Posts Tagged ‘massacres’

The Story of My Shoe: My Flower to Bush, the Occupier

September 15, 2009

By Mutadhar al-Zaidi, Counterpunch, Sep 15, 2009

Mutadhar al-Zaidi, the Iraqi who threw his shoe at George Bush gave this speech on his recent release.

In the name of God, the most gracious and most merciful.

Here I am, free. But my country is still a prisoner of war.

Firstly, I give my thanks and my regards to everyone who stood beside me, whether inside my country, in the Islamic world, in the free world. There has been a lot of talk about the action and about the person who took it, and about the hero and the heroic act, and the symbol and the symbolic act.

But, simply, I answer: What compelled me to confront is the injustice that befell my people, and how the occupation wanted to humiliate my homeland by putting it under its boot.

And how it wanted to crush the skulls of (the homeland’s) sons under its boots, whether sheikhs, women, children or men. And during the past few years, more than a million martyrs fell by the bullets of the occupation and the country is now filled with more than 5 million orphans, a million widows and hundreds of thousands of maimed. And many millions of homeless because of displacement inside and outside the country.

Continued >>

How Do People Keep Going in Gaza?

February 10, 2009

What Americans Can’t See About Gaza

Kathy Kelly | Counterpunch, Feb 10, 2009

People have asked me, since I returned from Gaza, how people manage? How do they keep going after being traumatized by bombing and punished by a comprehensive state of siege? I wonder myself. I know that whether the loss of life is on the Gazan or the Israeli side of the border, bereaved survivors feel the same pain and misery. On both sides of the border, I think children pull people through horrendous and horrifying nightmares. Adults squelch their panic, cry in private, and strive to regain semblances of normal life, wanting to carry their children through a precarious ordeal.

And the children want to help their parents. In Rafah, the morning of January 18th, when it appeared there would be at least a lull in the bombing, I watched children heap pieces of wood on plastic tarps and then haul their piles toward their homes. The little ones seemed proud to be helping their parents recover from the bombing. I’d seen just this happy resilience among Iraqi children, after the 2003 Shock and Awe bombing, as they found bricks for their parents to use for a makeshift shelter in a bombed military base.

Children who survive bombing are eager to rebuild. They don’t know how jeopardized their lives are, how ready adults are to bomb them again.

In Rafah, that morning, an older man stood next to me, watching the children at work. “You see,” he said, looking upward as an Israeli military surveillance drone flew past, “if I pick up a piece of wood, if they see me carrying just a piece of wood, they might mistake it for a weapon, and I will be a target. So these children collect the wood.”

While the high-tech drone collected information,– “intelligence” that helps determine targets for more bombing, –toddlers collected wood. Their parents, whose homes were partially destroyed, needed the wood for warmth at night and for cooking. Because of the Israeli blockade against Gaza, there wasn’t any gas.

With the border crossing at Rafah now sealed again, people who want to obtain food, fuel, water, construction supplies and goods needed for everyday life will have to rely, increasingly, on the damaged tunnel industry to import these items from the Egyptian side of the border. Israel’s government says that Hamas could use the tunnels to import weapons, and weapons could kill innocent civilians, so the Israeli military has no choice but to bomb the neighborhood built up along the border, as they have been doing.

Suppose that the U.S. weapon makers had to use a tunnel to deliver weapons to Israel. The U.S. would have to build a mighty big tunnel to accommodate the weapons that Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Caterpillar have supplied to Israel. The size of such a tunnel would be an eighth wonder of the world, a Grand Canyon of a tunnel, an engineering feat of the ages.

Think of what would have to come through.

Imagine Boeing’s shipments to Israel traveling through an enormous underground tunnel, large enough to accommodate the wingspans of planes, sturdy enough to allow passage of trucks laden with missiles. According to UK’s Indymedia Corporate Watch, 2009, Boeing has sent Israel 18 AH-64D Apache Longbow fighter helicopters, 63 Boeing F15 Eagle fighter planes, 102 Boeing F16 Eagle fighter planes, 42 Boeing AH-64 Apache fighter helicopters, F-16 Peace Marble II & III Aircraft, 4 Boeing 777s, and Arrow II interceptors, plus IAI-developed arrow missiles, and Boeing AGM-114 D Longbow Hellfire missiles,

In September of last year, the U.S. government approved the sale of 1,000 Boeing GBU-9 small diameter bombs to Israel, in a deal valued at up to 77 million.

Now that Israel has dropped so many of those bombs on Gaza, Boeing shareholders can count on more sales, more profits, if Israel buys new bombs from them from them. Perhaps there are more massacres in store. It would be important to maintain the tunnel carefully.

Raytheon, one of the largest U.S. arms manufacturers, with annual revenues of around $20 billion, is one of Israel’s main suppliers of weapons. In September last year, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency approved the sale of Raytheon kits to upgrade Israel’s Patriot missile system at a cost of $164 million. Raytheon would also use the tunnel to bring in Bunker Buster bombs as well as Tomahawk and Patriot missiles.

