Israel War Crimes: UN Fails Gaza, Israeli Strikes Unabated
- UN Fails Gaza, Israeli Strikes Unabated
Thu. Jan. 1, 2009
GAZA CITY — Just a few hours after the UN Security Council was unable to demand an immediate Gaza ceasefire, Israeli warplanes bombed out o Thursday, January 1, several targets including the parliament and education ministry.
"This is only the beginning," Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said on Israel's Army Radio.
Israeli aircraft destroyed the building of the Palestinian Legislative Council, parliament, and the buildings of the education and justice ministries.
Three people, including a women, were killed when Israeli jets attacked a house of a Hamas leader in the southern city of Rafah.
Israeli warplanes bombed two homes belonging to Hamas members in the central Nusseirat refugee camp.
It was not immediately clear if anyone had been killed or injured.
Three more people were wounded in an attack on a metal shop in Khan Yunis.
Another metal factory was targeted in Gaza City.
Artillery fire from Israeli naval vessels also hit northern Gaza city.
At least 400 people have been killed and more than 2,000 wounded since Israel unleashed massive air strikes on Saturday.
A Haaretz poll showed that 52 percent of Israelis support pursuing air strikes against Gaza, a heavily-populated coastal enclave of some 1.6 million.
In New York, the UN Security Council, meeting for emergency consultations, rejected an Arab request for a legally binding resolution that would condemn Israel and halt its attacks.
"This resolution as currently circulated by Libya is not balanced and therefore, as currently drafted, it is not acceptable to the US," said US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.
Washington, Israel's closest ally, has regularly vetoed Security Council resolutions seen as too critical of Israel.
"We will study the text carefully but…any resolution will need to reflect the responsibilities of all parties," said Britain's UN Ambassador John Sawers.
"There is no mention so far of the rocket attacks that have triggered the Israeli offensive."
The draft "strongly condemns all military attacks and the excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by Israel, the occupying power, which have led to the death and injury of scores of innocent Palestinian civilians, including women and children."
It calls for "an immediate ceasefire and for its full respect by both sides."
The draft also calls "for the immediate and sustained opening of the border crossings of the Gaza Strip," and the resumption of humanitarian aid deliveries to its population.
An Arab delegation led by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal is expected to visit the UN headquarters to press for an immediate ceasefire.
Sudan's UN ambassador Abdalmahmud Abdalhaleem Mohamad said a Security Council meeting with the Arab delegation could be held Sunday or Monday.
"Missiles Took Away a Piece of Me"
GAZA — When Heba El-Sakka heard the thundering sound of the Israeli bombardment, she was, just like every time, terrified to death. But it never crossed her mind the target this time was her university.
"My graduation project, the fruit of five years of hard study, vanished in a blink on an eye," the engineering student at the Islamic University in Gaza (IUG) told IslamOnline.net with tears rolling down her face.
"It can't be. It feels like the missiles took away a piece of me."
Israeli warplanes have fired air-to-ground missiles at the IUG, the biggest and oldest scientific edifice in the impoverished Gaza Strip, on Monday and Tuesday.
Six buildings in the university, including the female dormitory, were completely flattened as a result.
The IUG, which has more than 16,000 students, said the Israeli bombardment has completely leveled science and engineering and other research laboratories.
Donald Macintyre: Lessons of Lebanon return to haunt Israel
Livni adopts hardline stance against truce as candidates seek votes in Israeli elections
Israel defies peacemakers and prepares for invasion
Security cabinet rejects EU-backed peace proposal as tanks mass on the border with Gaza
By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem and Anne Penketh
Thursday, 1 January 2009
Israel has defied a formidable international consensus in favour of a ceasefire in Gaza by opting to continue its unprecedentedly fierce air attacks on Hamas targets and stepping up preparations for a possible ground offensive.
As the security cabinet rejected an EU-backed French proposal for a 48-hour humanitarian halt to the bombing, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said: “We did not begin the Gaza operation in order to finish it with rocket fire continuing like it did before. Israel has restrained [itself] for years and given plenty of chances for a calm.”
With Palestinian sources putting the total death toll in Gaza at 390, since the bombing beganon Saturday, with 1,600 wounded, Associated Press reported that a long column of tanks and armoured vehicles was visible along an access road to Gaza from Israel, while dozens of other tanks were parked in a field close to the border.
The Israeli military reported that more than 50 rockets had been fired by Gaza militants yesterday, including further longer-range, reportedly Chinese-made, rockets at the large southern city of Beersheeva which is more than 22 miles from the border. There were no serious casualties as a result by early evening. Four Israelis have been killed since the bombardment began last Saturday.
The Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, had let it be known on Tuesday that he intended to submit the proposal for a halt to the offensive – whose backers include the US – to yesterday’s security cabinet. But, after considerable confusion, he appears to have been persuaded at a meeting which included Mr Olmert and the Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, not to do so.
