Saturday, January 10, 2009

Natural Gas, Palestinian Elections, and Israel’s Subversion of the ‘Peace Process’

Gaza Catastrophe: Resource Conflict?

Natural Gas, Palestinian Elections, and Israel’s Subversion of the ‘Peace Process’

© Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed

Israel claims it is fighting in Gaza to stop Hamas rocket-fire against Israel, the continuation of which constituted a flagrant breach of the six-months ceasefire. Hence, the objective of the military operation is limited by the aim of putting an end to the rocket-fire. In fact, the current outbreak of violence cannot be understood without analysing the asymmetries in military violence between the two parties; the dynamic structure of the conflict in the context of the character of the Israeli occupation; the central role of recent discoveries of substantial natural gas reserves in Gaza; and joint Anglo-American and Israeli attempts to monopolise the lucrative (and strategic) energy resources through a political process tied to a corrupt Palestinian Authority run by Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah Party. Hamas’ unprecedented victory in democratic elections in 2006 fundamentally threatened these plans. Operation Cast Lead, the concurrent Israeli military venture, was operationalised as a war plan in early 2008, and already finalised in detail as far back as 2001 by Israeli military intelligence. Its execution in late December 2008 into January 2009 is designed to head-off not only domestic Israeli elections, but more significantly, the outcome of further incoming Palestinian democratic elections likely to consolidate Hamas’ power, to permanently shift the balance of geopolitical and economic power in its favour. The long-term goal is the “cantonization” of the Occupied Territories making way for increased Israeli encroachment, and ultimately the escalation of Palestinian emigration.

Disproportionate Violence – 700: 4

Who bears primary responsible for the violence? You decide:

Nearly 700 Palestinians are dead, and 3,00 Palestinians injured. At least 13,000 civilians – half of them children – have been forced to flee their homes, now turned to rubble. (Save the Children Alliance, 02.01.09) Israeli human rights groups, like B’Tselem (The Israeli Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories) based in Jerusalem, confirm that the Israeli military is committing war crimes by intentionally targeting the civilian population in Gaza.

As I write, here comes news of example: “Israeli shelling kills dozens at UN school in Gaza” reports the London Guardian. More than 40 Palestinians were killed “after missiles exploded outside a UN school” in Jabaliya refugee camp by two Israeli tank shells, “where hundreds of people were sheltering from the continuing Israeli offensive.” Several dozen civilians were wounded. The school was clearly marked according to officials. And elsewhere, “at least 12 members of an extended family, including seven young children, were killed in an air strike on their house in Gaza City.” Hours earlier, “three young men – all cousins – died when the Israelis bombed another UN school, the Asma primary school in Gaza City,” where about 400 Palestinians had sought shelter “after fleeing their homes in Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza.”

As foreign journalists remain banned from entry into Gaza for for no plausible reason, Israeli human rights groups like B’Tselem are reporting extensively on the deliberate mass destruction of civilian life and infrastructure by Israeli forces. B’Tselem points out that Israeli officials have described how the entirety of Palestinian society can be considered as providing a support network to Hamas, and is therefore a legitimate target. But worse, the stories that B’Tselem brings to light, ignored by mainstream media pundits, are deeply horrifying. Here are some examples:

On 1 Jan. 2009, the Israeli army killed four women and eleven children in the Jabalya refugee camp. B’Tselem comments: “Such extensive loss of civilian life constitutes a grave breach of international humanitarian law and cannot be justified on military grounds.” (B’Tselem, 4.01.09) The Israeli human rights group documents dozens of eye-witness testimonies confirming. On 4th January, “soldiers opened fire from a tank toward a passenger taxi outside Gaza City. The four children in the taxi witnessed their mother and another woman killed.” On 27th December, two Palestinian toddlers “aged three and six, stepped out of their home to feed chickens in the yard. Before they reached the coop, the house was hit by the bombing of a nearby building.” The three year old was killed.

This barely scratches the surface of what has been done. Other Israeli human rights groups, UN agencies, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, Save the Children, along with dozens of other credible independent organizations confirm that Israeli forces are indiscriminately targeting the entire Palestinian civilian population, blowing up residential areas, destroying power plants, bombing sewage facilities, annihilating hospitals, pummelling roads, all into bloody rubble.

Compare the hundreds of Palestinians killed, thousands injured, and tens of thousands made homeless, to the fact that only 4 Israelis have been killed due to Hamas rocket-attacks since the outbreak of conflict in December. (Guardian, 03.01.09) Of course, these deaths are condemnable and outrageous. But they are not cases of massive, systematic massacres of civilians - which are precisely what Palestinians have been experiencing under Israeli politico-territorial domination for the last decade.

The Long-Term View - 5000: 14

Consider, for instance, that on 19th September 2007, Israel’s security cabinet unanimously declared the entire Gaza Strip an “enemy entity” – solely due to ongoing Hamas rocket-fire. Yet that rocket-fire was and is a response to continued indiscriminate Israeli military bombardments. In January 2007, Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) staged three days of air strikes killing 30 Palestinians, and on the 17th, the Gaza strip was placed under total closure. In response, over 150 rockets and mortars were fired into Israel between the 15th and 18th of that month by Hamas. Yet while these caused no injuries or fatalities to any Israelis, in that same period, nearly 700 Palestinians (including 224 civilians of whom 78 were children) were killed by Israeli extra-judicial executions.

Indeed, over the last 7 years of conflict, a grand total of 14 Israelis were killed by Hamas’ rocket-fire, compared to an estimated 5,000 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces with advanced American and British-supplied military equipment (Guardian, 30.12.08) “Among those killed in the first wave of strikes”, reports the Guardian, “were eight teenage students waiting for a bus and four girls from the same family in Jabaliya, aged one to 12 years old.”

Who Broke the Ceasefire?

It is a matter of historical record that the tentative six-month ceasefire was broken by Israel. On 4th November 2008, Israeli forces raided Gaza late at night killing 6 Palestinians, eliciting Hamas rocket-fire. (Guardian, 05.11.08) By late December, Israel called for a 48-hour truce in retaliatory attacks. An official from the UN Relief and Works Agency reported that Israel flagrantly violated the lull, exploiting the opportunity to drop 100 tonnes of bombs on Hamas government installations. (Ha'aretz, 30.12.08)

Root Cause of Palestinian Resistance: Structural Genocide in the Occupied Territories

After Hamas came to power in democratic elections, Israel imposed a brutal siege on Gaza in 2005, denying 1.5 million Palestinians electricity, fuel, food imports, medical supplies, and vital maintenance goods and spare parts. As water and sanitation services deteriorated, hunger and ill-health intensified, and mortality rates increased. International aid agencies like Oxfam warned of a major public health crisis.

The UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, Richard Falk, said that the siege of Gaza warned that the Israeli siege of Gaza, threatening the lives of an entire civilian population, expressed genocidal intent:

“Is it an irresponsible overstatement to associate the treatment of Palestinians with this criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity? I think not. The recent developments in Gaza are especially disturbing because they express so vividly a deliberate intention on the part of Israel and its allies to subject an entire human community to life-endangering conditions of utmost cruelty. The suggestion that this pattern of conduct is a holocaust-in-the-making represents a rather desperate appeal to the governments of the world and to international public opinion to act urgently to prevent these current genocidal tendencies from culminating in a collective tragedy... But it would be unrealistic to expect the UN to do anything in the face of this crisis, given the pattern of US support for Israel and taking into account the extent to which European governments have lent their weight to recent illicit efforts to crush Hamas as a Palestinian political force.”

“Here’s One I Prepared Earlier…”

The siege was a strategy to prepare the ground for a protracted military operation, known as “Cast Lead”. Although justified on the grounds of stopping Hamas rocket-fire, the operation was planned over six months before the launch of the operation at the end of 2008.

Canadian analyst Professor Michel Chossudovsky from the University of Ottawa has revealed that Operation Cast Lead is in fact the legacy of “a broader military-intelligence agenda first formulated by the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2001”, aiming to produce a “planned humanitarian disaster,” designed to inflict mass civilian casualties and terror – that is, to weaken resistance, increase Israeli control, and encourage Palestinian emigration. Contrary to Israeli official rhetoric, military targets are secondary to this principal objective.

In this respect, operation beginning in December 08 actually implements what was known as the “Dagan Plan” in 2001 - Operation Justified Vengeance, named after known its founder, retired general and current Mossad commander, Meir Dagan. The operation planned to destroy “the infrastructure of the Palestinian leadership” and collect the arms of “various Palestinian forces and expelling or killing its military leadership.” The cumulative impact of this strategy would be to eliminate the viability of Gazan political and military resistance to Israeli penetration, permitting the forcible “cantonization” of the Occupied Territories under the nominal rule of the politically-coopted Fatah faction.

Hints that the scope of the operation, already killing and injuring thousands of Palestinian civilians, would be far broader than hitherto admitted, came when Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai told Israeli Army Radio that the Palestinians would “bring upon themselves a bigger Holocaust because we will use all our might to defend ourselves.”

Post-1999: Gaza as Locus of Resource Conflict

The question, of course, is why now? Pundits have pointed at the telling coincidence of imminent Israeli elections, requiring the Olmert cabinet to find new ways to regain some semblance of credibility after the disastrous Hizbullah defeat in southern Lebanon, not to mention the impact of domestic scandals. Yet even more significant is the role of imminent Palestinian elections. As of September 2008, Israeli political observes noted an erupting “constitutional crisis” in the Occupied Territories due to disagreement “between Hamas and Fatah over when the next Palestinian elections will be held.” Hamas officials stated that they would “not acknowledge Abu Mazen’s legitimacy as President of the Palestinian Authority (PA) after January 2009, when it believes his term in office is due to finish.” According to Hamas, “new elections should be held in January 09′ since according to the PA’s Basic Law (which also serves as its temporary constitution) Abu Mazen finishes his Presidential term after 4 years.” In the event of failure to do so, the Presidency “temporarily passes to the Speaker of the Parliament, Abd al-‘Aziz Dweik.” As he is currently imprisoned by Israeli authorities, Hamas would resort to appointing Dweik’s deputy “who is also a Hamas member.”

