The Court Trial of Bibi Netanyahu

By Juan Cole

Dark Satire: Irony alert

Prosecutor: “Justices of the International Criminal Court, I shall demonstrate to you that this man (points at detained Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu in orange jump suit and manacles at accused table) is guilty of serious breaches of international law and not just of war crimes but of a pattern of systematic war crimes over time. As you know, such a pattern amounts to crimes against humanity. He is also guilty of the crime of Apartheid, which is itself a crime against humanity according to the United Nations.”

Lead Justice leans over his elevated desk. “Proceed, counselor.”

Prosecutor: “The first charge is the systematic and prolonged violation of the 1949 Geneva Convention on the treatment of populations in times of war and in militarily occupied territories. According to article 49,

“The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

Justices of the ICC, I maintain to you that Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967 and that it is an occupied territory under the definition of the law. I maintain to you that Israel illegally annexed part of the West Bank to its artificial “district of Jerusalem,” itself a violation of the United Nations charter that forbids acquisition of territory by military conquest, and to which Israel is signatory. Thereafter, Israel flooded 300,000 Israelis from its own civilian population into this district, surrounding Arab East Jerusalem and isolating it from the Palestinian population of the West Bank.

I further maintain to you that Israel has settled over 400,000 Israelis from its own population in what is left of the West Bank. This is a total of 700,000 or more persons from Israeli proper settled in Occupied Palestine. Mr. Netanyahu has accelerated this squatting, and sees it increasing by 50% over the next few years. Worse, these settlers are often armed and commit violence against the native Palestinians, with the connivance of Mr. Netanyahu.”

Justice looks at Netanyahu: “How do you plead to the charge?”

Netanyahu: “Judea and Samaria are an inalienable part of Israel and not occupied territories.”

Justice: “Mr. Netanyahu, you are to plead guilty or not guilty. The status of the West Bank as an occupied territory is not in question here; it is universally recognized as such in international law.”

Netanyahu: “The terrorists will not be allowed to pose an existential threat to the state of Israel.”

Justice: “Guilty or not guilty to the charge of violating article 49, Mr. Netanyahu. Terrorism charges may be brought against Hamas leaders if you like, but they are not pertinent to your violation of article 49. As you should have learned in kindergarten, two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Defense attorney for Netanyahu whispers in his ear, then turns to Justices. “Your honors, my client pleads not guilty by virtue of Iran’s nuclear bomb.”

Justice: “Iran does not have a nuclear bomb; and if it did it would be irrelevant to the charge against you. If you insist on these histrionics, Mr. Netanyahu, I will have you gagged.”

Prosecutor: “Your honors, the West Bank, home to 2.6 million Palestinians, has become an Apartheid situation under Israeli rule. Mr. Netanyahu has denied the Palestinians the right to a nationality, and says he will forever do so. He has built large numbers of apartment complexes for illegal Israeli squatters on Palestinian land, from which all Palestinians are excluded. This pattern of systematic residential discrimination is typical of Apartheid. He has built highways that Palestinians may not drive on. He has established checkpoints that limit Palestinian mobility in the Palestinian West Bank. He has instituted a pass system identical to that of old Apartheid South Africa. He has had wells dug into aquifers for illegal Israeli squatters, lowering their level and causing Palestinian wells to run dry, in hopes of chasing Palestinians out of the West Bank. This situation meets most of the elements in the Rome Statute’s definition of Apartheid, II, C:

“Any legislative measures and other measures calculated to prevent a racial group or groups from participation in the political, social, economic and cultural life of the country and the deliberate creation of conditions preventing the full development of such a group or groups, in particular by denying to members of a racial group or groups basic human rights and freedoms, including the right to work, the right to form recognised trade unions, the right to education, the right to leave and to return to their country, the right to a nationality, the right to freedom of movement and residence, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association…”

The Palestinian West Bank under Israeli military occupation is the very face of Apartheid, your honors.”

Justice to Netanyahu: “How do you plead to the crime against humanity of Apartheid?”

Netanyahu: “Israeli security can only be guaranteed if we control the borders with Jordan.”

Justice slaps forehead. “Clerk, enter a plea of “not guilty” for Mr. Netanyahu. And schedule him for jail time for contempt of court until he apologizes for wasting our time with propaganda.”

Netanyahu defense attorney: “Your honors, we request dismissal of all these charges.”

Justice: “On what grounds, counselor?”

Counselor: “International law is clearly anti-Semitic.”

Justice (to clerk): “Clerk, please schedule defense counsel for jail time for contempt of court, as well.”

Netanyahu: “Nazi!”

Justice (to clerk): “Double the jail time for contempt of court.”

Prosecutor: “Your honors, the current Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip, which Israel occupied in 1967 and which it continues to surround and blockade today, has involved numerous strikes on medical facilities, including an old people’s home and health care clinic and a medical center for the disabled. At the disabled center, two challenged persons were killed and more were wounded.

“This is a direct violation of Article 18, ‘Civilian hospitals organized to give care to the wounded and sick, the infirm and maternity cases, may in no circumstances be the object of attack but shall at all times be respected and protected by the Parties to the conflict.’ ”

Justice to Netanyahu: “How do you plead?”

Netanyahu: “It is very unfortunate that Hamas hides its rockets in hospitals.”

Justice: “Do you have any proof of that allegation?”

Netanyahu: “All Arabs are terrorists, so obviously the handicapped ones are, as well.”

Justice: “I give up. Bailiff, gag him!”

Justice (to Prosecutor): “Do you have more charges, counselor?”

Prosecutor: “Yes, your honor. About 1,000 more.”

Justices sigh.

