Don't Think Israel Started with Donald

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Latuff, Gaza, more war crimes, phoney ceasefire talks

THE ABSURD TIMES





 

Illustration: Carlos Latuff is ahead of us this time as Al-Jazeera regains credibility

There is even more on the topic at the Democracy Now website along with a link to the live interviews.  Levy was abruptly cut off and the disconnect could only have been intentional (see the excerpt is you want to check for your self.

The attack on Al-Jazeera offices, while they were being used by AP, give a bit more credibility to that outlet.  In addition, their journalists are still being held and in prison by the Egyptian Government, "Sissy" as he should be called.

People say that journalism is not a crime, but apparently meaningful journalism is.  Already during this mess both ABC and NBC have been called to account by social media.  The idiocy about Ukraine will most likely continue.

Here are the interviews:

TUESDAY, JULY 22, 2014

"A Place of Indescribable Loss": As Ceasefire Talks Begin, Israel Bombs Hospital, Mosques and Homes

The Israeli assault on Gaza has entered its third week as the Palestinian death toll has topped 600, mostly civilians. More than 100 of the dead are children. More than 3,700 Palestinians have been injured. Israel says it has lost 27 soldiers since the ground invasion began. Earlier today, Israel confirmed the remains of one of its soldiers presumed to have been killed in Gaza had still not been found or identified. This comes two days after Hamas said it had captured the soldier. So far today, Israel has struck more than 70 sites inside Gaza, including five mosques and a football stadium. On Monday, at least 103 Palestinians died, including 11 when Israel bombed a residential tower block in Gaza City. Five children died in that attack. In the central Gaza town of Deir al-Balah, five people died and 70 were wounded when Israel shelled the al-Aqsa Hospital. It became the third medical facility to be struck by Israel in the past two weeks. The injured included about 30 medics. We are joined from Gaza City by Democracy Now! correspondent and independent journalist Sharif Abdel Kouddous. "Gaza is a place of indescribable loss, and a place where family sizes continue to be shrunk by falling bombs," he says.

Kouddous is reporting live from the Associated Press studio, which shares a floor with the Al Jazeera studio in Gaza City. He says that Israel fired shots into the windows of Al Jazeera’s office earlier this morning. He reports that both news agencies evacuated staff from the building. AP has since confirmed that Israel does not plan to target their office; however, Al Jazeera has not been able to confirm the same, and its staff are waiting downstairs at the bottom of the building. As of now, AP staff are back at work in the office on a voluntary basis. "This is another instance of targeting the media," Kouddous says.

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AARON MATÉ: The Israeli assault on Gaza has entered its third week as the Palestinian death toll has topped 600, mostly civilians. More than 100 of the dead are children. More than 3,700 Palestinians have been injured. Israel says it’s lost 27 soldiers since the ground invasion began on Thursday. Earlier today, Israel confirmed the remains of one of its soldiers presumed to have been killed in Gaza had still not been found or identified. This comes two days after Hamas said it had captured the soldier.

AMY GOODMAN: So far today, Israel has struck more than 70 sites inside Gaza, including five mosques and a football stadium. On Monday, at least 103 Palestinians died, including 11 when Israel bombed a residential tower block in Gaza City. Five children died in that attack. In the central Gaza town of Deir al-Balah, five people died, 70 were wounded, when Israel shelled the al-Aqsa Hospital Monday. It became the third medical facility to be struck by Israel in the past two weeks. The injured included about 30 medics. Meanwhile, gunshots were fired into Al Jazeera’s bureau in Gaza Strip today, one day after Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said his country will work to close down Al Jazeera in Israel.

As we continue our coverage of the Israeli assault on Gaza, we’re joined from Gaza City by Democracy Now!'s Sharif Abdel Kouddous, who has been writing pieces forThe Nation magazine, and we'll link to those pieces.

Can you tell us, Sharif, what has been happening in these last 24 hours?

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Well, Amy, as you said, it’s been—the heavy bombing, the heavy bombardment of Gaza continues. Amongst the targets hit were five mosques, a sports stadium and many homes and businesses. Palestinians continue to die inside their homes in Gaza. I saw supermarkets that were still smoldering from what appeared to be a drone strike today. The owner was sifting through diapers and food and all his inventory that had been completely ruined, and his livelihood has been lost.