Given the growing weakness of Abbas and the increasing popularity of Hamas, it was far from likely that the PA would be able to forestall elections until January 2010, as it had wanted to, without severe recriminations and domestic opposition. Both presidential and parliamentary elections were therefore likely in 2009, and would have allowed Hamas to consolidate its power in the Occupied Territories.

Israeli military and policy planners clearly recognized that this would create significant difficulties for Israel’s own plans for the Occupied Territories. A decade back, the British the oil firm BG International discovered a huge deposit of natural gas just off the Gaza coast, containing 1.2 trillion cubic feet of gas valued at over $4 billion. Controlling security over air and water around Gaza, Israel quickly moved to negotiate a deal with BG to access Gaza’s natural gas at cheap rates.

The incentives for Israel are obvious – as the Telegraph reports: “Israel’s indigenous gas fields - north of the Gaza Marine field - could run out within a few years and the only other long-term source will be a pipeline from neighbouring Egypt.”

The British Foreign Office, described the reserves as “by far the most valuable Palestinian natural resource.” Tel Aviv journalist Arthur Neslen cites an informed British source saying, “The UK and US, who are the major players in this deal, see it as a possible tool to improve relations between the PA and Israel. It is part of the bargaining baggage.” The project could provide up to 10 per cent of the Israel’s energy needs, at around half the price the same gas would cost from Egypt. The Gaza Strip would be effectively circumvented, as the gas would be piped directly onshore to Ashkelon in Israel. Neslen reports another informed source noting “an obvious linkage” between the BG-Israel deal and “attempts to bolster the Olmert-Abbas political process.” Yet this process is designed precisely to marginalise the Palestinian people, as Neslen reports that “up to three-quarters of the $4bn of revenue raised might not even end up in Palestinian hands at all. While the PIF officially disputes the percentages, it will provide no others for fear of a public backlash.” The “preferred option” of the US an UK is that the gas revenues would be held in “an international bank account over which Abbas would hold sway.” No wonder then, that Ziad Thatha, the Hamas economic minister, had denounced the deal as “an act of theft” that “sells Palestinian gas to the Zionist occupation.”

Things didn’t go quite according to plan. In fact, before any deal could be finalised, Hamas won the 2006 elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council, provoking a bitter power struggle between Hamas and the pro-west Fatah, fuelled by the input of US and Israeli arms to the latter. Ultimately, the Palestinian Authority split in 2007, with Hamas taking control of Gaza and Fatah taking control of West Bank. Having been excluded from the US-UK brokered gas deal between Israel and the PA, one of the first things that Hamas did after getting elected was to declare that the natural gas deal was void, and would have to be renegotiated.

With Hamas declaring the constitutional imperative to hold elections in 2009, as early as January if possible, Israeli military and policy planners recognized the probability of a Hamas win – with all its political implications. At one time even stating its willingness to recognise Israel's right to exist within its 1967 borders, a consolidated Hamas government in control of Gaza’s natural resources would fundamentally alter the balance of power in the region, granting Palestinians the prospects of sustained economic growth, foreign investment, unprecedented infrastructure development, and thereby the prospect of a far more equal relationship with Israel, who in coming years needs to increasingly diversify energy supplies. Meanwhile Israel’s original Anglo-America sponsored plans for the Occupied Territories – a docile Fatah-controlled patchwork of underdeveloped cantonized Bantustans whose natural resources are controlled by Israel and profited by Anglo-American companies – would be thrown into the sea.

Israeli Military Objectives

Pundits, slavishly quoting Israeli defence sources, claim that Israel is trying to stop the Hamas rocket-fire, and will keep the operation rolling until they believe that they have degraded Hamas military capabilities sufficiently so as to forever prevent Hamas from firing rockets at Israel again. Ever. Failing this, pundits tend to be confused about the scope of Israel’s objectives, noting that the state aim is rather vague and intrinsically impossible to measure.

Given the preceding analysis, Israel’s official war aim is difficult to take seriously. On the contrary, there is thus little doubt that Operation Cast Lead is aimed at obliterating Hamas as a viable source of politico-military resistance in the Palestinian Territories, paving the way for the “cantonization” of the latter under the erection of the corrupt Abbas-led PA, before imminent 2009 Palestinian elections could consolidate Hamas’ socio-political entrenchment. The operation thus has two major objectives:

1) The short-term objective is to allow Israeli and Anglo-American unchallenged monopolisation of the Gaza gas reserves, and continued apartheid-style domination of the Territories.

2) The long-term objective is to create permanent conditions facilitating Israel’s re-encroachment on the Territories, encouraging Palestinian emigration and expulsion from their homes, and absorbing their remaining lands under renewed Israeli settler-colonisation programmes.

The war on Gaza is, therefore, a war on democracy; a war on the right of peoples to self-determination; a war on the right of peoples’ to utilise their own resources for their own benefit. It continues and extends the policies of repression and discrimination perpetrated by Israel in the Occupied Territories since 1948, when three quarters of a million Palestinians were forced from their homes, and hundreds massacred, by Israeli forces in the Nakba (Catastrophe). Since then, Israel has continued to violate UN resolutions, attempted to grab as much territory as possible from the Palestinians, denied them the right to statehood and self-determination, and instituted racist laws to deprive them of civil liberties and human rights. Even Israeli officials like Ami Ayalon, the retired head of Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic security service, have condemned these policies as a form of “apartheid”: “The things a Palestinian has to endure, simply coming to work in the morning, is a long and continuous nightmare that includes humiliation bordering on despair… We have to decide soon what kind of democracy we want here. The present model integrates apartheid and is not commensurate with Judaism.” (Ma’ariv, 05.12.00)

Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine is supported by the US, Britain, and Western Europe, through financial aid, extensive supplies of arms and military equipment, diplomatic support. The global social justice movement needs to extend its support for Gaza far beyond marching and demonstrations, by pressuring media, government and civil society institutions to recognize that the Gaza crisis is an outcome of long-term policies that can only be understood in the context of recognizing the reality of Israel as a Setter-Colonial Apartheid regime sponsored by Anglo-American power.

Thus, the global social justice movement should look to widening and deepening public understanding of the origins of the current crisis in the contemporary conjuncture of the global imperial system. Yet just as South African apartheid required a massive international campaign of diplomatic and economic boycotting to bring it down, so too will the Israeli Settler-Colonial Apartheid regime require a comprehensive campaign of diplomatic and economic boycotts to weaken the nexus that ties Anglo-American power to Israel, and move toward a meaningful resolution of the conflict based on democracy and equality for Jews and non-Jews, together.

Where can we start, practically? An outstanding example is to call for the establishment of an International Criminal Tribunal for Israel (ICTI) under UN Charter Article 22, as has been advocated by the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), a London-based NGO with Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. As IHRC Chairman Massoud Shadjareh observed, “The setting up of such a tribunal is long-overdue, and is desperately needed to address the war crimes perpetrated not only in the current attacks on Gaza but in previous campaigns against the Lebanese and Palestinians. The relevant procedures and precedents are in place. It is time for the UN to act if it hopes to regain a shred of credibility amongst the outraged peoples of the world.” The IHRC's call for a tribunal resonates with numerous comments from independent experts on Israeli war crimes, such as Francis Boyle, Professor of International Law at the University of Illinois:

“The establishment of ICTI would provide some small degree of justice to the victims of Israeli war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide against the Peoples of Lebanon and Palestine--just as the ICTY has done in the Balkans. Furthermore, the establishment of ICTI by the U.N. General Assembly would serve as a deterrent effect upon Israeli leaders such as Prime Minister Olmert, Foreign Minister Livni, Defense Minister Barak , Chief of Staff Ashkenazi and Israel's other top generals that they will be prosecuted for their further infliction of international crimes upon the Lebanese and the Palestinians.”

So here’s something you can do to make the establishment of an ICTI a real possibility – write to the UN General Assembly President, demanding the creation of an Israeli war crimes tribunal under UN Charter Article 22.

Pity the Pirate: Lies You're Being Told About Somalia

You Are Being Lied to About Pirates
Johann Hari
London Independent

Who imagined that in 2009, the world's governments would be declaring a new War on Pirates? As you read this, the British Royal Navy - backed by the ships of more than two dozen nations, from the US to China - is sailing into Somalian waters to take on men we still picture as parrot-on-the-shoulder pantomime villains. They will soon be fighting Somalian ships and even chasing the pirates onto land, into one of the most broken countries on earth. But behind the arrr-me-hearties oddness of this tale, there is an untold scandal. The people our governments are labeling as "one of the great menace of our times" have an extraordinary story to tell -- and some justice on their side.

Pirates have never been quite who we think they are. In the "golden age of piracy" - from 1650 to 1730 - the idea of the pirate as the senseless, savage thief that lingers today was created by the British government in a great propaganda-heave. Many ordinary people believed it was false: pirates were often rescued from the gallows by supportive crowds. Why? What did they see that we can't? In his book Villains of All nations, the historian Marcus Rediker pores through the evidence to find out. If you became a merchant or navy sailor then - plucked from the docks of London's East End, young and hungry - you ended up in a floating wooden Hell. You worked all hours on a cramped, half-starved ship, and if you slacked off for a second, the all-powerful captain would whip you with the Cat O' Nine Tails. If you slacked consistently, you could be thrown overboard. And at the end of months or years of this, you were often cheated of your wages.

