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January 27, 2009

In Gaza, only the dead have seen the end of war

by Vittorio Arrigoni

For the living, no truce can make up for the daily battle for survival. They have no running water, gas, electrical power, and no bread and milk to feed their children. Thousands of people have lost their homes. Humanitarian aid seeps through the passes in drips and drabs, and you get the feeling that the benevolence of the killers’ accomplices is only temporary. Tomorrow, Ban Ki-Moon, the UN’s Secretary General will travel to Gaza, and we’re pretty sure that John Ging, Chief of the Palestinian Refugees’ Agency, will have many stories to tell him after Israel bombed two UN schools, assassinated 4 of their workers, bombed and destroyed the UNRWA centre in Gaza City (which reduced tons of medicine and food supplies destined for the civilian population to ashes).

Gaza’s mountains of rubble continue to spit corpses back up to the surface. Yesterday, between Jabalia, Tal el Hawa in Gaza City and Zaitun, the Red Crescent paramedics, with some help from the ISM volunteers, have pulled out 95 corpses from the ruins, many of which are in an advanced state of decay. Walking through the streets of the city and no longer feeling constantly terrified by the thought of a bomb surgically aimed to decapitate me, I still tremble at the sight of stray dogs gathering in a circle, imagining what could reveal itself before my eyes as their meal. The relieved men go back to hang out in their mosques and cafés, but their attitude of feigned normalcy is easy to detect. Many of them have lost a relative or have nowhere to live.

They pretend to go back to their everyday routine to boost their wives and children’s spirits – somehow, even this catastrophe must be dealt with. This morning we drove with some ambulances to the most devastated neighbourhoods in the city, Tal el Hawa and Zaitun. Questionnaire in hand, we went door to door and compiled a list of the damage suffered by the buildings , and wrote down the families’ most urgent requirements: medicine for the elderly and sick, rice, oil and flour, basically the essentials to feed themselves. All that we’ve been able to give them so far are metres of nylon, to be used in lieu of their shattered windowpanes to block out the cold.

ISM colleagues in Rafah informed me that the municipality has handed out a few thousand dollars – mere pennies – to the families who’ve had their houses completely razed to the ground by the bombs, the very same that according to Israel, had been dropped to destroy the tunnels. After the end of the conflict with Lebanon, Hezbollah donated millions of dollars in cheques, to refund the homeless Lebanese citizens. In Gaza, under siege and embargo, Hamas is barely able to refund its people with what “will scarcely be enough to rebuild a barn for livestock”, says Khaled, a Rafah farmer.

The truce is unilateral, hence Israel unilaterally decides not to respect it. Khan Yunos, a Palestinian boy, was killed yesterday, and another was injured. East of Gaza helicopters have showered a residential area with white phosphorous. The same happened in Jabalia. In Khann Younis today, the war ships fired their cannons at an open plain, thankfully without harming anyone. But while I write, the news of storming tanks has just reached me. We’re not aware of any Palestinian rockets having been fired in the last 24 hours…

International journalists are clamouring for news all along the Strip, as they only managed to get in today. Israel granted them a pass only now that the massacre is winding down. Those who got here in the thick of the battle have seriously risked being killed, as I was told by Lorenzo Cremonesi, a correspondent for Corriere della Sera. Israeli soldiers shot potholes into the car that he was traveling in . Standing by the blackened skeleton of what remains of Al Quds hospital in Gaza City, an astonished BBC reporter asked me how the army could possibly have swapped the building for a terrorists’ den.

I said: “For the very same reason that children running away from a burning building were put in sight of the snipers on the roofs, who don’t hesitate to kill them, spreading their grey matter all over the road”, to which the journalist furrowed his brow further. The enormous difference between us eye-witnesses and first-hand victims of the massacre, and those who hear about it through our stories, is now further highlighted. From Rome I’m told that the EU intends to freeze the funds assigned for the reconstruction of Gaza as long as it’s governed by Hamas. The European Commissioner for External Relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, has made her point clear on this score. “The aid for the reconstruction of the Strip”, stated the European diplomat, “will only arrive if Palestinian President Abu Mazen will once again re-establish his authority over the territory.”

For Gaza’s Palestinians this is an explicit invitation from the outside to engage in civil war, or in a coup d’état. It’s equivalent to legitimising the massacre of 410 children, who died because their parents chose democracy and freely elected Hamas. “The EU is diligently echoing the criminal policy of collective punishment imposed by Israel. Why not entrust the funds to the UN? Or some governmental organisation?” “The Unites States are free to elect a war-monger like Bush, Israel can choose leaders with bloodied hands like Sharon or Netanyahu, but we, the people of Gaza, aren’t free to chose Hamas…”, suggested Mohamed, a human rights activist who never voted for the Islamic movement himself. I have no arguments to contradict him.