In Gaza City, apartment buildings shook during air strikes on government buildings which the Israeli military said included an office of Ismail Haniyeh, Gaza’s Hamas Prime Minister. The Israeli military said it was not aware of a missile striking an ambulance, which Palestinian sources said had killed two medics. An Egyptian official said Israel has destroyed 120 of between 200 and 400 smuggling tunnels since Saturday.
Mark Regev, Mr Olmert’s spokesman, said Israel would work with international agencies to increase aid to the civilian population. “I don’t detect much criticism from Berlin, Paris and London about hitting Hamas targets. What there is concern about is the humanitarian situation,” he said.
The Israeli human rights organisation B’tselem yesterday reported testimony that a truck destroyed in an air attack on Monday, which the military said was carrying Grad missiles, was in fact carrying oxygen canisters. Eight people were killed in the bombing. Abu Imad Sanur, the owner of the truck, whose son was among the dead, and who denies any connction with militants, told the agency that he and his family had been salvaging the canisters from his metal workshop, which was next to a building that had been bombed. An Israeli official strongly denied the claim and said the military was preparing a full response.
Gordon Brown said: “It is vital that moderation must now prevail – there’s a humanitarian crisis. Of course, the second thing we’ve got to do is secure an immediate and urgent ceasefire.” The Prime Minister said proposals for a ceasefire package being discussed by Arab foreign ministers in Cairo offered “the best way forward”.
The package contains similar elements to those spelled out on Tuesday by EU ministers and the Middle East Quartet. The proposals call for an immediate and sustainable ceasefire, with international monitors guaranteeing the truce and the reopening of border crossings into Gaza. European governments hope that, if the Arab states agree a united position, it would increase the pressure on Hamas to compromise.
But yesterday it was Arab divisions that were on display. The Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, said: “This terrible massacre would not have happened if the Palestinian people were united behind one leadership speaking in one voice.
“We are telling our Palestinian brothers that your Arab nation cannot extend a real helping hand if you don’t extend your own hands to each other with love.”
Defiant Hamas launches new rockets deeper into Israel
• Five-day air offensive fails to break Islamist firepower
• Israeli cities 25 miles from border now within range
Israel rejects ceasefire as warplanes attack government buildings in Gaza
Hamas security officials say buildings housing education and transportation ministries are virtually destroyed
Food shortages send prices through roof after farmers are forced to abandon their fields
The vegetable market at the Beach Camp, a crowded warren housing refugee families in Gaza, was all but deserted yesterday. Subhi Saeda, 55, waited for customers but none came, save one man who stopped briefly to check prices but moved on once he heard how high they had risen. "You should have seen this stall in the past, now we have very few vegetables for sale," Saeda said. "It's so frustrating for us. "
Farmers near the border with Israel have stopped going into their fields for fear of being mistaken for militants and that, combined with severe limits on all but humanitarian imports, has pushed prices up dramatically in recent days.
On his stall Saeda had only potatoes, peppers, onions and tomatoes. A box of tomatoes now sells for 30 shekels (£5), three times its price last week. Potatoes have doubled in price, onions too. Few stalls were selling any fruit because of shortages and higher prices.
"I support the ceasefire," said Saeda, "and I'm expecting it will return again. But we need to have the crossings into Gaza open, with medicines available and a normal economic life. Under the last ceasefire the blockade went on and nothing changed."
Israel has steadily tightened its economic blockade of Gaza since declaring the strip a "hostile territory" two years ago. Although about 100 trucks of humanitarian and medical supplies were allowed in yesterday and the day before, Palestinian officials say daily deliveries about five times that size are needed for a properly functioning economy. All exports out of Gaza are banned.
Elsewhere in Gaza yesterday many shops were shut but there were long queues at bakeries. Flour is in short supply in shops and shortages of electricity and cooking gas mean fewer people are cooking bread at home.
Samer an-Najar, 32, a labourer, had spent 90 minutes queuing for a baker on al-Jala'a Street in Gaza City. Three lines had formed: two for men, one for women. "This situation is a disaster for us. We haven't seen anything like this before. Everyone is watching us but no one is making any sense," he said.
He believed a return to a ceasefire with Israel was unlikely, said any agreement would eventually collapse, and argued that support for Hamas was still high. "In fact I can say the popularity of Hamas has increased because of the attacks. It was not Hamas that imposed the blockade on the Palestinians. Do you want us to negotiate with the Israelis over things like flour and food? We've become a piece of theatre."
The demand is so great at the bakery that each customer is limited to one bag containing 50 small pieces of flat bread, which today costs eight shekels, almost twice what it cost two years ago.
In the Rimal district of the city, Abu Abdullah Saadi, 50, looked over his half-empty supermarket and listed the goods now in short supply or with greatly increased prices: rice, sugar, beans, tomato sauce. Many of his products in recent months had come through smuggling tunnels from Egypt, which had become a semi-official delivery system to bypass Israel's economic blockade. Tunnel owners even paid a tax to Hamas to allow them to import goods including food and cigarettes.
