Saturday, January 24, 2009

Action Alert: Psychologists for Social Responsibility Urges Members to Contribute...

Psychologists for Social Responsibility - ....In recognition of these urgent circumstances, PsySR has initiated a fundraising campaign to provide support to the Gaza Community Mental Health Program as it rebuilds and adapts to meet escalating needs. The GCMHP receives funding from a consortium of the Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish governments, but that funding is specifically targeted for programs favored by the consortium. For years, independent groups such as the Gaza Mental Health Foundation in the U.S. and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, have provided independent funding that can be used more flexibly. Our initiative will supplement these efforts in this time of heightened need.

Organizing help for the GCMHP is one way that we, as psychologists and mental health providers, can counter the despair and hopelessness bred in all parties by this renewed outbreak of seemingly irresolvable violence. In so doing, we make a statement in support of human rights, mutual recognition and security, and pathway to the reconciliation that must underlie a sustainable peace in this region.

We strongly encourage other organizations and individuals to join us in this effort. Today through March 1st, tax-deductible contributions can be made in two ways:

1. Online by clicking on the “DONATE NOW” button [at the link] or

2. By check made out to "Grassroots International" (please write "GCMHP" in the memo line) and mailed to PsySR’s national headquarters: PsySR, 208 “I” Street NE, Washington, DC 20002.

All donations will be processed through Grassroots International, which has received a four-star rating from independent charity evaluator Charity Navigator, and its online partner Democracy in Action. For more information, please email our Project Coordinators at or contact PsySR’s executive director Colleen Cordes by phone at 202-543-5347.

PsySR gratefully acknowledges Psychoanalysts for Social Responsibility, Coaltion for an Ethical Psychology, and our other coalition partners in this fundraising campaign.

Amnesty International Issues Urgent Call to Israel: Disclose Weapons Used in Gaza

Amnesty International Press Release, January 22, 2009 - Saying doctors are finding new and unexplained patterns of injury among the wounded in Gaza, Amnesty International today called on the Israeli authorities to urgently disclose all weapons and munitions their forces used during military operations to prevent the loss of more lives.

"It is vital and urgent that the Israeli authorities disclose all relevant information including what weapons and munitions they used," said Donatella Rovera, who is leading Amnesty International's investigations team in Gaza. "More lives must not be lost because doctors do not know what caused their patients' injuries and what medical complications may occur. They have to be fully informed so that they can provide life-saving care."

Rovera said doctors are telling Amnesty International they are encountering new and unexplained patterns of injury among some of the Palestinians injured. "Some victims of Israeli air strikes were brought in with charred and sharply severed limbs and doctors treating them need to know what weapons were used," she said.

Dr. Subhi Skeik, head of the Surgical Department at al-Shifa Hospital, told Amnesty International delegates: “We have many cases of amputations and vascular reconstructions where patients would be expected to recover in the normal way. But to our surprise many of them died an hour or two after operation. It is dramatic.” ....

Please see also an al-Jazeera report at the link, Doctors Struggle to Treat Gaza Victims.

Amnesty International: Israel Soldiers Leave Homes in Devastated Condition

Amnesty International, January 23, 2009 - ...In its fifth post on Amnesty International's Livewire blog, the [Amnesty] team [on the ground in Gaza] described how on Thursday, it had visited families whose homes had been forcibly taken over and used as military positions by Israeli soldiers during the recent three week long conflict.

In the houses, the team saw discarded Israeli army supplies, including sleeping bags, medical kits, empty boxes of munitions and spent cartridges, incontrovertible evidence of the soldiers’ occupation of the houses.

In every one of the homes the team visited, rooms had been ransacked, with furniture overturned and/or smashed. Clothing, documents and other personal items belonging to the families who lived there had been strewn over the floor and soiled, and in one case urinated on.

In one house in the Sayafa area in north Gaza several cardboard boxes full of excrement were left in the house – although there was a functioning toilet which the soldiers could have used. Walls were defaced with crude threats written in Hebrew, such as “next time it will hurt more". In every case the soldiers had smashed holes in the outer walls of the houses to use as lookout and sniper positions.

Chris Cobb-Smith, a military expert and part of Amnesty International's team, was an officer in the British Army for almost 20 years. He said he was staggered by what he saw and by the behaviour and apparent lack of discipline of the Israeli soldiers. “Gazans have had their houses looted, vandalized and desecrated. As well, the Israeli soldiers have left behind not only mounds of litter and excrement but ammunition and other military equipment. It’s not the behaviour one would expect from a professional army,” he said....

What the US Knew and Chose to Forget in 1948, and Why It Matters in 2009 - Irene Gendzier

Znet, January 23, 2009 - ....Many have pointed out that the Israeli invasion of Gaza bears a highly disturbing resemblance to the massive expulsion of Palestinians in 1948. Some 700,000-800,000 people were dispossessed from their homes as a result of policies pursued by the military forces of what became the state of Israel in May 1948. US policymakers then were fully aware of the origins and likely consequences of what became the Palestine refugee problem. Their responses are part of the documentary record that is, unfortunately, little known today. Yet however significant the major regional and international changes that have occurred in the intervening years, there is an undeniable connection between the traumatic developments of that period and those taking place in the West Bank and, notoriously, in Gaza today. That US officials were fully apprised of the origins of the Palestine refugee problem remains important, that they chose to set it aside and to reward the emergent Israeli state for its ability to violate border agreements and expel the native population of Palestine without incurring effective regional or international challenge, was indicative of Washington's calculations. Those went considerably beyond Palestine.

In 1948 as now, Washington concluded that it had a stake in the outcome of the Palestinian struggle that was inseparable from its interests in the region. It was not Hamas that Washington worried about in 1948, but the prospect of an independent Palestinian state as envisioned in the 1947 UN Partition Plan. Therein lies their preference for the enhanced role of Transjordan in taking over what remained of Palestine, which was the new state of Israel's preferred policy as well....

Irene Gendzier is Professor in the Department of Political Science, Boston University. She is the author of Notes From the Minefield: United States Intervention in Lebanon and the Middle East, 1945-1958 (Columbia University Press, 1997, 2006), co-editor with Richard Falk and Robert J. Lifton, Crimes of War: Iraq (Nation Books, 2006). She is currently completing a study of the foundations of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East in the period, 1945-1949, entitled Dying to Forget.

Second Largest Trade Union in UK Calls for Boycott Against Israel

Lambeth Militants blog, January 20, 2009 - The Lambeth Branch of UNISON, the second largest trade union in the UK, has voted to condemn the recent slaughter of Palestinians and the ongoing occupation by Israel at a meeting of its Branch Committee this morning.

At its monthly meeting of representatives, the Branch called for, "an immediate end to the slaughter of defenceless people and the [ongoing] siege of Gaza." The Branch concluded that, "Israel is an...apartheid state," and has advocated academic, economic and cultural boycotts of Israel in an effort to delegitimise the Occupation of Palestine, and build international and domestic pressure against the state....

At the UN: U.S. Representative Blocks Secretary General's Call for Investigation of Israel's Actions in Gaza

Inner City Press, January 22, 2009 - It seems that some things won't be changing under President Obama after all:

Libya proposed, and most members agreed to, a paragraph mirroring [UN Secretary General] Ban's muted investigation call. But the United States, represented for now by civil servant Alejandro Wolff, was having none of it. Inner City Press is told by sources in the meeting that the US would not agree to any reference to investigations. These sources marveled that, even with Obama now in power, this would be the US position. They contrasted it to the Council's reaction to an Israeli bombing in Lebanon during the 2006 war, or to an immediate denunciation of a Sudanese attack on a convoy, which after denying, Sudan apologized for.

Is this the change you could believe in, the source asked. It remains to be seen. Council leadership predicted that new US Ambassador Susan Rice will arrive in New York on Monday. But even absent his Rice, isn't Obama already in charge?

Full report available at the link.

