So Walter Reich writing in The Washington Post would have us believe that anyone who criticizes Israel's war crimes in Gaza is an anti-Semite and a denier of the Holocaust. A good way to silence criticism of Israel's cruelty to civilians and children in Gaza who were shot, bombed, incinerated by the IDF. No, we must resist the charge of being anti-Semitic and continue to decry Israel's inhumanity towards the Palestinians in Gaza.
1/31/2009 10:05:19 AM
Saturday, January 31, 2009
So Walter Reich writing in The Washington Post would have us believe that anyone who criticizes Israel's war crimes in Gaza is an anti-Semite and a denier of the Holocaust. A good way to silence criticism of Israel's cruelty to civilians and children in Gaza who were shot, bombed, incinerated by the IDF. No, we must resist the charge of being anti-Semitic and continue to decry Israel's inhumanity towards the Palestinians in Gaza.
Friday, January 30, 2009
Martin Savidge and WorldFocus do a great job in covering the Gaza story. Consider The NewsHour on PBS. Over the last several weeks, The NewsHour has aired hardly any stories or reports on Gaza other than brief mentions during the news portion at the very beginning of the program. If it weren't for WF, where would we Americans get a picture and a report of the human catastrophe caused by the Israeli war cruelty and Israel's attack upon Gazan civilians and their civilian institutions? Other than BBC World TV News, World Focus is the only source of the news that really matters.
Good job, everyone at World Focus.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Why is it that only Israel and the United States continue to maintain that the attack against the Palestinians in Gaza several weeks ago was justified?
Today Turkish prime minister Erdogan walked out of a conference after arguing with Shimon Perez over Israel's attack in Gaza. Many people believe that the attack was unjustified, disproportionate and aimed at Palestinians civilians and civilian infrastructure. More than 1,400 Palestinians were killed, including about 400 children under the age of 16.
Reports the BBC:
"Turkey's prime minister has stormed off the stage at the World Economic Forum in Davos after a heated debate on Gaza with Israel's president.
"Recep Tayyip Erdogan clashed with Shimon Peres, whose voice had risen as he made an impassioned defence of Israel's actions, jabbing his finger.
"Mr Erdogan said Mr Peres had spoken so loudly to conceal his "guilt"."
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
I read today in The New York Times a report by Helene Cooper and Thom Shanker saying that your administration is elevating war over diplomacy in Afghanistan.
This is a major mistake. Don't do it! To extend American involvement in war in Afghanistan is to commit the United States to an intractable problem that cannot be solved by tanks and guns. Many others including Senator McGovern have urged you to declare a moratorium on war for at least five years. This is the right path.
There is no American interest in pacifying the Taliban with American military might. It was not the Taliban who flew commercial jets into American buildings in 2001. Taliban are not planning to attack the U.S. If they choose to pursue their own life style that is drawn wholesale from the Middle Ages, it clashes with American modern culture, but so be it. Don't enlarge the war or send in another 30,000 American troops to try to effect cultural change.
Talk with Taliban leaders. Use diplomacy to try to prevent Taliban from supporting jihadist Arab anti-Western insurgents. Make any attempt to capture Al Qaeda adherents a police action, not an objective of war.
Roberto Antonio Hussein in Utah
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Barack Obama needs to send a signal that the United States government wants to come to the assistance of the Palestinians in Gaza who have been reduced to abject sub existence by the Israeli bombardment of homes, apartment buildings, mosques, schools and aid stations.
First, Obama should demand that Israel open all border crossings to allow food, medicine, fuel and building materials. Obama should demand the same thing from Egypt which has locked down the Rafah crossing.
Second. Obama should begin talks with Hamas and its leaders. Israel says it will not allow aid to Hamas, but this means that Israel will allow no aid to the Palestinian people in Gaza who three years ago (January 2006) voted in a democratic election to have Hamas represent them. Obama should revoke the U.S. designation of Hamas as a "terrorist organization," and should request that the EU do the same. Right now, Fatah is holding talks with Hamas in Egypt. If Hamas were truly a terrorist organization, Abu Mazen and Fatah would be consorting and negotiating with terrorists!
Third. Obama should limit the type and amount of arms that U.S. companies may sell to Israel. We see the dire effects of allowing Israel to have white phosphorous shells, F-14s and other lethal weapons designed to kill people. Israel has used American weapons to kill over 1400 Palestinians, some 400 of whom were but children under the age of 16.
These are only the first steps Obama should take. Israel with American weapons of war is a threat to the Middle East. Obama must stop the progression of solving Israel's political problems with bullets, missiles and tanks.
Monday, January 26, 2009
I was disappointed in The NewsHour tonight. It had not one story on the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza after the devastating destruction wreaked by the Israelis. People have no homes, no place to sleep, no way to cook food. Children go without school or proper food. Yet The NewsHour spent its time on making automobiles more fuel efficient, or on creating jobs, or on the change from analog to digital.
No wonder I have a low opinion of Jim Lehrer and the other "reporters" on The NewsHour.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
I want to call attention to an interesting op-ed in today's The New York Times on the Israeli/Palestinian problem.
Scott Atran and Jeremy Ginges write on how little monetary rewards or hopes for economic improvement mean to either the Palestinians or Israelis who believe that their sacred values trump everything else even if means at the cost of their lives.
Write Atran and Ginges:
"Many of the respondents insisted that the values involved were sacred to them. For example, nearly half the Israeli settlers we surveyed said they would not consider trading any land in the West Bank — territory they believe was granted them by God — in exchange for peace. More than half the Palestinians considered full sovereignty over Jerusalem in the same light, and more than four-fifths felt that the “right of return” was a sacred value, too.
