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Gilad Sharon, Son Of Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Writes Op-Ed: ‘We Need To Flatten Entire Neighborhoods In Gaza’ November 19, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Genocide, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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Roger’s note: I’ll try not to post more than once a day on the Israeli government’s genocidal attack on Gaza.  Go to my source for this, and read the comments: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/11/18-2 .  And Americans should keep in mind that they are financing this slaughter of  civilian men, women and children.

Published on Sunday, November 18, 2012 by Huffington Post

  by Adam Goldberg

Gilad Sharon, son of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, wrote an op-ed on Sunday calling for even more aggressive Israeli strikes in Gaza.

 Destruction in Gaza. (Photo: REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah) “We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza,” states Sharon in The Jerusalem Post.

The violence between Israel and Hamas this week has reportedly claimed the lives of 73 Palestinians, including 37 civilians, as well as 3 Israeli civilians. Current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that “the Israeli military is prepared to significantly expand the operation.”

Sharon writes in his op-ed that “the residents of Gaza are not innocent, they elected Hamas. The Gazans aren’t hostages; they chose this freely, and must live with the consequences.” After saying that Israel needs to “flatten all of Gaza,” he goes on to say, “The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too.”

He concludes his defense of Israel’s actions with a hawkish message:

There is no middle path here – either the Gazans and their infrastructure are made to pay the price, or we reoccupy the entire Gaza Strip. Otherwise there will be no decisive victory. And we’re running out of time – we must achieve victory quickly. The Netanyahu government is on a short international leash. Soon the pressure will start – and a million civilians can’t live under fire for long. This needs to end quickly – with a bang, not a whimper.

A bio on the website for HarperCollins Publishers describes Sharon as follows:

Gilad Sharon is the youngest of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon’s sons. Gilad holds a master’s degree in economics and writes a column for the prominent Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. A major in the Israel Defense Force reserves, he currently manages his family’s farm in Israel.

Sharon isn’t alone in his militant tone. Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai is reported by The Yeshiva World News to have said, “We must blow Gaza back to the Middle Ages, destroying all the infrastructure including roads and water.” Haaretz also reports that Yishai stated, “The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages.”

President Barack Obama said on Sunday that the United States is “fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself.”

The violent conflict continued on Sunday as Palestinian militants fired more than 100 rockets into Israel, and one of Israel’s missile strikes killed at least 11 civilians.

© 2012 Huffington Post

 

The Latest Gaza Catastrophe November 18, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Genocide, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Media.
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Roger’s note: I refrain from bombarding (no pun intended) my readers with articles on the Israeli government’s US financed and supported war crimes against Palestinian Gaza, which is clearly an act of barbarism and done solely for political reasons (election coming up).  This article will have to do for now.
 
Published on Sunday, November 18, 2012 by Al-Jazeera-English

Many aspects of the current assault on Gaza pass under the radar screens of world conscience.

  by  Richard Falk

The media double standards in the West on the new and tragic Israeli escalation of violence directed at Gaza were epitomised by an absurdly partisan New York Times front page headline: “Rockets Target Jerusalem; Israel girds for Gaza Invasion” (NYT, Nov 16, 2012). Decoded somewhat, the message is this: Hamas is the aggressor, and Israel when and if it launches a ground attack on Gaza must expect itself to be further attacked by rockets. This is a stunningly Orwellian re-phrasing of reality.Israel’s claim that it is in a state of war with Hamas has no legal basis, as it is considered an Occupying Power. (AFP)

The true situation is, of course, quite the opposite: Namely, that the defenseless population of Gaza can be assumed now to be acutely fearful of an all out imminent Israeli assault, while it is also true, without minimising the reality of a threat, that some rockets fired from Gaza fell harmlessly (although with admittedly menacing implications) on the outskirts of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. There is such a gross disproportion in the capacity of the two sides to inflict damage and suffering due to Israeli total military dominance as to make perverse this reversal of concerns to what might befall Israeli society if the attack on Gaza further intensifies.

The reliance by Hamas and the various Gaza militias on indiscriminate, even if wildly inaccurate and generally harmless, rockets is a criminal violation of international humanitarian law, but the low number of casualties caused and the minor damage caused, needs to be assessed in the overall context of massive violence inflicted on the Palestinians. The widespread non-Western perception of the new cycle of violence involving Gaza is that it looks like a repetition of Israeli aggression against Gaza in late 2008, early 2009, that similarly fell between the end of American presidential elections and scheduled Israeli parliamentary elections.

Pointing fingers

There is the usual discussion over where to locate responsibility for the initial act in this renewed upsurge violence. Is it some shots fired from Gaza across the border and aimed at an armoured Israeli jeep or was it the targeted killing by an Israeli missile of Ahmed Jabari, leader of the military wing of Hamas, a few days later? Or some other act by one side or the other? Or is it the continuous violence against the people of Gaza arising from the blockade that has been imposed since mid-2007?

The assassination of Jabari came a few days after an informal truce that had been negotiated through the good offices of Egypt, and quite ironically agreed to by none other than Jabari acting on behalf of Hamas. Killing him was clearly intended as a major provocation, disrupting a carefully negotiated effort to avoid another tit-for-tat sequence of violence of the sort that has periodically taken place during the last several years.

