Posts Tagged ‘ Genocide ’

Media obsesses over ‘free speech’ in Charlie Hebdo case while ignoring Israeli targeting of journalists

A Palestinian journalist inspects his work car in Gaza City

A Palestinian journalist inspects his work car in Gaza City

The story of the January 7 2015 storming of the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical French publication with a history of racist, anti-Muslim caricatures, has inundated the Western media. The attack, tragically leaving at least 12 dead, has been touted as a “free speech” issue by the first government in the world to ban pro-Palestinian demonstrations. (This framing has distorted the fact that it was torture at Abu Ghraib and the US war on Iraq that left 100,000s of civilians dead, not cartoons, that radicalized the impoverished shooters, sons of émigrés from Algeria, a country that was a French colony until the end of a bloody war of independence in 1962.)

The subsequent taking of hostages in a Parisian kosher supermarket by an acquaintance of the shooters was an even more despicable act, leading to the deaths of at least four. Both incidents are horrific tragedies, and deserve harsh condemnation.

Yet they have exponentially overshadowed equally tragic recent attacks on journalists. In its November 2012 attack on Gaza, “Operation Pillar of Defense,” the Israeli government admitted that it was targeting journalists. This trend was revisited only months ago in Israel’s summer 2014 assault, “Operation Protective Edge,” an incursion that left 2,310 dead—over 1,500 of whom were civilians, including at least 500 children—and 10,626 wounded.

While the Western media has scrupulously tracked the Charlie Hebdo attack and subsequent hostage crisis for the scantest of updates, and while the calamity dominates discussions on social media—and also while the Fourth Estate ceaselessly speaks of ISIS’ heinous killings of Western journalists—both the press and popular culture continue to ignore August 2014 UN documents that inculpate Israel for engaging in very similar acts of terror.

The Press Emblem Campaign (PEC), a Geneva-based independent non-governmental organization aimed “at strengthening the legal protection and safety of journalists in zones of conflict and civil unrest or in dangerous missions,” carries special consultative UN status, conducting investigations on behalf of the body. In its 28 August report, “90 journalists killed so far in 2014: a new step is required by the UN in order to combat impunity,” it notes that:

Israel and the Occupied Territory of the State of Palestine: in the context of the operation “Protective Edge” launched by the Israeli forces on 8 July 2014 on the Gaza Strip, 15 journalists have been killed (some of them being purposely targeted), many others have been injured because of the shelling of their homes, 16 Palestinian journalists have lost their homes as a result of Israeli bombing and shelling, 8 media outlets have been destroyed, in addition the Israeli army deliberately disturbed the broadcasting of 7 radio and TV stations and websites (l), many journalists have been arrested by the Israeli forces.

(1) Al-Aqsa radio, Sawt Al-Quds radio, Sawat Al-Sha’eb, Filistin Il-Yom TV and website, Al-Ra’ei website

In a more detailed document from the day before, “15 journalists and media workers killed during operation “Protective Edge”: the responsible have to be held accountable,” the PEC and the UN indicate that the houses of 16 journalists that were destroyed in Israeli attacks were “often purposely targeted.”

The report also reveals that, of the eight Gaza media outlets Israel destroyed, five were deliberately bombed. Israeli forces shelled three headquarters of Al-Aqsa TV, where 325 employees worked, and “deliberately disturbed the broadcasting of 7 radio and TV stations and websites, and used these stations to broadcast inciting messages against the Palestinian resistance, as they did in their previous attacks on the Gaza Strip.”

Deliberate Attacks

The PEC states that the “Israeli violations against Palestinian journalists are the most dangerous, life threatening, and the most frequent” and flatly “denounces the harassment against journalists and media workers as well as the smear campaign of the Israeli diplomacy against foreign journalists falsely accused to work for Hamas that leads to a sneaky form of self-censorship.”

Most of the murdered journalists were in their twenties, with ages ranging from 21 to 59. All except for one, an Italian, were Palestinian. The majority worked for local Palestinian media networks, although two Associated Press reporters were killed, including the only foreign reporter killed. Some were wearing vests clearly marked “Press”; others were in media vehicles with “TV” plainly printed on the hood. In one case, a 21-year-old Palestinian photojournalist was taking pictures in the Al-Jineene neighborhood in Rafah when an Israeli drone shot him.

