Sunday, November 23, 2014

Israel's Worst Fear is a Political Settlement

The recent murder of four Jewish worshipers in a Jerusalem synagogue has drawn intense media coverage, with the situation being described as "tense" and the country as "shaken". U.S. officials decry the violence and call for both sides to "seek a path forwards toward peace." Yet the Israeli government's reaction and history demonstrate that Israel is not concerned with creating peace, but rather maintaining the status quo. If the government cared about stopping violence and protecting its population, it would immediately end the occupation and accept a political settlement that guarantees everyone in Greater Israel their right to self-determination. Instead they are exploiting the violence to tighten their control of the West Bank and Gaza and crush Palestinian aspirations for an end to the 66-year dispossession and conquest.

Recent violence coincides with the limitations Israeli authorities have placed on Palestinian access to Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, one of the holiest sites in Islam. It is also the site of the Temple Mount, the holiest Jewish religious site. On October 30, occupation officials closed the site to Palestinians for the first time in 47 years after the shooting of a radical right-wing Israeli politician, Yehuda Glick, leader of a group seeking exclusive Jewish access to the site. Glick has also sought to build a third temple on the site "with a return of animal sacrifice," according to the Washington Post. The Post notes that Glick has been banned from the site in the past because his actions have been seen as "highly provocative."

During the last month in East Jerusalem, Palestinians have been targeted by Israeli settlers in hit-and-run attacks and kidnappings, while occupation forces target peaceful protesters with rubber bullets and tear gas. On Nov. 16, a 32-year-old bus driver was found lynched inside his bus. Despite witnesses claiming settler responsibility for the murder, Israeli police have concluded the death was a suicide.

In this context, the grisly murder of four worshipers at a Jerusalem synagogue was carried out last Tuesday by two Palestinian cousins, who did not belong to any political or resistance factions. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to cast blame on all Palestinian political parties who would be a partner in a peaceful settlement to the conflict.

Violence by Palestinians against Jews - whether against legitimate targets such as occupation soldiers or civilians with protected status - are always described as terror attacks, and are far less common than violence by Israeli occupation forces and settlers against Palestinians. Since 2000, about 9 times as many Palestinians have been killed as Israelis. About 20 times more Palestinian children have been killed than Israeli children, and about 7 times more Palestinians injured.

Western media uncritically accept the propaganda framework espoused by the U.S. government that Palestinians are aggressors and Israel only acts in legitimate self-defense. Horrific murders such as the synagogue killings dominate front pages and distort perception about who perpetrates the most violence.

"Major media outlets are actively erasing the Israeli violence that preceded the attack and the surging anti-Palestinian assaults that have followed," writes Rania Khalek in the Electronic Intifada,

Khalek recounts incidents of Jewish violence against Palestinians from the last two weeks alone that have been ignored as focus remains on the synagogue killings: an 11-year old boy blinded after being shot by Israeli police; a 10-year-old girl whose skull was cracked by occupation forces; a 10-year-old shot in the neck; settler attacks with guns and knives; and a 35-year-old man shot dead and set on fire.

But when media disproportionately focus on Israeli casualties and security concerns, Israeli officials are able to legitimize the illegal occupation and entrench their policies of repressing Palestinians. This was the case in the 50 day war in Gaza this summer. Israel killed 2,200 Palestinians, including more than 500 children, and civilians accounted for at least 70% of all Palestinian deaths.

In the months that have followed, Hamas has observed the cease fire while Israel has violated it routinely. This has also been distorted by media propaganda. Israeli forces have routinely shot at Gazan fishermen and farmers with barely any mainstream coverage. Suppressing these stories denies the recognition of Palestinians as victims of violence, and propagates stereotypes of Palestinians as perpetrators of terrorism.

When sensational headlines and photos emerge of violence against Jews, the Israeli government reflexively uses racist stereotypes to discredit Palestinians politically. This old trick of Netanyahu's has been used by Israeli officials for decades. Whether on not there is any connection, Israeli leaders instinctively vilify Palestinian political organizations to link them to violence and terrorism.

"Hamas, the Islamic movement and the Palestinian Authority have been spreading endless fabrications against the State of Israel," Netanyahu said. He also claimed "the anti-Semitic words of Abu-Mazen [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas] .. leads to horrible acts of slaughter."

