Phyllis Bennis: Violating International Law in Gaza

water systems damaged in Gaza
Numerous water systems and wells have been badly damaged in the airstrikes, limiting the water supply to the people of Gaza. (Photo: flickr / cc / Mohammed Al Baba/Oxfam)

As Israel’s assault claims the lives of hundreds of Palestinian children, there’s no doubt that it’s a form of collective punishment.

As Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip rages on, ceasefires come and go. Most last just long enough for Palestinians to dig out the dead from beneath their collapsed houses, get the injured to overcrowded and under-resourced hospitals, and seek enough food and water to last through the next round of airstrikes.

“There is nothing left but stones,” Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer quoted an old woman saying as she searched desperately through the rubble of what had been her home.

Casualties are soaring. By late July, Israel had killed more than 1,200 Palestinians, at least 73 percent of them civilians including hundreds of children. Fifty-six Israelis, almost all of them soldiers, have died too.

July 28 poll shows 86.5 percent of Israelis oppose a ceasefire. Yet we continue to hear that Israelis want peace.

It’s true that at least some of them do. An Israeli protest in Tel Aviv brought 5,000 people into the street. That’s good — though a far cry from the 400,000 who poured into the streets to protest Israel’s invasion of Lebanon back in 1982.

And when a young Palestinian teenager was kidnapped and tortured to death — burned alive — in Jerusalem after the bodies of the three kidnapped young Israeli settlers were found, many Israelis tried to distance themselves from the horrific crime. “In our society, the society of Israel, there is no place for such murderers,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed.

But in fact, there is a place for those who call for murder — at the highest political and military levels of Israeli society.

Meet Ayelet Shaked, a member of the Knesset — Israel’s parliament. She belongs to Israel Home, a far-right party in Netanyahu’s governing coalition. She issued on Facebook what amounts to a call to commit genocide, by deliberately killing Palestinians, including women, children, and old people.

“The entire Palestinian people is the enemy,” Shaked posted. “In wars, the enemy is usually an entire people, including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.”

The Knesset member went on to say that the mothers of Palestinians killed should follow their dead sons to Hell: “They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.”

Her language reminds me of a chapter in our own history — the genocidal Indian Wars. U.S. military leaders had called on their troops to wipe out all the Native Americans andCol. John Chivington was asked on the eve of the Sand Creek Massacre about killing Cheyenne children. “Kill and scalp all, big and little, nits make lice,” he replied.

Shaked’s comments also echo the words of an Israeli colonel who testified under oath at the wrongful death trial of Rachel Corrie, a young U.S. peace activist killed by an Israeli soldier driving an armored bulldozer in Gaza. “In a war zone there are no civilians,” said the military officer — who was responsible for training Israeli soldiers to serve in the occupied territories.

There’s no question that Hamas’ primitive rockets violate international law. They can’t be accurately aimed at military targets. But that doesn’t justify Israel’s violation of its own obligations under international law as the occupying power in Gaza.

Israel has the region’s strongest military, the only nuclear weapons arsenal in the Middle East, and the unconditional backing of the United States. Its assault on Gaza violates the Geneva Conventions. Israel is imposing collective punishment against all Gazans, attacking hospitals, and using disproportionate force.

Israeli officials know full well that the best way to protect their citizens is to implement a real ceasefire — a breakthrough that would require opening Gaza’s borders. Some of them also know the best way to keep their citizens safe long term is by ending the occupation altogether. Problem is, not enough of them will admit it.

U.S. taxpayers also have a stake in this conflict because Washington keeps sending Israel billions of our tax dollars and refuses to push Tel Aviv to stop violating international law.

For real peace, both of those things must change.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Phyllis Bennis directs the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.  Her books include Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A PrimerUnderstanding the U.S.-Iran Crisis: A PrimerEnding the Iraq War: A Primer, and most recently Ending the Us War in Afghanistan: A Primer. If you want to receive her talking points and articles on a regular basis, click here and choose "New Internationalism." You can find her on Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/PhyllisBennis

Video: President Obama Torpedoes a Loaded FOXNews Question

From our friends at Occupy Democrats:

BRET HENRY: President Obama, as you grappled here with all these national security challenges, I have two questions. One, back home we’ve learned that 40 military veterans died while they were waiting for health care, a very tragic situation. I know you don’t run the Phoenix Office of Veterans Affairs, but as Commander-in-Chief, what specifically will you pledge to fix that?

