Saturday, December 22, 2012

Obama is right to tighten gun laws in the US - but wrong to send more weapons to Syria :US stepping up arming of Syrian rebels will only intensify civil war and chaos that lets terrorists like Al Qa'ida and Sunni extremists like Al Nusrah get more recruits and operate more freely ; and makes an Islamic state or a second civil war more likely than democracy

There can’t be anyone who doesn’t feel for the parents who lost their children in the senseless events in America; and President Obama is right to propose tightening gun ownership laws. He could save many Syrian children and adults from equally avoidable deaths if his administration stopped doing the opposite in Syria. The Obama administration has been “co-ordinating” the supply of arms to rebel groups in Syria and is also covertly supplying them with arms bought in Libya since Gadaffi’s overthrow. US and British Special forces are also active in Syria and more military “advisers” are to be sent – with advisers having been a euphemism for combatants since Vietnam at the latest. (1) – (2).

NATO governments claim this helps Syrian rebels protect civilians from Assad’s forces, but in reality some on both sides are targeting civilians – and the more intense the civil war gets the more easily terrorist groups including Al Qa’ida can operate in Syria, so arming the rebels gets civilians killed just as much as Russia arming Assad’s forces does.

Human Rights Watch have reported some armed opponents of Assad are targeting and killing civilians including employees of Syrian state television (3) – (4). Channel 4 News reporter Alex Thomson recently reported multiple consistent accounts from survivors and witnesses of Sunni Jihadists, opposed to Assad, massacring Alawite civilians in the town of Aqrab (5).

Many Syrian Christian refugees have also fled attacks by Sunni Jihadists allied to the rebels (6)

Terrorist car bombings are also common, each killing between several and dozens of civilians as collateral damage by targeting government buildings and even the family homes of member of the military or Assad supporters (7) – (9). Two such rebel attacks, one with a mortar and the other with a car bomb, each killed several schoolchildren in the last month (10) – (13).

The government, with it’s artillery, tanks and jets, kills more civilians, again many deliberately and many others by not worrying about “collateral damage” deaths when using bombings by air forces, artillery and tanks, due to it’s greater firepower and equal brutality, but though thousands of civilians have been killed by government forces, the opposition figures on this are exaggerated, with fighters killed in combat reported as civilians by many opposition groups (14) – (16).

While some FSA fighters have tortured and killed captured government soldiers and militia-men, most of the car bombing atrocities and the massacres of civilians committed by anti-Assad forces are not committed by the Free Syrian Army but more extreme groups like the Syrian Al Nusrah and international Jihadists including Al Qa’ida, many Iraqis recruited after Al Qa’ida took advantage of the chaos created in Iraq (17) – (19).

The Obama administration claims it’s “co-ordination” is to ensure that only moderates get weapons, funding and arms (20). If that’s true, it’s failing. The FSA say the Jihadist groups are the ones getting the most arms and money (21).

It’s possible this is because the Saudis and Qatari dictators favour Islamists over a democracy that might embarrass them (as some Syrian exile opposition leaders suggest), but equally possible that the US government actually favours arming Sunni extremists as they will be the most uncompromising against Assad (an Alawite) and his Iranian Shia allies – the same reason they “co-ordinated” with the Saudis and Pakistanis to arm, fund and train the Mujahedin in the 80s and the Taliban in the early 90s. Al Qa’ida and Al Nusrah, like the Taliban, consider Alawites and Shia to be “false Muslims” (22) – (24).

The peaceful part of the Syrian opposition to Assad oppose foreign interference and violence which is causing civil war and sectarianism. For instance exiled Syrian opposition leader Haytham Manna of the National Co-ordination Body for Democratic Change Abroad issued Three No’s – to violence, to sectarianism and to foreign intervention (25).

According to Haytham the US backed political leadership of the FSA, the Syrian National Council, also refuse to denounce Al Nusrah and continue to work along with them in the civil war (26).

As in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Afghanistan, the chaos created by foreign powers each arming their own proxies is providing an environment that terrorist and sectarian groups can thrive in. The phony threat that Assad might use WMD is also brought up. In fact as the BBC’s Defence correspondent reported, the evidence suggests Assad’s government is trying to secure WMD so there’s no risk of it being captured by terrorist groups like Al Qa’ida, as it’s done before in the past (27) – (28).

We’re given the impression that Assad has refused to make any significant democratic reforms. Despite the atrocities committed by his forces as much as the Jihadists, this is not true.

Assad changed the constitution last year to end the one party state in Syria, legalising opposition parties and held multi-party elections in which over 51% of Syrians voted (29).

That is a much more major reform – and supported by more of the population – than the fig leaves for reform, like powerless elected local councillors in Saudi, and powerless parliaments in Bahrain, Yemen and Kuwait, which the US and British governments welcome (30) – (33).

The Free Syrian Army rebels say they will get rid of the Jihadists once they’ve overthrown Assad, but if the Jihadists are the best armed and funded and trained rebel groups, how would they manage to? NATO governments will argue this is why they need to arm the FSA better – but the FSA is torturing and killing POWs – and the more the civil war intensifies the stronger the sectarian militias and Jihadist terrorist groups on both sides get.

Negotiation and opposing Assad’s regime through elections, rather than calling for it’s overthrow by force, would be a much more effective way to get real democracy in Syria, in the long run, than intensifying a civil war in which more people die each day and in which the only real winners are Al Qa’ida and their allies.


(1) = Washington Post 06 May 2012 ‘Syrian rebels get influx of arms with gulf neighbors’ money, U.S. coordination’,

(2) = Sunday Times 09 Dec 2012 ‘Covert US plan to arm rebels’, ; 1st to 3rd , 5th and 9th paragraphs ‘THE United States is launching a covert operation to send weapons to Syrian rebels for the first time as it ramps up military efforts to oust President Bashar al-Assad. Mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank missiles will be sent through friendly Middle Eastern countries already supplying the rebels, according to well-placed diplomatic sources. The Americans have bought some of the weapons from the stockpiles of Muammar Gadaffi, the Libyan dictator killed last year. They include SA-7 missiles, which can be used to shoot down aircraft…President Barack Obama authorised clandestine CIA support earlier this year and both the US and Britain have had special forces and intelligence officers on the ground for some time…The US will send in more advisers to help with tactics and manage weapons supplies. British advisers are also expected to be sent. America and Britain are already training Jordanian and Turkish advisers to support the rebels.’

(3) = Human Rights Watch 20 Mar 2012 'Syria: Armed Opposition Groups Committing Abuses', opposition elements have carried out serious human rights abuses, Human Rights Watch said today in a public letter to the Syrian National Council (SNC) and other leading Syrian opposition groups. Abuses include kidnapping, detention, and torture of security force members, government supporters, and people identified as members of pro-government militias, called shabeeha." as well as "executions by armed opposition groups of security force members and civilians."’

(4) = BBC News 27 Jun 2012 ‘Gunmen 'kill seven' at Syrian pro-Assad Ikhbariya TV’,

(5) = Channel 4 News 14 Dec 2012 ‘Was there a massacre in the Syrian town of Aqaba’,

(6) = Independent 02 Nov 2012 ‘The plight of Syria's Christians: 'We left Homs because they were trying to kill us'’,

(7) = Reuters 23 Dec 2011 'Analysis: Syria bombings signal deadlier phase of revolt', , 'Beirut-based commentator Rami Khouri said he doubted the government would have hit its own security targets, suggesting that the bombings could have been the work of armed rebels, who he said include hardline Salafi Islamists in their ranks....Hilal Khashan, political science professor at the American University of Beirut, also said he did not believe that the Syrian government was behind the bombings.'