"As for sweetening the pot, in general the greater the monetary incentive involved in the deal, the greater the disgust from respondents. Israelis and Palestinians alike often reacted as though we had asked them to sell their children. This strongly implies that using the standard approaches of “business-like negotiations” favored by Western diplomats will only backfire.
"Many Westerners seem to ignore these clearly expressed “irrational” preferences, because in a sensible world they ought not to exist. Diplomats hope that peace and concrete progress on material and quality-of-life matters (electricity, water, agriculture, the economy and so on) will eventually make people forget the more heartfelt issues. But this is only a recipe for another Hundred Years’ War — progress on everyday material matters will simply heighten attention on value-laden issues of “who we are and want to be.”"
So Atran and Ginges come up with a compromise that they opine might very well work:
"Absolutists who violently rejected offers of money or peace for sacred land were considerably more inclined to accept deals that involved their enemies making symbolic but difficult gestures. For example, Palestinian hard-liners were more willing to consider recognizing the right of Israel to exist if the Israelis simply offered an official apology for Palestinian suffering in the 1948 war. Similarly, Israeli respondents said they could live with a partition of Jerusalem and borders very close to those that existed before the 1967 war if Hamas and the other major Palestinian groups explicitly recognized Israel’s right to exist."
Frankly I have always looked with befuddlement on the Israeli demand that the Palestinians recognize "Israel's right to exist." For me, these are just words. If I were an Israeli, I cannot see caring at all about whether some Palestinian admits my country has a right to exist. In fact, Israel does exist, and Israel's existence is not conditioned upon making sure that Israel's neighbors confess to its existence right.
And similarly with the Palestinians. More than anything else, according to Atran and Ginges, the Palestinians want respect and contrition. They want Israelis to apologize for taking their land in 1948. They want Israelis to stop humiliating them.
So why can't Israel formally apologize? And why can't the Palestinians make a solemn acknowledgement of Israel's right to exist? The cost on both sides seems so small, so worthwhile, so cost-effective.
Write Atran and Ginges:
"Remarkably, our survey results were mirrored by our discussions with political leaders from both sides. For example, Mousa Abu Marzook (the deputy chairman of Hamas) said no when we proposed a trade-off for peace without granting a right of return. He became angry when we added in the idea of substantial American aid for rebuilding: “No, we do not sell ourselves for any amount.”
"But when we mentioned a potential Israeli apology for 1948, he brightened: “Yes, an apology is important, as a beginning. It’s not enough because our houses and land were taken away from us and something has to be done about that.” His response suggested that progress on sacred values might open the way for negotiations on material issues, rather than the reverse.
"We got a similar reaction from Benjamin Netanyahu, the hard-line former Israeli prime minister. We asked him whether he would seriously consider accepting a two-state solution following the 1967 borders if all major Palestinian factions, including Hamas, were to recognize the right of the Jewish people to an independent state in the region. He answered, “O.K., but the Palestinians would have to show that they sincerely mean it, change their textbooks and anti-Semitic characterizations.”
"Making these sorts of wholly intangible “symbolic” concessions, like an apology or recognition of a right to exist, simply doesn’t compute on any utilitarian calculus. And yet the science says they may be the best way to start cutting the knot."
Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert declares that Israel will protect any of its soldiers against international war crimes indictments. Given Olmert's assertion, there can hardly be any doubt that Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) engaged in horrible and cruel war crimes in their attacks against the Palestinians in Gaza
The BBC reports:
"Any Israeli soldiers accused of war crimes in the Gaza Strip will be given state protection from prosecution overseas, the country's PM has said.
"Ehud Olmert said troops should know Israel would keep them safe after they acted to protect their country.
"Palestinians say 1,300 people died during the offensive, and UN officials want independent probes into whether war crimes were committed."
This response by Olmert reminds me of Bush and Cheney claiming that no one in the U.S. government engaged in torture, but if they did, the Congress should pass a law granting immunity.
Consider the use by the IDF of shells that disburse white phosphorous. When it falls on flesh, it is near impossible to get off and its burning goes right through the bone. Or how about the shooting of three Palestinian sisters who were with their grandmother in the street? Or the shelling of the U.N. school sheltering several hundred Palestinians whose homes were targeted by Israeli war planes?
The IDF and every member of the Israeli government has a lot to fear from world opinion and from having to face and defend charges of committing war crimes.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
A pitiful story in today's The New York Times about a man and wife in Kirkuk being shot dead apparently by U.S. Special Forces.
Timothy Williams writes from Baghdad:
"American soldiers fatally shot an Iraqi couple in their home near Kirkuk early Saturday after the wife reached for a pistol hidden under a mattress, American and Iraqi officials said. The couple’s 8-year-old daughter was wounded.
"United States troops, using helicopters, raided the family’s house in Hawija, a town in northern Iraq, around 2 a.m. in search of members of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the Iraqi police and witnesses said. Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia is a homegrown militant group that American intelligence officials say is led by foreigners.
"In one room, soldiers saw a woman reaching under a mattress, Agence France-Presse reported, quoting an unidentified United States Army spokesman.
"The woman was told several times in Arabic to show her hands, but she refused and was shot, the spokesman said. The American military said soldiers found a pistol under the mattress."
This is a sad story. There was no reason why it should have happened.
For one thing, the U.S. has no business raiding homes of Iraqis at 2 AM. Everyone is entitled to his or her privacy in the home.
Second, the fact that the U.S. military says self-servingly that they found a pistol under the mattress begs for some evidence or proof. Of course, there is none.
Third. Why was it necessary to shoot the woman in her own home? Is there no other way for soldiers to deal with Iraqis other than to shoot and kill them?
