Saturday, 28 February 2009

Justiça e cuscus


Justice and couscous
Gen Sander, The Electronic Intifada, 25 February 2009

Helen Abu al-Haija, co-founder of a women's fair trade couscous cooperative.

Life has never been easy in Ein al-Sultan camp, Palestine's smallest refugee camp. Nestled at the foot of the Mount of Temptation, just outside the historic city of Jericho, the camp's population currently sits at roughly 2,000. Established in 1948, the camp once accommodated 20,000 refugees, but the vast majority were forced to flee to Jordan during the hostilities of the 1967 war. Many of those who remained once relied on employment in Israel to make ends meet, but when the brutality of the occupation was intensified during the second Palestinian intifada most people lost their jobs because of the severe movement restrictions that were imposed. Today, poor socio-economic conditions, inadequate basic infrastructure such as roads and sewers, severe water shortages, all of which are compounded by the Israeli occupation, cause tremendous hardship for the refugees, who continue to be largely dependent on food rations and various other forms of international aid.

A portrait so acutely drenched in misery is difficult for anyone to confront, let alone those actually burdened by it. Fortunately, though, the spirit's resolve is an amazing tool for change and was the trigger for a remarkable group of women from Ein al-Sultan camp to come together a few years ago to devise an innovative way in which to break free from the shackles of their destitution. And so begins the inspirational story of Jericho's women's fair trade couscous cooperative.

The idea was born out of a longing to improve their situation and become independent. "Unemployment is very high and we can't always depend on our husbands. Sometimes they have work, and sometimes they don't. We want to be able to contribute," explained Zahra Abu Shrar, one of the co-op members. Armed with a brilliant idea but lacking the resources to launch it, the women approached the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC) about contributing the necessary infrastructure and logistical assistance. Without delay, PARC accepted and began working in concert to see this project come to fruition.

Now, two years later, the women are still beaming with pride. "This is our initiative. We care about it, and cannot imagine doing anything else," said Helen Abu al-Haija, one of the co-op founders and a 27-year-old mother of three who was born in the camp. Due to her extensive experience with local, grassroots organizations, Abu al-Haija was elected as acting supervisor of the co-op. She somehow finds time to dedicate her days to the co-op, her evenings and weekends to her family, and whatever spare time she has to completing her university degree. Everyone shares her strong commitment to the project as well as a common history and struggle that, as Helen explains, binds the women together as one "big happy family."

Co-op co-founder Zahra Abu Shrar.
But apart from the obvious benefits of carving out one's own position in the world alongside one's kin, are the added perks of working in the fair trade industry. Everything down to the bare bones of the co-op is based on principles of justice -- even the wheat acquired to make the couscous comes from the organic, fair trade wheat co-op in Jenin. The concept of solidarity is very important for the women, made clear by Abu al-Haija's confession that "if it weren't for the fair trade farmers, we wouldn't have this job." There is also the groundswell of solidarity and cooperation between the co-op and the international organizations that support their work by buying their high-quality couscous. "We feel the solidarity and we know our work is appreciated," Abu al-Haija explained, smiling proudly.

The women unanimously agree that since they've been working at the couscous co-op their lives have improved dramatically. For the first time "we're no longer dependent on humanitarian aid," said Abu Shrar. Not only are they now independently taking home their well-earned wages, but they are finally able to simultaneously provide opportunities once inconceivable to their children, and fix-up their run-down homes. Furthermore, their self-confidence has grown alongside their social status, which has been propped up by virtue of their fortitude, self-determination and goodwill.

A similar success once seemed promising in the Gaza Strip, where six women's fair trade couscous cooperatives shared the same dreams and aspirations as those of the Jericho co-op. More than two years ago, however, all six co-ops were forced to shut down thanks to the crippling Israeli blockade that prevented them from importing production requirements and exporting their produce. The closures had a direct impact on more than 400 persons whose lives depended heavily on their continued existence. More recently, after Israel's brutal three-week assault on Gaza, one of the co-ops in Sheikh Radwan was damaged beyond repair.

With a heavy sigh, Abu al-Haija explained that they would have liked to work alongside their sisters in Gaza. "All co-ops have the same objectives, are supported by the same organizations, and would like to work together," she said, adding that all the members of the Jericho co-op are with them and "hope the closure will end soon and that the couscous co-ops will open again." It's only a matter of time before the world realizes how insidiously cruel and vindictive the blockade has been and demands that it be lifted so that the people of Gaza can resume living their lives with dignity and integrity.

Having survived so much injustice and impunity over the past 60 years, most Palestinians know how important it is to defend and uphold concepts of justice and fairness. Fair trade, for this reason, has a unique niche in Palestine; all that is needed is a safe space to sow the seeds and the means to cultivate the yield. The will clearly already exists, as the women from Ein al-Sultan camp have so gracefully displayed.

Gen Sander currently lives in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. She works in the fair trade department of PARC and teaches photography in Aida refugee camp.

Mataram-me três vezes!


"They killed me three times"
Eva Bartlett writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Live from Palestine, 24 February 2009

Amer al-Helo and his family outside their destroyed home.

Amer al-Helo smiled wanly while saying he is broken inside. Twenty days after Israeli soldiers shot dead his 55-year-old father and his one-year-old daughter in front of him, also shooting his oldest daughter in the elbow and his brother in the shoulder, the pain of the 29-year-old had not diminished. Then again, he'd only just recovered the rotting corpse of his father six days earlier; his entire area of Gaza City's Zeitoun neighborhood had been cut off from ambulances and emergency teams until Israel unilaterally declared an end to the extensive bombing of Gaza and pulled ground troops out of occupied areas on 18 January.

"It was a nightmare," al-Helo said of the experience. From the afternoon of 3 January until 5am the next day there was "non-stop shelling in our area. We had F-16 firing missiles out front, tanks shelling all around."

Al-Helo explained how the family endured the early days of air and land shelling, remaining in their home as they believed it was the safest place to stay. Nonetheless, they'd taken precautions.

"We were sleeping there," al-Helo said, pointing at a tight space under the stairwell on the west side of the house. "It was the most protected place from the shelling. There are no windows there, and everywhere else in the house our windows had shattered. But we didn't expect the Israeli ground troops to enter."

At 5:30am on 4 January, the Israeli foot soldiers did enter. The family of 14 was still huddled under the stairwell when Israeli soldiers stormed the outer gate.

"My father opened the back door and stepped out. They shot without warning. He died immediately," said al-Helo.

The soldiers then ordered the rest of the family to leave the house. "Get out, get out," al-Helo said they screamed. When he tried to remain in the house with his father Fouad's body he said the Israeli soldiers told him "If you stay here we'll kill you."

They left, trying in vain to find shelter. "We were knocking at the doors of people's houses along the road, desperate to get in. Everyone was afraid to open, or had left their home," said al-Helo.

The terrified family had only walked a few hundred meters down a back lane before Israeli snipers began shooting at them, hitting one-year-old Farah in the abdomen. The girl, whose name means "joy," didn't immediately die, instead suffered for the next few hours, intestines falling out. Her mother, Shireen, breast-fed her in a desperate attempt to comfort the baby.

The couple's six-year-old daughter, Sejah, and Amer's 23-year-old brother, Abdullah, were also hit, in the elbow and back, respectively, Abdullah's bullet piercing his right lung.

With the renewed shooting, the family scrambled behind a dirt mound Israeli bulldozers had created and huddled there for safety. "We were there for about 14 hours," al-Helo said, "then they released the dogs." Incredible as it seems, al-Helo stated that at around 8pm Israeli soldiers sent dogs to frighten the family out from behind their earthen shelter.

Al-Helo related his confusion and frustration at Israeli soldiers who upon capturing the family finally offered basic first aid for the injured -- what he says was iodine and bandages.

"Why did you kill my father, my daughter?" al-Helo remembers shouting at them instead of gratefully accepting the late aid.

The body of one-year-old Farah at the morgue.

The surviving members said at that point, Israeli soldiers took the injured away, keeping them hidden behind a tank for another eight hours while a Red Crescent ambulance searched for them. Shireen al-Helo confirmed that the non-injured were ordered away, and that it was in total about 23 hours before the injured received medical care, nearly one day after Fouad and Farah had been shot. Finally, she related, soldiers allowed the ambulance near enough to take away Abdullah and Farah.

At the same time when the two injured were detained and the rest of the family sent away, Amer al-Helo was abducted by Israeli soldiers who blindfolded and handcuffed him. He said he was taken away to "somewhere in Israel," where for five days he was held and interrogated. "For the first three days I wasn't given any water or allowed to use a toilet. They asked me questions like 'where do the fighters fire from? Where's Gilad?'" referring to the Israeli soldier captured two years earlier along the border with Gaza.

Finally, after five days of captivity, during which al-Helo said he could only think about his dead daughter, father and older brother, Israeli soldiers brought him back to the border and released him.

The brother in question, Muhammad, had been killed earlier on 3 January by two drone missiles. The first seriously injured him and the second hit him as he tried to crawl away.

