Friday, September 29, 2006
Over the last two weeks I have received a number of phone calls and emails. I found this odd for two reasons; first I never get phone calls, except from telemarketers; second, other than a ton of spam, which I thought I had protected myself from, I rarely receive emails. No, these calls weren’t from people asking me to switch my long distance carrier or from the latest naughty girl porn site; these calls were coming from people who were all reminding me of something that I had almost put out of my mind.
They reminded me about an event that happened to me and a colleague of mine, Kim Lamberty, while we were working with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in at-Tuwani, a small village located in the South Hebron Hills:
“Great job Chris, your one of my heroes!”
“When this day rolls around I think of the courage that you and you’re colleague exerted on that day.”
“I wish I could do what you did.”
On the morning of September 29th, 2004, while escorting five small Palestinian children to school, five-masked settler youth armed with heavy metal chains, stones and a baseball bat, attacked Kim and me. Although the children escaped unharmed, Kim and I were not so fortunate. Kim sustained a broken forearm and a badly damaged knee. I suffered a cut on my forehead, a sizeable knot on the left side of my head, numerous bruises from blows I sustained from the boots of the youth that kicked me in the back while I lay on the ground, and a collapsed lung as a result of said blows.
The two of us were taken to a hospital in Beersheba. Later that day, Kim was released. I remained hospitalized for five days.
An outpouring of support came from all corners of the Globe. Israeli grandmothers called my mobile phone while I lay in my hospital bed and offered their condolences. Imams from as far away as Indonesia wrote me emails expressing their outrage and gratitude that Kim and I were willing to take such a beating just so five school children could arrive to school safely; media coverage was intense for several days. All of it casting an eye on what was going on in Palestine.
But something bugged me then and it still bugs me now.
Why all the fuss?
What so special about Kim and I that eclipses what any Palestinian parent, brother, sister, or neighbor would and have done and have done with even graver results?
The media rarely, if ever, casts an eye on what goes on in Palestine, unless an Israeli is injured or killed; or an outraged parent whose son or daughter has been humiliated by soldiers gets misquoted. The injury, humiliation or death of a Palestinian is a part of life.
This is not a story.
But it becomes a story when internationals are involved. It becomes an even bigger story when those internationals are American; and it really lights up the pressroom when those Americans are Christian and working for an organization with the word “Christian” in the title. Now that’s news!
Well, I have news for you all; that’s not news.
What is news, continues to go unreported by the mainstream media; for instance, more than 200 Palestinians have been killed during the Israeli army’s “Operation Summer Rain”; Palestinian families forced to scavenging for food on garbage dumps because they cannot afford to buy food; worldwide collective punishment, in the form of aid being discontinued, by The united States, Israel, and the EU on the Palestinian population because they dared to hold democratic elections; the World turning a blind eye while Israel carried on a 33 day conflict with Lebanon and simultaneously unleashing hell on the Palestinian population in Gaza, without so much as a whimper from the corporate press.
Now that’s news!
What happened to Kim and me was bad, but that is nothing compared to the hell that Palestinians catch on a daily basis. So again, thank you all for the nice emails and phone calls, I appreciate it. But let’s remember that our priority is to protest the treatment of the Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli government.
So thank you to all of you that wrote to me and called, but for the sake of what we are all here to do, let’s get back to the business at hand and expose the lies that the corporate media is so willing to cover-up.
And don’t worry about me, I can delete the dirty emails, and I have to admit, I’m enjoying talking to the telemarketers; in fact, my new Jacuzzi should be arriving any day now.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Kidnappings, extra-judicial killings, administrative detention, destruction of infrastructure, naval blockades all in the name of security; all to further the cause of peace, or should I say piece.
Where is there security in blowing up a power plant to locate one soldier in the most densely populated part of the World, wouldn’t you need light to find him? But of course this was to disable the terrorist from carrying out more attacks inside of Israel. Sadly, this argument doesn’t fly. Everything Israel does is in the name of security. Not even a noted Israeli Human Rights organization was going to accept this pathetic excuse.
Of course to question the wisdom of the Israeli government or military is to incur the wrath of being labeled anti-Semitic. Oh dear, not the “a-S” phrase!
I find it funny how the anti-Semitic label is pulled out whenever people begin to challenge Israel on its disproportionate use of force, whether it is in the occupied territories or in the recent Lebanon conflict. No other group acts better at being Israel’s pit-bull than the noted Israeli group, AIPAC.
With its bullying tactics and deep pockets, AIPAC has essentially persuaded, manipulated, and at times threatened Congress in granting Israel whatever it wishes. Never is one allowed to speak ill of the “only democratic” country in the Middle East; never mind the fact that democracy only extends to Jewish residents and not to the 10,000 Arabs that hold Israeli passports.
AIPAC and other apologists of Israel claim that the Jews have suffered unrelentingly throughout history, most notably during WWII; there is absolutely no question about this Jews have gone through unspeakable acts at the hands of the Nazis; furthermore, there have been heinous acts committed by their Arab neighbors that should also be strongly condemned.
But does this give them carte blanche to unleash hell upon an entire population; taking the lives of innocent men, women and children; confiscating land and settling their own people there, which is a clear violation of international human rights law; to kidnap democratically elected officials in order to bring down a government that refuses to recognize them; creating and exacerbating a humanitarian crisis that has become so bad that UN officials say the Gaza Strip is lost; intentionally denying re-entry to Palestinians from they’re homeland because no other means of recourse is even being bothered to be set up by the Israeli military; demanding that the Palestinian government recognize Israel, when Israel refuses to recognize the Palestinian government; claiming that hate is taught in Palestinian schools, yet school aged children are photographed writing messages on munitions sent to bomb the Lebanese; claiming that “so-called” terrorists hide in populated areas and inevitably bring about the death of innocents as a result of their cowardice, but have nothing to say when noted human rights organizations such as B’Tselem, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch claim that destroying a house where innocents are present regardless of whether or not militants reside therein is a war crime?
Many times, my friend and me have waited for a well thought out response to questions such as the ones asked above; and each time there has been only silence.
A fear grows in me that those who claim to be apologists merely repeat the mantras of “anti-Semitism”, “Fighting the terrorist infrastructure,” and the like in the hopes that these words will somehow magically make everything better.