Pirates were the first people to rebel against this world. They mutinied against their tyrannical captains - and created a different way of working on the seas. Once they had a ship, the pirates elected their captains, and made all their decisions collectively. They shared their bounty out in what Rediker calls "one of the most egalitarian plans for the disposition of resources to be found anywhere in the eighteenth century." They even took in escaped African slaves and lived with them as equals. The pirates showed "quite clearly - and subversively - that ships did not have to be run in the brutal and oppressive ways of the merchant service and the Royal navy." This is why they were popular, despite being unproductive thieves.

The words of one pirate from that lost age - a young British man called William Scott - should echo into this new age of piracy. Just before he was hanged in Charleston, South Carolina, he said: "What I did was to keep me from perishing. I was forced to go a-pirating to live." In 1991, the government of Somalia - in the Horn of Africa - collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since - and many of the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country's food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.

Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died. Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia, tells me: "Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury - you name it." Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to "dispose" of cheaply. When I asked Ould-Abdallah what European governments were doing about it, he said with a sigh: "Nothing. There has been no clean-up, no compensation, and no prevention."

At the same time, other European ships have been looting Somalia's seas of their greatest resource: seafood. We have destroyed our own fish-stocks by over-exploitation - and now we have moved on to theirs. More than $300m worth of tuna, shrimp, lobster and other sea-life is being stolen every year by vast trawlers illegally sailing into Somalia's unprotected seas. The local fishermen have suddenly lost their livelihoods, and they are starving. Mohammed Hussein, a fisherman in the town of Marka 100km south of Mogadishu, told Reuters: "If nothing is done, there soon won't be much fish left in our coastal waters."

This is the context in which the men we are calling "pirates" have emerged. Everyone agrees they were ordinary Somalian fishermen who at first took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least wage a 'tax' on them. They call themselves the Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia - and it's not hard to see why. In a surreal telephone interview, one of the pirate leaders, Sugule Ali, said their motive was "to stop illegal fishing and dumping in our waters... We don't consider ourselves sea bandits. We consider sea bandits [to be] those who illegally fish and dump in our seas and dump waste in our seas and carry weapons in our seas." William Scott would understand those words.

No, this doesn't make hostage-taking justifiable, and yes, some are clearly just gangsters - especially those who have held up World Food Programme supplies. But the "pirates" have the overwhelming support of the local population for a reason. The independent Somalian news-site WardherNews conducted the best research we have into what ordinary Somalis are thinking - and it found 70 percent "strongly supported the piracy as a form of national defence of the country's territorial waters." During the revolutionary war in America, George Washington and America's founding fathers paid pirates to protect America's territorial waters, because they had no navy or coastguard of their own. Most Americans supported them. Is this so different?

Did we expect starving Somalians to stand passively on their beaches, paddling in our nuclear waste, and watch us snatch their fish to eat in restaurants in London and Paris and Rome? We didn't act on those crimes - but when some of the fishermen responded by disrupting the transit-corridor for 20 percent of the world's oil supply, we begin to shriek about "evil." If we really want to deal with piracy, we need to stop its root cause - our crimes - before we send in the gun-boats to root out Somalia's criminals.

The story of the 2009 war on piracy was best summarised by another pirate, who lived and died in the fourth century BC. He was captured and brought to Alexander the Great, who demanded to know "what he meant by keeping possession of the sea." The pirate smiled, and responded: "What you mean by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, while you, who do it with a great fleet, are called emperor." Once again, our great imperial fleets sail in today - but who is the robber?

Johann Hari is a writer for the Independent newspaper. To read more of his articles, click here. or here.

POSTSCRIPT: Some commenters seem bemused by the fact that both toxic dumping and the theft of fish are happening in the same place - wouldn't this make the fish contaminated? In fact, Somalia's coastline is vast, stretching to 3300km. Imagine how easy it would be - without any coastguard or army - to steal fish from Florida and dump nuclear waste on California, and you get the idea. These events are happening in different places - but with the same horrible effect: death for the locals, and stirred-up piracy. There's no contradiction.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Democratic Senate "Strongly" Supports Gaza Genocide

US Senate supports Israel's Gaza incursion
Thu Jan 8, 2009 WASHINGTON, Jan 8 (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate voiced strong support on Thursday for Israel's battle against Hamas militants in Gaza, while urging a ceasefire that would prevent Hamas from launching any more rockets into Israel.

The chamber agreed on a voice vote to the non-binding resolution co-sponsored by Democratic and Republican party leaders in the chamber.

"When we pass this resolution, the United States Senate will strengthen our historic bond with the state of Israel, by reaffirming Israel's inalienable right to defend against attacks from Gaza, as well as our support for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said before the vote.

Noting that Israel was bent on halting Hamas rocket fire into its southern towns, Reid said: "I ask any of my colleagues to imagine that happening here in the United States. Rockets and mortars coming from Toronto in Canada, into Buffalo New York. How would we as a country react?"

Co-sponsor and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican said before the vote: "The Israelis ... are responding exactly the same way we would."

The House was expected to pass a similar resolution.

The Senate resolution encourages President George W. Bush "to work actively to support a durable, enforceable and sustainable ceasefire in Gaza as soon as possible that prevents Hamas from retaining or rebuilding the capability to launch rockets or mortars against Israel," Reid said.

It also expresses an "unwavering" commitment to Israel's welfare and recognizes its right to act in self defense to protect citizens against acts of terrorism, he said. "It allows for the long-term improvement of daily living conditions of the ordinary people of Gaza," he said.

Palestinians faced even grimmer conditions in Gaza on Thursday after a U.N. aid agency halted work, saying its staff was at risk from Israeli forces after two drivers were killed.

The reported Palestinian death toll in the 13-day-old conflict topped 700. At least 11 Israelis have been killed, eight of them soldiers, including four hit by "friendly fire."

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell, editing by Philip Barbara)

Israel's Gaza Gas Grab

British Gas, Israel to freeze Hamas out of $4b. gas deal

Israel and the British natural gas company BG Group Plc will move ahead with controversial plans to drill for natural gas in the Gaza Marine field, despite Hamas's takeover of the Gaza Strip last month, The Jerusalem Post learned on Thursday.

The two sides have arrived at an "understanding" that will transfer funds intended for the Palestinian Authority's Palestinian Investment Fund into an international bank account, a BG source told The Post.

"Both Israel and BG intend that until the PA is able to remove Hamas from power in the Gaza Strip, the money will be held in an international bank account," the source said. "Neither side wants the money to go to fund terror-related activities."

According to the plan, BG will drill for natural gas 36 kilometers off of the Gaza coast, in an area that was designated as PA territory following the Oslo Accords. The gas will then flow four km underwater in a pipeline 850 meters below the surface to an Ashkelon refinery. The field, which BG purchased in 2000 and to which Hamas now claims rightful ownership, contains 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas worth an estimated $4 billion, with Israel set to become the sole consumer of the resources.

"I cannot deny that Israel and BG are making attempts at arranging a payment plan to accommodate the PA [and completely exclude Hamas]," an official in the Infrastructure Ministry said, while adding that along with officials from the Finance Ministry, negotiations are still underway, despite the shaky security situation in Gaza.

Ronen Moshe, the Infrastructure Ministry spokesman, claimed, however, that he doesn't know anything about an "understanding" between BG and Israel regarding payments to the PA, but did say that right now the two sides are negotiating over the price that Israel will pay for the gas. Similarly, the spokesman's office in the Finance Ministry claimed no knowledge of any "understanding" between Israel and BG concerning the transfer of funds to an international account, while the Prime Minister's Office said nothing new has happened since the cabinet decided earlier this year to form a negotiating team to meet with BG representatives.

According to the original bilateral arrangement between Israel and the PA, some 60 percent of the revenues from the sale of the gas will go to BG; 30% will go to BG's partner in the deal, the British energy company CCC, and 10% of the revenue, estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year, is to be designated for the PA's Palestinian Investment Fund, under the auspices of the office of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

"However, now that the PA is no longer in control of the Gaza Strip, or the marine area off of its coast, Israel, should it purchase the gas, would no longer be making payments to the PA, but rather would have to pay Hamas," explained the BG source.

Israel is obviously opposed to the money ending up in the hands of Hamas, and British law mandates that should a British organization enter into any sort of negotiations with a terrorist group, that organization's leaders will be brought to trial and may be sentenced to jail, the source said.

"Therefore, Israel and BG have come to a new understanding of transferring the money into an international account - allowing the deal to go through," he said.

The deal appears to exclude Hamas from receiving any of the revenues from the gas sales.

Hamas, meanwhile, intends to ask for changes in the agreement with BG, Bloomberg reported two weeks ago. "It is unreasonable that the owner of the gas, Palestine, gets 10% only," Mohammed al-Madhoun, the director of Hamas leader Ismail Haniya's office, told the Palestinian Information Center, a Hamas Web site. "The government has no problem cooperating with the British gas company but only after modifying some points of the 1999 contract."

Earlier this week, Finance Ministry Accountant General energy coordinator Uri Shusterman confirmed that a dispute over prices is the official cause for the delay in the signing of a contract with British Gas, and that statement was the first comment by a government official about the negotiations with BG Group.

"Despite the disagreement, the government is determined to buy gas from the company's reserves offshore from Gaza, as an alternative to Egyptian gas," said Shusterman.

He added that Israel is seeking to diversify its supplies of gas, which it now buys domestically and also from Egypt, in order to ensure a competitive market. He noted that the country planned to buy 1.5 billion to 1.8 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year from BG over 12-14 years.