"The cause of the Israeli attack is the blockade," said Saadi. "When they put pressure on the Palestinians, they have to respond. When the people get hungry you can't expect anything from them. They have to defend themselves in every way. We can't live in such a bad situation and watch others living such a good life over there. I support the ceasefire but with one condition: open the crossings and allow free movement. We don't want a ceasefire with nothing in return because we'll just come back to the same point again, more confrontation."
CAIR says Israel has turned Gaza into a giant jail
Barbara Ferguson | Arab News
WASHINGTON: As Israel kept up its string of attacks on Gaza for a fourth day that has killed hundreds and injured hundreds more through air attacks, US President George W. Bush leaned on Palestinian leaders to urge Hamas to stop firing rockets into Israel.
Israel has said it will not cease its assault until Hamas stops firing missiles into its territory.
White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said yesterday in Crawford, Texas that Bush telephoned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to discuss a “sustainable cease-fire” in the Gaza Strip.
“They agreed that for any cease-fire to be effective, it must be respected, particularly by Hamas,” he told reporters.
Meanwhile, the situation on the ground in Gaza has been characterized as panic.
“I’ve been on the phone much of the weekend doing interviews with people in Gaza,” said Nora Barrows-Friedman of Flashpoints Radio. “The people there are filled with panic and terror — and this comes after a prolonged siege that deprives them of needed food, medicine, clean water, electricity — the basics of life.”
Saying that Israel has turned Gaza into a “giant jail,” the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim advocacy group in the US, has called for the US government to act immediately to end to Israel's “illegal and immoral” bombardment.
“We also demand that the Bush administration join with the international community in seeking to end the collective punishment imposed on the civilian population of Gaza by Israel's ongoing blockade of humanitarian aid,” said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad. “We call for a resumption of the cease-fire that, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, was ‘unilaterally violated when (Israel) blew up a tunnel.’”
The outgoing US administration maintains that Israel has the right to defend itself. Washington has also cautioned Israel to do what it can to avoid civilian casualties.
Meanwhile, the Israelis refusal to allow the media into Gaza makes it impossible for the world to know what's happening there.
Joel Simon, executive director of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, called for an explanation on the bombing of Al-Aqsa TV headquarters in Gaza City on Sunday.
“We are also dismayed by the army's decision to declare Gaza’s northern boundary with Israel and other parts of the territory ‘closed military zones’,” said Simon.
This latest move, along with previously stated restrictions, prevents journalists from effectively reporting from the Gaza Strip."
Israel’s Supreme Court will hear a petition Thursday brought by the Foreign Press Association, which represents around 400 foreign journalists there, demanding that Israel allow reporters into Gaza to cover the latest conflict.
In an open letter, the Foreign Press Association said that the closure of the Erez crossing to journalists marked “an unprecedented restriction of press freedom. As a result the world's media is unable to accurately report on events inside Gaza at this critical time,” it said.
“Despite our protests the Israelis authorities have refused to let journalists in ... We believe it is vital that journalists be allowed to find out for themselves what is going on in Gaza. Israel controls access to Gaza. Israel must allow professional journalists access to this important story.”
Dr. Mounzer A. Sleiman, a National Security Affairs analyst based in Washington, criticized the US media reporting on the Gaza bombings. “The problem is that the dominant narrative in the American media is biased in favor of the Israelis because of the long influence and propaganda and ‘education’ that the Israeli side has been doing for decades.
“It is not helping is that we have a president-elect that has many hopes and frustrations being put on his shoulders, but his silence is complicit because he’s selective about his commentary of claiming that we have only one president.
“He enthusiastically commented on a whole set of issues from economics to Mumbai attacks, but when it comes to the war crimes that are being committed by the Israelis — he's deferring to the Bush administration, and we all know their position is ... Since Hamas came to power, the Israelis been trying to isolate the regime, so this campaign has many goals to achieve,” said Sleiman. “The primary goal is to affect the Israeli election and to provide better chances for the coalition of Labor and Kadima to maintain power and try to reduce the chances of the Likud coming back to power. And they’re using the Palestinian body count as a means of increasing their votes in the coming election.
“The other issue is to try, during the transitional period in the US to the new president, to change the status quo to where Fatah, the Palestinian Authority, will expand their authority over Gaza. The Israelis want a willing partner for a potential compromise and they need to prepare the situation on the ground, and the weak Palestinian Authority is willing to sign on to the Israeli demands for the control of Gaza.
“It’s a kind of military coup by the Israelis to bring their interlocutor to power, like the military intervention in Iraq, to bring a power into government that was subservient,” said Sleiman.
Not their war
Israeli media coverage of the Gaza onslaught has largely ignored the protests by peace activists
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 31 December 2008 15.00 GMT
As the tanks gear up for war, so do groups across Israel – forgotten segments of the population who barely receive a mention in media coverage of the offensive on Gaza. Most reports suggest Israeli citizens are almost entirely in favour of the war in Gaza, supporting it as an overdue response to years of terror.
