Israeli Invasion Pre-planned
- Gaza Power Plant Hit by Israeli Airstrike is Insured by US Agency
by Farah Stockman
Thursday, June 29, 2006
WASHINGTON - The Palestinian power plant bombed by Israeli forces
Tuesday is insured by a US government agency, and US officials say
they expect American funds to be used to pay for the damage.
The destruction of the 140-megawatt reactor, the only one in the Gaza
Strip, threatens to create a humanitarian disaster because the plant
supplies electricity to two-thirds of Gaza's 1.3 million residents and
operates pumps that provide water supplies.
Flames rise out of a power plant after it was hit by an Israeli air
strike in Gaza in this June 28, 2006 video grab. Israeli tanks backed
by helicopter gunships and artillery pushed into the Gaza Strip on
Wednesday, stepping up pressure on Palestinian militants to release a
kidnapped soldier. REUTERS/Reuters TV
But paying a claim on the plant, which was insured for $48 million,
could prove problematic for the United States, which cut off funding
for all infrastructure projects in the Palestinian territories after
the militant group Hamas won legislative elections in January.
Administration officials said the restrictions on working with a
Hamas-led government could further complicate the repair of the
electric facility, which could take weeks, if not months, to fix
because of the escalating violence in Gaza.
The bombing of the plant could become a lasting problem for the Bush
administration, which is appealing for an end to the showdown between
Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza.
Israeli warplanes hit the power plant two days after Palestinian
militants attacked an Israeli Army unit, killing two soldiers and
taking another one hostage. Israeli forces responded yesterday by
entering the Gaza Strip for the first time since Israel's historic
pullout from the territory nine months ago, bombing the plant and
The power plant cost about $150 million and took more than five years
Plans for it began in 1999, when two private investors -- the
now-defunct Enron Corp. and a Palestinian-born construction mogul,
Said Khoury -- laid down the blueprint for making the Palestinian
territories less reliant on buying electricity from Israel.
The project faltered when violence broke out in Gaza in 2000 and when
Enron collapsed into bankruptcy, but Khoury continued to push forward.
His construction company's US subsidiary, Connecticut-based Morganti
Group, bought out Enron's stake in the plant.
In 2002, the plant began operating, becoming the first such facility
regulated by the Palestinian Energy Authority. In 2004, it reached
full commercial capacity and its owners were able to purchase $48
million in ``political risk" insurance from the Overseas Private
Investment Corporation , an arm of the US government that provides
American businesses with financing abroad and promotes US interests in
The US Investment Corporation -- set up in 1971 with US taxpayer funds
-- had been supportive of the project from the beginning, arranging
the first meeting between investors for the plant, according to the
Bloomberg news service.
Few commercial insurance companies insure such projects against
political violence, but the US Investment Corporation does so to
encourage development in emerging markets, according to Lawrence
Spinelli, a spokesman for the Investment Corporation.
The insurance that Morganti purchased covers ``political violence,"
which includes ``wars, acts of terrorism, things like that," Spinelli
said. To be paid for the damage, the company must file a claim, and
the Investment Corporation must determine whether the claim is covered
by the policy, Spinelli said.
The corporation raises its reserve funds through insurance premiums
and other charges to its clients, but its funds are kept in the US
Treasury and are controlled by Congress.
That could be a problem for those who want to see the power plant
After the election of Hamas in January, a host of congressmen
introduced bills designed to freeze US assistance to the Palestinian
territories to prevent any financial benefit from reaching Hamas,
designated as a terrorist organization. In April, the State Department
announced it would cut off all planned funding for infrastructure in
Gaza and the West Bank.
But advocates for Palestinians say that the plant must be repaired,
even if the US government is forced to pay for it.
``If you take out two-thirds of the power in a place like Gaza, and if
this is the source of electricity that powers pumps for water, you may
have a major crisis on your hand in short order," said Ed Abington , a
former consultant to the Palestinian Authority.
Destruction of Gaza Power Station Violates Agreement with EU to Spare
Electricity from Military Actions
Olmert Invades Gaza, Dashing Hopes for Swap of Prisoners
"Operation Summer Rains" a Pre-planned Israeli Invasion
Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) early Wednesday
invaded southern and eastern Gaza Strip and
occupied Yasser Arafat airport, after destroying
three bridges linking south and north Gaza as
well as the only power station in the strip and
knocking out water pipelines in what the IOF
called ?Operation Summer Rains,? driving
thousands of Palestinian civilians to evacuate
their homes looking for safety and paralyzing
civilian life in the densely-populated and
poverty-ridden Mediterranean coastal strip.
Dismissing calls by Russia and the United Nations
Secretary General, Kofi Annan, for restraint and
by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to
"give diplomacy a chance," Israeli Prime Minister
Ehud Olmert on Wednesday insisted on military
action saying that Israel wouldn't balk at
"extreme action" to bring home a soldier captured
by Palestinian anti-occupation activists.