"It's critical that Israel come to an agreement now with BG, because the longer it waits to sign, the more likely it is that gas prices are going to rise even further and the less likely it is to begin receiving gas at its desired 2011 target date," said BG.

Once Israel and British Gas arrive at an agreement, the project will take three years to complete. "Right now there is nothing in the water, as soon as we can, we need to build a gas rig, get the drill ready and build the pipeline," said the BG official, adding that he hoped the two would finish the negotiations and sign an agreement within the next week.

"There are already clear intentions as to how to handle the Hamas situation, and plans have already been worked on regarding the construction of the pipeline, now we just need to finalize a price," he said.

Israel began talks with BG in February 2006 and said in May of that year that it expected to buy 1.5 billion cubic meters of gas from BG annually starting in 2009. Soonafter, BG broke off talks with Israel and said that it preferred bringing gas to Egypt to be liquefied and then shipped by tankers to the US, Europe and the Far East. The talks resumed in July 2006 and in April of this year the cabinet voted 21-to-three to grant a negotiating team formal permission to hold talks with BG on the purchase of gas from the Gaza Marine field.

Gaza Victims' Burns Increase Concern

Gaza Victims' Burns Increase Concern Over Phosphorus

JERUSALEM - Photographic evidence has emerged that proves that Israel has been using controversial white phosphorus shells during its offensive in Gaza, despite official denials by the Israel Defence Forces.

The pale blue 155mm rounds are clearly marked with the designation M825A1, an American-made white phosphorus munitionThere is also evidence that the rounds have injured Palestinian civilians, causing severe burns. The use of white phosphorus against civilians is prohibited under international law.

The Times has identified stockpiles of white phosphorus (WP) shells from high-resolution images taken of Israel Defence Forces (IDF) artillery units on the Israeli-Gaza border this week. The pale blue 155mm rounds are clearly marked with the designation M825A1, an American-made WP munition. The shell is an improved version with a more limited dispersion of the phosphorus, which ignites on contact with oxygen, and is being used by the Israeli gunners to create a smoke screen on the ground.

The rounds, which explode into a shower of burning white streaks, were first identified by The Times at the weekend when they were fired over Gaza at the start of Israel's ground offensive. Artillery experts said that the Israeli troops would be in trouble if they were banned from using WP because it is the simplest way of creating smoke to protect them from enemy fire.

There were indications last night that Palestinian civilians have been injured by the bombs, which burn intensely. Hassan Khalass, a doctor at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, told The Times that he had been dealing with patients who he suspected had been burnt by white phosphorus. Muhammad Azayzeh, 28, an emergency medical technician in the city, said: "The burns are very unusual. They don't look like burns we have normally seen. They are third-level burns that we can't seem to control."

Victims with embedded WP particles in their flesh have to have the affected areas flushed with water. Particles that cannot be removed with tweezers are covered with a saline-soaked dressing.

Nafez Abu Shaban, the head of the burns unit at al-Shifa hospital, said: "I am not familiar with phosphorus but many of the patients wounded in the past weeks have strange burns. They are very deep and not like burns we used to see."

When The Times reported on Monday that the Israeli troops appeared to be firing WP shells to create a thick smoke camouflage for units advancing into Gaza, an IDF spokesman denied the use of phosphorus and said that Israel was using only the weapons that were allowed under international law.

Rows of the pale blue M825A1 WP shells were photographed on January 4 on the Israeli side of the Israel-Gaza border. Another picture showed the same munitions stacked up behind an Israeli self-propelled howitzer.

Confronted with the latest evidence, an IDF spokeswoman insisted that the M825A1 shell was not a WP type. "This is what we call a quiet shell - it is empty, it has no explosives and no white phosphorus. There is nothing inside it," she said.

"We shoot it to mark the target before we launch a real shell. We launch two or three of the quiet shells which are empty so that the real shells will be accurate. It's not for killing people," she said.

Asked what shell was being used to create the smokescreen effect seen so clearly on television images, she said: "We're using what other armies use and we're not using any weapons that are banned under international law."

Neil Gibson, technical adviser to Jane's Missiles and Rockets, insisted that the M825A1 was a WP round. "The M825A1 is an improved model. The WP does not fill the shell but is impregnated into 116 felt wedges which, once dispersed [by a high-explosive charge], start to burn within four to five seconds. They then burn for five to ten minutes. The smoke screen produced is extremely effective," he said.

The shell is not defined as an incendiary weapon by the Third Protocol to the Convention on Conventional Weapons because its principal use is to produce smoke to protect troops. However, Marc Galasco, of Human Rights Watch, said: "Recognising the significant incidental incendiary effect that white phosphorus creates, there is great concern that Israel is failing to take all feasible steps to avoid civilian loss of life and property by using WP in densely populated urban areas. This concern is amplified given the technique evidenced in media photographs of air-bursting WP projectiles at relatively low levels, seemingly to maximise its incendiary effect."

He added, however, that Human Rights Watch had no evidence that Israel was using incendiaries as weapons.

British and American artillery units have stocks of white phosphorus munitions but they are banned as anti-personnel weapons. "These munitions are not unlawful as their purpose is to provide obscuration and not cause injury by burning," a Ministry of Defence source said.

Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian war surgery specialist working in Gaza, told The Times that he had seen injuries believed to have resulted from Israel's use of a new "dense inert metal explosive" that caused "extreme explosions". He said: "Those inside the perimeter of this weapon's power zone will be torn completely apart. We have seen numerous amputations that we suspect have been caused by this."

Thursday, January 08, 2009


Israel Ignores Security Council Ceasefire Resolution...
by C. L. Cook

Former Bush point man at the United Nations, John Bolton famously opined, ten-stories from the U. N. could go without effecting that organization's global effectiveness. Today, Israel is proving Bolton more conservative than even he could imagine.

Whilst even its most ardent supporters in Washington waiver, and an abstention is the most Israel received from the U.S. in the "security council" yesterday, the bombing continued overnight over Gaza. With an apparent thumb in the eye to the entire world, the Israeli military has yet to slow the onslaught.

Racing to reach the 1000 killed outright mark in captive Gaza, the IDF seems grimly determined to make of Operation Cast Lead an intransigent tread mark, scarring permanently the people, a gaping milestone of the long trudge to justice life in Palestine has been these last sixty years. Already its damage is called "unprecedented" in that long benighted land.

And now the world waits.

GUNNing Down Public Participation in Tasmania


Gunns Limited is serving a writ on 13 forest defenders claiming damages resulting from an action conducted at the Triabunna woodchip mill last month.

Activists halted work at the mill to draw attention to the impact of old growth logging on climate change.

Gunns Limited is claiming damages for trespass, and seeking an injunction that will prevent the defendants from entering its property.

"The action taken at Triabunna was legitimate peaceful protest, taken in defense of Tasmania's carbon dense old growth forest. The Tasmanian people will not stand by and allow the destruction of ancient forest to continue just because Gunns has decided to throw its weight around," Still Wild Still Threatened spokesperson Ula Majewski said.

"Vast tracts of our precious old growth and high conservation value forests continue to be logged, woodchipped and exported by Gunns Limited" said Ula Majewski.
"This is a move that smacks of desperation. Gunns is aware of the growing frustration and anger within the community resulting from its destructive logging operations. Actions such as this will do nothing to stem the rising tide of community outrage over the ongoing destruction of Tasmania's remaining wild places," said Huon Valley Environment Centre spokesperson Warrick Jordan.

"Gunns Limited's destructive business model is tearing the heart out of the last remaining areas of ancient forest in Southern Tasmania. Iconic valleys such as the Weld and Upper Florentine are being destroyed as we speak in order to line the pockets of Gunns Limited" said Warrick Jordan.

Jenny Weber"

*Media release* *Wednesday Jan 7, 2009.*

*Gunns Ltd sues again.*

Tasmanian based logging company Gunns Ltd has issued a law suit on thirteen forest defenders claiming damages for trespass, and seeking an injunction that will prevent the defendants from entering its property and land holdings.

The forest campaigners halted work at the Triabunna woodchip mill in an act of civil disobedience to draw attention to the impact of old growth logging on climate change.

“Civil disobedience is a vital part of democracy. This heavy handed tactic from Gunns is tantamount to corporate bullying. Gunns Ltd is pushing ahead with its unacceptable and irresponsible activities in Tasmania, endangering the health of the state’s environment and its economic future” Said Greenpeace Campaign Coordinator John Hepburn.

The proposed Gunns Ltd Pulp Mill and recent announcements that construction may begin in 2009 will ensure that Tasmanian forest protection will remain a central issue in the lead up to the next federal election.

Louise Morris, Friends of the Earth Climate Campaigner and Gunns 20 defendant said
“This lawsuit comes four years after Gunns Ltd issued the now infamous Gunns 20 lawsuit in 2004 against twenty individuals and organisations in response their efforts to protect Tasmania’s native forests. It is clear the desire to protect Tasmania’s forests has not diminished.

“The use of such harsh legal tactics does nothing to improve the company’s standing in the eyes of socially responsible investors and the wider community. We stand by Tasmanians’ desire to protect their precious native forests” concluded Simon Branigan Environment Tasmania spokesperson.

For media comment contact.

John Hepburn, Greenpeace: 0407231172

Louise Morris, Friends of the Earth: 0408906310

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Profile in Courage: "Why Are You Shooting at Them?"


Island Lens #114 - January 7, 2008

By Richard Boyce


I've explored much of the crystal-clear water of Englishman River, as it runs its course of 10 km between the source on Mount Arrowsmith and the estuary in the Strait of Georgia. Jumping off the cliffs at the lower falls in the provincial park led my friends and I to swim across the large pool to the gushing flow of water that was the falls. Skirting around the edge of the pounding water and thick spray we were able to access a fairly large cave in behind the cascading waterfall. We sat on a log, wedged between the rocks, and watched the light filter in through the emerald coloured waterfall. That memory will remain with me forever.

