Saturday, February 7, 2009

Opinion: A Humanitarian Offensive - Nicola Nasser

Al Ahram Weekly, February 5-11, 2009 - Stubbornly insisting on putting the cart before the horse as the approach to a "durable and sustainable" ceasefire in Gaza, US and European diplomacy is building on a misleading Israeli premise that the 22-day military operation dubbed "Operation Cast Lead" was a reaction and not a premeditated and long planned scheme that found in the change of guard in Washington DC perfect timing. It was "not simply a reaction", but "a calculation", Daniel Klaidman wrote in Newsweek on 10 January.

American and European diplomats are reiterating Israel's propagandistic justification: "What would any normal country do if they were threatened by rocket fire? They would act." US President Barack Obama was the last Western leader to uphold this Israeli claim, but he upheld it nonetheless. "But Israel is not a normal country, it is an occupying power," former Palestinian-Israeli member of Knesset Azmi Bishara said. Moreover what country would tolerate an eight- year siege and not consider it an act of war unworthy of a national reaction? Why should Western diplomacy judge Palestinians in Gaza as abnormal?....

Opinion: Close Up - Upholding Justice - Salama A Salama

Al Ahram Weekly, February 5-11, 2009 - At a time when the Arab League and the Egyptian Foreign Ministry are documenting Israel's war crimes in the recent onslaught against Gaza, some European countries -- including Spain -- are thinking of changing their laws to ensure that Israeli war criminals are never brought to trial in their courts.

Fouad Abdel-Moneim Riyad, one of Egypt's top legal experts and a former judge at the International Criminal Court, says that available evidence indicates that Israel committed genocide in Gaza. His views are shared by fair-minded Israelis, including historian Ilan Pappe. Some of Israel's crimes are believed to have exceeded in cruelty the crimes committed in the last decade in Bosnia.

The problem, however, is that the procedures for trying war criminals in any particular country are subject to international calculations and political pressures, some of which are not necessarily in our favour as Arabs. It is therefore advisable for Arab countries to seek the help of civil institutions and appeal to conscientious individuals to assist in building the legal case and bringing Israeli criminals to justice.

The atrocities that have been committed need to become public knowledge, for they constitute crimes against humanity and an impediment to efforts aiming to promote human rights....

A Week in Gaza - Khaled El Fiqi

The first photographer from Egypt to enter Gaza since the invasion ended writes his reflections and shares his photos.

Al Ahram Weekly, February 5-11 2009 -
....Being the first Egyptian photographer to cross into Gaza, I was horrified by the scale of destruction, by scenes of ruin unseen since 1967. Gaza's infrastructure -- roads, electricity and water -- is gone. Houses that still stand bear the signs of shelling. Even mosques were not spared. This was the first time for me to see mosques so damaged. Even in Bosnia, the Serbs shied away from demolishing mosques.

During their respective periods of occupation, the French or British refrained from tearing down mosques in Egypt. What I saw were scenes reminiscent of the acts of the Nazis and the fascists. And it all happened because Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defence Minister Ehud Barak decided that waging such a brutal attack would boost their chances in domestic elections.....

Gaza Shakes American Arab and Muslim Youth

Electronic Intifada, February 6, 2009 - The most recent assault on Gaza has been an awakening for American Arab and Muslim youth. The attacks came at the most festive holiday season of the year. Instead of celebrating, many young American Arab and Muslim teenagers and kids spent their time protesting on the streets as they watched disturbing and devastating images streaming into their living rooms and onto their computers.

This is a new generation of youth: a generation that grew up witnessing gross violations of US civil liberties, under the shadow of the Patriot Act. They grew up watching Iraq and Afghanistan being destroyed by US military weapons; they saw citizens of countries of their ancestors tortured and humiliated. They have not forgotten Israel's unjustified attack on Lebanon only two years ago. Many youth have profound attachments to the lands that their parents or great-grandparents came from, and where many still have family.

"We were very young when [the 11 September 2001 attacks] happened. We grew up under Bush's presidency and witnessed our community being marginalized. We were often questioned about our religion and culture. This brought many of us closer and we started organizing awareness events on campus"....

OCHA Report on The Current Situation on the Ground in Gaza, 1.28.09 - 2.3.09

Protection of Civilians Weekly Report, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in East Jerusalem, January 28 to February 3, 2009 [Note: This is an abridged digest of the full document, available at the link.] -

Crossings and access. Rafah crossing - closed to Palestinians from Feb 5 onward. Only internationals will be allowed to exit Gaza. Palestinians needing medical care will be considered and allowed on a case by case basis. No more movement of cargo through this crossing will be allowed.

Damage assessment from war. UNDP estimates total or partial destruction of:
  • 14,000 homes
  • 68 governmental buildings
  • 31 non-governmental organizations
As a result, 600,000 tons of concrete rubble needs to be removed.

- NGO survey of 48 out of 61 total localities in Gaza (excluding refugee camps) found that 22.6% of housing units were damaged or destroyed (moderate damage: 16.7%; severe damage: 3.7%; destruction: 2.6%) during the invasion; damage is disproportionately in rural non-refugee areas.

- Total number of internally displaced persons Gaza: Unknown, but among localities surveyed, 71,657 people were found to be staying with others.

Electricity. Power supply has improved. In most areas, 3 8-hour power cuts each week are in effect; no cuts in Khan Younis or Rafah.

Humanitarian aid. 75% of NGOs trying to enter Gaza to help report difficulties accessing Gaza to provide assistance.
  • Feb 3 - Gaza police personnel confiscated by force 3500 blankets and 406 food parcels from an UNRWA distribution store at Beach Camp, provisions that had been meant for 500 families. UNRWA suspended delivery of aid in response.
Health. Most health facilities in the Gaza Strip have resumed normal operation. Enduring risks include:
  • Complications and excess mortality in patients with chronic diseases as a result of delayed or no access to health care during the conflict
  • Diarrhea outbreaks from water-borne and food-borne diseases due to lack of access to clean water and sanitation and weak public health surveillance system
  • Long-term mental health problems as a result of the conflict, on-going insecurity, and lack of protection
Lack of access to specialized care remains a serious concern. Estimates are that approximately half of the 5,300 injured during the invasion may suffer life-long impairment, exacerbated by the inability of rehabilitation workers to provide early intervention. Providing specialized rehabilitation to those who need it (such as by allowing them to go to one of the three centers in the West Bank that have agreed to receive patients) is especially critical given that Al Wafa Hospital, the main provider of specialist rehabilitation services in Gaza, sustained severe damage and is not yet fully operational.

Water and sanitation. 300,000 people in the Gaza Strip still have no tap water, according to the Gaza water authority. Preliminary assessment of households shows that during the operation:
  • 5,700 roof-top water tanks were completely destroyed
  • 2,900 were damaged
  • Al Atatra and Izbat Abed Rabbo had 50% of their water networks destroyed
  • Other areas sustained damage to 30% to 35% of their water networks
  • Estimate to repair water and sewage infrastructure: $6 million
  • Repairs require entry of spare parts; Israel is not clearing the parts, including PCV pipes

Rubble Removal Urgently Needed to Restore Services in Gaza

United Nations Development Program, Jerusalem (via Palestine Chronicle), February 6, 2009 - The 22 days of intense military operations in Gaza resulted in massive destruction to public as well as private buildings and housing units. An initial survey, conducted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) estimates that over 14,000 homes, 68 government buildings and 31 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have been totally or partially damaged. As a result, UNDP estimates that 600,000 tons of concrete rubble will need to be removed.

“This is a top priority,” said Jens Toyberg-Frandzen, UNDP Special Representative in the Occupied Palestinian territory. “The rubble is mixed with poisonous harmful materials and may include unexploded ordnances. It needs to be urgently removed to protect the lives of Palestinians in Gaza and to facilitate immediate access to basic humanitarian and social services.”

