Bearing Witness

The Peril of Forgetting Gaza

By Sara Roy, First published on Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The recent meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu  generated speculation over the future relationship between America and Israel, and a potentially changed U.S. policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Analysts on the right and left are commenting on a new, tougher American policy characterized by strengthened U.S. demands  on Israel.

However, beneath the diplomatic choreography lies an agonizing  reality that received only brief comment from Obama and silence from  Netanyahu: The ongoing devastation of the people of Gaza.  Gaza is an example of a society that has been deliberately reduced to a state of abject destitution, its once productive population transformed into one of aid-dependent paupers. This context is undeniably one of mass suffering, created largely by Israel but with the active complicity of the international community, especially the U.S. and European Union, and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

Gaza’s subjection began long before Israel’s recent war against it. The Israeli occupation – now largely forgotten or denied by the international community – has devastated Gaza’s economy and people, especially since 2006. Although economic restrictions actually increased before Hamas’ electoral victory in January 2006, the deepened sanction regime and siege subsequently imposed by Israel and the international community, and later intensified in June 2007 when Hamas seized control of Gaza, has all but destroyed the local economy. If there has been a pronounced theme among the many Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals who I have interviewed in the last three years, it was the fear of damage to Gaza’s society and economy so profound that billions of dollars and generations of people would be required to address it – a fear that has now been realized. 

After Israel’s December assault, Gaza’s already compromised conditions have become virtually unlivable. Livelihoods, homes, and public infrastructure have been damaged or destroyed on a scale that even the Israel Defense Forces admitted was indefensible. In Gaza today, there is no private sector to speak of and no industry. 80 percent of Gaza’s agricultural crops were destroyed and Israel continues to snipe at farmers attempting to plant and tend fields near the well fenced and patrolled border. Most productive activity has been extinguished.  One powerful expression of Gaza’s economic demise and the Gazans’ indomitable will to provide for themselves and their families is its burgeoning tunnel economy that emerged long ago in response to the siege. Thousands of Palestinians are now employed digging tunnels into Egypt – around 1,000 tunnels are reported to exist although not all are operational. According to local economists, 90 percent of economic activity in Gaza – once considered a lower middle-income economy (along with the West Bank) – is presently devoted to smuggling.

Today, 96 percent of Gaza’s population of 1.4 million is dependent on humanitarian aid for basic needs. According to the World Food Programme, the Gaza Strip requires a minimum of 400 trucks of food every day just to meet the basic nutritional needs of the population. Yet, despite a 22 March decision by the Israeli cabinet to lift all restrictions on foodstuffs entering Gaza, only 653 trucks of food and other supplies were allowed entry during the week of May 10, at best meeting 23 percent of required need. Israel now allows only 30 to 40 commercial items to enter Gaza compared  to 4,000 approved products prior to June 2006. According to the Israeli journalist, Amira Hass, Gazans still are denied many commodities (a policy in effect long before the December assault): Building materials (including wood for windows and doors), electrical appliances (such as refrigerators and washing machines), spare parts for cars and machines, fabrics, threads, needles, candles, matches, mattresses, sheets, blankets, cutlery, crockery, cups, glasses, musical instruments, books, tea, coffee, sausages, semolina, chocolate, sesame seeds, nuts, milk products in large packages, most baking products, light bulbs, crayons, clothing, and shoes. 

Given these constraints, among many others – including the internal disarray of the Palestinian leadership – one wonders how the reconstruction to which Obama referred will be possible. There is no question that people must be helped immediately. Programs aimed at alleviating suffering and reinstating some semblance of normalcy are ongoing, but at a scale shaped entirely by the extreme limitations on the availability of goods. In this context of repressive occupation and heightened restriction, what does it mean to reconstruct Gaza? How is it possible under such conditions to empower people and build sustainable and resilient institutions able to withstand expected external shocks? Without an immediate end to Israel’s blockade and the resumption of trade and the movement of people outside the prison that Gaza has long been, the current crisis will grow massively more acute. Unless the U.S. administration is willing to exert real pressure on Israel for implementation – and the indications thus far suggest they are not – little will change. Not surprisingly, despite international pledges of $5.2 billion for Gaza’s reconstruction, Palestinians there are now rebuilding their homes using mud.

