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Gaza's Tragic Link To The
West's Terrorism Mindset

Terrell E. Arnold
Last week the Israel Defense Force (IDF) started land operations aimed at destroying Hamas. So far, the IDF has killed over 700 Palestinians, wounded over 4,000 and indulged in reckless property destruction. The United States supplied the IDF with all the weapons and delivery system it needs to conduct this campaign. Meanwhile, US representatives in the UN have refused to go along with a UN Security Council motion to seek a ceasefire. Egypt and France are now leading an effort in Cairo to arrange a ceasefire, but the UN failure to act still holds. On a planet with daily more pressing needs for consensual behavior, one can reasonably ask: Why is this situation allowed to exist? As one of the original five members, the US, as well as China, Britain, France, and Russia, has veto power and can keep decisions of the Security Council from being enacted simply by refusing to go along with the common will.
When the UN was formed, the only way it could come into being, with the membership given, was to give any one of the big five veto power over all major decisions. That veto persists as an anachronism. While the Security Council has expanded to include ten newer members (none of whom has a veto), any one of those five can frustrate Council decision making.  Since 1948 the United States has used that veto power more than forty times simply to prevent any UN decision to halt Israeli actions, to obtain redress from those actions, or to deal with on the ground consequences of Israeli moves in Palestine. Unless there is a rebellion in UN management the Israelis will be able to continue wreaking whatever havoc they have in mind while the so-called civilized world watches without interfering.
The US and Israel have a simple fixed perspective: Hamas is a terrorist group; it has not acquired any status by becoming a political party and winning a free election; anyone associated with it is a terrorist; any institutions created by Hamas or inherited by it to run Gaza are part of the terrorism network; there are no areas of Gaza that are exempt from attack. US/Israeli bottom line: Hamas must be destroyed and "collateral damage" is inevitable. The Congress of the United States is now engaged in passing a resolution that totally supports the Israeli actions in Gaza and lays the blame on Hamas
One may argue about the recent works of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, Israeli Historian Ilan Pappe, or former US President Jimmy Carter who describe the dark history of Israel's illegitimate growth or the strength and the moves of the Israel lobby. Underscoring that power, the congressional resolution now in process on the Hill showed up on the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) website before it was discussed in Congress.  However, US use of its veto power in the UN tells the story of Israeli power over US policy better than any other single fact of post World War II US history. That series of UN Security Council vetoes demonstrates the enormous Israeli Zionist influence over US Middle East policy of every American President since Harry Truman. President Truman, under enormous pro-Zionist lobby pressure at the time, made the US the first country to recognize the new state of Israel. For that Truman was roundly criticized by the British for supporting a basically rogue state.
President-elect Obama was quickly hooked into this tradition. Before he was even nominated, ne went to a Washington meeting of AIPAC and swore he would give complete support to Israel. How that pledge will play in the current crisis will not become clear until after Obama is sworn in on January 20.
What does that have to do with the present crisis in Gaza? US use of its United Nations Security Council veto power has just cleared any major international obstruction from Israel's path of mayhem in Gaza. A prudent American would ask: How is this in the interest of the United States? Here is where the power of the Israel lobby and the US preoccupation with terrorism come together.
A short history of modern terrorism will help. The decade of the 1970s was a freakish beginning, because much of the terrorist activity involved aircraft hijackings, often by Cubans. Those attacks were more of a nuisance than a national policy challenge. However, the takeover of US Embassy Tehran by Iranian revolutionaries on November 4, 1979 was a new wrinkle; in effect the Iranian revolutionary guard took those hostages to assure that the United States behaved itself while revolutionary leadership took control of Iran from America's close ally, the Shah of Iran. Except for an abortive attempt by Jimmy Carter to release our Iran hostages by force, the Iranian gambit succeeded. However, US official policy toward Iranian leadership is still fixated on that frustrating shift in the Middle East power equation.
From that point, Middle East terrorism began to dominate US foreign policy and much of its activity on the international scene. Several groups had grown and were growing around the eastern end of the Mediterranean. Palestine-related groups dominated this landscape: Abu Nidal, Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization (the PLO) and its terrorist arm al Fatah, Hezbollah (the Party of God), the Lebanese Armed Revolutionary Faction, the Palestine Liberation Front, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the PFLP General Command, the PFLP Special Command, the Popular Struggle Front, Palestine Islamic Jihad, The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, 15 May,  the al Aqsa Brigades, and Hamas all appeared and flowered pretty much in the 1970s-1980s,and some into the 1990s. But note: these were groups spawned largely among Palestinians to pursue resolution of the grievances of the Palestinian people against the state of Israel. Their goal was to stop growth of the state of Israel at the expense of the Palestinian people.
