Saturday, February 2, 2008

Barak met with Qatari PM

Defense minister held clandestine tête-à-tête with Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalifa al-Thani at Davos economic conference, leaders discussed recent developments with Hamas, efforts to secure release of Gilad Shalit. Palestinian sources say senior Qatari figure visited Israel in mid-January

"Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalifa al-Thani almost a week and a half ago in Switzerland, at the Davos Economic Forum. The existence of the surreptitious talks has so far been kept under-wraps by Israel.

During the half-hour meeting the two discussed the current situation between Israel and Hamas, which enjoys excellent relations with the Gulf Emirates. Also on the agenda was the ongoing economic siege imposed on Hamas-ruled Gaza, the breach of the Rafah border crossing and Qatari efforts to advance negotiations for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit......

Alongside Barak's momentous encounter, Palestinian sources have told Ynet that a senior figure from Qatar paid a visit to Israel two weeks ago and met with Israeli leaders to discuss the situation in Gaza and the possibility of jumpstarting stagnant negotiations over the release of Shalit.

The sources said that the Qatari representative proposed an agreement which would entail Israel rescinding its decision to cut back on its supply of diesel fuel to Gaza and allow the entry of humanitarian aid to the Strip. In exchange the Palestinians would cease the incessant rocket fire on Israel's south and Qatar would vow to try and reinstate the calm between Israel and the Palestinian parties....."

Obscene Anomaly

Comment by Khalid Amayreh in occupied East Jerusalem

".....In fact, the presence of Israeli embassies, consulates, charge d'affaires , “trade offices” in Arab and Muslim capitals should be viewed as a monumental disgrace for concerned states and their governments and rulers. This is very much like maintaining normal relations with Nazi Germany while the Third Reich was busy classifying people into Ubermensch and Untermensch and exterminating numerous multitudes of people in order to fulfill German nationalism…just as Israel has been, more or less, doing to the Palestinians since its misbegotten birth sixty years ago......

Needless to say, the presence of Israeli embassies and “diplomats” in Arab and Muslim capitals implies legitimization of ethnic cleansing, genocide, occupation, colonialism and the systematic dispossession and attempted obliteration of the Palestinian people.....

Of course, these lies are pornographic just as Israeli atrocities are also pornographic because anyone with even rudimentary knowledge of the situation in Palestine-Israel knows quite well that the “rockets” are only a pretext, and that the real motive behind the slow-motion genocide in Gaza is to simply kill as many Palestinians as the world public opinion allows, under existing circumstances, and possibly destroy the democratically elected Hamas government in order to enable America’s Palestinian lackeys in Ramallah to sell out the Palestinian cause and inalienable rights unopposed.....

If Arab ambassadors in Israel don’t communicate Israeli crimes and racism to their respective governments, then what are they doing in Tel Aviv? Frequenting casinos and nightclubs? Socializing with Mossad and Shin Beth agents? Or probably conspiring against their own countries and their own peoples, probably in return for some money?

And if they do relay reality to their capitals as they indeed should, then why do these respective Arab governments keep silent about these crimes? Are they and their Israeli colleagues members in the same Mason lodge?.....

Paradoxically, normalization with Israel, which the stupid Arab regimes had hoped would be a political asset, has turned out to be a disastrous liability for the Palestinians and their enduring struggle for freedom, and an asset for Israel which has been able to endear itself to Arab regimes and at the same time keep murdering the Palestinians in the hundreds and in the thousands.....

In conclusion, normalization between Israel and Arab and Muslim states, especially before ending Israel’s Nazi-like occupation and colonization of the Palestinian homeland, is an obscene anomaly that must come to an end sooner rather than later. Until then, all these embassies and representative offices will remain despised by the masses whether in Egypt, Jordan or Mauritania. And rightly so."

من ثلاثة مقترحات قدمها الجانب الإسرائيلي.. مصر ترفض مقترحا أمريكيا - إسرائيليا بتوطين 800 ألف فلسطيني في سيناء

Contributed by Lucia in Spain

"علمت "المصريون" أن الحكومة المصرية رفضت التعاطي مع مقترح أمريكي - إسرائيلي يقضي بتوطين أكثر من 800 ألف فلسطيني في شبه جزيرة سيناء، وذلك في محاولة للالتفاف على حق العودة للاجئين، وهو الأمر الذي أشعل غضب واشنطن وتل أبيب اللتين مارستا ضغوطًا قوية على القاهرة للقبول بالمقترح.
وأفادت مصادر دبلوماسية لـ "المصريون" أن الحكومة الإسرائيلية عرضت على مصر خلال الفترة الماضية ثلاث مشاريع مطروحة للتوطين مقدمة من السياسي الإسرائيلي البارز حاييم بنسيه ومشروع آخر مقدم من إفرايم سنيه وزير الصحة وآخر مقدم من الجنرال موشيه ماعوز.
لكن الجانب المصري أبلغ إسرائيل رفضه مشاريع توطين سكان غزة وفلسطينيي الشتات في الأراضي المصرية، باعتبار هذا الأمر يتنافى مع حق العودة الذي أقرته الأمم المتحدة، وأبدت في المقابل دعمها الكامل لحق الفلسطينيين في العودة إلى أراضيهم.
جاء ذلك في الوقت الذي تهدد فيه إسرائيل مصر بورقة المعونة الأمريكية إذا أبقت على موقفها المتشدد حيال مقترحاتها بشأن توطين الفلسطينيين على أراضيها، ما دفع القاهرة في المقابل إلى إبلاغ تل أبيب بأنها ستتخذ سلسلة إجراءات عقابية حيالها إذا ما استمرت في مساعيها لتسويق مشروع التوطين، بحسب المصادر.
وهددت مصر على إثر ذلك بتجميد اتفاقية المعابر المبرمة مع كل من إسرائيل والسلطة الفلسطينية بإشراف أوروبي، وإلغاء اتفاقية تبادل المعلومات الأمنية، والاجتماع الثاني للجنة المصرية – الإسرائيلية، ردًا على مشاريع التوطين الإسرائيلية المقترحة.

"According to almesryoon news, Egypt rejected an Israeli-American proposal to resettle 800,000 Palestinian in Sinai.

Sources told the newspaper that Egypt informed Israel its rejection to any re-settlement projects of the Palestinians in the Egypt saying that the refugees’ right to return to their homeland is decided by the United Nations.

This came at a time when Israel threatens Egypt with reducing the American aid if Egypt keeps the negative position with the resettlement of Palestinians on its territory.

Egypt threatened to freeze the Egypt-Israel crossings agreement, and cancel the exchange of security information treaty with as response to the Israeli re-settlement proposal. "

Al-Jazeera (Arabic) Video: تسجيل لبرنامج ما وراء الخبر؛ عن الدكتور جورج حبش بمشاركة د. عزمي بشارة

تسجيل لبرنامج ما وراء الخبر؛ عن الدكتور جورج حبش بمشاركة د. عزمي بشارة
عن الجزيرة

The Strangulation of Gaza

By Saree Makdisi
The Nation

Contributed by Lucia in Spain

"......Working together, Hamas and the people of Gaza have forced Egypt's hand and made much more visible than ever before the role it had been playing all along in the Israeli occupation and strangulation of Gaza; now that its role in assisting Israel has been revealed, it will be difficult for Egypt to go back to the status quo. Gazans have thrown Israel's plans into disarray, because Israel's leaders could do little more than watch with pursed lips as the people of Gaza burst out of their prison. And they have placed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the government of Ramallah in a corner: they will have to choose between defending their people's rights and needs or confirming once and for all--as indeed they are doing--that the PA is there to serve Israel's interests, not those of the Palestinians. In which case they too will one day be called to account."

Hamas considering economic disengagement from Israel

In interview with London paper, senior advisor to Hamas leader states that organization seeks economic unity with Egypt, which would supply Gaza with fuel, electricity

"Hamas is seriously contemplating severing the Gaza Strip’s economic ties with Israel, said Ahmed Yousef, a senior advisor to Palestinian Prime Minister and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, in a Saturday interview with the London-based newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat Yousef furthermore stated that Hamas has already generated plans and proposals to unite economically with Egypt instead of Israel. According to Hamas, Egypt can serve as ‘Gaza’s gateway’ to the Arab and Muslim world and as its in-depth strategic partner.

The organization has already generated plans, likely presented to the Egyptian government during a Hamas delegation visit to Cairo last week, whereupon Egypt can supply the Gaza Strip with fuel and electricity, as well as opening the Rafah Crossing for commerce with Gaza.

