals were painted between 232 and 256 ad, three quarters of a century before Constantine recog­nized Christianity.”

Iraq was ruled by Iran (the Parthians and then the Sasanians) during the first six centuries of Christianity, and the religion became widespread in Mesopotamia, perhaps even a majority. After Arab Muslims conquered both Iraq and Iran in the 600s AD, most of the people of both gradually converted to Islam over the next four or five centuries. But in Iraq a large Christian population survived. The 1987 census gave 1.4 million Iraqi Christians out of a then population, probably, of 19 million. By 2003 the Christians were estimated at 800,000, with over half a million having emigrated during the years of harsh US/ UN sanctions, or having not been able to afford to have children. The US military occupation of Iraq gave Christianity a bad name and Iraqi Christians were most unfairly targeted as somehow American clients. Over half of the remaining Christians were said to have left by 2008, leaving about 300,000 or so. Now it appears that the remaining 300,000 are being ethnically cleansed in the north of Iraq, where most Christians had lived.

Mosul’s fleeing Christians have largely gone to Dohuk or Irbil in Kurdistan, and Kurdish officials have urged Kurds to give them refuge. Shiite shrines and institutions in the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala have also offered to shelter the displaced Christians. Tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians had earlier gone to Syria and Lebanon, though it seems likely that they will try to get to Europe.

Christians are not the only group at risk. There are many small unorthodox Shiite communities in northern Iraq, and they are recipients of the same threats being directed against the Christians. There are also Mandaean Gnostics. In the period of the American occupation, the predecessors of IS such as al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, had routinely target Christians and heterodox Shiites for bombings and attacks.

Likewise, women are suffering, since the radical fundamentalists want to impose a kind of house arrest (“seclusion”) on them. On Sunday, IS executed a woman in their stronghold of Raqqa in Syria by stoning her for alleged adultery.

A new UN report says:

“[IS] and associated armed groups have also continued to … perpetrate targeted assassinations [community, political and religious leaders, government employees, education professionals, health workers, etc.], sexual assault, rape and other forms of sexual violence against women and girls, forced recruitment of children, kidnappings, executions, robberies.”

In the meantime, IS may be throwing its weight around without really controlling Mosul, where the Men of the Naqshbandi Sufi Order are allegedly reasserting themselves. IS fighters have gone south to Tikrit, now the front between the Baghdad government and IS territory. The Iraqi Army has apparently suffered humiliating checks at the hands of IS.

It seems like that IS will continue to play an out-sized role in Mosul and elsewhere until the Baghdad government and the Iraqi army get their act together.

————

Related video:

Press TV: “Christians are hurriedly fleeing from the city of Mosul following an ultimatum issued by ISIL”