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 The War in Context
   alternative perspectives on the "war on terrorism"

50,000 protesters march peacefully in Washington D.C.
David Ho, Associated Press, April 20, 2002

Tens of thousands of protesters joined forces on a warm spring Saturday to demonstrate peacefully against everything from U.S. policy in the Mideast to globalization and corporate greed.
[The complete article]

If you want a free vote, ask nicely
The American President has a singular view of democracy. After all, look what happened in Florida

Terry Jones, The Observer, April 21, 2002

Since its ground-breaking experiments in vote-counting in Florida two years ago, the United States has been universally recognised as the chief innovator in the field of democratic principles. Therefore, one of the factors that must surely confer legitimacy on any democracy would be approval by the United States.
[The complete article]

Wider Arab protest movement takes root
Palestinian woes inspire activism in unlikely places

Howard Schneider, Washington Post, April 20, 2002

As the violence burns in the West Bank, it is not only college protests in Egypt or sporadic gunfire at Israeli soldiers from such groups as Hezbollah that demonstrate popular rage. It is groups of Arab women organizing blood donations, or benefit choral concerts and poetry readings in Amman and Beirut. It is telethons for Palestinian relief that have drawn an estimated quarter-billion dollars in cash, gold, cars and other donations, largely from places such as Kuwait and Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which have close ties to the United States. It is not just Palestinian refugees up in arms in Lebanon and Jordan -- a standard sight -- or the canned and planned protests that the governments of Iraq and Syria stage when it suits them. It is Bahrainis in the usually placid Persian Gulf region attacking the U.S. Embassy, Kuwaitis whose 1991 liberation from Iraq no longer hinders them from burning the American flag and, perhaps most notably, the small knots of Saudi protesters given an unprecedented green light by their government to gather publicly.
[The complete article]

What you can do
Human Rights Watch

No matter where you live or who you are, you can take action to try and improve the human rights situation during the current violence in Israel, the Occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Palestinian Authority Territories.
[More information]

Apartheid in action: celebrating Israeli independence day in al-Isawiye
Neve Gordon, Yuri Pines, Catherine Rottenberg, Alternative Information Center, April 19th, 2002

At approximately 8:30 am, the Israeli police and military imposed a curfew on the village, located in north east Jerusalem just a few meters from Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus, and adjacent to Jerusalem’s French Hill. The 8000 Palestinians who live in al-Isawiye are Israeli residents; they pay Jerusalem municipality taxes - although they receive almost no services - and hold blue (Israeli) identity cards. Sick people who had left their homes earlier for checkups, children who were coming back from school, university students and others stood for hours waiting to enter the village. The police allowed these resident to enter, but in increments and according to the whim of the checkpoint guard. At around 4:00 in the afternoon the police stopped letting people in and imposed a total closure and curfew on the village. One couple returning from Sharei Tzedek hospital with their baby, who had been hospitalized for 3 days, were refused entry. They waited at the checkpoint until 2:00 am, when finally neighbors took them in. Ta’ayush members demanded that the family be allowed to return home, but were ignored. The alleged reason for the curfew was that a “terrorist was loose in al-Isaw.” However, most of the other Palestinian neighborhoods in east Jerusalem were also under curfew that night, suggesting that at least one of the reasons the authorities imposed the curfews was to make sure that Palestinians stayed home while Jews celebrated Independence Day.
[The complete article]

From the ruins of Jenin, the truth about an atrocity
Phil Reeves and Justin Huggler, The Independent, April 20, 2002

Israel has launched a huge publicity drive to counter the international community's anger over the events of the last fortnight. The prize – ultimately – is history itself. Israel's task has been made easier by Palestinian officials who rushed to declare a "massacre" – an allegation which has not been proved. Israel's host of government spokesmen and its media have seized on such claims to mount an argument tantamount to saying that, as there is no proof of a massacre, there is no case to answer at all. This is akin to a policeman being called out to investigate a murder, and – finding only a rape – ignoring the crime altogether. But enough is already known about what went on in Jenin to say Israel has committed an appalling atrocity.
[The complete article]