“The large number of targets and the way in which media organizations and journalists have been attacked by” Israeli forces, the UN statement reads, “suggest that a strategy has been finalized at the highest levels of the State of Israel. Targeting non-combatants is itself a war crime that, as such, must not enjoy impunity.”

The PEC concludes calling upon the UN to investigate “the violation of the fundamental freedoms and rights of journalists and media workers, with a particular attention on the violation of the rights of women journalists” and the UN Human Rights Council’s independent, international commission of inquiry “to investigate and identify those responsible for the crimes committed against media outlet, journalists and media workers.”

“Constant Pressures” on Journalists

In a footnote to its report, the PEC draws attention to a French-language Algerian Huffington Post article that went completely ignored by the Western media (all translations mine): “TVE [Spanish Television] Journalist Yolanda Alvarez Attacked by Israel, Spanish Journalists Protest.” The story notes that the “Spanish press is unanimous in supporting Yolanda Alvarez, TVE correspondent in Jerusalem, victim of virulent attacks by the Israeli embassy in Madrid.” It also states that Alvarez’ Twitter page was “full of tweets of support coming from journalists or associations of journalists that spoke of the intimidation and the threats from the Israeli embassy.”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) divulged that, according “to the testimonies of other journalists and media, the Israeli embassy in Israel maintains an attitude of permanent intimidation of Spanish journalists.” RSF denounced the “constant pressures” Israel put on journalists, and asked that Israel stop using “its diplomats as agents of pressure and propaganda.”

US media networks also pressured their own journalists not to present Israel’s attack in a negative light. NBC went so far as to pull Ayman Mohyeldin from Gaza, a veteran reporter who garnered international praise as one of the only two foreign journalists who had been in Gaza during Israel’s 2008-2009 assault on Gaza, Operation Cast Lead, in which the close US ally barred journalists from entering Gaza as it, in the words of Human Rights Watch, “repeatedly exploded white phosphorus munitions in the air over populated areas, killing and injuring civilians, and damaging civilian structures, including a school, a market, a humanitarian aid warehouse and a hospital.”

Institute for Policy Studies analyst Phyllis Bennis pointed out the irony that, as Israeli tanks rolled into Gaza, NBC “pulled the reporter who has done more than any other to show the human costs of the conflict there.” Because of popular pressure, Mohyeldin was eventually reinstated, yet there were numerous other incidents of the same forms of censorship and pressure occurring.

A Bad Year for Journalists

In its 2014 census on jailed journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) revealed that 2014 was the second-worst year for jailed journalists in 24 years of data collection. Internationally, over 220 journalists are imprisoned, 60% of whom are held on anti-state charges of terrorism or subversion. This comes in a close second to 2012, in which 232 journalists were imprisoned—although the 2014 figure may actually be higher, as the report excludes journalists being detained by nonstate actors such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Violence against journalists, and particularly against journalists in the Middle East, is at record levels. 2014 was one of the most dangerous years for reporters in recent history, with at least 60 deaths, roughly half of which were in the Middle East—although CPJ estimates are conservative, so the actual figures are likely even higher. 2012 to 2014 constitutes the most dangerous period CPJ has on record.

CPJ deputy director Robert Mahoney warned that the “targeting of journalists has been increasing to alarming proportions,” expressing worries that journalists “are now losing the protected observer status that they had, and now they’ve become the story rather than being the witness to the story to some groups.”

Only some of the stories about these persecuted journalists are told, nonetheless. Much of the Western media is speaking of the Charlie Hebdo shooting as a “free speech” issue, yet simultaneously ignoring Israel’s persistent stifling of Palestinian journalists’ right to not just free speech, but to life.

Explicit violent repression of journalists is not new behavior for Israel. In 2008, Israeli forces killed 23-year-old cameraman Fadel Subhi Shana’a. In the same year, Israel arrested award-winning journalist Mohammed Omer and brutally tortured him—a common practice. In 2004, Israeli occupation forces killed 22-year-old journalist Mohammed Abu Halima.