Instead of focusing on why the eastern end of the Mediterranean suddenly had become such a rich terrorism generating environment, or what might be done about that, the US mainly reacted to the threat without examining its implications. The Israel lobby was already very busy touting that threat; the above-cited groups posed a threat to Israel; but as seen from the US, they were major threats to Americans. Lebanese groups posed major problems for the US in the early/mid 1980s by taking US hostages in Lebanon and blowing up the US Marine barracks in Beirut.
Beginning in that epoch US policy froze around the subject of combating terrorism, meaning killing, confining or otherwise putting terrorist organizations out of business. Those became central goals of US policy. Rarely, if ever, were the questions asked: What exactly are the terrorists complaining about, which interest groups do they represent, what do they want, or what can we/other governments do about it? US antipathy to "terrorists" hardened in this period, and it has remained a central premise of US policy throughout the Bush administration War on Terrorism.
The PLO was founded by Arafat in the 1960s, and he developed Fatah as his arm to conduct terrorism against perceived enemies of the Palestinians. As a result of processes set in motion by the 1978 Camp David peace negotiations, Arafat, the PLO and Fatah were more or less brought in from the cold. They were recognized as the other side in a Middle East peace process that has gone through several unsuccessful gambits, but nonetheless remains a "process".
Efforts to advance the process in 2005 led to US-promoted elections in Palestine in early 2006. The goal may have been to reaffirm the leadership of the PLO and its post-Arafat leader, Mahmoud Abbas, but the result was a surprising electoral victory for Hamas candidates. The new government of Palestine was formed with Hamas in parliamentary leadership, but the US and Israel, along with Mahmoud Abbas and his party Fatah, wanted no part of it. While the US and Israel had accepted the gradual growth of the PLO and Fatah from terrorist organizations into political entities, both refused to recognize the political maturation and transition of Hamas. That has become an ironic US/Israeli blind spot.
In political arm wrestling with Hamas in 2007, designed to bring political control back under Fatah and the PLO, Abbas encouraged a Fatah campaign-including violence-that failed. Hamas was both more honest than the PLO and better organized for providing needed public services. It simply fought a successful battle for Palestinian hearts and minds by standing squarely for the things Palestinians want: peace, security, a right of return to their ancestral home, their own state with a capital in Jerusalem, and control of their lives. In the 2007 struggle for control of Gaza, Hamas was simply better organized and more widely supported than Fatah.
The US/Israeli response was to leave Hamas and Gaza to their own devices while forming an international alliance to boycott Hamas and frustrate its efforts to rule Gaza. Ironically, the West and Israel were boycotting the government of a territory that was occupied by the Israelis. The US and Israel focused on supporting Mahmoud Abbas and the PLO in the West Bank, essentially buying the support of West Bank Palestinians by providing resources to make them comfortable. That is the current situation in the West Bank. However, the reactions to Israel's invasion of Gaza by Palestinians in the West Bank, in Israel itself, and in many overseas Palestinian communities show that Hamas has a great deal of support outside of Gaza.
The immediate US/Israeli goal is to make Hamas fail, both politically and as a terrorist organization. After months of pressure on Gaza, wrought by Israeli restrictions on people movements, prevention of shipments of foods, medicines and other goods needed to run an economy the size of a major American city, and day to day harassment of the people, the US/Israeli strategy to unseat Hamas had failed. Rather, Hamas demonstrated that it is capable of sustaining leadership in a progressively restricted, underfed and deprived situation, especially under pressures from a hostile outside world. Up to a few weeks ago, Hamas had used holes in fences, in some cases tunnels, into Egyptian territory to eke out meager supplies of necessities that regularly have been denied by Israeli forces that surround Gaza. However, possibly under threat of attack by Israel, or denial of assistance from the United States (up to 1/3 of the worldwide US assistance program), or both, Egypt closed those frontier entries, and the squeeze tightened.
In spite of those ever increasing pressures, Hamas has not given up, and the people of Gaza have not rebelled against Hamas leadership. However, that demonstration aside, the US and Israel appear determined not to recognize the group's  leadership, and to destroy Hamas and its following along with as many other Palestinians in Gaza as necessary to get that done.
Two blatant US and Israeli conveniences are at work here. First is the charge that Hamas is a "terrorist group". That charge actually resonates with current US policy in the War on Terrorism, but Hamas is the only known current insurgent group with responsibility for running a society. The "terrorist" label also now hangs from the second convenience for Israel: the continued lobbing of crude rockets into Israeli territory from inside Gaza by Hamas or other Palestinian insurgents such as the al Aqsa Brigades.
