Saturday, December 27, 2008

Attacks on Gaza - reports and analysis

Sarah Roy, a longtime expert analyst of economic and political developments in the Gaza Strip identifies two objectives to Israel's current military campaign. Neither of them is an attempt, officially claimed by Israel to be the goal of this attack, of stopping Hamas shelling of Israeli towns and villages. Israel, says Roy, aims "to ensure that the Palestinians there are seen merely as a humanitarian problem, beggars who have no political identity and therefore can have no political claims." And it furthermore wants "to foist Gaza onto Egypt" thereby finalizing the political and territorial breakup of a Palestinian political entity.

In imagining the daily details of life under Israel's ever-tightening criminal siege, a recent resource was provided by the Israeli group, Physicans for Human Rights, following their dispatch of a research and aid delegation to Gaza. The PHR report, attached below noted, for instance, "a sharp increase of 300% in burns cases admitted to the burns department at Shifaa hospital in Gaza ... over the past month. This is a result of the ongoing shortages in electricity, cooking gas and heating gas. These, along with the arrival of the cold winter months, have led the population of Gaza to light wood fires, resulting in dangerous conditions. Many of the burns cases reported to us have been of children..."
Rela Mazali

Racheli Gai adds:
The third piece we're sending is by Ali Abunimah. In addition to exposing the hollowness of the claim that the bombing is in retaliation for the firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip, he reminds us that we must find ways to show our solidarity with the Palestinians, and to oppose Israel's criminal activities.
Protests are being organized everywhere, even as I'm typing these words. But after the protests take place, then what?? Abunimah closes his article by saying:
"Palestinians everywhere are asking for solidarity, real solidarity, in the form of sustained, determined political action. The Gaza-based One Democratic State Group reaffirmed this today as it "called upon all civil society organizations and freedom loving people to act immediately in any possible way to put pressure on their governments to end diplomatic ties with Apartheid Israel and institute sanctions against it.

The global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement for Palestine (http://www.bdsmovement.net/) provides the framework for this. Now is the time to channel our raw emotions into a long-term commitment to make sure we do not wake up to "another Gaza" ever again."

We end with a graphic description of some of the carnage in Gaza, sent by Rebecca Vilkomerson.

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If Gaza falls . . .

Sara Roy
London Review of Books
1.1.2009
http://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n01/roy_01_.html
Israel's siege of Gaza began on 5 November, the day after an Israeli attack inside the strip, no doubt designed finally to undermine the truce between Israel and Hamas established last June. Although both sides had violated the agreement before, this incursion was on a different scale. Hamas responded by firing rockets into Israel and the violence has not abated since then. Israel's siege has two fundamental goals. One is to ensure that the Palestinians there are seen merely as a humanitarian problem, beggars who have no political identity and therefore can have no political claims. The second is to foist Gaza onto Egypt. That is why the Israelis tolerate the hundreds of tunnels between Gaza and Egypt around which an informal but increasingly regulated commercial sector has begun to form. The overwhelming majority of Gazans are impoverished and officially 49.1 per cent are unemployed. In fact the prospect of steady employment is rapidly disappearing for the majority of the population
.


On 5 November the Israeli government sealed all the ways into and out of Gaza. Food, medicine, fuel, parts for water and sanitation systems, fertiliser, plastic sheeting, phones, paper, glue, shoes and even teacups are no longer getting through in sufficient quantities or at all. According to Oxfam only 137 trucks of food were allowed into Gaza in November. This means that an average of 4.6 trucks per day entered the strip compared to an average of 123 in October this year and 564 in December 2005. The two main food providers in Gaza are the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the World Food Programme (WFP). UNRWA alone feeds approximately 750,000 people in Gaza, and requires 15 trucks of food daily to do so. Between 5 November and 30 November, only 23 trucks arrived, around 6 per cent of the total needed; during the week of 30 November it received 12 trucks, or 11 per cent of what was required. There were three days in November when UNRWA
ran out of food, with the result that on each of these days 20,000 people were unable to receive their scheduled supply. According to John Ging, the director of UNRWA in Gaza, most of the people who get food aid are entirely dependent on it. On 18 December UNRWA suspended all food distribution for both emergency and regular programmes because of the blockade.