An assassination of such a high profile Palestinian political figure as Jabari is not a spontaneous act. It is based on elaborate surveillance over a long period, and is obviously planned well in advance partly with the hope of avoiding collateral damage, and thus limiting unfavourable publicity. Such an extra-judicial killing, although also part and parcel of the new American ethos of drone warfare, remains an unlawful tactic of conflict, denying adversary political leaders separated from combat any opportunity to defend themselves against accusations, and implies a rejection of any disposition to seek a peaceful resolution of a political conflict. It amounts to the imposition of capital punishment without due process, a denial of elementary rights to confront an accuser.

Putting aside the niceties of law, the Israeli leadership knew exactly what it was doing when it broke the truce and assassinated such a prominent Hamas leader, someone generally thought to be second only to the Gaza prime minister, Ismail Haniya. There have been rumours, and veiled threats, for months that the Netanyahu government plans a major assault of Gaza, and the timing of the ongoing attacks seems to coincide with the dynamics of Israeli internal politics, especially the traditional Israeli practice of shoring up the image of toughness of the existing leadership in Tel Aviv as a way of inducing Israeli citizens to feel fearful, yet protected, before casting their ballots.

Under siege

Beneath the horrific violence, which exposes the utter vulnerability, of all those living as captives in Gaza, which is one of the most crowded and impoverished communities on the planet, is a frightful structure of human abuse that the international community continues to turn its back upon, while preaching elsewhere adherence to the norm of “responsibility to protect” whenever it suits NATO. More than half of the 1.6 million Gazans are refugees living in a total area of just over twice the size of the city of Washington, DC. The population has endured a punitive blockade since mid-2007 that makes daily life intolerable, and Gaza has been harshly occupied ever since 1967.

Israel has tried to fool the world by setting forth its narrative of a good faith withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, which was exploited by Palestinian militants at the time as an opportunity to launch deadly rocket attacks. The counter-narrative, accepted by most independent observers, is that the Israeli removal of troops and settlements was little more than a mere redeployment to the borders of Gaza, with absolute control over what goes in and what leaves, maintaining an open season of a license to kill at will, with no accountability and no adverse consequences, backed without question by the US government.

From an international law point of view, Israel’s purported “disengagement” from Gaza didn’t end its responsibility as an Occupying Power under the Geneva Conventions, and thus its master plan of subjecting the entire population of Gaza to severe forms of collective punishment amounts to a continuing crime against humanity, as well as a flagrant violation of Article 33 of Geneva IV. It is not surprising that so many who have observed the plight of Gaza at close range have described it as “the largest open air prison in the world”.

The Netanyahu government pursues a policy that is best understood from the perspective of settler colonialism. What distinguishes settler colonialism from other forms of colonialism is the resolve of the colonialists not only to exploit and dominate, but to make the land their own and superimpose their own culture on that of indigenous population. In this respect, Israel is well served by the Hamas/Fatah split, and seeks to induce the oppressed Palestinian to give up their identity along with their resistance struggle even to the extent of asking Palestinians in Israel to take an oath of loyalty to Israel as “a Jewish state”.

Actually, unlike the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Israel has no long-term territorial ambitions in Gaza. Israel’s short-term solution to its so-called “demographic problem” (that is, worries about the increase in the population of Palestinians relative to Jews) could be greatly eased if Egypt would absorb Gaza, or if Gaza would become a permanently separate entity, provided it could be reliably demilitarised. What makes Gaza presently useful to the Israelis is their capacity to manage the level of violence, both as a distraction from other concerns (eg backing down in relation to Iran; accelerated expansion of the settlements) and as a way of convincing their own people that dangerous enemies remain and must be dealt with by the iron fist of Israeli militarism.

No peace

In the background, but not very far removed from the understanding of observers, are two closely related developments. The first is the degree to which the continuing expansion of Israeli settlements has made it unrealistic to suppose that a viable Palestinian state will ever emerge from direct negotiations. The second, underscored by the recent merger of Netanyahu and Lieberman forces, is the extent to which the Israeli governing process has indirectly itself irreversibly embraced the vision of Greater Israel encompassing all of Jerusalem and most of the West Bank.

The fact that world leaders in the West keep repeating the mantra of peace through direct negotiations is either an expression of the grossest incompetence or totally bad faith. At minimum, Washington and the others calling for the resumption of direct negotiations owe it to all of us to explain how it will be possible to establish a Palestinian state within 1967 borders when it means the displacement of most of the 600,000 armed settlers now defended by the Israeli army, and spread throughout occupied Palestine. Such an explanation would also have to show why Israel is being allowed to quietly legalise the 100 or so “outposts”, settlements spread around the West Bank that had been previously unlawful even under Israeli law. Such moves toward legalisation deserve the urgent attention of all those who continue to proclaim their faith in a two-state solution, but instead are ignored.

This brings us back to Gaza and Hamas. The top Hamas leaders have made it abundantly clear over and over again that they are open to permanent peace with Israel if there is a total withdrawal to the 1967 borders (22 percent of historic Palestine) and the arrangement is supported by a referendum of all Palestinians living under occupation.