Several Arab countries have already expressed marked willingness to trade with Gaza and to fund energy export projects should Egypt prove willing,” said Yousef, noting that Hamas wants to bolster Gaza’s economy by ending its nearly absolute economic reliance on Israel.

When asked whether Hamas is also considering abandoning the use of Israeli currency in the Strip, Yousef indicated that this “might be possible in the future. Residents of Gaza can always trade in American Dollars, Jordanian Dinars or Egyptian Pounds at a later point.”

Egyptain reaction unclear, Fatah objects

It is still unclear how Egypt plans to respond to this Hamas proposal, since this economic disengagement is by no means a quick or simple feat, especially as the Palestinian Authority has signed several binding economic accords with Israel.

The Fatah movement’s reaction to this Hamas proposal, however, was far more emphatic, and decidedly negative......"

Hamas to help seal Rafah crossing


"Hamas will work with Cairo to gradually seal the Rafah crossing, Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas leader has said after talks with Egyptian officials.

Al-Zahar told reporters on Saturday that his delegation and the Egyptians had overcome many obstacles and agreed on solving the problem of the crossing, but did not provide further details.

"We have concluded an agreement between us and our brothers in Egypt to operate channels at the local level at the crossing and along the border and we will implement it tomorrow after we meet with the (Hamas-run) government," al-Zahar said.

Gradual sealing

"We will work towards sealing the border between us and Egypt…this has to be done gradually," al-Zahar said.

Since January 23 hundreds of thousands of Gazans have streamed across the Rafah crossing, the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.

The Rafah crossing has been open since Hamas fighters destroyed large sections of the barrier wall after nearly a week-long Israeli lockdown of the territory.

By Friday, Egypt had succeeded in halting all but pedestrian traffic, but Hamas fighters later dragged away metal barricades to allow a column of massive transport trucks to enter Egyptian Rafah.

"Egypt has confirmed that it will work to provide the Palestinian people with everything it needs... the trucks that carry food and medicine will be processed on the Egyptian side in a suitable way," al-Zahar said.

Hamas has demanded that the Rafah crossing be operated through a strictly Palestinian-Egyptian agreement.

It wants to replace a 2005 arrangement that involved European observers and Israeli electronic surveillance on the border....."

Why the Afghan Taleban feel confident


"In Afghanistan, the Taleban now claim to have influence across most of the country and have extended their area of control from their traditional heartland in the south.

They are able to operate freely even in Wardak Province, neighbouring the capital Kabul, as a BBC camera crew who filmed them recently found.

One of their commanders in Wardak, Mullah Hakmatullah, said they do not control the roads nor the towns, but they hold the countryside and have increasing support because of the corruption of the administration.....

The Taleban group showed off weapons, including a heavy machine gun they said they had captured from government forces.

They test-fired them in broad daylight, apparently not fearing retaliation from government nor international forces.

They were armed with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

Nearby the burnt-out wreck of a government vehicle was left from a recent confrontation with Afghan national forces......"

The slow genocide is still under way in Gaza ! Act Now !

"We were all pleased to see a new wall tear down, but unlike the Berlin Wall, this does not mean that the occupation is over and Gazans are free.

Egypt closed the border back and the 5 days of freedom the Gazans courageously allowed themselves by demolishing the walls of their prison didn't allow them to erase 6 months of blockade, without medicines, without drinking water, without electricity, without fuel, without food balanced, without freedom.

The mainstream media reported that Israel will resume its fuel deliveries to Gaza, but they forget to mention that it will deliver only 20% of the amount necessary to the Gaza needs. Israel has also announced that on February 7, it would reduce by 5% its electricity supplies to Gaza where power is severely lacking.

In Gaza, the humanitarian situation is still dramatic:

86 patients have been killed by Israeli Occupation due to Closure!

1562 patients are in need of treatment outside Gaza Strip and 322 patients have reach a critical stage. If the siege continues, 470 cancer patients will die.

107 class of basic medicines are depleted from Gaza Strip and 97 sorts of medicines are on the verge of depletion

The hospitals treat only urgent cases due to the lack of power and fuel for back-up generators

The mobilization must go on.

We must pursue the work and ask this inhuman siege, which constitutes a war crime involving our governments, be lifted.

Ask your MPs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the European Union, your representatives to the United Nations how they can sleep the night when people are dying due to their decision

Ask them if the Palestinian genocide is the only way they found to solve the Jewish issue.

Get out in the streets, demonstrate, and organize candlelight vigils in solidarity with the people of Gaza.

Show to your government that you do not agree to be witnesses of that slow genocide without saying anything

Take part in the global effort organized on February 23th calling for the End of the Gaza Siege!

Free Gaza!

The action of protests will be across European, Arab, southern and Latin American countries.

Contact us, the Popular Committee Against Siege in Gaza (PCAS), and let us know what you are preparing for this global action!

Please, forward this call around you.

We need your help to Free Gaza !"

Gaza: From Prison to Zoo

From Laila El-Haddad

"Excellent article by good friend Darryl Li following his most recent visit to Gaza. In it, he describes the inhumane new Israeli policy of "essential humanitarianism":

In place of any legal framework the state has proposed – and the court has now endorsed – a seemingly simple standard for policy: once “essential humanitarian needs” are met, all other deprivation is permissible. If it is possible to ration fuel for hospitals and the sewage network, then Gaza’s economy need not play a role: “We do not accept the petitioners’ argument that ‘market forces’ should be allowed to play their role in Gaza with regard to fuel consumption.”

This logic reflects the radical transformation of Israel’s policy of blockade since the summer of 2007: from frequent and crippling closure to indefinite blockage of all but “essential humanitarian items.” Israel has shifted from trying to punish the Gazan economy to deciding that the economy is a dispensable luxury.

The policy shift is akin to treating Gazans not as prisoners but rather as animals; the Occupier as zoo-keeper, rather than prison warden.

The metaphor of the Gaza Strip as the world’s largest prison is unfortunately outdated. Israel now treats the Strip more like a zoo. For running a prison is about constraining or repressing freedom; in a zoo, the question is rather how to keep those held inside alive, with an eye to how outsiders might see them. The question of freedom is never raised.

The ongoing electricity crisis helps to illuminate this shift, so to speak.

In 2006, Israel decided that the best way to punish Gazans for the capture of one of its soldiers was a one-off, spectacular act of violence that would lead to widespread deprivation. Now it seeks similar results – the loss of electricity and the resulting disruption of everyday life – through more calibrated, long-term means. This shift in approach is akin to the difference between clubbing an unruly prisoner over the head to subdue him and taming an animal through careful regulation of leash and diet.

The Israeli court is complicit in all of this, acting more, he says, "as administrator than as adjudicator, a partner in the calibration of how much pain Gazans are to be made to feel."....."

Canada Probe Blames Israel for Killing 4 UN Observers


"02/02/2008 A Canadian probe has blamed the Israeli army for the killing of UN observer in south Lebanon during the 2006 Israeli war against Lebanon. "The deaths of Canadian Major Paeta Hess-Von Kruedener and three other unarmed observers from China, Austria and Finland were tragic and preventable," the board said.
The UN observers died when their compound was hit by a 500-kilo bomb dropped by an Israel Air Force aircraft. The compound was also hit by four 155-mm artillery shells fired by Israeli forces during the war, the report said. The heavily censored report said the compound's main building was nearly destroyed by the strikes.
The board could not assign blame beyond the Israeli military because neither the UN nor the the Israeli army fully cooperated with the investigation. "The IDF provided only an oral summary of its findings that was of limited use," said the board.
The report's 13 recommendations include calls for better communication and situational analysis, but it found no fault with UN command in the area of operations."

الزهار: معبر رفح سيعمل قريباً وتفاهمات مع مصر لإدارة حدود منتظمة

"رفح ـ المركز الفلسطيني للإعلام

أكد الدكتور محمود الزهار، القيادي البارز في حركة المقاومة الإسلامية "حماس" ووزير الخارجية الفلسطيني السابق، أنّ معبر رفح سيعمل قريباً وفق الرؤية الرامية لتشغيله كمعبر فلسطيني ـ مصري وبما يحقق المصالح العليا للشعبين الشقيقين.

وشدّد الدكتور الزهار لدى عودته برفقة النائب سعيد صيام رئيس كتلة "حماس" بالمجلس التشريعي الفلسطيني والقيادي جمال أبو هاشم، عبر معبر رفح إلى غزة بعد ثلاثة أيام من المباحثات في القاهرة مع المسؤوليين المصريين بشأن الحصار وأزمة المعابر والحدود؛ على أنّ مصر وعدت ببذل جهود من أجل إعادة فتح المعبر في القريب العاجل.