There are countless more instances of such stories; there is a plethora of such tragedies. Yet these tragic stories are not told in the Western media. The countless nameless faces of the now forgotten Palestinian journalists are only nameless and forgotten because they were ignored.

By: 

– See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2015/01/ignoring-targeting-journalists#sthash.0WciODan.lrwlf8pN.dpuf

Source: http://mondoweiss.net/2015/01/ignoring-targeting-journalists

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America’s Bases of War in the Greater Middle East. From Carter to the Islamic State – 35 Years of Building Bases and Sowing Disaster

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With the launch of a new U.S.-led war in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State (IS), the United States has engaged in aggressive military action in at least 13 countries in the Greater Middle East since 1980. In that time, every American president has invaded, occupied, bombed, or gone to war in at least one country in the region. The total number of invasions, occupations, bombing operations, drone assassination campaigns, and cruise missile attacks easily runs into the dozens.

As in prior military operations in the Greater Middle East, U.S. forces fighting IS have been aided by access to and the use of an unprecedented collection of military bases. They occupy a region sitting atop the world’s largest concentration of oil and natural gas reserves and has long been considered the most geopolitically important place on the planet. Indeed, since 1980, the U.S. military has gradually garrisoned the Greater Middle East in a fashion only rivaled by the Cold War garrisoning of Western Europe or, in terms of concentration, by the bases built to wage past wars in Korea and Vietnam.

In the Persian Gulf alone, the U.S. has major bases in every country save Iran. There is an increasingly important, increasingly large base in Djibouti, just miles across the Red Sea from the Arabian Peninsula. There are bases in Pakistan on one end of the region and in the Balkans on the other, as well as on the strategically located Indian Ocean islands of Diego Garcia and the Seychelles. In Afghanistan and Iraq, there were once as many as 800 and 505bases, respectively. Recently, the Obama administration inked an agreement with new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to maintain around 10,000 troops and at least nine major bases in his country beyond the official end of combat operations later this year. U.S. forces, which never fully departed Iraq after 2011, are now returning to a growing number of bases there in ever larger numbers.

In short, there is almost no way to overemphasize how thoroughly the U.S. military now covers the region with bases and troops. This infrastructure of war has been in place for so long and is so taken for granted that Americans rarely think about it and journalists almost never report on the subject. Members of Congress spend billions of dollars on base construction and maintenance every year in the region, but ask few questions about where the money is going, why there are so many bases, and what role they really serve. By one estimate, the United States has spent $10 trillion protecting Persian Gulf oil supplies over the past four decades.

Approaching its 35th anniversary, the strategy of maintaining such a structure of garrisons, troops, planes, and ships in the Middle East has been one of the great disasters in the history of American foreign policy. The rapid disappearance of debate about our newest, possibly illegal war should remind us of just how easy this huge infrastructure of bases has made it for anyone in the Oval Office to launch a war that seems guaranteed, like its predecessors, to set off new cycles of blowback and yet more war.

On their own, the existence of these bases has helped generate radicalism and anti-American sentiment. As was famously the case with Osama bin Laden and U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, bases have fueled militancy, as well as attacks on the United States and its citizens. They have cost taxpayers billions of dollars, even though they are not, in fact, necessary to ensure the free flow of oil globally. They have diverted tax dollars from the possible development of alternative energy sources and meeting other critical domestic needs. And they have supported dictators and repressive, undemocratic regimes, helping to block the spread of democracy in a region long controlled by colonial rulers and autocrats.

After 35 years of base-building in the region, it’s long past time to look carefully at the effects Washington’s garrisoning of the Greater Middle East has had on the region, the U.S., and the world.

“Vast Oil Reserves” 

While the Middle Eastern base buildup began in earnest in 1980, Washington had long attempted to use military force to control this swath of resource-rich Eurasia and, with it, the global economy. Since World War II, as the late Chalmers Johnson, an expert on U.S. basing strategy, explained back in 2004, “the United States has been inexorably acquiring permanent military enclaves whose sole purpose appears to be the domination of one of the most strategically important areas of the world.”

