Obama’s Third War

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WRITTEN BY William A. Cook

“Become more human, and humans will love you.”

(Text of the Gospel of Phillip, 143)

Predictably, the United States Senate and House of Representatives voted to support Israel’s carnage in Gaza thereby handing the new President yet one more war to contend with, one unhappily more dangerous to America than those in Iraq or Afghanistan. That may seem to be, on its face, a strange thing to say unless one understands that we are in Iraq fighting for Israel and, with this vote, our Congress has indebted itself to the Israeli forces that govern the United States (as Ariel Sharon said long ago), forces that will use endangerment of Israel as leverage to attack Iran and Syria, countries already in their military sites since 1992.

Our Senate’s indebtedness is unanimous; while 20 in the House abstained and five voted against the resolution, all the rest voted to support. The reasons offered: Israel has a right to defend itself even though we do not know where Israel is: that is, Israel has yet to define its borders and remove itself from occupied territories; and the rockets fired over the last 8 years must stop, even though Israel, with one shell in Gaza, killed 43 at the UN school, twice the number killed by rockets in 8 years. But logic, international law and international opinion, and fundamental moral law cannot sway our Congress; money can and does. Obama may have a Senate majority and a Democratically controlled House of Representatives, but he cannot respond to the desires of the American people for change – no more wars – nor to the United community of nations that have voted with their feet against the actions of the Israeli government in open and defiant dissent against their governments in London, Ireland, Scotland, Europe and through out the Arab world including Jordan and Egypt. Our Representatives represent Israeli wishes and policies not those of the American people; the people voted overwhelmingly for change not the continued support of Israel represented by these votes or the appointments made by Obama as advisors.

Ironically our “only democratic ally” in the mid-east, as constantly reiterated by our mainstream media and talking heads, has locked the media out of Gaza in order to isolate truth to its Public Relations campaign begun the day it invaded Gaza three weeks ago. Consequently, Americans receive their news from those that decided to break international law and their own responsibilities as an occupying force under the Geneva conventions. No truth, no morality, only raw force serves this Zionist nation beholden only to itself and those it owns, including our Congress. Yet the news gets out. The people of Gaza transmit the truth by phone cameras and a handful of Al Jazeera journalists that report from the killing fields. These pictures inundate the Internet and even a European press on occasion.
Contrast the reality of the coverage with that provided to Americans. In Sderot, the little town used by Israel to portray its misery, devastation, and ultimate demise at the hands of the “terrorists,” the citizens have taken to the hillside overlooking Gaza — binoculars, sunglasses and beach chairs in tow — to watch the rain of Israeli terror by air, sea and land on an imprisoned people. (Shashank Bengali, “Israelis, sipping Pepsi, watch bombardment of Gaza town,” 1/5/2009, McClatchy). Are they in danger? Perhaps, although they do have bomb shelters and warning sirens, something that the people of Gaza do not have. And as I have noted elsewhere (in Counterpunch, 1/5/2009), they have been bombarded on average with 2 rockets per day for 8 years. Twenty three have died over these 8 years, an unsupportable number killed by meaningless use of force. Nonetheless, this has become the rationale for Israel’s current killing that now approaches 1000 half of whom are children. Disproportionate? Not to our Representatives.
Now consider what we are not shown, an image that the western media finds “pornographic,” “irresponsible journalism,” “too graphic,” “too emotional” for public consumption; yet the rest of the world sees these images, hundreds and hundreds of them. This alone should give our representatives pause to reflect on how their subservience to the barbaric behavior of Zionist Israel plays out in the world that is not controlled by American corporations or complicit congressmen. You can go to www.al-ayyam.ps/znews/site/pdfs/7-1-2009/p01.pdf. There you will see the head of a little girl looking forlornly though vacant eyes, mouth still open, completely buried from the neck down in rubble from her crushed home; indeed, too graphic, too emotional to contemplate, just another unnamed casualty of war where death happens … unfortunately, and “we’re sorry.” This appeared in multimedia, a Norwegian site, where you can also hear Sven Egil Omdel, the Director, explain why he decided to publish the photo even though it is against policy: “It is (the publication) a conscious provocation and we have two reasons for it: Israel keep (sic) all western journalists away from the war in Gaza. … The most important reason for us to show this face, is that the Arab world sees pictures like these from Gaza every day. Not a single still, but hours and hours of TV images of hospital floors full of small, dead bodies. Four year olds, two year olds, seven year olds, newly borns – These pictures represent the war in Gaza for millions of muslims – and we wonder why the hatred against Israel and the west grows? (translation)” This now is Obama’s war whether he wants it or not including the 3000 tons of ordnance being shipped now to Israel by the United States to supplement what they are currently using in Gaza.

Americans must understand the timing of this “war” that is not a war but a slaughter of caged people that have no where to hide, no where to go and even then, when following IDF orders, find themselves in a building targeted for destruction, their destruction. Deceit governs; racism motivates; hatred compels and greed for others’ land is the bed rock of action.

Why now? For two years, during the election campaign for the US Presidency, Israel imposed a siege on Gaza, a calculated act of slow, insidious decimation of the people planned in 2004 (www.infoimagination.org) to ultimately compel the Palestinian people to submit to Israeli dominance, without a state, without an army, without freedom of ingress and egress, unclassified and wholly dependent on Israel. Included in that strategy was the need to complete “Securing the Realm,” the document drawn up by our faithful Neo-Con “servants” that drove the policies of Bush’s administration and called for regime change in Syria and Iran in addition to Iraq. During the political campaign, while press coverage crowded out virtually all other news, the Zionist forces destroyed the infrastructure of Gaza, began the locking down of gates and the slow but methodical destruction of Gaza’s economy. Simultaneously they sought, but failed to get in time, Bush’s approval of attacks on Iran’s nuclear sites. Now, as the days of the Bush reign of terror ends, they are desperate to force Obama into a continuation of absolute and unquestioned support of Israeli policies in the mid-east. With the Congress in hand, with the vote made public in America and its continued commitment made known to the world, they believe that hey have locked Obama in a prison not unlike that surrounding Gaza.

What now? Reflection on the past few years, since 2005 to present, especially in the United States, makes possible this observation: the people of the United States and the people of Israel no longer see eye to eye on matters of mutual concern and, indeed, have already expressed that reality in fact. What do I mean? Beginning with the Downing Street memo and the disclosures of Richard Clark and Ambassador Wilson, the ability of the main stream press to hide the truth from the American people could no longer hold. As 2005 evolved, more and more disclosures unraveled the lies protected by the “fair and balanced reporting” of the corporate owned and controlled media. Fair and balanced was neither fair to truth nor balanced. To put two items on a scale, one for, one against, does not present truth or a balanced report. It simply shows two different perspectives, one for and one against. But as facts and documents became available to the American people, items available over the prior years on various Internet publications, the American people reacted by throwing out Bush supporters in the 2006 and 2008 elections and Bush support eroded into the mid-twenties.

They wanted “change” promised from the start by Senator Obama and mimicked eventually by most of the other contenders to the throne. Change meant getting out of Iraq immediately and return to a government that had a concern for America, including less absolute and blind support for Israel. The vast majority of the American people do not accept the disproportionate and cruel invasion of Gaza by Israel. As more and more pictures and videos become available on the Internet, especially the recurring images of savagery on You Tube, the American people are traumatized by the horror, especially the uncountable number of deaths of children. Our representative government does not represent the American electorate; it represents only scared politicians who depend on AIPAC money, men and women who fear for their political seats regardless of what their constituents believe and want.

By contrast Israeli citizens are faced with an election that has all three contenders fighting to convince the electorate that he/she is the one that will inflict more force to subjugate the Palestinians to Israeli will. The focus of this campaign resonates around the war monger Benjamin Netanyahu; both Livni and Barak must demonstrate that they are better leaders to take Israel against the Palestinians, the Syrians and the Iranians. Israel’s future is one of continued war which means in turn continued American billions to sustain their ambitions against their perceived enemies. They do not talk of “talk” with neighbors, only unending war against those that oppose the Jews. One does not speak of Israel as a state or government when “victimhood” is needed to induce unyielding support for the Israeli governments need to acquire more land and control the regimes of its neighbors, one must turn to the bias against Jews that is world wide and endemic. Sympathy cannot be rung from criticism of a government’s policies.

Horribly, the invasion of Gaza can be viewed quite accurately as a campaign war where Livni and Barak have made evident to the electorate that they will use force to ensure Israel’s right to dominate the area regardless of international pressure and opinion, international law or international justice. They know they can do this because they have control of the American Congress and administration including the veto power of the United States in the Security Council. World opinion means nothing. The Israeli electorate, with modest exception, does not want change.

Ultimately, it’s AIPAC’s will against the American citizens’ expressed desires as they voted for this man of change. Who will win? Will the blatant exposure of Israeli violence and mercilessness, in pictures and videos, turn the tide? Can Israeli hacking of Internet sites like that done to The Palestine Chronicle and the attempted erasure of sites that contain the pictures and videos described above stop the flow of sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza and quell the building animosity that has arisen world-wide against the cruelty employed by Israel in its savage destruction of Gaza?

Will Obama turn to diplomacy, as he preached when a candidate and, thus doing, fulfill the truth enunciated by Phillip, “Become more human, and humans will love you”? Will he turn to negotiations with those engaged in these brutalities, to stem the violence? Will he recognize the impossible absence of the democratically elected Hamas government from deliberations with Israel over Gaza? How absurd. Will he reconsider the bribery that Bush employed to keep Egypt and Jordan in collusion with Israel despite the agony the people of Egypt and Jordan experience as they watch their people die in Gaza? Will he seek justice by returning to the resolutions of the UN that demand Israel return to the borders of 1948 or 1967, to leave the occupied lands of Palestine including East Jerusalem, to recognize the right of return of the refugees, to realize that Palestinians have a right to their state just as Israel has a right to its, something recognized by Hamas though never recognized as true by our main stream press. (Guardian, 1/12/2006 and Ynet, 1/30/2006). Will Obama seek peace that America might be free of its entanglement with a rogue state that blindly leads America into the darkness of unending conflict and death? Will he demand of Israel that its support from America depends of its recognition that it can only survive if it lives in harmony with its neighbors not out of fear but out of brotherhood? Will he suggest that the Israelis consider a diametrically opposite road to peace, one that understands “People will love you if you become more human”?

Sheikh Imam, Rest in Peace (Lyrics by Ahmad Fouad Najm)

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Posted by Ibn Bint Jbeil

Oy vey! We can work it out!

Oy vey! We can work it out!


Oy vey! Maybe Norman Finkelstein is right. Is this the “reasonable peace” that he was hoping for without having to bring up that “conflictual” term of zionism? 1 2

Thank you, Aunti Ziona, for bringing this wonderful event to my attention.

P.S. Hey that Palestinian singer, Mira Awad, sure is a good singer. I hope she didn’t get caught in that Gaza Hanukka slaughter.

P.P.S. And if she is still alive, I sure hope she doesn’t get stuck living in Gaza and starving to death. I hope she’s not living in East Jerusalem where they’re demolishing Palestinian homes [for zionism, Norman]. She’d have no place to go but Gaza. Of course, there’s no room for her any more in the West Bank, whatwith all the Jewish settlers [from everywhere in the world] moving in there [for zionism, Norman].