Rubble removal was included in the UN Flash Appeal, launched on Monday. Once funding is secured, UNDP will clear rubble, demolish and clean-up sites of damaged buildings, and identify and remove unexploded ordnances. The project will also generate 200,000 workdays for unemployed Gazans.

The UN Flash Appeal outlines the needs arising from the recent fighting in Gaza and requests urgent funds to allow the UN and partners to restore basic social services and public utilities such as water, health, education, food and emergency repairs of critical infrastructure.

Out of US$613 million requested in the Flash Appeal, UNDP funding needs total $49.3 million, more than half of which is allocated for rubble removal. Other projects focus on reviving the agriculture sector and the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the water reservoirs in the Gaza Strip....

In order for UN agencies to meet the formidable challenges, essential items must be allowed into Gaza, including construction materials, pipes, electrical wires and transformers, in addition to other key equipment and spare parts. Removing Israeli restrictions on the movement of people and goods into Gaza will help rebuild the lives and livelihoods of the Palestinians living in the area.

The View from Palestine: Steadfast Before Goliath - Mustafa Bargouthi

The Nation, February 6, 2009 - When I am asked about Palestinian identity, one idea keeps coming to mind. I was told it would be translated into English as "steadfastness." I looked up what a steadfast person would be like and the dictionary says, "One marked by firm determination or resolution--not shakable--of firm convictions and strong resolve. A man of unbendable perseverance and unwavering loyalty."

That's pretty close to what I had in mind, but somewhat incomplete--it is hard to capture an entire people in a word. Steadfastness refers to our Palestinian character of never giving in. It refers to our standing up to overwhelming odds time and again, without a friend in our corner. It is about our being beaten and abused in every way known to man, only to get back up with our heads held high.

This is impressive, but if it is understood only in this way steadfastness could easily be exchanged for a different, less appealing word: stubbornness. In itself, refusing to give up is not an admirable quality. After all, the rather unsavory and racist group of settlers in Hebron could also be described as steadfast. They too display "unwavering loyalty" and "firm convictions," and they too seemingly never give in.

What makes our steadfastness admired around the world is not only our perseverance but the justice of our cause, which is freedom, democracy and plurality. It is important to remember this broader definition of our character and our steadfastness. It is even more important for us to more loudly trumpet this, our true identity, throughout the world.

The reason is simple: Israel has dedicated an enormous amount of resources to perverting our identity and the character of our struggle. It has gained a significant degree of influence over the media, especially in the West, and has used this strength to transform and manipulate reality to its own ends. Thus despite our being slaughtered in the streets of Gaza, we are told that we are not only to blame but that the siege we are enduring is unworthy of international intervention.

Despite having thousands of our civilian brothers, sons, fathers, sisters, mothers and daughters in Israeli prisons routinely subjected to torture, we are told to immediately release a single captured Israeli soldier--or face another wave of high-tech brutality....

No Place Like Home - Amira Hass

Stories of the horrors that befell entire Palestinian families during the war

Haaretz, February 7, 2009 - Within seconds A'amer al-Dayeh lost his parents, two sisters, three sisters-in-law, three brothers and 12 of their children. The youngest, Sansabeel, was 3 months old. The oldest, Ali, was 11. It happened on January 6, when an Israeli plane bombed Dayeh's house between 5:30 and 6 A.M. He is now living with relatives, his home destroyed. For four years he lived in the West Bank, where he studied education at An-Najah National University in Nablus, and worked in a Palestinian Authority security agency under Yasser Arafat. For a month in 2002 he was trapped with the Palestinian leader in the Muqata in Ramallah during the Israeli siege on the PA headquarters.

On the morning of Tuesday, January 6, during the 60th hour of the Israel Defense Forces' ground offensive, soldiers had already deployed among the houses in the southernmost section of the Zeitoun neighborhood, a few kilometers from where Dayeh lived, and from which the frightening noises of explosions and gunfire emanated for two days. Many people started to flee.

On the narrow, densely built-up street, a rumor spread that the IDF was going to bombard the house of the Dayehs' neighbors and that the Red Cross had informed the family. Local residents, including the Dayehs, left their homes in a panic and started heading west. But then someone called the Red Cross, which said there was no talk of any such action, "and everyone went back, including our family."

Passengers of Aid Freighter Seized by Israel Off Gaza's Coast Earlier This Week Tell of Their Ordeal

The Daily Star, Beirut, February 6, 2009 - A group of activists arrested after the Israeli navy seized an aid ship bound for the devastated Gaza Strip were expelled from Israel on Friday, a day after being detained by the military. Fifteen of the Togolese-flagged Tali's crew members were deported back to Lebanon and Syria early on Friday, and three others were preparing to fly to London.

Nine Lebanese and a Palestinian were handed over at the border with Israel to the UN peacekeeping force responsible for monitoring stability in southern Lebanon.

The freed crew told how they were beaten and handcuffed after Israeli gunboats fired on the ship and sailors stormed the vessel, arresting everyone on board. The boat was then towed to the Israeli port of Ashdod where it was searched.

Salam Khodr, an Al-Jazeera journalist who was on board the vessel, said the Israelis had taken the crew's possessions when they were arrested. "The Israeli army confiscated all our videotapes; we were separated from each other, we were blindfolded and handcuffed. They beat some of us; I was beaten," she said.

"The soldiers kicked Dr Hani Suleiman, in the chest and back; we asked for a physician to check Dr Suleiman who suffered short breath; one Israeli female soldier answered: 'You should have thought about his health condition before you attempted to come and break the siege of Gaza'," Khodr said.

An Israeli military spokes-man admitted that no arms had been had been found on the ship, which turned out to be laden with medicine, food, and humanitarian supplies for the population of the war ravaged enclave....

The interception of the Tali marks the first time Israel has captured an aid ship and its crew, and will be seen as a clear signal that it will not tolerate further attempts to circumvent the blockade of Gaza.....

Friday, February 6, 2009

South Africa Union Workers Refuse to Unload Israeli Ship in Durban, Forcing It to Depart with Its Goods

Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) joint media release (via Ramallah Online), February 6, 2009 - The Congress of South African Trade Union is pleased to announce that its members, dock workers belonging to the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) achieved a victory last night when they stood firm by their decision not to offload the Johanna Russ, a ship that was carrying Israeli goods to South Africa. This, despite threats to COSATU members from sections of the pro-Israeli lobby, and despite severe provocation.

The Johanna Russ, flying an Antigua flag, is owned by M. Dizengoff and Co., an established "pioneer of the modern era of shipping business in the Middle East" and shipping agent for the ironically named Zim Israel Navigation Company. (Ironic because, last year, the same SATAWU members refused to offload the Chinese ship An Yue Jiang, which was carrying arms and ammunition destined for Robert Mugabe's army.)

The worker action last night took place despite attempted subterfuge on the part of the owners of the shipping company. There was an attempt to confound the plan by arriving earlier than originally scheduled, which was 8 February. Dates for the berthing of the Johanna Russ were changed constantly. Yesterday morning, SATAWU members were told that the ship would dock this morning (Friday) at 02:00. Thanks to the vigilance of the dock workers, SATAWU discovered that the ship had docked on Wednesday morning and was due to be offloaded last night at 21:00. But the vigilant workers were on guard and immediately they realised that it had docked, they then refused to handle it, despite pressures from management. SATAWU members maintained their refusal to offload the ship and also attempted to ensure that scab labour would not be used.

A few hours after berthing, at 23:00, the Johanna Russ sneaked out of the Durban Harbour....

