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Archive for July, 2014

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


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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

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




‘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


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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


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

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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

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ANSWER Community Forum on Palestine and ME: Fri, July 18th, 7pm

Posted by uscsjp on July 10, 2014

ANSWER Los Angeles

Hundreds in LA Rally for Palestine!
Special Community Forum on Understanding and
Building Resistance to U.S. Aims in the Middle East 

Over 300 people rally outside the Israeli Consulate in LA on July 8, 2014

Community Forum on the War Crisis in the Middle East
135 E. 3rd St., Downtown LA 90013
On 3rd St between Main & Los Angeles – 
Just blocks from Pershing Square Red Line and Little Tokyo Gold Line 

On Tuesday, July 8, over 300 people rallied outside the Israeli Consulate against the collective punishment of the Palestinian people, and the latest massacre currently being inflicted on the people of Gaza. It was the largest showing of solidarity with Palestine to happen in LA in several years.

As Israel continues its murderous assault on civilians in Gaza, we will remain prepared for more actions soon.

But in addition to being in the streets, ANSWER will be holding a special community forum on understanding the aims of the U.S. government and Israel in Palestine and the entire region–and how to build successful resistance to those aims.

The event will feature Richard Becker, author of Palestine, Israel and the U.S. Empire, as well as several others with eyewitness accounts of U.S./Israeli policy in Palestine, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. 

Hear from activists who have recently traveled to these regions for an eyewitness account and analysis of what’s really going on, and be part of the discussion on how we can organize against imperialism and Zionism.

Keynote speaker:Richard Becker – Richard is well-known writer and political commentator on Middle East affairs. He is author of Palestine, Israel and the U.S. Empire, appears frequently on Press TV and Russia Today, and is the West Coast coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition. Becker recently returned from a major conference in Lebanon and toured Palestinian refugee camps. He will give a political analysis on the crisis in the Middle East.
Also featuring:Enas Khaleq—Enas is a Palestinian refugee, recent graduate of CSU-Long Beach and member of the ANSWER Coalition. She spent the past month in Jerusalem and areas of the West Bank, and will give an eyewitness account of the severe repression and collective punishment by the Israeli Defense Forces in response to the murder of three Israeli teens.
Johnny Achi—Johnny is a Syrian American and coordinator of Arab Americans for Syria, which has organized significant actions in Los Angeles against the U.S.-funded war in Syria. He recently led a delegation to Damascus, Syria for the elections. He will give an eyewitness account of the elections in Syria and what is happening in the years-long war. 
Mike Prysner—Mike is a former corporal in the U.S. Army and Iraq war veteran, who also traveled to Gaza City in 2009, in the wake of ‘Operation: Cast Lead.’ He is an organizer with the ANSWER Coalition and member of the Board of Directors of Veterans For Peace. He will share an eyewitness account of how the U.S. occupation created and exploited the sectarian divides that now plague Iraqi society. 
A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition
135 E. 3rd St.
Downtown Los Angeles, CA 90013
Get involved in ANSWER’s work today!

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Updates on Gaza Siege from Democracy Now!

Posted by uscsjp on July 10, 2014

Palestinian Toll from Gaza Attack Tops 80, Including 18 Children

The death toll from Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip has more than doubled in 24 hours as the besieged territory comes under relentless bombing. At least 44 Gaza residents have been killed in the past day, bringing the total this week to around 80. The Palestinian news agency Maan reports the dead include 18 children and 10 women. The Palestinian Ministry of Health says more than 600 people have been wounded. In the deadliest single attack since the offensive began, at least seven Palestinian civilians, including five children, were killed when Israeli warplanes bombed several homes in a densely populated area where the victims were sleeping. Bodies were pulled from the rubble of at least three homes and neighboring buildings.


Gaza Hospitals Overrun with Victims; Bombing Exceeds 2012 Israeli Assault

Gaza Militants Continue Rocket Attacks on Israel

Israel Rejects Hamas Ceasefire Terms; Minister Floats “Temporary” Gaza Takeover

Israelis Stage Peace Rally in Tel Aviv

Hilleli, Women of Peace: “We believe that this cycle of violence must be ended, and it’s definitely not going to be ended by more violence and by more bombs on Gaza, and it’s not going to help the people in the south and neither the people in Tel Aviv that have been subject to missiles in the past few days.”



PA Pleads for U.S. Aid to Stop “War Against Palestinian People”

Maen Rashid Areikat, chief PLO envoy to Israel: “I would like to say to President Obama that there is no — you cannot equate between an occupied people and an occupier. And the rising death toll on the Palestinian side tells clearly who is the party that is suffering the most from this violence. … I think the United States should rein in Israel. They are the only country that can rein in Israel, because they are the country that provides the political, military, economic and financial support for Israel, and without that support, Israel cannot escape being accountable for their actions.”



Obama Admin Continues Backing for Israeli Airstrikes

Jen Psaki: “As you know, we’re encouraging all sides to de-escalate the situation on the ground. But again, Israel has every right to defend themselves and take steps to defend themselves. And as we know, the aggression is currently coming from Hamas in Gaza.”

During the news conference, Psaki repeatedly refused to answer a question on “whether Palestinians have the right to defend themselves.” The Obama administration appears to have decided on a position of backing the Israeli strikes, but cautioning against a ground invasion. In a phone call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly said the United States hopes to see Israel stop the rocket fire without sending troops into Gaza.


Thousands in New York City Protest Israeli Attack on Gaza

Palestinian solidarity rallies have been held around the world in recent days. In New York City, thousands of people protested in front of the Israeli Mission to the United Nations before marching through the streets.

Protester: “We hope to change public opinion so that they understand that Palestinians are not terrorists, that they are defending themselves. It’s an unfair situation that they’re going through. They’re living under occupation. They have no human rights. They have no rights to anything that we enjoy here as Americans.”