Try to See it My Way!

Oi I am so happy to see the Jews and the Arabs united in their lethal attempt against music.

In this lovely pop video there are 2 ladies. They look the same, they both have dark hair and nice bazookies, but in actual fact – one is an Arab and one is a Jew! See, even though we like to kill our neighbors, we are still just one big happy human family. We know how to make Liverpool sound like Jerusalem. Believe me ‘we can work it out.’

United Against the Beatles

OBAMAWARTOONS FOR SATURDAY

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February 28, 2009 at 11:00 am (Associate Post, Cartoons, Iraq War, Peace)

Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff

(Ben Heine © Cartoons)

NETANYAHU, THE ANAL-YSIST & THE HAPPY FAMILY

Palestinian factions in Cairo agree to new PA unity government

NETANYAHU, THE ANAL-YSIST & THE HAPPY FAMILY (Click the Fat Ass)

“Better Late than Never”, Pal. Factions Agree to Form Unity Gov’t
Hanan Awarekeh Readers Number : 182

26/02/2009 “Better late than never”. Eyeing a common threat that will govern Israel for the next four years, feuding Palestinian factions have decided to reunify to face Benjamin Netanyahu’s right wing Tsunami that has hit Israeli politics.

Rival Palestinian groups agreed on Thursday to form a national unity government by the end of March, faction officials said after reconciliation talks in Cairo.

Jamil al-Majdalawi, an official with the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, announced that the factions had formed several committees that would pave the way for a national unity government. “The committees will end their work and a Palestinian unity government will be formed by the end of March,” he said

Mohammed al-Hindi, deputy leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, confirmed the factions had agreed to establish the government by the end of next month.

Rival Palestinian movements Fatah and Hamas held reconciliation talks brokered by Egypt on Thursday aimed at paving the way for the creation of a unity government, which Israel opposes and “trying to persuade whomever” that a Palestinian Authority unity government is a bad idea.”

A deal between the two factions is seen as key to moving ahead with Gaza’s reconstruction after Israel’s recent offensive. The Palestinians hope to raise $2.8 billion at an international donor’s conference in Egypt on Monday. Hamas and Fatah met in advance of Thursday’s main talks on more challenging issues like holding elections and sharing power. The two sides met in Cairo for talks mediated by Egypt’s intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman.

At a news conference Wednesday night, both sides announced they had agreed on a release of detainees. “To encourage a positive atmosphere, there will be a complete and immediate end to the arrests of political prisoners … and the release of prisoners during the discussions,” said Hamas’ senior official, Mahmoud al-Zahar. “There will be a larger number released” later. Zahar said 80 Hamas members held in the occupied West Bank, which is controlled by the Fatah movement, have been released and that 300 are still being held. Hamas has also lifted the house arrest of a number of Fatah members in the Gaza Strip.

Senior officials from Fatah, the secular movement headed by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (whose term ended on January 9), and Hamas, the Islamic resistance group that rules the Gaza Strip, agreed on confidence-building measures at a meeting on Wednesday. “A certain number of detainees will be freed right at the beginning of the dialogue,” said a joint statement. “Other detainees will be freed successively so that this issue will be totally closed before the end of the national Palestinian dialogue.”

Speaking earlier in the day, Nabil Shaath, a top Abbas aide, said the sides also agreed to immediately stop all media attacks against each other. Azzam al-Ahmed of Fatah said Thursday’s meeting will discuss the “political shape and agenda” of a future unity government.

Senior PA negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Wednesday that an interim government was needed “to shoulder the responsibilities of reconstructing Gaza, opening the passages [between Israel and the Gaza Strip] and carrying out the presidential and legislative elections no later than the end of 2009.”

Egypt had originally called for Palestinian reconciliation talks in November, but Hamas withdrew at the last minute, complaining that
Fatah was continuing to arrest Hamas members in the West Bank. The reconciliation process was relaunched by Egypt after Israel’s 22-day war on Gaza that ended last month with more than 1,300 Palestinians killed, including 420 children and buildings and infrastructure destroyed.
“The climate is positive and promising,” Hamas political bureau member Ezzat Resheq told journalists after Wednesday’s talks. “We hope for positive results.”

Azzam al-Ahmad, leader of the Fatah bloc in the Palestinian parliament, spoke of a “real desire on both sides to settle these questions… to achieve reconciliation, an urgent necessity above all because the peace process is not progressing and nor are efforts towards a truce.”

Hamas democratically won over Fatah in the 2006 Palestinian general election but its government was boycotted by Israel and the West, and attempts at forging a national unity government failed.

Meanwhile, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Egypt was now focusing on Palestinian reconciliation as its top priority, rather than the negotiations on a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas. “We decided perhaps to change our priorities,” he said in a press conference. “The first priority was the tahdiyah, followed by the reconciliation, followed by the reconstruction conference, followed by the process of launching the peace efforts again. Today, we are concentrating on the reconciliation, but the cease-fire and the exchange of prisoners is not far from Egyptian efforts.”

NETANYAHU OPPOSES TALKS WITH A PA GOV’T INCLUDES HAMAS

Israeli Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu is expected to lobby Secretary of State Hillary Clinton next week against US recognition of a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas, top advisers to Netanyahu said Wednesday.

Zalman Shoval, one of Netanyahu’s five primary foreign policy advisers, said the Netanyahu diplomatic team was “trying to persuade whomever” that a Palestinian Authority unity government is a bad idea. We shall try to convince our American friends that this is not something that would help the peace process, and that it would only make it easier for all sorts of other players – the Europeans and the Russians – to deal with Hamas,” he said. “To return Hamas as a partner is not what America is interested in.”

Shoval said history had shown that when there was an amalgamation between what he called “a moderate and an extremist party, it was only a matter of time before the extremists called the shots.” “The idea is the wrong one,” he said, adding that Netanyahu’s camp believed the right approach was to continue to isolate Hamas. I’m not saying we can prevent it, but we should try,” he said.

Hamas’s refusal to accept Israel’s existence, and its resistance activities, were core problems, another Israeli adviser said, and it would be counterproductive to overlook the problems by seeking structural reform. The adviser added that structural reform would not make the core problems disappear. He said that “Israel’s right to self-defense was sacrosanct”, and that it would continue to exercise that right when it felt it needed to.

On a visit to Cairo on the eve of the talks, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband called for the Palestinians to form a new government of “technocrats” to oversee reconstruction of the economy and the political process in readiness for elections.

He said that speaking to Hamas was “the right thing to do,” but Egypt and other parties were best suited to talking directly to the group. In an interview with Reuters in Cairo, Miliband said Egypt was acting on behalf of the whole world in its dealings with Hamas. “Egypt has been nominated… to speak to Hamas on behalf of the Arab League but actually on behalf of the whole world,” Miliband said. “Others speak to Hamas. That’s the right thing to do and I think we should let the Egyptians take this forward.”

Sweden also expressed support for Palestinian reconciliation. Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said his country, which takes over the rotating EU presidency on July 1, wants to help politically in the process of possibly holding new elections in the Palestinian territories. “Reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas is also a part of the process,” he said in Stockholm after meeting Abbas.

Bilin 2009: four years of nonviolent struggle

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Jaffa: from eminence to ethnic cleansing

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Sami Abu Shehadeh & Fadi Shbaytah, The Electronic Intifada, 27 February 2009

A view from the sea at Jaffa looking east onto the city, 1898-1914. (Matson Collection)

Jaffa was the largest city in historic Palestine during the years of the British mandate, with a population of more than 80,000 Palestinians in addition to the 40,000 persons living in the towns and villages in its immediate vicinity. In the period between the UN Partition resolution (UNGA 181) of 29 November 1947, and the declaration of the establishment of the State of Israel, Zionist military forces displaced 95 percent of Jaffa’s indigenous Arab Palestinian population. Jaffa’s refugees accounted for 15 percent of Palestinian refugees in that fateful year, and today they are dispersed across the globe, still banned from returning by the state responsible for their displacement.

Jaffa was the epicenter of the Palestinian economy before the 1948 Nakba. Beginning in the early 19th century, the people of Jaffa had cultivated citrus groves, particularly oranges, on their land. International demand for Jaffa oranges propelled the city onto the world stage, earning the city an important place in the global economy. By the 1930s, Jaffa was exporting tens of millions of citrus crates to the rest of the world, which provided thousands of jobs for the people of the city and its environs, and linking them to the major commercial centers of the Mediterranean coast and the European continent.

With the success of its citrus exports, the city witnessed the emergence and growth of various related economic sectors, from banks to land and sea transportation enterprises to import and export firms, and many others. As the city grew, Jaffa’s entrepreneurs began to develop local industrial production with the opening of metal-work factories, and others producing glass, ice, cigarettes, textiles, sweets, transportation-related equipment, mineral and carbonated water, and various foodstuffs, among others.

In addition to commerce and industry, a third major pillar of Jaffa’s economy in the mandate years was tourism. Tens of thousands of tourists and pilgrims visited the historic city every year, both for its sites of historical and religious significance, its beautiful buildings, and the Christian holy sites scattered throughout the city. As Jaffa’s tourism industry grew, so too did its communications infrastructure, and the transportation network connecting it to the rest of Palestine and the Arab world. More investments and jobs were also created for Jaffa’s residents through the increasing number of hotels, transportation companies, and the growing number of tourism-related services.

Jaffa was also the cultural capital of Palestine, being home to tens of the most important newspapers and publication houses in the country, including the dailies Filastin and al-Difa’. The most important and ornate cinemas were in Jaffa, as were tens of athletics clubs and cultural societies. The headquarters of some of these societies, like the Orthodox Club and the Islamic Club, have themselves become historic sites still testifying to the city’s cultural history. During the Second World War, the British Mandate authorities moved the headquarters of the Near East Radio broadcast studios to Jaffa, the studios becoming a cultural hub in the city from 1941 to 1948. With the growing cultural importance of Jaffa came increasing cultural exchange and interconnection with the main cultural centers in the region such as Cairo and Beirut, which further established the city as a cultural minaret in the region — lovingly dubbed the Bride of the Sea.

The story of Jaffa’s ongoing Nakba is the story of the transformation of this thriving modern urban center into a marginalized neighborhood suffering from poverty, discrimination, gentrification, crime and demolition since the initial wave of mass expulsion in 1948 to the present day.

British soldiers stop and search a Palestinian man in Jaffa, 1936. (Palestine Remembered)

The early years of Jaffa’s Nakba

Zionist forces initiated a cruel siege on the city of Jaffa in March 1948. The youth of the city formed popular resistance committees to confront the assault. On 14 May 1948, the Bride of the Sea fell to the Zionist military forces; that same evening the leaders of the Zionist movement in Palestine declared the establishment of the state of Israel. Approximately 4,000 of the 120,000 Palestinians managed to remain in their city after it was militarily occupied. They were all rounded up and ghettoized in al-Ajami neighborhood which was sealed off from the rest of the city and administered as essentially a military prison for two subsequent years; the military regime under which Israel governed them lasted until 1966. During this period, al-Ajami was completely surrounded by barbed wire fencing that was patrolled by Israeli soldiers and guard dogs. It was not long before the new Jewish residents of Jaffa, and based on their experience under Nazism in Europe, began to refer to the Palestinian neighborhood as the “ghetto.”

