Monday, February 23, 2009

[ePalestine] Amnesty International urges freeze on arms sales to Israel [A MUST READ + ACTION ITEM]

Dear friends,

Sadly, it has taken 60 years and 1,300+ (the killing continues) additional loss of lives in Gaza to get to this point, nevertheless, this is an opening we must support.  It is the same track I mentioned in my last op-ed, End the Occupation First .

The newly released Amnesty report noted in the two articles below may be downloaded from ePalestine, since I could not find it on Amnesty's website:

Every legislator in the world and every newspaper editorial and letters page in the world should be making the call to support an arms embargo on Israel.  Please act now and make this report known in your community. Organize, Organize, Organize: For Results.

Stop the Arms, Save the Children, All the Children,


w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m 

Last update - 07:48 23/02/2009 
Amnesty International urges freeze on arms sales to Israel 
By Amira Hass 

More than 20 countries sold Israel weapons and munitions whose use during Operation Cast Lead could constitute war crimes and might pose serious infractions of international law, according to a report to be released by Amnesty International on Monday. 

The United States is at the top of the list of arms exporters to Israel, but France, Romania, Bosnia and Serbia are listed as well. Amnesty's report, entitled, " Fueling Conflict: Foreign Arms supplies to Israel/Gaza," details arms sales to Israel between 2004 and 2007, and publishes some of the organization's findings on the use of such weapons against civilians and civilian targets. 

"Direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects, disproportionate attacks and indiscriminate attacks are war crimes," the report states, describing such attacks during the war in Gaza. The organization recommends that all arms sales to Israel be frozen until "there is no longer a substantial risk that such equipment will be used for serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses." 

The report further noted that Hamas and other Palestinian groups also used weapons indiscriminately against civilians. Although Amnesty cannot determine the direct supplier of non-homemade weapons (which are manufactured in Iran and Russia), it also calls for a moratorium on weapons sales and shipments to the Palestinians. The report also mentions that the types and quantity of weapons in Hamas' hands are much smaller than those in Israel's possession. 

"Even before the three-week conflict, those who armed the two sides will have been aware of the pattern of repeated misuse of weapons by the parties. They must take some responsibility for the violations perpetrated with the weapons they have supplied and should immediately cease further transfers," the report states." 

Since 2001, the Unites States has been Israel's main supplier of conventional weapons, the report states. The figures Amnesty obtained show that from 2004 to 2007, the total value of U.S.-supplied arms to Israel stood at some $8.3 billion. 

The report also notes that since 2002, Israel has received military and security aid to the tune of $21 billion, of which $19 billion was direct military aid. "Put simply, Israel's military intervention in the Gaza Strip has been equipped to a large extent by U.S.-supplied weapons, munitions and military equipment paid for with U.S. taxpayers' money." 

A 10-year agreement, in force until 2017, stipulates that the United States will supply Israel with military aid totaling $30 billion. 

"The Obama administration should immediately suspend U.S. military aid to Israel," Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's Middle East director, said ahead of the report's release. 

Between 2004 to 2007, France exported military equipment to Israel to the tune of 59 million Euros. Romania exported equipment worth approximately 20 million Euros, while Britain provided the equivalent of some 10 million pounds sterling's worth. Serbia sold Israel approximately $15 million worth of weapons and munitions, whereas Germany provided some $1.5 million in military aid. 

The report also mentions civilian targets, including The American School in Beit Lahia, Gaza, destroyed by F-16 aircraft. Amnesty's report further states that three ambulance crew- members and a boy who showed them the way to a group of injured were killed on January 4 by an Israeli guided missile that was manufactured jointly by Hellfire Systems and Lockheed Martin/Boeing as part of a U.S. military contract. 

The Amnesty representative in the Gaza Strip also found extensive evidence of the use of U.S.-made phosphorus bombs against civilian targets and densely populated areas. 


Amnesty International urges Barack Obama to suspend military aid to Israel 

Amnesty International has called for a global arms embargo to be placed on Israel following the recent Gaza conflict. 

Last Updated: 12:44AM GMT 23 Feb 2009 

The human rights group said it found evidence that Israel and Hamas had both used weapons supplied from overseas to carry out attacks on civilians, accusing both sides of committing war crimes during the three-week conflict at the start of the year. It accused Israel of using white phosphorous and other weapons from the US and said Barack Obama had a "particular obligation" to suspend military aid over their use. 

Amnesty called for the UN Security Council to enact an arms embargo until mechanisms were put in place to ensure that equipment was not used to commit violations of international law. 

"Israeli forces used white phosphorus and other weapons supplied by the USA to carry out serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes," said Donatella Rovera, who headed an Amnesty fact-finding mission to southern Israel and Gaza. 

