Monthly Archives: January 2009

Gaza massacres (27 December 2008 – )

Gaza massacres (27 December 2008 – )
 

Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed and thousand more injured as Israel continues to assault the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza — the majority of them children and refugees — from the air, sea and sky.

 

On 27 December, Israel began its bombardment on Gaza and then on 3 January began its ground offensive. At the end of 8 January in Gaza, at least 763 Gazans had been killed, including more than 200 children, and more than 3,000 injured since 27 December, according to Al Jazeera.

Israel claims that it is targeting Hamas armed fighters and infrastructure, ostensibly in response to the firing of homemade rockets from Gaza into Israel. However, field investigations by the Gaza-based human rights organization Al Mezanshow that United Nations-administered schools, mosques, universities, emergency medical crews, private homes and other civilian objects have all been in Israel’s sights.

Among those killed on the first day of bombing, when more than 100 tons of bombs were dropped on the tiny coastal enclave, included police officers who were attending a graduation ceremony, school children heading home after a day of study, and other Gazans killed without warning as they were conducting their normal business.

Entire families have been wiped out during the air strikes and shelling, including that of Hamas leader Nizar Rayyan who was extrajudicially executed along with his family in their home in a Gaza refugee camp. More than 40 were killed on 6 January when Israeli forces shelled the United Nations-administered Fakhoura school in the Jabalia refugee camp, where families who had been displaced by the bombing were seeking shelter. The UN has demanded an independent investigation and its spokespersons assert that GPS coordinates of all UN locations were given to Israel to prevent such an atrocity. Israel recanted its claim that resistance fighters released fire on Israeli soldiers from the school, which has been categorically denied by UN officials.

The death toll will most likely rise as corpses are recovered from the rubble of destroyed buildings and the critically injured die of their wounds. The International Committee of the Red Cross has protested Israeli forces preventing them from evacuating casualties. Many will likely die because Gaza’s hospitals — already chronically short of medicines and supplies due to the Israeli siege — are unable to cope with the scale of the catastrophe. Medical workers face grave danger as they respond to the sites of Israeli strikes; according to the World Health Organization, as of 8 January, 21 medical workers had been killed and more than 30 injured since 27 December.

The bloody operation in Gaza comes after the expiration of a six-month-long ceasefire between Israel and resistance groups in Gaza, including Hamas. Israel had broken the ceasefire on 4 November, when it extrajudicially executed six Palestinians in Gaza whom it said was digging tunnels to Israel. During the five previous months of the ceasefire, Hamas had refrained from firing rockets and prevented other groups from doing so. However, Israel failed to ease the nearly two-year-long embargo on the Gaza Strip that has crippled economic life and brought the area to the brink of a humanitarian crisis — one of Israel’s obligations under the ceasefire.

Instead, in Israel, where the fate of the Gaza Strip has become part of politicking as the country gears up for an election, leaders blamed Hamas for the carnage and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert cynically appealed, “to the people of Gaza, you are not our enemy.” While the other three members of the so-called International Quartet for Middle East Peace criticized what they called Israel’s “excessive” use of force, the US refrained from doing so. White House spokesperson Gordon Johndroe stated from Texas, where President George W. Bush was presently vacationing: “Hamas’ continued rocket attacks into Israel must cease if the violence is to stop.”

The ongoing assault on Gaza is the largest Israeli military operation in the territory occupied during the 1967 War. Although Israel unilaterally withdrew its illegal settler population from the Gaza Strip in 2005, it remained the occupying power as it controlled the borders, sea and airspace, as well as the population registry, and regularly carried out sonic booms over the area, terrorizing the population. Israeli forces have also frequently carried out extrajudicial executions of Palestinian activists in Gaza, killing scores of bystanders as well.

Gaza hospitals were unable to cope with the situation as Israel’s closure of the Gaza Strip for a year and a half has prevented the importing of medical supplies and equipment. As the morgues filled to capacity, corpses lined the hallways of Gaza hospitals. Hospitals were forced to turn away many of the injured due to the lack of space and supplies.

The massive air strikes came after a food crisis broke out in Gaza, as Israel’s banning of imports into the Strip have depleted stocks of flour and cooking gas, causing some bakeries — the few still in operation — to resort to baking bread made out of animal feed. On 18 December, the United Nations agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) was forced to stop its food aid delivery to 750,000 refugees in the Gaza Strip. Though it briefly resumed services in January 2009 after a “humanitarian corridor” was established, and a daily three-hour ceasefire was declared, the United Nations announced it was ceasing all services after Israeli forces targeted and killed a UN aid worker and wounded others on 8 January.

Israel’s measures of collective punishment on the Gaza Strip are resulting in “the breakdown of an entire society,” according to economist Sara Roy, who asks in a commentary published recently by The London Review of Books, “How can keeping food and medicine from the people of Gaza protect the people of Israel?”

The devastating attack on Gaza was described as “willful killing” by leading Palestinian human rights and civil society organizations, and therefore constitute “a war crime.” The organizations stated: “Both the time and location of these attacks also indicate a malicious intent to inflict as many casualties as possible with many of the police stations located in civilian population centers and the time of the attacks coinciding with the end of the school day resulting in the deaths of numerous children.”

The assault was met with loud calls for a boycott of Israel, including a boycott appeal from by the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, which stated on the day of the massacres: “Israel seems intent to mark the end of its 60th year of existence the same way it has established itself — perpetrating massacres against the Palestinian people. In 1948, the majority of the indigenous Palestinian people were ethnically cleansed from their homes and land, partly through massacres like Deir Yassin; today, the Palestinians in Gaza, most of whom are refugees, do not even have the choice to seek refuge elsewhere. Incarcerated behind ghetto walls and brought to the brink of starvation by the siege, they are easy targets for Israel’s indiscriminate bombing.”

And while government leaders and the US president-elect remain resoundingly silent over the ongoing massacres in Gaza (with the exception of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, which removed Israel’s ambassador from the country), millions of people around the world have taken to the streets to express their solidarity with Palestinians under siege. Analysts say that Arab regimes seen as being in collusion or supporting the siege and massacres, such as the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, will not be unscathed by the popular anger towards these policies.

Palestinian firemen try to extinguish a fire following an Israeli strike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, 27 December 2008. (Hatem Omar/MaanImages)

Diaries and voices from Gaza

Humanitarian updates, action and advocacy

via Twitter

 

  • Rt @AJEnglish Israeli jets strike Rafah tunnels: Raids test fragile Gaza ceasefires as US envoy visits region – http://tinyurl.com/dgzjyy about 11 hours ago
  • VIDEO: Cairo hospitals treat Gaza’s war-scarred children (Warning: Images may disturb or offend some viewers) – http://tinyurl.com/bapg9h 3 days ago
  • Blair said that without Palestinian reconciliation, #Gaza reconstruction would be “harder” to achieve 3 days ago
  • Quartet Envoy Tony Blair met Palestinian PM Salam Fayadh in Ramallah, discusses #Gaza humanitarian needs, reconstruction and reconciliation 3 days ago
  • Retweet @AJEnglish Hamas to pay victims of #Gaza war: Palestinian group promises money to families of the dead… http://tinyurl.com/ddhya2 3 days ago
  • Retweet @AJEnglish #Gaza ceasefire talks due in Cairo: Hamas and other factions to meet Egypt, EU mediators… http://tinyurl.com/bpqmt7 3 days ago
  • Hamas says families who lost their homes in the #Gaza war will receive $5,190 in emergency aid, partially damaged homes get $2,595 3 days ago
  • Families will receive about $1,300 for each member killed in the #Gaza war, $650 would be paid out to those injured, a Hamas spokesman said 3 days ago
  • Hamas administration in #Gaza begins distribution of $52 million in emergency aid 3 days ago
  • Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, congratulates Khaled Meshaal, the Hamas leader, on the group’s “victory” against Israel. 3 days ago
  • Hamas-run government in Gaza says it will create a committee of senior officials to oversee all relief efforts in the territory. 3 days ago
  • France has decided to deploy a frigate off the coast of the #Gaza Strip to fight arms smuggling “in full co-operation with Egypt and Israel” 4 days ago
  • #Gaza children return to UN schools, teachers forced to tackle psychological trauma of pupils – http://tinyurl.com/bu3fys 4 days ago
  • Palestinian children in the #Gaza Strip have gone back to school for the first time since the 22-day Israeli offensive 4 days ago
  • VIDEO: United Nations struggles to house tens of thousands of people displaced by war in #Gaza – http://tinyurl.com/b3bv5r 4 days ago
  • Stay up to date with features, analysis and video from the aftermath of the #Gaza war with our special report – http://tinyurl.com/warongaza 4 days ago
  • Israel forms defence team, withholds names of soldiers who conducted #Gaza war amid potential war crime charges – http://tinyurl.com/c9r7gh 4 days ago
  • VIDEO: BBC spurns #Gaza appeal, defends decision not to air a fund-raising appeal for the victims of the war – http://tinyurl.com/b95uyw 4 days ago
  • VIDEO: Doctors believe that illegal chemical weapons were used in #Gaza, as Al Jazeera’s Todd Baer reports – http://tinyurl.com/b79tvy 4 days ago
  • United Nations aid chief John Holmes has condemned Israel’s alleged use of white phosphorous during its offensive on #Gaza 4 days ago

Gaza blogs:

The shortcut to peace

The shortcut to peace
Hasan Abu Nimah, The Electronic Intifada, 28 January 2009

Palestinians in Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip huddle around a fire next to their home destroyed during Israel’s 22 days of attacks on Gaza. (Wissam Nassar/MaanImages)

Because it is generally accepted by the so-called “international community” that Hamas is a major threat to Israel, and therefore to world peace and security, France has dispatched a frigate to participate in a new blockade of the Gaza Strip. The Sunday Times reported that United States naval ships hunting pirates in the Gulf of Aden have been instructed to track down Iranian arms shipments (25 January). Many other European states offered their navies to assist. Indeed, United Nations Security Council resolution 1860 emphasized the need to prevent illicit trafficking in arms and ammunition.

Unfortunately not one European country offered to send its navy to render humanitarian assistance to the thousands of injured, hungry, cold and homeless people in Gaza rendered so as a result of Israel’s attack. Perhaps helping children dying from white phosphorus burns, or just lack of clean water, would be seen as supporting “terrorism.”

The perverse assumption behind all the offers of help to Israel seems to be that Hamas and other resistance groups in Gaza fired rockets at Israel merely because rockets were available. Therefore, the logic goes, peace would prevail if the supply of rockets were curtailed.

Another strange assumption is that Hamas was freely importing rockets from Iran or elsewhere because Gaza’s borders were open and free of any control.

This ignores the fact that since Israel “disengaged” from Gaza in the summer of 2005, the coastal territory was never allowed any free access to the outside world. Gaza has been under varied forms of siege and blockade by land, sea and air. Fishermen were not even free to fish without constant attacks by the Israeli navy.

The Rafah crossing linking Gaza to Egypt was kept closed on Israeli insistence until a regime for strict Israeli proxy surveillance, with European monitors acting on Israel’s behalf, was established for it.

If Hamas, despite the blockade and total financial and diplomatic boycott managed to import so many rockets or the materials to make them, what level of further siege would guarantee an end to arms importation now?

But the glaring moral and legal question is why the “international community” is mobilizing its navies and political efforts to protect the aggressor, preserve the occupation, and deny the victims any means to defend themselves? If they do not want Palestinians to resist, why do they not themselves confront the aggressor and force an end to the occupation, the siege and dispossession?

In the better past when war broke out in a region the immediate response was often to impose an arms embargo on all sides. But when the defenseless population in Gaza were under attack from the region’s strongest army all calls were to prevent the victims from defending themselves. Meanwhile, endless supplies of sophisticated weaponry were sent to the occupier despite its already massive dominance and indiscriminate and criminal attacks on civilians.

Without objective and daring diagnosis of the conflict’s root causes there is no chance of any effective treatment. Sadly this lesson has never been learned, although it has been written repeatedly with much innocent blood.

When Palestinians started their first unarmed uprising in 1987, 40 years after their expulsion from their homes and 20 years after the brutal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip began, they had no rockets; they had only stones to confront heavily armed occupation forces. Israel used its guns and deliberate, sadistic bone-breaking against unarmed demonstrators killing almost 1,500 and injuring tens of thousands in its failed efforts to crush that uprising. Only with the 1993 Oslo accords was it possible to put an end to the uprising.

Hamas, as a resistance movement, was born in 1988. Israel, desperate to break the political monopoly of the Palestine Liberation Organization as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, tacitly allowed Hamas to flourish.

Before any Palestinian fired a single shot at the start of the second uprising, in September 2000, Israel had already gunned down dozens of unarmed demonstrators. Palestinians learned these lessons well: Israel will meet any peaceful challenge with lethal force so one had better be prepared to fight back.

We need to recall these facts to understand the pure folly and detachment from reality of international politics today. The tendency has been to choose as the “cause” of the conflict to be addressed only what is politically expedient and easy, whether it is wrong or right, just or unjust, legal or illegal. The starting point of history is chosen not from the origins of the problem, but from whatever point suits the narrative of the strong.

It is utterly misleading and dishonest to pretend — as so many now do — that the sum total of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a confrontation over what expired Palestinian Authority President and Israeli puppet Mahmoud Abbas himself referred to as “silly rockets.” To pretend that stopping the supply of rockets will make any difference to the course of a conflict that results from the historic dispossession — the Nakba — of an entire nation, and its replacement with a racist rogue state that has exiled, occupied and massacred the survivors for 61 years is the height of delusion.

It is convenient for the occupier and aggressor to forget all these things and talk only of rockets. And it is convenient for the cowards who dress themselves in diplomats’ suits and don’t dare utter the truth.

Should we not acknowledge — if there is any real desire to resolve this conflict — that the resistance did not fire rockets just because they had them, and Israel did not carry out its barbarous massacres in Gaza just because it wanted to stop them? Should we not acknowledge the indisputable truth that Hamas did not break the truce, but Israel did when it attacked across the border on 4 November killing six Palestinians? Hamas did not refuse to renew the truce — as Abbas and Egyptian officials confirmed. All they asked was that the halt to killing be extended to the West Bank (which Israel refused) and that the starvation siege that was quietly killing Palestinians in Gaza be lifted. Have we not been all along taught that blockade is an act of aggression and that occupation legitimizes resistance?

The gunboats that Europe is sending to police the inmates of the Gaza Ghetto are not manifestations of strength, neither are they — or the recent shocking statements of European Union Humanitarian chief Louis Michel in Gaza blaming Hamas for Israel’s crimes on 26 January — acts of responsible diplomacy in pursuit of peace and stability; they are a new prescription, if not a clear endorsement, for further bloodshed and war crimes. They are signs of a moral weakness and corruption unparalleled since Europeans stood by silently at stations and watched as their compatriots were loaded onto Nazi trains. Who could have thought that in the 21st century such things would need to be said — and to those we thought had overcome their terrible history? But silence is not, and should not be an option any more. For years we have been told we should learn from the darkest episode in Europe’s history, but never make comparisons to it lest we diminish its enormity. But the horrifying atrocities in Gaza which an Israeli official proudly predicted last March would be a “bigger holocaust” compel us to cast our reservations aside.

There is a shortcut to calm, the elimination of violence and eventually peace. It is a lesson that should have been learned many years, and countless thousands of lives ago: justice.

Hasan Abu Nimah is the former permanent representative of Jordan at the United Nations. This essay first appeared in The Jordan Times and is republished with the author’s permission.

Related Links

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Palestine : Activism News: Surge of direct action at UK universities in support of Palestine (28 January 2009)
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Israeli settlers steal land, distort truth

17/11/2008 04:00:00 PM GMT Comments (show_art_comments_count(‘183623’);51) Add a comment Print E-mail to friend
(electronicintifada.net) The establishment of Israeli settlements on the West Bank violates international humanitarian law.

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<!–The establishment of Israeli settlements on the West Bank violates international humanitarian law.

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By Paul J. Balles

In April 2008, Jeremy Ben-Ami wrote in Forward about Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine:

Somehow, for American politicians or activists to express opposition to settlement expansion – or support for active American diplomacy, dialogue with Syria or engagement with Iran – has become subversive and radical, inviting vile, hateful emails and a place on public lists of Israel-haters and anti-Semites. For the particularly unlucky, it leads to public, personal attacks on one’s family and heritage.

My own experience bore out Jeremy’s. In one article, I had referred to the settlers as “land thieves”. A reader complained, saying the label was “a racial slur, and textbook anti-Semitic”. While it was a slur against illegal settlers in Palestine, and critical of Israeli occupation and settlement behaviour, it could not qualify as anti-Semitic, textbook or otherwise.

In 2005, Stephanie Khoury observed:

From the outset of its occupation, the government of Israel has deliberately settled its citizens in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip despite the clear prohibition of this action under the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a party. Israel has constructed a legal shroud to shield its settlement policy from criticism by maintaining that these territories are not occupied but were “liberated” or are “disputed,” despite international consensus and decisions by Israel’s High Court to the contrary.

Does this mean that “international consensus” and Israel’s High Court have been anti-Semitic?

B’tselem, an Israeli organization, has noted that the establishment of settlements on the West Bank violates international humanitarian law, which establishes the principles applying during war and occupation. Moreover, the settlements lead to the infringement of international human rights law. Could that make B’tselem guilty of racial slurs?

On 1 November 2008, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported: “Israel will reduce government services to illegal outposts in the West Bank in a bid to combat settler violence, the government decided on Wednesday during a meeting headed by Defence Minister Ehud Barak and attended by the country’s top military and legal brass.”

The British foreign minister, David Miliband, said: “Britain considers that Israeli settlement building anywhere in the occupied Palestinian territories is illegal under international law. This includes settlements in both East Jerusalem and the West Bank.”

Reporting in Britain’s Guardian newspaper (29 October 2008), Josh Freedman Berthoud writes: “Oscillating between covert support and active encouragement, left- and right wing- governments alike have looked the settlers in one eye and told them to sit still, while, with a wink of the other, they have facilitated their expansion.” Admittedly, “settlers’ expansion” sounds friendlier than “land thieves” but it’s somewhat less accurate.

Finally, from Al-Haq, an independent Palestinian non-governmental human rights organization:

The settlements in the OPT [occupied Palestinian territories] violate a number of international legal norms, and their illegality has been recognized by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and several United Nations (UN) resolutions. They are a flagrant violation of Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits an occupying power from transferring parts of its civilian population into occupied territory.

Now, if my use of a phrase like “land thieves” is “very close to being a racial slur, and textbook anti-Semitic”, then I’m in good company. The accolade should also be accorded to other Semites – both Arab and Israeli – to the International Court of Justice, to B’tselem and several other organizations and prominent Israelis who have testified to the illegality of the settlements.

What is it that makes the settlements illegal? They have been built on stolen land. Who else steals land but land thieves? Be careful of mistaking legitimate criticism of Israel for racial slurs or anti-Semitism. It’s not only counter-productive, it’s nasty.

— Paul J. Balles is a retired American university professor and freelance writer who has lived in the Middle East for many years. For more information, see pballes.com. This article appeared in Redress Information & Analysis.

Source: Middle East Online

A Sine on the Road to Mecca

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A Sine on the Road to Mecca

Ancient Muslim methods for finding the “sacred direction” for prayer

Turn then thy face towards the Sacred Mosque: wherever ye are, turn your faces towards it….

For centuries, Muslims all over the world have obeyed this command from the Koran, facing Mecca five times a day for prayer. But for a Muslim who is thousands of miles from Mecca, finding the right direction to pray—the qibla, or “sacred direction”—is not so easy. It has even been a source of controversy. Some of the mosques in Cairo reflect two different qibla values at 10 degrees from each other, with the outside walls aligned to one and the inside walls to the other. In North America, some Muslims pray to the northeast, in the direction of the great-circle route (the shortest path along the planet’s surface) to Mecca, whereas others pray to the southeast.

Medieval Muslims were using sophisticated mathematics to solve this problem centuries before the equivalent discoveries were made in Europe. At a time when Europeans believed that the Earth was flat, Muslim scientists knew how to correct for the Earth’s curvature. Two recently discovered instruments have proved that Islamic mathematicians were even further ahead of their time than anyone knew. These Mecca-centered world maps, cast in brass, indicate the direction and distance to Mecca from any point in the medieval Muslim world, and they do so with a type of map projection that was unknown in the West until the 20th century.

click for full image and caption
Cartographic grid

“I had been working on the subject [of the qibla] for 20 years, and the discovery of these maps took me by surprise,” says David King, a historian of science at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany. For the last decade King has been working to discover who made the maps and, more important, who designed them. All the evidence suggests that they were fabricated near Isfahan, in present-day Iran, during the Safavid dynasty (which began in 1502 and ended in 1722). However, King believes that the grid that is the maps’ most distinctive feature must have been discovered centuries earlier.

The first of the two maps surfaced in 1989, when it was auctioned at Sotheby’s of London. An anonymous collector discovered the second one at a Parisian antique dealership in 1995. The two instruments are so similar that they may have come from the same workshop. They are about 9 inches wide and originally came with three attachments: a compass, a sundial, and a rotating pointer that indicates both the direction and distance to Mecca. The base contains a curved grid of latitudes and longitudes, with the latitudes represented by circles and the longitudes by vertical lines; more than 100 holes are punched into the bronze to indicate various locations. (Mecca is, of course, at the center.) Because the instrument was not meant for navigation, it looks like no map you have ever seen: There are no land forms, no rivers, no oceans.

“It’s not surprising that they had the data to enter onto the grid, and the motivation [to find the qibla],” says Len Berggren, a historian of mathematics at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. “What is surprising is that someone discovered the map projection to do it.” Not only are the lines of latitude curved and the lines of longitude unevenly spaced—both unprecedented innovations in the Islamic world—but the spacing is precisely calibrated so that the distance to Mecca on the pointer is the sine of angular distance to Mecca in the real world. If the lines had been evenly spaced, the instrument would not have worked.

According to King, the artisans of Isfahan could never have come up with such a grid themselves; they were accomplished astrolabe makers, but not mathematicians. Therefore, they had to be copying an earlier model.

Where did the original model come from? King has some intriguing speculations. As early as the 9th century, Islamic astronomers had devised a method for computing the qibla that happened to produce, as an intermediate step, the sine of the distance to Mecca. The map projections might have been discovered at the same time. Indeed, King’s colleague Francois Charette has shown that the grids are, in a sense, a translation of the equations into cartographic form. Alternatively, a later scholar who was familiar with the trigonometric method might have devised the map as an ingenious simplification. King suspects Abu ‘l-Rayhan al-Biruni (973–1048), considered the leading scientist of medieval Islam, who lived in Ghazna (now Afghanistan) and wrote an influential and original treatise on the qibla.

Inevitably, less romantic possibilities have been suggested. The catalogue that Sotheby’s printed when the first instrument went up for auction states: “The projection is of western European inspiration … and this unusual instrument is interesting as evidence of the assimilation of European science and technology in Persia in the 18th century.” King strongly disagrees with that interpretation, citing both physical and historical evidence. Even if European mathematicians had worked on the qibla-finding problem, he argues, they would not have stumbled on a solution that was directly inspired by a 9th-century Islamic formula. “The fact that the instrument uses the sine of the distance is, to me, the most compelling argument” for its early Islamic origin, King says. There is also no evidence that the European scholars who were in Persia at the time brought with them anything like a Mecca-centered world map. Even if they could have, they would not have wanted to: They were in Persia to convert Muslims, not to make it easier for them to practice their religion.

More clues to the origin of these instruments may yet come to light. “So many Arabic manuscripts lie not only unstudied but uncatalogued in the libraries of the world,” Berggren says. They may contain descriptions of similar qibla-finding world maps, which went unrecognized before because historians didn’t know what they were reading about. Says Berggren, “Not only do we know what to look for now, but we know it’s worth looking.”—Dana Mackenzie

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A Family’s Deadly Ordeal

At a Flash Point in Gaza, A Family’s Deadly Ordeal

Renewed clashes threaten tenuous cease-fire between Israel and Hamas after a 22-day conflict in the Gaza Strip.
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Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, January 27, 2009; Page A01

ZAYTOUN, Gaza Strip — Just before dawn on Jan. 4, a sledgehammer crashed through the living-room wall of the home of Almaz al-Samuni in this southern enclave of Gaza City, pounding a hole wide enough for someone to poke a rifle through while shouting in a language she didn’t understand.

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“Get out of the house now,” an Israeli soldier ordered, this time in accented Arabic, she recalled. Almaz, small for her age of 13, and her family quickly did as they were told, heading for her uncle Wael’s house nearby, where by daybreak 92 family members had packed in thigh-to-thigh. It was a week into Israel’s 22-day war with Hamas.

At least 29 members of the Samuni family died over the next two weeks — including Almaz’s mother and two brothers. Sixteen or more were killed Jan. 5 when at least two Israeli shells smashed Wael al-Samuni’s crowded house. At least six others wounded in that attack died more slowly, over more than three days when the Israeli army kept emergency vehicles from entering the neighborhood, according to another teenager who had been stranded and later rescued from the house.

The shelling of Zaytoun has become a flash point in the debate over whether Israel did enough to prevent the loss of civilian life while targeting fighters from Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip. Hamas fighters operated in residential areas throughout the conflict and targeted Israeli civilians with rockets, killing three during Israel’s offensive.

The shelling cut a devastating swath through the Samuni family, which for many years has farmed the rocky fields along an unpaved cul-de-sac here.

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This account of the Zaytoun attack and its aftermath was taken primarily from interviews with a dozen members of the Samuni family who survived the assault, as well as statements and patient logs from Gaza City’s Shifa and al-Quds hospitals. The information largely parallels an earlier account given by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which concluded that by thwarting rescue efforts for four days Israel had “failed to meet its obligation under international humanitarian law.”

Survivors said that Israeli soldiers were aware of the many dead and wounded who were stranded and that the Israelis ignored or rebuffed pleas from fleeing relatives to help the injured.

An Israeli government official declined to answer any specific questions about the incident, saying it was still under investigation. “What is clear is that Hamas militants in that area were engaging us with combat,” said Maj. Avital Leibovich, a military spokeswoman. “Many of the civilian areas were turned into military compounds of Hamas.”

On Sunday, Israel appointed a team of experts in international law, headed by the justice minister, to defend its troops against possible war crimes charges arising from the offensive.

“Officers and soldiers sent on the mission in Gaza must know that they are safe from various tribunals and that Israel will help and defend them, just as they protected us with their bodies during the military operation,” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in remarks before the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday.

Israel largely barred foreign reporters from Gaza during the fighting, though some eventually entered through Egypt. Israel permitted entry late last week.

A Place of Strategic Value

Israeli soldiers rumbled into Zaytoun before midnight Jan. 3 in armored vehicles and descended by rope onto rooftops from helicopters. Israeli military and Red Cross officials said there were heavy clashes in the area. Local residents denied that any Palestinian fighters were present but described hearing constant shooting and having to dodge “crossfire” as they moved from house to house seeking shelter.

At a slight elevation, the neighborhood offered a vantage point over the breadth of the Gaza Strip.

“It was a place with strategic value,” said Arafat al-Samuni, who lives in Zaytoun. “There is no other reason to come here. None of us is Hamas.”

On the morning of Jan. 4, after clearing out Almaz Samuni’s house, Israeli troops moved to the next home and used their rifle butts to break down the door of her cousin, Moussa al-Samuni, 19, he recalled. They forced Moussa’s family to leave, and the troops set up a command post inside the home, he said. Then they set about clearing remaining families from the neighborhood.

While his younger brother Waleed, 17, sneaked out the back door into tall grass, Moussa and 13 other members of his family quickly fled out the front door. As the family exited, Moussa said, soldiers lifted the men’s shirts and pulled down their trousers, ostensibly to check for explosives.

The family ended up next door in Talal al-Samuni’s home. After a few hours, with bullets occasionally smacking the stone walls, the group, now numbering more than 40, moved again, this time across the street to the larger home of Wael Samuni. Soon nearly the entire family had congregated there.

“We were so nervous because we knew something bad could happen at any minute, but we had nowhere else to go,” said Moussa, who is slender, with short, wavy hair. “We wanted to be together.”

For the Wounded, No Aid

Down the street, Arafat Samuni, 36, was having coffee with his cousin Nadal, 30. When shooting erupted and grew closer, Nadal decided to return to his house, about 20 yards away, to make sure his family was safe. He never made it.

“Fifteen minutes after he left, I got a call saying Nadal was wounded. I ran out and found him near his front door,” Arafat said. “He was bleeding from his abdomen and told me to go home. I pulled him inside his house. I called friends and begged them to get any car, any vehicle, any ambulance.”

Nadal died six hours later, about 3 p.m., Arafat said.

Meanwhile, for more than 24 hours, the people gathered in Wael Samuni’s house waited for a lull in the fighting that did not come. They called relatives and for ambulances to evacuate them. Salah al-Samuni, 30, received a text message around midnight saying, “Ambulances are on the way.” They never came.

Finally, when things seemed a bit quieter, Moussa and two cousins crept outside to gather wood and trash to make a fire, for warmth and to bake some bread. It was before 6 a.m. on Jan. 5, he said.

“I heard an Israeli drone overhead, and about a second later something crashed into the doorway of the house,” Moussa said. “I could see that my nephew Mohammad was dead — his body was torn in pieces. My cousin Rashed was bleeding from his arm, so I ripped his shirt into a bandage and tried to tie it around.” Then another shell hit the roof, he said.

Several Samuni family members who were inside said that they never heard the impact of the second shell but that suddenly the ceiling of the one-story building came crashing down on top of them.

“You couldn’t see or hear anything. The air was filled with smoke and pressure and my ears felt like they were shaking,” said Salah Samuni. Part of the roof collapsed on his head, leaving a bloody gash. His 2-year-old daughter, Azza, died instantly, as did his grandmother. His 6-month-old daughter, Shifa, was unscathed.

“Out of the tragedy, that is a miracle,” he said.

Survivors began to panic.

“I screamed at everyone who could move to get out of there,” said Salah, who has a slight build and a wispy, graying beard. “I could see across the room that my father was still breathing, but by the time I got to him, he was gone. We grabbed whoever we could carry and ran.”

Just after 6 a.m., the sun was rising as dozens of Samunis poured out of the shattered house and made their way up Salahaddin Road, the nearest main route to the hospitals of Gaza City. All around them, the shooting continued.

“We had walked about a kilometer when I saw some Israeli soldiers and an ambulance driver,” Salah said. The ambulance driver apologized profusely, he said, but told him: “It is too dangerous. I can’t go in until the fighting stops.”

Salah recalled telling the soldiers, “We need first aid, and there are many dead back in Zaytoun. You hit us, and we need help.”

“Go back to your death,” the soldier replied, according to Salah. “You can’t go up this road.”

Moussa also tried to make it up the street and was intercepted by Israeli soldiers. “I told them there were wounded people, but they told me to shut up,” he said. They detained him in a nearby house for the rest of the day before releasing him, he said.

The Red Cross report also said that Israeli troops “must have been aware” that there were wounded civilians in need of medical care. Salah and others said some Israeli soldiers shot at the fleeing Samuni family members, to try to direct them back to Zaytoun.

“All the time they were shooting at the road or above our heads,” said Sobhi Mahmoud Samuni, 55. “But we kept running toward the hospitals.”

That day, Jan. 5, the logbook at Shifa Hospital recorded that at least 39 Samunis came to the emergency room with various injuries.

“It was shocking to see so many from one family,” said Ramiz Ziyara, 33, a general-surgery resident who said he treated a young girl with shrapnel lodged in her brain. “She was okay. She was lucky.”

Fifteen wounded people remained inside Wael’s house, along with at least 16 bodies.

“I couldn’t walk,” said Ahmad al-Samuni, 16. “My feet and legs hurt too much, so I just tried to lie still to escape the pain.” His two brothers, Ismail, 14, and Isaac, 13, lay bleeding beside him, in far worse condition.

For hours, he said, he held Ismail’s hand while the boy faded in and out of consciousness from a large head wound. At the urging of his grandmother, who also remained in the house with a broken leg, they prayed, reciting over and over, “I bear witness that there is no god but God, and Muhammad is his prophet.” By nightfall, Ismail had died.

The next morning, still unable to walk, Ahmad said, he gathered bits of a shattered door frame and with a lighter managed to make a small fire in one room. He found a pot and the only food left in the house, uncooked spaghetti and tomatoes, and heated it for his brothers.

“We were so thirsty, we were cutting open a hose and sucking as hard as we could to get water out,” he said, frequently losing his concentration, and once, briefly, his temper, as he recounted the story. “It only wet our lips.”

That evening, Isaac, who had shrapnel in his abdomen, died, too. “He was bleeding for two days, and no one came to help,” said Ahmad. At least four others, his uncle Tawfik and aunt Rabab and two of their children, Rashad and Waleed, also died within 48 hours of the shell striking the roof, he said.

“I sat in there for four days, and all we could do was pray,” said Ahmad, whose head was later shaved in the hospital so a wound could be cleaned. “I was sure I was going to die.”

Frustration for Rescuers

Two days before the shell struck Wael Samuni’s house, the Red Cross had begun negotiating with the Israeli army to get ambulances into Zaytoun to evacuate civilians. “For the first two days, people were calling and literally begging us to come get them,’ ” said Antoine Grand, head of the Red Cross in Gaza, who declined to allow the ambulance teams working those days to be interviewed.

“We said: ‘We’re doing our best. Hang on,’ ” Grand said. “Then their mobile phone batteries died.”

“We normally have good coordination about these things,” he added. “But for days we asked for a green light to get in there, and it wasn’t granted. I don’t know why. It is extremely frustrating.”

Leibovich, the Israeli army spokeswoman, declined to comment on why the army had not allowed the Red Cross into Zaytoun. Grand corroborated Leibovich’s assertion that there were clashes in the neighborhood but said that should not have prevented emergency workers from being given access.

“Look, on the one hand, we don’t want to go in while the fighting is going on. But they weren’t fighting 24 hours a day for all those days,” Grand said, adding that there was an Israeli army post 100 yards from where the Samuni house was struck. “Permission could have been granted earlier.”

On Jan. 7, the Red Cross was finally permitted to enter Zaytoun, during a three-hour pause in combat operations to allow for humanitarian relief. The wounded had to be evacuated by donkey cart, because the Israeli army would not move earthen barricades it had placed in the road, according to the Red Cross’s report. There was not enough time to retrieve the dead until Jan. 18, when at least 21 bodies were removed from the site, Grand said. The Red Cross’s investigation of the events will be completed in the next few months, he added, and will be “shared privately” with the Israeli government.

Residents said there were 22 bodies in and around the Samuni home, and Shifa Hospital logged the arrival that day of 22 dead. The explanation for the discrepancy with the Red Cross figure is unclear. The Red Cross said the bodies were found in at least two houses, while survivors said all of the dead had been killed in Wael’s home. Again, the variation in accounts remains unexplained.

Six other people, including Nadal and some of those who escaped from Wael’s house, died elsewhere, Samuni family members said.

Moussa Samuni found a final body Jan. 19, in a field just north of the neighborhood. It was his younger brother Waleed, who had run out the back when the soldiers appeared. He had been shot in the head, leg and stomach. He was unarmed and not a fighter, his brother said.

‘No Fighters Here’

For three days after the last of the bodies were recovered and buried, the Samunis mourned in a large tent erected amid the wreckage of their neighborhood by the Fatah movement, the political party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Large posters displayed color photographs and names of the dead, as well as a few snapshots of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who died in 2004. Aid groups brought chicken and rice for lunch every day around noon. Dozens of dead birds were scattered about the property, filling the air with a sweet, acrid smell when the wind changed.

“There were no fighters here. That is why I do not understand why this happened,” Arafat Samuni said, disputing the Israeli military’s statement about combat in the area. “We are farmers. We are not political. We are not resistance.”

All but three of the houses on the street were demolished. The remnants of the various families that make up the Samuni clan sat all day, each day, on the rubble of their destroyed homes and met with well-wishers, aid workers and journalists. Most answered questions politely but without emotion.

Some broke down when telling their story. On Friday, the tent was rolled up and trucked away, but the Samunis stayed behind.

“I am supposed to be back in school,” said Moussa, an accounting student, staring at the ground. “But my father is gone. My mother is gone. My brother is gone. All I have left is my 2-year-old sister, and now I am the head of the family.”

Staff researcher Robert E. Thomason in Washington contributed to this report.

Rabbi told Israeli troops ‘to show no mercy’ in Gaza

Israeli soldiers walk on the Israeli side of the border with Gaza Strip
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Rabbi told Israeli troops ‘to show no mercy’ in Gaza

JERUSALEM (AFP) — An Israeli human rights group on Monday called for the immediate dismissal of the chief military rabbi, claiming he gave soldiers fighting in Gaza pamphlets urging them to show no mercy.

Yesh Din said it had written to both Defence Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, urging them to “take this incitement seriously and fire Chief Military Rabbi” Brigadier General Avi Ronzki.

It said a pamphlet distributed to soldiers taking part in Operation Cast Lead stressed that the troops should show no mercy to their enemies, and that the pamphlet borders “on incitement and racism against the Palestinian people.”

“When you show mercy to a cruel enemy you are being cruel to pure and honest soldiers. These are not games at the amusement park where sportsmanship teaches one to make concessions. This is a war on murderers,” Yesh Din quoted t

Eyewitness in Gaza: Yesterday and Tomorrow

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Main Story
15:21 01/24/2009
Eyewitness in Gaza: Yesterday and Tomorrow
‘Whatever they do to us, we are still here and we will still be here.’ (UNRWA/AFP)
By Ewa Jasiewicz – Gaza

We’re like trees, we have our roots and they allow us to grow, little by little, we grow up and then they cut us down. But, whatever they throw at us, whatever they do to us, we are still here and we will still be here – Om Bassim, Jabaliya Camp, January 2009.

‘Our Home’

At the beginning of this war, when the bombs first started falling intensively, I remember lying on a mattress, late at night, I don’t remember where, maybe in Beit Hanoun hospital, maybe in Beit Lahiya. As I slipped into sleep, I could hear explosions, thuds, one after the other, some near, some distant, some to our east, to our west, again and again. In my semi-consciousness I felt they were all going off in my house, in my home, that the bombs were exploding in different rooms, upstairs, downstairs, next door, under me, over me. I didn’t feel fear, I felt a closeness, a holding together. Maybe it was a consequence of Gaza being an incarcerated space, a walled camp, so small and close-knit, a prison, but also, a house, a home, with families in every part, every corner, every room, a community of relatives from north to south, every explosion and massacre felt acutely, felt intimately as if it had happened to ones own family, in the home, this home.

The war was felt and heard in every home, it invaded some homes, soldiers occupied and destroyed peoples homes, tank shells, burning white phosphorous and bulldozers smashed homes, some people were buried under their homes, some are still entombed in their homes. Where is this home now? 50,000 people are homless according to the UN. Living in tents, classrooms, crowded rooms in the homes of relatives, under tarpaulin stretched over roofless rooms on family land, still standing. If the bombing resumes, and the attacks resume, this will still be a home to the people of Gaza, each bomb, and each hit, acutely felt, shuddered and shouldered by each community and family. My friend Om Bassem, mother of nine, living in Jabaliya explained calmly yesterday, ‘They besiege us and take away our electricity, ok, we carry it, they take away our gas, our flour, our food, ok, take it, we can take it, they take away our drinking water, take it. And our children, a mother grows her son until adulthood, focusing on nothing but bringing up her children, and then he is taken away, and we take it. We spend our whole lives working, saving, building, our homes for us and our children and our children’s children, and then they destroy it, bomb it to the ground, and we take it. We’re like trees, we have our roots and they allow us to grow, little by little, we grow up and then they cut us down. But, whatever they throw at us, whatever they do to us, we are still here and we will still be here, we can take anything they do to us. God is big, God is bigger. And thanks be to God for all of this. We are steadfast’. And she smiles.

To the Dead Zone

We got the call early Sunday morning. We finally had ‘co-ordination’ to get into the closed military zones that Israeli forces had been occupying for the past three weeks. These were the ‘closed military zones’ in which ambulance staff, the Red Cross and UN had been fired upon and rescuers killed trying to enter.

These ‘closed areas’, these blind spots and dead zones, are Towam, Zaiytoun, Atatra, Ezbit Abed Rubbu, Toffah. These are communities, neighbourhoods, with schools and shops and homes that people would sit out in front of, on plastic chairs drinking tea, fingering prayer beads, staring at the sparkling blue sea, communities with farmland, orange orchards and strawberry fields. All locked down. The medics from the Red Crescent would come back by turns stunned and weary eyed. An old man with a gunshot wound to his head clasping a white flag from Atatra, bodies trameled by tanks – unidentifiable – and the girl, the famous, red, half eaten girl, Shahed Abu Halim, aged one and a half according to paramedics, left to die and half eaten by dogs, her body a beacon of horror for everyone who saw her being brought in to Kamal Odwan hospital in Jabaliya.

So many times, our ambulances skimmed the edges of these dead zones, where families were imprisoned, snipers holding them effectively hostage, the dead lying in the street unclaimed, witnessed daily by neighbours and loved ones. On occasion we managed to grab bodies on the periphery, mangled by missiles shot from surveillance drones. With the Ministry of Health ambulances, we rode to Karama – Dignity – where two men were reportedly found dead by rescue workers having bled to an undignified death from treatable injuries. Unreachable.

These were the areas that civilians had been shot dead trying to exit, some gunned down whilst holding white flags such as Ibtisam Ahmad Kanoon, 40, from Atatrah, who lay dying from 11.30am until 2pm the next day until relatives could carry her out. Her husband, son and mother all walking with her – her son Mohammad Bassam Mohammad al Kanoora, 23, injured by shrapnel to the head and Zahiye Mohammad Ahmad al Kanoora, 60, injured in the back.

Like the family of Musbah Ayoub, 64, from Izbet Abed Rubbu, who bled to death from shrapnel injuries to his legs, as relatives frantically called the Red Crescent and Red Cross for three days.

Like Wael Yusef Abu Jerahd, 21, from Zeitoun who was hit by tank shell shrapnel as he went to get a drink of water in his home. He lay dying for four hours, his family calling for help and appealing to Israeli occupation soldiers to enable his evacuation. Instead Israeli forces killed two paramedics traveling in a Libyan Red Crescent jeep attempting to get to him, and occupied the family’s home, imprisoning the family, 12 people, in a small kitchen along with their dead son, for three days. When the family were finally allowed to leave, they had two members to carry for over a kilometer over broken ground and trashed industrial sites; their son Wael, and his 64-year old mother, who couldn’t walk because of her diabetic condition and fresh nervous break-down over the killing of her son and her days and nights by his dead side, as Israeli occupation soldiers shot from her house.

The stories of those who bled to death because Israeli forces would not allow ambulance access to collect them, and the families who had to witness their demise and live with their bodies, run the length and breadth of the Gaza Strip. When ambulances could finally enter some areas, they were stoned by desperate and abandoned relatives. It is a war crime, under the Geneva Conventions, to prevent the passage of or target emergency staff who are trying to collect the injured.

The Walking Living

We made out at the break of dawn, red lights rotating into action, speeding towards Towam, close to Atatrah. Drizzle mixed with a haze of white phosphoric smoke, like a thin grey gauze over our eyes. Above us, surprisingly, and awesomely, soared a rainbow, high, wide and perfect, arching over the grey broken streets of Jabaliya and the freshly bombed Taha mosque with its’ insides spilled over the road, the knocked down houses like knocked out teeth, downed power lines, blown out and blackened apartment blocks, grey all around us, but if we looked up, a beautiful technicolour arch.

The first body was that of a young man, face down and crumpled outside the doors of the Noor Al Hooda mosque, his navy jumper singed from shrapnel injuries.

Behind us was a wasteland. Where houses had been, just days earlier, there were jagged edges of crushed walls, mangled with clothes, glass, books, furniture; houses turned into a lumpy sea of lost belongings, bombed and bulldozed into the ground. Amidst all this, was the crumpled body of Miriam Abdul Rahman Shaker Abu Daher, aged 87. It was her arm that we saw first, sticking out of a dusty blanket, trapped under rubble. We managed to hoist her onto a stretcher, paramedics took her away and I was left standing next to a man. ‘That was my mother’ he said to me. He explained what happened: ‘We left three days ago (15th January) with our children and we came back for her, but we couldn’t get to her, we called the Red Cross, they couldn’t help. They bulldozed everything here, maybe more than 20 houses. We thought we could return, we didn’t think they would do all this We couldn’t come back for three days so we don’t know how she died, maybe she died of the cold? After a few hours we had come back and planes were shooting at us, we were just meters away from our house, but the shooting was too much. We thought if the soldiers came they wouldn’t harm her because she’s so old, we thought maybe they would give her food or look after her. We didn’t expect them to bulldoze the whole area’, explained Awad Abdullah Mustapha Abu Daher, 45 years old. We took four dead into our ambulance. The Red Crescent would take another 32 before the day was over.

