Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Analyses and update on Gaza

JPN Post: List of contents:

- Links to information about Israeli resistance from Rela Mazali
- 3 analyses:
1) "Has Israel Revived Hamas?" By Daoud Kuttab in the Washington Post
2) A briefing on the Gaza crisis by Phyllis Bennis from ZNet
3) "Palestine's Guernica and the Myths of Israeli Victimhood" by Mustafa Barghouthi
- A report on the condition of the hospitals in Gaza

Rela Mazali writes:

Absent from Israeli and most other TV networks are the ongoing activism and protest inside Israel against Israel's siege and, now, war on Gaza. Immediately below is a link to a televised report on two of many such actions. In Hebrew and Arabic with no English (or other) subtitles, they nevertheless offer glimpses of current activism in Israel. The first segment documents a demonstration in Tel Aviv and bits of the police reaction. The second was recorded at a public meeting, just hours before the demonstration, addressed jointly by Palestinian and Israeli members of Combatants for Peace. The reports were created by the alternative media group, Social TV (for details on the group see: http://www.tv.social.org.il/ful-profile-social-tv-eng.rtf):

Sarah Anne Minkin writes:

Calling the Gaza onslaught "Palestine's Guernica," (first piece below) Dr. Mustapha Barghouti (founder of the Palestinian Medical Relief Committees and Secretary General of the Palestine National Initiative) confronts several of Israel's claimed justifications for the Gaza actions. These justifications - including the idea that Hamas unilaterally violated and ended the truce, that Israel is only attacking military targets, that Israel is attacking Hamas but "not the Palestinian people," - are being repeated in the mainstream press as if they are truths. Barghouti simply and solidly refutes them.

Judith Norman writes:

The second piece below by Daoud Kuttab shows how Israel's strikes have (predictably) boosted Palestinian support for Hamas. Both Kuttab and Phyllis Bennis (in the third piece below) indicate that Israel wanted to strike before end of the Bush administration – that Bush would be reliably supportive of the strike, perhaps more so than Obama. In the light of Obama's silence on the situation, the US anti-occupation community has a particular responsibility to pressure Obama to create a political climate in which this sort of thing cannot happen again. The final piece below, a vivid description of the nightmarish state of Gaza's hospitals, underlines the urgency of this responsibility.

Joel Beinin writes:

I would add to Daoud Kuttab's perceptive analysis that Israeli leaderships have often found it preferable to deal with hard-line Palestinian elements rather than those clearly committed to a two-state solution because it creates less pressure on them to offer reasonable terms for a viable, independent Palestinian state.

Palestine's Guernica and the Myths of Israeli Victimhood
Mustafa Barghouthi

The Israeli campaign of 'death from above' began around 11 am, on Saturday morning, the 27th of December, and stretched straight through the night into this morning. The massacre continues Sunday as I write these words.

The bloodiest single day in Palestine since the War of 1967 is far from over following on Israel's promised that this is 'only the beginning' of their campaign of state terror. At least 290 people have been murdered thus far, but the body count continues to rise at a dramatic pace as more mutilated bodies are pulled from the rubble, previous victims succumb to their wounds and new casualties are created by the minute.

What has and is occurring is nothing short of a war crime, yet the Israeli public relations machine is in full-swing, churning out lies by the minute.

Once and for all it is time to expose the myths that they have created.

1. Israelis have claimed to have ended the occupation of the Gaza Strip in 2005.

While Israel has indeed removed the settlements from the tiny coastal Strip, they have in no way ended the occupation. They remained in control of the borders, the airspace and the waterways of Gaza, and have carried out frequent raids and targeted assassinations since the disengagement.

Furthermore, since 2006 Israel has imposed a comprehensive siege on the Strip. For over two years, Gazans have lived on the edge of starvation and without the most basic necessities of human life, such as cooking or heating oil and basic medications. This siege has already caused a humanitarian catastrophe which has only been exacerbated by the dramatic increase in Israeli military aggression.

2. Israel claims that Hamas violated the cease-fire and pulled out of it unilaterally.

Hamas indeed respected their side of the ceasefire, except on those occasions early on when Israel carried out major offensives in the West Bank. In the last two months, the ceasefire broke down with Israelis killing several Palestinians and resulting in the response of Hamas. In other words, Hamas has not carried out an unprovoked attack throughout the period of the cease-fire.

Israel, however, did not live up to any of its obligations of ending the siege and allowing vital humanitarian aid to resume in Gaza. Rather than the average of 450 trucks per day being allowed across the border, on the best days, only eighty have been allowed in - with the border remaining hermetically sealed 70% of the time. Throughout the supposed 'cease-fire' Gazans have been forced to live like animals, with a total of 262 dying due to the inaccessibility of proper medical care.

Now after hundreds dead and counting, it is Israel who refuses to re-enter talks over a cease-fire. They are not intent on securing peace as they claim; it is more and more clear that they are seeking regime change - whatever the cost.

3. Israel claims to be pursuing peace with 'peaceful Palestinians'.

Before the on-going massacre in the Gaza Strip, and throughout the entirety of the Annapolis Peace Process, Israel has continued and even intensified its occupation of the West Bank. In 2008, settlement expansion increased by a factor of 38, a further 4,950 Palestinians were arrested - mostly from the West Bank, and checkpoints rose from 521 to 699.

Furthermore, since the onset of the peace talks, Israel has killed 546 Palestinians, among them 76 children. These gruesome statistics are set to rise dramatically now, but previous Israeli transgressions should not be forgotten amidst this most recent horror.

Only this morning, Israel shot and killed a young peaceful protester in the West Bank village of Nihlin, and has injured dozens more over the last few hours. It is certain that they will continue to employ deadly force at non-violent demonstrations and we expect a sizable body count in the West Bank as a result. If Israel is in fact pursuing peace with 'good Palestinians', who are they talking about?

4. Israel is acting in self-defense.

It is difficult to claim self defense in a confrontation which they themselves have sparked, but they are doing it anyway. Self-defense is reactionary, while the actions of Israel over the last two days have been clearly premeditated. Not only did the Israeli press widely report the ongoing public relations campaign being undertaken by Israel to prepare Israeli and international public opinion for the attack, but Israel has also reportedly tried to convince the Palestinians that an attack was not coming by briefly opening crossings and reporting future meetings on the topic. They did so to insure that casualties would be maximized and that the citizens of Gaza would be unprepared for their impending slaughter.

It is also misleading to claim self-defense in a conflict with such an overwhelming asymmetry of power. Israel is the largest military force in the region, and the fifth largest in the world. Furthermore, they are the fourth largest exporter of arms and have a military industrial complex rivaling that of the United States. In other words, Israel has always had a comprehensive monopoly over the use of force, and much like its super power ally, Israel uses war as an advertising showcase of its many instruments of death.

5. Israel claims to have struck military targets only.

Even while image after image of dead and mutilated women and children flash across our televisions, Israel brazenly claims that their munitions expertly struck only military installations. We know this to be false as many other civilian sites have been hit by airstrikes including a hospital and mosque.

In the most densely populated area on the planet, tons upon tons of explosives have been dropped. The first estimates of injured are in the thousands. Israel will claim that these are merely 'collateral damage' or accidental deaths. The sheer ridiculousness and inhumanity of such a claim should sicken the world community.

6. Israel claims that it is attacking Hamas and not the Palestinian people.

First and foremost, missiles do not differentiate people by their political affiliation; they simply kill everyone in their path. Israel knows this, and so do Palestinians. What Israel also knows, but is not saying publicly, is how much their recent actions will actually strengthen Hamas - whose message of resistance and revenge is being echoed by the angry and grieving.

The targets of the strike, police and not Hamas militants, give us some clue as to Israel's mistaken intention. They are hoping to create anarchy in the Strip by removing the pillar of law and order.

7. Israel claims that Palestinians are the source of violence.

Let us be clear and unequivocal. The occupation of Palestine since the War of 1967 has been and remains the root of violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Violence can be ended with the occupation and the granting of Palestine's national and human rights. Hamas does not control the West Bank and yet we remain occupied, our rights violated and our children killed.

With these myths understood, let us ponder the real reasons behind these airstrikes; what we find may be even more disgusting than the act itself.

The leaders Israel are holding press conferences, dressed in black, with sleeves rolled up.

'It's time to fight', they say, 'but it won't be easy.'

To prove just how hard it is, Livni, Olmert and Barack did not even wear make-up to the press conference, and Barak has ended his presidential campaign to focus on the Gaza campaign. What heroes...what leaders...