Among those concerned directly with potential rocket attacks from Gaza, public support for the war has been high. Student Tamara Cycman from Rehovot agrees that supporting Israel's actions is normal for most Israelis and that most view these attacks as a kind of comfort, a positive step after years of shelling from Hamas. Cycman laments the violence, but defiantly states that the IDF makes every effort to warn citizens away from target areas and to minimise civilian casualties.
The government and its supporters have actively been making the case of moral legitimacy, arguing that fighting on despite an overwhelming military inferiority and being at a strategic disadvantage does not make Hamas justified but foolish. Such arguments have been taken up by international media, and the peace protests organised by organisations such as Gush Shalom have largely been ignored. Yet the response by the Israel peace movement has been swift and widespread, making up in fervour what it lost in lack of coverage.
On December 27, Adam Keller of The Other Israel reported a march in the streets of Tel Aviv calling for an end to the violence. Following a call by the Coalition of Women For Peace, more than 1,000 people marched in Tel Aviv heading for the defence ministry amid cries of "This is not my war". Keller reports a strong police presence shadowing the march which turned heavy-handed when mounted police charged the crowd and arrested several protesters trying to break through police lines.
That these protests warranted only the briefest of mentions in the Israeli press is not surprising but they are nevertheless an important part of the peace process landscape. Every recent incarnation of the Israeli government has said it wishes for peace, but if so, why this systematic casting aside of those Israelis ready to commit to long-term peace?.
Perhaps the most reach the Israeli peace movements have had to date is a large ad taken out in Haaretz calling for an end to the violence. Uri Avnery, a former Knesset member and founder of Gush Shalom said in a phone interview that a march of thousands is scheduled in Tel Aviv on 3 January to call for an end to the war and a real dialogue with Hamas. Although this goal would seem unreachable at present and despite Hamas's barbaric motives, dialogue is the only feasible solution. Avnery stated that so far the marches have comprised the usual peace activists, but hoped that dwindling support for the military campaign would push more people on to the streets to demand an end to the bloodshed.
Israeli public opinion still appears more ideological than practical and should defence minister Ehud Barak order a ground assault on Gaza, it is very likely his support will drop as Israeli soldiers are killed. Although the EU-proposed ceasefire was rejected, that Barak seemed to consider it spoke more of his electoral foresight than of any really convincing arguments from French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner. "I don't trust Barak but the war is part of the election campaign, and he as well as Tzipi Livni may be satisfied with his heightened popularity," instead of risking in an incursion against Hamas.
Avnery stated that the Israeli public was shielded from the truth about the situation in Gaza and was not seeing the horrific images shown on networks like the Arabic al-Jazeera. Haaretz can be commended in showing both sides of the arguments but the wealth of aggressive comments to every article calling for peace shows just how deep sentiments run on this matter.
Israel is in the throes of debate over what constitutes a proportional response. Rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza have killed more than 20 Israeli civilians since 2000 and while this threat looms large over southern cities, the validity and effectiveness of an all-out attack against Hamas can be called into question. For Gush Shalom, the only option is the seemingly implausible notion of a full dialogue with Hamas, opening the checkpoints from Gaza into Israel and hacking out an armistice that Avnery feels could last 50 years. For the Knesset, the only reality is they are utterly out of ideas and no amount of hollow rhetoric as dust settles on Palestinian bodies will hide that for long from Israeli citizens.
Israel ordered to let international media into Gaza
Shortages put hospitals on the brink of collapse
• Three operations-a-time in overstretched theatres
• Call for Israel to let in most serious cases for treatment
Israel rejects Gaza truce call
UN Slams Israel's "Shocking Atrocities"
GAZA CITY — The UN special rapporteur for human rights in the Palestinian territories accused the Israeli army on Tuesday, December 30, of perpetrating atrocities against the civilian population of the Gaza Strip.
"Israel is committing a shocking series of atrocities by using modern weaponry against a defenseless population - attacking a population that has been enduring a severe blockade for many months," Richard Falk, the special rapporteur for human rights in the Palestinian territories, said in a BBC interview.
Children again fell victim to Israel's "all-out war," with two sisters, aged four and 11, dying when a missile slammed into their donkey cart in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanun.
According to Gaza medics, at least 39 children under 16 years old have died as a result of the Israeli strikes that have killed at least 367 Palestinians in Gaza since Saturday.
On Sunday night, five sisters died when masonry from a mosque hit by an Israeli strike crushed their house.
Falk, an emeritus professor of international law at Princeton University, urged the international community to put more pressure on Israel to end its attacks on the overcrowded territory of 1.6 million.
The same appeal was made earlier Tuesday by UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who demanded an end to the "unacceptable" violence.
"Both Israel and Hamas must halt their acts of violence and... a ceasefire must be declared immediately," he said.
