Posts Tagged ‘destruction of Gaza’

Tony Blair: Gaza’s Great Betrayer

February 3, 2010

It’s more than a year since Israel launched its immoral attack on Gaza and Palestinians are still living on the verge of a humanitarian disaster. So what has Tony Blair done to further peace in the region? Virtually nothing, argues the historian Avi Shlaim

Tony Blair visiting Gaza, June 2009Tony Blair in June 2009 speaking at a press conference in Gaza calling for a quick reconstruction. Photograph: Hatem Moussa/AP

The savage attack Israel ­unleashed against Gaza on 27 December 2008 was both immoral and unjustified. Immoral in the use of force against civilians for political purposes. Unjustified because Israel had a political alternative to the use of force. The home-made Qassam rockets fired by Hamas militants from Gaza on Israeli towns were only the ­excuse, not the reason for Operation Cast Lead. In June 2008, Egypt had ­brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement. ­Contrary to Israeli propaganda, this was a success: the average number of rockets fired monthly from Gaza dropped from 179 to three. Yet on 4 November Israel violated the ceasefire by launching a raid into Gaza, killing six Hamas fighters. When Hamas ­retaliated, Israel seized the renewed rocket attacks as the ­excuse for launching its insane offensive. If all Israel wanted was to protect its citizens from Qassam rockets, it only needed to ­observe the ceasefire.

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Jimmy Carter: Gaza must be rebuilt now

December 19, 2009
We can wait no longer to restart the peace process. The human suffering demands urgent relief

Jimmy Carter, The Guardian/UK, Dec 19, 2009

It is  generally recognised that the Middle East peace process is in the doldrums, almost moribund. Israeli settlement expansion within Palestine continues, and PLO leaders refuse to join in renewed peace talks without a settlement freeze, knowing that no Arab or Islamic nation will accept any comprehensive agreement while Israel retains control of East Jerusalem.

US objections have impeded Egyptian efforts to resolve differences between Hamas and Fatah that could lead to 2010 elections. With this stalemate, PLO leaders have decided that President Mahmoud Abbas will continue in power until elections can be held – a decision condemned by many Palestinians.

Even though Syria and Israel under the Olmert government had almost reached an agreement with Turkey’s help, the current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, rejects Turkey as a mediator on the Golan Heights. No apparent alternative is in the offing.

The UN general assembly approved a report issued by its human rights council that called on Israel and the Palestinians to investigate charges of war crimes during the recent Gaza war, but positive responses seem unlikely.

In summary: UN resolutions, Geneva conventions, previous agreements between Israelis and Palestinians, the Arab peace initiative, and official policies of the US and other nations are all being ignored. In the meantime, the demolition of Arab houses, expansion of Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and Palestinian recalcitrance threaten any real prospect for peace.

Of more immediate concern, those under siege in Gaza face another winter of intense personal suffering. I visited Gaza after the devastating January war and observed homeless people huddling in makeshift tents, under plastic sheets, or in caves dug into the debris of their former homes. Despite offers by Palestinian leaders and international agencies to guarantee no use of imported materials for even defensive military purposes, cement, lumber, and panes of glass are not being permitted to pass entry points into Gaza. The US and other nations have accepted this abhorrent situation without forceful corrective action.

I have discussed ways to assist the citizens of Gaza with a number of Arab and European leaders and their common response is that the Israeli blockade makes any assistance impossible. Donors point out that they have provided enormous aid funds to build schools, hospitals and factories, only to see them destroyed in a few hours by precision bombs and missiles. Without international guarantees, why risk similar losses in the future?

It is time to face the fact that, for the past 30 years, no one nation has been able or willing to break the impasse and induce the disputing parties to comply with international law. We cannot wait any longer. Israel has long argued that it cannot negotiate with terrorists, yet has had an entire year without terrorism and still could not negotiate. President Obama has promised active involvement of the US government, but no formal peace talks have begun and no comprehensive framework for peace has been proposed. Individually and collectively, the world powers must act.

One recent glimmer of life has been the 8 December decision of EU foreign ministers to restate the long-standing basic requirements for peace commonly accepted within the international community, including that Israel’s pre-1967 boundaries will prevail unless modified by a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians. A week later the new EU foreign policy chief, Baroness Catherine Ashton, reiterated this statement in even stronger terms and called for the international Quartet to be “reinvigorated”. This is a promising prospect.

President Obama was right to insist on a two-state solution and a complete settlement freeze as the basis for negotiations. Since Israel has rejected the freeze and the Palestinians won’t negotiate without it, a logical step is for all Quartet members (the US, EU, Russia and UN) to support the Obama proposal by declaring any further expansion of settlements illegal and refusing to veto UN security council decisions to condemn such settlements. This might restrain Israel and also bring Palestinians to the negotiating table.

