4 days of death in gaza: 363 martyrs and counting…

as we entered into the fourth day of israeli terrorism besieging gaza i had to pretend that today was a normal day. somehow. some way. i’m not very good at hiding my feelings or pretending that things are okay when there is so much horror so close at hand. i can’t eat. i can’t sleep. i can’t work. and yet the university is going on as normal. while islamic university was bombed two days ago my university is continuing with its final exams this week. i do not know how students are supposed to be studying. everything is different on campus now. instead of the usual ridiculous arab pop music videos playing in the university cafeteria, for instance, everyone was glued to al jazeera to see the latest developments in gaza. but as i walked on to campus today i couldn’t help but think about islamic university. its students, faculty, staff. wondering who they are, where they are, if they are okay.

one american literature professor from islamic university, dr. akram habeeb, wrote about this for electronic intifada. here is what he had to say in full:

As a Fulbright scholar and professor of American literature at the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG), I have always preferred to keep silent about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I always felt that it was my mission to preach love and peaceful coexistence. However, Israel’s massive offensive against the Gaza Strip has spurred me to speak out.

Last night, during the second night of Israel’s unprecedented attack on Gaza, I was awakened by the deafening sound of intensive bombardment. When I learned that Israel had bombed my university with American-made F-16s, I realized that its “target bank” had gone bankrupt. Of course Israeli politicians and generals would claim that IUG is a Hamas stronghold and that it preaches terrorism.

As an independent professor, not affiliated with any political party, I can say that IUG is an academic institution which embraces a wide spectrum of political affinities. I see it as prestigious university which encourages liberalism and free thought. This personal point view might seem to be biased; therefore, I would invite anyone who would doubt about my assertions to browse IUG’s website and research its history. They would learn about its membership in various international academic institutions, the active role its professors play in scholarly research as well as prizes and research grants they have received.

Why would Israel bomb a university? Israel did not only target my university last night. It also bombed mosques, pharmacies and homes. In Jabaliya refugee camp Israeli bombs killed four little girls, sisters from the Balousha family. In Rafah they killed three brothers, aged 6, 12 and 14. They also killed a mother, along with her one-year-old child from the Kishko family in Gaza City.

These acts made me reflect on some of the commandments given by God to the “Chosen People:” Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house. No one could be chosen by God to annex the land of other people and kill them. Israel made these ethical choices by itself. Israel itself chose to wage its wars to eliminate the indigenous people of Palestine.

Dr. Akram Habeeb is Assistant Professor of American Literature at the Islamic University of Gaza.

of course the zionist terrorist regime has long targeted palestinian universities (see my article on the academic boycott on the publications page if you would like to know more about this also see birzeit university’s right to education website for background on this). i know that perhaps for many palestinians here some sense of normalcy must be something that helps them get through the day; to say i find it challenging is an understatement at best.

i had to give final exams for two classes today–two sections of a conversation class. my students had watched the film amandla!: a revolution in four part harmony about south african apartheid and liberation. the film is not perfect, but it gives a picture of the various stages of resistance through music. the exam consisted of one-on-one conversations with me in my office in which students were asked to discuss similarities and differences related to what they saw in the film. without a doubt every single student saw one particular difference that they mentioned: they had unity in south africa and in palestine there is none. they also, of course, commented on how music is used as a form of resistance in both contexts, albeit in different ways. many of them talked about how on palestinian radio now we hear both lamentation and nationalistic songs in between broadcasts about gaza. but the one thing that no one mentioned, which i found rather shocking, was the scene of the film discussing the sharpeville massacre. given that many of them used this as a space to talk about the massacre in gaza i found it strange they forgot about this part of the movie. it is interesting, too, because i received an email from council for the national interest yesterday that made these connections between that massacre and the one in gaza last night:

WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH GAZA?

IS Gaza another Sharpeville Massacre? Nearly fifty years ago, the South African regime attacked a crowd protesting the conditions in the Bantustan of Sharpeville and in a matter of minutes killed some 69 black South Africans. Eventually, after world reaction to this “incident,” sanctions were imposed and they led to the end of apartheid in South Africa.

Using American weapons, Israel has just indiscriminately killed more than four times that number in Gaza. In 1960 there were 20 million black South Africans and today there are only one and a half million Palestinians in Gaza. So the first two days of the American-supported Israeli attempt to wipe out Hamas is sixty times as criminal as the Sharpeville massacre.

No end to the violence is in sight, as a ground attack is threatened and may happen at any hour. Our CNIF team that recently visited the area had advance information about Israel’s intention to go into Gaza and wipe out the leadership of Hamas when we talked with General Ephraim Sneh six weeks ago. His statements in effect said: we Israelis know exactly how to do it and we will do it in spite of the cease fire that was then in effect. The only problem, he indicated, is that Israel (and by inference America) does not have an exit strategy. This was eerily reminiscent of our own generals in Vietnam and in Iraq.

