Saturday, 31 January 2009

'Myth of Exile': Justifying Slaughter in Gaza

The 'myth of an exile' is 'taught to members of the Israeli armed forces.'

By Janine Roberts   (Published in the Palestinian Chronicle, January 31st)

Many have been appalled by the seemingly mindless orgy of destruction of families, children, homes, streets, shops and orchards in Gaza carried out by the Israeli armed forces. It left me wanting to know what has happened to make ordinary well-educated Israelis think that it is morally right to do this to their comparatively unarmed neighbors?

I perhaps stumbled on part of the answer in the bookstore at Tel Aviv airport on a recent visit to Israel. A map on display marked all the land from the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea as Israel: there was no West Bank, no Gaza Strip. A travel book I admired for its photos of a beautiful land also described it all as Israel. Jericho was in Israel it stated, although deep inside the West Bank.

If this bookstore is as typical as I suspect, then most Israelis are convinced they already own the lands now occupied by Palestinians. It is as if they see them, not as a sovereign people, but as a host of unwelcome and unruly tenants squatting Jewish lands. If this is so, then I thought there is little hope for a “Two State” solution.

This view is deeply rooted in an Orthodox Judaism with increasing influence in the Israeli military. A booklet issued by the Jewish Rabbinate to the troops going to Gaza, "Daily Torah studies for the soldier and the commander in Operation Cast Lead," states there is "a biblical ban on surrendering a single millimeter of it [Israel] to gentiles, though all sorts of impure distortions and foolishness of autonomy, enclaves and other national weaknesses. We will not abandon it to the hands of another nation, not a finger, not a nail of it."

Another publication distributed by the military Rabbinate asks: "Is it possible to compare today's Palestinians to the Philistines of the past?" It cites a Rabbi as answering: "A comparison is possible because the Philistines of the past were not natives and had invaded from a foreign land ... They invaded the Land of Israel, a land that did not belong to them and claimed political ownership over our country ... Today the problem is the same. The Palestinians claim they deserve a state here, when in reality there was never a Palestinian or Arab state within the borders of our country. Moreover, most of them are new and came here close to the time of the War of Independence."

Both of the above quotes are from the "Books of Rabbi Shlomo Aviner," the head of the Ateret Cohanim yeshiva in an Israeli occupied house within the Muslim quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.

The IDF rabbinate also quotes Rabbi Aviner’s advice to troops: "When you show mercy to a cruel enemy, you are being cruel to pure and honest soldiers. This is terribly immoral. These are not games at the amusement park where sportsmanship teaches one to make concessions. This is a war on murderers.”

Such teachings are by no means confined to the military. A January issue of Olam Katan [Small World], a weekly publication distributed at Orthodox synagogues, cites the former Sephardi Chief Rabbi, Mordechai Eliyah as ruling that since the civilians of Gaza failed to stop the rocket attacks, they share responsibility for them and so must not be spared from attack.

When the Jerusalem Post asked the son of this Chief Rabbi, Shmuel Eliyahu, the chief rabbi of Safed, what further advice his father would have, he replied that his father would say no Israeli soldier should be put into danger but instead there should be “carpet bombing of the general area from which the Qassam rockets came.” “If they don’t stop after we kill 100, then we must kill a thousand.” Rabbi Eliyahu added: “And if they do not stop after 1,000, then we must kill 10,000. If they still don't stop, we must kill 100,000, even a million. Whatever it takes to make them stop."

The distribution of such literature has been greatly expanded by the current IDF Chief Rabbi, Brigadier General Rabbi Avichai Ronski, through his Jewish Awareness Department headed by Lt. Col. Zadok Ben-Artzi, The slogan currently used is "Jewish awareness for a victorious IDF.” It is based on “understandings gleaned from the Bible and the heritage of Israel to enhance the army's ability to achieve victory." Formerly all troop educational work was done by the Army’s Education Corps but the Rabbinate services now dominate, with the aid of funding from Elad, a major Zionist group funded by Americans that has enabled the Jewish Awareness Department to give its services for free, unlike those of the Corps, and to include free study weekends in Jerusalem.

But there is a cool calculation in allowing this. The military needed to keep the number of Israeli deaths to the minimum if they were to retain popular Israeli support, and decided this demanded the use of highly destructive tactics. Haaretz, a leading Israeli newspaper, explained: “During 2002's Operation Defensive Shield, in the Jenin refugee camp, disagreements developed among the different [army] units … a battalion of the 5th Reserve Infantry Brigade, which employed relatively humane operating methods, suffered 13 casualties in one single day from an ambush and roadside explosives. After those incidents, everyone took up the "Buchris method," named after the commander of the 51st Golani battalion, Lt. Col. Ofek Buchris (today a brigade commander in the reserves).” This, the paper concluded, has led to “the IDF proceeding in Gaza in a slow, orderly, efficient and very destructive manner.” Villages and suburbs were leveled in order to avoid the risk of ambush.

After the setting up of the International Criminal Court as the first permanent international tribunal for war crimes, the Israeli army has increasingly involved lawyers in its operations, in particular those of the international law division (ILD) of the Military Advocate General's Office. Daniel Reisner who headed the ILD for 10 years and now works for a major law firm in Tel Aviv, explained the “setting up of this court led to the commanders saying ‘I might find myself in that court; where is my lawyer?’ So it becomes natural for the military to put lawyers in places where they have never been before. This particularly started to happen, he added, 'when Israel started to assassinate Palestinians openly.”

“What we are seeing now is a revision of international law,” Reisner said. “If you do something for long enough, the world will accept it. The whole of international law is now based on the notion that an act that is forbidden today becomes permissible if executed by enough countries… International law progresses through violations. We invented the targeted assassination thesis and we had to push it. At first there were protrusions that made it hard to insert easily into the legal moulds. Eight years later it is in the center of the bounds of legitimacy."

The ILD staff at the military’s Southern Command was strengthened and legal advisers sent to the Gaza Division before the recent offensive commenced. Haaretz reported: “ILD staff regularly attend the 'operations and sorties' meetings held on Wednesdays under the head of the operations division or the operations directorate. The legal advisers receive the list of proposed targets and the relevant intelligence material ahead of the meeting, prepare a visual presentation of their remarks and voice them in the time allotted; usually between five minutes and a quarter of an hour.”

Months before the air force killed dozens of policemen on the first day of Operation Cast Lead, ILD debated how to justify this planned attack since it is normally illegal to attack a civilian police force. It was agreed that Gaza was an exception to the normal rule, since, according to a senior ILD figure, "the way Hamas operates is to use the entire governmental infrastructure for the organization's terrorist purpose.” Thus the Gaza police was ruled to be a legitimate target, as were all government buildings, including the now destroyed parliament.

The ILD also ruled: "The [civilian] people who go into a house despite a warning do not have to be taken into account in terms of injury to civilians, because they are voluntary human shields.’ A senior ILD officer explained: ‘From the legal point of view, I do not have to show consideration for them. In the case of people who return to their home in order to protect it, they are taking part in the fighting.’

A warning might consist of “a knock on the roof,” meaning a shell fired into the corner of a roof. The legal annex to the operational order for Operation Cast Lead states "as far as possible in the circumstances, the civilian population in the area of a legitimate target is to be warned" but it then adds, unless such a warning “is liable to endanger the action or the Forces.”

What about a civilian who positions himself in front of a tank? The chilling response came from the ILD: "If someone stands in front of a tank in order to block its progress, he is participating in warfare."

Reisner explained: "We defended policy that is on the edge: the "neighbor procedure" [making a neighbor knock on the door of a potentially dangerous house], house demolitions, deportation, targeted assassination; we defended all the magic formulas for dealing with terrorism."