(8) = New York Times 10 May 2012 'Dozens Killed in Large Explosions in Syrian Capital', ; 'Twin suicide car bombs that targeted a notorious military intelligence compound shook the Syrian capital, Damascus, on Thursday, killing and wounding hundreds of people ...It was the largest such terrorist attack since the uprising began 14 months ago, with the Health Ministry putting the toll at 55 dead and nearly 400 wounded — civilians and soldiers. '

(9) = Guardian 26 Oct 2012 ‘Syrian car bomb breaks Eid al-Adha ceasefire’,

(10) = A.P 04 Dec 2012 ‘Syria says 30 killed in mortar attack on school’,

(11) = AP 13 Dec 2012 ‘Syria State Media: Blast near Damascus Kills 16’,

(12) = Al Jazeera 13 Dec 2012 ‘Dozens killed in Syria bomb attacks’,

(13) = BBC News 13 Dec 2012 ‘Syria crisis: Bombs 'kill 24' in Damascus suburbs’,

(14) = Amnesty International Annual Report 2012 ,

(15) = BBC News 14 Oct 2012 ‘Human Rights Watch says Syria using cluster bombs’,

(16) Al Jazeera 13 Feb 2012 ‘Q&A: Nir Rosen on Syria's armed opposition’, (13th Question and answer ‘AJ: Who is being killed? NR: Every day the opposition gives a death toll, usually without any explanation of the cause of the deaths. Many of those reported killed are in fact dead opposition fighters, but the cause of their death is hidden and they are described in reports as innocent civilians killed by security forces, as if they were all merely protesting or sitting in their homes. Of course, those deaths still happen regularly as well.

(17) = HRW 17 Sep 2012 ‘Syria: End Opposition Use of Torture, Executions’,

(18) = Guardian 30 Jul 2012 ‘Al-Qaida turns tide for rebels in battle for eastern Syria’,

(19) = BBC News 02 Aug 2012 ‘Syria conflict: Jihadists' role growing’,

(20) = Washington Post 16 May 2012 ‘Syrian rebels get influx of arms with gulf neighbors’ money, U.S. coordination’,

(21) = Observer 03 Nov 2012 ‘Execution of Assad troops widens split among rebel fighter factions in Syria’, ; paragraphs 5 to 8 , 15 to 16 and final paragraph ; ‘Syrian Islamist groups…are not able to match the better-armed and funded global jihadist units, who are increasingly taking centre stage in the war for the north of the country…"This will soon mean that Jabhat al-Nusraf (an al-Qaida-aligned group) will be the only group capable of mounting the lethal operations on bases and security headquarters," said a leader of Liwat al-Tawheed, which has been a key player in the fighting in Aleppo. "It already means that we can't win without them."…Islamist groups in Aleppo say that they aim to do no more than oust the Assad regime. Most of their clerics and leaders reject the ideology of the jihadists, who openly view the battle in Syria as a vital phase of a global sectarian war….Another Liwat al-Tawheed commander said…"Compare what we have to what al-Nusraf are getting. They are not getting weapons from outside, but they are buying them in Syria with large amounts of cash. They are very well supplied and they are not saying where they are getting the money from."

(22) = Guardian 18 Dec 2012 ‘Syria: after Assad falls, what then?’,

(23) = Steve Coll (2004) , 'Ghost Wars : The secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden' , Penguin , London , Chapters 16 to 18

(24) = Ahmed Rashid (2000) 'Taliban', Pan MacMillan, London, 2011, Chapters 10 to 12

(25) = Guardian 22 Jun 2012 ‘Syria's opposition has been led astray by violence’,

(26) = Guardian 18 Dec 2012 ‘Syria: after Assad falls, what then?’,

(27) = Media Lens 12 Dec 2012 ‘Won't Get Fooled Again? Hyping Syria's WMD 'Threat'’,

(28) = BBC News 05 Dec 2012 ‘Fears grow for fate of Syria's chemical weapons’,

(29) = BBC News 16 May 2012 ‘Syria election results show support for reforms, says Assad’,  3rd paragraph ‘The election commission said on Tuesday that turnout was 51% for the polls, which the opposition said were a farce.’ 18th paragraph…The polls were the first held under a new constitution adopted in February, which dropped an article giving the Baath Party unique status as the "leader of the state and society" in Syria. It also allowed new parties to be formed, albeit those not based on religious, tribal, regional, denominational or professional affiliation, nor those based abroad.

(30) = City Mayors Feb 2005 ‘First local election underway in Saudi Arabia but women voters will have to wait until 2009’,

(31) = Gulf News (UAE) 31 Mar 2008 ‘Frustrated council members prepared to quit’,

(32) = BBC News 23 Nov 2012 ‘Bahrain reconciliation distant amid slow reform pace’,

(33) = See the blog post on this link and sources 25 to 30 at the bottom of it on the lack of democracy and powerlessness of parliament in Kuwait

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Supreme Court Judges in Egypt have little legitimacy as appointees of Mubarak dictatorship, but Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, though elected, need to compromise further on drafting a new constitution - while the opposition need to remember Morsy and the Brotherhood are elected and that another long period of instability could lead to a military coup or push the Brotherhood into the arms of the military

While there are some serious problems with the draft Egyptian constitution, much of the criticism of President Mohammed Morsy by the Egyptian opposition and much of the media has badly misrepresented the facts. Morsy, Egypt’s first democratically elected President since Independence in 1953, over-ruled judges most of whom are appointees of the former dictator Mubarak or of the military (1).

These judges have not only found almost everyone charged with killing, injuring or ordering the killing of unarmed protesters under Mubarak not guilty, they have also attempted to dissolve the elected Egyptian parliament and were considering dissolving a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution which includes representatives of trade unions, Coptic Christians, Al Azhar (an Islamic theological university, but one critical of the Muslim Brotherhood) – and this was after the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court judges had dissolved the previous Constituent Assembly, with the new Assembly being much more representative as a result (2) – (5).

Morsi’s decree merely allowed him to over-rule the dictatorship era judges until a new constitution was in place. This was to be for eight months as the constituent assembly finished drafting the new constitution (6).

(Some members of the opposition say he should have maintained the 1971 Constitution, but the 1971 constitution gives the President the power to to appoint or sack the Prime Minister and the entire cabinet (Article 141) and to choose when to dissolve the upper and lower houses of parliament to call new elections for them (e.g Article 204) (7). The new draft constitution says the President has to get parliament’s approval for his choice of Prime Minister and to go to war. So the draft constitution puts more limits on the President’s power than the existing 1971 one does.(8)- (10))

When the opposition claimed that Morsy was taking too many powers to himself and accused him of making himself a dictator he brought the referendum on the new constitution forward to 15th December so he would have the powers for less than a month (11). Since then the opposition first said they wanted the referendum on the new constitution delayed until a wider range of people got input into the new draft constitution, before saying they want it cancelled entirely (12).

The draft constitution written by the Constituent Assembly, while it includes some very questionable Islamic fundamentalist aspects (e.g the only religions permitted are Muslim, Christian and Jewish ; and religious education is to be a core subject in primary and secondary schools) is in many ways much more progressive than the 1971 constitution – for instance including equality for women (marred by a qualification that this be where it would not conflict with Islam) and the right of all employees to have a share of profits of any firm or co-operative they work for, as well as for some employees to sit on the board of directors of any firm , plus a guarantee of the right to adequate housing, transportation, food and clothing, provided by the state where necessary (13).

The lack of protections in the Constitution seems to be far more serious for Shia Muslims and Baha’i (both considered “false” Muslims by Sunnis, the Muslim majority in Egypt) than Coptic Christians or women. As with Burmese Rohingya Muslims in Burma being labelled “not Burmese” by the Buddhist majority, the Sunni majority in Egypt say Egyptian Shia should “go back to their own country” (14).

Some of the claims that the draft constitution makes no reference to womens’ rights are wrong if you read it though (15) – (16).

Gang rapes of women in Egypt are still common, as they were under Mubarak, but whether these attacks are organised or permitted by the new government is not certain (17).

While the draft constitution makes many references to Islam and Sharia Law it says Al Azhar – Cairo’s main Islamic university – will decide on what does and does not conform to Islam or Sharia. Al Azhar’s current head was appointed by Mubarak, is fiercely critical of the Musim Brotherhood and is widely considered much more moderate than his predecessor, so any Egyptian version of Islamic law is likely to be much more moderate than that of the Taliban (18). This could change though, if a more extreme leadership takes over Al Azhar – and this is one of the major problems with the draft constitution. However if a majority of Egyptians vote for it, it will be hard to call this undemocratic.

