Feb 4, 2009

Israel intercepts Lebanese aid ship bound for Gaza Strip: Ha’aretz

An Israeli gunboat late Wednesday intercepted a Lebanese ship carrying medical aid and other supplies bound for Gaza, said the organizer of the Lebanese delivery, Maan Bashour.  “The Brotherhood Ship was fired on by an Israeli military boat 32 kilometers off the coast of Gaza and they were asked to divert course,” said Bashour, and added that the ship remains in the water near the coast of Gaza. Bashour said the aid ship was loaded with 50 tons of medical supplies, food, clothing and toys and left the port city of Tripoli in northern Lebanon early on Tuesday. The aid ship was sent to support Gazans following Israel’s 3 week offensive in the coastal territry which was launched with the aim to halt Hamas’s rocket firing into southern Israel.

Barak okays new West Bank settlement in return for evacuation of illegal outpost: Ha’aretz

Defense Minister Ehud Barak has agreed to approve the establishment of a new settlement in the Binyamin region in return for settlers’ agreement to evacuate the illegal outpost of Migron.   The Migron settlers will move into the new 250-house settlement after leaving the illegal one they built on private Palestinian land. Today there are 45 families living in Migron, with only two living in permanent housing and the rest in trailers.  The first stage of construction of the new West Bank community will incorporate 50 houses until permission is received for further construction. In order to build the settlement, a detailed construction plan incorporating 1,400 housing units will have to be approved.

Is an Israeli Jewish sense of victimization perpetuating the conflict with Palestinians?: Ha’aretz

A new study of Jewish Israelis shows that most accept the ‘official version’ of the history of the conflict with the Palestinians. Is it any wonder, then, that the same public also buys the establishment explanation of the operation in Gaza? A pioneering research study dealing with Israeli Jews’ memory of the conflict with the Arabs, from its inception to the present, came into the world together with the war in Gaza. The sweeping support for Operation Cast Lead confirmed the main diagnosis that arises from the study, conducted by Daniel Bar-Tal, one of the world’s leading political psychologists, and Rafi Nets-Zehngut, a doctoral student: Israeli Jews’ consciousness is characterized by a sense of victimization, a siege mentality, blind patriotism, belligerence, self-righteousness, dehumanization of the Palestinians and insensitivity to their suffering. The fighting in Gaza dashed the little hope Bar-Tal had left – that this public would exchange the drums of war for the cooing of doves.

Read the article, and also read some of the hateful comments made by Jews and Israelis. This will clarify the picture to those still waiting for the Israeli society to change from within. If there ever was such achance – not siomething I believe myself – there clearly is none now.

S. Africa politician apologizes for saying ‘Jewish money controls America’: Ha’aretz

Following increasing pressure from South Africa’s Jewish community, the country’s deputy foreign minister apologized on Wednesday to the republic’s president for saying last month that “Jewish money controls America.”  Meanwhile, the South African dock workers union said its workers would refuse servicing an Israeli ship.  “Deputy Minister [Fatima Hajaig] expressed her deep regret to President [Kgalema Motlanthe],” the government said. “She accepted that the comments were contrary to stated government policy. She subsequently apologized unreservedly and unequivocally for the comments and agreed to withdraw them unconditionally.”

Of course they were wrong… did Jewish money ever play any role in US politics? Let us continue the pretence.

Living the Vision / Did the Gaza operation combat terror or spawn hatred?: Ha’aretz Video clip

The Israel Defense Forces’ 22-day offensive on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip stirred controversy across the world, with critics accusing Israel of war crimes and proponents defending the operation as the only solution to stopping the rocket attacks.

French Jews ask Sarkozy to help curb anti-Semitic attacks related to Gaza op: Ha’aretz

An umbrella group of Jewish groups sought assurances on Friday from French President Nicolas Sarkozy that authorities would do more to stem a rise in anti-Jewish crime in the wake of the war in the Gaza Strip.  Some 100 acts targeting Jews were reported in France since Israel launched its offensive against Gaza’s Hamas Islamist rulers in late December, said the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France. “We expressed our worries to the president,” Richard Prasquier, who heads the body, told reporters. “The president assured us of the attention he was giving to these acts. He told us that he would do more to find a solution to this problem.”

They ask Sarkozy to do what only they could do, by stopping their unqualified and boundless support for each and every Israeli atrocity. What did they expect? Universal adulation? They have helped themselves to create this monster, and now they wish the rest of France to do something about it. What about taking the side of the victims, for once?

