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End the Siege of Gaza! March on Washington, D.C., June 6 April 29, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Uncategorized.
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Solidarity Day on the 42nd Anniversary of Israel’s seizure of Gaza

  woman outside tent in GazaSearching through the rubble

RALLY & MARCH
Saturday, June 6
12:00 noon
Freedom Plaza
(14th & Pennsylvania Ave. NW)

Saturday, June 6 marks the 42nd anniversary of the Israeli seizure of Gaza. Organizations and individuals in solidarity with the people of Palestine will be taking to the streets once again to demand: End the Siege of Gaza!

The world looked on in horror this past winter as Israel mercilessly starved and bombed the people of Gaza, killing around 1,200 Palestinians (at least a third of whom were children). The Arab world now refers to the dark days from the end of December to mid-January “The Gaza Massacre.” Although the mainstream media no longer focuses on Gaza, the suffering continues there nonetheless. Using the pretext of combating terrorism, Israel has refused to allow in even one truckload of cement into Gaza. In other words, the city that was reduced to rubble still lies in rubble today.All these months later, people are still living in tents and are scarcely able to secure the necessities of life.

People of conscience around the world continue to raise their voices in outrage at this crime against humanity, and in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Gaza. We will also stand for all Palestinian people’s inalienable right to return to their homes from which they were evicted. Let your voice be heard — join us Saturday, June 6, at 12 noon at Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC (14th St. and Pennsylvania NW).

Sponsoring organizations include ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism), Muslim American Society (MAS) Freedom, American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), National Council of Arab Americans (NCA) and more!

Contact us at (202) 544-3389 or dc@answercoalition.org to get involved!

Avoiding World Conference on Racism Shows Obama’s Disrespect For Blacks April 20, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Foreign Policy, Racism.
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durbanby BAR executive editor Glen Ford
President Obama’s “fawning, damn near servile behavior when accommodating Zionist demands” to boycott and sabotage the Durban II conference on racism “should have been a deal breaker” in his relations with African Americans. But what passes for Black leadership accepts any and all insults from Obama, who naturally treats them like the spineless creatures they are. Meanwhile, the White House keeps “Jewish leaders” up to date with conference calls on how Obama is protecting Israel from charges that it is an apartheid state, and also ensuring that the United States is not compelled to make amends for its racist past and present.

 

 