وقال الزهار إنه جرى الاتفاق مع الجانب المصري على تشكيل قنوات اتصال مشتركة سيصل الطرفان بموجبها إلى حدود منظّمة، موضحاً أنه تم التوصل أيضاً الي تفاهمات كثيرة سيتم تنفيذها تدريجياً بدءاً من الغد.

وأعلن الزهار أنه سيتم صباح الأحد (3/2) البدء في إغلاق الحدود المصرية ـ الفلسطينية بالتعاون بين رجال الأمن من الطرفين وذلك حتى يتم استكمال الإجراءات الهادفة إلى إعادة ترتيب حركة الدخول والخروج، مؤكداً أنّ الحكومة الفلسطينية برئاسة إسماعيل هنية ستعمل كل ما في وسعها لضبط الحدود.

وأوضح الزهار خلال مؤتمر صحفي عقده عقب عودته من القاهرة أمام معبر رفح؛ أنّ الأيام المقبلة ستشهد سلسة من الأمور الإيجابية، واصفاً زيارته والوفد المرافق له إلى القاهرة بالناجحة بشكل كبير وأنّ مصر لن تسمح بتجويع سكان غزة وستستمر في تزويدهم بكل ما يحتاجونه.

وأشار محمود الزهار إلى أنه تم الاتفاق مع وزير الصحة المصري علي ترتيب وجدولة أسماء العالقين في مدينة العريش المصرية من الطلبة وأصحاب الإقامات في الخارج، بالإضافة الي مرضى قطاع غزة، بهدف القيام بترحيلهم قريباً إلى حيث يريدون. وقال بخصوص المرضى إنه تم الاتفاق ميدانياً وسياسياً على سفرهم، بحيث يسافرون على شكل مجموعات تتكوّن كل مجموعة من خمسين شخصاً.

وقال الزهار في هذا الصدد إنّ "كل المعوقات التي أدت لإغلاق المعابر سواء من الجانب الصهيوني أو أوروبا نوقشت باستفاضة ووعدنا الإخوة في مصر خيراً".

وفيما يتعلق بالحوار في الساحة الفلسطينية بشكل عام؛ قال الزهار إنّ "مصر صاحبة موقف واضح ببدء الحوار بدون شروط، ونحن أعلنّا موافقتنا (على ذلك)، ومن يتحمل مسؤولية وضع العراقيل هو الطرف الذي يفرض شروطاً ويرفض الحوار"، في إشارة ضمنية إلى رئيس السلطة محمود عباس والمقرّبين منه.

كما دعا الدكتور محمود الزهار خلال التصريحات التي أدلى بها، إلى احترام أفراد الأمن المصري وعدم الإساءة لهم."

Zahhar: The Rafah crossing will be operational soon

"RAFAH, (PIC)-- Dr. Mahmoud Al-Zahhar, a senior Hamas leader, stated Saturday upon his return to Gaza that the Rafah crossing will soon be operational as a fully Palestinian-Egyptian passage thus achieving the higher interests of the two brotherly countries.

In a press conference held at the Rafah crossing, Dr. Zahhar said that Egypt promised to make efforts for the reopening of the crossing in the near future and that it will not allow the starvation of Gaza people, adding that it was agreed with the Egyptian side to form channels of communication whereby the two parties will jointly manage and organize the borders.

The Hamas leader announced that the Palestinian-Egyptian borders will be closed Sunday morning in cooperation between security men of both sides until the procedures aimed at rearranging the movement of entry and exit have been completed, pointing out that the caretaker government headed by premier Ismail Haneyya will do its utmost to control the crossing.

He explained that the coming days will witness a series of positive developments, describing his visit and the delegation accompanying him to Cairo as highly successful.

The Hamas leader underlined that it was agreed with the Egyptian health minister to sort out and prepare the names of Palestinians stranded in the Arish city including students and employees working abroad as well as patients in need of medical treatment in order to grant them travel visas for their destinations the soonest.

Simultaneously with the return of the Hamas delegation from Cairo, thousands of Palestinian women participated Saturday afternoon in a massive march organized by Hamas's female supporters at the Rafah crossing, where they chanted slogans calling for lifting the siege and opening the Rafah crossing under Palestinian-Egyptian sovereignty.

Umm Mohammed Al-Rantisi, one of Hamas's female leaders, stated that the march aims to send a letter to the PA leadership in Ramallah who are trying to restore the previous conditions at the crossing and bring back the Israeli occupation."

The Madness of John McCain

A militarist suffering from acute narcissism and armed with the Bush Doctrine is not fit to be commander in chief.

By Justin Raimondo

".....One can well imagine the appreciative laughter, albeit tinged with an undertone of nervous uncertainty at the sight of someone who gets far too much pleasure out of being in the spotlight. Such narcissism, unseemly in anyone, is especially unbefitting in a president, yet it is key to understanding McCain’s evolution from conventional Republican realist to relentless interventionist....

If opportunism married to an inflated ego birthed his persona as the Ares of America’s political pantheon, then this psycho-political pathology soon found expression as a full-blown delusional system. By 1999, in defense of Clinton’s war, McCain was declaring, “I think the United States should inaugurate a 21st-century policy interpretation of the Reagan Doctrine, call it rogue state rollback, in which we politically and materially support indigenous forces within and outside of rogue states to overthrow regimes that threaten our interests and values.”.....

But “straight talk” has increasingly turned to reckless talk: on the campaign trail, he was caught on video singing “Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” to the tune of “Barbara Ann”—not one of his better moments. With his presidential campaign in the doldrums, and Giuliani and the rest of the Republican pack stealing much of his thunder, a new extremism seemed to possess him: in answer to repeated questions from one antiwar voter, McCain told a town-hall meeting in Derry, New Hampshire that the United States could stay in Iraq for “maybe a hundred years” and that “would be fine with me… as long as Americans aren’t being killed or injured” in any great numbers, as in Korea......

With the extreme rhetoric appearing to work, an emboldened McCain recently told a crowd of supporters in Florida: “It’s a tough war we’re in. It’s not going to be over right away. There’s going to be other wars. I’m sorry to tell you, there’s going to be other wars. We will never surrender, but there will be other wars.”....."

Abu Zuhri: Solana, Blair leading new conspiracy to retain Rafah crossing closed

"GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement has charged that the European Union's foreign relations official Javier Solana and the Quartet committee's envoy to the Middle East Tony Blair were leading a conspiracy to retain the Rafah crossing closed.

Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, told Quds Press on Friday that the visit by both officials to the region at this particular time meant they were trying to maintain the siege on the Gaza Strip through blocking any new arrangement for opening the Rafah crossing.

They would provide international cover for PA chief Mahmoud Abbas's demand for re-implementation of the Rafah agreement that would enable Israel to control the traffic in and out of the terminal, Abu Zuhri charged.

He said that Hamas refused any foreign intervention in the Rafah issue, and questioned the EU and Quartet's role towards the other crossings controlled by the IOA. "Why not pressure (Israeli) occupation to re-open the other crossings," he argued.

Solana and Blair are expected in the Middle East region within the few coming days to "assist" in finding a solution to the Gaza crossings, according to an official EU declaration.

Meanwhile, Egypt allowed the travel of around 2,000 Palestinians, who were stuck in Arish, after Hamas mediated in the issue. Palestinian sources told PIC correspondent on Saturday that the Movement's efforts succeeded in ending the suffering of those trapped passengers and the Egyptian authorities stamped their passports thus enabling them to travel.

The stranded Palestinians, mostly students, employees in Arab countries or patients seeking treatment, were staging a sit-in before the Egyptian interior ministry building in Arish over the past few days asking for their departure to join their universities, jobs and hospitals."

Friday, February 1, 2008

By Ben Heine

Thousands of Palestinians demonstrate against the siege in Rafah

"RAFAH, (PIC)-- Thousands of Palestinians on Friday afternoon participated in a demonstration, called for by Hamas, to protest the continued siege which is suffocating the Gaza Strip.

The mass demonstration, which took place at the Salahuddin Gate on the Palestinian Egyptian border in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, started at the Awda Mosque in the central Rafah district. The demonstrators called for the immediate re-opening of the Rafah crossing to avoid popular anger which could lead to a very explosive situation.

The demonstrators also called on Arab and Muslim countries to break the siege and expressed their condemnation of the shameful "official Arab silence towards what is happening in Palestine."

Participants carried besides Palestinian flags, the Egyptian flag to express their appreciation for the role which Egypt is playing in trying to heal the inter-Palestinian rift and reopen the Rafah border crossing. The protestors also called for the Rafah crossing to be placed under Egyptian-Palestinian supervision without the involvement of the occupation or the Europeans.