The Israeli public relations goal is to convince the outside world that its only concern is the firing of rockets by Palestinians into Israeli territory. However, that is a gigantic falsehood. The rockets mostly are harmless, and there are few casualties. However, the rockets keep people in the area apprehensive, and their continual explosions are a political problem for actual and potential Israeli leaders who are facing a February election. As presented in western media, the rockets are the only excuse Israel has for the invasion.
In the months before the Israeli invasion of Gaza began, Palestinian rockets had killed one Israeli, while Israel Defense Force attacks had killed or wounded thousands of Palestinians. So far during the invasion Palestinian rockets reportedly have killed five Israelis; Israel Defense Force attackers have killed over 700 Palestinians and wounded over 4,000.  Strangely, Israeli forces have been unable to stop the rockets, or maybe they allow the rockets to continue to justify their continued destruction of Gaza.
The Israeli story leaves out the true problem: Gaza is maintained by the Israel Defense Force as a large, open air prison. Ever since Sharon withdrew Israeli soldiers and settlers from Gaza in late 2005, the territory has been  surrounded on three sides by Israeli military and marine forces, controlled from the air by Israeli military aircraft, constantly harassed and confined at all exit/entry points by Israel Defense Force guards and Israeli bureaucrats. The people of Gaza are selectively targeted for assassination, have thousands of relatives languishing without trial in Israeli prisons, and they are spied on and subverted relentlessly by a continuous flow of Mossad and other, including US, agents. Th---e Palestinians are now trapped on Gaza's south side by refusal of the Egyptians to allow any traffic between Gaza and Egypt.  The US/Israeli argument, largely underwritten by many members of the UN, is that any Palestinian who fights back against these conditions is a terrorist.
Now the US seems bent on a repeat of the mistake it made during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2006. When asked to support a UN sponsored effort to reach a ceasefire, the US refused for several days in order to give the Israel Defense Force time to put an end to Hezbollah. The IDF failed, but now the US is refusing once again to support a UN sponsored ceasefire in the hope, it would appear, that an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza will do what countless air attacks have failed to achieve: Put Hamas out of business.
Refusal to recognize the rights of the Palestinian people in Gaza and a narrow minded thirst for getting rid of Hamas (the terrorist group) are driving the United States to support a totally inhumane approach to Gaza. The people of Gaza are being bloodied by Israel with US supplied weapons and logistics support. Israel's goal is to politically split Gaza off from Palestine while trashing the territory and its leadership. A growing number of Israelis and Jews throughout the world are appalled by the attack. A number predict the effort will fail. Some may even pray that will be the case, because if Gaza falls, the next round will be to dispose of the Palestinians in the West Bank.
The frustrating reality of this situation is that brute force is being used to persuade people that their best interests lie with becoming slaves. The US and Israel are not promising the people anything for giving up. Rather, the indicated future is that the Palestinians in Gaza, if they don't escape, will become the house-broken captives that their West Bank counterparts have become. Israel is making no promises to any of them, and the United States is not pressing Israel for action on peace negotiations. Rather, with US help the Israelis are confining the Palestinians in an ever-shrinking piece of their homeland, meanwhile building settlements and destroying Palestinian homes. Each of those acts reduces that shrinking sliver of Palestine that used to be home.
The next step is for the Palestinians to be totally politically dispossessed. Whatever the Palestinian people are being told, the political goal driving Israel Defense Force attacks in Gaza is to eliminate any further Palestinian resistance to a choice between perpetual confinement or migration to some willing recipient country.  The defining agency for Palestinian resistance is Hamas. Stopping the crude rockets into Sederot may please the residents of that region, but Tel Aviv is not really interested in that outcome. It knows that at most making and lobbing the rockets requires only a few people, and that can be restarted anytime, if provoked.
Hamas is a pain because it stands for the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people. Hamas therefore represents hope. And the last thing Israeli leadership wants is for Palestinians to believe they have a future in Palestine. That is really what the bloody invasion of Gaza is about.
Is it truly in the United States interest to be associated with this agenda? President-elect Obama is in Washington now, and he obviously is being consulted about the resolution proceeding in Congress. That resolution, as of this writing, has passed in the Senate unanimously (lies, pretenses and exaggerations included) and will be put to a House vote January 9. If it passes, unless Obama rejects it now, he will be presumed to have agreed with it.  If his support for this resolution emerges as ground truth, his administration will already have tied its hands in the Middle East. Did somebody say the US election was about change?
The writer is the author of the recently published work, A World Less Safe, now available on Amazon, and he is a regular columnist on rense.com. He is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer of the US Department of State whose overseas service included tours in Egypt, India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Brazil. His immediate pre-retirement positions were as Chairman of the Department of International Studies of the National War College and as Deputy Director of the State Office of Counter Terrorism and Emergency Planning. He will welcome comment at
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