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UN Hits Israeli Crackdown on Palestinian Civilians

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Israel once again appears determined to alienate world opinion by threatening to cut the supplies of fuel and electricity to the Gaza Strip while, in the words of Human Rights Watch, “increasing its restrictions on the movement of goods and people in and out of the territory.” 

“Palestinian armed groups are clearly violating the laws of war by firing rockets deliberately or indiscriminately at Israeli civilians,” said HRW’s Sarah Leah Whitson in a press statement. “Israel has the responsibility to protects its citizens, but not by collectively punishing the people of Gaza, which seriously violates the laws of war.”

Whitson noted Israel’s past policies have plunged Gaza into a “humanitarian crisis,” a phrase also used by the United Nations to describe what Israel’s American ally has precipitated in Iraq.

According to The New York Times of September 20th, Israeli’s defense chief Ehud Barak told his cabinet, “The objective is to weaken Hamas.” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri says, however, the action is much more than that. He called it “a declaration of war against the Palestinian people.”

Seemingly, Israeli pressure is being felt more keenly each day. One instance cited by the Associated Press September 21: “A fierce Israeli army raid in a crowded West Bank Refugee camp confined thousands to their homes for a third straight day Thursday and residents said they were running out of food and water.”

At the United Nations, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon warned Israel against cutting off water and electricity, saying it would be “contrary to Israel’s obligations toward civilian population under international humanitarian and human rights law. I call for Israel to reconsider this decision.” If Israel ignores him, many will conclude the new crackdown is more of the same punitive approach as Israel’s bombing of Gaza’s main power plant in July, 2006.

James Petras, in his just published “Rulers And Ruled In The US Empire,”(Clarity Press), believes Israel is guilty of genocide against the Palestinians and seeks no accord with them. He quotes a  BBC report of last November 24, to the effect that “Israel has in the past consistently rejected ceasefire offers by Palestinian militants, saying it refuses to do deals of any kind with what it describes as terrorist organizations.”

Petras, a professor emeritus of sociology at Binghamton University, New York, is a fierce critic of Israeli policies. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert “rejected outright” a peace initiative that called for UN peacekeepers to safeguard the Gaza-Israeli frontier, he noted. 

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“In the face of Israel’s systematic daily killing of Palestinians and ethnic cleansing of over 8,000 Palestinians each month (40,000 since June)” the UN’s General Assembly voted 150 to 7 on November 13, to condemn Israel for mass murder, Petras writes.

He goes on to recite a litany of charges to make the case Israel’s role in Palestine is genocidal. He begins stating Israel is “a highly militarized society given to long-term, large-scale use of state terror” that has dispossessed four million Palestinians and severely restricts their movement, legalized torture, and makes “perpetual military assaults on neighboring Palestinian communities and other Arab states,” including extra-territorial and extra-judicial assassinations.

He sees Israeli society afflicted by “an ideology of permanent warfare and international paranoia (‘anti-Semitism is everywhere’) and an ideology of ethnic superiority (the ‘Chosen People.’)”

As for severely restricting Palestinian movement, The New York Times September 22 published a telling photo on page three of a sea of Palestinians in Bethlehem, in the West Bank, crowding a checkpoint attempting to reach Al Aksa Mosque in Jerusalem. The accompanying story relates that UN officials that monitor the checkpoints say their number on the West Bank has increased, “despite Israeli promises to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, and the prime minister, Salam Fayyad, that the number would be reduced.”

“The Israeli-Palestinian genocide,” Petras adds, “is a continuing process that is gaining momentum: daily military assaults, execution of leaders and murder of civilians, continued extension of colonies, non-recognition of elected Palestinian leaders and above all a total blockade of finances and basic food and medicine --- a Nazi style ‘encirclement of ghettos’ and ‘starvation to surrender’ strategy. The powerful voice and influence of the Jewish Lobby in and out of the US government ensures Israeli impunity and US and European Union complicity.”

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Despite its small size, Petras writes, “Israel exercises supreme power in influencing the direction of U.S. war policy in the Middle East via a powerful internal Zionist political apparatus, which permeates the (American) state, the mass media, elite economic sectors and civil society.” This is the apparatus, he claims, that is pushing the White House to make war on Iran.                                                             #

(Sherwood Ross is an American writer who covers military and political topics. Reach him at  


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Sherwood Ross worked as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News and contributed a regular "Workplace" column for Reuters. He has contributed to national magazines and hosted a talk show on WOL, Washington, D.C. In the Sixties he was active as public (more...)

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