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I have a parallel blog in French at http://anniebannie.net

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December 2008

Israel’s Lie Machine is Working Flat Out

The core issue in this struggle is the illegality of Israel’s brutal occupation. Israel goes to great lengths to avoid and suppress all mention of it and play-acts the pathetic victim, notes Stuart Littlewood.

While the murderous assault on Gaza continues, I notice there’s a briefing document on the website of the Israeli Embassy in London which has a lie in every line. The West’s mainstream media repeat them, and even the most senior TV and radio interviewers don’t bother to challenge them.

The document is a transcript of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s statement to the Israeli press dated 27 December 2008 – a day that will live in infamy. It is a perfect example of the falsehoods used to dupe not only us westerners but Israel’s own people. The statement shows how the regime’s view of itself is constructed on a web of dishonesty and self-delusion.

For example:

– “Israeli citizens have been under the threat of daily attack from Gaza for years.”

Palestinians have been under harsh Israeli occupation for 60 years.

– “Only this week hundreds of missiles and mortars shells were fired at Israeli civilian communities.”

Only one in 500 Qassam rockets causes a fatality. How many thousands of Israeli bombs, missiles, rockets, grenades and tank-shells have been blasted into the crowded city and towns of the Gaza Strip by Israel’s high-tech weaponry?

– “Until now we have shown restraint. But today there is no other option than a military operation.”

The only legitimate option for Israel is to end the occupation and withdraw behind its 1967 border, as required under international law and UN resolution. Israel has been killing Palestinians at the rate of 8 to 1 since 2000, and children at the rate of nearly 12 to 1 (B’Tselem figures). This is somebody’s idea of restraint?

– “We need to protect our citizens from attack through a military response against the terror infrastructure in Gaza.”

Self defence is not a right exclusive to Israel. Palestinians have an equal right to protect their citizens from the terror tactics of Israel.

– “Israel left Gaza in order to create an opportunity for peace.”

Israel never left Gaza. It still occupies Gaza’s airspace and coastal waters and controls all entrances and exits.

read on

Dignity attacked

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Israeli Gunboats Came out of the Darkness and Rammed us Three Times

For more information, please contact:
(Gaza) Ewa Jasiewicz, +972 598 700 497 / freelance@mailworks.org
(Cyprus) Lubna Masarwa +357 99 081 767 / lubnna@gmail.com
(Lebanon) Caoimhe Butterly +961 70 875 727 / sahara78@hotmail.co.uk
http://www.FreeGaza.org

(Lebanon, Tuesday 30 December) – Today the Free Gaza ship “Dignity”
carefully made its way to safe harbor in Tyre, Lebanon’s southern-most
port city, after receiving serious structural damage when Israeli warships
rammed its bow and the port side. Waiting to greet the passengers and crew
were thousands of Lebanese who came out to show their solidarity with this
attempt to deliver volunteer doctors and desperately needed medical
supplies to war-ravaged Gaza. The Lebanese government has pledged to
provide a forensic analysis of what happened in the dark morning, when
Israel rammed the civilian ship in international waters, and put the
people on board in danger of losing their lives.

The Dignity, on a mission of mercy to besieged Gaza, was attacked by the
Israeli Navy at approximately 6am (UST) in international waters, roughly
90 miles off the coast of Gaza. Several Israeli warships surrounded the
small, human rights boat, firing live ammunition around it, then
intentionally ramming it three times. According to ship’s captain Denis
Healy, the Israeli attack came, “”without any warning, or any
provocation.”

Caoimhe Butterly, an organizer with the Free Gaza Movement, stated that,
“The gunboats gave us no warning. They came up out of the darkness firing
flares and flashing huge flood lights into our faces. We were so shocked
that at first we didn’t react. We knew we were well within international
waters and supposedly safe from attack. They rammed us three times,
hitting the side of the boat hard. We began taking on water and, for a few
minutes, we all feared for our lives. After they rammed us, they started
screaming at us as we were frantically getting the life boats ready and
putting on our life jackets. They kept yelling that if we didn’t turn back
they would shoot us.”

