Elizabeth-Murray

Kourosh Ziabari – Fars News Agency: Elizabeth Murray, a former US intelligence analyst, says the international community should do its utmost to make sure that the Israeli regime will end its deadly incursion into the Gaza Strip soon and stop the relentless killing of innocent Palestinians.

According to Elizabeth Murray, the subjugated people of the Gaza Strip are facing a serious humanitarian crisis as a result of the apartheid policies of Israel that has cut their access to food, medicine and other goods, but the world needs to break the wall of silence and take action to protect this oppressed nation living in an extremely densely-populated region.

“World governments, international charities, and medical and religious groups must use whatever leverage they have with Israel to ensure that the people of Gaza have access to clean water and other basic necessities of life to help them survive this latest crisis,” she said, “A refusal of Israel to allow aid groups to enter Gaza with food and medical supplies would constitute a war crime under international law.”

Elizabeth Murray believes that Israel is afraid of the formation of a unity government in Palestine and pulls out all the stops to ruin the coalition government consisted of the forces of Hamas and Fatah, and its lethal incursion into the Gaza Strip is one of its latest efforts to undermine the Palestinians’ solidarity.

Elizabeth Murray served as Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East in the National Intelligence Council before retiring after a 27-year career in the US government, where she specialized in Middle Eastern political and media analysis. She is a member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

The following is the text of FNA’s interview with Ms. Elizabeth Murray on the recent wave of attacks launched against the Gaza Strip by Israel.

Q: Why has Israel launched a new wave of attacks on the oppressed, subjugated people of the Gaza Strip, who are already facing a big humanitarian disaster as a result of an intensive, unjustifiable siege on their land that has existed for some 7 years and cut their access to foodstuff, medicine and other vital goods needed for their daily lives?

A: It’s hard to see what Israel can gain from this. If it is trying to break Hamas, that seems doubtful, since previous attacks, Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9 and Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, seem only to have strengthened it. Just as any people under attack would do, the Palestinians will rally around those seen as defending and protecting their families.

It’s hard for me to imagine a Hamas surrender; the Gazans are a tough and proud lot. Having suffered so much already, they would rather die like a tree — standing tall — rather than submit to continued siege and occupation. Much blood will be shed, sad to say.

Israel’s latest operation is also part of its strategy of “mowing the lawn.” This is a term coined by Israel’s military for periodically killing successive new generations of young Palestinians who grow up under Israel’s repressive occupation and dare to resist, whether violently or nonviolently. (please click here to see my article from November 2012 on this subject).

But Israel has also demonstrated that it has no problem killing large numbers of children, women, elderly, and infirm. Ayelet Shaked, a senior political official in the Habeyit HaYehudi (Jewish Home Party) declared on her Facebook page that “the entire Palestinian people is the enemy” and therefore the killing of Palestinian mothers who give birth to “little snakes” was justified, as was the killing of Palestinian “elderly and women, cities and villages, property and infrastructure.” The day after this incitement to hatred was posted, Palestinian youth Muhammad Abu-Khudair was kidnapped, forced to drink petrol, and then burned alive by six young Israeli Jewish extremists. Israel is experiencing a culture of hate, and Israel’s leadership is pouring fuel on the fire.

The latest Israeli operation also has much to do with Netanyahu’s desire to assert himself through “muscle-flexing” after a series of political setbacks that weakened his international standing. Some of these include:

- his inability to convince the United States and the EU to reject the nascent Fatah-Hamas unity government, a development which infuriated him; he has since been determined to drive a wedge between Fatah and Hamas and destroy the new unity government.

- his inability to derail the ongoing and promising diplomatic negotiations between Tehran and Washington on the uranium enrichment issue, which – if successful – could usher in a new era of peace, and long-term stability in the region;

- his inability to provoke the United States into attacking Syria, which nearly occurred after false reports about a chemical attack attributed to the Syrian government. Thanks to an arrangement brokered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Syria agreed on a plan to destroy its chemical weapons stockpiles, thus averting a major conflagration and scuttling Israel’s hopes for further destabilizing the region.

Q: As I’m talking to you, some 800 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli airstrikes against the Gaza Strip since July 8. In terms of international law, it can be firmly maintained that the killings constitute a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. The killings also can be categorized as war crimes and crimes against humanity. However, it seems that no international organization has the readiness and seriousness to prosecute Israel for this lawbreaking and criminal offense. Why is it so?

A: I wish I knew the answer! It does seems as if there is no international body that has the independence and the political will necessary to hold Israel accountable for its war crimes. I suspect that these international bodies like the UN are subject to pressure in much the same manner that the US Congress seems to be controlled by pro-Israel interests. No doubt there is much back-channel maneuvering and lobbying to ensure Israel’s interests are protected. If we assume that all communications are monitored these days, then there is the possibility of controlling individuals whose consciences might incline them to speak out against Israel; their careers, personal reputations, and even their personal safety may be on the line. The world needs a new international organization – fearless and completely independent of US and Israeli influence – that can hold all states accountable for violations of international law.