Ruling out negotiations, Olmert insisted that,
"the age of restraint has come to an end," and
gave an order to military leaders for
comprehensive and ongoing military action, he told parliament on
Palestinian chief negotiator and lawmaker, Saeb
Erakat, said Israel wants to reoccupy the Gaza
Strip and the capture of the Israeli corporal,
Gilad Shalit, was only a pretext.
Former Palestinian deputy premier and Foreign
Minister lawmaker Nabil Shaath on Tuesday voiced a similar statement.
Israel was planning a military invasion of Gaza
to stop the launch of primitive home-made
Palestinian rockets before the Israeli soldier
was captured, Sha'ath told the Qatar-based Arabic
satellite television station, al-Jazeera.
Israeli media reported an imminent military
operation in Gaza a week before the capture of
the dual Israeli-French soldier Shalit, 19.
Saeb Erakat told al-Jazeera, on Wednesday that
Israel, by destroying the electricity grid in
Gaza was violating a Palestinian ? Israeli
agreement with the European Union (EU), whereby
it was agreed to keep power out of military action.
Erakat added that Israel's destruction of the
bridges and roads and other infrastructure in
Gaza indicates it was reoccupying the Gaza Strip.
He stressed that "We are unarmed civilians and
not an army," as the Israeli media is trying to portray the
The international contacts that are being
conducted intensively by President Mahmoud Abbas
for the world community to intervene and stop the
Israeli aggression were fruitless, he added.
IOF sealed off and banned entry to and exit from
the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, besieging President
Abbas, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and top
officials of the Palestinian National Authority
(PNA) as leading anti-occupation activists went underground.
Palestinian presidential security adviser Jibril
al-Rjoub arrived in Cairo on Tuesday via Jordan
and met with the Egyptian FM Ahmed Abu el-Gheit,
intelligence chief Omar Sulaiman and presidential adviser Osama
Panic Grips Palestinian Civilians
The invasion came shortly after Palestinian
security forces deployed near the Gazan border
town of Rafah said they were ordered out by the IOF.
Thousands of Palestinian civilians evacuated
their homes in Rafah and other communities
looking for safety as the Israeli tanks and
troops rolled into the southern Gaza Strip under
the cover of the US-made F-16s early Wednesday.
Before daybreak Wednesday IOF warplanes flew low
over Gaza city, causing sonic booms and breaking windows.
Men, women and children, packed into rickety
carts and cars fled border areas of southern Gaza
in fear of their lives after Israeli troops rolled into the territory.
"We're going someplace safe. We saw the tanks
coming and we decided to leave before anything
else happens,? said Mohammed Abu Zakr, arriving
in the southern city of Rafah accompanied by two
female relatives and several young children, AFP reported.
Gazan Infrastructure Targeted
Much of the northern Gaza Strip was plunged into
darkness after Israeli war planes hit the power
station, three bridges, water pipelines and a
road in a series of night-time raids.
Flames poured into the night sky from the power plant in central Gaza.
Grabbed by what Anshel Pfeffer described in The
Jerusalem Post on Monday as the "Entebbe
Syndrome," Olmert ruled out negotiations and
rejected a Palestinian demand to free 400 women
and minors among more than 9,800 Palestinian
detainees in the IOF jails, dashing the hopes of
both the Palestinian families and the Israeli family of the ?missing?
The IOF reported corporal Gilad Shalit ?missing?
following a daring Palestinian attack, in which
two Palestinians were killed when they attacked
an IOF unit protecting the Israeli-Egyptian
border crossing of Karm Abu Salem (known to
Israelis as Kerem Shalom), after killing two
Israeli soldiers and wounding four others.
Russia on Tuesday was seriously concerned over
the dangerous development of the situation around
the Gaza Strip, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin
"The situation on the Palestinian territories and
in the Palestinian-Israeli relations,
regrettably, is already heated. It is apparent
that the force operation in Gaza can lead to
numerous human victims and will be fraught with
the gravest consequences for the future of
Palestinian-Israeli settlement," he said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has called on the
Israeli government "to refrain from tough
scenarios and try to find a solution within political bounds."
Search for Missing Recruit in West Bank
Separately in Gaza, anti-Israeli occupation
activist Hamza Muhareb, 21, was killed and five
Palestinians were wounded in a massive explosion
that demolished a car near the residence of
President Abbas in Gaza on Tuesday.
Meanwhile the security situation in the West Bank was heating up.
IOF said overnight Wednesday that the Israeli
army recruit Eliyahu Oshri, a settler of the
illegal Israeli settlement of Itamar near the
northern West Bank city of Nablus, was missing,
confirming a report by the Popular Resistance
Committees (PRC) it had captured Oshri.
IOF sources they believe Oshri or his body could
be somewhere in or around Ramallah.
The IOF sealed off Ramallah, the home of the PNA
leadership, by military roadblocks and
checkpoints early Wednesday and massive searches
were being conducted by the IOF troops.
Israeli settler goes missing in West Bank: kidnapped or not?
Palestine News Network
28 June 06
There is a missing Israeli settler in the West
Bank. Although his presence is illegal, he does
live in a Nablus area settlement in the northern
West Bank in direct contravention to international law.