Judging by the state of affairs, it’s not working.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
So we’ve got that out of the way.
But it seems a pretty big leap for the U.S., EU, and Russia to ask this Hamas led government to abide by the conditions of the “Roadmap” when Israel is allowed to conduct itself in any manner it sees fit. Settlement expansion is very much continuing in the West Bank and East Jerusalem; a grave humanitarian crisis is consuming The Gaza Strip that promises to make this Ramadan one not of joy and cheer, but rather sullenness and gloom.
The targeted killings, the deluge of checkpoints, the inability to see one’s family that live a few kilometers away is now snuffed out because of an apartheid wall that has not only cut off loved ones from each other, but has also divided, destroyed, or confiscated property in it’s wake.
There is a growing consensus amongst Palestinians that the Hamas government not recognize Israel.
Arafat recognized the State of Israel and in exchange received pain and destruction.
The quartet that drew up the Roadmap has made life almost unbearable for the Palestinians. All aid has been discontinued because of Hamas’ non-recognition of Israel. The Israeli Navy has continued a blockade that prohibits Gaza fishermen from drifting out past shallow waters to fish; instead having them to cast their nets by hand over the bows of the boats. The main crossing from Gaza into Israel has been routinely closed leaving produce and other perishable cargo to rot in the containers. Daily assaults on civilian populated areas by the Israeli Occupation Army (IOF) have killed more than 200 men, women and children, most of whom were innocent bystanders since the military offensive “Operation Summer Rain” began.
And all the while the United States says nothing; rubber stamping whatever Israel wishes to do to the Palestinians; underlining Israel’s actions with the constant refrain; “We must fight the terrorists there so we don’t have to fight them here”; Arab states with they’re despotic governments remain quiet hoping not to anger the US or Israel for fear of receiving the same fate as Lebanon.
Last week we witnessed Mahmoud Abbas standing before the UN General Assemble saying that there would be a Unity government with Hamas, but he spoke to soon. Hamas is not ready to recognize Israel.
Why should they?
Based on the past experience from previous Palestinian governments there is no benefit for doing so.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
By Donald Macintyre In Rafah
19 September 2006
Nayef Abu Snaima says his 14-year-old cousin Jihad had
been sitting on the edge of an olive grove talking
animatedly to him about what he would do when he grew up
when he was killed instantly by an Israeli shell.
He says he clearly saw a bright flash next to the control
tower of the disused Gaza international airport, occupied
by Israeli forces after Cpl Gilad Shalit was seized by
militants on 25 June. "I went two or three steps and the
missile landed," said Nayef, 24. "I thought I was dying. I
shouted 'La Ilaha Ila Allah' [There is no God but Allah]."
When Jihad's older brother Kassem, 20, arrived at the
scene: "My brother was already dead. There was shrapnel in
his head. Nayef was shouting 'Allah, Allah'. The missile
landed about four metres from where Jihad had been
standing. There was shrapnel in his body as well, his
legs, everything. He had been bleeding a lot everywhere."
Jihad Abu Snaima was just the most recent of more than 37
children and teenagers under 18 killed [out of a total
death toll, including militants, of 228] in the operations
mounted by the Israeli military in Gaza since 25 June,
according to figures from the Palestinian Centre of Human
Of these, the PCHR classifies 151 as "civilian", although
beside non-combatants and bystanders, that total also
includes militants or faction members not involved in
operations against Israel at the time for example those
deliberately targeted in Israeli air strikes because of
their involvement in previous attacks. The Israel Defence
Forces have always maintained that being under 18 does not
automatically exclude a person from taking part in action
The conflict in Gaza has attracted relatively little
international attention, not least because for five weeks
it was overshadowed by that in Lebanon. But the death toll
has continued to rise.
Nayef, who was speaking from his hospital bed, has
multiple shrapnel-inflicted cuts on his plaster-covered
arms and legs. But he was lucky compared with Jihad. A
school caretaker with a five-year-old daughter, Nayef
insists the evening of Jihad's death was just a family
get-together. It is normal, he said, in this Bedouin
community in the Al Shouka hamlet outside the southernmost
Gaza town of Rafah to socialise at each other's homes on a
summer evening, and that he and Jihad were especially
"I was always with him. He was an innocent person, kind.
He was talking to me about how he was going to inherit
part of his father's land and farm it and how he was going
to get married and stay here." Nayef added tearfully: "He
was a boy who had hopes. He wanted to live his life." He
added: "What is my daughter going to think? She is going
to grow up hating the Israelis."
The family say there was no shelling in the area at the
time either before or after the incident; and that they
therefore presume Jihad and Nayef were targeted by a tank
crew. They insist there was no activity by militants
against Israeli positions on the day of the attack. "This
is an open area," said Nayef. "The resistance would not go
there because they would be seen."
By contrast, the Israel Defence Forces said, without
specifying Al Shouka, that on 10 September it had
identified and hit "two men" moving near its forces in
southern Gaza crouching on the ground, and " apparently
planting explosives". Nayef is adamant that on the night
in question he and Jihad were merely pausing on an evening
stroll to his own house.
The PCHR, which seeks to monitor every violent Palestinian
death, does not only focus on the Israel-Palestinian
conflict. It has, for example, repeatedly condemned the
killing and injuring of growing numbers of civilians, also
including children, during mounting inter-Palestinian
disputes in Gaza; shootings by Palestinian security forces
themselves; attacks on Christian churches by Muslims
protesting against the Pope; the injury of civilians,
including children, by Palestinian-fired Qassam rockets
which fall short of targets in Israel; and the kidnapping
last month of two Fox TV employees which has deterred
journalists from visiting Gaza.
But Hamdi Shaqqura of PCHR's Gaza office which accuses
Israel of using repeated closures and destruction of the
power supply to operate a policy of "collective
punishment" in breach of international law in Gaza, argues
that the excuse of "collateral damage" cannot justify the
" very high" death toll in the operations since 15 June.
He adds: " Israel's forces have been acting excessively
and disproportionately, and this explains the high figures
for the number of innocent civilians killed by them."
