the latest on gaza

a few weeks ago there was a very important post on kabobfest entitled “stop saying free gaza.” it began like this:

Gaza is not a different country than Palestine; its plight is not isolated from that of the West Bank, Palestinian-Israelis, or Palestinian refugees in the Diaspora. So stop changing your banners and placards from “Free Palestine” and “End Apartheid” to “Free Gaza.”

Palestinians and their supporters alike have fallen in a simple trap set in the sideshow of Israel’s Attack on Gaza earlier this year. Israel has consistently tried to separate segments of the Palestinian society and find ways to foster distrust among them.

you should read the whole post, but it ended like this:

So, next time you carry a “Free Gaza” sign, think. Are you taking the side of one of the segments Israel forced? Has the rest of Palestine been freed? How much of the story are new solidarity recruits learning from you pushing this new branding campaign? What are you going to do next time Israel commits a massacre in different city? Are you going to print new placards? What if the city name is hard to pronounce?

Talk about Gaza as only the latest example of Israel’s atrocities, not as if it’s a separate conflict. Soon it will be a year (seemingly eternity) without Israel attacking Gaza, the border with Egypt get’s opened and food flows, What will be your slogan for the cause du jour?

Unless we keep our eyes on Israel’s apartheid, Israel’s racism, and colonialism, we will not be able to drive a successful strategy. Israel will keep playing and toying with us with its distraction tactics, and we will happily follow without realizing the impact our emotional and myopic acts have on the larger picture.

i think it is important not to separate gaza from any other part of the struggle to free palestine. the struggle is the same. it is anti-colonial. it is about refugees and their right of return. period. but the struggle in gaza looks different to the outside world. and so they carry the banner of free gaza. this is why palestinians got together and released a statement critiquing norman finkelstein’s march on gaza, the thrust of which is as follows:

1- The statement fails to give any political context to this abstract siege, avoiding to even condemn Israel’s military occupation! The siege is not just about suffering and humanitarian needs. It is about occupation and denial of Palestinians refugees in Gaza , as well as everywhere else, their fundamental right to return. That is also illegal. 80 per cent of Gazans are refugees who were ethnically cleansed in 1948.

2) We feel that the statement ostensibly addresses internationals and urges them to perform this non-violent act in solidarity with Palestinians under siege in Gaza, but it also lectures us, indirectly, about non-violence. Obviously, no Palestinians have been involved in writing it!

3) Everyone who wants to breach the Erez checkpoint from the Gaza side, as this purports to do, must first enter Gaza ! And how do they plan to do that? Egypt , the most important local collaborator with the siege will have none of that.

4) The statement ignores THE most effective non-violent means of resistance to date: BDS! This intentional omission and focus on Gandhi non-violence as a “new” form of resistance that must be taught to us smacks of naiveté and presumptuous colonial pompousness. Forms of resistance are not mutually exclusive. The writers of the statement could have supported the growing BDS campaign in parallel to endorsing this idea of a non-violent march.

5) Such a march must be first explicitly led by the Palestinians in Gaza, as represented by political forces and other civil society organs, and second explicitly advocated by Palestinians. Before organizing international brigades of Gandhian activists to come to Gaza to march “alongside the people of Gaza,” how about asking us Palestinians in Gaza what we want!

6) Palestinians in Gaza as referred to twice as “the people of Gaza,” further entrenching the Israeli division of the Palestinians into THE Palestinians, meaning those in the West Bank, Israeli Arabs, some abstract refugees, and “the people of Gaza .” Jerusalemites are, of course, Israelis with some special problems! The people in Gaza are only indirectly referred to as part of the Palestinian people. Again, no people, no right to self determination. Only a humanitarian issue.

We, therefore, will endorse the statement only if these serious concerns are taken into consideration.

Signed by:

The One Democratic State Group

Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel

Al-Quds Bank for Culture and Information

Friends for the Visually Impaired

Al-Aqsa University-Academic Cooperation Dept.

while gaza is not separate from the rest of palestine nor is its struggle for justice different, it is important to understand the different context in which colonization and ethnic cleansing occur in gaza. here is a recent video from journalist jordan flaherty and lily keber that gives some idea to the ongoing siege there:

because it has now been three years since the zionist entity’s siege on gaza began, the united nations ocha office recently released a report documenting how this extreme form of ethnic cleansing is affecting palestinians in gaza. a summary of the report reads in part (and full summary can be read here):

Following the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, Israel has imposed an unprecedented blockade on all border crossings in and out of the Gaza Strip. The blockade has ‘locked in’ 1.5 million people in what is one of the most densely populated areas on earth, triggering a protracted human dignity crisis with negative humanitarian consequences. At the heart of this crisis is the degradation in the living conditions of the population, caused by the erosion of livelihoods and the gradual decline in the state of infrastructure, and the quality of vital services in the areas of health, water and sanitation, and education.

The blockade, now in its third year, has taken place alongside recurrent cycles of violence and human rights violations, stemming from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Hamas’s rule over Gaza. The denial of Palestinians’ right to leave Gaza, or to move freely to the West Bank, particularly when their lives, physical integrity, or basic freedoms are under threat, is another key component of the current human dignity crisis. This denial had a devastating impact during Israel’s “Cast Lead” military offensive, launched on 27 December 2008, contributing to the significant loss of civilian life and the large number of seriously injured and traumatized people as a result.

The three week-long Israeli offensive also involved the widespread destruction of homes, infrastructure and productive assets. The ongoing restrictions on the movement of people and goods to and from Gaza through the crossings has limited the ability of all relevant actors to address the immense needs and challenges that emerged as a result of the most recent military offensive.

Over the past three months, Israel has allowed entry into Gaza of a small number of truckloads carrying goods previously prevented from entering, including limited construction, water, sanitation and education materials. While these are welcome steps, their actual impact when compared to the current level of needs in Gaza remains negligible.

This blockade has been characterized by the UN’s most senior humanitarian official, John Holmes, as a form of collective punishment on the entire Gazan population. The UN, the ICRC, many states and humanitarian organizations have repeatedly urged the Government of Israel to remove the restrictions on Gaza’s borders; to allow free access to agricultural areas within Gaza, and to allow unrestricted fishing in Gaza’s territorial waters. These are the urgent first steps needed to start the reconstruction of homes and infrastructure, the revival of the economy and the restoration of human dignity in Gaza.

and it has been just over six months since the intensity of the zionist savagery ended, and yet, of course, the zionists controlling the prison that is gaza have made it impossible to remove rubble and to rebuild, as sherine tadros reported on al jazeera a couple of weeks ago:

a story from irin news this week illustrates just one of the many palestinian casualties of this siege:

Arafat Hamdona, 20, has been confined to the cancer unit of As-Shifa, Gaza’s primary hospital, since he was diagnosed with maxillary skin tumours in June 2008. Red lesions protrude from his face, his features are distorted and his eyes swollen shut.

In April, Arafat was permitted to travel to Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem where he received three series of chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment. He was scheduled to return for further treatment, but has not been granted permission by the Israeli authorities to leave Gaza.

“He is only given pain killers,” said Arafat’s father, Faraj Hamdona, explaining that that is all As-Shifa has to offer.

According to a July 2009 report published by the World Health Organization (WHO) in Jerusalem, Gaza doctors and nurses do not have the medical equipment to respond to the health needs of the 1.5 million people living in the Gaza Strip.

Medical equipment is often broken, lacking spare parts, or outdated.

WHO attributes the dismal state of Gaza’s healthcare system to the Israeli blockade of the territory, tightened in June 2007 after Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by the West, seized control. The poor organization of maintenance services in Gaza compounds the problem, reports WHO.

and the medical issues are compounded by the problems related to the imposed malnutrition according to a recent electronic intifada article by eva bartlett:

According to the UN and various non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the trickle of goods entering Gaza now is just a quarter of that prior to the siege, the majority of which is limited to basic food aid items. The aid-dependent families have moved from a balanced diet to one consisting mainly of sugar and carbohydrates, lacking in vitamins and proteins.

The World Health Organization (WHO) cites an increase in growth-stunting malnourishment, now at over 10 percent of children, attributed to a chronic lack of protein, iron, and essential vitamins. The WHO further warns of increasing anemia rates: 65 percent among children below 12 months of age, and 35 percent among pregnant women.

The United Nations Children’s Agency (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), and Gaza’s Ard al-Insan center for nutrition, among various bodies, note the link between malnutrition and a deficiency of protein and vegetables in the diet.

An International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) June 2009 report notes that the effects of a restricted diet also include “difficulty in fighting off infections, fatigue and a reduced capacity to learn.” The ICRC warns of the long-term ramifications on Gaza’s malnourished children.

while the zionist entity and its american collaborators are chiefly responsible for this siege, the regime in egypt is also responsible for collective punishment of palestinians. kabobfest had another important post on the ways in which egypt profits from the siege on gaza:

As The president of Egypt tours the States talking about many issues including the Palestinian question. And I’m getting into my second month of my visit to Gaza and cannot deny the sad effects of the siege on Gaza. Most aspects of life in Gaza have been negatively affected by this unfair siege. The price of food especially, vegetables and fruits have now surpassed prices in the United States, same thing for clothing, shoes and electronics. While the cost of living in Gaza soared due to the sanction and limitations on the movement of goods, wages and salaries are nowhere near the States. Yes, there are tunnels in Gaza, and they smuggle all sort of things through these tunnels. Items as large as fridges and as small as birthday candles flow through the tunnels to Gaza. But those tunnels only can bring so much and smuggling isn’t the cheapest way to supply a market. Thirty to Forty dollars is the charge to smuggle a bag of goods. While the people of Gaza struggle, the two Palestinian governments watch from the sidelines but claim to be there for the people. The guys in Ramallah help their people in Gaza and the guys in Gaza take care of their own, while the common man is left with nothing. In the meantime the Arab and Muslim nations stand by the people of Gaza but have done little to break the siege. This post does not come easy, in fact this subject I hope to be wrong on. Egyptians have led the fight to break the siege on Gaza but from where I stand the blockade is helping the Egyptian government on so many levels, here is how:

Economically: Goods in Gaza mainly come from Egypt and since Palestinians do not have many choices because the Israelis allow only humanitarian goods into the Strip (flour, sugar, milk, rice…etc.). That leaves plenty of needed material that has a market in Gaza. Items like fans, shirts, razors, shampoo, appliances, certain medications, cookies, potato chips, pencils and school bags, chairs, kitchen ware…etc. In the past these goods used to be imported from various countries such as China and India. Thanks to the embargo, Egypt now is the main supplier of these goods; Egyptian factories are now earning plenty of cash as they provide the needed goods. Egyptian businesses are also making a profit by playing the broker role between the Palestinian buyers and the international vendors. There are those who move the goods to Rafah and those who push it through the tunnels to the Palestinian on the other end. Did I also mention that all those transactions are paid in cash?

It’s Good for Business: If a Palestinian wants to leave Gaza the can be smuggles through a tunnel for the bargain price of two to three hundred dollars. But there is another way. A two thousand dollar pay off to an Egyptian General through his Palestinian front man and you’re on VIP list to get through the gate at the Rafah crossing; even if the crossing point is closed, one will be allowed into the land of milk and honey. This travel clearance even overrides a Hamas veto because they cannot risk angering the Egyptians. I guess this is sort of like the American service offered in select airport for busy travelers where they can skip long security lines by using the express lane for a fee. This is funny because when a Palestinians pointed out this corruption to an Egyptian official, the official suggested he too take advantage of it. Politically, the mess in Gaze serves as a model for not choosing the Islamist oriented policies. For sometime Egypt has tried to convince its people that Islamists are bad for business and bad for regional stability. But most of those arguments fell flat until the Hamas takeover in Gaza in June 2007. Obviously many parties have an interest in seeing Hamas fail to make the point “We might be bad, but they are worse”. Also by playing the broker between the Palestinaina Authority on the West Bank, Hamas in Gaza and Israel, Egypt gains regional credit for their active role in promoting “peace” and Arab unity.

and here is one of the many ways in which egypt’s complicity bears responsibility for palestinians in gaza who are forced to use tunnels to bring in much needed goods for their survival. ayman mohyeldin’s report on al jaeera highlights this complicity and the problem of the zionist-egyptian siege:

although there has not yet been enough significant international outcry over the complicity of egypt and the u.s. with respect to war crimes committed in gaza, there has been ongoing and persistent writing and reporting on the zionist entity’s role in those war crimes, the most recent of which is human rights watch’s report documenting how zionist terrorist colonist soldiers murdered palestinians carrying white flags. the report is important, because it is yet another piece of evidence, but at the same time it is problematic given the 1,400 murders the zionist entity committed in gaza. what is a bit more promising is the news that in zionist colonists who also hold south african citizenship are going to be prosecuted for committing war crimes in gaza:

Two South African organizations have called for 70 South Africans to be prosecuted for involvement in war crimes allegedly committed by the IDF during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in December and January.

The Palestinian Solidarity Alliance and the Media Review Network are also urging the immediate arrest of IDF Lt.-Col. David Benjamin, who is in South Africa attending the Limmud-SA educational conference this week.

The two NGOs are listed as complainants in an affidavit, called the Gaza Docket, which was handed last week to the South African National Prosecuting Authority and the Directorate of Priority Crimes Investigation.

It is supported by approximately 3,500 pages of evidence, including some submitted by Human Rights Watch on the “brutal military onslaught on Gaza by the Israeli Defense Force.”

Some 70 South Africans are listed in the affidavit for prosecution as they had served in the Israeli army. Their names are withheld due to the fact that they are suspects. It is unclear if these people served in the IDF during Cast Lead and whether they retain their South African citizenship.

such reports and developments are clearly a threat to the zionist entity as jonathan cook reveals in an article in electronic intifada:

In a bid to staunch the flow of damaging evidence of war crimes committed during Israel’s winter assault on Gaza, the Israeli government has launched a campaign to clamp down on human rights groups, both in Israel and abroad.

It has begun by targeting one of the world’s leading rights organizations, the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), as well as a local group of dissident army veterans, Breaking the Silence, which last month published the testimonies of 26 combat soldiers who served in Gaza.

Additionally, according to the Israeli media, the government is planning a “much more aggressive stance” towards human rights groups working to help the Palestinians.

Officials have questioned the sources of funding received by the organizations and threatened legislation to ban support from foreign governments, particularly in Europe.

Breaking the Silence and other Israeli activists have responded by accusing the government of a “witch hunt” designed to intimidate them and starve them of the funds needed to pursue their investigations.

“This is a very dangerous step,” said Mikhael Mannekin, one of the directors of Breaking the Silence. “Israel is moving in a very anti-democratic direction.”

The campaign is reported to be the brainchild of the far-right foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, currently facing corruption charges, but has the backing of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Early last month, Lieberman used a press conference to accuse non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, of replacing diplomats in setting the international community’s agenda in relation to Israel. He also threatened reforms to curb the groups’ influence.

A week later, Netanyahu’s office weighed in against Human Rights Watch, heavily criticizing the organization for its recent fund-raising activities in Saudi Arabia.