Lockheed Martin is the world’s largest defense contractor by revenue, with reported sales, in 2008, of $42.7 billion. Lockheed Martin’s products include the Hellfire precision-guided missile system, which has reportedly been used in the recent Gaza attacks. Israel also possesses 350 F-16 jets, some purchased from Lockheed Martin.

Think of them coming through the largest tunnel in the world.

Maybe Caterpillar Inc. could help build such a tunnel. Caterpillar Inc., the world’s largest manufacturer of construction (and destruction) equipment, with more than $30 billion in assets, holds Israel’s sole contract for the production of the D9 military bulldozer, specifically designed for use in invasions of built-up areas. The U.S. government buys Caterpillar bulldozers and sends them to the Israeli army as part of its annual foreign military assistance package. Such sales are governed by the US Arms Export Control Act, which limits the use of U.S. military aid to “internal security” and “legitimate self defense” and prohibits its use against civilians.

Israel topples family houses with these bulldozers to make room for settlements. All too often, they topple them on the families inside. American peace activist Rachel Corrie was crushed to death standing between one of these bulldozers and a Palestinian doctor’s house.

In truth, there’s no actual tunnel bringing U.S. made weapons to Israel. But the transfers of weapons and the U.S. complicity in Israel’s war crimes are completely invisible to many U.S. people.

The United States is the primary source of Israel’s arsenal. For more than 30 years, Israel has been the largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance and since 1985 Israel has received about 3 billion dollars, each year, in military and economic aid from the U.S. (“U.S. and Israel Up in Arms,” Frida Berrigan, Foreign Policy in Focus, January 17, 2009)

So many Americans can’t even see this flood of weapons, and what it means, for us, for Gaza’s and Israel’s children, for the world’s children.

And so, people in Gaza have a right to ask us, how do you manage? How do you keep going? How can you sit back and watch while your taxes pay to massacre us? If it would be wrong to send rifles and bullets and primitive rockets into Gaza, weapons that could kill innocent Israelis, then isn’t it also wrong to send Israelis the massive arsenal that has been used against us, killing over 400 of our children, in the past six weeks, maiming and wounding thousands more?

But, standing over the tunnels in Rafah, that morning, under a sunny Gazan sky, hearing the constant droning buzz of mechanical spies waiting to call in an aerial bombardment, no one asked me, an American, those hard questions. The man standing next to me pointed to a small shed where he and others had built a fire in an ash can. They wanted me to come inside, warm up, and receive a cup of tea.

Kathy Kelly, a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, is writing from Arish, a town near the Rafah border between Egypt and Gaza. Bill Quigley, a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola New Orleans and Audrey Stewart are also in Egypt and contributed to this article. Kathy Kelly is the author of Other Lands Have Dreams (published by CounterPunch/AK Press). Her email is

Israel’s deadly ceasefire

January 19, 2009

Eric Ruder reports that the number of Palestinian dead in Gaza will continue to rise despite Israel’s “ceasefire.”

The aftermath of Israel's assault on Gaza (Sameh A. Habeeb)

The aftermath of Israel’s assault on Gaza (Sameh A. Habeeb)

ISRAEL DECLARED a unilateral ceasefire Sunday after a 23-day onslaught on Gaza that left more than 1,250 Palestinians dead and more than 4,000 wounded. Among the dead are at least 280 children and 95 women, according to estimates by the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, and there are 860 children and 488 women among the wounded.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert claimed that the Israel Defense Force (IDF) had waged an effective and successful campaign in Gaza.

“The conditions have been brought about that enable us to say that the aims of the operations have been reached,” said Olmert. He said Israel “will consider withdrawing completely from Gaza at a date that suits us,” on the condition that rockets are no longer fired from Gaza at southern Israel.

Olmert said the Hamas, the Islamist party that controls what exists of a government in Gaza, “has been dealt a very serious blow, both in terms of its military infrastructure and the infrastructure of its government. Many of its people have been killed. Its leaders are in hiding. The tunnels that armed them have been destroyed.

Twelve hours later, Hamas leaders declared their own ceasefire, but made full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the opening of Gaza’s border crossings a condition of a full end of hostilities.

“We stress our demand that Israel withdraw its forces within a week and then open the crossings to humanitarian aid and various types of merchandise,” read the statement from Hamas. Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum added, “A unilateral ceasefire does not mean ending the aggression and ending the siege…These constitute acts of war, so this won’t mean an end to resistance.”

As news of the ceasefire spread, Gazans who had fled the fighting returned to shocking scenes of destruction–overturned cars, torn-up streets, sewage running in the streets, leveled homes and still smoldering mosques and government buildings. Many bodies remain buried in homes flattened by Israeli tanks or strafed by air strikes.