In a speech he delivered at the demonstration Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas spokesman, said that his movement still rejects reviving the crossings agreement as called for by the Prime Minister of the Ramallah illegitimate government, Salam Fayad, and described such calls as irresponsible and reflect subservience to Zio-American dictates.

He also denied rumours that a group of Hamas armed men infiltrated into Egypt and were arrested by Egyptian security, saying that Egyptian National security concerns Hamas and the aim behind spreading such rumours was to spoil the good relationship that Hamas enjoys with Egypt at both the official and the popular levels.

Abu Zuhri stressed that his movement is still keen on talks with Fatah, adding that it has become clear to everyone who rejects dialogue."

Power to the People: Defiant Hamas bulldozes Rafah crossing wider

Contributed by Lucia in Spain

"RAFAH, Gaza Strip, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Hamas used a bulldozer to widen a breach in the Gaza-Egypt border on Friday so trucks could pass out of the Israeli-blockaded Palestinian territory despite Egypt's efforts to seal the crossing, witnesses said.

An armed Hamas militant clung on to the outside of the yellow bulldozer's cab as the driver went about his work, and a number of other armed men close by provided additional cover.

Local Palestinian residents and the waiting truck drivers cheered "crush the barrier" and shouted out "Hamas" as the bulldozer cleared a path wide enough to allow trucks to pass in either direction.

The truck drivers then hurried back to their vehicles to cross the border in the fading afternoon light while Egyptian forces, who earlier this week closed two other crossings and narrowed the third, backed away and watched from a distance......."

Another meeting between Abbas and Olmert soon

Contributed by Lucia in Spain

"NAZARETH, (PIC)-- The Israeli Prime Minister's office announced that a meeting between Ehud Olmert, and the PA President Mahmoud Abbas is to take place soon according an Israeli radio report on Friday. The news report stated that the meeting is in accordance with previous arrangements to have fortnightly meetings.

Observers, however, noticed that such meetings rather than being utilised for furthering the so called peace negotiations are serving as policy coordination meetings.

This was very clear in Abbas's handling of the border crossings issue of Gaza after the people of Gaza decided to breach the border with Egypt in a bid to break the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip by Israel and it allies. For whereas Hamas is insisting that the Rafah border crossing is a purely Egyptian-Palestinian crossing and should be treated as such, Abbas insists on involving the Israelis and the Europeans in the crossing as a precondition for reopening it.

Furthermore, while Abbas insists on rejecting unconditional talks with Hamas, he did not forget, while he was in Cairo, to call Olmert and congratulate him on the fact that the latter was not implicated in the Winograd report.

Abbas has also been criticised after news reports that he asked Olmert to use his influence to close the deal for a new Palestinian mobile phone company in which Abbas's son has a large stake, prompting many Palestinians to compare between Mahmoud al-Zahhar who sacrificed two of his sons for the sake of the Palestinian cause and Mahmoud Abbas who is sacrificing the Palestinian cause for the sake of his son's business."

Collective Punishment in Beirut

Straight From the Israeli Playbook


".....The killings occurred in the Shiyah and Mar Mikhael neighborhoods of the dahiyah, a collective term referring to the impoverished Shia-majority suburbs of southern Beirut. Because it is also the location of Hezbollah's headquarters, it was this area of the capital which suffered the heaviest damage during the July 2006 Israeli invasion. As satellite imagery clearly demonstrated, vast swathes of it were completely decimated during the war. If coping with that destruction was not enough, Prime Minister Siniora and the ruling March 14 Coalition apparently wished to inflict further hardship on its residents.

The clashes with the army erupted only after longstanding complaints of the dahiyah receiving limited electricity and water went unheeded. With as little as four hours of electricity provided in the days prior to the riots (in contrast to other sections of Beirut receiving up to 20), civil disturbance became inevitable.....

The world has just witnessed the aftermath of a stifling Israeli embargo on Gaza, depriving its citizens of fuel, food and medical supplies. Fouad Siniora, Saad Hariri, Walid Jumblatt, and Samir Geagea, all leaders of the current ruling alliance in Lebanon, are similarly guilty of a crime taken straight from the Israeli playbook: collective punishment......

It was indeed unsettling to see the quisling Siniora, in the midst of the 2006 war which the United States gave Israel the green light to wage, yet embrace Condoleezza Rice. And it was appalling to discover that the radicals of Fatah al-Islam were first brought into the country by Saad Hariri, leader of the parliamentary majority, in an attempt to curtail the influence of Hezbollah before the deal soured and the 2007 battle of Nahr al-Bared ensued. Cutting off water and electricity to ordinary civilians, then firing upon those who seek redress, however, is beyond the pale of human decency.

Should this practice continue, it will be the prelude to civil war."

Yet another nothing

While Hamas is changing facts on the ground at Rafah, the latest talks between Abbas and Olmert go nowhere

By Khaled Amayreh in occupied East Jerusalem
Al-Ahram Weekly

"....To be sure, Abbas and his regime found themselves in a dilemma. On the one hand, the last thing they would like is to appear before a decidedly anti-Israeli and anti- America Palestinian public as instrumental accomplices in enforcing the callous blockade of Gaza, described recently by Israeli historian Illan Pappe as "genocidal". On the other hand, Abbas knows very well that the persistence of the blockade is the best chance he still has to weaken Hamas.

Hence, Abbas is faced with two unattractive choices: rapprochement with Hamas, which Cairo and most other Arab capitals favour; or effectively siding with Israel in enforcing the blockade, which the US and Israel want, but which would portray the Palestinian leader as a de facto quisling working and collaborating with Israel against his own people and their paramount national interests....."

Brotherhood sought

Palestinian calls for a permanent border agreement with Egypt intensify as Gaza is swiftly returned to a state of total siege

By Serene Assir from Gaza
Al-Ahram Weekly

"The government of Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh proposed arrangements for the Rafah border terminal involving economic benefits for Egypt as a stopgap measure to prevent further collapse of the Gazan economy under pressure of the Israeli- instigated siege. "We are looking to end Gaza's economic ties to Israel, and for Egypt to step in to take over," Haniyeh told Al-Ahram Weekly. "We have no fear of breaking our economic ties to Israel, for it is these ties that have caused the economic collapse in Gaza over the course of the siege.".....

"The forced opening of the crossing has done a lot of good to the Gazans; principally as it has reignited some hope amongst us. Psychologically, it was important for us just to be able to breathe; to move freely again," said Emad Dahman, a resident of Gaza. "But it is not enough. The siege has not ended, nor have our problems been solved. What we require is a long-term agreement whereby entry and exit of people and goods in and out of Egypt is established. Without that, our livelihoods will remain continually suppressed and under threat by the Israeli occupation."....

As for the Gazan people, who have struggled under the hammer of total siege for seven months, there is strong sentiment for change. "We survived under the blockade because we are capable, and managed to make ends meet," said merchant Abu Mohamed, en route to Arish as Egyptian security forces conducted a crackdown along the road. "To us, it is not enough to have sporadic openings like this. What we need is a permanent settlement for the border, to get our economy going again and to get our lives back to a semblance of normality.""

New dawn

"Spontaneous popular action on the part of Palestinians in Gaza left all political players reeling last week, sparking an influx of an estimated 700,000 Palestinians -- near half of the Gaza Strip population -- into the Egyptian Sinai, desperate for food, fuel, medical supplies and other basic necessities of life. Can the genie be put back in the bottle? And should it?

When the walls collapsed, so did the red lines drawn by Israel and the Palestinian Authority"

By Saleh Al-Naami from Gaza
Al-Ahram Weekly

".....Many Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza regard the border breach in Rafah as an unqualified victory for Hamas and the beginning of the end of the Israeli siege strategy against the Palestinian people. Maamoun Al-Tamimi, a Palestinian writer and economist from Jerusalem, believes that the ball is now firmly in the court of Abbas. "The Palestinians are overwhelmingly sympathetic to Hamas following what happened, and they support the actions along the border with Egypt which have caused considerable embarrassment to the Palestinian leadership headed by Abbas," he said.

Even someone as close to Abbas as the prominent scholar Mahdi Abdel-Hadi cannot help but to agree. The Gaza-Egypt border breach, he said, has weakened Abbas not only in Gaza but in the West Bank as well. The editor of the Fatah mouthpiece Al-Bayadir Al-Sayasi drew the same conclusion and added that Abbas's only way out of his current predicament is to open a channel of dialogue with Hamas as soon as possible......"