COSATU has now decided to intensify its efforts in support of the struggles of the Palestinian people. The worker victory in Durban yesterday spurs COSATU members on to more determined action in order to isolate the Apartheid state of Israel. Other Cosatu unions are currently in discussion about how they might also give effect to Cosatu resolutions on boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, including a refusal to handle Israeli goods, and continuing pressure on our government to sever diplomatic and trade relations with Israel.

The momentum against apartheid Israel has become an irresistible force.

We are proud to stand with the millions around the world who say 'Enough is enough'. They are doing what we asked them to do when we faced the apartheid regime in our own country.

COSATU and the PSC call on all people of conscience to join us in boycotting Israeli products and institutions until a just, democratic state, with equal rights for all comes into existence in Palestine. This is just the beginning of a solidarity campaign which will continue until the demands of the Palestinian people have been won.

For more information, call:
Randall Howard (Satawu General Secretary) - 082 564 6298
Patrick Craven (Cosatu) - 082 821 7456
Melissa Hoole (PSC) - 073 906 0017
Bongani Masuku (Cosatu)- 079 499 6419
Salim Vally (PSC) - 082 802 5936
Na'eem Jeenah (PSC) - 084 574 2674

For more background and context on this major story, see also Durban for Palestine via BDS, by Patrick Bond (Znet, February 3, 2009) and WA Branch of Maritime Union of Australia calls upon Australian Government to cut all economic, diplomatic, cultural and political ties with the Israeli state until Gaza siege ends (, February 2, 2009).

Israel Makes Its Own "Laws of War"

A look at the code itself and the philosopher who drafted it
for the IDF

Haaretz, February 6, 2009 - When senior Israel Defense Forces officers are asked about the killing of hundreds of Palestinian civilians during the fighting in the Gaza Strip, they almost all give the same answer: The use of massive force was designed to protect the lives of the soldiers, and when faced with a choice between protecting the lives of Israeli soldiers and those of enemy civilians under whose protection the Hamas terrorists are operating, the soldiers take precedence.

The IDF's response to criticism does not sound improvised or argumentative. The army entered Gaza with the capacity to gauge with relatively high certainty the impact of fighting against terror in such a densely populated area. And it operated there not only with the backing of the legal opinion of the office of the Military Advocate General, but also on the basis of ethical theory, developed several years ago, that justifies its actions.

Prof. Asa Kasher of Tel Aviv University, an Israel Prize laureate in philosophy, is the philosopher who told the IDF that it was possible. In a recent interview with Haaretz Kasher said the army operated in accordance with a code of conduct developed about five years ago. "The norms followed by the commanders in Gaza were generally appropriate," Kasher said. In Kasher's opinion there is no justification for endangering the lives of soldiers to avoid the killing of civilians who live in the vicinity of terrorists....

Kasher's argument is that in an area such as the Gaza Strip in which the IDF does not have effective control the overriding principle guiding the commanders is achieving their military objectives. Next in priority is protecting soldiers' lives, followed by avoiding injury to enemy civilians. In areas where Israel does have effective control, such as East Jerusalem, there is no justification for targeted killings in which civilians are also hit because Israel has the option of using routine policing procedures, such as arrests, that do not endanger innocent people.

Prof. Kasher has strong, long-standing ties with the army. He drafted the IDF ethical code of conduct in the mid-1990's. In 2003 he and Maj. Gen Amos Yadlin, now the head of Military Intelligence, published an article entitled "The Ethical Fight Against Terror." It justified the targeted assassination of terrorists, even at the price of hitting nearby Palestinian civilians. Subsequently Kasher, Yadlin, and a team that included IDF legal experts wrote a more comprehensive document on military ethics in fighting terror. Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon, who was the IDF Chief of Staff at the time, did not make the document binding but Kasher says the ideas in the document were adopted in principle by Ya'alon and his successors. Kasher has presented them to IDF and Shin Bet security service personnel dozens of times.

"The article was translated into English and published in a military ethics journal and is still being debated around the world," Kasher said. "The feedback is generally positive, although the message is difficult to digest. In the end, everyone acknowledges that they conduct themselves this way. There is no army in the world that will endanger its soldiers in order to avoid hitting the neighbors of an enemy or terrorist....

Israel Colonel Abruptly Departs UK Speaking Tour for Fear of Arrest for War Crimes

More than 100 protesters turned up on January 29 at the site on Euston Rd in London
where Colonel Rapp was scheduled to speak. Police arrived on the scene and made some arrests.

The Jerusalem Post, February 3, 2009 -
An Israeli colonel involved in Operation Cast Lead returned to Israel in haste on Friday, fearing arrest on charges of war crimes during a visit to the UK.

Col. (res.) Geva Rapp had arrived in London three days before for appearances in which he was to explain Israel's position and refute media representations of the hostilities.

His trip had been cleared by Israeli security services.

On Thursday night, after news of his visit reached pro-Palestinian groups, some 80 protesters demonstrated outside the offices of the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) in central London, where Rapp was scheduled to speak.

Calling for police to arrest him, the protesters blocked public pathways, while one scaled the building's walls. Police made several arrests.

The event was cancelled and the decision was made for Rapp to return to Israel out of fear of a universal jurisdiction arrest warrant for alleged war crimes.

A loophole in British law allows private criminal complaints of war crimes to be lodged against militarypersonnel, even if they are not British citizens and the alleged crimes were committed elsewhere. Pro-Palestinian groups in Britain and other countries have been trying to exploit the loophole against IDF officers and Israeli leaders.

Israel is working with the British government to change the law....

In California, Unprecented Month-Long Outpouring of Support Opposes Israeli Invasion of Gaza

Indybay blog, February 4, 2009 - In an unprecedented outpouring of popular opposition to U.S. policy in support of the Israeli invasion of Gaza, a full month of nearly continuous protests brought tens of thousands into the streets of major cities in the state of California. In the city of San Jose more than 3,000 people demonstrated over a period of four successive weekends beginning on January 4, 2009. They halted traffic and shopping in Silicon Valley's high-end shopping district, Santana Row. More than 10,000 demonstrated in San Francisco between December 28 and January 10. Thousands more in southern California and in the state capital of Sacramento took to the streets in support of Gaza during the weeks-long attack....

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Poll: Support for Hamas Rises After Gaza War

The Huffington Post, February 5, 2009 - Jerusalem Media & Communications Center has released a new public opinion poll that shows that Palestinian support for Hamas has increased since Israel's Gaza offensive. It also found that support for military action against Israel increased.....

Summary bulletin of key results:

Who won the war?
  • Hamas: 46.7% (Among West Bank respondents: 53.3%;
    among Gaza respondents: 35.2%)
  • Israel: 9.8%
  • Neither side: 37.4%

If Palestine Legislative Council elections were held today, fr whom would you vote?

  • Hamas: 28.6% (vs. 19.3% last April)
  • Fatah: 27.9% (vs. 34% last April)

Which movement do you trust?

  • Hamas: 27.7% (vs. 16.6% last November) (in West Bank only: 26.5% vs. 12.8% last Nov.)
  • Fatah: 26% (vs. 31.3% last November)

Which leader do you trust?

  • Prime Minister Ismail Hanieh (Hamas): 21.1 % (versus 12.8% last October); in the West Bank alone, 18.5% (versus 0.2% last October)
  • President Mahmoud Abbas (Fatah): 13.4% (vs. 15.5% last October)

Is the Fayyad government doing better than Hanieh's government?

  • Yes, better - 26.9% (vs. 36% last April)
    No, worse - 40.7% (vs. 29.1% last April)

Do you oppose peace negotiations?

  • Yes: 41% (versus 34.7% in November)

What percentage supports military operations against Israel?