Israel, with the backing of Washington, takes the position that Hamas as “a terrorist organisation” that must be permanently excluded from the procedures of diplomacy, except of course when it serves Israel’s purposes to negotiate with Hamas. It did this in 2011 when it negotiated the prisoner exchange in which several hundred Palestinians were released from Israeli prisons in exchange for the release of the Israel soldier captive, Gilad Shalit, or when it seems convenient to take advantage of Egyptian mediation to establish temporary ceasefires.

As the celebrated Israeli peace activist and former Knesset member, Uri Avnery, reminds us a cease-fire in Arab culture, hudna in Arabic, is considered to be sanctified by Allah, has tended to be in use and faithfully observed ever since the time of the Crusades. Avnery also reports that up to the time he was assassinated, Jabari was in contact with Gershon Baskin of Israel, seeking to explore prospects for a long-term ceasefire that was reported to Israeli leaders, who unsurprisingly showed no interest.

Waiting for justice

There is a further feature of this renewal of conflict involving attacks on Gaza. Israel sometimes insists that since it is no longer, according to its claims, an occupying power, it is in a state of war with a Hamas governed Gaza. But if this were to be taken as the proper legal description of the relationship between the two sides, then Gaza would have the rights of a combatant, including the option to use proportionate force against Israeli military targets. As earlier argued, such a legal description of the relationship between Israel and Gaza is unacceptable. Gaza remains occupied and essentially helpless, and Israel as occupier has no legal or ethical right to engage in war against the people and government of Gaza, which incidentally was elected in internationally monitored free elections in early 2006.

On the contrary, its overriding obligation as Occupier is to protect the civilian population of Gaza. Even if casualty figures in the present violence are so far low as compared with Operation Cast Lead, the intensity of air and sea strikes against the helpless people of Gaza strikes terror in the hearts and minds of every person living in the Strip, a form of indiscriminate violence against the spirit and mental health of an entire people that cannot be measured in blood and flesh, but by reference to the traumatising fear that has been generated.

We hear many claims in the West as to a supposed decline in international warfare since the collapse of the Soviet Union twenty years ago. Such claims are to some extent a welcome development, but the people of the Middle East have yet to benefit from this trend, least of all the people of Occupied Palestine, and of these, the people of Gaza are suffering the most acutely. This spectacle of one-sided war in which Israel decides how much violence to unleash, and Gaza waits to be struck, firing off militarily meaningless salvos of rockets as a gesture of resistance, represents a shameful breakdown of civilisation values. These rockets do spread fear and cause trauma among Israeli civilians even when no targets are struck, and represent an unacceptable tactic. Yet such unacceptability must be weighed against the unacceptable tactics of an Israel that holds all the cards in the conflict.

It is truly alarming that now even the holiest of cities, Jerusalem, is threatened with attacks, but the continuation of oppressive conditions for the people of Gaza, inevitably leads to increasing levels of frustration, in effect, cries of help that world has ignored at its peril for decades. These are survival screams! To realise this is not to exaggerate! To gain perspective, it is only necessary to read a recent UN Report that concludes that the deterioration of services and conditions will make Gaza uninhabitable by 2020.

Completely aside from the merits of the grievances on the two sides, one side is militarily omnipotent and the other side crouches helplessly in fear. Such a grotesque reality passes under the radar screens of world conscience because of the geopolitical shield behind which Israel is given a free pass to do whatever it wishes. Such a circumstance is morally unendurable, and should be politically unacceptable. It needs to be actively opposed globally by every person, government, and institution of good will.

© 2012 Al-Jazeera

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Richard Falk

Richard Falk is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights. An international law and international relations scholar who taught at Princeton University for forty years, since 2002 Falk has lived in Santa Barbara, California, and taught at the local campus of the University of California in Global and International Studies and since 2005 chaired the Board of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Read more articles by .

The need of the most powerful to turn themselves into victims May 14, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Media, Political Commentary, Right Wing.
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(In this article Greenwald touches on a phenomenon that I have analyzed ever since I read about the Pinochet coup in Chile (on that other 9/11, 1973), where the U.S.-funded Chilean media generated a panic about the elected Allende government, alleging that it was about to establish a Communist dictatorship (echos of this ring today in Latin America where the same allegations are made about Chávez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia and Rafael Correa in Ecuador).  Public opinion was thereby manipulated to garner support of Pinochet’s bloody coup and aftermath massacres in order to “save” Chile from becoming a “victim” of ruthless Communism.  We see this in so many points of history, where aggression needs to be justified as a poor “victim” defending itself (the sinking of the Main, the Bay of Tonkin, 9/11, etc.).  Massive media campaigns were launched to alter pulic opinion behind the U.S. agressions in the Spanish American War and its aftermath where the “victim” U.S. ended up with Cuba and the Philippines as client states; and the same occurred to manipulate public opinion to support U.S. intervention in World War I.  Post-World War II anti-Communist paranoia justified U.S. aggression and support of brutal dictatorships throughout Latin America (Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Panama, Haiti, Chile, Argentina, Venezuela, Nicaragua, etc.) and Vietnam.  The greatest “victim” of the 20th century, a poor soul who had no choice but do defend the fatherland against the Jewish conspiracy, was none other than Adolph Hitler.  Today the United States terrorizes millions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, tortures with abandon, and spies illegally on its own citizens in order to protect the country from Isalmic Jihadists.  Very important to add, of course, that real incidents — such as 9/11 — along with manufactured incidents are distorted to solidify the image of the United States, the most powerful nation in the history of the world with an atomic arsenal that could destroy the planet a thousand times over and military might greater that the rest of the world combined, as the poor “victim.”)