HRW has pointed out that it only accepts private donations, and has not accepted Saudi government funds, but Israeli officials say all Saudi money is tainted and will compromise HRW’s impartiality as a human rights watchdog in its treatment of Israel.

what i haven’t seen a full report on, including implications of ongoing war crimes, another to add to the list is the ongoing assault on palestinian farmers who live and farm the land near the ever-expanding “buffer zone” where zionist terrorist colonists use palestinian people for their target practice. sherine tadros report on al jazeera last month documented this:

but the farmers keep farming the land as yet another form of resistance in a space where so few options for resistance exist. likewise, this video which i keep meaning to post is a moving story about one of the rappers from the group palestinian rapperz (p.r.) whose father was murdered by palestinian terrorist colonists. here is casey kauffman’s report on al jazeera:

boycott sri lanka

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just as the boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign against the zionist entity picked up steam after the recent israeli terrorist savagery of gaza, so to have tamils pulled together an economic boycott campaign against sri lanka. you can click on the previous link to find out more about their campaign. their website has a lot of great information on the context of the conflict in sri lanka and about various products to boycott and ways you can help. they also have a list of companies and products to boycott, most of which are related to clothing, which means when you go shopping check your labels to make sure it wasn’t made in sri lanka (or the zionist entity for that matter). and here are their top 10 reasons to boycott sri lanka:

1. More than $4 Billion USD from several countries directly or indirectly assist the Genocidal War
2. Sri Lanka: One of the Top Red Alert Countries for Genocide
3. 250,000+ Civilians Waiting Death due to Blockade of Humanitarian Aid and Military Operations
4. 370,000+ Civilians Killed by Sri Lankan Government Military Operations
5. 150,000+ Civilians are Forcedly Held in Detentions Camps
6. Daily Aerial Bombardment on Safety Zones
7. Sri Lanka: #1 Human Rights Violator in South Asia
8. Sri Lanka: Listed 2nd Worldwide in Disappearances
9. Sri Lanka: Out of 173 Free Nations, 8th Worst In Press Freedom
10. Sri Lanka: Voted off United Nations Humans Rights Council

the no to sri lanka campaign produced a two-part video that encapsulates the orchestrated genocide against the tamil population since england granted independence to the island in 1948:

in the past week there have been a number of egregious developments in sri lanka related to the recent genocide against the tamils and also the crack down on information by the sri lankan government. most recently, they kidnapped three doctors who have shared the atrocities they’ve witnessed with the world since the international media has been barred from covering the conflict as mark tran reports for the guardian:

Human rights groups today called for the immediate release of three doctors amid fears they would be mistreated by the Sri Lankan authorities for giving out information about government shelling and civilian casualties.

The three, who were last seen on Friday in a holding area at a checkpoint, had been working for the government in the conflict zone in north-east Sri Lanka, treating the sick and wounded, until leaving the no-fire zone with about 5,000 other civilians. Their whereabouts are now unknown.

According to a health ministry official, the doctors were detained by the military and turned over to the police, who were inquiring into allegations that the three had disseminated false information.

The government banned independent media from the war zone, so the three – Thurairaja Varatharajah, who is reportedly seriously injured, Thangamuttu Sathyamurthi and V Shanmugarajah – were frequently quoted by the press. Working from hospitals and makeshift medical centres in the war zone, they gave vivid accounts of the suffering of civilians and spoke of the continuous shelling of areas with large concentrations of civilians, despite government denials of the use of heavy artillery.

Physicians for Human Rights, in the US, said it had been told the Sri Lankan government was detaining doctors “incommunicado, possibly in retaliation for adhering to their ethical obligation to protect the lives of their patients in all circumstances”.

tony birtley covered this story on al jazeera as well, although i still find it alarming that al jazeera continues to report that 17,000 “fighters” were killed and refuses to call them civilians:

i’ve been writing about similarities i’ve seen between the situation of the tamils in sri lanka and palestinians in gaza for a while now. there is one striking difference emerging and that is the fact that tamil survivors of this genocide have been interned in prison camps in sri lanka and the government is saying they will remain imprisoned in these camps for 2 years. of course all palestinians in gaza are living in the world’s largest prison. but within that prison there are internationals and palestinians who are doing the best to help the new palestinian refugees. in sri lanka no international aid organizations have access to people imprisoned in these camps nor do other tamil people as gethin chamberlain reports for the guardian:

Many of the quarter of a million people held in internment camps in Sri Lanka face up to two years behind razor wire, a government official said today.

Despite international concern over conditions inside the camps, the defence ministry spokesman, Lakshman Hulugalle, said Sri Lanka was not prepared to let the UN dictate terms over the length of time people could be held.

A UN spokesman, Gordon Weiss, said he was “shocked” at the revelation, which ran counter to previous government assurances.

“It was our understanding that the government was to return 80% of the people to their homes by the end of the year, or at least try to,” said Weiss.

The UN, Britain and human rights groups have been pressing the government in Colombo to release people from the camps as soon as possible. But Hulugalle said: “The UN can’t dictate terms to us. They can always make a request but the UN hasn’t asked us to release people. The government has a plan to resettle them. Let these agencies come and join us.”

Hulugalle said the government had already resettled almost 200,000 people after the east of the country was liberated from Tamil Tiger control. “We were able to resettle them within nine months. This operation will take a little longer – one and a half to two years,” he said.

Some elderly people with close relatives who could look after them had been released, but many others would have to stay behind for up to two years.

Responding to criticism of conditions inside the camps, where detainees have told the Guardian they are short of food, water and medicines, Hulugalle said: “You can’t expect five-star hospitality in an area like that. What we are providing are the basics – security, food, health and schools. These are basic. You can’t expect an Oxford college.”

Hulugalle said the government had turned down an offer of 750 previously used blankets from the Hilton hotel group because people did not want to be treated as second-grade citizens. “They are not beggars,” he said.

The government says it needs to hold the civilians until it can establish whether or not they are Tamil Tigers.

The news came as the Red Cross suspended delivery of supplies to displaced civilians after the Sri Lanka blocked access to camps it controls in the country’s north.

“There is no access to these camps at this particular moment,” said a Red Cross official in Geneva.

as a result of this blockade against giving aid the icrc has now had to suspend its services according to al jazeera:

An international aid group has suspended its aid operations in Sri Lanka due to restrictions placed on it by the government.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) told Al Jazeera on Wednesday, a day after Sri Lanka’s government declared victory over the Tamil Tigers, that “additional restrictions” meant it had no choice but to halt its activities.

About 265,000 ethnic Tamils were displaced in the military’s recent offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE, and many of them have been sent to overcrowded camps in the country’s north.

here is a rare eyewitness account inside these concentration camps from the world socialist website:

There are four major detention centres for Tamil civilians at Chettikulam, in an area known as Manik Farm, about 33 kilometres west of Vavuniya. Each camp houses about 40,000 people. A few people we spoke to had been allowed to visit Manik Farm and described them as overcrowded with minimal facilities.

In Vavuniya itself, refugees have been housed in 23 small detention centres established in public schools and other government buildings. Every camp is packed with between 1,000 and 3,000 people. We were able to visit two schools. Both centres were guarded by armed policemen and soldiers. Barbed wire fences have been set up around the camps. Few people are allowed inside. The media is completely barred.

At one school, we could only see the faces of people as we spoke to them across a high, razor-wire topped wall. As we spoke to one person, two children began crying, asking us to take them away from the camp. Inside, up to 40 people are crammed into each school room. Small tents have been erected in school grounds.

From what various people told us, conditions inside the camps are crowded and unhygenic. In some centres, detainees can bathe twice a week. In others, there is not even enough water to wash. There are not enough toilets in any of the camps and hundreds of people have to use one toilet. Infectious diseases, including diarrhea, viral fever and chickenpox, are becoming common.

We were told that hundreds of children had been wounded during the fighting over the no-fire zone. Some had still not been treated. Virtually every family we spoke to had lost at least one member. The trauma of being trapped for months in the war zone is now being compounded by the conditions in the camps. No one can leave. Relatives who visit can only provide a few essentials.

Several older people told us that every day the army seizes young men and women from the camps and takes them away. No one knows where. In some cases, masked informers are used to identify “LTTE suspects”. The military claims that about 3,000 LTTE fighters fled with the civilian refugees.

In every sense, these centres are concentration camps. The armed police and soldiers who zealously guard them, are to not there to “protect” the refugees as the govenment cynically claims, but to prevent anyone from leaving and any information from filtering out.

We tried but were unable to visit Vavuniya general hospital. Armed guards are posted to prevent anyone from entering. Visitors have to nominate a particular patient and are thoroughly checked. Those who had been inside told us that the hospital was overflowing with patients in beds, on the floors, in the corridors and temporarily erected tents.

Several detainees spoke to us about the conditions inside the camps.

A 37-year-old woman was being held at one school with her two children. “We were forced to flee to the army-controlled area due to the intolerable shelling and hunger. We were kept in a school before being brought here.

“[Before we left the no-fire zone], there was a huge blast while an aircraft was flying overhead. A lot of people were wounded or killed, including my husband. My husband was a teacher. Since his death, my children do not talk much. I ask myself why we were left alive. Since we left our home about three months ago we have not had a proper meal.”

She explained that she was afraid the army would drag her way like other young women.

A man in his sixties condemned the government’s claim that the military had been conducting a humanitarian mission to “liberate” Tamil civilians. “No one in the world should have to experience this tragedy,” he said.

He explained that while he and his family were fleeing with others, his wife had been killed in an air strike. His sister and several others died on the way. “I am living to expose these atrocities when I get an opportunity. The security forces think that each and every Tamil is an LTTE member and an enemy,” he said angrily.

Another person explained: “We are herded here like animals and are compelled eat whatever we are provided. We have lost everything. But still we can work. They should allow us to leave and settle in our own places.”

what makes these atrocities possible? well, in spite of the fact that some european union countries are expressing outrage, the fact is that they aided and abetted the sri lankan government in its genocide and now in its concentration camps as leigh phillips reports for the eu observer:

The European Union on Monday (18 May) called for an independent inquiry into alleged human rights violations resulting from the conflict in Sri Lanka and demanded those responsible be held to account.

However, at the same as issuing strong language condemning attacks on civilians, certain EU member states continue to arm the Sri Lankan authorities in breach of the EU’s code of conduct on arms exports, according to the latest data from European governments.

“The EU is appalled by the loss of innocent civilian lives as a result of the conflict and by the high numbers of casualties, including children, following recent intense fighting in northern Sri Lanka,” said European foreign ministers in a statement following a meeting in Brussels on Monday (18 May).

“The EU calls for the alleged violations of these laws to be investigated through an independent inquiry,” the statement continued. “Those accountable must be brought to justice.”

A number of EU member states – including Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, the UK, France, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Poland – have however continued to arm the Sri Lankan government since the election of hardline president Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2005.

According to the EU’s latest report on arms export licences published in December, the nine governments authorised arm sales licences to Sri Lanka to the value of €4.09 million in 2007, the same year that Colombo launched its final offensive on the Tamil rebels.

The licensed material ranges from small weapons, ammunition and explosives to missiles, ground vehicles, naval vessels and aircraft, with the eastern European member states mainly supplying small arms, while western member states sell the bigger hardware. Additionally, in 2008, Slovakia authorised the sale of 10,000 rockets to the country.

The EU report is compiled annually to ensure that European countries comply with the EU’s Code of Conduct on Arms Exports. Until 2008, the Code had not been legally-binding but instead more of an ethical benchmark for the EU club.

there are some hypocritical americans speaking out about these war crimes, though, of course, they would never–and have never–done the same thing for palestinians despite the fact that the contexts are so very similar. here is the tamil news network report:

Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S. House of Representatives in a communication sent to President Obama said that the United States has to take concrete actions to to hold the Sri Lankan state accountable for its actions for rebuffing the international community, and urged the President to instruct the Department of Justice to look into the possible linkage of Sri Lanka officials to crimes committed during the prosecution of the war. The note mentioned Gotabaya Rajapakse, Basil Rajapakse, and Sarath Fonseka as possible perpetrators of war crimes.

“All credible efforts by members of the international community, including those by the United States through our outstanding Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Robert Blake, and those of Britain, France, Norway and the European Union, were either rebuffed or went mostly ignored by the Sri Lankan Government, which has made a determination that it will resolve the issue militarily.

“It has become increasingly obvious that the Sri Lankan government believes that there will be no political price to pay for its impunity. We believe this must change and that there are concrete measures that United States can take right now to hold the Sri Lankan state accountable for its actions, now and in the future,” the communication said.

“[W]e call on you to instruct our Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, to immediately call for an emergency session of the Security Council to discuss the ongoing situation in Sri Lanka,” the letter added.

“We ask you to publicly instruct the U.S. Executive Director to the IMF to use his voice and vote to suspend any further action on the pending $1.9b loan to Sri Lanka,” the letter further said.

meanwhile jeremy page in the times online takes some of this context and explains this is why the consumer boycott of sri lanka is necessary:

The next time you buy some lingerie, a T-shirt or a pair of rubber gloves, you may want to reflect on this: they were probably made in Sri Lanka. And, like it or not, your purchase plays a role in the debate over how to respond to the Sri Lankan Government’s successful but brutal military campaign against the Tamil Tiger rebels, which reached its bloody climax this week.

Since 2005 Sri Lanka has been allowed to sell garments to the European Union without import tax as part of a scheme designed to help it to recover from the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004. That means its clothes are 10 per cent cheaper than those from China and other competitors – helping the island to earn at least $2.9 billion (£1.9 billion) from the EU annually. Britain accounts for much of that.

Britain has also helped to rebuild Sri Lanka’s tourist industry: Britons accounted for 18.5 per cent of the foreigners who visited the former colony’s famous beaches, wildlife parks, tea plantations and Buddhist temples last year. Only India sends more tourists. Many Britons also own property there, especially around the southern city of Galle, not far from where Arthur C.Clarke, the British science fiction writer who settled in Sri Lanka, used to love to scuba dive.

So the question facing British shoppers and holidaymakers is this: should they continue to support Sri Lanka’s garment and tourist industries? Sadly, the answer must be no.

the “war on terror”: creating refugees one village at a time

tam tam and i have been planning a trip we want to take next summer. we’ve been thinking about where we want to go and who might want to join us. one of the criteria we have agreed on is that the place we go cannot be involved in or complicit with any colonial or imperial adventures. and, as you can imagine, this leaves out a number of places in the world. for instance, in nancy better’s article in the new york times today seems to be reporting that americans should take their summer vacations in the zionist entity (a place where tam tam is not allowed to visit because she is a palestinian refugee in lebanon):

Our Golan Heights excursion unleashed a torrent of questions about the war for independence and Israel’s 1948 declaration of statehood. We found answers at the Ayalon Institute, formerly a clandestine munitions factory built by the Haganah (the pre-independence armed forces) under a kibbutz near Tel Aviv. Restored and opened to the public, the institute is not mentioned in many guidebooks and gets little press. Yet Charlie — who devours detective novels and has twice toured the International Spy Museum in Washington — declared it his favorite site.

The place conveys a real sense of danger; had the Haganah members been discovered, they would have been hanged. The factory operations were concealed by a bakery and laundry; a 10-ton oven and a large washing machine hid entrances to the shop floor, which housed as many as 50 workers who, at the peak, produced 40,000 bullets a day. The noise of the washing machines camouflaged the din of the manufacturing process below ground.

David was especially fascinated by the sunlamps that munitions workers used to get an artificial tan. “It’s like an alibi,” our guide explained. “They pretended to leave the kibbutz each morning to work on a neighboring farm and then they sneaked back into the factory to make bullets. People would be suspicious if they looked too pale.”

Next we traveled to Akko, site of a medieval Crusaders’ fortress and later an Ottoman citadel. When the Turks were defeated by the British in 1918, the fortress became a high-security prison that held Jewish freedom fighters. Today the Underground Prisoners Memorial Museum pays tribute to them. A gloomy, ominous air hangs over the prison cells, with their thick stone walls, iron bars and narrow windows. Our group was mesmerized by the gallows room, with a noose centered over a trapdoor in the floor.

the above is just a sample of what the article says. you may click the link and read the entire piece and in it you will not find one use of the word palestine or palestinian. there’s no mention of the fact that akka is a palestinian city and that those so-called “jewish freedom fighters” were and are terrorists who massacred palestinians, stole their land, and created 750,000 refugees. there is no mention of syria either in their little excursion to occupied golan.

conversely, adrian bridge’s recent article in the telegraph on sri lankan tourism talks about the tamils, although as if they are only resistance fighters and not a massive civilian population massacred and made into refugees:

With the fighting still fresh, outrage over the number of civilians killed and fears that pockets of Tamil Tiger fighters may continue with terrorist attacks, the Foreign Office continues to advise against all travel to the north and east of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka travel experts, however, hope that in the long term, the ending of the 26-year-long civil war will signal a fresh start for tourism in what is potentially one of the most attractive holiday destinations in Asia.

