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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

“U.S. Complicity Brought up to Date” in Israel’s War against Gaza

Phyllis Bennis says the calls in Israeli for genocide against Gaza are not only coming from fringe elements in the political establishment


River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

Abbas backs Hamas ceasefire demands as Gaza death toll reaches 649

A relative carries a nine-year-old Palestinian girl, Shahed Qishtah, into the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahia after she was injured in an Israeli strike while playing on July 22, 2014 in the northern Gaza Strip. Shahed died later of her injuries.(Photo: AFP - Marco Longari)
Published Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Updated 10:26 am: The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday endorsed demands by Hamas for halting Gaza hostilities with Israel, a closing of ranks that may help Egyptian-mediated truce efforts as the Palestinian death toll in the Israeli assault rose to 649.
As the violence entered its 16th day, Palestinian emergency services said that at least six people were killed early Wednesday during prolonged shelling of the southern town of Khan Younis and 20 more were wounded, most of them seriously.
Two more were killed by Israeli fire in the north of the Strip, they said. According to Gaza Health Ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qudra, at least 4,120 Palestinians have been wounded since the beginning of the US-backed Israeli aggression.
Hamas and other armed factions had balked at a truce proposal drafted by the Israeli-backed regime in Cairo, saying they wanted assurances of relief from an Israeli-Egyptian blockade and other concessions.
In a move that could effectively turn Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas into the main interlocutor for a Gaza truce, his umbrella Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) on Wednesday formally supported core conditions set by the Hamas-led fighters.
"The Gaza demands of stopping the aggression and lifting the blockade in all its forms are the demands of the entire Palestinian people and they represent the goal that the Palestinian leadership has dedicated all its power to achieve," senior PLO official Yasser Abed Rabbo said in Ramallah.
"We are confident Gaza will not be broken as long as our people are standing beside it to support it through all possible means until the invaders understand that our great people inside the homeland and outside will not leave Gaza alone."
Abbas' Fatah faction on Tuesday proposed a truce followed by five days of negotiations on terms.
There was no immediate response to the PLO statement from Hamas or Israel, which pressed the Gaza offensive it began on July 8.
Abbas pledged that Israel would be held accountable for Gaza deaths.
"We will pursue all those who commit crimes against our people, however long it takes," he said in televised comments ahead of an emergency meeting of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah.
The meeting's concluding statement called for "widespread popular protest in solidarity with Gaza and the resistance."
Shortly afterwards, Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian man in clashes at the West Bank village of Hussan, near Bethlehem, Palestinian security sources told AFP.
Israel said it would only halt its Gaza offensive after laying waste to a sophisticated network of tunnels allegedly used for cross-border attacks.
Gaza Tunnels Doom 
A ceasefire "won't happen before we really finish the tunnels project," Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said.
She said Hamas's "completely unacceptable" preconditions for a truce had "no chance of being accepted by anyone."
Hamas has laid out a list of demands for halting its fire, including a lifting of Israel's eight-year blockade on Gaza, the release of dozens of prisoners, and the opening of its Rafah border crossing with Egypt.
The Egyptian plan for a ceasefire does not specify a timeline for easing the blockade, saying "crossings shall be opened and the passage of persons and goods through border crossings shall be facilitated once the security situation becomes stable on the ground."
Since the Egyptian army toppled President Mohammed Mursi in July 2013, relations between Egypt and the besieged Palestinian enclave have been severely frayed, as Sisi accuses Hamas of being allied with Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement.
An Egyptian ceasefire proposal was rejected by Hamas last week as the Palestinian group said it had not been consulted by Egypt.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, on a visit to Tel Aviv, appealed on Tuesday for Israel and Hamas to "stop fighting" and "start talking."
Following top-level talks in Cairo, Ban went to Tel Aviv and appealed to both sides to lay down arms.
"Stop fighting, start talking and take on the root causes of the conflict so that we are not at the same situation in the next six months or a year."
The UN chief described rocket fire by Hamas and other Palestinian groups as "shocking" and said it must "stop immediately."
He added that Israel must exercise "maximum restraint" in Gaza -- in contrast to his stronger exhortations for Palestinians -- and he urged it to take a hard look at some of the root causes of the conflict "so people will not feel they have to resort to violence as a means of expressing their grievances."
Meanwhile in Cairo, Kerry discussed ceasefire proposals with Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
The top US diplomat again placed the onus on Hamas to accept a ceasefire, backing an Egyptian truce initiative as a "framework" to end the fighting.
Meanwhile in Gaza, Israeli fire on Tuesday hit a UN school sheltering the displaced for the second time in two days, said the United Nations' Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA.
"UNRWA condemns in the strongest possible terms the shelling of one of its schools in the central area of Gaza," it said in a statement.
"The location of the school and the fact that it was housing internally displaced persons had been formally communicated to Israel on three separate occasions. We have called on the Israeli authorities to carry out an immediate and comprehensive investigation."
During the offensive, more than 100,000 Gazans have fled their homes, seeking shelter in 69 schools run by UNRWA.
Early Wednesday the Israeli military announced the deaths of two soldiers killed in the Gaza fighting the night before, bringing the Israeli toll to 29 soldiers and two civilians.
The army on Tuesday confirmed the death of a soldier who Hamas claimed it had kidnapped, but said his remains were unaccounted for.
The European Union appealed to Israel to keep its military operation in Gaza "proportionate" and for "all sides to implement in good faith an immediate ceasefire," a statement from a meeting of European foreign ministers in Brussels said.
It added that "All terrorist groups in Gaza must disarm," a comment welcomed by Israel.
(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)
River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