What should the Obama administration’s policy be toward Israeli use of American weaponry against a civilian population? One can probably safely predict that it will not be to sanction Israel by denying her new American weapons. All the indications are that it will be more of the same under Obama. Years of talk and no action. We will try to train Palestinian police nominally under the control of the PLO to pacify Gaza and put down any insurrection in the West Bank. That did not work in 2007 and it will not work in 2009.

A whole new strategy is needed, even if limited to Israeli security and Palestinian self-governance as the only two concerns. Israel backed by America will not be able to eliminate Hamas from either Gaza or the West Bank with a few thousand policemen trained in Jordan. We are only delaying the day when Israel will have to withdraw militarily from Gaza and open the border to Egypt. It is almost too late for this now, with the looming Israeli elections in February. Meanwhile the residents of Gaza have been suffering inhumanely from the Israeeli blockade, even before the bombs were unleashed.

From talks we held with Hamas, and from talks Jimmy Carter held with some of the same people only a few months earlier, it is plain that Egypt can no longer be the only mediator between Hamas and the PLO which holds the key to ending the Gaza adventure by Israel.

There is no good military exit strategy for Israel or the United States in Gaza, only further chaos and enmity throughout the Muslim world if Israel goes in and tries to stay for another two or twenty years.

What is the matter with Gaza? Israel’s generals have once again pushed America and Israel into a no-win situation. Let us sit down and negotiate an American cease fire with whoever is able to end the long siege of Gaza and govern it successfully.

The United Nations General Assembly could be called into session and pass a “Uniting for Peace” resolution as it did in 1950 to confront the North Korean invasion of South Korea. It should call for peace keepers, not just observers, in Gaza. They could rapidly be re-deployed from the UN forces, now numbering close to 20 thousand, that are already on all of Israel’s borders, from Lebanon to Syria to the Sinai Task Force. Why not also on Gaza’s border with Israel to prevent violations by either side of a real cease fire?

That would avoid an almost certain veto by the U.S. in the Security Council of any UN involvement. After all, the United Nations were placed in charge of Gaza from 1957 to 1967. They can do it again.

Statement by the Council for the National Interest Foundation

meanwhile…as the world continues to do nothing, the free gaza movement tried to send a ship this morning to gaza filled with medicine and doctors. the israeli terrorist ships in the water rammed the boat and threatened them while opening fire on them, calling them terrorists. cnn actually had a report on it and has a video on their website. their press release, which i woke up to, read as follows:

On Tuesday, December 30, at 5 a.m., several Israeli gunboats intercepted the Dignity as she was heading on a mission of mercy to Gaza. One gunboat rammed into the boat on the port bow side, heavily damaging her. The reports from the passengers and journalists on board is that she is taking on water and appears to have engine problems. When attacked, the Dignity was clearly in international waters, 90 miles off the coast of Gaza.

The gunboats also fired their machine guns into the water in an attempt to stop the mercy ship from getting to Gaza.

As the boat limps toward Lebanon, passengers have been in contact with the Lebanese government who have said the captain has permission to dock and are willing lend assistance if needed. Cyprus sea rescue has also been in touch, and has offered assistance as well. The Dignity clearly flies the flag of Gibraltar, is piloted by an English captain and has a passenger manifest that includes Representative Cynthia McKinney from the U.S. The attack was filmed by the journalists, and the crew and passengers will report on Israel’s crime at sea once they arrive in Lebanon.

On board the boat are doctors traveling to this impoverished slice of the Mediterranean to provide badly-needed relief at the hospitals there. The crew and passengers were also hoping to take wounded out for treatment, since the hospitals are not coping. In addition, the Dignity was carrying 3 tons of medical supplies at the request of the doctors in Gaza.

The three physicians on board who were sailing to Gaza are: Dr. Halpin (UK), an experienced orthopedic surgeon, medical professor, and ship’s captain. He has organized humanitarian relief efforts in Gaza on several occasions with the Dove and Dolphin. He is traveling to Gaza to volunteer in hospitals and clinics. Dr. Mohamed Issa (Germany), a pediatric surgeon from Germany is traveling to Gaza to volunteer in hospitals and clinics. Dr. Elena Theoharous (Cyprus), MP Dr. Theoharous is a surgeon and a Member of the Cypriot Parliament. She is traveling to Gaza to assess the ongoing conflict, assist with humanitarian relief efforts, and volunteer in hospitals.

Yet Israel thumbs its nose in the face of maritime law by attacking a human rights boat in international waters and has put all of these human rights observers at risk. At no time was the Dignity ever close to Israeli waters. They clearly identified themselves and the Israeli attack was willful and criminal.