In addition to being ghettoized, the Palestinians who remained in Jaffa had lost everything overnight: their city, their friends, their families, their property and their entire physical and social environment. Most had lost their homes as the Israeli military forced them into al-Ajami. Legislator, judge and executioner in the Ajami ghetto was the military commander; without his permission one could not enter or leave the ghetto, and rights to things like education and work were among those rights that Palestinians were denied. Arab states were classified as enemy states, and so making contact with the expelled family and friends, the refugees, was strictly prohibited. This was the nightmare lived by the Palestinians of Jaffa after the 1948 Nakba.

In the early 1950s, Jaffa was administratively engulfed by the Tel Aviv municipality that became known as Tel Aviv-Yafo; the Palestinians of Jaffa went from being a majority in their city and homeland to the two-percent “enemies of the state,” a minority of Israel’s main metropolis. The municipality immediately began drawing up plans for what they called the “Judaization” of the city, renaming the Arabic streets of the city after Zionist leaders, demolishing much of the old Arab architecture, and completely destroying the buildings in the surrounding neighborhoods and villages that were depopulated during the 1948 Nakba. The new curriculum introduced in Palestinian schools denied that the place had any Arab-Palestinian history at all, a facet of the Israeli education system that continues until today.

The largest armed robbery of the 20th century

After expelling most of Jaffa’s residents, militarily occupying the city and ghettoizing the remaining original inhabitants, Israeli authorities passed the Absentee Property Law (1950) through which it seized the property of all Palestinians who were not in possession of their immovable properties after the Nakba. Through the implementation of this unjust law, the state of Israel sent its operatives to all corners of the land, surveying the properties left behind by the expelled refugees, the internally displaced Palestinians banned from returning to their lands, and those relocated to the ghettos of Palestine’s cities. Title to these lands, buildings, homes, factories, farms and religious sites were then transferred to the state’s “Custodian of Absentee Property.” This is how the Palestinians of Jaffa, the refugees and the ghettoized, had their properties “legally” stolen by the State of Israel.

In the interviews conducted for our research, we heard dozens of stories from Nakba survivors telling us about how their homes, often just meters away from the ghetto, were seized, and how they could do nothing about it. Many told us stories of how their homes were given to, or simply taken by, new Jewish immigrants, and how they would try to convince the new residents of their homes to give them back some of their furniture, or clothes, or documents, or photographs. In some of these cases, the house’s new resident would give back some of the items, in most of the cases the response was to consider the original Palestinian owner an intruder, and to call the police or report him to the military commander. Former residents of the al-Manshiyya neighborhood, one of the city’s wealthier areas before the Nakba, described the sorrow they felt as they walked past their old houses, and the pain of seeing what remained of the neighborhood demolished to be replaced by a public recreation area.

Some of the most difficult stories are those of the Palestinian farmers and peasants from the villages of the Jaffa district. They describe how they were forced off of their land, how they managed to stay in Palestine, how the Israeli government handed their land over to Jewish settlers, and how these settlers then hired the same Palestinian farmers to work on their own land as day laborers exploited for the personal profit of the Jewish settler off the produce of the land that Palestinians had cultivated for generations. In fact, after their properties and enterprises were seized or shut down, the vast majority of the Jaffa Palestinians who remained became cheap labor for Jewish employers. Their employment was contingent on their “loyalty” to the new state. And so it was that the people who ran the economic hub of Palestine before 1948, became its orphans feigning loyalty to the ones who orphaned them in order to feed their own children.

Palestinians from Jaffa attempt to take with them whatever they can as Zionist militias force them to leave the city, May 1948. (Palestine Remembered)

The daily violations of co-habitation

After the creation of the State of Israel on the ruins of Arab-Palestinian society, the fledgling state began absorbing thousands of new Jewish immigrants from around the world, masses of immigrants whom the state was not fully able to absorb. The state resolved this lack of capacity by distributing the homes of refugee and internally displaced Palestinians to the new immigrants. After all the Palestinian homes in Jaffa had been occupied, Israeli housing authorities began dividing the homes in the Ajami ghetto into apartments so as to provide housing for Jewish families. As such, an Arab family in Ajami, who had been displaced from their original home, and whose family and friends had been expelled, and who lived in a house with four rooms, for example, would have their new home divided into four apartments to absorb three Jewish immigrant families, and the four families would share the kitchen and bathroom.

This process was one of the most difficult for the Palestinian families; they were forced into “co-habitation” with the people who had expelled them and, considering that many of the Jewish families included members who were serving in the army, people who were directly carrying out the ongoing violence suffered by the remaining Palestinian community.

The horrors of war, the loss of their country, the deep rupture in the social environment, the trauma of oppression, occupation, segregation and discrimination, the demolition or theft of their original homes before their own eyes, being forced to share their homes in the ghetto with the people who expelled them from their original homes, all combined to create an overall feeling of despair and impotence among the remaining community of Palestinians in Jaffa. This collective depression eventually led many of Jaffa’s ghettoized Palestinian residents down the path of dependency on drugs and alcohol as a way of escaping the burden of powerlessness in the face of colonial oppression. It was this form of colonial oppression that transformed the thriving Bride of the Sea to a poverty and crime-ridden neighborhood of Tel Aviv.

1951-1979: survival and self-improvement

The first generation of Nakba survivors faced immense hardship, and as such the main goal of that generation was survival in a milieu replete with fear of the Israeli authorities. The hope for a better life, for a return to how things once were, for freedom, became a motivating factor in their lives. This was especially true in the late 1950s and 1960s, when the Arab world went through the awakening epitomized by Nasserism. The ideas of Arab unity, Palestinian liberation, cultural revival and the hope entailed by these ideas found fertile ground in the Palestinian society within the “green line” (the 1949 armistice line between the State of Israel and the West Bank and Gaza Strip). This was the environment in which the second generation was raised.

The generation of the 1950s and 1960s grew up in an environment very different from that of their parents. This generation sought self-improvement, to work hard to provide for their families and educate their children by working the manual labor jobs that Jewish immigrants avoided. It was members of this youthful generation who filled the ranks of the Communist Party and the Nasserist Land Movement, among other political currents that aimed to challenge the prevailing oppression, poverty and landlessness of the Palestinian community to varying degrees.

In preparation for its occupation of the remainder of Palestine, and as internal opposition grew and information began to leak out that the “only democracy in the Middle East” actually had two sets of laws for two sets of citizens, the Israeli government formally abandoned the regime of military rule in 1966. While systematic discrimination against Palestinian citizens continued unabated, the 1970s witnessed the emergence of a relatively powerful political and social movement of Palestinian citizens of Israel. In Jaffa, this movement culminated with the formation of the Association for the Care of Arab Affairs in 1979. The Association was formed by activists and intellectuals who aimed to protect what remained of the city’s Arab-Palestinian identity and heritage, to fight the systematic discrimination faced by the Palestinians of Jaffa, and to spearhead campaigns on important issues facing the Palestinian community, foremost among them housing and education.

It was in this same decade that “Judaization” of areas within the green line became publicly known as official Israeli state policy. While the main theater of Judaization during the 1970s was the Galilee in the north of historic Palestine, the Palestinians of Jaffa continued to feel increasing pressure to leave their homes in the city through various discriminatory policies and practices, such as those banning Palestinians from renovating their homes since these properties were largely registered as absentee property with title held by the state. The municipal authorities had ignored the neighborhood, allowing many houses to collapse, and in some cases ordered the demolition of Palestinian homes. As a result of these deteriorating conditions, most of the Jewish residents of Ajami had moved to the city’s suburbs, and were beginning to move to the West Bank in the newly built illegal settlements where the cost of living was, and continues to be, heavily subsidized by the state.

1979-2000: the return of the spirit

The proportion of Palestinians in Jaffa had grown by the onset of the 1980s, both as a result of natural growth, and because a growing number of Palestinians displaced from the Galilee and the triangle ended up in Jaffa. Literacy and education levels among the adult Palestinian population in the city had also risen as the generation of the ’60s and ’70s grew and became active members of the society. This second generation benefited from the sacrifices of their predecessors, many of them having opened their own small enterprises like restaurants, contracting firms and car repair shops. A small number had also been able to complete post-secondary education in professional fields such as law, medicine, accounting, engineering and others. As such, the economic, social and demographic balance of the city had begun to restore itself.

Young Palestinian workers in one of Jaffa’s many orange groves, 1898-1914. (Matson Collection)

The increase in the city’s Palestinian population, and the improvement of their social and economic condition was coupled with the increase in the number of Palestinians who began to move to other parts of what remained of Jaffa beyond the the Ajami ghetto, particularly to the nearby coastal Jabaliya neighborhood. This phenomenon was largely the result of the overcrowding in Ajami, and since the combination of poverty, municipal neglect and the discriminatory policies banning Palestinians from renovating had resulted in further deterioration of their living conditions.

The improvement in the standard of living of Jaffa’s Palestinians that began in the 1980s involved the increase in the number of Arab owned and operated enterprises, the renovation of Palestinian mosques, churches and public buildings, as well as annual increases in the number of post-secondary graduates most of whom reinvested their acquired skills and knowledge in the betterment of their community. While the state and municipal authorities continued their Judaization efforts, the Palestinian community had become an active and effective player in the life of their city. Working against this economic development within the community has been the fact that the Israeli government has not invested or supported Palestinian-owned enterprise while simultaneously subsidizing and investing heavily in Jewish-owned enterprises in Tel Aviv. This economic discrimination has played an important role in making Palestinian Jaffa economically dependent on Jewish Tel Aviv.

The ’90s witnessed a powerful political and cultural revival among Palestinian citizens of Israel as the third generation since the Nakba began to discover and assert their Palestinian identity as the indigenous people of the land. The fear that had been a powerful force facing their grandparents did not affect them in the same way, and as a largely educated generation, the disparity between the ideals of “Israeli democracy” that they had learned in school and the discrimination they faced in their daily lives drew increasing members of this generation into the political arena. The growing national awareness of Jaffa’s Palestinians materialized during the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada when the Palestinian youth of Jaffa protested the brutal Israeli military violence against the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza by organizing dozens of forums, protests, pickets and fundraising campaigns to stress the unity of the Palestinian people across borders.

Jaffa’s ongoing Nakba today

Despite the growth of Palestinian political and social movements, the more than 20,000 Palestinians living in Jaffa today continue to experience an ongoing Nakba. We do not use this description lightly, or to enlist tears of sympathy or nostalgia for what once was; it is an important way of understanding the present, entrenching the demand for redress for the crimes committed by Israel over the past 60 years, and to stress the urgency of the struggle to bring about change for the future. While systematic discrimination and Israeli policies and practices aimed at displacing Palestinians and Judaizing their space permeate all aspects of Palestinian life in Israel, we will focus on the fields of housing and cultural identity.

