Monday, July 31, 2006

From Gush Shalom, the Israeli Peace Bloc

International release, July 31.

Day 20 of the Lebanon carnage
And more than a month since the tanks rolled into Gaza

Adam Keller

We got up with the news of Condoleezza Rice at last putting down her foot (or at least, giving this impression on TV) and forcing a temporary halt to the systematic Israeli bombing of Lebanon's towns and villages. The declaration was made from Washington, after Israel's Defence Ministry agreed to announce it but failed to do so.

The halted bombings gave a respite also to the communities of Northern Israel, where those who had not run away had been living in bomb shelters for the past three weeks.

It was, of course, in the aftermath of yesterday's atrocity at Qana, the second mass killing perpetrated in the same unfortunate Lebanese village. What happened yesterday was just too big and too horrible to ignore, as the smaller daily killings of Lebanese civilians were ignored - with the images from Qana reverberating endlessly throughout the world, from every TV screen.

As reported in the morning papers, the generals were "greatly surprised" and highly displeased with the order to stop the bombing raids for at least the next 48 hours. As the day wore on, there were more and more bellicose pronouncements and declarations from ministers and generals: there is and will not be a ceasefire any time soon; the "regrettable" mass killing in Qana was the fault of the victims themselves "who were warned and did not run away"; ours was and remains "The Most Moral Army in World"; the ground offensive into Lebanon will not only be continued but will be greatly intensified; the air force is still authorized to assassinate Hizbullah militants "wherever they are found"; the air offensive will be soon resumed and inhabitants of South Lebanon are warned to run away today or be killed in the new bombings tomorrow; "maximum fire-power" should and would be used "in the most intensive way"... In the evening it culminated with the mock-Churchilesque televised speech of PM Olmert, complete with the promise of "pain, tears and blood".

The streets are still full of patriotic posters, most of them put up by banks and big corporations and bearing the promoter's logo beside the Israeli national flag and the stirring slogans "United We Will Win!", "Israel Is Strong!", "Everybody Embraces Our Soldiers!". But only a few citizens seem to have taken up the call to raise the national flag over their own homes and cars.

Meanwhile, at least many in the mainstream Left who in earlier days remained silent or outrightly supported the "Justified War Against Hizbullah Aggression" have been shocked or moved by the Qana carnage. Meretz leader Yossi Beilin has at long last came to the conclusion that the "continuation of the war is useless and counterproductive" and that it should come to an end. A few hours before he made this statement, a leader of the Meretz Youth declared her resignation, feeling "sick and tired of being involved in a peace movement which supports war". And a whole group of Meretz activists, led by former KM's Naomi Hazan and Yael Dayan, participated in yesterday's protest outside the Defence Ministry gates.

The influential dovish commentator Nahum Bar'nea wrote in today's "Yediot Aharonot": "Except for the lunatic fringe leftists, no one disputes that Israel had to react to the killing and kidnapping perpetrated by Hizbullah in our territory (...). I have confidence in the army's High Command, but having confidence does not stop me from having painful questions. Didn't the government, the army, the political system, the media, all let themselves be carried away by blind enthusiasm which serves only the enemy? I have heard Defence Minister Peretz boasting that he had "released the army from all restrictions" about harming "civilian populations which live at the side of Hizbullah militants". We saw the results of this "release" yesterday, with the bodies of women and children taken out of the house in Qana" (...)

So, there is every reason for the anti-war movement to continue and intensify its own "offensive". Demonstrations take place every day in various cities. Tonight at the basement of the Kibbutz Movement Headquarters - actually, not far from where the Inner Cabinet ministers met to approve a wide-scale extension of the ground invasion into Lebanon - Gush Shalom representatives took part in a coordinating meeting of the main peace groups, which resolved on holding a larger protest in the weekend.

The speeches of PM Olmert are full of bombastic cliches on "our heroic boys in uniform", but the 32-year old Reserve Captain Amir Fester was not convinced: he went to prison yesterday rather than obey the order to enter Lebanon. "He is not of the radical left, but in the last few days has been feeling more and more that the war is not justified" his girlfriend Nitzan Lahav told Yediot Aharonot. "The more the war continued he was increasingly troubled. In the beginning we like everybody supported the war, but we came to the conclusion that within two weeks there will anyway be an agreement with the Lebanese. So why not stop it now and end the killings?"

Meanwhile, in Gaza...

The Israeli army invaded Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip on Monday, July 17, 2006. Later that week journalist Rory McCarthy wrote a report from Nahariya, Israel, published in The Guardian (UK), entitled, "Israel steps up military attacks in 'forgotten war' with Palestinians." In the article Journalist McCarthy described the attack as follows:

Earlier this week Israel mounted a two-day operation in Beit Hanoun, where heavy fighting left at least six Palestinians, mostly gunmen, dead. Using tanks and bulldozers, troops damaged several houses and farmland as well as three empty UN schools. The mayor estimated the damage at around $7m (?3.8m). Israel also bombed the Palestinian foreign ministry, which partially collapsed. Several homes nearby were also damaged."

Good journalism, I'm sure: concise, with all the pertinent facts. But, as good journalism must needs be, I guess, it is cold and impersonal, speaking of "houses," "farmland," "schools" damaged, as well as the cost of the same.

What is missing, of course, is the human equation.

Below is an account of the same Israeli incursion, July 17 2006, but told from that missing human perspective.

From Marisa Ali

I am a Canadian, from Calgary, Alberta, and have lived in Ramallah, Jerusalem and Gaza for over 15 years. I married my husband, Qassem Ali, in 1999.

Qassem is the CEO of Ramattan News Agency, the Palestinian media outlet that services the international Western and Arab media (including CNN, BBC, NBC, and CBC) with breaking news, footage and live coverage. broadcasting via satellite to living rooms around the world.

