Saturday, January 10, 2009

Children of Gaza, Run to the Angels

Published on Saturday, January 10, 2009 by
Children of Gaza, Run to the Angels
by Suzanne Baroud

Ironically, it was in Palestine, 20 years ago, that I concluded that there is no God. For how could a God, who claims to love all and treat all with impartiality, allow such horrors like those in Palestine to happen?

This unbelief grew stronger with each curfew, with each strike that mourned the death of yet one more martyr, with a decapitation induced by gunfire in the main square on a sunny Ramallah afternoon so many years ago. But it was cemented the day I had to tell one of my fifth grade students that his brother had just been taken away by the Israeli army. His expression, his body going limp, the shuddering of his shoulders as he wept with his classmates…that's what finally did it.

Nearly 20 years have passed since that day, and I have now married into a Gazan family. I am a wife and mother, the sister and aunt of so many kids living the horror of what Gaza has become. As we watch the footage of Israel's onslaught, I hear myself, whispering as I see one more martyred child, "Run to the angels….run." After so many years, this living nightmare is fostering a burning desire to believe once again in the afterlife.

Caged, starved, sniped, suffocated. They are slaughtered like sheep, but the leaders of the free world just cannot seem to find a moment to comment. Golfing, vacationing, Obama, Bush, even the EU, they just aren't important enough. My mutterings have become a like a canter. I call out to these stricken and shattered little bodies, who frankly never experienced life to lose it. The only consolation to offer is the respite found in death.

A crowd gathers, shrouded in gas, smoke and dust. In the front stand eight young fathers, each holding a white swaddled bundle of what used to be a son, a daughter. For a few moments there is no screaming, no chanting or crying, but a moment of quiet and stillness that presses one to wonder just whom has been granted the greater mercy, the toddler who caught the snipers bullet, or the young father, who will have to find some way to live beyond this moment?

A young boy sits on the sidewalk beside his mother. She is propped up against the wall of a collapsed building and her life is bleeding out all over the sidewalk. It is spattered on his face and smeared on his shirt. She uses the last of her strength to lift her arm and clutch his cheek in her palm and then she is gone. He rests his head in his hands and cries. He is all alone.

The camera zooms in on the scene of a freshly detonated building, a civilian home. A little girls brown curly hair covered in dust and eyes wide open is all that can be found of her. Her mother wails and pulls her hair while her father frantically searches among the rubble for the rest of his daughter, where could she be? I whisper again, "you will be made whole again in Paradise. Run to the angels".

What amazing faith. What strong devotion that a father loses his mother, father, wife and eight children, that this man before anything can assert, "God is Great, Thank God for Everything". He holds his child, now still and ashen, he smothers him with kisses and then gently pulls back the sheet to expose two bullet holes in his chest. He then tenderly places the child beside his brother and again, pulls the sheet back of his youngest son to reveal a single snipers bullet to the chest. He can barely compose himself and he moans to the sympathizing camera man, "God is Great, Thank God for Everything".

An old and wrinkled Imam so lovingly cradles a little girl's lifeless body, as if mishandling her now could inflict more pain, he mumbles a benediction and gently lies her beside her sisters and her brothers in the mass grave. I try to comfort her, saying, "Finally, a place of safety. Rest beside your sister. Your brother. Put your fears to rest and meet your beloved Prophet and the many of your little friends who have fallen before you."

Hospitals, schools, mosques, civilian homes, UN shelters, all worthy targets. Doctors, medicines, food and water, truckloads of relief from all corners of the world line up for miles at the Egyptian border but they are refused entry. Security is high, food is scarce, water is completely gone.

Faith seems to spring forth in the strangest of moments. For me, it seems to be coming full circle out of desperation and in agony, for the sake of the snow-white souls of the many bloodied and dismembered innocents of Gaza.

