Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Gaza: Israeli troops reveal ruthless tactics against Hamas

Gaza: Israeli troops reveal ruthless tactics against Hamas in

A reporter for what's a relatively conservative British paper conducts an interview with an Israeli lieutenant who's home from the front on leave. Undoubtably this was done with official Israeli permissions and likely approved by Israeli censors.

“We are treating everything as hostile right now. We were told not to take chances — to shoot rather than ask questions.”

Remember, this is in the middle of one of the most densely populated places on earth. Israel is attacking into a small strip occupied by a million and a half people.

“I’m not a newcomer in the army,” Alon told The Times. “Both my brothers served in combat units that saw action in Gaza. And I can say that this is the most aggressive line that we have ever taken towards fighting the Palestinians. As you say in English, the gloves were off.”

I'm starting to really dislike the 'gloves are off' euphemism for committing horrible war crimes. We've heard it here in the US as an euphemism for brutally kidnapping and torturing people, as well as for deliberate killings outside of any judicial system. Now we here it from Israel for deliberately killing a thousand people.

“It doesn’t look like we’ve been there a few weeks — it looks destroyed, demolished, like we were bombing it for years. You can’t imagine what damage we have done. We didn’t want any civilians to die, we do everything we can to make sure that Palestinian civilians there, the non-fighters, aren’t hurt. We tell them to leave the areas that we are fighting . . . but it’s not easy; what we are doing there is difficult work.”

From what you can see in the article, as he repeats the military propaganda, he seems unaware that he's contradicted himself. In the quote above, he says that his orders were to shoot anyone. Now he tries to claim that they are doing everything they can to make sure non-civilians aren't hurt. I suppose he thinks shooting them is the way to accomplish this, since he's already said he'd shoot anyone before figuring out who they are.

In one account, tank crews leading an armoured column to the beachfront suddenly saw a person standing in an open cabana less than a mile away. The figure quickly retreated as the tanks opened fire. “There have been several attempts to use antiarmour weaponry against us, in at least one case a long-range missile,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Erez, a tank commander, giving only his first name as per standard military policy. “We have responded pre-emptively and forcefully. We also hit anyone seen trying to observe our movements.”

So, to the Israeli army, again operating in a densely populated area, looking out your window at Israeli troops to see what they are doing is a death penalty offense.

In another account, published in the Israeli media, the Armoured 401st Brigade convoy had left Gaza’s coast and was heading towards Israel when its commander spotted people, apparently armed, on a rooftop about 800 metres away from the road. A few days before the Israelis had dropped leaflets calling on all residents living near the road to get out.

Like Alon, Lieutenant-Colonel Yigal had little room for doubt. After checking none of his comrades were in the area — four Israeli soldiers were killed by “friendly” fire in the first days of the offensive — he gave the order and machineguns and tanks opened up.

"Apparently armed". Yeah, like he could tell that from 800 meters away. Try that test with a friend. Have them move a half a mile away from where you are, then look at them and tell them what they are holding in their hands. Sounds like US troops who automatically say that everyone they kill was 'apparently armed'. It sounds better in an official report than 'we just murdered a bunch of civilians because they looked at us.'

For Alon, a return to the action cannot come fast enough. “It feels good to be winning again, to show that we are still the strongest army in the world,” he said — a reference to the 2006 Lebanon war, when confidence in the country’s forces was badly shaken by its inability to stop Hezbollah’s rocket attacks. “It was important to go in and remind them what we can do. It’s the only way to get them to stop.”

They've killed a thousand people, wounded thousands more, destroyed houses, schools, hospitals, mosques, government buildings, and terrorized a population of a million and a half people just to prove how tough they are.

And the official position of the US government is that we just love this. We think its great. We have a 'special relationship' with the killers. (US Senate supports Israel's Gaza incursion)

"When we pass this resolution, the United States Senate will strengthen our historic bond with the state of Israel, by reaffirming Israel's inalienable right to defend against attacks from Gaza, as well as our support for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said before the vote.

Noting that Israel was bent on halting Hamas rocket fire into its southern towns, Reid said: "I ask any of my colleagues to imagine that happening here in the United States. Rockets and mortars coming from Toronto in Canada, into Buffalo New York. How would we as a country react?"

Co-sponsor and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican said before the vote: "The Israelis ... are responding exactly the same way we would."

Toronto had better be careful.

And what is Obama doing?
President-elect Barack Obama Tuesday evening attending a dinner party at the home of conservative columnist George Will, attended by fellow conservatives William Kristol and David Brooks.

Aren't you glad you voted for 'change'?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Nov. 5th Movement and Single Payer Health Care

The group of Nader supporters who are organizing under the name of 'November 5th' have decided to try to focus their efforts on a drive towards 'Single Payer Health Care'. Go visit for more details.

Beyond Grief and Rage

Beyond Grief and Rage by Robert Jensen on

We need to analyze and strategize about political realities, but let’s begin with an emotional reality: For the past few weeks the scenes from Gaza have been driving many of us mad.

For all the horrors in the world, there has been something especially brutal and barbaric about Israel’s use of fighter jets and other sophisticated weapons to pound this small strip of land, to target the 1.5 million people crowded there, to destroy a society. Out of that grief flows rage, not just at the sadistic Israeli violence but also at the “we must stand with Israel” declarations coming from Republican and Democratic politicians alike.

later ...

But I believe that authentic hope lies in seeing one movement with many fronts. The goals must be justice and sustainability, which are inseparably linked. The struggle goes on in Palestine and Iraq, in Venezuela and Bolivia, in Oakland and Austin. The targets are the empire and economic interests it serves. We have to continue to struggle against the corrosive effects of arrogance and affluence, in others and in ourselves.

