Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Monday, December 29, 2008

Trying to 'teach Hamas a lesson' is fundamentally wrong

Tom Segev writing in Ha'aretz:
Channel 1 television broadcast an interesting mix on Saturday morning: Its correspondents reported from Sderot and Ashkelon, but the pictures on the screen were from the Gaza Strip. Thus the broadcast, albeit unintentionally, sent the right message: A child in Sderot is the same as a child in Gaza, and anyone who harms either is evil.

But the assault on Gaza does not first and foremost demand moral condemnation - it demands a few historical reminders. Both the justification given for it and the chosen targets are a replay of the same basic assumptions that have proven wrong time after time. Yet Israel still pulls them out of its hat again and again, in one war after another.

Israel is striking at the Palestinians to "teach them a lesson." That is a basic assumption that has accompanied the Zionist enterprise since its inception: We are the representatives of progress and enlightenment, sophisticated rationality and morality, while the Arabs are a primitive, violent rabble, ignorant children who must be educated and taught wisdom - via, of course, the carrot-and-stick method, just as the drover does with his donkey.

The bombing of Gaza is also supposed to "liquidate the Hamas regime," in line with another assumption that has accompanied the Zionist movement since its inception: that it is possible to impose a "moderate" leadership on the Palestinians, one that will abandon their national aspirations.

As a corollary, Israel has also always believed that causing suffering to Palestinian civilians would make them rebel against their national leaders. This assumption has proven wrong over and over.
Read the entire article here >

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Day Two of the Gaza attack: Gazans breach Egypt border

From Ha'aretz:
Gaza residents on Sunday breached the border fence with Egypt in several places and hundreds have crossed the frontier prompting Egyptian border guards to open fire, said officials and witnesses on both sides of the border.

The breach came one day after Israel launched the largest Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip since it captured the territory in 1967, leaving some 286 people dead and scores wounded.

An Egyptian security official said there were at least five breaches along the 9 mile (14 kilometer) border and hundreds of Palestinian residents were pouring in.

At least 300 Egyptian border guards rushed to the area to reseal the border, the official added on condition on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

A resident of the Gaza Strip side of the border, Fida Kishta, said that Egyptian border guards opened fire to drive back the Palestinians. Residents also commandeered a bulldozer to open new breaches.
Read the entire article here >

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Medics in Gaza confirmed that the majority of those killed in the day’s attacks were civilians

From the Ma'an news service:
Medics in Gaza confirmed that the majority of those killed in the day’s attacks were civilians, including men, women and children. Most were cut to pieces, making the job of doctors and medics difficult, and the task of giving bodies back to families painful and gruesome.

The medics working in the field continue to dig up bodies from the densely populated urban areas of Gaza City.

The scenes remind many Palestinians of the images that came out of the Sabra and Shatila massacres from Beirut in 1982, when thousands of Palestinians were killed by the Lebanese Phalangist militia.
Read the entire article here >

Emergency Alert: Take Action to End Israeli Attacks on Gaza

From the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation:

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

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

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

TAKE ACTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eyewitness accounts from Gaza

The Free Gaza Movement sent out these eyewitness accounts today:

"At the time of the attacks I was on Omar Mukhtar street and witnessed a last rocket hit the street 150 meters away where crowds had already gathered to try to extract the dead bodies. Ambulances, trucks, cars - anything that can move is bringing injured to

the hospitals. Hospitals have had to evacuate sick patients to make room for the injured. I have been told that there is not enough room in the morgues for the bodies and that there is a great lack of blood in the blood banks. I have just learned that among the civilians killed today was the mother of my good friends in Jabalya camp."

- Eva Bartlett (Canada) International Solidarity Movement

"Israeli missles tore through a children's playground and busy market in Diere Balah, we saw the aftermath - many were injured and some reportedly killed. Every Hospital in the Gaza strip is already overwhelmed with injured people and does not have the medicine or the capacity to treat them. Israel is committing crimes against humanity, it is violating international and human rights law, ignoring the United Nations and planning even bigger attacks. The world must act now and intensify the calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel; governments need to move beyond words of condemnation into an active and immediate restraint of Israel and a lifting of the siege of Gaza"

- Ewa Jasiewicz (Polish and British) Free Gaza Movement

"The morgue at the Shifa hospital has no more room for dead bodies, so bodies and body parts are strewn all over the hospital."

