Friday, November 30, 2012

The Personification of Self-righteousness

November 30, 2012 "Information Clearing House" - In the song Mack the Knife there’s a line about a body on the sidewalk “oozing” life. Last night there was a body, a living one, oozing self-righteousness.

It was not on the sidewalk. It was at the speaker’s podium in the General Assembly. It was that of His Excellency Mr. Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, presenting lies as truth before the vote which overwhelmingly recognized Palestine as a non-member observer state

What crap! (Dictionary definition – “excrement, rubbish, dirt, worthless nonsense”).

But am I being fair to Prosor? There’s a case for saying that I am not and it’s this. The Zionist (not Jewish) states does want peace, has always wanted peace. The problem is that it wants peace on its own terms, terms which require the surrender of the occupied and oppressed Palestinians to Zionism’s will; terms which give the them the choice of accepting a few crumbs from Zionism’s table or being removed from it in a final ethnic cleansing.

Until last night I thought that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was the personification of self-righteousness, but Prosor is above even him in this field. Prosor’s self-righteousness is not only in his words as he speaks them, it’s in his eyes and his whole body language.

The message I got from watching and listening to him was this: “I know I’m a self-righteous son-of-a-bitch, and I know you know I am, but I don’t care. My country is the nuclear-armed superpower of its region. We don’t give a damn about this UN General Assembly. Only the Security Council matters and we – our leaders in Israel and our lobby here in the U.S – have the ability and the means to see to it that every American president vetoes any proposal that comes before the Security Council which is not to our liking.”

But still I found myself applauding Prosor for his performance, especially his concluding assertion that Israel wants peace and the Palestinians are “avoiding” it. Why?

The short answer was put into words by Yehoshafat Harkabi, Israel’s longest serving Director of Military Intelligence. In his book, Israel’s Fateful Hour, published in English in 1986, he wrote:

“No factor endangers Israel’s future more than self-righteousness, which blinds us to reality, prevents a complex understanding of the situation and legitimizes extreme behaviour.” More



Palestine UN status upgrade should "open door to justice"

Palestine's historic recognition as a non-member observer state of the United Nations brings with it obligations under international law, Amnesty International said today.

The vote at the UN General Assembly in New York on Thursday was decided by 138 votes in favour, 41 abstentions, and nine against.

Palestine is in a position to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and other human rights and international humanitarian law treaties, bolstering accountability for human rights violations and crimes under international law.

Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International, Widney Brown said:

"This would open the door for victims of human rights abuses to seek justice and empower them to claim their rights.

“In particular, it should advance efforts to ensure international justice for war crimes and possible crimes against humanity committed by all sides in the 2008-2009 conflict in Gaza and southern Israel.

"Palestine should promptly accede to the Rome Statute affirming that it accepts the ICC’s jurisdiction over crimes committed since 1 July 2002. It should also accede to related treaties and agreements.

"The victims who suffered during the 2008-2009 conflict have waited too long for justice. Palestine should act quickly to ensure justice is delayed no longer."

Unacceptable pressure to renounce justice

Amnesty is concerned at reports that several states, including the UK and the USA, put pressure on Palestinian diplomats to renounce accountability mechanisms for crimes under international law.

Widney Brown added:

“Victims’ access to justice is not something to be bartered away. This attitude is particularly alarming in light of reported violations of international humanitarian law committed in Gaza and Israel during recent hostilities between Israel and Palestinian armed groups.”

Amnesty has condemned the continuing failure by both the Hamas de-facto administration in Gaza and by Israel to conduct prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations of suspected crimes committed during the 2008-2009 conflict.

Collective punishment

Also of particular concern are the threats by Israel that it will withhold money due to the Palestinian Authority because of the UN vote on Palestinian statehood.

Restrictions on movement of goods and people by Israel have already put a stranglehold on the Palestinian economy and forced many Palestinians into dependence on humanitarian aid.

Amnesty has repeatedly urged Israel to lift completely its blockade on Gaza, which imposes a collective punishment on more than 1.4 million Palestinians in clear violation of international law.

Widney Brown added:

"Withholding money or resources will exacerbate the humanitarian situation. Under international law, Israel, as the occupying power, is forbidden from using collective punishment and is responsible for the welfare of those occupied.” More


For the First Time, Obama Official Sketches Out End to War on Terror

Neither the George W. Bush nor Barack Obama White House ever laid out a vision for what an end to the war on terrorism would actually look like. But as Obama prepares for his second term in office, one of his top defense officials is arguing that there is an end in sight, and laying out conditions for when the U.S. will reach it.

Jeh Johnson

“On the present course, there will come a tipping point,” Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon’s top lawyer, told the Oxford Union in the U.K. on Friday, “a tipping point at which so many of the leaders and operatives of al-Qaida and its affiliates have been killed or captured, and the group is no longer able to attempt or launch a strategic attack against the United States, such that al-Qaida as we know it, the organization that our Congress authorized the military to pursue in 2001, has been effectively destroyed.” At that point, “our efforts should no longer be considered an armed conflict.”

