Saturday, January 17, 2009

Opinion: Boycott Israeli Fruit & Vegetables - Joanna Blythman

Sunday Herald, Scotland, January 17, 2009 - IT'S TIME for a consumer boycott of Israeli produce. There have been around 1000 Palestinian deaths in Gaza in the last three weeks alone, some 400 or so women and children. A further 4500 Palestinians are wounded. We watch from a distance, sickened at Israel's behaviour which is an affront to civilised values. That pre-Obama feeling of hopelessness starts seeping back in to our consciousness. Gaza is carnage, and when Brown and Miliband defend the Israeli state's actions and heap the blame onto Hamas, that old, familiar sense of frustration and impotence kicks in.

But here's a thought. As citizens of the world we can take personal action in our daily lives to show up Israel as the pariah state it is. Our supermarket shelves are laden with Israeli fruit, vegetables and flowers: let's stop buying them.

Unless you actively avoid out-of-season, imported produce, you probably don't check country of origin on labels and might not have noticed just how much Israeli produce is on our shelves. A quick head count this week found potatoes, avocadoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, Medjoul dates, gallia melons, sharon fruit (the Israeli name for persimmon), peppers, chillies, oranges, pomegranates, sweetcorn, radishes and fresh herbs. All of these are clearly labelled as Israeli, apart from the herbs, some of which give their origin as "West Bank". Don't mistake that as a Palestinian alternative to the Israeli option; it comes from Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.

Come Valentine's Day, there will be a flood of Israeli flowers, but where's the romance in blooms from a country whose name now evokes images of dead and bloodied Palestinian children? Through its agricultural exporting company, Carmel Agrexco, which is 50% state-owned, Israel markets not only its own produce, but that of other countries in the Middle East, the Mediterranean and Africa. It works as a "category captain" for food retailers, guaranteeing a year-round supply of everything from strawberries and grapefruit to Chinese leaves and aubergine.

Look what's happening to the Palestinians while we chomp our way through this stuff. Israel has dispossessed them and expropriated their water resources and land, illegally colonising it with settlers. Israeli settlements cultivating Medjoul dates in the Jordan Valley, for instance, base their operations on confiscated Palestinian land in contravention of international law and the Geneva Convention. As if demolishing Palestinian homes and evicting their occupants wasn't enough, Israel has effectively imprisoned Palestinians with checkpoints, an illegal wall and an oppressive system of permits, deliberately blocking Palestinian economic development.

Oxfam reports that costs for Palestinians who want to export products are up to 70% higher than for Israelis. Settlers in the West Bank get direct access to markets in and through Israel without the disruptive road blocks and transfers faced by the Palestinians who are obliged to rely on Israeli intermediaries. The revenue from taxes and customs goes to Israel, a further loss to the Palestinian economy of 3% of its GDP a year. Under its Coral label, Carmel Agrexco markets Palestinian produce and says that "the revenue is directly transferred to the Palestinian co-operatives". Palestinian organisations, on the other hand, talk of landless people forced to work in Israeli-owned packing houses where they earn poverty wages and have no employment rights.

GROUND down by the Israeli jackboot, it is amazing that Palestine manages to grow, let alone export any food at all, but the miracle is that it does. The construction of Israeli settlements, settlement roads and the Separation Wall, for instance, has seen olive trees bulldozed. According to the Applied Research Institute in Jerusalem more than 500,000 olive trees have been destroyed since 2000, yet Palestine still has some of the oldest olive groves in the world.

In recent years, Zaytoun, a not-for-profit co-operative, has had great success in the UK selling organic olive oil produced by marginalised Palestinian growers in Salfit, Tulkarem, Nablus, Jenin and the Galilee. Through Zaytoun, you can also buy Nabali green olives, pickled in the Palestinian tradition with olive oil, water and salt, tree-ripened black olives, the Middle eastern staple, Za'atar, a mix of wild thyme, toasted sesame and sharp-tasting sumac, Medjoul dates from Jericho and the celebrated large, sweet "Om Al-Fahem" almond grown in Jenin. Zaytoun used to sell couscous from a women's co-operative in Gaza, but since Israel intensified its siege, any type of export has been made impossible.

By refusing to buy Israeli fruits, vegetables and flowers and supporting Palestinian produce whenever we get the chance, we do something practical to express our repugnance at Israel's aggression against the Palestinian people.

Leave those cherry tomatoes on the shelf and you will be part of the wider campaign to boycott Israeli goods (BIG). If, on the other hand, you are one of those Scots who doesn't eat fruit and veg, make a donation to Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP). Just £10 buys a mobile blood pack, and they need a lot of those in Gaza right now. That's about what you'd pay for four Israeli avocadoes, two red peppers, one melon and a packet of herbs.

Israel Losing 4th Gen War in Gaza - Military Analysis by William Lind

UPI, January 14, 2009 - So far, Israel's assault on the Gaza Strip has produced no surprises. On the physical level of war, the Israel Defense Forces are triumphing. The Palestinians are suffering about 100 people dead for every dead Israeli. To a Second Generation War military, which is what Israel's formerly Third Generation War army has become, that is the main measure of victory.

On the moral level, the picture is reversed. Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, is almost assured of victory. As Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld has observed, all it has to do to claim victory is survive, which it will. That claim will not be just propaganda: For Hamas to survive everything a modern state military can throw at it is a legitimate victory. In fact, it not only will survive but also will be strengthened by a worldwide flood of sympathy, which will translate in part into new recruits and more money.

In the end, if Israel wants to stop Hamas' rockets, it will be able to do so only by making a deal with Hamas. Since that was equally true before the war, the question of why it was fought will soon present itself....

What all Israeli parties and the IDF seem to share is that they don't get Fourth Generation War. They have been defeated repeatedly by 4G forces, but they do not learn....

Friday, January 16, 2009

Turkish, Syrian Leaders Lash out at Israel Over Gaza

Turkey: President Abdullah Gül has said he is "ashamed on behalf of humanity" because of Israel's offensive against the Gaza Strip. "I feel ashamed on behalf of humanity about what's happening. I feel sadness about the world's silence and inability to secure a cease-fire in an environment where so many children have died," Gül said in Ankara....

Syria: Cut all ties with Israel; Arab peace initiative of 2002 is dead

Qatar, Mauritania suspend economic and political ties with Israel The move announced on Friday followed calls by Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, and Khaled Meshaal, the exiled leader of Hamas, for all Arab nations to cut ties with Israel.

Addressing leaders at an emergency Arab summit in Doha, the Qatari capital, al-Assad declared that the Arab initiative for peace with Israel was now "dead". He said Arab countries should cut "all direct and indirect" ties with Israel in protest against its offensive in Gaza.

His comments echoed those of Khaled Meshaal, the exiled leader of Hamas, the Palestinian group that controls the Gaza Strip, who also called on all Arab states to cut ties with Israel.Egypt and Jordan are the only Arab countries who have signed peace treaties with Israel and have Israeli embassies.

UN Condemns Israel for Massive Human Rights Violations

Mail & Guardian Online, South Africa, January 17, 2009 - The UN's senior human rights body approved a resolution on Monday condemning the Israeli offensive for "massive violations of human rights".

A senior UN source said UN humanitarian agencies were compiling evidence of war crimes and referring it to the "highest levels".

Some human rights activists allege Israeli leaders ordered military casualties be kept low no matter what cost to civilians, and that the strategy contributed to one of the bloodiest Israeli assaults on Palestinian territories.

John Ging, head of the UN Palestinian refugee agency in Gaza, said: "It's about accountability [over] the issue of the appropriateness and proportionality of the force used, and the duty of care of civilians. We don't want to join any chorus of passing judgement, but there should be an investigation of every incident where there are concerns there might have been violations in international law."

The Israeli military are accused of:
  • Using powerful shells in civilian areas that the army knew would cause many innocent casualties;

  • Using banned weapons such as phosphorus bombs;

  • Holding Palestinian families as human shields;

  • Attacking medical facilities, including killing 12 ambulance men in marked ambulances; and

  • Killing large numbers of policeman with no military role.

Gaza Doctor, Invited to Report for Israel TV, Instead Reports His Three Daughters' Deaths at the Hands of the IDF

Reuters, January 16, 2009 - Israeli television broadcast desperate cries for help from a Palestinian doctor on Friday after his children were killed in an Israeli attack in the Gaza Strip and troops later helped surviving members of the family.

