this cutie was taken by Crazyegg95 in 2005 and is from flickr

for the main blog of poetry, whimsy and maybe beauty, now

Saturday, 31 January 2009

A few videos

This was shown in the U.S. recently about life in the West Bank.

Database reveals full extent of illegal settlement, (Ha'aretz, 31st January, 2009).

Settlement is theft, secret idf report confirms.

I ask my mother to sing

She begins, and my grandmother joins her.
Mother and daughter sing like young girls.
If my father were alive, he would play
his accordion and sway like a boat.
I've never been in Peking, or the Summer Palace,
nor stood on the great Stone Boat to watch
the rain begin on Kuen Ming Lake, the picnickers
running away in the grass.
But I love to hear it sung;
how the waterlilies fill with rain until
they overturn, spilling water into water,
then rock back, and fill with more,
Both women have begun to cry.
But neither stops her song.

Li-Young Lee

another favourite to see out the first month of the new year. maybe for morph, because she liked the other one.

and, I'm just going to add this song. I don't know why I never had it on the blog before.


Imagine your house had been bulldozed, you’d been given 5 minutes to leave it, not been allowed to collect any of those cherished possessions, you’d not had the foresight to gather all the most important documents and memorabilia and keep them by the door anticipating such an event, you’d been commanded to run away run to the nearest city or you’d be killed, you’d watched from a distance as the military dozer ate your house, and you’d been too terrified (with reason) of being shot at if you tried to later return and collect belongings …so terrified you didn’t.

That was Manwa and Sharifa, mother and daughter, living in a house just a hundred metres from Gaza’s eastern border.

Stately Manwa, short and broad and strong and smiling. A month and a half ago when we met she’d grinned, grinned, in welcome and in her customary nature. She’d already lost much of her land to Israel’s “buffer zone” the 300m (in other areas more than half a kilometer) band of land along Gaza’s borders with Israel. This ‘buffer zone’ is one of Israel’s many contrived ['for security'] land-grabs, as is the Separation Wall ['security barrier'] eating the West Bank, the closed military zones throughout the West Bank, the Jewish-only roads dissecting the West Bank, and Israel’s latest: the extended ‘buffer zone’ now declared a ‘closed military zone’ from the eastern border out 1 km. Manwa’s is but one of many households who’ve been forced off their land –in Gaza!! in Gaza!!! NOT in Israel. This is Palestinian land, it must be highlighted. Palestinian land, it must be screamed –after Israel’s military assault on Gaza (the one that has killed over 1400 now…).

At 2:30 pm January 17, 4 massive Israeli tanks and 1 towering military bulldozer accompanied a smaller military bulldozer and invading, occupying Israeli soldiers as they blazed towards Manwa’s, yelling through a megaphone, ordering them to get out of the house. Sharifa, 22, left first. Soldiers asked her if there were any men inside the house, to which she replied ‘no’. Manwa came next, also with hands in the air. The question was repeated, soldiers not believing the women could stay by themselves, telling the women as much.

It was 3 weeks after Israel’s Gaza-wide air-strikes began, and the fact that Manwa and Sharifa had stuck it out alone in that isolated area is incredible.

“They told me our house was now in a closed military zone,” Manwas said. “They said it was a ‘decision from the top’ and that we had to leave immediately and walk towards Gaza,” she said. “I refused, and tried to negotiate with them for time to gather our belongings. They refused.”

Manwa was a safe distance away, watching, when the Israeli soldiers bulldozed her house at 5 pm that day.

Read more at the In Gaza blog.

Friday, 30 January 2009

faking it

They say that those who fake injuries for compensation end up becoming sick as they have to pretend to be sick for most of their lives in order to fool assessors, neighbours, anyone who might be watching. I don't think it applies to orgasm as I guess we don't have to prove our bliss 24/7. Accordingly, if one lies enough, I guess one has to live and come to believe those lies.

At the Davos economic summit in Switzerland, the Turkish Prime Minister, Rcep Tayyip Erdogan, walked off the stage after challenging the words of the President of Israel, Shimon Peres after Peres stated the following as reported by CNBC.Com (after the video):

Democracy is not about elections; it's about civilizations... [Journalist's comment: insinuating that just simply the fact the Palestinian people held an election through which they voted for Hamas, that does not make them a democracy...]

According to him, there was not one day of starvation in Gaza over the course of the last few weeks...

or from the article linked just before:

There was never a day of starvation in Gaza (Peres had expressed puzzlement as to why rockets might be fired, claiming there was no siege, after assertions by Erdogan that the Gazans lived in an open air prison, governed by the Israelis, cut off from the rest of the world).

None of the crossings between Gaza and Israel, vital crossings, were ever closed.

John Ging and the United Nations are yet again liars, according to Peres. I guess at least he did not say that there was not one day of starvation over the last two months, or the year of 2008 otherwise Peres, himself, might have been lying. But of course, once a war occurs in which the main UN compound which stores food is targeted and burnt to the ground, and the goods that were allowed into Gaza were limited anyway, well then, all of a sudden people become positively Rubenesque with the abundance of supplies.

Turkey doesn't have a clean record when it comes to human rights, however, towards the end of the conference, asking for time, Erdogan said: "I find it very sad that people applaud what you said . . . You killed people. And I think that it is very wrong."

Later he added, in response to statements Peres had made:

"You kill people,". . . "I remember the children who died on beaches. I remember two former prime ministers who said they felt very happy when they were able to enter Palestine on tanks.".

He left the conference saying he would not return, however [u]ltimately, Erdogan stressed he left not because of a dispute with Peres but because he was not given time to respond to the Israeli leader's remarks. Erdogan also complained that Peres had 25 minutes while he was only given 12 minutes.

It would be nice if a few more world leaders had such sorrow, and the guts to express it.

News first sighted here.

The peace blog, Tikun Olan reports the story in more detail, and has the video of the conference. Or you can go straight to the source.

*Note, an interesting interview with Erdogan by the Washington Post (January 31, 2009).

We are not talking about the destruction of Israel

Here is a novel idea:

Hamas (again) talks about a long term truce:

"We want to be part of the international community. I think Hamas has no interest now to increase the number of crises in Gaza or to challenge the world," Hamas official Ghazi Hamad told AP.

Hamas leaders in the past have spoken about a long-term truce with Israel, saying they want international recognition as much as an end to the blockade of the impoverished Gaza Strip.

Israel nonetheless abominates the notion of engaging the Palestinian resistance movement.

(Hamas offers long-term truce for Gaza freedom, Al Jazeera, 29 January, 2009).

From Ha'aretz:

Israel's position is based on the fact that Hamas refuses to recognize its right to exist. However, the three Hamas leaders interviewed said they would accept statehood in just the West Bank and Gaza and would give up their resistance against Israel if that were achieved.

"We accept a state in the '67 borders," said Hamad. "We are not talking about the destruction of Israel."

(Hamas: We will accept long-term truce if Gaza borders opened, Ha'aretz, 29 January 2009. )

The right to return is tied up in a lot of the statements about the "right to exist". The right to return is as follows from United Nations Resolution 194, from 1949, which:

Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.

A recognised Israeli state means that the Palestinian people might then have to give up the right to return to lands they were expelled from, or might be seen as accepting this notion. If Hamas are accept[ing] statehood in just the West Bank and Gaza is this what they are implying? I might leave that one to the Mid-East scholars.

However, it seems moot to post the above as all discussions are being held with Fatah, the party that Israel would not engage with before Hamas, and a party who are widely seen as not necessarily representing the people (who did vote for Hamas). Of course "back door" negotiation will go on with Hamas through third parties.