Avoiding World Conference on Racism Shows Obama’s Deep Disrespect For Blacks
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
Blacks get nothing from Obama’s White House except permission to worship him as the ultimate role model.”
On Tuesday, April 14, according to the Huffington Post, the White House placed a conference call to American “Jewish leaders,” all but assuring them the U.S. would not show up for Durban II, the international conference on racism, in Geneva, Switzerland. President Obama’s close adviser Samantha Power, of the National Security Council, said the event’s revised draft document “met two of our four red lines frontally, in the sense that it went no further than reparations and it did drop all references to Israel and all anti-Semitic language. But it continued to reaffirm, in toto, Durban I.”
Translation: although the document, under relentless U.S. pressure, has been watered down to the point of irrelevance, it remains unacceptable because it reaffirms declarations of the first World Conference Against Racism, in Durban, South Africa, in 2001. There is virtually no chance President Obama will reverse his decision to boycott Durban II, April 20-24.
We must first ask: Why is the White House reporting to “Jewish leaders” on an issue that is of interest to all Americans, most especially people of color? Has Obama arranged such briefings on Durban II for “Black leaders,” “Latino leaders,” or “Native American leaders” – representatives of constituencies that have suffered genocide, slavery, discrimination, forced displacement and all manner of racist assaults right here on American soil? No, he has not. Barack Obama knows full well that he risks nothing by disrespecting African Americans at will. Across the Black political spectrum, so-called leadership seems incapable of shame or of taking manly or womanly offense at even the most blatant insults to Black people when the source of the affront is Barack Hussein Obama.
Barack Obama knows full well that he risks nothing by disrespecting African Americans at will.”
Several weeks ago, popular Sirius Radio Black talk show host Mark Thompson (“Make It Plain”) wondered aloud if Obama’s threat to boycott Durban II should be a “deal breaker” – a “last straw” offense against Black interests and sensibilities. It should have been. The Obama administration’s fawning, damn near servile behavior when accommodating Zionist demands – and I use the word “demands” quite purposely – was a lesson in how Power responds to constituencies it favors, fears, or at least, respects. Blacks get nothing from Obama’s White House except permission to worship him as the ultimate role model. Less than nothing, as the unfolding Durban outrage demonstrates.
Obama has done more damage to the Durban process than George Bush, who pulled out of Durban I after the conference had begun. Important language survived the 2001 disruption, such as:
“We acknowledge that slavery and the slave trade, including the transatlantic slave trade, were appalling tragedies in the history of humanity not only because of their abhorrent barbarism but also in terms of their magnitude, organized nature and especially their negation of the essence of the victims, and further acknowledge that slavery and the slave trade are a crime against humanity and should always have been so, especially the transatlantic slave trade and are among the major sources and manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and that Africans and people of African descent, Asians and people of Asian.”
Urges States to adopt the necessary measures, as provided by national law, to ensure the right of victims to seek just and adequate reparation and satisfaction to redress acts of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and to design effective measures to prevent the repetition of such acts”
As University of Dayton, Ohio law professor Vernellia R. Randall has pointed out, pressures from the Obama White House caused revisions in the Durban II draft that
withdrew  language related to reparations;
removed  the proposed paragraph related to the transatlantic slave trade being a crime against humanity;
removed proposed paragraphs designed to strengthen the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent; and, 
overall weakened the efforts related to people of African Descent.
And of course, language related to Palestinian rights and Israeli racism was totally eviscerated. (Samantha Power: “..it did drop all references to Israel and all anti-Semitic language.”) But none of that was enough to satisfy the Zionists, who hope to utterly destroy Durban II, and erase Durban I from the record. (Power, on remaining U.S. objections: “But it continued to reaffirm, in toto, Durban I.”)
Durbin II should have been a deal breaker.”
George Bush’s walkout at Durban I provided a sour ending for the event, but allowed participants to make some important statements and carry out additional work over the next eight years. The United States and other countries were to report to Durbin II on residential segregation, criminal justice, police brutality, felony disenfranchisement and Katrina displacement. That cannot happen if the official American delegation is not in Geneva. Samantha Power told her Jewish leadership friends, who don’t want Durban II to occur, at all, not to worry. “In order for us to participate in the negotiations, to sit behind the placard, to be involved in a frontal way, much more would need to be done. And all four of our red lines will need to be met.”
Israel and the White House speak of “red lines” that they will not tolerate being crossed in politics and diplomacy. But where are the “red lines” that so-called Black leaders will not allow to be breached? Where Barack Obama is concerned, such lines do not exist – which is why he is permitted to walk all over Black folks, with impunity.
Yes, Durbin II should have been a deal breaker. Instead, it was mostly cause for sniveling lamentation and words of “concern” or wishful predictions by Black notables that Obama would change his mind (after the damage had already been done!) and attend the conference.
The National Conference of Black Lawyers (NCBL), although initially registering “profound disappointment” (oh, my!) with Obama’s boycott of Durbin II, cheerily added, “we are confident that your Administration will be reversing its decision in time to participate in the conference and its remaining preparatory meetings….” That was on March 27, by which time Obama’s vandals had caused the shredding of almost every word of value in the documents. The Black lawyers’ “Open Letter to President Barack Obama” was signed by an impressive list of many scores of prominent organizations and individuals – but in its determined, concentrated meekness, should never have been expected to have any impact on the White House. And of course, it had none.
Where are the ‘red lines’ that so-called Black leaders will not tolerate being breached?”
The likes of the NCBL would be flattered to have Obama’s people string them along – any attention would do. But Samantha Power and her boss won’t even bother, understanding perfectly well that the meek inherent nothing but contempt. In her thorough and collegial report on Durban to Jewish leaders – who are anything but meek – Power said: “We will make our decision [to attend] up closer to the date of the conference, we want to show good faith to our allies and the people who are working hard to improve the text… But we are also not interested in being involved or associated with fool’s errands.”
Obama’s White House has not seen fit to show the slightest glimmer of good faith to Black people (at least, those not in his immediate family or employ), and seems to consider salvaging Durbin II a “fools errand.” You know what color the “fools” are.
TransAfrica chairman Danny Glover placed an article in the April 8 issue of The Nation magazine that read like a letter to President Obama. “This should be a moment for the United States to rejoin the global struggle against racism, the struggle that the Bush administration so arrogantly abandoned,” wrote Glover. “I hope President Obama will agree that the United States must participate with other nations in figuring out the tough issues of how to overcome racism and other forms of discrimination and intolerance, and how to provide repair to victims.”
Let’s see if Glover calls Obama “arrogant” when the president finishes sabotaging Durbin II. My bet is, “disappointed” is about as strong as Glover will muster. Obama sucks the spine out of Black people.
And as long as Black notables (let’s drop the “leadership” charade) turn into invertebrates at the mere thought of Barack Obama, so long will he treat the entire group as inconsequential, harmless ciphers.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Where’s Rev. Wright When You Need Him? April 20, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Racism.
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by Chris Hedges

Israel and the United States, which could be charged under international law with crimes against humanity for actions in Gaza, Iraq and Afghanistan, will together boycott the United Nations World Conference Against Racism in Geneva. Racism, an endemic feature of Israeli and American society, is not, we have decided, open for international inspection. Barack Obama may be president, but the United States has no intention of accepting responsibility or atoning for past crimes, including the use of torture, its illegal wars of aggression, slavery and the genocide on which the country was founded. We, like Israel, prefer to confuse lies we tell about ourselves with fact. 