The lawyers' advice in Gaza was sometimes marginalized. When they pressed for “a more orderly set of tools” to authorize the “flattening of large areas to flush out people in hiding,” the general in charge, Yoav Gallant, known by the ILD as a 'wild man,' a 'cowboy' because he attaches little importance to legal advice, disregarded their modest qualms. Consequently soldiers reported: “they were destroying whole streets and neighborhoods,”

However some risk attaches to the work of the lawyers. "I have no doubt that to a certain extent, everyone who takes part in making a decision, the lawyer included, is a partner to the decision," Reisner said. He tells of how when "Three years ago I gave a talk at Cambridge University … I got a phone call from the legal department of the Foreign Ministry. They said they just wanted to let me know that there were no threats to put me on trial in England.”

A group of former Israeli soldiers called “Breaking the Silence” is currently gathering evidence of unacceptable behavior during the latest attack but has already published evidence from earlier attacks on Gaza. An officer from an “elite unit” told them of what happened during “Operation Rainbow” that destroyed the homes of over a thousand Palestinians in May 2004.

When he was asked if the war was like “a computer game,” the reply came “Yes, [all the decisions were made] in two minutes.” He was then asked: “You, as squad commander, took down half a neighborhood?” He replied: “Yes … and generally it’s a 21-year-old boy [who makes these decisions].”

It was, he explained, “our first time in the Gaza strip” and “we had terrible fear” of the local Palestinians. To take over buildings, we went in with “D-9 (armored bulldozer) and armored personal carrier. You don’t enter without them. The D-9 arrives, surrounds the building 360 degrees [with a bulldozed trench] to check if there are no explosive charges, after that you punch out a hole in the wall…“We call that the knock on the door.” “We don’t tell the occupants we are coming in…and we don’t let them leave the building while we are in it (with our snipers on the roof)…” (Hamas were accused of doing the same – using civilians as human shields.)

He was then asked: “What were your firing orders? “To kill anyone armed, or anyone doing anything suspicious, like bending down or something, that could be for laying a booby trap… someone who looks as if he’s observing (our) tanks, stands and looks at any of our tanks, that could be from a window, from a roof top or from something like it. Fire to kill.”

The soldier continued: “The most striking thing I remember from operation “Rainbow’, was the feeling of lack of restraint. I don’t have a milder description for it: an indiscriminate use of force… There was tremendous pressure from the command post…to act and not to wait. Not to be derailed in decision making by all sort of nonsense.”

“What did the Operations Officer say at the end of the debriefing?” “Two things: (a) we showed them that the IDF can be brutal when necessary, and (b) we didn’t let these left-wingers screw up our operation.” (He was referring to the Israelis calling for peace.)

The New York Times reported of Operation Cast Lead on the 19th January: “The Israeli theory of what it tried to do here is summed up in a Hebrew phrase heard across Israel and throughout the military in the past weeks: ‘baal habayit hishtageya,’ or ‘the boss has lost it.’ It evokes the image of a madman who cannot be controlled…” It is meant to terrify.

Elad, the American-funded right wing organization that helps fund the military Rabbinate’s Zionist literature, is also involved in expanding Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem and in controversial archaeological digs near the Old City of Jerusalem that seek to establish the priority of Jewish claims. Israel may well be the only country where archaeology has a place on a governmental Foreign Affairs website, where it is used to justify the claim that Jews has a right to this land that predates and replaces that of the Palestinians.

Israel rarely cites half of the text of the UN resolution that gave it its legal legitimacy as a state, UN General Assembly Partition Resolution 181 of 1947, for it also gave the same legitimacy to a Palestinian State – authorizing the Two State solution over 50 years ago, mapping out the territories that both states should hold, roughly half the land each.

It should be said that many Jewish people are opposed to the Orthodox fundamentalism. Henry Siegman, the former national director of the American Jewish Congress and of the Synagogue Council of America, holds that Hamas “is a religious nationalist movement akin to the Zionist movement during to its struggle for statehood” and asks: “Why then are Israel’s leaders so determined to destroy Hamas? Because they believe that its leadership, unlike that of Fatah, cannot be intimidated into accepting a peace accord that establishes a Palestinian ‘state’ made up of territorially disconnected entities over which Israel would be able to retain permanent control.”

"The state of Israel, and a government under me, will make it a strategic objective to topple the Hamas regime in Gaza," the Foreign Minister Livni has told members of her centrist Kadima party.

Yet Zionist historians recognize that the story of Israel’s expulsion from the land by the Romans and its destined return, the central doctrine underlying the Israeli denial of the claims of the Palestinians, is but a myth.

This has come out in a current extraordinary controversy over a new work of history that has appeared in Hebrew and will shortly be appearing in English. It is When and How Was the Jewish People Invented? by Shlomo Sand. (Resling, 358 pages, NIS 94.) After 19 weeks on the Israeli best-seller list, it is being translated into a dozen languages and will be published in the United States this year by Verso.

According to this, the Romans did not expel the whole people from the land, as widely recounted. The ‘Diaspora’ of Judaism is instead mostly the consequence of the conversion of people from other nations, especially the Khazars of the Black Sea region, from whom most European Jews are descended. From his research, it seems that the Palestinians have more roots among the ancient peoples of the land of Israel than do most Israelis.

The book was greeted with a furious reaction from Professor Israel Bartal, the dean of the humanities faculty of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, but not for the reasons I expected. His review, published in Haaretz, did not attack the book’s thesis, but the book’s contention that Zionist historians have concealed the mythical origin of the story of the Diaspora.

Not at all, he angrily retorted, the story of the “conversion of the Khazars, a nation of Turkish origin, [is] in the Zionist Mikhlal Encyclopedia" as is the fact that Judaism was once “a missionary religion.”

Moreover, he added, the Zionist "Toldot am Yisrael" [History of the Jewish People] explains that the number of Jews in the Diaspora during the ancient period was as high as it was because of conversion, a “widespread phenomenon in the late Second Temple period.”

He then asks: "What is Sand trying to prove in this study? In his view, the homeland of the Jewish people is not Palestine, and most Jews are descendants of the members of different nations who converted to Judaism in ancient times and in the medieval period. He claims that the Jews of Yemen and Eastern Europe are descendants of pagans."

He makes no attempt to disprove this but retorts: "My response to Sand's arguments is that no historian of the Jewish national movement has ever really believed that the origins of the Jews are ethnically and biologically "pure." "Although the myth of an exile from the Jewish homeland (Palestine) does exist in popular Israeli culture, it is negligible in serious Jewish historical discussions."

I was astonished when I read this. Perhaps what he asserts is true in his academic circles, but entirely the opposite viewpoint dominates much of the popular discourse. The "myth of an exile from the Jewish homeland" is fervently believed in by most Jewish settlers in the West Bank, by Christian Zionists and is not questioned by most of the Western media. It is in the teachings of prominent Rabbis – and, as we have seen, it is taught to members of the Israeli armed forces.

From his testimony, the story that a Jewish nation once owned this land, was dispossessed and has now returned, is not nearly as well founded as I had once thought. It seems the term “Semitic” applies far better to the Palestinians than it does to the Israelis. Yet, this widespread myth, disowned by Zionist historians, is still being used to justify much ethnic cleaning and suffering. It is hard to think otherwise than that the Israeli authorities fervently hope that, through inflicting such dreadful ‘punishment,’ the remaining Palestinians will ultimately flee from their lands or become docile, allowing Jewish control in the name of a myth.

- Janine Roberts has written for many major Australian newspapers and both the Independent and Financial Times in the UK. Her investigative films have appeared on the PBS network in the USA and on the BBC and Australian television. She was invited to testify at a US Congressional Hearing on Human rights in Africa and the blood diamond trade. Her latest investigative books are “Glitter and Greed” and the “Fear of the Invisible.” She contributed this article to Contact her at:, or visit her blog:

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Judaism - An Evangelical Religion that founded the modern Jewish Nation?.

Stunning new book....

