Norman Finkelstein vs Martin Indyk over Gaza and the “Peace Process” Democracy (4 Parts)

DN! | Martin Indyk vs. Norman Finkelstein: A Debate on Israel’s Assault on Gaza and the US Role in the Conflict (4 parts)


Democracy Now! | Former Amb. Martin Indyk vs. Author Norman Finkelstein: A Debate on Israel’s Assault on Gaza and the US Role in the Conflict:

“The Israeli assault on Gaza is entering its thirteenth day. Some 700 Palestinians have been killed, with many thousands more wounded, and a humanitarian crisis is mounting. Ten Israelis have died, four by “friendly fire.” A ceasefire has not been reached, and the offensive continues. We host a debate between Martin Indyk, the former US ambassador to Israel and Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs during the Clinton administration, director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution and author of, Innocent Abroad: An Intimate Account of American Peace Diplomacy in the Middle East, and Norman Finkelstein, author of several books, including The Holocaust Industry, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict and Beyond Chutzpah.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians have fled their homes in the southern town of Rafah as Israel intensifies its assault on the Gaza Strip. Palestinians reported Israeli air strikes hit homes, mosques, and tunnels in the area. Meanwhile, Agence France Presse quoted witnesses as saying that dozens of Israeli tanks had entered southern Gaza and were heading towards Rafah. Fierce fighting was also reported between Palestinian fighters and Israeli soldiers around Khan Yunis. Earlier today, the UN said Israeli forces fired on one of its relief convoys trying to pick up supplies. Al Jazeera reports least one Palestinian was killed and two others injured in the attack. Meanwhile, Israel continued its bombardment of Gaza with 60 air strikes overnight. Residents described it as among the heaviest bombardments since the offensive began.

Al Jazeera reports at least 700 Palestinians, including 219 children, have died in Gaza since Israel began its assault on December 27th. More than 3,000 people have been wounded. Ten Israelis have died over the same thirteen-day period, including seven soldiers, four of them by so-called friendly fire.

On the diplomatic front, efforts to secure a truce in Gaza continue, with a senior Israeli official due to travel to Cairo to hear details of a ceasefire plan drawn up by Egypt and France. Israel said on Wednesday it accepted the “principles” of the proposal but wanted to study the plan. A Hamas delegation is expected in Cairo at some stage for parallel talks. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas is due to arrive on Friday.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council seems deadlocked over the crisis. Arab countries want the Council to vote on a resolution calling for a ceasefire while Britain, France and the US are pushing for a weaker statement welcoming the Egypt-France proposal.

We turn now to a discussion on the crisis in Gaza, the U.S. role in the conflict and what the prospects are for the incoming Obama administration. Martin Indyk is the former U.S. ambassador to Israel and assistant secretary of state for near east affairs during the Clinton Administration. He is currently the director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. He has a new book out titled, “Innocent Abroad: An Intimate Account of American Peace Diplomacy in the Middle East.” He is an adviser to Hillary Clinton, who was tapped to be Obama’s secretary of state, and is among those mentioned as a potential special envoy to the Middle East. Martin Indyk joins us from Washington DC. Norman Finkelstein is a leading critic of Israeli foreign policy. He is the author of several books, including “The Holocaust Industry”, “Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict” and “Beyond Chutzpah.” He joins here in the firehouse studio.”






YouTube – Norman Finkelstein vs Martin Indyk over Gaza and the “Peace Process” 1/8/09 Democracy Now 1 of 4.


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Josh Ruebner on Gaza

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ei: EI investigation: The US media and the attack on Gaza

Shervan Sardar, The Electronic Intifada, 8 January 2009

In the first three days of the Israeli offensive from 28-30 December, editorials and op-eds from five major US papers overwhelmingly adopted the official US and Israeli government talking points on the conflict — even where this version was clearly contradicted by the legal and historical record, widely available to the public.

The editorial pages erroneously put forward the view that Gaza was no longer occupied, ignored Israel’s numerous cease fire violations, and blindly asserted Israel’s right of self defense regardless of what was happening on the ground. Overall, the commentary presented a disturbingly false and misleading picture of the conflict to the American public.

