Archive for January, 2009

“This War Does Not Bring Me Peace Nor Security”

January 14, 2009

These remarks by Israeli Nomika Zion struck me as having the moral force and eloquence of ancient Hebrew prophets.  I read it in French in Le Monde and translate it here. 

“I speak with the people of Sderot and I see that they have all begun to smile again,” boasted Fouad [Benyamin (Fouad) Ben Eliezer, Israel’s minister of infrastructures] on the radio during the second day of the war.  “As the initiative goes forward, hearts come together,” he added.

My dear sir, that is not true for everyone, far from it.  And even if I were the only one in the all the region of Sderot who does not see herself in your words–and I am not the only one–, it would still be wise to listen to me.

It isn’t for me, it isn’t in my name that you have started this war.  The blood bath that is taking place in Gaza is not for my safety.  Destroyed houses, bombed out schools, hundreds of thousands of refugees:  all that is not done in my name, much less for my security.

In Gaza, they don’t have time to bury the dead.  They slip them two by two, however they can, in refrigerated cells.  In the street, the cadavers pile up, policemen in one pile, children in another.  Our zealous journalists recite propaganda virtuously in the face of these “images that speak for themselves.”

But if I may ask, what do these images speak of?  This war will not provide me peace nor security.  After a necessary truce, which will permit all of us to regain little by little some emotional and psychological balance and something resembling a sane life, our leaders will have succeeded in leading us back to the same place, a place of nightmare and agony, back on this humiliating and terrifying race toward shelter. 

Please understand me.  Hamas is a frightful band of terrorists, not only for us but first for all the Gazans themselves.  But beyond this cursed leadership, there live human beings. 

Painfully, citizens on both sides of the border are building small bridges out of human acts.  Thus, the association Kol-Acher (Another Voice), of which I am a member, has found a human path toward the hearts of our neighbors. 

THE CAST LEAD OF OFFICIAL AND MEDIA DISCOURSE

But, while we Israelis were able to profit from the calm [during the course of the cease fire], they had to endure the blockade during that time.  A young Gazan told us that he would not marry and have children.  Gaza does not nourish dreams for the future. 

I am afraid of the rockets.  Since the war began, I have hardly dared leave my street.  But the cast lead of official and media discourse, as equivoval as it is boastful, frightens me more. 

I am afraid when a member of our association is attacked by inhabitants of Sderot for having expressed criticism of the war in an interview.  Criticisms that are followed by anonymous phone calls and fear of returning in his car, not knowing what might await him. 

I am afraid when I see so little place given to other opinions and how hard it is to express them here in Sderot.  I am ready to pay the price of isolation but not that of fear. 

I am afraid when I see my city drape itself in Israeli flags during this war, of the cars that honk their horns each time a huge bomb falls on our neighbors. 

I am afraid of the gentleman who admits, his face radiant, that he has never been to a concert, but that the bombing of the inhabitants of Gaza by the Israeli army is the sweetest music he has ever heard.  I am afraid of the arrogant journalist who does not contradict this statement.

I am afriad of the orwellian double speak of these words and of the bodies of children, the image of which is blurred likewise, blurred and unclear, a public service rendered to us so that we lose the human capacity to see the other side, to feel, to be scandalized, to have any empathy. 

Under the code name Hamas, the media have fabricated a huge and dark demon without a face, without a body, and without a voice.  A million and a half nameless people.

A dark current of violence has infiltrated the heart of Israeli society, poisoning it and intensifying from war to war.  It has no form or smell, but from here you can sense it strongly.  It is a kind of euphoria, a joy in war, a vengeful exaltation, an intoxication of force that has buried a noble Jewish precept: “Do not rejoice at the fall of your enemy.”

An ethic so soiled today that it seems that no amount of washing will rid us of it.  In our fragile democracy, we have to weigh every word.  Otherwise, watch out for what is awaiting you.  The first time I felt protected by my country was when a truce was negotiated. 