Johnson’s description of the endgame raises more questions than answers. But under his formulation, the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF), which the Obama administration has cited as the foundation of its wartime powers, would expire. That would mean any detainee at Guantanamo Bay who hasn’t been charged with a crime would be free to go, although Johnson says that wouldn’t necessarily happen immediately. It would also raise questions about whether the U.S. would possess residual legal authorities for its lethal drone program — which Johnson defended to the BBC on Thursday — including the legal basis for any “postwar” drone strike the CIA might perform.

In Johnson’s view, once al-Qaida’s ability to launch a strategic attack is gone, so too is the war. What will remain is a “counterterrorism effort” against the “individuals who are the scattered remnants” of the organization or even unaffiliated terrorists. “The law enforcement and intelligence resources of our government are principally responsible” for dealing with them, Johnson said, according to the text of his speech, with “military assets in reserve” for an imminent threat.

Johnson, considered one of the more liberal voices on Obama’s senior national security team, notably did not say when the U.S. will reach his tipping point. And his vague argument is more likely to provoke debate than settle any legal or strategic questions about the war. But it comes at an auspicious time: just before Obama’s second term, when there are visible stirrings in Congress to finally close Guantanamo Bay and accelerate an end to the Afghanistan war. Johnson, according to Foreign Policy’s Kevin Baron, is also under consideration to become attorney general, a post from which he’d have greater influence to conclude the war. It’s also notable that Johnson’s current boss, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, recently backed away from his earlier rhetoric that the war is abating and heralded its spread to new battlefields in Africa.

Johnson’s not a commander. He’s the Pentagon’s general counsel, meaning his most direct involvement in the war on terrorism surrounds the military’s ability to detain suspected terrorists during the conflict. In his view, once the conflict ends, Guantanamo Bays doors have to swing open. Just maybe not immediately.

“In general, the military’s authority to detain ends with the ‘cessation of active hostilities’,” Johnson said. But he pointedly noted that both the U.S. and U.K. governments “delayed the release of some Nazi German prisoners of war” after World War II ended. Still, that would mean the vast majority of Guantanamo’s 166 detainees, those who haven’t been charged with any crime, would be ultimately free to go — a position almost guaranteed to spark controversy.

Murkier still is what it would mean for intelligence and law enforcement to target the “scattered remnants” of al-Qaida. Most significantly, once the AUMF expires, big questions would immediately arise about the legal framework for the apparatus of drone strikes and commando raids that President Obama hasexpanded and institutionalized for the long haul. The CIA in particular is a question mark: since the legal rationale for its drone program has never been disclosed, its dependency on the AUMF or its typical “Title 50″ authorities is unclear. More


Palestine: The meaning of a status upgrade

There was a great show of support for the Palestinians as they bid to upgrade their status at the United Nations. But the move was also strongly opposed by Israel and the United States.

After years of long, inconclusive negotiations, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, asked the UN General Assembly to recognise the non-member state of Palestine in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

Abbas has been leading the campaign to win support for the resolution, and over a dozen European governments have offered him their support.

"We Palestinians are taking the Israelis all the way with us, for the world to recognise Israeli borders of 1967, because Israel never ever admitted its borders. [The bid] is to keep safe and alive what is left of the two-state solution before it is too late, and it's to awaken the Israeli public [asking them] 'how can you cope with an apartheid system with endless occupation?'"

- Mahdi Abdel Hadi, Palestinian Academic Society

The non-member observer state falls short of full UN membership. But a successful bid means the Palestinians would be allowed access to the International Criminal Court, where they could seek action against Israel on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Over the past 60 years, there have been many attempts to achieve Palestinian statehood.

In 1947, the partition resolution was adopted by the General Assembly, supporting an independent Jewish State and an independent Arab State; that was rejected by the Arabs.

But In 1974, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) was granted observer status at the UN - which it holds to this day - allowing it to take part in General Assembly sessions, without the right to vote.

Then in 1988, the PLO unilaterally declared a State of Palestine at a meeting in Algeria.

And in 1993 the Oslo Accord was signed in Washington; that created the Palestinian Authority and granted limited autonomy to the Palestinian territories.

In 2003, the so-called Road Map was drafted by the Middle East quartet, stipulating the creation of a Palestinian state by 2005.

"[Palestinians] are trying to impose on Israel something that Israelis cannot accept in terms of Israeli security, and also they are not willing to recognise that on the other side of the border there will be a Jewish state."

- Dan Schueftan, University of Haifa

And in September 2011, President Abbas submitted an application to join the UN as a full member state. But the bid failed because of a lack of support in the UN Security Council.

Both Israel and the US have rejected the most recent bid by Palestine to be recognised as a non-member observer state. Danny Ayalon, Israel's deputy foreign minister, said the bid is a "virtual move without any substance", while Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said it would serve no purpose. .

So, how would a new status at the UN help the Palestinians? How would they use their newfound status? And how would it affect future peace efforts?


