By Gamini Seneviratne
Over fifty years ago in the aftermath of what is miscalled a six-day “war” through which the heavily armed Israeli armed forces slaughtered tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians and appropriated vast tracts of their land, I wrote “Draft for a Lyrical Ballad” (1968) which is given below. It was also a period marked by Robert Kennedy’s battles against Lyndon Johnson and the assassination of that Kennedy as well. It also refers to the twin agitations that shake the world and confront the West today.
America, you’re like me, a tired balloon
Looking up into the sky
On a clear, cold night
Waiting for all human sounds to die.
The poor march on / when will they get to the moon?
They are only trading / time for space, – of which there is so much
on the way to the moon /and so little time? – Another myth
splintered but yesterday /in the atomic afternoon:
blood brothers all, / space and time, and you and I
silence and sound, this earth, this sky
and all poor people marching on
The whiteman’s God had granted / The blackman song,
So that he could sing to Him / When the whiteman done him wrong
(Massa’s in de cold, cold ground)
But he was made of sterner stuff / And wrong would not reprove, –
which proof of faith the whiteman’s God / had the goodness to approve.
Much as He loved the blackman / He loved the Jew still more,
His love was great to begin with / and continued to grow;
so, every Jew who lost an eye / they themselves did decree
may, in his turn, gouge out two eyes / for the sake of parity.
(But ‘Death was a Master from Germany.
His eyes were blue’)
That this is most usurious / the meek made meek plea, –
how could the God who chose the race / but turn away His e’e?
And the God who chose, chose wisely, / of this let none dispute –
He loved Robert who loved the Jews, /and now Robert is mute:
(Those by the gods beloved ….)
Cat-napping in a hired jet / up and up he went
knowing well that sleep at last / will be from Heaven sent
(In balance with this life, this death’)’-
A fairy-tale, ending –
to be concluded – June 1968
With the unremitting aid of the principal war mongers on this planet, the USA, Israel has acquired and used against unarmed people a whole array of the most obscene weaponry developed by Man (the caps serves to distinguish that entity from humankind)
In his essay of December 26, 2009, (Information Clearing House) “And What Rough Beast Slouches Towards Gaza? Operation Cast Lead and the Dismembering of a People”, Vincent Di Stefano places before the world some particulars of Israel’s criminal attacks on the people of Palestine. A few particulars follow:
12 years ago Israel already had 180,000 heavily armed regular troops in their “defence” forces, 140,000 conscripts, 4,300 impenetrable Merkava battle tanks, 10,000 light tanks and armoured cars, 500 missile-laden fighter jets, 1340 helicopters, three submarines, three destroyers and smaller warships. And the full might of Israeli military force was projected into the tiny space of Gaza during the three-week period from December 27th 2008 to January 18th 2009. (Further details of what the so-called Israeli-Arab ‘wars’ have meant for the people of Palestine were included in my note of 2006 that follows below).
And right now in the midst of (or, perish the thought, in support of?) the carnage being visited on the Palestinians, US President Biden has offered them over $700 million worth of military hardware. Oh, and yes, he has also offered via USAID, a sum of $ 10 million to Palestine. To be channeled through Israel. Naturally. Biden, in whom people located hopes for humanitarian governance has, after all, done no more than confirm that America has no shame.
Let us look at what the engagement of the rulers of America (its military-industrial coalition) with Israel translates into. In February 2009, investigative journalist Conn Hallinan was to describe Gaza as “Death’s Laboratory.” Israel’s new weapons had caused injuries never before seen in the hospitals of Gaza. Many of these were the result of the widespread use of a new class of weapons called Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME). These were initially developed by the US Air Force and scientists from the University of California’s Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in 2000. DIME weapons consist of a high explosive core around which is wrapped powdered tungsten alloy in a carbon fibre container.
On detonation, the tungsten sprays out explosively over a ten-meter radius shredding everything in its field. The resultant injuries are truly shocking. Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert commented: “The muscles are sort of split from the bones, hanging loose, and you also have quite severe burns. . . . Those inside the perimeter of this weapon’s power zone will be torn completely apart. We have seen numerous amputations that we suspect have been caused by this.”
Here follows my note of 15 years ago on The Holocaust in Palestine.
In his Foreword to “The Little Drummer Girl”, John Le Carre reports that in Israel he was repeatedly assured that the “Palestinians are not a people.” What were they then? “A leftover rabble of peasants and layabouts whose only task for two thousand years was to keep the Jewish homeland ticking over until its rightful owners returned.”
That such was far from being the case may be gathered from the following: These are the words of the best-known British explorer of Arabia, Wilfred Thesiger. He was writing in the 1940s, around the time the Zionist ‘state’ was being set up: “I went to the ‘Empty Quarter’ with a belief in my own racial superiority, but in their tents I felt like an uncouth, inarticulate barbarian, an intruder from a shoddy and materialistic world”. How many in the White House, the State Department, the US Congress would understand such words, grasp such realities?