Days later, an emotionally-drained al-Helo retold his story, ending the testimony with his homecoming two weeks later.

Returning the day after Israel's unilateral ceasefire, the al-Helo family found a house reeking of death and destruction.

Only then did they find the body of Fouad, Amer al-Helo's father. For two weeks, the Red Crescent and rescue services were prevented by Israeli forces from reaching the body, as was the case in most areas in Zeitoun, eastern Jabaliya, northern Gaza, northwestern Gaza and elsewhere. Although the family continued to appeal to the Red Cross to coordinate with Israeli officials, it wasn't until Israel declared its cessation of shelling that they could begin to search for Fouad. They finally found his decayed body in a lot filled with rubbish across the road.

"We looked for eight hours and couldn't find him," al-Helo said. "Finally, we saw his foot sticking out of the cacti across the road. They had buried him with rubble and dirt."

The entire three-story house was tarnished from direct hits by Israeli missiles, riddled with gunshot holes throughout the building, and sniper holes bored into different walls overlooking strategic points outside, to the filth the occupying soldiers had left inside. No room in al-Helo's house was left undamaged.

A broken clock still hanging on a bullet-riddled wall silently testifies the time at which Israeli soldiers shot up that particular room: shortly before 6am, shortly after having shot Fouad dead.

Amer al-Helo said that the Israeli soldiers stole money, phones, gold jewelry and anything valuable from the home. Not only that, but they destroyed al-Helo's livelihood; the delivery van he had used to earn a living, sits a burned-out shell in front of the damaged house.

"We don't stay here at night now," al-Helo said, gesturing at the ruined walls and clothes strewn on the floors. "It's too painful to be here. We're staying with relatives in Shejaiye [neighborhood]." His house in shambles, the stench of death still pungent, and the fields across the road torn up from invading Israeli tanks and bulldozers, it will be a long time before staying in the house could be easy.

Sitting on chairs outside the ravaged house, just meters from where Fouad was shot dead, Amer al-Helo began to speak of his children while his uncle served tea.

"The only thing that makes me happy are my children. When they are happy, it lifts my heart. I used to pile them into the car and drive them to the beach," he said, smiling sadly. "I had said that Farah was our last child, I'd said 'we are blessed, we have many children,'" he recalled.

With one less child al-Helo hasn't changed his decision. "We won't have any more. Why would I have another child? So the Israeli soldiers can kill them?"

A shattered al-Helo added, "You couldn't ask me anything more painful: to see my father shot before me, my daughter. To hear her cries. They killed me three times those two days, you know: first they killed my brother, then my father, then my daughter."

All images by Eva Bartlett.

Eva Bartlett is a Canadian human rights advocate and freelancer who spent eight months in 2007 living in West Bank communities and four months in Cairo and at the Rafah crossing. She is currently based in the Gaza Strip after having arrived with the third Free Gaza Movement boat in November. She has been working with the International Solidarity Movement in Gaza, accompanying ambulances while witnessing and documenting the ongoing Israeli air strikes and ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.

Documentário II

"Occupation 101" é um documentário que aborda o conflito Israelo-Palestiniano e foi realizado por Sufyan Omeish e Abdallah Omeish, e narrado por Alison Weir, fundadora do If Americans Knew. O filme discute os eventos a partir do surgimento do movimento Sionista até a segunda Intifada, a limpeza étnica da Palestina, as relações entre Israel e Estados Unidos e as violações dos direitos humanos e abusos cometidos por colonos e soldados israelitas contra os Palestinianos.

O filme é um pouco longo (1h.30) e está legendado em português, com alguns erros.

Relatório do Centro Palestiniano dos Direitos Humanos

PCHR Weekly Report: Palestinian child killed; 19 people injured by Israeli forces

Friday February 27, 2009 09:10

by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC News
According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, during the week of 19 - 26 Feb. 2009, a Palestinian child died of wounds sustained during the recent Israeli invasion of Gaza. In addition, Israeli troops injured 19 Palestinians, 17 of whom were unarmed civilians, of whom eight were children, in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The injured include a radio reporter from the southern Gaza city of Rafah. Israeli forces carried out intensive air strikes along the border with Egypt, forcing residents from their homes. Two members of the Palestinian resistance were injured in an air strike.

Palestinian woman at the closed Rafah crossing (photo from PCHR)
Palestinian woman at the closed Rafah crossing (photo from PCHR)

Israeli attacks in the West Bank:

During the last week, Israeli forces carried out 35 incursions in the West Bank. Fifteen Palestinian civilians were injured by Israeli forces this week, including seven children, fourteen of whom were in the village of Naalin, west of Ramallah. One civilian was wounded in the town of Beit Umar, north of Hebron.

42 Palestinians were abducted during the raids, including 6 children. Israeli occupying forces continue to impose restrictions on the movement of the civilian population in the context of a policy of collective punishment, contrary to all international and humanitarian laws, and continue to swallow up more land for the benefit of expanding Israeli settlements, as well as continuing efforts to Judaize the city of Jerusalem.

In one invasion, in Nablus, the occupying forces blew up parts of a house in the old city of Nablus during an alleged search for weapons. They used a police dog, which bit a 98-year old Palestinian civilian in the shoulder.

Israeli Annexation Wall:

Israeli troops used excessive force and systematic attacks against a peaceful protest march organized by Palestinian civilians and Israeli and foreign human rights defenders, against the continued construction of the Annexation Wall. Occupation forces used force to disperse protesters in several Palestinian villages adjacent to the wall. This resulted in the injury of eleven Palestinians, half of them children, as well as dozens of injuries suffered from the inhalation of tear gas.

Israeli settlement activities:

Israeli settlers living in the occupied West Bank contrary to international humanitarian law committed several crimes against Palestinian civilians and their property this week. These crimes were again ignored by Israeli soldiers, whose mandate is to protect the settlers.

During the week covered by this report, a group of settlers, guarded by the Israeli occupation forces, invaded Joseph's Tomb, east of the city of Nablus, and set up their religion for several hours in it.

In Hebron, Israeli settlers took advantage of living illegally in outposts in the heart of the city of Hebron, interrupting electricity for all regions and districts of the city of Hebron, and launched a series of sporadic attacks on the homes of Palestinian citizens. The attacks were concentrated in the outlying neighborhood of Tel Rumeida.

Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip:

In the Gaza Strip, one child died this week, after battling his injuries for the last five weeks. Abdullah Nabil Shaban Asilym, 17, from Gaza City, died on 24 Feb at a hospital in Egypt. The child in question had been wounded on 15 Jan, during the bombing of a nearby house belonging to "Said Siam”, a Hamas leader. In that same air strike, four of Siam's relatives, and five members of the family next door, were killed.

On 19 Feb, local radio reporter from the town of Rafah, Ù�Adel Zo'rob, 35, was moderately wounded, when Israeli warplanes launched several raids on the border with Egypt. On 24 Feb, a Palestinian girl was hit in the town of Khuza'a, east of Khan Younis, when the occupation forces fired at a group of civilians who were standing near the rubble of their destroyed homes in Gaza.

In addition to the aggression by the occupation authorities in the Gaza Strip, the civilian population is experiencing the effects of the worst humanitarian crisis experienced by the Palestinian population since 1948. Israeli authorities continue the siege on the Gaza Strip, for the third consecutive year.

Recommendations to the international community:

Due to the number and severity of Israeli human rights violations this week, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights made a number of recommendations to the international community. Among these were a recommendation that the signatories to the Fourth Geneva Convention carry out their obligations under the Convention to hold Israel responsible for its violations of international law.

Fonte: IMEMC

O Mefistófeles do exército israelita.

Amos Gilad: Israel's Military Mephistopheles

Government officials have complained that Gilad is as good as 'running the country'.

By Jonathan Cook - Nazareth

It is not entirely surprising that Amos Gilad, an Israeli general who once sued his own government for “irreversible mental damage” caused by his role in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, has publicly courted controversy again.

On Monday, Ehud Olmert, Israel’s outgoing prime minister, suspended Gilad as his envoy to Egypt, responsible for negotiating a ceasefire with Hamas, after Gilad called the prime minister’s truce conditions “insane”.

The move threatened to unleash a political storm in Israel. Ehud Barak, the defence minister and a longtime ally of Gilad, rushed to denounce Olmert’s decision. He insisted that Gilad, a defence ministry official in charge of diplomatic and security issues, would continue with his other duties.

Gilad’s fingerprints are to be found on most of the hawkish policies approved by the political leadership since the start of the intifada in 2000, including the emasculation of the Palestinian Authority, the “disengagement” from Gaza, and the promotion of civil war between Hamas and Fatah.

In a sign of Gilad’s indispensability, Olmert was forced to make an embarrassing climbdown two days later and reinstate the wayward official after Gilad submitted a written apology.

Israeli commentators have noted that Gilad has sought over the years to erode the distinction between military and political influence. Writing in Haaretz newspaper, Akiva Eldar has accused Gilad of being “a mephisto in and out of uniform” who has turned his department “into one of the most important power centres in the country”.