The last place 18 year old Elyaho Asheary was
seen was near the Betar Settlement, built on Bethlehem District lands.
At the same time, the Nasser Salah Addin
Brigades, the armed resistance wing of the
Popular Resistance Committees announced they
captured an Israeli soldier in the West Bank.
Although they made no official announcement, the
Israelis fear that this is the missing settler.
The settler was a student at an Israeli military college in the West
Israel arrests Hamas leadership
Thursday 29 June 2006
Israeli forces have rounded up dozens of Palestinian Cabinet
ministers and lawmakers from Hamas, increasing pressure on militants
to release a captured Israeli soldier.
Witnesses said on Thursday that tanks moved into northern Gaza,
widening Israel's largest military operation in the year since it
pulled out of the seaside territory.
Adding to the tension, a Palestinian militant group claimed on
Thursday that it had killed an 18-year-old Jewish settler kidnapped
in the West Bank. Palestinian security officials said they believed
the body of Eliahu Asheri had been found in the West Bank city of Ram
Hamas officials said more than 30 lawmakers have been arrested in the
Palestinian security officials said Israeli forces detained Nasser
Shaer, the Palestinian deputy prime minister, and three other Cabinet
ministers, as well as four lawmakers in Ram Allah. Several others
were arrested in the town of Jenin, they said.
Israeli media reported a roundup of Hamas lawmakers in Jerusalem and
other locations. Also, the Hamas mayor of the West Bank town of
Qalqiliya and his deputy were detained, security officials said.
The Israeli military refused to comment. Israel blames Hamas for the
Sunday attack in which two soldiers were killed and a third captured
when militants tunnelled under the border and attacked an army post,
setting off the invasion.
According to the witnesses, before daybreak on Thursday, Israeli
tanks and bulldozers moved into northern Gaza, stopping about 200m
inside Palestinian territory across from the Jabaliya refugee camp.
No clashes were reported. But the military denied its forces had
moved into northern Gaza.
Despite the size of the Israeli operation, with large troop
movements, artillery barrages and many air strikes over two days, no
one was hurt.
Israel held the Palestinian government, headed by Hamas, responsible
for the fate of the soldier. It also blamed the Hamas leadership in
exile in Syria.
An Israeli Cabinet minister said Khalid Mishaal, the Syria-based
Hamas leader, was a target for assassination. In a bold warning to
the country that shelters him, Israeli warplanes buzzed the seaside
home of Bashar Assad, the Syrian president, in the port of Latakia.
Syria confirmed that Israeli warplanes entered its airspace, but said
its air defences forced the Israeli aircraft to flee.
Israel's concern goes beyond the rescue of the soldier and the
negative precedent abducting soldiers would set. Ehud Olmert's
government is alarmed by the firing of homemade rockets at Israeli
communities around Gaza and support for Hamas in the Arab world,
especially from Syria.
Earlier, witnesses reported heavy shelling around Gaza's long-closed
airport, and Israeli missiles hit two empty Hamas training camps, a
rocket-building factory and several roads.
Palestinians filled up on basic supplies after warplanes knocked out
electricity, raising the possibility of a humanitarian crisis. The
Hamas-led government's information ministry warned of "epidemics and
health disasters" because of damaged water pipes to central Gaza and
the lack of power to pump water.
In Rafah, Nivine Abu Shbeke, a 23-year-old mother of three, hoarded
bags of flour, boxes of vegetables and other supplies.
"We're worried about how long the food will last," she said. "The
children devour everything."
Dozens of Palestinian militants - armed with automatic weapons and
grenades - took up positions, bracing for attack.
Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, threatened harsher action to free
the soldier, though he said there was no plan to re-occupy Gaza.
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, deplored the incursion as
a "crime against humanity".
Abbas and Egyptian dignitaries tried to persuade Assad to use his
influence with Mishaal to free the soldier, Corporal Gilad Shalit.
Assad agreed, but without results, said a senior Abbas aide. Israel
refused to negotiate with the militants and rejected their demand -
freeing Palestinian prisoners - outright.
The US pressure
The Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) in Gaza said they had killed
Asheri, kidnapped in the West Bank. Palestinian security officials
said the body had been found, and Israeli security sources said the
youth had apparently been killed. The PRCs had said it would execute
the hostage if Israel did not halt its invasion of Gaza.
Also, militants said they kidnapped another Israeli, and police said
they had a missing person report about a 62-year-old Israeli from the
central Israeli city of Rishon Lezion.
Meanwhile, the European Union on Wednesday urged both Israel and the
Palestinians to "step back from the brink" and, echoing a statement
from Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, to give diplomacy a
The White House kept up its pressure on Hamas, saying the Palestinian
government must "stop all acts of violence and terror". But the US
also urged Israel to show restraint.
Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, urged restraint in a phone call
to Olmert, saying he had spoken to Assad and Abbas and asked them to
do everything possible to release the soldier. Amr Mussa, the Arab
League secretary-general, called on the US to assume its role as
"honest broker" and to make the Palestinian-Israeli conflict its top
priority in the Middle East.