A column of people was walking slowly, some with donkey carts, some rumbling over the clod ground on motorbikes. All making their way home, for the first time, to Atatrah. Atatrah, with its new blasted out school, holes big enough to drive through, a crippled mosque, and burnt houses smoked above us, sloped up on a hill, with rolling strawberry fields and palm trees and the beach behind it, such a beautiful place to live, lush and alive and green. Now, according to locals, its almost unidentifiable, residents  are disorientated by the missing houses, confused between the lost streets and new ‘streets’ – tracts bulldozed between houses, gaping holes in half buildings and land churned into sand. I followed the column. Walking behind it was reminiscent of so many funeral processions that have trod the streets of Gaza and Palestine as a whole. A slow column, a long walk, an intergenerational walk, a thousand backs in front of us, for the dead, for the living, for the jailed, a return after eviction, a return after each invasion, The Walk, after being released from every imprisonment in every temporary prison by Israeli soldiers, the Beit Lahiya High School, a neighbour’s home, The Walk back all the time and through time, to overcome grief, dispossession, humiliation, a collective walk. I wanted to accompany that walk.

Climbing up the main road, pulverized and impassable by car, a group of 10 men come walking towards us carrying their heavy dead wrapped in blankets, struggling to find their footing on their descent. We spend the rest of the day searching for the dead, along with everybody else, another collective walk, a collective search, ‘Where are the martyrs? Are there martyrs here?’ and to everyone, the Arabic Islamic expressions of condolences and goodwill, ‘Thanks be to God for your peace’, ‘God will give’, ‘God protect you’. We are following the scent of rotting corpses, the scent sometimes of already decayed flesh, or decaying animals – a donkey, a goat, dogs, a horse. One man we bring from Toam, Moayan Abu Hussain, 37, is brought to us by donkey cart, his badly decomposed and bloated body wrapped in two blankets. He fills the white zip up heavy plastic body bag.

The following day, again, in the morning, bodies are being brought out of the ground, from crushed homes, and from tunnels. At the top of Ezbet Abed-Rubbu, early in the morning, we ride to retrieve three bodies, three men, fighters, from the Sobuh family. Locals say they were trapped in their tunnel when collaborators told the Israeli army they were there and the tunnel was collapsed from both ends, starving them of oxygen and entombing them in a slow death. What does resistance mean when sea, air and land are controlled by the occupier? Going underground is literal. The walk now is becoming a crawl. F16s soar low above our heads, and continue to in the intervening days, a reminder of who dominates here. As local men dig up their dead, the stench overwhelming, spitting out death as they work, digging, the men finally surface, to be wrapped immediately in blankets, in front of an audience, the perpetual witnesses here to every crime, every death, every aftermath.

The crowd of perhaps one hundred, strives to pack into the ambulance along with their loved ones, crying, keening, clamoring at the white plastic bags. A boy of maybe 8, with a face etched older with trauma, shouts in a voice of a man, ‘Hasby Allah wa Naeme al Wakee!” – ‘God will judge them!’ But who will judge the Israeli occupation forces and their leaders, political and military, who have perpetrated war crime after war crime here in Gaza? It has to be us. We need to take up our consciences and humanity and translate judgment into action.

Yesterday was a fast-forward blur of destruction, mass pain, broken bodies, lifeless beings, terror on the streets, in homes, in mosques, in ambulances, in hospitals. Yesterday, people were being physically dismembered and today remain so, many still recovering on intensive care units in France, Egypt, Israel. The same states that stayed silent and complicit in this massacre, now take the broken into their bellies and return them patched up, back into a killing zone, a prison where the guards can shoot back in, plough back in and break them all over again at any given moment.

Torture and Relief

Under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, people were tortured underneath hospitals, burnt, fractured, torn up, and then taken upstairs to be repaired, in the full knowledge, that one they were whole again, skin growing back together again, the same awaited them, they would be taken back down, to be tortured again, the healing a mocking, a thwarted, negated process in itself because of the looming knowledge that it was only to be followed by a repetition of the breaking. This type of collective torture is being practiced here and the complicit are those who allow it to happen, and that do not create the conditions to stop this cycle of devastation. People keep being recycled through this trauma, generation after generation, through fresh weapons, new chemicals, new prisons and new ways of the international community maintaining silence, complicity and support for Israeli occupation.

Families are familiar now with the trawling delegations and caseworkers, notebooks in hand, I include myself in this walk, the walk of the hundreds of journalists, human rights workers, Red Crescent, Red Cross, United Nations workers, asking the same questions, noting the same details, preparing families for temporary shelters, giving out plastic sheeting for broken windows and replacement doors, blankets, emergency food packages, tents, cooking stoves, everyone expects them and expects us; the same donor agencies and charities, rolling up their sleaves to issue fresh appeals and re-build the same community centers, police stations, hospitals, that were rebuilt after the last annihilation; a rewound and fast-forwarded cycle of destruction and reconstruction, yesterday and tomorrow being blurred together into a circle of a collectively expected return to ruins and a slow rebuilding, again and again. It is no wonder that ‘human rights’ workers and the notes and testimonies frantically taken down with shock and condolence, time after time, year after year are met with replies of ‘Its all empty, write it down but what will it change? It’s all empty’. There is no post-traumatic stress disorder here because there is no real ‘post’ to the traumatic stress. Traumatic events keep on happening again and again, relief un-processed, grief unprocessed, as people watch and wait and brace themselves for the next attack.

Pieces

People are left with snippets, fragments, of their loved ones, literally and in memory. Nuggets of film shot on mobile phones pass through multiple hands, of the last of their loved ones, wrapped in white sheets, with hands and tears pouring over them, screaming and screaming, to be shown and shared with fresh tears in real time, again. Like the five from the Abu Sultan, Abbas and Soosa families, demolished by a tank shell shot into their home as they were drinking morning tea on their doorstep in Shaimaa, Beit Lahiya. Paramedics could not reach them for half an hour as they lay bleeding in pieces outside their home. Asma Abu Sultan, 22, watched her father, brother and uncle bleed to death, ‘It was 10.30am and we were drinking tea together in our home when we heard this gigantic bang, I saw my uncle at the door, injured, we went inside, I saw they had no chests, no hand, one was still breathing, I said ‘get up my brother’ I was telling him please, get up, please don’t die, he started to bear witness to God, then he said your father has died. He was draining of life, the blood draining from his face, but he was still alive, and then we couldn’t get an ambulance because they kept getting bombed, we kept asking everyone to help us, after half an hour he died from shrapnel wounds to the heart’.

Pieces. One afternoon, in the yesterdays of this war, we were called out to respond to a car bombing in Gaza City. We arrived on the scene, in bright light, to Palestine square, close to the Ahly al Arabi Hospital. Two injured had already been taken away. The car was a mangled sliced heap. Somehow there was no burning. We picked up a large, headless, man, still bleeding. Nobody wanted to touch him, they were terrified of him. Before we left the scene, someone put a small plastic ID card in my hand, Arabic script and his head, his face, bearded, in his late 30s, taken alive, he looked strong. I couldn’t let go of it, as the ambulance bounced along the broken streets, he behind us, handless, legs torn open, on a rickety stretcher, I held it in both hands, and couldn’t let go of it, keeping it in my hand wrapped round one end of the stretcher, pressed together, trying to keep it together somehow, close to his body.

A few nights ago, I sat by candlelight with my friend and his 9-year-old son Abed, in Beit Lahiya. I had bought him stickers depicting the human body, the brain, illustrated piece by piece, the human intestinal system, muscular network, the insides of the human eye, the heart, its valves and arteries. Abed fingered them, spread out over the kitchen table in the candlelight, these pieces, pieces Id seen outside bodies, spilled onto the streets of Gaza. Here they were in his hands, on the table in front of us, in one dimensional colour. He began to sing, ‘We’re steadfast, steadfast we remain, during this siege, and we remain steadfast’. He sang the words over and over again, fingering the stickers flickering in the candlelight until he sang himself into drowsiness. ‘Get up and go to sleep’, his father said and we kissed him and he left.

Everyone is trying to pick up the pieces of their invaded lives here, yesterday’s attacks and the severing of families from one another, will take years to reconnect, and rebuild, bring together again.

Yesterday can happen again. People expect a tomorrow when Israel will escalate its attacks and go further, casting more lead. Some believe this was a rehearsal for a deeper war, a litmus test that Israel won, because in 21 days of attacks, the international community kept shining a green light for Israel to continue to bomb and kill without restraint. The endgame being a pacified, acquiescent Gaza, with a weak Palestinian Authority, under the control of Israel or, if unrealized, an evicted Gaza, realized through provocations from Israel, extra judicial killings and surprise incursions, eventually responded to with rocket fire from the resistance and then a massive attack and push southward of the population into the Sinai and an Egyptian protectorate, new camps, and a new redrawing of a map already redrawn so many times through exile and empire.

Yesterday can happen again, a tomorrow that people here have been struggling for over sixty years, still dim, still distant, still carried but harder to imagine in the midst of the grief endured under siege here. The difference we can make is to seize today. The difference between yesterday and the horror, and dispossession and shock all here are still reeling from, and the tomorrow that could bring more of the same, reproducing, re-cycling, the same terrorization and cutting down of people as they pray, walk, sit, stand, heal, fight, the difference between yesterday and tomorrow is our today.

Today

I told many people, friends, taxi drivers, doctors, policemen, about the peoples’ strike on EDO-MBM Technologies in Brighton, UK this month. EDO manufactures the bomb release mechanism for F16s. Activists filmed themselves explaining to camera that they were decommissioning the facility in protest at the company’s complicity in the war on the Palestinian people, and specifically the killing of the people of Gaza. Over a quarter of a million pounds worth of damage was caused as activists threw computers out of windows and smashed equipment. They had taken their resistance out of the powerful but symbolic realm of the streets and into the offices of those responsible for arming Israel, physically imobilising their business. Three remain on remand in prison.

When I recounted this action to people, I saw an expression come over their faces that I hadn’t encountered before when talking about international solidarity. It was a kind of respect, a dawning smile, a sense of surprised pride, a tiny move towards a leveling between the blood sacrifices and living hell of so many here, and sacrifices made by people on comparative comfort zones on the other side of the world – for them. What would the parents of the children blown up by F16s here do if they could? What would we do if our children were being cut down by war planes and we knew where these weapons were being manufactured and we could confront these arms dealers and stop them arming those responsible for killing our children? Would we not stop them, would we not make the move from the streets to the factories, offices and facilities where these deaths, tomorrow’s deaths are in the making, and disarm them, save lives at the physical root of the production of the means of killing? Save lives there so that exhausted and besieged doctors here do not have to try to, under appalling conditions and against all odds; enforce international law outside ourselves, because noone else will do it for us. People here are expecting solidarity activism to go further, and needing it to go much much further.

A friend here, a well-respected intellectual and activist, run ragged through the war participating in interview after interview, writing piece after piece, pieces of resistance writing, expressed his sense of failure last night, that he didn’t do enough. That the resistance was dying for all of us, sacrificing for all of us, paying the ultimate price, and what was he doing? Sitting in his comfort zone, his writing a relief, for himself, to himself, making him feel better and stronger but where were his words going? What was the relationship between the words he was writing and speaking and stopping the death, stopping the invading occupation forces? Look at the completeness of Che Guevara, a doctor, a writer, a fighter, a complete man, and what was he, a writer, an academic, activist, but unable to pick up a gun or a body? Crucially, what was ‘enough’ and when have we done ‘enough’?

Our Lines and ‘Enough’

‘Enough’ is relative, and ‘enough’ is subjective and incredibly personal, but, a tentative attempt to unpick the crushing pressure of guilt – guilt on all our backs, all over the world, of an impotence and a sense of failure to influence, and a struggle build the means and the movements, to influence change – I think a tentative definition of enough could be, to transgress, to cross our own lines of possibility.

Our own lines of what we believe we can and cannot do have been authored by others and adopted by ourselves. Lines drawn by authorities, re-inscribed with violence and drawn thick with the threat of detention, imprisonment, the denial of everything that makes life worth living; contact with loved ones, freedom of movement, a natural stimulation of our senses through interaction with our natural environment, our sense of identity, all radically curtailed and undermined through incarceration. And death, the final line, the full stop imposed by absolute power onto the living bodies of those daring to resist, armed or unarmed, lives slammed shut by surveillance plane missiles zapped them into the ground. F16s exploding houses full of people. Ended. All ended. A line drawn under their lives. But where are our lines? ‘Enough’ will be an ever extending horizon, the edge always ahead of us, but we will never get close to where we need to be as a critical mass to effect change unless we cross our own lines of fear.

‘Enough’ is when you know you can do more, and you know you can take a step forward into a space of activism that you have never entered before and you do it. ‘Enough’ is when you know, you have pushed yourself, when you took risks and made sacrifices that you knew would be painful, knew could weigh heavy, could change your life forever, but you did it. When you knew the potential consequences of your actions but you confronted your fears and took the step forward, stepping over your own line. From stepping out into the streets for the first time to demonstrate, to picking up a chair and barricading yourself into your university, to telling the world you’re going to decommission an arms factory or war plane or settlement produce facility and doing it, we need to cross our own lines of fear, hesitation, and apprehension. We can push our movements forward, person by person, group by group, party by party, network by network, by crossing our lines and making sacrifices, small compared to the intensive blood letting, loss and devastation here.

Direct action, strike action, popular occupations, tactics used by Palestinians in the first intifada, and smashed by Israeli counter-tactics of siege, intensified occupation and massive military onslaught, all legitimized by our international governments. The counter-onslaught shows no signs of abatement.

We need to redraw our own battle lines and go further, to do the ‘enough’ we want to do and be the ‘enough’ we want to be. Our consciences and history demands this. It’s not enough and it will be too late for a new history, authored by others, to judge us, we have to make our own. It is not God that will judge us, it will be our brothers and sisters here in Palestine and in our international community, the widows, the orphans, the childless parents, the living left behind after the dead.

We can’t afford yesterday to repeat itself. We cannot wait until tomorrow happens to us. Between yesterday and tomorrow is today and we need to build our intifada today. Our intifada of solidarity needs to grow beyond demonstrations, and to put Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) politics into practice through direct action. The BDS campaign was initiated and called for by over 135 Palestinian grassroots organizations in 2005, a call that needs to be amplified and spread internationally, targeting the corporations and institutions enabling Israel to keep violating international law and destroying peoples lives. Through direct action, popular disarmament of Israel, and a real grassroots democracy movement, we can collectively come into our ‘enough’. We can affect that which hasn’t happened yet, we can change what happens tomorrow. This is our intifada, this is our today.

– Ewa Jasiewicz is an experienced journalist, community and union organizer, and solidarity worker. She is currently Gaza Project Co-coordinator for the Free Gaza Movement (www.FreeGaza.org).

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Time Running Out For A Two-State Solution?

60 Minutes: Growing Number Of Israelis, Palestinians Say Two-State Solution Is No Longer Possible

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Is Peace Out Of Reach?

Has peace in the Middle East become nothing more than a pipe dream? As Bob Simon reports, a growing number of Israelis and Palestinians feel that a two-state solution is no longer possible. | Share/Embed

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Answers.com

(CBS) Getting a peace deal in the Middle East is such a priority to President Obama that his first foreign calls on his first day in office were to Arab and Israeli leaders. And on day two, the president made former Senator George Mitchell his special envoy for Middle East peace. Mr. Obama wants to shore up the ceasefire in Gaza, but a lasting peace really depends on the West Bank where Palestinians had hoped to create their state. The problem is, even before Israel invaded Gaza, a growing number of Israelis and Palestinians had concluded that peace between them was no longer possible, that history had passed it by. For peace to have a chance, Israel would have to withdraw from the West Bank, which would then become the Palestinian state.

It’s known as the “two-state” solution. But, while negotiations have been going on for 15 years, hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers have moved in to occupy the West Bank. Palestinians say they can’t have a state with Israeli settlers all over it, which the settlers say is precisely the idea.


Daniella Weiss moved from Israel to the West Bank 33 years ago. She has been the mayor of a large settlement.

“I think that settlements prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state in the land of Israel. This is the goal. And this is the reality,” Weiss told 60 Minutes correspondent Bob Simon.

Though settlers and Palestinians don’t agree on anything, most do agree now that a peace deal has been overtaken by events.

“While my heart still wants to believe that the two-state solution is possible, my brain keeps telling me the opposite because of what I see in terms of the building of settlements. So, these settlers are destroying the potential peace for both people that would have been created if we had a two-state solution,” Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, once a former candidate for Palestinian president, told Simon.

And he told 60 Minutes Israel’s invasion of Gaza – all the death and destruction in response to rockets from Hamas – convinces him that Israel does not want a two-state solution. “My heart is deeply broken, and I am very worried that what Israel has done has furthered us much further from the possibility of [a] two-state solution.”

Palestinians had hoped to establish their state on the West Bank, an area the size of Delaware. But Israelis have split it up with scores of settlements, and hundreds of miles of new highways that only settlers can use. Palestinians have to drive – or ride – on the older roads.

When they want to travel from one town to another, they have to submit to humiliating delays at checkpoints and roadblocks. There are more than 600 of them on the West Bank.

Asked why there are so many checkpoints, Dr. Barghouti said, “I think the main goal is to fragment the West Bank. Maybe a little bit of them can be justified because they say it’s for security. But I think the vast majority of them are basically to block the movement of people from one place to another.”

Here’s how they block Barghouti: he was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Jerusalem and worked in a hospital there for 14 years. Four years ago he moved to a town just 10 miles away, but now, because he no longer lives in Jerusalem, he can’t get back in – ever.

He says he can’t get a permit to go. “I asked for a permit to go to Jerusalem during the last year, the last years about 16 times. And 16 times they were rejected. Like most Palestinians, I don’t have a permit to go to the city I was born in, to the city I used to work in, to the city where my sister lives.”

What he’s up against are scores of Israeli settlements dominating the lowlands like crusader fortresses. Many are little cities, and none of them existed 40 years ago. The Israelis always take the high ground, sometimes the hills, and sometimes the homes. And sometimes Arabs are occupied inside their own homes.

One house for example is the highest house on the highest hill overlooking the town of Nablus. 60 Minutes learned that Israeli soldiers often corral the four families who live there and take over the house to monitor movement down below.

Simon and the 60 Minutes team went to an apartment owned by a Mr. Nassif. That morning, Israeli soldiers had apparently entered the apartment, without notice, and remained there when Simon knocked on the door.

“We cannot speak with you, there are soldiers,” Nassif told Simon. “We are in prison here.”

Asked what was happening, Nassif says, “They are keeping us here and the soldiers are upstairs, we cannot move. We cannot speak with you.”

Nassif said he couldn’t leave the house and didn’t know how long he’d have to stay in place. Asked if they were paying him any money, he told Simon, “You are kidding?”

Abdul Nassif, a bank manager said he had to get to his bank to open the safe, but one of the soldiers wouldn’t let him go. He told 60 Minutes whenever the soldiers come they wake everybody up, and herd them into a kitchen for hours while soldiers sleep in their beds. They can’t leave or use the phone, or let 60 Minutes in.

Continued

1  |   2 |   3 |   4 >

Eyewitness in Gaza: Yesterday and Tomorrow

 

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15:21 01/24/2009
Eyewitness in Gaza: Yesterday and Tomorrow
‘Whatever they do to us, we are still here and we will still be here.’ (UNRWA/AFP)
By Ewa Jasiewicz – Gaza

We’re like trees, we have our roots and they allow us to grow, little by little, we grow up and then they cut us down. But, whatever they throw at us, whatever they do to us, we are still here and we will still be here – Om Bassim, Jabaliya Camp, January 2009.

‘Our Home’

At the beginning of this war, when the bombs first started falling intensively, I remember lying on a mattress, late at night, I don’t remember where, maybe in Beit Hanoun hospital, maybe in Beit Lahiya. As I slipped into sleep, I could hear explosions, thuds, one after the other, some near, some distant, some to our east, to our west, again and again. In my semi-consciousness I felt they were all going off in my house, in my home, that the bombs were exploding in different rooms, upstairs, downstairs, next door, under me, over me. I didn’t feel fear, I felt a closeness, a holding together. Maybe it was a consequence of Gaza being an incarcerated space, a walled camp, so small and close-knit, a prison, but also, a house, a home, with families in every part, every corner, every room, a community of relatives from north to south, every explosion and massacre felt acutely, felt intimately as if it had happened to ones own family, in the home, this home.

The war was felt and heard in every home, it invaded some homes, soldiers occupied and destroyed peoples homes, tank shells, burning white phosphorous and bulldozers smashed homes, some people were buried under their homes, some are still entombed in their homes. Where is this home now? 50,000 people are homless according to the UN. Living in tents, classrooms, crowded rooms in the homes of relatives, under tarpaulin stretched over roofless rooms on family land, still standing. If the bombing resumes, and the attacks resume, this will still be a home to the people of Gaza, each bomb, and each hit, acutely felt, shuddered and shouldered by each community and family. My friend Om Bassem, mother of nine, living in Jabaliya explained calmly yesterday, ‘They besiege us and take away our electricity, ok, we carry it, they take away our gas, our flour, our food, ok, take it, we can take it, they take away our drinking water, take it. And our children, a mother grows her son until adulthood, focusing on nothing but bringing up her children, and then he is taken away, and we take it. We spend our whole lives working, saving, building, our homes for us and our children and our children’s children, and then they destroy it, bomb it to the ground, and we take it. We’re like trees, we have our roots and they allow us to grow, little by little, we grow up and then they cut us down. But, whatever they throw at us, whatever they do to us, we are still here and we will still be here, we can take anything they do to us. God is big, God is bigger. And thanks be to God for all of this. We are steadfast’. And she smiles.

To the Dead Zone

We got the call early Sunday morning. We finally had ‘co-ordination’ to get into the closed military zones that Israeli forces had been occupying for the past three weeks. These were the ‘closed military zones’ in which ambulance staff, the Red Cross and UN had been fired upon and rescuers killed trying to enter.

These ‘closed areas’, these blind spots and dead zones, are Towam, Zaiytoun, Atatra, Ezbit Abed Rubbu, Toffah. These are communities, neighbourhoods, with schools and shops and homes that people would sit out in front of, on plastic chairs drinking tea, fingering prayer beads, staring at the sparkling blue sea, communities with farmland, orange orchards and strawberry fields. All locked down. The medics from the Red Crescent would come back by turns stunned and weary eyed. An old man with a gunshot wound to his head clasping a white flag from Atatra, bodies trameled by tanks – unidentifiable – and the girl, the famous, red, half eaten girl, Shahed Abu Halim, aged one and a half according to paramedics, left to die and half eaten by dogs, her body a beacon of horror for everyone who saw her being brought in to Kamal Odwan hospital in Jabaliya.

So many times, our ambulances skimmed the edges of these dead zones, where families were imprisoned, snipers holding them effectively hostage, the dead lying in the street unclaimed, witnessed daily by neighbours and loved ones. On occasion we managed to grab bodies on the periphery, mangled by missiles shot from surveillance drones. With the Ministry of Health ambulances, we rode to Karama – Dignity – where two men were reportedly found dead by rescue workers having bled to an undignified death from treatable injuries. Unreachable.

These were the areas that civilians had been shot dead trying to exit, some gunned down whilst holding white flags such as Ibtisam Ahmad Kanoon, 40, from Atatrah, who lay dying from 11.30am until 2pm the next day until relatives could carry her out. Her husband, son and mother all walking with her – her son Mohammad Bassam Mohammad al Kanoora, 23, injured by shrapnel to the head and Zahiye Mohammad Ahmad al Kanoora, 60, injured in the back.

Like the family of Musbah Ayoub, 64, from Izbet Abed Rubbu, who bled to death from shrapnel injuries to his legs, as relatives frantically called the Red Crescent and Red Cross for three days.

Like Wael Yusef Abu Jerahd, 21, from Zeitoun who was hit by tank shell shrapnel as he went to get a drink of water in his home. He lay dying for four hours, his family calling for help and appealing to Israeli occupation soldiers to enable his evacuation. Instead Israeli forces killed two paramedics traveling in a Libyan Red Crescent jeep attempting to get to him, and occupied the family’s home, imprisoning the family, 12 people, in a small kitchen along with their dead son, for three days. When the family were finally allowed to leave, they had two members to carry for over a kilometer over broken ground and trashed industrial sites; their son Wael, and his 64-year old mother, who couldn’t walk because of her diabetic condition and fresh nervous break-down over the killing of her son and her days and nights by his dead side, as Israeli occupation soldiers shot from her house.

The stories of those who bled to death because Israeli forces would not allow ambulance access to collect them, and the families who had to witness their demise and live with their bodies, run the length and breadth of the Gaza Strip. When ambulances could finally enter some areas, they were stoned by desperate and abandoned relatives. It is a war crime, under the Geneva Conventions, to prevent the passage of or target emergency staff who are trying to collect the injured.

The Walking Living

We made out at the break of dawn, red lights rotating into action, speeding towards Towam, close to Atatrah. Drizzle mixed with a haze of white phosphoric smoke, like a thin grey gauze over our eyes. Above us, surprisingly, and awesomely, soared a rainbow, high, wide and perfect, arching over the grey broken streets of Jabaliya and the freshly bombed Taha mosque with its’ insides spilled over the road, the knocked down houses like knocked out teeth, downed power lines, blown out and blackened apartment blocks, grey all around us, but if we looked up, a beautiful technicolour arch.

The first body was that of a young man, face down and crumpled outside the doors of the Noor Al Hooda mosque, his navy jumper singed from shrapnel injuries.

Behind us was a wasteland. Where houses had been, just days earlier, there were jagged edges of crushed walls, mangled with clothes, glass, books, furniture; houses turned into a lumpy sea of lost belongings, bombed and bulldozed into the ground. Amidst all this, was the crumpled body of Miriam Abdul Rahman Shaker Abu Daher, aged 87. It was her arm that we saw first, sticking out of a dusty blanket, trapped under rubble. We managed to hoist her onto a stretcher, paramedics took her away and I was left standing next to a man. ‘That was my mother’ he said to me. He explained what happened: ‘We left three days ago (15th January) with our children and we came back for her, but we couldn’t get to her, we called the Red Cross, they couldn’t help. They bulldozed everything here, maybe more than 20 houses. We thought we could return, we didn’t think they would do all this We couldn’t come back for three days so we don’t know how she died, maybe she died of the cold? After a few hours we had come back and planes were shooting at us, we were just meters away from our house, but the shooting was too much. We thought if the soldiers came they wouldn’t harm her because she’s so old, we thought maybe they would give her food or look after her. We didn’t expect them to bulldoze the whole area’, explained Awad Abdullah Mustapha Abu Daher, 45 years old. We took four dead into our ambulance. The Red Crescent would take another 32 before the day was over.

A column of people was walking slowly, some with donkey carts, some rumbling over the clod ground on motorbikes. All making their way home, for the first time, to Atatrah. Atatrah, with its new blasted out school, holes big enough to drive through, a crippled mosque, and burnt houses smoked above us, sloped up on a hill, with rolling strawberry fields and palm trees and the beach behind it, such a beautiful place to live, lush and alive and green. Now, according to locals, its almost unidentifiable, residents  are disorientated by the missing houses, confused between the lost streets and new ‘streets’ – tracts bulldozed between houses, gaping holes in half buildings and land churned into sand. I followed the column. Walking behind it was reminiscent of so many funeral processions that have trod the streets of Gaza and Palestine as a whole. A slow column, a long walk, an intergenerational walk, a thousand backs in front of us, for the dead, for the living, for the jailed, a return after eviction, a return after each invasion, The Walk, after being released from every imprisonment in every temporary prison by Israeli soldiers, the Beit Lahiya High School, a neighbour’s home, The Walk back all the time and through time, to overcome grief, dispossession, humiliation, a collective walk. I wanted to accompany that walk.

Climbing up the main road, pulverized and impassable by car, a group of 10 men come walking towards us carrying their heavy dead wrapped in blankets, struggling to find their footing on their descent. We spend the rest of the day searching for the dead, along with everybody else, another collective walk, a collective search, ‘Where are the martyrs? Are there martyrs here?’ and to everyone, the Arabic Islamic expressions of condolences and goodwill, ‘Thanks be to God for your peace’, ‘God will give’, ‘God protect you’. We are following the scent of rotting corpses, the scent sometimes of already decayed flesh, or decaying animals – a donkey, a goat, dogs, a horse. One man we bring from Toam, Moayan Abu Hussain, 37, is brought to us by donkey cart, his badly decomposed and bloated body wrapped in two blankets. He fills the white zip up heavy plastic body bag.

The following day, again, in the morning, bodies are being brought out of the ground, from crushed homes, and from tunnels. At the top of Ezbet Abed-Rubbu, early in the morning, we ride to retrieve three bodies, three men, fighters, from the Sobuh family. Locals say they were trapped in their tunnel when collaborators told the Israeli army they were there and the tunnel was collapsed from both ends, starving them of oxygen and entombing them in a slow death. What does resistance mean when sea, air and land are controlled by the occupier? Going underground is literal. The walk now is becoming a crawl. F16s soar low above our heads, and continue to in the intervening days, a reminder of who dominates here. As local men dig up their dead, the stench overwhelming, spitting out death as they work, digging, the men finally surface, to be wrapped immediately in blankets, in front of an audience, the perpetual witnesses here to every crime, every death, every aftermath.

The crowd of perhaps one hundred, strives to pack into the ambulance along with their loved ones, crying, keening, clamoring at the white plastic bags. A boy of maybe 8, with a face etched older with trauma, shouts in a voice of a man, ‘Hasby Allah wa Naeme al Wakee!” – ‘God will judge them!’ But who will judge the Israeli occupation forces and their leaders, political and military, who have perpetrated war crime after war crime here in Gaza? It has to be us. We need to take up our consciences and humanity and translate judgment into action.

Yesterday was a fast-forward blur of destruction, mass pain, broken bodies, lifeless beings, terror on the streets, in homes, in mosques, in ambulances, in hospitals. Yesterday, people were being physically dismembered and today remain so, many still recovering on intensive care units in France, Egypt, Israel. The same states that stayed silent and complicit in this massacre, now take the broken into their bellies and return them patched up, back into a killing zone, a prison where the guards can shoot back in, plough back in and break them all over again at any given moment.

Torture and Relief

Under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, people were tortured underneath hospitals, burnt, fractured, torn up, and then taken upstairs to be repaired, in the full knowledge, that one they were whole again, skin growing back together again, the same awaited them, they would be taken back down, to be tortured again, the healing a mocking, a thwarted, negated process in itself because of the looming knowledge that it was only to be followed by a repetition of the breaking. This type of collective torture is being practiced here and the complicit are those who allow it to happen, and that do not create the conditions to stop this cycle of devastation. People keep being recycled through this trauma, generation after generation, through fresh weapons, new chemicals, new prisons and new ways of the international community maintaining silence, complicity and support for Israeli occupation.

Families are familiar now with the trawling delegations and caseworkers, notebooks in hand, I include myself in this walk, the walk of the hundreds of journalists, human rights workers, Red Crescent, Red Cross, United Nations workers, asking the same questions, noting the same details, preparing families for temporary shelters, giving out plastic sheeting for broken windows and replacement doors, blankets, emergency food packages, tents, cooking stoves, everyone expects them and expects us; the same donor agencies and charities, rolling up their sleaves to issue fresh appeals and re-build the same community centers, police stations, hospitals, that were rebuilt after the last annihilation; a rewound and fast-forwarded cycle of destruction and reconstruction, yesterday and tomorrow being blurred together into a circle of a collectively expected return to ruins and a slow rebuilding, again and again. It is no wonder that ‘human rights’ workers and the notes and testimonies frantically taken down with shock and condolence, time after time, year after year are met with replies of ‘Its all empty, write it down but what will it change? It’s all empty’. There is no post-traumatic stress disorder here because there is no real ‘post’ to the traumatic stress. Traumatic events keep on happening again and again, relief un-processed, grief unprocessed, as people watch and wait and brace themselves for the next attack.

Pieces

People are left with snippets, fragments, of their loved ones, literally and in memory. Nuggets of film shot on mobile phones pass through multiple hands, of the last of their loved ones, wrapped in white sheets, with hands and tears pouring over them, screaming and screaming, to be shown and shared with fresh tears in real time, again. Like the five from the Abu Sultan, Abbas and Soosa families, demolished by a tank shell shot into their home as they were drinking morning tea on their doorstep in Shaimaa, Beit Lahiya. Paramedics could not reach them for half an hour as they lay bleeding in pieces outside their home. Asma Abu Sultan, 22, watched her father, brother and uncle bleed to death, ‘It was 10.30am and we were drinking tea together in our home when we heard this gigantic bang, I saw my uncle at the door, injured, we went inside, I saw they had no chests, no hand, one was still breathing, I said ‘get up my brother’ I was telling him please, get up, please don’t die, he started to bear witness to God, then he said your father has died. He was draining of life, the blood draining from his face, but he was still alive, and then we couldn’t get an ambulance because they kept getting bombed, we kept asking everyone to help us, after half an hour he died from shrapnel wounds to the heart’.

Pieces. One afternoon, in the yesterdays of this war, we were called out to respond to a car bombing in Gaza City. We arrived on the scene, in bright light, to Palestine square, close to the Ahly al Arabi Hospital. Two injured had already been taken away. The car was a mangled sliced heap. Somehow there was no burning. We picked up a large, headless, man, still bleeding. Nobody wanted to touch him, they were terrified of him. Before we left the scene, someone put a small plastic ID card in my hand, Arabic script and his head, his face, bearded, in his late 30s, taken alive, he looked strong. I couldn’t let go of it, as the ambulance bounced along the broken streets, he behind us, handless, legs torn open, on a rickety stretcher, I held it in both hands, and couldn’t let go of it, keeping it in my hand wrapped round one end of the stretcher, pressed together, trying to keep it together somehow, close to his body.

A few nights ago, I sat by candlelight with my friend and his 9-year-old son Abed, in Beit Lahiya. I had bought him stickers depicting the human body, the brain, illustrated piece by piece, the human intestinal system, muscular network, the insides of the human eye, the heart, its valves and arteries. Abed fingered them, spread out over the kitchen table in the candlelight, these pieces, pieces Id seen outside bodies, spilled onto the streets of Gaza. Here they were in his hands, on the table in front of us, in one dimensional colour. He began to sing, ‘We’re steadfast, steadfast we remain, during this siege, and we remain steadfast’. He sang the words over and over again, fingering the stickers flickering in the candlelight until he sang himself into drowsiness. ‘Get up and go to sleep’, his father said and we kissed him and he left.

Everyone is trying to pick up the pieces of their invaded lives here, yesterday’s attacks and the severing of families from one another, will take years to reconnect, and rebuild, bring together again.

Yesterday can happen again. People expect a tomorrow when Israel will escalate its attacks and go further, casting more lead. Some believe this was a rehearsal for a deeper war, a litmus test that Israel won, because in 21 days of attacks, the international community kept shining a green light for Israel to continue to bomb and kill without restraint. The endgame being a pacified, acquiescent Gaza, with a weak Palestinian Authority, under the control of Israel or, if unrealized, an evicted Gaza, realized through provocations from Israel, extra judicial killings and surprise incursions, eventually responded to with rocket fire from the resistance and then a massive attack and push southward of the population into the Sinai and an Egyptian protectorate, new camps, and a new redrawing of a map already redrawn so many times through exile and empire.

Yesterday can happen again, a tomorrow that people here have been struggling for over sixty years, still dim, still distant, still carried but harder to imagine in the midst of the grief endured under siege here. The difference we can make is to seize today. The difference between yesterday and the horror, and dispossession and shock all here are still reeling from, and the tomorrow that could bring more of the same, reproducing, re-cycling, the same terrorization and cutting down of people as they pray, walk, sit, stand, heal, fight, the difference between yesterday and tomorrow is our today.

Today

I told many people, friends, taxi drivers, doctors, policemen, about the peoples’ strike on EDO-MBM Technologies in Brighton, UK this month. EDO manufactures the bomb release mechanism for F16s. Activists filmed themselves explaining to camera that they were decommissioning the facility in protest at the company’s complicity in the war on the Palestinian people, and specifically the killing of the people of Gaza. Over a quarter of a million pounds worth of damage was caused as activists threw computers out of windows and smashed equipment. They had taken their resistance out of the powerful but symbolic realm of the streets and into the offices of those responsible for arming Israel, physically imobilising their business. Three remain on remand in prison.

When I recounted this action to people, I saw an expression come over their faces that I hadn’t encountered before when talking about international solidarity. It was a kind of respect, a dawning smile, a sense of surprised pride, a tiny move towards a leveling between the blood sacrifices and living hell of so many here, and sacrifices made by people on comparative comfort zones on the other side of the world – for them. What would the parents of the children blown up by F16s here do if they could? What would we do if our children were being cut down by war planes and we knew where these weapons were being manufactured and we could confront these arms dealers and stop them arming those responsible for killing our children? Would we not stop them, would we not make the move from the streets to the factories, offices and facilities where these deaths, tomorrow’s deaths are in the making, and disarm them, save lives at the physical root of the production of the means of killing? Save lives there so that exhausted and besieged doctors here do not have to try to, under appalling conditions and against all odds; enforce international law outside ourselves, because noone else will do it for us. People here are expecting solidarity activism to go further, and needing it to go much much further.

A friend here, a well-respected intellectual and activist, run ragged through the war participating in interview after interview, writing piece after piece, pieces of resistance writing, expressed his sense of failure last night, that he didn’t do enough. That the resistance was dying for all of us, sacrificing for all of us, paying the ultimate price, and what was he doing? Sitting in his comfort zone, his writing a relief, for himself, to himself, making him feel better and stronger but where were his words going? What was the relationship between the words he was writing and speaking and stopping the death, stopping the invading occupation forces? Look at the completeness of Che Guevara, a doctor, a writer, a fighter, a complete man, and what was he, a writer, an academic, activist, but unable to pick up a gun or a body? Crucially, what was ‘enough’ and when have we done ‘enough’?

Our Lines and ‘Enough’

‘Enough’ is relative, and ‘enough’ is subjective and incredibly personal, but, a tentative attempt to unpick the crushing pressure of guilt – guilt on all our backs, all over the world, of an impotence and a sense of failure to influence, and a struggle build the means and the movements, to influence change – I think a tentative definition of enough could be, to transgress, to cross our own lines of possibility.

Our own lines of what we believe we can and cannot do have been authored by others and adopted by ourselves. Lines drawn by authorities, re-inscribed with violence and drawn thick with the threat of detention, imprisonment, the denial of everything that makes life worth living; contact with loved ones, freedom of movement, a natural stimulation of our senses through interaction with our natural environment, our sense of identity, all radically curtailed and undermined through incarceration. And death, the final line, the full stop imposed by absolute power onto the living bodies of those daring to resist, armed or unarmed, lives slammed shut by surveillance plane missiles zapped them into the ground. F16s exploding houses full of people. Ended. All ended. A line drawn under their lives. But where are our lines? ‘Enough’ will be an ever extending horizon, the edge always ahead of us, but we will never get close to where we need to be as a critical mass to effect change unless we cross our own lines of fear.

‘Enough’ is when you know you can do more, and you know you can take a step forward into a space of activism that you have never entered before and you do it. ‘Enough’ is when you know, you have pushed yourself, when you took risks and made sacrifices that you knew would be painful, knew could weigh heavy, could change your life forever, but you did it. When you knew the potential consequences of your actions but you confronted your fears and took the step forward, stepping over your own line. From stepping out into the streets for the first time to demonstrate, to picking up a chair and barricading yourself into your university, to telling the world you’re going to decommission an arms factory or war plane or settlement produce facility and doing it, we need to cross our own lines of fear, hesitation, and apprehension. We can push our movements forward, person by person, group by group, party by party, network by network, by crossing our lines and making sacrifices, small compared to the intensive blood letting, loss and devastation here.

Direct action, strike action, popular occupations, tactics used by Palestinians in the first intifada, and smashed by Israeli counter-tactics of siege, intensified occupation and massive military onslaught, all legitimized by our international governments. The counter-onslaught shows no signs of abatement.

We need to redraw our own battle lines and go further, to do the ‘enough’ we want to do and be the ‘enough’ we want to be. Our consciences and history demands this. It’s not enough and it will be too late for a new history, authored by others, to judge us, we have to make our own. It is not God that will judge us, it will be our brothers and sisters here in Palestine and in our international community, the widows, the orphans, the childless parents, the living left behind after the dead.

We can’t afford yesterday to repeat itself. We cannot wait until tomorrow happens to us. Between yesterday and tomorrow is today and we need to build our intifada today. Our intifada of solidarity needs to grow beyond demonstrations, and to put Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) politics into practice through direct action. The BDS campaign was initiated and called for by over 135 Palestinian grassroots organizations in 2005, a call that needs to be amplified and spread internationally, targeting the corporations and institutions enabling Israel to keep violating international law and destroying peoples lives. Through direct action, popular disarmament of Israel, and a real grassroots democracy movement, we can collectively come into our ‘enough’. We can affect that which hasn’t happened yet, we can change what happens tomorrow. This is our intifada, this is our today.

– Ewa Jasiewicz is an experienced journalist, community and union organizer, and solidarity worker. She is currently Gaza Project Co-coordinator for the Free Gaza Movement (www.FreeGaza.org).

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Israeli Rights Groups Detail Allegations of Army Abuse in Gaza

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HADITH OF THE DAY: GOD BRINGS GRIEVING PARENTS TO PARADISE – TOP

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “No pair of Muslims will lose three (of their children) by death without God bringing them into Paradise by His great mercy.” He was asked if that applied if they lost two children, and he said it did. He was also asked if it applied if they lost one child, and he said it did. Then the Prophet said: “By Him in Whose hand my soul (resides), (even) the (aborted fetus) draws his mother to Paradise by his umbilical cord when she seeks her reward for him from God.”

Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 552

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AUDIO: ISRAELI SOLDIERS SHOT PALESTINIAN CIVILIANS IN COLD BLOOD – TOP
Quil Lawrence, The World, PRI, 1/21/09

Two weeks ago Khaled Abed Drabo was trapped inside his house several days into the Israeli ground offensive. Artillery shells hammered his neighborhood east of the Jabaliya refugee camp. Three tanks parked outside his front door, and loudspeakers announced that civilians should leave the area.

Khaled says that’s when his wife, mother and three daughters stepped outside the front door waving white flags. They stood on the front steps for five minutes waiting for instructions from the Israeli soldiers only 10 yards away. But instead, Khaled says, a soldier appeared on one of the tank turrets, raised his rifle and began shooting. All three of the girls fell.

Khaled’s mother was shot in the upper left arm and abdomen. Recovering at her brother’s house, she tells the same story. “The soldier shot us slowly aiming at each one.” The women fled back into the house dragging the bleeding little girls. Suad, 7 years old, died immediately from bullets to her chest. 2-year-old Amal survied a few moments longer. “She was asking her mother for candy and chips. Then her mother asked her: ‘Do you love me?’ She said: ‘Yes.’ Then she died.” (MORE)

SEE ALSO:

ISRAEL ACCUSED OF EXECUTING PARENTS IN FRONT OF CHILDREN IN GAZA – TOP
Israel has refuted allegations of war atrocities in Gaza after Palestinian children described how their parents had been “executed” by Israeli troops.
Murray Wardrop, Telegraph, 1/21/09

One nine-year-old boy said his father had been shot dead in front of him despite surrendering to Israeli soldiers with his hands in the air.

Another youngster described witnessing the deaths of his mother, three brothers and uncle after the house they were in was shelled.

He said his mother and one of his siblings had been killed instantly, while the others bled to death over a period of days.

A psychiatrist treating children in the village of Zeitoun on the outskirts of Gaza City, where the alleged incidents took place, described the deaths as a “massacre”.

Rawya Borno, a Jordanian doctor, said civilians, including children, were rounded up and killed by Israeli troops. . .

A boy named Ahmed said he was trapped for days in the wreckage of the shelled Samouni family’s house.

He said: “My mother was dead beside me, she was clutching my brother Nasser and they were dead. My brother Itzaq was bleeding for two days and then he died. My brother Izmael bled to death in one day. My uncle Talal was bleeding for two hours and he died. God bless them.”