Netanyahu stands and gives long muffled speech that cannot be understood because of the gag.


Related video:

Euronews: “Netanyahu says Gaza campaign may take ‘a long time’”

Palestine 1896

First film footage taken of Ottoman Palestine (Lumiere Bros.), in 1896.

Palestine 1896

h/t William Dalrymple

Kemal Karpat wrote that according to the Ottoman Census of 1893, the population of most of what is now Palestine (excluding northern areas then attached to Beirut) was as follows:

371,959 Muslims
42,689 Christians
9,000 Jews

This does not count several thousand Bedouin Palestinians. It probably undercounts women, children and the poor among the Palestinian Muslims, as well as those young Muslim men who were dodging the draft. That is, likely the real figure was more like 500,000. It also excludes thousands of Jews living in Jerusalem who had foreign citizenship because they came as retirees to the holy city, living on charitable trusts set up for the purpose of encouraging elderly Jews to study and worship there. Jews from the Russian Empire put special emphasis on this practice. That is why Jerusalem was said to be 50% Jewish. But note that Jerusalem was small then, and Jews were not so numerous elsewhere in Ottoman Palestine.

The Map: A Palestinian Nation Thwarted & Speaking Truth to Power

By Juan Cole

Reprint edn.

… As part of my original posting, I mirrored a map of modern Palestinian history that has the virtue of showing graphically what has happened to the Palestinians politically and territorially in the past century.

Andrew Sullivan then mirrored the map from my site, which set off a lot of thunder and noise among anti-Palestinian writers like Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, but shed very little light. (PS, the map as a hard copy mapcard is available from Sabeel.)

The map is useful and accurate. It begins by showing the British Mandate of Palestine as of the mid-1920s. The British conquered the Ottoman districts that came to be the Mandate during World War I (the Ottoman sultan threw in with Austria and Germany against Britain, France and Russia, mainly out of fear of Russia).

But because of the rise of the League of Nations and the influence of President Woodrow Wilson’s ideas about self-determination, Britain and France could not decently simply make their new, previously Ottoman territories into mere colonies. The League of Nations awarded them “Mandates.” Britain got Palestine, France got Syria (which it made into Syria and Lebanon), Britain got Iraq.

The League of Nations Covenant spelled out what a Class A Mandate (i.e. territory that had been Ottoman) was:

“Article 22. Certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognised subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a Mandatory [i.e., a Western power] until such time as they are able to stand alone. The wishes of these communities must be a principal consideration in the selection of the Mandatory.”

That is, the purpose of the later British Mandate of Palestine, of the French Mandate of Syria, of the British Mandate of Iraq, was to ‘render administrative advice and assistance” to these peoples in preparation for their becoming independent states, an achievement that they were recognized as not far from attaining. The Covenant was written before the actual Mandates were established, but Palestine was a Class A Mandate and so the language of the Covenant was applicable to it. The territory that formed the British Mandate of Iraq was the same territory that became independent Iraq, and the same could have been expected of the British Mandate of Palestine. (Even class B Mandates like Togo have become nation-states, but the poor Palestinians are just stateless prisoners in colonial cantons).

The first map thus shows what the League of Nations imagined would become the state of Palestine. The economist published an odd assertion that the Negev Desert was ‘empty’ and should not have been shown in the first map. But it wasn’t and isn’t empty; Palestinian Bedouin live there, and they and the desert were recognized by the League of Nations as belonging to the Mandate of Palestine, a state-in-training. The Mandate of Palestine also had a charge to allow for the establishment of a ‘homeland’ in Palestine for Jews (because of the 1917 Balfour Declaration), but nobody among League of Nations officialdom at that time imagined it would be a whole and competing territorial state. There was no prospect of more than a few tens of thousands of Jews settling in Palestine, as of the mid-1920s. (They are shown in white on the first map, refuting those who mysteriously complained that the maps alternated between showing sovereignty and showing population). As late as the 1939 British White Paper, British officials imagined that the Mandate would emerge as an independent Palestinian state within 10 years.

In 1851, there had been 327,000 Palestinians (yes, the word ‘Filistin’ was current then) and other non-Jews, and only 13,000 Jews. In 1925, after decades of determined Jewish immigration, there were a little over 100,000 Jews, and there were 765,000 mostly Palestinian non-Jews in the British Mandate of Palestine. For historical demography of this area, see Justin McCarthy’s painstaking calculations; it is not true, as sometimes is claimed, that we cannot know anything about population figures in this region. See also his journal article, reprinted at this site. The Palestinian population grew because of rapid population growth, not in-migration, which was minor. The common allegation that Jerusalem had a Jewish majority at some point in the 19th century is meaningless. Jerusalem was a small town in 1851, and many pious or indigent elderly Jews from Eastern Europe and elsewhere retired there because of charities that would support them. In 1851, Jews were only about 4% of the population of the territory that became the British Mandate of Palestine some 70 years later. And, there had been few adherents of Judaism, just a few thousand, from the time most Jews in Palestine adopted Christianity and Islam in the first millennium CE all the way until the 20th century. In the British Mandate of Palestine, the district of Jerusalem was largely Palestinian.

The rise of the Nazis in the 1930s impelled massive Jewish emigration to Palestine, so by 1940 there were over 400,000 Jews there amid over a million Palestinians.

The second map shows the United Nations partition plan of 1947, which awarded Jews (who only then owned about 6% of Palestinian land) a substantial state alongside a much reduced Palestine. Although apologists for the Zionist movement say that the Zionists accepted this partition plan and the Arabs rejected it, that is not entirely true. Zionist leader David Ben Gurion noted in his diary when Israel was established that when the US had been formed, no document set out its territorial extent, implying that the same was true of Israel. We know that Ben Gurion was an Israeli expansionist who fully intended to annex more land to Israel, and by 1956 he attempted to add the Sinai and would have liked southern Lebanon. So the Zionist “acceptance” of the UN partition plan did not mean very much beyond a happiness that their initial starting point was much better than their actual land ownership had given them any right to expect.