"Their attacks resulted in the death of hundreds of children and other civilians, and massive destruction of homes and infrastructure." 

The report also said Hamas and other Palestinian groups should be subject to the embargo because they had committed war crimes by attacking Israeli towns with rockets. 

"Though far less lethal than the weaponry used by Israel, such rocket firing also constitutes a war crime and caused several civilian deaths," Ms Rovera said. 

Both sides have dismissed the report. 

Amnesty said it had found fragments and components of artillery, tank shells, mortar fins and airborne missiles and bombs in school playgrounds, hospitals and homes in Gaza. 

In southern Israel it found remains of rockets fired indiscriminately at civilian areas by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups. 

"We urge the UN Security Council to impose an immediate and comprehensive arms embargo on Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups until effective mechanisms are found to ensure that munitions and other military equipment are not used to commit serious violations of international law," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty's Middle East director. 

"In addition all states should suspend all transfers of military equipment, assistance and munitions to Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups until there is no longer a substantial risk of human rights violations. 

"There must be no return to business as usual, with the predictably devastating consequences for civilians in Gaza and Israel." 

The release of the report came as hundreds of travellers left blockaded Gaza for Egypt, in one of the sporadic openings that enable students, patients and others with Egyptian visas to cross the border. 

About 1,000 university students and holders of foreign residency permits were eligible to cross, and by mid-afternoon Sunday, about 600 people had made the trip, border officials said. 


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Friday, February 20, 2009

[ePalestine] Ship of Fools (By Paul Craig Roberts) [A SOBER READ INTO USA]

Wednesday February 11, 2009 

Ship of Fools 
By Paul Craig Roberts 

Is there intelligent life in Washington, D.C.? Not a speck of it. 

The U.S. economy is imploding, and Obama is being led by his government of neconservatives and Israeli agents into a quagmire in Afghanistan that will bring the United States into confrontation with Russia and possibly China, American's largest creditor. 

The January payroll job figures reveal that every day last month, 20,000 Americans lost their jobs. 

In addition, December's job losses were revised up by 53,000 jobs from 524,000 to 577,000. The revision brings the two-month job loss to 1,175,000. If this keeps up, Obama's promised 3 million new jobs will be wiped out by job losses. 

Statistician John Williams ( reports that this huge number is an understatement. Williams notes that built-in biases in seasonal adjustment factors caused a 118,000 understatement of January job losses, bringing the actual January job loss to 716,000 jobs. 

The payroll survey counts the number of jobs, not the number of employed, as some people have more than one job. The Household Survey counts the number of people who have jobs. The Household Survey shows that 832,000 people lost their jobs in January and 806,000 in December, for a two-month reduction of Americans with jobs of 1,638,000. 

The unemployment rate reported in the U.S. media is a fabrication. Williams reports that "during the Clinton administration, 'discouraged workers' — those who had given up looking for a job because there were no jobs to be had — were redefined so as to be counted only if they had been 'discouraged' for less than a year. This time qualification defined away the bulk of the discouraged workers. Adding them back into the total unemployed, actual unemployment (according to the unemployment rate methodology used in 1980) rose to 18 percent in January, from 17.5 percent in December." 

In other words, without all the manipulations of the data from a government that lies to us every time it opens its mouth, the U.S. unemployment rate is already at depression levels. 

How could it be otherwise, given the enormous job loss from offshored jobs? It is impossible for a country to create jobs when its corporations are moving production for the American consumer market offshore. When they move the production offshore, they shift U.S. gross domestic product to other countries. The U.S. trade deficit over the past decade has reduced U.S. GDP by $1.5 trillion dollars. That is a lot of jobs. 

I have been reporting for years that American university graduates have had to take jobs as waitresses and bartenders. As over-indebted American consumers lose their jobs, they will visit restaurants and bars less frequently. Consequently, Americans with university degrees will not even have jobs waiting on tables and mixing drinks. 

U.S. policymakers have ignored the fact that consumer demand in the 21st century has been driven not by increases in real income, but by increased consumer indebtedness. This fact makes it pointless to try to stimulate the economy by bailing out banks so that they can lend more to consumers. The American consumers have no more capacity to borrow. 

With the decline in the values of their principal assets — their homes — with the destruction of half of their pension assets and with joblessness facing them, Americans cannot and will not spend. 

Why bail out GM and Citibank when the firms are moving as many operations offshore as they possibly can? 

Much of U.S. infrastructure is in poor shape and needs renewing. However, infrastructure jobs do not produce goods and services that can be sold abroad. The massive commitment to infrastructure does nothing to help the United States reduce its massive trade deficit, the financing of which is becoming a major problem. Moreover, when the infrastructure projects are completed, so are the jobs. 

