Sunday, March 02, 2008

Arabs see US gunboats protecting Israel in its Gaza holocaust

The new pan-Arab newspaper AlArab, published in Qatar, has this across the top of its front page today (Sunday March 2):
Israel "tuharriqu" [destroys by fire, using the Arabic root for "holocaust"] the Palestinians, and "buries peace" under its destruction: Abbas calls the attacks worse than a holocaust, and Mashaal accuses him of providing cover for them.
The story begins: "More than 60 Palestinians were martyred yesterday in the biggest of the barbaric Israeli slaughters in Gaza, bringing the number of martyrs to more than eighty since last Wednesday, most of them civilians, including children, an attack criticized by Arab political and popular activists." The journalist notes that Abbas was responding to the threat by the Israeli vice-minister of defence to turn Gaza into a "shoah" [Hebrew word for "holocaust"] and he called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League, while the Hamas political head accused him of having provided the Israelis political cover for this by his attacks on Hamas.

And the lead Fatah negotiator Saeb Ereqat is quoted as saying that the negotiations with Israel were "buried under the rubble of the houses that have been destroyed, and the peace process wrecked under the reality of these attacks and the crimes that have been committed."

For his part, Abdulbari Atwan writes in a front-page editorial in Al-Quds al-Arabi:
It appears that the holocaust threatened by the Israeli vice-minister of defence isn't going to be limited to the children of the Gaza Strip, but could well be extended to the Arab region generally. It wasn't a coincidence that the Israeli troop-concentration on the Gaza border coincided with the arrival of the American destroyer USS Cole on the Lebanese coast, along with a variety of warships with helicopters and thousands of marines. This is the war of extermination that America and Israel have been planning, with the cooperation of the moderate Arab regimes, whose aim is to bring the Arabs to their knees once and for all, after which Israel will be crowned as the regional leader, undisputed, and oil will continue to flow under American control, and at prices set by the administration in Washington.
Atwan isn't the only person who sees a connection between the Gaza attacks by Israel and the appearance of the US gunboats. AlJazeera quotes opposition politician Nabih Berri (who is also president of the Lebanese parliament):
Nabih Berri, the parliament speaker, who is aligned with the opposition, has linked the deployment of the warships to Israel's raids in the Gaza Strip.

"The target [of US warships] is Gaza. It is aimed to allow what must happen in Gaza to happen without anyone moving to support [the Palestinians]," he said.

"This is a real threat, not merely a muscle-flexing."

Berri also said that the US military move was designed to focus attention on Lebanon "in order to cover up the massacres being committed in Gaza".

"This [US] fleet comes to back Israel so that it can complete its plan," he said.
In other words, according to Berri, the purpose of the gunboats is to deter Hizbullah or anyone else from coming to the aid of the Gazans who are about to be subjected to this imminent attack from Israel.

There is another point that might be missed. Richard Murphy, a former State Dept official whose name we recognize from his role in the Dead Sea meetings in the "Iraq national reconciliation" process as one of Washington's negotiation-minded "good cops" in contradistinction to the war party, made earlier remarks, also quoted by AlJazeera, bluntly critical of sending the warships to Lebanon. The AJ reporter writes:
Earlier, Richard Murphy, a former US ambassador to Syria, told Al Jazeera that the move was a sign that the US did not know what to do about Lebanon.

"It is gunboat diplomacy. I think it would be more useful for the US to find a way to engage with the conflicting parties in Lebanon.

"We have no dialogue with Syria and this is a moment for dialogue."
Murphy can afford to be critical. He is retired and presumably has the professional support at least of the Condi wing of the State Department. But what about the groundswell of American opposition to this Gaza/gunboat plan? Here we should not forget, it is American election season, the very best time for looking the other way when it comes to any suggestion of criticism of Israel.

(Note that Josh Landis, in a recent series of posts with exhaustive comments, (here, and also a more recent post today, Sunday) thinks Bush is bluffing with respect to actual military operations against Syria or in Lebanon, and hopefully he is right. But that leaves open question of the gunboat/Gaza connection).


Anonymous b. said...

Of course there is a connection between the gunboats and Gaza. But it is pure show. What can a few frigates do to Lebanon? Cut the border with Syria?

Atwan writes of "thousands of marines" on those ships. He is wrong in that. Those ships are empty.

12:20 AM  
Blogger Judith Weingarten said...

See the always sensible Pat Lang's post,

Why do we keep fiddling with Lebanon?

2:29 AM  

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