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Israel’s Gaza offensive ‘disqualifies the retaliatory alibi’
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U.S. journalist and author Belen Fernandez has said in an interview with the Tehran Times that Israel’s deadly offensive in the Gaza Strip from November 14 to November 21 was not a retaliatory action as certain Western media outlets claim, but a violation of the truce, which was brokered between Hamas and Tel Aviv by Egypt.
 
“It is literally impossible to categorize Israel’s assault as ‘retaliation’… The fact that there was an Egyptian-brokered truce in effect at the time of the start of the assault also effectively disqualifies the retaliatory alibi,” she said.
 
Belen Fernandez is a regular contributor to different magazines and news websites such as Al-Jazeera, Jacobin Magazine, Pulse Media, Al-Akhbar and Truth Out. 
 
Her bestselling book “The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work” was published in November 2011.
 
Following are the excerpts of the interview:
 
Q: Israel claimed that its recent offensive in Gaza was a retaliatory measure against Hamas. However, you wrote in one of your recent articles that this is a lie fabricated by the Israeli officials. Would you please elaborate on that?
 
A: As I write in the article, it is literally impossible to categorize Israel’s assault as “retaliation” given that November 10 obviously falls after November 4, when the IDF murdered a mentally unfit Palestinian man, as well as November 8, when the IDF murdered a teenager playing soccer. The fact that there was an Egyptian-brokered truce in effect at the time of the start of the assault also effectively disqualifies the retaliatory alibi.
 
In my article I additionally reference Max Ajl’s excellent analysis at Jacobin magazine, in which he debunks said alibi given the context of the Israeli occupation: “[T]he category of Israeli ‘retaliation’ does not exist. The occupation is constant terror, and it is what breeds the Palestinian violence Israeli leaders can adduce as a retroactive justification for the policies they pursue in purported pursuit of the chimera of ‘security’.”
 
Q: The international reaction to the recent Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip reminded us of the worldwide response to Israel’s 2008–2009 war on Gaza when the people across the world took to the streets to protest against Israeli atrocity, while the United States and its European allies only talked of their commitment to Israel’s right to self-defense. What’s your take on that?
 
A: As you’ll see in my answer to the following question, I don’t think support for Israel can be attributed solely to the machinations of the Israel lobby. The green light is an effect of alliances that have formed out of coinciding geopolitical and financial interests. The sale of the green light to the public in the U.S. and elsewhere meanwhile relies on the false narrative that has been institutionalized regarding Israel’s perennial defensive position in the Middle East.
 
Q: There’s a complicated question that has not been completely answered yet, and that is the question of Israeli lobby’s influence in the United States. Where does this power and influence come from? Why do the American politicians follow every order Tel Aviv gives to them?
 
A: While the Israel lobby undeniably wields an inordinate amount of power, I don’t subscribe to the notion that the U.S. takes orders from Tel Aviv to the detriment of its own national interests. Clearly there are overlapping geopolitical objectives with regard to the arms industry and others. To put it a different way, conflict is profitable, and Israel does a stellar job of fanning those flames.
 
Q: The majority of the mainstream media in the West is dominated by pro-Israel journalists who have strong neo-conservative attitudes and are always ready to prepare the minds for a new U.S. military expedition in one or the other corner of the world. What’s your analysis of the relationship between the Israeli lobby and the mainstream media in the West? 
 
A: Certainly the lobby strives to shape media coverage. Even the ludicrous Thomas Friedman, unabashed Israeli apologist and the subject of my book The Imperial Messenger, writes in “From Beirut to Jerusalem” about the “extraordinary lengths” Israel goes to “to project and protect its image” in the U.S. by disseminating pro-Israel material to media outlets and monitoring them for “hostile content”.
 
However, it’s not that the Israel lobby has brainwashed the media into propagating a certain editorial line; it’s that Zionism happens to be quite compatible with the neoconservative political impulses in the country.
 
Q: What’s your assessment of Palestine’s admission to the UN as a non-member observer state? Having in mind the fact that 138 UN members voted in favor of Palestine’s admission to the UN, it’s quite clear that Israel is angry about this Palestinian success. What’s your viewpoint on that?
 
A: This is not the first display of widespread international solidarity with Palestine. The problem is that solidarity rarely translates into breakthroughs on the ground.
 
What will probably happen in this case is that Israel will use the UN vote -- which doesn’t foretell any fundamental realignment of the regional power structure -- to justify further violent curtailment of Palestinian rights on the basis of the false allegation that the Palestinians are endeavoring to achieve a state in underhanded and illegitimate fashion rather than through negotiations and security guarantees for Israel.
 
As has been repeatedly documented, it is the Jewish state that refuses to enter into meaningful negotiations, portraying even Palestinian concessions as intransigence and thus buying time for continued expansionism.
 
That the vote also works in favor of Israel by rendering the eventual prospect of a just one-state solution even bleaker is meanwhile suggested by such things as a recent Jerusalem Post op-ed in which the author triumphantly proclaims that “the UN recognition negates claims of Israeli apartheid [and] disarms Palestinian threats of insisting on a one-state solution”:
 
“The truly historic aspect of the acknowledgement of PA statehood is that it contradicts the repeated tropes about Israeli oppression, occupation and apartheid. Statehood is a precondition of UN membership, not a result. There are no ‘peoples under occupation’ with GA ‘state’ status”.
 
Q: What do you think about the Western states’ silence about the violence in Bahrain which has claimed lives of tens of activists and revolutionaries and turned the country into a failed state? The U.S. media never talk about these developments in Bahrain and the year-long crisis there. Why?
 
A: Given Bahrain’s status as U.S. military base, it does not behoove the media to draw attention to the repressive nature of the regime or to allow a precedent encouraging rebellions against friendly regional monarchies.
 
Q: Can the United States successfully form and establish its favorite New Middle East which is marked by its massive military presence and dominance over the vast oil reserves of the Persian Gulf along with a militarily powerful Israel? Overall, what do you think about America's imperial plans for the Middle East?
 
A: On the military/oil front, the U.S. has clearly done pretty well for itself. However, it’s worth recalling that former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared Israel’s criminal attack on Lebanon in 2006 the “birth pangs of a new Middle East” -- a metaphor that promotes civilian bloodshed as an integral part of the imperial vision for the region.
 
It would seem that a situation in which U.S. corporations profit from human tragedy is not indefinitely sustainable, given that it necessarily engenders opposition to empire.

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