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Gaza crisis: Grandfather in mourning after family of 11 killed in Israeli airstrike on their home November 20, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Genocide, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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Roger’s note: According to the Israeli government, a nine month old baby who allows his fellow Gazans to vote for Hamas deserves to die.  And, of course, as President Obama so eloquently stated, Israel has the right to defend itself from a virtually hopeless and beseiged people who have about 1% of the military resources that Israel does.

A man carries the body of one of the Dalou children killed on Sunday when an Israeli missile struck their two-storey home in a residential area of Gaza City.
By Mitch Potter Washington Bureau
Toronto Star, November 20,2012
GAZA CITY—If the gates of hell are to swing shut now over the Gaza Strip amid talk of possible ceasefire, they will leave Jamal Dalou forever locked in their grip.

Patriarch of a family that is no longer, Dalou, 50, stared into the pancaked rubble that a day earlier was his three-storey home, his face a mask of alternating shock, sorrow and stunned defiance.

None of it had really sunk in yet, even as the Palestinian cause had hoisted him instantly from obscure market vendor to become the totem of Gaza’s newest misery. The chaotic funeral procession was over, and with it, Dalou’s last glimpse of his wife Tahani, his sister Suheila, his son Mohammed, and four grandkids, including his 9-month-old namesake, Jamal.

Eleven family members in all, with one body still believed trapped under the three-metre-high mound of broken concrete and twisted steel. And parts of the others, one neighbour whispered quietly in an aside to the Toronto Star.

All from a single Sunday afternoon missile strike the Israel Defense Forces said was meant for a local militant commander responsible for 200 to 300 rockets fired from Gaza in recent days. Faced with widening outrage a day later, the IDF said it was “still looking into” what happened but characterized the civilian casualties as an accident.

The two sides offered contradictory narratives as to whether any such commander even lives in these streets of Gaza City’s North Rimal neighbourhood.

Dalou readily acknowledged his son’s ties to Gaza’s Hamas-controlled government. But he and his neighbours insisted the 28-year-old served simply as a local police officer and not a member of the militant Qassam brigades.

The question alone prompted contempt from Dalou, as he and his three surviving sons received condolences under a mourning tent.

“Does a nine-month-old baby feeding at his mother’s breast have a gun in his hand?” Dalou said. “This area is empty of rockets, we have nothing.

“Israel is the stronger party — the sky, the sea, the land, everything is in their hands. And now they have destroyed my family. All the women, all the children. Gone.”

Thousands joined in the frenzied funeral procession, thrusting fists in the air in a codified ritual of martyrdom so familiar to Gaza. A Hamas minister spoke of vengeance, telling mourners: “This blood which was provided by your family will not go in vain. The rights of these children, these flowers, is on our neck.”

What was different this time was the presence of an Egyptian delegation, which later visited the Dalou mourning tent, offering bear-hugs for the patriarch and a blistering message from the neighbouring Arab Spring, intended for global consumption.

“We come here from the Muslim Brotherhood, from the salafists, from the liberals — all the parties of the Egyptian revolution — to say we are with you,” Egyptian activist Safuat Hijazi told the mourners.

“Down, down with Israel. We say, generation after generation, destroy Tel Aviv. And we ask, where are the others — the ones living in the palaces? The Gulf kings, the emirs with money filling up American banks. We want you to stand with us.”

As the six-day death toll rose to more than 100 Palestinians and three Israelis, Egyptian mediators working toward a negotiated ceasefire in Cairo signalled that a breakthrough may be in sight.

A survey by Israeli newspaper Haaretz showed that while 84 per cent of Israelis support an air campaign aimed at suppressing rockets from Gaza, only 30 per cent favour a ground invasion. That, coupled with the fact that the country is vectoring toward new elections in January, appeared to leave at least some space for compromise on the Israeli side.

“We prefer the diplomatic solution if it’s possible. If not we can escalate,” an Israeli official told the Associated Press. But Israel is demanding “international guarantees” that Hamas will not simply rearm or use the Egyptian Sinai next door to renew attacks in the coming months.

Khaled Meshal, the exiled Hamas leader, maintained a firm stance in Cairo, telling reporters that Israel must satisfy the group’s demands for an end to the blockade of Gaza if it expects the rocket barrage to end.

