USC Students for Justice in Palestine

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How Israel Used Its Own Civilians as Human Shields While Assaulting Gaza

Posted by uscsjp on August 14, 2014

Throughout the ongoing assault on the Gaza Strip, perhaps no phrase has featured as prominently or persistently in the lexicon of Israeli propaganda as “human shields.” Repeated in stentorian fashion by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a heavily regimented army of 10,000 public relations flacks, the phrase has been ruthlessly deployed [3] to shield Israel from responsibility for the bloodbath it has caused in Gaza. Israel has killed 1,800 civilians in a matter of weeks, including some 430 children, but it was Hamas that forced them to do it.

Like so many Zionist accusations against Palestinian society (“They only understand force,” “They teach their children to hate,” “They never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”) the human shields slander is a projection. Israel is the most militarized society on earth, with soldiers and military installations honeycombed throughout its civil society. With full military conscription for all men and women and reserve duty required for all Jews until they reach their 40s, Jewish Israelis alternate constantly between the role of civilian and soldier, blurring the line between the two.

Within one of Tel Aviv’s most densely populated neighborhoods sits Ha’Kirya, the army’s headquarters, a gigantic complex of monolithic buildings that house the offices where attacks on Gaza are planned. The uniformed officers and soldiers who work inside take lunch in the cafes and shop in the malls surrounding their offices, embedding themselves among the civilian population. A military base is nestled [4] in the middle of the campus of Haifa University while Hebrew and Tel Aviv Universities offer military officers free tuition, encouraging their enrollment and allowing them to carry weapons on campus. It is hard to find a henhouse, flophouse, or fieldhouse anywhere in Israel without some kind of military presence.

In an editorial [5] for the Israeli daily, Yedioth Aharonot, veteran Israeli military advisor Giora Eiland argued in favor of collectively punishing Gaza’s civilian population. “In order to guarantee our interests versus the other side’s demands, we must avoid the artificial, wrong and dangerous distinction between the Hamas people, who are ‘the bad guys,’ and Gaza’s residents, which are allegedly ‘the good guys.’”

Naturally, Eiland failed to consider the terrible implications of eliminating the distinction between civilians and the armed factions that move among them: If his logic were inverted to apply to Israeli society, where civilians are soldiers and soldiers are civilians, almost every Jewish Israeli citizen could be considered a legitimate target.

Most vulnerable among the Jewish Israeli public are residents of the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip. Many of these working class development towns and kibbutzim were planted during the 1950s in place of the Palestinians who had just been forcibly expelled. In al-Majdal Asqalan, now known as Ashkelon, Jewish immigrants from the Middle East were literally trucked in to replace the Palestinians who had been held within a barbed wire enclosure before being outcasted to Gaza. Today, these largely neglected communities form a human wall against the demographic threat tucked behind a high-tech cordon sanitaire just to their south.

Not only do Israel’s southern communities exist under the threat of rocket and mortar attacks from those they displaced, they are routinely used as shelters and temporary bases by the Israeli army.

Renan Raz, a 26-year-old waiter and anti-occupation activist now living in Tel Aviv, remembers the anguish he experienced when the army arrived in Dorot, the southern kibbutz where he was born and raised. It was the height of Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli assault that left over 1400 Palestinian Gazans dead, mostly civilians, between December 2008 and January 2009.

“Most of the days soldiers were fighting in the Gaza Strip in the morning and in the evening they were coming back to our kibbutz, bringing their weapons there, they were sleeping there, and sometimes they were practicing [military drills] in the fields, in the kibbutz grass — they were hiding there and making plans,” Raz told me. “The way I saw it, they were using us as human shields.”

Raz recalled, “We were right on the border of the Gaza Strip and they were practicing in the fields with weaponry, whether it’s with their rifle or armored vehicles. I could hear explosions [from the fields] while they were practicing and maybe even shooting things into Gaza.”

“We are a sick military society,” he continued. “You can’t say Hamas is using their civilians as a human shield when it’s obvious that our army is using all of us as human shields. And those of us who live near the Gaza Strip are definitely the biggest human shields.”

Raz remembers being almost alone in raising questions about the presence of the soldiers. “People were so happy, they were really proud of them. Each day after they came out of the Gaza Strip, in the [kibbutz] dining room, if it was lunch or dinner, there was food waiting for them,” he said. “They came into our houses and used our showers and relaxed there. People wrote letters to them after they left the kibbutz thanking them for risking their lives for us. Not only in the kibbutz but all over Israel they are seen as the most sacred thing. People treat them as angels, as people who put their own lives at risk so civilians can live at peace.”

Having already refused army service in defiance of his country’s militarist ethos, Raz turned solidly against the attack on Gaza. “Whenever there was a rocket alarm, all the people around me were shouting, Death to leftists! and Death to Arabs! And I just wanted to have a better life for everyone. I don’t want to be intimidated by the rockets but I also don’t want the people in Gaza to be bombed and massacred for no reason. I realized that this is the oppressed and the oppressor — it wasn’t self-defense.”

During the current assault on Gaza, Israeli forces have returned to the communities surrounding Gaza to bivouac and stage attacks. However, the fear of “terror tunnels” and rockets has led many of the local residents to flee, leaving virtual ghost towns in their wake.

In a recorded message broadcast on July 29 by al-Aqsa television, Izzedin al-Qassam Brigades general commander Mohammad Daif declared [6] that Gaza fighters were exclusively targeting active duty Israeli military personnel and avoiding attacks on civilians. So far, the Qassam Brigades have killed 65 Israeli soldiers, two Israeli civilians, one Thai worker, and wounded a kibbutz owl. [7]

 

–Alternet, August 6th, 2014

 

http://www.alternet.org/world/how-israel-used-its-own-civilians-human-shields-while-assaulting-gaza?paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark

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Alternet: “Joan Rivers Tells Reporter Palestinians Deserve To Be Dead”

Posted by uscsjp on August 9, 2014

Joan Rivers is known for her scathing sharp tongue, and yet her take on the Isaeli-Gaza crisis is one of her most controversial views to date. When told by a TMZ [3] reporter than almost 2,000 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict, she raised her hands in mock shock.