Recently, I spoke with some friends in Gaza and the conversations were profoundly disturbing. My friends spoke of the deeply felt absence of any source of protection-personal, communal or institutional. There is little in society that possesses legitimacy and there is a fading consensus on rules and an eroding understanding of what they are for. Trauma and grief overwhelm the landscape despite expressions of resilience. The feeling of abandonment among people appears complete, understood perhaps in their growing inability to identify with any sense of possibility. The most striking was this comment: “It is no longer the occupation or even the war that consumes us but the realization of our own irrelevance.” 

What possible benefit can be derived from an increasingly impoverished, unhealthy, densely crowded, and furious Gaza alongside Israel ? Gaza’s terrible injustice not only threatens Israeli and regional security, but it undermines America’s credibility, alienating our claim to democratic practice and the rule of law. If Palestinians are continually denied what we want and demand for ourselves – an ordinary life, dignity, livelihood, safety, and a place where they can raise their children – and are forced, yet again, to face the destruction of their families, then the inevitable outcome will be greater and more extreme violence across all factions. What looms is no less than the loss of entire generation of Palestinians. And if this happens – perhaps it already has – we shall all bear the cost.

Sara Roy is a senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University. She is the author of Failing Peace: Gaza and the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict.

This Blockade of Gaza, that is now in it’s third year, is clearly an act of collective punishment – which is outlawed under international humanitarian law. Again I ask, Why does the international community not hold Israel to account for this and many other violations of international law ?

July 13, 2009 Posted by | Media | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tell me again. Who are the aggressors?

An article produced by the Gaza Defence Committee.

There are Israeli apologists demanding that others ought to read up on history. It is they who ought to do the reading.

In his Complete Diaries, Vol.II, Page 711, Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, says that the area of the Jewish state stretches: “From the Brook of Egypt to the Euphrates”.

Rabbi Fischmann, member of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, declared in his testimony to the U.N. Special Committee of Enquiry on July 9, 1947: “The Promised Land extends from the River of Egypt to the Euphrates. It includes parts of Syria and Lebanon.”

1938

“Let us not ignore the truth among ourselves … politically we are the aggressors and they defend themselves… The country is theirs, because they inhabit it, whereas we want to come here and settle down, and in their view we want to take away from them their country.” –David Ben Gurion, quoted on pp 91-2 of Chomsky’s “Fateful Triangle”, which appears in Simha Flapan’s “Zionism and the Palestinians pp 141-2 citing a 1938 speech.

1947

According to former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir of Likud, terrorism can be justified in the service of (Zionist but not Palestinian) national struggle: “Neither Jewish morality nor Jewish tradition can be used to deny the morality of terror used as a means of war…. We are very far from any moral hesitations when concerned with national struggle. First and foremost, terror is part of the political war appropriate for the circumstances of today.” – Hazit (Aug.1943, Journal of Lehi, the terrorist organization Shamir led before Israel’s independence

1967

“Let us approach them [the Palestinian refugees in the occupied territories] and say that we have no solution, that they shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wants to can leave — and we will see where this process leads. In five years we may have 200,000 less people – and that is a matter of enormous importance.” Moshe Dayan September 1967

“Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother.” General Moshe Dayan, Former Israeli Defense Minister

Before [the Palestinians] very eyes we are possessing the land and the villages where they, and their ancestors, have lived… We are the generation of colonizers, and without the steel helmet and the gun barrel we cannot plant a tree and build a home. – Famous Israeli Army Commander Moshe Dayan

1969

” Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist. Not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahlal arose in the place of Mahlul; Kibbutz Gvat in the place of Jibta; Kibbutz Sarid in the place of Huneifis; and Kefar Yehushua in the place of Tal Al-Shuman. There is not a single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.” Moshe Dayan Date: 4 April 1969

1983

When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle. – Israeli Army Chief of Staff Raphael Eitan, 1983

2002

“We enthusiastically chose to become a colonial society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, transferring settlers from Israel to the occupied territories, engaging in theft and finding justification for all these activities. Passionately desiring to keep the occupied territories, we developed two judicial systems: one – progressive, liberal – in Israel; and the other – cruel, injurious – in the occupied territories. In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories immediately following their capture. That oppressive regime exists to this day. Michael Ben-Yair Article/book #: 3837 Title: The war’s seventh day

There can be only one victor in a war; the only alternative to complete resignation was to do what Israel is doing. And what is that? It is assuring that the Palestianians (in the words of Moshe Yaalon, Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces in 2002) “are made to understand, in the deepest recesses of their consciousness, that they are a defeated people.” The more relentless the assault, and indeed the more civilians you legitimately kill, the deeper the recesses of consciousness that you are able to penetrate.

