Wednesday, December 30, 2009

GAZA: BLOODIED BUT UNBOWED

A Shining Example of Unyielding Resistance

by Gulamhusein Abba

NAKBLINKA: The Cleansing of Coexistence
Pencil on Paper (2009) by Dom Martin

“No meaningful action is in sight. Israel continues
to throttle Gaza in its effort to topple Hamas. And
Gaza still bleeds. In full view of the civilized world.
But Gaza will never fall. Though bloodied, it has
not been bowed and never will be. It embodies the
essence of the struggle of free people against tyranny


Author’s note: A year after Gaza suffered its worst bombardment, it is appropriate to chronicle all that Gaza has had to endure from its first acts of protesting the Israeli occupation , the blows that have been rained on it and the intrigues that were hatched against it. This is exactly what this article attempts to do. There is much to tell but even the abridged version is too long and so I have refrained from giving more details. Hope you find this informative. Save it as a reference source

Gaza! That small, beautiful but turbulent and besieged piece of land, just a little more than 40 km long, no more than 12 km wide, a little bigger than New Jersey, crammed with more than one and half million people, battered by wave after wave of Israeli incursions and bombardments, has been bloodied but remains unbowed, a proud symbol and a stirring example of unyielding resistance.

For long under the Ottoman Empire, it came under the British Mandate in 1920 and then, when the British left Palestine in 1948, and the ensuing war between Arab states and Israel came to an end in 1949, much of the Gaza Strip that was earmarked for an Arab state in the UN partition Plan was retained by Israel under the 1949 Armistice line. The rest of the Strip fell under Egyptian control.

Even this chopped up Gaza strip was occupied by Israel in 1967 (along with what is now the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Golan heights and the Sinai Peninsula). In 1979 Israel made peace with Egypt and returned the Sinai to it but retained what remained of the original Gaza Strip.Since then, Gaza has been ravaged by Israel time and again.

Adequately capturing the pain and suffering, as also the bravery, the courage and the indomitable and unconquerable spirit of the Gazans, and effectively conveying them, can only be done by an artist, a poet, a visionary. Judging by the preview of his forthcoming book, NAKBLINKA: The Cleansing of CoExistence, Dom Martin, who combines in himself all the required qualifications, has wonderfully done.

However, to fully understand what the Palestinians have suffered it is necessary to know what exactly they have had to endure. To that task I have addressed myself here.

*********
In 1987 the first revolt by the Palestinians against the Israeli occupation broke out. There were riots and strikes and violence throughout the West Bank and Gaza. Israel responded with tanks, tear gas, plastic bullets, and live ammunition against the stone throwing Palestinian youths.

Till that time Israel had favored the Muslim Brotherhood which was based in Gaza, and Gaza had refrained from attacks against Israel. But after the Intifada, Shaikh Ahmed Yassin created Hamas from the Gaza wing of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and Hamas quickly began attacks on Israeli military targets, and subsequently, Israeli civilians.

Apart from numerous incursions into Gaza, targeted assassinations ((including that of its 67 year old, wheelchair ridden, nearly blind, quadriplegic spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Ismail Hassan Yassin in March, 2004) and imprisonment of its leaders, Israel has carried out major military operations in the area.

After demolishing 1800 homes in the largest and most densely populated refugee camp in Rafah (it was established in 1949 to provide shelter to 41,000 refugees), in May 2004 Israel launched “Operation Rainbow” on Rafah town and refugee camp. In seven days 45 Palestinians, 38 of them civilians, including nine children, had been killed, 134 civilians, including around 50 children, had been injured, dozens of Palestinian homes were destroyed, rendering hundreds of Palestinians homeless. Civilian infrastructure and facilities in the town and refugee camp were largely destroyed.

Just four months later, in September 2004, Israel initiated another military assault, "Days of Penitence", deploying about 2,000 Israeli troops, with 200 tanks and armored vehicles. According to a UNRWA report, approximately 36,000 Palestinians in different locations were under siege, many thousands of civilians were unable to leave their homes, as fighting raged around them. An additional 4,000 persons fled their homes in the affected areas. 107 Palestinians were killed and 431 injured, from rocket attacks, machine-gun and sniper fire. Twenty five per cent of those killed were aged 18 years or under. One of Gaza's bloodiest days since the start of the Intifada, the assault was directed at Jabaliya refugee camp, home to more than 100,000 Palestinian refugees. Under the pretext of creating a 9-km "buffer zone" around the refugee camp, Israel leveled dozens of Palestinian homes and acres of agricultural land were destroyed. There were reports that the residents were given just minutes to gather their belongings and leave. They carried on their head in a bundle the little they could save.

The stated aim of the Israeli operation was to prevent the firing of homemade Palestinian rockets into the Israeli town of Sderot. It is relevant to point out here that just four Israeli citizens had been killed by these rockets in several months preceding the Israeli operation in Gaza.

The latest deaths in Gaza brought the total of Palestinians killed in Gaza since the start of the first Intifada to 1796, with another 12, 600 injured.

On August17, 2005 about 14,000 Israeli soldiers started the first forced evacuation of Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip as part of the disengagement plan which the Israeli government had adopted. Under the plan the Israel government would evacuate all Israeli settlers from the Strip and deploy all Israeli forces stationed in the Strip to other areas.

This was presented to the world as a very difficult and painful decision which the Israeli government had taken, a great sacrifice which it was making as a first step towards the creation of a Palestinian State. It was made to appear that this was a gift to the Gazans who were being “liberated” and were being granted independence.
In truth it was nothing of the sort. The shrewd Ariel Sharon, the then Prime Minister of Israel had realized that the achievement of Eretz Yisraeel, with Judea and Samaria and all the land west of the Jordan, would pose a huge problem for Israel. The demographic reality was that in such an Israel the Arab population would soon surpass the Jewish population. If Israel was to retain its Jewishness it would then have to either become an apartheid state or ethnically cleanse the land of the Arab population. None of these options was viable. The only solution was to divest Israel of areas that were densely populated by Arabs and declare that the aggregate of these disjointed areas was the Palestinian State!
Another factor was that Hamas had made it very difficult and costly for Israel to protect the Israeli settlements and the settlers in Gaza. A huge military presence in the Strip was required for this purpose and the Israeli public was chafing at the expense. Furthermore, Israel needed these forces to consolidate their hold in the West Bank. Gaza was expendable to the Israelis.

Sharon had chosen unilateralism over negotiations and agreement with the Palestinians. As such, the “disengagement” was unilateral rather than as a result of an agreement with the Palestinian Authority, as ultimately the divestment of parcels of land densely populated by the Palestinians and declaration of them constituting the Palestinian state was intended to be.

Far from “liberating” the Gazans and making them independent, Israel put a tight noose round Gaza and turned it into a vast open air prison with more than one and a half million Gazans trapped within a tiny 140 square miles. Israel has guarded and monitored the external land perimeter of the Gaza Strip, continues to maintain exclusive authority in Gaza air space, continues to exercise security activity in the sea off the coast of the Gaza Strip, and has the Egyptians seal off its border with Gaza. Israel also reserves “its inherent right of self defense, both preventive and reactive, including where necessary the use of force, in respect of threats emanating from the Gaza Strip”

Nor was there any sacrifice on the part of Israel. Gaza was, under the UN partition plan, to be a part of a Palestinian State. It was never intended to be a part of Israel. Israel occupied it in 1967 and was in illegal possession thereof. Even if it was handing Gaza over to the Palestinians, it would be merely returning what it was not its to keep.
As for the settlers that were forcibly evacuated, it could not but be traumatic for them. This writer, along with the rest of the world, felt great sorrow for them. But it must be remembered that they had taken up residence there knowing that the title to the land was far from clear and that it indeed belonged to someone else. Also, they were fully compensated, were provided with alternate accommodation and were transported from their homes in buses provided by the Israeli government. Unlike thousands of Palestinians who were made homeless by the Israeli government.
Gazans had suspected that the Israeli settlers were being evacuated to give Israel a free hand for carpet bombing of Gaza. And sure enough, barely a month after the disengagement, Gazans awoke to the deafening sonic booms created by Israeli jetfighters soaring above the Strip. True no bombs were dropped. But these sonic booms are a punishment in themselves. Surely if the Israeli settlers had not been evacuated, Israeli warplanes would not be ripping through the Gazan airspace so repeatedly and at the most sensitive times, when every human being was sleeping. Add to them the 24/7 noise of the drones that hover over Gaza and you get a picture of what the Gazans endured.