At best, assuming Mexicans do not get most of the construction jobs, all Obama's stimulus program can do is to reduce the number of unemployed temporarily. 

Unless U.S. corporations can be required to use American labor to produce the goods and services that they sell in American markets, there is no hope for the U.S. economy. No one in the Obama administration has the wits to address this problem. Thus, the economy will continue to implode. 

Adding to the brewing disaster, Obama has been deceived by his military and neoconservative advisers into expanding the war in Afghanistan, a large mountainous country. Obama intends to use the draw-down of U.S. soldiers in Iraq to send 30,000 more American troops to Afghanistan. This would bring the U.S. forces to 60,000 — 600,000 fewer than U.S. counterinsurgency guidelines define as the minimum number of soldiers necessary to bring success in Afghanistan — and less than half as many as the army that was unable to occupy Iraq. 

The Iranians had to bail out the Bush regime by restraining its Shi'ite allies and encouraging them to use the ballot box to attain power and push out the Americans. In Iraq, the U.S. troops only had to fight a small Sunni insurgency drawn from a minority of the population. Even so, the United States "prevailed" by putting the insurgents on the U.S. payroll and paying them not to fight. 

One would think that the experience with the "cakewalk" in Iraq would make the United States hesitant to attempt to occupy Afghanistan, an undertaking that would require it to occupy parts of Pakistan. Where is Obama going to get another half million soldiers to add to the 150,000 to pacify Afghanistan? 

One answer is the rapidly growing massive U.S. unemployment. Americans will sign up to go kill abroad rather than be homeless and hungry at home. 

But this solves only half of the problem. Where does the money come from to support an army in the field of 650,000, an army 4.3 times larger than U.S. forces in Iraq, a war that has cost us $3 trillion in out-of-pocket and already incurred future costs. This money would have to be raised in addition to the $3 trillion U.S. budget deficit that is the result of Bush's financial sector bailout, Obama's stimulus package and the rapidly failing economy. 

When economies tank, as the American one is doing, tax revenues collapse. The millions of unemployed Americans are not paying Social Security, Medicare and income taxes. The stores and businesses that are closing are not paying federal and state income taxes. Consumers with no money or credit to spend are not paying sales taxes. 

The Washington Morons have given no thought as to how they are going to finance a fiscal year 2009 budget deficit of some 2 trillion to 3 trillion dollars. 

The practically nonexistent U.S. saving rate cannot finance it. 

The trade surpluses of our trading partners, such as China, Japan and Saudi Arabia, cannot finance it. 

The U.S. government really has only two possibilities for financing its budget deficit. One is a second collapse in the stock market, which would drive the surviving investors with what they have left into "safe" U.S. Treasury bonds. The other is for the Federal Reserve to monetize the Treasury debt. 

Monetizing the debt means that when no one is willing or able to purchase the Treasury's bonds, the Federal Reserve buys them by creating bank deposits for the Treasury's account. 

In other words, the Fed "prints money" with which to buy the Treasury's bonds. 

Once this happens, the U.S. dollar will cease to be the reserve currency. 

In addition, China, Japan and Saudi Arabia, countries that hold enormous quantities of U.S. Treasury debt in addition to other U.S. dollar assets, will sell, hoping to get out before others. 

The U.S. dollar will become worthless, the currency of a banana republic. 

The United States will not be able to pay for its imports, a serious problem for a country dependent on imports for its energy, manufactured goods and advanced technology products. 

Obama's Keynesian advisers have learned with a vengeance Milton Friedman's lesson that the Great Depression resulted from the Federal Reserve permitting a contraction of the supply of money and credit. In the Great Depression, good debts were destroyed by monetary contraction. Today, bad debts are being preserved by the expansion of money and credit, and the U.S. Treasury is jeopardizing its credit standing and the dollar's reserve currency status with enormous quarterly bond auctions as far as the eye can see. 

Meanwhile, the Russians, overflowing with energy and mineral resources, and not in debt, have learned that the U.S. government is not to be trusted. Russia has watched Ronald Reagan's successors attempt to turn former constituent parts of the Soviet Union into U.S. puppet states with U.S. military bases. The United States is trying to ring Russia with missiles that neutralize Russia's strategic deterrent. 

Vladimir Putin has caught on to "comrade wolf." He has succeeded in having the president of Kyrgyzstan, a former part of the Soviet Union, evict the United States from its military base. This base is essential to America's ability to supply its soldiers in Afghanistan. 

To stop America's meddling in Russia's sphere of influence, the Russian government has created a collective security treaty organization comprised of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Uzbekistan is a partial participant. 

In other words, Russia has organized central Asia against U.S. penetration. 