Controversial Bestseller  challenges the basis of the Israeli State

On the northern side of the Old City of Jerusalem, a frenzied dig is funded by the same American group, Elad, that teaches Zionism to Israeli troops. Haaretz, a major Israeli newspaper, reported  that a leaflet distributed to the troops cited Rabbi Aviner: "The Palestinians claim they deserve a state here, when in reality there was never a Palestinian or Arab state within the borders of our country. Moreover, most of them are new and came here close to the time of the War of Independence." This is from the "Books of Rabbi Shlomo Aviner," who heads the Ateret Cohanim yeshiva in the Muslim quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem.

In its archeology Elad also discards all Islamic archeology as unimportant, ignores the widespread Paganism in the region in and before the Roman occupation, and searches for anything that proves great Judaic cultures existed two or three thousand years ago and dominated the region. Israel may well be the only country where archeology has a place on its Foreign Affairs website, for on it is founded the claim Jews has a right to this land that predates and replaces that of the Palestinians.

When I researched this, I was surprised to find on the contrary that Jews and Palestinians seem to be in part descended from the same ancient Canaanite people that lived between the Gaza and Haifa coast and the hills of Judaea. The Jews of Europe, I also learnt, are mostly descended of Jewish merchants who wedded converted women of the Black Sea region, founding what are known of as the Khazars. 

But now a new book puts much flesh on this narrative. A review posed these questions. "What if the Palestinian Arabs who have lived for decades under the heel of the modern Israeli state are in fact descended from the very same "children of Israel" described in the Old Testament?"

"And what if most modern Israelis aren't descended from the ancient Israelites at all, but are actually a mix of Europeans, North Africans and others who didn't "return" to the scrap of land we now call Israel and establish a new state following the attempt to exterminate them during World War II, but came in and forcefully displaced people whose ancestors had lived there for millennia?"

"That's the explosive thesis of When and How Was the Jewish People Invented?, a book by Tel Aviv University scholar Shlomo Zand (or Sand) that sent shockwaves across Israeli society when it was published last year. After 19 weeks on the Israeli best-seller list, the book is being translated into a dozen languages and will be published in the United States this year by Verso."

It seems the Romans did not expel the whole people from the land, as is widely recounted in stories of the Diaspora. Rather Judaism was for a period an evangelical religion that converted many from other nations.  The consequence of this?  It seems the Palestinians of today may have more roots among the ancient peoples of this land than do most Israelis.

A very revealing review of the book by Prof. Israel Bartal, dean of the humanities faculty of the Hebrew University, was published in Haaretz. What he chose to attack was not that its thesis, but that this history was hidden by Zionism! He reported.

'Here is what was written about the conversion of the Khazars, a nation of Turkish origin, in the Zionist Mikhlal Encyclopedia that the State of Israel's Zionist Ministry of Education recommended so warmly during that "period of silencing": "It is irrelevant whether the conversion to Judaism encompassed a large stratum of the Khazar nation; what is important is that this event was regarded as a highly significant phenomenon in Jewish history, a phenomenon that has since totally disappeared: Judaism as a missionary religion.... The question of the long-term impact of that chapter in Jewish history on East European Jewry -- whether through the development of its ethnic character or in some other way -- is a matter that requires further research. '

'The Zionist "Toldot am yisrael" [History of the Jewish People] explains that the number of Jews in the Diaspora during the ancient period was as high as it was because of conversion, a phenomenon that "was widespread in the Jewish Diaspora in the late Second Temple period .... Many of the converts to Judaism came from the gentile population of Palestine, but an even greater number of converts could be found in the Jewish Diaspora communities in both the East and the West." The number of Jews living outside Israel in that period "exceeded that of the tiny Jewish community in Palestine."

He asks: "What is Sand trying to prove in this study? In his view, the homeland of the Jewish people is not Palestine, and most Jews are descendants of the members of different nations who converted to Judaism in ancient times and in the medieval period. He claims that the Jews of Yemen and Eastern Europe are descendants of pagans."

He makes no attempt to disprove this, but retorts: "My response to Sand's arguments is that no historian of the Jewish national movement has ever really believed that the origins of the Jews are ethnically and biologically "pure."

He then extraordinarily asserts: 'No "nationalist" Jewish historian has ever tried to conceal the well-known fact that conversions to Judaism had a major impact on Jewish history in the ancient period and in the early Middle Ages. Although the myth of an exile from the Jewish homeland (Palestine) does exist in popular Israeli culture, it is negligible in serious Jewish historical discussions." 

Perhaps this is true in his academic circles, but the opposite view certainly dominates much of the popular discourse. It is fervently believed in by the Christian Zionists who have much strengthened the American and British Israeli lobbies. I have also heard it repeated by many of the Israeli settlers that have moved into the West Bank. It is in the teachings of certain prominent Rabbis - and it is in some of the literature distributed to members of the Israeli armed forces. It seems from his testimony, and from that of this book,  that the story that a Jewish nation was owned this land, was dispossessed and has now returned, is not yet proved.

Janine Roberts

(This article draws on a review by Joshua Holland in Alternet, Jan 28th, as well as on that of the Professor cited above. The book came out recently in Hebrew.)


THE APPEAL FOR GAZA - as not on the BBC

The Guardian in the UK reported...

In a statement to the Guardian, Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel peace prize winner, unleashed a stinging denunciation of the BBC, deepening the damage already caused by the controversy.

The statement, from his office at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said the BBC decision not to air the aid appeal for victims of the conflict "violates the rules of basic human decency which are there to help vulnerable people, irrespective of who is right or wrong".

It said the IAEA director had cancelled interviews with BBC World Service television and radio, which had been scheduled to take place at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Saturday.

yesterday, Sky News announced it would not broadcast the appeal either. But it was the BBC's refusal to broadcast which made headlines across the Middle East, and by last night had led to more than 15,500 complaints.

Shortly before the appeal aired, in London protesters burned their TV licences in front of a line of police outside the BBC's Broadcasting House.

More than 110 MPs had signed an early day motion urging the corporation to reverse its decision. The BBC is also facing a growing revolt from its journalists, who have been told they could be sacked if they speak out on the issue.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews said after last night's broadcast that it was "inclined not to comment", but added: "There is no doubt that any appeal which simply seeks to raise money for innocent civilians should be applauded."

Monday, 26 January 2009

Racism and Ideology in Israeli Military

Some of the Israeli army rabbinate's publications challenge international law according to Israeli sources.

Haaretz, a major Israeli newspaper, has received some of the publications from Breaking the Silence, a group of former soldiers who collect evidence of unacceptable behavior in the army . Other material was provided by officers and men who received it during Operation Cast Lead. Following are quotations from this material:

"[There is] a biblical ban on surrendering a single millimeter of it [the Land of Israel] to gentiles, though all sorts of impure distortions and foolishness of autonomy, enclaves and other national weaknesses. We will not abandon it to the hands of another nation, not a finger, not a nail of it." 

This is an excerpt from a publication entitled "Daily Torah studies for the soldier and the commander in Operation Cast Lead," issued by the IDF rabbinate. The text is from "Books of Rabbi Shlomo Aviner," who heads the Ateret Cohanim yeshiva in the Muslim quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem.


Sunday, 18 January 2009

Editorial critique.  

Leading article in the Independent: Welcome but fragile, this ceasefire must be only a start   Monday, 19 January 2009

When it comes to Israel/Palestine, our liberal press reveals remarkable blind spots   - as shown by this editorial.  It repeats the established line that " a way had to be found of stopping the smuggling of weapons and their components into Gaza – a lucrative business for some that provided much of the arsenal Hamas was able to draw on. "

 The Israeli Foreign Minister rushed to Washington  to get an agreement from the States to stop the tunnels into Egypt but though these pass, not just arms, but vital food and medicines that Israel has been keeping from this imprisoned nation, in an effort to starve them into submission.  The piece of paper obtained by Israel in Washington is totally impractical, a pointless piece of paper since neither Egypt nor Hamas have agreed to the presence of American forces on the borders.