THE LIE OF FORCE

I have absolutely nothing to say to the people of Hamas, but I ask these things of our leaders: Have you really tried every means of prolonging the truce?  Did you really try to resolve the problem of the points of entry and the blockade before committing “the inevitable”?  Did you go to the ends of the earth looking for appropriate intermediaries?  Why did you decline impassively, when war broke out, the French proposal of a cease fire?  Why are you refusing right now every initiative of go betweens and third party negotiators?

Have we not had as many rockets as we can stand?  Have there not been more Palestinian children killed than the world can stand? Who promises us that it is possible to eliminate Hamas?  Have these same methods not already been tried elsewhere?  Who would replace Hamas?  And how will voices of peace rise from these ruins, this famine, this cold, and these dead bodies?

Where are you leading us?  What future do you promise us here in Sderot.  And for how much longer will you make us bend our backs under the weight of lies and cliches: “There is no one to talk with on the other side,” “it’s an inevitable war, let Tzahal bring the work to an end,” “we are just going to strike Hamas and go home,” “this is in the name of peace.”  Always the lies of force, the only guide for finding a solution to the problems of our region.

And why does every furtive interview with a member of our association begin and end with the same mocking from the journalist: “Don’t you think that you are a little naive?

Why is it that all possibility of talks, of efforts at an accord or an agreement, even with the worst of our enemies, should have become synonymous with naivete, whereas the military option is always the result of a rational choice.?

Eight years of violence which have lead to nothing, does that not teach us the vanity of force?  Tzahal has fought, eliminated, struck, rased, attacked, and failed, making a lot of noise all along.   What advantage have we drawn from it all?  A rhetorical question.

Life in Sderot today is intolerable.  At night, in Gaza, Tsahal destroys infrastructure and kills human beings.  The walls of our houses shake.  In the morning, in Sderot, we take rocket fire, ever more sophisticated.  A person who goes off to work is not sure of finding his house intact at night.  At noon, we have just enough time to bury one of our young heros who paid with his life for the nth “just war.”

Sometimes, we manage to speak on the telephone with some of our desperate friends in  Gaza.  No electricity, no water, no heating oil, no food, nowhere to escape the violence.  The only words we get from N. a young girl 14 years old whose school was bombed and whose classmates died, in her impeccable English by email: “Help us.  We are human beings.”

These words do not leave me in peace.  I have not remembered how to smile, dear Fouad, not at all.  A ton of cast iron is weighing on my heart, and it cannot hold it. 

Nomika Zion is a member of the organization Kol-Aher (Another Voice), writing for Le Monde. 

English translation by Van Ness

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Protest of US Torture and Isreali Occupation and Aggression in Gaza

January 13, 2009

Sunday being the anniversary of the opening of the Guantanamo torture camp, I joined with others to protest US torture and other crimes against humanity.  Since there was a planned event to protest the US backed Israeli occupation and attack on Gaza, the organizers of the Guantanamo event decided to join with them for the beginning of their rally at Times Square.  I know that these issues are related.  US military aggression has its roots in the corporations that produce arms and weapons which benefit from the US giving their products to other countries as well as using them itself.  Innocent civilians in Gaza are being bombed from F-16s given to Israel by the US.  The US “war on terror” is really a war of terror.

It was bitterly cold.  The first time my feet became numb, I took refuge briefly at a coffee shop where I found another of our group doing the same.  Born in Somalia, now a student of international relations at City College, he had interesting things to say about his hopes for the rebirth of US diplomacy.  I agree, of course, that life in the US is beyond telling better than that in Somalia.  I do, however, fear that life in Somalia is due in part at least to US policy driven by US corporations whose only interest is profits.   Until US stops allowing oil and arms corporations to dictate policy, things will not change.

Along these lines I find it interesting that as we were protesting, the Mayor of New York City and the governor of New York State were at a rally at the Israeli embassy expressing unconditional support for the Israeli attack on Gazans.