Israel denies tactical role of arrests
Thursday 29 June 2006
Aljazeera + Agencies
The Israeli army has denied it arrested Palestinian government
ministers in an attempt to pressure the Palestinian Resistance
Committees group into releasing an Israeli soldier kidnapped by them
Mark Regev, the Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, said the arrests
were "due to the fact that Hamas over the last few weeks has
escalated terror attacks against Israel".
Jacob Dalal, an army spokesman, said: "They are not being used as
bargaining chips. These are people with terrorist records, with
allegations and charges pending against them."
An army spokeswoman said the ministers would be investigated, brought
before a judge, their detention extended and charge sheets prepared.
During raids in Ram Allah and Jerusalem early on Thursday, at least
eight Hamas cabinet ministers were detained.
Israeli troops detained five of the ministers at the same Ram Allah
hotel, Aljazeera reported.
Some were led away blindfolded and in handcuffs, Palestinian security
Palestinian officials said Umar Abd al-Raziq, the Palestinian finance
minister, and at least seven other cabinet members, along with nearly
20 Hamas legislators in operations across the West Bank were detained.
Israel said 64 Hamas officials in all were taken into custody during
the West Bank operation.
In a sign of worsening relations between Israelis and Palestinians, a
planned summit between Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, and
Mahmud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has been cancelled.
Abbas condemned the arrests of the Hamas politicians and called on
Western powers to intervene to "restore democracy".
The Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) group, which claimed
responsibility for the kidnapping of Corporal Gilad Shalit during a
raid on an Israeli army post, said: "Olmert and [defence minister]
Amir Peretz will be entirely responsible for the life of the
kidnapped soldier if the aggression continues."
Palestinians lined up at public water fountains to fill up jugs after
a second night of power cuts, under Israeli military pressure that
has sparked fears of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
"When the Israelis come, maybe we'll be stuck in our homes for God
knows how long," says Isra Abu Anza, a 16-year-old girl standing in a
queue at one of the fountains.
"We need to drink, to wash, to bathe."
An Israeli missile destroyed a crucial power station late on Tuesday.
In Rafah, which relied on the destroyed power plant for half of its
daily energy needs, residents are now left without power for much of
The Israeli military continued to prepare for a ground assault on
parts of Gaza.
In preparation for the offensive, Israel dropped leaflets on northern
Gaza urging residents to avoid areas troops may single out for attack.
Israeli aircraft fired missiles at the southern Gaza Strip on
Thursday, with the military saying it aimed at open areas, and
Palestinian medical officials saying a car was hit.
Major Israeli websites hacked
28 June 2006
More than 750 Israeli websites hacked in recent hours. Among them:
Soldier's Treasury Bank, Rambam Hospital, and Globus Group ticket
center. Hackers: You're killing Palestinians, we're killing servers
Gal Mor, Ehud Kinan
Unprecedented number of Israeli websites hacked: Hundreds of websites
were damaged by hackers in recent hours, following IDF activity in the
Gaza Strip. The hackers are members of the Moroccan "Team Evil" group,
responsible for most of the website damage in Israel in the past year.
This is the largest, most concentrated attack on Israeli websites in
A Ynet investigation revealed that more than 750 Israeli websites, on
a number of different domains, were hacked into and damaged in recent
days. Prominent among them were the Soldier's Treasury Bank, Bank
Hapoalim (not the main page), Rambam Hospital, the Society for Culture
and Housing, BMW Israel, Subaru Israel, Jump Fashion, non-profit
organization "Yedid," Kadima's youth website, and the Globus Group
ticket center. Many of these sites have not yet returned to normal.
Hackers left the message: You're killing Palestinians, we're killing
Early on Wednesday, the IDF began operation "Summer Rains" in Gaza:
Forces entered the southern end of the strip, adjacent to the point of
Cpl. Gilad Shavit's kidnap. The air force attacked a power station and
blacked out areas of Gaza. Three bridges were bombed in central Gaza,
in order to prevent movement of the kidnapped soldier.
Many Israeli websites are hacked every day most of these are small
sites, with inadequate information security. It is significantly
different when the sites are ones of large companies, who have
adequate defenses from this sort of attack.
Past success of Team Evil
In the past, Team Evil succeeded in hacking into several sites of
medium-sized but recognized Israeli companies. In April, they hit tens
of sites, including those of the "Shilav" children's store, "The Blue
Square" supermarket and McDonald's.
The group's spokesman previously told Ynet that "we are a group of
Moroccan hackers that hack into sites as part of the resistance in the
war with Israel. We attack Israeli sites every day. This is our
duty hacking is not a crime."
Added another group member: "We want Israel to stop fighting. Stop
killing children and we'll stop hacking." According to the spokesman,
the group's members are all Moroccan youths, under the age of 20.
The increase in hacking of websites following military operations is a
well-known phenomenon, in Israel and in the rest of the world. A
similar increase was seen in attacks on both Israeli and Arab websites
in the first days of the second intifada, pursuant to military
operations that took place in Gaza, Judea and Samaria at that time.