In January 2006 the Palestinians held their Parliamentary elections. In a fair and democratic election, certified to be so by international observers, with a turnout of 77%, Hamas scored a surprise landslide victory over Fatah, capturing 44.5 per cent of the votes cast, against 41.3percent won by Fatah. It obtained 74 of the 132 Parliamentary seats while Fatah got 45. In Ramallah, Hamas won every parliamentary seat except the one reserved for a Christian. It took almost all of the 16 constituencies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Particularly remarkable was its success in the Jerusalem district, where the group won all four seats allocated for Muslim candidates . In Hebron it took all its nine seats.

Hamas won 56 percent of the seats in the Legislative Council. In the race for the 66 national seats, Hamas got 29 and Fatah 28. Four parties shared the remaining seats.
The rules required President Abbas, who had threatened to resign if Hamas blocked his political program, to invite the largest party in parliament to form the next cabinet.

The January 25 elections, an unprecedented turning point for politics, stunned U.S. and Israeli officials.

Hamas and the Gazans (Gaza is the stronghold of Hamas) were jubilant. But this jubilation did not last long. The victory at the polls brought only further misery to them.

The US and the EU were, to put it mildly, not pleased at the results of the election Though it was they who had been pressuring PA to hold fair and free elections, they were opposed to accepting the result of the election. They immediately started putting pressure on President Mahmoud Abbas to use his authority to cripple Hamas power in the Parliament.
Since Gaza and Hamas are linked so closely together that they have almost become synonymous and since Israeli and American pressure on the PA was meant to effect the elimination of Hamas from the government to which it had won a right through the elections, it is relevant to here also mention in brief the actions taken by Israel, the US and EU towards achieving this goal. Israel stopped fund transfers to the Palestinian Authority and withheld the tax it collected on behalf of the PA. This amounted to millions of dollars.
President George W. Bush demanded that Mahmoud Abbas return USD 50 million he received in aid from the U.S.
The United States and its allies placed three demands on the new Palestinian government: that it recognize Israel’s right to exist; that it affirm its commitment to all international agreements concluded by its predecessor, the Fatah Party; and that it renounce violence. President George W. Bush and the leaders of the United Nations, the European Union, and Russia, the so-called Quartet, stressed that they would not work diplomatically with the new Palestinian government if it did not meet these demands. The United States and the EU also threatened to withhold economic aid, and Israel threatened to block its provision.
When Hamas refused to accept the “three demands”, the US and other donor countries, including Canada, the EU and Japan shut off aid to the Palestinian Authority, depriving it of the means to pay salaries and meet its annual budget of roughly $2 billion.
Israel clamped down on Palestinians’ freedom of movement, especially into and out of the Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip. The closure of the Karni crossing between Israel and Gaza from January 15 to February 4, 2006 and then from February 22 onwards had a devastating effect on food availability in the Gaza Strip. Stocks of wheat flour were critically low and soon thereafter no basic commodities were available in Gaza.

On Tuesday, the 14th of March 2006 the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) stormed the Palestinian National Authority's (PNA) detention center in Jericho. The aim was to seize six detainees wanted by Israel, in particular Ahmed Sa'adat, claimed to be the mastermind behind the killing of the Israeli Minister of Tourism Rehavam Ze'evi, in 2001, together with Fuad Shubaki, wanted by Israel on charges of smuggling weapons into Palestine, and four others.

In this nine hour long operation the Israeli Military used helicopters, tanks and bulldozers. Missiles and tank shells were fired. Two guards were killed and at least eight others were wounded. The seized detainees were subjected to degrading treatment, being stripped to their underwear and blindfolded. The prison's premises were destroyed.

The six detainees wanted by Israel for the killing of Ze’evi were being held by the PA in Jericho prison under the 2002 Ramallah Agreement signed by the PA, Israel, UK and the US. There is indication that the US and the British were complicit in this brazen violation by Israel.The prison was protected also by US and British monitors. These monitors left Jericho on the morning of the 14th of March 2006, leaving the prison exposed to the Israeli raid.

By March 19, 2006 there was a food crisis in Gaza.

From June 1 to June 7, 2006 Israel carried out mock air raids over Gaza to terrorize the population. It fired missiles at uninhabited areas, sent planes flying low over densely populated civilian areas. And it killed Palestinians!

On June 1, Israeli gunboats shot at Gaza’s coast and wounded two Palestinian children playing on the beach; On June 3, it injured two Palestinian children inside their homes and a middle aged Palestinian man; On June 5 it killed two Palestinian civilians through a missile strike aimed at a car carrying Palestinian militants; On June 7 it killed two Palestinians and injured another through artillery shells fired at them as they attempted to enter Israel through the fence.

On Friday, June 9, 2006, at about 4pm, an Israeli naval boat stationed off the coast of Beit Lahya in Gaza fired seven successive artillery shells at civilians on the beach crowded with men, women and children. Seven civilians from the same family (father, mother and five children) were killed as also another civilian.Thirty-two civilians, including thirteen children, were injured.

On the same day, three more Palestinian civilians lost their lives, killed by an Israeli missile that had been fired at a car. This near Jabalya.

Then, just four days later, on 13 June, Israel struck again, this time on a Gazan highway, killing eleven and injuring thirty. It also fired on a funeral procession, wounding three fifteen- year olds.
On June 20, Israel attempted to carry out a targeted assassination. The attempt failed in its objective but killed three Palestinian children and wounded 15 others.

On June 21 Israel carried out another missile attack. It missed its target but hit a home and killed a Palestinian man and his pregnant sister and injured four Palestinian civilians and seven children. In addition three adults and a ten year old child were injured near the house.

After giving the Gazans a taste of what was to come, Israel topped this activity by launching a full scale invasion of Gaza on June 27, 2006, under the code name of “Operation Summer Rain”.

The then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was not shy about telling the world about what Israel wanted to do. With tongue in cheek he said that the aim was "not to mete out punishment but rather to apply pressure so that the abducted soldier (Gilad Shalit) will be freed. We want to create a new equation — freeing the abducted soldier in return for lessening the pressure on the Palestinians." (emphasis mine) And this is the “pressure” that was applied.

On the first day of the assault Israeli fighter planes carried out three airstrikes on Gazan bridges in the morning. This was followed by strikes against Gazan power plants in the afternoon. Gaza sank into darkness. Israeli forces in the meantime had commenced moving into Gaza to take control of the open areas east of Rafah

The Gaza International Airport and the Islamic University were hit.

On June 29, 2006 Israel seized and detained 64 members of the Hamas party, including eight Palestinian Authority cabinet ministers – a third of the Palestinian cabinet - Legislative Council members, ministers and mayors, making it impossible for the new PA government to function.

On June 30 Israel, which had started its offensive against Gaza in December, started its bombardment phase. Israeli warplanes and gunboats struck more than a dozen times in Gaza in the hours after midnight, pounding more than 40 Hamas targets and a mosque, where 10 persons were killed. Roads and open fields were bombarded. The Palestinian Interior Ministry in Gaza City was struck. Three missiles hit the office of Khaled Abu Ilal, an Interior Ministry official.

On July 6, 2006, the IDF reoccupied three former Israeli settlements in northern Gaza. Strip. Additional forces entered a nearby Palestinian town.

During the conflict, 5 Israeli soldiers were killed (including two in the initial Palestinian cross-border attack, and one in a friendly fire incident). Six Israeli civilians were killed and nearly 40 wounded. Early during the assault all border crossings in and out of Gaza were shut.

The public health, safety and environmental hazards stemming from the damage caused to infrastructure as a result of this military operation included water shortages, contaminated remaining drinking water, uncontrolled discharge and untreated sewage flowing in the streets resulting in groundwater pollution, pollution of agricultural land , making it impossible for Gazans to cultivate to harvest crops. All this not only had a severe negative impact on their earning, but also posed a grave threat to the health and safety of the Gazans.

