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Gaza Corner Archive: Jan 2012-Present
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This weekly feature includes news from the Middle East often ignored by the mainstream press coupled with music from the region.  Gaza Corner was conceived to help focus attention on relieving the humanitarian crisis in Gaza which has been under a severe economic blockade imposed by the Israeli occupation since 2006.



Dr. Gilbert has volunteered at al-Shifa hospital during three wars,
treating thousands of patients [AP]

related stories:


combined excerpt:

Mads Gilbert, an outspoken Norwegian doctor and activist who treated patients at Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital during Israel’s assault on the Palestinian territory this summer, has been denied access to Gaza "indefinitely" by Israeli authorities.

Gilbert said on Friday that he was turned away from the Erez border crossing when attempting to return to Gaza in October, despite having all the legitimate paper work.

"To my surprise I was denied access by the Israeli military," he said. "When I asked the reason they informed me that it was a security issue."

Gilbert said that when he asked for a fuller explanation, he was told to "leave the premises or the police would be called".

The 67-year-old, who has been involved in solidarity work with Palestinians for decades and volunteered at al-Shifa on and off for 17 years, has been a vocal critic of Israel's military campaigns and its occupation of Palestinian territory.

During the seven-week conflict between Israel and the Hamas movement that left nearly 2200 Palestinians dead, Gilbert frequently spoke to international media, including Al Jazeera and Democracy Now, about the situation at al-Shifa hospital, which was overwhelmed with civilian casualties.

During the recent war, Gilbert accused Israel of committing "state terrorism at a very sophisticated and very high level,” and said its army was "using a wide variety of sophisticated modern weapons against a basically naked civilian population.

BBC aired an interview with Gilbert, conducted at al-Shifa hospital.  The interviewer began asking him to respond to Israel’s claims that it was not targeting civilians, that it was only attacking Hamas militants. Gilbert called the claim “an absolutely stupid statement” and explained that, among the hundreds of patients he had seen at that point, only two had been fighters. The “large majority” were women, children, and men civilians. “These numbers are contradictory to everything Israel says,” he reported.

In 2008 and 2009, Gilbert treated Palestinians who had been wounded by Israel’s use of experimental and illegal chemical weapons, including white phosphorous, dense inert metal explosives (DIME) munitions, and flechette shells. In
July 2014, in the midst of Israel’s most recent attack on Gaza, Gilbert spoke with Electronic Intifada, revealing that he saw indications of renewed use of DIME weapons and flechettes.

Dore note: Flechettes are described as illegal under rules of humanitarian law. The way they’re described is they explode in the air above a target, sending out a cone of thousands of tiny steel darts, small darts. DIME (Dense Inert Metal Explosives)  weapons are banned under international law and "kill their victims through the amputation of limbs in a way that resembles an automated saw. As for those who are able to survive, they are vulnerable to cancer because [the weapons] contain carcinogenic tungsten," according to a report  by Al Jazeera.

Dr. Gilbert told Al Jazeera he was informed that the ban was "infinite without any time limit".

Medical Aid for Palestinians, a UK-registered charity, which has been working in the occupied West Bank and Gaza for over 20 years and supports al-Shifa hospital, called the ban on Gilbert "deeply concerning" and reiterated that, "following the recent conflict, thousands of Palestinians in Gaza require specialised surgical treatment and it is imperative that the right to health is unimpeded".

Dr. Gilbert said he had been invited by the Gaza Health Ministry, which had requested his assistance to research the impact on healthcare of the Israeli bombardment.

Before Operation Protective Edge commenced in early July 2014, Gilbert toured medical and health facilities and individual homes in Gaza, researching for a United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) report on the dire state of the strip’s health sector.

He wrote of “overstretched” health facilities, widespread physical and psychological trauma, “a deep financial crisis,” a lack of needed medical supplies, and a “severe energy crisis.” He also noted the “devastating results of the blockade imposed by the Government of Israel,” with rampant poverty, a 38.5% unemployment rate, food insecurity in at least 57% of households, and inadequate access to clean water. All of these already extreme ills were only exacerbated by the July-August Israeli assault on Gaza, an onslaught that left roughly 2,200 Palestinians dead, including over 1,500 civilians, more than 500 of whom were children.

Gilbert is not the only one Israel has recently prevented from entering Gaza. In August, just after the end of its military assault, Israel refused to allow Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, the world’s leading human rights organizations, from entering the strip, impeding them from conducting war crimes investigations.

Denouncing his entry ban as a limitation of freedom of expression, Gilbert said it appeared the Israeli government "doesn't want the effects of their continuous attacks on the civilian population in Gaza to be known to the world".

"Telling the world about the burdens of the Palestinians in Gaza is considered a security risk," he said, adding that in a larger perspective, the ban was not about him, but about the Gazans' right to international assistance.

He vowed to continue to challenge Israel
and called for political pressure to be exerted to lift the "long overdue" siege of Gaza.

"There is no way we’re going to accept that medical and humanitarian assistance to the people in Gaza shall be denied just because the Israeli government has decided so. I will not give up travelling to Gaza as long as they have medical needs," he said.




While the legislation is being justified on the grounds that prayer calls often produce "intolerable noise",
it is bound to prompt accusations of religious intolerance (Photo: Rex Features)


excerpt:

Israeli Right-wingers have revived highly contentious plans that could effectively silence the Muslim call to prayer, known as the adhan.

In a move that risks stoking already simmering tensions in Jerusalem between Jews and Arabs, a member of Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition Robert Ilatov, a parliamentarian with the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, is sponsoring the bill with the support of Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister who is also the party's leader.

While the legislation is being justified on the grounds that prayer calls often produce "intolerable noise" that disturbs many citizens' sleep, it is bound to prompt accusations of religious intolerance and prejudice against Israel's Muslim minority.

"Hundreds of thousands of citizens in Israel, in the Galilee, the Negev, Jerusalem and other locations in central Israel suffer on a regular basis from noise that is caused by muezzin [prayer caller] calls in mosques," the bill states.

Around 20 per cent of Israel's population are Arabs, most of them Muslim, meaning the adhan is a familiar sound five times a day - including before dawn - despite the country's de facto status as a Jewish state.

Mr Ilatov suggested that freedom of religious worship was trumped by the right to peace and quiet.

"Freedom of religion and worship is a universal freedom to which everyone is entitled in every democratic state, and of course in Israel," he told Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper. "This does not mean that additional rights can be trampled, such as the right to conduct a normal daily routine that includes peaceful and uninterrupted sleep during the night."

The proposal comes against the backdrop of a clampdown by security forces in Arab neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem which have witnessed almost nightly scenes of unrest in recent months following the murder of a 16-year-old Palestinian by Jewish vigilantes seeking revenge for the killing of three Israelis in the West Bank.


excerpt:

The Israeli parliament voted overwhelmingly last week to suspend Haneen Zoabi, a legislator representing the state’s large Palestinian minority, for six months as a campaign to silence political dissent intensified.

It is the longest suspension in the Knesset’s history and the maximum punishment allowed under Israeli law.

At a press conference, Zoabi denounced her treatment as “political persecution.”

“By distancing me from the Knesset, basically they’re saying they don’t want Arabs, and only want ‘good Arabs.’ We won’t be ‘good Arabs,’” she said.

The Knesset’s confirmation of Zoabi’s suspension comes as she faces a criminal trial for incitement in a separate case and as the Knesset considers stripping her of citizenship.

But Zoabi is not the only Palestinian representative in the firing line. Earlier this year the Knesset raised the threshold for election to the parliament, in what has been widely interpreted as an attempt to exclude all three small parties representing the Palestinian minority. One in five citizens of Israel belong to the minority.

In addition, it emerged last week that a bill is being prepared to outlaw the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, the only extra-parliamentary party widely supported by Palestinian citizens.

Along with Zoabi, the Islamic Movement’s leader, Sheikh Raed Salah, has been among the most vocal critics of Israeli policies, especially over the al-Aqsa mosque compound in occupied Jerusalem.

After Israel barred the Palestinian Authority from having any presence in Jerusalem more than a decade ago and expelled Hamas legislators from the city, Salah has become the face of Palestinian political activism in Jerusalem.

Death threats

Zoabi was originally suspended after legislators from all the main parties expressed outrage at a series of comments from her criticizing both the build-up to Israel’s summer assault on Gaza, dubbed “Operation Protective Edge,” and the 51-day attack itself, which left more than 2,100 Palestinians dead, most of them civilians.

In particular, fellow members of Knesset were incensed by a radio interview in which she expressed her disapproval of the kidnapping of three Israeli youths in the occupied West Bank, but refused to denounce those behind it as “terrorists.” The youths were later found murdered.

Zoabi faced a wave of death threats and needed to be assigned a bodyguard for public appearances.

During the Knesset debate on her appeal against the suspension, Zoabi said: “Yes, I crossed the lines of consensus — a warlike, aggressive, racist, populist, chauvinist, arrogant consensus. I must cross those lines. I am no Zionist, and that is within my legal right.”

Intentional subversions

In an apparently intentional subversion of Netanyahu’s recent comparison of the Islamic State and Hamas, the Palestinian resistance movement, Zoabi described an Israeli Air Force pilot as “no less a terrorist than a person who takes a knife and commits a beheading.” She added that “both are armies of murderers, they have no boundaries and no red lines.”

Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister, was among those who responded by calling Zoabi a “terrorist.”

“The law must be used to put the terrorist — there is no other word for it — the terrorist Haneen Zoabi in jail for many years,” he told Israel Radio.

Tyranny of the majority

Ayelet Shaked, of the settler Jewish Home party, which is in the government coalition, has introduced a bill that would allow a simple majority of the Knesset to vote to override Supreme Court rulings.

Human rights lawyers warned that the bill would further erode already limited protections for minority rights.

Debbie Gild-Hayo, a lawyer with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, warned that protections for minorities from the tyranny of the majority would be in severe jeopardy as a result. “These proposals wish to break down the checks and balances that are fundamental to democracy,” she said.

Zoabi remained defiant. She noted that, while she was being hounded, the legal authorities had ignored genocidal remarks made by Jewish politicians against Palestinians during the summer attack on Gaza.

“They’re putting me on trial over a trivial, meaningless matter, while ministers and MKs who incited to racism and incited to violence and even to murder aren’t being investigated, even after complaints were filed against them.”

She added: “If I am indicted, I’ll turn the hearings into the most political trial in Israel’s history.”



Kurds as far as the eye can see demonstrating solidarity
with the people of Kobane in Kiziltepe, Turkey near the Syrian border.


International Call Leads to Global Day of Action
For Kobane And For Humanity
(peaceinkurdistan.com, 10/28/14)
press statement excerpt:

Nov 1 is an urgent call for action appealing to people all over the world to show solidarity with Kobane, which is still under siege by the Islamic State (IS) and facing the possibility of a genocide.

Prominent signatories include Professor Noam Chomsky and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who have both been long-time supporters of the Kurdish struggle for self-determination, as well as Nobel Peace Prize Laureates like Adolfo Erez Esquivel, and Jose Ramos-Horta, former President of East Timor and Nora Cortinas, cofounder of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo in Argentina and Palestinian singer Reem Kelani.

For nearly two months, the city of Kobane has been facing an onslaught from IS. The call for action states that the US-led coalition “has not fulfilled their real international legal obligations. Some of the countries in the coalition, especially Turkey, are among financial and military supporters of IS in Iraq and Syria.”

Dore note:  In response to the call to action there were rallies in some 30 countries spanning 5 continents.

Watch Reem Kelani's video message of solidarity with Kobane posted 10/20/14..

Latest info via Twitter:

#GlobalDay4Kobane
and
#Kobane

Related articles:

First Kurdish reinforcements
cross Turkish border to Kobane
Peshmerga enters Kobane in powerful symbol
for long-oppressed stateless Kurds
(Richard Spencer and Magdy Samaan, Telegraph UK, 10/30/14)

Reinforcements Enter Besieged Town via Turkey, Raising Hopes
(Anne Barnardoct, NYT, 10/29/14)

IS controls half of Kobane, says FSA rebel leader
(Richard Spencer, Telegraph UK, 10/29/14)
combined excerpt:

The reinforcements (including desperately needed anti-tank missiles and artillery) were the first Turkey had allowed to cross through into Syria after weeks of tense diplomacy.

Turkey has strong reservations about helping Kurdish communities in Syria and Iraq that are aligned with its own restive Kurdish population.

For many ordinary Kurds, the Peshmerga's arrival was a symbol of a long-sought united front to save Kobane, which has become a symbol of their resistance not only to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant but all the many enemies against which they have fought over the years in all three countries.

Soner Cagaptay, a Turkish political analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said the range of forces now in Kobane was striking. It incorporates Syrian Arab rebels, the Iraqi Kurds, and local Kurdish fighters from the Y.P.G., a militia affiliated with Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., movement.

“That’s huge, the first time this has happened,” he said. “This builds up a working relationship between these three groups, so if the goal is to build a native, indigenous boots-on-the-ground strategy, this could be the beginning.”

A Town Shouldn't Fight the Islamic State Alone;
Turkey's Obstruction of Kobane's Battle Against IS
(Meysa Abido, NYT Op-Ed, 10/28/14)

Meysa Abdo, who is also known by the nom de guerre Narin Afrin, is a commander of the resistance in Kobani.

Since Sept. 15, we, the people of the Syrian town of Kobani, have been fighting, outnumbered and outgunned, against an all-out assault by the army of the Islamic State, also known as IS.

Yet despite a campaign that has intensified in the past month, including the deployment of United States (captured) tanks and armored vehicles, the Islamic State has not been able to break the resistance of Kobani’s fighters.

We are defending a democratic, secular society of Kurds, Arabs, Muslims and Christians who all face an imminent massacre.

Kobani’s resistance has mobilized our entire society, and many of its leaders, including myself, are women.

We had been fighting without any logistical assistance from the outside world until the limited coalition airdrops of weapons and supplies on Oct. 20. Airdrops of supplies should continue, so that we do not run out of ammunition.

None of that changes the reality that our weapons still cannot match those of the Islamic State.

Turkey, a NATO member, should have been an ally in this conflict. It could easily have helped us by allowing access between different Syrian Kurdish areas, so as to let fighters and supplies move back and forth through Turkish territory.

Instead, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has several times publicly equated our fighters, who are defending a diverse and democratic society, with the murderous Islamic State, evidently because of the controversy surrounding Turkey’s Kurdish minority.

Last week, following domestic and international criticism, Turkish leaders at last said they would open a corridor for a small group of Iraqi pesh merga fighters, and some Free Syrian Army brigades, to cross into Kobani. But they still will not allow other Syrian Kurds to cross Turkish territory to reach us. This has been decided without consulting us.

As a result, the Islamic State can bring in endless amounts of new supplies and ammunition, but we are still effectively blockaded on all sides.
 
We believe that it is in the Turkish government’s interest to have a border with the democratic administration of a western Kurdistan rather than one with the Islamic State.

Western governments should increase their pressure on Turkey to open a corridor for Syrian Kurdish forces and their heavy weapons to reach the defenders of Kobani through the border.

We have proved ourselves to be one of the only effective forces battling the Islamic State in Syria. Whenever we meet them on equal terms, they are defeated.
.
The people of Kobani need the attention and help of the world.

This article was translated from the Kurdish for the New York Times by GŘney Yildiz.




Islamic State (IS) in Raqqa, Syria
Image by AP/Raqqa Media Center

Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, And These Guys Are Risking Their Lives To Document It
(Alice Speri, news .vice.com, 9/25/14)
excerpt:

Raqqa is a city where life under the Islamic State is as inscrutable to outsiders as it is terrifying — a reminder of the caliphate's brutality as much as of its bureaucratic efficiency.

With open dissent all but stifled in the city — and punished with death, when it still happens — a group of young residents has taken the huge personal risk of documenting life under the Islamist fighters' rule — sharing photos, videos, and stories from the city on the web. Even after one of them was caught and executed, the group carried on, speaking with journalists and sharing images from the city.

VICE News caught up with 22-year-old Abu Ibrahim Raqqawi, a member of the group who in the last four years went from medical student, to activist against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, to a chronicler of the fate of his city under the Islamic State, which he documented one crucifixion at the time until he was forced to flee just two weeks ago.

VICE NEWS: How do you guys operate?

Abu Ibrahim Raqqawi: Our campaign is called "Raqqa is being slaughtered silently," and it was launched in April, 2014. We wanted this campaign because ISIS commits a lot of crimes in the city, without anyone in the world knowing about it.  We are 12 inside the city and four outside.

So those of you that are out of Raqqa, where are you?

There are three in Turkey, and I got out of Raqqa about two weeks ago, but I'm not in Turkey and not in Syria. I got out because they want to execute me but my family is still in Raqqa.

Were you guys fighting the regime of Bashar al-Assad before ISIS came in?

We were activists against the Assad regime when we started, but after our city was freed, and ISIS took over our freedom, we just decided to launch this campaign to expose all the crimes that ISIS do, and not just ISIS but all the extremist groups in the city.

Who is in charge? Mostly foreigners? Or mostly Iraqis or Syrians?

Most of them are Iraqis and Tunisians. But mostly Iraqis.

How was Raqqa before ISIS, and before the war, especially for women? Were they able to work?

It was a normal city like any other city in the world. There were female doctors, lawyers, teachers. There were a lot of women who weren't even wearing hijabs. It was a mixed city, there were mixed marriages, mixed cafes, mixed restaurants. It was a normal city like any city in the world.

Are women allowed to work at all now?

No, just the teachers, and they are not allowed to teach boys over 6 years.

Are any girls still going to school?

There has been no school or education since ISIS has taken the city. No universities, no school, no nothing at all. They said they want to make new, special books, and special schools, but until now there is nothing at all, and they say that teachers must take special lessons from ISIS to be allowed to teach and those who don't won't be allowed.

Are there any underground organizations, or groups like yours?

There are almost no activists.

Are you afraid for your family in Raqqa, because of the work you do?

Sure. A week ago, they went to the home of one member of our group who's in Turkey, searching for him, and they said to his father, "If your boy does not stop talking about us, that will be a big problem for you."

How are you protecting your family, are you trying to get them out?

It's a very bad situation for us, we cannot take them out of the city.

How do people in Raqqa feel about the US air strikes?

I would say the people of Raqqa just split into two parts. The first part say, "I will deal with the devil just to take ISIS out of the city, because we are tired of ISIS. Enough of this, we want you to take them out of the city, we want our freedom, we want our lives back, and our sons back from prison, because there are more than 1,200 people from Raqqa in ISIS prisons."

They just want these air strikes to kick ISIS out of the city but they fear these air strikes, because they don't want any of the civilians or the innocent prisoners, and innocent families to die.

The second part, including me, are against these strikes, because if the West wanted our freedom, why didn't they bomb the Assad regime after he used chemical weapons, and why didn't they bomb the Assad regime when we have been begging for their help for four years now, and they didn't do anything? They are just now doing this because of ISIS, not for us. So they are against these airstrikes. People just split into two parts, but both parts are fearing that air strikes will kill innocent people.


