Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Silence Has Become Complicity - Editorial by Paul Woodward

Is the incoming U.S. president, world-renowned for his eloquence, about to become better known for his silence?

Barack Obama may not have assumed office yet but a war is already being conducted in his name.

Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, now says that Israel is engaged in a “war to the bitter end” against Hamas in Gaza. And in justifying this war to Israel’s state assembly, the Knesset, Barak said: “Obama said that if rockets were being fired at his home while his two daughters were sleeping, he would do everything he could to prevent it.”

Barak’s war has become Barack’s war — unless he breaks his silence.

Obama chooses his words carefully. He did so when speaking to the press in Sderot in southern Israel, during the presidential election campaign this summer. While he was clearly and shamelessly pandering to American Jewish voters, his statement expressed sympathy for the Israelis being targeted by Qassam rocket fire, but it also underlined that an effective response would focus on preventing further attacks — not merely the retaliatory and bellicose response with which Israelis are so familiar, that is, a military operation whose purpose is “to teach the Palestinians a lesson.”

If Obama continues to remain silent he will implicitly be sending a message to Israelis, Palestinians, and everyone else across the Arab world. His silence will be seen and will have the operational effect of providing an endorsement for Israel’s war on Gaza. His silence will set the tone for his whole approach to the Middle East. If his plan to give a major speech in a Muslim capital has not already been put on hold, it might as well now be scrapped.

But there is an alternative. This is what Obama can and should say:

I support the Israeli government in its goal of providing security for its citizens. However, I believe that the current operation in Gaza is unlikely to serve that goal and in the long run may further undermine Israel’s security.

What can Israel do now? Pull back its troops, offer to renew the truce and lift the siege.

The truce actually worked, as this graph from the Israeli Foreign Ministry clearly shows.

Rocket fire did not resume until Israel broke the truce on November 5.

What we now know, is that Israel did not view the truce as a means to bring calm to southern Israel but instead used it as an aid for gathering intelligence in preparation for war.

Had the Olmert government regarded the cessation of rocket fire as a foundation upon which it could build, it would have taken clear steps to lift the siege. (But to have pursued such a course would not however have provided the Palestinian body count upon which Israel’s next prime minister hopes to ride into office.)

Instead, what we now witness is a brutal spectacle in which, using the Orwellian language of war, Israel claims that it’s target is Hamas, not the residents of Gaza.

Obama is still in a position to exert influence, but the longer he waits, the less power he will have; the more likely he will be seen as the perpetuator of George Bush’s failed approach to the Middle East.

Paul Woodward is Editor of War in Context, where this Editorial was originally posted.

Analysis: Rivalry Among Israel's Leaders at Root of Row Over Ceasefire

Ha'aretz Daily News (Israel): Four days after the launch of "Operation Cast Lead" in the Gaza Strip, the first signs of a rift among the Israeli leadership over the campaign's management began to emerge. Even though the IDF operation has thus far been considered [in Israel] a relative success (and the ministers who approved it have benefited from an improvement in their political standing as a result), a dispute has erupted among the country's senior political echelon over the question of when to begin the process of winding down the operation.

The disagreement is rooted in the antipathy that has taken hold among the major players on the Israeli side as well as the tense jockeying for votes. In addition, there remains much confusion in the decision-making process that is similar to that [seen]... during the Second Lebanon War.

There are many similarities to the Lebanese affair, only this time the differences of opinion are given greater public airing.... In the current situation, the argument centers on an exit strategy. The defense minister told Olmert and Livni on Tuesday night that Israel needs to consider a 48-hour cease-fire during which Hamas' willingness to cease its launching of rockets will be tested. Nonetheless, Barak is convinced that Israel should not take any unilateral measures. Rather, it should exploit one of the proposals, including that offered by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, for a two-day lull in the fighting so as to address any pressing humanitarian issues.

Barak's recommendation comes against the backdrop of a possible ground incursion into Gaza. Over the course of the last two days, the troops have been concentrated near the border while absorbing mortar fire, all in difficult weather conditions. Hamas is using the poor visibility afforded by the clouds and rainfall to continue its rocket fire at Israel. More Israeli deaths on the home front are likely to augment the pressure on the government to give a green light to a ground operation before it can exploit the opportunity to exhaust diplomatic options to end the fighting.