The 1971 Constitution also says Sharia was to be the main source of legislation and it’s section on women’s rights is almost identical to the draft constitution’s. The only areas in which the draft constitution seems to be less progressive are in switching from freedom of religion to only allowing Islam, Judaism or Christianity; and in banning the NDP party which was Mubarak’s party and which had banned the Muslim Brotherhood (19).

Of course a progressive constitution does not guarantee progressive policies – and much of the opposition accuse the Brotherhood of continuing Mubarak’s neo-liberal policies on the orders of the IMF (20).

The opposition say Morsi has had his own people killed, just like Mubarak. Yet it seems so far that both sides’ supporters are killing one another (21). It’s possible Morsi is using Brotherhood thugs the way Mubarak used hired thugs to attack his opponents and claim no involvement, but it’s equally possible that both sides’ supporters are simply getting out of control.

Some revolutionaries seem to believe that any government which does not give them exactly what they or their party wants is illegitimate. The reality is that no government can ever give everyone exactly what they want, because there are too many different people and groups who want conflicting things. Morsi’s government is far from perfect, but it is at least democratically elected, so has some legitimacy whether the opposition, I or anyone else, likes or dislikes it’s policies and views.

While some opposition leaders, like Ayman Nour, have agreed to talks with Morsi, others like El Baradei, who refuse, may simply need to accept that they are in a minority and they will have to compromise to get even a little of what they want (22).

Of course being elected is not a blank cheque to do whatever you like without giving the people who elected you a say on it, but Morsi is providing the people with a say through a referendum.

Ideally a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution should be elected directly, rather than indirectly by the elected parliament, as with the current Egyptian one. The opposition seem to have decided that they will not accept anything except new elections months after the recent ones, on the grounds that they didn’t like the results of the last one. That is not reasonable and it is not likely that the results of new elections would be different.

All that the opposition’s refusal to talk to the elected President is doing is strengthening the hand of the military and former members of Mubarak’s dictatorship. Likely results could be a military coup and another military regime or dictatorship, or, even more likely, pushing the Muslim Brotherhood into the arms of the military.

(There has already been a sign of the latter in Morsy’s decree giving the military the power to arrest and try civilians until the 15th December referendum. The draft constitution also makes a General elected by other military officers the Commander in Chief of the military – rather than the elected head of government being the CinC as in most democracies. There are also disturbing allegations that anti-Morsi protesters are being tortured by Muslim Brotherhood members before being handed over to police to be jailed (23) – (25)).

Neither outcome would be progress towards most of the revolutionaries’ aims. Much of the draft constitution would be. If they want it changed (and some of it badly needs changed) they should do what people have to do for a democracy to function – start discussing it with their opponents and negotiate a compromise that keeps the military and the former Mubarak regime cronies side-lined.

Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood also have to make compromises – starting with ending their refusal to delay the referendum on the new constitution until a draft more acceptable to the secular minority in Egypt and to religious minorities can be agreed on. This does not mean they have to accept the rulings of a constitutional court made up of appointees and sympathisers of the former dictator though (26).

The opposition have to remember that an indefinite delay in putting a new constitution into place could play into the hands of the military and former Mubarak regime members though, who could use the continuing instability as an excuse for a military coup that excludes any elected government.

Morsi has to remember that being in the majority in a democracy does not mean you can ignore the wishes of the minority entirely – and that around half the people who elected him were voting against Shafik and the Mubarak regime remnants rather than for him or the Brotherhood.

It’s possible that Morsi could yet turn out to be a would-be dictator and the Brotherhood could yet try to enforce fundamentalist Islam on all Egyptians, but a division between the secular and religious opposition to the former dictatorship and military rule could turn this into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Dialogue with them would be much better than making the Brotherhood likely to ally with the military, as has happened with Islamic fundamentalist parties and the military in Pakistan.

And if the opposition believe they can overthrow an elected President and an elected parliament as easily as they overthrew Mubarak, they are likely to be kidding themselves. In a democracy sometimes you have to accept election results that you don’t like.


(1) = CNN 23 Nov 2012 ‘Egypt's Morsy says courts can't overturn him’, ; 2nd and 3rd paragraphs ‘Morsy also ordered retrials and reinvestigations in the deaths of protesters during last year's uprising against strongman Hosni Mubarak. That could lead to the reprosecution of Mubarak, currently serving a life prison term, and several acquitted officials who served under him…The order for retrials could please some Egyptians who've expressed disappointment that security officers and others have escaped legal consequences over last year's protester crackdown by the Mubarak regime.’

(2) = BBC News 14 Jun 2012 ‘Egypt supreme court calls for parliament to be dissolved’,

(3) = BBC News 09 Jul 2012 ‘Egypt court challenges Mursi's reopening of parliament’,

(4) = New York Times 05 Dec 2012 ‘Egyptian Court Postpones Ruling on Constitutional Assembly’, ; 1st paragraph ‘Egypt’s constitutional court on Sunday put off its much-awaited ruling on the legitimacy of the Islamist-led legislative assembly that drafted a new charter last week, accusing a crowd of Islamists outside the courthouse of intimidating its judges’

(5) = New York Times 05 Dec 2012 ‘Egyptian Court Postpones Ruling on Constitutional Assembly’, ; 6th paragraph ‘Egyptian courts had previously dissolved both the elected Parliament and an earlier Constitutional Assembly, and the breakup of the current one would have completely undone the transition. President Mohamed Morsi cited the pending ruling on Nov. 22 when he put his own edicts above judicial review until ratification of the constitution, saying that he intended to protect the assembly until it finished its work.’

(6) = Egypt Independent 22 Nov 2012 ‘Morsy issues new constitutional declaration’,

(7) = Guardian 10 Dec 2012 ‘Egypt's hopes betrayed by Morsi’, ; 9th paragraph ‘A leader who wanted to unite the country would use our 1971 constitution until we got through this difficult time. But once again we have a presidency that would see Egyptians murdering Egyptians on the streets before it puts aside party politics and tries to lead honestly in the interests of the people.

(8) = Egypt State Information Service ‘Constitution of the Arab Republic of Egypt 1971’,

(9) = Reuters 30 Nov 2012 ‘Factbox: Egypt's draft constitution’, ; ‘POWERS - The constitution limits the president to two four-year terms. The president must secure parliament's approval for his choice of prime minister. The head of state can declare war with parliament's approval, but must consult a newly defined national defense council, in which generals outnumber civilians.’

(10) = Egypt 12 Feb 2012 ‘Egypt's draft constitution translated’,

(11) = BBC News 10 Dec 2012 ‘Egypt: Who holds the power?’,

(12) = Channel 4 News 09 Dec 2012 ‘Cairo protests: opposition demands referendum cancellation’,

(13) = Egypt State Information Service ‘Constitution of the Arab Republic of Egypt 1971’,

(14) = New Statesman 03 Jul 2012 ‘The plight of Egypt’s forgotten Shia minority’,

(15) = Amnesty International 30 Nov 2012 ‘Egypt’s new constitution limits fundamental freedoms and ignores the rights of women’,

(16) = See (8) above

(17) = Unreported World, Channel 4 (UK), Series 2012, ‘ Episode 14 - Egypt: Sex, Mobs and Revolution’,

(18) = Al Jazeera 28 May 2010 ‘Egypt appoints senior Sunni figure’,

(19) = BBC News 30 Nov 2012 ‘Comparison of Egypt's suspended and draft constitutions’,

(20) = Guardian 10 Dec 2012 ‘Egypt's hopes betrayed by Morsi’, ; by Ahdaf Soueif;  4th paragraph ‘Concerning the economy it's become clear that the Brotherhood's programme is basically Mubarak's: Morsi visited China accompanied by some of the biggest business allies of Mubarak; the banking communities talk of deals already being made by high-ranking officials and their relatives, and borrowing from the IMF and the World Bank is suddenly not sinful. Meanwhile, the president is able to issue the wildest constitutional declarations but is unable to make the smallest step towards establishing minimum and maximum wages.

(21) = Independent 06 Dec 2012 ‘Egyptian military halts Cairo clashes after seven are killed’, 6th and 15th paragraphs ‘Officials said seven people had been killed and 350 wounded in the violence, for which each side blamed the other. Six of the dead were Morsi supporters, the Muslim Brotherhood said… Rival factions used rocks, petrol bombs and guns in the clashes around the presidential palace.

