Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bolivia's New Constitution: Progressive Change or Business As Usual

Bolivia's New Constitution: Progressive Change or Business as Usual? - by Stephen Lendman

In Bolivia's history, January 25 was historic but getting there violent and uncertain. On July 2, 2006, a new Constituent Assembly was elected. On August 6, it was sworn in, but for six months remained snagged in procedural debates and achieved little. By late December 2007, a new constitution was passed, but the country was as polarized as ever. It still is. On one side, indigenous, popular rights. On the other, elitist interests wanting business as usual.

Street battles ensued and continued for months until Bolivia's National Congress ratified a new constitutional draft (with 411 articles) and scheduled January 25 for a referendum to let popular sentiment decide up or down to enact it.

On January 26, Matthew Taylor in the London Guardian reported that "Bolivians yesterday approved a new constitution granting more power to the country's indigenous majority and rolling back half a millennium of colonialism, discrimination and humiliation." Maybe so, but maybe not as many a slip between the cup and lip remain before a final verdict is in.

Nonetheless, 3.8 million Bolivians voted. According to Television Boliviana, 61.97% said Si, 36.52 No, with 1.52% left blank or no vote. The opposition prevailed in resource rich Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni, and Pando provinces, and, at a public rally, Chuquisaca's governor, Savina Cuellar, told supporters to reject the new law. It applies to all Bolivians, but Eastern governors want local autonomy over their mineral resources, especially oil and gas.

On December 18, 2005, Evo Morales won a sweeping victory to become Bolivia's first ever indigenous president with promises of change. As James Petras explained, duplicity became policy instead. His government became "the most striking example of (a) 'center-left' regime" to betray its supporters and embrace neoliberalism once in office. Mass uprisings ousted two earlier presidents. Morales represented a break with the past. He won an August 2008 recall election with nearly 70% of the vote, but look at his record.

He's supported business as usual, rejected oil and gas expropriation, backed Big Oil interests, kept their contractual arrangements intact, sold off the greatest ever number of Bolivia's mineral resources to foreign investors, and as James Petras wrote: he hasn't "taken a single measure to counter the fascist seizure of regional power - continuing to plead for dialogue and compromise, as the far right gathers strength and prepares to engage in violent civil warfare against the poor and indigenous Bolivians."

It gets worse. Bolivia is the second poorest Latin American country, yet Morales reneged on tripling the minimum wage, raised it 10% instead, kept in force fiscal austerity and stability measures, and appointed hard right ministers to key posts. Beyond lip service, he's against agrarian reform, supports large landowners, and provides generous subsidies and tax incentives.

He welcomes foreign private investment, exports over domestic needs, social spending cuts, and policies overall supportive of business. He symbolizes "new winds from the Left," but so far has governed from the Right.

After January 25, change again is possible. At issue is will Morales lead it, and is there enough popular pressure to demand it? A new Constitution permits it. Will it be enforced enough to matter? It recognizes Bolivia as a unitary, communitarian, democratic, and pluri-national state respecting equal rights and ethnic diversity as law.

It calls for nationizing natural resources; forbidding foreign ownership of oil, gas, mining resources, water, land and forests. The state is to administer them for all Bolivians as well as forests, parks, natural reserves, biodiversity, and strategic economic sectors. Foreign private investment is to be subordinated to national development plans, and ownership of the economy is to be public and communitarian.

Small and medium producers, agrarian communities, and productive associations are to receive state protection, economic support, credit, technology, and infrastructure to benefit all Bolivians. At the same time, a mixed economy promises market stability to reassure business and place huge obstacles in the way of change. Yet the Constitution mandates it. Other provisions include:

-- redistributing land to indigenous communities with little teeth for enforcement;

-- applying ethnic quotas for congressional seats and state jobs;

-- promoting the official use of Bolivia's 36 indigenous languages;

-- indigenous group autonomy across the country for local empowerment;

-- an expanded number of seats in the opposition-controlled Senate;

-- scrapping the single five-year term for president so Morales may run one more time in the December 2009 general elections;

-- leaving large productive landholdings intact (grandfathered in) with a 5000 hectare limit on future purchases; 100 families own 25 million hectares; two million campesinos have less than five million; every two years, the government may now determine if public and private lands serve an economic and social purpose or are unproductive and subject to expropriation (at fair compensation) for redistribution to the poor; land reform is central in a country pitting well-entrenched latifundistas and agribusiness against indigenous Bolivians; years of future confrontation remain (perhaps decades) before this issue is settled.

The Constitution also calls for:

-- creating a new "pluri-national legislative assembly" to be established in early 2010;

-- increasing municipal authority to decentralize power; and

-- mandating essential services as human rights, including health care, education, water, gas and electricity.

From 1826 to 2004, Bolivia had 16 constitutions, six reforms, but no teeth to enforce egalitarian rights. In the 1990s, calls emerged strongly for land and natural resource reform and for greater indigenous political participation. Sunday marked the beginning of Bolivia's future. Unknown is if its past will be prologue or if real change at last has come.

Andean program director Michael Shifter of the Inter-American Dialogue believes Morales is now in a strong position. "However, I don't think he wants to either discourage foreign investors or provoke more of a confrontation with the opposition (or Washington) to make the situation unstable, which could really hurt the economy and cut into his political capital." In addition, deciding what policies to pursue will be difficult "because the constitution has broad outlines but many of its statements are pretty ambiguous." It will take compromise and concessions to get anything done, so Bolivian hopes again may be dashed.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday through Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=12006

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bashing Venezuelan Democracy

Bashing Venezuelan Democracy - by Stephen Lendman

In November/December 2006, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting's (FAIR) Steve Rendall explained that "Hugo Chavez never had a chance with the US press." It's been a constant since his December 1998 election, and hasn't let up to this day, with language all too familiar:

-- a "would-be-dictator;

-- an autocratic demagogue;

-- a modern caudillo;

-- a divisive and demagogic leader;

-- a communist;

-- (his) increasingly authoritarian tilt;

-- (his) militariz(ing) the government;

-- (his) terrible human rights record;

-- (his) consolidated one-party rule;

-- emasculat(ing) the country's courts;

-- intimidat(ing) the media;

-- hollow(ing) out Venezuela's once-democratic institutions;

-- erod(ing) confidence in (its) economy;" and

-- the latest accusations in the run-up to a constitutional referendum to let presidents, National Assembly representatives, governors, mayors, and state legislators run indefinitely for re-election.

Under Article 230 of Venezuela's Constitution: "The presidential term is six years. The President of the Republic can be re-elected, immediately and only once, to an additional term." Currently, Chavez can't run again when his term expires in 2012.

Under Article 192: "Deputies of the National Assembly shall hold office for a term of five years, with eligibility for re-election to no more than one additional term."

Other elected officials are also restricted to a two-term limit.

Last December, Chavez proposed February 15 for a national referendum to let Venezuelans vote up or down for constitutional change. He chose this date because it's when Simon Bolivar spoke at Angostura, "in the recently inaugurated congress of the city in 1819." At the time, presidential elections weren't held, and Bolivar warned against lengthy rule. The opposition is using this in its "Angostura" campaign in spite of how different Venezuela is today - a participatory democracy where people choose and can recall their presidents and other elected officials.

Article 72 of Venezuela's Constitution states:

"All magistrates and other offices (including the president) filled by popular vote are subject to revocation. Once half (their) term of office....has elapsed, 20% of (registered) voters (by petition may call for) a referendum to revoke such official's mandate. When a number of voters equal to or greater than the number of those who elected the official vote in favor of revocation (provided the total is 25% or more of registered voters), the official's mandate shall be deemed revoked...."

Try finding that explanation in the dominant media or how near-impossible it is to remove US elected officials regardless of popular sentiment. No US president was ever removed by impeachment, and short of a national convulsion, none likely ever will be - even one as reviled as George Bush.

Chavez supporters collected 4.7 million signatures for a national referendum to current constitutional law. On January 14, the National Assembly modified and approved it (156 - 6) without naming a date.

The provision reads:

"Do you approve amending articles 160, 162, 174, 192, and 230 of the Constitution of the Republic, as submitted by the National Assembly (AN), to expand the people's political rights with the goal of allowing any citizen, in his or her function as a popularly elected official, to run for office as a candidate for that same office, for a constitutionally established time period, as long as their election is the exclusive result of the people's vote?"

On January 16, AN President Cilia Flores submitted the proposal to the National Electoral Council (CNE). It has 30 days to organize and convene a referendum. Sunday, February 15 is the scheduled date.

Assembly representative Luis Tascon said he voted to proceed because no suitable Chavez successor has emerged. "Given that reality, I'll stay with Chavez." Another lawmaker explained he's for it "so that all legally able citizens can run for election and the people can choose from them without limitations of any kind."

After their 91st Plenary Assembly, the (right-wing allied) Bishops'' Conference of Venezuela asked Chavez to reconsider his proposal to be seek indefinite re-elections. They accused him of "extending power into the future (by) illegitimate means."

Chavez said his intention isn't to stay in office indefinitely. "What we have here is a national independence project that still needs more work to consolidate....They say my personal goal is to perpetuate myself in power; nothing could be further from the truth."

Longtime Latin American expert James Petras agrees in his January 11 article titled: "Venezuela: Socialism, Democracy and the Re-Election of President Chavez:"

At a time of "world recession/depression, the collapse of the neo-liberal model and the incapacity of capitalist economists to offer any viable alternative, there is all the more reason to re-elect President Chavez who backs a socialist, publicly directed and controlled economy, which protects and promotes the domestic market and productive system."

Given today's dire state of things and no expected change under Obama, "the world looks to President Chavez as the world's foremost humanitarian leader, the outstanding defender of freedom, peace and self-determination." Much more is at stake than a referendum vote. "With its outcome rides the future of democracy and socialism in Venezuela and the hopes and aspirations of hundreds of millions who look to (this leader as an inspiration and) example in their revolutionary struggle(s) to overthrow militarists and depression-racked capitalist states."

Anti-Chavez Media Rhetoric

Marc Plattner is co-editor of the "Journal of Democracy, vice-president for research and studies at the National Endowment of Democracy (NED), and co-director of the International Forum for Democratic Studies. NED is a US government-funded body that functions to subvert democracy, help oust popularly elected leaders, and serve the interests of captal.

On January 13, Plattner got Washington Post op-ed space for his article titled: "Democracy's Competitive Edge - Why Authoritarian Economies Could Have More to Fear From (the current economic) Crisis." His view is that no matter how discredited global capitalism is, "the economic crisis could bring gains for democracy (against) the emergence of nondemocratic (authoritarian) political systems that can claim to offer attractive models. He cites four examples: China, Russia, Iran and Venezuela and says "until late last year (they) were riding high." No longer as the global crisis affects all nations to one degree or other.

Nonetheless, Plattner claims that "authoritarian capitalist regimes," not based on "a coherent ideology" with wide popular support, will fare worst. "As long as they deliver the economic goods, most of their citizens may be willing to accept the accompanying limits on their political freedom."

Plattner ignores Venezuela's model democracy, Chavez's overwhelming popularity, 10 years of social progress, the reduction of poverty, and the uplifting of millions of Venezuelans unlike anything ever before in the country. No nation anywhere runs freer elections. No president better serves his people, who directs more of his nation's resources for social needs, who's an example for leaders everywhere, who shames America's sham democracy, publicly denounces tyranny and repression, opposes foreign wars, doesn't invade his neighbors, practice torture, or undermine other heads of state. He supports human rights, seeks conciliation, rejects conflict, and serves all Venezuelans admirably.

Yet Plattner calls Venezuela "undemocratic" and says American-style "democracy has often displayed a remarkable ability to reform and renew itself....to take a punch and outlast its glass-jawed competitors (and prove its) resilience that may (be) decisive in the competition with its more brittle authoritarian challengers."

Plattner's NED spent the last 10 years trying to undermine Venezuelan democracy, the kind unimaginable in America.

The Wall Street Journal's Mary O'Grady never met a democrat she didn't bash with Chavez again targeted in her January 12 op-ed headlined: "Dictatorship for Dummies." She's deeply disappointed that low oil prices haven't weakened him and notes how defeating him "remains a formidable task."

Even in today's global economic climate, "the jackboots of the regime (are) still firmly planted on the nation's neck (as) popular discontent with chavismo has been rising as oil prices have been falling." Why so? Because Chavez "used the boom years to consolidate power and destroy all institutional checks and balances." As a result, he "has little incentive to return the country to political pluralism even if most Venezuelans are sick of his tyranny." Watch out - he may "become more aggressive and dangerous as the bloom comes off his revolution in 2009 and he feels more threatened."

It gets worse. Venezuelan elections don't matter. "Mr. Chavez now controls the entire electoral process, from voter rolls to tallying totals after the polls are closed. Under enormous public pressure," he accepted constitutional defeat in 2007 to "make him president for life." With another referendum coming, he'll "repeat this exercise until the right answer is produced. All police states hold elections (but they) quash dissent. Venezuela is a prime example."

It's a "military government. (He) purged the armed forces" and installed his own loyalists. He's "taken over the Metropolitan Police in Caracas, imported Cuban intelligence agents, and armed his Bolivarian militias, whose job it is to act as neighborhood enforcers. (He indoctrinates school children) in Bolivarian thought, stripped the media of independence and dominates all free television in the country."

He stirs up trouble "against foreign devils like the US, Colombia and Israel." He lets "Iran use Venezuelan aircraft for arms trafficking and Venezuela gets military aid in return. (Besides this), his most effective police state tool (is his) control over the economy. The state freely expropriates whatever it wants....economic freedom is dead....The private sector has been wiped out, except for those who have thrown in their lot with the tyrant."

What to say about such rubbish - so bad, it's not even poor fiction. O'Grady is a Wall Street tool. Her style is agitprop. Her space is a truth-free zone. Her language - hateful and vindictive. Her tone - malicious and slanderous. Her manner - bare-knuckled thuggishness. Her material - mendacious, calculating, and shameless. Yet it appears weekly in her Americas column, and she wins awards for it. Wall Street takes care of its own.

O'Grady fronts for power and highlights the state of today's journalism and why growing numbers turn elsewhere to be informed. Imagine the difference if everyone did.

