Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Portion below; whole thing here: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/559caf6e-cab5-11dc-a960-000077b07658.html
This siege is not only wrong; it is almost wholly counterproductive.
First, Israel’s tactic of “collective punishment” is illegal. Targeting a civilian population is prohibited by international law: there is no debate to be had about it.
Second, however, two decades of using this tactic, in the occupied ter- ritories and in Lebanon, should have taught Israel that it does not work. It actually strengthens organisations such as Hamas and Hizbollah.
Indeed, this siege is visibly increasing Gazans’ dependence on Hamas as the only source of the means of subsistence.
It is time that Israel, its Arab neighbours such as Jordan and Egypt, the US and the Fatah nationalists they are all backing against Hamas rethought their position.
Their attempt to isolate and topple Hamas after its 2006 election victory – which included arming Fatah warlords in Gaza – has failed.
Arab and international mediators should immediately seek an armistice from Hamas and an end to the Gaza blockade from Israel.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
GENEVA, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Cluster bombs, which nearly 100 countries are seeking to ban, should not be considered bad as long as states involved in conflicts use them responsibly, a senior United States official said on Wednesday.
The official, who declined to be identified, also told a background briefing that Washington was planning to create a "quick reaction force", or QRF, to handle threats to civilians from remnants of war, like cluster bombs.
The official's remarks, which could not be quoted directly, clearly confirmed that Washington -- like Russia, China and some other powers -- remained opposed to banning the weapon.
He spoke as negotiators on updating a 1981 international agreement on especially dangerous conventional weapons (CCW) met in Geneva to prepare for "expert discussions" on cluster weapons next year under the United Nations umbrella.
Cluster munitions include a variety of weapons that can spread up to hundreds of bomblets over a target area. Up to 30 percent fail to explode, posing a threat to civilians for many years after a conflict.
The International Committee of the Red Cross says some 400 million people in countries and regions like Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Russia's Chechnya live in effective minefields, under daily threat of maiming from cluster bombs.
Other campaigners say at least 13,000 civilians are known to have been killed or injured by the bombs -- used heavily most recently by Israel in its 2006 war against Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon -- in recent years.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Portion below--with my comments; whole thing here: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2004126291_webgaza15.html
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israeli tanks and helicopters raided Gaza on Tuesday, killing the son of the territory's most powerful leader and 18 other Palestinians in the bloodiest day of fighting since Hamas seized [after being duly elected] the coastal strip in June.
Palestinian sniper fire across the border killed a 19-year-old volunteer from Ecuador [hmmm 1 vs 19--each gets a paragraph] at an Israeli communal farm.
That death, and the killing of Hussam Zahar, 24, the son of hardline [yeah, all the Israelis shooting at them and bombing them and bulldozing their houses are "softline"] Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar, threatened to fuel the violence at a time when Israel and the Palestinians are trying to move peacemaking into high gear.
At the morgue at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Mahmoud Zahar held his lifeless son's bloodied head in his hands and closed his eyes, then kissed him three times on the forehead and recited verses from the Muslim holy book, the Quran.
Zahar's eldest son was killed in a botched Israeli assassination attempt against the Hamas leader in 2003. Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai told Army Radio that Hussam Zahar, who is survived by a brother and four sisters, was not targeted by Israeli forces.
Hamas, Zahar vowed, will respond to Tuesday's raid "in the appropriate way. We will defend ourselves by all means." Zahar is widely viewed as the mastermind of Hamas' violent takeover of Gaza, in which vastly outnumbered fighters from the Islamic group routed Fatah security forces.
Hamas immediately stepped up its involvement in the daily barrage of rocket and mortar fire on southern Israel, claiming to have fired 17 mortars at two small border crossings with Israel and three rockets at the Israeli town of Sderot. Israel said two rockets were fired at the town, a frequent target.
Four people were lightly injured in the attacks, including a 7-year-old girl and her mother, Israeli rescue officials said.
Zahar accused the moderate Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas of the rival Fatah movement, of complicity in his son's death for negotiating with Israel.