In a thumbnail account of how Israel has acted in that enterprise in the 1970s, Le Carre writes, “Israeli jets bombed the crowded Palestinian quarter in Beirut on the pretext that it was intended ‘to destroy the leadership’, – “though there were no leaders at all among the several hundred dead, unless, of course, there were future leaders among the many children killed.”
At 3.00 a.m. yesterday (12th July, 2006), Israel bombed a house in Gaza where ‘top men of Hamas’ were supposed to be meeting. The bombing killed 9 members of the Salmiyeh family, a father, mother and 7 of the couple’s 10 children, ages 7 to 18, who were in the house. Nabil Abu Salmiyeh, 48, was a lecturer at Gaza City’s Islamic University and ‘reported to be a member of Hamas’. No ‘top men of Hamas’ were among the dead. A headless torso and the body of a small child were found in the olive trees beside the house. One son, Awad, was dug out of the rubble four hours later.
Go, Israel, go!
They obviously feel that they can get away with this savage treatment of the inhabitants of Palestine in their own land. Israel, in short, is a rogue state built on a violent process of encroachment into Palestine.
‘Legitimacy’ for its operations is traced to a sanction received from yet other intruders: the British and the French. One must begin the story of Israel with a look at the legitimacy of those who ‘sanctioned’ its creation. The so-called ‘Balfour Declaration’ (the caps there, some may think, give it some kind of legality) was no more than a personal letter of one paragraph from Balfour to his friend and creditor, Rothschild.
The most generous account by a Lankan of the Jewish intrusion into Palestine, now a totally unbridled invasion, was published seventy years ago in the ‘Ceylon Daily News’ by its Editor-in-Chief, H A J Hulugalle, an experienced and even-handed commentator.
The substance of his report was that “The Jews of the world are concentrating on the gradual buying up of Palestine”. One such purchase, of 16,000 acres of a swamp that yields the water for agriculture in the Huleh valley, was made despite the protests of the Palestinians. It was bought for 200,000 English pounds off a young ‘absentee landlord’ domiciled in Syria, whose interest in the land was not in his fellow Arabs but in the waterfowl for his table,. The ‘compromise’ imposed by the British occupiers of Palestine required the Jews to drain the land and render it malaria free; ‘in return’, the Palestinians were to have their land reduced by two-thirds of it! Those were relatively early days.
When Jewish immigration began in earnest in the late 19th century, (long before ‘the holocaust’ they keep talking about), there were only about 15,000 Jews in Palestine. In 1893 the Arabs comprised roughly 95 percent of the population. Even when Israel was founded, over fifty years later, Jews were only about 35 percent of Palestine’s population and owned 7 percent of the land. ‘The Palestinian Problem’ today, as it has been for many decades, is that the Jews want as much of the land as they can lay their hands on, the ports, the sites sacred to Christianity and Islam – plus, of course, ALL the water that over the centuries had sustained the people of Palestine and Jordan.
Ben-Gurion wrote in 1941 that “It is impossible to imagine general evacuation [of the Arab population] without compulsion, and brutal compulsion.” In 1947-48, when Jewish forces drove up to 700,000 Palestinians into exile, Ben-Gurion had told Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Jewish Congress, “If I were an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. . . . We come from Israel, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that?”
The current (i.e. in 2006) Zionist leader, Ehud Olmert, came to power on an explicit promise to unilaterally set Israel’s “permanent borders”. The ‘package’ that he took to Washington included, in return for $10 billion he asked for (and received), a plan for the Zionists to withdraw from many smaller settlements – at least 17 in the first phase – in the West Bank and move most of the people in them to larger blocks that they ‘expect to annex’. The man also made it clear that “It will be only a civilian disengagement, not a military disengagement,” The Israeli army will remain in the bits of land the settlers are being moved out of.
Let us look, very briefly indeed, that history being so extensive – at just what the Zionists did. What they continue to do, under cover of the government of the USA, and therefore with apparent impunity is a ‘breaking story’ that may soon explode in their collective face.
The creation of Israel in 1947-48 involved explicit acts of ethnic cleansing, including executions, massacres, and rapes by Jews The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) also murdered hundreds of Egyptian prisoners-of-war in both the 1956 and 1967 “wars”. In 1967, it expelled between 100,000 and 260,000 Palestinians from the newly conquered West Bank and drove 80,000 Syrians from the Golan Heights. Following its invasion of Lebanon in 1982 it also directed the massacre of 700 innocent Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. During the First Intifida (1987-1991), the IDF distributed truncheons to its troops and encouraged them to break the bones of Palestinian protestors.