In fact, the menacing sound of Israeli drones circling overhead, the churn of tank treads and the occasional crackle of gunfire were steady reminders that Israel’s “ceasefire” hadn’t ended the killing, and reports of Israeli attacks on civilians continued to pile up.

According to the BBC, “At least 1,600 people, displaced from their homes, were sheltering in a UN school in Gaza [Sunday] morning when it took a direct hit from an Israel shell. Two young brothers, aged five and seven, were killed.”

A press release issued by the Al Mezan Center confirmed similar acts of aggression throughout Gaza. “Shooting and shelling from artillery batteries, tanks and naval vessels have occurred in various areas throughout the day,” according to the release. “Israeli aircraft also launched raids on open areas. At 10:30 a.m. [Sunday], Israeli troops opened fire at civilians who were trying to reach their homes in Khuzaa village, east of Khan Younis. A man, 22-year-old Mahir Abu Irjila, was killed as a result. The victim and his family had evacuated their house and stayed in a UN shelter.”

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ISRAEL ANNOUNCED that it would continue to occupy positions in Gaza until it could be certain that no more rockets would be launched at towns in southern Israel, and warned that any such fire would be met with “a massive, disproportionate assault,” according to Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper.

But the announcement of the “ceasefire” was enough to draw praise from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who was meeting with European leaders at the Egyptian resort of Sharm al-Sheikh. “This should be the first step leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza,” said the secretary general.

But the terms of what was agreed to at Sharm al-Sheikh betray the complicity of the international community in the barbarism inflicted on the residents of Gaza during the last three weeks.

Six European countries–Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Czech Republic–agreed to supply soldiers and technological assistance as part of efforts, in alliance with Egypt and the U.S., to stop Hamas from transporting weapons into Gaza. No officials from these countries uttered a word of criticism of Israel’s blatant disregard for civilian life and infrastructure.

Thus, there was no rebuttal to Olmert, who was also present, when he stated, “We did not want to hurt them or their children…They are the victims of Hamas.”

Olmert and other Israeli leaders have regularly returned to this justification–that Hamas had it within its power to stop Israel’s attack, but failed to do so–for unleashing the world’s fourth most powerful military against the residents of Gaza, who lack even basic necessities, such as adequate food, medical supplies and electricity.

Three years ago, Israel unilaterally withdrew its military forces and settlers from Gaza, but remained in control of all traffic into and out of Gaza via land, sea and air–which is why many observers describe Gaza as the world’s largest prison colony, with 1.5 million residents eking out an appalling existence in squalid refugee camps.

If Israeli officials really believed that the civilian casualties were “victims of Hamas,” they wouldn’t have been so concerned with barring reporters and photographers to suppress reports of the carnage in Gaza from the military’s punishing assault.

Nevertheless, enough reports did leak out to spark massive protests–across the Middle East, and throughout Europe and the U.S. These protests were not only larger than previous demonstrations in support of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, but they were also accompanied, especially in the U.S., by a significant increase in polls showing opposition to Israel’s attack.

It will be up to activists in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world to seize on the enormous outpouring of sympathy for Israel’s victims in Gaza to build a sustained movement against the apartheid conditions facing Palestinians.

In the words of Haidar Eid, a Gaza resident who helped to spearhead a call for an international movement to sanction, boycott and divest from Israel, Israel’s attack on Gaza could be “the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, when 69 Blacks were killed by the white racist regime of apartheid South Africa.” As he said in an interview with last week:

This massacre gave rise to the [divestment] campaign against apartheid South Africa, which ultimately led to the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990 and his election as the first Black president of multicultural, multiracial, secular, democratic South Africa as we know it now.

Gaza could be the spark that could initiate a different ‘new Middle East’ than what Condoleezza Rice talked about in 2006. She meant a ‘new Middle East’ characterized by American and Israeli hegemony. What I’m saying now is that I can see the birth pangs of a new Middle East characterized by the end of despotic, dictatorial pro-American regimes.

When Pharaoh embraces Goliath

January 18, 2009

Mostafa Omar shows how Egypt’s tacit support for Israel’s war on Gaza has deepened the crisis in Egyptian society.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at a June 2006 conference (Menahem Kahana | AFP)Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at a June 2006 conference (Menahem Kahana | AFP)

MILLIONS OF ordinary Arabs have poured into the streets of every Arab country in the past two weeks to protest the ongoing Israeli massacres against Palestinians in Gaza. Demonstrators not only condemned the U.S. for its typical unconditional support of Israel, but they also denounced Arab regimes that do nothing to help the Palestinians besides give empty speeches.

Protests in the Arab streets in solidarity with victims of Israel’s wars from Palestine to Lebanon are common reactions in the region. Yet the latest mobilizations have a new and volatile character compared to previous ones.