At the same time, the Quartet should join with Turkey and invite Syria and Israel to negotiate a solution to the Golan Heights dispute.

Without ascribing blame to any of the disputing parties, the Quartet also should begin rebuilding Gaza by organising relief efforts under the supervision of an active special envoy, overseeing a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, and mediating an opening of the crossings. The cries of homeless and freezing people demand immediate relief.

This is a time for bold action, and the season for forgiveness, reconciliation and peace.

Corporate American Media and Israel’s 2008-09 Gaza Invasion

December 15, 2009

by Steven Salaita, Dissident Voice,  December 14th, 2009

The following piece is an excerpt from a talk Salaita gave at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, on December 7, 2009.

I’m starting on the assumption that we’re all aware of Israel’s brutality in the Gaza Strip and that we all find it unconscionable, as does the vast majority of the world. I assume as well that we’re aware of the brutality preceding and following Israel’s military assault nearly a year ago. I’d like to examine how corporate media in the United States presented coverage of Israel’s invasion, and how discourses of justification for Israel are built into the foundation of that coverage.

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Jimmy Carter: Goldstone and Gaza

November 7, 2009
By JIMMY CARTER, The New York Times, November 5, 2009

Judge Richard Goldstone and the United Nations fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict have issued a report about Gaza that is strongly critical of both Israel and Hamas for their violations of human rights. On Wednesday, a special meeting of the U.N. General Assembly began a debate on whether to refer the report to the Security Council.

In January 2009 rudimentary rockets had been launched from Gaza toward nearby Jewish communities, and Israel had wreaked havoc with bombs, missiles, and ground invading forces. Judge Goldstone’s claim is that they are both guilty of “crimes against humanity.” Predictably, both the accused parties have denounced the report as biased and inaccurate.

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War Criminals Are Becoming The Arbiters Of Law

October 13, 2009

Paul Craig Roberts, Information Clearing House, Oct 12, 2009

The double standard under which the Israeli government operates is too much for everyone except the brainwashed Americans. Even the very Israeli Jerusalem Post can see the double standard displayed by “all of Israel now speaking in one voice against the Goldstone report”:

“This is the Israeli notion of a fair deal: We’re entitled to do whatever the hell we want to the Palestinians because, by definition, whatever we do to them is self-defense. They, however, are not entitled to lift a finger against us because, by definition, whatever they do to us is terrorism.

“That’s the way it’s always been, that’s the way it was in Operation Cast Lead.

“And there are no limits on our right to self-defense. There is no such thing as ‘disproportionate.’

“We can deliberately destroy thousands of Gazan homes, the Gazan parliament, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Interior, courthouses, the only Gazan flour plant, the main poultry farm, a sewage treatment plant, water wells and God knows what else.

“Deliberately.

“Why? Because we’re better than them. Because we’re a democracy and they’re a bunch of Islamo-fascists. Because ours is a culture of life and theirs is a culture of death. Because they’re out to destroy us and all we are saying is give peace a chance.

“The Goldstones of the world call this hypocrisy, a double standard. How dare they! Around here, we call it moral clarity.”

A person would never read such as this in the New York Times or Washington Post or hear it from any US news source. Unlike Israeli newspapers, the US media is a complete mouthpiece for the Israel Lobby. Never a critical word is heard.

This will be even more the case now that the Israel Lobby, after years of effort, has succeeded in repealing the First Amendment by having the Hate Crime Bill attached to the recently passed military appropriations bill. This is the way the syllogism works:

It is anti-semitic to criticize Israel. Anti-semitism is a hate crime. Therefore, to criticize Israel is a hate crime.

As the Jerusalem Post notes, this syllogism has “moral clarity.”

Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations, John Sawers, stepped into the hate crime arena when he told Israel Army radio that the Goldstone report on Israel’s military assault on Gaza contains “some very serious details which need to be investigated.” A year from now when the Anti-Defamation League has its phalanx of US Department of Justice (sic) prosecutors in place, Sawers would be seized and placed on trial. Diplomatic immunity means nothing to the US, which routinely invades other countries, executes their leaders or sends them to the Hague for trial as war criminals.

In the meantime, however, the Israeli government put Sawers and the UK government on notice that British support for the Goldstone Report would result in the destruction of the double standard that protects the West and Israel and create a precedent that would place the British in the dock for war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“London,” declared the Israeli government, “could find itself in handcuffs if it supports the document [the Goldstone report].”