 Glenn Greenwald

www.salon.com, May 2, 2009

One of the most common, harmful and downright pitiful dynamics in our political culture is the bottomless need of those who wield the most power to constantly parade around as oppressed, persecuted victims:

Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic, yesterday, on the AIPAC prosecutions:

[S]uffice it to say that this day was long overdue. Rosen and Weissman did what a thousand reporters in Washington do everyday, hear about information that’s technically classified. The only difference is that these two worked for a demonized lobby.

Michael Crowley, The New Republic, today, on this week’s AIPAC conference:

AIPAC says 6500 people will attend the conference, including half the House and Senate plus such congressional leaders as Dick Durbin, Eric Cantor, Steny Hoyer and Jon Kyl. Israeli President Shimon Peres speaks Monday morning and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks that evening.

Biden speaks on Tuesday. As a candidate, Barack Obama addressed the AIPAC conference last spring, vowing to do “everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

Just compare Goldberg’s claim with Crowley’s facts.  The idea that AIPAC is a “demonized lobby” that is treated unfairly in the United States generally — or by the Bush administration specifically, which commenced the prosecutions — has to be one of the biggest jokes ever to appear in anything having to do with The Atlantic.  What other lobbying organization can boast of summoning to its Conference half of the U.S. Congress — as bipartisan a cast as possible — along with the Vice President, following the visit last year by Obama, who read faithfully from the organization’s script?  With rare exception, Congressional action that AIPAC demands — even on as controversial matter as the Israeli attack on Gaza — not only passes the Congress, but often with virtual unanimity.  Is there anyone who disputes that AIPAC is one of the most influential and powerful lobbying groups in the U.S., if not the most influential and powerful?

Just ponder the depths of irrationality and pathological persecution complex — the desperate need to self-victimize — necessary to claim that AIPAC, of all entities, is “demonized” and treated unfairly by the U.S. Government.  AIPAC.  But that’s the self-pitying, self-absorbed syndrome that drives so much of our political discourse (an amazingly high percentage of right-wing political dialogue in particular adheres to this formula:  “I am X and X is treated so very unfairly” — where X is virtually always among the groups wielding the most power:  American, white, Christian, Republican, male, etc. etc.).  It’s the same mentality that leads people to insist that the true victim in the Middle East is the same country that, by far, possesses the greatest military might and uses it most often.  It’s a bizarre process of inversion where those who are most powerful insist on claiming that they are the weakest, most vulnerable and most oppressed.

Although it’s true — as I argued three years ago and again yesterday — that the prosecution of the two former AIPAC officials was wrong and abusive, that hardly means there was no wrongdoing here.  Indeed, as part of this case, a former DOD official and aide to Douglas Feith — Larry Franklin — was convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison for passing classified military information to these two AIPAC officials and to an Israeli official.  The FBI agents assigned to this case continued through this week to insist that not only now-convicted Franklin, but also the two AIPAC officials, committed serious crimes and that there was ample evidence to prove their guilt. 

There are very compelling reasons why the mere receipt and transmission of classified information by non-government employees should not be criminalized, and there appeared to be specific reasons — including a desire to protect classified information — as to why the DOJ decided not to proceed with this particular prosecution.  But the mere failure by the state to obtain criminal convictions hardly precludes the view that the accused nonetheless engaged in wrongdoing — criminal, political, ethical or otherwise (ask those who deny that proposition what they think about O.J. Simpson, or Marc Rich, or the officers who beat Rodney King, or Bill Clinton, or George Bush).  “Presumption of innocence” means the government can’t treat someone like a criminal in the absence of a conviction after due process is accorded; it does not mean that citizens are barred from believing the person did something wrong.  There are many reasons aside from innocence why the state may decide not to prosecute someone.

Similarly, there are many possible motivations that drove the Bush DOJ to pursue these extremely unusual and deeply misguided prosecutions against these two AIPAC officials.  Whatever those motives might be, the idea that it was because the Bush administration harbored animus towards AIPAC or that AIPAC is a marginalized and oppressed group in the United States is so painfully ludicrous that it’s truly surprising that someone can express it with a straight face.  But self-pity and blinding self-absorption are potent afflictions, and it’s thus not only possible — but extremely common in our political discussions — to witness those who exert the most influence and power petulantly insist that everything is stacked against them and everything bad that happens to them is an unfair by-product of their weakness, persecution and oppression.