"After the woman was shot, her husband, Dhia Hussein Ali al-Tikriti, attacked the soldiers and was shot and killed, the spokesman said, adding that Mr. Tikriti had been suspected of belonging to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.
"The couple’s 8-year-old daughter, Ahlam Dhia, was shot once in the leg and was taken to a hospital. Her injuries were not life-threatening.
"“They killed my mother and father right in front of me,” she said. “I was under the blanket. I heard my mom screaming, and I started to cry.”"
The killing of the husband was doubly unfortunate. Having shot and killed the woman, what did the U.S. soldiers expect the husband to do? Just stand there and take it?
And finally, what is going to happen to the couple's children? Consider the eight-year old girl who saw and heard her mother being shot. Surely she will want revenge, as young as she is, and she will never forget the cries of her mother in her final moments. If the child were you, would you ever stop hating Americans for killing your mother?
Friday, January 23, 2009
Barack Obama has done excellent things in his first three full days in office. He has ordered Guantanamo closed, banned torture and harsh interrogation methods that violate Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, and ordered public agencies to release information freely and willingly.
However, one thing that Obama apparently has not done is to stop the firing of missiles from U.S. drones against suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda members in Pakistani villages. Two were fired today, killing at least nine people, including a five-year old.
The BBC reports:
"The first drone attack struck a house owned by a man called Khalil Khan in the village of Zeerakai at 1700 local time.
"Four Arab militants were killed in the strikes, officials said. Their identities were not immediately clear but officials said one was a senior al-Qaeda operative.
"The second attack was aimed at the house of a Taleban commander about 10km (six miles) from the town of Wanna, local reports said.
"But officials told the BBC that the drone actually hit the house of a pro-government tribal leader, killing him and four members of his family, including a five-year-old child."
These lethal attacks make no sense for a liberal democratic government as Obama personifies. Liberalism puts a value on each person, on each individual, that says that no matter how lofty the goal or purpose, no one else has a right to take that person's life or do him/her injury.
Each person counts just as much as anyone else. And governments can't fall back on the end justifies the means or on the utilitarian bunk that it is for the good of the greatest number.
Firing missiles from an airplane, manned or unmanned, carries inherent risks that the missiles will kill innocent men, women and children. The death of the five-year old is a good example. Neither Obama or the U.S. government has a license to kill the child or anyone else who happens to be around on the basis that the missile is really aimed for "bad guys."
President Obama, call an end to the firing of missiles into Pakistani villages.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Who in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) decided to use white phosphorous in shelling the crowded streets of Gaza? White phosphorous is attached to pieces of felt that burn without end, at least if they fall on flesh. The only way to stop the burning is through digging them out in surgery.
Ethan Bronner reports for The New York Times today from Gaza:
"In early January, a week into Israel’s war in Gaza, the home of Sabah Abu Halima was hit by an Israeli shell. Ms. Abu Halima, the matriarch of a farming family in the northern Gaza area of Beit Lahiya, was caught in an inferno that burned her husband and four of their nine children to death.
"But as she lay in a bed on the third floor of an annex to Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on Wednesday, bandaged all over and in terrible pain, it was less the magnitude of her loss than the source of the fire that was drawing attention, not only from her doctors but also from human rights organizations and even the Israeli military.
Though there has been no independent confirmation, Palestinian officials say her family was hit by white phosphorus, a weapon that militaries use widely to obscure the battlefield but that is also limited under an international convention that bans targeting civilians with it."
The IDF promised an investigation, but that is too little, too late for the Abu Halima family and their children.
"In Gaza, Ms. Abu Halima said that when her family was hit, “fire came from the bodies of my husband and my children.”
“"The children were screaming, ‘Fire! Fire!’ and there was smoke everywhere and a horrible, suffocating smell,” she said. “My 14-year-old cried out, ‘I’m going to die. I want to pray.’ I saw my daughter-in-law melt away.”
"Dr. Nafez Abu Shaban, head of Shifa’s burn unit, said the family’s burns, which he and an assisting doctor from Egypt had treated, were of a kind he had never encountered, reaching to the muscle and bone.
"“They were deeper and wider than anything I had seen; a bad odor came from the wounds and smoke continued to come out of them for many hours,” he said in his office around the corner from Ms. Abu Halima’s sickbed.
"He added, “We took out a piece of foreign matter that a colleague identified as white phosphorous.”"
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
On World Focus tonight, Martin Savidge interviewed Martin Indyk, former ambassador to Israel in the Clinton administration, and talked about Obama's engagement with Iran. Indyk said that if Obama's negotiations fail, then all the world will come to see that there remains only a military option to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons. I object to this conclusion which seems to put an imprimatur on going to war against Iran.
For one thing no one has to date provided any credible evidence that Iran does want to make a bomb. The Israelis and the Bush gang just presumed that's what the Iranians were and are doing, but we know how far off their intelligence was about Saddam Hussein and the WMD. So far these guys just say that Iran is making a bomb and expect the whole world to believe them just because they say it. We need to suspect and reject such conclusionary assertions.
Second, even if the Iranians were developing a nuclear weapon, I argue that it is far better to allow Iran to have nuclear weapons than to start a world war whose repercussions would last at least 500 years and cause a permanent state of war between Iran and the West. Consider all the other countries that have nuclear weapons. Why must the US and Israel go to war over Iran having them?
No, there is no military option about Iran and its nuclear program. And people ("experts"?) like Martin Indyk are just war mongers for even countenancing the crazy idea.
One of the reasons I am not a fan of The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer is because of how the program treats the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza.
