Archive for the ‘Mideast Conflict’ Category
I’ve noticed that TomDispatch quite regularly runs reports and articles that are well worth reading. Here’s a new post by Nick Turse on something that seems increasingly likely and ominous:
Has a weapon ever been invented, no matter how terrible, and not used? The crossbow, the dreadnought, poison gas, the tank, the landmine, chemical weapons, napalm, the B-29, the drone: all had their day and for some that day remains now. Even the most terrible weapon of all, the atomic bomb, that city-buster, that potential civilization-destroyer, was used as soon as it was available. Depending on your historical interpretation, it was either responsible for ending World War II in the Pacific or rushed into action before that war could end. In either case, it launched the atomic age.
During the Cold War, the two superpowers, the U.S. and the Soviet Union, relied on a strategy that used to be termed, without irony, “mutual assured destruction” or MAD. Its intent was simple enough: to hold off a planetary holocaust by threatening to commit one. With their massive nuclear arsenals, those two imperial states held each other and everyone else on the planet hostage. Each safely secured more than enough nukes to be able to absorb a “first strike” that would devastate its territory, leaving possibly tens of millions of its citizens dead or wounded, and still return the (dis)favor.
After the Soviet Union disappeared in 1991, nuclear weapons did, too — without going away. The American and Russian arsenals, and the nuclear geography that underlay them, remained in place, just largely unremarked upon. In the meantime, the weaponry itself spread. In those years, the last superpower, which seldom discussed its own arsenal, selectively focused its energies on containing the spread of nuclear weaponry in three nations: the first was Pakistan some part of whose ever-growing nuclear arsenal it feared might fall into the hands of extreme Islamic fundamentalists in a land Washington was in the process of destabilizing via a war in neighboring Afghanistan and a CIA drone campaign in its tribal borderlands; the second was North Korea, a country encouraged in its quest for nuclear weapons by watching the U.S. take down two autocrats, Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qaddafi, who gave up their nuclear programs prior to U.S. interventions; and the third was Iran, which had a nuclear program (started by the U.S. in an era when the country was considered our bulwark in the Persian Gulf), but as far as anyone knows no plans to weaponize it. In the meantime, Washington (and so the American media) simply ignored the very existence of Israel’s massive nuclear arsenaland actually aided the further development of the Indian nuclear program. In these years, it also threatened or, in the case of Iraq, a country that no longer had a nuclear program, actually launched what Jonathan Schell has called “disarmament wars.”
That the spread of nuclear weapons, whatever the country, is a danger to us all is obvious. Who exactly will use such weapons next and where remains unknown. But there is no reason to believe that, sooner or later, nuclear weapons — which have now spread to nine countries – and are likely to spread further, will not be used again.
Recently, a Texas-based nonprofit got a lot of publicity by announcing that it had fired the first handgun ever made almost totally by a 3-D printer. This act, modest enough in itself, nonetheless highlights a trend of our time. Weaponry that once only a large state, mobilizing scientists, industrial power, and resources could produce can now be made by ever-smaller states — say North Korea with limited resources and a malnourished populace. Similarly, weapons once made by large companies can now be assembled by individuals. Or put another way, ever more powerful weaponry is increasingly available to ever less powerful states and even non-state actors. It was, for instance, the Aum Shinrikyo cult that, in 1995, produced sarin nerve gas — “the poor man’s atomic bomb” — in its own laboratory and used it in the Tokyo subways, killing 13, just as in the U.S. anthrax began arriving in the mail a week after 9/11, killing five people.
We don’t know where or why a nuclear weapon will be used. We don’t know whether it will be a North Korean, South Korean, Indian, Pakistani, Lebanese, Iranian, Israeli, or even American city that will be hit. All we should assume is that, as long as such weapons are developed, amassed, and stored for use, one day they will be used with consequences that, as Nick Turse, author of the bestselling Kill Anything That Moves, reports today, are — even for those who have studied the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — beyond imagining. Tom
Nuclear Terror in the Middle East
Lethality Beyond the Pale
By Nick Turse
In those first minutes, they’ll be stunned. Eyes fixed in a thousand-yard stare, nerve endings numbed. They’ll just stand there. Soon, you’ll notice that they are holding their arms out at a 45-degree angle. Your eyes will be drawn to their hands and you’ll think you mind is playing tricks. But it won’t be. Their fingers will start to resemble stalactites, seeming to melt toward the ground. And it won’t be long until the screaming begins. Shrieking. Moaning. Tens of thousands of victims at once. They’ll be standing amid a sea of shattered concrete and glass, a wasteland punctuated by the shells of buildings, orphaned walls, stairways leading nowhere.
This could be Tehran, or what’s left of it, just after an Israeli nuclear strike.
Iranian cities — owing to geography, climate, building construction, and population densities — are particularly vulnerable to nuclear attack, according to a new study, “Nuclear War Between Israel and Iran: Lethality Beyond the Pale,” published in the journal Conflict & Health by researchers from the University of Georgia and Harvard University. It is the first publicly released scientific assessment of what a nuclear attack in the Middle East might actually mean for people in the region.
Its scenarios are staggering. An Israeli attack on the Iranian capital of Tehran using five 500-kiloton weapons would, the study estimates, kill seven million people — 86% of the population — and leave close to 800,000 wounded. A strike with five 250-kiloton weapons would kill an estimated 5.6 million and injure 1.6 million, according to predictions made using an advanced software package designed to calculate mass casualties from a nuclear detonation.
Estimates of the civilian toll in other Iranian cities are even more horrendous. A nuclear assault on the city of Arak, the site of a heavy water plant central to Iran’s nuclear program, would potentially kill 93% of its 424,000 residents. Three 100-kiloton nuclear weapons hitting the Persian Gulf port of Bandar Abbas would slaughter an estimated 94% of its 468,000 citizens, leaving just 1% of the population uninjured. A multi-weapon strike on Kermanshah, a Kurdish city with a population of 752,000, would result in an almost unfathomable 99.9% casualty rate.
Cham Dallas, the director of the Institute for Health Management and Mass Destruction Defense at the University of Georgia and lead author of the study, says that the projections are the most catastrophic he’s seen in more than 30 years analyzing weapons of mass destruction and their potential effects. “The fatality rates are the highest of any nuke simulation I’ve ever done,” he told me by phone from the nuclear disaster zone in Fukushima, Japan, where he was doing research. “It’s the perfect storm for high fatality rates.”