We all know the truth: the suspension of the electioneering is exactly that - electioneering.

Like John McCain's suspension of his presidential campaign to return to Washington to 'deal with' the financial crisis, this act is little more than a publicity stunt.

The candidates have to appear 'tough enough to lead', and there is seemingly no better way of doing that than bathing in Palestinian blood.

'Look at me,' Livni says in her black suit and unkempt hair, 'I am a warrior. I am strong enough to pull the trigger. Don't you feel more confident about voting for me, now that you know I am as ruthless as Bibi Netanyahu?'

I do not know which is more disturbing, her and Barack, or the constituency they are trying to please.

In the end, this will in no way improve the security of the average Israeli; in fact it can be expected to get much worse in the coming days as the massacre could presumably provoke a new generation of suicide bombers.

It will not undermine Hamas either, and it will not result in the three fools, Barack, Livni and Olmert, looking 'tough'. Their misguided political venture will likely blow up in their faces as did the brutally similar 2006 invasion of Lebanon.

In closing, there is another reason - beyond the internal politics of Israel - why this attack has been allowed to occur: the complicity and silence of the international community.

Israel cannot and would not act against the will of its economic allies in Europe or its military allies in the US. Israel may be pulling the trigger ending hundreds, perhaps even thousands of lives this week, but it is the apathy of the world and the inhumane tolerance of Palestinian suffering which allows this to occur.

'The evil only exists because the good remain silent'

From Occupied Palestine. . .

-- Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi
[This is a guest post written by Mustafa Barghouthi, Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative. These comments and views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Washington Note or Huffington Post. Barghouti is a former secular candidate for President of Palestine and has been a strong advocate of non-violent responses to Israeli occupation. Barghouti is thought by many to be a leading contender in the next Palestinian presidential election. The Washington Note has also solicited perspectives from various national leaders and incumbent Knesset leaders in Israel.]

Has Israel Revived Hamas?
By Daoud Kuttab
Tuesday, December 30, 2008; A15

JERUSALEM -- In its efforts to stop amateur rockets from nagging the residents of some of its southern cities, Israel appears to have given new life to the fledging Islamic movement in Palestine.

For two years, the Islamic Resistance Movement (known by its Arabic acronym, Hamas) has been losing support internally and externally. This wasn't the case in the days after the party came to power democratically in early 2006; despite being unjustly ostracized by the international community for its anti-Israeli stance, Hamas enjoyed the backing of Palestinians and other Arabs. Having won a decisive parliamentary majority on an anti-corruption platform promising change and reform, Hamas worked hard to govern better than had Fatah, its rival and predecessor.

Things began to sour when Hamas violently seized control of Gaza, but even then, Hamas enjoyed considerable domestic support -- and much goodwill externally. Then the movement turned down every legitimate offer from its nationalist PLO rivals and Egyptian mediators to pursue reconciliation, and support for it began to slip.

Things got worse in November when a carefully planned national unity effort from the Egyptians failed because, at the very last minute, Hamas's leaders refused to show up in Cairo. Failure to accept this roundtable invitation greatly upset the Egyptians, and they and other Arab leaders scolded Hamas publicly. Omar Suleiman, the head of the Egyptian intelligence service who was organizing the meeting, termed Hamas's reasons for rebuffing the invitation "unwarranted excuses." Hamas sought for its leader a seating position equivalent to the Palestinian president's, and it wanted Hamas security prisoners held in the West Bank to be released. Palestinian nationalists insist that Hamas's rejection of unity talks was solely to avoid the PLO's demand for new presidential and parliamentary elections.

A poll carried out afterward by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center showed that most Palestinians blamed Hamas for the failure of the talks. The survey, which was sponsored by the German Friedrich Ebert Foundation, found that 35.3 percent of respondents believed Hamas bore more responsibility for the stalemate. Fatah was blamed by 17.9 percent, and 12.3 percent said both Fatah and Hamas were responsible.

The lack of international support since the 2006 elections, followed by this rebuff to Gaza's only Arab neighbor, Egypt, compounded the deterioration of Hamas's internal support. By November, the survey showed, only 16.6 percent of Palestinians supported Hamas, compared with nearly 40 percent favoring Fatah. The decline in support for Hamas has been steady: A year earlier, the same pollster showed that Hamas's support was at 19.7 percent; in August 2007, it was at 21.6 percent; in March 2007, it was at 25.2 percent; and in September 2006, backing for the Islamists stood at 29.7 percent.

That's why, as the six-month cease-fire with Israel came to an end, Hamas calculated -- it seems correctly -- that it had nothing to gain by continuing the truce; if it had, its credentials as a resistance movement would have been no different from those of Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah. Unable to secure an open border and an end to the Israeli siege, while refusing to share or give up power to Abbas, Hamas could have had no route to renewed public favor.

For different reasons, Hamas and Israel both gave up on the cease-fire, preferring instead to climb over corpses to reach their political goals. One side wants to resuscitate its public support by appearing to be a heroic resister, while the other, on the eve of elections, wants to show toughness to a public unhappy with the nuisance of the Qassam rockets.

The disproportionate and heavy-handed Israeli attacks on Gaza have been a bonanza for Hamas. The movement has renewed its standing in the Arab world, secured international favor further afield and succeeded in scuttling indirect Israeli-Syrian talks and direct Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. It has also greatly embarrassed Israel's strongest Arab neighbors, Egypt and Jordan.

While it is not apparent how this violent confrontation will end, it is abundantly clear that the Islamic Hamas movement has been brought back from near political defeat while moderate Arab leaders have been forced to back away from their support for any reconciliation with Israel.

By choosing the waning days of the Bush administration to attack Gaza, the Israelis knew they would face no opposition from the leader of the so-called war on terrorism. Just as George W. Bush's misadventure in Iraq played into the hands of radicals and terrorists, this Israeli action will produce nothing less than that in Palestine. Let us hope that the Obama administration will see the consequences of what is not only a crime of war but also a move whose results are exactly the opposite of its publicly proclaimed purposes.

Daoud Kuttab is a Palestinian journalist and a former Ferris professor of journalism at Princeton University.


The Gaza Crisis: 2008
By Bennis, Phyllis

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(28 December 2008) -- The death toll in Gaza continues to rise. The carnage is everywhere -- city streets, a mosque, hospitals, police stations, a jail, a university bus stop, a plastics factory, a television station. It seems impossible, unacceptable, to step back to analyze the situation while bodies remain buried under the rubble, while parents continue to search for their missing children, while doctors continue to labor to stitch burned and broken bodies back together without sufficient medicine or equipment. The hospitals are running short even of electricity-the Israeli blockade has denied them fuel to run the generators. It is an ironic twist on the legacy of Israel's involvement in an earlier massacre -- in the Sabra and Shatila camps, in Lebanon back in 1982, it was the Israeli soldiers who lit the flairs, lighting the night sky so their Lebanese allies could continue to kill.

But if we are serious about ending this carnage, this time, we have no choice but to try to analyze, try to figure out what caused this most recent massacre, how to stop it, and then how to continue our work to end the occupation, end Israel's apartheid policies, and change U.S. policy to one of justice and equality for all.


The Israeli airstrikes represent serious violations of international law -- including the Geneva Conventions and a range of international humanitarian law.

The U.S. is complicit in the Israeli violations -- directly and indirectly.

The timing of the air strikes has far more to do with U.S. and Israeli politics than with protecting Israeli civilians.

This serious escalation will push back any chance of serious negotiations between the parties that might have been part of the Obama administration's plans.

There is much work to be done.


Violations of International Law

The Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip violate important tenants of international humanitarian law, including violations of the Geneva Conventions. The violations include both obligations of an Occupying Power to protect an Occupied Population, and the broader requirements of the laws of war that prohibit specific acts. The violations start with collective punishment -- the entire 1.5 million people who live in the Gaza Strip are being punished for the actions of a few militants.

Israel's claim that it is "responding to" or "retaliating for" Palestinian rocket attacks is spurious. The rocket fire as currently used is indeed illegal -- Palestinians, like any people living under a hostile military occupation, have the right to resist, including the use of military force against the occupation. But that right does not include targeting civilians. The rockets used so far are unable to be aimed with any specificity, so they are in fact aimed at the civilians who live in the Israeli cities and towns, and so are illegal. The rocket fire against civilians should be ended -- as many Palestinians believe, because it does not help end the occupation, but also because it is illegal under international law. However, that rocket fire, illegal or not, does not give Israel the right to punish the entire population for those actions. Such vengeance is the very essence of "collective punishment" and is therefore unequivocally prohibited by the Geneva conventions.

