on the limits of solidarity

last month two comrades in the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (bds)–omar barghouti and haidar eid–both of whom i respect a great deal–wrote a statement about the gaza freedom march asking them to adopt a statement of context that addressed palestinian needs and demands rather than impose an american idea of those needs and demands on palestinian people (i quoted it and wrote about it here). a few weeks ago haidar and omar released a new statement saying that the gaza freedom march organizers had adopted their statement and they are now requesting people to endorse the march (click here to endorse it):

Dear supporters of just peace and international law,

We are writing to invite you to endorse the Pledge of the Gaza Freedom March, a creative initiative with historic potential organized by the International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza. The March is aimed at mobilizing active and effective support from around the world for ending Israel’s illegal and immoral siege on Gaza, currently the most pressing of all Israeli violations of international law and Palestinian rights. To endorse the Pledge, please click here and enter your name — or your organization’s name — in the box provided at the bottom.

Also reproduced at the end of this letter, after the Pledge, is the organizers’ Statement of Context which provides the necessary Palestinian context of the siege, namely Israel’s occupation, its decades-old denial of UN-sanctioned Palestinian rights, and Palestinian civil resistance to that oppression.

The Gaza Freedom March has won the endorsement of a decisive majority in Palestinian civil society. Aside from the Islamic University of Gaza, Al-Aqsa University, and tens of local grassroots organizations, refugee advocacy groups, professional associations and NGOs in Gaza, the March was endorsed by the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign National Committee (BNC)*, a wide coalition of the largest Palestinian mass organizations, trade unions, networks and professional associaitions, including all the major trade union federations, the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO) and the largest network representing Palestinian refugees. Ittijah, the Union of Arab Community-Based Associations, representing the most prominent Palestinian NGOs inside Israel, has also endorsed.

The March, planned for January 2010, to commemorate Israel’s illegal war of aggression against the 1.5 million Palestinians in occupied Gaza, is expected to draw many prominent figures and massive activist participation from across the world. The organizers have shown exceptional moral courage and a true sense of solidarity in drafting the Pledge and the Statement of Context. We salute them all for their principled and consistent commitment to applying international law and universal human rights to the plight of the Palestinian people, particularly in Gaza. We deeply appreciate their solidarity with our struggle for freedom and our inalienable right to self determination.

Anchored solely in international law and universal human rights, the Gaza Freedom March appeals to international organizations and conscientious citizens with diverse political backgrounds on the basis of their common abhorrence of the immense injustice embodied in the atrocious siege of 1.5 million Palestinians in the occupied Gaza Strip, the overwhelming majority of whom are refugees.

With massive participation of internationals, led by prominent leaders, alongside Palestinians in Gaza the world can no longer ignore its moral duty to end this criminal siege, and Israel can no longer count on its current impunity to last long. We strongly urge you to endorse the Pledge and to help secure more endorsements.

Haidar Eid (Gaza)
Omar Barghouti (Jerusalem)

* The BDS National Committee, BNC, consists of: Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine (all major political parties); General Union of Palestinian Workers; Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions; General Union of Palestinian Women; Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO); Federation of Independent Trade Unions; Palestine Right of Return Coalition; Union of Palestinian Farmers; Occupied Palestine and Golan Heights Initiative (OPGAI); Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (STW); Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI); National Committee to Commemorate the Nakba; Civic Coalition for the Defense of Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem (CCDPRJ); Coalition for Jerusalem; Union of Palestinian Charitable Organizations; Palestinian Economic Monitor; Union of Youth Activity Centers-Palestine Refugee Camps; among others …

Endorse the Gaza Freedom March! Sign the Pledge Below!

Israel’s blockade of Gaza is a flagrant violation of international law that has led to mass suffering. The U.S., the European Union, and the rest of the international community are complicit.

The law is clear. The conscience of humankind is shocked. Yet, the siege of Gaza continues. It is time for us to take action! On January 1, 2010, we will mark the New Year by marching alongside the Palestinian people of Gaza in a non-violent demonstration that breaches the illegal blockade.

Our purpose in this March is lifting the siege on Gaza. We demand that Israel end the blockade. We also call upon Egypt to open Gaza’s Rafah border. Palestinians must have freedom to travel for study, work, and much-needed medical treatment and to receive visitors from abroad.

As an international coalition we are not in a position to advocate a specific political solution to this conflict. Yet our faith in our common humanity leads us to call on all parties to respect and uphold international law and fundamental human rights to bring an end to the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territories since 1967 and pursue a just and lasting peace.

The march can only succeed if it arouses the conscience of humanity.

Please join us.

The International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza
For more information, please see the Statement of Context
For a list of endorsers, please click here.

STATEMENT OF CONTEXT

Amnesty International has called the Gaza blockade a “form of collective punishment of the entire population of Gaza, a flagrant violation of Israel’s obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention.” Human Rights Watch has called the blockade a “serious violation of international law.” The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, Richard Falk, condemned Israel’s siege of Gaza as amounting to a “crime against humanity.”

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter has said the Palestinian people trapped in Gaza are being treated “like animals,” and has called for “ending of the siege of Gaza” that is depriving “one and a half million people of the necessities of life.”

