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John Pilger on the Dagan Plan and Gaza under fire

Every war Israel has waged since 1948 has had the same objective: expulsion of the native people. 

"When the truth is replaced by silence," the Soviet dissident Yevgeny Yevtushenko said, "the silence is a lie." It may appear that the silence on Gaza is broken. The small cocoons of murdered children, wrapped in green, together with boxes containing their dismembered parents, and the cries of grief and rage of everyone in that death camp by the sea can be witnessed on al-Jazeera and YouTube, even glimpsed on the BBC. But Russia's incorrigible poet was not referring to the ephemera we call news; he was asking why those who knew the why never spoke it, and so denied it. Among the Anglo-American intelligentsia, this is especially striking. It is they who hold the keys to the great storehouses of knowledge: the historiographies and archives that lead us to the why.

They know that the horror now raining on Gaza has little to do with Hamas or, absurdly, "Israel's right to exist". They know the opposite to be true: that Palestine's right to exist was cancelled 61 years ago and that the expulsion and, if necessary, extinction of the indigenous people was planned and executed by the founders of Israel. They know, for example, that the infamous "Plan D" of 1947-48 resulted in the murderous depopulation of 369 Palestinian towns and villages by the Haganah (Israeli army) and that massacre upon massacre of Palestinian civilians in such places as Deir Yassin, al-Dawayima, Eilaboun, Jish, Ramle and Lydda are referred to in official records as "ethnic cleansing". Arriving at a scene of this carnage, David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, was asked by a general, Yigal Allon: "What shall we do with the Arabs?" Ben-Gurion, reported the Israeli historian Benny Morris, "made a dismissive, energetic gesture with his hand and said, 'Expel them'".

The order to expel an entire population "without attention to age" was signed by Yitzhak Rabin, a future prime minister promoted by the world's most efficient propaganda as a peacemaker. The terrible irony of this was addressed only in passing, such as when the Mapam party co-leader Meir Ya'ari noted "how easily" Israel's leaders spoke of how it was "possible and permissible to take women, children and old men and to fill the road with them because such is the imperative of strategy. And this we say . . . who remember who used this means against our people during the [Second World] War . . . I am appalled."

Every subsequent "war" Israel has waged has had the same objective: the expulsion of the native people and the theft of more and more land. The lie of David and Goliath, of perennial victim, reached its apogee in 1967 when the propaganda became a righteous fury that claimed the Arab states had struck first against Israel. Since then, mostly Jewish truth-tellers such as Avi Shlaim, Noam Chomsky, Tanya Reinhart, Neve Gordon, Tom Segev, Uri Avnery, Ilan Pappé and Norman Finkelstein have undermined this and other myths and revealed a state shorn of the humane traditions of Judaism, whose unrelenting militarism is the sum of an expansionist, lawless and racist ideology called Zionism. "It seems," wrote the Israeli historian Pappé on 2 January, "that even the most horrendous crimes, such as the genocide in Gaza, are treated as discrete events, unconnected to anything that happened in the past and not associated with any ideology or system . . . Very much as the apartheid ideology explained the oppressive policies of the South African government, this ideology - in its most consensual and simplistic variety - allowed all the Israeli governments in the past and the present to dehumanise the Palestinians wherever they are and strive to destroy them. The means altered from period to period, from location to location, as did the narrative covering up these atrocities. But there is a clear pattern [of genocide]."

In Gaza, the enforced starvation and denial of humanitarian aid, the piracy of life-giving resources such as fuel and water, the denial of medicines, the systematic destruction of infrastructure and killing and maiming of the civilian population, 50 per cent of whom are children, fall within the international standard of the Genocide Convention. "Is it an irresponsible overstatement," asked Richard Falk, UN special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories and international law authority at Princeton University, "to associate the treatment of Palestinians with this criminalised Nazi record of collective atrocity? I think not."