In 1945, after Germany’s defeat, the secretaries of War, State, and the Navy tellingly pushed for the completion of a partially built base in Dharan, Saudi Arabia, despite the military’s determination that it was unnecessary for the war against Japan. “Immediate construction of this [air] field,” they argued, “would be a strong showing of American interest in Saudi Arabia and thus tend to strengthen the political integrity of that country where vast oil reserves now are in American hands.”

By 1949, the Pentagon had established a small, permanent Middle East naval force (MIDEASTFOR) in Bahrain. In the early 1960s, President John F. Kennedy’s administration began the first buildup of naval forces in the Indian Ocean just off the Persian Gulf. Within a decade, the Navy had created the foundations for what would become the first major U.S. base in the region — on the British-controlled island of Diego Garcia.

In these early Cold War years, though, Washington generally sought to increase its influence in the Middle East by backing and arming regional powers like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Iran under the Shah, and Israel. However, within months of the Soviet Union’s 1979 invasion of Afghanistan and Iran’s 1979 revolution overthrowing the Shah, this relatively hands-off approach was no more.

Base Buildup 

In January 1980, President Jimmy Carter announced a fateful transformation of U.S. policy. It would become known as the Carter Doctrine. In his State of the Union address, he warned of the potential loss of a region “containing more than two-thirds of the world’s exportable oil” and “now threatened by Soviet troops” in Afghanistan who posed “a grave threat to the free movement of Middle East oil.”

Carter warned that “an attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America.” And he added pointedly, “Such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”

With these words, Carter launched one of the greatest base construction efforts in history. He and his successor Ronald Reagan presided over the expansion of bases in Egypt, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and other countries in the region to host a “Rapid Deployment Force,” which was to stand permanent guard over Middle Eastern petroleum supplies. The air and naval base on Diego Garcia, in particular, was expanded at a quicker rate than any base since the war in Vietnam. By 1986, more than $500 million had been invested. Before long, the total ran into the billions.

Soon enough, that Rapid Deployment Force grew into the U.S. Central Command, which has now overseen three wars in Iraq (1991-2003, 2003-2011, 2014-); the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan (2001-); intervention in Lebanon (1982-1984); a series of smaller-scale attacks on Libya (1981, 1986, 1989, 2011); Afghanistan (1998) and Sudan (1998); and the “tanker war” with Iran (1987-1988), which led to the accidental downing of an Iranian civilian airliner, killing 290 passengers. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan during the 1980s, the CIA helped fund and orchestrate a majorcovert war against the Soviet Union by backing Osama Bin Laden and other extremist mujahidin. The command has also played a role in the drone war in Yemen (2002-) and bothovert and covert warfare in Somalia (1992-1994, 2001-).

During and after the first Gulf War of 1991, the Pentagon dramatically expanded its presence in the region. Hundreds of thousands of troops were deployed to Saudi Arabia in preparation for the war against Iraqi autocrat and former ally Saddam Hussein. In that war’s aftermath, thousands of troops and a significantly expanded base infrastructure were left in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Elsewhere in the Gulf, the military expanded its naval presence at a former British base in Bahrain, housing its Fifth Fleet there. Major air power installations were built in Qatar, and U.S. operations were expanded in Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman.

The invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and of Iraq in 2003, and the subsequent occupations of both countries, led to a more dramatic expansion of bases in the region. By the height of the wars, there were well over 1,000 U.S. checkpoints, outposts, and major bases in the two countries alone. The military also built new bases in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan (since closed),explored the possibility of doing so in Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, and, at the very least, continues to use several Central Asian countries as logistical pipelines to supply troops in Afghanistan and orchestrate the current partial withdrawal.

While the Obama administration failed to keep 58 “enduring” bases in Iraq after the 2011 U.S. withdrawal, it has signed an agreement with Afghanistan permitting U.S. troops to stay in the country until 2024 and maintain access to Bagram Air Base and at least eight more major installations.

