Sunday, June 14, 2009

"Assessing the Role of US Foreign Policy, Israeli Security, & Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories"part6

Transcribed by Scott Senn

"Assessing the Role of US Foreign Policy, Israeli Security, & Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories"part-6

7 April 2009
Madison, WI

Part 6

An illustration of what the US did was that the European Union proposed – I'm quoting now – to provide some health aid – needed aid for health care. Well, the US blocked it. And it had a reason; the reason was that "US officials" – I'm reading the New York Times [Weisman, "Europe Plan to Aid Palestinians Stalls Over U.S. Salary Sanctions", 15 June 2006] – "US officials expressed concern that some of the money might end up paying nurses, doctors, teachers and others previously on the government payroll, thereby helping to finance Hamas," which won the election. That was said with no shame; you know, just sort of: "Yeah, normal. We don't like the outcome of elections: we punish the population. It's natural." It's also natural that this goes on side by side with "soaring rhetoric" about our "idealism", our "commitment to democracy promotion", and so on and so forth. No contradiction – which in a sense is natural too, because it's so consistent. Well, Israeli attacks picked up severely in the following months: by June Israel had fired 7,700 rockets at northern Gaza; that's since its formal withdrawal in September.

Now on June 25th, an event occurred which sharply escalated the US-Israeli attack. On June 25th, Hamas kidnapped an Israeli soldier on the border: Gilad Shalhevet. That led to a huge outcry in the United States and in fact in Europe too: you know, "What a crime!": kidnapping – [correction:] capturing – (you can't "kidnap" a solider) – capturing a soldier from an attacking army. Okay, maybe that's wrong; but there are worse crimes, like one committed one day before the capture of Gilad Shalhevet: namely, the Israeli army invaded Gaza, kidnapped this time two civilians – a doctor and his brother – in Gaza City, spirited them across the border (violation of international law), and they sort of disappeared somewhere into the Israeli prison system where nobody knows what goes on; but there are certainly hundreds – at least – of people under what's called "administrative detention", just kept there without charge. These two brothers, the Muamar brothers, have disappeared. Now that was one day before the capture of Gilad Shalhevet. And kidnapping civilians is a far worse crime than capturing a soldier in an attacking army. But the two events are treated quite differently: The capture of Shalhevet is a major international event. To this day, Israel offers it, puts it forth – with the support of the United States and indeed Europe – as a reason for refusing a political settlement. What about the kidnapping of the Muamar brothers? Well, it was reported: about a couple dozen words in the Washington Post. But it disappeared, which in a way is justified, because this is standard, regular Israeli practice. In the preceding decades, they have repeatedly kidnapped civilians in Lebanon, on the high seas (an act which is much worse than Somoli piracy), killing them sometimes, bringing many of them to Israel, where they are then kept in prisons, sometimes secret prison torture chambers, sometimes for decades, and held as hostages. Well, since that's regular practice, why care if they did it once again on June 24th? But of course if Hamas captures a soldier of an attacking army, well, you know, "the world is coming to an end!" That's again a typical illustration of Western racism. If somebody else does something to us, it's a horror story; if we do much worse to them consistently for decades, you know, it's a yawn.

Let's go back to January 2006. (I should say, after the capture of Shalhevet, the attack on Gaza escalated very sharply: huge attack, large-scale destruction, destroyed the power systems, the water systems, the sewage systems, and so on. But that was considered okay too after this "outrage", which still today is put forth as the main reason for refusing a ceasefire and a setttlement.)

Well, in order to overturn the election, the United States and Israel went farther: they armed a military force, a paramilitary force, led by Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan (you know, a tough thug), whose task was to carry out a military coup in Gaza to overthrow the elected government. Well, that failed. Hamas preempted it. And that led to new attacks and a strengthened seige. But also the US and Israel didn't stop there. A US general was sent, General Keith Dayton, to train a paramilitary force, with the help of Jordan, which would be the Fatah paramilitary force. And here we get back to Kerry. He gives a reason to explain why Israel now has a "legitimate" Palestinian "partner": the reason is the Dayton-run paramilitary force, which he says is really good. In fact, he says it's the most important development to show Palestinian legitimacy. And our goal – our primary goal – , he said, is to strengthen General Dayton's efforts to train Palestinian security forces to "keep order" in the West Bank and to "fight terror". And then he says, "Recent developments have been extremely encouraging: During the invasion of Gaza, Palestinian Security Forces were largely successful in maintaining calm in the West Bank amidst widespread expectations of civil unrest. …More has to be done, but we can help" extending this force.

Well, to translate that into English: During the Israeli invasion of Gaza, it was expected that there would be protests in the West Bank. You know, it's the same country after all. But thanks to the US-trained paramilitary forces, they were able to keep the population under control, and there was no expression of sympathy for the people being slaughtered in Gaza. And that's, as Kerry says, "extremely encouraging" and we have to do more. Well, the US has a lot of experience in this, in fact unique experience. It goes back a century, since the US established the Philippine Constabulary to try to control the Philippines. After invading it and killing a couple hundred thousand people, there was a lot of unrest. But the US did succeed, in complicated and sophisticated measures, to create a Philippine paramilitary force, which still pretty much runs the country; that's one of the reasons why the country is kind of a basket case, and it's a century later. And it's happened over and over: the national guards in the Caribbean and Central America, the paramilitary forces in Columbia, which were responsible for, you know, huge atrocities in the last couple of decades. And in fact the military forces themselves, which, for example in Columbia, just cooperate with the paramilitaries; [they are] part of them essentially. And other armies too. So we got a century of experience in how to control populations with collaborationist paramilitary and military forces. So we should be able to achieve it in the West Bank too. And that's, for Kerry, most "encouraging". It includes his own experience in Vietnam, where the Saigon army was such a force; its task was to control the population and prevent them from achieving any form of self-determination. And so, yes, we're pretty good at that.

(to part7)


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