Today, that waterfall no longer exists. The water has finally carved through solid rock, allowing the river to flow under a massive boulder rather than over it. The deep canyon between steeply carved cliffs, etched out by the river's flow of water, bears testament to the fact that this type of natural change has been happening for millennia. The disappearance of this waterfall reminds me to look at the bigger picture.

Multi-national corporations around the world are taking over control of the world's water. The pretense is usually that the local governments cannot keep up with the public demands for increased water, safety and security. The result is that the price of water doubles, public access decreases, and poor people die of thirst. The fact is corporations have made water more expensive than anything the general public consumes because it is essential for us to exist. Water in small plastic bottles, fetches double the price of gasoline at your local convenience store.

Today Natural Glacial Waters, a local company, pumps fresh water directly out of Rosewall Creek, just north of Deep Bay. They export more than 24 million individual plastic bottles of water to Asia every year. Recycling has to be a question, but so does ownership of water. Who has the right to sell water?

In 1997 The World Bank, on behalf of multi-national corporations, forced the government of Bolivia to privatize their public water systems as explicit condition of aid for this impoverished country. The collection of rainwater by the people was made illegal. The people revolted, police killed ordinary citizens, but the people prevailed and eventually they were victorious. The government was forced to change and some of the multi-national corporations were expelled from the country. Water was returned to the people as a right, not a privilege to be paid for with cash.

"In every corner of the globe, we are polluting, diverting, pumping, and wasting our limited supply of fresh water at an expediential level as population and technology grows. The rampant overdevelopment of agriculture, housing and industry increase the demands for fresh water well beyond the finite supply, resulting in the desertification of the earth." This quote comes directly from a film I saw on the big screen during the holidays. "Blue Gold: World Water Wars" is winning awards, receiving rave reviews, and attracting a great deal of public attention. Check it out at:

The film goes on to state; "Corporate giants force developing countries to privatize their water supply for profit. Wall Street investors target desalination and mass bulk water export schemes. Corrupt governments use water for economic and political gain. Military control of water emerges and a new geo-political map and power structure forms, setting the stage for world water wars."

Maude Barlow, one of the main characters in the film proclaims, "This is our revolution, this is our war. A line has been crossed, as water becomes a commodity. Will we survive?" As the national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, and the founder of the Blue Planet Project, Barlow has been raising awareness about this issue for decades and sees a sharp increase in support as people begin to realize the dangers. Find out more:

One of the most inspiring characters is a Canadian, Ryan Hreljac, who started raising money to provide clean drinking water for people in Africa when he was in grade one. Since then he has raised $2 million which have built 319 wells in 114 countries providing clean drinking water to nearly half a million people. Today he's in High School.


Richard Boyce is a free-lance writer and award winning documentary filmmaker. Island Lens has been published by the Parksville-Qualicum News for the past four years. Please help to send the article far and wide by forwarding this e-mail.
Richard Boyce, BFA, MFA
Island Bound Media Works


Letter to the First Lady in Waiting

William A. Cook

Dear Michelle; before you were silenced by your husband’s handlers for speaking your mind and heart, I listened to you talk to Americans about how they had changed by recognizing that the ideas embedded in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights encased sacred values that gave meaning to human life. One cannot know change if one does not accept the reality that preceded it. You know the reality of America’s past, its racist, barbaric existence as a slave nation, its years of genocidal ferocity against the indigenous people of this continent, its 100 years of apartheid, and its slow acceptance of the reality of America that it is a multicultural, multiracial land that can rise above fanatical closed minds of those who would wish otherwise.

That’s why I turn to you and not your husband. He appears to be at the mercy of those who would see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil. Yet evil exists, now, in Palestine, an evil comparable in its hatred and ferocity to that endured by the Jews in Nazi Germany. Listen to Yehuda Bauer, Academic Advisor to Yad Vashem and the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research:

“Politics that are not based on moral considerations are, at the end of the day, not practical politics at all. It is out of these considerations that I beg you to permit me to repeat here what I have said, exactly eight years ago, in a speech to the German Bundestag: I come from a people that gave the Ten Commandments to the world. Let us agree that we need three more commandments, and they are these: thou shalt not be a perpetrator; thou shalt not be a victim; and thou shalt never, but never, be a bystander.” (January 27, 2006)

Now, in this time, your husband is a bystander. Isreal is the perpetrator of horrific violence against a caged victim, helpless as the slave lashed to a pole before the onslaught of the overseer’s whip, mercilessly slashing his victim’s flesh with the steel barbs that he swings with all his might as Frederick Douglass describes so vividly in his narrative. But now the victims are one million five hundred thousand caged Palestinians being slashed by America’s $300,000 missiles hurled from the sky by American planes or American supplied rockets shot from American tanks or swarms of thousands of soldiers protected by American armor and ordnance, all trained to inflict the most devastating destruction possible on people who have no why to defend themselves but to hide in their homes that may become their tomb as its walls collapse from the Israeli onslaught.

The Jews of Israel that stand silent as this slaughter continues have broken the first of Bauer’s new commandments; so has your husband. No defense that “there is only one President at a time” can excuse this silence. This man, a man of promise and hope not just to Americans that have lived through these eight years of American failure at home and abroad but a man of hope and promise for the world, stands silent, a mute statue, a symbol to all that have abandoned the moral base of politics to curry favor with the overseers lest they too have to suffer the displeasure of the elite that control our Congress placing America in extreme danger.

Bauer makes this observation earlier in his speech: “There are two aspects to the Holocaust. One is the specificity of the Jewish fate, the other are the universal implications: they are two sides of the same coin. The Jews were the specific victims of the genocide. But the implications are universal, because who knows who the Jews may be next time.”

Well now we know; and as the Jews of this Israeli state perpetrate such genocide on the Palestinians you and I must accept the fact that it would not and could not be done without America’s support both in the field and in the United Nations. Listen once again to Bauer: “The main parallel between the Holocaust and other genocides is that the suffering of the victims is the same. Murder is murder, torture is torture, rape is rape; starvation, disease, and humiliation are the same in all mass murders. There are no gradations, and no genocide is better or worse than another one, no one is more a victim than anyone else.” Let me add to this litany of truth the reality that all who say or do nothing against such murder are themselves complicit in the murder; no one in this world has more potential to stop this unspeakable genocide than your husband. Don’t let him renege on his commitment made in Germany before 200,000 adoring people, a commitment made in the land where the Jews suffered their genocide, a commitment to what is right and just in this world, to tear down the walls that divide so that all may reach out to the other and seek the harmony he saw in this changing America that has blessed him with the unique opportunity to lift America out of the chaos that it has been mired in because of its acquiescence to and obsequious acceptance of Israel’s illegal and inhumane treatment of the Palestinian people.

Let me add a personal note as I end this letter. I am a Professor; I’ve served higher education for 50 years as a teacher and administrator; now, in this time, I stand appalled at the silence of my peers in the United States and in Israel who have, with some exceptions, remained silent about Israel’s atrocities. They will in due time be seen as their peers in Germany are now seen from the days of the Holocaust, silent stooges for those in power, unable or unwilling to stand before the world against unspeakable crimes. I share your dilemma; I yearn for the voices of the professoriate to cry out to the world that nothing by way of argument can justify this carnage, that compassion cries for justice, that peace cannot rise from the ashes of a military onslaught, only hatred, vengeance, and slavery.

You, Michelle, in the silence of your room, can speak to our President; you must make him stand against those who permit this genocide to continue, to stand with millions of people around the world who have and continue to assert their anger at Israel and the United States that have betrayed their morals and the agreements they have signed with their fellow nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Accords. Don’t let him be remembered as the man that did nothing before this plague of evil that contaminates the mid-east; don’t let him become the new Uncle Tom who humiliates himself before his white overseers that control our Congress and Israel.

Israel's Holocaust Deniers

Holocaust Denied

The lying silence of those who know

By John Pilger

January 08, 2009 "Information Clearinghouse" -- -"When the truth is replaced by silence," the Soviet dissident Yevgeny Yevtushenko said, "the silence is a lie." It may appear the silence is broken on Gaza. The cocoons of murdered children, wrapped in green, together with boxes containing their dismembered parents and the cries of grief and rage of everyone in that death camp by the sea, can be viewed on al-Jazeera and YouTube, even glimpsed on the BBC. But Russia's incorrigible poet was not referring to the ephemeral we call news; he was asking why those who knew the why never spoke it and so denied it. Among the Anglo-American intelligentsia, this is especially striking. It is they who hold the keys to the great storehouses of knowledge: the historiographies and archives that lead us to the why.

They know that the horror now raining on Gaza has little to do with Hamas or, absurdly, "Israel's right to exist." They know the opposite to be true: that Palestine's right to exist was canceled 61 years ago and the expulsion and, if necessary, extinction of the indigenous people was planned and executed by the founders of Israel. They know, for example, that the infamous "Plan D" resulted in the murderous depopulation of 369 Palestinian towns and villages by the Haganah (Jewish army) and that massacre upon massacre of Palestinian civilians in such places as Deir Yassin, al-Dawayima, Eilaboun, Jish, Ramle and Lydda are referred to in official records as "ethnic cleansing." Arriving at a scene of this carnage, David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, was asked by a general, Yigal Allon, "What shall we do with the Arabs?" Ben-Gurion, reported the Israeli historian Benny Morris, "made a dismissive, energetic gesture with his hand and said, ‘Expel them'. The order to expel an entire population "without attention to age" was signed by Yitzhak Rabin, a future prime minister promoted by the world's most efficient propaganda as a peacemaker. The terrible irony of this was addressed only in passing, such as when the Mapan Party co-leader Meir Ya'ari noted "how easily" Israel's leaders spoke of how it was "possible and permissible to take women, children and old men and to fill the roads with them because such is the imperative of strategy … who remembers who used this means against our people during the [Second World] war … we are appalled."