(22) = AP / Time World 10 Dec 2012 ‘Gunmen Attack Egyptian Opposition Protesters’, ; 9th to 10th paragraphs ‘Cracks in the opposition’s unity first appeared last weekend when one of its leading figures, veteran opposition politician Ayman Nour, accepted an invitation by Morsi to attend a “national dialogue” meeting. On Monday, another key opposition figure, El-Sayed Badawi of the Wafd party, met Morsi at the presidential palace. The opposition has said it would not talk to Morsi until he shelves the draft constitution and postpones the referendum.

(23) = Human Rights Watch 10 Dec 2012 ‘Egypt: Morsy Law Invites Military Trials of Civilians’,

(24) = See (8) above

(25) = Al-Masry Al-Youhm 06 Dec 2012 ‘Al-Masry Al-Youm Reports On Brotherhood Torture Chambers’,

(26) = Voice of America 08 Dec 2012 ‘Egyptian Islamist Parties Reject Referendum Delay’,

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Israeli Palestinian negotiations will continue to fail without the involvement of the whole UN ; Israeli Olso Peace Accord negotiator says Israel still failing to implement agreements 20 years later; Israeli forces target civilians as much as any Palestinian terrorist group - and kill more due to their greater power, so can't say they shouldn't have to negotiate with terrorists when they are war criminals themselves ; Israel can't demand recognition before negotiations, especially while it refuses to give a Palestinian state the right to exist which it demands from Palestinians ; Israel's only legitimate right to exist is based on the 1947 UN resolution which specified both a Jewish state (Israel) and an Arab one (Palestine) each in half of the former Mandate

Going to the UN is the only way Palestinians can get a fair hearing. Despite what Obama and Clinton claim, bilateral negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders have failed because Israel is so much militarily stronger it prefers taking land by force than giving it up in negotiations unless the whole world gets involved.

Even one of the main Israeli negotiators of the Oslo Peace Accords, Yossi Beilin, says Israeli governments have failed to implement the full agreement for 20 years and Palestinians should now disown the agreements.

Israeli governments and militaries target civilians just as much as Palestinian terrorist groups do – and kill 10 to 100 times as many due to their greater military strength, so they have no excuse not to negotiate with terrorists – and should be charged with war crimes by the ICC, as Palestinian non-member observer status would allow.

Israeli governments’ full recognition of Israel’s right to exist pre-condition on negotiations is ridiculous, as former heads of Mossad, Shin Bet and Israeli Professors point out. Mutual recognition comes at the end of negotiations. Israeli governments are demanding a recognition of their right to exist that they deny to Palestinians, who they refuse their own state.

Israel’s only right to legitimacy and existence is the same UN resolution that provided for both a Jewish and an Arab state in the former British Mandate of Palestine. So it’s right to exist does not exist unless it allows a Palestinian state to exist too in half that territory.

Today, 29th November 2012, the UN General Assembly is voting on whether to accept elected Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ application to upgrade the Palestinian Authority’s position with the UN from Observer to Non-member Observer (a kind of associate member status equal to the Vatican’s) (1).

This application process requires only the General Assembly vote, which is likely to be a majority in favour and can’t be vetoed. Unlike an application for full membership of the UN it does not need to be approved by the majority of the Security Council and cannot be vetoed by Permanent Members of the Council (2).

Abbas’ application last year to make Palestine a full member of the UN was blocked by the US government last time by Obama first threatening to veto it in the UN Security Council and then having it referred to committees where it was quietly blocked (3) – (5).

However Abbas says he will still apply for full membership status in the future (6). Every time Obama blocks a Palestinian UN membership application his June 2009 Cairo speech, including the admirable statement that “Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's”, looks more and more like empty words he doesn’t mean (7).

Non-member status would allow the Palestinian Authority to sign up to the International Criminal Court, allowing that court to investigate war crimes committed by Israeli forces in Gaza and bring charges against them if the General Assembly also voted in favour of this. Even the threat of that could give President Abbas a card in negotiations with Israel, offering not to bring charges in return for some genuine concessions from Israel. It could also help deter Israeli forces and governments from targeting Palestinian civilians in future (8).

This, along with it being likely to move the focus moving back to Israel’s accelerating land grab at gunpoint in the West Bank, is why the Israeli government threatened to cut off all Israeli-Palestinian border custom taxes from the Palestinian Authority (it’s only source of income except foreign aid) and overthrow Abbas if he goes ahead with his UN application ; as well as , hilariously, a threat of possible  “acceleration of building programmes in West Bank settlements” – as if that wasn’t happening already (9). The more recent Gaza war may have been partly a threat to Abbas in the West Bank that he and his supporters could be next.

President Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton deserve thanks for at least warning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Lieberman not to carry out this threat resulting in the threat being withdrawn (10) – (11). This is not much though. It is nothing close to the Palestinian state Obama says he supports.

Obama has continued US aid to Israel without a penny of cuts despite the 2008/9 Israeli massacre of hundreds of civilians in Gaza, many deliberately targeted and killed and despite accelerating Israeli settlement of the West Bank (12).

It’s likely a Republican controlled congress (since 2010) would block any proposed cuts, but Obama didn’t even try when the Democrats controlled congress – and even if congress blocked it, the US President’s position has influence in Israel.

Whether the application is blocked again or not the international publicity will still give a Palestinian state greater legitimacy, raise it’s profile and increase pressure on Israel to make a peace agreement based around the full implementation of the Oslo agreements – i.e the 1967 borders plus negotiated land swaps (13).

Bilateral negotiations alone have failed due to the massive power imbalance in Israel’s favour; Oslo has failed; only bringing the UN and the whole world in will even up the balance and allow successful peace negotiations

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton claims that the UN route is the wrong way to try to get peace between Israelis and Palestinians, saying the route forward lies “through Jerusalem and Ramallah, not New York” – i.e bilateral negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders (14).

Bilateral negotiations have been going on since 1991 and have not solved the problem, because in bilateral negotiations Israel, as by far the stronger power militarily and in terms of it’s main allies, has no real incentive to make concessions. Instead it can avoid allowing any real Palestinian state, with any real sovereignty and keep on taking more and more of the West Bank’s water and farmland by force.

Some may point to the 1993 Oslo Peace Agreement. This certainly has potential but they have never been implemented. The main Israeli negotiator of the Oslo Accords, Yossi Beilin, recently wrote a letter to President Abbas advising him (using his nick-name ‘Abu Mazen) to dismantle the Palestinian Authority and withdraw from Oslo as it has become nothing but a “fig-leaf” for Netanyahu, with Israeli governments since Yitzakh Rabin’s assassination having continued a transitional stage of the Accords, which was meant to last only six years while the final deal on establishing a Palestinian state was negotiated (15).

Beilin says this was meant to include a Palestinian state’s borders on roughly the 1967 borders (plus negotiated land swaps each way), an agreement on which Palestinian refugees could return and to where, on which Israeli settlements would stay or be dismantled; and a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. Beilin says “One simply cannot continue with an interim arrangement for almost 20 years.” And that “the failure of the two-state solution risks a renewal of terrible violence”.

Under the transitional version of the Oslo Accords as implemented over the past 19 years 64% of the West Bank is under the control of the Israeli military – and the remainder, which is supposedly under the government of the Palestinian Authority, is land in which Israeli forces can enter at any time under the terms of the agreement, while Palestinian police and courts cannot touch Israeli settlers or soldiers no matter what they do in any part of the West Bank. Israeli governments have not even respected those terms though.

Current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was one of the politicians who denounced Rabin’s negotiation of the Oslo peace agreement as a betrayal. His supporters at his rallies also compared Rabin and his government to the Nazis for making it and held placards showing Rabin's face with a gunsight over it just before Rabin’s assassination by an Israeli right wing extremist.

(Under Netanyahu’s Likud government Israeli settlements keep expanding and more Palestinians are forced off their farms and out of their homes at gunpoint, just as under his predecessors Ehud Olmert of the Kadima party and Ariel Sharon of Likud and then Kadima. Netanyahu has gone further in building settlements which are East of Israel’s West Bank “barrier wall” and so illegal not just under international law (like all the settlements) but Israeli law too.)