And, secondly, more broadly — big picture — as you end this trip, I don’t think I have to remind you there have been a lot of unflattering portraits of your foreign policy right now. And rather than get into all the details or red lines, et cetera, I’d like to give you a chance to lay out what your vision is more than five years into office, what you think the Obama doctrine is in terms of what your guiding principle is on all of these crises and how you answer those critics who say they think the doctrine is weakness.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, Ed, I doubt that I’m going to have time to lay out my entire foreign policy doctrine. And there are actually some complimentary pieces as well about my foreign policy, but I’m not sure you ran them.

Here’s I think the general takeaway from this trip. Our alliances in the Asia Pacific have never been stronger; I can say that unequivocally. Our relationship with ASEAN countries in Southeast Asia have never been stronger. I don’t think that’s subject to dispute. As recently as a decade ago, there were great tensions between us and Malaysia, for example. And I think you just witnessed the incredible warmth and strength of the relationship between those two countries.

We’re here in the Philippines signing a defense agreement. Ten years ago, fifteen years ago there was enormous tensions around our defense relationship with the Philippines. And so it’s hard to square whatever it is that the critics are saying with facts on the ground, events on the ground here in the Asia Pacific region. Typically, criticism of our foreign policy has been directed at the failure to use military force. And the question I think I would have is, why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force after we’ve just gone through a decade of war at enormous costs to our troops and to our budget? And what is it exactly that these critics think would have been accomplished?

My job as Commander-in-Chief is to deploy military force as a last resort, and to deploy it wisely. And, frankly, most of the foreign policy commentators that have questioned our policies would go headlong into a bunch of military adventures that the American people had no interest in participating in and would not advance our core security interests.

So if you look at Syria, for example, our interest is in helping the Syrian people, but nobody suggests that us being involved in a land war in Syria would necessarily accomplish this goal. And I would note that those who criticize our foreign policy with respect to Syria, they themselves say, no, no, no, we don’t mean sending in troops. Well, what do you mean? Well, you should be assisting the opposition — well, we’re assisting the opposition. What else do you mean? Well, perhaps you should have taken a strike in Syria to get chemical weapons out of Syria. Well, it turns out we’re getting chemical weapons out of Syria without having initiated a strike. So what else are you talking about? And at that point it kind of trails off.

In Ukraine, what we’ve done is mobilize the international community. Russia has never been more isolated. A country that used to be clearly in its orbit now is looking much more towards Europe and the West, because they’ve seen that the arrangements that have existed for the last 20 years weren’t working for them. And Russia is having to engage in activities that have been rejected uniformly around the world. And we’ve been able to mobilize the international community to not only put diplomatic pressure on Russia, but also we’ve been able to organize European countries who many were skeptical would do anything to work with us in applying sanctions to Russia. Well, what else should we be doing? Well, we shouldn’t be putting troops in, the critics will say. That’s not what we mean. Well, okay, what are you saying? Well, we should be arming the Ukrainians more. Do people actually think that somehow us sending some additional arms into Ukraine could potentially deter the Russian army? Or are we more likely to deter them by applying the sort of international pressure, diplomatic pressure and economic pressure that we’re applying?

The point is that for some reason many who were proponents of what I consider to be a disastrous decision to go into Iraq haven’t really learned the lesson of the last decade, and they keep on just playing the same note over and over again. Why? I don’t know. But my job as Commander-in-Chief is to look at what is it that is going to advance our security interests over the long term, to keep our military in reserve for where we absolutely need it. There are going to be times where there are disasters and difficulties and challenges all around the world, and not all of those are going to be immediately solvable by us.

But we can continue to speak out clearly about what we believe. Where we can make a difference using all the tools we’ve got in the toolkit, well, we should do so. And if there are occasions where targeted, clear actions can be taken that would make a difference, then we should take them. We don’t do them because somebody sitting in an office in Washington or New York think it would look strong. That’s not how we make foreign policy. And if you look at the results of what we’ve done over the last five years, it is fair to say that our alliances are stronger, our partnerships are stronger, and in the Asia Pacific region, just to take one example, we are much better positioned to work with the peoples here on a whole range of issues of mutual interest.

And that may not always be sexy. That may not always attract a lot of attention, and it doesn’t make for good argument on Sunday morning shows. But it avoids errors. You hit singles, you hit doubles; every once in a while we may be able to hit a home run. But we steadily advance the interests of the American people and our partnership with folks around the world.

A full, complete, thoughtful, reasoned response.

Help Tammy Duckworth Win!