“This is a good step forward but we have to be cautiously optimistic; there is still a lot of work to be done to bring about a true peace,” said Jean-Marc Flambert, who promotes a number of hotels in Sri Lanka.

“But in fact the best beaches on the island are on the east coast. Also, with the rainy season there coming at a different time to the rain in the south and west it could turn Sri Lanka into a year round destination.”

the above link came to me via the amazing rapper @_m_i_a_ on twitter (aka maya arulpragasam) and her perfect tweet in response to the article was:

I SAY YEAH … IF U like swimming in blood and hiking and biking on mass graves and eating chemically contaminated fried fish for lunch.

the problem with this story about sri lanka and its war against a civilian tamil population is that even news sources like al jazeera continue to report in a decidedly biased way. take this report by tony birtley on al jazeera today in which he says that 17,000 tamil fighters were killed:

tamil net gives us rather different figures:

Sea Tiger Special Commander of the LTTE, Col. Soosai Sunday noon said that around 25,000 civilians injured in the artillery attack of Sri Lanka Army are dead and dying now without receiving medical attention. The LTTE has repeatedly requested the ICRC through Mr. Pathmanathan to evacuate the injured through Vadduvaakal or Iraddaivaaikkaal, but there was no IC response. Within a 2 square kilometre area, there are dead bodies everywhere while the remaining thousands are in bunkers amidst the use of every kind of weapon by Colombo’s forces. The SLA is not even allowing the people to flee but prefers to fire at them, Soosai said.

for people who want some background on the conflict al jazeera put up a time line on their website starting from sri lanka’s independence from british rule–1948 (yes, the british “leave” one colony and ensure the existence of a new one in the same year)–through the recent genocide. additionally the conversation on democracy now! yesterday between anjali kamat and ahilan kadirgamar that provided some context that doesn’t demonize tamils seeking liberation:

i think that the above interview is important for the way it reveals the orwellian language used by the sri lankan government in which internment camps become “welfare centers.” all of this has been enhanced and made possible by the u.s. exporting of the so-called “war on terror” in which any government wanting to clamp down on resistance groups can commit massacres and genocide and get away with it.

suren surendiran’s article in the guardian today gives us some further context and a broader understanding of the toll this has taken on the tamil people of sri lanka:

Sri Lankan military killed thousands of Tamil civilians over the past few months (not to mention the years before) using the full might of its fire power by way of artillery and air strikes. It has, with intent, starved its own people by refusing to send food and medicine in sufficient quantities and in adequate frequencies.

Crucially, this genocide by the Sri Lankan state has been enabled by the international community, including Britain.

What is deeply disappointing is the fact that powerful liberal states which have long espoused human rights, the Geneva conventions and, most recently, the responsibility to protect, have all allowed thousands of innocent lives to be lost unnecessarily and with full knowledge.

The slaughter went on every day, with many women and children being killed not just by the shelling but due to starvation and lack of medical care. Yet the international response, especially those of the UN and western liberal states, has been pathetic. Mere statements after statements were released by heads of states like Gordon Brown and Barack Obama and institutions such as the UN, EU and various non-governmental organisations such as Amnesty, HRW and Crisis Group. No one showed real leadership in stopping this genocide which took place in broad daylight.

Even now thousands of displaced young Tamils are being abducted and disappeared, the wounded and injured are not given medical care and families are separated and abused in overcrowded barbed-wire-fenced camps. Thousands are still lining up at check points which have no independent observers present. International media has no way of reporting without government interference.

Sri Lanka is conducting this war beyond its means. Its economy is in a mess due to mismanagement, as stated by the World Bank. Sri Lanka’s Central Bank is seeking an emergency loan from the IMF due to its fast depleting reserves. Yet, year on year defence budget has been consistently rising by huge percentages. Regional powers and others have assisted financially and otherwise to continue with this government’s war with its own people. Unemployed youth from Sri Lanka’s rural south who could be put to more constructive development use were being used for destruction and killing.

Pretending to promote human rights and high moral values, western governments are turning a blind eye to the state terrorism in Sri Lanka, but also incentivising such horrendous violations by granting large sums in loans and grants. Hypocrisy of the international community is obvious as they argue any sanctions against such financial assistance will hurt the wider economy of Sri Lanka. The same wasn’t true it seems for the poor Zimbabweans or the Palestinians of Gaza City.

of course, i wrote the other day about the zionist entity providing sri lanka with its weapons in order to carry out this genocide. the genocide may be over in sri lanka, but the trauma will not be over for a long time. nor will the refugees lead a normal life for some time to come either. and while this massive refugee crisis comes to a head the one in pakistan just continues to worsen also because of a so-called “war on terror” instigated by americans. unhcr is now reporting that refugees may be reaching 1 million:

The number of displaced people registered since May 2 by authorities with help from UNHCR climbed above the 1 million mark over the weekend and continues to rise rapidly. Most of the displaced are staying with relatives or friends, placing huge economic and social strains on the country. More than 130,000 others are staying in camps supported by UNHCR. The 1.17 million recently registered join another 555,000 Pakistanis displaced in earlier fighting since last August.

and for those who need reminding that this is a united states-made war on the civilian population of pakistan, the u.s. bombed the region yet again this week as alamgir bitani reported in the independent:

A bomb blew up in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on today killing 10 people, hours after a suspected US drone aircraft fired missiles at militants in another region on the Afghan border and killed 10.

The violence came as the Pakistani military battled Taliban militants in a northwestern valley in an offensive that has forced more than 900,000 people from their homes.

The blast in Peshawar blew up a passing school bus and city police chief Sifwat Ghayyur said four children and two women were among the dead.

“It was a remote controlled bomb. Ten people have been killed and 18 wounded,” Ghayyur told Reuters.

according to mainstream american news media, they are praising these actions in pakistan calling them “effective” on cnn as reported in common dreams:

U.S. airstrikes aimed at al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan have been “very effective,” with few civilian deaths as a result, CIA Director Leon Panetta said Monday in a rare public acknowledgment of the raids.

Asked about criticism of the missile attacks by counterinsurgency experts, Panetta said he did not want to discuss specifics, “but I can assure you that in terms of that particular area, it is very precise and is very limited in terms of collateral damage.”

“Very frankly, it’s the only game in town in terms of confronting or trying to disrupt the al Qaeda leadership,” Panetta told the Pacific Council on International Policy in Los Angeles.

i just wonder what is effective about creating 1 million refugees? bombing civilian villages? sowing the seeds of future generations who will seek justice for sure and perhaps vengeance. though who knows because the media campaign in pakistan seems to be as mythologizing as the american media with respect to distancing the war from the united states as declan walsh reported in the guardian the other day:

The human exodus from the war-torn Swat valley in northern Pakistan is turning into the world’s most dramatic displacement crisis since the Rwandan genocide of 1994, the UN refugee agency warned.

Almost 1.5 million people have registered for assistance since fighting erupted three weeks ago, the UNHCR said, bringing the total number of war displaced in North West Frontier province to more than 2 million, not including 300,000 the provincial government believes have not registered. “It’s been a long time since there has been a displacement this big,” the UNHCR’s spokesman Ron Redmond said in Geneva, trying to recall the last time so many people had been uprooted so quickly. “It could go back to Rwanda.”

The army reported fierce clashes across Swat, a tourist haven turned Taliban stronghold. After a week of intense aerial bombardment with fighter jets and helicopter gunships the army has launched a ground offensive to drive out the militants to rout the militants from the valley. Commandos pushed through the remote Piochar valley, seizing a training centre and killing a dozen Taliban, a military spokesman, Major General Athar Abbas, said. Gun battles erupted in several villages surrounding Mingora, Swat’s main town. Abbas said the military had killed 27 militants, including three commanders, and lost three members of the security forces. The figures could not be verified, as Swat has been largely cut off since the operation started.

The Taliban leader in Swat, Maulana Fazlullah, remains at large. His spokesman vowed the rebels would fight until their “last breath”.

The operation continues to enjoy broad public support. Opposition parties endorsed the action at a conference called by the government, dispelling the notion that the army was fighting “America’s war”.

farooq sulehria has a great piece in dissident voice on the way that this media and military campaign has been playing out in pakistan, and here is the upshot:

Over 700 people have been killed in U.S. drone attacks on Pakistan since 2006, with 164 killed in 14 attacks under Obama’s watch. These drone attacks are further fueling anti-U.S. sentiments.

Instead of finding an exit strategy in Afghanistan, the Obama administration is practicing an Iraq-style surge. But it is U.S. presence in the region that will sustain the conditions that breed Talbanisation. The longer the USA stays in Afghanistan, the longer the Taliban’s defeat will be delayed and the suffering of the poor masses prolonged. For those lucky enough to survive bombs dropped by the Pakistan military in Swat, they will also have to deal with the possibility of having their throats slit by Taliban hit squads. Or they have the option to become refugees in their own country.

and just like the american support for the zionist entity when it gives it massive bombs to pound gaza (which it is doing as i type, by the way) and then gives money to rebuild gaza (which it only pledged, it never actually gave the money), the americans are paying to bomb pakistan and now paying to supposedly help the refugees:

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, has pledged $110m in humanitarian aid to Pakistan as part of Washington’s new strategy for helping Islamabad counter Taliban’s growing influence.

Clinton announced the aid package during a press conference at the White House on Tuesday.

She said the money is meant to ease the plight of at least two million Pakistanis who have fled fighting in the country’s Swat valley and are living in squalid tent cities.

US officials said $100m in aid would flow from Clinton’s state department and the other $10m will come from the defence department.

day of global action for troy davis (meanwhile the real criminals get away with mass murder)

khalil bendib
khalil bendib

below is an email i received from my friend jen marlowe on the international day of global action for troy davis:

Dear friends,

Troy Davis is a death row prisoner in Georgia, facing execution for a crime he very possibly didn’t commit. Two weeks ago, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his appeal for a new trial. His stay of execution ends May 15th.

I’ve been corresponding with Troy Davis for about a year and a half, and, through my interest in his case, have begun to grow more concerned about the death penalty in general.

I’m sending you a piece I wrote about Troy specifically and the death penalty generally. The article ran yesterday in CommonDreams.org. As always, I welcome your comments!

The link to the article is:
http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/05/10-6

And–I want to point out that May 19th is a day of global action for Troy Davis. There are solidarity events being planned in cities and towns all over the US. I hope you’ll consider taking part. More information is available at:
http://www.amnestyusa.org/death-penalty/troy-davis-finality-over-fairness/sign-up-for-the-day-of-action-for-troy-davis/page.do?id=1011672

All the best,

Jen Marlowe

in jen’s article, “the death penalty club,” to contextualize troy davis’ case, she compares the united states practices of the death penalty with other nations that violate human rights by using this barbaric practice under the guise of so-called “justice”:

The majority of the world has been moving towards abolishing the death penalty. Two thirds of all countries have abolished it in law or in practice-the most recent being Burundi. In all of Europe, Belarus is the only country that still practices capital punishment.

Even with the trend towards abolition, capital punishment remains a crucial global human rights issue, mostly due to a handful of egregious offender nations. In 2008, 2,390 prisoners were executed in twenty-five countries. 93% of those executions took place in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, United States and Pakistan.

There are the only two countries in the world that have not ratified the UN Convention prohibiting the execution of children. They are Somalia and the United States. There are currently over sixty prisoners on death row in the US for crimes they committed as juveniles.

In April 1999, the United Nations Human Rights Commission passed its second Resolution Supporting Worldwide Moratorium on Executions, calling on countries which still practice capital punishment to restrict its use and not apply it to juveniles. Ten countries–including China, Pakistan, Rwanda, Sudan and the US–voted against the Resolution. A similar resolution was adopted by a large majority at the United Nations General Assembly in 2007, and once again this past December. Both times the USA was part of the small minority in dissent.

I don’t know if Troy Davis ponders the fact that our global colleagues regarding capital punishment include China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Rwanda, Sudan and Somalia. But our membership in this infamous club should give all of us much pause.

There will all always be another Troy Davis, more and more possibly innocent prisoners on the chopping block, until the United States follows the lead of two-thirds of the world and fully abolishes the death penalty.

this is one of the many reasons why the united states and other countries like china and saudi arabia should not be allowed onto the united nations human rights council as i wrote the other day.

the san francisco bay view news reports on amnesty international’s plans for the global day of action that you can take part in:

To save Troy’s life, “we’re asking everybody to come out strong on May 19th – a day marked in human rights calendars across the world as the Global Day of Action for Troy Davis,” says Amnesty Death Penalty Abolition Campaign Director Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn.

“Whether you’re holding a ‘Text TROY to 90999’ sign on a busy street or organizing your local Amnesty chapter to hold a public demonstration or vigil, we need everybody to … register your Global Day of Action for Troy Davis activity or event now,” she said. For ideas and to register your event, go to Global Day of Action for Troy Davis.

“It’s really important that we get an accurate count of how many events and activities are taking place on May 19th, so we can share this information with officials in Georgia. Our emails and phone calls have gone a long way in buying Troy some much-needed time, but now we’ve got to take our action to the streets.

“We appreciate the tens of thousands of you who have stood in Troy’s corner while heart-stopping scenes have unfolded. On three separate occasions, Troy has been scheduled for execution. And on three separate occasions, his life was saved within a short period of time, even minutes, of his scheduled execution date.

“Each time, those last minute stays came after people like you turned out by the thousands to rally in his defense. It was no coincidence. Troy’s sister and long-time Amnesty activist, Martina Correia, has acknowledged Amnesty’s powerful role in saving her brother’s life each of those times.

“Now here we are again with the clock winding down,” warned the Amnesty spokesperson. “We are serious when we say that we need everyone to support Troy Davis on May 19th by organizing their own event or awareness-raising activity.

“After all, if you had 30 days left to fight for your life, wouldn’t you want to know that you had thousands standing in your corner?”

here is an interesting animated video from amnesty international explaining the context of troy davis’ case:

and for some inspiration and why capital punishment should be abolished here are the lyrics for one of my favorite ani difranco songs, “crime for crime” (back before ani drank the obama koolaid):

everyone needs to see the prisoner
they need to make it even easier
they see me as a symbol, and not a human being
that way they can kill me
say it’s not murder, it’s a metaphor
we are killing off our own failure
and starting clean

standing in the gallows
everyone turned my way
i hear a voice ask me
if i’ve got any last words to say
and i’m looking out over the field of familiar eyes
somewhere in a woman’s arms a baby cries

i think guilt and innocence
they are a matter of degree
what might be justice to you
might not be justice to me
i went too far, i’m sorry
i guess now i’m going home
so let any amongst you cast the first stone
now we’ve got all these complicated machines
so no one person ever has to have blood on their hands
we’ve got complex organizations
and if everyone just does their job
no one person has to understand

you might be the wrong color
you might be too poor
justice isn’t something just anyone can afford
you might not pull the trigger
you might be out in the car
and you might get a lethal injection
’cause we take a metaphor that far

but it isn’t just troy davis. and it isn’t just the death penalty that should be up for discussion. troy davis’ case is important, but it should be a symbol of abolishing the death penalty more generally. and it should be a symbol of what is wrong with the so-called “criminal justice” system more generally as well. it should also force us to think about and resist the united states’ practices at guantánamo, especially in light of what jeremy scahill recently revealed about its immediate reaction force or emergency reaction force, but as scahill explains, it is known as the extreme repression force:

Clive Stafford Smith, who has represented 50 Guantánamo prisoners, including 31 still imprisoned there, has seen the IRF teams up close. “They’re goons,” he says. “They’ve played a huge role.”