SIEGE for SIEGE

SO WHO IS UNDER A SIEGE? 


American airlines have haltedflights to and from Israel’s  following a rocket strike near Ben-Gurion Airport yesterday. According to some reports, the change is due to a decision made by the  Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Many European airlines follow this call and also suspend flights. So you tell me who is under a siege?
-----

Updated by Alex





المقاومة توقف الرحلات الجويّة الغربيّة إلى إسرائيل وتعلن إصابة «أف 16» للاحتلال (أ ف ب)
بحثنا كثيراً، في الأسبوعين الاخيرين، عن الشخصيّات السياسيّة والقيادات الأوروبيّة التي كانت رأس حربة «الربيع العربي». أين «أصدقاء سوريا» الأوروبيّون اليوم، وقد تحوّل سجن غزّة إلى أرض المجزرة الكارثيّة فيما العالم يتفرّج، وأوباما يصدح ـــ وقبله هولاند وفابيوس وآخرون ـــ بـ «حق اسرائيل الشرعي في الدفاع عن نفسها (لكن بلطف ولباقة رجاء)»؟ أين هؤلاء «الأصدقاء» الأعزّاء، وأهل غزّة يُذبحون بالعشرات كلّ يوم؟

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Gaza Resistance Uniting us and Netanyahu is Desperate for a Ladder


غزة تقاوم _ ناصر قنديل _ مع الحدث / المنار 23 7 2014




وغزة تجمعنا حتي في لبنان

نتنياهو صعد على الشجرة ولم ينزل

Netanyahu stuck on Gaza tree: To invade or not to invade
"نتنياهو" الذي صعد على الشجرة ولم ينزل


The Ladder

Stay tuned for The Quds Day surprises - In Gaza

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

GAZA 2014: OLD ISRAEL IN A NEW MIDDLE EAST


SATURDAY, JULY 19, 2014 AT 4:49AM GILAD ATZMON


By Mosab Qashoo 


The military operations undertaken by both Israel and Gaza bear many resemblances to what occurred in 2008 and 2012. Military might is still just as disproportionate, with Israel dropping hundreds of tonnes of explosives in 1,600 bombings and Hamas firing 1,500 non-explosive projectiles and rockets. Similarly, while it is unjust to compare casualties, the enormous gap between the over 265 Gazans and the 2 Israelis killed is telling. Of course Israeli weaponry is ever advancing with the assistance of US tax dollars. 