But why is strengthening the prison walls an objective endorsed by Western Governments?  Is not Hamas their elected government?  Are we not saying we support Palestinian independence in a two state "solution"?  Last time I checked,  independent states have the right to import arms to protect their citizens.  What happens if in the next Palestinian election Hamas is again elected into power - as must now be considered very likely? The way to ensure weapons are not used is to end this occupation in a just and fair manner.

The editorial went on to say. "If the military wing of Hamas has, in fact, been disabled, Mr Olmert will also be able to bow out next month, having salvaged his reputation as a war leader after the troubled Lebanon operation of 2006."  Who says it has been "disabled?" Not even the Israeli leadership.  

It then concluded: "What is beyond doubt is that these three weeks of harrowing combat have changed the situation on the ground decisively in Israel's favour."  Pardon me? Beyond doubt? Israel surely has been substantially weakened by carrying out a terrifying and murderous assault on Palestinian population in front of TV cameras operated by Arab and Palestinian crews and by the quite evident, widely reported, enhanced support now given to Hamas. It surely has shattered much of Israel's credibility.

Then the Editorial went on to say. 'The impressive turn-out presided over by President Mubarak in Sharm el-Sheikh yesterday – which included the Palestinian President, and leaders of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Turkey and Jordan" - but it forgot to mention the other gathering of leaders that took place at nearly the same time on the Gulf attended by the leaders of Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Gulf leaders and Hamas. Very strong statement, in line with those that came from this gathering,  were also made by the Prime Ministers of Iraq and Turkey. 

Clearly this conflict has torn asunder the  Middle East,  weakening the old leadership funded by the West that were in Sharm el-Sheikh - quite the opposite to what this editorial had to say.

Only a final sentence can I praise - but it is evident. It is "the cost to Israel's international reputation, which had been enhanced by its 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, is likely to have been high, especially in Arab countries. The trust essential to starting negotiations on any future, comprehensive, settlement remains as elusive as ever."

Saturday, 17 January 2009


Tonight Israel declared an unilateral ceasefire as Hamas fired more rockets.

What kind of victory has the Israeli government just declared?  They have wrecked Israel's reputation around the world;  the brutality of their army has been evident on countless millions of TV screens, anguished protests have gone up to God from a thousand million throats - and for what?

Surely Israel cannot be proud of what their armed forces have just done?  What kind of bravery is involved in dropping one ton bombs on a people who have no anti-aircraft guns and no air force?  What kind of insecurity complex is Israel suffering from? Is it that they know in their hearts that they are living on seized lands?

Why have the Israeli forces suffered relatively few deaths?  Because they adopted a strategy of destroying the homes of the Palestinian families in front of their tanks, sometimes with the families still inside them as TV journalists have extensively documented,  so Hamas soldiers could not ambush the Israeli troops, could not kidnap  them.  

Heeretz, a leading Israeli newspaper, has just reported:  " The IDF is proceeding in Gaza in a slow, orderly, efficient and very destructive manner. During 2002's Operation Defensive Shield, in the Jenin refugee camp, disagreements developed among the different units as to how much force should be applied. A battalion of the 5th Reserve Infantry Brigade, which employed relatively humane operating methods, suffered 13 casualties in one single day from an ambush and roadside explosives. After those incidents, everyone took up the "Buchris method," named after the commander of the 51st Golani battalion, Lt. Col. Ofek Buchris (today a brigade commander in the reserves): Forceful entry with "Akhzarit" ("cruel") armored personnel carriers, which demolished houses' walls before the soldiers entered them, leaving them a relatively protected corridor."

Israel's spokesmen make feeble excuses. "Hamas is hiding among civilians."  What is Hamas?  It is not only an elected government.  They are the husbands, boy-friends, sons, grandsons who fight to protect their families, who guard their families' doors, who fight against a military occupation that has cruelly ruled them for 60 years and starved them, ever since the Israelis seized their lands, driving them from their farms and towns into exile in Gaza - and then occupying Gaza itself for 40 years, regulating their every movement.

Israel says they left the Gaza strip two years ago.  Yes, the prison guards decided to operate from behind the walls in which they had imprisoned one and a half million Palestinians. That is no liberation.  

They say they allowed the Gazans the chance to develop the Gaza strip.  What development when Israel stopped them from having an airport,  drove thousands of fishermen from their seas,  held up their exports of fruit and vegetables so they rot at the border,  so their sick and pregnant die at the gates, prevent them from repairing water pumps and sewage works, reduce them to third world status  while the Israelis live in US style comfort and are allowed to compete in Eurovision unlike their Arab neighbors?


Wednesday, 14 January 2009

500 Jewish citizens of Sderot Contradict Israeli Government over Hamas Ceasefire.

500 Jewish citizens of Sderot say –'Hamas kept the Ceasefire'

By Janine Roberts c2009  email

Much has been made of Hamas’ reported failure to honor last year’s truce. But, an extraordinary correspondence between Jewish residents of the much-rocketed town of Sderot, nearby kibbutz and the Palestinians living in the Gaza strip, paints a very different picture of that truce from that repeatedly given by the Israeli government.
Barrack Obama was taken to Sderot last year to show him the effects of rocketing. He remarked on how Israeli towns looked like American from the air and offered his full support to the town’s citizens, promising to invite its representatives to the White House soon after taking office. At the time in mid-July Sderot was safe to visit. There had been no casualties from rockets since the ceasefire started 4 weeks earlier.