Fmr. Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami:
"It Was Wrong" For Israel to Invade Gaza
Wednesday, June 28th, 2006
Israeli forces have invaded the Gaza Strip for the first time since
withdrawing ten months ago. Israel says it launched the raid to
recover a soldier captured by Palestinian militants. The strikes came
just hours after Fatah and Hamas agreed on a document to implicitly
recognize Israel within its 1967 borders. We go to Gaza to speak with
Palestinian physician Dr. Mona El-Farra and we get comment from former
Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami and Palestinian activist Ali
Abunimah. [includes rush transcript]
Israeli forces have invaded the Gaza Strip for the first time since
withdrawing ten months ago. Israel says it's launched the raid to
recover captured soldier Gilad Shalit. Shalit was captured in a
Palestinian operation on Sunday. The raid began after Israel rejected
Shalit's captors demand for the release of all Palestinian females and
Palestinians below the age of eighteen in Israeli prisons. Israel
opened the attack with a series of air strikes on three bridges and
Gaza's main power station. The attack left the power station in flames
and knocked out electricity in most of Gaza City. Palestinian
militants have reportedly taken up defensive positions around Gaza -
setting the stage for a potential firefight with the invading soldiers.
The strikes came just hours after officials close to Palestinian
President Mahmoud Abbas said Hamas had agreed on a document to
implicitly recognize Israel within its June 1967 borders. Hamas
leaders later denied this is the case. Hamas lawmaker Salah
al-Bardaweel explained: "We said we accept a state [in territory
occupied] in 1967 - but we did not say we accept two states." The deal
follows weeks of negotiations between Fatah and Hamas leaders over the
terms of a unity government. Palestinians hope the agreement will
bring an end to the crippling international aid freeze imposed since
Hamas swept to power in elections earlier this year.
Ali Abunimah, a writer, speaker and founder of the website Electronic
Intifada. He is author of the book "One Country: A Bold proposal to
end the Israeli-Palestinian impasse" which will be published by
Metropolitan Books this Fall. He joins on the line from Amman, Jordan.
Shlomo Ben-Ami, has held a number of positions within the Israeli
government, including Foreign Minister, Minister of Public Security
and Member of Parliament. His latest book is "Scars of Wars, Wounds of
Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy." He speaks to us from Madrid, Spain,
where he is currently Vice-President of the Toledo Peace Center.
Dr. Mona El-Farra, a physician and community activist in northern
Gaza. She was at the hospital that received many of the victims of
Friday's bombing. She runs a blog titled "From Gaza, With Love"
AMY GOODMAN: We're joined on the telephone from Spain by Shlomo
Ben-Ami. He's the former Foreign Minister of Israel and a former
member of the Israeli Knesset. He wrote the book Scars of War, Wounds
of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy. We're also joined on the line by
Ali Abunimah, founder of Electronic Intifada, electronicintifada.net,
speaking to us from Jordan. Ali Abunimah, can you talk about the
ALI ABUNIMAH: Yes. Good morning, Amy. I'm here in Amman, Jordan, and
watching the situation very closely. And it reminds me of the eulogy
that Rabbi Yakov Perin gave for Baruch Goldstein, the Israeli settler
who murdered 29 Palestinians in Hebron in 1994. He said, "One million
Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail." And this kind of racism is
clearly on display in the Israeli reaction to the capture of its
soldier in the Gaza Strip by the Palestinian resistance. In fact, last
week here in Amman, the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said
explicitly that the lives of Israeli Jews are more important than the
lives of Palestinians.
And we see that reflected also in the world reaction. Is it not
astonishing that the entire world knows the name and face of the
Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, while the hundreds of Palestinian
children held in Israel's dungeons, not to mention 10,000 adult
prisoners, thousands held without charge and trial, abducted from
their homes in the middle of the night by Israeli occupation forces,
remain nameless and faceless before a silent world?
And I want to say that it's very deeply painful to me as a Palestinian
that while Palestinians in Gaza are demonstrating, the families of
prisoners are demonstrating to urge the resistance not to release the
soldier until their prisoners and hostages held by Israel are
released, that the Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas rushed
to condemn the legitimate conventional military operation carried out
by the resistance and rushed to send his security forces to hunt for
the captured soldier on Israel's behalf, when never once in history
has he deployed his forces to protect and defend his own people
against Israel's daily massacres. It's becoming unavoidable to many
Palestinians, if not most, that Abbas is engaged in open collaboration
with the occupation.
And a final point, that as far as Israel is concerned, it is rapidly
becoming a failed state, unable to learn any lessons from its past.
It's now repeating in Gaza and the West Bank all the mistakes of its
invasion and occupation of Lebanon. And I believe that if it doesn't
drastically and dramatically change course, it will self-destruct
within a decade, perhaps taking everyone else in the region with it.
It has become an apartheid pariah state, and its leaders are deluded
in thinking that they can bludgeon the indigenous Palestinian
population, who are now the majority between the Mediterranean and the
Jordan River, into submission and servitude.