While much of the “torture debate” has emphasized the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” defined by the twisted legal framework of the Office of Legal Council memos, IRF teams in effect operate at Guantánamo as an extrajudicial terror squad that has regularly brutalized prisoners outside of the interrogation room, gang beating them, forcing their heads into toilets, breaking bones, gouging their eyes, squeezing their testicles, urinating on a prisoner’s head, banging their heads on concrete floors and hog-tying them — sometimes leaving prisoners tied in excruciating positions for hours on end.

The IRF teams “were fully approved at the highest levels [of the Bush administration], including the Secretary of Defense and with outside consultation of the Justice Department,” says Scott Horton, one of the leading experts on U.S. Military and Constitutional law. This force “was designed to disabuse the prisoners of any idea that they would be free from physical assault while in U.S. custody,” he says. “They were trained to brutally punish prisoners in a brief period of time, and ridiculous pretexts were taken to justify” the beatings.

So notorious are these teams that a new lexicon was created and used by prisoners and guards alike to describe the beatings: IRF-ing prisoners or to be IRF-ed.

Former Guantánamo Army Chaplain James Yee, who witnessed IRFings, described “the seemingly harmless behaviors that brought it on [like] not responding when a guard spoke.” Yee said he believed that during daily cell sweeps, guards would intentionally do invasive searches of the Muslim prisoners’ “private areas” and Korans to “rile the detainees,” saying it “seemed like harassment for the sake of harassment, and the prisoners fought it. Those who did were always IRFed.”

“I’ll put it like this,” Stafford Smith says. “My clients are afraid of them.”

“Up to 15 people attempted to commit suicide at Camp Delta due to the abuses of the IRF officials,” according to the Spanish investigation. Combined with other documentation, including prisoner testimony and legal memos, the IRF teams appear to be one of the most significant forces in the abuse of prisoners at Guantánamo, worthy of an investigation by U.S. prosecutors in and of themselves.

the above is just an excerpt, but i strongly recommend reading the entirety of scahill’s investigative report. jonathan cook has an important piece this week on the zionist entity’s guantánamo known as facility 1391:

The United Nation’s watchdog on torture has criticised Israel for refusing to allow inspections at a secret prison, dubbed by critics as “Israel’s Guantanamo Bay”, and demanded to know if more such clandestine detention camps are operating.

In a report published on Friday, the Committee Against Torture requested that Israel identify the location of the camp, officially referred to as “Facility 1391”, and allow access to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Findings from Israeli human rights groups show that the prison has in the past been used to hold Arab and Muslim prisoners, including Palestinians, and that routine torture and physical abuse were carried out by interrogators.

The UN committee’s panel of 10 independent experts also found credible the submissions from Israeli groups that Palestinian detainees are systematically tortured despite the banning of such practices by the Israeli Supreme Court in 1999.

The existence of Facility 1391 came to light in 2002, when Palestinians were detained there for the first time during Israel’s reinvasion of the West Bank.

In a submission to the UN committee, Israel denied that any prisoners are currently being held at the site, although it admits that several Lebanese were detained there during the attack on Lebanon in 2006.

The committee expressed concern about an Israeli Supreme Court ruling in 2005 that found it “reasonable” for the state not to investigate suspicions of torture at the prison. The panel is believed to be concerned that without inspections the prison might still be in use or could be revived at short notice.

The Israeli court, the committee wrote, “should ensure that all allegations of torture and ill-treatment by detainees in Facility 1391 be impartially investigated [and] the results made public”.

Hamoked, an Israeli human rights organisation, first identified the prison after two Palestinian cousins seized in Nablus in 2002 could not be traced by their families. Israeli officials eventually admitted that the pair were being held at a secret site.

Israel still refuses to identify the precise location of the prison, which is inside Israel and about 100km north of Jerusalem. A few buildings are visible, but most of the prison is built underground.

“We only learnt about the prison because the army made the mistake of putting Palestinians there when they ran out of room in Israel’s main prisons,” said Dalia Kerstein, the director of Hamoked.

“The real purpose of the camp is to interrogate prisoners from the Arab and Muslim world, who would be difficult to trace because their families are unlikely to contact Israeli organisations for help.”

Ms Kerstein said the prison site was an even grosser violation of international law than Guantanamo Bay because it had never been inspected and no one knew what took place there.

According to the testimonies of the Palestinian cousins, Mohammed and Bashar Jadallah, they were held in isolation cells measuring two metres square, with black walls, no windows and a light bulb on 24 hours a day. On the rare occasions they were escorted outside, they had to wear blacked-out goggles.

When Bashar Jadallah, 50, asked where he was, he was told he was “on the moon”.

According to the testimony of Mohammed Jadallah, 23, he was repeatedly beaten, his shackles tightened, he was tied in painful positions to a chair, he was not allowed to go to the toilet and he was prevented from sleeping, with water thrown on him if he nodded off. Interrogators are also reported to have shown him pictures of family members and threatened to harm them.

Although Palestinians passing through the prison were interrogated by the domestic secret police, the Shin Bet, foreign nationals at the prison fall under the responsibility of a special wing of military intelligence known as Unit 504, whose interrogation methods are believed to be much harsher.

Shortly after the prison came to light, a former inmate – Mustafa Dirani, a leader of the Lebanese Shia group Amal – launched a court case in Israel claiming he had been raped by a guard.

Mr Dirani, seized from Lebanon in 1994, was held in Facility 1391 for eight years along with a Hizbollah leader, Sheikh Abdel Karim Obeid. Israel hoped to extract information from the pair in its search for a missing airman, Ron Arad, downed over Lebanon in 1986.

Mr Dirani alleged in court that he had been physically abused by a senior army interrogator known as “Major George”, including an incident when he was sodomised with a baton.

The case was dropped in early 2004 when Mr Dirani was released in a prisoner exchange.

Ms Kerstein said there was no proof that more prisons existed in Israel like Facility 1391, but some of the testimonies collected from former inmates suggested that they had been held at different secret locations.

She said the concern was that Israel might have been one of the countries that received “extraordinary rendition” flights, in which prisoners captured by the United States were smuggled to other countries for torture.

“If a democracy allows one of these prisons, who is to say that there are not more?” she said.

The committee examined other suspicions of torture involving Israel. It expressed particular concern about Israel’s failure to investigate more than 600 complaints made by detainees against the Shin Bet since the panel’s last hearings, in 2001.

It also highlighted the pressure put on Gazans who needed to enter Israel for medical treatment to turn informer.

Ishai Menuchin, executive director of Israel’s Public Committee against Torture, said his group had sent several submissions to the committee showing that torture was systematically used against detainees.

“After the court decision in 1999, interrogators simply learnt to be more creative in their techniques,” he said.

He added that, since Israel’s redefinition of Gaza as an “enemy state”, some Palestinians seized there were being held as “illegal combatants” rather than “security detainees”.

“In those circumstances, they might qualify for incarceration in secret prisons like Facility 1391.”

i find it so ironic that those who deserve justice–the political prisoners in any number of zionist jails or american jails or guantánamo–are ignored, are rendered invisible meanwhile those whose crimes were committed right out in the open continue to go unpunished. daniel machover and adri nieuwhof’s recent article in electronic intifada detils just why these war criminals form the zionist entity must be prosecuted, particularly for their crimes in the world’s largest open air prison, otherwise known as gaza:

As High Contracting Parties to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, EU countries are obligated to bring the legal duties of the Fourth Geneva Convention into their law. The basic starting point is enacting any legislation necessary to provide effective penal sanctions for persons committing or ordering any of the grave breaches of the convention (i.e., war crimes). The following grave breaches mentioned in the convention seem relevant to the assault on Gaza:

“[W]illful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, or willfully depriving a protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial, and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly, if committed against persons or property protected by the Convention.”

EU countries also have the obligation to search for persons alleged to have committed or to have ordered such grave breaches, and must bring such persons, regardless of their nationality, before its own courts (or extradite them to another country that is prepared to prosecute).

The authoritative commentary on the Fourth Geneva Convention, published by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), states that:

“As soon as a contracting party realizes that there is on its territory a person who has committed … a [grave] breach, its duty is to ensure that the person concerned is arrested and prosecuted with all speed. The necessary police action should be taken spontaneously, therefore, not merely in pursuance of a request from another State.”

The ICRC commentary confirms that EU countries have an obligation to actively search for suspected war criminals. It follows that this duty should include maintaining border controls that enable a state to ensure that known suspects seeking to enter the jurisdiction are arrested on arrival. Many studies by human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Redress Trust, have looked at the compliance of states with their legislative obligations under the Geneva conventions and these reveal some shocking failures by major EU countries. Austria, France, Greece and Italy have simply done nothing to make it possible for suspected war criminals to be prosecuted in their countries under the principle of universal jurisdiction. Meanwhile, full compliance with the principle of universal jurisdiction has not been achieved in several countries and in Malta and Latvia the situation is not fully clear and requires further research. For example, in Belgium the requirements to exercise universal jurisdiction do not comply with the Geneva conventions, because they contain a series of complex rules regarding the status of the suspect and the victim, none of which are permitted in the conventions.

The mere presence of a suspected war criminal of whatever nationality on the territory of a state should be enough to trigger universal criminal jurisdiction, regardless of the nationality or current whereabouts of the victim. Moreover, with the EU’s obsession about the safety of borders and preventing undesirable people from entering the free market area, one would have thought that the member states would coordinate to ensure European countries never become safe havens for suspected war criminals.

Palestinian victims of alleged war crimes, just like other victims of war crimes, seek justice and the fair application of the rule of international criminal law to their cases. On 4 May, Judge Fernando Andreu of the Spanish National Court announced the decision to continue the investigation into the July 2002 bombing of al-Daraj, Gaza. This attack resulted in the deaths of 16 Palestinians, including 14 civilians. The decision represents a major step towards achieving justice for the victims. It opens the door for accountability, whereby suspected Israeli war criminals may be held responsible for the suffering they have inflicted on Palestinians in Gaza.

Fair criminal trials in EU member states, especially if they result in convictions, could provide genuine deterrence and begin to provide justice for Palestinian victims of Israeli actions. The EU has a massive role in that regard. Instead of paying lip service to injustices inflicted upon the Palestinian people by issuing statements “deploring the loss of life” and promises to “follow closely investigations into alleged violations of international humanitarian law,” EU countries would achieve much more by applying the rule of law to Israel, starting with making their laws match their obligations under the 1949 Geneva Conventions. After all, 60 years later there is little sign that the need for war crimes trials has reduced.

hasan abu nimah recently had a two-part article in electronic intifada, the first of which is called “ban ki moon’s moral failure” and the second of which is called “covering up israel’s gaza crimes with the un’s help” shows us how the real criminals–those committing state terrorism–are getting away with mass murder, massacres:

But the reality is that Ban has learned all the “right” lessons from the past. In 1996, then UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali published — against American “advice” — a UN report that demolished Israeli claims that its shelling on 18 April that year of the UN peacekeeping base in Qana, Lebanon, killing 106 people, was an accident. Boutros-Ghali effectively paid with his job as the Clinton Administration vetoed his bid for a second term. In 2002, after the Israeli army destroyed much of Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, the Security Council ordered then Secretary-General Kofi Annan to carry out an investigation. But Israel refused to allow the inquiry team into the country, and so Annan, rather than going back to the Security Council to ask for its support in carrying out his mandate, simply told the investigation team to disband and go home.

Ban is taking things even further. He apparently created the board of inquiry not in order to find out the truth, but only as a political exercise to cover himself from the charge of total inaction. But the board of inquiry members did take their mandate very seriously and honestly. By rejecting their call for accountability, Ban has in effect rejected and betrayed his own mandate to uphold the UN Charter and international humanitarian law.

And on what grounds did the secretary-general decide to publish only 27 pages? Most likely the rest of the report was not only damning to Israel, but would have exposed his decision to block further investigation as even more nakedly cynical.

It is especially puzzling since Ban himself had described the board of inquiry as “independent.” In response to allegations he had “watered down” the document, he stated: “I do not have any authority to edit or change any wording” of its “conclusion and recommendations.”

He did much more than that: he withheld 85 percent of the report! It may be true that the report is just an “internal document and is not for public release” as Ban wrote in his letter, and that the inquiry “is not a judicial body or court of law.”

as usual the real criminals who get away with torture and mass murder are the heads of state in the u.s. and the zionist entity to name the most prominent. and those who fall prey to its rules that never apply to the state itself and usually only to those who are poor and brown and muslim. and so where is the justice system here?

when will we listen and learn?

in a rare report from sri lanka nick payton walsh of england’s channel 4 reported from an internment camp in vavuniya where tamil refugees have been taken by the sri lankan army and where there walsh reports on everything from shortages of food and water to sexual abuse. this report is rare because of the media blackout in sri lanka that does not allow anyone to report on anything other than the military’s point of view (think gaza):

gethin chamberlain’s article in the guardian today about the sri lankan government’s war against the civilian tamil population reveals more devastation including the inability of the red cross to function and the continuing media blackout (also checkout chamberlain’s video on the guardian’s website):

The scale of the fighting forced doctors to abandon the last hospital in the so-called no-fire zone. One medic described how they were sheltering in a bunker, unable to reach the dead and injured lying inside the hospital.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said civilians trapped inside the war zone were finding it even more difficult to get water and food.

“Our staff are witnessing an unimaginable humanitarian catastrophe,” said the ICRC operations director, Pierre Krahenbuhl. “No humanitarian organisation can help them in the current circumstances. People are left to their own devices.”

Douglas Alexander, Britain’s international development secretary, issued an angry statement expressing his outrage that the scale of the fighting had prevented the Red Cross from evacuating the wounded.

“I am utterly appalled that the ICRC is no longer able to continue its operations in northern Sri Lanka,” he said. “This deplorable situation rightly brings international condemnation of both parties to the conflict. There is simply no justification for allowing such needless suffering.”

One unconfirmed report suggested that some of the latest injuries were caused by the use of white phosphorus. The Sri Lankan military released pictures on Thursday claiming to show that the Tamil tigers had rigged phosphorus bombs around areas where tens of thousands of civilians are trapped.

There is no way of confirming the reports because independent media are prevented from entering the war zone.

interestingly it seems as though the united nations is actually trying to intervene here, though that remains to be seen. notice, however, that hillary clinton is applying pressure to sri lanka in ways she and her government refuses to do with respect to the zionist colonial terrorist regime in palestine as chamberlain continues:

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, sent his chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar, to Sri Lanka for a second time to try to bring the conflict to a peaceful conclusion.

A UN spokesman, Gordon Weiss, said Nambiar planned to meet senior government officials after he arrived today and would push for ways “to secure the safety of the 50,000 to 100,000 civilians remaining inside the combat zone”.

The US applied pressure on Colombo by questioning Sri Lanka’s application for a $1.9bn loan from the International Monetary Fund.

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said: “We think that it is not an appropriate time to consider that until there is a resolution.”

in contradistinction, the united states is rewarding the zionist colonist terrorist regime for its ongoing massacres and ethnic cleansing with more military aid–which you can work to stop by clicking on the link below to the u.s. campaign to end the occupation’s website and signing their petition:

Last week, President Obama sent his FY2010 budget request to Congress and, as expected, included in it $2.775 billion in military aid for Israel, an increase of $225 million from this year’s budget.

The budget request now goes to the Senate and House Appropriations Subcommittees on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs for hearings and “mark-ups”.

This request for an increase in military aid to Israel comes despite the fact that Israel consistently misuses U.S. weapons in violation of the Arms Export Control and Foreign Assistance Acts.