First, the demonstrations this time are much larger and angrier than anything in decades. They reflect not just the outrage that ordinary Arabs feel towards Israel’s brutality towards the Palestinians, but also the bitterness towards the arrogant attempts of the United States to conquer Iraq and Afghanistan.

Second, these demonstrations have an explosive character due to the acute economic crisis faced by Arab workers and peasants. This is especially true in Egypt and Jordan, which have implemented disastrous free market policies in the last three decades.

What else to read

Al-Ahram Weekly carries English-language news updates and commentaries on the situation in Egypt.

One of the best left-wing writers on Egypt is Joel Beinin, a contributing editor to Middle East Report and Information Project. His article “The Militancy of Mahalla al-Kubra” provides essential background on the fight of textile workers.

Last year, the International Socialist Review published a special feature on the global food crisis, including Hossam El-Hamalawy’s “Revolt at Mahalla” on the eruption of class struggle in Egypt in connection with the food crisis, and Sharon Smith’s “The revolt over rising food prices.”

Norman Finkelstein’s Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict is essential reading for picking apart the myths used to justify Israel’s apartheid. Between the Lines: Readings on Israel, the Palestinians and the U.S. “War on Terror,” by Tikva Honig-Parnass and Toufic Haddad, documents the apartheid-like conditions that Palestinians live under today.

For background on Israel’s war and the Palestinian struggle for freedom, read The Struggle for Palestine, a collection of essays edited by Lance Selfa on the history of the occupation and Palestinian resistance.

Finally, while protesters in various Arab countries have denounced all the regimes that fail to take any meaningful action against Israel or its American sponsor, demonstrators have concentrated their wrath on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for his shameful role in enforcing the Israeli blockade on Gaza for the past year and a half.

Indeed, Mubarak has publicly stated that he will not open the Rafah border crossing to Palestinians searching for food and medicine until Mahmoud Abbas, the pro-Western president of the Palestinian Authority, is back in power in Gaza.

For months, Mubarak has stopped all but very limited numbers of aid caravans with food and medicine to Gazans from crossing into the Strip. And since the Palestinians broke down the border wall between Egypt and Gaza in January 2008 to enter Egypt to buy supplies of food and medicine, Mubarak has also increased the number of Egyptian police at the border with Gaza to prevent any more prison breaks.

To add insult to injury, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni used her meeting with Mubarak in Cairo December 24 to more or less announce that Israel would start bombing Gaza.

Another source of bitterness is the fact that Israel relies for much of its electricity on cheap Egyptian natural gas. In 2005, Mubarak signed a 15-year trade deal with Israel to supply it with 20 percent of its natural gas needs at a low, fixed price. In other words, anything Israel needs for its massacre that uses electricity is operating on the cheap, thanks to Mubarak.

Therefore, the anger that erupted across the Arab streets against Mubarak–derisively known as the Pharaoh–is totally justified.

In Syria, Yemen, Jordan and Lebanon, angry demonstrators tried to storm Egyptian embassies and consulates. In Aden, Yemen, protesters managed to actually take over the consulate for a short period and vandalized its contents. Protesters called Mubarak a coward and accused him of being an agent of Israel and Zionism. They carried a poster featuring the pictures of Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Mubarak smiling, with the caption calling the trio the “Axis of Dirt.”

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A FEW days after the Israeli massacre in Gaza began, Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based Al Quds newspaper, told Al-Jazeera:

Egypt has been boiling with anger for a long time…the people are humiliated more and more by the government’s policy to Israel. When the Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, chooses Cairo as a platform to announce it was prepared to take military action against Hamas, it was a huge humiliation to Egyptian pride.

Indeed, it was one of the most insulting things Israel has done to Egyptians in a long time. But the response in Egypt to Israel’s actions–and to Mubarak’s role in strangling Gaza–has exceeded everyone’s expectation.

The Association of Muslim Brotherhood, the main opposition group, along with different socialist and Nasserist groups, the Egyptian Movement for Democracy (Kifaya! or Enough!), writers, artists and most unions have all denounced Mubarak’s complicity with Israel.

But they’ve also been actively mobilizing an impressive number of protests in all major cities, towns and villages across the country. They are trying in many different ways to put pressure on Mubarak to stop fronting for Israel.

For example, students from the Muslim Brotherhood and left-wing organizations, along with university professors, are holding angry demonstrations and mass meetings in every major university around the country. On December 28, at one of many huge rallies that took place at Cairo University, students chanted against Israel and denounced the Egyptian president’s complicity with Israel. Ahmed Sayyid, a pharmacy major at Cairo University, told reporters:

The Israelis are lucky to have such a complacent government in Cairo. [But] there are thousands of youths, girls and boys, which, if they were allowed to fight or trained to fight, would go now to defend the Palestinians.