The most pressing issue facing Palestinians in Jaffa today is the issue of housing and eviction. Every Palestinian in Jaffa is either directly facing eviction by the municipal authorities, or has a neighbor or relative who faces such eviction, an estimated total of more than 500 families are in this situation. The two main excuses for eviction are lack of licensing — especially since licenses are almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain — or that the family is considered illegal squatters in their own home which is registered as state property.

Title to the vast majority of properties in Jaffa were transferred to the state through the implementation of the Absentee Property Law (1950), and the state transferred this title to Amidar, a state-run company managing state properties in urban areas. After focusing its Judaization efforts on the Galilee and the Negev, the state has now set its sights on Palestinians living in Palestinian cities, officially referred to as “mixed cities,” ordering their removal from homes in which they have lived for 60 years, and in some cases longer.

Mass eviction of Palestinians from their homes in these cities is a dual process. The first, and primary, aspect is Judaization aimed at changing the demographic character of these cities so as not to include significant numbers of indigenous Palestinians, and to erase the Palestinianness of the landscape. The second aspect is gentrification; in most cases these properties are slated for demolition to be replaced with expensive condominiums and housing units for the rich. As such, both the political merchants pandering to the ideologically-driven Zionist public, and the real estate merchants hoping to build and make millions off of their “development” projects stand to benefit. We should also note that the Ajami ghetto, while by far the poorest neighborhood in the Tel Aviv-Yafo municipality, is also a coastal neighborhood with some of the highest property value in the city.

The issue of Palestinian housing in Jaffa is more than the sum of its parts; it goes beyond the hundreds of eviction and demolition orders. One cannot but connect the dots between Amidar and the Israeli Lands Administration putting up tens of Palestinian homes for auction, the rapidly increasing property value, the construction of the Peres “Peace” Center on confiscated Jaffa refugee property, and the establishment of a center for Jewish fundamentalists in the heart of the Ajami neighborhood. The picture we see when the dots are connected is worrying, the original inhabitants of Jaffa are uprooted, and their place invaded by those who have money and power: the elites of the Jewish-Israeli establishment. We see the state handing out properties to Jewish settlers almost for free in other Palestinian cities like al-Lydd and Ramleh as well as in the Naqab (Negev) and now Jaffa, while we, the indigenous people of Palestine are dealt with as illegal squatters and intruders. We, the Palestinians who remained in the part of Palestine taken by the Zionist movement in 1948 and who were forced to accept the citizenship of the state that usurped our country, now form 20 percent of the citizens of the State of Israel, but only control 3.5 percent of the land after most of our land and property were confiscated by this state. Since its establishment, Israel has created hundreds of new communities for Jewish settlement, but not one new community for Palestinians.

Jaffa’s clocktower, approximately 1914. (Matson Collection)

Reshaping identity, language and history

One of the most prominent landmarks in the city of Jaffa is the clocktower built by the Ottomans at the entrance to the old city, long before Israel came into being. Today, Jaffa’s visitors and residents who care to take a look at the structure see a Hebrew-language plaque that states “In Memory of the Heroes who Fell in the Battle to Liberate Yafo.” From there, if we turn right to walk up to the old city we catch a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean Sea until we reach the informational signs posted by the Tel Aviv municipal authorities. Here we can read the history of the city covering thousands of years until the present day. One may be surprised to see that these signs are written in four languages, none of which are Arabic. More astonishing is that in none of these appears any mention of Arabs or Palestinians who only pop up in one line: “in the year 1936, Arab barbarians attacked the Jewish neighborhood.” More examples of the systematic erasure of the Arab-Palestinian history of the space abound, from the replacing the names of streets, neighborhoods and other landmarks in the city with Hebrew names, most often names of Zionist political and military figures.

An important aspect of the reinvention of Jaffa as an Israeli city, in addition to burying its Arab-Palestinian identity, is Israel burying the evidence of its crime. If we are to accept that there were no Palestinians here, then there were no Palestinians for Israel to kick out. The erasure of Palestinian memory is also strongly reflected in the Israeli education system in Arab schools where the curriculum is geared toward rearing Palestinian youth, ignorant of their identity and history, and loyal to their colonial oppressor.

After the 1948 Nakba, Arab schools came under the control of the Israeli Ministry of Education, through which the Israeli intelligence services play a direct role in the selection of principals, teachers and curricular materials. In social science and humanities classes, Palestinian students in Israel learn about the history of Jewish communities in Europe, the heroic establishment of the modern Jewish state with no mention of the catastrophe that befell the indigenous Palestinian society of which they are a part. Schools are also a site of intimidation against any politicization, especially on important commemoration dates of the Palestinian struggle such as Land Day or Nakba commemoration. For the most part, Arab public schools are largely neglected in the allocation of funding and resources, and the quality of education is very low relative to the schools of the Jewish community. This drove many Palestinian parents in Jaffa to send their children to Jewish schools, a phenomenon that amplified the identity crises facing many of the city’s Palestinian youth, as well as their difficulty with the Arabic language.

Jaffa: the struggle continues

A view of Jaffa from the north beach looking south, 1900-1920. (Matson Collection)

In response to the Israeli establishment’s efforts to Judaize Palestinian space and consciousness, the Palestinian movement in all of its currents has worked to entrench Palestinian steadfastness and dignity. Despite the various processes facing Palestinians in the “mixed cities” that we have described, Palestinians in Israel have remained strong and held our heads up high. For decades, the Israeli authorities have played a carrot-and-stick game to transform Palestinians into a servile minority called “Arab-Israelis,” a minority with no connection to their Palestinian identity, with a collective amnesia of their relationship with the land around them and of the ongoing crimes committed against them and most importantly, loyal to their jailers.

Beginning systematically in the 1970s, the Palestinian rights movement consistently challenged Israeli policies and practices with such mobilizations as the 30 March 1976 general strike commemorated as Land Day, and the hundreds of actions taken in support of the first and second Palestinian intifadas. The movement pushed the Palestinian struggle out of its superficial national and religious confines to an internationalist struggle in which Palestinians and Jews struggled side-by-side for justice. In Jaffa, this struggle has managed to bring about some tangible victories, among them stopping the municipality from transforming the beach into a waste-dumping ground, pressuring the Israeli authorities to build housing units for Palestinians in the city, and establishing independent Arab educational institutions such as a nursery and the Arab Democratic School which opened its doors to students in 2003. This struggle has been the main factor enabling Palestinians to remain steadfast in their historic city.

Today, the struggle continues under the banner of the Jaffa Popular Committee for the Defense of Land and Housing Rights (also known as the Popular Committee against House Demolition in Jaffa) which was established in March 2007 as a direct response to the hundreds of eviction orders issued to the Palestinian residents of the Ajami and Jabaliya neighborhoods of Jaffa. The importance of the Committee’s work soon became clear to its members when their preliminary research revealed that 497 Palestinian homes in Jaffa were under threat of eviction and/or demolition by the Israeli Lands Administration, which had also put up many of these properties — all of them “absentee” properties — for auction. The Popular Committee is made up of residents, social and political activists, movements and organizations and political parties operating in Jaffa. The Committee represents the collective struggle of Jaffa’s Arab-Palestinian residents, and is open to membership to anyone who agrees to its demands and political basis of unity.

A central aspect of the Committee’s work is pressuring the various arms of the Israeli authorities (the Israeli Lands Administration, Amidar, Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality) to freeze all legal actions taken for the purpose of eviction, demanding that these authorities enter a dialogue with the Committee instead, in order to reach an agreed-upon solution. The Committee also demands an end to any and all sale and auction of “publicly owned” (i.e. absentee/refugee) land, and entering a dialogue with the committee to implement a system that guarantees the long-term Palestinian presence in the city, and that enables youth and young couples to find affordable housing in the city, particularly in the Jabaliya and Ajami neighborhoods. The motivating spirit of the campaign launched by the Popular Committee is the need to wrest recognition of Jaffa’s Arab-Palestinians as a group with a historic rights to the land and properties of the city, and that as such, alternative solutions to Jaffa’s housing problem must be reached in consultation and with the consent of indigenous community.

The Popular Committee also works on information gathering and research mainly from the directly affected residents of Jaffa facing eviction and home demolition; direct action to prevent eviction and home demolition which has involved mobilization of activists to be physically present in homes slated for demolition; organizing popular activities such as pickets, protests, information forums and others; as well as a media campaign to raise awareness about the plight of Jaffa’s Palestinian community in local and international media. We are constantly looking for ways to fundraise both for our legal costs and for activities to enable youth, women, and young couples to find affordable housing. Increasingly the committee has taken on organizing extracurricular activities for youth, and workshops to support women and youth to run their own businesses with the understanding that the economic viability of the community is directly linked with our ability to remain steadfast.

Reversing the ongoing Nakba

Today the estimated number of Palestinian refugees from Jaffa hovers around 700,000, which is one-tenth of the Palestinian refugee population. While most of these refugees are in Gaza, the West Bank and Jordan, many are further away with foreign passports that can enable them to visit what remains of their city. Perhaps one of the most important steps in reversing the Nakba, which involved shredding up the Palestinian body and dispersing us to various far corners of the earth, is to intensify efforts to reconnect this body. If it is not physically possible because of Israeli travel restrictions on Palestinians, the Internet and other communication technology can play an effective role in this process.

At least as important is the international solidarity needed to stop the Israeli policies and practices that constitute the ongoing Nakba. In Jaffa, the ongoing Nakba has brought about ongoing resistance. This resistance may not be able to turn back the clock, and we may not be able to live as if the past 60 years never happened, but at least we can work to prevent further suffering and destruction of our city and our society, and we can work to rebuild the eminence that was the Bride of the Sea.

Sami Abu Shehadeh and Fadi Shbaytah are residents of Jaffa, and members of the Jaffa Popular Committee for the Defense of Land and Housing Rights. This article was translated from Arabic by Hazem Jamjoum, and was originally published in the upcoming (Autumn 2008/Winter 2009) issue of al-Majdal, the quarterly magazine of the Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights (http://www.badil.org/).

Justice Delayed is Justice Denied

Justice Delayed is Justice Denied
Mohamad Shmaysani Readers Number : 208

26/02/2009 The tribunal created to try suspects in former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri’s assassination opens near The Hague Sunday with no courtroom, no first trial date and its judges’ identities remain a secret.

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon will be officially launched in a special ceremony on March 1, but it could be years before any suspect is brought before a judge.
“There is a lot of work left to turn this into a court,” registrar Robin Vincent told journalists at the seat of the tribunal, the former headquarters of the Dutch intelligence service in Leidschendam, this week. “I think it would be unlikely you would see this tribunal finish before between three and five years,” Vincent added.

The courtroom itself, to be housed in what was a gymnasium used by spies, is not expected to be completed before November, he said. As for the date of the first hearing, “that depends on the success the prosecutor (Daniel Bellemare) has in pursuing his investigation. Only the prosecutor knows how advanced his investigations are.”

Pursuant to Security Council resolution 1664 (2006), the United Nations and the Lebanese Republic negotiated an agreement on the establishment of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Further to Security Council resolution 1757 (2007) of 30 May 2007, the provisions of the document annexed to it and the Statute of the Special Tribunal thereto attached, entered into force on 10 June 2007.
It was created to try those behind a series of attacks on Lebanese political and media personalities, notably Hariri’s assassination in a car bombing in February 2005 that also killed 22 other people.
Eleven judges, including four Lebanese, have been nominated to work at the tribunal. None have been identified for security reasons, and Vincent said the Lebanese judges’ names would likely be withheld until they take up their duties.