One of the world’s leading authorities on Gaza, Sara Roy of Harvard University, has said that the consequence of the siege “is undeniably one of mass suffering, created largely by Israel, but with the active complicity of the international community, especially the U.S. and European Union.”

The law is clear. The conscience of humankind is shocked.

The Palestinians of Gaza have exhorted the international community to move beyond words of condemnation.

Yet, the siege of Gaza continues.

Upholding International Law

The illegal siege of Gaza is not happening in a vacuum. It is one of the many illegal acts committed by Israel in the Palestinian territories it occupied militarily in 1967.

The Wall and the settlements are illegal, according to the International Court of Justice at the Hague.

House demolitions and wanton destruction of farm lands are illegal.

The closures and curfews are illegal.

The roadblocks and checkpoints are illegal.

The detention and torture are illegal.

The occupation itself is illegal.

The truth is that if international law were enforced the occupation would end.

An end to the military occupation that began in 1967 is a major condition for establishing a just and lasting peace. For over six decades, the Palestinian people have been denied freedom and rights to self-determination and equality. The hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who were forced out of their homes during Israel’s creation in 1947-48 are still denied the rights granted them by UN Resolution 194.

Sources of Inspiration

The Gaza Freedom March is inspired by decades of nonviolent Palestinian resistance from the mass popular uprising of the first Intifada to the West Bank villagers currently resisting the land grab of Israel’s annexationist wall.

It draws inspiration from the Gazans themselves, who formed a human chain from Rafah to Erez, tore down the border barrier separating Gaza from Egypt, and marched to the six checkpoints separating the occupied Gaza Strip from Israel.

The Freedom March also draws inspiration from the international volunteers who have stood by Palestinian farmers harvesting their crops, from the crews on the vessels who have challenged the Gaza blockade by sea, and from the drivers of the convoys who have delivered humanitarian aid to Gaza.

And it is inspired by Nelson Mandela who said: “I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. … I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”

It heeds the words of Mahatma Gandhi, who called his movement Satyagraha-Hold on to the truth, and holds to the truth that Israel’s siege of Gaza is illegal and inhuman.

Gandhi said that the purpose of nonviolent action is to “quicken” the conscience of humankind. Through the Freedom March, humankind will not just deplore Israeli brutality but take action to stop it.

Palestinian civil society has followed in the footsteps of Mandela and Gandhi. Just as those two leaders called on international civil society to boycott the goods and institutions of their oppressors, Palestinian associations, trade unions, and mass movements have since 2005 been calling on all people of conscience to support a non-violent campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions until Israel fully complies with its obligations under international law.

The Freedom March also draws inspiration from the civil rights movement in the United States.

If Israel devalues Palestinian life then internationals must both interpose their bodies to shield Palestinians from Israeli brutality and bear personal witness to the inhumanity that Palestinians daily confront.

If Israel defies international law then people of conscience must send non-violent marshals from around the world to enforce the law of the international community in Gaza. The International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza will dispatch contingents from around the world to Gaza to mark the anniversary of Israel’s bloody 22-day assault on Gaza in December 2008 – January 2009.

The Freedom March takes no sides in internal Palestinian politics. It sides only with international law and the primacy of human rights.

The March is yet another link in the chain of non-violent resistance to Israel’s flagrant disregard of international law.

Citizens of the world are called upon to join ranks with Palestinians in the January 1st March to lift the inhumane siege of Gaza.

when the announcement for the march went out i wrote a critique of it, particularly about the racist way in which it seemed to be run (epitomized by the march’s first poster which featured no palestinians and just one white man–norman finkelstein). if you read that earlier post you will not be surprised to learn that with the gaza freedom march’s adoption of a palestinian platform–rather than an american platform pushed on palestinian people–finkelstein withdrew his support. here is what pulse media reported he said in response:

Norman Finkelstein’s withdrawal statement:

The original consensus of the International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza was that we would limit our statement to a pair of uncontroversial, basic and complementary principles that would have the broadest possible appeal: the march to break the siege would be nonviolent and anchored in international law.

I agreed with this approach and consequent statement and decided to remove myself from the steering committee in order to invest my full energies in mobilizing for the march. During the week beginning August 30, 2009 and in a matter of days an entirely new sectarian agenda dubbed “the political context” was foisted on those who originally signed on and worked tirelessly for three months.

Because it drags in contentious issues that—however precious to different constituencies—are wholly extraneous to the narrow but critical goal of breaking the siege this new agenda is gratuitously divisive and it is almost certain that it will drastically reduce the potential reach of our original appeal.

It should perhaps be stressed that the point of dispute was not whether one personally supported a particular Palestinian right or strategy to end the occupation. It was whether inclusion in the coalition’s statement of a particular right or strategy was necessary if it was both unrelated to the immediate objective of breaking the siege and dimmed the prospect of a truly mass demonstration.

In addition the tactics by which this new agenda was imposed do not bode well for the future of the coalition’s work and will likely move the coalition in an increasingly sectarian direction. I joined the coalition because I believed that an unprecedented opportunity now exists to mobilize a broad public whereby we could make a substantive and not just symbolic contribution towards breaking the illegal and immoral siege of Gaza and, accordingly, realize a genuine and not just token gesture of solidarity with the people of Gaza.