As recorded by the PCHR in its report dated Sept 10, 2006, the outcome of the military action since 25 June 2006 was:

● 257 Palestinians, mostly civilians, including 49 children and 12 women, have been killed by IOF
● At least 954 Palestinian civilians, including 272 children and 31 women, have been wounded by the IOF gunfire.
● At least 248 air-to-surface missiles and hundreds of artillery shells have been fired at Palestinian civilian and military targets in the Gaza Strip.
● Buildings of the Palestinian Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of National economy, the office of the Palestinian Prime Minister and a number of educational institutions have been destroyed.
● The electricity generation plant, providing 45% of the electricity of the Gaza Strip, was destroyed, and electricity networks and transmitters have been repeatedly attacked.
● 6 bridges linking Gaza City with the central Gaza Strip and a number of roads have been destroyed.
● Hundreds of donums ( according to Wikipedia encyclopedia, “a dunam or dönüm, dunum, donum is a unit of area used in the Ottoman Empire and still used, in various standardized versions, in many countries formerly part of the Ottoman Empire. It was defined as "forty standard paces in length and breadth",[1] but varied considerably from place to place”). of agricultural land and dozens of houses have been destroyed.
● Hundreds of Palestinian civilians, including 9 ministers and 31 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), including the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and Secretary, have been arrested. Minster of Prisoners' Affairs, Minister of Labor and Second Deputy Speaker of the PLC were released.
● The Palestinian governmental compound in Nablus has been destroyed.
● Many families in Rafah, Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia have been forced to leave their houses.
● IOF intelligence has warned some Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip by phone to evacuate their houses, which would be attacked.
● 40 houses belonging to activists of Palestinian factions were destroyed by IOF warplanes.  IOF have imposed a strict siege on the OPT, and have isolated the Gaza Strip from the outside world.

Hardly had “Operation Summer Rain” ended when, on November 1, 2006 Israel commenced another military operation, this time calling it “Operation Autumn Clouds”!!

Starting on November1, in the first two days alone it killed 15 Palestinians, including at least 4 civilians, and wounded at least 50, including 15 children and 3 women. The Israelis announced an end of the operation on November 7.

However, on November 8, 2006, Israeli forces fired successively 10 to 12 shells at a Beit Hanoun residential street resulting in eighteen Palestinian civilians – most of them women and children from the same family -- being killed. The victims were trying to flee a barrage of Israeli artillery shells fired on and around the house where they had been sleeping minutes earlier. The Gazans, who had just buried 55 of their fellowmen after a week-long offensive in Beit Hanoun, were stunned.

In a day-long meeting of the Security Council on November 9, called jointly by the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Non-Aligned Movement, more than 40 speakers expressed grave concern at the mounting humanitarian toll, with many demanding an immediate ceasefire and deployment of United Nations observers.
A ceasefire was declared on November 26, 2006.

On December 9, 2006 the PLO Executive Committee recommended early elections.

On December 14, 2006, Ismail Haniya was denied entry to Gaza from Egypt at the Rafah border crossing. Haniya was returning to Gaza from his first official trip abroad as prime minister in the PA government and was reported to have an estimated 30 million US dollars meant for the PA government. A gun battle between Hamas and the Palestinian Presidential Guard was reported at the Rafah border crossing. When Haniya later attempted to cross the border, an exchange of gunfire left one bodyguard dead. Haniya’s eldest son was wounded. Hamas denounced the attack as an attempt by Fatah on Haniya’s life. Firefights broke out between the two factions.

On Dec 16 Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called for new elections. This was viewed by Hamas as a bid to undermine the government which was formed following January’s legislative elections and which was being led by Haniya as Prime Minister.

On 25 February 2007, Israel launched a wide-scale military attack on Nablus in the West Bank and on neighboring refugee camps and villages, torpedoing efforts to get the stalled peace process back on track. About 50,000 Palestinians were placed under curfew. Soldiers conducted house-to-house searches and residents were ordered to stay indoors.
Though this did not directly affect Gaza, it was the largest raid on Nablus in several years. It created havoc and large scale destruction. And Gazans, who are Palestinians first, suffered in agony. Gaza’s turn was next. On May 16, 2007 Israel, claiming that it was acting to halt the launching of home made rockets at Israeli towns, launched a massive attack on Gaza already reeling under constant attacks. By May 2007, 50 Palestinians had been killed and 206 injured, 71 houses were destroyed in the course of the latest attack. During the same time period, two Israeli civilians were killed and several more had been injured by the Qassam rockets fired from the Gaza Strip.
It is relevant to here remember that between 25 June 2006 and the truce that came into force at the end of November 2006, over 400 Palestinians (including 90 children) were killed and some 1,500 (including over 300 children) injured. During the same period three Israeli soldiers were killed and 18 wounded, and two Israeli civilians were killed and some 30 injured in Sderot by Qassam rockets fired by Palestinians from Gaza.

With Hamas showing no signs of capitulating, Israel further tightened the noose around Gaza’s neck by closing the Rafah Crossing on June 9, 2007. This crossing was the only point of entry into and exit from Gaza. Its closure put Gaza under siege.
At one point as many as 6,000 Palestinians were stranded at the Egyptian border, waiting for the closure to be lifted so they could return to their homes and families in Gaza.
Also, in June, 2007 Hamas learnt, through a report published in Israeli newspaper Haaretz, that Abbas and a US commander had asked Israel to authorize a huge arms shipment by Egypt, including armored cars, armor-piercing rockets, thousands of hand grenades, and millions of rounds of ammunition. Hamas viewed this as preparation for a massive attack on it by Fatah. It decided it was time to take defensive action before it was too late. Determined to foil what it believed on evidence was an American-Fatah plot to subvert the decision of the people democratically expressed, it launched operations against Fatah forces in Gaza and, within a week or so, Fatah forces were routed. Hamas was in full control of Gaza. Abbas’s writ no longer ran in Gaza.
This has been portrayed by Israel, the US and some European powers as a Coup d’Etat by Hamas. In truth it was a counter coup by Hamas. It is important to understand this and towards this end a little digression is necessary here. It will help illustrate the extent of intrigue between Israel, the US and Fatah to deny Hamas its legitimate rights.
When Abbas began holding talks with Hamas to try and establish a “unity government”, Condoleezza Rice personally met Abbas on October 4, 2006 and demanded that he dissolve the new government dominated by Hamas as soon as possible and hold fresh elections.
After several weeks, with no evidence of Abbas doing her bidding, Jake Walles, the US consul general in Jerusalem, went to Ramallah and delivered an ultimatum to the Palestinian president: Ask Hamas to accede to the demands of the Quartet and if it fails to do so, declare a state of emergency and form an emergency government without Hamas.
Instead of doing that, Abbas accepted Saudi King Abdullah’s invitation and, on February 6, 2007 went to Mecca to meet with Hamas and formally establish a national unity government. In a couple of days an agreement was reached, without Hamas accepting the Quartet’s “three demands”! The clincher was the promise made by the Saudis to pay the Palestinian Authority’s salary bills.
The US then redoubled its pressure on the PA. It asked Abbas to demand that Hamas accept Quartet’s demands, and, if it refused, dismiss the government and either call early elections or impose an emergency government. It also impressed on Abbas the need to maintain “independent control of key security forces.” and “avoid Hamas integration with these services, while eliminating the Executive Force or mitigating the challenges posed by its continued existence.”
In parallel to these efforts, the US also pursued a covert initiative it had launched to provoke a Palestinian civil war. The plan was for forces led by Dahlan (Fatah’s strong man in Gaza) and armed with new weapons supplied at America’s behest, to give Fatah the muscle it needed to remove the democratically elected Hamas-led government from power.
A portion of the plan was leaked and published in a Jordanian newspaper. Hamas became aware of it and regarded the plan, quite understandably, to be a blueprint for a U.S.-backed Fatah coup.
In mid-May 2007, 500 Fatah National Security Forces recruits arrived, fresh from training in Egypt and equipped with brand new rifles with telescopic sights and vehicles. In June, as satetd earlier, Hamas learnt, through a report published in Israeli newspaper Haaretz that Abbas and a US commander had asked Israel to authorize a huge arms shipment by Egypt, including armored cars, armor-piercing rockets, thousands of hand grenades, and millions of rounds of ammunition. Hamas decided it was time to take defensive action before it was too late. Determined to foil what it believed on evidence was an American-Fatah plot to subvert the decision of the people democratically expressed, it launched operations against Fatah forces in Gaza in June 2007 and, within a week or so, Fatah forces were routed. Hamas was in full control of Gaza. Abbas’s writ no longer ran in Gaza.
In June,2007 Abbas split with Prime Minister Ismail Haniya and declared a state of emergency. Abbas dissolved the government and named Salam Fayyad as the new prime minister, but Haniya vowed to carry on.