Another Israeli violation involves targeting civilians. This violation involves three aspects. First, Israel claims the airstrikes were targeted directly at "Hamas-controlled" security-related institutions. Since the majority Hamas party controls the government in Gaza, virtually all the police departments and other security-related sites were hit. Those police and security agencies are civilian targets -- not military. They are run by the Hamas-led government in Gaza, an institution completely separate from Gaza's military wing that has carried out some (though by no means the majority) of the rocket attacks. Second, some of the attacks directly struck incontestably civilian targets: a plastics factory, a local television broadcasting center. And third, the incredibly crowded conditions in Gaza, one of the most densely populated sites in the world, mean that civilian casualties on a huge scale were an inevitable and predictable result. Such targeting of civilian areas is illegal.

The U.S. is also directly complicit in the violations of the Geneva Convention inherent in Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip. Israel's actions -- keeping Gazans locked in the Strip; closing the border crossings to almost all fuel, food, equipment and other basic humanitarian goods; preventing UN and other international human rights monitors and journalists from entering, and more -- have all been backed and supported by the U.S. and others in the international community. The resulting humanitarian crisis -- reaching catastrophic proportions even before the current air attacks -- is partly the responsibility of the United States.

Still another violation involves the disproportionate nature of the military attack. The airstrikes have killed at least 270 people so far, injured more than 1,000, many of them seriously, and many remain buried under the rubble so the death toll will likely rise. This catastrophic impact was known and inevitable, and far outweighs any claim of self-defense or protection of Israeli civilians. (It should be noted that this escalation has not made Israelis safer; to the contrary, the one Israeli killed by a Palestinian rocket attack on Saturday after the Israeli assault began, was the first such casualty in more than a year.)

Key human rights officials, particular the UN's Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Professor Richard Falk, as well as Father Miguel d'Escoto, President of the General Assembly, have issued powerful statements identifying Israeli violations of international law as well as the UN's obligations to protect the Palestinian population. But so far there has been no operative response from the UN Security Council. The Council statement, issued 28 December, was completely insufficient, essentially equating the culpability of the Occupying Power and of the occupied population for the violence that has so devastated Gaza. And the statement makes no reference to violations of international law inherent in the Israeli assaults, or in the siege of Gaza that has so drastically punished the entire population. There is a clear need for the General Assembly to step in to reclaim the UN's role of protecting the world's people, certainly including the Palestinians, and not
just responding to the demands of the world's powerful.

U.S. Complicity

The United States remains directly complicit in Israeli violations of both U.S. domestic and international law through its continual provision of military aid. The current round of airstrikes have been carried out largely with F-16 bombers and Apache attack helicopters, both provided to Israel through U.S. military aid grants of about $3 billion in U.S. taxpayer money sent to Israel every year. Between 2001 and 2006, Washington transferred to Israel more than $200 million worth of spare parts for its fleet of F-16's. Just last year, the U.S. signed a $1.3 billion contract with the Raytheon corporation to provide Israel with thousands of TOW, Hellfire, and "bunker buster" missiles. In short, Israel's lethal attack today on the Gaza Strip could not have happened without the active military support of the United States.

Israel's attack violated U.S. law -- specifically the Arms Export Control Act, which prohibits U.S. arms from being used for any purpose beyond a very narrowly-defined set of circumstances: use inside a country's borders for self-defense purposes. The Gaza assault did not meet those criteria. Certainly targeting police stations (even Israel did not claim Gazan police forces were responsible for the rockets) and television broadcast centers do not qualify as self-defense. And because the U.S. government has confirmed it was fully aware of Israeli plans for the attack before it occurred, the U.S. remains complicit in the violations. Further, the well-known history of Israeli violations of international law (detailed above) means U.S. government officials were aware of those violations, provided the arms to Israel anyway, and therefore remain complicit in the Israeli crimes.

The U.S. is also indirectly complicit through its protection of Israel in the United Nations. Its actions, including the use and threat of use of the U.S. veto in the Security Council and the reliance on raw power to pressure diplomats and governments to soften their criticism of Israel, all serve to protect Israel and keep it from being held accountable by the international community.

Timing of Israel's Attack on Gaza

The Israeli decision to launch the attacks on Gaza was a political, not security, decision. Just a day or two before the airstrikes, it was Israel that rejected Hamas's diplomatic initiative aimed at extending the six-month-long ceasefire that had frayed but largely stayed together since June, and that expired 26 December. Hamas officials, working through Egyptian mediators, had urged Israel to lift the siege of Gaza as the basis for continuing an extended ceasefire. Israel, including Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni, of the "centrist" (in the Israeli context) Kadima Party, rejected the proposal. Livni, who went to Egypt but refused to seriously consider the Hamas offer, is running in a tight race for prime minister; her top opponent is the further-right Benyamin Netanyahu of the officially hawkish Likud party, who has campaigned against Livni and the Kadima government for their alleged "soft" approach to the Palestinians. With elections looming in February, no candidate can afford to
appear anything but super-militaristic.

Further, it is certain that the Israeli government was eager to move militarily while Bush was still in office. The Washington Post quoted a Bush administration official saying that Israel struck in Gaza "because they want it to be over before the next administration comes in. They can't predict how the next administration will handle it. And this is not the way they want to start with the new administration." The Israeli officials may or may not be right about President Obama's likelihood of responding differently than Bush on this issue -- but it does point to a clear obligation on those of us in this country who voted for Obama with hope, to do all that's necessary to press him to make good on the "change" he promised that gave rise to that hope.

Obama and Future Options

The escalation in Gaza will make it virtually impossible for any serious Israeli-Palestinian negotiations aimed at ending the occupation. It remains uncertain whether sponsorship of an immediate new round of bilateral negotiations was in fact on Barack Obama's initial post-inauguration agenda anyway. But the current crisis means that any negotiations, whether ostensibly Israeli-Palestinian alone or officially involving the U.S.-controlled so-called "Quartet," will be able to go beyond a return to the pre-airstrike crisis period. That earlier political crisis, still far from solved, was characterized by expanding settlements, the apartheid Wall and crippling checkpoints crippling movement, commerce, and ordinary life across the West Bank, and a virtually impenetrable siege of Gaza that even before the current military assault, had created a humanitarian catastrophe.

So What do We Do?

The immediate answer is everything: write letters to Congressmembers and the State Department, demonstrate at the White House and the Israeli Embassy, write letters to the editor and op-eds for every news outlet we can find, call radio talk shows, protest the U.S. representatives at the UN and their protection of Israeli crimes. We need to engage with the Obama transition process and plan now for how we will keep the pressure on to really change U.S. policy in the Middle East. We should all join the global movement of outrage and solidarity with Gaza. There are a host of on-line petitions already -- we should sign them all. The U.S. Campaign to End Israeli Occupation is compiling action calls on our website -- www.endtheoccupation.org. We have to do all of that.

But then. We can't stop with emergency mobilizations. We still have to build our movement for BDS -- boycott, divestment and sanctions, to build a global campaign of non-violent economic pressure to force Israel to comply with international law. We have to challenge U.S. military aid that scaffolds Israel's military aggression, and U.S. political and diplomatic support that prevents the UN and the international community from holding Israel accountable for its violations. We have to do serious education and advocacy work, learning from other movements that have come before about being brave enough to call something what it is: Israeli policies are apartheid policies, and must be challenged on that basis.

We have a lot of work to do.

Phyllis Bennis is a Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam. Her books include Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer in FAQ format which many will find useful for education work in this urgent period. (www.interlinkbooks.com)

Thanks to Josh Ruebner of the U.S. Campaign for some of the background on U.S. military aid.


'The injured were lying there asking God to let them die'
Fikr Shaltoot
The Guardian, Monday 29 December 2008

Being a health worker, I had to check the needs of Shifa hospital and the other hospitals in Gaza. The situation in Shifa is really bad. There were corpses in corridors covered with blankets. The mortuary couldn't cope with the number of bodies. Two bodies were left on stretchers, one wrapped in a blanket. They leave them until families can recognise them.

There were mothers, fathers looking for children, looking for relatives. Everyone was confused and seeking support. Mothers were crying, people were asking about relatives, the medical team was confused.

Some people were just lying there, some were screaming, some were very, very angry. There were a lot of injured arriving, ambulances coming in and out. The injured were coming by private cars and they were being left wherever. You could see blood here and there.

There is talk [the Israeli air strikes] were targeting the police and security forces but in Shifa hospital, I saw many, many civilians, some dead, some injured, some were children, some were women, some were elderly people.