In describing a “holocaust-in-the making”, Falk was alluding to the Nazis’ establishment of Jewish ghettos in Poland. For one month in 1943, the captive Polish Jews, led by Mordechaj Anielewicz, fought off the German army and the SS, but their resistance was finally crushed and the Nazis exacted their final revenge. Falk is also a Jew. Today’s holocaust-in-the-making, which began with Ben-Gurion’s Plan D, is in its final stages. The difference today is that it is a joint US-Israeli project. The F-16 jet fighters, the 250lb “smart” GBU-39 bombs supplied on the eve of the attack on Gaza, having been approved by a Congress dominated by the Democratic Party, plus the annual $2.4bn in warmaking “aid”, give Washington de facto control. It beggars belief that President-elect Obama was not informed. Outspoken about Russia’s war in Georgia and the terrorism in Mumbai, Obama has maintained a silence on Palestine that marks his approval, which is to be expected, given his obsequiousness to the Tel Aviv regime and its lobbyists during the presidential campaign and his appointment of Zionists as his secretary of state and principal Middle East advisers. When Aretha Franklin sings “Think”, her wonderful 1960s anthem to freedom, at Obama’s inauguration on 20 January, I trust someone with the brave heart of Muntader al-Zaidi, the shoe-thrower, will shout: “Gaza!”

The asymmetry of conquest and terror is clear. Plan D is now "Operation Cast Lead", which is the unfinished "Operation Justified Vengeance". This was launched by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2001 when, with George W Bush's approval, he used F-16s against Palestinian towns and villages for the first time.

 

Why are the academics and teachers silent? Are British universities now no more than “intellectual Tescos”?

 

In that same year, the authoritative Jane's Foreign Report disclosed that the Blair government had given Israel the "green light" to attack the West Bank after it was shown Israel's secret designs for a bloodbath. It was typical of new Labour's enduring complicity in Palestine's agony. However, the Israeli plan, reported Jane's, needed the "trigger" of a suicide bombing which would cause "numerous deaths and injuries [because] the 'revenge' factor is crucial". This would "motivate Israeli soldiers to demolish the Palestinians". What alarmed Sharon and the author of the plan, General Shaul Mofaz, then Israeli chief of staff, was a secret agreement between Yasser Arafat and Hamas to ban suicide attacks. On 23 November 2001 Israeli agents assassinated the Hamas leader Mahmoud Abu Hanoud and got their "trigger": the suicide attacks resumed in response to his killing.

Something uncannily similar happened on 4 November last year when Israeli special forces attacked Gaza, killing six people. Once again, they got their propaganda "trigger": a ceasefire sustained by the Hamas government - which had imprisoned its violators - was shattered as a result of the Israeli attacks, and home-made rockets were fired into what used to be called Palestine before its Arab occupants were "cleansed". On 23 December, Hamas offered to renew the ceasefire, but Israel's charade was such that its all-out assault on Gaza had been planned six months earlier, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.

Behind this sordid game is the "Dagan Plan", named after General Meir Dagan, who served with Sharon during his bloody invasion of Leba non in 1982. Now head of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence organisation, Dagan is the author of a "solution" that has brought about the imprisonment of Palestinians behind a ghetto wall snaking across the West Bank and in Gaza, now effectively a concentration camp. The establishment of a quisling government in Ramallah, under Mahmoud Abbas, is Dagan's achievement, together with a hasbara (propaganda) campaign, relayed through mostly supine, if intimidated western media, notably in the US, which say Hamas is a terrorist organisation devoted to Israel's destruction and is to "blame" for the massacres and siege of its own people over two generations, since long before its creation. "We have never had it so good," said the Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Gideon Meir in 2006. "The hasbara effort is a well-oiled machine."