The third map shows the status quo after the Israeli-Palestinian civil war of 1947-1948. It is not true that the entire Arab League attacked the Jewish community in Palestine or later Israel on behalf of the Palestinians. As Avi Shlaim has shown, Jordan had made an understanding with the Zionist leadership that it would grab the West Bank, and its troops did not mount a campaign in the territory awarded to Israel by the UN. Egypt grabbed Gaza and then tried to grab the Negev Desert, with a few thousand badly trained and equipped troops, but was defeated by the nascent Israeli army. Few other Arab states sent any significant number of troops. The total number of troops on the Arab side actually on the ground was about equal to those of the Zionist forces, and the Zionists had more esprit de corps and better weaponry.

[The nascent Israeli military deliberately pursued a policy of ethnically cleansing non-combatant Palestinians from Israeli-held territory, expelling about 720,000 of them in 1947-48, then locking them outside, bereft of their homes and farms and penniless.

Map6_RefugeesRoutes ]

The final map shows the situation today, which springs from the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank in 1967 and then the decision of the Israelis to colonize the West Bank intensively (a process that is illegal in the law of war concerning occupied populations).

There is nothing inaccurate about the maps at all, historically. Goldberg maintained that the Palestinians’ ‘original sin’ was rejecting the 1947 UN partition plan. But since Ben Gurion and other expansionists went on to grab more territory later in history, it is not clear that the Palestinians could have avoided being occupied even if they had given away willingly so much of their country in 1947. The first original sin was the contradictory and feckless pledge by the British to sponsor Jewish immigration into their Mandate in Palestine, which they wickedly and fantastically promised would never inconvenience the Palestinians in any way. It was the same kind of original sin as the French policy of sponsoring a million colons in French Algeria, or the French attempt to create a Christian-dominated Lebanon where the Christians would be privileged by French policy. The second original sin was the refusal of the United States to allow Jews to immigrate in the 1930s and early 1940s, which forced them to go to Palestine to escape the monstrous, mass-murdering Nazis.

The map attracted so much ire and controversy not because it is inaccurate but because it clearly shows what has been done to the Palestinians, which the League of Nations had recognized as not far from achieving statehood in its Covenant. Their statehood and their territory has been taken from them, and they have been left stateless, without citizenship and therefore without basic civil and human rights. The map makes it easy to see this process. The map had to be stigmatized and made taboo. But even if that marginalization of an image could be accomplished, the squalid reality of Palestinian statelessness would remain, and the children of Gaza would still be being malnourished by the deliberate Israeli policy of blockading civilians. The map just points to a powerful reality; banishing the map does not change that reality.

Goldberg, according to Spencer Ackerman, says that he will stop replying to Andrew Sullivan, for which Ackerman is grateful, since, he implies, Goldberg is a propagandistic hack who loves to promote wars on flimsy pretenses. Matthew Yglesias also has some fun at Goldberg’s expense. [Otherwise, like most other major US institutions, our press is corrupt on this issue.]

People like Goldberg never tell us what they expect to happen to the Palestinians in the near and medium future. They don’t seem to understand that the status quo is untenable. They are like militant ostriches, hiding their heads in the sand while lashing out with their hind talons at anyone who stares clear-eyed at the problem, characterizing us as bigots. As if that old calumny has any purchase for anyone who knows something serious about the actual views of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu or Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, more bigoted persons than whom would be difficult to find. Indeed, some of Israel’s current problems [2010] with Brazil come out of Lieberman’s visit there last summer; I was in Rio then and remember the distaste with which the multi-cultural, multi-racial Brazilians viewed Lieberman, whom some openly called a racist.

Top 7 Really Disturbing News from Iraq

1. Last Wednesday Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki angrily lashed out at the Kurds, accusing them of harboring the terrorists of the so-called ‘Islamic State.’ Since the Kurds have in fact fought the IS radicals, al-Maliki’s charge is hard to take seriously. Rather, it appears to be a sign of how angry he is that Kurdistan president Massoud Barzani is pressuring him to step down. I don’t think al-Maliki can get a third term without Kurdish support.

2. Barzani responded that al-Maliki is “hysterical.” The Kurds then withdrew from al-Maliki’s cabinet, in which they had been his coalition partners. The ministries will likely go on running all right, but the move is symbolic of the break between al-Maliki and his erstwhile backers. Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, one of those who suspended participation, says it will be hard for the Kurds to work with al-Maliki unless he apologizes.

3. On Friday, the Kurds seized two important oil fields in the Kirkuk region. Since their willingness to supply Turkey with petroleum seems to be one of the reasons Ankara has increasingly made its peace with Iraqi Kurdistan becoming independent, the Kurds are now in a position to remunerate Turkey even more generously for acquiescing in their national aspirations.

4. Gunmen in Baghdad attacked two apartment buildings in the upscale Zayouna neighborhood and killed some 29 women. It was apparently the work of Shiite militiamen (the hard line Mahdi Army is being revived to fight the Sunni ‘Islamic State.’) It has been years since this sort of attack has occurred in the capital. The rival puritanisms of the Sunnis and the Shiites may be ramping up.