The Incendiary Israel Defense Forces (IDF) - Kenneth Roth

Human Rights Watch, January 22, 2009 - Throughout the recent war in Gaza, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) insisted that it took extraordinary care to spare civilians. But it then prevented journalists and human rights monitors from entering Gaza during the conflict to independently verify this claim.

Now that Human Rights Watch and other observers have been let in, it has become clear that hundreds of Palestinian civilians were not the only casualties of the fighting. So was the credibility of the IDF.

Part of the problem was the IDF's expansive definition of a military target. It attacked a range of civilian facilities, from government offices to police stations, on the theory that they all provided at least indirect support to Hamas militants. But by that theory, Hamas would have been entitled to target virtually any government building in Israel on the ground that its office workers indirectly supported the IDF. That would make a mockery of the distinction between civilians and combatants that lies at the heart of the laws of war, which require direct support to military activity before civilians become legitimate military targets. Behind the unsupportable legal claim seemed to lie a determination to make Gazans suffer for the presence of Hamas--a prohibited purpose for using military force.

The IDF's credibility probably took the biggest hit on the issue of its use of white phosphorous....

Kenneth Roth has been the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch since 1993.

Opinion: Woe to the Victors - Meron Benvenisti

Haaretz, January 22, 2009 - The masterminds of Operation Cast Lead sought to characterize it in two contradictory terms: "the landlord has gone insane" and is retaliating with unbridled savagery; and "controlled rage," or a rational military operation that is aimed at deterring the other side. Alongside these two concepts can be added another: a repeated reflexive, instinctive response by a supplanting immigrant society.

David Day, one of the most prominent scholars who has researched the process by which immigrant societies take control of indigenous populations, writes: "Such ruthless reactions to any sign of resistance from indigenous people has the effect of emphasizing in the minds of both the conquerors and the conquered the scale and completeness of the conquest and the uselessness of further resistance, although in the long term such worthlessness might undermine the moral claim of the supplanting society to the possession of the newly won territory."

Indeed, there are many historical precedents in which the violent behavior of indigenous peoples against their dispossession has been used as a pretext for their expulsion and to justify a disproportionate military response, all under the guise of "a war on terror" whose goal is to break their spirit and usurp their land. An odious scent of imperialistic mildew wafts from the Gazan operation as well as similar operations that have been launched in the past....

Meron Benvenisti is an Israeli political scientist and Haaretz columnist who was Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem from 1971 to 1978 and administered East Jerusalem and its largely Arab neighbourhoods.

Friday, January 23, 2009

BBC Investigates: What Happened to Samar Abed Rabbu?

The BBC, January 22, El Arish and Gaza -

Four-year-old Samar Abed Rabbu is a little girl with a captivating smile to melt the heart of the most hardened correspondent.

When we first came across her in the hospital in the Egyptian town of El-Arish, just over the border from Gaza, she was playing with an inflated surgical glove beneath the covers.

The doctors had puffed air into the glove, trying to distract her from the further pain they had to inflict inserting a drip.

Samar had been shot in the back at close range. The bullet damaged her spine, and she is unlikely to walk again.

At her bedside, her uncle Hassan told us the family had been ordered out of their home by Israeli soldiers who were shelling the neighbourhood.

A tank had parked in front of the house, where around 30 people were taking shelter.

The women and children - mother, grandmother and three little girls - came out waving a white flag and then, he said, an Israeli soldier came out of the tank and opened fire on the terrified procession.

Samar's two sisters, aged seven and two, were shot dead. The grandmother was hit in the arm and in the side, but has survived.

Young victims

One of the most alarming features of the conflict in Gaza is the number of child casualties. More than 400 were killed. Many had shrapnel or blast injuries sustained as the Israeli army battled Hamas militants in Gaza's densely populated civilian areas.

But the head of neurosurgery at the El-Arish hospital, Dr Ahmed Yahia, told me that brain scans made it clear that a number of the child victims had been shot at close range.

Samar's uncle said the soldier who had shot his niece was just 15m (49ft) away. ''How could they not see they were shooting at children?'' he asked.

When we finally got into Gaza, we tried to investigate further.

"There are no houses left - no mosques, no factories, and no orchards"

Finding a house, even with an address, in a neighbourhood that has been bombed into oblivion, where all landmarks have been obliterated and even the locals cannot find their bearings, is not easy.

But we eventually met a man who knew Samar's family and took us to the family house, or what was left of it.

The four-storey building has been concertinaed to the ground.

Father's agony

Khalid Abed Rabbu wears on his face all the pain of Israel's bloody three-week campaign in Gaza. In his hand he carried the teddy bear that had belonged to his daughter, Samar's six-year-old sister.

Its head had been blown off, apparently in the same burst of gunfire that had cut his daughter in half.

He described the events of that night almost identically to his brother. There were minor discrepancies, but he too believes his daughters were shot in cold blood.

"There were soldiers leaning against the tank eating crisps," he said. "But then one of them jumped down and walked towards the house with an M16 automatic rifle."....

Watch this footage of the BBC interview with Samar's father:

Children of Gaza - Those Who Died and Those Who Survived

The Guardian, January 23, 2009 - Amira Qirm lay on a hospital bed today with her right leg in plaster, and held together by a line of steel pins dug deep into her skin. For several days after her operation Amira, 15, was unable to speak, and even now talks only in a low whisper.

In her past are bitter memories: watching her father die in the street outside their home, then hearing another shell land and kill her brother Ala'a, 14, and her sister Ismat, 16, and then the three days that she spent alone, injured and semi-conscious, trying to stay alive in a neighbour's abandoned house before she could be rescued last Sunday.

Ahead of her, she has a long recovery....

Only now, after most of the dead have been buried, is the first properly researched reckoning of the toll emerging. What already stands out is the striking cost borne by the children of Gaza, who make up more than half of the 1.5 million people living in this overcrowded strip of land....

The impact will be felt by many more for years to come. Among the more than 4,000 people injured more than a quarter were children, some left with severe disabilities. The Gaza Community Health Programme estimates that half Gaza's children – around 350,000 – will develop some form of post-traumatic stress disorder....

Most of the...children will have to make do with treatment in Gaza. Last week some psychologists were walking through the ruins of a house in Atatra, talking to a boy from the Abu Halima family who had lost his father, three brothers and an infant sister in a horrific fire after an Israeli phosphorus shell hit the house.

"The problem is they are not feeling safe even in their own homes, on the streets, in the mosques," said Ehassan Afifi, the psychologist. "This boy is seeing what happened as if it is an endless movie. The physically affected can be operated on, sometimes cured. But these mental problems may lead to problems for the rest of their lives."

Asked about the criticisms, the prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said in an interview yesterday in the Israeli paper Ma'ariv that the mental health of the children of southern Israel had suffered in recent years. He added: "So now there is talk about Israel's cruelty. When you win, you automatically hurt more than you've been hurt. And we didn't want to lose this campaign. What did you want, for hundreds of our soldiers to die? That, after all, was the alternative."....

See als0 Child Victims of Gaza = 10 portraits.

In their Own Words: Aid Workers Share their Reactions

Reuters, AlertNet, January 19, 2009 - Impressions from the field, given in phone interviews:

Melanie Brooks, CARE International spokeswoman:
We are hoping that this ceasefire turns into a more prominent truce because we have a society that has been basically destroyed. Houses destroyed, hospitals destroyed, water systems, electrical systems, businesses starting from scratch. Last week, we were actually distributing fresh vegetables which we get from farmers there, but the problem was the farmers' fields were being bombed or they were being swamped with sewage. So the farmers were not able to harvest the crops, which means CARE was not able to distribute the food.

Kate Redman, Save the Children media manager: Gaza is a very populated area - one of the most populated areas in the world - and you've got 40,000 children under the age of six months in there. It's a huge task. It can't be stressed how this ceasefire has to be permanent and immediate. If you go into a school, sometimes there are almost 2,000 people and they are sleeping on the floor. You've got a family of maybe 10 people and they are sharing one mattress and one blanket between them. One cleaner who cleans the toilet for all these people. The family would share a can of tuna or corn between them. As for the children, they have nothing to do. They are not enjoying being children. They have no structure to their lives, and that's why it's essential to get specialists in there who know how to deal with helping children to understand and move forward with their lives.