I call on brave Israelis to understand the lessons, which brave white
South Africans understood, and to engage in a voluntary process with
Palestinians of dismantling completely, starting today, the system of
racist laws, walls and settler colonies that are imprisoning both
people in perpetual and endless and escalating bloodshed. It needs to
AMY GOODMAN: Ali Abunimah speaking to us from Amman. Let's turn to the
former Israeli Foreign Minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami. Your response?
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Response to what?
AMY GOODMAN: To what Ali Abunimah just said?
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: No, no. I'm not going to respond to that. If you have
any particular question with regard to this operation, with regard to
the abduction, with regard of the political situation on the ground --
I'm not going to go into that wider analysis about South Africa and
what have you.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, why don't you start with what is happening right now?
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Well, what seems to me that is happening right now is
that Israel is trying to change the equation that was established by
those who took the soldier as hostage. Their equation was one of
releasing the soldier for prisoners in Israeli jails, and Israel seems
that the present government is not ready for that, although previous
governments did negotiate and Rabin negotiated. Even Sharon negotiated
to exchange prisoners. This government doesn't seem to be politically
confident enough to negotiate, and therefore, they want to change the
equation to one that means that we will withdraw from Gaza or we'll
stop -- we'll interrupt this incursion if the soldier is released.
Is this going to work? I'm not sure it is going to work. I am afraid
that these kind of operations tend to have a dynamic that one knows
how they start, one doesn't really know how they end. I hope it
doesn't end in the collapse of the Palestinian Authority, in the
collapse of Abu Mazen, and the rest of it, because the situation is
difficult enough without this modicum of stability and legitimacy that
is given by the current president and the prime minister is destroyed.
So I really expect that things will be controlled in some way.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think that the Israeli government should release
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Should release prisoners? Well, I think that these
kind of situations require a sort of political approach, rather than
military approach. You see, it's not that easy also to say that they
should release prisoners, because that means that every Israeli
citizen is a candidate to be taken hostage. The dilemma is not simple.
I am for a political solution. These might perhaps take the form of,
say -- that the quid pro quo from the point of view of Israel would
have to be not to persist in the suffocation, the economic
suffocation, of the Gaza Strip, the boycott to the Palestinian
Authority. These kind of quid pro quos maybe we can reach through some
sort of third party mediation. I'm not sure that exchanging prisoners
will work, simply because this means exposing every Israeli citizen to
being taken hostage.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think the Israeli government was wrong to reinvade
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Well, yes. I think it was wrong to do that, because --
if only for the reasons that affect the stability of the government
itself. You see, the government is engaged now in this idea of
disengagement from the West Bank. If the they invade the Gaza Strip,
what they are going to show to the Israeli opinion and to public
opinion, as a whole, is that disengagement, unilateral disengagement,
doesn't work. If you do not coordinate things, either with the
Palestinians or through a third party -- the Quartet, for example --
disengagement creates a frontline in a state of war, in a permanent
state of war. And therefore, you'll have to reoccupy the territory, so
what's the point in disengaging in such a manner? I think the
government is exposing the fallacies of its own policy by occupying or
reoccupying the Gaza Strip.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to Gaza right now, where Dr. Mona El-Farra
is. She is a physician in northern Gaza, a health development
consultant for the Union of Health Work Committees in Gaza. What is
the situation on the ground right now, Dr. El-Farra?
DR. MONA EL-FARRA: Since the early hours of the morning, the Israeli
army did not stop their sonic bombing against the Gaza Strip. They
started the operation last night, 10:30. They targeted the
infrastructure of the Gaza Strip. Two-thirds -- the main target was
the electrical power plant. And now, two-thirds of Gaza Strip are with
The population mood is angry, anxious, worried, scared. But despite
all this, demonstrations are going in the streets against the release
of the soldier, especially by the families of the political prisoners.
This is the opinion, feeling.
And I have a comment here to say. There's no balance of power between
the Israeli army and the militia or the resistance movement here in
Gaza. Israeli knows that very well. So what's happening in Gaza now is
collective punishment. I don't understand, why to destroy the
infrastructure? Why to deprive the population from the electricity? It
is collective punishment. This will not bring the soldier back.
What will bring the soldier back: negotiation, understanding the
rights of Palestinian people to exist. The disengagement plan, for
example, and the wall in the West Bank, all these measures Israel did
to guarantee its security, it did not, anyway, because the security of
Israel is not harmed by the resistance or largely harmed by the
The mood is very bad in Gaza and angry. You can see twenty -- 2,000
people last night demonstrated in the middle camps of Gaza Strip
against the release of the soldier, or the release of the soldier in
swap of the political prisoners. People feel they are humiliated and
Israel and the world wants us to kneel down. This is the mood of the
people here now in Gaza.
AMY GOODMAN: The issue of collective punishment, Shlomo Ben-Ami,
former Foreign Minister of Israel, your response to that?