Despite the loss of its tunnels into Egypt and its severed relationship with the Syrian regime, Hamas has launched rockets farther than ever before and has sent surveillance drones and SCUBA divers into Israel. Interestingly, both Hamas and the Israeli government have implemented new tactics meant to warn civilians of impending attacks. Many news networks have focused on so-called “warning rockets” or “roof tapping”, very friendly sounding words that, no doubt, were crafted and injected into the conversation by Israeli Hasbarists. 

This media sculpting is very skillful, considering that these “warning rockets” are likely more powerful than Hamas’ most advanced rocket. Not to mention that most of these smaller bombs hit less than a minute before a massive bombing, giving Gazans little time to move to a slightly safer location, and certainly not enough time to gather family photos, identity documents, money or other valuables. They also announced their ground invasion in advance, though there is little Gazans could do to prepare. Hamas has provided slightly more meaningful warnings through text messages and TV broadcasts hours prior to launching rockets, a reasonable time for Israeli citizens to take care of their business and get into their bomb shelters. It is as if there is a side battle of who can appear to be giving the most warning to the other side.
The use of social media is a much loved topic in most news outlets. In this instance, the interest lies not in the use of social media to allow for citizen journalism or political participation, but instead for its application in military scenarios. For example, Israel now has a smartphone app that warns Israelis of approaching rockets and projectiles. On July 14th, Hamas hacked into the most watched Israeli TV station during prime time and also managed to send blanket text messages to Israeli cell phones in order to convey, in Hebrew, a message stating that Israeli children are not more important than Palestinian children, and that their projectiles would continue as long as Israel continued to target Gazan children, houses, hospitals and schools. Hamas may have learned to focus its media message on the Israeli public rather than the international community from Hezbollah during its conflict with Israel in 2006, the idea being that Israelis will hear these messages and encourage their government to tone down aggression.
While social media is a “sexier” topic, the biggest media story is the traditional news coverage in Egypt. In 2008, Hosni Mubarak knew that he could tap into sympathy for Palestinians in order to gain favor with the Egyptian people. While it was (and continues to be) actually complicit in the strangulation of the Gazan population, Egypt presented itself as a protector of the Palestinian people. 

In 2012, a government genuinely sympathetic to Hamas was in brief control of Egypt, and the Rafah crossing was opened. The current regime, having just squelched Hamas’ relative, the Muslim Brotherhood, currently displays a vitriol towards Hamas that even Israel has not matched. They have obliterated the tunnels and allowed only very few gravely injured people to leave Gaza for medical attention. Egypt continued this behavior by colluding with Israel to draft a “cease-fire”, that was in effect a proposed demilitarization of Gaza with no concessions or release of the Israeli grip on the territory, all without consulting or even warning Hamas prior to public announcement.
With Egypt acting in lockstep with Israel, it no longer can serve as a mediator as it did in 2008 and 2012. Mahmoud Abbas and the PLO are also out of the picture, despite the recent Hamas-PLO unity deal. Many hypothesize that Israel is acting so severely in order to break up this political unity but Abbas and his political establishment have made it clear that their unity deal has no tangible effects. 

During the first several days of Israeli bombing of Gaza, PLO officials attended coexistence conferences in the Israeli resort city of Herzliya and in Tel Aviv. In a more extreme example, the new Minister of Health of the unity government, who had been a Fattah appointee, returned to Gaza from the US a full nine days after the bombing campaign began. Given the vast number of casualties and the overall medical crisis in Gaza, his prolonged absence demonstrates an extreme disregard. When he attempted to enter at Rafah, he was greeted by a barrage of stones and shoes thrown by those who had lost homes, limbs and family members. Some Palestinians believed that Fattah only engaged in the unity government in order to make it appear that its failure to resolve the “Palestinian Question” was a result of its relationship with Hamas, rather than its corruption and declining local and international relevance.
With Egypt and the PLO out of the picture, I predict that this latest bout will be resolved by Turkey and possibly Qatar. Both countries maintain a good relations with Hamas and a relationship, albeit strained, with Israel. 