“It’s not a matter of what is true that counts but a matter of what is perceived to be true.” — Henry Kissinger

As of 1946 the Arab owned land in Palestine was 94 percent, arab population 65 percent with the Arabs owning almost all of the cultivated land. The 35 percent of Jewish population owned the remaining six percent of the land. Today the Palestinians are crammed into less than 10 percent of their country.

Tell me again. Who are the aggressors?

June 16, 2009 Posted by | My Thoughts | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t believe the hype

My time in the Middle East has only reinforced my beliefs that there is a double standard when it comes to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, not to mention a fair amount of  miss information. This double standard is evident in both media reports and international political responses to the situation and are most clearly evident in reports and responses to the Oslo peace process and 2006 and 2009 invasions of Gaza.

In 2006 after an Israeli solider was “kidnapped” by Hamas, Israel was given cart blanch by the media and foreign governments to address the situation as it saw fit – under the auspice of security. However every night Palestinians live with Israeli incursions and arrests, yet Hamas  are given no means of recourse by the media or foreign governments. Even the language used to describe the same activity – Hamas “kidnaps” Israeli’s and Israel “arrests” Palestinian “suspects”, lets not forget that Hamas is also a democratically elected government. 

A democratic government that Israel and America has stated aims to overthrow, their justification for this is that Hamas does not recognise Israel’s right to exist – pointing to the Hamas charter and ignoring the fact that Hamas has repeatedly called for negotiations on a long term cease fire and a two state settlement. An offer ignored over and over again by Israel and the United States.

When Hamas kill civilians, they are labeled terrorists – and rightly so, as any targeting of civilians is in my book terrorism. Compared to when Israel kills civilians, it’s labeled an accident and justified by security concerns. Who has the  more advanced military and therefor should be less likely to make mistakes ? And who really has security concerns ? Considering a 2007 United Nations report by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs [OCHA] reported that since the beginning of the second intifada in September 2000 until the end of July 2007 at least 5 848 people have been killed as a consequence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Of those 5848 deaths, 4228 where Palestinians, 1024 where Israeli’s and 63 where foreign citizens. Meaning Palestinians are dying at a rate of over four to one compared to Israeli’s.

In 2008 Israel’s blockade of Gaza – a form of collective punishment outlawed under international humanitarian law – kills  around 300 Gazains as a result of a lack of access to medical treatment, again Hamas are given no means of recourse. However Hamas rockets kill three Israeli’s and the international community again sees this as justification for killing over 1000 Palestinians and injuring many more.

Unfortunately the Australian governments response to the 2009 invasion of Gaza showed this double standard at it’s clearest. While condeming Hamas rocket attacks that had killed three Israeli’s, they only expressed concern over the Israeli military action – which at that stage had killed around 750 Palestinians. What happened to equality ? A human life is a human life, no matter what side of the apartheid wall you live on.

The media so often portray Israel as the innocent victims of this conflict and the Palestinians the terrorist aggressors, personally I have found the opposite. I have heard on several occasions Israeli’s speak positively about Palestinian deaths. While during my time in Nablus and the occupied terrirories I never heard Palestinians speak positively of Israeli deaths. I did though hear many people in Nablus and the occupied territories express their understanding of Hamas actions and in many ways I can see their point of view. Israel as the creator of the extreme situation, must accept some of the responsibility for the extreme behaviour that this situation creates.