Cynthia McKinney, former U.S. congresswoman and Green Party presidential
candidate, was traveling to Gaza aboard the Dignity in order to assess the
impact of Israel’s military onslaught against the civilian population of
the Gaza Strip. According to McKinney, “Israeli patrol boats…tracked us
for about 30 minutes…and then all of a sudden they rammed us
approximately three times, twice in the front and once in the side…the
Israelis indicated that [they felt] we were involved in terrorist
activities.”

The Dignity departed from Larnaca Port in Cyprus at 7pm (UST) on Monday 29
December with a cargo of over 3 tons of desperately needed medical
supplies donated to Gaza by the people of Cyprus. Three surgeons were also
aboard, traveling to Gaza to volunteer in overwhelmed hospitals and
clinics. The ship was searched by Cypriot Port authorities prior to
departure, and its passenger list was made public.

Israel’s deplorable attack on the unarmed Dignity is a violation of both
international maritime law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,
which states that “the high seas should be reserved for peaceful
purposes.”

Delivering doctors and urgently needed medical supplies to civilians is a
just such a “peaceful purpose.” Deliberately ramming a mercy ship and
endangering its passengers is an act of terrorism.

CALL the Israeli Government and demand that it immediately STOP attacking
the civilian population of Gaza and STOP using violence to prevent human
rights and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people.

Mark Regev in the Prime Minister’s office at:
+972 2670 5354 or +972 5 0620 3264
mark.regev@it.pmo.gov.il

Shlomo Dror in the Ministry of Defence at:
+972 3697 5339 or +972 50629 8148
mediasar@mod.gov.il

Major Liebovitz from the Israeli Navy at:
+ 972 5 781 86248

###
The Free Gaza Movement, a human rights group, sent two boats to Gaza in
August 2008. These were the first international boats to land in the port
in 41 years. Since August, four more voyages were successful, taking
Parliamentarians, human rights workers, and other dignitaries to witness
the effects of Israel’s draconian policies on the civilians of Gaza.
http://www.FreeGaza.org

Anything to hope from Obama ?

Did you ever have any illusions about Obama ?

The only solution : the boycott

Gaza today: ‘This is only the beginning’

By Ewa Jasiewicz

As I write this, Israeli jets are bombing the areas of Zeitoun and Rimal
in central Gaza City. The family I am staying with has moved into the
internal corridor of their home to shelter from the bombing. The windows
nearly blew out just five minutes ago as a massive explosion rocked the
house. Apache’s are hovering above us, whilst F16s sear overhead.

UN radio reports say one blast was a target close to the main gate of Al
Shifa hospital – Gaza and Palestine’s largest medical facility. Another
was a plastics factory. More bombs continue to pound the Strip.

Sirens are wailing on the streets outside. Regular power cuts that plunge
the city into blackness every night and tonight is no exception. Only
perhaps tonight it is the darkest night people have seen here in their
lifetimes.

Over 220 people have been killed and over 400 injured through attacks that
shocked the strip in the space 15 minutes. Hospitals are overloaded and
unable to cope. These attacks come on top of existing conditions of
humanitarian crisis: a lack of medicines, bread, flour, gas, electricity,
fuel and freedom of movement.

Doctors at Shifaa had to scramble together 10 make shift operating
theatres to deal with the wounded. The hospital’s maternity ward had to
transform their operating room into an emergency theatre. Shifaa only had
12 beds in their intensive care unit, they had to make space for 27 today.

There is a shortage of medicine – over 105 key items are not in stock, and
blood and spare generator parts are desperately needed.

Shifaa’s main generator is the life support machine of the entire
hospital. It’s the apparatus keeping the ventilators and monitors and
lights turned on that keep people inside alive. And it doesn’t have the
spare parts it needs, despite the International Committee for the Red
Cross urging Israel to allow it to transport them through Erez checkpoint.

Shifaa’s Head of Casualty, Dr Maowiye Abu Hassanyeh explained, ‘We had
over 300 injured in over 30 minutes. There were people on the floor of the
operating theatre, in the reception area, in the corridors; we were
sending patients to other hospitals. Not even the most advanced hospital
in the world could cope with this number of casualties in such a short
space of time.’

