Saturday, January 03, 2009

The next step in Gaza: Forced evacuations of residential districts

The Israeli ground invasion of the Gaza Strip began after dark on Saturday, and this was preceded, the NYT says, by a leafleting of "some residential districts" warning residents to evacuate these districts. This is a new element in the Israeli plans--new in terms of implementation, that is, although we know that the removal of Palestinian civilians was discussed and approved in principle at a cabinet meeting last March, immediately after a visit by Condi Rice. AlQuds AlArabi published on March 6, 2008, this summary of an Israeli TV report:

Channel Two of Israeli Television disclosed yesterday, Wednesday, that the Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak has gotten the green light from the Security and Political Council of Ministers, which met yesterday to decide how to end the problem of the Qassam rockets, to initiate implementation of the new plan aimed an ending the problem of the Palestinian Qassam rockets aimed at southern Israel.

The televised report cited high-level security sources as saying Barak intends to plan for the removal of tens of thousands of Palestinians from the northern Gaza Strip, namely from the region that the resistance uses for the launch of these rockets, and to move them toward Gaza City and to confine them there. The Israeli reporter added that Barak is turning to legal advisers in the Defence Ministry, in order to obtain legal authorization for the removal of the Palestinian civilians. Barak is also asking Professor David Friedmann, minister of Israeli Affairs [Justice Minister], who supports toughening of penalties on Gaza to end the launching of rockets, in order to obtain his authorization to begin execution of the plan.

The reporter said that once [or if] the plan becomes operational, it would start immediately: In the first stage there would be a drop of leaflets advising residents to leave their homes, in addition to special radio announcements in Arabic directed to the residents, and in the event residents didn't obey the warnings, the occupation army would begin bombing the inhabited areas, in order to compel them to leave their homes and go to Gaza City.

The Council [of Ministers], which met yesterday after the departure of the American Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, stressed that they did not agree with previous army planning for [only] a partial end to the Qassam rockets. And the Council decided to target the leaders of Hamas, political and military alike, and to desroy every symbol of Hamas authority in the Gaza Strip.
Note the reference to "legal authorization for the removal of Palestinian civilians", and also the fact that this was done immediately after a visit by Condi. Note too that there is now two and a half weeks left in the American administration that has given the world Condi Rice, and the evacuation leafleting and the invasion itself have now started.

(H/t to Siun for digging up that piece, as well as the Jerusalem Times piece that essentially confirms it).

Note too that this is not actually "ethnic cleansing". Spencer Ackerman, writing at the center-left Firedoglake website, says in defense of the Israeli administration that the TV report cannot be true because it refers to something "too monstrous" namely ethnic cleansing. But it doesn't. It just refers to the logical next step in a process of continuing oppression, namely the forced evacuation of neighborhoods. Moreover, we already know that the plan is being implemented, because what else is a leafleting telling people to evacuate ahead of a tank, helicopter-gunship and infantry invasion but the forced evacuation of neighborhoods.

The importance of the earlier report is not only to show that this was specifically taken up as a new measure needing "legal authorization", but also that it came about on the heels of a visit from Condi.

Spencer wants to have us skate over the forced-evacuation issue with the straw-man or hot-button argument that there couldn't possibly be any policy so monstrous as ethnic cleansing. He says the Israeli administration doesn't actually have a policy in support of the current invasion. Nice. Not guilty by reason of not having any policy at all, is what he says. I doubt that they will be able to make that one swim, but we'll see.


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