Even the reporting on the failed Oslo peace process shows these double standards. It was widely reported that the Palestinians walked away from a generous Israeli offer of self determination, East Jerusalem, all of the West Bank and Gaza. This was not the case, what was on offer at Camp David was 10 small Palestinian enclaves- not connected to one another. In addition to this Israel would still control the population registers of these enclaves – determining who can live where and who can travel and when. Plus the Israeli’s would maintain control of the water, maintaining the current distribution ratio – where in the West bank 20% of the water goes to the Palestinians who make up 80% of the population. In addition to this Israel would still control the air space above the enclaves, fertile farming land was to be swapped for arid desert, Israel would still control Jerusalem and there would be no right of return for Palestinian refugees – called for by several UN security council resolutions. Does not sound so generous to me and I certainly would not call it self determination, even one of the Israeli negotiating team, at Camp David, latter stated that if he where “Palestinian he would not have accepted the deal”.  Also take into consideration the fact that the whole way through, the so called “peace process”, Israel had expanded settlement construction in contradiction to it’s obligation under the Oslo agreement – settler numbers in the West bank doubled to nearly 500 000 during the peace process.

Even the conditions placed on the Palestinians by the international community, namely the US, to restart negotiations about a two-sate solution show this double standard. The Palestinians have to recognise Israel’s right to exist, renounce violence and accept the road map to peace – three conditions that are not placed on Israel. Israel definitely does not except Palestine’s right to exist, the 2006 and 2009 invasion of Gaza clearly show they have not renounced violence and the fact they continue to expand their settlements in the West Bank show they do not accept the conditions of the road map to peace.

The Palestinian refugees are so often the forgotten victims of this conflict, they have in some cases been refugees for over 50 years and as we know from our experience in Australia the physiological effects of refugee status can be dramatic. The effects of living in fear and limbo, of family separation,  of lack of access to rights and services are quite well documented in Australia after only several years, Palestinians have been living like this for  generations, and again are given no means of recourse through international institutions or the media.

So with all this evidence of misinformation and double standards, the question has to be – why ? Who benefits from this miss information and double standards ?

January 25, 2009 Posted by | My Thoughts | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Israel-Gaza conflict 2006

The conflict began on June 24, 2006, when in light of ongoing Qassam rocket attacks on Israeli cities, Israeli operatives seized suspected Hamas members Osama and Mustafa Muamar in the Gaza Strip. On June 25, a Hamas attack in Israeli checkpoint resulted in the deaths of two Israeli soldiers and the capture of Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit. In turn, Israel launched Operation Summer Rains on June 28.

Israel maintains that it mobilized thousands of troops in order to suppress Qassam rocket fire against its civilian population and to secure the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit. It is estimated that between 7,000 and 9,000 heavy Israeli artillery shells have been fired into Gaza since September 2005, killing 80 Palestinians in 6 months. On the Palestinian side, approximately 1,000 Qassam missiles are believed to have been fired into Israel.

Israel has stated that it will withdraw from Gaza and end the operation as soon as Shalit is released. The Palestinians say the assault is aimed at toppling the democratically elected Hamas-led government and at destabilizing the Palestinian National Authority, citing the targeting of civilian infrastructure such as a power station and the captures of government and parliament members.

After Israel’s unilateral disengagement plan, pulling 9 thousand settlers from Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005, tensions had remained high in Gaza due to the continued shelling of areas in Israel with Qassam rocket attacks launched by Palestinians from Gaza into areas such as the Israeli city of Sderot, reported to have exceeded 800 rockets in the past seven months. Between the end of March and the end of May 2006, Israel fired at least 5,100 artillery shells into the Gaza Strip Qassam launching areas in an attempt to stop them from firing.

On June 9, during or shortly after an Israeli operation, an explosion occurred on a busy Gaza beach, killing eight Palestinian civilians.Other Israeli missile attacks included one on the Gaza highway on June 13 that killed 11 Palestinians and injured 30, and on June 20 that killed 3 Palestinians and wounded 15.

Hamas formally withdrew from its 16-month ceasefire on June 10, and began openly taking responsibility for the ongoing Qassam rocket attacks.

On June 24, 2006, Israeli commandos entered the Gaza Strip in the first capture raid into the Strip since Israel pulled out of Gaza in September 2005. In the raid they captured two Palestinians, identified by neighbors as brothers Osama Muamar, 31, and Mustafa, 20, who Israel claims are Hamas militants. Noam Chomsky has claimed in a recent interview that these two Palestinians were civilians, a doctor and his brother. Chomsky claims not to know the fate the kidnapped men.

On June 25, 2006, armed Palestinians crossed the border from the Gaza Strip into Israel via a makeshift tunnel and attacked an Israel Defense Forces post. During the morning attack, two Palestinian militants and two Israel Defense Force soldiers were killed and four others wounded, in addition to Corporal Gilad Shalit, who suffered a broken left hand and a light shoulder wound. Hamas claimed that the attack was carried out in response to the death of the Ralia family on north Gaza beach a few weeks before.