“Oh my God! Tell that to the people in Hiroshima,” she says. “Good. Good. When you declare war, you declare war. They started it. We now don’t count who’s dead. You’re dead, you deserve to be dead. Don’t you dare make me feel bad about that.”

“They were told to get out. They didn’t get out. You don’t get out, you are an idiot. At least the ones that were killed were the ones with low IQs.”

She goes onto describe Gaza’s Hamas government as “terrorists.”

“They were re-elected by a lot of very stupid people who don’t even own a pencil,” she said.

The comedian—who has defended Israel previously [4]—has since claimed her opinions were taken out of context (although they were made on camera), publishing a statement on her official Facebook page [5], in which she says she is “praying for peace.”

“I am both saddened and disappointed that my statement about the tragedy of civilian casualties was totally taken out of context,” she wrote.

“What I said and stand behind is, war is hell and unfortunately civilians are victims of political conflicts. We, the United States, certainly know this as 69 years later we still feel the guilt of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“The media, as usual, has decided to only quote the most out of context and inflammatory non sequitur rather than giving an accurate account of what my intentions were behind the statement.”

 

Alternet, August 8th, 2014

 

http://www.alternet.org/print/news-amp-politics/joan-rivers-tells-reporter-palestinians-deserve-be-dead

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Noam Chomsky on the “Nightmare in Gaza”–Alternet

Posted by uscsjp on August 9, 2014

Amid all the horrors unfolding in the latest Israeli offensive in Gaza, Israel’s goal is simple: quiet-for-quiet, a return to the norm.

For the West Bank, the norm is that Israel continues its illegal construction of settlements and infrastructure so that it can integrate into Israel whatever might be of value, meanwhile consigning Palestinians to unviable cantons and subjecting them to repression and violence.

For Gaza, the norm is a miserable existence under a cruel and destructive siege that Israel administers to permit bare survival but nothing more.

The latest Israeli rampage was set off by the brutal murder of three Israeli boys from a settler community in the occupied West Bank. A month before, two Palestinian boys were shot dead in the West Bank city of Ramallah. That elicited little attention, which is understandable, since it is routine.

“The institutionalized disregard for Palestinian life in the West helps explain not only why Palestinians resort to violence,” Middle East analyst Mouin Rabbani reports, “but also Israel’s latest assault on the Gaza Strip.”

In an interview, human rights lawyer Raji Sourani, who has remained in Gaza through years of Israeli brutality and terror, said, “The most common sentence I heard when people began to talk about cease-fire: Everybody says it’s better for all of us to die and not go back to the situation we used to have before this war. We don’t want that again. We have no dignity, no pride; we are just soft targets, and we are very cheap. Either this situation really improves or it is better to just die. I am talking about intellectuals, academics, ordinary people: Everybody is saying that.”

In January 2006, Palestinians committed a major crime: They voted the wrong way in a carefully monitored free election, handing control of Parliament to Hamas.

The media constantly intone that Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel. In reality, Hamas leaders have repeatedly made it clear that Hamas would accept a two-state settlement in accord with the international consensus that has been blocked by the U.S. and Israel for 40 years.

In contrast, Israel is dedicated to the destruction of Palestine, apart from some occasional meaningless words, and is implementing that commitment.

The crime of the Palestinians in January 2006 was punished at once. The U.S. and Israel, with Europe shamefully trailing behind, imposed harsh sanctions on the errant population and Israel stepped up its violence.

The U.S. and Israel quickly initiated plans for a military coup to overthrow the elected government. When Hamas had the effrontery to foil the plans, the Israeli assaults and the siege became far more severe.

There should be no need to review again the dismal record since. The relentless siege and savage attacks are punctuated by episodes of “mowing the lawn,” to borrow Israel’s cheery expression for its periodic exercises in shooting fish in a pond as part of what it calls a “war of defense.”

Once the lawn is mowed and the desperate population seeks to rebuild somehow from the devastation and the murders, there is a cease-fire agreement. The most recent cease-fire was established after Israel’s October 2012 assault, called Operation Pillar of Defense.

Though Israel maintained its siege, Hamas observed the cease-fire, as Israel concedes. Matters changed in April of this year when Fatah and Hamas forged a unity agreement that established a new government of technocrats unaffiliated with either party.

Israel was naturally furious, all the more so when even the Obama administration joined the West in signaling approval. The unity agreement not only undercuts Israel’s claim that it cannot negotiate with a divided Palestine but also threatens the long-term goal of dividing Gaza from the West Bank and pursuing its destructive policies in both regions.

Something had to be done, and an occasion arose on June 12, when the three Israeli boys were murdered in the West Bank. Early on, the Netanyahu government knew that they were dead, but pretended otherwise, which provided the opportunity to launch a rampage in the West Bank, targeting Hamas.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed to have certain knowledge that Hamas was responsible. That too was a lie.

One of Israel’s leading authorities on Hamas, Shlomi Eldar, reported almost at once that the killers very likely came from a dissident clan in Hebron that has long been a thorn in the side of Hamas. Eldar added that “I’m sure they didn’t get any green light from the leadership of Hamas, they just thought it was the right time to act.”

The 18-day rampage after the kidnapping, however, succeeded in undermining the feared unity government, and sharply increasing Israeli repression. Israel also conducted dozens of attacks in Gaza, killing five Hamas members on July 7.

Hamas finally reacted with its first rockets in 19 months, providing Israel with the pretext for Operation Protective Edge on July 8.

By July 31, around 1,400 Palestinians had been killed, mostly civilians, including hundreds of women and children. And three Israeli civilians. Large areas of Gaza had been turned into rubble. Four hospitals had been attacked, each another war crime.

Israeli officials laud the humanity of what it calls “the most moral army in the world,” which informs residents that their homes will be bombed. The practice is “sadism, sanctimoniously disguising itself as mercy,” in the words of Israeli journalist Amira Hass: “A recorded message demanding hundreds of thousands of people leave their already targeted homes, for another place, equally dangerous, 10 kilometers away.”