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: I am not favorable to collective punishment. But, you
see, one needs to see the conditions on the ground. When Israel
withdraws from the Gaza Strip and then you have every day Kassam
missiles being launched against an Israeli township, what would you do
then? What is the answer to that? I mean, either to reoccupy the land
or to open political negotiations, but that's, for example, President
Abbas or even Ismael Haniyeh -- control all the factions in Gaza, do
they control Islamic jihad? Do they control the martyrs of Al-Aqsa? So
you have here a very serious problem.
We need sometimes to descend from the heights of the conceptual or
even of the moral ground to see what can be done on the ground. So the
problem is that the government has been trying all kind of ways to
stop the launching of Kassam missiles. I'm sure that Ismael Haniyeh is
not interested in these attacks. I'm sure that Mahmoud Abbas is not
interested. Do they have the capacity to stop it? They don't have it,
because the political system or the hierarchy of command, the chain of
command, is invertibrate. So what is Israel to do in such a situation?
AMY GOODMAN: Ali Abunimah, your response?
ALI ABUNIMAH: Well, it's amazing, the rhetoric of Shlomo Ben-Ami, who
knows much better. I've heard him expose the situation more
eloquently, even on your show, Amy. He knows very well that this isn't
about Gaza. This is about Israel's relentless assault on the
Palestinians throughout the Occupied Territories, its expansion of
colonies and settlements in the occupied West Bank, and its announced
annexation plan, which even he has criticized. But he's not against
the annexation of the West Bank. What he believes, he's deluded in
believing, is that Palestinians -- they can find Palestinians who will
sit and agree to the annexation of Ma'ale Adumim, Ariel and all the
settlements around the Occupied Territories.
What he has to realize and what all Israelis have to realize is that
the age of colonialism has ended. He said, Shlomo Ben-Ami said, that
the so-called convergence plan, the unilateral annexation plan, is
Israeli's attempt to preempt the world recognizing that Israel is now
a Jewish minority ruling over a Palestinian majority.
He wants to talk about the Quartet and the U.S. and doing things on
the ground, because he doesn't want to talk about the big picture,
that what is driving the conflict is the radical inequality between
the Jewish minority, that rules all of the territory between the
Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and the disenfranchised
Palestinian majority, who are paying the price for the luxury that
Israel lives in, for the high incomes of Israelis, for the
settlements, for the swimming pools, for the security in Tel Aviv and
in Hertzliyah and in Jaffa and in Haifa and in Akka, that Israelis
live a normal life all around the country, except in Sderot, where
they experience the few dozen customs. But what pays for that
normality for Israelis is the total disenfranchisement and
dispossession of the majority population. And Israel believes that it
can hide them behind walls, in ghettos, as was done to Jews in Europe
in the 1930s and `40s.
And he should be a brave Israeli. He should speak out against the
occupation. He should speak out against the apartheid laws inside
Israel, not just in the West Bank. He should condemn the law that says
that an Israeli citizen can marry anybody in the world, except a
Palestinian, that an Israeli who marry a Palestinian has to leave the
country. This is a new style of apartheid. It is even, as some have
said, a new kind of Nuremberg law. And I'm waiting for Shlomo Ben-Ami
to live up to his claimed liberal and progressive credentials and
condemn these things and join the struggle to liberate not just
Palestinians, but also Israelis, from this devastating system of
oppression and apartheid, which will kill all of us --
AMY GOODMAN: Let me put that question to Shlomo Ben-Ami.
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: As I told you, Amy, I really thought we were going to
talk about the current crisis, as it is.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I think --
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: I, of course, do not deny things that I say about the
convergence plan. I dedicated my political life to trying to reach a
settlement, that essentially meant disengaging from Palestinian lands,
having the fully fledged Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its
capital. These are my credentials. It's not books that I've written.
It is things that I've tried to do.
Now, we have a political crisis there, and we are trying to see how we
solve it. My suggestion is, as I said before, not to invade, try to
find a different quid pro quo, and that is, stopping the suffocation
of the Palestinian economy in Gaza, improving relations with the
Palestinian Authorities, and moving to a political phase. This is my
solution to the current crisis. I don't want to go now into the wider
picture. I have said things, I have written things about it. I don't
want to repeat it right now. And frankly, I am in the middle of a
business lunch. I had the idea that we are having a very short interview.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, let me just ask you --
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: And now I am interrupting the whole reunion.
AMY GOODMAN: I'm very sorry. I just want to ask you one last question:
the strikes coming just hours after officials close to Mahmoud Abbas
said Hamas had agreed on a document to implicitly recognize Israel
within its June `67 borders.
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Yeah. I think it is a very important document. I think
that if indeed they sign it, this will at least stem the decline into
a potential civil war between Palestinians. I think it is in Israel's
interest to have a united Palestinian polity, that is, that subscribes
to a shared political plan. I would have preferred them to simply
subscribe to the Arab Peace Initiative. I think they have departed
from that legitimacy, or from that inter-Arab legitimacy, and created
their own. I don't see the logic of it. I think that the Arab Peace
Initiative has a worldwide legitimacy, and simply subscribing to it
would have meant a lot, in terms of Israeli public opinion. As it is,
I think it enhances the unity between Palestinians, but it creates a
condition that, I am afraid -- and again, I'm not speaking theory and
not generalities -- I'm afraid that the current Israeli government
will not see that as a starter.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you for being with us, Shlomo Ben-Ami,
former Israeli Foreign Minister, Member of Parliament, book Scars of
War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy. He is speaking to us
from Spain. Thanks for joining us. We will come back to this
discussion after break with Ali Abunimah, as well as Dr. El-Farra.
