Why Extraordinary Rendition's Not Always Eevviilll

So the L.A. Times reports that Obama’s keeping rendition on the table, and suddenly everybody loses their heads. Without looking, I can tell you how this will play out: the Cons will crow that Obama recognizes the need for torture, and the progressives will howl that he’s becoming Bush III.

Neither of which is true. Ask Dr. Rendition (aka Hilzoy):

Since the publication of the LA Times story about rendition yesterday, I’ve noticed some confusion about the topic. So Dr. Rendition will try to make things easy.

Q: What is rendition?

A: Rendition is the act of transferring a person into a different jurisdiction.

Q: “It occurs to me that this more benign definition of rendition as transferring someone to another criminal justice system, used to be called extradition. Can someone explain the difference to me?”

A: Extradiction is one form of rendition, as you can see from Lawyers.com’s Glossary of Legal Terms, which defines ‘Rendition’ as “extradition of a fugitive who has fled to another state.” Here’s a nice example of the term’s normal usage from a hundred-year-old case:

“Among the powers of governors of territories of the United States is the authority to demand the rendition of fugitives from justice under 5278 of the Revised Statutes, and we concur with the courts below in the conclusion that the governor of Porto Rico has precisely the same power as that possessed by the governor of any organized territory to issue a requisition for the return of a fugitive criminal.”

That was just the first case I found when I looked. There are lots more.

Q: But extraordinary rendition means sending someone off to be tortured, right?

A: No. Extraordinary rendition is rendition outside normal legal frameworks. (Extradition is a form of “ordinary” rendition.) It includes sending people off to countries where we have reason to think that they will be tortured. But it also includes things like catching Osama bin Laden in another country and bringing him to the United States to stand trial. What makes something a case of extraordinary rendition is the way the person is transferred from one jurisdiction to another, not what happens to that person once s/he arrives.

Q: But don’t most people who talk about ‘rendition’ just mean ‘sending people off to other countries to be tortured’?

A: Probably. That’s the kind of rendition that became famous when Bush was in office. But remember: lawyers are not most people. They use all sorts of words in peculiar ways (besides using words like ‘estoppal’ that normal people don’t use at all.) To them, this is a technical term. They use it accordingly.

Glenn Greenwald, who is certainly no fan of torture, extralegal methods, and all that rot, puts forth a hypothetical that basically illustrates what extraordinary rendition’s supposed to be used for: extracting dangerous, horrible people from the countries where they’ve gone to ground and bringing them to a country that will prosecute. We’ve used this method many times in the past, and so have other countries, taking such people as Adolf Eichmann and Mir Aimal Kansi from their hidey-holes and delivering them to courts that tried, convicted and sentenced them for their crimes. The U.S. Department of State has a handy little chart showing folks who were either extradicted or renditioned between ’93 and ’99, back before “rendition” became a synonym for “snatch, disappear and torture the possibly innocent bastard.” Keeping the door open to rendition doesn’t mean Obama’s sliding down the slippery slope to Jack Bauer Fantasyland. Sorry, wingnuts, but you’ll have to look elsewhere for validation.

But what’s to keep rendition from becoming a dirty practice again? We all know there’s a dark side to it, just as there is whenever you get into gray areas of the law. Cujo359 once again comes through with a sensible proposal:

My own feeling is that the act of rendition itself may be necessary for some time, since there’s no way of enforcing any edict of the World Court or other international justice system in a country that doesn’t agree to abide by it. Perhaps in the long run, though, the only acceptable way of doing this will be to go through an international court to obtain a warrant. Messy as that idea sounds, it’s probably better than letting everyone do it on his own.

That begs the question of what would happen if the World Court declined to issue such a warrant in a case that clearly merited it, but it would be at least a step closer to bringing extralegal actions under the scrutiny of a court, where abuses could be minimized, and a judicial eyeball kept on rendition to ensure that renditioned people aren’t simply shipped off to be warehoused and tortured without legal recourse.

Even without such warrants, we can ensure that our own practice of rendition is restricted to bringing suspected criminals to trial in regular courts. It’s not a get-into-Guantanamo-free card. And considering Obama’s closing Gitmo and doing all sorts of things to show that yes, really, truly, he’s serious about this no-torture stuff, I imagine that’s exactly what’s going to happen when he revamps the rendition option. If not, enough of us screaming at him should do the trick.

Why Extraordinary Rendition's Not Always Eevviilll

Mongers of Fear

We’re all gonna diiiieeeee!!1!!!111!!!

Such is the sentiment of the right-wing retards that brought us 9/11 by ignoring intelligence community warnings, sent 4,871 soldiers to die in wars that were not only pointless but generated more terrorists for us to deal with, and presided over the destruction of America’s moral authority.

President Obama issued orders to close Guantanamo and cease torturing people. Thirty seconds later, the right wing exploded. Preliminary reports suggest the remnants of their sanity imploded, setting off a chain reaction of insanity with a force roughly equivalent to India’s entire nuclear arsenal.

Bush’s former speechwriter is shitting himself in terror:

Just yesterday, Marc Thiessen, up until recently George W. Bush’s chief speechwriter, wrote a rather twisted op-ed for the Washington Post, engaging in the kind of shameless demagoguery that’s so over the top, it almost reads like a parody. Today, Thiessen went even further.

Yesterday, Thiessen argued that if Barack Obama changes Bush’s national-security apparatus in anyway, he’ll invite domestic terrorism and will shoulder the blame for American deaths. Today, writing for the National Review, Thiessen believes Obama is the most dangerous president “ever.”

Less than 48 hours after taking office, Obama has begun dismantling those institutions without time for any such review. The CIA program he is effectively shutting down is the reason why America has not been attacked again after 9/11. He has removed the tool that is singularly responsible for stopping al-Qaeda from flying planes into the Library Tower in Los Angeles, Heathrow Airport, and London’s Canary Warf [sic], and blowing up apartment buildings in Chicago, among other plots. It’s not even the end of inauguration week, and Obama is already proving to be the most dangerous man ever to occupy the Oval Office.

This is not only a rather hysterical rant, it’s rather silly.

For example, a CIA program was not “singularly responsible for stopping al-Qaeda from flying planes into the Library Tower in Los Angeles.” What Thiessen neglects to mention is that the Library Tower plot was an idea that “had not gone much past the conceptual stage.” Many within the intelligence community eventually concluded that the Library Tower scheme was never much more than “talk.” We literally tortured this idea out of detainees, but that doesn’t make it a thwarted terrorist plot. What’s more, the evidence to bolster Thiessen’s other examples is no more compelling. (And this puts aside the notion that we might be able to get intelligence without torturing suspects.)

Bill O and Laura Ingraham screech that without torture, America can’t possibly be safe:

Bill O’Reilly was harping on his recent favorite theme — that Obama needs to keep America a torturing nation in order to keep us safe from imminent terrorist attack — with Laura Ingraham last night, and she chimed in thus:

Ingraham: We want to understand here, Bill, if America is safer today or less safe than she was on January 19. And I think any objective review of what’s being done — and you’re right, he promised to do these things and he’s doing them — shutting down the military tribunals temporarily, a 120-day pause, closing Gitmo by 2010, and doing away with [scare quotes] “harsh interrogation methods” — I think you can make a pretty compelling case that we’re less safe today. And Barack Obama apparently is willing to roll the dice on that. Because he made these promises and — he campaigned on them.

This particularly ugly meme is rapidly gaining favor on the right. It was recently advanced in the Washington Post by George W. Bush’s ex-speechwriter, Marc Thiessen…


As Jason Zengerle adroitly observed, “You almost get the sense guys like Thiessen are hoping for an attack so that they can blame Obama when it happens.”

Indeed, claims like these actually invite domestic terrorist attacks, since they announce to terrorist organizations that Obama will be especially politically vulnerable to divisive right-wing attacks if they pull off another major event; Obama won’t have Bush’s right-wing Mulligan. This in turn will further motivate them to pull off such an event. It makes America a much more inviting target to strategic-oriented terrorists like Al Qaeda (which, since 9/11, has been largely content to focus on its own back yard).

Once again, Conservative ideology is more important to right-wingers than our national well-being.

Thanks, Cons, for not only creating more terrorists, but giving them more ideas. That’s just awesome.

I’m not sure what it is about Cons. They seem to live in a state of perpetual paranoia. What else explains rampaging idiocy such as this?

One day before President Obama ordered the closing of Guantanamo Bay, Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) said he would be willing to facilitate the process by bringing some of the detainees into his district. “Sure, I’d take them,” Murtha said. “I mean, they’re no more dangerous in a prison in my district than they are in Guantanamo.”

Fox News’s Glenn Beck called Murtha a “clown” yesterday because of the proposal. But Diane Gramley, president of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania, may have won top prize for the most absurd reaction. Calling the idea “ludicrous,” Gramley’s main complaint seems to be that the al Qaeda suspects will indoctrinate the other American inmates:

“I don’t think the average murde
rer or rapist hates all Americans or hates what America stands for like the terrorist prisoners from Guantanamo,” said Gramley, who lives in Venango County. “You intermix them with the prison population, and there’s the very real possibility they would influence those individuals in prison.”

What amazing visions they have dancing in their heads. Not only do they believe that mixing a terrorist or two in amidst our own crooks will have the instant effect of turning everybody into terrorists, they think people in a Supermax get to socialize. You know what? I think we should have a sleepover program so that right-wing dumbfucks can see firsthand that the prisons they consign the worst of the worst ordinary criminals to are not the luxurious resorts they consign their own white-collar malefactors to.