In fact, there is no place in the prison of Gaza safe from Israeli sadism, which may even exceed the terrible crimes of Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009.

The hideous revelations elicited the usual reaction from the most moral president in the world, Barack Obama: great sympathy for Israelis, bitter condemnation of Hamas and calls for moderation on both sides.

When the current attacks are called off, Israel hopes to be free to pursue its criminal policies in the occupied territories without interference, and with the U.S. support it has enjoyed in the past.

Gazans will be free to return to the norm in their Israeli-run prison, while in the West Bank, Palestinians can watch in peace as Israel dismantles what remains of their possessions.

That is the likely outcome if the U.S. maintains its decisive and virtually unilateral support for Israeli crimes and its rejection of the long-standing international consensus on diplomatic settlement. But the future will be quite different if the U.S. withdraws that support.

In that case it would be possible to move toward the “enduring solution” in Gaza that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called for, eliciting hysterical condemnation in Israel because the phrase could be interpreted as calling for an end to Israel’s siege and regular attacks. And — horror of horrors — the phrase might even be interpreted as calling for implementation of international law in the rest of the occupied territories.

Forty years ago Israel made the fateful decision to choose expansion over security, rejecting a full peace treaty offered by Egypt in return for evacuation from the occupied Egyptian Sinai, where Israel was initiating extensive settlement and development projects. Israel has adhered to that policy ever since.

If the U.S. decided to join the world, the impact would be great. Over and over, Israel has abandoned cherished plans when Washington has so demanded. Such are the relations of power between them.

Furthermore, Israel by now has little recourse, after having adopted policies that turned it from a country that was greatly admired to one that is feared and despised, policies it is pursuing with blind determination today in its march toward moral deterioration and possible ultimate destruction.

Could U.S. policy change? It’s not impossible. Public opinion has shifted considerably in recent years, particularly among the young, and it cannot be completely ignored.

For some years there has been a good basis for public demands that Washington observe its own laws and cut off military aid to Israel. U.S. law requires that “no security assistance may be provided to any country the government of which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.”

Israel most certainly is guilty of this consistent pattern, and has been for many years.

Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, author of this provision of the law, has brought up its potential applicability to Israel in specific cases, and with a well-conducted educational, organizational and activist effort such initiatives could be pursued successively.

That could have a very significant impact in itself, while also providing a springboard for further actions to compel Washington to become part of “the international community” and to observe international law and norms.

Nothing could be more significant for the tragic Palestinian victims of many years of violence and repression.

 

–Noam Chomsky, Alternet, August 7, 2014

 

http://www.alternet.org/world/noam-chomsky-nightmare-gaza?paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark

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Who Are the Real Terrorists?

Posted by uscsjp on August 4, 2014

As of August 3, 2014, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) lists the following “Facts and Figures” on the current Israeli invasion and bombardment of  Gaza.

Palestinian Casualities

1717, “including at least 1,176 civilians, of whom 377 are children and 196 are women.”

This means that at least 68% of Palestinian casualties are civilians.

Israeli Casualties

67, “including 64 soldiers, two civilians, and one foreign national.”

This means that only about 4.5 percent of Israeli casualties are civilians.

These statistics force a rational observer to ask the following questions:

Which side is conducting a “just war”?

Which side is exercising proportionate violence?

Which side is engaging in terrorism?

 

Source: OCHA, August 3rd, 2014

http://www.ochaopt.org/content.aspx?id=1010361

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BBC News: Gaza UN shelter attack ‘totally unacceptable’ – White House

Posted by uscsjp on July 31, 2014

The US has said the shelling of a UN shelter in Gaza is “totally unacceptable and totally indefensible”.

In its strongest criticism yet of Israel’s offensive in the Palestinian territory, the US – Israel’s closest ally – urged Israel to do more to protect civilian life.

A quarter of Gaza’s population has been displaced by the fighting, the UN says.

Israel says its operation in Gaza is designed to defend its population from attacks by Palestinian militants.

It blames the Hamas militant group for most of the civilian deaths in Gaza, saying its fighters deliberately operate from civilian areas.

A senior Israeli official has told the BBC that the army has now “neutralised” 70-80% of Hamas’ offensive tunnel network into Israel.

Israel says it will not stop its operation in Gaza until all the tunnels – which militants use to infiltrate Israeli territory – have been destroyed.

Since Israel began its offensive in Gaza on 8 July, 1,422 Palestinians have been killed and 8,265 injured, most of them civilians, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

This means more Palestinians have now been killed than during Operation Cast Lead – the last time Israel took on Hamas in Gaza – in 2008-09.

Some 58 Israelis have been killed in total – 56 soldiers and two civilians. A Thai worker in Israel has also died.

Life in Gaza

life in gaza

“There is a difference in approach between what Hamas is perpetrating on the Israeli people and what Israel is doing to defend their country,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.

“But the shelling of a UN facility that is housing innocent civilians who are fleeing violence is totally unacceptable and totally indefensible, and it is clear that we need our allies in Israel to do more to live up to high standards that they have set for themselves.”

He was referring to an incident on Wednesday, when at least 16 people were killed when shellfire hit a UN-run school designated as a civilian shelter in the Jabaliya district of Gaza City.

Mr Earnest said there was little doubt that the shells were fired by the Israeli military.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev told the BBC earlier that Israel would apologise if it discovered it was responsible.

“We have a policy – we don’t target civilians,” he said.

 

The BBC’s Martin Patience at the scene in Gaza:

In a sweltering apartment, 60 members of an extended family have sought shelter.

It is a miserable scene. They have only one hour of electricity a day, no running water or food in the fridge.

Even amid the darkness of war, the children still play games inside the apartment.

Children five or older here have already lived through three conflicts during their short lives.

One of the men told me that they had been ordered out of their neighbourhood by Israel. He said his home had been completely destroyed.

The UN says up to a quarter of Gaza’s population has been displaced by the fighting.