And as you mentioned, I’m standing to you—I’m talking to you from the AP studio, which is just across on the same floor as the Al Jazeera studio. These were two apparently 50-caliber or heavy-caliber shots that came into the window at 9:00 in the morning, or 9:30 in the morning, pierced the window and hit the wall. These are not, you know, regular bullets. These are kind of very loud bullets that make this huge booming sound. One of the Al Jazeera people that I spoke to said that they thought it was what the Israelis call a knock on the roof, a warning shot with a rocket, that it was going to be destroyed. So we had people here, both in AP and Al Jazeera, in a lot of panic and evacuating the premises. AP then confirmed with the Israeli military that they weren’t targeted, but Al Jazeera has not had that confirmation. And the Al Jazeera staff are just downstairs at the bottom of the building, sitting there. And the AP staff are back here on a voluntary basis. So this is, you know, another instance of targeting the media.

And meanwhile, as I said, people continue to die. In Rafah yesterday, there was a family, the al-Siam family; nine people of the same family were killed. I spoke yesterday about probably the single deadliest strike since the conflict began, on the Abu Jamaa family, which killed 25 people, 17 of whom were children. So, Gaza’s a place of indescribable loss and a place where family sizes continue to be shrunk by falling bombs.

AARON MATÉ: Sharif, on Monday’s show, you also talked about the massacre in Shejaiya, the neighborhood where 72 Palestinians were killed, mostly civilians, by the reports that we’ve seen. The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza has warned of an environmental disaster if Israel keeps blocking ambulances from retrieving the bodies. What do we know about the latest right now in Shejaiya?

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: There were attempts for a ceasefire negotiation, a humanitarian ceasefire, that had been going on since last night. These talks appear to have fallen through. Ha’aretz reported the Israeli government is saying a ceasefire, a humanitarian ceasefire, was not on the Israeli government’s agenda at the moment.

So, as I was speaking to you yesterday, we saw that very heavy bombardment of Shejaiya that came a day after that massive artillery shelling and the bloodiest day so far of the conflict. And ambulances still cannot get in. And we had all these reports, and we have footage, of the bodies in the streets—and perhaps wounded, if they’re still alive—not being able to get out.

And on top of that, Gaza is facing a very serious humanitarian crisis. The number of internally displaced has risen to over 100,000. The U.N. is struggling to cope with the number of people. And that U.N. number is clearly low. I mean, one family today—I saw six families arrive from Beit Hanoun, a district in the north of Gaza, which was very hard-hit yesterday, arrive and live in that house, and those people are not counted by the United Nations. Water is coming to Palestinian families only three hours a day—well, it’s only three hours every three days, and people are forced to stock up on water. They only get power for between four to eight hours a day. And so, this is a serious crisis that we’re facing, a humanitarian one, as well as the number of dead and wounded.

AMY GOODMAN: Yesterday on Democracy Now!Dr. Mads Gilbert, the Norwegian doctor, broke the news on Democracy Now! that the al-Aqsa Hospital had been attacked. Can you talk about the results of that attack? What happened to the patients inside? What happened to the doctors and the nurses, Sharif?

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Well, I didn’t go there myself to report it firsthand yet, but there was an attack that hit a floor that housed an operating room as well as an intensive care unit. Four people were killed, and a few more were injured. But, you know, this is a place where the wounded are, and the wounded are not even safe anymore in Gaza. As you mentioned, they attacked two other medical facilities: al-Wafa Hospital, which housed severely disabled and paralyzed patients, as well as a clinic for the handicapped, where two handicapped patients were killed. So, you know, these are places where not only the wounded go, but where Palestinians go to seek refuge. The Shifa Hospital here in Gaza is a place of refuge to many. You know, they go there because they feel it is a safe place. And increasingly, those kinds of places are no longer safe. And in Gaza, there’s nowhere to run.

AMY GOODMAN: Sharif, Ayman Mohyeldin, who is the NBC reporter, we reportedlast week, of course, that he was pulled out of Gaza after he witnessed the killing of the four boys between nine and 11 years old who were playing soccer on the beach in front of the hotel where so many of the international reporters were staying. But then NBC announced on Friday night they would return Ayman to Gaza. Can you talk about the significance of this? And now we have seen him back on the air.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Well, it’s great to have Ayman back in Gaza. He’s one of the best international correspondents, especially from here. I think, you know, a lot of social media pressure and outrage over his transfer out of Gaza last week caused him to come back, and so I think that’s a good thing. It’s great that he’s here. He reported yesterday that, you know, the four al-Bakr boys that he saw killed, that their house was bombed, although that was initial reports, so we haven’t confirmed that yet.