Once the DOJ’s hate crime unit us up and running, “self-hating Jews,” such as leaders of the Israeli peace movement and Haaretz and Jerusalem Post journalists, can expect to be indicted for anti-semitic hate crimes in US courts.

Israel starved Gaza of power and water

August 13, 2009

Vita Bekker, Foreign Correspondent, The National, Aug 13, 2009

A worker uses clay bricks to rebuild a Hamas police station destroyed in the Gaza Strip offensive. Mohammed Salem / Reuters

TEL AVIV // Israel deliberately brought the Gaza Strip’s infrastructure to the brink of collapse before its military offensive in the enclave in December and January and has since blocked any efforts of its rehabilitation as part of a strategy to defy Hamas, a report by an Israeli rights group claimed this week.

The damage to the impoverished Strip’s electricity network has prompted the company that distributes Gaza’s electricity this week to warn the 1.5 million residents that it will be forced to institute power cuts of up to 10 hours a day, five days a week, according to Tel Aviv-based Gisha, a group that advocates for Palestinian rights.

The group said such cuts would be the worst in the territory in at least six months and would hit especially hard in Gaza City and its surroundings, where key institutions such as Shifa Hospital are located.

Sari Bashi, executive director of Gisha, said: “Israel has deliberately drained Gaza of the fuel and supplies needed to maintain the water, sewage and electricity systems as part of a policy to pressure Hamas. Israel calls it economic warfare, we call it collective punishment.”

Israel launched its military campaign in Gaza in December, claiming it aimed to curtail rocket attacks on its southern communities by militants from Hamas, an Islamic group which controls Gaza, and other factions. Gaza health officials and local rights groups have said that more than 1,400 people were killed in the assault.

Israel controls all of Gaza’s border crossings except for Rafah, which is managed by Egypt. Israel also has authority over most of Gaza’s power supply, with an Israeli electricity company providing about half of the region’s power and Gaza’s own power station relying on Israel granting it access to industrial diesel.

Ahead of Israel’s recent attacks, the country brought Gaza’s infrastructure to a “weakened state”, the report said. Its restrictions on the supply of fuel, spare parts and building materials such as concrete and cement were tightened in 2007, when militants of Hamas violently took over the enclave by routing forces loyal to Fatah, a rival secular Palestinian movement that holds sway over the occupied West Bank.

Furthermore, the blockade on the coastal territory intensified after Israel’s shaky, six-month-old ceasefire agreement with Hamas, which included an easing of restrictions, broke down in November 2008 and the country almost completely closed off Gaza’s borders.

The nearly two-year-old blockade prompted a humanitarian predicament for many Gazans once the operation began in December, Gisha said.

It added: “At the height of the [fighting], more than half a million residents were cut off from running water, sewage flowed in the streets, and hospitals were left to operate on generators running 24 hours a day. All this took place while the strip was being bombarded from the air, sea and land, and its borders remained sealed, leaving residents with nowhere to run.”

Indeed, the restrictions have prompted daily power cuts, frequent disruptions to the water supply, tens of millions of litres of raw sewage being dumped into the sea and contaminating the groundwater that serve much of Gazans’ drinking needs, as well as the reliance of hospitals on decrepit generators.

The group claimed that more than six months following Israel’s assault, the country is still blocking efforts to repair the electricity, water and sanitation systems.

Gaza’s electricity system, for example, “urgently” needs 400 types of spare items such as transformers, power poles and electrical cables that are either completely missing from its inventory or available in limited amounts, Gisha said. Israel has for months been holding up more than 30,000 such parts in warehouses within its territory or in the West Bank, refusing to grant them permits to enter Gaza, the group added. As a result, some 10 per cent of Gazans have been completely disconnected from electricity since the onslaught.

The water system is not faring any better. The shortage of spare parts for its repair has resulted in 10,000 Gazans being deprived of running water since the attacks ended and another 100,000 residents having access only once every five to seven days, according to the report.

Gisha cites Khaider Abu Daher, a 34-year-old father of five in Gaza, who said the destruction of his home during the fighting has prompted his family to live in a tent since then, walk 1.5km twice a day to fetch water as well as scramble to gather wood on which it cooks meals.

The report suggested that Israel’s High Court of Justice colluded with the state’s destruction of the infrastructure by giving it a stamp of approval. According to Gisha, the three petitions it submitted along with other rights groups against Israel’s policies from October 2007 to January 2009 were all rejected. It said that the court accepted Israel’s justifications of its restrictions without holding a “serious discussion” to determine the country’s obligations towards Gazans.
Gisha added: “The rejection of the petitions and acceptance of the state’s claims, time and again, effectively legitimised the state’s policies and exposed the limitations of the High Court in reviewing the activities of the military in the occupied territories.”