Help Tammy Duckworth

From U.S. Senator Dick Durbin:

I wrote to you a few months ago to tell you about a remarkable candidate for Congress — Tammy Duckworth.

Joe Walsh continues to be the most outspoken (and controversial) Tea Party member of the House.

He relishes the endless confrontation and works overtime to fuel the bitter rhetoric attacking the Democrats and the President. He is proud of the Tea Party threats to shut down essential government services and destroy America’s reputation for paying its debts. Joe Walsh promises more confrontation; more personal attacks and more stalemate.

Illinois and our Congress deserve better.

Will you help Tammy defeat Walsh by contributing $5 or more to her campaign?

Tammy is a true public servant who knows what it means to serve our country.

She’s also a proven leader who understands what it will take to rebuild our economy and create jobs. Her courage and common sense make her exactly the kind of person we need in Congress.

I can’t think of a better person to replace Joe Walsh than Tammy.

Please join me in supporting her with a contribution of $5 or more.

Thanks for your help,

Just In Time for the Primary: Romney Announces Support of South Carolina Veterans

No kidding, this was published TODAY on mittromney.com:

Romney for President today announced the support of veterans in South Carolina:

“I am proud to receive the endorsement of these South Carolina veterans who have selflessly and bravely fought to keep our nation safe and defend our American way of life,” said Mitt Romney. “We must continue to support all of those who have served our nation as we work to preserve those very freedoms that our veterans and troops have fought to defend.”

“Mitt Romney has been a strong advocate for veterans and will work to ensure that those who have heroically sacrificed for our country receive the care that they deserve,” said Lt. General Bud Watts, former President of the Citadel. “We need a Commander-in-Chief who will support our veterans and troops, strengthen our military, and strengthen our national defense. Mitt Romney believes in America and in the founding principles that make our country great, and he is the kind of steadfast leader we need during these challenging times.”

Good timing! Since there’s a presidential primary there soon enough, you know.

US Marines Identify ‘Urination’ Troops (Raw Video)

From the BBC:

At least two of four US Marines shown in a video appearing to urinate on Taliban corpses have been identified, a Marine Corps official has told the BBC.

The video, which was posted online, purports to show four US Marines standing over the bodies of several Taliban fighters, at least one of whom is covered in blood.

These soldiers did nothing to honor the traditions of the United States Marine Corps.

They did not act as the honorable warriors who serve this country so well.

BOOM! Obama Just Played The Bin Laden Card (Video)

From Business Insider:

President Barack Obama was just asked to respond to Republican charges that he has engaged in a foreign policy of appeasement.

Obama responded: "Ask Osama bin Laden, and the 22 out of 30 top al Qaeda leaders who have been taken off the field whether I engage in appeasement — or whoever is left out there, ask them about that."

There you have it.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com

This Liberal Is Quite Pleased With President Obama

Barack Obama

We are not a patient people.

Liberals, conservatives, moderates: we want our pudding, and we want it now.

These past two years, I have been impatient, watching and waiting while my liberal dreams for the United States were postponed — or so I thought. Why did President Obama channel former President George W. Bush and simply push a liberal agenda through the United States Congress and let the conservatives be damned?

I held back, however, and refused to play along with the liberal cacophony screaming for everything and anything to happen yesterday. They collectively screamed "I told you so!" when Democrats lost seats in Congress, losing the House of Representatives. All this screaming in spite of the fact that such losses had long been predicted, indeed, from the moment President Obama was sworn in. That was an easy call. We may be impatient, but we Americans are quite predictable.

A wee bit more than two years into the Obama presidency, I have to say, I’m quite pleased with what the president has done.

Health insurance reform was a start. No, it did not go far enough. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: the best reform for the health of the country would be to simply forbid health insurance companies operating on a for-profit basis. Let them insure all the widgets they want to for profit, but hands off human lives.

Still, health insurance reform was long, long overdue. And over the past few weeks, we’ve seen some wonderful things happen. For one, "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" is on its way out. Next, today saw the near ratification of the START treaty, with a vote likely this week.

There’s more.

What do I appreciate most about President Obama?

His patience, a quality many of us in the media lack. From the insipid "Round Table" on ABC’s "This Week" to the endless drone of CNN, the media is so full of prognosticators who get it all wrong 99% of the time and more.

I’ve often said this in my elected life, and I’ll say it again here, "I don’t make predictions. I just work hard to achieve results."

