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If you want to be discouraged about the prospects for Israel/Palestine peace during the Obama Administration, you don't have any shortage of evidence you can cite; you never do. But if you want to look for openings, the situation already looks much better than it did just over a week ago. Is there a "window" for peace? If so, are Americans ready to push the Obama Administration for the changes needed in U.S. policy to bring peace about?
Israel had to end its bombardment of Gaza by the January 20 "hope and change deadline," as Jon Stewart had predicted.
President Obama appointed former Senator Mitchell as his envoy for Israel/Palestine diplomacy. It is widely perceived that Mitchell will be fair - you might think that this would be an obvious requirement, but in the recent history of U.S. policy, it would be an innovation.
Israel Killed Everything but the Will to Resist
by Stephen Lendman
" 'Freedom or death', is the popular Palestinian mantra," wrote Palestine Chronicle Editor-in-Chief Ramzy Baroud in his January 22 article titled "Breaking Gaza's Will: Israel's Enduring Fantasy."
Three weeks of Israeli terror caused about 1400 deaths, over 5500 injured (many seriously), vast destruction throughout Gaza, and Physicians for Human Rights warning that large numbers of wounded may die because hospitals are overloaded and lack basic supplies. Yet Palestinians endure. Their spirit is unbowed and unbroken. Hamas is more popular than ever, and world outrage sustains them.
Gaza Villages Wiped Off The Map
The human rights framework has been given a prominent role in what is perhaps today’s most intractable and contentious debate—that which surrounds the ongoing conflict in Gaza. Human rights can be found, explicit or implied, within the foundation and supporting evidence of many arguments on both sides of the debate. Appeals to human rights are passionately and persuasively used to condemn the actions of the opponent and justify the position of the favored side. The appeals are often underscored by heartbreaking narratives and photographs that grace the daily news.
As a 19-year-old Israeli soldier, Ari Folman took part in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon and was on duty in Beirut during the notorious massacres in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. Just a week ago, Waltz with Bashir, the animated documentary film Folman directed in which he explores his own nightmarish, half-suppressed memories of that period, was given its first underground screening in Lebanon -- not far, in fact, from Hezbollah headquarters in southern Beirut -- though the film is officially banned in that country. It has also been screened in Palestinian Ramallah and is reportedly soon to be shown in the Arab Gulf states. It has already won six Israeli Academy Awards, best foreign film at the Golden Globes, and is now nominated for an Oscar as best foreign film.
At this moment, when the Israeli assault on Gaza has ended in catastrophic destruction and death, director Folman's remarkable voyage -- he calls it a "bad acid trip" -- into the oblivion of war trauma and the horrific recent history of the Middle East is as stunning, moving, and unnerving an experience as anything you'll see this year, or perhaps any year. A no less remarkable graphic memoir, Waltz with Bashir, was developed in tandem with the film. It will be in your bookstores in a couple of weeks, but can be ordered in advance by clicking here. Not surprisingly, the book and film have some of the impact that the first "graphic novel," Art Spiegelman's MAUS, had when it came out in 1986, and that assessment comes from the fellow -- me, to be exact -- who published MAUS back then.
The single best piece on Waltz with Bashir and its relevance to the recent invasion of Gaza was written by Gary Kamiya of Salon.com. He concludes: "Of course, Israel's moral culpability for the 1982 massacre [in Sabra and Shatila] is not the same as its moral responsibility for the civilians killed in the current war. But there are painful similarities. Sooner or later the patriotic war fervor will fade, and Israelis will realize that their leaders sent them to kill hundreds of innocent people for nothing. And perhaps in 2036, some haunted filmmaker will release 'Waltz With Hamas.'"
Given the power and timeliness of this thoughtful, dreamlike memoir from a living hell, it's a particular honor for TomDispatch to be releasing two long excerpts, exclusively, over the next two Saturdays. Thanks go to Metropolitan Books, the book's publisher, for allowing it to happen. I hope what follows stuns and intrigues you. Keep an eye out for part 2 next Saturday. Tom
"We Will Not Go Down" by Michael Heart
Isn't 60 years of suffering and survival enough to convince Olmert that the will of the Palestinians cannot be broken? How many heaps of wreckage and mutilated bodies will be enough to convince the prime minister that those who fight for their freedom will either be free or will die trying? Asks Ramzy Baroud.
My three-year-old son Sammy walked into my room uninvited as I sorted through another batch of fresh photos from Gaza.
I was looking for a specific image, one that would humanise Palestinians as living, breathing human beings, neither masked nor mutilated. But to no avail.
UN fears 'systematic war crimes' by Israel | Middle East Online
UN Special Rapporteur on human rights says 'unlawful targets have been selected' by Israel.
GENEVA - A UN human rights expert on Thursday said Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip during its recent offensive there raised "the spectre of systematic war crimes" and needed to be investigated.
The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Territories, Richard Falk, said he had little doubt about the "unavoidably inhuman character of a large scale military operation of the sort that Israel has initiated... against an essentially defenceless population."