To continue the narrative:
On September 19, 2007 Israel declared the Gaza Strip an "enemy entity." The justification given was once more the firing of rockets from Gaza. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice immediately backed the declaration. There followed a series of collective punishment measures which crippled Gaza's already non-existing economy. Importing of basic needs, including medicine, was denied. Exports were severely limited. Fuel supplies were cut. Movement of people out of and into Gaza, including those in need of urgent medical care, was halted.
On 15 January, 2008, in a raid by Israel, nineteen Palestinians were killed, including the son of Hamas head Mahmoud al-Zahar, three farmers and a student.
On January 17, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the total closure of the Gaza Strip. Power supply and fuel to Gaza were also cut.

The residents of Gaza are mainly food aid-dependent refugees. With the total closure of the Strip and cutting off of power supply and fuel to Gaza, a major disaster soon developed.

On June 19, 2008 a 26 week Egyptian brokered truce between Hamas and Israel was announced. Under its terms, Israel was to halt its incursions into Gaza, and Hamas was to stop the firing of rockets into Israel from Gaza. Israel agreed to also ease its blockade on Gaza if the truce held. Further talks on prisoner exchange were also envisaged. The truce was to last till December 19.

Hamas adhered to the terms of the truce. Though a few rogue elements in Gaza did fire some rockets into Israel during the truce (about 500 rockets were fired during the period, most of them after Israel broke the truce on November 5), Hamas honored the truce and enforced it on its cadres (even Israel’s intelligence agencies acknowledged this had been implemented with surprising effectiveness).

The truce was going well for Israel. From the beginning of 2008 till June19 Hamas fired 2660 projectiles into Israel. From June 19, when the truce started, till November 4, only 65 rockets had been fired. Israel itself admitted that during the truce period there was a significant reduction of shells being lobbed into Israel.
But it was not going so well for Gaza. The promised easing of the blockade by Israel never materialized. What is more, Israel chose to violate the truce. On November 4, 2008 under the pretext of stopping a “ticking” tunnel, Israel executed six Palestinians in Gaza.
Not withstanding this, even before the truce expired on December 19, Hamas sought, through the good offices of Egypt and others, to extend the truce. Israel refused.
Determined to bring Gaza to its knees, Israel, unleashed its cruelest offensive against Gaza under the code name of Operation Cast Lead. On December 27 Israel began its bombardment on Gaza and then on January, 2009 it began its ground offensive. The assault lasted for 22 days. During this period more than 1,300 Palestinians were killed in Gaza. There was shelling from every side, from air, sea and land. White phosphorous was rained on Gazans. On the first day itself, more than 100 tons of bombs were dropped on this tiny, beleaguered strip of land. Entire families were wiped out. Much of Gaza was reduced to rubble.

Though the above is a long report, it does not even begin to record the trials and tribulations of the people of Gaza. And it does not convey the emotional and psychological impact all this has had on the Gazans. It was not meant to. The purpose here is to lend context to what Dom Martin and others have so effectively expressed in their images and poetry.
Most regrettably, the saga continues. The International Community, which galvanized itself into fast and telling action against Iraq when it occupied Kuwait (which once was its province) and not only drove the occupying Iraqi army out of Kuwait but chased it almost into the heart of Iraq, leaving a trail of warped and burnt tanks, armored vehicles and men – this same community, in the case of Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory and its stranglehold on Gaza, has stood idly by during Israel’s more than 40 years of brutal occupation of the Palestinian territories. It assuages its conscience by giving millions in aid – to feed the impoverished Gazans (who would not need any aid if only they were allowed to go about their business without Israeli restrictions and bombardments and allowed to import and export freely) and rebuild what Israel goes on reducing to rubble whatever is rebuilt! By doing this the International Community does no favor to the Gazans. It merely perpetuates Israeli tyranny and becomes complicit in it.

Of late the international community is becoming increasingly reluctant to pour in money to rebuild what they know Israel will destroy again by its precision bombs and missiles. Notwithstanding this, at the donors' conference in Egypt last March the international community once more pledged billions of dollars to rebuild what Israel destroyed in Gaza in its 2008/09 war on Gaza. But this time no rebuilding can take place because Israel has put a blockade against any material coming into Gaza. According to international aid agencies, only 41 trucks of building supplies have been allowed into Gaza during the year.

Former president of US Jimmy Carter has recently recounted that he has seen “homeless people huddling in makeshift tents, under plastic sheets, or in caves dug into the debris of their former homes. Despite offers by Palestinian leaders and international agencies to guarantee no use of imported materials for even defensive military purposes, cement, lumber, and panes of glass are not being permitted to pass entry points into Gaza.” He has gone on to state “The US and other nations have accepted this abhorrent situation without forceful corrective action….. The cries of homeless and freezing people demand immediate relief….We cannot wait any longer… It is time to face the fact that, for the past 30 years, no one nation has been able or willing to break the impasse and induce the disputing parties to comply with international law…. Israel has long argued that it cannot negotiate with terrorists, yet has had an entire year without terrorism and still could not negotiate. President Obama has promised active involvement of the US government, but no formal peace talks have begun and no comprehensive framework for peace has been proposed. Individually and collectively, the world powers must act”.

But no meaningful action is in sight. Israel continues to throttle Gaza in its effort to topple Hamas. And Gaza still bleeds. In full view of the civilized world. But Gaza will never fall. Though bloodied, it has not been bowed and never will be. It embodies the essence of the struggle of free people against tyranny.

In the end, it is Israel that will go the way of all tyrannies and Gaza will forever be a shining symbol of unyielding resistance against overwhelming and unceasing force, an example for all time to all the oppressed people all over the world as to how to rid the world
of oppression.

Please see:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lU5Wi2jhnW0

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

PEACE TALKS

by Samah Sabawi


Let's talk
Let's negotiate
Let's have a conference, a summit, a debate
A multifaith dialogue to eliminate hate
They'll call us men of peace
And after our love fest
We can issue a joint release
Of how we talk!

Let's talk
But not about ethnic cleansing
Forget Dier Yassin
Don't speak of apartheid
Or the destruction of Jennin
Be blind to the pain in Gaza
The hunger, the disease
The rubble, the fires
The uprooted trees
Sewerage floods and darkness
Drones and the Siege
Most of all
DON'T MENTION THE RIGHTS OF REFUGEES
When we talk!

Let's talk
Let our words float in the air
Devoid of meaning or clarity
We'll establish our own facts on the ground
And you will be paid your salary
Never before has talking of peace
Caused so much damage and agony
Yet still we talk!

So let's talk
Let's negotiate !
We can have a conference, a summit, a debate
A multifaith dialogue to eliminate hate
We'll shake hands and smile
And make the six o'clock news
For supporting the peace process
Between Arabs and Jews
And we will only talk!


PS This post has ben made possible courtesy of Adib S Karwar

Souirce:
http://www.bdsmovement.net/?q=node/68 Take action: Support the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rich Siegel


"IN PALESTINE"

Rich Siegel and Dave Lippman, two Jewish writers, co-wrote a telling and haunting song about children dying in Palestine, and Rich Siegel played it beautifully on piano with his vocal accompaniment. In the process Rich tells of his awakening to what was hidden from him about Zionism and the history of the making of Israel.

We reproduce here the lyrics of the song, which has been written in memory of Abir Aramin, daughter of Basam Aramin and of the 437 children of Gaza who were killed by the Israelis in their Dec.08/Jan.09 invasion of Gaza.

The lyrics are copyright.

You can hear Rich’s rendition of the song and the comments by both the writers at: http://vimeo.com/6630724 The entire video lasts just 12 minutes.


Please see the note at the end of the lyrics.