On January 12, Patrick Esteruelas' Foreign Policy Magazine article headlined: "Hugo Chavez rolls the dice." He says 2009 may prove tough for Chavez with low oil prices "sap(ping) the country's economic strength and compromis(ing) the president's ability to maintain the lavish spending that buttresses his government's popularity."

"This is a crucial moment for Chavez and Venezuela, because (he's) about to put his popularity to a crucial (and very public) test. He called a national referendum (most likely for February to win voter approval to) remove presidential term limits." Earlier he failed. "Chavez will probably lose again. Most Venezuelans like their president (but not enough to make him) president for life....So why is (he) doing this now? (It) may be (his) last chance to extend the life of his presidency."

"If he loses, he won't recover easily." His hold on power will be weakened enough to give the "opposition an opportunity to gain new political momentum. But the larger worry is that a 'no' vote (will threaten Chavez and) could undermine Venezuela's democracy. If he loses (he may consider) more radical and authoritarian" measures.

Esteruelas isn't O'Grady, but his article is painfully inaccurate about Venezuela and Chavez. Chavez wants to strengthen democracy and enhance Bolivarianism, not be "president for life." He's also gracious in defeat and showed it December 2007. When his constitutional referendum failed to pass, he said: "To those who voted against my proposal, I thank them and congratulate them....Venezuelan democracy is maturing (and) I understand and accept that the proposal was quite profound and intense." Changing 69 constitutional articles in one bite proved too much and too easy for opponents to attack.

This time is simpler. The National Assembly approved a single question referendum asking voters up or down on whether to end term limits for presidents, National Assembly representatives, governors, mayors, and state legislators.

On January 9, the Miami Herald's Andres Oppenheimer headlined: "Chavez, allies manipulating anti-Israeli views." Chavez and Hamas' "main state sponsor," Iran, are exploiting the Gaza conflict for political advantage. Why so? "He is in trouble because of falling oil prices, and needs a conflict with Washington to justify his increasingly authoritarian rule."

Oppenheimer berates some Latin American journalists for "failing to remind their audiences that Hamas is waging a religious war that officially calls for the annihilation of the state of Israel, constantly launches rockets into Israeli territory and triggered the latest conflict by breaking a cease-fire....Unlike Israel, Hamas terrorists intentionally target civilians....and then use the civilian population as human shields...."

This type rhetoric mirrors much pro-Israeli agitprop. It mischaracterizes Hamas, supports Israeli war crimes, and in this case, accuses Chavez for condemning the aggressor, not the victims.

Francisco Toro is a Caracas-based contributor to The New York Times, Washington Post, Financial Times, and was editor of the English language version of Veneconomy, a leading Venezuelan bilingual business magazine. Last December, he headlined an article titled: "Why Chavez Wants To Be President for Life" in which he sounds much like O'Grady.

He calls Chavez a "narcissist-Leninist president, (but) 14 years (isn't) long enough to crush capitalism....Will Venezuelans (give him what he wants) the second time around? It's not at all clear (as he's) genuinely popular," but polls show he's vulnerable. Most voters like him, but far lower numbers "express confidence in his ability to solve the country's problems. Majorities dislike his endless televised rants, question key parts of his socialist ideology, reject the Cuban model (and criticize him) on all kinds of bread-and-butter issues. (They also) get a serious case of the heebie-jeebies (about) this enormously volatile and endlessly pugnacious leader potentially run(ning) the country for life..."

Anyone who disagrees with him "is instantly identified as an agent of evil: a fascist running dog of American imperialism, and more than likely, a traitor on the CIA's payroll. Chavez's basic MO is....dissent = treason." Yet, he's "clearly popular and keeps winning elections. What could possibly be so undemocratic about that?"

For Toro, it's not about democracy or dictatorship but rather an "old fashioned cult of personality....something that doesn't have a name yet....(a combination of a) leader's megalomania and his followers' atavistic drive to submit to his tsunami of histrionics....for the benefit of a political sect masquerading as a revolutionary movement (calling itself) a democracy." Now they want "open-ended re-election." Their "worldview" only holds as long as Chavez stays president and continues "this mad experiment."

Toro lives in Caracas and can follow Chavez close-up. But he hasn't a clue about Venezuelan democracy and a decade of impressive social achievements. Its why Chavez stays popular, not about "megalomania, histrionics, (or an) old-fashioned cult of personality." His new referendum may pass this time because Venezuelans support Bolivarianism and the leader they trust to pursue it.

Students Rally to Support the Referendum

On January 22, thousands of university and high school students marched in Caracas and other Venezuelan cities to support passage of the February 15 referendum and against anti-Chavez provocations. Higher Education minister Luis Acuna joined them.

Student leader Andrea Pacheco said re-asserting the student movement was also at issue. The Chavez government "swapped repression for scholarships, inclusion, and new universities." Everyone has access to free education. Millions of Venezuelans want to keep it and have Chavez remain president. Opposition groups have demonstrated violently against him with more likely planned in the run-up to mid-February.

Chavez's 2008 Annual Report

On January 14, Chavez presented it to the National Assembly and a national television and radio audience. He laid out the nation's progress and future plans:

-- since 1999, 2.7 million Venezuelans no longer are impoverished, 437,000 in 2008 alone; extreme poverty stood at 42% earlier in the 1990s; today it's 9.1%;

-- in 2008, 62.9% of Venezuelans bought subsidized food from the Food Market Network (Mercal);

-- in the past year, important agricultural progress was made; seven laws passed for development, including for food sovereignty and integral agricultural health; in addition, the percent of large landowners declined 32% since the early 1990s; over two million hectares were recovered from them, and Chavez sees ahead to "when there isn't even one large landowner in Venezuela;" the government is increasing production of numerous crops and other food products; livestock breeds have been brought in from Cuba, Argentina and Nicaragua; in the past three years, the National Seed Plan created nearly five million kilos of seeds for planting; tractors were distributed across the country;

-- under Venezuela's "Sowing the Oil Plan," 55 additional billion barrels of crude were certified as part of the nation's reserves; Chavez predicted that Venezuela's will soon be the largest in the world; according to the US Department of Energy, they already are, including 1.36 trillion barrels of extra-heavy oil (90% of the world's total) plus over 80 billion proved light sweet reserves;

-- in May 2008, Oil Minister Rafeal Ramirez said proved reserves totaled 130 billion barrels, including heavy oil; in January 2009, HeavyOilinfo.com reported Venezuelan reserves at 152.56 billion barrels in December 2008 (including heavy oil) with a target to reach 316 billion barrels by 2010;

-- the National Electric Corporation was created in 2007; billions have been invested in equipment, centres, transmission, distribution networks, and maintenance; 98% of Venezuelans receive electricity, up 4.3% since 2007;

-- new polyurethane and other factories created 6000 jobs; 11 others are under construction; the government took control of three gold mines; Chavez predicts gold production will almost double this year and said takeovers improved working and living conditions for miners and their families; diamond mines and other nationalizations were made;

-- international currency reserves quadrupled in the past ten years to $43 billion; at the same time, public debt decreased 70% as a percent of GDP; Venezuela's per capital reserves are among the highest in the world at $1700; and

-- 2008 GDP growth was 4.9% at a time most world economies were faltering; social services increased 9%; for 2009 - 2013, $125 billion in oil-based investments are planned as well as another $100 billion in others; Chavez said no economic adjustments are planned in response to the global economic crisis, and unlike America and the West, high finance interests won't get millions or billions in aid; no banks in Venezuela are insolvent; no housing bubble exists; and financial institutions aren't supported by "garbage paper."

A Final Comment

For 10 years under Chavez, Bolivarianism has flourished, and the greater its success the harsher it's critics. America flounders in corruption, economic chaos and decline. Venezuela's star is rising. One man made it possible:

-- its model participatory democracy;

-- its free, fair and open elections;

-- respect for the rule of law and human rights;

-- using the nation's resources for the people;

-- providing essential social services to the needy;

-- promoting global solidarity, equality and social justice;

-- advocating peace and denouncing wars;

-- working cooperatively with his neighbors;

-- building socialism in the 21st century based on "solidarity, fraternity, love, justice, liberty and equality;"

-- rejecting exploitation and capital interests over people; and

-- pursuing a Bolivarian vision that works.

Imagine a future America like Venezuela today. Imagine a caring, not a predatory nation. Imagine a leader in Washington like Chavez. Imagine a groundswell enough to get one.

Stephen Lendman lives is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday through Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=12006

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Israel Killed Everything but the Will to Resist

Israel Killed Everything but the Will to Resist - by Stephen Lendman

" 'Freedom or death', is the popular Palestinian mantra," wrote Palestine Chronicle Editor-in-Chief Ramzy Baroud in his January 22 article titled "Breaking Gaza's Will: Israel's Enduring Fantasy."

Three weeks of Israeli terror caused about 1400 deaths, over 5500 injured (many seriously), vast destruction throughout Gaza, and Physicians for Human Rights warning that large numbers of wounded may die because hospitals are overloaded and lack basic supplies. Yet Palestinians endure. Their spirit is unbowed and unbroken. Hamas is more popular than ever, and world outrage sustains them.

Middle East analyst Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies believes Israel blundered badly. On January 9, he asked:

"The War in Gaza - Tactical Gains, Strategic Defeat?" In spite of all the IDF's might "The fact remains that the growing human tragedy in Gaza is steadily raising more serious questions as to whether the kind of tactical gains that Israel now reports are worth the suffering involved."

Cordesman reviewed the death, injury and destruction toll after 14 days of fighting, then added: "These direct costs are only part of the story." He cited the siege's crippling economic and humanitarian effects and wrote: "The current war has consequences more far-reaching than casualties. It involves a legacy of greatly increased suffering for the 1.5 million people who will survive this current conflict."

"It is also far from clear that the tactical gains are worth the political and strategic cost to Israel. At least to date, (the war) increased popular support for Hamas and anger against Israel in Gaza. The same is true in the West Bank and the Islamic world....The US is seen as having done virtually nothing....and the President elect is getting as much blame as" George Bush.

He quotes former Saudi ambassador to Washington and London, Prince Turki al-Faisal saying: "The Bush administration has left you (with) a disgusting legacy and a reckless position towards the massacres and bloodshed of innocents in Gaza. Enough is enough, today we are all Palestinians...."

According to Cordesman, Israel appears to be repeating "the same massive failures" as in the 2006 Lebanon war. "Has Israel somehow blundered into a steadily escalating war without a clear strategic goal or at least one it can credibly achieve? Will Israel end in empowering (Hamas) in political terms....? Will Israel's actions seriously damage the US position in the region, any hope for peace, as well as moderate Arab regimes and voices in the process? To be blunt, the answer (appears) to be yes....If this is all that Olmert, Livni, and Barak have (to show for their efforts) then they have disgraced themselves and damaged their country and their friends."

Three Weeks of Israeli Terror Took Its Toll

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights compiles it daily and presents it in weekly reports. Its latest January 15 - 22 one includes whole families killed. More than 43% of deaths and injuries were women and children. The vast majority of casualties were civilians. "Entire features of many areas have disappeared, and civilian infrastructure services have completely collapsed." Other destruction included:

-- hospitals, ambulances, civil defense and private vehicles, and relief services damaged or destroyed;

-- thousands of homes and whole neighborhoods damaged or destroyed as well as -

-- roads, bridges, power installations, sewage facilities, water wells, and other infrastructure;

-- 28 public civilian facilities;

-- ministry, municipality and other government buildings; the parliament building;

-- UN sanctuaries;

-- commercial buildings;

-- 121 industrial and commercial workshops destroyed; at least 200 others damaged;

-- fishing boats and harbors;

-- 21 private projects, including cafeterias, wedding halls, tourist resorts and hotels;

-- 30 mosques completely destroyed; 15 others damaged;

-- five concrete factories;

-- 60 police stations;

-- five media buildings and two health ones completely destroyed;

-- 29 educational institutions completely or partly destroyed; and

-- thousands of dunams of agricultural land razed.

After Israel declared a January 17 "ceasefire," homes were bulldozed, agricultural land razed, civilians attacked and killed, homes invaded and searched, and arrests made. The war cost the al-Sammouni clan 36 of its men, women and children.

The West Bank wasn't spared. The pattern repeats weekly, but from January 15 - 22 alone:

-- Hebron and Beit 'Awa village (southwest of the city) homes were raided and searched; four civilians were arrested;

-- Jenin town and refugee camp homes were invaded, searched, and one civilian arrested;

-- Bourqin village homes, west of Jenin, were raided, searched, and one civilian arrested;

-- Qabtatya village homes, southwest of Jenin, were invaded and searched; no arrests were reported;

-- Roujib village homes, east of Nablus, were raided, searched, and one arrest made;

-- Dura village, southwest of Hebron, homes were invaded, searched, and four arrests made;

-- Beit Sahour homes were raided and searched; one resident was arrested earlier;

-- al-Lubban village, near Nablus, homes were invaded, searched, and three arrests made, including a child;

-- at a January 16 Beit Ummar village, north of Hebron, anti-war demonstration, the IDF fired live rounds at civilians wounding at least three;

-- at another January 16 southern Hebron demonstration, the IDF shot and killed one man and wounded four others, including a child;

-- at a same day East Jerusalem demonstration, the IDF fired sound bombs, tear gas, and violently beat protesters; journalists were also attacked and forced to leave;

-- at another demonstration near the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the IDF attacked and violently beat at least 10 women;

-- at an al-'Eissawiya village, east of Jerusalem, demonstration, the IDF fired on and wounded four children, and arrested two others;

-- homes were also raided and searched in Beita village, south of Nablus; Zabbouba village, west of Jenin; 'Anza village, southeast of Jenin; Hawara village, south of Nablus; Taqqou' village, southeast of Bethlehem; Bani Na'im, east of Hebron; 'Arraba village, southwest of Jenin; Fahma village, southeast of Jenin; Sa'ir village, northeast of Hebron; Western Toura village, southwest of Jenin; 'Assira village, north of Nablus; Beit Emrin village, northwest of Nablus; al-Zahiriya village, south of Hebron; Ya'bad village, southwest of Jenin; Bethlehem city; al-Duhaisha refugee camp, southwest of Bethlehem; 'Aaida refugee camp, north of Bethlehem; and Qaryout village, southeast of Nablus -- homes in all areas were raided and searched; numerous arrests were made;

-- at a Beit Ummar village, north of Hebron, demonstration, the IDF fired live rounds on protesters wounding at least one child and arresting another;

-- two undercover IDF operations made arrests in Qabatya village, southeast of Jenin, and Qiffin village, north of Tulkarm.