The WFP has had similar problems, sending only 35 trucks out of the 190 it had scheduled to cover Gazans' needs until the start of February (six more were allowed in between 30 November and 6 December). Not only that: the WFP has to pay to store food that isn't being sent to Gaza. This cost $215,000 in November alone. If the siege continues, the WFP will have to pay an extra $150,000 for storage in December, money that will be used not to support Palestinians but to benefit Israeli business.

The majority of commercial bakeries in Gaza – 30 out of 47 – have had to close because they have run out of cooking gas. People are using any fuel they can find to cook with. As the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has made clear, cooking-gas canisters are necessary for generating the warmth to incubate broiler chicks. Shortages of gas and animal feed have forced commercial producers to smother hundreds of thousands of chicks. By April, according to the FAO, there will be no poultry there at all: 70 per cent of Gazans rely on chicken as a major source of protein.

Banks, suffering from Israeli restrictions on the transfer of banknotes into the territory were forced to close on 4 December. A sign on the door of one read: 'Due to the decision of the Palestinian Finance Authority, the bank will be closed today Thursday, 4.12.2008, because of the unavailability of cash money, and the bank will be reopened once the cash money is available.'

The World Bank has warned that Gaza's banking system could collapse if these restrictions continue. All cash for work programmes has been stopped and on 19 November UNRWA suspended its cash assistance programme to the most needy. It also ceased production of textbooks because there is no paper, ink or glue in Gaza. This will affect 200,000 students returning to school in the new year. On 11 December, the Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, sent $25 million following an appeal from the Palestinian prime minister, Salaam Fayad, the first infusion of its kind since October. It won't even cover a month's salary for Gaza's 77,000 civil servants.

On 13 November production at Gaza's only power station was suspended and the turbines shut down because it had run out of industrial diesel. This in turn caused the two turbine batteries to run down, and they failed to start up again when fuel was received some ten days later. About a hundred spare parts ordered for the turbines have been sitting in the port of Ashdod in Israel for the last eight months, waiting for the Israeli authorities to let them through customs. Now Israel has started to auction these parts because they have been in customs for more than 45 days. The proceeds are being held in Israeli accounts.

During the week of 30 November, 394,000 litres of industrial diesel were allowed in for the power plant: approximately 18 per cent of the weekly minimum that Israel is legally obliged to allow in. It was enough for one turbine to run for two days before the plant was shut down again. The Gaza Electricity Distribution Company said that most of the Gaza Strip will be without electricity for between four and 12 hours a day. At any given time during these outages, over 65,000 people have no electricity.

No other diesel fuel (for standby generators and transport) was delivered during that week, no petrol (which has been kept out since early November) or cooking gas. Gaza's hospitals are apparently relying on diesel and gas smuggled from Egypt via the tunnels; these supplies are said to be administered and taxed by Hamas. Even so, two of Gaza's hospitals have been out of cooking gas since the week of 23 November.

Adding to the problems caused by the siege are those created by the political divisions between the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the Hamas Authority in Gaza. For example, Gaza's Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU), which is not controlled by Hamas, is supposed to receive funds from the World Bank via the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) in Ramallah to pay for fuel to run the pumps for Gaza's sewage system. Since June, the PWA has refused to hand over those funds, perhaps because it feels that a functioning sewage system would benefit Hamas. I don't know whether the World Bank has attempted to intervene, but meanwhile UNRWA is providing the fuel, although they have no budget for it. The CMWU has also asked Israel's permission to import 200 tons of chlorine, but by the end of November it had received only 18 tons – enough for one week of chlorinated water. By mid-December Gaza City and the north of Gaza had access to water only six hours every three days.