According to this logic, the operation's main goal - which is to create a new deterrent balance vis-a-vis Hamas - has for the most part already been attained by way of the massive air campaign that killed 380 Palestinians. The chances of reaching a quick cease-fire are not good because an agreed-upon framework has yet to emerge, but it would behoove the government to give it a chance, thus enhancing the legitimacy of any renewed offensive in the event the lull were to break down.

Barak is certainly mindful of the possibility that Israel is approaching the ground operation stage, yet he is also aware of the price: considerable losses and the specter of an army being bogged down for months in the Gaza Strip.

Barak's stance, which was initially presented as "the position staked by the heads of the defense establishment," was widely reported in the news media on Tuesday afternoon. Aides to the prime minister dismissed the possibility of a cease-fire, telling the press that "the operation is not winding down. [We] need to prepare for as long as it takes and we are proceeding as planned."

The press reports prompted a wave of denials....In other words, this is an idea that is currently being mulled solely by the defense minister....

What is obvious is that none of the key decisionmakers would like to be portrayed at this stage as the individual advocating a quick conclusion to the war. One factor to consider is the balance of power vis-a-vis Hamas (establishing the threat of a ground assault), but it would be naive to think that the security of the state is the only consideration at play for the protagonists.

Tuesday's witch-hunt portends bleak developments for the future....

Israel Over-Reaches: Column by Nadia Hijab

This column was syndicated by Agence Global on 30 December 2008.

What a New Year dawns for the Palestinians of Gaza. More Gazans have been killed in just three days than the entire year of 1988, during the first Palestinian uprising.

Death and destruction cloud history and context. Fact: Israel’s punishment of Gaza predates the Hamas take-over in June 2007. It even predates the existence of Hamas.

Israel’s siege policies began to take shape back in 1988 when it imposed a "permit system" in Gaza. It introduced closures in 1991 and institutionalized them in 1993. It sealed Gaza off by an electronic wall in 1994. Israel’s punishment before and since has included mass home demolitions, air raids, and “targeted assassinations”-- all illegal under international law.

None of Israel’s measures have made its people safer. On the contrary, they have bred counter-violations of international law. It was in 2002 -- after 35 years of occupation -- that the first Qassam rocket was launched into Israeli territory.

Hamas now stands accused of refusing to renew the ceasefire by Israel, the Bush Administration, and even Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas.

This ignores the facts. Although the ceasefire largely held for five months, Israel actually tightened its blockade throughout this period. UN supplies were restricted and the UN was unable to maintain its usual reserves. With the complete sealing of the Strip in November, the UN, unprecedentedly, ran out of food.

Hamas is far from perfect but it is not stupid. It could not have agreed to another ceasefire that would maintain a starvation status quo. It wanted one that would lift the siege.

Israel chose instead to go for a coup de grace to bring Hamas to its knees when 1.5 million people lack food, fuel and medicines, and the world is busy with two big holidays.

But Israel may have seriously over-reached and, in the process, damaged its ability to achieve a final settlement of the conflict on its terms, presumably the main point of the assault given that a comprehensive ceasefire would have stopped the rockets.

Nadia Hijab is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies in Washington D.C. The opinions in this piece are her own.

Excerpt only - read full article on

The Palestinian Medical Relief Society: Emergency appeal for Gaza

Ramallah, 31.12.08 - The Palestinian Medical Relief Society issued today an emergency appeal regarding the collapse of the health and sanitation sectors in Gaza.


Gaza’s humanitarian situation was already declared a ‘crisis’ by the international community after nearly two years of siege. The situation has now been exacerbated by the bombing.


The heath sector in Gaza is currently in a state of collapse, with hospitals full to overflowing and medical teams cannot provide an adequate response to the growing needs. Sunday, the main medical supplies store in Gaza was bombarded.

Severely injured patients cannot be taken abroad for treatment due to prolonged closures of border crossing. Hundreds of injured people are impossible to transport by land due to closures and the severity of their harms. Those would need specially airplanes to be carried out abroad for medical treatment.