They should also have their citizenship stripped and have to attempt to get it back. Then they might realize how incredibly stupid this hypothetical is:

Discussing Obama’s plan to close Guantanamo on Mike Gallagher’s radio show yesterday, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) claimed that Obama’s actions could be “the beginning of shutting down…the activities of the CIA.” When Gallagher said that Obama wanted to “bestow American citizenship rights to somebody from another country” who wants “to murder civilian Americans,” King claimed that closing Gitmo could put 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed “on a path to citizenship”:

KING: Let’s just say that, that, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, is brought to the United States to be tried in a federal court in the United States, under a federal judge, and we know what some of those judges do, and on a technicality, such as, let’s just say he wasn’t read his Miranda rights. … He is released into the streets of America. Walks over and steps up into a US embassy and applies for asylum for fear that he can’t go back home cause he spilled the beans on al Qaeda. What happens then if another judge grants him asylum in the United States and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is on a path to citizenship. I mean, I give you the extreme example of this.


As terrorism expert Peter Bergen noted on CNN last night, “the idea that somehow these terrorists are going to be released is just absolutely nonsensical.” “When terrorists have been tried in the United States, they go away forever,” said Bergen. “The embassy attackers in ‘98 who blew up two American embassies, they are in prison for life without parole.”

I don’t think anyone has to worry about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed getting a green card and buying a house in the burbs any time soon.

Choosing a winner for most ridiculous statement was damned difficult, but I think Rep. Cantor won by a nose:

GOP House Minority Whip Eric Cantor warned: “Actively moving terrorists inside our borders weakens our security. Most families neither want nor need hundreds of terrorists seeking to kill Americans in their communities.

Well, no shit, Eric. That’s why they’ll be in prison, not roaming the streets, you fucktard.

Their hysteria’s bad enough when it’s based off of their fantasies. It goes up astronomically when there’s a wee bit of reality to feed the flames:

The New York Times reports that “the emergence of a former Guantánamo Bay detainee as the deputy leader of Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch has underscored the potential complications in carrying out the executive order President Obama signed Thursday that the detention center be shut down within a year.”


Asked about the Times story, CAP’s Ken Gude responded that “it is impossible to guarantee that no detainees released from Guantanamo will ever join up with terrorists or commit violent acts. The Obama admininstration must do all that it can to prevent this from occuring, but the chances are likely that it will.”

But you cannot assess the dangers of Guantanamo simply by looking at a handful of released detainees and whether they participate in terrorism. Guantanamo’s existence has driven far more individuals into al Qaeda’s ranks than those who could join the fight after being released.

And the Iraq war provided an environment in which to train them. Contrary to what conservatives will inevitably insist, the story of Said Ali al-Shihri doesn’t argues for abandoning the effort to close Guantanamo (it’s unknown whether al-Shihri’s Gitmo stint further radicalized him, as it has other detainees), but for a more competent and responsible process for dealing with detainees. More importantly, given the apparent ease with which al-Shihri was able to hook up with an Iraq-fed Al Qaeda affiliate after his release, it argues for a counter-terrorism policy that doesn’t actually fan the flames of extremism in the Middle East, as the Bush administration’s did.

Of course, the frothing fuckwits can’t reason this through. They can’t accept that the mess they created is going to leave a stain. And they’re trying to pawn responsibility off on Obama, who didn’t even release the above terrorist:

I’d just like to point something out to the many rightwingers who are frothing at the mouth today over the NYT’s story that a former Gitmo detainee has become the deputy leader of Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch.

The Bush administration released this man in 2007, without trial -a decision made by political appointees, not judicial review – and handed him over to the Saudis who let him walk.

So who is at fault here?

Rather than blaming Obama for wanting to actually put bad guys on trial – proper trial – shouldn’t these rightwing pundits be asking why the Bush administration made a political decision to let this guy go?

Well, they should, but they won’t. That wouldn’t fit their fearmongering narrative, which is that Obama’s going to get us all killed because he’s not willing to be a lawbreaking, torture-encouraging, short-sighted dumbshit like Bush.

We are seeing just the beginning of the right-wing freakout that will sweep this nation. We need stamp on the flames before they get out of hand. In a rational country, all of their babbling would be no more than an amusing distraction. Alas, there are far too many willingly stupid people in America. So arm yourself with facts, my darlings. Sharpen them into pithy points. Hone your rapier wit. And be ready to turn right-wing attacks right back at ’em, just as Glenn Greenwald has so ably done.

Tell the mongers of fear to go peddle their wares elsewhere.

Mongers of Fear

Gaza: Israel Withdraws

Even in the afterglow of Inauguration Day, we’re keeping up on the news from Gaza, my darlings. It wouldn’t do to get distracted by shiny things. Considering how the ongoing crisis between Israel and the Palestinians destabilizes the Middle East, it’s worth keeping a close eye on.

The news is mixed. On the good side, Israel has withdrawn its forces:

The Israel Defense Forces on Wednesday said it had withdrawn all of its soldiers from Gaza, three and a half weeks after launching Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in the coastal territory.

“As of this morning, the last of the Israel Defence Forces soldiers have left the Gaza Strip and the forces have deployed outside of Gaza and are prepared for any occurrences,” an army spokesman said.

On the bad side, there’s been mortar fire and some shootings:

Israel reported mortar shelling from Gaza on Tuesday. The Palestinians have said Israeli troops shot to death two farmers since the truce took hold.


The Israel Air Force on Tuesday attacked areas in the Gaza Strip from which Palestinians fired mortar shells. The Israel Defense Forces said that about eight mortar shells were shot from near a central Gaza refugee camp, apparently by Hamas. Two of the shells landed in the Strip and the rest fell in open territory in the western Negev near the border.

At this stage, the IDF is holding its fire after its attack at around 6 P.M. Tuesday.

The Palestinians also fired light weapons into Israel on Tuesday, from both north and south of the Kissufim crossing. An explosive charge was also apparently set off.

Not good.

The reporting’s too sketchy to determine what exactly is happening – after the lies Israel told during the invasion, I’m disinclined to believe their claims that it’s all Hamas’s fault. But I’m also not going to be shocked in the least if some pissed-off Palestinians have ignored the cease-fire in the interest of extracting a pound or two of flesh.

After all, there’s plenty to be pissed about:

As outside observers enter Gaza, we’re learning more about what has happened during the Israeli attack. What they are seeing is devastating – and is leading to accusations of Israeli war crimes.


Amnesty International reported Monday on the findings of a four-person fact-finding team who have just been allowed to Gaza. The team included a weapons expert who said:

“Yesterday, we saw streets and alleyways littered with evidence of the use of white phosphorus, including still burning wedges and the remnants of the shells and canisters fired by the Israeli army…White phosphorus is a weapon intended to provide a smokescreen for troop movements on the battlefield. It is highly incendiary, air burst and its spread effect is such that it that should never be used on civilian areas”.

And their conclusion is that the Israeli use in Gaza “is a war crime:”

“Such extensive use of this weapon in Gaza’s densely populated residential neighbourhoods is inherently indiscriminate. Its repeated use in this manner, despite evidence of its indiscriminate effects and its toll on civilians, is a war crime,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty’s researcher on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Gaza: Israel Withdraws

Gaza: What Israel Gained

For now, the fighting has stopped. Bombs aren’t falling, rockets aren’t firing. It may seem to a naive observer that Israel met its objectives.

But look deeper, and you see that all they’ve done is make a horrible situation worse.

The threat of imminent violence is still there:

The 22-day war ended without surrender. Neither Israel nor Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls Gaza, made any concessions, except to stop fighting temporarily.

“The essence of this is you have two completely separate cease-fires, with no underpinnings in them of agreement or understanding, and no resolution of the original causes of the conflict,” said Alistair Crooke, a former British intelligence officer and former European Union adviser on Palestinian issues. “On one level, it’s back to square one, and all of the elements of the situation are back to where they were before the war.”

Although Hamas sustained the heavier losses, by a lopsided margin, Israeli officials acknowledged that the movement could quickly rebuild its political and military wings and that it still posed a potent long-term threat to Israel.

The chance of enduring peace is further away than ever, especially since right-wing hawks are poised to poison Israeli politics still further:

And prospects for the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and Syria that have been central to Kadima’s platform look shakier than ever.

Many believe the Israeli operation has further weakened the legitimacy of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the negotiating partner on the Palestinian side.

“I don’t think we have a peace agenda now – Syria doesn’t want to talk any more, the Palestinians are in a very delicate situation,” says David Nachmias, Professor of Government at the Interdisciplinary Center, an academic institute north of Tel Aviv.


And Prof Doron points out that an electorate that was already right-leaning has moved further right, as evident in gains for the Yisrael Beiteinu party of far-right Avigdor Lieberman.

They’ve earned a reputation for senseless brutality:

“We walked at the head of a group of women and we waved white flags. We managed to pass three houses on the street and then I saw an Israeli soldier 40 meters away aiming his weapon at us,” said Yasmin A-Najar. “I thought he wanted us to come closer. Ruwahiya and I continued to walk and suddenly the soldier shot at us.”

Yasmin was wounded in her right leg and Ruwahiya fell on the street with her head bleeding. The rest of the women panicked and scattered, hiding while the shooting continued.

Yasmin said she tried to return and help Ruwahiya but the soldiers fired at her. They also shot at the ambulance driver who arrived and he was forced to turn back, she said. When Ruwahiya was finally evacuated at 8 P.M., she was already dead.