You know, these kinds of tragedies continue. I told you about the Abu Jarad family, eight of whom were killed while they were watching TV when a tank shell came crashing through their wall. One of the cousins called me yesterday, and they had vowed not to move, and they were forced to. They are now displaced. Beit Hanoun, the area where their house is, came under very heavy tank shelling, and they joined the more than 100,000 who have been displaced.

So, you know, this is—then this crisis doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. These calls for a ceasefire, these calls for an end to the bloodshed only seem to be fueling the violence. The violence is getting steadily worse. Three hundred of the dead have been killed since the ground invasion began a few days ago. So the level of violence is really ramping up instead of de-escalating.

AARON MATÉ: Sharif, as we wrap, is there support amongst Palestinians that you speak to for Hamas’s strategy, which is basically to continue the violence until Israel agrees to lift the blockade of the Gaza Strip?

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: From the vast majority of Palestinians that I’ve spoken to, they support—they wouldn’t say they support Hamas, but they support the resistance. They support some kind of fighting back against this brutal military assault. They support, they say, the resistance until their conditions are met. And the primary, the number one condition everyone mentions is the lifting of the siege. The siege affects every aspect of life here in Gaza, from the water to power, to jobs, to food, to freedom of movement, to very basic human rights. And they feel that if the ceasefire—if this conflict ends without a return—or it returns back to the same situation that it was, with Gaza under siege, that their lives—you know, they need some change in their lives. And so, yeah, I mean, I think—I wouldn’t say Hamas, as a political movement, has the support, but as a resistance movement, that it is right now, yes, most Palestinians are unified behind it, even those who are very critical of it. Even political opponents who are members of the Fatah party say they support the resistance in this time of conflict.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Sharif, I know we may lose you by satellite at any moment in Gaza City, but when you talk about the siege, it’s not something that’s covered very much in the United States. Can you just elaborate more fully what you mean when Palestinians say "lift the siege"?

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Well, Gaza is a thin strip of land that is bordered mostly by Israel and also by Egypt, and it has a big seacoast, and Palestinians can’t get in or out of Gaza. They’re prevented by Israel. They’re prevented by Egypt, which largely executes U.S. and Israeli policy. And foods, basic goods, the right to import and export, all of these things are banned to them, and so this has devastated the economy here. It has devastated lives. People feel trapped. They often speak of how they live in the biggest open-air prison in the world. And even the sea, fishermen cannot go out more than a couple of kilometers to go fish, where Israeli warships await them. So, you really feel it.

And you really feel this war exacerbating all those effects. And you feel—you hear drones in the air. You hear the booms of the ships. And even if you wanted to leave, you couldn’t. Even if journalists wanted to leave today, they couldn’t. Erez crossing was closed, the border with Israel, and the Egyptian border is closed, as well. So it really feels—and there’s no shelters here. There’s no air raids—sorry, there’s no air defense system. There’s no sirens. There’s really nowhere to run. You don’t know where is safe. And people are dying inside their homes and inside hospitals—not from their wounds, but from being bombed and wounded again by the Israeli military.

AMY GOODMAN: Sharif, I want to thank you for being with us. Please stay safe. Sharif Abdel Kouddous, Democracy Now! correspondent in Gaza City. You can see his reports at TheNation.com, and we will link there at democracynow.org. When we come back, we’re going to Tel Aviv to speak with the Ha’aretz columnist Gideon Levy, a member of the newspaper’s editorial board, author of The Punishment of Gaza. Stay with us.