More than 200,000 Palestinians are sheltering at UN schools. But the UN believes a similar number are crammed into homes of their relatives and friends across the territory.

 

The BBC’s Bethany Bell at the scene in Jerusalem:

This is the longest conflict between Israel and militants in Gaza, but public backing in Israel for the army’s offensive remains strong.

That could start to change if the number of Israeli casualties increases significantly, or if there are kidnappings of Israeli soldiers in Gaza.

But for now many Israelis support Mr Netanyahu’s stated aim of destroying the cross-border tunnels.

The threat of Palestinian gunmen coming up from below the ground into Israeli homes and communities to kill and abduct has shaken people here.

Some Israelis are beginning to ask if the government and the army underestimated the threat of the tunnels, but there is little debate about the mission to destroy them.

The UN has also condemned the continuing violence.

“The reality of Gaza today is that no place is safe,” UN humanitarian chief Baroness Valerie Amos told the Security Council.

The head of Unrwa, the main UN relief agency in Gaza, warned that “the population is facing a precipice”.

“Should further large-scale displacement indeed occur, the occupying power [Israel], according to international humanitarian law, will have to assume direct responsibility to assist these people,” Pierre Kraehenbuehl said.

 

Focus on tunnels

Israel’s offensive began with a focus on Islamist militant group Hamas’ rocket-launching capability, but it has since expanded to take in the threat from tunnels.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) recently discovered an extensive network of tunnels leading from Gaza into Israel, and on the night of 17th July launched an operation to destroy them.

Reports from Israel suggest the discovery of the tunnels – and the reality that infiltrators have used them to kill Israelis inside their own country – has shocked many Israelis and bolstered support for the operation.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would not accept any ceasefire that did not allow troops to continue destroying tunnels used by militants to attack Israel.

Hamas says it will not stop fighting until a blockade, maintained by both Israel and Egypt, is lifted.

Israel occupied Gaza in the 1967 Middle East war and only pulled its troops and settlers out in 2005.

Israel considered this the end of the occupation, but it still exercises control over most of Gaza’s borders, water and airspace. Egypt controls Gaza’s southern border.

 

–BBC News, July 31, 2014

 

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28594155

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US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation: “If Governments Refuse to Act…”

Posted by uscsjp on July 31, 2014

Grassroots Civil Society Must Act to Hold Israel Accountable   

The death toll continues to climb. Israel has killed at least 1,361 Palestinians in Gaza since July 7, including at least 249 children.

 

Paramedic Mohammed Ahmed Matar A’badleh, 32, was killed on July 26.

Please visit Humanize Palestine to learn about the lives of Palestinians killed and watch the #GazaNames Project video featuring a diverse group of celebrities, artists, and activists.

During this time of crisis, as we mourn those who have been killed and take direct action to demonstrate solidarity with Palestinians, it is important to grow our efforts to end all U.S. support for Israeli occupation, apartheid, and ethnic cleansing.

It is clear that there is still so much more work to be done. As was tweeted two days ago byThe Associated Press, Members of Congress are falling over each other to support Israel. A U.S. defense official announced yesterday that the U.S. had allowed Israel to tap a local U.S. arms stockpile to resupply it with grenades and mortar rounds.

If governments refuse to act, then the vast international support that Israel enjoys must be tackled by international grassroots civil society, using the methods that isolated South Africa during apartheid,” Palestinian human rights activist Rafeef Ziadeh wroteearlier this week.

We invite you to attend our 13th Annual National Organizers’ Conference: The Mainstreaming of BDS & Continuing Struggle for Palestinian Rights taking place September 19-21 in San Diego, CA.

This is an opportunity to meet and network with Palestinian rights activists from across the country. Panels and workshops will focus on building boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaigns; dealing with challenges to Palestine activism; and connecting with other social justice struggles.

Check out our draft program that includes Ali Abunimah, Hind Awwad, Kristian Davis Bailey, Omar Offendum, and more. All details are posted at endtheoccupation.org/conference2014.

Register today to strengthen our work for Palestinian rights.

-US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

PS- If you cannot make it to San Diego, please consider donating $50 or any amount you can to support the conference. 

 

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Al Jazeera: “‘Only stones remain’–Gaza lies in ruins”

Posted by uscsjp on July 27, 2014

First, from The Guardian:  Israeli soldiers kill three Palestinian demonstrators in West Bank protest

Israeli soldiers have shot and killed three Palestinian protesters and wounded about 100 on Thursday in confrontations with several thousand people demonstrating in the occupied West Bank against a 17-day-old Israeli offensive in Gaza, Palestinian medical officials said.

AFP reported that one of those killed had been named as 25-year-old Mohammed al-Aaraj.

The Israeli military confirmed troops had used “riot dispersal means” – a term used to cover weapons such as rubber bullets and tear gas – against protesters who threw rocks and firebombs at them and blocked a road with burning tyres.

“There are thousands of rioters there,” an army spokeswoman told AFP.

“They are rolling burning tyres and throwing Molotov cocktails and fireworks at soldiers and border police,” she added.

She could not confirm or deny the use of live rounds…

 

The Guardian, July 24th, 2014

 

READ MORE: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/25/israeli-soldiers-kill-palestinian-west-bank-protest

 

‘Only stones remain': Gaza lies in ruins

Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip – Umm Ahmed Abu Sahwish holds stones in her hands. They are now all that’s left of her demolished home. “My home is gone and only stones remain,” the 65-year-old says.

Hundreds of homes here have been destroyed, and unexploded Israeli missiles litter the ground at the entrance to the town, at Gaza’s northern tip near the border with Israel. The local hospital, emergency rescue equipment, and infrastructure have also incurred heavy damage from Israeli shelling.

Another woman, from a family of 20 people, cries as she tries to dig through the rubble of her house. “Lifetimes of personal and household belongings are gone, with one Israeli missile. Where can we go? We have no food, water, bedding or extra clothes,” she says.

Driving the length of this tiny stretch of land – 1.8 million Palestinians live on Gaza’s 360sq km – scenes of devastation are everywhere. The trip from the north to the south of Gaza was only possible during a 12-hour humanitarian ceasefire, agreed to by Israel and Hamas on July 26.