After years of activism and protest,  I don’t have much faith that the opinions of most Americans, or  even their votes, determine government actions.  Government at every level in the US is owned by US corporation.

My young friend and I returned to freeze again yet a while.  I was touched by the number of babies and children at the protest, most of them children of Palestinian Americans.   Several of the young boys donned the orange jump suits that prisoners at Guantanamo are forced to wear.  We know that some of the prisoners there were little older than these young boys when they were sent to Cuba to be tortured.  Some of them remain there to this day.

The rally was long.  My contingent planned to march in the orange jump suits downtown to 34th Street to highlight the issue of US torture.   I usually love marches, but it was bitterly cold and the young were better able than I to march, so I left it to them.

There is hardly a word in the media about this huge rally protesting Israel’s history of inhumane treatment of Palestinians and its attack on Gaza.  The people of Gaza are fenced in by Israel and cannot flee,  Many civilians are dying.  I have seen the attack compared to shooting fish in a barrel.   Here is a link to an alternative news account of violence that occurred toward the end of this protest.  I do not know anyone who went uptown and so have no first hand accounts to post.  I had actually commented on the relatively good behavior of the police during this protest, but the account linked above says there were abusive remarks from police all during the event.  Since I would not likely be taken for a Palestinian, perhaps I came in for different treatment.

The young Somalian American said that many of the problems in Africa do come from former colonialism, but that Africans have the choice of forever lamenting that and refusing to move forward or of taking stock of their world now and working to make things better for themselves.  I thought about that in the context of Israel.  I deplore and abominate the Nazi genocide and every incidence of oppression of Jews.  I also wish that they could move forward.  The perpetrators of Nazi persecution were tried and held accountable.  It is time for Israel and the Jews to look at what is real now, to assess situations realistically and to learn to live in peace.

It is also time to hold current day perpetrators of crimes against humanity accountable.   High on the list are US and Israeli officials.  Until we can take stock of ourselves and take responsibility for our actions, there will be no justice and no peace.

In the news today are indications that Obama will announce the closing of Guantanamo in the first days of his regime.  I sincerely hope he will close that torture camp.  I am acutely aware, however of the extent of US torture, which is not limited to the camp at Guantanamo.  Obama promises to escalate the war in Afghanistan, which is already responsible for US crimes against humanity.  I have not heard that he plans to close the torture center at Bagram.  What about Abu Graib?    What about the black sites?  Torture is a facet of US policy.  The US needs to review all the “laws” it has passed that permit torture and rescind them.  It needs to hold itself accountable for all the torture it has committed and stop it.

There is much more to do.

Moyers Words of Wisdom: Real People are Dying

January 10, 2009

A few years ago, I marched from 34th Street and 6th Avenue to the Dag Hamershold Plaza at 47th and First Avenue holding a large card printed with the name of Sgt. Adrian Butler, who was killed in Iraq.  Many of us who marched had the names of the dead in our hands.  No US news media (see the post just below this one) covered this march of thousands and thousands of US citizens protesting US illegal wars and torture, but a crew from Japanese television news stopped me and asked me if I were related to the person whose name was on the card.  I replied spontaneously that I am related to every person who has been killed in these wars.

Frequently at meetings about the US invasions and occupations, a speaker will ask who knows the name of someone who has died in these massacres.  Most Americans are far removed from these wars.  Is that part of the reason, we have tolerated them?  We are not touched by them?

Below is the transcript of remarks that Bill Moyers made during a broadcast of his Journal.  They come near the end of the program, which is linked here.

For one thing, the “Washington Post” reports this week that the U.S. Army sent letters to the 7,000 family members of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Every letter began, “Dear John Doe.” Yes, it was a mistake and the Army has now apologized. But we were reminded of the anonymity that has been conferred on America’s fallen warriors whose homecoming in caskets the Bush White House has tried to keep from the public. They, their parents, spouses and children are far removed from the gaze of official Washington. The marchers along Pennsylvania Avenue this week [who held posters with the names of those killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Gaza] were reminding us that every casualty, every victim of war has a name.

