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November 10, 2010

Israel's war crimes and crimes against humanity go unreported by media, Norman Finkelstein

The Canadian Charger

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In a presentation sponsored by Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CPME), at the University of Toronto recently, American scholar Dr. Norman Finkelstein said there was no war in Gaza: the so-called War in Gaza was a massacre. He also said the 2008-2009 devastation of Gaza may be but a prelude of what's to come in Lebanon.

Mr. Finkelstein was awarded his doctorate by Princeton University in 1988, and has subsequently taught at Rutgers, New York University, Brooklyn College, Hunter College and DePaul University (Chicago). His academic research has concentrated on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its representation in political discourse.

He said that although Israel flew 2,800 to 3,000 combat missions, not a single plane was damaged because Hamas sat in its bunkers the whole time; an Israeli analyst said not a single battle was fought.

“After the first week of the air assault, the land assault began. The Israeli soldiers had special night-fighting equipment so Hamas couldn't even see them. One Israeli soldier said: 'There was nothing there. It was a ghost town, with only livestock.' Another soldier said: “I didn't see a single Arab the whole week I was there.' Another Israeli soldier said: “It felt like hunting season. It reminded me of a playstation computer game.' ”

Surreal though this may sound, Mr. Finkelstein said the reality is that this so called War in Gaza was really 22 days of death and destruction inflicted on the Palestinian people in Gaza. He said the Israeli military exploded white phosphorous – which burns at a temperature of 816 degrees Celsius – over schools, hospitals and markets, resulting in 1400 Palestinians deaths.

“Four-fifths of these deaths were civilians, of which 400 were children. Israel had 10 combat deaths and four civilian. The kill ratio was 100 to one. Is this a war or a massacre?”

Subsequently he asked the audience to raise their hands if they had heard that Israel claimed the high number of civilian deaths was due to Hamas using human shields and forcing people to gather near Hamas staging grounds. Although many in the audience raised their hands, few did when he asked them how many knew that of the 300 human rights organizations that investigated, not one reported any evidence of Hamas using human shields or forcing people to remain around buildings controlled by Hamas.

“That shows the power of media,” Mr. Finkelstein said. “The basic facts are not widely known.”

He added that Amnesty International said even if Israeli accusations of human shields being used were true, it doesn't explain the deaths in Gaza.

“Many were killed in their homes or going about their daily activities. Of the 400 children killed, many were studying or playing on their roofs or in their homes. All the human rights organizations said these actions were war crimes and crimes against humanity. They said Hamas committed comparable crimes, but not on a comparable scale.”

He acknowledged that Israel has the right to prevent weapons from entering Gaza, but noted that because both sides are guilty of war crimes and violations of human rights, under international law, both sides should be subjected to a weapons embargo.

Mr. Finkelstein said he thinks the real reason for the assault on Gaza was part of a plan to restore Israel's deterrence capacity, after it suffered military defeats in Lebanon in 2000 and 2006. He said a former US ambassador to Israel has predicted that Israel will attack Lebanon within the next 18 months.

“Israel has made it clear that it intends to do to Lebanon, what it did to Gaza – use massive force against the civilian infrastructure. Israel has said that the next war will be a game-changer. Hezbollah leader Nasrallah said the next war will be a tit for tat war – a factory for a factory and an airport for an airport. If missiles hit Tel Aviv there will be massive casualties. There's no way that Israel will accept a third defeat in Lebanon. If Hezbollah starts losing, it's almost certain that Iran will enter, knowing they will be next. It's difficult to know how it will end, but both sides will probably resort to extreme measures.”

With the possibility of war on the horizon, much is being made in the media of the peace process to try and resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; but Mr. Finkelstein said there has never been a peace process: it is just a facade for annexation.

“In September 1993, when the Oslo Peace Accord was signed, there were 250,000 settlers. Now, 17 years later there are 500,000 settlers. Fourty-two per cent of the West Bank has been annexed. When Palestinians complain about this, Israel says the issue of settlements must be negotiated in the peace process.”

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