Every subsequent "war" Israel has waged has had the same objective: the expulsion of the native people and the theft of more and more land. The lie of David and Goliath, of perennial victim, reached its apogee in 1967 when the propaganda became a righteous fury that claimed the Arab states had struck first. Since then, mostly Jewish truth-tellers such as Avi Schlaim, Noam Chomsky, the late Tanya Reinhart, Neve Gordon, Tom Segev, Yuri Avnery, Ilan Pappe and Norman Finklestein have dispatched this and other myths and revealed a state shorn of the humane traditions of Judaism, whose unrelenting militarism is the sum of an expansionist, lawless and racist ideology called zionism. "It seems," wrote the Israeli historian Ilan Pappe on 2 January, "that even the most horrendous crimes, such as the genocide in Gaza, are treated as desperate events, unconnected to anything that happened in the past and not associated with any ideology or system … Very much as the apartheid ideology explained the oppressive policies of the South African government, this ideology – in its most consensual and simplistic variety – has allowed all the Israeli governments in the past and the present to dehumanize the Palestinians wherever they are and strive to destroy them. The means altered from period to period, from location to location, as did the narrative covering up these atrocities. But there is a clear pattern [of genocide]."

In Gaza, the enforced starvation and denial of humanitarian aid, the piracy of life-giving resources such as fuel and water, the denial of medicines and treatment, the systematic destruction of infrastructure and the killing and maiming of the civilian population, 50 per cent of whom are children, meet the international standard of the Genocide Convention. "Is it an irresponsible overstatement," asked Richard Falk, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and international law authority at Princeton University, "to associate the treatment of Palestinians with this criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity? I think not."

In describing a "holocaust-in-the making," Falk was alluding to the Nazis' establishment of Jewish ghettos in Poland. For one month in 1943, the captive Polish Jews led by Mordechaj Anielewiz fought off the German army and the SS, but their resistance was finally crushed and the Nazis exacted their final revenge. Falk is also a Jew. Today's holocaust-in-the-making, which began with Ben-Gurion's Plan D, is in its final stages. The difference today is that it is a joint US-Israeli project. The F-16 jet fighters, the 250-pound "smart" GBU-39 bombs supplied on the eve of the attack on Gaza, having been approved by a Congress dominated by the Democratic Party, plus the annual $2.4 billion in war-making "aid," give Washington de facto control. It beggars belief that President-elect Obama was not informed. Outspoken on Russia's war in Georgia and the terrorism in Mumbai, Obama's silence on Palestine marks his approval, which is to be expected, given his obsequiousness to the Tel Aviv regime and its lobbyists during the presidential campaign and his appointment of Zionists as his secretary of state, chief of staff and principal Middle East advisers. When Aretha Franklin sings "Think," her wonderful 1960s anthem to freedom, at Obama's inauguration on 21 January, I trust someone with the brave heart of Muntadar al-Zaidi, the shoe-thrower, will shout: "Gaza!"

The asymmetry of conquest and terror is clear. Plan D is now "Operation Cast Lead," which is the unfinished "Operation Justified Vengeance." The latter was launched by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2001 when, with Bush's approval, he used F-16s against Palestinian towns and villages for the first time. In the same year, the authoritative Jane's Foreign Report disclosed that the Blair government had given Israel the "green light" to attack the West Bank after it was shown Israel's secret designs for a bloodbath. It was typical of New Labor Party's enduring, cringing complicity in Palestine's agony. However, the 2001 Israeli plan, reported Jane's, needed the "trigger" of a suicide bombing which would cause "numerous deaths and injuries [because] the 'revenge' factor is crucial." This would "motivate Israeli soldiers to demolish the Palestinians." What alarmed Sharon and the author of the plan, General Shaul Mofaz, the Israeli Chief of Staff, was a secret agreement between Yasser Arafat and Hamas to ban suicide attacks. On 23 November, 2001, Israeli agents assassinated the Hamas leader, Mahmud Abu Hunud, and got their "trigger"; the suicide attacks resumed in response to his killing.

Something uncannily similar happened on 5 November last, when Israeli special forces attacked Gaza, killing six people. Once again, they got their propaganda "trigger." A ceasefire initiated and sustained by the Hamas government – which had imprisoned its violators – was shattered by the Israeli attack and homemade rockets were fired into what used to be Palestine before its Arab occupants were "cleansed." The On 23 December, Hamas offered to renew the ceasefire, but Israel's charade was such that its all-out assault on Gaza had been planned six months earlier, according to the Israeli daily Ha'aretz.

Behind this sordid game is the "Dagan Plan," named after General Meir Dagan, who served with Sharon in his bloody invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Now head of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence organization, Dagan is the author of a "solution" that has seen the imprisonment of Palestinians behind a ghetto wall snaking across the West Bank and in Gaza, effectively a concentration camp. The establishment of a quisling government in Ramallah under Mohammed Abbas is Dagan's achievement, together with a hasbara (propaganda) campaign relayed through a mostly supine, if intimidated western media, notably in America, that says Hamas is a terrorist organization devoted to Israel's destruction and to "blame" for the massacres and siege of its own people over two generations, long before its creation. "We have never had it so good," said the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Gideon Meir in 2006. "The hasbara effort is a well-oiled machine." In fact, Hamas's real threat is its example as the Arab world's only democratically elected government, drawing its popularity from its resistance to the Palestinians' oppressor and tormentor. This was demonstrated when Hamas foiled a CIA coup in 2007, an event ordained in the western media as "Hamas's seizure of power." Likewise, Hamas is never described as a government, let alone democratic. Neither is its proposal of a ten-year truce as a historic recognition of the "reality" of Israel and support for a two-state solution with just one condition: that the Israelis obey international law and end their illegal occupation beyond the 1967 borders. As every annual vote in the UN General Assembly demonstrates, 99 per cent of humanity concurs. On 4 January, the president of the General Assembly, Miguel d'Escoto, described the Israeli attack on Gaza as a "monstrosity."

When the monstrosity is done and the people of Gaza are even more stricken, the Dagan Plan foresees what Sharon called a "1948-style solution" – the destruction of all Palestinian leadership and authority followed by mass expulsions into smaller and smaller "cantonments" and perhaps finally into Jordan. This demolition of institutional and educational life in Gaza is designed to produce, wrote Karma Nabulsi, a Palestinian exile in Britain, "a Hobbesian vision of an anarchic society: truncated, violent, powerless, destroyed, cowed … Look to the Iraq of today: that is what [Sharon] had in store for us, and he has nearly achieved it."

Dr. Dahlia Wasfi is an American writer on Palestine. She has a Jewish mother and an Iraqi Muslim father. "Holocaust denial is anti-Semitic," she wrote on 31 December. "But I'm not talking about World War Two, Mahmoud Ahmedinijad (the president of Iran) or Ashkenazi Jews. What I'm referring to is the holocaust we are all witnessing and responsible for in Gaza today and in Palestine over the past 60 years … Since Arabs are Semites, US-Israeli policy doesn't get more anti-Semitic than this." She quoted Rachel Corrie, the young American who went to Palestine to defend Palestinians and was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer. "I am in the midst of a genocide," wrote Corrie, "which I am also indirectly supporting and for which my government is largely responsible."

Reading the words of both, I am struck by the use of "responsibility." Breaking the lie of silence is not an esoteric abstraction but an urgent responsibility that falls to those with the privilege of a platform. With the BBC cowed, so too is much of journalism, merely allowing vigorous debate within unmovable invisible boundaries, ever fearful of the smear of anti-Semitism. The unreported news, meanwhile, is that the death toll in Gaza is the equivalent of 18,000 dead in Britain. Imagine, if you can.

Then there are the academics, the deans and teachers and researchers. Why are they silent as they watch a university bombed and hear the Association of University Teachers in Gaza plea for help? Are British universities now, as Terry Eagleton believes, no more than "intellectual Tescos, churning out a commodity known as graduates rather than greengroceries"?

Then there are the writers. In the dark year of 1939, the Third Writers' Congress was held at Carnegie Hall in New York and the likes of Thomas Mann and Albert Einstein sent messages and spoke up to ensure the lie of silence was broken. By one account, 3,500 jammed the auditorium and a thousand were turned away. Today, this mighty voice of realism and morality is said to be obsolete; the literary review pages affect an ironic hauteur of irrelevance; false symbolism is all. As for the readers, their moral and political imagination is to be pacified, not primed. The anti-Muslim Martin Amis expressed this well in Visiting Mrs. Nabokov: "The dominance of the self is not a flaw, it is an evolutionary characteristic; it is just how things are."

If that is how things are, we are diminished as a civilized society. For what happens in Gaza is the defining moment of our time, which either grants the impunity of war criminals the immunity of our silence, while we contort our own intellect and morality, or gives us the power to speak out. For the moment I prefer my own memory of Gaza: of the people's courage and resistance and their "luminous humanity," as Karma Nabulsi put it. On my last trip there, I was rewarded with a spectacle of Palestinian flags fluttering in unlikely places. It was dusk and children had done this. No one told them to do it. They made flagpoles out of sticks tied together, and a few of them climbed on to a wall and held the flag between them, some silently, others crying out. They do this every day when they know foreigners are leaving, believing the world will not forget them.