The Obama administration’s decision not to prosecute CIA and Bush administration officials for the use of torture because it wants to look to the future is easy to accept if you were never tortured. The decision not to confront slavery and the continued discrimination against African-Americans is easy to accept if your ancestors were not kidnapped, crammed into slave ships, denied their religion and culture, deprived of their language, stripped of their names, severed from their families and forced into generations of economic misery. The decision not to discuss the genocide of Native Americans is easy if your lands were not stolen and your people driven into encampments and slaughtered. The doctrine of pre-emptive war and illegal foreign occupation is easy to accept if you are not a Palestinian, an Iraqi or an Afghan. 

“The Obama administration’s decision not to prosecute CIA and Bush administration officials for the use of torture because it wants to look to the future is easy to accept if you were never tortured.”

To victims of oppression, the past is never over. It is not even past. Trauma, suffering and discrimination do not afford them that luxury. Generations bear the scars of whips and chains. They carry heavy physical and psychological burdens. And these burdens do not disappear when someone glibly decides to look to the future. 

The conference in Geneva will discuss racism and continued segregation around the world, including in America, where African-Americans remain the nation’s underclass. In addressing slavery, it will raise the issue of reparations, something we deem appropriate for Jewish victims of the Holocaust but not for African-Americans. And it will seek to force all nations to confront injustices they would rather keep hidden. But we are not ready to look. 

The Obama administration at first refused to participate in the preliminary negotiations for the conference, chaired by Russia, Iran and Libya. It then agreed to attend for one week. It demanded the removal of references to Israel in the document outlining the goals of the conference. The references were removed. It also demanded other insidious changes, as Vernellia R. Randall, a University of Dayton Ohio law professor, pointed out. The Obama administration asked that the call for reparations for African-Americans be expunged. It insisted that the description of the transatlantic slave trade as “a crime against humanity” be cut. And it demanded the elimination of a call to strengthen the U.N. “Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent,” which deals with the African diaspora. 

The document, however, ratified “Durban I,” which was the concluding document of the first World Conference Against Racism, held in South Africa in 2001. The 2001 document included a harsh condemnation of Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians. And this, finally, proved too much for Washington. 

“Barack Obama knows full well that he risks nothing by disrespecting African Americans at will,” wrote Glen Ford, the executive editor of The Black Agenda Report. “Across the Black political spectrum, so-called leadership seems incapable of shame or of taking manly or womanly offense at even the most blatant insults to Black people when the source of the affront is Barack Hussein Obama.”

The United States, which has a museum to the Jewish Holocaust in Washington but has never found the moral courage to officially atone for its role in slavery and the genocide of Native Americans, perpetuates a disturbing historical amnesia. Our national myth and deification of the Founding Fathers studiously preclude an examination of the bloody conquest, open racism, misogyny, elitism and brutality that led to the country’s establishment and that fester like an open wound. 

We failed to fully participate in every world conference on racism, including those held in 1978, 1983 and 2001. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell and his delegation during the 2001 conference in Durban, South Africa, walked out because of what the Americans termed “Israel-bashing.” 

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, on April 13, 2003, gave a 40-minute sermon called “Confusing God and Government.” Only a clip from the sermon-the phrase “God Damn America”-made it onto the airwaves. It was repeated in endless loops on cable news channels and used to turn Wright into a pariah. Obama denounced his former pastor. The rest of the sermon, and especially the context in which the phrase was used, was ignored. Obama would be a better president if he listened to voices like Wright’s and listened less to his pollsters and advisers.

The sermon was a cry from those who cannot forget what white and privileged Americans-as well as, now, the Obama administration-want us to ignore. It was a reminder that there are two narratives of America. And until these narratives converge, until we all accept the truth of our past, justice will never be done. We will continue until then to speak in two irreconcilable languages, one that acknowledges the pain of the past and seeks atonement and one that does not. We will continue to be two Americas. 

“This government lied about their belief that all men were created equal,” Wright told his congregation. “The truth is they believed that all white men were created equal. The truth is they did not even believe that white women were created equal, in creation nor civilization. The government had to pass an amendment to the Constitution to get white women the vote. Then the government had to pass an equal rights amendment to get equal protection under the law for women. The government still thinks a woman has no rights over her own body, and between Uncle Clarence [Thomas], who sexually harassed Anita Hill, and a closeted Klan court that is a throwback to the 19th century, handpicked by Daddy Bush, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, between Clarence and that stacked court, they are about to undo Roe vs. Wade, just like they are about to undo affirmative action. The government lied in its founding documents and the government is still lying today. Governments lie.”

