August article 2014

Reflections – August 2014

Friends: See my last post for the end of my legal battles on Iraq.

Below is a lengthy exchange of emails between the Israeli Consul General, San Francisco, and me. The fonts, formats, and colors are as in the emails; I’ve removed email addresses. I hope you find them interesting. My added comments are between {} marks. For limited reading, go to the first and last emails.

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From: Bert Sacks
Date: Sun, Jul 27, 2014 at 11:45 PM
Subject: Fwd: the siege of Gaza
To: Andy David

Consulate General of Israel, San Francisco

Dear Andy David,

I am the fellow who asked you a question about the siege of Gaza today at Temple Beth Shalom. I thank you for discussing this with me. Here is some of the information I have. I’m glad to hear what you know.

I’ll focus on one issue, Israel’s restriction of food into Gaza as a means of coercion to weaken or overthrow Hamas.  Here is the first piece of information that came my way.  (I read later that Dov Weissglas claimed he didn’t say what’s in the article or that it was simply a joke.)  From Ha’aretz, Feb. 19, 2006.

http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/as-the-hamas-team-laughs-1.180500

Next is an article by Richard Falk from the midst of Operation Cast Lead.  He writes, “During the ceasefire the Hamas leadership in Gaza repeatedly offered to extend the truce, even proposing a ten-year period and claimed a receptivity to a political solution based on acceptance of Israel’s 1967 borders. Israel ignored these diplomatic initiatives, and failed to carry out its side of the ceasefire agreement that involved some easing of the blockade that had been restricting the entry to Gaza of food, medicine, and fuel to a trickle.”  From the Huffington Post, Jan. 2, 2009.  My emphasis.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-falk/understanding-the-gaza-ca_b_154777.html

And below is a document from the IDF.  It documents the shipments of medicine, food, and misc. allowed by Israel into Gaza.  You can see that during what is called “Period of Lull “– otherwise known as the ceasefire — Israel failed to ease its blockade.  During Cast Lead itself, 577 shiploads of food were allowed even while the fighting was going on.  During the ceasefire, only 92 shiploads were allowed, or 16% of what was the amount of normal shipments.

tinyurl.com/IDFonFoodToGaza

Finally, here is an article which describes the Israeli Ministry of Defense calculation of the minimum calories needed to prevent starvation.  It was claimed to be used to determine which foods — and how much — would be allowed into Gaza.  Israel could easily put an end to the claims it was using food as a weapon by declaring that any amount of any foods would be allowed.  As far as I’m aware, Israel has never declared this.  Why not?  From the New York Times, Oct. 17, 2012.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/18/world/middleeast/israel-counted-calories-needed-for-gazans-in-blockade.html?_r=0

I trust that you will respond to the content of these articles and not make ad hominem charges that Gideon Levy, Richard Folk, Gisha, and I are all self-hating Jews or haters of Israel.  I actually am writing what I’ve said many times — including to my U.S. Congressman — that the policy of a siege on Gaza — plus maintaining occupation and continued building of settlements — is a long-term danger to Israel’s future.  It is out of that concern — and concern for the Palestinian people as well — that I write you.

I genuinely invite your reply.

Sincerely,

Bert Sacks

{The article in Ha’aretz and the IDF plot are especially important about Gaza.}

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P.S. Here’s a statement from President Obama which applies as much today as then:

(From a commentary byBy David Bromwich,Professor of Literature at Yale, in theHuffington Post online, datedMay 19, 2009)

Finally, Gaza was much in President Obama’s mind and on
his conscience at this meeting; so much so that he
broke decorum and stepped out of his way to mention it:

The fact is, is that if the people of Gaza have no
hope, if they can’t even get clean water at this
point, if the border closures are so tight that it
is impossible for reconstruction and humanitarian
efforts to take place, then that is not going to be
a recipe for Israel’s long-term security or a
constructive peace track to move forward.

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Attached is a paper I found very interesting by a panel of Israelis.  I include it because it discusses the “Dahiye Doctrine” (okayed by the Ministry of Defense) which says a lot.

enclosure: IsraelisAgainstTortureReport_no_second_thoughts_ENG_WEB_Nov09.pdf

available at: http://tinyurl.com/IDFnewDoctrines

{It’s sufficient but important to read the last page Summary of the IDFnewDoctrines.}

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From: Bert Sacks
Date: Sun, Aug 3, 2014 at 7:04 PM
Subject: Re: the siege of Gaza
To: Andy David

Consulate General of Israel, San Francisco

Dear Andy David,

One week ago I sent you the email, below.  I regret that I have not heard anything back from you (or your office) in response.  I can appreciate that you must be quite busy these days.  But a simple answer to the question I asked (even without any supporting evidence) would be useful.