For the last several nights Lehrer and The NewsHour gave zero mention of the conflict, except for cursory treatment in the news summary at the beginning of the program. And tonight The NewsHour extended a two-minute treatment obtained from ITN. At the end of the piece when the ITN reporter described the utter devastation of one particular village in Gaza where Israeli forces destroyed all the homes and buildings, Lehrer had no comment. On to something else. As if the story of utter devastation was a non-story.
This is why I argue for KUED-TV Channel 7 to provide serious international news programs like BBC World News. The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer just does not do the job.
Israel has apparently withdrawn all of its troops from Gaza. However, it has positioned them all around the Gaza border, ready to re-initiate the attack upon notice. Furthermore, Israel continues to fly drones across Gaza, looking for Hamas officials, or Palestinians set to fire rockets into Israel. The borders remain closed: that means no commerce, no building materials, only the barest amount of food, medicine, fuel.
Israel needs to allow Palestinians some chance to live. It should immediately re-open all of the Gaza borders. It should cease the drones over Gaza. It should allow in an unlimited amount of food, medicine and fuel. The U.N. bans collective punishment of civilian populations. This applies to Israel's actions against Palestinian society.
On their part, Palestinians in Gaza need to prevent and renounce the random firing of rockets aimed at Israeli towns and villages.
As it now stands, Israel has reduced Gaza to rubble. Not only Hamas civic offices but over 4,000 homes. More than 50,000 Palestinians are living in United Nations shelters mostly in schools. Over 1200 Palestinians have been killed by Israel's bombardment, many of them children under 16.
The BBC reports:
"Rebuilding the Gaza Strip after Israel's three-week offensive will cost billions of dollars, the UN has warned.
"Tens of thousands of Palestinians have been left homeless and 400,000 people still have no running water, it says."
Monday, January 19, 2009
The BBC reports on the extensive destruction to homes and property in Gaza. More than 4,000 homes are destroyed, tens of thousands of people are without shelter and their belongings.
According to the BBC:
"Tens of thousands of Palestinians have been left destitute by Israel's three-week offensive against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, the UN estimates.
"The United Nations says that some 50,800 people are now homeless and 400,000 are without running water.
"Correspondents in Gaza City say entire neighbourhoods have been flattened and bodies are still being recovered."
What then was Israel's purpose in inflicting so much damage and loss on ordinary Palestinians? To teach them a lesson? That they should not have elected Hamas as their government?
And what will Israel gain out of this "collective punishment"? More terrorist suicide bombers? More hatred on the part of the Palestinians? Certainly Israelis recognize that military action and its attendant killing of innocent men, women and children can never bring peace or stability.
So why did Israel do this stupid and ill-thought-out invasion and why did Israeli soldiers engage in this rampant destruction of homes, schools, mosques and police stations?
Here is a BBC reporter's eyewitness observations:
"The BBC's Christian Fraser travelled to Jabaliya on the northern edge of Gaza City, where the Israeli tanks first crossed over the border. He says entire neighbourhoods have disappeared.
"He met 67-year-old Fatma Umanim, sitting beside the remains her collapsed house, her neighbours building a makeshift shelter for her next to the rubble."
Sunday, January 18, 2009
There is an article in today's The New York Times reporting on the killing of three girls, daughters of a prominent Palestinian physician who has devoted his life to working for peace. Here is the link to the report by Dina Kraft.
"“I dedicated my life really for peace, for medicine,” said Dr. Abuelaish, who does joint research projects with Israeli physicians and for years has worked as something of a one-man force to bring injured and ailing Gazans for treatment in Israel.
"“This is the path I believed in and what I raised and educated my children to believe,” he said.
"Dr. Abuelaish said he wanted the Israeli Army to tell him why his home, which he said harbored no militants, had been fired upon. He said if a mistake had been made and an errant tank shell had hit his home, he expected an apology, not excuses."
Paul Wood of the BBC has been allowed by the Israelis to enter Gaza City.
""But it was in the nearby town of Beit Lahiya that we saw the first real destruction and a hint of how so many lives have been lost here.
""There were streets churned up by Israeli heavy armour; overturned cars; a lake of raw sewage in the street and a mosque left as a broken, charred ruin and smoke was still rising from a large school building across the way.
""A Palestinian man carrying a white cane told me how his 13-year-old son had been killed by a tank shell.
""We were sleeping in our beds," he says, "I am nearly blind. We were no threat to the Israelis.""
The Israelis claimed that they hoped to stop the firing of rockets by Palestinians into Israeli towns, but the killing of the Abuelaish' daughters and the killing of the 13-year old by the Israeli tank shell will do little to accomplish this objective.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
The BBC's website shows many photos of the ruin caused by the Israeli attack on the Palestinians in Gaza. Here are some photos of white phosphorous used by Israelis in some of their bombs and shells. What a public relations disaster for Israel! Are Israelis really that dismissive of Palestinian life that they would use weapons of such cruelty?
Juan Cole gives us a link in his Informed Comment to Max Blumenthal's filming of a pro-Israeli demonstration several days ago in New York. Cole rightly condemns many of the sentiments of those participating in the rally. Here is the Blumenthal film on You-Tube. You be the judge.
So what has Israel accomplished by its attack on Gaza?
Has it ended rockets being fired into Israeli towns?
Has it caused Palestinians to reject their elected government, Hamas?
Has it pacified the Palestinians in Gaza and made them friends of Israel?
Has it sowed the seeds for more desperate Palestinian suicide bombers in the future?
Has it guaranteed peace between Israelis and Palestinians?
Has it guaranteed continued hostility and enmity between Israelis and Palestinians?
Has Israel shown itself to the world as bombers of schools, UN depots, hospitals, safe houses, not to mention killers of over 1200 Palestinians, some 300+ of whom were children under 16?