Similarly, after the murder of three teenage Jewish settlers in the West Bank this summer, Netanyahu was emphatic that Hamas was responsible. Despite evidence that Hamas had no role or knowledge of the attacks before they happened, Netanyahu emphatically blamed the organization.

"Those who perpetrated the abduction of our youths were members of Hamas - the same Hamas that Abu Mazen made a unity government with," Netanyahu said.

This statement gives away his real motivation. Netanyahu was furious that Hamas had formed a unity government and agreed in principle to the two-state solution, putting pressure on Israel to negotiate. Netanyahu had seethed when U.S. officials refused his demand not to recognize the unity government.

When Abbas announced the agreement, he had backed Israel into a corner, removing their excuse not to negotiate. Israel would no longer be able to claim that with multiple, divided parties negotiation was not possible. With this excuse gone, political engagement - Israel's worst nightmare - appeared inevitable.

Netanyahu explicitly stated his position that he would never permit a Palestinian state, implicitly endorsing a permanent illegal occupation.

"I think the Israeli people understand now what I always say: There cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan," Netanyahu said. This is consistent with his Likud party charter, which states: "The Jordan river will be the permanent eastern border of the State of Israel," and "The government will flatly reject Palestinian proposals to divide Jerusalem."

In the early 1980s, Israel encountered a similar terrifying threat when the PLO had formed a sub-national state inside Lebanon, and achieved recognition as the legitimate political representation of the Palestinian people. Israel had never recognized the PLO, dismissing them as a terrorist organization in the same way that it does now with Hamas. To counter this grave threat to Israel's repression of Palestinian political will, the government concocted a fake pretext to justify an invasion of Lebanon. During its aggressive assault in 1982, Israel killed more than 20,000 people.

“With the PLO removed from Beirut and the political cultural center of Palestinian nationalism demolished, there problem of increasingly visible PLO moderation - the ‘veritable catastrophe' that was causing such ‘panic’ - might well be on its way to solution," writes Noam Chomsky in Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians. "And there might even be some hope that the PLO would return to the tactics of hijacking planes, terrorist bombings, killing many Jews, and other actions more welcome to the government of Israel according to the rather plausible analysis of Yehoshua Porath, Danny Rubenstein, and others.”

The problem of Hamas and Fatah moderation likewise has presented itself today as Israel's greatest threat. Any excuse to shift the focus from political negotiations and reaching a permanent settlement are a welcome reprieve to Netanyahu's government, as they have been to Israeli governments for decades.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How Economic and Social Rights Were Disappeared from the United States

Several years ago the Occupy movement captured the imagination an American public disillusioned with the country’s socioeconomic system, which had failed to provide them with a standard of living commensurate with wealth of the richest country in the history of the world. Occupy provided a forum for average citizens to express their dissatisfaction with the status quo, and created a framework to view what was happening in society as a class war waged by the 1% against the 99%.

Many economic and social goals were proposed such as a living wage, free higher education, and single-payer healthcare system, to name a few. While many would consider those all worthy goals in the public interest, none have been implemented by the federal government.  It is striking that in the 21st century it is even necessary to have this debate in the United States. All of these things and more are birth rights for all U.S. citizens as much as free speech and the right to vote.

For the last 65 years, economic and social rights have been systematically denied to U.S. citizens, who have been led to believe these things are not even rights at all. While Occupy started to remove the wool from our eyes, it was quickly pulled back down.

Human rights are not abstract principles; they are specific privileges listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This monumental accord was adopted unanimously by the UN General Assembly by a vote of 48-0. It served as the basis for a series of international human rights treaties that followed it, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966).

The United States signed both Covenants more than a decade later under Jimmy Carter, but only ratified the first. The Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has never been ratified, and with good reason: powerful elite interest groups refuse to recognize that economic and social rights exist.

“Signing a treaty laden with economic rights is foolish,” writes the Heritage Foundation in a piece laughably titled “Human Rights Treaty Poses Dangers for America”. “It accepts as a premise that government can create wealth. If the 75-year communist experiment proved anything, it is that government gets in the way of producing goods and services. Abundant health care, housing, and food are byproducts of wealth created by private individuals pursuing a profit. Even the most hard-core former communists in Russia and China have come to understand this.”

