Monday, April 27, 2009

Israel's Raising the Bar?

26 Apr. 2009
Middle East Peace Talks; Israel's Raising the Bar?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Israel's righteous fury and its victims in Gaza

Ilan Pappe The Electronic Intifada

My visit back home to the Galilee coincided with the genocidal Israeli attack on Gaza. The state, through its media and with the help of its academia, broadcasted one unanimous voice -- even louder than the one heard during the criminal attack against Lebanon in the summer of 2006. Israel is engulfed once more with righteous fury that translates into destructive policies in the Gaza Strip. This appalling self-justification for the inhumanity and impunity is not just annoying, it is a subject worth dwelling on, if one wants to understand the international immunity for the massacre that rages on in Gaza.

It is based first and foremost on sheer lies transmitted with a newspeak reminiscent of darker days in 1930s Europe. Every half an hour a news bulletin on the radio and television describes the victims of Gaza as terrorists and Israel's massive killings of them as an act of self-defense. Israel presents itself to its own people as the righteous victim that defends itself against a great evil. The academic world is recruited to explain how demonic and monstrous is the Palestinian struggle, if it is led by Hamas. These are the same scholars who demonized the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in an earlier era and delegitimized his Fatah movement during the second Palestinian intifada.

But the lies and distorted representations are not the worst part of it. It is the direct attack on the last vestiges of humanity and dignity of the Palestinian people that is most enraging. The Palestinians in Israel have shown their solidarity with the people of Gaza and are now branded as a fifth column in the Jewish state; their right to remain in their homeland cast as doubtful given their lack of support for the Israeli aggression. Those among them who agree -- wrongly, in my opinion -- to appear in the local media are interrogated, and not interviewed, as if they were inmates in the Shin Bet's prison. Their appearance is prefaced and followed by humiliating racist remarks and they are met with accusations of being a fifth column, an irrational and fanatical people. And yet this is not the basest practice. There are a few Palestinian children from the occupied territories treated for cancer in Israeli hospitals. God knows what price their families have paid for them to be admitted there. The Israel Radio daily goes to the hospital to demand the poor parents tell the Israeli audience how right Israel is in its attack and how evil is Hamas in its defense.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Iraqi refugees live life of desperation

Iraqi refugees live life of desperation

By Diane Sommer • April 12, 2009

A dark brown scarf is wrapped around Baneen's head and neck to hide the scar on her throat. But there is nothing that can mask the torment and pain imprinted on her dark eyes, eyes that have witnessed atrocities most people cannot comprehend.

I traveled to Damascus, Syria in November 2008 with activist documentary filmmaker Andrew Courtney to assist in finishing a film project he started in June 2008 concerning the estimated one to 1.4 million Iraqi refugees living in Damascus. We revisited several Iraqi refugee families he had documented to find out if anything had changed with their living conditions or resettlement status. I was most touched by the story of 12-year-old Baneen, her parents and her six siblings.

Baneen's family has been traumatized by many encounters of extreme violence inflicted by the militia in Iraq. Her mother Nahida is Sunni; her father Abdul is Shia. Before the U.S. occupation, they lived comfortably in a middle-class neighborhood in Baghdad, Iraq's capital, where Sunni, Shia and Christians lived peacefully. Nahida was a member of the Ba'ath party, of which Saddam Hussein was a leading member. In December 2003, after the U.S. invasion, Saddam was captured by U.S. forces, leaving Iraq without a leader. Groups that had been repressed under his thumb came out in droves to assert their revenge.
Horrific experience

In 2006 masked people with guns opened fire on Nahida's home and kidnapped her for 10 days, saying she was a Saddam element and a criminal. Gunmen shot out the lock on the front door. When her oldest son tried to stop them, they beheaded him and threw his head onto his younger brother's lap.

Ten-year-old Baneen was attending primary school in Baghdad at the time. One day the militia invaded her school and forced the school director to hand 12 children over to them. Baneen was one of the children. They were forced onto a bus, where all were beheaded - except for Baneen. She watched in horror as one of the men began to cut her neck. But someone had informed U.S. soldiers, who then followed the vehicle and Baneen was quickly thrown out. She was taken to a nearby U.S. military base for treatment.

In an ultimate act of violence, Baneen's family's house was raided and blown up - everything was destroyed. With financial help from friends, the family fled to Syria on a bus and have been living in a tiny apartment in Damascus for the past three years.

Refugees are not allowed to work, yet they must still find a way to pay for food and rent. This leads to a plethora of problems, including lack of education for children, prostitution, malnutrition and homelessness.

Hope endures

The day I met Baneen, she wore a T-shirt with a message written in English: "Happy World." Although dreadful memories and fearful images must flood her mind daily, Baneen said she will never give up hope for a peaceful world. Some day she just might become a powerful leader in the peace movement. I made a promise to Baneen and all of the refugees I met, to share their personal stories of despair and courage with Americans.

Millions of Iraqis have been targeted because of their religion, profession, ethnicity, or simply because they worked with Americans in some capacity. Mainstream media in the U.S. do not give due coverage to the victims of war crimes. It would inundate the news and arouse the public. The campaign of deceit that was designed to sell the Iraq war was the first of a series of war crimes and crimes against humanity by George W. Bush and his administration. Now it is up to us, the people, to prosecute the George W. Bush/ Dick Cheney administration in order to restore justice. There is no statute of limitations for war crimes.

