Saturday, December 27, 2008

Palestine News Update: Israeli Raid Prompts Intifada Call; Gaza Massacres Must Spur US to Action

Sunday, December 28, 2008
01:16 Mecca time, 22:16 GMT

Israeli raid prompts intifada call

Meshaal called for a 'military' and 'peaceful' intifada following Israel's attacks on Gaza

Khaled Meshaal, Hamas's political leader, has called for an uprising against Israel after an unprecedented attack on the Gaza Strip killed at least 220 Palestinians and wounded 700 more.

Israel launched Operation Cast Lead on Saturday, destroying Hamas police stations and interior ministry buildings.

It was the deadliest day in Gaza for decades, with Israel continuing to attack sites into the night and threatening that the operation would widen if necessary.

Ehud Olmert, the outgoing Israeli prime minister, described the assault as a war on Hamas, the Palestinian faction which took control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007.

Members of the Israeli cabinet say the attack is in response to an increase in the number of home-made rockets being fired into southern Israel since a ceasefire ended on December 19.

Hamas "not shaken"

Gaza witnesses reported heavy damage after more than 30 missiles were fired from helicopter gunships and fighter jets on about 40 different locations in the strip.

Many of the dead were police officers, including Tawfiq Jabber, the Gaza chief of police.

The toll is expected to rise further, with bodies still lying buried under the rubble of destroyed buildings. Hospitals, already suffering from shortages due to an 18-month blockade on the Gaza Strip, said they were struggling to cope with the number of injured, which included women and children.

Gaza is densely populated. Its 1.5 million residents area already experiencing shortages in power and basic supplies due to the siege which is widely condemned by human rights movements as a collective punishment.

In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera, Meshaal, who lives in exile in Syria, said: "I call upon you [Palestinians] to carry out a third intifada [uprising]."

He called for a "military intifada against the Zionist enemy", as well as "a peaceful intifada internally", in reference to Hamas's power struggle with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, whose government is based in the Israeli occupied West Bank.

Ugly massacre

Ismail Haniya, the Hamas leader in Gaza, called the assault Israel's "ugliest massacre".

"I call on Palestinians to remain united and together in the face of this crime, in the face of this massacre and continued aggression, targeting our soil and our citizens," he said.

Olmert, speaking in Tel Aviv on Saturday, said the operation would take time and called on Israelis to be "patient".

"The quiet we offered was answered with mayhem. Our desire for calm was answered with terror," he said.

"You are not our enemies. We do not fight against you," Olmert said in a direct address to Palestinians.

"[Terror organisations] are disastrous for both peoples. Israel is not fighting against the Palestinian people, and the targets attacked today were chosen with the intent of avoiding civilian casualties."

Long operation

Jacky Rowland, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Jerusalam, said: "People have been forewarned about further operations of this intesnsity for many days to come, with more sorties flown by Israeli planes and helicopters and more targets in Gaza.

"In response, more than 50 rockets were fired into Israel today. Defence officials are warning that there could be as many as 200 rockets fired every day into Israel in the days to come."

One Israeli was killed in rocket fire on Saturday.

Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, condemned the attack and demanded an immediate cessation.

Many leaders added their voices to condemn the onslaught, including Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the UN, who called for an immediate cessation of hostilities.

Mousa Abu Morzouz, the deputy leader of Hamas, said: "Nobody in this world can accept what happened and the Israeli aggression ... [we expect] the international community to stand against this and say that it is not acceptable."

Mustafa Barghouthi, the former Palestinian information minister, said: "This is not an attack on Hamas. It is an attack on the whole population and the free will of the people of Gaza."

He accused Israel of committing "war crimes" and demanded that Abbas and his government stop all relations with Israel.

'Only just beginning'

The Israeli army released a statement on Saturday saying "terrorist installations" were hit and that all Israeli pilots returned unharmed.

Avi Benayahu, an Israeli military spokesman said: "The operation against Hamas is "only just beginning".