Obama in Siderot July 2008
On July 12th 2008, a Gaza resident, using the pseudonym of “Peaceman,”  emailed friends in Sderot to say. “The situation is calm … and this make people happy a lot, because there are no dead and wounded [but] the border is still closed… I myself have been waiting two years to go to Europe to study.’ Nevertheless ‘We have now a golden opportunity to try to build a new world without violence.’
His friends replied to say how much better it was now the rockets had stopped. They told how they cycled along the Gaza borders and were greeted with waves by Gaza residents. They revelled in the freedom from danger. A joint children’s holiday was planned and greetings cards exchanged. (See samples at end)
One such message read “I live with my family in Kibbutz Beeri, close enough to Gaza to see the houses and the sea. On weekends I ride my bike with my husband through the fields along the border … I hope the violence will come to an end and the Palestinian State will be established with peace between our peoples and peace within each of our countries between the extremists on each side. ”
Sderot is built on the lands of Najd, a Palestinian village ethnically cleansed by Jewish militia in 1948. Its residents probably fled into the Gaza strip. Most of Gaza’s population is descended from such refugees. However, this history was not allowed to prevent this growing friendship – nor were the deaths of people from both towns in the months preceding the ceasefire.
The ceasefire was still intact months after Obama’s visit. In October 2008 an Israeli in Sderot, using the pseudonym “Hopeman,” emailed his friend in Gaza to say: ‘We have lived for almost 5 months in a ceasefire situation. On my side of the border, things returned to normal and we once again felt safe. Kids played freely outdoors, streets filled once again with people, and the constant fear of the rocket alerts disappeared. My kids went to sleep in their room again, instead of the safe room, and I could walk out to the fields surrounding the town without the fear of being out in the open with nowhere to hide.’
On October 9th an Israeli newspaper, the Star, headlined: ‘Israeli town celebrates end to daily rocket fire. It reported: ‘Besieged residents of Sderot were relieved by the quiet start to Yom Kippur, thanks to the ceasefire with Hamas …Young boys horsed around on their bicycles, families hurried to make last-minute purchases at the downtown supermarket, and food stands did a steady business in shawarma and beer.’
‘”Everything is different," exulted Jasmine Aboukrat, 25, sales clerk at the Cochovit Dress Shop near Hagofer St, "People go out more." “Now you see all the children outdoors, playing," said David Coyne, 38, who owns a candy shop in the centre of town. "It's secure.”’
The paper explained: ‘For seven years, local residents barely went out at all. But, late last June, under Egyptian mediation; the Israeli government reached a ceasefire agreement with the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Since then, with only a few violations, the rocket salvoes from Gaza have stopped.’Sderot is ‘a rambling community of boxy bungalows and low-rise apartment blocks. interspersed by palm, cypress and eucalyptus trees, ‘ with a library that has nearly as many books in Russian as in Hebrew, reflecting its recent arrivals. It’s people ‘say they are hugely pleased with the new air of tranquillity that now permeates their town.’
The newspaper also reported that there were no more ‘punitive Israeli military incursions into the neighbouring strip – attacks that had been a frequent and deadly feature of Palestinian existence prior to the laying down of arms in June.’
But Hopeman emailed from Sderok: ” During this time I have been in touch with many friends of mine in Gaza, and from them I heard a very dark and troubling reality…The siege Israel had imposed on them continues. They have many power shortages and very little fuel and cooking gas.’
On the 4th November, the day when Americans were watching the results of the Presidential election, the Israeli army broke the ceasefire by raiding the strip. Six Palestinians were killed. Next day the Palestinians reacted as could be expected by sending a shower of rockets and Israel immediately slashed supplies of medicine, fuel, food, cooking gas for the 1.5 million people of Gaza. The number of truckloads fell from October’s daily average of 123 trucks to less than 5 trucks. Some families were reduced to eating bread made from animal feed. Others were reduced to eating grass.
An email was sent: ‘Peace Man and I talk every day. We support each other and worry for each other’s well being. I am in contact with others in Gaza and share my situation while hearing of theirs. Much fear and pain on both sides. Once again we should all call to end the violence, open the siege, start talking and bring back hope to us, civilians on both sides, pawns in the unbearable senseless political game.’
Then Hamas told Israel that a renewed ceasefire must be accompanied by an end to the increasingly cruel siege, but Israel refused to accept this.
The friends ‘realized that the situation was about to deteriorate into total chaos’ said Arik Yalin, 43, of Sderot, the spokesman for this Israeli-Arab group. They put up a website that stated:’ Up until now we have cried, called, demonstrated, and asked our leaders to do something about this insane reality in which we live. The leaders have tried every possible idea that involves violence and military force – with no success at all.
‘We shoot at them and they shoot at us. We retaliate and they strike back.
This is an endless and vicious cycle.
‘Today we say: ENOUGH! It is our turn to take our destiny into our own hands and to ACT to stop the cycle of bloodshed.’
They sent a petition to the Israeli Government in the name of their group; ‘’Kol Acher’ (The Other Voice). Five hundred citizens of Sderot signed it as well as another 1300 Israeli and Palestinian citizens. It read:
‘Kol Acher from Sderot and the communities around Gaza calls on the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister to act urgently to restore calm in the area.
The ceasefire changed the lives of the people of Sderot, Ashkelon and the region beyond recognition, allowing all of us to experience again a life that is more normal and sane. The continuation of this calm is essential and critical to the residents of the region from every possible aspect: physical, mental, spiritual and economic.
Another round of escalation may break our already brittle spirit, and take us all to another round of self-destruction and pointless bloodshed. It is not certain that we will survive. And you must be aware of that, if you indeed care about the residents of this area. We’ve been through this movie too many years–and results speak for themselves: feeling trapped, abandonment, and hopelessness for our children and us!
On the other side of the border live a million and a half Palestinians under unbearable conditions, and most of them want, like we do, calm and the opportunity of a future for themselves and their families.
We live in the feeling that you have wasted that period of calm, instead of using it to advance understandings and begin negotiations, as well as for fortifying the houses of residents as promised.
We call on the Prime Minister and the Defence minister not to listen to the voices of incitement and do everything they can to avoid another round of escalation, to secure the continuation of the calm and to work...towards direct or indirect negotiations with the Palestinian leadership in Gaza in order to reach long term understandings.
We prefer a cold war without a single rocket to a hot war with dozens of victims and innocent fatalities on both sides.
We ask you to offer us the possibility of political arrangement and hope and not an endless cycle of blood.’

Their petition had no effect. On December 27th, while politicians in the West were on holiday and the US had a lame duck President in his final weeks of office, Israel launched its savage assault.
That same day the Israeli Foreign Ministry changed its website, removing charts giving the numbers of rockets and mortars fired every month from the Gaza strip, perhaps because they revealed the near-total cessation of fire during the truce. These charts were based on statistics supplied by the Israeli Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center and provide striking evidence of Hamas’ good faith. Contrary to government statements made repeatedly since then, Israeli government statistics show Hamas kept the ceasefire.

Removed Israeli Government Graph. ‘Monthly distribution of rockets hits.’

Together with a similar graph for mortar fire, these reveal that the total number of rocket and mortar attacks launched from Gaza fell from over a hundred a month to just 12 in all from the start of July to the end of October. The Ministry has replaced these graphs with one that is harder to interpret. It claims ‘227 rockets were fired during the lull in the fighting’ but notes that 203 of these were fired after November 4th, the date when Israel broke the ceasefire. This is still on the Government website. It is reproduced below.

Credit for the 12 rockets fired during the ceasefire were reportedly claimed by Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, Islamic Jihad or the "Badr Forces.’ Hamas condemned them.

It is worth going back to what else Obama said in Sderot: “I will not wait until a few years into my term or my second term if I'm elected, in order to get the process moving. I think we have a window right now that needs to be taken advantage of. I think you've got a set of moderate Palestinian leaders who are interested. I think the Israeli people are interested in moving this process along. But I also think there's a population on both sides that is becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress. And where there's hopelessness and despair, that can often turn in a bad direction.”
Obama on January 11th said he would be ready to do all he can to bring peace from the day he takes office. But – has Obama heard these voices of Sderot? I doubt he did when he went to their town, but, if he did, then he will know that the Israeli government is wrong to claim that the only way they can stop the rockets is by physically destroying Hamas with all the slaughter this entails
Perhaps Obama should also take advice, not already doing so, from the former UK Ambassador to Israel, Sir Jeremy Greenstock. On 9th January 2009 he unhesitatingly said during a BBC interview: “Hamas is not a terrorist organisation,” adding he knows from talking to them that they are focussed on ending the decades of military occupation. He also affirmed; “Israel broke the truce by its actions on 4th November.”'
Perhaps Obama should also listen to the Catholic priest, Fr. Latham, who preached in Bethlehem on Sunday 4th January, saying the Palestinians are being ‘crucified everyday.’


Janine Roberts c2009

The post cards sent from Sderot to Gaza Strip for Eid – to see them all click here.

With thanks to Daniel Edelson whose article for an Israeli newspaper alerted me to this.

Janine Roberts has written for many major Australian newspapers and both the Independent and Financial Times in the UK. Her investigative films have appeared on the PBS network in the USA and on the BBC and Australian television. She was invited to testify at a US Congressional Hearing on Human rights in Africa and the blood diamond trade. Her latest investigative books are “Glitter and Greed” and the “Fear of the Invisible.”

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Children of rocketed Sderot call for peace

For more about this - see the post on ignored connection between Sderot and Gaza below (click to make bigger)


History of Gaza Conflict.

this is a work in progress - it will be expanded..

It all started back in 1948 when Gaza’s population more than doubled as Palestinians sought refuge there from Israeli gunmen. Then in 1967 Gaza was occupied by Israeli army – at which point the welfare of the captive population become legally an Israeli responsibility – as it remains to this day.

In 2006 the elections for the Palestinian Legislative Assembly for the West Bank and Gaza strip were convincingly won by Hamas. They win 74 seats against Fatah’s 45 - out of a total of 132 seats. International observers judge the elections fair.

But this democratic result was judged totally unacceptable by Israel, the US and European powers – and from this derives much of the misery of today. The Israeli army launched a savage campaign to prevent Hamas from taking power. Over 30 of the elected Hamas representatives were arrested by Israel and imprisoned – making it impossible for the Palestinian Legislative Assembly to function.