Dalal – the only survivor in her family February 12, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
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“People First,” International Health Workers for People Over Profit (IHWPOP)

http://hosted.verticalresponse.com/301992/d9dc259f54/1304001583/2e64d22247/

by Mahmoud Abu Aisha – Palestine

When I used to write about the victims of Israeli crimes, I never imagined that one day I’d be writing about the unbearable misery of my own family.

In the first week of Israel’s war against Gaza, our friends phoned to tell us that my cousin’s house had been bombed. I was in shock. I couldn’t believe it. Fifteen minutes later, another phone call came from relatives asking if we had heard the news and if it was true.

I turned on the radio. The local station confirmed that F16 warplanes had bombed the Abu Aisha home. I fainted.

My brothers roused me, and we rushed to my cousin’s house to help. It was very risky, because the Israelis were targeting all moving vehicles in the darkness.

The house consisted of four floors and a basement. Four families live in this house, and my cousin’s family lived on the first floor. When we arrived, we found the civil defense and ambulances collecting the severed limbs of the children and their parents.

A Scene of Horror

We found the father’s corpse laying on the ground, about 50 meters away from the home, with severe injuries and burns. He had two wives, as the first was childless: Nahil, my cousin with four children, of whom the oldest is Dalal, and Sabah, the first wife, who had a child years later. One of the mothers (we couldn’t distinguish which one) was found with her head and shoulder severed from her body.

The fate of the children was even more heart-wrenching. I wept as I collected their limbs and shredded bodies. The three children were Mohamad, 4 years, Ghaida, 7 years, and Sayed, 10 years. I still feel traumatized by seeing their fingers, flesh and guts spread everywhere.

Only Dalal, 12 years old, survived because she had gone to sleep with her aunt the day before. When she learned that she had lost her entire family, she crumbled in shock. She was inconsolable, crying, “I am an orphan… what is my sin?… Nothing remains for me…”

It was 10:00 am, and we had to bury the bodies according to Islamic rituals. However, we couldn’t find any part of the other mother. We thought that the body we found was Sabah, but we later discovered that Sabah had left her home a few days earlier, seeking a safer place.

When Sabah heard about the catastrophe on the radio she fainted. The host family thought she was simply tired. By the time she revived, her family had already buried what they thought was her body. In fact it was Nahil who was buried, not Sabah.

Dalal is consumed with grief at the loss of her family. She cries constantly. The only things left in her home were her school uniform, her cat and some photos of her brothers and sister.

Has the world abandoned us? Who will stand up for the rights of Palestinian children and their families?      Video of Dalal’s story

Mahmoud Abu Aisha works at the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme and was the coordinator of GCMHP’s 5th International Conference “Siege and Mental Health: Walls vs. Bridges” October 18-26, 2008.

Gaza Doctor Who Lost Daughters Demands Explanation January 21, 2009

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Mideast Israel Palestinians Doctor's GriefDr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish, a Palestinian doctor and peace activist who trained in Israel and became a regular fixture on Israeli television, rests his head on his son Abdullah, 6, in a car before traveling to Israel with his children, near his house in Jebaliya, in the northern Gaza strip, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009. Three of his daughters and a niece were killed by an Israeli shell which struck his house, and he returned to Gaza Wednesday to collect his remaining children. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

 

Tamer Saliba, www.huffingtonpost.com, Januray 21, 2009 

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The Gaza doctor who recounted live on Israeli television how his three daughters and niece had just been killed by shelling demanded on Wednesday that Israel’s defense minister explain their deaths.

Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish, a 55-year-old gynecologist who speaks Hebrew after training in two Israeli hospitals, sobbed as he reported the deaths shortly after an Israeli shell struck his home in the northern town of Jebaliya on Friday. His account captivated viewers on Israel’s Channel 10 TV.

The well-known peace activist who was involved in promoting joint Israeli-Palestinian projects returned Wednesday to inspect his destroyed Gaza home and to reunite with his five surviving children. His wife died recently of cancer.

“I was well known to the Israelis even more than the Palestinians. They know me. Why they kill my children?” he sobbed in an APTN interview Wednesday as he looked at pictures of his dead daughters amid the rubble in his home.

He said he wanted to meet with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak to hear firsthand why his children were killed.

“I want him to have the courage, to have the concern to meet me to tell me why, without falsification,” he told Associated Press Television. “I’ll be proud that my children were the symbol of this war _ that their blood wasn’t futile. That it awakened the concern of some, not the majority, of Israelis.”

Abu al-Aish is an academic who studied the effects of war on Gaza and Israeli children and he works at Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital.

Gaza officials identified his slain daughters as 22-year-old Bisan, 15-year-old Mayer and 14-year-old Aya. His niece was identified as 14-year-old Nour Abu al-Aish.

Two other daughters were wounded and were taken to Israeli hospitals for treatment. Israeli TV said initial reports indicated that a sniper had fired from either the family’s building _ which friends quoted in the report said they doubted _ or nearby, and Israeli forces responded with a tank shell. The Israeli military is investigating the case.

Abu al-Aish also attacked the international community for turning a blind eye to Gaza.

“Maybe this massacre will be the triggering factor to wake them up,” he said. “I will continue in the same way that I believe in humanity, with Palestinians and Israelis.”