Venezuela Expels Israeli Mission, Called "Terrorist State"

Venezuela Expels Israeli Ambassador in Solidarity with Palestinian People

Source: Tamara Pearson - January 7, 2009

To express solidarity with the Palestinian people, Venezuela expelled Israel’s ambassador, is organizing humanitarian aid, and has called on the international community to protest. In response, the Israeli government called Venezuela a terrorist state. The Israeli ambassador in Venezuela, Shlomo Cohen, was expelled from Venezuela on Tuesday in response to the recent attacks by the Israeli government on Gaza.

The Venezuelan ministry for foreign affairs explained the action its statement dated January 5:The government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela witnesses once again, together with the peoples of the world, the horror of the death of innocent women and children as a result of the invasion of the Gaza strip by Israeli troops and from the bombardment that, from sky and land, the State of Israel systematically executes over Palestinian territory.

In this tragic and infuriating time, the people of Venezuela manifest their unlimited solidarity with the heroic Palestinian people, and share in the grief that has seized thousands of families for the loss of loved ones and holds its hands out to affirm that the Venezuelan government won’t rest until those responsible have been severely punished for these heinous crimes.The government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela categorically condemns the blatant violations of International Law that the State of Israel has committed and denounces its planned use of state terrorism, with which it has placed itself outside the community of nations.For the above reasons, the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has decided
to expel the Israeli ambassador and part of the staff in the Israeli embassy in Venezuela, reaffirming its position of peace and its demand for respecting international law.

The government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has instructed its representatives to the United Nations, which together with most governments that agree, urges the Security Council to put urgent and necessary measures in place to stop this invasion by the state of Israel against the Palestinian people.

President Hugo Chavez, who has held meetings with top representatives of the World Jewish Council and has always opposed anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination and racism, makes a brotherly call on the Jewish people throughout the world to oppose the criminal politics of the state of Israel that bring to mind the worst pages of the history of the twentieth century. With the genocide of the Palestinian people, the Israeli state will never be able to offer its people a perspective of lasting peaces, as is so needed.

Chavez has demanded that the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Omert, be taken to the International Criminal Court for his aggression against Gaza and for more than 500 civilian deaths. "They bomb innocent people. Oh wow, how brave is the Israeli army! And those who accuse me of being a tyrant and of genocide are the ones who stay silent in front of such evidence,” Chavez said. He also called on the Israeli people to rise up against their government and condemned the prohibition against water, food, and the International Red Cross entering the Gaza strip.

Israeli response

Israel will expel the Venezuelan charge d’affaires, based in Tel Aviv, in retaliation for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador from Venezuela. Israel’s Minister for Foreign Affairs said in her response, “Israel will continue defending itself from its enemies, among those Hamas and Iran, with which Venezuela has close ties.” “Venezuela needs to choose what side of the war it is on. It should choose between those who struggle against terrorism and those who support it. It is no surprise that Venezuela has again made clear to the world on what side it positions itself.”

Roy Chaderton Matos, the Venezuelan ambassador to the Organization of American States, in an interview on Venezuelan state TV, said that Israel was being totalitarian when it classified Venezuela as an “ally of terrorism” and he likened the language used in the statement from Israel to that of the Bush administration. Matos said that Israel is a military government that knows no other solution than violence and that Venezuela would always defend persecuted peoples, “this includes persecuted Jews, Arabic peoples, and any others.”

Hamas, in a press release on its website, said that it appreciated the “courageous” step by Chavez, a step that no other “Arab countries who maintain relations with Israel, dare to take.” Further solidarity: On Tuesday the Venezuelan National Assembly had a minute of silence for the victims of the Israeli armed forces in the Gaza strip.

Legislator Roy Daza proposed the minute of silence, saying that the attacks on Gaza deserve the complete rejection of the international community. Daza said the invasion is genocide against the Palestinian people and asked the National Assembly to sign a declaration condemning the actions of the Israeli government as criminal.

The National Assembly in its official statement demanded a cease of all military action by Israel in Gaza and rejected the attitude taken on by the United Nations Security Council of not stopping the “massacre…owing to the veto imposed by the United States government.”

It said, “An end must be brought to the occupation of the territories [of Palestine], and to the siege imposed on the Gaza strip, to the Israeli settlements, and the question of the Palestinian refugees must be resolved, to be able to guarantee peace in the region.” The Palestinian flag will be raised in the National Assembly for one month as a gesture of solidarity. Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro announced that the government would establish an “air bridge” to send humanitarian aid to Palestine. Venezuela would work with other Arabic and Muslim nations, he said, as well as with other Latin American countries, to bring medicine, food, water, and milk to Palestine. Maduro called the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador from Venezuela an “act full of love, the desire for peace, as well as anger, pain
and condemnation, a greeting and a brotherly hug of solidarity.” “The world must raise its voice, as the most powerful of all the powers of the world is the people, international public opinion, and it should continue raising its voice in all the streets of all the cities and towns until a cease fire is imposed, Gaza is no longer occupied and there are fair peace negotiations for the Palestinian people,” he said.

Montreal Israeli Consulate Occupation and Expulsion Order

AUDIO report recorded by CKUT Radio ( just after 11am on
Wednesday, January 8th.



MONTREAL, January 8, 2009 -- Approximately 30 people entered the lobby of the Israeli consulate this morning to serve an eviction notice to consular staff, demanding the expulsion of the Consular General and an immediate end to the Israeli invasion and siege of Gaza.

"The Canadian government's support for the ongoing atrocities in Gaza is totally unacceptable. Canada should immediately end diplomatic ties with the Israeli apartheid regime, starting with the expulsion of Israeli representatives from Canada. Since the Canadian government has refused to do so, we are taking action ourselves," said Aaron Lakoff, one of the participants.

Demonstrators arrived at the Consulate on the 6th floor of Westmount Square in Montreal, condemning consular officials in English, French and Hebrew for the massacres committed in Gaza. They blocked access to the consulate for almost two hours before being physically expelled by police. Journalists were denied access to the lobby, and two CTV and Radio-Canada cameramen were shoved into an elevator by police.

During the action, demonstrators chanted slogans such as "Fight the power, turn the tide, end Israeli apartheid!" calling for a boycott of Israel, and addressed consular officials through the intercom.

"Since the Israeli assault began, over 700 Gazans have been killed and nearly 3100 have been injured, with no place to escape the relentless bombing of schools, homes, mosques, and places of refuge. The besieged hospitals in Gaza are overwhelmed," said Sophie Schoen, another organizer.

"This devastating level of violence has defined Israel since its inception, and goes hand in hand with its apartheid system. We must not forget that the vast majority of Gazans are refugees who were ethnically cleansed from other parts of Palestine with the founding of the state of Israel in 1948," said Meg Leitold to participants.

"Israeli apartheid could not continue without moral and economic support from Canada and Quebec," she said, calling for a boycott of Israel.

As police pushed them out, demonstrators left chanting "Boycottons Israel, liberez Palestine!" Similar actions will take place until Canada and Quebec cease their support for Israeli violence and apartheid.

Media contacts:

Mostafa Henaway (514) 659-0106 (English / Arabic); Matan Cohen (514)
848-7583 (English / Hebrew) ; Sophie Schoen (514) 998-7243 (French)

For additional high resolution photos and videos please contact us.


Meanwhile, in Toronto...

"The people of Gaza are not alone!"

MP3 Audio:


AUDIO from Today's Occupation by Jewish Women of Israeli Consulate in Toronto
Toronto, Canada: Wednesday January 8, 2009 Time: 10:25 am

A diverse group of Jewish Canadian women occupied the Israeli consulate at 180 Bloor Street West in Toronto. This action is in protest against the on-going Israeli assault on the people of Gaza.

The group is carrying out this occupation in solidarity with the 1.5 million people of Gaza and to ensure that Jewish voices against the massacre in Gaza are being heard. They are demanding that Israel end its military assault and lift the 18-month siege on the Gaza Strip to allow humanitarian aid into the territory.

Israel has been carrying out a full-scale military assault on the Gaza Strip since December 27, 2008. At least 660 people have been killed and 3000 injured in the air strikes and in the ground invasion that began on January 3, 2009. Israel has ignored international calls for a ceasefire and is refusing to allow food, adequate medical supplies and other necessities of life into the Gaza Strip.

Protesters are outraged at Israel's latest assault on the Palestinian people and by the Canadian government's refusal to condemn these massacres. They are deeply concerned that Canadians are hearing the views of pro-Israel groups who are being represented as the only voice of Jewish Canadians. The protesters have occupied the consulate to send a clear statement that many Jewish-Canadians do not support Israel's violence and apartheid policies. They are joining with people of conscience all across the world who are demanding an end to Israeli aggression and justice for the Palestinian people.

The group includes: Judy Rebick, professor; Judith Deutsch, psychoanalyst and president of Science for Peace; B.H. Yael, filmmaker; Smadar Carmon, an Canadian Israeli peace activist and others.

Just before Noon, CKUT Radio interviewed Judy Rebick inside the Israeli Consulate and Mariam Garfinkle on the outside.


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Killing Them Where They Hide: Israel Targets U.N. School Havens in Gaza

Killing Them Where They Hide: Israel Targets U.N. School Havens in Gaza
by C. L. Cook
If there was any doubt Israel's latest campaign of death and horror visited against the refugee populations of the Gaza ghetto was anything other than a war of extermination, this latest outrage should dispel finally that.

Thousands of Gazans have fled their homes, many at the telephoned advice of the Israeli Defense Forces themselves, this being Israel's version of humanitarian warfare - ringing up victims before bombing their homes. Where does a walled-in population run when their homes are being bombed and strafed and run over by tanks?