To remind you, that question was: “Israel could easily put an end to the claims it was using food as a weapon by declaring that any amount of any foods would be allowed.  As far as I’m aware, Israel has never declared this.  Why not?”

If I do not receive a response to my email and question, I will have to conclude that Israel has used food as a weapon against the people of Gaza — and likely continues to do so.

I will say again, I genuinely invite a reply on this issue.

Sincerely,

Bert Sacks

{The Consul General never replied to my question above in bold font.}

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From: Press – Consulate General of Israel – San Francisco
Date: Tue, Aug 5, 2014 at 2:26 PM
Subject: Re: ‘The Siege of Gaza’

Dear Mr. Sacks,

Thank you for your e-mail. Firstly, let me address the accusations regarding Israel’s policy on Gaza since Hamas’ violent takeover in June 2007.

Any discussion of Israel’s policy on Gaza must acknowledge the context of continuous warfare waged against Israel by Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza, despite Israel’s total withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005. I refer to the UN’s Palmer Report:  ‘Israel has faced and continues to face a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza. Rockets, missiles and mortar bombs have been launched from Gaza towards Israel since 2001. More than 5,000 were fired between 2005 and January 2009, when the naval blockade was imposed…a blockade in those circumstances is a legitimate exercise of the right of self-defence.’  Failing to acknowledge this is a unfortunate practice of “ not connecting the dots”.

The blockade is not, as you claim ‘a long-term danger to Israel’s future’, but, on the contrary, helps to bolster Israel’s security while Hamas is committed to the destruction of Israel rather than capitalizing on the golden opportunity to build a prosperous and peaceful Palestinian society in Gaza from 2005.

Contrary to Richard Falk’s bogus claims, Israel repeatedly dispatched letters to the Secretary General of the United Nations and the President of the Security Council drawing attention to the rocket attacks of Hamas which were gross violations of the truce reached in June 2008. Israel exercised great restraint in refraining from military action in response to the incessant rocket attacks, and launched Operation Cast Lead only once it was clear that neither Israel’s diplomatic overtures, nor its pleas to the international community, nor even sanctions imposed by numerous countries, were able to stop the indiscriminate rocket attacks.

On the subject of humanitarian considerations pertaining to the blockade, the UN said ‘it would be illegal if its imposition was intended to starve or to collectively punish the civilian population. However, there is no material before the Panel that would permit a finding confirming the allegations that Israel had either of those intentions or that the naval blockade was imposed in retaliation for the take-over of Hamas in Gaza or otherwise. On the contrary, it is evident that Israel had a military objective. The stated primary objective of the naval blockade was for security. It was to prevent weapons, ammunition, military supplies and people from entering Gaza and to stop Hamas operatives sailing away from Gaza with vessels filled with explosives’.

Since May 2010, Israel has implemented significant measures to ease restrictions on goods entering Gaza, but it is clear that Hamas has misappropriated materials intended for civic development and used them to enhance its terror infrastructure. With the amount of cement Hamas used to build its terror tunnels to attack Israelis, it could have built two hospitals, 20 clinics, 20 schools, and 100 kindergartens.

We hope that Hamas will observe the current ceasefire, despite its violations of ceasefires (brokered by Egypt, the UN, the ICRC and others) on July 15th, 17th, 20th, 26-27th, 28th and 30th.

Once quiet for the citizens of Israel is restored, I think any fair-minded person will agree that the international community must do its utmost to support the goal of linking the rehabilitation and development of Gaza to its demilitarization.

Sincerely,

Consul General Andy David

{This reply confuses the naval blockade of weapons with the land-based restriction of food.}

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From: Bert Sacks
Date: Thu, Aug 7, 2014 at 11:55 AM
Subject: Re: ‘The Siege of Gaza’
To: Andy David
Cc: Press – Consulate General of Israel – San Francisco

Consul General of Israel, San Francisco

Dear Andy David,

Thank you for your response of April 5th to my earlier email.  It addresses a number of issues related to Gaza.  Unfortunately, it fails to speak to the one issue I was seeking further information on from your office.