In the provincial northern city of Damanhour, 15,000 women supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood protested and clashed with police who tried to stop them from marching to join the Doctors Union at a mass meeting to support Palestinians. And in the capital city of Cairo, the police had to shut down all streets leading to midtown on more than one occasion to stop the thousands of people who keep turning out for daily protests.

The Popular Committee in Solidarity with the Palestinian People is also trying to organize independent, grassroots aid caravans to travel to Rafah starting January 9 in an attempt to break the siege once and for all.

Egyptian artists also held a mass meeting in solidarity with the Palestinian resistance and to protest Israel’s massacres. The meeting issued a statement directed to all artists around the world. Part of it read:

To all artists of the world …

We have stood with all of your people against Nazism, fascism and the Apartheid regime of South Africa until all were transferred to the dustbin of history. Today we are all called upon to address the State of Israel, the Zionist movement and the dirty imperialist alliance which links them to the same ruling classes which are responsible for the chaotic and brutal world we live in and which is about to collapse economically, environmentally and morally together.

Bear with us this responsibility and press on your governments, which have long been unfair to us. Carry with us a common slogan which is: Save Gaza Now! Stop Israel!

Unions organizing millions of workers and professionals, such as lawyers, journalists, engineers and doctors–which have refused to recognize Israel from Day One of the 1979 peace treaty–have called on their members to rally in defense of Gaza. Thousands attended mass meetings and protests, either in their own union headquarters or on the streets all over the country. And on January 6, the General Union of Doctors held an emergency mass membership meeting to send physicians and medicine to Gaza.

Among the common demands of this opposition are that Mubarak opens the border crossing with Gaza, ends all exports of Egyptian natural gas to Israel, and severs all diplomatic and economic ties to Israel.

In the Egyptian Coptic Christian community, which makes up between 10 and 15 percent of the population, many Christians pressured their pro-government Pope Shenouda to tone down all celebrations for the Coptic New Year, which regularly falls on January 8.

The police stationed thousands of soldiers outside all major churches and cathedrals around the country to attempt to contain possible angry pro-Palestinian protests, which they feared would break out on a night when worshippers literally flood every church.

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IT’S TRUE that Egypt has fought different wars with Israel that took a huge human toll on the population for 30 years, and it’s also true that the question of Palestine played a key role in the dynamic of why and how these wars were fought.

But in fighting these wars, Egypt was motivated, first and foremost, by its desire to assert itself as the main political and military power in the Arab world, not solidarity with the Palestinians. This was the case with all the different regimes that ruled the country–from the Arab nationalist regime of President Gamal Abdel Nasser (1952-1970) as well as the more pro-Western ones of Anwar Sadat (1970-1981) and Mubarak.

This time, though, Mubarak didn’t even make a pretense at a military response to Israeli aggression. In the first couple of days into the Israeli bombing campaign, Mubarak and Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Abu Al-Gheit blamed Hamas for “provoking” Israel–glossing over the fact that they knew better than anybody else that Israel was preparing such an assault six months ago.

But since the demonstrations against him began to spread in late December, Mubarak has had to tone down his open disdain for Hamas (which, by the way, was democratically elected). As the regime began to feel the heat from mass, non-stop protests, it shifted its rhetoric somewhat and began to criticize Israel. And, perhaps for the first time since he came to power in 1981, the Egyptian dictator has had to respond to his critics.

Mubarak unleashed his paid pundits in the government media to churn out article after article defending him as a “champion of Palestinians” who has done all he can to help them under the terms of the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty. For example, Mubarak’s apologists argue that according to the terms of that treaty, Egypt cannot unilaterally open any border crossing with Gaza if the Israelis say no.

Simultaneously, the same pundits have been pushing an Egyptian chauvinist line of argument to dampen public solidarity with Gaza. They claim, for example, that the Palestinians want to cross into Egypt so they can take food from the mouths of hungry Egyptians (which, by the way, are the same hungry people these hacks didn’t mind impoverishing as a result of Mubarak’s free-market policies).

The regime also tried to deflect popular anger towards Shiite Muslims, by denouncing Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah–the Lebanese Shia organization that gained popularity in Egypt and the Arab world in 2006 by militarily defeating Israel. Mubarak’s officials claimed that Nasrallah insulted all Egyptians when he argued that the Egyptian army generals aren’t worth a penny and called on Egyptians soldiers to defy their officers and open the border crossings to Gaza.

In reaction to Iranian demonstrations against the closing of the Rafah border crossing, the Egyptian foreign minister publicly accused Iran of wanting to spread its Shia ideology and control the Middle East in an another attempt to flare up anti-Shia sentiment.

The government’s propaganda campaign has been partly effective, at least among some conservative layers in the middle classes. But, the campaign has so far failed to make huge inroads among the vast majority of the population, and therefore has failed to slow down the protest movement.