Muhammed Chaudhry: “At least we’ve got to take the first step, though, a ceasefire, no more violence, no more killing of the innocent, from both parties.”


–Democracy Now!, 10 July, 2014

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TUES., JULY 8: Protest Israel’s collective punishment of Palestinians at the Israeli Consulate

Posted by uscsjp on July 3, 2014

Tuesday, July 8, 4-7PM
Stop Israel’s Collective Punishment of Palestinians! 
Israeli Consulate, 11766 Wilshire Blvd 

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For over three weeks, the Israeli government has been engaged in collective punishment of the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza over the death of three Israeli teenagers.

No one has taken responsibility for what happened to the three Israeli teens. Yet the Netanyahu government is cynically using the tragedy for their own political purposes and as a pretext to advance their already-existing goals: increasing military attacks on the Palestinians, mass arresting of political opponents, removing Palestinians from their land and attempting to break-up the recent unity agreement among Palestinian organizations.

Over this time the Israeli Defense Forces have carried out countless raids and attacks, carried out mass arrests and torture of detainees, and carried out scores of bombings in Gaza—all forms of collective punishment. Israeli troops have been massing on the border of Gaza. At least nine Palestinians have been killed and hundreds injured.

Emboldened by the Israeli military offensives are “revenge” demonstrations and attacks carried out by Israeli settlers. At least two Palestinian children have been killed in these “revenge killings,” and many more children wounded.

The U.S. government has given the green light to the crimes of the Israeli government, and with billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars finances of Israeli war crimes—from bombing cities as a form of collective punishment, to indefinitely jailing over 200 Palestinian children in Israeli jails.

Stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people and against Israeli aggression! Join us for a rally at the Israeli Consulate to say:

  • Stop collective punishment of the Palestinian people!
  • Free all children and political prisoners in Israeli jails!
  • End all U.S. aid to Israel!
  • End the occupation of Palestine!

Sponsored by: ANSWER Coalition; Al-Awda; Palestinian American Women’s Association (PAWA); Activists For Palestine; Palestinian American Congress (PAC) Sothern California; American Muslims for Palestine (AMP); Students for Justice in Palestine – UC Riverside; Jewish Voice for Peace; Jews for Palestinian Right of Return; Israel Divestment Campaign; March Forward!; Veterans For Peace; KmB Pro-People Youth; Alliance-Philippines; and more…

For more information or to endorse this action email or call 323-394-3611

Please make a donation to help make this event possible!

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US Campaign to End Occupation: Help Multiply Victories Like Presbyterian Divestment!

Posted by uscsjp on July 3, 2014

With ever more tragic events unfolding in Israel/Palestine, it has never been more urgent to work to end U.S. complicity in Israel’s collective punishment of the Palestinian people.

US Campaign staff, steering committee, and coalition members hard at work take a selfie just hours before the vote.

Less than two weeks ago, I sat side-by-side with US Campaign National Organizer Anna Baltzer as my church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), took decisive actions toward a just peace in Israel/Palestine: voting to divest from the Israeli occupation, directing a study to reconsider the Church’s official endorsement of only a two-state solution, and affirming the need for equal rights among all Palestinians and Israelis.

We know that these decisions alone will not bring an immediate end to the bloodshed. But we still celebrate these groundbreaking victories knowing that, joined with similar milestone actions nationwide and worldwide, they are part of a greater struggle that will someday bring the inevitable end to Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies.

Essential to the PC(USA)’s victories was a strong coalition of partners, including, especially, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. As a member of the advocacy team for PC(USA)’s Israel/Palestine Mission Network’s (IPMN) — a proud US Campaign member — I worked for months alongside the US Campaign’s tireless staff before, during, and after the General Assembly. I experienced first-hand the tremendous strategic and organizational support offered by the US Campaign to member groups, knowing that IPMN is only one of hundreds that benefit.

Will you help secure the US Campaign’s ongoing support for member groups and campaigns like ours by making a contribution today?

The New York Times captured our collective excitement when divestment passed.

The US Campaign worked to center Palestinian voices in the campaign with key resources and partnerships. They highlighted and built on intersectionality with legislation against drones and for divestment from fossil fuels and for-profit prisons. More than anything else, the US Campaign staff empowered and foregrounded the people and organizations they worked with, listening and showing deep respect for the needs and wishes of not just IPMN but also the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, the Michigan Coalition for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel, American Muslims for Palestine, the U.S. Palestinian Community Network, and many others who took part.

Without a doubt, the US Campaign’s coalition work was essential to the victories. But the manner in which the US Campaign worked throughout the campaign served to not only positively influence the outcome but also to enhance each of our organizations and the individuals within. On the ground, National Organizer Anna Baltzer’s unobtrusive, supportive style allowed us to strengthen our own strategy, messaging, and organizing. Personally, I know that the US Campaign brought strengths out in me that I did not know I had.

But this type of intensive support is only possible when people like you help make it happen. Will you give $20, $50, or more today to help sustain and multiply the work of the US Campaign?

The US Campaign did not just help secure victories for the PC(USA); it strengthened and expanded the larger movement to end the occupation and ensure freedom, justice, and equality for all.

With the ongoing, worsening atrocities in Palestine day after day, we desperately need the voices and actions of a strong coalition to work to end U.S. complicity in Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.

It took us ten years to secure divestment. Please join me in taking a moment to give $10, $20, $50, or more to build the movement and ensure many future victories to come.

Anna BaltzerRobert Ross
Chair of Advocacy, Steering Committee,
Israel-Palestine Mission Network

P.S. Right now, the US Campaign is organizing grassroots, national support for us amidst the tremendous backlash we are facing. Will you add your voice too

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