During the Bush Administration, Israel killed more than 3,000 Palestinian civilians who took no part in hostilities, including more than 1,000 children. During its December-January war on the Gaza Strip alone, Israel killed nearly 1,200 Palestinian non-combatants.

Especially during this acute economic crisis, is this how you want Congress to spend your taxes? If not, then take action by clicking the link above.

but the link between palestine and the tamils of sri lanka is best viewed from the lens of the imposed silence, the refusal to let the media in, and our refusal–those of us on the outside–to listen and learn from the tamil people as john pilger explains in an important article in dissident voice this week:

In the early 1960s, it was the Irish of Derry who would phone late at night, speaking in a single breath, spilling out stories of discrimination and injustice. Who listened to their truth until the violence began? Bengalis from what was then East Pakistan did much the same. Their urgent whispers described terrible state crimes that the news ignored, and they implored us reporters to “let the world know.” Palestinians speaking above the din of crowded rooms in Bethlehem and Beirut asked no more. For me, the most tenacious distant voices have been the Tamils of Sri Lanka, to whom we ought to have listened a very long time ago.

It is only now, as they take to the streets of western cities, and the persecution of their compatriots reaches a crescendo, that we listen, though not intently enough to understand and act. The Sri Lankan government has learned an old lesson from, I suspect, a modern master: Israel. In order to conduct a slaughter, you ensure the pornography is unseen, illicit at best. You ban foreigners and their cameras from Tamil towns like Mulliavaikal, which was bombarded recently by the Sri Lankan army, and you lie that the 75 people killed in the hospital were blown up quite willfully by a Tamil suicide bomber. You then give reporters a ride into the jungle, providing what in the news business is called a dateline, which suggests an eyewitness account, and you encourage the gullible to disseminate only your version and its lies. Gaza is the model.

From the same master class you learn to manipulate the definition of terrorism as a universal menace, thus ingratiating yourself with the “international community” (Washington) as a noble sovereign state blighted by an “insurgency” of mindless fanaticism. The truth and lessons of the past are irrelevant. And having succeeded in persuading the United States and Britain to proscribe your insurgents as terrorists, you affirm you are on the right side of history, regardless of the fact that your government has one of the world’s worst human rights records and practices terrorism by another name. Such is Sri Lanka.

This is not to suggest that those who resist attempts to obliterate them culturally if not actually are innocent in their methods. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have spilt their share of blood and perpetrated their own atrocities. But they are the product, not the cause, of an injustice and a war that long predates them. Neither is Sri Lanka’s civil strife as unfathomable as it is often presented: an ancient religious-ethnic rivalry between the Hindu Tamils and the Buddhist Sinhalese government.

Sri Lanka as British-ruled Ceylon was subjected to a classic divide-and-rule. The British brought Tamils from India as virtual slave labor while building an educated Tamil middle class to run the colony. At independence in 1948, the new political elite, in its rush for power, cultivated ethnic support in a society whose real imperative should have been the eradication of poverty. Language became the spark. The election of a government pledging to replace English, the lingua franca, with Sinhalese was a declaration of war on the Tamils. The new law meant that Tamils almost disappeared from the civil service by 1970; and as “nationalism” seduced parties of both the left and right, discrimination and anti-Tamil riots followed.

The formation of a Tamil resistance, notably the LTTE, the Tamil Tigers, included a demand for a state in the north of the country. The response of the government was judicial killing, torture, disappearances, and more recently, the reported use of cluster bombs and chemical weapons. The Tigers responded with their own crimes, including suicide bombing and kidnapping. In 2002, a ceasefire was agreed, and was held until last year, when the government decided to finish off the Tigers. Tamil civilians were urged to flee to military-run “welfare camps”, which have become the symbol of an entire people under vicious detention, and worse, with nowhere to escape the army’s fury. This is Gaza again, although the historical parallel is the British treatment of Boer women and children more than a century ago, who “died like flies,” as a witness wrote.

Foreign aid workers have been banned from Sri Lanka’s camps, except the International Committee of the Red Cross, which has described a catastrophe in the making. The United Nations says that 60 Tamils a day are being killed in the shelling of a government-declared “no-fire zone.”

In 2003, the Tigers proposed a devolved Interim Self-Governing Authority that included real possibilities for negotiation. Today, the government gives the impression it will use its imminent “victory” to “permanently solve” the “Tamil minority problem,” as many of its more rabid supporters threaten. The army commander says all of Sri Lanka “belongs” to the Sinhalese majority. The word “genocide” is used by Tamil expatriots, perhaps loosely; but the fear is true.

India could play a critical part. The south Indian state of Tamil Nadu has a Tamil-speaking population with centuries of ties with the Tamils of Sri Lanka. In the current Indian election campaign, anger over the siege of Tamils in Sri Lanka has brought hundreds of thousands to rallies. Having initially helped to arm the Tigers, Indian governments sent “peacekeeping” troops to disarm them. Delhi now appears to be allowing the Sinhalese supremacists in Colombo to “stabilize” its troubled neighbor. In a responsible regional role, India could stop the killing and begin to broker a solution.

The great moral citadels in London and Washington offer merely silent approval of the violence and tragedy. No appeals are heard in the United Nations from them. David Miliband has called for a “ceasefire”, as he tends to do in places where British “interests” are served, such as the 14 impoverished countries racked by armed conflict where the British government licenses arms shipments. In 2005, British arms exports to Sri Lanka rose by 60 percent. The distant voices from there should be heard, urgently.

on why hip hop is necessary

one of the reasons i so love rap music and hip hop culture is because so much of it–or at least the stuff i listen to–has such smart lyrics, amazing politics, and usually amazing sounds. but also i love it because i see it as a form of resistance. dam does this for palestine. k’naan does this for somalia. the narcicyst does this for iraq. m.i.a. (a.k.a. maya arulpragasam) does this for tamils in sri lanka. i found an interview she did with tavis smiley (who is as clueless as riz khan when it comes to interviewing people) and she does an amazing job of discussing the political crisis in sri lanka and the genocide against the tamil people:

socially and politically conscious rap artists have such a crucial role to play in stopping the demonization of people that lead people in the west to call those marginalized people who face ethnic cleansing and genocide “terrorists” when the reality is they are all subjected to state terrorism supported by the united states. all of the groups above that i mentioned, and all of whom i’ve blogged about previously, sing and speak eloquently and brilliantly about the situation where they live, or if like m.i.a., as refugees. as i’ve blogged previously i’m so struck by the parallels between palestinians and tamils in sri lanka in the current genocide underway in sri lanka. there are more that emerge every day. david batty wrote for the guardian the other day about a doctor reporting on the attacks on civilians by the sri lankan government against the tamil population and the story sounds so much like gaza:

A massive artillery barrage by the Sri Lankan army last night killed at least 257 civilians and left another 814 wounded in the small strip of territory that remains under the control of Tamil Tiger rebels.

A doctor working in the warzone described the assault as the bloodiest he had seen in the government’s offensive against the Tamil Tigers.

Dr V Shanmugarajah said he feared many more may have been killed since some bodies were being buried on the spot without being brought to the makeshift hospital he runs.

Shanmugarajah described seeing shells fly through the air, with some falling close to the hospital, forcing many to flee to bunkers for shelter.

The rebel-linked TamilNet website said about 2,000 people were feared dead. It accused Sri Lankan forces of launching the attack, a charge the military denied.

Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said it was only using small arms in its effort to wipe out the Tamil Tiger rebel group and there “is no shelling taking place”.

The government had sent medical supplies into the warzone in recent days but a shortage of doctors, nurses and helpers has made treatment difficult, Shanmugarajah said.

“We are doing the first aid and some surgeries as quickly as we can. We are doing what is possible. The situation is overwhelming; nothing is within our control,” he said. Shanmugarajah said he had sought the help of volunteers to dig graves.

The government vowed two weeks ago to cease firing heavy weapons into the tiny coastal strip that remained under rebel control in an effort to avoid civilian casualties. But medical officials in the area have reported that air strikes and artillery attacks have continued unabated, despite the presence of an estimated 50,000 civilians in the tiny conflict zone.

human rights watch corroborates this evidence of civilian attacks in a new report that focuses on how the sri lankan government targets tamil hospitals:

The Sri Lankan armed forces have repeatedly struck hospitals in the northern Vanni region in indiscriminate artillery and aerial attacks, Human Rights Watch said today. Commanders responsible for ordering or conducting such attacks may be prosecuted for war crimes.

Patients, medical staff, aid workers, and other witnesses have provided Human Rights Watch with information about at least 30 attacks on permanent and makeshift hospitals in the combat area since December 2008. One of the deadliest took place on May 2, when artillery shells struck Mullaivaikal hospital in the government-declared “no-fire zone,” killing 68 persons and wounding 87.

“Hospitals are supposed to be sanctuaries from shelling, not targets,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “While doctors and nurses struggle to save lives in overcrowded and underequipped facilities, Sri Lankan army attacks have hit one hospital after another.”

Human Rights Watch has criticized both the Sri Lankan armed forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for numerous violations of the laws of war during the recent fighting. Tens of thousands of civilians have been held as “human shields” by LTTE forces on a narrow strip of land on Sri Lanka’s northeast coast.

As Sri Lankan army forces have advanced, the LTTE has unlawfully forced the civilian population along with them in retreat. Hospital staff have increasingly been compelled to leave permanent hospitals to set up makeshift hospitals in LTTE-controlled areas. Several independent sources informed Human Rights Watch that each time a hospital was established in a new location, the doctors transmitted GPS coordinates of the facility to the Sri Lankan government to ensure that the facility would be protected from military attack. Medical staff said that, on several occasions, attacks occurred on the day after the coordinates had been transmitted.

An aid worker described to Human Rights Watch an aerial attack on Valayanmadam hospital in the no-fire zone on April 2:

“I was in the hospital. Right after 12:30 p.m., I noticed a Sri Lanka military drone conducting reconnaissance above the hospital. The people in the hospital suspected that an attack was imminent, so they lay down on the ground. Shortly thereafter, we heard a loud explosion in the air, followed by several smaller explosions on the ground. One of the explosions took place only a couple of meters from me. One of the doctors, who was lying just next to me, was killed by a shrapnel piece that hit him in the head. Four or five people were killed and more than 30 were wounded in the attack.”

Medical staff said that makeshift hospitals that have been hit were clearly marked as medical facilities. For example, after repeated attacks on the hospital at Puthukkudiyiruppu, an LTTE stronghold, the hospital was evacuated to a school in Putumattalan, across the Nanthikadal lagoon in the no-fire zone. Witnesses said the hospital was marked with a large red cross on one of the buildings facing Sri Lankan army positions across the lagoon, and a red-cross flag flew at the entrance. A person who fled across the lagoon in late March told Human Rights Watch that the red-cross signs were clearly visible from the government positions across the lagoon, about a kilometer away. Yet, the hospital came under attack on several occasions.

A medical worker told Human Rights Watch that when the Putumattalan hospital came under heavy shelling around midnight on April 20, he immediately sought cover in a bunker. He described what he saw after he left the shelter early in the morning:

“The roof of the building was destroyed and tiles had fallen into the room. The operations ward had disappeared completely. There were eight dead bodies in Ward 5, and five dead bodies in the admission ward, all of them patients who had been admitted with injuries from previous attacks. Injured people were still coming to the hospital, but the medical staff was not able to provide any medical treatment. I have no idea how many dead and injured there were in total. I just counted 13 dead bodies in two of the five wards and then I left.”

Since mid-February, the International Committee of the Red Cross has evacuated more than 13,000 wounded and their caregivers from the war zone by sea. Permanent and makeshift hospitals within LTTE-controlled territory continue to receive hundreds of patients daily. Many arrive wounded from the fighting, while others are sick due to inadequate sanitation, and acute shortages of food and clean water.

Witness accounts suggest that in some cases the Sri Lankan military attacks may have been targeted at LTTE forces present in the vicinity of the hospitals, yet in other cases witnesses said there were no LTTE forces anywhere near the hospitals.

Hospitals, whether permanent or temporary, are specially protected under international humanitarian law. Like other civilian structures, they may not be targeted. Under the Geneva Conventions, hospitals remain protected unless they are “used to commit hostile acts” that are outside their humanitarian function. Even then, they are only subject to attack after a warning has been given setting a reasonable time limit, and after such warning has gone unheeded. The presence of LTTE medical workers or injured combatants does not affect the civilian character of medical facilities.

LTTE forces who deploy among civilians or near hospitals are violating the laws of war by unnecessarily placing civilians at risk. However, violations by one party to an armed conflict do not justify violations by the other.

Under the laws of war, parties to a conflict must take all feasible precautions to ensure that a target of attack is a military objective and not a civilian object. Attacks that do not discriminate between military targets and civilian objects are prohibited. Individuals who order or carry out unlawful attacks willfully – that is, deliberately or recklessly – are responsible for war crimes. States are obligated under the laws of war to investigate alleged war crimes and prosecute those responsible.

“Repeated Sri Lankan artillery attacks striking known hospitals is evidence of war crimes,” said Adams. “The government cannot hide behind LTTE atrocities to justify their own unlawful acts.”

Human Rights Watch said Sri Lanka’s key donors – including the United States, the European Union, India, Japan, and China – should strengthen calls for the Sri Lankan government to cease the use of heavy weapons in densely populated areas, particularly near hospitals. Both the government and the LTTE should permit safe humanitarian corridors to allow civilians to flee the combat zone.

Human Rights Watch reiterated its call for the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka to be urgently taken up by a formal meeting of the United Nations Security Council in New York and by a special session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

the report follows with a list (if you click the link above) that shows all of the hospitals the sri lankan government attacked between december 2008 and early this month.

there is one more interesting tidbit of an interview with m.i.a., with some added context, from al jazeera. kristen saloomey’s report also shows you why the above news from the guardian and human rights watch is so difficult to get out into the mainstream public news:

and many of you probably have heard m.i.a. but didn’t realize it as her song “paper planes” was a song on the slumdog millionaire soundtrack. here is her track from that album:

on regret

An injured Afghan child at the hospital in Farah province. Photograph: Abdul Malek/AP
An injured Afghan child at the hospital in Farah province. Photograph: Abdul Malek/AP

listening to hillary clinton express “deep regret” yesterday over the american massacre of over 100 afghan civilians i couldn’t help but think about the meaning of regret. here is the times report on her remarks:

Hillary Clinton has expressed “deep regret” that American jets bombed two villages in western Afghanistan yesterday killing at least 30 men, women and children.

The Secretary of State addressed the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan as anger grew over the loss of innocent life.

“We will work very hard with your governments and your leaders to avoid the loss of innocent civilian life and we deeply, deeply regret that loss,” she said in Washington.

No exact casualty toll could be confirmed after the incident in Farah province, but the provincial governor and police chief estimate civilian deaths at more than 100.

for me, regret does not merely express sorrow or empathy. it also means learning from your mistakes and doing what you can to not do that thing that caused you to regret what you did in the first place. but, of course, clinton and obama want to create more such occasions for regret given their desire to place more american troops on afghan soil, which will only bring us promises of more massacres in the future. jeremy scahill shows us precisely why this “regret” is complete hogwash:

Hours after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “apologized” for US airstrikes that may have killed as many as 130 people in Afghanistan, NBC News is reporting that the US military is preparing to blame the deaths of several Afghan families—that were reportedly killed in US bombing raids this week in Farah Province—on Taliban fighters. The network’s Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski said military sources told him Taliban fighters used grenades to kill three families to “stage” a massacre and then blame it on the US. At present there are few details on this.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, however, has stated bluntly that US airstrikes hit civilian houses and revealed that an ICRC counterpart in the Red Cresent was among the dead. “We know that those killed included an Afghan Red Crescent volunteer and 13 members of his family who had been sheltering from fighting in a house that was bombed in an air strike,” said the ICRC’s head of delegation in Kabul, Reto Stocker. “We are deeply concerned by these events. Tribal elders in the villages called the ICRC during the fighting to report civilian casualties and ask for help. As soon as we heard of the attacks we contacted all sides to warn them that there were civilians and injured people in the area.”