The Dignity is still in international waters, 40 miles off Haifa. Everybody on board is safe at the moment as the boat slowly makes its way to safety in Lebanon.

they have now arrived in sur, lebanon. they are safe, but the images of the damaged boat are striking. when i get pictures or video i will post it. the al jazeera coverage on arabic and english stations was good, but their print version is khara filled with bulls*&^ israeli terrorist lies and propaganda. and as they fired on the boat israeli terrorists used american weapons on 56 different places in gaza:

The Israeli Air Force continued its offensive against the Gaza Strip and shelled overnight and until morning hours of Tuesday 56 targets in different parts of the Gaza Strip. The targeted included Qassam training camps, homes, ambulances, mosques and medics.

The shelling also targeted the houses of Qassam Brigades leaders Abdul-Karim Al Shaer and Adnan Rayyan in Rafah in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, and the house of Raed Sa’ad, a Qassam leader in Jabalia.

The army also shelled a sports club in Tal AL Hawa, a police station in Beit Hanoun, Bani Suheila City Council, blacksmith workshop in Gaza, and training grounds for the Al Qassam Brigades in northern Gaza, west of Gaza City and a third camp in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.

Furthermore, soldiers shelled the mosque of Omar Bin Al Khattab Mosque in Al Bureij in the central Gaza Strip; this is the sixth mosque that gets directly targeted and shelled by the Israeli Air Force since Saturday.

Troops also shelled Al Khulafa’ Mosque, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip, the governor’s office in northern Gaza, and several others targets that were shelled a number of times since the offensive was initiated.

Several attacks were carried out targeting the Ministries Compound in Tal Al Hawa in Gaza completely destroying it, and a military camp that was previously used by Force 17, loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas.

The Gaza death toll is has increased to more than 360 in less than four days; nearly 1700 Palestinians have been wounded

israeli terrorists also targeted young girls this morning who died:

Israeli shelling in the northern Strip killed two girls and a third civilian in the south Tuesday morning.

The girls, 4 and 11-year old sisters, were riding in a donkey-driven carriage on As-Sekka Street in Jabaliya. Medical sources said Israeli missiles made a direct hit on the carriage.

The third casualty was a passerby, killed by flying debris as Israeli warplanes dropped missiles on a de facto government police station in Al-Qarara east of Khan Younis.

to cut through the bulls*&^ propaganda pouring salt into the would by israeli terrorists and their american collaborators moustafa barghouti has an excellent and succinct analysis of these war crimes on palestine think tank:

What has and is occurring is nothing short of a war crime, yet the Israeli public relations machine is in full-swing, churning out lies by the minute.

Once and for all it is time to expose the myths that they have created.

1. Israelis have claimed to have ended the occupation of the Gaza Strip in 2005.

While Israel has indeed removed the settlements from the tiny coastal Strip, they have in no way ended the occupation. They remained in control of the borders, the airspace and the waterways of Gaza, and have carried out frequent raids and targeted assassinations since the disengagement.

Furthermore, since 2006 Israel has imposed a comprehensive siege on the Strip. For over two years, Gazans have lived on the edge of starvation and without the most basic necessities of human life, such as cooking or heating oil and basic medications. This siege has already caused a humanitarian catastrophe which has only been exacerbated by the dramatic increase in Israeli military aggression.

2. Israel claims that Hamas violated the cease-fire and pulled out of it unilaterally.

Hamas indeed respected their side of the ceasefire, except on those occasions early on when Israel carried out major offensives in the West Bank. In the last two months, the ceasefire broke down with Israelis killing several Palestinians and resulting in the response of Hamas. In other words, Hamas has not carried out an unprovoked attack throughout the period of the cease-fire.

Israel, however, did not live up to any of its obligations of ending the siege and allowing vital humanitarian aid to resume in Gaza. Rather than the average of 450 trucks per day being allowed across the border, on the best days, only eighty have been allowed in – with the border remaining hermetically sealed 70% of the time. Throughout the supposed ‘cease-fire’ Gazans have been forced to live like animals, with a total of 262 dying due to the inaccessibility of proper medical care.

Now after hundreds dead and counting, it is Israel who refuses to re-enter talks over a cease-fire. They are not intent on securing peace as they claim; it is more and more clear that they are seeking regime change – whatever the cost.

3. Israel claims to be pursuing peace with ‘peaceful Palestinians’.

Before the on-going massacre in the Gaza Strip, and throughout the entirety of the Annapolis Peace Process, Israel has continued and even intensified its occupation of the West Bank. In 2008, settlement expansion increased by a factor of 38, a further 4,950 Palestinians were arrested – mostly from the West Bank, and checkpoints rose from 521 to 699.

Furthermore, since the onset of the peace talks, Israel has killed 546 Palestinians, among them 76 children. These gruesome statistics are set to rise dramatically now, but previous Israeli transgressions should not be forgotten amidst this most recent horror.

