Posts Tagged ‘death and destruction’

Gaza: Bombs, Missiles, Tanks And Bulldozers

June 20, 2009

Transcript of former US President Jimmy Carter’s Address to the United Nations Relief Works Agency’s Human Rights Graduation in Gaza, June 16, 2009.

By Jimmy Carter | Information Clearing House, June 16, 2009

Director of UNRWA operations John Ging, thank you for inviting me to Gaza. Distinguished guests, children of Gaza, I am grateful for your warm reception.

I first visited Gaza 36 years ago and returned during the 1980s and later for the very successful Palestinian elections. Although under occupation, this community was relatively peaceful and prosperous. Now, the aftermath of bombs, missiles, tanks, bulldozers and the continuing economic siege have brought death, destruction, pain, and suffering to the people here. Tragically, the international community largely ignores the cries for help, while the citizens of Gaza are being treated more like animals than human beings.

Last week, a group of Israelis and Americans tried to cross into Gaza through Erez, bringing toys and children’s playground equipment – slides, swings, kites, and magic castles for your children. They were stopped at the gate and prevented from coming. I understand even paper and crayons are treated as “security hazards” and not permitted to enter Gaza. I sought an explanation for this policy in Israel, but did not receive a satisfactory answer – because there is none.

The responsibility for this terrible human rights crime lies in Jerusalem, Cairo, Washington, and throughout the international community. This abuse must cease; the crimes must be investigated; the walls must be brought down, and the basic right of freedom must come to you.

Almost one-half of Gaza’s 1.5 million people are children, whose lives are being shaped by poverty, hunger, violence, and despair. More than 50,000 families had their homes destroyed or damaged in January, and parents are in mourning for the 313 innocent children who were killed.

The situation in Gaza is grim, but all hope is not lost. Amidst adversity, you continue to possess both dignity and determination to work towards a brighter tomorrow. That is why educating children is so important.

I have come to Gaza to help the world know what important work you are doing. UNRWA is here to ensure that the 200,000 children in its schools can develop their talent, express their dynamism, and help create the path to a better future.

The human rights curriculum is teaching children about their rights and also about their responsibilities. UNRWA is teaching about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the struggle for these rights all over the world, Gaza’s children are learning that as you seek justice for yourselves, you must be sure that your behavior provides justice for others.

They are learning that it is wrong to fire rockets that may kill Israeli children. They are learning that arbitrary detention and the summary execution of political opponents is not acceptable. They are learning that the rule of law must be honored here in Gaza.

I would like to congratulate both UNRWA and the children who have completed the human rights curriculum with distinction. They are tomorrow’s leaders.

In addition to the tragedy of occupation, the lack of unity among Palestinians is causing a deteriorating atmosphere here in Gaza, in Ramallah, and throughout the West Bank.

Palestinians want more than just to survive. They hope to lead the Arab world, to be a bridge between modern political life and traditions that date back to the Biblical era. The nation you will create must be pluralistic and democratic – the new Palestine that your intellectuals have dreamt about. Palestine must combine the best of the East and the West. The Palestinian state, like the land, must be blessed for all people. Jerusalem must be shared with everyone who loves it – Christians, Jews, and Muslims.

With our new leaders in Washington, my country will move into the forefront of this birth of a new Palestine. We were all reminded of this renewed hope and commitment by President Obama’s recent speech in Cairo.

President Obama’s resolve to resume the Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process based on the principle of two states for two peoples must be welcomed. This vision of two sovereign nations living as neighbors is not a mere convenient phrase. It is the basis for a lasting peace for this entire region, including Syria and Lebanon.

We all know that a necessary step is the ending of the siege of Gaza – the starving of 1 ½ million people of the necessities of life. Never before in history has a large community been savaged by bombs and missiles and then deprived of the means to repair itself. The issue of who controls Gaza is not an obstacle. As the World Bank has pointed out, funds can be channeled through a number of independent mechanisms and effective implementing agencies.

Although funds are available, not a sack of cement nor a piece of lumber has been permitted to enter the closed gates from Israel and Egypt. I have seen with my own eyes that progress is negligible.

My country and our friends in Europe must do all that is necessary to persuade Israel and Egypt to allow basic materials into Gaza. At the same time, there must be no more rockets and mortar shells falling on Israeli citizens.

I met this week with the parents of Corporal Gilad Shalit, and have with me a letter that I hope can be delivered to their son. I have also met with many Palestinians who plead for the freedom of their 11,700 loved ones imprisoned by the Israelis, including 400 women and children. Many of them have been imprisoned for many years, held without trial, with no access to their families or to legal counsel. Rational negotiations and a comprehensive peace can end this suffering on both sides.

I know it is difficult now, surrounded by terrible destruction, to see a future of independence and dignity in a Palestinian state, but this goal can and must be achieved. I know too that it is hard for you to accept Israel and live in peace with those who have caused your suffering. However, Palestinian statehood cannot come at the expense of Israel’s security, just as Israel’s security can not come at the expense of Palestinian statehood.

In his speech in Cairo, President Obama said that Hamas has support among Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a full role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, accept existing peace agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.