Thursday, November 29, 2012

PCHR Statement On Ongoing Attacks Against Palestinian Fishermen In Gaza

The Continued Attacks against Palestinian Fishermen Prove False Israeli Claims of Permitting Fishermen to Fish up to 6 Nautical Miles.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns Israel's violations against Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip, which continue in spite of the Israeli authorities' announcement of allowing the fishermen to fish up to 6 nautical miles off the Gaza shore.

PCHR calls upon the international community, including the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 on the protection of civilians in times of war, to intervene to immediately stop the Israeli violations against the Palestinian fishermen, and to allow them to sail and fish freely in the Gaza sea.

PCHR has been following up the progress at the Gaza sea, since the Israeli forces stopped its offensive on the Gaza Strip, from 14 to 21 November 2012, under terms of the truce deal between the Palestinian armed groups and Israel under Egyptian and international auspices.

Since Thursday, 22 November 2012, the Palestinian fishermen have been able to fish within 6 nautical miles, under intense surveillance by the Israeli gunboats which were deployed near the Palestinian fishing boats.

A number of fishermen have sailed up to 6 nautical miles during the past few days. They were very cautious because of the presence of the Israeli gunboats nearby, bearing in mind that the Israeli authorities did not officially announce the new fishing distance allowed for the Palestinian fishermen to access.

PCHR documented Israeli violations committed against Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza sea between Thursday, 22 November 2012, (the first day of the enforcement of the truce deal) and Thursday, 29 November 2012. These violations were as follows:

• On Monday, 26 November 2012, Israeli gunboats intercepted a fishing boat while it sailed at 8 nautical miles out of the Gaza city shore. According to fisherman Amjad Ismail Ahmed al-Sherafi (38) from Gaza, at approximately 09:30, he and his brother Mohammad (34) sailed their in the Gaza waters when an Israeli gunboat intercepted him and forced him to stop at gunpoint and sail back without pulling his fishing nets out of the sea.

• At approximately 10:00 on Wednesday, 28 November 2012, Israeli forces chased a fishing boat belonging to Murad Rajab al-Hessi, from Gaza, at nearly 6 nautical miles off the shore from Deir al-Balah. Mohammad Murad al-Hessi (39), Ahmed Murad al-Hessi (32), Murad Mohammad al-Hessi (18) and Rajab Rashad al-Hessi (36) were on board of the boat. 4 Israeli gunboats opened intensive fire at the boat, which caused damage to the boat. The Israeli soldiers then ordered the fishermen to jump into the water and swim towards the gunboat. They were all arrested and interrogated at gunpoint. 3 hours later, 4 of them were released. However, Mohammad Murad al-Hessi remains in detention. In addition, the boat still remains confiscated.

• At approximately 08:00 on Wednesday, 28 November 2012, Israeli gunboats opened intense and direct fire at a Palestinian fishing boat, belonging to Khader Jamal Baker (20), from Gaza, while he sailed at 3.5 nautical miles. As a result, the fishing boat was destroyed. Baker was arrested by Israeli soldiers who interrogated with him at gunpoint for 3 hours before releasing him. More


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Did Britain try blackmail to cripple Palestine UN bid? YES!

Britain’s Foreign Office, on its website, states loudly and clearly:

“The UK is committed to upholding international justice and all of our international obligations. Our core principle is clear. Those guilty of war crimes must be brought to justice whether they are Israeli or any other nationality. We are also committed to ensuring that UK systems are robust in meeting its international law obligations.”

Yet ugly rumours are flying that the government twisted the arm of President Abbas and told him the UK would only support ’s modest upgrade to ‘observer state’ at the UN (to be decided tomorrow, Thursday) if he pledged not to pursue Israeli war criminals through the .

“Promise not to prosecute Israeli war criminals, not to go for full UN membership, not to seek justice but submit to rigged talks, and we’ll support you”

In a statement issued yesterday by the Palestinian Mission in, Ambassador Hassassian says: “It was reported recently in several media outlets that in exchange for its – the ’s – support of the Palestinian UN bid it wants guarantees from Abbas including: (1) That the Palestinians will not bring cases against Israeli officials to the ICC or other UN agencies…(2) That the Palestinians will not use UN observer status as a basis for a renewed appeal to the for full membership to the UN…(3) That Abbas will commit to renewing peace talks with without preconditions.

“Such steps would undermine the Palestinian leadership and its credibility with its own constituents. The British government is once again putting conditions for its support to the Palestinian people instead of shouldering its historic responsibility towards them… I urge the British government to fulfil its responsibility and stand at the right side of history by recognizing the state ofPalestine and voting in favour of an enhanced Palestinian status at the UN.”

This morning the Palestinian embassy in London was unable to verify that any such pressure was put on Abbas. But that is not to say it didn’t happen and numerous media sources got it wrong. The conversation was likely to have taken place in Ramallah, and Ramallah is not noted for its responsiveness to media questions. More


Nobel peace laureates call for Israel military boycott over Gaza assault

A group of Nobel peace prize-winners, prominent artists and activists have issued a call for an international military boycott of Israel following its assault on the Gaza Strip this month.

Hamas police station destroyed by an Israeli air strike
The letter also denounces the US, EU and several developing countries for what it describes as their "complicity" through weapons sales and other military support in the attack that killed 160 Palestinians, many of them civilians, including about 35 children.