Basic medical supply is also urgently needed – including every type of blood, sterilization equipment, needles, anaesthetics, catheters, gases, oxygen or monitors.


Today, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator Maxwell Gaylard warned the International community on heath and humanitarian distaster in Gaza. “Gaza’s hospitals are facing their largest ever trauma caseloads under some of the most adverse conditions imaginable. They must have reliable power,” he said.


In addition, the safety of the medical workers is not assured anymore. Yesterday, Ihab Al Madhoun, a Palestinian Doctor from the Ministry of Health was killed while providing assistance to the injured. Two other first aid workers have been killed, while evacuating the wounded; along with a technician from the Gaza hospital.


The Palestinian Medical Relief society in Gaza provides first aid care to the people in needs, by going on the fields where the bombings occurred. It provides primary heath care to people waiting to be taken to hospitals.


The Palestinian Medical Relief Society’s head office in Ramallah stated today that it will send a stock of emergency medicines to Gaza.


Since Saturday, the Israeli army has carried out massive air strikes against the most densely populated area on the planet, provoking one of the biggest massacre since the beginning of the occupation.


At least 390 have been reportedly killed (including more than 25 children and 9 women), and more than 1,650 have sustained heavy injuries of which some 45% are civilians. The number is expected to rise within the coming hours as more bodies are uncovered from the rubble, more casualties succumb to their wounds, and more bombs continue to fall. 


More Information?  Call: 0599 – 94 00 73 or visit the website:

4 Major US Jewish Groups Call for Immediate Halt to Israel's Gaza Siege

WASHINGTON, Dec 30 (IPS) - With a fresh outbreak of violence between Israel and Palestine, a battle of a different sort is being waged in Washington between various interests in Mid- East policy circles.

As Israeli air strikes continue to pummel the Gaza Strip for a fourth day and crude home-made rockets launched by Palestinian militants land in Israeli towns near the densely populated and besieged Strip, Jewish groups in the U.S. are taking two distinctly differing tacks at addressing the latest Middle East bloodshed.

Some of what are traditionally thought of as pro-Israel groups are undertaking a major public relations campaign to support the bombing runs against Hamas that have claimed more than 370 Palestinian lives -- largely parroting the Israeli government that the attacks are a justified defense of Israelis.

The American Jewish Committee "expressed strong support for Israel… in its military operation aimed at terrorist targets in Gaza."

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) urged U.S. leadership to "stand firmly with Israel as it strives to defend itself…."

In addition to a flurry of press releases, officials from the groups are making regular appearances in the media and organising conference calls.

But, rather than unquestioning support of Israel’s latest military venture in the decades-long conflict, four major Jewish organisations here are calling for an immediate end to the bombings, and for humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip.

One of the groups, Americans for Peace Now, the sister organisation of the Israel-based Peace Now, called for "the government of Israel to end its military operation in the Gaza Strip and to act toward achieving a ceasefire."

And Bit Tzedek v’Shalom, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace, called on the outgoing U.S. President George W. Bush administration "to initiate an international effort aimed at negotiating and immediate ceasefire."

These strong statements, along with ones from J Street (the political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement) and the Israel Policy Forum (IPF), are in sharp contrast to many of the more hawkish traditional pro-Israel groups, who make no mention of a cessation of armed hostilities. The confident assertions from the four groups are a relatively new sort of campaign.

On the Ground in Gaza: "The Streets Are as Still as Death"

"There is a complete blackout in Gaza now. The streets are as still as death."

I am speaking to my father, Moussa el-Haddad, a retired physician who lives in Gaza City, on Skype, from Durham, North Carolina in the United States, where I have been since mid 2006 – the month Gaza's borders were hermetically sealed by Israel, and the blockade of the occupied territory further enforced.

He is out on his balcony. It is 2am.

"I can only see grey plumes of smoke slowly rising all over the city, everywhere I look," he says, as though they were some beautiful, comforting by-product of some hideous, malicious event.

My father was out walking when the initial strikes began – "I saw the missiles falling and prayed; the earth shook; the smoke rose; the ambulances screamed," he told me.