I have urged Hamas leaders to accept these conditions, and they have made statements and taken actions that suggest they are ready to join the peace process and move toward the creation of an independent and just Palestinian state.

Khaled Mashaal has assured me that Hamas will accept a final status agreement negotiated by the Palestinian Authority and Israel if the Palestinian people approve it in a referendum. Hamas has offered a reciprocal ceasefire with Israel throughout the West Bank and Gaza. Unfortunately, neither the Israeli leaders nor Hamas accept the terms of the Oslo Agreement of 1993, but the Arab Peace Initiative is being considered now by all sides.

I have personally witnessed free and fair elections in Palestine when Yasir Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas were elected president and when legislative members were chosen for your parliament. I hope to return next January for a similar event that will unite all Palestinians as you seek a proud and peaceful future.

Ladies and gentlemen, children of Gaza, thank you for inviting me and for sharing this happy occasion with me. Congratulations for your achievements.

Pakistan government prepares for long-term war

May 15, 2009
By Peter Symonds | WSWS,  May 14, 2009

Refugees continue to flood out of embattled areas of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP) as the military extends its offensive in the Swat, Buner and Lower Dir districts against Taliban militants. The UNHCR puts the total number of people registered as internally displaced at more than 670,000 since May 2, but the figure is certainly higher.

Speaking in London after meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari pledged to continue the so-called fight against terrorism, saying that it would be “a long term affair”. Under intense pressure from the US and its allies, the Pakistani government last month abrogated a peace deal with Taliban leaders in the Swat district and gave the green light for major military operations against the Islamist guerrillas.

The military has continued to pound Taliban strongholds from the air and using artillery and mortars, causing widespread destruction and a mounting toll of civilian casualties. Mingora, the district capital of the Swat Valley, which is still under Taliban control, has been a main target of the army’s operations. Troops have seized key positions around the town, all exit roads have been sealed and electricity, water and gas supplies have been cut off.

A student, Farhan, told the BBC: “We left Mingora three days ago. The situation had become very dangerous. We were caught up in the brutalities between the Pakistani army and the Taliban. We were trapped inside our homes for a week, while there was constant shelling. A mortar demolished a house just a few yards from our home. There was no water, no power, everything was destroyed.”

On Tuesday, army commandos were inserted by helicopters on high ground near the town of Piochar in northern Swat to carry out “search-and-destroy missions.” Piochar is reportedly the base of Maulana Fazlullah, one of the main Taliban warlords, and the site of training camps and arms depots. “Jetfighters and helicopter gunships shelled the region before dropping special services group (SSG) personnel,” a military’s media centre stated.

News from the war zone is scanty as reporters and other independent observers have been excluded. Locals told Dawn yesterday that troops had also been dropped by helicopter in the Niag Darra, Karo Darra and Turmang Darra areas of the Dir district. Other sources confirmed that 1,200 troops backed by tanks and artillery had reached Turmang Darra in Upper Dir on Tuesday.

Pakistani army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told the press yesterday that military operations were unfolding successfully. He stated that 751 militants had been killed by the army over the past week, with the loss of just 29 troops. The claim is highly doubtful and has not been independently verified. Estimates put the total number of Taliban fighters in the area at just 5,000.

Refugees from Mingora have criticised the military for indiscriminately pounding the town. “We have never seen major casualties on the militants’ side so far and only innocent people are targetted,” Fazi Karim told Dawn. A rickshaw driver, Syed Bacha, simply laughed when asked about the army’s claim, saying: “If they kill 100 militants, I am 100 percent sure that the Taliban will not stay for a single day.”

The US-based Human Rights Watch stated on Monday that it had received reports of “civilian deaths and the destruction of property in the Pakistani military’s aerial bombardment.”

Clearly concerned about growing public anger, Pakistan’s army chief General Ashfaq Kayani issued a public statement instructing the armed forces “to ensure minimum collateral damage”. Such assurances count for nothing, however, as the military continues to use heavy weapons and air strikes against urban areas such as Mingora. A parliamentarian from Swat told Dawn that 700,000 people remain trapped in the Swat Valley.

Similar tactics were employed by the Pakistani military last year in a protracted offensive in Bajaur, part of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the border with Afghanistan. The operations, which were coordinated with the US military in Afghanistan, laid waste to entire towns and villages, forcing half a million people to flee. Combined with the current exodus, 1.3 million people have been displaced in Pakistan since last August.

A key aspect of the summit in Washington between the US, Pakistani and Afghan presidents a fortnight ago was the closer involvement of the US military with its Pakistani counterparts, including a significant expansion of counterinsurgency training. About 70 US special operations trainers have already been in Pakistan to help drill commando forces such as those currently being used in the NWFP. The Obama administration is also requesting $400 million for the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund to provide night-vision goggles, more helicopters and better small arms to the Pakistani military.