Israel Pounds Gaza: Shells Crowded Hospital, UN Compound and Building Housing Media Organizations January 15, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
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www.democracynow.org, January 15, 2009 

AMY GOODMAN: We go directly to the Middle East to Gaza. Juan?

 

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Israeli forces are continuing to pound Gaza City, hitting civilian targets, including a UN building, a hospital and a building housing several media organizations, in some of the heaviest shelling in nearly three weeks. Israeli troops, backed by helicopter gunships, tanks and heavy guns, have pushed deeply into densely populated neighborhoods. Thousands of Gaza City residents are fleeing their homes.

The Palestinian death toll now stands at at least 1,045, at least half of them civilians. Another 4,860 have been injured. Thirteen Israelis have been killed, including four by friendly fire.

 

AMY GOODMAN: We go now to Gaza to speak with Dr. Moussa El-Haddad, a retired physician. He lives in Gaza City.

Welcome to Democracy Now! Tell us where you are and what’s happening right now, Dr. El-Haddad.

 

DR. MOUSSA EL-HADDAD: Well, I am in Gaza City itself. What’s happening is a state that is almost impossible to describe. The Israeli army has escalated the attack on civilians since last night. I did not have a single minute of sleep for the last probably eighteen hours. There have been bombardment every day, every minute, all night long. My house was rocking all the time.

 

And this morning, when the sun rose, we could at least look from the window, and I could see, as you probably have seen on the TV, smoke coming out buildings, civilian buildings, apartment buildings. Actually, two hospitals were bombarded this morning, the Al-Quds and the Al-Wafa Hospital. Al-Wafa Hospital is a hospital for handicaps, by the way, and old people. A media apartment was also hit this morning not far from my house. That’s Abu Dhabi news agency.

 

So, wherever, it’s extremely unsafe now, even inside our homes, smoke everywhere. I could see cluster bombs being fired this morning, and the phosphorus bombs now are used freely on the civilians. I’m sure you have seen it on the TV.

 

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. El-Haddad, we heard that white phosphorus was dropped on the UN compound, that hundreds of people, families were there taking refuge. We discussed white phosphorus yesterday with Human Rights Watch. Can you talk, as a doctor, about the effects of the burning? For example, they say it can’t be put out, the fires that it creates, just by pouring water on it. In fact, that exacerbates it.

 

DR. MOUSSA EL-HADDAD: No, no, no. You cannot, actually. If you pour water on it, it gets worse, if you get this burn. Number one, those people who get exposed to white phosphorus get severe respiratory distress. They can hardly breathe, and then the exposed skin gets burned. If you put water on it, the burning increases, becomes worse. So you cannot really do much about it. And if the affected area was exposed too much for white phosphorus, it burns the skin, muscles and deep to the bones. So, eventually, a lot of these patients will lose some of their limbs.

 

AMY GOODMAN: Doctor El-Haddad, we’ve just been joined by Christopher Gunness. He’s the spokesperson for the UN Relief and Works Agency.

Can you tell us, Chris Gunness, what has happened to the UN compound in Gaza?

 

CHRISTOPHER GUNNESS: Well, this morning, there were three rounds of white phosphorus which landed in our compound in Gaza. That set ablaze the main warehouse and the big workshop we have there for vehicles. At the time, there were 700, also, people displaced from the fighting. There were full fuel tankers there. The Israeli army have been given all the coordinates of all our facilities, including this one. They also knew that there were fuel tankers laden with fuel in the compound, and they would have known that there were hundreds of people who had taken refuge.

 

The Israeli Defense Minister apologized to the Secretary-General for this, but, for us, we need deeds, not words. We have to get on with our humanitarian task. Amazingly, our operations are continuing today, and I have to pay tribute to the extraordinary bravery and commitment of our staff in Gaza. We’re continuing with our food distributions. We’re picking up humanitarian goods from the crossings, and we are doing healthcare as best we can.

 

JUAN GONZALEZ: And from this latest strike, were there any casualties in your compound?

 

CHRISTOPHER GUNNESS: There were at least three, and that’s when I was last able to talk to office, but it’s possible there are more. But for the moment, three people injured. And it, again, tragically illustrates that when you have this [inaudible] on and off, the military machine, when you have rockets flying out of Gaza, humanitarian workers and innocent civilians are going to get caught in the crossfire. Of course, we condemn the rockets that come out of Gaza.

But the world has been revulsed by the pictures that have come out of Gaza, which is why today we’ve, on the ground, utterly endorsed and backed the call of the world’s top diplomat, Ban Ki-moon. [inaudible] he’s the conscience of the world. He’s come here with a Security Council resolution, which says stop the fighting. And those parties on the ground who are continuing to fight are doing so in defiance and in isolation.

 

JUAN GONZALEZ: And this use of phosphorus munitions, your response to that?

 

CHRISTOPHER GUNNESS: Well, I’m not a military person, but a colleague of mine said to me in Gaza today, who, you know, has a military background and knows these things, it looks like white phosphorus, it smells like white phosphorus, and it burns like white phosphorus. We weren’t able, initially, to put the fighting out, because we had only conventional fire extinguishers. White phosphorus needs sand, and we didn’t have sand in quantities. But I’m pleased to say that the Red Cross fire services have managed to make [unintelligible] a compound and are now fighting the blaze.

