A human rights organisation has accused the Israeli military of committing a war crime by placing military hardware, including artillery positions, inside Arab towns and villages during the war with Lebanon in July 2006. The group last week published a report claiming Arab communities were used as “human shields” by the Israeli military. The danger this posed to the Arab population was far from “theoretical”: Arab communities hit by Hezbollah’s retaliatory rockets were overwhelmingly those in which the Israeli army maintained a presence.

Why did Israel attack Syria?

27 September 2007

Israel’s air strike on northern Syria earlier this month should be understood in the context of events unfolding since its assault last summer on neighboring Lebanon. From the leaks so far, it seems that more than half a dozen Israeli warplanes violated Syrian airspace to drop munitions on a site close to the border with Turkey. We also know from the US media that the raid occurred in close coordination with the White House. But what was the purpose and significance of the attack?

The propaganda machine

20 August 2007

It is an honour of a kind, I suppose, to briefly have the most active thread on the CiF site. But not much of one when 95 per cent of the posts rarely rose above the level of vitriolic name-calling. The posters probably know that by now I am immune to playground taunts of “scum” and “Nazi”, but the abuse, I suspect, is meant more as a warning to others who might criticise Israel. Keep quiet — or else.

This week marks a year since the end of hostilities now officially called the Second Lebanon war by Israelis. A month of fighting — mostly Israeli aerial bombardment of Lebanon, and rocket attacks from the Shia militia Hizbullah on northern Israel in response — ended with more than 1,000 Lebanese civilians and a small but unknown number of Hizbullah fighters dead, as well as 119 Israeli soldiers and 43 civilians. But many significant developments since the war have gone unnoticed, including several that seriously put in question Israel’s account of what happened last summer.

Iran is the new Nazi Germany and its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the new Hitler. Or so Israeli officials have been declaring for months as they and their American allies try to persuade the doubters in Washington that an attack on Tehran is essential. And if the latest media reports are to be trusted, it looks like they may again be winning the battle for hearts and minds: Vice-President Dick Cheney is said to be diverting the White House back on track to launch a military strike.

Anthology of bigotry

26 July 2007

Israel’s parliament last week approved by an overwhelming majority the first reading of a bill to ensure that much of the country’s inhabited land remains accessible to Jewish citizens only — a move described by one leading local newspaper as turning Israel into a “racist Jewish state”. The private member’s bill, called the Jewish National Fund Law, has received cross-party support.

The boycott by Israel and the international community of the Palestinian Authority finally blew up in their faces with Hamas’ recent bloody takeover of Gaza. Or so argues Gideon Levy, one of the saner voices still to be found in Israel. But has Levy got it wrong? The faces of Israeli and American politicians, including Ehud Olmert and George Bush, appear soot-free. On the contrary. Over the past fortnight they have been looking and sounding even more smug than usual.

With the 3.7 million Palestinians in the occupied territories caged inside their ghettos, unable to protest their treatment behind fences and walls, the turn has come of Israel’s Palestinian citizens. The crushing of these more than one million unwanted citizens currently inside the walls of the fortress – the Achilles’ heel of the Jewish state – is likely to be just as ruthless as that of the Palestinians under occupation.

Engaging disengagement

30 March 2007

In late 2002 Tanya Reinhart published her book Israel/Palestine: How to End the War of 1948, a debunking of the myths that quickly took root about Israel’s “generous offer” to the Palestinians at Camp David in July 2000 and an examination of the initial phases of Israel’s military onslaught against the Palestinian uprising, the al-Aqsa intifada. Four years later, Reinhart completes the saga by exploring how Israel’s response unfolded, culminating in the disengagement from Gaza in August 2005.

Israel’s supposedly “defensive” assault on Hizbullah last summer, in which more than 1,000 Lebanese civilians were killed in a massive aerial bombardment that ended with Israel littering the country’s south with cluster bombs, was cast in a definitively different light last week by Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert. His leaked testimony to the Winograd Committee suggests that he had been preparing for such a war at least four months before the official casus belli.

The scene: a military checkpoint deep in Palestinian territory in the West Bank. A tall, thin elderly man, walking stick in hand, makes a detour past the line of Palestinians, many of them young men, waiting obediently behind concrete barriers for permission from an Israeli soldier to leave one Palestinian area, the city of Nablus, to enter another Palestinian area, the neighbouring village of Huwara. The long queue is moving slowly, the soldier taking his time to check each person’s papers. The old man heads off purposefully down a parallel but empty lane reserved for vehicle inspections. A young soldier controlling the human traffic spots him and orders him back in line.

We, the Jewish state

18 January 2007

The state of Israel seems poised to impose its Zionist character using the force of the law. With this legislating of loyalty, it reveals its racism, writes Jonathan Cook in Nazareth When I published my book Blood and Religion last year, I sought not only to explain what lay behind Israeli policies since the failed Camp David negotiations nearly seven years ago, including the disengagement from Gaza and the building of a wall across the West Bank, but I also offered a few suggestions about where Israel might head next.

A new report alleges that Israeli security officials are being given a free hand by airports around the world to use racial profiling against Arab passengers, in violation of international law and the host countries’ domestic legislation. Israeli media have for several years reported on suspicions that non-Jews, including Israel’s more than one million Arab citizens, are being routinely subjected to lengthy interrogations, bag checks and invasive body searches at Israeli airports and land crossings. The report, Suspected Citizens, collects for the first time personal testimony from Arab citizens to support claims of discriminatory and humiliating treatment by Israeli staff at Israeli airports.

There is an absurd scene in Palestinian writer Suad Amiry’s recent book “Sharon and My Mother-in-Law” that is revealing about Israeli Jews’ attitude to the two other monotheistic religions. In 1992, long before Israel turned Amiry’s home city of Ramallah into a permanent ghetto behind checkpoints and walls, it was still possible for West Bank Palestinians to drive to Jerusalem and even into Israel — at least if they had the right permit. On one occasion Amiry ventures out in her car to East Jerusalem, the half of the city that was Palestinian before the 1967 war and has since been engulfed by relentless illegal and state-organised Jewish settlement.