Again from Ha'aretz, The champions of missed opportunities , there are the following words on why Israel might be so reluctant to negotiate (Avaraham Burg, January 16, 2009):

The truth is that we refuse to speak with them because we are incapable of speaking with ourselves. Every time we tried to make a mockery of them, we were pulling the wool over our own eyes. There are topics we have no problem discussing with the enemy: hummus, car repair shops and washing the floors. But when it comes to refugees and settlements, we don't have the courage to tell the truth to ourselves, nor are we ready to talk to ourselves about the part of the responsibility we bear for the refugee problem, its marginalization, political exploitation and the fact it remains unsolved to this day.

Nor are we ready to talk about the evacuation of settlers out of fear of the domestic price entailed in pulling out the agents of the occupation. We are incapable of acknowledging the fact that we have become a state of the settlers and that the Israel Defense Forces is the settler defense forces. Because of all these factors we are not talking to any Palestinian about anything of substance.

With Hamas, the conversation will be even more difficult. It will revolve around refugees, settlers, and one other thing: the religious dimension of the conflict. Are we really capable of holding a substantive dialogue about the religious significance of the conflict and the spiritual content of peace, or about how such an inter-religious dialogue will take shape in a time of war, or about the values of such a dialogue in a time of peace? Or about how all of us should put the genie of fanaticism back in the bottle?

Are there enough foundations in our midst that would allow for a non-violent religious protest against the faith-based murderousness that is killing our two nations and religions? For the time being, we don't have any. As a result, we are running away from the encounter, lest we be exposed as mutes or simpletons - or both.

As indicated above, who is not willing to negotiate? Who does not want peace in this region?

Here are a few more articles on similar topics. I have posted a number of them before. Quite a few are from Ha'aretz. I wonder if our papers will ever publish an article that comes even close to being as balanced as some of the Ha'aretz articles, even though it is an Israeli paper and naturally enough, presents the views of its country.

If we can kill them, we can talk to them

Birth pangs of a new Palestine

History did not begin with the Qassams

On the wrong side

Obama's Gaza Opportunity

Five questions for George Mitchell

The Conflict Within Hamas

The Gaza Boomerang

Israel wanted a humanitarian crisis

Oh, and here are these words of commonsense, too: Mitchell: Opening Gaza borders would help choke off Hamas smuggling, Ha'aretz, 29 January, 2009.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

The gift

To pull the metal splinter from my palm
my father recited a story in a low voice.
I watched his lovely face and not the blade.
Before the story ended, he'd removed
the iron sliver I thought I'd die from.

I can't remember the tale,
but hear his voice still, a well
of dark water, a prayer.
And I recall his hands,
two measures of tenderness
he laid against my face,
the flames of discipline
he raised above my head.

Had you entered that afternoon
you would have thought you saw a man
planting something in a boy's palm,
a silver tear, a tiny flame.
Had you followed that boy
you would have arrived here,
where I bend over my wife's right hand.

Look how I shave her thumbnail down
so carefully she feels no pain.
Watch as I lift the splinter out.
I was seven when my father
took my hand like this,
and I did not hold that shard
between my fingers and think,
Metal that will bury me,
christen it Little Assassin,
Ore Going Deep for My Heart.
And I did not lift up my wound and cry,
Death visited here!
I did what a child does
when he's given something to keep.
I kissed my father.

Li-Young Lee from The Rose , 1986.

This poem really has nothing much to do with what I have been writing, except in incidental imagery and in what people have lost, on either side of any equation of conflict. It is one of my favourites.

Try Australia

I just read this from former CIA operative, Robert Baer:

RB: In American politics, you can't do anything in the Middle East without the approval of Tel Aviv, at least on some level. It's impossible. I mean, I cannot think of a country that is so beholden to a small country like this, even a superpower, in all of history. I can't even think of it.

IPS: And why is that?

RB: Look at New York City. Look at the major newspapers. They have a Zionist agenda. They do. I'm not Jewish. I'm not anything. I don't care about the Israelis. And I'm not anti-Semitic. It's just a fact. I suggested to my publisher writing a book on Israel, and he said forget it. You can't talk about the reality of Israel. The only place you can talk about the reality of Israel is in Israel. They tell you things you will never hear in the United States.

IPS: Like what?

RB: For instance, why are people on Gaza so unhappy? Well, if you had to live in a prison, wouldn't you be unhappy? You would never get that in the New York Times. Look at the New York Times; it's almost an extension of Israel.

Ditto for Australia, and we don't even have the population.

On line might be another story.

Backed up against the borders: Miserable, but alive

It all seems so damned unnecessary. If Israel won't open its borders to let aid in, then Egypt, do. Of course Egypt can do this, but also has close ties and treaties with Israel, (and by association, the U.S.) and according to this article:

[it] maintains only the Rafah Crossing, which is primarily a pedestrian terminal and not equipped to handle heavy commercial traffic. Egyptian officials have temporarily loosened the tight restrictions on who and what they allow to pass through Rafah, but they remain either unwilling or unable to provide for the needs of Gazans, in part because Egypt does not want to assume responsibility for the territory (Crux of Gaza cease-fire: border crossings, Christian Science Monitor, 28 January, 2009).

Robert Fisk is not so charitable, and Egypt has previously said it will not open its borders while Hamas is in power.

As for the other crossings: There are five crossings into Gaza - four from Israel and one from Egypt. However, none are open in a regular or consistent way (Gaza aid stuck at sealed crossings , The Palestinian Chronicle, 28 January, 2009).

Aid is being distributed to 900,000 people , but at the same time John Ging, the head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, has said:

"The main problem remains the access to Gaza... There are thousands of tonnes of assistance generously donated sitting Egypt, Jordan and also in the ports of Israel.

"That aid should be right here, right now, helping the people who need it."

From the Christian Science Monitor:

"Unless the crossing points open, what we have are basics that are only keeping people alive. Miserable, but alive."

"There's a lot of money out there, available to be used for help, but what needs to happen is to get the crossings open," says Mr. Ging. "There are thousands of tons of aid waiting to get in, boxes and boxes of it. They're in Egypt, they're in Jordan, and they're also in Israel. We have been sitting on $97 million budgeted to us for the past year-and-a-half, but we can't get the supplies in so we don't spend it."

From earlier in this article:

He renewed US, UN and Palestinian calls for Israel to open the crossing points into Gaza to more international aid and to building materials to kickstart reconstruction.

The same information is being relayed in many news bulletins.

The following has been cited as reason for closing the borders again (28 January, 2009):

Unilateral cease-fires were holding by a thread after one Israeli soldier was killed and three wounded in a roadside bomb Tuesday; a Palestinian was also killed and one Gaza militant wounded following the bombing

However the fact that the Palestinian killed was a farmer, and a civilian, and that children being injured by Israeli shrapnel was already occurring well into the early days of this "ceasefire" is not mentioned. Anyway, that kind of thing is not new, as detailed by a similar "incident" in this 2006 Human Rights Watch Report. In addition, the strip was already living hand to mouth, and now its production capabilities have been destroyed, the factories and shops that were not already made redundant due to the ongoing siege, that is. 35,000 chickens were killed in the onslaught . How much further can Israel decimate the people of Gaza?

This has also recently been reported:

French diplomats were blocked for hours on the Jewish state's border with the Gaza Strip and Israeli soldiers fired warning shots at their convoy.

The diplomats were there to assess the reopening of border crossings and to inspect projects funded by France. (France summons Israeli envoy over Gaza border scare, Reuters, UK, 28 January, 2009).

There seems to be no limit. Does anyone remember this story of identity theft from New Zealand in 2004?

Back to the borders, or backed up against them, I guess Livni still thinks there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, there never was, and there never will be.