The telephone calls created extraordinary scenes during evening news broadcasts as the doctor, a Hebrew-speaking physician who spoke regularly on Israeli television, said three of his children were killed in a tank strike and others were wounded.

"My girls were sitting at home planning their futures, talking, then suddenly they are being shelled," he said in a voice shaking with emotion. "I want to know why they were killed, who gave the order?"

Izz el-Deen Aboul Aish is a gynecologist who worked in one of Israel's main hospitals before Gazans were effectively sealed off behind an Israeli-led blockade on the Hamas-controlled enclave. He often gave interviews to Channel 10 television.

With Israeli journalists unable to report from the Gaza Strip independently, Aboul Aish acted as a Hebrew-speaking witness who told of the Palestinian civilians' suffering under fire during Israel's three-week-old offensive there.

The deaths of more than 1,150 Palestinians, some 700 of them civilians by one independent count, have left the Israeli public largely unmoved. An overwhelming majority backs a war to end Hamas rocket fire that, before the offensive, had killed 18 people and disrupted life in southern towns over recent years.

Channel 10 correspondent Shlomi Eldar, who said he had planned a live on-air interview with Aboul Aish on Friday evening, produced a mobile phone in the studio, letting viewers here the voice of Aboul Aish: "My God, my girls, Shlomi," he said. "Can't anybody get to us, please?"

Eldar told his audience: "They have killed his family."...

Watch it live:

"We Are Creating Suicide Bombers"

The Guardian, January 17, 2009 - ....One resisters' organisation, Courage to Refuse, published a newspaper advert condemning the killing of hundreds of Palestinian civilians and calling on soldiers to refuse to fight in Gaza. "The brutal, unprecedented violence in Gaza is shocking. The false hope that this kind of violence will bring security to Israelis is all the more dangerous. We cannot stand aside while hundreds of civilians are being butchered by the IDF [Israel Defence Force]," it said.

But it is not clear how many have refused to go to Gaza, because the army is sending people home, quietly. So far, only one reservist has been jailed for refusing to fight. No'em Levna, a first lieutenant in the Israeli army, was sent to a military prison for 14 days. "Killing innocent civilians cannot be justified," he said. "Nothing justifies this kind of killing. It is Israeli arrogance based on logic. It's saying, 'if we hit more, everything will be okay'. But the hatred and anger we are planting in Gaza will rebound on us."

Ben Mocha is hardly a pacifist or anti-Israeli. He grew up in a Jewish orthodox family, attended a religious school, and served full-time in one of Israel's elite combat parachute units.

He says he joined the Israeli army believing he would be fighting "terror organisations". He found himself suppressing Palestinian aspirations for freedom and putting down protests of Palestinian farmers "against the incontinent theft of their lands". He also saw abuses, such as Israeli troops sending Palestinian women and children into houses to ensure they were not booby-trapped, and using civilians as human shields.

"I am not a pacifist. I recognise the necessity of Israel to have a strong defensive army but I'm no longer going to play a part in 40 years of occupation. I told the army I will report for training so that I can always be ready to defend Israel, but attacking Gaza and perpetuating occupation is not defending Israel."....

War by Any Other Name - Gideon Levy

Haaretz, January 16, 2009 - Words, it is true, do not kill; but words can ease the work of killing. From the dawn of the Israeli occupation in the territories - by now an ancient dawn - or perhaps from the very establishment of the state, or maybe even from the revival of Hebrew, the language has been mobilized in active reserve service. There has been a permanent emergency call-up and Hebrew has never doffed its uniform. War after war, doublespeak after doublespeak, words are on the front line. They don't shed blood, but somehow they make the sight of it easier to take, sometimes even pleasurably so. They justify, validate, purify, polish and clean; often they also whip up, incite, inflame, push, urge and encourage - all in standard usage. Dry cleaning, express, removes every stain instantaneously, our word-laundering is guaranteed.

We were hurled into this war armed with lines written by our national poet for the Hanukkah holiday, the holiday of the onset of this war: "Cast Lead," from a poem by Bialik. From now on, when kindergarten children sing "My father lit me candles, and acted as my torch," people will remember this war, which some commentators are already calling "the most just in Israel?s history," no less. But as for "war," the authoritative Even-Shoshan dictionary defines it as "an armed clash between armies, a conflict between state bodies (nations, states) in battle operations with the use of weapons and by force of arms." The Litani Operation (Lebanon, March 1978), a large-scale action which lasted three full months, never gained the national honor of being considered a war. Even the "Second Lebanon War" was not given that official name until half a year after it ended. This time we were quicker and more determined. The forces had not yet raided at dawn, the planes had not yet finished bombing the graduation ceremony of the traffic police - leaving behind dozens of bleeding young bodies; and we were already calling it a war. For the time being it is a nameless war; yes, afterward the ministerial committee for ceremonies and symbols will convene and give it an appropriate name. The First Gaza War? Surely not the last.

True, the dictionary raises doubts. This is certainly not "an armed clash between armies." After all, which army is fighting us, exactly? The army of Qassams and tunnels? It's even hard to call it "a conflict between nations and states in battle operations," because the battles are not actually battles and one of the sides is not exactly a state, barely half a nation, it has to be admitted. Still, war. What difference does it make if a senior officer in a reserve unit was quoted this week in Haaretz as saying, "It was a superb call-up and training exercise"? For us it?s a war. For months we longed for it, oh how we longed for the "big operation" in Gaza. No one talked about "war" then, but look, a war was born. Mazel tov....

The swaggering lyrics go hand in hand with doublespeak. "The houses have to be distanced from the border," a learned military analyst explained incisively last week, referring to what needs to be done in Rafah along the "Philadelphi" route. "To distance the houses from the border," as though these were homes marked for conservation in the old Sarona neighborhood of Tel Aviv, on which the Kirya - the defense establishment compound - now stands. Why, you just slide them onto tracks and move them a few meters down the road. Has the learned analyst seen the Rafah homes opposite Philadelphi in recent years? Most of them have long since been reduced to rubble. People lived in them, a great many people, who have nowhere, but nowhere, to go. Now there are hundreds more destroyed homes, which we have "distanced from the border," so to speak.

We "liberated" the territories, "preempted" the terrorists and "preserved order," the order of the occupation; consolidated the occupation with a "civil administration," being careful not to cause a "humanitarian disaster," jailed people in ?administrative detention," killed with "neighbor procedure," murdered with "rules of engagement" and liquidated "senior figures in Hamas"; children "died from their wounds," adults were killed with "rubber bullets," a 6-year-old child who is killed is a "youth," a 12-year-old youth who is killed is a "young man" and both are "terrorists"; we established a "crossings unit" which is a network of roadblocks, and a "coordination and liaison directorate" which hardly coordinates or liaises between anything; we killed "gunmen" and "wanted individuals" and people "required for questioning," all of them "ticking bombs."

Now we have a "humanitarian corridor" and an equally "humanitarian" cease-fire. The "bank of goals" is also a friend." People "in shock" exist only in Israel, no one has gone into shock in Gaza. "Children of the south" live only in Sderot. Hamas fighters are "terrorists" and "Hamas activists," too, are not entitled to the honorific title of "noncombatants," so their fate is the same. Every postman of the Palestinian postal service, every policeman, every government accountant and maybe also every doctor working in Hamas' non-civil administration is considered an activist of the organization and therefore is to be killed before he kills us.

Our air force bombs and levels "targets," sometimes also "structures," never houses. Israel demands a "security zone" in Gaza, and security is always ours, only ours. Only my colleague at Haaretz, Amira Hass, dares, with characteristic courage, to call the tens of thousands of new homeless people in Gaza, made homeless by us, refugees for the second and third time in their lives; dares to call them "displaced persons." A term that is so heavily charged and fraught with history. But these DPs have nowhere to escape the horrors of the "war.

Gideon Levy is a columnist for the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz.

How to Sell 'Ethical Warfare'

The Guardian, January 16, 2009 - One of my students was arrested yesterday and spent the night in a prison cell. R's offence was protesting the Israeli assault on Gaza. He joins over 700 other Israelis who have been detained since the beginning of Israel's ruthless war on Gaza: an estimated 230 of whom are still behind bars. Within the Israeli context, this strategy of quelling protest and stifling resistance is unprecedented, and it is quite disturbing that the international media has failed to comment on it.

Simultaneously, the Israeli media has been towing the government line to such a degree that no criticism of the war has been voiced on any of the three local television stations. Indeed, the situation has become so absurd that reporters and anchors are currently less critical of the war than the military spokespeople. In the absence of any critical analysis, it is not so surprising that 78% of Israelis, or about 98% of all Jewish Israelis, support the war.