Israel has never confirmed or denied possessing nuclear weapons, but is widely known to have up to several hundred nuclear warheads in its arsenal. Iran has no nuclear weapons and its leaders claim that its nuclear program is for peaceful civilian purposes only. Published reports suggestthat American intelligence agencies and Israel’s intelligence service are in agreement: Iran suspended its nuclear weapons development program in 2003. . .
A good article by Matthew Buss in The American Prospect. Let me just add that Bill Keller is the worst sort of hack: one with no moral sense and a worshipful attitude toward power. Bill Keller beat the drums fiercely in favor of going to war in Iraq, and he has not learned a thing from our experience there. He also suppressed the news about George W. Bush’s massive wiretapping program until after Bush was successfully re-elected. This is not what actual news reporters do. This is what GOP operatives do. I have enormous contempt for Keller, a man with no moral core, just toadying ambition.
For those advocating greater intervention in Syria by the United States, the memory of Iraq has turned into a real inconvenience.
“Iraq is not Syria,” proclaimed the headline of New York Times editor Bill Keller’s op-ed on Monday, by way of arguing for greater U.S. involvement in Syria’s ongoing civil war. Because of Iraq, Keller wrote, “in Syria, I fear prudence has become fatalism, and our caution has been the father of missed opportunities, diminished credibility and enlarged tragedy.”
Let’s grant that it’s possible to over-learn the lessons of Iraq. The Iraq war, as costly a blunder as it was, should not discredit any and all military interventions, but it should—and has—raised the bar for when such interventions are necessary. What appears to persist, however, is the belief that “bold” U.S. moves—nearly always assumed to be military action—can change the situation for the better, and produce the outcomes that we would like to see.
And of those outcomes aren’t produced? Well, then it will be time for even bolder moves. Writing on Syria back in 2011, The Progressive Realist’s Eric Martin looked back at the run-up to the Iraq war and observed the steadily escalating calls for action—subsequently dubbed “The Regime Change Ratchet” by writer Matt Yglesias—that tend to drive public debate over any given foreign policy crisis. “This pattern of rhetorical escalation in response to the practical limitations of bringing about regime change from afar is a familiar dance,” wrote Martin, “most deftly performed by those inclined to advocate for more and bigger US interventions abroad.”
It seems that we’re now at Martin’s Step 3:
Step 3 (with Regime X still in place): Sanctions? Regime isolation? Is that all the President is going to do in the face of Regime X’s perfidy? Those timid jabs will never work, and the President’s dithering will make us look weak and lacking in resolve. Our enemies will be emboldened. The President must use our military to deal a swift blow. No one is advocating a prolonged occupation, just a decapitation maneuver, and then a rapid hand off to the indigenous forces for democratic change.The past weekend’s airstrikes on Syria by Israel have raised pressure on the Obama administration to take military action, with some claiming that the Israeli strikes undercut claims that Syrian air defenses would pose a genuine threat to a U.S.-enforced no-fly zone. In typical fashion, craps enthusiast Senator John McCain, who will apparently be appearing on every Sunday talk show from now until the end of time, has called for “game-changing action,” as if another roll of the military dice were all that was needed to better our luck.
However, an analysis by military expert Anthony Cordesman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies cautioned that the limited strikes carried out by Israel do not offer an appropriate model for the broader effort that a no-fly zone would require.
These details are of little interest to those for whom crises such as Syria are less a test of American capability and leadership than of American honor. It’s a test expressly designed for any non-interventionist to fail. . .
An excellent interview by Amy Goodman at DemocracyNow!, with the video of the interview at the link:
As the United States moves toward increased intervention in Syria, we’re joined by Robert Fisk, the longtime Middle East correspondent of the British newspaper The Independent. Just back from two weeks in Syria reporting around the capital Damascus, Fisk discusses what he calls the “theater of chemical weapons,” the latest in Syria’s civil war — a battle he says the Syrian government is winning — as well as his reaction to what he calls President Obama’s “pitiful” backing of the recent Israeli missile strikes. “Don’t ask me if they have used chemical weapons,” Fisk says. “It’s conceivable. There really isn’t any proof. What you have got to realize is that this is a propaganda war just as much as it is a savage war, killing many thousands of human beings.”
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AARON MATÉ: We begin today’s show looking at Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin following this weekend’s Israeli air strikes on Syrian military facilities. Syria calls the strikes “an act of war” that’s, quote, “opened the door to all possibilities.” Earlier today, the Turkish government described the Israeli attacks as “unacceptable,” calling them, quote, a “golden opportunity” for President Bashar al-Assad to cover up massacres of his opponents.
AMY GOODMAN: The United States is moving closer toward directly intervening in Syria. On Monday, Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey introduced a bill to allow U.S.-provided arms, military training and supplies to be sent to some Syrian rebel groups. The bill comes amidst conflicting reports that chemical weapons have been used in Syria.
Meanwhile, the civilian death toll in Syria continues to rise. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said nearly 200 people died each day in April. Half the nearly 6,000 people killed last month were civilians; nearly 1,700 were rebel fighters; just over a thousand were members of the Syrian army.
For more on Syria, we turn to Robert Fisk, longtime Middle East correspondent for The Independent newspaper in London. He was just in Syria for two weeks. He is author of a number of books, including The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East.
Robert, welcome back to Democracy Now! Can you talk about your time in Syria? You were embedded with Syrian soldiers?
ROBERT FISK: No, I was not embedded with Syrian soldiers. I’ve never been embedded with American soldiers or British soldiers or Iraqi soldiers or any other. What actually happened was I got a visa to go to Damascus, from the Syrian government, of course. I have a colleague who goes regularly into northern Syria and reports from rebel areas. I spent quite a lot of time talking to old friends in Syria, talking to the military, whom I have always been able to talk to. And while I was talking to them, I said, “Look, I would like to go up to the front lines in northwestern Syria.” That is to say within a mile of the—just a mile and a half of the Turkish border. To my amazement, they said, “Yeah, fine. Get on a plane. Go to Latakia. We’ll meet you there. You can go and see our soldiers and talk to them.” And this is what I did. The only restriction they had on me is they didn’t want me to take photographs of their faces. I could take pictures of them from behind. I could take pictures of the front line. I could climb on their tanks and take pictures, which I did. And I had—I got a pretty graphic and rather grim idea of what the Syrian army—I’m talking about the Syrian government army—is doing at the moment. . .