In its present political configuration I no longer believe the coalition can achieve such a goal. Because I would loathe getting bogged down in a petty and squalid public brawl I will not comment further on this matter unless the sequence of events climaxing in my decision to resign are misrepresented by interested parties.

However I would be remiss in my moral obligations were I not humbly to apologize to those who, either coaxed by me or encouraged by my participation, gave selflessly of themselves to make the march a historic event and now feel aggrieved at the abrupt turn of events. It can only be said in extenuation that I along with many others desperately fought to preserve the ecumenical vision that originally inspired the march but the obstacles thrown in our path ultimately proved insurmountable.

problems still remain with the new statement of context. it is far from perfect. it represents, however, a significant compromise, and, more importantly, acknowledges the necessity of abiding by palestinian civil society’s goals as guided by international law. three activists, gabriel ash, mich levy and sara kershnar, authored a very important critique of this new context in electronic intifada that is worth considering for activists invested in justice for palestinian refugees and for palestine more generally:

Changing course is never easy. It would have been far better had this discussion taken place before the call went out. That, however, is a lesson for the future. The compromise led a few of the organizers to leave in anger and recriminations. Some argued that the new context document is “sectarian” and will severely damage the potential of the march. While disputes are inevitable in every political endeavor, we call on all parties to cast aside differences and arguments, to respect the compromise and unite on our common objective, ending the siege of Gaza. What is important now is getting the best and most effective march possible.

We see the context document as a thoughtful attempt to bring together for this march those of us who support boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) and the full objectives of Palestinian liberation — including the right of return and full and equal rights for Palestinians living in Israel — with those activists whose support for lifting the siege of Gaza is largely humanitarian. Contrary to misrepresentations, the context document does not require marchers to adhere to BDS. But as the march puts nonviolence on its banner and claims inspiration from nonviolent Palestinian resistance, it cannot, without being offensive, ignore the increasing presence and far-reaching international impact of BDS as a Palestinian campaign of nonviolent resistance that is endorsed by all factions, including Fatah and Hamas, as well as more than 100 civil society associations. The growing support for BDS among prominent Western figures and mainstream organizations belies the claim that the mere mention of it is divisive.

Nor does the document commit the marchers to support the Palestinian right of return. It does commit the marchers to recognize the Palestinian Nakba and the historical fact that the refugees’ right of return, recognized by UN resolution 194, has been denied. These refugees make up 75 percent of the population of Gaza and are the recipients of this march’s solidarity. To recognize this history does not compel one to agree to any specific resolution of the conflict. But refusing to recognize it denies the history of the Palestinian people, a denial that is inconsistent with any form of solidarity.

The new document’s only demand is the end of the siege of Gaza. There are no other demands. Nothing in it prevents activists committed to a “two-state solution” and a “Jewish state” from participating. We therefore strongly object to representing the new language as an attempt to limit the scope of the march. We take strong offense at the attempt to label the recognition of the concerns of Palestinian liberation within the context of a solidarity action as “sectarian.” We seriously doubt that the number of individuals willing to fly to Egypt and then march in Gaza, yet who refuse to recognize the history of Gaza, is very large.

We are also heartened by the addition of non-governmental partners in Gaza. As soon as the context statement was added, endorsements came from the University Teachers’ Association in Palestine, Palestinian Student’s Campaign, al-Aqsa University, Arab Cultural Forum-Gaza and al-Quds Bank for Culture and Information-Gaza. We are also encouraged by the addition of the International Solidarity Movement and support from members of the South African Palestine solidarity community. The elected government of Gaza has also endorsed the march and will now hopefully increase its assistance.

In supporting this compromise, we are mindful of the original aim of the organizers for large and “ecumenical” participation. We share that goal. However, our conversation would benefit from honesty about the meaning of “ecumenical.” It never means “everybody.” We don’t just want the maximum number of marchers; we want the maximum number that can be achieved without compromising the visions of the diverse organizers and solidarity groups participating in this particular project.

Where should the line be drawn? This is a difficult decision that haunts every political struggle and always requires deliberation, negotiation and compromise. It is misleading to frame the debate as one between those who want maximum participation and those motivated by ideology, in particular when this framing aims to delegitimize the concerns of Palestinian activists representing significant sections of Palestinian grassroots organizing. We all have political lines that we won’t cross. The lines drawn by those at the very heart of the struggle deserve our particular respect.

We now have a fair and inclusive basis for organizing the march, open to proponents of radically different political visions yet respectful of all, and in particular, respectful of Palestinian history and struggle. We must now all strive to make this march as big and as successful as possible.

but this march and is organizing, as well as the organizing around bds, has made me think a lot about what it means to act in solidarity with palestinians, or any group of people for that matter. i recently received an email from a dear friend who decided, after years of trying to persuade him, to join the academic boycott. he signed the statement, but he is still ambivalent about it as a tactic. why? because noam chomsky has not come out in support of it. and this makes me wonder a lot about why chomsky would be the one to defer to? chomsky, like norman finkelstein, are two scholars whose work i admire a great deal. their thinking and writing has influenced me tremendously over my the course of my life. but in the end there are too many barriers for me to fall in line with their thinking: particularly the fact that neither one has signed on to bds andthat neither one supports the right of return for palestinian refugees. here, for example, is chomsky speaking on the subject of sanctions in an interview with christopher j. lee:

Safundi: So you would apply “apartheid” to that broader situation?