[Alex: Palestinians are paying the price for Hamas sins - Relation with Qatar and Turkey - and Hamas is paying the price for Brotherhood's historical sins - in particular pulling Hamas out of the axis of Resistance]

Neither country needs the kind of international (read: US) backing that the traditional arbiters, Egypt and Jordan, have enjoyed. Their regional interests are very different from those of Egypt or Jordan, who share physical borders with Palestinian territories, and therefore are impacted by the security situations there. Qatar may well benefit from a partner located where Gaza is on the map. Their backing of the Muslim Brotherhood helped pave the way for a port in Sinai with exclusive Qatari access. Now that the Brotherhood has been destroyed, Qatar could conceivably propose a peace plan wherein they maintain control over Gaza’s nautical border. Turkey tried to widen the moderate Islamist bloc in both Egypt and Syria, but has failed to do so. Taking a Hamas government under its wing could strengthen its bloc against the now dominant fundamentalist UAE-Saudi bloc. With these new players with radically different agendas, we could see a whole host of new options on the table, not only to end this latest flare up, but also for more permanent solutions moving forward.

[Alex: As long as Hamas is under the wing of Turkey and Qatar Gaza will continue to bleed. The only way out is RESISTANCE, reinforcement of  the Palestinian's UNITY, the return of Hamas as a national resistance movement which would pave the way for good relations with Syria and Egypt because they share physical borders with Palestinian territories, that Explain why Islamic Jihad insists that there would be no solution without Egypt]
"Mosab Qashoo grew up in an agricultural village outside of the West Bank town of Qalqilia, his youth bookended by the first and second intifadas. He studied Information Technology, Industrial Engineering and Conflict Management at the Arab American University in Jenin and An-Najah University in Nablus, where he was involved in student activities on campus, as well as non-violent international activism across the West Bank.
"Now based in NYC, Mosab is also a farmer/writer and founded Palestine Farm Project, which uses visitor farmstays and skillsharing to create cross cultural unity and support a sustainable agricultural economy in the West Bank."

Related Videos (added By Alex)

مع الحدث _ سهيل الناطور / المنار 22 07 2014








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The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

BBC Arabic Reporter Attacked On Air By Rabid Israeli



River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

Nine Things the Israeli Ambassador, Daniel Taub, Conveniently Didn’t Say About Gaza