Fatah, despite losing the election, was and still is supported by the West as if it had won this election; while the elected Hamas government has found most of its funding cut off – including tax revenues to which it was legally entitled. These sanctions on Hamas for daring to win were given the outspoken support of Labour Friends of Israel, a UK parliamentary lobbying organization of considerable influence that is now openly supporting the Israeli attack on Gaza.

Israel began to restrict food and medical supplies to Gaza. Students who had won university places in the West were refused permission to take up their places. Women die of birth complications as they are prevented from going to Israeli hospitals by the Israeli forces. Many Palestinians were killed, civilian facilities were destroyed. The gates in the wall Israel built around Gaza were frequently kept closed.  Agricultural output rotted on trucks.  This wrecked the Gaza economy.  80% became unemployed.

At the international level, the United States, the European Union, Canada and Japan suspended financial aid to the Palestinian National Authority, leading to economic hardship and further suffering of Palestinian civilians.

When the Hamas-led government found alternative sources of funding, the US mounted pressure on the international and Arab banks transferring these funds. Consequently in Gaza most civil servants, police, hospital workers, teachers, could not be paid. Development projects funded by international donors, including roads, schools, housing projects and sewage, were completely halted. By 2007 the situation in Gaza was desperate. Sewage started to run in the streets.

Meanwhile in the West Bank, supporters of Fatah carried out a series of retaliatory attacks against members, supporters and institutions of Hamas. They targeted health and cultural associations, charities, press offices, television and radio stations, sports clubs and some local councils, which have been run by Hamas following local elections. According to the Palestinian Center for Human Right’s (PCHR) documentation, at least 50 public and private institutions were attacked; 3 persons, including a child, were killed; and at least 60 persons were kidnapped in the period 13-17 June 2007.

The US funded a program of arming Fatah and 5,000 trained Fatah fighters were sent into Gaza, but a brutal short civil war leads to a Hamas victory in Gaza and a Fatah victory in the West Bank.The Fatah leaders then illegally replaced the elected government on the West Bank. Hamas succeeded in retaining control in Gaza.

On 19 September 2007, Israel declared the Gaza Strip as “a hostile entity,” a prelude for more measures of collective punishment. These crimes have included; willful killings; extra-judicial executions; settlement activities; land confiscations; construction of the Annexation Wall; illegal arrests; and restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians throughout the OPT.

According to PCHR’s documentation, in 2007, IOF carried out 37 extra-judicial execution attacks, in which 68 Palestinians were killed. Many of these murders were carried out in crowded Gaza streets.

The child death toll dropped in the latter part of 2007 but rose dramatically during the first six months of 2008, largely as a result of a large-scale IOF military operation across the Gaza Strip at the end of 9 February 2008 code-named “Operation Winter Heat”, as well as IOF killings of children in the border areas of the Central and Eastern Gaza Strip. PCHR noted with grave concern that IOF killed more children in the Gaza Strip during the first four months of 2008 than during the whole of 2007.

A medical investigation into psychological trauma among Gaza’s children found that 74.5% of the sample tested had witnessed IOF tanks and heavy artillery firing on their homes, and 86.7% had witnessed bombardments of other local homes by airplanes and helicopters. 71.3% of the children had experienced the violent death of a friend. In addition, 75% had witnessed a public assassination carried out by Israeli forces. (PCHR interview with Dr. Abdel Aziz Mousa Thabet, 7/07/08)

The IOF siege of Gaza, which has steadily tightened since June 2007, has had a disastrous impact on the humanitarian and economic situation in the Gaza Strip. For example:
• The Gaza Power plant completely stopped operation due to the lack of energy fuel. Over the past three weeks, IOF have allowed only 1,721,610 liters of energy fuel into the Gaza Strip, an amount which can operate the power plant for only 5 days.
• The main concern of 1.5 million people living in the Gaza Strip is to obtain their basic needs of food, medicines, water and electricity supplies.
• The majority of the civilian population lack access to drinking water.

Al Mezan Center for Human Rights asserts, according to its monitoring of the situation on the ground, that the IOF has perpetrated grave breaches of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL), amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity, in the course of its military actions in Gaza. The Center also asserts that the vast majority of IOF's targets in Gaza are civilian targets that must not be deliberately targeted. This includes houses, mosques, police stations and at least one ambulance. Most of the casualties are not combatants and were not involved in any hostilities when they were targeted by IOF.

Despite all this, in early 2008, due to international mediation,  Hamas agreed to a truce for a minimum of six months, including stopping the firing of rockets from the Gaza strip. In return Israel held out that it would ease the siege.  Hamas rigorously policed this truce. Israeli settlers in nearby towns reported that life had nearly returned to normal. They petitioned the Israeli authorities to extend the truce. They set up direct links with dozens of Gaza representatives.

Then in early November Israeli forces mounted a raid on Gaza. Rockets were fired in revenge. But Hamas again offered to renew the truce - but insisted that Israel must end the siege in return.  Israel refused  - for it had its attack now planned. It would destroy Gaza in order to destroy the government it elected, it hated them so much.

The Israelis justified this by speaking of the Hamas charter as filled with hatred, and as calling for the destruction of Israel. There is indeed much that can be criticized in this document, as is also true of some of the documents of the Israeli settlers taking West Bank land  - but this does not excuse the terrible events to which we are witnessing. No matter what this document states, Hamas had offered Israel a long-term truce with no rockets,  but the price they asked for this, the ending of the siege, while reasonable and sensible, was not something the Israel was willing to give and for this demand now the people of Gaza are being slaughtered


Tariq Ali reported in the Guardian newspaper in the UK on 30th December 2008 that “the assault on Gaza, planned over six months and executed with perfect timing, was designed largely to help the incumbent parties triumph in the forthcoming Israeli elections. The dead Palestinians are little more than election fodder in a cynical contest between the right and the far right in Israel. Washington and its EU allies, perfectly aware that Gaza was about to be assaulted, as in the case of Lebanon in 2006, sit back and watch.
“Washington, as is its wont, blames the pro-Hamas Palestinians, with Obama and Bush singing from the same AIPAC hymn sheet. The EU politicians, having observed the build-up, the siege, the collective punishment inflicted on Gaza, the targeting of civilians etc (for all the gory detail, see Harvard scholar Sara Roy's chilling essay in the London Review of Books) were convinced that it was the rocket attacks that had "provoked" Israel but called on both sides to end the violence, with nil effect. The moth-eaten Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt and Nato's favourite Islamists in Ankara failed to register even a symbolic protest by recalling their ambassadors from Israel. China and Russia did not convene a meeting of the UN security council to discuss the crisis.
As result of official apathy, one outcome of this latest attack will be to inflame Muslim communities throughout the world and swell the ranks of those very organisations that the west claims it is combating in the "war against terror".