5. The Iraqi air force brought 4,000 Shiite volunteers from the holy shrine city of Karbala up to largely Sunni Arab Ramadi, west of Baghdad. They are intended to fight the Sunnis who threw off Iraqi government rule early this year. The Sunnis of Ramadi have been dominated since last January by the so-called Islamic State. They are upset with al-Maliki’s sectarian notions of governance and appear in part to have thrown in with IS to get away from the rule of al-Maliki, which they code as Shiite and even Iranian. Bringing Shiite militiamen to Ramadi is bound to cause a great deal of dissatisfaction in Ramadi.

6. Human Rights Watch accused Baghdad’s Shiite government of killing some 250 Sunni prisoners. Baghdad denies the charges.

7. The so-called Islamic State stole some low grade nuclear material from a university in northern Iraq. They can’t do much with it of a practical sort (it cannot be used for a nuclear bomb). But still, it points further to how much the Iraqi state has collapsed.


Related video:

Euronews: “Iraq’s Kurds boycott Iraq Cabinet in wake of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki comments”

Israel’s Groundhog Day: Reverse Snowballs and the Horror of Lawn-Mowing

by Juan Cole

A horrible video is circulating on social media, of a Palestinian father in Gaza who is bringing a toy to his four year old son, only to find once he enters his home that his son’s head has been crushed by Israeli shrapnel. That is the face of Israel’s current military operation against Gaza to the outside world.

But from the point of view of Israeli hawks, the point of a campaign like the present one against the Gaza Strip is to degrade the military and organizational capabilities of the enemy. They clearly do not care if they thereby kill dozens of women, children and non-combatants (they are). The important thing for them is to accomplish what they see as a narrow military and counter-terrorism objective.

It is a bizarrely ahistorical quest, as though the Israeli leadership lives in a bubble isolated from the demographic and political realities of its neighborhood. They seem to think they are hanging by their fingers from a cliff, that Hamas is prying their fingers loose, and that if only they can push Hamas back, they can go on clinging to the cliff for another period of time, avoiding falling. They don’t seem to realize that if this is actually their situation, it is untenable in the long run. The current campaign will end in failure and likely will help doom the Israeli enterprise over the next few decades.

The Israeli hawks have been trying to destroy Hamas since the late 1990s, when it went from a favored client of the Israeli state (having received support from Tel Aviv in the 1980s to offset the Palestine Liberation Organization) to enemy. The military wing of Hamas launched a vicious campaign of terrorism inside Israel in response to the doubling of the Israeli squatter population on Palestinian land in the 1990s. In the early zeroes, the Israelis conducted a campaign of murder against Hamas leaders, including against civilian party leaders with no operational role. They assassinated Sheikh Yasin, the spiritual leader of the movement, with a rocket fired from a helicopter gunship at his wheelchair as he was issuing from a mosque, killing and injuring people around him, as well. Sheikh Yasin had spoken of the possibility of a decades-long truce with Israel even though he rejected its legitimacy. In his absence, the truce talk rather declined, though Hamas has proved itself willing and able to negotiate long-lasting cease-fires with Israel; most often it has been the Israelis who violated them.

The theory behind the murders of leaders is that leadership is a rare quality and that if you inflict attrition on leaders, you will fatally weaken the organization. Israeli intelligence operatives drew on social science research about how many top-level managers a Western corporation could lose before it collapsed. In societies where kinship systems remain relatively strong, however, you don’t have a hierarchical GM corporate flow chart for leadership, and if you kill someone’s cousin, the republic of cousins comes together for revenge. This whole theory and whole operation vindicates the old saw that Government Intelligence is an oxymoron.

Because of the Israeli attacks on Hamas figures, the party became more popular both in Gaza and the West Bank, and it won the January, 2006, Palestine Council elections in both territories. So I think we can pronounce the serial murders committed by then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon an abject failure.

Next the Israelis kidnapped about a third of the democratically elected Palestine National Council and illegally sequestered them and helped the PLO make a coup in the West Bank. They failed, however, to dislodge Hamas from the Gaza Strip.

From 2007 the Israelis put a severe and creepy blockade on the Gaza Strip, in hopes of making Hamas unpopular, figuring people in Gaza would blame it for the consequent collapse of the Gaza economy. This policy is illegal in international law. Israel is the occupying power in Gaza, and the 1949 Geneva Conventions forbid military occupiers from collectively punishing non-combatants among the occupied population. In response, Palestinians in Gaza just got really good at smuggling, developing an extensive tunnel network into the Sinai desert. My guess is that despite the Israeli naval blockade, things must get brought in sometimes by sea, as well.

Among the things they imported were small rockets, with which to harass the Israelis who had moved into the homes in what is now southern Israel that used to belong to the Palestinians of Gaza.

Israel’s 2008-2009 and 2012 episodes of what hawks call “mowing the lawn” in Gaza were aimed, as well, at inflicting attrition on the rocket stock and at killing Hamas leaders and disrupting their institutions. (Since Hamas had been democratically elected in 2006, the police in Gaza had to report to the party after that, so the Israelis bombed the police stations; but most police were not Hamas cadres).

Hamas had received some support from Iran and Syria. My guess is that it has been exaggerated, but it was there. The attempted Syrian revolution and then the outbreak of civil war in Syria posed a problem for Hamas. The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood is a kindred movement, and it is opposed to the Baath government in Damascus. So Hamas’s dependence on Iran and on Bashar al-Assad was, let us say, awkward.

When Muhammad Morsi was elected president of Egypt in summer 2012, Hamas gravitated to him as its preferred sponsor and mostly broke with Syria and Iran. Unfortunately for Hamas, Morsi was overthrown in July of 2013, leaving Hamas high and dry and with no sponsor.