On Sunday, Israel resumed its military operation in Gaza, as the prime minister’s office declared: “If residents are inadvertently hit, it is Hamas which is responsible given that it has – again – violated the humanitarian truce that Israel acceded to.”

Hamas and other Palestinian factions reportedly agreed to a 24-hour humanitarian truce in the Gaza Strip, starting at 2pm local time on Sunday.

At least 1,052 Palestinians have been killed and more than 6,000 injured since Israel’s military offensive began on July 8. Forty-three Israeli soldiers have also been killed, along with two Israeli civilians and one Thai worker.

In Gaza City, there is little to salvage from beneath the destruction.

The eastern neighbourhood of Shujayea is a ghost town. Electricity cables are sliced and sticking out of the debris of homes. Cars lay burnt out, and human remains are scattered along the streets; the air is thick with the smell of decay. “I am 45 years old, and I have never seen destruction like this,” says a resident, who didn’t give Al Jazeera his name.

At least 120 Palestinians were killed and hundreds more injured when Israel heavily bombarded Shujayeaovernight on July 21. The ceasefire provided the first opportunity for families to return to their homes to survey the destruction and salvage their belongings.

Ambulance sirens ring out, announcing the discovery of more dead bodies from beneath the rubble. At least 90 bodies were pulled out from the destruction in Shujayea during the ceasefire on Saturday.

“This is more ominous than Sabra and Shatila,” says Umm Hesham, referring to the killing of about 2,000 Palestinian refugees in the Beirut-area refugee camps in 1982, as her son helps her avoid stepping on bodies.

Outside Shujayea, on al-Wehda street, traffic is closed off. Residents busied themselves with trying to get food, water, and medicine during the ceasefire. Abu Haytam, a father of eight, stood at a market looking for pasta and lentils. He said he didn’t know what would happen in the coming days: “With electricity out, we can’t buy meat or chicken, it will rot too quickly in the heat,” he said.

Nearby, a man selling vegetables was surrounded by customers, while at least 300 men waited for bread at Tal al-Hawa bakery. Banks were crowded, while money wire centres were overflowing with people clamouring to get cash.

There are two roads linking north and south Gaza: Saladin Road and Beach Road. Both are damaged; the former from Israeli tank shells and the latter from the Israeli warships lining the coast.

Along Saladin road, dairies and a local beverage factory are destroyed, while technical teams worked to restore power to electricity and water installations. Al Aqsa hospital in Deir el-Balah is damaged after Israeli strikes hit the operating theatre and the radiology department, killing five people and injuring more than 70 others on July 21.

In Khan Younes, a burnt-out crater leaves a gaping hole on the main road, the aftermath of an Israeli F16 missile strike. The residents of nearby Khuzaa, which was under heavy Israeli bombardment, are sleeping on the streets. Access to water is extremely difficult; a man who generally sells water tanks for 15 NIS ($4) is now asking for 100 NIS ($29).

The road to Rafah, at Gaza’s southernmost end, is equally precarious.

Two days ahead of Eid al-Fitr, the celebration marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, Dahra market in Khan Younes is buzzing with activity, but no one is in the mood to celebrate. Most are only there to stock up on supplies.

But in Rafah, a barbershop is full of young people getting haircuts. Spirits are high, but talk quickly turns to stories of death and destruction. The youth are also criticising neighbouring Egypt for not opening the Rafah border crossing, only a few hundred metres away.

“The [Israeli-Egyptian] siege has hit every aspect of life; spare parts for my shaving machine are unavailable,” says 29-year-old barber Abuel Bara. “Before we would buy it from tunnel merchants, but tunnels are now closed.”

The machine provides the only income to feed his two daughters, wife, parents and siblings, he says. “But Israel sees no humanitarian need [to lift the siege].”

Follow Mohammed Omer on Twitter: @mogaza

 

–Al Jazeera, July 27th, 2014

 

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/07/gaza-lies-ruins-israel-war-201472794647457501.html

 

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Alternet: “The Most Harrowing, Heart-Breaking Dispatches from Palestinians in Gaza”

Posted by uscsjp on July 25, 2014

As Israeli forces bombard the Gaza Strip by air, land, and sea, some 1.8 million Palestinians are largely stuck inside their homes, shaken by relentless explosions, wondering if and when their turn to die will come. When death does strike, international media will recalculate the tally of the dead, dropping names if those in question are old or children, but otherwise leave untold the stories of their time alive on the crowded sliver of land they called home. Isolated and with nowhere to flee, many Palestinians in Gaza use social media to make an otherwise-impossible connection with the outside world, carving out virtual space for their existence while their physical surroundings implode in their midst.

“I tweet, therefore I am,” writes 24-year-old Muhammed Suliman. Under the bombs, tweets are a way for Muhammed to notify himself and others that he has survived the offensive thus far.

When Israel began its latest large-scale aerial offensive on Gaza on July 7, Muhammad switched from mostly Arabic-language tweets to exclusively English, and started contributing to online discourse on the conflict as a commentator. These early tweets leave out the first person, discussing the situation in general. But on the third day of the assault, as the death toll passes 70, something in Muhammed’s tone changes. His Twitter feed becomes a sort of diary, a poetic outpouring in the face of fear, a human response reflecting the uncertainty of survival.

I sit near a window, next to my wife who finally fell asleep. I hear drones buzzing overhead coupled with birds chirping. I anticipate a blast

The blast has come. Sooner than I thought. War experience enables you to expect next blast. I extend my hand to my wife, and she takes it.

Muhammed’s tweets become a narration of his life and the lives and deaths of other Palestinians in Gaza. His feed reads like a nail-biting and heart-pumping novel, or a collection of visceral haikus, only this isn’t literature but a compressed report of Muhammed’s observations, thoughts, and feelings. Real apocalyptic scenes squeezed through the filter of social media.

Petrified, my ears buzz and don’t seem to recover. Leila’s stomach starts hurting. Each blast sounds louder and more horrifying. Death nears

I’ve lost my words. Bombs rain down on my area. Behind the dining table, Leila and I sit close to each other. Death is what we are tweeting.