“We don’t accept Israeli conditions because it is the aggressor,” Meshal said. “We want a ceasefire along with meeting our demands.”

With the diplomatic window still ajar, the tempo of violence eased slightly Monday. But as night fell over Gaza a series of concussion explosions resumed.

Israeli officials, meanwhile, said at least 100 rockets were fired toward Israel during the day, bringing to more than 1,000 the number fired since Wednesday.

Some 35,000 Israeli army regulars and reservists, meanwhile, remain mobilized on the edge of the narrow Gaza Strip, awaiting orders to move in or stand down. And inside Gaza itself, the broken bones of bombarded Hamas government infrastructure, from police stations to political offices and even the Gaza City football stadium, suggest Israel may be near to exhausting its list of aerial targets.

For Jamal Dalou, who still has barely begun to process his loss, the idea of ceasefire sparked only an exhausted shrug.

“We want to work to relax, to live our lives. Not to come home and see our kids buried. But I still have God. That’s all I can say.”


The time of the righteous January 10, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
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www.haaeretz.com, January 9, 2009 

Gideon Levy

This war, perhaps more than its predecessors, is exposing the true deep veins of Israeli society. Racism and hatred are rearing their heads, as is the impulse for revenge and the thirst for blood. The “inclination of the commander” in the Israel Defense Forces is now “to kill as many as possible,” as the military correspondents on television describe it. And even if the reference is to Hamas fighters, this inclination is still chilling.

The unbridled aggression and brutality are justified as “exercising caution”: the frightening balance of blood – about 100 Palestinian dead for every Israeli killed, isn’t raising any questions, as if we’ve decided that their blood is worth one hundred times less than ours, in acknowledgement of our inherent racism.

Rightists, nationalists, chauvinists and militarists are the only legitimate bon ton in town. Don’t bother us about humaneness and compassion. Only at the edges of the camp can a voice of protest be heard – illegitimate, ostracized and ignored by media coverage – from a small but brave group of Jews and Arabs.

Alongside all this, rings another voice, perhaps the worst of all. This is the voice of the righteous and the hypocritical. My colleague, Ari Shavit, seems to be their eloquent spokesman. This week, Shavit wrote here (“Israel must double, triple, quadruple its medical aid to Gaza,” Haaretz, January 7): “The Israeli offensive in Gaza is justified … Only an immediate and generous humanitarian initiative will prove that even during the brutal warfare that has been forced on us, we remember that there are human beings on the other side.”

To Shavit, who defended the justness of this war and insisted that it mustn’t be lost, the price is immaterial, as is the fact that there are no victories in such unjust wars. And he dares, in the same breath, to preach “humaneness.”

Does Shavit wish for us to kill and kill, and afterward to set up field hospitals and send medicine to care for the wounded? He knows that a war against a helpless population, perhaps the most helpless one in the world, that has nowhere to escape to, can only be cruel and despicable. But these people always want to come out of it looking good. We’ll drop bombs on residential buildings, and then we’ll treat the wounded at Ichilov; we’ll shell meager places of refuge in United Nations schools, and then we’ll rehabilitate the disabled at Beit Lewinstein. We’ll shoot and then we’ll cry, we’ll kill and then we’ll lament, we’ll cut down women and children like automatic killing machines, and we’ll also preserve our dignity.

The problem is – it just doesn’t work that way. This is outrageous hypocrisy and self-righteousness. Those who make inflammatory calls for more and more violence without regard for the consequences are at least being more honest about it.

You can’t have it both ways. The only “purity” in this war is the “purification from terrorists,” which really means the sowing of horrendous tragedies. What’s happening in Gaza is not a natural disaster, an earthquake or flood, for which it would be our duty and right to extend a helping hand to those affected, to send rescue squads, as we so love to do. Of all the rotten luck, all the disasters now occurring in Gaza are manmade – by us. Aid cannot be offered with bloodstained hands. Compassion cannot sprout from brutality.