The legal status of Gaza is repeatedly being misrepresented in the op-ed pages and the American mainstream media generally. While the international consensus position at the UN and among human rights organizations is that Gaza remains occupied even after the 2005 Israeli disengagement, the editorials and op-eds collectively refused to acknowledge this view. Instead, the editorial pages chose to adopt and promote the Israeli government view of a 2005 “complete withdrawal” from Gaza so that Israel no longer retains official responsibility there. The issue has important implications for determining accountability in the conflict, the humanitarian situation in the Strip, and even military operations that can be taken.

Most of the Israeli cease fire violations were ignored by the editorial pages. Within one week of the cease fire, the UN reported that Israel had violated it seven times. In fact, Israel announced very early into the ceasefire that it intended to fire “warning shots” at Palestinians who enter an area west of the Gaza Strip border fence, extending for several hundred meters — preventing Palestinian farmers from accessing their lands. Palestinian fisherman off the coast of Gaza also faced almost daily harassment and assault from the Israeli navy. Furthermore, not a single editorial or op-ed mentioned the raid by Israel’s army into Gaza on 4 November, which according to independent observers and human rights organizations effectively broke the ceasefire.

There was also no mention of reports which indicated that Hamas was interested in seeing the ceasefire continue.

The op-ed pages often cite Palestinian rockets fired at Israel as a justification for Israel’s bombardment of Gaza. However, none of the media outlets examined Israeli fire on Palestinians in Gaza. A 2007 Human Rights Watch report entitled “Indiscriminate Fire” documented that Israel fired 14,617 artillery shells into Gaza compared to 2,700 fired into Israel.

Within three days of Israel’s bombing offensive, almost all of the newspaper editorials examined proclaimed their support for Israel’s right of self-defense.

The proclamation that Israel had a right of self-defense did not seem to have a relationship to what was actually happening on the ground in Gaza. Israel dropped at least 100 tons of bombs on one of the most densely packed areas in the world — killing more than 200 Palestinians and injuring several hundred in the first day of the attacks on an already decimated society. The bombardment hit Palestinian schools, homes, mosques, private businesses, government buildings, apartment buildings and universities.

Writing in The Nation, United Nations Special Rapporteur Richard Falk explained that much of what was happening in Gaza could not credibly be called self-defense.

Download the full report [PDF]

Shervan Sardar is a Washington, DC-based lawyer. He holds a MA in International Affairs from American University and can be reached at ssardar_23 A T comcast D O T net.

ei: EI investigation: The US media and the attack on Gaza.

ei: US media didn’t report Israeli ceasefire violation

Jim Lobe and Ali Gharib, The Electronic Intifada, 8 January 2009

WASHINGTON (IPS) – Consumed by coverage of the 4 November presidential election, US mainstream media ignored a key Israeli military attack on a Hamas target that some Palestinians claim marked the effective end of the ceasefire between the two sides and set the stage for the current round of bloodletting.

While the major US news wire Associated Press (AP) reported that the attack, in which six members of Hamas’s military wing were killed by Israeli ground forces, threatened the ceasefire, its report was carried by only a handful of small newspapers around the country.

The 4 November raid — and the escalation that followed — also went unreported by the major US network and cable television new programs, according to a search of the Nexis database for all English-language news coverage between 4 to 7 November.

But the military action, which was followed up by an aerial attack that killed at least one other Palestinian, appears to have dealt a fatal blow to the Egyptian-mediated ceasefire that had taken effect 19 June and largely held for some four and a half months.

In retaliation for the attack, Hamas launched some 35 Qassam rockets into Israeli territory 5 November which, in turn, provoked Israel to severely tighten its then-17-month-old economic siege of the Palestinian territory.

“While neither side ever completely respected the ceasefire terms, the Israeli raid was far and away the biggest violation,” said Stephen Zunes, an expert on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict at the University of San Francisco.

“It was a huge, huge provocation, and it now appears to me that it was actually intended to get Hamas to break off the ceasefire,” he added.

When Israel launched its current military offensive against Hamas-controlled Gaza 27 December, most major US media outlets — and particularly television and newspaper commentators — blamed Hamas for breaking the ceasefire by continuing rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli territory and refusing to extend the ceasefire on its current terms beyond its formal 19 December expiration.

“Israel’s air offensive against the Gaza Strip yesterday should not have been a surprise for anyone who has been following the mounting hostilities in the region,” said the lead editorial in the Washington Post the day after Israel began its massive air assault, “least of all the Hamas movement, which invited the conflict by ending a six-month-old ceasefire and launching scores of rockets and mortar shells at Israel during the last 10 days.”