Friday, January 16, 2009
Someone tell me why Tzipi Livni, Israel's harsh Defense Minister, had to rush to Washington last night and sign an Agreement with Condoleeza Rice today, giving Israel American know-how to stop the flow of goods through tunnels from Egypt?
The tunnels constitute the Palestinians only source of food, medicine and fuel, ever since the Israelis closed off all border crossings some 18 months ago. But in the Israel attack that is currently going on, Israeli war planes have bombed and bombed again the tunnels.
Consider that this is one of the only wars where the attacker refuses to let refugees flee the fighting. Gazans are not allowed to leave even though they are subject to night and day air raids and tank shelling.
Just yesterday, Israeli tanks shelled the United Nations Relief Agency's food and medicine storage, destroying everything inside. The Israelis also shelled a large hospital.
So why must Livni sign an agreement with Rice on Rice's last full day in office? Almost as if the Israeli government fears that Barack Obama is going to take a new approach to talking with the Palestinians and according them due process and equal protection.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
The suffering and devastation caused by Israeli shelling and bombing just seems to be getting worse by the minute. Today we learn that the Israelis shelled the United Nations building in Gaza as well as a large hospital. The Israelis claim there were gunmen from Hamas in the area.
Bill Varner and Saud Abu Ramadan report on Bloomberg.com:
"Israeli tanks rumbled through Gaza City’s southern Tal el- Hawa neighborhood and shelled Al-Quds Hospital, leaving the facility in flames. Also hit was the Al-Shuruk tower, home to several news organizations, including Reuters and the Fox, Sky and Al-Arabiya television channels."
Varner and Abu Ramadan also write:
"Ban [U.N. Secreatry General] was in Israel today lobbying its leaders to accept a cease-fire with Hamas after 20 days of fighting. Ban, who visited Egypt and Jordan yesterday, expressed “strong protest and outrage” over Israel’s strike on the UN site and said Defense Minister Ehud Barak had told him it was a mistake. The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees suspended operations after its Gaza compound was shelled."
Where is Israel's compliance with the laws of war and with the United Nations declaration on the rights of man? Don't shoot in an area where there are civilians. Don't put civilians at risk. The Israelis seem to have forgotten these basic humanitarian principles. Their actions are making a good case for showing themselves guilty of many war crimes. However, we all know war crimes apply only to the vanquished, never to the conqueror.
Once again, I condemn the Israelis for their disproportionate response, and above all, to their bombing civilian areas like apartment buildings, hospitals, mosques, relief agencies and schools.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
I join Ban Ki-moon Secretary-General of the United Nations and other world leaders (save the U.S. government under Bush and Cheney) in calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.
Hamas should control those Palestinians who in a paroxysm of revenge and hate fire missiles and rockets into Israel, threatening innocent women, children and civilians.
Israel should also immediately stop bombing Gazan homes, schools and the ordinary people who live and exist there.
To shoot artillery into densely populated areas like Gaza and to drop highly explosive bombs there is to commit horrible war crimes because the likely victims will be children, since children compose almost 50% of the population. Furthermore, even if a child is not killed or maimed by these Israeli attacks, his/her psyche will be forever scarred and traumatized.
But this seems to be the objective of the Israelis. Just like in the war in Lebanon several years ago, the leaders of Israel chose to inflict harsh suffering on civilians out of some misguided strategy that Israel needed to teach them a "lesson." Once again in Gaza, we see this foolish and criminal objective, showing utter disregard for protecting civilians.
The world must insist that Israel stop this insanity now.
How is it possible that Timothy Geithner failed to pay some $43,000 in federal income taxes? He has been president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and is the current Obama nominee to be Secretary of the Treasury.
Here is a link to the story as reported by Shailagh Murray in today's The Washington Post:
"Geithner met with committee members yesterday to explain why he had made nearly $43,000 worth of mistakes on recent federal tax returns. He told the panel that the errors were unintentional, committed while he was working for the International Monetary Fund, which follows a different tax regime than U.S. companies."
We all lead busy lives, but that is no excuse for failing to pay federal taxes. Geithner's failure shows he is not a person who should be confirmed as Treasury Secretary of the United States.
Because his failure is inexcusable and not a minor mistake, I call upon the Senate to reject Geithner.
P.S. How did Geithner avoid scrutiny in the Obama vetting process? Don't tell me that there was not an explicit question on whether a candidate had failed to pay income taxes!
Why is there so little coverage of Israel's destruction of Gaza in the liberal blogs? I know this might be an overstatement as there must be thousands of liberal bloggers out there. But . . .
Where is Daily Kos? How about Think Progress? And why so little comment on Talking Points Memo?
Israel well knows that Hamas was democratically elected in January 2006 and that it is part and parcel of the Palestinian population in Gaza. Hamas members come from the rank and file and represent the ordinary Palestinian living in Gaza. For Israel to bomb buildings, schools, mosques, apartment buildings means that Israel is really waging war on the civilian population. Having failed to subdue and subjugate Palestinians living in Gaza by its cruel and illegal blockade of fuel, medicine and food for the last 18 months, Israel is now trying to eliminate all of them by bombing and shooting.
Yet many in the liberal blogosphere remain silent on Israel's war crimes.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
There were at least two points Hillary Clinton made today in her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that troubled me greatly.
One, she said she would never negotiate with Hamas until Hamas recognized Israel's right to exist, ceased violence, and complied with the U.N. mandates. This means she will never negotiate with Hamas, because Hamas will never cease violence when Israel is shelling, bombing and shooting Palestinians in Gaza. Furthermore, what difference does it make if Hamas denies Israel's right to exist? Is Hamas that important that Israel would go to war because Hamas denies its existence. Words must be seen as mere words. People say what they want. But that is no obstacle to negotiate with them.