For many years, I was employed with the United Nations in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Recently, Israel refused to allow me, and thousands of foreign nationals like me, married to Palestinians or working with them in the West Bank and Gaza, to remain with our homes and families. I have since been living in Cairo with my small son, while my husband shuttles back and forth between Gaza and Cairo to attend to his work. To this day, only a handful of carefully selected diplomats, journalists and employees of international organizations are permitted access to Gaza, leaving this besieged population effectively isolated.

The following is an account of what happened to my family in the village of Beit Hanoun in the north of the Gaza Strip on Monday, July 17th, 2006.

When the phone rang at 7h30, I answered knowing it couldn't be good news. My sister-in-law Azza's voice, normally the epitome of calm and control, was terrified. "The wall is being bulldozed on top of us!" she yelled, "Do something, anything!" From Cairo, there was nothing much we could do, but try to reassure her that the Israeli Army must know that there are people inside the house.

Minutes later, a tank was parked in the middle of our living room and a gaping hole in the wall revealed the uprooted garden and corpses turned up from the neighboring cemetery by Israeli tanks and bulldozers.

The Israeli Army moved quickly upstairs from the main floor of our building, which contained Qassem's office and a reception area, to the third floor, the home of Azza and her four children May (18), Qosai (15), Hazem (14) and Reem (12).

They took the boys, Qosai and Hazem hostage, handcuffed and blindfolded, sitting with their heads down on the floor in a small room, and proceeded to rip up the floor tiles and break every dish, glass and item of furniture in sight. Hazem and Qosai tell us that from under their blindfolds, they saw the soldiers fill bags with the sand taken from under the tiles and put them in the windows.

They then smashed holes in the walls, through which they shot machine gun fire at anyone who happened to be in the street. Meanwhile, Israeli tanks fired from the ripped-up street, punching holes in the home of Qassem's older sister Fairuz and other homes nearby.

Other soldiers then moved up into our own fourth-floor apartment and bunkered-down in our bedroom, where they destroyed everything they could, ripping out the windows, shattering the walls and shooting indiscriminately outside. Pictures fed to us via satellite by the Ramattan crew that filmed the aftermath of that grim day revealed my 2-year old son's toys shattered and strewn about the room mixed with broken window frames, blood and hundreds of spent cartridges.

Azza and her devastated entourage of five women and eleven young children took refuge in a neighbor's shack, after they were thrown out into the crossfire. Amid the ear-shattering explosions from Israeli artillery and Palestinian counter-fire, Azza, the director of a women's rights NGO working with USAID, tried to reassure the terrified women and children of our family that they were going to be all right. She heroically did this while her own two sons, Hazem and Qosai were being used by the Israeli soldiers as human shields against the defensive fire from the resistance in our neighborhood.

One member of my husband's news crew, staying in our Beit Hanoun home, was also taken by the soldiers, as well as three of Qassem's cousins in the neighboring house and his elderly aunt. The soldiers screamed at their hostages that they were members of Hamas, at which point Qassem's Aunt Aicha showed them the liquor cabinet in her son's house, proving that soldiers' accusations were nonsense. No Hamas member would have alcoholic beverages anywhere near his home.

Although the soldiers stopped ranting about Hamas, they still took the men and boys away.

One of the first things the soldiers had done as they entered my husband's home was to take all the mobile phones of the besieged family and crew. A journalist from the Ramattan headquarters, later trying to reach Azza on her phone, instead was answered by an Israeli soldier. The journalist asked about the whereabouts of the men and children who had been taken, and was told by the soldier that they would not be hurt. Although this was weak reassurance indeed, it gave us hope that they were still alive up to that point.

In fact, while the kids eventually did come back physically unhurt, the Israeli soldiers viciously beat the older hostages before releasing most of them. Qassem's oldest cousin Emad, a businessman known for his unflinching courage, was taken away by the Israeli military when they withdrew. We still have no information about his whereabouts or safety.

As the tanks and the machine guns relentlessly rained death and destruction on our neighborhood, the Palestinian resistance was faced with a difficult dilemma: how to defend the neighborhood against an Israeli military machine that had taken root in the house of one of the village leaders? To shoot meant to damage his home and, possibly, unwittingly hurt the boys. But not to shoot meant to accept the presence of a vicious snipers' nest in the midst of the village, shooting and killing the residents of Beit Hanoun.

The resistance shot back, and the families, huddling for protection in the neighboring houses, endured the trauma of a full day of rocket, grenade, and heavy machine gun fire. At one point my 73 year-old mother-in-law and pregnant sister-in-law Heba braved a break in the fire to drag an injured man out of the street and into a nearby clinic. He died before he reached the clinic, one of the more than 100 Palestinians killed in what the Israelis call this murderous operation, "Summer Rain", most of them civilians, 18 of them children. More than 400 Palestinians have been wounded, including 108 children, according to the UN.

That day, the Israeli Army withdrew at about 20h00 under pressure from the dogged resistance, possibly assisted by the frenzied calls to the numerous contacts of my husband and his cousin Ayman. Ayman, stranded in Cairo after the border closed while he was on a business trip in Paris, had been on the verge of a nervous breakdown with his wife Faten and six children stuck with Azza in the thick of the invasion.

We are under no illusions. They will be back, to kill and destroy and commit their war crimes against a captive population. Because, with no one able or willing to stop them, they can.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Mysteries of War

From the BBC (7/29) "Briefing the Security Council on Friday, [UN Humanitarian ChiefJan] Egeland said some 600 people had been killed by Israeli action in Lebanon, of which around a third were children. 'It's been horrific... There is something fundamentally wrong with the war, where there are more dead children than armed men,' Mr Egeland said."


Since WWI, war has fundamentally changed from killing and wounding soldiers in combat to destroying civilians. Despite the Geneva Conventions, which define targetting civilians as a war crime, and despite the newer "high precision" bombs that can hone in on infrastructure (and specific human beings considered to be criminals), the innocent continue to die in huge numbers. Why?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Robert Fisk's Elegy for Beiruit

Elegant buildings lie in ruins. The heady scent of gardenias gives way to the acrid stench of bombed-out oil installations. And everywhere terrified people are scrambling to get out of a city that seems tragically doomed to chaos and destruction. As Beirut - 'the Paris of the East' - is defiled yet again, Robert Fisk, a resident for 30 years, asks: how much more punishment can it take?