UN workers coordinate with Israelis to get civilians to safety inside a UN school. Hundreds are tucked inside the mutually agreed safe haven. Soon after, the school comes under Israeli fire. Bruised and battered refugees stare Satan in the face, clad in his fatigues. Hundreds wounded, scores dead, many lost and unaccounted for.

Governments negotiate a cease-fire. Rumors buzz of conspiracies. The US President-elect is forever silent. Parents search beneath the collapsed walls for what remains of their children. Shattered concrete, random arms and legs, broken glass, tossed together in a bloody hodge-podge. But, in my mind, I see them whole, their little bodies swiftly being swept up into Paradise and I call out to them, "Run!"

Suzanne Baroud is the Managing Editor of

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Palestinians Will Never Forget

Palestinians Will Never Forget
By susan abulhawa

How can anyone watching Gaza burn escape the bitter realization that history repeats itself? Many have compared Israel ’s treatment of Palestinians to Apartheid South Africa . But not in their cruelest hour did the Apartheid regime wreak such wanton murder and destruction. Let us stop mincing words. What is happening to Palestinians now whispers of Warsaw and Lodz .

Schools, universities, mosques, police stations, homes, water treatment plants, factories, and anything that supports civil society, including the only mental health clinic in Gaza , have been blown to rubble from planes that rain death from clear skies without any resistance, because Palestinians have no opposing air force. Nor do they have an army or navy. No mechanized armor or heavy weaponry. Thanks to Israel , they haven’t even had continuous electricity or fuel for the past two years. Or food and medicine. Israel ’s siege and blockade of Gaza has prevented the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza , including the import of the most basic goods necessary for survival.

A recent study by the Red Cross showed that 46 percent of Gazan children suffer from anemia. Malnutrition affects 75 percent of Gaza ’s population, half of whom are under the age of 17. There has been widespread deafness among children due to Israel ’s intentional and frequent sonic booms from low overflights. An alarming number have stunted growth and serious mental disorders due lack of food. The only way they have been able to survive thus far has been due to the tunnels that smuggle food and goods from Egypt .

Half of Gazan children under 12 have lost their “will to live.” Can anyone fathom the kind of oppression that leads small children en mass to lose their will to live?

This is what Israel has done to Gaza over the past two years. They ghettoized Gaza and turned it into an open air prison – a concentration camp of civilians with no way to earn a living, no way to defend themselves and no place to run from the slaughter bombarding them from air, land, and sea. From the white phosphorous disemboweling young and old alike. Hear eyewitness accounts

But Gazans dared to try to resist with pathetic homemade rockets that, until Israel ’s barbaric attack, generally landed in open desert. The rockets were mostly symbolic of resistance, very much like the fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. But who would have called on a ceasefire there, in 1943, for “both parties” to “cease the violence”? Who would have blamed the Ghetto fighters for their ultimate fate? Who would say they had no right to resist? No right to fight back?

Just as Nazis gave Jews only the right to die silently, Israel starves and besieges Palestinians, giving them only that same right. Just as the Warsaw Ghetto was blown to rubble, Gaza is left to burn in an inferno, its hospitals bursting with the puss of death and unspeakable wounds. The entire population of Gaza is terrorized and traumatized. No one is spared the insecurity and fear. Imagine, please, that you are a Gazan.

What have Palestinians done to deserve such a fate? To be endlessly hunted like animals? To have their homes demolished, their ancient history and heritage cast into forgotten space? To languish in refugee camps and slums, while Jews from all corners of the earth flock to fill their confiscated homes and farms? To be tortured, imprisoned, and denied in every conceivable way?

What have we done that leaders will not speak against this massive and cold aggression against our people? With what logic do you call Palestinians terrorists when their streets flow with the blood of their own children? When they have been stripped naked of possessions, dignity and hope?

Why? Because they elected Hamas? Hamas has held power for less than two years. Yet, Palestinians have suffered this kind of slaughter for 61 years. Whether now in Gaza, in 2002 in Jenin, in 1947 and 1948 in Deir Yasin, Balad el-Sha, Yehida, Tantura, and the list goes on. Or 1982 in Sabra and Shatila.