There are people without their legs in very severe pain. The doctors and nurses were trying to give them painkillers and to keep them alive. Patients are lying there knowing they've lost their legs. Some were asking God if they could die. They were in a terrible psychological state.

The doctors and nurses were trying to do their best. They discharged all the patients from the chronic diseases ward and from the oncology ward to make way for the injured. They were using whatever they could.

There's no gauze so they are using cotton, which sticks to the wounds. They can't sterilise clothes for the operating theatre. They're using wrong sized syringes. They're working 24 hours. They're referring cases from one hospital to the next. One hospital was running out of anaesthesia. They're also drawing blood and there's no alcohol. This is a disaster.

Fikr Shaltoot is a programme coordinator for Medical Aid for Palestinians, a British non-governmental organisation that provides medical supplies in Gaza

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
Jewish Peace News archive and blog: http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com
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Monday, December 29, 2008

More information about Gaza and actions you can take

JPN Posting – List of contents

1) Press release from UN Representative
2) ** Emergency appeal from Physicians for Human Rights - Israel
3) ** Action alert from the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and UK petition site
4) Article in Ha'aretz by Tom Segev
5) Emails received from Safa Joudeh, a university student in Gaza city
6) Press releases from Rabbis for Human Rights and Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, USA Inc

The pieces listed above provide more information and analysis about the situation in Gaza, as well as suggestions for actions you can take (items marked with ** above).

The pieces below make the following points:

-- Israel's actions in Gaza rise to the level of war crimes
-- In providing material aid for Israel throughout the siege and attacks, the US is directly complicit with these war crimes
-- In committing these crimes, Israel continues to create a situation that puts its own citizens at risk
-- Rocket attacks on civilians in Israel by Palestinian groups are illegal and morally abhorrent

Physicians for Human Rights (Israel) is trying to raise funds to transfer medical supplies to Gaza. Information on how to contribute is in the second piece below. The third piece has information on how you can take action by contacting the White House, Congress and the media.

Judith Norman

Joel Beinin adds:

Professor Richard Falk, a widely respected authority on international law and the UN's Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Territiries, was recently detained by Israeli authorities at Ben-Gurion airport and prevented from entering the country. Professor Falk obviously poses no security threat to Israel whatsoever. He was prevented from entering Israel as a punishment for clearly stating his opinion that Israel has repeatedly violated international law, as in the press release below.




The Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip represent severe and massive violations of international humanitarian law as defined in the Geneva Conventions, both in regard to the obligations of an Occupying Power and in the requirements of the laws of war.

Those violations include:

Collective punishment – the entire 1.5 million people who live in the crowded Gaza Strip are being punished for the actions of a few militants.

Targeting civilians – the airstrikes were aimed at civilian areas in one of the most crowded stretches of land in the world, certainly the most densely populated area of the Middle East.

Disproportionate military response – the airstrikes have not only destroyed every police and security office of Gaza's elected government, but have killed and injured hundreds of civilians; at least one strike reportedly hit groups of students attempting to find transportation home from the university.

Earlier Israeli actions, specifically the complete sealing off of entry and exit to and from the Gaza Strip, have led to severe shortages of medicine and fuel (as well as food), resulting in the inability of ambulances to respond to the injured, the inability of hospitals to adequately provide medicine or necessary equipment for the injured, and the inability of Gaza's besieged doctors and other medical workers to sufficiently treat the victims.

Certainly the rocket attacks against civilian targets in Israel are unlawful. But that illegality does not give rise to any Israeli right, neither as the Occupying Power nor as a sovereign state, to violate international humanitarian law and commit war crimes or crimes against humanity in its response. I note that Israel's escalating military assaults have not made Israeli civilians safer; to the contrary, the one Israeli killed today after the upsurge of Israeli violence is the first in over a year.

Israel has also ignored recent Hamas' diplomatic initiatives to reestablish the truce or ceasefire since its expiration on 26 December.

The Israeli airstrikes today, and the catastrophic human toll that they caused, challenge those countries that have been and remain complicit, either directly or indirectly, in Israel's violations of international law. That complicity includes those countries knowingly providing the military equipment including warplanes and missiles used in these illegal attacks, as well as those countries who have supported and participated in the siege of Gaza that itself has caused a humanitarian catastrophe.

I remind all member states of the United Nations that the UN continues to be bound to an independent obligation to protect any civilian population facing massive violations of international humanitarian law – regardless of what country may be responsible for those violations. I call on all Member States, as well as officials and every relevant organ of the United Nations system, to move on an emergency basis not only to condemn Israel's serious violations, but to develop new approaches to providing real protection for the Palestinian people.


Physicians for Human Rights-Israel
Gaza Emergency Appeal
December 29, 2008
GazaHospitals Already Filled to Capacity; Medical Supplies on the Verge of Depletion

Since the beginning of attacks in Gaza three days ago, over 300 people have been reported dead, more than 1000 wounded, and many hundreds more are in need of immediate medical attention. With a medical system already on the verge of collapse as a result of the ongoing closure, 1.4 million civilians are in desperate need of urgent medical help from outside the Gaza Strip.

PHR-Israel has the means to transfer this help within days and is seeking to raise 700,000 USD during the next week for purchase and direct transfer of supplies to Gaza hospitals.
Palestinian hospitals in the Gaza Strip have asked us for help in securing the following items:

Basic Sterilization equipment
Medical gases
Endo-tracheal tubes
Portable monitors, ventilators, ultrasounds and x- ray machines
Clothing for medical teams
105 Essential Medications
225 Additional Medical Supplies
93 Laboratory items
Electric Shaving Machine
Hospital beds

As the situation stands, Palestinian doctors are performing surgeries without surgical gloves, local or general anesthetics, gauze, sterilized equipment or sufficient oxygen for patients. All together, there are only 1,500 hospital beds available in Gaza's 13 publicly run hospitals. A fleet of 60 ambulances is now reduced by half. The endless flow of new wounded and the need for beds has led to a suspension of care for dozens of other patients, including cancer, cardiac, and other chronically ill patients, who have all been sent to their homes for the duration of the crisis. Patients are not being permitted entry to Egypt and all referrals out of Gaza via Erez crossing have been suspended.

We are turning to organizations and individuals like you who have demonstrated your respect for the right to health by generously supporting PHR-Israel in recent years.

PHR-Israel accepts donations via check or bank transfer. To send a check by post, make check payable to Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and send to:

Attn: Gila Norich, Director of Development
9 Dror St.
Jaffa Tel Aviv 68135 ISRAEL.

To make a bank transfer, our details are as follows. Please also send a note with your e-mail address informing us of your transfer:
Account Holder: Physicians for Human Rights-Israel
Bank: Hapoalim #12
Branch: Hashalom #662
Address: 106 Levinski Street, Tel Aviv, Israel
Account Number: 25938
IBAN: IL-70-0126-6200-0000-0025-938

US residents may make a tax-exempt donation via the New Israel Fund (NIF). Checks should be made payable to "New Israel Fund". A note with the check should be marked "donor-advised to Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, ID# 5762."

NIF Address in Washington:
New Israel Fund
P.O.Box 91588

NIF Bank details:
1000 Vermont Ave NW
Washington, DC20005
ABA #254070116
Acc# 66796296

UK residents may make a tax-exempt donation online via the British Shalom/Salaam Trust. (http://www.bsst.org.uk/what_you_can_do.html) Checks should be sent, together with your name and address and a completed gift aid form to:
British Shalom Salaam Trust
PO Box 39378
London SE13 5WH

For additional information on the current health crisis gathered by Physicians for Human Rights, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights (Gaza) and the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) on the current crisis please go to: http://www.phr.org.il/phr .

For more information on donations or to inform us of a transfer, please contact Gila Norich, Director of Development: gila@phr.org.il or by phone, +972.3.5133.102

To contact Ran Yaron, Director of PHR-Israel's OccupiedPalestinianTerritory (oPt) Department send mail to: ranyaron@phr.org.il, or call +972.547.577696.


US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation
As of this writing, Israeli Air Force attacks today on the occupied Gaza Strip killed an estimated 200 or more people and injured hundreds more. These Israeli attacks come on top of a brutal siege of the Gaza Strip, which has created a humanitarian catastrophe of dire proportions for Gaza's 1.5 million Palestinian residents by restricting the provision of food, fuel, medicine, electricity, and other necessities of life.

