Below are a series of articles on the current situation in Gaza and related issues:
First is a translation of an important article from Israeli daily, Yediot Aharanot.
Secondly is an article by the editor of Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah, who is one of the 1,300 Gaza Freedom Marchers presently surrounded and harassed by the security forces of the Egyptian regime. We can see here quite clearly the co-ordination between the Egyptian regime and the United States. In fact the reality is that it is the United States which is giving the orders to the second largest recipient of US aid. In many ways, United State’s control in Egypt is as great if not greater than anything the British Empire achieved in the days when Egypt had not yet attained full ‘independence’.
The third article is by UN Special Rappoteur, Richard Falk, to the Occupied Territories which explicitly state that the only way to end Israel’s starvation siege on Gaza is by imposing sanctions on Israel.
The fourth article and 3 of the above pictures are by Pam Rasmussen in Electronic Intifada which describes the reaction of the Egyptian police state to the marchers.
See also Gaza Freedom March Rejects Egyptian Offer to Allow 100 through Tony Greenstein
From Sol Salbe
Middle East News Service Comments
There are many commemorations of the Gaza War (Operation Cast Lead) taking place at the moment in Gaza and its neighbours. The common theme to all is a call to end the siege on that small piece on land. Combatants for Peace (A group of Israeli Palestinians former fighters who have given up the use of arms) held such an commemorative evening on Saturday night 26 December. Nura Resh, who was there. reports that the Jewish-Arab Theatre in Jaffa was full, but that audience was composed of those who usually attend such events. Dr Resh, who was sent the Hebrew original article, tells us that the article below is in fact the text of Michael Sfard speech. Sfard is the legal adviser of Yesh Din, one of the most important Israeli human rights organizations.
The Ynet article did not mention the Combatants for Peace meeting. Nor did Ynetnews see fit to translate the article into English – it was apparently deemed to be suitable for Hebrew readers only.
Many thanks to Steve Brook for his subediting assistance.
Truth cast in lead
Cast Lead was our second war of independence. In the first, we liberated ourselves from two thousand years of living under the control of others. In the second, we liberated ourselves from the ropes of Jewish heritage and morality that have been binding us for years.
A year has passed, just a year, but we can already tell that this one was different. This was not another “Rainbow”, “Summer Rain” or “Days of Penitence” – the Israeli Defence Force’s operations in recent years in Gaza. Perhaps the officer in charge of the code names has been replaced, or maybe we ran out of pastoral names. But at any rate, our last ferocious attack on Gaza was given a label that carried a violent connotation: “Cast Lead”. In retrospect, that operation marks a crucial turning point in the Israeli society’s value system.
There, in that besieged strip of land, we revealed the crystal-clear truth to ourselves, unadorned and free of shame. We once escaped the truth by sweeping it under the carpet. We employed self-deception which got more sophisticated from war to war and from military operation to military operation. But, like the man who has dropped political correctness and furiously sends his wife to the kitchen, we too have come out of the closet. This is what we are – and we are proud of it!
During Cast Lead we rained bombs for three weeks on one of the most densely populated civilian regions in the world. We pointed our weapons at clear-cut civilian targets, we made use of phosphorus, we deliberately and systematically destroyed thousands of homes and public buildings. We did it all while maintaining a tight siege that prevented civilians from escaping from the combat zone.
We did not set up temporary refugee camps for civilians. We did not arrange for a humanitarian evacuation corridor. We did not spare the hospitals, the food storage warehouses or even the UN welfare organisations. We did not express any sham regret. We did not claim that these were tragic mistakes and we even avoided taking the wounded children to hospitals in Israel.
The outcome is frightening: about 1400 killed, more than half of whom did not take part in the fighting and among whom there were 320 children and 120 women (B’Tselem figures) In three weeks we killed more Palestinians than in the whole of the first Intifada and all the violent incidents in the Occupied Territories till the beginning of the second Intifada combined, that is from 1987 to 2000.