  • Last April: 49.5%
  • Today: 53.5%

The military operations and negotiations

  • Locally made rockets achieve Palestinian national goals: 50.8%
    (up from 39.2% last April)
  • Locally made rockets harm Palestinian national goals: 20.8%
    (down from 35.7% last April)
Do you oppose peace negotiations?
  • Yes 40.9% (vs. 34.7 last November)
See also: Support for Hamas rises after war and How Did the Gaza War Affect Palestinian Public Opinion?.

Students at Manchester University (UK) Occupy the Premises in Solidarity with Occupied Gaza, Following on Many Other Such Occupations

ManUni Occupation blog, February 5, 2009 - Over 150 University of Manchester (UK) students have occupied the main university administration building in a demand for a stronger and more proactive position from the university on the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The students have proposed a set of demands on the university’s Vice Chancellor Alan Gilbert, including a boycott of Israeli goods on campus, support for a day of fundraising with proceeds to the DEC fund, and that the university end research into manufacturing arms.

Students at other universities have taken similar actions over the last three weeks and have been successful in their demands....

See O is for Occupations blog - reports and updates on all actions

Strathclyde University (Scotland) Occupied by Students, Declare Victory

Cambridge Gaza Solidarity Campaign

King's College Occupation in Solidarity with Gaza

LSE Solidarity with Gaza [Video]

Warwick Solidarity Sit In

Birmingham Solidarity with Gaza

Queen Mary, University of London occupied in solidarity with Gaza

Leeds University occupation in solidarity with Gaza

Essex University in Solidarity with Gaza

Occupation Nottingham; See also this video of Forcible eviction of students from Nottingham:

Report: University of Rochester (USA) is occupied by students in solidarity with Gaza...

Opinion: Hold Israel Accountable for Gaza - George Bisharat

The Seattle Times, February 5, 2009 - Israel's Gaza invasion provides evidence of at least seven serious violations of international law, notes George E. Bisharat, a University of California Hastings law professor. If Israel will not be held accountable in international venues, the "court of last resort" might be international civil society, whose tools for nonviolent enforcement include boycotts, divestment and sanctions.

The boss has lost it," many Israeli military and political officials, and people on the street, were reportedly joking after their army's recent devastation of the Gaza Strip. As Israeli journalist Uri Avnery observed, the jest means that: " ... in order to deter our enemies, we must behave like madmen, go on the rampage, kill and destroy mercilessly."

In fact, the "boss has lost it" is an unselfconscious admission of policies that violate international law, and could at some point be used against Israeli leaders in a criminal prosecution.

Evidence suggests that Israel may have committed at least seven serious offenses during its Gaza invasion: launching a war of aggression (because Israel itself triggered the breakdown of a six-month truce, and therefore did not have a valid claim of self-defense); deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure; deliberate killings of civilians; collective punishment; illegal use of weapons, including white phosphorous; preventing care to the wounded; and disproportionate use of force.

These constitute grave breaches of customary and conventional international law, and some amount to war crimes. Hamas' indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israeli civilians were also war crimes, but did not justify Israel's violations.

What is the likelihood that Israel leaders faced with allegations of war crimes will ever be investigated and brought to justice?....

Homeless Palestinians Squeeze Into Tents in Gaza

Photo: Matthew Cassel

Reuters (reporting from Hay al-Salam, Gaza Strip), February 5, 2009 - Thousands of Palestinians are living in tented camps after Israel's three-week assault on the Gaza Strip, hoping for a swift end to Israel's blockade so they can rebuild their homes.

Aid workers said Thursday at least 16,000 people have found temporary accommodation in 10 camps set up in districts laid to waste in a war that local medical officials said left around 1,300 Palestinians dead and more than 5,000 wounded.

But conditions are cramped, with several thousands of tents held up at border crossings from Israel into the Gaza Strip.

Israel has limited supplies into the coastal enclave since Hamas Islamists took control in fighting with the Fatah group of U.S.-backed Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas....

Aid agencies have handed out blankets for the cold nights, when the camp residents gather around log fires. So far, latrines have only been installed in some of them....

The Effect of War on Gaza's Children - Aya Batrawy

By Aya Batrawy, Free Speech Radio News, January 29, 2009

Israeli warplanes attacked a suspected Hamas militant in the Gaza Strip today, who they say is responsible for the explosion that killed an Israeli soldier on the border Tuesday.

Meanwhile, speaking from the Economic Forum in Davos today, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is urging more than $600-million in assistance to restore essential services to Gaza following Israel's recent three-week-long offensive. Ban toured Gaza last week and says the destruction there is "heartbreaking". The Palestinian Center for Human Rights counted 280 children among the nearly 1,300 dead – and adds that a quarter of the more than 5,000 wounded are children. Psychologists say that the trauma experienced by the 1.4 million residents of the Gaza Strip is something that will be felt for generations to come. FSRN's Aya Batrawy reports from Gaza about the cycle of violence that has now reached an entirely new generation of Palestinians.

Listen to the Newscast (5 mins)

Turkish Celebrities Line Up to Adopt Palestinian Orphans from Gaza

Zaman (Turkey), February 5, 2009 - ....Turkish Red Crescent (Kızılay) Director-General Tekin Küçükali said his organization is working to facilitate the adoption of children under the age of 12 and that the adoption procedure will be clarified within the next couple of days. Noting that there had already been many inquiries into adopting Palestinian children, Küçükali said people needed to stand up and support Palestinian children in the name of world peace. Turkish actress Hülya Koçyiğit, who said that as a mother she could not bear what took place in Gaza, has spoken about how important it is for this project to get under way. Turkish musician Ege said he wanted to adopt a little girl who lost her parents in the war, noting that people who are capable of doing so should try to quell the pain being experienced in Palestine. Soccer player Unal Karaman stated that he and his wife have decided to adopt a Palestinian child, noting: “There are children in Gaza who have lost both their mothers and fathers and who have lost their legs, too. The greatest human duty we have is to try to embrace these children and reduce their pain to a minimum.”....

See also: The Little Survivor

Mai, 4, lost 29 family members during the Gaza onslaught; 10 others were wounded Photo: Sameh Akram Habeeb

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Fearing Court Action, IDF Begins Purging Officers' Details from Documents

Haaretz, February 4, 2009 - The Israel Defense Forces has begun removing the names and details of army officers involved in Operation Cast Lead from legal documents, Haaretz has learned.

Several orders of temporary custody for Gaza detainees, submitted to the Be'er Sheva district court, had the names and military ID numbers of the signatory officers blacked out.

The censor's office issued sweeping gag orders on the names of all officers who participated in the operation, fearing their identification would expose them to legal action abroad.
Civil rights lawyer Tamar Peleg-Shrik said such details have not been censored before, and that the move indicates the IDF's concerns.

Humanitarian Aid to Gaza to be Diverted to Crossing Under Direct Israeli Control

Palestine News Network (reporting from Cairo), February 3, 2009 - The Egyptian Foreign Ministry issued new rules and procedures related to the import and export of humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip.

Included in the plan are new procedures to deal with humanitarian delegations and aid, most all of which is still blocked by the Israelis.

The ministry wrote in a note circulated to embassies working in Cairo that the new rules and procedures must be strictly adhered to.

No inconsistent request will be considered. “These measures will be applied without any exceptions,” the Egyptian mandate states.

The Egyptian–Palestinian border crossing will be partially operational, but within a few days much of the aid, including food, will be diverted to the southern Israeli crossing. In the past when the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza was open, the Israeli administration attempted to divert imports to its southern crossing in order to increase control. The Palestinians had refused this during negotiations.

Since the 23-day attacks, the United Nations has been demanding that the Israelis open all of the crossings for humanitarian aid and building supplies. However the Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said that the Israelis expect to control UN reconstruction efforts, including supplies....

Medical and humanitarian aid will be required to enter the Gaza Strip through the Israeli controlled crossing of Karam Abu Salem after 5 February.

