Charles Krauthammer has a column in the Washington Post today. In it, he deals with whether or not the killing of the family in Gaza was down to an Israeli shell – of course, he only mentions Israeli arguments for why it couldn't have been, and makes no mention of any counter-arguments, save that they exist.
"Why would Israel deliberately shell a peaceful family on a beach?" he asks. Well, firstly, there are possible motives – for instance to attempt to influence the result of the upcoming Palestinian referendum on the 'Prisoner's Document'. But anyway, who's accusing Israel of deliberately targeting Palestinian civilians? It's just that Israel doesn't care about Palestinian "collateral damage".
Krauthammer frames the tone of the article from the first paragraph, describing how PA President Abbas describes the act as "genocide". If this is true and in context – I can' tell because he didn't provide a source – then it is, of course, ridiculous. But what Abbas says or doesn't say makes no difference to the morality of killing a civilian family, which means he only mentioned it to immediately put the reader against the side of the Palestinians.
However, the article then gets more interesting. Krauthammer says, OK, let's assume for a second that we do not know who caused the shelling (no assumption necessary – that's the reality).
Even then, Krauthammer says, we must ask ourselves, "Who is to blame if Palestinians are setting up rocket launchers to attack Israel — and placing them 400 yards from a beach crowded with Palestinian families on the Muslim Sabbath?"
The answer? "This is another example of the Palestinians' classic and cowardly human-shield tactic — attacking innocent Israeli civilians while hiding behind innocent Palestinian civilians."
Well, at least he managed to bring himself to admit the Palestinian civilians the terrorists are "hiding behind" are innocent. Because, of course, it was innocents that were killed. To understand this concept of "collateral damage" properly, let's export it to a familiar environment. Imagine a gunman, heavily armed, has run into a block of flats. Police helicopters are outside, as are cop cars and policemen and the whole works. Is it justified for the army/police force to then bomb the block of flats in an attempt to get the gunman? Are the civilian casualties acceptable "collateral damage"?
Charles Krauthammer certainly appears to think so. After all, it was the gunman's fault for hiding in the flats in the first place.
Also, note how the first sentence brands all Palestinians as terrorists – "the Palestinians' classic and cowardly human-shield tactic". Nice.
Krauthammer then, ludicrously, tries to pretend that somehow Western media are pro-Palestinian, ever eager to ignore Palestinian suicide bombings whilst making a big deal of Israeli massacres. This is obviously garbage – the mainstream media are completely pro-Israeli biased. Since when have you read an article referring to the IDF as committing terrorism (for example)?
Krauthammer then poses another, "even larger" question that is not being asked. Namely, "Whether the rocket bases are near civilian beaches or in remote areas, why are the Gazans launching any rockets at Israel in the first place — about 1,000 in the past year?"
Note again the grouping of all Gazans as terrorists.
"To get Israel to remove its settlers, end the occupation and let the Palestinians achieve dignity and independence? But Israel did exactly that in Gaza last year. It completely evacuated Gaza, dismantled all its military installations, removed its soldiers, destroyed all Israeli settlements and expelled all 7,000 Israeli settlers."
This is very interesting. Yes, settlements were dismantled and military force was re-deployed. Does this mean withdrawal? Does it mean Gaza is independent? Gaza still depends completely on Israel for supply of electricity, water, gas and petrol, and the Israeli Shekel is still the local currency. Israel retains complete control over Gazan airspace and territorial waters, meaning Israel effectively controls what goes in and out of Gaza. Gazans don't have control over their seaport or airport. Israel also still occupies what is called the Philadelphi corridor – a strip of land on the Egypt-Gaza border.
Israel controls the international crossing points, and controls the issuing of Palestinian identity cards (and therefore controls all the population data), and all Palestinians must be registered with Israel's Interior Ministry.
All this is not mentioning the terrible state Gaza is in as a result of years of Israeli occupation. Since 2000, the economies of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank have lost $6.4 billion and suffered $3.5 billion in damage at the hands of the Israeli army. In other words, the "occupied Palestinian territory has lost at least one fifth of its economic base over the last four years as a consequence of war and occupation."
Over the past five years, Israel has destroyed over 4,600 homes, as well as schools, roads, hospitals, factories, fields, etc. Some Palestinians were denied access to education and health-care due to Israeli roadblocks.
About 42% of Gazans are categorised by the World Food Programme as "food insecure". Unemployment rates are 35%-40% – and Israel is working to further reduce the number of Palestinian jobs available within Israel.
In short – Gaza is in economic ruin, largely as result of Israeli occupation. It is not an independent state – rather, Israel has returned some land in return for keeping conditions basically the same, only now it can claim to have no responsibility for Gaza and it gained good PR to help it in its quest to keep squatting on West Bank land.
So much for "Gaza became the first independent Palestinian territory ever." And Krauthammer wonders why there is violence against Israel? Well, despite all that I have just said, the question isn't really relevant anyway. Unless Krauthammer is claiming the civilians were at fault for firing rockets into Israel, the question of why some people do fire rockets into Israel is a separate one.
"And what have the Palestinians done with this independence"?, Krauthammer asks. "They have used their freedom to launch rockets at civilians in nearby Israeli towns." Note again the grouping of all Palestinians together as terrorists.
Now Krauthammer makes a strange (to say the least) hypothesis: "the Palestinians prefer victimhood to statehood."