Chomsky: I would call it a Bantustan settlement. It’s very close to that. The actions are taken with U.S. funding, crucially. U.S. diplomatic, military, and economic support are crucial. It cannot be done without that.

Safundi: And that is similar to U.S. support for South Africa during the apartheid period through the 1980s.

Chomsky: Yes. As I’m sure you know, the Reagan Administration-which is basically the current people in power, including people like Colin Powell-found ways to evade Congressional restrictions so that they continued to support the apartheid administration, almost until the end.

Safundi: Connected to that…

Chomsky: In the case of Israel, they don’t have to hide it because there are no sanctions.

Safundi: That’s my question. One of the important tactics against the apartheid government was the eventual use of sanctions. Do you see that as a possibility?

Chomsky: No. In fact I’ve been strongly against it in the case of Israel. For a number of reasons. For one thing, even in the case of South Africa, I think sanctions are a very questionable tactic. In the case of South Africa, I think they were [ultimately] legitimate because it was clear that the large majority of the population of South Africa was in favor of it.

Sanctions hurt the population. You don’t impose them unless the population is asking for them. That’s the moral issue. So, the first point in the case of Israel is that: Is the population asking for it? Well, obviously not.

But there is another point. The sanctions against South Africa were finally imposed after years, decades of organization and activism until it got to the point where people could understand why you would want to do it. So by the time sanctions were imposed, you had international corporations supporting them. You had mayors of cities getting arrested in support of them.

So calling for sanctions here, when the majority of the population doesn’t understand what you are doing, is tactically absurd-even if it were morally correct, which I don’t think it is.

The country against which the sanctions are being imposed is not calling for it.

Safundi: Palestinians aren’t calling for sanctions?

Chomsky: Well, the sanctions wouldn’t be imposed against the Palestinians, they would be imposed against Israel.

Safundi: Right…[And] Israelis aren’t calling for sanctions.

Chomsky: Furthermore, there is no need for it. We ought to call for sanctions against the United States! If the U.S. were to stop its massive support for this, it’s over. So, you don’t have to have sanctions on Israel. It’s like putting sanctions on Poland under the Russians because of what the Poles are doing. It doesn’t make sense. Here, we’re the Russians.

Israel will of course do whatever it can as long as the U.S. authorizes it. As soon as the U.S. tells it no, that’s the end. The power relations are very straight forward. It’s not pretty, but that’s the way the world works.

of course, chomsky has a point: in terms of bds the u.s. should be every bit the target. but not in lieu of the zionist entity, but rather in addition to it. but the fact that paestinians are calling for bds means that those of us who want to work in solidarity with palestinians should support that work. but the fact that some people think we should refer to two american jews on the matter of this is disturbing. would one defer to a slavemaster when abolishing slavery? would one defer to a nazi when fighting against concentration camps? would one defer to white southerners when resisting jim crow segregation in the u.s. south? i find this logic racist and deeply problematic. i’m not at all saying that the work of chomsky and finkstein is not important to read, to listen to, to consider. but i am asking people to consider the logic of looking to them as if they were the leaders of the palestinian people. if we’re looking for leaders we need not look beyond haidar eid and omar barghouti for starters. and there are thousands more where they came from.

gaza blood on bush and obama’s hands

gaza

day 5. i woke up to the news of 70 more strikes from tuesday’s carnage. 385 dead and 1,720 injured, many critically injured will die because there is no more medicine. many are buried beneath the rubble, in the tunnels that israeli terrorists bombed with american-made weapons. many were buried before their bodies were counted. but as rania reminds us they have names and we cannot forget them, bury their names beneath the headlines:

Five sisters, aged two to seventeen, were killed in their home in Jabaliya refugee camp. Their mother, Samira Ba’lousha, had the heavy task of removing them from the rubble. These children—Jawaher, four, Dina, eight, Samar, twelve, Ikram, fifteen, and Tahrir, seventeen, were not firing rockets into Israel; they were sleeping in their beds. With space running out in the cemetery, the Ba’lousha children were forced to share their graves.

Nawal Al-Lad’a, a forty-year old mother, did not find the bodies of her two sons in the medical compound, so she left to look for her children amid the rubble.

When one of the mosques was attacked, one of 7, a child was killed. Ziad Abu Teir. He was 8.

Fatimah Salem, 53, lies in a coma in Al-Shifa hospital, torn apart by debris while at work for a local charity near the targeted prison in Gaza City. “My mother was not firing rockets at Israel,” said her son, Majed. (source: IRIN)

Luma, 4, and Haya, 6, two sisters from the Humdan family from Biet Hanaon. Targeted and killed by air Israeli missiles while attempting to leave their neighborhood on a donkey carriage

I’m trying to get more names of the martyrs, the killed and wounded Palestinians. It is important, at the very least, to know their names.