But eliding critical voices is not the only way that public support has been secured. Support has also been manufactured through ostensibly logical argumentation. One of the ways the media, military and government have been convincing Israelis to rally behind the assault is by claiming that Israel is carrying out a moral military campaign against Hamas. The logic, as Eyal Weizman has cogently observed in his groundbreaking book Hollow Land, is one of restraint.

The Israeli media continuously emphasises Israel's restraint by underscoring the gap between what the military forces could do to the Palestinians and what they actually do....

The message Israel conveys through these refrains has two different meanings depending on the target audience.

To the Palestinians, the message is one that carries a clear threat: Israel's restraint could end and there is always the possibility of further escalation. Regardless of how lethal Israel's military attacks are now, the idea is to intimidate the Palestinian population by underscoring that the violence can always become more deadly and brutal. This guarantees that violence, both when it is and when it is not deployed, remains an ever-looming threat.

The message to the Israelis is a moral one. The subtext is that the Israeli military could indiscriminately unleash its vast arsenal of violence, but chooses not to, because its forces, unlike Hamas, respect human life.

This latter claim appears to have considerable resonance among Israelis, and, yet, it is based on a moral fallacy. The fact that one could be more brutal but chooses to use restraint does not in any way entail that one is moral. The fact that the Israeli military could have razed the entire Gaza Strip, but instead destroyed only 15% of the buildings does not make its actions moral. The fact that the Israeli military could have killed thousands of Palestinian children during this campaign, and, due to restraint, killed "only" 300, does not make Operation Cast Lead ethical.

Ultimately, the moral claims the Israeli government uses to support its actions during this war are empty. They actually reveal Israel's unwillingness to confront the original source of the current violence, which is not Hamas, but rather the occupation of the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem. My student, R, and the other Israeli protesters seem to have understood this truism; in order to stop them from voicing it, Israel has stomped on their civil liberties by arresting them.

Still Breathing in Gaza - Caoimhe Butterly

Electronic Intifada, Gaza, January 15, 2009 - The morgues of Gaza's hospitals are overflowing. The bodies in their blood-soaked white shrouds cover the entire floor space of the al-Shifa hospital morgue. Some are intact, most horribly deformed, limbs twisted into unnatural positions, chest cavities exposed, heads blown off, skulls crushed in. Family members wait outside to identify and claim a brother, husband, father, mother, wife, child. Many of those who wait their turn have lost numerous family members and loved ones.

Blood is everywhere. Hospital orderlies hose down the floors of operating rooms, bloodied bandages lie discarded in corners, and the injured continue to pour in: bodies lacerated by shrapnel, burns, bullet wounds. Medical workers, exhausted and under siege, work day and night and each life saved is seen as a victory over the predominance of death.

The streets of Gaza are eerily silent -- the pulsing life and rhythm of markets, children, fishermen walking down to the sea at dawn brutally stilled and replaced by an atmosphere of uncertainty, isolation and fear. The ever-present sounds of surveillance drones, F-16s, tanks and Apache helicopters are listened to acutely as residents try to guess where the next deadly strike will be -- which house, school, clinic, mosque, governmental building or community center will be hit next and how to move before it does. That there are no safe places -- no refuge for vulnerable human bodies -- is felt drastically. It is a devastating awareness for parents -- that there is no way to keep their children safe.

As we continue to accompany the ambulances, joining Palestinian paramedics as they risk their lives, daily, to respond to calls from those with no other life-line, our existence becomes temporarily narrowed down and focused on the few precious minutes that make the difference between life and death. With each new call received as we ride in ambulances that careen down broken, silent roads, sirens and lights blaring, there exists a battle of life over death. We have learned the language of the war that the Israelis are waging on the collective captive population of Gaza -- to distinguish between the sounds of the weaponry used, the timing between the first missile strikes and the inevitable second -- targeting those that rush to tend to and evacuate the wounded, to recognize the signs of the different chemical weapons being used in this onslaught, to overcome the initial vulnerability of recognizing our own mortality.

Though many of the calls received are to pick up bodies, not the wounded, the necessity of affording the dead a dignified burial drives the paramedics to face the deliberate targeting of their colleagues and comrades -- 13 killed while evacuating the wounded, fourteen ambulances destroyed -- and to continue to search for the shattered bodies of the dead to bring home to their families.

Last night, while sitting with paramedics in Jabaliya refugee camp, drinking tea and listening to their stories, we received a call to respond to the aftermath of a missile strike. When we arrived at the outskirts of the camp where the attack had taken place, the area was filled with clouds of dust, torn electricity lines, slabs of concrete and open water pipes gushing water into the street. Amongst the carnage of severed limbs and blood we pulled out the body of a young man, his chest and face lacerated by shrapnel wounds, but alive, conscious and moaning.

As the ambulance sped him through the cold night we applied pressure to his wounds, the warmth of his blood seeping through the bandages reminder of the life still in him. He opened his eyes in answer to my questions and closed them again as Muhammad, a volunteer paramedic, murmured "ayeesh, nufuss" (live, breathe) over and over to him. He lost consciousness as we arrived at the hospital, received by the arms of friends who carried him into the emergency room. He, Majid, lived and is recovering.

A few minutes later there was another missile strike, this time on a residential house. As we arrived a crowd had rushed to the ruins of the four-story home in an attempt to drag survivors out from under the rubble. The family the house belonged to had evacuated the area the day before and the only person in it at the time of the strike was 17-year-old Muhammad who had gone back to collect clothes for his family. He was dragged out from under the rubble still breathing -- his legs twisted in unnatural directions and with a head wound, but alive. There was no choice but to move him, with the imminence of a possible second strike, and he lay in the ambulance moaning with pain and calling for his mother. We thought he would live, he was conscious though in intense pain and with the rest of the night consumed with call after call to pick up the wounded and the dead, I forgot to check on him. This morning we were called to pick up a body from al-Shifa hospital to take back to Jabaliya. We carried a body wrapped in a blood-soaked white shroud into the ambulance, and it wasn't until we were on the road that we realized that it was Muhammad's body. His brother rode with us, opening the shroud to tenderly kiss Muhammad's forehead.

This morning we received news that al-Quds hospital in Gaza City was under siege. We tried unsuccessfully for hours to gain access to the hospital, trying to organize co-ordination to get the ambulances past Israeli tanks and snipers to evacuate the wounded and dead. Hours of unsuccessful attempts later we received a call from the Shejaiya neighborhood, describing a house where there were both dead and wounded patients to pick up. The area was deserted, many families having fled as Israeli tanks and snipers took up position amongst their homes, other silent in the dark, cold confines of their homes, crawling from room to room to avoid sniper fire through their windows.

As we drove slowly around the area, we heard women's cries for help. We approached their house on foot, followed by the ambulances and as we came to the threshold of their home, they rushed towards us with their children, shaking and crying with shock. At the door of the house the ambulance lights exposed the bodies of four men, lacerated by shrapnel wounds -- the skull and brains of one exposed, others whose limbs had been severed off. The four were the husbands and brothers of the women, who had ventured out to search for bread and food for their families. Their bodies were still warm as we struggled to carry them on stretchers over the uneven ground, their blood staining the earth and our clothes. As we prepared to leave the area our torches illuminated the slumped figure of another man, his abdomen and chest shredded by shrapnel. With no space in the other ambulances, and the imminent possibility of sniper fire, we were forced to take his body in the back of the ambulance carrying the women and children. One of the little girls stared at me before coming into my arms and telling me her name, Fidaa, which means to sacrifice. She stared at the body bag, asking when he would wake up.

Once back at the hospital we received word that the Israeli army had shelled al-Quds hospital, that the ensuing fire risked spreading and that there had been a 20-minute timeframe negotiated to evacuate patients, doctors and residents in the surrounding houses. By the time we got up there in a convoy of ambulances, hundreds of people had gathered. With the shelling of the headquarters of the United Nations agency for Palestine refugees and the hospital there was a profound awareness that nowhere in Gaza is safe, or sacred.

We helped evacuate those assembled to nearby hospitals and schools that have been opened to receive the displaced. The scenes were deeply saddening -- families, desperate and carrying their children, blankets and bags of their possessions venturing out in the cold night to try to find a corner of a school or hospital to shelter in. The paramedic we were with referred to the displacement of the more than 46,000 Palestinians now on the move as a continuation of the ongoing Nakba of dispossession and exile seen through generation after generation enduring massacre after massacre.