Read the entire ICRC statement here.

here is nick clark’s report on the massacre on al jazeera today:

here is robert fisk’s take on the massacre and the so-called “deep regret”:

Of course there will be an inquiry. And in the meantime, we shall be told that all the dead Afghan civilians were being used as “human shields” by the Taliban and we shall say that we “deeply regret” innocent lives that were lost. But we shall say that it’s all the fault of the terrorists, not our heroic pilots and the US Marine special forces who were target spotting around Bala Baluk and Ganjabad.

When the Americans destroy Iraqi homes, there is an inquiry. And oh how the Israelis love inquiries (though they rarely reveal anything). It’s the history of the modern Middle East. We are always right and when we are not, we (sometimes) apologise and then we blame it all on the “terrorists”. Yes, we know the throat-cutters and beheaders and suicide bombers are quite prepared to slaughter the innocent.

But it was a sign of just how terrible the Afghan slaughter was that the powerless President Hamid Karzai sounded like a beacon of goodness yesterday appealing for “a higher platform of morality” in waging war, that we should conduct war as “better human beings”.

And of course, the reason is quite simple. We live, they die. We don’t risk our brave lads on the ground – not for civilians. Not for anything. Fire phosphorus shells into Fallujah. Fire tank shells into Najaf. We know we kill the innocent. Israel does exactly the same. It said the same after its allies massacred 1,700 at the refugee camps of Sabra and Chatila in 1982 and in the deaths of more than a thousand civilians in Lebanon in 2006 and after the death of more than a thousand Palestinians in Gaza this year.

And if we kill some gunmen at the same time – “terrorists”, of course – then it is the same old “human shield” tactic and ultimately the “terrorists” are to blame. Our military tactics are now fully aligned with Israel.

The reality is that international law forbids armies from shooting wildly in crowded tenements and bombing wildly into villages – even when enemy forces are present – but that went by the board in our 1991 bombing of Iraq and in Bosnia and in Nato’s Serbia war and in our 2001 Afghan adventure and in 2003 in Iraq. Let’s have that inquiry. And “human shields”. And terror, terror, terror. Something else I notice. Innocent or “terrorists”, civilians or Taliban, always it is the Muslims who are to blame.

of course the american government sounds far too close to the israeli government (and given both are the largest perpetrators of state terrorism on the planet this should not come as a shock) on a number of levels, some of which fisk addresses. and i don’t see any regrets leading to investigation and prosecution of those who dropped the bombs.

meanwhile as news of this massacre was just emerging, hamid karzai stepped off a plane in washington dc to meet with clinton and obama and other americans who create the conditions of terrorizing afghan people. i began to wonder about karzai’s regret. i began to wonder how do these people sleep at night? is it really possible you can have so little self worth or so little regard for your own people that you can move from learning of this massacre to meeting with the regime that continues to occupy your land and terrorize your people? and it is not just karzai, of course. asif ali zardari joined him in these meetings. but zardari didn’t seem to get any statements about the united states’ “deep regret” over the fact that because of the american war on pakistan there are upwards of 500,000 pakistanis who are internally displaced people as andrew buncombe reported in the independent:

By bus, by car and on foot, thousands of people continued to pour from the Swat Valley yesterday as the Pakistani military used helicopter gunships and pounding mortar rounds to try to drive out Taliban fighters. Aid officials said they had registered 45,000 people forced from their homes in the last four days but said that number could soon soar. The government has estimated that up to 500,000 people might flood out of the Swat valley ahead of a possible major offensive against the militants.

“It is an all-out war there. Rockets are landing everywhere,” Laiq Zada, who fled the danger zone, told the Associated Press. “We have with us the clothes on our bodies and a hope in the house of God. Nothing else.” The sharpened military offensive came as Pakistan’s leader, Asif Ali Zardari, yesterday met in Washington with Barack Obama and Afghan leader Hamid Karzai. Many in Washington will be heartened by the decision by Mr Zardari and the military to take the fight to the militants.

But there are doubts over the military capacity for the operation, and the human costs involved. A drawn-out conflict will only increase the longer-term exodus. Some may feel they would have nothing to return to. “I do not have any destination. I only have an aim – to escape from here,” said Afzal Khan, who was waiting for a bus with his wife and nine children. “It is like doomsday here. It is like hell.”

part of the reason for this flight is pakistan fighting in the region, now, too, but this is just proof that the pakistani regime is a tool of the americans creating havoc against its own people for a country that continues to assault them from the air. declan walsh describes some of this context in the guardian (his other article includes video footage of people fleeing to safety in pakistan):

Pakistani helicopter gunships pounded a Taliban-controlled emerald mine and other militant positions in the Swat Valley today, killing dozens of militants, as fighting intensified across North West Frontier province.

Amid expectations of an imminent army operation, militants dug into positions across the main town, Mingora, as terrified residents fled the valley on foot across mountain paths. Taliban reinforcements have been pouring into the area from adjoining districts since Monday, many arriving under cover of night and in some cases crossing into the battle zone by boat.

As President Asif Ali Zardari met President Barack Obama in Washington, his government was bracing for a flood of up to 500,000 internal refugees, making it the largest displacement crisis in Pakistan’s history.

The army said it killed more than 60 militants in Swat and neighbouring Buner, a district 60 miles from Islamabad where a major anti-Taliban drive has been under way for the past nine days. Four soldiers were killed due to fighting and a roadside bomb, a military spokesman said, but local reports suggested a higher toll.

it is in this context that zardari and karzai met with the leaders of the regime that is terrorizing afghan and pakastanis alike in to flight when they are able to escape these massacres. tellingly, the puppet leaders had these remarks to make at their press conference yesterday as ewen macaskill reported in the guardian:

Karzai thanked Clinton for her expression of regret and added: “We hope we can work together to completely reduce civilian casualties in the struggle against terrorism.”

Clinton said the US, Pakistan and Afghanistan faced “a common threat”. Zardari described the Taliban as “a cancer”.

here is james bays report on al jazeera on this meeting in washington yesterday and today:

obama’s offensive rhetoric–along with his puppets by his side–is so deeply offensive not the least of which because any so-called commitment to the people of afghanistan and pakistan means that you would need to do things to improve their lives–this would not, of course, include massacre and forcing people to run from their homes because they are being terrorized by american drones and the pakistani army that is taking orders from the united states:

Barack Obama, the US president, has pledged a “lasting commitment” to both Afghanistan and Pakistan after holding talks with both nations’ leaders in Washington.

He said all three nations shared a common goal of dismantling, disrupting and defeating the al-Qaeda network, the Taliban and its allies and improving security in both countries.

“Our strategy reflects a fundamental truth, the future of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the US are linked,” Obama said at a news conference in Washington on Wednesday, flanked by Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, and Asif Ali Zardari, his Pakistani counterpart.

He praised both men as fully appreciating the “seriousness” of the current situation in the region.

to get an idea of how real people who are subjected to this savagery feel in afghanistan just read some of the things they said today in the farah province during their protest against their puppet regime and the american occupiers of their land:

Afghans have staged an angry protest following the suspected deaths of up to 100 civilians in a US-led air raid in western Farah province.

Shots were fired on Thursday as the demonstrators threw stones at government offices in the town of Farah, the provincial capital.

Several people were wounded in the melee, Gul Ahmad Ayubi, a health department official, said.

The protest came as a team of US and Afghan government investigators arrived in the Bala Baluk district to gather more information about Monday’s incident.

If the casualties are confirmed, it would be the largest loss of civilian life in a single attack since US troops invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

Haji Nangyalai, one of the protesters, said the demonstration had been called to “show our anger at the crimes committed by the American forces”.

“They have killed our innocent people carelessly, that is why we are protesting.”

Another demonstrator, who gave his name only as Abdullah, told the AFP news agency: “People are really angry and they shout ‘death to America, death to the invaders.

“They are hurling stones at government buildings and there is some gun fire in the air – at this stage we don’t know by who.”

prisoners (of colonizers & collaborators alike)

i was rather shocked when this article by tim mcgirk from time magazine came across my news reader yesterday. it is a story about palestinian political prisoners through the vantage point of his family members left behind and the difficulty his young daughters have when visiting him in prison. here is how it begins:

Spending time with her dad requires that 6-year-old Jinan undertake a bizarre and arduous odyssey. Usually she travels alone, but last Monday, the Palestinian girl with the rosebud smile and bouncing energy was accompanied by her younger sisters Dania, 4, and Noor, 2, on the journey to the Israeli prison that holds her father.

At home in the beleaguered West Bank town of Qalqilya, as her mother dresses her before dawn in an almond-green blouse and jeans, Jinan asks the same question she always does: “Mommy, why does Daddy have to sleep on the Israeli side?” And her mother Salam Nazal comforts her by saying, “Because that’s where the best Palestinian men go to sleep, and your father is one of them.” The town, which has elected a Hamas mayor, is known as a center of Palestinian militancy, and Israeli security forces conduct raids there on average five times a week.

Salam cannot accompany her daughters because she is on an Israeli security watch list, although she has never learned why she’s on it. Her immediate family lives in Jordan, so she must put the girls on a bus bound for Chattah-Gilboa prison inside Israel and hope that one of the many Palestinian women on board will help Jinan wrangle her sisters. “I’m so worried about having them go without me,” says Salam, as she hoists her girls onto the bus, organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). “But what can I do? This is their only chance to see their father.”

Ali Nazal, 35, who sold clothes from a cart in the streets, is one of more than 10,300 Palestinian detainees currently inside Israeli prisons. Although he has yet to be tried, Nazal has been behind bars for the past two years. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of possessing weapons and harboring a fugitive — charges the family insists are based on false evidence from anonymous informers working for the Israeli security services. Salam says no weapons were found in their home but says the Israeli military demolished it anyway. The Israelis maintain that Ali was an active member of a militant organization and part of a cell that had been planning a terrorist attack.

Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, Ali and his fellow detainees should never have been transferred to prisons outside the occupied territories. But since the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza began in June 1967, more than 650,000 Palestinians have passed through Israeli jails. Nearly every Palestinian family has someone who was locked up in Israel at some point. Prison has become a rite of passage for rebellious teens and, for families seeking to visit detained loved ones, a nightmare of permits, checkpoints and body searches. It’s not an easy journey for an adult, much less three unaccompanied tots carrying their lunch in a Barbie backpack.

my dear friend nora barrows-friedman did a similar story about amani khader a few years ago on flashpoints. amani is the daughter of husam khader, who was recently released from prison (last august). you can listen to her interview by clicking this link. amani describes similar hurdles she had to endure when she went to visit her father in prison and she reads one of her amazing rap songs at the end of interview. i have a special affection for amani because i’ve been tutoring her in balata refugee camp this year. she is one of the brightest and most beautiful people i’ve ever met. i know that if she were at my university now she would surpass even the seniors in college, although she is only a senior in high school. clearly she gets much of this genius from her father, husam, who i was very pleased to read made an important statement that was reported in ma’an news today:

A high-ranking Fatah official on Thursday proposed holding presidential and legislative elections as an alternative to the “useless” Cairo dialogue so that Palestinians can choose between a program led by Fatah and resistance agenda claimed by Hamas but which it “does not practice.”

Husam Khader, a Fatah legislator within the Palestinian Legislative Council, said during a visit to Ma’an News Agency in the West Bank city of Bethlehem that “without agreeing on a decent election program between Fatah and Hamas that will specify the future of the Palestinians, these elections will not be held and the state of division that is supported by western parties and Israel will deepen.”

“Palestinians are qualified more than others for such a situation since there is a geographical barrier between the West Bank and Gaza, which is the [Israeli] occupation,” he added.

Concerning Palestinian President Mahmoud Abass upcoming visit to the United States, Khader downplayed the visit, saying that it will not lead to anything because “the US administration will just assure the promises of previous administrations toward a two-state solution.”

He demanded that President Abbas present a draft to US President Barack Obama dismantling the Palestinian Authority in exchange for a commitment to end popular resistance against Israel. “President Abbas should present this solution, which is the right one, because “the PA useless on the ground and is represented solely by the salary [for public employees] at the end of the month.”

Regarding whether or not Fatah’s sixth conference will go on as planned, he said it was “a big lie,” noting that “there are persons inside Fatah who are afraid of democracy more than the [Israeli] occupation, because they fear for their interests, and will obstruct holding a conference using weak excuses and deceiving the movement’s affiliates.”

my only beef with the above statement is husam’s bit about giving up resistance against the zionist entity. but i highly doubt that this is what he said or that he really means this. i would be shocked if that were true. but the idea that the palestinian collaborationist authority can continue on its path of collaboration and repression is finally penetrating even fatah circles. it is refreshing to say the least.

ben white’s article in electronic intifada today details much of the corruption and collaboration with the zionist entity and its criminal ally the united states. it discusses my friend abdel sattar al qassem and his most recent imprisonment in a palestinian jail. white’s article makes it clear why the sulta (salata) must go:

Last week, less than two weeks after I had talked with him in his an-Najah University faculty office, Abdel Sattar Qassem was arrested by the Palestinian Preventive Security forces in Nablus, occupied West Bank.

Qassem is a 60-year-old professor of political science, and has been at an-Najah University since 1980. Imprisoned several times by the Israeli occupation, he is the author of dozens of books and papers, as well as hundreds of articles, on Palestinian politics and Islamic thought. But Qassem is also an eloquent and prominent critic of the Palestinian Authority (PA), and he has been arrested, and targeted by politically-motivated attacks, on a number of previous occasions.

The most recent of these was in January of this year, when his car was set alight. According to a news report from the Palestinian news agency, Ma’an, claim of responsibility was circulated by an unknown group who accused Qassem of being a “mouthpiece for the Iranian and the Syrian regimes.” As reported by Asharq al-Awsat, Qassem pointed out how the statement was a “hoax,” and thus a cover for individuals who did not want to openly identify themselves. The attack was condemned by a variety of public figures “in the harshest possible words,” according to Ma’an.

This time, the official line is that his arrest was a civil, criminal case, the result of litigation proceedings against Qassem by two figures within the PA’s security forces. The Palestinian Information Center reports that Qassem, who according to his family was arrested hours after he gave an interview to al-Aqsa TV to discuss the shooting of West Bank Hamas leader Hamid al-Bitawi, insists that the charges are groundless and politically motivated. Speaking to me on the telephone after his release, Qassem noted:

“It was evident that they didn’t want to arrest me on a political basis, so they decided to fabricate something against me. Last Thursday, in court, there were many lawyers trying to represent me, because they feel like this is a national issue. They see that this is intimidation, not a genuine civil case.”

The attempts to intimidate a critic of the Palestinian Authority into silence is disturbing, but is only one incident in a growing trend. The Ramallah-based political leadership, dominated by Fatah, and the PA security forces, are becoming increasingly authoritarian, encouraging a culture of militarized policing and a lack of respect for human rights and the rule of law. Now, nonviolent resistance leaders against the Israeli occupation like Sami Awad, based in Bethlehem, are saying that they “have to be ready to face any injustice even if caused by our own people, within the PA.”

One aspect of this phenomenon is an assault on the freedom of the press. Back in December of last year, the Ma’an news agency carried out an investigation into what it described as “an unprecedented campaign of censorship and intimidation against West Bank and Gaza Strip journalists,” carried out by the Palestinian Authority.