Two, Hillary Clinton said all options are on the table as to dealing with Iran. I voted for Barack Obama because I thought he was against settling world differences with tanks and war planes. It is a mistake to threaten Iran or any other country with the "all options on the table." How would Americans like it if Russia said it would consider military means to settle a dispute with the U.S.? Take "all options" off the table, and let's consider the other nations of the world to be friends rather than enemies or adversaries.
Hillary Clinton is too warlike and too bellicose to be Barack Obama's Secretary of State. I vote no.
Barack Obama seems to be starting out on the right note by his forthcoming executive order closing the prison gulag at Guantanamo, long an embarrassment to anyone concerned about due process and equal protection.
However, Obama's tendency to commit more troops to Afghanistan is a clear mistake. Nothing will be gained by making Afghanis subservient to U.S. military power. More bombs, more tanks, more war planes will not make Afghanistan into a democracy.
The one thing for sure that Obama's military increase will do is to kill more Afghanis and more Americans. There will be more suicide bombers, more air strikes that kill innocent civilians, more shootings. We need to stop this madness that thinks that America can solve world problems by its arsenal of military firepower.
Monday, January 12, 2009
Here's a letter appearing in The Times Online (The Sunday Times) from lawyers and academics in the U.K. that considers Israel's attack on Palestinians in Gaza to constitute war crimes. Thanks to Juan Cole of Informed Comment for bringing it to my attention.
"ISRAEL has sought to justify its military attacks on Gaza by stating that it amounts to an act of “self-defence” as recognised by Article 51, United Nations Charter. We categorically reject this contention.
"The rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas deplorable as they are, do not, in terms of scale and effect amount to an armed attack entitling Israel to rely on self-defence. Under international law self-defence is an act of last resort and is subject to the customary rules of proportionality and necessity.
"The killing of almost 800 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and more than 3,000 injuries, accompanied by the destruction of schools, mosques, houses, UN compounds and government buildings, which Israel has a responsibility to protect under the Fourth Geneva Convention, is not commensurate to the deaths caused by Hamas rocket fire.
"For 18 months Israel had imposed an unlawful blockade on the coastal strip that brought Gazan society to the brink of collapse. In the three years after Israel’s redeployment from Gaza, 11 Israelis were killed by rocket fire. And yet in 2005-8, according to the UN, the Israeli army killed about 1,250 Palestinians in Gaza, including 222 children. Throughout this time the Gaza Strip remained occupied territory under international law because Israel maintained effective control over it.
"Israel’s actions amount to aggression, not self-defence, not least because its assault on Gaza was unnecessary. Israel could have agreed to renew the truce with Hamas. Instead it killed 225 Palestinians on the first day of its attack. As things stand, its invasion and bombardment of Gaza amounts to collective punishment of Gaza’s 1.5m inhabitants contrary to international humanitarian and human rights law. In addition, the blockade of humanitarian relief, the destruction of civilian infrastructure, and preventing access to basic necessities such as food and fuel, are prima facie war crimes.
"We condemn the firing of rockets by Hamas into Israel and suicide bombings which are also contrary to international humanitarian law and are war crimes. Israel has a right to take reasonable and proportionate means to protect its civilian population from such attacks. However, the manner and scale of its operations in Gaza amount to an act of aggression and is contrary to international law, notwithstanding the rocket attacks by Hamas."
Ian Brownlie QC, Blackstone Chambers
Mark Muller QC, Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales
Michael Mansfield QC and Joel Bennathan QC, Tooks Chambers
Sir Geoffrey Bindman, University College, London
Professor Richard Falk, Princeton University
Professor M Cherif Bassiouni, DePaul University, Chicago
Professor Christine Chinkin, LSE
Professor John B Quigley, Ohio State University
Professor Iain Scobbie and Victor Kattan, School of Oriental and African Studies
Professor Vera Gowlland-Debbas, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva
Professor Said Mahmoudi, Stockholm University
Professor Max du Plessis, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban
Professor Bill Bowring, Birkbeck College
Professor Joshua Castellino, Middlesex University
Professor Thomas Skouteris and Professor Michael Kagan, American University of Cairo
Professor Javaid Rehman, Brunel University
Daniel Machover, Chairman, Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights
Dr Phoebe Okawa, Queen Mary University
John Strawson, University of East London
Dr Nisrine Abiad, British Institute of International and Comparative Law
Dr Michael Kearney, University of York
Dr Shane Darcy, National University of Ireland, Galway
Dr Michelle Burgis, University of St Andrews
Dr Niaz Shah, University of Hull
Liz Davies, Chair, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyer
Prof Michael Lynk, The University of Western Ontario
Steve Kamlish QC and Michael Topolski QC, Tooks Chambers
Sunday, January 11, 2009
The government of Israel is always trying to blame Hamas for deaths and injuries caused to Palestinian civilians, many of them children. In fact, even Israeli citizens adopt this line and spin.
Griff Witte writes in today's The Washington Post:
"Unlike in 2006, when Israelis grew bitterly split over the war in Lebanon, the invasion of Gaza has produced a rare consensus here. In newspapers and on television, commentators approvingly note that the Israeli military has sown devastation in Gaza without a high toll in Israeli lives. If Palestinians are dying, they say, it is Hamas's fault."
Doctors are reporting horrific injuries to civilians, including burns and lung damage, not to mention many who need amputation of legs and arms.
It is pure spin to claim that the Hamas fighters are using Palestinian civilians as shields. Israel and its army knew full well that any shelling of homes or buildings in Gaza was sure to cause huge numbers of civilian deaths. Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas, and there are numerous multi-story apartment buildings.
