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By John Grant
All we are saying is give peace a chance
- John Lennon
Whether war or cooperation is the more dominant trait of humanity is one of the oldest questions in human discourse. There are no satisfying answers for either side exclusively, which seems to suggest the answer is in the eternal nature of the debate itself.
Today, President Barack Obama addressed the United Nations. Much of his talk concerned the current situation in Syria, but he also touched on the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Yet even Mr. Obama’s pretty words and soaring oratory were unable to camouflage his extreme pro-Israel bias, as he spouted nonsense that he and his predecessors have all said before. A look at just a few of his statements is informative.
- “I’ve made it clear that the United States will never compromise our commitment to Israel’s security, nor our support for its existence as a Jewish state.”
This apparently means that, unlike Syria, which isn’t allowed by the U.S. to use chemical weapons, the U.S.’s commitment to Israel is unconditional: Israel can commit the most shocking and brutal human rights violations, and the U.S. will still continue to give it billions of dollars every year.
Obama Ignores Israel's War on Palestine
by Stephen Lendman
Obama intends lawless aggression on Syria. He does so based on lies. At the same time, he ignores the worst of Israeli crimes.
They occur daily during sham peace talks. In late August, Israeli forces killed three Palestinians. They wounded 18 others. Five children were hurt.
By John Grant
Watching the White House squirm over the on-going massacres in Egypt one doesn’t know whether to laugh, cry or resort to the vaudevillian method and throw rotten vegetables at them.
President Obama's “condemnation” of the Egyptian military’s massacre of civilians sounded like obligatory ass-covering. Then there was the slippery boiler-plate verbiage spouted by the White House’s new spokesman with the wonderfully apropos name of Josh Earnest. I wouldn't josh you, that's his name. And trust me, he’s the personification of earnestness.
By Pam Bailey and Medea Benjamin
It unfortunately has become a truism that when Egypt sneezes, Gaza catches a cold. Fearful of the "terrorist elements" automatically associated with Hamas, the governing party in Gaza, neighbouring Egypt is quick to shut what amounts to "prison gates" at the first sign of turmoil either inside or outside the densely populated strip. Israel keeps its own crossings into Gaza on permanent lock-down, with permitted traffic a bare trickle, while also prohibiting travel by air and sea.
The current unrest in Egypt is no exception. As the world sits on the edge of its seat, polarised in its debate about whether the ouster of Mohammed Morsi was really a coup and what will happen next, the 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza are paying the price.
A report on June 11, 2013 from Reuters calls Richard Falk, the United Nations human rights investigator for Palestine, ‘embattled’, apparently because he has once again refused to dance to the U.S.-Israel tune. At a forum of the U.N. Human Rights Council, he called for an inquiry into what he sees as the torture of Palestinians in Israeli custody. The U.S., of course, with its own shocking record of torturing its political prisoners in Guantanamo, Iraq, and who knows where else, boycotted the debate. Israel did the same, accusing the forum of anti-Israel bias.
One knows things are bad in Palestine when even Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, known for his brutal heavy-handiness against the Palestinians, has to decry what he calls ‘acts of hooliganism’ against them. These behaviors, known as price-tag attacks, are committed against Palestinians and Israeli security forces by Jewish youth living in violation of international law in Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. The point, apparently, is to extract a ‘price’ for actions taken against their illegal settlements. What actions Israeli security forces are taking, or have taken, were not mentioned.
The United States balances its endless war of terrorism with the institution of an endless "peace process" for Palestine, a process valuable for its peaceyness and interminability.
Josh Ruebner's new book, Shattered Hopes: The Failure of Obama's Middle East Peace Process, could just as easily have been called "Fulfilled Expectations: The Success of Obama's Middle East Peace Process," depending on one's perspective. Its story could be summarized: Obama's performance in this area has been of a piece with his performance in every other. Some people became very hopeful about his rhetoric and then very dejected about his actions.
In this case, among those getting hopeful were Palestinian negotiators. But they didn't just grow depressed and despondent. They felt no obligation to behave like Democratic voters. They swore off the Hopium and went to work on an international approach through the United Nations that has begun to pay off.