And Hamas is not broken:

The top Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, said Israel had “failed to achieve its goals”.

In a speech broadcast on Hamas TV, he said: “God has granted us a great victory, not for one faction, or party, or area, but for our entire people.”

Hamas said it would hold fire for a week to give Israel time to withdraw its forces from the Gaza Strip.

A spokesman for Hamas’ military wing, Abu Ubaida, said its rocket capabilities had not been affected by the conflict.

“We hereby stress that our rockets are being developed and are piling up, and that the enemy will receive more rockets and God willing, our rockets will hit more targets,” he said in a news conference broadcast live on Hamas’ al-Aqsa TV.

I fail to see how this insanity served Israel’s long-term interests. All they’ve done is created sympathy for the Palestinians and broken fertile ground for extremism and terrorism.

Gaza: What Israel Gained

Gaza: Returning to Devastation

Hamas has turned the tables on Israel by declaring its own cease-fire and reiterating its demands:

Hamas announced an immediate cease-fire by its militants and allied groups in Gaza on Sunday, giving Israel a week to pull out its troops from the coastal territory.

Israel, which mounted an offensive against Hamas three weeks ago to halt years of rocket attacks, agreed to silence its guns and ground its aircraft early Sunday.

“We the Palestinian resistance factions declare a cease-fire from our side in Gaza and we confirm our stance that the enemy’s troops must withdraw from Gaza within a week,” said Damascus-based Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk.

Ayman Taha, a Hamas official in Cairo for talks with Egypt on a truce deal, demanded that Israel open all of Gaza’sw border crossings to allow in food and other goods to meet the “basic needs for our people.”

This is a brilliant move on their part. It shows they’re willing to play the diplomacy game, and takes back the initiative. Hamas is bruised, battered and bloody, but refuses to back down. I think this is a signal to the rest of the world that, despite attempts to declare them nothing more than a terrorist group, they’re a duly-elected government that intends to govern. And they’re going to have to be treated as such.

I’m not sure about the borders, but it looks like Israeli troops may soon be leaving Palestinian soil:

Olmert told European leaders visiting Jerusalem on Sunday evening that in the wake of the cease-fire, Israel planned to withdraw all of its troops as soon as possible. He said that such a move would come when the situation between Israel and Gaza was “stable.”

That stability may be a wee bit hard to achieve:

Meanwhile, although Hamas’s leadership said they’d stop firing missiles, the missiles have kept firing. Why? Well, at a guess “Hamas’s leadership” is a lot less powerful than it used to be since the Israelis assassinated most of it. And the security forces who used to make sure that missiles didn’t get fired if Hamas’s Leadership didn’t want them to be fired, well they were the first and main target of Israel’s strikes. It’s almost as if Israel wanted to make sure that Hamas’s leadership couldn’t control their military wing.

That’s a recipe for catastrophe, and Israel won’t have anyone to blame but themselves. Hamas showed itself capable of controlling other militant groups’ activities during the six-month cease-fire. With their security forces destroyed, angry Palestinians with access to rockets won’t have much standing in their way. Just the excuse Israel will need for yet another invasion.

Of course, invading under indictments may prove a little tricky:

Israel is preparing for a wave of lawsuits by pro-Palestinian organizations overseas against Israelis involved in the Gaza fighting, claiming they were responsible for war crimes due to the harsh results stemming from the IDF’s actions against Palestinian civilians and their property.

Senior Israeli ministers have expressed serious fears during the past few days about the possibility that Israel will be pressed to agree to an international investigation of the losses among non-combatants during Operation Cast Lead; or alternately, that Israelis will be faced with personal suits, such as happened to Israeli officers who were accused of war crimes in Britain for their actions during the second intifada.

It wouldn’t sadden me a bit to see Olmert and a few other of Israel’s hawks stuffed in the Hague with our own war criminals. Should we all splurge to buy them a vacation in Amsterdam?

Israel’s doing its best, now that the true extent of the destruction will be revealed, to craft its alibi:

With this in mind, Israel is reportedly “readying a new offensive — the battle for public opinion.” AFP reports Israel has begun compiling information to try to prove that many of the 4,000 residential buildings, 51 government buildings, and 20 mosques it hit during the offensive were legitimate targets used by Hamas militants. At least six Israeli ministers will be “fanning out to different countries to press home Israel’s view of the conduct of the war.” Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog said Israel is aiming to prevent an ‘over-dramatization‘ of the facts.”

I’m not quite sure how you can over-dramatize facts that are dramatic enough in and of themselves.

First, an illustration:

That was the death toll before the war even ended. That’s a hell of a lot of dead women and children to have to explain.

Then there’s the evidence of new weapons used:

Some Palestinian casualties in the Gaza Strip were wounded by a new type of weapon that even doctors with previous experience in war zones do not recognize, according to Dr. Erik Fosse, a Norwegian cardiologist who worked at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital for 11 days, during Operation Cast Lead.

However, he added in a telephone conversation from Oslo, most casualties were people hit by shrapnel from conventional explosives.

Fosse, a department head at a university hospital in Oslo, worked in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation and several times in Lebanon, also in 2006. That was when he first heard about the new kind of weapon, but did not see any such wounds with his own eyes.

The unknown weapon appears to mainly affect the body’s lower part, he said. It severs the legs, leaving burns around the stump, small punctures in the skin and internal bleeding.


Fosse and a Norwegian colleague, Mads Gilbert, arrived in Gaza on December 31 and remained until January 10. They were financed by the Norwegian government.

On his return, Fosse submitted a report to his government in which he accused the IDF of deliberately targeting civilians. Fosse said he believes Israel deliberately chose to attack while We
sterners working for international organizations were back home for the Christmas vacation.

“The Palestinian witnesses, as medical workers, are very accurate in their reports, but if we hadn’t been there to confirm their testimony, it would all have been presented as Hamas propaganda,” he said.

Remember that, when Israel starts presenting its case and dismisses horror after horror as “Hamas propaganda.”

Palestinians are left to assess the rubble and try to put their shattered lives back together. This is what they’re coming back to:

All day, thousands of Gazans have been rushing back to their neighbourhoods to see what is left after Israel’s campaign of bombing and shelling.

Gaping holes and fire-blackened cars litter the streets in the areas hit hardest by the fighting.

I have spoken to some people who say they have not even been able to find their way round their bomb-damaged neighbourhoods, never mind find the remains of their homes.

Many simply turned round and returned to the UN-run schools they fled to amid the fighting.

But for some Gazans even attempting to return home is virtually unimaginable.

Amira al-Girim, 15, lies in a hospital bed with her leg in traction.

She was found alone, bleeding in a house, about four days after she saw her father killed by an Israeli tank shell in front of her.

Her brother and sister died – she thinks in an air strike – as they ran to get help.

Her remaining family thought she too had died, and had already buried the scraps of flesh they thought were her remains in a box.

Let those images sear themselves into your mind. Don’t forget. This is what happens when a country responds with disproportionate force to a threat. America did it on a far greater scale than Israel, and for less reason. The war in Iraq and the war in Gaza are inextricably entwined.

We must not forget:

As we wait to see what happens next, it’s important to remember what we’ve just seen. So often we are encouraged to sink into a comfortable amnesia designed to wipe away the news of civilian deaths and the war crimes – whether our own in Iraq and Afghanistan – or now those of our allies and best arms customers in Israel. So let’s recap and remember – and insist on international action.

Last March, Israeli officials met with Condi Rice and then approved a plan for a war on Gaza. By their own admission, Israel signed onto the June 19 cease-fire in order to buy time for preparing for that war – and while Hamas honored the cease-fire, Israel used the world’s focus on the Obama election on November 4 to launch an incursion into Gaza, killing 6 Palestinians – knowing this would provoke a Hamas reaction since it was an act of war. That reaction was then used as an excuse for further Israeli incursions and as the justification of a siege of Gaza, blocking all shipments of food, medicine and fuel to the residents who live in a virtual prison, unable to leave, unable to live with no electricity, starvation level food supplies and a compromised water supply since the fuel needed for the water sanitation plants was not let in. The people of Gaza were reduced to eating bread made from animal feed – and when that ran out, grass. Even with this continuous collective punishment of the people of Gaza, their elected government announced – multiple times – that they would agree to a new cease-fire on the condition that the blockade of supplies be lifted.

Instead, Israel – with its massive PR campaign – claimed that Hamas refused a new cease-fire – and then launched a vicious attack on Gaza.

Over 1300 Gazans have been killed, over 5,000 wounded – one third of those children – and the casualties included medics trying to rescue wounded families, journalists, and more than 50 Gazans who had fled to UN schools for refuge from the fighting. The UN warehouse and all the humanitarian aid in it were destroyed when Israel bombed it– apparently using white phosphorus, setting the building on fire.

There can be no real peace for the people of Gaza until they are allowed self-determination – in the meantime, at least we can insist that Israel open the borders and allow in the humanitarian aid they so desperately need. Let’s not forget them while the world shifts its attention t the celebrations in Washington this week.

We have this chance to take a new direction. With Obama in office, we’ll be leaving Iraq to determine its own way forward. We’ve failed to learn a harsh lesson from the wars of the past several years: we cannot solve terrorism with bombs. We cannot bring peace by raining down destruction. America tried and failed. Israel tried, and I guarantee you that they will also fail.