Carter decries destruction in Gaza

June 17, 2009

CNN – June 16, 2009

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday on a visit to Gaza that he had to “hold back tears” when he saw the destruction caused by the deadly campaign Israel waged against Gaza militants in January.

Former President Jimmy Carter visits an American school in Gaza destroyed by Israeli bombings.

Former President Jimmy Carter visits an American school in Gaza destroyed by Israeli bombings.

Carter was wrapping up a visit to the region during which he met representatives of all sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Among the sites he visited was the American school that was destroyed by the bombings Israel initiated in response to rocket attacks launched from Gaza into southern Israel.

“It is very distressing to me. I have to hold back tears when I see the deliberate destruction that has been raked against your people.

“I come to the American school which was educating your children, supported by my own country. I see it’s been deliberately destroyed by bombs from F16s made in my country and delivered to the Israelis. I feel partially responsible for this — as must all Americans and all Israelis,” Carter said at a news conference.

“The only way to avoid this tragedy happening again is to have genuine peace,” he added, pointing out that many Palestinians are now fighting each other in the West Bank and Gaza because of their affiliations with Hamas or Fatah.

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“It’s very important that Palestinians agree with each other, to cooperate and stop attacking each other and to build a common approach to an election that I hope to witness and observe next January the 25th.”

After the briefing, Carter headed to a graduation ceremony for students who completed a human rights curriculum provided by UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees.

“The human rights curriculum is teaching children about their rights and also about their responsibilities,” Carter said in his speech to graduates.

In his speech to graduates, Carter said bombings, tanks and a continuing economic siege have brought death, destruction, pain and suffering to Gaza. “Tragically, the international community largely ignores the cries for help, while the citizens of Gaza are treated more like animals than human beings.”

“The responsibility for this terrible human rights crime lies in Jerusalem, Cairo, Washington, and throughout the international community,” Carter said.

At a news conference later in Tel Aviv, reporters asked the former president about media reports early Tuesday that said Hamas had thwarted a possible assassination plot against him.

The Israeli daily Maariv, quoting a Palestinian source, said explosives had been placed on a road Carter was due to travel on. Citing the source, the newspaper said it was a plot by an al Qaeda-affiliated group based in Gaza.

“I don’t believe it’s true,” Carter said. “I don’t know anything about it.

“None of our people were aware of being rerouted. I asked our driver and I asked the others in charge of making the arrangements, (and) they didn’t know anything about it.”

Carter said some of his staff asked Gaza’s minister of interior, who is in charge of security, and he also was unfamiliar with the report.

Also in Gaza, Carter met with Hamas leaders, who he said “want peace and they want to have reconciliation not only with their Fatah brothers but also, eventually, with the Israelis to live side by side.

Israel/Palestine: Two Peoples One State

June 6, 2009

By Keith Harvey | Information Clearing House,  June  6, 2009

The brutal invasion of Gaza by Israel’s armed forces and the rise of the far right in the Israeli elections that followed has appalled people all over the world. It has also hammered a further nail in the coffin of the idea that a Palestinian state can live in peace alongside the Zionist state. Keith Harvey strips away the last shreds of credibility from the “two-state solution”…

Israel is a state based on ethnic cleansing. The foundation of the state in 1948 was prepared by the bloody, forcible transfer of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their town and villages. Led by David Ben-Gurion, this ethnic cleansing was planned in every detail while the British prepared to hand its Palestinian mandate to a United Nations (UN) still deliberating how to divide the country between the indigenous population and its new colonists.

In 1947, while still under the British mandate rule, Palestine had a population of 1.29 million Arab Palestinians and 608,000 Jews, one-third of whom had arrived after the war. Jews owned a mere 6% of the land. The UN eventually proposed to give them 55%; Jews were to get the “more economically developed part of the country” according to the UNSCOP resolution that recommended partition. 1 In the Jewish state nearly half the population would be Arabs, compared to less than 2% of Jews in the Arab state.