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ONE REASON for the ineffectiveness of this pro-Mubarak campaign is that the regime had little credibility to begin with. The 80-year-old dictator has been running the country with an iron fist for 28 years and even plans to get his son appointed as the next president. So far, he has refused to cede to any of the protesters’ demands, including the mildest one of expelling the Israeli ambassador.

The other reason this campaign isn’t working is that Egyptian public opinion on the need to maintain any diplomatic or economic relations with Israel has shifted in the last 20 years.

Many people were in favor of the 1979 peace treaty and cooperation with the U.S., in the hope that it would usher into a period of prosperity. They now realize that it actually brought about more poverty and misery. These shifting sentiments are only compounded by the U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and American mistreatment of Arabs and Muslims.

But while Mubarak is a close ally of Washington, his regime is anything but a helpless pawn. He runs the largest Arab country, with 75 million people, and heads the largest and most advanced army in the region–other than Israel, of course.

In reality, the Egyptian ruling class represented by Mubarak (and Anwar Sadat before him) willingly and consciously cooperates with both the United States and Israel. This class made that strategic decision in the mid-1970s because it concluded that its political and economic interests lay in joining the Pax Americana camp.

Thus on the domestic front, Egypt has followed the American neoliberal economic policies of privatization, deregulation, a rollback of land reform and attacks on workers’ living standards. On a regional level, Egypt has more or less supported the main outlines of American interests in the region, and even took part in the first Gulf War against Iraq in 1991.

When it comes to the current Israeli offensive in Gaza, Mubarak’s regime actually has a material interest in some sort of an Israeli victory in Gaza, despite his more recent public statements to the contrary.

Mubarak, like Israel, would like to see a weakened Hamas. He has always feared that the existence of a strong and defiant Hamas (as well as a strong Hezbollah in Lebanon) could strengthen his own main foes at home, the Muslim Brotherhood.

But the regime is caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, Mubarak worries that a strong Hamas in Gaza which continues to fight Israel could strengthen the position of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has historic ties to Hamas.

More importantly, Mubarak fears that a Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, serves as a model to emulate for oppressed workers and peasants in Egypt suffering under his dictatorship. Mubarak is right about that. There is no question that the rise in class and social struggles in Egypt in recent years was inspired by the example of the Second Palestinian Intifada of 2000-2003.

This possibility of radical or revolutionary change in Egypt drives Mubarak more and more into the arms of the U.S. and Israel when it comes to practical considerations such as their common goal of isolating Hamas. But, on the other hand, the erupting volcano of public anger around him leaves him losing sleep and issuing angry, yet hollow, statements against Israel.

It is no exaggeration to say that the Mubarak regime is seriously shaken by the breadth and depth of the anger in the streets in a way that has never happened before.

But while the regime’s days are not by any means numbered, the earth it is standing on is beginning to crack, and could give way in the near future. The country has the largest working class in the region–one that began to flex its muscles in mass strikes and display its latent social powers in recent months with strikes and protests. As the Arab writer Atwan pointed out to Al-Jazeera: “Egypt is on the edge of transforming, and the regime there could be toppled as a result of this.”

The potential is definitely there to achieve such a much-needed democratic change in the region. Democracy in Egypt will be the New Year’s gift that Egyptians could finally deliver to every child in Palestine who grew up in poverty and terror, and to every Palestinian man and woman in and out of Palestine who taught us how to fight when they fought Israel and Zionism in the past 60 years.

The days and months to come will provide Egyptian pro-democracy activists and opponents of American and Israeli imperialism an exciting chance to (a) force the regime to lift the siege on Gaza, (b) grow deeper roots among workers, students and peasants, and (c) build organizations with a vision of an Arab world built on justice, equality and the use of its human and natural resources for a better life.

It’s our duty in the U.S. to do what we can to support that struggle.

RIGHTS: Aid Groups Dispute Israeli Claims in Gaza Attacks

January 10, 2009

By Thalif Deen | Inter Press Service

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 9 (IPS) – As the Israelis try to justify the massive loss of civilian life in Gaza, their arguments and counter-charges continue to be shot down either by the United Nations or by international human rights organisations.

Did the Israelis misidentify a school run by the U.N. Relief Works Agency (UNWRA), where 43 Palestinians seeking shelter were killed in an early morning air strike? Or were there Hamas gunmen shooting from the school drawing Israeli fire?

Neither assertion is accurate, says John Ging, UNRWA’s director of operations in Gaza.

All U.N. schools in Gaza are clearly marked, and they fly the Organisation’s distinctly discernible blue-and-white flags.

Moreover, he told reporters, Israel has been provided with Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates of all of UNRWA’s installations in Gaza.

So there could not have been a misidentification of the U.N. school in the Jabaliya refugee camp whose compound was hit by an artillery shell early this week.

Asked if Hamas militants could have taken shelter in the school that was attacked, Ging said that UNRWA was “hugely sensitive” to maintaining the integrity of its facilities.