Gaza Corner Audio Broadcast Dore Stein 9/20/14
(click for broadcast)



Turkey closed the border crossing w/ Kobane again as thousands of Kurds flee IS encirclement of city.  Obama remains silent and does nothing to prevent possible mass slaughter;
photo credit unknown - taken 9/20/14



Letter to President Barack Obama - Provide Syrian Kurds with humanitarian and military support
(Dr. Amir Sharifi - Ekurd.net, 9/20/14)

related stories:

Obama abandons Syrian Kurds to slaughter
(Opinion, Michael Rubin, AEIdeas.org, 9/19/14)
AEIdeas is a blog from the American Enterprise Institute

  'The world cares nothing'
Syrian city under IS siege
(Opinion, Patrick Cockburn, The Independent UK, 9/18/14)

IS seizes 21 Kurdish villages in northern Syria,
close in on Kobane
 (Agence France-Presses/Reuters, 9/18/14)

Massacre warnings signal
 now is the time to attack ISIL
(Opinion, David Phillips, CNBC.com, 9/18/14)

On Kurds and terror lists
(Opinion, Michael Rubin, AEIdeas.org, 9/19/14)

President Obama transcript of address to the nation concerining the Islamic State (IS)
 (9/10/14)


Israel jailed influential Palestinian writer

"to remove him from society"
(Patrick O. Strickland,  The Electronic Intifada/al Bireh 9/12/14)

related article:

Number of Palestinians held in
administrative detention doubles
(Maannews.net, 8/13/14)


Gaza Corner Audio Broadcast
Dore Stein 8/31/14
(click for audio)


Turkish Kurds help their Iraqi brothers
to resist Islamic State (IS) advance

Female  Guerillas are leading the PKK's fight against IS
in a rare display of unity with Peshmerga
(Hermione Gee, Independetn UK, 9/7/14)


Kurdish female fighters of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPJ) at a military training camp. [Reuters]

After the northern Iraqi town of Makhmour fell to Islamic State militants last month, Kurdish forces were gathered in the nearby village of Bazarga. Perched on the hillside overlooking the city, it gave the Kurds a safe vantage point from which to observe their enemy.

Volunteers had also converged on the area, offering their help to the Kurdish army, or Peshmerga. Hundreds of parked cars lined the side of the main road from the regional capital, Erbil, with young men leaning against their doors. Like the security forces stationed at a camp hidden from the road, they were waiting for an opportunity to take on the militants.

"We come here because we want to fight terrorists. We have guns in the car; we will fight these people until we die," explained Moukadam Aziz, who returned to Kurdistan from Norway, where he lives, to defend his homeland from Islamic State (formerly known as Isis).

Like Aziz, many volunteers standing around in the late afternoon heat had returned from abroad after Islamic State took Mosul in June. Others came to Bazarga from across Kurdistan, determined to resist the militants.

The assortment of armed forces gathered in the area told a similar story, with Kurdish government troops fighting alongside guerrillas from the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK. Within the official forces, the battle for Makhmour saw a rare display of unity between battalions whose loyalties are divided across Kurdistan's different political parties and provinces.

At a military base nearby, men were milling around a central courtyard, some in uniform, some in traditional Kurdish dress, but all sharing the mood of restless anticipation, filling the time talking and smoking, apparently oblivious to the intermittent artillery fire around them.

Brigadier Colonel Hejar, of the Kurdish security services, in charge of the base, said they clashed with Islamic State the day before, killing dozens of militants. "We brought two bodies back to the camp and buried them this morning," he said.
    
The troops were defending a UN-run refugee camp in Makhmour, which has been home to more than 12,000 Turkish Kurds for the last 15 years. The refugees had to flee their own country because of their allegiance to the PKK, which Turkey – like the US, EU and Nato –considers a terrorist organisation.

Founded by Abdullah Ocalan in the 1970s to fight for Kurdish cultural and political rights, the PKK has been engaged in an intermittent struggle against the Turkish government ever since. Ocalan is now serving a life sentence for treason in Turkey.

The upside to the current crisis, says a 28-year-old PKK guerilla called Slaw, is that the Kurds are finally working together. One of the PKK's many female fighters, Slaw lives in the Makhmour camp. The battle for Makhmour was her first experience of armed combat and the first time she had seen Kurds united.

"Now there are no borders between the different parts of Kurdistan. Kurds from Iran, Syria, Turkey, and Iraq are here. We've all crossed the borders to fight the Isis. The Kurds are united to bring our land back under our control."

Kurdish forces successfully retook Makhmour a few days later and the PKK have now deployed to Sinjar and Jalawla, Kurdish areas in the west and east of the country where extensive fighting continues. But divisions between the different factions are starting to re-emerge, with the Kurdish authorities apparently distancing themselves from the PKK.

The local media close to the government has played down the role of the PKK in providing aid to the tens of thousands of Yazidi stranded on a mountain after Islamic State militants overran the western district of Sinjar, and then in creating a safe corridor that allowed them to escape.

Unlike the recent refugee camps scattered across the Kurdistan region, Makhmour's residents live in houses, some built out of local stone, others out of grey cement blocks. Trees, gardens, and winding streets give the camp a village-like feel, while pictures of Ocalan and pro-PKK graffiti leave no doubt about where the residents' allegiances lie.

When Islamic State entered Makhmour the battle-hardened PKK fighters are said to have volunteered to take the front line, ahead of the Peshmerga, who had not been engaged in active combat for years.

"We thought it would raise their morale to have us in front of them," said Massoum, one of three PKK commanders who run the camp.

Massoum says the international community is reluctant to give the PKK the credit they are due or the military support they could use to help to keep Islamic State at bay. "People are blind, deaf and dumb and don't want to strengthen the PKK. They call Isis 'jihadists' and call us 'terrorists'. They see us as a threat when they should understand that none of us can stand alone against Isis."


 
War on Gaza:
Looking Back and Forward

(editorial by Dore Stein, updated 8/31/14)

I finished writing this editorial and was about to post it when news broke this morning of yet another Israeli war crime, one that will not likely be reported as such in the American mainstream press.

The pace of Israel's illegal settlement expansion has accelerated in recent years.  Israel stepped on the accelerator yet again with what Peace Now calls "the largest Israeli appropriation of West Bank land in 30 years."  Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank announced the takeover of almost 1000 acres belonging to five Palestinian villages between the Etzion settlement bloc and Jerusalem.

You can read the story in Al Jazeera, Guardian UK and  Haaretz (Haaretz requires registration.)

According to The International Criminal Court's founding charter, the 1998 Rome statute (pdf - under War Crimes 2b (viii), describes as a war crime "the transfer, directly or indirectly, by the occupying power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies."

If anyone requires more proof that Israel is not interested in seriously moving forward with a peace process, this is it. Fresh off its latest war on Gaza that resulted international condemnation from EU leaders to even President Obama for Israel's wanton slaughter of Gazan civilians and deliberate destruction of  Gaza's civilian infrastructure,  Israel responds with its biggest illegal land grab in three decades.

All American administrations are on record  as being opposed to Israeli settlement building but words amount to empty rhetoric as the U.S. refuses to leverage its annual 3 billion dollars of economic and military aid  to pressure Israel.  It's a joke for the U.S. to discuss a two state solution when the West Bank and East Jerusalem continue to be swallowed by Israel on a daily basis.

After 51 days of human carnage in Gaza an open ended cease-fire was reached August 26 to apparently end Israel's third war on Gaza in the past six years.

As always the biggest losers are civilians especially children.

In Gaza approximately 2150 people were  killed, most of them civilians, including more than 500 children which would equate to 88,000 American children in the name of self-defense.  At least 11,000 people were injured including 3000 children of whom 1000 have injuries that have paralyzed them.  1800 children are orphaned. and more than 17,000 homes were destroyed or badly damaged. Around a third of Gaza's 1.8 million people have been displaced.  Gaza's civilian infrastructure has been destroyed.  Reconstruction could take up to 10 years, say analysts.

On the Israeli side 64 soldiers died along with six civilians including one child. Hundreds of families relocated from homes near the Gaza border to safer areas further north.

(Majority of the above statistics and cease fire terms below from Guardian UK article: Gaza ceasefire:  Israel and Palestinians agree to halt weeks of fighting)

What did this war on Gaza achieve?

The terms of this open ended cease fire appear to be almost identical to what was agreed to at the end of the previous Israeli assault in Nov 2012.   Israel has reportedly agreed to allow humanitarian aid and construction materials to enter Gaza, and will extend the permitted fishing zone to six miles from 3 miles off the coast of Gaza.  The Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt is supposed to be opened although Haaretz reports Egypt does not intend to fully open its border crossing into Gaza at Rafah.

But the root cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:  Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza since 1967, especially the inhuman siege and blockade of Gaza since 2006 have not been addressed.  Until Palestinians have  basic human rights and freedoms that all people are entitled, a sustainable peace will not happen.

As Nathan Thrall said in his op-ed piece in the N.Y. Times How the West Chose War in Gaza:  “Israel is pursuing a return to the status quo ante, when Gaza had electricity for barely eight hours a day, water was undrinkable, sewage was dumped in the sea, fuel shortages caused sanitation plants to shut down and waste sometimes floated in the streets.”

That was before the 50 days of hell.

There is agreement to have the more difficult issues deferred for further talks in a few weeks. Specific demands include a seaport and airport in Gaza, construction of which were permitted under the 1993 Oslo accords.  Talks will also need to address Israel's insistence on the disarmament of militant groups and the return of the remains of two of its soldiers killed in the fighting.

Rabbi Henry Siegman who's father was one of the key leaders of the European Zionist movement, is president of the U.S./Middle East Project and former long time executive director of the American Jewish Congress. In his Politico article "Israel Provoked this War," he points out this latest war was triggered by Israel’s determination to destroy the Palestinian unity government that was formed in early June by Fatah and Hamas.

Israel was isolated in this desperate goal as  the U.S. and the E.U. backed the unity government and the unity government was committed to honoring all of the conditions imposed by the international community for recognition of its legitimacy.

Apparently Netanyahu's biggest fear is a unified Palestinian entity.

Therefore he manipulated the murder of the three young Israeli settlers as a way to whip up domestic and international support for the invasion of Gaza thinking he'd crush Hamas, Hamas would lose support within Gaza and the unity government would be stillborn.

Netanyahu miscalculated.

Fatah supported Hamas throughout the Israeli assault and the unity government is very much alive.  Hamas may be weakened but it arguably enjoys more support in Gaza now than before the war due to its resistance against one of the world's most lethal military machines.

Netanyahu's domestic approval rating which was 82% when the ground invasion began in mid July, plummeted to 38% (source - channel 2 Israel) the day before the cease fire was announced and is likely even lower now.

The next date  to look out for is September 15.

According to the Haaretz article Palestinians threaten to turn to ICC if date not set for return to 1967 lines, the Palestinians plan to turn to the United Nations Security Council on September 15 to demand a deadline be set for Israel's withdrawal to 1967 borders, according to senior Fatah official Nabil Shaath.

If the Security Council rejects the initiative, the Palestinians would open their war
crimes case against Israel at the International Criminal Court.

The Arab League will meet in Cairo September 7-9 to discuss providing Abbas with an Arab umbrella of support. Abbas is already backed in principle by Saudi Arabia and Egypt. 

Jewish Holocaust survivors and descendants of survivors and victims from around the world
call for justice in Gaza

40 Jewish survivors of the Nazi Holocaust and 287 descendants and relatives of survivors and victims from 26 countries signed a letter condemning Israel’s actions in Gaza.

The below letter was posted in the Guardian UK 8/15/14 and NY Times 8/23/14):

As  Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of the Nazi genocide, we unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonisation of historic Palestine. We further condemn the United States for providing Israel with the funding to carry out the attack, and western states more generally for using their diplomatic muscle to protect Israel from condemnation. Genocide begins with the silence of the world.

We are alarmed by the extreme, racist dehumanisation of Palestinians in Israeli society, which has reached fever-pitch. Politicians and pundits in the Times of Israel and the Jerusalem Post have called openly for genocide of Palestinians and rightwing Israelis are adopting neo-Nazi insignia.

Furthermore, we are disgusted and outraged by Elie Wiesel’s abuse of our history in these pages (advertisement, 11 August; Report, 11 August) to promote blatant falsehoods used to justify the unjustifiable: Israel’s wholesale effort to destroy Gaza and the murder of nearly 2,000 Palestinians, including many hundreds of children. Nothing can justify bombing UN shelters, homes, hospitals and universities. Nothing can justify depriving people of electricity and water.

We must raise our collective voices and use our collective power to bring about an end to all forms of racism, including the ongoing genocide of Palestinian people. We call for an immediate end to the blockade of Gaza. We call for the full economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel. “Never again” must mean “Never again for anyone”.

You can see a full listing of signers here.


Dutch nonagenarian returns Righteous Among the Nations medal after six relatives killed in Gaza
(by Amira Haas, Haaretz 8/15/14, requires registration)


Henk Zanoli, who helped save a Jewish child from deportation to concentration camps, said holding on to the medal would be an 'insult to the family.'
excerpt:

A 91-year-old Dutch man who was declared a Righteous Among the Nations for saving a Jew during the German occupation on Thursday returned his medal and certificate because six of his relatives were killed by an Israeli bombing in the Gaza Strip last month.

In 2011, the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum declared Henk Zanoli and his late mother, Johana Zanoli-Smit, Righteous Among the Nations for having saved a Jewish child, Elhanan Pinto, during the Nazi occupation of Holland. Pinto, born in 1932, was hidden by the Zanoli family from the spring of 1943 until the Allies liberated Holland in 1945. His parents perished in Nazi death camps.

In the accompanying letter, addressed to Ambassador Haim Davon, Zanoli began by describing the price his family paid for resisting the Nazis and their successful effort to save a Jewish child.

Letter:

Ambassador Haim Davon
Embassy of Israel
Buitenhof 47
2513 AH The Hague
                                                                                                       The Hague, August 11 2014

Subject: Return of medal of honour

Excellency,

It is with great sorrow that I am herewith returning the medal I received as an honour and a token of appreciation from the State of Israel for the efforts and risks taken by
my mother and her family in saving the life of a Jewish boy during the German occupation of The Netherlands.

My mother and her nuclear family risked their lives fighting the German occupation. My mother lost her husband who was deported to Dachau as early as 1941 because of
his open and outspoken opposition to the German occupation. He eventually perished in Mauthausen Concentration Camp.  My sister lost her husband who was executed in the dunes of The Hague for his involvement in the resistance.  In addition to this my brother lost his Jewish fiancÚe who was deported, never to return.

My steadfast and heroic mother nevertheless continued the struggle, amongst others, by taking in an 11 year old Jewish boy in her home risking both her own life and that
of her children. This boy survived the war under the wings of my mother andeventually moved to Israel.

Against this background it is particularly shocking and tragic that today, fourgenerations on, our family is faced with the murder of our kin in Gaza. Murder carried
out by the State of Israel.

The great- great grandchildren of my mother have lost their grandmother, threeuncles, an aunt and a cousin at the hands of the Israeli army. Their family apartment
building in Bureij Refugee Camp in Gaza was bombed on July 20 from an Israeli F16,turning the four storey building to rubble, leaving every single family member inside
it dead.

I understand that in your professional role, in which I am addressing you here, you may not be able to express understanding for my decision. However, I am convinced
that at both a personal and human level you will have a profound understanding of thefact that for me to hold on to the honour granted by the State of Israel, under these
circumstances, will be both an insult to the memory of my courageous mother whorisked her life and that of her children fighting against suppression and for the
preservation of human life as well as an insult to those in my family, four generationson, who lost no less than six of their relatives in Gaza at the hands of the State of Israel.

On a more general note the following.  After the horror of the holocaust my family strongly supported the Jewish people also with regard to their aspirations to build a
national home. Over more than six decades I have however slowly come to realize that the Zionist project had from its beginning a racist element in it in aspiring to build
a state exclusively for Jews.  As a consequence, ethnic cleansing took place at the time of the establishment of your state and your state continues to suppress the Palestinian people on the West Bank and in Gaza who live under Israeli occupation since 1967.

The actions of your state in Gaza these days have already resulted in serious accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity. As a retired lawyer it would
be no surprise to me that these accusations could lead to possible convictions if true and unpoliticized justice is able to have its course. What happened to our kin in Gaza
will no doubt be brought to the table at such a time as well.

The only way out of the quagmire the Jewish people of Israel have gotten themselves into is by granting all living under the control of the State of Israel the same political
rights and social and economic rights and opportunities.  Although this will result in a state no longer exclusively Jewish it will be a state with a level of righteousness on
the basis of which I could accept the title of ‘Righteous among the Nations’ you awarded to my mother and me together with the medal.

Today I am a 91 year old man who does not expect radical change with regard to the current sad reality within my, most likely, still limited lifetime. If your state would be
willing and able to transform itself along the lines set out above and there would still be an interest at that time in granting an honour to my family for the actions of my
mother during the second world war, be sure to contact me or my descendants.

Sincerely,

H.A. Zanoli


Gaza Corner Audio Broadcast
by Dore Stein 8/16/14
(click for audio)

Eyewitness Blog Entries from Gaza
by Dr. Mona El Farra:

Whole Villages Have Been Wiped Off the Map: My Visit to Khuza'a (8/12/14)

In Gaza, We Have Lost So Many That We Love
(8/5/14)

Dr. Mona El-Farra, Director of Gaza Projects for the Middle East Children's Alliance (MECA) based in Berkeley, is a physician by training and a human rights and women’s rights activist by practice in the occupied Gaza Strip. She was born in Khan Younis, Gaza and has dedicated herself to developing community based programs that aim to improve health quality and link health services with cultural and recreation services all over the Gaza Strip. Dr. El-Farra is also the Health Chair of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society of the Gaza Strip and a member of the Union of Health Work Committees.

Dr. Fara has spent most of the war at the Red Crescent society, where she is vice president, diagnosing injuries, distributing hygiene kits to shelters, and setting up a hotline to answer medical questions.

Watch:
Irish Senator and Former Presidential Candidate David Norris Condemns Gaza Massacre
(click for 8:00 video, 7/31/14)

Irish senator and former presidential candidate David Norris made a powerful speech on July 31 condemning Israel’s massacre in Gaza and the complcity of American, Irish and other European governments.

Click for official transcript of Senator Norris' speech


Watch:
"If no siege, no tunnels!
If no occupation, no rockets!"
says doctor with long history helping in Gaza, Dr. Mads Gilbert
(submitted by Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, 8/8/14;
Click for video with English subtitles)

The Norwegian emergency surgeon returned to his home city of Troms° on 31 July after spending several weeks treating the wounded from Israel’s assault at Gaza City’s al-Shifa Hospital.

He went straight from the airport to give a spontaneous speech at a large solidarity demonstration for Gaza held at the same time.

Troms° is twinned with Gaza City.

“The Palestinian people’s resistance in Gaza today is admirable, it is fair and it is a struggle for all of us. We do not want a world where raw power can be abused, to kill those who struggle for justice,” he states.

Gilbert asks why after all the massacres, all of Israel’s violations of the laws protecting civilians, there are no sanctions on Israel.

He demands to know why the government of Norway is so “quiet” as Palestinians face “one of the most brutal occupation forces of modern history.”

“Solidarity is a powerful weapon,” Gilbert says, ending his address with a call for everyone to get involved in the movement for Palestinian rights.

“Israel is more isolated than ever and they deserve to be,” Gilbert says, endorsing the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

It is a powerful 25-minute speech.

Partial transcript follows:

Gilbert asks his fellow Norwegians to "imagine what their country would be like today if they had not struggled for its liberation from German occupation:

We actually built this country on respect for diversity, respect for the individual, respect for human dignity.

 And imagine being back in 1945. And I beg to be understood when I say that I am not comparing the German Nazi regime with Israel. I do not.

But I compare occupation with occupation.

Imagine that we in 1945 did not win the liberation struggle, did not throw out the occupier, could not see a bright future or believe our kids had a future. Imagine the occupier remaining in our country, taking it piece by piece, for decades upon decades. And banished us to the leanest areas. Took the fish in the sea, took the land, took the water, and we became more and more confined.

 And here in Troms° (imagine) we were actually imprisoned, because here there was so much resistance to the occupation. So we are imprisoned for seven years, because in an election we had chosen the most resilient, those who would not accept the occupation.