While the scope of civilian casualties in today's attacks is not yet clear, it is unmistakable that Israel carried out these attacks with F16 fighter jets and missiles provided by the taxpayers of this country. From 2001-2006, the United States transferred to Israel more than $200 million worth of spare parts to fly its fleet of F16's. In July 2008, the United States gave Israel 186 million gallons of JP-8 aviation jet fuel. Last year, the United States signed a $1.3 billion contract with Raytheon to transfer to Israel thousands of TOW, Hellfire, and "bunker buster" missiles.

In short, Israel's lethal attack today on the Gaza Strip could not have happened without the active military and political support of the United States. Therefore, we need to take action to protest this attack and demand an immediate cease-fire.


1. Contact the White House to protest the attack and demand an immediate cease-fire. Call 202-456-1111 or send an email to comments@whitehouse.gov.

2. Contact the State Department at 202-647-6575 or send an email at: http://contact-us.state.gov

3. Contact your Representative and Senators in Congress at 202-224-3121 or find contact info for your Members of Congress at http://www.congress.org/congressorg/home

4. Contact your local media by phoning into a talk show or writing a letter to the editor. Find contact info for your local media at http://www.congress.org/congressorg/dbq/media

5. Organize a local protest or vigil and tell us about it at congress@endtheoccupation.org

6. Sign our open letter to President-Elect Obama calling for a new U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine and find out other steps you can take to influence the incoming Administration at http://www.endtheoccupation.org/article.php?id=1771


For UK citizens there are some existing petitions about Gaza that you may like to sign. They can be found at


For UK residents the site www.writetothem.com is a helpful resource for identifying your representatives at all levels of government and you may like to contact them about the Gaza war.



Trying to 'teach Hamas a lesson' is fundamentally wrong
By Tom Segev

Channel 1 television broadcast an interesting mix on Saturday morning: Its correspondents reported from Sderot and Ashkelon, but the pictures on the screen were from the Gaza Strip. Thus the broadcast, albeit unintentionally, sent the right message: A child in Sderot is the same as a child in Gaza, and anyone who harms either is evil.

But the assault on Gaza does not first and foremost demand moral condemnation - it demands a few historical reminders. Both the justification given for it and the chosen targets are a replay of the same basic assumptions that have proven wrong time after time. Yet Israel still pulls them out of its hat again and again, in one war after another.

Israel is striking at the Palestinians to "teach them a lesson." That is a basic assumption that has accompanied the Zionist enterprise since its inception: We are the representatives of progress and enlightenment, sophisticated rationality and morality, while the Arabs are a primitive, violent rabble, ignorant children who must be educated and taught wisdom - via, of course, the carrot-and-stick method, just as the drover does with his donkey.

The bombing of Gaza is also supposed to "liquidate the Hamas regime," in line with another assumption that has accompanied the Zionist movement since its inception: that it is possible to impose a "moderate" leadership on the Palestinians, one that will abandon their national aspirations.

As a corollary, Israel has also always believed that causing suffering to Palestinian civilians would make them rebel against their national leaders. This assumption has proven wrong over and over.

All of Israel's wars have been based on yet another assumption that has been with us from the start: that we are only defending ourselves. "Half a million Israelis are under fire," screamed the banner headline of Sunday's Yedioth Ahronoth - just as if the Gaza Strip had not been subjected to a lengthy siege that destroyed an entire generation's chances of living lives worth living.

It is admittedly impossible to live with daily missile fire, even if virtually no place in the world today enjoys a situation of zero terror. But Hamas is not a terrorist organization holding Gaza residents hostage: It is a religious nationalist movement, and a majority of Gaza residents believe in its path. One can certainly attack it, and with Knesset elections in the offing, this attack might even produce some kind of cease-fire. But there is another historical truth worth recalling in this context: Since the dawn of the Zionist presence in the Land of Israel, no military operation has ever advanced dialogue with the Palestinians.

Most dangerous of all is the cliche that there is no one to talk to. That has never been true. There are even ways to talk with Hamas, and Israel has something to offer the organization. Ending the siege of Gaza and allowing freedom of movement between Gaza and the West Bank could rehabilitate life in the Strip.

At the same time, it is worth dusting off the old plans prepared after the Six-Day War, under which thousands of families were to be relocated from Gaza to the West Bank. Those plans were never implemented because the West Bank was slated to be used for Jewish settlement. And that was the most damaging working assumption of all


From a university student in Gaza

------ Forwarded Message
From: "Safa Joudeh"
Date: Sun, 28 Dec 2008 18:34:42 -0600
Subject: Fwd: Today in Gaza

Dear all. Here's an update on whats happening here from where I am, second night of Israeli air (and sea) raids on Gaza. (below is the first email I sent)

It's 1.30 am but it feels like the sun should be up already. For the past few hours there's been heavy aerial bombardment of Gaza city and the northern Gaza Strip simultaneously. It feels like the longest night of my life. In my area it started with the bombing of workshops (usually located in the ground floor of private/family residential buildings), garages and warehouses in one of the most highly condensed areas in Gaza city "Askoola". About an hour ago they bombed the Islamic university, destroying the laboratory building. As I mentioned in an earlier account, my home is close to the university. We heard the first explosion, the windows shook, the walls shook and my heart felt like it would literally jump out of my mouth. My parents, siblings and cousins who have been staying with us since their home was damaged the first day of the air raids, had been trying to get some sleep. We all rushed to the side of the house that was farthest. Hala, my 11 year old sister
stood motionless and had to be dragged to the other room. I still have marks on my shoulder from when Aya, my 13 year old cousin held on to me during the next 4 explosions, each one as violent and heart stopping as the next. Looking out of the window moments later the night sky had turned to a dirty navy-gray from the smoke .

Israeli warships rocketed the Gazas only port only moments ago, 15 missiles exploded, destroying boats and parts of the ports. These are just initial reports over the radio. We don't know what the extent of the damage is. We do know that the fishing industry that thousands of families depend on either directly or indirectly didn't pose a threat on Israeli security The radio reporter started counting the explosions, I think he lost count after 6. At his moment we heard 3 more blasts. "I'm mostly scared of the whoosh", I told my sister, referring to the sound a missile makes before it hits. Those moments of wondering where its going to fall are agonizing. Once the whooshes and hits were over the radio reporter announced that the fish market (vacant of course) had been bombed.

We just heard that 4 sisters from the family of "Ba'lousha" have been killed in an attack that targeted the mosque my their home in the northern Gaza Strip.

You know what bothers me more than the bangs and the blasts, the smoke, the ambulance sirens and the whooshs? The constant, ominous, maddening droning sound of the Apaches overhead that's been buzzing in my head day and night. It's like I'm hearing things, which I'm not, but I am.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Safa Joudeh
Date: Sat, Dec 27, 2008 at 3:36 PM
Subject: Today in Gaza

To all of you who received my email earlier this is a longer version of my account. To people who live in Gaza please send your own accounts to your friends and contacts.

It was just before noon when I heard the first explosion. I rushed to my window, barely did I get there and look out when I was pushed back by the force and air pressure of another explosion. For a few moments I didn't understand, then I realized that Israeli promises of a wide-scale offensive against the Gaza Strip had materialized. Israeli Foreign Minister, Tzpi Livni's statements following a meeting with Egyptian President Hussni Mubarak the day before yesterday had not been empty threats after all.

What followed seems pretty much surreal at this point. Never had we imagined 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 passed already passed.

6 locations were hit during the air raid on Gaza city. The images are probably not broadcasted in US news channels. There were piles and piles of bodies in the locations that were hit. As you looked at them you could 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 2 largest universities in Gaza) a missile 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. 7 were killed, 4 students and 3 of our neighbors kids, young men who were from the same family (Rayes) and were best friends. As I'm writing this I can hear a funeral procession go by outside, I looked out the window a moment ago
and it was the 3 Rayes boys, They spent all their time together when they were alive, they died together 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.

What did Olmert mean when he stated that WE the people of Gaza weren't the enemy, that it was Hamas and the Islamic Jihad who were being targeted? Was that statement made to infuriate us out of out state of shock, to pacify any feelings of rage and revenge? To mock us?? Were the scores of children on their way home from school and who are now among the dead and the injured Hamas militants? A little further down my street about half an hour after the first strike 3 schoolgirls happened to be passing by one of the locations when a missile struck the Preventative Security Headquarters building. The girls bodies were torn into pieces and covered the street from one side to the other.

In all the locations people are going through the dead terrified of recognizing a family member among them. The streets are strewn with their bodies, their arms, legs, feet, some with shoes and some without. 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.