My mother was in the Red Crescent Society clinic near the universities, where she works part-time as a pediatrician. Behind the clinic was one of the police centres that were levelled. She said she broke down at first, the sheer proximity of the attacks having shaken her from the inside out. After she got a hold of herself, they took to treating injured victims of the attack, before transferring them to Shifa hospital.

Now, three days later, they are trapped in their own home.

My father takes a deep restorative sigh, before continuing. "Ehud Barak has gone crazy. He's gone crazy. He is bombing everywhere and everything … no one is safe."

Explosions are audible in the background. They sound distant and dull over my laptop's speakers, but linger like an echo in death's valley. They evoke terrifying memories of my nights in Gaza only two years ago. Nights that till this day haunt my four-year-old son who refuses to sleep on his own.

"Can you hear them?" my father continues. "Our house is shaking. We are shaking from the inside out."

My mother comes to the phone. "Hello, hello dear," she mutters, her voice trembling. "I had to go to the bathroom. But I'm afraid to go alone. I wanted to perform wudu' before prayer but I was scared. Remember days when we would go to the bathroom together because you were too afraid to go alone?" She laughs at the thought. It seems amusing to her now, that she was scared to find her death in a place of relief; that she is now terrified of the same seemingly ridiculous scenario.

It was really the fear of being alone. When you "hear" the news before it becomes news, you panic for clarity – you want someone to make sense of the situation, package it neatly into comprehensible terms and locations. Just to be sure it's not you this time.

"It's strange, my whole body is shaking. Why is that? Why is that?" she rambles on, continuous explosions audible in the background. "There they go again. One boom after another. Fifteen. Before that, one or two, maybe 20 total so far."

Counting makes it's easier. Systemising the assaults makes them easier to deal with. More remote.

We speak to each other throughout the day. Last night, she called to let me know there were gunships overhead, as though there was something I could do about it; as though my voice would somehow make them disappear.

Eventually, her panic subsided ..."OK, OK, your father says it was the navy gunships ... they hit the pier ... the poor fishermen, it's not like it's even a real pier ... it's just the pier, just the pier ..."

They cracked the windows opened, to prevent an implosion.

"By the way we are sleeping in your room now, it's safer," she tells me, of my empty, abandoned space.

My mother's close friend, Yosra, was asked to evacuate her building. They live in a flat near many of the ministry complexes being targeted. They were advised not to go to the mosque for services, lest they be bombed.

Another family friend, an elderly Armenian-Palestinian Christian and retired pharmacist, is paralysed with fear and confined, like many residents, to her home. She lives alone, in front of the Saraya security complex on Omar al-Mukhtar Street. The complex has already been bombed twice.

The rains of death continue to fall in Gaza. And silently, the world watches. And silently, governments plotted: how shall we make the thunder and clouds rain death on to Gaza?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Israeli Navy Attacks Relief Boat in International Waters Off Gaza

(Larnaca, Cyprus, 10:00 am) On Tuesday, December 30, at 5 a.m., several Israeli gunboats intercepted the Dignity as she was heading on a mission of mercy to Gaza. One gunboat rammed into the boat on the port bow side, heavily damaging her. The reports from the passengers and journalists on board is that she is taking on water and appears to have engine problems. When attacked, the Dignity was clearly in international waters, 90 miles off the coast of Gaza.

The gunboats also fired their machine guns into the water in an attempt to stop the mercy ship from getting to Gaza.

As the boat limps toward Lebanon, passengers have been in contact with the Lebanese government who have said the captain has permission to dock and are willing lend assistance if needed. Cyprus sea rescue has also been in touch, and has offered assistance as well. The Dignity clearly flies the flag of Gibraltar, is piloted by an English captain and has a passenger manifest that includes Representative Cynthia McKinney from the U.S. The attack was filmed by the journalists, and the crew and passengers will report on Israel's crime at sea once they arrive in Lebanon.

On board the boat are doctors traveling to this impoverished slice of the Mediterranean to provide badly-needed relief at the hospitals there. The crew and passengers were also hoping to take wounded out for treatment, since the hospitals are not coping. In addition, the Dignity was carrying 3 tons of medical supplies at the request of the doctors in Gaza.