Yet there are some who still want it both ways. To kill and destroy indiscriminately and also to come out looking good, with a clean conscience. To go ahead with war crimes without any sense of the heavy guilt that should accompany them. It takes some nerve. Anyone who justifies this war also justifies all its crimes. Anyone who preaches for this war and believes in the justness of the mass killing it is inflicting has no right whatsoever to speak about morality and humaneness. There is no such thing as simultaneously killing and nurturing. This attitude is a faithful representation of the basic, twofold Israeli sentiment that has been with us forever: To commit any wrong, but to feel pure in our own eyes. To kill, demolish, starve, imprison and humiliate – and be right, not to mention righteous. The righteous warmongers will not be able to allow themselves these luxuries.

Anyone who justifies this war also justifies all its crimes. Anyone who sees it as a defensive war must bear the moral responsibility for its consequences. Anyone who now encourages the politicians and the army to continue will also have to bear the mark of Cain that will be branded on his forehead after the war. All those who support the war also support the horror.

U.N. wants to know if war crimes were committed in Gaza January 10, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
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MIDEAST ISRAEL PALESTINIANSA Palestinian boy wounded during Israeli military operations inside Gaza City on Saturday. (Photo: Ashraf Amra / AP)

By Ahmed Abu Hamda and Dion Nissenbaum | McClatchy Newspapers

January 9, 2009

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The U.N. high commissioner for human rights Friday called for an investigation of possible Israeli war crimes in Gaza as local residents told more gruesome tales about Israeli troops neglecting wounded civilians and the killing of unarmed Palestinians.

High Commissioner Navi Pillay noted the case of four boys who were rescued Wednesday by the International Committee of the Red Cross from the side of their dead mother in a dwelling 100 yards from an Israeli military post. The Red Cross called the incident “shocking,” and Pillay told the BBC that it “had all the elements of what constitutes a war crime.”

Eyewitnesses interviewed by McClatchy correspondents, along with Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups, described gruesome scenes in and near Gaza City.

Among them: the charred remains of a toddler that had been partially devoured by wild animals, reported by the Red Cross; and an infant bleeding to death in his mother’s arms, reported to a McClatchy special correspondent; and an unarmed man allegedly shot dead by an Israeli soldier in front of his family, reported by a relative who spoke to a McClatchy special correspondent and a witness who was interviewed by an Israeli human rights group.

McClatchy staff reporters couldn’t independently verify the alleged violations of international law because Israel has blocked foreign correspondents from entering Gaza.

The Israeli military says it’s investigating the reports, but it defended its soldiers.

“Israeli forces aim for military targets,” said Maj. Avital Leibovich, the chief Israeli military spokeswoman for the international media. “We aim for Hamas targets. We don’t just kill innocent people for no reason.”

Israel and Hamas ignored a unanimous United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire. The Bush administration abstained from voting on the resolution and the Israeli government dismissed it as ineffective and impractical, while Gaza militants launched more rockets on Friday into southern Israel, causing no serious injuries.

There was no sign that the conflict would end soon. Instead, Israeli leaders directed the military to intensify operations in Gaza, where about 800 Palestinians — nearly half of them women and children — have been killed in the past two weeks, according to Palestinian medical officials.

In what the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs called “one of the gravest incidents” of the military operation, 30 Palestinians were reported killed when Israeli shells hit a home south of Gaza City that was filled with more than 100 residents who were trying to avoid the fighting.

Leibovich said the Israeli military so far hasn’t been able to confirm that its forces hit the house and questioned reports that soldiers had rounded up family members in the neighborhood and escorted them to the home that was later hit.

Survivors interviewed by a McClatchy special correspondent at a Gaza City hospital, however, described being trapped for days inside their homes while Israeli forces moved through the neighborhood trying to root out Hamas militants.

Masouda Samouni said that Israeli troops forced her and her family out of their home as the soldiers searched the neighborhood in the first hours of the ground offensive, which began a week ago.

More than 100 residents eventually crowded into the home of Wael Samouni, where the families quickly ran short of food and water, she said.

While they were hiding in the home, survivors said, Israeli shells struck the building. The family members scrambled from room to room looking for safety, but medical officials said 30 people were killed, including Samouni’s 10-month-old son.

Samouni said she was cradling her infant son when shrapnel struck both.

“I saw him,” she said from her hospital bed. “His head went down and he opened his mouth. At that moment, I knew that he was dead and I held him to my chest.”