In Brussels, the European Union's executive arm sounded the alarm about the "plight of civilians" in the battered territory, and called for an immediate halt to military hostilities.
But Israel spurned the world appeals for a truce, warning that its deadly assault could last for weeks.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the bombardment so far was "the first of several stages approved by the security cabinet."
Embassy protesters chant for justice in Gaza
Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Israeli Embassy today to protest at the attacks on Gaza.
The crowd outside the embassy in Kensington, central London, carried banners demanding justice for Palestine and were led in chants of "no justice, no peace".
Majed Al-Zeer, from the Palestinian Return Centre which helped organise the protest, said the fact several hundred people had turned out for the protest showed how strong feelings were about the Israeli attacks.
He said: "It is a working day and for some people a holiday and it is very cold but still hundreds have turned out.
"It is a very reasonable number. We have had many pickets here with only tens of people.
"There are British people, people from the Arab community and people from the Muslim community. The protest sends a very important message that what is happening in Gaza is not right."
Richard Kuper, from Jews For Justice for Palestine, was returning to the protest for the third time.
He said: "I'm outraged by what is going on in Gaza and I think it is important Jewish voices speak out against bombing.
"I think it was the scale of the bombardment which is greatly disproportionate that has angered people."
The protest was peaceful and no arrests were reported.
Seven people were arrested on Monday for public order offences, including assaulting police officers, during angry clashes.
The protest comes after Israel rejected calls for a 48-hour ceasefire.
The protest will continue tomorrow before moving on to the Egyptian Embassy on Friday and then on to Trafalgar Square on Saturday.
More than 370 Palestinians are believed to have been killed in the air strikes on Gaza.
Robert Fisk: The self delusion that plagues both sides in this bloody conflict
Israel has never won a war in a built-up city, that's why threats of 'war to the bitter end' are nonsense
Wednesday, 31 December 2008
During the second Palestinian "intifada", I was sitting in the offices of Hizbollah's Al-Manar television station in Beirut, watching news footage of a militiaman's funeral in Gaza. The television showed hordes of Hamas and PLO gunmen firing thousands of rounds of ammunition into the air to honour their latest "martyr"; and I noticed, just next to me, a Lebanese Hizbollah member – who had taken part in many attacks against the Israelis in what had been Israel's occupation zone in southern Lebanon – shaking his head.
What was he thinking, I asked? "Hamas try to stand up to the Israelis," he replied. "But..." And here he cast his eyes to the ceiling. "They waste bullets. They fire all these bullets into the sky. They should use them to shoot at Israelis."
His point, of course, was that Hamas lacked discipline, the kind of iron, ruthless discipline and security that Hizbollah forged in Lebanon and which the Israeli army was at last forced to acknowledge in southern Lebanon in 2006. Guns are weapons, not playthings for funerals. And Gaza is not southern Lebanon. It would be as well for both sides in this latest bloodbath in Gaza to remember this. Hamas is not Hizbollah. Jerusalem is not Beirut. And Israeli soldiers cannot take revenge for their 2006 defeat in Lebanon by attacking Hamas in Gaza – not even to help Ms Livni in the Israeli elections.
Not that Hizbollah won the "divine victory" it claimed two years ago. Driving the roads of southern Lebanon as the Israelis smashed the country's infrastructure, killed more than a thousand Lebanese – almost all of them civilians – and razed dozens of villages, it didn't feel like a Hizbollah "victory" to me, theological or otherwise. But the Israelis didn't win and the Hizbollah were able to deploy thousands of long-range rockets as well as a missile which set an Israeli warship on fire and almost sank it. Hamas have nothing to match that kind of armoury.
Nor do they have the self-discipline to fight like an army. Hizbollah in Lebanon has managed to purge its region of informers. Hamas – like all the other Palestinian outfits – is infected with spies, some working for the Palestinian Authority, others for the Israelis. Israel has successively murdered one Hamas leader after another – "targeted killing", of course, is their polite phrase – and they couldn't do that without, as the police would say, "inside help". Hizbollah's previous secretary general, Sayed Abbas Moussawi, was assassinated near Jibchit by a missile-firing Israeli helicopter more than a decade ago but the movement hasn't suffered a leader's murder in Lebanon since then. In the 34-day war of 2006, Hizbollah lost about 200 of its men. Hamas lost almost that many in the first day of Israel's air attacks in Gaza – which doesn't say much for Hamas' military precautions.
Israel, however – always swift to announce its imminent destruction of "terrorism" – has never won a war in a built-up city, be it Beirut or Gaza, since its capture of Jerusalem in 1967. And it's important to remember that the Israeli army, famous in song and legend for its supposed "purity of arms" and "elite" units, has proved itself to be a pretty third-rate army over recent years. Not since the 1973 Middle East conflict – 35 years ago – has it won a war. Its 1978 invasion of Lebanon was a failure, its 1982 invasion ended in disaster, propelling Arafat from Beirut but allowing its vicious Phalangist allies into the Sabra and Chatila camps where they committed mass murder. In neither the 1993 bombardment of Lebanon nor the 1996 bombardment of Lebanon – which fizzled out after the massacre of refugees at Qana – nor the 2006 war was its performance anything more than amateur. Indeed, if it wasn't for the fact Arab armies are even more of a
rabble than the Israelis, the Israeli state would be genuinely under threat from its neighbours.