Record!
I am an Arab
I have a name without a title
Patient in a country
Where people are enraged
My roots
Were entrenched before the birth of time
And before the opening of the eras
Before the pines, and the olive trees
And before the grass grew

(excerpt from “Identity Card,” by Mahmoud Darwish)

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the mood in nablus is not good. i forgot to mention this yesterday as my head is swimming with too much information right now, but a common refrain i heard among my students yesterday was that “palestinian blood is cheap.” there is a feeling that they are all alone. yesterday i posted an important video of sheren tadros reporting on al jazeera highlighting the fact that there is nowhere for palestinians in gaza to run to. but here, too, people feel that there is no one to go to for help. that their calls for ending this bloodbath fall on deaf ears. from the arab world, from the european union, from the united states (who is a full participant in this blood bath because it allows its weapons to be used to commit this massacre), from the united nations. we hear only the mild criticisms, never a demand or a show of force to stop this madness. the quiet statements of those whose shallow words suggest complicity not outrage. not a determination to stop the israeli terrorists. people in nablus are afraid to speak out, too, as there are a number of palestinians who have spoken out publicly in mosques and other public spaces and as a result the palestinian authority has put them in prison. enemies are every where. from within and from outside. one of the student activists at my university was chatting with me last night. she wants to erect a tent in downtown nablus in martyr’s square to have a public memorial for the martyrs of gaza; hamas and fatah leaders in the city couldn’t agree. so no tent. more silence. the same is true in nasra where palestinians were attacked by israeli terrorists for protesting the brutality in gaza.

but the main enemy here, aside from the obvious israeli terrorists, are their american partners in state terrorism. for some context here is a report from nick spicer on al jazeera yesterday showing all of the american-made materiel being used here by israeli terrorists that americans paid for with their tax dollars:

of course we can expect george bush to be silent as he has millions of iraqi, lebanese, afghan, and palestinians’ blood on his hands. barack obama showed his true colors when he started his u.s. presidential campaign, though people in hawai’i protested outside his home there yesterday. one writer observed yesterday that palestinians don’t get to have their 9/11: everywhere else when there is a massacre claim that they, too, now have their 9/11, but not palestinians. but the green party, the party which i voted for when i cast my ballot for president in favor of cynthia mckinney, spoke out yesterday against israeli terrorist war crimes. cynthia mckinney was on the boat yesterday that was shot at and rammed by israeli terrorist naval boats yesterday had this to say about american support for israeli terrorism in the black agenda report:

Former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney has called upon President-Elect Barack Obama to “please, say something about the humanitarian crisis that is being experienced by the Palestinian people, by the people of Gaza.” McKinney spoke to CNN news from the Lebanese city of Tyre, where she had debarked from the relief vessel Dignity after it was rammed on the high seas by an Israeli patrol boat, early Tuesday morning. Passengers also report the Israelis fired machine guns into the water near their ship….

“I would like to ask my former colleagues in the United States Congress to stop sending weapons of mass destruction around the world,” said McKinney, who was the Green Party’s presidential candidate in November. “As we are about to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday, let us remember what he said. He said that the United States is the greatest purveyor of violence on the planet. And guess what: we experienced a little bit of that violence, because the weapons that are being used by Israel are weapons that were supplied by the United States government.”

A CNN reporter who accompanied the passengers and crew of the Dignity confirmed that the boat “was sailing with full lights” when “one of the Israeli patrol boats, with no lights on, rammed the Dignity, hard.”

Israel blames the collision on the relief vessel.

Said McKinney: “Our boat was rammed three times, twice in the front, once on the side…. What the Israelis are saying is outright disinformation.”

McKinney compared the Israeli action against the Dignity to the attack on a U.S. naval vessel during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. “I recall that there was another boat that was attacked by Israelis, and it was the U.S.S Liberty.” Thirty-four crewmen died and 170 were wounded by fire from Israeli planes and torpedo boats. The Israelis claim it was a case of mistaken identity. “People would like to forget about the U.S.S. Liberty,” said McKinney, “but I haven’t forgotten about it and the people who were on that ship have not forgotten what happened to them.”

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nora barrows-friedman on flashpoints, unlike all other u.s. news media outlets, continues its extensive coverage of the american-israeli terrorist project in gaza. the last two days have been excellent with many voices of people of gaza where you can hear the war going on, you can hear american apache helicopters and f16s dropping bombs on the people of gaza. as of this writing links to the audio files from the last two days are not posted, but if you click on the link for the podcast you can download episodes where you can hear sameh habib, safa joudeh, and caoimhe butterly who details being terrorized by israeli terrorist naval ships yesterday on their way to gaza by boat.

i finally heard from sameh habeeb. i had a mutual friend from gaza city go over to his house and make sure he was okay, thankfully he is. and he blogged yesterday updating us on the continuing humanitarian toll (though i recommend listening to him on flashpoints as well). here is what sameh had to say about the situation in gaza city yesterday:

On the midday of Tuesday, a new phase of the military operation started. F16s started to break the sound barrier of Gaza. Raids of sonic bombs occurred causing a trauma and panic atmosphere across Gaza residents.

