Who can (really) end the cycle of violence?

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Four years after “Operation Cast Lead” which costs the lives of more than 1400 people in the Gaza Strip, mostly civilians, Israel went at it again. This time, it was called “Operation Pillar of Cloud”. 

The whys of this new attack have already been debated in newspapers, on TV, radio and on the blogosphere.

If you still watch TV or anything owned by the Corporate/Mainstream media, you would have heard countless of times that Israel had no other choice and had to defend itself against Rocket Fire coming from Gaza and its terrorist organisation: KHAMAS (the letter k has been added for pronunciation as well as special effects). You would also be bound to believe that between “Operation Cast Lead” in 2008/2009 and “Operation Pillar of Cloud” in 2012, all had been quiet on the Gaza waterfront. Four years of sun tan, ice cream and picnics on the beach for the Palestinians.

If you dig further, the upcoming January 2013 elections in Israel, the need to show deterrence and invent a justification before a forthcoming aggression on Iran, the itch to test the new Muslim brotherhood led Egyptian government, the hardly hidden excitement to try out their latest toy “The Iron Dome” or the imperialist tactic of trying to divide even more Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have all been named as possible reasons for “Operation Pillar of Cloud”. A combination of all those things probably explains best the Israeli Government new ‘outing’ in Gaza.

Having looked into things a bit further, away from the profit driven spectacle that our news channels have now become, you would also have found out that things, in fact, for the Palestinians, have not been that rosy between the two Israelis “Operations”. As a matter of  fact, 314 Palestinians have been killed since 2009.

You would also have found out that since the recent ‘conflict’ started on November 14th, approximately 23% of the fatalities have been children.

Now that the roots of this latest war have been established (at least partly) and debated endlessly, the media’s focus has shifted to the urgency of “de-escalating” the conflict and working on a ceasefire. What needs to be done, as soon as possible, is to stop the violence and end the loss of life, on both sides.

A ceasefire was agreed on late on Thursday 22 November (see text here) but every sensible commentator knows that it will once again only be a stop-gap before another Israeli assault. The real urgency is to find a real and concrete solution and end the violence, all in all, for good. As Noura Erakat said on a panel on MSNBC recently (see here first video at 07:13): “If all rocket fire were to stop today and aerial missile strikes, and Israel’s ground offensive were to stop, the violence against the Palestinians would continue unabated”.

So who is to make sure that Israel becomes accountable for its actions, stops building more colonies in occupied Palestinian Territories, ends the longest occupation in history, its apartheid policies both inside and outside the Green Line, dismantles the wall (in accordance with the 2004 ICJ ruling on the wall), stops targeted (aka extra judicial assassinations).

As usual, we are presented with the same options and the same team of negotiators and possible saviours.

Number one negotiator in chief is of course the only superpower on earth remaining, the democracy and freedom lover, the “honest-broker”, the one and only United States of America.

Hillary Clinton “dashed to the Middle East” to try to broker a ceasefire the Washington Post is telling us. Superwoman, flying to the rescue of people in need!

Clinton, Secretary of State, of a State, that is actually funding Israel’s latest adventure.

While Clinton talks to Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, US planes, drones and Apache helicopters are carpet bombing the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip. Since 1976 Israel has been the largest recipient of US foreign aid and has received since the end of World War II around $115 billion in economic aid. Aid to Israel, a country of around 8 million inhabitants, has averaged about 25% of all US foreign aid.

The US also gives Israel 60% of the US foreign Military Financing (FMF) funding which also makes it the largest recipient of US military funding.

Crucially, the US also provides Israel with diplomatic support. Since 1972, the US has used its veto at the Security Council to protect Israel more than 43 times. It did so again last week when it blocked a UN Security Council Statement calling for a ceasefire labelling it “unbalanced”.

Outside of Israel/Palestine, the USA is also very active in occupying Iraq, Afghanistan and drone bombing Pakistan and Yemen.

So who else could end the violence and save us?

The United Kingdom, also involved in war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that has in its history  invaded 90% of the world’s countries?

The recently Nobel Prize Winner, the European Union, that is slowly becoming more and more of a poodle of the USA, and that includes countries that have been involved in more wars and atrocities in their history than the rest of the world combined?

Or maybe the Middle East Quartet, led by the irrepressible Warmonger in chief Tony Blair?

Can violence and war junkie states that have been engaged in state terrorism for decades and are actually directly or indirectly responsible for much of the world’s violence really be in charge of world peace? Are we really to believe this? Have they and their huge media apparatus fooled us for good? Have we lost the capacity to concentrate on historical facts and actions instead of words? Does a war criminal only needs a smile, a suit and a tie to become a dove?

The only answer possible to this question is no, they can’t.

So what does this leave us with?

Us, the people.

But how can we do it?

By regaining the power and changing the policy. To do so, we first have to get rid of the present policy makers.

A good start would be for us to break this habit of believing that anyone on TV, in office, with a white suit or a uniform knows better than us and is an authoritative voice not to be challenged. It might take a while as we have been taught to respect those father figures from the earliest age, from our first classes in school, from our first steps but it is possible and necessary.

We have to be sceptical, challenge power and look for the truth ourselves. It is available, if we do spend enough time looking for it. We have to stop believing that we do not have the choice. We do.