The Iniquities and Inequalities of War

Waking Up to the Human Costs

Former CIA Analyst

"....Finally, the truth is seeping out. Contrary to how President George W. Bush has tried to justify the Iraq war in the past, he has now clumsily-if inadvertently-admitted that the invasion and occupation of Iraq was aimed primarily at seizing predominant influence over its oil by establishing permanent (the administration favors "enduring") military bases.

He made this transparently clear by adding a signing statement to the defense appropriation bill, indicating that he would not be bound by the law's prohibition against expending funds:

"(1) To establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq," or

"(2) To exercise United States control of the oil resources of Iraq."


Et Tu, New York Times?

Where Were They When Musharraf Sacked the Judges?


".....What a pity that the paper of record did not lead a chorus of disapproval when Musharraf sacked all the independent-minded judges of the Supreme and High Courts in the country, or when lawyers were being bludgeoned into submission by the cops on the streets of every major Pakistani city. Neither the leaders of the US/EU combine or their media were too upset by that development. Ther judges, it was whispered, had become too proactive and were ordering the release of disappeared 'terrorists' who had been imprisoned without trial after ascertaining that there was no proof to detain them. This challenged the fundamentals of Guantanamo and the violation of civil liberties, the suspension of habeas corpus in Britain. Just like the Queen Bee and her drones, the politicians ordained and the global media networks and tame journos followed suit....."

People’s Power in Gaza

Palestinian people have succeeded where politics and thousands of international appeals have failed. They took matters into their own hands and they prevailed.

By Ramzy Baroud
Special to

Contributed by Lucia in Spain

"In a radio interview prior to the US invasion of Iraq, David Barsamian asked Noam Chomsky what ordinary Americans could do to stop the war. Chomsky answered, “In some parts of the world people never ask, ‘what can we do?’ They simply do it.”

For someone who was born and raised in a refugee camp in Gaza, Chomsky’s seemingly oblique response required no further elucidation.

When Gazens recently stormed the strip’s sealed border with Egypt, Chomsky’s comment returned to mind, along with memories of the still relevant - and haunting - past......

This “largest jailbreak in history”, as one commentator described it, will be carved in Palestinian and world memory for years to come. In some circles it will be endlessly analysed, but for Palestinians in Gaza, it is beyond rationalization: it simply had to be done.

Armies can be defeated but human spirit cannot be subdued. Gaza’s act of collective courage is one of the greatest acts of civil disobedience of our time, akin to civil rights marches in America during the 1960’s, South Africa’s anti-Apartheid struggle, and more recently the protests in Burma.

Palestinian people have succeeded where politics and thousands of international appeals have failed. They took matters into their own hands and they prevailed. While this is hardly the end of Gaza’s suffering, it’s a reminder that people’s power to act is just too significant to be overlooked."

‘Winograd Report on Lebanon War an Earthquake’


"01/02/2008 Israeli senior officers in the Israeli occupation army forces have characterized the Winograd Committee's findings on the army's performance in the Second Lebanon War as "nothing less than an earthquake."

The Israeli army chief of staff is taking action to implement the final report's recommendations, while the military advocate general has announced that the report does not require delaying the advancement of officers involved in the war.

Other officers say the committee "went overboard" on some issues and that many of the problems cited in the final report have already been fixed. "The committee members know full well what went wrong in the army," one Israeli senior officer said. "It will take two or three years to repair the damage caused by the war to the Israeli army and the impression the report made on the public. We'll have to work hard."

According to him, "While it's true that some of the faults have been fixed since the war, the report says bigger changes are needed. Maybe the situation in the army was worse than we thought, certainly when it came to maintaining values."

The officers say Israeli amry Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi has identified the erosion of the principles of warfare as an urgent problem. They say he has been deeply involved with the issue since he took up his post last February.

General Staff officers pointed out that even though the committee found flaws in the performance of most levels of the military, it is clear that they were worse in the General Staff than in lower ranks such as the Northern Command and the combat divisions.

Senior defense sources, however, admitted that the findings "are not just an administrative comment. This is a government committee, and the things it says will certainly be taken into account in future decisions about the promotion of officers who were responsible for the deficiencies."

Critics of the committee in the Israeli army argued that its members did not sufficiently distinguish between the failings during the war and the state of the army today. "It's not the same army," they said. "We are very aware of the failures, but a large number of them were first identified by the Israeli army and were fixed over the past year and a half."

These officers argued that in the past two months of fighting in the Gaza Strip soldiers have demonstrated a higher level of decisiveness and persistence than there was in some of the battles in Lebanon that the committee criticized. General Staff officers also disagreed with the committee's finding of a "deep rift" in the Israeli army. "

Current Al-Jazeera (Arabic) Online Poll

The question is:

Who is responsible for the death of a million Iraqis in the past four years?

With about 500 people responding so far, here is the breakdown:

American presence (notice that Al-Jazeera did not say American occupation)..85%

Iraqi disputes...........................................................................15%

Class is back in the US as the ownership society crumbles

Bush hoped to be proud father of the rightwing economic revolution's grand project. Instead, he is its undertaker

Naomi Klein
Friday February 1, 2008
The Guardian

"Remember the "ownership society", fixture of major George Bush addresses for the first four years of his presidency? "We're creating ... an ownership society in this country, where more Americans than ever will be able to open up their door where they live and say, welcome to my house, welcome to my piece of property," Bush said in October 2004.

Washington thinktanker Grover Norquist predicted that the ownership society would be this president's greatest legacy, remembered "long after people can no longer pronounce or spell Falluja". Yet in Bush's final state of the union address this week, the once-ubiquitous phrase was conspicuously absent. And little wonder: rather than its proud father, Bush has turned out to be the ownership society's undertaker....."

By Imad Hajjaj

British Jewish group sparks new outrage with condemnation of Gaza blockade

Contributed by Bea

"LONDON - A controversial coalition of prominent Jewish activists and academics has reignited controversy in the British Jewish community after taking out an paid advertisement in The Times this week calling for Israel to lift its economic blockade of the Gaza strip and accusing the state of breaching international law.

"Independent Jewish Voices" was formed a year ago and counts Nobel laureate Harold Pinter and actor Stephen Fry among its prominent signatories.....

The statement which appeared on the inside pages of the paper was signed by 250 of the groups members. Entitled "End the siege of Gaza!", the statement condemned Israel's actions in blockading Gaza as a violation of international law, and also called for a halt to Palestinian rocket attacks.

"The collective punishment of the population of Gaza is illegal under international law. We condemn attacks on all civilians including the rocket attacks on the residents of Southern Israel," said the statement.

The statement also called for an end to the blockade and for "both sides to observe a ceasefire."......"

Deadly Hubris

A million Iraqis dead – for what?

By Justin Raimondo

"The UK's Opinion Research Business has released another statistical study of Iraqi casualties since the launching of the American invasion, one that updates, revises, and essentially confirms their earlier estimate of a million-plus dead. The price of "liberation" is indeed high, but was it worth it? The Iraqis have a simple answer: some 60 percent tell pollsters attacks on US and allied military personnel are justified. So much for being greeted with garlands of flowers and hailed as "liberators."

The Americans have a similar, if less emphatic answer: a recent poll asking if the invasion and subsequent occupation "was or was not worth the number of U.S. military casualties and the financial cost of the war" yields a resounding no, with 59 percent – up three points.

A million dead – and for what?......

Our empire is a bubble that's about to burst, along with the economic bubble the Federal Reserve lives in mortal fear of. Whether this is punishment from on high, or simply economic "blowback" rebounding from our fiscal and foreign policies, is a matter of taste and disposition. I'll leave it to the secularists and the faithful to argue it out, and simply note that we're about to pay the price of our deadly hubris."

Turkey can do more to help the Palestinians

Analysis by Khalid Amayreh in occupied E. Jerusalem

Contributed by Lucia in Spain

".....As to what Turkey can and should do to help her Palestinian brothers, Ankara can always utilize its connections with the West, especially the United States, to make sure that Israel put an end to its war crimes against an unprotected people whose only crime is its enduring determination to survive in spite of Zionism and in spite of history.

At the practical level, Turkey should maintain a permanent representative in Gaza City to monitor Israeli crimes as they happen. Turkey shouldn’t trust the Zionist-controlled or Zionist-inspired media to communicate the plight of the Palestinians to more than 70 million Turks who love and care about Palestine.

Moreover, Turkey should take a more pro-active role in humanitarian efforts in Gaza, and if possible in the West Bank as well, since meeting the humanitarian needs of the starved and impoverished Palestinians would enhance their ability to withstand Israeli oppression and predispose them to recovering their rights from Zionism’s covetous hands.