Worse, current Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the officers who back him really, really hate political Islam. They banned the Muslim Brotherhood, killed over a thousand members in crackdowns on sit-ins, and imprisoned perhaps 20,000 to 30,000 members and sympathizers. Al-Sisi sees Egypt’s security problem with Bedouin and fundamentalists in the Sinai Peninsula as a side-effect of Hamas activities.

So the Egyptians have been unusually energetic in closing off the smuggling routes and tunnels into Gaza from Sinai. This move has, along with the vigorous Israeli blockade, contributed to fuel shortages and water and sewage problems as well as economic distress. At the same time, young Palestinians in Gaza have rebelled against Hamas and some say they want to see it overthrown the way Morsi was.

My guess is that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other Likud leaders see Hamas as unusually vulnerable. In essence, al-Sisi is shoring up Israel’s western flank. The Israeli hawks no doubt believe that if they can destroy, or get Hamas to fire off, large numbers of its rockets, that they can deplete that stock and that al-Sisi will help ensure that it is not replenished, and that Syria and Iran might not be so eager now to help their fair weather friend.

With leaders killed and rockets depleted, the Israeli hard liners probably believe, Hamas may be fatally weakened. At the very least, it will be less able to resist future episodes of lawn mowing in Gaza.

The theory behind this campaign, however, is incorrect. Hamas is perfectly capable of building more rockets, even if they are smaller and have less range than the imported ones. And killed leaders can be replaced by their cousins.

Gaza’s population has grown to about 1.7 million. It has a high rate of population growth and will likely double over the next two or three decades. Egypt will never allow the Palestinians of Gaza to become refugees in the Sinai. In the 2008-09 campaign, when some Palestinians attempted to flee into Egypt, the Egyptian military just shot them. So the Palestinians of Gaza are Israel’s problem, now and in the future. Gaza faces increasingly dire water problems, a recipe for severe future conflict. Israel eventually will face not 4.3 million stateless Palestinians but twice that.

As the living conditions in Gaza deteriorate, and people begin to thirst to death, the international outcry will grow louder. The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement will grow, at first mainly in civil society and the business world, but ultimately it will be adopted by governments in the face of an absolutely unacceptable ongoing humanitarian catastrophe.

Ironically, the very mechanisms of economic sanction engineered by Israeli and pro-Israel lobbies against Iran and Syria are likely increasingly to be applied to Israel itself. The Israeli economy is fragile and highly dependent on outside trade and on European technology transfer, which could be sanctioned.

All it would take would be for the economy to be hurt enough to make it attractive for more Israelis to emigrate every year than immigrate for a reverse snowball effect ultimately to doom Israel, slowly and over decades. Already, a million first and second generation Israelis live abroad, finding Israel too nervous-making as a place to reside. It may even be that many of them are being counted as Israeli residents by the propagandists in Tel Aviv, so that the figure of 6 million Jews actually in Israel is exaggerated.

The Israeli right wing will likely fail in its attempt to subject Gaza and uproot radicalism there, since the radicalism grows out of the conditions that Israel imposes on the Palestinians. And, it is incurring increasing ill will with its episodic lawn-mowing, since the outside world is unwilling to accept that it was necessary to kill all those women and children and soccer spectators with aerial and naval bombardment.

As in the Bill Murray science fiction vehicle “Groundhog Day,” the Israelis, the Palestinians and the world are doomed to relive these periodic slaughters over and over again, until slowly, inexorably, they further corrupt the Israeli soul and make the Zionist enterprise so unlovely in the eyes of the world that it loses crucial support, and the snowball rolls uphill, getting smaller and smaller.


Related video:

RT America: “Gaza civilians struggle amidst Israeli onslaught”

Stop Saying ‘If X fired Rockets at U.S.’: It’s Racist, & assumes we’re Colonial

By Juan Cole

Is anyone else disgusted by the propaganda trick of trying to get Americans to sympathize with Israel’s massive attack on the civilian habitations of Gaza by saying “if the US was subjected to rocket fire by X [usually Mexicans], what would it do?”

This hope that Americans are racists and that their racism can be incited against the Palestinians is about the lowest rhetorical trick you could imagine.

I’m old enough to remember the race riots in American cities of the late 1960s and early 1970s. I can remember a prominent pro-Israel columnist for the Washington Post, way back then, explicitly comparing Palestinians protesting their occupation by Israel to African-Americans protesting their economic marginalization. The writer’s hope was that white Americans would identify with Israelis and come to see Palestinians as “Black.” Or, let’s face it, as the N-word.

Someone recently sent to my blog such a screed, saying, what if rockets from Quebec were slamming into Maine?

The comparison is not only repulsive because the author hopes that Americans are Anglo-Saxons who don’t like French Canadians (or French anything). Notice no one says “What if the white people of Windsor, Ontario, were sending rockets across the Detroit River onto Detroit?” That would get the race dynamics that the analogy is aiming at all wrong.

It is also insulting to the United States and its people. Because since the end of World War II, the United States gave up settler colonialism. Oh, it is frequently an imperial power, interfering in the fate of other countries and attempting to shape them in directions perceived to benefit Washington. But after the Philippines became independent, and despite the ambiguous status of Guam and Puerto Rico, the US is not a settler-colonial state.

The reason Israel is taking rocket fire from Gaza is that is is an Occupying Power over Gaza and won’t let the Palestinians of that territory have the rights that accrue to citizens of a state. The Israeli military decides the fate of 4.3 million Palestinians, who are denied basic popular sovereignty. Israel has Gaza non-combatant civilians under economic blockade, preventing people from exporting most of what they make. It has destroyed the airport and won’t let the Mediterranean port function. It has deliberately made 56% of the population food insecure, i.e. a couple of paychecks away from going hungry.