Obama began his "peace process" efforts "naively unprepared for the intensity of the pushback from Israel and its supporters in the United States to its demand that Israel freeze settlements," Ruebner writes. But evidence of Obama's mental state is hard to pin down, and I'm not sure of the relevance. Whether Obama began with naive good intentions or the same cynicism that he was, by all accounts, fully immersed in by his second or third year in office, the important point remains the same. As Ruebner explains, Obama employs an all-carrots / no-sticks approach with Israel that is doomed to failure.
In fact, suggesting that the White House cease providing Israel with ever more weaponry and/or cease providing Israel with ever more protection from justice following its crimes is liable to get Ruebner himself denounced as naive, along with the rest of us who think he's right. Obama's fundamental problem is not one of naiveté, but of "seriousness," of upholding the solemn seriousness of willful belief in a respectable but doomed approach. If Obama was surprised that Palestinian negotiators didn't play along with this the way U.S. "journalists" do, that would suggest he had internalized the official point of view. Whether that is naiveté or deep cynicism may be in the eye of the beholder.
Ruebner provides the chronological play-by-play from Obama's first happy shiny moves in office to his familiar flailing about in search of propaganda that would continue to hold up year after year. And Ruebner includes analysis of what activists were up to along the way.
In fact, Ruebner begins with Obama's campaign promises, which -- upon close inspection -- prove, as with every other issue, to have been much closer to the President's abysmal performance than to the glowing image people recall of his early hope-and-changey self. Obama campaigned placing all blame on Palestinians, supporting Jerusalem as Israel's undivided capital, backing resolutions and legislation in the Senate imposing sanctions on Palestinians as punishment for having held an open election, and supporting Israel during its wars on Lebanon and Gaza. Obama's speeches and his website made his position clear to those inclined to see it. Boycott campaigns against the Israeli government were, according to him, "bigoted."
As with every other area, on peace in Palestine, Obama's disastrous approach could also have been read clearly from his selection of individuals to run his foreign policy team. During the transition period prior to his inauguration, Obama took positions on many foreign policy matters, but when it came to the ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza, he declared himself unable to speak prior to becoming president.
Watching the sequence of events play out post-inauguration is painful. Obama urges an end to Israel's expansion of settlements. Netanyahu suggests that Obama, with all due respect, stick his proposals where the sun don't shine. But Netanyahu backs "statehood" (someday, with no rights or power or independence or actual -- you know -- statehood) for Palestinians, but proceeds to rapidly expand settlements, effectively eliminating territory on which to create any state. Obama announces that victory has come and help is on the way!
Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave up on freezing settlements and announced that slowing the pace of the expansion would be an "unprecedented" accomplishment -- a claim that was less credible to people who had lived and suffered through many such claims before. As reward for the same lawless abuses as always, Israel received from the Obama administration more weaponry than ever, and a veto of a resolution at the United Nations opposing more Israeli settlements.
Ruebner rightly concludes:
"Obama's failure to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace resulted not only from his unwillingness to go to the mat with the Israel lobby over the issue of fully freezing Israeli settlements, not only from the scattershot, frenetic lurching of his policy initiatives thereafter. Obama also foundered because his approach relied solely on providing Israel with carrots. With the trivial exceptions of denying Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu photo-ops at the White House on a few occasions and reportedly forcing him to wait for several hours before a meeting, Obama never brandished the proverbial stick. But these personal insults did nothing to create incentives for Israel to cease openly and brazenly defying U.S. policy objectives."
Hope is so much more popular than reality. But Ruebner is full of hope. He holds it out there in front of us. All that's required is a little actually useful action:
"[I]f the United States were to pull its backing for Israel's oppression of the Palestinians, then Israeli intransigence would melt away in the historical blink of an eye, as it did when President Dwight Eisenhower terminated all U.S. aid programs to Israel after it invaded and occupied the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula in 1956."
How do we get there? Part of the answer, Ruebner persuasively suggests is Boycott-Divestment-and-Sanctions (BDS), a movement that is making great strides, including in changing the public discourse, altering the sorts of things that even U.S. politicians can get away with claiming with a straight face.