Popularly known as the “National Explainer”, Gilad opened the rift with Olmert last week when he gave an interview to Maariv, another daily newspaper, over his role in negotiating a renewed ceasefire with Hamas in Gaza.

Gilad, who brokered the six-month truce that preceded Israel’s recent three-week Gaza offensive, is said to have believed an agreement was at hand in which Hamas would end both arms smuggling into and rocket fire out of Gaza in return for the opening of border crossings.

Angered that Olmert effectively stalled the talks at the last minute by also linking the ceasefire to the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured in 2006, Gilad told the paper: “I don’t understand what they are trying to do. Insult the Egyptians? … This is insanity, simply insanity.”

Until recently, talks about Sgt Shalit’s release had focused on a prisoner exchange in which Hamas is demanding freedom for hundreds of Palestinians.

When Gilad refused to apologise, Olmert suspended him as envoy and lodged a complaint with the Civil Service Commission. Olmert’s move, in the last days before he leaves office, threatened to set him on a collision course with defence officials, who appear keen to agree to a long-term ceasefire with Hamas.

Barak’s staff issued a stern rebuke of the prime minister, warning that Israel would “suffer the consequences”. Barak himself called the decision “shameful” and described Gilad as “a dedicated and outstanding civil servant”.

Barak’s close ties to Gilad date to his premiership, when Gilad briefed him as head of military intelligence’s research department.

Contrary to the pragmatic, almost dovish, image he has now acquired inside Israel, Gilad has traditionally been regarded as an ultra-hawk.

It was his briefings at the time of Camp David in 2000, in which he claimed that the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, was determined to use the second intifada to destroy Israel, that gave weight to Barak’s slogan “There is no partner for peace”.

Four years later, in June 2004, a series of military officials revealed that Gilad had doctored intelligence reports and presented a false picture to the politicians.

In reality, according to the director of military intelligence, Amos Malka, the evidence showed that Arafat wanted to reach a deal with Israel and had been taken by surprise by the ferocity of the popular Palestinian uprising.

In response, Gilad defended his briefings, calling Arafat “incredibly dangerous” and comparing him to Adolf Hitler.

At the same time, he won a disability allowance from the defence ministry for developing diabetes following what he called “heavy emotional pressure” during the 1982 Lebanon war, which had left him psychologically scarred.

Gilad is blamed by some Israeli analysts for fuelling Israel’s hawkish policies throughout the second intifada.

Commenting in 2004, Roni Ben Efrat noted that Gilad’s false intelligence had provided the political justification “for isolating Arafat and attempting to replace him with Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas). It lies today at the root of the plan to disengage unilaterally from Gaza.”

However, the false intelligence revelations, as well as claims of mental impairment, did little to dent Gilad’s subsequent influence. He went on to become the army’s co-ordinator in the occupied territories and helped Barak’s successor, Ariel Sharon, engineer the reoccupation of the West Bank and crush the Palestinian Authority.

He also promoted the view that Israel was on the front line in the “war on terror”. In Feb 2003, a month before the US invasion of Iraq, he stated that Arafat and Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, “believe in the same path, the path of terror meant to break Israel”.

When he took over diplomatic and security issues at the defence ministry in May 2003, Reuven Pedatzur, a military analyst, warned that the appointment marked “another step in the process of militarisation (of) Israeli society”. He added: “Civilians – and civil worldviews – have been totally excluded from any involvement or influence in the diplomatic process.”

Since Olmert’s effective resignation in September over corruption allegations, and as Israel still waits for a new prime minister to emerge, government officials have complained that, despite being unelected, Gilad is as good as “running the country”.

- Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). He contributed this article to Visit his website at: (A version of this article originally appeared in The National - published in Abu Dhabi.)

fonte:Palestine Chronicle

Crime e responsabilidade em Gaza.


Crime and accountability in Gaza
Toufic Haddad, The Electronic Intifada, 24 February 2009

Will Israel be held accountable for its destruction in Gaza? (Matthew Cassel)

Now that the smoke has at least temporarily cleared from Gaza's skies, credible human rights reports have filtered in describing the utter devastation that took place throughout the course of Israel's 22 day assault "Operation Cast Lead." The figures are truly shocking. According to statistics by the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, at least 1,285 Palestinians were killed, of which 895 were civilians, including 280 children and 111 women. Another 167 of the dead were civil police officers, most of whom were killed on the first day of the bombing when they were graduating from a training course. More than 2,400 houses were completely destroyed, as were 28 public civilian facilities, (including ministries, municipalities, governorates, fishing harbors and the Palestinian Legislative Council building), 29 educational institutions, 30 mosques, 10 charitable societies, 60 police stations and 121 industrial and commercial workshops.

Casualty statistics by Palestinian military groups appear to corroborate the number of civilians killed versus militants. According to their respective Arabic-language websites, Hamas lost 48 fighters, Islamic Jihad, 34, the Popular Resistance Committees, 17, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, one. It is not known how many fighters Fatah lost, though their participation in the resistance was certainly less than that of Hamas, which clearly led the Palestinian side. These reports should also be considered credible because it is highly unlikely a group would suppress its casualty figures given that their fighters' deaths are perceived as acts of martyrdom, for which the faction proudly advertises its sacrifices. Family members of dead fighters would also not accept any other classification. We can safely assume therefore that the remaining killed militants were Fatah members, former or current security force personnel, or individuals who took up arms when the fighting erupted.

Information from Israeli sources has also surfaced regarding different aspects of the planning and functioning of the Israeli military during the campaign. It is now known for example that the idea to bomb the closing ceremony of a Gaza police training course was planned and internally criticized within the Israel army months before the attack. According to the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz correspondent Barak Regev, "A military source involved in the planning of the attack, in which dozens of Hamas policemen were killed, says that while military intelligence officers were sure the operation should be carried out and pressed for its approval, the [Israeli army's] international law division and the military advocate general were undecided." Israel went ahead with the bombing anyway, killing dozens of civil police officers whose limp dismembered bodies were captured in chilling images broadcast the first day of Israel's campaign.

It was also revealed by Haaretz that "Israel used text messages, dropped flyers from the air and made a quarter of a million telephone calls to warn Gaza residents." Given that 50 percent of Gaza's residents are below the age of 16 and are unlikely to have independent telephone lines, a quarter million telephone calls covers a considerable portion of Gaza's households. This is a backhanded acknowledgment of the fact that almost everybody in Gaza was threatened in Israel's campaign.

Israeli politicians also appear aware of the devastation they have wrought in Gaza, and the war crimes charges they are likely to face because of their targeting of the civilian population. One minister told Israeli military correspondent Amos Harel "When the scale of the damage in Gaza becomes clear, I will no longer take a vacation in Amsterdam, only at the international court in The Hague." According to Harel, "It was not clear whether he was trying to make a joke or not."

How is one to approach the existence of indisputable evidence showing that Palestinian civilians were a deliberate target in Israel's campaign? This is not the case of "collateral damage," nor is this the case of one of the most sophisticated and powerful armies operating in one of the most densely populated areas of the world.

The technicalities of the legal cases pressing for war crimes charges should be left to qualified lawyers and human rights workers. Indeed the process is well on its way, with one petition already filed in Belgium. The Israeli government is also set to approve a bill that will grant aid to officers who do face suits for alleged war crimes. The military censor has already issued orders to the press not to reveal the identities of officers involved in the Gaza campaign.

As these debates begin, it's important to stress three points. First, the policy of targeting civilians in Gaza was nothing new. The medieval siege which was clamped on Gaza since the Hamas victory in the 2006 elections preventing access to fuels, foods and medical supplies, was part and parcel of the same policy directed at the civilian population. Adding the military dimension whereby Israeli army personnel sitting in bunkers in Tel Aviv bomb civilian areas with unmanned drones, is only a difference of degree, not principle.

Second, it is important to point out the modus operandi used in Gaza was entirely predictable, based on how Israeli and American military analysts and journalists were openly discussing the results of Israel's failed campaign in Lebanon in 2006. For example, Anthony Cordesman, a military analyst for the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, visited Israel after the July 2006 war and interviewed its military personnel to assess its setbacks. His subsequent recommendations for correcting Israel's tactics in future confrontations read like a blueprint for what Israel was doing to Gaza. "From Israel's viewpoint you have to use force even more against civilian targets," Cordesman explains. "You have to attack deep. You have to step up the intensity of combat and you have to be less careful and less restrained."

Cordesman's conclusions derived from his belief that Israel's "deterrence" had suffered serious erosion throughout the course of the second Palestinian intifada and especially during the July 2006 war. In the latter case, the support provided by the Lebanese civilian population to Hizballah was seen as instrumental in the movement's ability to embed itself locally before and during the war. This enabled it to build up a formidable civilian and military infrastructure, and importantly, to deprive Israel of sufficient intelligence regarding its activities. As The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman explained, deliberately attacking civilians was necessary in order "to educate" them not to allow Hizballah to operate from their areas. If they don't learn the lesson, their areas would be bombed again. Israel also tried to teach Palestinians a lesson in Gaza again, though its students are still just as unlikely to get the point.