The denizens of Gaza, whom we imprisoned earlier in a corral set up for them, discovered that the wardens had set fire to the jail and thrown the key out of the window. We did not pretend to hold ourselves up to the standards we believe in; nor did we pay lip service to them.
Government offices? No problem. They are officially legitimate targets for attack. So what if the people working there are civilians? What difference does it make that they are used to run civil life: transport, agriculture and welfare for 1.5 million human beings?
A collective liquidation of over a hundred police cadets in the middle of their graduation ceremony? Absolutely – they are Palestinians in uniform; that will do.
The firing of white phosphorus, which keeps on burning for days after it is discharged, on alleys where kids are playing? We have cast-iron stomachs; we can digest any poison easily. Our hearts are made of cold steel. We don’t take pity on anyone.
Cast Lead was our second war of independence. In the first, we liberated ourselves from two thousand years of living under the control of others. In the second, we liberated ourselves from the ropes of Jewish heritage and morality that have been binding us for years. We no longer have to comply with the prohibition of killing the righteous with the wicked. We are exempted from remembering the lessons of being an occupied people without rights. The unavoidable insights of those who have been silenced have been erased and substituted with attitudes reserved for sub-humans.
In the past, we have transgressed some of the moral imperatives, but then we made sure not to reveal that to ourselves. On this occasion, we decided that the time for pretence was over. We have told enough lies to the world and ourselves. From now on we tell the truth: the Jewish state is of the opinion that the laws of war need amending in a way that reduces the risk to combatants, even if this means an increased risk to civilians. The Jewish state believes that in this new kind of war it is permitted, indeed necessary, to bombard power stations that provide electricity to hundreds of thousands of civilians. It is permitted to destroy the food-supply infrastructure and obliterate schools and mosques. And the Jewish state will not tolerate any criticism, either from within or from without.
The new freedom to act was also applied against Israeli oppositional voices. In an unprecedented move, the Israeli Police arrested hundreds of demonstrators against the war. The IDF spokesperson, an officer in uniform, orchestrated a campaign of vilification and delegitimisation against organisations that dared criticise the military’s activities. The Foreign Minster laboured to dry up such organisations’ sources of finance. Moral decay devoured everyone: the commanders who ordered, the fighters who carried out the orders, the lawyers who certified it legal, the academics who kept mum and the press that fanned the flames of war and was so devoted to the IDF spokesperson that it became a unit in a brigade under his command.
These processes have a price. They lead to a loss of faith in Israeli society’s ability to find strength within itself to return to the values upon which it was created. They generate external pressure, international investigations, prosecutions abroad, boycotts and sanctions. All these now have a legal moral basis upon which to blossom. And we, who are so addicted the freedom of having a light finger on the trigger, do not even consider quitting the habit.
Translated by Sol Salbe. Hebrew original:
A Year End request from EI: help us break the information siege
Over the past few days, I have been in Cairo with more than 1,300 people from 43 countries, as part of the Gaza Freedom March. Part of the reason I personally decided to go Gaza is to meet some of the individuals in Gaza who have written for The Electronic Intifada (EI), and to see and hear for myself how people there continue to struggle and survive in the wake of last year's Israeli attack amid a tight blockade calculated to make recovery, reconstruction and civilized life impossible.
In face of the Egyptian government's efforts to prevent us from reaching Gaza, marchers have been staging peaceful actions to highlight the devastating effects of the ongoing blockade of Gaza and to demand the border be opened.
This experience has brought home to me the importance of the work The Electronic Intifada team does to break the information siege every day, by ensuring that the voices and stories of Palestinians in Gaza and throughout Palestine are not silenced, and that the incisive, prescient and independent analysis you can't get anywhere else continues on EI.
While I have been in Cairo, my EI team colleagues have continued their work, as they do every day, to bring a first class publication to thousands of people around the world. Your support is critically important to this effort. If you have not already done so, please consider making a donation to EI before the close of the year so that we can remain strong in 2010.