To whose agenda is President Obama being hitched? Writing in the English language version of the Swiss newspaper Zeit-Fragen, Stephen J. Sniegoski reports that leading figures of the neocon conspiracy are ecstatic over Obama's appointments. They don't see any difference between Obama and Bush-Cheney. 

Not only are Obama's appointments moving him into an expanded war in Afghanistan, but the powerful Israel lobby is pushing Obama toward a war with Iran. 

The unreality in which the U.S. government operates is beyond belief. A bankrupt government that cannot pay its bills without printing money is rushing headlong into wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. 

The world has never seen such total mindlessness. Napoleon's and Hitler's marches into Russia were rational acts compared to the mindless idiocy of the United States government. 

Obama's war in Afghanistan is the Mad Hatter's Tea Party. After seven years of conflict, there is still no defined mission or endgame scenario for U.S. forces in Afghanistan. When asked about the mission, a U.S. military official told NBC News, "Frankly, we don't have one." NBC reports: "they're working on it." 

Speaking to House Democrats on Feb. 5, President Obama admitted that the U.S. government does not know what its mission is in Afghanistan and that to avoid "mission creep without clear parameters," the United States "needs a clear mission." 

How would you like to be sent to a war, the point of which no one knows, including the commander in chief who sent you to kill or be killed? How, fellow taxpayers, do you like paying the enormous cost of sending soldiers on an undefined mission while the economy collapses? 



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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

[ePalestine] May we all remember those who can't forget...

Dear friends,

I pass below a glimpse into the memories of one person-- of the thousands--in Gaza who remain tortured by Israel's slaughter in Gaza last month.  The world has moved on, we can't!

The Gaza borders remain closed.  The Gaza sea remains blockaded.  The airspace remains prohibited.  No building materials allowed in.  Electricity still shabby. Etc, etc, etc...the world has moved on...Gaza remains occupied 100%!

As we enter the 40 day mourning day of all those murdered...a special prayer for the children, the hundreds of children...

Humanity should be ashamed of itself--deeply ashamed,


Ma'an News

Memories of Gaza dead continue to haunt the living 

Date: 08 / 02 / 2009  Time:  14:09 

Gaza – Ma’an – Layla Hussein Nassar “Umm Ibrahim” is 40-years old, though she seems much older. 

Her home in Jabaliya was destroyed during the Israeli war on Gaza. Two relatives, her husband and five children were inside the home when it was hit by a missile. Umm Ibrahim collected as many of her injured children as she could and crawled out of the damaged building with her son Nahidh and sought safety in a house across the street. 

Her husband Muhammad and four-year-old son Rakan were buried beneath the rubble. She did not know whether they were alive or dead. 

Eventually Nahidh crawled out of the shelter to find help, leaving Umm Ibrahim alone with a dying daughter and seriously wounded daughter-in-law. 

She is haunted by the girls’ screams and calls for help, and recalls staring intently at her destroyed home, willing there to be some sort of movement to let her know some of her other family members were alive. 

Umm Ibrahim sat down with Ma’an reporter Khadra Hamdan on Saturday. Her thoughts are scattered and painful; now on the record as one of the victims of Israel’s war on Gaza. 

I have nothing in mind except what has happened to me. Everything is in my memory and I will never forget it all of my life. I am a mother who collected the fragments of her children, so how could I forget that? 

…My son Rakan was torn to pieces. No hands, no legs and even no face were left. I could not bring him to the hospital; the house was falling down around him and my husband. 

My daughter Fidaa was as beautiful as the moon. Oh God! How beautiful you were Fidaa! Her clothes were torn like her body. She died in my hands. 

My elder son Ibrahim, I collected his body in a blanket and took him with me to the neighbors’ home. I went back for my daughter-in-law Eman; her face and legs were chopped and bloody and she kept asking me to call an ambulance. 

The first day, I was not aware that my husband was killed. I was calling him to tell him that his sons and daughters were killed. I heard him asking for ambulance, and then his voice vanished. 

Eman remained alive for approximately 18 hours. Umm Ibrahim remembers trying to sooth her: 

- May God help you tolerate this. 
- I also pray that God relieves you of this torture. 
- Aunty, I am thirsty and hungry. My wounds are burning. 


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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

[ePalestine] Choose life! (by Deb Reich)

February 17, 2009  

Choose life!
by Deb Reich
Abu Ghosh, Israel/Palestine

Most people will say I'm delusional; that's okay. I will say what I have to say anyway. When your opinion is way out on the periphery, it may mean you are delusional - or it may just mean that the so-called center has gradually drifted closer and closer to a very high cliff, and finally fallen off the edge, while the majority of the population follows along like a horde of doomed lemmings. In that scenario, someone needs to stake out a position at the other extreme and drag the locus of the center back from oblivion. So here goes. 