What kind of war is this?
Amira Hass, Ha'aretz, April 19, 2002

Umm Yasser rescued a year-old baby from the neighbors' house, which was shelled. The baby's father, Rizk, she related, crawled out with his two legs injured and his back burned by fire. He came out with his arm stretched forward, bleeding, she said. The house was surrounded by soldiers. A military doctor or paramedic came, cleaned the wounds, bandaged them, and soldiers took him to the area of the cemetery and left him there.
[The complete article]

Profound contempt
Amira Hass, Ha'aretz, April 15, 2002

Perhaps the lies being disseminated about the Palestinians during these days of war actually express the contempt of the Israeli authorities toward the Israeli public, and an implicit assumption that it will continue to swallow them. That it will always make do with intelligence analyses, and will avoid sociological, historical and political ones, and therefore will not ask why so many Palestinians want to blow themselves up and take others with them, and how hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are holding out in intolerable conditions of shelling and continuing curfew, without water, electricity and food?
[The complete article]

Israel: the generals’ grand design
Tanya Reinhart, Open Democracy, April 18, 2002

Tel Aviv University professor Tanya Reinhart writes, "In conventional political discourse, Israel’s recent attacks on Palestinian civilians, villages, and governmental institutions are described as “retaliatory acts”. They are justified as a “response” to the latest wave of terror attacks on Israeli civilians. In fact, these “retaliatory measures” are part of a systematic assault on the Palestinian Authority that was carefully prepared long before the current “war on terrorism.” As far back as October 2000, at the outset of the Palestinian uprising and before the terror attacks had started, military circles in Israel had prepared detailed operative plans to topple Arafat and the Palestinian Authority."
[The complete article]

Standing alone with our views on terrorism
Shibley Telhami, Los Angeles Times, April 19, 2002

The Bush administration has been waging the global war on terrorism as if terrorism is a movement, an ideology, a political coalition, with little differentiation from case to case. This has distorted our moral view of the world and enabled even Slobodan Milosevic to justify his horrific policies of death and ethnic cleansing. Terrorism is an instrument, not a movement. It is an immoral means employed by groups, some of which have just causes, some of which don't.
[The complete article]

Why Bush must send in his troops
Imposing a two-state solution is the last chance for Middle East peace

Michael Ignatieff, The Guardian, April 19, 2002

Two years ago, an American friend took me on a helicopter ride from Jerusalem to the Golan Heights over the Palestinian West Bank. He wanted to show me how vulnerable Israel was, how the Arabs only had to cross 11km of land to reach the sea and throw the Israelis into it. I got this message but I also came away with another one. When I looked down at the West Bank, at the settlements like Crusader forts occupying the high ground, at the Israeli security cordon along the Jordan river closing off the Palestinian lands from Jordan, I knew I was not looking down at a state or the beginnings of one, but at a Bantustan, one of those pseudo-states created in the dying years of apartheid to keep the African population under control. [...]
Now that its troops have pillaged the offices of the Palestinian Authority, confiscated hard-drives, emptied safes, destroyed records, Israel has destroyed the one entity that might be able to control the territory it cannot. Repressing a population bent on national independence destroyed the French Fourth Republic in Algeria, and it will kill Israel. Absorbing the entire Palestinian population into Israel as equal citizens would be an excellent idea, but it is neither what Palestinians want, nor is it compatible with the continued existence of Jewish majority rule in the Jewish state. Expelling the Palestinians across the river into Jordan, another extremist option, will only start a regional, and possibly nuclear, war. Building a wall to keep an enraged people out, the current strategy of desperation, will reduce but not stop terror attacks. [...]
The time for endless negotiation between the parties is past: it is time to say that all but those settlements right on the 1967 green line must go; that the right of return is incompatible with peace and security in the region and the right must be extinguished with a cash settlement; that the UN, with funding from Europe, will establish a transitional administration to help the Palestinian state back on its feet and then prepare the ground for new elections before exiting; and, most of all, the US must then commit its own troops, and those of willing allies, not to police a ceasefire, but to enforce the solution that provides security for both populations.