Those in power in Israel. I don't think there are the words to describe them.
And the latest in the tit for tat, or as medialens termed it, an eye of an eyelash cycle:

Olmert, noting that he had termed the cease-fire "fragile," also said: "We don't even call it a cease-fire but a holding of fire in the face of Hamas infractions, so that we can retain the IDF's freedom of action."

There's not much hope, is there?

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Is a child going to be better off?

The sound is very low. There is a tapescript provided in a link below. The above is part one. Part two can be found on Youtube.

The fact that Obama's first television interview since becoming President was with Al Aribiya is a strong indication of a shift in the U.S.'s foreign affairs approach to the Mid-East. Though, as the summary of the interview states:

...his continuing silence on the enormous amount of civilian casualties during the Israeli offensive and accusations by the U.N. and humanitarian organizations that Israel committed war crimes ... spoke volumes to an audience that has waited for America to take a more balanced approach to the conflict.

However, he is asked many questions about Israel and Palestine and his answers are not glib.

And, look, I think anybody who has studied the region recognizes that the situation for the ordinary Palestinian in many cases has not improved. And the bottom line in all these talks and all these conversations is, is a child in the Palestinian Territories going to be better off? Do they have a future for themselves? And is the child in Israel going to feel confident about his or her safety and security? And if we can keep our focus on making their lives better and look forward, and not simply think about all the conflicts and tragedies of the past, then I think that we have an opportunity to make real progress.

One might say he is discounting the conflicts and tragedies of the past, in the above statement, but he is also acknowledging that they exist and have existed. So, even though it might read as trying to approach the situation by stripping it of all history, the opposite might be true. He is right, within the interview, to talk about acting quickly, but words take time to transform into actions, and in the meantime, will the settlements expand, and will there be more incursions, and will the sanctions still exist? Keep in mind the following:

...The period between November 4 and December 19 ...was characterized by growing escalation by both sides, including an unprecedented tightening of the blockade by Israel and Egypt. Poverty levels climbed further into the stratosphere, malnutrition skyrocketed and essential supplies of every sort ran out. Even before the latest emergency spurred UN agencies and the Red Cross to warn of imminent collapse, former UN human rights commissioner Mary Robinson had on a November 4 visit denounced international indifference to the “shocking violation of so many human rights” of Gaza’s population as “almost unbelievable.” “Their whole civilization has been destroyed,” she concluded. “I’m not exaggerating.” (Birth Pangs of a New Palestine, Mouin Rabbani, January 7, 2009).

And now?

It seems that lifting the sanctions is one thing that, in theory, could happen very quickly. It seems that the Israelis are not going to elect a progressive government in the upcoming elections, even if this U.S. government seems to be more liberal than those in the past. And though things need to be done quickly, everything of course, takes time, and is eight years enough to even get the ball rolling?

In addition, everyone needs to come, and to be invited to the negotiation table. That means the recalcitrant Israelis, too, as detailed in *just a few* articles below.

An unnecessary war

"Problem is refusal of US, Israel to meet Hamas"

Birth pangs of a new Palestine

History did not begin with the Qassams

On the wrong side

Obama's Gaza Opportunity

Five questions for George Mitchell

It makes one wonder if Kevin Rudd might be thinking that he was a little too hasty to not even murmur slight concern over the way Israel conducted itself with the war on Gaza. Was there any government in the world that agreed with Bush and Israel so completely? And was there any press in the world more insipid? Maybe this article from early in 2008 goes some way to explaining why. Or maybe he is banking on a 4 year only Obama term, while his own could, in theory, continue in perpetuity.

home is where the heart is ripped out of

Amnesty International sent a fact-finding team to Gaza following the Israeli attacks. Chris Cobb-Smith, also a military expert and an officer in the British Army for almost 20 years, said

“Gazans have had their houses looted, vandalized and desecrated. As well, the Israeli soldiers have left behind not only mounds of litter and excrement but ammunition and other military equipment. It’s not the behaviour one would expect from a professional army.”

Read more here.

Israeli soldiers leave Gaza homes devastated, (Amnesty International,23 January, 2009).
And the inevitable global result.

An interesting poster put out by the American-Arab anti-discrimination committee.


"I don't think any movement is going to take place as long as the fundamental rules are not observed - which means that if you don't talk to the principal parties, nothing much will be accomplished," he said.

"Neither the Palestinian Authority nor the Egyptian government can provide any leverage over the situation in [Hamas-run] Gaza.

"Mitchell already had a previous mission in the Middle East and it did not amount to much, so I don't know what he will do now. As long as there is no political will in the United States to work seriously in promoting the Arab peace initiative [on Israeli-Palestinian relations], I don't think a lot will be accomplished."

These are the words of Ziad Hafez, managing editor of the journal Contemporary Arab Affairs on Mitchell's appointment and current tour. Let's hope he is wrong, but really, so far no good. I think the commonsense of the people says yes, let all lead players negotiate. The cynicism of politics has a lot invested in the turmoil in the area, and from having a ready scapegoat. Meanwhile, people die and live miserable lives, in a decreasing area of land (open air prisons) with more and more restrictions. And obviously, reaction to this is going to spill over into the lives of other people, as well.

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) campaign

This is the DEC appeal which hasn't so far run on BBC or Sky TV in the U.K.. The video is here also, on their Youtube site.

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), is an umbrella organisation for 13 humanitarian aid agencies. They include the following: ActionAid, British Red Cross, CAFOD, Care International, Christian Aid, Concern, Help the Aged, Islamic Relief, Merlin, Oxfam, Save the Children, Tearfund, World Vision.

The DEC had three criteria that needed to be met before it launched the appeal, namely that there was an overwhelming unmet need, that they could do something in a timely and effective way, and that there is public concern. DEC believed that the three criteria had been met for a Gaza aid appeal.

The BBC rarely breaches an agreement made in 1963 to give free air time to public appeals, and has in fact run such appeals concerning Myanmar and the Congo and also Darfur and Kosovo while news stories have been current. The BBC felt that running this advert would make viewers question its impartiality, as the story of Gaza and Israel is definitely still unfolding. There has been a strong public outcry in the U.K. due to this decision.

Geoffrey Dennis, chief executive of the global humanitarian group Care International, said it was not a time for politics.

"As far as being impartial is concerned, that's our job... we know exactly what we are doing on the ground, there are a lot of people in real danger at the moment."

Protests are ongoing even though the appeals (aired on other TV channels) have raised more than a million pounds (AUD: 2.1 million, USD: 1.4 million).

If you wish to donate you can go to: make a donation or call 0370 6060900 (U.K.), or for Australian readers, visit Australians for Palestine for an ongoing campaign related to the above. Also, there are charities listed in the blogroll, on the right.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

palm trees, snow


The number of West Bank barriers (roadblocks, checkpoints, and other obstacles) has increased nearly 70% in the last three years, and now exceeds 625 -- this in a land about the size of Delaware. (Sandy Tolan, Mitchell's Challenge: After Gaza, Five Questions about Palestinian and Israeli Realities, 2009).
Please read Eva Bartlett's blog , too, and also view these pictures below of just how much destruction there is in Gaza which come from another Gaza blog, Tales to Tell. The pictures are from the post Temporary shelters in Jabalia , but the whole blog contains straightforward, but humane, stories of the people in Gaza at the moment. If you skip everything else in this post, read those two blogs just mentioned.

Jabalia is a refugee camp. This is what it used to look like in 2006. In view of all the destruction, This decision by the BBC and Sky TV (Murdoch owned) is unfathomable, really (Sky joins BBC on Gaza screening ban, 26 January, 2009, ITN).