At the other, northern end of Gaza, close to the al-Nada
apartment blocks between Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya, Aref
Abu Qaida, 16, was killed by an artillery shell on 1
August. Sharif Harafin, 15, said: "We had been playing
football and we had just finished. I was carrying the
ball. I was going to my home, and [Aref] was going to his
home. I heard a loud boom and then I saw him cut to
As his family displayed Aref's shredded red baseball cap,
Sharif said he saw his friend's severed head on the
ground, adding: "His chest was torn out by the rocket.
People were collecting parts of his body. I was crying a
The IDF says that on 1 August it had fired and hit "a
number of Palestinians" in "the area of Beit Lahiya" who
had " approached a number of rocket launchers placed in
the area". Both PCHR and local residents, including
Mohammed Abu Qaida, 39, the dead boy's uncle, say that,
while three other civilians were wounded, the only other
death in this incident was that of Mervat Sharekh, 24, a
woman who was visiting relatives from Rafah and who died
in hospital an hour later.
Although the area had been shelled before, and some
residents had fled in response to Israeli warnings the
previous week, Mr Abu Qaida said the area had been quiet
on the day except that Qassam rockets had been fired
about four hours earlier from northern settlements more
than a kilometre away from the flats.
The IDF said last night that, of those killed in Gaza, it
had the " positive identities of over 220 gunmen killed in
fighting, and can confirm their affiliation with terror
organisations". The 220 figure said to be "unbelievable"
by Mr Shaqqura coupled with another 20 dead which the
military acknowledges as genuine civilians, is all the
more strikingly at variance with PCHR figures since it
produces a total exceeding the centre's own records.
Mr Shaqqura said that, at the absolute minimum, the IDF
figures do not take into account the casualties under 18
which PCHR estimates at 44 and from which he said every
effort is made to exclude the "rare" teenagers with
militant connections or eight women killed since 25 June.
" We do not believe their figures. We do not believe their
The IDF said: "Since the abduction of Cpl Gilad Shalit by
the Hamas and PRC terror organisations, the IDF has been
operating in the Gaza Strip against terrorist
infrastructure and in order to secure the release of Cpl
Shalit. In the course of the operations, the IDF engaged
in intense fighting with Palestinian gunmen, who chose
heavily populated areas as their battlegrounds. The IDF
takes every measure to prevent harm to civilians, often at
a risk to its soldiers."
The forgotten war in the Middle East
* 25 June: Palestinian gunmen from the Hamas-linked
Izzedine al-Qassam brigades cross from Gaza into Israel
and launch a raid on an Israeli military patrol. Two
Israeli soldiers are killed, four wounded and one, Cpl
Gilad Shalit, is captured and taken back into Gaza.
* 28 June: Israel masses troops before launching a
reoccupation of the Gaza Strip under the codename
Operation Summer Rains. Civilian casualties mount as
Israeli forces search the Khan Younis refugee camp for Cpl
* 12 July: Mimicking the tactics of Palestinian militants,
Hizbollah launches mortars and rockets into northern
Israel from southern Lebanon to divert attention from a
cross-border raid that ambushes an Israeli military
patrol, killing three soldiers and capturing two others.
The raid threatens to draw the whole Middle East into
* 13 July: International attention is diverted from Gaza
as Israel launches a full military invasion of southern
Lebanon in response to Hizbollah's attack. The mounting
civilian death toll across Gaza pales in comparison to
Lebanon as Israeli jets pummel infrastructure.
* 24 July: As world powers frantically search for a
UN-backed ceasefire in Lebanon, Israel increases its
bombardment of the Gaza Strip in an attempt to force
Palestinian militants to release Cpl Shalit. Under the
codename Operation Samson's Pillars, Israeli jets pound
Gaza's roads and buildings, including the power station.
* 14 August: UN approves a ceasefire for Lebanon after
four weeks of fighting which has left approximately 1,500
Lebanese and 150 Israelis dead. International community
continues to ignore the conflict in Gaza over fears that
Lebanon could slip back into warfare unless a UN
peacekeeping force arrives in the region.
* Mid-August-present: Israel continues to carry out air
strikes and raids in Gaza. At least 33 civilians have been
killed since the beginning of August, 10 of whom were
under the age of 18.
Names of children under the age of 18 killed during the
operations mounted by the Israeli military in Gaza since
25 June, according to the Palestinian Centre of Human
Bara Nasser Habib, 3 (hit by shrapnel to the head and
body, Gaza City, 26 July)
Shahed Saleh Al-Sheikh Eid, 3 days old (bled to death
after airstrike, Al-Shouka, 4 August)
Rajaa Salam Abu Shaban, 3 (died of fractured skull
in air raid, Gaza City, 9 August)
Jihad Selmi Abu Snaima, 14 (killed by a shell,
Al-Shoukha, 10 september)
Khaled Nidal Wahba, 15 months (died of wounds from
an airstrike, 10 July)
Rawan Farid Hajjaj, 6 (killed with his mother and
sister in an airstrike, Gaza City,8 July)
Anwar Ismail Abdul Ghani Atallah, 12 (shot in
the head, Erez, 5 July)
Shadi Yousef Omar 16 (shot in the chest by IDF,
Beit Lahya, 7 July)
Mahfouth Farid Nuseir, 16 (killed by missile while
playing football, Beit Hanoun, 11 July)
Ahmad Ghalib Abu Amsha, 16, (killed by missile
while playing football, Beit Hanoun, 11 July)
Ahmad Fathi Shabat, 16 (killed by missile while
playing football, Beit Hanoun, 11 July)
Walid Mahmoud El-Zeinati, 12 (died of shrapnel
wounds, Gaza City, 11 July)
Basma Salmeya, 16 (killed in Israeli
airstrike, 12 July, Jabalia)
Somaya Salmeya, 17 (killed in Israeli
airstrike, 12 July, Jabalia)
Aya Salmeya, 9 (killed in Israeli
airstrike, Jabalia, 12 July)
Yehya Salmeya, 10 (killed in Israeli
airstrike, Jabalia, 12 July)
Nasr Salmeya, 7 (killed in Israeli airstrike,
Jabalia, 12 July)
Huda Salmeya, 13 (killed in Israeli
airstrike, Jabalia, 12 July)
Eman Salmeya, 12 (killed in Israeli
airstrike, Jabalia, 12 July)
Raji Omar Jaber Daifallah, 16 (died of shrapnel
wounds from missile, Gaza City, 13 July)
Ali Kamel Al-Najjar, 16 (killed by Israeli tank
shell, Al-Maghazi refugee camp, 19 July)
Ahmed Ali Al-Na'ami, 16 (killed by Israeli tank