An Infrastructure for War

Even without a large permanent infrastructure of bases in Iraq, the U.S. military has had plenty of options when it comes to waging its new war against IS. In that country alone, a significant U.S. presence remained after the 2011 withdrawal in the form of base-like State Department installations, as well as the largest embassy on the planet in Baghdad, and a large contingent of private military contractors. Since the start of the new war, at least 1,600 troops have returned and are operating from a Joint Operations Center in Baghdad and a base in Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital, Erbil. Last week, the White House announced that it would request $5.6 billion from Congress to send an additional 1,500 advisers and other personnel to at least two new bases in Baghdad and Anbar Province. Special operations and other forces are almost certainly operating from yet more undisclosed locations.

At least as important are major installations like the Combined Air Operations Center at Qatar’s al-Udeid Air Base. Before 2003, the Central Command’s air operations center for the entire Middle East was in Saudi Arabia. That year, the Pentagon moved the center to Qatar and officially withdrew combat forces from Saudi Arabia. That was in response to the 1996 bombing of the military’s Khobar Towers complex in the kingdom, other al-Qaeda attacks in the region, and mounting anger exploited by al-Qaeda over the presence of non-Muslim troops in the Muslim holy land. Al-Udeid now hosts a 15,000-foot runway, large munitions stocks, and around 9,000 troops and contractors who are coordinating much of the new war in Iraq and Syria.

Kuwait has been an equally important hub for Washington’s operations since U.S. troops occupied the country during the first Gulf War. Kuwait served as the main staging area and logistical center for ground troops in the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq. There are still an estimated 15,000 troops in Kuwait, and the U.S. military is reportedly bombing Islamic State positions using aircraft from Kuwait’s Ali al-Salem Air Base.

As a transparently promotional article in the Washington Postconfirmed this week, al-Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates has launched more attack aircraft in the present bombing campaign than any other base in the region. That country hosts about 3,500 troops at al-Dhafra alone, as well as the Navy’s busiest overseas port.  B-1, B-2, and B-52 long-range bombers stationed on Diego Garcia helped launch both Gulf Wars and the war in Afghanistan. That island base is likely playing a role in the new war as well. Near the Iraqi border, around 1,000 U.S. troops and F-16 fighter jets are operating from at least one Jordanian base. According to the Pentagon’s latest count, the U.S. military has 17 bases in Turkey. While the Turkish government has placed restrictions on their use, at the very least some are being used to launch surveillance drones over Syria and Iraq. Up to seven bases in Oman may also be in use.

Bahrain is now the headquarters for the Navy’s entire Middle Eastern operations, including the Fifth Fleet, generally assigned to ensure the free flow of oil and other resources though the Persian Gulf and surrounding waterways. There is always at least one aircraft carrier strike group — effectively, a massive floating base — in the Persian Gulf. At the moment, theU.S.S. Carl Vinson is stationed there, a critical launch pad for the air campaign against the Islamic State. Other naval vessels operating in the Gulf and the Red Sea have launched cruise missiles into Iraq and Syria. The Navy even has access to an “afloat forward-staging base” that serves as a “lilypad” base for helicopters and patrol craft in the region.

In Israel, there are as many as six secret U.S. bases that can be used to preposition weaponry and equipment for quick use anywhere in the area. There’s also a “de facto U.S. base” for the Navy’s Mediterranean fleet. And it’s suspected that there are two other secretive sites in use as well. In Egypt, U.S. troops have maintained at least two installations and occupied at least two bases on the Sinai Peninsula since 1982 as part of a Camp David Accords peacekeeping operation.

Elsewhere in the region, the military has established a collection of at least five drone bases in Pakistan; expanded a critical base in Djibouti at the strategic chokepoint between the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean; created or gained access to bases in EthiopiaKenya, and the Seychelles; and set up new bases in Bulgaria and Romania to go with a Clinton administration-era base in Kosovo along the western edge of the gas-rich Black Sea.

Even in Saudi Arabia, despite the public withdrawal, a small U.S. military contingent has remained to train Saudi personnel and keep bases “warm” as potential backups for unexpected conflagrations in the region or, assumedly, in the kingdom itself. In recent years, the military has even established a secret drone base in the country, despite the blowback Washington hasexperienced from its previous Saudi basing ventures.