Peace, if it comes, will be brought about by tough compromises. We cannot call every government we do not like a “terrorist organization.” We cannot continue starving populations in order to bend them to our will. We have to start building up rather than tearing down. And we have to grant these people the same rights we hold precious: the right to self-determination, to live without threat of annihilation, to be able to work hard and raise families, to eat and drink and live another day.

We need a Marshall Plan for the Middle East. More will be accomplished by helping them build strong economies and functioning societies than would ever be accomplished at the point of a gun. We need to give aid, help them find a path to peace, but not impose our will on them. We need to give them the tools and the room to discover their own solutions to their internal problems. We need to find ways to work together, and we need to be patient, because the wounds we’ve inflicting will be a long time healing. Our whole attitude to the region will have to change, or the bombs will fall again.

It’s time to give Palestinians and Iraqis the most precious gift of all: a future.

Gaza: Returning to Devastation

Gaza: Unilateral Cease-Fire

It’s nice that the bombs have (mostly) stopped falling, but I call bullshit:

JERUSALEM – Israel declared a unilateral cease-fire in the Gaza Strip on Sunday meant to end three devastating weeks of war against Hamas militants, but just hours later militants fired a volley of rockets into southern Israel, officials said, threatening to reignite the violence.

No one was injured in the assault in which five rockets were fired and four landed. But shortly afterward, security sources in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun reported an airstrike that wounded a woman and her child. The Israeli military had no comment.

In another incident after the truce took hold, militants fired small arms at an infantry patrol, which directed artillery and aircraft to strike back, the military said.

“Israel will only act in response to attacks by Hamas, either rockets into Israel or firing upon our forces,” government spokesman Mark Regev said. “If Hamas does deliberately torpedo this cease-fire, they are exposing themselves before the entire international community as a group of cynical extremists that have absolutely no interest in the well-being of the people of Gaza.”

Regev would not say what level of violence would provoke Israel to call off the truce.

So, Israel unilaterally declares the war over – for now. Why unilaterally? Because they don’t want to deal with Hamas. A bilateral agreement would mean that Israel has to make concessions it doesn’t want to make, and would take a few days longer. So hey, presto! temporary peace, unless of course they break it.

Hamas isn’t terribly impressed with the whole idea:

In a televised address, Mr Olmert warned militants in Gaza that if they “decide the blows they’ve been dealt are not sufficient and they are interested in continuing the fight, Israel will be prepared for such and feel free to continue to react with force”.

The ceasefire came into effect at 0200.

Hamas has rejected the move, saying any continued Israeli presence in Gaza would be regarded as an act of war.

“The occupier must halt his fire immediately and withdraw from our land and lift his blockade and open all crossings and we will not accept any one Zionist soldier on our land, regardless of the price that it costs,” Hamas spokesman Farzi Barhoum said, shortly before the ceasefire began.

I can guarantee you Israel knew that’s precisely what Hamas would say. This, my darlings, is a publicity stunt. Listen to what Olmert says and it shouldn’t leave you in doubt:

Israel’s “goals have been achieved, and even more”, Mr Olmert said.

Hamas was badly damaged both militarily and in terms of government infrastructure; rocket factories and dozens of smuggling tunnels had been destroyed, he said.

But the success of the ceasefire depended on Hamas, he said.

Troops would remain in Gaza for the time being and if Hamas held fire, the military would “consider pulling out of Gaza at a time that befits us”.

Note the studious ignoring of one of Hamas’s major conditions: Israel will pull out of Gaza when it damned well feels like it. Which is guaranteed to provoke Hamas into continuing its attacks, as we’ve already seen. On top of this, Olmert’s claim that Israel made all of its goals and more is utter, unvarnished bullshit. Observe:

Israel stopped its offensive before reaching a long-term solution to the problem of arms smuggling into Gaza, one of the war’s declared aims.

And furthermore:

Israel succeeded in hurting Hamas and in creating an international awareness of the need to prevent weapons from being smuggled into the Gaza Strip, but not all the operation’s objectives were accomplished. Rocket fire from the Strip into Israel continued throughout, and it will take a few weeks to determine whether they will stop. A humanitarian crisis in Gaza was not averted and it is not clear whether the likelihood of securing the release of abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit has increased.


But Hamas’ gains cannot be ignored: It has won international legitimacy and sympathy, and its forces still control the Gaza Strip.

So I agree with those observers who believe that Israel stopped bombing at this moment because they want no dead children distracting from Obama’s inauguration, which may rather get up Obama’s nose at a time when they need to ingratiate him. They stopped bombing in such a way as to almost guarantee Hamas keeps firing rockets at Israel, which will allow Israel to play the victim once more. “See? We wanted peace. We stopped hitting them, all we were doing was everything that led to this conflict in the first place – minor little things like trying to starve Gaza into submission, trying to force a puppet government on them, destroying what little economy and infrastructure they have left.”

If the Palestinians resist hitting out after all of the suffering they’ve endured and will continue to endure under the Israelis, they’ll be candidates for sainthood.

These are some of the pieces they’re left to pick up.

The group of boys gather defiantly to play soccer each day, war-weary after three weeks of near-constant shelling and dearly in need of some childhood release.

This border town of a couple hundred thousand people has been especially hard hit during the 22-day Israeli assault against Hamas militants in Gaza as Israel seeks to destroy hundreds of tunnels used to smuggle in weapons — but which also provide an economic lifeline for destitute Gazans.


The children, along with much of the population, have grown indifferent to the roaring fighter jets overhead and the all-powerful thuds of explos
ions nearby.

“We’re not afraid of the bombs anymore, we play football everyday,” 13-year-old Mohammed Gheiss said Saturday. Gheiss is the goalkeeper for the small team of boys playing in a relatively safe wasteland about a mile from the more dangerous border area.

“What’s sad is that we’re not as many as before,” he said, pointing at the improvised tent nearby for the wake of his friend, Eissa Ermallat.

Eissa, 12, died a day earlier, hit by an unmanned Israeli warplane attack while collecting firewood, said his father, Mohammed Ermallat, who led the group of mourners.

Eissa’s friend, 12-year-old Amir Jeradat, was unable to attend the wake, laid up in an-Najar hospital just 100 yards away with a fractured arm from the same attack.

“We heard the drone but we didn’t see it until it fell a meter from us,” the boy said. “We were just playing, it was calm, I don’t understand.”

How do you explain such things to children? How will they grow up remembering anything other than bombs falling senselessly as they try to play?

There’s so much that’s inexplicable:

Being from Gaza these days is a burden. Everyone who knows me is asking about my family. And all I can answer is how they were four days ago when I could reach them last. They have no electricity now, and I can only hope they are alright.

I can tell you how they were when I last checked on them.

My cousin Rabah’s house was hit directly by an Israeli strike. This is tragic irony. Rabah opposes Hamas deeply. But missiles do not care about such things.

His brother Yehia, also a critic of Hamas, is a local journalist. His office was hit.


Until seven days ago, Beit Lahia, our town, had been relatively safer. My family’s five-story home suffered substantial damage. In addition, my family’s neighborhood mosque was one of the 70 hit by Israel. Seventeen worshipers lost their lives as they were praying. Abu Mazin, my father, is probably not surprised by the worsening situation. He often said, “The past is the good part. At least we know how painful it was. The future is scary because it always gets worse for us Palestinians.” He also told me that our town has been hit by what he can only describe as a time machine that took them 50 years backward.


Three days ago, I read my cousin’s name on the internet, Amal (Arabic for Hope). She was 22 years old. Standing at the kitchen sink, she was fatally wounded. A sniper shot her in the head and she fell to the ground on Omar, my nephew who told me the story, was mortified. Amal passed away when her heart gave up.

Why seventy mosques bombed? Why was a young woman shot in the head by a sniper doing no more than standing at her own kitchen sink? What explains violence this senseless?

Apologists for Israel try. They try to explain (h/t):

Your unit, on the edges of the northern Gaza town of Jabaliya, has taken mortar fire from the crowded refugee camp nearby. You prepare to return fire, and perhaps you notice — or perhaps you don’t, even though it’s on your map — that there is a United Nations school just there, full of displaced Gazans. You know that international law allows you to protect your soldiers and return fire, but also demands that you ensure that there is no excessive harm to civilians. Do you remember all that in the chaos?

This was the Steven Erlanger’s lead on a front page story in the New York Times today that went on at great length rationalizing Israeli conduct during their assault on Gaza. It ran the same day that Israel hit a fourth UN school. Four of them. The Times cannot even publish its rationalization of the last UN school bombing before a new one is hit.

Reading it made me physically ill. Move the context to, say, Bosnia. Imagine a front page story in the Times sympathizing with the tough calls that had to be made by those poor Serb gunners bearing down on the besieged city. Or better, to the Warsaw ghetto during the Second World War. You know, the place where those sneaky Jewish irregulars refused to come out and fight like a legitimate army and instead hid among the civilian population.

Four UN schools. Seventy mosques. Countless houses where civilians had been told they should gather for safety. All bombed. And sometimes, yes, there were Hamas militants fighting and then fading away. But not in the vast majority of cases. In most, witnesses, including international observers (in case you’re one of those who doesn’t believe a word those self-serving Palestinians say), advised there had been no rockets fired, no bullets shot. Just sudden and catastrophic death unleashed by an Israeli tank or warplane, for no reason anyone could discern.

And now we have a unilateral cease-fire that does nothing to address any concerns for Israel’s. Somehow, some way, the Palestinians are supposed to accept this as their lot. Their fault their children were maimed and killed. Their fault they have lost nearly everything. Their fault they are penned in like cattle, denied food and fuel and a scrap of human dignity.