That this military doctrine could have been identified, criticized and stopped before it was allowed to be put into action one more destructive time, leads to the third and final point. A military strategy that overtly embraces tactics aimed at bludgeoning a civilian population into submission, could not stand on its own were it not for a deeper more sinister logic which has prepared the acceptance of such crimes in advance -- both vis-a-vis the international community and domestically within Israel. Here there are many culprits, and even more accomplices. But it suffices to say that the dehumanization of Palestinians in general, and those in Gaza in particular, reached unconscionable levels in years past.

During the first Palestinian intifada, the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin famously wished that "Gaza would just sink into the sea." During the second intifada, Israeli chief of staff Moshe Ya'alon defined the Palestinians as a threat akin to "cancer" which Israel was applying "chemotherapy" to, but one day might be forced to use "amputation." He also emphasized that Israel's strategy towards the Palestinians needed to "burn into consciousness" their own defeat as a people.

After the January 2006 election of Hamas, and particularly after the Islamic movement's take over of Gaza as it sought to pre-empt a US-sponsored coup against it, the rhetoric against the Palestinians of Gaza was ramped up to feverish pitches. Gaza became "Hamastan, Hizballahstan and al-Qaedastan" wrapped into one, according to Ya'alon, with Iran at Israel's southern doorstep. The people of Gaza were to be put "on a diet," according to Dov Weissglas, an adviser to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, "but not to make them die of hunger."

The list of dehumanizing quotations is long and demeaning. If these ideas were restricted to the confines of Israeli military and political circles, while they would remain reprehensible, they could at least be contained. The problem is that they have been allowed to flourish throughout the US beneath the much broader discursive umbrella of the "War on Terror." Principled opposition to the farce of this "war" has virtually been non-existent within the Republican and Democratic parties. All we heard during last year's election campaign was how one party was going to fight it better than the other. No mainstream media organization has also dared to expose the "War on Terror" as a tool to implement American imperial ambitions, despite the acknowledgement by the former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, that invasion of Iraq was about oil.

All of a sudden the Palestinian question, whose basis is rooted in a classic anti-colonial nationalist struggle having to do with fighting an occupation for freedom and self-determination, is transformed into a pathogen which must be eradicated. How easy is it to forget that substantial numbers of countries throughout the world today only achieved independence after bitter armed struggles against occupation and their colonial masters. How convenient to elide that Europe itself had to believe in and organize an armed resistance to occupation when Nazism covered more than half of its landmass.

The transformation of the Palestinian struggle from its colonial birth, to its modern day public execution broadcast on CNN is facilitated through an insipid daily process whereby Palestinians, and people who look and sound like them -- non-English speaking Arabs and Muslims -- are constantly imagined and reproduced through a litany of military experts, commentators, Hollywood movies, drama series and even video games. The goal is to divide, stereotype and dehumanize at all cost, because providing nuance, history and context is the cardinal sin of the current corporate media age. America and Israel need terror to end now. Arabs and Palestinians need to accept their fate as subhuman entities, who become the object by which other countries erect their deterrence, as though it were a question of national virility.

Gaza never had a chance. It has always been the slum of slums, with its million and a half residents crammed into a plot of land with no real means of sustaining itself. After 60 years of dispossession, and 41 years of military occupation, who was really listening to the residents of its eight refugee camps, 40 percent of whom are unemployed, 80 percent of whom live on UN handouts? Who needs to ask these questions anyway? Palestinians know they have Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni looking after their best interests. During the war, she openly declared that what was happening in Gaza was good for the Palestinians.

Serious questions of accountability lie embedded in how Israel was allowed to deliberately target Gaza's civilian population. The world's ability -- or inability -- to address these questions leaves a stark dichotomy difficult to avoid: either the world upholds a moral stance that civilians are an illegitimate target in war, by which account Israel's political and military leaders must be tried and sentenced for their crimes. Or the world allows this principle to be violated, as it was in Gaza, and accepts the consequences of a world in which power and violence definitively determine right from wrong.

Toufic Haddad is a Palestinian-American journalist based in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. He is also the co-author of Between the Lines: Israel, the Palestinians and the US "War on Terror" with Israeli author Tikva Honig Parnass, published by Haymarket Books, 2007. He can be reached at tawfiq_haddad AT yahoo DOT com.

Friday, 27 February 2009


ESte documentário realizado pelo professor Gary Fields da Universidade de San Diego mostra o impacto das construções israelitas (colonatos e Muro) na paisagem urbana e agrícola na Cisjordânia e em Gaza.


a história de Dalal.

fonte:Youtube; AlJazeera

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Amira Hass sobre Gaza.25/02


Return to Gaza

Amira Hass

On Friday, 16 January, Mohammed Shurrab and his two sons, Kassab and Ibrahim, took advantage of the daily lull in the Israeli assault – the ‘three hours’ promised by the IDF – to travel from their plot of land in the eastern part of the Gaza Strip back to their home in Khan Younis. They were driving a red Land Rover. On the road, soldiers in a tank waved them on. Later, in the village of Al Fukhari, in a street lined with small houses and gardens, their vehicle was shot at by soldiers stationed on the roof of a local home. Kassab was killed instantly. Ibrahim lay bleeding beside his father; he died at midnight. Mohammed Shurrab had called for help on his cellphone, but the army prevented ambulances from entering the area until 23 hours after the shooting. The closest hospital was two minutes’ drive away.

Eight days later I visited the house from which the shots were fired. The women had already cleaned up the garbage the soldiers had piled up inside. But they hadn’t yet cleaned the walls of graffiti. On one wall I found two inscriptions in Hebrew: ‘The people of Israel live’; ‘Kahane was right.’ Meir Kahane’s party called for the expulsion of the Arabs from Israel if they didn’t give up their demands for national expression within the state.

The Joha family home in the Zaytoun neighbourhood in the south-east of Gaza City was also used by the army for several days. Soldiers ordered the family to leave their house on 4 January. Like dozens of other frightened neighbours they scrambled from house to house, seeking shelter from the incessant gunfire. On 5 January 80 people – some carrying white flags – decided to march north-west towards the city centre. The procession was led by Mouin Joha, an agricultural engineer, who pushed his ageing mother on a cart he’d found in a nearby garage. His 15-year-old son, Ibrahim, walked beside him; according to his mother he was waving a white flag. And then two shots were fired from another commandeered house. One bullet hit the ground just in front of the push-cart. Another hit Ibrahim. The Red Crescent failed in its attempts to co-ordinate ambulance access to the area with Israeli forces. Ibrahim died the next day.

When I visited the Joha home two weeks later, the house had been wrecked: concrete shards and broken furniture; electrical appliances riddled with bullets and thrown downstairs from the upper floors; shredded clothes, a smashed computer. There were shell holes in the walls on the third and fourth floors. The family asked me to translate the soldiers’ graffiti. In one room: ‘The Zionist conqueror was here.’ In another: ‘We’re here to annihilate you.’

Denial of access to medical personnel was one of the persistent themes of the Gaza offensive. In various places people told me that soldiers, having ordered them to leave their homes and make their way to the centre of Gaza City, warned them not to evacuate the wounded – ‘or else you’ll be hit by a drone-fired missile’. In some places soldiers shot at ambulances. Seven doctors and other paramedics were killed; others were wounded by missiles, shells or direct fire.

The nature of the offensive reflected the highly permissive rules of engagement (which the army and its spokesmen do not reveal to the public): the killing of families in or near their homes with bombs, missiles or shells; the bombing of tall buildings (where residents often crowded into one corner on the ground floor); the devastation of factories; the ruin of agricultural land.

Wherever they stayed the soldiers left behind piles of refuse: not just empty bags of provisions, not just spent ammunition packs, sleeping bags and other military gear, but plastic bottles filled with urine and ‘waste disposal bags’ containing human faeces. In many cases they smeared shit on floors, walls, mattresses. Some of the people I talked to say they can’t return to their own homes even after having cleaned them. The stench clings to the walls.

Khaled Abed Rabbo, whose two daughters were killed in front of him outside their home, told me that this was ‘not the army we once knew’. Many Gazans said the same thing. They recalled the soldiers they had known in the first intifada, patrolling the cities and refugee camps before the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994. Abed Rabbo, however, was not even thinking of the first intifada, but of March 2008, when during a limited ground offensive in his neighbourhood in eastern Gaza, the army took over his house and used it as a base for three days. He said that had been bearable, and the soldiers had been polite. This time, the house was destroyed after the family left, blasted by dynamite. Thousands of houses have been wrecked or levelled, along with cowsheds, mangers, chicken-coops, barns with livestock still inside, hot-houses, orchards; the border areas were hit especially hard.