All food aid is suspended until tomorrow while visits from delegations of parliament, trade unions and engineers are postponed until further notice.

ICC Takes First Step Towards War Crimes Probe

The Daily Star (Beirut, reporting from, The Hague), February 4, 2009 - The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said Tuesday he would determine whether there was such a legal entity as a Palestinian state, a precursor to a possible probe of war crimes in Gaza. Having received a request from the Palestinian National Authority to investigate the recent Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip, Luis Moreno-Ocampo said: "My work is now to analyze this in accordance with [international] law."

Before a full investigation could be launched, he had to determine whether "the Palestinian Authority [PA] [has] the legal capacity, the legal ability, to accept the jurisdiction of the court," the prosecutor told reporters in The Hague.

The Rome Statute that created the ICC determined that only a state could do so.

"But who is the state in Gaza?" asked Moreno-Ocampo. "What is a state in international law, in particular in the Gaza territory - that is the discussion. It is a complicated discussion."

IDF Admits "Mistake" in Killing Doctor's Three Daughters and Niece

Haaretz, February 4, 2009 - The Israel Defense Forces acknowledged yesterday that the three daughters and a niece of Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish were killed by army fire in an incident that had targeted Hamas spotters on the upper levels of the building where the family lived.

Dr. Abu al-Aish, who received a copy of the IDF report, told Haaretz last night.

Contrary to the initial IDF response that shots had been fired from the home of the doctor, and to rumors on the Internet that an arms cache had been found there, an army investigation at division level showed otherwise.

According to the army investigation, during the fighting in the town of Saja'iyeh, east of Gaza City, a Golani Brigade force came under fire from snipers and mortar firing near the Abu al-Aish home. During the exchanges of fire the IDF force identified figures that were suspected as spotters and guided accurate fire at them. The force commander assessed the situation and ordered a tank providing cover to his troops to target the suspect figures on the upper floor of the home. The tank fired at least two rounds that struck the building's lower level, where the daughters and nieces of Abu al-Aish were staying.

The investigation concluded that tank fire killed the girls and wounded two others....

Was Israel Defending Itself in Gaza? - Michael Mandel

The Daily Star (Beirut), February 4, 2009 - Did self-defense justify Israel's war on Gaza? Objections have been raised to this claim on grounds of a lack of both proportionality and necessity. To kill over 1,300 Palestinians in three weeks, hundreds of them children, and wound thousands more, in order to deter a threat from rockets that did not kill or injure anybody in Israel for the six months the truce was declared by both sides, or even before Israel launched its attack on December 27, is so disproportionate as to be intolerable in any ethical system that holds Palestinian lives equal in value to Israeli lives. It is also so disproportionate as to defy belief that defense against these rockets was the real motive of the war. To ignore the many diplomatic avenues available to avoid even this threat, such as lifting the suffocating 18-month siege, suggests the same thing.

A more fundamental objection, however, is the self-evident legal and moral principle that an aggressor cannot rely upon self-defense to justify violence against resistance to its own aggression. You can find this principle in domestic law and in the judgments of the Nuremberg tribunals....

Michael Mandel is Professor of Law at Osgood Hall Law School of University of Toronto, where he teaches the Laws of War.

Surviving in Gaza's Newest Refugee Camps

Maan News, February 4, 2009 - Su’ad Abed Rabbo, or Umm Sahel, now lives in a tent next to what remains of her house in the Abed Rabbo area of Gaza. The area is now the site of Al-Karamah refugee camp, an encampment of 54 tents erected for those whose houses were destroyed in the Israeli onslaught. Most of the residents of the neighborhood now live in tents next to the ruins of their houses.

Umm Sahel peers from her tent at anyone who approaches.

“We thank God,” she says, “for everything and sleeping here in tents in the open air is good but I wish I could go back to my warm house, but how can I after it was demolished by the Israeli army.”

Her house looks like a children’s Lego toy that has been dismantled, the pieces separated from one another....

Opinion: Defying Logic - Ian Williams

The Guardian, Comment is Free, February 3, 2009 - As they were still reassembling dog-eaten cadavers of kids in Gaza, an envelope from Aipac dropped in my mailbox. The self-proclaimed most powerful lobby in Washington had sent me a pre-printed post card to sign and mail to my congressman, urging him to support increased military aid to the Israel over the next decade.

To compound it, just before Barack Obama's inauguration, Condoleezza Rice had signed an agreement, probably written on a fig leaf, to show that Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak had got something out of their rampage across the strip. Dangerously, it implied that the US navy is going to intercept neutral ships on the high seas looking for alleged contraband being shipped to the elected authorities in Gaza. This was of course the casus belli of the 1812 war, which the US declared against Britain for stopping American ships trading with Napoleon. The memorandum does not explain what international law is being invoked for this, although it does have shades of Kennedy threatening to do the same to Soviet ships going to Cuba.

British and European governments, in a spirit of me-tooism, rushed to offer to join in....

Ian Williams has written for newspapers and magazines around the world, ranging from the Australian, to The Independent, from the New York Observer and the Village Voice to the Nation and the New Statesman and Newsday, to the Financial Times and the Guardian. His byline has been in the Baptist Times, Penthouse, and Hustler.

He has also "pundited" on BBC, CNN, MSNBC, FOX, CBC and innumerable radio stations, for example appearing on Hard Ball, the O'Reilly Factor, etc.

His first book was
The Alms Trade, a study of the role of charities in Britain and the second was The UN For Beginners. Deserter: Bush's War on Military Families, Veterans, and His Own Past was published by Nation Books July 2004 and his latest is Rum: A Social & Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776.

Israel Considers Declaring Al Jazeera "Hostile Entity"

Checkpoint Jerusalem (McClatchy blog), February 4, 2009 - Israel's frosty relationship with Al Jazeera is heading for a deep freeze.

Over the past year, Israel has been gradually disengaging from Al Jazeera.

Last March, Israeli leaders threatened to stop working with Al Jazeera because they were unhappy with their coverage if the last Israeli military operation in Gaza.

Six months ago, Israel temporarily stopped approving work visas and press cards for Al Jazeera after one of the station's anchors hosted a birthday celebration for Samir Kuntar, the Lebanese killer freed in a prisoner exchange with Israel.(Al Jazeera later conceded that the birthday cake and musical serenade for Kuntar were unethical.)

Now, Israel is taking new steps to prevent Al Jazeera from working in Israel....

Gaza Artist Exhibits on Scorched Walls

Middle East Online, February 4, 2009 - Ghoulish blue figures reach skyward towards an elusive red spiral in an abstract rendering of Gaza life hung in the ruins of a cultural centre bombed and torched during the Israeli offensive.

The paintings hang in the scorched depths of the Red Crescent cultural centre in Gaza City, which was destroyed at the height of the 22-day war. They are the work of Nida Badwan, an arts student who used to volunteer there.

"I wanted to exhibit them here because the building itself speaks," Badwan says. "It tells the story of the paintings, and it speaks louder than they do."....

Israel Minister Calls for Killing of Hamas Leader Ismail Haniya

Middle East Online, February 4, 2009 - An Israeli cabinet minister publicly called on Wednesday for the assassination of senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniya, whose democratically elected government controls the Gaza Strip.

"The next step in our operations should be the elimination of the terrorist Haniya," Housing Minister Zeev Boim of the centre-right Kadima party told military radio.

"This is the only way to end the rocket fire against Israel," said Boim, who has no authority on security decisions.

Israel has assassinated a large number of Hamas officials in the past, most notably its spiritual guide and founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who was handicapped in a wheelchair, in 2004.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert threatened on Tuesday "the severest riposte" against Gaza after a rocket was fired on an Israeli town, which was in retaliation to Israeli attacks after the new ceasefire.