- Dr. Haidar Eid, (Palestinian, South African) Professor of Social and Cultural Studies, Al Aqsa University Gaza

"This is incredibly sad. This massacre is not going to bring security for the State of Israel or allow it to be part of the Middle East. Now calls of revenge are everywhere."

- Dr. Eyad Sarraj - President of the Gaza Community Mental Health Centre

Read more on the Free Gaza website here >

At least 195 killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza



The BBC's Rushdi Aboualouf in the Gaza Strip described the chaos as Israeli warplanes fired missiles at Hamas targets, killing at least 155 Palestinians. Read his postings here >

Palestinians: At least 155 dead, over 200 hurt in IAF Gaza strikes

From Ha'aretz:
Israel launched Saturday morning the start of a massive offensive against Qassam rocket and mortar fire on its southern communities, targeting dozens of buildings belonging to the ruling Hamas militant group.

Palestinian medical sources said that at least 155 people had been killed in the strikes, which began with almost no warning at around 11:30 A.M.

Medical personnel in Gaza said that more than 200 people were also wounded in the series of Israel Air Force strikes. Egypt has opened its long-sealed border with Gaza to allow in the wounded for medical treatment. Hamas said that the attacks had caused widespread panic in the Strip.

The first wave of air strikes was launched by a 60 warplanes which hit a total of 50 targets in one fell swoop. The IAF deployed approximately 100 bombs, with an estimated 95 percent of the ordnance reaching its intended target. Most of the casualties were Hamas operatives.

Prior to the operation, Israel sought to catch Hamas off guard by luring it into a false sense of security through certain measures, including the opening of Gaza border crossings on Friday.

Immediately following the first wave, some 20 IAF aircraft struck 50 Palestinian rocket launchers in an effort to minimize Hamas' retaliatory strikes.

The IDF emphasized that civilians located in areas whence Palestinians launch rockets and who quarter Hamas operatives in their homes are liable to be hurt.

The targets that were hit included training camps and installations as well as police stations, some of whom were located in civilian buildings.

The IDF chief of staff is holding nonstop consultations with officers. Senior military officials characterize the strikes as part of a "rolling operation" and have thus begun a sporadic enlistment of the reserves, particularly in smaller units.

Top IDF brass anticipate difficult days ahead, warning that the operation will extend beyond the next couple of days.
Read the entire article here >

Monday, December 22, 2008

'In Gaza, all dreams and hope have gone'

Ameera Ahmad writing in the Guardian from Gaza:

During the months of the blockade, everything in my life has changed. Before, I would wake up and hope that tomorrow would be better than today. But it never happened. The reason is simple. It is because I live in Gaza, where all dreams and hope vanish because of the situation we live in.

Even the most basic things are really hard to find. My daughter, Layan, is six months old. Things are so tough here that even when I needed to buy baby formula for her, I can't find it. All the money that my husband Fady and I had saved up we have spent during the last three months. I never imagined that my children would grow up like this, in this awful predicament. Poor and always threatened.

Read the entire article here >

If Gaza falls . . .

Sara Roy in the London Review of Books:

The breakdown of an entire society is happening in front of us, but there is little international response beyond UN warnings which are ignored. The European Union announced recently that it wanted to strengthen its relationship with Israel while the Israeli leadership openly calls for a large-scale invasion of the Gaza Strip and continues its economic stranglehold over the territory with, it appears, the not-so-tacit support of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah – which has been co-operating with Israel on a number of measures. On 19 December Hamas officially ended its truce with Israel, which Israel said it wanted to renew, because of Israel’s failure to ease the blockade.

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

Read the entire article here >

Talk with Hamas

Gideon Levy writing in Ha'aretz:
Politicians, generals and the public all know that any substantial incursion into the Gaza Strip will be a catastrophe. Still, no one dares ask why, for heaven's sake, not try to talk directly with Hamas?

Gaza has an established authority that seized power democratically and then forcibly, and proved it has the power to control the territory. That, in itself, isn't bad news after a period of anarchy. But Israel and the world don't like Hamas. They want to overthrow it, but their diabolical scheme isn't working out. The two-year siege and boycott that included starvation, blackouts and bombardments have produced no sign that Hamas is weaker. On the contrary: The ceasefire was violated first by Israel with its unnecessary operation of blowing up a tunnel.