” … When it came to treating the citizens of African descent fairly, America failed,” he said. “She put them in chains. The government put them in slave quarters. Put them on auction blocks. Put them in cotton fields. Put them in inferior schools. Put them in substandard housing. Put them in scientific experiments. Put them in the lowest-paying jobs. Put them outside the equal protection of the law. Kept them out of their racist bastions of higher education, and locked them into positions of hopelessness and helplessness. 

“The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.’ Naw, naw, naw. Not God Bless America. God Damn America! That’s in the Bible. For killing innocent people. God Damn America for treating us citizens as less than human. God Damn America as long as she tries to act like she is God and she is Supreme.”

There will be no delegation from the United States at the U.N. conference on racism. Not this year. Maybe not for several years. But the day will come, I hope, when justice will finally conquer hate, when the truth will allow us to speak as one nation. We can, on that day, send a delegation led by the Rev. Wright as part of reconciliation.

Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.

Rape is cheaper than bullets February 24, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, War, Women.
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Heather Harvey, www.guardian.co.uk

Tuesday 24 February 2009 15.30 GMT

Amnesty’s latest campaign about sexual violence being used as a weapon of war may be offensive. But at least it’ll make us think

This morning I received a text message from a friend who was on her way to work. It read: “Am just in the tube and there’s a really offensive poster up there but it says its Amnesty – do you know anything about it? It says ‘Rape is cheaper than bullets’.”

I quickly replied saying yes, it was an Amnesty International advertisement launched this week, and if it’s offensive then that is nothing compared to what hundreds of thousands of women and girls are suffering in conflict zones around the world.

The new Bullet ads that are appearing across the London Underground network over the next few weeks are designed to make passengers stop and think about some of the real horrors faced by women and girls. They’re meant to be provocative, because people are either immune or ignorant to the abuses that occur in global conflicts on a regular basis.

In previous and present wars, such as in Bosnia and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, rape and sexual violence are regularly used, and frequently the perpetrators go unpunished.

In the DRC’s troubled region of North Kivu, we are told that more than 2,200 cases of rape and sexual violence were reported in the first six months of 2008. Of these only 150 cases were heard in court, and in only one case was the perpetrator found guilty; that’s one out of 2,200.

Sexual violence against women isn’t unique to the DRC conflict.

The UN estimates that between 20,000 and 50,000 women were raped during the 1992-5 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Systematic rape is a crime against humanity. Even one rape during conflict is in fact defined as a war crime, although it is rarely treated as such.

If authorities fail to investigate and prosecute acts of rape in wartime, it will have an impact on the stability of the region once the fighting has stopped. Rape can cause entire communities to flee in terror, freeing up land and resources that are being disputed and ethnically reshaping whole societies. It can also destabilise a community by destroying family units.

The women who are raped regularly suffer horrific brutality, mutilation and violation. Frequently they pick themselves up and carry on but they are usually abandoned, ostracised, stigmatised and blamed for the rape they have suffered.

Meanwhile men turn away from the women in disgust and shame and blame them for their rape, as their ability to protect their family is called into question.

The legacy lasts for years and across generations with the whole community irrevocably displaced, damaged and broken and unlikely to recover for a long time.

In fact this act can produce a similar result as the one that is sought through the use of conventional weaponry but at a much smaller financial cost.

Various resolutions passed at the United Nations Security Council have acknowledged the impact of sexual violence against women in conflict. But they mean nothing if they’re not enforced on the ground.

More has to be done to protect these women from these atrocious acts. I’m hoping that over the next few weeks more people will be stirred into action by the Amnesty ad. After all, it’s not the ad that’s offensive – it’s the truth portrayed that should offend us.

Our myopic view of Gaza conflict January 8, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Media, War.
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Toronto Star, January 8, 2009

I was holidaying in India when the Israeli onslaught on Gaza began Dec. 27.

There were banner headlines coupled with editorial outrage in the Urdu media, the language of Muslims, and dispassionate but balanced coverage in the English media and the regional language newspapers.

Across the Arab Middle East, Al-Jazeera and others were providing one-sided, wall-to-wall coverage of death and destruction in Gaza.

Travelling through Europe, one could appreciate the powerful reporting and commentary, which conveyed the scale of the tragedy, without crossing the line into propaganda for either side.

It didn’t take long upon landing here to be reminded how much the political and media establishment – in the U.S. and, lately, Canada as well – are divorced from reality.

The Stephen Harper Conservatives, as well as many editorialists and pundits, seem to inhabit a make-believe world into which no inconvenient facts are allowed to intrude.