The US military and CIA are also stepping up their missile attacks on alleged “terrorist” targets inside Pakistan using Predator and Reaper drones. The latest strike killed 15 people in the village of Sra Khawra in the FATA district of South Waziristan. The Los Angeles Times yesterday reported that the Pentagon has established a facility in the Afghan city of Jalalabad for US and Pakistani personnel to jointly operate US military drones. In addition, the CIA, which has its own Predator program, has carried out at least 55 strikes inside Pakistan since August, generating widespread anger among Pashtun tribes in the FATA region.

Speaking to Al Jazeera on Tuesday, US Special Envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, rejected the suggestion that Washington was responsible for exacerbating civilian suffering in Pakistan, blaming the Taliban for the fighting. However, having pressed the Pakistani government into taking military action, the Obama administration is directly responsibility for the human tragedy now unfolding.

UNHRC spokeswoman Ariane Rummery announced yesterday in Islamabad that the total influx of registered refugees had jumped in the past 11 days to 670,906, of whom 79,842 were being housed in camps. Some of those not in camps were staying with relatives and friends, but many were forced to live in makeshift shelters without access to food and medicine. The UNHCR total was up from 501,496 late on Tuesday. Pakistani officials have put the number of internally displaced persons at over 800,000.

Speaking to the BBC about the situation in Peshawar, Majid, a student who fled Mingora, explained: “Many [people] joined refugee camps, but those must be full, because I see lots of people lying on the roads, people for whom there’s no accommodation or help. The nearby park is full of people from Swat. There are Swat people all over the city, everyone with their own story.”

Far from being concerned about the plight of these refugees, the Pakistani establishment is preoccupied with intensifying its “war on terrorism”. In a meeting of the National Assembly on Tuesday, virtually all parties—government and opposition—came together to back the military offensive. Ominously calls were made for an extension of police state measures throughout the country to “eliminate sleeper cells” and other “terrorist” bastions.

What is being set in motion by the Pakistani government, pushed on by Washington, is a full-scale civil war.

Will Obama Vacate Iraq?

April 8, 2009

Nasir Khan, April 8, 2009

On February 27, 2009 President Barack Obama delivered his much-anticipated policy speech on Iraq. The important point in his announcement was the withdrawal of some U.S. troops from Iraq by August 31, 2010. However, it did not mean an end to the American occupation of Iraq, or an end to an illegal genocidal war that the Bush-Cheney administration had started. Despite his high-blown rhetoric about withdrawing from Iraq, Obama did not deal with many important questions. Thus what was not said cannot be regarded as an oversight but rather as an indication of how the new administration intends to pursue its policy objectives. Those who had wished to see a break by the new administration with the Bush-Cheney administration’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are concerned because they detect the continuation of the goal of the U.S. domination, which the American rulers usually refer to as the ‘U.S. interests’ in the region.

At present the U.S. has 142,000 combat troops in Iraq. But what is often glossed over is the fact that there is almost a parallel army of American mercenaries and private military contractors whose numbers range from 100,000 to 150,000. Thus both the regular fighting force and these mercenaries are virtual foreign occupiers. However, the planned withdrawal of U.S. troops will not amount to ending the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Obama wants to keep more than 50,000 occupying troops in Iraq. His innovation, if we can call it so, lies in classifying them as ‘non-combat’ troops or a ‘transitional force’. And what will they be doing? It is worth noticing how Obama formulates the policy objective that shows the real intentions of the occupiers: ‘we will retain a transitional force to carry out the three distinct functions: training, equipping , and advising Iraqi Security Forces as long as they remain non-sectarian; conducting targeted counterterrorism missions; and protecting our ongoing civilian and military efforts within Iraq.’

So, instead of ‘combat brigades’, the re-labelled ‘transitional force’ will carry on the ‘targeted counterterrorism missions’! This cannot fool anyone. What this in effect means is that that the 50,000 soldiers will continue to accomplish the ‘mission’ that the former U.S. president George W. Bush had laid out for them.

President Obama has plans to remove all such remaining U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. But things are far from certain. What will happens if the resistance against the occupier and its puppet regime in Baghdad continues and the U.S. policy-makers and military planners conclude that the challenge to American hegemony and its geopolitical interests in Iraq persists? In that case, this plan can be replaced with a new one neatly drafted by the Pentagon. Such concern was aired by the NBC’s Pentagon’s correspondent Jim Miklaszeswki on February 27, 2009 that ‘military commanders, despite their Status of Forces agreement with the Iraqi government that all U.S. forces would be out by the end of 2011, are already making plans for a significant number of troops to remain in Iraq beyond that 2011 deadline, assuming that the Status of Forces Agreement would be renegotiated. And one senior military commander told us that he expects large number of American troops to be in Iraq for the next 15 to 20 years.’ In case of such need to keep the American forces in Iraq, the puppet regime in Baghdad will hardly be in a position to resist the American diktat and pressure. That means the colonial occupation of Iraq according to U.S. designs and interests will continue.

There are a number of important issues that President Obama did not touch in his speech. What will happen to more than 100,000 mercenaries and private military contractors operating in Iraq? Dyncorp, Bechtel, Blackwater have been used by American military and they have been immune to any accountability for killing Iraqis. The recent change of name from Blackwater to ‘Xe’ does not change the mission of the mercenaries and their crimes in Iraq. Again, the ultimate responsibility for the actions of such people lies with the American government. The peace movement should demand the Obama administration to redress the issue.

In Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, the Bush administration built the largest embassy of any nation anywhere on Earth, a sprawling complex of buildings to accommodate up to 5,000 American diplomats and officials. That shows what long-term objectives the Bush administration had for Iraq and the Middle East. Besides, it was again the illegal action of the occupying military power in which the people of Iraq had no say. An embassy is meant for diplomatic relations between two states. But the gigantic building to accommodate thousands of officials in the capital of an occupied oil-rich country shows the true intentions of the American rulers. These buildings should be closed down or handed over to the Iraqis.

The United States has 58 permanent military bases in Iraq, as a part of the larger network of American military bases around the world. President Obama should give a clear indication that when the American troops are withdrawn, the illegal use of Iraqi military bases will also come to an end.

Let us hope that President Obama’s words match his actions; actions that will signify a change in the direction of American imperial policy. It was encouraging to see that when he turned to the Iraqi people and said: ‘The United States pursues no claim on your territory or your resources. We respect your sovereignty and the tremendous sacrifices you have made for your country. We seek a full transition to Iraqi responsibility for the security of your country.’

The American rulers have inflicted immeasurable death and destruction on the Iraqi people and the infrastructure of their country. They have caused untold humanitarian disaster and suffering in Iraq. The people of Iraq have seen only death, destruction and barbarity at the hands of the occupiers since the U.S. invasion of their country. The Belgian philosopher, Lieven De Cauter, the initiator of the BRussells Tribunal, writes: ‘During six years of occupation, 1.2 million citizens were killed, 2,000 doctors killed, and 5,500 academics and intellectuals assassinated or imprisoned. There are 4.7 million refugees: 207 million inside the country and two million have fled to neighbouring countries, among which are 20,000 doctors. According to the Red Cross, Iraq is a country of widows and orphans: two million widows as a consequence of war, embargo, and war again and occupation, and five million orphans, many of whom are homeless (estimated at 500,000).’

For us the ordinary human beings, such a degree of inhumanity shown by the rulers of the United States towards the people of a great country and callous imperviousness to the suffering of so many people is hard to understand. In addition, Iraq, the cradle of human civilisation eventually fell in the hands of the American occupiers and they vandalized the ancient treasures and artifacts, which were the common heritage of all humanity.

In sum, the peace movement should demand the complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops, the withdrawal of all mercenaries and military contractors hired by the Pentagon. All American military bases in Iraq should be closed and the full sovereignty of Iraq over its land and air be respected. All lucrative oil contracts the occupiers made with the puppet regime in Baghdad should be held null and void. Above all, the United States should be held accountable to pay reparations for the damage it caused and pay compensation to the victims of aggression. We should demand that the International Criminal Court takes steps to indict the alleged war criminals. The governments of the United States and Britain have a special responsibility to hand over the principal war criminals to The Hague and to facilitate the task of such trials.

Israeli barbarity in Gaza – video

January 22, 2009

Embedded With Gaza Medics

Must see video:

Broadcast January 20th, 2009

Radjaa Abou Dagga, followed a team of Palestinian medics during the Israeli assault:

WARNING

Video depicts the reality and horror of Israel’s attack on the people of Gaza – Viewer Discretion Advised

Click on “comments” below to read or post comments

postCount(‘article21811.htm’);Comments (29) Comment (0)

Another War, Another Defeat

January 19, 2009

The Gaza offensive has succeeded in punishing the Palestinians but not in making Israel more secure.

By John J. Mearsheimer | The American Conservative, January 26, 2009

Israelis and their American supporters claim that Israel learned its lessons well from the disastrous 2006 Lebanon war and has devised a winning strategy for the present war against Hamas. Of course, when a ceasefire comes, Israel will declare victory. Don’t believe it. Israel has foolishly started another war it cannot win.

The campaign in Gaza is said to have two objectives: 1) to put an end to the rockets and mortars that Palestinians have been firing into southern Israel since it withdrew from Gaza in August 2005; 2) to restore Israel’s deterrent, which was said to be diminished by the Lebanon fiasco, by Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, and by its inability to halt Iran’s nuclear program.

But these are not the real goals of Operation Cast Lead. The actual purpose is connected to Israel’s long-term vision of how it intends to live with millions of Palestinians in its midst. It is part of a broader strategic goal: the creation of a “Greater Israel.” Specifically, Israel’s leaders remain determined to control all of what used to be known as Mandate Palestine, which includes Gaza and the West Bank. The Palestinians would have limited autonomy in a handful of disconnected and economically crippled enclaves, one of which is Gaza. Israel would control the borders around them, movement between them, the air above and the water below them.

The key to achieving this is to inflict massive pain on the Palestinians so that they come to accept the fact that they are a defeated people and that Israel will be largely responsible for controlling their future. This strategy, which was first articulated by Ze’ev Jabotinsky in the 1920s and has heavily influenced Israeli policy since 1948, is commonly referred to as the “Iron Wall.”

