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by Linda Milazzo
Certainly no person aware of Israel's blockade of goods and services to Gaza, or Israel's devastating bombing of Gaza, would consider Gaza a vacation haven. Gaza is not a place of joy. It’s an overcrowded war-zone populated by more than a million terrified men, women and children. They subsist amidst the rubble caused by Israel's missiles that crushed their homes and killed their loved ones. They inhabit a tiny strip of land that can be driven across in two hours. They have no space for recreation. They have no scenic boulevards and tony cafes. Even their beach is a danger. Their lives are a daily challenge of fear, illness, hunger, anguish, poverty, joblessness, homelessness and physical and emotional wounds.
Israel, on the other hand, which propagates its struggle for survival and its imminent danger as rationale for killing and imprisoning Palestinians, is promoted as a vacation oasis. Witness the glory of Israel from the video below that loops frequently on local Los Angeles TV. No fear, hunger, rubble or homelessness appear in this portrayal of Israel. Only beauty, riches and joy.
Pots of urine, feces on the walls - how IDF troops vandalized Gaza homes
By Amira Hass | Haaretz
GAZA - We had already visited this house, belonging to the Abu Eida family. It is the only one of the family's nine large houses that remained standing at the eastern edge of the city of Jabalya following Operation Cast Lead. The demolition of the family's houses and its four cement factories spells the loss of 40 years of hard work.
One Hebrew word scrawled on a wall tells the story of the 10 days when young Israeli soldiers became the ostensible prison wardens of five people. The youngest is Suheila Masalha, 55; the eldest is her mother Fatma, who is perhaps 85 or 90 or older. The only man is her brother Mohammed, 65, who is paralyzed and dependent on the women of his family. And there were two more women from the Abu Eida family - Rasmiya, 70, who owns the house, and her sister-in-law Na'ama, 56, who is blind.
A confidential EU report accuses the Israeli government of using settlement expansion, house demolitions, discriminatory housing policies and the West Bank barrier as a way of "actively pursuing the illegal annexation" of East Jerusalem.
The document says Israel has accelerated its plans for East Jerusalem, and is undermining the Palestinian Authority's credibility and weakening support for peace talks. "Israel's actions in and around Jerusalem constitute one of the most acute challenges to Israeli-Palestinian peace-making," says the document, EU Heads of Mission Report on East Jerusalem.
Raed al-Atamna's family's six houses were destroyed in the recent Gaza conflict, as well as the cars he uses to earn his living as a taxi driver.
With nearly 3,000 families homeless, rented accommodation is scarce in Gaza - Mr Atamna's pregnant wife and seven children are now staying with relatives, while he sleeps in a corrugated metal shack next to his ruined house.
The Israeli military says it destroyed buildings because of "substantial operational needs", for example because of booby traps or militants in them, but Amnesty International says "wanton destruction" occurred, in violation of international law.
Iranian missiles can now reach Israeli nuclear sites, a top Iranian military commander said yesterday.
"Today, Iran has missiles with the range of 2,000km, and based on that all Israeli land including that regime's nuclear facilities are in the range of our missile capabilities," Revolutionary Guards commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said in comments carried by the ISNA news agency.
However, Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said a breakthrough was possible if negotiations were conducted on an "equal footing" and insisted on Iran's right to nuclear power.
Israel is seriously considering taking unilateral military action to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, according to a report by top US political figures and experts released Wednesday.
The report also says Israel's time frame for action is growing shorter, not only because of Iranian advances, but because Teheran might soon acquire upgraded air defenses and disperse its nuclear program to additional locations.
Donor conference pledges $5B for Gaza, Abbas gov't
By Salah Nasrawi and John Heilprin | Yahoo!News
But the meeting's broader message targeted Hamas, seeking to isolate the Islamic militant movement and force it to compromise in its control of Gaza. Many of the participants — including top diplomats from 45 nations — called for the creation of a Palestinian unity government led by Abbas that would be able to rebuild Gaza and pursue peace negotiations with Israel.
International donors pledged $5.2 billion Monday to rebuild the devastated Gaza Strip and fund the Palestinian government, giving a powerful boost to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and putting new pressure on the rival Hamas militant group to moderate.
Five tunnel workers died Sunday when a tunnel collapsed from heavy rains. One of them was Ahmed Abu Samhadaneh, 20, a second-year university student. He had supported his parents and seven siblings with tunnel work for the past year, as the only breadwinner...."If the border was open, my son would still be alive today,...He wouldn't have to go work in the tunnels."