Opinion: Our World: The Israeli Solution - Caroline Glick

The two-state solution is no longer viable, concludes the Israeli right. But their "future vision" is the polar opposite of the one-state solution....

The Jerusalem Post, February 2, 2009 - ....These reassessments have led three leading conservative thinkers - former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton, Middle East Forum president Daniel Pipes, and Efraim Inbar, director of Bar-Ilan University's Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies - to all publish articles over the past month rejecting the two-state solution.

Bolton, Pipes and Inbar not only agree that the two-state paradigm has failed, they also agree on what must be done now to "solve" the Palestinian conflict. [Notice the framing -- it is no longer even an "Israeli-Palestinian conflict. - Ed.] In their view the failed "two-state solution" should be replaced with what Bolton refers to as the "three-state solution." All three analysts begin their analyses with the assertion that Israel is uninterested in controlling Gaza, Judea and Samaria. Since the Palestinians have shown they cannot be trusted with sovereignty, the three argue that the best thing to do is to return the situation to what it was from 1949 to 1967: Egypt should reassert its control over Gaza and Jordan should reassert its control over Judea and Samaria....

If the current situation is preferable to the "three-state solution" and if the current situation itself is unsustainable, the question again arises, what should be done? What new policy paradigm should replace the failed two-state solution?

The best way to move forward is to reject the calls for a solution and concentrate instead on stabilization. With rockets and mortars launched from Gaza continuing to pummel the South despite Operation Cast Lead, and with the international community's refusal to enforce UN Security Council resolutions barring Iran from exporting weapons, it is clear that Gaza will remain an Iranian-sponsored, Hamas-controlled area for as long as Hamas retains control over the international border with Egypt.

So Israel must reassert control over the border.

It is also clear that Hamas and its terrorist partners in Fatah and Islamic Jihad will continue to target the South for as long as they can.

So Israel needs to establish a security zone inside of Gaza wide enough to remove the South from rocket and mortar range....

As for Judea and Samaria, Israel should continue its military control over the areas in order to ensure its national security. It should also apply its law to the areas of Judea and Samaria that are within the domestic consensus. These areas include the Etzion, Adumim, Adam, Ofra and Ariel settlement blocs and the Jordan Valley.

Israel should end its support for the PLO-Fatah-led PA, and support the empowerment of non-jihadist elements of Palestinian society to lead a new autonomous authority in the areas. These new leaders, who may be the traditional leaders of local clans, should be encouraged to either integrate within Israel or seek civil confederation with Jordan....

URGENT: Act Now To Defend UNRWA In Gaza - Relief Agency Under Attack in Congress

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), February 4, 2009

ADC urges you to act quickly to oppose House Congressional Resolution 29 (H. Con. Res 29) which questions support for the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) and alleges its support for terror organizations. H. Con. Res. 29 has been referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. While the people of the Gaza Strip are suffering after years of occupation, blockade and weeks of war UNRWA deserves only steadfast American support and aid to alleviate the suffering in Gaza. The attempts to make UNRWA's job harder and limit funding for the organization sends the message that the United States is actively seeking the continued deprivation of the Palestinian people.

Eight representatives have co-sponsored this resolution and if your representative is one of them then you will be able to send them a message expressing your disagreement with the resolution. If they have not co-sponsored the resolution you will be able to send them a letter encouraging them not to support the resolution.

South African Dock Workers Refuse to Offload Goods from Israeli Ship; Cosatu, PSC Launch Week of Action in SA

Cape Argus, Independent Online (South Africa), February 3, 2009 - Satawu (South African Transport and Allied Workers Union) Durban dock workers are expected to refuse to off-load an Israeli ship as part of a week of action against "apartheid" Israel, Cosatu and the Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) said on Tuesday.

Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven and PSC spokesperson Salim Vally said dock workers would refuse to off-load the ship arriving [in Durban, South Africa] on Sunday, February 8, as part of a refusal to support oppression and exploitation across the globe.

SA Transport and Allied Workers' Union (Satawu) general secretary Randall Howard said the union's members were committed to not handling Israeli goods.

Last year, Durban dock workers refused to off-load a shipment of arms from China that was destined for Zimbabwe.

The arms would have been used to "prop up the Mugabe regime and to intensify the repression against the Zimbabwean people", Craven said.

"In 1963, just four years after the Anti-Apartheid Movement was formed, Danish dock workers refused to off-load a ship with South African goods.

"When the ship docked in Sweden, Swedish workers followed suit. Dock workers in Liverpool and, later, in the San Francisco Bay Area also refused to off-load South African goods," he said.

Western Australian members of the Maritime Union of Australia supported the "campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions" against Israel and had called for a boycott of all Israeli vessels and all vessels bearing goods arriving from or going to Israel.

"This is the legacy and the tradition that South African dock workers have inherited, and it is a legacy they are determined to honour, by ensuring that South African ports of entry will not be used as transit points for goods bound for or emanating from certain dictatorial and oppressive states such as Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Israel."

Cosatu called on other workers and unions across the globe to follow suit and to do all that is necessary to ensure that they boycott all goods to and from Israel until Palestine was free....

See also: Week of Protest Action Planned (Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel, Media Statement, February 3, 2009)

Latest Updates from UNRWA About the Situation on the Ground in Gaza

Statement by Karen AbuZayd, Commissioner-General of UNRWA, to the UN Security Council, January 27, 2009:

Refugee Stories: Testimonies from Gaza (February 2009)

10 Key Steps to Building a Future for the Children of Gaza Op Ed by Sweden’s Minister for Development Co-operation, Gunilla Carlsson and the Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, Karen AbuZayd, (January 30, 2009)

A Basis for Hope: Press briefing by John Ging, UNRWA Director of Operations in Gaza, upon the visit of US Envoy George Mitchell to the West Bank (January 30, 2009)

Take Action: DirecTV Censors Our Gaza Strip TV Ad!

Watch the ad by clicking here.

US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, February 3, 2009 - Thanks to a generous emergency grant from Cultures of Resistance, we produced a 30-second commercial about the U.S. role in Israel's war on and siege of the Gaza Strip.

We thought, "What better way to bring this important information to the attention of people in the United States than to advertise nationally on DIRECTV?" the largest satellite television subscription service in the country.

After detailed discussions with DIRECTV, including agreement on rates, times,and network placements of the ad, when we gave them the final product, they abruptly decided not to do business with us.
This blatant act of censorship is preventing millions of U.S. households from learning the truth about our government's crucial role in enabling Israel's war on and siege of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
1. Watch both an extended internet version and the original 30-second commercial by clicking here.
2. Contact DIRECTV to protest its act of censorship and demand that they accept our ad by clicking here.
3. Let all your friends know about this commercial and DIRECTV's censorship of it by joining our Facebook group.
4. Make a tax-deductible contribution to the US Campaign so that we can purchase as much air time for this commercial as possible by clicking here.
5. Take action requested in the commercial and sign our open letter to President Obama calling upon him to cut off military aid to Israel by clicking here.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Action Alert: Contact Congress on Gaza Humanitarian Resolution H.R. 66

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), February 3, 2009

ADC urges you to contact your Representatives and encourage them to co-sponsor and support H.R. 66. This resolution calls for an unconditional cease-fire and for Israel to permit the free flow of humanitarian aid. The resolution also gives an overview of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, including the lack of medicine, water, electricity, and other basic human necessities. At the moment the resolution has been co-sponsored by ten members of Congress; and has been referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Make sure to contact your Representatives and let them know you want them to act quickly to support H.R. 66. You can do so by clicking here and using our web form that will send a prepared message directly to your Congressional office based on your address. If your Representative is already supporting the legislation you will be able to send them a thank you note and if not, you will be able to send them a request asking them to do so.