Diane Sommer lives in LaGrangeville and is a writer, artist, social activist and the mother of two children.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Thank God, It Was Only Rumors


Military Advocate General Brig. Gen. Avichai Mendelblit has instructed the Military Police Investigation unit to close the inquiry into Israeli soldiers` accounts of serious violations of the army`s rules of engagement during the Gaza Massacre or as the IDF so winningly calls it: “Operation Cast Lead”. It turns out the General discovered all the charges `were based on hearsay and not first-hand experience.` Just a bunch of rumors.

Thank God for that. Those shells were just rumors, the ones that hit the U.N. warehouse and the al-Quds Hospital. It wasn’t white phosphorus. The jellyfish-like white tentacles that are a signature for a white phosphorus burst were probably a Palestinian fireworks display. The Abu Halima family was wrong. There was no shell that exploded in their house killing four children. Human Right Watch made a mistake. It must have been a sandstorm or a jinn.

Stories that Israeli soldiers wrecked and defiled Palestinian homes were obviously urban legends. After claiming to visit one home near Jabalya camp Israeli newspaper columnist Amira Hass wrote,

“There are houses where excrement was smeared on the walls, or where dry piles of it were found in corners. In many cases, the smells indicated that soldiers had urinated on piles of clothing or inside a washing machine. In all the houses the toilets were overflowing and clogged, and there was filth all around. When the Abu Eidas returned to house No. 5 in Jabalya, they discovered pots of urine and excrement in the refrigerator.”

Where did she come up with this tall tale? The courageous Israelis who commented on her article nailed her good, “What Propaganda”, said Gershon Reed” , “Yes, Amira War is Hell”, said Baruch Gold. “More Hamas Propaganda”, said “Rambo”.

In an effort to clear up confusion Israeli army chief Gabi Ashkenazi announced, `I can say that the IDF is the most moral army in the world.` Well there you have it. It comes from the Chief of Staff, himself. The International Red Cross complained that the Israeli army was firing on ambulances. No doubt the charge is a lie. An Israeli handwritten order on a piece of paper that stated: “Rules of Engagement: Open fire also upon rescue’, was obviously just a joke. Have humanitarian organizations no sense of humor?

Amos Harel, the Haaretz military affairs reporter, tells about the testimony given to Danny Zamir who interviewed soldiers who had graduated from his pre-military preparatory program at Oranim Academic College and who had fought in Gaza. Zamir claimed that soldiers told him accounts of soldiers killing a woman and two of her children, shooting and killing an elderly Palestinian woman, and destroying property at will. Supposedly a soldier told Zamir, `That what`s great in Gaza, you could say - you see someone walking down a track, not necessarily armed, and you can simply shoot them. In our case, it was an elderly woman.” Obviously Harel or Zamir made it all up.

In another article Harel brings up testimonies about the army’s use of the so-called `neighbor procedure`. What’s wrong with asking a Palestinian to invite his neighbors to come out for a polite chat with the Israeli army? Harel says Israeli soldiers force Palestinians to do this. Nonsense. Hearsay. Baseless slander. Israelis don’t take human shields. By definition that’s only something Arabs do.

Another Haaetz columnist Gideon Levy wrote, “An army whose armored corps has yet to encounter an enemy tank and whose pilots have yet to face an enemy combat jet in 36 years has been trained to think that the only function of a tank is to crush civilian cars and that a pilot`s job is to bomb residential neighborhoods.” What does Levy know? An old woman could be a suicide bomber. A six year old could be a suicide bomber. So the IDF destroyed 20 ambulances. Ambulances could be carrying terrorists. As a U.S. bumper sticker said in Vietnam days, “Kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out.”

Bleeding heart Amnesty International bellyached about the use of flechettes in Gaza. “Flechettes are 4cm long metal darts that are sharply pointed at the front, with four fins at the rear. Between 5,000 and 8,000 are packed into 120mm shells which are generally fired from tanks..” They are “ anti-personnel weapon designed to penetrate dense vegetation”. Well, doesn’t Israel have to fight the terrorists who hide in Gaza’s vast jungles? Amnesty claims Wafa` Nabil Abu Jarad, a 21-year-old pregnant mother of two, was one of those killed by flechettes in Gaza. Where does it come up with this science fiction?

Since the IDF is a most moral army the photos of hateful graffitti soldiers allegedly wrote on houses in Gaza were necessarily faked. Journalist Amira Hass says there were sentences like “We came to annihilate you; Death to the Arabs; Kahane was right; No tolerance, we came to liquidate.” She writes about scribblings cursing the prophet Muhammad. Clearly bogus. So what if the graffiti “appears alongside the names of army units and individual soldiers.” Hasn’t she heard of Photoshop?

And where did the Israeli journalist Uri Blau come up with this dubious report? “Dead babies, mothers weeping on their children`s graves, a gun aimed at a child and bombed-out mosques - these are a few examples of the images Israel Defense Forces soldiers design these days to print on shirts they order to mark the end of training, or of field duty.” He claims “A sharpshooter`s T-shirt from the Givati Brigade`s Shaked battalion shows a pregnant Palestinian woman with a bull`s-eye superimposed on her belly, with the slogan, in English, 1 shot, 2 kills.’ He even has a photo. Still, he must have made a mistake. The most moral army in the world doesn’t shoot pregnant women. It wouldn’t brag about its cruelty on casual wear. Givati Brigade T-shirts no doubt feature purple bougainvillea flowers emblazoned with the slogan “Purity in Arms”.

Stanley Heller is host of “The Struggle” TV news magazine Contact him at