Khalid Jodi, head of the Palestinian Red Crescent: It's a catastrophe. They destroyed everything. Even our ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) hospital and buildings were damaged, and a lot of medical supplies destroyed. A huge number of families are without shelter. The U.N. is making shelters in schools. The Israeli helicopters also attacked a shelter for the homeless.

UN Humanitarian Chief: "Shocked by Systemic Nature of Destruction in Gaza"

BBC News, January 23, 2009 - The UN's humanitarian chief has told the BBC the situation in Gaza after a three-week Israeli offensive against Hamas was worse than he anticipated.

Sir John Holmes, who visited Gaza on Thursday, said he was shocked by "the systematic nature of the destruction".

He said that the territory's economic activity had been set back by years.

The International Committee of the Red Cross's (ICRC) president Jakob Kellenberger said conditions in Gazan hospitals were the worst he had seen.

UN workers have been given access to Gaza. On Friday, Israel lifted a ban on international aid agencies entering the Palestinian territory.

The ban had been in place since early November when tensions mounted between Israel and Hamas....

[Michael Holmes of Oxfam said] A key problem facing that the main crossing for the aid is 40km from where most of the relief is needed and is too small for the number of trucks that need to go through.

Future of Gaza

Mr Kellenberger told the BBC: "What I have seen in the hospital in Gaza was for me as far as a visit is concerned... it was my most shocking experience."

He added that the Israeli forces should not be using weapons such as phosphorus shells which made it difficult to avoid injuring or killing civilians.

Mr Holmes, the top UN official responsible for emergency relief and humanitarian affairs, said the scale of destruction would have "disturbing" repercussions for the people of Gaza.

In an interview with the BBC's Today Programme, he described an industrial area where every building within a square kilometre had been levelled, by bulldozers and shells. He told of broken pipes pumping out raw sewage onto the streets. "I'm sure the Israelis would say that's because there were people there firing shells and rockets from there, or perhaps manufacturing them. "But the nature of that destruction means that any kind of private economic activity in Gaza is set back by years or decades," he said.

Israeli military confirms the use of white phosphorus bombs in the Gaza Strip

Wikinews, Friday, January 23, 2009

Israeli munitions, white flames, and smoke that human rights group say indicate the use of white phosphorus.
Image: Al Jazeera.

The Israeli military announced in a report on Thursday that it has used at least 20 white phosphorus bombs inside civilian areas during the IDF's offensive in the Gaza Strip to try and stop rockets being fired by Hamas, from going into southern Israel. The report comes as Israeli naval gunships went silent for the first time since Israel announced their ceasefire on January 18, with Hamas following a few days later.

The report states that the military used white phosphorous bombs in civilian areas, with at least twenty phosphorous shells fired by a reserve paratroops brigade into a densely packed area of Beit Lahiya. The United Nations head quarters and a hospital in Gaza City were also bombed with white phosphorus.

"We saw streets and alleyways littered with evidence of the use of white phosphorus, including still burning wedges and the remnants of the shells and canisters fired by the Israeli army," said Christopher Cobb-Smith, with Amnesty International who is also an expert in the field of weapons.

An official for the IDF said that two types of phosphorus weapons were used in the offensive. One contained little phosphorous and was primarily used as a smoke bomb and is fired from 155mm shells. The other type of bomb, made in 81mm and 120mm shells, are fired from mortar guns. These shells used a computer guidance system and Israel says that the system failed when the UN and hospital were hit. Phosphorus burns when it comes in contact with oxygen, and can cause serious injuries to humans if they are hit with it. Doctors in Gaza say that dozens of civilians have been treated for burns related to the use of the weapons.

The Israeli military had claimed that they had never used the bomb during the offensive, despite the existence of photographic and video evidence. The use of the white phosphorous bombs against civilian buildings is illegal under Protocol 3 of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, agreed in 1980. However, Israel, which signed the treaty in 1995, is not party to Protocol 3. Israel claims they were following international law when using the weapons. 200 of the bombs were used, 180 of which were used on farmland and orchards, where militants were launching rockets into southern Israel. The other 20 were used in residential areas, but the IDF says they were fired in areas that rockets were being fired from.

Nearly 1,300 Palestinians, the majority being civilians, died and nearly 500 were injured during the three-week offensive. Israel says that 13 of their soldiers were also killed.

See related news sources and references online...

Israel Refuses to Open Borders; Makes Clear Its Intent to Control All Funds, Goods Entering Gaza

Israel Rules Out Opening Gaza Border if Hamas Gains Reuters, January 22, 2009 - ....The adviser [to Israeli PM Olmert] said Israel would allow the "maximum" flow of food, medicine, oil and gas to the Gaza Strip to help its 1.5 million residents recover from the offensive, which killed more than 1,300 Palestinians, but a wider range of goods, including steel and cement needed for rebuilding, would have to wait.

Israel believes the restrictions will give it leverage to pressure Hamas to free Gilad Shalit, a captured Israeli soldier. Diplomats and aid agencies say the restrictions will doom Gaza's reconstruction, estimated to cost at least $2 billion.

Olmert's adviser said Israel's underlying goal was to deny Hamas control over border crossings that could help it cement its hold on power. "If opening the passages will strengthen Hamas, we won't do it," he said.

European powers have called on Israel to reopen the border crossings fully.

The adviser said he doubted Hamas would agree to let Abbas's security forces, backed by international observers, return to the border crossings, as Israel and Egypt have proposed.....

Israel Prevents Abbas from Bringing Cash to Gaza Reuters, January 21, 2009 - ....Israel is preventing the Western-backed Palestinian Authority from transferring cash to the Gaza Strip to pay its workers and others hard-hit by war, Western and Palestinian officials said on Wednesday.

Israel has told the United Nations and other aid groups planning for the rebuilding they must apply for project-by-project Israeli approval and provide guarantees none of the work will benefit Hamas.

Israel had no immediate comment on why the Palestinian Authority's post-war cash shipments were being blocked. The restrictions were put in place long before fighting broke out on December 27, with Israel arguing that Gaza had enough cash in circulation and that some of the money could end up with Hamas.....

Reconstruction largely hinges on convincing Israel to lift restrictions on imports of cash and building materials, like steel and cement. Israel has long argued that such imports can be used by the Islamist group to rearm.

"The Gaza Strip was almost destroyed and it needs everything," said Nabil al-Zaeem, head of the Palestinian Commercial Service Co., one of Gaza's largest cement importers.

He said rebuilding will not happen "if things did not change regarding the flow of cement and other construction materials."....

US, UN Call on Israel to Open Gaza's Borders

UN humanitarian chief: Israeli offensive against Gaza caused more destruction than expected.

Middle East Online (reporting from Jerusalem), January 23, 2009 - The Palestinians of Gaza urgently need hundreds of millions of dollars for food and repairs, the UN said on Friday, as the US president added his voice to a clamour for Israel to fully open the enclave to aid.

The UN humanitarian chief said the Israeli offensive against Gaza had caused more destruction than expected and called the death toll "shocking".

"A very significant appeal for resources of hundreds of millions of dollars," was required at the start of February for just the next six to nine months, John Holmes told a press conference.

"The level of destruction, which I expected to be high ... was even worse than what I expected," he said after touring Gaza.

He noted that the Palestinian health ministry listed more than 1,300 dead and 5,000 wounded during Israel's 22-day Operation Cast Lead. "They are very alarming figures, very shocking figures for a three-week campaign like that."

Gazans urgently need food, drinking water, fuel and the repair of the electricity network, Holmes said. At least 100,000 of the 1.5 million population have been displaced.

In Washington, US President Barak Obama urged Israel to open Gaza border crossings to aid and commerce.

