The Smoke and Mirrors of Gaza

The Symmetry between Iraq and Palestine

“Am I emotional? Yes, my first born was murdered. Am I angry? Yes, he was killed for lies and for a neocon agenda to benefit Israel. My son joined the Army to protect America, not Israel. Am I stupid? No, I know full-well that my son, my family, this nation, and this world were betrayed by George [W.] Bush who was influenced by the neocon PNAC agenda after 9/11.” – Cindy Sheehan

Ms. Sheehan’s 24-year-old son, Army Spc. Casey Sheehan of Vacaville, California, died in Baghdad’s Sadr City on April 4, 2005. Since his death, Ms. Sheehan has become the FACE and VOICE of the opposition in America’s Iraq War debate – much to the chagrin of the Bush Administration and its (primarily) blindly following support base. (There are more than a few well informed opportunists in the mix as well.)

While Ms. Sheehan’s thoughtful and courageous remarks will no doubt generate some degree of controversy in the coming days – that is, if mainstream media decides to widely report on what she said (re: the symmetry between Iraq and Palestine) – her comments are not without precedent. On the back cover of our book titled, ‘The Message of Rachel Corrie,’ * we feature an excerpt from the historic Farewell Address of the first president, and “Founding Father,” of the United States of America, General George Washington. The quote reads as follows:

“A passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils, because it leads to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others; which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concession, both by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill will, and a disposition to retaliate in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. It gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation) the facility to betray or sacrifice the interest of their own country without odium, sometimes even with popularity. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected an odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people to surrender their interests.”

It is clear, from the statements and commentaries coming from voices on the other side, that in the minds of some, Cindy Sheehan has become “suspected and odious.” For others (this writer included), this conscientize mother has conducted herself on this particular issue, in the words of Gen. Washington, as a “real patriot.”

What follows is a recent commentary of ours, published in “Muslims Weekly” newspaper of New York (The 8/26/05 edition).

Special note: Rachel Corrie is the 23 year old American peace advocate who was brutally murdered in broad daylight – and in the presence of screaming witnesses – in March 2003, by an Israeli soldier operating an American (Caterpillar) made bulldozer. Her crime? Trying to prevent the destruction of a Palestinian’s home in Rafah.

The Justice Files: The Smoke and Mirrors of Gaza

On Monday, August 22, I had the opportunity to share a press conference sponsored by Neturei Karta International, Jews United Against Zionism – a religious community/organization for whom I have much respect. The press conference, which was held across from the United Nations (in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza), was pretty well attended by the media, and came off well.

In announcing the press conference, Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss stated the following:

“With the transformation of Gaza, back to the Palestinian populace, a process of rectification, if painful to some, has begun. Two horrific evils have been perpetrated with the confiscation of the Holy Land from the Palestinian people. Firstly, this is a rebellion against G-d who has expressly forbidden us, the Jewish people, from ending the G-dly decreed exile, by creating our own State. This is regardless if the selected country to form this state in, is populated or desolate, and regardless, if it is the will of the indigenous population to help the Jews form their State, or if the State is being forced upon them.

“Secondly, this rebellion against G-d has been compounded immeasurably by the fact that in order to create this state, a land has been taken, clearly against the will of the indigenous population, the Palestinian people. Their homes and properties have been confiscated and untold thousands have been expelled etc. their suffering continues unabated until the present day.

“Therefore, although the return of Gaza has been very painful for those who have unfortunately fallen prey to Zionism and have built their lives in Gaza, still in all, we give thanks to G-d for righting a wrong. We pray, that this token beginning, should usher in the day, when we should realize the transformation of the rule over the entire Holy Land, back to its rightful rulers, – the Palestinian People. We stress, not just Gaza and the West Bank, but the entire Holy Land.”

“A process of rectification,” may be an overly optimistic description. Had the Israeli government issued a formal apology for violating the human rights of the Palestinian people (along with well established international law), by building the settlements in the first place; and further, as an act of sincere contrition and good will, announced that the illegal settlements would not be torn down, but instead given to the Palestinian people as a form of reparations, I would share the optimism.

Unfortunately, both statements and actions taken by the Israeli government – before, during, and after Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza – clearly suggest that the withdrawal had nothing to do with altruism, or a change of heart; it was pure pragmatism to the core. In the words of pro-Israel syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, “Gaza was simply a bridge too far; settlements too far flung and small to justify the huge psychological and material cost of defending them.”

On August 4 – two weeks before Israel began its pull out of all 21 settlements from the Gaza Strip, and the four isolated enclaves on the West Bank – the government announced plans to expand a settlement of about 20,000 people, known as Beitar Illit, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Israel has also reportedly revived a plan to build 3,650 new units in Maale Adumim, Israel’s largest settlement, just outside Jerusalem. All of this is part of Israel’s plan to consolidate control over parts of the West Bank.

The plan to build new housing units has angered Palestinians, who claim the West Bank as part of a future state. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says his plan will help Israel consolidate control over large settlement blocs where the vast majority of the 240,000 Jewish settlers live. U.S. President George W. Bush has reportedly acknowledged that Israel will likely hold on to the major blocs under a final “peace agreement.”

While the media has been overly sympathetic to the “emotional toll” withdrawal policy has had on an estimated 9,000 “displaced” Jewish settlers in Gaza, little is said about the unlawful expansion of settlements in other areas; and even less is said about the catastrophic toll 38 years of brutal occupation have had on the Palestinian people – especially on the developing psyche of Palestinian children.

This writer has yet to see any in-depth reports on the numerous violations of well established “international law,” resulting from the establishment of these Apartheid South African style Bantustans! Laws such as:

The Geneva Convention of 1949, Article 49 (paragraph 6) which states: “The occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territories it occupies.”

Article 27 of the Geneva Accords: “Persons under control of an occupying power shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected, especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof.”

Article 53 of the Geneva Accords: “Any destruction by the occupying power of the real or personal property is prohibited.”

Palestinian Cabinet Secretary Samir Hulileh said the [future] construction does not bode well for hopes the Gaza pullout would jump-start peace negotiations. ”The decision affirms that Sharon’s step in withdrawing from Gaza doesn’t mean coming back to the negotiating table and implementing the ‘road map,”’ Huleileh said. ”On the contrary, his strategy is to consolidate settlement construction.” He called for further American pressure on Israel to reverse its decision.

My advice to the Palestinian people and their leadership: Don’t hold your breath!