To learn more about how your support makes our award-winning coverage of Palestine possible, please see our 2009 Appeal:
To make a tax-deductible donation click:
With best wishes for the new year
On behalf of The Electronic Intifada Team
UN expert calls for sanctions against Israel to lift siege of Gaza
29 December 2009
The United Nations independent expert on Palestinian rights has again called for a threat of economic sanctions against Israel to force it to lift its blockade of Gaza, which is preventing the return to a normal life for 1.5 million residents after the devastating Israeli offensive a year ago.
“Obviously Israel does not respond to language of diplomacy, which has encouraged the lifting of the blockade and so what I am suggesting is that it has to be reinforced by a threat of adverse economic consequences for Israel,”Richard Falk, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, told UN Radio.
“That probably is something that is politically unlikely to happen, but unless it happens, it really does suggest that the United States and the Quartet and the EU [European Union] don’t take these calls for lifting the blockade very seriously and are unaffected by Israel’s continuing defiance of those calls,”he said, referring to the diplomatic Quartet of the UN, EU, Russia and US, which have been calling for a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict.
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), the main UN body tending to the needs of some 4 million Palestinian refugees, said today Gaza had been “bombed back, not to the Stone Age, but to the mud age,” because UNRWA was reduced to building houses out of mud after the 22-day offensive Israel said it launched to end rocket attacks against it.
“The Israeli blockade has meant that almost no reconstruction materials have been allowed to move into Gaza even though 60,000 homes were either damaged or completely destroyed. So we in UNRWA have been saying ‘let's lift this senseless blockage,’” UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told UN Radio.
“We are the United Nations and we always hope that diplomacy will prevail, and it will prevail above the rationale of warfare. But if you look at what is going on in Gaza, and if you look at the continued blockade and the fact that that blockade is radicalizing a population there, then one has to have one’s doubts.”In a statement last week, Mr. Falk stressed that the “unlawful blockade” was in its third year, with insufficient food and medicine reaching Gazans, producing further deterioration of the mental and physical health of the entire civilian population.
Building materials necessary to repair the damage could not enter Gaza, and he blamed the blockade for continued breakdowns of the electricity and sanitation systems due to the Israeli refusal to let spare parts needed for repair get through the crossings.
Mr. Falk also deplored the wall being built on the borders between Gaza and Egypt.
“I’m very distressed by that, because it is both an expression of complicity on the part of the government of Egypt and the United States, which apparently is assisting through its corps of engineers with the construction of this underground steel impenetrable wall that’s designed to interfere with the tunnels that have been bringing some food and material relief to the Gaza population,”he told UN Radio.
“And of course, the underground tunnel complex itself is an expression of the desperation created in Gaza as a result of this blockade that’s going on now for two and a half years, something that no people since the end of World War II have experienced in such a severe and continuing form.”As a Special Rapporteur, Mr. Falk serves in an independent and unpaid capacity and reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council.
In a new policy brief, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), entrusted
with promoting the integration of developing countries into the world economy, reported that more than 80 per cent of Gaza’s population are now impoverished; 43 per cent unemployed; and 75 per cent lack food security.
“In view of the eroded productive base, poverty is likely to widen and deepen unless reconstruction begins in earnest and without further delay,”it warned.
Gaza's border must be opened NOW
Pam Rasmussen, The Electronic Intifada, 29 December 2009
This time is clearly different.
I have traveled to Gaza twice this year, in groups ranging from 40 to 60 persons, and although there was a lot of behind-the-scenes work involved in "greasing the wheels" with the Egyptian authorities, we pretty much sailed in. CODEPINK (the group that organized both of my previous trips) developed a well-earned reputation for being able to pull just the right levers to open the doors to the isolated enclave of Gaza -- even more so than George Galloway's Viva Palestina convoy, which is typically allowed in for only 24 to 48 hours (versus our four days).