In its early stages, the UN probe passed from chief investigator to another. Perhaps the most controversial chief investigator was German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis whose findings and recommendations were criticized as blatantly politicized.
From taking office officially on Sunday, the office of the prosecutor will have 60 days to apply to the Lebanese authorities for the transfer of suspects and evidence files.
The identities of potential witnesses and suspects have also not yet been revealed. “The prosecutor has kept his cards very close to his chest,” said Vincent. “It is important that he does that for confidentiality.”

On Wednesday, just days before Sunday’s official opening,
Lebanese authorities (Investigating Judge Saqr Saqr), suddenly and without explaining its decision’s reasonable grounds, released three of seven suspects it had been holding in connection with Hariri’s murder. As was the case during their detention, the release of the brothers Mahmoud and Ahmed Abdel Aal and Syrian Ibrahim Jarjura was questioned.

The two brothers were released on a bail of L.L 500,000 (330 US dollars) each and Jarjura on a bail of just L.L. 100,000 (67 US dollars).

According to observers, if the Abdel Aal brothers and Jarjura were innocent, why were they kept in custody, without charges and without trial for more than three years? If they were guilty, on the other hand, why release them? And if they are innocent and their case, as the judiciary has been saying for four years, is closely related to the case of the four security officers currently in custody, why not release the officers who have not yet been indicted or tried. For some analysts, the answer was that the pro-March 14 authorities’ move was politically, mainly electorally motivated as the Abdel Aal brothers belong to the “Ahbash” group which has weight in Beirut and its votes could serve as a lever for the March 14 candidates in the capital’s elections.

The three could still be prosecuted in the Hariri case, although no one has been charged in the 2005 bombing, but their release now meant that they will not be moved to The Hague with other detainees.

The four “other detainees” are the former head of the Presidential Guards Mustafa Hamdan, General Security Director Jamil Sayyed, Internal Security Forces Chief Ali Hajj and Military Intelligence Chief Raymond Azar. Their lawyers insist that their detention is “illegal” and “unfounded” as there is no proof against them and that they are being held on false testimony of Mohamad Suheir Siddiq that was later retracted. It was Detlev Mehlis who recommended their arrest. Siddiq, who disappeared from his home in a Paris suburb last year, told the UN probe commission that then Lebanese President Emil Lahoud and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had ordered the killing. His testimonies were retracted.

The lawyers of the four officers will submit a new request for their release on Thursday.

The tribunal will apply the Lebanese penal code, and victims of those convicted can seek compensation from Lebanese courts.
While the courtroom may not be ready, the tribunal already has a separate wing of holding cells at the Dutch penitentiary in Scheveningen, which “is operational, staffed and ready to receive anyone we get,” Vincent said.
He added that the tribunal would have a staff of 350 in its first year, and a budget of 51.4 million dollars of which the Lebanese government would contribute 49 percent.

Vincent said that if suspects refused to come before the tribunal voluntarily, the tribunal could ask the UN Security Council to put pressure on member states to hand them over. If all else failed, “and that is something that is unusual about this tribunal, we have the provision to try people in their absence. I think that would be the last resort.”

The Jewish Year 6000

Link

The Jews believe that human life will only last for 6,000 years. Christian Zionists want to destroy the world, and believe that they will be raptured as the rest of the human race dies. These apocalyptic views are addressed, analyzed and criticized.

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Post Title:

Tribute to Sincere Journalism

SourceBy Guest Post • Feb 26th, 2009 at 17:41 • Category: Internet and Communication, Newswire, Opinions and Letters, Resistance

WRITTEN BY Kourosh Ziabari

“Journalism” is the profession of informing people; feeding them with the accurate and reliable information, making the world a better place for life and spreading the messages of peace, stability and friendship by all of the technical and professional means at one’s disposal.

The above sentences are not the captivating and mesmerizing slogans of hawkish leaders who accumulate nuclear weapons in their arsenals, enjoying the UNSC immunity and meanwhile chanting clumsily the call of peace and friendship. These are the obscured and muddled objectives of journalism which were once the ambitious aims of our ancestors.

“The duty of the journalist is to further [those] ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty.” Isn’t it inspirational and dreamlike? It isn’t a part of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but the Preamble of Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics Statement.

The very concept of journalism was once interlaced with trustworthiness, candor and sincerity. However, it was revolutionized gradually to some level that you cannot any longer separate it from black propaganda, fabrication and slander.

Last week and for the first time, I paid a memorable visit that will be recorded in the annals of my personal chronicle evermore. Although I am myself based in the northern city of Rasht and do not commute over Tehran so regularly, I made a trip to the mega-capital in order to have a meeting with the people of Tehran Times newspaper, the most prominent English language paper in Iran which is being published for 30 years ceaselessly.

Upon my arrival and after a couple of hours dashing to find the correct address of the headquarters, I finally landed up with the bureau which was located on the end of a calm and narrow alley, somewhere close to the Pakistan Embassy and the Kuwaiti Airlines Representative office in a northern district.

The newsroom was almost silent and you could not find the people scampering from this room to that corner with turmoil and noise. A monitoring agent, putting a massive earphone on his head, was responsible for taking care of the mainstreams and what they say about Iran. He was regularly switching between CNN, Al-Jazeera, BBC and CBS, sitting before an aged Pentium III desktop and pursuing the live shows and commentaries through a TV Broadcast software and his headset.

Each of the editors and reviewers possessed his/her own PC and I could behold near to 20 computer desks in a single room.

There was for the first time when I meet some people whom I can never forget; the people to whom I should pay an immense tribute and a timeless homage.

I first met a distinguished Pakistani journalist to whom I had just chatted online and talked via phone earlier. I met Mr. Gul Jammas Hussain, a esteemed editor at the Tehran Times and one of the most committed, dedicated journalists that I’ve ever seen.

His tranquil, modest demeanor was exemplary for me. His voice tone would not exceed a certain amount and his warm welcomes I can by no means forget. Seeming abundantly taciturn and reserved in speech and appearance, you should have struggled hard to elicit the flashes of his treasures of knowledge and cognition.

He was the first one who punished me overtly, and made me face the obscured realities which the compromising society was long withholding from me. Although I had made his acquaintance just a few weeks previous to our reunion, I can name him the only one who genuinely unveiled the price of humility and meekness for me, and helped me encounter the reality of unassumingness.

Aside from being a successful journalist whose articles are published in the most prestigious newspapers of Pakistan and Iran, he is now to me, an exalted mentor, educative trainer and dependable brother. It’s my duty, and will be forever, to thank him for the opportunities which he offered me.

The next figure, which I conferred with, was indescribable and unprecedented. Mr. Hamid Golpira, a senior editor at the Times and an internationally accomplished journalist. The symbolic scarf which he always ties around his neck in the sign of solidarity with the oppressed nation of Palestine would not be detached from him.

Talking to me in a charismatic and unique manner, he uttered vigorously: “Even this scarf is older than you.” And he was right; the American-Iranian Hamid was living with that historic scarf for years, shared a series of memories and anecdotes with “him”.

In Hamid, I’ll remain loyal and faithful perpetually. He knows whatever he says, and you can compile an encyclopedia of general information from the overflowing, excessive amount of data which he releases while working and speaking.

I don’t know how to describe my feelings about this respected and cherished man, who is a “human”, rather than an old-hand journalist. The image of his pale, wheaten hairs, sparse beard and matchless way of walking is incorporated in my mind and I wish I could expose myself, for endless hours, to the ocean of his knowledge and conscience.

I should not overlook Mr. Mohammad Ali Saki, another expert journalist and editor, to whom I owe the honor of becoming a contributor of Tehran Times. He gave a leg up to me, and helped me pull the string and climb. He prized his confidence and trust to me, and I hope I can respond his trust with merit and hard-work.

All of these people that I named have their own stories and anecdotes. You can figure out the most interesting and exceptional legends and tales from their lives, and the most common thing which they all share is that they are doing every kind of sacrifice to fulfill the dreams of their ancestors.

With their unpretentious yet brilliant and outstanding endeavors, Tehran Times is now standing on the pinnacle of independent media in Iran, and a wide range of international audiences count on it as their number-one source of undistorted, unbiased and impartial news not only about Iran, but on the whole international affairs.

Although I’m not a regular contributor to Tehran Times, I honor to have friends in a media outlet where sincerity, authenticity and “humanity” is still enshrined and preserved.

"..Operational cooperation between Iran, Syria & Hezbollah increasing.."

Iran assuming Mughniyeh role inside Hezbollah

By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent

Iran has been increasing its involvement and control over Hezbollah’s operations since terror operations head Imad Mughniyeh was killed a year ago.

Hezbollah has not yet found someone of similar stature to replace Mughniyeh. Therefore, the Iranians have taken some responsibility for Hezbollah operations, using a large number of Iranian Revolutionary Guard and intelligence officers in Lebanon.

This means operational cooperation between Iran, Syria and Hezbollah has increased regarding all potential actions against Israel. Iranian officers, most of whom prefer to be based in Syria, often visit Lebanon and tour the Israeli border.

The Iranians are directly involved in running Hezbollah operations in southern Lebanon, and in addition, hundreds of Hezbollah militants head for Iran every month for training and exercises.

Senior Israeli defense officials told Haaretz that Mughniyeh’s assassination, which Hezbollah blames on Israel, left a large hole in the organization. Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah is now stuck dealing with operational matters he never handled in the past, say the Israeli officials.

Nasrallah has much less knowledge and experience on these matters than Mughniyeh, who was very careful about secrecy and compartmentalization of information. His death caused quite a bit of fear and anxiety among senior Hezbollah officials, the officials said.

The Katyusha rockets that struck northern Israel during Operation Cast Lead last month seem to have been fired by a Palestinian organization, Ahmed Jibril’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command. The organization is believed to have acted with Hezbollah’s approval, even though Hezbollah itself fired only a limited, symbolic number of rockets and prevented Palestinian attempts for more widespread attacks.

The rocket that struck a western Galilee village last Saturday was most likely fired by the extremist Sunni organization Usbat al-Ansar, a splinter group that identifies itself with the Islamic Jihad movement and is influenced by Al-Qaida. The organization considers the Shi’ite Hezbollah a major rival, and Saturday’s rockets were fired without Hezbollah approval.

Three members of a Christian Arab family were slightly injured. The Israel Defense Forces responded to the Katyushas with eight artillery rounds. No one was injured.

After the incident, Israel sent the Lebanese a severe warning via UNIFIL and foreign diplomats, saying the Lebanese government must take responsibility for preventing terror attacks on Israel launched from its territory. Israel told Lebanon that it expects the Lebanese government and the army take action against Usbat al-Ansar, a Palestinian splinter group in the southern Lebanon Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp in southern Lebanon, with the same determination it used against similar groups in the Nahar el-Barad camp in northern Lebanon over a year ago. The army destroyed large sections of the camp, and dozens were killed in the battles between the extremist groups and the Lebanese Army.