“Western enthusiasm for democracy stops when those opposed to its policies are elected to office. The west and Israel tried everything to secure a Fatah victory: Palestinian voters rebuffed the concerted threats and bribes of the "international community" in a campaign that saw Hamas members and other oppositionists routinely detained or assaulted by the IDF, their posters confiscated or destroyed, US and EU funds channelled into the Fatah campaign, and US congressmen announcing that Hamas should not be allowed to run.
“Even the timing of the election was set by the determination to rig the outcome. Scheduled for the summer of 2005, it was delayed till January 2006 to give Abbas time to distribute assets in Gaza – in the words of an Egyptian intelligence officer, "the public will then support the Authority against Hamas."
“Popular desire for a clean broom after ten years of corruption, bullying and bluster under Fatah proved stronger than all of this. Hamas's electoral triumph was treated as an ominous sign of rising fundamentalism, and a fearsome blow to the prospects of peace with Israel, by rulers and journalists across the Atlantic world. Immediate financial and diplomatic pressures were applied to force Hamas to adopt the same policies as those of the party it had defeated at the polls. Uncompromised by the Palestinian Authority's combination of greed and dependency, the self-enrichment of its servile spokesmen and policemen, and their acquiescence in a "peace process" that has brought only further expropriation and misery to the population under them, Hamas offered the alternative of a simple example. Without any of the resources of its rival, it set up clinics, schools, hospitals, vocational training and welfare programmes for the poor. Its leaders and cadres lived frugally, within reach of ordinary people.
“It is this response to everyday needs that has won Hamas the broad base of its support, not daily recitation of verses from the Koran. How far its conduct in the second Intifada has given it an additional degree of credibility is less clear. Its armed attacks on Israel, like those of Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade or Islamic Jihad, have been retaliations against an occupation far more deadly than any actions it has ever undertaken. Measured on the scale of IDF killings, Palestinian strikes have been few and far between. The asymmetry was starkly exposed during Hamas's unilateral ceasefire, begun in June 2003, and maintained throughout the summer, despite the Israeli campaign of raids and mass arrests that followed, in which some 300 Hamas cadres were seized from the West Bank.
“On August 19 2003, a self-proclaimed "Hamas" cell from Hebron, disowned and denounced by the official leadership, blew up a bus in west Jerusalem, upon which Israel promptly assassinated the Hamas ceasefire's negotiator, Ismail Abu Shanab. Hamas, in turn, responded. In return, the Palestinian Authority and Arab states cut funding to its charities and, in September 2003, the EU declared the whole Hamas movement to be a terrorist organization – a longstanding demand of Tel Aviv.
“What has actually distinguished Hamas in a hopelessly unequal combat is not dispatch of suicide bombers, to which a range of competing groups resorted, but its superior discipline – demonstrated by its ability to enforce a self-declared ceasefire against Israel over the past year. All civilian deaths are to be condemned, but since Israel is their principal practitioner, Euro-American cant serves only to expose those who utter it. Overwhelmingly, the boot of murder is on the other foot, ruthlessly stamped into Palestine by a modern army equipped with jets, tanks and missiles in the longest-armed oppression of modern history.
"Nobody can reject or condemn the revolt of a people that has been suffering under military occupation for 45 years against occupation force," said General Shlomo Gazit, former chief of Israeli military intelligence, in 1993. The real grievance of the EU and US against Hamas is that it refused to accept the capitulation of the Oslo Accords, and has rejected every subsequent effort, from Taba to Geneva, to pass off their calamities on the Palestinians. The west's priority ever since was to break this resistance. Cutting off funding to the Palestinian Authority is an obvious weapon with which to bludgeon Hamas into submission. Boosting the presidential powers of Abbas – as publicly picked for his post by Washington, as was Karzai in Kabul – at the expense of the legislative council is another.
“No serious efforts were made to negotiate with the elected Palestinian leadership. I doubt if Hamas could have been rapidly suborned to western and Israeli interests, but it would not have been unprecedented. Hamas' programmatic heritage remains mortgaged to the most fatal weakness of Palestinian nationalism: the belief that the political choices before it are either rejection of the existence of Israel altogether or acceptance of the dismembered remnants of a fifth of the country.”


GAZA - before the wars...

Memories and Gaza

We know it is important to remember the Holocaust,  but Palestinians are told not to live in the past, to forget their own history, to forget the Nak'ba, the "Catastrophe" that happened after we decided "Never Again" would we have a Holocaust of Jews and so gave the Jewish community the lands the Palestinians had inhabited from the times when the Romans renamed Judaea as Palestine, dispelling many of the Jews. The survivors of that time were the many local Pagans, some Jews and a few of the first Christians.  A few hundred years later many of these became Muslim.

We forget that to be anti-Arab is also to be anti-Semitic - for the Arabs are the major Semitic nation of old. Arabic is the major Semitic language according to linguists,  but even the name of their ancient nation is stolen.

We the British  issued the Balfour Declaration, recognizing the rights of Jews in Europe to go to live in Palestine  - but we said we hoped this would not be at the cost of the inhabitants. Then, in 1948, after a savage war during which Jewish fighters took a terrible toll, many Arab Palestinians fled a short distance from their lands in terror, clustering in towns where they were given shelter. One of the towns they fled to, from the rich orchards of  Jaffa and nearby towns, was to Gaza city.  Half of the people who now live imprisoned behind high walls in Gaza are these refugees.  
In the months surrounding that date, Jewish forces expelled, or intimidated into flight, an estimated 750,000 Palestinians. A living, breathing, society that had existed in Palestine for centuries was smashed and fragmented, and a new society built on its ruins.

Few Palestinian families lack a personal narrative of loss from that period -- an uncle killed, or a branch of the family that fled north while the others fled east, never to be reunited, or homes, offices, orchards and other property seized. Ever since, Palestinians worldwide have commemorated May 15 as Nakba (Catastrophe) Day.

We cannot expect the people in Gaza to forget this. No ethical person would admonish Jews to "forget the Holocaust." Indeed, recent decades have witnessed victims of that terrible era not only remembering, but also regaining paintings and financial assets seized by the Nazis -- and justifiably so.

In the West we are amply reminded of the suffering of Jewish people in World War II. Our newspaper featured several stories on local survivors of the Nazi holocaust around Holocaust Remembrance Day (an Israeli national holiday that is widely observed in the United States).\

 George Bisharat reported: "My daughter has read at least one book on the Nazi holocaust every year since middle school. Last year, in ninth grade English literature alone, she read three. But we seldom confront the impact of Israel's policies on Palestinians." The primacy of Jewish security over rights of Palestinians -- to property, education, health care, a chance to make a living, and, also to security -- is seldom challenged.

He went on to say: "Unfortunately, remembering the Nazi Holocaust -- something morally incumbent on all of us -- has seemingly become entangled with, and even an instrument of, the amnesia some would force on Palestinians. Israel is enveloped in an aura of ethical propriety that makes it unseemly, even "anti-Semitic" to question its denial of Palestinian rights."

As Israeli journalist Amira Hass recently observed: "Turning the Holocaust into a political asset serves Israel primarily in its fight against the Palestinians. When the Holocaust is on one side of the scale, along with the guilty (and rightly so) conscience of the West, the dispossession of the Palestinian people from their homeland in 1948 is minimized and blurred."

What this demonstrates is that memory is not just an idle capacity. Rather, who can remember, and who can be made to forget, is, fundamentally, an expression of power.
George Bisharat concluded: "Equally importantly, however, memory can provide a blueprint for the future -- a vision of a solution to seek, or an outcome to avoid. My Palestinian father grew up in Jerusalem before Israel was founded and the Palestinians expelled, when Muslims, Christians and Jews lived in peace and mutual respect. Recalling that past provides a vision for an alternative future -- one involving equal rights and tolerance, rather than the domination of one ethno-religious group over others."
* with thanks to George Bisharat, a  professor of law at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. He wrote the article that inspired this.  For Palestinians, memory matters. It provides a blueprint for their future  Posted  on May 13 or 15, 2007 in the San Francisco Chronicle  - now - listen to a powerful and informative speech he gave - highly recommended...

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Extremely powerful bombs used in city centres

This was a site of a police station. Israel is using a new powerful penetrating bomb that the US Congress only authorized sending to Israel in November 2008.
Can you imagine what it was like to be in the houses and shops opposite when it exploded?

So there was no provocation of the Palestinians? CHILD KILLINGS

Child Killings by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) in the Gaza Strip
June 2007 - June 2008

From the beginning of the Second Intifada, in September 2000, until 30 June 2008, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) killed almost five thousand Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian territory (OPT1. The majority of victims were civilians, and 859 of them were children. Of these  2,051 civilians including 548 children lived in the Gaza Strip.

"Between 30 June 2006 – 30 June 2007, a total of 98 children were killed by IOF in the Gaza Strip. The child death toll dropped in the latter part of 2007; however, it rose dramatically once more during the first six months of 2008, largely as a result of a large-scale IOF military operation across the Gaza Strip at the end of 9 February 2008, as well as IOF killings of children in the border areas of the Central and Eastern Gaza Strip. PCHR notes with grave concern that IOF killed more children in the Gaza Strip during the first four months of 2008 than during the whole of 2007."