It isn’t unusual to hear Israeli spokespeople talk about the various threats to Israel’s survival. The current bugaboo is Syria, which has displaced Iran only due to the current violent turmoil in Syria. But it is only a matter of time until Israel turns its attention to Iran, depicting that nation as the big bad wolf, just waiting for the right opportunity to chomp down and destroy poor, vulnerable Israel.
Google Recognizes Palestinian Statehood
by Stephen Lendman
On May 1, Google recognized Palestine. It did so on its homepage. Earlier it referred to "The Palestinian Territories." More on that below.
On January 4, Abbas' presidential decree acknowledged the State of Palestine. It followed gaining UN nonmember observer status.
Two recent, but seemingly unrelated, news articles are worth reviewing more carefully, to see a common thread.
The first concerns remarks made by special rapporteur with the UN Human Rights Council, Richard Falk. Following the horrific bombing at the Boston Marathon, Mr. Falk said this: “…the United States has been fortunate not to experience worse blowbacks, and these may yet happen, especially if there is no disposition to rethink U.S. relations to others in the world, starting with the Middle East.”
An Israeli Apology Means Little to the Families of the Nine Passengers Murdered on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla
They Demand That the Israeli Blockade of Gaza Be Lifted
By Ann Wright
Representatives of IHH, the international humanitarian organization that organized the passengers on the Mavi Marmara in the 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla, have told the author that families of the nine murdered by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) commandos on May 31, 2010, consider the “apology” of the Israeli government to the Turkish government as meaning very little until the Israeli government lifts the blockade on Gaza.
Commemorating Land Day
by Stephen Lendman
On March 30, Palestinians worldwide observe Land Day. They've done so since 1976.
Nationwide protests and general strike action erupted. At issue was Israel's land confiscation policy and brutal occupation harshness.
Just a US Citizen, No Big Deal: Obama Doesn’t Demand Israeli Apology for Killing of an American Youth
By Dave Lindorff
The American media is full of praise for President Obama for “brokering” a detente between Israel and Turkey, two former allies who have been at loggerheads since May 31, 2010 when heavily armed Israeli Defense Force fighters boarded the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish-flagged vessel seeking to break Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza with non-military supplies, and killed nine unarmed peace flotilla activists.
Brussels, Sunday March 17th 2013
The Russell Tribunal on Palestine ends its 4-year examination of third party complicity in Israeli violations of International Law.
The Tribunal concludes that it will support all initiatives from civil society and international organisations aimed at bringing Israel in front of the International Criminal Court. It calls for the ICC to recognise Palestinian jurisdiction and for the organisation of a special session of the United Nations General Assembly on Israeli Apartheid.
Other key Recommendations issued by the Tribunal include:
- A reconstitution of the United Nations Special Committee on Apartheid
- Further criminal investigations of corporations aiding and abetting Israeli violations such as the police raid on the Dutch construction equipment company Riwal 
- The establishment of an international committee of former Political Prisoners to campaign on Prisoner issues
- To support civil society in using the tribunal’s findings to undertake direct actions aimed at confronting state, institutional and corporate complicity with Israel’s crimes.
By Ron Ridenour
Yes, I mean it: the worst ever!
We’ve had James Monroe and his doctrine of supremacy over Latin America. We’ve had Theodore Roosevelt and his invasion of Cuba; Nixon, Reagan, Bush-Bush and their mass murder, and all the war crimes and genocide committed by most presidents. Yes, but we never had a black man sit on the white throne of imperialism committing war crimes.
West Bank Village Struggles to Survive
by Stephen Lendman
Batir is special. Its heritage is longstanding. It's been that way for centuries. It's one of Palestine's most beautiful villages.
It's built around natural spring water. It's dotted by wells and reservoirs. Traditional agriculture is its way of life. Villagers want it kept that way.
By Gareth Porter, IPS
PA Recognizes Palestinian Statehood
by Stephen Lendman
Mahmoud Abbas is a longtime Israeli collaborator. It took him 24 years to acknowledge it. More on that below.