Some Israelis point to Israeli government offers rejected by the Palestinian leadership in the ‘Taba’ negotiations in January 2001, but these were little different, involving, like the Transitional Oslo agreement, three islands of Palestinian territory (mostly cities) surrounded by Israeli  territory (including most water supplies and farmland) on the model of South African Apartheid era “homelands” for black people (16). According to then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s then adviser Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, Barak’s Taba offer was “bullshit… not aimed to reach an agreement” but to “convince Israeli Arabs to vote” for Barak in imminent elections (17).

Continuing to refuse the offers of negotiations on the basis of the pre-1967 war borders from Hamas in Gaza (the other half of the elected Palestinian government since they won the 2006 Legislative Assembly elections) and to keep up the conflict with them instead helps distract from the West Bank land grab.

Only bringing the weight of the entire international community into the issue through the UN General Assembly can counter the vast power imbalance between the Palestinians and the Israeli government and military and its super-power ally the US government.

(One Palestinian official said ‘Middle East Peace Envoy’ Tony Blair and EU representative Baroness Ashton seemed more concerned to get President Abbas to drop his application for upgraded UN membership than with getting a ceasefire or preventing a ground invasion of Gaza during the recent war (18).)

And just in case you think the opposition in Israel are less extreme on the Palestinians than Netanyahu and his Likud party and Lieberman and his, the Labor and Kadima parties were in government during the last Gaza war in 2008/9 and former Labor Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni condemned Netanyahu as a “weak leader” in May last year for not managing to block a vote in the UN Security Council on whether to allow Palestinian full UN membership(19).)

War criminals and terrorists – How Israeli forces also target civilians – and due to their stronger military kill ten to one hundred times as many Palestinian civilians as Palestinian armed groups’ terrorist attacks kill Israeli civilians

Israeli war crimes established by past investigations also need to be recognised as such and more recent ones investigated so the Israeli government is forced to end targeting of Palestinian civilians and to stop using it’s supposed moral superiority over Palestinians as “terrorists” who target civilians (Palestinian armed groups often do) as an excuse not to negotiate with the current Fatah – Hamas coalition government and other elected Palestinian governments.

Before the first Gaza War

Israeli forces have targeted civilians along with combatants in pretty much every war they’ve fought from 1948 on. In the 2006 Lebanon war investigations on the ground by Human Rights Watch found Israeli forces had targeted civilians and ambulances where no Hezbollah fighters were present. They found Hezbollah had not fired rockets from inside villages or towns Israeli air forces attacked. The Israeli air force dropped leaflets telling the entire population of Southern Lebanon to leave for Northern Lebanon, then the Israeli government declared anyone who hadn’t (or couldn’t) leave a terrorist and proceeded to target ambulances and civilians across the country.

On war crimes in Jenin and Nablus in 2002 see this post and sources in it, on other Israeli war crimes in the Gaza war and before see this one and this website page.

The December 2008 to January 2009 Gaza War

In the 2008/2009 Gaza war Israeli war crimes included targeting civilians and ambulances and medics (as reported by Amnesty International after 6 months of investigations) and by Oxfam ; and killing unarmed civilians waving white flags in areas where no fighting was taking place any more (as reported in at least seven cases which Human Rights Watch investigated) (20) – (22).

Amnesty found that while Palestinian groups rocket fire into Israel was a war crime, there was no evidence of Palestinian combatants hiding among civilians as the cause of Palestinian civilians being killed by Israeli forces (23). Israeli human rights group B’Tselem found Israeli forces did use Palestinian civilians as human shields though , forcing them to walk ahead of them at gunpoint, just as they did in Jenin in the West Bank in 2002 (24).

Other war crimes included repeatedly targeting many clearly marked UN and Red Cross aid vehicles and ambulances including trucks carrying aid, killing some of the drivers, targeting UN buildings, killing dozens of UN staff and civilians, including within the grounds of UN schools, flying UN flags, whose co-ordinates the Israeli military had been given, where civilians had been evacuated, killing 40 in artillery strikes on one. There was also the targeting the UN’s main aid depot repeatedly with white phosphorus incendiaries fired by artillery, destroying large amounts of food and medical aid. At least two unarmed Palestinian youths in the West Bank who were demonstrating against the attack on Gaza were shot dead by Israeli forces (25) – (29).

The November 2012 Gaza War

In the recent November 2012 Gaza war Israeli war crimes were principally targeting civilian targets. These included repeated missile strikes on three television stations , government buildings including the offices of elected Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas ; and Israeli claims that anything that was “associated with Hamas” was a “legitimate target” as Hamas supposedly made no distinction between it’s civilian and military wings (according to the Israeli government and military) – which in fact meant only that the Israeli military was making no distinction between civilian and military targets, targeting both (30) – (33).

As Sky News’ correspondent in Gaza, Sam Kiley, pointed out, this meant everything and anything and anyone could be a target, as Hamas are the government of Gaza providing civilian services including rubbish collection, healthcare and education (34). They also have separate political and military wings plus their political wing doing charity work among Palestinians which also provides services such as education healthcare.

To define civilian targets as legitimate targets is to target civilians – and so a war crime.

The usual Israeli practice of targeting the family homes of known or suspected militants killed many civilians, including children, as they always know it will.

The “anything associated with Hamas” targeting resulted in Israel’s worst day for it’s public relations or propaganda campaign, when it hit the home of a Hamas policeman, killing him and 11 other members of his family, including his children. The fact that they then came out with four different stories on how this happened – that it had been the home of Islamic Jihad’s “top rocket mastermind”, that it had been a mistake in which house had been targeted, or that a munition had misfired, and finally that a senior member of Hamas’ armed wing had been hiding in the house at some point, but they weren’t sure if he was there when they hit it – indicates the truth – that they had targeted the house simply because, as the dead policeman employed by Hamas, Mohammed Dalou was “connected with Hamas”, even though he had no involvement with their armed wing or with terrorism. i.e they were targeting civilians (35) – (37).

In the repeated Israeli missile strikes on TV stations several journalists were injured in each case, one losing a leg, in both cases damaging floors in which there were reporters, (in one case confirmed by Sam Kiley of Sky News, who was on the floor below the one hit), despite repeated Israeli military claims that they had only targeted and only hit antennae on the roofs of the two buildings (38) – (40) .

An Israeli airstrike also destroyed a taxi used by journalists which had Press signs on it , leaving little doubt that they were deliberately targeting journalists ;  None of this stopped Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev claiming that they “were not targeting the media” (41) – (42).

British film-maker Harry Fear, who was in Gaza, reported that the Israeli military were phoning Palestinian and other Arab media in Gaza and telling them their buildings would be flattened unless they evacuated them – a clear attempt to scare the media into stopping reporting what was going on. (on collating information on the attacks on the media credit to Allison Deger on Mondoweiss blog and to the Committee to Protect Journalists)

They also deliberately hit Gaza’s police headquarters, just as they had targeted police stations and even police cadets in the 2008/2009 Gaza war (43) – (45). These are the same Hamas government police who arrest and disarm anyone they catch firing rockets out of Gaza into Israel during ceasefires (46) – (47). Gaza’s police are not all terrorists, despite Israeli propaganda.

The Israeli government commits war crimes like this all the time. So by their own targeting logic, if applied to them, all Israelis, including civilians, would become supposedly “legitimate” targets by being associated with the Israeli government and military, who, over decades, have been proven war criminals who target civilians. Of course this would be completely wrong, immoral and terrorism – it is terrorism of a kind practised by Palestinian armed or terrorist groups, just like the Israeli targeting policy is.

(Shamefully British Foreign Minister William Hague has told parliament that he has sought assurances from Palestinian leaders that they will not use Non-Member Observer Status to give the ICC permission to investigate war crimes committed on their territory (48).

After the last Gaza War Britain’s Labour government under Prime Minister Gordon Brown had plans to change the law to let war criminals come here without fear of arrest or trial. The current Conservative, Lib Dem coalition government has changed the law to let Israeli war criminals come here by allowing Home Secretaries to choose which war criminals to charge and arrest.(49) – (50))

There is only one difference between Palestinian rockets and suicide bombings and shootings killing civilians and Israeli air strikes and tank and gunfire and artillery strikes killing them. The difference is that the Israeli terrorism or war crimes kill 10 to 100 times as many civilians in every conflict or war then Palestinian armed groups’ terrorism or war crimes kill.