Mehdi Hasan Headshot




The suffering in Gaza continues unabated. The strip is blockaded from land, sea and air and bombed from land, sea and air. The death toll has climbed past 550, including at least 100 Palestinian children.
Yet, still, silver-tongued Israeli officials continue to take to the airwaves to defend the indefensible. On Tuesday I appeared alongside Israel’s ambassador to the UK, Daniel Taub, on BBC Radio 2′s The Jeremy Vine Show, to discuss the Gaza crisis. I wasn’t able to debate the ambassador directly: I answered Vine’s questions first while Taub sat silently next to me; then he answered Vine’s questions while I (with great difficulty and much self-restraint) sat silently next to him. You can listen to the full interviews below, including my points about Israel’s brutal ‘Dahiya doctrine’ and the horrific effects of the siege on Gaza’s 1.7m-strong populace.
Given I wasn’t able to respond to Taub’s points on the show, however, and given the ambassador was able to have the last word, I thought I’d deal with some of the myths he pushed, live on air, in this particular blogpost.
Here are nine things that the Israeli ambassador to the UK conveniently didn’t mention – or got flat wrong – during his radio interview yesterday, based on nine of his quotes from that interview:
1) “We pulled out of the Gaza Strip in 2005… we pulled out of every inch.”
Israel likes to pretend that the occupation of Gaza ended with Ariel Sharon’s ‘unilateral disengagement’ from the strip in August 2005. It didn’t. Israel is still, legally, the occupying power and continues to control Gaza’s territorial borders, coastal waters and airspace. In fact, as Harvard University Middle East expert Sara Roy noted in the Boston Globe in 2012: “Israeli-imposed buffer zones — areas of restricted access — now absorb nearly 14 percent of Gaza’s total land and at least 48 percent of total arable land. Similarly, the sea buffer zone covers 85 percent of the maritime area promised to Palestinians in the Oslo Accords, reducing 20 nautical miles to three…” Israel also continues to control thePalestinian Population Registry, which has the power to define who is a “Palestinian” and who is a legal resident of Gaza. Does Gaza sound sovereign, independent or un-occupied to you?
2) “Hamas took over the Gaza Strip by force.”
Yes it did, in June 2007, after being elected to office in January 2006. But what Taub omitted to mention is that it did so in order to pre-empt a coup planned by the Bush administration and egged on by the Israelis. As investigative journalist David Rose pointed out in his acclaimed Vanity Fair piece on the coup, based on leaked documents from the US State Department, it was “President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and Deputy National-Security Adviser Elliott Abrams [who] backed an armed force under Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, touching off a bloody civil war in Gaza and leaving Hamas stronger than ever.”
3) “At the end of the day democracy is… some sort of commitment to basic democratic values.”
Put to one side the fact that Israel rules over millions of Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem while denying them the right to vote in Israeli elections, let’s take a look for a moment at the ‘democratic’ fate of Palestinians who live legally inside of Israel as citizens of the Jewish State. There are, according to Ha’aretz, “695 communities, located in regional councils that control about 80 percent of the state’s land” which have vetting committees, protected by law, that prevent Palestinian citizens of Israel from buying or renting property in those communities. Israel also operates discriminatory citizenship laws – chief among them, the 1950 Law of Return and the 1952 Citizenship Law – which privilege Jewish citizens over Palestinian citizens. What happened to “basic democratic values”?
4) “Hamas has brutalised the people of Gaza.”
Yes it has. Hams is undoubtedly guilty of massive human rights abuses inside Gaza. But does that excuse Israel’s 47-year brutalisation of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Territories? Consider this Reuters report from June 2013: “A United Nations human rights body accused Israeli forces on Thursday of mistreating Palestinian children, including by torturing those in custody and using others as human shields. Palestinian children in the Gaza and the West Bank, captured by Israel in the 1967 war, are routinely denied registration of their birth and access to health care, decent schools and clean water, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child said.” Is this not brutalisation? Is this not a massive abuse of Palestinian human rights? How about bombing a cafe in which Gazans were watching the World Cup? Or bombing a shelter for Gaza’s disabled residents?
5) “Israel has been trying to show restraint.”
If “restraint” results in 500-plus dead in a matter of days, the vast majority of them civilians, including kids on beaches and disabled people in shelters, then I wouldn’t want to see what Taub defines as a lack of restraint. Also, as I mentioned in my remarks to Vine, Israel is using the Dahiya doctrine which, as the 2009 United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict noted, is an Israeli security concept coined by former IDF general Gadi Eizenkot that involves “the application of disproportionate force and the causing of great damage and destruction to civilian property and infrastructure, and suffering to civilian populations”. Targeting civilian populations and properties isn’t evidence of “restraint”, it’s evidence of war crimes.
6) “This was a [ceasefire] proposal that was presented to both Israel and Hamas.”
This isn’t true and Taub knows it. The proposed ceasefire deal last week was struck between Egyptian president al-Sisi and Israeli prime minister Netanyahu, with the help of ‘peace envoy’ Tony Blair – but without any Hamas involvement. Hamas official, Mushir al-Massri, told Al Jazeera, “that the group was never involved in the formulation of the ceasefire and only learned about it from media reports. He said his group rejected the proposal ‘in style because no body consulted with us in formatting it, [and] in content because its articles are a free service to the [Israeli] occupation’.” To quote Sharif Nashashibi: “It is extraordinary that a supposed mediator between two warring parties would exclude one of them from the process.”
7) “Hamas has been obstructing people from getting the food and the medicines that they need.”
Maybe, but are we expected to believe that the Israelis care about the health and well-being of the people of Gaza? According to a ‘secret’ US State Department cable, based on conversations between US diplomats and senior Israeli officials, revealed by Wikileaks in 2011: “Israeli officials have confirmed to Embassy officials on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis.. As part of their overall embargo plan against Gaza, Israeli officials have confirmed … on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge.” Also, official Israeli documents, released to the Gisha human rights organisation under Freedom of Information legislation, showed that “the Israeli military made precise calculations of Gaza’s daily calorie needs to avoid malnutrition during a blockade imposed on the Palestinian territory between 2007 and mid-2010″ and then refused to allow in enough trucks of food to meet those “daily calorie needs”.
8) “I have absolutely no idea what reports [about flechette shells] you’re referring to.”
Perhaps Taub, who stuttered as he responded to Vine’s very simple question on flechette use, should read the Guardian: “The Israeli military is using flechette shells, which spray out thousands of tiny and potentially lethal metal darts, in its military operation in Gaza. Six flechette shells were fired towards the village of Khuzaa, east of Khan Younis, on 17 July, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. Nahla Khalil Najjar, 37, suffered injuries to her chest, it said. PCHR provided a picture of flechettes taken by a fieldworker last week. The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) did not deny using the shells in the conflict… The munitions are not prohibited under international humanitarian law, but according to B’Tselem, ‘other rules of humanitarian law render their use in the Gaza Strip illegal.’”
9) “The tragedy is that Hamas… are stopping civilians leaving from the areas of fighting.”
Whether or not Hamas is indeed “stopping civilians” from leaving “the areas of fighting”, where are those Palestinian civilians in Gaza supposed to go? Which part of their “prison camp”, to quote David Cameron in 2010, can they legitimately and safely take shelter in, given Israel is bombing houses, schools and mosques on the grounds that they’re all allegedly being used by Hamas to hide their rockets? To quote the inimitable Jon Stewart, of the Daily Show: “Evacuate to where? Have you f**king seen Gaza? Israel blocked this border, Egypt blocked this border. What, are they supposed to swim for it?”