Israel promises that things will be better if the Palestinians just stop shooting their rockets, but that’s been tried and failed. They have no trust left:

And Abu Moustafa does not trust the Israelis to provide for people in Gaza.

“We depended on the tunnels for all our supplies,” he said.

“They were our lifeline. Now we are totally cut off from the outside world. The Israelis promise to open the crossings – but they have made those promises before.”

So for the moment, while the rockets may have stopped, many of the same uncertainties remain.

There is only temporary relief here. The longer-term future of the Gaza people is as precarious as ever.

Israel believes it gained something with this war. I don’t see it. All I see is loss:

But with this latest ceasefire, the town of Rafah is now counting its losses.

Every family has been touched by this war.

At the morgue they were still queuing on Saturday for the bodies. In the corner of the room a small boy wept – a son without a father.

And there are plenty of fathers without sons.

Ziad Al Absi lost three of his boys
. A rocket attack on his house destroyed his bedroom, where his children were sleeping around him.

But neighbours say Mr Absi is nothing to do with Hamas.

“I only support Palestinians who kills Israelis,” said Mr Absi. “Because the Israelis believe all our children are terrorists.”

Deeper hatred

And therein lies the dangerous legacy of this war. The hatred runs deeper than ever, with the next generation of Palestinians already vowing revenge.

There may be a cease-fire. It might even hold for a day, ten days, a few months. But after all of the destruction, lasting peace seems to be among the casualties.

Gaza: Unilateral Cease-Fire

Gaza: What Will Change When the Bombs Stop Falling?

Israel may stop dropping bombs on Gaza as early as today:

Israel’s security cabinet is expected to meet Saturday night to declare a cease-fire in Gaza and will keep its forces there in the short term while the next stage of an agreement with Egypt is worked out.

“It looks as if all the pieces of the puzzle are coming together,” Mark Regev, a spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said Friday. “There will be discussions tomorrow morning, and it looks like a cabinet meeting will take place tomorrow night. Everyone is very upbeat.”

What amazing timing. I wonder why Israel is suddenly all joyous over the prospect of a cease-fire, when just a few weeks ago they were so anxious to begin this war and haven’t shown any signs of letting up since? Surely this wasn’t a cynical war of opportunity:

The Israelis attacked now because of two non-military cycles: the news cycle and the presidential cycle. This was like a war by an astrologer: the stars had to be in exactly the right position before the Apaches could start blasting and the Merkavas could roll.

The most important cycle of all is the news cycle. This war happened during international media dead week, between Christmas and New Year. Ordinary people are drunk or hungover or snowed in, and the people who matter, the media players, are off in Cancun and Phuket, soaking up rum and sun with their blackberries turned off. They’re not going to bum out their call girls watching the news from Gaza.

And the Israelis wanted a time when everybody was distracted for a simple reason: asymmetrical war isn’t pretty.


The other cycle is more of a gamble: the presidential cycle. I can’t believe nobody’s saying the obvious here: the Israelis want to do this now, once and for all, while Bush is still in office. They know that Bush will let them do whatever they want. Bush and Cheney are literally more extreme than about half of the Israeli electorate.

And on Tuesday, America inaugurates its first African-American president. Barack Obama is something of an unknown quantity. This war is proving costly in the goodwill-toward-Israel category. Forgive me for thinking that the Israeli rulers are thinking along those lines, and deciding that now would be a good time to hammer through a cease-fire. Let a couple of days pass without a fresh atrocity, let the world get distracted by Obama’s inauguration, and maybe all of those pictures of dead kids won’t be so heavy on everyone’s minds.

Is that it, Israel? Is that why everyone’s so “upbeat”?

Some people aren’t likely to forget so soon:

The medical director of al-Quds hospital has not wept since he helped evacuate several hundred people from the blazing Palestinian Red Crescent (PRC) compound on Thursday night, but he says: “My heart is crying.”

He says he is standing next to the smouldering remains of a pharmacy filled with bandages, medicines and other medical supplies, describing the chaos as intensive care patients and premature babies were wheeled onto the street.

The compound was hit twice during heavy fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas militants in the Tel al-Hawa district in the west of Gaza City.


Staff from the hospital say they do not know exactly what hit the building, but the UN has said Israeli tank shells struck three hospitals, including al-Quds, in Thursday’s fighting.

When you’ve targeted UN buildings, family homes, hospitals and countless civilians, simply declaring a cease-fire won’t allow people to forget the relentless horror visited upon them.

Some people aren’t likely to forgive so soon:

The Palestinian doctor provided Israeli TV viewers with regular updates on Gaza fighting’s human toll. But Friday’s report was different — with sobs he told how his three daughters and a niece were killed by an Israeli shell.

“I want to know why my daughters were harmed,” Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish said on Channel 10. “This should haunt (Israeli Ehud Prime Minister) Olmert his entire life.”

Throughout the 21-day war, Abu al-Aish has brought accounts of war’s tragedy to Israeli living rooms, making him for many the voice of Palestinian suffering.


Gazan officials identified Abu Al-Aish’s slain daughters as 22-year-old Bisan, 15-year-old Mayer and 14-year old Aya. His niece was identified as 14-year-old Nour Abu al-Aish.

At least two other daughters were injured.


Abu al-Aish, a 55-year-old gynecologist, is a rarity among Palestinians, a Hebrew speaker who trained in two Israeli hospitals. He is also is a known peace activist who was involved in promoting joint Israeli-Palestinian projects, and an academic who studied the affects of war on Gazan and Israeli children. He works at Gaza’s main Shifa Hospital.


“Everyone knew we were home. Suddenly we were bombed. How can we talk to Olmert and (Foreign Minister) Tzipi Livni after this?” Abu al-Aish told television reporters at the border crossing.

“Suddenly, today when there was hope for a cease-fire, on the last day … I was speaking with my children, suddenly they bombed us. The doctor who treats Israeli patients.”

Israel, you murdered a peace activist’s daughters. Listen to him: “How can we talk… after this?” If what you wanted was to hammer the Palestianians until they were soft and pliable, you failed.

Let’s take a look at what you wanted, and what, despite your pretty propaganda, you have failed to gain:

Nobody could have anticipated that Israel couldn’t bomb its way to peace with Palestine.

Israel hoped that the war in Gaza would not only cripple Hamas, but eventually strengthen its secular rival, the Palestinian Authority, and even allow it to claw its way back into Gaza.

But with each day, the authority, its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, and its leading party, Fatah, seem increasingly beleaguered and marginalized, even in the Palestinian cities of the West Bank, which they control. Protesters accuse Mr. Abbas of not doing enough to stop the carnage in Gaza — indee
d, his own police officers have used clubs and tear gas against those same protesters.

The more bombs in Gaza, the more Hamas’s support seems to be growing at the expense of the Palestinian Authority, already considered corrupt and distant from average Palestinians.


This is a pretty familiar outcome – what rises from the ashes of an attack like this is typically not more moderate or agreeable to the offensive power. Fatah was already disliked and now they are seen to be cooperating, either directly or indirectly, with the bombing of civilians.

And mothers change their minds (h/t):

Luay Suboh, 10, from Beit Lahiya, lost his eyesight and some skin on his face Saturday when, his mother said, a fiery substance clung to him as he darted home from a shelter where his family was staying to pick up clothes.

The substance smelled like burned trash, said Ms. Jaawanah, the mother who fled her home in Zeitoun, who had experienced it too. She had no affection for Hamas, but her sufferings were changing that. “Do you think I’m against them firing rockets now?” she asked, referring to Hamas. “No. I was against it before. Not anymore.”

There are a lot of mothers, Israel, who because of your actions are going to send their surviving children to become suicide bombers. Because they’ve learned they can’t trust you. Because all they’ve seen from you is a determination to utterly destroy them:

In October of this year, Haaretz published a report regarding the strategies the IDF intended to use to fight “the next war.” The article’s title: “IDF plans to use disproportionate force in next war”:

In an interview Friday with the daily Yedioth Ahronoth, [GOC Northern Command Gadi] Eisenkot presented his “Dahiyah Doctrine,” under which the IDF would expand its destructive power beyond what it demonstrated two years ago against the Beirut suburb of Dahiyah, considered a Hezbollah stronghold.

We will wield disproportionate power against every village from which shots are fired on Israel, and cause immense damage and destruction. From our perspective, these are military bases,” he said. “This isn’t a suggestion. This is a plan that has already been authorized” . . . .

What can the Palestinian people do, in the face of that? When you impose a “peace” on them that continues to starve, impoverish and humilate them? The kindness and compassion of Israeli dissenters won’t be enough to overcome the horrors of what they’ve seen.

You say you had to defend yourselves. But even reporters who covered the towns that suffered the fear and uncertainty, the occasional injury and even more rare death from Hamas’s rocket fire, are realizing the truth:

For the first time I turned on an Arab channel, al-Jazeera, to get an update on what was going on. And then I knew it was impossible to give any equivalency between the situation in the Israeli towns in the south with the tragedy that was unfolding in Gaza.

That night I felt sick, I couldn’t sleep – I could only see images of children, and children, and more children. The ones who had been blinded, the ones who had lost their limbs, or just that picture of the small girl’s head, her eyes wide open. It was only her head, nothing else.