The 52 signatories include the Nobel peace laureates Mairead Maguire and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel; the film directors Mike Leigh and Ken Loach; the author Alice Walker; the US academic Noam Chomsky; Roger Waters of Pink Floyd; and Stéphane Hessel, a former French diplomat and Holocaust survivor who was co-author of the universal declaration of human rights.

"Horrified at the latest round of Israeli aggression against the 1.5 million Palestinians in the besieged and occupied Gaza Strip and conscious of the impunity that has enabled this new chapter in Israel's decades-old violations of international law and Palestinian rights, we believe there is an urgent need for international action towards a mandatory, comprehensive military embargo against Israel," the letter says.

"Such a measure has been subject to several UN resolutions and is similar to the arms embargo imposed against apartheid South Africa in the past."

The letter accuses several countries of providing important military support that facilitated the assault on Gaza. "While the United States has been the largest sponsor of Israel, supplying billions of dollars of advanced military hardware every year, the role of the European Union must not go unnoticed, in particular its hefty subsidies to Israel's military complex through its research programmes.

"Similarly, the growing military ties between Israel and the emerging economies of Brazil, India and South Korea are unconscionable given their nominal support for Palestinian freedom," it says.

The letter opens with a quote from Nelson Mandela: "For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."

The other signatories include John Dugard, a South African jurist and former UN special rapporteur in the occupied territories; Luisa Morgantini, former president of the European parliament; Cynthia McKinney, a former member of the US Congress; Ronnie Kasrils, a South African former cabinet minister; and the dramatist Caryl Churchill. More


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

'Flatten All Of Gaza' - The 'Benghazi Moment' That Didn't Matter

On March 30, 2011 - eleven days into Nato’s war on Libya - Professor Juan Cole wrote from his armchair at the University of Michigan:

‘The Libya intervention is legal [sic] and was necessary to prevent further massacres… and if it succeeds in getting rid of Qaddafi’s murderous regime and allowing Libyans to have a normal life, it will be worth the sacrifices in life and treasure. If NATO needs me, I’m there.’

Cole thus declared himself ready to suit up and reach for the sky with Nato's bombers. It was an extraordinary moment.

The rationale, of course, was the alleged risk of a massacre in Benghazi by Gaddafi's forces. Cole told Democracy Now!:

‘They mounted tanks, 30, 40, 50 tanks, sent them into the downtowns of places like Zawiyah, and they just shelled civilian crowds, protesters… And then they started rolling the tanks to the east, and they were on the verge of taking the rebel stronghold, Benghazi. And there certainly would have been a massacre there in the same way that there was in Zawiyah, if it hadn’t been stopped at the last moment by United Nations allies.’

This was mostly a product of the fevered atmosphere generated every time state-corporate propaganda targets a ‘New Hitler’ for destruction (Gaddafi, Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, Assad, et al). Two or three weeks of sustained moral outrage from Washington, London and Paris, echoed across the media, are more than sufficient to generate the required hysteria. Almost anything can then be claimed, with even rational questioning denounced as 'apologetics for tyranny’. In The Politics of Genocide, Edward Herman and David Peterson wrote:

‘The vulgar politicisation of the concept of genocide, and the “emerging international norm” of humanitarian intervention, appear to be products of the fading of the Cold War, which removed the standard pretexts for intervention while leaving intact the institutional and ideological framework for its regular practice during those years.’ (Herman and Peterson, The Politics of Genocide, Monthly Review Press, 2010, pp.10-11)

With mainstream political parties no longer exercising restraint on the war wagon, the need to 'do something' can be turned on and off like a tap.

By way of a rare exception, Seumas Milne noted in the Guardian of Gaddafi that ‘there is in fact no evidence – including from other rebel-held towns Gaddafi re-captured – to suggest he had either the capability or even the intention to carry out such an atrocity against an armed city of 700,000’.

But most of the press was untroubled by a lack of evidence - the West was simply right to act. A leader in The Times commented on October 21, 2011:

‘Without this early, though sensibly limited, intervention, there would have been a massacre in Benghazi on the scale of Srebrenica.’ (Leading article, 'Death of a Dictator,' The Times)

An Independent editorial agreed:

'Concern was real enough that a Srebrenica-style massacre could unfold in Benghazi, and the UK Government was right to insist that we would not allow this.’ (Leading article, ‘The mission that crept,’ Independent, July 29, 2011)

‘We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too.

'We Must Blow Gaza Back To The Middle Ages'

With the above in mind, consider that, on November 16, on the third day of Israel’s latest assault on Gaza, with at least 18 Palestinians already killed, the BBC reported:

‘Israel's aerial bombardment of Gaza has intensified after it authorised the call-up of 30,000 army reservists, amid reports of a possible ground offensive.’

Israel's cabinet quickly approved the activation of 75,000 reservists, as well as hundreds of Merkava main battle tanks, armoured bulldozers and other assault vehicles, which were transported into position for attack.