And as IOF Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenaz said this
morning, ‘This is only the beginning.’

But this isn’t the beginning, this is an ongoing policy of collective
punishment and killing with impunity practised by Israel for decades. It
has seen its most intensified level today. But the weight of dread,
revenge and isolation hangs thick over Gaza today. People are all asking:
If this is only the beginning, what will the end look like?

11.30am
Myself and Alberto Acre, a Spanish journalist, had been on the border
village of Sirej near Khan Younis in the south of the strip. We had driven
there at 8am with the mobile clinic of the Union of Palestinian Relief
Committees. The clinic regularly visits exposed, frequently raided
villages far from medical facilities.  We had been interviewing residents
about conditions on the border. Stories of olive groves and orange groves,
family farmland, bulldozed to make way for a clear line of sight for
Israeli occupation force watch towers and border guards. Israeli attacks
were frequent. Indiscriminate fire and shelling spraying homes and land on
the front line of the south eastern border. One elderly farmer showed us
the grave-size ditch he had dug to climb into when Israeli soldiers would
shoot into his fields.

Alberto was interviewing a family that had survived an Israeli missile
attack on their home last month. It had been a response to rocket fire
from resistance fighters nearby. Four fighters were killed in a field by
the border. Israel had rained rockets and M16 fire back. The family,
caught in the crossfire, have never returned to their home.

I was waiting for Alberto to return when ground shaking thuds tilted us
off our feet. This was the sound of surface to air fired missiles and F16
bombs slamming into the police stations, and army bases of the Hamas
authority here. In Gaza City , in Diere Balah, Rafah, Khan Younis, Beit
Hanoon.

We zoomed out of the village in our ambulance, and onto the main road to
Gaza City , before jumping out to film the smouldering remains of a police
station in Diere Balah, near Khan Younis. Its’ name – meaning ‘place of
dates’ – sounds like the easy semi-slang way of saying ‘take care’, Diere
Bala, Diere Balak – take care.

Eyewitnesses said two Israeli missiles had destroyed the station. One had
soared through a children’s playground and a busy fruit and vegetable
market before impacting on its target.

Civilians Dead
There was blood on a broken plastic yellow slide, and a crippled, dead
donkey with an upturned vegetable cart beside it. Aubergines and
splattered blood covered the ground. A man began to explain in broken
English what had happened. ‘It was full here, full, three people dead,
many many injured’. An elderly man with a white kuffiyeh around his head
threw his hands down to his blood drenched trousers. ‘Look! Look at this!
Shame on all governments, shame on Israel, look how they kills us, they
are killing us and what does the world do? Where is the world, where are
they, we are being killed here, hell upon them!’ He was a market trader,
present during the attack.

He began to pick up splattered tomatoes he had lost from his cart, picking
them up jerkily, and putting them into plastic bags, quickly. Behind a
small tile and brick building, a man was sitting against the wall, his
legs were bloodied. He couldn’t get up and was sitting, visibly in pain
and shock, trying to adjust himself, to orientate himself.

The police station itself was a wreck, a mess of criss-crossed piles of
concrete – broken floors upon floors. Smashed cars and a split palm tree
split the road.

We walked on, hurriedly, with everyone else, eyes skyward at four apache
helicopters – their trigger mechanisms supplied by the UK ’s
Brighton-Based EDM Technologies. They were dropping smoky bright flares –
a defence against any attempt at Palestinian missile retaliation.

Turning down the road leading to the Diere Balah Civil Defence Force
headquarters we suddenly saw a rush of people streaming across the road.
‘They’ve been bombing twice, they’ve been bombing twice’ shouted people.

We ran too, but towards the crowds and away from what could possibly be
target number two, ‘a ministry building’ our friend shouted to us. The
apaches rumbled above.

Arriving at the police station we saw the remains of a life at work
smashed short. A prayer matt clotted with dust, a policeman’s hat, the
ubiquitous bright flower patterned mattresses, burst open. A crater around
20 feet in diameter was filled with pulverised walls and floors and a
motorbike, tossed on its’ side, toy-like in its’ depths.