Dr Borno said: “It’s a massacre. They collected them from their houses. They knew that they were civilians. They were children.” (MORE)

PART II: PALESTINIAN US COLLEGE GRAD LOSES 2 BROTHERS IN ISRAELI SHOOTING; FATHER WATCHED SON BLEED TO DEATH AFTER ISRAELI TROOPS BLOCKED AMBULANCES – TOP
Democracy Now, 1/22/09

We return to the heart-wrenching tale of Amer Shurrab, who lost two of his brothers on the same day in an Israeli attack in Gaza. Amer is a Palestinian from Khan Yunis living in the United States. He recently graduated from Middlebury College. On Friday, his father and two brothers were fleeing their village when their vehicle came under Israeli fire. Twenty-eight-year-old Kassab died in a hail of bullets trying to flee the vehicle. Eighteen-year-old Ibrahim survived the initial attack, but Israeli troops refused to allow an ambulance to reach them until twenty hours later.

ISRAELI RIGHTS GROUPS DETAIL ALLEGATIONS OF ARMY ABUSE IN GAZA – TOP
Attacks on Medical Workers, Hospitals Charged; IDF Cites Acts To Shield Civilians, Blames Hamas
Nathan Jeffay, Forward, 1/15/09

On January 14, Israeli human rights groups issued a detailed report alleging serious human rights violations by Israel’s military in its three-week campaign in Gaza against Hamas. But Israel rejected the allegations and continued to notch up its effort to lay the blame on Hamas for the harm suffered by civilians during its military effort.

The coalition of nine human rights organizations, which included Physicians for Human Rights, the Israeli section of Amnesty International and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, charged that Israel’s conduct “constitutes a blatant violation of the laws of warfare and raises the suspicion, which we ask be investigated, of the commission of war crimes.” (MORE)

FINAL TOLL OF GAZA WAR: 1,330 DEAD, 5,450 WOUNDED – TOP
Agence France Presse, 1/22/09

Israel’s war on Gaza killed 1,330 people, at least half of them civilians, and wounded 5,450 others, Palestinian medics said on Thursday in a final toll of the offensive.

Among the dead were 437 children under 16, 110 women, 123 elderly men, 14 medics and four journalists, according to Muawiya Hassanein, the head of Gaza medical services. (MORE)

GIDEON LEVY: GAZA WAR ENDED IN UTTER FAILURE FOR ISRAEL – TOP
Gideon Levy, Haaretz, 1/22/09

On the morrow of the return of the last Israeli soldier from Gaza, we can determine with certainty that they had all gone out there in vain. This war ended in utter failure for Israel.

This goes beyond the profound moral failure, which is a grave matter in itself, but pertains to its inability to reach its stated goals. In other words, the grief is not complemented by failure. We have gained nothing in this war save hundreds of graves, some of them very small, thousands of maimed people, much destruction and the besmirching of Israel’s image.

What seemed like a predestined loss to only a handful of people at the onset of the war will gradually emerge as such to many others, once the victorious trumpeting subsides. (MORE)

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WAR CRIMES CONVICTIONS AFTER GAZA? – TOP
Anita Rice, Al Jazeera English, 1/22/09

As the UN and human rights groups demand independent investigations into the conduct of Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip, the world’s attention is focusing on whether Israeli or Hamas officials could face prosecution for war crimes.

Al Jazeera spoke to experts in international law to find out how and if officials could be tried for breaching international armed conflict laws during Israel’s war on Gaza.

There is a world of difference between establishing that war crimes have been committed, and then holding those responsible to account, says Mark S Ellis, the executive director of the International Bar Association (IBA).

“Often, people view these as the same, but they are not under international law. There is a gap … regarding the issue of accountability,” Ellis said.

Even if independent inquiries do establish that gross violations of the laws of armed conflict have taken place during the war in Gaza, the mechanisms to ensure those responsible on either side are brought to justice “simply don’t exist”, he said.

Four options

There are four main options open to states, groups or individuals seeking to launch legal proceedings against suspects should investigators find war crimes have been committed during the 22-day assault on the Strip, Ellis says. (MORE)

GAZA DEVASTATION – TOP
CNN, 1/22/09

CNN’s Ben Wedeman reports on the devastation left in Gaza after three weeks of bombing.

Click here to watch the video.

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CAIR: LOCAL MUSLIMS OPTIMISTIC ABOUT OBAMA IMPROVING CULTURAL RELATIONS – TOP
Ross Farrow, Lodi News-Sentinel, 1/22/09

Members of the local Muslim community said they are delighted with Tuesday’s inauguration of President Barack Obama and his pledge to reach out to other cultures.

“This is a victory of humanity,” said Ahmed Hashimi, imam of the Lodi Muslim Mosque. “I think Obama has a very radiant personality. He can be a bridge between East and West.”

Mosque President Mohammed Shoaib said that Obama’s speech inspired everybody. He said Obama’s diplomatic approach will be better than the government’s style in the past eight years. . .

The Council on American-Islamic Relations’ New York chapter and other Muslim organizations sent a letter to Obama on Wednesday, asking him to adopt an even-handed policy to ensure sustainable peace in the Middle East.

“As American citizens, we are deeply concerned that our nation’s one-sided approach to the Middle East crisis compromises America’s ability to act as a fair negotiator,” read the letter. (MORE)

SEE ALSO:

FREED GITMO PRISONER SUES U.S. FOR UNLAWFUL DETENTION – TOP
Ed Henry and Barbara Starr, CNN, 1/22/09

Saad Muhammad Iqbal is a free man after serving more than six years at the U.S. military’s detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba — without any charge.

Now, Iqbal is suing the U.S. government for unlawful detention.

“I am angry in my heart,” Iqbal said in a recent interview. “It’s easy for the U.S. government to say, ‘There are no charges found and he’s free.’

“But who will be responsible for seven years of my life?”

His attorney in Washington, D.C., is suing the U.S. government, on behalf of Iqbal, through the federal court system.

It is not the first lawsuit brought against the U.S. government by a former Guantanamo detainee. But it comes as President Barack Obama takes office, promising to shut down the detention facility, possibly within a year.

That could lead to an increase in the number of lawsuits brought by former detainees who — like Iqbal — say they were held for no reason. (MORE)

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CT: SENSITIVITY TRAINING AT BRADLEY FOCUSES ON MUSLIMS, SIKHS – TOP
Shawn R. Beals, Hartford Courant, 1/22/09

Seeking to bridge barriers and avoid unnecessary alarm, federal security officials at Bradley International Airport hosted sensitivity training focused on Muslim and Sikh cultures Wednesday.

“By informing our officers of some of the cultural aspects of diversity, we can avoid being distracted unnecessarily by some of those differences,” said Peter Boynton, Bradley’s federal security director.

“The training helps us understand the differences so we can focus on what we’re really looking for, which is an indication of a risk. We’re not looking for turbans.”

The group of speakers, working under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Justice, held two sessions for security and law enforcement personnel and others to educate them on cultural practices they may encounter at the airport.

The federal Transportation Security Administration, state police and airlines were represented at the training session in the Sheraton Hotel at Bradley.

The importance of the training was underscored by an incident in a Washington, D.C., airport Jan. 1. Nine Muslims were taken off an airplane after passengers overheard a conversation that was misconstrued as a threat. The airline subsequently apologized.

TSA was not involved in that incident, but Boynton said the airline’s action reinforces the fact that risk assessment cannot be based on cultural differences.

Noting the worldwide population of approximately 1 billion Muslims, presenter Elizabeth Dann instructed the group Wednesday about Muslim customs and clothing. Dann, herself a Muslim, said she speaks to groups in the security and education fields to raise awareness of Muslim culture, trying to eliminate stereotypes and cultural conflicts.

She also said she tries to make TSA officers aware that Muslims going through security checkpoints are just as worried as other travelers about passing through quickly to catch their flights.

“We’re probably more scared of you than you are of us,” Dann told the officers. (MORE)

SEE ALSO:

CANADIANS DETAINED AT BORDER FOR 7 HOURS – TOP
Debra Black, Toronto Star, 1/21/09

A group of young black Canadians on their way to see Barack Obama sworn into office say they were detained for seven hours at the U.S. border on Monday because of religious and racial stereotyping as their passports were checked and rechecked.

They eventually made it to Washington yesterday to see the inauguration of the 44th president.

Tyrone Edwards, organizer of the three-bus trip to Washington for black youth involved in the Toronto-based Remix Project, a cultural non-profit group, said 168 people from local non-profit groups made the 800-kilometre trek.

The buses left Toronto on Monday morning but were stopped at the Peace Bridge just outside Buffalo at around 1 p.m.

Speaking to the Star by phone, Edwards, the 27-year-old head of Remix, said the first bus cleared customs, as did the second bus, where he was seated. But the third bus was boarded by U.S. customs officers who asked about 14 young girls, all wearing hijabs, for their passports. Because Edwards was the organizer of the trip, he kept the second bus waiting until the third cleared customs. Initially he thought it would just be a short delay. (MORE)

How to TackleTerrorism

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan (tr. Yoginder Sikand)


How to TackleTerrorism

By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan (tr. Yoginder Sikand)

Terrorism is an international menace. Everyone condemns it but the question is: How to cope with terrorism?

I would like to give the answer to this question in brief.

First of all, we have to define what is terrorism. In Islam, only one kind of war is permissible, that is defensive war. This holds true only when the war becomes a necessity. In Islam, war is justified only by the law of necessity and not under normal laws.When there is an armed aggression from outside, the state is allowed to go to war in its defense – that too with some conditions. As far as non-government agencies are concerned, they are not allowed to go to war. No excuse whatsoever is permissible in this regard.

It does not mean that non-governmental individuals or organizations have no contribution to make. They have a lot of work to do in the fields other than the political field. But they will strictly have to adhere to peaceful means. For example, they can educate people, in both formal and informal aspects. They can inculcate the spirit of harmonious living among people. They can inculcate the spirit of constructive work etc.

The Genesis of Violence

Violence begins from the mind. So is the case of terrorism. Terrorism begins from the mind. Terrorism is nothing but the culmination of negative thinking. Hence, any effort to remove terrorism must begin from the minds of people. We have to re-engineer people’s minds on positive lines. We have to make them understand that peaceful action is far more effective than violent action.

Turning Negativity into Positivity

Our society is based on the principle of free competition – it is this competitive state of affairs that creates what are called problems. There are clashes of interest between different segments of society. But this situation is not an unwanted situation. This situation is good for society provided people learn the art of management of differences, rather than the art of eliminating differences. Failure of people management of differences leads to violence and war. Instead of this, when people are able to successfully manage differences; it results in peace in the society.

It is this formula that is given in the Quran in these words:  ‘Peace is the best’. (4:128)

It means that in the face of differences, the conciliatory approach is better than the confrontational approach. Muslim Sufis have adopted this formula, which they call: Sulh-e-kul. It means ‘Peace with all’. This is the only successful formula for establishing a better society.

No Extremism

There is a verse in the Quran: ‘Don’t be extremist in your religion’. (4: 171) The Prophet of Islam has said: ‘Refrain yourself from extremism, it is highly disastrous for you’.  Extremism leads to negative thinking, negative thinking leads to violence and violence leads to armed confrontation.

So-Called ‘Islamization’ of Terrorism

Some Muslim extremists justify their violent actions by saying that ‘Yes, we are involved in terrorism but we terrorize unjust people, just like the police. The police terrorizes criminals and we terrorize those people who are enemies of truth’.
These kinds of statements are nothing but so-called ‘Islamization’ of terrorism by uttering some seemingly beautiful words. This argument is based on a fallacy, that is, a wrong comparison. The police are an authorized body of a state. What the police are doing it is doing by legal authority. But these extremists or their self-styled organizations are not an authoritative body in this sense. As a matter of principle, these elements have no right to use arms; no excuse whatsoever gives them the justification to terrorize people. They have only one option: that is to persuade people by peaceful means, without using any arms or causing anyone harm.

Terror Attacks at Mumbai

The terror attack at Mumbai on November 26, 2008 should serve as an eye-opener for us all. It is a general belief that such terror attacks by Muslim youths are directly inspired by the teachings of the Quran. But the Muslim terrorist, who was captured alive at the time of the Mumbai attacks, had a different story to tell. He told in detail how they were prepared for that task. He explained to the interrogators that they were trained in some special camps for a long period of time. During this training period, apart from being trained on the use of arms, they were given ideological lessons constantly. They never said that they were advised to study the Quran. Instead, he told the interrogators that they were shown video films. In these films, they were made to watch bloody communal riots and to hear the speeches of some extremist Hindu leaders. What were these films? These films were based on selective news items or some exceptional items. In these films, the makers tried to generalize the exception. These youths underwent a brainwashing process by these sensitive video films.

For example, they were shown the demolition of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992. This single incident greatly provoked their sentiments. But the fact is that apart from the Babri Mosque, there are numerous other mosques that are fully under Muslim control in India. According to one estimate, there are more than half a million mosques in India. Approximately the same number of Islamic, madrassas – big and small – also exist throughout the country. But these mosques and madrassas were not included in the video films that were shown to those Muslims terrorists. If these Muslim youths were also shown these functional mosques and madrasas, then certainly they would have had a different mindset. This kind of training was quite against the spirit of Islam.

The tragedy of the Babri Mosque and the communal riots shown to them was not a one-sided act. It was the result of an action and reaction process and Hindus and Muslims were both involved in this unwanted process. The blame for these bloody incidents goes to both the communities — Muslims and Non-Muslims. These video films showed only one side of the story and not the complete picture of the incident.

Unaware of Quranic Teachings

If these Muslim youths were asked to read the Quran at the time of their training, then surely they would have found this verse of the Quran which forbids killings of innocent people. This Quranic verse says that: ‘Whoever killed one single innocent human being should be looked upon as though he had killed all mankind (5:32).  If these Muslim youths were aware of these Quranic teachings, it would not have been possible for them to kill innocent men and women in terror attacks.

Then there is a very relevant tradition of the Prophet of Islam. He said:  God grants to rifq (peace) what he does not grant to unf (violence).  (Abu Dawud, Sunan, 4/255) This Prophetic teaching tells us that the better way to achieve all objectives is the peaceful method and not the violent method.  If these Muslim youths would have been aware of this Prophetic teaching, they would certainly have adopted this peaceful method instead of the violent gun-culture to achieve their objective.

The Target of these Muslim Terrorists

Recently it was disclosed in an article written by the Pakistani ambassador to the USA, Mr. Hussain Haqqani, that Muslim terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba have a dangerous political plan in mind. Their thinking is that all the areas on the globe that were once under the Muslim rule, like the Ottoman empire or the Mughal empire or the Moorish empire, are Muslims by right. According to them, Non-Muslim nations have unjustly captured these areas. They are usurpers. It is now their right to re-capture all these Muslim areas and establish Muslim rule over these lands once again.

According to them, the recent terrorism is a justified war, aimed at achieving what they regard as their rightful objectives.

This kind of ideology is very dangerous. It is a permanent threat to world peace. Simply condemnation or counter-attack is not enough to eliminate this ideology. It requires a counter-ideology. We have to convince these people that political rule is not a hereditary right of any community or nation. Moreover, now we are living in the age of democracy. Democracy means a power-sharing system. Now every group has the right to share power in a democratic way. The hereditary concept mentioned above is nothing but a kind of anachronism, which is not tenable at all. Now we are living under the United Nations Organizations. All the nations of the world are members of this International body. Only that kind of political norm is acceptable that is just according to the United Nations’ Charter and the above kind of hereditary concept is certainly quite against the UNO’s accepted principles.

What Can be Done?

Now the question is what can be done in such an alarming situation? What is the practical solution to the present state of affairs? I think that there are two parts to this solution. In every country, there are stern laws to curb violence and terrorism. Governmental agencies must enforce all these laws. They must punish all those elements who are involved in such heinous acts. But another part of the solution pertains to the re-engineering of peoples’ minds. This task must be undertaken by the agencies that are non-governmental in their operations. It is completely a peaceful task. Re-engineering of people’s minds can be achieved only through education and positive training. This includes what I call as counter-ideology. The required peaceful result can be achieved only through the combined efforts of these two agencies — Governments and social reformers and activists.
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Maulana Wahiduddin Khan is a Delhi-based Islamic scholar.  For more details, see http://www.cpsglobal.org

Ahead of Iraq Deployment, 37 Korean Troops Convert to Islam

“I became a Muslim because I felt Islam was more humanistic and peaceful than other religions. And if you can religiously connect with the locals, I think it could be a big help in carrying out our peace reconstruction mission.” So said on Friday those Korean soldiers who converted to Islam ahead of their late July deployment to the Kurdish city of Irbil in northern Iraq.At noon Friday, 37 members of the Iraq-bound “Zaitun Unit,” including Lieutenant Son Hyeon-ju of the Special Forces 11th Brigade, made their way to a mosque in Hannam-dong, Seoul and held a conversion ceremony. 

Captain Son Jin-gu from Zaitoon Unit recites an oath at ceremony to mark his conversion to Islam at a mosque in Hannam-dong, Seoul on Friday. /Yonhap

The soldiers, who cleansed their entire bodies in accordance with Islamic tradition, made their conversion during the Friday group prayers at the mosque, with the assistance of the “imam,” or prayer leader. 

With the exception of the imam, all the Muslims and the Korean soldiers stood in a straight line to symbolize how all are equal before God and took a profession on faith.

They had memorized the Arabic confession, ” Ashadu an La ilaha il Allah, Muhammad-ur-Rasool-Allah,” which means, “I testify that there is no god but God (Arabic: Allah), and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.” 

Soldiers from Zaitoon Unit pray after conversion ceremony at a mosque in Hannam-dong, Seoul on Friday./Yonhap

Moreover, as the faithful face the “Kaaba,” the Islamic holy place in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, all Muslims confirm that they are brothers. 

For those Korean soldiers who entered the Islamic faith, recent chances provided by the Zaitun Unit to come into contact with Islam proved decisive.

Taking into consideration the fact that most of the inhabitants of Irbil are Muslims, the unit sent its unreligious members to the Hannam-dong mosque so that they could come to understand Islam. Some of those who participated in the program were entranced by Islam and decided to convert.

A unit official said the soldiers were inspired by how important religious homogeneity was considered in the Muslim World; if you share religion, you are treated not as a foreigner, but as a local, and Muslims do not attack Muslim women even in war.

Zaitun Unit Corporal Paek Seong-uk (22) of the Army’s 11th Division said, “I majored in Arabic in college and upon coming across the Quran, I had much interest in Islam, and I made up my mind to become a Muslim during this religious experience period [provided by the Zaitun Unit].”

He expressed his aspirations. “If we are sent to Iraq, I want to participate in religious ceremonies with the locals so that they can feel brotherly love and convince them that the Korean troops are not an army of occupation but a force deployed to provide humanitarian support.”

(englishnews@chosun.com ) 

Israelis are living high on US expense account

By Michael Backman
The Age
January 17, 2009

THERE’S a memorable scene in the Stephen Spielberg film ‘Munich’. After the 1972 Munich Olympic Games killings of Israeli athletes, prime 
minister Golda Meir tells confidants she wants to show the plotters that killing Jews “is expensive”. She then organises for the assassination 
of each of the plotters.

Today, it is Israel itself that has become expensive. Most directly, it is very expensive to the US, which subsidises and arms it.

But Israel’s utter inability to transform the Palestinians from enemies into friends has imposed big costs on us all. We have paid for Israel’s 
failure with bombs on London public transport, bombs in bars in Bali, and even the loss of the World Trade Centre towers in New York.

It is not true that these outrages have occurred because certain Islamic fundamentalists don’t like Western lifestyles and so plant bombs in 
response. Rather, it is Israel — or more correctly the treatment of the Palestinians — that is at the nub of these events.

The world’s Muslims have no head: no overarching caliph or pope equivalent exists — no single power source with whom to negotiate. 
Instead, Islam is remarkably decentralised. So, how extraordinary that Israel and the West have managed to unite this headless, diverse, 
dispersed grouping without any institutional framework, around just one issue — anger at the treatment of the Palestinians.

Otherwise dispersed groups of Muslims do seem to feel for one another in a way that Christians and others do not.

In this respect, the international Islamic community is like a body: kick it in the leg and the rest of the body feels it. Kick it hard enough and 
the entire body will be energised to defend itself. Pictures of distraught Gazan mothers beside the mutilated bodies of their children are 
circulating right now among Muslim communities worldwide. It is pictures like these that make them want to do something.

Consider Malaysia. Every citizen of this outpost of Islam has printed in his or her passport that the passport is not valid for Israel. And given 
that Malaysians are not allowed to hold dual citizenship, this essentially means that every Malaysian citizen, including the 40% who are not 
Muslims, are banned from visiting Israel.

“When will Malaysia recognise Israel?” I once asked the then finance minister. “Once Israel treats the Palestinians better,” was his reply. 
How would he determine that? “When the Palestinians tell us,” he said. It is not Israel’s right to exist that is at issue.

The enmity many Muslims now feel for Israel has nothing to do with religion. The historical persecutors of the Jews have been Christians — 
their punishment for the death of Jesus. Jews and Muslims have lived in peace for hundreds of years in many parts of the Islamic world. 
When Catholic Spain and Portugal expelled its Jews, the Ottoman sultan in Istanbul invited them in. It is the Palestinian issue that has 
ruined all this.

Of course, today Israel must defend itself. If the residents of Bendigo started firing rockets into Melbourne you would expect Melbourne to 
retaliate. But what must Melbourne have done to Bendigo to make them do such a thing? Constantly slapping an opponent in the face, 
kicking it down to its knees, and watching it struggle in the dirt will not teach the opponent to love or respect you. It teaches only hatred.

Persecuting people does not weaken them. Israel should know that. The Jews have been persecuted for centuries. It didn’t destroy them 
but gave them the impetus to survive.

One characteristic that is common among persecuted groups is a strong investment in education — when people’s physical wealth is in 
danger of destruction from war and persecution one store of wealth that stays with individuals even when they must flee as refugees is 
education. It explains why such groups often insist on their own schools — education is too important to be entrusted to others.

Hamas did not enjoy the support of all the people of Gaza. It does now. Why does Israel keep getting it wrong?

Trekking in Nepal is fashionable among young Israelis. So much so that many shops in Kathmandu and Pokhara have signs in Hebrew. But 
once you get on the trekking circuit and speak with local Nepalese guides and guesthouse operators you soon discover how disliked the 
Israelis are. Many guesthouses in this poor country will even tell Israeli trekking groups that they are full rather than accept them. This has 
nothing to do with religion or politics: Nepalese people are some of the warmest, most hospitable in the world. Rather, they say that the 
young Israelis are rude, arrogant, and argue over trifling amounts of money even though they clearly have means.

Israel needs to change. The Parsees of India might provide a model. The Parsees are a very tiny, very rich ethnic and religious minority. 
They own perhaps most of the land in central Mumbai as well as the country’s largest conglomerate. And yet ordinary Indians admire and 
respect them. Violence against them is unthinkable.

How have they achieved this? They are not flashy or arrogant. Their overriding characteristic is a deep interest in the welfare of others. 
They have established hospitals, libraries, schools, museums and many other institutions and, most importantly, not for the Parsee 
community exclusively but for everyone. So the Parsees have peace and the Israelis do not.

Left: Images purportedly from Gaza such as this example have 
been circulated by e-mail in Malaysia and Indonesia in recent 
weeks, accompanied by text in Malay which translates in part as: “I 
cry because I’m a muslim, and my brothers are being killed!” And 
so Muslims worldwide are being energised and drawn into a conflict 
which otherwise has no direct bearing on them.

Disputed Territory: War in Gaza Provokes Protest (And Conversation) In Second Life Israel

Israel_protestProtesters continue convening in SL Israel today

In Second Life there is a new Israel, appropriately called SL Israel, which recreates in virtual form aspects of the country, from religious landmarks of Jerusalem such as the Temple Mount, to tourist sites of Tel Aviv.  Last week when Israel began launching guided missiles at Hamas targets in Palestine, however, SL Israel became a flashpoint of another kind.  As the airstrikes pounded Gaza, so did protesters, teleporting into SL Israel, waving flags.

Israel_protesters

“Lots of people yelling,” Beth Odets tells me. “They were going on and on with slurring obscenities about murderous Israeli forces, etc.”  She gives me a screenshot taken during the incursion, festooned with anti-war or pro-Palestinian signs, some depicting dead Arab children.

Ms. Odets helped create SL Israel, so she maintains land permissions to the region.  She began ejecting the most obstreperous protesters. “I had to be careful not to boot people who didn’t actually do anything wrong,” as she puts it.  But the protesters kept coming, and eventually she felt forced to close all of SL Israel to outsiders.  “Just shut it down for a little while.  Just to make it stop. ‘Cause people weren’t wanting to be logical, or talk.”

The protesters keep arriving, however.  On a brief visit to SL Israel late last night, for example, I found a half-dozen members of something called “Second Life International Socialists”, brandishing placards and chattering in front of a lone avatar wearing a yarmaluke.

In SL Israel, this was not the full extent of the reaction to the ongoing war in Gaza, however.  “Later came people who were wanting to really talk,” Beth adds, “like the ones here.”  She teleports me over, so I can see for myself. 

Which is how I found myself on the shoreline of SL Israel, amid an impromptu colloquium between a pro-Palestinian Muslim in a kaffiyeh, and avatar dressed as an IDF soldier, three Jewish women, and, of course, a talking rabbit.

Sl_israel_gathering

Along with the Arab headscarf, Clip Chau wears a “Free Palestine” T-Shirt, and when I arrive, he is talking on the boardwalk with a brunette named TamaraEden Zinnemann.

“… and I was the only Muslim in the class and she was the only Jew so whenever Israel and Palestine came up, you know what happened,” Chau tells her. “She was a great teacher.  Never biased, and she understood Palestinian pain.  I think she was a huge reason behind me starting to even consider talking to Jewish people.  Before that it was a no go area for me, it was a birth hatred, I guess.”

Tamaraeden_zinnemann_and_clip_chauAs it turns out,  Ms. Zinnemann is also a teacher in real life:

“I am very cautious when my kids ask me ‘Jewish’ or Political questions,” she tells Chau. “I like to tell them when they want my opinion that my job, as their teacher, is to help them make up their own minds.”

I mostly listen from the sidelines, but TamaraEden Zinnemann looks up.

“Hamlet, please write that I’m an American Jew. Clip is a Canadian Muslim, and we are having a great time sharing our commonalities. I’m serious.”

Shmoo_snookI tell her that I will.  Someone small at our feet pipes up.

“Write that I’m a bunny, OK?” Shmoo Snook demands.   I assent to that as well. 

“And cute, too!”  he adds. 

That duly noted, the bunny proceeds to talk about the photos he saw of IDF rescuing Palestinians from a collapsed tunnel, and complain about the Bush Adminstration.

Amnesty International accuses Israel of war crimes in Gaza

By Middle East correspondent Ben Knight and wires

Posted Tue Jan 20, 2009 7:06am AEDT 
Updated Tue Jan 20, 2009 9:56am AEDT

Indiscriminate use of any weapon in densely populated areas can be the basis of war crimes charges.

Indiscriminate use of any weapon in densely populated areas can be the basis of war crimes charges. (AFP: Patrick Baz, file photo)

Human rights group Amnesty International has accused Israel of war crimes, saying its use of white phosphorus in Gaza was indiscriminate and illegal.

White phosphorous is frequently used to produce smoke screens, but can also be used as a weapon as it causes extreme burns if it makes contact with skin.

The use of the substance is not illegal under international law, but the indiscriminate use of any weapon in densely populated areas can be the basis of war crimes charges.

Israel has said it will carry out an internal investigation into the use of white phosphorous following similar claims by other rights groups.

Medics in Gaza say over 1,300 Palestinians were killed during the offensive.

Four thousand homes have been reduced to ruins and tens of thousands of people are homeless.

A UN official says 500,000 people have been without water since the bombardment began on December 27 and huge numbers are without power.

A continuing ceasefire in Gaza has allowed more Israeli forces to leave the Gaza Strip and Palestinians to return to their damaged homes.

Israeli political sources say most troops will be out of the territory by about midday (AEDT).

Bulldozers are beginning to clear rubble from streets and Palestinians have started returning to what is left of their homes to salvage clothes and food.

Police are back on the streets directing traffic; shopkeepers are frying felafels. But Gaza’s return to life is slow as people come to terms with the scale of the destruction after three weeks of war.

Homes and farms have been destroyed, and thousands remain injured. The head of the World Health Organisation is now warning that Gaza is exposed to outbreaks of disease.

Aid agencies are beginning to assess the immediate needs of the territory, as well as what it will take to rebuild it; but until the terms of a permanent ceasefire are agreed, any reconstruction will be on hold.

Hamas has vowed to replenish its weapons arsenal and increase its capabilities but Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev has dismissed the threats.

“Over the last few weeks, Israel has hit and hit hard the Hamas military machine, causing the substantial disintegration of their military capabilities,” he said.

“Despite the bravado one is hearing from Hamas leaders, it’s clear that they will think twice and three times. They’ll think very carefully before launching again rockets, into Israeli cities trying to kill our people.”

– ABC/BBC

Tags: world-politicsunrest-conflict-and-warisraelpalestinian-territories

How Israel brought Gaza to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe

Oxford professor of international relations Avi Shlaim served in the Israeli army and has never questioned the state’s legitimacy. But its merciless assault on Gaza has led him to devastating conclusions

A wounded Palestinian policeman gestures

A wounded Palestinian policeman gestures while lying on the ground outside Hamas police headquarters following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City. Photograph: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

The only way to make sense of Israel’s senseless war in Gaza is through understanding the historical context. Establishing the state of Israel in May 1948 involved a monumental injustice to the Palestinians. British officials bitterly resented American partisanship on behalf of the infant state. On 2 June 1948, Sir John Troutbeck wrote to the foreign secretary, Ernest Bevin, that the Americans were responsible for the creation of a gangster state headed by “an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders”. I used to think that this judgment was too harsh but Israel’s vicious assault on the people of Gaza, and the Bush administration’s complicity in this assault, have reopened the question.

I write as someone who served loyally in the Israeli army in the mid-1960s and who has never questioned the legitimacy of the state of Israel within its pre-1967 borders. What I utterly reject is the Zionist colonial project beyond the Green Line. The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the June 1967 war had very little to do with security and everything to do with territorial expansionism. The aim was to establish Greater Israel through permanent political, economic and military control over the Palestinian territories. And the result has been one of the most prolonged and brutal military occupations of modern times.

Four decades of Israeli control did incalculable damage to the economy of the Gaza Strip. With a large population of 1948 refugees crammed into a tiny strip of land, with no infrastructure or natural resources, Gaza’s prospects were never bright. Gaza, however, is not simply a case of economic under-development but a uniquely cruel case of deliberate de-development. To use the Biblical phrase, Israel turned the people of Gaza into the hewers of wood and the drawers of water, into a source of cheap labour and a captive market for Israeli goods. The development of local industry was actively impeded so as to make it impossible for the Palestinians to end their subordination to Israel and to establish the economic underpinnings essential for real political independence.

Gaza is a classic case of colonial exploitation in the post-colonial era. Jewish settlements in occupied territories are immoral, illegal and an insurmountable obstacle to peace. They are at once the instrument of exploitation and the symbol of the hated occupation. In Gaza, the Jewish settlers numbered only 8,000 in 2005 compared with 1.4 million local residents. Yet the settlers controlled 25% of the territory, 40% of the arable land and the lion’s share of the scarce water resources. Cheek by jowl with these foreign intruders, the majority of the local population lived in abject poverty and unimaginable misery. Eighty per cent of them still subsist on less than $2 a day. The living conditions in the strip remain an affront to civilised values, a powerful precipitant to resistance and a fertile breeding ground for political extremism.

In August 2005 a Likud government headed by Ariel Sharon staged a unilateral Israeli pullout from Gaza, withdrawing all 8,000 settlers and destroying the houses and farms they had left behind. Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement, conducted an effective campaign to drive the Israelis out of Gaza. The withdrawal was a humiliation for the Israeli Defence Forces. To the world, Sharon presented the withdrawal from Gaza as a contribution to peace based on a two-state solution. But in the year after, another 12,000 Israelis settled on the West Bank, further reducing the scope for an independent Palestinian state. Land-grabbing and peace-making are simply incompatible. Israel had a choice and it chose land over peace.

The real purpose behind the move was to redraw unilaterally the borders of Greater Israel by incorporating the main settlement blocs on the West Bank to the state of Israel. Withdrawal from Gaza was thus not a prelude to a peace deal with the Palestinian Authority but a prelude to further Zionist expansion on the West Bank. It was a unilateral Israeli move undertaken in what was seen, mistakenly in my view, as an Israeli national interest. Anchored in a fundamental rejection of the Palestinian national identity, the withdrawal from Gaza was part of a long-term effort to deny the Palestinian people any independent political existence on their land.

Israel’s settlers were withdrawn but Israeli soldiers continued to control all access to the Gaza Strip by land, sea and air. Gaza was converted overnight into an open-air prison. From this point on, the Israeli air force enjoyed unrestricted freedom to drop bombs, to make sonic booms by flying low and breaking the sound barrier, and to terrorise the hapless inhabitants of this prison.

Israel likes to portray itself as an island of democracy in a sea of authoritarianism. Yet Israel has never in its entire history done anything to promote democracy on the Arab side and has done a great deal to undermine it. Israel has a long history of secret collaboration with reactionary Arab regimes to suppress Palestinian nationalism. Despite all the handicaps, the Palestinian people succeeded in building the only genuine democracy in the Arab world with the possible exception of Lebanon. In January 2006, free and fair elections for the Legislative Council of the Palestinian Authority brought to power a Hamas-led government. Israel, however, refused to recognise the democratically elected government, claiming that Hamas is purely and simply a terrorist organisation.

America and the EU shamelessly joined Israel in ostracising and demonising the Hamas government and in trying to bring it down by withholding tax revenues and foreign aid. A surreal situation thus developed with a significant part of the international community imposing economic sanctions not against the occupier but against the occupied, not against the oppressor but against the oppressed.

As so often in the tragic history of Palestine, the victims were blamed for their own misfortunes. Israel’s propaganda machine persistently purveyed the notion that the Palestinians are terrorists, that they reject coexistence with the Jewish state, that their nationalism is little more than antisemitism, that Hamas is just a bunch of religious fanatics and that Islam is incompatible with democracy. But the simple truth is that the Palestinian people are a normal people with normal aspirations. They are no better but they are no worse than any other national group. What they aspire to, above all, is a piece of land to call their own on which to live in freedom and dignity.

Like other radical movements, Hamas began to moderate its political programme following its rise to power. From the ideological rejectionism of its charter, it began to move towards pragmatic accommodation of a two-state solution. In March 2007, Hamas and Fatah formed a national unity government that was ready to negotiate a long-term ceasefire with Israel. Israel, however, refused to negotiate with a government that included Hamas.

It continued to play the old game of divide and rule between rival Palestinian factions. In the late 1980s, Israel had supported the nascent Hamas in order to weaken Fatah, the secular nationalist movement led by Yasser Arafat. Now Israel began to encourage the corrupt and pliant Fatah leaders to overthrow their religious political rivals and recapture power. Aggressive American neoconservatives participated in the sinister plot to instigate a Palestinian civil war. Their meddling was a major factor in the collapse of the national unity government and in driving Hamas to seize power in Gaza in June 2007 to pre-empt a Fatah coup.

The war unleashed by Israel on Gaza on 27 December was the culmination of a series of clashes and confrontations with the Hamas government. In a broader sense, however, it is a war between Israel and the Palestinian people, because the people had elected the party to power. The declared aim of the war is to weaken Hamas and to intensify the pressure until its leaders agree to a new ceasefire on Israel’s terms. The undeclared aim is to ensure that the Palestinians in Gaza are seen by the world simply as a humanitarian problem and thus to derail their struggle for independence and statehood.

The timing of the war was determined by political expediency. A general election is scheduled for 10 February and, in the lead-up to the election, all the main contenders are looking for an opportunity to prove their toughness. The army top brass had been champing at the bit to deliver a crushing blow to Hamas in order to remove the stain left on their reputation by the failure of the war against Hezbollah in Lebanon in July 2006. Israel’s cynical leaders could also count on apathy and impotence of the pro-western Arab regimes and on blind support from President Bush in the twilight of his term in the White House. Bush readily obliged by putting all the blame for the crisis on Hamas, vetoing proposals at the UN Security Council for an immediate ceasefire and issuing Israel with a free pass to mount a ground invasion of Gaza.

As always, mighty Israel claims to be the victim of Palestinian aggression but the sheer asymmetry of power between the two sides leaves little room for doubt as to who is the real victim. This is indeed a conflict between David and Goliath but the Biblical image has been inverted – a small and defenceless Palestinian David faces a heavily armed, merciless and overbearing Israeli Goliath. The resort to brute military force is accompanied, as always, by the shrill rhetoric of victimhood and a farrago of self-pity overlaid with self-righteousness. In Hebrew this is known as the syndrome of bokhim ve-yorim, “crying and shooting”.

To be sure, Hamas is not an entirely innocent party in this conflict. Denied the fruit of its electoral victory and confronted with an unscrupulous adversary, it has resorted to the weapon of the weak – terror. Militants from Hamas and Islamic Jihad kept launching Qassam rocket attacks against Israeli settlements near the border with Gaza until Egypt brokered a six-month ceasefire last June. The damage caused by these primitive rockets is minimal but the psychological impact is immense, prompting the public to demand protection from its government. Under the circumstances, Israel had the right to act in self-defence but its response to the pinpricks of rocket attacks was totally disproportionate. The figures speak for themselves. In the three years after the withdrawal from Gaza, 11 Israelis were killed by rocket fire. On the other hand, in 2005-7 alone, the IDF killed 1,290 Palestinians in Gaza, including 222 children.

Whatever the numbers, killing civilians is wrong. This rule applies to Israel as much as it does to Hamas, but Israel’s entire record is one of unbridled and unremitting brutality towards the inhabitants of Gaza. Israel also maintained the blockade of Gaza after the ceasefire came into force which, in the view of the Hamas leaders, amounted to a violation of the agreement. During the ceasefire, Israel prevented any exports from leaving the strip in clear violation of a 2005 accord, leading to a sharp drop in employment opportunities. Officially, 49.1% of the population is unemployed. At the same time, Israel restricted drastically the number of trucks carrying food, fuel, cooking-gas canisters, spare parts for water and sanitation plants, and medical supplies to Gaza. It is difficult to see how starving and freezing the civilians of Gaza could protect the people on the Israeli side of the border. But even if it did, it would still be immoral, a form of collective punishment that is strictly forbidden by international humanitarian law.

The brutality of Israel’s soldiers is fully matched by the mendacity of its spokesmen. Eight months before launching the current war on Gaza, Israel established a National Information Directorate. The core messages of this directorate to the media are that Hamas broke the ceasefire agreements; that Israel’s objective is the defence of its population; and that Israel’s forces are taking the utmost care not to hurt innocent civilians. Israel’s spin doctors have been remarkably successful in getting this message across. But, in essence, their propaganda is a pack of lies.

A wide gap separates the reality of Israel’s actions from the rhetoric of its spokesmen. It was not Hamas but the IDF that broke the ceasefire. It di d so by a raid into Gaza on 4 November that killed six Hamas men. Israel’s objective is not just the defence of its population but the eventual overthrow of the Hamas government in Gaza by turning the people against their rulers. And far from taking care to spare civilians, Israel is guilty of indiscriminate bombing and of a three-year-old blockade that has brought the inhabitants of Gaza, now 1.5 million, to the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe.

The Biblical injunction of an eye for an eye is savage enough. But Israel’s insane offensive against Gaza seems to follow the logic of an eye for an eyelash. After eight days of bombing, with a death toll of more than 400 Palestinians and four Israelis, the gung-ho cabinet ordered a land invasion of Gaza the consequences of which are incalculable.

No amount of military escalation can buy Israel immunity from rocket attacks from the military wing of Hamas. Despite all the death and destruction that Israel has inflicted on them, they kept up their resistance and they kept firing their rockets. This is a movement that glorifies victimhood and martyrdom. There is simply no military solution to the conflict between the two communities. The problem with Israel’s concept of security is that it denies even the most elementary security to the other community. The only way for Israel to achieve security is not through shooting but through talks with Hamas, which has repeatedly declared its readiness to negotiate a long-term ceasefire with the Jewish state within its pre-1967 borders for 20, 30, or even 50 years. Israel has rejected this offer for the same reason it spurned the Arab League peace plan of 2002, which is still on the table: it involves concessions and compromises.

This brief review of Israel’s record over the past four decades makes it difficult to resist the conclusion that it has become a rogue state with “an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders”. A rogue state habitually violates international law, possesses weapons of mass destruction and practises terrorism – the use of violence against civilians for political purposes. Israel fulfils all of these three criteria; the cap fits and it must wear it. Israel’s real aim is not peaceful coexistence with its Palestinian neighbours but military domination. It keeps compounding the mistakes of the past with new and more disastrous ones. Politicians, like everyone else, are of course free to repeat the lies and mistakes of the past. But it is not mandatory to do so.

• Avi Shlaim is a professor of international relations at the University of Oxford and the author of The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World and of Lion of Jordan: King Hussein’s Life in War and Peace.

Gaza Strip resembles a concentration camp, says top Vatican official

VATICAN-GAZA (UPDATED) Jan-9-2009 (810 words) With photos posted Jan. 8. xxxi

Gaza Strip resembles a concentration camp, says top Vatican official

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Gaza Strip increasingly is looking like “a big concentration camp” while egoism, hatred, poverty and injustice are fueling the continual slaughter in the Holy Land, said a top Vatican official.

“We are seeing a continual massacre in the Holy Land where the overwhelming majority has nothing to do with the conflict, but it is paying for the hatred of a few with their lives,” said Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

“Let’s look at the conditions in Gaza: It’s looking more and more like a big concentration camp,” he said in an interview published Jan. 7 in the Italian online newspaper IlSussidiario.

Israel’s ambassador to the Vatican, Mordechay Lewy, criticized the cardinal’s comments saying they were “way out of line.”

However, the remarks have not negatively affected Vatican-Israeli relations which are still “good as before,” said the ambassador, according to the Italian news agency ANSA Jan. 8.

That the cardinal would make the comparison “shows he has never visited a concentration camp,” he added.

Meanwhile, Israel’s foreign ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor, said Cardinal Martino’s comments “seem to have come directly from Hamas propaganda” and did nothing “to help bring people closer to the truth and peace.”

By saying the Gaza Strip resembled a concentration camp, the cardinal was ignoring “the unspeakable crimes” committed by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, he said in a Jan. 7 interview with Agence France-Presse.

Palmor said Hamas “has derailed the peace process and has turned the Gaza Strip into a giant human shield.”

In an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica Jan. 8, Cardinal Martino defended his description of the Gaza Strip, saying those who criticized his remarks “can say what they want. The situation in Gaza is horrible.”

“I say, look at the conditions of the people who live there. Surrounded by a wall that is difficult to cross — in conditions (that are) contrary to human dignity. What has been happening recently there is horrifying,” he said.

He said there was nothing in his comments “that may be interpreted as anti-Israeli” and he condemned Hamas’ use of violence against Israel.

But he lamented the deaths of so many Palestinian civilians and children and the destruction of nonmilitary targets by Israel, suggesting such losses could have been avoided given that Israeli forces have sophisticated surveillance “technology that can let them identify an ant on the ground.”

Both Israeli and Palestinian leaders have done reproachable things, he said, but “Israel has the right to live in peace, (and) the Palestinians have the right to have their own state.”

“Israel certainly has the right to defend itself and Hamas must keep that in mind,” he added.

“I am not defending Hamas: If they want a home, if they want a Palestinian state, they have to understand that the path they have set out upon is wrong,” said the cardinal.

He said both Israelis and Palestinians are at fault for not doing enough to stop the fighting and start peace talks.

In the Jan. 7 interview with IlSussidiario, Cardinal Martino said: “If they are unable to come to an agreement then someone else had better feel an obligation to do it for them. The world cannot sit and watch and do nothing.”

He called for an “international intervention force” to stop the fighting.

The reason Palestinians and Israelis have so far not been able to end the conflict and begin dialogue is because there is an acute lack of respect for human dignity, he said.

“No one recognizes the interests of the other but only one’s own. However, the consequences of egoism are hatred toward others, poverty and injustice, and the defenseless are always the ones who pay,” he added.

About 760 Palestinians, half of them civilians, have been killed since Israel began its attacks on Gaza Dec. 27 to root out Hamas.

The fighting has made access to basic needs even more difficult as food, medicine and other relief items already were lacking due to an 18-monthlong Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, said a Jan. 5 press release by Caritas Internationalis, an umbrella group of Catholic aid agencies.