"Now we must extend a hand of opportunity to those who seek peace, as part of a lasting ceasefire, Gaza's border crossings should be open to allow the flow of aid and commerce," Obama said.

"Relief efforts must be able to reach innocent Palestinians who depend on them," Obama said.

Holmes said the UN needed the crossing points "fully open" to be able to do its job.

The UN humanitarian chief said that the some 120 trucks being allowed into Gaza daily is "far from enough." "The basic requirements of Gaza for humanitarian and commercial goods, before the Hamas takeover (June 2007), was 500 to 600 hundreds trucks a day."....

UN: Israel Hit Future Palestinian State Infrastructure

Middle East Online (reporting from Geneva), January 23, 2009 - - Israel destroyed the infrastructure of a future Palestinian state during its recent offensive in the Gaza Strip, the head of the UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees said Friday.

"There has been so much destruction here, not just to housing... but to the infrastructure of the future state," UNRWA operations chief John Ging said in a conference call with journalists in Geneva.Ging said there was a need to establish accountability "for why the Israeli air force hit infrastructure of the state of Palestine rather than the infrastructure of terror, whatever that may be."

A large proportion of the destruction in Gaza involved industrial facilities and ministries belonging to the Palestinian Authority, according to Ging.

A "credible and independent investigation" on the violence would also help to defuse tensions and re-establish faith in the rule of law, he underlined. "There is more and more anger growing."....

Gaza in Ruins: Who Has Won Here?

Spiegel Online International (reporting from Beit Lahiya), January 23, 2009 - ....Through the hole in the wall of his house, Sadala sees a landscape in gray and brown. This is where a neighbourhood had stood, his neighbourhood. Now there is a snake of sand around the bomb crater. It is impossible to tell where the streets once stood. Family houses have turned into piles of debris. People have built refuges using cloth and rubble. They stand alongside dead donkeys and sheep, whose stomachs swell up. No one here has time to remove rotting corpses.

The people from Beit Lahia are starting from zero again: children load wood from broken trees onto their back. Their mothers bend over fires and bake bread. Young women carry water in petrol canisters. Only the men stand around looking numb, smoking, staring blankly. Many people here, like Sandala, had placed their hopes in Hamas -- now they are gazing into nothing, ideologically as well as materially.

Everything Is Lost Now

And it is not just buildings that lie in rubble in the Gaza strip, it is the livelihoods of many thousands of people. In Arabic societies a home is usually everything a family possesses. Often several brothers build a house for the entire family. Living at close quarters has its advantages: when the costs of building the house are paid off, there is more money left over to feed the dozens of family members.

Everything is lost now.

"When Hamas came to power, they came to our aid with packages of groceries," says Abu Abed. The 60-year-old's sons, all of whom are trained hospital nurses, have been without work for years. That is true of many in the Gaza Strip. Now Abu Abed stands before the rumble of the house where he lived with four generations of his family. All that remains are the ground floor pillars. The Israeli navy had its eye on the building from the very beginning of the war. After all, its clear view of Gaza City and the sea would have provided a good base for Hamas.

"I've changed my mind about Hamas," Abu Abed says. "I can't support any party that wages a war that destroys our lives." He is particularly pained by the fact that Hamas is still selling the cease-fire as a victory.

"Who has won here?" he asks and points to the debris that was once his home....

Please see also Photo Gallery: Gaza's Beit Lahiya in Ruins.

ACTION ALERT: Send hospital ships USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy to Gaza immediately!

The Arab American Institute (AAI) :: January 23, 2009

Thank President Obama for sending a clear message to the world that Middle East peace is a top priority for his administration, and for selecting former Senator George Mitchell, a known and respected statesman of Irish and Lebanese descent, to serve as Special Envoy to the Middle East.

The President recently spoke with compassion for the plight of those in the Gaza Strip: “Our hearts go out to Palestinian civilians who are in need of immediate food, clean water, and basic medical care, and who've faced suffocating poverty for far too long.”

But after three weeks of violence and devastation, humanitarian aid is still stalling at the borders; too few trucks are passing into Gaza.

Ask President Obama to deliver urgent humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The United States has the capacity to send immediate help to the region with the U.S. Naval ships USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort.

The USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy are committed to providing "full hospital service... for use by other government agencies involved in the support of relief and humanitarian operations worldwide." Both the Comfort and the Mercy have undertaken humanitarian missions before, bringing medical relief to thousands and renovating hospitals and schools. They can be deployed off the Gaza Coast.

Additionally, army hospitals can be placed on the Egyptian border, and we can make a dramatic airlift of medical supplies via helicopter into Gaza City itself. Quick action at this time can make an enormous difference, not only in the lives of Palestinians, but also in their belief in our commitment to support them.

:: Go on AAI's website to send your President a letter today

VIDEO: Through the Eyes of a 13-Year-Old Gazan Girl - The Morning After

Reuters, January 22, 2009 - 13-year-old Dalal Abu Aisha returns to the rubble of her home and describes how her parents and three siblings were killed by an Israeli bomb. In the video, she says her mother and sister were found stuck together inseparable in death, so they were buried together.

Her cousin was also killed by two tank shells as she shopped in the city's main square.

All that is left to Dalal is a few belongings from the rubble and the family cat.

Video and translation at the link.

Aid Agencies in UK Launch Joint Appeal for Gaza

Reuters, January 22, 2009 - Launching the Disasters Emergency Committee Gaza Crisis Appeal, chief executive Brendan Gormley said that the devastation wrought in the Gazan territory was so huge that British aid agencies were compelled to act.

Over 1,300 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict, and many thousands have been injured, overwhelming local hospitals. The destruction has left people without homes and many children without schooling; power, food and water supplies are insufficient to cover the population’s needs.

Mr Gormley said: "DEC agencies have a humanitarian mandate. We are not proposing to attempt to rebuild Gaza - that is not our role. But with the public’s support we can help relieve short-term needs. Agencies are already providing food, drugs and blankets as well as delivering clean water. But we will soon reach the limit of what we can do, without more money. For Gazans struggling to survive, receiving urgent humanitarian aid will help them take the first step to recovery."

Mr Gormley stressed that DEC aid agencies were non-political....

CARE: 89% of Respondents in Gaza Say They Have Received No Humanitarian Aid

Reuters, January 21, 2009 - In one of the first rapid assessments of the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, a shocking 89 percent of respondents to a CARE survey indicated that they have not received any humanitarian assistance since the conflict started Dec. 27. This is a clear indication that more aid and humanitarian workers are desperately needed in Gaza, and that borders must be fully opened to allow humanitarian supplies, building materials, and commercial goods into the region, says CARE International.

CARE, in partnership with Alpha International surveying firm, conducted a three-day phone survey of families in Gaza to gather basic data on the humanitarian needs; status of electricity, water and sewage systems; impact of cash, food and medicine shortages; psychological impact on children; and the condition of displaced people sheltering with families or neighbours. The key findings of the survey are at the link.

Gaza Villages Wiped Off the Map

Jonathan Miller reports: "Our cameras cannot hope to convey the enormity of the destruction here.. I've covered earthquakes, hurricanes, and the tsunami. And what has happened here is as bad or worse as anything I've seen in any of those....And this was done by Israeli bulldozers..."

Out of the Rubble

The National, January 23, 2009 - Speaking to his people on January 18, hours after Hamas responded to Israel’s unilateral suspension of hostilities with a conditional ceasefire of its own, the deposed Palestinian Authority prime minister Ismail Haniyeh devoted several passages of his prepared text to the subject of Palestinian national reconciliation. For perhaps the first time since Hamas’s June 2007 seizure of power in the Gaza Strip, an Islamist leader broached the topic of healing the Palestinian divide without mentioning Mahmoud Abbas by name.

At a press conference the following day convened by Abu Ubaida, the spokesperson of the Martyr Izz al Din al Qassam Brigades, the Hamas military wing, the movement went one step further. “The Resistance”, Abu Ubaida intoned, “is the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”.