Are those images likely to make people turn to the puppets you install for salvation, or will they be looking at the fighters who stood against you despite the odds? Do you really think the people will turn against those fighters, or turn to them? I think all of us but the war-blind bastards who started this slaughter know the answer. But let’s try a thought experiment, just to see what the outcome might be:

Nearly seventy ago, in the course of World War II, a heinous crime was committed in the city of Leningrad. For more than a thousand days, a gang of extremists called “the Red Army” held the millions of the town’s inhabitants hostage and provoked retaliation from the German Wehrmacht from inside the population centers. The Germans had no alternative but to bomb and shell the population and to impose a total blockade, which caused the death of hundreds of thousands.

Some time before that, a similar crime was committed in England. The Churchill gang hid among the population of London, misusing the millions of citizens as a human shield. The Germans were compelled to send their Luftwaffe and reluctantly reduce the city to ruins. They called it the Blitz.

This is the description that would now appear in the history books – if the Germans had won the war.

Absurd? No more than the daily descriptions in our media, which are being repeated ad nauseam: the Hamas terrorists use the inhabitants of Gaza as “hostages” and exploit the women and children as “human shields”, they leave us no alternative but to carry out massive bombardments, in which, to our deep sorrow, thousands of women, children and unarmed men are killed and injured.


From the point of view of the population, the Hamas fighters are not a foreign body, but the sons of every family in the Strip and the other Palestinian regions. They do not “hide behind the population”, the population views them as their only defenders.

Therefore, the whole operation is based on erroneous assumptions. Turning life into living hell does not cause the population to rise up against Hamas, but on the contrary, it unites behind Hamas and reinforces its determination not to surrender. The population of Leningrad did not rise up against Stalin, any more than the Londoners rose up against Churchill.

Israel. You knew this. The history of countless countries is filled with praise for those who faced impossible odds and did not give in, who faced imminent destruction and did not flinch. So many times when relentless attacks did not crush people’s will, but reinforced it. And when the people you are fighting have absolutely nothing left to lose, when you’ve taken from them their sons and daughters and offered them no peace, no security, and no dignity, when you’ve given them every reason to believe that what you want is nothing more than their utter annihilation, they won’t turn to your puppets for their salvation. They will turn to those who refuse to give in.

It didn’t have to be this way. You could have given the Palestinians reasons to turn away from Hamas, by making sure they weren’t starving, sick and desperate. By treating them as human beings with rights and dreams
of nationhood instead of as a despicable underclass needing to be cast out and subjugated.

How much different it might have been if, instead of trying to beat the Palestinians down, you had instead lifted them up.

Gaza: What Will Change When the Bombs Stop Falling?

Gaza: Helpless as the Shells Fall

Gideon Levy describes a waking nightmare:

The streets of Gaza Thursday looked like killing fields in the midst of the “third stage” and worse. Israel is arrogantly ignoring the Security Council’s resolution calling for a cease-fire and is shelling the UN compound in Gaza, as if to show its real feeling toward that institution. Emergency supplies intended for Gaza residents are going up in flames in the burning warehouses. Thick black smoke is rising from the burning flour sacks and the fuel reserves near them, covering the streets.

In the streets, people are running back and forth in panic, holding children and suitcases in their hands, helpless as the shells fall around them. Nobody in the diplomatic corridors is in any hurry to help those unfortunates who have nowhere to run.

For a moment, it seemed a cease-fire could be close. As early as Saturday, the bombs might have stopped falling. But negotiations broke down:

Hamas will not accept Israeli conditions for a cease-fire in Gaza and would continue armed resistance until the offensive ends, Khaled Meshal, the leader of the Palestinian Islamist group, said on Friday.

Speaking at the opening of an emergency meeting on Gaza in Doha, Meshal called on the leaders present to cut all ties with Israel.

It might seem that Hamas is being unreasonable – until you read further. Until you realize what those Israeli conditions were:

However, the proposal does not require Israel to withdraw from Gaza during the initial truce, and Hamas has said it will not accept the proposal unless that omission is corrected.

Salah al-Bardawil, who was Hamas’ Gazan representative to the talks with Egypt, said his organization demands that Israel completely withdraw within five days of whenever the initial cease-fire takes effect.

Hamas also insists that the agreement include a deadline by which the border crossings must reopen.

With Israeli soldiers targeting UN buildings and homes where they’d previously herded civilians, it’s completely understandable that Hamas would find their continued presence unacceptable. But it’s the border crossings that are the most important. People are starving:

In a column entitled “An Unnecessary War,” [former President Jimmy] Carter describes the tragic misjudgments on both sides – as well as their reasonable grievances. “I know from personal involvement that the devastating invasion of Gaza by Israel could easily have been avoided,” Carter wrote.

“After visiting Sderot last April and seeing the serious psychological damage caused by the rockets that had fallen in that area, my wife, Rosalynn, and I declared their launching from Gaza to be inexcusable and an act of terrorism.

“Although casualties were rare (three deaths in seven years), the town was traumatized by the unpredictable explosions. About 3,000 residents had moved to other communities, and the streets, playgrounds and shopping centers were almost empty. …

“Knowing that we would soon be seeing Hamas leaders from Gaza and also in Damascus, we promised to assess prospects for a cease-fire.

“From Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who was negotiating between the Israelis and Hamas, we learned that there was a fundamental difference between the two sides. Hamas wanted a comprehensive cease-fire in both the West Bank and Gaza, and the Israelis refused to discuss anything other than Gaza.

“We knew that the 1.5 million inhabitants of Gaza were being starved, as the U.N. special rapporteur-on-the-right-to-food had found that acute malnutrition in Gaza was on the same scale as in the poorest nations in the southern Sahara, with more than half of all Palestinian families eating only one meal a day.

Hamas negotiated a six-month ceasefire in large part so that people could be fed. Israel agreed to allow humanitarian shipments to resume – and then choked them off to a fraction of what they had been before, a fraction of what was needed. Now, what supplies get through frequently can’t be delivered, or burn after Israelis shell the buildings they’re stored in. There’s little enough of Israeli promises for Hamas to trust, few compromises they’re inclined to accept, and for good reason.

As for America’s credibility in the negotiations, it may be a little hard for us to persuade Hamas to accept peace when we’re the ones supplying the fuel Israel’s using to shatter Gaza:

It’s well known that the U.S. supplies the Israelis with much of their military hardware. Over the past few decades, the U.S. has provided about $53 billion in military aid to Israel. What’s not well known is that since 2004, U.S. taxpayers have paid to supply over 500 million gallons of refined oil products — worth about $1.1 billion –- to the Israeli military. While a handful of countries get motor fuel from the U.S., they receive only a fraction of the fuel that Israel does — fuel now being used by Israeli fighter jets, helicopters and tanks to battle Hamas.


The U.S. fuel shipments are part of a sustained policy that has widened the energy gap between Israel and its neighbors. Over the past few years, the Israel Defense Force has cut off fuel supplies and destroyed electricity infrastructure in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon. Those embargoes and attacks on power plants have exacerbated a huge gap in per-capita energy consumption between Israelis and Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza. And that sharp disparity helps explain why the Palestinians have never been able to build a viable economy.


In late June 2006, Israeli aircraft fired nine missiles at the transformers at the Gaza City Power Plant, the only electric power plant in the Occupied Territories. (One of the original partners in the project was Enron, but that’s another story.) The missiles caused damage estimated at $15 million to $20 million and, for a time, made Gaza wholly reliant on electricity flows from Israel. The 140-megawatt power plant, owned by the Palestine Electric Co., was insured by the Overseas Private Investment Corp., an arm of the U.S. government. Thus the
U.S. was providing fuel and materiel to the Israeli military, which destroyed the plant, but it was also paying to fix the damage. Call it cradle-to-grave service.

You begin to notice a pattern. Israel uses our military aide to destroy its neighbors’ infrastructure with impunity, and we blindly cheer them on. Israel can do no wrong. Palestinian suffering is meaningless. Too many officials and opinion-makers in America will read reports such as this and decide, solely on the basis that the victim is a Palestinian, that this destruction is just:

In one of the most moving accounts of the war in Gaza, Ibrahim Barzak, the Associated Press’s chief correspondent there for 17 years — called “the best reporter in Gaza” by a Jewish colleague — today wrote of watching his own home destroyed on YouTube. But who is Ibrahim Barzak?

First, his account. Here is full link, but an excerpt now:

I live alone in my office. My wife and two young children moved in with her father after our apartment was shattered. The neighborhood mosque, where I have prayed since I was a child, had its roof blown off. All the government buildings on my beat have been obliterated. After days of Israeli shelling, the city and life I have known no longer exist.


Three days after Israel began its airstrikes against Hamas militants on Dec. 27, my apartment building was shaken by bombs aimed at a nearby Hamas-run government compound. My brother took a picture of the room where my boys, 2-year-old Hikmet and 6-month-old Ahmed, once slept. Their toys were broken, shrapnel had punched through the closet and the bedroom wall had collapsed. I don’t know if we will ever go back.

There are other pictures that haunt me. The Israeli army issued a video of the bombing of the Hamas-run government compound, which it posted on YouTube. In it, I also can see my home being destroyed, and I watch it obsessively.

His suffering doesn’t matter to America’s hawks. He’s Palestinian. For them, that is the end of his credibility – no matter what a Palestinian loses, no matter what he or she endures, it’s deserved. And have you noticed how so many right-wing apologists wave away anything a Palestinian reporter says by claiming it’s just “bias”? It’s been that way as long as I can remember. If the source is a Palestinian, he’s immediately dismissed as spreading terrorist propaganda.