But even this betrayal of Palestinian national rights was unacceptable to Ben-Gurion who sought as much as 80-90% of the territory for the Zionists, a territory in which they intended to be an overwhelming majority. When war broke out in late 1947 the Zionist militias moved swiftly according to their by now well-rehearsed plan. As one historian recently put it:

“Once the decision was taken, it took six months to complete the mission. When it was over, more than half of Palestine’s native population, close to 800,000 people, had been uprooted, 531 villages had been destroyed, and eleven urban neighbourhoods emptied of their inhabitants . . . a clear-cut case of an ethnic cleansing operation, regarded under international law today as a crime against humanity.” 2

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The Israeli destruction of Gaza and international silence

February 14, 2009

by Ann Wright

I travelled to Gaza last week with Medea Benjamin and Tighe Berry of Codepink: Women for Peace. We were allowed by the Egyptian government to enter Gaza for only 48 hours.I knew that 1026 of the 1330 who were killed in the Israeli attacks on Gaza were civilians. Of the 1026 civilians, 282 were children, 111 women, 168 civilian policemen and 501 civilian men died in Israeli bombings. 274 have been classified as combatant deaths.

I knew that the estimates for the cost of reconstruction to the destruction done by Israeli bombing is over $2 billion. After seeing the destruction in Gaza City, I thought I would be prepared for North Gaza. I had heard the damage done by F-16s and tanks was substantial, but I was stunned by the large number of apartment buildings and industries that had been blown up and destroyed by the Israeli military in the northern Gaza border region with Israel.

The Israeli military destroyed virtually everything in a corridor along the border in Jabalia and forced the evacuation of Gazans back into the center part of Gaza, a tiny area 45 kilometers long and 8 kilometers wide. Homes and factories were leveled and tens of thousands of citizens were left homeless. We saw five tent camps that had been set up by relief organizations. Living conditions are spartan.

Nahed, a project manager for Palestine Medical Relief Society, guided us through the wreckage of North Gaza. We visited one of the four primary health care facilities PMRS operates, with an overworked staff trying to cope with the medical and emotional challenges of those who have returned to their bombed out homes with family members dead or injured.

37 Members of One Family Killed as Israeli Military Orders 150 into a Building then Bombs it

In the Al Zaiton area in northern Gaza, we met with the remaining members of the al Samouni family. The large extended family lived in many houses and some family members operated a poultry farm in the area. After the Israeli army invaded, Army personnel ordered 150 members of the family into one large home and then bombed the home as well as all the numerous homes and buildings of the family. 37 members of the family were killed and many were injured. The Israeli government said the military had made a mistake.
The al Samouni family set up several large tents for the numerous visitors who come by the area to pay respects. One tent had eight women inside. All had family members killed and wounded in the attacks. We spoke with Ibtessana al Samouni who had two children killed and her husband and daughter seriously injured and are being treated in Saudi Arabia. One of her sons was also injured and is in a military hospital in Cairo. She and her remaining 5 children are living with other relatives in Gaza City. Ibtessana had a glazed stare and kept repeating that no one in her family had done anything to the Israelis. We saw in her eyes the disbelief that some of her children were dead and that she would not see her husband and other children for months. The emotional health of the al Samouni extended family considering the large number of deaths and injuries in the family seemed precarious.

The family area, a section of land about ½ mile by ½ mile was completely bombed. It looked like a huge tornado or hurricane had wiped out the area. The poultry farm was totally destroyed and bulldozers were pushing the rotting chicken carcasses into a pit while we were there.

Life Without Your Home

Dressed in her black abaya, Izbet Abed Rabu told us she and her family of five children and her husband now live in a tent provided by the United Nations after her home was destroyed in Jabalia, northern Gaza. She showed us her two story concrete block home that was flattened into rubble. Her eyes teared over as she said she was lucky. No one in her family had been killed in the Israeli naval shelling and rocket attacks, but her neighbors had been hit hard. Two neighboring families each had three family members killed.

Izbet pointed to the white tent provided by the United Nations and said that after two weeks they still have only blankets, but no cots or any “furniture” inside the tents. With the night desert temperatures falling into the low 40 degrees, she said her four children are cold. The children are not yet in school.

Industries Systematically Destroyed

There are few industries left in northern Gaza and the Israeli military destroyed 10-15 of those remaining industries including two cement companies, a dairy, gas station, an aluminum recycling company and a health products company. The production capacity of Gaza has been severely impacted by the Israeli warplanes.

Agricultural Lands Purposefully Destroyed

We walked in the agricultural lands mangled by Israeli tanks that had been positioned in the fields near the medical clinic. The fruit trees in one field had been completed knocked down and bulldozed over. Olive orchards throughout Gaza were systematically destroyed by Israeli tanks.