As the army advanced, tens of thousands of Palestinians were forced to flee their homes, under fire from helicopters, tanks, drones, behind a heavy screen of smoke produced by white phosphorus bombs and fires ignited by the bombing. In describing their flight, Gazans use a term that often attaches to 1948: Hijra, ‘migration’, a word once applied only to the Prophet Muhammad’s journey from Mecca to Medina, the founding event of historical Islam. But in 1948 its meaning changed: it referred to the expulsion of the Palestinians from their homeland. In 2009, Palestinians have been displaced by only a few kilometres, and many have already returned to their homes, but their use of this loaded word says something about collective feeling.

Israel has finally breached the few limits it formerly set up for itself as an occupying state, and defied all the restrictions of international law that would require it to provide for the safety and welfare of the occupied population. It claims that disengagement ended the occupation and that Gaza is now an independent entity. Contrary to conventional wisdom, disengagement did not begin in 2005 with the evacuation of the settlers and the withdrawal of soldiers. It began in 1991, when, four years into the intifada, Israel instigated its closure policy (similar to the pass system under apartheid) and denied the Palestinians freedom of movement between the West Bank and Gaza, and within Israel. Unopposed by the international community, closure eventually turned into a policy of demographic separation, dividing Palestinians from Palestinians and Palestinians from Israelis.

The immediate consequence of the separation policy was to disconnect Gaza from the West Bank (and Palestinian East Jerusalem), from its population, its education centres and health services, from jobs in Israel and from family members and friends. No wonder Israel now defines Gazans who live in the West Bank as ‘illegal sojourners’ unless they have an Israeli permit to be there. The tight siege imposed in Gaza over the last two years has merely exacerbated the situation. The separation policy of the 1990s (along with the rapid expansion of Jewish colonies in the West Bank) was designed to destroy the foundation of a future Palestinian state.

Israel suppressed the second intifada with lethal means that it did not dare use in the first, not just because the Palestinians had now acquired guns, or because of the suicide bombings, but rather because since the creation of the Palestinian Authority, Israel has treated the ‘other side’ as sovereign and independent – when it wants to. As if the PA enclaves were not under occupation. Thanks to this very effective propaganda, most Israelis believe that the creation of the PA resembles the founding of an independent state – an ungrateful one at that, attacking little, peace-seeking Israel. They find it easy enough to ignore the fact that Israel continues to control – both directly and indirectly – all parameters of sovereignty and independence: land, borders, resources, water, population registry, economics, construction, education, health and medical services.

The unilateral disengagement from Gaza and the fact that Hamas spun it as a victory – the result of armed resistance – allowed Israel to claim that the occupation of Gaza had ended. With Hamas’s electoral success in 2006 and Abu Mazen’s support for Israeli efforts to topple the elected government, Israel has found it even easier to present Gaza as an independent political entity. At the same time, Israel has intentionally exaggerated the threat that Palestinian weaponry posed to the state and its citizens. This exaggeration plays into the hands of armed Palestinian organisations which would like to present themselves and the ‘armed struggle’ as a threat to the occupation in an effort to win Palestinian support (hence Hamas’s claim to have killed dozens of Israeli soldiers and also to have been assisted by angels).

Propaganda aside, Gaza was and remains an occupied territory, like the West Bank. The problem with the siege was not and is not food: that is the one and only thing Israel did allow in (evidence, it claimed, of its ‘humanitarian’ intentions). The population of Gaza has never starved: UNRWA expanded programmes giving a direct supply of food to refugees; other humanitarian aid organisations followed suit; Hamas has encouraged the tunnel economy between Gaza and Egypt, and handles provisions itself; and the hamulah structure of society ensures persistent mutual aid. What the siege has done is reduce an entire society to the status of beggars, denying it nearly all productive activity, suffocating it in an open-air prison, disconnected from the rest of the world. The denial of the right to a livelihood, and the denial of freedom of movement: that is the essence of the siege, the foundation block of the separation policy. The closure policy is an assault on the human dignity of the Palestinians, and especially those in Gaza. Now, Israel has shown that the cage can also be a deathtrap.

Amira Hass, a journalist for Haaretz, is the author of Drinking the Sea at Gaza. She lives in Ramallah.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Uma iniciativa europeia pela palestina

O jornal Mudar de Vida publica os detalhes desta iniciativa (obrigada, Luis!)

Um mês depois do genocídio em Gaza, o trio terrorista – Livni (que levou a cabo o último massacre), Netanyahu (que a criticou por ter terminado o ataque cedo demais), e Lieberman (que pretende negar cidadania aos israelitas árabes) – ganhou as eleições em Israel. Os cidadãos israelitas, na sua maioria, mostraram mais uma vez que são pela guerra em vez da paz, pela morte em vez da vida.

Um mês depois do genocídio em Gaza, milhares de pessoas no resto do mundo mantêm-se em solidariedade com a Palestina. No dia de São Valentim, um enorme comboio, composto por mais de 100 veículos, incluindo 12 ambulâncias, um barco, um carro de bombeiros e camionetas com medicamentos, roupas, comida, brinquedos e dinheiro, parte para Gaza.

Vai percorrer mais de 8 000 quilómetros a partir de Londres, pelo Canal da Mancha até Calais, por França e Espanha, atravessando o estreito de Gibraltar até Marrocos. Daí, o comboio “Viva Palestina” segue para a Argélia, Tunísia, Líbia e Egipto, até passar a fronteira para Gaza.

A resposta a esta petição de ajuda foi tremenda. A organização diz já não necessitar de mais medicamentos ou roupa. Mas a recolha de dinheiro continua em curso e quem quiser acompanhar a viagem pode ir ao sítio:
Boa viagem!

o longo caminho para a reabilitação.24/02


Long road to rehabilitation for Gaza's amputees
Rami Almeghari writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Live from Palestine, 20 February 2009

Abdel Naser Zemo with his wife, Suheir, in her room a the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City. (Matthew Cassel)

Amidst the thousands of people injured during Israel's three-week bombardment of the Gaza Strip are many whose lives will be permanently affected because they lost limbs.

Suheir Zemo, a 47-year-old mother of seven, lost her right leg after an Israeli missile crashed into her home in the Tal al-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City in mid-January, at the height of the Israeli attack.

"I was in my bedroom when a rocket landed in the room. Suddenly my leg started bleeding severely. Then my husband risked his life and took me to hospital as ambulances were not allowed into the area, said Suheir sitting in a wheelchair at the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza.

At al-Wafa rehabilitation hospital in eastern Gaza City, a number of amputees recently began the rehabilitation process. Al-Wafa is the only private rehabilitation center in the Gaza Strip, but even it was not spared damage in the Israeli attack.

In one of the hospital's rooms lie two young men in their early twenties; the first had his right leg amputated, while the second had his lower limbs severely injured, preventing their use completely.

"It was almost 1:15 pm, when an Israeli tank shell hit our home in the Shaaf area of Gaza city. Only my father, my friend and myself were inside the home when it was struck," said Maher al-Habashi.

With signs of agony on his face, Maher added, "we ran out of the home and suddenly two rockets fired by a drone hit the three of us. My father and my friend died, while I felt paralyzed, realizing I was hurt."

The young man who lost his right leg, Yehya Abu Saif, 20, described how was he injured on 3 January, when Israeli warplanes targeted a mosque in the Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza.

"We has just finished the evening prayer and as we got out of the mosque a rocket landed among the worshipers including myself. Later on I realized I was injured and as you see I had my leg amputated."

"Why do they attack mosques, why?" Yehya asked, "is this their alleged democracy?"

As the only facility of its kind in Gaza, al-Wafa is set to receive more people who have lost limbs to begin a rehabilitation process that can take weeks, months and even years. Patients receive physical, functional, psychological and clinical support, and may receive cosmetic or other surgery to prepare them to use prosthetics.

The number and severity of injuries as a result of the Israeli attack were unprecedented and unfamiliar to Gaza's doctors.

Dr. Fawzi al-Nabulsiya, chief of intensive care at Gaza's al-Shifa hospital said: "Many of these cases we haven't observed before. The weaponry used is very effective, leading to amputation of limbs, especially the lower ones, spinal cord and cases of deep coma. The ICU here received 283 cases, equaling the total of cases we often receive in a period of six or seven months."

Such an emergency situation, created by the Israeli war on Gaza, has pushed the Hamas-run health ministry to transfer hundreds of patients to hospitals outside of Gaza, mainly in Arab or Islamic countries.

However demand is still high, especially for treatment and rehabilitation of people with disabilities. Hammam Nasman, spokesman of the health ministry in Gaza drew an image to the health service in Gaza under these circumstances.

"The ministry of health does not have institutions that carry out rehabilitation, therefore, the ministry buys the service from other institutions. Actually, many Arab or Islamic countries extended a hand of assistance, for example, a Turkish institution called IHH has opened a branch in Gaza City, it is preparing to provide prosthetics."

Medical sources in Gaza estimate that the number of injuries due to the recent attacks on the coastal Strip has risen to 6,000, and the death toll more than 1,350, half of them women and children.