Shalit’s captors issued a series of statements demanding the release of all female Palestinian prisoners and all Palestinian prisoners under the age of 18. The statements came from Ezz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades (the military wing Hamas), the Popular Resistance Committees (which includes members of Fatah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas), and the Army of Islam. More than 8,000 Palestinians are held as prisoners by the Israel Defense Forces and Israel Prisons Service. Approximately two thirds of these prisoners were convicted in court, while around ten percent are held without charge.

* The above information was obtained at www.palestinehistory.com

October 29, 2008 Posted by | History of the Occupation | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Al-Aqsa Intifada (2000 – )

On September 28, 2000 the Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon, with a Likud party delegation, and surrounded by hundreds of Israeli riot police, visited the mosque compound of the Al-Haram Al-Sharif (Temple Mount) in the Old City of Jerusalem. The mosque compound is the first Qibla of Muslims and the third holiest site in Islam. It also contains the area for the most holy site in Judaism. The pretext for Sharon’s visit of the mosque compound was to check complaints by Israeli archeologists that Muslim religious authorities had vandalized archeological remains beneath the surface of the mount during the conversion of the presumed Solomon’s Stables area into a mosque.

A group of Palestinian dignitaries came to protest the visit, as did three Arab Knesset Members. With the dignitaries watching from a safe distance.Palestinians saw Sharon’s visit as an assault on the Al-Aqsa Mosque. For this reason, the whole conflict is known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada. On September 29, 2000, the day after Sharon’s visit, following Friday prayers, large uprising broke out around Old Jerusalem during which several Palestinian demonstrators were shot dead. Already in the same day, the September 29, 2000, demonstrations broke out in the West Bank. In the days that followed, demonstrations erupted all over the West Bank and Gaza.

* The above information was obtained at www.palestinehistory.com

October 29, 2008 Posted by | History of the Occupation | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Intifada , 1987 – 1991

Palestinian uprising refers to a series of violent incidents between Palestinians and Israelis between 1987 and approximately 1990.

On December 8, 1987, an uprising began in Jabalya where hundreds burned tires and attacked the Israel Defense Forces stationed there. The uprising spread to other Palestinian refugee camps and eventually to Jerusalem, the eastern part of which was and is occupied by Israel. On December 22, the United Nations Security Council condemned Israel for violating Geneva Conventions due to the number of Palestinian deaths in these first few weeks of the Intifada.

Much of the Palestinian violence was low-tech; dozens of Palestinian teenagers would confront patrols of Israeli soldiers, showering them with rocks. However, at times this tactic gave way to Molotov cocktail attacks, over 100 hand grenade attacks and more than 500 attacks with guns or explosives. Many Israeli soldiers were killed this way. The IDF, in contrast, possessed the latest weaponry and defense technologies.

In 1988, the Palestinians initiated a nonviolent movement to withhold taxes collected and used by Israel to pay for the occupation of territories. When time in prison didn’t stop the activists, Israel crushed the boycott by imposing heavy fines while seizing and disposing of the equipment, furnishings, and goods from local stores, factories, and even homes. On April 19, 1988, a leader of the PLO, Abu Jihad, was assassinated in Tunis. During the resurgence of rioting that followed, about 16 Palestinians were killed. In November of the same year and October of the next, the United Nations General Assembly passed resolutions condemning Israel.

As the Intifada progressed, Israel introduced various riot control methods that had the effect of reducing the number of Palestinian fatalities. Another contributor to the high initial casualties was Yitzhak Rabin’s aggressive stance towards the Palestinians (notably including an exhortation to the IDF to “break the bones” of the demonstrators). His successor Moshe Arens subsequently proved to have a better understanding of pacification, which perhaps reflects in the lower casualty rates for the following years.

Attempts at the peace process in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were made at the Madrid Conference of 1991.

* The above information was obtained at www.palestinehistory.com

October 29, 2008 Posted by | History of the Occupation | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lebanon invasion , 1982

From 1978 the presence of Palestinian guerrillas in Lebanon led to Arab raids on Israel and Israeli retaliatory incursions.