Then after seven years of confinement in our city, Troms°, the occupier began to bomb us. And they began to bomb us the day we made a political alliance with those in the other confined parts of occupied Norway, to say that we Norwegians would stand together against the occupier. Then they began to bomb us.

They bombed our university hospital, then the medical center, then killed our ambulance workers, they bombed schools where those who had lost their homes were trying to seek shelter. Then they cut the power and bombed our power plant. Then they shut off the water supply. What would we have done?

 Would we have given up, waved the white flag? No. No, we would not. And this is the situation in Gaza.

This is not a battle between terrorism and democracy. Hamas is not the enemy Israel is fighting. Israel is waging a war against the Palestinian people’s will to resist. The unbending determination not to submit to the occupation!

 It is the Palestinian people’s dignity and humanity that will not accept that they are treated as third, fourth, fifth-ranking people.

 In 1938, the Nazis called the Jews “Untermenschen,” subhuman. Today, Palestinians in the West Bank, in Gaza, in the Diaspora are treated as Untermensch, as subhumans who can be bombed, killed, slaughtered by their thousands, without any of those in power reacting.

 So I returned home to my free country – and this country is free because we had a resistance movement, because we said that occupied nations have the right to resist, even with weapons. It’s stated in international law.

 You are permitted to fight the occupier even with weapons. One should of course respect international law …

Nobody wants to be occupied!"


Gaza Corner Audio Broadcast by Dore Stein 8/2/14
(click for audio)

Noteworthy Gaza articles from the last week:

Liberal Zionist writer Peter Beinart's recent post on his Facebook page included the following concluding lines which I found chilling:

"Can anyone say, with confidence, that there is any action the Israeli government could take that American Jewish leaders would not seek to justify? I can't, and that terrifies me."

Peter's most recent column is called What American Jews Haven't Been Told About Gaza and appeared in Israeli newspaper Haaretz and also as a July 30 blog entry on his website.

Israel Provoked This War
It's up to President Obama to stop it
(Rabbi Henry Siegman, Politico, 7/22/14)

Rabbi Henry Siegman on Democracy Now:

Siegman on Gaza:
"A Slaughter of Innocents" (7/30/14)

Siegman to Israel:
Stop Killing Palestinians and End the Occupation (7/31/14)

Leading Jewish voice Rabbi Henry Siegman was in the news with strong opinions about Israel's war on Gaza.

Siegman's father was one of the founding fathers of  the European Zionist movement.

Siegman is former executive director of the American Jewish Congress from 1978 to 1994 and former executive vice president of the Synagogue Council of America.  He also served as senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is president of the U.S./Middle East Project.

Gaza and the Loss of Civilization
(by Brian Eno, 7/28/14)

Musician  Brian Eno wrote this opinion piece which appeared on David Byrne's website.

Eno excerpt:

"I sense I'm breaking an unspoken rule with this letter, but I can't keep quiet anymore.

Why does America continue its blind support of this one-sided exercise in ethnic cleansing?

As for the Peace Process: Israel wants the Process but not the Peace.

Like it or not, in the eyes of most of the world, America represents 'The West'. So it is The West  that is seen as supporting this war, despite all our high-handed talk about morality and democracy...The war has no moral justification that I can see  - but it doesn't even have any pragmatic value either."

(AmenaSaleem, Electronic Intifada, 7/25/14)

Peter Gabriel and Brian Eno are among 21,000 people who have signed an open letter to David Cameron, the British prime minister, demanding an immediate halt to the arms trade between the UK and Israel.

Journalist and activist Jemima Khan said: “Where is the world-wide uproar? Shame on our leaders who would speak up if this were happening to any other country on Earth.”

Member of parliament Jeremy Corbyn told journalists today: “The UK has a very close relationship with Israel, including buying and selling arms, and it’s time that this relationship was brought to an end since Israel is now under investigation for war crimes over the bombing of Gaza.

“I received an email from Dr. Mads Gilbert, working in Shifa hospital [in Gaza City], and it brought tears to my eyes when he was describing the pools of blood, the electricity cut off, the lack of clean water and the continuous surge of the dead and injured pouring into the hospital. It’s people like that who are saving lives, and Israel which is taking lives.”

Film-maker Ken Loach told reporters: “It’s disgraceful that our government is arming the State of Israel to continue its slaughter of civilians, of women and children. Everyone must be devastated by the sight of the maimed and the dead in Gaza, and everyone must direct their anger towards the Israeli war machine.”


Gaza Corner Audio Broadcast by Dore Stein 7/26/14
(click for audio)
note:  my apologies to Gabor Mate who in my live comments was mistakenly referrred to as 'she'.

The Beautiful Dream of Israel
has Become a Nightmare

(by Gabor Mate, Vancouver based author, speaker and Holocaust survivor
who wrote this opinion piece in the Toronto Star, 7/22/14)
excerpt:

As a Jewish youngster growing up in Budapest, an infant survivor of the Nazi genocide, I was for years haunted by a question resounding in my brain with such force that sometimes my head would spin: “How was it possible? How could the world have let such horrors happen?”

It was a na´ve question, that of a child. I know better now: such is reality. Whether in Vietnam or Rwanda or Syria, humanity stands by either complicitly or unconsciously or helplessly, as it always does. In Gaza today we find ways of justifying the bombing of hospitals, the annihilation of families at dinner, the killing of pre-adolescents playing soccer on a beach.

In Israel-Palestine the powerful party has succeeded in painting itself as the victim, while the ones being killed and maimed become the perpetrators. “They don’t care about life,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says, abetted by the Obamas and Harpers of this world, “we do.” Netanyahu, you who with surgical precision slaughter innocents, the young and the old, you who have cruelly blockaded Gaza for years, starving it of necessities, you who deprive Palestinians of more and more of their land, their water, their crops, their trees — you care about life?

There is no understanding Gaza out of context — Hamas rockets or unjustifiable terrorist attacks on civilians — and that context is the longest ongoing ethnic cleansing operation in the recent and present centuries, the ongoing attempt to destroy Palestinian nationhood.

The Palestinians use tunnels? So did my heroes, the poorly armed fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto. Unlike Israel, Palestinians lack Apache helicopters, guided drones, jet fighters with bombs, laser-guided artillery. Out of impotent defiance, they fire inept rockets, causing terror for innocent Israelis but rarely physical harm. With such a gross imbalance of power, there is no equivalence of culpability.

Israel wants peace? Perhaps, but as the veteran Israeli journalist Gideon Levy has pointed out, it does not want a just peace. Occupation and creeping annexation, an inhumane blockade, the destruction of olive groves, the arbitrary imprisonment of thousands, torture, daily humiliation of civilians, house demolitions: these are not policies compatible with any desire for a just peace. In Tel Aviv Gideon Levy now moves around with a bodyguard, the price of speaking the truth.

I have visited Gaza and the West Bank. I saw multi-generational Palestinian families weeping in hospitals around the bedsides of their wounded, at the graves of their dead. These are not people who do not care about life. They are like us — Canadians, Jews, like anyone: they celebrate life, family, work, education, food, peace, joy. And they are capable of hatred, they can harbour vengeance in the hearts, just like we can.

I used to believe that if people knew the facts, they would open to the truth. That, too, was na´ve. This issue is far too charged with emotion.

“People’s leaders have been misleaders, so they that are led have been confused,” in the words of the prophet Jeremiah. The voices of justice and sanity are not heeded. Netanyahu has his reasons. Harper and Obama have theirs.

And what shall we do, we ordinary people? I pray we can listen to our hearts. My heart tells me that “never again” is not a tribal slogan, that the murder of my grandparents in Auschwitz does not justify the ongoing dispossession of Palestinians, that justice, truth, peace are not tribal prerogatives. That Israel’s “right to defend itself,” unarguable in principle, does not validate mass killing.

But can we not be sad together at what that beautiful old dream of Jewish redemption has come to? Can we not grieve the death of innocents? I am sad these days. Can we not at least mourn together?


A Palestinian woman carries her belongings past the rubble of houses destroyed by Israeli strikes in Beit Hanoun.
Photograph: Lefteris Pitarakis/AP

A pause in  the bombing by Israeli forces -
and the ruins of Gaza are laid bare
(Peter Beaumont, The Observer, Guardian UK,  7/26/14)

excerpt:


In the dangerous streets around the hospital in Beit Hanoun, the buildings were, by and large, still standing on Friday afternoon. By Saturday morning, after a day of intense Israeli bombing and shellfire, the hospital in the northern Gaza town was standing in a sea of rubble, its walls pockmarked with gunfire and torn by shrapnel.

The skyline, until so recently regular and neat, had been transformed into something torn and ragged. The tops of a pair of minarets had been blown off, and the graves in a cemetery smashed to pieces. Houses, offices, apartment blocks and shops were collapsed or collapsing.

What happened here in Beit Hanoun, and in other neighbourhoods of Gaza hardest hit by the Israeli assault, will inevitably demand an explanation: whether the extremity of violence unleashed in these residential areas in recent days was proportionate, or if the destruction amounts to a war crime.

Those are questions for the days ahead. On Saturday, however, in the midst of a 12-hour humanitarian ceasefire, the concerns were more immediate ones, as thousands of Palestinian residents flocked back to their ruined neighbourhoods to see what remained.

As they came on foot and in cars, they were accompanied by fire engines, bulldozers and ambulances of the Red Crescent, whose crews by mid-afternoon had recovered 85 bodies, many of them partially decomposed, buried under the rubble of Gaza's most damaged neighbourhoods. Officials said the death toll among Palestinians had passed 1,000.

In some places visited by the Observer whole blocks had been flattened, dozens of buildings at a time reduced to a moonscape from which the smell of death at times wafted.

"My house, my house," said another man, hitting his head with his hand. Nothing, it seems, had escaped the flying pieces of white-hot metal thrown out by the bombs – not electricity cables, or cars left behind, not windows or doors.

Near the hospital a man leads a horse out of the ruins, a long streak of blood staining its hindquarters where it was struck by shrapnel. Elsewhere, we come across donkeys and cattle killed where they were left tied up in the street, scorched, stomachs swelling with gas.

A group of men show us the home of the Shabat family, seven of whom died when it was flattened by a bomb.

It is hard to imagine that anyone who did not flee could have survived the attack, but a few did.

"We lived through a night of horror. The shelling was all around our house," says Hanan al-Zaanin, standing with four of her children outside their home.

Zoheir Hamad is with his wife Umm Fadi next to a home that is little more than a few barely standing walls; the water pumping station next to them is also badly damaged.

"We left at the beginning of the war," says Zoheir.

"It is the first time that we have managed to come back." Umm Fadi adds: "We're staying in the UN school in Jabaliya. We came to get clothes for the children. But there is nothing left."

It is the phrase we hear throughout a long day: "Nothing left." And it is true. Whole areas that were once inhabited have been reduced to a landscape of earth and dust and broken shapes.

Although in places there is evidence fighting has taken place, what is hard to comprehend is the Israeli justification for the scale of the destruction, save destruction for its own sake in pursuit of a policy of collective punishment.

Ahead of probable international criticism over the scale of the destruction, some Israeli political figures were trying to deny the scale of the attacks was in any way disproportionate.

And if Beit Hanoun is largely destroyed, Shujai'iya, an eastern neighbourhood of Gaza that has been shelled and bombed for a week, is incomparably worse.

In the midst of an area of rubble the size of two football pitches in the last of these areas, we meet three brothers standing on what was once the four-storey building in which their families lived in four apartments. Next to them is a bomb crater measuring 10 metres across and six metres deep.

Alaa Helou, 35, a carpenter, points to what is no longer there. "That was a two-storey house. There was three storeys and over there was four storeys high. We came to see our house. We thought it might have been damaged by a shell. But there is nothing left of it."

"We spent 20 years making our place nice," says his older brother. "We spent all of our money on our homes."

If there is something worse than the scenes of destruction, it is what is visible in the faces in Beit Hanoun and Shujai'iya. A man is led away down one street in Shujai'iya; staggering and blind with grief he his held up by two others. Women sit in the dust, crying.

We find 33-year-old Rifaat Suqr sitting outside his gutted house, a stunned look on his face. "It is like an earthquake hit this street," he says. "An earthquake."

Except that this was not an earthquake. This was the work of men.




 
No ceasefire without justice in Gaza
We will not "return to a living death" of siege
and blockade, say Gaza civil society leaders
 
(published in Electronic Intifada, 7/22/14)

We will not “return to a living death” of siege and blockade, say Gaza civil society leaders.

As academics, public figures and activists witnessing the intended genocide of 1.8 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, we call for a ceasefire with Israel only if conditioned on an end to the blockade and the restoration of basic freedoms that have been denied to the people for more than seven years.

Our foremost concerns are not only the health and safety of the people in our communities, but also the quality of their lives – their ability to live free of fear of imprisonment without due process, to support their families through gainful employment, and to travel to visit their relatives and further their education.

These are fundamental human aspirations that have been severely limited for the Palestinian people for more than 47 years, but that have been particularly deprived from residents of Gaza since 2007. We have been pushed beyond the limits of what a normal person can be expected to endure.
A living death

Charges in the media and by politicians of various stripes that accuse Hamas of ordering Gaza residents to resist evacuation orders, and thus use them as human shields, are untrue. With temporary shelters full and the indiscriminate Israeli shelling, there is literally no place that is safe in Gaza.

Likewise, Hamas represented the sentiment of the vast majority of residents when it rejected the unilateral ceasefire proposed by Egypt and Israel without consulting anyone in Gaza. We share the broadly held public sentiment that it is unacceptable to merely return to the status quo – in which Israel strictly limits travel in and out of the Gaza Strip, controls the supplies that come in (including a ban on most construction materials), and prohibits virtually all exports, thus crippling the economy and triggering one of the highest poverty and unemployment rates in the Arab world.

To do so would mean a return to a living death.

Unfortunately, past experience has shown that the Israeli government repeatedly reneges on promises for further negotiations, as well as on its commitments to reform.

Likewise, the international community has demonstrated no political will to enforce these pledges. Therefore, we call for a ceasefire only when negotiated conditions result in the following:

    Freedom of movement of Palestinians in and out of the Gaza Strip.
    Unlimited import and export of supplies and goods, including by land, sea and air.
    Unrestricted use of the Gaza seaport.
    Monitoring and enforcement of these agreements by a body appointed by the United Nations, with appropriate security measures.

Each of these expectations is taken for granted by most countries, and it is time for the Palestinians of Gaza to be accorded the human rights they deserve.

Link for signatures.



An Old Man and a Young Man in Gaza
(Poem by Heathcote Williams with grateful acknowledgements to Angela Godfrey-Goldstein; courtesy international .it, 7/17/14)


excerpt:

“No man can cause more grief than the one clinging blindly to the vices of his ancestors.” William Faulkner, Intruder in the Dust
An old man holds a placard that reads,
“You take my water, burn my olive trees,
Destroy my house, take my job, steal my land, Imprison my father, kill my mother,
Bombard my country, starve us all,
Humiliate us all, but I am to blame:
I shot a rocket back.”

Here are some ungodly chants
From the Zionist Book of Psalms
Which are used to justify
Laying waste to a whole country
And to its inhabitants:

“We must blow Gaza back to the Middle Ages
Destroying all the infrastructure including roads and water”

Eli Yishai, former Deputy Prime Minister.
Amen

“There are no innocents in Gaza. Mow them down …
Kill the Gazans without thought or mercy.”

Michael Ben-Ari, an ex-member of the Knesset.
Amen

Gaza should be “bombed so hard the population Has to flee into Egypt”
Israel Katz, a Minister of Transportation.
Amen

The Chabad Lubavitch Rabbi Schneerson,
A self proclaimed Messiah
Whose followers await his return from the dead, (As if the Rabbi hadn’t preached
Enough when alive by his making the claim
That his religion heralded a new Master Race) – Has a devoted and powerful acolyte, Rabbi Manis Friedman,
Who declares that the “only way to fight a moral war” Is to “destroy the Arabs’ holy sites” and “to kill them.”
To “kill men, women and children”, and to eliminate anyone Who stands in the way of a Greater Israel.

Ethnic cleansing is Israel’s origin
Not peace:
Netanyahu tells students at Bar Ilan University (1977),
“Israel should have exploited the repression
Of the demonstrations in China,
When world attention focused on that country,
To carry out mass expulsions
Among the Arabs of the territories.”

In front of their Arab neighbours,
A song is sung by settlers at Purim
Praising Baruch Goldstein’s massacre
Of 29 Palestinians at prayer during Ramadan:
“Dr. Goldstein, there is none other like you in the world.
Dr. Goldstein, we all love you… he aimed at terrorists’ heads,
Squeezed the trigger hard, and shot bullets,
And shot, and shot.”

At this settler hero’s funeral, Rabbi Yaacov Perrin famously claimed that even one million Arabs Are “not worth a Jewish fingernail”.
Goldstein’s mass murder created suicide bombers –
Some two hundred amongst ten million Palestinians –
Which led to Israel’s land-grabbing apartheid wall.

The Israeli lawmaker, Ayelet Shaked, calls
For the genocide of Palestinians on Facebook
And she advocates “the slaughter of Palestinian mothers
Who give birth to ‘little snakes,’”
“The entire Palestinian people is the enemy.”
She urges their complete destruction,
“including its elderly and its women.”

Two Israeli girls hold up a banner
“Hating Arabs is not racism, it’s values!”
Placing the Hebrew word for “Arabs”, ARAVIM,
Into Twitter reveals young Israelis desiring
That Arabs die or be tortured to death.

The US House of Representatives
Votes unanimously to reaffirm its full support for Israel.
US jets duly declare war on Arab children
Whose futures they disintegrate.

In the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis,
Eight members of the Al Haj family
Are killed, including five children.

Four Arab children, fishermens’ children
First cousins from the Bakr family, aged nine to eleven,
Playing football on the Gaza beach in July, 2014,
Are shot dead by an Israeli gunboat.



A 12-year-old boy loses 18 members of his family in an air raid
From US planes including his father, a schoolteacher,
A photograph of Abdul Rahman Al-Batsh
Shows his shoulders slumped against a car.
It’s the moment that he’s discovered
That his father is amongst the dead.



Later Abdul Rahman would say,
“They think we are worth nothing. They are killers,
They have no humanity,
And one day I will avenge my father.”




Israel receives more aid from the US

Than the whole of the continent of Africa

Comfortably seated on camp chairs and sofas
Some fifty Israelis gather to eat popcorn
And watch from a Sderot hilltop
As bombs rain down from US-supplied F-16s.
They clap and applaud each deadly blast
From 1,000-pound iron fragmentation bombs.

The conquerors’ fans draw up their chairs;
Swigging on beers as they tend their barbecue
And watch Gaza burn from their vantage-point
In Sderot (once the Palestinian village of Najd).



Someone points out that Hamas
(Rather than it having been elected)
Is “a death-cult” and Palestinians “enjoy martyrdom”
So “we’re doing the Arabs a favour.”

A lurid cocktail of triumphalist hatred,
Mixed with smoke from burning flesh,
Blinds them to Palestine’s righteous yearning
For self-determination,
Their right in international law;
To be unencumbered by occupation
To be free from being Israel’s penal colony;
Free from being stateless in a brutalized Bantustan –
A colonized people who are jeered at and decried
For their minimal attempts to fight back.

Later that night a bomb would land on a Gaza care home
Filled with elderly patients who cannot move
And with children who are already disabled;


Incited by a fascistic atavism,
Israeli Jews go on the rampage
Looking to beat any Arab they encounter
To heighten their sense of victory.

