Monday, September 22, 2014

"Ronald Reagan showed more heart than Barack Obama"

This is part two of my transcription of Norman Finkelstein's important lecture about the real causes of the recent atrocity perpetrated against Gaza. Part one is here. Here, he tells the truth about those alleged "rocket attacks" and the tunnels that our media instructed you to worry about. As noted previously, I have lightly edited his words to increase readability; a video of the actual lecture is here.

The words below the asterisks were said by Norman Finkelstein to an audience in Baltimore, while the attack on Gaza was still underway. (Note: as most of you surely know, Iron Dome is the name of Israel's much-vaunted air defense system.) Please do what you can to publicize this post, because Finkelstein brilliantly disposes of many false notions propagated by our media.

 *  *  *

I want to dispose of all of the nonsense about Hamas rockets, the miracle of Iron Dome, and now the tunnels that they have discovered in Gaza.

Let’s start with the first. Does Hamas have rockets?

Now when I conjure up in my mind a rocket, I conjure up something pretty tall, pretty impressive, and pretty destructive. That’s a rocket in my mind. Maybe I have a quaint imagination, but that’s what I see.

Now let’s use some simple common sense. Gaza has been under an airtight blockade for seven years. Israel doesn’t let anything into Gaza that can be remotely used for militarily purposes. That’s fact number one.

Now some of you are thinking: “Aha! He’s deceiving us. What about those tunnels that have been dug between Egypt and Gaza?”

Fair enough. It was a sophisticated tunnel economy, and probably militarily-related material was smuggled in. I don’t doubt that. But whatever they managed to smuggle in, they exhausted in 2012, during Operation Pillar of Defense.

Operation Pillar of Defense ends in November. Seven months later is the coup in Egypt. The first thing [Egyptian President] Sisi did after the coup was blow up all the tunnels. Nothing could get into Gaza. Nothing for the last year.

So where did these rockets come from? Where was the material to make them?

As now is freely admitted, all of these rockets were home-made by Hamas with barely any materials. The reason these Hamas rockets have caused all of three Israeli civilian casualties is because they’re not rockets. They’re closer to firecrackers.

Some of you may now say: “Aha! Finkelstein is deceiving us again. We all know that these are very efficient rockets, but that miracle of miracles Iron Dome managed to knock them out of the sky.”

Okay. What are the facts behind that?

The top person in the world in this field of research is Theodore Postol at MIT. Postol was the first person to expose the nonsense about the Patriot missile system during the 1991 Gulf War. For those of you who remember, at the time they were saying that the Patriot missile system was 85-90 percent effective. It turned out that maybe one Scud Missile was deflected by the Patriot anti-missile defense system. That was revealed a year or two after the first Gulf War by Theodore Postol.

Postol was recently asked: “Well, what about Iron Dome? What is its efficiency?” He put its efficiency – I’m quoting him – at five percent. [For more, see here.]

It’s not Iron Dome that’s deflecting these humungous rockets. They’re not rockets in the first place.

How do we know that? There is such a simple way to know that, if you use your brain for half a minute.

Operation Cast Lead, 2008-2009. It lasted 22 days. How many civilian casualties were there in Israel? There were three. Operation Protective Edge has lasted now 22 days [at the time this speech was given]. How many civilian casualties in Israel? Three.

Operation Cast Lead: Before Iron Dome. Operation Protective Edge: After Iron Dome.

What’s the rational conclusion? Iron Dome did zilch. In fact, the rockets now being used are much more primitive than the ones they used in 2008-9, because at that point they had managed to smuggle something in.

Well, now Mr. Netanyahu has a problem. He boasted so much about the efficiency of Iron Dome -- this miracle of miracles, this work of genius by the geniuses of all geniuses, the Israelis. If it’s so efficient, then why are you killing all these Gazans? Why do you have to carry on like maniacs and lunatics?

So he has a problem. And he comes up with a new pretext.

That’s why the New York Times has people like Isabel Kerschner: She’s there to copy out anything that the New York Times hands her. Excuse me: Anything the Israeli consulate hands her – and even there, the difference is only a flea’s hop.

They come up with a new idea: “The reason we’re attacking Gaza – because the rockets, so to speak, don’t fly anymore – is because of the tunnels."

Day in and day out, they keep saying that this whole operation is because of the tunnels. And that is supposed to explain to rational people why Israel is doing what it’s doing. It’s not the rockets anymore. It’s the tunnels.

So when an Israeli naval vessel kills four kids on the beach playing soccer, it’s because of the tunnels.