Their mantra is that Israel has a right to defend itself, has to protect its citizens from Hamas rockets, and had to retaliate for the breaking of the ceasefire by Hamas Dec. 19.

True. But deprived of other truths, this performs the desired magic of absolving Israel of any culpability.

According to this view, hundreds of Palestinian civilians, including women and children and seniors, being bombed and shelled to death in schools – even clearly marked United Nations schools – mosques, refugee camps, streets and homes are acceptable collateral damage.

Few tears need be shed, especially since Hamas is to blame, anyway.

There’s amnesia about the brutal 40-year-old occupation.

There’s nary a mention that in Israeli military operations in 2008, 420 Palestinians had been killed prior to Dec. 28 vs. five Israelis, according to B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights body,

And Israel’s crippling economic blockade had prompted the UN special rapporteur Richard Falk to say on Dec. 9 that Israel’s collective punishments amounted to “a crime against humanity,” and that the International Criminal Court ought to investigate whether Israeli leaders and military commanders should be indicted.He noted that the last time there had been “such a flurry of denunciations by normally cautious UN officials” was during the reign of the apartheid government in South Africa.

 

On Nov. 21, the chief of UN Relief and Works Agency, Karen Abu Zayd, said supplies had run out. She reported “a chronic anemia problem” and “the stunting of children.”

All this was long before the latest carnage, which foreign journalists have been prevented from witnessing. Dead, as of yesterday, were 650 Gazans, a fifth of them civilians.

What our political and media establishment are telling us is this:

Israel must not be provoked but the Palestinians can be.

The trauma suffered by Israelis in the border area along Gaza is not acceptable. But 60 per cent of 1.5 million Gazans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder is.

Israeli politicians, facing an election Feb. 10, have to be sensitive to electoral concerns, but Palestinians elected in a fair election Jan. 2006 must be isolated and jailed.

There’s an equivalency between Hamas’s handmade, ill-targeted rockets and the lethal hi-tech Israeli arsenal, some of it of American origin.

Palestinians must pay heed to Israeli/American/Canadian demands but Israel may ignore calls for a ceasefire by the UN, the European Union and even allies France, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc.

Israeli lives matter, Arab ones don’t. In fact, it is worth prolonging the bloodshed in Gaza, as in Lebanon in 2006, to allow Israel time to achieve one or two more of its objectives. Arab blood is cheap.

“Unfortunately, all this plays into the hands of those Palestinians and Arabs, and more generally, Muslims, who say, `the West is against us because of who we are and is engaged in a civilizational war against us,’” says Jim Reilly, professor of Near Eastern Studies at the University of Toronto.

“If we include Iraq and Afghanistan, it reinforces the message of Al Qaeda and co-thinkers that they are waging war against a predatory and rapacious enemy.

“All this makes it that much harder for us to argue back against the militants and the zealots.”

 

Haroon Siddiqui’s column appears Thursday and Sunday.

hsiddiq@thestar.ca

 

Party to Murder December 30, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
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The body of a Palestinian security force officer lies in the rubble after an Israeli missile strike on a building in Gaza on Sunday (AP photo/Fadi Adwan)

Chris Hedges,

www.truthdig.com, 29 December 2008 

Editor’s note: In light of the recent fighting in Gaza, Truthdig asked Chris Hedges, who covered the Mideast for The New York Times for seven years, to update a previous column on Gaza.

Can anyone who is following the Israeli air attacks on Gaza—the buildings blown to rubble, the children killed on their way to school, the long rows of mutilated corpses, the wailing mothers and wives, the crowds of terrified Palestinians not knowing where to flee, the hospitals so overburdened and out of supplies they cannot treat the wounded, and our studied, callous indifference to this widespread human suffering—wonder why we are hated?

Our self-righteous celebration of ourselves and our supposed virtue is as false as that of Israel. We have become monsters, militarized bullies, heartless and savage. We are a party to human slaughter, a flagrant war crime, and do nothing. We forget that the innocents who suffer and die in Gaza are a reflection of ourselves, of how we might have been should fate and time and geography have made the circumstances of our birth different. We forget that we are all absurd and vulnerable creatures. We all have the capacity to fear and hate and love. “Expose thyself to what wretches feel,” King Lear said, entering the mud and straw hovel of Poor Tom, “and show the heavens more just.”

Privilege and power, especially military power, is a dangerous narcotic. Violence destroys those who bear the brunt of its force, but also those who try to use it to become gods. Over 350 Palestinians have been killed, many of them civilians, and over 1,000 have been wounded since the air attacks began on Saturday. Ehud Barak, Israel’s defense minister, said Israel is engaged in a “war to the bitter end” against Hamas in Gaza. A war? Israel uses sophisticated attack jets and naval vessels to bomb densely crowded refugee camps and slums, to attack a population that has no air force, no air defense, no navy, no heavy weapons, no artillery units, no mechanized armor, no command and control, no army, and calls it a war. It is not a war. It is murder.