"One of the main reasons for the dramatic increase in the number of children killed by IOF during the first six months of 2008 was a large scale IOF military operation in the Gaza Strip, code-named ‘Operation Winter Heat,’ that was launched on 27 February, 2008."

"The circumstances of child deaths during Operation Winter Heat strongly and consistently indicate that children were deliberately targeted throughout the operation. For example, on Thursday 28 February, 2008, at approximately 15:20, IOF fired a missile at a group of Palestinian boys who were playing football in an open area.

"On 1 March, Samah Abu-Saif was preparing food for the family, when twelve year old Safaa went upstairs to the second floor of the house, where her uncle and his family were living. In order to do this, Safaa had to step outside of the living room, and climb an outside staircase that led up to the second floor apartment. Her parents did not know she had left the living room. Five minutes later the extended Abu-Saif family downstairs heard a single shot, followed by screaming. Safaa’s father, Ra’ed Abu-Saif, and his eldest son, Ali, ran upstairs to the second floor using the outside staircase. They found Safaa in a bedroom, with her aunt, Kefiya. Safaa had been shot, and had collapsed on the bedroom floor. ‘There was a hole in her chest’ said Ali Abu-Saif. "The bullet had entered her left side and exited through her back. She was bleeding heavily."'

"The Abu-Saif family believed any men who left their home would be shot dead by the IOF. So Samah Abu-Saif carried her daughter’s body out of the courtyard and into the street, accompanied by her elderly mother, who held up a white scarf. As the two women attempted to walk down the street towards the crossroads, an Israeli tank began shooting in front of them, despite the fact they were carrying a dead child, and holding up a white scarf as instructed. The two women were forced to run back to the house for cover.

"PCHR notes that the IOF deliberately prevented the access of ambulances into the Abed Rabbo district of Jabalia during the invasion, which is a violation of international law"

my comment...

The evidence suggests that some in the Israeli forces believed this is a legitimate way of punishing the Gaza inhabitants for voting for Hamas.

Footnote - for first week of 2009;
441 Palestinians including over 70 children killed by Israel since last Saturday
[ 03/01/2009 - 04:29 PM ]

GAZA, (PIC)-- Israel continued for the eighth consecutive day its military attacks against civilian targets throughout the Gaza Strip resulting in the death of 441 Palestinians including more than 70 children.

Dr. Muawiya Hassanein, the director of ambulance and emergency in the health ministry, said that most of the victims were civilians including 36 women and 70 children, pointing out that the beds in Gaza hospitals are full of patients and injuries and can accommodate no more.

For his part, Dr. Bassem Naim, the health minister, warned that the outcome of the ongoing Israeli massacres committed against the Gaza people is apt to increase significantly especially since there are more than 400 seriously-injured citizens.

Dr. Naim noted that there is a severe shortage of medicines and medical equipment used to handle emergency situations, adding that 50 percent of ambulances are out of service due to the lack of spare part as a result of the Israeli siege.\

Death in Gaza

More Gaza photos

New Photos of Slaughter in Gaza

New Photos of Slaughter in Gaza.

These are of Palestinian police officers and trainees - and were censored out as too graphic for our newspapers.  

Just what happened in the hours before Israel invaded Gaza? Here is the UN report...


P.O.Box 38712,
East Jerusalem,
Phone: (+972) 2-582 9962 /
582 5853,
Fax: (+972) 2-582 5841
• •

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

GAZA HUMANITARIAN SITUATION REPORT 3 January 2009 as of 16:00 Israeli military operations and heavy bombardment of the Gaza Strip continued into their eighth day. Violence As of 3 January, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, 432 people have been killed and 2,200 persons have been injured.

On 3 January, the IAF continued air and naval strikes in all parts of the Gaza Strip, particularly North Gaza, Gaza and the Middle area, with airstrikes focusing on moving vehicles, residences, open areas, and former Israeli settlements. In addition to the airstrikes, the IDF has commenced shelling areas in Gaza up to and exceeding one kilometer from the Israel-Gaza border.

At the moment of issuing this release, artillery shell fire has been reported from the eastern border to open areas in North Gaza, Gaza and the Middle Area. Increasing numbers of warning leaflets are being dropped, warning people to evacuate the targeted areas, exacerbating confusion and panic among the civilian population. The American School north of Gaza was directly hit and almost completely destroyed, with one school guard killed. In addition, at least three to five schools were damaged by Israeli shelling of nearby targets.

Palestinian militants fired 20 rockets and mortars into Israel injuring 3 Israelis.

the rest of the contents are edited to  remove administrative content

Intensive care unit capacity in hospitals is still limited and the lack of specialist surgeons remains a problem. 

Since 27 December, 103 patients entered Egypt through Rafah for external medical treatment. Of growing concern are the 700-1000 chronic medical patients who had been receiving regular treatment in Israel and East Jerusalem each month. The existing referral system through Erez for these patients has been disrupted. Without electricity from the Gaza Power Plant (GPP), hospitals are operating on backup electric generators. These generators cannot be relied on to provide constant power to hospitals, and it is critical that fuel is delivered to the power station in order for mains electricity to be restored.


Distribution of food assistance to the most vulnerable is erratic due to the security situation.

Since 27 December, WFP (through implementing partners) has distributed only a fraction of the 1350 metric tonnes available and the food that is currently being distributed should have been distributed in the October- December cycle. UNRWA resumed its prior food distribution in seven distribution centres on 1 January which it had suspended on 18 December; distributions are continuing today.

Water and Sanitation

On 2 January, airstrikes in the Al Mughraga area damaged a main drinking water pipe, cutting off water supplies to 30,000 people in Nuseirat Camp. Beit Lahiya Sewage Lagoon: There is a particular emerging concern, that current military operations could damage the sand walls of the Beit Lahiya sewage lagoon causing a massive sewage overflow. In addition to agricultural areas, up to 15,000 people are directly at risk. Two years ago, five people were killed and 2,000 displaced when the lagoon overflowed.


Several hundred people have sought shelter at locations provided by UNRWA. The Agency has 91 preidentified locations throughout the Gaza Strip, primarily schools, with a capacity for 40,000 persons, including non-refugee displaced if necessary.


KEREM SHALOM: Closed today. A total of 75 truckloads including 42 for humanitarian aid agencies were allowed entry to Gaza through Kerem Shalom crossing yesterday, 2 January. These included 46 truckloads of food supplies (including 21 trucks for UNRWA), five medical supplies (MoH and WHO), 17 truckloads of animal feed, five power generators for ICRC, and two trucks of other items.

RAFAH: Three truckloads of medical supplies (Qatari, Kuwait and Egyptian donation) were allowed entry to Gaza through Rafah crossing today. Five medical cases were allowed out.

EREZ: Closed today. 226 foreign nationals (Russians, Ukrainians, Americans and Norwegians) were allowed out through Erez yesterday. International staff of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have been prevented from entering Gaza for the past two months, adversely affecting program management and assessments.

Priority imports neded:

Power plant and electrical transformers: Industrial fuel is needed to power the Gaza Power Plant, which has been shut down since 30 December. Replacement of ten transformers which were completely damaged is also urgently needed to restore electricity supply to 250,000 people in central and northern Gaza. All water, sanitation and other utilities, which provide basic services to the population, as well as hospitals and the general population are affected by the outages; some areas have now experienced power outages for up to 48 hours. Hospitals are increasingly reverting to generators to support intensive care and operating room functions.

Wheat grain: Essential to provide flour for local bakeries and humanitarian food distribution to the population of Gaza. There are long lines at bakeries and bread rationing has been implemented by the Gaza authorities.

GAZA - David and Goliath Struggle

UN Secretary General calls on Israel to End Invasion.

Spain and France condemn Invasion -  George Bush says it is justified.   Please do all you can to bring about an end to this offensive.  One and a half million people live in Israeli created Ghetto - their crime - fighting against their oppression.