According to the World Health Organisation, the political divisions between Gaza and the West Bank are also having a serious impact on drug stocks in Gaza. The West Bank Ministry of Health (MOH) is responsible for procuring and delivering most of the pharmaceuticals and medical disposables used in Gaza. But stocks are at dangerously low levels. Throughout November the MOH West Bank was turning shipments away because it had no warehouse space, yet it wasn't sending supplies on to Gaza in adequate quantities. During the week of 30 November, one truck carrying drugs and medical supplies from the MOH in Ramallah entered Gaza, the first delivery since early September.

The breakdown of an entire society is happening in front of us, but there is little international response beyond UN warnings which are ignored. The European Union announced recently that it wanted to strengthen its relationship with Israel while the Israeli leadership openly calls for a large-scale invasion of the Gaza Strip and continues its economic stranglehold over the territory with, it appears, the not-so-tacit support of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah – which has been co-operating with Israel on a number of measures. On 19 December Hamas officially ended its truce with Israel, which Israel said it wanted to renew, because of Israel's failure to ease the blockade.

How can keeping food and medicine from the people of Gaza protect the people of Israel? How can the impoverishment and suffering of Gaza's children – more than 50 per cent of the population – benefit anyone? International law as well as human decency demands their protection. If Gaza falls, the West Bank will be next.

Sara Roy teaches at Harvard's Center for Middle Eastern Studies and is the author of Failing Peace: Gaza and the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict.

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Physicians for Human Rights-Israel Update 22.12.2008

· PHR-Israel delegation to the Gaza Strip, 18-19 December, 2008-12-22
· Gaza siege results in 300% increase in burn cases in the burns department at Shifaa' hospital in the Gaza Strip
· Denial of access to healthcare continues
· PHR-Israel and the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) issue a joint protest following the expulsion of UN Special Rapporteur Falk. http://www.phr.org.il/phr/files/articlefile_1230045569593.doc

18-19 December, 2008-12-22

The visit was held in order to learn about the current condition of the health system, to provide medical services in Gaza hospitals, and to plan for future delegations on the basis of medical needs.

Medical assistance and meetings:

The delegation brought with it medical equipment to a value of 25 thousand US dollars, including prosthetic limbs, and transferred them to the European Hospital in Khan Younis.
Dr. Mustafa Yassin, an expert orthopedic oncologist from Rabin Medical Center (Hasharon Campus) in Israel, examined 25 patients at the European Hospital. Several of these were recommended for a knee replacement, which will be carried out by Dr. Yassin on his next visit to Gaza.
The delegation met with representatives of the local Ministry of Health and heard an update on the current situation, as well as a review of 2008, whose main contents follow:
According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MoH) in Gaza, 155,478 patients were admitted to the 14 hospitals and medical centers operating within the Gaza Strip. Some 49,000 surgical procedures were held, and 35,276 hospital births were recorded. According to statistics prepared by the "Institute for Palestinian Studies" for 2008, birthrates increased by 2.6% in comparison to 2007. The total budget of the Ministry of Health allocated to medical treatments for 2008 was 21 million US dollars.

The most common conditions treated in medical centers of the MoH in Gaza in 2008 were oncology diseases, liver and kidney conditions, joint diseases and arteriosclerosis.

According to Gaza MoH statistics for 2008, the number of cancer cases diagnosed this year was 520, of whom 91 were children. Breast cancer and cancer of the brain and other nervous systems were the most common types of cancer. 620 cardiac cases were registered, of whom 99 were children. 342 kidney patients are currently treated by hemodialysis. 3,199 cases of Hepatitis A were recorded, 496 of Hepatitis B, and 196 of Hepatitis C.

A shortage of 105 types of medicines, or one quarter of the medications ordered by the MoH in Gaza has characterized the majority of 2008. 30 of these are for lifesaving treatments, 21 for cancer, kidney and liver conditions. In addition, a total of 220 parts and equipment items defined as necessary for surgical procedures and for maintenance of Intensive Care Units are lacking. Several milk sterilization instruments in pediatric departments have stopped functioning.