I mentioned that the Usual Suspects were beating the drums for another war, since our recent wars have done so much good. Alex Kane at AlterNet calls out a few:
The news from Syria over the past week has been dizzying. But if you can keep your head on straight you’ll recognize an uptick in strident calls for American intervention in Syria, though it remains unlikely the Obama administration will commit to full-scale war.
Over the weekend, the Israeli air force reportedly bombed Syrian military installations in Damascus , a move that marked the most significant and direct international intervention yet in a civil war that has turned into a proxy battle between regional forces. The Israeli strike over the weekend followed another Israeli attack last week that was reportedly meant to prevent Iranian weapons from being transferred through Syria to the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, a bitter enemy of the Jewish state. The Israeli attacks come over two years into the grinding Syrian conflict, which started as part of the wave of Arab uprisings but has transformed into an armed civil war that has taken the lives of tens of thousands of people.
The Israeli strikes have been hailed by war hawks as proof that the U.S. and Western allies can easily pummel the Syrian regime to the ground and pave the way for a rebel victory. Calls for intervention have been ratcheting up since Israel, Britain, France and finally the U.S. concluded that there had been chemical weapons use by the Assad regime–a “red line” the Obama administration has warned Syria not to cross. But the chemical weapons use claims were muddied up yesterday when a UN investigator said  that it may have been the Syrian rebels that used sarin gas–not the Assad regime. If the UN investigator is right–and there’s no guarantee of that–it should complicate the calls for the U.S. to directly arm the rebels. But considering their track record, proponents for more intervention can’t be stopped by much.
Since the news broke of chemical weapons use, war hawks and their allies in the U.S. have taken to the airwaves and Op-Ed pages to push for U.S. intervention. What’s missing from their analysis is recognition that U.S. intervention to depose Assad would lead to a power vacuum with unknown consequences; that the U.S. would become a target for those opposed to the West, including among the rebel groups; that America has a poor track record of intervening in the Middle East; and that the vast majority of Americans have no desire to get embroiled in another war. Also not on the table: a serious attempt to negotiate, with all international powers, an agreement to end the fighting and begin a transition in Syria. While that won’t be easy, the U.S. and allies have stymied chances of that in the past.
Still, the Obama administration has been cautious. While the “red line” remark was ill-advised, the administration has not rushed into fully diving into the Syrian conflict, although they have helped militarize the civil war by facilitating weapons transfers  to Syrian rebels via the CIA.
Here are 4 pundits and politicians calling for more intervention in Syria–consequences be damned.
1. Bill Keller
The New York Times’ former executive editor and current Op-Ed contributor hasn’t learned the lessons from Iraq. Keller was a big-time pusher of the Iraq War, and has since repented. But now he’s calling for more American involvement in Syria.
In an Op-Ed in the Times today,  Keller writes that the U.S. debacle in Iraq should not prevent more action on Syria. “In Syria,” he writes, “I fear prudence has become fatalism, and our caution has been the father of missed opportunities, diminished credibility and enlarged tragedy.” So what’s to be done, according to Keller? “The United States moves to assert control of the arming and training of rebels”– the same rebels that are increasingly radical, as the New York Times itself reported .
Keller adds that if Assad refuses to end his “campaign of terror,” the U.S. should “send missiles against his military installations until he, or more likely those around him, calculate that they should sue for peace.”
Missing from Keller’s take are important points articulated by former State Department official Wayne White writing in LobeLog : U.S. intervention will not stop post-Assad Syria from being riven by continued instability and violence, particularly if Al Qaeda-affiliated extremists continue to play a role in the rebel forces. Additionally, White notes: “Making matters worse, seething sectarian divides — with the very real danger of Sunni vengeance resulting in further bloodletting and possibly the flight from Syria of several million Alawite and Christian refugees — threatens to stain the aftermath quite darkly.”
2. John McCain
Another lead pusher of the Iraq War, the Senator from Arizona has been consistently calling for more U.S. intervention in Syria. The news of chemical weapons use has put McCain’s war calls on overdrive.
Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” McCain said that the U.S. could disable Syrian air defenses “with cruise missiles; cratering their runways, where all of these supplies, by the way, from Iran and Russia are coming in by air.” McCain also thinks a small contingent of U.S. troops could secure  Syria’s chemical weapons. But the Pentagon has estimated that it will take 75,000 American soldiers on the ground to secure the chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria.
3. . .
Unfortunately for the war hawks, the nerve gas (sarin) whose use is suspected in Syria was used by the rebels, not by the government. So as a causus bellus for attacking the Syrian government, it doesn’t work so well—but that hasn’t slowed the demand from war from those who pushed the Iraq War (“Weapons of Mass Destruction!!!!!”). And yet war really hasn’t seemed to solve any of the problems, but rather created more. (Of course, austerity as an economic policy has proved an utter failure, but still there are those who clamor for it—mainly those who will not feel its effects.) Robert Parry reports at ConsortiumNews.com:
Israel’s bombing raids into Syria appear to have shattered whatever restraint remained in Official Washington toward the United States entering the civil war on the side of rebel forces that include radical jihadist elements. On Monday, the Washington Post’s neocon editors weighed in for U.S. intervention as did former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller.
Both the Post’s editors and Keller also were key advocates for invading Iraq in 2003 – and their continued influence reflects the danger of not imposing any accountability on prominent journalists who were wrong on Iraq. Those tough-guy pundits now want much the same interventionism toward Syria and Iran, which always were on the neocon hit list as follow-ons to Iraq.
The Post’s lead editorial on Monday urged U.S. intervention in Syria as part of a response to a growing regional crisis that one could argue was touched off – or made far worse – by President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003.However, rather than trace the crisis back to Bush’s invasion of Iraq – which the Post eagerly supported – the editors lament the removal of U.S. troops from Iraq and President Barack Obama’s hesitancy to intervene in Syria. Noting the renewed sectarian violence in Iraq, the Post’s editors write “it also makes intervention aimed at ending the war in Syria that much more urgent.”
Meanwhile, across the top half of Monday’s Op-Ed page in the New York Times, Keller urged any pundit chastened by the disastrous Iraq War to shake off those doubts and get behind U.S. military intervention in Syria. His article, entitled “Syria Is Not Iraq,” is presented in the same “reluctantly hawkish” tone as his influential endorsement of aggressive war against Iraq in 2003.