On 6 June 1982 Israel launched a full-scale invasion. By 14 June Beirut was encircled, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Syrian forces were evacuated mainly to Syria 21-31 Aug.

In Feb 1985 there was a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the country without any gain or losses incurred. Israel maintains an occupied area called as a ‘security zone’ in South Lebanon and supports the South Lebanese Army Militia of Lahad, both were occupying the south of Lebanon to defend israelis from palestinian attacks, and both carried out number of massacres against Lebanese and Palestinian people.

Israel’s alleged complicity in massacres in two Palestinian refugee camps increased Arab hostility and many other massacres like Beirut, Nabattiyeh, Abbasiyeh, Qana with hundreds of lebanese civilians killed by Israelis. Talks between Israel and Lebanon , between Dec 1982 and May 1983, resulted in an agreement, drawn up by US secretary of state George Shultz, calling for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon within three months. Syria refused to acknowledge the agreement, and left some 30,000 troops, with about 7,000 PLO members, in northeast, Israel retaliated by refusing to withdraw its forces from the south.

Meanwhile the problems in Lebanon continued. In 1984, under pressure from Syria, President Gemayel of Lebanon abrogated the 1983 treaty with Israel , but the government of national unity in Tel Aviv continued to plan the withdrawal of its forces. Guerrilla groups of the lebanese resistant on south of Lebanon started their resistant against the Israeli occupation since 1985 when the main important resistant group in Lebanon which is Hizbollah was founded. Most of the withdrawal was complete by June 1985 except the south of Lebanon of what so called the ‘security zone’. The south of Lebanon was liberated by resistant operations when Israel withdraw in 25/5/2000. Israel still occupying Shebaa farms and other small areas until today.

* The above information was obtained at www.palestinehistory.com

October 29, 2008 Posted by | History of the Occupation | , , , , , | Leave a comment

October War , 6-24 Oct 1973

In 1973 Egypt joined Syria in a war on Israel to regain the territories lost in 1967. The two Arab states struck unexpectedly on October 6, which fell on Yom Kippur , Israel’s holiest fast day .

After crossing the swise channel the Arab forces gain a lot of advanced positions in Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights and manage to defeat the Israeli forces for more then three weeks.

Israeli forces with a massive U.S. economic and military assistance managed to stop the arab forces after a three-week struggle and defeat with the cost of many casualties,and the Arabs strong showing won them support from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and most of the world’s developing countries.

Israel, forced to compete with the nearly unlimited Arab resources, was faced with a serious financial setback. Only massive U.S. economic and military assistance enabled it to redress the balance, but even American aid was unable to prevent a downward spiral of the economy.

In an effort to encourage a peace settlement, U.S. President Richard M. Nixon charged his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, with the task of negotiating agreements between Israel and Egypt and Syria. Kissinger managed to work out military disengagements between Israel and Egypt in the Sinai and between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights during 1974.

* The above information was obtained at www.palestinehistory.com

October 29, 2008 Posted by | History of the Occupation | , , , , , | Leave a comment

War of Attrition 1968 – 1970

The War of Attrition (Al-Istinsaf) was a limited war fought between Egypt and Israel from 1968 to 1970. It was initiated by Egypt as a way to recapture the Sinai from Israel, which had controlled it since the Six-Day War. The war ended with a ceasefire signed between the countries in 1970 with frontiers at the same place as when the war started.

The war began in June 1968 with sparse Egyptian artillery bombardment of the Israeli front line on the east bank of the canal. More artillery bombardments in the following months killed some Israeli soldiers. IDF’s retaliation came on the night of October 30 when heli-borne commandos destroyed Egypt’s main electricity supply. The blackout caused Nasser to cease hostilities for a few months while fortifications around hundreds of important targets were built. Simultaneously Israel reinforced its position on the east bank of the Suez Canal by constructing the Bar Lev Line, a set of thirty-five small forts running north-south along the canal guarded by infantry.

In February 1969 Egypt was ready for the next round. President Nasser declared the cease-fire from November the previous year to be null and void. On March 8 Egyptian artillery began massive shelling of the Bar Lev Line causing many Israeli casualties. Soviet MiG-21 fighters were also employed in the attack. The IDF retaliated with deep raids into Egyptian territory causing severe damage. In May, June and July 1969, 47 IDF soldiers were killed and 157 wounded. Although Egypt suffered many times more casualties than Israel, Egypt continued with its aggressive stance. Israel managed to sustain the high casualty rate but was hard-pressed to find a definite solution to the conflict.