UNIFIL has recently uncovered about 60 Katyushas, though Israeli defense officials are divided over whether UNIFIL and the Lebanese army can – or want to – take action in southern Lebanon. UNIFIL operates effectively and with determination in open areas, say the officials, but avoids built-up areas in the Shi’ite villages, saying it is not included in their mandate under UN Security Council Resolution 1701.

Comment

You must read the Shaking BUTTS BOMBSHELL on Mughniyeh Assasination.

ZIO WEB ATTACKS ~~~ ARE YOU A ‘VICTIM’?

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February 26, 2009 at 11:58 am (Blogging, DesertPeace Editorial, Internet, Internet Security, Israel, Palestine, zionist harassment)

Do you write articles giving the truth about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict? Do you have a Blog known for its anti zionist viewpoints? Have you been getting extra ‘visitors’ to your Blog who leave negative comments or participate in polls?

If yes to any of the above, there is a good reason for all of this….it’s a project called Megaphone Israel. It is a new desktop tool that alerts its subscribers to any entries that might be anti Israel or anti zionist.

After notification, the ‘warriors’ jump into action and attack the source of the article. Are we to quiver in our seats because of this? Are we to stop posting because of this? I THINK NOT!

As long as Israel continues its existing genocidal policies and actions against the people of Palestine, Blogs such as this one will continue to expose their crimes. Where the media fails to, we will present the facts.

So Megaphone Israel should be kept busy for the next (hopefully) short while.

Do any of my readers have suggestions as to how we might also be alerted….. to racist or zionist postings on the Web? We too should be posting OUR comments on their sites, just to let them know we are aware of their ‘games’.

Thanks to Mary Rizzo for the alert on this situation…..

GAZA: DEATH’S LABORATORY

Source

February 26, 2009 at 7:31 am (Ethnic Cleansing, Gaza, Israel, Palestine, War Crimes)

By Conn Hallinan

It was as if they had stepped on a mine, but there was no shrapnel in the wound. Some had lost their legs. It looked as though they had been sliced off. I have been to war zones for 30 years, but I have never seen such injuries before.
—Dr. Erik Fosse, Norwegian cardiologist who

worked in Gaza hospitals during the recent war.

What Dr. Fosse was describing was the effects of a U.S. “focused lethality” weapon that minimalizes explosive damage to structures while inflicting catastrophic wounds on its victims. While the weapon has been used in Iraq, Gaza was the first test of the bomb in a densely populated environment.

The specific weapon—the GBU-39—is a Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME) and was developed by the U.S. Air Force, Boeing Corporation, and University of California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 2000. The weapon wraps the high explosives HMX or RDX with a tungsten alloy and other metals like cobalt, nickel or iron, in a carbon fiber/epoxy container. When the bomb explodes, the container evaporates and the tungsten turns into micro-shrapnel that is extremely lethal up to about 60 feet.

Tungsten is inert, so it does not react chemically with the explosive. While a non-inert metal like aluminum would increase the blast, tungsten actually limits the explosion.

Within the weapon’s range, however, it is inordinately lethal. According to Norwegian doctor Mad Gilbert, the blast results in multiple amputations and “very severe fractures. The muscles are sort of split from the bones, hanging loose, and you also have quite severe burns.”

Those who survive the initial blast quickly succumb to septicemia and organ collapse. “Initially, everything seems in order … but it turns out on operation that dozens of miniature particles can be found in all their organs,” says Dr. Jam Brommundt, a German doctor working in Kham Younis, a city in southern Gaza. “It seems to be some sort of explosive or shell that disperses tiny particles … that penetrate all organs, these miniature injuries, you are not able to attack them surgically.” According to Brommundt, the particles cause multiple organ failures.

If, by some miracle, victims do survive, they are almost to certain develop rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS), a particularly deadly cancer that deeply embeds itself into tissue and is almost impossible to treat. A 2005 U.S. Department of health study found that tungsten stimulated RMS cancers even in very low doses. Out of 92 rats tested, 92 developed the cancer.

While DIMEs were originally designed to avoid “collateral” damage generated by standard high explosive bombs, the weapon’s lethality and profound long-term toxicity hardly seems like an improvement. And in Gaza, the ordinance was widely used. Al-Shifta alone has seen 100 to 150 such patients.

Was Gaza a test of DIME in urban conditions?

Dr. Gilbert told the Oslo Gardermoen,“There is a strong suspicion I think that Gaza is now being used as a test laboratory for new weapons.”

The characteristics of the GBU-39 are likely to make it a go-to weapon in the future. The bomb is small and light—less than six feet long and only 285 pounds—that means an aircraft can carry four times as many weapons. It can also be dropped 60 miles from its target. Internal wings allow the bomb to navigate to its target. It can penetrate three feet of reinforced concrete. It can also be mounted on drones, like the Predator and the Reaper, and compared to other weapons systems, is a bargain.”

Marc Garlasco, Human Rights Watch’s senior military advisor, says “It remains to be seen how Israel has acquired the technology, whether they purchased weapons from the United States under some agreement, or if they in fact licensed or developed their own type of munitions.”

In fact, Congress approved the $77 million sale of 1.000 GBU-39s to Israel in September, 2008, and the weapons were delivered in December. Israel was the first foreign sales of the DIMES.

DIME weapons are not banned under the Geneva Conventions because they have never been officially tested. However, any weapon capable of inflicting such horrendous damage is normally barred from use, particularly in one of the most densely populated regions in the world.

For one thing, no one is sure about how long the tungsten remains in the environment or how it could affect people who return to homes attacked by a DIME. University of Arizona cancer researcher Dr. Mark Witten, who investigates links between tungsten and leukemia, says that in his opinion “there needs to be much more research on the health effects of tungsten before the military increases its usage.”

DIMEs were not the only controversial weapons used in Gaza. The Israeli Self-Defense Forces (IDF) also made generous use of white phosphorus, a chemical that burns with intense heat and inflicts terrible burns on victims. In its vapor form it also damages breathing passages
International law prohibits the weapon’s use near population areas and requires that “all reasonable precautions” be taken to avoid civilians.

Israel initially denied it was using the chemical. “The IDF acts only in accordance with what is permitted by international law and does not use white phosphorus,” said Israel’s Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi on Jan. 13.

But eyewitness accounts in Gaza and Israel soon forced the IDF to admit that they were, indeed, using the substance. On Jan 20, the IDF confessed to using phosphorus artillery shells as smoke screens, as well as 200 U.S.-made M825A1 phosphorus mortar shells on “Hamas fighters and rocket launching crews in northern Gaza.”

Three of those shells hit the UN Works and Relief Agency compound Jan. 15, igniting a fire that destroyed hundreds of tons of humanitarian supplies. Al-Quds hospital in Gaza City was also hit by a phosphorus shell. The Israelis say there were Hamas fighters near the two targets, a charge that witnesses adamantly deny.

Donatella Rovera of Amnesty International said, “Such extensive use of this weapon in Gaza’s densely-populated residential neighborhoods … and its toll on civilians, is a war crime.”

Israel is also accused of using depleted uranium ammunition (DUA), which in a UN sub-commission in 2002 found in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions, the International Convention Against Torture, the Conventional Weapons Convention, and the Hague Conventions against the use of poison weapons.

DUA is not highly radioactive, but after exploding some of it turns into a gas that can easily be inhaled. The dense shrapnel that survives also tends to bury itself deeply, leaching low-level radioactivity into water tables.

Other human rights groups, including B’Tselem, Gisha, and Physicians for Human Rights, charge that the IDF intentionally targeted medical personal, killing over a dozen, including paramedics and ambulance drivers.

The International Federation for Human Rights called upon the UN Security Council to refer Israel to the International Criminal Court for possible war crimes.

While the Israelis dismiss the war crimes charges, the fact that the Israeli cabinet held a special meeting on Jan 25 to discuss the issue suggests they are concerned they could be charged with “disproportionate” use of force. The Geneva Conventions require belligerents to at “all times” distinguish between combatants and civilians and to avoid “disproportionate force” in seeking military gains.

Hamas’ use of unguided missiles fired at Israel would also be a war crime under the Conventions.

“The one-sidedness of casualty figures is one measure of disproportion,” says Richard Falk, the UN’s human rights envoy for the occupied territories. A total of 14 Israelis have been killed in the fighting, three of them civilians killed by rockets, 11 of them soldiers, four of the latter by “friendly fire.” Some 50 IDF soldiers were also wounded.

In contrast, 1330 Palestinians have died and 5450 were injured, the overwhelming number of them civilians.

“This kind of fighting constitutes a blatant violation of the laws of warfare, which we ask to be investigated by the Commission of War Crimes,” a coalition of Israeli human rights groups and Amnesty International said in a joint statement. “The responsibility of the state of Israel is beyond doubt.”

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann would coordinate the defense of any soldier or commander charged with a war crime. In any case, the U.S. would veto any effort by the UN Security Council to refer Israelis to the International Court at The Hague.

But, as the Financial Times points out, “all countries have an obligation to search out those accused of ‘grave’ breaches of the rules of war and to put them on trial or extradite them to a country that will.”

That was the basis under which Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was arrested in Britain in 1998.

“We’re in a seismic shift in international law,” Amnesty International legal advisor Christopher Hall told the Financial Times, who says that Israel’s foreign ministry is already examining the risk to Israelis who travel abroad.

“It’s like walking across the street against a red light,” he says. “The risk may be low, but you’re going to think twice before committing a crime or traveling if you have committed one.”

We are already dead



“What does it matter? We are already dead.”

Eight words, two short sentences. Spoken by a boy in Gaza this week, when he was warned against picking up a fragment of phosphorous, which burns through flesh tissues, right down to the bone (a memento courtesy of the Israeli Air Force).
Many Gazans feel that it is only a matter of time before Israel resumes its full-scale attack on their tiny, defenceless territory. And they could be right, particularly if Binyamin Netanyahu comes to power, with his stated intention of finishing the job.

And will our world leaders watch on, indifferent – as they watched the recent round of massacres -as the Final Solution unfolds?

Posted by Bob Birch at 5:04 PM

Palestinian child hit with IOF bullets
Turkish delegation: The destruction in Gaza is beyond description

GRITtv Interview: Professor Joel Kovel (fired for his views on Zionism)

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GRITtv Interview: Joel Kovel:

Joel Kovel, a long-time professor at BardCollege and the author of Overcoming Zionism was recently terminated from his post, he says, for his views on Zionism. Bard has denied the accusation and says that Kovel was not fired but relieved for financial reasons. You can learn more about the case here.

Palestine Video – A Palestine Vlog

Posted by …壣€¥ç↙ at 4:39 AM

That’s My Congressman: Brian Baird Speaks out about Gaza

Brian Baird Speaks out about Gaza

“It’s hard for anyone in our country to imagine how it must feel to have a sick child who needs urgent care or is receiving chemotherapy or dialysis, then be forced to take a needlessly lengthy route, walk rather than drive, and wait in lines as long as two hours simply to get to the hospital. As a health care professional myself, I found this profoundly troubling, no, actually it’s beyond that, it is outrageous”

Those are the words of my congressional representative, Brian Baird (WA, D). Along with Keith Ellison, Baird just visited Gaza and come with what seems to be a genuine commitment to speaking out about what he witnessed. Honestly, after spending *years* lobbying this man, imploring him to speak out, I’m pretty excited. Rachel Corrie’s mother and father, Craig and Cindy, deserve a lot of credit, I believe, for bring Gaza to Baird’s attention. And you have to admit, it does take some courage for him to take this stance.