AMY GOODMAN: We are talking to Ali Abunimah, founder of Electronic
Intifada; and Dr. Mona El-Farra, physician in northern Gaza. Ali
Abunimah, your response to this document, that at least those close to
Mahmoud Abbas said that Hamas had agreed to recognizing Israel within
the `67 borders.
ALI ABUNIMAH: I think if tomorrow Ismael Haniyeh and Khaled Meshaal
and all the other leaders of Hamas get down on their knees and say,
"We want to give up everything to Israel and accept a state on the
West Bank and Gaza Strip and accept to cancel the rights of
Palestinian refugees and to abandon our rights to resist the
occupation in any form whatsoever," it would make no difference
whatsoever, Amy, because the stumbling block, the fiction, here is
that it's the Palestinians who have rejected this. The Hamas leaders,
like the leaders of Fatah, have said many times that they're willing
to talk to Israel, they're willing to recognize Israel. The Hamas
leaders have said, "Okay, we don't want to do that in advance, because
the PLO did that in advance during the Oslo Accords and got nothing in
return. So we do it on the basis of reciprocity."
The problem, Amy, is that Israel is still completely 100% committed to
colonialism. That is why Israel is continuing to seize land in the
West Bank, to build new settler colonies every day, to pave
Jewish-only roads in the West Bank, to build the apartheid wall, to
treat Gaza as a giant prison. The reason that Israel pulled its
settlers out of Gaza, as Shlomo Ben-Ami has said before, is to create
the fiction that Israel is not ruling over a Palestinian majority,
exactly as South Africa created the Bantustans to try and fool the
world into thinking that Blacks had their rights within these
so-called independent homelands and didn't need to have rights within
the South African state. The same trick will not work in Palestine, as
it did not work in South Africa.
And the world needs to recognize that. And I'm thrilled that there's a
growing civil society movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions
that does. This is what is going to put pressure on Israel to end the
colonial practices, no matter what document is signed between Hamas
and Fatah. That will make no difference if there is no active
worldwide opposition and resistance to Israel's colonialism. That is
what will make a difference.
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Mona El-Farra, I wanted to give you the last word.
When we last spoke -- Shlomo Ben-Ami was talking about the shelling of
Kassam, and we last spoke, Dr. El-Farra, when you were at the hospital
after the children, the families were -- the explosions on the beach
in Gaza and a number of members of one family killed. What is the
latest on that situation?
DR. MONA EL-FARRA: Okay. First, just quickly, I totally agree with the
analysis of Mr. Abunimah, totally agree with his analysis. Israelis
did not try in the excuse of the soldier. The plan was ready to invade
Gaza -- not physically invade it. Anyway, Israel did not invade Gaza.
They are controlling us from outside.
Regarding the Kassam rockets, I would like to know how many people
really were injured by these Kassam rockets. As I told you before, the
balance of power is towards Israel. These Kassam rockets and the other
rockets is just very primitive devices. It is just a show of --
protesting against what's happening here. But seriously, it doesn't
hurt Israeli security. What was your question?
AMY GOODMAN: The latest on the family that we last spoke to you about,
that member -- a number of members of the family, of the Galia family,
who were killed at the Gaza beach, and the conflicting reports. Human
Rights Watch and you, yourself, as a doctor in the hospital, saying
that it was as a result of Israeli shelling, and the Israeli military
saying it was Palestinian bombs.
DR. MONA EL-FARRA: Yeah, yeah, okay. This is a big joke for me, and
I'm totally, like all of us here in Gaza, totally convinced by the
fact that it was Israeli shelling. I met the doctors who received the
injured. I saw the injured myself, and the site of injuries show that
it was not from mines. Minefield injuries are different from shelling
injuries. The site of the injuries were in the upper side of the
bodies. Beside, the shrapnel we found, it was the same like what we
received in the case of Jabalia two years ago. So no matter what
Israel is trying to say -- it is Palestinian mines -- this is not
acceptable for us. And you forget all this. We don't need to add a new
crime to the Israeli crimes. Even if this was from the Palestinian
side, we have a large record of Israeli assault against Palestinians.
And just I need somebody to explain to me, why this sonic bombing? And
now, since 3:00 in the morning until now, we are under heavy sonic
bombing from the sky. This, I consider, collective punishment, and it
will not secure Israeli security. It is just they are humiliating us
as Palestinians. They want us to kneel down. And I agree with Mr.
Abunimah, what Israel is doing now sort of revives the idea of
colonialism in the area.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both for being with us, Dr. Mona
El-Farra, physician, community activist in northern Gaza, and Ali
Abunimah, who is founder of electronicintifada.net. We thank you both
for joining us.
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