Imposing a peace of this amplitude on both parties, and committing the troops to back it up, would be the most dramatic exercise of presidential leadership since the Cuban missile crisis. Nothing less dramatic than this will prevent the Middle East from descending into an inferno.
[The complete article]

Start with Palestinian statehood
A European plan to end the occupation first is the best formula

Graham E. Fuller, Los Angeles Times, April 18 2002

What does it take to recognize failure? Secretary of State Colin Powell's trip has ended in complete collapse, as the administration remains mired in a "peace process" that is empty of content. We are back to a brutal and hopeless impasse. The reason for continuing failure? Let's reduce it to a bumper sticker: "It's the occupation, stupid." Until that issue is addressed, nothing else will fall into place.
[The complete article]

Israel accused of using 'human shields'
Sebastian Usher, BBC News, April 18, 2002

A leading human rights group has accused the Israeli army of routinely using Palestinian civilians as human shields. Human Rights Watch said the tactic could be considered a war crime.
[The complete article]

In a dark hour:
The use of civilians during IDF arrest operations

[The complete report from Human Rights Watch]

What Israel has done
Edward Said, Al-Ahram, April 18, 2002

No other state on earth could have done what Israel has done with as much approbation and support as the US has given it. None has been more intransigent and destructive, less out of touch with its own realities, than Israel.
[The complete article]

Where are the peaceniks?
Neve Gordon, The Nation, April 29, 2002

Do Not Employ Arabs, Enemies Should Not Be Offered a Livelihood and We Will Assist Those Who Do Not Provide Work For Arabs are just a few of the slogans covering billboards throughout Jerusalem. These placards refer to Palestinian citizens of Israel. One poster even provides a detailed list of taxi companies that employ Arab citizens and companies that don't. Jewish history, it seems, has been forgotten.
[The complete article]

Israel's reluctant reservists torn
'Brutal campaign' weighs heavily

Anna Badkhen, San Francisco Chronicle, April 18, 2002

For four days last week, Sgt. Abi ordered his squadron to fire anti- tank missiles at what his commanders said were terrorist bases in a refugee camp in the West Bank town of Jenin. Watching the rickety plaster and mud-brick houses of the Palestinian colony crumble under the rockets, Abi said he prayed that at least one of his missiles would miss its target. "This stupid war that we are waging, it's awful," he said. "Killing people, as many as possible -- there is no point in this." Abi, 24, is a reservist, called up a month ago to help wage war against what his government says is a "terrorist infrastructure" whose suicide bombs have killed dozens of Abi's countrymen. But while Abi fights the Palestinians, he is also waging a war with his conscience. "I can't begin to explain to you what we are going through right now. We are doing something totally against what we believe in," he said. "For you, it's a paradox. For us, it is killing us from inside."
[The complete article]

U.S. loses credibility with Arab leaders
Michael Tackett and Howard Witt, Chicago Tribune, April 18, 2002

President Bush aimed to put the best face on U.S. peacemaking efforts Wednesday, but the administration's failure to achieve even a cease-fire in the Middle East substantially complicates its broader aim of a global war against terrorism. Bush declared that Secretary of State Colin Powell had "made progress toward peace" in his meetings with Israelis and Palestinians. But others, including Arab leaders that the U.S. counts as allies, said it clearly wasn't so. What's more, the lack of results from Powell's mission and the erosion of the administration's credibility are generating more hostility in the region, particularly among those nations that the U.S. is counting on in the campaign against terror. Arab leaders were quick to suggest that the United States should not expect Arab support for action against Iraq or other targets in the anti-terror campaign if it is unwilling to use its broad influence to force an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian lands.
[The complete article]

Fresh evidence of Jenin atrocities
Phil Reeves, The Independent, April 18, 2002

Evidence of atrocities by Israeli troops in Jenin refugee camp grew yesterday when a British pathologist said he found "highly suspicious" wounds during the first autopsy on a victim.
[The complete article]

Iraq war: the coming disaster
Immanuel Wallerstein, Los Angeles Times, April 14, 2002

George W. Bush is a geopolitical incompetent. He has allowed a clique of hawks to induce him to take a position on invading Iraq from which he cannot extract himself, one which will have nothing but negative consequences for the United States--and the rest of the world. He will find himself badly hurt politically, perhaps fatally. And he will rapidly diminish the already declining power of the United States in the world. A war against Iraq will destroy many lives immediately, both Iraqi and American, because it seems clear that high-altitude, surgical-strike air attacks will not suffice in military terms. Invading Iraq will lead to a degree of turmoil in the Arab-Islamic world hitherto unimagined. Other Arab leaders don't like Saddam Hussein one bit, but their populations won't stand for what they will inevitably feel is an unprovoked attack on an Arab state, leaving leaders with little choice but to be swept along in the turmoil or drown. And an attack on Iraq might ultimately spark the use of nuclear weapons, which, if unleashed now, will be hard to again make illegitimate.
[The complete article]