The Heritage Foundation fails to recognize that the greatest economic gains in the history of the United States came at a time of state planning during and after WWI, or that there would be no Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon or Facebook without decades of government funding to develop the technologies and infrastructure for the Internet. But that is beside the point. The Heritage Foundation argument is simple: economic rights don’t exist. They are a violation of “the intellectual spirit of freedom and individual liberties that has characterized America since its founding.”

The Universal Declaration overtly asserts a series of economic rights, such as article 25: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

Other rights include “social security”; “the right to work”; “the right to rest and leisure”; “special care and assistance for motherhood and childhood”; and “the right to education,” which “shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages.” These economic rights are reiterated in The Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Human rights treaties are ignored and banished from public consciousness, lest they give people any crazy ideas about actually being entitled things that would require private wealth to be taxed and redistributed.

Neoliberal policies - privatizing government assets and services, liberalizing trade, deregulating industry, lowering taxes, and aggressively cutting social services - long ago became the only economic policies that any candidate of either major U.S. political party would ever conceivably support.

The completely disastrous and completely predictable consequences of neoliberalism like soaring inequality, outsourcing of labor, undercutting of locally produced products, and the exacerbation of fossil fuel extraction and burning have all occurred. Yet the public is indoctrinated with the idea that there does not even exist an alternative to the status quo. Countries that refuse to accept the Washington Consensus - Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia or Brazil, like the USSR, Yugoslavia, Vietnam and Angola before them – are viciously smeared as authoritarian tyrannies and serial violators of human rights. Their governments are subjected to relentless destabilization, subversion and economic sabotage.

The ability of global capital and its institutions to maintain this illusion of neoliberal inevitability is dependent on their appropriation of human rights. The perversion of human rights literally erases the existence of economic and social rights, creating a new definition that excludes them altogether.

The understanding of human rights in the United States has long been of “negative” rights, or rights that prevent the government from interfering with you. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, habeas corpus, are all examples of negative rights. However, human rights law is also explicit about positive rights. These are rights like education, health care, food and housing that require physical entitlements.

In his book Ideal Illusions: How the U.S. Government Co-opted Human Rights, James Peck explains that there are two “currents” of human rights.

“The first current largely embodies the popular American view, which emphasizes civil and political rights and embraces a moderate, democratic, step-by-step incorporation of human needs into a kind of rights-based legalism,” writes Peck. ““The second current has less to do with individual freedom and more to do with basic needs. It is associated with popular mass movements, revolution by populations in desperate straits, and resistance. From this perspective, the human rights movement emerged … out of the movements for independence that broke the grip of European colonialism.”

As examples of the second current of human rights, Peck lists “challenges to corporate power, state repression, foreign occupation, and global economic inequality, as well as the protection of collective means of struggle, from labor unions to revolution.” He states that this type of human rights is “far more prevalent outside the dominant Western spheres of power.”

In a 2009 report, Human Rights Watch explains that the U.S. has been left behind as they have long ignored human rights treaties and put vulnerable populations such as children, women and people with disabilities at risk.

“The US has not ratified any international human rights treaties since December 2002, when it ratified two optional protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” HRW writes. “Since that time, important new treaties have been adopted and other long-standing treaties have gained new member states. Unfortunately, the US has too often remained outside these efforts.”

Even when it does approve human rights treaties, the Senate adds qualifications that virtually eliminate their teeth.

“For example, when the Senate approved the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (in 1992) and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (in 1994), it did so only after securing reservations that stipulated that the treaties would have no legal force in U.S. courts absent further congressional or state action,” writes David Kaye in Foreign Affairs. “As a result, when it comes to a wide range of human rights issues covered by these treaties -- such as protections against torture, the right to a fair trial, freedom of expression, religious liberty, the right to political participation, and so on -- the United States lacks a formal mechanism to affect how other states and international courts interpret the evolving norms.”

The result has been a drastic deterioration in social justice within the United States. In a 2011 SGI study, the United States “with its alarming poverty levels” was ranked 27 out of 31 among OECD states. This study considered various factors such as poverty prevention, access to education, labor market inclusion, health and intergenerational justice.