As top diplomats pledged billions of dollars for war-ravaged Gaza on Monday, ordinary people here — from merchants to housewives — said they'd rather have open borders than handouts.
The labeling as anti-Semitic of anyone critical of the state of Israel’s policies in the continued destruction of Palestinian identity and the increasing domination into American foreign policy no longer has the sting of threat or intimidation it once mastered. For too long this masquerade has been used to silence those opposing anything Israel, shouted at anyone disseminating truth and seeking justice. Like the boy who cried wolf, this charade has lost its power or hypnotic control, and today only serves to breed more anger and resentment against the apologists and smear mongers protecting the cancerous tentacles of Zionism and the crimes against humanity it spawns.
Israeli leaders pledge 'painful' rocket response | MSNBC
Olmert suggests Israel's earlier offensive against Gaza fell short of its goal
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday threatened a "painful" response to Palestinian rocket fire menacing southern Israel, suggesting that Israel's blistering offensive against Gaza Strip militants fell short of its goals.
The prospect of heightened hostilities in Hamas-ruled Gaza cast a pall over a week of crucial diplomatic activity, including an international conference designed to drum up billions of dollars to rebuild the heavily damaged territory. With a new Israeli government to take office within weeks, however, it wasn't clear how sweeping any response would be.
Hamas, the militant Palestinian organisation, attempted to conduct secret talks with the Israeli leadership in the protracted run-up to the recent war in Gaza - with messages being passed from the group at one stage through a member of prime minister Ehud Olmert's family.
Confirmation of attempts to establish a direct line of communication between Hamas and Israel - and the willingness of senior figures in Hamas to contemplate direct negotiations - fundamentally alters the narrative of the build-up to the war in Gaza which claimed more than 1,300 Palestinian lives and led to about a dozen Israeli deaths.
Maamon Khozendar, chairman of Khozendar and Sons Company Ltd., is one of Gaza's most successful industrialists. He's a petroleum importer, and executes major construction projects around the Palestinian enclave.
What he'd most like to do now is help his fellow Gazans recover from the devastating 22-day war that came to an uncertain pause in late January. But rebuilding and rehabilitating Gaza requires the basics of the construction industry – cement and steel – that Israel will not allow in through their border crossings.
His dilemma presents a window into a core challenge faced by Palestinians and international donors as they gather in Egypt on Monday to pledge funds for postwar reconstruction.
The disproportionate and indiscriminate actions by Israeli forces during Operation Cast Lead rightly earned Israel's leaders international opprobrium, and in some cases the verbal outrage was backed by concrete sanctions. Having last year declared an upgrading of relations with Israel, the EU decided last month to put the process on hold in the wake of the carnage in Gaza.
Israel blocks pasta shipment to Gaza, and tensions boil
By Dion Nissenbaum | McClatchy Newspapers
For more than seven weeks, the international aid group Mercy Corps has been trying to send 90 tons of macaroni to the isolated Gaza Strip as part of a global campaign to help the 1.4 million Palestinians there rebuild their lives after Israel's recent devastating 22-day military operation.
Israel, which controls most of what goes into and out of Gaza, has said no repeatedly.
At first, Israeli officials said that they wanted to make sure that the macaroni wasn't destined for a Hamas charity. Then they said macaroni was banned because they didn't consider it an essential food item.
On Wednesday, days after American lawmakers raised pointed questions about the macaroni ban, Israeli authorities said that they were preparing to give the pasta a green light.
The US is likely to boycott a UN racism conference, reports say, saying a text drawn up for the event criticises Israel and restricts free of speech.
An unnamed state department official said the draft document for April's forum in Geneva was "unsalvageable".
Canada and Israel have also said they plan to boycott the meeting.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak says he advocates a war on Iran, following the country's successful test-runs at the Bushehr power plant.
Tehran edged closer towards the final launch of a light-water reactor in the southern port of Bushehr on Wednesday, after it staged pre-commission operations at the 1000-megawatt reactor.
Simulated fuel rods made of lead were reportedly used instead of virtual nuclear fuel in the pilot operation, which was launched in the presence of Iranian and Russian dignitaries -- including Russian nuclear agency chief Sergei Kiriyenko.