As Human Rights Watch has said, and other international bodies:

Even though it withdrew its permanent military forces and settlers in 2005, Israel remains an occupying power in Gaza under international law because it continues to exercise effective day-to-day control over important aspects of Gazan life. Israel has the obligation to protect its population from rocket attacks from Gaza, but it also must ensure the safety and well-being of the Gazan population under its occupation (January 22, 2008).

These two places are pretty close to each other. I imagine the contrast between the day to day running of each place is pretty stark and severe. In the West Bank, that is further explored by Sandy Tolan's opening article.
Lastly, an interesting article on destruction of production capability in Gaza (An assault on the peace process, Donald Macintyre, The Independent, 26 January, 2009).

Monday, 26 January 2009

It's not writing, it's a video

It's not writing, it's a video!

It's not writing, it's a link! Israel's 60 minutes programme(article, Jan 25, 2009).

And the latest on the BBC refusal to run a Gaza charity appeal.

Uri Avnery and Obama .

Gong Xi Fa Cai‏

Maybe it is time to give the political writing a rest, though I do not necessarily view it as solely political. I also view it as a very human story of people who have been forgotten. I know that a lot of the things I have highlighted are not even looked at in Australia. So saying, the blogroll stays and hopefully, as those titles change every few days or so, the few readers I have might be tempted to pop in and have a look at the content. I read them too, though, and get touched by them, incensed by them, and therefore inspired by them to let off a barrage of words. I'll try to keep myself under control.

It is the Chinese New Year now. Let's hope there is an alleviation of pain all round in the year of the Ox, and that I soon wax lyrical on the whimsy.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

I'll make my point very sanely

Sanity in motion

From Channel 4.

Part of the problem was the IDF's expansive definition of a military target. It attacked a range of civilian facilities, from government offices to police stations, on the theory that they all provided at least indirect support to Hamas militants. But by that theory, Hamas would have been entitled to target virtually any government building in Israel on the ground that its office workers indirectly supported the IDF. That would make a mockery of the distinction between civilians and combatants that lies at the heart of the laws of war, which require direct support to military activity before civilians become legitimate military targets. Behind the unsupportable legal claim seemed to lie a determination to make Gazans suffer for the presence of Hamas--a prohibited purpose for using military force.

The IDF's credibility probably took the biggest hit on the issue of its use of white phosphorous. A typical artillery shell of white phosphorous releases 116 phosphorus-soaked wedges which, upon contact with oxygen, burn intensely, releasing a distinctive plume of smoke. That smoke can be used legitimately to obscure troop movements, but white phosphorous can be devastating when used in urban areas, igniting civilian structures and causing people horrific burns. Its use by the IDF in densely populated sections of Gaza violated the legal requirement to take all feasible precautions during military operations to avoid harming civilians. It never should have been deployed.

The IDF has tried to defend itself with denial and obfuscation. It first denied using white phosphorous at all. Then, when that proved untenable, it claimed that use was limited to unpopulated areas of Gaza. Neither claim is true. On Jan. 9, 10 and 15, a Human Rights Watch military expert personally observed white phosphorous being fired from an artillery battery and air burst over Gaza City and the Jabalya refugee camp. Its telltale jellyfish-like plume was a dead giveaway, as can be seen from many photographs that are now emerging from Gaza of white phosphorous raining down on civilian areas.
Predictably, the IDF holds Hamas wholly responsible for civilian casualties in Gaza, alleging that Hamas combatants stored weapons in mosques and fought from among civilians. Those allegations may or may not be true. Long experience, as during the 2006 war in Lebanon, shows that we must take such ritual IDF pronouncements with a grain of salt. We will not know exactly how Hamas waged the war until human rights monitors can conclude the on-the-ground investigations that they are only just beginning because of the IDF's earlier refusal to let them into Gaza.

Israelis seem dismayed that the world has not embraced the justness of its latest war in Gaza. Of course Israel is entitled to defend itself from Hamas' rocket attacks, but when it does so in violation of its duty to spare civilians, and with so massive a civilian toll, public outrage is entirely predictable. Meanwhile, the IDF does itself no favor when it resorts to censorship, PR techniques and misrepresentation rather than subject its conduct to the open and independent scrutiny that should characterize any military that is genuinely committed to respecting the laws of war.

"The Incendiary IDF", Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch, 22 January, 2009. Kenneth Roth is the executive director of Human Rights Watch.
BBC vs Disasters Emergency Committee

Well, Channel 4 shows that it can go for the jugular, but the BBC's approach is a little more mixed.(Pressure still on BBC in Gaza row, BBC News, UK, 25 January, 2009).

They have come under flak for so far deciding not to show a charity fund raising appeal for the people of Gaza. The BBC feels that it would compromise its impartiality in an ongoing story by airing the appeal. However:

The BBC has given free air time to previous appeals by the Disasters Emergency Committee, an umbrella for groups including the Red Cross, Oxfam and Save the Children. The appeals have raised millions of pounds (dollars) for victims of war and natural disaster in Congo, Myanmar and elsewhere (BBC slammed for not airing gaza appeal, Ninemsn, January 24, 2009).

From the first link above, International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the British public could "distinguish between support for humanitarian aid and perceived partiality in a conflict".

There is quite a lot of governmental pressure on BBC to run the appeal, and 2000 people protested the fact that they have, so far, decided not to. Of course the governmental pressure is worrying for any news group, but as BBC has supported other appeals, as detailed above, which were also surely dealing with ongoing news stories, the reasons given for not showing the appeal do not necessarily stand up, unless of course, by showing the appeal they are somehow limited in their access to Gaza and Israel. Within the articles I have read, that does not seem to be the case.

From the Ninemsn article (the second one linked above):

International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander said the BBC had made the wrong decision. He called on the BBC to reconsider, "to recognise the immense human suffering and to address the concern which I think otherwise may develop that somehow the suffering of people in Gaza is not taken as seriously as the suffering of people in other conflicts."

Health minister Ben Bradshaw called the BBC's decision inexplicable and accused the publicly funded broadcaster of being cowed by the Israeli government.

"I am afraid the BBC has to stand up to the Israeli authorities occasionally," Bradshaw said.

ITV, Channel 4 and Five are going to broadcast the appeal, though ITV had said earlier that it would not.

It is interesting that 2000 people protested the BBC's decision. I wonder if in Australia

a) there would be or is a similar appeal , and

b) whether 2000 people would care enough to protest (somehow I think everyone is thinking of Australia Day tomorrow).
Rubber Bullets and Boycotts

On Wednesday, 21 January 2009, at 12.30, residents of Ni’lin, along with International and Israeli solidarity activists, gathered to demonstrate against the construction of the Apartheid Wall. The demonstration began in the olive fields but was forced back when the Israeli army shot teargas and threw sound bombs. After the demonstration began, the army invaded the town from the fields and the checkpoint at the entrance of the village, firing tear gas canisters, rubber coated steel bullets and plastic coated steel bullets. The army proceeded towards the centre of the town, shooting at houses and cars. Israeli forces arrested three Ni’lin residents who were not participating in the demonstration and injured nine individuals.

This is a peaceful demonstration, as can be read here, and the demonstrations are held regularly, with Palestinian people, ISM volunteers and Israeli volunteers.

All the above is very worrying, of course, but the thing that most worries me is this:
This is the second invasion of Ni’lin in one week. The Occupation is collectively punishing the Palestinians of Ni’lin for their resistance to the Apartheid Wall. When completed, the Apartheid Wall will annex land belonging to villagers. Furthermore, the simultaneous establishment of the Apartheid Wall and a tunnel will allow the Israeli army to bar all but one connection leading to complete control over movement for Ni’lin residents.

There has just been an update posted on the town, too.