The U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, former Princeton University law professor Richard Falk, has labeled what Israel is doing to the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza “a crime against humanity.” Falk, who is Jewish, has condemned the collective punishment of the Palestinians in Gaza as “a flagrant and massive violation of international humanitarian law as laid down in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.” He has asked for “the International Criminal Court to investigate the situation, and determine whether the Israeli civilian leaders and military commanders responsible for the Gaza siege should be indicted and prosecuted for violations of international criminal law.”

Falk’s unflinching honesty has enraged Israel. He was banned from entering the country on Dec. 14 during his attempt to visit Gaza and the West Bank.

“After being denied entry I was put in a holding room with about 20 others experiencing entry problems,” he said. “At this point I was treated not as a U.N. representative, but as some sort of security threat, subjected to an inch-by-inch body search, and the most meticulous luggage inspection I have ever witnessed. I was separated from my two U.N. companions, who were allowed to enter Israel. At this point I was taken to the airport detention facility a mile or so away, required to put all my bags and cell phone in a room, taken to a locked, tiny room that had five other detainees, smelled of urine and filth, and was an unwelcome invitation to claustrophobia. I spent the next 15 hours so confined, which amounted to a cram course on the miseries of prison life, including dirty sheets, inedible food, and either lights that were too bright or darkness controlled from the guard office.”

The foreign press has been, like Falk, barred by Israel from entering Gaza to report on the destruction.

Israel’s stated aim of halting homemade rockets fired from Gaza into Israel remains unfulfilled. Gaza militants have fired more than 100 rockets and mortars into Israel, killing four people and wounding nearly two dozen more, since Israel unleashed its air assault. Israel has threatened to launch a ground assault and has called up 6,500 army reservists. It has massed tanks on the Gaza border and declared the area a closed military zone.

The rocket attacks by Hamas are, as Falk points out, also criminal violations of international law. But as Falk notes, “… such Palestinian behavior does not legalize Israel’s imposition of a collective punishment of a life- and health-threatening character on the people of Gaza, and should not distract the U.N. or international society from discharging their fundamental moral and legal duty to render protection to the Palestinian people.”

“It is an unfolding humanitarian catastrophe that each day poses the entire 1.5 million Gazans to an unspeakable ordeal, to a struggle to survive in terms of their health,” Falk has said of the ongoing Israeli blockade of Gaza. “This is an increasingly precarious condition. A recent study reports that 46 percent of all Gazan children suffer from acute anemia. There are reports that the sonic booms associated with Israeli overflights have caused widespread deafness, especially among children. Gazan children need thousands of hearing aids. Malnutrition is extremely high in a number of different dimensions and affects 75 percent of Gazans. There are widespread mental disorders, especially among young people without the will to live. Over 50 percent of Gazan children under the age of 12 have been found to have no will to live.”

Before the air assaults, Gaza spent 12 hours a day without power, which can be a death sentence to the severely ill in hospitals. Most of Gaza is now without power. There are few drugs and little medicine, including no cancer or cystic fibrosis medication. Hospitals have generators but often lack fuel. Medical equipment, including one of Gaza’s three CT scanners, has been destroyed by power surges and fluctuations. Medical staff cannot control the temperature of incubators for newborns. And Israel has revoked most exit visas, meaning some of those who need specialized care, including cancer patients and those in need of kidney dialysis, have died. Of the 230 Gazans estimated to have died last year because they were denied proper medical care, several spent their final hours at Israeli crossing points where they were refused entry into Israel. The statistics gathered on children—half of Gaza’s population is under the age of 17—are increasingly grim. About 45 percent of children in Gaza have iron deficiency from a lack of fruit and vegetables, and 18 percent have stunted growth.

“It is macabre,” Falk said of the blockade. “I don’t know of anything that exactly fits this situation. People have been referring to the Warsaw ghetto as the nearest analog in modern times.”

“There is no structure of an occupation that endured for decades and involved this kind of oppressive circumstances,” the rapporteur added. “The magnitude, the deliberateness, the violations of international humanitarian law, the impact on the health, lives and survival and the overall conditions warrant the characterization of a crime against humanity. This occupation is the direct intention by the Israeli military and civilian authorities. They are responsible and should be held accountable.”

The point of the Israeli attack, ostensibly, is to break Hamas, the radical Islamic group that was elected to power in 2007. But Hamas has repeatedly proposed long-term truces with Israel and offered to negotiate a permanent truce. During the last cease-fire, established through Egyptian intermediaries in July, Hamas upheld the truce although Israel refused to ease the blockade. It was Israel that, on Nov. 4, initiated an armed attack that violated the truce and killed six Palestinians. It was only then that Hamas resumed firing rockets at Israel.

