12 January, 2009

Gaza: World on Fire

As Israel pours reservists into urban areas, protesters in other countries take to the streets:
KARACHI, Pakistan — Security forces used tear gas and batons to repel anti-Israel protesters who tried to attack a U.S. consulate in Pakistan Sunday, as tens of thousands in Europe, the Middle East and Asia demonstrated against Israel's offensive in Gaza.

A protest in the Belgian capital that drew 30,000 turned violent as well, with demonstrators overturning cars and smashing shop windows. And in Manila, Philippines, policemen used shields to disperse students protesting outside the U.S. Embassy.


In Spain, as many as 100,000 attended rallies in Madrid and the southwestern city of Seville, urging Israel to "stop the massacre in Gaza" and calling for peace initiatives. Spain's Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos will tour the Middle East starting Monday to promote solutions to the conflict.
Israel is pissing away what international good will it had. It seems its government is determined to follow in the footsteps of the Bush regime, turning a legitimate grievance into an excuse for unrestrained assault, world opinion be damned:
Prime Minister Olmert “slammed international calls for restraint by IDF forces in Gaza” during today’s Israeli Cabinet meeting:

"For many years we've demonstrated restraint. We reined our reactions. We bit our lips and took barrage after barrage," said Olmert …

Olmert called the war “an unprecedented national effort that restored the spirit of unity to the nation…"

And maybe his words wouldn't be quite so hollow if it wasn't for the bodies of hundreds of children. Maybe, if Israel had truly had no other choice, his words wouldn't sound like the posturing of a genocidal fool. But they had a choice. Hamas gave them one:

A rather pertinent fact that seems to have been left out of the official story:

WASHINGTON, Jan 9 (IPS) - Contrary to Israel's argument that it was forced to launch its air and ground offensive against Gaza in order to stop the firing of rockets into its territory, Hamas proposed in mid-December to return to the original Hamas-Israel ceasefire arrangement, according to a U.S.-based source who has been briefed on the proposal.

The proposal to renew the ceasefire was presented by a high-level Hamas delegation to Egyptian Minister of Intelligence Omar Suleiman at a meeting in Cairo Dec. 14. The delegation, said to have included Moussa Abu Marzouk, the second-ranking official in the Hamas political bureau in Damascus, told Suleiman that Hamas was prepared to stop all rocket attacks against Israel if the Israelis would open up the Gaza border crossings and pledge not to launch attacks in Gaza.


The readiness of Hamas to return to the ceasefire conditionally in mid-December was confirmed by Dr. Robert Pastor, a professor at American University and senior adviser to the Carter Centre, who met with Khaled Meshal, chairman of the Hamas political bureau in Damascus on Dec. 14, along with former President Jimmy Carter. Pastor told IPS that Meshal indicated Hamas was willing to go back to the ceasefire that had been in effect up to early November "if there was a sign that Israel would lift the siege on Gaza".

That wasn't all that Hamas did. If you continue reading at the link quoted above, you discover this:
The ceasefire agreement that went into effect Jun. 19, 2008 required that Israel lift the virtual siege of Gaza which Israel had imposed after the June 2007 Hamas takeover. Although the terms of the agreement were not made public at the time, they were included in a report published this week by the International Crisis Group (ICG), which obtained a copy of the understanding last June.

In addition to a halt in all military actions by both sides, the agreement called on Israel to increase the level of goods entering Gaza by 30 percent over the pre-lull period within 72 hours and to open all border crossings and "allow the transfer of all goods that were banned and restricted to go into Gaza" within 13 days after the beginning of the ceasefire.

Nevertheless, Israeli officials freely acknowledged in interviews with ICG last June that they had no intention of opening the border crossings fully, even though they anticipated that this would be the source of serious conflict with Hamas.

The Israelis opened the access points only partially, and in late July Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni declared that the border crossings should remain closed until Hamas agreed to the release of Gilad Shalit, an IDF soldier abducted by Hamas in June 2006. The Hamas representative in Lebanon, Usam Hamdan, told the ICG in late December that the flow of goods and fuel into Gaza had been only 15 percent of its basic needs.

Despite Israel's refusal to end the siege, Hamas brought rocket and mortar fire from Gaza to a virtual halt last summer and fall, as revealed by a report by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) in Tel Aviv last month. ITIC is part of the Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Centre (IICC), an NGO which is close to the Israeli intelligence community.