Keller’s special twist now is that he is citing his misjudgment on Iraq as part of his qualifications for urging President Obama to cast aside doubts about the use of military force in Syria’s chaotic civil war and to jump into the campaign for regime change by helping the rebels overthrow Bashar al-Assad.
“Frankly I’ve shared his [Obama’s] hesitation about Syria, in part because, during an earlier column-writing interlude at the outset of the Iraq invasion, I found myself a reluctant hawk. That turned out to be a humbling error of judgment, and it left me gun-shy,” Keller wrote. “But in Syria, I fear prudence has become fatalism, and our caution has been the father of missed opportunities, diminished credibility and enlarged tragedy.”
For the rest of the lengthy article, Keller baited Obama by presenting him as something of a terrified deer frozen in mindless inaction because of the Iraq experience. Keller quoted hawkish former State Department official Vali Nasr as declaring that “We’re paralyzed like a deer in the headlights, and everybody keeps relitigating the Iraq war.”
Keller then added: “Whatever we decide, getting Syria right starts with getting over Iraq.”
No Lessons Learned
But Keller doesn’t seem to have learned anything significant from the Iraq catastrophe. [In fairness, Keller has shown no signs that he's even capable of learning. - LG] Much as he and other pundits did on Iraq, they are putting themselves into the minds of Syria’s leaders and assuming that every dastardly deed is carefully calibrated when the reality is that Assad, like Saddam Hussein, has often behaved in a reactive manner to perceived threats.
Assad and many other Alawites (a branch of Shiite Islam) – along with many Christian Armenians who remain loyal to Assad – are terrified of what might follow a military victory by the Sunni majority, whose fighting forces are now dominated by Islamic extremists, many with close ties to al-Qaeda.
As the New York Times reported in its news page last month, the black flags of Islamist rule are spreading across “liberated” sectors of Syria. . .
Our press is incredibly pro-Israel, so it’s somewhat difficult to get a balanced picture of what’s going on. I think that Juan Cole’s post explaining some recent developments is clear and seems the be reliable:
he man recognized by the Palestine government based in Ramallah as prime minister, Salam Fayyad, has tendered his resignation to President Mahmoud Abbas. The most immediate cause of the dispute between the two was that, under pressure from crowds and from the Fateh party, the minister of finance, Nabil Qassis, tendered his resignation. Fayyad rejected that resignation, but President Abbas accepted it, overruling his prime minister. The finance portfolio is so controversial because the Palestine government is broke.
A respected economist, Fayyad was undone in part by punitive Israeli and American policies that cut off money to the Palestinian government because it sought observer state status at the United Nations. (Israel collects taxes and tariffs for Palestine and then turns the money over to Ramallah, but had declined to release the funds since November.) The money was released after President Obama’s recent visit to the region, but far too late to save Fayyad.
The US really only has itself to blame for the loss of Fayyad, with whom Washington liked to deal. If they liked him so well they shouldn’t have cut his government off from funding or allowed their Israeli clients to do so. As for the hard line ruling Likud Party in Israel, it is dedicated to keeping the Palestinians stateless and little more than slaves, whose property can be usurped at will. So no doubt Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his allies will greet the news of disarray in Palestine with great glee, whatever they say publicly.
Israel also undermined Fayyad by . . .
Juan Cole notes at Informed Comment:
Israeli war planes struck the Palestinian Gaza Strip on Tuesday. Israel has roughly 7.5 million people, Gaza roughly 1.7 million. Israel bombed and destroyed Gaza’s only airport and refuses to let Gaza port operate. It still places severe restrictions on Gaza imports, and lets Palestinians there export almost nothing of what they make. Nearly half of Gaza families were forced out of what became southern Israel by militant Jewish nationalists, and many still live in refugee camps. They could walk home in an hour if allowed to. Instead they are kept in a huge open-air cage.
Gaza’s population is roughly that of Houston, where 217 people were murdered last year. Gaza’s Palestinians are far, far less violent. A few young militants send tiny home made rockets (not katyushas) over the border and almost never hit anything. (Occasionally they smuggle in a real rocket; but those don’t typically hit much either.) The Israelis justify their air strikes and other actions with reference to what they call terrorism but Palestinians call resistance. Israel offers the Palestinians nothing for making peace, and even punishes the suckers who sometimes negotiate.
The Israelis have 400 nuclear warheads, a fleet of F16s, and the best military in the region. Palestinians in Gaza have virtually nothing.
The other big news from Palestine is hunger strikes among Palestinian prisoners in Isreli jails. It is a good symbol for the situation. The Israelis have kidnapped and jailed the Palestinian population. Palestinian politics and activism is one big prison riot.
What Israeli authorities seem unable to understand is that the Palestinians will never disappear and will never get used to their prison. The F-16 air strikes on a pitifully weak people (often directed at the gulag of Palestinian refugee camps) may make some Israeli officers feel macho. But they just fuel more violence, and aren’t a policy.
It is true that their captivity to Israel and the poverty imposed on them (they are less well off now than in the 90s) has allowed Muslim fundamentalist HAMAS to come to power there. Desperation does not produce moderation. Here are the remarks last Friday of Hamas leader Ismail Haniya, as summarized by the USG Open Source Center: . .
Read this Juan Cole post and watch the (3-minute) video.
Juan Cole has an excellent post (with heart-rending photos) of the effects of Israel’s blockade of Gaza.
Very interesting and thoughtful discussion by Joseph Levine in the NY Times:
I was raised in a religious Jewish environment, and though we were not strongly Zionist, I always took it to be self-evident that “Israel has a right to exist.” Now anyone who has debated the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will have encountered this phrase often. Defenders of Israeli policies routinely accuse Israel’s critics of denying her right to exist, while the critics (outside of a small group on the left, where I now find myself) bend over backward to insist that, despite their criticisms, of course they affirm it. The general mainstream consensus seems to be that to deny Israel’s right to exist is a clear indication of anti-Semitism (a charge Jews like myself are not immune to), and therefore not an option for people of conscience.