President Obama is patient, looking, I’m convinced, two or three decades down the road. This is not a man likely to bark, "F— Saddam. We’re taking him out," as President Bush did in March 2002. If nothing else, the president is patient, weighing his decisions carefully because he knows — he knows — that everything he does has global repercussions.

I don’t know that he’s doing everything right, or wrong. I still remain careful. I remain critical. I still read Paul Krugman and hope for a Keynesian revolution in Washington.

But I like the President, even as I hope and pray for patience.

‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ Repealed, And The President Says, “Thanks.”

President Barack Obama

The following was sent from President Barack Obama after the United States Senate voted to repeal the infamous "Don’t Ask Don’t Tell" and allow our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to serve in our military with a clean conscience, no longer forced to hide or lie.

President Obama fulfills yet another campaign promise.

From the President of the United States:

Moments ago, the Senate voted to end "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell."

When that bill reaches my desk, I will sign it, and this discriminatory law will be repealed.

Gay and lesbian service members — brave Americans who enable our freedoms — will no longer have to hide who they are.

The fight for civil rights, a struggle that continues, will no longer include this one.

This victory belongs to you. Without your commitment, the promise I made as a candidate would have remained just that.

Instead, you helped prove again that no one should underestimate this movement. Every phone call to a senator on the fence, every letter to the editor in a local paper, and every message in a congressional inbox makes it clear to those who would stand in the way of justice: We will not quit.

This victory also belongs to Senator Harry Reid, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and our many allies in Congress who refused to let politics get in the way of what was right.

Like you, they never gave up, and I want them to know how grateful we are for that commitment.

Will you join me in thanking them by adding your name to Organizing for America’s letter?

I will make sure these messages are delivered — you can also add a comment about what the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" means to you.

As Commander in Chief, I fought to repeal "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" because it weakens our national security and military readiness. It violates the fundamental American principles of equality and fairness.

But this victory is also personal.

I will never know what it feels like to be discriminated against because of my sexual orientation.

But I know my story would not be possible without the sacrifice and struggle of those who came before me — many I will never meet, and can never thank.

I know this repeal is a crucial step for civil rights, and that it strengthens our military and national security. I know it is the right thing to do.

But the rightness of our cause does not guarantee success, and today, celebration of this historic step forward is tempered by the defeat of another — the DREAM Act. I am incredibly disappointed that a minority of senators refused to move forward on this important, commonsense reform that most Americans understand is the right thing for our country. On this issue, our work must continue.

Today, I’m proud that we took these fights on.

Please join me in thanking those in Congress who helped make "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" repeal possible:

http://my.barackobama.com/Repealed

Thank you,

Barack

I clicked and thanked Congress. Amen to that all day long.

Obama Has Ethics: Pakistani Troops Linked to Abuses Will Lose U.S. Aid

From the New York Times:

The Obama administration plans to refuse to train or equip about a half-dozen Pakistani Army units that are believed to have killed unarmed prisoners and civilians during recent offensives against the Taliban, according to senior administration and Congressional officials.

The cutoff of funds is an unusual rebuke to a wartime ally, and it illustrates the growing tensions with a country that is seen as a pivotal partner, and sometimes impediment, in a campaign to root out Al Qaedaand other militant groups.

The White House has not told Pakistan of the decision, even though senior Pakistani military and civilian leaders are here for a series of meetings, according to officials from both countries.

It has privately briefed a few senior members of Congress, but it has not given them details about which Pakistani units will be affected by the suspension. One senior administration official said there was “a lot of concern about not embarrassing” the Pakistani military, especially during a week in which officials are here for the third “Strategic Dialogue” in a year.

Well, I guess Pakistan knows now. Let’s hope they hear about this from Turning Left!

‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Is Back, For Now… (Yawn)

From The Christian Science Monitor:

A federal appeals court in California granted a temporary stay on Wednesday, reversing aworldwide injunction against enforcement of the US military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

The action means the Pentagon’s ban on service members who are openly homosexual is, once again, in full force.

The policy was thrown into doubt last week when a federal judge in Riverside, Calif., declared the 17-year measure unconstitutional. As the government scrambled to halt the injunction, military recruiters for the first time began to consider openly gay recruits. Those efforts are now on hold.

In granting the stay, the three-judge panel of the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals is allowing government lawyers more time to prepare their argument. The government is seeking a longer-term stay that would hold the injunction in abeyance for the duration of the appeal.

More.

Look.  There are already gays and lesbians serving in the military.  Gays and lesbians have shed  blood for the United States of America.

Really.

Let them serve.

Let them serve as they are.