shell, Al-Maghazi refugee camp, 19 July)
Ahmed Rawhi Abu Abdu, 14 (killed by drone missile,
Al Nusairat refugee camp, 19 July)
Mohammed 'awad Muhra, 14 (killed by Israeli
bullet to the chest, Al-Maghazi refugee
camp, 20 July)
Fadwa Faisal Al-'arrouqi, 13 (died from shrapnel
wounds, Gaza City, 20 July)
Saleh Ibrahim Nasser, 14 (killed by artillery
fire, Beit Hanoun, 24 July)
Khitam Mohammed Rebhi Tayeh, 11 (killed by artillery
fire, Beit Hanoun, 24 July)
Ashraf 'abdullah 'awad Abu Zaher, 14
(shot in the back, Khan Younis, 25 July)
Nahid Mohammed Fawzi Al-Shanbari, 16
(killed by artillery fire, Beit Hanoun, 31 July)
'aaref Ahmed Abu Qaida, 14
(killed by artillery fire, Beit Hanoun, 1 August)
Anis Salem Abu Awad, 12 (killed by airstike,
Al-Shouka, 2 August)
Ammar Rajaa Al-Natour, 17 (killed by drone missile,
Al Shouka, 5 August)
Kifah Rajaa Al-Natour, 15 (killed by drone missile,
Al Shouka, 5 August)
Ibrahim Suleiman Al-Rumailat, 13 (killed by drone missile,
Al Shouka, 5 August)
Ahmed Yousef 'abed 'aashour, 13 (killed by missile
fire, Beit Hanoun, 14 August)
Mohammed 'abdullah Al-Ziq, 14 (killed by drone missile,
Gaza City, 29 August)
Nidal 'abdul 'aziz Al-Dahdouh, 14
(killed by rifle fire, Gaza City, 30 August)
Jihad Selmi Abu Snaima, 14 (killed by artillery
fire, Rafah, 10 September)
Monday, September 18, 2006
15 September 2006
Palestinians face major difficulties in Gaza, including
shortages of food and a crippled fishing industry because
of the continued conflict with Israel, the United Nations
food agency warned today, as it distributes aid to almost
a quarter of a million of those most in need.
"Gaza's food security remains an issue of serious concern,
the World Food Programme (WFP) says. Naval restrictions
continue to block all boats from fishing off-shore,
crippling the fishing industry," UN spokesman Marie Okabe
told reporters in New York.
"Furthermore, Gaza's agricultural markets continue to
suffer from access restrictions. WFP is distributing food
to 220,000 of the most vulnerable people among Gaza's
Also on the humanitarian front, the UN Children's Fund
(UNICEF) has delivered five water tankers to
municipalities in Gaza with damaged water networks, and
also stepped up support for vaccination services in the
northern West Bank, she added.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Wednesday that
following an agreement between Palestinian President
Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas on forming a unity Government, the
diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East, which includes the
UN, will meet next week to discuss these developments and
possible ways to provide humanitarian assistance to the
International donors have baulked at funding the Hamas-led
Palestinian Government because it has yet to renounce
violence and the continuing conflict with Israel has led
to what Mr. Annan described as a "very desperate and
serious situation" in the occupied territory.
The diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East - comprising the
UN, United States, European Union (EU) and the Russian
Federation - are sponsoring the Road Map plan for a
two-State solution, with Israel and Palestine living side
by side in peace, however Mr. Annan has lamented its lack
Over the past few months there have been several
high-level UN meetings on the worsening plight of the
Palestinians in the occupied territory and last week a UN
conference of Civil Society in Support of the Palestinian
People adopted a plan of action aimed at addressing their
Friday, September 15, 2006
12 September 2006
WEST BANK - Six months of a crippling international
embargo on the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) has
brought its economy to a virtual standstill. As a result,
children are being driven increasingly to find work to
help support their families.
"After my father became jobless, I joined my friends to
work at the checkpoint in order to support my 11-member
family," said Subhi Abdullah 16, referring to his
unofficial job at al-Hawawer Israeli checkpoint in the
West Bank city of Hebron.
The embargo followed the democratic election of a
Hamas-led government in February. Hamas is considered a
terrorist organisation by the West and Israel.
With a population of 4.2 million people, oPt comprises the
West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.
While plans were announced on Monday for a Palestinian
unity government that could meet conditions to have the
embargo lifted, ordinary Palestinians continue to suffer.
According to the Palestine Central Bureau of Statistics
(PCBS), 40,000 children under 18 work in oPt - 73 percent
of whom were forced to work due to severe financial
Subhi goes to al-Hawawer checkpoint every morning,
dragging his steel handcart behind him. He competes with
other boys to get two or three shekels (45 to 70 US cents)
a time for carrying the luggage of travellers.
Forty percent of the West Bank has been under the limited
civilian jurisdiction of the Palestinian government since
the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, while Israel
maintains overall control - hence the checkpoints.
"One man's poison is another man's meat," said Subhi, when
asked what he felt about the existence of the checkpoints.
Israel has set up hundreds of checkpoints across the West
Bank for "security reasons", its army says. These
checkpoints make it difficult for Palestinians to move
freely from town to town; sometimes even from village to
Subhi said he leaves home at daybreak. He goes to school
first, then to the checkpoint. By the time he gets back
home in the evening, he is completely worn out. "My
studies have been negatively affected. I do not have
enough time to study. I think it is useless," said Subhi.
Abdul Rahman, 14, from al-Khader village near Bethlehem,
works at the al-Khader checkpoint. He prefers working than
going to school.
"I impatiently wait for the school bell to ring. And when
it does, I take my handcart, which I leave beside my
school, and rush to the checkpoint. I leave my school bag
with my younger brother, who takes it home," Abdul Rahman
said. "I start looking around with my colleagues to get
travellers' bags and transfer them to the other side of
While these checkpoint children or 'the little porters',
as they are sometimes called, are of great benefit to
travellers, NGOs and relief agencies are concerned with
their welfare and with the impact of the checkpoints on
the Palestinian population.