In fact, Hamas's real threat is its example as the Arab world's only democratically elected government, drawing its popularity from its resistance to the Palestinians' oppressor and tormentor. This was demonstrated when Hamas foiled a CIA coup in 2007, an event ordained in the western media as "Hamas's seizure of power". Likewise, Hamas is never described as a government, let alone democratic. Neither is its proposal of a ten-year truce reported as a historic recognition of the "reality" of Israel and support for a two-state solution with just one condition: that the Israelis obey international law and end their illegal occupation beyond the 1967 borders. As every annual vote in the UN General Assembly demonstrates, most states agree. On 4 January, the president of the General Assembly, Miguel d'Escoto, described the Israeli attack on Gaza as a "monstrosity".

When the monstrosity is done and the people of Gaza are even more stricken, the Dagan Plan foresees what Sharon called a "1948-style solution" - the destruction of all Palestinian leadership and authority, followed by mass expulsions into smaller and smaller "cantonments", and perhaps, finally, into Jordan. This demolition of institutional and educational life in Gaza is designed to produce, wrote Karma Nabulsi, a Palestinian exile in Britain, "a Hobbesian vision of an anarchic society: truncated, violent, powerless, destroyed, cowed . . . Look to the Iraq of today: that is what [Sharon] had in store for us, and he has nearly achieved it."

Dr Dahlia Wasfi is an American writer on Iraq and Palestine. She has a Jewish mother and an Iraqi Muslim father. "Holocaust denial is anti-Semitic," she wrote on 31 December. "But I'm not talking about the World War II, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [the president of Iran] or Ashkenazi Jews. What I'm referring to is the holocaust we are all witnessing and responsible for in Gaza today and in Palestine over the past 60 years . . . Since Arabs are Semites, US-Israeli policy doesn't get more anti-Semitic than this." She quoted Rachel Corrie, the young American who went to Palestine to defend Palestinians and was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer. "I am in the midst of a genocide," wrote Corrie, "which I am also indirectly supporting, and for which my government is largely responsible."

Reading the words of both, I am struck by the use of "responsibility". Breaking the lie of silence is not an esoteric abstraction, but an urgent responsibility that falls to those with the privilege of a platform. With the BBC cowed, so too is much of journalism, merely allowing vigorous debate within unmovable, invisible boundaries, ever fearful of the smear of anti-Semitism. The unreported news, meanwhile, is that the death toll in Gaza is the equivalent of 18,000 dead in Britain. Imagine, if you can.

Then there are the academics, the deans and teachers and researchers. Why are they silent as they watch a university bombed and hear the Association of University Teachers in Gaza plead for help? Are British universities now, as Terry Eagleton believes, no more than “intellectual Tescos, churning out a commodity known as graduates rather than greengroceries”?

Then there are the writers. In the dark year of 1939, the Third American Writers' Congress was held at Carnegie Hall in New York and the likes of Thomas Mann and Albert Einstein sent messages and spoke up to ensure that the lie of silence was broken. By one account, 2,500 jammed the auditorium. Today, this mighty voice of realism and morality is said to be obsolete; the literary review pages affect an ironic hauteur of irrelevance; false symbolism is all. As for the readers, their moral and political imagination is to be pacified, not primed. The anti-Muslim Martin Amis expressed this well in Visiting Mrs Nabo kov: "The dominance of the self is not a flaw, it is an evolutionary characteristic; it is just how things are."

If that is how things are, we are diminished as a civilised people. For what happens in Gaza is the defining moment of our time, which either grants war criminals impunity and immunity through our silence, while we contort our own intellect and morality, or it gives us the power to speak out. For the moment I prefer my own memory of Gaza: of the people's courage and resistance and their "luminous humanity", as Karma Nabulsi put it. On my last trip there, I was rewarded with a spectacle of Palestinian flags fluttering in unlikely places. It was dusk and children had done this. No one had told them to do it. They made flagpoles out of sticks tied together, and a few of them climbed on to a wall and held the flag between them, some silently, others crying out. They do this every day when they know foreigners are leaving, in the belief that the world will not forget them.