Over the years I came to question this consensus and to see that the general fealty to it has seriously constrained open debate on the issue, one of vital importance not just to the people directly involved — Israelis and Palestinians — but to the conduct of our own foreign policy and, more important, to the safety of the world at large. My view is that one really oughtto question Israel’s right to exist and that doing so does not manifest anti-Semitism. The first step in questioning the principle, however, is to figure out what it means.One problem with talking about this question calmly and rationally is that the phrase “right to exist” sounds awfully close to “right to life,” so denying Israel its right to exist sounds awfully close to permitting the extermination of its people. In light of the history of Jewish persecution, and the fact that Israel was created immediately after and largely as a consequence of the Holocaust, it isn’t surprising that the phrase “Israel’s right to exist” should have this emotional impact. But as even those who insist on the principle will admit, they aren’t claiming merely the impermissibility of exterminating Israelis. So what is this “right” that many uphold as so basic that to question it reflects anti-Semitism and yet is one that I claim ought to be questioned?The key to the interpretation is found in the crucial four words that are often tacked on to the phrase “Israel’s right to exist” — namely, “… as a Jewish state.” As I understand it, the principle that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state has three parts: first, that Jews, as a collective, constitute a people in the sense that they possess a right to self-determination; second, that a people’s right to self-determination entails the right to erect a state of their own, a state that is their particular people’s state; and finally, that for the Jewish people the geographical area of the former Mandatory Palestine, their ancestral homeland, is the proper place for them to exercise this right to self-determination.
The claim then is that anyone who denies Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state is guilty of anti-Semitism because they are refusing to grant Jews the same rights as other peoples possess. If indeed this were true, if Jews were being singled out in the way many allege, I would agree that it manifests anti-Jewish bias. But the charge that denying Jews a right to a Jewish state amounts to treating the Jewish people differently from other peoples cannot be sustained. . .
In particular, while he thinks events that present only one point of view are fine if the point of view is his or matches his, he really hates an event that presents a different point of view and will do his best to shut them down. Here he is, in all his cuddly wonderfulness:
Glenn Greenwald writes in The Guardian:
On Tuesday, I wrote about a brewing controversy that was threatening the academic freedom of Brooklyn College (see Item 7). The controversy was triggered by the sponsorship of the school’s Political Science department ofan event, scheduled for 7 February, featuring two advocates of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) aimed at stopping Israeli oppression of the Palestinians [one speaker is a Palestinian (Omar Barghouti) and the other a Jewish American (philosopher Judith Butler)]. The event is being co-sponsored by numerous student and community groups, including Students for Justice in Palestine, the college’s LGBT group, pro-Palestinian Jewish organizations, and an Occupy Wall Street group.
When I wrote about this earlier in the week, opposition to the event was confined to the usual suspects devoted to so-called “pro-Israel” advocacy, including many with a long history of trying to destroy anyone critical of the Israeli government. The controversy was largely fueled by BC alumnus Alan Dershowitz, who denounced the event in a New York York Daily News Op-Ed as a “hate orgy”. Dershowitz – with whom I had a lengthy and contentious email exchange yesterday on this and other topics (see below) – previously led the successful campaign to pressure DePaul University into denying tenure to long-time Israel critic Norman Finkelstein (after his tenure had been approved by an academic committee), all but destroying Finkelstein’s career as an academic.
Dershowitz has been joined in his current crusade by a cast of crazed and fanatical Israel-centric characters such as Brooklyn State Assembly member Dov Hikind. Ignoring the BDS movement’s explicit non-violence stance, Hikind publicly (and falsely) claimed that the event speakers (to whom he referred as “Barghouti and…the lady”) “think Hamas and Hezbollah are nice organizations, and they probably feel the same way about al-Qaida”.
Hikind called on the college’s President, Karen Gould, to resign, recklessly insinuating (needless to say) that she’s an anti-Semite: “Perhaps President Gould wasn’t bullied; maybe she secretly approves. . . . I can only speculate to what her motivation or lack of motivation is in allowing this irresponsible endorsement of this loathsome event by her College.” In 2011, Hikind led the campaign to force Brooklyn College to fire the young adjunct professor Kristofer Petersen-Overton for the crime of writing a pro-Palestinian paper (after firing him, the college rehired him days later).
One of the key members of Brooklyn College’s board of trustees, Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, is notorious for having led the 2011 effort to block CUNY from granting an honorary degree to Tony Kushner in light of Kushner’s Israel criticisms (“My mother would call Tony Kushner a kapo,” Wiesenfeld said of the Jewish playwright). When a New York Times reporter writing about the Kushner controversy asked Wiesenfeld whether one side of the Israel/Palestine debate should be suppressed, Wiesenfeld objected that “the comparison sets up a moral equivalence.” When the Times reporter asked him: “equivalence between what and what?”, Wiesenfeld replied: “between the Palestinians and Israelis. People who worship death for their children are not human.”
Meanwhile, the neocon editorial page of the New York Daily News decreed that . . .
I feel a proper chump: Robert Wright has been blogging at the Atlantic site for a year and I had no idea. James Fallows pointed out Wright’s valedictory column, and now I will be going back through old columns to see what he said. Robert Wright wrote the fascinating book The Evolution of God, which (of course) is the story of the evolution of our ideas of God. (Highly recommended, in case it’s not obvious.)
From that column:
. . . I guess it’s natural that, as I bring this year to a close, I look back and wish I’d written some things I didn’t write, or vice versa. But my main regret is that I didn’t make more explicit some of the concerns that were implicit in much of what I wrote. I feel like a preacher who, after standing at the pulpit 52 Sundays in a row, dispensing sermons on how to live right, realizes that he forgot to mention the part about salvation. So, at the risk of setting a record for longest swan song in the history of journalism, I’d like to quickly articulate three beliefs of mine that I rarely articulated this year, but that informed much of what I wrote, especially in the realm of foreign policy.
 The world’s biggest single problem is the failure of people or groups to look at things from the point of view of other people or groups—i.e. to put themselves in the shoes of “the other.” I’m not talking about empathy in the sense of literally sharing people’s emotions—feeling their pain, etc. I’m just talking about the ability to comprehend and appreciate the perspective of the other. So, for Americans, that might mean grasping that if you lived in a country occupied by American troops, or visited by American drone strikes, you might not share the assumption of many Americans that these deployments of force are well-intentioned and for the greater good. You might even get bitterly resentful. You might even start hating America.
 Grass-roots hatred is a much greater threat to the United States–and to nations in general, and hence to world peace and stability—than it used to be. The reasons are in large part technological, and there are two main manifestations: (1) technology has made it easier for grass-roots hatred to morph into the organized deployment (by non-state actors) of massively lethal force; (2) technology has eroded authoritarian power, rendering governments more responsive to popular will, hence making their policies more reflective of grass roots sentiment in their countries. The upshot of these two factors is that public sentiment toward America abroad matters much more (to America’s national security) than it did a few decades ago.