One common feature of Middle East wars is the ability of all the antagonists to suffer from massive self-delusion. Israel's promise to "root out terror" – be it of the PLO, Hizbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Iranian or any other kind – has always turned out to be false. "War to the bitter end," the Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, has promised in Gaza. Nonsense. Just like the PLO's boast – and Hamas' boast and Hizbollah's boast – to "liberate" Jerusalem. Eyewash. But the Israelis have usually shown a dangerous propensity to believe their own propaganda. Calling up more than 6,000 reservists and sitting them round the Gaza fence is one thing; sending them into the hovels of Gaza will be quite another. In 2006, Israel claimed it was sending 30,000 troops into Lebanon. In reality, it sent about 3,000 – and the moment they crossed the border, they were faced down by the Hizbollah. In some cases, Israeli soldiers actually ran back to their own
These are realities. The chances of war, however, may be less easier to calculate. If Israel indefinitely continues its billion dollar blitz on Gaza – and we all know who is paying for that – there will, at some stage, be an individual massacre; a school will be hit, a hospital or a pre-natal clinic or just an apartment packed with civilians. In other words, another Qana. At which point, a familiar story will be told; that Hamas destroyed the school/hospital/pre-natal clinic, that the journalists who report on the slaughter are anti-Semitic, that Israel is under threat, etc. We may even get the same disingenuous parallel with a disastrous RAF raid in the Second World War which both Menachem Begin and Benjamin Netanayahu have used over the past quarter century to justify the killing of civilians.
And Hamas – which never had the courage to admit it killed two Palestinian girls with one of its own rockets last week – will cynically make profit from the grief with announcements of war crimes and "genocide".
At which point, the deeply despised and lame old UN donkey will be clip-clopped onto the scene to rescue the Israeli army and Hamas from this disgusting little war. Of course, saner minds may call all this off before the inevitable disaster. But I doubt it
Mark Steel: So what have the Palestinians got to complain about?
To portray this as a conflict between equals requires some imagination
Five sisters killed in Gaza while they slept
Robert Fisk: Why bombing Ashkelon is the most tragic irony
Tuesday, 30 December 2008
How easy it is to snap off the history of the Palestinians, to delete the narrative of their tragedy, to avoid a grotesque irony about Gaza which – in any other conflict – journalists would be writing about in their first reports: that the original, legal owners of the Israeli land on which Hamas rockets are detonating live in Gaza.
That is why Gaza exists: because the Palestinians who lived in Ashkelon and the fields around it – Askalaan in Arabic – were dispossessed from their lands in 1948 when Israel was created and ended up on the beaches of Gaza. They – or their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren – are among the one and a half million Palestinian refugees crammed into the cesspool of Gaza, 80 per cent of whose families once lived in what is now Israel. This, historically, is the real story: most of the people of Gaza don't come from Gaza.
But watching the news shows, you'd think that history began yesterday, that a bunch of bearded anti-Semitic Islamist lunatics suddenly popped up in the slums of Gaza – a rubbish dump of destitute people of no origin – and began firing missiles into peace-loving, democratic Israel, only to meet with the righteous vengeance of the Israeli air force. The fact that the five sisters killed in Jabalya camp had grandparents who came from the very land whose more recent owners have now bombed them to death simply does not appear in the story.
Both Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres said back in the 1990s that they wished Gaza would just go away, drop into the sea, and you can see why. The existence of Gaza is a permanent reminder of those hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who lost their homes to Israel, who fled or were driven out through fear or Israeli ethnic cleansing 60 years ago, when tidal waves of refugees had washed over Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War and when a bunch of Arabs kicked out of their property didn't worry the world.
Well, the world should worry now. Crammed into the most overpopulated few square miles in the whole world are a dispossessed people who have been living in refuse and sewage and, for the past six months, in hunger and darkness, and who have been sanctioned by us, the West. Gaza was always an insurrectionary place. It took two years for Ariel Sharon's bloody "pacification", starting in 1971, to be completed, and Gaza is not going to be tamed now.
Alas for the Palestinians, their most powerful political voice – I'm talking about the late Edward Said, not the corrupt Yassir Arafat (and how the Israelis must miss him now) – is silent and their predicament largely unexplained by their deplorable, foolish spokesmen. "It's the most terrifying place I've ever been in," Said once said of Gaza. "It's a horrifyingly sad place because of the desperation and misery of the way people live. I was unprepared for camps that are much worse than anything I saw in South Africa."