The three physicans on board who were sailing to Gaza are: Dr. Halpin (UK), an experienced orthopaedic surgeon, medical professor, and ship's captain. He has organized humanitarian relief efforts in Gaza on several occasions with the Dove and Dolphin. He is traveling to Gaza to volunteer in hospitals and clinics. Dr. Mohamed Issa (Germany), a pediatric surgeon from Germany is traveling to Gaza to volunteer in hospitals and clinics. Dr. Elena Theoharous (Cyprus), MP Dr. Theoharous is a surgeon and a Member of the Cypriot Parliament. She is traveling to Gaza to assess the ongoing conflict, assist with humanitarian relief efforts, and volunteer in hospitals.

Foreign Journalists Petition Israel's Supreme Court for Access to Gaza

Israel's supreme court will hear a petition tomorrow brought by the Foreign Press Association, which represents around 400 foreign journalists, demanding that Israel allow reporters into Gaza to cover the latest conflict.

Two years ago, after Hamas won the Palestinian elections, Israeli authorities stopped all Israeli journalists and Palestinian journalists with Israeli identity cards crossing into Gaza, saying it was too dangerous.

Last month, as the last ceasefire between Israel and Gaza militant groups began to collapse, the Israeli defence ministry closed the Erez crossing to all foreign journalists as well, citing "security" reasons.

Egypt has largely kept its one crossing into Gaza, at Rafah, closed except for in rare medical emergencies, and it too does not allow journalists to cross. The only reporters in Gaza now are Palestinians who live there and work for news agencies or for Palestinian and Arab satellite channels, including al-Jazeera.

In an open letter, the Foreign Press Association said this week that the closure of the Erez crossing to journalists marked "an unprecedented restriction of press freedom. As a result the world's media is unable to accurately report on events inside Gaza at this critical time," it said.

"Despite our protests the Israelis authorities have refused to let journalists in ... Never before have journalists been prevented from doing their work in this way. We believe it is vital that journalists be allowed to find out for themselves what is going on in Gaza. Israel controls access to Gaza. Israel must allow professional journalists access to this important story."

Previous hearings have been held on the issue at the supreme court without any clear resolution of the case.

The Gaza Crisis: Dec 2008 - Talking Points by Phyllis Bennis

Paper By Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies, 28 December 2008

The death toll in Gaza continues to rise.  The carnage is everywhere – city streets, a mosque, hospitals, police stations, a jail, a university bus stop, a plastics factory, a television station. It seems impossible, unacceptable, to step back to analyze the situation while bodies remain buried under the rubble, while parents continue to search for their missing children, while doctors continue to labor to stitch burned and broken bodies back together without sufficient medicine or equipment. The hospitals are running short even of electricity—the Israeli blockade has denied them fuel to run the generators. It is an ironic twist on the legacy of Israel’s involvement in an earlier massacre – in the Sabra and Shatila camps, in Lebanon back in 1982, it was the Israeli soldiers who lit the flairs, lighting the night sky so their Lebanese allies could continue to kill.

But if we are serious about ending this carnage, this time, we have no choice but to try to analyze, try to figure out what caused this most recent massacre, how to stop it, and then how to continue our work to end the occupation, end Israel’s apartheid policies, and change U.S. policy to one of justice and equality for all.


  • The Israeli airstrikes represent serious violations of international law – including the Geneva Conventions and a range of international humanitarian law.
  • The U.S. is complicit in the Israeli violations – directly and indirectly.
  • The timing of the air strikes has far more to do with U.S. and Israeli politics than with protecting Israeli civilians.
  • This serious escalation will push back any chance of serious negotiations between the parties that might have been part of the Obama administration’s plans.
  • There is much work to be done.
Download the full paper from

Medical Officials: Gaza Has Run Out of Medicine

December 30, 2008 - Medical and healthcare services are struggling to cope with the outcome of the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip, while the bombing continues.

In a special interview with IMEMC, Dr. Mo'oawiah Hassunin, the head of the Palestinian Ambulance and Emergency Services of the Ministry of Healthin Gaza, made an update on the current situation of health services.

According to Dr Hassunin, hospitals in Gaza are operating without any medical supplies whatsoever, while three of the main hospitals have been badly damaged. The ambulance services are now operating at 50 percent capacity due to a lack of medical and personnel resources. The entire area is now being serviced by five ambulances and three fire brigades.