Policemen were frantically trying to get a fellow worker out from under
the rubble. Everyone was trying to call him on his Jawwal. ‘Stop it
everyone, just one, one of you ring’ shouted a man who looked like a
captain. A fire licked the underside of an ex-room now crushed to just 3
feet high. Hands alongside hands rapidly grasped and threw back rocks,
blocks and debris to reach the man.

We made our way to the Al Aqsa Hospital. Trucks and cars loaded with the
men of entire families – uncles, nephews, brothers – piled high and
speeding to the hospital to check on loved ones, horns blaring without
interruption.

Hospitals on the brink
Entering Al Aqsa was overwhelming, pure pandemonium, charged with grief,
horror, distress, and shock. Limp blood covered and burnt bodies streamed
by us on rickety stretchers. Before the morgue was a scrum, tens of
shouting relatives crammed up to its open double doors. ‘They could not
even identify who was who, whether it is their brother or cousin or who,
because they are so burned’ explained our friend. Many were transferred,
in ambulances and the back of trucks and cars to Al Shifa Hospital.

The injured couldn’t speak. Causality after casualty sat propped against
the outside walls outside, being comforted by relatives, wounds
temporarily dressed. Inside was perpetual motion and the more drastically
injured. Relatives jostled with doctors to bring in their injured in
scuffed blankets. Drips, blood streaming faces, scorched hair and shrapnel
cuts to hands, chests, legs, arms and heads dominated the reception area,
wards and operating theatres.

We saw a bearded man, on a stretcher on the floor of an intensive care
unit, shaking and shaking, involuntarily, legs rigid and thrusting
downwards. A spasm coherent with a spinal chord injury. Would he ever walk
again or talk again? In another unit, a baby girl, no older than six
months, had shrapnel wounds to her face. A relative lifted a blanket to
show us her fragile bandaged leg. Her eyes were saucer-wide and she was
making stilted, repetitive, squeaking sounds.

A first estimate at Al Aqsa hospital was 40 dead and 120 injured. The
hospital was dealing with casualties from the bombed market, playground,
Civil Defence Force station, civil police station and also the traffic
police station. All leveled. A working day blasted flat with terrifying
force.

At least two shaheed (martyrs) were carried out on stretchers out of the
hospital. Lifted up by crowds of grief-stricken men to the graveyard to
cries of ‘La Illaha Illa Allah,’ there is not god but Allah.

Who cares?
And according to many people here, there is nothing and nobody looking out
for them apart from God. Back in Shifa Hospital tonight, we meet the
brother of a security guard who had had the doorway he had been sitting in
and the building – Abu Mazen’s old HQ – fall down upon his head. He said
to us, ‘We don’t have anyone but God. We feel alone. Where is the world?
Where is the action to stop these attacks?’

Majid Salim, stood beside his comatosed mother, Fatima. Earlier today she
had been sitting at her desk at work – at the Hadije Arafat Charity, near
Meshtal, the Headquarters of the Security forces in Gaza City. Israel’s
attack had left her with multiple internal and head injuries, tube down
her throat and a ventilator keeping her alive. Majid gestured to her, ‘We
didn’t attack Israel, my mother didn’t fire rockets at Israel. This is the
biggest terrorism, to have our mother bombarded at work’.

The groups of men lining the corridors of the over-stretched Shifaa
hospital are by turns stunned, agitated, patient and lost. We speak to one
group. Their brother had both arms broken and has serious facial and head
injuries. ‘We couldn’t recognise his face, it was so black from the
weapons used’ one explains. Another man turns to me and says. ‘I am a
teacher. I teach human rights – this is a course we have, ‘human rights’.
He pauses. ‘How can I teach, my son, my children, about the meaning of
human rights under these conditions, under this siege?’

It’s true, UNRWA and local government schools have developed a Human
Rights syllabus, teaching children about international law, the Geneva
Conventions, the International Declaration on Human Rights, The Hague
Regulations. To try to develop a culture of human rights here, to help
generate more self confidence and security and more of a sense of dignity
for the children. But the contradiction between what should be adhered to
as a common code of conducted signed up to by most states, and the
realities on the ground is stark. International law is not being applied
or enforced with respect to Israeli policies towards the Gaza Strip, or on
’48 Palestine, the West Bank, or the millions of refugees living in camps
in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.