On July 2nd, 2014,
A young man in Shuafat, Jerusalem,
Muhammad Abu-Khdeir,
A 16-year old boy with a knowing, elfin smile
Is pulled into a car
And kidnapped in East Jerusalem
While waiting to go into the mosque.
He is tied and beaten;
He has gasoline poured into his mouth
And he is burned alive.
His body is found in the Jerusalem Forest;
Battered in the head
And with soot deposits in the lungs
Suggesting he’s still breathing
When set on fire.
Ninety per cent of his body is burned.



Another victim of Israel’s slow motion genocide –
A holocaust which, this time,
Is being financed and uncritically supported
By ‘the good guys’,
By the internationally ‘great and the good’,
By the craven chorus of the compliant
Who ritually pipe up to defend
Israel’s right to defend itself –
To defend the indefensible,
And to supply the money
The weapons, and the excuses
To enable it to do so.



It has no need of the fearful hatred,
Fuelling its bombs and its bullets,
Unless it wishes to fade away –
Putting out the light that might enable it
To see the stranger as a friend.

—————–
Click for footnotes
located at bottom of poem.

Related articles:
 
Israel firing experimental weapons
at Gaza's civilians , say doctors
(Rania Khalek, Electronic Intifada, 7/15/14)

Doctors treating patients in Gaza have accused Israel of using experimental weapons on Palestinian civilians.

Addressing reporters at a press conference on Sunday, Youssef Abul Resh, undersecretary of the health ministry in Gaza, said, “Medical teams have registered injuries consistent with those caused by DIME [dense inert metal explosives] and other banned weapons.”

Using Gaza as a laboratory

DIME munitions were developed by the US Air Force in 2006 and have since been tested repeatedly on the people of Gaza, who have long served as involuntary lab rats for Israel’s weapons industry.

DIME bombs contain tungsten, a cancer-causing metal that helps to produce incredibly destructive blasts which slice through flesh and bone, often decapitating the lower limbs of people within the blast radius.

Renowned Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert, who witnessed the horrific injuries caused by DIME bombs during Israel’s 2009 Gaza onslaught, told The Electronic Intifada over the phone from al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City that patients are showing up with DIME-related injuries.

“A good number of the injuries seen here are consistent with the use of dense inert metal explosives, or DIME, that we saw during the 2009 attack and also in 2006,” said Gilbert. “The bodies are pretty much destroyed by enormous energy released by the explosives that are shot near them or at them.”

Gilbert first witnessed the effects of DIME munitions on the human body during Operation Summer Rains, Israel’s 2006 months-long attack on the Gaza Strip that killed more than four hundred Palestinians. “Large chunks of flesh, of muscles were cut away. We didn’t find any shrapnel and [the wounds] were delivering a strange fume. Gradually we came to understand these must have been the new DIME weapons developed by the US Air Force together with the Israelis,” he said.

The experimental weapon was used on a larger scale during Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s attack on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009, which killed 1,400 Palestinians, including 352 children.

“We had a large number of patients who came in with these horrendous injuries where arms and legs were cut off as though a huge axe had chopped off their limbs with a direct immense force, cutting through skin, muscles and bones. Bones would be shattered and completely cut off,” Gilbert recounted.  “In addition we saw very, very destructive burns coming from some extreme temperature that turned skin, muscle and even bones into charcoal.”

But Gilbert warned that focusing on the DIME weapons, which are not explicity banned under international law, risks distracting from Israel’s far more damaging crimes against the people of Gaza.

“The siege and the constant bombing of civilian targets — those two issues are much more important than if [the Israelis] choose to use a traditional shell with a grenade or a DIME weapon,” he argued.

“As a doctor, my prescription is very clear. Number one, stop the bombing, and that means stop Israel from bombing civilians and indiscriminately hitting families. Number two, lift the siege. And number three, find a political solution,” said Gilbert.

“And at the core of the political solution is equity and justice for the Palestinian people to be treated in an equal way as all other human beings protected by international law with UN security, dignity and the right to live their lives in peace.”

Through Lens, 4 Boys Dead by Gaza Shore
(by Tyler Hicks, NY Times , 7/16/14)
excerpt:

I had returned to my small seaside hotel around 4 p.m. to file photos to New York when I heard a loud explosion. My driver and I rushed to the window to see what had happened. A small shack atop a sea wall at the fishing port had been struck by an Israeli bomb or missile and was burning. A young boy emerged from the smoke, running toward the adjacent beach.

I grabbed my cameras and was putting on body armor and a helmet when, about 30 seconds after the first blast, there was another. The boy I had seen running was now dead, lying motionless in the sand, along with three other boys who had been playing there.

If children are being killed, what is there to protect me, or anyone else?

There is no safe place in Gaza right now. Bombs can land at any time, anywhere.

A small metal shack with no electricity or running water on a jetty in the blazing seaside sun does not seem like the kind of place frequented by Hamas militants, the Israel Defense Forces’ intended targets. Children, maybe four feet tall, dressed in summer clothes, running from an explosion, don’t fit the description of Hamas fighters, either.

NBC News Pulls Veteran Reporter from Gaza After Witnessing Israeli Attack on Children
(Glen Greenwald, Firstlook.org/The Intercept, 7/17/14)
Update:  NBC was shamed into reinstating the reporter a few days later.


Gaza Diary: 
Israelis are completely misled about what's going on

"I haven’t slept for a second as the explosions have surrounded our home, yet the international community seems to be paying no attention to us."
(by Abeer Ayyoub, Haaretz, 7/11/14)
note: Haaretz articles require registration



A doll lies on the rubble of a destroyed building following an
Israeli air strike in Gaza City on July 11, 2014.  Photo by AFP


excerpt:
GAZA - Enjoying the relatively calm hours in the early morning following a noisy sleepless night, everyone in the house was sleeping when my brother, who lives in the same building, came to wake us. He told us that our neighbor got a phone call from the IDF (Israel Defense Forces)  asking him to evacuate his house, which was about to be bombed. Our neighbor’s house is only couple of meters away; getting ready for the closest bombardment yet was so traumatizing.

My mother opened all the windows so the strike wouldn't break them; broken glass is usually the main cause of injuries in such cases. The 20 members of my extended family gathered in the living room waiting for the awful event. Taking care of the children who didn’t know what was going on was the hardest challenge. As I write this, a couple of hours have passed since the call, and we are still, surprisingly, waiting for the strike so we can get rid of the massive panic everyone at home is suffering.

Last night wasn’t like any other night. The extremely noisy drones haven’t stopped circling the sky of Gaza for a second, F16s haven’t stopped targeting for a single hour, and the gunboats continued to shell the area near the beach for the whole night.

I could not sleep for a second as the explosions were surrounding us; in the besieged coastal enclave, the furthest point in Gaza is still close by, as the territory is so small. I was following the news on social media, TV and radio channels. For the whole night, the rockets were targeting buildings with tens of people sleeping inside. Nothing changed from one area to another, except for the family names.

Curiously, I was looking for Israeli spokesperson interviews online to see how they connected the announced goals of Operation Protective Edge, stopping the rockets from Gaza and damaging the infrastructure of Hamas, and killing dozens of children and other innocent civilians while sleeping. I watched an interview with IDF spokesman Avichay Adrey on one of the Arabic channels, and I was totally surprised by him talking about the success of the operation so far.

I don’t know what success Israel is talking about when most of the 86 people killed (through early Thursday) were children and women.

note: By Friday afternoon, the Palestinian Health Ministry put the death toll in Gaza at 81 people — among them 22 children, 15 women and 12 elderly people — since Operation Protective Edge began on Tuesday.  Another 537 people have been injured.
As of Saturday morning Gaza time, 114 Palestinians were killed by the IDF, including 26 children and 18 women. (By Saturday night the death toll had reached at least 151).

Through social media, I could know that most of the Israelis are totally misled about what’s going on in Gaza. My Israeli followers on Twitter keep telling me that I should move away from Hamas if I want to stay alive, as Hamas is a monster that lives somewhere here. In contrast, I could always understand how it feels for an Israeli child to be killed. I never excluded humanity from how I look at the Israeli-Palestinian scene.

After dozens of houses were demolished, I started to feel real danger; my siblings did, too. Israel always claimed that civilians are only hurt when they are near areas where Palestinian fighters fire rockets, yet this narrative is not acceptable anymore. I think that Israel is trying to place more pressure on Hamas to seek a cease-fire by killing more civilians.

Visiting the main hospital in the central Gaza Strip, I could zoom in on the Israeli craziness more and more. Injured babies, burnt flesh and children who still don’t know they lost their parents and siblings are everywhere in the hospital. Much worse, I am told that the hospital has run through over 35 percent of its medicine and 55 percent of its medical supplies. Surprisingly, yet maybe not, none of the Arab or international countries around seem to be paying attention to what’s happening to the 1.8 million-plus human beings living in Gaza. (The total area of Gaza is 139 sq miles.)

Being left under crazy rockets, the lack of regional and international support and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' disappointing attitude is leaving people here hopeless and desperate. I now know why Israel is violating international human rights laws, because no one in the world dares to cast a veto on its actions.

Gaza Civilians:
Waiting for our turn in the slaughter house
(by Amira Haas, Haaretz, 7/13/14)

“On Thursday afternoon a building in the neighborhood was bombed. With a missile. All the air filled up with light, a sort of big ball of fire we only started seeing during this attack,” a woman I will call 'T'. related at noon on Friday. Like all Gazans, they didn’t sleep at night and fell asleep only at around 8 A.M. According to a woman I will call 'A', the target was presumably a Hamas institution located in the building, in Gaza City’s Tel al-Hawa neighborhood, but the missile missed and killed Dr. Anas Rizaq Abu al-Kas, 33, in his clinic.

The physician’s “father and mother were also killed, also in error, during Operation Pillar of Defense, in 2012,”  'A' added.

T., in an uncharacteristically weak voice, continued. “At night we wait for day. In the day we wait for night. Waiting for our turn in the slaughterhouse. We heard just this morning how the entire Ghanam family, from Rafah, died. Another family that was killed,” T. says.

'A' tells me that one member of the Ghanam family was an Islamic Jihad member. In its daily report issued late Friday, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights wrote that early Friday morning: “Israeli warplanes launched 3 missiles without a prior warning at a house belonging to ‘Abdul Raziq Hassan al-Ghannam, 58. As a result, he, his wife, his son, his daughter and his relative were killed:

Less than an hour earlier, at approximately 4:35 A.M. Friday, an Israeli warplane fired a missile at tunnels in the Sha’ath neighborhood of Rafah. Nour Marwan al-Nijdi, 10, was killed by shrapnel; her brother Abdul Rahman, 15, and her mother, Salwa Ahmed al-Nijdi, 49, were wounded. They were in their home at the time.

“You can never know which window the missile will come through. I told the children and my husband: ‘We should always remain together, in one room. If a missile comes, we’ll all be killed, so none of us is left alive, alone,’” related T. “Our youngest daughters are afraid to shower, fearing that a missile will come and kill everyone else just then. I told them: ‘We shower so as to be clean when we die.’ The children are stronger than I. They tell me, stop being afraid. Either we’ll die or we’ll live.’”

'T' ponders, “Where are the Arabs, where are the Europeans, where is the West Bank? It’s our fate, operated by a remote control of the Israeli army.”

'F', a woman from Rafah, says also sees the ball of fire after every air strike. “The whole house shakes,” even when the explosion is far away, she says. Everyone experiences it:  The pilotless drones, meanwhile, never stop buzzing.

“Since yesterday we haven’t slept, 24 hours have gone by and we don’t sleep,” 'F' says. “We don’t see our daughters and our siblings who live in other parts of the city. No one leaves their home. And now there’s no electricity, either (because Rafah is dependent on Egypt for its power), and the house is so hot,” F. says.

L., also from Rafah, discusses a family on her street that was informed by phone that its home was about to be destroyed. “The neighbors immediately told everyone to leave, because when they bomb one house the houses nearby are damaged, too, and you can be killed by shrapnel or injured by flying glass,” says L. “We woke my father-in-law, who is 88. He was so scared he was shaking. The poor guy was afraid he wouldn’t be able to cross the street. After about an hour the explosion came. We opened the windows ahead of time, and they didn’t shatter. But at my brother’s place, in the Tel al-Sultan refugee camp, all the windows shattered from an explosion that was nearby, and he came with his family to live with us. My 8-year-old daughter asked, ‘Why are they bombing during Ramadan?’”

International activists staying at Gaza hospital
the IDF plans to bomb

14 patients, men and women over the age of 60 that cannot be moved remain hospitalized at Gaza's only rehabilitation hospital.
(by Amira Haas, Haaretz/Reuters, 7/12/14)

International solidarity activists are staying in a Gaza hospital, which the Israel Defense Forces has indicated it plans to bomb, as a human shield. They joined patients unable to leave because the rest of Gaza's hospitals are in a state of emergency, treating persons injured in the bombings and waiting for more patients to come in.

Two warning rockets were fired at the Al Wafa hospital east of Gaza City at 2 A.M. early Friday morning, Director Basman al Ashi told Haaretz. At 7 P.M. a rocket was fired at the fourth floor, blasting a large hole in the ceiling and shattering windows. The floor was evacuated on Wednesday.

Al Wafa is the only rehabilitation hospital in the Gaza Strip. Established in 1996, it is intended for patients injured in serious accidents. Currently there are 14 patients aged over 60 being treated in the hospital, who require constant care and who cannot take care of themselves without medical supervision. Some of them are immobile, others are being fed intravenously. 25 other patients in less of an acute state left the hospital.

Joseph Catron, a 33-year-old American, is one of the activists that decided to stay at the hospital as a human shield together with colleges from New Zealand, Australia, England, Spain, Sweden, and Venezuela. Catron told Haaretz that the hospital's director took them on a tour of all the hospital's floors and rooms and "though I am not a military man, I didn't see anything resembling a rocket in the hospital."

According to Catron, he and his friends notified their respective embassies that they are staying at the hospital slated to be bombed by the IDF.



Former Shin Bet chief Diskin: Delusional Israeli government brought us to this security deterioration

Diskin criticizes Israeli leadership that is under the 'illusion
that the Palestinians will just accept all that
we are doing in the West Bank and not respond.'


The escalation of violence in the territories, Jerusalem and the triangle (of Arab towns in central Israel) are the direct result of the policies of the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin wrote late Friday in a harshly critical Facebook post.

note: Israel's internal security service, Shin Bet or Shabak (links to in depth Al Jazeera article: "Inside Shin Bet") as it is known in both Hebrew and Arabic, is one of the three branches of the Israeli General Security Service (GSS) alongside Aman (military intelligence) and the Mossad (foreign intelligence service).
 
In his lengthy comment, Diskin wrote that the rapid deterioration in the security situation has shattered the Israeli leadership's "illusion that Israel's frustrated Arab citizens will not at the end of the day take to the streets over the lack of response to their problems and the containment of the Palestinians in the West Bank, and will not react despite their frustration and the worsening economic situation."
 
This illusion, Diskin said, "worked perfectly for as long as the defense establishment succeeded in providing impressive calm in the defense arena. The rapid deterioration in the security situation was not only down to the brutal murders of Naftali, Eyal and Gil-Ad, but first and foremost it is the result of the illusion that the government's stagnation in every area was really keeping the situation in deep freeze."
 
Diskin, who headed the Shin Bet for six years, went on to define the various "illusions" that he says the government is propagating.
 
"The illusion that 'price tag' attacks are just a few slogans on the walls and not really racism; the illusion that everything can be solved with a little more force; the illusion that the Palestinians will just accept all that we are doing in the West Bank and not respond, despite their rage, frustration and worsening economic situation; the illusion that the international community will not impose sanctions on us; that Israel's frustrated Arab citizens will not ultimately take to the streets over the lack of treatment of their problems; and the Israeli public will keep submissively accepting the government's incompetent response to the social gaps that its policies have only worsened, when corruption continues to eat away at all that is good, and so on and so on."
 
Diskin concluded with a grave warning that there could still be worse to come.
 
"Anyone who thinks that this can be sustained is making a huge mistake. What has been happening in recent days could be much worse - even if the situation temporarily calms down. Do not be fooled for one moment, because the massive internal pressure will still be there, the combustible fumes in the air will not dissipate, and if we do not dispel them, there will be an even more serious situation."


Muslim Americans of different backgrounds and cultures are marking the Holy Month of Ramadan [AP]

Ramadan: A centuries-old American tradition

Many forget that the first Muslims to celebrate
Ramadan in America were African slaves.

(Al Jazeera, Khaled A Beydoun, Opinion, 6/28/14)

This weekend marks the beginning of Ramadan. Nearly one-fourth of the world will observe the annual fast and eight million Muslims in the United States will abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset during the holy month.  

Islam in America is rapidly expanding. It is the fastest-growing religion in the nation, and the second most practiced faith in twenty states. These demographic shifts prompted a prominent Los Angeles-based imam to comment, "Ramadan is a new American tradition." The cleric's forward-looking pronouncement marks Islam's recent arrival in the US. However, this statement reveals a pathology afflicting a lot of Muslim Americans today - an inability to look back and embrace the opening chapters of Muslim American history written by enslaved African Muslims.  

Social scientists estimate (links to 92 pg PDF "Muslims & the Making of America") that 15 to 30 percent, or, "[a]s many as 600,000 to 1.2 million slaves" in antebellum America were Muslims. 46 percent of the slaves in the antebellum South were kidnapped (links to book "Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas")  from Africa's western regions, which boasted "significant numbers of Muslims".

These enslaved Muslims strove to meet the demands of their faith, most notably the Ramadan fast, prayers, and community meals, in the face of comprehensive slave codes that linked religious activity to insubordination and rebellion. Marking Ramadan as a "new American tradition" not only overlooks the holy month observed by enslaved Muslims many years ago, but also perpetuates their erasure from Muslim-American history.      

Although the Quran "[a]llows a believer to abstain from fasting if he or she is far from home or involved in strenuous work," many enslaved Muslims demonstrated transcendent piety by choosing to fast while bonded. In addition to abstaining from food and drink, enslaved Muslims held holy month prayers in slave quarters, and put together iftars - meals at sundown to break the fast - that brought observing Muslims together. These prayers and iftars violated slave codes restricting assembly of any kind.

Therefore, practicing Islam and observing Ramadan and its fundamental rituals, for enslaved Muslims in antebellum America, necessitated the violation of slave codes. This exposed them to barbaric punishment, injury, and oftentimes, even death. However, the courage to observe the holy month while bonded, and in the face of grave risk, highlights the supreme piety of many enslaved Muslims.

Ramadan was widely observed by enslaved Muslims. Yet, this history is largely ignored by Muslim American leaders and laypeople alike - and erased from the modern Muslim American narrative.

Muslim America was almost entirely black during the antebellum Era. Today, it stands as the most diverse Muslim community in the world. Today African Americans comprise a significant part of the community along with Muslims of South Asian and Arab descent. Latin Americans are a rapidly growing demographic in the community, ensuring that Muslims in America are a microcosm of their home nation's overall multiculturalism.

Muslim diversity in the US has reshaped Ramadan into a multicultural American tradition.

This Muslim American multiculturalism comes with many challenges: Namely, intra-racism, Arab supremacy, and anti-black racism prevents cohesion inside and outside of American mosques. These deplorable trends perpetuate the erasure of the Muslim slave narrative. Integrating this history will not only mitigate racism and facilitate Muslim American cohesion, but also reveal the deep-rootedness of the faith, and its holiest month, on US soil.      

This Ramadan honouring the memory of the first Muslim Americans and their struggle for freedom seems an ideal step towards rewriting this missing chapter of Muslim American history into our collective consciousness.      

Khaled A Beydoun is the Critical Race Studies Teaching Fellow at the UCLA School of Law.