In the 2008/2009 war Palestinian rockets killed 3 civilians, while Israeli forces killed 1,400 Palestinians in total, of whom 759 were civilians and 344 children on Israeli Human Rights Group B’T Selem’s figures (51). Hundreds of Palestinian civilians for every Israeli killed.

In the November 2012 Gaza war there were 6 Israelis killed, 4 of them civilians, while 160 Palestinians were killed during the war and 13 more died of their wounds after the ceasefire ended the war.  The Palestinian Center for Human Rights, which also criticises abuses by Hamas and other Palestinian groups, reported that of the 160 dead, the majority, 105, were civilians, including 34  children and 3 women. It also reported that of the 1,000 Palestinians wounded, 971 were civilians (52) – (53).

A handful of these were killed or wounded by Palestinian rockets which mis-fired and landed in Gaza or Hamas murders of six men suspected “spies” and “collaborators”, the rest by Israeli strikes (54) – (55).

So it is time for the Israeli elected lead to sit down with the Palestinian democratically elected leaders. All on both sides are terrorists or war criminals with the blood of innocent civilians on their hands, but until the Israeli government agree to negotiate with Hamas – even if indirectly through Egypt and Fatah – more innocent civilians’ blood will keep on being spilled. They know what is necessary to end it – to give Palestinians a state on roughly the 1967 borders, to give them East Jerusalem as their capital while Israelis keep West Jerusalem as theirs – the deal Rabin and Beilin negotiated with Arafat and Abbas in 1993, the deal which they have refused to fulfil for 20 years.

The ridiculous recognition precondition for negotiations – Israeli governments demand full recognition, on whatever borders it chooses to take by force,
from Hamas and other Palestinian elected governments before it will even talk to them through third parties - yet it's only legitimacy comes from a 1947 resolution that said half the former Mandate of Palestine should become a Jewish state and the other half an Arab state
Israel is demanding from the Palestinians the same recognition of a right to exist as a state that it won’t give them

The pre-conditions placed on negotiations by Israeli governments – particularly that Hamas must recognise Israel’s right to exist before negotiations begin, are, as Shlomo Gazit, former head of Israeli Shin Bet intelligence has said “ridiculous” or “an excuse not to negotiate” (56). Former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami is among the many Israelis who says recognition comes at the end of negotiations, not before them (57). Professor Yossi Alpher has pointed out that no such precondition was placed on negotiations with Egypt and Jordan – and that if it had been there would never have been peace with either (58).

Efraim Halevy, the former head of Mossad, says Hamas have shown themselves capable of maintaining and enforcing ceasefires in the past. He also says Israel should drop the pre-condition of recognition before negotiations and negotiate with Hamas (59). He says that Hamas might or might not keep to a peace deal, but Israel’s hugely greater military strength makes this no real risk – “It may not work, but aren’t we strong enough to be able to try it?” (59) – (60)

(This makes British Foreign Minister William Hague’s demand that President Abbas agree to resume negotiations with Israel “without preconditions” to get the UK to vote yes at the UN look either very ignorant of the facts or else total hypocrisy (61).)

Most of all, though, Israel cannot demand recognition and the “right to exist” for itself while denying both to a viable fully sovereign Palestinian state on more or less the 1967 borders. You cannot demand from others what you refuse to give to them yourself.

Until Israel’s government accepts a Palestinian state’s right to exist on roughly the 1967 borders, with full sovereignty, it does not deserve recognition from Hamas, from Fatah or from any government or person in the world.

Israeli governments claim to be the only democratic and secular state in the Middle East. This is an empty conceit. Lebanon has been a democracy for decades. The Palestinian Authority has been a democracy since 2006. Egypt is just becoming a democracy. Israel’s government has repeatedly gone to war on the first two other democracies in the Middle East and has been very unhappy at the overthrow of their ally the dictator Mubarak in Egypt.

As for being secular, every Israeli government including Netanyahu’s Likud led coalition government and his predecessor Olmert’s Kadima and Labor coalition has continued to call the West Bank “Judea and Samaria”, the names of provinces of Kingdoms of Israel all four of which have not existed for millennia, taken from the Torah and the Talmud (62). In his speech to the US congress in May 2011 Netanyahu saidI recognize that in a genuine peace we’ll be required to give up parts of the ancestral homeland. And you have to understand this, in Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers.” (63). This is a religious claim to land no different from Islamic Jihad or some of Hamas claiming the entire former Mandate of Palestine for Muslims on the basis that is Muslim land by right of conquest and according to the Quran. It’s also an extreme nationalist claim to land similar to Mussolini’s claim to a right to conquer North Africa based on the Roman Empire, which, like the ancient Kingdoms of Israel, is thousands of years in the past and irrelevant to the present. Yet it received wild applause from congress and admiration from the entire US media.

The Israeli name for Israel’s 2008/9 Gaza war “Operation Cast Lead” was based on a passage from the Torah or Talmud (which is also the Christian Old Testament). Similarly their name for their recent 2012 Gaza War (hopefully the last of 2012 but not certainly), was “Operation Pillar of Cloud” which and Israeli military spokesman explained is also from a passage from the Jewish Holy Book referring to God showing the way to the ancient Israelites and sending an angel with a “pillar of cloud” to stop Egyptian arrows hitting them (64).

The only legitimate basis for Israel’s right to exist is UN resolution 181 of 1947, which provided for a Jewish state in one half of the former British Mandate of Palestine. That state is roughly Israel on the pre-1967 borders (as prescribed by another UN resolution in 1967) and the same resolution that called for an Jewish state in half of the Mandate in 1947 also called for an Arab state in the other half of the former Mandate – that state should be Palestine. So as long as Israel occupies land taken in the 1967 war without a final peace agreement with the Palestinians which gives them their own state – and as long as it continues to take more – it does not merit the recognition of Hamas, of Fatah, of any government or any person in the world. If it wants recognition, it must recognise and permit a real Palestine too.

We should defend Israel’s right to exist on the pre-1967 borders or any negotiated with a Palestinian state with full sovereignty, but we should never recognise it’s right to exist on whatever borders it chooses to take at gunpoint from Palestinians.

(1) = 29 Nov 2012 ‘29 November – Date of reckoning for Palestine as UN again decides its fate’,

(2) = BBC News 28 Nov 2012 ‘Q&A: Palestinian bid for upgraded UN status’ ; scroll down on that link to bolded sub-heading ‘What is the general process?’

(3) = BBC News 22 Sep 2011 ‘Barack Obama 'will veto' Palestinian UN bid’,

(4) = CNN 29 Sep 2011 ‘Palestinian statehood goes to U.N. admissions panel’,

(5) = NYT 08 Nov 2011 ‘Palestinian Bid for U.N. Membership Faces Near-Certain Defeat’,

(6) = BBC News 28 Nov 2012 ‘Q&A: Palestinian bid for upgraded UN status’
; last paragraph of section under sub-heading ‘What is the general process?’ ; ‘Palestinian officials insist they have not abandoned their application to become a full UN member state, saying it is suspended for the moment.

(7) = 04 Jun 2009 ‘Full text: Barack Obama's Cairo speech’, ; 37th paragraph ‘At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

(8) = BBC News 28 Nov 2012 ‘Q&A: Palestinian bid for upgraded UN status’ ; scroll down on that link to bolded sub-heading ‘What legal action could the Palestinians consider?’