BYLINE: Robert Fisk

In the year 551, the magnificent, wealthy city of Berytus-headquarters of the imperial East Mediterranean Roman fleet - was struck by a massive earthquake. In its after math, these a with drew several miles and the survivors - ancestors of the present-day Lebanese - walked out on the sands to loot the long-sunken merchant ships revealed in front of them.

That was when a tidal wall higher than a tsunami returned to swamp the city and kill them all. So savagely was the old Beirut damaged that the Emperor Justinian sent gold from Constantinople as compensation to every family left alive. Some cities seem forever doomed. When the Crusaders arrived at Beirut on their way to Jerusalem in the 11th century, they slaughtered every man, woman and child in the city. In the First World War, Ottoman Beirut suffered a terrible famine' the Turkish army had commandeered all the grain and the Allied powers blockaded the coast. I still have some ancient postcards I bought here 30 years ago of stick-like children standing in an orphanage, naked and abandoned.

An American woman living in Beirut in 1916 described how she "passed women and children lying by the roadside with closed eyes and ghastly, pale faces. It was a common thing to find people searching the garbage heaps for orange peel, old bones or other refuse, and eating them greedily when found. Everywhere women could be seen seeking eatable weeds among the grass along the roads..."

How does this happen to Beirut? For 30 years, I've watched this place die and then rise from the grave and then die again, its apartment blocks pitted with so many bullets they looked like Irish lace, its people massacring each other.

I lived here through 15 years of civil war that took 150,000 lives, and two Israeli invasions and years of Israeli bombardments that cost the lives of a further 20,000 of its people. I have seen them armless, legless, headless, knifed, bombed and splashed across the walls of houses. Yet they are a fine, educated, moral people whose generosity amazes every foreigner, whose gentleness puts any Westerner to shame, and whose suffering we almost always ignore.

They look like us, the people of Beirut. They have light-coloured skin and speak beautiful English and French. They travel the world. Their women are gorgeous and their food exquisite. But what are we saying of their fate today as the Israelis - in some of their cruellest attacks on this city and the surrounding countryside - tear them from their homes, bomb them on river bridges, cut them off from food and water and electricity? We say that they started this latest war, and we compare their appalling casualties - 240 in all of Lebanon by last night - with Israel's 24 dead, as if the figures are the same.

And then, most disgraceful of all, we leave the Lebanese to their fate like a diseased people and spend our time evacuating our precious foreigners while tut-tutting about Israel's "disproportionate" response to the capture of its soldiers by Hizbollah.

I walked through the deserted city centre of Beirut yesterday and it reminded more than ever of a film lot, a place of dreams too beautiful to last, a phoenix from the ashes of civil war whose plumage was so brightly coloured that it blinded its own people. This part of the city - once a Dresden of ruins - was rebuilt by Rafiq Hariri, the prime minister who was murdered scarcely a mile away on 14 February last year.

The wreckage of that bomb blast, an awful precursor to the present war in which his inheritance is being vandalised by the Israelis, still stands beside the Mediterranean, waiting for the last UN investigator to look for clues to the assassination - an investigator who has long ago abandoned this besieged city for the safety of Cyprus.

At the empty Etoile restaurant - best snails and cappuccino in Beirut, where Hariri once dined Jacques Chirac - I sat on the pavement and watched the parliamentary guard still patrolling the faade of the French-built emporium that houses what is left of Lebanon's democracy. So many of these streets were built by Parisians under the French mandate and they have been exquisitely restored, their mock Arabian doorways bejewelled with marble Roman columns dug from the ancient Via Maxima a few metres away.

Hariri loved this place and, taking Chirac for a beer one day, he caught sight of me sitting at a table. "Ah Robert, come over here," he roared and then turned to Chirac like a cat that was about to eat a canary. "I want to introduce you, Jacques, to the reporter who said I couldn't rebuild Beirut!"

And now it is being un-built. The Martyr Rafiq Hariri International Airport has been attacked three times by the Israelis, its glistening halls and shopping malls vibrating to the missiles that thunder into the runways and fuel depots. Hariri's wonderful transnational highway viaduct has been broken by Israeli bombers. Most of his motorway bridges have been destroyed. The Roman-style lighthouse has been smashed by a missile from an Apache helicopter. Only this small jewel of a restaurant in the centre of Beirut has been spared. So far.

It is the slums of Haret Hreik and Ghobeiri and Shiyah that have been levelled and "rub-ble-ised" and pounded to dust, sending a quarter of a million Shia Muslims to seek sanctuary in schools and abandoned parks across the city. Here, indeed, was the headquarters of Hizbollah, another of those "centres of world terror" which the West keeps discovering in Muslim lands. Here lived Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, the Party of God's leader, a ruthless, caustic, calculating man' and Sayad Mohamed Fadlallah, among the wisest and most eloquent of clerics' and many of Hizbollah's top military planners - including, no doubt, the men who planned over many months the capture of the two Israeli soldiers last Wednesday.

But did the tens of thousands of poor who live here deserve this act of mass punishment? For a country that boasts of its pin-point accuracy - a doubtful notion in any case, but that's not the issue - what does this act of destruction tell us about Israel? Or about ourselves?

In a modern building in an undamaged part of Beirut, I come, quite by chance, across a well known and prominent Hizbollah figure, open-neck white shirt, dark suit, clean shoes. "We will go on if we have to for days or weeks or months or..." And he counts these awful statistics off on the fingers of his left hand. "Believe me, we have bigger surprises still to come for the Israelis - much bigger, you will see. Then we will get our prisoners and it will take just a few small concessions."

I walk outside, feeling as if I have been beaten over the head. Over the wall opposite there is purple bougainvillaea and white jasmine and a swamp of gardenias. The Lebanese love flowers, their colour and scent, and Beirut is draped in trees and bushes that smell like paradise.