The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

TUESDAY, JULY 22, 2014

What Does Hamas Really Want? Israeli Journalist Gideon Levy on Ending the Crippling Blockade of Gaza

As the Israeli assault on Gaza enters its third week, a new push is underway for an internationally brokered ceasefire. Speaking earlier today, Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said there is "no real hope" of an immediate halt to the fighting because Hamas’ conditions are too far from those of Israel, the United States and Egypt. Hamas’ demands have centered on an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza and the release of its prisoners. The seven-year siege has crippled the economy, civilian infrastructure and water supplies. In Gaza, unemployment tops 40 percent, and almost 80 percent rely on humanitarian aid. The United Nations has warned Gaza will no longer be livable by 2020 unless urgent steps are taken. The last ceasefire in November 2012 was supposed to ease the blockade, but Israel only intensified it. With Hamas vowing to continue fighting against what it calls a "slow death," a new ceasefire largely hinges on whether the United States and others will pressure Israel to reverse its stance. We are joined from Tel Aviv by Israeli journalist Gideon Levy. In a recent piece for Ha’aretz, Levy writes: "[Hamas’] conditions are civilian; the means of achieving them are military, violent and criminal. But the (bitter) truth is that when Gaza is not firing rockets at Israel, nobody cares about it. ... Read the list of [Hamas] demands and judge honestly whether there is one unjust demand among them."

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Aaron Maté.

AARON MATÉ: As the Israeli assault on Gaza enters its third week, a new push is underway for an internationally brokered ceasefire. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is set to arrive in Israel shortly. Earlier today he met with Secretary of State John Kerry and leaders of the Arab League in Cairo. Speaking Monday from Washington, President Obama continued his backing for Israel’s assault, but said the U.S. will intensify its role in the ceasefire effort.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: As I’ve said many times, Israel has a right to defend itself against rocket and tunnel attacks from Hamas. And as a result of its operations, Israel has already done significant damage to Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure in Gaza. I’ve also said, however, that we have serious concerns about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives. And that is why it now has to be our focus and the focus of the international community to bring about a ceasefire that ends the fighting and that can stop the deaths of innocent civilians, both in Gaza and in Israel.

AMY GOODMAN: Speaking earlier today, Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said there is, quote, "no real hope" of an immediate ceasefire because Hamas’s conditions are too far from those of Israel, the U.S. and Egypt. Hamas’s demands have centered on an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza and the release of its prisoners. This is Hamas Deputy Leader Ismail Haniyeh.

ISMAIL HANIYEH: [translated] The demands of our people are clear. The aggression must be stopped, and a guarantee should be given it would not be repeated. The blockade must be lifted, this unjust blockade that our Palestinian people are living in.

AARON MATÉ: The seven-year siege has crippled Gaza’s economy, civilian infrastructure and water supplies. Unemployment tops 40 percent, and almost 80 percent rely on humanitarian aid. The U.N. has warned Gaza could no longer be livable by 2020 unless urgent steps are taken. The last ceasefire in November 2012 was supposed to ease the blockade, but Israel only intensified it. With Hamas now vowing to continue fighting against what it calls a "slow death," a new ceasefire largely hinges on whether the U.S. and others will pressure Israel to reverse its stance.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re now joined by Israeli journalist Gideon Levy in Tel Aviv. In a piece for the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz headlined "What Does Hamas Really Want?" Levy writes, quote, "These conditions are civilian; the means of achieving them are military, violent and criminal. But the (bitter) truth is that when Gaza is not firing rockets at Israel, nobody cares about it. ... Read the list of [Hamas] demands and judge honestly whether there is one unjust demand among them."

Gideon Levy, welcome to Democracy Now! Why don’t you lay out the premise of this piece, what you’re trying to convey in your article in Ha’aretz?

GIDEON LEVY: Look, we tend to beat our enemies and never to listen to them. And many times, listening even to the enemy, even to the most bitter enemy, can serve a much better cause than beating and beating and beating. And unfortunately, Israel is just using the violence right now without listening to their conditions. I don’t know if their conditions are acceptable. I don’t know if those are really their conditions. But they say it very clearly: They ask for freedom for Gaza, they ask to lift the siege. Can you recall a more just require than this? But I’ll say something more than this. Doesn’t it serve the interests of Israel, seeing Gaza free and seeing Gaza building its economy and not living those unhuman conditions in the biggest cage in the world, which creates only more hatred and more violence? So, it is really at our door now to decide. Do we want to go from one cycle to the other, from one circle of bloodshed to the other, not solving anything? Or are we willing, once and for all, to put a real, just solution to the problem of Gaza?