Israel shelled Gaza doctor’s home: BBC

An Israeli probe into the death of the three daughters of a Gaza doctor in the recent offensive there has concluded they were killed by Israeli fire.

The army said troops had fired shells at suspicious figures in Dr Izzeldeen Abuelaish’s house, believing they were observers directing sniper fire.  The Israeli-trained doctor is a fluent Hebrew speaker. His loss became known across Israel when the grieving doctor phoned a TV station to describe what had happened.  The shelling of his house in Gaza occurred on 16 January, as Israel was engaged in operations against Hamas. Three of the physician’s daughters – aged 13 to 20 – and a 17-year-old niece died in the incident.

Israeli army says shelling of house where girls died was ‘reasonable‘: The Guardian

Israel’s military last night admitted that one of its tanks killed three girls at their home in Gaza during last month’s war in a case that shocked the Israeli public, but said the shelling was “reasonable.” The Israeli military said two shells had hit the house of a Palestinian doctor, Izz el-Deen Abu el-Eish, on 16 January, killing his daughters. Moments after their death the Hebrew-speaking gynaecologist was interviewed by mobile phone live on an Israeli television channel, screaming with grief in an extraordinary scene. For most Israelis it was the first time they had seen such a striking case of civilian deaths in the war, even though hundreds of the 1,300 Palestinian dead were believed to be civilians. The Channel 10 television correspondent who interviewed el-Eish arranged for the military to rush other injured members of the family to hospital in Israel for treatment, where they remain today.

Gaza doctor who lost daughters in IDF strike: Everyone makes mistakes: Ha’aretz

Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish, who lost three daughters and a niece in an Israel Defense Forces strike in the Gaza Strip last month, responded Wednesday to an IDF statement confirming that it was Israeli fire that killed his daughters, thanking those responsible for investigating the incident and saying that “we all make mistakes, and we don’t repeat them.”  Abu al-Aish, a father of eight, became one of the symbols of the Gaza offensive for Israelis after he captivated TV viewers with a sobbing live report on the death of his three daughters and his niece in Israeli shelling. The 55-year-old gynecologist trained in Israeli hospitals and speaks Hebrew.  The IDF announced earlier Wednesday that an investigation into the January 16 incident confirmed that it had been Israeli fire that killed the four girls. “First of all, I would like to thank all those who worked, and had the courage and good conscience to shed light on the truth that I always believed. Thank you to everyone who took upon themselves to publicize this truth seeking investigation,” Abu al-Aish said in an interview with Channel 2.

Mubarak: Hamas to blame for spilled Arab blood: Ha’aretz

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak voiced harsh criticism against Hamas on Wednesday, accusing the Islamist Palestinian movement of being responsible for the shedding of Arab blood.  “How long will Arab blood continue to be spilled, only to hear those who admit to miscalculating the scope and scale of Israel’s response?” Mubarak asked in a speech marking Egypt’s national day to honor its police force.  Mubarak’s comment came in reference to remarks reportedly made by Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal, who admitted at the end of the three-week Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip that he did not anticipate the scope of Israel’s operation. Similar sentiments were expressed by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah at the end of the Second Lebanon War between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006.

Likud leading election polls with 29 seats, in wake of Gaza operation: Ha’aretz

The first poll conducted about Israel’s upcoming parliamentary elections since the end of the offensive in Gaza show Likud as the front-runner with 29 seats.  The Channel 10-Dialog poll supervised by Professor Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University predicted Kadima would win 26 seats and the Labor Party getting 14 seats, the same number as Yisrael Beiteinu.  Though surveys on Sunday predicted center-left Labor would win 14 or 15 of the 120 seats in parliament – almost double that previously forecast – former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party was still in the lead.

Envoy wants Gaza crossings opened: BBC Video clip

US Middle East envoy George Mitchell has called for “a sustainable and durable ceasefire” between Israel and Gaza. He said this was vital if border crossings between the two were to be opened, thereby ending smuggling and helping aid efforts.

Gaza hospital bears heavy strain: BBC

Twenty-year-old Yahya Abu Saif lies in his hospital bed looking wide-eyed, gaunt and scared.

He was lucky to survive an Israeli air strike. But, like so many others in Gaza, his life was transformed in an instant.

He lost his right leg in the explosion. The left side of his body is paralysed. “I had just left the mosque near my home and was going home after prayers,” he says, with a little difficulty. “They dropped a bomb on the mosque and I was thrown in the air, but I don’t remember what happened after that.  “My family told me 15 people were killed and 20 people injured, including me.”  Yahya says he used to go to university and wanted to be a teacher one day. “Now I will have a life of hospitals. I know I will just need medical care forever.” As we left the room, we found Yahya’s elder brother outside, wiping away tears.