Follow him on Twitter: @KhaledBeydoun


Israel seizes political, military opportunity
in teens' disappearance
(Electronic Intifada, Maureen Clare Murphy 6/19/14)

excerpt:
Since three Israeli youths went missing while hitchhiking in the occupied West Bank on 12 June, Israel has mobilized all its resources “to crush Hamas in the West Bank and destroy the recently formed unity government as well as collectively punish the Palestinian people.”

So states the rights group Addameer in a fact sheet  (see below) issued today on Israel’s ongoing West Bank military assault and the Palestinian hunger strike long underway in Israeli prisons.

The Israeli government has so far offered no evidence that the Hamas party is responsible for the disappearance of the youths . No Palestinian faction has claimed responsibility.


Palestinians mourn over the body of twenty-year-old Ahmad Sabarin
rom Jalazone refugee camp during his funeral, 16 June. Sabarin was killed by Israeli soldiers in the refugee camp on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Ramallah, according to medics and witnesses.
(Issam Rimawi / APA images)

Addameer Fact Sheet
(6/19/14)
On 12 June, it was announced that three illegal Israeli settlers disappeared on the roads between Hebron and Bethlehem. Since the announcement, the Israeli government has sanctioned widespread attacks on Palestinians in the form of invasions, mass arrests, killings, home demolitions and new legislation that curbs the rights of Palestinians and prisoners.
The following is an analysis by Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association of the collective punishment of the Palestinian people, with a focus on the mass arrest campaign and its implications.
 
The disappearance of three illegal settlers on Thursday 12 June has created the perfect pretext for the Israeli government to attempt to crush Hamas in the West Bank and destroy the recently formed unity government as well as collectively punish the Palestinian people. Despite the fact that no Palestinian faction has taken responsibility for the disappearances, the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) is using this opportunity to crush Hamas in the West Bank.
 
According to a Reuters story, Israeli military spokesperson Peter Lerner stated: “We have two efforts ongoing in parallel. First is to bring back the boys, and the second is to take a toll on Hamas for its actions." This comment implies a tactic of intimidation and ulterior political motivations that go beyond a search for the missing illegal settlers.
 
Ongoing now is the largest Israeli military operation in the West Bank.
 
Israeli officials have stated that this is the beginning of a larger and prolonged operation, which can be interpreted as a way to strategically capitalize on the disappearance in order to wage destruction and terror across the West Bank.
 
As a human rights organization, we are deeply concerned about the collective punishment and mass arrest campaigns that have been imposed on the Palestinian people, especially due to the widespread silence of the international community in the escalation of human rights violations of the Palestinian people.

ADDAMEER (Arabic for conscience) Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association is a Palestinian non-governmental, civil institution that works to support Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli and Palestinian prisons.  Addameer believes in the importance of building a free and democratic Palestinian society based on justice, equality, rule of law and respect for human rights within the larger framework of the right to self-determination. Addameer's work is based on a belief in the universality of human rights as enshrined in international law.

 International media ignore Israel's
abduction of Palestinian teens
(Electronic Intifada, Amena Saleem 6/17/14)
excerpt :
In the first ten days of June, seventeen teenage boys were abducted in the occupied West Bank.

Some were dragged at gunpoint from their homes and family in the middle of the night; others were seized from the streets in broad daylight.

All of the abductions were documented by the Palestinian Monitoring Group.  None were
reported by the international media. No Western politicians called for the release of the boys.

On 12 June, three more teenage boys went missing in the West Bank. Their disappearance sparked worldwide media coverage, cries of terrorism and demands for their release by the US Secretary of State and the UK Foreign Secretary.

Those three are Israeli. The seventeen others are Palestinian.

Since the disappearance of the three Israelis last week, the Palestinian town of Hebron has been held under siege by the Israeli army, up to 1,000 soldiers have been going door to door in towns and refugee camps across the West Bank searching and ransacking civilian homes, two hundred Palestinians have been taken into detention, a twenty-year-old Palestinian has been shot dead (see above photo) , and the Israeli government has been threatening the forcible transfer of some West Bank Palestinians to Gaza.

This is the degree of control that Israel exerts over Palestinian lives. But that control seems to be so accepted, or ignored, by Western media that there has been next to no comment on Israel’s actions, and the illegality of them, over the last five days. The sole focus is on the Israeli teenagers, with scarce journalistic attention left over for the collective punishment being meted out to thousands of Palestinians by a country which calls itself democratic.

The case illustrates starkly the difference in the attitude of Western media towards Israelis and Palestinians, an attitude exemplified by the BBC.

BBC news bulletins have carried regular updates on the missing Israelis and backed them up with online stories....while BBC audiences remain in the dark about the Palestinian children and teenagers regularly abducted by Israeli soldiers.

BBC reporting also shields them from the frequency with which Palestinian children and youth are killed by Israeli forces.

There were no BBC reports on the killing of 14-year-old Yussef Shawamreh, shot in the back and hip while gathering thistles in March, or of 18-year-old Saji Darwish, shot in the head as he tended his goats that same month. The killing of seven-year-old Ali al-Awwar in an Israeli missile strike on Gaza last week also failed to warrant a report.

Silence cloaks house demolitions (15,000 Palestinian homes demolished by Israel since 1993), the destruction of entire communities, with Palestinian villages being bulldozed both in the West Bank and within present-day Israel, the killing of Palestinian children (1,405 killed by Israel since 2000), the denial of sufficient water for drinking, washing, cooking to Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank, and the true effects of the siege on Gaza which denies Palestinians everything from essential medicines to electricity.

How many consumers of mainstream news reports in the West know any of this?

Amena Saleem is a journalist and activist, working closely with Palestine Solidarity Campaign in the UK. More information on PSC’s solidarity work is available here.


Netanyahu 'loathes' Obama,
Israel's opposition leader charges

Prime Minister's hostility to Obama is 'endangering Israel's security,'
claims Labor's Issac Herzog, in rare confirmation
 of long-rumored strained ties between 'Bibi' and 'Barack'

(Times of Israel Staff, 6/6/14)
excerpt:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “loathes” Barack Obama, and his hostile attitude to the US president constitutes a danger to Israel’s well-being, the head of the Israeli opposition charged on Friday night,
in a highly unusual acknowledgement of the long-rumored strained personal ties between the two leaders.

Herzog, who was minister of welfare under Netanyahu from 2009-2011, was speaking in an interview on Channel 2 news in the aftermath of this week’s formation of a new Hamas-backed Palestinian unity government. Netanyahu had called on the international community to stand up against what he described as a government backed by a terrorist organization, but instead the US led the world in making clear that it
would work with the new Palestinian government, and the EU, the UN and much of the rest of the international community quickly followed suit.

Netanyahu and Obama have long been perceived as having a strained relationship, with policy differences emerging over how
to stop Iran’s nuclear program, and the prime minister’s expansion of settlements, among other issues.

For a figure as prominent as Herzog to use Israel’s most-watched news program to declare that the prime minister loathes the US president was unprecedented.

Herzog charged that Netanyahu “does not listen” to the international community, and they don’t listen to him. Under Netanyahu, Israel was now “completely isolated,” he said.

Herzog said Israel needed to negotiate with the Palestinians on the principle of a two-state solution based on the pre-1967 lines, with land swaps and “arrangements”
to resolve the contested fate of Jerusalem.


An activist puts a Palestinan flag on the Separation
Wall facing the Modi’in Illit settlement

Photo: Anne Paq/ Activestills.org

By using settlements as a punitive response to Palestinian political actions, Israel proves they come at the expense of Palestinian statehood, and it  holds all the power in the conflict.
(Mairav Zonszein [opinion], +972mag.com 6/6/14)

Here we go again. Palestinians do something Israel doesn’t approve of, and Israel retaliates by using its unchecked power and leverage to block the possibility of a Palestinian state ever becoming a reality.

By announcing the advancement of about 3,300 settlement units on Thursday, as a retaliatory measure that it unabashedly admits is punishment for the formation of the temporary Palestinian unity government, Israel is proving that settlements come at the direct expense of Palestinian livelihood – that they are the main obstacle to a two-state solution and a Palestinian state.

Settlements as a form of punishment also exhibit that Israel is the omnipotent power and that any form of negotiations within this reality is inherently imbalanced and ineffective. Israel controls the reality on the ground and does as it pleases, when it pleases, while laying blame on the Palestinians. Even though Israel is constantly taking unilateral actions, when Palestinians do so, it is suddenly out of bounds.

It is not the first time Israel has used settlement expansion as a direct response to Palestinian efforts to promote statehood in the international arena. It did so in 2012 after the UN recognized Palestine as a non-member state with observer status, and in 2011 when Palestine was successfully admitted to UNESCO.

In recent years, every time Palestinians take an independent political step in an effort to somehow alter their evergreen reality as a stateless, occupied nation, Israel punishes them for it – as if it were an abusive parent.

Can you imagine the Palestinians doing the same thing in response to their objection to the makeup of the Israeli government or its actions in the international community? Of course not, because the Palestinians do not hold that kind of power. They cannot affect direct and immediate changes on the ground the way Israel can, through demolishing homes, cutting off water or electricity, withholding tax revenues, intimidating people, arresting children, etc. All of these tools are of course very violent, but if Palestinians so much as throw rocks, they are immediately cast as the violent party and often at risk of death.

Palestinian daily lives are entirely subject to Israeli rule and systematic violence – and whether they respond with violence or  try through various long-term non-violent means to change the reality – i.e. through popular protests, applying to international bodies or boycott movements, they are punished. Israel puts a lot of energy and resources into delegitimizing and debilitating the non-violent efforts.

It is not just the fact that Israel is  expanding settlements on a future Palestinian state – something the entire international community agrees is a direct affront to Palestinian self-determination – as a form of punishment, but the cynical and cruel way in which it uses Palestinian lives, land and resources as a bargaining chip, a blackmailing tool, a pawn to promote its own agenda.

When you think about it, it is really quite astonishing that the world lets Israel get away with it, over and over again, and that so many people still seem to think this is a conflict with two equal sides and that Israel has any intention of facilitating the establishment of a Palestinian state.

For additional original analysis and breaking news, visit +972 Magazine's Facebook Page or follow us on TwitterOur newsletter features a comprehensive round-up of the week's events. Sign up here.



Istanbul based Israeli percussionist Yinon Muallem
note - Yinon was studio guest during Gaza Corner on 5/31/14;
posted two articles from 2012 featuring Yinon
photo courtesy of Emil Salman

Turkey and Israel keep bonds alive through music

Israeli and Turkish musicians have become "volunteer ambassadors" to create and maintain bonds between the two countries
(Menekse Tokyay for SES Turkiye, 2/21/12)
  excerpt:

At a time of battered bilateral political relations, Turkish and Israeli musicians continue to bridge differences. Although music alone doesn't have the power to transcend all political problems, it does keep some level of people-to-people contact alive, helping to create better understanding between cultures.

"The sound of music doesn't have any passport … It does not recognise any border or religion," explained Yinon Muallem, an Israeli composer and percussionist who is also the cultural attachÚ at the Israeli consulate in Istanbul. "The aim of the music and the art in the greater sense is to unite peoples and cultures, to bring hearts together around a multicultural language," he added.

As a self-described lover of Turkey, Muallem has taken the stage with various Turkish musicians like Omer Faruk Tekbilek, harpist Sirin Pancaroglu, singer Ferhat Gocer and the Tekfen Philharmonic.

Related Article:

Musical Diplomacy between Turkey and Israel

The music of Yinon Muallem, who is now the cultural
attache in Israel's Istanbul consulate, embodies
all that can be good about Israeli-Turkish relations
(by Bernny Ziffer, Haaretz, 8/31/12)
excerpt:

Yinon Muallem handed me his CD, "Nefes" ("breath" in Turkish ), on the cover of which he had scribbled the brief inscription, "In friendship." The truth is that, without being acquainted with one another, the two of us have for many years been the friends, even the lovers, of the same city: Istanbul. While Muallem, a talented musician, composer and arranger, expresses his feelings for it with music, I express them with words.

More than a decade ago, I visited what had once been my mother's home in Istanbul and which is today a coffee house and concert hall that bears the name Gitarcafe. The owner at the time, Sumru Agiryuruyen (who also performs on Muallem's CD ), said to me, "Yinon Muallem was here just yesterday." At the time, I had no idea that the Israeli-born Jew is one of the most admired musicians in Turkey and that he has made a name for himself as someone who has breathed new life into classical Turkish music and given it a new relevance.

Meanwhile, Israel wisely decided to utilize Muallem's popularity and, during this difficult period in Israeli-Turkish relations, appointed him cultural attache in the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul.

It could be said that Muallem anticipated the need to heal this rift: He decided to make his home in Turkey because of his love for Turkish music and because of a desire to learn from one of the masters of the oud how to play that instrument. After moving there , he married a Turkish woman (whose name is Dilek; her voice can be heard in one of the tracks on the album ); they have a son, Rast (which is the name of a makam, an important melodical or compositional tradition in Middle Eastern music ) or Can (which means "soul" in Turkish ).

His father, David Muallem, is a retired judge and Israeli musicologist who is the author of a basic text on Middle Eastern music, "The Maqam Book: A Doorway to Arab Scales and Modes," which was published in English translation by OR-TAV Music Publications (2010 ). Although he has followed in his father's footsteps, Yinon  has distanced himself from the theoretical tenor of his father's approach and, in his compositions, blends various classical Middle Eastern genres with one another as well as with jazz and world music. The result is a light and highly contemporary texture that nonetheless preserves the beat of the decisive rhythm that dominates Ottoman music.

Recently, at Beit Avi Chai, a cultural and social center in the heart of Jerusalem, I saw him perform in a show entitled "Istanbul-Tel Aviv: Music without Borders," which sums up Muallem's years of wandering between these two cities with an ensemble that has loyally stayed at his side for years.



A fighter in Aleppo. Rebels, many of them small-time gangsters, ‘have smeared much of the Syrian revolution’s legitimacy’.

Fine line between fighter and thug in Syria
Journalist Anthony Loyd recounts being betrayed, beaten,
and kidnapped
(Anthony Loyd, The Times (UK) 5/19/14)
see excerpted text below



Battered: (UK) Times journalist Anthony Loyd

related:
Loyd audio excerpt courtesy of BBC's Today program

"A few hours before he shot me, Hakim Anza sat on a mattress next to me, staring into space. He had been awake all night and when I asked why he could not sleep,
he made a twirling motion beside his temple. “The war. Many things,” he said.

At his feet a silver automatic pistol lay onthe floor beside a cup of cold coffee and
a piled ashtray. It was 6.30am.

I had known Hakim for two years. In his early 30s, he had been an accountant
who was among the first to rebel against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, driving the police from the area of Tal Rifat, his home town in northern Syria.


By mid-2012 Hakim was a mid-level commander with Liwa al-Tawhid, a rebel brigade that later morphed with other local rebel units to become part of the Islamic Front.

Since our first meeting with him, photographer Jack Hill and I had stayed
with Hakim on several occasions: I had
seen him cry over the bodies of his dead fighters, exalt over the lives of his three young children, and I had slept and eaten on the same floors with him in Aleppo’s urban front lines.

So I considered Hakim a friend. I knew he had a ruthless streak and that many of his fighters had the semi-feral aura of men imbued too long with violence. But I liked him, and part of the reason that I visited him last Tuesday evening, staying overnight as a guest in his home before setting off for Turkey the following morning, was to congratulate him on the recent birth of his daughter.

That silver automatic was no stranger to me either. Hakim never went anywhere without it, and slept with it under his pillow. It was in Hakim’s hands a few hours later, a few hours after Jack and I had bid him farewell.

Hakim and men like him, small-time gangsters elevated to power by civil war, have smeared much of the Syrian revolution’s legitimacy. Their criminality has so clouded the outside world’s perception of the war that most people in the West now regard the conflict as a struggle between two competing and equal evils: the regime and the rebels. Syria’s third dimension — the silent and innocent civilian majority who have found themselves torn apart between two sets of slathering jaws — is
too often ignored.


The plan that Hakim hatched was an example of flawless treachery. He embraced Jack and me as we said our goodbyes to him in Tal Rifat on Wednesday morning and headed north towards Azaz and the Turkish border. In the car with us were Hamza, our friend and prized fixer, and Avo, a handy young rebel who acted as our close protection. In the vehicle in front three of Hakim’s men drove as escort. We were on his turf and we trusted him. I was already thinking of a hot shower in a Turkish hotel.

Then a dark blue BMW G8 four-wheel-drive vehicle appeared in front of us. A camouflaged arm appeared from the window and waved us down. Certain it was
an abduction attempt, I told Hamza to accelerate, but our car was no match for
the pursuer’s power. So we pulled in.


Four armed men leapt from the BMW, pushing Hakim’s men aside and bundling the four of us into their boot with a succession of hefty blows and kicks. They put a blanket over our heads and sped away. We were taken to an abandoned agricultural building near Azaz, where every item was taken from our pockets, along with our luggage. The eager snatching of our watches and wallets seemed to suggest a criminal group rather than Islamic extremists, but this was little consolation.

Blindfolded and plasticuffed, within an hour we were bundled into another vehicle and driven into a lockup garage in Tal Rifat. I was in the back seat beside Avo. Jack and Hamza were in the boot.

It was then that our abductors made a key mistake. They left the boot open an inch to allow Jack and Hamza to breathe and they left only one guard to watch over us. There was no way I could remove my plasticuffs, nor could I properly hear the whispered discussion between Hamza and Jack in the boot. Unbeknown to me, both men had freed their hands. Hamza suddenly jackknifed upwards and kicked the boot open, springing out to tackle the guard, whose identity confirmed our worst fears: it was Alaa, one of Hakim’s gang who had served us breakfast that morning.

In the space of a few seconds, as I sat trapped and bound in the car, Jack and Hamza fought with the man, and left him beaten on the ground. It was a violent start to a savage hour. Avo and Hamza burst through the side of the lockup doors and sprinted up the street, yelling at dumbfounded bystanders that Hakim was holding Western hostages. Hamza jumped on a moped. Jack ran straight into
Tofiq, one of Hakim’s henchmen, and the two men began to fight in the street.


Hakim appeared from a doorway and laid into Jack too, as Jack, fighting desperately, screamed at him in a mixture of rage and surprise: “You are my
f . king friend!”


I had climbed the lockup stairs and was making my escape across the roofs, my hands still bound. This went well, until the roofs ran out. For a time I squeezed flat in a narrow slash of shadow against a water tank, planning to wait until darkness.

But people in the street had seen my rooftop dash and were pointing out my position to gunmen below. I scrambled down a ladder and, as women fled a courtyard below, I ran into a private home, clamped a kitchen knife between my teeth and attempted to saw through the cuffs securing my wrists. I had not got very far when two Kalashnikov bullets smacked into the wall beside me.

Hakim’s men burst in and dragged me outside, where they started beating me around the head with rifle butts. I was covered in blood and lying on the ground when Hakim walked up. He was white with rage. His double-cross had failed, and now he had to contend with a questioning crowd.

“I thought you were my friend,” I told him. “No friends,” he replied, pulling his pistol and shooting me twice in the ankle just to have the satisfaction of crippling me.

But his chance was over. There was no way, before so many witnesses, of taking us hostage again. Hamza and Avo were already gone, spreading word of what had happened and rousing help.

Jack was beaten up and taken to a police cell where he was stripped, before being rescued by some Islamic Front fighters and taken to a safe house. I was dragged outside, still bound, and beaten further with rifles.

Just for the hell of it, Hakim’s men wheeled up the man who had been felled by Jack and Hamza for him to have a go too. After punching and kicking me for what seemed like eternity, his piece de resistance was to pick up a rock and smash it across my head.

After that they either had to kill me or take me to a local clinic. Fortune was fast leaving them, and our special risk consultant, Russ Finn, had already come across the border with Islamic Front rebels to search for us.