The air raids follow a breakdown of a six-month-old Israel-Hamas truce earlier this month.

The ceasefire expired on December 19, with Hamas arguing that Israel had violated the truce by preventing vital supplies from entering the Strip.

Egypt has opened the Rafah crossing with the Gaza Strip to receive injured people, Egyptian officials said. Ambulances have been sent to the crossing and two Egyptian hospitals emptied to take in the wounded.

Hamas won control of the Palestinian Legislative Council in elections in January 2005. The international community refused to accept a Hamas-led government, demanding that the faction recognise Israel and renounce violence. Economic sanctions by the EU and US followed.

Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007 after bloody street battles against its rival, Fatah.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies


Opinion/Editorial

Gaza massacres must spur us to action

Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 27 December 2008

"I will play music and celebrate what the Israeli air force is doing." Those were the words, spoken on Al Jazeera today by Ofer Shmerling, an Israeli civil defense official in the Sderot area adjacent to Gaza, as images of Israel's latest massacres were broadcast around the world.

A short time earlier, US-supplied Israeli F-16 warplanes and Apache helicopters dropped over 100 bombs on dozens of locations in the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip killing at least 195 persons and injuring hundreds more. Many of these locations were police stations located, like police stations the world over, in the middle of civilian areas. The US government was one of the first to offer its support for Israel's attacks, and others will follow.

Reports said that many of the dead were Palestinian police officers. Among those Israel labels "terrorists" were more than a dozen traffic police officers undergoing training. An as yet unknown number of civilians were killed and injured; Al Jazeera showed images of several dead children, and the Israeli attacks came at the time thousands of Palestinian children were in the streets on their way home from school.

Shmerling's joy has been echoed by Israelis and their supporters around the world; their violence is righteous violence. It is "self-defense" against "terrorists" and therefore justified. Israeli bombing -- like American and NATO bombing in Iraq and Afghanistan -- is bombing for freedom, peace and democracy.

The rationalization for Israel's massacres, already being faithfully transmitted by the English-language media, is that Israel is acting in "retaliation" for Palestinian rockets fired with increasing intensity ever since the six-month truce expired on 19 December (until today, no Israeli had been killed or injured by these recent rocket attacks).

But today's horrific attacks mark only a change in Israel's method of killing Palestinians recently. In recent months they died mostly silent deaths, the elderly and sick especially, deprived of food and necessary medicine by the two year-old Israeli blockade calculated and intended to cause suffering and deprivation to 1.5 million Palestinians, the vast majority refugees and children, caged into the Gaza Strip. In Gaza, Palestinians died silently, for want of basic medications: insulin, cancer treatment, products for dialysis prohibited from reaching them by Israel.

What the media never question is Israel's idea of a truce. It is very simple. Under an Israeli-style truce, Palestinians have the right to remain silent while Israel starves them, kills them and continues to violently colonize their land. Israel has not only banned food and medicine to sustain Palestinian bodies in Gaza but it is also intent on starving minds: due to the blockade, there is not even ink, paper and glue to print textbooks for schoolchildren.

As John Ging, the head of operations of the United Nations agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA), told The Electronic Intifada in November: "there was five months of a ceasefire in the last couple of months, where the people of Gaza did not benefit; they did not have any restoration of a dignified existence. We in fact at the UN, our supplies were also restricted during the period of the ceasefire, to the point where we were left in a very vulnerable and precarious position and with a few days of closure we ran out of food."

That is an Israeli truce. Any response to Israeli attacks -- whether peaceful protests against the apartheid wall in Bilin and Nilin in the West Bank is met with bullets and bombs. There are no rockets launched at Israel from the West Bank, and yet Israel's attacks, killings, land theft, settler pogroms and kidnappings never ceased for one single day during the truce.