(10) = 14 Nov 2012 ‘Israel threatens to overthrow Abbas over Palestinian statehood bid’,

(11) = guardian 23 Nov 2012 ‘Clinton warns Netanyahu not to punish Palestinian Authority for UN bid’,

(12) = Amnesty International 02 Jul 2009 ‘Impunity for war crimes in Gaza and southern Israel a recipe for further civilian suffering’,
paragraphs 6 to 8 ‘…Some 300 children and hundreds of other unarmed civilians who took no part in the conflict were among the 1,400 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces. Most were killed with high-precision weapons, relying on surveillance drones which have exceptionally good optics, allowing those observing to see their targets in detail. Others were killed with imprecise weapons, including artillery shells carrying white phosphorus – not previously used in Gaza - which should never be used in densely populated areas…Amnesty International found that the victims of the attacks it investigated were not caught in the crossfire during battles between Palestinian militants and Israeli forces, nor were they shielding militants or other military objects. Many were killed when their homes were bombed while they slept. Others were sitting in their yard or hanging the laundry on the roof. Children were struck while playing in their bedrooms or on the roof, or near their homes. Paramedics and ambulances were repeatedly attacked while attempting to rescue the wounded or recover the dead.

(13) = Foreign Policy magazine 04 April 2012 ‘Dear Abu Mazen: End This Farce’, (two pages – see square boxes with 1 and 2 in them at bottom of article – click on 2 for 2nd page)

(14) = ITV news 28 Nov 2012 ‘Clinton: UN recognition of Palestine won't help peace’,
; ‘Ahead of tomorrow's expected UN vote, Clinton stressed that the "path to a two-state solution that fulfils the aspirations of the Palestinian people is through Jerusalem and Ramallah, not New York"…The Obama administration has strongly opposed the recognition of an independent Palestine, and Clinton highlighted that the US has made its opposition clear to Palestinian leaders.

(15) = Foreign Policy magazine 04 April 2012 ‘Dear Abu Mazen: End This Farce’, (two pages – see square boxes with 1 and 2 in them at bottom of article – click on 2 for 2nd page)

(16) = Professors Mearsheimer, John J. & Walt. Stephen (2007) ‘The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy’,Chapter 3, page 104 of hardback edition

(17) = Clayton E. Swisher (2004) ‘The Truth about Camp David’ Nation Books, New York, 2004,  Chapter 14 / Epilogue – The Politics of Blame,  page 403

(18) = 19 Nov 2012 ‘Israel-Gaza: truce talks ongoing in Cairo – as it happened’,

(19) = Haaretz (Israel) 17 May 2011 ‘Netanyahu: Israel willing to 'cede parts of our homeland for true peace'’,
, (5th and 4th from last paragraphs) ‘A Palestinian state should be created only through a peace agreement, Netanyahu said, adding that Israel could not make peace with an entity intent on its destruction...Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni slammed Netanyahu for his failure to prevent the UN vote on a Palestinian state planned for September, calling him a weak leader.’

(20) = Amnesty International 02 Jul 2009 ‘Israel/Gaza: Operation "Cast Lead": 22 days of death and destruction’,

(21) = Oxfam 04 Jan 2009 ‘Gaza: Oxfam supported health worker killed and ambulance destroyed in Israeli shelling’, ; ‘A paramedic working for an Oxfam funded organization was killed when an Israeli shell struck a civilian ambulance in Gaza today according to international agency Oxfam…Another paramedic lost his foot and a driver was injured in the same incident, which occurred when an ambulance belonging to Oxfam’s partner organization, Union of Health Work Committees, was hit while trying to evacuate an injured person in the Beit Lahiya area, Oxfam said.

(22) = HRW 13 Aug 2009 'Israel: Investigate ‘White Flag' Shootings of Gaza Civilians',

(23) = See (20) above

(24) = B'T selem 2009 'B'Tselem's investigation of fatalities in Operation Cast Lead',

(25) = AP 08 Jan 2009 ‘UN curbs Gaza aid after trucks hit by Israeli fire’,
1st paragraph ‘The UN suspended aid shipments in the Gaza Strip on Thursday and the Red Cross restricted its convoys after their trucks came under Israeli fire.’ ; 9th paragraph reads ‘"We've been coordinating with them (Israeli forces) and yet our staff continue to be hit and killed," said a U.N. spokesman, Chris Gunness, announcing the suspension. The U.N. is the largest aid provider in Gaza.’ ;4th to 6th paragraphs ‘The driver of the UN truck died immediately; another worker in the truck died later of his wounds. The truck, which came under fire in northern Gaza, was marked with the UN flag and insignia….During a three-hour pause in the fighting to allow in food and fuel and let medics collect the dead, nearly three dozen bodies were found beneath the rubble of bombed out buildings in Gaza City…Many of the dead were in the same neighbourhood where the international Red Cross said rescuers discovered young children too weak to stand who had stayed by their dead mothers. The aid group accused Israel of an "unacceptable" delay in allowing workers to reach the area.

(26) = UNISPAL 06 Jan 2009 ‘Dozens killed in strikes on UN schools in Gaza’,

(27) = BBC News 15 Jan 2009 ‘UN accuses Israel over phosphorus’,

(28) = Herald (Scotland) 29 Dec 2008 ‘'The killings came as a complete shock'’,

(29) for more details and sources see this post and this one

(30) = Business Insider 18 Nov 2012 ‘Israel Bombs Media Tower In Gaza Again’,

(31) = BBC News 17 Nov 2012 ‘Gaza crisis: Israeli air strikes hit Hamas HQ’, ; 2nd and 8th paragraphs ‘Prime Minister Ismail Haniya's office, which Egypt's PM had visited on Friday, was among the buildings destroyed….There was another series of strikes in and around the city after 05:00, with several targeting Hamas's cabinet buildings

(32) = BBC News 17 Nov 2012 ‘Gaza crisis: Israeli air strikes hit Hamas HQ’, ; 14th paragraph ‘Israeli military spokeswoman Avital Leibovich said 200 targets had been hit overnight. The army told the BBC it wanted to hit hundreds more and that it was legitimate to target anything connected with Hamas.

(33) = NYT 17 Nov 2012 ‘Israel Broadens Its Bombing in Gaza to Include Government Sites’,
; ‘The military said that, in addition to the Hamas prime minister’s office, it also struck the police and homeland security headquarters. But Mr. Regev said the expansion of the assault to government buildings did not indicate a shift in strategy. Hamas “makes no distinction between its terrorist military machine and the government structure,” he said. “We have seen Hamas consistently using so-called civilian facilities for the purposes of hiding their terrorist military machine, including weapons.”

(34) = Sky News 18 Nov 2012 ‘Gaza: Israel Denies Strikes Targeted Media’,
; ‘Kiley said… "It isn't easy for the 1.7 million Gazans to know what is considered a target by Israel and what is not," he said. "Hamas…are extremely well camouflaged…"There are known Hamas areas, but there are a lot of unknown areas …"Hamas is not just a militant organisation, it is also the government here. It runs the hospitals, the sewage collection, the trash collection, the education department…"Therefore it is very troubling for Gazans to try to figure out where Israel is going to lay the distinction in terms of what is a crossover between military and civilian activity."’

(35) = Al Jazeera 19 Nov 2012 ‘Civilian death toll mounts in Gaza’, ; ‘An Israeli air attack has killed 12 members of one family in the Gaza Strip…in Sunday's air attack on a four-storey house in northern Gaza City, health officials said. Two or three missiles fired by F-16 fighter jets reduced the house…to rubble…Five women, including one 80-year-old, and four small children were among the dead …The Israeli military said the target was a top rocket mastermind of the Islamic Jihad group. The claim could not be verified, and Kidra said the two men killed in the attack were also civilians.’

 (36) = BBC News 19 Nov 2012 ‘Gaza crisis: Death toll mounts from Israel strikes’, ; 15th – 16th paragraphs ‘Israel's chief military spokesman, Yoav Mordechai, told Israel's Channel 2 TV that the target had been Yehiya Rabiah, the head of Hamas's rocket-launching unit, but that there had been "civilian casualties"…. Israel's Haaretz newspaper said the strike appeared to have mistakenly hit a neighbour's house.

(37) = BBC News 09 Nov 2012 ‘As it happened: Gaza-Israel violence 19 November’, Funerals are being held for the victims of an Israeli air strike on a house in the Nasser district of Gaza City on Sunday that killed at least 10 members of the same family, including several children. The Israeli military says it is investigating reports that it may have hit the wrong house. The Haaretz newspaper cited a military report as saying "the source of the error was either the failure to paint the target of the attack on the correct site or that one of the munitions in the strike misfired".