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The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

THE END OF ISRAEL

Israeli military superiority belongs to the past.

By Gilad Atzmon
In his speech to the nation Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged yesterday that the war on Gaza is a battle for the existence of the Jewish State. Netanyahu is correct. And Israel cannot win this battle; it cannot even define what a victory might entail. Surely the battle is not about the tunnels or the militants’ underground operation, the tunnels are just weapons of resistance rather than the resistance itself. The Hamas and Gaza militants lured Israel into a battle zone in which it could never succeed and Hamas set the conditions, chose the ground and has written the terms required to conclude this cycle of violence.

For ten days Netanyahu did all he could to prevent an IDF ground operation. He was facing the reality that Israel lacks a military answer to Palestinian resistance. Netanyahu knew that a defeat on the ground would eradicate the little that remains of IDF’s power of deterrence.

Five days ago, Israel, at least in the eyes of its supporters, held the upper ground. It saw it citizens subject to an endless barrage of rockets, yet it showed relative restraint, killing Palestinian civilians only from afar, which served to convey an imaginary image of strengthBut that has changed rapidly since Israel launched its ground operation. Israel is now, once again, involved in colossal war crimes against a civilian population and worse, at least strategically, its elite infantry commandos are being eradicated in a face-to-face street battle in Gaza.  In spite of clear Israeli technological superiority and firepower, the Palestinian militants are winning the battle on the ground and they have even managed to move the battle to Israeli territory. In addition, the barrage of rockets on Tel Aviv doesn’t seem to stop.

IDF’s defeat in Gaza leaves the Jewish State with no hope. The moral is simple. If you insist on living on someone else’s land, military might is an essential ingredient to discourage the dispossessed from acting to reclaim their rights.  The level of IDF casualties and the number of bodies of Israeli elite soldiers returning home in coffins send a clear message to both Israelis and Palestinians. Israeli military superiority belongs to the past. There is no future for the Jews-only-State in Palestine; they may have to try somewhere else.

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The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!