Falk told journalists that Israeli military operations in the densely populated territory among a population weakened by an 18 month blockade "raises the spectre of systematic war crimes."
"Unlawful targets have been selected" during the fighting, he said.
"The psychopath, in this case the pro-Israel apologist, feels no compunction about lying to justify the torture and mass murder of a defenceless civilian population because in his dissociative mental state he sees no connection between himself and his victim."
(THE SCENE: A graduate seminar in political psychology at a Canadian University. The professor enters and takes his place at the end of a medium-sized oblong table)
Professor: “Good morning, and welcome to Aberrant Political Psychology. I’m Professor Langston. Before we begin, a show of hands—how many of you are taking this course because you want to know what makes people become evil? (A few hands go up.) Hmm. You’ll save yourself and this class a lot of aggravation if you leave right now and sign up for a Bible study course. ‘Evil’ is a moral absolute found only in the simplistic, zero-sum world of religion and American movies. It has no place in a rational investigation of the human mind.”
"I tend to think Obama is up to the task of repairing all the destruction brought about in a mere eight years by George Bush. But, as we always must ask, does he have the political will to do so?"
One wonders, looking at America after eight years of George W. Bush's destructive policies and actions, why anyone would want to go through the struggle to win the presidency. A quick survey of the United States among the world's nations should be enough to discourage anyone from wanting to wade through the cesspool of a presidential campaign only to find a congregation of crocodiles waiting at its end.
From its high point shortly after the 9/11 attacks, when the sympathy of the civilized world was with us, America's image around the world has been systematically shredded by Bush and his cabal of neocons, along with other assorted right-wing policymakers.
The International Committee of the Red Cross is warning that despite a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, unexploded munitions in Gaza remain a threat.
Unexploded ordnance left in the wake of Israel's military campaign targeting Hamas militants are scattered around Gaza. ICRC officials say with the cease-fire in place, a number of people, especially children, are leaving their homes for the first time, running the risk of being killed or maimed by unexploded munitions scattered in civilian areas, the ICRC reported.
Gaza recovery in doubt as Israel pressures Hamas
By Adam Entous and Nidal al-Mughrabi | Reuters
Israel all but ruled out on Friday a full reopening of border crossings with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip any time soon, leaving a shaky ceasefire and post-war reconstruction in doubt.
While a U.N. official praised Israel's "goodwill" for letting some 120 truckloads per day of food and medicine into Gaza, diplomats decried restrictions on steel, cement and cash imports needed to make repairs from Israel's 22-day offensive.
Barring a swift change in Israeli policy, a senior Western diplomat said the emergency response and long-term reconstruction were "bound to fail."
Assessing the Aftermath in Gaza
Mosques Not Spared in Gaza War
Israel's prime minister has assembled a team to defend the country against charges of war crimes in its recent offensive against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.
Ehud Olmert asked Israeli Justice Minister Daniel Friedman Thursday to lead an inter-ministerial team to prepare legal defenses for Israeli officials and military personnel.
Israeli Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz warned earlier this week that Israel may face a wave of international lawsuits over its 22-day offensive, which ended Sunday.
U.N. human rights expert Richard Falk said Thursday there is evidence that Israel violated humanitarian law by conducting the offensive, "against an essentially defenseless population." He called for an independent investigation to see if Israel committed war crimes.
Israel, Palestinian Authority Welcome Obama Plans for Peace
By Robert Berger | Voice of America
Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank have welcomed President Obama's announcement that he will "aggressively" pursue peace in the Middle East.
"It must instill in us a sense of urgency, as history shows us that strong and sustained American engagement can bridge divides and build the capacity that supports progress," he said.
Mr. Obama appointed former senator George Mitchell as Mideast envoy and said he would visit the region soon.
A new start with the Muslim world, as pledged by President Obama in his inaugural speech, has a sine qua non: a Palestinian settlement, a quest that has eluded the last five U.S. presidents. Following Israel's invasion of Gaza and its 22-day campaign of airstrikes, tank and artillery bombardment that left 1,300 Palestinians killed for the loss of only 13 Israeli soldiers, a Palestinian state remains a diplomatic chimera.
Yes, we now know the ever grimmer statistics: more than 1,400 dead Gazans (and rising as bodies are dug out of the rubble); 5,500 wounded; hundreds of children killed; 4,000 to 5,000 homes destroyed and 20,000 damaged -- 14% of all buildings in Gaza; 50,000 or more homeless; 400,000 without water; 50 U.N. facilities, 21 medical facilities, 1,500 factories and workshops, and 20 mosques reportedly damaged or destroyed; the smashed schools and university structures; the obliterated government buildings; the estimated almost two billion dollars in damage; all taking place on a blockaded strip of land 25 miles long and 4 to 7.5 miles wide that is home to a staggering 1.4 million people.