U.S. social and economic policies are so extremist that government safety net programs are on the level with poor, undeveloped nations ravaged by centuries of colonialism rather than other nations with advanced, developed economies.

For example, the United States is one of three of the 34 members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that does not offer universal health insurance. It is the only OECD country with any significant privatized health insurance (53%).

The United States is the only country in the OECD that does not require employers to offer paid vacation time.

The Unites States is one of only four countries in the world not to offer paid parental leave. The other three countries are Papa New Guinea, Suriname and Liberia.

Historically it was understood that economic and social rights were necessary to ensure a democratic society. In 350 B.C., Aristotle wrote: “The true friend of the people should see that they be not too poor, for extreme poverty lowers the character of democracy; measures therefore should be taken which will give them lasting prosperity; and as this is equally the interest of all classes, the proceeds of the public revenues should be accumulated and distributed among its poor.”

Every single American is legally and morally entitled to a decent standard of living, affordable health care, economic security regardless of whether they work, and much more. It is only through neglect of human rights obligations and unrelenting propaganda that the government and elite interests have managed to hide this. The fact that a movement like Occupy is even necessary in the 21st century to seek rights that should have been guaranteed to every citizen decades ago is indicative of just how cruel U.S. policy makers and the programs they carry out are.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Six Jesuit Scholars and the American War on Self-Determination

Twenty five years ago this week, six Jesuit scholars at the Universidad Centroamericana (UCA) in El Salvador opened the doors of their residence to members of a government death squad, who had been armed and trained by the United States. The soldiers marched the priests to the back garden. They were ordered to lie face down. They were shot and killed like dogs along with their housekeeper and her teenage daughter.

Father Ignacio Ellacuría Bescoetxea, one of the six Jesuits executed that night, had been a vocal advocate for a negotiated political settlement to the war that had devastated the small Central American country over the course of the decade. On November 16, 1989, Ellacuría would become one of the more than 75,000 killed in the brutal violence carried out by the military dictatorship.

The ruling junta was the beneficiary of billions in military aid from the United States government, which they received for their efforts to suppress a populist rebellion by the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN).

Nine years earlier, Archbishop of San Salvador Oscar Romero had been gunned down at the altar by a death squad member while he was in the middle of celebrating Mass. Before his assassination, Romero had sent a letter to President Jimmy Carter pleading with him to stop sending military aid to the Salvadoran military junta. Romero made his case to Carter "because you are a Christian and because you have shown that you want to defend human rights."

At its peak during the 12-year civil war in El Salvador, U.S. aid to the military government averaged $1.5 million per day. Romero argued that by arming and training the military of El Salvador "the contribution of your government instead of promoting greater justice and peace in El Salvador will without a doubt sharpen the injustice and repression against the organizations of the people which repeatedly have been struggling to gain respect for their most fundamental human rights."

Romero's letter went unanswered. Two weeks later, Romero was dead at the hand of the same forces he had warned Carter of.

Romero was a proponent of Liberation Theology, a movement within the Catholic Church that encouraged the poor to seek freedom from oppression. This religious philosophy was a manifestation of the fight for social justice that was taking place across the world in societies where large majorities of local populations had been exploited by centuries of colonialism, slavery and white supremacy. These people sought to attain their basic human needs such as education and health care by achieving self-determination.

The right to self-determination is one of the most fundamental pillars of human rights. As stated in 
The United Nations Declaration on Granting Independence of Colonial Countries and Peoples: "All peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development."

The assassinations of the UCA scholars and Archbishop Romero were part of a decades-long U.S. military campaign to wipe out Liberation Theology and other forms of political agency throughout Latin America. This war was waged through terror and violence by client regimes in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Chile, Brazil, Uruguay and other states. Hundreds of thousands of peasants, clergy, labor leaders, students, scholars, and human rights activists were targeted and eliminated because they shared the belief that people should be able to freely participate in their government and their economy.

The training center in the fight against Latin American populist movements was the School of the Americas (SOAS). Originally located in Panama - where the murderers of the six Jesuit priests were trained - SOAS was later relocated to Fort Benning in Georgia. 
The "School of Assassins", renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, is still open today.

SOAS was developed to "provide instruction necessary to the nations in Latin America to thwart armed communist insurgencies." The military proudly declared on its Web site that Liberation Theology "was defeated with the assistance of the U.S. Army."