After this futile, criminal, pornographic war in Gaza (Shmuel Amir rightly termed it a "hunt" rather than a war) and yet another national election in Israel ending basically in impasse, but this time with a distinctly fascist motif, we are no closer to sustainable peace in the Middle East. We need a drastic revisioning of what we are doing here. 

So we start with this: Speaking as an Israeli Jew, I say that we (Israeli Jews and our friends abroad) ought to embrace EVERYONE who wants to live here among us, so long as they truly love the land and have some reasonable claim to it. This would not include, say, tourists from Zanzibar or Antarctica - but would naturally include the Palestinians, whose claim to the land is (or ought to be) beyond dispute and whose deep and enduring love for the land is richly evident to any observer not in a vegetative state. 

I say we bring all the long-suffering, besieged, shell-shocked Gazans home to Israel now! They miss their homes. They want to come home. Let us welcome them! We can all move over a little bit and make room. Believe me, there is still plenty of room. 

Dayenu! (Enough!). Enough suffering inflicted on the surviving families in Gaza who are hungry, thirsty, cold, frightened, wounded, traumatized for life, and bereaved. Enough. And enough suffering on the other side of the fence in Sderot and environs, too. (Their fates are inextricably intertwined; all our fates are inextricably intertwined.) 

The generals and the militants have had their day, for the nth time - and at the end of it, as usual, all that we (any of us) have now, as a result, is war crimes and grief. War crimes and grief and fear. War crimes, grief, fear, hatred, and despair… with thousands of injured and disabled people bearing the burden most directly, forever. 

Enough! Israelis are more afraid now than before, and more at risk, too. Time to ABANDON this insane strategy that we (any of us) can force people to love us, or anyhow accept us, by killing them! 

Let us in Israel who have so much, open our homes and our communities to the victims of this insane war who have so little - exactly as we once opened our homes to refugees from northern Israel when the Katyushas were falling. Our traditional ethos is full of charity and generosity; we know all about providing refuge and succour; we have taken in wave after wave of refugees over the decades, most recently more than a million Russian émigrés deemed essential to our future, for whom we moved over and made room. 

So let's get going. Let every family in Israel who wants to live in peace in this region, open their home to a Gaza family until new housing can be built. Let the participating families declare a hudna between themselves. Now. Today. 

You start by not picturing these neighbors as "the enemy"; picture them instead as families who have suffered a tsunami like the one that flattened coastal Indonesia a few years ago - and in fact, the order of magnitude of what they have been through is about the same. Presto! Reaching out to help suddenly makes perfect sense. Moreover, professional planners have already minutely addressed the question of exactly where Palestinians coming home to Israel could reside, eager to make their best contribution to a shared future. What is missing in Israel is not sufficient space, but sufficient imagination to envision how much there is to be gained by all concerned. Now is a good time to change that. 

The Gaza disaster can become the turning point. Let the Gazan expatriates whose families came from Ashdod (Issdod) be matched with Ashdod-area families. Let the expatriates from Lod (Lydd) be matched with Lod/Lydd-area families - Jewish or Palestinian. And so forth. And let no time be lost! They have lost everything and their situation is dire. We in Israel have lost our moral compass and we want to reclaim it. Bingo! 

Let the governments of the world, led by the USA, immediately stop sending Israel aid for military ordnance, and earmark it instead for a massive rehabilitation and reconciliation program. 

Let all the tens of thousands of Palestinian professionals who are citizens of Israel, born and raised here - doctors, social workers, nurses, dentists, psychiatrists, lawyers, engineers, teachers, designers, journalists - join gladly and wholeheartedly in this effort, finally and at long last, to bring their fellow Palestinians home from exile in Gaza. Let us bind up the wounds and become whole, together. All of us. Let us build a really wonderful society together, for the sake of ALL OUR CHILDREN. Rewrite the national anthem! Why not? It's a SONG, folks. No song is holier than the life of even one child (anyone's child). 

The Gaza families who actually lived in Gaza before 1948 will want to stay and rebuild their homes and communities. Volunteers would doubtless throng to Gaza from all over the world to help them. Imagine them turning what was the world's largest open-air prison into the world's largest open-air Reconciliation Park - with facilities for tourism, education, environmental studies, cultural attractions, and museums (including a Palestinian Nakba Museum). Imagine Gaza as the reconciliation capital of the world - people in Israel could commute to work in Gaza for a change, instead of the other way around. Very refreshing. 

This is a blueprint for a SHARED LIFE. If it sounds crazy, just ask yourself: Which is crazier -- rampant slaughter, or rampant cooperation? Rivers of blood, or the free flow of joint prosperity? Rampant mass cooperation could break out here tomorrow - and in a week or two, or maybe a month or two, we would feel like we have always believed in it. 