Hakim’s continued claims that we were CIA spies or ISIS volunteers did not gain much traction with the locals, so they took me to a clinic. Doctors looked horrified at what was happening.

They saw me, covered in blood, have every item of clothing cut from my body so that my hands could be kept lashed together.

Soon an Islamic Front commander arrived. He looked at me and looked at Hakim’s men. “Get out,” he ordered them. They left.

I do not know if anything ever happened to Hakim as the result of his actions. I doubt it.

He sent me a threatening, half-crazed message on Skype on Friday, repeating allegations that I was a spy and alleging that a head torch that Jack had given him was an eavesdropping device. He warned that if this story was ever published he would respond by printing contrived documents that would endanger us.

He may have beaten us and hurt us, but his greatest crime was to rob from his own people. Our entire documentation of a week’s work in Aleppo — notebooks, cameras, video — was stolen by his men. The voices of decent, innocent Syrians struggling for life amid abysmal conditions were stolen by Hakim in his bid for personal profit, making him guilty of a crime far worse than abduction with violence."

note:  More than 60 journalists have died in Syria since 1992.


Fighting for history:
Iraq, the US and the hidden Jewish archive
In 2003, American troops discovered a trove of Jewish documents in Baghdad. Now the Iraqi Jewish Archive is at the center of a struggle for Iraq's past and its future.
(by Raf Sanchez, The Telegraph UK 5/15/14)
excerpt:

The basement of the bombed-out Iraqi intelligence headquarters was dark, hot and flooded.

Severed wires hung from the ceiling and dead animals floated in the water that filled the gloomy hallways. The building’s top floors had been crushed by US bombs dropped weeks earlier and it seemed possible that the whole structure could collapse at any time.

But the soldiers from Mobile Exploitation Team Alpha, the American unit tasked with hunting for Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, waded on into the darkness.

One of the American soldiers pushed into a small room off the main basement corridor and after a few moments emerged holding a wooden box shaped like a minaret and covered in purple cloth.

“I was shocked and overwhelmed,” said Harold Rhode, a Pentagon Middle East expert working alongside Team Alpha that day in May 2003. “I’m a religious Jew and I knew what this was. But I didn’t know it was only the tip of an iceberg.”

The box was a tik, an ornamental case used by Middle Eastern Jews to protect their holy Torah scrolls. It was just one of more than 2,700 Jewish artifacts amassed by Saddam’s mukhabarat agents and now lying submerged beneath the fetid water.

Taken together the Jewish documents - ranging from five-century old Hebrew Bibles to a 1918 letter discussing how sheep should be allocated during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year - capture hundreds of years of peaceful and prosperous Jewish existence in Iraq.

That life came to an abrupt end after the founding of Israel in 1948 sparked a wave of anti-Semitic laws in Iraq and most of the country's 130,000 Jews fled.

“These items provide an invaluable window into a way of Jewish life in Iraq that no longer exists,” said Doris Hamburg, the director of preservation at the US National Archives.

The Jewish books and papers would eventually fill 27 large metal trunks, which were stored inside an Iraqi freezer truck to arrest the growth of mold on the damp parchment.

They remained that way until August 2003, when a deal was struck: Iraq would allow the artifacts to be sent to the US where they would be restored and catalogued on the condition they were returned when the project was complete.

The items were christened the Iraqi Jewish Archive and hailed as an optimistic symbol of friendship between a victorious America and a free Iraq.

But more than ten years later, after thousands of American deaths and amid frayed ties between Baghdad and Washington, the US is no longer so sure about returning historical documents it spent $3 million (ú1.8 million) restoring.

Earlier this year the US Senate, in a rare moment of unanimity, passed a resolution calling on the Obama administration to renegotiate the agreement with the Iraqis.

The senators argue that the archive belongs first and foremost to the descendants of the exiled Iraqi Jews, the vast majority of whom now live in Israel. Like most Arab nations, Iraq does not recognise Israel and it would be virtually impossible for those descendants to travel to Baghdad.

“This is a group of people that have had so much of their history taken away or destroyed over the years, and under no circumstances should these artifacts be handed back to Iraq,” said Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat and the most prominent of the Senate’s ten Jewish members.

Any hint of concessions to Israel would be politically explosive in Iraq, and Lukman Faily, the Iraqi ambassador, made clear his country expects the archives back.

"We consider the history of Jewish communities in Iraq to be an integral part of the history of our country - one that we honour and cherish - and nothing can erase this history, nor change our commitment to preserving its memory," Mr Faily said in a statement to The Telegraph in February.

This week, Mr Faily announced a compromise agreement had been reached whereby the archive will stay in the US for now. It is not clear if the extension will be indefinite or if a new date of return will be announced.

While the senators claimed to be acting on behalf of the descendants of the Iraqi exiles, not all those descendants accept the argument that their ancestors’ belongings have no place in Iraq.

“Hauling these precious artifacts out of Iraq and into an American gallery brings to mind the Egyptian artifacts that were taken out of their native country to fill the display halls of the British Museum,” wrote Sigal Samuel, a Canadian writer whose grandfather was among the exodus of Iraqi Jews. “We should blush at the thought of expropriating this archive for our own museums.”

Among the hundred of scholarly books found in the mukhabarat headquarters there stands out a handwritten prayer book from 1902, lovingly copied out by a young Baghdadi Jew in both Arabic and Hebrew.

While the unknown scribe is presumably long dead, the book has survived through the Holocaust, the exile from Iraq, and the water that filled the dark basement.

The flooding was caused by a 2,000lb American bomb that cut through the building only to burrow into the ground outside without going off.

Had the bomb exploded, the book and all the others with it would have been destroyed in an instant.


The 66th Anniversary of Israel's Independence was May 5, 2014.

 
The Guardian UK published several articles leading up to the anniversary.

Below are several headlines that are linked to the full articles.


Netanyahu pushes to define Israel
as nation state of Jewish people only
(by Peter Beaumont, 5/4/14 Guardian UK)

Remembering the Nakba:
Israeli group puts 1948 Palestine back on the map;
Zochrot aims to educate Israeli Jews through tours and a new
phone app about a history obscured by enmity and denial
(by Ian Black, 5/2/14 Guardian UK)
excerpt:

In a conflict famous for its irreconcilable national narratives, the basic facts are not disputed, though the figures are. Between November 1947, when the UN voted to partition British-ruled Palestine into separate Arab and Jewish states, and mid-1949, when Israel emerged victorious against its enemies, 400-500 Arab villages and towns were depopulated and destroyed or occupied and renamed. Most of them were left in ruins.

Understanding has deepened since the late 1980s, when Israeli historians used newly opened state archives to revisit that fateful period. Key elements of this new history contradicted the old, official version and partially confirmed what Palestinians had always claimed – that many were expelled by Israeli forces rather than fled at the urging of Arab leaders.

Fierce debate still rages over whether this was done on an ad hoc basis by local military commanders or according to a masterplan for ethnic cleansing. The result either way was disastrous.

Zochrot's focus on the hyper-sensitive question of the 750,000 Palestinians who became refugees has earned it the hostility of the vast majority of Israeli Jews who flatly reject any Palestinian right of return.

Benjamin Netanyahu would rather stay in power
than pursue a peace deal
The Israel-Palestine peace talks have collapsed, and Netanyahu's rightwing coalition remains in place. But this is not a long-term solution.
(Opinion by Aluf Benn, 4/30/14 Guardian UK)


What We Left Behind in Iraq
An increasingly authoritarian leader, a return of sectarian violence, and a nation worried for its future
(by Dexter Filkins, The New Yorker Magazine, 4/28/14)

Related:
Exploring 'What We left Behind In Iraq' on NPR's Fresh Air, 4/29/14)

Dore note:  The New Yorker article is an in-depth report by Filkins who covered the war from beginning to end and recently returned there.  Below are various observations excerpted from the article but only provide a taste of what the full article contains.

New Yorker excerpts:

1) The capture of Iraqi territory by Islamic extremists, barely two years since the last American soldiers left, prompted an extraordinary wave of soul-searching in Iraq and the United States, which lost more than thirteen hundred men and women in Anbar Province. Much of that reflection, in both countries, centered on Maliki, the man in whom the United States invested so much of its hopes and resources. Among many Iraqis, the concern is that their country is falling again into civil war, and that it is Maliki who has driven it to the edge.

2) At the nadir of the American occupation, in 2007, Baghdad resembled a medieval city under siege. U.S. soldiers stood guard on every block, part of a force of a hundred and sixty-five thousand throughout the country, along with about thirty thousand contractors and five thousand British soldiers.

The fantastic bloodletting of the civil war, when thousands of Iraqis were dying a month, turned neighborhoods that for centuries had harbored both Sunni and Shiite Muslims into confessionally pure enclaves.

3) Two years after the last American soldiers departed, it’s hard to find any evidence that they were ever there.

4) Iraq has become one of the world’s largest oil producers, but little of the profit reaches ordinary citizens;

5) The resurgence of Iraq’s Shiites is the greatest legacy of the American invasion, which overthrew Sunni rule and replaced it with a government led by Shiites—the first since the eighteenth century.

6) Hanaa Edwar, who runs a nonprofit called Al-Amal (Hope) is proud of her work but ashamed of the Iraq that Maliki and his American sponsors have made. She recited a list of woes: “Divisions among people. The failure of public services. The corruption. The human-rights abuses. The judicial system? There is no judicial system, really. We are losing everything.”

7) Former American Ambassador in Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad:  emphasized that he did not choose Maliki; he had merely exerted American leverage to maximum effect.

By the time Maliki returned to Baghdad, in April, 2003, Maliki had come to regard the United States with profound animosity, friends and associates say. Over the years, the U.S. government had supported nearly all of his enemies—most notably Saddam—and opposed his friends, especially the revolutionary regime in Iran. “Maliki was known as an anti-American,”

8) After the Gulf War, the U.S. encouraged an enormous Shiite uprising. Saddam’s ruthless counter-offensive killed as many as a hundred and fifty thousand Iraqis, the overwhelming majority of them Shiites; the U.S. stood by, which Shiites see as a monstrous betrayal.


Syrian Composer Turned Activist Malek Jandali Asks Audiences to Contribute to Humanitarian Organizations Helping Children in Syria
(Jessica Jones, NPR Weekend Edition Saturday 4/26/14; 4:04 audio segment )

Related:
Syrian Refugee Benefit
Friday, July 11 in SF
Living room concert featuring
Palestinian qanunist/singer Ali Amr

info:  tangentsradio (at) gmail.com
or
415 584-4367

NPR Audio Transcript:

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

As the conflict in Syria rages, a pianist named Malek Jandali has turned to composing to express his sorrow. He was one of the first Syrian artists living abroad to openly criticize the Assad regime, not long after an uprising swept across his homeland.

Jessica Jones from North Carolina Public Radio shares how he found his voice through music.

JESSICA JONES: In 2011, Malek Jandali was visiting his family in Syria. There he witnessed the early stages of a rebellion that resulted in the detainment and torture of many young Syrians. When Jandali returned to the U.S., he sat down at the piano and poured his heart out in a song.

MALEK JANDALI: And I started in a very melancholic, sad minor key.

JANDALI: I was just actually pouring my thoughts and my melodies and my passion and just making music. I was just inspired by those kids and by what's going on back home.

JONES: As an orchestral composer, Jandali had never put words to music before. He decided to call the song "Watani Ana" or "I Am My Homeland." Recorded in 2011, it featured Palestinian and Iraqi singers as soloists (including Salma Habib).

JONES: That song marked the beginning of the soft-spoken composer's turn toward activism. In addition to writing more music about the conflict in his homeland, Jandali is also on a concert tour that asks audiences to contribute to humanitarian organizations helping children in Syria. He performed recently at Duke University.

JANDALI: You don't need anything else but stop the war, have a no-fly zone, protect the children so we can have peace, justice and accountability.

JONES: Local musicians and singers participated in the concert. North Carolina State University music professor Jonathan Kramer accompanied Jandali on the cello.

JONATHAN KRAMER: The cello is of my own heart turned outward. And the opportunity that I have to play this music with this man under these circumstances is a way to express my own deep love for music and humanity and my deep sorrow that things are the way they are in the world.

JONES: Members of the audience said they were moved by the performance. Rebecca Jouben is a professor at Davidson College just outside Charlotte.

REBECCA JOUBEN: I think that he speaks to our conscience. This is a tragedy before our eyes. It's not something we're reading about in history books. It's right before our eyes.

JONES: According to the U.N., more than 100,000* people have died in the Syrian conflict.

*Dore note: Most authorities believe the death toll is now greater than 150,000

Jandali's parents were severely beaten when their home was invaded by what he says were government thugs just three days after the first live performance of "Watani Ana" in the United States. They are in the U.S. now.

JANDALI: So I thought, oh, my God, you know, this little, tiny song is actually shaking an entire regime back home. For them to send their soldiers to beat my parents, is this how powerful music is? And from that moment, I was just on fire to do more.

JONES: Jandali has posted politically charged works on his website and YouTube. They're set to compositions from his latest album called "Emessa," the ancient Greek name for his hometown of Homs, Syria.


An unmanned U.S. Predator drone
Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP Images

Yemen: On the ground in a country where unmanned
missile attacks are a terrifyingly regular occurence
(Vivian Salama, Rolling Stone in partnership with the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute, 4/14/14)

The people of Yemen can hear destruction before it arrives. In cities, towns and villages across this country, which hangs off the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula, the air buzzes with the sound of American drones flying overhead. The sound is a constant and terrible reminder: a robot plane, acting on secret intelligence, may calculate that the man across from you at the coffee shop, or the acquaintance with whom you've shared a passing word on the street, is an Al Qaeda operative. This intelligence may be accurate or it may not, but it doesn't matter. If you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, the chaotic buzzing above sharpens into the death-herald of an incoming missile.

Such quite literal existential uncertainty is coming at a deep psychological cost for the Yemeni people. For Americans, this military campaign is an abstraction. The drone strikes don't require U.S. troops on the ground, and thus are easy to keep out of sight and out of mind. Over half of Yemen's 24.8 million citizens – militants and civilians alike – are impacted every day. A war is happening, and one of the unforeseen casualties is the Yemeni mind.

Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, trauma and anxiety are becoming rampant in the different corners of the country where drones are active. "Drones hover over an area for hours, sometimes days and weeks," said Rooj Alwazir, a Yemeni-American anti-drone activist and cofounder of Support Yemen,  a media collective raising awareness about issues afflicting the country. Yemenis widely describe suffering from constant sleeplessness, anxiety, short-tempers, an inability to concentrate and, unsurprisingly, paranoia.

Last year, London-based forensic psychologist Peter Schaapveld presented research he'd conducted on the psychological impact of drone strikes in Yemen to a British parliamentary sub-committee. He reported that 92 percent of the population sample he examined was found to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder – with children being the demographic most significantly affected. Women, he found, claimed to be miscarrying from their fear of drones. "This is a population that by any figure is hugely suffering," Schaapveld said. The fear of drones, he added, "is traumatizing an entire generation."

Air strikes by U.S. drones and Yemeni jets have grown in frequency in recent months, destroying families, and as such have stoked resentment. "For every one person killed," psychologist Schaapveld argued, "there are going to be hundreds that are affected psychologically."

Missile strikes, allegedly by U.S. drones — which American officials argue is a safer, more efficient and precise form of aerial warfare than using piloted fighter jets or sending ground troops — have now been reported in twelve of Yemen's 21 governorates, with as many as 504 people killed in confirmed strikes since 2002, according to data compiled by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Another 44 people have been killed in possible U.S. strikes.

The overall fatality count, though, is clouded by America's growing use of so-called "signature strikes" — guilt-by-association attacks against suspected but unidentified targets. Having committed no prior crime, these victims' names are not part of any list and in some cases, not even known. Many Yemenis say that the increased prevalence of signature strikes makes it impossible for them to predetermine possible targets, heightening anxieties among those who feel that they will inevitably end up in the crosshairs.

Beginning in 2009, the Obama administration made drone strikes its go-to method for killing members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), causing a spike in reports of drones in Yemen.

The U.S. has tacitly admitted some culpability for accidental civilian deaths. Caitlin Hayden, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, says that, "in situations where we have concluded that civilians have been killed, the U.S. has made condolence payments where appropriate and possible."

None of the families to whom the author spoke to report receiving any payment from the American government, but some families, including those impacted by the wedding strike, have been promised compensation, in the form of 101 rifles and $101,000, from the Yemeni government.



This undated image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 shows fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) marching in Raqqa, Syria. Photo by AP

Syrian jihadi town where 'brides' are snatched from schools

Once liberal bastion Raqqa was over-run by al-Qaeda group
before secular rebels launched a fight back


(Richard Spencer, Independent UK, 3/29/14)

A year ago, the city of Raqqa in northern Syria was sprouting political activist groups and philosophical discussion circles. A “guerrilla gardening” squad promoted environmental awareness by planting vegetables in central reservations.

The liberals who made it a base after the rebels swept in and drove out the regime in March last year are gone, disbanded, accused of supporting democracy and other “kuffar” or infidel beliefs, their members living either underground or in Turkey.

The city has been transformed into a staging ground for displays of the harshest “justice” meted out by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the jihadi group too extreme even for al-Qaeda that has imposed its rule over large parts of the country.

Refugees, women still living under its rule and men who have escaped from its prisons have told Telegraph of the life under the shadow of the extremist group’s black flag.

One woman, whose name the Telegraph knows but is withholding, described how she went to the recruiting office of an all-women jihad unit, formed from the women who have flocked to Syria from Europe and elsewhere to serve the cause, some with their children.

“I went inside their headquarters, which used to be the Christian church,” she said. “I asked what the conditions were to join. They said you have to be 18-25, unmarried, and you would earn 25,000 Syrian pounds.

 “But if you joined you had the opportunity to marry one of the foreign fighters. However, they make sure you are a real jihadist.”

She said that outside she met four new recruits, three from Tunisia, and one Frenchwoman, who told her she was divorced and had brought her 12-year-old daughter and four younger sons to Syria to join the militants.

The opportunities for marriage in the Syrian jihad - and before “martyrdom” - is a recurring theme of the blogs and other online forums favoured by ISIS’s foreign fighters in Syria, many of whom write in English.

But the Raqqa woman and other activists from the town say that the imbalance of the sexes means ISIS has begun to “recruit” brides from local schools and colleges.

Among those who resisted, they say, was a 21-year-old student called Fatima Abdullah from a tribal area outside the city, whose brother had joined ISIS and persuaded their father to hand her over for marriage to a Tunisian. She refused, and when her family insisted, killed herself with rat poison. The story was confirmed by other activists from the town.

Since the beginning of January, rival rebel groups including western-backed militias still loyal to the original opposition Free Syrian Army have launched a counter-attack across the north of Syria to drive out ISIS.

Earlier this month, rebels all but completed an operation to remove the extremists from Idlib province while in Aleppo province ISIS have been forced into towns to the east. As they left their former strongholds they killed some of their prisoners, freed others, and loaded many more on to trucks and took them with them.

In Aazaz, a town between Aleppo and the Turkish border, ISIS retaliated for the FSA attack by beheading four captives from other militias and placing their heads on the plinth in the middle of the roundabout in one of the main squares, residents.

Ahmed Primo, described how he was saved from a similar fate by a stray shell.

 “I heard a voice calling my name for execution,” he said. “Then suddenly there was the sound of an explosion. The guards and the emir, the militia leader, were injured, and carried away. The next day the prison was liberated and I escaped.”

Mr Primo had previously been detained by the Syrian regime in his home city, Aleppo, and held for a month. Asked whether the treatment he received from ISIS, which included beatings, being bound and blindfolded for weeks at a time, and electrocuted in his testicles, was better or worse than his experiences under the regime, he said: “It is not a question of better or worse. It was exactly the same.”