With everyone's quick cooperation we can encourage support for H.R. 66. Let's Act NOW!

Read the full resolution here

Monday, February 2, 2009

Welcome to Gaza - Matthew Cassel

JustImage blog (reporting from Jabaliya refugee camp, Gaza), February 2, 2009 - We walked through an area of Jabaliya today that was completely destroyed by Israel. How, F-16? No. Tanks? No. Apache? No. Unmanned drones? No. So then how were dozens of homes destroyed and thousands made homeless in one area?


This is a country that world leaders have the audacity to say is acting in “self-defense” and goes and puts bombs inside civilian homes and blows them up.

Why? Who really cares? How can such an act ever be justified? As one boy responded when I asked him, “They didn’t destroy this because there was resistance here, and not because they want the land. They destroyed it because we are Palestinian!”

So true. Why even ask for the logic behind what Israel does? They do it and get away with it, and they don’t have to explain themselves to anyone.....

Matthew Cassel is a photographer and journalist based in the Middle East. His photographs of Gaza can be seen at his blog, JustImage.

Please, Listen Before It is Too Late - Daniel Barenboim

The New York Review of Books, February 26, 2009 - For the last forty years, history has proven that the Israeli–Palestinian conflict cannot be settled by force. Every effort, every possible means and resource of imagination and reflection should now be brought into play to find a new way forward. A new initiative which allays fear and suffering, acknowledges the injustice done, and leads to the security of Israelis and Palestinians alike. An initiative which demands of all sides a common responsibility: to ensure equal rights and dignity to both peoples, and to ensure the right of each person to transcend the past and aspire to a future.

Daniel Barenboim

Supported and cosigned by:
Adonis, Etel Adnan, Alaa el Aswany, Dia Azzawi, Agnès B., Ted Bafaloukos, Russell Banks, Tahar Ben Jelloun, John Berger, Berlin Philharmonic, Bernardo Bertolucci, François Bayle, Idil Biret, Christian Boltanski, Pierre Boulez, Jacques Bouveresse, Alfred Brendel, Peter Brook, Adam Brooks, Carole Bouquet, Daniel Buren, Ellen Burstyn, Huguette Caland, Jean-Claude Casadesus, Carmen Castillo, Patrice Chéreau, William Christie, Paulo Coelho, J.M. Coetzee, Roger Corman, Jean Daniel, Régis Debray, Robert Delpire, Jonathan Demme, Plácido Domingo, Umberto Eco, Elliott Erwitt, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Rupert Everett, Michel Faber, Carlo and Inge Feltrinelli, Ralph Fiennes, Filarmonica della Scala, Jodie Foster, Eytan Fox, Fab 5 Freddy, Bella Freud, Martine Franck, Mary Frank, Eduardo Galeano, Jean-Luc Godard, Richard Gere, Gamal Ghitany, Amos Gitai, Edouard Glissant, Jean-Paul Goude, Nadine Gordimer, Günter Grass, Jürgen Habermas, Michael Haneke, Donald Harrison, Milton Hatoum, Sheila Hicks, Bill Irwin, Steven Isserlis, Philippe Jaccottet, Elfriede Jelinek, Samih al-Kassem, Naomi Kawase, Ya¸sar Kemal, Rashid Khalidi, Edouard Al-Kharrat, Michel Khleifi, Gérard D. Khoury, Abbas Kiarostami, Stephen King, William Klein, Abdellatif Laâbi, Jacques Leibowitch, Jemia and J.M.G. Le Clézio, Stéphane Lissner, Radu Lupu, Yo-Yo Ma, Amin Maalouf, Claudio Magris, Issa Makhlouf, Florence Malraux, Henning Mankell, James McBride, John Maybury, Zubin Mehta, Waltraud Meier, Annette Messager, Duane Michaels, Anne-Marie Miéville, Marc Minkowski, Thomas Mitchell, Ariane Mnouchkine, Sarah Moon, Edgar Morin, Jacques Monory, Fernando Morais, Jeanne Moreau, Georges Moustaki, Oscar Niemeyer, Jean Nouvel, Kenzaburo Oe, Orhan Pamuk, Clare Peploe, Michel Piccoli, Maurizio Pollini, Christian de Portzamparc, Simon Rattle, Alain Resnais, Claudia Roden, Arundhati Roy, Moustapha Safouan, Walter Salles, Susan Sarandon, Fazil Say, Elif Şafak, George Semprun, Hanan Al-Shaykh, Pierre Soulages, Wole Soyinka, Ousmane Sow, Staatskapelle Berlin, Salah Stétié, Juliet Stevenson, Meryl Streep, Elia Suleiman, Peter Suschitzky, Tilda Swinton, Sam Szafran, Zeynep Tanbay, Uma Thurman, Desmond Tutu, Shirley and Charlie Watts, Abdo Wazen, Jacques Weber, Wim Wenders, Debra Winger, Daniel Wolff, Neil Young

Daniel Barenboim
is a musical conductor who, together with the late Edward Said, founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.

He recently appeared on al-Jazeera English TV, profiled and interviewed by Riz Khan.

See also: Nobelists Lead Flock Behind Barenboim's Message for Justice (Daily Star (Lebanon), February 2, 2009)

Innocence, Morality Ravaged in Gaza - Howard J. Gale

Seattle Post Intelligencer, February 1, 2009 - Israel has dropped tens of thousands of pounds of U.S.-made and/or U.S.-paid-for munitions on one of the most densely populated regions on Earth. Israel has been firing on known United Nations schools, killing dozens of civilians.

There are credible U.N. reports that Israel has bombed shelters to which Israel evacuated civilians 24 hours earlier. Israel is using artillery shells, widely banned cluster munitions and white phosphorus munitions, all of which guarantee an increasing proportion of civilian casualties (more than 50 percent of the more than 1,000 Palestinians killed). How can one justify the dropping of a 2,000-pound bomb on the home of a Hamas leader killing 18 others, including four children?

Could one imagine Britain claiming the right to bomb Northern Ireland during the four decades of "The Troubles" as a means of "self-defense" against terrorist bombings? Indeed, after Britain further militarized the conflict in January 1972, when 13 Northern Irish civilians were shot by the British Army, deaths nearly tripled that year. Militarizing the conflict prolonged it for another 25 years, resulting in more than 3,200 deaths. Did the Mitchell Principles accepted in 1997 end all violence? No. There were 129 deaths reported during 1998-2006. But negotiations are a critical step to decrease the violence and make peace possible....

Only a tribalism that hardens one's heart and blinds one to reality can reconcile Judaism's most sacred teachings with the death Israel has dispensed in Gaza....

Howard J. Gale is a Seattle research psychologist and Jew, with family and friends in Israel.

Under the Black Flag - Uri Avnery

Counterpunch, February 2, 2009 - Israeli TV viewers have lately been exposed to a bizarre sight: army officers appearing with their faces hidden, as usual for criminals when the court prohibits their identification. Pedophiles, for example, or attackers of old women.

On the orders of the military censors, this applies to all officers, from battalion commanders down, who have been involved in the Gaza war. Since the faces of brigade commanders and above are generally known, the order does not apply to them.

Immediately after the cease-fire, the Minister of Defense, Ehud Barak, promoted a special law that would give unlimited backing by the state to all officers and soldiers who took part in the Gaza war and who might be accused abroad of war crimes. This seems to confirm the Hebrew adage: “On the head of the thief, the hat is burning”....

Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom.

Top South African Jews Slam Gaza Attack

Mail & Guardian Online (South Africa), February 1, 2009 - Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer, former chief justice Arthur Chaskalson and world-renowned artist William Kentridge are among several high-profile South African Jews who have signed a declaration describing Israel's recent attack on Gaza as "inhumane and disproportionate".