Today's death toll was over 75, one of the bloodiest days since the start of this carnage. At least 1,110 Palestinians have been killed in the past 21 days; 367 of those have been children. The humanitarian infrastructure of Gaza is on its knees, already devastated by years of comprehensive siege. There has been a deliberate, systematic destruction of all places of refuge. There are no safe places here, for anyone.

And yet, in the face of so much desecration, this community has remained intact. The social solidarity and support between people is inspiring, and the steadfastness of Gaza continues to humble and inspire all those who witness it. Their level of sacrifice demands our collective response and recognition that demonstrations are not enough. Gaza, Palestine and its people continue to live, breathe, resist and remain intact and this refusal to be broken is a call and challenge to us all.

Caoimhe Butterly is an Irish human rights activist working in Jabaliya and Gaza City as a volunteer with ambulance services and as co-coordinator for the Free Gaza Movement, She can be contacted on 00972-598273960 or at sahara78 AT hotmail DOT co DOT uk.

The Palestinians Say: "This is a War of Extermination" - Ahdaf Soueif

The Guardian, January 17, 2009, reporting from Egypt - Everyone says something new is going on here; something different. The residents of Egyptian Rafah are used to the sounds of rockets and shells exploding on the other side of their border, but they've never heard the sounds they've been hearing over the last 20 days. Twenty-five miles further into Egypt the general hospital at el-Arish is used to receiving the Palestinian wounded. The staff have never seen injuries like these before. The hospital forecourt is swarming with ambulances, paramedics, press. The wounded are raced into casualty.

The Palestinians are mostly silent; each man working out where he finds himself and what he's going to do. Fearing for their wounded and fearing for those they've left behind, they are silent but unfailingly courteous.

They try to answer questions. They must be exhausted? "The people of Gaza," they say (not "we"; they're too proud for that), "the people of Gaza just wish for an hour's sleep." The case you're accompanying? "I'm here with my nephew. He's 19. Shrapnel in his head. He was sitting with his friends. He's a student. Architecture. The helicopter dropped a bomb and seven of the group were killed and six were injured. They found a boy's hand on a 3rd floor balcony."

Later, I see a boy sitting up in bed with a bandage round his head. He has wide brown eyes flecked with green and he frowns a little, as though he was trying to remember something important. In the next bed a 12-year-old also with a bandaged head is not quite conscious yet. He is flushed and fretful.

The Palestinians say: "This is a war of extermination." They describe bombs which break into 16 parts, each part splintering into 116 fragments, the white phosphorus which water cannot put out; which seems to die and then flares up again.

No one I spoke to has any doubt that the Israelis are committing war crimes. According to the medics here, to reports from doctors inside the Gaza Strip and to Palestinian eye-witnesses, more than 95% of the dead and injured are civilians. Many more will probably be found when the siege is lifted and the rubble is cleared. The doctors speak of a disproportionate number of head injuries - specifically of shrapnel lodged in the brain.

They also speak of the extensive burns of white phosphorus. These injuries are, as they put it, 'incompatible with life'. They are also receiving large numbers of amputees. This is because the damage done to the bone by explosive bullets is so extensive that the only way the doctors in Gaza can save lives is by amputating....

Ahdaf Soueif is a writer whose novel The Map of Love was shortlisted for the 1999 Booker prize.

Someone Must Stop this Rampant Madness - Gideon Levy

Haaretz, January 16, 2009 - The streets of Gaza Thursday looked like killing fields in the midst of the "third stage" and worse. Israel is arrogantly ignoring the Security Council's resolution calling for a cease-fire and is shelling the UN compound in Gaza, as if to show its real feeling toward that institution. Emergency supplies intended for Gaza residents are going up in flames in the burning warehouses. Thick black smoke is rising from the burning flour sacks and the fuel reserves near them, covering the streets.

In the streets, people are running back and forth in panic, holding children and suitcases in their hands, helpless as the shells fall around them. Nobody in the diplomatic corridors is in any hurry to help those unfortunates who have nowhere to run.

The handful of journalists trying to cover the events, despite the outrageous media closure Israel has imposed, are also in danger. The Israel Defense Forces Thursday shelled the media building they were in and now they are all crowded in one office, as fearful and horrified as the rest of the scorched city's residents.

The BBC's Arabic correspondent, furious and alarmed, swears hoarsely that nobody fired from the building or around it. Meanwhile, in our television studios, there is rejoicing.

Is this war a "corrective experience," asks Rafi Reshef, who seems diabolically delighted by the fighting. Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer tells him that the IDF and Israel Air Force have made great achievements. Nobody of course asks what is so great about these achievements except the killing, destruction and thousands of casualties in Gaza and the rockets that continue falling on Be'er Sheva - undermining every "achievement."

In the lobby of a luxury hotel, against the background of the horror show from Gaza, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni explains, with intolerable arrogance, that the fire will stop "whenever Israel decides" on the basis of "daily situation evaluations."

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, standing beside her, breaks protocol and denounces Israel with uncharacteristic vigor for its attack on the UN compound.

This is how Israel now looks to the outside world - its tanks in the burning streets of Gaza; more and more people being killed for nothing; tens of thousands of new refugees; an appallingly haughty foreign minister, and a growing clamor of condemnation and disgust from all over the globe.

Whether or not we have accomplished anything in the war, now only the thirst for blood and lust for revenge speak out, together with the desperate longing for the "victory shot" on the backs of hundreds and thousands of miserable civilians - a picture that will never be achieved, even with another 100 assassinations of Hamas leaders, like Thursday.

All those who supported this war and all those who objected to it should unite in the cry, Enough.

Gideon Levy is a columnist for the Israeli daily Haaretz.

Appeal from Organizations in Gaza: Silence is Complicity

From Gaza (via Electronic Intifada),January 15, 2009 -

With the death toll in Gaza growing hourly, silence is complicity. It is imperative for concerned citizens to demand that their governments take immediate action in order to stop Israeli genocide in Gaza.

Write your representative today and demand:

~That Israeli war criminals be brought before the International Criminal Court or a Special Tribunal for war crimes committed in Gaza. (Remind your representative that the investigation, prosecution or extradition of those responsible for war crimes is an obligation of all high contracting parties to the Geneva Conventions.)
~That in response to Israel's severe breaches of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, your state terminate all favorable trade agreements and economic relations with Israel, including the EU Association Agreement which is conditional upon adherence to human rights and democratic principles.
~That your state cut all diplomatic ties with Israel.

The current events in Gaza were predicated and advocated for by Israeli Professor Arnon Sofer, Head of the Israeli army's National Defense College. Professor Sofer spelled out the desired results of Israel's unilateral disengagement from Gaza in an interview with The Jerusalem Post (24 May 2004):

Jerusalem Post:
How will the region look the day after unilateral separation?

Arnon Sofer: ... First of all ... Instead of entering Gaza like we did last week. We will tell the Palestinians that if a single missile is fired over the fence, we will fire 10 in response. And women and children will be killed, and houses will be destroyed. After the fifth such incident, Palestinian mothers won't allow their husbands to shoot Qassams, because they will know what's waiting for them.

Second of all, when 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it's going to be a human catastrophe. Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam. The pressure at the border will be awful. It's going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day ... If we don't kill, we will cease to exist ... Unilateral separation doesn't guarantee "peace" -- it guarantees a Zionist-Jewish state with an overwhelming majority of Jews ...

Jerusalem Post: Voluntary transfer?

Arnon Sofer: Yes. And Gaza is going to be such a disaster that it will be beyond our capacity to help. There will have to be large-scale international aid. The US will have to pressure Egypt to cede land.

More recently Matan Vilnai, Deputy Defense Minister of Israel, told Army Radio during "Operation Hot Winter" (29 February 2008):

"They will bring upon themselves a bigger shoah [Hebrew word for Holocaust - Ed] because we will use all our might to defend ourselves."

In the days following this statement, 107 Palestinians were killed. The international community failed to take action. This inaction, followed by European declarations of intentions to upgrade their trade agreements with Israel, served as a green light for the current atrocities.