On other days, Muhammed’s fears subside or at least are allowed to be morphed into dark comedy. The World Cup, which is about to start its semi-final matches as the air offensive begins, provides a distraction for the bombs, something to think about besides impending death. Until a beach cafe full of soccer fans is bombed by Israel, killing eight, seemingly all civilians.

Israel’s bombardment of Gaza is similar to Germany thrashing Brazil in the semi finals. Think of Palestinian violence as Brazil’s one goal.

8 killed while watching the World Cup semi final. They surely ruled out the possibility of being targeted. We’re not a threat, they thought.

Muhammed tweets stories that are only reported otherwise in international media as numbers, the only notable exceptions being the above and the case of four children being bombed on a beach, which he tweets about as well.

Anas, 17, posts on Facebook, ‘I’m too tired, shell our home so I can get some sleep.’ A while later, his home is shelled. He sleeps forever.

Yasser receives a call from IDF. Evacuate in ten minutes. He wasn’t home though. His family was. Hysterically, he phoned home. No one picked

Amir, 12, and Mohammed. 10, want to buy yogurt. Things are calm, they tell their mom. They leave the house. A blast is heard. They’re dead.

I look at pictures of brothers Amir and Mohammed wrapped in white shroud stained with their blood. I feel dizzy. War is a nightmare.

In a hospital room, dad cries in agony over the body of his baby son. Holding him in his hands, he tearfully cries: Wake up, I got you a toy

Group of children go to the sea, escaping the bombs. They swim and play, mindless of Israeli warships off shore. Missiles hit them. Four die

Even through all this terror, Muhammed remains free of bloodlust. His humility and gentleness is astounding. When the first Israeli dies on the 10th day, after nearly 200 Palestinians have been killed, Muhammed tweets about it. He is not one to “blame both sides” — the conflict is not a balanced one and there is a clear oppressor and oppressed — but he values all human life.

Some Israelis wish me death. I might die. But I wish no death unto you. I want us both to live. Live together as equals in this country.

The terrifying truth is that Muhammed may in fact die, and the only way for his followers to know that he is still alive is to wait for his next tweet. Tweeting about death here is not overly fatalistic or hypothetical. Death is a very real possibility. A shadow looming over life. Muhammed’s death would be felt deeply not only by his family and friends and acquaintances, but by his followers on Twitter.

Another social media user offers a window into the mind of a creative child trapped in the center of bombardment. Muhammad Qareeqe is a talented 13-year-old Palestinian artist from the Shajaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza City, and like many other kids his age around the world, he’s obsessed with Facebook. Prior to the current offensive, he’d post several times a day, promoting his art and showing off his boyhood cuteness, a kind of Gazan Justin Bieber with a paintbrush.

Last time Israeli warplanes carried out a prolonged attack on Gaza, Muhammad was 11. The time before that, he was 9. He was born during the Second Intifada. Through the wars and in the face of the economic blockade imposed on Gaza since 2007, Muhammad has developed a seemingly innate talent for painting and drawing. He has also developed a thousands-strong fan base inside and outside of Gaza via social media.

Most days during the last period of calm, Muhammad would start his day with a warm “good morning” Facebook post and end it with a goodnight post, along with pictures of himself being cute, garnering scores of likes. In between, he’d usually post smiley-face-heavy updates on his latest work or random thoughts on life. But ever since the bombs started falling in Gaza and didn’t stop, his social media presence has changed.

He posts a picture he drew of an Israeli warplane bombing a Palestinian house. “This is a scene from Gaza,” he says. “Bombing for ‘security.’ The homes of citizens. Targets for the world’s most despicable army.”

Another post says simply: “Patience, patience. Perseverance, perseverance.”

“I drew this because the bombing doesn’t have mercy on trees or humans, or even birds,” Muhammad writes in a post of his drawing of a fallen sparrow.

As hospitals and morgues overflow, Muhammad provides a distraction for himself and other children whose lives and psychological well-beings are at risk under the bombs. He gives an art lesson to the neighborhood boys and girls and posts about it on Facebook. In the pictures he includes of the session, his features seem to have changed—his smile not quite what it used to be, his hair curly and wild where it had before been carefully tamed. His arms with a tinge of muscle. As if he’s grown.

On the tenth day of the offensive, Israeli troops begin a large-scale ground operation in Gaza. The death toll spikes, nearly doubling in just 72 hours. Late Saturday and overnight, myriad warplanes buzz over Muhammad’s own Shajaiyeh neighborhood, spewing explosives every few seconds. Small arms fire can be heard in the distance as militants face off with soldiers. Muhammad’s goodnight post is that of an orange sky lit not by sunlight but by Israeli bombs. “#Here_is_Shajaiyeh,” the post says. No goodnight wishes. There is nothing good about this night, which a Norwegian doctor at a nearby hospital has called “a real massacre” and “the worst night of my life.

Muhammad survives the night, though at least 66 Palestinians, more than a dozen of them children, do not. He and his family flee Shajaiyeh for central Gaza City in the morning, Facebook users find out as he posts again: “We survived death, though our hearts are dying longingly. We are now in central Gaza City without electricity or any of life’s necessities.”

And later: “I can’t respond to your messages. What I saw today is making conversation impossible.”

Both Muhammads continue to tell their stories online as the bombs fall around them and the death toll surpasses 600. Their existences have been marked. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the victims’ stories remain largely untold or unacknowledged. The steadfast, raised voices of survivors therefore become all the more profound. Through social media, many young Palestinians — smart and talented and artistic people like Muhammad Qareeqe and Muhammed Suliman — are making their stories available, reminding themselves and others they are still alive.

–Graham Liddell, Alternet, 23 July, 2014

 

http://www.alternet.org/world/most-harrowing-heart-breaking-dispatches-palestinians-gaza

 

Graham Liddell is an editor at Ma’an News Agency in Bethlehem. His work on the Middle East has appeared in Muftah, Mashallah, and The Arab Review.