How can a new consciousness and practice of human rights ever graduate
from rhetoric to reality when everything points to the contrary – both
here and in Israel ? The United Nations have been spurned and shut out by
Israel , with Richard Falk the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights
held prisoner at Ben Gurion Airport before being unceremoniously deported
this month – deliberately blinded to the abuses being carried out against
Gaza by Israel . An international community which speaks empty phrases on
Israeli attacks ‘we urge restraint…minimise civilian casualties’.

The Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated regions on the planet.
In Jabbaliya camp alone, Gaza ’s largest, 125,000 people are crowded into
a space 2km square. Bombardment by F16s and Apaches at 11.30 in the
morning, as children leave their schools for home reveals a contempt for
civilian safety as does the 18 months of a siege that bans all imports and
exports, and has resulted in the deaths of over 270 people as a result of
a lack of access to essential medicines.

A light
There is a saying here in Gaza – we spoke about it, jokily last night. ‘At
the end of the tunnel…there is another tunnel’. Not so funny when you
consider that Gaza is being kept alive through the smuggling of food, fuel
and medicine through an exploitative industry of over 1000 tunnels running
from Egypt to Rafah in the South. On average 1-2 people die every week in
the tunnels. Some embark on a humiliating crawl to get their education,
see their families, to find work, on their hands and knees. Others are
reportedly big enough to drive through.

Last night I added a new ending to the saying. ‘At the end of the tunnel,
there is another tunnel and then a power cut’. Today, there’s nothing to
make a joke about. As bombs continue to blast buildings around us, jarring
the children in this house from their fitful sleep, the saying could take
on another twist. After today’s killing of over 200, is it that at the end
of the tunnel, there is another tunnel, and then a grave?’, or a wall of
international governmental complicity and silence?

There is a light through, beyond the sparks of resistance and solidarity
in the West Bank, ’48 and the broader Middle East. This is a light of
conscience turned into activism by people all over the world. We can turn
a spotlight onto Israel’s crimes against humanity and the enduring
injustice here in Palestine, through coming out onto the streets and
pressurizing our governments; demanding an end to Israeli apartheid and
occupation, broadening our call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, and
for a genuine Just Peace.

Through institutional, governmental and popular means, this can be a light
at the end of the Gazan tunnel.
—–

Ewa Jasiewicz is an experienced journalist, community and union organizer,
and solidarity worker. She is currently Gaza Project Co-coordinator for
the Free Gaza Movement.

http://www.FreeGaza.org

TAKE ACTION TO DECRY THE ATTACKS ON GAZA

27 December 2008

The world majority stands with the Palestinian people in this devastating time that Israeli Defense Secretary Ehud Barak calls “just the beginning.” Israeli attacks on Gaza in the past 24 hours have killed over 200 people and injured hundreds more. We decry the multiple forms of collective punishment currently being inflicted that reflect Israel’s 60-plus year history of ethnic cleansing: lack of access to electricity and potable water, blockades of food and medicine, and these brutal attacks.

We are outraged but not surprised by this escalation. Israel’s unilaterally designed and implemented disengagement from Gaza has maintained control of the borders, air and water space, and completely isolated Gaza practically and politically. This has been accomplished with unconditional support from the United States and its allies and with the complicity of the broader international community and Gaza’s neighbors. It has also set the stage for these horrendous events.

The media frames this violence as a conflict between warring peoples with equal power. This framing is possible because the media fails to recognize Israel as an apartheid State or as a colonial occupying force with one of the most technologically advanced militaries in the world.

The Gaza-based One Democratic State Group has called for “all civil society organizations and freedom loving people to act immediately in any possible way to put pressure on their governments to end diplomatic ties with Apartheid Israel and institute sanctions against it.” IJAN stands in solidarity with the people of Gaza and supports this call.

WE ASK YOU TO JOIN US AND TAKE ACTION!