What everybody already knew to be false - that the political choice of a people could be changed through violence, that the Gazans could be made into Zionists by being abused - was tried anyway. Now we have to finally change direction, to do what nobody has tried before, if only because we have no other choice.

Any excuse against such an attempt does not hold water. Hamas doesn't recognize Israel; what does it matter? Hamas is a fundamentalist movement? That's irrelevant. Hamas will decline holding talks? Let's challenge it. Direct talks with Hamas will weaken Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas? He's weak anyway.

What does Israel have to lose besides its much-anticipated wide-scale operation that it can carry out anytime? Why not try the diplomatic option before the military one, and not the other way around like we're used to?
Read the entire article here >

Gaza near to collapse as Israel tightens grip, says bank

From the Guardian:

Israel's blockade of Gaza is pushing the territory to the brink of collapse and fuelling the growth of a black money market controlled by Hamas, the World Bank warned yesterday.

As tit-for-tat attacks across the Gaza border began to intensify following the end of a six-month truce on Friday, the World Bank said that an acute cash shortage in Gaza was playing into Hamas's hands. The militant Islamists, who took control of Gaza in June 2007 following violent street clashes with their more secular rival, Fatah, have large stashes of shekels which they have been selling on the black market at a premium because of the cash shortage.

There is also a worry that Hamas, with its dominant militant and bureaucratic control of Gaza, will begin to replace the shekel with US dollars, which are more easily obtained, to smuggle through the tunnels from Egypt in the south.

The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Quartet - the US, the EU, Russia and the United Nations - warned Israel of the crisis in a letter to the prime minister, Ehud Olmert, more than a week ago, to no avail. Instead, Israel continued to tighten its 18-month blockade of the tiny coastal territory, forcing banks and businesses to shut their doors, water, sanitation and electricity services to cease, medical clinics to turn away patients, and bread queues to form in the streets. Since the end of the truce, daily clashes have resumed, with Israel launching air strikes on Palestinian rocket-launching teams and Palestinian fighters firing makeshift rockets and mortars at neighbouring Israeli towns.

Read the entire article here >

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gisha to Israeli Ministers: Stop Using Civilians in Gaza as a Weapon to Enforce the Ceasefire

From Gisha: Legal Center for Freedom of Movement -
As negotiations continue to renew the "ceasefire" agreement which is thought to expire at the end of the week, Gisha - Legal Center for Freedom of Movement today called on the Israeli government to stop its equation of deliberately harming Palestinian civilians in response to rocket fire by militants on Israeli towns.

Gisha warned that closing Gaza's crossings as a response to Qassam rocket fire violates international law and commitments made by the State of Israel to the Israeli Supreme Court. In a detailed legal opinion published today and sent to Israeli Cabinet ministers and the Attorney General, Gisha warned that the restrictions on the passage of people and goods to and from the Gaza Strip cannot be considered a siege, a blockade or an economic sanction – but rather a closure imposed for the illegal purpose of collective punishment against innocent civilians. The Gaza Strip is occupied territory. Israel controls Gaza's borders and insists that humanitarian goods enter only through Israel's own crossings with Gaza – imposing a duty to permit that passage. Preventing humanitarian goods from entering Gaza also violates the duty that every nation in the world owes – to actively facilitate the passage of humanitarian goods to civilians affected by armed conflict.

According to Sari Bashi, Director of Gisha: "Any equation created between rocket fire by militants and the closure of Gaza's crossings to civilian goods violates the fundamental principle of international humanitarian law – to protect civilians. Civilians must not be used as a weapon to enforce agreements between combatants."
Read the entire statement and Gisha's legal opinion here >

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Catastrophe for Gaza

Dr. Eyad Al-Sarraj writing in the Los Angeles Times:
Reporting from Gaza — From my home in the Gaza Strip, I followed the American election season with interest. Many times I heard the personal stories of Americans without access to healthcare and the toll illness has taken on their lives. I can relate. For months, I waited in Gaza, unable to leave (despite the fact that I carry a British passport) and increasingly desperate to secure a medical appointment about 45 minutes away in Israel.

The advanced medical treatment I need is not available here. But although it is readily available just up the coast in nearby Tel Aviv, I was not allowed to visit my doctor there without permission from the Israelis, who still control our borders and, as the occupying power, remain responsible for the welfare of our civilian population.