Meanwhile, in his annual address to diplomats Jan. 8, Pope Benedict XVI appealed for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and the resumption of negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis, with the support of the international community.

“Once again I would repeat that military options are no solution and that violence, wherever it comes from and whatever form it takes, must be firmly condemned,” he said.

He said a cease-fire is “an indispensable condition for restoring acceptable living conditions to the population.”

He urged both sides to resume negotiations and agree to “the rejection of hatred, acts of provocation and the use of arms.”

END


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Qatar: Future Muslim leaders seek fresh path

Tomorrow’s leaders? Maha al-Khalifa and Aalaa Abuzaakook, of Qatar, and Musa Syeed, of New York, met at the leadership gathering.
CARYLE MURPHY

‘No better time’ for change, say activists at this past weekend’s youth conference in Doha, Qatar.

The question put to the young Muslims gathered here from around the world went to the heart of today’s perceived clash between Islam and the West: “Do Muslims and non-Muslims share equal responsibility in taking steps to reduce Muslim extremism?”

The answer, delivered instantly through wireless voting pads, was crystal clear: Seventy-five percent replied “Yes.”

The verdict is worth heeding because of where it happened: At a conference of 300 progressive Muslim activists from 75 countries.

The “Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow Conference,” was meant to be a catalyst for social change in the Islamic world by inspiring the activists and giving them opportunities to network.

“We’re living in challenging times, and the plot for Muslims has been written by others,” said Daisy Khan, of the New York-based American Society for Muslim Advancement, which worked with the Cordoba Initiative and the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations to organize the event. “The time has come for Muslims to write their own plot, and to define themselves around the core values they believe in: pluralism, freedom, justice, creativity, and intellectual development.”

Participants included a Saudi businesswoman, a New York filmmaker, an Indian teacher, an Italian imam, a Dutch lawyer, an Egyptian writer, and Osama Saeed Butta, who informed his peers in a fine Scottish brogue that he will be running for a seat in Britain’s Parliament come the next election.

While some activists hold more conservative views than others, all are committed to pluralism as an Islamic value, Ms. Khan said.

Some were in a hurry to exert their influence. “I came because I wanted to know why it’s ‘Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow’ and not ‘Today,'” said Maha al-Khalifa, a student from Qatar.

The discussion sessions, which included the instant polling, tackled some of the thorniest questions facing Muslim intellectuals today, including: “Is there a crisis of religious authority in Islam?” Eighty-six percent said “Yes.” And “are there Islamic values that are in conflict with Western values?” Sixty-one percent said “Yes.”

Panelist Madiha Younas, of Pakistan’s International Islamic University, said she often encounters anxiety over clashing values. “Our people are worried about what will happen if our youth will start to live like the West.”

She added, to general approval from the floor, that “it’s not an Islamic value to have absolute freedom. Islam puts boundaries on you.”

Saudi-born attorney and Harvard University graduate Malik Dahlan led the conversation to a more theoretical level, stating: “It’s freedom that is the absolute value in Islam…. It is freedom not to submit [to God’s will] that gives value to submission itself.”

In smaller discussion groups, participants covered such topics as why Europe has more Islamist radicalism than the United States, Islam’s position on homosexuality, and the meaning of secularism.

When discussing who has responsibility for fighting Muslim extremism, the panelists steered clear of the polarization this subject normally provokes. Instead, they argued that both extremist interpretations of Islam and foreign policies of Western countries contribute to the radicalization of Muslim youth.

In fact, the impact of US policies in the Middle East was evident at the conference, where many participants were deeply upset, at times in tears, over the civilian death toll from Israel’s three-week military siege of Gaza.

“I get a sense of helplessness with this latest crisis,” said conference attendee Shaukat Warraich, director of London-based Right Start Foundation International, a community development nonprofit.

ASMA’s Khan said that after 9/11, Americans wanted to know why Muslims’ denunciations of the terrorist attacks were so muted. Although hundreds of Islamic religious leaders did condemn the attacks, they were not heard clearly because Islam has no central leadership, like Roman Catholicism’s Vatican.

Khan, then an architectural designer, gave up her career to promote a new generation of Muslim leadership, holding the first conference in New York in 2004 with 125 participants from North America. The second conference, held in Copenhagen in 2006, included Europeans. Doha, the third one, was global.

Participants had to be between 20 and 45 years old, committed to pluralism, and involved in some type of community advancement work, Khan said.

At its conclusion, the conference issued “An Open Letter to the World Leaders of Today From the Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow.” Noting that “with Barack Obama as the new US president, there is no better time for … positive change,” the letter demanded that leaders start implementing policies that promote development and human rights rather than war.

For now, the Muslim leaders who will receive copies of the Open Letter do not know much about Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow (MLT), as the project is known. The conference drew little international or regional media attention. But organizers said they are committed to building a global network of progressive activists in the Muslim world, an effort they say will take time.

Over 1000 Muslim Migrants from burma to thai tortured and drowned by Thai Govt

Photo 1 of 3
Thai army Colonel Manat Khongpan (L, with cap) during the processing of a group of refugees

BANGKOK (AFP) — Thailand’s premier insisted Tuesday that his country had respected the rights of boat people from Myanmar, saying reports that the migrants were mistreated and abandoned at sea were “exaggerated”.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva also said that foreign tourists who reportedly witnessed the incidents may have misunderstood what the Thai army and navy were trying to do with the immigrants.

Survivors and a human rights group have accused the Thai military of detaining and beating up to 1,000 members of the Rohingya minority from Myanmar late last year, before towing them out to sea with little food and water.

“The government will take action against illegal immigrants. If too many of them come, it will affect the country’s security. However, the actions will not violate human rights,” Abhisit told reporters.

He said the issue of human trafficking networks should be addressed with neighbouring countries, and blamed the migrants for getting into distress on purpose as a tactic to get into third countries.

“Sometimes they sail on boats without engines or sink their ships so that authorities help them to get onshore,” Abhisit said.

“Sometimes the information is exaggerated. Reports said (military actions) were witnessed by tourists — it may be a misunderstanding by tourists.”

Witnesses have reportedly said that some of the detainees were beaten within metres of foreign tourists on a remote Thai island off the coast, while photos have shown scores of migrants tied up on a beach.

Nearly 650 of the Muslim Rohingya have been rescued in waters off India and Indonesia. Some of them told officials that they were beaten in Thailand before being set adrift in barges with no engines or navigational equipment.

A local human rights organisation that monitors the treatment of Rohingya says that up to 550 of the migrants are still missing at sea, while Indian officials have said they too fear for hundreds who remain unaccounted for.

Thailand’s power army chief General Anupong Paojinda earlier denied the reports of abuse.

“The army chief said the army has followed the request by the prime minister and is investigating the Rohingya case,” said Colonel Thanatip Sawangsaeng, a spokesman for a state security body.

“He said the army has followed the international standards and adhered to humanitarian principles,” Thanatip told AFP.

Rights groups say the Rohingya are stateless and face persecution from Myanmar’s military regime, forcing thousands into rickety boats each year to try to escape poverty and oppression and head to Muslim-majority Malaysia.

Thailand has for the past few years taken a harsh stance on Rohingya landing on its shores, in part to discourage further migration through Thailand.

Human rights groups and the UN refugee agency have called on the government to ensure that any Rohingya arriving in Thailand are screened to determine if they would face persecution if returned home.

Pamuk: Islam not irreconcilable with West

The Yomiuri Shimbun

This is the fifth installment in a series of interviews with leading intellectuals both at home and abroad about the present state of world affairs and potential solutions to challenges that face the world in 2009. The following is excerpted from an interview with author Orhan Pamuk, 56, winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature.

 

The Yomiuri Shimbun: Some say the 21st century will be a century of confrontation, namely, a “clash of civilizations.” Do you agree with that?

Orhan Pamuk: In a Harvard classroom, Samuel Huntington’s thought [of a “clash of civilizations”] is an interesting idea. There is some truth in it. But as it is represented by the international media, it has become an idea that only paves the way to more fights and more killings. The West kills more Muslims they are afraid of or embarrassed by and say, “It’s a clash of civilizations.” It is not a clash of civilizations. It is just killing people.

People with different origins, ethnic backgrounds, opinions, races, religions, even with a history of fighting each other, should and can live together. This is an ideal I believe in. You may say, “Oh, naive Orhan, they can only kill each other.” But I don’t want to believe that humanity is that bad.

I don’t think Palestinians and Israelis can live happily in the same street and kiss each other for at least another 50 years. But Kurds and Turks have been living [alongside each other]. If the Turkish government is wise, they can continue to live [side by side] for quite a long time. So what I believe sometimes may contradict what happened in history. Cynics do not have ideals. I have ideals. I believe that this is possible and that’s why I want Turkey to join the European Union, which has higher standards of respect for different cultures and multiculturalism.

You may say, “You are naive–look at your book ‘Snow.'” I have a character who lives through all these dilemmas. He naively believes, like me, in all these things and falls into politically bad situations. But I don’t want a cynic’s life.

The Ottoman Empire realized coexistence to some extent.

You can only run an empire with a sort of tolerance. Do not think that they were multicultural, like EU or American tolerance. They were totally different. It was inevitable. If you are running an empire, you have to be tolerant to minorities. What I respect most in the Ottoman Empire was that they did not impose Islam too much. They imposed Islam, but compared with [the extent that] the West [imposes its values], relatively less. An empire is always multiethnic.

There has been a long history of confrontation between Western and Eastern cultures. Istanbul has been a powerful symbol of that confrontation and coexistence.

Some people only point out the confrontations of cultures in their lives, give their energy to focus on confrontations. I always point out how harmoniously they come together. Some people go out and only see head-scarved girls and mini-skirted girls and the conflict. Some people go out and see how they do not notice each other and live in peace in the streets of Istanbul. It depends on what you want to see. But, yes, this is a country where all the contradictions are abundantly available and visible. Is that a bad thing or a good thing? Politicians, groups who want to get people’s attention through cultural difference, through secularism and conservatism, dramatize these things.

Turkey is more politically troubled than socially troubled. If there is a social problem, that is poverty–class distinction between the rich and the poor. But politically, the representatives of the secularists, who are heavily embedded in the state apparatus, secularists and the army, are clashing with the popular Islamic voters. And this clash is really harming the country. Both sides are responsible for it. And most of the time lower classes and women suffer from it. Islamic boys can go to universities, but women cannot if they wear head scarves. Islamist politicians go into the parliament and enjoy life, but women cannot if they wear head scarves. The suffering of lower classes is not represented in the media. Turkey’s first problem is that there is so much class difference between a very rich, leading bourgeoisie, making 50 percent of the national income, and the immense poverty. This real conflict is expressed through secularism, Islam and the army, and this kind of politics.

Turkey is a multicultural country, not politically but ethnically and religiously. But I do not only see these problems as East clashes with West. Only after September 11th was “clash of civilizations” set as a sort of a standard model for the world.

While more then 99 percent of the population is Muslim, the state is secular. Some say this secularism has reached its limit. Don’t you think this secularism is unnatural?

You are defending the argument of fundamental Islamists or fundamentalist secularists. There are fundamentalist secularists who think Islam is the problem, but I do not think so. There are also Islamic fundamentalists. Your opinion is valid and very popular in Turkey. But I disagree. Yes, Islam is a religion which does not stay in the private sphere. It is not only about personal beliefs, but also about how to run a country, about laws and governments. And the rules are in the traditions of Islam and Koran. But this is the argument of ultraradical secularists, which can only base its power on the force of the army. Many people like me think that most of the Turkish people believe at the same time both in a blend of secularism and a blend of Islam.

I believe in secularism. I believe that public life should not be ruled by the laws of the religion. But Islamic tradition is not like that. Up to now, public life in Turkey has not been ruled by the rules of traditions of Islam, but the rules of secularism. I am a secularist, but a liberal secularist. There should be a harmony between the people’s wishes and secularization energy. Turkey’s secularists should be also liberal. We have secularists who base their power only on the army. That damages Turkey’s democracy. Once in 10 years we have a military coup. In the last 10 years we have not had one, thank God. But every day, the army says don’t do this, don’t do that. I don’t like that. But it doesn’t mean you are an Islamic fundamentalist. I am also troubled by the raise of political Islam. So I am squeezed by two sides, but I don’t have to take a side.

Secularism is now combined with nationalism in Turkey. This combination has depressed ethnic minorities including Kurds, Armenians and Christians.

There is an obvious rise of nationalism in Turkey. There are many reasons for that. One is the anxiety of those ruling classes who think that if Turkey joined the EU, their interests will be damaged. Another is that, unfortunately, some part of the Turkish Army is upset about negotiations with the EU. Turkey’s improvement in democracy is developing in parallel with Turkey’s relationship with the EU. Some measures were taken by the previous and present governments, which I am happy about. More freedom of speech, more respect for minorities, more multiculturalism–unfortunately half of them are done just to enter the EU.

I made it clear for the last seven years that I am for Turkey’s joining of the EU. Some of my political problems that I suffer were due to that. But compared with the previous generations of Turkish writers, it is nothing.

I see the EU not as a cultural model, though I am more westernized than a regular Turk. I believe that Turkey should rely on its own traditional culture. In fact I wrote novels like “My Name Is Red” to highlight that culture. But I think politically and economically it would be good for Turkey. Politically, it will be good because there are some EU standards for democracy: free speech, respect for the human rights, minorities, et cetera. Secondly, I also believe that once you join the EU you are militarily under the umbrella of the EU. You don’t have to reserve so much money for military spending. Also, once you are in the EU, Kurdish separatists will be happier, too. Negotiations should go faster. But it is not going that way, unfortunately.

The EU is sometimes called a Christian club.

This is what conservatives in the EU say. Europe should decide whether EU is based on Christianity or based on “liberte, egalite, fraternite.” If Europe is based on Christianity, Turkey has no place in that. But if Europe is based on the secular ideals, Turkey, which has some land in Europe has a place.

It is not natural for Turkey to join the EU at all. But once it is achieved–I am now pessimistic, it does not seem to be [going to be] achieved soon–it will have a significant meaning. I know from the questions by Iranian and Arab journalists that the liberals and secular intellectuals of the Muslim countries are so much interested in and have so much hope because they also want to have secularism and liberal democracy in their countries. They also want to economically flourish and enjoy freedom and liberty, respect for private life and minorities in their countries. Turkey’s entry into the EU will have a strong impact on world politics, especially in the Middle East and Islamic regions.

Pamuk is a Turkish author and Nobel laureate whose representative works include “My Name Is Red” and “Snow.”

(Jan. 17, 2009)

Muslim Cham draw on inner strength

In a mosque fashioned from a condo unit in Santa Ana, Calif., Cham girls practiced writing the Arabic alphabet.In a mosque fashioned from a condo unit in Santa Ana, Calif., Cham girls practiced writing the Arabic alphabet. (Gina Ferazzi/los angeles times)

By Paloma EsquivelLos Angeles Times / January 18, 2009

SANTA ANA, Calif. – In the secluded courtyard of a weathered condominium complex, at the dead end of a graffiti-marred Santa Ana street, the Cham are busy preparing a feast.

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Banana trees grow tall in Santa Ana, shadowing crowded stalks of lemon grass and green onion. Severed bits of a cow slaughtered in conformity with Islamic law fill bright blue plastic tubs. Nearby, women sit cross-legged, chatting and laughing; their strong hands grind fresh ginger in stone mortars.

Centuries ago, the Cham ruled over their own kingdom, known as Champa, along the coastline of what is now Vietnam. They were maritime traders whose first religion was a form of Hinduism, but they later adopted Islam. Today they are a people without a homeland, their numbers a few hundred thousand. For centuries, they have been chased from place to place – from the highlands of Vietnam to the rivers of Cambodia and, in the aftermath of genocide, to the United States, where thousands have settled.

In the margins of each place, they have come together.

So it is in Santa Ana, where a hundred Cham families live in this worn Santa Ana complex alongside Hispanics, Laotians, and Cambodians. In the middle of one of the city’s most crime- infested neighborhoods, they have turned one apartment into a mosque and built a world centered on faith. In celebration, neighbors prepare feasts and share stories. In hardship, they share burdens, the cost of food, and the cost of burial.

As they have struggled to keep their community intact, the world has crept in. Some youths have turned to gangs and drugs. Others have packed their bags and fled. A few have drifted from the religion and language that shaped their youth. When the call to prayer goes out, the mosque is filled mostly with elders and small children, as if those in the middle disappeared.

On the day of the feast to celebrate the beginning of Ramadan and the end of the Islamic school year, one man finds himself wanting to rebuild his ties.

Nasia Ahmanth doesn’t properly speak Cham, which is related to Malay. He rarely attends mosque and can’t read the Arabic of the Koran. He rarely prays.

He was a baby when his father, El Ahmanth, led a village of Cham refugees in Santa Ana. But as the group put down roots, Nasia drifted, lured by the streets. By the time he was 17, he says, he was an addict, and speed was his drug of choice. As it raced through his body, he felt unstoppable, light, and creative at once.

He’s 30 and, he says, sober. He has a son and two years ago moved out of the neighborhood to distance himself from drug-using friends. Last year, though, when his father died, he found himself looking homeward, wanting to rebuild his ties to a community he feared was fading.

“I want my son to know what Cham is,” he said.

Nasia had just been born when in 1979 his family fled the Khmer Rouge’s brutal reign in Cambodia. They went to Thailand, then to refugee camps in the Philippines before landing in Southern California.

With a few hundred dollars in refugee assistance, his father rented an apartment in a neighborhood ravaged by shootings and drugs. He sponsored 10 families living in refugee camps in Thailand who had fled Cambodia, and before long those families were sponsoring refugees.

“You need to learn to walk before you can run,” Nasia’s father tells his three young boys.

U.S. Financial Aid To Israel: Figures, Facts, and Impact Summary

U.S. Financial Aid To Israel: Figures, Facts, and Impact Summary Benefits to Israel of U.S. Aid Since 1949 (As of November 1, 1997) Foreign Aid Grants and Loans $74,157,600,000 Other U.S. Aid (12.2% of Foreign Aid) $9,047,227,200 Interest to Israel from Advanced Payments $1,650,000,000 Grand Total $84,854,827,200 Total Benefits per Israeli $14,630 Cost to U.S. Taxpayers of U.S. Aid to Israel Grand Total $84,854,827,200 Interest Costs Borne by U.S. $49,936,680,000 Total Cost to U.S. Taxpayers $134,791,507,200 Total Taxpayer Cost per Israeli $23,240 Special Reports: Congress Watch: A Conservative Total for U.S. Aid to Israel: $91 Billion—and Counting Congressional Research Report on Israel: US Foreign Assistance by Clyde Mark (213K pdf file) U.S. Aid To Israel: The Strategic Functions U.S. Aid to Israel: What U.S. Taxpayer Should Know U.S. Aid to Israel: Interpreting the ‘Strategic Relationship’ The Cost of Israel to U.S. Taxpayers: True Lies About U.S. Aid to Israel THE STRATEGIC FUNCTIONS OF U.S. AID TO ISRAEL By Stephen Zunes Dr. Zunes is an assistant professor in the Department of Politics at the University of San Francisco Since 1992, the U.S. has offered Israel an additional $2 billion annually in loan guarantees. Congressional researchers have disclosed that between 1974 and 1989, $16.4 billion in U.S. military loans were converted to grants and that this was the understanding from the beginning. Indeed, all past U.S. loans to Israel have eventually been forgiven by Congress, which has undoubtedly helped Israel’s often-touted claim that they have never defaulted on a U.S. government loan. U.S. policy since 1984 has been that economic assistance to Israel must equal or exceed Israel’s annual debt repayment to the United States. Unlike other countries, which receive aid in quarterly installments, aid to Israel since 1982 has been given in a lump sum at the beginning of the fiscal year, leaving the U.S. government to borrow from future revenues. Israel even lends some of this money back through U.S. treasury bills and collects the additional interest. In addition, there is the more than $1.5 billion in private U.S. funds that go to Israel annually in the form of $1 billion in private tax-deductible donations and $500 million in Israeli bonds. The ability of Americans to make what amounts to tax-deductible contributions to a foreign government, made possible through a number of Jewish charities, does not exist with any other country. Nor do these figures include short- and long-term commercial loans from U.S. banks, which have been as high as $1 billion annually in recent years. Total U.S. aid to Israel is approximately one-third of the American foreign-aid budget, even though Israel comprises just .001 percent of the world’s population and already has one of the world’s higher per capita incomes. Indeed, Israel’s GNP is higher than the combined GNP of Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza. With a per capita income of about $14,000, Israel ranks as the sixteenth wealthiest country in the world; Israelis enjoy a higher per capita income than oil-rich Saudi Arabia and are only slightly less well-off than most Western European countries. AID does not term economic aid to Israel as development assistance, but instead uses the term “economic support funding.” Given Israel’s relative prosperity, U.S. aid to Israel is becoming increasingly controversial. In 1994, Yossi Beilen, deputy foreign minister of Israel and a Knesset member, told the Women’s International Zionist organization, “If our economic situation is better than in many of your countries, how can we go on asking for your charity?” U.S. Aid to Israel: What U.S. Taxpayer Should Know by Tom Malthaner This morning as I was walking down Shuhada Street in Hebron, I saw graffiti marking the newly painted storefronts and awnings. Although three months past schedule and 100 percent over budget, the renovation of Shuhada Street was finally completed this week. The project manager said the reason for the delay and cost overruns was the sabotage of the project by the Israeli settlers of the Beit Hadassah settlement complex in Hebron. They broke the street lights, stoned project workers, shot out the windows of bulldozers and other heavy equipment with pellet guns, broke paving stones before they were laid and now have defaced again the homes and shops of Palestinians with graffiti. The settlers did not want Shuhada St. opened to Palestinian traffic as was agreed to under Oslo 2. This renovation project is paid for by USAID funds and it makes me angry that my tax dollars have paid for improvements that have been destroyed by the settlers. Most Americans are not aware how much of their tax revenue our government sends to Israel. For the fiscal year ending in September 30, 1997, the U.S. has given Israel $6.72 billion: $6.194 billion falls under Israel’s foreign aid allotment and $526 million comes from agencies such as the Department of Commerce, the U.S. Information Agency and the Pentagon. The $6.72 billion figure does not include loan guarantees and annual compound interest totalling $3.122 billion the U.S. pays on money borrowed to give to Israel. It does not include the cost to U.S. taxpayers of IRS tax exemptions that donors can claim when they donate money to Israeli charities. (Donors claim approximately $1 billion in Federal tax deductions annually. This ultimately costs other U.S. tax payers $280 million to $390 million.) When grant, loans, interest and tax deductions are added together for the fiscal year ending in September 30, 1997, our special relationship with Israel cost U.S. taxpayers over $10 billion. Since 1949 the U.S. has given Israel a total of $83.205 billion. The interest costs borne by U.S. tax payers on behalf of Israel are $49.937 billion, thus making the total amount of aid given to Israel since 1949 $133.132 billion. This may mean that U.S. government has given more federal aid to the average Israeli citizen in a given year than it has given to the average American citizen. I am angry when I see Israeli settlers from Hebron destroy improvements made to Shuhada Street with my tax money. Also, it angers me that my government is giving over $10 billion to a country that is more prosperous than most of the other countries in the world and uses much of its money for strengthening its military and the oppression of the Palestinian people. “U.S. Aid to Israel: Interpreting the ‘Strategic Relationship”‘ by Stephen Zunes “The U.S. aid relationship with Israel is unlike any other in the world,” said Stephen Zunes during a January 26 CPAP presentation. “In sheer volume, the amount is the most generous foreign aid program ever between any two countries,” added Zunes, associate professor of Politics and chair of the Peace and Justice Studies Program at the University of San Francisco. He explored the strategic reasoning behind the aid, asserting that it parallels the “needs of American arms exporters” and the role “Israel could play in advancing U.S. strategic interests in the region.” Although Israel is an “advanced, industrialized, technologically sophisticated country,” it “receives more U.S. aid per capita annually than the total annual [Gross Domestic Product] per capita of several Arab states.” Approximately a third of the entire U.S. foreign aid budget goes to Israel, “even though Israel comprises just…one-thousandth of the world’s total population, and already has one of the world’s higher per capita incomes.” U.S. government officials argue that this money is necessary for “moral” reasons-some even say that Israel is a “democracy battling for its very survival.” If that were the real reason, however, aid should have been highest during Israel’s early years, and would have declined as Israel grew stronger. Yet “the pattern…has been just the opposite.” According to Zunes, “99 percent of all U.S. aid to Israel took place after the June 1967 war, when Israel found itself more powerful than any combination of Arab armies….” The U.S. supports Israel’s dominance so it can serve as “a su
rrogate for American interests in this vital strategic region.” “Israel has helped defeat radical nationalist movements” and has been a “testing ground for U.S. made weaponry.” Moreover, the intelligence agencies of both countries have “collaborated,” and “Israel has funneled U.S. arms to third countries that the U.S. [could] not send arms to directly,…Iike South Africa, like the Contras, Guatemala under the military junta, [and] Iran.” Zunes cited an Israeli analyst who said: “‘It’s like Israel has just become another federal agency when it’s convenient to use and you want something done quietly.”‘ Although the strategic relationship between the United States and the Gulf Arab states in the region has been strengthening in recent years, these states “do not have the political stability, the technological sophistication, [or] the number of higher-trained armed forces personnel” as does Israel. Matti Peled, former Israeli major general and Knesset member, told Zunes that he and most Israeli generals believe this aid is “little more than an American subsidy to U.S. arms manufacturers,” considering that the majority of military aid to Israel is used to buy weapons from the U.S. Moreover, arms to Israel create more demand for weaponry in Arab states. According to Zunes, “the Israelis announced back in 1991 that they supported the idea of a freeze in Middle East arms transfers, yet it was the United States that rejected it.” In the fall of 1993-when many had high hopes for peace-78 senators wrote to former President Bill Clinton insisting that aid to Israel remain “at current levels.” Their “only reason” was the “massive procurement of sophisticated arms by Arab states.” The letter neglected to mention that 80 percent of those arms to Arab countries came from the U.S. “I’m not denying for a moment the power of AIPAC [the American Israel Public Affairs Committee], the pro-Israel lobby,” and other similar groups, Zunes said. Yet the “Aerospace Industry Association which promotes these massive arms shipments…is even more influential.” This association has given two times more money to campaigns than all of the pro-Israel groups combined. Its “force on Capitol Hill, in terms of lobbying, surpasses that of even AIPAC.” Zunes asserted that the “general thrust of U.S. policy would be pretty much the same even if AIPAC didn’t exist. We didn’t need a pro-Indonesia lobby to support Indonesia in its savage repression of East Timor all these years.” This is a complex issue, and Zunes said that he did not want to be “conspiratorial,” but he asked the audience to imagine what “Palestinian industriousness, Israeli technology, and Arabian oil money…would do to transform the Middle East…. [W]hat would that mean to American arms manufacturers? Oil companies? Pentagon planners?” “An increasing number of Israelis are pointing out” that these funds are not in Israel’s best interest. Quoting Peled, Zunes said, “this aid pushes Israel ‘toward a posture of callous intransigence’ in terms of the peace process.” Moreover, for every dollar the U.S. sends in arms aid, Israel must spend two to three dollars to train people to use the weaponry, to buy parts, and in other ways make use of the aid. Even “main-stream Israeli economists are saying [it] is very harmful to the country’s future.” The Israeli paper Yediot Aharonot described Israel as “‘the godfather’s messenger’ since [Israel] undertake[s] the ‘dirty work’ of a godfather who ‘always tries to appear to be the owner of some large, respectable business.”‘ Israeli satirist B. Michael refers to U.S. aid this way: “‘My master gives me food to eat and I bite those whom he tells me to bite. It’s called strategic cooperation.” ‘To challenge this strategic relationship, one cannot focus solely on the Israeli lobby but must also examine these “broader forces as well.” “Until we tackle this issue head-on,” it will be “very difficult to win” in other areas relating to Palestine. “The results” of the short-term thinking behind U.S. policy “are tragic,” not just for the “immediate victims” but “eventually [for] Israel itself” and “American interests in the region.” The U.S. is sending enormous amounts of aid to the Middle East, and yet “we are less secure than ever”-both in terms of U.S. interests abroad and for individual Americans. Zunes referred to a “growing and increasing hostility [of] the average Arab toward the United States.” In the long term, said Zunes, “peace and stability and cooperation with the vast Arab world is far more important for U.S. interests than this alliance with Israel.” This is not only an issue for those who are working for Palestinian rights, but it also “jeopardizes the entire agenda of those of us concerned about human rights, concerned about arms control, concerned about international law.” Zunes sees significant potential in “building a broad-based movement around it.” The above text is based on remarks, delivered on. 26 January, 2001 by Stephen Zunes – Associate Professor of Politics and Chair of the Peace and Justice Studies Program at San Francisco University. The Cost of Israel to U.S. Taxpayers: True Lies About U.S. Aid to Israel By Richard H. Curtiss For many years the American media said that “Israel receives $1.8 billion in military aid” or that “Israel receives $1.2 billion in economic aid.” Both statements were true, but since they were never combined to give us the complete total of annual U.S. aid to Israel, they also were lies—true lies. Recently Americans have begun to read and hear that “Israel receives $3 billion in annual U.S. foreign aid.” That’s true. But it’s still a lie. The problem is that in fiscal 1997 alone, Israel received from a variety of other U.S. federal budgets at least $525.8 million above and beyond its $3 billion from the foreign aid budget, and yet another $2 billion in federal loan guarantees. So the complete total of U.S. grants and loan guarantees to Israel for fiscal 1997 was $5,525,800,000. One can truthfully blame the mainstream media for never digging out these figures for themselves, because none ever have. They were compiled by the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. But the mainstream media certainly are not alone. Although Congress authorizes America’s foreign aid total, the fact that more than a third of it goes to a country smaller in both area and population than Hong Kong probably never has been mentioned on the floor of the Senate or House. Yet it’s been going on for more than a generation. Probably the only members of Congress who even suspect the full total of U.S. funds received by Israel each year are the privileged few committee members who actually mark it up. And almost all members of the concerned committees are Jewish, have taken huge campaign donations orchestrated by Israel’s Washington, DC lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), or both. These congressional committee members are paid to act, not talk. So they do and they don’t. The same applies to the president, the secretary of state, and the foreign aid administrator. They all submit a budget that includes aid for Israel, which Congress approves, or increases, but never cuts. But no one in the executive branch mentions that of the few remaining U.S. aid recipients worldwide, all of the others are developing nations which either make their military bases available to the U.S., are key members of international alliances in which the U.S. participates, or have suffered some crippling blow of nature to their abilities to feed their people such as earthquakes, floods or droughts. Israel, whose troubles arise solely from its unwillingness to give back land it seized in the 1967 war in return for peace with its neighbors, does not fit those criteria. In fact, Israel’s 1995 per capita gross domestic product was $15,800. That put it below Britain at $19,500 and Italy at $18,700 and just above Ireland at $15,400 and Spain at $14,300. All four of those European countries have contributed a very large share of immigrants to the U.S., yet none has organized an ethnic group to lobby for U.S. foreign aid. Instead, all four send funds and vo
lunteers to do economic development and emergency relief work in other less fortunate parts of the world. The lobby that Israel and its supporters have built in the United States to make all this aid happen, and to ban discussion of it from the national dialogue, goes far beyond AIPAC, with its $15 million budget, its 150 employees, and its five or six registered lobbyists who manage to visit every member of Congress individually once or twice a year. AIPAC, in turn, can draw upon the resources of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, a roof group set up solely to coordinate the efforts of some 52 national Jewish organizations on behalf of Israel. Among them are Hadassah, the Zionist women’s organization, which organizes a steady stream of American Jewish visitors to Israel; the American Jewish Congress, which mobilizes support for Israel among members of the traditionally left-of-center Jewish mainstream; and the American Jewish Committee, which plays the same role within the growing middle-of-the-road and right-of-center Jewish community. The American Jewish Committee also publishes Commentary,one of the Israel lobby’s principal national publications. Perhaps the most controversial of these groups is B’nai B’rith’s Anti-Defamation League. Its original highly commendable purpose was to protect the civil rights of American Jews. Over the past generation, however, the ADL has regressed into a conspiratorial and, with a $45 million budget, extremely well-funded hate group. In the 1980s, during the tenure of chairman Seymour Reich, who went on to become chairman of the Conference of Presidents, ADL was found to have circulated two annual fund-raising letters warning Jewish parents against allegedly negative influences on their children arising from the increasing Arab presence on American university campuses. More recently, FBI raids on ADL’s Los Angeles and San Francisco offices revealed that an ADL operative had purchased files stolen from the San Francisco police department that a court had ordered destroyed because they violated the civil rights of the individuals on whom they had been compiled. ADL, it was shown, had added the illegally prepared and illegally obtained material to its own secret files, compiled by planting informants among Arab-American, African-American, anti-Apartheid and peace and justice groups. The ADL infiltrators took notes of the names and remarks of speakers and members of audiences at programs organized by such groups. ADL agents even recorded the license plates of persons attending such programs and then suborned corrupt motor vehicles department employees or renegade police officers to identify the owners. Although one of the principal offenders fled the United States to escape prosecution, no significant penalties were assessed. ADL’s Northern California office was ordered to comply with requests by persons upon whom dossiers had been prepared to see their own files, but no one went to jail and as yet no one has paid fines. Not surprisingly, a defecting employee revealed in an article he published in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs that AIPAC, too, has such “enemies” files. They are compiled for use by pro-Israel journalists like Steven Emerson and other so-called “terrorism experts,” and also by professional, academic or journalistic rivals of the persons described for use in black-listing, defaming, or denouncing them. What is never revealed is that AIPAC’s “opposition research” department, under the supervision of Michael Lewis, son of famed Princeton University Orientalist Bernard Lewis, is the source of this defamatory material. But this is not AIPAC’s most controversial activity. In the 1970s, when Congress put a cap on the amount its members could earn from speakers’ fees and book royalties over and above their salaries, it halted AIPAC’s most effective ways of paying off members for voting according to AIPAC recommendations. Members of AIPAC’s national board of directors solved the problem by returning to their home states and creating political action committees (PACs). Most special interests have PACs, as do many major corporations, labor unions, trade associations and public-interest groups. But the pro-Israel groups went wild. To date some 126 pro-Israel PACs have been registered, and no fewer than 50 have been active in every national election over the past generation. An individual voter can give up to $2,000 to a candidate in an election cycle, and a PAC can give a candidate up to $10,000. However, a single special interest with 50 PACs can give a candidate who is facing a tough opponent, and who has voted according to its recommendations, up to half a million dollars. That’s enough to buy all the television time needed to get elected in most parts of the country. Even candidates who don’t need this kind of money certainly don’t want it to become available to a rival from their own party in a primary election, or to an opponent from the opposing party in a general election. As a result, all but a handful of the 535 members of the Senate and House vote as AIPAC instructs when it comes to aid to Israel, or other aspects of U.S. Middle East policy. There is something else very special about AIPAC’s network of political action committees. Nearly all have deceptive names. Who could possibly know that the Delaware Valley Good Government Association in Philadelphia, San Franciscans for Good Government in California, Cactus PAC in Arizona, Beaver PAC in Wisconsin, and even Icepac in New York are really pro-Israel PACs under deep cover? Hiding AIPAC’s Tracks In fact, the congressmembers know it when they list the contributions they receive on the campaign statements they have to prepare for the Federal Election Commission. But their constituents don’t know this when they read these statements. So just as no other special interest can put so much “hard money” into any candidate’s election campaign as can the Israel lobby, no other special interest has gone to such elaborate lengths to hide its tracks. Although AIPAC, Washington’s most feared special-interest lobby, can hide how it uses both carrots and sticks to bribe or intimidate members of Congress, it can’t hide all of the results. Anyone can ask one of their representatives in Congress for a chart prepared by the Congressional Research Service, a branch of the Library of Congress, that shows Israel received $62.5 billion in foreign aid from fiscal year 1949 through fiscal year 1996. People in the national capital area also can visit the library of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Rosslyn, Virginia, and obtain the same information, plus charts showing how much foreign aid the U.S. has given other countries as well. Visitors will learn that in precisely the same 1949-1996 time frame, the total of U.S. foreign aid to all of the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean combined was $62,497,800,000–almost exactly the amount given to tiny Israel. According to the Population Reference Bureau of Washington, DC, in mid-1995 the sub-Saharan countries had a combined population of 568 million. The $24,415,700,000 in foreign aid they had received by then amounted to $42.99 per sub-Saharan African. Similarly, with a combined population of 486 million, all of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean together had received $38,254,400,000. This amounted to $79 per person. The per capita U.S. foreign aid to Israel’s 5.8 million people during the same period was $10,775.48. This meant that for every dollar the U.S. spent on an African, it spent $250.65 on an Israeli, and for every dollar it spent on someone from the Western Hemisphere outside the United States, it spent $214 on an Israeli. Shocking Comparisons These comparisons already seem shocking, but they are far from the whole truth. Using reports compiled by Clyde Mark of the Congressional Research Service and other sources, freelance writer Frank Collins tallied for theWashington Report all of the extra items for Israel buried in the budgets of the Pentagon and other federal agencies
in fiscal year 1993.Washington Report news editor Shawn Twing did the same thing for fiscal years 1996 and 1997. They uncovered $1.271 billion in extras in FY 1993, $355.3 million in FY 1996 and $525.8 million in FY 1997. These represent an average increase of 12.2 percent over the officially recorded foreign aid totals for the same fiscal years, and they probably are not complete. It’s reasonable to assume, therefore, that a similar 12.2 percent hidden increase has prevailed over all of the years Israel has received aid. As of Oct. 31, 1997 Israel will have received $3.05 billion in U.S. foreign aid for fiscal year 1997 and $3.08 billion in foreign aid for fiscal year 1998. Adding the 1997 and 1998 totals to those of previous years since 1949 yields a total of $74,157,600,000 in foreign aid grants and loans. Assuming that the actual totals from other budgets average 12.2 percent of that amount, that brings the grand total to $83,204,827,200. But that’s not quite all. Receiving its annual foreign aid appropriation during the first month of the fiscal year, instead of in quarterly installments as do other recipients, is just another special privilege Congress has voted for Israel. It enables Israel to invest the money in U.S. Treasury notes. That means that the U.S., which has to borrow the money it gives to Israel, pays interest on the money it has granted to Israel in advance, while at the same time Israel is collecting interest on the money. That interest to Israel from advance payments adds another $1.650 billion to the total, making it $84,854,827,200.That’s the number you should write down for total aid to Israel. And that’s $14,346 each for each man, woman and child in Israel. It’s worth noting that that figure does not include U.S. government loan guarantees to Israel, of which Israel has drawn $9.8 billion to date. They greatly reduce the interest rate the Israeli government pays on commercial loans, and they place additional burdens on U.S. taxpayers, especially if the Israeli government should default on any of them. But since neither the savings to Israel nor the costs to U.S. taxpayers can be accurately quantified, they are excluded from consideration here. Further, friends of Israel never tire of saying that Israel has never defaulted on repayment of a U.S. government loan. It would be equally accurate to say Israel has never been required to repay a U.S. government loan. The truth of the matter is complex, and designed to be so by those who seek to conceal it from the U.S. taxpayer. Most U.S. loans to Israel are forgiven, and many were made with the explicit understanding that they would be forgiven before Israel was required to repay them. By disguising as loans what in fact were grants, cooperating members of Congress exempted Israel from the U.S. oversight that would have accompanied grants. On other loans, Israel was expected to pay the interest and eventually to begin repaying the principal. But the so-called Cranston Amendment, which has been attached by Congress to every foreign aid appropriation since 1983, provides that economic aid to Israel will never dip below the amount Israel is required to pay on its outstanding loans. In short, whether U.S. aid is extended as grants or loans to Israel, it never returns to the Treasury. Israel enjoys other privileges. While most countries receiving U.S. military aid funds are expected to use them for U.S. arms, ammunition and training, Israel can spend part of these funds on weapons made by Israeli manufacturers. Also, when it spends its U.S. military aid money on U.S. products, Israel frequently requires the U.S. vendor to buy components or materials from Israeli manufacturers. Thus, though Israeli politicians say that their own manufacturers and exporters are making them progressively less dependent upon U.S. aid, in fact those Israeli manufacturers and exporters are heavily subsidized by U.S. aid. Although it’s beyond the parameters of this study, it’s worth mentioning that Israel also receives foreign aid from some other countries. After the United States, the principal donor of both economic and military aid to Israel is Germany. By far the largest component of German aid has been in the form of restitution payments to victims of Nazi attrocities. But there also has been extensive German military assistance to Israel during and since the Gulf war, and a variety of German educational and research grants go to Israeli institutions. The total of German assistance in all of these categories to the Israeli government, Israeli individuals and Israeli private institutions has been some $31 billion or $5,345 per capita, bringing the per capita total of U.S. and German assistance combined to almost $20,000 per Israeli. Since very little public money is spent on the more than 20 percent of Israeli citizens who are Muslim or Christian, the actual per capita benefits received by Israel’s Jewish citizens would be considerably higher. True Cost to U.S. Taxpayers Generous as it is, what Israelis actually got in U.S. aid is considerably less than what it has cost U.S. taxpayers to provide it. The principal difference is that so long as the U.S. runs an annual budget deficit, every dollar of aid the U.S. gives Israel has to be raised through U.S. government borrowing. In an article in the Washington Report for December 1991/January 1992, Frank Collins estimated the costs of this interest, based upon prevailing interest rates for every year since 1949. I have updated this by applying a very conservative 5 percent interest rate for subsequent years, and confined the amount upon which the interest is calculated to grants, not loans or loan guarantees. On this basis the $84.8 billion in grants, loans and commodities Israel has received from the U.S. since 1949 cost the U.S. an additional $49,936,880,000 in interest. There are many other costs of Israel to U.S. taxpayers, such as most or all of the $45.6 billion in U.S. foreign aid to Egypt since Egypt made peace with Israel in 1979 (compared to $4.2 billion in U.S. aid to Egypt for the preceding 26 years). U.S. foreign aid to Egypt, which is pegged at two-thirds of U.S. foreign aid to Israel, averages $2.2 billion per year. There also have been immense political and military costs to the U.S. for its consistent support of Israel during Israel’s half-century of disputes with the Palestinians and all of its Arab neighbors. In addition, there have been the approximately $10 billion in U.S. loan guarantees and perhaps $20 billion in tax-exempt contributions made to Israel by American Jews in the nearly half-century since Israel was created. Even excluding all of these extra costs, America’s $84.8 billion in aid to Israel from fiscal years 1949 through 1998, and the interest the U.S. paid to borrow this money, has cost U.S. taxpayers $134.8 billion, not adjusted for inflation. Or, put another way, the nearly $14,630 every one of 5.8 million Israelis received from the U.S. government by Oct. 31, 1997 has cost American taxpayers $23,240 per Israeli. It would be interesting to know how many of those American taxpayers believe they and their families have received as much from the U.S. Treasury as has everyone who has chosen to become a citizen of Israel. But it’s a question that will never occur to the American public because, so long as America’s mainstream media, Congress and president maintain their pact of silence, few Americans will ever know the true cost of Israel to U.S. taxpayers. Richard Curtiss, a retired U.S. foreign service officer, is the executive editor of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

Palestine

Gallery Gaza air strikes: More Than 155 Palestinians Killed In Israeli Air Attacks On Gaza

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27 December: Amid thousands of images of civilian casualties of the Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, the solemn stare of one child appears to have stood out more than any other. Newspapers and broadcasters across the world selected the image of a young girl looking into a camera lens outside the Shifa hospital hours after an Israeli air strike

Photograph: Abid Katib/Getty Images

Islamic warfare protects noncombatants, and manipulating terrorists are violating its laws.

VOICE OF THE DAY

A Muslim view

Islamic warfare protects noncombatants, and manipulating terrorists are violating its laws.

ANNANINA JOY GLOVER • JANUARY 16, 2009

Peace to you, dear readers. I was asked to write a reply to the letter written in the Dec. 19 Voices section (“Muslim reaction to killings sought,” by Bob W. Rush) asking for the Muslim community to respond to the terrorism/violence being perpetrated by so-called Muslim extremists.

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I am an American who has embraced Islam post-Sept. 11, 2001. Islam does not teach hate, violence or exclusivity of salvation. In fact, there are rules to Islamic warfare that protect noncombatants, their property and also a cease-fire if the people pursue peaceful relations. It does not matter if the people are Muslim or non-Muslim. The point of Islamic warfare is to establish justice in a land where people are oppressed and corruption abounds or defend one’s life, home and right to practice his religion. These laws are being violated by the terrorists; their attacks harm men, women and children who offer no violence or opposition to justice. Property is stolen or destroyed, crops wiped out and no peace treaties are welcomed. So ultimately what we have are rampaging murderers and political extremists pulling the strings, manipulating the emotional state of people to convince them that they are acting to serve justice.