Reserve Colonel Yoav Gal, an Israeli Air Force pilot, told Army Radio during "Operation Cast Lead" (11 January 2009):

"I believe that it should have been even stronger! Dresden! Dresden! The extermination of a city! After all, we're told that the face of war has changed. No longer is it the advancing of tanks or an organized military. [...] It is a whole nation, from the old lady to the child, this is the military. It is a nation fighting a war. I am calling them a nation, even though I don't see them as one. It is a nation fighting a nation. Civilians fighting civilians. I'm telling you that we [...] must know [...] that stones will not be thrown at us! I am not talking about rockets -- not even a stone will be thrown at us. Because we're Jews.[...] I want the Arabs of Gaza to flee to Egypt. This is what I want. I want to destroy the city, not necessarily the people living within it."

In order to end Israel's impunity we call on civil society to support the Palestinian campaign for an international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

Undersigned organizations:

The One Democratic State Group - Gaza
University Teacher Association in Palestine - Gaza
Arab Cultural Forum - Gaza

Endorsed by:

Popular Committees Against the Wall and Settlements - West Bank

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Message to Israel - Ismail Haniyeh

The Independent (UK), January 15, 2009 - I write this article to Western readers across the social and political spectrum as the Israeli war machine continues to massacre my people in Gaza. To date, almost 1,000 have been killed, nearly half of whom are women and children. Last week's bombing of the UNRWA (UN Relief Works Agency) school in the Jabalya refugee camp was one of the most despicable crimes imaginable, as hundreds of civilians had abandoned their homes and sought refuge with the international agency only to be mercilessly shelled and bombed by Israel. Forty-six children and women were killed in that heinous attack while scores were injured.

Evidently, Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005 did not end its occupation nor, as a result, its international obligations as an occupying power. It continued to control and dominate our borders by land, sea and air. Indeed the UN has confirmed that between 2005 and 2008, the Israeli army killed nearly 1,250 Palestinians in Gaza, including 222 children. For most of that period the border crossings have remained effectively closed, with only limited quantities of food, industrial fuel, animal feed and a few other essential items, allowed in.

Despite its frantic efforts to conceal it, the root cause of Israel's criminal war on Gaza is the elections of January 2006, which saw Hamas win by a substantial majority. What occurred next was that Israel alongside the United States and the European Union joined forces in an attempt to quash the democratic will of the Palestinian people. They set about reversing the decision first by obstructing the formation of a national unity government and then by making a living hell for the Palestinian people through economic strangulation. The abject failure of all these machinations finally led to this vicious war. Israel's objective is to silence all voices that express the will of the Palestinian; thereafter it would impose its own terms for a final settlement depriving us of our land, our right to Jerusalem as the rightful capital of our future state and the Palestinian refugees' right to return to their homes.

Ultimately, the comprehensive siege on Gaza, which manifestly violated the Fourth Geneva Convention, prohibited the most basic medical supplies to our hospitals. It disallowed the delivery of fuel and supply of electricity to our population. And on top of all of this inhumanity, it denied them food and the freedom of movement, even to seek treatment. This led to the avoidable death of hundreds of patients and the spiralling rise of malnutrition among our children....

None of the atrocities committed against our schools, universities, mosques, ministries and civil infra-structure would deter us in the pursuit of our national rights. Undoubtedly, Israel could demolish every building in the Gaza Strip but it would never shatter our determination or steadfastness to live in dignity on our land. Surely, if the gathering of civilians in a building only to then bomb it or the use of phosphorous bombs and missiles are not war crimes, then what is? How many more international treaties and conventions must Zionist Israel breach before it is held accountable? There is not a capital in the world today where free and decent people are not outraged by this brutal oppression. Neither Palestine nor the world would be the same after these crimes....

Ismail Haniyah (Hamas) is the Prime Minister of Palestine.

Spirited Debate on Israel in the British House of Commons

Middle East Online, January 14, 2009 - [Editor's note: These are just small excerpts; a fuller account can be found at the link.] Suffice to say that an increasing number of British MPs are disgusted by the mindless destruction in Gaza and the sickening slaughter of innocents, although some still defend the indefensible. Here is a selection of the exchanges in Parliament:

David Miliband: ... .
The internationally expressed will of the community of nations has not been followed either by Hamas or by Israel. However, I do not agree that a policy of isolation would help either Britain’s influence or the prospects of peace in the middle east. It is very important that we continue to speak without fear or favour on these issues—that we speak publicly, using occasions such as this, but that we use the opportunity to speak privately as well.
Mr. George Galloway (Respect): The Foreign Secretary is not in favour of the isolation of Israel but he was in favour of the isolation of the Government elected in Palestine, in the only free parliamentary election ever held in any Arab country, because the people voted the wrong way. He joined the siege of the Hamas Government and helped create the desperation that led to the barrage of rockets—largely ineffectual, as he has conceded. Action speaks louder than words. Why will the Government not recall our ambassador from Tel Aviv, ask the Israeli ambassador to leave, and, above all, stop selling British weapons to the mass-murderers who are taking so many lives and limbs in Palestine today?..
Ann Clwyd (Labour):
I was present some years ago in Jenin, during the siege of Jenin. I saw then the refusal of the Israelis to allow humanitarian aid to be provided to those who were injured and sick. Now we see that yet again. It is an absolute disgrace that any country that calls itself a democracy refuses to allow the humanitarian agencies to deliver aid to those who are desperately in need. I also think that the exclusion of journalists from the area is totally unacceptable. Were it not for al-Jazeera, we would see no pictures on television of the suffering and destruction taking place in Gaza at present. Will my right hon. Friend make the point that it is essential to allow journalists access?
David Miliband:
I agree on both points with my right hon. Friend—the entry of journalists, to which I referred in my statement, and the essential nature of the humanitarian obligations that Israel needs to follow.
Mr. David Winnick (Labour): Would my right hon. Friend accept that the reason why there is such strong emotion in the House of Commons today is that, in the past week, the Israelis have shown total indifference to the suffering and lives of Palestinian civilians, and that some of the Israelis’ actions amount to war crimes against humanity? In those circumstances, is it not clear that a stronger approach is required by Britain, and that it should tell the Israelis that what they are doing is totally unacceptable and an affront to humanity?

David Miliband:
My hon. Friend’s diagnosis is right: that is why there is such passion in the House, allied to the fact that the repercussions of conflict in the middle east echo around the world. The truth is that the easiest recruiting sergeant for extremism anywhere in the world is the absence of a Palestinian state... If words brought peace, they would have done so a long time ago, not just in this conflict but in the wider middle east, but I can assure my hon. Friend that we will continue to speak loud and clear, publicly and privately...
Mr. Marsha Singh (Labour):
Will my right hon. Friend accept that condemnation has brought no relief to the people of Gaza? The killing goes on. Is it not time for stronger action? Is it not time that we expelled the ambassador of Israel and brought our ambassador back from Israel? Is it not time that we called for international sanctions against Israel?

Israel's Message: No Place Allowed for Palestinians in Palestine - Ilan Pappe

The London Review of Books, January 14, 2009 - In 2004, the Israeli army began building a dummy Arab city in the Negev desert. It’s the size of a real city, with streets (all of them given names), mosques, public buildings and cars. Built at a cost of $45 million, this phantom city became a dummy Gaza in the winter of 2006, after Hizbullah fought Israel to a draw in the north, so that the IDF could prepare to fight a ‘better war’ against Hamas in the south.

When the Israeli Chief of General Staff Dan Halutz visited the site after the Lebanon war, he told the press that soldiers ‘were preparing for the scenario that will unfold in the dense neighbourhood of Gaza City’. A week into the bombardment of Gaza, Ehud Barak attended a rehearsal for the ground war. Foreign television crews filmed him as he watched ground troops conquer the dummy city, storming the empty houses and no doubt killing the ‘terrorists’ hiding in them.

‘Gaza is the problem,’ Levy Eshkol, then prime minister of Israel, said in June 1967. ‘I was there in 1956 and saw venomous snakes walking in the street. We should settle some of them in the Sinai, and hopefully the others will immigrate.’ Eshkol was discussing the fate of the newly occupied territories: he and his cabinet wanted the Gaza Strip, but not the people living in it.

Israelis often refer to Gaza as ‘Me’arat Nachashim’, a snake pit. Before the first intifada, when the Strip provided Tel Aviv with people to wash their dishes and clean their streets, Gazans were depicted more humanely. The ‘honeymoon’ ended during their first intifada, after a series of incidents in which a few of these employees stabbed their employers. The religious fervour that was said to have inspired these isolated attacks generated a wave of Islamophobic feeling in Israel, which led to the first enclosure of Gaza and the construction of an electric fence around it. Even after the 1993 Oslo Accords, Gaza remained sealed off from Israel, and was used merely as a pool of cheap labour; throughout the 1990s, ‘peace’ for Gaza meant its gradual transformation into a ghetto.