In July Israel escalated by attacking with the Israeli Air Force (IAF). On July 20 and July 24 almost the whole IAF bombed the northern canal sector destroying anti-aircraft positions, tanks and artillery. The aerial offensive continued until December and reduced Egypt’s anti-aircraft defence to almost nothing. It managed to reduce the artillery bombardment somewhat but shelling with lighter weapons and especially mortars continued.

On October 17, 1969 talks between the Superpowers began. It led to the Rogers plan that was publicized on December 9. It called for Egyptian “commitment to peace” in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai. Both parties strongly rejected the plan. President Nasser instead opted to plead for more sophisticated weaponry from the Soviet Union to withstand the IAF’s bombings. The Soviets initially refused to deliver the requested weapons.

On January 22, 1970, President Nasser secretly flew to Moscow to discuss the situation. His request for new SAM batteries (including the 3M9 Kub and Strela-2) were approved. Their deployment would require qualified personnel along with squadrons of aircraft to protect them from Israeli attacks. In effect, he needed Soviet troops in large numbers, something Moscow could not allow. He then threatened to resign, implying that Egypt might turn to Washington for help in the future.

Despite these losses the Soviets and Egyptians managed to press the air defenses closer and closer to the canal. The Soviet operated SAMs shot down a number of Israeli aircraft. Israel could not respond effectively. The SAM batteries would allow Egypt to move in artillery which in turn could threaten the Bar Lev Line. In April 1970 negotiations resumed, this time with the U.S. being the primary negotiator. A cease-fire agreement was reached on August 7. It was to last for three months and neither side was allowed to change “the military status quo within zones extending 50 kilometers to the east and west of the cease-fire line.”

* The above information was obtained at www.palestinehistory.com

October 29, 2008 Posted by | History of the Occupation | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Six-Days war , 5-10 June 1967

After the Suez-Sinai war Arab nationalism increased dramatically, as did demands for revenge led by Egypt’s president Nasser. The formation of a united Arab military command that massed troops along the borders, together with Egypt’s closing of the Straits of Tiran and Nasser’s insistence in 1967 that the UNEF leave Egypt, led Israel to attack Egypt, Jordan, and Syria simultaneously on June 5 of that year. The war ended six days later with an Israeli victory. Israel’s French-equipped air force wiped out the air power of its antagonists and was the chief instrument in the destruction of the Arab armies.

The Six-Day War left Israel in possession of Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula, which it took from Egypt; Arab East Jerusalem and the West Bank, which it took from Jordan; and the Golan Heights, taken from Syria. Land under Israel’s jurisdiction after the 1967 war was about four times the size of the area within its 1949 armistice frontiers. The occupied territories included an Arab population of about 1.5 million.

The war ended six days later with an Israeli victory. Israel’s French-equipped air force wiped out the air power of its antagonists and was the chief instrument in the destruction of the Arab armies.

The occupied territories became a major political issue in Israel after 1967. The right and leaders of the country’s orthodox religious parties opposed withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza, which they considered part of Israel. In the Labor Alignment, opinion was divided; some Laborites favored outright annexation of the occupied territories, others favored withdrawal, and some advocated retaining only those areas vital to Israel’s military security. Several smaller parties, including the Communists, also opposed annexation. The majority of Israelis, however, supported the annexation of East Jerusalem and its unification with the Jewish sectors of the city, and the Labor-led government formally united both parts of Jerusalem a few days after the 1967 war ended. In 1980 the Knesset passed another law, declaring Jerusalem “complete and united,” Israel’s eternal capital.

The 1967 war was followed by an upsurge of Palestinian Arab nationalism. Several guerrilla organizations within the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) carried out guerrillas attacks on Israeli targets, with the stated objective of “redeeming Palestine.” guerrillas attacks on Israelis targets at home and abroad unified public opinion against recognition of and negotiation with PLO, but the group nevertheless succeeded in gaining widespread international support, including UN recognition as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinians.”.

* The above information was obtained at www.palestinehistory.com

October 29, 2008 Posted by | History of the Occupation | , , , , , | Leave a comment