Through instructions codified in the SOA Manuals, Latin American trainees - many of whom later became members of death squads, irregular paramilitary forces, and leaders of military dictatorships - were taught to use "torture, extortion, blackmail and the targeting of civilian populations."  

"More than a thousand of these manuals were distributed for use in countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala, Ecuador and Peru, and the School of the Americas between 1987 and 1991," writes SOA Watch.  

Traditionally, armies in Latin America had been used exclusively for defense against foreign aggression. But during the Kennedy administration, the U.S. government encouraged states to redirect their use towards suppressing internal threats (i.e., political opposition) from "communists" and "subversives." 

After the CIA-sponsored coup against democratically-elected President Jacobo Arbenz in 1954, Guatemala was returned to military rule and lavished with billions in U.S. military aid. 

In 1982, President Ronald Reagan called Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt: "A man of great personal integrity ... totally dedicated to democracy" who was "getting a bum rap" for his war against peasant guerilla (mostly indigenous) groups. Decades later, Ríos Montt was convicted of genocide for ordering the deaths of 1,771 people during his time in power.

In her testimonial book I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala, the author recalls that after kidnapping her brother, government soldiers told a girl and her mother who followed after the soldiers: "'Do you want us to do the same to you, do you want us to rape you right here?' ... And he told the señora that if they didn't go away they'd be tortured just like he was going to be because he was a communist and a subversive, and subversives deserved to be punished and to die." [1]

Menchú's brother was later burned alive with other "subversives" in the town square in front of Menchú, her entire family, and the rest of the town. The prisoners were beaten to a bloody pulp, their nails ripped off and the soles of their feet cut off before being set on fire. She recalled the captain telling the town the torture and murder of the captured men and women was: "so that everyone could see for themselves what their punishment had been and realize that if we got mixed up in communism, in terrorism, we'd be punished the same way." [2]

In Nicaragua, the CIA recruited, trained and armed a terrorist army, the Contras, to fight against that country's freely elected Sandinista revolutionary government. The Contras were instructed by their American advisors to attack "soft targets." 

In 1984, Nicaragua sued the United States government in the 
World Court. The U.S. was found guilty of encouraging human rights violations, violating another country's sovereignty and mining its harbors. The U.S. refused to recognize the ICJ verdict and vetoed a U.N. resolution to enforce the decision. 

Millions of people were killed directly by U.S. forces or indirectly through proxy forces receiving U.S. aid from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in Asia to Angola, Mozambique, Zaire and Gineau Bissau in Africa to Iran in the Middle East. All across the globe, anywhere popular movements sought to determine their fate in a way that was inconsistent with U.S. political and economic goals, they were met with ruthless violence and terror.

As William Blum explains in his book Killing Hope, it was not just communism that U.S. policy makers were seeking to root out but any form of political organization incompatible with American influence and domination.

"The whole thing had been a con game. The Soviet Union and something called communism per se had not been the object of Washington's global attacks," Blum writes. "There had never been an International Communist Conspiracy. The enemy was, and remains, any government or movement, or even individual, that stands in the way of the expansion of the American Empire; by whatever name the US gives to the enemy-communist, rogue state, drug trafficker, terrorist." [3]

Given this context, should the American crusade against Liberation Theology, Marxism, nationalism and other expressions of self-determination be considered a form of genocide? The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide defines the term as "acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group."

Groups who share an ideology do not meet this definition. But is it any less of a crime to torture, maim, and murder millions of people because of their political beliefs? If not genocide, then there should be a new name for the crime of using violence to prevent self-determination.

In a week where the U.S. public remembered the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and celebrated Veterans Day, there will be no public acknowledgement of the murder of the six Jesuit priests. But we can honor their memories by recognizing them as victims not only of a civil conflict in El Salvador, but as victims of a larger campaign of persecution and violence as serious as any international crime of modern times.

Works Cited

[1] Menchú, R. (2010). I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala. Verso.

[2] Ibid

[3] Blum, W. (2008). Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions Since World War II - Updated Through 2003. Common Courage Press.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Israeli Cease Fire Violations and Media Propaganda

The Israeli conquest of Palestine has always been a difficult issue for Western mainstream media to cover. The difficulty lies not in the task of reporting the facts on the ground and transmitting an accurate depiction of them to the public, but in refraining from doing so.