But too many months have gone by with no change in the crippling isolation of Gaza imposed by Israel and Egypt, and it was time to risk our privileged access to take our efforts to break the siege up a notch. Our numbers had to be massive enough to threaten the jailers' growing complacence and broad enough to send the message that this is a global movement that won't stop until the Palestinian people are given the freedom and justice they deserve. Thus, this time CODEPINK allied with a number of other organizations around the world, and the number of participants quickly ballooned to more than 1,300 from 43 countries. Likewise, while we have collected or purchased thousands of dollars' worth of school supplies, winter clothing and electronic devices (such as computers -- currently only available via the tunnels and thus too expensive for the average Palestinian in Gaza), our message is also unapologetically political: the borders must be opened, to everyone, all the time. NOW.
We have obviously accomplished our objective. The jailers have taken notice and are running scared. So scared that we not only have been denied entry into Gaza, we have been threatened with arrest and deportation if we so much as carry a sign or gather in groups of more than six. Our reservation with a facility in downtown Cairo for an orientation meeting for delegates was canceled at the government's order, and requests to hold educational workshops instead were refused. In an even more audacious move that was aided and abetted by participants' own governments, consulate representatives were called to a meeting and apparently instructed to warn their residents not to come. In Spain, that warning was echoed in a news release. In Canada, individuals registered for the march or who had participated in past delegations received emails from their embassies. In Portugal, one marcher was called on his personal cell phone!
As word spread of Egypt's refusal to open Gaza's doors -- announcing its decision long after thousands of internationals had purchased expensive airline tickets and mere days before they began boarding their flights -- supporters around the world inundated Egypt's embassies with calls, emails and faxes in protest. Many came from legislators and other government officials, past and present. Egypt only backed further into its corner in response, using the aggressive tone of some of the calls and emails to ignore the overall theme: Â the injustice of the collective punishment imposed on Gaza's nearly 1.5 million Palestinians and Egypt's refusal to allow supporters to help.
As I write this, we are still being refused entry to Gaza, and even permission to travel to al-Arish and Rafah on the border. Thirty-eight of our marchers tried to get to al-Arish on their own, but 30 were then put under house arrest in their hotel and eight were detained at the bus station. Every peaceful vigil or protest we staged was met with an "iron wall" -- and sometimes, by violence.
When the French contingent of about 450 persons asked for help from their embassy, and occupied the grounds of the building in protest when initial promises negotiated with the Egyptian government were reneged, they were surrounded by heavily-armed and helmeted riot police and refused permission to leave -- even for food or to use a toilet. At the time of this writing, their "occupation" is going on 48 hours now.
Similar "sit-ins" have been or are being waged at the US, UK and Italian embassies (with more to come). At the US embassy, 30 Americans were detained within a circle of police for eight hours (at the direction of their own countrymen, by the way) before being released. The only small victory was an (ultimately frustrating and fruitless) meeting for three of the protesters with one of the embassy's higher-level officials.
The same treatment was received when vigils were staged at the United Nations, the journalists' syndicate (in support of about a dozen hunger-striking marchers) and the Kasr al-Nil Bridge over the Nile.
However, there are a few, bright silver linings to this dark cloud. Groups on the left of the sociopolitical spectrum are known for being far less cooperative and cohesive than their conservative, reactionary counterparts. It truly gladdened my heart, therefore, to see the immediate mobilization in our support by groups ranging from the War Resisters League to Jewish Voice for Peace.
Meanwhile, it's a truism that controversy attracts media coverage. Our missions to Gaza have been ignored by the mainstream media in the past, but this time, Egypt's defensive and angry response attracted the attention of such mainstream media pillars as the BBC, the Associated Press, Newsweek and The New York Times. I am a communications professional, and Egypt has violated a tenet of Public Relations 101: The more you protest, the guiltier you look.
Pam Rasmussen is a peace activist and communications professional from Maryland who recently received a Community Human Rights Award for her work on behalf of Palestinians from the UN Association of the National Capitol Area. She can be contacted at peacenut57 A T yahoo D O T com.