John Pilger, renowned investigative journalist and documentary film-maker, is one of only two to have twice won British journalism's top award; his documentaries have won academy awards in both the UK and the US. In a New Statesman survey of the 50 heroes of our time, Pilger came fourth behind Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela. "John Pilger," wrote Harold Pinter, "unearths, with steely attention facts, the filthy truth. I salute him."

This article first appeared in the 12 January 2009 issue of the New Statesman, The destruction of Gaza

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What will happen to women’s rights now that Donald Trump is President?

Donald Trump has surrounded himself with men who are anti-abortion and promised to defund Planned Parenthood. The global gag rule is just the beginning.

On the website of Planned Parenthood, the American organisation which is the world’s biggest provider of reproductive healthcare services, there is a page of women’s stories. Shawanna, now a mother of one and healthcare worker, had an abortion aged 17. Her mother had died of ovarian cancer, and she was raising her little sister when she found out she was pregnant. “It was a difficult decision,” Shawanna says. “But I already was a parent to my sister, and I couldn’t financially or emotionally provide for another child. I also wanted to finish high school.”

Another woman, Rebekah, was working two jobs in community college and unable to afford health insurance when she saw a flyer for Planned Parenthood: “Because I was able to get preventative care, including birth control, I was able to fulfil my life goals: to graduate college and become a mother.”

Now activists are worried that services like those offered by Planned Parenthood – which, aside from contraception and abortion, also provides things like cervical smear tests and STD screening – are at risk.

One of Donald Trump’s first acts on becoming president was to reinstate the “global gag rule”: a law that defunds non-government organisations if they so much as mention abortion as an option to pregnant women. This rule, formally called the Mexico City Policy, is something of a political football: it was revoked when Bill Clinton came into office, enforced under George Bush and revoked by Barack Obama before being signed again by Trump.

So why are activists so worried? Firstly, because Trump has decided on a stronger iteration of the global gag rule that not only demands NGOs disclaim their involvement with any abortion services if they want to receive funding for reproductive health, as it did previously, but requires them to do so to receive health funding at all. Suzanne Ehlers, who runs the reproductive health organisation PAI, calls this the gag rule “on steroids".

Under Trump, the rule will impact an estimated $9.5bn in foreign aid funding, as opposed to $600m, and will mean organisations “working on AIDS, malaria, or maternal and child health will have to make sure that none of their programs involves so much as an abortion referral”. (Unsafe abortions, incidentally, are one of the leading causes of maternal mortality worldwide, with the World Health Organisation estimating that a woman dies of an unsafe abortion every eight seconds.)

If the president is willing to defund AIDS outreach services on the basis that the NGOs who administer them might mention abortion, activists reason, it seems unlikely that Trump will soften his campaign-trail rhetoric in relation to women’s reproductive health. And that rhetoric is scary: at one point, the president insisted he would seek punishment for women who access abortion illegally, akin to the current legal situation on the island of Ireland – though he later rowed back on this comment, saying that the doctor would be prosecuted instead as the “woman is a victim in this case”.

Trump has also said that he will defund Planned Parenthood, even though he acknowledges that only a small proportion of their services relate to abortion. To quote the president himself:

I'm totally against abortion, having to do with Planned Parenthood. But millions and millions of women  cervical cancer, breast cancer  are helped by Planned Parenthood. So you can say whatever you want, but they have millions of women going through Planned Parenthood that are helped greatly. And I wouldn't fund it. I would defund it because of the abortion factor, which they say is 3 per cent. I don't know what percentage it is. They say it's 3 per cent. But I would defund it, because I'm pro-life. But millions of women are helped by Planned Parenthood.

Will he go through with it? One thing we know for sure is that he has already surrounded himself with men who are hardline on both abortion and contraception access. Mike Pence, the vice-president, signed legislation as governor of Indiana which would have banned abortion even in cases of “genetic abnormality” and held doctors “legally liable if they had knowingly performed such procedures”. (The law, which also required that fetal tissue from terminations be buried or cremated, was blocked by a Supreme Court judge before it came into effect.)