Sharon's war breathes new life into Hizbullah
Brian Whitaker, The Guardian, April 16, 2002

Whatever the Israelis and Americans may think of Hizbullah, in the eyes of the Lebanese it is no more a terrorist organisation than the French Resistance was during the second world war. "Israel is the one that is committing terrorism," Abdullah Qasir, a Hizbullah member of parliament says. "Hizbullah was established in order to resist terrorism." The trouble, he adds, is that the Americans define terrorism as it suits them. Asked for Hizbullah's definition, he replies: "Any killing of innocents is to be classified as terrorism, whether in Hiroshima, New York, Palestine or Afghanistan." This argument strikes a chord everywhere in Lebanon, where memories of Israeli occupation - and the massacres at Sabra and Chatila in 1982 - are still fresh.
[The complete article]

Broadcasting the war
Max Rodenbeck, New York Times, April 17, 2002

In the heyday of Arab nationalism, in the 1960's, it was said that the sound of battle should drown all other voices — that there should be no dissent. Now that private satellite channels vie with state broadcasters and Arabic dailies published in London compete with local newspapers, there are multiple voices. Some, like Al Jazeera, rival and sometimes surpass Western models for the quality and timeliness of their reporting. It was Al Jazeera that broke the story of the April 7 ambush in Jenin in which Israel lost 14 men.

To an extent, it is the very modernity of today's Arab media that fuels passions. Television has a natural penchant for stripping events of their historical context, instead framing them as a sequence of climaxes under one dramatic heading, like "America's War on Terror." Yet it does not really require subtle manipulation to frame the ongoing tragedy as an epic struggle of the weak against the strong. The imagery saturating Arab screens, of tanks crushing ambulances and helicopters rocketing refugee camps, is, alas, all too real.
[The complete article - registration required]

A dream denied
Israeli offensive a turning point for progressive Jews

Laura Flanders, Tom Paine.com, April 16, 2002

Grief sank the shoulders of the progressive, activist Jews in the room. New Yorkers Say No is full of them. A public school teacher, a professor, a therapist, a civil rights attorney, a performer, a theater critic, a politician, a journalist. The Jews in the room are men and women who've dedicated their lives to fighting racism, segregation, the slighting of the poor, the eradication of culture. Their parents did likewise, in this country and elsewhere. "My father's dream of Israel is dead," said one who grew up in a Jewish family fighting apartheid in South Africa. "I believed there could be a democratic secular state," said another, who was born, as she put it, "A Palestinian. In Palestine, before the founding of Israel." "We are losing what I thought it was to be a Jew," said one and then another. The Jewish tradition dying before us, explained the second, was the tradition of socialism, internationalism and standing up for justice for oppressed people everywhere. In face of Ariel Sharon's assault on the human rights of all West Bank Palestinians and in defiance of global opinion, she said, "I fear it's over. It's dead."
[The complete article]

After 9-11, official terror kicks in
Victims of the dragnet

James Ridgeway, Village Voice, April 17, 2002

Syed Ali likes to tell the story of taking his family down to Washington to attend President George W. Bush's inauguration. He had contributed to Bush's presidential campaign. As a Pakistani immigrant who came to the U.S. more than 20 years ago, Ali is the model immigrant success story, working his way up to being a partner in a Manhattan security firm. A half-million-dollar home in the suburbs, three cars, kids in private schools, trips to France, Sweden, and Great Britain. He also contributed money to Al Gore, but he has a picture of Bush on his computer. He was waiting for his citizenship papers to come through. But September 11 brought an end to Ali's dream. He sat in a New York City courtroom listening to himself described as a likely terrorist.
[The complete article]

US 'gave the nod' to Venezuelan coup
Julian Borger and Alex Bellos, The Guardian, April 17, 2002

The Bush administration was under intense scrutiny yesterday for its role in last weekend's abortive coup in Venezuela, after admitting that US officials had held a series of meetings in recent months with Venezuelan military officers and opposition activists.
[The complete article]