And even after the dead are identified, doctors are having a hard time gathering the right body parts in order to hand them over to their families. The hospital hallways look like a slaughterhouse. It's truly worse than any horror movie you could ever imagine. The floor is filled with blood, the injured are propped up against the walls or laid down on the floor side by side with the dead. Doctors are working frantically and people with injuries that aren't life threatening are sent home. A relative of mine was injured by a flying piece of glass from her living room window, she had deep cut right down the middle of her face. She was sent home, too many people needed medical attention more urgently. Her husband, a dentist, took her to his clinic and sewed up her face using local anesthesia

200 people dead in today's air raid. That means 200 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,

We can rest easy, Gazans can mourn tonight. Israel is said to have promised not to wage any more air raids for now. People suspect that the next step will be targeted killings, which will inevitably means scores more of innocent bystanders whose fate has already been sealed.

This doesn't even begin to tell the story on any level. Just flashes of thing that happened today that are going through my head




RHR Rabbis-"Can we say the full Hallel on the 8th day of Hanukah in Light of the Events in Gaza?"

The firing on Israeli communities adjacent to Gaza gives the State of Israel the right to defend her citizens, but both the Jewish tradition and international law do not allow the harming of innocent civilians.

Many Israelis will quote from the Talmudic Tractate Sanhedrin, "When somebody is coming to kill you, get up earlier and kill him first." However, few are aware of how the Talmud continues, teaching us only to use the minimum necessary force and drawing a sharp contrast between defending ourselves against those attacking us, and harming an innocent third party. These are also principles in International Humanitarian Law (IHL)

"Not by might and not by power, but by my spirit says the Lord of Hosts." Our Talmudic sages determined that these words from the prophet Zechariah would be read as part of the Haftarah (Scriptural reading from the prophets after the reading of the Torah) for the Sabbath of Hanukah, and edited the story of the war of the Macabees out of the Talmud. They understood that, in the long run, sustainable peace and security are not achieved through acts of war.

RHR calls on the leadership of Israel and Hamas to act according to these standards. RHR calls upon Israel not to harm civilians either through firing on them or through the collective punishment of the ongoing closure severely limiting the amount of food, fuel and other basic goods entering Gaza. RHR calls upon Hamas to cease the intentional harming of civilians through firing on the residents of the Western Negev.

Israel has actualized its right of retaliation and the defense of her citizens in the last 36 hours. Both the State of Israel and Hamas must now take a "time out" to determine whether the cease-fire can be reinstated. Otherwise, they will soon be plunged even deeper into a cycle of bloodletting, with neither side knowing how they will get out of it. We hope that, as we reach the end of Hanukah, the "Festival of Lights," that we will see the fulfillment of the prayer, "May a new light shine upon Zion, and may we all speedily merit its light." (Prayerbook)

There are those who say that the Talmudic sages ruled that we do not recite the full Hallel (Festive psalms recited on holidays.) on the 7th day of Passover because that is the day that the Egyptians drowned in the Reed Sea. RHR asks whether this year it is appropriate to recite the complete Hallel on the 8th day of Hanukah (Monday) when the work of God's hands are dying on both sides.


Subject: Statement on Gaza:Dr. Eyad El-Sarrj President of FFIPP-I

Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, USA Inc
Building a stronger peace and social justice movement here at home
and in Palestine/Israel
Gaza, December 28, 2008
Best way to secure Israel is Justice to Palestine

Israel's air force launched a major bombing campaign in the Gaza Strip today, killing over two hundred people and injuring many more. Typically, Israel justifies this horrific scale of killing as retaliation against the rocket launching from Gaza. The spate of Israeli bombing continued throughout the day and into the night. I was interrupted several times while trying to finish this note, by the devastating sound of bombing.

In the core of the vicious cycle of violence that has engulfed the region for decades and lead to the many wars of the Middle East and beyond, lies the tragedy of the Palestinian uprooting in 1948, the justice denied to their plight and the living under the oppressive Israeli occupation for over forty years.

Instead of acknowledging the real issues of justice, mutual security and peace, the region was drowned into mutual hatred, revenge killing and insecurity.

Israeli policies and strategies rested always on the supremacy of its brutal force. Palestinians, in defiance of the Israeli scheme, were drawn into the resistance and some used homemade missiles and suicide missions.

Brute force and carnage in Gaza on the scale of today is a dangerous omen. Israel must restrain its military might and face up to the consequences of dragging the region into such a serious and intensified path of violence.

Palestinians must stop all forms of violence and unite in the pursuit of peace and justice. We, in the Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace-International, FFIPP-I, call for an immediate halt of the Israeli military attack on Gaza and ending the siege on the deprived strip. The United States of America is the only power that could play a positive role in ending the unending tragedy in the Holy Land. We hope that the new administration of President Obama will make the necessary change; a fresh approach as an honest broker of peace.

Eyad El-Sarraj

Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj is the founder and director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP) and the president of FFIPP-International

Jewish Peace News editors:
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Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
Jewish Peace News archive and blog: http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com
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Sunday, December 28, 2008

The 2008 Gaza War -- Update

[JPN Posting – List of Contents

1. Gush-Shalom report about the demonstration in Tel-Aviv.
2. ICAHD piece.
3. Ravid Barak Ha'aretz 'Disinformation, secrecy and lies: How the Gaza offensive came about'
4. Gideon Levy Ha'aretz 'The Neighborhood bully strikes again'
5. Zvi Barel Ha'aretz 'Delusions of victory in Gaza'

Gush Shalom reports that 1000 people took part in a spontaneous demonstration against the war yesterday outside the defense ministry in Tel Aviv, just at the point when 'war propaganda' supporting the attacks 'pours out of all the media and all the parties, from the extreme Right to Meretz.'

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions gives a lucid analysis of the motives for the war, claiming that it is in essence 'conflict management.' In other words it is about how to stop or at least minimize rocket attacks on Israeli territory without doing anything to change the fundamental injustices to which these attacks are a response, albeit a morally unjustifiable response. The press release helpfully distinguishes between the immediate trigger for the war (the rocket attacks) and its underlying cause.

The remaining three analyses from Ha'aretz fill this distinction out. All three point to the importance of the Israeli military attack on a tunnel between Gaza and Egypt in early November, which killed at least 6 people. As Barel says, the IDF at that point 'unilaterally violated' the ceasefire, and it was this action that led to the increase in rocket attacks on Israel. In addition, Barak shows that Operation 'Cast Lead' had been planned for up to six months and cannot be adequately explained as a response to Palestinian military strikes, despite the morally abhorrent nature of these strikes. This trigger cannot be the underlying cause of the war. Thus the official justification for the war, that it is a response to the Palestinian attacks, is not convincing.

Levy points out that even if the war had been caused by Palestinian attacks, it would still lack justification because of the staggering disproportion between those attacks (the tragedy of one Israeli killed) and the atrocious level of killing and destruction unleashed by the Israeli military (casualties will probably be more than 300 by the time you read this). Further, military forces are now openly attacking civilian and cultural institutions symbolic of Islamic life, bombing for instance the Islamic University in Gaza (see http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/12/29/2456004.htm?section=justin).

But then what are the underlying causes? Neither Barel nor Levy can give a convincing answer since their fundamental outlook is that the war is 'unnecessary' – its aims could have been achieved by other means. As in many similar cases, this analysis rests on the plausibility of the assumption that Israeli planners really have these ends in mind, but are not smart enough to recognize that the war will not achieve them. It is also unclear whether ICAHD gives a convincing answer to this question, for rocket attacks could almost certainly have been stopped or at least minimized by diplomatic means, as Barel argues. Rather the Israeli government is pursuing a policy in which Israeli military actions, like the killings in the destruction of the tunnel in November, must be tolerated silently by Palestinians, while Palestinian resistance will be punished in monstrous disproportion. Alistair Welchman]

Gush Shalom report on demonstration in Tel Aviv

Saturday 27/12/08 "The War Belongs to Olmert – The Victims Belong to Us!"


Here they were again - the "first nighters, those who are ready to get out and demonstrate against a new war in its first hours, when war propaganda pours out of all the media and all the parties, from the extreme Right to Meretz, support the war.

No organization called for the demonstration – but more than a thousand men and women gathered spontaneously in order to protest in front of the Ministry of Defense in Tel-Aviv, only a few hours after the murderous Air Force attack on the Gaza strip started.

They were members of the divers peace organizations, from "Gush shalom" and the "Women's Coalition for Peace" to the "Anarchists Against the Wall" and Hadash. The police, apparently afraid that the protesters would storm the building in which the Minister and the Army High Command were conducting the war, took special precautions: the elite police commando unit was backed by mounted police. Reserves were hidden in side streets. At the beginning of the demonstration, some of the police confronted the crowd with loaded and pointed guns.