Then, once we have managed to wash ourselves clean of years of brainwashing, we have to break the system as we know it and start all over again. Representative governments have never equalled democracy. They have never meant democracy and have actually often been the total opposite of it. Ancient Greece would laugh out loud at the idea. We have to re-write the rules that have been written by oligarchs (when you have a chance, try to read various countries constitutions, you’ll be surprised) to make sure that their power will not ever be challenged and to make certain that the people will never be able to take it way from them. (the real meaning of democracy). How else can we explain that in 200 years of representative democracy, only the rich (the 1%) have governed with the poor (the 99%) never having had the chance to be in charge of their own destiny?

To live in a world where justice, equal rights and freedom for all will be the main motto, we first have to break away from what is radically wrong. What name we will give this new world? What type of world would it really be in practice?

We do not know yet but it will certainly be better than this one.

Frank Barat on twitter: @frankbarat22. His site: http://baratfrank.com/

About Frank Barat

Frank Barat is a Human Rights activist based in London. He is one of the coordinators of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, a popular tribunal created in 2009 to expose and examine Israel's impunity in regards to its treatment of the Palestinian People. He has edited two books; 'Gaza in Crisis' with Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappe, and 'Corporate Complicity in Israel's Occupation' with Asa Winstanley. He has also participated in the book 'Is there a court for Gaza?' with Daniel Machover.

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3 Responses

  1. Mndwss
    November 26, 2012, 11:30 am

    “KHAMAS (the letter k has been added for pronunciation as well as special effects).”

    This has been irritating me for years. The special effects in the pronunciation Hamas.

    Israelis interviewed about the conflict always pronounce Hamas as KHAMAS. They may speak perfect English or Norwegian or whatever, but Hamas is always KHAMAS. Even if the Israelis are from New York and know the pronunciation in english, or the Israelis are from Oslo and know the pronunciation in Norwegian…

  2. Avi_G.
    November 27, 2012, 12:01 am



    Did they tell you the purpose of all this?

    To locate weapons. But we didn’t find any weapons. They confiscated kitchen knives. There was also stealing. One guy took twenty shekels. Guys went into the houses and looked for things to steal. This was a very poor village. The guys were saying, “What a bummer, there’s nothing to steal.”

    That was said in a conversation among the soldiers?

    Yeah. They enjoyed seeing the misery, the guys were happy talking about it. There was a moment someone yelled at the soldiers. They knew he was mentally ill, but one of the soldiers decided that he’d beat him up anyway, so they smashed him. They hit him in the head with the butt of the gun, he was bleeding, then they brought him to the school along with everyone else. There were a pile of arrest orders signed by the battalion commander, ready, with one area left blank. They’d fill in that the person was detained on suspicion of disturbing the peace. They just filled in the name and the reason for arrest. There were people with plastic handcuffs that had been put on really tight. I got to speak with the people there. One of them had been brought into Israel to work for a settler and after two months the guy didn’t pay him and handed him over to the police.


    Anything else you remember from that night?

    A small thing, but it bothered me — one house that they just destroyed. They have a dog for weapons searches, but they didn’t bring him; they just wrecked the house. The mother watched from the side and cried. Her kids sat with her and stroked her.

    What do you mean, they just destroyed the house?

    They smashed the floors, turned over sofas, threw plants and pictures, turned over beds, smashed the closets, the tiles. There were other things — the look on the people’s faces when you go into their house. And after all that, they were left tied up and blindfolded in the school for hours. The order came to free them at four in the afternoon. So that was more than twelve hours. There were investigators from the security services there who interrogated them one by one.

    Had there been a terrorist attack in the area?

    No. We didn’t even find any weapons. The brigade commander claimed that the Shin Bet did find some intelligence, that there were a lot of guys there who throw stones.

    Elimination Operation

    It all took about a second and a half. And then they took out the bodies, carried the bodies. We went to a debriefing. I’ll never forget when they brought the bodies out at the base. We were standing two meters away in a semicircle, the bodies were covered in flies, and we had the debriefing. It was, “Great job, a success. Someone shot the wrong car, and we’ll talk about the rest back on the base.” I was in total shock from all the bullets, from the crazy noise. We saw it on the video, it was all documented on video for the debriefing. I saw all the things that I told you, the people running, the minute of gunfire, I don’t know if it’s twenty seconds or a minute, but it was hundreds of bullets and it was clear that the people had been killed, but the gunfire went on and the soldiers were running from the armored truck. What I saw was a bunch of bloodthirsty guys firing an insane amount of bullets, and at the wrong car, too. The video was just awful, and then the unit commander got up. I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot from him.

    What do you mean?

    That he’ll be a regional commanding officer or the chief of staff one day. He said, “The operation wasn’t carried out perfectly, but the mission was accomplished, and we got calls from the chief of staff, the defense minister, the prime minister” — everyone was happy, it’s good for the unit, and the operation was like, you know, just: “Great job.” The debriefing was just a cover-up.


    But the Shin Bet agents were as happy as kids at a summer camp.

    What does that mean?

    They were high-fiving and hugging. Really pleased with themselves. They didn’t join in the debriefing, it was of no interest to them. But what was the politics of the operation? How come my commanders, not one of them, admitted that the operation had failed?

    Shoot to Kill

    They actually shot people?

    They shot anyone walking around in the street. It always ended with, “We killed six terrorists today.” Whoever you shot in the street is “a terrorist.”

    That’s what they say at the briefings?

    The goal is to kill terrorists.

    What are the rules of engagement?

    Whoever’s walking around at night, shoot to kill.

  3. yourstruly
    November 27, 2012, 7:53 pm

    how to end the cycles of violence?

    one equals one
    whenever/wherever possible
    with those magical eighteen days in tahrir square?
    prevailing spirit
    its very essence

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