In 2000, Doron Almog, then the chief of the southern command, began policing the boundaries of Gaza: ‘We established observation points equipped with the best technology and our troops were allowed to fire at anyone reaching the fence at a distance of six kilometres,’ he boasted, suggesting that a similar policy be adopted for the West Bank. In the last two years alone, a hundred Palestinians have been killed by soldiers merely for getting too close to the fences. From 2000 until the current war broke out, Israeli forces killed three thousand Palestinians (634 children among them) in Gaza.

Between 1967 and 2005, Gaza’s land and water were plundered by Jewish settlers in Gush Katif at the expense of the local population. The price of peace and security for the Palestinians there was to give themselves up to imprisonment and colonisation. Since 2000, Gazans have chosen instead to resist in greater numbers and with greater force. It was not the kind of resistance the West approves of: it was Islamic and military. Its hallmark was the use of primitive Qassam rockets, which at first were fired mainly at the settlers in Katif. The presence of the settlers, however, made it hard for the Israeli army to retaliate with the brutality it uses against purely Palestinian targets. So the settlers were removed, not as part of a unilateral peace process as many argued at the time (to the point of suggesting that Ariel Sharon be awarded the Nobel peace prize), but rather to facilitate any subsequent military action against the Gaza Strip and to consolidate control of the West Bank.

After the disengagement from Gaza, Hamas took over, first in democratic elections, then in a pre-emptive coup staged to avert an American-backed takeover by Fatah. Meanwhile, Israeli border guards continued to kill anyone who came too close, and an economic blockade was imposed on the Strip. Hamas retaliated by firing missiles at Sderot, giving Israel a pretext to use its air force, artillery and gunships. Israel claimed to be shooting at ‘the launching areas of the missiles’, but in practice this meant anywhere and everywhere in Gaza. The casualties were high: in 2007 alone three hundred people were killed in Gaza, dozens of them children.

Israel justifies its conduct in Gaza as a part of the fight against terrorism, although it has itself violated every international law of war. Palestinians, it seems, can have no place inside historical Palestine unless they are willing to live without basic civil and human rights. They can be either second-class citizens inside the state of Israel, or inmates in the mega-prisons of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. If they resist they are likely to be imprisoned without trial, or killed. This is Israel’s message....

Ilan Pappe is chair of the history department at the University of Exeter and co-director of the Exeter Centre for Ethno-Political Studies. The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine came out in 2007.

Grieving Over Gaza - Anat Biletski

The Nation, January 14, 2009 -

I write as an Israeli.

In the past two-and-a-half weeks Israeli forces have killed over 900 people in Gaza; Palestinian rockets have killed four Israelis and Palestinian fighters have killed six soldiers. As the assault began, Bibi Netanyahu, the leader of Israel's definitive right-wing party, Likud, said that talk of comparative numbers is not pertinent to the validity of Operation Cast Lead. That might be true, but the grotesque proportions of one to one hundred in counting the dead should give us pause, should make us reflect on the mantras of the conventional wisdom.

We are told by the mainstream media that Hamas broke the half-year truce agreed upon in June and refused to extend it past the December expiration date. Whether or not the truce was adhered to in its first four months is a question of interpretation rather than fact. Israelis will tell you that the Palestinians did, in fact, launch some Qassam missiles into Israel. True. Palestinians will tell you that Israel did not, in fact, live up to its side of the bargain and continued, even intensified, the siege of Gaza, stopping the electricity, water, fuel, food and medicines crucial for decent survival. True again. But no one denies that on November 4 Israel carried out an incursion into Gaza, killing seven Palestinians and setting off the renewal of violence--Qassam launchings into Israel by Hamas and Israeli killings of Palestinians in Gaza--that was in full swing by the time the truce expired.

We are also led to believe that Hamas refused to extend the half-year cease-fire. But even the mainstream news in the ten days before the attack started clearly reported that Hamas's positions just before the expiration date were vague and divided; and that starting on December 21 it made several overtures to Israel, via Egypt and Turkey, to discuss and consider continuing the truce. Israel refused.

Then we are urged by most conventional media, buttressed by "experts" on Israel, that no nation on earth would tolerate the rocketing of its civilians. That might be true. But such legal posturing, deriving from supposed expertise in the laws of war, seems to forget that the option of going to war, not to mention bombing indiscriminately from on high, is prescribed as a last resort after all other alternatives have been tried and exhausted. Refusing to engage with Hamas, Israel has, instead, put Gaza under blockade. To quote Michael Walzer, who taught us long ago about just and unjust wars--siege is the oldest form of total war.

As to indiscriminate bombing and shelling, we are fed the constant diet of "collateral damage," as if killing of civilians (now estimated as most of the dead, with over half being women and children) can be so effortlessly explained or excused. So, on the one hand, Israel is touted as having amazingly sophisticated methods of targeting while, on the other, it is facilely pardoned for missing the targets. The adage of collateral damage goes a long way--as long as sixteen people, most of them women and children, dying when one Hamas leader is targeted and killed; or forty people seeking shelter in a UN school. And note: in order to count as a bona fide civilian, in order not to be a legitimate target, a person living in Gaza mustn't be in the police force, in a university, in a mosque, or in a hospital run by the Gazan authorities. So indiscriminate is Operation Cast Lead that several Israeli human rights groups and organizations have mounted a wide campaign, crying "Civilians Are Not Cannon Fodder." Neither in Gaza nor in Israel. But that impartiality between Gaza and Israel brings us back to comparing the numbers. Over 900 people, out of a population of 1.5 million, have been killed in Gaza. That is equivalent to 180,000 Americans being killed--in two weeks.

Walzer himself has recently, in The New Republic, accused those using the proportionality argument of incautious lack of judgment. Yet some of those using that argument are Israelis demonstrating, arm in arm with Palestinians, against the carnage. Contrary to what one hears in the mainstream media, which adopts the conventional wisdom pitting all critiques of Israel as venomously pro-Palestinian--in Israel even as a fifth column--these are Israelis (and Jews) who know the unconventional facts. They are marginalized in the current Israeli ecstasy of battle; and ignored by the mainstream media.

I write as an Israeli. Some of us, as Israelis, are grieving over what we have become. Blaming the other side with a roster of rehearsed clichés cannot mitigate the grief.

Anat Biletzki is professor of philosophy at Tel Aviv University, currently a research affiliate at MIT and teaching human rights at Quinnipiac University. Until recently she was chairperson of B'Tselem, the Israeli Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.

Letter to Israel's Ambassador to France - Andre Nouschi (French)

Le Post, January 10, 2009 - Ci-dessous une lettre à l'ambassadeur d'Israël en France de l'historien André Nouschi (86 ans), originaire de Constantine (Algérie), qui souhaite que son texte diffusé autant que possible. André Nouschi, qui fut combattant de la France libre, est notamment l'auteur d'un livre, maintenant bien oublié, sur le niveau de vie des populations rurales constantinoises durant la période coloniale jusaqu'en 1919 (PUF, 1961). Ce livre, décisif, avait en son temps été salué par le ministre du GPRA et historien nationaliste algérien Ahmed Tafiq al-Madanî comme "la gouttre d'eau qui s'offre au voyageur après la traversée du désert". André Nouschi a été enseignant à l'université de Tunis, et il est professeur honoraire de l'université de Nice.

Monsieur l’Ambassadeur,

Pour vous c’est shabat, qui devait être un jour de paix mais qui est celui de la guerre. Pour moi, depuis plusieurs années, la colonisation et le vol israélien des terres palestiniennes m’exaspère. Je vous écris donc à plusieurs titres :comme Français, comme Juif de naissance et comme artisan des accords entre l’Université de Nice et celle de Haiffa ..

Il n’est plus possible de se taire devant la politique d’assassinats et d’expansion impérialiste d’Israël. Vous vous conduisez exactement comme Hitler s’est conduit en Europe avec l’Autriche, la Tchécoslovaquie .Vous méprisez les résolutions de l’ONU comme lui celles de la SDN et vous assassinez impunément des femmes, des enfants ; n’invoquez pas les attentats, l’Intifada. Tout cela résulte de la colonisation ILLEGITIME et ILLEGALE. QUI EST UN VOL.