Killing Spawns Resentment

It is hard for most Americans to understand what it is that has spawned such a resentment in people, until they are offered insight into a different life that is reality on the other side of the world. To us it is articles in the newspaper, images on television and counts of how many of our people have given their lives in what we believe is a fight for freedom, justice and liberty for all. But to many ordinary people who consider themselves to be patriotic, honest, hard-working folk of Middle Eastern nations, American military action or support of certain governments results in the death of children, friends and family. We know from experience that anyone who loses a child or a beloved family member in a violent way generally becomes embittered and blames what they perceive to be the source of the problem, whether it be drunk drivers, gang-bangers or military skirmishes.

After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, our government ordered an investigation and the report concluded that the primary motivation was U.S. military aid to Israel. No matter how bitter people might be or what terrible things have been done to them or their loved ones, it does not justify the actions the terrorists took. It certainly did nothing to improve the conditions of the people trying to live alongside Israel.

No Room For Hate

When politically minded people gather emotionally wounded people together and focus those feelings into hate, they can manipulate them to do anything, and by perverting scripture they believe they serve justice. There is no room for hate in the heart of any true believer of God, be they Muslim, Christian or Jew. When there is arrogance (racial or social) or hate, love for God cannot be. I do understand that Israel is a very sensitive subject, but I ask you to think about the country not for religious affiliation or historical events. There are international laws that designate certain human rights, and if a country does not comply with them, we do not support their governments. Israel’s military actions violate human rights laws, and have continued to do so for more than 20 years. Yet the U.S. gives more aid to Israel (in weapons and so forth) than any other nation (to my understanding ).

The most horrifying to me, as a woman, is the checkpoint that refused to allow a woman in labor to cross to the waiting ambulance until after she and her twins had died. The most disturbing fact about the weaponry being used is the so-called “rubber bullets” that are metal rounds coated in plastic and end up killing many children, even entering their brains.

I am not calling an end to Israel or reviling the children of Israel. I am simply saying that there is another side to the story and that some of the bitterness and resentment is based in reality. I believe if we truly want peace, people (Muslim, Christian, Jew, or other) are going to have to recognize the humanity in the other and strive for a common goal: the right to live and believe free from persecution.

If you disagree, please feel free to contest my words with credible sources. If you want to know what all Muslims must abide by, try reading a translation of the meaning of the Quran. Look for a way to prove me wrong. I, as a Muslim – one who submits my whole self to God – believe in: God, the Messengers, the Angels, the Book, the Final Day, that Islam is my guide and inviolate law, that there is no compulsion in religion, other religions must be respectfully disagreed with but not reviled and to treat people gently. Most of all, I believe on living by example; clean and courteous. Religion must be lived in every breath, every word and every step – a way of life.

Annanina Joy Glover lives in Springfield.

Hatem’s Gaza Daily Update

Hatem’s Gaza Daily Update

GAZA: 15 January
 
I am stuck in my house. Things are very difficult today as tanks are in the area next to where I live and where my colleagues have family.

My colleague is writing my words down as I am unable to get to the office and use my computer.

Many people have left the area and are moving in with relatives deeper in Gaza City.

When I look out of the window I can see people leaving with small bags – many of those leaving are with their families. There are many women and children.

I hear a loud explosion a few metres away. The shelling is becoming more intense and rockets are also falling.

I can see smoke from a building that is behind my house.

The Unrwa (UN relief agency) building is close by and my colleague has told me that it has been hit.

Shelling is going on. Explosions are shaking the house. My family are gathered in one room and we make sure everyone is OK and the house is OK.

My mother shouts out to make sure we are all with her in the room.

Children crying

My sisters-in-law are with us and the children, and we crouch down in case glass from the windows shatters and hits us. I can hear the neighbour’s children crying and shouting.

My sister called earlier and said she will try to make it to our home.

She has three young daughters and a son but we don’t think she will make it as it is not safe to travel.

Some family friends are now on their way to a UN shelter. They wanted to stay with us but it was simply too dangerous for them to make their way here.

Thick black smoke is getting thicker and blocking the sun. The fighting is coming closer to our homes and the soldiers are now in urban areas. What scares me is that our homes could come under attack and there will be more death and destruction.

When I meet people I find that they have almost become indifferent to death, as we know death is not far away 
 
I was supposed to be out distributing aid to hospitals around Gaza with Islamic Relief’s emergency relief team.

Yesterday we managed to deliver hospital trolleys, heart machines and first aid equipment including bandages, disposable gloves and syringes to five hospitals around Gaza.

We were supposed to deliver more aid today but our work has been suspended due to the intensity of the attacks in the centre of Gaza.

Aid is entering Gaza through Israel and Egypt but people can’t collect the food and medicine as it is not safe for them to leave their homes.

A few days ago Islamic Relief was able to receive 20 ambulances through the Rafah border which will be donated to the main Shifa hospital and other smaller hospitals.

Hopes dashed

Today is the 20th day of the attack. Every day we hope that this will be the last day but the attacks go on and people feel depressed and scared.

Gazans feel that this won’t end any time soon. When I meet people I find that they have almost become indifferent to death, as we know death is not far away.

In the past 20 days more than 1,000 people have been killed, many of them women and children. Death has come close to the average Gazan.

My colleague is asking me how I am coping with the situation and how I overcome my fear.

I take a deep breath and try to explain as best I can.

During the day when I am out working with the Islamic Relief team I stay strong and never show exhaustion or fear.

I am there to help people who in many cases have nothing.

When I get home I try to stay strong for my family especially my nieces and nephews who are very young and frightened.

At night when I read the evening prayer I can’t control myself and I cry and cry all night.

In the morning I leap up and force myself to shake off the despair and hurt and get ready to go out and try to help the people of Gaza.

Gaza 13 January

The water situation in Gaza is dire. Those people who are lucky enough to have any water in their storage tanks are trying to save as much as possible. Many people have had their tanks destroyed by the bombing and shooting.

Most homes in Rafah, Khan Younis and in the middle and northern areas of Gaza have almost no water or electricity. Eighty per cent of people in Gaza are dependent on international aid. Most Gazans can’t afford to buy water.

Only today my colleague, Diya Skaik, returned to his home which he was forced to leave 10 days ago due to the intensive bombing.

“The water tank which is the only source of water for my small family is crushed,” he told me.

“I went to the roof and just had a glance. I had to leave the place quickly as it is too dangerous to be there.”

A few months ago my father had a feeling something awful might happen in Gaza and bought a larger water tank.

We are very much aware that Gaza will need long-term help from the outside world to rebuild the devastated infrastructure 
 

However, the water that we have is almost finished. This is despite the fact that we have cut our usage down to the bare minimum. I know my father is concerned about our limited supply, even though he doesn’t talk about it.

The water shortage in Gaza is causing health and environmental problems.

Only a few months ago Islamic Relief provided Gaza’s main water pump station with spare parts. The system is old and in need of repair and was already feeling the strain during the siege of the past 18 months.

Today we provided eight shelters in Gaza with drinking water for the many hundreds of people who have been displaced by the bombing. Many of the shelters are overcrowded and have no access to clean water. We provided each person with 20 litres.

No doubt, after the fighting is over, we are going to see vast amounts of damage to houses and the water tanks on the roofs.

As an aid worker I am focused on coping with the here and now but like everybody in Gaza I am waiting and praying for a ceasefire so we can try to rebuild our lives.

Right now our aid team is reacting to what is happening around us.

However, we are very much aware that Gaza will need long-term help from the outside world to rebuild the devastated infrastructure.

It will take the people of Gaza even longer to heal from the physical and psychological damage of this war.

Gaza 12 January

I haven’t been able to write my diary for 48 hours – I’ve simply not had time and have been busy working with colleagues to prepare thousands of food parcels for desperate people.

We have to finish distributing aid before it gets dark and make sure that we are back home, as there is no electricity and families and loved ones worry if we are out on the streets. The bombardment intensifies at night and so it’s not wise to be out then.

Lost friends

I sometimes wonder if there will be enough space to bury the dead. Yesterday a friend of mine was killed in his home. He was a journalist and worked for a radio station.

Since the attacks started on Gaza I have lost good friends – and if you ask me how I feel about it – well, I can’t really say as I’m trying to block it out so I can focus on my work.

  I feel exhausted – as does everyone around me – but as an aid worker I have no choice but to keep going 
 
I’m one of the lucky ones, as I can keep busy with my work and focus my energy on trying to assist people – this is one of the things that is keeping me going.

My manager’s home was exposed to heavy gunfire – he lives close to the borders of Gaza City – and the bullets hit the room his children sleep in.

Crowded hospitals

I decided today to try and speak to people on the streets around the office to find out more about their situation, but it’s hard to find people and when you do everyone is in a rush to visit a relative or friend and pay their condolences to families who have lost loved ones.

The shops are closed, the most crowded areas are near hospitals. I met a few people in the streets but many more are in shelters in school buildings, which are now housing hundreds of frightened people who have fled their homes hoping they will be safer in these buildings.

The “hidden” homeless are staying with their extended family members. Hundreds of families have moved in with relatives and for Gazans this is adding further pressure on them to take care of their extended families.

Islamic Relief has received many phone calls from people asking for blankets and food – they need to keep warm and to feed their families. We are now distributing aid to these families alongside people who are living in shelters.

More aid is arriving in Gaza through Israel’s borders and my logistics colleagues work out how to get the aid loaded on to trucks and out to the hospitals and shelters.

I feel exhausted – as does everyone around me – but as an aid worker I have no choice but to keep going.

Gaza 9th January

I’m using my brother’s laptop to type these words – it has an hour left on the battery. The battery on my laptop has already died.

As I write this I can hear the sound of explosions around. Thirteen days on and I can’t say that I’m getting used to the sounds of bombs and missiles hitting Gaza.

Today Islamic Relief was unable to distribute any aid as the bombing was so intense – vast parts of Gaza are now under thick black smoke.

Yesterday we were able to distribute 1,000 food parcels to local aid organisations who are helping us to reach desperate families – each parcel has enough food to feed a family of eight for one month.

This morning I heard about six people killed in the Qarrah area – all of them were over 50 years old. They were considered to be the elders in the community and they were respected and loved by all in Qarrah. People are in a state of shock.

Medical crisis

The whole health sector in Gaza is in meltdown. In the hospitals the doctors are sending home the severely injured – they have no choice due to the shortage of beds.

Many of those sent home are in urgent need of hospital treatment and anywhere else in the world they would be expected to stay in hospital for weeks. But Gaza is no ordinary place – it’s a place full of deep pain and misery.   I don’t think there any words in the dictionary that can accurately capture what’s happening here 
 

The injured are being forced to return to their homes a few hours after arriving at the hospital and are forced to try and recover from their injuries as the bombs keep falling.

The shortage of doctors can be seen in the operating theatres. While a doctor is operating on a patient two more will be brought in for emergency surgery at the same time – it’s an impossible situation.

It’s not only the doctors; there is a severe shortage of nurses too. The hospitals asked student nurses in their third and fourth years to come and help, as well as other volunteers – such is their desperation.

It’s important to remember that Gaza has been under siege for the last 18 months, so the hospitals were already suffering from a severe shortage of medical equipment.

Power fears

Al-Shifa is the largest hospital in Gaza and it just cannot cope with all the injured. In most hospitals around the world generators are used as emergency back-up if anything happens to the electricity.

In Gaza the generators are the main source of electricity for the hospitals and there is no back up. If the generators do not work properly there is nothing the doctors can do. This can happen during an operation.

Islamic Relief is going regularly to the hospitals and supplying them with medical equipment. But what will happen when the fuel runs out in Gaza and the generators no longer work?

Most people in Gaza are already without electricity as most do not have access to generators.

When I sit down to gather my thoughts and write these diaries my mind often goes blank because sometimes it’s too difficult to process the full magnitude of the suffering in Gaza.

Often I struggle to find the words to describe what’s happening here – I don’t think there are any words in the dictionary that can accurately capture what’s happening here.

Gaza 8th January

While I was writing this diary entry I received news that a Palestinian family had been killed in the northern Jabaliya refugee camp after their house was bombed.

Jabaliya is home to an estimated 125,000 people and is the most densely populated camp in Gaza.

They were a father, mother and son from the Aljaro family. Other members of the family had been injured. 

But the news got worse: the father was the brother of my Islamic Relief colleague Alaa.

I tried to reach Alaa to check he was OK and pay my condolences but couldn’t get through to him on the phone.

I finally received news that Alaa was OK. But what do I say to him when I see him?

Every day that passes brings more and more bad news and with every passing hour the human misery increases.

One minute we hear news that five people have been killed in a certain neighbourhood, then a few minutes later we receive more news that people have been killed in a different area.

It seems like Gazans are just becoming numbers.

Gazans are not just numbers, Gazans are very kind people who love life and love others.

Orphaned children

Every child that has died enjoyed playing, like other children across the world.

Every child that died had a family that loved them dearly.

Our aid team also learnt today that the fathers of three of the children in our Psychosocial Support program had been killed.

They are now orphans.

Islamic Relief runs a project with Gazan children who have been traumatised by conflict. It is funded by the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD).

Two thousand children are involved in the project, which aims to help youngsters deal with their loss and provide them with support and care.

I wonder what effect this conflict and losing their fathers will have on those three children in the long term.

One thing is for sure, when the bombing ends – and we pray for it to end now – this project will need to be one of our priorities.

Poor shelters

I’ve met a lot of children over the past 12 days and I can see the fear in their eyes.

The state of the shelters in which people are seeking refuge is dire.

There is no electricity, and no fuel for cooking. Neither is there any kind of heating to keep people warm in these cold winter nights.

The good news is that our relief teams continued with our distribution to three UN shelters, supplying people with hygiene kits and blankets.

We also prepared a list of medicines desperately needed by Gazan hospitals and are now working on trying to purchase the medication inside Gaza and co-ordinate the purchasing of aid from outside Gaza and work out how to get it into Gaza.

Gaza 7th January

Today we had a few hours of calm. For three hours we could deliver aid without the worry of bombardment. It was a busy day.

An Islamic Relief aid team went to the Paediatric Hospital to provide it with medical items, such as surgical sets, bandages and scissors among other items which are continuously required.

We also delivered soaps and other hygiene material and blankets to six UN shelters.

The people in the shelter were happy to see aid workers arriving with supplies, especially blankets as it’s very cold here in Gaza.

During this three hours of calm we were also given a deeper insight to the misery on the streets of Gaza.

We visited a building near the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) office in Gaza where 200 people were sheltering.

Many of the people there asked me if I could tell them where a safe shelter was – where they could go to stay safe with their loved ones. I had no answer.

Despite the temporary halt in the bombing I only met people, young and old, full of sadness and fear. Many people that I met looked bewildered and exhausted.

In one shelter I met a man called Abu Mohamed. He had been forced to leave his home and was desperate to return.

“I refuse to go to a UN school as it is unsafe. Yesterday a school was hit and more than 40 were killed.

“I can’t let my family and relatives be killed. I want all this to stop and go back home safely,” he said.

Child’s play

I also met a 12-year-old girl named Fatima. She had fled with 12 members of her family to be in a UN school.

Her home was partially destroyed after her neighbour’s house was bombed.

Along with other children, she didn’t feel safe but was trying her best to block out the bombing by playing with her cousins in the school yard.

Despite the dangers, the children of Gaza are resilient and some are determined to keep playing.

Our aid teams are working out how we can source more aid supplies into Gaza and deliver the aid we have inside Gaza.

We have precious minutes and seconds in the day to try to reach desperate people whose suffering continues.

Eleven days on and there is no end in sight.

GAZA: 6 January

I’m absolutely exhausted. Despite the bombing last night I managed to get some sleep – I don’t know how – I think my body just had enough.

A homeless Palestinian woman weeps in a school turned into a UN shelter in Gaza. Families have sheltered in schools

An Islamic Relief aid team went out and visited one of the UN schools that has been turned into a shelter for families displaced by the bombing.

What I saw was heartbreaking. Before me were families who have had their homes destroyed and have lost everything. Gaza is a very poor place and many people didn’t have much before the bombing started. Many more are left with even less now.

The people I met told me that they had found themselves in the firing line and had no choice but to leave their homes.

I met a mother who was burning paper in order to boil water for her child. She was doing this because she had no milk – maybe she could fool her hungry baby with the warm water?

I was surprised at the amount of women and children I saw in the school – and worried too.

Suffering

People are exhausted, traumatised and they are surviving on a limited amount of food – there simply isn’t enough.

I found it very hard to see people suffering like this, especially the children.

At Islamic Relief we have decided that we have no choice but to deliver food to people – no matter what the dangers, and there are plenty of dangers in Gaza.

As aid workers we can not stand by and watch as people suffer – they have nothing and we have to do something to help them.

There are around 500 people sheltering in the school and we are also preparing to provide people with hygiene kits, which contain simple things like soap which are important in preventing the spread of disease.

Seeing women and children living in these kind of conditions is unbearable. Many of the children had walked long distances to reach the schools. Their parents had thought they would be safe here.

The children are tired and hungry and do not know why they have been made to leave their homes and live in classrooms, like most Gazans they are cold and hungry and bewildered by the events of the past 11 days.

GAZA: 5 January

For the second day we have had to postpone our planned aid distribution. The security situation gets worse by the hour, making it very difficult to go out on the streets and deliver aid.
 
Picture of Islamic Relief aid worker, Hatem Shurrab
I often feel like I am saying the same thing again and again, but the humanitarian situation is nothing short of desperate

Homes are without water and electricity. Gazans have only been receiving water once a week for the last six months. But the electricity is down, which means the water cannot be pumped up.

This is very dangerous. As well as the obvious danger of being without water, there are added health issues and the possibility of the spread of disease.

Gaza is now divided due to the presence of the Israeli army and it is pretty much impossible to travel to the central areas.

My Islamic Relief colleagues who work with orphans are in the middle of Gaza – it is now very difficult to reach this area.

The inability to travel safely is severely affecting the aid effort. Only today I was at a bread queue talking to ordinary Gazans. Explosions could be heard in the background.

I met one woman who had been queuing from 0730 to 1030. But others had been queuing for up to 10 hours – such is the shortage. One man I met told me he was taking shifts with his brother in the bread queue in order not to lose their place.

Others I met just broke down in tears when I began speaking to them – it seems they had no words left.
A little girl takes shelter at a UN aid centre in Gaza on 5 January 2009
Gazans face crippling shortages and constant blasts, Hatem Shurrab says

I often feel like I am saying the same thing again and again, but the humanitarian situation is nothing short of desperate. Our colleagues in the UN are calling it a humanitarian crisis.

Each day in Gaza it feels like it can’t get any worse – but it does. People just don’t know what to do or expect.

I ask you to imagine how you would feel if you found yourself in a situation where you and your loved ones had little food, water and no electricity. And all the time the sound of explosions – bombs, missiles and tank fire – can be heard everywhere.

Ten long days and nights the people of Gaza have been living with fear – we are exhausted and every day brings more violence and more misery. 

January 4th 2009

The moment we all feared has come – ground troops are in Gaza.

For the first time I was forced to hide in the basement of our house, as there are no shelters or bunkers to take refuge from the bombing or shelling.

With seven members of my family – the youngest, Majd, being seven months old – we spent the night listening to explosions.

The bombardment was relentless. Some of the explosions were near our home and were causing Majd to cry. Our house was rocked by a nearby explosion – it was terrifying.

This is worse than the aerial bombing – everything feels so close.

The night was very cold and we spent it listening to the radio to see if we could find out what was going on. We knew what was happening; that now the fighting would be on the streets of Gaza.

This was what we were hoping would not happen. Everyone selected a corner in the basement to sit in – we knew it was going to be a long night.

I woke up at 0710 – exhausted and suffering from a headache, like most people I had barely slept. Outside there was silence – maybe everything had stopped? But almost immediately, I heard an air strike and realised that the nightmare wasn’t over.

Islamic Relief Worldwide had planned to deliver some aid today but the situation on the streets of Gaza was just too dangerous.

Instead, we made preparations for the delivery of aid to hospitals. Our emergency manager was at the al-Shifa hospital; he told us many of the injured were being taken there.

It is very dangerous now to be out in the streets. With each passing day and night, the dangers in Gaza increase and so does the humanitarian crisis.

Electricity is not available and people are using generators.

Even in the Islamic Relief Worldwide office we have to leave early in order to save fuel for the generators for the coming days.

On Monday, we plan to distribute aid to the hospitals – I, like the rest of Gaza, hope it will be safe to do so.

January 3rd 2009

As I finish writing this I am having to move to the basement of my house with seven members of my family, including a baby aged 7 months.  
The American International School in Gaza was hit in an Israeli strike

Loud explosions are going off all around and a colleague from the UK is writing down my words as I speak to her on the phone.

I am trying very hard to hide the fear in my voice but I don’t think I’m doing a very good job.

The ground invasion has started and now nobody knows what will happen next.

My colleague is asking me if the rest of our team are safe – I spoke to them one hour ago and as far as I know everyone is ok for now.

The colleagues who live in Jabaliya camp have moved out deeper into Gaza so that they can try and stay safe. Jabaliya is a very exposed place and its safer for people to move out of this area.

Before this ground invasion was launched I had been out visiting children who should have been in school, but of course all the schools are closed.

I heard the news that the American International School was hit in a strike. Of course the school was empty – they all are.

I spoke to 12-year-old Nour today. He studies at Dar Al Arqam school. It was hit in the first few days of the bombing.

Instead of sitting his exams he sits at home reading books trying desperately to blank out the bombing.

“I have a number of story books. I love reading but I read all the stories. There is no electricity to watch cartoons and there is no safety to go and buy new story books, it’s terrifying and boring to stay under fire all this time,” he said.

The schools have called the winter holidays early as the security situation is getting worse each day.

But these holidays won’t be the same for Nour or his friends. They won’t be playing in the streets of Gaza, instead they will be sitting terrified in their houses.   I want the shelling stop because I become scared when I hear it everyday

Masa, 9

“I’ll never enjoy this holiday. Everyday I listen to bad news about people being killed.

“I will also not go to my desk if schools open because my class is among the classes which were destroyed.,” he said.

Nine-year-old Masa is another Gazan child who is trying to make sense of what is happening: “I fill my time in studying, but the sound of planes and shelling is not letting me focus on the lessons. I try to stay near my mother and father and hug them several times a day,” she said.

“I got bored of staying at home all this time. I want to play with my friends and cousins. I want the shelling stop because I become scared when I hear it everyday.”

It’s sad speaking to these children and hearing their stories and thoughts.

They should be playing in the streets, but instead they spend their time hiding indoors – terrified and confused.

More than 50 children were killed during the last week. Schools are shut down and students are not going to their exams.

Tomorrow [Sunday] we had planned to deliver blankets and food parcels to three shelter locations which have been opened in schools for families who live in the border areas and who have been evacuated from their homes.

Now that the ground invasion has started…well, we simply have no idea if we will be able to leave our homes. It’s going to be a very long night in Gaza.

January 2nd 2009

A week is a long time when you live in a place that is cut off from the outside world and are surrounded by death, devastation and destruction. 

It is seven days since the attacks were launched on Gaza and in that time hundreds of people have been killed and many more injured. According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights among the dead are 51 children and 14 women. 

When I do manage to snatch the odd hour of sleep I wake up hoping to find that all of this has been a bad nightmare and that Gaza is back to being a place full of life. It seems that the situation we are in now is not going to end anytime soon and the nightmare will go on. The bombardment continues and I hope it stops so that people can go out and bury the dead. 

The numbers of people who went to attend the Friday prayer today was much less than any other Friday prayer I can remember. Mosques are located in the heart of communities and often close to government buildings. These mosques have closed their gates, something unheard of in the Middle East – a mosque being closed on a Friday. 

Long bread queues 

Today I managed to have a snatched conversation with a woman who was on her way to buy some bread from one of the few bakeries open on Gaza’s Wihda Street.

Um Nasir is a mother of five children; the eldest is 17 years old. She told me she was widowed and her husband had been killed during an air raid on Gaza some three years ago. 

She told me that she hides in the basement of her house with her children when the bombing attacks start. Every night the children sleep on mattresses close to their mother. 

Um Nasir had to wait for over an hour to get her bread but she said she felt lucky she didn’t have to spend more than an hour queuing. She said she was terrified to be away from her children and was eager to get back to them in the case the bombs started dropping again. 

Um Nasir is one of thousands of Gazan women who are worried for the safety of their children and are trying their best to keep their families safe and keep some kind of normality in their homes. 

While we were talking I discovered that two of Um Nasir’s children are being sponsored by Islamic Relief and this makes life a little easier for her as she survives with very limited resources. 

Islamic Relief has a large orphans sponsorship programme and individuals from around the world provide Islamic Relief with donations so we can assist these youngsters. 

The office in the UK told me that many people have been calling to find out if the children are safe and how they can help them. 

The good news is that some aid is now arriving in Gaza through Israel’s borders and this has given the Islamic Relief aid team a much needed energy boost. We hope to step up our work on the ground and reach more people in the coming days.

January 1st 2009

I could barely sleep last night due to the continuous explosions – they seem to be hitting every part of the Gaza Strip.

Despite the dangers, Islamic Relief is increasing its humanitarian work – we have no choice. This morning we delivered four trucks of food to the main Shifa hospital.

Even as we were delivering the food, newly injured people were arriving at the hospital. I wonder if the doctors are having any rest at all – it seems the wounded just keep on coming with no pause. 
 
It’s the new year, but for Gazans it feels like 2008 never ended 
 
The food aid included flour, rice, beans, tinned meat and fish. Islamic Relief also provided hospital stores with four large trucks filled with food supplies. It was desperately needed. The supplies are enough for the Gaza Strip hospitals for more than a month.

Since the bombing started six days ago, people are becoming more and more desperate. I’ve met families who are resorting to boiling weeds that they’ve dug out from the ground in order to feed their families.

People are queuing up to an hour to get bread rations. The long queues are dangerous – bombs could fall at any time and being out in the open is the worst place to be.

The weather is getting colder and this is another danger for Gazans. Islamic Relief has already distributed blankets. We distributed 400 today to the injured at Shifa hospital to take home with them.

Vulnerable children

Due to the density of people in Gaza, homes are built very close to government buildings so when bombs are dropped, homes are damaged too.

Many people are living without windows or doors, shattered by the force of the bombs. People are worried about the structures of their homes as walls have caved in. Some people are trying to replace the broken glass with nylon. But nylon, like most things in Gaza, is in short supply and not many people can afford to buy it.  
The children are hungry, tired, scared and cold

Most people do not have gas, and electricity is limited. There are long periods of time when Gaza has no electricity.

People are trying to keep themselves warm by using extra blankets. Many people have started to burn wood to cook food – it also helps to keep them warm. Others are burning paper from exercise books to cook tea on.

As usual, it is the vulnerable who suffer the most, and it’s the children I fear for – they are hungry, tired, scared and cold. It is not easy to blank out the sounds of screaming F-16s or bombs being dropped for an adult, but more so for children.

As aid workers, we know we are taking big risks leaving our homes in the morning and going to work but we have no choice as we can’t stand by and watch our people suffering, and so we keep going.

The Islamic Relief staff are trying their best to do what they can. They are Gazans like the rest of the people and we all feel scared. But at the same time we know that if we do not go out and help our fellow Gazans then who will?

It’s the new year, but for Gazans it feels like 2008 never ended.

December 31 2008

People around the world will be about to celebrate the new year – not here in Gaza.

This is usually a time when people make new plans and have high hopes for the coming year. At the moment the people in Gaza are just hoping they will be alive tomorrow.  2008 was a bitter year for Gazans – it looks like 2009 will be the same 

Food is beginning to become a major issue. Only two weeks ago the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) suspended the distribution of food in Gaza because of shortages.

We pray there is some respite from the constant bombing – this will allow desperately needed aid to get in. The crisis in Gaza seems to tick every box to make it a major humanitarian disaster; hunger, killing, insecurity and poverty.

What makes the food situation even worse is that Gazans were already facing difficulties with food over the last year – now they are on the brink.

Eighty per cent of Gaza’s 1.5 million population depends on international humanitarian assistance; that is an incredible amount of people in such a small area of land. The level of poverty is spiralling out of control.

When we go out and assess what is needed you can see that the people are beyond despair. Food provided by Islamic Relief, the UN and other agencies is beginning to run out in people’s homes. The heads of households are despairing at the thought of how to feed their children.

Every family has a story of suffering. They will tell you about the shortage of food, of cooking gas and fuel, and of course electricity. People have to queue for an hour to get bread.  
Gaza residents are facing serious shortages of basic necessities

At the moment only a quarter of the bakeries are operating due to a shortage in gas and electricity.

There are 47 bakeries in Gaza. However, 27 of them have not been operating for some time now and the rest are unable to open every day. There is only enough flour in Gaza to last two weeks unless more supplies are brought in.

As an aid worker I have seen poverty deepening in Gaza since the blockade began 18 months ago. This year has been one of the worst years I can remember in terms of the desperation people are feeling – not knowing if there will be enough food in the markets, if there will be electricity or fuel.

Over the past 12 months Islamic Relief has delivered food assistance to 40,000 families, in addition to supplying vast amounts of medical equipment, hygiene kits and kitchen tools to half a million people.

At the moment Islamic Relief is able to source food from suppliers here in Gaza. In a few days we will begin emergency food distribution. 2008 was a bitter year for Gazans – it looks like 2009 will be the same.


December 30 2008

On Saturday Gazan school children were supposed to be sitting their exams – schools should have been full. This is exam time but instead of sitting at their desks children hide in their homes. The intensity of the bombing is effecting me – but I’m a grown man so what about the children? I can see how my nephews and nieces are being affected. Tala, my youngest niece, is only five years old – when she hears the explosions she rushes to her mothers lap – both mother and daughter are terrified. A lot of the time parents try telling their children that the bombing is the sound of thunder – but Gazan children are not ordinary children –they know bombing when they hear it.

The panic caused by the strikes and the shelling from the sky and the sea has an immense impact on the psychology of Gazan children. Islamic Relief has been running a project in Gaza for a number of years trying to deal with psychological trauma suffered by children. The program has taken many stapes forward – however the current bombing means we will have to start all over again – sadly I feel the need for counselling will be greater.

The security situation is getting worse. My colleagues and I make sure we walk to our office – going by car is far too dangerous. We phone the office as soon as we step out of our houses. Then along the way we phone the office about four times at specific points – we do this so they know we are safe. Once we get to the office we ring our families to tell them we have made is safely. This is what life in Gaza is like in these days. Even a simple walk to work could be life threatening. This is why most of the shops and businesses are closed – the safest place to be – if there is one – is to stay indoors. But as humanitarian workers we have to be out in the community, our job is to help people.

We are now communicating with suppliers outside of the Gaza Strip. We are trying to prepare for what lies ahead in the coming days. We do not know if the bombing will stop or if it will get worse – but we have to prepared- and unfortunately that means preparing for the worst.

December 28 2008

the shops are running out of suppliesWe are working round the clock now to try and get as much medical aid to the hospitals.   The fact that nobody knows when the next bomb will fall makes our job very dangerous 
 
As the bombing continues, the hospitals are reaching breaking point. We are doing our best to source the aid needed from local suppliers and our existing stocks. We have enough at the moment but the way things are going we need to start getting aid in from outside Gaza as stocks will be running out very soon. The hospitals were already low on supplies before this crisis – they can barely cope now.

Yesterday we delivered five trucks of aid to the ministry of health in Gaza – they then distributed this to five hospitals. The hospitals seem to be the focus of the aid effort at the moment.

We just met the UN and other aid agencies to help co-ordinate the aid effort and make sure there is no duplication.

I can’t bear to think what will happen if the bombing continues. There are not enough beds in the hospitals and they are severely short of equipment, including x-ray machines.

But as we go out and asses the damage, we can see other needs. There is a shortage of food and flour and people are rushing to the bakeries but there’s not enough bread.

I can’t imagine the fuel lasting much longer. Due to the bombings, people are staying in their homes – they are too frightened to venture out. Aid workers are not exempt – the fact that nobody knows when the next bomb will fall makes our job very dangerous.  
The urgent need for Gazans will soon be food distribution

The shops are closed and so getting food is not easy. Trying to live in electricity blackouts is difficult – so working becomes that much harder.

Soon we will be distributing food as this is going to be an urgent need in the coming days if the bombing doesn’t stop. That’s our plan but we are now working to make sure we can source what is needed.

Every day is bringing fresh challenges and we have to find ways of dealing with them. The lack of supplies in hospitals, the food shortage and of course the fear that stalks the streets – I only hope and pray that tomorrow is different.

December 27 2008

I was coming home after visiting a friend at 11.30 on Saturday, when I heard the horrific sound of three huge explosions. Then a series of explosions rocked Gaza City. I live in the centre near a number of police buildings which were targeted first.

As I rushed home, I saw the main Gaza police station had been destroyed. Suddenly, another missile hit it again and, along with dozens of people nearby, I ran away. When I got home I found almost all the glass from the windows and doors was shattered due to the explosions.

I ran to the Shifa hospital to check on casualties and was shocked by the number of cars and ambulances bringing in the injured. There was panic everywhere.

In less than half an hour, the hospital was full of casualties. There was no space for more, yet the casualties kept coming. At the hospital I saw something I have never seen before – dead bodies outside on the floor. Everyone in Gaza has a relative or a friend killed or injured after these attacks.

Islamic Relief is working hard to get medical aid to the hospitals, which desperately need disposable equipment. We spoke to the committee at the Shifa Hospital to find out what’s needed. We are now supplying it with syringes, sponges, surgical gloves and other such equipment.

Hospitals are so overwhelmed that they are now using normal beds for intensive care patients. Everything is so desperate. Only 50% of the ambulances are working. If the attacks go on for another week the doctors are going to have to start using old and traditional ways of treating the injured – that means no anaesthetic. We have to get new supplies in!

For two years, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been witnessing daily crises over shortages of food, fuel, health services in addition to severe poverty and unemployment. We have seen the closure of crossings and the banning of patients from travelling for medical treatment.

All these restrictions have slowly sucked the life out of Gazans and it’s no exaggeration when I say that trying to live daily life is a struggle. But Gaza has not witnessed anything like this onslaught since 1967.

I used to describe what was going on in Gaza as a catastrophe, now I have no words. I received news that the brother of one of my work colleagues has been killed in the attacks. They had been looking for him all day and discovered him under the ruins of a destroyed building.

 

 

       

Those gentle Muslims

Jan. 14, 2009 


DENNIS MYERS
Against the Grain

It was 25 years ago that Congress and President Reagan created the King Day national holiday we mark this week. One hopes that in that quarter century our citizenry learned more about Martin Luther King’s message, which drew heavily on Gandhi’s nonviolent resistance techniques. The two men are now honored around the world. There is a third figure who deserves that kind of recognition.

In popular culture, Islam is a caricature. Journalism and politicians have learned the skill of pitting us against Muslims by emphasizing all the worst events and figures of Islamic history and by marginalizing the complexities of Islam from our knowledge, the admirable figures of the faith from our view. Imagine if Gandhi were unknown to us. Think how much his life and example have leavened our view of Hinduism. Imagine how distorted our view of that faith would be if we did not have him as a bridge to understanding.

The Taliban is mainly Pathan, meaning they are natives of the region along the Afghan/Pakistan border. So was Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan. The Pathans have for centuries been known as fierce warriors (Kipling wrote admiringly of their prowess).

When India was still intact, Ghaffar Khan led Pathans from militarism to nonviolent action. In 1930, after an Indian declaration of independence in defiance of British occupation, Ghaffar and his followers, the Servants of God, set the city of Peshawar on its ear with nonviolence. The British had never seen anything like it, least of all among the ferocious Pathans. When a group of resisters was fired on, according to one account, the wounded fell down and “those behind came forward and with their breasts bared, exposed themselves to the fire … so that some got as many as 21 bullet holes in their bodies, and all the people stood their ground without getting into a panic.”

Awed by the courage of the resisters, a renowned British regiment refused orders to participate further in the slaughter. (All the anger of the British empire in decline fell on those gallant, unfortunate soldiers — arrests, courts martial, long prison terms, and, in one case, exile to a penal colony.) The regiment had been inspired by the nonviolent example of the resisters.

Ghaffar Khan’s example went beyond nonviolence. In other fields, too, he represented Muslim views that the people of the United States do not today credit, given our ignorance of Islam. George Bush used the Taliban’s treatment of women to build support for a war, as though one group within Islam typified the entire faith (how many Christians would want Bush to typify Christianity?). Ghaffar Khan deplored purdah, the tradition of repression of women. Nor did he view religion as simplistically or restrictively as many Christians do.

As the British were being driven out of India by nonviolence in the 1940s, London (which had helped carve up Czechoslovakia for Hitler) wanted the nation slashed in two. For years, the Servants of God controlled the northwest region, defying and frustrating this western scheme to invent another nation. And they did it peacefully. Ghaffar’s followers swore an oath: “I shall never use violence. I shall not retaliate or take revenge, and shall forgive anyone who indulges in oppression and excesses against me.”

That the Pathans with their brutal culture and history could so easily adapt to nonviolence — and succeed at it! — mystified Ghaffar Khan himself. “I started teaching the Pathans nonviolence only a short time ago,” he told Gandhi. “Yet in comparison the Pathans seem to have learned this lesson and grasped the idea of nonviolence much quicker and much better than the Indians … How do you explain that?” Gandhi responded, “Nonviolence is not for cowards. It is for the brave, the courageous. And the Pathans are more brave and courageous than the Hindus. That is the reason why the Pathans were able to remain nonviolent.”

The Pathans’ territorial triumphs were lost in negotiation and the nation was carved up into India and Pakistan. The partition pitted Muslims (who dominated Pakistan) against Hindus and Sikhs (who dominated India) and triggered war in which hundreds of thousands of people died.

In the ensuing years, though he lived until 1988 (he died in Peshawar under house arrest), Ghaffar Khan vanished from view, expunged from the history he did so much to make. The obliteration of Ghaffar Khan from history has two consequences. First, those of us in the west are robbed of history that would contradict our stereotypical view of Islam. Second, the glittering example of Ghaffar Khan could have given Muslims an alternative to those leaders who appealed to their worst instincts. Imagine if George Wallace were remembered in U.S. history books while Martin King was obliterated.

The director of Jerusalem’s Palestinian Center for the Study of Nonviolence has written, “The life of Khan can change and will challenge many readers in the Middle East.”

It can do the same for those of us in the west — if it ever finds its way into our history books.

The War On Terror Is Over

By Mark Juergensmeyer
January 15, 2009
First of all, the phrase “war on terror” needs to be retired. As a war, it is largely imagined, and as an idea it is ill-conceived. The effect of thinking in terms of global war is to make enemies out of millions of Muslims who would otherwise have been our friends.

he first step in ending the War on Terror is to stop calling it “the war on terror.”

Ever since 9/11, the Bush administration—supported by the news media—has endorsed the radical jihadi idea that the world is engaged in a great ideological struggle between two competing foes. But this has never been the case. The United States was attacked on 9/11, as it had been many times before and since, by a small band of extremists who cloaked their disdain for America’s global power in the language of religion and the images of cosmic war. They needed to be isolated and brought to justice for their misdeeds, not glorified as America’s global enemy.

 

The effect of thinking in terms of global war was to make enemies out of millions of Muslims who otherwise would have been our friends—or at least not our cosmic foes. Perhaps the greatest paradox is that the war rhetoric also made George W. Bush into a satanic figure in many parts of the Muslim world.

Shortly before the previous presidential election, I interviewed a Muslim activist in Iraq who supported the jihadi insurgency against the US occupation. I asked him who he wanted to win the US presidential race, and to my surprise, he supported the reelection of President George W. Bush.

“But you hate Bush,” I said in astonishment. “Why would you want him to win the election?”

“We want to defeat him,” he told me, saying that he didn’t want Bush to go quietly.

“We want to win the war and humiliate him,” he said, “the way he has tried to humiliate us.”

Now, over four years later, Bush is on his way out. Whatever symbolic significance he has had as an enemy of radical Islam is leaving the global political stage. The Obama administration has a golden opportunity to rethink the War on Terror.

It seems to me that there is a strategy for victory that does not require armed conquest. My suggestion is that the new administration can “win” the War on Terror in part by rethinking the nature of the conflict. Let me suggest five steps that the U.S. could take in a post-Bush era to bring the War on Terror to an end:

1. Recognize that we are not confronting war but a war mindset.

 

The radical Muslim war against the secular West has been a powerful idea, erupting from time to time in destructive acts of terrorism, but it is largely an idea. It has no organized army nor is it poised to take political control over any country, especially not the United States. It is an imagined war between what are thought to be the forces of good against the forces of evil—incarnate in the likes of George Bush and his colleagues.

To some extent the Bush administration’s “war on terror” is an imagined war as well. It has placed Osama bin Laden and his cadre on a symbolic pedestal in what has been characterized as a struggle between good and evil. President Bush’s exhortation to be either “with us or against us” might well have compelled a good number of people who were otherwise on the fence to take sides against America. The young Muslims who were involved in the bombings in London’s subway said that they chose to take a stand, and thought of themselves as soldiers in a great moral war. If that image of war disappeared, young men like them would not be enticed into imaginary roles as soldiers for truth.

Obama’s pledge to hunt down bin Laden and exterminate him might have sounded good in tough campaign rhetoric, but it is not a platform for building a foreign policy in South Asia and the Middle East. Anti-Americanism is at an all-time high in Pakistan, and Obama has a fresh opportunity to rebuild the terms and image of US military presence in the region. The Muslim world is waiting for a US president who can stop treating them like enemies to be invaded but as potential friends.

2. Accept that America is the enemy because of what it does, not what it is.

 

America and other Western powers are thought to be evil because of their actions, such as supporting the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The United States is imagined to be an evil enemy by jihadi activists not because of its freedom or anything else that is inherent in American society, but because of its policies and actions, particularly in the Middle East. Specifically, the U.S. is regarded as the enemy of Islam because of its support of undemocratic dictators like Egypt’s Mubarak and the Saud family monarchy in Saudi Arabia, its invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, and for its one-sided support for Israel without equal concern for the rights of Palestine.

When I interviewed one of the Muslim activists involved in bombing the World Trade Center in 1993, he told me that he liked America. It was easy for him to be a Muslim in the United States, he said, and he respected our freedom of religion. Though he and other Muslim activists, such as Sayyid Qutb, disliked what they regarded as America’s lax moral standards, they were angered only when they thought that we were trying to force our way of living onto them, or to control or exploit Muslim countries. They did not hate America’s freedom—they hated what they regarded as America’s attempts to control others and deprive them of what they regarded as their freedom from the West.

In the same way, most Americans do not despise Muslim activists because of who they are—Muslims—but because of what they do. Bin Laden and his forces are thought to be evil because of their horrible acts of terrorism, not because we think that there is anything inherently evil about Islam. This means that the differences between the two positions are not insurmountable, and the imagined war will end when each side stops doing things that the other side regards as acts of evil.

This means that the Obama administration should not waste its energy in trying to shore up America’s public relations image. That will improve instantly once US military forces are out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the U.S. has brokered an enduring peace between Israel and Palestine.

3. Stop acting like an enemy.

The great terror war would come shuddering to a halt if the United States was no longer perceived as doing evil things in the eyes of its Muslim activist opponents. Many of these allegedly “evil things” involve the US military. The jihadi recruiting videos that are posted on the internet always begin in the same way—showing American military actions that kill and oppress Muslims. An end to those military actions will immediately undercut the support for the anti-American jihadi ideology.

One proof of the effectiveness of a non-military response is the Awakening movement in al Anbar province of Iraq, a movement that arose in 2005 and then became associated with the so-called “surge” strategy of General David Petraeus. As Obama correctly pointed out in the 2008 campaign debates, the success of Petraeus’ strategy was only partially related to a surge in troop strength. In fact the strategy actually involved a reduction of troops in the Sunni territory of al Anbar province. Though these troops were re-deployed to Baghdad—where they joined a surge of new American forces dispatched to patrol neighborhoods and make them more secure—they were not replaced in the al Anbar countryside.

With no US military around to hate—and with American financial support for their new security operations—local militias turned their attention away from America and toward another enemy, the al Qaeda forces that had infiltrated the resistance movement. In this case the US military quickly changed from an enemy to an ally.