The United States isn’t behaving this way toward Quebec, or toward Mexico nowadays, whatever happened in the 19th century before we had the United Nations Charter and an attempt a crafting international law.

It is insulting to Americans for Israel chauvinists to imply that we are just like them, that we also gleefully have a jackboot on the necks of brown peoples beyond our borders, and that we would respond with the same disregard for non-combatant life as the Israeli air force if a few mostly harmless rockets fell on our side of the border. I don’t think we’d bomb the bejesus out of Montreal over some 8th grade chemistry experiments.

When you see that trope, know that you are not just being played. You are being assumed to be a racist and an international outlaw. It isn’t a nice comparison.

And as with all propaganda, what would be easier than turning it around? Imagine if the Chinese occupied Alabama and strode around Birmingham armed and in Chinese military uniforms. Imagine if they started importing millions of Chinese people into Alabama. What if they disarmed the Alabamans and pushed them off the land they’d lived on for centuries, stealing water and other resources? What if, when asked by now homeless families whose houses had been confiscated or blown up, what the reason was, the Chinese replied this way? That the Native Americans were East Asians & the ones who remained behind were ancestors of the Chinese and their eastern branch that crossed the Bering Straits became the original inhabitants of Alabama, and so China’s claim much preceded that of recent immigrants from Europe?

What do you think the people of Alabama would do to those Chinese occupiers and settlers?

(I apologize to my Chinese friends for the above. The whole thought experiment, being a form of racist propaganda, is inherently distasteful; I’m just showing what the other side of that argument might hypothetically look like).

So could we please stop doing politics by propaganda, false analogies, and appeal to the basest instincts of race-baiting? Could we please just analyze what is going on in Palestine?

The fact is that the Israelis could have peace if they’d stop being expansionists and accept 1967 borders. The Arab League made the offer. The Palestinians made the offer. The Israeli government is instead to determined to grab more and more Palestinian resources, including perhaps Gaza’s offshore natural gas.

Indeed, the Israeli Right has designs on other territory of its neighbors, having at one time or another tried to grab the Sinai Peninsula, southern Lebanon, parts of Syria, and its leaders keep talking about Israeli “interests” in Jordan’s Ghor Valley.

Mind you, I am an advocate of peaceful social action, and I condemn Hamas’s and Islamic Jihad’s deployment of rockets. They lack guidance systems and so they are inevitably indiscriminate as weapons, endangering non-combatants, which is a war crime. But I also condemn reckless Israeli air raids on Gaza camps and cities, which a prudent person could foresee will cause non-combatant deaths. They are also war crimes.


Related video:

Philip Weiss: “Max Blumenthal on liberal Zionist efforts to whitewash Israeli racism”

The Fall of the New Year Throne (Complete Sword & Sorcery Novel of ancient Persia)

By Juan Cole

The Fall of the New Year Throne

Many, many thanks to everyone who followed the serialized sword and sorcery novel I have posted here since last January.

I had written a version of it in the early 1990s. I wasn’t satisfied with it and ultimately got drawn into other projects. The book was intended as the first of a trilogy, telling the story of the ancient Persian figures, Jamshid, Zohak and Faridun. These stories were part of ancient Iranian (and to some extent Indo-European and Indo-Iranian) lore. They were retold by Abu’l-Qasim Firdawsi in his epic Persian poem, the Shahnameh. But I went back beyond Firdawsi, to the early Zoroastrian (Parsi) texts, which told what I thought was a much more complex and interesting set of stories about these figures than did the medieval poet.

One thing that attracted me about the material was that it clearly was about conflicts among generals, holy men and workers– i.e. it had resonances with the contemporary Middle East! But it was also a world of wonder with distinctive legends and mythical creatures. Too much of Sword and Sorcery as a genre is just a re-imagining of medieval Europe, and ancient Persia seemed a world worth exploring in this context. Being a historian, I went back and did a lot of reading about the ancient Near East where the novel is set, and had fun exploring. Of course, this is a novel, so I used the material as a basis for imaginings.

Silly me, last winter I thought the Middle East might be settling down, and I could finally get some real leisure back after over a decade of blogging the region intensively. So I got out a printed-off MS of the sword and sorcery novel and retrieved the old Word files and tried my hand at reworking the material.

It quickly became apparent to me that I would never get to it unless I more or less blogged the rewrite. It just had become my habit to write things I thought might be of interest and then to post them. Having some of you follow the serialization was important to me as a motivator to continue putting up the sections of the chapters. Otherwise, the business of life would have just pushed it into the background again.

It worked! You sometimes complained when I fell behind, and asked for more. And I finally completed a draft of the novel (see below). I also think that the serialization process, posting episodes in digestible chunks, helped improve the writing and the structure. I’ll let others decide.

I have to say I was a little surprised that I did not get more comment and input– though I am *very* grateful for what I did get. I suppose this blog is self-selected for nonfiction readers and so perhaps it wasn’t the best venue for a fantasy novel. Anyway, I had thought there would be some crowdsourcing of critique, and for the most part that didn’t happen. A little puzzled. But then there are now whole sites dedicated to mutual critique.

I suppose the important thing is that I wanted to see the novel become available, and now it is. I was inspired in this regard by Cory Doctorow, who put his early novels up on the web. For all of you who followed it so far, or who told me they would only pick it up once it was complete, here is the link, below, to where you can get the pdf file (suitable for many tablet programs, from iBooks to Stanza to Kindle). Many, many thanks for your support. I’m hoping things will work out so that it appears more formally and I’ll be encouraged to go on to the second and third volumes.