PCHR reports that the Gaza siege continues. Border crossings remain closed. Collective punishment is enforced. Basic food, medicine and other essentials are unavailable or in scarce supply to the great majority of Gazans. Impoverishment now exceeds 80%. Mass human suffering affects everyone. The world community is complicit by its silence.

The IDF has also "imposed a tightened siege on the West Bank" adding new movement restrictions. Access to Jerusalem is denied, to the al-Aqsa mosque as well. Civilians are beaten, often violently. Vehicles are stopped and searched. Curfews are imposed. Arrests are made. Protests against the Separation Wall construction were attacked violently. Civilians were beaten and shot. Home demolitions continued. Two others were burned down. More land was seized. Settler attacks on Palestinians were reported. It happens all the time. Nothing is done to stop them. They're free to harass, intimidate, beat, and kill Palestinians.

This is Occupied Palestine. Like Gaza, Israel terrorizes the West Bank daily. Fatah under Abbas is complicit. Human rights violations persist. An international conspiracy of silence permits it. No end of this is in sight. World outrage has taken notice. Israel now worries but not enough to matter.

"Dahiya Doctrine" Devastation

Named after the Beirut suburb IDF destroyed in the 2006 Lebanon war, it's how future ones will be fought. IDF Northern Command chief Gabi Eisenkot explained:

"What happened in the Dayiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on. We will apply disproportionate force at the heart of the enemy's weak spot (civilians) and cause great damage and destruction. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages (towns or cities), they are military bases. This is not a recommendation. This is a plan. And it has been approved."

According to Col. Gabriel Siboni (in October 2008), the idea is to use enough "disproportionate force (to inflict) damage and met(e) out punishment to an extent that will demand long and expensive reconstruction processes....With the outbreak of hostilities, the IDF will need to act immediately, decisively, and with force that is disproportionate to the enemy's actions and threat it poses....The strike must be carried out as quickly as possible, and must prioritize damaging assets....be aimed at decision makers and the power elite....in Lebanon....at Hezbollah....(at) economic interests and the centers of civilian power."

Disproportionality will "make it abundantly clear that the State of Israel will accept no attempt to disrupt (a state of) calm. Israel must be prepared for deterioration and escalation, as well as for a full scale confrontation....This approach" applies to Gaza as well....(It) will increase Israel's long term deterrence (and) leave the enemy floundering in expensive, long term processes of reconstruction."

For General Yoav Galant, it was to "send Gaza decades into the past." Disturbing reports indicate that Lebanon may be next to complete the unfinished business of the 2006 war.

On October 6, 2008, prominent award-winning Israeli media figure Yaron London wrote about "The Dahiya strategy" for the Israeli English language Ynetnews.com. His tone was belligerent and provocative in saying:

"Israel finally realizes that Arabs should be accountable for their leaders' acts." In the next Lebanon war, "we won't bother to hunt for rocket launchers....Rather, we shall destroy (all of) Lebanon and won't be deterred by the protests of the world."

We'll "pulverize the 160 Shiite villages that have turned into Shiite army bases, and we shall not show mercy when it comes to hitting the national infrastructure of a" Hezbollah-controlled state. "This strategy is not a threat. (It's) an approved plan (because) the whole of Lebanon is an Iranian outpost. (It's) entirely malicious. (It's) an enemy....Everyone is Nasrallah....nations are responsible for their leaders' acts....(Gazans) are all Khaled Mashal....Lebanese are all Nasrallah....Iranians are all Ahmadinejad....We need to make the fear we sow among them greater."

Most Israelis share these views. So do Kadima, Likud, Labor, and IDF officials. Past leaders as well, including David Ben-Gurion in saying:

"It's not important what the world says about Israel....if we don't show the Arabs that they have to pay a high price for killing Jews, we won't continue living.... (we must) adopt....an aggressive defense; with every Arab attack we must respond with a decisive blow: the destruction of the place or the expulsion of the residents along with the seizure of the place....

The wisdom of Israel is the wisdom of war, nothing else....We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services....we (must go on) the offensive....smash Lebanon, Trans-Jordan, and Syria."

Ben-Gurion and later Israeli leaders invoked scripture and self-defense to justify disproportionate force, war crimes, genocide, and occupation. "Dahiya" has a long history. Its current form is the latest version.

US - Israeli Complicity in Committing Genocide Against Palestinians

Francis Boyle is a law professor, human rights expert, and former legal advisor to the Palestinian Delegation to the Middle East Peace Negotiations leading to the 1993 Oslo Accords. He elaborates on "different degrees of heinousness for war crimes." More serious are "grave breaches" of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Since the First Intifada (1987), "the world has seen those heinous war crimes inflicted every day by Israel against the Palestinian people living in occupied Palestine" - by Israeli forces and illegal settlers. Fourth Geneva mandates their prosecution, "including and especially Israel's political leaders."

"Crimes against humanity" are also committed "as determined by the UN Human Rights Commission....The concept" is from the 1945 Nuremberg Charter, drafted by America to try Nazi war criminals. These crimes include:

"murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against a civilian population, before or during the war, or prosecutions on political, racial or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country where perpetrated." Israel is criminally liable for committing them. So is America as a co-conspirator.

Nuremberg is the "historical and legal precursor to the international crime of genocide as defined by the 1948 Genocide Convention." It's very specific and includes killing; causing serious bodily or mental harm; and destroying a group "in whole or in part."

Since late 1947, Israel's "final solution" has been the total annihilation and/or displacement of the Palestinian people:

"For at least the past six decades, the Israeli government and its predecessors-in-law - the Zionist agencies, forces, and terrorist gangs - have ruthlessly implemented a systematic and comprehensive military, political, and economic campaign with the intent to destroy in substantial part the national, ethnical, racial, and different religious (mix of Muslims and Christians) constituting the Palestinian people....(This US - Israeli) campaign (is designed to destroy them) in violation of Article II(c) of the Genocide Convention."

Its Article I "requires all contracting parties....'to prevent and to punish' genocide. Yet to the contrary," Israel's genocidal wars on Palestine have "been financed, armed, equipped, supplied and politically supported by the (Judeo - Christian) United States" - even though America is a contracting party to Nuremberg, Geneva, and the UN Charter that prohibit such practices.

Nor did Washington and the international community demand "humanitarian intervention" to stop Israeli aggression and protect a defenseless people. America funds the Israeli killing machine. It can as easily de-fund it and halt the violence. Boyle calls failure to do it "dishumanitarian intervention (or) humanitarian extermination" by the US and Israel "against the Palestinians and Palestine."

Through his efforts, on January 13, the Malaysia Star reported a "special (Malaysian) Parliament session" voted for Israel to be brought before a UN-sanctioned international war crimes tribunal "for its atrocities and violence on the Palestinian people."

It also expressed "disappointment" that the international community and Security Council failed to halt the attacks. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said "resolutions would be presented to the relevant parliaments, the United States Congress and the European Parliament."

Abdullah called for Malaysians to unite "against the inhumane actions of the Zionist regime. The attacks by Israel have contravened international laws and such actions are deemed war crimes...."

Abdullah said his call for a special UN session to condemn Israel was boosted when the General Assembly agreed to hold one to urge the Security Council to act. It did not because "Israel didn't want it," and America supports Israel. It also rejects the legitimately elected Hamas government, and it lets Israel "kill children, the elderly, women, and other innocent ordinary people..."

President Obama's first diplomatic call was to Fatah's Mahmoud Abbas. He rules by coup d'etat. He has no legitimacy. His presidential term expired on January 9. He claims the right to retain it until 2010 legislative elections are held and does so with Western support. Like this writer and others, Boyle expects "no fundamental change (under Obama) in America's support for" Israel and its policy of Palestinian extermination and displacement.

On January 22, the new president was firm in introducing Hillary Clinton and George Mitchell at the State Department:

"Let me be clear: America is committed to Israel's security. And we will always support Israel's right to defend itself against legitimate threats." He denounced Hamas and said "No democracy can tolerate (its) acts of terror." In lying to a national audience, he vilified the victims in support of Israeli aggression against a defenseless population. It's why James Petras calls him "America's first Jewish president." Palestinians and all Muslims have no friend in Washington. They're on their own. The "war on terror" targets them in George Bush's third term.

It gets worse. No Israeli policy change is planned. The "peace process" is a dead letter. Gaza's borders will stay closed, except for some (way inadequate) allowed in humanitarian aid under "an appropriate monitoring regime, with the international (read Israel, Egypt and NATO) and Palestinian Authority participating," according to Obama. Hamas will stay isolated until it unconditionally surrenders, relinquishes its right to self-defense, hands over authority to Fatah, Israel and/or an international occupying force, and resigns as the legitimate Palestinian government.

Under these conditions, Obama promises "to actively and aggressively seek a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians...." Longtime insider George Mitchell will spearhead it as the new Middle East envoy. He's a former Senate majority leader and member of the influential Council on Foreign Relations and Bilderberg Group. He's no friend of Palestine.

Tel Aviv welcomed the appointment. Its US ambassador, Sallai Meridor, said Israel holds him "in high regard and looks forward to working with him on taking the next steps towards realizing a future of peace and security for Israel and her neighbors."

Human Rights Groups Accuse Israel of War Crimes

B'Tselem, Amnesty International (AI), and other human rights groups want Israel investigated for war crimes. Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, called for "credible, independent and transparent" investigations" in telling the BBC that Israel "appears to have (committed) war crimes."

Special Rapporteur Richard Falk said there's little doubt about the "inhuman character of (Israel's) large scale military operation against an essentially defenseless population. (This) raises the specter of systematic war crimes. (The evidence is compelling that Israel broke) fundamental rules of international humanitarian law (in attacking) unlawful targets."

UNRWA's Gaza chief, John Ging, cited attacks on five UN schools killing dozens of civilians. AI and Human Rights Watch accused Israel of using white phosphorous shells and attacking civilian neighborhoods.

On January 12, the 47-member UN Human Rights Council voted 33 aye (including Russia, China, India and Brazil), 1 nay (Canada) with 13 abstentions (including Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands, Japan, S. Korea, Switzerland and Ukraine) to investigate "grave" human rights violations by Israel in Gaza. America isn't a member of the body.

On January 13, the (Geneva-based) International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) "condemned Israel's military attacks on Gaza that have been indiscriminate or disproportionate (and called for) an immediate end" to the operation. ICJ also wants a "Commission of Inquiry to conduct a fact-finding investigation on violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by all parties."

The web site wanted.org.il lists high Israeli officials "WANTED for War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity." Among the accused - Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni along with 12 others the site includes. Besides the 2006 Lebanon war, Gaza siege, and other offenses, the site wants arrest warrants issued for their involvement in terror attacks on Gaza.

It also mentions that on December 10, 2008, Lebanese lawyers submitted a formal complaint to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague against Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak, former General Matan Vilnai, General Security Services director Avi Dichter, and IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi "on suspicion that they committed war crimes and crimes against humanity by ordering and maintaining" the Gaza siege. Israel isn't a signatory to the Court so prosecution there isn't likely.

However, other ways are possible. If courageous judges are willing, it could happen in countries like Spain, Germany, the UK or even America (see below). Law Professor Francis Boyle's proposal is also laudable, namely for the General Assembly to establish an International Criminal Tribunal for Israel (ICTI) under the UN Charter's Article 22. It would be "to investigate and Prosecute suspected Israeli war criminals for offenses against the Palestinian people."

Michael Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), agrees in stating: "There certainly should be a tribunal" on this matter. "The continued impunity of Israel for crimes it has committed encourages it in perpetrating gross violations of humanitarian law. A tribunal is essential" but impossible through the Security Council given the certainty of a US veto.

CCR "advanc(es) and protect(s) the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and Universal Declaration of Human Rights." It's been pursuing a case in US courts against Israeli General Security Services director Avi Dichter. On January 16, the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in the case against him.

CCR charged him "with planning and directing the bombing of a residential apartment building in Gaza City" in July 2002, "knowing it would result in a significant number of civilian deaths and injuries." Senior CCR Attorney Maria LaHood said: "Avi Dichter's decision to bomb our clients and their families as they lay sleeping at home was a war crime." The international community can't tolerate these "indiscriminate attacks."

In May 2007, a lower court dismissed the charges ruling that Dichter acted in the course of his official duties and has immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. It may be months before the Appeals Court decision. There's little doubt where it stands, yet these lawsuits (in America and around the world) may have impact enough one day to send Israeli war criminals to prison. Perhaps American ones as well. It's why CCR, Francis Boyle, and others pursue them.

For its part, Israel expects a wave of war crimes lawsuits and is reacting. Haaretz reported that the cabinet approved legal aid for IDF officers likely to face charges. Olmert announced: "Israel will give full support to everyone who operated for it and on behalf of it. The commanders and soldiers who were sent to Gaza need to know that they are safe from various tribunals."

Israel claims "unsurpassed high moral values and traditions," adherence to international law, and efforts made to avoid harming civilians in fighting. Ehud Barak calls the IDF "the most moral army in the world. (It tries) to prevent tragedies from happening" despite clear evidence it's done willfully, maliciously, and strategically.

On January 22, Ehud Olmert appointed justice minister Daniel Friedman "to head a team that will examine methods to avoid war crimes charges for those involved in IDF operations in Gaza." At the same time, IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi and an army censor forbade the names and photos of officers involved in "Operation Cast Lead" from being published as well as information on their role in ordering or carrying out attacks.

Gaza War A Failure for Israel - Morally and Strategically

On January 22, Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy said so in all its objectives. It failed:

-- to stop Hamas rockets for self-defense;

-- to prevent Hamas from rearming; and

-- to assert Israel's deterrence capacity and "restore its capability" as a formidable military foe, given that it attacks civilians and not a powerful adversary.