The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah has acceded to all of Israel's demands, even assembling "security forces" to fight the resistance on Israel's behalf. None of that has spared a single Palestinian or her property or livelihood from Israel's relentless violent colonization. It did not save, for instance, the al-Kurd family from seeing their home of 50 years in occupied East Jerusalem demolished on 9 November, so the land it sits on could be taken by settlers.

Once again we are watching massacres in Gaza, as we did last March when 110 Palestinians, including dozens of children, were killed by Israel in just a few days. Once again people everywhere feel rage, anger and despair that this outlaw state carries out such crimes with impunity.

But all over the Arab media and internet today the rage being expressed is not directed solely at Israel. Notably, it is directed more sharply than ever at Arab states. The images that stick are of Israel's foreign minister Tzipi Livni in Cairo on Christmas day. There she sat smiling with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Then there are the pictures of Livni and Egypt's foreign minister smiling and slapping their palms together.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported today that last wednesday the Israeli "cabinet authorized the prime minister, the defense minister, and the foreign minister to determine the timing and the method" of Israel's attacks on Gaza. Everywhere people ask, what did Livni tell the Egyptians and more importantly what did they tell her? Did Israel get a green light to turn Gaza's streets red once again? Few are ready to give Egypt the benefit of the doubt after it has helped Israel besiege Gaza by keeping the Rafah border crossing closed for more than a year.

On top of the intense anger and sadness so many people feel at Israel's renewed mass killings in Gaza is a sense of frustration that there seem to be so few ways to channel it into a political response that can change the course of events, end the suffering, and bring justice.

But there are ways, and this is a moment to focus on them. Already I have received notices of demonstrations and solidarity actions being planned in cities all over the world. That is important. But what will happen after the demonstrations disperse and the anger dies down? Will we continue to let Palestinians in Gaza die in silence?

Palestinians everywhere are asking for solidarity, real solidarity, in the form of sustained, determined political action. The Gaza-based One Democratic State Group reaffirmed this today as it "called upon all civil society organizations and freedom loving people to act immediately in any possible way to put pressure on their governments to end diplomatic ties with Apartheid Israel and institute sanctions against it."

The global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement for Palestine (http://www.bdsmovement.net/) provides the framework for this. Now is the time to channel our raw emotions into a long-term commitment to make sure we do not wake up to "another Gaza" ever again.

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah is author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse (Metropolitan Books, 2006).


Diaries: Live from Palestine

The rains of death in Gaza

Laila El-Haddad, Live from Palestine, 27 December 2008
From North Carolina:

We woke up this morning to the news in Gaza. It seems we always wake up to news there -- so it has become a matter of perspective how bad the news is each time; how remote it seems each time; how real or not; how severe and whether the severity warrants an "international outcry" or whether the animals can continue to suffer in their cages for a while longer.

We received a call from my in-laws in Lebanon at an early hour, checking in on my family in Gaza, since they cannot call them directly. We call my parents. My father does not answer. We call his mobile, we reach him. He has just returned from al-Shifa hospital -- we hold our breaths.

"We are OK. We went to donate blood and to see if they needed any help" says my father, a retired surgeon.

"We were in the market when the strikes began. I saw the missiles falling and prayed; the earth shook; the smoke rose; the ambulances screamed," he said, the sirens audible in the background.

My parents live in the the Gaza City center, and the Israeli war planes attacked people and locations all around their house, walking distance in fact. More than 50 "targets" by 60 warplanes. And nearly 200 Palestinians. Like a game, if you say it enough times, it does not sound real anymore. Fifty targets, 60 warplanes, 200 people. Very sanitary.

"There is a funeral passing every minute. The bodies are piling up."

Gaza's air is saturated with the acrid smell of burning human flesh. There is panic, as one would imagine dogs would panic in an overcrowded cell when several of their own are violently, abruptly killed. But that would create an outcry.

The rains of death continue in Gaza.

And it will all seem, in the end of the day, that they are somehow a response to rocket attacks. As though the situation were not only acceptable, but normal, in the absence of such attacks. The warden improves the living conditions now and then, in varying degrees of relatively, but the prison doors remain sealed. And so when there are 20 hours of power outages in a row, the prisoners wish that they were only eight; or 10; and dream of the days of four.