For too much of the world at large the names of the dead and wounded in Gaza might as well be John Doe too. They are the casualties and victims of Israel’s decision to silence the rockets from Hamas terrorists by waging war on an entire population. Yes, every nation has the right to defend its people. Israel is no exception, all the more so because Hamas would like to see every Jew in Israel dead.

But brute force can turn self-defense into state terrorism. It’s what the U.S. did in Vietnam, with B-52s and napalm, and again in Iraq, with shock and awe. By killing indiscriminately – the elderly, kids, entire families by destroying schools and hospitals — Israel did exactly what terrorists do and exactly what Hamas wanted. It spilled the blood that turns the wheel of retribution.

Hardly had Israeli tank fire killed and injured scores at a UN school in Gaza than a senior Hamas leader went on television to announce, “The Zionists have legitimized the killing of their children by killing our children.” Already attacks on Jews in Europe are escalating — a burning car crashes into a synagogue in Southern France, a fiery object is hurled through a window in Sweden, venomous anti-Semitic graffiti appears across the continent, and arsonists strike in London.

What we are seeing in Gaza is the latest battle in the oldest family quarrel on record. Open your Bible: the sons of the patriarch Abraham become Arab and Jew. Go to the Book of Deuteronomy. When the ancient Israelites entered Canaan their leaders urged violence against its inhabitants. The very Moses who had brought down the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” now proclaimed, “You must destroy completely all the places where the nations have served their gods. You must tear down their altars, smash their pillars, cut down their sacred poles, set fire to the carved images of their gods, and wipe out their name from that place.”

So God-soaked violence became genetically coded. A radical stream of Islam now seeks to eliminate Israel from the face of the earth. Israel misses no opportunity to humiliate the Palestinians with checkpoints, concrete walls, routine insults, and the onslaught in Gaza. As if boasting of their might, Israel defense forces even put up video of the explosions on YouTube for all the world to see. A Norwegian doctor there tells CBS, “It’s like Dante’s Inferno. They are bombing one and a half million people in a cage.”

America has officially chosen sides. We supply Israel with money, F-16s, winks and tacit signals. Our Christian right links arms with the religious extremists there who claim divine sanctions for Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. Our political elites show neither independence nor courage by challenging the consensus that Israel can do no wrong. Although one recent poll found Democratic voters overwhelmingly oppose the Israeli offensive by a 24-point margin, Democratic Party leaders in Congress nonetheless march in lockstep to the hardliners in Israel and the White House. Rarely does our mainstream media depart from the monotonous monologue of the party line. Many American Jews know, as Aaron David Miller writes in the current “Newsweek”, that the destruction in Gaza won’t do much to address Israel’s longer-term needs.

But those who raise questions are accused by a prominent reform rabbi of being “morally deficient.” One Jewish American activist told me this week that never in 30 years has he seen such blind and binding conformity in his community. “You’d never know,” he said, “that it is the Gazans who are doing most of the suffering.”

We are in a terrible bind — Israel, the Palestinians, the United States. Each greases the cycle of violence, as one man’s terrorism becomes another’s resistance to oppression. Is it possible to turn this mindless tragedy toward peace? For starters, read Aaron David Miller’s article in the current “Newsweek”. Get his book, “The Much Too Promised Land”. And pay no attention to those Washington pundits cheering the fighting in Gaza as they did the bloodletting in Iraq. Killing is cheap and war is a sport in a city where life and death become abstractions of policy. Here are the people who pay the price.

Here is the link to the Moyers site.

One of the advantages to me of going to Camp Casey was experiencing the memorial to the children.  It was a child sized coffin completely covered with the names and ages of children who have died as a result of the violence.   A soft voice read their names, on and on relentlessly.  A few of them were the names of children who died in the events of September 11, 2001, events that some people today believe were caused by US design as well.  In any event, all these children are completely innocent victims.