What these statements make clear is that Hamas will no longer engage with Abbas, and is even less inclined to throw him a lifeline in the form of a national unity government he would appoint. These statements are not so much a direct challenge to his leadership as a confirmation that his legitimacy has been fatally damaged by the Gaza war. Even his hand-picked prime minister, Salam Fayyad, told journalists that the PA in Ramallah has been “marginalised”....

Time for a New Divestment Campaign - Kevin Alexander Gray

Counterpunch, January 19, 2009 - When you think about it, US foreign policy toward Palestine has been a segregationist or apartheid policy. In his 2006 book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, former President Jimmy Carter likened Israel's occupation of Palestinian land and its repression of Palestinian people, both within Israel and in the occupied territories, to the state of apartheid, which existed in South Africa prior to the early 1990s. Apartheid means ‘separateness.’ And there is little debate that Zionism, the official ideology of Israel, is predicated on religious and ethnic separation or segregation. A self-described Jewish state -- that is, a state that operates of, by and on behalf of a single group of people -- cannot also be a secular, democratic state where persons of all religious and ethnic backgrounds are treated equally. A Jewish state that has never declared its borders, that has annexed and occupied territories, flouting international law and subjecting the indigenous population to poverty, indignity, theft, torture and death, is not only a colonialist outlaw state; it is also racist. As one Palestinian gentleman remarked to me, “While blacks in America were once considered subhuman, Palestinians are not considered humans at all."

And Israel could not have pursued any of these policies without the steadfast financial and political support of the United States. It is no secret that Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. aid in the world. It receives more than $15 million every day from the United States, or $30 billion a year by most estimates. The F-16 fighter jets and Apache helicopters that have dropped hundreds of tons of bombs and missiles on Gaza are made in the United States and provided to the Israeli government. Every American taxpayer underwrites Israeli-style apartheid.

Gaza War Widens Lead of Israel's Likud Party

Christian Science Monitor, January 21, 2009 - Polls show that the conservative opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party have opened up a bigger lead, based on a public concern that the offensive left the Hamas regime intact while failing to free an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, imprisoned in Gaza for 2-1/2 years.

"That's one of the interesting paradoxes of the war," says Mitchell Barak, a pollster who runs the survey group Keevoon. "It restored the Israeli public's confidence in the Israeli army, and in Israel's leadership's ability to defend its citizens ... but it didn't go far enough [to weaken Hamas]."....

Thursday, January 22, 2009

International Law and Israel's War on Gaza - Francis Boyle

Znet, January 22, 2009 - ....First, we must immediately move for the de facto suspension of Israel throughout the entirety of the United Nations System, including the General Assembly and all U.N. subsidiary organs and bodies. We must do to Israel what the U.N. General Assembly has done to the genocidal rump Yugoslavia and to the criminal apartheid regime in South Africa! Here the legal basis for the de facto suspension of Israel at the U.N. is quite simple:

As a condition for its admission to the United Nations Organization, Israel formally agreed to accept General Assembly Resolution 181 (II) (1947) (partition/Jerusalem trusteeship) and General Assembly Resolution 194 (III) (1948) (Palestinian right of return), inter alia. Nevertheless, the government of Israel has expressly repudiated both Resolution 181 (II) and Resolution 194 (III). Therefore, Israel has violated its conditions for admission to U.N. membership and thus must be suspended on a de facto basis from any participation throughout the entire United Nations System....

Francis A. Boyle is a leading American professor, practitioner and advocate of international law. He was responsible for drafting the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, the American implementing legislation for the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. He served on the Board of Directors of Amnesty International (1988-1992), and represented Bosnia-Herzegovina at the World Court. Professor Boyle teaches international law at the University of Illinois, Champaign.

Saudi Arabia's Patience is Running Out - Prince Turki Bin Faisal

Financial Times, January 23, 2009 - ....In my decades as a public servant, I have strongly promoted the Arab-Israeli peace process. During recent months, I argued that the peace plan proposed by Saudi Arabia could be implemented under an Obama administration if the Israelis and Palestinians accepted difficult compromises.

But after Israel launched its bloody attack on Gaza, these pleas for optimism and co-operation now seem a distant memory. Unless the new US administration takes forceful steps to prevent any further suffering and slaughter of Palestinians, the peace process, the US-Saudi relationship and the stability of the region are at risk.

Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Saudi foreign minister, told the UN Security Council that if there was no just settlement, "we will turn our backs on you". King Abdullah spoke for the Arab and Muslim world when he said at the Arab summit in Kuwait that although the Arab peace initiative was on the table, it would not remain there for long.

America is not innocent in this calamity. Not only has the Bush administration left a sickening legacy in the region, but it has also, through an arrogant attitude about the butchery in Gaza, contributed to the slaughter of innocents. If the US wants to continue playing a leadership role in the Middle East and keep its strategic alliances intact - especially its "special relationship" with Saudi Arabia - it will have to revise drastically its policies vis a vis Israel and Palestine....

Prince Turki al-Faisal is the former Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the United States and head of the Saudi Arabian General Intelligence Directorate.

The Ruins of Gaza -Editorial

The Financial Times, January 21, 2009 - ....Israel’s refusal to treat with Hamas is understandable, if futile. The destructive fury of its assault on Gaza was not only intended to get over the relative failure of its 2006 war on Hizbollah in Lebanon. Israel was also determined not to repeat the outcome to its 1996 Lebanon war, which ended with codified and internationally underwritten rules of engagement with Hizbollah.

But Israeli unilateralism is a blind alley. Its unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 has resolved nothing. The existence of organisations such as Hamas and Hizbollah – which both arose as responses to Israeli occupation – cannot simply be wished away.

These Islamist amalgams of politics and paramilitarism enjoy power and prestige well beyond their natural constituencies because of a catalogue of failure in the Middle East that has, at its heart, the failure honestly to seek a comprehensive settlement based on land-for-peace....

Debate on Gaza - The British House of Lords

Parliament web site, January 21, 2009 -7:37 pm

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to address the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Baroness Northover: ....We have seen the dreadful pictures of what has happened in Gaza. The population had nowhere to run. They could not escape its borders. Even UN buildings where some took refuge received hits. Nowhere was safe. I have just been sent the pictures from the UN school: the white phosphorus raining down, the damaged classrooms, the two little brothers dead. Were these not civilians? Was it not obvious that there would be large numbers of civilian casualties in such a crowded area? Did the Government of Israel think that what they were doing was unwatched, unrecorded, even proportionate to their own experience of violence? Have we let the Israeli Government feel that they are not accountable?

These pictures, and many far worse, have been going around the region and the world. The speed and spread of information is new. We will all have received e-mails ranging from the moderate to the extreme. My son, setting up a discussion on the conflict on Facebook, found that within hours 80 friends of friends had joined from as far afield as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan—within a day. We know that this conflict has long had its radicalising effect. The effect of this can now grow exponentially through the internet. We all know how this conflict is already used and, of course, abused in countries right across the region. We know that it is cited in our own communities. Therefore, if we did not know it before, we should know it now: unless the international community actively takes forward a just solution to this conflict, the world will become an even more dangerous place.

I welcome the brave statements by Jewish leaders, including my noble friend Lady Neuberger, in an open letter to the Government of Israel, saying that they write,

    “as profound and passionate supporters of Israel”,

but that the actions of the Government of Israel threaten to destabilise the region and to undermine international support. We have surely reached a point of enormous danger to Israel; that, in its greater military strength, it has meted out such evident injustice to its would-be neighbours that there will be such a reaction that its own future will be undermined. Its window of opportunity to find a settlement is surely small and depends on the position of the United States, not only in terms of its support but also on how long the US is the only superpower.

I can remember when Fatah was not to be supported or negotiated with. But the warnings came that this played into the hands of those who are more radical. Indeed, Hamas was elected in Gaza, and 40 of its MPs were immediately imprisoned by the Israelis. Right now, we hear how no negotiations should occur with Hamas, although we also know that this is going on through the Egyptians. Note the viewpoint of Sir Jeremy Greenstock on the “Today” programme on 12 January in relation to Hamas:

“This is a regime about which a lot of inaccurate statements are made, particularly by the Israeli and Washington Governments. It is not beholden to Iran ... They are not trying to set up a Taliban-style Government in Gaza ... They are not intent on the destruction of Israel; that is a rhetorical statement of resistance”....