Baird reports seeing terrible and disturbing things in Gaza:

“The amount of physical destruction and the depth of human suffering here is staggering” said Baird, “Entire neighborhoods have been destroyed, schools completely leveled, fundamental water, sewer, and electricity facilities hit and relief agencies heavily damaged. The personal stories of children being killed in their homes or schools, entire families wiped out, and relief workers prevented from evacuating the wounded are heart wrenching – what went on here, and what is continuing to go on, is shocking and troubling beyond words.”

The rest of the press release Ellison and Braid released is here and you can read more about their trip in the Jerusalem Post (be mindful of how right wing that paper is, by Israeli standards). If you have a moment, Baird and Ellison (and John Kerry who also just visited Gaza) emails and ask them to keep speaking out. You know they’re going to be criticized for this.

The only Palestinian woman in Israel’s parliament

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Jonathan Cook, The Electronic Intifada, 25 February 2009

When Israel’s 18th parliament opened this week, there was only one Arab woman among its intake of legislators.

Haneen Zoubi has made history: although she is not the first Arab woman to enter the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, she is the first to be elected for an Arab party.

Sitting in her home in Nazareth, the effective capital of Israel’s 1.2 million Palestinian citizens, she is dismissive of her predecessors, two women elected on behalf of Zionist parties. “They were worse than decorations,” she said. “Decorations don’t do any harm, but these women damaged our society. They were no role models at all.”

Zoubi, 39, a representative of the Tajamu Party, known for its Palestinian nationalist platform, has already shown she will not be following in their path. On a recent induction day for Knesset members, she made headlines locally when she pointed out to an official who repeatedly referred to “the territories” that he meant “the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

Her election is not Zoubi’s only pioneering moment. She was the first Palestinian citizen to graduate from a media studies course in Israel, at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and she established the first media classes in Arab schools. For the past six years she has headed an organization exposing Israeli media bias.

Her priority now, she said, is to advance both the cause of the fifth of the country’s population who are Palestinians, commonly referred to as “Israeli Arabs,” and the cause of Palestinian women in Israel.

“I don’t want to become the Knesset address for Arab women’s issues. I need to raise the interest of the men in my party on women’s issues, not allow their interest to wane because they can dump the issue on me.”

But she said she does represent a demand among the minority’s women for change and political involvement. “Women congratulate me in the street. Even women I know who are usually supporters of the Islamic movement or who were planning to boycott the election because of [Israel’s recent attack on] Gaza came and told me they voted for me.”

Alongside her will be nine male Arab party legislators: two from Tajamu, four from an Islamic party and three from the Communist party. A remaining one is Jewish.

They will be facing the most hostile Knesset in history. Of the parliament’s 120 members, at least 65 are classified as belonging to the right and far-right and may yet form a governing coalition.

Avigdor Lieberman’s party, Yisrael Beiteinu, which threatens to strip Israel’s Palestinians of citizenship unless they pledge loyalty to a Jewish state, has 15 seats. One of the National Union’s four legislators, Michael Ben-Ari, a former member of an outlawed anti-Arab terrorist group, is appointing two extremist settlers from Hebron as parliamentary aides.

“In a proper state, Lieberman’s program would be declared illegal. But the real concern is not his platform but that it has been legitimized by the main Zionist parties,” including Kadima, whose leader is Tzipi Livni, and the Likud Party of Benjamin Netanyahu, who is attempting to cobble together a ruling coalition.

Tajamu is almost universally despised by Jewish legislators. Its founder, Azmi Bishara, is living in exile after he was accused of treason over the 2006 Lebanon war; its officials are hounded by the secret police, the Shin Bet; and, as in other recent elections, Zionist parties attempted to bar Tajamu from running. The courts overruled the move.

Zoubi said she will not be fazed. “The Knesset is always hostile to Arab Knesset members and we are well used to their racist language. Even the building shows us we are not welcome. Everywhere there are Jewish symbols — from the Star of David on the flag to the menorahs — that we as Palestinians cannot identify with.”

Like other Palestinian citizens, she has watched the TV news bulletins showing Jewish legislators, even cabinet ministers, shouting down Arab legislators in the Knesset chamber and having them ejected.

The racist discourse that lies behind Knesset debates is a concern, she said. “It is frustrating and exhausting having always to be on the defensive about why I identify as a Palestinian, why I am not a Zionist, why the Jewish state is not democratic and cannot represent me, why I am entitled to citizenship. It is a Sisyphean labor.”

She admits to boycotting the first Knesset election after she turned 18.

“There is a significant group in our society that calls for a boycott, saying we will always be excluded from the political system here. But we need a Palestinian voice in the Knesset. I and the other Palestinian MKs are an obstacle to the Zionist parties’ success in trying to control our society’s consciousness.”

The party’s platform — developed by Bishara — is to reform Israel from a Jewish state into a “state of all its citizens,” a program now advocated by all the Arab parties.

“The Jewish public don’t like self-confident, unapologetic Arabs, which is why Azmi was always feared. But actually I think there is a base of support even among Jews for reforming Israel into a proper democracy, maybe as much as 30 percent.”

She hopes that her election — by breaking one of Jewish society’s stereotypes about the Palestinian public — may start to win over more Israeli Jews to the party’s program.

In the meantime, she said, Tajamu will work to oppose confiscation of Arab land and house demolitions, and demand proper infrastructure in the minority’s communities, as well as have their educational and economic rights recognized.

But she is critical of the Palestinian minority’s dominant political demand for many decades: equality. “The struggle solely for equality treats me as a number, it reduces me to part of a mathematical formula. It ignores my history, identity and narrative as a Palestinian. I want to be a full Israeli citizen, but it must not come at the expense of my people’s collective rights to an identity and a past.”

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.

A version of this article originally appeared in The National, published in Abu Dhabi.

Commentary on Uri Dromi’s article in the Guardian

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I thought I would take some time to post a commentary paragraph by paragraph of some of the lies that Israel’s professional propagandists wheel out just after Israel has killed more people. Uri Dromi is writing an article for the Guardian and thoughtfully tells us why Israel had to kill all those people and that it regretted doing so, but it had no choice. Here is why I think he’s talking absolute rubbish.

In the wake of the Israeli operation in Gaza, aimed at putting an end to years of Hamas harassment of the south of Israel, there are now media reports about the possible use by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) of white phosphorus and flechette shells. Now Amnesty International issues a report reiterating these claims.

This is not true, Hamas had been observing a ceasefire with the Zionist state, which was continuing its policy of assassination and destruction throughout. In addition, the Israeli state had maintained a two year seige on Gaza and continues to do so along with its Egyptian allies.

Some words about these weapons.

White phosphorous is a chemical substance dispersed in artillery shells, used primarily to conceal the movement of troops. It burns on contact with oxygen and creates a smokescreen to mask the military manoeuvre. Unfortunately, it may have a negative side effect: when it comes into contact with people, it causes severe burns.

Flechettes are an anti-personnel weapon designed to strike a large number of enemy men. Basically, they are tiny metal darts packed into120mm shells. These shells explode in mid-air and scatter many flechettes in a conical pattern over an area around 300 metres wide and 100 metres long.
As frightening as they sound, these weapons are not banned by international law. Therefore, when the Israeli army used them in Gaza, it did nothing unprecedented. Peter Herby, the head of the Red Cross’s mines-arms unit, told the Associated Press: “In some of the strikes in Gaza, it’s pretty clear that phosphorus was used.” However, he added: “It’s not very unusual to use phosphorus to create smoke or illuminate a target. We have no evidence to suggest it’s being used in any other way.”

As for flechettes, whether we like it or not, they are standard weapons for most armies. Again, international law doesn’t prohibit their use. Even so, the IDF established a commission of inquiry to investigate whether there were cases in which flechettes and white phosphorous were misused.

This is all true.

Amnesty International, however, didn’t wait for any such investigation. Quick as ever to blame Israel, the organisation paid lip service to the launching of thousands of rockets by Hamas on Israel during the last years, aiming intentionally to kill innocent civilians. It hardly denounced them and then went on to conclude that it was Israel that had committed “war crimes”.
Your army did kill over 1300 civilians, many of them children, over a period of over 30 days of sustained bombing in the most heavily populated area on the planet. A little perspective please.

Alas, war is a messy business. In urban areas, where the enemy is elusive and is using women and children as human shields, war is even messier. Remember Fallujah in Iraq, in 2004, when during Operation Phantom Fury US forces destroyed one out of every four dwellings of this 40,000-home city, killing 1,350 fighters and an undisclosed number of civilians. No one blamed the US for war crimes, and no one dared threaten to drag American generals to tribunals at The Hague. When it comes to Israel, however, double standards reign.
War is indeed a messy business, but you only say this when you kill Palestinian civilians, it doesn’t seem to occur to you that since you are at war with the entire Palestinian people, some of your own civilians will get killed too. The same argument can and has been used that almost the entire Israeli civilian population is involved with the Zionist military establishment or industry which supports it, and since your country is on stolen Palestinian land, there are no cities or areas which are not embroiled in this war.

Does this man really think that anybody has forgotten what happened in Fallujah? He might as well have been an Italian fascist claiming precedence with the Luftwaffe and Guernica. Both of these countries will be held to account for what they have done, sooner or later. As for double standards in dealing with the United States and Israel, the phrase a pot calling a kettle black comes to mind.

Go explain to Amnesty, or to the world media, that Israel, in trying to hit Hamas operatives only, took extraordinary steps not to harm civilians. Millions of leaflets were scattered over Gaza, warning the locals to evacuate certain areas before they were attacked. Phone calls were made to specific residents to leave their homes, because Hamas terrorists operated from there and thus turned them into military targets (yes, read again: you call your enemy and you implore him to leave the area so he is not hurt). Last but not least, after exhausting all those warning measures, the IDF fired close to such homes and gave the residents enough time to leave them safely, before the houses were hit.
This is rubbish, Hamas has been warning the Israelis and the settlers not to occupy Palestinian land for years. It has also warned that any attempt at expansion of settlements, or invasion of Gaza, will be met with retaliation. Needless to say, the Israeli settlements have continued growing, Israelis have continued living on Palestinian land and the Israeli army launched a massive invasion attempt into the Gaza strip. No resistance group in the world would even bother giving an invading army an ultimatum before striking it and yet the Israelis time and again think that they can reside in Palestine with impunity and then have the temerity to complain that they are coming under rocket attack from the people whose land they stole. This is double standards to the extreme if ever there was any.

No other army in the world goes to such lengths to try not to hurt civilians. Yet once a military operation is launched, and especially in a heavily populated area such as Gaza, things happen. Was there a disproportionate use of force? The IDF is checking it. Was there misuse of white phosphorous or flechettes? Again, Israel, as a vibrant democracy, is investigating the matter thoroughly. In the meantime, foreign journalists who entered Gaza when the operation was over reported that the initial stories about the damage were grossly exaggerated.