The death toll has reached 390 with more than 1,700 injured, 2 hundreds are in critical conditions while there is a severe shortages in medicines. Medical sources announced a collapse in medical sector and Gaza hospitals. Muhamad El Khozndar a doctor at Al Sehfa’ hospital said on a local radio station that Gaza hospitals are no longer working properly. Bandaging stuff, medical tools, medical machines and general cleaning unavailable at the hospitals. Additionally, windows of the hospitals crashed due to a nearby bombings hit a mosque.

The early hours of Tuesday night witnessed a set of Israeli missiles west of Gaza City. Medical reports said a number of injured arrived to Al shifa’ hospital including some casualties. Many tanks shelled the norther eastern area of Gaza City.

It’s remarkable that humanitarian stage in Gaza is totally collapsed and disastrous as aspects life vanished. All oil derivatives of fuel, gasoline and cocking gas unavailable in Gaza due to a siege imposed two years ago. Bread, milk, rice, sugar, cooking oil are not available and what is inside Gaza is limited quantities stored at homes.

Add to that, it is very dangerous for people to leave their house in search of food supplies. Any mobile car, bicycle or walking persons turned to targets for Israeli military machine.

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mohammad on kabobfest also has another report detailing the situation with his family in gaza whom he cannot see because he is in ramallah:

Again, my nightly call to my uncles in Gaza proved to be deeply uplifting. I made my first call to uncle Mahmoud. Our previous calls had not lasted for much longer than ten or fifteen minutes, but today he talked for almost an hour. Again, his voice was strong and defiant, even more than yesterday. He told me the Israeli’s seem to have run out of targets to pound, hitting the same ones over and over again during the day. The skies over Khan Younis were quiet, he said, and had been for more than half an hour. There literally were no more official buildings to destroy.

I asked him if he would mind, in the few hours a day that he had electricity, to type up some of his experiences so that I could share them with the world. He told me he understood what I wanted to do, but that he really had no desire to sit and write. He liked to keep himself busy, but he didn’t mind talking. I asked him if there were any shops open in the area. He said only a few small family stores would open, but supplies were fast dwindling. Sugar, he said, was gone. I asked him what they had had for dinner; rice and some chicken. His children were still suffering. His youngest son, Hosam, was wetting and defecating himself. Hanan, the three year old, had run to her dad when she heard the buzz of the Israeli drones, telling him she wanted to hide because she didn’t want the ‘zanana’ to bomb her. (Zanana is the term Palestinians give to these drones because of the continuous buzzing sound they make). He held her until she fell asleep. The children were still waking up hysterical in the night every time a missile hit nearby.

The thing that struck me most was how high Mahmoud’s morale was, especially considering the state he had been in two days earlier. He told me people understood that Israel wanted to destroy the spirit and will of the people, and that it was highly unlikely to end the killing any time soon. He said the graphic images of the dead and wounded don’t tell half the story; he visited one of the hospitals today and told me the injuries are horrific beyond description. Very few of the almost 2,000 wounded would ever recover. The pain is definitely there, but the people are caught between trying to mourn the dead of yesterday, living today and the idea of ground invasion tomorrow. He touched again on the topic of the 20 or so friends they had lost, telling me a lot of the men had been buried in Gaza City rather than their hometown of Khan Younis because they’d had to be buried en masse to make space in the hospital morgue. He tells me the current reality is that, with the unbearable amount of casualties, people are being buried without ceremony as quickly as half an hour after their bodies are found. It’s unreal, he said, that you can have breakfast with a friend and then find out he has already been buried half an hour later. Regardless, when victory means simply surviving the onslaught, he tells me many people are confident Israel cannot achieve any of its aims. Before I hung up my mom took the phone to speak to his wife and give her condolences on the death of her brother. He was 23 years old.

I talked to uncle Jasim next. He had just gotten power and was flipping through the channels to check the news. He was livid at the Egyptian regime and their staunch refusal to open the Rafah crossing despite the massacre and the decimated infrastructure. Jasim has never been by any means a supporter of Hamas, but he tells me the people are rallying around the movement and will never allow Israel to impose Mahmoud Abbas on them. We talked about the extended range of the rockets fired by the resistance. For the first time, they had hit what is now known as Kiryat Gat, and which, until my grandparents were ethnically cleansed from it in 1949 (i.e. a year AFTER Israel had won its so-called War of Independence) was known as al-Fallujah.

I asked him if the Israeli army was still sending out recorded messages to peoples phones threatening to bomb their houses. He laughed a little and said that everyone is getting them, several times a day. His neighbor lived in a squalid one-room structure and had gotten one on his cell phone. Jasim’s daughter Yaqeen had picked up the house phone today and heard one of the messages, and it had terrified her. I told him about the protests and show of solidarity across the world, and told him to keep his chin up and his morale high. Even Dubai had canceled all New Year’s celebrations. I reminded him that if Israel could not destroy the people’s spirits with the atrocities it had been committing over the past four days, it had already lost this war.