Baronness William of Crosby: At present, the biggest donor of aid to Israel is the United States of America; the biggest export market for Israel is the EU; and the money given to help the Palestinian Authority to survive comes from the EU. Quite simply, this means that the weapons and tools to create a better situation are in the hands of the United States and the European Union—two members of the quartet. Therefore, my question to the Minister is very simple: has the time not come when we should make our aid conditional on at least the recognition of the rule of law and basic human rights legislation? Should we not now say that further acts that are in breach of the rule of law cannot be accepted by those who donate to one side or the other, whether it be aid or humanitarian assistance?

Debate is scheduled to continue on January 27.

Gaza: The Lies of War - Henry Siegman

London Review of Books, January 15, 2009 - Western governments and most of the Western media have accepted a number of Israeli claims justifying the military assault on Gaza: that Hamas consistently violated the six-month truce that Israel observed and then refused to extend it; that Israel therefore had no choice but to destroy Hamas’s capacity to launch missiles into Israeli towns; that Hamas is a terrorist organisation, part of a global jihadi network; and that Israel has acted not only in its own defence but on behalf of an international struggle by Western democracies against this network.

I am not aware of a single major American newspaper, radio station or TV channel whose coverage of the assault on Gaza questions this version of events. Criticism of Israel’s actions, if any (and there has been none from the Bush administration), has focused instead on whether the IDF’s carnage is proportional to the threat it sought to counter, and whether it is taking adequate measures to prevent civilian casualties.

Middle East peacemaking has been smothered in deceptive euphemisms, so let me state bluntly that each of these claims is a lie. Israel, not Hamas, violated the truce: Hamas undertook to stop firing rockets into Israel; in return, Israel was to ease its throttlehold on Gaza. In fact, during the truce, it tightened it further. This was confirmed not only by every neutral international observer and NGO on the scene but by Brigadier General (Res.) Shmuel Zakai, a former commander of the IDF’s Gaza Division. In an interview in Ha’aretz on 22 December, he accused Israel’s government of having made a ‘central error’ during thetahdiyeh, the six-month period of relative truce, by failing ‘to take advantage of the calm to improve, rather than markedly worsen, the economic plight of the Palestinians of the Strip . . . When you create a tahdiyeh, and the economic pressure on the Strip continues,’ General Zakai said, ‘it is obvious that Hamas will try to reach an improved tahdiyeh, and that their way to achieve this is resumed Qassam fire . . . You cannot just land blows, leave the Palestinians in Gaza in the economic distress they’re in, and expect that Hamas will just sit around and do nothing.’

The truce, which began in June last year and was due for renewal in December, required both parties to refrain from violent action against the other. Hamas had to cease its rocket assaults and prevent the firing of rockets by other groups such as Islamic Jihad (even Israel’s intelligence agencies acknowledged this had been implemented with surprising effectiveness), and Israel had to put a stop to its targeted assassinations and military incursions. This understanding was seriously violated on 4 November, when the IDF entered Gaza and killed six members of Hamas. Hamas responded by launching Qassam rockets and Grad missiles. Even so, it offered to extend the truce, but only on condition that Israel ended its blockade. Israel refused. It could have met its obligation to protect its citizens by agreeing to ease the blockade, but it didn’t even try. It cannot be said that Israel launched its assault to protect its citizens from rockets. It did so to protect its right to continue the strangulation of Gaza’s population.

Read full article online ...

Henry Siegman, director of the US Middle East Project in New York, is a visiting research professor at SOAS, University of London. He is a former national director of the American Jewish Congress and of the Synagogue Council of America.

Protests Over Gaza Spread to Eight English Universities

The Guardian, January 22, 2009 - ....As student protests over the bombing of Gaza spread to eight universities across England today, the director of the London School of Economics, Sir Howard Davies, issued a joint statement with student protesters saying he understood their concerns and backing a fundraising drive for scholarships for Palestinians.

LSE protesters ended their week-long occupation of the institution's Old Theatre peacefully last night, after Davies, former chairman of the Financial Services Authority, agreed to meet some of their demands.

Michael Deas, a third-year environmental policy student involved in the occupation, said: "We're delighted with the result, although nothing we could have done would ever have been enough. It's a real victory for student activism, particularly forcing the director into making a statement.

"We would encourage other students to take this sort of action and have the confidence to do so."

More than 80 students at Oxford occupied part of the historic Bodleian building today to demand that the university release a statement condemning the attack on Gaza, and cancel a lecture series at Balliol College inaugurated by Shimon Peres, the president of Israel.

At Warwick, students started an occupation last night demanding the university sever links with companies supplying equipment used in the conflict.

At King's College London, students have demanded the cancellation of an honorary degree for Peres, a demand rejected by the university. Trainor, the vice-chancellor of King's and president of the vice-chancellors' umbrella group, Universities UK, has said: "UUK supports calls for an end to the conflict in and beyond Gaza. We are particularly aware that many of the civilian casualties have occurred in educational establishments....

Students have also protested at the School of Oriental and African Studies, Birmingham, Essex and Sussex....

How Gaza Became a Palestinian Prison - Avi Shlaim

The American Conservative, January 26, 2009 - The only way to make sense of Israel’s senseless war in Gaza is through historical context. Establishing the state of Israel in May 1948 involved a monumental injustice to the Palestinians. British officials bitterly resented American partisanship on behalf of the infant state. On June 2, 1948, Sir John Troutbeck wrote to Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin that the Americans were responsible for the creation of a gangster state headed by “an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders.” I used to think that this judgment was too harsh, but Israel’s assault on Gaza and the Bush administration’s complicity have reopened the question.

I served loyally in the Israeli army in the 1960s and have never questioned the legitimacy of the state of Israel within its pre-1967 borders. What I reject is the Zionist colonial project beyond the Green Line. The occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the 1967 War had little to do with security and everything to do with territorial expansionism. The aim was to establish Greater Israel through permanent political, economic, and military control over the Palestinian territories.

With a population of refugees crammed into a tiny strip of land with no infrastructure or natural resources, Gaza’s prospects were never bright. Yet this is not an instance of economic underdevelopment but a uniquely cruel case of deliberate de-development. To use the Biblical phrase, Israel turned the people of Gaza into hewers of wood and the drawers of water—a source of cheap labor and a captive market for Israeli goods. Local industry was actively impeded so as to make it impossible for the Palestinians to end their subordination and establish the economic underpinnings essential for independence....

The real purpose behind the move was to redraw the borders of Greater Israel by incorporating the main settlement blocs on the West Bank to the state of Israel. Withdrawal from Gaza was thus not a prelude to peace but to further Zionist expansion on the West Bank. It was a unilateral move undertaken in what was seen as the Israeli national interest...

Avi Shlaim is author of The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World and Lion of Jordan: King Hussein’s Life in War and Peace. This essay is adapted from a piece that originally appeared in The Guardian.

Gazans Plead for Emergency Shelter

Euronews, January 21, 2009 - ....One man said: “We are looking for a place to live. This used to be our home. We have no one helping us; not the UN, not the government. Nobody is standing by us, and we are begging the UN, the Red Cross, anybody to give us a tent. But there is no-one.”

Many people had no choice but to flee when the fighting began, a conflict the UN says claimed the lives of some 1300 Palestinians, half of them civilians.

One woman said: “After 20 days we came back and found our house in ruins. We could not find matresses, flour, our sheep. Nothing. The whole house in ruins. Where should we go now? We ask them to build us a house.”....