“We vet all those who seek shelter in our facilities to make sure militants were not taking advantage of them,” he said.

Ging said that after visiting the site, he was confident no militants had been inside the building at the time of the bombing and no fire had come from within.

However, he said, “Israel’s position on the issue had shifted to suggest that militant fire had come from the vicinity of the school rather than from inside.”

Still, Ging demanded an independent investigation to prove the U.N.’s credibility against the unfounded charges.

On Thursday, UNRWA was forced to suspend its relief work following the killing of one of its drivers and the wounding of another. They were in a clearly marked aid convoy.

Ging said that while the Israeli authorities had given clearance to U.N. aid workers to move around, “it is wholly and totally unacceptable that (Israeli) soldiers on the ground are firing on our aid workers.”

On Friday, however, UNRWA resumed its relief operations after the Israeli defence ministry provided “credible assurances” that U.N. personnel and humanitarian operations would be fully respected.

Told that Israeli officials were denying the existence of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes dismissed the denial by pointing out that the crisis was “worsening day by day”.

The appeals to halt the violence, he said, fell on deaf ears, both on the Israeli side and on the Hamas side.

According to the United Nations, the two-week old Israeli military operation in Gaza has killed 758 people, of whom 257 were children and 56 women, with 3,100 wounded, including 1,080 children and 452 women.

The staggering numbers were provided to the United Nations by the local Ministry of Health.

Although the United Nations could not independently verify the figures, Holmes told reporters “they appeared credible”.

In contrast, the total number of Israeli deaths, both military and civilian, was about 10, including by friendly fire, according to press reports.

At a news conference Wednesday, Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, said Israel had attacked police stations in Gaza on the ground they were “combatants”.

“Police were not combatants and could not represent legitimate targets unless actively engaged in hostilities,” she pointed out. “It was Israel’s burden of proof to show the police they targeted were, indeed, Hamas militants.”

Instead, she said, it appeared that Israel had targeted police stations on a “blanket basis”.

Whitson said that only combatants actively engaged in fighting were legitimate targets of Israeli attacks.

Thus, a Hamas official at the Ministry of Health was not a legitimate target and neither was a Hamas media broadcasting station.

The situation in Gaza is so abominable that both the U.N. and international human rights organisations have refused to remain silent. Israel has been accused of violating both humanitarian law and the Geneva conventions on military operations.

In a letter to the U.N. Security Council Friday, the London-based Amnesty International (AI) called for firm action “to ensure full accountability for war crimes and other serious abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law”.

AI also urged the Council to dispatch international human rights monitors to Gaza and southern Israel to investigate and report on the continuing abuses by both warring parties.

Even the Vatican seemed outraged by the unmitigated violence by the Israelis.

Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, compared Gaza to a “concentration camp”, reminiscent of the horrors of a Nazi era — provoking anger from the Israelis.

“Look at the conditions in Gaza,” the Cardinal was quoted as saying, “more and more, it resembles a big concentration camp.”


January 8, 2009


by Khalid Amayeh |, Jan 7, 2009

For years, I have been warning that Israel is psychologically and morally capable of carrying out a holocaust or a genocide against the Palestinian people.

Needless to say, the horrible events of the past two weeks in Gaza seem to have enforced and vindicated my convictions in this regard.

Israel, government and people, seem to possess the psychological propensity that would make her embark on such a monstrosity. Yes, there is a minority of Israeli Jews and non-Israeli Jews who say “No” to all the evils and crimes Israel is doing in the name of their name.

However, let us be honest and realistic. These people are a small minority and have very little influence if any on the Israeli government and army.

Today, what many people had thought would be unthinkable or far-fetched in terms of the extent to which Israel would be willing to go in savaging the Palestinian people seems quite possible in light of the Jewish state’s Nazi-like behavior in the Gaza Strip.

Given the Israeli mindset, Israel may well be hoping the latest genocidal onslaught could have a certain desensitizing and de-mystifying effect on people’s perceptions and attitudes.

The logic is quite simple. If the world can be bullied or cajoled into silence and apathy when Gaza is ravaged and thousands of its inhabitants are slaughtered en mass in full view of humanity, the same world can likewise be manipulated in similar fashion to come to terms with a greater genocide.

On Tuesday, 6 January, one Israeli official, Eli Yeshai, called for the total extermination of Gaza. The leader of the ultra Orthodox Shas party argued that “extermination of the enemy is sanctioned by the Torah.”

Other Israeli political and religious leaders have lately spoken enthusiastically of the need for “wiping off Gaza from the face of earth” and “annihilating of every moving thing there.”

Interestingly, this is by no means a minority opinion in Israel. Indeed, one could safely argue that the “ideology of annihilation” now represents the mainstream in the Israeli society.