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Lawrence Weschler: “Israel Has Been Bitten by a Bat”

Posted by uscsjp on July 21, 2014

The news out of Israel and Palestine: relentless, remorseless, repetitively compulsive, rabid.

And I am put in mind of a passage from Norman Mailer, in 1972, in which he attempted to plumb the psychopathology behind America’s relentless bombing of Cambodia and Laos and Vietnam during the Nixon years:

… bombing [which] had become an activity as rational as the act of a man who walks across his own home town to defecate each night on the lawn of a stranger—it is the same stranger each night—such a man would not last long even if he had the most powerful body in town. “Stop,” he would scream as they dragged him away. “I need to shit on that lawn. It’s the only way to keep my body in shape, you fools. I’ve been bitten by a bat!

A species of human rabies, as Mailer had explained earlier in the same book (“St. George and the Godfather,” his account of the McGovern campaign), “and the word was just, for rabies was the disease of every virulence which was excessive to the need for self-protection.”

I know, I know, and I am bone tired of being told it, when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there is plenty of blame to go around, but by this point after coming on almost 50 years of Israeli stemwinding and procrastinatory obfuscation, I’d put the proportionate distribution of blame at about the same level as the mortality figures—which is, where are we today (what with Wednesday morning’s four children killed while out playing on a Gaza beach)? What, 280 to 2?

For the single overriding fact defining the Israeli-Palestinian impasse at this point is that if the Palestinians are quiescent and not engaged in any overt rebellion, the Israelis (and here I am speaking of the vast majority of the population who somehow go along with the antics of their leaders, year after year) manage to tell themselves that things are fine and there’s no urgent need to address the situation; and if, as a result, the endlessly put-upon Palestinians do finally rise up in any sort of armed resistance (rocks to rockets), the same Israelis exasperate, “How are we supposed to negotiate with monsters like this?” A wonderfully convenient formula, since it allows the Israelis to go blithely on, systematically stealing Palestinian land in the West Bank, and continuing to confine 1.8 million Gazans within what might well be described as a concentration camp.

Note, incidentally, I say “concentration camp” and not “death camp.” I am not comparing Gaza to Auschwitz-Birkenau, but one cannot help but liken the conditions today in Gaza to the sorts of conditions once faced by Japanese-Americans during World War II, or the Boers in South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War, or the black South Africans years later in such besieged townships as Soweto, or for that matter Jews and gays and gypsies at Dachau and Theresienstadt in the years before the Nazis themselves settled on their Final Solution.

And it is quite simply massively self-serving delusion that Israelis (and their enablers and abettors here in America, among whom incidentally I count a steadily declining number of American Jews) refuse to recognize that fact. The backbone of Zionist AIPAC-like electoral strength in the U.S. today is rooted among Protestant evangelicals and other instrumentalist neocons, and I suspect that Israel will one day come to rue that fact.

I’m tired, for example, of hearing about how vital and cosmopolitan and democratic are the streets and cafes and nightclubs of Tel Aviv. For the fact is that one simply can’t sustain such cosmopolitan vitality 40 miles from a prison camp containing close to 2 million people: It’s a contradiction in terms. One that in the end (and we may fast be coming to the end of this game) will have completely twisted and disfigured the lives of those who go on trying to sustain it.

I know the Israelis need to protect themselves in a dangerous neighborhood, blah, blah, blah, but (leaving aside the fact that you don’t get to call it “self-defense” when you are occupying or besieging someone else’s land), can there be any doubt that in the end the Israelis’ own security will depend on how they treat their Palestinian brothers?

And I’m tired, finally, of hearing people marveling at the insane sectarian rifts between Shiites and Sunnis, or Serbs and Bosnians, or Tutsis and Hutus, as if they themselves could never fall into such primordial, atavistic blood feuds. For what else is the Palestinian/Israeli divide at this point, these two Semitic Peoples of the Book, than just one more inchoate, incomprehensible, sectarian vendetta?

In short: rabies.

 

–Lawrence Weschler, Truthdig, July 18th, 2014

 

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/israel_has_been_bitten_by_a_bat_20140718

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Nafeez Ahmed: “IDF’s Gaza assault is to control Palestinian gas, avert Israeli energy crisis”

Posted by uscsjp on July 15, 2014

Yesterday, Israeli defence minister and former Israeli Defence Force (IDF) chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon announced that Operation Protective Edge marks the beginning of a protracted assault on Hamas. The operation “won’t end in just a few days,” he said, adding that “we are preparing to expand the operation by all means standing at our disposal so as to continue striking Hamas.”

This morning, he said:

“We continue with strikes that draw a very heavy price from Hamas. We are destroying weapons, terror infrastructures, command and control systems, Hamas institutions, regime buildings, the houses of terrorists, and killing terrorists of various ranks of command… The campaign against Hamas will expand in the coming days, and the price the organization will pay will be very heavy.”

But in 2007, a year before Operation Cast Lead, Ya’alon’s concernsfocused on the 1.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas discovered in 2000 off the Gaza coast, valued at $4 billion. Ya’alon dismissed the notion that “Gaza gas can be a key driver of an economically more viable Palestinian state” as “misguided.” The problem, he said, is that:

“Proceeds of a Palestinian gas sale to Israel would likely not trickle down to help an impoverished Palestinian public. Rather, based on Israel’s past experience, the proceeds will likely serve to fund further terror attacks against Israel…

A gas transaction with the Palestinian Authority [PA] will, by definition, involve Hamas. Hamas will either benefit from the royalties or it will sabotage the project and launch attacks against Fatah, the gas installations, Israel – or all three… It is clear that without an overall military operation to uproot Hamas control of Gaza, no drilling work can take place without the consent of the radical Islamic movement.”

Operation Cast Lead did not succeed in uprooting Hamas, but the conflict did take the lives of 1,387 Palestinians (773 of whom were civilians) and 9 Israelis (3 of whom were civilians).

Since the discovery of oil and gas in the Occupied Territories, resource competition has increasingly been at the heart of the conflict, motivated largely by Israel’s increasing domestic energy woes.