In Israel's Ynetnews.com, writer B. Michael asked "Was the army's morality proven again? Oy vey. A moral army is not one that kills civilians and then rushes to boast how moral it is." He also asked "Was our deterrence restored? No....Israel has been pulverizing the Palestinians for dozens of years now, yet....they continue not to be deterred." This time is no different.

Hamas emerged strengthened, not defeated, and more popular than ever. In contrast, Israel is discredited, vilified, and shamed. For its part, Fatah is weakened and the Abbas - Fayyad PA disgraced for blaming the violence on Hamas, saying little to denounce IDF war crimes, and for cracking down on West Bank anti-war protests and against Hamas supporters.

Reports are that hundreds of them (including journalists, students and Muslim leaders) have been harassed, beaten, arrested, and tortured across the West Bank in service to Israel and Washington. Palestine Information Center journalist, Khalid Amayreh, said he spent nearly two and a half days in a rancid, dark, windowless cell in Hebron's Preventive Security Force headquarters after a local security chief invited him there for coffee.

Though not abused, he heard screams from another cell and saw 10 men led away with hoods over their heads. Amayreh estimates from 500 - 600 arrests were made. Hamas said Islambodi Badir needed medical treatment from electric shock torture by Palestinian General Intelligence.

As for Israel, world outrage demands international tribunal prosecutions of its political and military leaders. "Israel is a violent and dangerous country," concludes Levy. It's "devoid of all restraints and blatantly ignor(es) the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, while not giving a hoot about international law. The investigations are on their way" maybe this time with teeth enough to bite. If not now, eventually. Nations that live by the sword, die by it. Israel and America are no exceptions.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday through Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions on world and national topics with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=12006

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Al Nakba Redux

Al Nakba Redux - by Stephen Lendman

For Palestinians, the Nakba "Catastrophe" is their "Holocaust" six-month slaughter and displacement before and after the May 1948 establishment of Israel. In December 1947, Jews in Palestine numbered 600,000 compared to 1.3 million Palestinians. David Ben-Gurion ordered them removed and for "Every attack....to end with occupation, destruction and expulsion."

He meant depopulation, destruction, mass slaughter, displacement, and erasing a proud people's history. Palestine was to become Israel. Most of the job was completed, more in 1967, and thereafter incrementally until total dispossession is achieved. Gaza is the latest battleground. More ahead is planned. The struggle for liberation continues.

In all respects, Gaza's situation is dysfunctional and calamitous. Consider the dire medical state alone.

The UK Lancet Medical Journal on Gaza

The prestigious Lancet issued the following statement:

"We find it hard to believe that an otherwise internationally respected, democratic nation can sanction such large and indiscriminate human atrocities in a territory already under land and sea blockade. The heavy loss of civilian life and destruction of Gaza's health system is unjustified and disproportional....The collective punishment of Gazans is placing horrific and immediate burdens of injury and trauma on innocent civilians." These acts are lawless, and we deplore "the silence of national medical associations and professional bodies worldwide....Their leaders....are complicit in a preventable tragedy" with potential long lasting consequences.

The Lancet followed with a lengthy overall assessment. In an introductory overview, it deplores conditions on the ground.

-- violence directed at civilians;

-- the unjustifiable toll;

-- the deaths, injuries and social infrastructure destruction;

-- the breach of "international norms of humanitarian behaviour;"

-- ambulances attacked;

-- medical personnel killed;

-- hospitals short or depleted of everything - power, equipment, medicines, anesthetics, beds, and overworked staffs pulling round the clock shifts;

-- vaccination programs, lab services, pre and postnatal care, and school health services disrupted;

-- severe restrictions on ICRC personnel; and much more; in short, a calamitous situation bring all normal life to a halt.

Despite banning foreign journalists, carnage reports are heard, read, and seen worldwide. Justifiable outrage followed and grows. Testimonies on the ground are heart-rending. Fear grips everyone. People have nowhere to go. The indifference of influential politicians is reflected in Tony Blair's failure once to visit Gaza since his 2007 appointment as the (US, UN, EU, Russia) Quartet special envoy - one for war, not peace, for Israel, not Palestine, for injustice, not liberation.

His absence and silence in the face of a Gaza "Holocaust" reflects his complicity with Israeli terrorism, contempt for Palestinians overall, and another war crime with the others during his tenure as prime minister.

Now and ahead, Israel will be judged by its attitudes and actions towards the non-Jews it controls. America, the West, and complicit Arab regimes share equal guilt for their complicity. Palestinians are isolated on their own, yet for six decades have been resolute and resilient. Their struggle continues.

Contrary to popular perception, the Israeli - Palestinian conflict boils down to this. Over 90 years ago, imperial Britain promised Palestine to two peoples in one 1917 Balfour Declaration sentence from the British Foreign Secretary to the head of Anglo-Jewry:

'His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine."

This was duplicitous on its face. Britain wanted a Western presence in an oil-rich part of the world to assure it got the lion's share. Decades later, neither side will leave so conflict persists. The international community is complicit. It fuels struggle and threatens regional and world peace as a result.

The Dire State of Gaza's Medical Facilities

The 585-bed Al Shifa Hospital, Gaza's best equipped in normal times, "resemble(s) a charnel house" with corpses strewn everywhere, many torn apart patients for too few beds, and doctors having to treat them on the floor and do surgery with little or no anesthesia, at times by flashlight in less than ideal sanitary conditions.

Hospital director Hussain Ashaur worries about risked infection, severe trauma, and horrific burn cases. As bad are "scenes out of Dante's Inferno." Patients arrive with no arms or legs, crushed limbs, bodies torn apart by flesh-shredding DIME weapons, and terrible shortages of everything for normal functioning.

Neonatal deaths are up 10% as new mothers are sent home early for lack of space. Vaccinations have been suspended. Nearly 70% of chronically ill patients aren't treated. Most basic clinics are now just first aid centers.

Accessing the wounded has been hazardous. At least a dozen paramedics were targeted and killed inside clearly marked vehicles and ambulances. Others were shot treating civilians where they lay. The extent of Israeli war crimes is shocking but not surprising under its Dahiyah Doctrine strategy to:

"wield disproportionate power against every village from which (suspected) shots are fired on Israel, and cause immense damage and destruction. From our perspective, these are military bases." Civilian areas are "legitimate military targets," and non-combatants are as fair game as fighters.

The ICRC issued a "harshly critical statement" accusing Israel of denying aid workers access to sites for days and finding shocking scenes when allowed in - the sights and sounds of death, horrific wounds, pain, suffering, despair, and starvation.

Because of the siege, conditions were dire before December 27. After three weeks of attack and in the aftermath, health services are near collapse. Doctors report:

"the most horrific war injuries in men, women, and children of all ages in numbers too large to comprehend. The wounded, dying, and dead have streamed into the overcrowded hospital in endless convoys of ambulances and private cars, and wrapped in blankets in the caring arms of others. The endless and intense bombardment from Israeli air, ground, and naval forces have missed no targets, not even hospitals."

Gaza is now "a shattered, attacked, and drained health-care system trying to help an overwhelming amount of casualties in a war between clearly unequal (sides), where the attacker spares no civilian lives - be it man, woman, or child - not even the much-needed health workers of all professions."

Doctors with war zone experience say they're overwhelmed and never saw anything like it. Gaza is tiny for its 1.5 million people. It has five cities, seven refugee camps for two-thirds of the population, and a bare 24 square kilometers of potentially productive farmland now decreased because of the siege, fighting, and deliberate Israeli razing of the land. It's a "cage, an enormous prison or a completely sealed off ghetto" with its life being extinguished by violence and Israeli-enforced neglect and terror.

Gaza City's Al-Shifa Hospital is a five story structure with several pavilions for medical specialties. It has 1011 employees, seven clinics, six operating rooms with worn-out poorly operating equipment, and about 406 doctors, including in seven surgical specialties. It's been reduced to a "makeshift, field hospital after years of siege, as well as a lack of maintenance and upgrading" because none is possible. Everything needed for normal functioning is in short supply or absent. Nonetheless, doctors and staff do all they can, at times in 24-hour shifts that tax the most committed, especially when it's common practice.

Through it all, "the morale, strength, and tireless work done by the health workers in Al-Shifa and (throughout) Gaza to save the injured from death is beyond belief." Gaza reflects heroism and resilience despite shocking Israeli state terror and scenes out of Dante's Inferno.

End Game and Prospects in Occupied Palestine and Gaza under Hamas

For six decades, Israel has pursued a colonization, dispossession, and decapitation agenda for total control of historic Palestine. Gaza 2008 - 09 is the latest battleground. Its outcome is undetermined and for the Obama administration to address with a new Israeli government after February 10 elections are held. Continued occupation, oppression, terror wars, and dispossession is their already familiar script.

In 1895, Zionism's founder, Theodor Herzl, wrote: "We must expropriate gently the private property on the state assigned to us. We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by....denying it employment in our country." In 1967, Israeli defense minister, Moshe Dayan, said: Palestinians "shall continue to live like dogs" so they'll leave.

In 1948, David Ben-Gurion stated: "We have taken their country....We must do everything to insure they never return....We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population." In 1988, former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir told Jewish settlers that Palestinians "would be crushed like grasshoppers (with their) heads smashed against the boulders and walls."

Through it all, Palestinians survived, Hamas though battered is unbowed, and if Middle East expert Juan Cole is right:

"the Gaza fighting is likely to underline the self-delusion that has framed the US-Israeli perspective on major groups like Hamas for years, namely that Israel may choose its Palestinian interlocutors, and marginalize and criminalize those who are unwilling to negotiate on Israel's terms. While Hamas by no means speaks for all Palestinians, it is fatuous to assume (it can) be ignored politically or diplomatically."

In 1982, Israel failed to defeat Palestinian nationalism in Lebanon in spite of slaughtering 18,000 people. It merely sidetracked it for a time. The First Intifada followed. In the 1990s, Oslo, Oslo II, Wye River, Camp David, Taba, and other one-sided arrangements bought time until Intifada anger and more conflict erupted. The Road Map and Annapolis didn't halt it. In 2006, Israel failed to defeat Hezbollah. Cole believes that "Hamas is likely to emerge stronger politically than it was when the fighting began" despite all the IDF's might against it. That clearly appears to be right.

But given Arab street anger in the wake of Gaza's carnage, it's possible that "more extreme (Islamic) groups will strengthen, vying with Hamas (and Fatah) for control (as they already do in Lebanese Palestinian refugee camps)." Cole believes that "the Gaza war will change the political landscape of the Middle East" and present "enormous" and perhaps "unwelcome" challenges for Obama and Israel.

Muslim anger is intense, peacemaking an illusion, and if more regional wars are planned (as is likely), all bets are off on their potentially catastrophic consequences.

The Aftermath

During a January 16 Arab League meeting, Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia called for Palestinian unity under Fatah while Abbas advisor Yasser Abed Rabbo told a news conference that the "president" would not engage in a dialogue with "killers," meaning Hamas.

At the same time, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed the same sentiment as Washington's man at the world body. He urged Arab leaders to unite for Abbas and Fatah. So did Terje Roed-Larson, former UN Middle East envoy and current International Peace Academy president. He accused Hamas of carrying out a de facto coup against Gazans and never mentioned it's the legitimate government, not the corrupted Fatah under Abbas.

Unmentioned also were prominent Hamas figure Salah al-Bardaweel's charges. On January 19, he accused Abbas of spying on Hamas and conspiring with Israel. He said Fatah spies gave the IDF strategic intelligence on leadership homes and weapons locations. A number were arrested and confessed. "They admitted their guilt and told us names of their masters, who would, in turn, inform the Israeli intelligence apparatus....to facilitate the Israeli mission."

Gazan activist, photojournalist, and blogger voice of truth Sameh Habeeb reported this on the war's aftermath:

Thousands on Gaza's streets are "trying to explore what has happened to relatives, houses and areas. I have documented a massive destruction throughout east, north and west of Gaza Strip. The devastation storms everything needed for normal life. Houses, schools, hospitals, clinics, police stations, charities, universities and streets totally (or) partially destroyed."

Today, paramedics found over 100 bodies, mostly civilians, including eight members of one family. The "Samouni family which was massacred before found 17 more dead bodies under the rubble. Many families still seek (other) members and relatives who were lost during the war time."

On January 18, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) reported that Israeli forces still cut off Gaza City and the northern Strip from other areas in the south. In addition, field workers, especially around Gaza City, the north, and Egyptian border said "these areas looked (like) they were struck by a heavy earthquake." Decomposing bodies are unearthed. Israeli aircraft patrol the skies. The IDF redeployed "outside residential areas" but continue to fire at civilians, especially in border areas.

After declaring a "ceasefire:"

-- Israeli artillery shelled houses in al-Juron Square in Jabalya damaging two homes, killing three children, and wounding other residents;

-- an IDF drone fired a missile at Palestinian civilians in al-Zarqaa' area, south of Jabalya killing a man and his son;

-- Israeli forces killed a resistance activist near al-Karama apartment buildings, southwest of Jabalya;

-- another drone fired two missiles at Palestinian civilians in al-Amal quarter, east of Beit Hanoun; a woman and child were seriously wounded; she lost a leg; her child later died;

-- IDF naval vessels shelled the Palestinian General Intelligence headquarters and open areas near Gaza City;

-- Israeli forces fired on Wadi al-Salqa village, southeast of Deir al-Balah; no casualties were reported;

-- before redeploying, the IDF demolished at least 30 houses and razed agricultural land in the al-Fukhari area;

-- near the Israeli - Gaza border, Israeli forces opened fire at Palestinian civilians checking their homes and land; one man was reported killed;

-- an IDF explosive charge killed two children playing in the Al-Sha'af area east of Gaza City;

-- Israeli forces killed a farmer while he was working on his land;

-- redeployed soldiers demolished houses, damaged others, and razed agricultural land outside al-Shouka village, east of Rafah; and

-- Israeli tanks bulldozed dozens of dunnums of agricultural land in central Gaza; other tanks moved towards the Al-Maghazy area in central Gaza;

All this happened after Israel's "ceasefire." PCHR warned that Gazans are endangered "in light of (continued Israeli threats) to (renew or) expand military operations against the population of the Gaza Strip."