But the most important step Turkey should do is to make it abundantly clear to the terrorist Zionist state that Turkey would no longer play deaf and dumb and look the other way if Israel continues to perpetrate such crimes as penning-in and starving millions of innocent civilians for political reasons."

Barghouthi: Zionist aggressions increased by 220% after Annapolis

"RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- Former Information Minister, Dr. Mustafa al-Barghouthi, the Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative stated on Thursday Zionist measures, especially the expansion of settlements and the building of the wall, expose the future of the whole region to danger.

The lawmaker also stated that the Zionist aggressions increased by 220% since the Annapolis conference at the end of last November.

In a meeting in Ramallah with the President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Mr. Pier Ferdinando Casini and its Secretary General Mr. Anders Johnsson, Barghouthi asked them to exert all possible efforts to get the Palestinian lawmakers released from Israeli detention and explained how Palestinian democracy is threatened by the continued detention of those lawmakers.

Barghouthi also called on the visiting delegation to work for an end of the aggression and siege on the Gaza Strip.

Finally Barghouthi called on all Parliamentary blocks of Inter-Parliamentary Union to accept Palestine as a permanent member of the Union."

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Hamas sets Rafah border conditions

Just One More Post!

"A delegation led by Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Hamas, has proposed joint Palestinian-Egyptian control of the Rafah crossing.

They set down these conditions on Thursday on the second day of talks in Cairo geared towards resolving the week-old crisis on the Gaza-Egypt border as Egypt continued its mediating role between Hamas and Fatah.

The delegation proposed removing EU observers, maintaining that these observers were in no position to stop Israel from closing the border crossing.

Mahmoud al-Zahar, a Hamas leader, said these "historical borders" should not be used to impose a seige on the Palestinians.

Other conditions set by Hamas include that the Palestinian role should be determined by an agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

The movement also said it was against Israel's veto power to close the crossing.

Hamas further proposed that the entry into and out of Gaza through Rafah should not only be confined to Palestinians carrying identification cards issued by the PA...."


That is all the posting that I will be able to do today. I need your help to please supply links to current stories, comments, videos, etc in the comment section. That is, as usual, greatly appreciated.

Regular updating resumes tomorrow, inshallah.


Thanks to all friends and supporters who helped me out, especially Lucia. Some 37 links were provided with great comments and very up-to-date news items!

Amnesty: Winograd report ignored Israeli war crimes

(Video) Human rights group says report published by commission of inquiry into 2006 Lebanon campaign 'deeply flawed', did not probe government, military policies that 'failed to discriminate between civilian population, Hizbullah combatants'

"In a press release issued on Thursday, the organization said the report failed to investigate "a crucial aspect of the war - the government policies and military strategies that failed to discriminate between the Lebanese civilian population and Hizbullah combatants and between civilian property and infrastructure and military targets."

Malcolm Smart, director of Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa Program, said "this (report) was yet another missed opportunity to address the policies and decisions behind the grave violations of international humanitarian law - including war crimes -committed by Israeli forces.

The indiscriminate killings of many Lebanese civilians not involved in the hostilities and the deliberate and wanton destruction of civilian properties and infrastructure on a massive scale were given no more than token consideration by the commission,” he said.

According to the human rights group, the Winograd Commission had the power to subpoena witnesses and recommend the prosecution of officials it found to have been responsible for "willful or negligent criminal conduct", but instead chose to "limit its work to reviewing military strategy and political decisions, and made no serious attempt to investigate violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes, committed by Israeli forces or to recommend measures for holding those responsible for such violations to account."....."

The Clown King Turned 46 Yesterday....
Here He is in Action.....
Directing the Jordanian Military to.....
Produce Enough Cakes and Cookies for the Birthday Bash.
Celebrate the Bastard's Birthday Now!

President George Bush talks with reporters at a luncheon before the State of the Union Address as they struggle to weave a new story from the “Same Shit, Different Day” Bush Administration.

By Mike Luckovich

Israel threatens further supply cuts to Gaza

Peter Hirschberg, The Electronic Intifada, 31 January 2008

"JERUSALEM, 31 January (IPS) - Already testy relations between Jerusalem and Cairo have frayed further in the last week as hundreds of thousands of Gazans have poured through a hole blasted in the Egypt-Gaza border fence, in a bid to escape a suffocating blockade imposed by Israel on the coastal strip......

In the last few days, Egypt has begun resurrecting the wall along the border. But while Israel and Egypt might both be deeply concerned by Hamas's takeover of the strip, their divergent interests are likely to ensure that the latest border spat is not the last Gaza-induced diplomatic tiff between the two countries."

Olmert: His Own Shlemiel, or Bush’s?

By Tony Karon

"While Israel’s Winograd Commission has pulled no punches in excoriating the Israeli military and political leadership for their botched war in Lebanon last summer, there appears to be a massive lacuna in its conclusions. Israel went to war in haste without a considered plan, without weighing alternatives, without establishing clear objectives and without an exit strategy. That much Winograd was prepared to say bluntly. But what he doesn’t explain is why.

And here, I think, he’s avoiding the elephant in the room: the very clear sense, throughout the Lebanon misadventure, that Israel was coordinating its actions with Washington to an extent that the Bush Administration’s own decisions had a decisive impact on how Israel waged its campaign......"

The Gaza Wall Comes Tumbling Down

A Very Good Piece

By Phyllis Bennis

"....But the collapse of the Gaza-Egyptian border wall also set in a motion a range of significant power shifts in the international, regional, and internal Palestinian political scenes, shifts which hold the potential for both positive and dangerous consequences.....

The heaviest pressure on the Egyptian government, in fact, seems to be coming not from Washington or Tel Aviv, but from the Cairo streets. Demonstrators have demanded that President Mubarak allow the border to remain open. And despite some tensions between Palestinian shoppers and Egyptian store owners when the government refused to allow local Egyptian stores to re-stock their goods, the overwhelming public opinion in Egypt seems to be strong support for allowing Gazans open access to Egypt, both for humanitarian and political reasons. Facing that public challenge, Mubarak is likely to tread lightly on the Palestinians.....

But there are serious dangers as well. A permanent, or even medium-term opening between Gaza and Egypt holds the potential of a return to the 1948-1967 period, following the Palestinian nakba, or catastrophe, that resulted from the creation of the State of Israel, when Egypt maintained military control over Gaza. While not the same kind of military occupation that Israel imposed from 1967 on, Egyptian control certainly constrained the potential political and economic development of Gaza. Most importantly, an Egypt-linked Gaza would consolidate the rift splitting the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Gaza - further separating sectors of the already forcibly divided Palestinian nation. Depending on Egypt's stance, there is certainly the danger that some parts of the international community might follow Washington's likely lead in endorsing Israel's claim that it was no longer the occupying power in Gaza, thus undermining Palestinian rights guaranteed by international law and UN resolutions.

Internally, within Palestinian society, the breaching of the wall and the mass participation in the "no-border" crossing, have provided a huge boost to social and political mobilization. The level of involvement - the UN estimated that as many as half of Gaza's 1.5 million people may have crossed into Egypt - showed the potential to rebuild on a national scale the kind of popular resistance movement that characterized the first Palestinian intifada, or uprising. That mobilization, from the end of 1987 through 1993, brought virtually every sector of society into active political life - women, children, old people, farmers, medical workers, trade unions, cultural workers - and the internal "shaking up" of Palestinian society that resulted was in fact more important in building resistance than the symbolic stone-throwing of the children.....

But in general neither the West Bank nor Gaza have experienced the kind of permanent national mobilization and popular direct action for nearly fifteen years. Breaching the Gaza wall sent a message around the world - but first of all to the Palestinians themselves - that they could return to that level of permanent popular mobilization. They had done it once. They could do it again, in Gaza, the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem......"

The Annapolis Spirit in Action

By Adel Safty
(Prof. Adel Safty is author of From Camp David to the Gulf, Montreal, New York. His latest book, Leadership and Democracy is published by IPSL Press, New York. 2004)

"If we put aside diplomatic niceties and self-serving proclamations of an urgent need for peace and Israeli readiness to ‘make painful sacrifices’ to achieve it, the Annapolis conference in fact confirmed the logic of war. The current Israeli assault on and collective punishment of the Palestinians in Gaza prove it.