What has been happening in Gaza is fully consistent with this strategy.

Let’s begin with Israel’s decision to withdraw from Gaza in 2005. The conventional wisdom is that Israel was serious about making peace with the Palestinians and that its leaders hoped the exit from Gaza would be a major step toward creating a viable Palestinian state. According to the New York Times’ Thomas L. Friedman, Israel was giving the Palestinians an opportunity to “build a decent mini-state there—a Dubai on the Mediterranean,” and if they did so, it would “fundamentally reshape the Israeli debate about whether the Palestinians can be handed most of the West Bank.”

This is pure fiction. Even before Hamas came to power, the Israelis intended to create an open-air prison for the Palestinians in Gaza and inflict great pain on them until they complied with Israel’s wishes. Dov Weisglass, Ariel Sharon’s closest adviser at the time, candidly stated that the disengagement from Gaza was aimed at halting the peace process, not encouraging it. He described the disengagement as “formaldehyde that’s necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.” Moreover, he emphasized that the withdrawal “places the Palestinians under tremendous pressure. It forces them into a corner where they hate to be.”

Arnon Soffer, a prominent Israeli demographer who also advised Sharon, elaborated on what that pressure would look like. “When 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it’s going to be a human catastrophe. Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam. The pressure at the border will be awful. It’s going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day.”

In January 2006, five months after the Israelis pulled their settlers out of Gaza, Hamas won a decisive victory over Fatah in the Palestinian legislative elections. This meant trouble for Israel’s strategy because Hamas was democratically elected, well organized, not corrupt like Fatah, and unwilling to accept Israel’s existence. Israel responded by ratcheting up economic pressure on the Palestinians, but it did not work. In fact, the situation took another turn for the worse in March 2007, when Fatah and Hamas came together to form a national unity government. Hamas’s stature and political power were growing, and Israel’s divide-and-conquer strategy was unraveling.

To make matters worse, the national unity government began pushing for a long-term ceasefire. The Palestinians would end all missile attacks on Israel if the Israelis would stop arresting and assassinating Palestinians and end their economic stranglehold, opening the border crossings into Gaza.

Israel rejected that offer and with American backing set out to foment a civil war between Fatah and Hamas that would wreck the national unity government and put Fatah in charge. The plan backfired when Hamas drove Fatah out of Gaza, leaving Hamas in charge there and the more pliant Fatah in control of the West Bank. Israel then tightened the screws on the blockade around Gaza, causing even greater hardship and suffering among the Palestinians living there.

Hamas responded by continuing to fire rockets and mortars into Israel, while emphasizing that they still sought a long-term ceasefire, perhaps lasting ten years or more. This was not a noble gesture on Hamas’s part: they sought a ceasefire because the balance of power heavily favored Israel. The Israelis had no interest in a ceasefire and merely intensified the economic pressure on Gaza. But in the late spring of 2008, pressure from Israelis living under the rocket attacks led the government to agree to a six-month ceasefire starting on June 19. That agreement, which formally ended on Dec. 19, immediately preceded the present war, which began on Dec. 27.

The official Israeli position blames Hamas for undermining the ceasefire. This view is widely accepted in the United States, but it is not true. Israeli leaders disliked the ceasefire from the start, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the IDF to begin preparing for the present war while the ceasefire was being negotiated in June 2008. Furthermore, Dan Gillerman, Israel’s former ambassador to the UN, reports that Jerusalem began to prepare the propaganda campaign to sell the present war months before the conflict began. For its part, Hamas drastically reduced the number of missile attacks during the first five months of the ceasefire. A total of two rockets were fired into Israel during September and October, none by Hamas.

How did Israel behave during this same period? It continued arresting and assassinating Palestinians on the West Bank, and it continued the deadly blockade that was slowly strangling Gaza. Then on Nov. 4, as Americans voted for a new president, Israel attacked a tunnel inside Gaza and killed six Palestinians. It was the first major violation of the ceasefire, and the Palestinians—who had been “careful to maintain the ceasefire,” according to Israel’s Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center—responded by resuming rocket attacks. The calm that had prevailed since June vanished as Israel ratcheted up the blockade and its attacks into Gaza and the Palestinians hurled more rockets at Israel. It is worth noting that not a single Israeli was killed by Palestinian missiles between Nov. 4 and the launching of the war on Dec. 27.

As the violence increased, Hamas made clear that it had no interest in extending the ceasefire beyond Dec. 19, which is hardly surprising, since it had not worked as intended. In mid-December, however, Hamas informed Israel that it was still willing to negotiate a long-term ceasefire if it included an end to the arrests and assassinations as well as the lifting of the blockade. But the Israelis, having used the ceasefire to prepare for war against Hamas, rejected this overture. The bombing of Gaza commenced eight days after the failed ceasefire formally ended.

If Israel wanted to stop missile attacks from Gaza, it could have done so by arranging a long-term ceasefire with Hamas. And if Israel were genuinely interested in creating a viable Palestinian state, it could have worked with the national unity government to implement a meaningful ceasefire and change Hamas’s thinking about a two-state solution. But Israel has a different agenda: it is determined to employ the Iron Wall strategy to get the Palestinians in Gaza to accept their fate as hapless subjects of a Greater Israel.