As for the huddled masses southern slums of Haret Hreik, I found hundreds of them yesterday, sitting under trees and lying on the parched grass beside an ancient fountain donated to the city of Beirut by the Ottoman Sultan Abdul-Hamid. How empires fall.

Far away, across the Mediterranean, two American helicopters from the USS Iwo Jima could be seen, heading through the mist and smoke towards the US embassy bunker complex at Awkar to evacuate more citizens of the American Empire. There was not a word from that same empire to help the people lying in the park, to offer them food or medical aid.

And across them all has spread a dark grey smoke that works its way through the entire city, the fires of oil terminals and burning buildings turning into a cocktail of sulphurous air that moves below our doors and through our windows. I smell it when I wake in the morning. Half the people of Beirut are coughing in this filth, breathing their own destruction as they contemplate their dead.

The anger that any human soul should feel at such suffering and loss was expressed so well by Lebanon's greatest poet, the mystic Khalil Gibran, when he wrote of the half million Lebanese who died in the 1916 famine, most of them residents of Beirut:

My people died of hunger, and he who

Did not perish from starvation was

Butchered with the sword'

They perished from hunger In a land rich with milk and honey.

They died because the vipers and

Sons of vipers spat out poison into

The space where the Holy Cedars and

The roses and the jasmine breathe

Their fragrance.

And the sword continues to cut its way through Beirut. When part of an aircraft - perhaps the wing-tip of an F-16 hit by a missile, although the Israelis deny this - came streaking out of the sky over the eastern suburbs at the weekend, I raced to the scene to find a partly decapitated driver in his car and three Lebanese soldiers from the army's logistics unit. These are the tough, brave non-combat soldiers of Kfar Chim, who have been mending power and water lines these past six days to keep Beirut alive.

I knew one of them. "Hello Robert, be quick because I think the Israelis will bomb again but we'll show you everything we can." And they took me through the fires to show me what they could of the wreckage, standing around me to protect me.

And a few hours later, the Israelis did come back, as the men of the small logistics unit were going to bed, and they bombed the barracks and killed 10 soldiers, including those three kind men who looked after me amid the fires of Kfar Chim.

And why? Be sure - the Israelis know what they are hitting. That's why they killed nine soldiers near Tripoli when they bombed the military radio antennas. But a logistics unit? Men whose sole job was to mend electricity lines? And then it dawns on me. Beirut is to die. It is to be starved of electricity now that the power station in Jiyeh is on fire. No one is to be allowed to keep Beirut alive. So those poor men had to be liquidated.

Beirutis are tough people and are not easily moved. But at the end of last week, many of them were overcome by a photograph in their daily papers of a small girl, discarded like a broken flower in a field near Ter Harfa, her feet curled up, her hand resting on her torn blue pyjamas, her eyes - beneath long, soft hair - closed, turned away from the camera. She had been another "terrorist" target of Israel and several people, myself among them, saw a frightening similarity between this picture and the photograph of a Polish girl lying dead in a field beside her weeping sister in 1939.

I go home and flick through my files, old pictures of the Israeli invasion of 1982. There are more photographs of dead children, of broken bridges. "Israelis Threaten to Storm Beirut", says one headline. "Israelis Retaliate". "Lebanon At War". "Beirut Under Siege". "Massacre at Sabra and Chatila".

Yes, how easily we forget these earlier slaughters. Up to 1,700 Palestinians were butchered at Sabra and Chatila by Israel's proxy Christian militia allies in September of 1982 while Israeli troops - as they later testified to Israel's own court of inquiry - watched the killings. I was there. I stopped counting the corpses when I reached 100. Many of the women had been raped before being knifed or shot.

Yet when I was fleeing the bombing of Ghobeiri with my driver Abed last week, we swept right past the entrance of the camp, the very spot where I saw the first murdered Palestinians. And we did not think of them. We did not remember them. They were dead in Beirut and we were trying to stay alive in Beirut, as I have been trying to stay alive here for 30 years.

I am back on the sea coast when my mobile phone rings. It is an Israeli woman calling me from the United States, the author of a fine novel about the Palestinians. "Robert, please take care," she says. "I am so, so sorry about what is being done to the Lebanese. It is unforgivable. I pray for the Lebanese people, and the Palestinians, and the Israelis." I thank her for her thoughtfulness and the graceful, generous way she condemned this slaughter.

Then, on my balcony - a glance to checkthe location of the Israeli gunboat far out in the sea-smog - I find older clippings. This is from an English paper in 1840, when Beirut was a great Ottoman city. "Beyrouth" was the dateline. "Anarchy is now the order of the day, our properties and personal safety are endangered, no satisfaction can be obtained, and crimes are committed with impunity. Several Europeans have quitted their houses and suspended their affairs, in order to find protection in more peaceable countries."

On my dining-room wall, I remember, there is a hand-painted lithograph of French troops arriving in Beirut in 1842 to protect the Christian Maronites from the Druze. They are camping in the Jardin des Pins, which will later become the site of the French embassy where, only a few hours ago, I saw French men and women registering for their evacuation. And outside the window, I hear again the whisper of Israeli jets, hidden behind the smoke that now drifts 20 miles out to sea.

Fairouz, the most popular of Lebanese singers, was to have performed at this year's Baalbek festival, cancelled now like all Lebanon's festivals of music, dance, theatre and painting. One of her most popular songs is dedicated to her native city:

To Beirut - peace to Beirut with all my heart

And kisses - to the sea and clouds,

To the rock of a city that looks like an old sailor's face.

From the soul of her people she makes wine,

From their sweat, she makes bread and jasmine.

So how did it come to taste of smoke and fire?