The Ministry of Health in Gaza operates 58 emergency vehicles for medical evacuation. Half of these were put out of service due to lack of spare parts (engine oil, batteries, internal seats and upholstery, electrical and medical equipment). As a result the MoH purchased 64 substandard alternative vehicles, which were used for patient transfer. Many ambulances are currently still out of service and some patients are transferred in private vehicles.

In emergencies, the evacuation services suffer from substandard communications due to the collapse of the two cellular systems in Gaza: Jawwal and Mirs. As a result, ambulance drivers meet difficulties in communicating with headquarters, with hospitals, with each other and with the patients' families. This can lead to severe delays and even to loss of lives. The proposed solution is an internal communications system for the evacuation system in Gaza, estimated costs of which are 170,000 US dollars, a sum currently unavailable to the Gaza MoH.

There is a severe shortage of several types of gases that are necessary for the functioning of the health system (e.g., Carbon Oxygen Type 2, Ethylene Oxide, dry and liquid Nitrogen, medical Nitrous and cooking gas). There is also a chronic shortage of fuel for the hospitals in Gaza, leading to a depletion of stores in a manner that will not enable maintenance of full activities in case of further fuel cuts.

Gaza siege results in 300% increase in burn cases in the burns department at Shifaa' hospital in the Gaza Strip

In December 2008, PHR-Israel recorded an increase in patients suffering from burns applying to the organization for assistance. Further investigation revealed that a sharp increase of 300% in burns cases admitted to the burns department at Shifaa hospital in Gaza has been recorded over the past month. This is a result of the ongoing shortages in electricity, cooking gas and heating gas. These, along with the arrival of the cold winter months, have led the population of Gaza to light wood fires, resulting in dangerous conditions. Many of the burns cases reported to us have been of children playing with fire while attempting to light fires for heating or cooking, or lighting candles for light at home.

According to Dr. Nafez Abu Sha'ban, director of the burns department in Shifaa hospital in Gaza, the department is overloaded and is treating 16 patients, the vast majority of whom are children. This is despite the fact that the department is actually capable of providing adequate treatment to only 5 patients at a time. According to Dr. Abu Sha'ban, the Israeli siege on Gaza has caused not only a severe shortage of water, electricity and other basic goods, but also in gas and fuel for cooking, heating and baking. As a result, many are now using Primus stoves or open fires for cooking and heating.

Due to the case overload in the burns department, and the current lack of basic and advanced medical equipment (e.g., resuscitation equipment for children and spare parts for existing equipment), the department cannot give immediate and appropriate response to the large number of patients. As a result of this, as well as of the high degree of severity and complexity of the cases, Palestinian doctors are referring some of the children to advanced medical centers in Israel. However, many children, some of them in life-threatening conditions, remain in Gaza without proper care, despite these referrals, due to a shortage in beds in children's ICU and in children's burns departments in the four medical centers in Israel that are able to treat children's burns: Hadassah Ein Karem in Jerusalem, Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, Rambam in Haifa, and Soroka in Beer-Sheva.

A written appointment letter for hospitalization from a hospital is a precondition set by the Israeli security apparatus for Palestinians who need to be transferred to medical care that is unavailable in Gaza. Without it, they cannot apply for a permit to exit Gaza. In urgent and lifesaving cases, the wait for an appointment and the permit application process impair the chances of recovery and can even endanger lives. Israeli children, who are admitted to hospital immediately, must also wait for a bed, but are not further delayed by bureaucratic hurdles once they have a place.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel has received four applications from families whose children sustained medium to severe burns over the past week, and who are referred urgently to medical care in Israel, but have not managed to get appointments for hospitalization. All these patients already have financial undertakings from the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah, to cover the costs of the care, and the invitation letter from the hospital is the only obstacle to their exit. One of these cases ended in death, and it joins two other child deaths from the past week in Gaza.