Views from the Gulf

Israel fails to achieve war aims - Francis Matthews, Gulf News, Editor at Large, January 21, 2009: Every war needs a political end in order to be a success. This means Israel's assault on Gaza has failed since it achieved no political gain, and not even much military gain. From its side, Hamas has been seen to resist Israel but it cannot claim that it has won much either, other than it still exists. This means that the miserable result of 23 days of savage warfare which killed hundreds of people, is a continuation of the frustrating political stalemate that existed before, exacerbated by vast damage to Gaza's infrastructure and housing.

Israel went into Gaza with the declared aim of stopping the random rocketing of its towns by Hamas fighters in Gaza. This proved impossible, so mid-war Israel shifted its declared aims to be the destruction of Hamas' military and social infrastructure. Israel imagined that somehow its attack would be able to reduce Hamas to nothing and that Gaza would still be there. This aim ignored the obvious fact that Hamas is part of the human fabric of Gaza and cannot be destroyed by weapons....

Barbaric blockade has to end - Editorial, Gulf News, January 22, 2009: ....Despite the humanitarian urgency of getting on with the job, the outrageous Israeli blockade is expected to continue. The ceasefire being debated in the many corridors of power around the region and further afield, does not mean a return to normal life. It does not mean open borders, and it does not mean that Gaza can try to start again. It only means that people will stop shooting each other. Israel still plans to maintain a rigid blockade on Gaza; it will still control the region's sea and air space; it will not allow normal commerce and traffic to start; it will not allow the Arab aid to move into Gaza without passing through Israeli hands.

Self-defense is No Defense

Evidence is stacking up that Israel has a war crimes case to answer

The Guardian (UK), January 21, 2009 - Palestinians are living under occupation, and are therefore "protected persons" under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. Protected persons may not be punished for crimes that they themselves have not committed, and their collective punishment constitutes a war crime.

Israel's attempt to claim self-defence as a justification for the separation wall, which annexes swathes of Palestinian land, has already been rejected by the International Court of Justice. On July 9 2004, the International Court of Justice provided its advisory opinion that the construction of the wall is contrary to international law and that Israel was obliged to dismantle the wall forthwith. The court rejected Israel's defence that the separation wall is justified under the doctrine of self-defence under Article 51 of the UN Charter.

When the Middle East envoy for the Quartet, former UK prime minister Tony Blair, was interviewed by Gavin Esler on BBC Newsnight on January 9, he opined that a ceasefire had not been possible because: "I think that there are still real issues about what can be done to stop the smuggling of the arms going into Gaza and then the opening of the crossings so that there can be proper humanitarian help." Blair effectively makes the Palestinians' right to humanitarian aid dependent upon whether their democratically elected leadership can be prevented from bringing arms into Gaza.

Yet, as Article 55 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states: "To the fullest extent of the means available to it, the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring the food and medical supplies of the population; it should, in particular, bring in the necessary foodstuffs, medical stores and other articles if the resources of the occupied territory are inadequate." ....

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Palestinian Doctor in Gaza: "I Have Never Seen Such Terrible Wounds"

Middle East Online, January 21, 2009 - Dr. Atallah Tarazi, a General Surgeon at Gaza City’s Shifaa Hospital, invited us to meet him in his home, in Gaza City, just a few blocks away from the Shifaa Hospital....

Dr. Tarzi has been practicing medicine as a General Surgeon all of his adult life. Now, at age 61, he says he has never seen such terrible and ugly wounds as he saw during the past three weeks....

And: Alarm Spreads Over Use of Lethal New Weapons: Inter Press Service, January 21, 2009 - Eighteen-year-old Mona Al-Ashkar says she did not immediately know the first explosion at the United Nations (UN) school in Beit Lahiya had blown her left leg off. There was smoke, then chaos, then the pain and disbelief set in once she realised it was gone - completely severed by the weapon that hit her.

Mona is one of the many patients among the 5,500 injured that have international and Palestinian doctors baffled by the type of weaponry used in the Israeli operation. High-profile human rights organisations like Amnesty International are accusing Israel of war crimes.

Mona's doctors at Gaza City's Al-Shifa hospital found no shrapnel in her leg, and it looked as though it had been "sliced right off with a knife."

"We are not sure exactly what type of weapon can manage to do that immediately and so cleanly," said Dr. Sobhi Skaik, consultant surgeon general at Al-Shifa hospital. "What is happening is frightening. It's possible the Israeli army was using Gaza to experiment militarily."

What is worrying health officials even more, however, is that some of the patients' organs are being ruptured with little or no sign of a shrapnel entry point.

This is something they have never seen before, they say, and also something they do not know how to treat.

"Normal shrapnel has a clear path, with both an entry and an exit point," said Dr. Mohamed Al-Ron, another surgeon at Al-Shifa hospital.

"But someone's entire abdomen will be ripped open, and only after searching will we find a miniscule hole in the skin. Then we will find small black dots all over the organ, but we don't know what they are."

It is an indication, he continued, that whatever is entering the body is exploding and doing the damage once it is inside. Multiple organs will fail, and will continue to fail even after surgery removes any shrapnel.

"We are consulting with international colleagues, and they are confirming that there is something unusual going on with these cases," said Dr. Skaik.

"We have seen plenty of nails, of metal shrapnel and foreign metallic parts, but there was never violence of this character or something that continued to damage even after the parts of the weapon were removed. What is being intentionally created is a population of handicapped people."

Some of the injuries, including multiple organ failure, mutilation and severed limbs, are so debilitating that Dr. Karim Hosni, an Egyptian doctor volunteering at the Al-Naser hospital in Khan Younis, says he wishes he could just end his patients' misery.

"Sometimes I wish my patients would just die," he said. "Their injuries are so horrifying, that I know they will now have to lead terrible and painful lives."

The View from Dubai: The West Stands with the Aggressor, Yet Again - Aijaz Zaka Syed

Middle East Times, Wednesday, January 21, 2009 - This week marks the 90th anniversary of the Versailles Treaty. It was in January, 1919, exactly 90 years ago, that the World War I victors – the United States, Britain, France and Italy – began drawing up the map of the current Middle East at the Paris conference. And creating much of the mess that you see today in the region, especially in the Holy Land.

Perhaps it's only apt that the Western leaders descended on the Middle East this week on the 90th anniversary of the Versailles Treaty.

Within hours of Israel's Ehud Olmert declaring 'mission accomplished' in Gaza and even as Palestinians were burying their dead and picking up pieces, literally, of what remained of their lives, world leaders landed first in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt to deliberate on Israel's security and then flew to Jerusalem. To do what? Perhaps to pat Olmert and his team on the back for what they have accomplished in Gaza....

Israeli Human Rights Activists: Arrest Livni, Barak and Olmert for War Crimes

Haaretz, January 21, 2009 - Anonymous self-described Israeli human rights activists have set up an Internet site detailing alleged war crimes committed by senior government officials and Israel Defense Forces officers. No known human rights organization is behind the site, whose founders refuse to give their names.

The site,, includes "arrest orders," complete with pictures and personal details, for Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, National Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and his two predecessors, Dan Halutz and Moshe Ya'alon, former air force commander Eliezer Shkedy and others. It also explains how to inform the International Criminal Court in The Hague of when the "suspects" are outside Israel, and hence vulnerable to arrest....

Gaza War Ended in Utter Failure for Israel - Gideon Levy

Haaretz, January 21, 2009 - On the morrow of the return of the last Israeli soldier from Gaza, we can determine with certainty that they had all gone out there in vain. This war ended in utter failure for Israel.

This goes beyond the profound moral failure, which is a grave matter in itself, but pertains to its inability to reach its stated goals. In other words, the grief is not complemented by failure. We have gained nothing in this war save hundreds of graves, some of them very small, thousands of maimed people, much destruction and the besmirching of Israel's image.

What seemed like a predestined loss to only a handful of people at the onset of the war will gradually emerge as such to many others, once the victorious trumpeting subsides....