Vous vous conduisez comme des voleurs de terres et vous tournez le dos aux règles de la morale juive.

Honte à vous :Honte à Israël ! Vous creusez votre tombe sans vous en rendre compte. Car vous êtes condamné à vivre avec les Palestiniens et les états arabes. Si vous manquez de cette intelligence politique, alors vous êtes indigne de faire de la politique et vos dirigeants devraient prendre leur retraite. Un pays qui assassine Rabin, qui glorifie son assassin est un pays sans morale et sans honneur.

Que le ciel et que votre Dieu mette à mort Sharon l’assassin. Vous avez subi une défaite au Liban en 2006.Vous en subirez d’autres, j’espère, et vous allez envoyer à la mort de jeunes Israéliens parce que vous n’avez pas le courage de faire la paix....

Personnellement, je vous combattrai de toutes mes forces comme je l’ai fait entre 1938 et 1945 jusqu’à ce que la justice des hommes détruise l’hitlérisme qui est au cœur de votre pays. Honte à Israël. J’espère que votre Dieu lancera contre ses dirigeants la vengeance qu’ils méritent. J’ai honte comme Juif, ancien combattant de la 2ème guerre mondiale, pour vous. Que votre Dieu vous maudisse jusqu’à la fin des siècles ! J’espère que vous serez punis..

André Nouschi (retired) is an honorary professor of history at the University of Nice in France.

Letter from Many British Intellectuals: "We Must Stop Israel from Winning This War"

The Guardian, January 16, 2009 - The massacres in Gaza are the latest phase of a war that Israel has been waging against the people of Palestine for more than 60 years. The goal of this war has never changed: to use overwhelming military power to eradicate the Palestinians as a political force, one capable of resisting Israel's ongoing appropriation of their land and resources. Israel's war against the Palestinians has turned Gaza and the West Bank into a pair of gigantic political prisons. There is nothing symmetrical about this war in terms of principles, tactics or consequences. Israel is responsible for launching and intensifying it, and for ending the most recent lull in hostilities.

Israel must lose. It is not enough to call for another ceasefire, or more humanitarian assistance. It is not enough to urge the renewal of dialogue and to acknowledge the concerns and suffering of both sides. If we believe in the principle of democratic self-determination, if we affirm the right to resist military aggression and colonial occupation, then we are obliged to take sides... against Israel, and with the people of Gaza and the West Bank.

We must do what we can to stop Israel from winning its war. Israel must accept that its security depends on justice and peaceful coexistence with its neighbours, and not upon the criminal use of force.

We believe Israel should immediately and unconditionally end its assault on Gaza, end the occupation of the West Bank, and abandon all claims to possess or control territory beyond its 1967 borders. We call on the British government and the British people to take all feasible steps to oblige Israel to comply with these demands, starting with a programme of boycott, divestment and sanctions.

Names of the signatories (over 200) are listed at the link.

Reactions to Israel's Shelling of UN Compound

UN Secretary General: "Infuriated"

EU President: "Simply unacceptable"

EU Parliament: "Time to Act and Slow Our Relations with Israel"

UK PM Brown: "Indefensible"

British MP: "Just like the Nazis, who killed my grandmother"

Video: Noam Chomsky on Gaza

Talk by Noam Chomsky on the Gaza Crisis, January 13, 2009

Center for International Studies (CIS), Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Noam Chomsky addressed the crisis in Gaza at a talk held at MIT, followed by a question-and-answer session with the audience. This event was co-sponsored by the MIT Center for International Studies and its Program on Human Rights and Justice.

The event was introduced by John Tirman, Executive Director with MIT CIS.

:: View the Video Stream of the event

:: Download Audio recorded by Chuck U. Rosina

Related Article at MIT's Tech newspaper: Chomsky Condemns U.S. and Israel For Civilian Deaths in Gaza Strip By Elijah Jordan Turner, January 14, 2009

"At a talk last night about the current situation in Gaza, Professor of Linguistics Noam A. Chomsky came down hard on Israel for its frequent violence against Palestinian civilians and chastised the United States for enabling the Jewish state to carry out these actions with impunity. He also used the opportunity to touch upon broader issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The talk, which took place at Sloan’s Wong Auditorium, was part of the Center of International Studies’ Starr Forum lecture series."

Action Alert: Call for Israel to lift media blackout on Gaza

The Arab American Institute (AAI) :: January 15, 2009

The Arab American Institute (AAI) calls on the State Department to urge the Israeli government to immediately allow reporters into Gaza in accordance with the Israeli High Court Ruling of December 2008.

Since the start of the Israeli offensive last December, foreign and Israeli journalists have been blocked from entering the Gaza Strip to report on the situation. This is the first time since 1973 that the Israeli army has refused to permit reporters to accompany soldiers in a conflict zone. News reports note that over 500 correspondents have assembled at the borders, many having already petitioned the Israeli government for entry into Gaza. Reporters without Borders remarks that most of the coverage of the situation in Gaza comes from the 295 Palestinian journalists reporting under "extremely difficult and dangerous circumstances."

"The exclusion of foreign correspondents is a very important part of the Israeli plans," asserted Robert Fox, defense correspondent for the London Evening Standard. "It was one of the main lessons they drew from the war in Lebanon in 2006. They want to 'manage the information space'."

Even after the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that reporters be allowed in to Gaza in groups of 12, the IDF has refused, claiming that it is too dangerous. Multiple international organizations have responded to the media blackout:

Foreign Press Association stated that “[t]he unprecedented denial of access to Gaza for the world's media amounts to a severe violation of press freedom.”

ABC News, CBS News, CNN, New York Times, and NPR among other American and international news organizations have signed the
Reporters with out Boarders petition “urging the Israeli authorities to allow our reporters back into the Gaza Strip.”

Doha Centre for Media Freedom attempted to take a busload of equipment and supplies accompanied by 20 foreign journalists into the Gaza Strip though the Rafah crossing, but have been turned away.

Human Rights Watch “urged the Israeli government to abide by an Israeli High Court ruling on December 31, 2008 and allow foreign media into Gaza. The presence of journalists and human rights monitors in conflict areas provides an essential check on human rights abuses and laws-of-war violations”

Contact the State Department through the AAI

Israel Bombs Main UN in Gaza Where 700 Civilians Shelter; Hospital; Media HQ

Haaretz, January 15, 2009 - The Al-Quds hospital in Gaza City was engulfed in flames on Thursday after it was caught in the fighting between Israel Defense Forces troops and Hamas.

Just before, the IDF shelled the main United Nation aid compound in the city of Gaza, drawing harsh criticism from visiting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and a subsequent apology from Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said its compound, where up to 700 Palestinians were being sheltered, was hit twice by fire and three staff members were wounded.

Another explosion blasted a tower block that houses the offices of Reuters and several other media organisations, wounding a journalist for the Abu Dhabi television channel....

Israeli Troops Reveal Ruthless Tactics in Gaza

Times Online (UK), January 15, 2009 - At the first sign of movement in the dark Gaza alleyway, Alon opened fire without hesitation. Snipers liked to operate at night, he said, and the area had been cleared of Israeli troops.

“He could have been advancing to attack,” the Israeli lieutenant explained. “We are treating everything as hostile right now. We were told not to take chances — to shoot rather than ask questions.”

Alon — he would only give his first name and rank — was part of the forces that took control of the Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza. It was his first day of recuperative leave out of Gaza since Israel began its ground offensive 12 days ago.

As Israel laid the groundwork for what is expected to be the third stage in its offensive, sending a stream of reservists in to support weary combat units, those soldiers on a break from the combat gave first-hand accounts of Israel’s military tactics. “I’m not a newcomer in the army,” Alon told The Times. “Both my brothers served in combat units that saw action in Gaza. And I can say that this is the most aggressive line that we have ever taken towards fighting the Palestinians. As you say in English, the gloves were off.”

He was shocked by some of the scenes inside Gaza, describing whole neighbourhoods levelled. “It doesn’t look like we’ve been there a few weeks — it looks destroyed, demolished, like we were bombing it for years. You can’t imagine what damage we have done. We didn’t want any civilians to die, we do everything we can to make sure that Palestinian civilians there, the non-fighters, aren’t hurt. We tell them to leave the areas that we are fighting . . . but it’s not easy; what we are doing there is difficult work.”

As speculation mounted over how long Israel would continue its punishing offensive, its soldiers appeared eager to take the fight to Gaza’s densely populated towns.