"IN PALESTINE"
Music by Rich Siegel
Lyric by Dave Lippman and Rich Siege
Copyright 2009, all rights reserved

You tell me all peoples need land of their own
All the others have theirs, why not leave us alone?
We bought it, we brought it to bloom in the sun
It's ours- always was
We won't let them take back our homes and our trees
We won't have them driving us into the seas
That's why we are forcing them down on their knees(pause)
But the children are dying in Palestine

You tell me of centuries caught in despair
Pogroms, persecutions, and final solutions
The need of a homeland, safety for JewsI hear you
You tell me of hatred, of fear and attack
Of enemies everywhere, we must fight back
The border town's under the gun- (pause)
But a hundred to one, the children are dying in Palestine

You say
There can never be peace'til their outrages cease
Of course, they say the same
You say it's not true that we forced them to leave
That Jews would do that you just cannot believe
The Arabs are treacherous, born to deceive
The hate us
Well, it's true we've been hated, but when we arrive
And take over their country in the name of our surviv-al
Is it any wonder that peace cannot thrive
While the children are dying in Palestine?

Instrumental break

I'm told
Every state has its Jews
Even Jews have their Jews
They've been there all along
You say we must search for some moderate way
We must find a middle ground to save the day
We shouldn't have settlements,
They shouldn't prey on our nation
But where is the middle and where the extremes?
We've settled their farmlands and stolen their streams
Our generous offers are not what they seem
And the children are dying in Palestine

We’re trapped in this horror, it won’t go away.
We’ve conquered, but conquering won’t win the day
We inspire their hatred, we watch in dismay
It’s madness
Suppose we did take their land, planned it all along
Can we look at ourselves and admit we’ve done wrong
Can we all live together, can we all belong
Can we stop all this killing in Palestine?
Please God no more children dying in Palestine

*******************



Notes:
The song can be downloaded at: http://richsiegel.bandcamp.com/
(You can pay whatever you like for this download, minimum $1. 20% of earnings will go to charities that help Palestinian children, including the following, in alphabetical order: Global Help Initiative for Palestine http://www.help-initiative.org/ Humanity without Borders humanitywithoutborders.ning.com Middle East Children's Alliance http://www.mecaforpeace.org/ Playgrounds for Palestine http://www.playgroundsforpalestine.org/ The balance will go to funding Rich Siegel's upcoming CD project "Spirit and Justice" which will include the song "In Palestine", and when that is complete, to other recording and video projects. Any parties interested in assisting with or taking a sponsorship role in these projects please contact Rich directly at rich@richsiegel.com.)

The song, Rich’s talk and Dave Lippman’s comments can also be seen on two You-tube videos. The total playing time for both the videos is 12 minutes.

Part 1, Dedication and Song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1x2axqjhI6g
Part 2, The Songwriters speak: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojv1FWFGCgw&feature=channel


Rich Siegel website
http://www.richsiegel.com/

Dave Lippman’s website
http://www.davelippman.com/

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Definition of Occupation

By Abdelnasser Rashid

Occupied, terrorized, genocide
while the whole world is hypnotized,
Sixty years, incessant tears
no day passes by without countless fears
For our lives, our wives, our children cry
yet the world turns away, and our spirits die.
For my land, I do stand
but I remain hopeless without a helping hand,
Oppression, suppression, depression
of every aspect of my life, you've taken possession,
Our weapons are stones, to protect our homes
but your bulldozers win and terror roams,
Yours are tanks, helicopters, and military jeeps
to kill the young man, as his mother weeps,
You control our electricity, you control our seas
you control our streets, and uproot our trees,
You close our schools, our children can't learn
you deny the refugees their right to return,
Suffering orphans, under your persecution
when they rise up, they face execution,
Families are separated, and farmers (merely) recall
the land they lost by your Apartheid Wall,
Through your diplomacy and your foreign relations
you attempt to justify and give credence to your occupations,
Palestine is my land, and I won't let you take it
and while you put the world to sleep, I try to wake it.
Abdelnasser Rashid is a 11th Grader.
April 15, 2006

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

WE ARE ANGRY

by Mazin Qumsiyeh


Maker of the Universe, where art Thou . . .?


We are angry at rhetoric of oppression
Hafrada-Segregation-Apartheid and Security
Two-states, one state, cantons and autonomy
The chosen state’s right to exist
While colonialism can persist
Addicts now to talk about talking
And hold meetings about more meetings
Maybe to revive the “peace process” charades
to ensure no peace for a few more decades
giving the monster created by Western powers
time to gobble more of the holy places
and belch its pleasure in more negotiations
devoid of human rights or UN resolutions

We are angry at statistics of oppression
11,000 political prisoners
534 Destroyed villages and towns
35% seeking stolen jobs
450 km of apartheid walls
7 million displaced or refugees
1.5 million uprooted fruiting trees
1.5 million in Gaza besieged
62 years of justice denied

We are angry at manufactured misery
Epidemics and pandemics
Genocides hidden with polemics
Swelling ranks of the disempowered
Phosphorous bombs on Gaza showered
An apartheid wall that snakes around
Running sewage in the streets aboubd
Children barefoot in a refugee camp in 2009!
While the unelected leaders repeat the same line

We are angry at spies
Some come take pictures and pretend to care
Others just watch and hope to avoid the glare
Some punished by law or by a guilty conscience
Others abandoned by their racist masters
Some feed stomachs but starve their souls
Others fall for carnal desires
as fleeting as the empty goals
Some serving the colonial racist regime
Others think it safer with the quisling themeSome commit suicide or die forgotten
Others repent and are soon forgiven

We are angry at hypocrisy
Those who claim they need their human right
While not sparing children from their plight
Those who champion International laws
While leaving heavy trails of bloody claws
Those who smile plunging knives in your back
While screaming loudly that they are under attack
Those who use a religious heritage to support overt racism
While defaming anyone who dares to speak out: “anti-semitism”!

We are angry at collaborators
Those with nice suits and those with guns
Those who sell their people for shekels
Those who do it out of ignorance
And those who with malice and malfeasance
Presidents, Pundits, and peasants
Large or small petty criminals

We are angry at being angry
While it may help us break the chains
Yet our love through anger diminishes
And our faith in humanity shrinks
And even what we want for ourselves
So maybe this final anger motivates ….
To shed anger and keep high our heads and spirits
In our world there are many who deserve merits
Good, honest, brave activists
Philanthropists, protestors, poets…
men and women of all life stages
tailor-made therapists for all ages
Political Prisoners and Martyrs
Intellectuals and small farmers
Working to plant the blood-soaked lands
With cactus, figs, olive trees, and almonds
watering hopes and dreams like a growing grape vine
tendrils reaching out to free beloved immortal Palestine


Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD A Bedouin in Cyberspace, a villager at home

http://qumsiyeh.org/

NAKBLINKA: The Bird has Died

by Dom Martin



A bird
That has eaten
Soars!

In Gaza
No bird
Has flown!

1.5 million:
Incarcerated;
Human stateliness:
Desecrated!

It's Nakba
Not NAFTA;
It's
Nakblinka
Not Treblinka!

From corporatism
To imperialism:
It's a collage of gulags
Bantustans
Afghanistans
Iraqs!

It's
xenophobism:
The metabolism
To corporatism
Bridged by munitions
Unabridged by renditions!




The Face of DU

Amidst our sacrosanct lies
Behold!
The child of innocence
Comes born
With no eyes!

Ghoulish tumors
Genetic sores
Patenting deaths . . .
It's the DNA
Of our War on Terror
The cherubic wreaths
To our lethal armor!

It's humanity that's
dead
As we continue to be led
By the reluctant progress
Of God’s egress!

God hasn't defected
Is merely splinted
In the one-way access
To our political abscess!

Alas!
The bird flutters
As the UN utters
Another veto!

The bird died
Of DU
As we congressionally lied
About what we knew!

Source: http://www.propheticimagery.com/Nakblinka.htm

Friday, September 4, 2009

ENFORCEMENT NEEDED, NOT NEGOTIATIONS . . .

Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

by Gulamhusein A Abba



The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has turned that region into a dangerous and smoldering tinderbox that can flare up anytime, sucking into its vortex a number of world powers.

This conflict, which has been raging for years now, continues to decimate the Palestinian population, destroy their lands and infrastructure, drain Israel’s economy and seriously strain relations between the US and its Arab allies and Muslim nations all over the world.

It is obviously in the interests of not only Israel and the Palestinians but also the US and world at large to bring this conflict to an end.

The US, the international community, the Palestinians (both the Fatah and its supporters as also Hamas and its followers) and Israeli leaders have made public declarations to the effect that they are committed to a solution that embraces two states, Israel and Palestine, living in peace side by side. The entire Arab world has agreed to recognize Israel if it withdraws to the 1967 borders.