Rahaf, three and a half, has third-degree burns on 55% of her body, and she is currently hospitalized in lifethreatening condition in the burns department at Shifaa hospital in Gaza. Her body heat has been 35 degrees Celsius for the past three days, and she is artificially ventilated. Rahaf was seriously injured on December 17 at 3pm after trying to light a stove in the kitchen of her home. On the same day she already had all the necessary medical documents and a financial undertaking from the Ministry of Health to cover all costs of care, but from then until this afternoon, the family could not find a hospital able to admit her. This afternoon (22 December), after numerous calls made by PHR-Israel to hospital departments in Israel, Rahaf finally received an appointment for Rambam medical center in Haifa, for tomorrow morning. We hope for her speedy recovery.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel requests that the demand to present an appointment to a specific department before applying for a permit be waived in cases of children in need of urgent transfer of this type, in order to minimize delays as far as possible and ensure speedy transfer at the first opportunity.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel vehemently opposes the collective measures imposed on the civilian population of Gaza, and points to these burns cases as one more example of the disastrous results of the siege policy.

Denial of access to healthcare continues

Since the renewal of Israeli military operations and Palestinian Qassam rockets on the south of Israel on November 3rd, declared restrictions on exit of patients from the Gaza Strip have increased. In the past two months, the Israeli authorities at Erez Crossing rejected 11 new appeals we sent to them, following rejection of their applications for medical exit permits. Four of these patients need orthopedic care, three have kidney disease, two are cancer patients, one is in need of neurosurgical intervention and the last needs ophthalmology care. All these patients have already had their requests rejected in the past and have been waiting for weeks or even months for medical care. The GSS rejected PHR-Israel's appeals on their behalf, despite the submission of expert opinions by specialist doctors, which clarified that denial of care could cause irrevocable damage. Nine further recent requests by PHR-Israel have not yet received any response from the GSS, which is delaying its
responses increasingly in recent weeks. The delayed cases include a haemophiliac, a cancer patient and a five-year-old girl with heart disease, whose mother has died but her father is not allowed to accompany her.

Rafah crossing into Egypt remains closed, and last time it was opened was on September 20.

At unpredictable intervals since November 3rd, the Israeli government has ordered the total closure of Erez Crossing to all but the "most urgent, lifesaving, humanitarian" cases. In practice, such a closure makes the exit of even very serious and urgent cases close to impossible. In the opinion of PHR-Israel, the prioritization of exit according to medical severity/urgency is unethical, as the rest of the patients will stay behind without care. This constitutes an improper use of medical criteria for non-medical, political purposes.[1]

PHR-Israel and the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) issue a joint protest following the expulsion of UN Special Rapporteur Falk.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) vehemently protest the expulsion from Israel of UN Special Rapporteur Prof. Richard Falk, on December 17. PHR-Israel had been invited to participate in a meeting with the Rapporteur and to provide evidence regarding violations of the right to health in the OPT, access to healthcare and rights of prisoners and detainees. The expulsion of Prof. Falk is also injurious to the ongoing work of PHR-Israel.

PHR-Israel and PMRS have issued a letter of protest to Israeli government ministries on this issue. Please see this to read the letter http://www.phr.org.il/phr/files/articlefile_1230045569593.doc

For further details please contact Miri Weingarten, miri@phr.org.il , +972 546995199, or Ran Yaron, ranyaron@phr.org.il , +972 547577696.

[1] For more on the ethical ramifications of such prioritisation, see PHR-Israel's medical-ethical position paper, August 2007.


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PHR-Israel delegation to the Gaza Strip, On the 18th of December, a PHR-Israel delegation entered Gaza for a two-day visit, the eighth since the start of 2008. The delegation followed a period of three months during which the Israeli security apparatus had denied PHR-Israel access to the Gaza Strip, for various reasons.


Gaza massacres must spur us to action

By Ali Abunimah

The Electronic Intifada
27 December 2008

http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10055.shtml

"I will play music and celebrate what the Israeli air force is doing." Those were the words, spoken on Al Jazeera today by Ofer Shmerling, an Israeli civil defense
official in the Sderot area adjacent to Gaza, as images of Israel's latest massacres were broadcast around the world.