1. Join or organize emergency protests and direct actions in partnership with Palestine solidarity and social justice organizations in your area. Please send announcements of actions you are joining or organizing (with date, time and location) to ijan@ijsn.net so they can be announced on our web site. Also send reports of actions you participate in so this information can be shared with people around the world.

2. Donate money through the Middle East Children’s Alliance to pay for desperately needed medical supplies and their delivery. The current conditions in Gaza medical facilities are dire. The Middle East Children’s Alliance is working with health organizations in Gaza to procure the most-needed medicines and send them direct to Gaza with the help of the Free Gaza Movement.

3. Flood Israeli embassies and consulates with letters and calls decrying the attacks. Find contact info for Israeli embassies around the world.

4. Contact government officials and call on them to act by denouncing the attacks and demanding an immediate cease-fire.

5. Shift the framing of Israel’s actions in the media by phoning into a talk show or writing a letter to the editor.

6. Sign the petition in support of UN General Assembly President Father Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann who has spoken out to condemn Israeli “Apartheid” and call for boycott, divestment and sanctions.


source

Cheney Admits Authorizing Detainee’s Torture

Journo inspires web shoe game

From correspondents in Paris

Agence France-Presse

December 17, 2008 05:07am

FOLLOWING in the footsteps of the Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at US President George W. Bush, anyone can take a virtual swipe at the US leader on the internet thanks to a new game.

The aim of Sock and Awe (www.sockandawe.com), launched by Britain’s Alex Tew, is to knock Mr Bush out with a shoe, a feat already attained by 1.4 million players, according to the website today.

Aptly named after the US “Shock and Awe” military campaign to knock out Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, the game gives players 30 seconds to aim at a figure of Bush ducking behind a rostrum.

It was in protest against the Bush administration’s Iraqi policy that journalist Durgham Zaidi threw both his shoes at the outgoing president on Monday during his swansong visit to the battleground.

The action won Zaidi widespread plaudits in the Arab world where Mr Bush’s policies have drawn broad hostility.

Mr Tew, 24, drew world attention with his “milliondollarhomepage.com”, a website he conceived when 21 to help raise money for his university education by selling off pixels at a dollar a piece.

Zaidi, who was taken into custody after the Baghdad incident, has a broken arm and ribs after being struck by security agents, his brother said.

SOURCE

Boycott of settlements’ industries is taking its toll

By Adam Keller
Production lines in industrial zones in the West Bank have begun to deteriorate of late. The Barkan Winery has turned its back on the settlement after which it is named, and has moved to Kibbutz Hulda, within the Green Line, the pre-1967 border. Mul-T-Lock, which commands a near monopoly in the Israeli lock market, announced that it will also be leaving the Barkan industrial zone. In addition, Soda Club has promised its Swedish partner Empire that it will not export products produced in its plant in Mishor Adumim.

These days, factories located in settlements are becoming more risky and less profitable. This wasn’t always the case. Four years ago, Eti Alush, the man behind the Barkan industrial center, presented a rather rosy picture: “There is no ideology in economics. Entrepreneurs come here for the money, not for political reasons. Barkan is accessible and relatively cheap, and businesses pay discounted city tax (arnona). It’s an area under development, the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry offers substantive assistance under the law for encouragement of capital investments, and Palestinian labor costs are low as well.”

Export to Europe didn’t seem like a problem for settlers back then, and Alush described the deception quite openly. “Companies that operate in the area have a number of factories, some of which are located within the ‘Green Line,’ aside from the one in Barkan. They label exports to Europe as coming from Kiryat Gat or Petah Tikva, not Barkan – because of the European boycott, and also because of settlement boycotts by various groups, like Gush Shalom.”

A factory isn’t some toy that can be hidden under the carpet. It’s not difficult to enter, conduct surveillance and take pictures of trucks leaving the factory gates on their way to the port. European Union members don’t like to be duped, and Britain has recently upped its supervision and checking procedures on products “Made in Israel,” to ascertain where exactly they are coming from. A group of European citizens has begun investigating the businesses more thoroughly. Dutch beer giant Heineken, which was set to buy the Barkan wineries, faced a serious danger of a widespread consumer boycott on the streets of Amsterdam, and scrambled to make sure that its Israeli subsidiary left the area.