And yet, though the quest for peace between Israel and the Palestinians has been going on for generations now, a resolution of the dispute remains elusive.

There are two main reasons for this.

There are world powers eager to establish their presence in this strategic region. They fan the fires between Israel and the Palestinians and between Fatah (which controls the West Bank) and Hamas (which controls the Gaza Strip). In the guise of helping one or the other, they pour in aid and armaments.

The chief reason however is that the Zionist leaders who control the government of Israel, though they pay lip service to peace and the two-state solution, persist in their determination and efforts to establish Eretz Yisraeel on all of the land west of the Jordan River.

This was their intention when Zionism was born and this was the declared intention of the Israeli leaders when Israel was established in 1948. Israeli propaganda goes on claiming that Israel accepted the UN resolution but the Palestinians did not. In fact, Israel’s acceptance was partial. It never accepted the boundaries as set out by the UN, and its leaders assured the Jews that the establishment of Israel was the first step to reclaim all of Palestine as it existed just prior to the creation of Israel. There is ample documentation of these assurances made by responsible Israeli leaders.

In pursuance of this goal, Israel fired the fist shot in 1967, launched the war, invaded and captured the West Bank, The Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, Sinai and the Golan Heights. Its dream of reclaiming all of Biblical Israel was realized.

Left to itself, Israel would not part with an inch of all this land. If it now talks of a two- state solution it is only because Israeli leaders realized, rather late in the day, that demograhics would pose a serious problem to their holding on to all the land. Soon the Arab population would outstrip the Jewish population. Then Israel would cease to be Jewish. Alternatively, it would have to turn itself into an Apartheid State if it wanted to continue being a Jewish state. None of these two alternatives was acceptable.

And hence the “commitment” to two-states. But what Israel intends is to divest itself of as many Arabs as possible and corral them on small, disconnected pieces of land surrounded by Israel! And call these conglomeration of Bantustans the state of the Palestinians, the second state with which it will live in peace side by side!

This, clearly, the Palestinians cannot and will never accept.

Bearing in mind this fundamental fact, all this talk of peace and the peace process is a farce, a façade to enable Israel to put more “facts on the ground” and consolidate its hold on the Palestinians. Israel’s refusal to meet the recent demand of the Obama administration to freeze all construction of settlements on Palestinian lands is stark proof of this.

Given Israel’s firm resolve in this matter, seeking peace in the region through a negotiated resolution of the conflict by Israel and Palestinians is to keep barking up the wrong tree.

For the UN to take the Israeli-Palestinian issue out of its orbit and ask the Israelis and the Palestinians to resolve the “dispute” by bilateral negotiations was an error to start with. To keep pressing for such negotiations is a grave injustice to the Palestinians. On the one side you have a powerful country, with an army among the largest and most powerful in the world. On the other, people who have no army, no armaments worth the name, their homes destroyed, their economy ruined, living under the boots of their brutal occupiers. They have no leverage. The situation is obviously and unbearably asymmetric. In such circumstances, to expect a just negotiated settlement between the two parties is unrealistic and naiveté of the first order.

Israel, in defiance of a number of UN resolutions, has continued to illegally occupy the Palestinian lands for more than 40 years now. It has been the longest and most brutal occupation in current history. Israel has killed thousands of Palestinians, demolished their homes, devastated their cities, confiscated their lands, ruined their economy and driven them to poverty.. It continues to humiliate them daily and make their life as miserable as possible through a myriad of checkpoints within West Bank itself, making it impossible for the Palestinians to travel freely in their own land, keeping families separated, preventing timely access to hospitals, creating hurdles for students to go to schools.

And all this, to its shame and disgrace, has been going on in full view of the entire world!

If world leaders are serious about resolving this dispute justly and establishing peace in the region, they need to accept that this is not a dispute to be settled between two parties but a case of aggression and illegal occupation of Palestinian lands by Israel – an occupation that needs to be vacated.

The farcical peace process must end. The UN needs to live up to its responsibilities and take firm steps to bring to an end this illegal occupation. If it cannot take any effective action, as a result of having its hands tied through a veto by Israel’s “best friend” and ally, then those nations of the world that believe in justice and rule of law must start unilaterally and independently bringing pressure on Israel to vacate its illegal occupation and let the Palestinians establish an independent, sovereign, contiguous and viable state, even if it be on a mere 22% of the land they enjoyed prior to the establishment of Israel.

That is all that the Palestinians want. Surely that is not too much to ask for.

Israel is a rogue state and it is time for the international community to start making demand of Israel and treating it as a pariah that it has become. It is time for world governments and organizations to start boycotting Israel, divesting funds from it and corporations that do business with it, and imposing sanctions against it.

The occupation and the Israeli settlements and land grab are the root cause of the problem. The world community has accepted that the occupation and the Israeli settlements outside of the 1967 borders are illegal. Israel must be forced to vacate this illegal occupation and dismantle the illegal settlements.

If at all there are to be any negotiations, it is for Israel to plead with the Palestinians for concessions and accommodation, not the other way around.

When Iraq, which had plausible reasons for wanting to “reclaim” Kuwait (Kuwait was a part of Iraq till the British drew a line in the sand, carved it out of Iraq and made it a separate state)— when Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait, the international community acted swiftly and with resolve. Iraq was forced, and rightly so, to vacate the occupation. In fact, its army was chased almost to Baghdad, leaving a stretch of burned out tanks and personnel carriers and mangled bodies.

Why then is no effort being made to make Israel vacate its more than 40 years of brutal and devastating occupation? Why, instead of being treated as an aggressor and illegal occupier, is it being handled with kid gloves? Why is it being given an opportunity to decide when, with whom and on what terms will it “negotiate” the disgorgement of its ill gotten booty, and how much of that booty it will return to the rightful owners, the Palestinians?

The international community got the occupation of Kuwait vacated in quick time. It has given Israel more than 40 years to vacate its occupation of Palestinian lands. Israel has failed to do so till now and shows no signs of its intention to do so ever.

The comity of nations must act. There is not room for double standards here.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

GAZA: The Face of Reality

Open Letter to President Barak Obama


Mr. President, there comes a moment in the realization of reality when that which we had all along perceived and patronized as righteous, itself metamorphosizes into an incendiary kiln, tempering bricks of condemnation that progressively mount and eventually imprison us with corporal guilt.

Mr. President, the devastating siege on 1.5 million inhabitants of Gaza is one such reality, brought hauntingly home in the petrified face of this Palestinian child. Her tearful glare is a glaring indictment of our inhumanity towards our fellowbeings.

Mr. President, if this was your daughter’s plight, you would have commandeered every human effort and resolve — even if it meant altering the earth's axis — in order to armor innocence from dehumanization and collective decollation.

Mr. President, it is not necessary to go that far or exert as much. The siege on Gaza can be lifted by simply picking the phone and giving freedom its democracy in the ark of human conscientiousness!



HYPOCRITICAL TEARS, SELECTIVE OUTRAGE

Democracy On Their Lips, Destruction In Their Hearts

by Gulamhusein A. Abba



President Obama is a gifted speaker. His speeches soar. They give hope and they inspire. Often he sounds more like a preacher than the President of the USA!

In reacting to the turmoil in Iran, he was restrained and circumspect but did not hesitate to voice strong feelings.

Eager not to give Iranian clerics an opportunity to divert world concern from Iran’s excesses to alleged American meddling in Iran’s internal affairs, initially the White House on June 13 was merely “monitoring” the situation in Iran. On June 14 Vice President Joe Biden said he had “doubts” about the election. By June 15 the US had become “deeply troubled” by events in Iran and Obama spoke out. “I am deeply troubled by the violence that I’ve been seeing on television. I think that the democratic process, free speech, the ability of people to peacefully dissent – all of those are universal values and need to be respected, and whenever I see violence perpetrated on people who are peacefully dissenting, and whenever the American people see that, I think they are rightfully troubled.”

In an interview taped on June 19 with CBS, Obama said he was very concerned with the “tenor and tone” of Khamenei’s comments. He also said that how Iran’s leaders “approach and deal with people who are, through peaceful means, trying to be heard” will signal “what Iran is and is not.”