PCHR is calling for the "international community to immediately intervene;" to establish "inquiry commissions to investigate (war) crimes....against Palestinian civilians," including the use of illegal weapons. It also wants "all political and military officials responsible" prosecuted for their crimes.

Through January 20, the official death toll rose to 1415 with around 5500 injured, many seriously. New deaths will be reported as bodies are discovered under rubble and wounded people die.

PCHR's Gaza Testimonies

"I am still alive," said Ayman Al-Majdalawi, a Jabalia nurse after the IDF shelled the nearby Al-Fakhoura school used by UNWRA as a shelter. It killed dozens of civilians and wounded many more. "Women, men and children had limbs torn from their bodies by the force of the explosions. The ambulance drivers told me the Israelis were shooting at them as they were trying to evacuate the dead and injured." At her hospital "there was chaos. Our ambulances are in danger, and some of the injured people bled to death because we couldn't reach them. I try to go to other hospitals if I am needed, but it is very dangerous, and like everyone else, we are very frightened."

Ambulance drivers reported that they risked their lives to help the maimed and wounded. "We are working twenty four hours a day - we only sleep when there is no Israeli shelling....I have not been to my home for days....Ninety percent of the injured victims....have already lost legs or arms, or both."

Khalid Yusef Abu Sa'ada said:

"I was driving my ambulance in Beit Lahia....when the Israelis shelled us....I was with two paramedics. The Israeli shells killed one of them." The other was badly injured. He's now paralyzed. "A few days ago the Israelis bombed us" while we were trying to rescue a boy. The explosion "ripped (his) head off."

The Israelis killed other ambulance drivers and paramedics by bombing and shelling them. Dr. Eysa Saleh was on duty with the Medical Security Services when a shell blew his head off in Jabaliya. Everyone is exhausted, overwhelmed and horrified while fearing for their own lives on the frontline. "We know there are many people we cannot reach because some areas are too dangerous, and our ambulances are deliberately targeted." Earlier, "as I was driving, I saw a man struck by a missile that tore his body in two in front of our eyes. The situation is unbelievable, but we are doing the best we can, because this is our duty."

Professor Said Abdelwahed Emails from "Destroyed Gaza"

"This morning (January 18), Israel declared a ceasefire" but they keep shooting anyway. Meanwhile, drones and F-16s are overhead and firing missiles "12 hours" later. Over "100 new dead bodies were found under debris and in other places in fields and back streets in Zietoun neighborhood and northern Gaza. Whole families were found under rubble and demolished homes."

"It's unbelievable, incredible and mind-boggling! Innocent civilians paid the most expensive price (with) their lives. It was genocide." All of Gaza is depressed and traumatized. "I am shaken by the psychological situation around! The Israelis still call Palestinian homes by telephone threatening them with another punishment."

Aircraft drop anti-Hamas leaflets in western Gaza. It's "stupid behavior. It didn't move anyone after the ruthless attacks everywhere in Gaza....Tonight is a time of cautious silence and anticipation (that) the whole situation may flare up or explode at any moment. There are still untold stories of horror, destruction and death everywhere in Gaza," and most of us still have no electricity or much of anything else.

An Interregnum Truce Before the Next Onslaught

On January 19, Haaretz reported that: "Israeli officials said that troops would withdraw completely before Barack Obama's inauguration...." They never "withdraw." They just redeploy and maintain border, air and coastal control to keep committing random atrocities unreported in the major media.

While saying Israel has no aim to conquer, control or stay in Gaza, prime minister Olmert made no commitments and promised to "renew military actions" if "smuggling" continues and rockets are fired into southern Israel. On Israeli Radio, foreign minister Livni said about the same thing to sound tough ahead of the February 10 elections.

Like others for decades, calm is an illusion before more planned violence. Each conflict begets the next one that may be harsher than the last. Last October, Amos Harel headlined in Haaretz: "IDF plans to use disproportionate force in next war." Israel's Northern Command head, General Gadi Eisenkot, said "the IDF will continue to give first priority to firepower" regardless of the target struck.

In a daily Yedioth Ahronoth interview (Israel's major Hebrew language newspaper), Eisenkot "presented his 'Dahiyah Docrtine,' under which the IDF" will use disproportionate power "at the heart of the enemy's weak spot" and target civilians.

Major General Giora Eiland, former head of Israel's National Security Council, was even blunter in admitting defeat in the Second Lebanon War because it was against the "wrong enemy - Hezbollah, instead of the state of Lebanon itself." He said it's impossible to defeat an efficient guerrilla army supported by a state immune from retribution. "Hezbollah operates under optimal conditions from our perspective. A legitimate government runs Lebanon, supported by the West, but it is in fact entirely subordinate to the will of the Shiite organization."

Eiland's recommendation: "preemptive action....as soon as possible" in the next war to destroy the Lebanese army and entire civilian infrastructure with heavy use of air power.

Last September, former IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya'alon said the Israeli Air Force failed in the Second Lebanon War. "If they had determined the right objectives, the war could have been finished from the air within five days" and the mission accomplished.

Around the same time, prime minister Olmert warned that if Lebanon becomes a "terrorist state" under Hezbollah, Israel would unleash more massive firepower and hit back harder than before. Israel "did not use all means to respond then, but if Lebanon becomes a Hezbollah state, then we won't have any restrictions in this regard." Without elaborating, he's targeting all Lebanon - its government, infrastructure, military, and civilian population.

Earlier, the Lebanese unity government approved a political platform under which Hezbollah is free to use all means "to liberate land occupied by Israel."

Gaza was a dress rehearsal. A Third Lebanon War appears next, perhaps against Iran, Syria and more on Hamas as well. On January 18, Haaretz correspondent Barak Ravid cited Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin saying that "Hamas would resume smuggling arms into Gaza within a few months, despite Israel's destruction of many tunnels...." They'll be rebuilt, so Israel will attack and destroy them.

On January 20, the right wing Jerusalem Post reported that:

"Iran has renewed efforts to supply advanced weaponry to Hamas and the IDF is concerned that the terror group will try to smuggle long-range Fajr missiles into the Gaza Strip" - easily able to reach Tel Aviv with a range of 70 km. Tzipi Livni said renewed weapons smuggling would be legitimate grounds for renewed Gaza attacks.

Israel is always preparing for the next war and looking for pretexts to launch it. Clearly there are plans. It remains to be seen what, when, and against whom.

For now, Olmert, Diskin and other Israeli officials claim a great victory despite not defeating Hamas, enhancing its popularity and support, and engendering global condemnation still evident on world streets and inside Israel.

For its part on January 18, Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh said Israel's offensive failed and hadn't cowed the Palestinians. In a televised speech, he claimed that "The enemy has failed to achieve its goals," and despite thousands of Palestinian casualties, the war was a "popular victory." Contradicting Israeli assertions, Hamas announced it lost 48 fighters and killed 80 Israeli soldiers. The IDF said five soldiers died fighting and four others were killed by friendly fire.

On January 18, The Israeli English language web site, Ynetnews.com, reported that during the Gaza operation, about 800 Israeli soldiers and civilians needed hospital treatment. As of January 18, 51 soldiers and 13 civilians are still patients, some in serious condition.

A weekend Reuters report estimated that Gaza rebuilding will cost $1.6 billion even before accounting for all damage and assessing what's needed for reconstruction. Human costs and humanitarian needs aside, undoing Israel's damage will take years and likely cost billions. At issue is who'll pay. Given past indifference to Palestinian needs, the answer is likely few or perhaps no other nation despite Saudi King Abdullah promising $1 billion in aid. Palestinians are tired of promises.

They want fulfillment, but won't get it according to EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner. Without explicitly mentioning Hamas, she said reconstruction won't begin until the EU has an acceptable Palestinian partner. She then accused Hamas for confrontation and for hindering Gazans' prospects for a better life. Following a Western tradition, she blamed the victim, absolved the aggressor, let the people of Gaza be damned, and called their democratically elected government "terrorists" and on their own.

For its part, Olmert assigned Yetshak Hertzog, Israel's social welfare minister, to coordinate whatever Gaza reconstruction is planned and insisted that no funds go to Hamas or other resistance groups. Further, Israel wants control of everything, will decide what will or won't be done, will require permits for projects, and says the UN must have no direct dealings with Hamas.

Tel Aviv may have other plans as well. It's erecting hundreds of tents in the Sinai near Rafah. Egyptian blogger Ahdaf Souif said:

"Outside the general Hospital in Egyptian Rafah, a city of tents has sprung up. I counted 200. But soldiers there told me they have many more and can set them up immediately. They said the beds and furnishings for all the camps are ready. I was also told that other camps are being set up, in el-Arish and other locations. I was told these camps were" for Palestinians - and may be a first step toward mass-transfering Gazans to Egypt as Israeli extremists, like Avigdor Lieberman, advocate.

Egypt knows what's happening, but is silent. It's believed Mubarak agreed to the plan in secret negotiations, just prior to Israel's "ceasefire." All along, Egypt has collaborated with Israel and Washington, a familiar role for its leader in return for ample compensation.

Gaza municipal authorities estimate that 20,000 government, residential and commercial buildings were damaged, many badly. Another 4000 were demolished. In addition, about 50 of the UN's 220 schools, clinics, warehouses and other facilities were also damaged or destroyed. The enormity of destruction can't be underestimated or the task needed to rebuild it. Reuters compared it to "Stalingrad" and AP to a "moonscape." The UN said more than 50,000 Gazans are homeless. Other reports say 100,000 or more.

"Travel advisory issued for top IDF officers"

On January 19, Ynetnews.com reported that Israel is concerned about "international human rights groups' intention(s) to file war crimes charges against military personnel with the Hague, local European courts, (and advises) officers planning to travel (to) contact (the) Judge Advocate General's office first....some may be instructed not to leave the country."

Reports say evidence is being collected in photos and testimonies, and Attorney General Menachem Mazuz said Israel is "preparing for a wave of international lawsuits over the operation in Gaza."

Police State Israel - Suppressing Internal Dissent

On January 19, 2009 for Inter Press Service (IPS), Nora Barrows-Friedman reported that:

"The Israeli government is stepping up efforts to suppress dissent and crush resistance in the streets" in the wake of pro-Gaza demonstrations. "Police have been videotaping (street protests and then) arresting (participants) in large numbers."

Police reports show "at least 763 Israeli citizens, the majority of them Palestinian (of whom 244 are under 18), have been arrested, imprisoned or detained for" their participation. Most held are then released, but "at least 30" are still being held. The idea is to harass, intimidate, and discourage further demonstrations.

Ameer Makhoul, director of Ittijah, the Union of Arab Community-Based Associations in Haifa is quoted saying: these demonstrations "are part of the uprising here inside the Green Line, to share responsibility and to share the challenge with the people in the Gaza Strip."

Israel's internal security Shin Bet arrested Makhoul for organizing demonstrations. "They called me, came to my home and held me for four hours. They accused me of being a terrorist and supporting terror. They said that they are watching me and monitoring me. Israel has become a terror state" against Palestinians, Arab Israelis, independent regional states, and dissent.

Shin Bet accused Makhoul and others arrested of "threatening the security of the State of Israel during war time." Israeli Professor Kobi Snitz expressed alarm about "the current social climate inside the state." He explained that "People are made to be afraid....police operate under the assumption and guidelines that every political expression (including by Jews) now is to be repressed and prevented."

Most Israelis support their government's war on Gaza and believe Hamas is at fault. The media trumpet it daily although contrary views can also be found. Most Israelis don't bother to look like in America where people rely mainly on television for news and information, and thus are terribly misinformed.

Despite being monitored, harassed and arrested, activist demonstrations continue with a notable January 17 one in Jaffa, south of Tel Aviv. Several thousand "peace groups, Israeli anarchists, and teenaged refusniks fresh from jail (for their activism against Palestinian oppression) marched (with) flags, banners, and vociferous determination (against) their government's" state terror on Gaza. Security forces were visible and took note. Defying Israel is hazardous even for Jews, much like it is in America under Republicans and Democrats.

Looking Ahead

Editor Ali Abuninah of the Electronic Intifada reports that Israel's Gaza war failed to weaken Hamas and other resistance groups to clear the way for negotiating with its "chief Palestinian collaborator Mahmoud Abbas to manage Palestinians on (its) behalf until they (can) be forced out once and for all."

Regional dictators like Mubarak and the Saudi and Jordanian monarchies are on board "to demonstrate to their own people that resistance" is futile. "To win, Israel had to break Palestinian resistance. It failed....it galvanized and unified Palestinians like never before." Hamas and other resistance fought heroically for 23 days and stand ready to do it again.

"According to well-informed and credible sources, Israel did little harm to the modest but determined military capacity of the resistance. So Israel did what it does best: it massacred civilians" to get people to turn against their government. Instead, Palestinians and the Arab street are together against Israel.

"In popular esteem, Hamas and other Palestinian resistance factions (stand) alongside Hizbollah as effective bulwarks against Israeli and Western colonialism." Israel lost its legitimacy and can't win it by bombing and mass slaughter. It survives through violence, intimidation, and billions in US aid, but for how long.

Even the Wall Street Journal admits that Hamas gained support from the fighting. On January 20, correspondent Charles Levinson quoted Israeli Col. Shmuel Zakai saying that his country doesn't understand that winning hearts and minds is as important as battlefield victories. "We just keep creating bigger problems," he said. "Military power alone is not enough."

Palestinians remained steadfast through it all, and world public opinion now backs them and Hamas like never before. Yet their struggle for liberation persists - against America, the West, complicit Arab regimes, and racists like Israeli Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger who wants Gazans dumped in a Palestinian state in the Sinai.

He told the British weekly Jewish News that Jerusalem belongs to the Jews. Muslims have Mecca and Medina, and they "don't need a third place." Metzger wants Britain, the EU and America to build a desert state and arrange for a transfer. He called it a great idea and will discuss it with Olmert.