The United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) has said that
the prevalence of checkpoints coupled with Israel's
intermittent curfews are hampering the education system in
oPt. More than 225,000 children and 9,300 teachers in the
West Bank face a daily struggle to get to school
According to the children's agency, two thirds of
Palestinian children live below the poverty line (US$2 a
day), 38 percent of Palestinian children are anaemic and
23 percent of students and 36 percent of teachers are
unable to get to school on any given day.
A Palestinian Child Draft Law states that it is forbidden
to employ children below 15 years of age. It stipulates
that the state should take all appropriate procedures to
rehabilitate working children - physically and
While the little porters continue to relieve travellers'
burdens, no one is helping them relieve theirs.
This item comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian news
and information service, but may not necessarily reflect
the views of the United Nations or its agencies. All IRIN
material may be reposted or reprinted free-of-charge;
refer to the copyright page for conditions of use. IRIN is
a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
September 11, 2006
State of Chutzpah
By URI AVNERY
IN EVERY language there are some words that cannot be properly translated into any other. It seems that they express something intimately connected with the speakers of that language and rooted in their history, traditions and reality. Such words become international expressions, appearing in other languages in their original form.
For example, the German word "Schadenfreude". Or the English word "gentleman" and the American word 'business". Or the Russian word "pogrom" (originally meaning devastation). Or the Japanese word "kamikaze" (divine wind, the title given to suicide bombers). Or the Mexican "manana" and the similar Arabic "bukra" (both meaning tomorrow. The difference between them? The joke says: Bukra is not so urgent.) And, lately, the Palestinian "intifada".
The most prominent Hebrew addition to this international lexicon is "chutzpah", a word that has no equivalent in any other language. Some English words may come close (impertinence, cheek, insolence, impudence), but none conveys the full meaning of this Hebrew-Yiddish expression. It seems that it reflects something that is especially characteristic of Jewish reality, which was transferred to the State of Israel, which defines itself as a "Jewish State".
THE PRESIDENT of Israel is supposed to symbolize the common denominator of all our citizens. Therefore it is proper for him to symbolize this trait, too.
And indeed, it is difficult to imagine a more quintessential chutzpah than the behavior of His Excellency, President Moshe Katzav. He is the supreme symbol of Israeli chutzpah.
Katzav has been accused of the sexual harassment of several women who worked for him in the President's office, as well as in his earlier public offices. At least three of them accused him of rape.
Such accusations are, of course, far from a conviction. The investigation is still going on.
The President, like any other citizen, must be presumed innocent until found guilty in court. It is quite possible that in the end he will not even be indicted, or--if this happens--that he will be acquitted, though perhaps only for lack of proof.
But that is not the point. The point is that the President of the state, like Caesar's wife, must be above suspicion. It is sufficient that there be reasonable grounds for suspecting the President--such as a criminal investigation--for him to resign his office. If he is later acquitted, so much the better.
Let it be clear: I have nothing against Moshe Katzav personally. On the contrary, I have praised him on TV for his readiness, in spite of belonging to the Likud, to listen to Arab citizens. I once brought to him a delegation of leaders from the West Bank, and he treated them with the utmost courtesy.
But as a citizen of Israel I am ashamed. The affair in which he is involved dishonors the office and, indirectly, the entire state. "Citizen Number 1" has become the butt of jokes.
One thing can be said in his favor: in his chutzpah, too, he symbolizes the state, or, at least, the ruling elite.
THE KING of chutzpah, its very personification, is the Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert.
If he had a gram of shame, the minimum of decency, he would have resigned the day after the cease-fire. There is no need for an inquiry to decide the obvious: that he is guilty of a long line of disasters that have caused the death of a thousand human beings, including almost 200 Israelis--men, women, old people and children.
It can be debated of what exactly to accuse Olmert: the starting of an unnecessary and hopeless war (as I believe), or "only" the incompetent conduct of the campaign from start to finish. But any one of these is enough for a decent person to go home and wait there for the results of the inquiries.
But Olmert does not even dream of doing that. He continues as if nothing has happened. In the US this is called "stonewalling". He stands there naked like the emperor in the children's story. All the promises he made only a few months ago, during the election campaign, have dissipated like smoke in the wind. He has no political plan left. He has not even the ability to carry out any plan, if he had one. He has no time to think about anything, except his political survival.
Winston Churchil once said about a former British Prime Minister: "The right honorable gentleman sometimes stumbles on the truth, but he always hurries on as if nothing has happened." Olmert, similarly, hurries on his way.
He objects to the investigation of the war through the instruments prescribed by law. He tries to set up a whitewash investigation by an unquestioningly loyal group chosen by himself. He goes on using every opportunity to make another of his banal, cliché-laden speeches, which do not contain a single word of truth, or even of interest.
That is chutzpah. Not chutzpah in the harmless, jocular sense often signified by this word, but a dangerous, rude and aggressive chutzpah. In practice, the state remains without leadership. It is unable to take bold decisions in a situation which demands them. His personal survival overshadows everything else, from the problem of the prisoner exchange to the daily killing of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
It must be stated again and again: the state is not private property. It is not some booty that belongs to whoever has succeeded in laying his hands on it, accidentally or not. It is a national treasure entrusted by the citizens to a particular politician, which must be given back by him if he is proven unable or incompetent to exercise his duties. Any other attitude is chutzpah.
NO NEED to waste words on the chutzpah of Amir Peretz. It speaks for itself.
He bears personal responsibility for all the blunders of the war, from the unthinking decision to start it, up to the last military decision. From the boastful beginning to the bitter end he showed a shocking inadequacy. A decent person would have resigned the moment the guns fell silent. His refusal is chutzpah.
The chutzpah of Peretz is almost bizarre. He achieved political power on the basis of his explicit promise to carry out basic social reforms. Not only did he ignore this promise, he did the very opposite. His effort to continue now as if nothing has happened and even to present himself as a social leader is pathetic.
BUT EVEN these three champions--Katzav, Olmert and Peretz--pale in comparison with Dan Halutz.