His cuts to Planned Parenthood in Indiana led to the closure of an HIV clinic, which was followed by an HIV outbreak. During the presidential campaign, he vowed to consign Roe v Wade (the ruling that allows American women to have abortions“to the ash heap of history where it belongs”. It was also during Pence’s term as governor that Indiana resident Purvi Patel was sentenced to 20 years in jail for “feticide” after allegedly terminating her own pregnancy, a conviction overturned after she had served 18 months. Tom Price, who Trump has chosen to lead the Department of Health, supports a nationwide ban on abortion after 20 weeks (most states currently opt for a 24-26 week limit; the limit in Britain is 24 weeks in most circumstances).

Appointments still to come could prove even more dangerous for women’s rights. As Rebecca Traister points out in New York Magazine, Trump has promised to nominate “pro-life justices” to the Supreme Court. “With one Supreme Court seat maddeningly open and three sitting justices over the age of 78,” Traister writes, “this . . . promise could have a long-lasting impact: It would take only two appointments to get to a Court that would likely overturn Roe v Wade.”

It is not clear whether these men believe women are so simple that they’ll simply stop seeking abortions if they’re not easy to get, or whether they believe that making abortions difficult, costly and potentially unsafe is an apt punishment for women who have sex for any purpose other than procreation.

It is not unreasonable to suspect the latter. We know, after all, what brings down the abortion rate – sex education and easy access to contraception, particularly long-term options such as IUDs. In areas where Planned Parenthood clinics have been shut down, the rate of STDs and unplanned pregnancies has risen. But give these people an inch, and they’ll take away your birth control: the American Care Act, popularly known as “Obamacare” (now also in the Trump-Pence crosshairs), currently provides roughly $1.4bn of mandatory contraceptive funding to American women each year.

We know, too, that making abortions illegal does not stop women seeking abortions, but leads only to more women dying as a result of them – and that women who are already mothers have more abortions than any other group, often citing the wellbeing of existing children as a motivation. Presented with this fact, the rhetoric from the American right concerning the sanctity of motherhood quickly reveals itself to be empty: grounded in a loathing of, not reverence for, women. The crisis in women’s health that activists can already see on the horizon is as intentional as it is dangerous.

Women, however, are not taking the president’s anti-choice sentiments lying down. The Centre for Reproductive Rights, which describes itself as a non-profit legal advocacy organisation that defends the reproductive rights of women worldwide, has already filed lawsuits challenging restrictions in Alaska, Missouri and North Carolina, with more challenges – based on a recent Supreme Court decision regarding abortion access in Texas, Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedtlikely during the president’s term.

Following the Women’s March on DC, further actions are also scheduled explicitly in support of Planned Parenthood, and local fundraisers have been organised across the country. One Chicago brewer even released a special beer, called Trumpty Dumpty, to raise funds.

Reading the testimonies on the Planned Parenthood website, one thing comes up again and again: action. From Shireen, who became a peer sex educator at school, to Carly, who organised an abortion speak-out at her college, each woman has something to say about helping other women – whether it be distributing condoms or becoming a healthcare provider themselves.

Add to that the estimated three times as many people that crowd scientists believe turned out for the Women’s March as compared to Trump’s inauguration – nobody tell Sean Spicer – and one begins to suspect that the resistance to the new president’s draconian reproductive policies will be, as he might put it, “yuge”. It’s time to worry. But it’s not yet time to give up hope.

You can donate to Planned Parenthood here.

Women in Northern Ireland can be punished for accessing an illegal abortion – just as Trump originally proposed. Donate to the Abortion Support Network, which helps women from the island of Ireland access safe abortions, here.

Stephanie Boland is digital assistant at the New Statesman. She tweets at @stephanieboland