Palestinians are killed as if insects not because of Hamas or Yasser Arafat before them. Not because of Qassasm rockets or hand thrown rocks. Palestinians burn and bleed because they are the non-Jewish natives of that land. There is no other reason. Just like Jews were killed for being Jewish. Palestinians are killed for being the Muslims and Christians who hold historic, legal and even genetic title to that land.

But unlike Jews of Europe, Palestinians are killed slowly over decades. Unlike Israel , Nazi Germany did not establish such an effective global propaganda machine that would demonize its victims and blame them for their own ghastly fate. But most importantly, like the fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto, Palestinians do not march like mice to their death. In six decades of enduring unspeakable oppression, their will has not been broken. Now is no exception.

Israel , and the United States with its unconditional support, will only succeed in radicalizing a whole new generation of its victims. Of revving world hatred and resentment against this unholy duo.

Palestinians will not forget this, as they have not forgotten the past 60 years. But what will you remember a week or a year or a decade from now, when a Gazan, who stood before the long rows of corpses and vowed vengeance, creates your 9-11? When one of those few million children without a will to live straps on a belt that rips through your daily routine? Will you remember what we did to them?

susan abulhawa is the author of The Scar of David,

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Five sisters killed in Gaza while they slept

Israel's target was the mosque next door. But the rocket attack claimed the lives of innocent children
By Donald Macintyre and Said GhazaliTuesday, 30 December 2008
The Independent

The five Palestinian sisters were fast asleep when a night-time Israeli airstrike hit the next-door mosque in Gaza. One of the walls collapsed on to their small asbestos-roofed home and they were all killed in their beds. The eldest sister, Tahrir, was 17 years old, the youngest, Jawaher, just four.

"They grow up day after day and night after night. Within a second, I have lost them," the girls' father, Anwar Balousha, said yesterday. The 37-year-old, along with another three of his children, was himself injured in the attack on the densely populated Jabalya refugee camp.

The funerals of the sisters – Tahrir, 17; Ikram, 15; Samar, 12; Dina eight; and Jawaher, four – were attended by family members and thousands of mourners. But with space running out in the cemetery, the five girls had to be buried in just three graves, one for the eldest and the others forced to share.

Mr Balousha wept down the phone, saying he felt "how a father who lost his five daughters would feel". With recorded readings from the Koran audible in the background, along with occasional explosions in the distance, he added: "It is the will of Allah. We are believers in God."
Amid the pile of rubble that was the Balousha home yesterday, three torn blankets could be seen poking out from the ruins along with a painted blue iron, a broken brown cupboard and a baby's bed.

The Israeli military said it had targeted the next-door mosque because it was a "known gathering place" of Hamas adherents. It said four gunmen were inside it at the time of the attack. The mosque was named Imad Akel after the former leader of the Hamas military wing.

As Israeli strikes continued, the uncle of the dead sisters said the family had been innocent victims. "We are not those who are firing rockets against Israel," Ibrahim Balousha said. "We are just people, human beings and not animals."

The Balousha family had moved out of their house when the Israeli bombing started on Saturday but they had decided to return "to meet their fate" in the words of the dead girls' uncle. He said that three missiles had been used in the airstrike at around 11.20pm on Sunday night and that hundreds of neighbours had arrived to help in the wake of the carnage.

After the funeral, 16-year-old Iman, who was briefly buried in the rubble of the family home but survived, described her unlucky siblings' dying moments. "I told my sisters, you will be martyrs, this is the end."

Her grieving uncle said that Hamas had taken advantage of the funeral to chant slogans including "Vengeance, Vengeance". Shouts of "Bomb Tel Aviv" were also heard. But Ibrahim Balousha said he had given the militant group short shrift. "I told them, this is a funeral and not a rally."