The report detailed how independent news agencies had become targets for “President Mahmoud Abbas’s security establishment, particularly the PA’s Office of the Attorney General.” The same month as Ma’an’s investigation, the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate demanded that the PA release journalists from West Bank prisons, noting that “some journalists had been in prison for more than three months.”

Criticizing the PA, or even affording Hamas coverage, now seems enough to get on the blacklist, or become a target for the PA’s security apparatus. In fact, a Nablus-based journalist “found himself in a prison cell” in January for reporting the torching of Professor Qassem’s car, according to The Jerusalem Post. In February, the Post reported that “the PA’s crackdown on the local media was aimed at intimidating Palestinian reporters and stopping them from reporting about financial corruption and human rights violations by Abbas’s security forces.”

Another worrying trend in the PA-administered areas is an increasing militarization of civilian policing. During my recent visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, one of the first things several of my friends told me about was an energetic campaign by the PA to clamp down on car-related crime. There were now impromptu checkpoints thrown up on the main roads where drivers’ licenses were checked and the special permission required to drive Israeli yellow-plated cars was requested.

Nobody minded, in theory, increased efficiency in law enforcement; what was troubling was the way the PA forces were going about it. It can seem like a small thing, a friend told me, but “it’s this militarization, this way of asserting a kind of domination over the people.” Many complained of the disrespectful behavior of the gun-toting men checking the cars.

This focus on “law and order” has become a repeated theme in the last few years, particularly in cities like Nablus and Jenin. Just recently, in a fairly typical episode, Ma’an news agency reported that PA forces conducted a “sweep” in a village three kilometers from Nablus, arresting apparent “fugitives” and checking the registration of some 250 cars.

Consistent, genuine complaints about lawlessness and corruption in Nablus had already emerged in 2004-05, but it wasn’t until the end of 2007 that the current campaign was launched by PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, appointed by Mahmoud Abbas, whose official term as PA president expired in January. Beginning in Nablus, the law and order drive was replicated in Jenin in the summer of 2008. Residents have undoubtedly welcomed the increased security, but the nature of the campaign — and the context — is not so straightforward.

For example, the PA’s infrastructure (largely destroyed by Israel in 2001-02) is completely ill-equipped. In April 2008 in Nablus, for example, Reuters reported that only 13 percent of the prison’s inmates had actually been convicted; the restrictions of occupation and the inadequacy of the PA’s legal system mean that many face a long wait before their guilt or innocence can be determined in a court of law.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military continues to invade PA-controlled areas, particularly at night, an arrangement which was actually a joint Palestinian-Israeli agreement. Moreover, while a weary Palestinian population is grateful for small economic upturns in their occupied cities, they are well aware that the PA’s law and order focus is a welcome part of Israel’s strategy in the West Bank; the BBC noted in December last year how the Israeli army was pleased with the “good job” Palestinian forces were doing.

One of the reasons for Israel’s complimentary report card is the extent to which PA forces have been arresting members of groups who oppose the official “peace process,” and in particular, detaining those who are either openly, or simply suspected, members and supporters of Hamas. According to the International Middle East Media Center, estimates give the number of detainees in Palestinian security forces’ custody at between 500 to 600, many of whom have had no trial.

The secretary general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ahmad Saadat, himself a prisoner in an Israeli jail, noted just last week in a public statement that it was “impossible” for the PA “to demand freeing the detainees [from Israeli prisons] while the Palestinian prisons are full of prisoners jailed for resistance background or internal disputes.”

On 4 December of last year, Reuters reported on the claims being made of torture at the hands of Mahmoud Abbas’ Preventive Security forces and General Intelligence. The article cited Ghandi Rabei, a lawyer from the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) in Hebron, who told the news agency that “hundreds of civilians have been transferred to military courts without legal procedures in breach of Palestinian law and international norms.” The ICHR’s annual report for 2008 recorded 111 complaints of torture or mistreatment in detention in the West Bank, according to Agence France-Presse.

On 31 January, the British Daily Mail ran a story under the dramatic headline: “Financed by the British taxpayer, brutal torturers of the West Bank.” The paper reported how the British government’s Department for International Development had given 76 million British pounds in 2008 to the PA for what it called “security sector reform.” Once the figure is broken down, 3 million pounds went directly to the PA police, while “17 million [pounds] pays the salaries of the PA’s array of security organizations — including the Presidential Guard intelligence service and the feared Preventive Security Organization.”

One of the most important factors shaping these developments is the US strategy as directed on the ground by Lieutenant General Keith Dayton. Dayton started work with the Palestinian security forces at the end of 2005. While ostensibly charged with general reform of the PA security forces, it became apparent that the US was intent on building up Abbas-loyal PA forces in order to directly confront Hamas should the need arise.

Dayton’s plan involved giving the PA forces an increase in funding, manpower, training and weaponry. In October 2006, The New York Times reported that the US intended to expand Abbas’ Presidential Guard at a cost of $26 million. At the time, it was clear that any such plan — which also included “the transfer of thousands of guns from Egypt” to the Presidential Guard — would only go ahead with a “positive response from Israel,” according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.

According to The San Francisco Chronicle, this “systematic effort to bolster Abbas and his Fatah loyalists to counter the political success of Hamas” suffered an embarrassing setback, of course, when Hamas forces easily triumphed over Fatah in the Gaza Strip in June 2007 and thus “inherited thousands of guns, equipment and vehicles supplied by the United States.”

The only lesson learned, however, seems to have been that the US, Israel and the PA could ill-afford a similar debacle in the West Bank — and therefore Dayton’s work was to be intensified, rather than reconsidered. This, then, is what has been happening with increasing fervor in the West Bank in recent months.

On 27 February 2009, The New York Times’ Ethan Bronner wrote about the 1,600 Palestinians who “have been through American-financed courses in Jordan.” Dayton, the article said, “hopes to have a well-trained battalion based in each of eight West Bank cities” (plans to expand the program were also reported by Reuters this week). The Israelis, needless to say, are content to cooperate: an Israeli officer “inaugurated the firing range” at one of the US-funded Palestinian training camps.

Whether it is the “top brass” training provided by the US for Palestinian security officials in Ramallah, or the special “SWAT” team organized by Dayton, Salam Fayyad and the Jordanians, it is clear that the primary purpose of these forces is not neighborhood crime-busting. As the World Tribune reported in the case of the SWAT team, the “elite” forces can be used against “Hamas squads” and help “protect the PA.” As one critic put it, the PA’s security agencies in the West Bank are trained to “persecute resistance elements and provide Israel with intelligence with which to arrest or assassinate resistance leaders.”

Shawan Jabarin, general director of the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq, agrees that these training programs are more about internal suppression than “law and order”:

“If the senior officers who train them taught a respect for the rule of law, I’m sure we would feel that — but our feeling is completely different. I’m not saying they are training them how to torture people, but they don’t put any mechanism in place for monitoring these things. For political reasons, the Palestinians are trying to show that they are strong, that they are doing exactly what the others are asking them to do — this happened during [Yasser] Arafat’s time, and it’s also [happening] these days.”

If there was any doubt about the real purpose of these forces, one just needs to listen to Dayton himself. Dayton stressed to The Jerusalem Post in December that “the trainees are taught over and again that ‘you are not here to learn how to fight against the Israeli occupation.'” That’s why Dayton could affirm that he, the Israeli Ministry of Defense and his “IDF [Israeli army] colleagues” are of one mind: “something new is out there” and “it’s worth encouraging.”

It may not be new — one only has to go back to the mid-1990s to find something similar happening — but PA forces are certainly being encouraged to suppress dissent. While Israel was attacking Gaza in January, The Jerusalem Post described how the PA’s crackdown on the opposition in the West Bank was “being carried out in coordination with the IDF and under the supervision of US security experts.”

These were the very same police officers who had “received special training in Jordan and the West Bank as part of a security plan engineered by the US,” and were apparently reporting directly to Salam Fayyad. Israeli “security officials” “praised” Mahmoud Abbas’ “iron-fist policy” in the West Bank, reported The Jerusalem Post and “expressed satisfaction with the coordination between the PA security forces and the IDF and Shin Bet [Israel’s internal intelligence agency].” Sometimes, “Hamas members were detained by the IDF only hours after they were released from PA detention centers.”

So why have key elements within Fatah and the PA decided to go down this path? It seems like the Ramallah-based political and intelligence elite are primarily driven by fear; fear of losing their power and privileges, and fear of Hamas. More specifically, there is a real sense that Hamas’ popularity has not suffered any kind of significant fall since 2006, and if anything, has been consolidated or increased.

At the same time as Hamas has emerged intact and uncompromising from Israel’s recent Gaza onslaught, the Fatah-dominated PA has nothing to show for its strategy of softly-softly negotiations; just an entrenched, apartheid-like Israeli occupation. The “peace process” has brought Israel a degree of peace, but left the Palestinians trapped between Israel’s colonies and wall. The PA’s only card is that it continues to pay the salaries of thousands of desperate Palestinians — money that is only forthcoming from the international community with strings attached.

Meanwhile in Nablus, Professor Qassem, who is considering a run for president in the future as an independent, feels like the PA “is reflecting its inner crisis against the population”:

“So instead of going back to their own people they are trying to punish their own people. Why? Because there is Dayton, and the money of the donor countries, which they cannot sacrifice. If they want to go back to their own people, they will lose their salaries, and the situation in the West Bank will be similar to that in Gaza.”

This is a deal that was made many years ago, but it has meant that there is a class of political leaders in the PA who are seemingly eternally wedded to the idea that the international community is directing the peace process in good faith. For reasons of self-interest, they are desperate to keep the PA, and all the assumptions of Oslo, alive — even while sometimes admitting that in terms of obtaining basic Palestinian rights, there is, and will continue to be, nothing to show for meeting the “benchmarks” and “roadmaps.”

If the US/Jordanian-trained PA security forces are the “stick” in the West Bank, then the manipulation of foreign aid is the “carrot.” This is beyond the scope of this article, but it is worth mentioning in passing two recent Reuters reports on how “ventures backed by President Abbas’s allies have received loan guarantees, grants and agricultural assistance.”

At a critical moment for the Palestinian people, and the prospects for the region as a whole, it is arresting that many in the Palestinian leadership can sound like they are reading from Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman’s speech notes, when he said that “the path forward” lay in “security” for Israel, an “improved economy” for the Palestinians, and “stability for both,” as reported by The Jerusalem Post. As Shawan Jabarin said to me, “for political reasons you make a compromise and sacrifice human rights. This is what is going on these days.”

These are dangerous developments, something that Professor Qassem was quick to highlight in an interview with the Palestinian Information Center after his recent arrest: “Freedom of speech and expression is a paramount issue over which there can be no compromise … If we tolerate violations of our human rights and civil liberties, then we will be jeopardizing our future as a people.”

meanwhile palestine hits the world record today for having the world’s longest political prisoner behind bars of the zionist usurping entity:

Former political prisoner, researcher and specialist in detainees’ affairs, Abdul-Nasser Farawna, has revealed that detainee Na’el Barghouthi now spent 31years behind bars. He was kidnapped by Israeli forces on April 4th 1978.

Farawna said that Barghouthi and other detainees who have spent many years in Israeli prisons and detention facilities have became the symbols of steadfastness, resistance and determination. Their continued imprisonment proves the criminal and immoral nature of the Israeli occupation, the Quds Net reported.

He also said that Palestinian resistance factions should insist on his release and the release of all detainees who have spent so many years behind bars for resisting the occupation and fighting for their country.

On August 25, 2008, detainee Sa’id Al Ataba was released from an Israeli prison after he spent 31 years and 26 days behind bars.

Detainee Barghouthi, born in the central West Bank city of Ramallah in 1957, was kidnapped by the army on April 4, 1978, when he was only 21 years old. He was sentenced by an Israeli military court to one life-term.

for further context on these crimes of the zionist apartheid regime listen to one of nora’s latest interviews with our friend hazem jamjoum on flashpoints. it is an amazing discussion of the apartheid regime.

gaza in ruins. still.

democracy now! showed a film yesterday produced by anjali kamat on the economy of gaza called “land in ruins: a special report on gaza’s economy.” it is an amazing film as so many produced by big noise films are and i encourage you to watch the whole thing, but here are some highlights of their words–voices from palestinians and people who work in gaza who are on the ground to give you an inkling about what people there face and what they want–but the film footage gives you the powerful images to go with it:

NAHEELA SAMMOUNI: [translated] All of this is farmland. We used to grow chard, lettuce, turnips, radish, all from here. We’d sell it in the market and get some money to feed our children. Now our land is spoiled. Everything is destroyed. What can we do? We used to have sweet, tart pomegranates behind our home, so many plums, apricots, all right behind our house. Now, the olives, figs, everything is gone. We tended to our plants like our own children, so they would grow and we could eat from them. Now see what they did to us. What did we do wrong?

JOHN GING: There’s going to be no reconstruction in Gaza until the crossing points open. There isn’t a bag of cement coming into Gaza at the moment. We have had to, you know, reopen our schools without conducting the repairs, because there is nothing—there’s no glass to fix the windows or do the basic repairs that are needed. We just have to make safe the area that is damaged and get on.

TUNNEL WORKER: [translated] This work is very difficult. But we have no choice. We have to work in order to eat. If the crossings were open and the goods and cement were coming in, there’s no way I would be doing this. If we work, we eat; if not, we go hungry. This is our only means, our only livelihood. As long as the crossings are closed, there’s no alternative to the tunnels.

ABU OMAR: [translated] We don’t want to beg the world for money. We just want to take those who destroyed our houses to court. If we are really criminals and our houses are terrorist houses, then OK, this is what you get. But if our houses are innocent and our factories are innocent, then the Israelis need to account for what they destroyed. They are the ones who should give us the reparations. Why do we need to rely on the sympathy of the world? We don’t want that. We want the world to stand by our rights. We don’t want their charity, little bits of money and food. We’re full, thank God. We are just asking for our rights, nothing else.

my friend sameh habeeb has a new photo exhibit in vancouver, canada right now called “victims’ victims” with images of gaza that he took during the savagery brought on gaza by israeli terrorists and their american allies. you can see the images by clicking this link. the shots are really powerful: close up, crisp. you should also visit his new newspaper based in gaza, the palestine telegraph. here is one of his moving photographs:

sameh habeeb photo of chickens bombed in gaza
sameh habeeb photo of chickens bombed in gaza

sameh has a blog post on the chickens being bombed entitled “were the chickens firing rockets?” that he wrote during the massacres in gaza that explains the above image.

in the democracy now! report above they did not specifically address the issue of water, but it is a problem in gaza and people do not have access to this either just as they do not have access to food, books, cement, glass, or any basic necessities. irin news has a report on this today:

Over 150,000 Palestinians in Gaza (around 10 percent of the population) are struggling without tap water as a result of the damage caused to wells, pipes and waste water facilities during the recent 23-day Israeli offensive which ended on 18 January.

“Our requests via the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to the Israeli military during the conflict to allow shipments of construction materials and spare parts to repair wells and facilities damaged during the war were denied,” Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) director-general Monther Shoblak told IRIN.

Shoblak estimates that 50,000 people lack tap water after losing their homes, while a further 100,000 have dry taps because of damage to the water supply network.

Eleven of Gaza’s 150 wells, the only source of drinking water for Gaza’s 1.4 million people (apart from expensive bottled water and water trucked in by aid agencies), are not functioning. Six were completely destroyed, according to CMWU.

and imran garda’s “focus on gaza” for al jazeera’s first half was finally posted today. i posted the second half the other day, but here we can see sherine tadros reporting on the situation in beit lahiya as well as the education sector more generally.

on a side note: i saw a tweet from sherine tadros today announcing gerry adams arrival in gaza tomorrow. a couple of hours later this was posted on the zionist entity’s jerusalem post website:

Northern Ireland political leader Gerry Adams will not be allowed to enter Gaza this week because he plans to meet Hamas officials, Israel said Tuesday.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said Israel “would not help Adams meet with Hamas terror leaders.”