Earlier on January 13, Israeli election authorities banned two of the three main Arab parties from contesting in the February general elections - the United Arab List-Ta'al (UAL - Ta'al) and the National Democratic Assembly (or Balad). Both parties were accused of "not recognizing Israel's right to exist (and) incit(ing) and supporting terrorist groups." Heads of two rival Arab parties condemned the action and called it "a political trial led by a group of fascists and racists who are willing to see the Knesset without Arabs and want" none of them in their country. If these members "had weapons, they would have shot us in the head."

Arabs currently hold seven of the 120 Knesset seats but have no power whatever in the body. Nonetheless, Avigdor Lieberman, the Yisrael Beiteinu party leader, called Arab legislators a "fifth column" and wants Israel's High Court to side with the decision to ban them. Israel keeps finding new ways to expose its illegitimacy as a lawful democratic state. Growing calls accuse it of waging an extermination war against Gazans, and West Bank Palestinians will be next unless outcries are great enough to stop it.

This terror persisted for over 60 years, yet Palestinians remain resolute and by 2010 will surpass Jews in number, according to population projections. Their message is firm: This is our land, our country. We're ready to live in peace, and despite all your might and terror, we'll never surrender. Not now. Not ever.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday through Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=11822

Monday, January 19, 2009

Today in Solidarity We're All Palestinians

Today in Solidarity We're All Palestinians - by Stephen Lendman

World outrage continues over Israeli war crimes and Washington's complicity. Gazans are now immortalized. Hamas is more popular than ever and remains resolute despite everything the IDF threw against it.

Democrats and Republicans share equal guilt. They fund Israeli state terror, are partnered in its aggression, and have collaboratively planned, supported, and/or agreed to it for the past 41 years. Continuity under Obama is assured. The current Gaza carnage is the worst since 1967. In spite of its "unilateral" ceasefire, sporadic Israeli attacks continue. The IDF merely redeployed. Gaza remains under siege, and human suffering is overwhelming and unrelieved.

Since December 27, Israel conducted terror bombings, tank and naval vessel shellings, and assault troop slaughter on the ground. Illegal weapons were used. Neighborhoods are burning and in ruins. Horrific wounds are reported. Civilians were willfully massacred. They comprise 80 - 90% of the casualties according to human rights organizations and medical authority reports. All 1.5 million Gazans were targeted. They still are. There's no place anywhere to hide.

Sporadic fighting continues after Israel's January 17 announcement. Earlier, Israeli Radio reported that more reservists were activated and that IDF operations were in "phase three." Forces on the ground pushed deeper into Gaza where they remained up to now. Attacks on neighborhoods and refugee camps intensified. Death and injury tolls mount. They approach 7000 but exclude potentially hundreds of unidentified bodies under rubble.

A Brief History of Israeli Terror Killings Since 1946

Gaza is full-scale war but just the latest bloodstained episode in Israel's six-decade reign of terror against Palestinians. This section reviews others since 1946, two years before the establishment of a Jewish state. The list is long, way-incomplete, very disturbing, and shows what Palestinians have endured for over 60 years. Their ordeal continues in the West Bank and Gaza under siege, still attacked, and, as always, betrayed by the dominant media.

The King David Hotel July 22, 1946 Bombing

The Menachem Begin-led Irgun planned and conducted the massacre of 92 Brits, Arabs and Jews, wounding 58 others. As head of the Jewish Agency, David Ben-Gurion approved the operation. It was to destroy British-gathered evidence that its leaders colluded with the Haganah, Palmach, Irgun and Stern gangs in a wave of terrorist crimes and killings. Bombing the King David Hotel was the most notorious and followed a pattern before and since of brutal Israeli state terrorism.

The British Secretariat of the Palestine Government and British Army HQ kept offices in the hotel. Attackers disguised as milkmen, planted explosives in milk containers, placed them in the basement and left. At the time, the action shocked the civilized world and outraged the British leadership and House of Commons.

Other Israeli Terrorist Incidents against Palestinians

-- Tira, December 11, 1947 - five Palestinians were killed and six injured;

-- a village outside Haifa, December 12, 1947 - 12 Palestinians killed;

-- a village outside Tel Aviv, December 14, 1947 - 18 Palestinians killed and 100 injured;

-- al-Khias, December 18, 1947 - the paramilitary Haganah killed 10 Palestinians, most inside their homes;

-- Haifa, December 30, 1947 - six Palestinians killed and 42 wounded;

-- Jerusalem, December 30, 1947 - Irgun terrorists threw a bomb from a speeding car killing 11 Palestinians and two Brits;

-- Balad Esh-Sheikh, December 31, 1947 - the Haganah killed 60 Palestinians, most inside their homes;

-- Jaffa, January 4, 1948 - the Stern Gang killed up to 30 and wounded 100 in a truck bombing;

-- the Semiramis Hotel, Jerusalem, January 4, 1948 - the Haganah bombed the hotel killing 25 civilians;

-- Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem, January 7, 1948 - 17 Palestinians killed;

-- Tireh, February 10, 1948 - seven Palestinians killed and five injured;

-- on a bus from Safad, February 12, 1948 - five Palestinians killed and five injured;

-- Sa'sa', February 14, 1948 - 60 Palestinians killed, mostly in their homes;

-- Qisarya, February 15 - 20, 1948 - 25 Palestinians killed;

-- Haifa, February 20, 1948 - six Palestinians killed and 36 wounded;

-- Haifa, March 3, 1948 - the Stern Gang blew up the Salameh Building killing 11 Palestinians and wounding 27;

-- al-Husayniyya, March 12 and 16 - 17 - the Palmach twice raided the village killing 15 and wounding 20 in the first attack; killing 30 in the second one;

-- Jews blew up a train near Benjamina on March 31, 1948 killing 25 Palestinians and wounding 61;

-- al-Sarafand, April 5, 1948 - 16 Palestinians were killed and 12 wounded, most when a house was mortared;

-- Dier Yassin, April 9, 1948 - the Menachem Begin-led Irgun slaughtered well over 120 Palestinian men, women and children in a bloody rampage; The New York Times reported 254 killed on April 13; 53 orphaned children were dumped like trash along the wall of the Old City; homes were dynamited with inhabitants inside; people were shot at close range, including children; the massacre marked the beginning of what followed during Israel's "War of Independence:" depopulating 531 towns and villages; 11 urban neighborhoods; massacring or displacing 800,000 Palestinians; and committing countless rapes and other atrocities;" remember Dier Yassin; it, too, is immortalized;

-- Tel Litvinsky, April 19, 1948 - Jews killed 90 Palestinians;

-- Tiberias, April 19, 1948 - Jews blew up a home killing Palestinians inside;

-- Ayn al-Zaytun and nearby villages, May 1 - 4, 1948 - 27 Palestinians killed;

-- Acre, May 18, 1948 - Israeli troops killed over 100 Palestinians;

-- al-Kabri, May 20, 1948 - Israeli forces killed villagers and machine-gunned children who survived;

-- al-Tantura, May 22 - 23, 1948 - Israeli troops killed over 200 villagers, mostly unarmed young men shot in cold blood;

-- on May 26, 1948, David Ben-Gurion formed the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) from the Haganah;

-- Lydda, July 11 - 12, 1948 - the IDF killed several hundred civilians, including 80 machine-gunned inside the Dahmash mosque;

-- Elot, late July, 1948 - the IDF arrested 46 young men; on August 3, several were found dead, and 14 of those arrested were shot in cold blood in an olive grove - in full view of the villagers;

-- Suqrir, August 29, 1948 - the IDF killed 10 villagers;

-- Hula, Lebanon, October 24 - 29, 1948 - the IDF machine-gunned 50 villagers;

-- al-Dawayima, October 29, 1948 - the IDF killed up to 200 villagers;

-- Majd al-Kurum, October 30, 1948 - the IDF slaughtered 20 or more villagers in cold blood;

-- Saliha, October 30, 1948 - IDF forces blew up a house killing 94 Palestinians;

-- Sa'sa', October 30, 1948 - hundreds of Palestinians were slaughtered in cold blood; the entire village was expelled;

-- Nahf, October 31, 1948 - a brutal massacre was carried out of unknown numbers;

-- Khirbat al-Wa'ra al-Sawda, November 2, 1948 - the IDF killed 14 villagers;

-- Beit Jala, January 6, 1952 - seven Palestinians were slaughtered in cold blood;

-- Jerusalem, April 22, 1953 - the IDF killed 10 Palestinians;

-- Bureji Refugee Camp, August 28, 1953 - the IDF killed 20 Palestinians and wounded 62 others;

-- Qibya, Jordan, October 14, 1953 - Ariel Sharon's infamous Unit 101 killed 70 villagers;

-- Nahalin, Jordan, March 28, 1954 - the IDF killed nine Arabs and wounded 19;

-- Gaza City, April 5, 1956 - IDF shelling killed 56 and wounded 193;

-- Kafr Kassem, October 29, 1956 - the IDF killed about 50 men, women and children;

-- the Suez War, October 29 - November 7, 1956 - the IDF executed about 273 Egyptian soldiers and civilians in cold blood;

-- Khan Yunis, November 3, 1956 - the IDF killed dozens of civilians in cold blood;

-- Rafah Refugee Camp, November 12, 1956 - the IDF slaughtered over 100 Palestinians;

-- Nuqeibi, Syria, March 16 - 17, 1962 - IDF artillery and aircraft killed at least 30 unarmed villagers;

-- Samu, Jordan, November 13, 1966 - the IDF destroyed 125 houses, a school, clinic and 15 houses in a nearby village killing 18 and wounded 54 in cold blood;

-- the Six-Day War, June 5 - 11, 1967 - IDF forces preemptively and without cause attacked Egypt, Syria and Jordan; they massacred as many as 2000 helpless or captured Egyptian soldiers; killed about 340 Syrian villagers in the Golan Heights and displaced more than 300,000 Palestinians who fled to the Jordan River's east bank along with others to Lebanon, Egypt and Syria;

-- the USS Liberty incident, June 8, 1967 - Israeli forces attacked and killed 34 Americans and wounded 171 in international waters; a Department of Defense inquiry whitewashed it as a case of "mistaken identity" despite clear knowledge it was a willful attack on a US naval intelligence vessel;

-- Rafah Refugee Camp, June 1967 - the IDF killed 23 Palestinians and buried them in a mass grave;

-- following the Six Day War, June 1967, 56 Palestinians were shot in cold blood trying to cross the Jordan River to the West Bank;

-- February 21, 1973, the IDF shot down Libya Airlines Flight 114 killing 106 passengers, including one American;

-- Hebron, February 25, 1994 - Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 praying Palestinians;

-- the First (1987 - 1992) and Second (2000 - 2005) Intifadas - thousands of Palestinians were killed and injured during IDF rampages against them;

-- the 1982 Lebanon invasion and occupation; 18,000 Lebanese and Palestinians were killed, including 3000 massacred in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps;

-- Jenin, 2002 - the most infamous of numerous massacres during the Second Intifada; the IDF invaded the city and refugee camp; cut them off from outside help; destroyed hundreds of buildings; buried many alive in them under rubble; cut off power and water as well as food and other essential to life supplies; refused to allow in help, including medical aid; and killed and wounded dozens of Palestinian civilians; some accounts cite hundreds as Israeli forces swept up bodies and buried them to avoid an accurate count;

-- the summer 2006 33-day (Second) Lebanon War - the IDF inflicted mass terror attacks and destruction throughout the country; around 1300 were killed; many more were wounded; one million (or one-fourth of the population) were displaced; and most vital infrastructure was destroyed to bring the country to a halt;

-- the June 2006 Operation Summer Rain against Gaza; all border crossings were closed isolating the Territory and preventing essential to life supplies from getting in; air strikes and shellings were used; three main bridges were destroyed; the main water pipe for the Nusairat and al-Boreji refugee camps as well as the Strip's only power plant supplying 80% of the Territory's electricity; the IDF moved into Gaza and took control;

-- the assault followed a series of bloody Israeli attacks: a weekend beach shelling killing eight Palestinians, including seven members of one family; 32 others were injured, including 13 children; a highway missile attack killing 11 and injuring 30; another missile attack killing three children and wounding 15;

-- during the same period, the IDF conducted around 50 incursions into Palestinian West Bank communities; farmland was razed; homes were raided; dozens taken into custody, including children; on June 29, nearly the entire Hamas leadership was arrested, including eight cabinet ministers, 25 PLC members from the Change and Reform Party, and other Hamas officials.

Palestinians have endured all of the above and far more for over 60 years, 41 under occupation:

-- many thousands of Palestinians were killed, injured, imprisoned, and tortured; since 1967, over 700,000 have been incarcerated; the great majority are tortured; many are held uncharged in administrative detention; anywhere from 10 - 12,000 Palestinians or more remain in prison at all times;

-- rampaging military incursions occur repeatedly throughout Occupied Palestine; in November 2007 alone, 786 West Bank raids were conducted; several Palestinians were killed; dozens wounded; and around 400 arrested; in addition, public and private properties were damaged; crops destroyed; land seized; curfews imposed; and free movement was and remains severely restricted;

-- in addition, settlement expansions seize West Bank land; the Separation Wall is taking another 10%; Palestinians have few rights, and since Hamas won a January 2006 PLC majority none at all in Gaza; desperation now plagues them with the Territory under siege, and approaches disaster since Israel launched late December terror bombings and ground and offshore attacks.

Professor Joseph Massad on Gaza Under Attack

Columbia University Professor and Middle East expert Joseph Massad, a Palestinian American, wrote this about Israel's Gaza attack and invasion:

-- "Since 2006, Arab regimes, neoliberal Arab intellectuals (in America and elsewhere), as well as (Fatah under president Mahmoud Abbas and appointed prime minister Salam Fayyad) reached an understanding that only Israel will be able to save them from Hizbollah and Hamas, both organizations constituting a threat to the open alliance Arab regimes have with the US and Israel against Iran and all progressive forces in the region;"

-- "A veritable open alliance now exists between (Fatah), Arab regimes, and Israel (with neoliberal intellectual Arab support), wherein Israel is subcontracted to decimate the Hamas government - the only democratically elected government in the entire Arab world," and therein lies its problem; Washington and Israel won't tolerate democracies; they want repressive regimes they can control; Fatah is a collaborationist ally; Abbas and Fayyad its quisling leadership; Massad calls this "treachery;" it and other Arab regimes "rule by terror and fear;"

-- Israel's carnage is its latest attempt "to ensure that all Arabs and all Palestinians are ruled by dictators and never by democratically elected officials;" Fatah and world powers approve; nonetheless, Palestinians "understand very well that Abbas, his clique, the Arab regimes, the US and Europe are all culpable in their slaughter" as is Israel; they're all "co-conspirators and active partners in crime."