The report recalls that Hamas "tried to enforce the terms of the arrangement" on other Palestinian groups, taking "a number of steps against networks which violated the arrangement," including short-term detention and confiscating their weapons. It even found that Hamas had sought support in Gazan public opinion for its policy of maintaining the ceasefire.
Hamas tried to hold up their end of the bargain. Israel didn't. Israel repeatedly violated the ceasefire agreement. Even with that, Hamas was willing to give the ceasefire another go. Remember that, when you start to swallow Israeli propaganda. Hamas isn't a perfect bunch of innocent angels, but their behavior was certainly no worse than Israel's, or the United States's. In some respects, it seems it was better.

And Israel goes right on violating its agreements, such as that three-hour window for humanitarian aid:

The writer at In Gaza gives us a sense of what those three hour truces are like: (the reporting here is very worth following – h/t markfromireland)

Yousef and I had discussed the violations of Israel’s unilaterally-imposed 3-hour-ceasefire [which a Lebanese journalist summed up: "How would you like it if I was shooting at you and then told you I'd give you a minute to dance around before I kill you?" ]. John Ging, director of UNRWA in the Gaza Strip, sums it up more diplomatically: “For 3 hours, the people of Gaza have some safety. That’s all it is.” During the first day of the innapropriately-named time period between 1 and 4pm, Israeli forces killed 3 sisters (ages 2, 3, 10), one woman (31), 2 elderly men (60 and 87), and targeted paramedics, shooting one in the leg, as the explosions continued all over the Gaza Strip. At 6 pm, 2 hours after the ‘cease-fire’, the official killing did indeed continue: 5 dead in northern Gaza, returning from the bread lines with a prize bag of bread, bombed in their car, including ages 10, 12, 15, cousin 20, and father 45. And later, after 9pm, another medic shot in the leg while trying to perform his duties.

Tell me something, Israel. What did five people, many of them children, do to deserve a bomb with their bread? What did those three sisters, two of them toddlers, do that made your vaunted IDF decide to violate a ceasefire to kill them? Why are paramedics being shot, seemingly deliberately targeted? Can you explain this? Can you give me a reason why?

They keep mumbling about militants hiding among civilians. But they won't let reporters in to see that this is so. We here in America know now what that means. It means the government is telling lies.

Their violence is spilling over their borders now:

Two Egyptian children and two police officers were wounded by shrapnel from Israel Air Force bombs near a crossing point at Egypt's border with the Gaza Strip on Sunday, security sources said.

The children, aged two and five, and the two officers were the first Egyptians to be wounded by Israeli bombs since the Israeli offensive against Gaza began on Dec. 27, and were taken to hospitals in el-Arish.


Israel has expanded its air campaign to the southern Gaza Strip, aiming at smuggling tunnels running under the border with Egypt.

One Egyptian border guard has been killed and two have been wounded in clashes with Palestinians trying to enter Egypt since the Israeli offensive began.
And we discovered that the Bush regime, in a rare moment of prudence, denied Israel the weaponry, the backing, and the airspace to attack Iran:

The New York Times' David Sanger has a fascinating item today, reporting on a secret request from the Israeli government last year for "specialized bunker-busting bombs it wanted for an attack on Iran's main nuclear complex." Bush declined, thanks in part to the sound counsel of his Defense Secretary.

The White House denied that request outright, American officials said, and the Israelis backed off their plans, at least temporarily.


The interviews also indicate that Mr. Bush was convinced by top administration officials, led by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, that any overt attack on Iran would probably prove ineffective, lead to the expulsion of international inspectors and drive Iran's nuclear effort further out of view. Mr. Bush and his aides also discussed the possibility that an airstrike could ignite a broad Middle East war in which America's 140,000 troops in Iraq would inevitably become involved.

The piece is worth reading in its entirety -- it paints a picture of Israel pressuring Bush to support a confrontation, but the president becoming convinced that a strike would prove counterproductive. Of particular interest was not just Israel's request for bunker-busting bombs, but also for permission to fly over Iraq to strike Iran.

Where will it stop? With Gaza on fire, the Middle East, the world? We can consult the word of one of Israel's rabbis to get an idea of just how much death is too much (h/t):

All civilians living in Gaza are collectively guilty for Kassam attacks on Sderot, former Sephardi chief rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu has written in a letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Eliyahu ruled that there was absolutely no moral prohibition against the indiscriminate killing of civilians during a potential massive military offensive on Gaza aimed at stopping the rocket launchings.


"If they don't stop after we kill 100, then we must kill a thousand," said Shmuel Eliyahu. "And if they do not stop after 1,000 then we must kill 10,000. If they still don't stop we must kill 100,000, even a million. Whatever it takes to make them stop."
That's not war. That's extermination.

6,000,000 Jews once died for a philosophy very similar to the one Rabbi Eliyahu espouses. I fail to see any significant difference between the two. And that horrifies me more than I have the words to express.

Israel. Selah. You are walking into a darkness you may never walk out of again.

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