Was a massacre looming? The Israeli deputy prime minister Eli Yishai appeared to promise as much on November 18:

‘We must blow Gaza back to the Middle Ages destroying all the infrastructure including roads and water.’

A prominent front-page article in the Jerusalem Post by Gilad Sharon, son of the former Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, openly advocated mass killing:

‘We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too.

‘There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing. Then they’d really call for a ceasefire.’ More


Thursday, November 22, 2012

What was it all for?

The murder of Palestinians and Israelis is just a prelude to the next Gaza war

So what was it all for? The 11-month old Palestinian baby killed with its entire family by an Israeli pilot, the 150-odd Palestinian dead – two thirds of them civilians – the six Israeli dead, 1,500 air raids on Gaza, 1,500 rockets on Israel. What fearful symmetry! But was all this done – and let us forget the billions of dollars of weapons spent by Israel – for a ceasefire? Not a peace treaty, not even a treaty, just a truce. Before the next Gaza war.

Cynics abound in Israel, and not without reason. “End of a military operation, beginning of an election campaign,” ran a headline in The Jerusalem Post yesterday – albeit in a newspaper that has given its usual support to war in Gaza.

Hardly Churchillian

But surely Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign for the January elections began the moment he ordered the assassination of Ahmed al-Jabari, the Hamas leader, just over a week ago. Indeed, the bombing of Gaza moved seamlessly into the Netanyahu election project: if Israelis want security, they know who to vote for.

Or do they? It was evident after the ceasefire began on Wednesday night that Mr Netanyahu was worried.

“I know that there are citizens who expect an even harsher military action…” he began, but “Israel’s challenges” had become more complicated down the years. “Under these conditions, we need to steer the ship of state responsibly and with wisdom.” An interesting choice of words, but Churchillian it was not.

For years now, Mr Netanyahu has been pressing ahead with Jewish colonies on West Bank land stolen from Arabs, effectively denying any future Palestinian statehood – and steering his own “ship of state” into a future tempest. If the Palestinians can have no state, Israel will have no peace, and Hamas rockets will in time look like an inconvenience in comparison to what is to come.So what was it all for? The 11-month old Palestinian baby killed with its entire family by an Israeli pilot, the 150-odd Palestinian dead – two thirds of them civilians – the six Israeli dead, 1,500 air raids on Gaza, 1,500 rockets on Israel. What fearful symmetry! But was all this done – and let us forget the billions of dollars of weapons spent by Israel – for a ceasefire? Not a peace treaty, not even a treaty, just a truce. Before the next Gaza war.

Cynics abound in Israel, and not without reason. “End of a military operation, beginning of an election campaign,” ran a headline in The Jerusalem Post yesterday – albeit in a newspaper that has given its usual support to war in Gaza.

But surely Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign for the January elections began the moment he ordered the assassination of Ahmed al-Jabari, the Hamas leader, just over a week ago. Indeed, the bombing of Gaza moved seamlessly into the Netanyahu election project: if Israelis want security, they know who to vote for.

Or do they? It was evident after the ceasefire began on Wednesday night that Mr Netanyahu was worried.

“I know that there are citizens who expect an even harsher military action…” he began, but “Israel’s challenges” had become more complicated down the years. “Under these conditions, we need to steer the ship of state responsibly and with wisdom.” An interesting choice of words, but Churchillian it was not.

For years now, Mr Netanyahu has been pressing ahead with Jewish colonies on West Bank land stolen from Arabs, effectively denying any future Palestinian statehood – and steering his own “ship of state” into a future tempest. If the Palestinians can have no state, Israel will have no peace, and Hamas rockets will in time look like an inconvenience in comparison to what is to come. More


Gaza: six shocking facts of everyday life

The world breathed a sigh of relief when a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was declared – and thankfully it looks to be holding. But real and lasting peace will only be possible when this situation is resolved:

That’s not all. The last Israeli military operations in 2008-9 left 50,000 people in Gaza homeless; the impact of the past week's bombardment is still uncertain, but it is certain to be heavy. Add to that, over 4,500 people are packed into every square kilometre of Gaza, making it one of the most densely populated places on Earth.

It's past time to fix the root causes of this conflict. If you agree, sign below and share this with everybody. More

Sources: United Nations, Guardian, NPR, International Business Times, Huffington Post


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Psychological warfare on the digital battlefield

Cyber attacks, battling social media, and bogus text messages are all contemporary weapons in Operation Pillar of Defense.

Israel's campaign against Hamas in the Gaza Strip is being conducted in the air as well as over the airwaves. But on this front, the Palestinians are fighting with at least one hand tied behind their backs.

There has been no other case in the history of modern warfare where one side controls all the communication infrastructure of the other, as is the case here. All of Gaza's telephone networks and internet servers go through Israel; every phone conversation and email is rooted through Israeli territory and from there sent on through underwater fiber-optic cables to the rest of the world.

Israel hasn't cut Gazans off, technologically, from the outside world for a number of reasons. The official one is to not cause unnecessary harm to the civilian population. Beyond that, the security establishment doesn't want to relinquish the intelligence opportunities from having access to Gaza's communications. Plus, there's the PR consideration to not create a media blackout which would allow rumors of a humanitarian crisis to percolate.