Times were already tough for the family of refugees even before the latest tragedy. The girls' father is unemployed for 11 months of the year, picking up work selling Ka'ak bread around Ramadan. The family depend on food rations from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and a $40 (£27.50) monthly handout. "The story is almost the same for decades," Ibrahim Balousha said: "Intifada and miseries, poverty and catastrophes."

UNRWA spokesman Christopher Gunness said: "The killing of these young girls is another tragic illustration that this bombardment is exacting a terrible price on innocent civilians. As with the killing of UNRWA students [on Saturday] we hope there will be a thorough and impartial and transparent investigation.

"Most important of all there has to be accountability. We need to know if international law was violated and if so, by whom," he added.

The UN yesterday issued a "conservative" estimate of the number of civilians killed in three days of unprecedentedly fierce aerial bombardment, putting the death toll at 62. It is a deliberately conservative estimate because it excludes all men in the Gaza City area to ensure that it does not accidentally include uniformed personnel.

The Palestinian Centre of Human Rights said that "most" of the more than 300 casualties were civilian but their tally includes Hamas policemen. It also said some bodies had still to be identified because they were so badly disfigured and that its field officers – who aim to chart every Palestinian casualty – are facing "extreme difficulties in visiting some areas, particularly those under multiple bombardment.

The Israeli military insists that it is doing its utmost to prevent civilian casualties but repeatedly points out that Hamas regularly and "cynically and specifically" uses locations in heavily built-up areas.

Urge Congress, President to Stop Israeli Massacre in Gaza

The Philadelphia Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-PA) is calling on people to ask their Congressional Representatives and the President to demand an end to the massacre underway in Gaza, and educate their Congressional Representatives about what steps (included below) they can take to help alleviate the humanitarian crisis there.


1. WRITE to your elected officials (one U.S. Representative and 2 U.S. Senators (Specter and Casey) and the President) to demand an end to the massacre in Gaza.

Sample Letters

Letter to Senator Casey
Letter to Representative Gerlach
Letter to Representative Sestak
Letter to Senator Specter

Please download, print your name and address at the bottom.

- Click to find your representative. If you do not know your representative's name, please enter your zip code to find out

- Sign and mail/fax the letter. Continue to call.

2. WRITE a letter to the editor.
- Go online to find letter requirements for your local newspaper or call the paper and ask for the Letters Editor.

Talking points:

* As a concerned American, I call for an immediate end to the Israeli massacre underway in Gaza and the lifting of the blockade on Gaza.

* Our nation and its leaders cannot and should not remain silent as an illegal humanitarian disaster unfolds in Gaza. Collective punishment is always counterproductive and only serves to block moves toward a just resolution of any conflict.

* Because American taxpayers provide Israel with billions of dollars of economic support each year, we have the right to demand that those funds not be used to kill innocent civilians and increase human suffering.

* Israel must abide by international law and universal standards of human rights. We call on President Bush to demand the immediate end of Israel's killings and blockade.

* Silence from American officials will only serve to increase the perception worldwide that our nation cares little for the suffering of the Palestinian people.

* The perception that the U.S. abets cruel and inhumane treatment of civilian populations provides fodder for anti-Americanism that may threaten the security of the United States.

3. INFORM YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY by forwarding this alert to at least five other people. Tell them you took action and ask them to do the same.

I am a Palestinian

"I am a Palestinian. Hath not a Palestinian eyes? Hath not a Palestinian hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Jew is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that ... the villainy you teach me, I will execute; and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction."

Published on Tuesday, December 30, 2008 by The Guardian/UK
From The Ashes of Gaza
In the face of Israel's latest onslaught, the only option for Palestinian nationalism is to embrace a one-state solution
by Tariq Ali

The assault on Gaza, planned over six months and executed with perfect timing, was designed largely, as Neve Gordon has rightly observed, to help the incumbent parties triumph in the forthcoming Israeli elections. The dead Palestinians are little more than election fodder in a cynical contest between the right and the far right in Israel. Washington and its EU allies, perfectly aware that Gaza was about to be assaulted, as in the case of Lebanon in 2006, sit back and watch.