"This is the hope of Abu Mazen and his colleagues, the collaborators with Israel and the spies of America," Zahar said, referring to Abbas by his nickname.
Abbas, who has no influence in Gaza [because he is a collaborator maybe???], condemned the Israeli raid: "It is impossible to bring peace under these circumstances."
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Dozens of Palestinians were wounded and at least ten arrested in Ramallah when Palestinian police attempted to disperse a demonstration opposing the visit of the US President George Bush on Thursday morning.
Eyewitnesses reported that around 1000 protesters, mainly Palestinians, took to the streets in Ramallah to protest Bush’s visit to the area. The demonstration was organized by Palestinian political factions
Mohammad Al-Khatib, a member of the popular committee against the wall and settlements, was among those who were detained, in addition to a cameraman who works for the Ma’an News Agency.
Meanwhile, Palestinian security forces are on high alert in Bethlehem which will be the second Palestinian city that Bush will visit. Bush is scheduled to stay in Bethlehem for less than one hour. His visit will include a stop at the Church of the Nativity.
People are not allowed to drive on the road which Bush is supposed to use on his way to the Nativity Church. The high security alert has resulted in preventing most shop owners from going to their businesses, and schools have been closed as well.
On Wednesday President Bush started his visit to Israel where he met with the Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Bush has emphasized his support for Israel as a Jewish State.
Thursday morning Bush arrived in Ramallah and was welcomed by the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and a number of Palestinian officials.
The two men held a news conference in Ramallah where Abbas valued Bush’s visit and described it as historic. Meanwhile, Bush stressed the need to establish an independent Palestinian State to live side by side with Israel.
“Do you want a democratic Palestinian State or the status quo?” Bush asked in the news conference. He, however, failed to mention anything regarding the border and the nature of this state.
He also failed to mention any of the core issues that Palestinians strive to solve, such as borders, refugees, Jerusalem, prisoners and the wall, but instead focused on fighting “terrorism.”
US President George W. Bush landed in Israel yesterday on his first presidential trip to the country. He participated in a press conference in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, what both men termed a "historic" and "monumental" occasion. After listening to both so-called leaders make their opening comments and fielding questions from journalists, the only groundbreaking revelation I could register was that Bush's naivete, either real or feigned, only served the agenda of one party in the region -- Hamas. The radical Islamists at Hamas could not find a better recruiter for their movement if they tried.
My opinion may be extreme, but then again, I live in extreme limbo under Israeli military occupation, shaped by a policy both men continuously refuse to call by its true name -- state terror.
My opinion is certainly subjective but I started my day by reading a communique from the real world: a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs that the background of the issue: on 28 June 2006 the Israeli Air Force bombed the power plant in the Gaza Strip, destroying all six transformers and cutting 43 percent of Gaza's total power capacity. The report states, "households in the Gaza Strip are now experiencing regular power cuts" and notes that "the irregular [electricity] supply causes additional problems. Running water in Gaza is only available in most households for around eight hours per day. If there is no power when water is available, it cannot be pumped above ground level, reducing the availability of running water to between four and six hours per day." The result of this single punitive measure, as stated in this report, is that if Gaza's Coastal Municipalities Water Utility "cannot provide its own emergency power supply because of its own fuel shortages, it has to pump raw sewage into the sea which damages the coastline in Gaza, southern Israel and Egypt."
In another report, released the same day, the World Food Programme spokesperson Kirstie Campbell finds that 70 percent of the population of Gaza has to choose between putting food on the table or a roof over their heads.
Gaza City, January 9, 2008
The day before the US president arrived in the region, a crowd of thousands gathered in the Gaza City rain – preceded by a truck loaded with speakers they slowly proceeded through the city, carrying a total of 62 coffins, all of them empty.
Each symbolised one of the people that Palestinians say died since Israel sealed the borders because they could not get out of Gaza to receive medical treatment.
Each of the coffins were carried by mourning family members of the person who died.
The ongoing Israeli closure of the area is not an abstract here, it is a physical containment of one and a half million people in what they regard as a giant prison, and people die because of it.