'Disgracefully, we evacuate our precious foreigners and just leave the Lebanese to their fate'

Friday, July 21, 2006

U.S. Green Party on the Crisis in Lebanon

If you are horrified by the overwhelming support from Democrats for the Israeli invasion and destruction of Lebanon, you might consider the Greens in the upcoming election:


For Immediate Release:
Thursday, July 20, 2006

Scott McLarty, Media Coordinator, 202-518-5624,
Starlene Rankin, Media Coordinator, 916-995-3805,

Greens to Bush: Press Israel to stop the attacks
on Lebanon

* Slaughter of Lebanese and Palestinian civilians is a punishable war crime; use of U.S. weapons for such purposes violates U.S. laws

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Green Party leaders called on President Bush to demand that Israel immediately cease its invasion of Lebanon and its rain of destruction on civilian populations and infrastructure in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

Greens urged President Bush to press for an immediate ceasefire. The Green Party has
repeatedly called for negotiation, a halt to violence by both sides, and adherence to
international law as the only means to achieve peace and security for all Israelis,
Palestinians, and people in surrounding countries.

"The current U.S. reaction is a bipartisan disaster, with most Democrats and Republicans alike in Congress expressing unqualified support for Israel," said Rae Vogeler, Wisconsin Green candidate for the U.S. Senate . "While President Bush is busy rattling sabers at Iran and Syria and refusing to demand a ceasefire, hundreds of innocent Lebanese and
Palestinian civilians are dying."

Greens based their demand on the following:

* Israel's attacks violate Fourth Geneva
Convention prohibitions against "collective
punishment," i.e., the retaliatory killing of
civilians, "targeted" assassinations, and
destruction of the infrastructure of an occupied
territory. Israel's use of U.S.-made weapons
violates U.S. laws against deploying such weapons
for use against civilians.

* The attacks cannot be justified as a response
to the capture of an Israeli soldier who was in
Gaza as part of the occupation force. (The
current exchange of violence began with Israeli
shellings that killed eight Palestinian civilians
on a Gaza beach.) Israel itself is holding
thousands of Palestinian civilians, including
over 400 Palestinian children and 120 women, in
inhumane conditions and has reportedly subjected
some detainees to torture.

* Israel and the U.S. have refused to recognize
Hamas as the legitimate democratically elected
government of the Palestinian territories; the
current attacks are clearly meant to destroy
Hamas in the Palestinian territories and
Hezbollah in Lebanon, and to punish Palestinian
civilians for having elected Hamas.

* The current escalation of hostilities is a
result of Israel's illegal occupation (with U.S.
support) of Palestinian lands and daily brutality
and killing visited on Palestinians, land grabs
and ethnic cleansing in the West Bank, cutoff of
water and electricity, destruction of homes and
businesses, economic strangulation, and
conversion of the Palestinian territories into
heavily guarded bantustans sealed off with a
'security' wall.

* The Olmert government's current actions,
especially deployment of troops into Lebanon,
risk a greater regional conflict that will
threaten global peace as other nations become
involved in the conflict, and will also hinder
efforts to effect U.S. troop withdrawal from
Iraq. Aside from the U.S. and Israel itself,
most of the world understands the attacks as
illegal Israeli military aggression.

Greens have repeatedly called for Israel to end the occupation and fully recognize the human rights of Palestinians, in accord with international law and U.N. directives, as necessary first steps for peace in the Middle East.

In November, 2005, the Green Party endorsed a resolution calling for divestment and a general boycott of Israel until it complies with international law and realizes human rights for Palestinians, including those living within Israel's borders

Greens have also endorsed the Palestinian Right of Return, consistent with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194 (nonbinding, passed December 11,
1948), which states that "refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date."

For Green campaign listings, news, photos, and web sites, visit the Green Party's candidate spotlight page and the Green elections database , which lists all 2006 candidates.

The Green Party will hold its 2006 nationalmeeting, titled "El Futuro es Verde / The Future is Green," in Tucson, Arizona, from July 27 to 30 . For media credentialing, visit


Green Party of the United States
1700 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 404
Washington, DC 20009.
202-319-7191, 866-41GREEN
Fax 202-319-7193

Green Party Peace Action Committee (GPAX)

"El Futuro es Verde / The Future is Green"
National Meeting of the Green Party of the United
States in Tucson, Arizona, July 27-30, 2006
Media credentialing page:

Monday, July 17, 2006


From its earliest inception, the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) has placed rejection of war as basic to our understanding of God’s will. We believe that human beings are capable of solving conflicts through reason, an empathetic understanding of the other’s point of view, and the courage to take principled, nonviolent action in the face of injustice.

In this spirit, the Atlanta Friends Meeting urges all parties in the current conflict to declare a ceasefire and work toward a negotiated settlement of their grievances. As Quakers who are also U.S. citizens, we strongly object to the fact that tax-payer funded U.S. military equipment is being used illegally in this conflict. We are very concerned that Israel is using weapons supplied by the United States to target Palestinian & Lebanese civilians and civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon in violation of the US Arms Export Control Act and the Geneva Conventions.

The Israeli air force fighter squadrons are composed of Lockheed Martin F-16I Fighting Falcons and Boeing F-15Is, which fire US-manufactured AMRAAM, Sidewinder, and Sparrow missiles. From 2000-2005, the United States licensed to Israel at least $1.062 billion of spare parts, engines, and missiles for its F-15 and F-16 fighter planes.

From 2000-2005, the United States licensed to the Israeli navy more than $572 million worth of patrol boat, ship, and submarine components and spare parts, torpedoes, and sonar equipment.

From 2000-2005, the United States licensed to Israel more than $348 million worth of tanks, components, and spare parts.

(Statistics for US weapons licensed to Israel are compiled from the State Department's annual report to Congress pursuant to Sec. 655 of the Foreign Assistance Act)

By using US-supplied weapons to attack Gaza and Lebanon, Israel is violating the terms of the US Arms Export Control Act and Foreign Assistance Act. The Arms Export Control Act restricts the use of US weapons to legitimate self-defense and internal policing; US weapons cannot be used to attack civilians in offensive operations. The Foreign Assistance Act prohibits US aid of any kind to a country that routinely kills civilians as a result of its military operations.