AARON MATÉ: Well, with the massive civilian toll in Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was asked Monday if he’s worried about losing international opinion. Netanyahu was speaking to Brian Williams of NBC News.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: You know, at a certain point, you say, "What choice have you got? What would you do? What would you do if American cities, where you’re sitting now, Brian, would be rocketed, would absorb hundreds of rockets?" You know—you know what would you say? You’d say to your leader, "A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do." And you’d say, "A country’s got to do what a country’s got to do." We have to defend ourselves. We try to do it with the minimum amount of force or with targeting military targets as best as we can, but we’ll act to defend ourselves. No country can live like this.

AARON MATÉ: That’s Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking on Monday. Gideon Levy, so he’s saying here that this current attack is about self-defense. And the blockade has been justified in terms of, "Well, we have to stop Hamas from smuggling rockets; they are, after all, a group that’s committed to our destruction." Your response to that?

GIDEON LEVY: So did you stop the smuggling with the siege? Did you really stop? We see now how well equipped Hamas is. This is ridiculous, because any siege can be broken for certain purposes. But the siege breaks the people of Gaza and pushes them again and again to the corner, to the corner of violence and to the corner of desperation.

But I would like also to comment about the prime minister’s remarks, as if Israel has to react. Sure, Israel has to react and has to defend itself, but, Mr. Prime Minister, where did it start? Those rockets fall on our heads just by chance? There is no context to this? There was not the breaking of the political negotiations by the Israelis refusing to release some few veteran prisoners? There was not a war declared on Hamas in the West Bank after the kidnap and the murder of three Israeli youngsters, arresting 500 Hamas activists who were not involved in this kidnap? Didn’t Israel stop the salaries—transferring the salaries to 40,000 Hamas workers, employees in Gaza? And what did Israel think? Wasn’t Israel against the unity government? And what did Israel think, that all this will pass like nothing and Hamas will accept everything? So I have news. Those who believe that nothing will happen were either extremely arrogant or blind or both.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain, Gideon Levy, the feeling of Israelis—you’re in Tel Aviv; we’re about to be joined by a guest in Jerusalem—of the rocket fire that’s coming from Gaza, the something like 2,000 rockets?

GIDEON LEVY: Look, I don’t want to underestimate. It is certain fear, for sure, more in the south, close to the Gaza Strip. This morning there were two sirens in Tel Aviv, and five minutes later life went back to its routine. I don’t say that people don’t carry some kind of fear, but, by and large, the life, at least in the center—I’ve been yesterday to the south; the picture is different there—by and large, life is more or less continuing, with some changes. People go out less, but it’s not the big fear of the horrible days of the Second Intifada with the exploding buses and suicide bombers. I don’t even hint to say that this can become a routine—no way, it can’t. But compared to the suffer of Gaza, this is really a children’s game right now. And thanks God also, there are almost no civilian casualties in Israel. Having said this, I don’t call for more casualties in Israel; I just say let’s try and solve it once and for all and not go again to the old games, which have proven already that they lead to nowhere.


The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

TUESDAY, JULY 22, 2014

How the West Chose War in Gaza: Crisis Tied to Israeli-U.S. Effort to Isolate Hamas & Keep the Siege

While many trace the Israeli assault on Gaza to the series of events that began with the kidnapping and subsequent murder of three teenage Israelis in the occupied West Bank, we look at how the crisis’ immediate cause has been all but ignored. In a recent article for The New York Times, "How the West Chose War in Gaza," Nathan Thrall, senior analyst at International Crisis Group, argues the roots of the current violence lie in Israeli, U.S. and European efforts to undermine the Palestinian unity government, which Hamas joined earlier this year. Isolated by its opposition to the Assad regime in Syria and a rift with the military government in Egypt, Hamas reconciled with the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority in the hopes a unity deal could help ease the crippling blockade of Gaza and help pay the salaries of thousands of its civil servants. But the United States and European Union helped Israel maintain the blockade of Gaza while denying payments to the Hamas employees. "Plan A for Hamas out of the predicament it and Gaza found themselves in was reconciliation," Thrall says. "That was thwarted — so Plan B is the crisis we’re dealing with today."

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AARON MATÉ: I want to bring in Nathan Thrall, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, covering Gaza, Israel, Jordan and the West Bank. His recent article forThe New York Times is headlined "How the West Chose War in Gaza." Nathan Thrall, we just heard Gideon Levy talking about the context here of Israel undermining the Palestinian unity government. Your piece deals with how this was carried about with EU and U.S. backing. Can you lay out for us what happened here, why this context is so critical to the current crisis in Gaza?