The Swedish “Save the Children” organization estimated that “23,600 to 29,900 children required medical treatment for their beating injuries in the first two years of the Intifida,” with nearly one-third sustaining broken bones. The same proportion of the beaten children were aged ten and under.” Israel’s response to the Second Intifida (2000-2005) was even more violent: The IDF fired one million bullets in the first days of the uprising. Future Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir openly argued that, “Neither Jewish ethics nor Jewish tradition can disqualify terrorism as a means of combat”.
After the victory of Hamas, in an open general election, in late January, Israel withheld $50 million a month in Palestinian customs and tax receipts, though it continues to pay Israeli companies $5.5 million a month from those receipts for the water and electricity used by the Palestinians.
Israelis are often touted as being the epitome of bravery (almost on par with George W Bush – seen, once, in dim light on an aircraft carrier hundreds of miles away on his ‘visit to the troops in Iraq’; the George Bush who, for the two days he spent in India and Pakistan, hunkered down, respectively, in a fort off Delhi and in Islamabad in the US Ambassador’s residence, heavily guarded within a vast expanse of streets emptied of people).
What do the Israelis in fact do? Israel is using men who have been conscripted to slaughter the Palestinians. Such men aren’t out there ‘fighting for Israel’s right to exist’. Their heart is not in butchering innocents; – their energies are focused on remaining unhurt themselves, no matter how many innocents they murder. Hence the commanders of the Israeli army are committed to guaranteeing that none of the conscripts will be in danger of injury, much less death.
In “Hiding Behind Civilians’ (New York Times, 22 June, 2006), Haim Watzman, who had served as an Israeli infantry reservist in the West Bank in the 1980’s and 90’s, and authored “Company C: An American’s Life as a Citizen-Soldier in Israel”, wrote, “Soldiers who had to raid a house or patrol a dangerous stretch of road would grab a nearby civilian and place him in front of them. This civilian had no function other than to protect Israeli soldiers.” Though Watzman says that he has “Never met a soldier who thinks armies ought to be able to maim and kill civilians with impunity,” and that “The practice was not a grassroots initiative. It was an army policy, handed down to soldiers by their superior officers,” he also points out that when the Israeli Supreme Court banned the use of such human shields, (just 9 months ago), “many in the army felt they had been robbed of a tool that made their jobs safer, and which helped the commanders protect the lives of their soldiers.”(! ! !)
What have the great warriors of Israel put in its place? Bulldozers. Instead of entering a house behind a human shield, Israeli soldiers turn the house into rubble. Watzman concludes: “Morality in combat is not just an abstract principle. It is an element of an army’s strength. If the safety of soldiers becomes the standard according to which an army designs its missions, an army that does not take risks will be easily beaten by an opponent that does. It’s essential for a society to demand that its army observe moral standards, even if the price to be paid is that more soldiers will be killed.” Tell that to Olmert, – who has “vehemently denied that there was any Palestinian “humanitarian crisis”, adding that, “We wouldn’t allow one baby to suffer one night because of a lack of dialysis,” – or tell it to the marines.
Let’s take a look at them ‘in action’. After warplanes knocked out half of Gaza’s electricity and pounded sonic booms over houses, Israeli tanks, hunkered down inside southern Gaza at the airport on Wednesday, (last week) reported the New York Times.
The impact of this, presumably humanitarian assault (which continues as you read this), is that: “Repeated sonic booms are wreaking the havoc they have wrought before: repeated sonic booms are smashing windows, sending children screaming into the arms of terrified adults, old people collapsing with heart failure, pregnant women collapsing with spontaneous abortions. Mass terror, despair, desperate hoarding of food and water. And no radios, television, cell phones, and no way to get news of how long this nightmare might go on.”
That is from Virginia Tilley’s latest report, as are the following.
“As food in the refrigerators spoils, the only remaining food is grains. Most people cook with gas, but with the borders sealed, soon there will be no gas. When family-kitchen propane tanks run out, there will be no cooking. No cooked lentils or beans, no humus, no bread – the staple Palestinian foods, the only food for the poor. (And there is no firewood or coal in dry, overcrowded Gaza.)
“And, a grimmer fact: no water. Gaza’s public water supply is pumped by electricity. The taps, too, are dry. No sewage system. Word is that the electricity is out for at least six months. The Gaza aquifer is already contaminated with sea water and sewage, due to over-pumping (partly by those now-abandoned Israeli settlements) and the grossly inadequate sewage system. To be drinkable, well water is purified through machinery run by electricity. Otherwise, the brackish water must at least be boiled before it can be consumed, but this requires electricity or gas. And people will soon have neither.
“If cholera breaks out, it will spread like wildfire in a population so densely packed and lacking fuel or water for sanitation.” Over a million people, – yes, people like you and me, – are trapped in that Gaza that the Zionists salivate for. “They are hunkered in their homes listening to Israeli shells, while facing the awful prospect, within days or weeks, of having to give toxic water to their children that may consign them to quick but agonizing deaths.”
That is the Israel that has the effrontery to demand its “right to defend itself”.