The small amount of medicine that Egypt has allowed into Gaza lasted just a few hours. Dr Hussanin confirmed the number of dead Palestinians is 312, though this is steadily increasing as bodies are removed from rubble and the bombing of the region continues by new Israeli air raids. [Editor's note: Reports from Gaza on Al-Jazeera Arabic TV this morning put the number of dead at 360 and injured at 1750. Both numbers are rapidly rising.]

Kucinich Calls For Independent UN Inquiry on Gaza

Israeli government attacks civilians in violation of international law

WASHINGTON - December 29 - U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich today released the following statement as Israeli attacks on Gaza have gone into a third day with a pending ground invasion of Gaza by Israel:

"Today I sent a letter to Secretary General Ban ki-Moon urging the United Nations to establish an independent inquiry of Israel's war against Gaza. The attacks on civilians represent collective punishment, which is a violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention ( The perpetrators of attacks against Israel must also be brought to justice, but Israel cannot create a war against an entire people in order to attempt to bring to justice the few who are responsible. The Israeli leaders know better. The world community, which has been very supportive of Israel's right to security and its right to survive, also has a right to expect Israel to conduct itself in adherence to the very laws which support the survival of Israel and every other nation," Kucinich said.

"Israel is leveling Gaza to strike at Hamas, just as they pulverized south Lebanon to strike at Hezbollah. Yet in both cases civilian populations were attacked, countless innocents killed or injured, infrastructure targeted and destroyed, and civil law enforcement negated. All this was, and is, disproportionate, indiscriminate mass violence in violation of international law. Israel is not exempt from international law and must be held accountable. It is time for the UN to not just call for a cease-fire, but for an inquiry as to Israel's actions."

According to published news reports, since the commencement of aerial strikes, over 300 Palestinians have been killed and approximately 1,400 have been wounded. The dead include 20 children under the age of 16--nearly half of them killed while on a school bus, according to the United Nations--and 9 women. The attack aggravated a humanitarian crisis wrought by the Israeli-imposed blockade of food, fuel, and medical supplies. With a population of 1.5 million people, the Gaza Strip is among the most densely populated territories in the world.


CONTACT: Congressman Dennis Kucinich
Tom Mulloy (202) 225-5871

Monday, December 29, 2008

If Gaza falls... Understanding causes of the Gaza Siege

By Sara Roy, Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University

London Review of Books

Israel’s siege of Gaza began on 5 November, the day after an Israeli attack inside the strip, no doubt designed finally to undermine the truce between Israel and Hamas established last June. Although both sides had violated the agreement before, this incursion was on a different scale. Hamas responded by firing rockets into Israel and the violence has not abated since then. Israel’s siege has two fundamental goals. One is to ensure that the Palestinians there are seen merely as a humanitarian problem, beggars who have no political identity and therefore can have no political claims. The second is to foist Gaza onto Egypt. That is why the Israelis tolerate the hundreds of tunnels between Gaza and Egypt around which an informal but increasingly regulated commercial sector has begun to form. The overwhelming majority of Gazans are impoverished and officially 49.1 per cent are unemployed. In fact the prospect of steady employment is rapidly disappearing for the majority of the population.

On 5 November the Israeli government sealed all the ways into and out of Gaza. Food, medicine, fuel, parts for water and sanitation systems, fertiliser, plastic sheeting, phones, paper, glue, shoes and even teacups are no longer getting through in sufficient quantities or at all. According to Oxfam only 137 trucks of food were allowed into Gaza in November. This means that an average of 4.6 trucks per day entered the strip compared to an average of 123 in October this year and 564 in December 2005. The two main food providers in Gaza are the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the World Food Programme (WFP). UNRWA alone feeds approximately 750,000 people in Gaza, and requires 15 trucks of food daily to do so. Between 5 November and 30 November, only 23 trucks arrived, around 6 per cent of the total needed; during the week of 30 November it received 12 trucks, or 11 per cent of what was required. There were three days in November when UNRWA ran out of food, with the result that on each of these days 20,000 people were unable to receive their scheduled supply. According to John Ging, the director of UNRWA in Gaza, most of the people who get food aid are entirely dependent on it. On 18 December UNRWA suspended all food distribution for both emergency and regular programmes because of the blockade.