The IDF performs admirably against defenseless civilians. The aftermath, however, is another matter. "Palestinian determination" is strong enough to make Fatah and Abbas "losers" provided popular resistance won't let Israel conquer populations, steal their land, destroy their livelihoods, imprison them in ghettos, and starve them into submission.

For the last century, Zionists haven't learned that "the Palestinian yearning for freedom (can't) be extinguished no matter how barbaric Israel's crimes become," how collaborationist are other Arab regimes, or how traitorous are some of their own people like Fatah. "The Gaza Ghetto Uprising will" continue their proud resistance never to "accept the legitimacy of a racist European colonial settlement in their midst."

Collaborationist Fatah West Bank Crackdowns

On January 8, AP reported that with Gaza fighting raging, West Bank police violently suppressed pro-Gaza demonstrations. "It's as if Gaza has become another country," said university student Mohammed Akram standing next to pictures showing injured Gazans. "You watch TV and see an entire family killed by a missile," said Hossam Salim. "They're not militants or Hamas or anything."

Other reports said PA police assaulted street demonstrators, focusing mainly on anyone carrying Hamas green flags. Violence and arrests followed as Abbas won't let street protests become large, persistent, or openly hostile to Israel. Demonstrators were shocked that police attacked them for supporting their own people in Gaza. Abbas has orders to crack down, and some say he's "on the side of the Jews."

The Jerusalem Post highlights a Fatah - IDF "Iron Fist" policy, a massive crackdown, against all opposition. Reporters and photographers are threatened and assaulted. It's too early to tell, but Massad believes this may backfire and defeat Abbas.

The New York Times may agree. In a January 14 article, correspondent Isabel Kershner headlined: "War on Hamas Saps Palestinian Leaders." She says Fatah and Abbas "seem increasingly beleaguered and marginalized, even in the Palestinian cities....they control....The more bombs in Gaza, the more Hamas' support (grows) at the expense of the (PA)." It wants control over Gaza, but according to Palestinian analyst Ghassan Khatib: "How can it make gains in a war in which it is one of the casualties?"

As a result, Hamas (like Hezbollah in Lebanon) is more popular than ever - among their own people and the Arab street. They represent popular resistance against colonial rule and complicit Arab regimes. If history is a guide, oppression in the end won't work. It provokes anger, dissent and revolt, then liberation. Palestinian unity must denounce Fatah and Abbas, back Hamas, support its popular resistance, and continue struggling for peace, social justice, self-determination, and freedom.

Israeli Human Rights Violations in a Typical Week

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) compiles them daily for its weekly report. It's disturbing reading even without conflict and affects the West Bank as well as Gaza. Palestine is under military occupation. It's oppressive, illegal and continuous for the past 41 years.

PCHR gives detailed daily accounts of the Gaza slaughter. It also reports on Israel's West Bank oppression with collaborationist Fatah PA (Palestinian Authority) help. Abbas blamed Hamas for the violence, and prime minister Salam Fayyad said nothing to condemn it for the first 13 days of fighting. Afterwards, he made tepid comments, more indicative of complicity than condemnation. Why so? He's a former IMF and World Bank official with no standing among his people. In the 2006 PLC elections, he got 2.4% of the vote as a measure of his illegitimacy. He and Abbas are Israeli tools, enforcers, with considerable Western aid and weapons.

PCHR's West Bank report states:

"IOF (Israeli Occupation Forces) have continued to impose severe restrictions on (free movement), including (in) occupied East Jerusalem." It cites hundreds of checkpoints, roadblocks, closed and controlled roads, and the illegal "Annexation Wall" that will stretch 724 kilometers when finished. It mentions continued assaults, killings, harassments, searches, neighborhood incursions, arrests, and numerous other indignities against a traumatized people like Gazans:

-- two-thirds of West Bank roads between Palestinian communities are closed and/or fully militarized; 500 kilometers of roads are restricted;

-- one-third of the West Bank, including Occupied East Jerusalem, is off-limits to Palestinians without a military permit; very few are available;

-- from January 8 - 14, six Palestinians, including two women were arrested at checkpoints;

-- on January 8 in Hebron, Israeli forces raided homes; arrested two brothers; and shot and killed Ibrahim Shamlawi in cold blood;

-- the IDF fired on al-Fawar refugee camp demonstrators wounding two, including a child;

-- on January 9 in Madama village southwest of Nablus, the IDF raided homes and arrested three men plus another in Nablus;

-- another man was arrested in Qabatya village, southeast of Jenin; homes were raided and searched;

-- in two East Jerusalem areas, Israeli police, border guards and undercover units fired rubber-coated bullets, tear gas and sound bombs on young men and children demonstrating; dozens of children were treated for tear gas inhalation;

- in Hawara village, south of Nablus, Beit Ummar village, north of Hebron, and southern Hebron, the IDF fired on demonstrators, wounded five men and one child, and arrested two others;

-- on January 10 in Azmout village, northeast of Nablus, homes were raided and searched;

-- in Sa'ir village, northeast of Hebron, the IDF fired on demonstrators, wounding three;

-- on January 11 in Beit al-Roush village, southwest of Hebron, homes were raided and searched;

-- in Askar refugee camp, northeast of Nablus, more homes were raided, searched and one man was arrested;

-- on January in Beit Ummar village, north of Hebron, homes were raided, searched, and two men were arrested;

-- in Sa'ir village, northeast of Hebron, homes were raided, searched, and one young teenager was arrested, age 14;

-- on January 13 near Kiryat Arba settlement and Jouhar Mount in east Hebron, dozens of homes were raided and searched;

-- in Dura village, southwest of Hebron, homes were raided, searched and two men arrested;

-- in Beit Oula village, northwest of Hebron, homes were raided, searched and one man arrested;

-- in Ethna village, northwest of Hebron, the IDF shot and killed one man while he was farming his land; according to witnesses, he was handcuffed, blindfolded, and violently beaten for hours, then fired on and killed at point blank range;

-- on January 14 in Awa village, southwest of Hebron, homes were raided, searched and six men arrested;

-- in Sa'ir village, northeast of Hebron, homes were raided, searched and one teenager arrested; and

-- in Kufor Qallil village, east of Nablus, homes were raided, searched and another teenager arrested.

On January 19 (for next week's PCHR's report), sources indicate that the IDF "kidnapped seven Palestinian civilians" during morning pre-dawn West Bank city and town invasions.

Under military occupation, this is daily West Bank life today made harsher by oppressive Fatah security enforcement for Israel. New checkpoints, restrictions, curfews, and other measures are imposed at any time - against peaceful, non-combatant civilians. Palestinians live in daily fear of being harassed, arrested, tortured, or killed. Under siege and terror attacks, conditions in Gaza are worse, but no place in Occupied Palestine is safe, "ceasefire," or no "ceasefire."

Gaza Aggression Timeline

On December 27 without cause, Israeli aircraft launched terror bombings on Gaza - not coincidentally timed for when children were leaving and arriving at school. Relentless round-the-clock attacks have continued for over three weeks. Ceasefire negotiations continue. Under immense pressure and with US collaboration, IDF assaults may pause. This section reviews the timeline.

December 27 - Day One:

At 11:25AM, an initial "shock and awe" attack was launched with 60 aircraft hitting 50 targets simultaneously. By early afternoon, over 100 tons of bombs had fallen. Around 230 deaths were reported and 400 injured, many seriously. Most victims were civilians, many women and children. The same pattern continues daily. From 80 - 90% of casualties are non-combatants according to medical authorities and three human rights organizations on the ground. News reports and independent observers called December 27 the bloodiest day in Occupied Palestine since the 1967 Six Day War.

Day Two

Deaths rose to about 300, injuries to around 900. Dozens of round-the-clock sorties were flown plus helicopter and naval vessel attacks and tanks shellings from inside Israel. Targets from the start included government buildings, the parliament building, police stations, roads, a main water pipe, fuel tanks, schools, the Islamic University of Gaza, mosques, power facilities, sewage systems, TV stations, fishing boats, animal farms, charities, a mental health center, pharmacies, the main prison, ambulances, medical storage warehouses, private dwellings, commercial buildings, workshops, the control room of a telecommunications company - Gaza's entire infrastructure network and civilian neighborhoods. The Territory is being reduced to dysfunction and ruin. The idea is to render Hamas impotent and let Fatah control all Occupied Palestine.

Day Three

Around 335 deaths and 1400 injured have been counted. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights(PCHR) reported that dozens of missiles hit "civilian facilities and mosques in densely populated areas (including refugee camps). In (one) very horrible crime (over night to early early morning), 22 Palestinian children were killed or wounded" while asleep at home.

Day Four

Deaths are up to 360. Injuries exceed 1400. PCHR reported that 23 private homes so far were bombed and 37 other civilian facilities.

Day Five

Deaths are now 390 and 1600 injured. PCHR reported that Israel "used fighter jets, helicopter gunships, drones and gunboats to launch hundreds of barbarian indiscriminate raids....with disregard for the (welfare), security and safety of the (entire) civilian population (and) vital services" they need. The humanitarian situation is "desperate."

Day Six

By New Year's day, deaths were up to 400 with 1700 injured.

Day Seven

Death and injury tolls mount - up to 420 killed and 1850 wounded, many so seriously they won't survive. Senior Hamas resistance leader Dr. Nizar Rayan was killed at home along with his wife and 11 of his children. PCHR reported that in the last 24 hours aircraft bombed and completely destroyed eight homes and a family meeting hall in Gaza City, 11 others in northern Gaza plus dozens of badly damaged neighboring homes in both locations. Six more were destroyed in central Gaza and three in Rafah. In the first seven days, 66 private homes were destroyed and their inhabitants killed or wounded.

Day Eight

Around 100 children and women so far were killed. More private homes and refugee camps are targeted. The New York Times reported that "Israeli tanks and troops swept across the border into Gaza on Saturday night opening a ground war....after a week of intense airstrikes."

Day Nine

Around 455 deaths are reported and 2300 injured. In one horrific incident, aircraft bombed a Jabalya mosque in northern Gaza killing 15 civilians, four children, and injuring 27 others. Ambulances trying to reach the wounded are attacked. AP reported that "Israeli ground troops and tanks cut swarths through the Gaza Strip on early Sunday, cutting the (Territory) into two and surrounding its biggest city (as the offensive) gained momentum."

Day Ten

Deaths reached 510. Injuries exceeded 2300. Daily counts are the best estimates. PCHR reported that Israeli forces pushed deeper into Gaza and fighting was intense in "densely populated residential areas;" whole families have been killed in attacks, many inside their homes.

Day Eleven

Deaths total 600 and injuries around 2400, including 130 children, 33 women and six medical personnel according to PCHR. Its investigations show "at least 90%" of Palestinian killed in the past few days are civilians. Everything is coming under fire. Israeli tanks shelled an UNWRA school used as a shelter killing at least 40 civilians inside. No place is safe. There's nowhere to hide. Gaza is totally isolated, surrounded, and cut off.

Day Twelve

Deaths jumped to 660 and injuries to 2800. The entire Strip is bombarded. Everything is targeted, including medical personnel and journalists. The enormity of the crimes is appalling. International community silence is shameful. Mass killing and destruction continue. No relief so far is in sight.

Day Thirteen

Deaths exceeded 700, including 169 children and 46 women. Injuries hit 3000. PCHR reported that even hospitals are attacked.

Day Fourteen

Deaths reached 760 and injuries around 3100. Thus far, 189 children, 50 women and six medical personnel have been killed.

Day Fifteen

The death toll hit 800. Injuries topped 3100. PCHR reported that the IDF "continued to attack and obstruct the work of medical, civil defense crews and humanitarian relief crews....(Israel) intends to cause maximum deaths and casualties among Palestinian civilians, and maximum destruction to their property."

Day Sixteen

Deaths numbered 852 with injuries up to 3200. PCHR reported that bombings against residential neighborhoods have been relentless, and ground operations expanded into more Palestinian towns, villages and residential areas. The IDF is using incendiary white phosphorous bombs "against civilians." They're shelling them with "flaming objects that explode into potentially lethal shrapnel while releasing suffocating white smoke." Severe burns to the bone, spasms, serious breathing difficulties, severed limbs, and other injuries are reported, many life-threatening.

Targeting civilians with white phosphorous (called Willy Pete) is illegal. It works by interacting with oxygen to produce fire and smoke for use as smokescreens or as a terror weapon. It's an incendiary like napalm and thermites. As a weapon, it can destroy an enemy's equipment, limit vision, or burn flesh to the bone. Exposure to the smoke can also cause liver, kidney, heart, lung, other organ damage and death. Ingesting it causes throat and lung blistering until victims suffocate while phosphorous burns their insides. Israeli forces are using this against civilians along with other terror weapons.

They're also forcing people from their homes, holding them in detention, treating them inhumanely, denying them food and water, and using them as human shields during clashes with Palestinian resistance fighters. Amnesty International's Israeli investigator Donatella Rovera told the London Guardian that:

"It's standard practice for Israeli soldiers to go into a house, lock up the family in a room on the ground floor, and use the rest of the house as a military base, as a sniper's position. That is the absolute textbook case of human shields." Other instances involved forcing Gazans at gunpoint to precede them into buildings to shield them from possible attack. The 1907 Hague Regulations and Fourth Geneva Convention prohibit these practices. Its Article 27 states:

"Protected (non-combatant) persons are entitled, in all circumstances, to respect for their persons....They shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence...."

Its Article 28 states:

"The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points immune from military operations." Civilians may not be placed alongside soldiers or military facilities to deter attacks on them.