The Atlanta Friends Meeting urges the President and Congress to act immediately to halt Israel’s military attacks in the Middle East that are being conducted with U.S.-supplied weapons in violation of our laws. We urge the President and Congress to stop all foreign assistance and military equipment exports to Israel until it ceases military attacks outside of its internationally recognized borders.

Adopted in Meeting for Business - July 16, 2006
Sally MacEwen, Clerk of the Meeting

Friday, July 14, 2006

Negotiate? Or just kill each other?

A way out of the Gaza crisis

By Arthur Neslen, Al Jazeera, 4 July 2006

Arthur Neslen is an Israeli journalist working in Tel Aviv. His first book, Occupied Minds: A journey through the Israeli psyche, was recently published by Pluto Press.

Out of sight of the international press pack, a bid to resolve the Gaza crisis, involving a dialogue between a Jewish religious leader and Hamas representatives, continues and is well advanced.

"I'm talking to Hamas representatives every day," a weary sounding Menachem Froman told me by telephone from the West Bank settlement of Tekoa, where he lives and works as a rabbi. "We have had a lot of meetings and I have just spoken to an aide of my prime minister about this."

But Tel Aviv's interest in a negotiated end to the standoff is far from assured.

The day before the tanks rolled into Gaza, Froman had been due to launch an extraordinary peace initiative at a news conference in Jerusalem with Muhamed Abu Tir, the Hamas MP, Khaled Abu Arafa, the Palestinian minister for Jerusalem, and three Israeli rabbis.

The panel was to have made a collective call for the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit, the beginning of a process to release all Palestinian prisoners and the immediate start of negotiations with Hamas on the framework for a peace deal based on 1967 borders.

They would also have announced that Jewish and Muslim religious leaders could achieve peace where Israel's politicians had failed.

But the response from Israel's security establishment was crushing.


Hours before the meeting was due to start, the Shin Bet detained Abu Tir and Abu Arafa and warned them not to attend the meeting. The news conference's organisers were forced to contact the other rabbis - who were already on the road to Jerusalem - and tell them not to come.

Instead of a triumphant statement of mutual respect and dialogue, a subdued and gently defiant three-man panel fended off aggressive questioning from an unruly Israeli press pack.

As Yitzhak Frankenthal, whose son was killed by Hamas in 1994, said that the Palestinians had been pushed into the kidnapping by an inhuman occupation, one journalist jumped up and down shouting: "Should someone who murdered your son be freed?"

Frankenthal responded with dignity: "It would be the easiest thing in the world for me to say that they are terrorists and we must fight them.

"But in the eyes of the Palestinians, they are liberators. We need to understand that it is the obligation of the Palestinians, as it is the obligation of every other nation, to fight for their liberation. The time has come for reconciliation, and the only way to achieve that is to talk."

Talking, however, requires a partner.


Two days after the news conference, Abu Tir and Abu Arafa were kidnapped by Israeli forces, along with a third of the Hamas cabinet. Four days later, Israel revoked both men's citizenship and residency rights in Jerusalem. As the Jerusalem Post headline put it: Shin Bet foils Hamas-Jewish meeting.

An even more accurate headline might have been the one Israel National Radio's Arutz Sheva website ran a few days later, pertaining to another story: The peace process is a bigger danger than Hamas.

In this opinion piece, Ted Belman said that "the threat of rockets raining down on Israel from Gaza isn't nearly the threat that the peace process was and is" because peace talks would require Israeli concessions.

"To avoid this fate, the violence in the territories would have to continue at tolerable levels, but that doesn't solve the problem," he said. Belman concluded that the Palestinians needed to be provoked.

Some argue that Israel's re-invasion of Gaza was a similar provocation aimed at bringing down the Hamas government and preventing a unified Palestinian negotiating stance based on the prisoners' document.

Sharon's path

Having ruled out the only possible solutions that could have bought a temporary peace, Olmert and Peretz are now the proud owners of a Sharonist policy which, almost by definition, strengthens Hamas in the occupied territories and far-right forces at home. American and British support for it traps them further within a dynamic that heats the pot of bloodshed, even as they dishonestly promise their people disengagement, convergence and peace.

Could Froman's efforts offer them a way out of the strings with which the Palestinian fighters have so daringly bound them?

The rabbi is currently "neither eating nor sleeping" as he talks with Hamas representatives, building on his meetings with Mahmoud al-Zahar earlier this year. Froman may be an eccentric, but he has a formidable track record.

A co-founder of the messianic Gush Khatif settlers movement, Froman split from the group after Baruch Goldstein's Hebron massacre.

He became a religious adviser to the Knesset and brokered the release from prison of Hamas's spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. He also brokered Yassin's subsequent announcement of a ceasefire, which Israel refused to accept and Yassin subsequently withdrew.

Yasser Arafat considered him a brother.

Indeed, a peace plan the two men were working on was reaching a culmination point in Arafat's final days. It involved Arafat signing off on an independent Palestinian state and permanent religious ceasefire, the latter with the support of key Israeli civic and religious leaders.

It was scuppered by an inconvenient phone call from the then-interior minister, Gideon Ezra, and a deterioration in Arafat's health which, by the following day, had rendered him unable to take visitors.

Ironies abound in the history of Froman's peace efforts. His uncle was killed in the 1930s by Ezzedine al-Qassam, the militant Palestinian cleric whose name was later adopted by Hamas's armed wing. Yet Froman is on record as saying he has more in common with "my brothers and sisters in Hamas" than with secular Israelis.

His motivations stem from a deep commitment to the once-integral universal tradition in Jewish thought, best summarised by Rabbi Hillel's "do unto others" maxim. He believes that while the land of Israel is holy, sovereignty over it is not and so aspires to live as a Palestinian Jew in a Palestinian state. For the past two years, however, he has been living under police protection because of death threats from other settlers.

Should his peace efforts bear fruit, perhaps his national-religious neighbours will be reminded that in the messianic age, according to Isaiah, the wolf is supposed to lie down with the lamb.

