22 January 2009

Reply to Stephen Walt: 'The myth of Israel's strategic genius'

The myth of Israel's strategic genius


You state that "after seizing the West Bank, Golan Heights and Gaza Strip during the war, Israeli leaders decided to start building settlements and eventually incorporate them into a "greater Israel." Thus, 1967 marks the beginning of Israel's settlements project".

Your colleague Prof. Mearsheimer, in his Jan 26 article in the American Conservative (1), talked about the "real goals of Operation Cast Lead", and described them thus: "The actual purpose is connected to Israel’s long-term vision of how it intends to live with millions of Palestinians in its midst. It is part of a broader strategic goal: the creation of a “Greater Israel.” Specifically, Israel’s leaders remain determined to control all of what used to be known as Mandate Palestine, which includes Gaza and the West Bank."

Prof Avi Shlaim, Fellow of St. Anthony's College, Oxford and the British Academy stated in his January 07 article in the UK Guardian newspaper (2): "The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the June 1967 war had very little to do with security and everything to do with territorial expansionism. The aim was to establish Greater Israel through permanent political, economic and military control over the Palestinian territories. And the result has been one of the most prolonged and brutal military occupations of modern times."

Prof. Noam Chomsky in his recent article informs us of the methods the Israelis use and the coverage given to these methods by even Israeli rabbinical authorities: "They are not marginal figures. On the contrary, they are highly influential in the army and in the settler movement, who Zertal and Eldar reveal to be "lords of the land," with enormous impact on policy. Soldiers fighting in northern Gaza were afforded an "inspirational" visit from two leading rabbis, who explained to them that there are no "innocents" in Gaza, so everyone there is a legitimate target, quoting a famous passage from Psalms calling on the Lord to seize the infants of Israel's oppressors and dash them against the rocks. The rabbis were breaking no new ground. A year earlier, the former chief Sephardic rabbi wrote to Prime Minister Olmert, informing him that all civilians in Gaza are collectively guilty for rocket attacks, so that there is "absolutely no moral prohibition against the indiscriminate killing of civilians during a potential massive military offensive on Gaza aimed at stopping the rocket launchings," as the Jerusalem Post reported his ruling. His son, chief rabbi of Safed, elaborated: "If they don't stop after we kill 100, then we must kill a thousand, and if they do not stop after 1,000 then we must kill 10,000. If they still don't stop we must kill 100,000, even a million. Whatever it takes to make them stop." (3)

Last February, according to Haaretz (4), Israeli "Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai went as far as threatening a “shoah,” the Hebrew word for holocaust or disaster."

In August 2006, Edward S. Herman and Grace Kwinjeh wrote (5): "Back in 1948, David Ben-Gurion was clear that "We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population." Fifty years later, in 1998, Ariel Sharon made the same point about the centrality of ethnic cleansing in Israeli policy: "It is the duty of Israeli leaders to explain to public opinion, clearly and courageously, a certain number of facts that are forgotten with time. The first of these is that there is no Zionism, colonization or Jewish state without the eviction of the Arabs and the expropriation of their lands." On May 24, 2006, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told a joint session of congress that "I believed and to this day still believe, in our people's eternal and historic right to this entire land."

Curiously enough in neither Prof. Mearsheimer's, Prof. Shlaim's nor your own article do we find the word 'genocide' even once. Why not sir? Everything I have read about Israeli methods concur with the description in the Genocide Convention.

Edward S. Herman and Grace Kwinjeh make another point: "This drive to "redeem the land," requiring the takeover of land in the possession of others by force, also constitutes a model case of a quest for a "Greater" entity - here a Greater Israel - a drive which in the case of Milosevic's and the Serbs' alleged drive for a "Greater Serbia" was presented as a prime element of illegal activity in the ICTY indictment of Milosevic"

On March 24, 1999, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) began Operation Allied Force against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. That evening, President Bill Clinton explained to the American people that the NATO air campaign was intended to avoid "an even crueler and costlier war"; "to prevent a wider war in Europe"; and to "seriously damage the Serbian military's capacity to harm the people of Kosovo."

Describing the Serbian Army's assault, he stated: "This is not war in the traditional sense. It is an attack by tanks and artillery on a largely defenseless people...Our mission is clear: to demonstrate the seriousness of NATO's purpose so that the Serbian leaders understand the imperative of reversing course; to deter an even bloodier offensive against innocent civilians in Kosovo and, if necessary, to seriously damage the Serbian military's capacity to harm the people of Kosovo. In short, if President Milosevic will not make peace, we will limit his ability to make war."

Tony Blair had said much the same the day before, on 23 March 1999: "We must act to save thousands of innocent men, women and children from humanitarian catastrophe." Blair described the emergency: "Let me give the House an indication of the scale of what is happening: a quarter of a million Kosovars, more than 10 per cent of the population, are now homeless as a result of repression by Serb forces... Since last summer 2000 people have died." (7)

No mention was made of Serbia's right to defend its ethnic population from attacks by the KLA, described by President Bill Clinton's special envoy to the Balkans, Robert Gelbard, as, "without any questions, a terrorist group." (8)

Indeed George Robertson, then UK Defence Secretary and later NATO Secretary General, stated before the House of Commons that until mid-January 1999, "the Kosovo Liberation Army [KLA] was responsible for more deaths in Kosovo than the Serbian authorities had been". (9)

What is the difference between Serbia and Israel? One is forced to accept Ed Hermann & Prof. Chomsky's thesis that "when terrorism is seen by U.S. officials as highly advantageous to U.S. interests, it is treated by those officials, and hence by the media, as a positive development and hence "constructive...When the terrorism is not especially helpful to U.S. interests but is carried out by an ally or client that U.S. officials want to placate or protect, the killing of large numbers of civilians is treated as of little interest and no evident moral concern-it is "benign" (10)

Presumably therefore we can expect you to support an ad-hoc international war crimes tribunal to judge past and present Israeli leaders - at least those still alive for genocide and war crimes... and denounce the hypocrisy of NATO actions against Serbia if they are not prepared for a similar military blitz on Israel...

(1) Another War, Another Defeat By John J. Mearsheimer
January 26, 2009 Issue The American Conservative

(2) How Israel brought Gaza to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe By Avi Shlaim, The Guardian, Wednesday 7 January 2009

(3) "Exterminate all the Brutes": Gaza 2009 By Noam Chomsky January 20, 2009 ZNet

(4) Barak: Hamas will pay for its escalation in the south
By Yuval Azoulay, Haaretz Correspondent and News Agencies
Salman / Jini) Last update - 00:00 29/02/2008

(5) 'Ethnic Cleansing: Constructive, Benign, and Nefarious (Kafka Era Studies, No. 1),' Edward S. Herman and Grace Kwinjeh, ZNet, August 9, 2006;

(6) President Bill Clinton, address to the nation, Washington, D.C., March 24, 1999

(7) Blair: 'We must act - to save thousands of innocent men, women and children,' The Guardian, March 23, 1999

(8) Terrorist Groups and Political Legitimacy
Prepared by: Michael Moran, Executive Editor, Council on Foreign Relations March 16, 2006

(9) Quoted, Noam Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival, Routledge, 2003, p.56

(10) 'Ethnic Cleansing: Constructive, Benign, and Nefarious (Kafka Era Studies, No. 1),' Edward S. Herman and Grace Kwinjeh, ZNet, August 9, 2006;

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