Articles 31 and 51 also prohibit use of physical or moral coercion to force civilians to perform military tasks. Nonetheless, Israel uses these tactics repeatedly in defiance of its own High Court ruling against them.

Day Seventeen

Deaths reached 885 and injuries 3900. Indiscriminate attacks continued. The great majority of casualties are civilians. At least 211 are children.

On January 12, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC - the successor body to its Commission on Human Rights) passed a Cuba-sponsored resolution condemning Israel's aggression and recommending international observers investigate atrocities on the ground. The vote was 33 ayes, one nay (Canada), and 13 abstentions by Germany, represented EU nations, South Korea, Switzerland, and others. Countries in support included Russia, China, Brazil and Argentina. America isn't a member.

Day Eighteen

Deaths hit 910 and injuries 4250.

Day Nineteen

Terror bombings and savage ground attacks continued round-the-clock. The Palestinian Health Ministry reported that confirmed deaths passed 1000 and over 4580 have been injured, many seriously with hundreds "clinically" dead. A Gaza City municipal facility was struck by a blast described as enormous. A central Gaza City cemetery was also hit spreading body parts and rotting flesh over a wide area and simultaneously destroying homes in Sheikh Radwan. Jabaliya Refugee camp was targeted with deaths reported, and Israeli tanks continue to shell houses in densely populated areas.

Entire neighborhoods have been leveled. Agricultural land has been razed. Attacks continue night and day. PCHR cites the "massive forced internal displacement of the civilian population of Gaza City" and other targeted areas.

Reuters, Haaretz, and the Egyptian news agency MENA reported that with changes Hamas may be ready to accept an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire. Hamas leader Salah Al-Bardawil praised Egypt's initiative as "the only one calling for an immediate stop to Israeli aggression."

Hamas representative in Lebanon Osama Hamdan told Al-Jazeera that changes still must be made. "There are still points of difference" so far unresolved. "The initiative in its present form does not realize the (Palestinian national) interest. Specific points have to be changed....We believe there is no initiative which cannot be modified or changed."

Key sticking points remain, including Israel wanting Fatah (the PA) in charge of administering Gaza's reconstruction and controlling its borders - essentially empowering the Abbas - Fayyad government in Gaza as well as the West Bank and neutralizing Hamas.

Other problems also exist, according to Deputy chairman of Hamas' Political Bureau, Moussa Abu Marzouk. He told Al-Arabiya television that:

"Israel did not abide by any of the previous truce conditions, and therefore there must be a short and pre-defined period between each stage that would allow us to evaluate the situation and agree to move on to the next stage."

In addition, Abbas' presidential term expired on January 9. He claims the right to retain it for another year until January 2010 parliamentary elections are held. Hamas disagrees and no longer recognizes him as president. Its spokesman, Mushir al-Masri said: "He's in power only because the Israelis and Americans want him to stay."

Either way, Hamas PLC representative Salah al-Bardawil said ceasefire negotiations seek the following goals: ending Israel's aggression; withdrawing all Israeli troops from Gaza; lifting the siege; reopening border crossings, rehabilitating the Strip, and compensating Gaza residents for the damage. From Damascus, Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal offered the same terms and said: "We will not accept any political movement that doesn't satisfy these demands."

White House spokesperson Dana Perino said: "We have every right to be skeptical of things that you see in the newspaper reported about Hamas. And so I think we need to wait and see what actually happens. And as things develop, we'll comment from there." A State Department official added that Hamas hasn't met ceasefire terms. "It's not a done deal. There are a number of Hamas conditions that (have) to be dealt with." It's clear that means empowering Fatah and neutralizing Hamas.

Day Twenty

Haaretz: "Gaza City hospital (Al-Quds) in flames after hit in Hamas-IDF fighting." Thousands of Palestinians fled in fear as Israeli tanks stormed the city and shelled it, including randomly on residential areas. At the same time, terror bombings continued round the clock. Before midday, confirmed deaths reached 1097 (including 335 children) plus around 5000 injured (including 400 children). Over 400 of the injured are in critical condition.

Israeli aircraft bombed UNWRA headquarters, injuring three employees and attacked two other hospitals from the air and ground. The IDF surrounded Al-Aqsa Hospital, according to volunteers inside. No one can get in or out. Reuters also reported that a media compound was attacked. Several injuries were reported. An IDF spokesperson said attacks will continue despite reports that Hamas may be near accepting an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire.

Hamas confirmed that its Interior Minister, Sa'ed Sayam and six others (including his son, brother and internal security department chief, Saleh Abu Sharekh) were killed when Israeli aircraft bombed his home.

Gaza Professor Said Abdelwahed emailed that his "neighborhood is under total control of Israeli army tanks, infantry and others after 13 hours of bombing and raiding. Snipers are outside (his) door." His later emailed included photos of his building that was damaged by shelling.

At the same time, Israeli gunboats intercepted another mercy ship (the Spirit of Humanity) in international waters. On board were doctors, journalists, European parliament members, and desperately needed medical supplies.

Bolivian President Evo Morales joined Hugo Chavez in severing diplomatic ties with Israel and said he'll ask the International Criminal Court to bring "genocide" charges against its government. He also denounced UN inaction and called for Shimon Peres to be stripped of his Nobel Peace Prize for supporting the slaughter.

Reports say the IDF "kidnapped" five West Bank Palestinians in pre-dawn raids, 60 more in Hebron since January 1, and others in Jenin and elsewhere. At the same time, foreign minister Livni "urge(d) the Red Cross (ICRC) to press Hamas for access to (the captured Israeli soldier) Gilad Shalit," according to "News Agencies" reports. She rises to new heights of hypocrisy.

While Gaza attacks continue, the Lebanese daily Al Safir reported a build-up of Israeli tanks, military vessels and Apache helicopters on its border:

"The Israeli army has mobilized its troops along the (southern) border from the western Lebanese village of Naqurah to the southern border village of Al Wazzani." As a result, the Lebanese army and Hezbollah are on high alert, and why not. Lebanon may be next according to Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya's January 18 "Israel's Next War" article on Global Research.ca. He cites reports that:

"This war is already in the advanced planning stage. In November 2008....the Israeli military held drills for a two-front war against Lebanon and Syria called Shiluv Zro'ot III (Crossing Arms III). The military exercise included a massive simulated invasion of both Syria and Lebanon. (Earlier), Tel Aviv also warned Beirut that it would declare war on the whole of Lebanon and not just Hezbollah."

Given Israel's past aggression on the country, this threat must be taken seriously. It may also be Obama's baptism of fire proof that permanent "wars on terror" will continue on his watch - against Lebanon, perhaps Iran, Syria, Pakistan, and so forth to solidify US hegemony while diverting attention from the collapsing the domestic economy.

Day Twenty-One

Casualties keep mounting. The latest confirmed death toll is 1133. Over 5150 have been injured. Israel is using Egypt to pressure Hamas to surrender. Abbas is on board in support. Khaled Meshal said never. "Israel will not be able to destroy our resistance, and the United States will not be able to dictate us their rules." They don't negotiate, they demand.

Hamas' spokesman in Lebanon, Usama Hamdan, said it will ignore an Israeli unilateral ceasefire agreement. "Either we hear what we have demanded or the result will be the continuation of the confrontation on the ground."

Meanwhile, reports claim Israeli forces are shooting Gazans waving white flags. On January 13, B'Tselem stated:

"Munir Shafik a-Najar (said) the army has been demolishing houses in his area." They use gunfire and loudspeakers ordering people out of their homes. "Rawhiya a-Najar stepped out of her house waving a white flag" and was shot in the head. Others were ordered to a school in a village center and were shot in cold blood. Casualties included three dead and many wounded.

General Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann called Israel's assault "genocide" and told Al-Jazeera that he never believed the Security Council would do a thing. How can it with Washington vetoing all resolutions against Israel.

Day Twenty-Two

Confirmed deaths reached 1205. Injuries top 5300 with hundreds in critical condition. Six people were killed, including a woman and two of her children, when aircraft fired missiles at an UNWRA Beit Lahyia school used as a shelter. White phosphorous incendiaries and DIME weapons (that shred flesh to pieces) were used in the fourth attack on a UN school. In each case, Israel had the coordinates, knew the facilities were shelters, and shelled them anyway. Haaretz reported that a UN official wants "an investigation into possible war crimes...and that anyone who is guilty should be brought to justice."

In similar instances, Israel accuses Hamas of firing from schools, mosques, and civilian neighborhoods - the blame game, always against the victims to absolve the aggressor.

Meanwhile, Israel's cabinet will consider a "unilateral" ceasefire, according to Haaretz (and then declared it), in the wake of Washington and Tel Aviv signing a Friday agreement to:

-- "work cooperatively with neighbors....to prevent the supply of arms and related material to terrorist organizations....with a particular focus on" Gaza and Hamas;

-- NATO partners will be involved;

-- enhanced "US security and intelligence cooperation with regional governments" will as well;

-- enhanced "existing international sanctions and enforcement mechanisms" also;

-- "the United States and Israel will assist each other in these efforts" through intelligence sharing;

-- "the United States will accelerate its efforts to provide logistical and technical assistance and to train and equip regional security forces....;" and more.

In other words, Washington will reward Israeli aggression and war crimes with more aid and support. After a Tizpi Livni - Condoleezza Rice Washington meeting, the deal was done, but according to Livni, "If Hamas shoots, we'll have to continue. And if it shoots later on, we'll have to embark on another campaign."

For now, however, it appears that Israel and the Bush administration will quiet things down for the January 20 transition of power. Call it a "no-ceasefire" ceasefire, a pause, a conditional one, not a meaningful cessation of hostilities. Gaza is still occupied, under siege, isolated and alone. The Palestinian liberation struggle continues.

Day Twenty-Three

Overnight, Israel, as expected, announced a "no-ceasefire" ceasefire (beginning 2AM January 18), but vowed to assess the situation "minute-by-minute (and) respond with force" freely at any time. No Hamas demands were met. The occupation and siege continue. Borders will stay closed. Gaza remains isolated. The IDF keeps killing civilians. New deaths and injuries are reported. Corpses are being unearthed under rubble. The official known death toll exceeds 1300 but will rise considerably as new bodies are discovered.

Among the dead - 417 children, 108 women, 120 elderly, 14 medical personnel, and at least four journalists. Injuries exceed 5450. Dr. Muawiya Hassanen of the Palestinian Ministry of Health said dozens are still missing and believed dead.

Israel's Channel 10 reported that the IDF used half its air force over the past three weeks. It flew over 2500 sorties, dropped over 1000 tons of explosives plus tanks, artillery and navel vessels fired hundreds of shells from land and sea. Nonetheless, Hamas held firm and vows to resist until Gaza is free. Spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said:

"A unilateral ceasefire does not mean ending the aggression and ending the siege. These constitute acts of war so this won't mean an end to resistance." Nonetheless, on January 18, Hamas official in Cairo, Ayman Taha, announced a temporary ceasefire to "give Israel a week to withdraw," open all border crossings, and allow in "all materials, food, goods, and basic needs." Other Gaza resistance groups, except the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), agreed to honor the truce. It rejects a ceasefire, insists that "Israeli attack(s are) continuing," and said "armed resistance (will) continue as long as there is one Israeli soldier in Gaza."

For now, explosions are still heard in parts of the Strip. Reports also say shells hit a group of Rafah residents, and white phosphorous bombs struck the At-Tuffah neighborhood in eastern Gaza City. Also an attack helicopter shot at civilians in Jabaliya. So much for the "ceasefire" that can start and stop as Israel chooses in spite of Israeli Channel 10 reporting Israeli tanks and soldiers redeploying from deep inside Gaza positions. Israeli aircraft are still active overhead and naval vessels control coastal areas

Medical crews report "horrifying scenes" of dead bodies "found in pieces." Many are women and children. Images reveal mass destruction, death and despair.

New York Times Apologetics for Israeli War Crimes

On January 16, Jerusalem-based Steven Erlanger headlined: "Weighing Crimes and Ethics in the Fog of Urban Warfare" in typical New York Times fashion. Poor Israel. Despite three weeks of round the clock war crimes against isolated, beleaguered, and defenseless civilians, he quotes Israeli spokesman, Mark Regev saying that the IDF makes every effort "Not to target civilians, not to target UN people, not to target medical staff. All this is very clear in Israeli military doctrine" in spite of clear contradictory evidence.

Tel Aviv University's Asa Kashar helped write Israel's military ethical code. Erlanger cites him calling the IDF's ethical and legal standards high and conscientiously taught to its military. Another unnamed Israeli chief army legal officer as well saying war crimes charges are "deeply unfair and unjust."

He dismisses attacks on civilian neighborhoods, hospitals, ambulances, mosques, schools, UN shelters, Gaza's entire infrastructure, and civilians with no weapons waving white cloths. He cites Israeli claims of being attacked and responding, with no evidence to prove it. He quotes Israeli officials denying collective punishment and claiming no humanitarian crisis exists. He mentions Major Dallal saying: the fundamental question is "How does an army fight a terrorist group?"

Most fundamental is how The New York Times fronts for Israel, conceals its state terrorism, war crimes, and Washington's complicity in their commission.

A Final Comment

So far, it hardly matters whether or not a ceasefire holds. What does matter is growing world outrage, millions globally condemning Israeli terrorism, and potentially gathering enough momentum to matter. It's crucial to maintain pressure, demand Israeli war criminals be punished, and build a world movement for sanctions, divestment, boycott, isolation and UN General Assembly expulsion until Israel complies with international law, ends the Gaza siege, the occupation of Palestine, makes just restitution, grants Palestinians self-determination, and is held accountable before the International Criminal Court or a special tribunal for Israel.

On July 9, 2005, the Global BDS Movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) called for action until Israel "complies with international law and universal principles of human rights." It's long past time to stop inaction, timidity, and weak-kneed indecisiveness.

Since its illegitimate May 14, 1948 birth, Israel defiled the rule of law, abused its neighbors, committed genocide against the Palestinians, stole their land and future, and affronted all humanity with its arrogance. It's high time these practices end and Israel be held to account. If not now, when? If not by us, who? If that's not incentive enough, what is?

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday through Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions on world and national topics with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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