Grieving survivors say the Israelis buried war crimes in heaps of reeking rubble
Phil Reeves, The Independent, April 17, 2002

A senior UN official said: "Given the deplorable and unprecedented refusal to allow international relief organisations in to the camps while people were slowly dying in the rubble of their wounds and thirst, the onus is definitely on the state of Israel to account for the missing thousands of refugees who lived in that camp until a few weeks ago. "I have not met one person in the international community who had any other explanation for this refusal other than the fact that they were hiding a war crime, in fact, two war crimes: the mass killing and the denial of humanitarian relief."
[The complete article]

Inside the camp of the dead
Janine di Giovanni, The Times, April 16, 2002

The refugees I had interviewed in recent days while trying to enter the camp [in Jenin] were not lying. If anything, they underestimated the carnage and the horror. Rarely, in more than a decade of war reporting from Bosnia, Chechnya, Sierra Leone, Kosovo, have I seen such deliberate destruction, such disrespect for human life.
[The complete article]

Sharon wears oppressor's cloak
Robert Scheer, Los Angeles Times, April 16, 2002

By blasting through West Bank towns, possibly burying children in their wake, the once-proud Israel Defense Forces is heading down toward the moral level of suicide bombers. Whatever is ultimately discovered about the carnage committed by Israel's forces, enough is known to implicate Sharon for a form of ethnic cleansing--purposefully destroying the Palestinians' ability to govern themselves. The systematic destruction of the signposts of nascent Palestinian statehood--statistics bureaus, education ministries, electricity and water supplies--is aimed at further uprooting a refugee population.
[The complete article]

Fear and learning in America
Robert Fisk, The Independent, April 17, 2002

As an outspoken critic of US policy in the Middle East, Fisk expected a hostile reception when he paid his first visit to the American Midwest since 11 September. He couldn't have been more mistaken.
[The complete article]

The roots of Palestinian despair
Gerd Nonneman, The Observer, April 14, 2002

It is precisely the experience of the last decade that has left Palestinians so disillusioned. The majority now agrees with what was a rejectionist minority 9 years ago: the "peace process" has brought no real prospect of Palestinian power in a Palestinian state worth the name. It is widely argued that the only change of any substance has been a doubling of Israel's settlement in the Territories, combined with further dispossession of Palestinian land.
[The complete article]

US hawk 'tried to sully Iraq arms inspector'
Pentagon No 2 ordered CIA to investigate record of UN agency chief

Julian Borger, The Guardian, April 16, 2002

Paul Wolfowitz, the US deputy defence secretary and a leading hawk in the Bush administration, commissioned a CIA investigation of the chief United Nations weapons inspector in an apparent attempt to undermine the importance of inspections and strengthen the case for military action against Iraq, it was reported yesterday.
[The complete article]

Related article - Skirmish on Iraq inspections

Chemical coup d'etat
The US wants to depose the diplomat who could take away its pretext for war with Iraq

George Monbiot, The Guardian, April 16, 2002

On Sunday, the US government will launch an international coup. It has been planned for a month. It will be executed quietly, and most of us won't know what is happening until it's too late. It is seeking to overthrow 60 years of multilateralism in favour of a global regime built on force. The coup begins with its attempt, in five days' time, to unseat the man in charge of ridding the world of chemical weapons.
[The complete article]

'They forced me to hate'
Residents of the Jenin refugee camp speak of the viciousness of the Israeli attack

Christian Miller, Los Angeles Times, April 15 2002

Nearly two weeks after the Israeli army launched the bloodiest battle in the West Bank since the 1967 Middle East War, there is growing testimony that its victory at the Jenin refugee camp was marred by human rights violations.
[The complete article]


September 11 and the declaration of a "war on terrorism," has forced Americans to look at the World in a new light. No one can afford any longer to define the limits of their concerns by refusing to look beyond this nation's borders. If the freedom that every American cherishes, is not to become a freedom bound within a fortress, then every American will need to understand and respect the needs and concerns of the rest of the World. To this end, The War in Context invites anyone with interest and an open mind to listen to the critical discourse in which the policies and actions of the Bush administration are now being questioned. This debate, which is engaging inquiring minds inside and outside America, will hopefully inform the development of a sustainable new world order - a world order in which America is as much shaped by the World as is the World shaped by America.