Rami Almeghari is contributor to The Electronic Intifada, and Free Speech Radio News and is a part-time lecturer on media and political translation at the Islamic University of Gaza. Rami is also a former senior English translator at and editor-in-chief of the international press center of the Gaza-based Palestinian Information Service. He can be contacted at rami_almeghari A T hotmail D O T com.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

a grande aposta.24/02

fonte: Palestine Chronicle; Counterpunch

The great gamble

What will be the consequences of a 'pure' rightist regime?

By Uri Avnery - Israel

Iacta alea est - the die is cast - said Julius Caesar and crossed the River Rubicon on his way to conquer Rome. That was the end of Roman democracy. We Israelis don't have a Julius Caesar. But we do have an Avigdor Lieberman. When he announced his support the other day for the setting up of a government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, that was the crossing of his Rubicon.

I hope that this is not the beginning of the end of Israeli democracy.

Until the last moment, Lieberman held the Israeli public in suspense. Will he join Netanyahu? Will he join Tzipi Livni?

Those who participated in the guessing game were divided in their view of Lieberman.

Some of them said: Lieberman is indeed what he pretends to be: an extreme nationalist racist. His aim is really to turn Israel into a Jewish state cleansed of Arabs - Araberrein, in German. He has only contempt for democracy, both in the country and in his own party. Like similar parties in the past, it is based on a cult of (his) personality, the worship of brute force, contempt for democracy and disdain for the judicial system. In other countries this is called fascism.

Others say: that is all a façade. Lieberman is no Israeli Fuehrer, because he is nothing but a cheat and a cynic. Police investigations against him and his business dealings with Palestinians show him to be a corrupt opportunist. He is also a friend of Livni. He cultivates a fascist image in order to pave his way to power.

The first Lieberman would support the setting up of an extreme Right government by Netanyahu. The second Liberman could support a Livni government. For a whole week he juggled the balls. Now he has decided: he is indeed an extreme nationalist racist.

For appearances' sake, he told the President that his proposal to entrust Netanyahu with the setting up of a government applies only to a broad-based coalition encompassing Likud, Kadima and his own party. But that is just a gimmick: probably such a government will not come into being, and the next government will be a coalition of Likud, Lieberman, the disciples of assassinated extremist Meir Kahane and the religious parties.

So we on the Left say: Excellent. The voters will get exactly what they deserve. At long last, there will be an exclusively rightist government.

One of the proponents of this attitude is Gideon Levy, a consistent advocate of peace, democracy and civil equality.

He and those who think like him say: Israel simply has to pass through this phase before it can recover. The Right must get unlimited power to realise its programme.

In this view, such a government cannot last for long. The new American administration of Barack Obama will not allow it. The world will boycott it. American Jewry will be shocked. And if Netanyahu strays - even slightly - from the Right and narrow path, his government will fall apart.

After the fall of the government, according to this prognosis, the public will understand that there is no rightist option. Only thus will they arrive at the conclusion that there is no alternative to the path of peace.

This is a seductive theory. But it is also very frightening. How can we be sure that the Obama administration will indeed put irresistible pressure on Netanyahu? That is possible. Let's hope that it happens. But it is not certain at all.

Obama has not yet passed a real test on any issue. In several matters, he is continuing the policies of George W. Bush with slight alterations. That was, of course, to be expected. But when Netanyahu mobilises the full might of the pro-Israel lobby, will Obama surrender? The components of the Rightist coalition have already declared that they do not agree to a ceasefire in Gaza because it would consolidate the rule of Hamas there. Netanyahu's talk about an "economic peace" is complete nonsense, because no economy can develop under an occupation regime and hundreds of roadblocks. Any peace process will grind to a halt. The result: the Palestinian National Authority will collapse. Out of desperation, the West Bank population will turn further towards Hamas, or the Fatah will become Hamas 2.

The positive side of this situation is that the Knesset (parliament) will once again include a large opposition. Perhaps even an effective opposition.

Kadima came into being as a government party. It will not be easy for it to adapt to the role of opposition. But if it manages to undergo such a transformation successfully - which is very doubtful - it may become an effective opposition. Labour, too, will have to undergo a profound transformation.

All these are theoretical possibilities. What will happen in reality? What will be the consequences of a "pure" rightist regime, if Livni maintains her determination not to join a Netanyahu government? Will Israel set off down a suicidal road from which there is no return, or will this be a passing phase before the wake-up call?

It is a great gamble, and like every gamble, it arouses both fear and hope.

- Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He contributed this article to

Abraham Burg e a negação da negação.24/02


Book review: Avraham Burg and the denying of denial
Raymond Deane, The Electronic Intifada, 23 February 2009

Western liberals have a great need of "good Israelis." Hitherto, the novelists Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua and David Grossman have fit the bill: they are against the 1967 occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, they dislike the settlers, they are "for" peace and "against" violence ("on both sides"). In approvingly citing their names, western liberals both attest to their own philosemitic credentials and perpetuate the illusion that Israel is a "vibrant liberal democracy" with a robust diversity of opinion. Of late, however, these bellicose peaceniks have blotted their copybooks by supporting one or two of Israel's wars too many. A new "good Israeli" was urgently required, and he may have arisen in the shape of Avraham Burg.

The Holocaust Is Over; We Must Rise From its Ashes (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), published in Hebrew in 2007 as Defeating Hitler and now translated by Israel Amrani, claims that the Shoah (the Nazi holocaust) has been "nationalized" and "privatized" and seeks to reclaim its memory for a universalist vision. Only thus, claims Burg, can Israelis be rescued from their obsession with spurious victimhood, and Hitler finally be defeated. Burg's concerns, unlike those of, say, political scientist Norman Finkelstein, are ultimately theological: the English title is taken from his penultimate chapter -- "Make God Smile Again" -- which may make the secularist frown.

As chair of both the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization in the 1990s Burg had precociously scaled the heights of the Zionist pyramid; he subsequently became speaker of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, and even interim president of Israel for 20 days after Ezer Weizman's resignation in 2000. Having published articles in the UK's Guardian and Israel's Yediot Ahronot in 2003 that were frankly heretical from a Zionist point of view, he resigned from politics in 2004 to devote himself to business. For western liberals, aghast at Israel's refusal to behave liberally, Burg is a plump catch indeed. Not surprisingly, therefore, The Holocaust Is Over has gleaned plaudits both from liberal Jewish commentators (Tony Judt, J.J. Goldberg) and gentiles (John Mearsheimer, Rupert Neudeck, Eric Rouleau). And yet both this book and the homages paid to it fill me with despair. At the heart of Burg's vision is an egregious denial of reality, most blatantly exposed in Chapter 6, "Lessons from the Holocaust":

"Although the creation of Israel led to the problem of [Palestinian] refugees, it does not mean that Israel's existence prevents the solution. Yet the refugee problem haunts us relentlessly and is used to justify the harshest criticism of Israel ... The heirs and descendants of our old European persecutors, who had slaughtered us and expelled us from Europe beaten and injured, take advantage of Israel's toughness ... to continue persecuting us by other means. They use the refugee problem to denounce our leadership in every possible way ..." (p. 84).

This passionate outburst, quite different in tone from the rest of the book, does not suggest that Burg has progressed very far from the "lacrimose" interpretation of Jewish history that he elsewhere criticizes as a counter-productive embrace of victimhood. The phrase "persecuting us" implies a self-pitying inability to confront soundly-based criticism on its own terms, even if it emanates not only from "our old European persecutors" but from Jews like Ilan Pappe or Richard Falk. Yet it gets worse:

"The state was born, some refugees were taken in and others were forced out ... The victims of this war became political persecutors, using propaganda as a weapon against us everywhere on the planet. They torment us in the major capitals, in the diplomatic arenas and in the media" (p. 84)

Leaving aside the preposterous obfuscation involved in the claim that "some refugees were taken in," this passage shamelessly transfers the role of persecutor from wicked Europeans to Arab refugees, tormenting poor little Israel "everywhere on the planet," presumably from the comfort of their miserable camps in Lebanon, Jordan or Gaza. And there is more:

"Only a comprehensive recognition by Israel, the Arab states and the international community regarding the moral responsibility for this necessary historical event will enable the opening of hearts and minds" (p. 85).

The Nakba (or Palestinian catastrophe) was apparently "a necessary historical event" in order to facilitate the establishment of what Burg calls "the Jewish people's state." One might even overlook this self-seeking sharing and disavowal of responsibility were the universalist Burg's "opening of hearts and minds" to point towards a just resolution of the Israel/Palestine issue in the shape of a single democratic state shared by Jews, Muslims, Christians and others. But nothing is further from his mind: "Restitution will be discussed in lieu of the refugees' return to their properties. My mother will not return to her home in Hebron ... Likewise the Naqbas [sic] and the refugees of 1948 will not return to Jaffa, Jerusalem, Majdal or Acre."