Only this morning, Israel shot and killed a young peaceful protester in the West Bank village of Nihlin, and has injured dozens more over the last few hours. It is certain that they will continue to employ deadly force at non-violent demonstrations and we expect a sizable body count in the West Bank as a result. If Israel is in fact pursuing peace with ‘good Palestinians’, who are they talking about?

4. Israel is acting in self-defense.

It is difficult to claim self defense in a confrontation which they themselves have sparked, but they are doing it anyway. Self-defense is reactionary, while the actions of Israel over the last two days have been clearly premeditated. Not only did the Israeli press widely report the ongoing public relations campaign being undertaken by Israel to prepare Israeli and international public opinion for the attack, but Israel has also reportedly tried to convince the Palestinians that an attack was not coming by briefly opening crossings and reporting future meetings on the topic. They did so to insure that casualties would be maximized and that the citizens of Gaza would be unprepared for their impending slaughter.

It is also misleading to claim self-defense in a conflict with such an overwhelming asymmetry of power. Israel is the largest military force in the region, and the fifth largest in the world. Furthermore, they are the fourth largest exporter of arms and have a military industrial complex rivaling that of the United States. In other words, Israel has always had a comprehensive monopoly over the use of force, and much like its super power ally, Israel uses war as an advertising showcase of its many instruments of death.

5. Israel claims to have struck military targets only.

Even while image after image of dead and mutilated women and children flash across our televisions, Israel brazenly claims that their munitions expertly struck only military installations. We know this to be false as many other civilian sites have been hit by airstrikes including a hospital and mosque.

In the most densely populated area on the planet, tons upon tons of explosives have been dropped. The first estimates of injured are in the thousands. Israel will claim that these are merely ‘collateral damage’ or accidental deaths. The sheer ridiculousness and inhumanity of such a claim should sicken the world community.

6. Israel claims that it is attacking Hamas and not the Palestinian people.

First and foremost, missiles do not differentiate people by their political affiliation; they simply kill everyone in their path. Israel knows this, and so do Palestinians. What Israel also knows, but is not saying public ally, is how much their recent actions will actually strengthen Hamas – whose message of resistance and revenge is being echoed by the angry and grieving.

The targets of the strike, police and not Hamas militants, give us some clue as to Israel’s mistaken intention. They are hoping to create anarchy in the Strip by removing the pillar of law and order.

7. Israel claims that Palestinians are the source of violence.

Let us be clear and unequivocal. The occupation of Palestine since the War of 1967 has been and remains the root of violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Violence can be ended with the occupation and the granting of Palestine’s national and human rights. Hamas does not control the West Bank and yet we remain occupied, our rights violated and our children killed.

With these myths understood, let us ponder the real reasons behind these airstrikes; what we find may be even more disgusting than the act itself.

and for those who want a reminder of the historical context for gaza, robert fisk contextualizes the irony of palestinian rockets falling on their own land in 1948 palestine:

How easy it is to snap off the history of the Palestinians, to delete the narrative of their tragedy, to avoid a grotesque irony about Gaza which – in any other conflict – journalists would be writing about in their first reports: that the original, legal owners of the Israeli land on which Hamas rockets are detonating live in Gaza.

That is why Gaza exists: because the Palestinians who lived in Ashkelon and the fields around it – Askalaan in Arabic – were dispossessed from their lands in 1948 when Israel was created and ended up on the beaches of Gaza. They – or their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren – are among the one and a half million Palestinian refugees crammed into the cesspool of Gaza, 80 per cent of whose families once lived in what is now Israel. This, historically, is the real story: most of the people of Gaza don’t come from Gaza.

But watching the news shows, you’d think that history began yesterday, that a bunch of bearded anti-Semitic Islamist lunatics suddenly popped up in the slums of Gaza – a rubbish dump of destitute people of no origin – and began firing missiles into peace-loving, democratic Israel, only to meet with the righteous vengeance of the Israeli air force. The fact that the five sisters killed in Jabalya camp had grandparents who came from the very land whose more recent owners have now bombed them to death simply does not appear in the story.

Both Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres said back in the 1990s that they wished Gaza would just go away, drop into the sea, and you can see why. The existence of Gaza is a permanent reminder of those hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who lost their homes to Israel, who fled or were driven out through fear or Israeli ethnic cleansing 60 years ago, when tidal waves of refugees had washed over Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War and when a bunch of Arabs kicked out of their property didn’t worry the world.

and the story continues. the cycle continues. i heard on al quds radio earlier today–from a friend in deheishe refugee camp who was listening to it–that 20 israeli terrorist jeeps entered nablus a couple of hours ago. i’ve talked to friends and no one has seen or heard anything, but things are definitely tightening up here in the west bank as barghouti discusses above. but we can hear the terrorist flying in the skies above–a constant reminder of their deadly presence.

there is a new petition to sign. please keep thinking, writing, reading about gaza.

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