Schools Destroyed

Close by was Khalil al Noubany High School that had been used by Israeli soldiers. To secure the building they blew holes in it setting part of it on fire. The remaining part was occupied and used to fire on any one remaining in the area. The Israeli soldiers trashed the school. They left h military trash everywhere. School books and supplies had been thrown on the floor and walked on in virtually all the classrooms. It was quite obvious that they soldier had intentionally damaged the insides of the classrooms and purposefully destroyed books and educational materials. The headmaster of the school, who arrived as we were looking at the school, said that the school had served 550 girl students in the morning and 530 male students in the afternoon. She told us that the school is so severely damaged that it cannot reopen this year and students are having to travel to the few remaining schools that are open in Gaza.

Later in the day while he was serving double duty as a Gaza government official at the Rafah, Gaza border crossing, Mr. Ahmed Ayes Alnajjar of the Ministry of Education told us that 7 schools in Gaza were totally destroyed and 135 schools were substantially damaged.

The Prison Called Gaza

We left northern Gaza and headed for the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. We had to be across the border into Egypt by 5pm as the Egyptian government was closing the border. If we did not exit Gaza by 5pm we too would be imprisoned in Gaza until the border crossing reopened-which might be months. So after only 48 hours in Gaza, we were forced to depart.

On the way to the Gaza border, we stopped to see a few of the 1500 tunnels that Palestinians have dug since the borders of Gaza were closed and the siege began. Palestinians have been locked into the prison called Gaza for the past sixteen months.

Bombing Tunnels With a Blind Eye

The tunnel area is in plain sight next to the Egyptian border. It is a surreal scene. Buildings behind the tunnel area have been bombed and are destroyed. Trucks and cars are parked under the remaining roofs of a large bombed out fresh air market– ready to move goods from the tunnel area.

Mounds of fresh sand are everywhere indicating that tunnels are still being dug. Generators hum providing air into the tunnels and powering the cables that pull loads of every imaginable type of goods from vegetables, canned goods, bags of rice and sugar, merchandise for hardware stores, etc. through the tunnels to the surface on the Gaza side.

Every tunnel is surrounded by barriers made of light fencing covered with large plastic bags. Young men are busy hauling up goods that have been brought through the tunnel from Egypt.

The tunnel “managers” we spoke with were surprisingly open in allowing us to come into the areas and talk with them. They said that about 900 tunnels have been destroyed or partially damaged by Israeli bombs. Most are being rebuilt, despite the almost daily bombing by Israeli war planes. The tunnels we saw had openings about 4 feet across. The entry holes were from 50 to 65 feet deep and the tunnels were 500 to 1,000 feet long. One tunnel opening was built with concrete blocks and another opening was built with wood.

The tunnel manager said that to rebuild a tunnel that has been blown up takes about half the time to reopen and digging a new tunnel. The tunnel areas are little cities with electricity, water, food and coffee at each tunnel entrance.

Tunnel digging is about the only employment for young men in Gaza. They earn 100 shekels ($25) per day for digging in the tunnels. One manager said many tunnel diggers had died when the reinforced sand tunnels collapsed during construction. But young men continue to risk the dangers as tunnel construction is one of the few jobs available to them.

While we did not see the other end of the tunnel operation on the Rafah, Egypt side of the border, it is inconceivable that Egyptian authorities do not know where the tunnel openings are. All they have to do is to follow the parade of trucks loaded with merchandise that come into Rafah, Egypt.

After coming through the border we stopped in Rafah, Egypt to see what the smuggling town was like. The police presence was tremendous. We had barely gotten our bags out of the taxi when a policeman was at our side asking why we were in Rafah. We replied that we were hungry and wanted to get something to eat. We stopped at a small falafel stand and for the next hour were watched by police. As one of us would go to explore the main street, police would follow in the distance. They definitely did not want us straying off the main road and back into the houses and businesses where the tunnel entrances are.

It is remarkable that all the tunnels haven’t been bombed. With the sophisticated satellite views, cameras from drones, tethered radar and surveillance balloon and the $32 million tunnel detection equipment provided by the U.S. government, the Israeli, Egyptian and United States’ governments know exactly where the tunnels are.

But, closing the border provides Egyptian and Israeli businessmen a tremendous opportunity to sell goods to people in Gaza at very high prices. No doubt, Egyptian and Israeli government officials are paid to turn a blind eye to the tunneling and “smuggling.” Determining who profits economically from the occupations and sieges is fascinating. A new Israeli website http://www.whoprofits.org tracks who profits financially from the occupation and no doubt profits from the blockade and will profit from the rebuilding of destroyed Gaza.

Israeli bombing of tunnels is, of course, only on the Gaza side. No one is bombing the entrances to the tunnels on the Egyptian side of the border.