We all have limited time and energy for political work, and we direct that energy toward activities that are meaningful to us. One person cannot do everything, but each one of us can work within our political groups and communities to develop the analysis needed to integrate these many campaigns for justice and sustainability, linking our efforts with others’.

The Language of Death

The Language of Death By Chris Hedges on

The incursion into Gaza is not about destroying Hamas. It is not about stopping rocket fire into Israel. It is not about achieving peace. The Israeli decision to rain death and destruction on Gaza, to use the lethal weapons of the modern battlefield on a largely defenseless civilian population, is the final phase of the decades-long campaign to ethnically cleanse Palestinians. The assault on Gaza is about creating squalid, lawless and impoverished ghettos where life for Palestinians will be barely sustainable. It is about building ringed Palestinian enclaves where Israel will always have the ability to shut off movement, food, medicine and goods to perpetuate misery. The Israeli attack on Gaza is about building a hell on earth.

Remember, every Democrat in the US Senate and all but four Democrats in the US House just stood up and said that they are extremely supportive of Israel creating this 'hell on earth'. Gotta love those Democrats.

The refusal by political leaders from Barack Obama to nearly every member of the U.S. Congress to speak out in the major media in defense of the rule of law and fundamental human rights exposes our cowardice and hypocrisy. Those who openly condemn the Israeli crimes, including Israelis such as Yuri Avnery, Tom Segev, Ilan Pappe, Gideon Levy and Amira Hass, as well as American stalwarts Noam Chomsky, Dennis Kucinich, Norman Finkelstein and Richard Falk, are ignored or treated like lepers. They are denied a platform in the press. They are rendered nearly voiceless. Falk, the U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied territories and a former professor of international law at Princeton, was refused entry into Israel in December, detained for 20 hours and deported. Never mind that nearly all these voices are Jewish.

later ...
The lesson of the Holocaust is that when you have the capacity to halt genocide, and you do not—no matter who carries out that genocide or who it is directed against—you are culpable. And we are very culpable. The F-16 jet fighters, the Apache attack helicopters, the 250-pound “smart” GBU-39 bombs are all part of the annual $2.4 billion in military aid the U.S. gives to Israel. Palestinians are being slaughtered with American-made weapons. They are being slaughtered by an Israeli military we lavishly bankroll.

In last year's elections, I voted Green in every race I could. From Cynthia McKinney for President on down the ballot. Democrats would tell me that I 'wasted' my vote. But I voted for a party that would not be so supportive of genocide as the Democrats are being right now. I voted for a party that does stand for peace and justice and international law.

Those who voted Democrat voted for a party that supports and enables and cheers on genocide.

The Facts About Hamas and the War on Gaza

The Facts About Hamas and the War on Gaza by Norman Finkelstein on

An excellent piece laying out what's been going on over there. It starts with quotes from the IDF website stating how they broke the cease-fire and that its Hamas 'retaliating' against that by firing rockets and goes on from there.

I found this passage notable ...

The law is very clear. July 2004, the highest judicial body in the world, the International Court of Justice, ruled Israel has no title to any of the West Bank and any of Gaza. They have no title to Jerusalem. Arab East Jerusalem, according to the highest judicial body in the world, is occupied Palestinian territory. The International Court of Justice ruled all the settlements, all the settlements in the West Bank, are illegal under international law.

So, the question becomes, when Obama is sworn in as President next week, will he stand by and uphold international law? Here's what he said in the campaign. Obama answered questions on international law in a survey found on the Harvard International Law Journal website ...

“Since the founding of our nation, the United States has championed international law because we benefit from it. Promoting – and respecting – clear rules that are consistent with our values allows us to hold all nations to a high standard of behavior, and to mobilize friends and allies against those nations that break the rules. Promoting strong international norms helps us advance many interests, including non-proliferation, free and fair trade, a clean environment, and protecting our troops in wartime. Respect for international legal norms also plays a vital role in fighting terrorism. Because the [George W. Bush] Administration cast aside international norms that reflect American values, such as the Geneva Conventions, we are less able to promote those values abroad.”

Obama could always speak pretty words during the campaign. My problem was that I never believed them. Well, eventually you get a chance to judge a person by 'actions' instead of words. So much of what Obama has said during the campaign has already been dismissed by him as 'overheated rhetoric' of the campaign.

So, will Obama stand by international law once he's sworn in? The Palestinians, including Hamas, and all of the Arab world have been repeatedly saying that they would accept a peace deal with Israel on the 1967 borders. Precisely those borders that the International Court of Justice has recognized as the legal borders of the State of Israel. Will President Obama demand that Israel pull its forces back to within those borders? Will President Obama demand that Israel stop killing the people who live outside those borders? Will President Obama demand that Israel dismantle all the illegal settlements that they've built outside those borders? Will President Obama demand that Israel dismantle the wall they've been building outside of those borders?

I'm not exactly holding my breath waiting for Obama to do this. I've regarded him as a manipulator and a liar who would say anything to be elected. But, now we'll quickly have a test of whether Obama stands by his words and promises in the campaign to respect and stand by international law, or will he continue American support for a criminal Israeli regime as almost every member of the Democratic Party in Congress (Kucinich and a few others excepted) said he should do last week?

Eventually, we judge people by their actions, not their words. We've already seen the actions of Cynthia McKinney, who put her life at risk trying to journey to Gaza and who was almost killed by the Israelis to do so. Next week, Obama is sworn in and we will begin to see his actions.