On June 20 Obama challenged Iran’s government to halt “violent and unjust” crackdown on dissenters. “We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people,” Obama said in a written statement. “The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights. …. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. …. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion.”

By June 23 millions had seen the video of the beautiful, young Neda Agha Soltan laid out on a Tehran street after being shot, blood pouring from her mouth and then across all over her face, eyes rolled upwards.

On June 23, in his news conference Obama strongly condemned the Iranian government’s crackdown and said the US had been “appalled and ouraged by the threats, beatings and imprisonment of the last few days.”

In the US Congress, the House voted 405 – 1 to condemn and protest the governments interference with Internet and cell phone communications. The Senate followed suit later in the day

Senator Joseph Lieberman on June 14 said the Iranian rulers had stolen the election and made a mockery of democracy. He urged Obama to “protest and speak out in defense of silenced Iranian demonstrators.”

Among those condemning the actions of the Iranian clerics and pushing Obama to be more critical of the Iranian government and offer greater praise and support to the demonstrators was Senator McCain.

In Paris, demonstrators held banners saying “Freedom of Expression in Iran” and “Where is my vote” near the Eiffel Tower

In Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu, commenting on the protests in Iran, said, “…..What we see there is a great thirst for freedom among a part of the population.”

No one can take any issue with any of these pronouncements. They are impressive and welcome. It is good to see people and governments around the globe being concerned when human and civil rights are violated brutally.

However, there is a strange disconnect here. One cannot forget that the US repressed even more ruthlessly, violently and persistently the civil rights movement. Baton wielding uniformed police fired not only water cannons and tear gas on the protestors but also let loose on them ferocious dogs.
Equally determinedly and systematically crushed in the US were the mass protests against the Vietnam War, specially the student protests on campuses across America.
And who can forget what the US army personnel did to the helpless prisoners in Abu Gharib?

In Beirut many, many “Nedas”, young men and women sacrificed everything to defend their land, their freedom and their loved ones. They were killed by Israeli bombs and missiles and cannon fire. None can recall any of those so contrite now over the deaths of the Iranian protestors mourning those who died in Beirut.

In Israel young, unarmed men and women protesting the occupation and the theft of their lands – protesting peacefully and non-violently -- are being on a regular basis tear gassed, shot at by rubber coated bullets and killed. One can hear no mourning for them from Obana or the US Congress or Senator Lieberman or Senator McCain. Nor any condemnation of the Israeli violence, suppression and killings.

As for Netanyahu, it is surprising that he can see so clearly “a great thirst for freedom among a part of the (Iranian) population” but is unable to see the unquenched thirst for freedom among the entire population of Palestinian lands that Israel invaded, occupied and is trying to annex – a population that Israel has kept crushed under its boots for more than 40 years. Stranger still that he cares so much for the very people he is so intent on bombing.

He is not the only one. Among those who are presently shedding tears for the Iranian demonstrators and are clamoring about the need to support the Iranian protestors become free from the “tyranny of the mullahs” are the very ones who cannot wait to bomb Iran to smithereens.

It is jarring to hear people like McCain and Charles Krauthammer and Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman praise to the skies the freedom loving Iranians demonstrating against their government.

Perhaps most curious is the US and EU “outrage” at Iranian government having “stolen” the election.

Just three years back three and a half million Palestinians held democratic elections under the supervision of international observers who certified them to be fair. Jimmy Carter, ex President of the US described these elections as exemplary. Nevertheless, instead of accepting and honoring the will of the people as expressed in the results of the elections, those who are now clamoring that Iran respect the voice of dissent, refused to accept the results. Instead they put sanctions on the resulting united government composed of Palestinian Authority and Hamas representatives, forced PA president Abbas to dislodge Hamas and ultimately put the whole of Gaza under crippling sanctions, made worse by the Israeli siege of that unfortunate strip of land.

And not so long ago, in the US itself, George W Bush, with help from his brother and the Supreme Court, “stole” the elections, deprived Gore of the crown and became the President of the United States.

Among those condemning the excesses of the Iranian government and lavishing praises on the protestors are people and governments who are itching for a war on Iran. They have welcomed and love the protestors in Iran, not because they care for their freedom or for justice but because the protestors have given them an opportunity to present the Iranian government as being opposed to democratic norms and ruthless in suppressing dissent. They want to bring freedom to the demonstrators by bombing Iran and killing them. They have democracy on their lips and death and destruction in their hearts.

All that one can tell the Iranian dissidents is to beware of such “friends.”

For Obama, people – and I among them – have the greatest respect. He is sincere. But he needs to have moral clarity. He needs to take off the blinkers he seems to have when gazing at Israel and Palestine. He needs to follow up the fine speech he gave in Cairo with a clear stand against the continuing illegal occupation of Palestinian lands by Israel, condemn Israeli stranglehold on Gaza, denounce the gassing and killing of unarmed Palestinians protesting peacefully against the theft of their lands and lead by lifting the sanctions against Gaza.

When one person suffers, we all do. And right now Palestinians hungering for freedom are suffering at the hands of the Israeli government and the IDF far more than the Iranians struggling for reforms are suffering at the hands of the Iranian clerics.

Perhaps these pictures may help him see what the Palestinians are suffering.

Photos: Source and credit

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

THE FACE OF TERROR




he blatant horror
Of our War on Terror!



Behold the face:
What’s left to efface?

A child of innocence
Woken by the impudence
Of political vengeance
And self-righteous insolence!

There’s scope
On the Afghan slope
For dope!

There’s crude
In the oil wells
Of corporatism!

There’s wealth
In the stealth
Of evil!

There’s peril
In the anvil
Of imperialism!

Maker of the Universe:
Where’s the prism
To the converse?

The menacing power
Of our War on Terror!

Behold the face
Pleading grace!

A child of humanity
Petrified by our insanity
To displace human ease
With nuclear disease!
-Dom Martin

Friday, July 10, 2009

DID CIA ENGINEER THE IRANIAN PROTESTS?

by Gulamhusein A Abba


To claim that the CIA engineered the protests would be giving too much credit to that agency. It must be remembered that the protestors went to sleep on June 11 supremely confident that their candidate, Mousavi would be elected. Within a day of the announcement of results to the contrary, hundreds of thousands of protestors were out on the streets protesting. Even with the vast resources at its command, the CIA would not have been able organize so huge a protest at so short a notice.

Claiming that the CIA engineered the protest is insulting the progressive forces inIran.

It was a spontaneous protest by sincere and dedicated Iranians who believe in truth, justice and fair play and who are fed up with the power play by the entrenched, unelected clerics.

This is not to rule out the hand of the CIA completely. The US notoriously has been working for a regime change in Iran. After the Iranians replaced the puppet, despotic Shah of Iran with Mosaddeq, the CIA engineered a take-over and re-installed the Shah on his peacock throne. Then, ever since the people of Iran toppled the puppet Shah once more, put their beloved Ayatollah in charge of the country, took over of the American embassy there and held Americans hostages for 444 days, US has been working for a change of regime there.

Though under Bush the US administration was eager to use hard power to effect the change and was working towards it, covert action is one of the tools that the US is and has been using – in a big way. In this context, it is useful to read two articles. The first is by Esam Al-ASmin entitled, Iran and Washington's Hidden Hand, first published in Counterpunch (http://counterpunch.com/alamin06302009.html).

The second is by Seymour M. Hersh published in the July 7 issue of the New Yorker http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/07/07/080707fa_fact_hersh


Illustration: GUY BILLOUT

Thursday, July 9, 2009

IRAN ITSELF LIES BLEEDING

The republic is dead



by Gulamhusein A. Abba
June 27, 2009 Updated July 12, 2009





Were the Iranian elections rigged? If so, would the results have been different if they had not been rigged? Even if the protestors are in the thousands or even millions, are they the majority in Iran? Is giving in to their demands in the best interests of the state of Iran? Were the protests aided, if not engineered by foreign powers bent on regime change in Iran (after all the democratically elected government of Mohammed Mosaddeq was toppled by a CIA engineered uprising which put the puppet Shah of Iran back on the throne)? Was Neda killed by a Basij or an extremist supporter of the clerics, or by someone from among the protestors in search of an iconic martyr, or by the CIA (as alleged by Iranian sources)? Was she a protestors’ martyr killed by a Basij or a Basij martyr killed by a pro-Mousavi demonstrator, as the regime is trying to portray?