This brutal policy is clearly reflected in Israel’s conduct of the Gaza War. Israel and its supporters claim that the IDF is going to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties, in some cases taking risks that put Israeli soldiers in jeopardy. Hardly. One reason to doubt these claims is that Israel refuses to allow reporters into the war zone: it does not want the world to see what its soldiers and bombs are doing inside Gaza. At the same time, Israel has launched a massive propaganda campaign to put a positive spin on the horror stories that do emerge.

The best evidence, however, that Israel is deliberately seeking to punish the broader population in Gaza is the death and destruction the IDF has wrought on that small piece of real estate. Israel has killed over 1,000 Palestinians and wounded more than 4,000. Over half of the casualties are civilians, and many are children. The IDF’s opening salvo on Dec. 27 took place as children were leaving school, and one of its primary targets that day was a large group of graduating police cadets, who hardly qualified as terrorists. In what Ehud Barak called “an all-out war against Hamas,” Israel has targeted a university, schools, mosques, homes, apartment buildings, government offices, and even ambulances. A senior Israeli military official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, explained the logic behind Israel’s expansive target set: “There are many aspects of Hamas, and we are trying to hit the whole spectrum, because everything is connected and everything supports terrorism against Israel.” In other words, everyone is a terrorist and everything is a legitimate target.

Israelis tend to be blunt, and they occasionally say what they are really doing. After the IDF killed 40 Palestinian civilians in a UN school on Jan. 6, Ha’aretz reported that “senior officers admit that the IDF has been using enormous firepower.” One officer explained, “For us, being cautious means being aggressive. From the minute we entered, we’ve acted like we’re at war. That creates enormous damage on the ground … I just hope those who have fled the area of Gaza City in which we are operating will describe the shock.”

One might accept that Israel is waging “a cruel, all-out war against 1.5 million Palestinian civilians,” as Ha’aretz put it in an editorial, but argue that it will eventually achieve its war aims and the rest of the world will quickly forget the horrors inflicted on the people of Gaza.

This is wishful thinking. For starters, Israel is unlikely to stop the rocket fire for any appreciable period of time unless it agrees to open Gaza’s borders and stop arresting and killing Palestinians. Israelis talk about cutting off the supply of rockets and mortars into Gaza, but weapons will continue to come in via secret tunnels and ships that sneak through Israel’s naval blockade. It will also be impossible to police all of the goods sent into Gaza through legitimate channels.

Israel could try to conquer all of Gaza and lock the place down. That would probably stop the rocket attacks if Israel deployed a large enough force. But then the IDF would be bogged down in a costly occupation against a deeply hostile population. They would eventually have to leave, and the rocket fire would resume. And if Israel fails to stop the rocket fire and keep it stopped, as seems likely, its deterrent will be diminished, not strengthened.

More importantly, there is little reason to think that the Israelis can beat Hamas into submission and get the Palestinians to live quietly in a handful of Bantustans inside Greater Israel. Israel has been humiliating, torturing, and killing Palestinians in the Occupied Territories since 1967 and has not come close to cowing them. Indeed, Hamas’s reaction to Israel’s brutality seems to lend credence to Nietzsche’s remark that what does not kill you makes you stronger.

But even if the unexpected happens and the Palestinians cave, Israel would still lose because it will become an apartheid state. As Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recently said, Israel will “face a South African-style struggle” if the Palestinians do not get a viable state of their own. “As soon as that happens,” he argued, “the state of Israel is finished.” Yet Olmert has done nothing to stop settlement expansion and create a viable Palestinian state, relying instead on the Iron Wall strategy to deal with the Palestinians.

There is also little chance that people around the world who follow the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will soon forget the appalling punishment that Israel is meting out in Gaza. The destruction is just too obvious to miss, and too many people—especially in the Arab and Islamic world—care about the Palestinians’ fate. Moreover, discourse about this longstanding conflict has undergone a sea change in the West in recent years, and many of us who were once wholly sympathetic to Israel now see that the Israelis are the victimizers and the Palestinians are the victims. What is happening in Gaza will accelerate that changing picture of the conflict and long be seen as a dark stain on Israel’s reputation.

The bottom line is that no matter what happens on the battlefield, Israel cannot win its war in Gaza. In fact, it is pursuing a strategy—with lots of help from its so-called friends in the Diaspora—that is placing its long-term future at risk. __________________________________________

John J. Mearsheimer is a professor of political science at the University of Chicago and coauthor of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.

Gaza is Sinking in a River of Blood: A Message from a Gazan to the World

January 13, 2009

by Mohammed Fares Al Majdalawi

I want to write about the suffering of my people and my family in these days of siege against the people of Gaza. 888 people have been killed and more than 3700 injured. The Red Cross has accused the Israeli military of repeatedly refusing to allow ambulances to go to Zeitoun area, so those who are injured become those who die; a premeditated and purposeful violation of human rights.