A political accommodation would follow the humanitarian one - probably some creative form of federation, with complete, reciprocal, national-cultural autonomy based on each group's granting the other group the same perks it wants for itself. The technical restructuring follows the vision, not the other way around. There are several good plans, already fully elaborated, for political power-sharing here. Anyone can read them; they're on the web. Once we dare to envision a shared future, we can make it happen. And if not now, when? 

We Jews consider it rational and wonderful to rejoice in our emergence as a modern nation in the ancient homeland, after… not twenty years, not two hundred years, but two thousand years of exile!! Yet the idea of repatriating all those homesick Palestinian families, exiled from their homes a mere 60 years ago, is considered delusional. Something there does not compute. 

So think it over and let's put the guns away for good. Let the tribunals meet to apportion blame and responsibility, by all means, but as for the rest of us: we have other tasks. Treat the wounded, yes, of course, and heal the traumatized… And beat the swords into ploughshares and recycle the tank parts into computer equipment. Retool the death factories to make swimsuits instead of parachutes, irrigation pipes for farmers instead of M16 rifles. No time for missiles; we'll all be too busy getting a life. The only phosphorous I ever want to see around here again is in a spelling contest for the kids (ALL our kids). Haul out the welcome mat for the long-lost cousins and let's get busy – there's a lot of work to do here. It's not too late, even now, but you have to take the first step: Choose life!!! 

Deb Reich is a writer and translator in Israel/Palestine, at   


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[ePalestine] American Public Media: Crossing Over - From the Hospital

American Public Media 

Monday, February 16 2009

Crossing Over

Maha Mehanna talked with Dick Gordon one month ago when Israeli air strikes were hitting near her home in Gaza. Since then, Maha has been focusing all her energy on bringing her nephew Mohammad over the border to Israel to receive treatments for his life- threatening illness. 

But now the border checkpoints are even harder to get through. Maha and Mohammed spent six hours trying to cross recently and had to dodge bullets on their return back to Gaza. Maha talks with Dick Gordon about protecting her nephew, and trying to preserve her own life, during this tense time. 




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Sunday, February 15, 2009

[ePalestine] Opportunity Lost, Part I: A Plan for a Key Gaza Crossing Was Foiled by Israel after Hamas' Election Victory

Dear friends,  

When we say Israel--the OCCUPYING POWER-- has no intention to allow for a new, more humane, reality to emerge, we mean it.  Read on...and if anyone bumps into Obama please pass him a copy. 

End the occupation FIRST,



Opportunity Lost, Part I: A Plan for a Key Gaza Crossing Was Foiled by Israel after Hamas' Election Victory  

Date: Feb  5, 2009  
By: Stephen Glain  

The Karni crossing is Gaza’s main artery for trade, with the capacity to process more than a thousand truck crossings a day. Following the outbreak of the second Intifada, however, Israel imposed a tight inspection regime on its side of the Karni terminal that reduced throughput to a trickle. As part of a 2005 US-brokered initiative to improve economic conditions in the West Bank and Gaza, Israel agreed to ease its control over Palestinian roads and border crossings in exchange for American-funded improvements of Palestinian inspection systems and security forces. Between the signing of the accord and Hamas’seizure of Gaza in November 2007, hard-liners in Israel and their allies in Washington managed to thwart the deal. How they did it, to be recounted here in a two-part series, offers a glimpse of the obstacles President Barack Obama might face should he seriously negotiate on behalf of a Palestinian state with a viable economy as its foundation.   

Ephraim Sneh, a leader of Israel’s pro-peace movement and a former aid to Yitzhak Rabin, is used to the political wilderness. Not long after Rabin’s killing in 1996, he pushed Israel and the US government to buttress the Oslo process by investing in the Palestinian economy. He presented then-US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk and other senior US policymakers with a list of seven projects that would give ordinary Palestinians a stake in a peaceful future. They included a new airport at the Kallandia refugee camp, sea ports at Gaza, desalination plans – and a modern cargo terminal at Karni. “If you change the economic reality you can change the political reality,” Sneh told the Americans. “By improving the Palestinian economy, you can fight terrorism.”   

No one listened to him. Nearly a decade later, with Israeli roadblocks in the West Bank and the incarceration of Gaza bleeding the Palestinian economy white, Sneh was vindicated. The former commando and brigadier general was given responsibility for Israel’s commitments under the Access and Mobility Agreement, which was signed in November 2005 in response to heavy pressure from then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. At the heart of the agreement was a vision Sneh, a fluent Arabic speaker and a former occupation governor of the West Bank, had nurtured for many years: the development of Karni and other Palestinian border crossings into efficient and secure entrepôts for trade.  