And when Israel targets Al-Wafa hospital – why? It’s because of the tunnels. Even though nobody claimed that there were tunnels underneath the hospital.

And when Israel targeted Al-Shifa hospital, and also targeted the playground nearby -- well, it’s obvious why they did that: It’s the tunnels.

Day in and day out you keep hearing about the tunnels, as if the tunnels can rationally explain why Israel’s precision weapons are constantly killing kids and targeting manifestly civilian sites.

Since it’s obviously not the tunnels, you could say that Israel’s doing it because it’s a lunatic state. It’s a state that has gone over the cliff.

I myself have to acknowledge that, on more than one occasion, I have said as much. I think it’s a crazy state. It’s not a failed state: It’s a crazy state.

But there is, to use a Shakespearean expression, a method to the madness, and it’s not difficult to discern.

When Israel launched Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9, the orders given to the Israeli combat forces were: “Blast everything in sight, because we don’t want combatant casualties.”

Israel is in many ways the reverse of conventional societies. In most societies, they tolerate combatant casualties much more than they’re willing to tolerate civilian casualties. Israel is a different kind of society. It’s more of a Spartan society in which military or combatant casualties are a source of much greater anguish and torment than civilian casualties.

So the first rule is: Combatants aren’t supposed to get killed. And so in Operation Cast Lead, if you read the orders that were given – a lot of it was published – it was: “If you see a building in the distance, you don’t ask any questions. You demolish everything in sight, so there will be nobody to take a sniper shot at you.”

And that can explain some of what Israel has been doing now. In Shejaiya, the biggest massacre to date, it was freely admitted: “We leveled the place because if we have to go in, street by street fighting with the Hamas militants, we would have had to absorb a large number of combatant casualties.” And so they wiped the whole place out. It wasn’t only because of that: The day before, seven Israeli soldiers had been killed, and it became a kind of revenge operation. That partly explained it.

But that’s not the larger part of the explanation.

Contrary to what you might conceive, there hasn’t been a ground invasion. There has been an occupation a couple of miles into the border. It’s for the reason I mentioned to you already: There was and is a fear that if they were to conduct a real ground invasion deep into Gaza -- they still might – they could suffer some severe combatant losses.

So why are they doing it? Why have they seemingly gone mad?

The reason has been completely acknowledged by Israelis, if you read it. It won’t surprise anyone in this room.

They are hoping that a terror bombing will bring Palestinian Gazans to their knees.

They’re hoping that if you destroy everything in sight, there’s a humanitarian ceasefire, the people come out, they see nothing, and they say: “Let’s end it.” Because the devastation is so terrible.

The longer term goal is, with all the death and destruction, the [Palestinian] people will eventually blame Hamas for what happened, and will then seek to unseat Hamas.

And in fact, that was the calculation during Operation Cast Lead as well. There was some truth to it. The people of Gaza stood behind the resistance in 2008-9, but then a significant element of alienation entered when the people of Gaza asked themselves: “For what?”

Israel left behind 600,000 tons of rubble after Operation Cast Lead. All of the death, all of the destruction. The blockade was still there. So there was the feeling “Hamas got us into a mess.” I don’t think that was accurate, but that’s what Israel is hoping will again happen this time.

That’s the purpose behind the terror bombing.

A couple of days ago, I couldn’t take it anymore. Watching this thing unfold, 24 hours a day, seven days a week – you begin to go mad.

My friend Sara Roy, some of you may know her from Harvard – she lived in Gaza, knows the people, and has a heart. She’s a very decent human being. She sent an email to various people describing the attack on the playground, another kid just blown to fragments. Sarah is a very smart person, an elegant person, a distinguished scholar, comes from an impressive family – her mother was a survivor of Auschwitz. And in the last line, her email said: “I want to vomit.”

“I want to VOMIT.”

And that just struck a chord with me. No fancy language; no rhetorical curlicues. I want to vomit because of the way Israel is carrying on in Gaza.

So I decided it was time to do something. I can’t justify in my own mind just sitting in front of a computer. So I decided: “All right, let’s organize a sit-in, get arrested – I don’t know what I want to do, but I want do something. Let’s do it in front of the Israeli consulate, its mission to the U.N.”

And after I announced it, I’m thinking in my bed, “You know, Norm, you kind of made an error here. Why are you attacking the Israeli mission? Who was the enabler? Who allowed it to happen?”

Every day that that pedantic, pontificating, insipid President...