ISIS split last summer from Jabhat al-Nusra, the recognised wing of Al-Qaeda in Syria, and in February was disavowed by Al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman Zawahiri.

But by then its capacity to instill fear by its harsh punishments, and ability to attract fanatical fighters from abroad had enabled it to take control of large parts of northern Syria, with Raqqa province mostly under their sway.

Anwar Mohammed, one of the early “citizen journalists” who sent reports of the initial uprising against President Bashar al-Assad to the outside world, was among Aazaz’s luckiest people. He had been seized from his home by ISIS fighters, taken to the group’s headquarters in Aleppo city, a former children’s hospital, for interrogation, and then detained in a prison in another town, Hreitan.

Light of build, he managed to escape one night by squeezing through the bars of his cell and lowering himself to the ground with knotted blankets. When he made it home - and across the Turkish border - his father said ISIS had visited him to tell him his son was to be executed as a spy.

What is perhaps most remarkable is that despite the brutality, many residents of north-west Syria still back ISIS. Samer Amori, Mohammed Nour’s uncle, said that people who supported the regime now support ISIS. A more convincing explanation is that by demanding control of all aspects of its subjects’ lives, ISIS did at least manage to impose some sort of order on a Syria that is becoming more lawless as the war progresses.

But for many men and women, particularly the liberal activists, who have suffered under both the regime and ISIS, the recent fighting has brought the third year of the uprising to deeply depressing close.

Mr Primo, electrocuted by fighters from the regime and Assad, said he had always believed the West would intervene, and that what had happened in Tunisia and Libya would happen in Syria. Now it is clear that with the country little more than a fighting ground for rival warlords, some not even Syrian, the West has little stomach for involvement.

“When I started out I could never have imagined anything like this,” he said. “These people, they do not have our way of life, or of thinking.

It’s very strange to us. I didn’t expect it would turn out this way.” 




Screenshot of the B'Tselem video

 Over 1500 children killed by Israel since 2000

Palestinian minister says more than 10,000 children have been arrested during the same period and 200 are still detained.
(Haaretz 4/5/14)

Over 1,500 Palestinian children have been killed by Israeli forces since 2000, the Palestinian Authority minister of social affairs Kamal al-Sharafi said on Saturday.

In a statement marking Palestinian Children's Day, Sharafi said that 1,520 Palestinian children have been killed and approximately 6,000 injured by the Israeli military in the past 14 years, the Ma'an Palestinian news service reported.

More than 10,000 Palestinian children have been arrested, al-Sharafi added, and 200 are currently being held in Israeli prisons.

"Protecting and supporting children should be a national responsibility," he said, calling upon the Palestinian Authority to ratify a law for the protection of minors.

The United Nations Children Fund said in a 2013 report that some 700 Palestinian children aged 12 to 17, most of them boys, are arrested, interrogated and detained by the Israeli military, police, and security agents every year in the occupied West Bank.

In the report, UNICEF said it identified examples of practices that "amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention against Torture."

Wesleyan declares itself an Open Hillel
The Wesleyan Jewish Community is the third local Hillel-affiliate to declare that it will no longer follow Hillel International's restrictive "Standards of Partnership".
The Open Hillel movement has already captured two campuses, Swarthmore and Vassar, and is making inroads at Harvard, Berkeley and Brown.

Statement from the Wesleyan Jewish Community
Published with the support of the majority of student leaders
of the Wesleyan Jewish Community
4/2/14

"We, student leaders of the Wesleyan Student Jewish community, have followed with great interest and concern the controversy that has swirled around Hillel International's Standard of Partnership for Israel Activities, which prevent Hillel from partnering with, hosting, or housing anyone who,(a) denies the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders, (b) delegitimizes, demonizes, or applies a double standard to Israel, (c) supports boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel.

These policies have resulted in the barring of speakers from organizations such as Breaking the Silence and the Israeli Knesset from speaking at Hillels without censorship, and has resulted in
Jewish Voice for Peace and other Jewish organizations not being welcome under the Hillel umbrella or in the Jewish community that gathers in those spaces.

At Wesleyan, values of inclusion are central to our identity both as Jews and as participants in the wider Wesleyan community. We believe that no one should be made to feel excluded, marginalized or unsafe in a religious or cultural space because of their political beliefs, and that welcoming an individual while censoring their opinions represents little more than probationary community membership. We reject the idea implicit in Hillel's guidelines that Jewish plurality gives way to Zionist unanimity, and are acutely aware that many individuals have formed robust, meaningful Jewish identities that do not comport with traditional Zionist ideas.

Our community is structured in a way that gives voice to these values. Student leaders known as Jewish Renaissance Fellows organize Jewish student life and programming on campus. The Jewish program house (known as The Bayit) is operated by a student House Manager who also takes a leading role in organizing student Jewish life. Thus, at Wesleyan, Jewish life and the place of Israel within that life is shaped and determined by the students themselves.

We believe that trust is the bedrock of any community that values each of its members. We are grateful that the Wesleyan Jewish community does not employ chaperones for our conversations. Students are allowed and encouraged to introduce and be exposed to the widest possible range of views, and trusted to make sense of the mosaic before them and form an informed position. Our community is built on the assumption that such a process results not in confusion, but in opinions about Israel and Judaism that are more robust and well-reasoned because of the thought that has gone into them. We believe that restrictive guidelines such as the ones Hillel international has adopted are not conducive to fostering a culture of intellectual exploration and free inquiry.

We believe that dialogue and critical engagement are central Jewish values. Our community is founded on texts that are meant to be interpreted, argued over, and debated endlessly. The talmud, our central body of religious commentary, contains many differing opinions on how laws are to be interpreted. Hillel draws its name from the great rabbinical sage who believed that all should be able to learn, and that discourse should be free and unbound by guidelines imposed from above. No one has ever suggested that these values weaken the Jewish community, and we believe Hillel International's deviation from these principles alienates members of our community and strays from Jewish tradition.

In light of these values, we would like to state explicitly what has long been the implicit policy of our student campus community: we will not follow the current formulation of Hillel's Standards of Partnership. We are committed to neither censoring nor excluding individuals, groups or speakers from our communal spaces merely because their political views around Israel or other issues stray from mainstream opinion. We are committed to a conversation around Judaism and Israel that reflects the values of the members of our community, rather than the political preferences of the leaders of Hillel International.

Therefore, the undersigned student leaders of the Wesleyan Jewish Community — the vast majority of current student leaders, including both current Jewish Renaissance fellows and the current Bayit House manager, as well as many former Jewish student leaders — express our solidarity with, and support of, the Open Hillel movement. As an affiliate of Hillel, we call upon Hillel International to reform its guidelines so as to ensure that no member of the Jewish community is barred from a space that should be rightfully theirs because of a desire to critically engage with, and express opinions about, issues that relate to Israel."


When Israeli settlers attack and steal, Palestinians now have a strategy

(Daniel Estrin, PRI's The World 3/28/14)

A few weeks ago, in a West Bank olive grove, someone tried to steal a mule.

The incident may seem way too trivial to even bother mentioning. It didn’t make headlines when it happened.

But in the West Bank, an event like this quickly becomes a very high stakes game. And that offers a glimpse of life against the backdrop of one of the world’s most intractable conflicts.

Lubban is a Palestinian village surrounded by Israeli settlements on nearly every hilltop.

Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian official who monitors Israeli settler activity in the West Bank, said he got a call that a farmer near Lubban had caught a settler trying to steal his mule.

“The settler was in a car, driving,” Daghlas said. “He saw a mule tied up to a tree. He thought he would steal the mule. He could get on the mule and ride it [back to his settlement up the road.]”

But the Palestinian farmer caught the settler, put him in a car, and telephoned his village council. Soon, a whole group of villagers were surrounding the farmer’s car with the settler inside. When Daghlas arrived, he called Palestinian liaison officials, who called their Israeli army counterparts, who soon arrived.

One villager used his cell phone to film as the farmer told the soldiers what happened. The trespassing settler, the farmer said, was named Zohar and was approximately 20 years old. “I told him, ‘Zohar, I want to put you in my car, you are like my son, do not be afraid,’” the farmer said on the video.

The Israeli soldiers escorted the settler out, unscathed. End of story.

The same thing happened a few months ago close to the nearby village of Qusra. A group of settlers in their late teens and 20s were seen attacking Palestinian farmers in broad daylight.

Palestinian villagers caught them and beat them up, but another group of Palestinians put the kids on the roof of a house, gave them bandages and water, and despite a gathering mob, made sure no one harmed them further. Palestinian officials called Israeli soldiers who escorted the settlers away.

The residents of Lubban have every reason to be angry with Israeli settlers. In 2010, settlers were suspected of torching a village mosque and olive trees. In 2012, a soldier and two Israeli women were arrested for spray painting “Mohammed is a pig” on a village home.

Capturing someone in the act, however, is rare. Nabbing the mule thief was like the occupied trapping the occupier, the mouse catching the cat. It showed a strategy that Palestinian officials are trying to enforce.

“If a problem erupts, we need to announce it through the mosque declaration system. The whole village will know about it,” Daghlas said. “Secondly, everyone should gather. We need numbers to combat such a situation."

"Number three, we need to immediately [alert] people like me, as well as a Palestinian coordination officer. We need to create a system for coordination” — for contacting Israeli soldiers to evacuate the settlers and avoid Palestinians harming them.

For Palestinians, this is a strategic move, said Daghlas.

“Our people are aware of the repercussions and the punishments that would fall on their heads if they were to use violence,” Daghlas said.

Settler attacks can happen as frequently as every week, said Sarit Michaeli of the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem. These spontaneous vigilante groups — neighborhood watch-style — are the only real way Palestinians can protect themselves from settler attacks, she said, because the Israeli security forces aren’t doing their job properly.

“Each and every incident seems minor. I mean, it’s one car here, one olive grove there,” Michaeli said. “But if you view the series of attacks that have been perpetrated against Palestinians in specific areas, every single incident contributes to a very, very large picture in which people are living in places where they have no protection.”

Dani Dayan, a leader of the settler movement, chastises the Israeli security forces for failing to prevent and prosecute settlers who commit the attacks.

Dayan said he has met with Israel’s attorney general, the police inspector general, the head of the Shin Bet clandestine security service and the army officer in charge of the area.

“I begged. I would say I demanded of them to be more harsh, and first and foremost to be more effective,” Dayan added. “I don’t have an intelligent answer to the question why and how our law enforcement agencies are so unsuccessful.”

But over the past eight years, according to UN figures, the annual rate of Israeli settler attacks has almost quadrupled.

That sometimes leaves Palestinians feeling that their only recourse is taking law enforcement into their own hands.

March 22 is World Water Day

Middle East Children's Alliance  (MECA) Maia Project is now providng clean water to more than 50,000 children in Gaza every single day

This fall, MECA installed 14 new water purification and desalination units in schools and kindergartens bringing the total number of purification units to 52. You can check the MECA website for a full list of locations and beneficiaries.

MECA also announced the addition of Safaa El-Derawi to our team in Gaza. Safaa is a water engineer born and raised in the Gaza Strip. She will be making regular visits to all of the schools and kindergartens where we have installed water units to test the water, oversee any repairs and maintenance necessary, lead workshops about the water crisis in Gaza, and explain to staff and students the dangers of unpurified water to their health.

While MECA celebrates this important milestone in the Maia Project, MECA would also like to highlight a new call to action from  friends and partners in Palestine.

Today marks the start of the first International Week Against Mekorot, Israel’s state-owned water company that is responsible for implementing "water apartheid" on Palestinians.

Water apartheid in Palestine - a crime against humanity?
(Ayman Rabi, stopmekorot.org, 3/22/14)
excerpt:

Today is UN World Water Day - a day to remember the billion people who are unable to meet their needs for safe, clean water due to drought, poverty and official neglect.

But it’s also a day to remember, and fight for, 2.1 million Palestinians who suffer something different – an artificial water scarcity deliberately created and sustained by Israel’s military occupation, and the private Israeli water company Mekorot.

Systematic, acute, malicious discrimination in access to water in the West Bank and Gaza, combined with massive resource theft, is operated by the occupation authorities and the private water company Mekorot.

Increased international pressure brings hope that the tide may be finally turning for Palestinians striving for water justice in the West Bank and Gaza – in particular, recent investment and partnership decisons against Mekarot, which runs Israel’s discriminatory water policy in the West Bank.

The situation in Gaza is especially dire. The tiny, densely populated territory relies entirely on its depleted, saltwater-contaminated and sewage-polluted aquifer, and the water it produces is unfit for consumption. Water has to be bought, expensively, in bottles or from mobile tanks.

Moreover restrictions on fuel imports mean that Gaza’s single power station spends most of its time idle – and so long as it’s not running, water and sewage cannot be pumped. So the taps are dry, toilets are blocked, and sewage pollution gets worse.

Not that Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem have it a lot better. As reported on 17th March, the city suffered a long water cut beginning on 4th March leaving Ras Shehada, Ras Khamis, Dahyat A’salam and the Shuafat refugee camp – cut off from the rest of the city by the separation wall – with no running water.

The reason is simple – old and inadequate water infrastructure, which there are no plans to improve or renew.

For West Bank as a whole the facts speak for themselves. The Oslo II Accords dealt Palestinians a singularly poor hand - limiting the volume of water it could produce, as well as imposing severe restrictions on the development and maintenance of Palestinian water infrastructure.

The Accords allow Palestinans to abstract only 118 million cubic meters (mcm) per year from boreholes, wells, springs and precipitation in the West Bank. But Israel is allowed to take four times as much – 483 mcm per year – from the same Palestinian resources.

So not only does Israel now occupy 80% of the area of historic Palestine, but it – via the water company Mekarot – also takes 80% of the water resources from the 20% of the land that is left to the Palestinians.

As reported by Amira Hass in Ha’aretz, “in that agreement Israel imposed a scandalously uneven, humiliating and infuriating division of the water resources”.

While Palestinian water is piped into Israel at no cost, a fraction of it is then piped back again, and paid for. In this way Israel is extracting from Palestinians both their water, and their money.

In some cases Palestinians are forced to pay ten times more for their water than the price in Tel Aviv – as in the village of Sussia on South Mount Hebron, where they have to drive to the nearby town to buy over-priced water.

According to the UN Human Rights Council, this all translates into a wide disparity between water use by Palestinians and by settlers in the West Bank.

All Palestinian populations receive water volumes far below the level recommended by the World Health Organization of 100 – 250 l/c/d. According to the UNHRC:

“Settlements benefit from enough water to run farms and orchards, and for swimming pools and spas, while Palestinians often struggle to access the minimum water requirements.  Some settlements consume around 400 l/c/d, whereas Palestinian consumption is 73 l/c/d, and as little as 10-20 l/c/d for Bedouin communities which depend on expensive and low quality tanker water.”

These very low levels of water provision fail to meet the water needs of many Palestinian communities – leaving them with often contaminated water, and not enough of it.

An estimated 113,000 Palestinians in the West Bank have no piped water supply, while hundreds of thousands more have only intermittent supply, especially in the summer.

The restrictions and limitations imposed on Palestinians to access their own resources and develop them have exacerbated the already severe water shortages among Palestinian communities.

Among the restrictions are limits on the size of supply pipe, intended to limit flows as a form of rationing. Typically 30% of the water leaks from Palestinian supply pipes – because Israel refuses to allow their renewal.

In ‘Area C’, which covers 60% of the area of the West Bank, Palestinian farmers and communities are not allowed to connect to the water network that serves the growing settlements – and are forbidden even to dig out cisterns.

The international community considers the establishment of Israeli settlements in the Israeli-occupied territories illegal under international law, as set out in the report of the fact finding mission of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Yet the construction of new illegal Israeli settlements and ‘outposts’, and the expansion of existing ones, is proceeding apace – and further reducing the quantity of water allocated to Palestinians.

As reported by the UN in March 2012, another threat arises from settlers seizing springs by force:

“Palestinians have increasingly lost access to water sources in the West Bank as a result of the takeover of springs by Israeli settlers, who have used threats, intimidation and fences to ensure control of water points close to the settlements.”

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) found that:

 “The denial of water is used to trigger displacement, particularly in areas slated for settlement expansion, especially since these communities are mostly farmers and herders who depend on water for their livelihoods.

“A number of testimonies highlighted that the cutting off from water resources often precedes dispossession of lands for new settlement projects.”

Mekorot – at the heart of Israel’s water apartheid

All Israeli settlements in the West Bank are connected to piped water supplied by Israeli water company Mekorot, which took over responsibility for the water resources of the West Bank from the occupying forces in 1982.

As the UN Human Rights Council reports: “In the Jordan Valley, deep water drillings by the Israeli national water company Mekorot and the agro-industrial company Mehadrin have caused Palestinian wells and springs to dry up. Eighty per cent of the total water resources drilled in the area is consumed by Israel and the settlements.”

‘Week of Action Against Mekorot’

Mekorot violates international law and colludes in resource grabbing -including pillaging water resources in Palestine. It supplies this pillaged water to illegal Israeli settlements, and engages in systematic discrimination and denial of water to the Palestinian population.

For this reason Palestinian organizations including PENGON / Friends of the Earth Palestine have co-organised a ‘Stop Mekorot‘ week of action starting today, on World Water Day.
The campaign aims to intensify pressure on governments and companies to boycott Mekorot and hold the company accountable for its discriminatory water policies and practices in Palestine.

In December 2013 the largest drinking water supplier in the Netherlands, Vitens, set a precedent when it decided that its commitment to international law meant it had to withdraw from a cooperation agreement with Mekorot.

Mekorot suffered another blow this week when authorities in Buenos Aires, Argentina, suspended a proposed $170m water treatment plant deal.
The decision followed a campaign by local trade unions and human rights groups which highlighted Mekorot’s role in Israel’s theft of Palestinian water resources.

Palestinians must have their rightful share of available resources and be granted full authority to manage them properly. Equitable and wise use of available resources among all people is the only basis for lasting peace in the region.

And until then the deliberate, systematic, purposeful water discrimination and resource theft carried out in Occupied Palestine by the Occupation and Mekorot must be recognised for what they are – crimes against humanity.
________________________________________

Ayman Rabi represents Friends of the Earth Palestine / PENGON, the Palestinian Environmental NGOs Network – established in 1996 to serve the Palestinian environment by coordinating the scattered efforts of the different Palestinian NGOs working in the field of environment.


Why is Palestine taboo at Columbia College?

Eric Ruder reports on an effort to defend academic freedom for a Columbia instructor
(Socialistworker.org, 3/11/14)
excerpt:

When Iymen Chehade, an instructor at Columbia College, was summoned last fall for a meeting with the chair of his department, he had a pretty good guess as to why. "There's generally been one reason that they ask me to meet," he said in an interview.

Unfortunately, he was right.

Since 2010, Chehade has taught a course about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the department of Humanities, History and Social Science. He initially taught three sections of the course and then was reduced to two. But this semester, in the wake of his meeting with department Chair Steve Corey, he's only teaching one.

So why did Corey want to meet with Chehade? After Chehade held a screening of the Oscar-nominated documentary 5 Broken Cameras in his class last fall, one of Chehade's students went to Corey with a complaint of "bias." Corey told Chehade to teach his class in a more "balanced" way and then requested that Chehade provide proof that he is qualified to teach.

It's not difficult to see why anyone might find a viewing of 5 Broken Cameras to be a jarring experience, but frank discussion of pressing social issues is precisely why students seek out Chehade's class. The film provides a firsthand account of nonviolent resistance against Israel's attempts to destroy the West Bank village of Bil'in as Israeli troops clear the way for construction of a separation wall.