“This is a crime of survival,” Falk said of the rocket attacks by Palestinians. “Israel has put the Gazans in a set of circumstances where they either have to accept whatever is imposed on them or resist in any way available to them. That is a horrible dilemma to impose upon a people. This does not alleviate the Palestinians, and Gazans in particular, for accountability for doing these acts involving rocket fire, but it also imposes some responsibility on Israel for creating these circumstances.”

Israel seeks to break the will of the Palestinians to resist. The Israeli government has demonstrated little interest in diplomacy or a peaceful solution. The rapid expansion of Jewish settlements on the West Bank is an effort to thwart the possibility of a two-state solution by gobbling up vast tracts of Palestinian real estate. Israel also appears to want to thrust the impoverished Gaza Strip onto Egypt. Dozens of tunnels had been the principal means for food and goods, connecting Gaza to Egypt. Israel had permitted the tunnels to operate, most likely as part of an effort to further cut Gaza off from Israel. This ended, however, on Sunday when Israeli fighter jets bombed over 40 tunnels along Gaza’s border with Egypt. The Israeli military said that the tunnels, on the Gaza side of the border, were used for smuggling weapons, explosives and fugitives. Egypt has sealed its border and refused to let distraught Palestinians enter its territory.

“Israel, all along, has not been prepared to enter into diplomatic process that gives the Palestinians a viable state,” Falk said. “They [the Israelis] feel time is on their side. They feel they can create enough facts on the ground so people will come to the conclusion a viable state cannot emerge.”

The use of terror and hunger to break a hostile population is one of the oldest forms of warfare. I watched the Bosnian Serbs employ the same tactic in Sarajevo. Those who orchestrate such sieges do not grasp the terrible rage born of long humiliation, indiscriminate violence and abuse. A father or a mother whose child dies because of a lack of vaccines or proper medical care does not forget. A boy whose ill grandmother dies while detained at an Israel checkpoint does not forget. A family that loses a child in an airstrike does not forget. All who endure humiliation, abuse and the murder of family members do not forget. This rage becomes a virus within those who, eventually, stumble out into the daylight. Is it any wonder that 71 percent of children interviewed at a school in Gaza recently said they wanted to be a “martyr”?

The Israelis in Gaza, like the American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, are foolishly breeding the next generation of militants and Islamic radicals. Jihadists, enraged by the injustices done by Israel and the United States, seek to carry out reciprocal acts of savagery, even at the cost of their own lives. The violence unleashed on Palestinian children will, one day, be the violence unleashed on Israeli children. This is the tragedy of Gaza. This is the tragedy of Israel. 

Israel’s ‘Crime Against Humanity’ December 15, 2008

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Dec 15, 2008

AP photo / Hatem Moussa

A Palestinian worker sweeps out the empty storeroom of a U.N. food distribution center in Gaza City.

, www.truthdig.com

By Chris Hedges

Israel’s siege of Gaza, largely unseen by the outside world because of Jerusalem’s refusal to allow humanitarian aid workers, reporters and photographers access to Gaza, rivals the most egregious crimes carried out at the height of apartheid by the South African regime. It comes close to the horrors visited on Sarajevo by the Bosnian Serbs. It has disturbing echoes of the Nazi ghettos of Lodz and Warsaw.

“This is a stain on what is left of Israeli morality,” I was told by Richard N. Veits, the former U.S. ambassador to Jordan who led a delegation from the Council on Foreign Relations to Gaza to meet Hamas leaders this past summer. “I am almost breathless discussing this subject. It is so myopic. Washington, of course, is a handmaiden to all this. The Israeli manipulation of a population in this manner is comparable to some of the crimes that took place against civilian populations fifty years ago.”

The U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, former Princeton University law professor Richard Falk, calls what Israel is doing to the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza “a crime against humanity.” Falk, who is Jewish, has condemned the collective punishment of the Palestinians in Gaza as “a flagrant and massive violation of international humanitarian law as laid down in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.” He has asked for “the International Criminal Court to investigate the situation, and determine whether the Israeli civilian leaders and military commanders responsible for the Gaza siege should be indicted and prosecuted for violations of international criminal law.”

Falk, while condemning the rocket attacks by the militant group Hamas, which he points out are also criminal violations of international law, goes on to say that “such Palestinian behavior does not legalize Israel’s imposition of a collective punishment of a life- and health-threatening character on the people of Gaza, and should not distract the U.N. or international society from discharging their fundamental moral and legal duty to render protection to the Palestinian people.”