Palestinian statehood existed since November 15, 1988. It was proclaimed in Algiers. The PLO adopted the Palestinian Declaration of Independence.
No Relief for Palestine in New Year
by Stephen Lendman
Gaza remains isolated under siege. No relief in sight looms. Occupation harshness is policy. Peace is a four-letter word.
Dominant Israeli hardliners scorn it. So does Washington. Violence and instability advance their agenda. Conflict will continue in 2013. So will Palestinian suffering.
The Larger Question of Chuck Hagel
Editor Note: The up-in-the-air nomination of Chuck Hagel to be Defense Secretary has become a test of whether the Israel Lobby can still shoot down an American public servant who is deemed insufficiently passionate regarding Israel, a test that now confronts President Obama, says ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.
By Ray McGovern
The Israel Lobby is hell bent on sabotaging President Barack Obama’s tentative plan to appoint former Sen. Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense. And – with Obama now dithering about this selection – the Lobby and its neocon allies sense another impending victory.
By Joshua Brollier
“The problems started for me at eighteen,” Madleen Kulab said quietly, sitting just meters from the shore of the Mediterranean. “The police and port authorities did not want me to sail as a woman.” Though Madleen has emerged from this recent challenge, receiving a permanent permission to fish from the Gazan Interior Ministry, this is not the first hardship she has stared down and overcome in her lifetime.
As Gaza’s only professional fisherwoman, Madleen’s sailing career began at an early age. Her father, Mahrous Kulab, taught her how to fish from the time she was six years old. “I went with my father from six years to thirteen. Our boat had no engine at that time,” she remembered with a certain fondness. At thirteen, Madleen personally made the decision to carry on fishing and support her family when her father’s legs were paralyzed from a form of palsy. Her father initially refused to allow her to go alone, but having no other viable means to support the family, he conceded.
While many children were focusing on the usual hassles of homework and finishing primary school, Madleen found it “easy and enjoyable” to sail due to her strong background on the sea. That is not to say that fishing off Gaza’s coast has been without the typical dangers associated with maritime work nor the specific challenges that Palestinian fishers face due to the Israeli blockade. There were frightening times, like the instance she fell overboard in rough waters or when the Israeli Navy fired on her with water cannons and live ammunition.
“They had to know who I was and that I was a woman. All the Gazan fishermen are forced to register with Israel so they even had my ID and picture,” said Madleen. She has intentionally limited herself to staying within the increasingly shrinking limits of the blockade imposed by the Israeli Navy to avoid troubles, but this has not spared her harassment. She says the prime area to fish is around 11 nautical miles, but the Gazans sometimes experience confrontations with the Navy even within the three nautical miles that Israel says is acceptable. This three mile limit was supposedly reopened to six after the November 21st, 2012 ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, but Gazan fishermen have had little practical success with many having been shot, arrested, imprisoned and their boats confiscated. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 85% of the Gaza Strip's fishing waters are totally or partially inaccessible due to these Israeli military measures.
Though Madleen’s fishing crew has grown to include her younger brothers and her little sister, Reem, Madleen is still the primary provider for the family and is also responsible for selling the fish in the market. With approximately 90% of Gazan fishermen living in poverty and the industry rapidly declining, Madleen hopes that she can continue to sail for at least another two years. “If my brothers can take over at that point, fine.” Madleen and the Kulab family have attracted considerable amount of international attention due to the uniqueness of their situation. They received a motorized boat as an Eid gift from the Welfare Association for Youth. Additionally, Al Jazeera, BBC and Press TV ran features about Madleen.
Two-thousand and twelve proved to be most challenging year for Madleen when she crossed the line into official womanhood in the eyes of the law. Her boat was confiscated by Hamas authorities and held for nearly six months. With the assistance of concerned Gazans and human rights organizations, Madleen challenged the impoundment in court and won. She is now the only permitted fisherwomen in Gaza, provided that she does not sail with any other adult males. This makes her work difficult, but she is eager to be on the water again and earning money for family. When asked about general acceptance from the other fishermen, Madleen replied, “I have no problems with the fishermen. They support me and treat me as a daughter or sister.” Without question, she deserves their respect.