Dictators, Death, and Disaster

The ongoing U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia, however modest, should remind us of the dangers of maintaining bases in the region. The garrisoning of the Muslim holy land was a major recruiting tool for al-Qaeda and part of Osama bin Laden’s professed motivation for the 9/11 attacks. (He called the presence of U.S. troops, “the greatest of these aggressions incurred by the Muslims since the death of the prophet.”) Indeed, U.S. bases and troops in the Middle East have been a “major catalyst for anti-Americanism and radicalization” since a suicide bombing killed 241 marines in Lebanon in 1983. Other attacks have come in Saudi Arabia in 1996, Yemen in 2000 against the U.S.S. Cole, and during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Research has shown a strong correlation between a U.S. basing presence and al-Qaeda recruitment.

Part of the anti-American anger has stemmed from the support U.S. bases offer to repressive, undemocratic regimes. Few of the countries in the Greater Middle East are fully democratic, and some are among the world’s worst human rights abusers. Most notably, the U.S. government has offered onlytepid criticism of the Bahraini government as it has violently cracked downon pro-democracy protestors with the help of the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Beyond Bahrain, U.S. bases are found in a string of what the Economist Democracy Index calls “authoritarian regimes,” including Afghanistan, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Yemen. Maintaining bases in such countries props upautocrats and other repressive governments, makes the United States complicit in their crimes, and seriously undermines efforts to spread democracy and improve the wellbeing of people around the world.

Of course, using bases to launch wars and other kinds of interventions does much the same, generating anger, antagonism, and anti-American attacks. A recent U.N. report suggests that Washington’s air campaign against the Islamic State had led foreign militants to join the movement on “an unprecedented scale.”

And so the cycle of warfare that started in 1980 is likely to continue. “Even if U.S. and allied forces succeed in routing this militant group,” retired Army colonel and political scientist Andrew Bacevich writes of the Islamic State, “there is little reason to expect” a positive outcome in the region. As Bin Laden and the Afghan mujahidin morphed into al-Qaeda and the Taliban and as former Iraqi Baathists and al-Qaeda followers in Iraq morphed into IS, “there is,” as Bacevich says, “always another Islamic State waiting in the wings.”

The Carter Doctrine’s bases and military buildup strategy and its belief that “the skillful application of U.S. military might” can secure oil supplies and solve the region’s problems was, he adds, “flawed from the outset.” Rather than providing security, the infrastructure of bases in the Greater Middle East has made it ever easier to go to war far from home. It has enabled wars of choice and an interventionist foreign policy that has resulted in repeateddisasters for the region, the United States, and the world. Since 2001 alone, U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Yemen have minimally caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and possibly more than one million deaths in Iraq alone.

The sad irony is that any legitimate desire to maintain the free flow of regional oil to the global economy could be sustained through other far less expensive and deadly means. Maintaining scores of bases costing billions of dollars a year is unnecessary to protect oil supplies and ensure regional peace — especially in an era in which the United States gets only around 10% of its net oil and natural gas from the region. In addition to the direct damage our military spending has caused, it has diverted money and attention from developing the kinds of alternative energy sources that could free the United States and the world from a dependence on Middle Eastern oil — and from the cycle of war that our military bases have fed.

David Vine,TomDispatch regular, is associate professor of anthropology at American University in Washington, D.C.

Source: http://www.globalresearch.ca/americas-bases-of-war-in-the-greater-middle-east-from-carter-to-the-islamic-state/5414558

Israel has made 600,000 Palestinians homeless and is turning Gaza into a super-max prison

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IT IS ASTONISHING that the reconstruction of Gaza, bombed into the Stone Age according to the explicit goals of an Israeli military doctrine known as “Dahiya”, has tentatively only just begun two months after the end of the fighting.

According to the United Nations, 100,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged, leaving 600,000 Palestinians – nearly one in three of Gaza’s population – homeless or in urgent need of humanitarian help.

Roads, schools and the electricity plant to power water and sewerage systems are in ruins. The cold and wet of winter are approaching. Aid agency Oxfam warns that at the current rate of progress it may take 50 years to rebuild Gaza.

Where else in the world apart from the Palestinian territories would the international community stand by idly as so many people suffer – and not from a random act of God but willed by fellow humans?