Israel is often cited as the "only democracy in the Middle East". But these practices seem pretty undemocratic to me. Once people are finally and completely hemmed in. What then? Further stories and statistics can be found at B'tselem. Australia currently has United Nations security sanctions on Sudan and Congo. It supported the security sanctions on Rwanda, which have recently finished. It has autonomous sanctions on Zimbabwe.

I assume that these sanctions are mostly in place due to the practices of genocide and human rights abuse. So, again, to the people who say why not look at the problems of these countries instead of Israel and Palestine, well, my government seems to be concerned about the injustice that occurs there, and I think, at the very, very least, my government could follow Malcolm Fraser's following suggestion of . . .support[ing] the appeal for the Australian Parliament to pass a resolution recognising the hardships of the Palestinian people and committing Australia to work for a fair and peaceful resolution and the establishment of a viable independent state for Palestinians. At the very least. So much more could be done. ( Balanced policy the only way to peace, Malcolm Fraser, The Age, May 10, 2008) such as the following moves:
Both Oxford City council and Quebec Colleges and Universities are endorsing and calling for extensive boycotts of Israel. Maybe it's time for the "culpably ignorant" to ask ourselves why.
Essential reading

Because she says far more than I ever can.
The last two entries from Eva Bartlett's blog:

Beneath the surface and

It's a ceasefire, just not on the beach, not in your home. Children are still getting injured by Israeli fire, by the way. A 'siege-fire' as one commenter put it.

Further interesting reading (not from Eva) is as follows, if you are up to it:
Gaza crisis: Regimes react with routine repression, January 21, 2009; Human Rights Watch and,
Newsweek:, Feb 2nd, 2009 and,
Francis A. Boyle,, 30 December, 2008.

Depressingly, but not suprisingly, fundamentalism is further on the rise and has a focus as articles from this site can attest. And a big shout out to it for a lot of the material presented above, though it can readily be found on the Net also. Also to the other blogs I visit and friends who send me things they think I might be interested in.

If you've stuck with me this far, Gong Xi Fa Cai‏ ! for the 26th (two hours away for my side of the world), and Happy Australia Day.

less rhetoric, more snow

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions

For 22 long days and dark nights, Gazans were left alone to face the 4th strongest army in the world - an army that has 250 nuclear heads, thousands of trigger-happy soldiers armed with Merkava tanks, F16s, Apache helicopters, naval gunships and phosphorous bombs. 22 sleepless nights, 1528 hours of constant shelling and shooting, every single minute expecting to be the next victim.

Read the rest here . A call for BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions).

Gaza father finds daughter

SBS in Australia has shown this on its internet site. Has the ABC, or any of the commercials? Really, heartbreaking. These stories are not unique. It seems they happened again and again.

Friday, 23 January 2009


. . .they fled 300 yards up the dirt track behind their house, at which point they were shot at again by another group of soldiers. This time Amer’s brother Abdullah was shot, Amer and Shireen’s 6 year old daughter Saja was shot in the arm, and their 1 year old daughter Farah was shot in the stomach.

They spent the next 14 hours sheltering behind a small hill of dirt, while the wounded bled, and were not allowed to access help though the soldiers were aware of the injuries.

Having no other way to comfort her small daughter, whose intestines were falling out, Shireen breastfed Farah as the little girl slowly bled to death.

We love life as the Israelis do. Are they the only people allowed life? They killed me three times that day, first when they killed my brother, then when they killed my father, then when they killed my daughter.

Sharon's blog, Tales to Tell, Jan 22, 2009 Amer's story: They killed me three times.


Perchance to dream. An opportunity that should not be wasted.


From Sharon Lock's blog, Tales to tell, because we all need a few smiles in our life, some a lot more than most. (Jan 21, 2008, Reem's story).

A new fashion, a new style

Both Obama and United Nations officials. . . called on Israel to open Gaza border crossings.

( SBS World News Australia US envoy to visit middle east as fragile truce holds, 23 January, 2009. )

Such a slow and turgid step, considering none of this had to have occurred if a foot had been applied to the brake rather than the accelerator in the last days of December, 2008, but still it is a step in the right direction:

UN humanitarian chief John Holmes said the borders must be opened to allow reconstruction of the enclave. “You have to have cement and construction materials and pipes and spare parts," he said at a UN-run school hit by an Israeli missile in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya.

Since Israel began its 22-day offensive on December 27, the army said it had allowed 2,284 truckloads of humanitarian supplies into Gaza where the 1.5 million population relies on the border crossings for virtually everything*.

*This reliance is because for three years since daring to democratically elect a government not favoured by Israel or the US, the people of Gaza have been subjected to a starvation blockade , and Israel and Egypt have closed borders with it. This is why the tunnels are necessary, even though they do also bring in weapons. Israel has not let in construction material, now and in the past, leading to widespread unemployment, as Israel fears weapons will be made from such material - my note.

As for that fragile peace:

Two women, two children and an elderly man were wounded on Thursday by fire from Israeli navy boats patrolling the Mediterranean, medics said. The army said it fired warning shots at a fishing boat.

If you read the blog Tales to Tell from a western volunteer within Gaza (Sharon Lock, I think), that shelling has not stopped since the "ceasefire" began. Rockets are still being fired into Israel, too, so one wonders what the whole sustained incursion was about.

US President Barack Obama said he was dispatching new Mideast envoy George Mitchell to shore up the fragile truce in Gaza.

. . .George Mitchell, [is] a veteran diplomat renowned for negotiating the 1998 Good Friday agreement that helped bring peace to Northern Ireland. . .

Mitchell seems to be balanced; the American Jewish community is divided over his appointment, and what his actual appointment means (that article first viewed here). However, it seems any negotiations are going to be with the very unpopular Abbas, and the Systematic War Crimes will probably largely go unaddressed, paving the way for them to be committed again, and again, and again (SBS World Australia, UN fears Systematic War Crimes).

The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Territories, Richard Falk, said he had little doubt about the "unavoidably inhuman character of a large scale military operation of the sort that Israel has initiated... against an essentially defenceless population."

Also from Ha'aretz, UN human rights official: Gaza evokes memories of Warsaw Ghetto, 23 January, 2009.

He was sent back to America (refused entry) by Israel on December 15, 2008 by the way. His role was to be as follows:

In March, the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council appointed Falk, a Jewish American and professor emeritus at Princeton University, to a six-year term monitoring the human rights situation as UN Special Rapporteur in the Palestinian territories.( Israel expels UN rights envoy, Ha'aretz, December 15, 2008, and here)

He was refused entry just in time not to observe the massacres. A nice analysis on media treatment of that expulsion here.

Keep up the pressure, U.N. , even though you may be viewed as a toothless tiger. Lets hope that words are eventually passed from generation to generation as being worth more than the cycle of violence that violence breeds.

*Note: Further analysis on Mitchell's posting here (Does Israel fear its friends more than its enemies?, Paul Woodward, War in Context, January 22, 2009)


From (one of Israel's news sources)(What happened to us? Gadi Baltiansky, 21 January, 2009).

IDF officers and soldiers should not be going to jail, and I don’t know whether any of them even needs to be indicted. Yet we all need to face a public debate. There is a direct and problematic line that connects the “death to the Arabs” chants at soccer stadiums, the disqualification of Arab parties from the upcoming Knesset elections, and the indifference of an Israeli woman who interrupted and slammed a Palestinian doctor who lost three of his daughters.

By the way, I'm not believing Livni's words in the article, and maybe (absolutely) it is those further up the chain who should be indicted for war crimes. But the above does seem to be indicative of the governing, and possibly underlying, society there at the moment. The disqualification of Arab parties from the elections in Israel, is the truth, and these were the words that passed between a right winged party and an minority Arab party when this disqualification was appealed before the supreme court.