Washington, as is its wont, blames the pro-Hamas Palestinians, with Obama and Bush singing from the same AIPAC hymn sheet. The EU politicians, having observed the build-up, the siege, the collective punishment inflicted on Gaza, the targeting of civilians etc (for all the gory detail, see Harvard scholar Sara Roy's chilling essay in the London Review of Books) were convinced that it was the rocket attacks that had "provoked" Israel but called on both sides to end the violence, with nil effect. The moth-eaten Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt and Nato's favourite Islamists in Ankara failed to register even a symbolic protest by recalling their ambassadors from Israel. China and Russia did not convene a meeting of the UN security council to discuss the crisis.

As result of official apathy, one outcome of this latest attack will be to inflame Muslim communities throughout the world and swell the ranks of those very organisations that the west claims it is combating in the "war against terror".
The bloodshed in Gaza raises broader strategic questions for both sides, issues related to recent history. One fact that needs to be recognised is that there is no Palestinian Authority. There never was one. The Oslo Accords were an unmitigated disaster for the Palestinians, creating a set of disconnected and shrivelled Palestinian ghettoes under the permanent watch of a brutal enforcer. The PLO, once the repository of Palestinian hope, became little more than a supplicant for EU money.

Western enthusiasm for democracy stops when those opposed to its policies are elected to office. The west and Israel tried everything to secure a Fatah victory: Palestinian voters rebuffed the concerted threats and bribes of the "international community" in a campaign that saw Hamas members and other oppositionists routinely detained or assaulted by the IDF, their posters confiscated or destroyed, US and EU funds channelled into the Fatah campaign, and US congressmen announcing that Hamas should not be allowed to run.
Even the timing of the election was set by the determination to rig the outcome. Scheduled for the summer of 2005, it was delayed till January 2006 to give Abbas time to distribute assets in Gaza - in the words of an Egyptian intelligence officer, "the public will then support the Authority against Hamas."

Popular desire for a clean broom after ten years of corruption, bullying and bluster under Fatah proved stronger than all of this. Hamas's electoral triumph was treated as an ominous sign of rising fundamentalism, and a fearsome blow to the prospects of peace with Israel, by rulers and journalists across the Atlantic world. Immediate financial and diplomatic pressures were applied to force Hamas to adopt the same policies as those of the party it had defeated at the polls. Uncompromised by the Palestinian Authority's combination of greed and dependency, the self-enrichment of its servile spokesmen and policemen, and their acquiescence in a "peace process" that has brought only further expropriation and misery to the population under them, Hamas offered the alternative of a simple example. Without any of the resources of its rival, it set up clinics, schools, hospitals, vocational training and welfare programmes for the poor. Its leaders and cadres lived frugally, within reach of ordinary people.

It is this response to everyday needs that has won Hamas the broad base of its support, not daily recitation of verses from the Koran. How far its conduct in the second Intifada has given it an additional degree of credibility is less clear. Its armed attacks on Israel, like those of Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade or Islamic Jihad, have been retaliations against an occupation far more deadly than any actions it has ever undertaken. Measured on the scale of IDF killings, Palestinian strikes have been few and far between. The asymmetry was starkly exposed during Hamas's unilateral ceasefire, begun in June 2003, and maintained throughout the summer, despite the Israeli campaign of raids and mass arrests that followed, in which some 300 Hamas cadres were seized from the West Bank.

On August 19 2003, a self-proclaimed "Hamas" cell from Hebron, disowned and denounced by the official leadership, blew up a bus in west Jerusalem, upon which Israel promptly assassinated the Hamas ceasefire's negotiator, Ismail Abu Shanab. Hamas, in turn, responded. In return, the Palestinian Authority and Arab states cut funding to its charities and, in September 2003, the EU declared the whole Hamas movement to be a terrorist organization - a longstanding demand of Tel Aviv.