I had written, “I’ll focus on one issue, Israel’s restriction of food into Gaza as a means of coercion to weaken or overthrow Hamas.”  To avoid any further confusion, I’d like to restate this as two simpler questions:

1) Has Israel restricted the amount or type of food which it allows to enter Gaza — and does it still do so today?

2) If yes, what explanation does Israel offer for such restrictions — whether they have been relaxed or not?

At this time, I do not want to clarify my ‘long-term concern’ about Israel’s future — so as not to ‘muddy the waters’ — until I receive your answer to these two questions.  I thank you again for your willingness to engage in a civil exchange of information about a difficult but important issue.

Sincerely,

Bert Sacks

{My ‘concern’ is well expressed by Jewish leader Henry Siegman on DemocracyNow! 7/30-31/14.}

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From: Consul General- Consulate General of Israel – San Francisco
Date: Thu, Aug 7, 2014 at 3:59 PM
Subject: RE: ‘The Siege of Gaza’
To: Bert Sacks
Cc: Press – Consulate General of Israel – San Francisco , Dcm -Consulate General of Israel – San Francisco

Dear Bert,

There is no restriction of food into Gaza. From the Israeli side we do not mind if 1, 10, 100, or 500 trucks will pass per day. The limiting factor is not on our side but on the absorbing side.

Please see this 2 videos, there are hundreds like them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tguUmv-hJk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQAVes9qDto

I’m very much confident that no matter what I will write or tell you, or whatever facts I will show you, you will not be convinced, since you read stories in the media, and we all know that all the media is always right, never biased, and always accurate.  If people were starving, do you think that there wouldn’t be a world outcry?

Mark Twain — ‘It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.’

I think I will stop here.

I wish you all the best.

Andy

{My reply is below; I’m glad that I didn’t respond by being rude or sarcastic back to him.}

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From: Bert Sacks
Date: Mon, Aug 11, 2014 at 1:03 PM
Subject: Re: ‘The Siege of Gaza’
To: Consul General- Consulate General of Israel – San Francisco
Cc: Press – Consulate General of Israel – San Francisco , Dcm -Consulate General of Israel – San Francisco

Consul General of Israel, San Francisco

Dear Mr. David,

I conclude that I was naive to expect you and your staff to address the first part of my simple question, Has Israel restricted the amount or type of food which it allows to enter Gaza?  The refusal to speak to the information I conscientiously gathered and sent in my first email is itself an answer: I conclude sadly that Israel has denied food to Gaza.

You did reply to the second part of my question, does it still do so today?, saying that “there is no restriction of food into Gaza.”  I need to remind you of your assurance to me at Temple Bet-Shalom that Israel supplies 100% of electricity to Gaza and there is no electrical-generating plant in Gaza.  I trust by now that you have realized this is not true.

As to the evidence you offer for your assertion about no restrictions on food, the first of the two videos you’ve attached show plenty of food after Cast Lead.  But the IDF plot I sent shows that for every one truckload of food into Gaza during the ceasefire before Cast Lead, 28 truckloads of food entered after the immense destruction of Cast Lead.

You state that this was only due to Gaza’s capacity to absorb food; that is beyond belief.

You also write, “If people were starving, do you think there wouldn’t be a world outcry?”. Dov Weissglas and the others who approved the ‘diet’ for Gazans know that mass starvation might create a world outcry.  But malnoutrition and vitamin deficiency due to a limited amount and kind of food weakens children and makes them vulnerable to disease.

It is terrible that we are already hearing reports of cholera, typhoid, dysentery, and simple diarrhea causing deaths in Gaza due to the unsafe water.  The destruction of electrical-generating plants to pump safe water and process sewage is one cause.  (This is exactly what the U.S. did to Iraq in 1991.  The following year the New England Journal of Medicine reported 46,900 excess deaths of Iraqi children in 1991 … with little outcry?)

I think I will stop here.

I also wish you well.

Bert Sacks

P.S. I too wish to offer you a Mark Twain quote: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it.”  (to Mrs. Foote, 12/2/1887)

And related to that quote, when you find yourself under less pressure you might like to read about Carne Ross, a man who did understand something despite his job.  It’s available at http://billmoyers.com/content/carne-ross-why-i-left-the-foreign-service/

{The Carne Ross interview is inspiring, showing how integrity can manifest in anyone unexpectedly.}

 

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