From,(Lieberman to Arab MK: We'll deal with you like we dealt with Hamas, 20 January, 2009).

MK El-Sana tells Yisrael Beiteinu chairman, 'You're a new immigrant and inciter.' Lieberman replies, 'You're a terrorist representing terrorists'

MK Talab El-Sana (United Arab List-Ta'al) called out towards Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman, "Get the hell out of here." Lieberman replied, "You're a terrorist representing terrorists. We'll deal with you like with any other terrorist, like we dealt with Hamas."

Yisrael Beiteinu is a hardline right wing party.

At the hearing Lieberman later had these words for MK Ahmad Tibi : "Here's another clown, another terrorist."

(From Ha'aretz): Tibi retorted by calling Lieberman a fascist. "[Israeli Arabs] are salt of the earth. We did not immigrate here like you,"

Tibi continued. "In America they are swearing-in a black president, and in Israel a minority is being deprived of its right to political representation," he added.

(Lieberman to Tibi: We must treat some Arab MKs like we treated Hamas, Ha'aretz, 23 January, 2009).

If you read the two platforms of the parties they are pretty divergent, and I would not call the United Arab List-Ta'al platform radical, particularly the last three points, but that is my point of view.

Again, I know Australia has a less than stellar history when it comes to human rights, especially of its indigenous population, and under John Howard, and possibly continuing with Rudd, many rights have been whittled away, and the detention of asylum seekers, though easing now, is shameful. Israel, however, from a mainstream Australian political and media point of view can seem to do no wrong, despite flagrant disregard and causing of human suffering. Australia is, so far, right in step with official American attitudes, however, out of step, it would seem, with many of our European counterparts who express, at least, some unease, and definitely out of step with the general public of many, many countries.

We are not big world players, politically, but we are not mice, therefore, could we not afford to be just a little more independent, and open our media up to actually reporting and analysing what is going on? Australia does have an international profile. Could we be seen as maybe easing some of the world's tension rather than adding to it? Or be seen as being even handed, as former prime minister, Malcolm Fraser has urged us to be? Maybe trust that Australian people could make an informed opinion if they had a few more of the facts, stories, opinions and particularly history of the area. Of course, most of this is probably on the back page of the newspaper again, but the people of Gaza remain behind borders, sanctions imposed, cities ruined, bodies broken. Differing and diverging facts and analysis, to a degree, seem to be encouraged in the Israeli press, despite overall policy and outcomes. Australia is hegemonic and generic in comparison and it is people in places like Gaza and the West Bank, and yes, Israel itself, who pay the price.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

difficult to recall - Médecins Sans Frontières

From the 16 January, 2009

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been present during armed conflicts for nearly four decades. It is difficult to recall a comparable slaughter of civilians in so little time. Whether Mogadishu, Somalia, or Kivu, in the eastern Congo, Sri Lanka or even Darfur - none of these wars has involved operations that produced so many deaths by direct violence in such a short period of time.


Our purpose is not to create some kind of prize for the worst war horrors, but to state that the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip is being conducted as cynically, and with as little respect for civilians, as the wars that MSF teams have faced in recent years. __________________________________________________________________

Worse, this violence is striking a captive population that cannot flee to protect itself. An MSF team is working alongside exhausted Palestinian teams in overflowing hospitals. However, many wounded patients are not receiving treatment because they cannot reach hospitals or because medical workers cannot reach them as the bombs and gunfire do not spare ambulances, hospitals, the wounded or medical workers who try to move about.


Contrary to Israeli government statements, the offensive in Gaza does not observe the fundamentals of international humanitarian law applicable to armed conflict. To claim otherwise only multiplies the violence by adding lies.


Full text here, and the original link to the article: found here.

I guess this might be part of what John Ging, the head of the UNRWA meant when he "said he has never experienced anything quite as disturbing as what is happening in Gaza. He said he was in Rwanda at the time of the genocide and in the Balkans during the ethnic cleansing." In the Eye of the Storm, Irish, January 17, 2009.

Eva Bartlett's blog . New entry.


echigo yuzawa

We've had a very warm winter so far, with snow staying for a few days and then melting. It should have come to stay by now, but who knows, maybe we are in for a surprise. The farmers say it's not good for the rice as the insects don't die off, and are a plague in the warmer weather.

Echigo Yuzawa, however, outside of town a hundred kilometres or so, is a ski area famous for its snow and onsen baths. They have a sprinkler system which keeps the streets clear of snow now, but before that was installed, the locals would use their first floor (second floor for Brit/Aust readers) windows as access into and out of their houses.

rockets, elections, deterrence

First, to what this war on Gaza is not about: it's not about the rockets. During the truce last year, rocket fire from the Gaza Strip was reduced by 97%, with the few projectiles that were fired coming from non-Hamas groups opposed to the agreement. Despite this success in vastly improving the security of Israelis in the south, Israel did everything it could to undermine the calm, and provoke Hamas into a conflict.

Israel broke the ceasefire on 4 November, with an attack in the Gaza Strip that killed six Hamas members, and the following day severely tightened its siege of the territory. Imports were reduced to 16 trucks a day, down from 123 daily just the previous month (and 475 in May 2007). Following the unsurprising surge in Palestinian attacks, Israeli officials claimed that an all-out war was unavoidable; without mentioning that an operation had been planned for some months already.


Politicians, diplomats and journalists are by and large shying away from the obvious, namely that Israel has been deliberately targeting Palestinian civilians and the very infrastructure of normal life, in order to - in the best colonial style - teach the natives a lesson.

Given the enormous scale of what Palestinians have described as a "war of extermination" - it appears that some 15% of all buildings in the Gaza Strip were completely destroyed or collapsed and there is an estimated $1.4bn worth of destruction to vital civil infrastructure - it is impossible to list every atrocity. Israel has repeatedly hit ambulances, medics, clinics, and hospitals, while last week, aid volunteers who tried to douse a fire in a Red Crescent warehouse (attacked by Israel) were then shot at by Israeli forces.

UNRWA facilities have also been attacked, including several schools sheltering civilians - just this last weekend, a civilian refuge was repeatedly shelled. Last week, the UN headquarters was also shelled, hitting a vocational centre, a workshop, food warehouse, and fuel depot. Like the massacre of 6 January, Israeli officials quickly began to produce a confusing fog of denials, apologies, promised enquiries and contradictions.

Those are just some of the more shocking examples from a military operation that has targeted everything from schools, money-changers and a bird farm, to entire apartment blocks, harbours, and a market. Palestinians have been killed when Israeli tanks fired shells at residential neighbourhoods. Every day has brought fresh horrors; last Wednesday, for example, 70 unarmed civilians including 18 children were killed by the Israeli military. This week's Observer carried a story alleging Israel bulldozed homes with civilians inside (not for the first time) and shot those waving white flags. Little wonder that Israeli officials predicted with concern that "negative sentiment" towards the state would "only grow as the full picture of destruction emerges".

Much of this is widely known, and easily accessible; yet still the analytical emphasis has remained on Palestinian rockets, Israeli elections, and deterrence. I would like to suggest three alternative purposes for Israel's Operation Cast Lead that go beyond the usual perspectives, and presuming with Yale professor David Bromwich that "if Israel in 2009 reduces to rubble a large portion of the Gaza Strip and leaves tens of thousands homeless, there is a strong chance that this was what it intended to do".

Ben White. Israel wanted a humanitarian crisis, from the Guardian, January 21, 2009. This is just an extract, obviously. Go to the article for the three alternatives. First seen here. The article has links to news articles which support his claims.

Well, at least some Australians are putting their protestations into words and getting advertising space in the Sydney Morning Herald.