The tunnel economy means that for the ordinary citizens of Gaza, where there is a 70% unemployment rate and where over 900,000 of the 1.5 million in Gaza are on United Nations rations, closing the border and forcing commerce through the tunnels they pay exorbitant fees for every item brought through the tunnels.

SILENCE from the International Community

The sights we saw in Gaza were tragic-a goliath Israel pounding a small Gaza David with international silence and complicity in the 22 day military attack on Gaza and on the 16 month siege of Gaza. 1330 Palestinians have died, 5400 have been wounded and hundreds of thousands with memories of the bombings and invasion and occupation. Over $2 billion will be spent on rebuilding destroyed homes, businesses and factories. And there is SILENCE!!

Smashing of Gaza is a War Crime

I deplore the use of rockets against Israeli towns by Hamas and other groups in Gaza which have killed approximately 20 Israelis.

But, as a military officer who taught the Geneva Conventions and the Law of Land Warfare in US military schools, I fully believe the disproportionate response by the Israeli government and military in the smashing of Gaza is a violation of international law and a war crime.

Ann Wright is a 29 year US Army/Army Reserves veteran who retired as a Colonel and a former US diplomat who resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq.  She served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia.  In December, 2001 she was on the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.  She is the co-author of the book “Dissent: Voices of Conscience.”  (www.voicesofconscience.com)

If Hamas Did Not Exist

January 2, 2009

Israel Has No Intention of Granting a Palestinian State

By JENNIFER LOEWENSTEIN | Counterpunch, Jan 1, 2009

Let us get one thing perfectly straight. If the wholesale mutilation and degradation of the Gaza Strip is going to continue; if Israel’s will is at one with that of the United States; if the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and all the international legal agencies and organizations spread across the globe are going to continue to sit by like hollow mannequins doing nothing but making repeated “calls” for a “ceasefire” on “both sides”; if the cowardly, obsequious and supine Arab States are going to stand by watching their brethren get slaughtered by the hour while the world’s bullying Superpower eyes them threateningly from Washington lest they say something a little to their disliking; then let us at least tell the truth why this hell on earth is taking place.

The state terror unleashed from the skies and on the ground against the Gaza Strip as we speak has nothing to do with Hamas. It has nothing to do with “Terror”. It has nothing to do with the long-term “security” of the Jewish State or with Hizbullah or Syria or Iran except insofar as it is aggravating the conditions that have led up to this crisis today. It has nothing to do with some conjured-up “war” – a cynical and overused euphemism that amounts to little more the wholesale enslavement of any nation that dares claim its sovereign rights; that dares assert that its resources are its own; that doesn’t want one of the Empire’s obscene military bases sitting on its cherished land.

This crisis has nothing to do with freedom, democracy, justice or peace. It is not about Mahmoud Zahhar or Khalid Mash’al or Ismail Haniyeh. It is not about Hassan Nasrallah or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. These are all circumstantial players who have gained a role in the current tempest only now that the situation has been allowed for 61 years to develop into the catastrophe that it is today. The Islamist factor has colored and will continue to color the atmosphere of the crisis; it has enlisted the current leaders and mobilized wide sectors of the world’s population. The primary symbols today are Islamic – the mosques, the Qur’an, the references to the Prophet Muhammad and to Jihad. But these symbols could disappear and the impasse would continue.

There was a time when Fatah and the PFLP held the day; when few Palestinians wanted anything to do with Islamist policies and politics. Such politics have nothing to do with primitive rockets being fired over the border, or smuggling tunnels and black-market weapons; just as Arafat’s Fatah had little to do with stones and suicide bombings. The associations are coincidental; the creations of a given political environment. They are the result of something entirely different than what the lying politicians and their analysts are telling you. They have become part of the landscape of human events in the modern Middle East today; but incidentals wholly as lethal, or as recalcitrant, deadly, angry or incorrigible could just as soon have been in their places.

Strip away the clichés and the vacuous newspeak blaring out across the servile media and its pathetic corps of voluntary state servants in the Western world and what you will find is the naked desire for hegemony; for power over the weak and dominion over the world’s wealth. Worse yet you will find that the selfishness, the hatred and indifference, the racism and bigotry, the egotism and hedonism that we try so hard to cover up with our sophisticated jargon, our refined academic theories and models actually help to guide our basest and ugliest desires. The callousness with which we in indulge in them all are endemic to our very culture; thriving here like flies on a corpse.