The control over the telephone networks also allows the IDF to issue warnings to specific homes which, according to intelligence, are being used to store arms or serve as local Hamas command posts. Civilians in these homes are called and warned that they are about to be bombed and should leave immediately. From reports in Gaza, these phone-calls were specific and much more focused than in Operation Cast Lead four years ago, when nearly all the civilians in Gaza received phone-calls giving them a general warning not to be caught near Hamas facilities and the firing zone.

The networks in Gaza are managed through the Palestinian Authority's Telecommunications Ministry along with the Israeli Defense Ministry's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories and includes allocations of wavelengths to mobile phone operators, radio and television stations. On Sunday, Israel burst into broadcasts of Gazan television and radio, broadcasting warnings in Arabic to residents to avoid Hamas bases and the border area. These interruptions were an addition to the hundreds of thousands leaflets containing similar warnings released from fighter-jets. More Behine Pay-wall unfortunatly.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The bailout of the 99% by the 99%

Why should the 1% get all the bailouts? Now, an Occupy Wall Street offshoot has launched an exciting project called Rolling Jubilee that lets you turn a little cash into a helping hand for folks who deserve it a lot more than Bank of America does.

Here's the deal. Jubilee is an ancient biblical tradition in which, periodically, debts were forgiven, slaves were freed and slates were wiped clean. It was a time for starting afresh, of renewal. Now, Rolling Jubilee takes that concept to a new level. According to their website, it works like this:

Banks sell debt for pennies on the dollar on a shadowy speculative market of debt buyers who then turn around and try to collect the full amount from debtors. The Rolling Jubilee intervenes by buying debt, keeping it out of the hands of collectors, and then abolishing it. We’re going into this market not to make a profit but to help each other out and highlight how the predatory debt system affects our families and communities. Think of it as a bailout of the 99% by the 99%.

Millions of working people are still haunted by the debt they ran up while trying to stay afloat during the Great Recession. And while the government doled out hundreds of billions of dollars to big corporations and too-big-to-fail banks, normal folks have been pretty much left to fend for themselves.

By wiping out this debt, Rolling Jubilee spares thousands of hard-pressed people the agonies of getting pursued by aggressive collection agencies, many of whom use abusive, illegal practices to try and extract money from people who might be struggling to get back on their feet after losing a job, falling ill or other personal disasters.

So far, Rolling Jubilee says it's collected nearly $300,000 in donations, enough to extinguish more than $5m in debt. The group hopes to grow a broad debt resistance movement – and help build a non-exploitative economy that works for everybody.

Learn more: This trailer for the documentary film Maxed Out features professor (now, newly elected US senator) Elizabeth Warren explaining the predatory practices of banks and credit card companies. Then, if that doesn't make you angry enough, check out this ABC News expose of outrageous practices in the collections industry. More


Monday, November 19, 2012

The Latest Gaza Catastrophe by Richard Falk

Many aspects of the current assault on Gaza pass under the radar screens of world conscience

The media double standards in the West on the new and tragic Israeli escalation of violence directed at Gaza were epitomised by an absurdly partisan New York Times front page headline: "Rockets Target Jerusalem; Israel girds for Gaza Invasion" (NYT, Nov 16, 2012). Decoded somewhat, the message is this: Hamas is the aggressor, and Israel when and if it launches a ground attack on Gaza must expect itself to be further attacked by rockets. This is a stunningly Orwellian re-phrasing of reality.

The true situation is, of course, quite the opposite: Namely, that the defenseless population of Gaza can be assumed now to be acutely fearful of an all out imminent Israeli assault, while it is also true, without minimising the reality of a threat, that some rockets fired from Gaza fell harmlessly (although with admittedly menacing implications) on the outskirts of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. There is such a gross disproportion in the capacity of the two sides to inflict damage and suffering due to Israeli total military dominance as to make perverse this reversal of concerns to what might befall Israeli society if the attack on Gaza further intensifies.

The reliance by Hamas and the various Gaza militias on indiscriminate, even if wildly inaccurate and generally harmless, rockets is a criminal violation of international humanitarian law, but the low number of casualties caused and the minor damage caused, needs to be assessed in the overall context of massive violence inflicted on the Palestinians. The widespread non-Western perception of the new cycle of violence involving Gaza is that it looks like a repetition of Israeli aggression against Gaza in late 2008, early 2009, that similarly fell between the end of American presidential elections and scheduled Israeli parliamentary elections.

Pointing fingers

There is the usual discussion over where to locate responsibility for the initial act in this renewed upsurge violence. Is it some shots fired from Gaza across the border and aimed at an armoured Israeli jeep or was it the targeted killing by an Israeli missile of Ahmed Jabari, leader of the military wing of Hamas, a few days later? Or some other act by one side or the other? Or is it the continuous violence against the people of Gaza arising from the blockade that has been imposed since mid-2007?