A short time earlier, US-supplied Israeli F-16 warplanes and Apache helicopters dropped over 100 bombs on dozens of locations in the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip killing at
least 195 persons and injuring hundreds more. Many of these locations were police stations located, like police stations the world over, in the middle of civilian areas.
The US government was one of the first to offer its support for Israel's attacks, and others will follow.

Reports said that many of the dead were Palestinian police officers. Among those Israel labels "terrorists" were more than a dozen traffic police officers undergoing training.
An as yet unknown number of civilians were killed and injured; Al Jazeera showed images of several dead children, and the Israeli attacks came at the time thousands of
Palestinian children were in the streets on their way home from school.

Shmerling's joy has been echoed by Israelis and their supporters around the world; their violence is righteous violence. It is "self-defense" against "terrorists" and therefore justified.
Israeli bombing -- like American and NATO bombing in Iraq and Afghanistan -- is bombing for freedom, peace and democracy.

The rationalization for Israel's massacres, already being faithfully transmitted by the English-language media, is that Israel is acting in "retaliation" for Palestinian rockets fired
with increasing intensity ever since the six-month truce expired on 19 December (until today, no Israeli had been killed or injured by these recent rockets attacks).

But today's horrific attacks mark only a change in Israel's method of killing Palestinians recently. In recent months they died mostly silent deaths, the elderly and sick especially,
deprived of food and necessary medicine by the two year-old Israeli blockade calculated and intended to cause suffering and deprivation to 1.5 million Palestinians, the vast majority refugees and
children, caged into the Gaza Strip. In Gaza, Palestinians died silently, for want of basic medications: insulin, cancer treatment, products for dialysis prohibited from reaching them by Israel.

What the media never question is Israel's idea of a truce. It is very simple. Under an Israeli-style truce, Palestinians have the right to remain silent while Israel starves them, kills them and
continues to violently colonize their land. Israel has not only banned food and medicine to sustain Palestinian bodies in Gaza but it is also intent on starving minds: due to the blockade, there
is not even ink, paper and glue to print textbooks for schoolchildren.

As John Ging, the head of operations of the United Nations agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA), told The Electronic Intifada in November: "there was five months of a
ceasefire in the last couple of months, where the people of Gaza did not benefit; they did not have any restoration of a dignified existence. We in fact at the UN, our
supplies were also restricted during the period of the ceasefire, to the point where we were left in a very vulnerable and precarious position and with a few days of
closure we ran out of food."

That is an Israeli truce. Any response to Israeli attacks -- whether peaceful protests against the apartheid wall in Bilin and Nilin in the West Bank is met with bullets and
bombs. There are no rockets launched at Israel from the West Bank, and yet Israel's attacks, killings, land theft, settler pogroms and kidnappings never ceased for one single day during the
truce. The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah has acceded to all of Israel's demands, even assembling "security forces" to fight the resistance on Israel's behalf. None of that has spared a single
Palestinian or her property or livelihood from Israel's relentless violent colonization. It did not save, for instance, the al-Kurd family from seeing their home of 50 years in occupied East
Jerusalem demolished on 9 November, so the land it sits on could be taken by settlers.

Once again we are watching massacres in Gaza, as we did last March when 110 Palestinians, including dozens of children, were killed by Israel in just a few days. Once
again people everywhere feel rage, anger and despair that this outlaw state carries out such crimes with impunity.

But all over the Arab media and internet today the rage being expressed is not directed solely at Israel. Notably, it is directed more sharply than ever at Arab states. The
images that stick are of Israel's foreign minister Tzipi Livni in Cairo on Christmas day. There she sat smiling with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Then there are the
pictures of Livni and Egypt's foreign minister smiling and slapping their palms together.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported today that last wednesday the Israeli "cabinet authorized the prime minister, the defense minister, and the foreign minister to
determine the timing and the method" of Israel's attacks on Gaza. Everywhere people ask, what did Livni tell the Egyptians and more importantly what did they tell
her? Did Israel get a green light to turn Gaza's streets red once again? Few are ready to give Egypt the benefit of the doubt after it has helped Israel besiege Gaza by
keeping the Rafah border crossing closed for more than a year.