Israel and Israelis cannot escape liability and condemnation for war crimes by claiming that they don't "intend" to call or target civilians. The very act of bombing Gaza structures has a necessary and proximate connection to the deaths of the Palestinians who just happen to live there.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
All of my readers need to take a look at Juan Cole's blog today on his Informed Comment. Cole writes on the futility of European street protests against the Israeli attack on Palestinians in Gaza.
"Europe has ceded dealing with the Israelis to the United States.
"The people of the United States have ceded dealing with the Israelis to the US Congress.
"The US Congress generally abdicates its responsibilities when faced with large powerful single-issue lobbies such as the National Rifle Association, the Cuban-American pro-boycott organizations, and the Israel lobbies.
"So Congress has ceded Israel, and indeed, most Middle East, policy to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and its myriad organizational supporters, from the Southern Baptist churches to the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.
"The Israel lobbies take their cue on what is good policy from the Israeli government and the Likud Party.
"So, US Israel policy is driven by . . . the Israeli rightwing. That is why Congress voted 309 to five to support Israel's war on the people of Gaza, with 22 abstaining."
Friday, January 9, 2009
Even after the U.N. Security Council called upon Israel to halt itss bombing and shelling, the attack on Palestinian civilians goes on.
Surely this is because Barack Obama will not be as sympathetic to Israel's aggression as is George Bush. This makes it all the more difficult for the Palestinians.
Israel is surely committing war crimes. But no one punishes the war crimes of the party winning the war.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
The United Nations Relief Agency says it is suspending operations in Gaza indefinitely after one of its drivers was killed by an Israeli tank shell. Apparently the driver was in a vehicle clearly marked as belonging to the UNRA.
The BBC reports:
"The UN's move came shortly after it said one person had been killed and two hurt when a fork-lift truck on a UN aid mission came under Israeli tank fire at Gaza's Erez crossing.
"The UN's relief agency Unwra said it was "with great regret" that it had been forced to make a difficult decision.
""We have suspended our operations in Gaza until the Israeli authorities can guarantee our safety and security," said Unwra spokesman Chris Gunness.
""Our installations have been hit, our workers have been killed in spite of the fact that the Israeli authorities have the co-ordinates of our facilities and that all our movements are co-ordinated with the Israeli army."
"The UN said the movements of the truck hit at the Erez crossing had been co-ordinated and cleared with the Israeli military."
This is the trouble with the Israeli attack against Gaza. Indeed this is the trouble with all wars and other actions involving military tanks, war planes and missiles.
Innocent people die. Soldiers indiscriminately fire and kill anything that moves. There is no individuality morality or concern for another's life or welfare.
How many war crimes has Israel committed in the execution of its ridiculous and ill-thought out plan to bomb and invade Gaza?
Former president Jimmy Carter has an op-ed in today's The Washington Post.
"After 12 days of "combat," the Israeli Defense Forces reported that more than 1,000 targets were shelled or bombed. During that time, Israel rejected international efforts to obtain a cease-fire, with full support from Washington. Seventeen mosques, the American International School, many private homes and much of the basic infrastructure of the small but heavily populated area have been destroyed. This includes the systems that provide water, electricity and sanitation. Heavy civilian casualties are being reported by courageous medical volunteers from many nations, as the fortunate ones operate on the wounded by light from diesel-powered generators."
This is an unjustified war against Palestinian civilians. It shows what happens to a people (Israel) when their leaders rely on bombs and missiles instead of diplomacy and respect. Having failed to kill off Palestinians through the blockade, Israel then decided to send its war planes. The notion that Israel is doing this to protect its own people is smoke screen for its true intention of subjugating and eliminating the Palestinians in Gaza. Condoleeza Rice and George Bush are just as complicit for their enabling the Israel war mongers.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Israeli troops fire tank shells into a U.N. school thought to be a safe haven by Palestinian civilians, primarily children. At least 30 are killed, many children.
Does Israel think it can accomplish any political aims by killing children? Does it think this action makes it more safe and more immune from Palestinian rockets?
On a more fundamental level, what makes any nation or people or government think it can achieve anything by shooting, bombing, killing its perceived "enemy"? We know that George Bush and Dick Cheney will go down in infamy because they stupidly believed that the U.S. army was justified in killing Iraqis to overthrow Saddam Hussein. So too will the Israelis who lobbied and insisted on this dirty war in Gaza
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
The reason that Barack Obama and family cannot stay at the Blair House during these few days before inauguration is that it is being occupied by the former Australian premier, John Howard. Howard is being awarded the Medal of Freedom by Bush on January 13, together with Alvaro Uribe of Colombia and Tony Blair, former British premier.
Philip Rucker and Al Kamen write in today's Washington Post website:
"Howard and his entourage will be bunking at Blair House on Jan. 12, the night before he, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe are to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Bush, two White House officials said today. The three current and former heads of state are longtime political allies of Bush, and Blair and Howard were key partners in the U.S.-led war in Iraq."
So Bush is awarding his favorite medal to those toadies who supported his disastrous and immoral War in Iraq. The question is, will Iraqis who suffered through these last six years caused by Bush and Co. throw their shoes at all of them?
Recall other famous recipients of the Medal: Gen. Tommy Franks, Paul Bremer and CIA former director George Tenet, three guys who really helped Bush screw up in enabling his unjustified war and then causing ruin and mayhem in Iraq after the invasion.
Monday, January 5, 2009
After seeing fotos of the carnage in Gaza to ordinary Palestinian civilians (credit to the BBC), and after reading about the lack of fuel, electricity, food and medicine because of the Israeli blockade, I don't see how the U.S. government, specifically Bush, Cheney and Rice can maintain the charade that it is Hamas that is causing this.