Statement: UN Secretary General to the Security Council

Relief Web, January 21, 2009 - Following are excerpts from the statement by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, delivered by Under-Secretary-General B. Lynn Pascoe on 21 January:
~During my visit yesterday, I saw part of the destruction and suffering caused to this small and densely populated area by more than three weeks of heavy bombardment, shelling and street fighting. This, of course, follows on top of months and years of occupation, conflict and economic deprivation. I was deeply affected by what I saw.
~I went to Gaza to show my respect and concern for the deaths and injuries of so many people, and the thousands of people who lost family and friends. I wanted to send the signal that the United Nations stands with the people who have borne tragedy and disaster, and that we will not abandon them.
~And I visited Sderot, to meet with the civilians of southern Israel who have been exposed to indiscriminate rocket and mortar fire for too long.
~In both places, I underscored the urgent need for international humanitarian law to be fully respected and for civilians to be protected. As I made clear, where civilians have been killed and there are allegations of violations of international humanitarian law, there should be thorough investigations, full explanations and, where it is required, accountability.
~In Gaza, I met with the United Nations staff on the ground who worked bravely, courageously, heroically, during these past weeks. They have made the United Nations proud, and humbled us by their example. I cannot praise and thank them enough, and I pay tribute to the United Nations staff members and contractors who have been killed or injured.
~I also assured the people of Gaza that the United Nations will work urgently and diligently to provide urgent humanitarian assistance and to start a daunting and challenging process of recovery and reconstruction....
~I would like to note here that immediate and increased access to Gaza is key to any humanitarian effort, let alone reconstruction. In my meetings with Israeli leaders, I have insisted on the importance of increased access to the Gaza Strip. I have asked President Mubarak to ensure that Rafah is open for humanitarian material.
~You are all aware of the several incidents of outrageous attacks against United Nations facilities, and heard a briefing here last Thursday on the attack that saw UNRWA's main warehouse burn down, with much urgently required assistance lost. This attack took place the day I was in Israel, and I saw for myself yesterday the still-smouldering ruins of our facilities. From the outset, I have protested the attacks against United Nations facilities in the strongest possible terms, and have called on all combatants to respect the sanctity of United Nations premises. I must inform the Security Council that, when I was in Israel, I was given personal assurances by the Israeli authorities that such attacks would not happen again. Despite this, a mere two days later, there was an attack against a United Nations school that served as a refuge and shelter to those who had nowhere else to hide and two little boys were killed.
~When I met the Israeli leadership on several occasions, I demanded a thorough investigation by Israel into every single one of these incidents. I expect to receive a full explanation of each incident and that those responsible will be held accountable for their actions. Prime Minister Olmert promised to provide me the results of their inquiry on an urgent basis. I will then decide on appropriate follow-up action....

Report: How IDF Legal Experts Legitimized Harming Civilians

Haaretz, January 21, 2009 - The idea to bombard the closing ceremony of the Gaza police course was internally criticized in the Israel Defense Forces months before the attack. A military source involved in the planning of the attack, in which dozens of Hamas policemen were killed, says that while military intelligence officers were sure the operation should be carried out and pressed for its approval, the IDF's international law division and the military advocate general were undecided.

After months of the operational elements pushing for the attack's approval, the international law division, headed by Col. Pnina Sharvit-Baruch, gave the go-ahead. In spite of doubts, and also under pressure, Sharvit-Baruch and her officers also legitimized the attack on Hamas government buildings and the relaxing of the rules of engagement, resulting in numerous Palestinian casualties. In the division it is also believed that the killing of civilians in a house whose residents the IDF has warned might be considered legally justified, although the IDF does not actually target civilians in this way....

Embedded with Emergency Medics in Gaza - Video

Palestinian journalist Radjaa Abou Dagga filmed this footage during the war for France's Channel 24. It was shown in Europe and featured on The Independent on January 16. Although hostilities have ceased for now, we feature it as an important documentary of what it was like to live through this experience on the ground. The audio has been translated into English and so offers a rare glimpse into life under siege.

Exterminate the Brutes - Noam Chomsky

ZNet, January 20, 2009 - .,.. In a front-page think-piece on the latest Gaza invasion, NYT correspondent Steven Lee Meyers writes that "In some ways, the Gaza attacks were reminiscent of the gamble Israel took, and largely lost, in Lebanon in 1982 [when] it invaded to eliminate the threat of Yasir Arafat's forces." Correct, but not in the sense he has in mind. In 1982, as in 2008, it was necessary to eliminate the threat of political settlement.

The hope of Israeli propagandists has been that Western intellectuals and media would buy the tale that Israel reacted to rockets raining on the Galilee, "intolerable acts of terror." And they have not been disappointed.

It is not that Israel does not want peace: everyone wants peace, even Hitler. The question is: on what terms? From its origins, the Zionist movement has understood that to achieve its goals, the best strategy would be to delay political settlement, meanwhile slowly building facts on the ground. Even the occasional agreements, as in 1947, were recognized by the leadership to be temporary steps towards further expansion. The 1982 Lebanon war was a dramatic example of the desperate fear of diplomacy. It was followed by Israeli support for Hamas so as to undermine the secular PLO and its irritating peace initiatives. Another case that should be familiar is Israeli provocations before the 1967 war designed to elicit a Syrian response that could be used as a pretext for violence and takeover of more land - at least 80% of the incidents, according to Defense Minister Moshe Dayan. The story goes far back. The official history of the Haganah, the pre-state Jewish military force, describes the assassination of the religious Jewish poet Jacob de Haan in 1924, accused of conspiring with the traditional Jewish community (the Old Yishuv) and the Arab Higher Committee against the new immigrants and their settlement enterprise. And there have been numerous examples since. The effort to delay political accommodation has always made perfect sense, as do the accompanying lies about how "there is no partner for peace." It is hard to think of another way to take over land where you are not wanted....

Noam Chomsky is an MIT Professor of Linguistics and long-time activist, writer, and popular lecturer who speaks widely on a range of social and political issues, both national and international.

Cost of Conflict for Israelis and Palestinians - Report by Think Tank

By Andrew Hammond, Reuters News, January 21, 2009

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israelis and Palestinians could all be twice as rich as they are today if conflict had not continued throughout the peace process of the past two decades, an international think tank said on Wednesday.

The Strategic Foresight Group, an India-based body that says it has advised governments, said Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip made the findings of its report "Cost of Conflict in the Middle East," issued on Wednesday all the more urgent.

Income per head for both Israelis and Palestinians would have been almost double what it is now, it found. Israelis earn on average almost 20 times more than Palestinians. "The current crisis in Gaza demonstrates again the need to consider the long-term costs of our actions," the group's head, Sundeep Waslekar, said in a statement.

More than 1,300 Palestinians were killed in Israeli air and ground strikes in the Gaza Strip, launched on December 27 with the declared aim of ending rocket attacks. Thirteen Israelis were killed during the three weeks of fighting. Israelis and Palestinians began peace talks in Madrid in 1991 that led to Palestinian self-rule in parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which Israel had occupied in a 1967 Middle East war. Palestinians began an uprising in 2000.

"For Israel, peace since 1991 would have meant an average per capita income of $44,000 (31,511 pounds) by 2010 rather than $23,000. For Palestinians, per capita income would have been $2,400 by 2010 rather than $1,220," the statement said. The group has previously produced a report on the costs of conflict between India and Pakistan, it said.

Its Middle East report has input from 50 political and economic analysts from around the world to measure the costs of conflict around the region. It had the support of the governments of Norway, Qatar, Turkey and Switzerland. In a projected peace situation, each Israeli household would have $4,429 more for the first five years after Jewish settlers in the West Bank were indemnified for moving to Israel and compensation was paid to millions of Palestinian refugees.

Palestinian GDP would reach around $11 billion in 2010, rather than the $5 billion of current projections. Though many believe the violence in Gaza and the schism between Hamas and the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank makes progress towards a peaceful settlement harder, Waslekar saw some grounds for optimism in the inauguration of Barack Obama.

"The election of a new president of the United States, as well as new leaders in the region, provides a window of opportunity in 2009," he wrote.

Report contents and purchase full report here