NATHAN THRALL: Sure. I would step back a little bit further to the last fight between Hamas and Israel, which occurred in November 2012. That was brought to a close after several days with a ceasefire brokered by Egypt. At that time, Hamas had an ally, Egypt, in power. And basically, that ceasefire, the terms of that ceasefire included various concessions to Gaza and to Hamas. And although Israel implemented some of them in the immediate days and weeks afterward, very shortly later those were retracted, and we once again went back to a situation where exports were all but nonexistent, imports were reduced, and there were severe restrictions on travel for Gazans. Nevertheless, that ceasefire basically held, and during 2012 and ’13—I’m sorry, during 2013, following the ceasefire, Israel had one of the quietest years, if not the quietest year, it had had since rockets started coming from Gaza, which, by the way, began before the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in the fall of 2005.

Fast-forward to July 2013, when there is a coup in Egypt, and there is a new leader who’s very hostile both to the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is the Palestinian chapter, and hostile to Hamas, as well, of course. And there was a radical change in policy on the part of Egypt and a radical change in the closure regime that was imposed on Gaza. Very, very few Gazans were able to exit through the Rafah crossing to Egypt. This is the main exit of Gazans to the outside world. There are some Gazans who are permitted to leave via Israel, but it’s really not available to most Gazans. It’s for exceptional medical cases and high-level VIP businessmen and so forth. So, the exit was closed, and pressure started to build.

In addition, the tunnels, through which many goods were coming, particularly construction materials and fuel—were coming into Gaza through these tunnels crossing the Gaza-Egypt border. And the Sisi regime, following the July 2013 coup, basically eliminated these tunnels. And with that elimination of those tunnels, almost complete elimination, Hamas no longer had these goods coming through and could no longer tax them. They relied on those tax revenues in order to pay the roughly 40,000 employees who run Gaza and have been running Gaza even without pay for the last several months.

So, what you had was a pressure cooker inside of Gaza, and this began to build and build to the point where, December 2013, we had a massive storm here and sanitation plants started to shut down for lack of power. There was radical reductions in electricity, which are already at very, very low levels within Gaza. Sewage is being dumped in the sea. There’s sewage in the middle of the streets in Gaza. And Hamas is looking at the situation in Egypt, and they’re hoping that there’s going to be a change in regime there and they will at least if not have a Muslim Brotherhood president again, somebody who’s less hostile to them and is going to allow some kind of easing of the closure of Gaza.

And as they came to the conclusion earlier this year that that really was not going to happen in the near term, they realized that they had to do something to get out of their predicament—and in particular, the predicament of not being able to pay the employees who are running Gaza. These employees, by the way, are not simply Hamas members. Many of them are Hamas members, but many of them are members of other factions, as well. And as soon as they came to this conclusion, they decided that what they would do as a way out of this was to form a reconciliation agreement with the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah. And this was a years-long process of debating the various points of implementing Palestinian reconciliation. It’s a very distant dream. But Hamas basically caved on all of the demands that they had previously been making.

And I don’t want to overstate the nature of this reconciliation. This was not a reconciliation of the political programs of Fatah and Hamas. It wasn’t calling for disarming Hamas in Gaza. It wasn’t addressing the massive problems dealing with the security forces and so forth. But it was a step towards Palestinian unity, and an important one. And what it allowed for was to have a single authority, with the ministries controlled by Ramallah controlling Gaza once again.

And what happened after this agreement, Hamas expected two things at a minimum for basically caving on all of their demands. The first thing they expected was an easing in the closure imposed particularly by Egypt on the Rafah crossing. The official reason for that closure being in place was that Egypt had this campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood and against Hamas, and security threats in Sinai and so forth. And they said, "Look, if we’re no longer manning the border and now you have PA security forces loyal to the leadership in Ramallah at the border," as Hamas agreed would be the case, "then there should at least be some significant easing, and people should be able to exit Gaza." The second thing that they expected was that the civil servants, whom they could no longer pay, would begin to be paid. And neither of those things happened.

