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The siege of Gaza is going to lead to a violent escalation PDF Print E-mail
Nov 01, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Far from helping settle the Middle East conflict, the US and Europe are fuelling it with their contempt for democracy

Seumas Milne
Thursday November 1, 2007
The Guardian

There is, it seems, an unbridgeable gap between the western world's apparent recognition of the dangers of Palestinian suffering and its commitment to do anything whatever to stop it. This week the collective punishment of the people of Gaza reached a new level, as Israel began to choke off essential fuel supplies to its one and a half million people in retaliation for rockets fired by Palestinian resistance groups. A plan to cut power supplies has only been put on hold till the end of the week by the intervention of Israel's attorney general.

Both moves come on top of the existing blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel since last year's election of Hamas and the confiscation of hundreds of millions of dollars of taxes it is obliged to pass on as part of previous agreements. And instead of being restrained by the US or European Union, both have deepened the crisis by imposing their own sanctions and withdrawing aid. The result has, inevitably, been further huge increases in unemployment and poverty. But far from discouraging rocket attacks, they have risen sharply - though the ratio of Palestinian to Israeli deaths has been running at more than 30 to one, compared with four to one at the height of the intifada five years ago.

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The War on Gaza's Children PDF Print E-mail
Sep 22, 2007 at 12:00 AM
by Saree Makdisi

An entire generation of Palestinians in Gaza is growing up stunted: physically and nutritionally stunted because they are not getting enough to eat; emotionally stunted because of the pressures of living in a virtual prison and facing the constant threat of destruction and displacement; intellectually and academically stunted because they cannot concentrate — or, even if they can, because they are trying to study and learn in circumstances that no child should have to endure.

Even before Israel this week declared Gaza “hostile territory” — apparently in preparation for cutting off the last remaining supplies of fuel and electricity to 1.5 million men, women and children — the situation was dire.

As a result of Israel’s blockade on most imports and exports and other policies designed to punish the populace, about 70% of Gaza’s workforce is now unemployed or without pay, according to the United Nations, and about 80% of its residents live in grinding poverty. About 1.2 million of them are now dependent for their day-to-day survival on food handouts from U.N. or international agencies, without which, as the World Food Program’s Kirstie Campbell put it, “they are liable to starve.”

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Gaza businesses totter as blockade tightens PDF Print E-mail
Sep 03, 2007 at 10:48 PM
CAROLYNNE WHEELER
Globe and Mail Update

Gaza City, GAZA STRIP — Waiting in dusty warehouses in this volatile, locked-down stretch of land are 400 containers of furniture representing a lifetime of hard work and investment.

With the militant Islamist group Hamas holding full control of Gaza, after a violent takeover in June, the 1.4 million people living here have seen their border crossings with Egypt and Israel shut down completely – nothing except humanitarian aid coming in, and nothing and no one going out, save those fortunate enough to have foreign passports or residency permits and the permission of Israeli authorities.

And that is deadly news for the few industries that had managed to survive in Gaza's fragile economy. In a region where a business's ability to buy and sell goods depends entirely upon the security situation that day, and where nearly 90 per cent of households get by on less than $2.40 (U.S.) a day, more than 80 per cent of an estimated 4,000 small factories have closed and unemployment is expected to soon surpass 40 per cent.

The World Bank and UN agencies have warned that the meltdown of Gaza's entire industrial economy may be irreversible.

Thoughts on the Attempted Murder of Palestine PDF Print E-mail
Jul 26, 2007 at 05:45 PM
The Siren Song of Elliott Abrams

By KATHLEEN CHRISTISON, Former CIA analyst

"Coup" is the word being widely used to describe what happened in Gaza in June when Hamas militias defeated the armed security forces of Fatah and chased them out of Gaza. But, as so often with the manipulative language used in the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel, the terminology here is backward. Hamas was the legally constituted, democratically elected government of the Palestinians, so in the first place Hamas did not stage a coup but rather was the target of a coup planned against it. Furthermore, the coup -- which failed in Gaza but succeeded overall when Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, acting in violation of Palestinian law, cut Gaza adrift, unseated the Palestinian unity government headed by Hamas, and named a new prime minister and cabinet -- was the handiwork of the United States and Israel.

The Fatah attacks against Hamas in Gaza were initiated at the whim of, and with arms and training provided by, the United States and Israel. No one seems to be making any secret of this. Immediately after Hamas won legislative elections in January 2006, Elliott Abrams, who runs U.S. policy toward Israel from his senior position on the National Security Council staff, met with a group of Palestinian businessmen and spoke openly of the need for a "hard coup" against Hamas. According to Palestinians who were there, Abrams was "unshakable" in his determination to oust Hamas. When the Palestinians, urging engagement with Hamas instead of confrontation, observed that Abrams' scheme would bring more suffering and even starvation to Gaza's already impoverished population, Abrams dismissed their concerns by claiming that it wouldn't be the fault of the U.S. if that happened.