You can find this article at:

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Israeli Human Rights Groups Protest Gaza Disaster

Six Human Rights Groups to Israeli High Court: Renew Fuel Supply to Gaza and Open the Crossings for Food, Equipment and Humanitarian Supplies

Today, July 11, 2006, six human rights groups petitioned the Israeli High Court demanding that the crossings in Gaza be opened to allow for the steady and regular supply of fuel, food, medicine, and equipment, including spare parts needed to operate generators.

The groups – the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Hamoked: Center for Defence of the Individual, B’tselem, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and Gisha - Center for the Legal Protection of Freedom of Movement also asked for an urgent hearing in order to prevent serious harm to the health of the civilian population, especially patients in hospital, and to prevent the breakdown of the water and sewage system in Gaza.

During the current military operation in the Gaza Strip the Israeli military has interrupted the supply of fuel to Gaza and kept Gaza`s crossings mostly closed to supply of food and other humanitarian goods. The uninterrupted supply of fuel and equipment is necessary for the functioning of Gaza`s health and sanitation systems, and Gaza requires a steady supply of food and medicine.

Since Gaza`s power station was destroyed on June 28, there is an increased need for fuel to power the generators in Gaza and for spare parts to keep the generators running at such a high capacity. The closure of Karni Crossing has led to shortages in food at a time when, given the difficulty of obtaining electricity to prepare and refrigerate foodstuffs, Gaza requires increased shipments of dairy products, meat, flour, and other goods.

Without a steady supply of fuel and parts, hospitals cannot perform life-saving surgery and treatment plants cannot pump and treat sewage in Gaza. Gaza hospitals have reduced their activities to life-saving procedures. Since the bombing of the power plant, Gaza`s water utility has been dumping 60,000 cubic meters of raw sewage into the sea each day, for lack of power and equipment to run the treatment plants, and there is concern that untreated sewage will pollute the aquifer or spill into the streets.

Because of the electricity shortages, stores in Gaza have stopped selling meat and dairy products. Trucks laden with food and medicine have been stuck at Karni Crossing, which has been closed since July 6, including 230 containers from international aid organizations.

Withholding fuel, food, and equipment from Gaza residents constitutes collective punishment, in violation of international law. The petition argues that Israel is not fulfilling its legal obligations to provide for the needs of the civilian population and to distinguish between military and civilian targets.

According to Faysal Shawa, a businessman and Gaza resident: "We have been thrown back to the way people lived 100 years ago ... We don`t have water, we don`t have milk for our kids."

According to Maher Najer, Deputy Director of Gaza`s Water Company: "We face severe shortages in the electricity, fuel, and spare parts needed to operate Gaza`s water and sewage systems. These shortages threaten to create a public health catastrophe."

© All rights reserved to ACRI
last updated : 11/07/06

Monday, July 10, 2006

Israel Has Crossed A Moral Boundary

Outrage at the new human rights violations by the IDF in Gaza is shared by those who would see Israel's religious state replaced by a more inclusive democracy, as well as those who, like Michael Lerner (below), love and support Israel as a homeland and refuge for Jews. Regardless of one's position, it is clear that the passions aroused by this conflict have made Israel/Palestine one of the most dangerous places in the world. As Juan Cole points out, fifty thousand Turks demonstrated on Sunday, and 3000 went into the streets in Cairo, despite the government crackdown. Cole says, "if it weren't for authoritarian governments in the region, hundreds of thousands of people would be on the streets demonstrating as we speak. Since they can't demonstrate, they turn to Islamist politics and sometimes terrorism. Ironically, a sense of justice denied and outrage over human rights violations can actually turn people toward an acceptance of extreme measures."

Please take action.

Israel has Crossed a Moral Boundary
Rabbi Michael Lerner

In 2003 I was prevented from speaking at a large demonstration protesting the impending war in Iraq because I was deemed too pro-Zionist by one of the sponsoring organizations. My sin then, as now, is that I believe that both sides have acted with insensitivity and have been oblivious to the needs of the other, and both sides need to repent.

I still believe that now, and as late as last week was calling on the tens of thousands of readers of to insist to the Palestinians that they would be far more effective if they were to adopt the non-violent strategies of Gandhi, King, and Mandela rather than to imagine themselves capable of militarily defeating Israel. And just as I’ve critiqued the state terrorism against civilians that the IDF brings to the West Bank occupation, so I’ve always critiqued the terrorism of some sectors of the Palestinian population.

But this week it’s impossible as a Jew and as an American to not notice that a new human rights violation by Israel has taken place which manages to surpass many of its previous violations in cruelty and in the outrage it has generated.

Anyone has ever faced the crippling heat of the desert-like conditions of southern Israel or the Gaza strip knows the desperation for water that comes each summer. So when Israel bombed and destroyed the electricity system for 1.2 million Gazans and thereby made all electric pumps inoperable, they inflicted a collective punishment on the entire Gazan population.

The alleged justification was a desire to punish Palestinians for electing a Hamas government, and more immediately to retrieve a soldier who had been “kidnapped” (the quotes because this was not a civilian but a soldier in uniform, so if Israel sees itself as at war with Hamas, then the only possible description is that their soldier was captured by the other side). The Hamas government, however, has publicly urged the “kidnappers” whom it does not control to free the captured soldier.

Moreover, the outrage in Israel about this “kidnap” reflects a huge level of systematic denial going on in the consciousness of Israelis and many who support its policies—because virtually every human rights group including the various Israeli human rights organizations has chronicled tens of thousands of acts of "kidnap" of this sort by the IDF against Palestinian civilians, who are then kept in detention for as long as six months without a trial, often facing brutal torture, and then released without ever having been charged with any crime. Of course, and I thank God for this because I care for the well being of the people of Israel , and as a Jew I am deeply tied to the success and safety of this particular Jewish society, the Palestinians have never been able to punish hundreds of thousands or millions of Israelis collectively for these systematic violations of human rights. To the extent that they do so through acts of terror, I condemn those acts.