Together with likeminded people I demonstrated opposite the Ministry of Defense when he was sworn in as Chief-of-Staff. It was clear to us that such a person, who had behaved as he did behave and who had said what he did say was not fit to lead the Israeli army. But even we did not foresee in our wildest imagination that in such a short time, and in such an extreme manner, he would confirm our darkest forebodings.
From a purely military point of view, Halutz is the greatest failure in the annals of the Israeli army. From a human point of view, he justified the prophecy that he has a brilliant future in the court of The Hague. From a political point of view, his understanding equals that of a primary school pupil (if the pupil community will excuse me.)
The boastfulness of the Air force, the arrogance of an incompetent general, the brutality of a person who is able to bring tragedy to hundreds of thousands without batting an eyelid--all of these were exposed during the war.
As has been published, he told the government on the sixth day of the war that from that moment on there was no possibility of achieving anything more. Said so and did not demand to stop, said so and went on with the killing and destroying, day after day, night after night. On the eve of the cease-fire he sent his soldiers into a militarily senseless, completely unnecessary offensive, in which the lives of 33 of his soldiers were sacrificed.
But Dan Halutz does not resign. It doesn't even enter his mind. This week, at a meeting of former generals, accusations and even insults were slung at him, and he did not budge.
A decent person would have resigned at once. It is clear that an officer who has failed in this manner, who is so much distrusted by the army, cannot carry out the general overhaul demanded now--the replacing of the entire general Staff, and especially the replacing of all the commanders who were in charge of the campaign. Can a person who refuses to bear the responsibility for this entire bungled campaign demand that his subordinates shoulder theirs?
When chutzpah is the norm in the army--what chance is there for its rehabilitation?
I KNOW, there are several arguments for keeping the champions of chutzpah in office. There are no obvious alternatives. The bad may be replaced by worse. Olmert's resignation may lead to new elections, in which the more extreme Right may win. His resignation may also lead to the inclusion in the government of Avigdor Liberman, compared to whom the Frenchman Le Pen and the Austrian Haider are bleeding-heart liberals. Who can guess who and what might come after Halutz?
All these arguments are valid, but they must give way to one simple demand: Chutzpah must not be allowed to reign. The acceptance of personal responsibility by the directors of the government and the army is an essential feature of a healthy society. It is a simple moral imperative, like the categorical imperative of Kant, an imperative that does not allow for any compromise.The Talmud warns against "chutzpah towards heaven" (God). We must warn against chutzpah towards civil society, the sovereign on earth.
Monday, September 11, 2006
Ever see the movie; THE FISHER KING? I’m reminded of a scene in that movie where Jeff Bridges character is sitting next to a homeless man played by Tom Waits. The two are in Grand Central Station in
“He didn’t even look at you.”
“They pay so they don’t have to look.” Replies Waits.
Whenever someone tries to call out the injustice that is being perpetrated upon the Palestinians, calls of anti-Semitism bathe the air like dew in the morning. Never mind that the UN under-secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs has said; “There is no hope in
What matters, as President Bush seems apt to repeat; “
In 1967 after the first Arab/Israeli War, we offered
a mutual defense treaty with the rationale that perhaps this
would give the Arabs pause from attacking
again, and Israel
give us a certain leverage over the Israelis. And guess what?
The Israelis said, "Thanks, but no thanks."
I was surprised to hear that. I asked the people who were
involved in this, who happen to be involved in Veteran
Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, including one person
who was actually in the process of making this overture to
. I said, "Why did they turn it down?" He said, "Ray,
mutual defense treaties require clearly defined
international boundaries. And the Israelis, after they took
the occupied territories in '67 and '73, didn't want any part
of clearly defined international boundaries. And also, the
Israelis really like to be able to do what they want to do.
If they want to attack
and take out the Iraq
Osirak nuclear reactor as they did in 1981
they don't want to have to ask
, they just want to do it. Washington
So they didn't want to be inhibited by any of the normally
accepted norms of behavior. If you have a mutual defense treaty,
you usually tell the other partner what you're going to do, if
you are going to invade or bomb another country."
only “supposed” militants, but also innocent civilians, The US Congress accepts
money from APIAC in their proverbial coffee cups so they don’t have to look at what
is really going on in this “so called” democracy.
Saturday, September 09, 2006
September 7, 2006
"Gaza is a jail. Nobody is allowed to leave. We are all starving now."
Gaza is Dying
By PATRICK COCKBURN
Gaza is dying. The Israeli siege of the Palestinian enclave is so tight that its people are on the edge of starvation. Here on the shores of the Mediterranean a great tragedy is taking place that is being ignored because the world's attention has been diverted by wars in Lebanon and Iraq.
A whole society is being destroyed. There are 1.5 million Palestinians imprisoned in the most heavily populated area in the world. Israel has stopped all trade. It has even forbidden fishermen to go far from the shore so they wade into the surf to try vainly to catch fish with hand-thrown nets.
Many people are being killed by Israeli incursions that occur every day by land and air. A total of 262 people have been killed and 1,200 wounded, of whom 60 had arms or legs amputated, since 25 June, says Dr Juma al-Saqa, the director of the al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City which is fast running out of medicine. Of these, 64 were children and 26 women. This bloody conflict in Gaza has so far received only a fraction of the attention given by the international media to the war in Lebanon.
It was on June 25 that the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was taken captive and two other soldiers were killed by Palestinian militants who used a tunnel to get out of the Gaza Strip. In the aftermath of this, writes Gideon Levy in the daily Haaretz, the Israeli army "has been rampaging through Gaza - there's no other word to describe it - killing and demolishing, bombing and shelling, indiscriminately". Gaza has essentially been reoccupied since Israeli troops and tanks come and go at will. In the northern district of Shajhayeh they took over several houses last week and stayed five days. By the time they withdrew, 22 Palestinians had been killed, three houses were destroyed and groves of olive, citrus and almond trees had been bulldozed.
Fuad al-Tuba, the 61-year-old farmer who owned a farm here, said: "They even destroyed 22 of my bee-hives and killed four sheep." He pointed sadly to a field, its brown sandy earth churned up by tracks of bulldozers, where the stumps of trees and broken branches with wilting leaves lay in heaps. Near by a yellow car was standing on its nose in the middle of a heap of concrete blocks that had once been a small house.