The journalistic mission, to provide citizens with factual information that enables them to be informed participants in democratic decision making, conflicts with the corporate mission, to maximize profits and influence.

The role of U.S. mass media - and Western media in general - as a tool for disseminating propaganda was first argued by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky in their landmark 1988 book Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. Their analysis reveals a media propaganda system based not on "formal censorship" but rather "by reliance on market forces, internalized assumptions, and self-censorship, and without significant overt coercion."

Although it does not consciously and overtly do so, Western corporate media serve the critical function of protecting the financial and business interests of institutional power.

"A propaganda model suggests that the 'societal purpose' of the media is to inculcate and defend the economic, social and political agenda of privileged groups that dominate the domestic society and the state," the authors write. "The media serve this purpose in many ways: through selection of topics, distribution of concerns, framing of issues, filtering of information, emphasis and tone, and by keeping debate within the bounds of acceptable premises."

More than 25 years later, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the BBC keep churning out work that continues to validate Herman and Chomsky's argument in Manufacturing Consent. In no foreign policy story is this more apparent than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel would not be able to exist in its current form - an ethnic exclusivist state with discrimination inside the internationally recognized borders and apartheid in the occupied territories - without the financial and diplomatic support of the United States.

The U.S. gives Israel more than $3 billion every year, the highest amount of aid to any foreign country. The U.S. government also provides a diplomatic shield for Israel, allowing Tel Aviv to carry out its decades of criminal atrocities with complete impunity. In the United Nations, the U.S. has exercised its veto in the Security Council 43 times since 1972 on resolutions concerning Israel.

Equally as critical, the United States government provides Israel with the ideological support necessary to effectively sanitize the colonization of Palestine. This would never be possible without the mainstream media replicating Israel's distorted framing of the narrative, which is echoed by the U.S. government.

There are innumerable examples of corporate media propaganda on Palestine. For example, the portrayal of the brutal Israeli aggression of Lebanon in 1982 and the ensuing terrorism and slaughter by Israeli invaders that killed 20,000 people. The Western media docilely followed the ideological propaganda of the Israeli and U.S. governments to portray Israeli actions as a liberation, rather than the criminal aggression it clearly was.

"Lebanese Hail Israel's Actions as Liberation," proclaimed former Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg in the pages of the New York Times. This conflicts mildly with the view of the U.N. Secretary General, whose report to the Security Council several months earlier spurred Resolution 509, which affirmed "the strict respect for the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and political independence of Lebanon" and demanded Israel "withdraw all its military forces forthwith and unconditionally."

The propaganda narrative requires Palestinians always to be portrayed as the aggressors, and Israel as responding in self-defense. In the last decade, four military confrontations have taken place in Gaza - in 2006, 2008, 2012 and 2014 - in which Israel has invaded and carried out wholesale slaughter. Israel in each case has been the party who routinely and flagrantly violates the cease fires.

Israeli cease fire violations are simply ignored or reported as inconclusive accusations. When they are mentioned at all, it is as something Palestinians say but that journalists dare not corroborate with verifiable facts.

It is instructive to study the period leading up to and after the ridiculously named "Operation Protective Edge" and its portrayal in corporate media as a test of the Herman-Chomsky propaganda model.

The previous war in Gaza occurred in November 2012. As a study in the Jerusalem Fund indicates, rocket fire from Gaza in the period afterwards was virtually non-existent.

"In the immediate aftermath of the cease-fire agreement no projectiles were launched from Gaza into Israel," writes Yousef Munayyer. "Rather Israel continued to fire into Gaza, killing one Palestinian, injuring 42 others, committing four incursions and firing at or detaining 48 Palestinian fishermen off the coast. It was not until after most of these violations that the first projectile from Gaza post-ceasefire was launched on Dec. 24, 2012."

Human rights groups like Visualizing Palestine analyze the data and reach the same conclusion as the Jerusalem Fund. Their data shows conclusively that Israel commits vastly more cease fire violations than Palestinians. 