When we will stop this?  What can we do to stop it?

Americans Have to Work Hard to Know the Facts

January 10, 2009

Here is a link to an article by Paul Craig Roberts

Paul_Craig_Roberts.jpg

titled The Difficulty of Being an Informed American.   In it he says:

The American print and TV media has never been very good. These days it is horrible. If a person intends to be informed, he must turn to foreign news broadcasts, to Internet sites, to foreign newspapers available on the Internet, or to alternative newspapers that are springing up in various cities. A person who sits in front of Murdoch’s Fox “News” or CNN or who reads the New York Times is simply being brainwashed with propaganda.

Before conservatives nod their heads in agreement, I’m not referring to “the liberal media.” I mean the propaganda that issues from the US government and the Israel Lobby.

It was neoconservative Bush regime propaganda fed to America through Judith Miller and the New York Times and through Murdoch’s Fox “News” that convinced Americans that they were in danger from a small secular Arab country half way around the globe called Iraq. It was the American media that convinced Americans that getting rid of dangerous “weapons of mass destruction,” weapons that did not exist in Iraq, would be a cakewalk paid for by Iraqi oil revenues.

It is the same propagandistic American print and TV media that has rationalized Bush’s illegal invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan based on seven years of lies and deception.

It is the same media that today provides only Israeli propaganda as “coverage” of the Israeli war crimes in Gaza.

It was the New York Times that spiked for one year the leaked information from the National Security Agency that the Bush regime, in violation of US law, was illegally spying on Americans without warrants. The “liberal” New York Times agreed to suppress the story so that Bush would not face reelection under the cloud of his outlaw behavior.

Conservatives think the Washington Post is “liberal media” despite the fact that the editorial and commentary pages are controlled by neocons and their sympathizers.  Read the rest here.

Emergency Town Hall Meeting: A Call to Act

January 8, 2009

Stop The Israeli Massacre in Gaza

We Condemn the U.S. Role in this War Crime

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

7:00 PM

The Ethical Culture Society
2 West 64th Street
New York, N.Y.  

Speakers:

Chris Hedges

Cynthia McKinney

Alan Goodman

Adam Shapiro

Peter Weiss

others to be announced…

A great crime is being committed. The horror of Israel ’s invasion of Gaza mounts daily. The 1.5 million people of Gaza – fenced in on all sides – are being subjected to a brutal military assault from land and air. Civilian casualties are in the thousands. Food, medicine, and fuel are blockaded. Israel has declared this to be a “war to the bitter end.” The United States has backed Israel both with new, sophisticated military weaponry and with full diplomatic support.

We, living in this country have a great and urgent responsibility to act against what must be recognized as a War Crime by Israel with the full support of the United States . Too many who watch the assault on Gaza with horror and outrage, have remained silent. Too few have acted. This must, and can, change. On Tuesday January 13, 2009, at this Emergency Town Hall Meeting at Ethical Culture Society, we will carve open space for the truth to be spoken and we will call on people to act now to stop the massacre in Gaza .

Whether the world sees political protest and resistance, and mass outpourings of opposition and outrage in different forms in this country…or whether it sees continued support for and passive complicity with these attacks coming from the people here…all this will matter greatly, not only here in the US, but to people all over the world.

Initiated by Revolution Books
Endorsed by:
James Abourezk
Brooklyn Greens
Henry Chalfant
Kathleen Chalfant
Mitchell Cohen
Committee for Open Discussion of Zionism
Nina Felshin
Dennis James
Joel Kovel
Adam Shapiro
Michael Steven Smith
Leonard Weinglass

 

 

One Courageous Young Woman Makes a Difference

January 8, 2009

Here is a link to a video which shows one young woman who stands in front of Israelis soldiers firing on unarmed Palestinian protesters to keep them from shooting.