His son Baher al-Tuba described how for five days Israeli soldiers confined him and his relatives to one room in his house where they survived by drinking water from a fish pond. "Snipers took up positions in the windows and shot at anybody who came near," he said. "They killed one of my neighbors called Fathi Abu Gumbuz who was 56 years old and just went out to get water."
Sometimes the Israeli army gives a warning before a house is destroyed. The sound that Palestinians most dread is an unknown voice on their cell phone saying they have half an hour to leave their home before it is hit by bombs or missiles. There is no appeal.
But it is not the Israeli incursions alone that are destroying Gaza and its people. In the understated prose of a World Bank report published last month, the West Bank and Gaza face "a year of unprecedented economic recession. Real incomes may contract by at least a third in 2006 and poverty to affect close to two thirds of the population." Poverty in this case means a per capita income of under $2 a day.
There are signs of desperation everywhere. Crime is increasing. People do anything to feed their families. Israeli troops entered the Gaza industrial zone to search for tunnels and kicked out the Palestinian police. When the Israelis withdrew they were replaced not by the police but by looters. On one day this week there were three donkey carts removing twisted scrap metal from the remains of factories that once employed thousands.
"It is the worst year for us since 1948 [when Palestinian refugees first poured into Gaza]," says Dr Maged Abu-Ramadan, a former ophthalmologist who is mayor of Gaza City. "Gaza is a jail. Neither people nor goods are allowed to leave it. People are already starving. They try to live on bread and falafel and a few tomatoes and cucumbers they grow themselves."
The few ways that Gazans had of making money have disappeared. Dr Abu-Ramadan says the Israelis "have destroyed 70 per cent of our orange groves in order to create security zones." Carnations and strawberries, two of Gaza's main exports, were thrown away or left to rot. An Israeli air strike destroyed the electric power station so 55 per cent of power was lost. Electricity supply is now becoming almost as intermittent as in Baghdad.
The Israeli assault over the past two months struck a society already hit by the withdrawal of EU subsidies after the election of Hamas as the Palestinian government in March. Israel is withholding taxes owed on goods entering Gaza. Under US pressure, Arab banks abroad will not transfer funds to the government.
Two thirds of people are unemployed and the remaining third who mostly work for the state are not being paid. Gaza is now by far the poorest region on the Mediterranean. Per capita annual income is $700, compared with $20,000 in Israel. Conditions are much worse than in Lebanon where Hizbollah liberally compensates war victims for loss of their houses. If Gaza did not have enough troubles this week there were protest strikes and marches by unpaid soldiers, police and security men. These were organized by Fatah, the movement of the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, which lost the election to Hamas in January. His supporters marched through the streets waving their Kalashnikovs in the air. "Abu Mazen you are brave," they shouted. "Save us from this disaster." Sour-looking Hamas gunmen kept a low profile during the demonstration but the two sides are not far from fighting it out in the streets.
The Israeli siege and the European boycott are a collective punishment of everybody in Gaza. The gunmen are unlikely to be deterred. In a bed in Shifa Hospital was a sturdy young man called Ala Hejairi with wounds to his neck, legs, chest and stomach. "I was laying an anti-tank mine last week in Shajhayeh when I was hit by fire from an Israeli drone," he said. "I will return to the resistance when I am better. Why should I worry? If I die I will die a martyr and go to paradise."
His father, Adel, said he was proud of what his son had done adding that three of his nephews were already martyrs. He supported the Hamas government: "Arab and Western countries want to destroy this government because it is the government of the resistance."
As the economy collapses there will be many more young men in Gaza willing to take Ala Hejairi's place. Untrained and ill-armed most will be killed. But the destruction of Gaza, now under way, will ensure that no peace is possible in the Middle East for generations to come.Patrick Cockburn is the author of 'The Occupation: War, resistance and daily life in Iraq', to be published by Verso in October
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Rights group says 197 civilians have been killed in
military operation, including 48 minors
By Rory McCarthy in Gaza City
7 September 2006
On a humid afternoon, an hour or two after lunch, Nadi
al-Attar, 12, set off on a donkey-drawn cart with his
grandmother Khariya and two of his young cousins to pick
figs from a small orchard near their home in northern
Ahmed, 17, one of the cousins, remembers the moment when
the shell struck, but pauses as he tells his story to
nervously rub the muscles at the top of his thighs. The
shell that hit their cart that afternoon sliced off his
left leg just above the knee and his right leg halfway up
his calf. He still has an aching pain in his bandaged
They had stopped the cart and two of the boys jumped off.
"They went to collect something, some metal bars, and then
they came back to the cart," he said. The boys hoped to
sell the strips of metal for scrap. The Palestinian Centre
for Human Rights (PCHR) later determined that the metal
came from a launcher for a Qassam, one of the crude
rockets launched by Palestinian militants from Gaza into
Israel. Qassams had been fired from the area that morning,
though the militants had since left.
"Then the shell struck. I saw my mother [Khariya] dead and
Nadi killed. I saw them dead on the ground," Ahmed said.
"I looked down and then I saw my legs were cut away."
Human rights field workers believe an artillery shell,
fired from an Israeli military position not far away at
the border with the Gaza Strip, hit the cart. Several were
fired that day, July 24 - one day in a long and damaging
Israeli military operation.
"I think it happened because of the metal we were
collecting," Ahmed said. "But we were just going to the
farm." He was taken to hospital with another cousin,
Shadi, who was wounded in the stomach by shrapnel. Nadi
and Khariya, 58, were killed instantly.
"We had lunch together," said Nadi's father, Habib, 36.
"Then he went with his grandmother and never came back."
The deaths are not an isolated case. For the past two
months, while the world's attention in the Middle East has
been focused on the conflict in Lebanon, the Israeli
military has led a wave of intense operations along the
length of the Gaza Strip. It began after the capture of an
Israeli soldier, Corporal Gilad Shalit, by Palestinian
militants on June 25. The Israeli military said its
operations were intended to free Cpl Shalit and to halt
Qassam rocket fire. Early on the Israelis bombed Gaza's
only power plant and they have kept Gaza's crossing points
to Israel and Egypt closed for most of the time.