The same holds true for Hamas attempts to dislodge both the Israeli army and Israeli settlers from their land. It is admirable how serious the self titled Israeli “Defense” Forces take any allegations of disproportionate force or the use of phosphorous and flechettes. I am assured that Hamas has also heard of the allegations made against it and will leave no stone unturned in their investigation of what happened, since they too are part of a vibrant democracy and were elected by the Palestinian people in free and transparent elections. Other foreign journalists who entered Gaza when the operation said that initial stories about the damage were grossly minimised but what is your point exactly?

Last but not least, the Israeli use of force must be put in context. Only after exhausting its patience vis-a-vis an onslaught of Qassam rockets did Israel decide to use its military power, in the most justifiable act of self-defence. If there is one commodity in short supply among the Hamas leaders, it is accountability. Hamas brought on the people of Gaza the wrath of the IDF – white phosphorous and flechettes included. Now its supporters are pointing fingers at Israel.
The Israeli use of force took place after it forced a seige on the people of Gaza for two years, during which time it continued to fire missiles into the territory in spite of Hamas adhering to a ceasefire. In terms of accountability, one thing these people are not in short supply of is that. They are of the people of Gaza themselves and are not some foreign body within the civilian population. It is the leadership, their colleagues, neighbours and very own families who are at the front line. Entire families have been wiped out in missile strikes, the very own families of these Hamas men he speaks of. Let us stop fooling ourselves that Hamas have brought this on the people of Gaza, they are the people of Gaza and they were elected by the people of Gaza.

Posted by Maysaloon at 4:03 PM

Justice and couscous

Gen Sander, The Electronic Intifada, 25 February 2009

Helen Abu al-Haija, co-founder of a women’s fair trade couscous cooperative.

Life has never been easy in Ein al-Sultan camp, Palestine’s smallest refugee camp. Nestled at the foot of the Mount of Temptation, just outside the historic city of Jericho, the camp’s population currently sits at roughly 2,000. Established in 1948, the camp once accommodated 20,000 refugees, but the vast majority were forced to flee to Jordan during the hostilities of the 1967 war. Many of those who remained once relied on employment in Israel to make ends meet, but when the brutality of the occupation was intensified during the second Palestinian intifada most people lost their jobs because of the severe movement restrictions that were imposed. Today, poor socio-economic conditions, inadequate basic infrastructure such as roads and sewers, severe water shortages, all of which are compounded by the Israeli occupation, cause tremendous hardship for the refugees, who continue to be largely dependent on food rations and various other forms of international aid.

A portrait so acutely drenched in misery is difficult for anyone to confront, let alone those actually burdened by it. Fortunately, though, the spirit’s resolve is an amazing tool for change and was the trigger for a remarkable group of women from Ein al-Sultan camp to come together a few years ago to devise an innovative way in which to break free from the shackles of their destitution. And so begins the inspirational story of Jericho’s women’s fair trade couscous cooperative.

The idea was born out of a longing to improve their situation and become independent. “Unemployment is very high and we can’t always depend on our husbands. Sometimes they have work, and sometimes they don’t. We want to be able to contribute,” explained Zahra Abu Shrar, one of the co-op members. Armed with a brilliant idea but lacking the resources to launch it, the women approached the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC) about contributing the necessary infrastructure and logistical assistance. Without delay, PARC accepted and began working in concert to see this project come to fruition.

Now, two years later, the women are still beaming with pride. “This is our initiative. We care about it, and cannot imagine doing anything else,” said Helen Abu al-Haija, one of the co-op founders and a 27-year-old mother of three who was born in the camp. Due to her extensive experience with local, grassroots organizations, Abu al-Haija was elected as acting supervisor of the co-op. She somehow finds time to dedicate her days to the co-op, her evenings and weekends to her family, and whatever spare time she has to completing her university degree. Everyone shares her strong commitment to the project as well as a common history and struggle that, as Helen explains, binds the women together as one “big happy family.”

But apart from the obvious benefits of carving out one’s own position in the world alongside one’s kin, are the added perks of working in the fair trade industry. Everything down to the bare bones of the co-op is based on principles of justice — even the wheat acquired to make the couscous comes from the organic, fair trade wheat co-op in Jenin. The concept of solidarity is very important for the women, made clear by Abu al-Haija’s confession that “if it weren’t for the fair trade farmers, we wouldn’t have this job.” There is also the groundswell of solidarity and cooperation between the co-op and the international organizations that support their work by buying their high-quality couscous. “We feel the solidarity and we know our work is appreciated,” Abu al-Haija explained, smiling proudly.

The women unanimously agree that since they’ve been working at the couscous co-op their lives have improved dramatically. For the first time “we’re no longer dependent on humanitarian aid,” said Abu Shrar. Not only are they now independently taking home their well-earned wages, but they are finally able to simultaneously provide opportunities once inconceivable to their children, and fix-up their run-down homes. Furthermore, their self-confidence has grown alongside their social status, which has been propped up by virtue of their fortitude, self-determination and goodwill.

A similar success once seemed promising in the Gaza Strip, where six women’s fair trade couscous cooperatives shared the same dreams and aspirations as those of the Jericho co-op. More than two years ago, however, all six co-ops were forced to shut down thanks to the crippling Israeli blockade that prevented them from importing production requirements and exporting their produce. The closures had a direct impact on more than 400 persons whose lives depended heavily on their continued existence. More recently, after Israel’s brutal three-week assault on Gaza, one of the co-ops in Sheikh Radwan was damaged beyond repair.

With a heavy sigh, Abu al-Haija explained that they would have liked to work alongside their sisters in Gaza. “All co-ops have the same objectives, are supported by the same organizations, and would like to work together,” she said, adding that all the members of the Jericho co-op are with them and “hope the closure will end soon and that the couscous co-ops will open again.” It’s only a matter of time before the world realizes how insidiously cruel and vindictive the blockade has been and demands that it be lifted so that the people of Gaza can resume living their lives with dignity and integrity.

Having survived so much injustice and impunity over the past 60 years, most Palestinians know how important it is to defend and uphold concepts of justice and fairness. Fair trade, for this reason, has a unique niche in Palestine; all that is needed is a safe space to sow the seeds and the means to cultivate the yield. The will clearly already exists, as the women from Ein al-Sultan camp have so gracefully displayed.

Gen Sander currently lives in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. She works in the fair trade department of PARC and teaches photography in Aida refugee camp.

The End of the “Peace Process,” and Dissolution of the Historical Political Regimes in Israel and Palestine

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By Sergio Yahni, The Alternative Information Center (AIC) Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Because Islamic organizations, such as Hamas percieve themselves more as resistance organizations rather than part of the state building process, they have been able to weather the Israeli offensives.



Though there is continued talk about an ongoing, though perhaps stalled, Israeli-Palestinian “Peace Process,” for all intents and purposes it ended more than eight years ago, on 29 September 2000, with the beginning of the Israeli offensive against the Palestinian people in the wake of the collapse of the Camp David negotiations. Since that time, all attempts by the international community to revive the process, including the Arab initiative, have failed.

The counteroffensive by Palestinian Armed Non-Governmental Organizations (ANGO), characterized by suicide attacks, in addition to the Israeli invasion of the Palestinian Authority (PA) controlled areas in the West Bank and the consequent collapse of its limited attributes of sovereignty, led to the dissolution of all but the superficial aspects of the Palestinian political system.

Since the Islamic organizations perceived themselves as resistance organizations and not part of the state building process, they were comparably better prepared to face the hardships of Israeli repression. They managed, consequently, to survive the Israeli offensive and maintain their political structures.

The Israeli political system also went through a process of disintegration. Despite Israel’s facade of stability, its political system has gradually fell apart, as short lived successive governments have continually failed to resolve the crisis of sovereignty in the oPt.

As a consequence, the public in Israel has largely lost its faith in the political system. All major political parties have forfeited their significant historical parliamentary representation, as the Israeli public moved toward backing non-political alternatives, at first, and authoritarian parties later.

In addition, both in the Palestinian and the Israeli cases, the military bureaucracy increasingly assumed the attributes of a political party, or a powerful political lobby. In the Palestinian case, this process was a quasi-intentional outcome of the reform of the Palestinian military forces under the guidance of the U.S. Pentagon. In Israel, this process evolved unintentionally.

Without the essential attributes of sovereignty, the future of the PA is likely to be irrelevant for understanding long-term regional politics. The Israeli offensive has transformed it into a body that merely manages the life of the Palestinian population under Israeli occupation. As such, it assists Israel to reduce the costs of the cost of its occupation policies. Alternatively, it is the relations between Israel and the Palestinian resistance that will determine the future situation in the region.

The Palestinian resistance was not defeated during Israel’s offensive against the Palestinians in Gaza, neither was it seriously damaged despite the general destruction of infrastructures and the large scale assassination of civilians. On the contrary, subsequent to the offensive, the resistance has actually increased its ability to prescribe conditions to the regional powers, Israel and Egypt.

Israel may choose to ignore the conditions demanded by the resistance, but then it will face the rage of its public opinion that insists on the liberation of the Israeli soldier imprisoned at the hands of resisting factions. Moreover, by ignoring the demands of the resistance to open the border crossings, thus recognizing, de-facto, the existence of a sovereign territory liberated by armed struggle, it will create a permanent focus of discontent in the region that endanger its allies: Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. Conversely, by accepting the demands of the Palestinian resistance, Israel will mark armed struggle as the most successful path for liberation for the Palestinian people.

Two forms of authoritarianism are developing within the Israeli political scene: one military and one civilian. Military authoritarianism in Israel is interested in maintaining the current weak government structures that allow an ample field of action but is not interested to be involved directly in governing the country. This excludes the possibility of a coup d’etat. However, the civil authoritarianism in Israel, is interested in changing the legal regime. Politicians who endorse civil authoritarianism, such as Avigdor Lieberman, who’s Yisrael Beiteinu garnered 15 seats in the most recent national elections, are interested to concentrate power in the hands of the executive, and reducing the competencies of the parliament and the judiciary. While those politicians market their reforms through a populist anti-Arab discourse, their main intent is to remove anti-corruption legislation.

The collapse of the Israeli Left in the last elections symbolizes the end of the state established by them and its parliamentary system, although the system may survive for some years yet. While the labor movement managed to establish the state, its strategy of the “Iron Wall” to legitimize it by force has failed. Neither the Palestinians nor the Arab countries were ready to accept the continuous expansion of the Israeli state and its violent supremacist policies.

The features of the regime emerging in Israel appear to be more authoritarian; however it is unlikely it has the power to demand from Israeli citizens the sacrifices required to implement its policies. On the other hand, in parallel with the authoritarian features of the emerging regime, we can see the emergence of new dissidences, already stripped of the allegiance to Zionism. It is here, within these movements, that any chance of significant internal change in Israel is possible.

Israel’s far right

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“The Israeli-Arab town of Umm al-Fahm is at the centre of a struggle between Israel’s far right and its Arab minority. Local politicians say the rise of anti-Arab sentiment is a threat to the whole country”

Palestine Video – A Palestine Vlog

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