In my house we can’t get basic needs. No food. No bread. No fuel. No future. Yesterday, my father went to the bakery at 5 AM. He waited 5 hours to get one loaf of bread, which is not enough for my family because there are 11 of us. So today it was my turn. I went to all the bakeries — all were closed.

There is no safe place we can go. We cannot communicate with our relatives and friends — networks are down as missiles rain on our homes, mosques and even hospitals.

Our life is centered around the burials of those who have died, our martyrs, At night our camp, Jabalya Refugee Camp, is a ghost town, with no sounds other than those of Israeli military aircraft.

There is a horror in every minute and it is clear especially in the lives of children. For example, there were five sisters in one family killed from the Israeli occupation while they stayed in their home. But there are 800,000 other children in Gaza, all afraid, all waiting for someone or something to help them. They are caught in a prison that is becoming a concentration camp. Every day we sleep and open our eyes to the Israeli crimes of killing children and women and destroying civilians’ homes. My words are unable to convey my feelings about this life in Gaza.

I have two messages to the world, to those who claim they love peace and seek freedom.

Imagine your life consisting of no electricity, destroyed homes, the sounds and strikes of missiles, day and night, and the only hunger as great as that for food is the hunger for an end to this occupation and siege. Imagine it is not just you but your children and your family who tell you through their eyes and cries: “We are afraid of the missiles.” “We cannot sleep.” “We may never sleep again.” Imagine you are the dam and the river of blood has turned into a flash flood. How long could you stand it?

We wouldn’t have to stand it any longer if the world stood with us. If they demanded an end to the siege and the killings and demolition of houses for our children. If they demanded assistance reach the people through rallies and sit-ins.

Finally, I invite you to come to Gaza and see the Holocaust. Because despite the siege, the barriers, the killing of my people and homes, and the total destruction of our lives by the Israeli occupation, they can not and will not kill the will of our people for equality and justice.

Mohammed Al Majdawali is a university student, member of Al-Assria Children’s Library, and volunteer with Middle East Children’s Alliance. He lives in Jabalya Refugee Camp with his family and aspires to be a professional filmmaker.

To help MECA send more medical aid to Gaza for thousands of sick and injured people living under siege, www.mecaforpeace.org

Gaza and India

January 6, 2009

A View From Pakistan

By FAHEEM HUSSAIN | Counterpunch, January 5, 2009

The horror and the massacres continue in Gaza. The scenes of carnage being broadcast by Al-Jazeera are unbearably painful. Police stations, schools, universities, ministries, houses, crowded mosques, ambulances, paramedics, etc. were and are being targeted by the Israeli air force and now ground troops have entered to “finish the job” as the Israelis call it. Hundreds of innocents have been killed and thousands injured and there seems to be no end in sight. This is not a war but a massacre of a population that has been deprived of everything for more than 18 months by the Israeli embargo and is now being bombed to oblivion. The nearest equivalent is the massacre of the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto in 1944. The world watches without lifting a finger to stop this genocide. Arab leaders are either collaborating with this massacre or are totally helpless in front of this brutality. The vast majority of the people of the world are horrified and disgusted with what is going on but are unable to do anything to help the suffering people of Gaza.

The response of Western leaders was expected. Obama’s silence is stunning. They more or less explicitly backed the Israeli attack and the hypocrisy was so evident. When the Mumbai tragedy took place everybody was quite rightly quick to condemn the attackers and to call for action against them and had sympathy with the Indian people. But there is no condemnation of Israeli terrorism that is on an even larger scale than that perpetrated in Mumbai. Obama was quick to offer sympathy to India and to condemn the Mumbai terrorists but when it comes to Israel he is keeping a silence that makes him an accomplice to the crimes being committed there. It is as if everything is permitted to Israel and Arabs are considered no more than “cockroaches”, the term used by Sharon to describe them.

There have been disappointing, muted protests from Pakistan and India who are involved in their own problems. Pakistan has always been quite lukewarm on the Palestinian issue as it has been a staunch ally of the United States for more than fifty years and therefore cannot criticise let alone condemn Israel, the United States’ greatest ally in the region. But what is disappointing to many Pakistani leftists and progressives is the response of the Indian government. There was a time when we looked up to and admired Indian foreign policy which was independent, non-aligned and at times even anti-imperialist in contrast to Pakistan’s foreign policy which was always subservient to US interests. One recalls India’s principled opposition to the Vietnam War. At one time one of the few countries which Indians could not visit was Israel because of its refusal to recognise the rights of Palestinians. How times have changed. Now India vies with Pakistan in trying to demonstrate who is the more loyal subject and says good-bye to all principles. India sees it self now as a big power and no longer as a defender of the weak and the underdeveloped world. India’s economic interests are now closely tied with the US. It sees itself as the main partner of the US in the region.