"Barak, Barak, Minister of Defense – How many children have you murdered today?" shouted the protesters, whose slogans were backed up by drums. They were especially incensed by the Meretz Party statement the day before, which justified an attack on Gaza, and shouted: "Meretz, Meretz Party – Again for a War?" In the conversations among the protesters, the latest article of the writer Amos Oz, who has been awarded several peace and literature prizes, was mentioned. The article, which justified the military attack, was published at the head of the first page of the mass-circulation daily Yediot Aharonot.

The protesters marched from the Cinemateque Square to the ministry.

A day before the war, Gush Shalom activists took part in a smaller demonstration which took place in the heart of Tel-Aviv, in order to warn against the attack. This action was not reported in any of the Israeli media.



A Press Release from The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)
December 27, 2008


Let's be crystal clear. Israel's massive attacks on Gaza today have one overarching goal: conflict management. How to end rocket attacks on Israel from a besieged and starving Gaza without ending the impetus for those attacks, 41 years of increasingly oppressive Israeli Occupation without a hint that a sovereign and viable Palestinian state will ever emerge.

Indeed, the Occupation, in which Israel controls Gaza under a violent siege which violates fundamental human rights and international law, is not even mentioned in Israel's PR campaign. Speaking to the international community, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni insists that no country would tolerate its citizens being attacked, a seemingly reasonable statement were it not for Israeli sanctions on Gaza supported by the US and Europe - sanctions that preceded the rocket fire on Israel - or the fact of Israeli Occupation in general. Solely focusing on the rocket attacks conceals the political policy that led to them: "The Hamas government in Gaza must be toppled," Livni has said repeatedly. "The means to do this must be military, economic and diplomatic."

The responsibility for the suffering both in Israel and Gaza rests squarely with successive Israeli governments, Labor, Likud and Kadima alike. Had there been a genuine political process (remember, the closure of Gaza began in 1989), Israelis and Palestinians could have been living together in peace and prosperity already for 20 years. After all, already in 1988 the PLO accepted the two-state solution in which a Palestinian state would arise on only 22% of historic Palestine, alongside the state of Israel on the other 78%. A truly generous offer.

In Israel, however, the effort is to hide its preference for control over peace. Framing its attacks as a response to rockets from Gaza, exploiting an immediate trigger to effectively conceal deeper political intentions and policies, does that. It also conceals Israeli violations of the cease-fire. The fact that the rocket attacks could have been avoided altogether through a genuine political process means that the people of southern Israel are being held hostage by their government as well. Their suffering, and the suffering of the people of Gaza and the rest of the Occupied Territories, must be placed squarely at the feet of the Israeli government.

Israel cannot expect security for its people and political normalcy as long as it occupies Palestinian lands and continues its attempt to impose its permanent rule over the Palestinians by military force. We call on the Israeli government to end its aggression immediately and enter into genuine political negotiations with a united Palestinian leadership. We call on the international community to end its sanctions on Gaza immediately in accordance with international law, initiate an effective political process to end the Israeli Occupation and bring about a just peace - which reflects the will of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions is based in Jerusalem and has chapters in the United Kingdom and the United States.


Disinformation, secrecy and lies: How the Gaza offensive came about
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent, Dec. 28th 2008


Long-term preparation, careful gathering of information, secret discussions, operational deception and the misleading of the public - all these stood behind the Israel Defense Forces "Cast Lead" operation against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, which began Saturday morning.

The disinformation effort, according to defense officials, took Hamas by surprise and served to significantly increase the number of its casualties in the strike.

Sources in the defense establishment said Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for the operation over six months ago, even as Israel was beginning to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with Hamas. According to the sources, Barak maintained that although the lull would allow Hamas to prepare for a showdown with Israel, the Israeli army needed time to prepare, as well.

Barak gave orders to carry out a comprehensive intelligence-gathering drive which sought to map out Hamas' security infrastructure, along with that of other militant organizations operating in the Strip.

This intelligence-gathering effort brought back information about permanent bases, weapon silos, training camps, the homes of senior officials and coordinates for other facilities.

The plan of action that was implemented in Operation Cast Lead remained only a blueprint until a month ago, when tensions soared after the IDF carried out an incursion into Gaza during the ceasefire to take out a tunnel which the army said was intended to facilitate an attack by Palestinian militants on IDF troops.

On November 19, following dozens of Qassam rockets and mortar rounds which exploded on Israeli soil, the plan was brought for Barak's final approval. Last Thursday, on December 18, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the defense minister met at IDF headquarters in central Tel Aviv to approve the operation.

However, they decided to put the mission on hold to see whether Hamas would hold its fire after the expiration of the ceasefire. They therefore put off bringing the plan for the cabinet's approval, but they did inform Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni of the developments.

That night, in speaking to the media, sources in the Prime Minister's Bureau said that "if the shooting from Gaza continues, the showdown with Hamas would be inevitable." On the weekend, several ministers in Olmert's cabinet inveighed against him and against Barak for not retaliating for Hamas' Qassam launches.

"This chatter would have made Entebe or the Six Day War impossible," Barak said in responding to the accusations. The cabinet was eventually convened on Wednesday, but the Prime Minister's Bureau misinformed the media in stating the discussion would revolve around global jihad. The ministers learned only that morning that the discussion would actually pertain to the operation in Gaza.

In its summary announcement for the discussion, the Prime Minister's Bureau devoted one line to the situation in Gaza, compared to one whole page that concerned the outlawing of 35 Islamic organizations.

What actually went on at the cabinet meeting was a five-hour discussion about the operation in which ministers were briefed about the various blueprints and plans of action. "It was a very detailed review," one minister said.

The minister added: "Everyone fully understood what sort of period we were heading into and what sort of scenarios this could lead to. No one could say that he or she did not know what they were voting on." The minister also said that the discussion showed that the lessons of the Winograd Committee about the performance of decision-makers during the 2006 Second Lebanon War were "fully internalized."

At the end of the discussion, the ministers unanimously voted in favor of the strike, leaving it for the prime minister, the defense minister and the foreign minister to work out the exact time.

While Barak was working out the final details with the officers responsible for the operation, Livni went to Cairo to inform Egypt's president, Hosni Mubarak, that Israel had decided to strike at Hamas.

In parallel, Israel continued to send out disinformation in announcing it would open the crossings to the Gaza Strip and that Olmert would decide whether to launch the strike following three more deliberations on Sunday - one day after the actual order to launch the operation was issued.

"Hamas evacuated all its headquarter personnel after the cabinet meeting on Wednesday," one defense official said, "but the organization sent its people back in when they heard that everything was put on hold until Sunday."

The final decision was made on Friday morning, when Barak met with Chief of Staff General Gabi Ashkenazi, the head of the Shin Bet Security Service Yuval Diskin and the head of the Military Intelligence Directorate, Amos Yadlin. Barak sat down with Olmert and Livni several hours later for a final meeting, in which the trio gave the air force its orders.

On Friday night and on Saturday morning, opposition leaders and prominent political figures were informed about the impending strike, including Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, Yisrael Beuiteinu's Avigdor Liebermen, Haim Oron from Meretz and President Shimon Peres, along with Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik.


The neighborhood bully strikes again
By Gideon Levy , Dec. 28th 2008


Israel embarked yesterday on yet another unnecessary, ill-fated war. On July 16, 2006, four days after the start of the Second Lebanon War, I wrote: "Every neighborhood has one, a loud-mouthed bully who shouldn't be provoked into anger... Not that the bully's not right - someone did harm him. But the reaction, what a reaction!"

Two and a half years later, these words repeat themselves, to our horror, with chilling precision. Within the span of a few hours on a Saturday afternoon, the IDF sowed death and destruction on a scale that the Qassam rockets never approached in all their years, and Operation "Cast Lead" is only in its infancy.

Once again, Israel's violent responses, even if there is justification for them, exceed all proportion and cross every red line of humaneness, morality, international law and wisdom.

What began yesterday in Gaza is a war crime and the foolishness of a country. History's bitter irony: A government that went to a futile war two months after its establishment - today nearly everyone acknowledges as much - embarks on another doomed war two months before the end of its term.

In the interim, the loftiness of peace was on the tip of the tongue of Ehud Olmert, a man who uttered some of the most courageous words ever said by a prime minister. The loftiness of peace on the tip of his tongue, and two fruitless wars in his sheath. Joining him is his defense minister, Ehud Barak, the leader of the so-called left-wing party, who plays the role of senior accomplice to the crime.