Being even-handed

I found this article from Malcolm Fraser, one of our former prime ministers, who was seen as an arch conservative when he was in office. However, I'm putting him up for man of this decade. This is the last paragraph of a piece of his called: Balanced policy the only way to peace about the situation between Palestine and Israel today (The Age, May 10, 2008):

Against this modern-day tragedy, it is important for countries such as Australia to be even-handed. That is why I support the appeal for the Australian Parliament to pass a resolution recognising the hardships of the Palestinian people and committing Australia to work for a fair and peaceful resolution and the establishment of a viable independent state for Palestinians.

I have linked to the article here, but have also reproduced it in full below.

Balanced policy the only way to peace

Malcolm Fraser May 10, 2008

TWO months ago, the Australian Parliament passed a resolution celebrating Israel's first 60 years. Until recently, Australia had preserved a balance in Middle East policy that asserted Israel's right to survival and security, but also the right of the Palestinian people to their own state. Under the previous government, in lock-step with the US, our policies veered to a more one-sided support for Israel. The vision of a Palestinian state seemed to slip from view.
US President George Bush claims that it is possible for Israel and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to negotiate the establishment of a Palestinian state before the end of this year. That ignores the realities of the current situation, which Bush has done a good deal to exacerbate.

It is a fact that Israel has persistently established more and more settlements on the West Bank and that it has ignored the US and the UN Security Council, which have continuously branded these settlements, together with settlements in East Jerusalem, as illegal. However, the US has not exerted real pressure to stop them and the process continues. Through most of my life I have believed that Israel was a beacon of hope. But somewhere Israel's leadership lost its way.
Since the start of the war on terror, US policies have become increasingly unrealistic, branding people as terrorists to be beaten with guns.

In Bush's world, discussion or negotiation with those who are labelled as terrorists is unthinkable, and indeed would be a betrayal of American values. Yet he should recall what earlier US presidents did in negotiating with leaders of the Soviet Union. Those presidents avoided nuclear war and won the Cold War. Britain achieved peace in Northern Ireland with similar policies.

Failure to talk with an opponent or with an enemy is perhaps the major mistake of the Bush Administration. A mistake that has made many parts of the world more dangerous.
Hamas won a legitimate election in early 2006. Aid workers on the ground in Palestine knew that Hamas would win because Hamas helps local people while Fatah, corrupt and inefficient, did not. The West claimed to be surprised at Hamas' victory. It betrayed its own principles by making it plain that democracy was only acceptable if it gave the kind of result that Israel and the US wanted.

It would have been possible to say to Hamas: a number of your policies must change but we welcome your participation in the democratic process and we are therefore prepared to talk and explore possible areas of agreement. This approach would have given Hamas an alternative to violence and the possibility of a different future.

When a joint Hamas-Fatah government was formed, it was short-lived. Both Israel and the US sought to undermine it and encouraged Abbas to pursue a policy that would diminish or destroy Hamas. In this regard, Israel and the US have played a major part in the continued divisions among the Palestinian people themselves.

I know there are those who would say that Hamas cannot be believed. No agreement would be sustainable because it wants the total destruction of Israel. However, those who hold such views commit themselves in effect to continued warfare. If this situation prevails, Israel will lose more and more friends and will place its own future in danger.

Terrorism must, of course, be condemned but if one measures the loss of life in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is clear that the scales are heavily balanced against the Palestinians. The tactics used by Hamas are inefficient as a weapon of war, almost futile, but they have extracted a disproportionate response.

If there is to be any progress, in addition to talking to Hamas it is critical to heal the divisions between Hamas and Fatah. No arrangement between Israel and Abbas will be acceptable unless the divisions among Palestinian people are addressed. But Israeli and American policy is still focused on perpetuating those divisions, breeding more hatred and bitterness and making a secure future even more remote.

Former US president Jimmy Carter has recently held discussions in the Middle East with many of those with whom Bush will not speak. He has attracted a great deal of criticism from many quarters, including the Israeli lobby. However, his efforts are to be applauded because he recognises that talking to Hamas is essential for progress.

Hamas has supported a ceasefire. But this was rejected out of hand as a subterfuge for gaining time to reorganise and rearm. Hamas has said that if Abbas can negotiate a solution and if that is endorsed in a referendum by the Palestinians, it will support it, provided that there is reconciliation among Palestinians.

What then should be done? The principles endorsed by the Baker-Hamilton report in relation to Iraq must be adopted in regard to the Palestinian case as well. There must be talks leading to negotiations involving all the players including Hamas. Progress will not be quick, it could be months and possibly years, but a ceasefire, even initially for a limited period, would be a good start. The ending of the blockade of Gaza and the cessation of new settlements in the West Bank would be a prerequisite. In addition, the adjudication of boundaries of Israel and Palestine would be critical to a final settlement.

Against this modern-day tragedy, it is important for countries such as Australia to be even-handed. That is why I support the appeal for the Australian Parliament to pass a resolution recognising the hardships of the Palestinian people and committing Australia to work for a fair and peaceful resolution and the establishment of a viable independent state for Palestinians.

Fraser also recently wrote Israel's actions foster extremism (January 16, 2009, The Age).

Another letter to President Obama

If we can kill them, we can talk to them.

Another letter to President Obama: In the Mideast equation, settler outposts are the Qassams of the Jews (Mr Obama, grant Hamas the freedom to fail, Ha'aretz, Bradley Burston, 21 January, 2009). I guess the title says it all, though the article explains further. Maybe Burston's letter is not as moving as this one, but is very interesting with good links giving lots of background. Especially this one (Hamas - If we can kill them, we can talk to them,17/12/2007,Bradley Burston, Ha'aretz), which suggests negotiation as a option, not yet tried and perhaps the most viable one, the one least likely to shed blood, you would think.

One of our ex-prime ministers, Malcolm Fraser, in contrast to our current prime minister, also endorses that not too radical an idea, as he talks about Australia's policy towards Israel (which changed in March of last year), and about the work that Jimmy Carter has done towards trying to achieve peace (Balanced policy the only way to peace, The Age, May 10, 2008).

Aid needs and delays.

Meanwhile, aid is delayed all over the place as leaders squabble about who and where to send it.

The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon toured Gaza's rubble-strewn streets on Tuesday and described the destruction he witnessed as heartbreaking.
He estimated that £240 million
[ approx $507 million AUD, $330 million USD] is needed for urgent aid in the coastal enclave and reconstruction may cost close to £1.5 billion [approx $3 billion AUD, $2billion USD], according to Palestinian and international estimates.

Although aid agencies said they planned a massive inflow of supplies through Israeli crossings, help will be complicated by the Western boycott of Hamas as a terrorist organisation and an Israeli blockade on many items, including building materials, that can be used to make weapons (Israel completes Gaza withdrawal, ITN, 21 January, 2009).

The Arab countries are muddling along, undecided where they should send their contributions, too (Gaza agreement eludes Arab leaders, Al Jazeera, 20 January, 2009).

Well, Israel's always willing to help (Western diplomats: Israel seeks to control reconstruction of war-torn Gaza, Ha'aretz, 19 January, 2009) rebuild infrastructure it tore down.

As an aside, Moon, who is obviously in the area, was reported to say the following on the 19th of January when he attended the Kuwait Economic Summit:

In his speech in Kuwait, Ban reiterated that Israel must reopen border crossings with Gaza, allow humanitarian aid in and withdraw from the Gaza Strip. Likewise, he urged Hamas to stop firing rockets at southern Israel.

But a permanent solution, he said, would require a return to the stalled Middle East peace process.

"A true end to violence, and lasting security for both Palestinians and Israelis, will only come through a just and comprehensive settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict," he said. "The (Israeli) occupation that began in 1967 must end."
(, Ban urges Arabs to back Abbas in Gaza crisis).