For The Fall of the New Year Throne, click here)



Comments and suggestions on the installments are welcome, but they should please be constructive. Commenters relinquish the rights to any ideas they express in the comments section, which become the property of Juan Cole. Presumably they want them incorporated into the final work, and they might be. The novel is copyright by Juan Cole, 2014, and may not be mirrored or reproduced without express permission from the author.

ABC News’ Diane Sawyer Mistakes Stricken Palestinians for Israelis

By Juan Cole

In the current round of fighting between mighty Israel and the little Gaza Strip, Israeli airstrikes have killed 53 Palestinians.

The supposedly deadly little rockets fired from the Gaza Strip have killed or injured no Israelis, though they have done some property damage. In fact, those rockets have no guidance systems and very seldom hit anything, mostly landing in the desert.

Nevertheless, Reuters and other agencies (or their headline writers) routinely equate deadly Israeli airstrikes with sophisticated American fighter jets with small dumb rockets, some of them the sort of thing that could be made with an 8th grade chemistry set. And, of course, Palestinian lives are cheap and their 53 dead and (150) wounded don’t count. That no Israelis have been killed is not mentioned because it would interfere with the narrative of violent Palestinians and victimized Israelis (it is mostly the other way around).

In general, since 2010 Palestinians have killed 28 Israelis, while Israelis have killed 575 Palestinians. In general, it is the Israelis who have poor little Gaza blockaded and “on a diet” and not the other way around.

It is therefore no surprise that American media are confused by the actual situation on the ground. There have been over 400 powerful Israeli airstrikes on one of the more densely populated areas on earth, inevitably hitting little children and their mothers, while Hamas’s and Islamic Jihads’ mostly pitiful little rockets (there are a handful of bigger long-range ones) have done relatively little damage.

So here is Diane Sawyer showing footage of the aftermath of an Israeli airstrike on non-combatants, with a devastated Palestinian family, which she misidentifies as an Israeli family. (h/t Rania Khaleq at EI). This is not a bug. It is a feature.

Diane Sawyer (ABC) mistakes Gazans for Israelis


ABC late apologized here.

Bush Trifecta lands on Obama: Gaza, Iraq and Afghanistan Imploding

By Juan Cole

President Barack Obama of Hawaii had fondly dreamed of bidding turbulent and unrewarding West Asia farewell and turning the attentions of American diplomacy to East and South East Asia. From his point of view, the Bush administration had unwisely entangled the US too deeply in the Middle East, where no good deed goes unpunished. He had opposed the Iraq War, and thought the latter diverted attention from Afghanistan and the hunt for Bin Laden. He was willing to do a bit of Israel-Palestine diplomacy but not to really put his presidential prestige on the line the way Jimmy Carter had. And after all, Carter got almost no credit for averting decades more of Israel-Egypt wars.

The Bush administration’s activities in West Asia undermined stability there so badly, however, that the region has gone on haunting Obama and threatening to draw him into quagmires.


In January 2006, the Palestine Authority held elections in Gaza and the West Bank for the first time since 1996 when a parliament dominated by the Palestine Liberation Organization was elected. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon did not want Hamas (the Movement for Change) to be allowed to run, since the far-right Muslim fundamentalist organization had never accepted the Oslo Peace Process. Although back in the 1980s the Israelis had backed Hamas against its secular, nationalist rival, the PLO, by 2006 the two had fallen out.

The Bush administration was pushing its “Democracy Promotion” policy in “the Greater Middle East,” at the time, however, and insisted that Hamas must be allowed to run. Washington did not in any case think it could win.

But Hamas took more seats than the PLO in the Palestine National Council and formed a government, with Ismail Haniya as prime minister.

This outcome was unacceptable to the Israelis, who colluded with the PLO to stage a coup in the West Bank, which was turned over to Mahmoud Abbas (whose term ultimately came to an end but who remained president in the absence of new presidential elections).

The attempted coup in the Gaza Strip, however, failed. Hamas remained in control of its desperately poor million and a half population, having come to power through the ballot box. The Israeli government was disturbed, and in 2007 it placed the Gaza Strip under a severe blockade, intended to keep Palestinians there on the edge of hunger. The Palestinians were prevented from exporting most of what they produced, plunging them into severe unemployment. Israel hoped that the blockade would make Hamas unpopular and that the Gaza population would unseat it. They didn’t. Elements of the Israeli blockade on a non-combatant civilian population that is 50% children continue to this day. This is a violation of the 1949 Geneva Convention on the treatment of occupied populations by the military occupier.

I thought at the time that Hamas should not have been allowed to run because they are a paramilitary that has not committed to the rules of democracy. The Bush insistence that they be allowed to contest seats, followed by a fickle Bush complicity in the West Bank coup against them, created the current impasse. Hamas has stocked up on rockets with which to menace Israel psychologically (though don’t manage to hit much with the rockets). Israel wants to finish the job of the failed 2007 coup against Hamas, or short of that, to inflict attrition on their military capabilities.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s current military campaign in Gaza seeks to destroy or much reduce Hamas’s rockets stockpile. Netanyahu may hope that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who hates political Islam, will effectively prevent Hamas from rearming once its stockpiles of the more sophisticated missiles have been reduced or eliminated. Hamas was fickle, abandoning its patrons, Iran and Syria, for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood When the latter was overthrown last year this time, Hamas was left high and dry and vulnerable. Many Gaza youth are against it and formed a Rebellion movement on the Egyptian model. But It is Israel’s horrid treatment of the Palestinians of Gaza, sort of like Maynard keeps the Gimp in Pulp Fiction, that produces radical movements like Hamas or Islamic Jihad, and even if Netanyahu could polish them off, other similar ones would take their place. The problem is structural. You can’t kick people out of their homes and put them in a large open air concentration camp and expect to have peace with them.