Strip away the current symbols and language of the victims of our selfish and devastating whims and you will find the simple, impassioned and unaffected cries of the downtrodden; of the ‘wretched of the earth’ begging you to cease your cold aggression against their children and their homes; their families and their villages; begging you to leave them alone to have their fish and their bread, their oranges, their olives and their thyme; asking you first politely and then with increasing disbelief why you cannot let them live undisturbed on the land of their ancestors; unexploited, free of the fear of expulsion; of ravishment and devastation; free of permits and roadblocks and checkpoints and crossings; of monstrous concrete walls, guard towers, concrete bunkers, and barbed wire; of tanks and prisons and torture and death. Why is life without these policies and instruments of hell impossible?

The answer is because Israel has no intention of allowing a viable, sovereign Palestinian state on its borders. It had no intention of allowing it in 1948 when it grabbed 24 per cent more land than what it was allotted legally, if unfairly, by UN Resolution 181. It had no intention of allowing it throughout the massacres and ploys of the 1950s. It had no intention of allowing two states when it conquered the remaining 22 per cent of historic Palestine in 1967 and reinterpreted UN Security Council Resolution 248 to its own liking despite the overwhelming international consensus stating that Israel would receive full international recognition within secure and recognized borders if it withdrew from the lands it had only recently occupied.

It had no intention of acknowledging Palestinian national rights at the United Nations in 1974, when –alone with the United States—it voted against a two-state solution. It had no intention of allowing a comprehensive peace settlement when Egypt stood ready to deliver but received, and obediently accepted, a separate peace exclusive of the rights of Palestinians and the remaining peoples of the region. It had no intention of working toward a just two-state solution in 1978 or 1982 when it invaded, fire-bombed, blasted and bulldozed Beirut so that it might annex the West Bank without hassle. It had no intention of granting a Palestinian state in 1987 when the first Intifada spread across occupied Palestine, into the Diaspora and the into the spirits of the global dispossessed, or when Israel deliberately aided the newly formed Hamas movement so that it might undermine the strength of the more secular-nationalist factions.

Israel had no intention of granting a Palestinian state at Madrid or at Oslo where the PLO was superseded by the quivering, quisling Palestinian Authority, too many of whose cronies grasped at the wealth and prestige it gave them at the expense of their own kin. As Israel beamed into the world’s satellites and microphones its desire for peace and a two-state solution, it more than doubled the number of illegal Jewish settlements on the ground in the West Bank and around East Jerusalem, annexing them as it built and continues to build a superstructure of bypass roads and highways over the remaining, severed cities and villages of earthly Palestine. It has annexed the Jordan valley, the international border of Jordan, expelling any ‘locals’ inhabiting that land. It speaks with a viper’s tongue over the multiple amputee of Palestine whose head shall soon be severed from its body in the name of justice, peace and security.

Through the home demolitions, the assaults on civil society that attempted to cast Palestinian history and culture into a chasm of oblivion; through the unspeakable destruction of the refugee camp sieges and infrastructure bombardments of the second Intifada, through assassinations and summary executions, past the grandiose farce of disengagement and up to the nullification of free, fair and democratic Palestinian elections Israel has made its view known again and again in the strongest possible language, the language of military might, of threats, intimidation, harassment, defamation and degradation.

Israel, with the unconditional and approving support of the United States, has made it dramatically clear to the entire world over and over and over again, repeating in action after action that it will accept no viable Palestinian state next to its borders. What will it take for the rest of us to hear? What will it take to end the criminal silence of the ‘international community’? What will it take to see past the lies and indoctrination to what is taking place before us day after day in full view of the eyes of the world? The more horrific the actions on the ground, the more insistent are the words of peace. To listen and watch without hearing or seeing allows the indifference, the ignorance and complicity to continue and deepens with each grave our collective shame.

The destruction of Gaza has nothing to do with Hamas. Israel will accept no authority in the Palestinian territories that it does not ultimately control. Any individual, leader, faction or movement that fails to accede to Israel’s demands or that seeks genuine sovereignty and the equality of all nations in the region; any government or popular movement that demands the applicability of international humanitarian law and of the universal declaration of human rights for its own people will be unacceptable for the Jewish State. Those dreaming of one state must be forced to ask themselves what Israel would do to a population of 4 million Palestinians within its borders when it commits on a daily, if not hourly basis, crimes against their collective humanity while they live alongside its borders? What will suddenly make the raison d’etre, the self-proclaimed purpose of Israel’s reason for being change if the Palestinian territories are annexed to it outright?

The lifeblood of the Palestinian National Movement flows through the streets of Gaza today. Every drop that falls waters the soil of vengeance, bitterness and hatred not only in Palestine but across the Middle East and much of the world. We do have a choice over whether or not this should continue. Now is the time to make it.

Jennifer Loewenstein is the Associate Director of the Middle East Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She can be reached at amadea311@earthlink.net


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