1201:The Israeli military has now told the BBC that it intended to hit a house in Gaza on Sunday in an air strike which killed 10 members of the Dalou family, including four children. A spokesperson said it believed a senior Hamas militant, Yahia Rabiya, was hiding there. But the Israeli military said it did not know if Mr Rabiya was actually in the house when it was bombed.

1210:The patriarch of the Dalou family, Jamal, has rejected Israel's claim that a senior militant was hiding in the house. "The international public opinion witnessed the facts. This does not require my words," he told the Associated Press. Earlier, funerals for Mr Dalou's children and other family members took place in Gaza City.’

(38) = Committee to Protect Journalists 19 Nov 2012 ‘In Gaza, news outlets targeted, journalists injured’,

(39) = 18 Nov 2012 ‘Israeli air strikes hit media centres in Gaza City’, ; 4th paragraph ‘Sky News reporter Sam Kiley was sleeping in the offices when the missile struck shortly before 7am. "The missile hit the floor above us. There was a big flash of light and the sound of breaking glass."

(40) = Sky News 18 Nov 2012 ‘Gaza: Israel Denies Strikes Targeted Media’,
; ‘The Israeli military said in a statement it had "targeted two Hamas operational communication sites…”… Discussing the attack on the building used by Sky News, Israeli military spokeswoman Avital Leibovich said a Hamas antenna was the target of the strike… "The target was on the roof and only that target was hit."…She added: "The entire building stayed safe. The entire floors stayed safe. Maybe there was some broken windows as a result of the explosion but no more than that.’

(41) = See (38) above

(42) = Al Jazeera 19 Nov 2012 ‘Israel defends air strikes that hit media building’,

(43) = NYT 17 Nov 2012 ‘Israel Broadens Its Bombing in Gaza to Include Government Sites’, ; ‘The military said that, in addition to the Hamas prime minister’s office, it also struck the police and homeland security headquarters.

(44) = See this blog post and sources in it

(45) = Telegraph 27 Dec 2008 ‘Israel attack on Gaza: Fragile peace shattered again’,

(46) = 22 Nov 2009 ‘Gaza militant groups agree to stop firing rockets into Israel’,
Hamas has won an agreement from other militant groups in Gaza to halt rocket fire into Israel for the first time in almost a year, as both sides indicated progress on a deal to release a captured Israeli soldier.

(47) = Haaretz 12 April 2010 ‘Gaza militant: Hamas stopping rocket fire into Israel’, ; ‘Hamas is forcing other Gaza Palestinian factions to guarantee they do not launch rockets or mortar bombs at Israel, a source told the French AFP news agency on Monday. ..a member of the Strip's Islamic Jihad militant group, told AFP that members of Hamas' security force arrested four Islamic Jihad militants, forcing them to sign a document stating that they pledged not to fire Qassam missiles or mortar bombs at Israel.The official added that the Hamas men also confiscated the weapons found on the Islamic Jihad militants. Last week, Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha told the BBC that Hamas was working to curb rocket attacks against Israel by Gaza militants.’

(48) = BBC News 28 Nov 2012 ‘William Hague says UK may abstain in Palestinian UN vote’, ; 9th paragraph ‘He said the Palestinians must also agree not to seek membership of International Criminal Court (ICC), as any move to extend the jurisdiction of the court over the occupied territories could derail any chance of talks resuming.’

(49) = Guardian 05 Mar 2010 ‘Plan to change war crimes law delayed by general election’,

(50) = The Guardian 07 Oct 2011 ‘Sleep Easy, War Criminals’ by Michael Mansfield QC

(51) = B’Tselem Statistics ‘Fatalities during operation "Cast Lead"’, (see ‘additional data’ tables)

(52) = Palestinian Center for Human Rights 24 Nov 2012 ‘The total numbers of victims of the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip’,

(53) =

(54) = Observer 17 Nov 2012 ‘Gazans in frantic hunt for safety as Israeli forces remain on alert’,
,  10th paragraph ‘The danger is not just from Israel. There are reports of militants' rockets falling inside Gaza; the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said preliminary investigations suggested a missile that killed a four-year-old boy and a 22-year-old man in Jabaliya on Friday may have been fired from within the Gaza Strip.’

(55) = AP / CBS 20 Nov 2012 ‘Hamas kills suspected collaborators with Israel, witnesses say’,

(56) = Forward 09 Feb 2007 ‘Experts Question Wisdom of Boycotting Hamas’,
, 5th to 7th paragraphs ‘Retired Major General Shlomo Gazit, a former chief of military intelligence, called the three conditions laid down by Israel and its Western allies “ridiculous, or an excuse not to negotiate.” …Gazit, currently an analyst at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies. “We must negotiate on concrete problems — not on declarative issues. I am in favor of starting negotiations today, while the violence continues, and to sign an agreement which will go into effect when it stops…”’

(57) = Times 26 Feb 2009 ‘Peace will be achieved only by talking to Hamas’,

(58) = Forward 26 Oct 2006 ‘Preconditions for a Problematic Partner’ by Yossi Alpher,

(59) = Forward 09 Feb 2007 ‘Experts Question Wisdom of Boycotting Hamas’, , 15th to 16th paragraphs
Countering that view are security experts … It may not work, but aren’t we strong enough to be able to try it?” said onetime Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy, who was a top adviser to former prime ministers Yitzhak Shamir and Ariel Sharon…According to Halevy, Israel should take up Hamas’s offer of a long-term truce and try negotiating, because the Islamic movement is respected by Palestinians and generally keeps its word. He pointed to the cease-fire in attacks on Israel that Hamas declared two years ago and has largely honored. “They’re not very pleasant people, but they are very, very credible,” Halevy said.’’ 

(60) = Mother Jones 09 Feb 2008 ‘Israel's Mossad, Out of the Shadows’, ;
11th to 12th paragraphs ‘MJ: Should Hamas be required to recognize Israel's right to exist before Israel would talk with it?  …EH: Israel has been successful in inflicting very serious losses upon Hamas in both Gaza and the West Bank and this has certainly had an effect on Hamas, who are now trying to get a "cease fire." But this has not cowed them into submission and into accepting the three-point diktat that the international community has presented to them: to recognize Israel's right to exist; to honor all previous commitments of the Palestinian Authority; and to prevent all acts of violence against Israel and Israelis. The last two conditions are, without doubt, sine qua non. The first demands an a priori renunciation of ideology before contact is made. Such a demand has never been made before either to an Arab state or to the Palestinian Liberation Organization/Fatah. There is logic in the Hamas' position that ideological "conversion" is the endgame and not the first move in a negotiation.

(61) = 28 Nov 2012 ‘UK needs Palestinian assurances before backing UN statehood vote, says Hague’,

(62) = Arutz Sheva News (Israel) 13 Mar 2008 ‘Olmert Plans Transfer of Judea, Samaria Jews to Negev’,
; ‘Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert revealed Wednesday that he still plans to move many Judea and Samaria Jews to other parts of Israel. During a tour of the area in which the IDF plans to build “Bahadim city,” Olmert said, “In an unstoppable process, tens of thousands of people will move from Judea and Samaria to the Negev.”’

(63) = Washington Post 24 May 2011 ‘Transcript: Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress’, page 4, 17th paragraph,

(64) = CNN 20 Nov 2012 ‘Name of Israel’s anti-Hamas operation has biblical meaning’, ; 2nd to 4th paragraphs, ‘In Hebrew, the Israel Defense Forces have branded their recently launched anti-Hamas effort as “Operation Pillar of Cloud.”An IDF spokesman explained that most Israelis would recognize “Pillar of Cloud” as a biblical reference.“It’s based on the pillar of cloud that accompanied the the nation of Israel during the Exodus as they left Egypt and traveling toward Israel,” said Eytan Buchman, head of the North American media desk for the IDF.’ ; 2nd to 4th paragraphs, ‘In Hebrew, the Israel Defense Forces have branded their recently launched anti-Hamas effort as “Operation Pillar of Cloud.”An IDF spokesman explained that most Israelis would recognize “Pillar of Cloud” as a biblical reference.“It’s based on the pillar of cloud that accompanied the the nation of Israel during the Exodus as they left Egypt and traveling toward Israel,” said Eytan Buchman, head of the North American media desk for the IDF.’