Palestinians make ICC overture: BBC

International Criminal Court officials are considering an application by the Palestinian Authority that could allow it to investigate war crimes in Gaza.

The Palestinians have accused Israel of breaking the laws of war during its recent 22-day offensive in Gaza. The PA hopes recognition of the court’s jurisdiction will allow it to investigate allegations. Israel does not recognise the ICC’s jurisdiction. The ICC’s founding statute says only states can recognise its jurisdiction.  Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said it could take some time to decide whether the Palestinian Authority was legally able to make this move. The court has made public a letter from Palestinian Justice Minister Ali Khashan recognising the authority of the ICC – the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal.

Israeli planes hit Gaza tunnels: BBC

Israeli planes have bombed smuggling tunnels on Gaza’s border with Egypt, the Israeli military says.

The raid came after a rocket fired from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip hit the Israeli city of Ashkelon. The attacks are the latest violations of ceasefires declared by both sides after an Israeli assault on Gaza meant to stop militant rocket fire on Israel. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised a sustained effort to create a Palestinian state.

Abbas to attend Gaza truce talk: BBC

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is due to meet Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo, as part of efforts to bring about a long term ceasefire in Gaza.

Egypt has been mediating between Israel and Hamas, which controls Gaza, during the conflict in the coastal enclave. Mr Abbas has accused Hamas of risking Palestinian lives and said its leaders must respect his authority.The latest talks follow an upsurge in violence, with Israel carrying out air strikes in response to rocket attacks. Cairo has been holding separate talks with Israeli officials and Palestinians from both Hamas and Mr Abbas’s Fatah party, which runs the self-rule Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank.

Mr Mubarak wants to negotiate a permanent ceasefire which could lead to Gaza’s borders being reopened after an 18-month Israeli blockade which has prevented all but the most basic humanitarian supplies from entering. It would also bring an end to the smuggling of weapons through tunnels in the sandy soil underneath Egypt’s borders into Gaza.

Gaza slowly begins rebuilding: BBC

Parts of Gaza are unscathed. Parts are rubble. For those parts, much of the emphasis this week has been about how to get aid into the territory.

Where, for example, do you raise the hundreds of millions, probably billions of dollars needed to rebuild it after the war? Who handles it? Where do you channel it? But in the meantime, how are the people of Gaza going about rebuilding their homes and their businesses? The muezzin at the Salaam mosque, east of Jabalya, was not waiting. You normally hear the call to prayer, when it has been tinnily amplified through a loudspeaker. But for these midday prayers, the muezzin was only audible to those close by. He had a beautiful voice, the notes held long, the quarter-tones gently wavering.

Israel and the politics of friendship: Joseph Massad, The Electronic Intifada

3 February 2009

Palestinians in the West Bank city of Hebron gather around the body of a protester after he was killed by Israeli troops during a rally by Hamas supporters against Israel’s military operation in Gaza, 16 January 2009. (Mamoun Wazwaz/MaanImages)

The status of Israel as the enemy of the Arabs has largely depended in the last six decades on its enmity or alliance with Arab regimes and not with the Arab peoples. Insofar as Israel threatened Arab regimes, it was depicted by them as the enemy, insofar as it did not, it was welcomed as a friend.  This was certainly the case in Israel’s ambivalent position toward the Jordanian regime with which it has allied itself since the 1920s while at the same time working to undermine the regime when some of its strategies changed. This in turn explains why the Jordanian regime was historically ambivalent about whether Israel was an enemy or an ally. In 1967, some in Israel contemplated unseating King Hussein from the throne while in 1970 Israel sought to extend its military assistance to buttress his throne. While King Hussein became convinced that Israel’s ambivalence had been resolved by the early 1990s in favor of an alliance, many Jordanian nationalists as well as Jordanian chauvinists were not. It is in this context that many anti-Palestinian Jordanian nationalists opposed the peace agreement that Jordan signed with Israel in 1994 and pointed to the continuing Israeli ambivalence towards Jordan. They correctly observed that Israel would sacrifice the regime in favor of establishing a Palestinian state in Jordan after expelling all West Bank Palestinians to the country, a project that Ariel Sharon had been proposing since the 1970s and that retains support among key people in the Labor Party. Indeed, Sharon wanted Israel to support the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1970 against King Hussein.
The recent indecisiveness of the Jordanian government regarding the best response to Israel’s carnage in Gaza was on account of the regime’s uncertainty of where Israel’s strategy lies at present. At the outset of the carnage, Jordanian intelligence chief Muhammad al-Dhahabi, who reopened talks with Hamas a few months ago, was dismissed from his job, while at the same time the government allowed massive demonstrations across the country with limited but evident police repression. But US, Saudi, and Egyptian pressure on Jordan have clearly won the day, especially in their insistence that Jordan return its ambassador to Tel Aviv whom it had recalled for a few days in protest. These developments show that the Jordanian government has a different set of priorities and worries than its Egyptian and Saudi counterparts, but that it hopes and prefers that Israel remain a friend and not become an enemy.