Madleen is currently resuming school after taking a year’s break to work. She hopes to study sport in college, and she has recently passed an examination by the Civilian Defence Administration for swimming and diving.
Joshua Brollier is a co-coordinator with Voices for Creative Nonviolence in Chicago. He has just returned from an emergency delegation to the Gaza Strip. He can be reached at Joshua@vcnv.org.
1. Madleen Kulab. December 19th, 2012.
Photo- Maher Alaa
2. The Israeli Navy shot Gazan fisherman, Mosa'ad Baker, and confiscated his boat on Dec 17, 2012.
Photo- Maher Alaa
As the country, and indeed, the world, mourns the tragic and unnecessary loss of so many young lives to the Newtown School Massacre, many peace activists and advocates for non-violence around the world are mourning another loss… the loss of a tireless advocate for peace and reconciliation, Mira Dabit.
I was sound asleep in my grandson’s bed when my cell phone woke me on December 15th at 12:30 a.m. Slightly annoyed at being awakened, I answered. It was my partner from Searching for Occupy, Denise Valdez. She was crying. No. She was sobbing. For a few moments, I listened to her crying. Then, she managed to blurt out, “Crystal, I have some bad news…” A pause. A sob. “Mira is dead.”
The other day I tweeted an article that reported on a rather horrible story. It seems that the Israeli government gives African women drugs that keep them from reproducing.
I think if this story had been about Canada, Korea, France, or Brazil people would have read it. The conversation would not have immediately shifted to my alleged hatred of all Canadians.
Since it was about Israel, some people chose to announce that I hated Jews. Such a response is not only baseless and nonsensical, but it shifts attention to me and away from the story, which in the end isn't seen.
Now, I don't know any more about that story than what I've read at that website (the website of a Jewish organization, as it happens). The report may be accurate or not. Israeli newspapers seem to report it as fully established, neither doubted nor challenged. The story at least seems to merit investigation. The point is that nobody told me it was inaccurate (news that would have delighted me). Instead, they told me that I was anti-Semitic.
This happens with the United States too, of course. If I criticize the U.S. government a few thousand times, and if the president is a Republican, I'll hear from some disturbed individual who wants to recommend that I leave the country since I hate it so much. Why one would try so hard to reform the government of a country he hated is never really explained.
With Israel, such nonsense is triggered much more swiftly. I haven't made a career of trying to reform Israel's government. All I had to do was tweet a link to an article. Those who have gone to greater lengths to criticize the crimes of the government of Israel have, in some cases, seen themselves censored, vilified, and their careers derailed. Many persevere despite this climate.
There is, however, a way to speak openly and honestly about Israel. Not everyone can do it. The trick is to be a veteran of the Israeli military. This approach helps people whose "service" was years ago. And it helps those whose memories of what they did "for their country" are very fresh. Not only does such status shield one from a great deal of criticism, but it provides a substantive advantage in being able to report first-hand on what the Israeli military has been doing. Just as Veterans For Peace are able to speak with some legitimate authority in the United States against the use of war (see Winter Soldier now if you haven't), members of the Israeli military, and those who recently were Israeli soldiers, command attention.
A new book called "Our Harsh Logic: Israeli Soldiers' Testimonies from the Occupied Territories 2000-2010," collects the accounts of numerous Israeli soldiers, although withholding their names. Videos of some of the soldiers telling their stories can be seen online. The online database sorts the stories into categories: › Abuse› Assassinations› Bribery› Checkpoints› Confirmation of killing› Curfews/closures› Deaths› Destruction of property› Human shields› Humiliation› Looting› Loss of livelihood› Routine› Rules of engagement› Settlements› Settler violence.