For Burg, 1948 was "a stunning national enterprise" and "an epic achievement on a mythical scale," marred only by the unfortunate but "necessary" ethnic cleansing of the natives. Burg's vision of a new Israel that will have "left Auschwitz behind" and will have truly become "a light unto the nations," seat of the "International Court of Crimes Against Humanity" and the "World Religion Organization," becomes less inspiring in view of the fact that this utopia will apparently continue to sit smugly on the spoils of dispossession. It is unclear to me, therefore, how Avraham Burg can claim to be a "post-Zionist" or indeed an "anti-Zionist," given how comfortably his views of history and historical responsibility sit alongside those of, say, the earlier Benny Morris. There is much to admire in The Holocaust is Over. Many of its criticisms of the Israeli polity and of US Jewry are incisive to the point of savagery. And yet, it is a book premised on self-deception and denial. Burg's admirers display culpable irresponsibility in failing to confront and analyze these flaws, having apparently learned nothing from their earlier misplaced adulation of Oz and company.

As a small but growing number of good Israelis (without quotation marks) know, only when the Palestinians find justice will Hitler truly be defeated.

Raymond Deane is an Irish composer and activist (

como a EU paga pelo bloqueio de Gaza.23/02


EU paying for Gaza blockade
David Cronin, The Electronic Intifada, 23 February 2009

BRUSSELS (IPS) - European Union aid has been given to an Israeli oil company which has reduced the supply of fuel to Gaza as part of an economic blockade internationally recognized as illegal, Brussels officials have admitted.

Almost 97 million euros (124 million dollars) in funds managed by the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, were handed over directly to the firm Dor Alon between February 2008 and January this year. Under orders from the Israeli authorities, Dor Alon has been rationing the amount of industrial diesel brought into Gaza in order to deprive its 1.5 million inhabitants of electricity. Power cuts have been a regular occurrence in Gaza because of Israeli actions undertaken since the militant party Hamas won an unexpected victory in Palestinian legislative elections during 2006.

Charles Shamas from the Mattin Group, an organization based in the West Bank that monitors Europe's relationship with Israel, said that the EU has been helping to accommodate the economic blockade of Gaza. This is despite how the Union's most senior diplomats, including its foreign policy chief Javier Solana and the external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, have condemned the blockade as "collective punishment" of a civilian population. Collective punishment constitutes a war crime, according to the 1949 Geneva convention.

"The European Union has to give aid lawfully," said Shamas. "That means a good faith effort not to conform to the wrongful acts of others. In this case, the EU is giving effect to wrongful measures by Israel. You can't really credibly call on Israel to correct its behavior if you are adjusting what you do to fit in to that behavior."

Christiane Hohmann, spokeswoman on external relations for the European Commission, said that the diesel provided by Dor Alon is used in a power plant that meets 30 percent of Gaza's electricity requirements. Schools and hospitals are the primary beneficiaries of the EU's aid, she added, stating that Dor Alon delivered more than 96 million liters to Gaza as a result of the money it received from the Commission over the past 12 months. Dor Alon has also benefitted from aid granted by Germany and Belgium, both EU member states.

"This is not abetting the blockade," she said. "It is not part of it. What we are always saying to the Israelis is that they need to open the crossings [into Gaza]. The heavy diesel needs to get in."

The Commission's aid is administered through a mechanism known as Pegase. Beginning its operations last year, Pegase is designed to bypass Hamas, while supporting activities run by its rival Fatah, the party in charge of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Hohmann stressed, however, that aid to Dor Alon is paid to the company itself and "doesn't go through any Palestinian structure."

A spokesman for Dor Alon said that any reduction in its deliveries to Gaza has been the result of Israeli government policies. "Dor Alon is a private company, it has to do whatever the Ministry of Defense tells us to do," he added. "I cannot tell you that we deliver more one day and less another day. That doesn't concern us. We follow orders in that matter."

One of the four largest fuel companies in Israel, Dor Alon also owns two chains of convenience stores, Alonit and AM:PM. As well as its activities in Gaza, it runs a network of petrol stations and shops in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

"What's happening here is that the Israeli economy is controlling access to the Palestinian markets to ensure the benefit of certain Israeli companies," said Merav Amir, campaigner with the Coalition of Women for Peace, an organization that studies how Israeli firms can profit from the occupation of Palestine.

Amir pointed out that all international aid destined to the Palestinian Authority has been routed through Israel since the Oslo accords. Signed by Israel's president Shimon Peres, then foreign minister, and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas (whose term expired on 9 January) in 1993, this was the first agreement negotiated face-to-face between the two sides. Yet while its official title referred to the self-government of the Palestinians, many observers feel that Israel has used the agreement to reinforce its control over the West Bank and Gaza.

"Israel holds a lot of money that actually belongs to the Palestinian Authority," added Amir. "With some of that money, it pays the suppliers in a way that sustains the dependence of the Palestinian economy [on Israel]. The European Union is in a position to pressure Israel to change how all of this is done."

Chris Davies, a British Liberal member of the European Parliament, this week described how the blockade of Gaza, which he recently visited, is having devastating consequences in a densely populated area that is struggling to come to terms with the 22-day bombardment that Israel launched in late December last year.

Although 500 lorry loads of food and other supplies are needed each day in Gaza, Israel is only allowing 130 to pass through checkpoints controlled by its troops. "Paper for schools, nappies, water purifying tablets, concrete for rebuilding, they are all prohibited," he said. "The normal life of a big city is impossible."

All rights reserved, IPS - Inter Press Service (2009). Total or partial publication, retransmission or sale forbidden.

Entretanto, na Cisjordânia...

Neste artigo publicado no "The Guardian" Ben White chama atenção para o que se tem passado na Cisjordânia enquanto as negociações com o Hamas prosseguem. Segundo este jornalista, não são os avanços e recuos das negociações entre o governo israelita e o Hamas que realmente mostram qual a atitude de Israel para com os territórios palestinianos, mas sim as políticas aplicadas à Cisjordânia: o muro de separação, o corte de Jerusalém-este do resto do território palestiniano e o aumento dos colonatos.

The real Israel-Palestine story is in the West Bank

Israel's targeting of civilian resistance to the separation wall proves the two-state solution is now just a meaningless slogan

It is quite likely that you have not heard of the most important developments this week in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the West Bank, while it has been "occupation as normal", there have been some events that together should be overshadowing Gaza, Gilad Shalit and Avigdor Lieberman.

First, there have been a large number of Israeli raids on Palestinian villages, with dozens of Palestinians abducted. These kinds of raids are, of course, commonplace for the occupied West Bank, but in recent days it appears the Israeli military has targeted sites of particularly strong Palestinian civil resistance to the separation wall.

For three consecutive days this week, Israeli forces invaded Jayyous, a village battling for survival as their agricultural land is lost to the wall and neighbouring Jewish colony. The soldiers occupied homes, detained residents, blocked off access roads, vandalised property, beat protestors, and raised the Israeli flag at the top of several buildings.

Jayyous is one of the Palestinian villages in the West Bank that has been non-violently resisting the separation wall for several years now. It was clear to the villagers that this latest assault was an attempt to intimidate the protest movement.

Also earlier this week, Israel tightened still further the restrictions on Palestinian movement and residency rights in East Jerusalem, closing the remaining passage in the wall in the Ar-Ram neighbourhood of the city. This means that tens of thousands of Palestinians are now cut off from the city and those with the right permit will now have to enter the city by first heading north and using the Qalandiya checkpoint.

Finally – and this time, there was some modest media coverage – it was revealed that the Efrat settlement near Bethlehem would be expanded by the appropriation of around 420 acres land as "state land". According to Efrat's mayor, the plan is to triple the number of residents in the colony.

Looked at together, these events in the West Bank are of far more significance than issues being afforded a lot of attention currently, such as the truce talks with Hamas, or the discussions about a possible prisoner-exchange deal. Hamas itself has become such a focus, whether by those who urge talks and cooption or those who advocate the group's total destruction, that the wider context is forgotten.

Hamas is not the beginning or the end of this conflict, a movement that has been around for just the last third of Israel's 60 years. The Hamas Charter is not a Palestinian national manifesto, and nor is it even particularly central to today's organisation. Before Hamas existed, Israel was colonising the occupied territories, and maintaining an ethnic exclusivist regime; if Hamas disappeared tomorrow, Israeli colonisation certainly would not.

Recognising what is happening in the West Bank also contextualises the discussion about Israel's domestic politics, and the ongoing question about the makeup of a ruling coalition. For the Palestinians, it does not make much difference who is eventually sitting around the Israeli cabinet table, since there is a consensus among the parties on one thing: a firm rejectionist stance with regards to Palestinian self-determination and sovereignty.

During the coverage of the Israeli elections, while it was clear that Palestinians mostly did not care which of the candidates for PM won, the reason for this apathy was not explained. Labor, Likud and Kadima alike, Israeli governments without fail have continued or intensified the colonisation of the occupied territories, entrenching Israel's separate-and-unequal rule, a reality belied by the false "dove"/"hawk" dichotomy.

Which brings us to the third reason why news from the West Bank is more significant than the Gaza truce talks or the Netanyahu-Livni rivalry – it is a further reminder that the two-state solution has completed its progression from worthy (and often disingenuous) aim to meaningless slogan, concealing Israel's absorption of all Palestine/Israel and confinement of the Palestinians into enclaves.