On 19 December Hamas officially ended its truce with Israel, which Israel said it wanted to renew, because of Israel’s failure to ease the blockade.

How can keeping food and medicine from the people of Gaza protect the people of Israel? How can the impoverishment and suffering of Gaza’s children – more than 50 per cent of the population – benefit anyone? International law as well as human decency demands their protection. If Gaza falls, the West Bank will be next.

Sara Roy teaches at Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies and is the author of Failing Peace: Gaza and the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict.

Emergency Gaza Update on Medical Relief

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Al-Mezan Center (Gaza) and The Palestinian Medical Relief Society (Ramallah): Emergency Gaza Update 28.12.2008

Since the start of the Israeli military strikes against the Gaza Strip, true to Sunday, 16:00, 282 dead (including 20 children and 9 women) and about 700 wounded persons (including 130 children and 28 women) have been identified by Gaza hospitals, including more than 100 seriously wounded. According to local estimates, dozens are defined missing, presumed to be trapped beneath destroyed buildings. The Palestinian ministry of health in Gaza claims that the number of dead is even higher. The Gaza health system is in a state of collapse and cannot provide an adequate response to the growing needs. The closure imposed by Israel on all Gaza crossings, including the total closure of Erez Crossing since last Friday, prevents the evacuation of patients and wounded persons and deepens the human tragedy occurring in the Gaza Strip.

Appeals for humanitarian assistance
Today Israel enabled the opening of Kerem Shalom crossing for entry of some humanitarian goods. However, according to the Palestinian ministry of health in Gaza, these supplies are not sufficient. Due to the severe shortage of medical supplies and medicines (105 sorts of medicine, 225 types of medical items and 93 types of laboratory supplies are missing), as detailed by PHR-Israel on 22.12.08,  PHR-Israel today received an urgent appeal from the Gaza Ministry of Health for transfer of medical supplies. Among the supplies asked for are basic sterilization equipment, clothing for medical teams, needles, dressings, anaesthetics, catheters, medical gases, oxygen, monitors and medicines. The overall value of necessary supplies requested from PHR-Israel is half a million US dollars. PHR-Israel is working to find funding sources and to coordinate transfer of the supplies. 

See the full article and contact details for the organizations online.

Gaza Crisis: UN Statements and Talking Points

The following statements and talking points documents on the Gaza Crisis by UN representatives has been posted on the website now (download links below):
:: The Gaza Crisis: December 2008 - Talking Points
By Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies, Dec 28, 2008
:: Statement on the Crisis in the Gaza Strip
By Prof. Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Dec 27, 2008
:: Statement on the Crisis in Gaza
By Miguel D´Escoto, President of the General Assembly, United Nations, Dec 27, 2008

Gaza Today: 'This is Only the Beginning'

By Ewa Jasiewicz (in Gaza City), The Palestine Chronicle
December 27, 2008

"As I write this, Israeli jets are bombing the areas of Zeitoun and Rimal in central Gaza City. The family I am staying with has moved into the internal corridor of their home to shelter from the bombing. The windows nearly blew out just five minutes ago as a massive explosion rocked the house. Apache’s are hovering above us, whilst F16s sear overhead.

UN radio reports say one blast was a target close to the main gate of Al Shifa hospital – Gaza and Palestine’s largest medical facility. Another was a plastics factory. More bombs continue to pound the Strip.

Sirens are wailing on the streets outside. Regular power cuts that plunge the city into blackness every night and tonight is no exception. Only perhaps tonight it is the darkest night people have seen here in their lifetimes.

Over 220 people have been killed and over 400 injured through attacks that shocked the strip in the space 15 minutes. Hospitals are overloaded and unable to cope. These attacks come on top of existing conditions of humanitarian crisis: a lack of medicines, bread, flour, gas, electricity, fuel and freedom of movement."

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Gaza massacres must spur us to action

Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 27 December 2008

Excerpt from Op-ed: "The rationalization for Israel's massacres, already being faithfully transmitted by the English-language media, is that Israel is acting in "retaliation" for Palestinian rockets fired with increasing intensity ever since the six-month truce expired on 19 December (until today, no Israeli had been killed or injured by these recent rocket attacks).