"Supporting the troops" is usually understood to exclude listening to the troops. But these troops should be listened to. Their experiences are very similar to those of the U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq. But their war has lasted much, much longer, and with no end in sight. Their testimonies make clear that their tactics do not serve the supposed purpose of reducing violence, and are in fact not intended to do any such thing. The bizarre ordeals imposed on the soldiers outdo Kafka and pale in comparison to the nightmares imposed on Palestinians. The driving forces are quite clearly racism, sadism, imperialism, and excessive obedience.
A very few of the many samples I was tempted to provide:
"They called us to some location, they found [rockets] in the minaret of a mosque. What do you do? You look for someone to go up to the mosque and take down the [rockets] because it's dangerous for us. So they knocked on doors in the area. There's always someone with us who speaks Arabic. . . . So they knocked on the doors and found someone. He was retarded. They said, 'Go up to the mosque. There are pipes in the minaret. Bring them down.' They didn't even tell him it was explosives."
"There was an operation in the company next to mine where they told me that a woman was blown up by [an explosive used to break through doors], her limbs were smeared on the wall, but it wasn't on purpose. They knocked and knocked on the door and there was no answer, so they decided to open it [with live ammunition] . . . . and just at that moment the woman decided to open the door. And then her kids came over and saw her. . . . someone said it was funny, and everyone cracked up, that the kids saw their mother smeared on the wall."
"[T]he brigade commander . . . briefs us, 'Any kid you see with a stone, you can shoot at him.' Like, shoot to kill. A stone!"
"[I]t's unbelievable how in the end the report on the radio was, 'In an operation in Tul Karem the IDF captured,' like, you know, 'twenty suspects, ten weapons, and fertilizer suspected for use in manufacturing [explosives], a ton and a half of fertilizer.' So it's a success, because you hear it on the radio, and you say, 'Hey, look, like we went there, this is what we got, we did what we were supposed to do.' And what we did was just the opposite. Because what did we do? We committed crimes. We destroyed homes. No house that we went into was the same when we left."
"There was this house we captured in Hebron . . . we took this house. You know the procedure: the family moves down a floor. Now, what did we do? We were . . . on the third floor, the guys set up a pipe, a pipe to pee, so they could pee outside. They put the pipe, we put the pipe exactly so that all the piss would flow into the courtyard of the house below us. There were a few chicken coops just there, it all poured out there. That was the joke every day, waiting for the father or one of the kids to go to the coop, and then everyone stands and pisses."
"Apparently, that captain had gone to Takua, which is a pretty hostile village -- they were throwing stones at the jeep. So, he just stopped a Palestinian guy who was passing, forty-something years old, and tied him to the hood of the jeep, a guy just lying on the hood, and they drove into the village."
"The Palestinians didn't know there were soldiers behind them, and the soldiers would just spray their legs. . . . His one goal was to lure Palestinian children, just to cut off their legs."
"We had a commander in the unit who would just say in these words, . . . 'I want bodies. That's what I want.'"
"You're not ranked by arrests -- you're ranked by the number of people you kill."
"[The company commander] taught us about rubber bullets, and they showed us how it comes in what's called a 'tampon,' which is a kind of plastic bag that contains the bullets. So they said, 'You need to separate them, meaning you tear open the package and put them in one by one so you cause damage.' And they actually explained it to us, in this really pornographic way, 'Aim for the eyes so you take out an eye, or at the stomach so it goes into the stomach.'"
"Try to imagine it: I see my officers with their backs to me, laughing, falling about, and below I see the Border Police beating people up, guys being choked, one guy bleeding. And I think, 'This is just like the books I read.' . . . Whenever people get shot, I have this image in my head, I must've seen it in a movie, of Nazis shooting Jews in pits, and officers standing at the side, laughing."
Connection to the Land Cannot Not Be Broken
The struggle for land rights near the Gaza border
By Joshua Brollier
Gaza City-Yesterday in al-Faraheen, Gaza, Israeli Occupation Forces shot and wounded an unarmed 22 year old farmer, Mohammed Qdeih, from behind. Mohamed and nine others went out to their fields in the early afternoon, walking approximately 250 meters from the Israeli border. Within minutes, two heavily armed Israeli military jeeps rushed to the security fence. They issued a warning for the farmers and residents to leave the area and shortly thereafter the Palestinians, intimidated by the heavy military presence, began to head back to the village of Abasan. The soldiers were not satisfied and opened fire, piercing Mohamed’s right arm from the backside. Israeli forces continued to shoot rounds of live ammunition while Mohamed and the others frantically evacuated and waited for an ambulance. Another young Palestinian, 19, was shot yesterday near the border in Jabaliya.