All this needs to be investigated, thought about and decided.

What is undeniable is that the dissenters and protestors have been dealt with extremely harshly and the voice of dissent has been silenced.

Gunfire, tear gas and water canons were used by baton yielding security forces against unarmed demonstrators peacefully and non-violently exercising their inherent right to question their government, hold it accountable, express their feelings and make demands.

There can be no question that it is for the constituted authority to decide whether it is in the best interests of the nation as a whole to accept the demands made of it. But there can be no excuse for muzzling dissent, especially in the way the clerics chose to do.



Within three days of the start of the demonstrations, seven persons were shot dead by pro regime militia; hundreds of protestors were held all over Iran; Basij and police forces let loose an unacceptable level of violence in a raid of student dormitories of Tehran University, leading the speaker of Iran’s parliament to call for a thorough investigation of the violence by government forces.

Systematic and sustained efforts have been made by the Iranian authorities to intimidate and frighten the protestors and their leaders and silence all form of dissent.

Eye witnesses have said thousands of police and plainclothes militia members filled the streets to prevent rallies. Fire trucks took up positions in Revolution Square and riot police surrounded Tehran University, cordoning it off. People were barred from entering Freedom Street.

Helicopters hovered over central Tehran. Ambulance sirens echoed through the streets. Black smoke rose over the city.

Demonstrators were seen dragging away comrades bloodied by baton strikes.

On June 20, there were fierce clashes near Revolution Square in central Tehran after some 3,000 protestors, many wearing black, had gathered there. Reportedly some 50 to 60 protestors were seriously beaten by police.

The semi-official newspaper Fars reported on June 29 that a total of 1.032 people were detained during post election unrest. It quoted police chief Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam as saying that most had been released and the rest had been sent “to the public and revolutionary courts” in Tehran. However, according to Amnesty International 1,000 have been held, and, according to Paris based International Foundation for Human Rights, 2000 arrests have been made – “not just people arrested and later released, but who are locked up in prison.” These include politicians, intellectuals, protestors and journalists. On June 28, Amnesty International said it was concerned about the possibility that many detainees “could be severely tortured” in custody


Iranian police have said 1,000 people were arrested and that most have since been released. But the state-run English language news network Press TV quoted prosecutor-general Qorban-Ali Dorri Najafabadi saying that 2,500 people were arrested and that 500 of them could face trial. The remainder, he said, have been released.


A prominent human rights lawyer Mohammad Ali Dadkhah was taken away by security forces from his office along with his daughter and three other members of his staff, the pro-opposition news Web site Norouz reported. A former deputy commerce minister in a previous pro-reform government, Feizollah Arab-Sorkhi, was also arrested at his Tehran home, the site reported. A large number of top figures in Iran's reform movement, including a former vice president and former Cabinet members, have been held for weeks since the electionus.


Various sources have claimed that up to 20 persons were killed, though rumors of higher death rates abound.

Even the family members and campaign offices of the presidential candidates were not spared. On June 21, Iran’s government arrested five family members of Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, an ayatollah who is one of the country’s most powerful man. Those arrested included his daughter Faezeh Hashemi. Rafsanjani heads the cleric-run Assembly of Experts, which can choose and remove the Supreme Leader. He also chairs the Expediency Council that arbitrates between parliament and the unelected Guardian Council.

The repressive actions of the clerics were not confined to the protestors, their leaders and their families.


Certain websites, including Farsi BBC, Facebook, Twitter and G-mail were blocked by the government; Tehran based analyst Saeed Leilaz was arrested, as were a number of Iranian journalists; foreign journalists were barred from reporting in the streets; several newspapers were closed down; according to Karroubi’s reformist political group, Iranian authorities had banned the daily Etemad-e-Melli (National Confidence), a newspaper allied to presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi, after he denounced Iran’s government as “illegitimate” because of claims of voting fraud.

This is not all. The clerics and their enforcers have created a charged atmosphere in Iran and spread an all pervasive fear.

On June 19, the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spoke of “bloodshed and chaos” and gave a stern warning to those who “want to ignore the law or break the law.” On Friday June 26, Ayatollah Ahmed Khatami, an influential Iranian cleric, close to Iran’s Supreme Leader, in a sermon at Tehran University, said that those stirring “unrest” in connection with Iran’s recent elections, should be punished “ruthlessly and savagely” and convicted for waging war against God, a crime that under Shiite Islamic law is punishable by death. “I want the judiciary to punish leading rioters firmly without having mercy… Based on Islamic law, whoever confronts the Islamic state should be convicted of mohrab… they should be punished ruthlessly and savagely.”

Regime critics can be – and have been – accused of committing treason and the penalty for that in Iran is death.

Iran’s feared Basij militia has accused Mousavi of undermining national security and asked a prosecutor to investigate his role in violent protests.

Fars news agency has reported that Basij sent the chief prosecutor a letter accusing Mousavi of taking part in nine offenses against the state, including “disturbing the nation’s security,” which carries a maximum penalty of 10 year’s imprisonment. “Whether he wanted or not, Mr. Mousavi in many areas supervised or assisted in punishable acts” the letter states in part.

Iran’s judiciary said on June 23 that a special court would be set up to “make an example” out of “rioters” arrested during the demonstrations.

The chief public prosecutor has assumed control over all investigations into “agitators” and has set up a “special court” to deal with such cases.

All this is most distressing and regrettable. The clerics now in charge of Iran have chosen violence and intimidation in order to concentrate all political power solely in their hands.





By their actions, the language they use, its tone and tenor, they have undermined their standing and power. There is now a split in the establishment itself. Even the Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qom, Iran’s biggest group of respected clerics which has many leading ayatollahs with impeccable revolutionary credentials, has declared Ahmadinejad’s re-election to be illegitimate and condemned the subsequent crackdown.

The influential Grand Ayatollah Yosef Sanei considers Khamenei’s involvement on the election fraud to be haram (forbidden in Islam). Mohsen Kadivar, an imam and religious philosopher, referring to Khamenei, has said, “He reminds me very much of the Shah, who, in the end, was only concerned with preserving his regime.”

And that is the tragedy. The gains of the Great Revolution that toppled the Shah of Iran and established a republic have been squandered. Indeed that revolution has been stabbed in the back by the present day clerics that rule Iran today. The Iran of today is no republic. It is ruled by a cabal of clerics desperately trying to cling on to power.

It appears that just as the Israelis of today have become what their oppressors of yesteryears were, so have the Iran revolutionaries who just a few years back toppled an all powerful despot, have themselves become despots, vesting all power in a few unelected clerics led by an all powerful Supreme Leader more concerned with holding on to that power than making Iran a republic in the true sense of the term.

There is a glimmer of hope. Every time a regime represses, it undermines its own power and increases the ranks of its opponents.

History shows that when revolutionaries ultimately degenerate into themselves becoming despotic rulers, they sow seeds of another revolution which devours them eventually.

The ruling clerics have clearly lost much, if not all of their moral authority and are now relying on brute force to remain in power. They are bound to be toppled. It is a matter of time.

The question is, who or what will they be replaced by?






Author’s note: It has been very difficult for me to write this piece. On the one hand I love and admire Iran. For so many reasons. I love the warmth, friendliness and hospitality of its people. I love its flowery, soft, seductive language ( as a student in St. Xavier’s High School I studied Farsi, then called Persian, and later, in St.Xavier’s College, read Gulistan-e-Sadi). And I admire Iran for toppling the corrupt, despotic Shah of Iran Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, and replacing his regime with a republic; for standing up bravely and resolutely to the tyrant Saddam Hussein when so called freedom loving governments looked the other way at his using poison gas on the Iranians and his own people and went out of their way to make him stronger; for refusing to submit to the tremendous pressure from powerful governments and resolutely pursuing its inalienable right to enrich uranium and harness nuclear energy for peaceful purposes; for standing by the Palestinians and helping them as no other nation has done. But, I am also a committed defender of human rights and a firm believer in peoples’ right to assembly and to free speech. And I believe that when a wrong is done, by foe or friend, it is one’s duty to speak out. Silence, in such cases, is complicity. What is more, true friends always stage interventions in the case of those whom they love and admire when they pursue a course of action detrimental to them. It is in this spirit that this piece is written

Photos: couriermail.com.au