What has actually distinguished Hamas in a hopelessly unequal combat is not dispatch of suicide bombers, to which a range of competing groups resorted, but its superior discipline - demonstrated by its ability to enforce a self-declared ceasefire against Israel over the past year. All civilian deaths are to be condemned, but since Israel is their principal practitioner, Euro-American cant serves only to expose those who utter it. Overwhelmingly, the boot of murder is on the other foot, ruthlessly stamped into Palestine by a modern army equipped with jets, tanks and missiles in the longest-armed oppression of modern history.

"Nobody can reject or condemn the revolt of a people that has been suffering under military occupation for 45 years against occupation force," said General Shlomo Gazit, former chief of Israeli military intelligence, in 1993. The real grievance of the EU and US against Hamas is that it refused to accept the capitulation of the Oslo Accords, and has rejected every subsequent effort, from Taba to Geneva, to pass off their calamities on the Palestinians. The west's priority ever since was to break this resistance. Cutting off funding to the Palestinian Authority is an obvious weapon with which to bludgeon Hamas into submission. Boosting the presidential powers of Abbas - as publicly picked for his post by Washington, as was Karzai in Kabul - at the expense of the legislative council is another.

No serious efforts were made to negotiate with the elected Palestinian leadership. I doubt if Hamas could have been rapidly suborned to western and Israeli interests, but it would not have been unprecedented. Hamas' programmatic heritage remains mortgaged to the most fatal weakness of Palestinian nationalism: the belief that the political choices before it are either rejection of the existence of Israel altogether or acceptance of the dismembered remnants of a fifth of the country. From the fantasy maximalism of the first to the pathetic minimalism of the second, the path is all too short, as the history of Fatah has shown.

The test for Hamas is not whether it can be house-trained to the satisfaction of western opinion, but whether it can break with this crippling tradition. Soon after the Hamas election victory in Gaza, I was asked in public by a Palestinian what I would do in their place. "Dissolve the Palestinian Authority" was my response and end the make-believe. To do so would situate the Palestinian national cause on its proper basis, with the demand that the country and its resources be divided equitably, in proportion to two populations that are equal in size - not 80% to one and 20% to the other, a dispossession of such iniquity that no self-respecting people will ever submit to it in the long run. The only acceptable alternative is a single state for Jews and Palestinians alike, in which the exactions of Zionism are repaired. There is no other way.
And Israeli citizens might ponder the following words from Shakespeare (in The Merchant of Venice), which I have slightly altered:

"I am a Palestinian. Hath not a Palestinian eyes? Hath not a Palestinian hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Jew is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that ... the villainy you teach me, I will execute; and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction."

© 2008 Guardian News and Media Limited
Tariq Ali has been a leading figure of the international left since the 60s. He has been writing for the Guardian since the 70s. He is a long-standing editor of the New Left Review and a political commentator published on every continent.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Gaza & Beyond: What's the Alternative?

Gaza & Beyond: What's the Alternative?
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, The Shalom Center

Late Saturday night, I asked us to live with the vertigo of choosing between two versions of the Jewish future: the vision of Zechariah, which we read every year on Shabbat Hanukkah -- "Not by might and not by power but by My breathing-spirit, says YHWH Infinite" and the vision of permanently using --as right now in Gaza -- -- superior power to impose superior violence.
I received many brickbats, many thank-yous and blessings, and one calm question: What's the alternative?

So after simply living with the despair of what seem like impossible choices, we might begin to ask ourselves the necessary question: What's the alternative?

Right away, the UN Security Council (with no US veto interposed) has called for an immediate end to all violence into and from Gaza. So have J Street, the pro-Israel, pro-peace Jewish lobby, and Brit Tzedek v'Shalom. This call makes sense, and should be applied with equal and immediate insistence and enforcement to the Hamas rockets against Israel, the Israeli bombing of Gaza, Israeli interference with shipments of food and medicine and fuel to Gaza, and Egyptian violence against Palestinians trying to flee the bombs of Gaza.