Since the start of the operation, codenamed Summer Rain,
at least 240 Palestinians have been killed. One in five
were children. According to the PCHR, which has
investigated each case, 197 of the dead were civilians and
the vast majority were killed in Gaza. Among them were 12
women and 48 children.
Yesterday an Israeli military spokesman said his forces
did not target civilians. "Our actions are targeted only
at terrorist organisations, terror activities and
infrastructure," he said. "It can happen that innocent
people are hit. But the responsibility does not lie with
the Israeli army, but rather with the terror groups who
are working within civilian populations without any regard
to the danger they are causing."
More than two months into the Gaza operation Israel has
still not secured the release of Cpl Shalit or stopped
Qassam rocket fire.
"We believe that the whole offensive against the Gaza
Strip is characterised by being an act of revenge and
retaliation in which civilians are paying the price," said
Hamdi Shaqqura, a founder member of the PCHR in Gaza City.
"They have demonstrated total disregard for the rights of
innocent Palestinian civilians. There has been an
excessive use of force, a disproportionate use of force in
civilian areas, and that explains the high toll of death."
Mr Shaqqura also condemned the Palestinian militants for
launching the Qassams and for firing them from civilian
areas. "This is illegal and we have called on them to
stop," he said.
Many relatives of those killed by the Israelis in Gaza
have been equally critical of the rocket attacks. "We get
nothing out of it," said Muhammad al-Attar, 23, another of
Nadi's cousins. "After they launch rockets we get killed
and they destroy our farms."
A few hours after the donkey cart was hit a shell was
fired into Beit Hanoun, another district of northern Gaza.
It killed Khitam Tayeh, 11, who was on her way to the
shops after school with her sister Nuha, 12. Nuha was hit
by a piece of shrapnel in her left thigh, but survived.
Khitam had a severe head injury and died in hospital.
"I carried her in from the ambulance and took her to the
operating room in my arms," said her father, Muhammad 48.
"Then she died. They couldn't do anything." He showed
several framed photographs of his daughter, with long dark
hair and wide brown eyes. Two bright stars had been
superimposed in the background.
Mr Tayeh has collected a box of shrapnel from the scene, a
couple of dozen sharp, rigid shards of metal, each three
or four inches long, and talks of bringing a legal case
against the Israeli military. Like many, a year ago he had
hoped that life in Gaza would improve when Israeli
settlers were withdrawn, in what seemed a ground-breaking
"People expected it would get better, but it's been the
opposite," he said. "Don't tell me they withdrew. It's
like they didn't leave. They are everywhere."
On the eastern side of Gaza, in Shujaiya, Hussam
al-Sirsawi, 12, was with his friends standing on the
street watching Israeli troops fighting against militants
in the distance on August 27. He was badly injured by a
piece of shrapnel and died three days later.
"You know how children are when they hear something
happen. They want to go and see," said his uncle Nasser
al-Sirsawi, 37. "I can't say why the Israelis killed him.
These army people are full of hatred. Maybe these kids
went to watch some resistance people and they were in the
wrong place. To kill a child like this is not natural." On
the wall opposite his cloth shop there is graffiti
dedicated to his nephew. "Hussam," it says, "we swear to
God you won." "Of course," said his uncle, "he's a
Two days later there was another incident in Shujaiya,
when again a group of children were watching the fighting.
Either a tank shell or a large chunk of shrapnel flew at
them and hit Muhammad al-Ziq, 14, on the head. He died
instantly. "I think sometimes they just want the
Palestinians to pay," said his uncle, Ziad al-Ziq, 36. "He
was with children wanting to see what was happening. There
was no excuse for what happened."
All of the dead and most of the injured pass through the
Shifa hospital in Gaza City. Staff photograph the bodies
of the dead - they call the victims "martyrs" - and
document their injuries. Juma'a al-Saqqa called up a
picture on his computer screen of Muhammad al-Ziq, an
appalling image of the boy lying on his side on a metal
morgue table, the side of his head sliced away. In the
past two months the hospital's doctors have dealt with
1,280 injured from the military operations, a third of
whom were children. The doctors performed 60 amputations.
Dr Saqqa flicks through the photographic record, images of
bodies charred beyond recognition, flesh no longer human
in form. Many of the figures were young children, at least
one in a shredded blue school uniform. "We have passed
through the worst situation we have ever come across in
our years of work," he said. "But this is our situation.
What can we do? We raised our voices to the world, but
In another of Israel's daffy moves, Jewish lobbying groups are putting pressure on the US government to levy sactions against Iran, for it's continued nuclear program.
When I told a visiting Israeil friend of mine about this, he looked on at me and said; "Seems rather an odd thing to do. Iran is a signator of the Nuclear prolifiration treaty and Israel isn't. They really aren't in a position to tell anyone anything in regards to this issue"
Strange times indeed.
Monday, September 04, 2006
And now let’s check in with our meteorologist Skip Haegel for the latest on the “Summer Rains” in
The “summer rains” that began falling on
It appears that these low lying clouds have moved on to other parts of the country over this period of time. It seems the storms which were solely supposed to be headed for Gaza have shifted a bit and begun heading towards the West Bank where many folks have been stranded at checkpoints, oftentimes pregnant women trying to get to hospitals.
Now I have to say that this storm ended up being far more reaching that even I would have figured it could get. The winds of war had a far reaching effect in the State of Lebanon where they did significant damage to infrastructure and loss of civilian life. In fact as a result of the carnage due to two storms combining together in the area of
After the onslaught of bombs raining down on both
So what can we expect in the weeks and months ahead? Well, for sure the summer rains will continue to fall upon the Palestinian people, as the World barely takes notice. Expect expulsions of residents in The West Bank, due to flooding of settlers in the area. And if the weather tracking is correct we can expect Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to push the rain into parts of
Well that’s it from the weather center. I have more on this storm later in the week. And remember folks there are things you can do to stop this storm from getting any more out of hand than it already has. Write to your elected officials and demand that they help out with humanitarian assistance; insist that a boycott of Israeli goods and services be implemented to slow down the path of this storm, and as the Priests in Jerusalem have done, condemn the evil known as Christian Zionism.
Reporting live from cyberspace, this is Skip Haegel.