 

AMY GOODMAN: Chris Gunness, in addition to the three people you say that were wounded there, what about the thousands of tons of supplies? Is that right? Food, medical supplies, other aid in this building?

 

CHRISTOPHER GUNNESS: Yes, I don’t have a handle on exact quantities, but there’s no doubt that aid was destroyed, aid paid for with your tax dollars and mine. It’s a tragic piece of symbolism that the very pallets that we deliver humanitarian assistance on are on fire in Gaza. You know, what more tragic symbolism could there be of the situation that we find ourselves in today?

 

AMY GOODMAN: Ehud Barak said this was a mistake, the attack on the UN compound. Your response?

 

CHRISTOPHER GUNNESS: Well, we want deeds and not words. Our workers and, indeed, the civilians in Gaza have come in harm’s way too many times. This on-off with the pause, so-called, is not good enough. It’s woefully inadequate, because, of course, we have to preposition our aid before the actual pause takes place, where—there’s heavy fighting where I am—the booms—anyway, which is slightly distracting. There are—you know, we have to preposition our aid at our food distribution centers. We have to get our medical supplies to hospitals, which we are doing our best to supply. We have got to get fuel to hospitals, because most of the hospitals in Gaza today are running twenty-four/seven on emergency generators, so babies on life support systems, patients, the dying, the elderly, the sick, who need electricity, are in a life-threatening situation.

 

So, we are continuing with our work, but we say, “Please, will the parties on the ground listen to the call of the world’s top diplomat today?” On his first day of his peace mission to Israel, he has, again, endorsed the call of the Security Council for an immediate ceasefire. And this terrible attack on the United Nations headquarters is another tragic illustration of what happens when you don’t have a ceasefire. There has to be a permanent ceasefire.

 

JUAN GONZALEZ: I’d like to ask Dr. Moussa El-Haddad, who is still on the line with us—

 

DR. MOUSSA EL-HADDAD: Yes.

 

JUAN GONZALEZ: —the Israelis say that they keep notifying the population to flee areas that they are attacking. What does this mean to you? Where could you possibly go to flee to safety?

 

DR. MOUSSA EL-HADDAD: Well, number one, let me tell you that I’ve heard from many people whose houses have been demolished, bombarded, that no warning has been given. Some people were given warnings through the Red Cross, but many people were not warned. So, those who leave their houses, they just go out to shelters, UNRWA shelters—you know, it’s not actually shelters; it’s schools and—or to their relatives.

 

But let me just add a comment to what Mr. Ehud Olmert said, that he apologized, that it was a mistake. If that was one mistake—and I tell you right now on the air—that they have committed hundreds of mistakes during the last three weeks. You know, what about all these apartment buildings that only civilians occupy? Children and families are trapped in elevators and under the stairs. Children and women bleeding in the streets, and the Israeli Army tanks are not allowing Red Cross or humanitarian aid to go and help them. The ambulances are not allowed to go in. They bleed for hours. And we can hear them on the radio asking for help and somebody to come and help them and take them. Dead bodies are in the streets down in our area in the southwest of Gaza. It’s—I’ll tell you, this is a disaster on humans. This is a human disaster in the twenty-first century. And everybody is looking.

I’m a—as a physician, I am telling you. You know, even now, you know, I just hope they stop this, whatever you want to call it, massacre or what. But I hope that they just stop it [inaudible]. And even if they do, there will be, years to come, people suffering psychologically, handicap people. You know, we already started seeing things like this. So, I don’t know how long we have to take until this thing stops. And I just hope that Mr. Bush is enjoying his time playing with his cat or dog right now.

 

AMY GOODMAN: Doctor Moussa El-Haddad, we’d like to ask you to stay on with us. We’re going to go to break. But Christopher Gunness, if you haven’t left us yet, spokesperson for UNRWA—

 

CHRISTOPHER GUNNESS: No, I’m here.

 

AMY GOODMAN: —just a comment on UNICEF. It’s rare that it speaks out. Ann Veneman is the head of UNICEF, used to be the head of Department of Agriculture here in the United States. But UNICEF has condemned the Gaza attack. In a rare statement, it urged an immediate ceasefire, calling the deaths of children tragic and unacceptable. Final comments, Christopher Gunness?

 

CHRISTOPHER GUNNESS: Well, it is entirely unacceptable. And, of course, we’re very gratified and welcome the statement by Ann Veneman. Too many innocent children, too many babies, too many women have been killed. And, of course, in Israel too, there have been rockets which we condemn. The pictures have revulsed the world, and Ban Ki-moon has come here as the conscience of the world. He’s expressing the revulsion of the world and is calling for the rockets to stop and for the fighting in Gaza to stop. Enough innocent civilians have been killed. It has to stop.

 

AMY GOODMAN: Christopher Gunness, thanks for being with us, spokesperson for UN Relief and Works Agency.

 

CHRISTOPHER GUNNESS: Thank you very much.