Annapolis confirmed the logic of war because American and Israeli positions indicated that whatever negotiations take place between Israelis and Palestinians would not be within the context of justice and law, but overshadowed by the realities of power produced by the Israeli war machine. The wrongdoer insists on imposing its terms on the victim as a condition of ‘peace.’ And Washington agrees; while those who represent the international community consensus on the conflict – such as the United Nations- are politely relegated to the insignificant status of observer. And Washington agrees....."

Iraq conflict has killed a million, says survey

"LONDON, Jan 30 (Reuters) - More than one million Iraqis have died as a result of the conflict in their country since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, according to research conducted by one of Britain's leading polling groups.

The survey, conducted by Opinion Research Business (ORB) with 2,414 adults in face-to-face interviews, found that 20 percent of people had had at least one death in their household as a result of the conflict, rather than natural causes.

The last complete census in Iraq conducted in 1997 found 4.05 million households in the country, a figure ORB used to calculate that approximately 1.03 million people had died as a result of the war, the researchers found.

The margin of error in the survey, conducted in August and September 2007, was 1.7 percent, giving a range of deaths of 946,258 to 1.12 million.

ORB originally found that 1.2 million people had died, but decided to go back and conduct more research in rural areas to make the survey as comprehensive as possible and then came up with the revised figure......"

Winograd: Current use of cluster bombs not in line with int'l law

"Israel must consider whether it wants to consider using cluster bombs in the future, because its current manner of employing them does not conform to international law. The Winograd Committee made this recommendation in the chapter of its report dealing with Israel's conduct in the Second Lebanon War as it relates to international law......"

Another world is necessary

Serene Assir, The Electronic Intifada, 31 January 2008

"......Now given that Cairo has already turned down Hamas overtures to take control of the border, and that Hamas has rejected proposals for an international presence at Rafah, and granted that Cairo's relations with Washington have long been unequal to the effect that it is safe to say that the present regime survives because it is supported by the world's only superpower, it remains to be seen just where the unfolding crisis will lead. There is no doubt that the short-term economic advantage of maintaining ties with Washington over developing a longer-term strategy involving the Palestinian people, who are determined to emerge victorious over occupation, appears more beneficial to Cairo. However, what is clear is that, as is the case every minute of every day within Egyptian jurisdiction ever since the signing of the Camp David Peace Treaty in 1978, there is a fundamental discord between what the vast majority of the people of Egypt really want, and what power has imposed on them. Given the reality of power distribution in the Arab world, it is not yet the time to imagine that the crisis will lead to an immediate settlement that will aptly meet the requirements of the people of Gaza. But what the surprise disruption of the siege, involving the instantaneous, physical realization of what has been the dream of millions of human beings the world over for hundreds of years -- namely the downfall of borders and the victory of the people over brutality and oppression -- indicates, is that it is necessary to think beyond the limits of the mundane. This was a lesson learned not only by the Gazans, but also no doubt by hundreds of thousands of Arabs who watched in awe at the spontaneous creativity of their brothers and sisters, the Palestinians."

Leading article: A disastrous war and a weakened leader

The Independent

".....plain fact remains that the 2006 Lebanon war was a disaster from the start.

Its cost in blood was grave. More than 1,000 Lebanese were killed, most of them civilians, and about 160 Israelis. And thousands of lethal cluster munitions were left behind in southern Lebanon as a result of the bombardment. The operation also failed utterly in its strategic objective of eliminating the threat posed by the Shia Muslim guerrilla force, Hizbollah. Indeed, the invasion had the effect of strengthening the political influence of its leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.

Perhaps the most significant domestic legacy of the war was the damage inflicted on the Israeli psyche. One of the most technologically advanced military forces in the world was unable to deal a knock-out blow to guerrilla fighters armed with low-tech missiles. It was a far cry from the 1967 war in which Israel routed the combined armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria in just six days......."

Lebanon: The Winograd Report in full

11. Overall, we regard the 2nd Lebanon war as a serious missed opportunity. Israel initiated a long war, which ended without its clear military victory. A semi-military organization of a few thousand men resisted, for a few weeks, the strongest army in the Middle East, which enjoyed full air superiority and size and technology advantages. The barrage of rockets aimed at Israel's civilian population lasted throughout the war, and the IDF did not provide an effective response to it. The fabric of life under fire was seriously disrupted, and many civilians either left their home temporarily or spent their time in shelters. After a long period of using only standoff fire power and limited ground activities, Israel initiated a large scale ground offensive, very close to the Security Council resolution imposing a cease fire. This offensive did not result in military gains and was not completed. These facts had far-reaching implications for us, as well as for our enemies, our neighbors, and our friends in the region and around the world.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Is Abbas Israel’s lawyer?

Comment By Khalid Amayreh in occupied E. Jerusalem

Contributed by Lucia in Spain

"Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has vehemently rejected Hamas demands that only Palestinian and Egyptian authorities be allowed to run the Rafah border crossing......

Well, does Abbas really know what he is talking about? Indeed, as the Arab proverb goes, if he knows, it is a real calamity, and if he doesn’t, it is even a greater calamity.”

I am saying this because the old agreement governing operations at the Rafah Border-Crossing enables Israel, the country that has been trying to decimate 1.5 million Gazans by way of starving them, to have the final say as to when the border terminal may be opened and when it will be closed.

We all remember how thousands of Palestinians, including students, patients, pilgrims and other travelers, were left stranded on the Egyptian side of the border for weeks and months because an Israeli officer on the Israeli side of the border decided to keep these helpless victims hostage to his whims and cannibalistic instincts.

In fact, this wicked sadism, which Mr. Abbas is defending doggedly now, was responsible for the death of dozens of Palestinians who were left stranded in the desert, as if they were animals, not human beings. Go back to relevant reports describing the plight of stranded Gazans and you will understand what I am talking about.

How did Israel manage to keep the border-crossing closed most of the days of the year? Well, it was very simple. According to the “wonderful” agreement Abbas is now demanding that Hamas accept unconditionally, the Rafah border terminal can’t be operational unless in the presence of EU monitors. But the monitors themselves, who hail from several EU countries and some of them may well be working for the Israeli Intelligence, are based in the small Israeli kibbutz of Kerem Shalom, a few miles away from the border terminal. And according to the infamous agreement, they can’t have a free access to the border terminal unless they receive beforehand a daily permit from the Israeli army.

For its part, the Israeli army, acting on instructions from the government, would simply and routinely declare the only road from Kerem Shalom to the Rafah border terminal a closed military zone in order to keep the border-crossing closed. Of course, the army would concoct “security reasons” to justify the virtually perpetual closure, but everyone , including the Israelis themselves, know quite well that genuine security considerations have very little to do with the Israeli measures and that the real motive is to punish and torment the Palestinians.

As mentioned, this flagrant abuse of authority was not done one day or two days or even ten days per month. This was the norm, the modus operandi, and the border crossing was kept closed 26 or even 29 days per month, causing tremendous suffering to the Palestinians.

It was a deliberate and calculated process intended to torment, savage, brutalize and humiliate the people of Gaza, and it was all done under the rubric of an “international agreement.”

The EU leadership and member-states knew well what was going on at Kerem Shalom. But they were too morally dishonest and too subservient to Israel and the United States to show any meaningful objection to Israel’s systematic persecution of a helpless people whose men, women and children are clinging to life just as many of the Jewish inmates at Ghetto Warsaw did nearly 67 years ago.

So, I would like to ask Abbas and his aides and hangers-on who talk too much and make so much noise, claiming to serve the vital interests of the Palestinian people:

How do you think that re-allowing Israel to control the Rafah border- crossing would serve the interests of the Palestinian people? Are you drunk? Are you stupid? Are blind? Are you ignorant?

Besides, why do you think that Israel should be involved in running the Rafah border- crossing in the first place? Isn’t the border crossing an exclusively Egyptian-Palestinian crossing? Didn’t Israel declare that it ended its occupation of the Gaza Strip? Has not the Zionist regime been saying ad nauseam that it is no longer responsible for Gaza? If so, why do you insist that the slave master remain the ultimate decision-maker, the ultimate boss? This is sickening, to say the least and it shows a kind of umbilical subservience on your part to the nefarious occupiers.

I realize that there are problems between Fatah and Hamas. However, betraying the Palestinian people and undermining their vital interests for the purpose of weakening Hamas and appeasing Israel and pleasing Washington borders on treason, pure and simple.

What else can be said of and about clinging to an unconscionable agreement that allows the evil occupiers to imprison, torment and humiliate us with impunity…because the “agreement” says so. Well, the agreement may go to hell along with those who signed it.

In short, Hamas is right a hundred per cent. The Rafah border crossing must be jointly run exclusively by the Palestinian and Egyptian authorities. And the Ramallah regime may, if it wants, take part in managing the border terminal, as part of an overall reconciliation process between Gaza and Ramallah.