The reason for the hold-up is, as ever, Israel’s “security needs”. Gaza can be rebuilt but only to the precise specifications laid down by Israeli officials.

We have been here before. Twelve years ago, Israeli bulldozers rolled into Jenin camp in the West Bank in the midst of the second intifada. Israel had just lost its largest number of soldiers in a single battle as the army struggled through a warren of narrow alleys. In scenes that shocked the world, Israel turned hundreds of homes to rubble.

With residents living in tents, Israel insisted on the terms of Jenin camp’s rehabilitation. The alleys that assisted the Palestinian resistance in its ambushes had to go. In their place, streets were built wide enough for Israeli tanks to patrol.

In short, both the Palestinians’ humanitarian needs and their right in international law to resist their oppressor were sacrificed to satisfy Israel’s desire to make the enforcement of its occupation more efficient.

It is hard not to view the agreement reached in Cairo this month for Gaza’s reconstruction in similar terms.

Donors pledged $5.4 billion – though, based on past experience, much of it won’t materialise. In addition, half will be immediately redirected to the distant West Bank to pay off the Palestinian Authority’s mounting debts. No one in the international community appears to have suggested that Israel, which has asset-stripped both the West Bank and Gaza in different ways, foot the bill.

The Cairo agreement has been widely welcomed, though the terms on which Gaza will be rebuilt have been only vaguely publicised. Leaks from worried insiders, however, have fleshed out the details.

One Israeli analyst has compared the proposed solution to transforming a third-world prison into a modern US super-max incarceration facility. The more civilised exterior will simply obscure its real purpose: not to make life better for the Palestinian inmates, but to offer greater security to the Israeli guards.

Humanitarian concern is being harnessed to allow Israel to streamline an eight-year blockade that has barred many essential items, including those needed to rebuild Gaza after previous assaults.

The agreement passes nominal control over Gaza’s borders and the transfer of reconstruction materials to the PA and UN in order to bypass and weaken Hamas. But the overseers – and true decision-makers – will be Israel. For example, it will get a veto over who supplies the massive quantities of cement needed. That means much of the donors’ money will end up in the pockets of Israeli cement-makers and middlemen.

But the problem runs deeper than that. The system must satisfy Israel’s desire to know where every bag of cement or steel rod ends up, to prevent Hamas rebuilding its home-made rockets and network of tunnels.

The tunnels, and element of surprise they offered, were the reason Israel lost so many soldiers. Without them, Israel will have a freer hand next time it wants to “mow the grass”, as its commanders call Gaza’s repeated destruction.

Last week Israel’s defence minister Moshe Yaalon warned that rebuilding Gaza would be conditioned on Hamas’s good behaviour. Israel wanted to be sure “the funds and equipment are not used for terrorism, therefore we are closely monitoring all of the developments”.

The PA and UN will have to submit to a database reviewed by Israel the details of every home that needs rebuilding. Indications are that Israeli drones will watch every move on the ground.

Israel will be able to veto anyone it considers a militant – which means anyone with a connection to Hamas or Islamic Jihad. Presumably, Israel hopes this will dissuade most Palestinians from associating with the resistance movements.

Further, it is hard not to assume that the supervision system will provide Israel with the GPS co-ordinates of every home in Gaza, and the details of every family, consolidating its control when it next decides to attack. And Israel can hold the whole process to ransom, pulling the plug at any moment.

Sadly, the UN – desperate to see relief for Gaza’s families – has agreed to conspire in this new version of the blockade, despite its violating international law and Palestinians’ rights.

Washington and its allies, it seems, are only too happy to see Hamas and Islamic Jihad deprived of the materials needed to resist Israel’s next onslaught.

The New York Times summed up the concern: “What is the point of raising and spending many millions of dollars … to rebuild the Gaza Strip just so it can be destroyed in the next war?”

For some donors exasperated by years of sinking money into a bottomless hole, upgrading Gaza to a super-max prison looks like a better return on their investment.

Source: http://stopwar.org.uk/news/600-000-palestinians-made-homeless-how-israel-is-turning-gaza-into-a-super-max-prison