As we all know, Israel heavily employs mendacity, deception and disinformation to conceal, or at least blur, its criminality and barbarianism.

The Israeli hasbara machine’s main job has always been and continues to be to turn the black into white, the white into black and the big lie into a “truth” glorified by millions, especially in the west.

To effect these obscene lies and “virtual realities,” the Israeli government counts heavily on the Jewish-controlled or Jewish influenced media in the western world, especially in North America where telling the truth about Israel is the ultimate taboo.

In truth, what has been happening in Gaza is a huge massacre of genocidal proportions as many conscientious Jews have testified.

What else can be said of this wanton, deliberate and indiscriminate blanket bombing of densely-populated neighborhoods and refugee camps?

I believe terms such as “huge massacres” and “genocidal onslaught” used in reference to the Gaza nightmare cannot be dismissed by Israel and her supporters as merely overstatements or rhetorical exaggerations.

This is unless Israel views non-Jewish pain and suffering as disingenuous, probably because non-Jews or “goyem” are actually considered “human animals” by a large and growing class of fanatical rabbis, politicians and military leaders.

So far, more than 4000 Gazans have been mercilessly killed or badly mutilated or incinerated in less than two weeks of intensive indiscriminate aerial and artillery bombing targeting everyone and everything.

Mosques, homes, public buildings, shelters, schools, colleges, dormitories, factories, cultural institutions, businesses, even hospitals and drug stores as well as the entire civilian infrastructure have been bombed and reduced to rubble.

The rabid bombing from high altitudes has exterminated numerous whole families and destroyed entire neighborhoods. This is probably what Israeli leaders had in mind when they spoke earlier about a “shock and awe” campaign against Gaza.

On 6 January, Israeli tanks fired several artillery shells at a school at the Jabalya refugee camp, killing more than 40 civilians, mostly children and women, who had sought shelter at the UNRWA-run facility. Dozens others were injured, many critically.

Israeli army spokespersons, who are actually professional liars, claimed that Palestinian fighters were seen in the vicinity of the building and that some of these actually fired on Israeli troops from the school.

However, UN officials in Gaza strongly denied the Israeli account, with one UN official saying that he was “99.99%” that the Israeli army was lying.

Earlier, the Israeli air forces hit a mourning reception, killing 15 members of the same family.

The pornographic killing of civilians has no explanation other than the ostensible fact that Israel is adopting a no-holds-barred approach toward Gaza, which is still under effective Israeli occupation despite the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the coastal enclave more than three years ago.

Well, if we are to accept this logic, namely that everything is fair in war, then Jews should stop complaining about what the armies of Hitler did to them during World War II.

It is just unacceptable to apply two standards of morality, one for Jews and another for non-Jews. For if what Israel is doing in Gaza is right, as Israel and her supporters maintain, then what the Nazis did in Europe several decades ago must have been right as well. And vice versa.

After all, crime doesn’t become kosher when committed by Jewish hands.

Colossal crime

The enormity of the present holocaustic assault is undoubtedly a colossal crime against humanity.

In proportion to the size of population, the murder and maiming of 4000 Gazans (the number keeps rising) is like the US having at least a million of its citizens killed or badly injured as a result of a foreign aggression.

As to the utter destruction of Gaza, it is equally shocking. Some American expatriates here in occupied Palestine have spoken of a double holocaust in Gaza, one targeting humans, and another targeting civilization.

Facing their crimes, pornographic and outrageous as they are, many Israelis, probably the majority, are simply so gleeful that they think Israel is doing the right think and that God is standing on the side of Israel in this war and every war.

Some religious Israelis have become so euphoric, thanks to the Gaza blitz, that they think the Messiah’s coming imminent.

Other “religious” Israeli Jews, including rabbis, readily justify the wanton slaughter by quoting biblical verses justifying genocide.

One Israeli settler leader recently argued during a conversation with a visiting American peace activist that “if it was right to commit genocide during Biblical time, why can’t it be right to commit genocide now . Has God changed his mind,” the settler wondered sarcastically.

As to Israeli leaders and officials, they simply indulge in what they have always been indulging in, namely “denial” and “self-righteousness” or simply playing the role of victim.

Thus behaved Shimon Peres, the Israeli President, when he told al-Jazeera during a live interview on Monday, 5 January.

” We don’t kill and we have not killed any children in Gaza. We are the victim of Hamas aggression,” said the pathological liar and certified war criminal rather shamelessly.

Peres’s pornographic lies don’t need any further comment. They speak for themselves.

Zionist Jews may very well think that might is right, and that morality is unneeded and unnecessary as long as they possess overwhelming material strength.

They may think that the rivers of blood the “only democracy in the Middle East” has been shedding will strengthen Israel and terrorize its neighbors.

Well, it may in the short run. However, in the long run, Israeli criminality and evilness will make it sterile from within to the point of death.

Like evil people, evil states shall not prosper.

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