From November 2012 through July 7, 2014, Visualizing Palestine tallied 191 Israeli violations to 75 Palestinian violations. The Israeli violations were far more deadly. Israel was responsible for 18 fatalities and dozens of injuries, while Palestinians were responsible for 0 fatalities and 3 injuries.

After Israel assassinated 6 Hamas members in July, Hamas responded with rocket fire into Israel. U.S. officials unanimously proclaimed that Israel had a right to defend itself. The press uncritically repeated these assertions, despite no such self-defense justification existing in international law.

Israel went on to carry out the slaughter of 2,150 Palestinians, including 578 children. Civilians accounted for at least 70% of all Palestinian deaths. On August 26, 2014 after the conclusion of Protective Edge a new cease fire was reached that called for cessation of hostilities, opening all crossings to Gaza, and permitting fishing for a distance of six nautical miles, increasing up to 12 miles.

Since then, Israeli cease fire violations have been an almost daily occurrence. A few examples:
  • On September 9, the Isareli navy detained four Palestinian fishermen after gunboats intercepted their fishing boat. 
  • On September 18, the Israeli navy opened fire and injured a 70-year-old Palestinian fishermen on a beach. 
  • On September 25, Israel closed the Kerem Shalom border crossing for Jewish holidays. The closure lasted for three days, as critical shipments sat waiting unable to enter Gaza.
  • On October 7, the Israeli navy opened fire on fishermen inside the six-mile off the coast of Sudaniya.
  • On October 16, the Israeli navy sunk a Palestinian fishing boat off the coast of Deir al-Balah. A boat belonging to Jamal Abu Watfa. Watfa belongs to the family of the four boys who were killed by Israeli naval shells while playing soccer on a beach in front of dozens of foreign journalists during Protective Edge. 
  • On October 22, the Israeli navy detained seven Gaza fishermen from a single family off the coast of Gaza city.
In all, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights counted 18 shooting incidents against Palestinian fishermen during the month of September alone. They reported 11 arrest incidents, four confiscation of fishing boats or equipment, and four injuries. 

The PCHR also reported 13 attacks by Israeli occupation forces near the border fence, in the Israeli-imposed "buffer zone" adjoining the border with Israel. 

"Enforcing the 'buffer zone' through the use of live fire often results in, inter alia, the direct targeting of civilians and/or discriminate attacks, both of which constitute war crimes," writes PCHR. 

The violations in the buffer zone and in Gazan territorial waters added up to more than one cease fire violation per day. 

A search of the New York Times reveals only one story since Protective Edge on Israel's actions against Gazan fishermen, a one paragraph brief from September 9 with the headline "Gaza: Arrests Suggest Disagreement on Truce Details." The story concedes that Israeli military arrested four fishermen, but predictably focuses on the "disagreement."

A Ma'an article on the same incident provides important context absent from the Times story that helps readers evaluate the veracity of the competing claims: "Prior to the [Aug. 26] agreement, Israeli forces maintained a limit of three nautical miles on all Gaza fishermen, opening fire at fishermen who strayed further, despite earlier Israeli agreements which had settled on a 20-mile limit. The restrictions crippled Gaza's fishing industry and impoverished local fishermen."

The Ma'an article demonstrates that Israel has a history of provoking and harassing Gazan fishermen while failing to live up to their commitments to allow Palestinians to access their own territorial waters. This context is completely absent from the Times "he said, she said" piece.

In an article on November 2, Isabel Kershner writes in the New York Times that: "Israel said it had closed the crossing points into Gaza 'until further notice' after a rocket was fired into Israel on Friday."

The Times relays Israel's official position, without doing the same for Palestinians. But Kershner tries to make up for her selection bias by a disingenuous attempt at framing complaints of cease fire violations by colonizer and colonized as equally valid.

"Each side accused the other of having violated a cease-fire that ended in this summer's 50-day battle between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza."

The long list of attacks on Palestinians documented by PCHR are turned into a false equivalency. They carry no more weight in the Times' story than the accusations of Israel, which has been occupying Gaza and the West Bank while keeping its colonial subjects stateless for 47 years. 

The Times' silence, false equivalence, and failure to provide any historical context on Israeli actions in Palestine would serve as a perfect exhibit in an updated version of Manufacturing Consent, whose thesis holds as true today as when it was published two and a half decades ago.