This apartheid wall snakes it way through Palestinian territory, separating farmers from their fields and families from one another. In 2004, the Hague's International Court of Justice ruled that Israel's wall violates international law. Filmmaker Emad Burnat's moving commitment to document his village's resistance to the wall provides  footage of Israeli troops using arrests, beatings, tear gas and live ammunition to attempt to break the spirit of Bil'in.

On November 4, just seven days after Chehade's meeting with Corey, Columbia College posted course offerings for students seeking to register for the spring semester, including two sections of Chehade's class. Within hours of posting the courses, however, administrators pulled one of his sections, leaving him with only one course this spring.

This Isn't the first time that Chehade has found himself fending off charges of "bias." When Chehade was asked to moderate a discussion after a public screening of 5 Broken Cameras at Columbia College last spring, members of the campus Hillel organization complained about the lack of a "pro-Israel" speaker. (Lynn Pollack, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace, was a featured presenter.)

In the fall semester of 2011, eight students from three different sections of Chehade's course, some of them members of Hillel, signed a petition also making the charge of "bias" against Chehade. In a follow-up meeting between the students, Chehade and some Columbia College administrators, the students cited as examples of Chehade's bias that he referred to the West Bank and Gaza as the "Occupied Territories" (they preferred the term "Disputed Territories") and that he used the term "ethnic cleansing" to describe how Israel drove some 750,000 Palestinians from their land and homes through violence, intimidation and terror.

In response, dozens of students also in his class rallied to Chehade's defense, crafting their own petition countering the eight students and describing Chehade's course as an asset to Columbia College.

Of course, the charge of "bias" is really an attempt to constrain the way in which the Israel-Palestine conflict is portrayed. In the words of Chehade:

Academic freedom entails not only the right to speak from a particular perspective, but the freedom from being compelled to engage in a particular type of speech. The frequent demand from Zionists that any discussion of the conflict be "balanced" would be considered absurd in most other contexts. For example, must every presentation about the African American civil rights movement include a speaker who will attempt to justify the denial of these rights?

Chehade also notes that when some student groups at Columbia provided a platform for former Israeli soldiers to speak in defense of Israel's military occupation of the West Bank, he announced the event to his students and offered them extra credit if they attended. He also did not insist on the inclusion of a "pro-Palestinian" perspective.

Speaking about Chehade's situation, Ali Abunimad,  an internationally renowned advocate of Palestinian rights and author most recently of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, put it this way:

For too long, teachers and students who want to speak freely about the situation in Palestine have had to live in fear of retaliation. Calls for "balance" are often ill-disguised efforts to ensure that Palestinian voices are not allowed to be heard without supervision, and that fundamental differences in power between Palestinians and the Israeli state that occupies and colonizes their land are obscured with false parity.'

 "Fortunately, this is a new day, and more people are standing up and speaking out against the silencing tactics that have been used on campuses for so long," said Abunimah.

Prominent intellectuals and artists are adding their voices to this effort by helping to explain the Israel-Palestine conflict in terms that so many can relate to. Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Alice Walker, for example, recently compared Israel's oppression of Palestinian to the conditions facing African Americans in the South prior to civil rights movement. "It's so much like the South of 50 years ago, and actually more brutal, because in Palestine so many more people are wounded, shot, killed, imprisoned," Walker said on Democracy Now! in 2012.

The campaign to defend academic freedom at Columbia College and Prof. Chehade's right to teach free of the administration's interference is one part of this growing movement. In the words of Chehade:

"It is important to provide oppressed and struggling groups with forums in which they speak for themselves and in their own voices--whether it is the LGBTQ community, the African American community, or Palestinians living under occupation. This is precisely what my approach has sought to bring to the Palestine issue, and professors around the country are taking a similar approach. The Zionist demand for "balance" is designed to present the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as symmetrical. However, the severe imbalance is clear: Palestinians are denied their basic civil rights, and Israel continues to be in violation of international law. The demand for "balance" is a simply a tool to muzzle."


Saudi Arabia Lists Muslim Brotherhood as Terrorist Organization
(Naharnet Newsdesk/Agence France Presse, 3/7/14)

Saudi Arabia on Friday listed the Muslim Brotherhood and two Syrian jihadist groups as terrorist organizations, and ordered citizens fighting abroad to return within 15 days or face imprisonment.
The move represents a major escalation against the Muslim Brotherhood of deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and indicates rising concern in Riyadh over the possible return of battle-hardened Saudi extremists from Syria.

In addition to the Muslim Brotherhood, Saudi listed Al-Nusra Front, which is Al-Qaida's official Syrian affiliate, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a rogue group fighting in both Syria and Iraq, as terrorist organizations.

The order penalizes involvement in any of the groups' activities at home or abroad -- including demonstrations -- and outlaws the use of "slogans of these organizations", including in social media.
Riyadh is a staunch supporter of the Sunni-led rebels* battling to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad but has long feared blow-back from radical jihadist groups, particularly after a spate of attacks by a local Al-Qaida franchise from 2003 to 2006.

* Saudi Arabia and Qatar have reportedly armed and funded extremist groups that have been responsible for repeated atrocities  according to a Human Rights Watch report.

King Abdullah last month decreed jail terms of up to 20 years for belonging to "terrorist groups" and fighting abroad.

Similar sentences will be passed on those belonging to "extremist religious and ideological groups, or those classified as terrorist organizations, domestically, regionally and internationally," state news agency SPA said at the time.

Supporting such groups, adopting their ideology or promoting them "through speech or writing" would also incur prison terms, the decree added.

Rights group Amnesty International sharply criticized last month's decree in an article on its website  titled Saudi Arabia:  New terorism law is latest tool to crush peaceful expression stating the law used an "overly vague definition of terrorism".  Amnesty International also describes Saudi Arabia's ascendancy to a seat on the United Nation’s Human Rights Council as showing  "utter disregard for international human right law and the UN mechanisms put in place for its protection."

Saudi and other conservative Gulf monarchies have long been hostile towards the Muslim Brotherhood, fearing that its brand of grass-roots activism and political Islam could undermine their authority.

Saudi hailed the overthrow of Morsi and pledged billions of dollars to Egypt's military-installed government following his July 2013 ouster, and in recent months has eclipsed Qatar as the main backer of Syria's rebels.

Egypt has launched a sweeping crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and detained reporters from Qatar's Al-Jazeera news network.


(excerpt)
Leaked transcripts of a closed-door meeting between Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, head of Saudi intelligence, shed an extraordinary light on the hard-nosed Realpolitik of the two sides.

The details of the talks were first leaked to the Russian press. A more detailed version has since appeared in the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir, which has Hezbollah links and is hostile to the Saudis.

As-Safir said Prince Bandar pledged to safeguard Russia’s naval base in Syria if the Assad regime is toppled, but he also hinted at Chechen terrorist attacks on Russia’s Winter Olympics in Sochi if there is no accord. “I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us,” he allegedly said.

Prince Bandar went on to say that Chechens operating in Syria were a pressure tool that could be switched on an off. “These groups do not scare us. We use them in the face of the Syrian regime but they will have no role in Syria’s political future.”

WikiLeaks cables portray Saudi Arabia
as a cash machine for terrorists

(then Sec of State) Hillary Clinton memo highlights Gulf states' failure to block funding
for groups like al-Qaida, Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba
(Declan Walsh, Guardian UK, 12/5/2010)

Background:

According to the website middleeast.about.com the United States has long been Saudi Arabia’s leading arms supplier. From 1950 through 2006, Saudi Arabia bought or was granted from the United States weapons, military equipment and services worth $79.8 billion. Almost a fifth of all American arms sales during that period went to Saudi Arabia.

In comparison, Israel has received $53.6 billion in U.S. military grants between 1949 and 2007. The Bush administration agreed to a colossal increase in annual military aid to Israel, however. militaries. Annual military grants to Israel represent over 20% of the Israeli defense budget. U.S. military aid will increase from $2.4 billion in 2008 to $3.1 billion a year through 2018. About 75% of the aid is spent on American weaponry and services.

Wikileaks article excerpt:

Saudi Arabia is the world's largest source of funds for Islamist militant groups such as the Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba – (which carried out the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008) but the Saudi government is reluctant to stem the flow of money, according to Hillary Clinton.

"More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist groups," says a secret December 2009 paper signed by the US secretary of state. Her memo urged US diplomats to redouble their efforts to stop Gulf money reaching extremists in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide," she said.

The cables highlight an often ignored factor in the Pakistani and Afghan conflicts: that the violence is partly bankrolled by rich, conservative donors across the Arabian Sea whose governments do little to stop them.

The problem is particularly acute in Saudi Arabia, where militants soliciting funds slip into the country disguised as holy pilgrims, set up front companies to launder funds and receive money from government-sanctioned charities.

Washington is critical of the Saudi refusal to ban three charities classified as terrorist entities in the US. "Intelligence suggests that these groups continue to send money overseas and, at times, fund extremism overseas," she said.

Any criticisms are generally offered in private. The cables show that when it comes to powerful oil-rich allies US diplomats save their concerns for closed-door talks.

The cables show how before the Mumbai attacks in 2008, Pakistani and Chinese diplomats manoeuvred hard to block UN sanctions against Jamaat-ud-Dawa.



Starvation in Al Yarmouk Palestinian Camp
in Damascus
Click
here for video

Thousands 'slowly dying' in Yarmouk Palestinian camp in Syria
(Serene Assir, Irish Examiner, 3/1/14)


Thousands queuing for food aid
in Yarmouk camp where fighting off starvation
and death has become a daily reality

Combined excerpt from all articles:

Gaunt, ragged figures fill the streets for as far as the eye can see in the besieged Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk outside Damascus, where some 40,000 are said to be slowly starving to death.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)
* distributed shocking images this week of thousands of people, their faces emaciated, desperately flocking to receive food aid that only a few were lucky enough to collect.

*UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees.

“We live in a big prison,” said Rami al-Sayed, a Syrian activist living in Yarmouk. “But at least, in a prison, you have food. Here, there’s nothing. We are slowly dying.”

Residents have spoken of eating grass, cats, and dogs in a bid to stay alive. At least 86 people are known to have starved to death.

After months of shelling and fierce fighting in and around Yarmouk between rebels and president Bashar al-Assad’s troops, the camp’s population which was once Syria’s largest Palestinian camp, has shrunk from  160,000 to 40,000.

Among them are 18,000 Palestinians.

Since last summer, the area has been under choking army siege, creating inhumane conditions for its inhabitants.

“The situation is really tragic. On the streets, all you see are emaciated people, their faces drained of any life” said Sayed.

“There are no more people in Yarmouk, only skeletons with yellow skin,” Umm Hassan, a 27-year-old resident and the mother of two toddlers

“Why don’t they kill us with chemicals? It would be done in a few minutes. It’s better than this way,” said Abu Muhamed, an activist.

The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinians is overwhelmed by the crisis.

Since January, the agency has only been able to carry out limited, intermittent food distribution in the camp.

“Gaunt, ragged figures of all ages fill the streets of the devastated camp for as far as the eye can see,” UNRWA said, adding that such scenes were the agency’s “daily reality”.

“Humanitarian need has reached profound levels of desperation. Hunger and anxiety are etched on the faces of the waiting multitudes.”

Since January, UNRWA has distributed only 7,500 food parcels in Yarmouk, describing that as “a drop in the ocean compared with the rising tide of need”.

Much of the camp has been reduced to rubble by shelling, fighting and occasional aerial bombardment.

The distribution only began after rebels who had come from outside the camp agreed to withdraw, following a deal reached with Palestinian factions.

The lack of food in Yarmouk is compounded by medical shortages.

“In the hospitals, there are wounded people who cannot be treated because there are no doctors or medicines,” said Sayed.

After a visit this week, UNRWA chief Filippo Grandi described the “shocking” conditions of life he witnessed in Yarmouk.

He compared the people flocking to the distribution point as “the appearance of ghosts”.

“[They] have been trapped in there not only without food, medicines, clean water — all the basics — but also probably completely subjected to fear because there was fierce fighting.

“The devastation is unbelievable. There is not one single building that I have seen that is not an empty shell by now.”

But he said the condition of the camp’s remaining residents “is more shocking even”.

“They can hardly speak,” he said.

Yarmouk is one of several parts of Syria where civilians are trapped under regime or opposition sieges which prevent freedom of movement and the entry of food and medicines.

More than 140,000 people have died in Syria since the conflict erupted in March 2011.

When the uprising against Assad erupted in March 2011, most Palestinians stayed on the sidelines. As the revolt turned into a civil war that reached Yarmouk in December 2012, most residents backed the rebels and some even took up arms to fight Assad’s troops and pro-government Palestinian fighters.   (Pro-Assad Palestinian factions blamed the presence of 2,500 rebel fighters in the camp for the length of the siege.)


related stories:
Starving to death in Syria's Yarmouk camp
Fighting has cut off food and medical supplies to 18,000 desperate refugees
(Eric Reidy, Al-Jazeeria, 1/29/14)

background information excerpt:

Under siege

Yarmouk is located 8km south of Damascus and was established for refugees after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war that led to the creation of Israel, and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.

Over the decades the camp grew into a large Damascus suburb home to 160,000 residents, prior to the outbreak of Syria's civil war in 2011, according to UNWRA estimates. Now, only about 18,000 people remain inside the desolate camp.

The civil war reached Yarmouk in December 2012 when rebel forces entered the camp attempting to consolidate their positions to the east and south of Damascus, and push on towards the city centre. Syrian government forces responded with aerial bombardment, sending thousands fleeing in search of shelter in other parts of Syria and Lebanon.

Forces loyal to Assad succeeded in surrounding the camp and controlling access to it in February 2013 (in an attempt to force out rebels). Military-held checkpoints opened to allow aid to enter and residents to escape, but in July government forces began blocking access points. Yarmouk has now been under siege for more than 180 days.

Innocent, starving, close to death:
One victim of the siege that shames Syria
(Fernande van Tets, Independent.co.uk, 1/16/14)


Israa al-Masri, who died shortly after this photo was taken, was one of 18,000 Palestinians trapped and starving in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus
photo courtesy of AP from activist group Palestinians of Syria

excerpt:
(click above headline for full story)

Israa al-Masri was still a toddler when she lost her battle to cling to life. But the image of her face, pictured just minutes before she finally succumbed to starvation, is becoming the symbol of a wider nightmare.

For Israa, tongue swollen, wearing a chunky sweater and woollen hat that seem more substantial
than she is, was just one of thousands of Palestinian refugees trapped and starving in Yarmouk refugee camp, Damascus.

Once Syria’s largest Palestinian camp, Yarmouk has been under siege for almost a year. Most of its 160,000 population fled following violent clashes in December 2012, but at least 18,000 have remained, and months of encirclement by the Syrian army, cut off from supplies and medical aid, have reduced them to subsisting on a diet of animal food, water with salt and and leaves.
Women are shot at by snipers as they try to gather plants to feed their children. Israa is one of at least 50 to have died from hunger-related causes since October.

“The people are now eating grass and have started to eat cat and dog meat as a routine meal,” says Qais Saed, 26, whose last meal was three days ago and consisted of water with some spices. He cannot recall the last time he was not hungry.

Pro-Assad Palestinian factions blame the presence of 2,500 rebel fighters in the camp for the length of the siege.

Residents have recounted a scene of devastation and desperation inside the camp, which was originally built in 1957 to house thousands of Palestinians displaced by the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Over time it turned into a bustling residential area, with Syrian as well as Palestinian inhabitants. Downtown Damascus is just five miles away.

“There are no more people in Yarmouk, only skeletons with yellow skin,” Umm Hassan, a 27-year-old resident and the mother of two toddlers

“Why don’t they kill us with chemicals? It would be done in a few minutes. It’s better than this way,” said Abu Muhamed, an activist.

Lifting the Siege of Yarmouk
(Franklion Lamb, CounterPunch, 2/7-9/14)
excerpt:

A large yellow flat-bed truck arrived on the morning of 2/5/14 and this observer watched as food parcels were off-loaded and neatly stacked into six white pick-up trucks that were then driven into Yarmouk under the watchful gaze of pro and anti-regime forces and security agents.   According to one source from South Beirut who this observer had met earlier, Jabhat al Nusra, Jabhat Islam, Daash and Jund al Cham snipers could be observed on rooftops monitoring the distribution activity with their eyes pressed against their rifle scopes. One SARCS volunteer who this observer has known for two years advised that she feared there might be a shootout between these fighters and nearby Palestinian forces allied with the government (Ahmad Jibril’s PFLP-GC) suspected Hezbollah fighters with hand radio phones who were watching and seemingly discussing the events. Frankly, for this observer, it is increasingly difficult to distinguish which group is which around here given the proliferation of fighters with beards and essentially indistinguishable attire.

For many food parcel recipients, their first act is to open the jar of jam inside the cardboard box and scoop the confections into the mouths of their children or the nearby infirm refugees, usually elderly.  On 2/6/14, UNWRA also started a polio vaccination program, its first in Yarmouk and which is urgently needed by thousands of trapped camp residents. Ten thousand dosages of polio vaccines are being allowed into the camp with vaccinations currently underway for the second day running.

In addition to the so far paltry amount of food allowed into the camp, approximately 1,600 people have been allowed to leave Yarmouk for medical treatment.

One elderly lady, maybe in her late sixties, explained to this observer that every day for the past seven months, i.e. since the tight siege of Yarmouk began last June, she has stood in the same location waiting for her son Mahmoud to come to her from inside besieged Yarmouk. She has no idea if he is alive but she explained to me that she believes that God will deliver him safely to her.

Another view of much needed Divine assistance was articulated by a lovely young mother who had just exited Yarmouk with her two toddlers who looked, as she did, to be in fairly bad shape and in need of immediate hospitalization. A former English literature student, the lady, whose family is from Haifa, Occupied Palestine, explained to this observer that she no longer has any belief in God and as she elaborated why, she lowered her voice so as not to offend the nearby elderly believer waiting for her son Makmoud.

She told of her experience trapped inside Yarmouk: “For the past more than five months I have sold my body  for one hour to whoever would give me a kilo of rice which sometimes costs as much as 14,000 s.p. (close to $ 100). I was proud to be a whore for these terrorists in order to keep my parents alive and who are still trapped and I also prevented complete starvation of my children.” 
She continued, “God did not help me and my family but I promise if I live and ever see one of those dogs I will kill him and he can learn if his God exists or not. None existed for me!” and she sobbed
as two young lady volunteers from the PRCS  held her as she and her little ones  made their way to
a waiting PRCS ambulance.

The Politics of Starvation in Syria
(Patrick Cockburn, CounterPunch, 1/30/14)

excerpt:

“Bread is a dream for children inside Yarmouk Camp,” says Fuad, a Syrian Palestinian music
teacher who tries to help bring food to the 20,000 Palestinians besieged inside Yarmouk.

Syria is dotted with sieges and blockades
of cities, towns and districts which in some cases are producing mass starvation.

The siege of Yarmouk, the Palestinian area in Damascus once called “Little Palestine” and home to 160,000 people, is only one element in the disaster that has hit the half-million Palestinians in Syria. Fuad, the music teacher who is trying to emigrate to Egypt, says “it is a second ‘al-Nakba’ for us”, the first al-Nakba or catastrophe being the Palestinian expulsion in 1948 from what became the state of Israel.

All the Palestinians in Syria are caught up in this new disaster because their camps after 1948 were usually built on the outskirts of cities such as Damascus and Aleppo. They were therefore right in the path of Syrian rebel forces advancing from the countryside in 2012 and five camps have some presence of the armed opposition.

Palestinians living in a swathe of camps in south Damascus fled first to Yarmouk and then fled again when the rebels took most
of it over.

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinians believes that “440,000 Palestinians need help
and half of them are displaced within Syria.” Between 30,000 and 50,000 have become refugees
in Lebanon.
 

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