Under the siege, Israeli “closed military zones” have confiscated up to 35 per cent of Gaza’s arable land, which was previously used for fruit and olive orchards, wheat and various vegetables. With nearly half of Gaza’s population designated as “food insecure” by UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the farming industry having been crippled from the inability to export products under the Israeli blockade, this land is essential for the livelihoods of thousands of farmers and residents of Gaza. Even so and given that four Palestinians have been killed and over 50 injured since the November 21st, 2012 ceasefire agreement, one might ask why anyone would risk their life and venture near the border at all.
By Ann Wright
Last week I was in Gaza, just days after the 8 day Israeli attack on Gaza that killed over 180 Palestinians and subsequent rockets from Gaza that killed 6 Israelis.
This week I have been in Afghanistan where tens of thousands of Afghans have been killed since the United States began its military operations after September 11, 2001 to capture al Qaeda leadership, and where over 2 million have been killed in the past 30 years of war.
The United States now is in its twelfth year of war on Afghanistan. In fact, it was 12 years ago, almost to the day, that I arrived in Kabul on a small State Department team to reopen the US Embassy.
After my resignation from the US government in opposition to Bush’s war on Iraq, I have returned to Afghanistan three times, 2007, 2010 and now 2012.
By International Solidarity Activists
Gaza Strip--- Israeli forces fired live ammunition and tear gas at unarmed farmers and international solidarity activists working in Khuza’a, a small village outside of Khan Younis located near the Israeli border. At 10:30 AM, the farmers arrived and began to plough approximately 100 meters from the separation fence while internationals lined up in between the border and the farmers. They were quickly met by an Israeli military jeep and transport vehicle. An Israeli soldier issued a warning in Arabic to leave the area and then fired two rounds into the air. The farmers and internationals remained calm and continued their work and the Israeli soldiers left the area.
At around 11 AM, approximately 20 Palestinians and farmers gathered around 300 meters back from the fence. Two military jeeps returned to the area. One soldier exited his vehicle and fired four shots in the direction of the farmers and activists. The fourth shot crossed the line of the activists and landed in the field being ploughed. Again, the Palestinians and internationals were not deterred. The Israeli jeeps left and the farmers finished working on this section of land and moved on to an adjacent plot.
Fifteen minutes later, two Israeli jeeps returned, one equipped with an automatic machine gun. A soldier fired three canisters of tear gas directly in front of the activists. He proceeded to shoot at the tractor, damaging its engine and bringing the work to a halt. An international was accompanying the driver aboard the tractor. The accompaniment team included participants from Spain, Italy, France, England, Scotland, Germany and the United States
Gazan farmers successfully ploughed and sewed wheat in adjacent plots, with the presence of internationals, during the two days prior to the incident. Though they were issued warnings by Israeli forces to stay 100 meters from the fence, they were not fired upon in a similar fashion. “This incident is a prime example of the military harassment and unpredictability of the Israeli occupation forces that farmers routinely face while working their land in Gaza,” said a solidarity activist from Spain. For a report from the previous days farming, see http://palsolidarity.org/2012/
Residents from Khuza’a said they have not planted in this area, declared a closed military zone by Israel, for the past thirteen years. Formerly an orchard, Israeli forces bulldozed the field multiple times during military incursions and regularly shoots at farmers who attempt to work there. Farmers were under the impression that this area was now accessible after the November 21st ceasefire’s stipulations that Israeli forces would “refrain from targeting residents in the border areas” and to “stop all hostilities in the Gaza Strip land, sea and air including incursions and targeting of individuals.” This is the optimum season for planting wheat and the Gazan farmers only have a small window of time in which to work before the land will be rendered unusable.