The troops said they had had a taste of the traps and tricks that Hamas had laid in store for them: booby-trapped houses, tunnels intended to spirit away kidnapped soldiers, militants dressed in civilian clothing — but insisted that the operation could not claim success unless Hamas was dealt a “knockout blow” by troops combing through the urban centres.

“It will expose us to more of their traps but it must be done. We have been learning, slowly circling them and moving closer in. We have them trapped now so we can’t stop.” Reporters embedded with Israeli forces in Gaza have described them as “moving slowly but shooting readily”.

In one account, tank crews leading an armoured column to the beachfront suddenly saw a person standing in an open cabana less than a mile away. The figure quickly retreated as the tanks opened fire. “There have been several attempts to use antiarmour weaponry against us, in at least one case a long-range missile,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Erez, a tank commander, giving only his first name as per standard military policy. “We have responded pre-emptively and forcefully. We also hit anyone seen trying to observe our movements.”

Lieutenant-Colonel Yehuda, whose men are situated in houses on the outskirts of Gaza City, said that it was standard practice for Israeli troops to enter suspicious buildings with bursts of shooting, to stave off a doorway attack. “In one case the building started burning but we managed to clear out our men in time,” he said.

His unit had not seen as much action as Alon’s but had fought off several attacks nonetheless, killing three gunmen who emerged from a bunker and a suspected suicide bomber who approached on a bicycle.

In another account, published in the Israeli media, the Armoured 401st Brigade convoy had left Gaza’s coast and was heading towards Israel when its commander spotted people, apparently armed, on a rooftop about 800 metres away from the road. A few days before the Israelis had dropped leaflets calling on all residents living near the road to get out.

Like Alon, Lieutenant-Colonel Yigal had little room for doubt. After checking none of his comrades were in the area — four Israeli soldiers were killed by “friendly” fire in the first days of the offensive — he gave the order and machine guns and tanks opened up....

Balad Party Chair: Abbas Must Decide if He is Chairman of the PLO or of Ramallah'

Calls on Abbas to Condemn Israel, sign petition

Ynetnews, January 15, 2009 - Balad Chairman Jamal Zahalka, whose party was disqualified from the national elections earlier this week, slammed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for refraining from condemning Israeli leaders for the operation in Gaza. Speaking at a Shefaram conference Wednesday, Zahalka said, "Abbas is doing nothing. He is just watching from the sidelines. He must decide if he wants to be chairman of the PLO or chairman of Ramallah."

During the conference, intended to show support for the people of Gaza, Zahalka claimed the Palestinian president must answer appeals from rights organizations and sign a petition demanding Israeli leaders be tried in international court for the "slaughter in Gaza".

Abbas has so far refrained from signing the petition, which rights organization leaders plan to file with a Roman court.

Groups Charge Israel with Deliberate Targeting of Journalists; Call for Media Access to Gaza

Scoop Independent News, January 15, 2009 - Journalists and media houses continue to be in the firing line of Israel Defense Forces (IDF), say IFEX members ARTICLE 19, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and others, who count at least five journalists and media professionals killed in the recent Gaza conflict.

Alwan Radio broadcaster Alaa Murtaja died after being seriously injured in a bomb attack on his house in Gaza City on 9 January. Israeli warplanes also bombed the home of Palestinian public TV cameraman Ihab al-Wahidi on 8 January. There are reports that journalist Omar Silawi was also killed by an IDF attack on 3 January.

Basel Faraj, who worked as an assistant cameraman for the Algerian TV network ENTV and the Palestine Media and Communications Company, was wounded as a result of an Israeli air strike on his crew on the first day of the military offensive, 27 December. He died on 6 January. Two other journalists were injured in the strike.

And Hamza Shahin, a photographer with the Shehab News Agency, died on 26 December from wounds sustained in an earlier Israeli air attack on 7 December.

Israeli aircraft also bombed Al-Johara Tower in Gaza City, on 9 January, even though the building was clearly marked as housing media staff, report IFEX members. More than 20 news organisations work in Al-Johara, including Iran's English-language Press TV and the Arabic language network Al-Alam. Satellite transmission equipment on the roof of the building was destroyed and at least one journalist was reported injured.

"The Israeli military knows the location of TV facilities, houses and news bureaus in Gaza. It is simply unacceptable that working journalists and their offices should come under fire in this way," said CPJ. "Journalists enjoy protections under international law in military campaigns such as the one in Gaza. Israel must cease its attacks on the media immediately."

Media facilities have come under Israeli fire in two other instances since the military campaign started. The IDF shelled the offices of the Hamas-affiliated "Al-Risala" newsweekly on 5 January and the headquarters of Al-Aqsa TV on 29 December. Al-Aqsa continues to broadcast from a remote location.

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (Mada) and IFJ also report that two of Al-Alam's journalists, Khadir Shahin and his producer, have been unlawfully detained by the IDF since 5 January. "Israel has no legitimate reason to detain journalists who are neither on its soil nor involved in fighting in Gaza," said IFJ.

Meanwhile, IFEX members welcomed the UN Human Rights Council resolution of 12 January which calls for "free access of media to areas of conflict through media corridors." IFJ is urging the UN to investigate the targeting of media by Israeli forces and to take action against Israel where it has violated international law and the resolution.

Despite an Israeli Supreme Court ruling ordering the government to allow a limited pool of journalists to enter Gaza, the army continues to block entry of foreign reporters. IFEX members, including IFJ, ARTICLE 19, and the World Association of Newspapers (WAN), say this is an attempt to manipulate media reporting of the conflict.

A petition launched by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) for international journalists to be allowed into the Gaza Strip has already been signed by more than 100 media organisations from around the world.

According to RSF, the IDF allowed Reuters and the BBC to cover the activities of some Israeli soldiers for a few hours. But journalists for most television networks are broadcasting from a hill outside Sderot, and relying on Gazan journalists to serve as their eyes and ears.

"There is a cynical attempt to ensure that media tell the story from the Israeli side only," said IFJ. "The truth cannot be told unless journalists are free to move, to talk with everyone involved and to see with their own eyes what is happening on the ground."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

'War on Terror' Was a Misguided Fallacy - David Miliband

The Guardian, Comment is Free, January 15, 2009 - The terrorist attacks in Mumbai seven weeks ago sent shock waves around the world. Now all eyes are fixed on the Middle East, where Israel's response to Hamas's rockets, a ferocious military campaign, has already left a thousand Gazans dead.

Seven years on from 9/11 it is clear that we need to take a fundamental look at our efforts to prevent extremism and its terrible offspring, terrorist violence. Since 9/11, the notion of a "war on terror" has defined the terrain. The phrase had some merit: it captured the gravity of the threats, the need for solidarity, and the need to respond urgently - where necessary, with force. But ultimately, the notion is misleading and mistaken. The issue is not whether we need to attack the use of terror at its roots, with all the tools available. We must. The question is how.

The idea of a "war on terror" gave the impression of a unified, transnational enemy, embodied in the figure of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. The reality is that the motivations and identities of terrorist groups are disparate. Lashkar-e-Taiba has roots in Pakistan and says its cause is Kashmir. Hezbollah says it stands for resistance to occupation of the Golan Heights. The Shia and Sunni insurgent groups in Iraq have myriad demands. They are as diverse as the 1970s European movements of the IRA, Baader-Meinhof, and Eta. All used terrorism and sometimes they supported each other, but their causes were not unified and their cooperation was opportunistic. So it is today.

The more we lump terrorist groups together and draw the battle lines as a simple binary struggle between moderates and extremists, or good and evil, the more we play into the hands of those seeking to unify groups with little in common. Terrorist groups need to be tackled at root, interdicting flows of weapons and finance, exposing the shallowness of their claims, channelling their followers into democratic politics.

The "war on terror" also implied that the correct response was primarily military. But as General Petraeus said to me and others in Iraq, the coalition there could not kill its way out of the problems of insurgency and civil strife.

This is what divides supporters and opponents of the military action in Gaza. Similar issues are raised by the debate about the response to the Mumbai attacks. Those who were responsible must be brought to justice and the government of Pakistan must take urgent and effective action to break up terror networks on its soil. But on my visit to south Asia this week, I am arguing that the best antidote to the terrorist threat in the long term is cooperation. Although I understand the current difficulties, resolution of the dispute over Kashmir would help deny extremists in the region one of their main calls to arms, and allow Pakistani authorities to focus more effectively on tackling the threat on their western borders....

David Miliband is the British Foreign Secretary.