Laila El-Haddad's blog is Raising Yousuf and Noor: diary of a Palestinian mother.


Boycott committee: "Stop the massacre in Gaza - boycott Israel now!"

Press release, Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, 27 December 2008

Today, the Israeli occupation army committed a new massacre in Gaza, causing the death and injury of hundreds of Palestinian civilians, including a yet unknown number of school children who were headed home from school when the first Israeli military strikes started. This latest bloodbath, although far more ruthless than all its predecessors, is not Israel's first. It culminates months of an Israeli siege of Gaza that should be widely condemned and prosecuted as an act of genocide against the 1.5 million Palestinians in the occupied coastal strip.

Israel seems intent to mark the end of its 60th year of existence the same way it has established itself -- perpetrating massacres against the Palestinian people. In 1948, the majority of the indigenous Palestinian people were ethnically cleansed from their homes and land, partly through massacres like Deir Yassin; today, the Palestinians in Gaza, most of whom are refugees, do not even have the choice to seek refuge elsewhere. Incarcerated behind ghetto walls and brought to the brink of starvation by the siege, they are easy targets for Israel's indiscriminate bombing.

Prof. Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and international law expert at Princeton University, described Israel's siege of Gaza last year, when it was still not comparable in its severity to the current situation, as follows:

"Is it an irresponsible overstatement to associate the treatment of Palestinians with this criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity? I think not. The recent developments in Gaza are especially disturbing because they express so vividly a deliberate intention on the part of Israel and its allies to subject an entire human community to life-endangering conditions of utmost cruelty. The suggestion that this pattern of conduct is a holocaust-in-the-making represents a rather desperate appeal to the governments of the world and to international public opinion to act urgently to prevent these current genocidal tendencies from culminating in a collective tragedy."

The most brutal episode of this "collective tragedy" is what we have seen today.

Israel's war crimes and other grave violations of international law in Gaza as well as in the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, could not have been perpetrated without the direct or indirect complicity of world governments, particularly the United States, the European Union, Egypt, and other Arab regimes.

While the US government has consistently sponsored, bankrolled and protected from international censure Israel's apartheid and colonial policies against the indigenous people of Palestine, the EU was able in the past to advocate a semblance of respect for international law and universal human rights. That distinction effectively ended on 9 December, when the EU Council decided unanimously to reward Israel's criminal disregard of international law by upgrading the EU-Israel Association Agreement. Israel clearly understood from this decision that the EU condones its actions against the Palestinians under its occupation. Palestinian civil society also got the message: the EU governments have become no less complicit in Israel's war crimes than their US counterpart.

The large majority of world governments, particularly in the global south, share part of the blame, as well. By continuing business as usual with Israel, in trade agreements, arms deals, academic and cultural ties, diplomatic openings, they have provided the necessary background for the complicity of world powers and, consequentially, for Israel's impunity. Furthermore, their inaction within the United Nations is inexcusable.

Father Miguel D'Escoto Brockman, President of the UN General Assembly prescribed in a recent address before the Assembly the only moral way forward for the world's nations in dealing with Israel:

"More than 20 years ago we in the United Nations took the lead from civil society when we agreed that sanctions were required to provide a nonviolent means of pressuring South Africa to end its violations. Today, perhaps we in the United Nations should consider following the lead of a new generation of civil society, who are calling for a similar nonviolent campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions to pressure Israel to end its violations."

Now, more than ever, the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, BNC, calls upon international civil society not just to protest and condemn in diverse forms Israel's massacre in Gaza, but also to join and intensify the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel to end its impunity and to hold it accountable for its persistent violation of international law and Palestinian rights. Without sustained, effective pressure by people of conscience the world over, Israel will continue with its gradual, rolling acts of genocide against the Palestinians, burying any prospects for a just peace under the blood and rubble of Gaza, Nablus and Jerusalem.