Well the article was from the 19th, so the (short-term) withdrawal has been completed. In theory.

There is further here about Ban's visit, too. (UN chief pays 'heartbreak' visit to Gaza, SBS World News, 21 January, 2009). Funny how the word 'heartbreak' was hardly used in a headline in Australia while the war on Gaza was in process.

Back to aid: The World Health Organization has this to say:

"Right now, we very sadly see ideal conditions for outbreaks of disease," WHO director general Margaret Chan said at the opening of the executive board's annual meeting.

"Densely packed and displaced populations are weakened by hunger, little power for cooking and heating, and severe psychological trauma. Drinking water is scarce, sewage lines have been broken, and garbage is piling up," she said.

"Immunization, along with most routine health services, has been interrupted for more than three weeks. An outbreak under such conditions would be another health crisis that should not happen," Chan said.

"Medical staff, including surgical teams, are exhausted," she said, noting that there are only 2,000 hospital beds in Gaza. And might I add, more than 5000 injured people, many seriously so.

Not only that, but hospitals, ambulances, medical centres and so on were targeted during the attacks by Israeli forces, so that basic infrastructure is missing too. Photos of the destruction uploaded by the Israeli Human Rights Group, B'Tselem, can be seen here.

There are problems with sewage, too, as forewarned here (Amira Hass, Officials warn: Gaza infrastructures near breaking point, Ha'aretz, 6 January, 2009). Also, not to forget,that the UN compound which stored all the UN food for the area, and supplies was targeted by IDF forces and burnt to the ground. Gaza has been under Israeli and western-backed sanctions since 2006, and is, accordingly, largely dependent upon aid. As Australian labor MP Julia Irwin foretold in her pro-Palestinian piece:

And who will pick up the pieces when the bloodshed has finally stopped? The rest of the world will, of course. Through the world's contributions to the UN, its largest budget item is the UN Relief and Works Agency. With an annual $700 million budget going to support Palestinian refugees, the biggest component is being spent on Gaza (Getting away with murder, SMH, Jan 11, 2009).

Let's hope the rest of the world can get its act together to get some aid through to Gaza, pronto.

War Crimes

And Israel think they might have, kind of, could have, maybe used white phosphorous (Israeli phosphorus use 'clear and undeniable', SBS World Australia, 20 January, 2009 - another heading it seems Australia hardly ever got near to using during the onslaught). As for the tricky Dime weapons, no word on them yet.

From the Guardian, 21 January, 2009. Israel admits troops may have used phosphorus shells in Gaza:

Palestinian doctors have reported treating dozens of cases of suspected phosphorus burns.

According to senior IDF officers, quoted today in the Ha'aretz newspaper, the Israeli military made use of two different types of phosphorus munitions.

The first, they insisted, was contained in 155mm artillery shells, and contained "almost no phosphorus" except for a trace to ignite the smoke screen.

The second munitions, at the centre of the inquiry by Col Alkalai, are standard phosphorus shells – both 88mm and 120mm – fired from mortars.

About 200 of these shells were fired during Israel's Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, and of these – say the IDF – 180 were fired on Hamas fighters and rocket launch crews in northern Gaza.

Alkalai is investigating the circumstances in which the remaining 20 shells were fired, amid compelling evidence on the ground that phosphorus munitions were involved in the attack on a UN warehouse and a UN school.

The mortar system is guided by GPS and according to Israel a failure of the targeting system may have been responsible for civilian deaths. However, critics point out the same explanation was used for mis-targeting deaths in Beit Hanoun in Gaza in 2006.

The brigade's officers, however, added that the shells were fired only at places that had been positively identified as sources of enemy fire.

The use of phosphorus as an incendiary weapon as it now appears to have been used against Hamas fighters – as opposed to a smoke screen – is covered by the Convention of Certain Conventional Weapons to which Israel in not a signatory.

However, Israel also is obliged under the Geneva Conventions and customary international humanitarian law to give due care to protecting the civilian population when deciding on appropriate military targeting and response to hostile fire, particularly in heavily built up areas with a strict prohibition on the use of indiscriminate force.

"They obviously could not have gone on denying the use of phosphorus," Donatella Rovera, Amnesty researcher for Israel and the Occupied Territories, told the Guardian yesterday.

"There are still phosphorus wedges burning all over Gaza including at the UN compound and at the school.

"It is clear they are not using it as smoke screen as they claimed. They used it in areas where they had no forces, and there are much less problematic smoke screens that they could have used."

Did you take note of that small piece of information?: The mortar system is guided by GPS.

The IDF had the GPS of the schools they shelled, of the compound they shelled, and of the press offices they shelled (and hospitals and so on). As for the claim above that the shells were fired only at places that had been positively identified as sources of enemy fire... Remember these words from Christopher Gunness, spokesman for the UN refugee agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, after 40 civilians died whilst sheltering in a UN run school which was bombed (No militants in bombed gaza school, The Age, Jan 7, 2009)?

"Following an initial investigation, we are 99.9 percent sure that there were no militants or militant activities in the school and the school compound" (Israel to halt bombings as diplomacy steps up, SBS World News Australia, 7 January, 2009).

Israel at first had said there were militants in the school, then outside the school, and then finally said no there were no militants, or it was all a terrible mistake, and human shield, human shield! The school Gunness was at is not the school in question, but the same excuses were used for shelling both, and for destroying the compound. At least four schools were attacked by Israeli forces throughout the onslaught on Gaza (these should have been safe houses for civilians, and the IDF had their GPS).

To re-quote the article, critics point out the same explanation was used for mis-targeting deaths in Beit Hanoun in Gaza in 2006, and as detailed in this article .

Well, as Al Jazeera said January 19, 2009 ( Outcry over weapons used in Gaza): The likelihood of either side being subject to a war-crimes action seems remote as the International Criminal Court (ICC) has no jurisdiction to investigate because the Gaza Strip is not a state.

In addition
[as stated above], Israel has not signed the Rome Statute that enshrined the ICC so any investigation would require a UN Security mandate - likely to be vetoed by Israel's ally, the US.

Human rights groups will try, let's hope. And I suppose there are other crimes,such as these , and these which will never see the light of day as they are testimonies. (*Edited, 22 January, 2009).
Which I guess brings us to this (UN chief pays heartbreak visit to Gaza, SBS World, Australia, January 21, 2009):

Palestinians doubt Obama will bring change in the Middle East

Gazans say the tide of global hope that has surged with Obama's election victory has not washed over their homeland."Obama won't bring my husband back to life," said Leila Khalil. "He was martyred and left me with six children to feed on my own. And Obama won't repair our house that was damaged in the (air) raids."

For Khalil, Obama, who has been inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States, will not alter the historically pro-Israel US policy on the Middle East. "No one cares about us," she said. "If we can't even count on Arab presidents, what can we hope for from an American president when they've always supported Israel?" The Palestinian bureau of statistics reported 4,100 homes totally destroyed and 17,000 others damaged in the offensive.

Let's hope they are wrong, and that Obama leans more towards Carter than Bush, despite indications to the contrary, regarding relations with Israel and Palestine.

*Note: 22 January, 2009. Well, things seem to be moving on Guantanamo, and a radio report just heard indicated that Clinton does not seem to be so strident in her foreign policy outlook as she was a couple of weeks ago, looking at "principles and pragmatism, not rigid ideology." Ooh, those news reports were from the 13th. Oh, I see why I missed it, because of this diplomatic stance from the same day (Clinton rules out Hamas negotiations, SBS World News, 14 January, 2009). Anyway, fingers crossed, wait and see.
this cutie was taken by Crazyegg95 in 2005 and is from flickr