The agreement set ambitious goals for itself, particularly as it related to Karni. The Palestinians on their side would be given tens of millions of dollars to train border guards, build new roads, and install security and payroll systems, while the Israelis would be provided with $12 million worth of state-of-the-art scanning and surveillance equipment. By late January 2006, according to the agreement, truck crossings would reach 1,200 a day, a third of which would be carrying goods made by Palestinians for sale abroad, a crucial source of foreign exchange for the impoverished Gaza strip.  

The project was quickly snagged, however, on a dispute between Israel and the US Agency for International Development over the scanning equipment. Due to the tight deadlines imposed by the agreement – the scanners needed to be in place by December 31, 2005 – it was decided USAID would first lease the surveillance systems and purchase new ones later on. The leases were signed on December 8 and a few weeks later the scanners were flown from Europe to Tel Aviv on a Russian Antonov 225, the world’s largest cargo jet, at a cost of $500,000. Such an elaborate charter was necessary, according to a December 2006 USAID report, given the size of the equipment and the urgency of the situation.  

Once the scanners were delivered, a herd of Israeli bureaucracies – from the Ministry of Defense to the Israeli Airport Authority – submitted to USAID a list of demands for adjustments and alterations that would cost the US government an estimated $6 million to address. The list, according to an official with Chemonics, USAID’s contracting agent on the project, ranged from the substantive – for example, Israel wanted the capacity to scan three trucks at once, which required extensive retrofits and new software – to the trivial, such as a request that the nickel doorknobs in the scanners’ control rooms be replaced with brass ones.  

It took six months to address Israel’s conditions even after they had been narrowed down by USAID. A careful reading of the USAID report suggests Israel was trying to sabotage the mobility agreement by delaying integration of the scanners. “The majority of retrofitting tasks required extensive technical modification and in several instances, delayed or interrupted equipment deployment and operations at several sites,” the report states. “These initiatives, while justifiable in the context of [the defense ministry’s] concerns, have been perceived by the suppliers as excessive and redundant for leased equipment.”  

In January 2006, USAID began negotiating for the purchase of the replacement scanners. Five companies expressed an interest in the project, but nearly all of them complained of a battery of new restrictions imposed by Israel. The Israeli side, they said, was demanding technology that would have to be developed from scratch even as it desired a system already in production and with a performance record of two years. It also insisted on having a majority of seats on a committee to evaluate the scanners as opposed to the customary single-seat, third-party representation, and it wanted the evaluation process to take 90 days instead of the usual three weeks. These and other conditions would have delayed deployment of the new scanners by at least two months, according to USAID.  

When the frustrated bidding companies threatened to walk out of the negotiations, USAID unilaterally signed a contract with AS&E, a US-Chinese joint venture. Outraged, a senior Israeli defense official filed a formal protest to the US embassy complaining that USAID’s pre-emptive action jeopardized Israeli security. USAID was then instructed to write a letter to the defense ministry reaffirming the centrality of its security concerns, but the contract was honored.  

The dispute over the scanners had been resolved, though Israel’s demands for retrofits would delay their full deployment for several months. As a result, cargo traffic at Karni would be kept to a paltry few hundred truck crossings a day. But after Hamas’ victory in parliamentary elections in January 2006, it no longer mattered. Well before the first vote was cast, Israel’s allies in Washington were mobilizing for the internment of Palestine. 


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Friday, February 13, 2009

[ePalestine] LEVY: Does Zionism legitimize every act of violence? / Why Did Obama Diss Helen Thomas?

Ha'aretz (Israeli Daily Newspaper)

Last update - 10:52 13/02/2009

Does Zionism legitimize every act of violence?
By Gideon Levy (Israeli columnist)

The Israeli left died in 2000. Since then its corpse has been lying around unburied until finally its death certificate was issued, signed, sealed and delivered on Tuesday. The hangman of 2000 was also the gravedigger of 2009: Defense Minister Ehud Barak. The man who succeeded in spreading the lie about there being no partner has reaped the fruit of his deeds in this election. The funeral was held two days ago. 

The Israeli left is dead. For the past nine years it took the name of the peace camp in vain. The Labor Party, Meretz and Kadima had pretensions of speaking in its name, but that was trickery and deceit. Labor and Kadima made two wars and continued to build Jewish settlements in the West Bank; Meretz supported both wars. Peace has been left an orphan. The Israeli voters, who have been misled into thinking that there is no one to talk to and that the only answer to this is force - wars, targeted killings and settlements - have had their say clearly in the election: a closing sale for Labor and Meretz. It was only the force of inertia that gave these parties the few votes they won. 