My final call was to my uncle Mohammad in Gaza City. I was hoping he would be at least as upbeat as Mahmoud, but he sounded completely worn out. He barely sleeps, usually staying up all night as the bombing continues unabated around him, while the cold comes in through the windows kept open to prevent them from shattering every time a missile hits. He told me last night had been especially tough, particularly the bombing of the Ministries Compound with thirteen missiles almost simultaneously. The Shams Sports Club is just down the street and was destroyed. Why would they destroy a sports club, he asked. How can the world really believe they’re only targeting militants?

He said they had just gotten power after an outage of almost 12 hours, and was following the news of a French proposal for an immediate ceasefire. The skies had been quiet for 20 minutes, he said. He was hopeful the ceasefire would come into effect. I told him to keep his morale up, but that it was very unlikely Israel would agree to a ceasefire. After all this bombing and killing, it had only managed to put more Israelis under the fire of Palestinian homemade rockets. Stopping now would be, in the eyes of the Israeli public, a huge failure. And with elections coming up and Israeli elections traditionally decided by Palestinian body counts, it makes no sense domestically for Israel to stop now.

I let him know of the deep censorship in the Israeli media regarding the massacre in Gaza, how very few images of the carnage and death have been broadcast. In this kind of media environment, it is easy to say why many Israelis seem to believe their airforce and navy are only attacking militants. Either way, he said, he would still hope for a ceasefire. He was worn out.

It is scary, but uplifting, to think that through such abnormal suffering, people with a cause will manage to rally and hold their spirits. I truly believe Israel cannot win this particular war; Zionism has no place for the possibility that people do not give up in the face of overwhelming military force, and that is why Israel has used its military might for decades in an attempt to cow Palestinian nationalism and crush the struggle for liberty. The solution was and will always be simple: end the colonization of Palestine, the denial of Palestinian rights, and the continued expulsion of the Palestinian people from their lands. People are quick to point out when Palestinians use the limited means they have at their disposal to attack Israel, but without addressing the historical injustice imposed on the Palestinian people that continues to define their existence and oppression, there can never be a peaceful solution.

Until then, Israel will continue to commit atrocities in an attempt to impose an impossible reality, and its victims will continue to fight back.

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gaza blogger laila el haddad, who is currently in north carolina, writes about calling her parents who are trapped in the gaza prison (click on link below to read that part) and then writes hauntingly about what it means to be trapped in this prison of gaza while american-made bombs are dropped by israeli terrorists flying american-made f16s:

 

The rains of death continue to fall in Gaza. And silently, the world watches. And silently, governments plotted: how shall we make the thunder and clouds rain death on to Gaza?

It will all seem, at the end of the day, that this is somehow a response to something: rockets; broken truces; irreconcilability…

It is as though the situation were not only acceptable, but normal in the period prior to it all. As though a calm that provides no relief — political, economic, or otherwise — for Gaza’s stateless, occupied, besieged Palestinians were tenable. As though settlements did not continue to expand; walls did not continue to extend and choke lands and lives; families and friends were not dislocated; life was not paralyzed; people were not exterminated; borders were not sealed and food and light and fuel were in fair supply.

But it is the prisoners’ burden to bear: they broke the conditions of their incarceration. Nevertheless, there are concerns for the “humanitarian situation”: as long as they do not starve …

The warden improves the living conditions now and then, in varying degrees of relativity, but the prison doors remain sealed. And so when there are 20 hours of power outages in a row, the prisoners wish that they were only eight; or 10; and dream of the days of four.

My friend Safah Joudeh is also in Gaza city. She is a 27-year-old freelance journalist.

“At this point we don’t feel that it is Hamas being targeted, it’s the entire population of Gaza,” she says. “The strikes have been and I need to stress this, indiscriminate. They claim that the targets have been buildings and people that are Hamas-affiliated, but the employees in these buildings are public sector employees, not political activists … other targets include homes, mosques, the university, port, fishing boats, the fish market.”

No one has left their home since Saturday, she says.

“The streets were full of people the first day of the attacks, naturally. They were unexpected and came at a time when people were going about their daily business. The streets have been completely empty the past two days. People have closed up shop and trying to stay close to their families and loved ones. Many homes are without bread, the bakeries stopped working two days before the attack because of lack of fuel and flour.”

The small shop down the street from my parents’ home, next to the Kinz mosque where many of the Remal neighborhood’s affluent residents attend, opens for a little while after prayer. My father goes and gets whatever he can — while he can.

They have one package of bread left, but insist they are OK.

“Those with children are the ones who are truly suffering. Umm Ramadan’s grandchildren will only sleep in her arms now. They are wetting their pants again.”

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dr. mona el farra, who is also a blogger, and who is now in england, writes about her home in gaza city from afar as well:

I’ve spoken to several of my fellow doctors in Gaza and each one of them is overwhelmed and demoralised. Even with all of their training, the material conditions in Gaza are preventing them from doing what they are capable of. They could have saved many more lives.

I remember how ambulance drivers were not allowed to reach the injured in previous military attacks on Gaza. Many lives could have been saved if the ambulances reached the injured at the right time. A few minutes can be the difference between life and death. I wonder whether we will hear reports like this again once the emergency situation is over and there is time for truth and reflection.