In fact, life in Gaza just became worse. And months went by without any solution to this building crisis, of Hamas having made these concessions in order to find a solution out of the predicament in Gaza—and also, you know, for their own self-interested reasons, as well. They didn’t want to be overthrown by the population in Gaza at a time of great turmoil and instability in the region when they couldn’t provide for their people. So they handed the responsibility for that over to the government in Ramallah. Presumably, that would be something that’s in the interest of the West, which always states how much they want to strengthen the leadership in Ramallah and strengthen Fatah. And if indeed that was what they desired, then the day that this government was formed, there should have been increases in electricity in Gaza, the Rafah crossing should have been opened significantly. Major changes should have taken place. The salaries should have been paid on the day that government was formed. And nothing of the sort took place. And nothing—if it had taken place, nothing would greater strengthen the leadership in Ramallah and Fatah.

And so, what happened subsequently were the kidnappings and murders of the three Yeshiva students, the three Israeli students at Yeshiva in the West Bank, followed by the revenge, torture and killing of the 16-year-old Palestinian boy in East Jerusalem, Mohammed Abu Khdeir. And Hamas found itself in a campaign in the West Bank, an Israeli campaign, to arrest hundreds of Hamas members in a search for the perpetrators of the kidnapping and murder. Hamas did not claim responsibility for the kidnappings and the murder, but it did say that it supports such kidnappings as a means of getting prisoners out of jail. And it essentially found an opportunity—with rising protests particularly in the wake of the killing of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, rising protests particularly in Jerusalem and in Israel proper, it saw an opportunity to do what it felt it was going to be forced to do in any event. Plan A for Hamas out of the predicament it and Gaza found themselves in was reconciliation. That was thwarted. And so Plan B is the crisis that we’re dealing with today.

AARON MATÉ: Nathan Thrall, and, of course, right before this, you also had a pretty major development with the U.S. agreeing to recognize this unity government, with Hamas included. Now, in early June, as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas swore in the government, joining Hamas and Fatah after years of conflict, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said the Obama administration would recognize this new government.

JEN PSAKI: At this point, it appears that President Abbas has formed an interim technocratic government that does not include ministers affiliated with Hamas. Moving forward, we will be judging this government by its actions. Based on what we know now, we intend to work with this government, but we’ll be watching closely to make ensure that it upholds the principles that President Abbas reiterated today.

AARON MATÉ: Nathan Thrall, can you talk about how Israel reacted to this decision, and then what the U.S. then subsequently did in terms of its commitment to recognizing the unity government?

NATHAN THRALL: Sure. The step that the U.S. took was opposed by Israel. And it has to be said that the reason the U.S.—one of the main reasons that the U.S. actually took this extraordinary step of recognizing this unity government was, first of all, their frustration with Israel during the Kerry-led peace process. If that had not happened and that Kerry-led peace process had received an extension, the U.S. almost certainly would have opposed much more strongly the reconciliation agreement than it did.

But the second reason, of course, that the U.S. recognized the government was that it basically was a form of capitulation by Hamas. There was not a single Hamas member within this government, not a Hamas-affiliated minister within the government. The government looked basically identical to the U.S.-backed government in Ramallah that it was replacing. And so, there was not even really a legal reason for the U.S. to oppose the new government.

But behind the scenes, the U.S. did act to ensure that true reconciliation did not take place, that further steps toward reconciliation did not take place. The U.S. very strongly told President Abbas that, for example, the Palestinian Legislative Council could not convene. Why? Because the Palestinian Legislative Council, because of the 2006 elections in the West Bank and Gaza, which Hamas won in both places, has a majority, a strong majority, of Hamas parliamentarians. And if that Legislative Council were to convene—and Hamas saw that as a critical part of this reconciliation agreement: If they were giving up the power that they had won through elections to a group of people who had not been elected, then at the very least they expected to have some kind of legislative check on this government. And the U.S. told Abbas very clearly that there would be a cut in American funding and there could be no support for this unity government, if the Legislative Council were to convene. And there were numerous other steps towards reconciliation that could not take place because of European and U.S. opposition.

And it should be said also that the Palestinian Authority itself was very reluctant to implement the agreement and was dragging its feet considerably. You can say, partly, they were doing it because of these threats from the U.S. and Europe, but there was certainly a lot of foot dragging on their part, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: Nathan Thrall is speaking to us from Jerusalem, senior analyst of the International Crisis Group.


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Labels: Al-Jazeera, Ceasefire Bull, Israel, Siege of Gaza, Warcrimes