When the United States withdraws from Iraq, a major symbol of America’s imagined evil will disappear. During the campaign, Obama consistently supported a pull-out of US troops, and Iraqis will be watching to see how completely this promise is kept. If the withdrawal is slow, if large numbers of combat forces remain in a new name, such as “military advisors,” if the huge US military bases that have been constructed in the Iraqi desert are allowed to remain under US control, Obama’s words about withdrawal from Iraq might be seen as an empty promise.

Of even more concern is Obama’s stance on Afghanistan. During the campaign, he has called for an increase of a hundred thousand troops, which would double the number presently there. Yet it will still be half of the numbers of Russian troops that the former Soviet Union had deployed in Afghanistan—and it lost the war, dragging much of the Soviet economy down with it.

A similarly dismal prognosis is in store for America’s continuing presence in Afghanistan. Moreover, the persistence of US troops in the region will continue to provide an irritant that will bolster anti-American forces not only in Afghanistan but in neighboring Pakistan. There, this presence is a major catalyst, supporting the kind of radical jihadi ideology that has led to acts of terrorism both within Pakistan and in adjacent India, including the recent attacks in Mumbai. For this reason, a strategy for withdrawal from Afghanistan, and from Iraq, should be a high on the list of objectives for the Obama administration.

4. Become a problem solver not a problem maker.

Aside from what is regarded as its military meddling, the other thing that makes the United States appear as an enemy to many Muslim activists is its influence on Middle Eastern politics. As I mentioned, this includes US financial and political support for regimes that are regarded as dictatorial, and its seemingly uncritical stance toward Israel.

Though the U.S. will not retreat from its political support for Israel—for it has moral and historical reasons for assuring Israel’s security—this stance need not appear completely one-sided. It is important that America be seen as championing the just cause of Palestinian freedom. The Baker-Hamilton Commission report correctly concluded that peace between Israelis and Palestinians would affect the way that the U.S. is perceived in the Middle East, and that a positive outcome to the peace process would undermine the militant anti-American jihadi cause.

The perception that the U.S. is tied to Israel affects everything else that the U.S. does in the Middle East. In Iraq, for example, when citizens in Fallujah demonstrated against the killing of Hamas leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin by an Israeli military strike in 2004, the protesters linked the Israeli actions toward Palestine with the US military occupation in Iraq. The mob then turned on American contract workers who happened to be driving down Fallujah’s main street (which had just been renamed “Sheik Yassin Street” in honor of the fallen Palestinian leader), killing them and stringing up their charred corpses from the girders of a bridge. It was an image that hardened the resolve of US officials to punish and control Fallujah, which led to the invasion and decimation of the city later that year—actions that in turn increased the level of anti-Americanism among Iraqi insurgents.

So the support for Israel has had a direct effect in increasing the anti-American sentiment in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. Conversely, American support for Palestinian autonomy and a renewed effort by the U.S. to become engaged in the peace process would be seen as an attempt by America to be a problem solver rather than a problem maker in the region. It is disconcerting that during the recent Israeli attacks on Hamas in Gaza there has not been a more vocal expression of concern from the Obama camp. Though his administration will not be in a position to affect US policy until after the inauguration, they should appear poised to enter into the negotiations in a positive and fair-minded way, concerned not only about Israel’s security—which it should be—but about the security and autonomy of the Palestinian people as well.

5. Take the moral high road and adhere to international standards of justice.

Perhaps the most enduring position the new administration can take to end the War on Terror is to elevate the discourse of international politics. This means in large part restoring America’s image as a protector of human rights and international law. Both have been tarnished in the zealous antiterrorism tactics of the neo-con years of Bush foreign policy, and this has deeply damaged America’s image throughout the world.

Soon after the revelations of prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib, a well-educated woman who taught at Baghdad University asked me, “How can the U.S. expect Iraq to adhere to human rights when it doesn’t do so itself?” Though she had hated Saddam, she told me, she was disheartened to see the U.S. stoop to some of his standards.

The Iraqi woman had a good point, and illustrated the fact that by relaxing our standards of justice and human rights we helped to make enemies out of those who might otherwise have been our friends. Rather than diminishing the threat of terror, it was one of the factors that promoted anti-Americanism and made terrorism possible. Practices of torture and imprisonment without trial have helped to enlarge the image of America as an evil enemy.

The Obama administration would be well counseled to restore the standards of international justice and human rights that were reduced in the name of the War on Terror. For one thing the most pernicious aspects of the anti-terrorism legislation should be repealed. Torture in any form should never be acceptable, and the incarceration facilities at Guantanamo Bay should be closed. Persons accused of abetting in terrorist acts need to be held accountable for their actions, of course, but in the same way that any person involved in a criminal act is held accountable and brought to justice.

These five courses of action will help to diminish the spiral of violence associated with the War on Terror. They will not obliterate all acts of terrorism, however, since there will always be lone acts of extremists who will try to goad us into responses that will magnify their importance and spread their view of the world. Terrorism has become a tool of those disaffected with authority, and it would be as difficult to eradicate all forms of terrorism as to do away with all forms of handguns.

It would be prudent not to overreact to incidents of terrorism when they occur in the future, however. Following the Good Friday Agreement that ended the troubles in Northern Ireland, a rogue band of IRA extremists who were unhappy with what they thought was a sell-out by their own leader instigated a bloody act of terror in the town of Omagh. To the credit of the British and Northern Irish authorities, however, they did not let this incident affect the agreement that they had signed, and they treated the incident as a criminal act undertaken by a few extremists rather than the expression of a mass movement.

The War on Terror will come to a close when America takes the high road in international affairs, and does not exaggerate its response to the provocation of a few. Some aspects of the strategy to end the War on Terror will be difficult. Removing US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan will take time and effort, and engaging in the peace process between Israel and Palestine will involve a great deal of diplomatic maneuvering.

Other aspects of the end to the War on Terror will be more easy to accomplish, and can be done as soon as the new Obama administration is installed. Among them will be an end to the phrase “war on terror,” words that indicate a long-term engagement with ideological positions that are not easily changed. That’s the kind of stagnant thinking that Obama has pledged to overcome. It is time to stop thinking and acting as if the world was at war.

Mark Juergensmeyer is director of the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence, and Global Rebellion: Religious Challenges to the Secular State.
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U.N. condemns shelling of aid complex, blames Israel

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  • NEW: Israeli spokesman says shells may not have been from Israeli forces
  • NEW: Israel uses disputed white phosphorus shells, U.N. spokesman says
  • U.N. relief agency’s Gaza City headquarters, warehouse ablaze after attack
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JERUSALEM (CNN) — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned an attack on a U.N. relief agency’s compound in Gaza City Thursday, which he and other U.N. officials say was committed by Israeli forces.

Firefighters try to douse a fire Thursday at the United Nations' main relief agency in  Gaza City.

Firefighters try to douse a fire Thursday at the United Nations’ main relief agency in Gaza City.

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“[Israeli] Defense Minister Barak said to me it was a grave mistake and he took it very seriously,” Ban said at a news conference in Tel Aviv with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

But Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said the matter is still under investigation. When asked about Ban’s comment, Regev said Defense Minister Ehud Barak actually told the U.N. chief that “if it was Israel’s fire, it was a grave mistake.”

Regev said it was “not clear whose shells, whose fire hit the U.N. facility.”

“It could have been ours, it could have been Hamas’,” Regev said. “This is being investigated.” Video Watch Regev respond to accusation »

Israeli forces moved into Gaza City overnight. During the clash with Hamas fighters, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency headquarters complex — located in a densely populated neighborhood — was hit repeatedly by shrapnel and artillery.

The burning compound emitted a massive pillar of billowing black smoke. Clashes around the compound in Gaza City made it impossible to extinguish the fires, UNRWA Director John Ging said. Video Watch as fire blazes at U.N. compound »

An artillery shell struck one building wounded three workers, and the compound’s warehouse and workshop were burning out of control within an hour and a half, he said.

“We warned the Israelis hour by hour through the night of the vulnerabilities here as the shells came closer and closer and shrapnel was coming into the compound on a regular occasion,” Ging said. “Nonetheless, we have now been subjected to these direct hits.”

Ging identified the source of the fires as white phosphorus shells, whose use is restricted under international law.

“It looks like phosphorus, it smells like phosphorus and it’s burning like phosphorus,” Ging said. “That’s why I’m calling it phosphorus.”

The Israeli military did not immediately comment on the allegation. But the U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch has accused Israel of using white phosphorus shells in Gaza during its campaign againstHamas, the Palestinian militant group that has ruled Gaza since 2007.

Human Rights Watch said that although the use of white phosphorus to obscure military movements is legal, the substance can burn civilians and start fires in the densely populated territory. Video Watch as civilians suffer most »

The Israel Defense Forces initially denied using the ordnance. But by Monday, Israeli officials said only that any shells fired in Gaza “are in accordance with international law.”

Regev said Hamas is also armed with phosphorus shells and has fired them at Israelis.

“Phosphorus shells were shot by Hamas from Gaza into Israel,” Regev said Thursday. “That was documented yesterday.”

More than 1,000 Palestinians have been killed and nearly 5,000 wounded since the conflict began, Palestinian officials said Wednesday. Israel said 10 of its soldiers and three civilians have been killed and more than 100 soldiers have been wounded.

Following the last two days of bombardment, the private relief agency CARE announced it was canceling its distribution of food and medical aid to the territory during Thursday’s fighting as well. Read an aid worker’s diary

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UNRWA spokesman Christopher Gunness said the agency had urged both Israel and Hamas, which has been firing rockets into southern Israel, to heed the “conscience of the world” and comply with a U.N. resolution that calls for a cease-fire.

But he added, “I’m standing looking over the town of Beit Hanoun, and with every dull thud and every plume of smoke that comes out of there, it’s sad to say that the parties on the ground are not listening.”

 

CNN’s Michal Zippori and Talal Abu Rahmi contributed to this report.

All About Hamas • Israel • Gaza • Ban Ki-moon

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UN headquarters in Gaza hit by Israeli ‘white phosphorus’ shells

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January 15, 2009

How The Times broke the story | Photographic evidence | Spent shells prove use | The burn victims | War in Gaza photojournalism

The main UN compound in Gaza was in flames today after being struck by Israeli artillery fire, and a spokesman said that the building had been hit by shells containing the incendiary agent white phosphorus.

The attack on the headquarters of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) came as Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary-General, arrived in Israel on a peace mission and plunged Israel’s relations with the world body to a new low.

Mr Ban told reporters in Tel Aviv that he had expressed “strong protest and outrage” to the Israeli Government over the shelling of the compound and was demanding an investigation. He said that Ehud Barak, the Israeli Defence Minister, had told him that it was “a grave mistake”.

UNWRA, which looks after around four million Palestinian refugees in the region, suspended its operations in Gaza after the attack, in which it said that three of its employees had been injured.

Chris Gunness, a UNRWA spokesman, said that the building had been used to shelter hundreds of people fleeing Israel’s 20-day offensive in Gaza. He said that pallets with supplies desperately needed by Palestinians in Gaza were on fire.

“What more stark symbolism do you need?” he said. “You can’t put out white phosphorus with traditional methods such as fire extinguishers. You need sand, we don’t have sand.”

The Israeli military has denied using white phosphorus shells in the Gaza offensive, although an investigation by The Times has revealed that dozens of Palestinians in Gaza have sustained serious injuries from the substance, which burns at extremely high temperatures.

The Geneva Convention of 1980 proscribes the use of white phosphorus as a weapon of war in civilian areas, although it can be used to create a smokescreen. The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said today that all weapons used in Gaza were “within the scope of international law”.

The attack on the UN compound came as Israeli forces pushed deeper into Gaza City and unleashed their heaviest shelling on its crowded neighbourhoods in three weeks of war. At least 15 Palestinians were killed in the Israeli attacks, medical officials said, pushing the death toll up towards 1,100 — a level that Mr Ban described as “unbearable”.

It was not clear whether the escalation signalled a new phase in the conflict. Israel has held back from all-out urban warfare in the narrow alleyways of Gaza’s cities, where Hamas militants are more familiar with the lay of the land.

Black smoke billowed over Gaza City, terrifying civilians who said that they had “nowhere left to hide” from the relentless shelling.

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Israel admits using phosphorus bombs during war in Lebanon

 
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Israel admits using phosphorus bombs during war in Lebanon
By Meron Rappaport, Haaretz Correspondent

Israel has acknowledged for the first time that it attacked Hezbollah targets during the second Lebanon war with phosphorus shells. White phosphorus causes very painful and often lethal chemical burns to those hit by it, and until recently Israel maintained that it only uses such bombs to mark targets or territory.

The announcement that the Israel Defense Forces had used phosphorus bombs in the war in Lebanon was made by Minister Jacob Edery, in charge of government-Knesset relations. He had been queried on the matter by MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz-Yahad).

“The IDF holds phosphorus munitions in different forms,” Edery said. “The IDF made use of phosphorous shells during the war against Hezbollah in attacks against military targets in open ground.”

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Edery also pointed out that international law does not forbid the use of phosphorus and that “the IDF used this type of munitions according to the rules of international law.”

Edery did not specify where and against what types of targets phosphorus munitions were used. During the war several foreign media outlets reported that Lebanese civilians carried injuries characteristic of attacks with phosphorus, a substance that burns when it comes to contact with air. In one CNN report, a casualty with serious burns was seen lying in a South Lebanon hospital.

In another case, Dr. Hussein Hamud al-Shel, who works at Dar al-Amal hospital in Ba’albek, said that he had received three corpses “entirely shriveled with black-green skin,” a phenomenon characteristic of phosphorus injuries.

Lebanon’s President Emile Lahoud also claimed that the IDF made use of phosphorus munitions against civilians in Lebanon.

Phosphorus has been used by armies since World War I. During World War II and Vietnam the U.S. and British armies made extensive use of phosphorus. During recent decades the tendency has been to ban the use of phosphorus munitions against any target, civilian or military, because of the severity of the injuries that the substance causes.

Some experts believe that phosphorus munitions should be termed Chemical Weapons (CW) because of the way the weapons burn and attack the respiratory system. As a CW, phosphorus would become a clearly illegal weapon.

The International Red Cross is of the opinion that there should be a complete ban on phosphorus being used against human beings and the third protocol of the Geneva Convention on Conventional Weapons restricts the use of “incendiary weapons,” with phosphorus considered to be one such weapon.

Israel and the United States are not signatories to the Third Protocol.

In November 2004 the U.S. Army used phosphorus munitions during an offensive in Faluja, Iraq. Burned bodies of civilians hit by the phosphorus munitions were shown by the press, and an international outcry against the practice followed.

Initially the U.S. denied that it had used phosphorus bombs against humans, but then acknowledged that during the assault targets that were neither civilian nor population concentrations were hit with such munitions. Israel also says that the use of “incendiary munitions are not in themselves illegal.”

 
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The youngest casualties of the conflict in Gaza (13 pictures)

Gallery Children victims of Gaza: Children casualities of Gaza

6 / 13

1 January: A wounded Palestinian child screams as she arrives to the al-Shifa hospital after an Israeli air strike in Gaza City

Photograph: Fadi Adwan /Getty Images

Group accuses Israel of firing white phosphorus into Gaza

January 12, 2009 — Updated 0034 GMT (0834 HKT)
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  • STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Researchers in Israel saw bursts of white phosphorus over Gaza, group says
  • White phosphorus can burn people, set structures on fire
  • Protocol allows use when “not specifically designed to cause burn injury to persons”
  • Group: Use in densely populated Gaza would violate international humanitarian law
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By Ben Wedeman
CNN 
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JERUSALEM (CNN) — The international group Human Rights Watch is accusing Israel of firing weapons containing white phosphorus into Gaza. The group demands that the alleged practice cease.

Israel is declining to say whether bursts like this over Gaza involve white phosphorus.

Israel is declining to say whether bursts like this over Gaza involve white phosphorus.

The group’s researchers in Israel “observed multiple air-bursts of artillery-fired white phosphorus over what appeared to be the Gaza City/Jabaliya area” on Friday and Saturday, the organization said on its Web site.

“Israel appeared to be using white phosphorus as an ‘obscurant’ [a chemical used to hide military operations], a permissible use in principle” under the laws of war, the HRW posting said.

“However, white phosphorus has a significant, incidental, incendiary effect that can severely burn people and set structures, fields, and other civilian objects in the vicinity on fire,” the posting said. “The potential for harm to civilians is magnified by Gaza’s high population density, among the highest in the world.”

HRW said the use of white phosphorus in Gazawould violate “the requirement under international humanitarian law to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian injury and loss of life.”

Last week, an Israel Defense Forces spokesman told CNN: “I can tell you with certainty that white phosphorus is absolutely not being used.”

Now, however, Israeli officials have a different response to questions about the possible use of phosphorus: “Any munitions that Israel is using are in accordance with international law. Israel does not specify the types of munitions or the types of operations it is conducting.”

Still, a doctor familiar with the material said it is not possible to tell, based on pictures of burns, whether white phosphorus was responsible.

“Dead tissue pretty much looks the same,” said Dr. Peter Grossman, president of the Grossman Burn Center in Sherman Oaks, California.

The chemical “can burn down houses and cause horrific burns when it touches the skin,” said Marc Garlasco, senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch.

Since January 3, when Israel began its ground offensive in Gaza, news reports have circulated about the possible use of white phosphorus by the IDF.

HRW’s assertion was supported by munitions experts and some Palestinian doctors, including Nafiz Abu Sha’aban, who said the burns it caused were unlike anything he has seen in 27 years of practice. Watch footage of burn patients in GazaVideo

Though most severely burned patients have been sent to Egypt, the ongoing fighting has made it impossible to evacuate all of them, including one man with deep burns over 47 percent of his body, the doctor said.

White phosphorus is known to burn flesh down to the bone.

It’s intended to provide illumination or to create a smokescreen in battle. Under an international protocol ratified by Israel in 1995, the use of such incendiary weapons is allowed when “not specifically designed to cause burn injury to persons.”

There is no prohibition per se against white phosphorus in conflict. But the timing and location of its use are restricted.

For example, it is illegal under the protocol to use white phosphorus against any personnel, civilian or military. It can be directed only against military targets. International law says incendiary weapons cannot be used where civilians are concentrated.

A house north of Gaza City was hit Sunday by something that observers contend may have been white phosphorus.

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“It’s been burning since one o’clock in the morning,” Munir Hammada told CNN 11 hours later. “If you move it with your feet, it reignites. You can’t put it out with water, only sand.”

Those characteristics match the properties of white phosphorus, which ignites on contact with air. 

 

All About Israel • Gaza

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The youngest casualties of the conflict in Gaza (13 pictures)

Gallery Children victims of Gaza: Children casualities of Gaza

5 / 13

31 December: Hosam Hamdan in in Gaza City’s al-Shifa hospital intensive care unit after he was wounded and his two sisters killed in an Israeli air strike in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip. At least 25% of Palestinians killed during Israel’s massive offensive in the Gaza Strip have been civilians, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees said

Photograph: Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images

Gaza’s burn victims add to pressure on army over phosphorus

From 
January 12, 2009

Muhammad Nabih Ahmed, 17, who sustained severe injuries from white phosphorus in Gaza

Muhammad Nabih Ahmed, 17, who sustained severe burns from white phosphorus in Gaza

IMAGE :1 of 2

Pressure grew on Israel to end the use of controversial white phosphorus yesterday as The Times saw more evidence of its deployment around civilian populations in Gaza.

More than 50 people with burns were taken into Nasser Hospital in the southern town of Khan Yunis, in what the hospital director, Youssef Abu Al-Reesh, said was a massive case of exposure to white phosphorus.

“We don’t have the medical experience to judge these cases, but we searched the internet according to the cases we have, and it indeed confirmed that it’s white phosphorus munitions. I have been working in this hospital for ten years and I have never seen anything like this.”

The 1980 Geneva treaty says that white phosphorus should not be used as a weapon of war in civilian areas, but there is no blanket ban on its use as a smokescreen or for illumination. It produces a thick white smoke when exposed to oxygen, but can cause severe burns and melt flesh to the bone if it comes into contact with skin.

The sudden influx of burns patients at Nasser Hospital coincided with Israel’s expanded ground offensive, which included the Al-Qarara and Kuza’a suburbs of Khan Yunis.

Muhammad Tahseen, 20, said that he was sitting outside his home in Al-Qarara when a shell exploded above. He described watching his two cousins writhe in pain as he stood metres away, unable to help. “There was an explosion and white smoke. I saw my cousins screaming . . . I saw them burning and their clothes burning. I saw their skin melting.”

Doctors said that they were unable to provide further help to Muhammad Nabih Ahmed, 17, listed in critical condition with burns to the chest and back. The family hope to get Ahmed treated in an Egyptian hospital. But travel from Khan Yunis to the southern border with Egypt is treacherous, and many aid organisations have ceased travelling along the roads.

When first questioned by The Times last week an Israeli military spokesman “categorically denied” using white phosphorus in Gaza. In a statement issued yesterday the spokesman’s office said: “We don’t specify operational details, nor the type of ammunition that we use, but any ammunition that is used by the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] is within the scope of international law.”

Human Rights Watch said it was sure Israel had used white phosphorus. “The use of white phosphorus in densely populated areas of Gaza violates the requirement under international humanitarian law to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian injury and loss of life,” it said.

Further research by The Times into the type of US-made shells being fired by Israeli gunners on the border with Gaza uncovered additional evidence that the light blue munitions, known as M825A1s, are carriers of white phosphorus, impregnated in more than 100 felt wedges.

The lot number – PB-91J011-002A – visible in a photograph published by The Times last week indicates that the shells being used by the IDF were assembled in September 1991 at Pine Bluff arsenal in America, where all US white phosphorus munitions are reportedly made. The contractors are Chamberlain Manufacturing [metal parts only], General Dynamics, and Ordnance and Tactical Systems.

White phosphorus can be air-burst or ground-burst. It emits a distinct garlic smell. When air-burst, it covers a larger area than ground-burst and is useful to mask large troop movements. However, this spreads the incendiary effect over a wider area.

Munir Albarsh, the Head of Emergency Medicine at Gaza’s Ministry of Health, said that doctors were collecting tissue samples at hospitals across Gaza to send for phosphorus testing at international laboratories. He added that the ministry would demand an independent international investigation into Israel’s use of white phosphorus.

White Phosphorous: Israel Uses Chemical Weapons

By Emily


White phosphorous.

The US used this very same chemical weapon in the attack on Falluja in 2004. White phosphorous. The marines called their concoction ‘shake and bake’ as they used the chemical mixed with explosives against Iraqis in Falluja. Italian documentary filmmakers Sigfrido Ranucci and Maurizio Torrealtareported that the US used white phosphorous against civilians in Falluja, and showed images of incinerated bodies; the US denied the allegation. (Click here for a report comparing the injuries seen in Lebanon in 2006 with those seen in Gaza or for further evidence at Information Clearing House.)

White phosphorous is a chemical weapon as soon as it is used directly against humans, a chemical weapon made illegal in 1980 by the Geneva Conventions. It was widely used in the Vietnam war by the US, as pictured here used in a grenade. 

White phosphorous melts flesh to the bone, causing fatal burns. 

It ignites on contact with oxygen. Particles on a person can be temporarily extinguished with water, but as soon as they are dry they will recombust. Longer-term exposure causes poisoning, which leads to wounds of the mouth and eventual destruction of the whole jawbone.

Exposure to white phosphorus smoke in the air can also cause liver, kidney, heart, lung or bone damage and even death.

A former US soldier who served in Iraq says breathing in smoke close to a shell caused the throat and lungs to blister until the victim suffocated, with the phosphorus continuing to burn them from the inside.

White phosphorous is the chemical shown clearly in the many images of Gaza. It is easily recognizable by any veteran, thanks to our country’s long history of war crimes. White phosphorous was used against Lebanese civilians in 2006 in Israel’s war on Lebanon. The Israeli government maintains that it is only using white phosphorous as a smoke screen, but they refuse to release what is actually in the shells they are dropping on Gaza.

When there was a white phosphorous cloud simply hovering somewhere along a highway after an accident at a British plant, it was treated as a risk to public health and families were told to stay inside with windows and doors closed. Clearly, the lungs of Palestinian babies are not as worth protecting as the lungs of British ones.

This stuff is an illegal, incendiary poison. It’s being used right in front of our eyes in the most densely populated place on earth where greater than 50% are children. We probably manufactured it, and at the very least, we paid for it. This picture shows a white phosphorous shell exploding on the ground in Gaza.

The ADC has called for an investigation into the use of white phosphorous in Gaza by the Israeli army. According to this former Major in the British army,

If white phosphorus was deliberately fired at a crowd of people someone would end up in The Hague. White phosphorus is also a terror weapon. The descending blobs of phosphorus will burn when in contact with skin.

The body of a child killed in Lebanon in 2006, when Israel dropped white phosphorous bombs

WARNING: Not for the faint of heart. Then again, we should not be allowed to remain ignorant of the damage this chemical weapon causes while it is being used in Gaza.

 

Israel using white phosphorus

Israel ‘using white phosphorus’
 
 


Israel 'using white phosphorus
White phophorus, fired in a shell, can be used to hide troop movements or illuminate targets [AFP]

 

Human Rights Watch has called on Israel to stop using white phosphorus which it says has been used in military operations in the densely populated Gaza Strip.

The US-based group said that its researchers observed the use of the chemical, which can burn away human flesh to the bone, over Gaza City and Jabaliya on Friday and Saturday.

“We went by Israeli artillery units that had white phosphorus rounds with the fuses in them,” Marc Garlasco, a senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch, told Al Jazeera. 

“Clearly it is [white phosphorus], we can tell by the explosions and the tendrils that go down [and] the fires that were burning,” he said.

“Today there were massive attacks in Jabaliya when we were there. We saw that there were numerous fires once the white phosphorus had gone in.”

‘Obscurant’

International law permits the use of white phopshorus as an “obscurant” to cover troop movements and prevent enemies from using certain guided weapons, but its use is controversial as it can injure people through painful chemical burns.

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“Even if they are using it as an obscurant, they are using it in a very densely populated area,” Garlasco said.

“The problem is it covers such a wide area that when the white phosphorus wafers come down, over 100 in each artillery shell, they burn everything they touch and they don’t stop burning until they are done.

“You are talking about skin damage, potentially homes going on fire, damage to infrastructure.”

Human Rights Watch said that it believed the use of the chemical in Gaza violated the requirement under international humanitarian law to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian injury and loss of life. 

The Israeli military has previously denied using white phosphorus during the 15-day offensive in the Gaza Strip, but has said that any munitions that it does use comply with international law.  

Israel used white phophorus during its 34-day war against Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement in 2006, while the United States used it during the controversial siege of the Iraqi city of Fallujah in 2004.

Greece-Style Riots Coming To U.S.

Troops and mercenaries will be used to detain Americans in prison camps, warns deadly accurate trends forecaster

Greece-Style Riots Coming To U.S. 151208top

Paul Joseph Watson
Prison Planet.com
Monday, December 15, 2008

Frighteningly accurate trends forecaster Gerald Celente says that America will see riots similar to those currently ongoing in Greece and that the cause will be a hyper-inflationary depression, leading to the inevitable use of troops and mercenaries to deal with the crisis as Americans are incarcerated in internment camps.

As we have highlighted before, Celente’s accuracy is stunning – he predicted the 1987 crash, the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the “panic of 2008,” and is routinely cited even by mainstream news networks as highly credible.

The cause of the riots would be a hyper-inflationary depression, Celente told interviewer Lew Rockwell, causing Americans to revolt in similar circumstances that we have witnessed recently in Iceland and Greece. The trouble would be sparked off by Obama declaring a “bank holiday” whereby people won’t be able to withdraw their money.

“What’s going on in Greece with these riots has nothing to do with a 15-year-old boy being killed, that was only the spark that ignited the pent up, really hatred and disdain, people have for the scandals and corrupt government and the same thing is going on in this country as well,” said Celente.

(ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW)

Greece-Style Riots Coming To U.S. 121208banner3

Celente reiterated his prediction of a revolution and riots in America, and said that the first signs of it could even emerge before the end of the year.

Celente said that the troops now being brought back to America for “domestic security”would be used to suppress the riots.

“There’s talk of opening all these detention centers and hiring the goon squads, the Blackwaters to run them, so these are realities going on as we speak,” said Celente, adding that the Halliburton subsidiary KBR had been awarded a half a billion dollar contract to build “national emergency” internment camps in the name of detaining illegal immigrants but that they would be used to hold rioting Americans.

“We’re really in a period of ‘off with their heads’ and its going to be the people against the politicians,” said Celente.

Celente said that a breakup of the United States was possible and that the secessionist movement was strong.

“The government owns and runs the largest mortgage company, owns the largest insurance company, they’re going to be owning a piece of the oil industry, so it’s a fight against a totalitarian government…so there’s going to be rebellions and things will change for the better if we break up these criminal governments that are in place now,” said Celente.

The forecaster added that the government was killing people for a false reason in Iraq and robbing people blind with the bailouts at home.

Listen to the interview here.

Research related articles:

  1. Celente Predicts Revolution, Food Riots, Tax Rebellions By 2012
  2. CIA Preparing To Install Military Government In Greece?
  3. From The “Panic” Of 2008 To The “Collapse” Of 2009
  4. IMF Chief Warns Of Riots In Response To Economic Crisis
  5. Iceland Riots Precursor To U.S. Civil Unrest?
  6. Violent Attacks Erupt In Greece
  7. Mortgage Giants’ Collapse Could Herald 1930’s Style Depression
  8. Greek riots: Banks and cars burned by Greek mob
  9. Are the Greek riots a taste of things to come?
  10. Fresh Riots Break Out In Athens
  11. Greece Violence Targets Police
  12. Could Greece’s Riots Spread to France?

The youngest casualties of the conflict in Gaza (13 pictures)

Gallery Children victims of Gaza: Children casualities of Gaza

3 / 13

29 December: A Palestinian man carries his wounded child to the treatment room of Kamal Adwan hospital following an Israeli missile strike in Beit Lahiya

Photograph: Ashraf Amra/AP

From The “Panic” Of 2008 To The “Collapse” Of 2009

Top trends forecaster gives chilling prediction for next year

From The Panic Of 2008 To The Collapse Of 2009 021208top2

Paul Joseph Watson
Prison Planet.com
Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The country’s top trends forecaster, who accurately predicted the “panic” of 2008 nearly a year before it unfolded, is now ominously suggesting that next year will come to be known as “the collapse of 2009″.

Gerald Celente, CEO of Trends Research Institute, sent out a letter to his subscribers announcing that he had purchased a domain name called “Collapseof09.com”.

Around this time last year, Celente sent the following message to his subscribers;

In 2008, Americans will wake up to the worst economic times that anyone alive has ever seen. And they won’t know what hit them. Just as they were in a state of shock on 9/11, they’ll be frozen in fear when the Economic 9/11 strikes at the heart of Wall Street.

Dismiss this trend forecast at your own peril. If you believe everything will be all right, and that the ship of state is sailing along just fine, toss this out and go about your business.

Having correctly forecast the “Economic 9/11″, Celente is warning that people should prepare for something much worse in 2009.

(ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW)

As we reported last month, Celente recently told Fox News that by 2012 America will become an undeveloped nation, that there will be a revolution marked by food riots, squatter rebellions, tax revolts and job marches, and that holidays will be more about obtaining food, not gifts.

Celente’s accuracy is widely heralded since he correctly predicted the 1997 Asian Currency Crisis, the subprime mortgage collapse and the massive devaluation of the U.S. dollar.

In 2007, Celente forewarned that “giants (would) tumble to their deaths,” which is exactly what we have witnessed with the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns and others.

Celente has stated that the current financial downturn will ultimately lead to nothing less than revolution.

“There will be a revolution in this country,” he said. “It’s not going to come yet, but it’s going to come down the line and we’re going to see a third party and this was the catalyst for it: the takeover of Washington, D. C., in broad daylight by Wall Street in this bloodless coup. And it will happen as conditions continue to worsen.”

Research related articles:

  1. Celente Predicts Revolution, Food Riots, Tax Rebellions By 2012
  2. Greece-Style Riots Coming To U.S.
  3. Obama warns against fear and panic as stocks tumble
  4. Alex Jones Was Right About Economic Collapse
  5. Peter Schiff Compares US economic crisis to the collapse of Russia
  6. Roubini Says `Panic’ May Force Market Shutdown, Fund Failures
  7. Analyst: One Third Of Banks Could Collapse In 2009
  8. AIG’s Collapse Would Have Impact Around the Globe
  9. Behind the panic: Financial warfare over the future of global bank power
  10. Newly Uncovered WTC 7 Video Betrays More Foreknowledge Of Collapse
  11. Clarifying the Collapse Time of WTC 7
  12. Bush calls for calm amid global stock market panic

The youngest casualties of the conflict in Gaza (13 pictures)

Gallery Children victims of Gaza: Children casualities of Gaza

2 / 13

29 December: Palestinian children walk past a destroyed mosque and houses after they were hit by an Israeli missile strike that killed Jawaher Baalusha, 4, and her four sisters in the northern Gaza Strip

Photograph: Abid Katib/Getty Images

Greece-Style Riots Coming To U.S.


 

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Troops and mercenaries will be used to detain Americans in prison camps, warns deadly accurate trends forecaster

Greece-Style Riots Coming To U.S. 151208top

Paul Joseph Watson
Prison Planet.com
Monday, December 15, 2008

Frighteningly accurate trends forecaster Gerald Celente says that America will see riots similar to those currently ongoing in Greece and that the cause will be a hyper-inflationary depression, leading to the inevitable use of troops and mercenaries to deal with the crisis as Americans are incarcerated in internment camps.

As we have highlighted before, Celente’s accuracy is stunning – he predicted the 1987 crash, the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the “panic of 2008,” and is routinely cited even by mainstream news networks as highly credible.

The cause of the riots would be a hyper-inflationary depression, Celente told interviewer Lew Rockwell, causing Americans to revolt in similar circumstances that we have witnessed recently in Iceland and Greece. The trouble would be sparked off by Obama declaring a “bank holiday” whereby people won’t be able to withdraw their money.

“What’s going on in Greece with these riots has nothing to do with a 15-year-old boy being killed, that was only the spark that ignited the pent up, really hatred and disdain, people have for the scandals and corrupt government and the same thing is going on in this country as well,” said Celente.

(ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW)

Greece-Style Riots Coming To U.S. 121208banner3

Celente reiterated his prediction of a revolution and riots in America, and said that the first signs of it could even emerge before the end of the year.

Celente said that the troops now being brought back to America for “domestic security”would be used to suppress the riots.

“There’s talk of opening all these detention centers and hiring the goon squads, the Blackwaters to run them, so these are realities going on as we speak,” said Celente, adding that the Halliburton subsidiary KBR had been awarded a half a billion dollar contract to build “national emergency” internment camps in the name of detaining illegal immigrants but that they would be used to hold rioting Americans.

“We’re really in a period of ‘off with their heads’ and its going to be the people against the politicians,” said Celente.

Celente said that a breakup of the United States was possible and that the secessionist movement was strong.

“The government owns and runs the largest mortgage company, owns the largest insurance company, they’re going to be owning a piece of the oil industry, so it’s a fight against a totalitarian government…so there’s going to be rebellions and things will change for the better if we break up these criminal governments that are in place now,” said Celente.

The forecaster added that the government was killing people for a false reason in Iraq and robbing people blind with the bailouts at home.

Listen to the interview here.

Research related articles:

  1. Celente Predicts Revolution, Food Riots, Tax Rebellions By 2012
  2. CIA Preparing To Install Military Government In Greece?
  3. From The “Panic” Of 2008 To The “Collapse” Of 2009
  4. IMF Chief Warns Of Riots In Response To Economic Crisis
  5. Iceland Riots Precursor To U.S. Civil Unrest?
  6. Violent Attacks Erupt In Greece
  7. Mortgage Giants’ Collapse Could Herald 1930’s Style Depression
  8. Greek riots: Banks and cars burned by Greek mob
  9. Are the Greek riots a taste of things to come?
  10. Fresh Riots Break Out In Athens
  11. Greece Violence Targets Police
  12. Could Greece’s Riots Spread to France?

Palestine

 

Gallery Children victims of Gaza: Children casualities of Gaza

1 / 13

29 December: A Palestinian boy watches the funeral of three children in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Palestinian medics said five young sisters, died in an Israeli air strike in Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza and three other young children were killed when a bomb struck a house

Photograph: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

  •  

  •  

Celente Predicts Revolution, Food Riots, Tax Rebellions By 2012

 

Trend forecaster, renowned for being accurate in the past, says that America will cease to be a developed nation within 4 years, crisis will be “worse than the great depression”

Celente Predicts Revolution, Food Riots, Tax Rebellions By 2012 131108top

Paul Joseph Watson
Prison Planet.com
Thursday, November 13, 2008

The man who predicted the 1987 stock market crash and the fall of the Soviet Union is now forecasting revolution in America, food riots and tax rebellions – all within four years, while cautioning that putting food on the table will be a more pressing concern than buying Christmas gifts by 2012.

Gerald Celente, the CEO of Trends Research Institute, is renowned for his accuracy in predicting future world and economic events, which will send a chill down your spine considering what he told Fox News this week.

Celente says that by 2012 America will become an undeveloped nation, that there will be a revolution marked by food riots, squatter rebellions, tax revolts and job marches, and that holidays will be more about obtaining food, not gifts.

(ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW)

Celente Predicts Revolution, Food Riots, Tax Rebellions By 2012 131108banner2

“We’re going to see the end of the retail Christmas….we’re going to see a fundamental shift take place….putting food on the table is going to be more important that putting gifts under the Christmas tree,” said Celente, adding that the situation would be “worse than the great depression”.

“America’s going to go through a transition the likes of which no one is prepared for,” said Celente, noting that people’s refusal to acknowledge that America was even in a recession highlights how big a problem denial is in being ready for the true scale of the crisis.

Watch the clip.

Celente, who successfully predicted the 1997 Asian Currency Crisis, the subprime mortgage collapse and the massive devaluation of the U.S. dollar, told UPI in November last year that the following year would be known as “The Panic of 2008,” adding that “giants (would) tumble to their deaths,” which is exactly what we have witnessed with the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns and others. He also said that the dollar would eventually be devalued by as much as 90 per cent.

The consequence of what we have seen unfold this year would lead to a lowering in living standards, Celente predicted a year ago, which is also being borne out by plummeting retail sales figures.

The prospect of revolution was a concept echoed by a British Ministry of Defence report last year, which predicted that within 30 years, the growing gap between the super rich and the middle class, along with an urban underclass threatening social order would mean, “The world’s middle classes might unite, using access to knowledge, resources and skills to shape transnational processes in their own class interest,” and that, “The middle classes could become a revolutionary class.”

In a separate recent interview, Celente went further on the subject of revolution in America.

“There will be a revolution in this country,” he said. “It’s not going to come yet, but it’s going to come down the line and we’re going to see a third party and this was the catalyst for it: the takeover of Washington, D. C., in broad daylight by Wall Street in this bloodless coup. And it will happen as conditions continue to worsen.”

“The first thing to do is organize with tax revolts. That’s going to be the big one because people can’t afford to pay more school tax, property tax, any kind of tax. You’re going to start seeing those kinds of protests start to develop.”

“It’s going to be very bleak. Very sad. And there is going to be a lot of homeless, the likes of which we have never seen before. Tent cities are already sprouting up around the country and we’re going to see many more.”

“We’re going to start seeing huge areas of vacant real estate and squatters living in them as well. It’s going to be a picture the likes of which Americans are not going to be used to. It’s going to come as a shock and with it, there’s going to be a lot of crime. And the crime is going to be a lot worse than it was before because in the last 1929 Depression, people’s minds weren’t wrecked on all these modern drugs – over-the-counter drugs, or crystal meth or whatever it might be. So, you have a huge underclass of very desperate people with their minds chemically blown beyond anybody’s comprehension.”

The George Washington blog has compiled a list of quotes attesting to Celente’s accuracy as a trend forecaster.

“When CNN wants to know about the Top Trends, we ask Gerald Celente.”
— CNN Headline News

“A network of 25 experts whose range of specialties would rival many university faculties.”
— The Economist

“Gerald Celente has a knack for getting the zeitgeist right.”
— USA Today

“There’s not a better trend forecaster than Gerald Celente. The man knows what he’s talking about.”
– CNBC

“Those who take their predictions seriously … consider the Trends Research Institute.”
— The Wall Street Journal

“Gerald Celente is always ahead of the curve on trends and uncannily on the mark … he’s one of the most accurate forecasters around.”
— The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Mr. Celente tracks the world’s social, economic and business trends for corporate clients.”
— The New York Times

“Mr. Celente is a very intelligent guy. We are able to learn about trends from an authority.”
— 48 Hours, CBS News

“Gerald Celente has a solid track record. He has predicted everything from the 1987 stock market crash and the demise of the Soviet Union to green marketing and corporate downsizing.”
— The Detroit News

“Gerald Celente forecast the 1987 stock market crash, ‘green marketing,’ and the boom in gourmet coffees.”
— Chicago Tribune

“The Trends Research Institute is the Standard and Poors of Popular Culture.”
— The Los Angeles Times

“If Nostradamus were alive today, he’d have a hard time keeping up with Gerald Celente.”
— New York Post

So there you have it – hardly a nutjob conspiracy theorist blowhard now is he? The price of not heeding his warnings will be far greater than the cost of preparing for the future now. Storable food and gold are two good places to make a start.

Research related articles:

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  3. Senator Predicts “Revolution” If Banks Don’t Lend
  4. The Alex Jones Show – L I V E – Nov. 17 With Gerald Celente
  5. IMF Chief Warns Of Riots In Response To Economic Crisis
  6. Iceland Riots Precursor To U.S. Civil Unrest?
  7. Food Riots Have Already Begun as Global Grain Prices Skyrocket, Supplies Dwindle
  8. The Alex Jones Show – L I V E – Dec. 18 With Texe Marrs & Gerald Celente
  9. UK Report Predicts Brain Implants, Revolution
  10. Gerald Celente the 2009 Collapse
  11. Record number of Americans using food stamps: report
  12. Scientist Predicts Ice Age Within 10 Years

Muslims protest Israeli attacks

 

State’s Muslims rally to oppose Israeli attacks on Gaza

By MariAn Gail Brown
STAFF WRITER


 

Click photo to enlarge
 

Anwar J. Karzon, of Milford, holds a sign, written in Arabic, protesting the United States’…

BRIDGEPORT — Connecticut Muslims met at an Islamic religious school Friday to protest Israeli air attacks on Gaza. The airstrikes, the Israelis say, are aimed at rooting out Hamas operatives.

“We want justice. We want peace,” Muhammed Ali intoned into a huge bullhorn to the crowd of more than 140 outside Bridgeport Islamic Community Center’s Al-Manaar School.

“We want justice. We want peace,” Ali’s audience chanted back, while many waved handmade protest posters.

Some of the signs featured photographs of the human carnage in tiny Gaza of wounded children and dead babies. The signs lambasted Israel, comparing the Jewish nation’s attacks to Nazi atrocities, called on the United States to stop defending Israeli attacks.

Motorists lumbered down Clinton Street, slowing down to check out the protesters waving Palestinian red, green and black flags and holding their posters high in the air. Midway through the demonstration, the rally ground to a hushed halt as the assembled lined up in long rows and faced east to pray.

Hassan Haid, of Trumbull, held a picture of a wounded boy with his head bloodied laying outstretched on a gurney. Haid pulled the photograph off an internet site that he says tells “the real story” of what’s happening in Gaza.

“I am sure some people want to know. I feel sorry for the USA. They are only hearing one side,” said Haid, who emigrated to the United States 30 years ago from Lebanon, where he still has


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relatives. “What Israel is doing in Gaza now is the same thing it did in Lebanon [with Hezbollah]. I know from experience. My son was there.”The Israeli military launched its airstrikes on Hamas in Gaza after its six-month long truce with the militant group came to an end. The United States and a number of other western countries list Hamas as a terrorist organization. The Israeli Minister for Foreign Affairs says that between 2000 and 2004, Hamas has killed about 400 Israelis and wounded more than 2,000 in 425 separate attacks.

“We understand they want to fight Hamas,” Haid said of the Israelis. “But it doesn’t make sense to kill everybody. To kill children, how can you ever ever hope to have peace?”

Suhib Abunar, a junior at Fairfield Warde High School, who was born in Jordan, but considers himself a Palestinian, said he is paying close attention to all that transpires in Gaza, especially since he has only been back in Connecticut two months after spending a year in Jordan at a private American school where courses are offered in Arabic.

“I don’t like seeing anybody killed — Muslim or not. I don’t like war,” Abunar said, adding that after school he often stops off at a home of a family friend who has satellite television to watch Arab broadcast news from Gaza.