But apart from its closeness to the USA, India has also developed a special relationship with Israel particularly in the sphere of defence. It is one of the biggest customers for Israeli weapons and Israeli defence chiefs have visited India in recent years to propose training in counterinsurgency for Indian troops in Kashmir, based on Israeli experience in occupied Palestine, especially Gaza. After we see Israeli actions in the West Bank and particularly now in Gaza we can expect the kind of advice which the Israeli military is offering India in Kashmir. Targeted assassinations, collective punishment, massive bombardment, etc. without addressing the fundamental political issues. India seems to be buying into the US’s view that Islamic fundamentalism is the greatest threat to world peace and that a long unending war against so-called “Islamic terrorists” is necessary. The terrorist attack in Mumbai has driven India to join what many view as the new axis of Washington-Tel Aviv-New Delhi that will attempt to decide the future of the region. Given these facts it was perhaps not surprising the muted response from New Delhi to the Israeli genocide in Gaza but nevertheless it was disappointing and confirmed our worst fears of where India is heading.

What is needed from both Pakistan and India is a vigorous denunciation of Israeli war crimes. Pakistan does not have diplomatic relations with Israel but India does. The least India can do is to recall its ambassador from Tel Aviv even if it cannot think of breaking diplomatic relations with Israel.

Faheem Hussain is Professor of Physics at the School of Science and Engineering, Lahore University of Management Sciences.

Armed with a shoe, Iraqi journalist inspires resistance

December 18, 2008

Bush ducks footwear, but still gets a kick to the face

During George W. Bush’s final visit to the country that has endured indescribable death and destruction under his administration, the defiance of one brave journalist encapsulated the sentiment of people all over the world.

Iraqis show solidarity with shoe thrower al-Zaidi, 12-15-08
Iraqis demonstrate in solidarity
with al-Zaidi, Dec. 15
.

Muntadhar al-Zaidi, a journalist with Al-Baghdadia television, hurled his shoe at Bush while shouting: “This is a gift from the Iraqis; this is the farewell kiss, you dog! This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq!” Al-Zaidi’s shoe narrowly missed Bush’s ducking head.

Bush laughed off the incident, ignorantly claiming, “I’m not sure what his cause was.” Even before the shoe hit the ground, Bush’s propaganda apparatus and the corporate media were already spinning the act as evidence of Iraq’s progress toward democracy and tolerance of dissidence.

This much-touted tolerance, however, did not prevent Maliki’s guards from dragging al-Zaidi outside and beating him mercilessly. Blood could be seen where guards had tackled al-Zaidi, and witnesses say his cries could be heard for the duration of the news conference.

Al-Zaidi was promptly whisked away to a detention facility for interrogation, and is still being held. The journalist’s brother says al-Zaidi suffered a broken hand, broken ribs, internal bleeding and an eye injury. Al-Zaidi faces charges of “insulting a foreign leader and the Prime Minister of Iraq,” which could land him in prison for seven years.

Al-Zaidi knew full well that he would face severe consequences, but he was determined to give a voice to those who have suffered. Sitting just a few feet away from the man who, for so many, has been the incarnation of the war policy that killed over 1 million Iraqis, and maimed and displaced millions more, al-Zaidi burst Bush’s bubble and effectively ruined his end-of-term victory parade. Who would have thought that the disdain and hatred felt for Bush all over the Arab world and, for that matter, across much of the globe, would fit into a single shoe?

Continued  >>

Christians protest attacks by Hindus in India

September 29, 2008
The News International, Sep 29, 2008
NEW DELHI: Hundreds of Christians held a rally Sunday in the Indian capital to protest recent attacks by Hindu hard-liners that have left dozens of Christians dead and thousands homeless in several Indian states. About 400 Christians gathered in a New Delhi park to pray and listen to speeches in which community leaders urged the government to do more to protect the country’s religious minorities.

“We are quite disappointed with both the federal government and state governments as violence against Christians has spread to several states in the past month,’’ said Dominic Emmanuel, a spokesman for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India. The clashes between Hindus and Christians started in the Kandhamal district of Orissa state on Aug 24 following the killing of a Hindu religious leader. At the time, police blamed Maoist rebels active in the area, but right-wing Hindu groups blamed local Christians and set fire to a Christian orphanage.

The violence then worsened to include mob attacks on churches, shops and homes. Emmanuel said Hindu hard-liners have killed at least 40 Christians in the state in the past month. Gopal Nanda, the director-general of state police, put the death toll at 27.

Emmanuel said more than 4,200 Christian homes and 150 Christian buildings – including churches, hospitals and orphanages – have been burned in the past month and nearly 50,000 people have been left homeless in Orissa state.

The state government has not given details about the number of homes and buildings attacked.

The attacks on Christians have spread to the southern states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala and the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Christians have been responsible for retaliatory attacks on Hindus in Orissa state.

Meanwhile, the archbishop of New Delhi accused Sonia Gandhi, the chief of the governing Congress party and a Christian, of not doing enough to help Christians.

Vincent Concessao told the CNN-IBN television channel on Sunday that Gandhi may be reluctant because “Hindu bodies have been levelling an allegation against her that because she is a Christian she is in favour of Christians.’’

Manish Tiwari, a Congress party spokesman, rejected the claim, saying Gandhi had ordered ministers and party officials to visit all places where people have been attacked.

He also said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government had ordered state governments to take all possible steps to protect people and property.


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