 

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. El-Haddad will stay with us. When we come back from break, we’re joined by Rabbi Michael Lerner, an open letter to Barack Obama. Rabbis have taken out a full-page ad in the New York Times to make a statement about Gaza. Stay with us.

[break]

JUAN GONZALEZ: A coalition of American rabbis and other religious, cultural and community leaders bought a full-page ad in the New York Times on Wednesday calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and for President-elect Barack Obama to convene an international Middle East peace conference. The initiative was led by Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine. Lerner said the group had to buy ad space because the nation’s major newspapers are not giving room for this perspective.

AMY GOODMAN: Rabbi Michael Lerner joins us in San Francisco.

Welcome to Democracy Now! You’ve been listening as we spoke to Christopher Gunness, UN Relief and Works Agency, as well as Dr. El-Haddad, who is trapped in his house in Gaza, observing what is happening outside. Rabbi Lerner, talk about your message, who put out this ad and what it says.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Well, it was put out by Tikkun magazine, and we are actually trying now to get other liberal and progressive people around the country to help us. Go to tikkun.org, so that we can reproduce this in the Washington Post and in other major media. Unfortunately, the media, except for Democracy Now! and Pacifica and a few other places, are obliterating the message that many, many American Jews and other religious leaders, spiritual leaders and just American citizens are outraged at the immorality of what is happening.

So we’re demanding an immediate ceasefire, but we’re also asking for President Obama to take an immediate leadership in convening an international conference, because the direction that was laid out by Senator Clinton yesterday, that she said Obama and she agreed on, which would call for—would say that there are no negotiations with Hamas until Hamas recognizes the state of Israel, which, of course, is not going to happen—Hamas is going to be agreeable to a ceasefire, and maybe a long-term ceasefire, twenty or thirty years, but it’s not going to recognize Israel, so this policy is a non-starter. It’s a stupid policy. And it’s exactly in reverse of what Obama said he would do during the elections, when he was saying he would negotiate with people, including Iran and Syria, despite the fact that he abhorred their policies.

Why, in Israel, do we have the one time when he won’t negotiate, won’t talk to Hamas? Well, of course, the answer is obvious. It’s that the Israel lobby, combining extremely right-wing Jews in this country with a powerful Christian Zionist movement, have blocked out of public discourse all of the moral sentiments of the American public, which would be outraged at what’s going on in Gaza at this moment and, more generally, understand that the best interests of Israel and Israeli security lies in reconciliation with the Palestinian people, not in trying to wipe them out.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Rabbi Lerner, in your open letter to Barack Obama, you raise your concern that, having met him several times in the past, that you saw a great hope in terms of the Middle East in his policies, but that you were concerned, starting with the election campaign last year, that you saw a change in his direction. Could you elaborate on that?

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Well, you know, in my conversations with Obama—Obama came to a Tikkun conference in 1996, and I spoke to him about these issues in 2006. And he was very much aligned with the Tikkun perspective, which is a perspective that says that the best interest of Israel lies in peace and reconciliation with the Palestinian people.

But the pressures that have been brought upon him during the campaign and now afterwards are immense. You cannot underestimate the amount of push that is going on all around him. And remember that last week the Senate voted overwhelmingly—that is, unanimously—to support the Israeli position, and the House voted—I think it was 405-to-five in support of the Israeli position.

There is nothing coming from the other direction. And that’s why those of us who really care about the security of the Palestinian people and the Israeli people need to stand up and speak very loudly at this time and to ask President Obama to intervene, to intervene directly, and to not listen to all those forces that are saying to him, “Forget about the Israel thing. Don’t risk your political capital on Israel-Palestine. Turn to other issues.” Now, this is happening—as you see and you beautifully demonstrated, this is happening, this moral outrage, this violation of human rights, is happening on a daily basis right now, and we need leadership right now.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to end with Dr. Moussa El-Haddad back in Gaza, retired physician living in Gaza City, as best he can right now. Dr. El-Haddad, why don’t you leave your home? How far are the Israeli troops from your home?

DR. MOUSSA EL-HADDAD: Why don’t I leave my home?

AMY GOODMAN: Yes.

DR. MOUSSA EL-HADDAD: Well, number one, there is nowhere to go. As you know, all the borders are closed. And if I leave, all the places are unsafe now. As we mentioned in the beginning, the civilians are trapped into this, between—this is a game being played between the politicians, and the civilians are paying the price. Number one, all the borders of Gaza Strip are closed. As you know, also the sea is closed. You cannot leave.

And as a human being, I would like to leave when I want and where I want. I don’t want to leave because Israel wants me to leave.

So the Israeli army now is pretty close to me, the tanks. Nobody is safe in this area. And as you know, more than 300 children have been killed so far, and some of them are as young as five months old. Can you believe it?

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Moussa El-Haddad, the program is ending now. I want to thank you for being with us—

DR. MOUSSA EL-HADDAD: That’s my pleasure, dear.

AMY GOODMAN: —and wish you safety, a retired physician living in Gaza City. His daughter, Laila El-Haddad, is the journalist who we’ve interviewed who writes the popular blog “Raising Yousuf.” Yousuf is Dr. Moussa El-Haddad’s grandson.

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