The surviving Palestinians learn from their dead; they learn to live while dying, right from the tenderest age. Truce after truce, the general perception here is that of a macabre pause between one massacre and another during which to count the dead, and peace has never felt so elusive. Scouring Gaza City on board an ambulance with the siren switched off for once, the war is still everywhere, among the ruins of a city robbed of its smiles and now populated only by frightened gazes, eyes that insist upon scanning the sky for planes still endlessly flying overhead. Inside a home we visited with some paramedics, I noticed some pastel drawings on the floor. It was clearly a child’s hand that had abandoned them after evacuating the house in a mad rush. I picked one of them up – tanks, helicopters and a body in pieces. In the middle of the drawing a child with a stone had succeeded in reaching the sun’s height and was damaging one of the flying death machines. It’s been said that in a child’s drawing, the sun represents his desire to be, to appear. The sun I saw was crying tears of blood in red pastel. Is a unilateral truce enough to heal such traumas?

Stay human
Vittorio Arrigoni
By mail from Free Gaza

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As’ad on Bushama

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bushama Speaks: Pitfalls of Economism

This exchange from the interview with AlArabiyya TV (the station of King Fahd’s brother-in-law) summarizes it for me:
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“THE PRESIDENT: Well, here’s what I think is important. Look at the proposal that was put forth by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia —

Q Right.

THE PRESIDENT: I might not agree with every aspect of the proposal, but it took great courage —
Q Absolutely.”

There are several things to be said about this interview, and I don’t believe that there is anything new in it whatsoever.
I mean, CNN is lauding it as an example of how Obama (or Bushama) is willing to reach out to the Muslim world.
I listened to it on my way from SF last night and CNN aired it in full.

First, if the Bushama really wants to be different from Bush he would have selected AlJazeera and not al-Arabiyya. I mean, CNN does not know that Bush spoke to Arabic TV stations regularly, and Rice was a fixture on Al-Arabiyya TV. And they selected Al-Arabiyya because it is “friendly” to US interests and because on Al-Arabiyya TV US officials get softball questions.

If Obama wanted to be different he would have chosen Al-Jazeera because it is the Arabs’ favorite channel. Al-Arabiyya is the US government’s favorite channel, and the US under Obama does not seem to want to respect the choices and preference of the Arab population.

Secondly, Obama chose this station because he wanted to appease the Saudi royal family especially after the moping remarks of Prince Turki–the midwife of Al-Qa`idah and a key ally of the US.

This president is signaling that he will be no different than Bush in coddling the Saudi Wahhabi dictatorship–a key ally of Israel today. Do you notice that Israel does not even make token noise about Saudi arms sales? It used to prod its lobby here in the US to put stiff resistance to any arms sale to Saudi Arabia, and then they deny the existence of a Saudi-Israeli conspiracy.

Apparently, the Saudi King was not pleased that Obama or Bushama called Abu Mazen (the usurping president of the puppet PA) and Mubarak–and of course Olmert–on his first day on the job but not the Saudi autocrat. The president then called him the next day and the Saudi news agency reported that they discussed ways to even “strengthen and expand” the Saudi-American relations. Don’t ever believe the promises of any presidential candidate regarding human rights or democracy when it comes to the Middle East: look at the example of the disgraced and failed president, Jimmy Carter who can’t stop producing boring and insignificant books on the Middle East.

Thirdly, there is nothing that Bushama said that was not said by Bush. The CNN guest, Aslan something who always impresses me with his lack of knowledge on the Middle East when he speaks on the Middle East, kept saying in awe that the president spoke respectfully about respect in his address to Muslims and Arabs. But so did Bush, and Bush went to a mosque in Washington, DC–in order to prepare for the bombs and missiles to fall on Muslim and Arab heads.

Fourthly, Obama in talking about the Middle East–the Palestine question and beyond–suffers from an acute case of “economism” or economic reductionism. He has the tendency to reduce all Arab and Muslim issues to job and medical care. It is NOT only the economy–stupid. It is also about pride and dignity and Palestine AND about freedom from the severe oppression that people suffer under governments that are coddled and armed by the very same US of A. So the words fall hollow here.

Fifthly, Obama as a representative of the White Man (and he can also be referred to as the White Man, analytically speaking just as Margaret Thatcher was a representative of the White Man) did not deviate from the deep racism that characterizes US foreign policy to the Arab-Israeli conflict. I mean when he refers to Israel’s security as “paramount” he is basically saying (like previous US president) that the security of the Palestinians is inferior because they are seen as inferior people.

There is no question about that. It means that and the racism is reflected clearly in the disregard of Israeli WMDs. It never comes up in any interview with US officials on Al-Arabiyya (it is featured regularly in AlJazeera as yesterday’s interview with Brent Ccowcroft showed). Karl Marx wrote somewhere about the danger of covering up the chain with flowers. Obama is no different than Bush but American bombs and missiles under his administration will be decorated and covered with flowers. If that is a reason to celebrate, please open the champagne bottles NOW.

Source

Charges Filed Against 15 Israeli Officials

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Palestinian and international efforts continue to institute legal proceedings for the prosecution of Israeli officials in the commission of war crimes.

International attorneys have filed war crime charges against 15 Israeli political and military officials including Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak.
Palestinian and international efforts continue to institute legal proceedings for the prosecution of Israeli officials in the commission of war crimes.
Although Israeli forces are involved in thousands of cases, local experts such as the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights believe that the recent major attacks on the Gaza Strip will be successfully prosecuted.

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