Of course, it was left to Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to admit that "sometimes also civilians pay the price," an argument she would not make, of course, if the fatality statistics were reversed. Indeed, it was instructive yesterday to hear a member of the American Enterprise Institute – faithfully parroting Israel's arguments – defending the outrageous Palestinian death toll by saying that it was "pointless to play the numbers game". Yet if more than 300 Israelis had been killed – against two dead Palestinians – be sure that the "numbers game" and the disproportionate violence would be all too relevant. The simple fact is that Palestinian deaths matter far less than Israeli deaths. True, we know that 180 of the dead were Hamas members. But what of the rest? If the UN's conservative figure of 57 civilian fatalities is correct, the death toll is still a disgrace.
To find both the US and Britain failing to condemn the Israeli onslaught while blaming Hamas is not surprising. US Middle East policy and Israeli policy are now indistinguishable and Gordon Brown is following the same dog-like devotion to the Bush administration as his predecessor.
As usual, the Arab satraps – largely paid and armed by the West – are silent, preposterously calling for an Arab summit on the crisis which will (if it even takes place), appoint an "action committee" to draw up a report which will never be written. For that is the way with the Arab world and its corrupt rulers. As for Hamas, they will, of course, enjoy the discomfiture of the Arab potentates while cynically waiting for Israel to talk to them. Which they will. Indeed, within a few months, we'll be hearing that Israel and Hamas have been having "secret talks" – just as we once did about Israel and the even more corrupt PLO. But by then, the dead will be long buried and we will be facing the next crisis since the last crisis.
From the ashes of Gaza
In the face of Israel's latest onslaught, the only option for Palestinian nationalism is to embrace a one-state solution
Father mourns loss of five children in Gaza strike
Inside the mourning tent in Jabaliya refugee camp, a group of men sat in stricken silence as they sought to comfort Anwar Balousha.
We have no words left
Palestinians are at a loss to describe this latest catastrophe. International civil society must act now
The Guardian, Monday 29 December 2008
"I will play music and celebrate what the Israeli air force is doing." Those chilling words were spoken on al-Jazeera on Saturday by Ofer Shmerling, an Israeli civil defence official in the Sderot area adjacent to the Gaza Strip. For days Israeli planes have bombed Gaza. Almost 300 Palestinians have been killed and a thousand injured, the majority civilians, including women and children. Israel claims most of the dead were Hamas "terrorists". In fact, the targets were police stations in dense residential areas, and the dead included many police officers and other civilians. Under international law, police officers are civilians, and targeting them is no less a war crime than aiming at other civilians.
Palestinians are at a loss to describe this new catastrophe. Is it our 9/11, or is it a taste of the "bigger shoah" Matan Vilnai, the deputy defence minister, threatened in February, after the last round of mass killings?
Israel says it is acting in "retaliation" for rockets fired with increasing intensity ever since a six-month truce expired on 19 December. But the bombs dropped on Gaza are only a variation in Israel's method of killing Palestinians. In recent months they died mostly silent deaths, the elderly and sick especially, deprived of food, cancer treatments and other medicines by an Israeli blockade that targeted 1.5 million people - mostly refugees and children - caged into the Gaza Strip. The orders of Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, to hold back medicine were just as lethal and illegal as those to send in the warplanes.
Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, pleaded that Israel wanted "quiet" - a continuation of the truce - while Hamas chose "terror", forcing him to act. But what is Israel's idea of a truce? It is very simple: Palestinians have the right to remain silent while Israel starves them, kills them and continues to violently colonise their land.
As John Ging, the head of operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, said in November: "The people of Gaza did not benefit; they did not have any restoration of a dignified existence ... at the UN, our supplies were also restricted during the period of the ceasefire, to the point where we were left in a very vulnerable and precarious position and with a few days of closure we ran out of food."
That is an Israeli truce. Any act of resistance including the peaceful protests against the apartheid wall in the West Bank is always met by Israeli bullets and bombs. There are no rockets launched at Israel from the West Bank, and yet Israel's extrajudicial killings, land theft, settler pogroms and kidnappings never stopped for a day during the truce. The western-backed Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas has acceded to all Israel's demands. Under the proud eye of United States military advisors, Abbas has assembled "security forces" to fight the resistance on Israel's behalf. None of that has spared a single Palestinian in the West Bank from Israel's relentless colonisation.
The Israeli media report that the attack on Gaza was long planned. If so, the timing in the final days of the Bush administration may indicate an Israeli effort to take advantage of a moment when there might be even less criticism than usual.
Israel is no doubt emboldened by the complicity of the European Union, which this month voted again to upgrade its ties with Israel despite condemnation from its own officials and those of the UN for the "collective punishment" being visited on Gaza. Tacit Arab regime support, and the fact that predicted uprisings in the Arab street never materialised, were also factors.