The 11 signatories also include actor Sir Antony Sher, photographer David Goldblatt, Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Carole Lewis; Competition Appeal Court president Judge Dennis Davis, mining boss Rick Menell, prominent advocates Geoff Budlender, Gilbert Marcus and Jules Browde and author Gillian Slovo.

The signatories condemn Hamas's firing of rockets at Israeli settlements but identify themselves with another petition signed by 300 South African Jews earlier this month in response to the endorsement of the Gaza attack by the Jewish Board of Deputies, the South African Zionist Federation and Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein.

That petition warned that the Gaza conflict "is likely to inflame feelings in the region, holding out little prospect for peace".

The latest declaration says: "We consider Israel's response which has caused widespread death, destruction and suffering in Gaza to be inhumane and disproportionate."

It adds: "It is critically important that these recent events [in Gaza] do not imperil relations between sectors of South African society, and that people of all faiths and none engage with the issues at stake rationally, in good conscience."

It coincides with a move by concerned South African Jews to dissuade local Jewish youths from joining the Israel Defence Force (IDF).

The call is part of a growing demand by Palestinian sympathisers to investigate the role of South African Jews in the IDF.....

Reacting, Jewish Board of Deputies chairperson Zev Krengel claimed that the majority of South Africa's Jews were solidly behind Israel, saying: "We are proud of the freedom of speech in our community and are quite comfortable about [the signatories'] stance."

Q & A: Israel May Escape War Crimes Charges - Phyllis Bennis

Inter Press Service (reporting from the United Nations), February 2, 2009 - Despite widespread accusations of war crimes by Israel, there is growing scepticism of any Israeli leader being brought before an international tribunal for the killings of civilians and the targeting of schools and medical facilities during the 22-day conflict in Gaza last month.

"The number and scope of individuals and agencies calling for independent, international investigations of war crimes is unprecedented," says Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington.

In an interview with U.N. Bureau Chief Thalif Deen, she pointed out that calls for such an investigation have come not only from high-ranking U.N. officials and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) but also from virtually every international human rights organisation operating in the area.

"Individual accountability for war crimes or crimes against humanity is always difficult, and for officials (civilian or military) of a government with such close ties to and such a strong history of impunity guarantees from the most powerful country in the world, it is even more difficult," said Bennis, author of several publications both on the Middle East and the United Nations, including 'Challenging Empire: How People, Governments and the U.N. Defy the U.S.'.

That said, the extreme lawlessness of Israel's attack on Gaza, the shocking human devastation that it caused for Gaza's 1.5 million civilians, the direct attacks on U.N. facilities and personnel, and the wide range of prima facie Israeli violations of international law all elevate the possibility of real accountability, she added.

Excerpts from the interview follow.

IPS: What are the specific war crimes Israel is accused of committing?

PB: The Geneva Convention's prohibitions against collective punishment, targeting civilians, and disproportionate military force were all violated, as was Geneva's requirement that Israel provide medical care for the wounded. The use of sometimes-legal white phosphorous and DIME weapons was made illegal under the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons by Israel's decision to use them in densely-populated civilian neighbourhoods. Israel's (and Egypt's) denial of the Palestinian civilians' right to flee to find refuge over Gaza's borders may represent a newly-defined war crime....

Gaza New Siege Mechanism

Middle East Online, February 2, 2009 - The rebuilding of Gaza has become the latest siege weapon. The Israeli occupation, the US that had backed its offensive, and the EU which did nothing to stop it are conspiring to turn the reconstruction process into a means to produce a suitable "peace partner" while the Arab summit in Kuwait hopes to use it to bring about Palestinian reconciliation. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority (PA) government is urging all parties and others to look to it as the sole channel for administering the construction process on the grounds that it is the government formed by the Palestine Liberation Organisation that is recognised as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Soon we will see that freezing reconstruction will become the tool of all those parties for extracting from the resistance what they have been unable to gain from three weeks of warfare and the long blockade that preceded it.

Israel, the occupying power, is determined to keep a tight grip on the reconstruction process, which is why it sustained its closure of the border crossing following its "unilateral" ceasefire. Indeed, this is why it declared the ceasefire unilaterally: it did not want to be bound by any agreement -- the Egyptian initiative or any other framework -- that would oblige it to lift the embargo, if only partially, in order to facilitate reconstruction....

The US not only fully supports Israel on this; it is open about using the reconstruction process to help the PA reassert its authority and influence in Gaza. The EU is equally frank in its approval. EU External Relations Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner made clear that the EU would not contribute to reconstruction unless Gaza produced a viable peace partner and that it would not make aid available to a government led by Hamas....

Opinion: A Context for Gaza - Duncan Kennedy

The Harvard Crimson, February 2, 2009 - When I told a friend, a former section leader in a large Harvard College course, that I had been offered a chance to do an op-ed for The Harvard Crimson on Gaza, she identified two fairly common, understandable undergraduate attitudes: “The situation is too complicated and I can’t make up my mind about it;” and “This is controversial and there are differences of opinion. No side is ‘right.’’”

I hope that the recent war, occurring at the beginning of the Obama presidency, will lead to enough discussion of Israel and Palestine in the Harvard community so that more of us feel able to take positions. With that in mind, I will use my space to present a factual picture one would think controversial, but which surprisingly is a matter of consensus of “informed observers.”....

Surgeon Returns to US from Gaza, Shares Stories

KSL TV, Utah, February 2, 2009 - A Utah plastic surgeon just came back home today after spending a week in Gaza. He was part of an American team sent to help war wound victims.

The sound of war is something you don't hear every day here in Utah, but Dr. Irfan Galaria wanted to leave his practice at University Hospital to help the wounded in Gaza.

Video Courtesy of

"Going there, I was aware of the risks. The opportunity to help these people outweighed any of these concerns," he said.

He was one of 14 physicians from the United States. He represented Utah. The group spent five days in Gaza working at the main trauma hospital.

Galaria said, "I would say almost all the people I worked on were children, except for one patient."

By the time their team arrived, most acute injuries had been cared for, so their job was to reconstruct wounds that were cared for incorrectly.

"The second day I was there I was called to the emergency room to repair a laceration, a cut on a 1-year-old child, pretty extensive across the lip and cheek," he said.

Galaria says in Gaza they had few resources and staff, and supplies were limited. "There was no sedation, there was no local anesthesia, and the nurse was used to hold the child down. So usually one parent and one nurse were holding the child down," he said.

The Utah surgeon says he saw so many disturbing injuries resulting from bombs, shrapnel and a chemical called white phosphorous. It burns victims, leaving them with second- and third-degree burns.

"That was difficult to deal with and try to understand why a 5-year-old child, why half her body is burned or why we're repairing cuts on little kids' faces without anesthesia," Galaria said.

He says he'd do it again, though, especially since the Palestinians were so grateful, kind and generous to him at a time when their lives were falling apart.

Galaria says he is actively trying to plan another trip in the coming months. He wants to take supplies, new equipment and other doctors to help teach the staff in Gaza.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Majda's Story: Are My Children Terrorists? - Sharyn Lock

Tales to Tell from Gaza 2009 blog, January 31, 2009 - ....Today I met Majda Nadeem and her children. They live on the third floor of a building beside the crossroads of the main road that leads from Al Quds hospital. I was led to their story via the story of the Al Haddad family, which happened a few hours later and had a much more tragic end.

Majda, who is a poet with her own website, but also the pretty and youthful looking mum of Tala (7), Dima (12), Firas (13), Basher (14), and Mohanned (16), told me the area their building was in was targetted from about 1am that night. They hid in their middle room, away from any outside walls. Early on they thought maybe it was specifically their building being targeted with rockets and about to be destroyed, so they ran down into the street, but then decided it was the next door building and that the street was even more dangerous because the Israeli planes were shooting anything that moved....