What does he use to support this accusation? The Palestinian refusal to sign at Camp David. What did Camp David offer, according to Krauthammer? "a Palestinian state — with its capital in Jerusalem, with not a single Jewish settler remaining in Palestine, and on a contiguous territory encompassing 95 percent of the West Bank (Israel making up the other 5 percent with pieces of Israel proper)."
Now, let's have a look at what was actually offered at the Camp David summit.
The summit at Camp David was based on the earlier Beilin-Abu Mazen Plan, accepted (shamefully) by Arafat.
The Beilin-Abu Mazen Plan did not offer to give up "95 percent" of the West Bank. It offered Palestinian "sovereignty" over 90-95% – but what did this 'sovereignty' actually mean? Well, inside the Palestinian 'sovereign area', 50 Israeli settlements would remain intact and Israeli armed forces would remain in the Jordan Valley.
The Beilin-Abu Mazen Plan did not offer the Palestinians a "capital in Jerusalem" – it offered them a capital in the remote village of Abu-Dis.
So what about Camp David? Well, at Camp David, Ehud Barak was prepared to offer even less than what was agreed in the Beilin-Abu Mazen Plan.
1. In the Beilin-Abu Mazen plan, the big settlement blocks in which reside 150,000 Israeli settlers would be annexed to Israel. To achieve this, a very windy map was drawn up, surrounding those settlements but not annexing the surrounding Israeli land. In Camp David, Barak straightened out these lines, meaning not just the settlements but also the land around and between them was annexed to Israel. Thus, about 120,000 Palestinian residents would be annexed into Israel. These residents would not be given Israeli citizenship, and would vote in the Palestinian elections. Thus, Palestinian land would be annexed without giving any rights to the annexed Palestinians.
2. At Camp David, Barak did not offer the Palestinians a capital in East Jerusalem. Israel conquered East Jerusalem in 1967, and has illegally occupied it ever since. It is the economic and cultural capital of the Palestinian West Bank. But, by the Camp David proposals, it would not be the capital of any future Palestinian state. At Camp David, the Palestinians were offered the village of Abu-Dis, to be renamed as Al-Quds, as their capital.
3. Camp David did not offer the Palestinians 90% of the West Bank (Krauthammer got his 95% figure from the Beilin-Abu Mazen Plan). It offered them 60% – but even in this 60% there were around 40 isolated Israeli settlements. Thus, even though Israel would have annexed 10% of the West Bank leaving the Palestinians 'state' with 90% of the West Bank, 40% percent of the 'state' would be lands confiscated and fully controlled by Israel. Palestinians would not be allowed to build, farm, settle and, in the case of some areas of the Jordan Valley, they would not even be allowed to pass through them.
4. Crucially, Barak demanded at Camp David that this would be a "final" agreement. If Arafat had accepted the document, all future Palestinian claims regarding Jerusalem, the right of return, the fact that Israeli settlers remained on the West Bank, and so on, would be relinquished.
Thus, Arafat did not sign the Camp David agreement, because it was a disgrace that 'gave' the Palestinians nothing.
Do we hear any of this from Krauthammer's article? No. What we get is this: "The Palestinian answer? War again – Yasser Arafat's terror war, aka the second intifada, which killed a thousand Jews.
Okay, first, it should be noted that in 1988, and again in Oslo, the Palestinians accepted Israel up to the 1967 borders. That is, they accepted the loss of 78% of former Palestine. Now, they were just waiting for Israel to hand over the remaining 22%. And waiting and waiting and waiting.
The Second – and violent – Intifada started in 2000, when Sharon visited the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. The mosque is located on Temple Mount (or Haram al Sharif), a scared site for both Jews and Muslims.
For years, there was no Israeli claim on the Temple Mount – except from a few religious lunatics. On the contrary, there was a deliberate attempt to play down its importance. After Camp David, however, Barak chose to make the issue centre of attention, with an Israeli claim over the holiest Muslim site in the Occupied Territories.
Palestinian anger and frustration was high after the disappointment once again of realising that the Israelis were willing to offer nothing substantive at Camp David, and were still unwilling to live up to their Oslo obligations.
So when, in the last week of September 2000, Likud leader Ariel Sharon announced he would exercise his right to visit the Mount, the PA warned him the move could have terrible consequences.
So what did Barak do? He not only allowed it, but ordered a huge military and police presence to accompany Sharon. The visit was an obvious provocation, justified by the flimsiest of excuses (he 'went to check whether or not archaeological remains had been vandalised').
This led to rioting, demonstrations and, ultimately, the al-Aqsa (or Second) Intifada.
Hardly as simplistic as Krauthammer likes to make out, is it?
"They are offered an independent state. They are given all of Gaza. And they respond with rocket attacks into peaceful Israeli towns — in pre-1967 Israel proper, mind you."
I don't know whether to laugh or cry at this sentence. They are "given" Gaza? Wow, that was generous! No, Gaza was returned, belatedly, to the Palestinians, except that, actually, it wasn't returned at all. Independent state? Nope. Note: again Krauthammer is grouping all Palestinians as terrorists ("they respond with rocket attacks").
"What can Israel do but try to take out those rocket bases and their crews?", he asks. Well, they can start by engaging in serious negotiations. This would definitely involve retreating to the 1967 border and offering the Palestinians East Jerusalem as a capital.
That is how peace will be achieved – but to do this there needs to be sufficient political will in either America or Israel.This in turn will only be achieved by mass public pressure, which first and foremost requires an informed public. This will not be achieved by journalists such as Krauthammer apologising for Israeli imperialism and terror, and using selective or outright false information to try and justify blaming the victims for their oppression.
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