While the incident was hailed in Iran as a huge leap in the construction of the country's first power reactor, the test-run immediately raised hackles in Israel.
In recent days, four key developments have clicked in to edge Iran and Israel much closer to a military denouement with profound consequences for American oil that the nation is not prepared to meet.
What has happened?
Bibi Netanyahus assumption of power in Israel sets the stage for a huge campaign by the Israeli government, and its well-oiled lobby groups in Washington, to push us into a war with Iran.
Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program, according to U.S. and European intelligence agencies. But reality rarely impedes on politics. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama, along with Netanyahu, all talk as if Iran is on the brink of dropping the big one on the Jewish state.
Netanyahu on Friday named Iran as Israels main threat after he was called to form a new government following the Feb. 20 elections.
Ex-Lobbyists in U.S. Case of Espionage Win a Round
By Neil A. Lewis | NY Times | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled in favor of two former lobbyists for a pro-Israeli advocacy group in deciding how much classified information they may use in their defense on espionage charges.
A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, based in Richmond, Va., ruled against the government and in favor of the defendants, Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, whose trial is now scheduled for April. The appeals court also refused to entertain the government’s objections to a series of formidable hurdles to a conviction put in place by the trial judge.
Targeting Israel with Boycotts, Divestment, Sanctions, and Prosecutions
by Stephen Lendman
Enough is enough. After 61 years of Palestinian slaughter, displacement, occupation, oppression, and international dismissiveness and complicity, global action is essential. Israel must be held accountable. World leaders won't do it, so grassroots movements must lead the way.
In 2004, Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote:
"The end of apartheid stands as one of the crowning accomplishments of the past century, but we would not have succeeded without the help of international pressure - in particular the divestment movement of the 1980s. Over the past six months, a similar movement has taken shape, this time aiming at an end to the Israeli occupation."
On Friday, 16 January, Mohammed Shurrab and his two sons, Kassab and Ibrahim, took advantage of the daily lull in the Israeli assault – the ‘three hours’ promised by the IDF – to travel from their plot of land in the eastern part of the Gaza Strip back to their home in Khan Younis. They were driving a red Land Rover. On the road, soldiers in a tank waved them on. Later, in the village of Al Fukhari, in a street lined with small houses and gardens, their vehicle was shot at by soldiers stationed on the roof of a local home. Kassab was killed instantly. Ibrahim lay bleeding beside his father; he died at midnight. Mohammed Shurrab had called for help on his cellphone, but the army prevented ambulances from entering the area until 23 hours after the shooting. The closest hospital was two minutes’ drive away.
But the fallout from attacking yet another country on false pretexts is unfathomable. This is why Americans observing mainstream pundits and assorted ideologues trumpeting the current course of the long-delayed AIPAC espionage trial as a victory for freedom of the press should ponder this: is it really in our best interests that Israel and its American lobby be empowered to classify or declassify American secrets at their whim?
On Feb. 17, Judge T.S. Ellis added a new twist in the case of two former American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) executives indicted under the 1917 Espionage Act. In what the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Secrecy News describe as a major blow to the prosecution, Judge Ellis ruled [.pdf] that J. William Leonard can testify on behalf of the defendants when they go to trial on April 21, 2009.
Israel’s Attack on Gaza: Legitimate Self Defense or War Crime?
A two-part International Lawyers Without Borders interview with Dr Franklin Lamb | 7 February 2009 | Dissident Voice
Part I: What Law Applies?
Interviewer’s Note: On December 27, 2008, Israel launched a devastating 22 day and night bombardment of the Gaza strip. The assault left, amidst an estimated 600,000 tons of concrete rubble, some 1,740 dead (this figure includes more than 350 ‘forgotten’ stillbirths and trauma-caused abortions in Gaza during the 22 days of terror), a figure that increases as the severely injured continue to die. A majority of the victims were civilians, including nearly 900 (again including the stillborn) children, approximately 5,500 severely wounded, and more than one third of the 1.5 million population was displaced while more than 14,000 homes were completely destroyed. Approximately 92,000 Palestinians are still homeless with more than 16,000 living as many as 20 to a small tent without latrines, as supplies remain blocked at the borders.
Single-limb fractures and the walking wounded are not included in the above figures, according to renowned British surgeon Dr. Swee Ang, currently conducting an on-the-ground medical investigation in Gaza. Dr. Swee and her medical colleagues estimate that of the severely injured, 1,600 will suffer permanent disabilities. These include amputations, spinal cord injuries, head injuries, and large burns with crippling contractures.