The assassination of Jabari came a few days after an informal truce that had been negotiated through the good offices of Egypt, and quite ironically agreed to by none other than Jabari acting on behalf of Hamas. Killing him was clearly intended as a major provocation, disrupting a carefully negotiated effort to avoid another tit-for-tat sequence of violence of the sort that has periodically taken place during the last several years.

An assassination of such a high profile Palestinian political figure as Jabari is not a spontaneous act. It is based on elaborate surveillance over a long period, and is obviously planned well in advance partly with the hope of avoiding collateral damage, and thus limiting unfavourable publicity. Such an extra-judicial killing, although also part and parcel of the new American ethos of drone warfare, remains an unlawful tactic of conflict, denying adversary political leaders separated from combat any opportunity to defend themselves against accusations, and implies a rejection of any disposition to seek a peaceful resolution of a political conflict. It amounts to the imposition of capital punishment without due process, a denial of elementary rights to confront an accuser.

Putting aside the niceties of law, the Israeli leadership knew exactly what it was doing when it broke the truce and assassinated such a prominent Hamas leader, someone generally thought to be second only to the Gaza prime minister, Ismail Haniya. There have been rumours, and veiled threats, for months that the Netanyahu government plans a major assault of Gaza, and the timing of the ongoing attacks seems to coincide with the dynamics of Israeli internal politics, especially the traditional Israeli practice of shoring up the image of toughness of the existing leadership in Tel Aviv as a way of inducing Israeli citizens to feel fearful, yet protected, before casting their ballots. More


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Israeli Soldiers Breaking The Silence on the Occupation of Palestine

Former Israeli paratrooper Avner Gvaryahu, now an activist with Breaking The Silence explains to Green Left Weekly's Peter Boyle how 850 former Israeli soldiers have given testimony about the gross injustices against the Palestinian people they have witnessed and made to participate in as part of Israel's military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. He was visiting Australia to promote the book "Our Harsh Logic" (Scribe Publications).

The four guilty parties behind Israel’s attack

The inciting cause of the latest confrontation between Israel and Hamas has little to do with the firing of rockets, whether by Hamas or the other Palestinian factions. The conflict predates the rockets – and even the creation of Hamas – by decades. It is the legacy of Israel’s dispossession of Palestinians in 1948, forcing many of them from their homes in what is now Israel into the tiny Gaza Strip. That original injustice has been compounded by the occupation Israel has not only failed to end but has actually intensified in recent years with its relentless siege of the small strip of territory.

Why Gaza must suffer again 18 November 2012

The four guilty parties behind Israel’s attack

Israeli Occupation Archive – 18 November 2012

A short interview broadcast by CNN late last week featuring two participants – a Palestinian in Gaza and an Israeli within range of the rocket attacks – did not follow the usual script.

For once, a media outlet dropped its role as gatekeeper, there to mediate and therefore impair our understanding of what is taking place between Israel and the Palestinians, and inadvertently became a simple window on real events.

The usual aim of such “balance” interviews relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is twofold: to reassure the audience that both sides of the story are being presented fairly; and to dissipate potential outrage at the deaths of Palestinian civilians by giving equal time to the suffering of Israelis.

But the deeper function of such coverage in relation to Gaza, given the media’s assumption that Israeli bombs are simply a reaction to Hamas terror, is to redirect the audience’s anger exclusively towards Hamas. In this way, Hamas is made implicitly responsible for the suffering of both Israelis and Palestinians.

The dramatic conclusion to CNN’s interview appears, however, to have otherwise trumped normal journalistic considerations.

The pre-recorded interview via Skype opened with Mohammed Sulaiman in Gaza. From what looked like a cramped room, presumably serving as a bomb shelter, he spoke of how he was too afraid to step outside his home. Throughout the interview, we could hear the muffled sound of bombs exploding in the near-distance. Mohammed occasionally glanced nervously to his side.

The other interviewee, Nissim Nahoom, an Israeli official in Ashkelon, also spoke of his family’s terror, arguing that it was no different from that of Gazans. Except in one respect, he hastened to add: things were worse for Israelis because they had to live with the knowledge that Hamas rockets were intended to harm civilians, unlike the precision missiles and bombs Israel dropped on Gaza.

The interview returned to Mohammed. As he started to speak, the bombing grew much louder. He pressed on, saying he would not be silenced by what was taking place outside. The interviewer, Isha Sesay, interrupted – seemingly unsure of what she was hearing – to inquire about the noise.

Then, with an irony that Mohammed could not have appreciated as he spoke, he began to say he refused to be drawn into a comparison about whose suffering was worse when an enormous explosion threw him from his chair and severed the internet connection. Switching back to the studio, Sesay reassured viewers that Mohammed had not been hurt.

The bombs, however, spoke more eloquently than either Mohammed or Nissim. More


Saturday, November 17, 2012

History is repeated as the international community turns its back on Gaza

In Gaza today, we are sitting, waiting for the next phase of Israel's offensive. For more than three days now, the attacks have relentlessly continued. The streets are deserted as people are too afraid to move. But still civilians are being killed and injured. The precise number is impossible to know at this stage, as our fieldworkers struggle to document past and current attacks.

Outside the borders of the Gaza Strip, the world watches their television screens. And waits.