Can Mitchell turn Jerusalem into Belfast?: Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada

2 February 2009

A mural in Derry, Northern Ireland commemorates solidarity between Palestinians and Irish nationalists. (Ali Abunimah)

US President Barack Obama’s appointment of former Senator George Mitchell as his new Middle East envoy is a good choice. Mitchell showed even-handedness uncharacteristic of US officials when he led a fact-finding mission to the region in 2000.  Had its recommendations been followed — cessation of all violence and a full freeze of Israeli settlement construction on occupied Palestinian land — the peace process might have made progress. Mitchell, who is already in the Middle East, helped broker the 1998 Belfast Agreement, the key to ending decades of strife in Northern Ireland. Because of historical similarities, that peace agreement is an important precedent for Palestinians and Israeli Jews.
Before 1948, European Jewish settlers, newly-arrived in Palestine, wanted their own state once British colonial rulers withdrew. But because Jews were a minority, the only way to achieve this was a partition that the majority Arab Palestinian population, fearing dispossession, bitterly opposed. When Israel was established in 1948, most Palestinians were forced from their homeland, and those remaining became second-class citizens in a “Jewish state.”

National security again to dominate Israeli elections: The Guardian

• Debate is over whether Gaza war went far enough
• Netanyahu poll win likely as public mood shifts right

With less than a week to go before Israel holds elections, the rival candidates are locked in fierce debate not about whether the devastating war in Gaza went too far, but whether it went far enough. Once again the challenge of national security will dominate the vote at a time when, as far as opinion polls predict, the country’s political mood has shifted dramatically to the right. Binyamin Netanyahu, leader of the opposition Likud party, is ahead in the polls and widely predicted to be the next prime minister. Three years ago the public elected the centrist Kadima party to head a government that talked boldly of drawing up final borders for the Jewish state. It was to be a decisive, unilateral act that would allow Israel to embrace its major settlement blocs, effectively colonies in the occupied West Bank, while dividing itself off once and for all from Palestinians.

As British Jews come under attack, the liberal left must not remain silent: The Guardian

It should be perfectly possible to condemn Israel’s brutal action in Gaza while taking a stand against antisemitism

In the immediate aftermath of the attacks on September 11 2001 and July 7 2005, a noble impulse seized the British liberal left. Politicians, commentators and activists united to say to their fellow citizens that, no matter how outraged they felt at the loss of civilian life they had just witnessed, they should under no circumstances take out that anger on the Muslim community. Progressive voices insisted that Muslims were not to be branded as guilty by association, just because the killers of 9/11 and 7/7 had been Muslims and had claimed to act in the name of all Muslims. They urged Britons to be careful in their language, not to generalise from a few individuals to an entire community, to make clear to Britain’s Muslims that they were a welcome part of the national life. One week after the 7/7 London attacks, a vast crowd gathered in Trafalgar Square to hear a call for unity led by then mayor Ken Livingstone, who said Londoners should not start looking for “who to blame and who to hate”.


Uri Avnery

Palestinian boy in gunsight feeding pigeons on a roof
in West-Casbah, Hebron.

Uri Avnery views the past week’s war crimes committed by Israel and shrouded in a flimsy cloak of lies. He argues that these crimes reflect “the personality of Ehud Barak – a man whose way of thinking and actions are clear evidence of what is called “moral insanity”, a sociopathic disorder”.

”… a new doctrine was applied: to avoid losses among our soldiers by the total destruction of everything in their path. The planners were not only ready to kill 80 Palestinians to save one Israeli soldier, as has happened, but also 800…

“Even if the Israeli army were to succeed in killing every Hamas fighter to the last man, even then Hamas would win.”

Nearly 70 ago, in the course of World War II, a heinous crime was committed in the city of Leningrad. For more than 1000 days, a gang of extremists called “the Red Army” held the millions of the town’s inhabitants hostage and provoked retaliation from the German Wehrmacht from inside the population centres. The Germans had no alternative but to bomb and shell the population and to impose a total blockade, which caused the death of hundreds of thousands.

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