Also bombed were 68 government buildings and 31 NGO complexes, buildings all of which were completely or partially destroyed. Property damage and loss of livelihood has been estimated at close to 2 billion dollars.
On February 4, 2009, the Government of France strongly protested Israel’s refusal to allow in donated filtration equipment for drinking water, given that much of Gaza’s population have not had clean drinking water for weeks. As the massive human and material destruction continues to be documented by journalists, investigators and relief workers, the international pressure for accountability increases.
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AFP) — The Palestinian Authority urged the US president on Monday to press Israel to scrap a plan to raze almost 90 homes in annexed Arab east Jerusalem.
"We call on President Barack Obama to intervene personally to have this project stopped," said Yasser Abed Rabbo, one of the main aides of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
The Palestinian owners of 88 houses in the Silwan neighbourhood have received eviction notices saying that the structures will be destroyed because they were built or expanded without the necessary permits. The move would affect about 1,500 people.
"It is a massacre that Israel will commit in this Holy City," Abed Rabbo told a news conference, calling for "urgent Arab and international action to halt this dangerous project."
He said some of the houses affected by the orders had been built before Israel captured east Jerusalem from Jordan during the 1967 Six-Day War.
A new report released just hours ago reveals that U.S.-made white phosphorus artillery shells among other U.S. weapons were found throughout Gaza. When white phosphorus munitions are used in densely-populated civilian areas as Israel has, it violates international humanitarian law’s prohibition on indiscriminate attacks and amounts to a war crime.
In light of this new finding, we are urging Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to immediately call for:
* an investigation into Israel’s use of U.S. arms in Gaza
* a suspension of U.S. military aid to Israel and
* to urge the United Nations to impose an arms embargo on all parties in the conflict
Samia Salman Al-Manay'a, 16 years old, was asleep in her home in the Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza, when a phosphorus shell landed on the first floor of the house on January10th. Ten days later, from her hospital bed, she spoke to our delegation.
"The pain is piercing. It's as though a fire is burning in my body. It's too much for me to bear. In spite of all the medicine they are giving me the pain is still so strong."
George Galloway on Gaza
Can Gaza Be Rebuilt Through Tunnels?
The Blockade Continues—No Supplies, No Rebuilding
By Ann Wright, retired U.S. Army Reserve Colonel and former U.S. diplomat
How do you rebuild 5,000 homes, businesses and government buildings when the only way supplies come into the prison called Gaza is through tunnels. Will the steel I-beams for roofs bend 90 degrees to go through the tunnels from Egypt? Will the tons of cement, lumber, roofing materials, nails, dry wall and paint be hauled by hand, load after load, 70 feet underground, through a tunnel 500 to 900 feet long and then pulled up a 70 foot hole and put into waiting truck in Gaza?
An Arab League official said Saturday that a league mission was heading to Gaza to investigate allegations that Israel committed war crimes during its recent offensive against Hamas.
League spokesman Hisham Youssef said the mission would prepare a detailed report for league head Amr Moussa and take the necessary legal procedures.
Once You See What Truly Happened in Gaza, It Will Change You Forever
By Medea Benjamin | Alternet
What I saw was like a form of collective punishment, leaving behind a trail of grieving mothers, angry fathers and traumatized children.
When I traveled to Gaza last week, everywhere I went, a photo haunted me. I saw it in a brochure called "Gaza will not die" that Hamas gives out to visitors at the border crossing. A poster-sized version was posted outside a makeshift memorial at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. And now that I am back home, the image comes to me when I look at children playing in the park, when I glance at the school across the street, when I go to sleep at night.
RAMALLAH, Feb 17 (IPS) - Israel is bracing for a wave of lawsuits accusing the Jewish state of substantial human rights violations during its 22-day military assault on Gaza which left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead and nearly 5,000 wounded, more than half of them civilian.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have confirmed that phosphorous bombs were used over Gaza. It is against international law to use phosphorous in densely crowded civilian areas.
According to Amnesty, Israel tanks also fired flechettes, 4cm long metal darts in civilian neighbourhoods. Shells containing 5,000 to 8,000 flechettes explode in the air and scatter in a conical pattern over an area about 300m wide and 100m long.