 If the United States doesn’t use its inevitably fading dominance to build a world in which the rule of law is respected, and in which global norms are strong, the United States (and the world) will suffer for it. So when, for example, we do things to other nations that we ourselves have defined as acts of war (like cybersabotage), that is not, in the long run, making us or our allies safer. The same goes for when we invade countries, or bomb them, in clear violation of international law. And at some point we have to get serious about building a truly comprehensive nuclear nonproliferation regime–one that we expect our friends, not just our enemies, to be members-in-good-standing of.
You might ask: If I’m so concerned about international affairs, why am I writing a book about Buddhism? Of course, you might not ask that. But just in case:
Part of the answer is that, though writing in this space has led me to emphasize my concerns about policy and politics, they aren’t my only concerns. But another part of the answer is this:
If you look at the three challenges I’ve just identified in italics, you’ll see that the second two wouldn’t be so challenging if the first challenge was met. It’s because Americans don’t put themselves in the shoes of non-Americans that they (with the best of intentions) support policies that generate hatred of America and (without even realizing it) act as if rules are things that should be obeyed by everyone except America and its allies. (I don’t mean to suggest that Americans are the only people who make these mistakes. It’s just that I’m an American writing mainly for Americans, so I focus on American policies.) So if we could address the first challenge in a big way—if we could get much better at seeing the world from the point of view of others—that would go a long way toward saving the world from the grim fate that otherwise may await it. And, without going into a lot of detail, I’d just say that (1) the Buddhist view of the mind helps illuminate this challenge, as does modern psychology, and I’m interested in seeing how the challenge looks from these two vantage points; and (2) Buddhist meditative practice, in which I’ve dabbled, can be effective in addressing the challenge.
One thing I’ve wondered, as I’ve watched America’s national security policies fail to address the challenges I describe above—and as I’ve watched the policies of nations in general fail to solve the world’s biggest problems—is whether these failures will continue until we make what you might call “spiritual” progress at the grass roots level. In other words, maybe meeting that first challenge, and becoming better at seeing things from the point of view of “the other,” isn’t just conducive to progress at the policy level but a prerequisite for it. In principle all religious and spiritual traditions can play a constructive role here. (That was part of the point of my most recent book, The Evolution of God—see the chapter titled “Moral Imagination.”) But Buddhism is distinctively relevant, because there are now some very secular, westernized versions of it that may appeal to the growing number of westerners who reject religion per se. . .
. . .
Robert Wright has a post trying to establish a (recent) timeline of hostile encounters between Israeli forces and inhabitants of the Gaza strip, which I found only mildly successful. But the piece is followed by a long comment thread that seemed very interesting to me, with the exchanges between BRS_CA and dodanimal that starts right away in the comment particularly illuminating. BRS_CA makes a very good case for Israel, but unfortunately dodanimal does not bring the same level of argument to bear in favor of the Palestinians: s/he seems emotional and less concerned with communicating facts. Still, it’s an intriguing discussion, and BRS_CA educated me on many aspects I had not previously known. It’s too bad he did not have a better interlocutor.
An interesting article in Yes! magazine by Stephen Zunes:
The great wish of the early Zionist leader Theodor Herzl was that Israel would be treated like “any other state.” Were that the case, there might be more rational and productive discourse regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is particularly critical in light of Israel launching yet another devastating attack against civilian-populated areas of nearby Arab lands.
There are certainly those who do unfairly single out Israel, the world’s only predominantly Jewish state, for criticism. There is a tendency by some to minimize Israel’s legitimate security concerns and place inordinate attention on the Israeli government’s transgressions, relative to other governments that abuse human rights. There are also those who, in light of the five-year siege of the Gaza Strip and the enormous suffering of the Palestinian people, try to rationalize terrorism and other crimes by Hamas, the reactionary Islamist group currently in control there.
What we are witnessing from the Obama administration, however—as Hamas rains rockets into Israel and Israel rains bombs, missiles, and mortars into the crowded and besieged Gaza Strip—is the similarly unfair phenomenon of exempting Israel from criticism. While most of the international community has criticized both Hamas and Israel for their attacks on areas populated by civilians, the Obama administration has restricted its condemnation to the Palestinian side.
U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice—widely considered to be the president’s first choice to succeed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State—correctly noted that there is “no justification for the violence that Hamas and other terrorist organizations are employing against the people of Israel.” However, she had absolutely no criticism of Israel’s far more devastating attacks against the people of the Gaza Strip, simply saying that “Israel, like any nation, has the right to defend itself against such vicious attacks.”
The real issue, however, is not Israel’s right to self-defense but its attacks on crowded residential neighborhoods, which as of Tuesday had killed more than 70 civilians (as compared with three Israeli civilians killed by Hamas rockets). The Obama administration’s position is ironic given that, while both sides share the blame for the tragedy, it appears that it is Israel which has been primarily responsible for breaking the recent fragile ceasefires, through acts such as its assassination of a leading Hamas official and attacks that killed a number of boys playing soccer. . .
The latest move against the Palestinians was Israel’s decision to open new settlements in Jerusalem, a move condemned by the US and even by Jews. The move is especially problematic in context. Noam Chomsky writes:
An old man in Gaza held a placard that read: “You take my water, burn my olive trees, destroy my house, take my job, steal my land, imprison my father, kill my mother, bombard my country, starve us all, humiliate us all, but I am to blame: I shot a rocket back.”
The old man’s message provides the proper context for the latest episode in the savage punishment of Gaza. The crimes trace back to 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled from their homes in terror or were expelled to Gaza by conquering Israeli forces, who continued to truck Palestinians over the border for years after the official cease-fire.
The punishment took new forms when Israel conquered Gaza in 1967. From recent Israeli scholarship (primarily Avi Raz’s “The Bride and the Dowry: Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians in the Aftermath of the June 1967 War”), we learn that the government’s goal was to drive the refugees into the Sinai Peninsula – and, if feasible, the rest of the population too.
Expulsions from Gaza were carried out under the direct orders of Gen. Yeshayahu Gavish, commander of the Israel Defense Forces Southern Command. Expulsions from the West Bank were far more extreme, and Israel resorted to devious means to prevent the return of those expelled, in direct violation of U.N. Security Council orders.