Israeli forces allowed rescue workers to enter the neighborhood on Wednesday to lead the survivors to safety.

During the Israeli sweep of the neighborhood, two other members of the Samouni family said they watched an Israeli soldier shoot an unarmed man in front of his children.

While recovering from the attack at a Gaza City hospital, Rawyah Samouni told a McClatchy special correspondent that she witnessed an Israeli patrol converge on her nephew’s house next door.

One of the soldiers demanded that the homeowner, Atiya Samouni, come out, she said.

He followed the order, Samouni said, and an Israeli soldier shot him twice in the chest and left him for dead.

In a separate interview given to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, Atiya Samouni’s 22-year-old son Faraj described seeing his father shot from inside their house.

“They threw stun grenades into the house and fired,” Faraj Samouni told B’Tselem. “They broke down the door and asked who the homeowner was. My father came out of the room and said yes. When he was standing at the door, he was fired at from about three meters and died.”

Leibovich categorically dismissed the idea that an Israeli soldier would kill an unarmed man. The Israeli military said Thursday night, however, that it was looking into the story.

Rescue workers and survivors who were allowed late this week to escape Israeli-controlled areas described stark scenes.

Iyad Nasr, a Red Cross spokesman in Gaza, said that medical personnel had recovered the charred bodies of three Palestinians children, including a toddler, found next to a house in a neighborhood near Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip.

Nasr said that the toddler’s body had been “eaten by wild dogs from the street.”

A humanitarian aid worker said he came across the bodies in the northern Gaza Strip and that they appeared to have been hit by an Israeli shell while they were trying to run for safety.

The worker, who asked not to be identified for fear of jeopardizing his ability to take part in rescue efforts, said the youngest, around two years old, had been partially eaten by wild animals.

“It was like charcoal,” the man said of the toddler’s body. “Also without any limbs, because some of the animals ate some of his limbs.”

The humanitarian challenges have been compounded by the inability of aid groups to get food into Gaza.

Leibovich said that a senior Israeli defense official met Friday with representatives of the U.N. and the Red Cross to discuss the groups’ allegations that Israeli forces weren’t doing enough to ensure the safety of relief workers in Gaza.

Leibovich, however, said that one of the incidents that prompted the U.N. to halt the movement of its staff in Gaza — the fatal shooting Thursday morning of a U.N.-contracted relief truck driver near the Erez crossing — wasn’t a result of Israeli fire.

“We looked into it, and we did not shoot at that truck,” Leibovich said.

U.N. officials stood by their account, in which Palestinian contractors said that Israeli ground troops opened fire on the forklift truck, killing a driver and wounding two others. The incident caused the private Palestinian company, the only one authorized by Israel to deliver U.N. aid into Gaza, to suspend its operations for the safety of its staff.

The U.N. World Food Program, which feeds 265,000 Palestinians in Gaza — some 18 percent of the population — said that it was able to deliver food within Gaza but that it risked running out of stocks within several days if trucks didn’t resume deliveries into the territory, spokeswoman Barbara Conte said.

With no U.N. or Red Cross deliveries entering Gaza on Friday, 50 truckloads of goods did pass through the Erez crossing carrying donations from Palestinian and Jordanian groups, said Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman.

(Hamda, a McClatchy special correspondent, reported from Gaza City. Nissenbaum reported from Jerusalem. Shashank Bengali contributed to this article from Jerusalem.)

Israeli Government: Learned Its Lesson Well (from the Nazis?) January 2, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
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This will be brief.  When I think of the current situation in the Gaza Strip, two images come to mind:

1) Israeli troops poised to invade inovoke the term: BLITZKRIEG.

2) When the Resistance killed a Nazi soldier, the Nazis would retaliate by murdering by ratio: ten, fifteen, fifty, what have you, to the one Nazi killed.  There were times, I believe, when they wiped out entire towns in retaliation for one Nazi soldier kiled.  The Palestinian to Israeli killed ratio in the current “conflict” is somewhere around 200 to 1.  And that is not to mention the deaths caused by the blockade or the thousands seriously wounded.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: “So now the international community has a question, and I turn it back to the—to our critics, and I say you have to take a stand today. You have to tell the terrorists that this is an illegitimate operation. You cannot say both Israel and Hamas are symmetrically to blame. They’re not. One side is to blame, the side that targets civilians and hides behind civilians. That’s Hamas. The other side represents the rest of humanity. Now choose.”