Abrams has been working on his coup plan ever since with his friends in Israel. As part of this scheme, the U.S. also urged Abbas -- again making no secret of this -- to dissolve the Fatah-Hamas unity government formed in March this year, form a new government, and call for new elections. Abbas acceded to U.S. demands with embarrassing alacrity after Hamas took Gaza. In a further gratuitous turn of the screw, he has appealed to Israel to turn up the heat on Hamas in Gaza by stopping delivery of fuel to Gaza's power plant and keeping the Rafah border crossing point from Egypt closed so that none of the thousands of Palestinian waiting at the border to return home will be able to enter.

The UN's outgoing Middle East envoy, Alvaro de Soto, whose final report on his two years in Palestine-Israel was recently leaked to the press, describes Abrams and a State Department colleague, Assistant Secretary David Welch, threatening immediately after the Hamas election victory to cut off U.S. contributions to the UN if it did not agree to a cutback in aid to the Palestinian Authority by the Quartet (of which the UN is a member, along with the U.S., the EU, and Russia). De Soto also describes a gleeful U.S. response to Hamas-Fatah fighting earlier this year. The U.S., he says, clearly pushed for this confrontation, and at a meeting of Quartet envoys, the U.S. delegate crowed that "I like this violence" because "it means that other Palestinians are resisting Hamas." ...

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Slouching towards Bethlehem to be born? PDF Print E-mail
Jul 26, 2007 at 06:30 PM
by Richard Falk   July 05, 2007 
 
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

      -- William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming

There is little doubt that the Nazi Holocaust was as close to unconditional evil as has been revealed throughout the entire bloody history of the human species. Its massiveness, unconcealed genocidal intent, and reliance on the mentality and instruments of modernity give its enactment in the death camps of Europe a special status in our moral imagination. This special status is exhibited in the continuing presentation of its gruesome realities through film, books, and a variety of cultural artifacts more than six decades after the events in question ceased. The permanent memory of the Holocaust is also kept alive by the  existence of several notable museums devoted exclusively to the depiction of the horrors that took place during the period of Nazi rule in Germany.
 
Against this background, it is especially painful for me, as an American Jew, to feel compelled to portray the ongoing and intensifying abuse of the Palestinian people by Israel through a reliance on such an inflammatory metaphor as 'holocaust.'  The word is derived from the Greek holos (meaning 'completely') and kaustos (meaning 'burnt'), and was used in ancient Greece to refer to the complete burning of a sacrificial offering to a divinity. Because such a background implies a religious undertaking, there is some inclination in Jewish literature to prefer the Hebrew word 'Shoah' that can be translated roughly as 'calamity,' and was the name given to the 1985 epic nine-hour narration of the Nazi experience by the French filmmaker, Claude Lanzmann. The Germans themselves were more antiseptic in their designation, officially naming their undertaking as the 'Final Solution of the Jewish Question.' The label is, of course, inaccurate as a variety of non-Jewish identities were also targets of this genocidal assault, including the Roma and Sinti ('gypsies'), Jehovah Witnesses, gays, disabled persons, political opponents.

Is it an irresponsible overstatement to associate the treatment of Palestinians with this criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity? I think not. The recent developments in Gaza are especially disturbing because they express so vividly a deliberate intention on the part of Israel and its allies to subject an entire human community to life-endangering conditions of utmost cruelty. The suggestion that this pattern of conduct is a holocaust-in-the-making represents a rather desperate appeal to the governments of the world and to international public opinion to act urgently to prevent these current genocidal tendencies from culminating in a collective tragedy. If ever the ethos of 'a responsibility to protect,' recently adopted by the UN Security Council  as the basis of 'humanitarian intervention' is applicable, it would be to act now to start protecting the people of Gaza from further pain and suffering. But it would be unrealistic to expect the UN to do anything in the face of this crisis, given the pattern of US support for Israel and taking into account the extent to which European governments have lent their weight to recent illicit efforts to crush Hamas as a Palestinian political force.

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Symptoms of Decay in Occupied Palestine PDF Print E-mail
Jul 23, 2007 at 12:51 PM

by Bashir Abu-Manneh; July 16, 2007 

...It is worth repeating that the closest Palestinians ever came to decolonizing the West Bank and Gaza was in the first Intifada. A whole nation struggled together then in what Edward Said called 'one of the most extraordinary anti-colonial and unarmed mass insurrections in the whole history of the modern period'. It is clear that conditions are now much more difficult than they were in the 1980s. Palestinians are cut off, fragmented, politically divided, and made dispensable by Israel's closure policy, which has diminished their political leverage and capacity to force Israeli society to pay the price of its brutal occupation. Palestinian bantustans are clearly Oslo's doing, leaving most Palestinians stranded and demobilized. Only 5% of Palestinians actively participated in resistance against the occupation from the beginning of the second Intifada in 2000 to 2005, a measure of severe crisis and political disengagement if ever there was one.[6] This is why it has long been imperative to rebuild Palestinian self-capacity for collective resistance and mass mobilization. Struggles against the Wall have testified to the political efficacy of popular mobilization, as Palestinians invited and led both international solidarity and support from Israel's meager yet important anti-occupation groups, like Tayyush and Anarchists Against the Wall...

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End of Mission Report - UN Under-Secretary-General

Alvaro de Soto

Under-Secretary-General, United Nations Special Coordinator For the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representatives of the Secretary-General to the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority Envoy to the Quartet
May 2007
Accessible at  http://tinyurl.com/2aevpx