But today's horrific attacks mark only a change in Israel's method of killing Palestinians recently. In recent months they died mostly silent deaths, the elderly and sick especially, deprived of food and necessary medicine by the two year-old Israeli blockade calculated and intended to cause suffering and deprivation to 1.5 million Palestinians, the vast majority refugees and children, caged into the Gaza Strip. In Gaza, Palestinians died silently, for want of basic medications: insulin, cancer treatment, products for dialysis prohibited from reaching them by Israel.

What the media never question is Israel's idea of a truce. It is very simple. Under an Israeli-style truce, Palestinians have the right to remain silent while Israel starves them, kills them and continues to violently colonize their land. Israel has not only banned food and medicine to sustain Palestinian bodies in Gaza but it is also intent on starving minds: due to the blockade, there is not even ink, paper and glue to print textbooks for schoolchildren."

As John Ging, the head of operations of the United Nations agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA), told The Electronic Intifada in November: "there was five months of a ceasefire in the last couple of months, where the people of Gaza did not benefit; they did not have any restoration of a dignified existence. We in fact at the UN, our supplies were also restricted during the period of the ceasefire, to the point where we were left in a very vulnerable and precarious position and with a few days of closure we ran out of food."

Emergency Alert: Take Action to End Israeli Attacks on Gaza

US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation
December 27th, 2008

As of this writing, Israeli Air Force attacks today on the occupied Gaza Strip killed an estimated 200 or more people and injured hundreds more. These Israeli attacks come on top of a brutal siege of the Gaza Strip, which has created a humanitarian catastrophe of dire proportions for Gaza's 1.5 million Palestinian residents by restricting the provision of food, fuel, medicine, electricity, and other necessities of life.

While the scope of civilian casualties in today’s attacks is not yet clear, it is unmistakable that Israel carried out these attacks with F16 fighter jets and missiles provided by the taxpayers of this country. From 2001-2006, the United States transferred to Israel more than $200 million worth of spare parts to fly its fleet of F16’s. In July 2008, the United States gaveIsrael 186 million gallons of JP-8 aviation jet fuel. Last year, the United States signed a $1.3 billion contract with Raytheon to transfer to Israel thousands of TOW, Hellfire, and “bunker buster” missiles.

In short, Israel’s lethal attack today on the Gaza Strip could not have happened without the active military and political support of the United States. Therefore, we need to take action to protest this attack and demand an immediate cease-fire.


1. Contact the White House to protest the attack and demand an immediate cease-fire. Call 202-456-1111 or send an email to

2. Contact the State Department at 202-647-6575 or send an email by clicking here.

3. Contact your Representative and Senators in Congress at 202-224-3121 or find contact info for your Members of Congress by clicking here.

4. Contact your local media by phoning into a talk show or writing a letter to the editor. To find contact info for your local media, click here.

5. Organize a local protest or vigil and tell us about it by clicking here.

6. Sign our open letter to President-Elect Obama calling for a new U.S.policy toward Israel/Palestine and find out other steps you can take to influence the incoming Administration by clicking here.

Israeli jets kill ‘at least 225’ in revenge strikes on Gaza

Marie Colvin, Tony Allen-Mills and Uzi Mahnaimi in Tel Aviv
The Sunday Times, December 28, 2008

"Israel yesterday launched its largest raid on Gaza with two waves of air attacks that killed at least 225 people and injured more than 700, according to Palestinian doctors.

Children on their way home from school and policemen parading for a graduation ceremony were the principal victims of a bloody few hours that left the territory in flames.

The short but brutal aerial blitz — codenamed Operation Cast Lead — was aimed at targets held by the Islamic fundamentalists of Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip 18 months ago.

After weeks of rising tension and repeated Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli territory, the air force struck with warplanes and unmanned drones loaded with guided missiles.

They hit at least 100 security compounds and rocket-launching bases across the heavily populated Strip.

The strikes caused panic and confusion as black clouds of smoke rose above the territory. Most of those killed were security men — including Gaza’s police chief — but an unknown number of civilians were also among the dead."