Those neocon hawks will probably never read far enough down that article to see what a Jewish colleague has to say about Barzak:

He is an assiduous, just the facts reporter. He never raises his voice and always asks the tough questions. He has risked his life more than once for his job, and more than once for pissing off the Palestinian powers that be.

So I bristle — I bristle hard — when some moron who thinks he is making some kind of case for Israel writes about how Palestinian reporters are implacably biased (and I wonder whether these fools realize how hard those accusations make it for Israelis and Jews who are reporting in the region).”

They don’t. All they can see is the glory of their war. Their tunnel vision won’t allow them to see the innocent lives they’re destroying. They refuse to understand that what they are doing will only lead to ever-spiraling, vicious cycles of violence:

An Israel Air Force strike in Gaza on Thursday killed Hamas’ Interior Minister Said Sayyam, one of the Islamist militant group’s three most senior leaders in the coastal strip.

A Hamas official vowed vengeance for Siam’s death. “The blood of Said Sayyam will be a curse on the Zionist entity,” Mohammed Nazzal told Al-Jazeera television.

Sayyam, 50, was killed in an air strike that targeted the home of his brother Iyad. Also killed in the attack were his son, his brother, as well as Salah Abu Shreich, head of internal security in the organization and the person responsible for the liaison between the political and military wings of Hamas.


The air strike on Sayyam was apparently an attempt by Israel to deliver an image of victory in its offensive against Hamas. The Israel Defense Forces understands that Hamas’ agreement in principle to the Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire in Gaza signals that the campaign is nearing its end.

They have a point to prove. Never mind that in so doing, they’re destroying the fragile gains made in negotiations. But do they really want peace? I wonder. It seems they’re determined to drive Hamas over the edge, raining down enough death and humiliation to force them into retaliation so that they can then proclaim, self-righteously, that Hamas can’t be negotiated with.

The man they killed as a gesture of power and domination understood that all too clearly:

In an interview with Haaretz in November 1995, Sayyam said, “I do not hate [Israelis] for being Jewish or Israeli but because of what they have done to us. Because of the acts of occupation.”

In response to a question about whether he saw a chance for change in relations between Palestinians and Israelis, he said, “It is difficult to forget what was done to us. If the reason for the hate will not exist, everything is possible.

“But if the reason remains, it is impossible to love. First we must convince in general and in principle that we have been wronged, then we can talk about ’67 or ’48. You still do not recognize that we have rights. The first condition for change is recognition of the injustice we suffered.”

Over thirteen years later, Palestinians are still awaiting that recognition.

Gaza: Helpless as the Shells Fall

Gaza: Blood on Our Hands

It does not seem that Israel is making any effort at all to limit civilian casualties. That’s the inescapable conclusion I’ve reached after reading report after report speaking of bombs hitting the places where Gaza residents have fled in a vain attempt to avoid being killed.

In the small hours of this morning, the AP reports:

Witnesses and United Nations officials say Israeli shells have struck the U.N. headquarters in the Gaza Strip.

The compound has been serving as a shelter for hundreds of people fleeing Israel’s devastating offensive in Gaza. U.N. spokesman Chris Gunness says at least three people were wounded.

The entire area is engulfed in smoke and it’s not clear whether anyone is still inside the compound.

The compound includes the headquarters of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, a school and other offices. Gunness says large amounts of aid supplies, as well as fuel trucks, could soon be destroyed.


Israeli tanks shelled downtown Gaza City on Thursday and ground troops thrust deep into a crowded neighborhood for the first time, sending terrified residents fleeing for cover and increasing pressure on Hamas rulers to accept a proposed cease-fire to end Israel’s devastating offensive.

Gideon Levy, a Haaretz correspondent in Israel, is not impressed by his country’s protestations that Hamas hides amongst the civilians, and thus bears responsibility for so many deaths. He places the blame squarely back in Israel’s hands (h/t):

The fighting in Gaza is “war deluxe.” Compared with previous wars, it is child’s play – pilots bombing unimpeded as if on practice runs, tank and artillery soldiers shelling houses and civilians from their armored vehicles, combat engineering troops destroying entire streets in their ominous protected vehicles without facing serious opposition. A large, broad army is fighting against a helpless population and a weak, ragged organization that has fled the conflict zones and is barely putting up a fight. All this must be said openly, before we begin exulting in our heroism and victory.

This war is also child’s play because of its victims. About a third of those killed in Gaza have been children – 311, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, 270 according to the B’Tselem human rights group – out of the 1,000 total killed as of Wednesday. Around 1,550 of the 4,500 wounded have also been children according to figures from the UN, which says the number of children killed has tripled since the ground operation began.


One can say Hamas hides among the civilian population, as if the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv is not located in the heart of a civilian population, as if there are places in Gaza that are not in the heart of a civilian population. One can also claim that Hamas uses children as human shields, as if in the past our own organizations fighting to establish a country did not recruit children.

A significant majority of the children killed in Gaza did not die because they were used as human shields or because they worked for Hamas. They were killed because the IDF bombed, shelled or fired at them, their families or their apartment buildings. That is why the blood of Gaza’s children is on our hands, not on Hamas’ hands, and we will never be able to escape that responsibility.

It might be instructive, at this moment, to take a step back and see what led to this. When we look more closely, Hamas doesn’t emerge as the wholly-evil terrorists that Israel and the U.S. would have us believe them to be. In fact, the U.S. can’t escape responsibility for the atrocities visited upon the Palestinians any more than Israel can. Our hands are just as bloody (h/t):

Hamas never called for the elections that put them in power. That was the brainstorm of Secretary Rice and her staff, who had apparently decided they could steer Palestinians into supporting the more-compliant Mahmoud Abbas (the current president of the Palestinian authority) and his Fatah Party through a marketing campaign that was to counter Hamas’s growing popularity – all while ignoring continued Israeli settlement construction, land confiscation, and cantonization of the West Bank.

State Department staffers helped finance and supervise the Fatah campaign, down to the choice of backdrop color for the podium where Mr. Abbas was to proclaim victory. An adviser working for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) explained to incredulous staffers at the Embassy in Tel Aviv how he would finance and direct elements of the campaign, leaving no US fingerprints. USAID teams, meanwhile, struggled to implement projects for which Abbas could claim credit. Once the covert political program cemented Fatah in place, the militia Washington was building for Fatah warlord-wannabee Mohammed Dahlan would destroy Hamas militarily.


Simultaneously, the US military team expanded its efforts to build the Mohammed Dahlan-led militia. President Bush considered Dahlan “our guy.” But Dahlan’s thugs moved too soon. They roamed Gaza, demanding protection money from businesses and individuals, erecting checkpoints to extort bribes, terrorizing Dahlan’s opponents within Fatah, and attacking Hamas members.

Finally, in mid-2007, faced with increasing chaos and the widely known implementation of a US-backed militia, Hamas – the lawfully elected government – struck first. They routed the Fatah gangs, securing control of the entire Gaza Strip, and established civil order.

Its efforts stymied, the US has for more than a year inflexibly backed Israel’s embargo of Gaza and its collective punishment of the Strip’s 1.5 million residents. The recent six-month cease-fire saw a near cessation of rocket fire into Israel and calm along the border, yet the economic siege was further tightened.

Gaza’s economy has collapsed, and the population, displaced for decades from their farms and villages, relies ever more on food aid from Hamas and the UN. The US expresses shock that Gazans resort to using smuggling tunnels for survival rather than passively accepting the suffering inflicted by the embargo. What would we expect Americans to do in the same circumstances? With no easing of the blockade, the missile launches have increased in range and frequency, yielding massive Israeli response.

Keep the above facts in mind the next time someone tries to defend the righteousness of this war by claiming Hamas to be terrorist usurpers who murdered their innocent political rivals and attacked Israel relentlessly. As is status quo for the Bush regime, those tales are, at best, wild exaggerations meant to drum up support for the war they wanted, in this case a proxy war started by Israel but cheered on by America.

Right now, in Egypt, Hamas is working for peace:

Egypt and Hamas are close to a deal for a 10-day cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinian militant group in Gaza, where the death toll from the Israeli offensive exceeded 1,000, officials said Wednesday. Egyptian and Hamas officials expressed optimism that an agreement for a temporary halt in fighting could be sealed soon and presented to Israel. But even if all sides sign on, further talks will be needed to resolve contentious disputes over policing Gaza’s borders and ensure a longer-term truce.

“We’re working with Hamas and we’re working with the Israeli side. We hope to reach an outcome soon,” Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki told the British Broadcasting Corp.


Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met late Wednesday with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to discuss the cease-fire efforts. In a sign of progress, Israel’s chief negotiator, Amos Gilad, planned to fly to Egypt on Thursday to present Israel’s stance, a senior defense official said. Gilad had put off the trip in recent days, saying the time was not yet ripe.

You notice that Israel has been anything but eager to come to the table. And Bush, who is still nominally President of the United States, has no interest in stopping the killing:

Today during the White House press briefing, a reporter asked press secretary Dana Perino if President Bush is “okay with” the conflict between Hamas and Israel continuing as he leaves office and if “there any kind of sense within the White House that he’d like to wrap things up or at least achieve a resolution” before next Tuesday.