In Afghanistan, the Bush administration should have used the Northern Alliance to overthrow the Taliban and then just left. Anand Gopal has argued convincingly that US troops left in Afghanistan got drawn into tribal feuds and destabilized the south and east of the country, whereas in the north, NATO forces that were less kinetic managed to keep calm. Bush’d decision to leave tens of thousands of US soldiers in Pushtun areas, engaging in the same sort of search and destroy tactics as had turned the South Vietnamese against the US military in the late 1960s, led to a neo-Taliban resurgence.

Bush’s “Democracy Promotion” in Afghanistan led to corrupt politics and ballot fraud that went on and got worse after Bush left office. Now, the presidential elections have produced a nail-biting finale in which it seems Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai has nudged out Abdullah Abdullah, with 56% of the vote; but that strangely doubles his tally in the April first round, raising Abdullah Abdullah’s suspicions of fraud.

This is a disaster because very close elections often seem to people illegitimate. Abdullah Abdullah, whose constituency is the Dari Persian-speaking Tajiks and Shiite Hazaras, is refusing to concede the election to Ahmadzai, for whom many Pushtuns voted. As I write, Afghanistan could be on the brink of violence of an ethnic sort over the contested election results. All this doesn’t even take into account the Taliban resurgence. US troop strength is scheduled to go down to 10,000 by the end of this year and to almost nothing by Jan. 1, 2017. But as with Iraq, substantial instability could bring the US right back in.


Having illegally invaded and occupied Iraq, the Bush administration originally wanted phony ‘caucus-based’ elections in Iraq, wherein hand-picked elite Iraqis would elect corrupt financier and inveterate prevaricator Ahmad Chalabi as prime minister. Some say Chalabi was a double agent, working for Iran. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the spiritual head of Iraq’s majority Shiite population, over-ruled Bush and insisted on one-person one vote parliamentary elections. Being the majority, the Shiites won in January 2005, but not just any Shiites. It was the pro-Iran fundamentalist Shiites that Bush inadvertently brought to power. Ooops. They went on deeply to alienate the formerly dominant Sunni minority, leading to the present Sunni rebellion in northern and western Iraq, in alliance with an al-Qaeda offshoot None of this would be happening if Bush hadn’t invaded on false pretenses.

In all three cases, an oddly uninformed and narrow vision of democratic transition guaranteed that “democracy promotion” would fail. No attention was given to training a new judiciary in the rule of law. The US presence itself was destabilizing in Iraq and Afhanistan, both because of the corruption it fostered and because of way US military personnel took sides in tribal feuds that had almost nothing to do with terrorism. That process in turn inflamed ethnic divisions.

All this has broken on Obama’s head in the past 30 days. Unfortunately for him, he can’t just go off and initial contracts in Shanghai. He has to try to make coherent policy in service of calming things down. But in the medium term, Iraq’s political elite needs to stop fiddling while Rome burns. It also needs a new and better constitution that doesn’t consistently produce hung parliaments. Afghanistan needs a Pushtun reconciliation process between former Taliban and the Northern Alliance.

As for Israeli actions in Gaza & the West Bank, the US could end them quickly and surely by simply ceasing to wield the UNSC veto in Israel’s regard.


Related video

Euronews: “Afghanistan: defiant Abdullah claims victory in disputed presidential poll”

Not Serious re: Terrorism: GOP House Cut out funding for al-Qaeda, Iraq Records & Research

Representatives on the Hill talk a good game about going back into Iraq or pursuing a global war on terror, but they aren’t actually very interested in all that. Exhibit A: they’ve applied the same austerity to the Conflict Records Research Center as they did to the working poor and Veterans on food stamps.

This is about the most pitiful thing I’ve ever seen, given what is actually happening in Iraq and Afghanistan.:

date: Tue, Jul 8, 2014 at 4:22 PM
subject: CRRC Status Update July 2014

CONFLICT RECORDS RESEARCH CENTER Institute for National Strategic Studies National Defense University Fort Lesley J. McNair Washington, D.C. 20319

We are writing to provide you with a brief update on the status of the Conflict Records Research Center (CRRC). The CRRC, which has previously received generous funding from the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy (OSD(P)), has no funding beyond the end of the current fiscal year. Unless something changes immediately, the center will close its doors sometime prior to September 30, 2014. Throughout the remainder of the fiscal year, CRRC personnel shortages will severely and adversely affect the center’s ability to host researchers, respond to e-mails, update the center’s website, or conduct other CRRC operations.

The CRRC, which focuses on al-Qaeda affiliated terrorism and Iraq, is on the verge of closing its doors just as battlefield victories by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), fighting alongside former elements of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime, remind observers of the continuing need for precisely the sort of research that the CRRC enables and provides. The CRRC has been honored to support innovative research and scholarship on these and other important topics since 2010.

If the CRRC does not receive funding immediately and hire personnel prior to September 30, it will shut down and the National Archives (NARA) will take ownership of all existing CRRC records. As explained below, the records will not be available to researchers for a considerable number of years. In addition, current CRRC holdings, which constitute less than one percent of the records that the center has been working to make available, will be frozen in time. No new records will be added.

NARA officials have informed CRRC staff that NARA would not release CRRC records for at least 25 years, with the exception of a very small number of records in response to Freedom of Information Act Requests. NARA is hard pressed to respond promptly to the vast number of requests it receives. NARA has also informed us that it would release only the CRRC translations, not copies of the Arabic originals, and would redact most of the names in the translations to prevent any possible privacy violations. We have appreciated working with you and value your support.


The Conflict Records Research Center ”