Israel did not exhaust the diplomatic processes before embarking yesterday on another dreadful campaign of killing and ruin. The Qassams that rained down on the communities near Gaza turned intolerable, even though they did not sow death. But the response to them needs to be fundamentally different: diplomatic efforts to restore the cease-fire - the same one that was initially breached, one should remember, by Israel when it unnecessarily bombed a tunnel - and then, if those efforts fail, a measured, gradual military response.

But no. It's all or nothing. The IDF launched a war yesterday whose end, as usual, is hoping someone watches over us.

Blood will now flow like water. Besieged and impoverished Gaza, the city of refugees, will pay the main price. But blood will also be unnecessarily spilled on our side. In its foolishness, Hamas brought this on itself and on its people, but this does not excuse Israel's overreaction.

The history of the Middle East is repeating itself with despairing precision. Just the frequency is increasing. If we enjoyed nine years of quiet between the Yom Kippur War and the First Lebanon War, now we launch wars every two years. As such, Israel proves that there is no connection between its public relations talking points that speak of peace, and its belligerent conduct.

Israel also proves that it has not internalized the lessons of the previous war. Once again, this war was preceded by a frighteningly uniform public dialogue in which only one voice was heard - that which called for striking, destroying, starving and killing, that which incited and prodded for the commission of war crimes.

Once again the commentators sat in television studios yesterday and hailed the combat jets that bombed police stations, where officers responsible for maintaining order on the streets work. Once again, they urged against letting up and in favor of continuing the assault. Once again, the journalists described the pictures of the damaged house in Netivot as "a difficult scene." Once again, we had the nerve to complain about how the world was transmitting images from Gaza. And once again we need to wait a few more days until an alternative voice finally rises from the darkness, the voice of wisdom and morality.

In another week or two, those same pundits who called for blows and more blows will compete among themselves in leveling criticism at this war. And once again this will be gravely late.

The pictures that flooded television screens around the world yesterday showed a parade of corpses and wounded being loaded into and unloaded from the trunks of private cars that transported them to the only hospital in Gaza worthy of being called a hospital. Perhaps we once again need to remember that we are dealing with a wretched, battered strip of land, most of whose population consists of the children of refugees who have endured inhumane tribulations.

For two and a half years, they have been caged and ostracized by the whole world. The line of thinking that states that through war we will gain new allies in the Strip; that abusing the population and killing its sons will sear this into their consciousness; and that a military operation would suffice in toppling an entrenched regime and thus replace it with another one friendlier to us is no more than lunacy.

Hezbollah was not weakened as a result of the Second Lebanon War; to the contrary. Hamas will not be weakened due to the Gaza war; to the contrary. In a short time, after the parade of corpses and wounded ends, we will arrive at a fresh cease-fire, as occurred after Lebanon, exactly like the one that could have been forged without this superfluous war.

In the meantime, let us now let the IDF win, as they say. A hero against the weak, it bombed dozens of targets from the air yesterday, and the pictures of blood and fire are designed to show Israelis, Arabs and the entire world that the neighborhood bully's strength has yet to wane. When the bully is on a rampage, nobody can stop him.


Delusions of victory in Gaza
By Zvi Barel


As of yesterday, politicians and the public at large have been enthralled by a new prospect: that of a wide-scale military operation in the Gaza Strip. Such a prospect answers all their heart's secret wishes: Avenging the rocket fire by Gazan militants, reclaiming Israel's prestige, delivering a fatal blow to Hamas, providing payback for Israel's 2005 pullout from Gaza, sending a strong message to Iran, an implicit one to Hezbollah, and also showing the government's concern for its citizens and scoring some points with the electorate ahead of the elections.

The public's imaginations are let loose as they chant a battle-cry. Fighter planes have already bombed dozens of targets in the heart of Gaza and tomorrow thousands of troops may storm its alleyways. On the third day the Israel Defense Forces might eliminate Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh, Mushir al-Masri and Mahmoud al-Zahar. It will seize the Hamas government's buildings and an army spokesman will display captured arm caches containing sophisticated missiles and thousands of guns to the press.

At the same time commando units will free captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit and return him to his parents alive and well. Then the slower more difficult operation will begin involving house-to-house searches and arrests of suspects. The press will lose its interest and calm will return to Sderot. Elections will be held on schedule and party leaders Tzipi Livni, Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu will fight over credit for the successful campaign in Gaza.

This is an imaginary scenario because we're not being told the real one. Yet. It will only be revealed when a investigatory committee is commissioned to determine what really happened in Gaza.

How many soldiers are expected to be killed in the first wave? How many months is the IDF expected to spend in Gaza, sweeping its houses and tunnels? How many Palestinian civilians will be killed? Will Gilad Shalit survive in such a scenario? Will Hezbollah remain passive during a Gaza offensive? How will the residents of the West Bank, Jordan and Egypt react? What about the new U.S. president? And Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas? Not that he really matters.

According to the government, Israel has full legitimacy to take action against those who threaten its citizens. That is the reason the state was created and no other country would tolerate such attacks on its towns. It's a nice slogan, identical to that of Hamas: Why should Gazan citizens tolerate such a long and severe siege for so long? Can its leadership tolerate a succession of targeted killing against its leaders? And what of the killing of innocent civilians in air strikes? Hamas agreed to a cease-fire to end the violent dialogue.

It should be remembered that Israel chanted the same slogans when the Second Lebanon War began, from which it came back badly bruised. The optimistic scenario did not materialize then and it is hard to believe it will now in Gaza. The legitimacy of the Lebanon war triumphed just as the war was lost.

Unlike the Lebanon war, whose chief priority was to bring back the abducted IDF soldiers which encompassed the destruction of Hezbollah's military "infrastructure," the Gaza operation's motivation is different: Halting rocket-firing at the Negev and destroying Hamas' rule. A new order will be set up in the occupied territories and the PA, and Abbas will be brought back to Gaza under the Israeli military's aegis. Just before we get lost in this dream scenario let us examine reality.

Six months ago Israel asked and received a cease-fire from Hamas. It unilaterally violated it when it blew up a tunnel, while still asking Egypt to get the Islamic group to hold its fire. Are conditions enabling the return of a ceasefire no longer available? Hamas has clear conditions for its extension: The opening of the border crossings for goods and cessation of IDF attacks in Gaza, as outlined in the original agreement. Later, Hamas wants the cease-fire to be extended to the West Bank. Israel, for its part, is justifiably demanding a real calm in Gaza; that no Qassam or mortar shell be fired by either Hamas, Islamic Jihad or any other group.

Essentially, Israel is telling Hamas it is willing to recognize its control of Gaza on the condition that it assumes responsibility for the security of the territory, like Hezbollah controls southern Lebanon. It is likely that this will be the outcome of a wide-scale operation in the Gaza Strip if Israel decides it does not want to rule Gaza directly. Why, then, not forgo the war and agree to these conditions now?

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
Jewish Peace News archive and blog: http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com
Jewish Peace News sends its news clippings only to subscribers. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or manage your subscription, go to http://www.jewishpeacenews.net

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Attacks on Gaza - contact your representatives, etc.

Here is a small, practical, easy thing to do.
Racheli Gai.

Act now to end the strikes on Gaza!

The civilians in Gaza need your help now!

Washington, DC | December 27, 2008 | www.adc.org | The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) calls on the United States and the international community to take immediate action to pressure Israel to end its attacks and stop the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Reports indicate that Israeli air strikes today alone have killed 205 People in Gaza and have left over 400 more hurt. These strikes come after several weeks of a tight blockade which left many of Gaza's 1.5-million inhabitants without sufficient food, water, fuel or medicine.

Let your elected representatives know that this course of action taken by the State of Israel is furthering a humanitarian disaster and an immediate suspension of hostilities on all sides is necessary to reinstate the ceasefire. Further, the collective punishments of the population of Gaza will not likely lead to security for Israelis. According to numerous surveys, similar attacks in the past have only served to garner more support to the extremist elements of Hamas and renewed rocket attacks on Israel.

Contact Your Elected Official Today and Add Your Voice to the Growing Number of Americans Calling for the Immediate Lifting of the Blockade and Siege of Gaza. Click here to find your representatives and contact them now about this ongoing crisis!

Also contact President-Elect Obama and ask him to issue a statement calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities on http://change.gov/page/content/contact

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
Jewish Peace News archive and blog: http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com
Jewish Peace News sends its news clippings only to subscribers. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or manage your subscription, go to http://www.jewishpeacenews.net

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.

If Gaza falls . . .

Sara Roy
London Review of Books
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.


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.


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


"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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