The fact that the West Bank reality means the end of the two-state paradigm has started to be picked up by mainstream, liberal commentators in the US, in the wake of the Israeli elections. Juan Cole, the history professor and blogger, recently pointed out that there are now only three options left for Palestine/Israel: "apartheid", "expulsion", or "one state".

The path of the wall, and the number of Palestinians it directly and indirectly affects, continues to make a mockery of any plan for Palestinian statehood. Jayyous is just one example of the way in which the Israeli-planned, fenced-in Palestinian "state-lets" are at odds with the stated intention of the quartet and so many others, of two viable states, "side by side". As the World Bank pointed out (pdf), land colonisation is not conducive to economic prosperity or basic independence.

In occupied East Jerusalem meanwhile, Israel has continued its process of Judaisation, enforced through bureaucracy and bulldozers. The latest tightening of the noose in Ar-Ram is one example of where Palestinian Jerusalemites are at risk of losing their residency status, victims of what is politely known as the "demographic battle".

It is impossible to imagine Palestinians accepting a "state" shaped by the contours of Israel's wall, disconnected not only from East Jerusalem but even from parts of itself. Yet this is the essence of the "solution" being advanced by Israeli leaders across party lines. For a real sense of where the conflict is heading, look to the West Bank, not just Gaza.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

O outro lado de Valsa Com Bashir.21/02

Gideon Levy jornalista do Haaretz escreve um artigo demolidor sobre Valsa com Bashir, filme israelita candidato ao Oscar de Melhor Filme Estrangeiro.

Everyone now has his fingers crossed for Ari Folman and all the creative artists behind "Waltz with Bashir" to win the Oscar on Sunday. A first Israeli Oscar? Why not?

However, it must also be noted that the film is infuriating, disturbing, outrageous and deceptive. It deserves an Oscar for the illustrations and animation - but a badge of shame for its message. It was not by accident that when he won the Golden Globe, Folman didn't even mention the war in Gaza, which was raging as he accepted the prestigious award. The images coming out of Gaza that day looked remarkably like those in Folman's film. But he was silent. So before we sing Folman's praises, which will of course be praise for us all, we would do well to remember that this is not an antiwar film, nor even a critical work about Israel as militarist and occupier. It is an act of fraud and deceit, intended to allow us to pat ourselves on the back, to tell us and the world how lovely we are.

Hollywood will be enraptured, Europe will cheer and the Israeli Foreign Ministry will send the movie and its makers around the world to show off the country's good side. But the truth is that it is propaganda. Stylish, sophisticated, gifted and tasteful - but propaganda. A new ambassador of culture will now join Amos Oz and A.B. Yehoshua, and he too will be considered fabulously enlightened - so different from the bloodthirsty soldiers at the checkpoints, the pilots who bomb residential neighborhoods, the artillerymen who shell women and children, and the combat engineers who rip up streets. Here, instead, is the opposite picture. Animated, too. Of enlightened, beautiful Israel, anguished and self-righteous, dancing a waltz, with and without Bashir. Why do we need propagandists, officers, commentators and spokespersons who will convey "information"? We have this waltz.
The waltz rests on two ideological foundations. One is the "we shot and we cried" syndrome: Oh, how we wept, yet our hands did not spill this blood. Add to this a pinch of Holocaust memories, without which there is no proper Israeli self-preoccupation. And a dash of victimization - another absolutely essential ingredient in public discourse here - and voila! You have the deceptive portrait of Israel 2008, in words and pictures.

Folman took part in the Lebanon war of 1982, and two dozen years later remembered to make a movie about it. He is tormented. He goes back to his comrades-in-arms, gulps down shots of whiskey at a bar with one, smokes joints in Holland with another, wakes his therapist pal at first light and goes for another session to his shrink - all to free himself at long last from the nightmare that haunts him. And the nightmare is always ours, ours alone.

It is very convenient to make a film about the first, and now remote, Lebanon war: We already sent one of those, "Beaufort," to the Oscar competition. And it's even more convenient to focus specifically on Sabra and Chatila, the Beirut refugee camps.

Even way back, after the huge protest against the massacre perpetrated in those camps, there was always the declaration that, despite everything - including the green light given to our lackey, the Phalange, to execute the slaughter, and the fact that it all took place in Israeli-occupied territory - the cruel and brutal hands that shed blood are not our hands. Let us lift our voices in protest against all the savage Bashir-types we have known. And yes, a little against ourselves, too, for shutting our eyes, perhaps even showing encouragement. But no: That blood, that's not us. It's them, not us.

We have not yet made a movie about the other blood, which we have spilled and continue to allow to flow, from Jenin to Rafah - certainly not a movie that will get to the Oscars. And not by chance.

In "Waltz with Bashir" the soldiers of the world's most moral army sing out something like: "Lebanon, good morning. May you know no more grief. Let your dreams come true, your nightmares evaporate, your whole life be a blessing."

Nice, right? What other army has a song like this, and in the middle of a war, yet? Afterward they go on to sing that Lebanon is the "love of my life, the short life." And then the tank, from inside of which this lofty and enlightened singing emanates, crushes a car for starters, turning it into a smashed tin can, then pounds a residential building, threatening to topple it. That's how we are. Singing and wrecking. Where else will you find sensitive soldiers like these? It would really be preferable for them to shout with hoarse voices: Death to the Arabs!

I saw the "Waltz" twice. The first time was in a movie theater, and I was bowled over by the artistry. What style, what talent. The illustrations are perfect, the voices are authentic, the music adds so much. Even Ron Ben Yishai's half-missing finger is accurate. No detail is missed, no nuance blurred. All the heroes are heroes, superbly stylish, like Folman himself: articulate, trendy, up-to-date, left-wingers - so sensitive and intelligent.

Then I watched it again, at home, a few weeks later. This time I listened to the dialogue and grasped the message that emerges from behind the talent. I became more outraged from one minute to the next. This is an extraordinarily infuriating film precisely because it is done with so much talent. Art has been recruited here for an operation of deceit. The war has been painted with soft, caressing colors - as in comic books, you know. Even the blood is amazingly aesthetic, and suffering is not really suffering when it is drawn in lines. The soundtrack plays in the background, behind the drinks and the joints and the bars. The war's fomenters were mobilized for active service of self-astonishment and self-torment.

Boaz is devastated at having shot 26 stray dogs, and he remembers each of them. Now he is looking for "a therapist, a shrink, shiatsu, something." Poor Boaz. And poor Folman, too: He is devilishly unable to remember what happened during the massacre. "Movies are also psychotherapy" - that's the bit of free advice he gets. Sabra and Chatila? "To tell you the truth? It's not in my system." All in such up-to-the-minute Hebrew you could cry. After the actual encounter with Boaz in 2006, 24 years later, the "flash" arrives, the great flash that engendered the great movie.

One fellow comes to the war on the Love Boat, another flees it by swimming away. One sprinkles patchouli on himself, another eats a Spam omelet. The filmmaker-hero of "Waltz" remembers that summer with great sadness: It was exactly then that Yaeli dumped him. Between one thing and the other, they killed and destroyed indiscriminately. The commander watches porn videos in a Beirut villa, and even Ben Yishai has a place in Ba'abda, where one evening he downs half a glass of whiskey and phones Arik Sharon at the ranch and tells him about the massacre. And no one asks who these looted and plundered apartments belong to, damn it, or where their owners are and what our forces are doing in them in the first place. That is not part of the nightmare.

What's left is hallucination, a sea of fears, the hero confesses on the way to his therapist, who is quick to calm him and explains that the hero's interest in the massacre at the camps derives from a different massacre: from the camps from which his parents came. Bingo! How could we have missed it? It's not us at all, it's the Nazis, may their name and memory be obliterated. It's because of them that we are the way we are. "You have been cast in the role of the Nazi against your will," a different therapist says reassuringly, as though evoking Golda Meir's remark that we will never forgive the Arabs for making us what we are. What we are? The therapist says that we shone the lights, but "did not perpetrate the massacre." What a relief. Our clean hands are not part of the dirty work, no way.

And besides that, it wasn't us at all: How pleasant to see the cruelty of the other. The amputated limbs that the Phalange, may their name be obliterated, stuff into the formaldehyde bottles; the executions they perpetrate; the symbols they slash into the bodies of their victims. Look at them and look at us: We never do things like that.

When Ben Yishai enters the Beirut camps, he recalls scenes of the Warsaw ghetto. Suddenly he sees through the rubble a small hand and a curly-haired head, just like that of his daughter. "Stop the shooting, everybody go home," the commander, Amos, calls out through a megaphone in English. The massacre comes to an abrupt end. Cut.

Then, suddenly, the illustrations give way to the real shots of the horror of the women keening amid the ruins and the bodies. For the first time in the movie, we not only see real footage, but also the real victims. Not the ones who need a shrink and a drink to get over their experience, but those who remain bereaved for all time, homeless, limbless and crippled. No drink and no shrink can help them. And that is the first (and last) moment of truth and pain in "Waltz with Bashir."

Fonte: Haaretz
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