The first military air strikes struck at the exact time that schoolchildren make their way home. Where I live in Gaza City, several primary schools are very close to the police headquarters that were among the first targets. These horrifying facts explain the high number of women and children among the dead. Thirty children and nine women have been reported dead and another 130 children and 38 women injured.

I’ve spoken with friends and family in Gaza and my heart sank further with their firsthand accounts of the death and destruction.

On a personal level, I am mourning the loss of one of my cousins, Ibrahim Mahmoud El-Farra, aged 22. He was killed in the first attack on the presidential palace. F16 fighter planes fired three big missiles at the building. Neighbours tell me the ground shook and that the blast broke all the windows of my nearby apartment building.

My cousin, and an unknown number of other victims, is still under the rubble. The scale of destruction is too large for Gaza’s small number of rescue workers. They are slowly pulling body parts out of the rubble as Israeli airstrikes make more and more piles of rubble and people.

The number of reported deaths will increase in the next few days as more bodies are recovered and more of the seriously injured cases die because their serious but treatable wounds cannot be treated in Gaza.

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what i am documenting here and have been documenting for the last five days is a catalog of war crimes of grievous violations of international humanitarian law, of the geneva convention. here is a recent statement sent to the united nations by various palestinian human rights organizations beseeching them to do something:

The following intervention was submitted to the UN Human Rights Council on 30 December 2008:

General Assembly to act under Resolution 377

Dear Member State of the UN Human Rights Council,

Representing the Palestinian human rights community, we write to you with an urgent request for intervention by the UN Human Rights Council to put an end to the war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) as a result of the Israeli occupying forces’ ongoing attacks on the Gaza Strip. At least 310 persons, including 37 children, have been killed and more than 1,000 Palestinians have been injured. The civilian population of the occupied Gaza Strip will inevitably continue to suffer heavy losses without the external intervention of the international community; this is confirmed by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s assertion that this is a “war to the bitter end.”

Grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention amounting to war crimes, have been committed, including, willful killing and the extensive destruction of property not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly. Furthermore, the continuing collective punishment of the Gaza Strip has left medical services unable to deal with the increasing number of victims.

As member States of the UN Human Rights Council, you were fully apprised of the human rights situation in the OPT, during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Israel earlier this month. The dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip was a dominant concern raised by States during the review. Despite recommendations to Israel concerning its obligation to improve the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, the capacity of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure to respond to the humanitarian needs of the population after days of bombardment has now reached breaking point. You have further been notified by Special Rapporteur Richard Falk of Israel’s failure to cooperate with his mandate and his call on “all Member States, as well as officials and every relevant organ of the United Nations system, to move on an emergency basis not only to condemn Israel’s serious violations, but to develop new approaches to providing real protection for the Palestinian people.”

We note that the Security Council has thus far failed to take concrete steps despite the gravity of the situation. However, General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto’s statement that “the time has come to take firm action if the UN does not want to be rightly accused of complicity by omission” offers a platform for concrete action that should be supported by the Human Rights Council.

It is our considered judgment that the only effective measure the UN Human Rights Council can take under these specific circumstances is to issue a resolution requesting the General Assembly to convene under GA Resolution 377, “Uniting for Peace,” with a view towards the imposition of collective measures against the Israeli Government. We urge this approach having duly considered the implications for the Human Rights Council as well as the human rights of the Palestinian people should Israel again impede or ignore the Council’s interventions. We believe that such a step would halt the escalation of civilian deaths, offer hope to civilians in despair over the political deadlock and ultimately serve the long-term interests of peace.

Sincere regards,

Palestinian Human Rights Community

Al-Haq
Adalah
Arab Association for Human Rights-HRA
Addameer Prisoners’ Support & Human Rights Association
Ad-Dameer Association for Human Rights
Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights
BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency & Refugee Rights
Defence for Children International
Ensan Center for Democracy & Human Rights
Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR)
Jerusalem Legal Aid & Human Rights Center (JLAC)
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)
Palestinian Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession, Musawa
Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies (RCHRS)
Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling (WCLAC)
Women’s Studies Center
The Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations’ Network – PNGO

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it is israel’s lies that perpetuate this bloody, devastating war on innocent gaza civilians. but the world watches, waits, says nothing, does nothing. my students’ words haunt me–that palestinian blood is cheap, that no one cares about them not even other arabs. what do we have to do to get people to care? should the people of gaza convert to judaism? would that make the world care? then they would be jewish and somehow they would count as human beings? maybe then the world would react swiftly and with determination?

too, i can’t help thinking about the political rationale here. of course as i write about all the time the two-state solution is bulls*&^, not possible, and entirely based on a fraudulent process that has consistently disempowered and dispossessed palestinians even more than before. but i have always thought that this process was more like a three state solution: gaza, 1948 palestine, and the west bank. but this utter devastation of gaza makes me feel like maybe they are working for a two state solution by wiping out gaza. if they wipe gaza off the face of the earth then the israeli terrorists can finish off their ethnic cleansing project in 1948 palestine (as i quoted tzipi livni stating last week that this is her intention) and then maybe palestinians can have the prison that is the west bank–22% of it that is. this is what seems to me to be the larger design on palestine right now by the zionist, terrorist, jewish state and its american collaborators.