We have been here before. Nearly four years ago, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead, a 23 day offensive on the Gaza Strip that placed the civilian population firmly in the eye of the storm. In that offensive, 82 percent of the dead were civilians; 1,179 of international law's so-called "protected persons" were killed as the world looked on.

As a result of Israel's illegal closure of the Gaza Strip - now in place for an unimaginable five years - the destruction caused during Operation Cast Lead is still not fully repaired. As the bombs fall today, they add rubble to rubble; another generation of destruction. Already weakened infrastructure, particularly hospitals, makes it a struggle for people to cope.

After Operation Cast Lead, we believed that the world would respond. It had to. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), and other organisations, prepared countless well-documented cases containing concrete allegations of widespread war crimes perpetrated by Israeli forces. We presented them to, amongst others, the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, who concluded that Operation Cast Lead was directed at "the people of Gaza as a whole". It held that Israel's policies were premised on a "deliberate policy of disproportionate force" aimed not at the enemy but at the "supporting infrastructure". In practice, this appears to have meant the civilian population.' Based on these conclusions, the Fact Finding Mission recommended that the Security Council refer the situation in Gaza to the International Criminal Court, so that all suspected war criminals could be investigated and, if appropriate, tried and prosecuted.

This was not an unusual conclusion. It was a response to the clear requirements of international law.

For nearly four years, PCHR has fought for the implementation of this recommendation. As an organisation, we represent over 1,400 victims of Operation Cast Lead. These individuals have placed their faith in the rule of law, and in the promise of universal human rights.

Their faith has been met with realpolitik and an international community that is unwilling to live up to its international obligations. The international community has consistently prioritised political considerations above human rights, using peace and security as a pretext. They have turned their backs on the rule of law and the victims.

Today, these same victims, along with the entire population of Gaza, are once more subject to relentless attack. Once again, international law is being disregarded as Israel launches wave after wave of attacks on the Gaza Strip. More


Dissecting IDF propaganda: The numbers behind the rocket attacks

In this brief study, I examine the many numbers cited by the Israeli military relating to Gaza rocket attacks into Israel.

To begin, Israeli spokespeople frequently remind the world that a million Israeli citizens are within range of Gaza rockets, twelve thousand of which have been fired into Israel in the last twelve years, inflicting thousands of injuries and several dead.

However, we are rarely told exactly how many people have been killed by these rocket attacks.

Counting the dead

Below is a list of all the fatalities of rocket and mortar attacks fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel in the entire history of these attacks. Throughout the years of rocket attacks into Israel, a total of 26 people have been killed altogether.

Fatalities from rocket and mortar attacks in Israel from the Gaza Strip

Date of attackNameAgeLocationWeapon
2004.06.28Mordechai Yosephov49SderotQassam
2004.06.28Afik Ohion Zehavi4SderotQassam
2004.09.29Yuval Abebeh4SderotQassam
2004.09.29Dorit (Masarat) Benisian2SderotQassam
2005.01.15Ayala-Haya Abukasis17SderotQassam
2005.07.15Dana Gelkowitz22Moshav Nativ Ha‘asaraQassam
2006.03.28Salam Ziadin* ?Nahal OzQassam
2006.03.28Khalid Ziadin*16Nahal OzQassam
2006.11.15Faina Slutzker57SderotQassam
2006.11.21Yaakov Yaakobov43SderotQassam
2007.05.21Shirel Friedman32SderotQassam
2007.05.27Oshri Oz36SderotQassam
2008.02.27Roni Yihye47SderotQassam
2008.05.09Jimmy Kedoshim48Kibbutz Kfar Azamortar
2008.05.12Shuli Katz70Moshav YeshaQassam
2008.06.05Amnon Rosenberg51Kibbutz Nir-Ozmortar
2008.12.27Beber Vaknin58NetivotQassam
2008.12.29Lutfi Nasraladin*38IDF base near Nahal Ozmortar
2008.12.29Irit Sheetrit39AshdodGrad
2008.12.29Hani al Mahdi*27AshkelonGrad
2010.03.18Manee Singueanphon*30Moshav Nativ Ha‘asaraQassam
2011.08.20Yossi Shushan38Be’er shevaGrad
2011.10.29Moshe Ami56AshkelonGrad
2012.11.15Yitzchak Amsalem24Kiryat Malachirocket
2012.11.15Mira Sharf25Kiryat Malachirocket
2012.11.15Aharon Smadja49Kiryat Malachirocket
Total fatalities in the history of rocket and mortar attacks
from Gaza into Israel: 26
Operation Cast Lead: December 27, 2008–January 18, 2009
Operation Pillar of Cloud: November 14, 2012–
(Refer to the bottom of the page for notes and sources.)

The shaded rows in the table refer to fatalities sustained during Operation Cast Lead (December 27, 2008–January 18, 2009) and Operation Pillar of Cloud(November 14, 2012–).

Note that of the 26 fatalities from rocket and mortar attacks, more than one out of every four deaths occurred during these two operations, which were ostensibly designed to deter rocket attacks. More