On top of the intense anger and sadness so many people feel at Israel's renewed mass killings in Gaza is a sense of frustration that there seem to be so few ways to
channel it into a political response that can change the course of events, end the suffering, and bring justice.

But there are ways, and this is a moment to focus on them. Already I have received notices of demonstrations and solidarity actions being planned in cities all over the
world. That is important. But what will happen after the demonstrations disperse and the anger dies down? Will we continue to let Palestinians in Gaza die in silence?

Palestinians everywhere are asking for solidarity, real solidarity, in the form of sustained, determined political action. The Gaza-based One Democratic State Group
reaffirmed this today as it "called upon all civil society organizations and freedom loving people to act immediately in any possible way to put pressure on their governments
to end diplomatic ties with Apartheid Israel and institute sanctions against it."

The global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement for Palestine (http://www.bdsmovement.net/) provides the framework for this. Now is the time to channel our raw
emotions into a long-term commitment to make sure we do not wake up to "another Gaza" ever again.

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah is author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse (Metropolitan Books, 2006).

======================================
From: "Safa Joudeh"
Date: Sat, 27 Dec 2008 09:31:03 -0600
Subject: Today in Gaza

I've never seen anything like this. It all happened so fast but the amount of death and destruction is inconceivable, even to me and I'm in the middle of it and a few hours have already passed. I think 15 locations were hit during the air raid on Gaza. The images are probably not broadcast in US media. There are piles and piles of bodies in the locations that were hit. As you look at them you can see that a few of the young men are still alive, someone lifts a hand here, and another raise his head there. They probably died within moments because their bodies are burned, most have lost limbs, some have their guts hanging out and they're all lying in pools of blood. Outside my home, (which is close to the universities) a bomb fell on a large group of young men, university students, they'd been warned not to stand in groups, it makes them an easy target, but they were waiting for buses to take them home. This was about 3 hours ago 7 were killed, 4 students and 3 of our neighbors

kids, teenagers who were from the same family (Rayes) and were best friends. As I'm writing this I heard a funeral procession go by outside, I looked out the window and it was the 3 Rayes boys, They spent all their time together when they were alive, and now their sharing the same funeral together. Nothing could stop my 14 year old brother from rushing out to see the bodies of his friends laying in the street after they were killed. He hasn't spoken a word since.
A little further down the street about an hour earlier 3 girls happened to be passing by one of the locations when a bomb fell. The girls bodies were torn into pieces and covered the street from one side to the other.

These are just a couple of images that i've witnessed. In all the locations people are going through the dead terrified of recognizing a family member among them. The city is in a state of alarm, panic and confusion, cell phones aren't working, hospitals and morgues are backed up and some of the dead are still lying in the streets with their families gathered around them, kissing their faces, holding on to them. Outside the destroyed buildings old men are kneeling on the floor weeping. Their slim hopes of finding their sons still alive vanished after taking one look at what had become of their office buildings.

160 people dead in today's air raid. That means 160 funeral processions, a few today, most of them tomorrow probably. To think that yesterday these families were worried about food and heat and electricity. At this point I think they -actually all of us- would gladly have Hamas sign off every last basic right we've been calling for the last few months forever if it could have stopped this from ever having happened.

The bombing was very close to my home. Most of my extended family live in the area. My family is ok, but 2 of my uncles' homes were damaged, another relative was injured.
I don't know why I'm sending this email. It doesn't even begin to tell the story on any level. Just flashes of thing that happened today that are going through my head.


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Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
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Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
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1 comment:

AlanLevin said...