Salah el Din Street runs from north to south through the region, bisecting Gaza City. It is a road pitted with potholes, at places flooded with sewerage overflowing from a plumbing system that just cannot cope.
It is on this street that the Joah family live, their three-roomed house is particularly crowded at the moment because two of Mahmoud Joah's married daughters are staying for a while.
He has eight children, all daughters, one of them is Amira who is 15 years old.
This sweet–faced, well-spoken teenager is literally facing death because of the closure. She is suffering from an advanced disease of liver and spleen.
Before the closure she would travel to an Egyptian hospital regularly to receive treatment that would slow down the progression of the disease, and ease the pain.
Before the closure she was on a regime of eight different drugs and vitamins each day.
In recent months the prescription drugs she needs have run out in Gaza, one of them in particular (a brand called Ursogall) is absolutely critical if she is not to suffer total failure of her liver.
The needs of a sick young teenager are not necessarily a priority to the aid organisations that struggle to alleviate the situation, negotiating continuously with Israeli authorities about what can be transported into Gaza and when.
Amira has been without Ursogal for weeks, and her condition is deteriorating daily, her skin growing more and more yellow as the diseased cells in her liver multiply, the protection offered by Ursogall no longer there.
Amira believes that no one outside Gaza cares.
"If they did, I would not be in this terrible situation," she says.
Her father agrees. "This is the reality of the Israeli siege that President Bush just ignores," he says.
Amira's elder sister looks on and weeps, her sister has done nothing wrong she says. "She suffers simply because she's a Palestinian," she says.
In this house on Salah el Din street, such a statement it is not a political position, it is a simple truth.
BAGHDAD — American bombers and fighter aircraft dropped 40,000 pounds of bombs on suspected militant hide-outs in a southern suburb of Baghdad on Thursday, the military said.
In one of the largest air raids in recent months, which was accompanied by assaults by ground forces, the B-1 and F-16 aircraft dropped 38 bombs within 10 minutes on the Arab Jabour district south of Baghdad.
Arab Jabour is a densely foliated area, blanketed with tall grasses and palm trees, beside the Tigris River. United States military officials have identified it as a known haven for militants linked to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the largely homegrown Sunni insurgent group that American intelligence says is foreign-led and now represents the principal threat to stability in Iraq. The air attacks hit more than 40 targets in Arab Jabour, the military said.
According to Abu Amna, a tribal chief who lives near the area, the bombing mission started several miles outside of Arab Jabour on Thursday morning.
“There was a big sound of explosions,” he said in a phone interview. “People began to flee the area after the air bombing because joint forces launched a comprehensive raid after the bombing.”
Monday, January 07, 2008
We felt sorrow when we learned that you accepted Lev Leviev's invitation to attend the opening night event for his new jewelry store in New York City on 13 November while our friends protested outside, because we respect you for your support for human rights, your courage in speaking since 2002 against the US war on Iraq, and for your many other honorable public positions.
Lev Leviev is building Israeli settlements on Bil'in and Jayyous' land, and is also building in the settlements of Har Homa and Maale Adumim around Jerusalem, in violation of international law. Leviev is destroying the olive groves and farms that have sustained our villages for centuries, and is profiting from human rights abuses.
We were reassured to learn from our colleagues in New York City that you expressed interest in learning more about these issues. We hope that you will speak in support of peace and justice in Palestine. We invite you and would be very pleased to welcome you to visit Palestine, specifically Jayyous and Bil'in, in order to witness what Leviev's settlements are doing to our communities.
Jamal Zahalka, an Arab-Israeli Member of the Israeli Parliament (Knesset) said that “those responsible for war crimes against the Palestinian people must be brought to justice in an international court of law…Killing civilians, starving them and denying them medical care are bonafide war crimes, and those responsible should be held accountable to international law.”
The protest brought together various Arab-Israeli factions and political parties in a united front to call for an end to Israeli aggression against the Palestinian population in the Occupied Territories.