Rafah--Traffic on Sea Street, a major thoroughfare alongside Gaza's coastline, includes horses, donkeys pulling carts, cyclists, pedestrians, trucks and cars, mostly older models. Overhead, in stark contrast to the street below, Israel's ultra modern unmanned surveillance planes criss-cross the skies. F16s and helicopters can also be heard. Remnants of their deliveries, the casings of missiles, bombs and shells used during the past three weeks of Israeli attacks, are scattered on the ground.
Workers have cleared most of the roads. Now, they are removing massive piles of wreckage and debris, much as people do following an earthquake.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says it will open an investigation into Israel's alleged use of depleted uranium during the 22-day offensive in the Gaza Strip.
Wednesday's announcement came after Arab nations sent a letter to Mohammed ElBaradei, the IAEA director-general, asking the UN agency to investigate whether the controversial munitions were used in the war, which left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead.
Dr. Atallah, a physician in Gaza, invited us to meet him in his home in Gaza City, just a few blocks away from the Shifaa Hospital.
Early this morning, he and his family returned to their home after having fled five days earlier when the bombing attacks on Gaza City had become so fierce that they feared for their lives. "Believe me, when I would drive from the hospital to the place where my family was staying, I prayed all the way," said Dr. Atallah, "because the Israelis would shoot anyone on the roads at night."
Al Nakba Redux
by Stephen Lendman
For Palestinians, the Nakba "Catastrophe" is their "Holocaust" six-month slaughter and displacement before and after the May 1948 establishment of Israel. In December 1947, Jews in Palestine numbered 600,000 compared to 1.3 million Palestinians. David Ben-Gurion ordered them removed and for "Every attack....to end with occupation, destruction and expulsion."
He meant depopulation, destruction, mass slaughter, displacement, and erasing a proud people's history. Palestine was to become Israel. Most of the job was completed, more in 1967, and thereafter incrementally until total dispossession is achieved. Gaza is the latest battleground. More ahead is planned. The struggle for liberation continues.
In all respects, Gaza's situation is dysfunctional and calamitous. Consider the dire medical state alone.
On Monday, a group called Jews Against the Occupation staged a protest against Israel’s invasion of Gaza blocks away outside the Israeli consulate in New York. Among those protesting was renowned playwright and screenwriter Tony Kushner. Kushner won a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award for his play Angels in America, which was later made into an award-winning television mini-series. “The policy, on the part of the Israeli government, of reoccupation of Gaza seems to me catastrophically misguided,” Kushner says. “I can’t imagine this is not going to continue to be bloody and a violation of human rights.”
The World Has Lost Its Conscience
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT 5:10 mins.
I do not like Hamas. I detest religious fundamentalism and the use of suicide bombers. I find the group's anti-Semitism and ruthless silencing of internal Palestinian opponents repugnant. The rocket attacks on Israeli civilians are a war crime. But this does not negate the legitimacy of Palestinian resistance to the long Israeli siege and occupation of Gaza.
The moral scum of any society rises to the surface in war. Those who have a penchant for violence and an access to weapons dominate the landscape. It was the criminal class and gangsters who first organized the defense of Sarajevo. It was the thugs of Gaza who took control to confront the Israeli army. This is nothing new in wartime. Violence is a disease, a disease that corrupts all who use it regardless of the cause. But there are moments when a people face the terrible tragedy of resistance or obliteration. This was true in Sarajevo. It is true for the Palestinians. It does not make it pretty or good. It is what happens.
Today in Solidarity We're All Palestinians
by Stephen Lendman
World outrage continues over Israeli war crimes and Washington's complicity. Gazans are now immortalized. Hamas is more popular than ever and remains resolute despite everything the IDF threw against it.
Democrats and Republicans share equal guilt. They fund Israeli state terror, are partnered in its aggression, and have collaboratively planned, supported, and/or agreed to it for the past 41 years. Continuity under Obama is assured. The current Gaza carnage is the worst since 1967. In spite of its "unilateral" ceasefire, sporadic Israeli attacks continue. The IDF merely redeployed. Gaza remains under siege, and human suffering is overwhelming and unrelieved.
ISRAEL THE MIGHTY
by Rick Burnley
Hey there, Israel the Mighty,
It seems you've lost your way,
And by the time you've finished with your blitzkrieg,
You're going to have Hell to pay
The Palestinians Say: 'This Is a War of Extermination'
by Ahdaf Soueif | Guardian UK
Everyone says something new is going on here; something different. The residents of Egyptian Rafah are used to the sounds of rockets and shells exploding on the other side of their border, but they've never heard the sounds they've been hearing over the last 20 days. Twenty-five miles further into Egypt the general hospital at el-Arish is used to receiving the Palestinian wounded. The staff have never seen injuries like these before. The hospital forecourt is swarming with ambulances, paramedics, press. The wounded are raced into casualty.
The Palestinians are mostly silent; each man working out where he finds himself and what he's going to do. Fearing for their wounded and fearing for those they've left behind, they are silent but unfailingly courteous.
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT INSIDE