“Sometimes the media [here] doesn’t show everything,” Abunar said. By contrast, on the Arab broadcast stations, “you actually see bombs exploding real close to them and people getting killed right on camera.”

Khaled Elleithy, a professor at the University of Bridgeport and one of the organizers of the demonstration, said many local Muslims believe Israel’s campaign on Gaza is unjust.

“Consider what their targets are,” Elleithy said. “They have bombed civilian homes, hospitals and mosques.”

The Israeli government has said Hamas has stored rockets and other weaponry in mosques and the homes of some key Hamas operatives in Gaza.

“We do not approve of this use of military might of Israel. Their [warplanes] are F-16s from the United States paid for with our tax dollars.”

A few feet away, Hana Bajes, of Milford, a demure young woman in her mid-20s dressed in a hijab, a traditional Muslim veil, waved a sign that featured a Jewish star, an equal sign, and a swastika.

“This symbol represents the star on an Israeli flag,” Bajes said, adding that it wasn’t an anti-Semitic statement.

“I have many friends who are Jewish,” said Bajes, who was born in Kuwait, moved to Jordan after the first Persian Gulf war and then emigrated to the United States. “I’ve worked with many people who are Jews. It’s not any kind of attack on them.

“What these symbols represent here is that the actions of the Israeli military in Gaza and also on the West Bank resembles what Hitler and the Nazis did to the Jews. It’s not just Jews that are persecuted and slaughtered. It’s our people, too.”

A couple of motorists honked their horns and a few gave the protesters a thumbs-up sign.

Bajes held her sign high above her head.

“I am an American citizen. I love this country. I love what it means to live in a democracy and have the right to stand out here the way we are to make our point,” she said. “Mostly what I want to do is get people to think, to get all the information about what’s happening in Gaza and to stop the killing. I’m in a country now that cherishes freedom. So I am standing up and speaking out because that is my right.”

Thousands demonstrate across Spain against ‘genocide’ in Gaza

Thousands demonstrate across Spain against ‘genocide’ in Gaza 
By h.b. – Jan 11, 2009 – 8:15 PM 
Zapatero at the rally in Ourense - Photo EFE

Zapatero at the rally in Ourense – Photo EFE
enlarge photo


The Spanish Prime Minister repeated his call for an immediate cease fire. 

Spanish Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, has said that it was his job to call for an immediate cease fire in Gaza, and he called on the leader of the Partido Popular, Mariano Rajoy, to do the same. He said he lamented that Israel continued to bombard Gaza and that he was loyal to his Socialist ideas and in favour of peace. 

Speaking at a rally in Orense, ahead of the forthcoming Galician regional elections, Zapatero centred his speech on the Middle East and the economic crisis. He did not mention the chaos on the roads and at airports over the weekend because of the snow.

Meanwhile 250,000 people, according to the organisers, took to the streets of Madrid against the ‘genocide in Palestine’. ‘Genocide is not war’ was one of the chants of the demonstrators who left the Plaza de Cibeles at noon and then held a rally in the Puerta del Sol, where there were calls for an immediate cease fire in Gaza.Demonstrators in Madrid calling for an end to the genocide in Palestine - Photo EFE

Demonstrators in Madrid calling for an end to the genocide in Palestine – Photo EFE
enlarge photo

On Saturday more than 30,000 people took to the streets of Barcelona also demanding an end to the bombing of Gaza and a commercial boycott of Israel. The demonstration started in the Plaza Universitat and ended in Sant Jaume. Many of the demonstrators carried photos of Palestinian children killed in the conflict.

A similar demonstration also took place despite the rain and cold on Saturday in Valencia outside the City Hall.

The Israeli embassy in a statement accused the Spanish people of having double standards, and asked why they did not demonstrate in the past against the Hamas aggression.


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ALSO SEE :
Zapatero talks to Mahmud Abbas and Ehud Olmert
– Jan 9, 2009 – 7:08 AM
King Juan Carlos calls for an immediate cease fire in Gaza
– Jan 6, 2009 – 8:10 PM
Spanish Prime Minister criticises the ‘disproportionate reaction’ of Israel
– Jan 5, 2009 – 12:43 PM

Comments

mike walsh
11 Jan 2009, 21:39

THE POOR MAN’S ATOM BOMB
“The Zionist-American Axis has phosphorized German children, atomized Japanese children, soused Vietnamese children with Agent Orange and poisoned Iraqi children with depleted uranium.
It is time for the devastated, scorned and humiliated to fight back.
The best way to fight back is with what I for many years have called “the poor man’s atomic bomb:” that is, historical revisionism, or real history.
This weapon kills and maims no one but it destroys the lies and defamations of the “holocaust© ” myth. 
This includes the fantastically profitable libels of the “Holocaust© Industry” This is also known that have been fantastically profitable for mendacious super-swindlers such as Bernard Madoff, Elie Wiesel, the cohorts of “miraculously rescues” and murderers of the children of Gaza. – Prof. Robert Faurisson 2009.
Martin Wekler
11 Jan 2009, 22:19

It seems that Hitler is not dead, he has just changed identity and resurected as “Prof. Robert Faurisson”. It’s been a long time since we’ve read such a piece of crap. Prof.Robert Faurisson text is a crime and he should face a legal action.
As for Mr. Zapatero, he has already proved in the past that as far as foreign poloicy concerned, he lacks any judgment. We haven’t heard anything from Mr. Zapatero during the past 7 years of Hamas bombardments on southern Israel, and yes, children and women lives there too. 

M. Wekler MD.

Martin Wekler
11 Jan 2009, 22:23

Correction to my comment above, the resurected Hitler is Mike Walsh or whoever hides behind this disgusting text.
bob
12 Jan 2009, 05:39

Martin, you have restored my hope in sensiblity. Thank you. I only wish that I could have attended Dr. Faurisson’s labotomy.
mike walsh
12 Jan 2009, 09:28

For more than half a century, Germany’s accusers have in the end revealed their inability to let us see a single specimen of the alleged weapons of mass destruction that the Nazis are said to have designed, built or used for “The Destruction of the European Jews” (Raul Hilberg).

“The best proof that your Nazi gas chambers and your Nazi gas vans did not exist any more than your Jewish soap, your lampshades of human skin and so much other nonsense of a vile war propaganda is that, more than fifty years after that war, your ‘scientific experts’ are, more than ever, unable to show them to us”.

Jorge
12 Jan 2009, 13:17

Where is Rodríquez the cobbler’s condemnation of Hamas. This man is a laughing stock. He would do better to keep his stupid mouth shut.

As for the despicable mike walsh, just leave him to his inconsistent, incoherent ramblings. No-one knows what he’s talking about anyway, including him.

sarah
12 Jan 2009, 16:06

Jews taking about the holocaust are like Joseph Fritzl when he was talking about his abusive mother! Why are we talking about a Holocaust in 1941 when the Jews massacred the palestenians in 1948? Proving that people have always hated the jews because whenever they have power they use it to kill or steal. AND ANY ANGRY COMMENTS DEFENDING THE JEWS OR THE HOlOCAUST ARE WRITTEN BY JEWS. Get off this website, people are getting really tired of your sob story.

Gaza, Palestine: Internationally prohibited weapons used against Gaza Strip, death toll exceeds 900 Palestinians

12-01-2009

Gaza, (PNN): Director of the Gaza Strip’s largest hospital, Dr. Hussein Ashour, reports that the nature of the wounds sustained by the dead and injured reaching the hospital are unusual.

Al Shifa Hospital has reported similar findings throughout the years of occupation resulting from the Israeli use of internationally banned weapons including carcinogens. Gaza City is surrounded by the noxious smoke from phosphorous bombs on Monday afternoon with the death toll hovering at 900 Palestinians.

Yesterday Israeli forces killed 53. Dr. Hassanein of the Ministry of Health reports more cases of “bodies cut to pieces” after attacks on Gaza City’s Palestine Square, Tuffah, Zeitoun and Old City neighborhoods. A handicapped center was bombed in Sheikh Zayed and homes in Beit Lahiya and Jabaliya. Rafah in the south was hit heavily today as well with the number of injured throughout the Strip reaching 4,100.

Yesterday’s reports on the use of phosphorus bombs have been confirmed by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), the Ministry of Health, doctors, residents and Human Rights Watch.

Children with deep flesh burns have joined those of the severely dismembered and others who arrive at hospitals in unrecognizable condition. The reality is more horrifying than imaginable for most with the United Nations saying that the Gaza Strip was a “living hell.”

“The injuries here demonstrate that Israel is using prohibited weapons,” Dr. Ashour told Al Sharq Al Awsat. A Norwegian volunteer working in the hospital, who has also worked in the emergency rooms of Iraq during US invasions, reiterated that the nature of the wounds confirms the use of explosive materials containing carcinogenic substances.

Dr. Ashour and the Norwegian doctor certified that people infected by these types of explosives require treatment every six months in order to prevent the development of cancerous tumors.

Palestinian medical sources had confirmed that the nature of the burns, which afflicted the bodies of the dead and wounded Palestinians arriving at Gaza Strip hospitals, demonstrated that the Israeli army used white phosphorus bombs in the shelling of Palestinian civilian gatherings. Medical sources have reported that even the bones of some of the dead and injured were burned.

Residents of the northern Strip towns of Beit Lahia, Beit Hanoun, Gaza City’s eastern neighborhoods and Jabaliya Refugee Camp have reported that the smoke emitted after the bombing of Israeli aircraft led to dozens of cases of suffocation and shortness of breath. Once white phosphorus is released into the air it rapidly oxidizes. The interaction creates heat and produces a yellow flame and thick white smoke.

The British Times reported that Israeli forces have been using white phosphorus during bombings, while local organizations are asking for an inquiry into the use by Israeli forces of internationally prohibited weapons.

Human Rights Watch said that Israel should desist from the use of white phosphorus in the military operations in civilian populated areas in Gaza, while its investigators confirmed the use targeting Gaza City and Jabaliya.

“In the view of Human Rights Watch the use of white phosphorus in densely populated areas in Gaza contravenes international humanitarian law.”

Attacks on the Strip are ongoing as of 4:30 pm Monday.

http://english.pnn.ps/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4483&Itemid=1

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(London) From Protest to Engagement

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf
23rd February 2007
Central Hall, Westminster,
London
[Opening Dua]

People have been here a long time, we lost some people, they just either had to go and catch the tube, or they had something on the tube they wanted to watch or something, I don’t know.

I wanted to make a few remarks. First of all, I want to address a few issues that I think are important and perhaps not for most of the people in the room, but for other people and I would like you to convey this to the other people. There are people that have been talking about the work that is being done by Fuad Nahdi, by Abdul-Rehman, by Fareena and by the other groups that have been involved in this effort; that this is a government propaganda; that these are stooges of the government of England. I’m sure some of you have heard some of these things, so I want to say a few things about them.

First of all, there’s a verse in the Qur’an that is very interesting to me, and probably to most of you, [verse in Arabic] ‘If people incline towards reconciliation, incline with them’ Wa tawakal alAllah ‘and trust in God’ inahu Huwa Samiul Aleem. [Arabic verse] When they want to incline towards peace, you incline towards peace; and if they want to deceive you, if there’s some hidden ulterior motive, God is enough for you. Don’t worry about that, that’s not your concern. Peace is so precious, that anybody who reaches out for peace, you should reach out with them for peace.

And there is another thing I want to say about this government – who do you think this government is? They are called civil servants. Who do you think pays their money? Where do you think this money is from that the government has? It’s from the pockets of the British people, who pay taxes. There are 2 million Muslims in this country paying taxes; they don’t want a little refund?

No seriously, I mean, I’m just amazed at this. Abu Hanifah said, [Arabic] The wealth of the non-Muslims, if they want to give it to you, it is permissible to take it.

Now, I’m going to be honest with you – I did not want to come here. I was in California; my wife is a brilliant cook. Really. There’s no hotel food that compares to her food. It’s not why I married her, she learnt to cook after I married her; but she’s a brilliant cook. Her food is very good. It’s nourishing, I feel good when I eat her food. And she cooks it with love. You can’t get that in a restaurant. I can taste the anxiety in their food, I can taste the anger of the cook. My cells feel it.

And I also have really good tea. I come to England, I buy the tea and I take it back. I have a big supply. My tea is much better than the tea they give at any hotel I’ve ever stayed at in England. I learned how to make tea from Abdul Adheem Sanders, excellent tea-maker. If anybody has ever had his tea, they’ll know what I mean.

So, why leave the comfort of my home? Because my Shaykh, Shaykh Abdallah bin Bayyah, asked me to. He said this is an important thing, so come. So I came. I’m tired, and whenever I get tired I become more open, because my defences are down.

I’m going to tell you some true things. I used to not like the English people. Seriously, I thought they were cynical. You know, the English people, the way they roll their eyes, there’s a certain way; there’s a smirk that comes on their mouths when you say something. Really very subtle things that you notice about the English. You know there’s a cynicism that’s particularly Anglo-Saxon in its nature and it’s really interesting. But I’ll tell you something – I have come to love these people, and for a number of reasons. I want to talk about this because it’s very important for all of you who are living here. This country is an amazing country. It has done many wrongs, and we could bring an Irish person here tonight and they could talk for hours about what this country has done wrong. We could bring Welsh people, they might not be as eloquent as the Irishmen, but they could also talk for several hours about what the English have done to them. And, you could bring some of my tribe, from Scotland, really, you could bring some of them down, and they could give you with a nice brogue, they’ll let you know what the English did. From Edward Longshanks on, or even before that. They’ll tell you about the English. But each one of these people has been challenged to learn to live with the English. Really. The Scots are very civil; some of them want independence, quite a number of them, but how are they going about gaining that independence? They are not blowing up things. They have other ways of doing it. The Welsh de-evolution, it’s been a long time. They say the Welsh are the Irish who couldn’t swim. You know it’s been a long time since the Welsh have been occupied. Much longer than Palestine. But the Welsh are a gentle people. I love the Welsh and I love the Irish. But it’s taken me a while to really appreciate the subtleties of these different cultures.

And so I really want to say, there’s two ways that you can live in your life; one is the way of husn dhann – having a good opinion; and the other way is the way of su’a dhann. Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah doesn’t tolerate ghiba; it’s one of the things that I love about his majlis. You can’t say anything about anybody, even people that you should say things about, he won’t let you say anything about them. Years ago, we were at a gathering and somebody mentioned something about Jamaludin al Afghani, who died a long time ago, two centuries ago. So somebody said something and Shaykh Abdullah said something I have never forgotten. He said [Arabic] ‘Have a good opinion of the dead, we’ve tried having bad opinions, we’ve tested it as a way of being in the world.’ Our Prophet, Salallahu alayhi wa sallam, had the best of opinions. Whenever the Quraish reached out for him, he reached out for them. Mu’awiyah (we know in the Arabic tradition they call it Sh’ar Mu’awiyah, the hair of Mu’awiyah) is one of the most brilliant politicians in human history. He is a case study. The leadership secrets of Mu’awiyah would be a bestseller. Mu’awiyah said. ‘If there was a hair of a relationship between me and somebody else, if he pulled on it, I would release; if he would release, I would pull. A hair of relationship; just to keep that opening there, that potential.’

You should be thankful to have people like Mockbul Ali inside the Foreign Office. I have a good opinion of that young man. He’s a bright young man and has good intentions. He’s there representing your community. You live here, you pay taxes, this is your government. This is not Rawalpindi; this is not Karachi; this is not Cairo. This is not some funny place off in the middle of the Muslim world where if you say anything against the government, suddenly you’re in chains, being dragged away. No. This is a country that you are citizens of; [Arabic verse] ‘I swear by this land and you are a lawful citizen of this land.’

You are citizens; this is not subjection; you are not subjects. The British are citizens and subjects, but this is something superficial. The Queen can’t just arbitrarily send you off to the prison. We should be wary of some of these laws being passed as they are against the essential nature of this country, and we have to remind the English – ‘You are the people of the Magna Carta; you are the people of Habeas Corpus; this is your tradition – you gave this to the western world. You are the people of John Locke and you are the people of John Wesley, who this glorious hall is named after, one of the greatest reformers in western civilisation, who worked with William Wilberforce.’

I want to tell you about William Wilberforce. This was a man, who from the early twenties was with a group in Clapham. One day, 132 black Africans were thrown overboard on a ship called the Zong. It was a slave ship coming from West Africa to the Americas. It was an English ship. 132 black people were thrown into the ocean and drowned, and this was considered legal by the laws of the land. This group of young people, who still had that spark of hope, recognised how despicable this act was, how unacceptable this act was, and they started a small group of abolitionists, to end the slave trade. At a time when almost every single Member of Parliament was supported by the slave lobby. Things haven’t changed all that much. But Wilberforce did not give up. He worked day and night – he was an incredible connector; he connected with people all over the country, got people to sign things and he brought these in as a Member of Parliament. He worked with beautiful people like Hannah Moore.

Several years ago I suggested to the Muslim women in this country to start up a Hannah Moore Benevolence Society, because you should know Hannah Moore. You should know who Hannah Moore is. She’s a beautiful Englishwoman. She was stunningly beautiful in her looks. When she came to London, she took everybody by storm. She was a playwright, she was a literary figure, she was a poetess, she was all of these things, but in the end she had a spiritual conversion and she became one of the staunchest anti-slavery spokespeople in this country. She started night schooling – one of her greatest contributions.

This is England to me. England is not the tyranny of Ireland; that’s the worst of human nature that you find in any civilisation. That’s not England to me. England to me is these incredible ideals embodied by people like Florence Nightingale. I love Florence Nightingale. I have studied and read all of her works. I told my wife – you’re the only woman I know who is jealous of a woman who died over a hundred years ago. I fell in love with Florence Nightingale. Florence Nightingale said England needs to go to the Sufis. She wrote this in her book. She said England needs to go to the Sufis. Florence Nightingale entered the Sultan Hassan Mosque, where Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa gives the khutbah, and she said for the first time, she found what she was looking for. She said, I never found this in the churches of England. She said, I found equality, and that there was a place for women in this religion.

You know, they chased her out with a stick, and yet, she said, I don’t blame them. She went to Al-Azhar, she was struck by the spirituality, and she says in her diary, ‘I’ve heard in my heart something telling me turn to Mecca, face Mecca, face Mecca, all of humanity is one, we are all under One God, and there is salvation for all of us. I kept hearing in my heart there is no God but God, believe in the One true God.’

She was a Unitarian, she was not a Trinitarian. This is Florence Nightingale, one of the great icons of the British people. This was a woman who was given a Qilada, this extraordinary medal by the Sultan Abdul Majid of the Ottoman Empire because she came and served the Turkish soldiers that were victims of the Crimean War as well as she served the British soldiers, because she didn’t differentiate between people. This is England to me. This is the England I want to see. This is the England I want to remind these people of, who they are. They’ve forgotten who they are. These are the people of the great reforms of the western civilisation, and we of all people should be reminding them. We share these things with you. You’ve forgotten who you are like we’ve forgotten who we are. This is the age of senility. We’re all in spiritual dementia. This is the old age, the dotage of humanity, and we need reminders. We’ve got collective Alzheimer’s Disease, and some of us have “sometimer’s” disease – we forget and then we remember. This is England to me, and it flows in my blood; I have ancestors from this land, this is my qawm. Ya qawmee – this is what every prophet (saw) said to his people, Oh my people. They weren’t following his way, they were fighting and they were opposing him. Ya qawmee, [Arabic] He didn’t say [Arabic]. ‘No you’re wrong, I want good for you [Arabic] I just want to help, as much as I’m able to.’ This is our teaching, to go out and to engage these people.

I was on an airplane, and this man came up to me, and he said, ‘Brother, I love your work!’ I said, “Masha’Allah, thank you so much.” He said, “No, no, really, its just so amazing what you did, it’s incredible…Let me ask you one question.” I said sure, and he said “Why did you give up singing?” So after I sang him a few bars of Peace Train, one of my favourite songs, I told him I lost my voice. No, I said that’s Yusuf Islam! We have the same name. There’s three Yusufs tonight, it’s Yusuf muka’ab, Yusuf to the third power.
_____________

But I want to end with a story about one of my favourite people. Who can tell me, and not from the Ulema, who can tell me who Sayyidina Umar’s favourite poet is. People say “Sayyidina Umar liked poetry?! Didn’t he just listen to the Qur’an?” The favourite poet of Umar ibn al Khattab was Zuhair ibn Abi Sulma. Who is Zuhair ibn Abi Sulma? He is the father of Ka’ab ibn Zuhair, the man who wrote the Burda (The Poem of the Cloak). He is also the father of Ka’ab’s younger brother who became Muslim before Ka’ab. Zuhair did not meet the Prophet, he died one year before. But I want to tell you a little bit about why Zuhair wrote his mu’alaqa and I want to use this as a metaphor for what we need to do.

The Arabs call something ayam al arab. Ayam al arab are the days of the Arabs. That’s why Allah changed ayam al arab to ayamillah. [Arabic] because the Arabs had their days, Allah has His days. The days of the Arabs were momentous things that happened to them, they say [Arabic], they used to write their history in their poetry.

There was a war called harb ud Dahis. You know who Dahis is? It’s amazing we know his name. Dahis was a horse. It’s called the War of Dahis, the Horse. And Dahis was owned by a man named Zuhair ibn Uqais al Absi. He had a friend who was from the Dhibyan tribe – Hudaifa bin Malik, who had a horse called Ghabra. Now, Hudaifa was very jealous of Dahis, the horse of Zuhair, so he asked him to race. So the two horses, they decided they’d race a hundred arrow shots – they shoot one time, two times, for a hundred times and then they race. Well, the horses started out, and Ghabra was winning, but once it got into the heavy sand, Dahis took the lead. There was a group of Dhibyanites who were hiding in ambush, and they ambushed Dahis and stopped him from winning the race, so Ghabra won. So what was the bet? A hundred camels. So Hudaifa said “Give me a hundred camels because you lost.” And then the Abs people said “No, we saw the ambush, he didn’t lose. You lost; you cheated, give us a hundred camels.” They kept on and on and on.

Finally, Zuhair ibn Qais got so angry, he killed the brother of Hudaifa. He threw a spear at him and killed him. That started the war between ‘Abs and Dhibyan. You know how long that war lasted? Forty years – over a stupid horse race.

Much later – after many many people were killed from ghatafan, to the point where you know what Zuhair ibn Qais ended up doing? He went to Oman, became a Christian and spent the last days of his life weeping over the war he started. Because he said he could never look at anybody from his tribe, because he had caused so much suffering and bloodshed amongst these people.

So, what happens? There was a man, Al-Harith Al Absi, Harith ibn Awf. This man asked his cousin, Kharijah bin Sinan, “Which tent of the Arabs do you think would not let me marry his daughter?” And she said, “Definitely Aws Atta’i – he would never let you marry his daughter.” So what does he do? This is a typical male problem. He gets on his camel and he heads for this guy’s tent to ask for his daughter. Of all the things he can’t get, that’s the thing he wants – this is a human problem. So he gets there, and this man Aws comes out and says, “Good morning. What are you doing up here, ya Sayyid al Arab?” Al Harith said “I want to marry your daughter.” Aws said “Get the hell out of here.” I mean really, that’s pretty much what he said! This made Al Harith furious and he left.

So what does Aws do? He goes into the house and his wife asks him “What happened, who was that?”

He says “It was Al Harith bin Awf, As Sayyid al Arab.”

“What did he want?”

“He wanted to marry one of my daughters.”

She said, “If he is the Sayyid al Arab, why didn’t you marry on of the daughters to him?”

He said “That’s a good point, it’s just that he caught me off guard and I was angry.”

And she said, “Well go make amends.”

He said, “I can’t. What’s done is done.”

She said, “What do you mean what’s done is done? You mess everything up and then you’re not going to go fix it? Go out there!”

And he says, “What do I say?”

“Just tell him you got him in a bad mood. And tell him to come back and we’ll work things out.”

So he goes, and Al Harith initially is angry, but he comes.

What does Aws do? He says, “I want you to choose one of my daughters. I have three daughters.”

The first one comes out. She says, “I don’t want to marry him.” Remember, Arab women had no rights.

He says, “Why not?”

She says, “ First of all I’m not that good-looking, I’m not his cousin, and he’s going to take me far away and he’ll grow tired of me, divorce me, and then what?”

So he says, “Good point. Bring the second daughter.”

She comes. “I want you to marry this man. What do you say?”

“Look, my first sister is better looking then I am, I don’t have any talents, and I don’t want to go far away from you because who is going to protect me if he gets feisty with me?”

“Good point.”

Finally the hope is on the last daughter, the little one, Buhaysa. She comes in, and he says, “Listen, Al Harith wants to marry you. What do you say?

She said, “ Well, given that I’m the most attractive of my sisters, I’m extremely talented, and I have a most distinguished father, I don’t see how he could refuse me, and then if he treats me badly, God will definitely let him have it!”

So he says great, and they get married. As they’re moving out, they set up a tent next to the house, he goes in to consummate the marriage (that’s a nice word for things people do on their wedding night). So when he gets in there, she says, “What kind of a woman do you take me for? We’re right next to my father and my brothers. Let’s go.” So they ride off and a little way out, he tells his cousin, “Listen you go up ahead, and I’ll catch up with you later.” He stops by the side and sets up the tent. She says, “What kind of woman do you think I am? This is the way people who take women in wars behave! Take me to your home, slaughter sheep, make a big festival!”

He thinks, “This is a high minded woman.” So he takes her and then his cousin says, “Did you do what you wanted to do?” He said no, and explains to him. So they get back, and he does a big festival. When it’s all done, he comes in, “How’s things now?”

She said, “I want to ask you one question. What kind of a man are you? I thought you were a man of honour but I want to ask you one question: How is it that you can delight in women when there are people, Arabs, right now killing each other over a horse race? If you want me as a wife, go out and spread peace amongst these men, and end this bloodshed.”

He goes out and tells his cousin, and the cousin says, “This is a high minded woman, and she will give you great sons, so let us go and do this.” They went out and got the Abs and the Dhibyan to agree that if they were to count all of the dead, whoever had the most killed, these two men would pay 3000 camels from their own wealth – to end this war.

And this is when Zuhair wrote his mu’alaqa in praise of these two men, for what they did. But I think it’s Buhaysa that he should have written a mu’alaqa about, because that is where it has to come from. It’s the women in our homes – they are the one who can change this situation more than anybody else. Our women need to be like Buhaysa and get our men squared away. I really mean that. You are the vicegerents of God.

Extremism is here to stay folks. This is the most extreme society, and I’m talking about the whole globe right now. We’re in the most extreme conditions in human history. We’ve got extreme eating. When I grew up, small was like this, medium was like that, and large…..Now, that’s medium! That’s extreme eating. I used to eat with 10 people around a plate. And now people are walking around, unable to control themselves anymore. They are having to take out Victorian seats in the theatres of England because the American fat behinds can’t fit in them anymore. This is our reality – we’re extreme. We’re eating extreme.

Look at the extreme sports in this country. You know what Sky Television says? It says ‘If your religion is football, then worship with us.’ They call us idiots because our community kill people over what somebody said about the Prophet (saw) and yet they kill each other because some football team beat another football team.

There are sufaha everywhere, but really, what is more stupid, to kill over a stupid football game or to kill because the greatest person in your life has been desecrated, denigrated? They’re both wrong, but don’t call our people fools and not call your own people fools. This is extremism at its worst. Look at the pornography that they have, the denigration of these poor women. You know, the word in Arabic for oppression is related to the word for prostitute, because prostitutes are the most oppressed human beings on the planet. And there’s sexual slavery all over this planet. Some of the biggest downloads in the Muslim world, on Google, according to their own statistics, is pornography.

What’s happened to people? Really – think about this. We’re in extreme conditions. We need the abolition from our nafs. The Arabs say, [Arabic] The free man is a slave as long as he desires other than God, and the slave is a free man as long as he is content. This is real abolition. This is what William Wilberforce is about – his movement needs to be resurrected, but we need liberation from our own egos.

Jazakumallahu Khairan. It has been an honour. I love you, I love this country. I want to see good for this country. Really. And this Government – there’s much to say about the bad things of this government, and you know my criticism. I’m against the war in Iraq. I want the war to end. I want these British troops home. I don’t want them over there. I don’t want the American troops over there. I am against this – I have always been against it. Really, I am completely against it, on both sides – they’re both unacceptable. It’s terrorism on both sides. They’re both terroristic conditions. You’re terrorising people in their homes, using cluster bombs in Lebanon. Really, this is terrorism, and it needs to be condemned as terrorism. And I condemn it. We all condemn it. So we need to recognise that.

But this Government has much good in it, and our teachers teach us, [Arabic] If you’re in a blessing, watch out, you better guard it, because once you lose it, it’s gone, and disobedience is what causes it to be lost. And the Arabs say that Allah (Most High), He said that, [Arabic] A ni’m, if you don’t recognise them, [Arabic] Losing your blessings is what teaches you your blessings, so before you lose them, count your blessings. [Arabic]

Jazakumallahu khairan. Wasalaamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu.

The Collective Trauma of Injustice

Dr. Ingrid Mattson at Cambridge University on 12th October 2008. This presentation is brought to you by The Radical Middle Way Initiative and the Cambridge University Islamic Society.

You can also listen and watch this lecture online.

Al-Salam ‘alaykum.

[Opening du’a]

Prince Qazi is my hero as well, but Mufti Mustafa Ceric has been my hero for a longer time. May Allah protect him and all of us, and continue him in his leadership. To me he is an example to all of us of the kind of leadership that we need, which is real wisdom and steadfastness, in the way of enormous challenges.

We need not just knowledge, but we need this to be able to develop this prophetic character of being able to hold our heads up in dignity but in a humble way, not in an arrogant way. This is the prophetic way, and this is what we see in him and in other leaders who have been such examples for us and have allowed us to move forward and grow in the face of enormous challenges in recent years.

Muslims have always been highly adaptable to diverse situations, which is why Islam is a world religion and not just an Arabian religion. It’s why Muslims have been able to live in all climates and cultures, adopt and adapt, all different language groups, and to make them sacred languages by infusing them with the spirit of the Qur’an. So we need to be able to understand what is needed for our time, and since I’ve had the opportunity to serve the Muslim Community in North America, I’ve had to learn many things that I never thought I would have to learn about. And one of those things is how people receive messages, and what it does to them psychologically, even physiologically, because psychological events have a physiological impact on the brain.

So neuroscience has shown, for example, that when people look at images of someone from their group – a group that they identify with – and that means their ethnic group or their national group – a group that they consider to be ‘their people,’ that when people look at those images they experience that event. That perception is experienced as a trauma, as a psychological trauma. It leaves an impact in the brain. When we perceive things, neurological connections are formed, new connections in the brain are formed. So it’s not just a thought or a memory, as people would have thought in medieval times: that we have images floating around in our brains that can simply be flushed out. But it leaves a real, material, impact on our brain.

What’s important about that? What’s important is that in a world in which we are flooded with images – and traumatic images – we are being changed as human beings, by what we are seeing. And that the flood of negative images, the flood of traumatic images of people being blown up, of people being abused, of people being tortured, is traumatising us in a real way that has caused us as human beings to be unhealthy, and unstable, unless we have a way of dealing with this. Unless we have a way of taking this event and responding to it in a healthy way that forms a healthy brain and a healthy personality. Its why people who are highly compassionate in their close relationships feel compelled to in fact respond in often a very violent way and even transcend their own limits of ethics and morality, in order to protect those they perceive to be their group members, because of this experience of trauma. So we need to really understand what’s happening with human beings in our age, in this age when you are flooded with these negative images in order to respond appropriately.

I’ve spent many years speaking to people about Islam, public groups, audiences, church groups, civic groups, large and small gatherings of people, and what I’ve noticed over the past decade is that, let’s say within the last four or five years, responses to what I have to say have changed. So I would say that ten years ago, non Muslims were generally open to learning. They would acknowledge that they didn’t know anything about Islam or that they knew very little, that they didn’t know Muslims, and so they were open to hearing what we had to say – who we were, how we perceived ourselves and how we defined ourselves. In the last four or five years that has changed.

What I find is that the audiences I speak to have already established a perception of what a Muslim is, what Islam is, and are now very sceptical of what I have to say. I’ve had people stand up in the audience – so imagine this- an ordinary person saying ‘but what you don’t understand about Islam, or what you don’t know about Muslims is this,’ so they are claiming knowledge of Muslims, a knowledge that trumps my knowledge (a knowledge of a professor, a knowledge of someone who’s a leader of a Muslim organisation, who has this experience). And it’s not simply an act of arrogance – they really do believe they have knowledge of Muslims in Islam. So what’s happened? And here again we have to understand how the Muslim mind works.
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There’s something called the ‘anchoring affect’ which is that the first time you hear a piece of information about a new concept or event, that forms the category or the de facto position in your mind with respect to that event or that piece of information. So that anchors the information in your brain and afterwards, everything you hear about that subject will be weighed, measured or compared against that initial piece of information. And so if new information comes in, people will either treat it sceptically, they can change their mind but it takes more work, or they can reject it because it conflicts with what they have already learnt.

So what we’re dealing with now with regard to non-Muslims and their relationship to Islam, is not a blank slate, they are not simply ignorant to Islam – what our scholars would call ‘jahl baseet’ – but they have this complex ignorance, meaning that they think they know. And as I said, it’s not a question simply of arrogance, but we all as human beings, as people that process knowledge in this way, are susceptible to the same thing. With other pieces of information, with new events, people, we also do the same thing. So how can we deal with this? How can we deal with people who have been traumatised by very violent events, who see a continuing reaffirmation of their fear, because of the continuing flood of traumatic images of who they consider to be their people being harmed? And then people who already have in their minds, this information anchored, about what Islam and Muslims are. So how do we deal with them?

But we need to first understand that this is their state of mind, and extend some compassion to them, acknowledging that. Because it’s a state of mind that is fear and that is easily manipulated. So we need to have compassion for people, but also then, with wisdom, guide them to a new understanding. So first – and this is why we constantly find non-Muslims waiting at the end of a two-hour talk about general Islam, to ask one question which is, ‘why have Muslims not denounced terrorism? Why are they not louder about the voices of the extremists?’ and then of course all of us are very frustrated because we do this all the time. We say that we’ve denounced violence and acts of terrorism all the time, but of course that information doesn’t stick in the way that the bad information does. Those images are not traumatic. A benign image is not traumatic so it does not affect the human brain in the same way. It doesn’t stick. You may see a piece of information in which it says that Muslims met, and they spoke and they talked about what we have in common, but you read it and then it’s gone. It’s more of an ephemeral event.

So these statements that we’ve been making, and as Shaykh Ceric said, in our various capacities all these statements and events and documents, they didn’t stick with people. And they were still under the impression that most Muslims were complicit in the statements and extreme actions of those other Muslims. This is why it was important to have a message – a positive, accurate and truthful message – that stuck in people’s minds. We needed a message that would stay there, and lodge in the brain and be able to dislodge the previous information that was anchored there, and therefore one of the reasons why this message is very important. Because it’s a message that sticks. Because it’s written in a way, it’s been presented in a way, which sticks with people. It could easily have been another message; it could have come from other quarters. It’s not necessarily that the precise way this has been written, or the exact numbers of scholars or individuals who signed onto this was the perfect mix. But it’s the one that performs the job the best, and because of that, it’s one that we should all adopt and promote.

The more people that speak about it with its trademark name (I don’t know if its trademark, it should be if not), we should speak about it over and over and over and use a common word, talk about a common word. Because then we will have a message that will stick with people and that will be able to dislodge these former misconceptions. So that’s important. And this is part of strategy in teaching and in giving information. And this is something that Muslims have always understood, that it’s not just about the message, but the form of the message.

Allah subhana wa ta’ala revealed the Qur’an in a beautiful form. It’s not just the information that’s given by Allah subhana wa ta’ala, but it’s the form that the Qur’an was revealed in that made it stick with the people. It is of course God’s word, God’s word revealed in a form that is perfectly receptable to human beings. So we need to understand that the medium, as Marshal McLewin said, is the message. So we need to grab onto to it for that.

I don’t want to take up too much time, so let me say a few other things about the common word.
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I think it was also important psychologically for Muslims that show that Muslims can exercise leadership. We’ve been in a defensive position for a long time. And this is not just problematic, not just in terms of psychologically and emotionally draining where we are always having to defend ourselves, but it also shows our lack of setting aside our proper role among humanity, which is that Allah subhana wa ta’ala sent us the message of Islam to be leaders, to be moral and ethical leaders. And we haven’t played that role.

So the fact that this came from the Muslim Community, not simply as a response to the Pope (because it would have been easy just to respond), but as a new way, a new form of engagement, is very important. Because it’s a reminder to ourselves of our role we need to play on this Earth. And let me say now, that now that it’s clear that we’ve done this, we need to continue to implement it and carry it forward; we should start getting in the habit of being moral and ethical leaders.

If we look at the global economic crisis that’s happening for example, we see that Muslims have not been leaders, and looking at issues of economic justice. Although there have been some very outstanding individuals, in terms of the global economy, we have been followers, which is why a number of Muslim countries will now be dragged down as the United States is drowning the drowning man is pulling down others with him. But here’s an opportunity for Muslims to stand up forward again with leadership; Islamic finance is based on justice and equality and shared risk which is the opposite of financial principles that have dragged the whole world down into this economic crisis. I hope that Muslims will once again rise (Muslims other than myself – this is not my area of expertise but it’s the area of expertise for many others) to the occasion, and show some leadership and say ‘look, there is a better way.’ And the better way is one in which excessive consumption is something that we shun. We want people to improve their quality of life, but in a way that is fair, just and allows people to live in a community mercifully and that also does not do enormous damage to the Earth.

Finally I would like to say, that I cannot but echo more strongly what Shaykh Mustafa Ceric says about the obligation on your part to implement this message. It’s one of the most satisfying things I’ve seen in the last year is the way that in America Christian groups and local communities have responded to this. What’s interesting to me is that across the United States there have been many communities – small churches that have reached out to Muslims in their neighbourhood – wanting to have interfaith engagement. Kind, compassionate and ordinary people, who out of this innate sense of compassion for other human beings reached out to Muslims because they felt that – and saw – that Muslims were under attack and did this as a gesture of kindness and neighbourliness, from their understanding of what a Christian should be. But in response to that intuitive and spontaneous gesture of outrage, there were ideologues in both communities – both in the Muslim Community and Christian Community – who tried to prevent this natural kindness and neighbourliness and compassion from coming together, who said you can’t work or you shouldn’t speak with those people because they’re utterly unlike us.

So our ideology can get in the way of our fitra, our natural kindness, justice and compassion for each other; this natural sense that we do have a connection. That means there needs to be an ideological response, or a theological response, if I can put it in a more positive term. So the common word is very important for that, and for what we’re doing, because look at our leaders – both Muslim and Christian – have said; they’ve affirmed that our outreach to each other is something that is good and that is necessary.

A small community in my neighbourhood, a small community of Franciscans, the Muslim women, and Christian women primarily, had been getting together for coffee and conversation for a number of years. they took this document and the whole community had a receiving/welcoming ceremony for it. It’s a beautiful thing on a very small scale, but in the end, those are the people who are going to protect us, who are going to speak for us, who are our allies, and on a larger scale, in a place like the United States, who are going to vote for those leaders, who are for engaging and dialogue, or who are for conflict and disharmony.

So please, take up the document, take up the challenge, think of all the creative ways you can implement it, and I believe it will continue to be (and we will see over time) even more important than it was in the beginning.

Thank you.

Al-salam ‘alaykum.

How to be Muslim in America

Today’s column is presented as a public service for Muslim readers. Call it a list of Things Not To Say If You Are Muslim. The need for such…

By Leonard Pitts Jr
Syndicated columnist
Today’s column is presented as a public service for Muslim readers. Call it a list of Things Not To Say If You Are Muslim.

The need for such a list is illustrated by a New Year’s Day incident at Washington’s Reagan National Airport. An AirTran Airways flight was delayed two hours and a group of nine Muslims — eight family members and a friend — was refused permission to fly after two teenage girls overheard a member of the group say that sitting near the engines would be particularly unsafe in the event of an accident.

The girls told their parents, who told flight attendants. Next thing you know, 104 passengers are cooling their heels as the plane and all its baggage are rechecked by security officials. Even after the plane was cleared to fly and the group — eight of them native-born U.S. citizens — was determined to be no threat, they were still not allowed back on the plane. They wound up paying for seats on another carrier. AirTran initially refused to apologize for the incident, but quickly backtracked.

So there you have No. 1 on the list of Things Not To Say If You Are Muslim: Do not say anything about air safety. Granted, that’s a staple, albeit morbid, topic for skittish fliers the world over, but you are not “the world over.” You are Muslims in America, post Sept. 11. You may not discuss air safety. Not even to say, “For criminy sake, Malik, take your Valium and shut up; flying is perfectly safe.” If you discuss air safety even to defend it, we will have to conclude that you are a terrorist.

No. 2. Do not use “gee” words. Do not say jeepers, gee-whiz, Jesus or Jehosophat. Someone listening in may think you said “jihad” and we will have to conclude that you are a terrorist.

No. 3: Do not say jihad. If you do, we will have to conclude that you are a terrorist.

No. 4: Do not discuss movie history. Eventually, someone will observe that “Ishtar” was one of Hollywood’s all-time biggest bombs. Someone listening in will report that you plan to blow up Hollywood and we will have to conclude that you are a terrorist.

No. 5: Do not talk sports. Somebody might say, “Boy, I hate the Dolphins.” Then Homeland Security will have to shut down SeaWorld, Shamu will have to be guarded by unsmiling men in sunglasses … and we will have to conclude that you are a terrorist.

No. 6: Do not discuss the weather. If someone says, “I can’t believe it’s raining again today” and someone else says, “Weatherman says it’s going to be even worse tomorrow,” and then the first someone says, “Any more of this and we’re all going to drown,” someone listening in will report a plot to blow up the levees and flood the town. And we will have to conclude that you are a terrorist.

Indeed, it occurs to me that it might be easier to list the things that are safe for you to talk about, that won’t make some eavesdropper think you an evil, America-hating outsider. There are two things. The first: lawsuits. There is nothing more reflective of American values than suing the so-and-sos who have mistreated and embarrassed you.

Indeed, one of the detained Muslims told The New York Times, “We have not ruled out the possibility of legal action.” It struck just the right tone, saying to skeptical fellow Americans in no uncertain terms: Hey, we are just like you.

The second thing on the list of safe topics: baseball. Yes, I know what I said about sports. Baseball isn’t sports. It’s hot dogs, blue skies, homeruns, Americana at its most iconic.

Besides, it’s OK to say you hate the Yankees. Most people do.

Yes, you may think it pathetic that Americans have become such a skittish, paranoid lot that you can only talk about lawsuits and baseball without arousing suspicion. But look on the bright side:

Spring training begins next month.

Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr.’s column appears Sunday on editorial pages of The Times. His e-mail address is: lpitts@miamiherald.com

2009, The Miami Herald

So what have Gazans got to complain about?

When you read the statements from Israeli and U.S. politicians, and try to match them with the pictures of devastation, there seems to be only one explanation. They must have one of those conditions, called something like “Visual-Carnage-Responsibility-Back-To-Front-Upside-Down-Massacre-Disorder”.

(Watch video: Israel launches deadly air strikes on Gaza)

(Watch video: UN calls for Israel to open Gaza border to aid)

(Watch video: Staying alive in Gaza)

For example, Condoleezza Rice, having observed that more than 300 Gazans were dead, said: “We are deeply concerned about the escalating violence. We strongly condemn the attacks on Israel and hold Hamas responsible.”

Someone should ask her to comment on teenage knife-crime, to see if she’d say: “I strongly condemn the people who’ve been stabbed, and until they abandon their practice of wandering around clutching their sides and bleeding, there is no hope for peace.”

The Israeli government suffers terribly from this confusion. They probably have adverts on Israeli television in which a man falls off a ladder and screams, “Eeeeugh”, then a voice says, “Have you caused an accident at work in the last 12 months?” and the bloke who pushed him gets £3,000.

The gap between the might of Israel’s F-16 bombers and Apache helicopters, and the Palestinians’ catapulty thing is so ridiculous that to try and portray the situation as between two equal sides requires the imagination of a children’s story writer.

The reporter on News at Ten said the rockets “may be ineffective, but they are symbolic.” So they might not have weapons but they have got symbolism, the canny brutes.

It’s no wonder the Israeli Air Force had to demolish a few housing estates, otherwise Hamas might have tried to mock Israel through a performance of expressive dance.