But this is a palliative, not an alternative.

The alternative for Hamas would have been to multiply the approach of the nonviolent boatloads of people who were in the last month bringing supplies to Gaza, ignoring or violating the Israeli blockade. This approach was building support in much of the world. Of course it was not enough to feed the whole people or heal them of disease, but it was pointing out the injustice and violence of the blockade. Instead of canceling the cease-fire and aiming rockets once again, they could have turned those boats into a multitude.

(A message to those who blindly support whatever Hamas does because they are the underdog: The teaching of the Prophet Zechariah is not just for Jews. It is about self-restraint when you have greater power, and it is about nonviolence -- also a form of self-restraint -- when you have lesser power. It is God's word for everybody.)

The alternative for the Israeli government would be to say: --- Instead of scornfully rejecting the Saudi/ Arab League proposal for a region-wide peace settlement among Israel, all Arab states, and a viable Palestinian state, we encourage it, and encourage its proponents to press Hamas to join in, while making clear that for us the deal must include only very small symbolic numbers of Palestinian refugees returning to Israel itself, and control of the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. And we encourage, instead of blocking, a Palestinian government of national unity, including Hamas as well as Fatah. We will attend that peace conference tomorrow - tonight! And meanwhile, we seek as much peace as possible with Hamas -- if not full recognition, then a 50-year truce (as one Hamas leader had proposed.) . We negotiate openly with Hamas toward ending the blockade, encouraging economic development inside Gaza, welcoming European and Egyptian aid and investment, releasing the members of their parliament we are holding in jail, and in exchange, get an end to the rocket attacks by Hamas and their acceptance of governmental responsibility to control other groups that may try to continue. We use the checkpoints to prevent terrorist incursions into Israel, rather than preventing delivery of food and medicine to Gaza.

(Perhaps even now an Israeli government could take that road ---- arguing, Now that we have proved we can be bloody, we are not negotiating from weakness, we are not rewarding terrorism, we can walk this path!)And the alternative for the US government would be to use the disaster of this attack to call for all the above: To insist on a regional Middle East peace conference, to insist that even a Netanyahu government of Israel and even a Hamas leadership of Gaza or Palestine take part and accept a decent deal. And that's where the long-range intentions of The Shalom Center come into focus --- Working for a peaceful and peace-making US policy in the broader Middle East and the even broader Muslim world, and intertwined with that, a new US pursuit of sustainable energy sources to heal our planet and make the conquest of Middle East Oil unecessary. That long-range intention is where we need your help!

Shalom, salaam, peace -- Arthur Waskow

Statement on Gaza by Professor Larry Davidson

Statement on Gaza by Professor Larry Davidson
Professor of History
West Chester University
West Chester PA

Ever since Israel's withdrawal of its settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005 it has slowly turned that territory into a besieged ghetto. All land, sea and air access in and out of Gaza was and is controlled and the amount of supplies in and out have been reduced over time. In this process the governments of the United States and Egypt cooperated. Indeed, by there silence, the European Union and many Middle Eastern countries also showed that they would cause no trouble for Israel on account of their actions in Gaza. This is probably the case because a. the leaders of these countries, whether democratic or authoritarian, are members of a political elite who value their relationship with the United States and Israel more than the lives of the Gazans. These leaders have no stomach for upholding international law or pointing fingers at Israel even when it commits crimes against humanity. And, b. the majority of citizens of these lands (even the Arab ones) do not know enough or care enough about Gaza's fate to rise up and demand a change in their government's policies. In the case of the UN there has also been silence from the Security Council (whose members follow the lead of their basically pro-Zionist governments) and from the organizations timid Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Only the president of the General Assembly, Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, and the Special Rapporteur for Occupied Palestine, Richard Falk (an American Jewish academic), have had the courage to speak out. And, of course, these brave souls have no authority over UN policy.