This explanation of events corresponded to a major Israeli public-relations effort that placed top government officials on US network and cable news programs. In an appearance on NBC’s widely viewed Sunday morning talk show Meet the Press, as the military offensive got underway, for example, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, also a candidate for prime minister in the 10 February elections, set forth her government’s basic narrative.

“About a half a year ago, according to the Egyptian Initiative, we decided to enter a kind of a truce and not to attack Gaza Strip,” Livni said. “Hamas violated, on a daily basis, this truce. They targeted Israel, and we didn’t answer.”

But that narrative omitted any mention of the critical 4 November raid, and no Palestinian guest, such as Mustafa Barghouti, an independent Palestinian lawmaker and human rights activist from Ramallah, appeared on the program to rebut her claim.

In an interview on CNN two days later, on 31 December, however, Barghouti charged that Livni’s version of events was “incorrect.” He accused Israel of breaking the truce and pointed directly to the 4 November operation in Gaza as the catalyzing incident.

“Two months before [19 December], Israel started attacking Rafah, started attacking Hamas …” he declared, adding that Israel’s failure to lift its commercial embargo against Gaza also violated the Palestinian understanding of the original truce terms.

Indeed, Barghouti’s focus on the 4 November attack as the main cause of the ceasefire breakdown was implicitly supported by a lengthy report released the following day by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, a private Israeli group. It divided the ceasefire into a “period of relative quiet between 19 June and 4 November,” when “Hamas was careful to maintain the ceasefire,” and “the escalation and erosion of the … arrangement” which it dated to “4 November [when] the [Israeli army] carried out a military action close to the border security fence on the Gazan side…”

It further noted that Hamas began firing rockets and missile shells “in retaliation” to which Israel responded by closing its border crossings and sharply tightening its siege against Gaza. From that point, the ceasefire that had effectively held for the previous four and a half months was never fully restored.

That version of events was not entirely missing from the US press. Indeed, a New York Times “analysis” published 19 December acknowledged that “[w]hile this [escalation] did not topple the agreement, Israel’s decision in early November to destroy a tunnel Hamas had been digging near the border drove the cycle of violence to a much higher level.”

But the Times itself, like virtually all of the US media, had missed the likely impact of the 4 November attack on the ceasefire’s fate at or even shortly after it took place. In its late edition 5 November, the newspaper ran a 422-word article datelined Jerusalem that reported Israel’s military operation and the fact that Hamas had retaliated with mortar fire.

One day later, The Washington Post devoted a similar amount of space to a Reuters report whose headline suggested that the truce had been put at risk by the previous day’s exchanges.

But while the US media, distracted by an historic election at home, largely skipped over the significance of the 4 November Israeli raid, several English-language foreign news organizations did publish articles on the event, suggesting that the raid could very well have doomed the ceasefire.

A story in the British newspaper The Guardian on 6 November said the truce was “in jeopardy” after the strike. Another British paper, The Independent, said on the same day that the ceasefire “was foundering yesterday after Israeli special forces entered the besieged territory and fought Hamas.”

A piece for the Canadian news service Canwest on 6 November said that “the fragile peace [of the ceasefire] was shattered overnight by an Israeli raid in Gaza.” The Age newspaper of Australia also headlined its story on the raid itself as “Ceasefire in danger of collapse.”

AP’s 5 and 6 November stories used similar wording in its stories, but they went largely unpublished in the US where media attention was focused virtually exclusively on the historic election results.

The Nexis search found no reference to the raid in the transcripts of any television public-affairs broadcast during the period, a particularly significant omission given the fact that about 70 percent of US citizens say their main source of international news comes through that medium.

“[T]hat 4 November raid, in very real sense, hardly exists in the mainstream media’s collective memory,” said Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting’s activism director Peter Hart, noting that Israel may have been aware that the election would drown out coverage of its raid.

“It does not take much effort to go back and find it, but reporting contextual information that would undermine Israel’s rationale for these attacks is not exactly the kind of thing the US corporate media do very often. The fact that there are only a handful of exceptions is telling — the dominant narrative in the press is unsurprisingly one that supports the Israeli position.”

ei: US media didn’t report Israeli ceasefire violation.