In the end, I waited three months for a medical permit to travel to treat my multiple myeloma. My requests were denied repeatedly until an Israeli friend who teaches at Tel Aviv University intervened and helped me secure a one-day permit. That there are still Israelis willing to promote the rights of Palestinians provides me with what little hope I have these days. The majority of Palestinians want only to live with peace and equality, accepting Israelis as our neighbors but not as our superiors or as our jailers.
Read the entire article here >

Gaza families eat grass as Israel locks border

From the Times of London:

AS a convoy of blue-and-white United Nations trucks loaded with food waited last night for Israeli permission to enter Gaza, Jindiya Abu Amra and her 12-year-old daughter went scrounging for the wild grass their family now lives on.

“We had one meal today - khobbeizeh,” said Abu Amra, 43, showing the leaves of a plant that grows along the streets of Gaza. “Every day, I wake up and start looking for wood and plastic to burn for fuel and I beg. When I find nothing, we eat this grass.”

Read the entire article here >


Friday, December 12, 2008

Palestinian poll: 40 percent of Gaza residents wish to emigrate

From the AP:
A Palestinian poll released on Thursday showed that most residents of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip wish to emigrate, compared to 25 percent in the West Bank.

The coastal territory is currently under an Israeli blockade, imposed by Israel in response to cross-border attacks by Gaza militants. According to the poll, 74 percent of Gazans support continuing the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in the Strip that is set to end next week.

The poll was released Thursday by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research. Pollsters surveyed 1270 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. The margin of error was 3 percentage points.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Gaza: Silence is not an option

From the BBC:
The UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories has said Israel's policies there amount to a crime against humanity.

Richard Falk's statement came as UN human rights delegates urged Israel to take nearly 100 measures including ending its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

He said the UN must act to protect the Palestinian population suffering what he called "collective punishment".

Israel says the blockade is a necessary security measure to stem rocket salvos.

In his statement, Mr Falk called on the United Nations to make an "urgent effort" to "implement the agreed norm of a responsibility to protect a civilian population being collectively punished by policies that amount to a Crime Against Humanity".

He said the International Criminal Court should also investigate whether the Israeli civilian leaders and military commanders for the Gaza siege should be indicted and prosecuted for violations of international criminal law.

The last time there had been "such a flurry of denunciations by normally cautious UN officials" it was during the heyday of the apartheid government in South Africa, Mr Falk said.

"And still Israel maintains its Gaza siege in its full fury, allowing only barely enough food and fuel to enter to stave off mass famine and disease," Mr Falk said.

Israel allowed dozens of trucks filled with humanitarian supplies into Gaza on Tuesday, the fifth such shipment permitted to enter the Hamas-ruled Palestinian territory in the past month.

Read the entire article here >

Read Richard Falk's entire statement here >

Monday, December 8, 2008

In Gaza, Few Festivities, Mostly Sacrifice on the Festival of Sacrifice

From the Israeli NGO Gisha: Legal Center for Freedom of Movement -
More than half a million people in Gaza will remain without money during the Muslim Festival of Sacrifice which begins tonight. As part of an overall closure policy, Israel is preventing the transfer of cash to banks in Gaza, primarily harming 77,000 employees of the Palestinian Authority and the 460,000 family members they support, who have not received their November salary. Thousands of additional workers and recipients of international assistance are also left without money after Gaza's banks ran out of money and closed their doors last week.

B.M., 27, Gaza resident and employee of the Palestinian Authority: "I feel terrible. I have a salary, I have money in the bank, and I can't buy my daughter sweets or new clothing for the holiday. I went to the ATM, but there is nothing, it doesn't work. On the Festival of Sacrifice, Muslim men are supposed to give money gifts to their female relatives. I can't visit my family this year, because I have nothing to give them."

Depriving Gaza of cash reserves is part of the nearly hermetic Israeli closure of the Gaza Strip, in place since June 2007, a policy that constitutes collective punishment of 1.5 million people. Israel is also preventing the passage of industrial diesel to Gaza's power plant, responsible for producing 33% of Gaza's electricity supply, causing power outages of up to 16 hours per day. Israel again closed Gaza's fuel pipelines today, and as a result, Gaza's power plant will shut down tonight for lack of industrial diesel.