For many Gazans the answer was the United Nations-run schools. There they sought shelter, but if they believed there they would find haven the Israeli Defense Forces proved them wrong today, (though to be fair, Israel's IDF has a record of repeatedly targeting the U.N. in Palestine and Lebanon). The message Israel would send the Palestinians, if not the world, is; "We will kill you where you hide."

Below unsanctioned video from Al Jazeera's Mosaic program, found at Link TV here.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Gaza Time Line from Behind the Lines

Dear Friends,

Below are two articles on the horrific situation unfolding in Gaza. One is an eyewitness account carried in the British newspaper The Guardian. The Israeli government is keeping all journalists out of Gaza, so this article cuts through the wall of silence which surrounds the use of high tech weaponry against a largely defenseless, impoverished civilian population. The second article is a Norwegian report on the use of depleted uranium against the civilians of Gaza.

You can view these articles and more on the International Clearinghouse site:

Unconscionably, the Harper government is in full support of the U.S. blocking the call for a ceasefire at the U.N. Security Council. This amounts to a green light for the killing to continue.

Please circulate these articles and raise in any way you can, in the media and with the government and opposition MPs, the demand for an immediate ceasefire and the opening up of the border crossings into Gaza for access to urgently needed food, fuel, medicine and relief supplies for the besieged and blockaded Palestinian population.

It is only through public pressure from citizens across the globe that the bloodshed taking place can be stopped. Every voice counts.


David Orchard

National office: P.O. Box 1983, Saskatoon, S7K 3S5
Tel: (306) 664-8443 fax: (306) 244-3790
Toll free: 1-877-WE STAND (937-8263)
Toronto tel: (416) 778-7027 fax: (416) 778-6348
Vancouver tel: (604) 215-5580 fax: (604) 215-5523 OR

Do Israel pilots feel happy killing innocent women and children?

A Palestinian in Gaza chronicles life under Israeli bombardment

By Fida Qishta

The Guardian, January 04, 2009

Saturday 27 December

I go to visit friends in the Block J neighbourhood in Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip. While I am in a friend's house, my phone rings. It's a friend from Gaza City, calling for a chat. Suddenly I hear the sound of an explosion at his end. At the same time I hear an explosion in Rafah too. Just outside, somewhere near. My friend says: "Fida, they are attacking nearby." I say: "They are attacking here too."

I run into the street and everybody is running, children and grown-ups, all looking to see if their relatives and friends are alive. It is the time for children to go to school for the second shift, after the first shift finishes at 11.30am.Naama is aged 13. This is what she tells me: "I was sitting in the classroom with my friends when the attack happened. We were scared and we ran out of our school. Our headmaster asked us to go home. We saw fire everywhere."

People are looking at the remains of a police station. There are still bodies under the wreckage. It is scary because the attack isn't over, and from where we are we can see an Israeli airplane attacking another police station.

At the hospital, I speak to a wounded police officer, aged 39. "We were at the police station," he said. "The Israeli planes came and suddenly the building collapsed on us. I saw four dead bodies near me. They were in pieces. Outside there were more bodies. Everyone was shouting. I lost consciousness and then found myself in hospital."

Later I am at home with my family. We've just received a phone call on our land line. It's the Israeli defence ministry, and they say that any house that has guns or weapons will be targeted next, without warning and without any announcement. Just to let you know, we don't have any weapons in our house. If we die please defend my family.

Sunday 28 December

I wake up at 7 am after an Israeli F-16 attack. Our house is shaking. We all try to imagine what has happened, but we want to at least know where the attack was. It is so scary. We try to open the main door to our flat, but it's stuck shut after the attack. I have to climb out of the window to leave the house. I am shocked when I find out our neighbour's pharmacy was the target. It is just 60 metres from our house. They targeted a pharmacy. I still can't believe it.

Om Mohammed says: "They [Israeli forces] attack everywhere. They have gone crazy. The Gaza Strip is just going to die ... it's going to die. We were sleeping. Suddenly we heard a bomb. We woke up and we didn't know where to go. We couldn't see through the dust. We called to each other. We thought our house had been hit, not the street. What can I say? You saw it with your own eyes. What is our guilt? Are we terrorists? I don't carry a gun, neither does my girl.

"There's no medicine. No drinks, no water, no gas. We are suffering from hunger. They attack us. What does Israel want? Can it be worse than this? I don't think so. Would they accept this for themselves?

"Look at the children. What are they guilty of? They were sleeping at 7am. All the night they didn't sleep. This child was traumatised during the attack. Do they have rockets to attack with?"

Monday 29 December

The Israeli army is destroying the tunnels that go from Rafah into Egypt. For the past year and a half the Israeli government has intensified the economic blockade of Gaza by closing all the border crossings that allow aid and essential supplies to reach Palestinians in Gaza. This forced Palestinians to dig tunnels to Egypt to survive. >From our house we can hear the explosions and the house is shaking.At night we can't go out. No one goes out. If you go out you will risk your life. You don't know where the bombs will fall. My mother is so sad. She watches me writing my reports and says: "Fida, will it make any difference?"

Before the attack started we got some food aid from the EU. It's not much, but it's enough, we're not starving. But some of our friends have nothing. My mum warns me: "Fida, don't leave the house, it's too dangerous outside." Then she goes out to share our food with the neighbours who have nothing.

Wednesday 31 December

11.40 pm: a powerful air strike somewhere nearby. I was sleeping but the blast wakes me up. I see my mum looking from the window. She points at one of the refugee camps. "The attack was there," she said.

I went back to sleep – not because I don't care, but because I can't deal with it. If the attack was really aimed at one of the camps that means hundreds are going to be injured or even killed, the houses destroyed. I really can't imagine it.

Thursday 1 January

In the morning I get up early and call a friend who lives in Alshabora camp. He confirms the attack had hit there and I go to meet him.

It looks like an earthquake. Many houses have been damaged, and many people have been wounded. The people who had escaped injury were trying to clean the place up – they have nowhere else to go. But the biggest shock is when I ask about the target. It was the children's playground.

"We heard a strong explosion happen, but with all the smoke and the dust we couldn't see well, and the electricity was off," I am told by a small child.

"We saw everything fall down – the window broke on us. We went downstairs, and people were saying that the playground's been targeted. This park is not a member of Hamas, it's a park for playing. It's for civilians – so why did they attack it?," asks one 12-year-old girl who lives nearby.

The target was a civilian area – but there was no warning, not one phone call from the Israeli army to tell civilians to beware.

I visit the main hospital in Rafah. There are so many injured people, most of them children. In one ward, I meet four children aged five or six. They are in deep shock. They can't speak, they just look at you.

Only one child could say his name: "Abdel Rahman". That's all he can say. Otherwise, he just stares. He's five. His ear was wounded by shrapnel, his head is covered by bandages.

There is a 16-year-old girl also suffering from shrapnel injuries. Three of her brothers were killed; all her family were injured. She looks like a zombie and says nothing at all. Her mother is dying in the intensive care unit.

The hospital manger, Abu Youssef Alnajar, gives the statistics for 1 January: two dead – a young man aged 22 and a woman aged 33; 59 injured – 16 children, 18 women and the rest old people. Most of them had been sleeping when the bombs dropped.

I go back home and the first thing I do is take a shower. I feel really upset after what I have seen. As always I am trying to cope with the situation but sometimes it is too much to deal with.

A short message to the pilots in the Israeli F-16s: does it make you feel happy to kill Palestinian children and women? Do you feel it's your duty? Killing every child and woman, man and teenager in Gaza? I don't know what exactly you feel, what exactly you think, but please think of your mother and sister, your son and daughter.

Friday 2 January

I am in the hospital again. An ambulance crew has been called out to help an injured man somewhere near the ruins of the old Gaza airport. He's a civilian, one of the bedouin who tend their sheep in that area. Four shepherds saw an explosion and went to investigate – when they arrived at the scene there was a second bomb and they were injured. An ambulance managed to rescue three of the men. But one of their friends is still there, bleeding.

The ambulance crew are afraid to go back for him. The wounded man is just 50 metres away from the green line so they are afraid the Israeli soldiers will target them. Outside there are still planes in the air. I have just heard a big explosion on the border area.

• Fida Qishta is a freelance Palestinian television producer and writer based in Gaza's southern township of Rafah


Depleted uranium found in Gaza victims
Sun, 04 Jan 2009 13:16:21 GMT

Medics tell Press TV they have found traces of depleted uranium in some Gaza residents wounded in Israel's ground offensive on the strip.

Norwegian medics told Press TV correspondent Akram al-Sattari that some of the victims who have been wounded since Israel began its attacks on the Gaza Strip on December 27 have traces of depleted uranium in their bodies.

The report comes after Israeli tanks and troops swept across the border into Gaza on Saturday night, opening a ground operation after eight days of intensive attacks by Israeli air and naval forces on the impoverished region.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned on Sunday that the wide-ranging ground offensive in the Gaza Strip would be "full of surprises."

A ground offensive in the densely-populated Gaza is expected to drastically increase the death toll of the civilian population.

The latest assaults bring the number of Palestinians killed to over 488 with 2790 others wounded. The UN says that about 25 percent of the casualties were civilian deaths - including at least 34 children.

According to Israeli army officials, at least 30 of its soldiers have been wounded since the start of the ground campaign.

Amid global condemnation of the ongoing violence in the region, the UN Security Council failed to agree on a united approach to resolve the crisis.

"Once again, the world is watching in dismay the dysfunctionality of the Security Council," UN General Assembly chief Miguel d'Escoto said Sunday.

According to diplomatic sources, the US blocked a Security Council resolution, with US Deputy Ambassador Alejandro Wolff arguing that an official statement that criticizes both Israel and Hamas would not be helpful.

The White House has so far declined to comment on whether an Israeli ground incursion into Gaza is a justified measure.


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