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) includes: Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine; General Union of Palestinian Workers; Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions; Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations' Network (PNGO); Federation of Independent Trade Unions; Union of Palestinian Charitable Organizations; Global Palestine Right of Return Coalition; Occupied Palestine and Golan Heights Advocacy Initiative (OPGAI); General Union of Palestinian Women; Palestinian Farmers Union (PFU); Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (STW); Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI); National Committee to Commemorate the Nakba; Civic Coalition for the Defense of Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem (CCDPRJ); Coalition for Jerusalem; and Palestinian Economic Monitor.


Rights orgs: Israel's willful killings a war crime

Press release, Various undersigned, 27 December 2008

Palestinian human rights organizations strongly condemn the recent military attacks carried out by the Israeli occupying forces in the Gaza Strip on 27 December 2008. The attacks began at approximately 11:30am and lasted for approximately three hours. These attacks have destroyed most of the Gaza security offices including police stations, resulting in the deaths of more than 200 Palestinians. More than 350 have been injured with at least 120 critically.

The number of deaths resulting from these attacks indicates a willful targeting of the civilian police forces in these locations and a clear violation of the prohibition against willful killings. Willful killings are a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention under Article 147 and therefore, a war crime. Both the time and location of these attacks also indicate a malicious intent to inflict as many casualties as possible with many of the police stations located in civilian population centers and the time of the attacks coinciding with the end of the school day resulting in the deaths of numerous children.

The ongoing siege of the Gaza Strip has left medical facilities in the Strip incapable of meeting the needs of the hundreds more who have been injured which will likely lead to an increase in the number of deaths. According to Israeli officials, these attacks are only the beginning of an open military campaign in Gaza. It is therefore imperative that the international community not stand in silence while Israel moves forward with impunity.

Despite repeated calls from the Palestinian human rights community with regard to Gaza, the international community has failed to act. We are now on the brink of an explosion of violence as result of this failure and are pushed once again to call for action.

In light of the above, Palestinian human rights organizations urge:

The UN Security Council to call an emergency session and adopt concrete measures, including the imposition of sanctions, in order to ensure Israel's fulfillment of its obligations under international humanitarian law.

The High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions to fulfill their obligation under common Article 1 to ensure respect for the provisions of the Conventions, taking appropriate measures to compel Israel to abide by its obligations under international humanitarian law, in particular placing pivotal importance on the respect and protection of civilians from the effects of the hostilities.

The High Contracting Parties to fulfill their legal obligation under Article 146 of the Fourth Geneva Convention to prosecute those responsible for grave breaches of the Convention.

EU institutions and member states to make effective use of the European Union Guidelines on promoting compliance with international humanitarian law (2005/C 327/04) to ensure Israel complies with international humanitarian law under paragraph 16 (b), (c) and (d) of these guidelines, including the adoption of immediate restrictive measures and sanctions, as well as cessation of all upgrade dialogue with Israel.

Undersigned organizations:
Al-Haq
Addameer Prisoners' Support & Human Rights Association
Ad-Dameer Association for Human Rights
Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights
Defence for Children International
Ensan Center for Democracy & Human Rights
Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR)
Jerusalem Legal Aid & Human Rights Center (JLAC)
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)
Palestinian Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession - Musawa
Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies (RCHRS)
Women's Center for Legal Aid and Counseling (WCLAC)
Women's Studies Center
The Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations' Network - PNGO

1 comment:

Bluegrass Pundit said...

Israeli warplanes continue to pound Hamas installations inside the Gaza strip. Speculation about a ground assault continues, but no ground assault has occurred as of this post. There has been much condemnation of Israel for over responding to the daily Hamas rocket attacks from the Gaza strip. I support the Israeli actions. If a hundred rockets were being launched into the USA from foreign soil, we would have taken quicker and stronger measures than the Israelis have.

Watch the action from a missile's eye view here. Missile's eye view