The rockets may be unable to kill on the scale of the Israeli Air Force, said one spokesman, but they are “intended to kill”.

Maybe he went on: “And we have evidence that Hamas supporters have dreams, and that in these dreams bad things happen to Israeli citizens, they burst, or turn into cactus, or run through Woolworths naked, so it’s not important whether it can happen, what matters is that they want it to happen, so we blew up their university.”

Or there’s the outrage that Hamas has been supported by Iran. Well that’s just breaking the rules. Because say what you will about the Israelis, they get no arms supplies or funding or political support from a country that’s more powerful than them, they just go their own way and make all their weapons in an arts and crafts workshop in Jerusalem.

But mostly the Israelis justify themselves with a disappointing lack of imagination, such as the line that they had to destroy an ambulance because Hamas cynically put their weapons inside ambulances.

They should be more creative, and say Hamas were planning to aim the flashing blue light at Israeli epileptics in an attempt to make them go into a fit, get dizzy and wander off into Syria where they would be captured. But they prefer a direct approach, such as the statement from Ofer Schmerling, an Israeli Civil Defense official who said, “I shall play music and celebrate what the Israeli Air Force is doing.”

Maybe they could turn it into a huge national festival, with decorations and mince pies and shops playing “I Wish We Could Bomb Gaza Every Day”.

In a similar tone Dov Weisglas, Ariel Sharon’s chief of staff, referred to the siege of Gaza that preceded this bombing, a siege in which the Israelis prevented the population from receiving essential supplies of food, medicine, electricity and water, by saying, “We put them on a diet.”

It’s the arrogance of the East End gangster, so it wouldn’t be out of character if the Israeli prime minister’s press conference began: “Oh dear or dear. It looks like those Palestinians have had a little, er, accident. All their buildings have been knocked down — they want to be more careful, hee hee.”

And almost certainly one of the reasons this is happening now is because the government wants to appear hard as it wants to win an election. Maybe with typical Israeli frankness they’ll show a party political broadcast in which Ehud Olmert says, “This is why I think you should vote for me”, then shows film of Gaza and yells: “Wa-hey, that bloke in the corner is on FIRE.”

And Condoleezza Rice and her colleagues, and the specially appointed Middle East peace envoy, could then all shake their heads and say: “Disgraceful. The way he’s flapping around like that could cause someone to have a nasty accident.”

World urges Israel to end Gaza attacks

Protesters around the globe have continued their rallies against the Israeli bombardment of Gaza which has so far killed 783 Palestinians.

Algeria

Thousands of Algerians, wearing Palestinian headscarves and chanting “USA Terrorists” marched downtown streets of Algiers on Thursday in a show of support for Gazans and an attempt to denounce Israeli onslaught on the Gaza Strip. Police made several arrests.

Egypt

After the Friday prayers, more than 50,000 Egyptians rallied across the country to condemn atrocities committed by Israel against civilians in besieged Gaza.

In the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, participants expressed their anger at the Zionist entity and at Arab regimes believed to have assisted the crippling Israeli blockade on the enclave that has barred the residents from getting out and humanitarian aid from getting in. The demonstration had been organized and led by lawmakers linked to the opposition Muslim Brotherhood.

The marchers echoed slogans such as “Down with Israel and with every collaborator” as well as “Gaza, excuse us — opening Rafah is not in our hands.” The latter made a reference to the Gaza-Egyptian border crossing that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s government is refusing to open.

In the Egyptian capital, Cairo, riot police sought to foil protests outside a number of mosques. At least 35 opposition activists were held as ministry of religious affairs had earlier warned imams against addressing the Gaza crisis.

Greece

Also, over 2,000 people took to the streets in Athens and Thessaloniki, setting fire to US and EU flags outside the US embassy and the Israeli flag outside the Israeli mission.

Indonesia

About 200 women, holding posters of dead and wounded Palestinian children, demonstrated outside the Egyptian embassy in Jakarta, and call on Egyptian government to open Rafah border with Gaza.

Italy

A group of Roman merchants urged a boycott of Jewish companies as a sign of protest at continuing carnage in Gaza.

Jordan

[IMG] More than 2,000 demonstrators — wearing checkered Palestinian keffiyehs and carrying Palestinian and Jordanian flags – chanted “No Israeli embassy on Arab territory” and “Arab rulers are cowards in the capital Amman.”

The protestors had set off from Friday prayers at the Kaloti mosque towards Israeli embassy, nearly a kilometer (half a mile) away. Police however stopped the crowd. The marchers instead set up a symbolic cemetery with the word ‘Gazan’ written on each mock coffin.

Kashmir, India

Hundreds of Muslims staged a demonstration in the city of Srinagar in protest to Israel’s continued military offensive in the Gaza Strip. Protesters set fire to Israeli flags and chanted “Death to Israel” and “Long live Palestine”.

Kuwait

[IMG] Protesters in Kuwait burn an Israeli flag and hit it with shoes while shouting anti-Israel and anti-Hosni Mubarak (President of Egypt) slogans during a protest against Israel’s offensive in Gaza, in Kuwait City January 9, 2009. About 3,000 gathered outside Kuwaiti parliament and shouted ‘shame, shame against Arab inaction vis-Ã -vis Gaza.’

Malaysia

Islamic groups urged a boycott of US brands such as Coca-Cola and Malaysians working for Starbucks or McDonald’s were demanded to give up their jobs.

Norway

Around 1,000 pro-Palestinian protesters engaged in fight with a pro-Israeli demonstration in Oslo on Thursday. Six people sustained injuries and 31 were arrested in the incident.

Occupied Palestinian Territories

[IMG] A Palestinian youth uses a sling-shot to hurl a stone from behind a burning tire barricade during clashes with Israeli troops at a protest against Israel’s military operations in the Gaza Strip. In Khan Yunis , some 3,000 held a demo to show solidarity with Gazans. The demonstrators threw stones at Israeli soldiers who in return fired rubber bullets. Meanwhile, several thousand shouted “Death to Israel” in Nablus. In al-Quds, young Palestinians clashed with police.

Somalia

[IMG] Muslim protestors shout slogans during a demonstration in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, January 9, 2009, against Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip. Hundreds of Somali demonstrators protested after Friday prayers in Mogadishu, and a number of other towns in Somalia, against the Israeli raids on Gaza Strip. People chanted slogans against Gaza bombing and called for an immediate halt to the bombing which has so far claimed many innocent children, women and the elderly.

How many must die before peace prevails?

by Harris Zafar, Guest opinion

Monday January 05, 2009, 5:00 AM

Harris Zafar

When Palestinians and Israelis both pray to God for help in destroying the other, who does God choose to help? Which of the two are the “good guys”?

Well, based on the actions of both parties, I fail to see why God would help either of them. Both parties claim loyal adherence to God and his teachings, but sadly, both parties violate the law of their respective faith. Let’s look at the facts.

As a practicing Muslim, I’m critical of Muslims who don’t act according to the teachings of Islam. So let’s begin with Hamas. Sure, some may argue the case of Gaza residents having their food, water and medical equipment supply cut off by Israel. Others may cite the Nov. 5 Israeli attack under the Gaza fence. But how does it help to fire rockets in return? Each rocket has the possibility of taking an innocent life, which is strictly forbidden in Islam.

Do those who fire them not understand the Holy Quran when it repeatedly says “create not disorder in the earth” or even when it says that killing even one person is like killing all of mankind? Reverence for life is a part of Islam, but the very nature of rockets is to put lives at risk.

And what about the Israeli Defense Forces? How can its leaders justify their response when their actions are breaking the very law they claim to follow? The Mosaic law of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” teaches the principle of equitable retaliation. The purpose of this law was to limit the scope of a punishment and to discourage cruelty. Yet Israel has unleashed an all-out attack of warlike proportions, killing more than 400 Palestinians and wounding more than 2,000 more in merely seven days. Can we consider the death of 400 Palestinians in response to the death of four Israelis to be equitable retaliation?

Both Israelis and Palestinians are religious people, but when it comes to matters concerning one another, their respective leaders toss their religious beliefs to the side and act with raw emotion, with disregard for the value of life.

Israel and Palestine both consist of men, women and children who desire peace and security instead of violence and fear. Their respective faiths, as well as the principle of rationality, dictate that each must refrain from using violence to solve their problems. True peace can only be achieved by working together as children of God.

If both parties instilled humanity, mercy and forgiveness into themselves, perhaps God would find more value in their prayers. But how many must die before the God-given qualities of humanity and peace prevail?

Harris Zafar, a business analyst in the information technology industry, is the youth director of faith outreach within his mosque in Southwest Portland.

See more in Hot Topic, oped
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COMMENTS (46)Post a comment
Posted by dmbones on 01/05/09 at 8:02AM

Greetings Harris,

Thank you for your comments. I couldn’t agree with you more. Moses and Muhammad are Messengers from the same God, although separated in history by thousands of years. Their essential message to humanity, as Messengers from all of the world’s major religions agree, is one of ethical reciprocity.

The central teaching of all of the religions is the same:

Bahá’í Faith:
“Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to thee, and say not that which thou doest not.” “Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself.” Baha’u’llah

Brahmanism: “This is the sum of Dharma [duty]: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you”. Mahabharata, 5:151

Buddhism:
Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” Udana-Varga 5:18

Christianity:
“And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” Luke 6:31, King James Version.

Confucianism:
“Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you” Analects 15:23

Ancient Egyptian:
“Do for one who may do for you, that you may cause him thus to do.” The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant, 109 – 110 Translated by R.B. Parkinson. The original dates to 1970 to 1640 BCE and may be the earliest version ever written.

Hinduism:
This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you. Mahabharata 5:151

Humanism:
“Don’t do things you wouldn’t want to have done to you, British Humanist Society.

Islam: “None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” Number 13 of Imam “Al-Nawawi’s Forty Hadiths.”

Jainism:
“In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self.” Lord Mahavira, 24th Tirthankara

Judaism:
“…thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”, Leviticus 19:18
“What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. This is the law: all the rest is commentary.” Talmud, Shabbat 31a.

Native American Spirituality:
“Respect for all life is the foundation.” The Great Law of Peace.
“All things are our relatives; what we do to everything, we do to ourselves. All is really One.” Black Elk

Roman Pagan Religion: “The law imprinted on the hearts of all men is to love the members of society as themselves.”

Shinto:
“The heart of the person before you is a mirror. See there your own form”
“Be charitable to all beings, love is the representative of God.” Ko-ji-ki Hachiman Kasuga

Sikhism:
“Don’t create enmity with anyone as God is within everyone.” Guru Arjan Devji 259
“No one is my enemy, none a stranger and everyone is my friend.” Guru Arjan Dev : AG 1299

Sufism: “The basis of Sufism is consideration of the hearts and feelings of others. If you haven’t the will to gladden someone’s heart, then at least beware lest you hurt someone’s heart, for on our path, no sin exists but this.” Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, Master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order.

Taoism:
“Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.” T’ai Shang Kan Ying P’ien.

Unitarian:
“The inherent worth and dignity of every person;”
“Justice, equity and compassion in human relations…. ”
“The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;”
“We affirm and promote respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.” Unitarian principles.

Wicca: “An it harm no one, do what thou wilt” (i.e. do what ever you will, as long as it harms nobody, including yourself). One’s will is to be carefully thought out in advance of action. This is called the Wiccan Rede.

Yoruba: (Nigeria): “One going to take a pointed stick to pinch a baby bird should first try it on himself to feel how it hurts.”

Zoroastrianism:
“Whatever is disagreeable to yourself do not do unto others.” Shayast-na-Shayast 13:29
Humanity has been consistently informed throughout history on the path to peace and security, but we have failed thus far to live up to what we know is right. How long indeed…!

Passages taken from: http://www.religioustolerance.org/reciproc.htm

Posted by portlandpoet on 01/05/09 at 9:07AM

Here’s a thought; how about if we just leave everyone’s God out of the scenerio? Why can’t everyone realize that the impetus behind these centuries of killing each other is “God”; whether it’s your God or the other guy’s.

In the Holy Bible for example; there were only 4 human beings on earth before the first murder occured. Cain killed his brother and 1/4th of the world’s population was wiped out. Later; God wiped out the entire population of the earth save Noah’s family and 2 of each animal species.

According to the same book; the end is no more promising than the beginning. The battle of Armageddon will take place here on earth and “the blood will be as high as the horse’s mouth”.

To many people in the Middle East are willing to strap explosives to their bodies and blow themselves and anyone in the vicinity up in the name of their God. Not only do they not consider this a bad thing; it is thee thing that will ensure that they get to the promise land.

How much blood has to seep into the sands of The Middle East land before their own Martin Luther King steps forward, condems the violence and convinces the warring factions that their sons and daughters will continue dying until someone steps up and says “enough”!

The Gaza Strip and the political and military battles that are fought in an attempt to claim it are both built on sand and will crumble and blow away with the winds. How can you look into your children’s eyes and not realize that no God would want them brutally killed; especially in his name.

All I am saying is give peace a chance.

Posted by dtroutma on 01/05/09 at 9:53AM

I just find it interesting that the bloodiest and most heartless “religions”(with their hundreds of warring sub-sects) on earth today all use the same baseline book of laws, the Old Testament. The only two real laws seem to be: “Do as I say, not as I do.”, and “Do unto others, before they can do it to you.”

It’s also interesting that the battles rage over one of the least valuable parcels of land on Earth, it doesn’t even have oil under it!

Posted by xlntzee56 on 01/05/09 at 10:05AM

Mr. Zafar,
Very thoughtful article. Well said!

Posted by goldfoot on 01/05/09 at 10:07AM

Shalom, Harris Zafar,
I was very impressed with your letter and am thankful to be able to have a dialogue with you. I appreciate your thoughtful outlook on today’s situation in Gaza.
May I point out some facts that were omitted. Israel has not closed the gate in Gaza for no reason. It’s only in response to the constant shelling that Hamas has done since 2001. Hamas shells; we close the gate. For 8 years Israel has been shelled. What would Arab countries do if this happened to them? What did Iran (not an Arab country) and Iraq do to each other? We didn’t go in and slaughter people in response. We tried every civilized method to get Hamas to stop, and it didn’t work. Finally, even with a peace party with Olmert, after 8 years, we have had enough. Weren’t you amazed that Hamas shot and destroyed electric sources from Israel whereby Israel was still giving Gaza electricity? They destroyed their own source of power and then cried foul. It’s like the child who kills his parents and then cries that he’s an orphan.
As to the difference in casualties, it is shocking that their casualties benefit them. They can cry to the international world how terrible we are. We have an army that is pinpointing targets of the source of rockets, missiles, and mortars. They shoot these into our southern population indiscriminately, hitting civilians. We’re not trying to kill civilians. They are. We protect our people with bomb shelters. They put their arms amid their women and children.
They are also terrorizing our people. After 8 years they have better and better missiles that are reaching far more of Israel. We are forced into this. When the “Palestinians” change their charter to accept Israel as being there and not try to wipe us out, and to live within the concept of the Muslim religion as you speak of it, we will have reached peace. It’s too bad that you’re not one of the leaders. You sound like a very wise person. Remember, Jews don’t want to take a life either. Our toast is “L’Chaim! To life. That’s all life.

Posted by johnsonc20 on 01/05/09 at 10:53AM

Goldfoot,

Why respond so negatively to this heartfelt plea to both sides to follow the peaceful tenets contained within their own religions? Is it necessary for you to justify Israel’s actions?

I think that Mr. Zafar has made some interesting points and it would behoove you to reflect on what the “L’Chaim” toast means if it is given at the same time massive death from the sky is being dealt by those doing the toasting.

It is time for ALL of us to walk the talk. That includes Israel, who is in the stronger military position and therefore has the most need to show mercy.

May God bless us ALL.

Posted by dontsmoke on 01/05/09 at 11:29AM

I agree with johnsonc20. Mr. Zafar is not taking sides in this battle; he is simply pointing out that the violence must stop.

Even though you may be justified in your response Goldfoot; it’s time to stop the tit for tat about who is attacking whom and who owns what strip of land. Dialogue is the only way to stop the killing not continuing to prove that you and your people are right and someone else (your enemy), is wrong. Mr. Zafar’s article is a good start toward such dialogue.

I too would defend my home and protect my family with every means available to me but if I could sit down with those who wish me harm and come to an agreement so that we could live in peace forever; let’s talk.

The natural response to violence is to justify your own actions by saying you were attacked first. Unfortunately; in the Middle East that argument could go back to the days of Moses and will never be decided. Don’t argue about who’s ox was gored first, just stop goring the other guys ox and get along for the sake of your children.

Peace to all in the Middle East and around the world.

Posted by dell4100 on 01/05/09 at 11:41AM

Islam is a violent religion and you can dress it up any way you like, but it still comes down to the same thing. If it looks like a duck, it is most certainly a duck! Actions speak louder than words and Hamas has proven to the world that they are nothing but a bunch of rabid dogs!

Posted by dontsmoke on 01/05/09 at 12:03PM

dell4100 do you think you would be more inclined to sit down with your Mid Eastern brother if he started the conversation by calling you a rabid dog or if he approached you in an intelligent peaceful manner as Harris Zafar does in his article?

The State of Israel was born the same year as I, 1949. I have lived a peaceful and fruitful life here in the United States for those 60 years and my children have grown up knowing nothing but peace and love.

I spent a year in combat in the Viet Nam war and came to realize that war is not the solution to man’s problems; peace is.

Why don’t you stop calling names and join in the peace process so children in your part of the world can enjoy the next 60 years in peace as well.

We’re all brothers and that includes you dell4100.

Simply choose to stop the violence.

Posted by ozrms on 01/05/09 at 12:06PM

Palestine is an OCCUPIED territory. Blaming those who choose to fight the occupation with homemade rockets (that are wholly symbolic and highly ineffective) as responsible for the killing and maiming of thousands of civilians is like blaming Anne Frank for the murder of her family.

Moralizing notwithstanding, Palestine has endured 60 years of occupation, under a colonialist Israel-U.S. regime. Most of Palestine remains unarmed, impoverished, and weak. Attacking this population with white phosphorous, cluster bombs, navy shells and 33,000 troops is absolutely ridiculous.

Mark my words, this incursion will be as effective as the U.S. occupation of Iraq. It will galvanize more and more people to fight against occupying forces and continue a war that has already gone on for much too long.

Posted by patpilot on 01/05/09 at 12:22PM

The problem, as I see it, is that organized religions are organized by people. Despite all the good intents of their deity, messages of faith, love, and worship are suborned by those leaders who bend their religions to suit personal and political needs. When religions are organized inside of geo-political boundaries, that is, when the state becomes the religion becomes the state, religions gain the killing efficiency of modern weaponry and tactics. You can say “Not my religion” but you conveniently forget things like inquisitions, crusades, witch trials, and the destruction of much of the extant civilization of the New World. Mark Twain said the bible has an omission; “Ye shall be indifferent as to what your neighbor’s religion is.” Until religions are ready to accept that concept, humanity will continue to suffer in the names of gods.

Posted by kzvezda on 01/05/09 at 1:38PM

Posted by ozrms on 01/05/09 at 12:06PM
Blaming those who choose to fight the occupation with homemade rockets (that are wholly symbolic and highly ineffective)
——-
Those “symbolic” rockets you speak of have killed people and disrupted the lives of many more. It’s easy for you to say “symbolic” from halfway around the world. If someone targeted you with those “symbolic” rockets, you’d be singing another tune.

Posted by kzvezda on 01/05/09 at 1:41PM

If both parties instilled humanity, mercy and forgiveness into themselves, perhaps God would find more value in their prayers. But how many must die before the God-given qualities of humanity and peace prevail?
—————
Unfortunately, when dealing with fanatics like Hamas (whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel), the answer is that many must die.

Israel’s spokesman said today that if Israel was guaranteed that the rocket fire would stop permanently, they’d pull out of Gaza immediately. But the likelihood of that approaches zero.

Posted by dmbones on 01/05/09 at 1:59PM

Hi Pat,

Instead of Twain’s call for tolerance, I prefer to think that all of the world’s religions are essentially the same. They come from the same source and they tell us essentially the same thing at their core, differing only in the transient realities of the time their founders appeared on earth. For example, eating pork is forbidden in the Jewish Talmud, not because pork is unclean, but because people didn’t know then how to avoid trichinosis. Religious truth is relative to the time in which it appeared. If we could just see this for what it is, then much of the so-called culture wars and clash of civilizations would be moot.

I wholeheartedly agree with you that the good intentions of the Prophets is waylaid by the clergy for their own small vested institutional interests. It’s a matter of historical record. The clergy are by far the ones most responsible for the regress of civilization, including the wars we are involved in today.
But, as for democracy and religion, Twain is right: our neighbors religion or lack of it is subsumed in being an American.

Posted by dmbones on 01/05/09 at 2:10PM

Harris,

In earlier online blogs I’ve had exchanges with self-proclaimed Muslim scholars. One that troubled me was with a man honest enough to admit that telling the truth to a non-Muslim was not necessary as apostates are undeserving. Could you comment on this, please?

I would really like to have more Muslim voices online here. I applaud your courage in standing up for Muhammad’s teaching, Peace be upon Him. If more of your co-religionists were as brave, we could make real progress in seeing one another as sharing common interests.

Thanks again for your calming voice. It’s a rare and timely input.

Posted by lennyp on 01/05/09 at 3:37PM

Shalom

The god the Palestinians pray to and the god the Jews pray to are one and the same, the god of Abraham. If either one or both are god’s chosen, I, for one, would rather not be god’s choice.

As an American Jew, thank you. When the Muslims ruled the “world” it was a time of great enlightenment, learning and tolerance for those that lived under their rule including Jews. I believe, left to their own devices the Palestinians and Jews have the ability to create a wonderful society for themselves and their children. Both the Palestinians and Jew have much more in common then divides them. There are far more reasons for them to be friends than enemies.

Both allow their fundamentalist leaders to use them for their leaders own aims. These leaders display an utter disregard for well-being of their peoples under the guise of what they want their god to be. Funny how their leader’s god always agrees with them rather than they agree with god.

Here is an excellent piece written by a Jewish writer that I suggest everyone read:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marty-kaplan/eyeless-in-gaza_b_155204.html

From what you have written, I would be proud to call you a friend.

as-salaamu ‘alaykum

Posted by zidar on 01/05/09 at 4:13PM

Which side has God chosen? With the score running 5 dead Jews and 500 dead Arabs, looks to me like he’s taken the side of the Jews.

Posted by portlandpoet on 01/05/09 at 4:34PM

Not necessarily zidar. If the ultimate goal is to die and meet your God, then more Arab’s prayers are being answered. See how rediculous the issue is regarding who’s side God is on?

How about we stop killing each other and let “God” decide when it’s our time to go and meet him ?

Posted by imoksoami on 01/05/09 at 4:53PM

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jan/06/gaza-israel-hamas

LOL, a letter to gullible idiots from a leader of Hamas. Now Arafat was poisened by Israel and no bombs have been delivered by Hamas, LOL.

Posted by dell4100 on 01/05/09 at 5:39PM

dontsmoke, should I try to talk to them before or after they cut my head off? Wake up fool, terrorists don’t want peace. They want to impose their religious views on others!

Posted by dell4100 on 01/05/09 at 5:44PM

People under attack have two choices, either defend themselves or lay down and die. I choose the former rather than the latter. I do not impose my beliefs on others and wish to be afforded that same courtesy. However, I am not naive nor was I born yesterday. Terrorists do not want peace, they want to cut off your head, because you are not one of them. So each individual needs to decide whether they want to stand up and fight or be a doormat! Your choice.

Posted by Laetitia on 01/05/09 at 5:58PM

The day man created god our fate was sealed. Too bad we still haven’t figured that out in the 21st century. Long live superstition; come to think of it that is all that is going to survive.

Posted by BishopDave on 01/05/09 at 6:03PM

Dear Harris,

I’ve read your article in the Newark airport on my way from Portland to Tel Aviv. I and 40 some other bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are on our way to Israel right now – primarily to visit friends in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. This community includes both Palestinian Christians and Israeli Christians who paint for us a picture similar to yours. I wish more people had your heart and insight. Thank you for writing.

Anyone interested in our trip can read more at

Dave

Posted by BishopDave on 01/05/09 at 6:05PM

So much for my html coding! Try http://blogs.elca.org/09cobacademy/

Dave

Posted by xlntzee56 on 01/05/09 at 6:17PM

dell4100 says: “Wake up fool, terrorists don’t want peace. They want to impose their religious views on others!”
So, by your definition, that includes the religious right-wing Christians you so often align yourself with dell.

Posted by bloggod on 01/05/09 at 8:09PM

Zafar says:

“Both Israelis and Palestinians are religious people, but when it comes to matters concerning one another, their respective leaders toss their religious beliefs to the side and act with raw emotion, with disregard for the value of life.”
_____________

those ordering the killing on both sides aren’t “leaders;” they are following ignorance.

the citizens of these nations are NOT all of the same cloth. just like the USA:
(hello world, we here in Oregon ain’t Bush.)
Olmert is a convicted criminal.

Bush is sliding out the back door as bloody as can be, shredders deleting history 24-7.

i think the Gaza war is what Biden meant about Obama being tested right off with a crisis. an extra crisis that is.

Posted by sameric on 01/05/09 at 8:49PM

At the core, is this really about religion at all? From what I’ve read Islam and Judaism have more in common than differences – especially when each is compared to Christianity. Just maybe this continuing mess is all about keeping control of the masses through the provision of a common enemy.

Posted by jaybug45 on 01/05/09 at 9:56PM

This is about OIL! When the price did not increase after OPEC cut production, then the rockets started launching around the clock. Thank you Ahmedinijhad.

Eye for an eye? So Isreal is supposed to launch cheesy rockets into Gaza, and it’s according to the law? Okay. Sounds stupid to me, but I didn’t write the law.

What I fear is that genocide is going to happen someday. And that until then we will have no peace. Perhaps when America is not dependent upon foreign oil for our energy, we will let the Middle East go Rwanda itself. Nothing else has worked. And I fear nothing else will.

Maybe they need a little M.A.D.ness to figure things out. Worked for us anyway, ask Russia, they still exist to be able to ask.

Posted by amalfi01 on 01/06/09 at 9:43AM

The facts of life: Islam allows only three ways in which the true believer can confront the infidel: Conversion, submission or death. There is no option for peaceful coexistence. The infidel ignores this at his peril.

Posted by dell4100 on 01/06/09 at 11:58AM

xlntzee56, I must take issue with your assertion that I am aligned with the right wing religious zealots. I am an agnostic and if you don’t know what that means, then look it up. Since you are always making excuses for Hamas, does that mean I can assume you are also a terrorist?

Posted by dell4100 on 01/06/09 at 12:00PM

amalfi01 hit the nail on the head. Common sense seems to elude most of these other posters. They won’t realize their error in judgement, until they are looking at their bodies from their severed heads!

Posted by rwnobles on 01/06/09 at 1:20PM

I think the point of “symbolic” is that the Hamas rockets are not very effective.

When you have two equally wrong poeple, the one with the more effective weaponry is more dangerous.

Israel has killed 100 Innocent lives for every single Israeli that is killed. Talk about “actions speak louder than words” dell4100!

Irael has the more accurate weaponry but they are killing 100 times the civilians. It is hard for me to imagine that that is not an intentional attempt at genocide.

Posted by harriszafar on 01/06/09 at 1:49PM

dmbones: Thank you for your question. It is rather easy for someone to proclaim themselves a scholar online. The example you cite is quite disturbing because this so-called scholar is making a claim that has no basis in Islam. In all my readings of Islamic scripture, I have seen countless references calling for honesty and truthfulness. The Prophet Muhammad even said that dishonesty leads to vice and vice leads to hell. And he never said “except when you lie to a non-Muslim.” That sounds ridiculous, and I am sorry that a Muslim told you this. It is not true.

BishopDave: Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I will certainly keep an eye on your blog to see how things are going for you. Please convey my greetings and message of Peace to those you will be working with.

I do not find meaningless abuse of anyone’s faith to be beneficial nor genuine, which is why I will not address the comments by some posters who only want to defame a group or a religion. All I can do is pray that someday their sense of tolerance and cooperation will awaken so that more of us can respectfully coexist and solve real issues with meaningful discussion. This way, we can put our words into action. Thank you all once again.

Posted by amalfi01 on 01/06/09 at 3:05PM

rwnobles

Hamas broke the ceasefire. So the best thing to tell them is not to bring a knife to a gunfight. The Israelis have a right to live in peace. When the Palestinians allow Israel the right to exist, and exist in peace there will be peace.

Posted by rwnobles on 01/06/09 at 3:14PM

amalfio1: So a few militants tossing glorified rocks justifies Israel’s killing of thousands of innocent civilians?

I agree with Mr. Harris, both sides of this fight are wrong. I just have sympathy for the innocent lives that are being taken. So few innocent Israelis have been hurt, so I have little sympathy on that side in comparison to mounting innocent deaths on the Palestinian side.

I wish they would both stop. I wish they both were inneffective at killing innocence. Israel is just very effective in killing innocent people. The death tollspeaks for itself, 100:01

Posted by Abdulameer on 01/06/09 at 3:49PM

Harris Zafar is a business analyst in the information technology industry. What are his credentials for teaching us the truth about Islam? He writes: “As a practicing Muslim, I’m critical of Muslims who don’t act according to the teachings of Islam.” AND “Do those who fire them not understand the Holy Quran when it repeatedly says “create not disorder in the earth” or even when it says that killing even one person is like killing all of mankind? Reverence for life is a part of Islam,..” But, what, exactly, are the teachings of the Koran? They are NOT what Zafar thinks they are. One wonders whether he has even bothered to read the Koran. Please see next post.

Posted by Abdulameer on 01/06/09 at 3:58PM

Here are some “troublesome” passages from the Koran. Any reader can verify on the Internet that the Koran really does say these things.

–Surely the vilest of animals in Allah’s sight are those who disbelieve. (8.55)

— The unbelievers are your inveterate enemy. (4:101)

— Mohammed is God’s apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the unbelievers but merciful to one another. (48:29).

— It is unlawful for a believer to kill another believer, accidents excepted. (4:92)

— Believers, take neither the Jews nor the Christians for your friends. (5:51)

— Make war on them (non-Moslems)until idolatry shall cease and God’s religion shall reign supreme. (8:40)

— Fight against them until idolatry is no more and God’s religion reigns supreme. (2:193)

— The true believers fight for the cause of God, but the infidels fight for the devil. Fight then against the friends of Satan. (4:76)

— We will put terror into the hearts of the unbelievers. (3:151)

— I shall cast terror into the hearts of the infidels. Strike off their heads, strike off the very tips of their fingers. (8:12)

Muhammad, who all religious Moslems are required to consider the perfect model to follow, said this:
“You (i.e. Muslims) will fight with the Jews till some of them will hide behind stones. The stones will (betray them) saying, ‘O ‘Abdullah (i.e. slave of Allah)! There is a Jew hiding behind me; so kill him.’ ”

“I have been ordered to fight with the people till they say, “None has the right to be worshipped but Allah,..”

“Whoever changes his Islamic religion, kill him.” Vol. 9:57

“No Muslim should be killed for killing a Kafir”

There are many more quotations like these from the Koran and the sayings of Muhammad (Hadith). What will Zahar tell us about these verses which are considered sacrosanct by all believing Moslems — even if they have never read the Koran.

Posted by Abdulameer on 01/06/09 at 4:07PM

DMBONES writes above: “The central teaching of all of the religions is the same:…” This is totally absurd. This makes as much sense as to say that all philosophies are the same, or that all political ideologies are the same. In fact, Islam is totally unique because, in addition to a set of rituals, it also contains an ideology, that is, a plan for organizing all of society and then imposing this plan on the entire world, willingly or by force. No other religion has such an ideology built into it. Here is what a Moslem religious scholar says about Islam:

Dr. Muhammad al Alkhuli writes:
Islam is a religion, but not in the western meaning of religion. The western connotation of the term “religion” is something between the believer and God. Islam as a religion organizes all aspects of life on both the individual and national levels.
Islam organizes your relations with God, with yourself, with your children, with your relatives, with your neighbor, with your guest, and with other brethren. Islam clearly establishes your duties and rights in all those relationships.
Islam establishes a clear system of worship, civil rights, laws of marriage and divorce, laws of inheritance, code of behavior, what not to drink, what to wear, and what not to wear, how to worship God, how to govern, the laws of war and peace, when to go to war, when to make peace, the law of economics, and the laws of buying and selling. Islam is a complete code of life.
Islam is not for the mosque only, it is for daily life, a guide to life in all its aspects: socially, economically, and politically.
Islam is [a] complete constitution”

Here is what one of the most respected and widely read Islamic writers of the 20th century said, Abul Maududi:

“The goal of Islam is to rule the entire world and submit all of mankind to the faith of Islam. Any nation or power that gets in the way of that goal, Islam will fight and destroy.”

Does business analyst Zahar pretend to know more about Islam than the respected Islamic religious authorities and scholars? More than Muhammad? More than Allah (the Koran)????

Posted by rwnobles on 01/06/09 at 4:13PM

Hope I don’t double post due to “error on page”

Wow! News flash! Believers lives are more valuable than non-belivers lives in the Muslim religion!

Nearly every religion teaches that.

Julia Sweeney has documented a lot of equally objectionable quotes from the Bible.

Can we agree that religion is a big part of problems in this world?

Posted by Abdulameer on 01/06/09 at 4:20PM

Dmbones write this fatally misleading comment: “Islam: “None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” Number 13 of Imam “Al-Nawawi’s Forty Hadiths.”

This is fatally misleading because it looks something like the Golden Rule. In fact, it is no such thing. Notice that the quotation uses the word “brother”, not “others”, not “fellow man”, not “all creatures”, like the other religions say. Everything depends here on the meaning of “brother”. Non-Moslems need to know that in Islam “brother” refers ONLY to another Moslem, NOT to non-Moslems. How do we know? Muhammad himself said that believers (i.e. Moslems) are brothers to one another.
And, remember the injunction from the Koran cited above:
“Mohammed is God’s apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the unbelievers but merciful to one another.” (48:29).
This sure doesn’t sound like the Golden Rule to me!

Posted by Abdulameer on 01/06/09 at 4:37PM

rwnobles errs when he wants us to believe that all religions are equally bad or that the Bible has verses that are equally objectionable compared to the Koran. If you look at the specific verses of the Bible and the specific verses of the Koran, you will see that they are not equivalent. Of course, there are plenty of cruelties in the Bible. However, they are limited to those ancient times, places and peoples. Christians and Jews do not follow those precepts today. The verses of the Koran apply generally to non-Moslems. Furthermore, all Moslems are required to believe that the Koran is Allah’s literal word — perfect, complete, immutable and valid for all of eternity. This is different from the Bible. We speak of the “Five Books of Moses”. Nobody refers to them as the “Five Books of God”. We speak of the Gospels of Mark, Luke, Matthew and John. Only metaphorically do we refer to the Gospels as the “Word of God”. In Islam, it would be considered blasphemy (punishable by death according to Islamic law!) to call the Koran “the Book of Muhammad”. To sum up:
1) The specific passages of cruelty in the Bible are fundamentally different from the specific passages of cruelty/bigotry/violence in the Koran;
2) Christians and Jews do not view the Bible in the same way that Moslems view the Koran.
These differences are crucial.

Posted by jaybug45 on 01/06/09 at 5:37PM

It’s only a horror when you shoot at someone hiding in a school? Not when you shoot from a school?

All you Gahndi-ists remember that his non-violence worked on the United Kingdom, it didn’t do squat for the 5 wars India had with Pakistan after independence. Reasonableness only works with reasonable people. This is why cops have guns, for the unreasonable people.

Israel has had to end being reasonable regarding their enemies. The only other choice is to allow rockets to rain down on Israel ad infinitum.

Posted by amalfi01 on 01/06/09 at 5:41PM

rwnobles

Your ignorance of religions in general is really astounding!

You said this: “Wow! News flash! Believers lives are more valuable than non-belivers lives in the Muslim religion!

Nearly every religion teaches that.”

You need to start doing some reading.

Posted by thebigjim on 01/06/09 at 7:38PM

How did the media scrub the blood out of the coverage of 9/11?
bloody pictures of broken and dead Arab children are all over the place.
I guess no one is paying attention. Too busy? you got other worries?

Posted by Love4all on 01/06/09 at 8:52PM

AbdulAmeer

Peace be upon you.

1.) There is no punishment for blasphamy in Islam. None what so ever. This is fact. Search http://www.alislam.org if you would like further evidence.

2.) ANY religious book can be taken out of context if the intent is impure. The Qur’an says it is a “guidance for the righteous” – meaning also that those who have a twisted heart will find twisted meanings to verses. Every verse from the Qur’an you cited as “violent” was taken out of context and refers to particular situations, many of which the very laws of the US agree with whole heartedly.

Your logic that the Bible refers to “ancient laws and people” is pathetic and immature. Would a Christian ever admit they follow a book that is ancient and outdated? Would they admit that their book has flaws? Thus, if they follow they book, they must accept what is in the book.

The Bible clearly gives advice of violence and compulsion. For example, the following verses are from Deuteronomy. As you can see, in this case I’m not picking one random verse, but 8 verses to show that those who follow the Bible are commanded to kill those who are not with them, i.e. disbelievers.

20:10 When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it.

20:11 And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee.

20:12 And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it:

20:13 And when the LORD thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword:

20:14 But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the LORD thy God hath given thee.

20:15 Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which are very far off from thee, which are not of the cities of these nations.

20:16 But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth:

20:17 But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee:

***********************************************
Now, only a fool would think that followers of the Bible are bent on killing non followers of the Bible – despite what these verses say.

Likewise, only a fool would think that Islam (the very word which means Peace) would teach Muslims to kill non Muslims.

If you want a living example of Islam practiced peacefully, search the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the news around the world. You will find that this community comprises of 10’s of millions of Muslims in 200 countries of the world – all dedicated to peace. In their 120 year history, there has been NOT A SINGLE incident of violence. They have been martyred, exiled, beaten, and tortured, but have always responded with love and peace. They have opened schools for children of all back grounds to become educated in. They have opened hospitals for all people to get free medicine from. They feed over 50,000 families in America alone every year, with their own financial donations.

And they do this because the Qur’an and Muhammad (sa) teach peace and love for mankind.

So don’t believe me, but believe the actions of tens of millions of Muslims over the past 120 years. Actions speak louder than words my friend, and the pristine record of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community speaks for itself.

And just for the record, don’t bother pointing out I’m not a Muslim scholar – I never claimed to be one anyway. For that matter, neither did Mr. Zafar. It wasn’t his scholarship talking anyway, it was his righteousness.

Posted by amalfi01 on 01/06/09 at 10:57PM

Love4all

The examples you quote are from the Old Testament. When Christ was born and died on the cross, the Old Testament became just history. Nowhere in the New Testament can you find Christ or his apostles advocating anything but love and forgiveness.

The Invasion of Gaza: “Operation Cast Lead”, Part of a Broader Israeli Military-Intelligence Agenda

by Michel Chossudovsky
Global Research, January 4, 2009

The aerial bombings and the ongoing ground invasion of Gaza by Israeli ground forces must be analysed in a historical context. Operation “Cast Lead” is a carefully planned undertaking, which is part of a broader military-intelligence agenda first formulated by the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2001:

“Sources in the defense establishment said Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for the operation over six months ago, even as Israel was beginning to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with Hamas.”(Barak Ravid, Operation “Cast Lead”: Israeli Air Force strike followed months of planning, Haaretz, December 27, 2008)

It was Israel which broke the truce on the day of the US presidential elections, November 4:

“Israel used this distraction to break the ceasefire between itself and Hamas by bombing the Gaza strip.  Israel claimed this violation of the ceasefire was to prevent Hamas from digging tunnels into Israeli territory.

The very next day, Israel launched a terrorizing siege of Gaza, cutting off food, fuel, medical supplies and other necessities in an attempt to “subdue” the Palestinians while at the same time engaging in armed incursions.

In response, Hamas and others in Gaza again resorted to firing crude, homemade, and mainly inaccurate rockets into Israel.  During the past seven years, these rockets have been responsible for the deaths of 17 Israelis.  Over the same time span, Israeli Blitzkrieg assaults have killed thousands of Palestinians, drawing worldwide protest but falling on deaf ears at the UN.” (Shamus Cooke, The Massacre in Palestine and the Threat of a Wider War, Global Research, December 2008)

Planned Humanitarian Disaster

On December 8, US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte was in Tel Aviv for discussions with his Israeli counterparts including the director of Mossad, Meir Dagan.  “Operation Cast Lead” was initiated two days day after Christmas. It was coupled with a carefully designed international Public Relations campaign under the auspices of Israel’s Foreign Ministry. Hamas’ military targets are not the main objective. Operation “Cast Lead” is intended, quite deliberately, to trigger civilian casualities.  What we are dealing with is a “planned humanitarian disaster” in Gaza in a densly populated urban area. (See map below)

The longer term objective of this plan, as formulated by Israeli policy makers, is the expulsion of Palestinians from Palestinian lands:

“Terrorize the civilian population, assuring maximal destruction of property and cultural resources… The daily life of the Palestinians must be rendered unbearable: They should be locked up in cities and towns, prevented from exercising normal economic life, cut off from workplaces, schools and hospitals, This will encourage emigration and weaken the resistance to future expulsions” Ur Shlonsky, quoted by Ghali Hassan, Gaza: The World’s Largest Prison, Global Research, 2005)

“Operation Justified Vengeance” A turning point has been reached. Operation “Cast Lead” is part of the broader military-intelligence operation initiated at the outset of the Ariel Sharon government in 2001. It was under Sharon’s “Operation Justified Vengeance” that  F-16 fighter planes were initially used to bomb Palestinian cities.  “Operation Justified Vengeance” was presented in July 2001 to the Israeli government of Ariel Sharon by IDF chief of staff Shaul Mofaz, under the title “The Destruction of the Palestinian Authority and Disarmament of All Armed Forces”.

“A contingency plan, codenamed Operation Justified Vengeance, was drawn up last June [2001] to reoccupy all of the West Bank and possibly the Gaza Strip at a likely cost of “hundreds” of Israeli casualties.” (Washington Times, 19 March 2002).

According to Jane’s ‘Foreign Report’ (July 12, 2001) the Israeli army under Sharon had updated its plans for an “all-out assault to smash the Palestinian authority, force out leader Yasser Arafat and kill or detain its army”.   “Bloodshed Justification” The “Bloodshed Justification” was an essential component of the military-intelligence agenda. The killing of Palestinian civilians was justified on “humanitarian grounds.” Israeli military operations were carefully timed to coincide with the suicide attacks:

The assault would be launched, at the government’s discretion, after a big suicide bomb attack in Israel, causing widespread deaths and injuries, citing the bloodshed as justification. (Tanya Reinhart, Evil Unleashed, Israel’s move to destroy the Palestinian Authority is a calculated plan, long in the making, Global Research, December 2001, emphasis added)

The Dagan Plan  “Operation Justified Vengeance” was also referred to as the “Dagan Plan”, named after General (ret.) Meir Dagan, who currently heads Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency.  Reserve General Meir Dagan was Sharon’s national security adviser during the 2000 election campaign. The plan was apparently drawn up prior to Sharon’s election as Prime Minister in February 2001. “According to Alex Fishman writing in Yediot Aharonot, the Dagan Plan consisted in destroying the Palestinian authority and putting Yasser Arafat ‘out of the game’.” (Ellis Shulman, “Operation Justified Vengeance”: a Secret Plan to Destroy the Palestinian Authority, March 2001):

“As reported in the Foreign Report [Jane] and disclosed locally by Maariv, Israel’s invasion plan — reportedly dubbed Justified Vengeance — would be launched immediately following the next high-casualty suicide bombing, would last about a month and is expected to result in the death of hundreds of Israelis and thousands of Palestinians. (Ibid, emphasis added)

The “Dagan Plan” envisaged the so-called “cantonization” of the Palestinian territories whereby the West Bank and Gaza would be totally cut off from one other, with separate “governments” in each of the territories. Under this scenario, already envisaged in 2001, Israel would:

“negotiate separately with Palestinian forces that are dominant in each territory-Palestinian forces responsible for security, intelligence, and even for the Tanzim (Fatah).” The plan thus closely resembles the idea of “cantonization” of Palestinian territories, put forth by a number of ministers.” Sylvain Cypel, The infamous ‘Dagan Plan’ Sharon’s plan for getting rid of Arafat, Le Monde, December 17, 2001)


From Left to Right: Dagan, Sharon, Halevy

The Dagan Plan has established continuity in the military-intelligence agenda. In the wake of the 2000 elections, Meir Dagan was assigned a key role. “He became Sharon’s “go-between&#