Arab-Israelis are Palestinians who remained in their homes in what is now Israel when the state of Israel was created in 1948. Arab-Israelis make up 20% of the Israeli population – most are connected via family ties to Palestinians who fled to refugee camps in the two Palestinian territories, the West Bank and Gaza. But because the Palestinians who remain inside Israel hold Israeli ID cards, they are unable to go to the Palestinian territories, and Palestinians living inside the territories are forbidden by Israeli authorities from entering Israel.
At the rally Saturday, Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the Islamic Movement inside Israel, stated, “In spite of this festive holiday atmosphere our hearts are burdened, and will remain so until the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.”
The protesters called for an end to the siege on Gaza, in which Israel has closed all borders of the Gaza Strip since May, preventing the entire population of Gaza from going in or out, and preventing all imports and exports into and out of Gaza. This has led to an unemployment rate of 90%, malnutrition rates of up to 40% of children in Gaza, and severely impoverished and stressed conditions inside what Gazans call 'the largest open-air prison on earth'. The Gaza Strip is one of the most crowded places on earth, home to 1.3 million Palestinians, many of them refugees from what is now Israel.
Thursday, January 03, 2008
On one of the walls hang huge photos of what the irreverent might be tempted to describe as the Gazan Catholic's Holy Trinity - the Pope, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, and the (Muslim) Palestinian president.
I found a group of 10-year-olds on stage, rehearsing their Nativity play, watched, with great enthusiasm, by a group of their Muslim friends.
Mary and Joseph squatted on stage. The girl playing Mary, clasped a tube of scrunched-up brown paper wrapped in a scarf, which, for rehearsal purposes, was posing as baby Jesus.
"You see," Fr Musallam told me, as he gazed indulgently at the goings-on on stage. "Our identity is a multi-layered one."
"Of course, I am a Christian believer, but politically I am a Palestinian Muslim. I resist Israel's military occupation, obviously not with weapons.
"The Jihad can never be mine but with my words, my sermons, I am a Palestinian priest."
After six years of childless marriage, John and Cynthia Burke of Newark decided to adopt a baby boy through a state agency. Since the Burkes were young, scandal-free and solvent, they had no trouble with the New Jersey Bureau of Children's Services—until investigators came to the line on the application that asked for the couple's religious affiliation.
John Burke, an atheist, and his wife, a pantheist, had left the line blank. As a result, the bureau denied the Burkes' application. After the couple began court action, however, the bureau changed its regulations, and the couple was able to adopt a baby boy from the Children's Aid and Adoption Society in East Orange.
Last year the Burkes presented their adopted son, David, now 31, with a baby sister, Eleanor Katherine, now 17 months, whom they acquired from the same East Orange agency. Since the agency endorsed the adoption, the required final approval by a judge was expected to be pro forma. Instead, Superior Court Judge William Camarata raised the religious issue.
Inestimable Privilege. In an extraordinary decision, Judge Camarata denied the Burkes' right to the child because of their lack of belief in a Supreme Being. Despite the Burkes' "high moral and ethical standards," he said, the New Jersey state constitution declares that "no person shall be deprived of the inestimable privilege of worshiping Almighty God in a manner agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience." Despite Eleanor Katherine's tender years, he continued, "the child should have the freedom to worship as she sees fit, and not be influenced by prospective parents who do not believe in a Supreme Being."
The Burkes are now living in Carterville, Ill., near Southern Illinois University, where John Burke has worked for the past year as a speech pathologist. Nevertheless, Judge Camarata ordered the parents to send David's sister back to the New Jersey adoption agency. Two weeks ago, aided by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Burkes appealed directly to the New Jersey Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case. If they fail in their appeal, Eleanor Katherine may have to leave the only family she has ever known and await adoption by another couple whose religious convictions satisfy the State of New Jersey.
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Sgt Frank Wuterich, 27, will stand trial for voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, dereliction of duty and other charges, officials said.
The decision was made by Lt Gen Samuel Helland, who is overseeing the case.
Sgt Wuterich is the last of four marines to have the murder charge against him dropped.
Another marine, 1st Lt Andrew Grayson, was ordered to face court-martial for making false official statements and other charges.