In the face of this situation the resistance groups of Gaza had only their home made missiles to fight back offensively. These were not, of course, a very effective weapons. Confined to a ghetto and abandoned by most of the world, the democratically elected government headed by Hamas negotiated a hudna or truce with Israel through the auspices of the Egyptian government. This truce brought a fragile quiet to Gaza and southern Israel for six months but did not relieve the pressure on Gaza's borders or promise any real betterment in the lives of the people of the Gaza Strip. Then, in September 2008 a meeting took place outside of Ramallah between the West Bank militia leaders of Fattah and Israeli military commanders. According to reports in the Israeli paper Ydiot Ahronot the meeting was to arrange for the deployment of more Fattah policemen in the city of Jenin. But it went further and included reaching a common agreement on the destruction of Hamas prior to the end of Abu Mazen's presidential term of office on January 9th. The Fattah militia leaders described Hamas as a common enemy of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The two would now work together to destroy this enemy. Israel would destroy Hamas in Gaza and Fattah would assist in its destruction on the West Bank.

Shortly thereafter Israel purposely broke the truce by crossing the Gaza border on the pretext of destroying a tunnel which they said was to be used to kidnap Israeli soldiers. It was not a believable tale. The tunnel certainly existed, but it did not cross the border into Israel. The Israelis, obviously knowing about the tunnel, could have simply waited to see if the tunnel came into Israeli territory and then destroy it. If this happened the Israelis would have a strong case for their actions and the truce would most likely survive action against Hamas within Israel. But there was no proof that Hamas was intent on using the tunnel to attack Israeli troops as long as there was a truce. Israel knew that Hamas would retaliate for its attack on the tunnel within Gaza territory. And the chances of the truce crumbling in the face of Israeli aggression and a tightening of the borders that had by that time produced widespread malnutrition was predictably high. This scenario was produced by Israel so as to give them an excuse to fulfill the plan originally discussed with the Fattah militia back in September.

What we see happening today, with the massive airstrikes of December 26 through 28 is but the beginning of this plan to destroy Hamas. More air strikes will probably follow and culminate in a full military invasion of the Gaza Strip. Thousands of Palestinians will die in this operation along with hundreds of Israelis. The Israelis can also expect a renewal of suicide attacks in their cities. The present structure of Hamas in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank will suffer great damage. Its ability to do its charitable work and carry on resistence may well cease in the short run. But then they will rebuild and within a number of years appear again to serve the needs of their people and renew resistence against the Zionist enemy.

In this story there is only one really new aspect. It is not Israeli duplicity, for modern Israeli leaders have regularly broken their word, whether given orally or in writing, ever since the first Camp David efforts of 1978. It is not the use of tactics that combined the behaviors of both progroms and concentration camps. For Israel had been concentrating, impoverishing, and brutalizing Palestinians both as individuals and as a group for decades. Indeed, the world needs a new word to describe the behavior of Israelis toward Palestinians—a word that means the same as anti-Semitism but is applicable to Zionist behavior. Not even the world's silence in the face of the Israel's turning of Gaza into a modern version of the Warsaw ghetto is really new. For the world's governments have been essentially silent for 60 years. What turns out to be the new aspect of this tale is the collusion of Fattah and the Palestinian Authority in this aggression toward the Palestinians of Gaza. It would seem that Fattah has turned into collaborators with those who seek to ethnically cleanse them. They remind this writer of the Jews who served the Nazis as policemen in the ghettos of German controlled Europe during World War II. Their reward was that they would be the last to be exterminated.

The treasonous behavior of Fattah means that this organization and its leaders are almost certainly doomed. Unlike Hamas, they will not be able to rebuild. Their reputation, after it becomes known that they cooperated with Isreal in the assault against Gaza, will be unredeemable. If there is ever another election in Palestine they will not be able to seriously participate. They can now exert authority only as adjuncts of the Israel's colonial army. In essense, they have abandoned the Palestinian people and tied their fates irreparable to that of Israel.