However, brining Israel into the picture is unacceptable. The people of Gaza have suffered more than enough at the hands of Israel. Their murderer and tormentor must never be allowed to be jailer as well.

Is Abbas going to understand this? I doubt it."

Quislings, Then and Now

Now: Ehud Olmert greets his Palestinian quisling

Then: Adolf Hitler greets the Quisling

Vidkun Abraham Lauritz Jonssøn Quisling (18 July 1887 – 24 October 1945) was a Norwegian army officer and fascist politician who served as Minister President of German-occupied Norway during World War II from 1942 to 1945. During this time, he claimed to be the head of government while the constitutional government was exiled in London. After the war, Quisling was convicted of high treason and subsequently executed by firing squad. His surname has become an eponym for "traitor", especially a collaborationist.

Security Council Loses Credibility Over Iran, Israel

by Thalif Deen

"UNITED NATIONS - The 15-member U.N. Security Council (UNSC) is set to lose its credibility once again as it prepares to impose a third set of sanctions on Iran while failing to pass any strictures on Israel for its continued heavy-handed repression of Palestinians in Gaza.

Many ask whether the UNSC still has any credibility left,” says Mouin Rabbani, contributing editor to the Washington-based Middle East Report.

But the more pertinent question, he pointed out, “is whether it should have any — after its consistent failure to ensure either peace or security, and of turning a malignantly blind eye to so many threats to peace and security and the basic rights of many millions.”

Indeed, the UNSC’s continued obsession with Iran’s apparently non-existent nuclear weapons programme, and its dogged determination to do nothing of consequence to address Israel’s very real occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip — to the point of currently failing to issue even the lamest of statements on the humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip — speaks volumes,” Rabbani said.

And this is in a conflict the United Nations played a direct role in creating in 1947,” he added......"

Sorry State of the Union

By Tab, The Calgary Sun

Report: Lebanon War Large, Serious Failure for Israel


"30/01/2008 A key report on the failure of the Second Lebanon war said that "while the decision to launch a major ground operation in the final days of the 2006 conflict was sound, the operation itself was incomplete and failed to reach its goals and potentials, although legitimate." The second Lebanon War ended without victory and the Israeli army did not provide effective response to Hezbollah rocket fire, Retired Justice Eliyahu Winograd, head of the commission of inquiry into the war's failures, told a press conference Wednesday evening.
"A serious and grave missed opportunity," Winograd called the war, saying that the fault "lies mostly with the military – but partially responsible for this is the weakness projected by the political echelon." The judge said that though the "strongest army in the Middle East" was faced with a small quasi-military organization, it failed to provide an effective solution to the incessant rocket fire on Israel's north. "The decision to go to war made without any strategy," the Winograd report said. The head of the commission admitted that his team's task to review the Second Lebanon War was a difficult one as it "didn't differentiate between top army brass and top state officials. The report however underlined great failures with the Israeli army, especially with the ground forces. "The Israeli army was not ready for any ground operation until the first week of August 2006," the Winograd report said adding that however the final ground operation was almost necessary and "its goals were justified." The Winograd report also blamed the political echelon for the failure saying "that the decision to launch a ground operation during the war was made by top state officials. In retrospect, the ground operation did not contribute to the war and it was badly managed." The final war report criticized both political and military commands for their conduct in securing the Israeli home front even before the war. "There were also severe failures in protecting the Israeli home front and all of these failures had started even before the launch of the Second Lebanon war," it added. The Winograd report praised the Israeli Air Forces for their "achievements" during the war. Judge Eliyahu Winograd concluded that the findings will help "deal with the Israeli society and the government in the future." Reflecting the worn-out state of the Israeli government and military leaders, the report said that "Israel cannot survive without leaders and an army that can deter opponents."The Second Lebanon War final report recommended changing decision-making between the army and the government. Nevertheless, the report pulled Prime Minister Ehud Olmert out of the abyss of popular criticism saying "many people owe Olmert apology for character assassination."

Shortly after the retired judge finished reading his report, the Likud party described the war report as severe adding that Olmert must resign.

Judge Winograd and the other four members of the governmental commission of inquiry have listened to 75 witnesses and reviewed tens of thousands of documents since their appointment in September 2005. The witnesses included decision makers, politicians, officer, government workers and public figures.
The committee was authorized to investigate the Second Lebanon War and the preparations for the war, including the conduct of previous governments and their handling of Hezbollah since the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000. "

$$$$$ Pollsters For Hire $$$$$ We Will Produce The Results You Want Or Your $$$ Back!

"The Centre for Opinion Polls and Survey Studies at An-Najah National University in the northern West Bank city of Nablus issued on Wednesday the results of a Palestinian Public Opinion the centre conducted. In that poll 73.9% of respondents supported handing over the responsibilities of the Gaza Strip crossings to the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas......"


The results are phonier than a $3 bill. As it so happened, this $$$"poll"$$$ was supposedly conducted at about the same time that Al-Jazeera (Arabic) had an online poll on the same subject. After 4,000 people had responded to the Al-Jazeera poll, Abbas had received support by only about 11%, a virtual tie with the choice of an international administration of the crossing. Only after a pronounced and directed voting for Abbas by some of the Fatah supporters did his support increase marginally.

Here is the final tally of the Al-Jazeera poll, with 15,584 people responding:

Abbas to run the crossing..............................14.6%
The Haniyyeh government to run the crossing....74.3%
An international administration of the crossing...11.1%

The Pharaoh's Lie Machine Revving Up!

Report: Egypt thwarts suicide terror attack against Israel

"Five Palestinian terrorists carrying explosives belts and reportedly planning a suicide attack against Israel were apprehended by the Egyptian authorities recently in recent days, the Egyptian daily al-Ahram reported Wednesday......"

Bush's delusions die in Gaza

The mass jailbreak of Gazans into Egypt revealed the bankruptcy of both Israel's policy of collective punishment and Bush's attempt to make Mideast peace.

By Gary Kamiya

"......The Rafah breakout shows the limits of Washington's policy of trying to cajole and bully "moderate" Arab regimes into doing our bidding. Right-wing commentators are fond of disparaging the "Arab street," but people power, it turns out, can still make a decisive difference in the Middle East. When popular outrage gets too great, even bought-and-paid-for despots like Mubarak have to yield to it. The situation closely parallels what happened during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war, when Israel tried to bomb the Lebanese into overthrowing Hezbollah. The moderate Sunni regimes initially condemned Hezbollah but were forced by public outrage to reverse course, just as Mubarak was......."

Normalizing Air War From Guernica to Arab Jabour

by Tom Engelhardt

".....For those who know something about the history of air power, which, since World War II, has been lodged at the heart of the American Way of War, that 100,000 figure might have rung a small bell.

On April 27, 1937, in the midst of the Spanish Civil War (a prelude to World War II), the planes of the German Condor Legion attacked the ancient Basque town of Guernica. They came in waves, first carpet bombing, then dropping thermite incendiaries. It was a market day, and there may have been as many as 7,000-10,000 people, including refugees, in the town, which was largely destroyed in the ensuing fire storm. More than 1,600 people may have died there (though some estimates are lower). The Germans reputedly dropped about 50 tons or 100,000 pounds of explosives on the town. In the seven decades between those two 100,000 figures lies a sad history of our age.

Arab Jabour, the Sunni farming community about 10 miles south of the Iraqi capital that was the target of the latest 100,000-pound barrage, has recently been largely off-limits to American troops and their Iraqi allies. The American military now refers generically to all Sunni insurgents who resist them as "al-Qaeda," so in situations like this it's hard to tell exactly who has held this territory.

At Guernica, as in Arab Jabour 71 years later, no reporters were present when the explosives rained down.....

From Barbarism to the Norm

The air war is simply not visible to most Americans who depend on the mainstream media. In part, this is because American reporters, who have covered every other sort of warfare in Iraq, simply refuse to look up.

It should be no surprise then that news of a future possible escalation of the air war was first raised by a journalist who had never set foot in Iraq and so couldn't look up. In a December 2005 piece entitled "Up in the Air," New Yorker investigative reporter Seymour Hersh suggested that "a key element of [any] drawdown plans, not mentioned in the president's public statements, is that the departing American troops will be replaced by American airpower. … The danger, military experts have told me, is that, while the number of American casualties would decrease as ground troops are withdrawn, the over-all level of violence and the number of Iraqi fatalities would increase unless there are stringent controls over who bombs what."

After Hersh broke his story, the silence was deafening....."