A spokesman for Adams, Ted Howell, said Adams and his delegation planned to visit Gaza on Wednesday. He said, “we will meet with whoever wants to meet us.”

gaza’s genocide / israel’s suicide

Abdellah Derkaoui
Abdellah Derkaoui

i do not know why i continue to be shocked by what i see and read, but i do. i decided i am sick of every mofo leader on the planet who quietly–or perhaps on rare occasion even loudly–expresses their “concern” with the evil slaughter of palestinians in gaza by israeli terrorists. i am also so sick of seeing motherf(*&^%@ like bani ki-moon who quietly expresses his “outrage” at israeli terrorists all the while smiling on camera, laughing on camera as hospitals with the wounded inside are bombed. as far as i am concerned ban ki-moon as blood on his hands too. the un security council resolutions are binding; he could have done something, but he chooses to do nothing. or gordon brown saying that it is “indefensible” while he does nothing to stop it. where is his airforce? i’m sick of these world leaders flying around the planet to discuss a ceasefire. i’m sick of no other country, no other airforce coming to the defense of palestinians. where is libya? don’t they have an airforce? can’t they bomb the zionist state back to the stone age? iran? someone? these people make false claims of concern–false because they do NOTHING–and meanwhile the people suffer, especially children.

ban ki-moon laughing over the genocide committed by ehud olmert
ban ki-moon laughing over the genocide committed by ehud olmert

here are some of the children whose suffering is at the expense of the collusion of the united nations and israeli terrorists.

and listen to what a lame-ass, weak, motherf(*&^%$ head of the united nations, ban, said in response to this genocidal spree of israeli terrorism:

in spite of this suffering, i never cease to be amazed, in awe, and in complete support of palestinian resistance in gaza. that they are able to stay steadfast. that they are able to survive and continue to fight amidst the unabated bombardment. this in spite of the 1,133 dead and the 5,200 injured, the latest figures from ayman mohyeldin on a twitter update. but the bodies still haven’t been pulled out from the rubble yet.

yesterday was a new low–just when you think israeli terrorists can go no lower–in their attacks on the unrwa building, where people had gathered together seeking shelter from the bombing, their attacks on hospitals–yet another one since my post yesterday morning:

Israeli snipers opened fire on families running to take shelter in a Red Crescent hospital in the Tel Al-Hawa area of Gaza on Thursday afternoon, witnesses said.

Sharon Locke, an Australian volunteer at Al-Quds Hospital said that when one family approached the hospital, Israeli snipers started firing at the family.

“They shot a young girl in the face and abdomen. She is now being operated on. The father of the family was shot in the leg and fell to the ground,” Locke said.

“The mother was screaming that one of her daughters was still outside, behind a bush, too scared to move. Mohammed, a medic I have been working with, ran outside and carried her to the hospital,” Locke said.

Locke later told Ma’an that some 600 Palestinians who had taken shelter in the medical facility have now been evacuated on foot to a nearby UNRWA school.

On Thursday morning parts of the hospital went up in flames when Israeli artillery shells struck the buildings. At the time of writing, the operations building of the hospital was still burning.

“The hospital suffered at least one direct hit this morning, and all the patients had to be moved in panic to the ground floor,” said Bashar Morad, director of Palestine Red Crescent emergency medical services. The second floor of the building immediately caught fire. The hospital’s pharmacy was also partly damaged. Fire brigade trucks, escorted by ICRC teams, rushed to the scene and managed to put out the fire.

“It is unacceptable that wounded people receiving treatment in hospitals are put at risk,” said Jakob Kellenberger, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who just completed a three-day visit to the area that included a stop at Shifa Hospital in Gaza.

supposedly israeli terrorists sent in fire trucks to help with putting out the fire of the unrwa building, where all the food and medical aid was stored as well, and supposedly ehud olmert “apologized,” but is this supposed to make up for their savagery? f)*^% olmert and f%$# his empty apology. one does not and should not ever forgive a people who make vapid apologies and continue doing the very thing they were apologizing for again and again and again for 61 years. and in addition to the bombing of united nations buildings and hospitals, israeli terrorists continue their long history of extra-juridical assassinations:

The Israeli military assassinated de facto Interior Minister Sa’eed Syam in an airstrike on Thursday.

His brother and son were also killed in the blast, according to news reports.

In addition to Syam, nine others were killed in the strike, which reportedly targeted a senior Islamic Jihad leader and the head of the Al-Qassam Brigades, an armed faction affiliated with Hamas….

Hamas condemned the killing of Syam’s son, brother Iyad and sister-in-law, as well as her son, who was killed along with four other neighbors near the home. Ten Palestinians were killed in the airstrike, including Syam and five of his family members.

meanwhile yesterday the free gaza movement tried once again to reach gaza, but were threatened by israeli terrorists and had to turn around and head back to cyprus:

Meanwhile, a Greek-flagged vessel trying to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip with medical aid for the Palestinians was turned back to Cyprus by an Israeli naval vessel.

Huwaida Arraf, an organiser with the US-based Free Gaza Movement, said that the boat was intercepted about 100 miles northeast of Gaza.

“They got very close and they threatened that if we continued they would open fire on us,” she told the Reuters news agency.

“They surrounded us with about four warships making it very difficult to navigate. They said they would use all means to keep us out of Gaza.”

those of you out there who want to pretend like there is some sort of peace movement inside the israeli terrorist infrastructure take a look at the most recent polling data from the jerusalem post and then think again:

The Israeli military operation against Hamas in Gaza enjoys the overwhelming support of Israeli Jews despite the loss of civilian life in the Hamas-run territory, a survey released Wednesday showed.

A whopping 94% of the public support or strongly support the operation while 92% think it benefits Israel’s security, according to the Tel Aviv University survey.

The poll found that 92% of Israeli Jews justify the air force’s attacks in Gaza despite the suffering of the civilian population in the Strip and the damage they cause to infrastructure.

in other words the majority of israeli terrorists are terrorists–they support this genocide in every way. and they should all be held accountable for the war crimes they all support financially, militarily, intellectually. this is an example of the kind of terrorism they support:

i received this email yesterday that shows the devastation that the health sector is experiencing in gaza right now:

Dear Friends,

The Israeli bombardment in its 20th day is the heaviest and most destructive that complicates the ongoing humanitarian operation.

The Israeli Military operation and bombardment is 400 meters a way from PMRS head office in Gaza; this will threat the lives of PMRS
teams and jeopardize their efforts in emergency response, our team might be forced to look for alternatives or move to safer places to
continue their efforts.

UNRWA head offices and store houses including fuel main supply were targeted during the last few hours; the main building was hit, and it is on fire now. UNRWA the most important organization that leads the humanitarian work is forced to completely stop its operation in Gaza.

People living in this neighborhood are trapped in their homes (like Tal A-Hawa neighborhood) with aid organizations and emergency health teams are unable to access these communities.

We all must work to ensure the protection of civilians in Gaza and maintain humanitarian efforts at this difficult time of the War.

Regards,

JIHAD MASHAL
Director General

Palestinian Medical Relief Society

dear, amazing caoimhe managed to get back into gaza via the rafah crossing the other day and had wrote this up about what she is witnessing:

Still Breathing, A Report from Gaza

By Caoimhe Butterly

The morgues of Gaza’s hospitals are over-flowing. The bodies in their blood-soaked white shrouds cover the entire floor space of the Shifa hospital morgue. Some are intact, most horribly deformed, limbs twisted into unnatural positions, chest cavities exposed, heads blown off, skulls crushed in. Family members wait outside to identify and claim a brother, husband, father, mother, wife, child. Many of those who wait their turn have lost numerous family members and loved ones.

Blood is everywhere. Hospital orderlies hose down the floors of operating rooms, bloodied bandages lie discarded in corners, and the injured continue to pour in: bodies lacerated by shrapnel, burns, bullet wounds. Medical workers, exhausted and under siege, work day and night and each life saved is seen as a victory over the predominance of death.

The streets of Gaza are eerily silent- the pulsing life and rhythm of markets, children, fishermen walking down to the sea at dawn brutally stilled and replaced by an atmosphere of uncertainty, isolation and fear.

The ever-present sounds of surveillance drones, F16s, tanks and apaches are listened to acutely as residents try to guess where the next deadly strike will be- which house, school, clinic, mosque, governmental building or community centre will be hit next and how to move before it does. That there are no safe places- no refuge for vulnerable human bodies- is felt acutely. It is a devastating awareness for parents- that there is no way to keep their children safe.

As we continue to accompany the ambulances, joining Palestinian paramedics as they risk their lives, daily, to respond to calls from those with no other life-line, our existence becomes temporarily narrowed down and focused on the few precious minutes that make the difference between life and death. With each new call received as we ride in ambulances that careen down broken, silent roads, sirens and lights blaring, there exists a battle of life over death. We have learned the language of the war that the Israelis are waging on the collective captive population of Gaza- to distinguish between the sounds of the weaponry used, the timing between the first missile strikes and the inevitable second- targeting those that rush to tend to and evacuate the wounded, to recognize the signs of the different chemical weapons being used in this onslaught, to overcome the initial vulnerability of recognizing our own mortality.

Though many of the calls received are to pick up bodies, not the wounded, the necessity of affording the dead a dignified burial drives the paramedics to face the deliberate targeting of their colleagues and comrades- thirteen killed while evacuating the wounded, fourteen ambulances destroyed- and to continue to search for the shattered bodies of the dead to bring home to their families.

Last night, while sitting with paramedics in Jabaliya refugee camp, drinking tea and listening to their stories, we received a call to respond to the aftermath of a missile strike. When we arrived at the outskirts of the camp where the attack had taken place the area was filled with clouds of dust, torn electricity lines, slabs of concrete and open water pipes gushing water into the street. Amongst the carnage of severed limbs and blood we pulled out the body of a young man, his chest and face lacerated by shrapnel wounds, but alive- conscious and moaning.

As the ambulance sped him through the cold night we applied pressure to his wounds, the warmth of his blood seeping through the bandages reminder of the life still in him. He opened his eyes in answer to my questions and closed them again as Muhammud, a volunteer paramedic, murmured “ayeesh, nufuss”- live, breathe- over and over to him. He lost consciousness as we arrived at the hospital, received into the arms of friends who carried him into the emergency room. He, Majid, lived and is recovering.

A few minutes later there was another missile strike, this time on a residential house. As we arrived a crowd had rushed to the ruins of the four story home in an attempt to drag survivors out from under the rubble. The family the house belonged to had evacuated the area the day before and the only person in it at the time of the strike was 17 year old Muhammud who had gone back to collect clothes for his family. He was dragged out from under the rubble still breathing- his legs twisted in unnatural directions and with a head wound, but alive. There was no choice but to move him, with the imminence of a possible second strike, and he lay in the ambulance moaning with pain and calling for his mother. We thought he would live, he was conscious though in intense pain and with the rest of
the night consumed with call after call to pick up the wounded and the dead, I forgot to check on him. This morning we were called to pick up a body from Shifa hospital to take back to Jabaliya. We carried a body wrapped in a blood-soaked white shroud into the ambulance, and it wasn’t until we were on the road that we realized that it was Muhammud’s body. His brother rode with us, opening the shroud to tenderly kiss Muhammud’s forehead.

This morning we received news that Al-Quds hospital in Gaza City was under siege. We tried unsuccessfully for hours to gain access to the hospital, trying to organize co-ordination to get the ambulances past Israeli tanks and snipers to evacuate the wounded and dead. Hours of unsuccessful attempts later we received a call from the Shujahiya neighborhood, describing a house where there were both dead and wounded patients to pick up. The area was deserted, many families having fled as Israeli tanks and snipers took up position amongst their homes, other silent in the dark, cold confines of their homes, crawling from room to room to avoid sniper fire through their windows.

As we drove slowly around the area, we heard women’s cries for help. We approached their house on foot, followed by the ambulances and as we came to the threshold of their home, they rushed towards us with their children, shaking and crying with shock. At the door of the house the ambulance lights exposed the bodies of four men, lacerated by shrapnel wounds- the skull and brains of one exposed, others whose limbs had been severed off. The four were the husbands and brothers of the women, who had ventured out to search for bread and food for their families. Their bodies were still warm as we struggled to carry them on stretchers over the uneven ground, their blood staining the earth and our clothes. As we prepared to leave the area our torches illuminated the slumped figure of another man, his abdomen and chest shredded by shrapnel. With no space in the other ambulances, and the imminent possibility of sniper fire, we were forced to take his body in the back of the ambulance carrying the women and children. One of the little girls stared at me before coming into my arms and telling me her name- Fidaa’, which means to sacrifice. She stared at the body bag, asking when he would wake up.

Once back at the hospital we received word that the Israeli army had shelled Al Quds hospital, that the ensuing fire risked spreading and that there had been a 20-minute time-frame negotiated to evacuate patients, doctors and residents in the surrounding houses. By the time we got up there in a convoy of ambulances, hundreds of people had gathered. With the shelling of the UNRWA compound and the hospital there was a deep awareness that nowhere in Gaza is safe, or sacred.

We helped evacuate those assembled to near-by hospitals and schools that have been opened to receive the displaced. The scenes were deeply saddening- families, desperate and carrying their children, blankets and bags of their possessions venturing out in the cold night to try to find a corner of a school or hospital to shelter in. The paramedic we were with referred to the displacement of the over 46,000 Gazan Palestinians now on the move as a continuation of the ongoing Nakba of dispossession and exile seen through generation after generation enduring massacre after massacre.

Today’s death toll was over 75, one of the bloodiest days since the start of this carnage. Over 1,110 Palestinians have been killed in the past 21 days. 367 of those have been children. The humanitarian infrastructure of Gaza is on its knees- already devastated by years of comprehensive siege. There has been a deliberate, systematic destruction of all places of refuge. There are no safe places here, for anyone.

And yet, in the face of so much desecration, this community has remained intact. The social solidarity and support between people is inspiring, and the steadfastness of Gaza continues to humble and inspire all those who witness it. Their level of sacrifice demands our collective response- and recognition that demonstrations are not enough. Gaza, Palestine and its people continue to live, breathe, resist and remain intact and this refusal to be broken is a call and challenge to us all.

as always caoimhe doesn’t only witness the devastation–she also pays homage to the steadfastness, to the resistance, to the resilience of the people with whom she works in solidarity. and i hope that this steadfastness lasts and lasts and lasts until the destruction of the zionist entity, which increasingly seems to be eminent. immanuel wallerstein offers his insight on the subject of the demise of the jewish state:

Israel however was always one step behind. When it could have negotiated with Nasser, it wouldn’t. When it could have negotiated with Arafat, it wouldn’t. When Arafat died and was succeeded by the ineffectual Mahmoud Abbas, the more militant Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006. Israel refused to talk to Hamas.

Now, Israel has invaded Gaza, seeking to destroy Hamas. If it succeeds, what organization will come next? If, as is more probable, it fails to destroy Hamas, is a two-state solution now possible? Both Palestinian and world public opinion is moving towards the one-state solution. And this is of course the end of the Zionist project.

The three-element strategy of Israel is decomposing. The iron fist no longer succeeds, much as it didn’t for George Bush in Iraq. Will the United States link remain firm? I doubt it. And will world public opinion continue to look sympathetically on Israel? It seems not. Can Israel now switch to an alternative strategy, of negotiating with the militant representatives of the Arab Palestinians, as an integral constituent of the Middle East, and not as an outpost of Europe? It seems quite late for that, quite possibly too late. Hence, the chronicle of a suicide foretold.

one can only hope at this point. hope that this genocide is the zionist regime’s suicide. hope and support the resistance in every way possible to bring about this aim.