But there is a qualitative shift with the latest horror: as much as Arab anger has been directed at Israel, it has also focused intensely on Arab regimes - especially Egypt's - seen as colluding with the Israeli attack. Contempt for these regimes and their leaders is being expressed more openly than ever. Yet these are the illegitimate regimes western politicians continue to insist are their "moderate" allies.
Diplomatic fronts, such as the US-dominated Quartet, continue to treat occupier and occupied, coloniser and colonised, first-world high-tech army and near-starving refugee population, as if they are on the same footing. Hope is fading that the incoming administration of Barack Obama is going to make any fundamental change to US policies that are hopelessly biased towards Israel.
In Europe and the Middle East, the gap between leaders and led could not be greater when it comes to Israel. Official complicity and support for Israel contrast with popular outrage at war crimes carried out against occupied people and refugees with impunity.
With governments and international institutions failing to do their jobs, the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee - representing hundreds of organisations - has renewed its call on international civil society to intensify its support for the sanctions campaign modelled on the successful anti-apartheid movement.
Now is the time to channel our raw emotions into a long-term effort to make sure we do not wake up to "another Gaza" ever again.
• Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse
The world gives Israel a free hand
The initial response to the crisis in Gaza from countries including Britain has comprised only routine expressions of dismay
SoCal Muslims Protest Israel's Efforts Against Hamas
LOS ANGELES -- Islamic leaders in Los Angeles lashed out at Israel on Tuesday for what they called a "barbaric attack" on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, and announced a $3 million fundraising effort to provide humanitarian aid to Palestinian victims.
About 100 people gathered outside the Federal Building in Westwood late in the day as persons opposed to the military action made their voices heard in afternoon traffic. Another protest was underway outside the Israeli Consulate on Wilshire Boulevard east of Beverly Hills, where Los Angeles police kept two groups of chanting protestors and supporters separate.
"The amount of suffering is totally unacceptable under any pretext," said Maher Hathout, senior adviser to the Muslim Public Affairs Council, at a morning news conference.
But a spokesman for the Israeli government in Los Angeles said the nation is only defending itself after Hamas unilaterally ended the cease fire, a shaky agreement that Palestinians said was supposed to end a crippling blockade.
"Israel's disproportionate response is cruel and unacceptable to any human being by any standards," Hathout said. "This is not the way to change government."
Muslim-American community leaders announced their support for a multimillion-dollar national fundraising campaign by Islamic Relief USA to provide humanitarian aid to Palestinian victims.
As part of the effort, Friday prayer meetings at more than 70 mosques throughout Southern California will be dedicated to victims of the attacks. There are an estimated 650,000 Muslims living in Southern California.
"This is an illegal bombardment by Israel. It is barbaric and it's even more barbaric that it's being done by the Bush Administration," said Hussam Ayloush of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
"There's no doubt that Israel's propaganda machine is working by blaming the victims," he said. "Gaza's people are prisoners in their own land. We depend on the help of the American people."
Protests were also scheduled for later in the day at the Westwood Federal Building and the Israeli Consulate on Wilshire Boulevard just east of Beverly Hills.
Edina Lekovic of the Muslim Public Affairs Council warned that the attacks will only breed extremism in the region.
"Instead of curbing extremism, this is going to breed more militancy on the ground. The actions today only guarantee further bloodshed," she said.
Israel's efforts to end Hamas rocket attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip drew praise from the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and the Bush administration.
"Israel has no choice but to defend its citizens after years of relentless attacks from Gaza," federation President John Fishel said. "Israel cannot continue to tolerate the danger to hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens living in cities and towns in Gaza rocket range. We pray that these hostilities will come to an end quickly."
At the Westwood protest, actor Mike Farrell said he is "one of those people horrified by Israel's over-reponse
"Not that I'm in favor of Hamas by any means, because firing rockets into Israel is not the way these things get resolved in a productive way," the longtime activist said.
Since September 2005 when Israel voluntarily withdrew from Gaza, Gaza-based terrorists have launched more than 6,000 rockets and mortars into Israel, many supplied by Iran and Syria, Fishel said.
White House deputy press secretary Gordon Johndroe said Monday in Crawford, Texas "for six months, a cease-fire, a state of calm, was in place between Hamas and Israel. Recently, Hamas refused to renew it. During that cease-fire, Hamas continued to fire rockets. Last week, Hamas substantially increased its rocket and mortar attacks on the people of Israel.
"Hamas has once again showed its true colors as a terrorist organization that refuses to even recognize Israel's right to exist. In order to for the violence to stop, Hamas must stop firing rockets into Israel and agree to respect a sustainable and durable cease-fire."
Los Angeles Rabbi Steve Jacobs, a community liaison who works with Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, said the pain suffered this week has affected both Israel and Palestine in the Gaza Strip.
"We need to share that pain," Jacobs said Tuesday. "While we may differ politically, the rockets must stop, Israel must stop and we must be able to support each other."
Rally in downtown Dallas protests Israeli attacks on Gaza
Critics urge Sen. Klobuchar to condemn Israeli assault