Mark Turner, founder of the Research Journalism Initiative, reported that the siege of Gaza and ensuing military pressure was designed to “eliminate” Hamas as “a viable political entity in Gaza” to generate a “political climate” conducive to a gas deal. This involved rehabilitating the defeated Fatah as the dominant political player in the West Bank, and “leveraging political tensions between the two parties, arming forces loyal to Abbas and the selective resumption of financial aid.”

Ya’alon’s comments in 2007 illustrate that the Israeli cabinet is not just concerned about Hamas – but concerned that if Palestinians develop their own gas resources, the resulting economic transformation could in turn fundamentally increase Palestinian clout.

Meanwhile, Israel has made successive major discoveries in recent years – such as the Leviathan field estimated to hold 18 trillion cubic feet of natural gas – which could transform the country from energy importer into aspiring energy exporter with ambitions to supply Europe, Jordan and Egypt. A potential obstacle is that much of the 122 trillion cubic feet of gas and 1.6 billion barrels of oil in the Levant Basin Province lies in territorial waters where borders are hotly disputed between Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and Cyprus.

Amidst this regional jockeying for gas, though, Israel faces its own little-understood energy challenges. It could, for instance, take until 2020 for much of these domestic resources to be properly mobilised.

But this is the tip of the iceberg. A 2012 letter by two Israeli government chief scientists – which the Israeli government chose not to disclose – warned the government that Israel still had insufficient gas resources to sustain exports despite all the stupendous discoveries. The letter, according to Ha’aretz, stated that Israel’s domestic resources were 50% less than needed to support meaningful exports, and could be depleted in decades:

“We believe Israel should increase its [domestic] use of natural gas by 2020 and should not export gas. The Natural Gas Authority’s estimates are lacking. There’s a gap of 100 to 150 billion cubic meters between the demand projections that were presented to the committee and the most recent projections. The gas reserves are likely to last even less than 40 years!”

As Dr Gary Luft – an advisor to the US Energy Security Council – wrote in the Journal of Energy Security, “with the depletion of Israel’s domestic gas supplies accelerating, and without an imminent rise in Egyptian gas imports, Israel could face a power crisis in the next few years… If Israel is to continue to pursue its natural gas plans it must diversify its supply sources.”

Israel’s new domestic discoveries do not, as yet, offer an immediate solution as electricity prices reach record levels, heightening the imperative to diversify supply. This appears to be behind Prime Minister Netanyahu’s announcement in February 2011 that it was now time to seal the Gaza gas deal. But even after a new round of negotiations was kick-started between the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority and Israel in September 2012, Hamas was excluded from these talks, and thus rejected the legitimacy of any deal.

Earlier this year, Hamas condemned a PA deal to purchase $1.2 billion worth of gas from Israel Leviathan field over a 20 year period once the field starts producing. Simultaneously, the PA has held several meetings with the British Gas Group to develop the Gaza gas field, albeit with a view to exclude Hamas – and thus Gazans – from access to the proceeds. That plan had been the brainchild of Quartet Middle East envoy Tony Blair.

But the PA was also courting Russia’s Gazprom to develop the Gaza marine gas field, and talks have been going on between Russia, Israel and Cyprus, though so far it is unclear what the outcome of these have been. Also missing was any clarification on how the PA would exert control over Gaza, which is governed by Hamas.

According to Anais Antreasyan in the University of California’s Journal of Palestine Studies, the most respected English language journal devoted to the Arab-Israeli conflict, Israel’s stranglehold over Gaza has been designed to make “Palestinian access to the Marine-1 and Marine-2 gas wells impossible.” Israel’s long-term goal “besides preventing the Palestinians from exploiting their own resources, is to integrate the gas fields off Gaza into the adjacent Israeli offshore installations.” This is part of a wider strategy of:

“…. separating the Palestinians from their land and natural resources in order to exploit them, and, as a consequence, blocking Palestinian economic development. Despite all formal agreements to the contrary, Israel continues to manage all the natural resources nominally under the jurisdiction of the PA, from land and water to maritime and hydrocarbon resources.”

For the Israeli government, Hamas continues to be the main obstacle to the finalisation of the gas deal. In the incumbent defence minister’swords: “Israel’s experience during the Oslo years indicates Palestinian gas profits would likely end up funding terrorism against Israel. The threat is not limited to Hamas… It is impossible to prevent at least some of the gas proceeds from reaching Palestinian terror groups.”

The only option, therefore, is yet another “military operation to uproot Hamas.”

Unfortunately, for the IDF uprooting Hamas means destroying the group’s perceived civilian support base – which is why Palestinian civilian casualties massively outweigh that of Israelis. Both are obviously reprehensible, but Israel’s capacity to inflict destruction is simply far greater.

In the wake of Operation Cast Lead, the Jerusalem-based Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (Pcati) found that the IDF had adopted a more aggressive combat doctrine based on two principles – “zero casualties” for IDF soldiers at the cost of deploying increasingly indiscriminate firepower in densely populated areas, and the “dahiya doctrine” promoting targeting of civilian infrastructure to create widespread suffering amongst the population with a view to foment opposition to Israel’s opponents.

This was confirmed in practice by the UN fact-finding mission in Gaza which concluded that the IDF had pursued a “deliberate policy of disproportionate force,” aimed at the “supporting infrastructure” of the enemy – “this appears to have meant the civilian population,” said the UN report.

The Israel-Palestine conflict is clearly not all about resources. But in an age of expensive energy, competition to dominate regional fossil fuelsare increasingly influencing the critical decisions that can inflame war.

Dr. Nafeez Ahmed is an international security journalist and academic. He is the author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: And How to Save It, and the forthcoming science fiction thriller, ZERO POINT. ZERO POINT is set in a near future following a Fourth Iraq War. Follow Ahmed on Facebook and Twitter.

 

–Nafeez Ahmed, Earth Insight, hosted by The Guardian, July 9th, 2014

 

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/jul/09/israel-war-gaza-palestine-natural-gas-energy-crisis

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