The BBC uses eyewitness accounts to tell the story. Here is just one of them:
"I spent two hours today looking for somewhere selling bread. After that I gave up, because even if I'd spent ten hours I still couldn't find any, even the biggest bakeries were empty.
"Most of the time I stay at home looking after my mother, grandmother, wife and child, younger brothers and sister. I only leave for important things like bread.
"My family is very scared actually. They listen to the local radio and say "Oh, our turn is coming soon, the Israelis are coming."
"Israel is destroying every building that they think may belong to Hamas or any Islamic movement, even if it includes some normal civilians.
"But I think they are escalating things in vain - with no benefit."
I call upon Israel to stop the war planes and the missiles and immediately end its attack against men, women and children in Gaza.
Furthermore, I want Israel to open up all of its borders to allow necessities of life to flow in.
Israel has not solved its problem with the Palestinians by denying them food, medicine and electric power. If it can't kill all the Palestinians by its blockade, it is now trying to do so with tanks and bombs.
Israel claims it is just defending itself from Hamas rockets. But its response has entirely been disproportionate - constant terrorizing of the Gazan civilian population.
And it has refused to negotiate with Hamas, a democratically elected government, by sitting down and resolving the grievances. Israel has denied the just claims of the Palestinians that it has been starving them to death. Instead Israel relies on the instruments of war.
I also condemn those in Gaza who are shooting rockets into Israeli villages and towns. But I blame Israel for its refusal to negotiate, its reliance on bombs and its disproportionate response taken out against ordinary Palestinians on account of the actions of a few.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
BBC Radio today interviewed an officer of the UN relief agency on the dire situation in Gaza. Residents are terrified and traumatized, he said. There is no electricity, no power to re-charge phones, no food, no cooking oil, no heat. More than 50% of the Palestinians in Gaza are children. There is constant shooting and shelling.
What must the world do to force Israel to stop? And who can imagine that Dick Cheney could be so immune to human suffering and catastrophic plight of the Palestinians that he would so blithely support Israel's right to starve, shoot and incinerate civilians?
I criticized Tony Blair yesterday for his silence on Israel's barbaric and cruel military action against the Palestinians in Gaza. Surely Israel will need to answer for its actions which in all likelihood constitute war crimes. And Blair, who happens to be the Middle East Envoy for the Quartet (Russia, the EU, the UN and the US) has enabled Israel's illegal actions by his silence and complicity. Blair thus shows himself to be as ineffectual on diplomacy in Middle East as he was in stopping George Bush in Iraq.
But if Blair is himself complicit in Israel's unlawful killings in Gaza, others too need to be confronted. Where is King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia? How come he has remained silent? Where are his condemnations of Israel for the terrible suffering it has inflicted on Palestinian civilians?
And how about Mubarak, that dictator in Egypt. A few days before Israel began its campaign, Tzipi Livni met with Mubarak in Egypt to discuss Israel's plans. Mubarak, like Tony Blair, has much to answer for.
Saturday, January 3, 2009
Why have we not heard from Tony Blair on the criminal actions of Israel in trying to destroy Gaza and kill Palestinians there? Blair, supposedly the chief Middle East Envoy for the Quartet, has been silent when all the world expects him to call for an immediate cessation of Israel's bombing and shooting.
Yes, Palestinians are also guilty of war crimes in shooting missiles into Israel's towns and villages. This also must come to an immediate stop.
But Israel's actions are not proportionate. In fact, all the world can see that they are disproportionate and designed to destroy the very social and economic fabric of Gaza. Israel bombs police stations to destroy any semblance of law and order. It destroys the Islamic University in an effort to prevent higher learning and education. It fires missiles into residential areas, unconcerned with how many children or civilians are thereby incinerated and killed.
Friday, January 2, 2009
What is Condoleeza Rice talking about? According to Bloomberg's Roger Runnigen, Rice said the following in her statement today at the White House,:
"“Hamas has held the people of Gaza hostage ever since their illegal coup” in 2007 and has used Gaza “as a launching pad for rockets against Israeli cities,” Rice said. “Hamas has made it very difficult for the people of Gaza to have a reasonable life.”"
Rice surely knows that Hamas won an election in Gaza three years ago (January 26, 2006) (see BBC report by Martin Asser) and became the democratically elected government of Palestinians in Gaza.
So where is the "illegal coup?" And how has Hamas held the Palestinians in Gaza "hostage?"
Rice, Bush and the rest of the U.S. government's foreign policy disaster has made this Israeli barbaric assault on the Palestinians possible by always blaming Hamas and calling it a "terrorist" organization. Rice has looked the other way when Israel bombs homes, mosques, universities and police stations. She has enabled the Israelis to go ahead with their plan to destroy even the last vestiges of Palestinian society in Gaza. Now she makes a statement blaming the Palestinians and Hamas for Israel's mayhem.
But this is nothing new. The aggressor and its allies always blame the victim for "causing" the destruction.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
Instead of killing Palestinians in Gaza with expensive and costly as well as lethal American-made missiles, tanks and war planes, and in so doing creating new waves of suicide bombers and haters of both Israel and the United States, I have a better suggestion.
Give Palestinians in Gaza (about 1.5 million persons) each $1,000 and make this an annuity for as long as a person lives. The cost would be 1.5 billion dollars, well within the budget of Israel and certainly affordable by the United States.
Such a move would immediately remake Gaza into a vibrant economically thriving society. It would create so much good will for Israel (and for the U.S.) that it would remake the Middle East. It would allow proper higher education for Palestinian youth, both male and female. It would solve the Palestinian question, end the internecine war between Jews and Arabs, allow every Palestinian to live a life of dignity and meaning.