Q: How do the US mainstream media give coverage to the ongoing Israeli campaign against the people of Gaza? From what I read in the American newspapers, news websites and magazines, I can understand that they’re performing unfairly and lopsidedly through ignoring the noticeable civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip. What’s your take on that?

A: There is a saying that I am sure everyone is familiar with: “In war, truth is the first casualty.” Even in peacetime, US mainstream media reporting on anything related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains heavily weighted in favor of Israel’s national interests, and that means that Americans see only one side of a very complex picture. So the role of alternative media and social media, such as Instagram, Twitter, etc. is incredibly important in terms of obtaining on-the-ground, factual accounts of what’s happening in the latest conflict from “unfiltered” primary sources. Anyone with a computer can learn the truth!

Social media activists also serve as a check on the mainstream media by monitoring the mainstream news for mistakes and misrepresentations. For example, ABC TV personality Diane Sawyer was compelled to apologize last week after Twitter activists circulated a video of Sawyer as she misrepresented a photo showing Palestinians trying to recover belongings in the bombed-out remains of their home. She depicted it as “Israelis salvaging what they can.” after a supposed rocket attack by Hamas. Twitter activists were outraged when a CNN TV reporter said the Israeli death toll “is rising as bombs keep coming in from Gaza.” At the time (14 July) there were no Israeli deaths from Hamas rockets. The CNN reporter subsequently issued an apology.

Despite these efforts at media monitoring, it remains an uphill battle to humanize Palestinians. There are exceptions, of course – for example, the tragic story of the four young Palestinian boys killed on the beach in Gaza on Wednesday made the front page of the New York Times, although the Times changed the headline to obscure the fact that they were killed by Israeli gunboats, which fired once and then appeared to target them directly by firing again, killing four of the children.

Q: The Fatah-Hamas unity deal was received with alarm and dismay in Tel Aviv, and there are some commentators who maintain that Israel has launched the Operation Protective Edge with the aim of creating a rift between the two previously rival groups that have now joined to form a coalition to champion the cause of the Palestinian people. Do you agree with this idea?

A: Yes, I agree. I believe Netanyahu felt threatened by the unity deal. The idea of a united Palestinian front that acknowledged Hamas as a legitimate political entity – Hamas, which has always resisted the Israeli occupation – might weaken the tight control Israel enjoys over the political and economic life of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It might even compel Israel to negotiate some of the issues it has not been interested in resolving throughout the many decades of the peace process, such as the right of return, compensation for Palestinian lands taken in 1967, etc.

Of course, Netanyahu is not interested in negotiating with the Palestinians on an equitable basis – he actually stated openly last week that he will not entertain the idea of a sovereign Palestinian state, rendering the peace process a farce, and he wants to continue to control and subjugate every aspect of Palestinian life – to extend the illegal occupation indefinitely.

Netanyahu became enraged when the United States and the EU both announced they would recognize the new unity government. So, yes, he is trying to drive a wedge between the two parties, and he may well succeed, but it could also backfire, if Palestinians from Fatah and Hamas join forces in resisting Israel’s new ground war, which has already claimed hundreds of lives.

Q: Do you see any relationship between the rise of the Al-Qaeda offshoot ISIL in Iraq and the ongoing violence and bloodshed in the Gaza Strip? Is it true that Israel sees the international attention to the crisis in Iraq as an opportunity for silently carrying out its policy of destroying the Gaza Strip, eradicating the Hamas government and annihilating the civilian infrastructure in Gaza?

A: I think you’re correct in observing that international attention has been focused elsewhere since the start of Israel’s latest rampages in the occupied territories – focused on ISIL’s advance in Iraq, on the World Cup soccer finals, on the nuclear negotiations with Iran, and on the downed Malaysian airliner. I have no way of knowing whether this timing was deliberate or coincidental but I do remember Operation Cast Lead (2008-2009) took place during the Christmas and New Year holiday season, when most key foreign affairs officials in the US government would have been away on vacation or at home with their families.

Q: A humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Gaza these days. There are serious concerns regarding the water supply to the Muslim citizens of Gaza in these days of fasting in the holy month of Ramadan, and also with regard to sanitation and health conditions. Who is responsible for taking care of the people of Gaza living under such dire circumstances?

A: In 2013, Richard Falk, the former UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, stated that “Israel has the responsibility as the Occupying Power to protect the civilian population” of Gaza. He added: “The people of Gaza have endured the unendurable, and suffered what is insufferable, for six years. Israel’s collective punishment of the civilian population in Gaza must end today.”

As Dr. Falk points out, Gazans have suffered terribly under the Israel siege, and Israel hasn’t the slightest interest in the well-being of the Palestinian people. Now Israel’s all-out assault from air, land and sea has placed the lives of all Gazans in immediate danger. World governments, international charities, and medical and religious groups must use whatever leverage they have with Israel to ensure that the people of Gaza have access to clean water and other basic necessities of life to help them survive this latest crisis. A refusal of Israel to allow aid groups to enter Gaza with food and medical supplies would constitute a war crime under international law.

This interview was originally published on Fars News Agency.