The reasons were made clear in internal discussions immediately after the war. Golda Meir, later prime minister, informed her Labor Party colleagues that Israel should keep the Gaza Strip while “getting rid of its Arabs.” Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and others agreed.
Prime Minister Levi Eshkol explained that those expelled could not be allowed to return because “we cannot increase the Arab population in Israel” – referring to the newly occupied territories, already considered part of Israel.
In accord with this conception, all of Israel’s maps were changed, expunging the Green Line (the internationally recognized borders) – though publication of the maps was delayed to permit Abba Eban, an Israeli ambassador to the U.N., to attain what he called a “favorable impasse” at the General Assembly by concealing Israel’s intentions.
The goals of expulsion may remain alive today, and might be a factor in contributing to Egypt’s reluctance to open the border to free passage of people and goods barred by the U.S.-backed Israeli siege.
The current upsurge of U.S.-Israeli violence dates to January 2006, when Palestinians voted “the wrong way” in the first free election in the Arab world.
Israel and the U.S. reacted at once with harsh punishment of the miscreants, and preparation of a military coup to overthrow the elected government – the routine procedure. The punishment was radically intensified in 2007, when the coup attempt was beaten back and the elected Hamas government established full control over Gaza.
Ignoring immediate offers from Hamas for a truce after the 2006 election, Israel launched attacks that killed 660 Palestinians in 2006, most of whom were civilians (a third were minors). According to U.N. reports, 2,879 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire from April 2006 through July 2012, along with several dozen Israelis killed by fire from Gaza.
A short-lived truce in 2008 was honored by Hamas until Israel broke it in November. Ignoring further truce offers, Israel launched the murderous Cast Lead operation in December.
So matters have continued, while the U.S. and Israel also continue to reject Hamas calls for a long-term truce and a political settlement for a two-state solution in accord with the international consensus that the U.S. has blocked since 1976 when the U.S. vetoed a Security Council resolution to this effect, brought by the major Arab states.
This week, Washington devoted every effort to blocking a Palestinian initiative to upgrade its status at the U.N. but failed, in virtual international isolation as usual. The reasons were revealing: Palestine might approach the International Criminal Court about Israel’s U.S.-backed crimes.
One element of the unremitting torture of Gaza is Israel’s “buffer zone” within Gaza, from which Palestinians are barred entry to almost half of Gaza’s limited arable land.
From January 2012 to the launching of Israel’s latest killing spree on Nov. 14, Operation Pillar of Defense, one Israeli was killed by fire from Gaza while 78 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire.
The full story is naturally more complex, and uglier. . .
Israel—or, rather, Benjamin Netanyahu—is now backing off his idea of an immediate military attack on Iran. The reasons (explained below) are interesting, but if Romney had been president, I suspect we would now be in a war with Iran (and perhaps a large part of the Middle East). Graham Allison and Shai Feldman write in the NY Times:
FOR three years Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his defense minister, Ehud Barak, seemed to be united in urging an early military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. But last week that alliance collapsed, with Mr. Netanyahu accusing Mr. Barak of having conspired with the Obama administration, in talks behind his back.
The clash came as a surprise in Israel, but in hindsight, there was a prelude — the speech Mr. Netanyahu delivered a week earlier to the United Nations General Assembly. In a memorable cartoonish graphic, Mr. Netanyahu depicted a “red line” that he said Israel would not let Iran cross. But he also acknowledged that Iran would not be able to cross it until next spring or summer. In doing so, he essentially reset the urgency of his warnings and ended speculation that Israel might mount a unilateral attack on Iran before the American presidential election.
The public row with Mr. Barak illustrated the magnitude of Mr. Netanyahu’s retreat and his difficulty in explaining it. He was left with implying that he had been undermined, if not betrayed by, his own defense minister. But that was not the full story of why he had blinked.
In fact, Mr. Netanyahu’s about-face resulted from a long-building revolt by Israel’s professional security establishment against the very idea of an early military attack, particularly one without the approval of the United States.
For months, former and even serving chiefs of Israel’s defense and intelligence communities have vigorously and publicly opposed Mr. Netanyahu’s case for attacking Iran sooner, rather than after all other means have been exhausted. Meir Dagan, the much respected former head of Mossad, did so to an American audience in an interview with Lesley Stahl broadcast last March by CBS’ “60 Minutes.” In Israel earlier, he had been quoted as saying that such an attack was “the stupidest idea I have ever heard.”
In addition, Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Barak had proved unable to win sufficient support for early military action from other members of the government. Despite months of sustained effort, Mr. Netanyahu was not able to muster a majority even in his nine-member informal inner cabinet, much less Israel’s larger security cabinet, whose agreement he would need before attacking.
And in August, Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, took the occasion of his 89th birthday celebration to decisively reject any unilateral Israeli attack. The country’s pre-eminent elder statesman and the father of Israel’s own nuclear project, he broke with the nonpolitical traditions of Israel’s largely ceremonial presidency to argue that the central issue was the harm that going it alone could do to future American-Israeli relations.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the Obama administration was conducting a quiet campaign that would strengthen the view, already circulating among Israeli security professionals, that prematurely attacking Iran would not advance Israel’s interests and would damage Israel’s relationship with America. Instead of holding Israel at bay or threatening punitive action, the administration was upgrading American security assistance to Israel — so much so that earlier this year Mr. Barak described the level of support as greater than ever in Israel’s history. . .
I think the US will soon regret snuggling up to MEK, an organization long listed by the US State Department as a terrorist organization but recently removed from the list in deference to well-paid lobbyists. Zahir Janmohamed reports in Alternet:
The first time I encountered the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq  (MEK), the Iranian group recently removed  by the State Department from its list of foreign terrorist organizations, was in Los Angeles in 2008. I was working for Amnesty International  and I had organized an outreach event on human rights to the Iranian-American community.When supporters of the MEK learned of the event , they objected to one of the speakers because he believed the best way to curb Iran’s human rights abuses is through engagement  and interaction, not war. Supporters of the MEK proceeded to call my office line—and then my personal cell phone—so many times that I considered changing my number. Most of the messages were expletives filled accusations that I was an “agent for the Iranian government,” “an apologist for the mullahs,” and “a terrible Iranian.”We proceeded with the event anyways.Supporters of the MEK showed up early, filled up almost all of the seats and started shouting. One of the audience members, a former  Amnesty International prisoner of conscience who had been tortured in Iran, stood up and said in Farsi that Amnesty had fought for his life and that they should be respectful of the speakers. But they continued to shout.When they refused to lower their signs or stop yelling, over a dozen police officers intervened and insisted we cancel. The police feared the protesters would become violent. Before our first speaker could say even a word, I had to call it off.