Perino said that when it comes to protecting and caring for Palestinian civilians, “there is no time limit on that.” But a second reporter noted that Bush had previously said he would “sprint to the finish” and wondered if he was “working the phones” to get a deal done. Perino brushed off any notion of Bush working on the issue, claiming that its more “appropriate” for Rice to be doing the talking…


Last January, Bush did set a time limit on the Israel-Palestine situation, saying “there will be a signed peace treaty by the time I leave office,” adding, “I am on a timetable — got 12 months.” So perhaps Bush has just checked out and is no longer interested in Middle East peace. After all, last week, he said he is “eager for a more carefree life in Dallas.”

I think Bush’s idea of “peace” was that Hamas would be crushed, Palestinians would beg to allow Israel to get whatever it wanted as long as the beatings stopped, and amenable puppets installed as Palestine’s “democratically elected” rulers. Since none of these things have happened, Bush could care less. He didn’t give a rat’s ass about 100,000 Iraqi civilians killed by his long-desired war. We can’t expect him to show any concern for Palestinian casualties.

On a day when Osama bin Laden called for a jihad against Israel and horrified American Jews closed the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles for war crimes, Dennis Kucinich readies a resolution that puts America in the position it should have been in all along:

Representative Dennis Kucinich plans to introduce a resolution in the House soon calling for an immediate ceasefire. There are a number of whereases in the draft, recounting the human toll of the war and the blockade, but the punchline is very simple:

Resolved, That the House of Representatives calls on the Government of Israel and representatives of Hamas to implement an immediate and unconditional ceasefire and to allow unrestricted humanitarian access in Gaza.

“A resolution has co-sponsors,” a Kucinich staffer once said. It’s great that Dennis is on the floor of the House telling the truth. But it’s terrible for the prospects of changing disastrous U.S. policies towards the Palestinians for Dennis to be standing alone. Who will co-sponsor the Kucinich ceasefire resolution?

So far the original cosponsors include John Conyers, Keith Ellison, Maurice Hinchey, Marcy Kaptur, Jim McDermott, Nick Rahall, Diane Watson, and Lynn Woolsey.

You can add your voice to that resolution here. America needs to stop blindly supporting Israel’s short-sighted and ultimately self-defeating military misadventures. America’s government needs to stop cheering on the deaths of innocent men, women and children and the suffering of over a million more.

Ultimately, it’s in Israel’s best interests to stop the killing. We can best show our support of Israel’s continued existence by providing a voice of reason. As one of the protestors at the Israeli consulate said,

Do most Jews support the idea of the state of Israel? Yes, most Jews do. But most Jews also want to see Israel living in peace with its neighbors, not going to war at every provocation, not taking over more or more land that does not belong to them, and not keeping another people under occupation and without rights or basic human needs.

It’s time for America to stop enabling Israel’s war fantasies. We have enough blood on our hands without reaching for more.

Gaza: Blood on Our Hands

Gaza: Running Out of Places to Bury the Dead

The tiny Gaza Strip confronts a new crisis as its living try to bury their dead:

One family buried a slain son over his grandfather. Another bundled up the tiny bodies of three young cousins and lowered them into the grave of a long-dead aunt. A man was laid to rest with his brother.

More than two weeks into the Israeli offensive that has killed more than 940 Palestinians, Gazans are struggling to find places to bury their dead. Cemeteries throughout Gaza City that were closed for new burials have now reopened.

The Israeli assault continues to tear Gaza’s cities apart, ensuring those overflowing cemeteries will continue to fill:

A row of houses in Gaza City was demolished by a powerful air strike. The street was filled with rubble and furniture, severed electricity wires and telephone cables lay on the ground, and windows of nearby houses were shattered.

Four Palestinians, including at least two militants, were killed and 32 people were wounded in overnight fighting, Gaza hospital officials said.

Palestinians said aircraft also struck the Sheikh Radwan cemetery in Gaza City, destroying tombs and unearthing dozens of bodies. Gaza City residents, too terrified to venture out to the only area graveyard that has space for new graves, have reopened the Sheikh Radwan burial ground to bury their dead. The military had no immediate comment.

Early Wednesday, Israeli tanks resumed firing at civilian areas, using shells that ignited small fires before dissolving into clouds of white smoke that hung above the city center, witnesses said.

Those shells would be white phosphorus:

White Phosphorous is legal for use as a smoke bomb but the use of WP as a weapon targeting civilian areas is a violation of international treaties. The US and Israel however have refused to sign those treaties – and Israel is now claiming innocence by comparing its munitions to those used by … well, us.

Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said that Israel was only using legal weapons of the type used by other Western armies. “Israel military forces only use munitions that are acceptable under international law and international convention,” he said.

“The type of munitions used by Israel are similar, if not identical, to munitions used by other Western democracies, including Nato members.” His comments came a day after Dr Yusef Abu Rish, a doctor at Gaza City’s Nasser hospital, said he had treated at least 55 people suffering burns caused by controversial white phosphorus shells.

It’s not a stretch to assume that Regev is referring to the admitted use of White Phosphorous by the United States forces against Fallujah.

French Foreign Ministry spokesman in Paris, Eric Chevalier, recalled that “from a strictly legal point of view” the use of this weapon as a smokescreen “would be tolerated in principle according to international humanitarian law,” although he pointed out the HRWs warning to the “dangerous effects” on the population. “France joins the demand made by HRW to the Israeli authorities not to use these weapons, given their toxicity and the density of the population in Gaza, ” Chevalier affirmed.

In the open, those weapons may be “acceptable under international law.” In an area densely packed with civilians with nowhere to go, their acceptability becomes extremely questionable.

As does the insistence of Israel and its allies that they’re fighting a humane war:

Max Blumenthal reports from a pro-war rally staged by New York politicians and some local Jewish groups:

Sen. Chuck Schumer highlighted Israel’s supposed humanitarian methods of warfare by pointing to its text messaging of certain Gaza Strip residents urging them to vacate their homes before Israeli forces bombed them. “What other country would do that?”

Todd Gitlin observes that this is pretty ignorant and solipsistic:

The U. S., for one. According to the National Museum of the U. S. Air Force, the U. S. dropped millions of leaflets over North Vietnam during Operation Rolling Thunder of 1965-68…. [T]he U. S. also dropped such leaflets over Iraq during 2002-03.

Russia, for another, during the first Chechen war. Leaflets, that is, not text messages.

So they’re raining down leaflets along with the bombs, and sending text messages to people who likely don’t have electricity to charge a cell phone battery with. Even if they get the message, where are Gazans supposed to go? There’s nowhere for them to run:

According to the United Nations, about 30,000 people are living in schools it sponsors and an estimated 60,000 have fled to the houses of relatives. The figures still represent a small part of Gaza’s 1.5 million population but have doubled in the past four days, United Nations officials said, raising concerns about the humanitarian impact of a broader war.

“What began as very small, isolated numbers is now turning into a torrent,” said Aidan O’Leary, deputy director for the United Nations agency that deals with Palestinian refugees.

Maj. Jacob Dallal, an Israeli military spokesman, said units used leaflets to warn families to leave areas where they planned to operate. Aid officials say that with Gaza’s borders closed, choices for shelters in the 140-square-mile strip are slim and the shelters are not completely safe. Last week, as many as 43 people were killed near a United Nations school by an Israeli mortar strike that the military said was in response to a Hamas attack. The Israeli military disputes the death toll.

I’m sure they do. And I’m sure that when all is said and done, the cemeteries will speak louder than Israel’s military as to that death toll.

Egypt is trying to ensure the bombs will stop falling, but the signs aren’t good:

On the diplomatic front, Egyptian mediators pushed Hamas to accept a truce proposal and, in a hopeful sign, Israel sent its lead negotiator to Cairo for “decisive” talks on a cease-fire. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also headed for the region to join diplomatic efforts.

Israeli military officials say that depending on what happens with what they described as “decisive” talks in Cairo, Israel will move closer to a cease-fire or widen its offensive.

I have a feeling we’ll be seeing the latter. After all, the calculus here is impossible:

When Israel invaded Lebanon, it set its victory conditions “destroying” Hezbollah. Since that was impossible, day one it was clear that Israel could not and would not win the war. The scope of the loss was not yet clear, but that it would be a loss was not in question. Things aren’t quite as clear in the Israeli attack on Gaza. Still, Israel has set is victory conditions. To win it needs to either:

a) destroy Hamas and have Fatah take over; or,
b) stop the rocket attacks permanently.

To win Hamas needs to:

a) not be destroyed; and,
b) not stop the missile attacks unless they get the border crossings opened. Note that if they start the attacks up a month after the end of
the war, that’s good enough to show it wasn’t a victory.

We all know who those odds favor. And we know that Hamas has very little incentive to bow to Israel. Not after what happened the last time they agreed to a ceasefire, and then watched Israel choke the lifeblood out of Gaza before violating it.

A few lonely voices of reason are rising amidst the bombs. Perhaps as the killing continues, there will be more:

An Israeli soldier has been jailed for refusing to take part in the army’s offensive in the Gaza Strip.

The unnamed soldier refused because of the civilian deaths resulting from the 17-day incursion.

He has been jailed for fourteen days after being charged with, and convicted for, refusing to obey orders.

A number of reservists are believed to be considering not participating in the war after being called up in recent days.


Meantime Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday demanded Hamas and Israel end the violence, and observe the recently passed UN resolution calling for a ceasefire.

“The fighting must stop. To both sides, I say, just stop now. Too many people have died,” he said.

“We have a Security Council resolution demanding an immediate and enduring ceasefire. This resolution must be observed,” he said.

I hope Israel
and Hamas listen to those voices, before the cemeteries can hold no more.

Gaza: Running Out of Places to Bury the Dead