It’s a fact. Let’s not kid ourselves. Every single day that that man came out and said: “Israel has the right to defend itself.” Each time he said it, he was giving Israel the green light to continue the massacre.

That’s a fact. Were it not for him, that could not have happened.

And it’s a very odd thing, but facts are facts and we have to acknowledge them.

There are people here whose memories go back to 1982 and the Israeli massacre in Lebanon then. How many people remember it? The Israeli massacre in 1982 was quite a shindig: Israel killed between 15,000 and 20,000 Palestinians and Lebanese, overwhelmingly civilians, in those three-and-a-half months.

But during the massacre, at one point, President Reagan – that brain-dead monster – he had this picture of a child. How many people remember? A child who was a victim of the Israeli attack in Lebanon. And he took the picture of a child who had been severely burned and put it on his desk.

And then the [Israeli] prime minister of the time, Menachem Begin, embarked on one of his lunatic jihads. He was going to prove that child was not targeted by Israel. And so a kind of little war of images – whatever you want to call it, in this stupid post-modern language – a war of “narratives,” whatever that means -- went on between Prime Minister Begin and President Reagan.

But the fact of the matter is, if we want to be truthful to ourselves, Ronald Reagan showed more heart than Barack Obama.
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Folks, the comment I deleted was a death threat. That's what we're dealing with here.
I suppose it's better the get death threats over Israel and Palestine than over computer games.

But Who was it that funded the Syrian who ate a man's heart? Obama's got all the heart he can eat. Eat your heart out, RayGun.
israel is a crazy state. yes to that.. it is an eye for an eye state, that was blinded sometime back and has lost any moral or ethical position it might have ever had..
The tunnels have been shown on network TV news reports, with military armanents, with mainstream journalists standing in Israel at a tunnel end and stating explicitly that the tunnel was leading out of Gaza and into Israel.

Calling the rockets "firecrackers" does not change the fact that hundreds of such explosives were being fired into Israel, day after day.

Your bias against Israel makes it hard to remain a reader of this blog.
Wow! A death threat. You obviously hit a nerve, Joe. Btw, I caught Finkelstein's presentation when it aired on Book TV. Very potent. One can only imagine the number of death threats the man has received with his very public and withering condemnation of Israel's continuing lies and rampant violence. No wonder she's one of our allies, eh?

The whole thing is sickening made more so by our own allegiance to the on-going propaganda wars. This is what the hard-right view of the world looks like and I continually despair that the left merely sits and repeats the wearisome mantras about self-defense, civilians are never targeted and the true barbarians are in the terrorist du jour camp.

Really? The evidence counters the arguments, the excuses, the disproportionate violence without end. When we become our own worst nightmare, the game/strategy/war is lost.

For me, it all blew apart when those 4 little boys were slaughtered on the beach, followed by the callous, indifferent response from Israeli authorities. Whatever trance I was in broke in that moment. The propaganda wall shattered and what was revealed was immoral and monstrous.

Made me heartsick. Still does and there's no going back.

The one positive thing has been the nascent resistance and condemnation by Holocaust survivors, Israeli intelligence officers and people like Finkelstein who are courageous enough, appalled enough to step forward and say: No! This is utterly wrong. This is immoral.

Being labeled an anti-Semite doesn't cut it anymore. Perhaps, a death threat is simply the next step in the on-going insanity.

Anon -- and please sign with a nick -- Your bias in favor of racists who stole land and now are committing genocide make it impossible for me to care whether you remain a reader of this blog.
Blogger Joseph said...
12:44 PM

Yep, I agree and good read about the truth.

Of course, the rockets only started falling after the air-strikes on Hamas began. Before that it was Hamas itself which was policing other groups in Gaza to prevent rocket attacks.
Anon 12:32.........anyone who does not have a bias against Israel obviously lacks a conscience, a moral center. To support Israel at this point is to support fascism, racism, and genocide. It's that simple.
These rocket attacks could also very easily be the work of agents provocateurs within the Palestinian ranks, because we already know Unit 8200 was using intercepted intelligence to sow strife within that population. They could also have been the work of actual Israeli agents withing for a pretext to begin and then continue the bombardment.

Remember the "rocket bombs" from 1984? While that book is ostensibly fiction, it does talk about the way the government would randomly fire on its own citizens to keep them afraid so they'd continue to support the endless war.

Just a thought.
James, I think that scenario is completely unproven but possible. At this point, any act of anti-Jewish violence is a godsend to the Israeli nationalists, because it can be used to justify the ethnic cleansing directed against the Palestinians.
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