Perhaps, when Barack Obama does speak out about Gaza, he will say something like this: "Once again the world is witness to the tragedy of the conflict in what is known to Christians, Muslims and Jews, as the Holy Land. Many Americans feel a deep connection in their hearts to the stories of events that formed the basis of these three great religions. Because of this, because this is an area of the world in which great competing interests (including our own) struggle, and because of the human suffering that is taking place, I am choosing to speak out. I do this, careful to note once again, that we have only one President at a time, and I speak only of my own vision and concerns and intention, as President-elect." And then......

People all over the world, watching the horror that is now happenning in Gaza are waiting to see what President-elect Obama will say when he breaks his silence. It is one of those eerie moments. Despite the principle that there is only one President, he has spoken out on Mumbai, on the U.S. economy, the auto industry bailout, and other matters. Yet, regarding Israel and the Palestinians, what can he say? The possibility of his forcefully criticizing the Israeli attacks, even calling them an over-reaction, is negligible. It is well known that no American politician survives such statements. It also would go against the already media established and enforced “American view” that Israel is only defending itself.

Yet, my sense is that most people “know” that he “knows” better. We also know that for him this is one issue amongst dozens, and stepping over the very hard-line of established consensus on anything concerning Israel may explode like dynamite, blowing up his chances to move forward on everything else. We wait, holding out breath, hoping the Palestinians will not go under the now proverbial bus.

There is another possibility. Obama, and perhaps only Obama, could deliver the Israel/Palestine equivalent of his “race speech”, the one that came when the Reverand Wright controversy began. It was this speech that made so many of us hopeful. We saw that here was a man capable of things beyond ordinary politics; a man who is a healer and teacher, a man who can hold complexity and who transcends conflict and brings compassion to those entrenched in rigidity and anger. Now is the time for Barack Obama to turn this kind of attention to the middle east.

He cannot sidestep this issue. Israel/Palestine is not a side issue. It is central to everything that is happening regarding U.S. relations in the world. Resolving the conflict, giving full attention to being a forceful and fair mediator of the conflict, would turn the image of America around in the minds of the people of the world. Not doing so, risks the escalation of conflicts in other parts of the world with costs we can ill afford at this time. Not taking forceful action will have great costs and risks losing ground on the domestic and foreign fronts he faces, not to mention our needs to address the ecological crisis.

He has the ability, the knowledge, the sensitivity. More than one wise commentator has suggested that the roots of peace are psychological, even sprititual, and that the political solutions will follow. First and foremost is the need for a voice from this most powerful nation that expresses understanding of the wounds, grief and rage of the people of both sides of the conflict. Second, the willingness to put the power of his office and this country towards the resolution.

His eloquence goes far beyond anything I can suggest. I only suggest he reflect deeply and put his heart into it, including at least the following.

1. Acknowledge the role of the Holocaust and centuries of Jewish persectution, including anti-semitism in the United States as playing a role in the establishment of Israel and the force of feelings amongst Jewish people regarding the security of Israel.

2. Acknowledge the role of European colonialism and centuries of anti-Arab, anti-Muslim propaganda in the Christian nations (including the negative stereotyping in U.S. movies and other media) towards Arab people in building the distrust that now exists.

3. Acknowledge that the history of the establishment of Israel is seen by two very different points of view, one as a liberation for the Jews, one as a catastophe for hundereds of thousands of Palestinians who were displaced.

4. Offer to establish a team of peacemaker diplomats that will engage with Hamas, Fatah and the Israeli government to forge the basic structure of the two state solution that ends the occupation of Palestinian lands by Israel and provides for security from violence by both sides that has the majority support of both Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

5. Offer to engage the great powers of the world to provide massive support for the building of a viable Palestinian state, honoring the democratic right of the Palestinian people to choose their own leaders in implementing the building of this state.

Finaly, demand a cease fire and stop the closures of supplies to Gaza. Stop the killing and maiming and collective punishment so that the peace and justice process can begin.

Alan Levin
Nyack, NY