Netanyahu, the head of the Likud Party and favorite to win the Israeli presidency, reminds us that Hamas “targets civilians and hide behind civilians.”  He might add, “but don’t worry, we — the side that represents the rest of  humanity —  have no compunction about killing those civilians behind which they hide.”

One might also wonder how it can be considered “hiding” to reside in your own community.

Please note that I am of Jewish heritage and have been a life-long opponent of anti-Semitism.  I do not support Hamas or their firing rockets into Israeli territory.  All lives have equal value.  I mourn every death.

From Canada: They hate us for our bombs January 2, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
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From Friday’s Globe and Mail

A letter I received last year rebuked me for calling George Bush’s explanation of 9/11 – They hate us for our freedoms – “doltish.” Its writer said leaders must speak concisely and simply. “What would you say?” he challenged. I’ve chewed on this and chosen: “They hate us for our bombs.” It came to me during the bombing of Gaza this week. I use “hate” to parallel the Bush usage. “Consider us their enemies,” would be better.

This is so in Kandahar, where Canadians keep dying, and “they,” or some of them, don’t hate us for our good intentions, but for the bombs that land on wedding parties. It’s so in Gaza, where people often show bomb remnants marked “Made in U.S.A.” That’s why they see “us” as enemies, like Israel. That, plus “our” support for Israel’s bombing. George Bush said it was fine with him. “No comment,” said Barack Obama, squandering some of the goodwill toward him. “First and foremost, those rocket attacks must stop,” said Canada’s Foreign Minister. It’s the “first and foremost” that invited rage. Most people, including Palestinians, know that rocketing others is bad – but so is being bombed. This is about understanding how people think, not debating it.

Or consider this. Gaza is roughly half the area of Toronto, with a population closing in on 60 per cent of Toronto’s. To get comparable deaths for the current assault, you’d somewhat less than double: 450 there would be like 750 here, etc. In the first hour of bombing last Saturday, the morgues ran out of room. Then a university, mosques and a TV station were bombed.

The ratios between Palestinian and Israeli dead run between 100 and 150 to one, and have since Israel “withdrew” in 2005. That huge disparity is the difference between bombs and far less damaging rockets. It’s what happens when you leave a place, surround it, close it off like a prison and bomb it at will.

Context also matters, and how the bombed see the motives of the bombers.

In a 2006 election that everyone agrees was fair, Palestinians chose a Hamas government. “We” immediately withheld aid to show disapproval.

Israel illegally withheld revenues like customs. The U.S. built up anti-Hamas forces. A virtual Palestinian civil war ensued, and Hamas took over Gaza, not exactly first prize. Israel tightened its existing Gaza blockade on most goods and all exports with the explicit purpose, repeated this week by its Prime Minister to explain the bombing, of pressuring Gazans to turn on Hamas. This amounts to punishing innocent people for political ends, which is pretty close to the conventional definition of terrorism.

Let me add, quick as a bunny, that I find “those rockets” sent by Hamas into Israeli kindergartens and bus stops just as odious as those bombs smashing Gaza. Terror is terror, it always sucks. Ordinary people deserve to live their lives unterrorized. Plus, in the case of Palestinians, mass non-violent protest would be far more effective than puny rockets. There is room for peaceful compromise on every side – it’s all on the record – but the leaders choose to go other routes and “we” – the West – are likely the only ones who could apply the necessary pressure but we won’t, or haven’t. So in a way, “our” hands are bloodiest of all, since we have so little to lose.

Osama bin Laden says he sat in Beirut in 1982 watching U.S. bombs smash the “towers of Lebanon” and decided “they” would only stop doing it when it was done back to them. And an Israeli minister said last February that Hamas’s rockets would bring upon Gaza a “holocaust.” Of course, both were wrong, factually and morally. But it seems utterly typical of human beings to want to do unto others as was done to them. It makes you realize how radical, and even unnatural, is that rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I used to think it was trite, and obvious.