There was no reason for it to be otherwise. After many long years when hardly any protest came from the left, and the city square, the same square that raged after Sabra and Chatila, was silent, this lack of protest has been reflected at the ballot box as well. Lebanon, Gaza, the killed children, cluster bombs, white phosphorus and all the atrocities of occupation - none of this drove the indifferent, cowardly left onto the street. Though ideas of the left have found a toehold in the center and sometimes even on the right, everyone from former prime minister Ariel Sharon to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has spoken in a language that once was considered radical. But the voice was the voice of the left while the hands were the hands of the right. 

On the fringes of this masked ball existed another left, the marginal left - determined and courageous, but minuscule and not legitimate. The gap between it and the left was supposedly Zionism. Hadash, Gush Shalom and others like them are outside the camp. Why? Because they are "not Zionist." 

And what is Zionism nowadays? An archaic and outdated concept born in a different reality, a vague and delusive concept marking the difference between the permitted and the proscribed. Does Zionism mean settlement in the territories? Occupation? The legitimization of every act of violence and injustice? The left stammered. Any statement critical of Zionism, even the Zionism of the occupation, was considered a taboo that the left did not dare break. The right grabbed a monopoly on Zionism, leaving the left with its self-righteousness. 

A Jewish and democratic state? The Zionist left said yes automatically, fudging the difference between the two and not daring to give either priority. Legitimization for every war? The Zionist left stammered again - yes to the beginning and no to the continuation, or something like that. Solving the refugee problem and the right of return? Acknowledgment of the wrongdoing of 1948? Unmentionable. This left has now, rightly, reached the end of its road. 

Anyone who wants a meaningful left must first air out Zionism in the attic. Until a movement that courageously redefines Zionism arises from the mainstream, there will be no broad left here. It is not possible to be both leftist and Zionist only in accordance with the right's definition. Who has decided that the settlements are Zionist and legitimate, and the struggle against them is neither? 

This taboo must be broken. It is permissible not to be a Zionist, as commonly defined today. It is permissible to believe in the Jews' right to a state and yet come out against the Zionism that engages in occupation. It is permissible to believe that what happened in 1948 should be put on the agenda, to apologize for the injustice and act to rehabilitate the victims. It is permissible to oppose an unnecessary war from its very first day. It is permissible to think that the Arabs of Israel deserve the same rights - culturally, socially and nationally - as Jews. It is permissible to raise disturbing questions about the image of the Israel Defense Forces as an army of occupation, and it is even permissible to want to talk to Hamas. 

If you prefer, this is Zionism, and if you prefer, this is anti-Zionism. In any case, it is legitimate and essential for those who do not want to see Israel fall victim to the insanities of the right for many more years. Anyone who wants an Israeli left must say "enough" to Zionism, the Zionism of which the right has taken complete control. 



Posted February 10, 2009 | 09:34 AM (EST) 

Why Did Obama Diss Helen Thomas? 

MJ Rosenberg 
Director of Policy for the Israel Policy Forum 

I love Helen Thomas. During the past eight years she was the only reporter who stood up to Bush, took on this rotten war, and, in general, acted like a journalist. Last night, the great hall looked like it was populated by a president, a reporter, and 11th graders from local high school newspapers. I think I saw a cub reporter from the Dillon, Texas high school paper. (sadly, not Lilah Garrity). 

Ms. Thomas' moment came when she asked the president about nuclear proliferation. Her question ended with the query: does he know of any Middle Eastern state with nukes? 

Why did she ask that? She asked it to see if Obama would refuse to respond as previous presidents have. The answer is Israel, of course. And everyone knows it. In fact, the State Department has published reams of material about JFK's concern about the Israeli bomb. Israeli politicians talk about it. Every Arab in the world knows about it. And Israel's nukes are its number one deterrent against attack by Iran -- and everyone knows that too. 

But Israel has a policy of not talking about its nukes in any official capacity because acknowledging them might lead to Israel having to sign the NPT and opening itself up to nuclear inspection. 

So Israeli Prime Ministers try (not always successfully) not to acknowledge that Israel has a nuclear arsenal while ensuring that everyone knows it does. 

That may be a sensible policy...for Israel. 

But why is it our policy? Why is the American president forbidden from being honest on such a critical subject. Answer: there is no reason, unless we are to believe that Israeli policy guidelines, by definition, apply here as well. 

So why did Obama refuse to answer? Simple. Because if he did, the media would have reported it as a gaffe. Reporters either know nothing about the Middle East or, for the most part, have adopted Israel's perspective. 

Had Obama spoken the truth, the media would have made his "blunder" the story of the night. He cannot afford that because, frankly, we have more important things to worry about, like rescuing the economy. 

So I don't fault Obama. But I salute Helen Thomas. Next time she should ask how he felt about those pictures that came out of Gaza. As the father of those two precious girls, we all know how he felt. But it would help America in the eyes of the world if he'd just say it. 


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