What can we do to help her and all others who want to see the violence end?

What Can We Do About This? (This post includes very gruesome images that the media and the government do not want you to see or think about.)

January 6, 2009

Here is the text of Protocol III about incendiary weapons:

Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Incendiary Weapons (Protocol III). Geneva, 10 October 1980.

Article 1
Definitions

For the purpose of this Protocol:
1. “Incendiary weapon” means any weapon or munition which is primarily designed to set fire to objects or to cause burn injury to persons through the action of flame, heat, or combination thereof, produced by a chemical reaction of a substance delivered on the target. (a) Incendiary weapons can take the form of, for example, flame throwers, fougasses, shells, rockets, grenades, mines, bombs and other containers of incendiary substances.
(b) Incendiary weapons do not include:
(i) Munitions which may have incidental incendiary effects, such as illuminants, tracers, smoke or signalling systems;
(ii) Munitions designed to combine penetration, blast or fragmentation effects with an additional incendiary effect, such as armour-piercing projectiles, fragmentation shells, explosive bombs and similar combined-effects munitions in which the incendiary effect is not specifically designed to cause burn injury to persons, but to be used against military objectives, such as armoured vehicles, aircraft and installations or facilities.
2. “Concentration of civilians” means any concentration of civilians, be it permanent or temporary, such as in inhabited parts of cities, or inhabited towns or villages, or as in camps or columns of refugees or evacuees, or groups of nomads.
3. “Military objective” means, so far as objects are concerned, any object which by its nature, location, purpose or use makes an effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction, capture or neutralization, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage.
4. “Civilian objects” are all objects which are not military objectives as defined in paragraph 3.
5. “Feasible precautions” are those precautions which are practicable or practically possible taking into account all circumstances ruling at the time, including humanitarian and military considerations.

Article 2
Protection of civilians and civilian objects

1. It is prohibited in all circumstances to make the civilian population as such, individual civilians or civilian objects the object of attack by incendiary weapons.
2. It is prohibited in all circumstances to make any military objective located within a concentration of civilians the object of attack by air-delivered incendiary weapons.
3. It is further prohibited to make any military objective located within a concentration of civilians the object of attack by means of incendiary weapons other than air-delivered incendiary weapons, except when such military objective is clearly separated from the concentration of civilians and all feasible precautions are taken with a view to limiting the incendiary effects to the military objective and to avoiding, and in any event to minimizing, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects.
4. It is prohibited to make forests or other kinds of plant cover the object of attack by incendiary weapons except when such natural elements are used to cover, conceal or camouflage combatants or other military objectives, or are themselves military objectives.  This is a link to a website where all the texts are available.

Here are photographs of victims of white phosphorous launched by US military in Iraq.  White phosphorous burns off soft tissue often down to the bone and is excruciatingly painful.

Image2.jpg     Image1.jpg

The US and Israel say that white phosphorous is not an illegal weapon.  Further they are not signatories to this protocol, so they claim not to be bound by it.  In order to appear to be supportive, the US signed onto other protocols of the Convention, but not to all of them.

Such reasoning has led the US to torture and to fire white phosphorous on civilians in Iraq.  I know personally marines who were ordered to do that and who were witnesses to the horrible burns they inflicted on innocent civilians including children.  These US service men and women are badly wounded themselves from the trauma of executing those orders.  Now Israeli soldiers are doing the same thing.

I had an interesting conversation with one of the brothers who owns the grocery around the corner.  I had a No Torture button on.  He said, “But they cut our people’s heads off!”

My answer to that was that no matter how barbaric someone else is, we do not have to reply with barbarism.  We only become like them.

I quote a woman in Asia who works in a group of peace makers, “Peace is always the braver option.”

Raining white phosphorous and other weapons on civilian populations is cowardly and counterproductive.    What can we do to stop such barbarism done with our tax money?