As for Mul-T-Lock, the firm boasts of being “part of the Swedish company Assa Abloy, the world leader in development and production of physical and electronic locking solutions,” since 2000. Certainly a productive business alliance, one that opens many doors all over the world, but doesn’t jive with production in the settlements. After Swedish religious and human rights organizations published an in-depth study of Sweden’s involvement in Mul-T-Lock, Assa Abloy hurried to apologize to the Swedish public and promised that the error would be corrected, and that Mul-T-Lock would leave Barkan.

The writing is on the wall. Anyone who wants to be part of the international community, and build global, long-term businesses, had better stay away from the settlements.

The writer is the spokesman for Gush Shalom and a member of the movement’s emergency settlements team.

source

Free Bush shoe-thrower, Iraqis urge

You can sign this petition

Thousands of Iraqis have demonstrated in Baghdad’s Sadr City in support of a journalist being held in custody after throwing his shoes at George Bush, the US president.

Muntazer al-Zeidi was detained for what the Iraqi government on Monday said was a “barbaric and ignominious act” during a news conference the previous day.

The outgoing US leader, who was making a surprise visit to Baghdad, had just told reporters that while the war in Iraq was not over “it is decisively on its way to being won,” when al-Zeidi got to his feet and hurled abuse – and his footwear – at Bush.

Bush, who had been giving a joint press statement with Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, ducked behind a podium as the shoes narrowly missed his head.

“Millions of Iraqis or rather millions of the people of the world wish to do what Muntadhar did,” Uday al-Zeidi, Mundathar’s brother, said on Monday.

“Thank God he had the guts to do it and avenge the Iraqi people and the country from those who plunder it and have killed its people.”

Al-Baghdadiya television, his employer, has demanded his release after Yasin Majeed, the prime minister’s media adviser, said al-Zeidi would be tried on charges of insulting the state.

An Iraqi lawyer told the AFP news agency that Zeidi risked a miminum of two years in prison if he is prosecuted for insulting a visiting head of state.

Freedom of expression

On Monday, al-Baghdadiya suspended its normal programming and played messages of support from across the Arab world.

A presenter read out a statement calling for his release, “in accordance with the democratic era and the freedom of expression that Iraqis were promised by US authorities”.

Iraqis have hailed
Zeidi’s actions [AFP]

It said that any harsh measures taken against the reporter would be reminders of the “dictatorial era” that Washington said its forces had invaded Iraq to end.

Demonstrations also took place in the southern city of Basra and Najaf, where some people threw shoes at a US convoy.

Khalil al-Dulaimi, Saddam Hussein’s former lawyer, said he was forming a team to defend al-Zeidi and that around 200 lawyers, including Americans, had offered their services for free.”It was the least thing for an Iraqi to do to Bush, the tyrant criminal who has killed two million people in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said.

“Our defence of Zeidi will be based on the fact that the United States is occupying Iraq, and resistance is legitimate by all means, including shoes.”

In Iraqi culture, throwing shoes at someone is a sign of contempt and the incident is likely to serve as a lasting reminder of the widespread opposition to the US-led invasion of Iraq – the conflict which has come to define Bush’s presidency.

“Throwing the shoes at Bush was the best goodbye kiss ever … it expresses how Iraqis and other Arabs hate Bush,” Musa Barhoumeh, editor of Jordan’s independent Al-Gahd newspaper, wrote.

But support has not been entirely universal and some Iraqis believe al-Zeidi crossed the line.

“I deem it unnecessary. This thing is unjustifiable. It is an incorrect style. We are not violent. One can voice his opinion in other ways,” one Baghdad resident said.

Robert Wood, a US state department spokesman, dismissed the incident saying that al-Zeidi was “trying to get attention for himself” and had ignored Washington’s successes in Iraq.

“This was one incident and one individual’s views, but if you look at the direction we are heading in Iraq now, it’s a very, very positive direction and we hope to see that continue,” he said.

Bush’s visit to the Iraqi capital came just 37 days before he hands the presidency over to Barack Obama, who has vowed to withdraw troops from Iraq.

Source: Agencies

source

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