The group intrigued me and I started to probe their history, wanting to learn more.It was the MEK’s deep involvement in terror including the killing  of six Americans in the 1970s that prompted President Bill Clinton to designate  the group a foreign terrorist organization in 1992.
Violence  has always been a part of the MEK. The group was founded  in 1965 as an armed opposition to the Shah of Iran. After the Islamic Revolution of 1979, it assassinated  Iran’s first president and prime minister and later assisted Sadaam Hussein in crushing the Kurdish uprising. In 2001 the MEK claimed that it renounced violence but its record  showed otherwise. According to a report  published by Human Rights Watch in May 2005, “The former (MEK) members reported abuses ranging from detention and persecution of ordinary members wishing to leave the organization, to lengthy solitary confinements, severe beatings, and torture of dissident members.”
I was appalled by what I learned about the MEK and I managed to steer clear of the group in Washington DC. That changed in 2009 when I began working as a foreign policy aide to a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee .
Before I worked in Congress, I would have said that advocating for Palestine is the most challenging foreign policy topic on Capitol Hill. But after I worked in the House of Representatives, I realized it is harder to have a rational discussion of Iran than it is to have a rational discussion of Palestinian rights.
The MEK has always been smart to play off other  special interest groups. When I met with a prominent pro-Israeli lobby for the first time, a college age volunteer told me his group’s first priority was Iran, its second priority was Iran, and its third priority was Iran.
I realized in Congress that it was nearly impossible to speak about human rights  in Iran or about the humanitarian effects  of US sanctions without another member of Congress or a special interest group accusing you of being soft on terrorism.
I tried to avoid MEK supporters in Congress but it was difficult. . .
Seth Anziska writes in the NY Times:
ON the night of Sept. 16, 1982, the Israeli military allowed a right-wing Lebanese militia to enter two Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut. In the ensuing three-day rampage, the militia, linked to the Maronite Christian Phalange Party, raped, killed and dismembered at least 800 civilians, while Israeli flares illuminated the camps’ narrow and darkened alleyways. Nearly all of the dead were women, children and elderly men.
Thirty years later, the massacre at the Sabra and Shatila camps is remembered as a notorious chapter in modern Middle Eastern history, clouding the tortured relationships among Israel, the United States, Lebanon and the Palestinians. In 1983, an Israeli investigative commission concluded that Israeli leaders were “indirectly responsible” for the killings and that Ariel Sharon, then the defense minister and later prime minister, bore “personal responsibility” for failing to prevent them.
While Israel’s role in the massacre has been closely examined, America’s actions have never been fully understood. This summer, at the Israel State Archives, I found recently declassified documents that chronicle key conversations between American and Israeli officials before and during the 1982 massacre. The verbatim transcripts reveal that the Israelis misled American diplomats about events in Beirut and bullied them into accepting the spurious claim that thousands of “terrorists” were in the camps. Most troubling, when the United States was in a position to exert strong diplomatic pressure on Israel that could have ended the atrocities, it failed to do so. As a result, Phalange militiamen were able to murder Palestinian civilians, whom America had pledged to protect just weeks earlier.
Israel’s involvement in the Lebanese civil war began in June 1982, when it invaded its northern neighbor. Its goal was to root out the Palestine Liberation Organization, which had set up a state within a state, and to transform Lebanon into a Christian-ruled ally. The Israel Defense Forces soon besieged P.L.O.-controlled areas in the western part of Beirut. Intense Israeli bombardments led to heavy civilian casualties and tested even President Ronald Reagan, who initially backed Israel. In mid-August, as America was negotiating the P.L.O.’s withdrawal from Lebanon, Reagan told Prime Minister Menachem Begin that the bombings “had to stop or our entire future relationship was endangered,” Reagan wrote in his diaries.
The United States agreed to deploy Marines to Lebanon as part of a multinational force to supervise the P.L.O.’s departure, and by Sept. 1, thousands of its fighters — including Yasir Arafat — had left Beirut for various Arab countries. After America negotiated a cease-fire that included written guarantees to protect the Palestinian civilians remaining in the camps from vengeful Lebanese Christians, the Marines departed Beirut, on Sept. 10.
Israel hoped that Lebanon’s newly elected president, Bashir Gemayel, a Maronite, would support an Israeli-Christian alliance. But on Sept. 14, Gemayel was assassinated. Israel reacted by violating the cease-fire agreement. It quickly occupied West Beirut — ostensibly to prevent militia attacks against the Palestinian civilians. “The main order of the day is to keep the peace,” Begin told the American envoy to the Middle East, Morris Draper, on Sept. 15. “Otherwise, there could be pogroms.”
By Sept. 16, the I.D.F. was fully in control of West Beirut, including Sabra and Shatila. In Washington that same day, Under Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger told the Israeli ambassador, Moshe Arens, that “Israel’s credibility has been severely damaged” and that “we appear to some to be the victim of deliberate deception by Israel.” He demanded that Israel withdraw from West Beirut immediately.
In Tel Aviv, Mr. Draper and the American ambassador, Samuel W. Lewis, met with top Israeli officials. Contrary to Prime Minister Begin’s earlier assurances, Defense Minister Sharon said the occupation of West Beirut was justified because there were “2,000 to 3,000 terrorists who remained there.” Mr. Draper disputed this claim; having coordinated the August evacuation, he knew the number was minuscule. Mr. Draper said he was horrified to hear that Mr. Sharon was considering allowing the Phalange militia into West Beirut. Even the I.D.F. chief of staff, Rafael Eitan, acknowledged to the Americans that he feared “a relentless slaughter.”
On the evening of Sept. 16, the Israeli cabinet met and was informed that Phalange fighters were entering the Palestinian camps. Deputy Prime Minister David Levy worried aloud: “I know what the meaning of revenge is for them, what kind of slaughter. Then no one will believe we went in to create order there, and we will bear the blame.” That evening, word of civilian deaths began to filter out to Israeli military officials, politicians and journalists.
At 12:30 p.m. on Sept. 17, . . .