“It is an unfolding humanitarian catastrophe that each day poses the entire 1.5 million Gazans to an unspeakable ordeal, to a struggle to survive in terms of their health,” Falk said when I reached him by phone in California shortly before he left for Israel. “This is an increasingly precarious condition. A recent study reports that 46 percent of all Gazan children suffer from acute anemia. There are reports that the sonic booms associated with Israeli overflights have caused widespread deafness, especially among children. Gazan children need thousands of hearing aids. Malnutrition is extremely high in a number of different dimensions and affects 75 percent of Gazans. There are widespread mental disorders, especially among young people without the will to live. Over 50 percent of Gazan children under the age of 12 have been found to have no will to live.”

Gaza now spends 12 hours a day without power, which can be a death sentence to the severely ill in hospitals. There are few drugs and little medicine, including no cancer or cystic fibrosis medication. Hospitals have generators but often lack fuel. Medical equipment, including one of Gaza’s three CT scanners, has been destroyed by power surges and fluctuations. Medical staff cannot control the temperature of incubators for newborns. And Israel has revoked most exit visas, meaning some of those who need specialized care, including cancer patients and those in need of kidney dialysis, have died. Of the 230 Gazans estimated to have died last year because they were denied proper medical care, several spent their final hours at Israeli crossing points where they were refused entry into Israel. The statistics gathered on children—half of Gaza’s population is under the age of 17—are increasingly grim. About 45 percent of children in Gaza have iron deficiency from a lack of fruit and vegetables, and 18 percent have stunted growth.

“It is macabre,” Falk said. “I don’t know of anything that exactly fits this situation. People have been referring to the Warsaw ghetto as the nearest analog in modern times.”

“There is no structure of an occupation that endured for decades and involved this kind of oppressive circumstances,” the rapporteur added. “The magnitude, the deliberateness, the violations of international humanitarian law, the impact on the health, lives and survival and the overall conditions warrant the characterization of a crime against humanity. This occupation is the direct intention by the Israeli military and civilian authorities. They are responsible and should be held accountable.”

The point of this Israeli siege, ostensibly, is to break Hamas, the radical Islamic group that was elected to power in 2007. But Hamas has repeatedly proposed long-term truces with Israel and offered to negotiate a permanent truce. During the last cease-fire, established through Egyptian intermediaries in July, Hamas upheld the truce although Israel refused to ease the blockade. It was Israel that, on Nov. 4, initiated an armed attack that violated the truce and killed six Palestinians. It was only then that Hamas resumed firing rockets at Israel. Palestinians have launched more than 200 rockets on Israel since the latest round of violence began. There have been no Israeli casualties.

“This is a crime of survival,” Falk said of the rocket attacks. “Israel has put the Gazans in a set of circumstances where they either have to accept whatever is imposed on them or resist in any way available to them. That is a horrible dilemma to impose upon a people. This does not alleviate the Palestinians, and Gazans in particular, for accountability for doing these acts involving rocket fire, but it also imposes some responsibility on Israel for creating these circumstances.”

Israel seeks to break the will of the Palestinians to resist. The Israeli government has demonstrated little interest in diplomacy or a peaceful solution. The rapid expansion of Jewish settlements on the West Bank is an effort to thwart the possibility of a two-state solution by gobbling up vast tracts of Palestinian real estate. Israel also appears to want to thrust the impoverished Gaza Strip onto Egypt. There are now dozens of tunnels, the principal means for food and goods, connecting Gaza to Egypt. Israel permits the tunnels to operate, most likely as part of an effort to further cut Gaza off from Israel.

“Israel, all along, has not been prepared to enter into diplomatic process that gives the Palestinians a viable state,” Falk said. “They [the Israelis] feel time is on their side. They feel they can create enough facts on the ground so people will come to the conclusion a viable state cannot emerge.”

The use of terror and hunger to break a hostile population is one of the oldest forms of warfare. I watched the Bosnian Serbs employ the same tactic in Sarajevo. Those who orchestrate such sieges do not grasp the terrible rage born of long humiliation, indiscriminate violence and abuse. A father or a mother whose child dies because of a lack of vaccines or proper medical care does not forget. A boy whose ill grandmother dies while detained at an Israel checkpoint does not forget. All who endure humiliation, abuse and the murder of family members do not forget. This rage becomes a virus within those who, eventually, stumble out into the daylight. Is it any wonder that 71 percent of children interviewed at a school in Gaza recently said they wanted to be a “martyr”?

The Israelis in Gaza, like the American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, are foolishly breeding the next generation of militants and Islamic radicals. Jihadists, enraged by the injustices done by Israel and the United States, seek to carry out reciprocal acts of savagery, even at the cost of their own lives. The violence unleashed on Palestinian children will, one day, be the violence unleashed on Israeli children. This is the tragedy of Gaza. This is the tragedy of Israel.

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