According to Sari Bashi, Director of Gisha: "Blocking the flow of cash to Gaza's banks threatens to completely topple Gaza's already battered economy, depriving 1.5 million people of basic needs and their right to a dignified livelihood. It is not clear what the Government of Israel wishes to achieve by destroying the economic and humanitarian foundations of Palestinian society".

Recent articles on Gaza

Here are some useful recent articles:

IRIN: How Gaza gets power - analysis

Washington Post: In Gaza, No Cash for Holiday - Israeli Blockade Prompts Warning From World Bank

AP: Israel again bans international media from Gaza

Friday, December 5, 2008

Action, not words: The noble spirit of the universal declaration of human rights is betrayed by a lack of help for Gaza

Karen AbuZayd, the commissioner general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, in the Guardian:

As we approach the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the steadily rising death toll in Gaza highlights the painful gap between its peaceful rhetoric and the desperate reality for Palestinian people.

The declaration was a pivotal statement in which the world community recognised the "inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world". True to its nobility of spirit, it declares "the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom from fear and want as the highest aspiration of the common people".

Sixty years on, the fate of the Palestinian people should be a cause for universal soul-searching. The need to give substantive meaning to the protection of Palestinians has never been greater. The former high commissioner for human rights, Mary Robinson has said that in Gaza, nothing short of a "civilisation" is being destroyed. Desmond Tutu has called it "an abomination". The humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, Maxwell Gaylard, said that in Gaza there was a "massive assault" on human rights. Most recently, the European commissioner, Louis Michel, described the blockade of Gaza as a "form of collective punishment against Palestinian civilians, which is a violation of international humanitarian law".

Read the entire article here >

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Kucinich Seeks End of Gaza Blockade

From Rep. Dennis Kucinich's website:

Washington, Dec 2 -

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today sent a letter urging Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to ensure that Israel ends the blockade of Gaza. The letter was sent in support of the U.N. High Commissioner of Human Rights, Ms. Navi Pillay’s call for the immediate end of the blockade.

“Israel has a right to defend itself and its citizens. This includes taking action against Hamas for its abominable mortar attacks into southern Israel. However that action should not and cannot amount to collective punishment against the Palestinian people, prohibited by Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva convention, as it does today,” wrote Kucinich in the letter.


Read Rep. Kucinich's letter to Secretary Rice here >


Thank Rep. Kucinich by writing or calling his office >

Bank crisis in Gaza even though Israel eases blockade

From the BBC:

Israel has allowed some humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, easing its blockade of the Hamas-controlled Palestinian territory.

Forty truckloads of food and medicines entered the strip, and fuel supplies were pumped to Gaza's only power plant, according to Palestinian officials.

Foreign journalists are also being allowed through, Israel said.

Israel recently tightened its economic blockade of Gaza amid regular border clashes with Palestinian militants.

The office of the Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, said the decision to allow some aid into Gaza was a goodwill gesture ahead of the forthcoming Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.

Meanwhile banks across the Gaza Strip have been shutting down because of what they say is a cash shortage caused by the Israeli blockade.

The Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, has urged Israel to allow a cash shipment to Gaza.

He said thousands of civil servants would not be paid this month unless it does so. Israel said the request was being considered.

Read the entire article >

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Gaza Border Crossings are closed for 27th consecutive day

On December 2nd, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights reported that the Gaza Border Crossings had been closed for a 27th consecutive day. Among the effects of this closure have been:

  • The Gaza power plant has been forced to shut down due to lack of fuel, and Gazans are now totally dependent on electricity generated from Israel, and to a lesser extent, from Egypt.
  • There are also chronic severe shortages of domestic cooking gas.
  • Israel has not permitted any consignments of flour to enter the Gaza Strip for one week (not including UNWRA supplies), and current stocks are sufficient for just less than three days. Five of the six flourmills in the Gaza Strip have been forced to close.
  • Patients who require urgent medical treatment outside the Gaza Strip are facing immense travel restrictions, with an average of just seventeen patients a day currently permitted to leave Gaza in order to access emergency medical treatment in Israel.
  • Civilians are enduring power cuts for up to ten hours a day across the Gaza Strip, which is severely affecting every aspect of life in Gaza. Local emergency health services are teetering on the brink of collapse as they try to respond to critical cases amidst constant and severe shortages of electricity, medication and other vital, life-saving equipment. In addition, many Gazan families are being denied access to drinking water, as there is insufficient fuel for the electric water pumps that supply domestic drinking water.
Read the entire report here >