This is a defining moment in our relationship with Israel for all Americans of whatever faith. Just as we need to make clear to our own government that its human rights violations in Guantanamo and Iraq are unacceptable, so we need to communicate to the Israeli people that the mass punishment of a million people for the acts of a few is as unacceptable when it comes from a democratic society as when it comes from the willful oppression of entrenched authoritarian dictators. Even if, God forbid, the captured soldier is murdered by the lunatics who captured him, it is only they and their conscious sponsors who should be punished, not random Palestinians, unless you think it equally appropriate to some day punish the entire American public for the three million Vietnamese killed by American action in Vietnam or for the horrendous acts which continue in Guantanamo and Iraq even today.

Unfortunately, we can’t count on our U.S. government to convey this sentiment without qualifying its concerns in ways that essentially communicate that Israel can do whatever it wants and we won’t interfere.

So the onus is upon us as ordinary citizens to act and act decisively. We need to communicate our concerns to legislators and media. We need to organize demonstrations in front of the offices of our elected officials, and also outside Israeli consulates and those Jewish institutions which continue to use their influence to support Israeli policy even at this moment (there are a few which have spoken out in critique, but very very few). And we need to write to those in power in Israel, starting with Prime Minister Olmert, telling them that even those of us who love Israel and will never let it be destroyed find this particular action unconscionable, demand that Israel immediately rebuild the electricity system, and that Israel stop trying to impose its will with military might but instead sit down with the Palestinians and negotiate a lasting peace.

Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun magazine, the largest circulation liberal/progressive Jewish magazine in the world. He is rabbi of Beyt Tikkun synagogue in San Francisco, national chair of The Network of Spiritual Progressives , and the author of ten books, most recently a 2006 national best-seller The Left Hand of God: Taking Back our Country from the Religious Right

Saturday, July 08, 2006

On Kidnapping

Look who's been kidnapped!

Hundreds of Palestinian 'suspects' have been kidnapped from their homes and will never stand trial
Arik Diamant

It's the wee hours of the morning, still dark outside. A guerilla force comes out of nowhere to kidnap a soldier. After hours of careful movement, the force reaches its target, and the ambush is on! In seconds, the soldier finds himself looking down the barrel of a rifle.

A smash in the face with the butt of the gun and the soldier falls to the ground, bleeding. The kidnappers pick him up, quickly tie his hands and blindfold him, and disappear into the night.

This might be the end of the kidnapping, but the nightmare has just begun. The soldier's mother collapses, his father prays. His commanding officers promise to do everything they can to get him back, his comrades swear revenge. An entire nation is up-in-arms, writing in pain and worry.

Nobody knows how the soldier is: Is he hurt? Do his captors give him even a minimum of human decency, or are they torturing him to death by trampling his honor? The worst sort of suffering is not knowing. Will he come home? And if so, when? And in what condition? Can anyone remain apathetic in the light of such drama?

Israeli terror

This description, you'll be surprised to know, has nothing to do with the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit. It is the story of an arrest I carried out as an IDF soldier, in the Nablus casbah, about 10 years ago. The "soldier" was a 17-year-old boy, and we kidnapped him because he knew "someone" who had done "something."

We brought him tied up, with a burlap sac over his head, to a Shin Bet interrogation center known as "Scream Hill" (at the time we thought it was funny). There, the prisoner was beaten, violently shaken and sleep deprived for weeks or months. Who knows.

No one wrote about it in the paper. European diplomats were not called to help him. After all, there was nothing out of the ordinary about the kidnapping of this Palestinian kid. Over the 40 years of occupation we have kidnapped thousands of people, exactly like Gilad Shalit was captured: Threatened by a gun, beaten mercilessly, with no judge or jury, or witnesses, and without providing the family with any information about the captive.

When the Palestinians do this, we call it "terror." When we do it, we work overtime to whitewash the atrocity.


Some people will say: The IDF doesn't "just" kidnap. These people are "suspects." There is no more perverse lie than this. In all the years I served, I reached one simple conclusion: What makes a "suspect"? Who, exactly suspects him, and of what?

Who has the right to sentence a 17-year-old to kidnapping, torture and possible death? A 26-year-old Shin Bet interrogator? A 46-year-old one? Do these people have any higher education, apart from the ability to interrogate? What are his considerations? I all these "suspects" are so guilty, why not bring them to trial?

Anyone who believes that despite the lack of transparency, the IDF and Shin Bet to their best to minimize violations of human rights is naïve, if not brainwashed. One need only read the testimonies of soldiers who have carried out administrative detentions to be convinced of the depth of the immorality of our actions in the territories.

To this very day, there are hundreds of prisoners rotting in Shin Bet prisons and dungeons, people who have never been –and never will be – tried. And Israelis are silently resolved to this phenomenon.

Israeli responsibility

The day Gilad Shalit was kidnapped I rode in a taxi. The driver told me we must go into Gaza, start shooting people one-by-one, until someone breaks and returns the hostage. It isn't clear that such an operation would bring Gilad back alive.

Instead of getting dragged into terrorist responses, as Palestinian society has done, we should release some of the soldiers and civilians we have kidnapped. This is appropriate, right, and could bring about an air of reconciliation in the territories.

Hell, if this is what will bring Gilad home safe-and-sound, we have a responsibility to him to do it.

Arik Diamant is an IDF reservist and the head of the Courage to Refuse organization
(07.05.06, 12:35)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Collective Punishment

Mona El-Farra, is a 52 year-old woman, who lives in Gaza City. She says of herself, “ I am a physician by training, a human rights and women's rights activist by practice.” She has a blog that she has entitled “From Gaza with love” (see (

Saturday, July 01, 2006
Dear all:

My friend Hoda lives next to the Ministry of Interior building in Gaza that was hit last night with 2 rockets, the attack occured 2am yesterday, please forgive me about the accuracy, l am starting to lose track of days and nights and how many times we were attacked. Hoda told me that the whole building was shaking.

She went out, with her pyjamas, all the residents were out in their night wear, children faces were too pale,some of them were crying hystiricaly, the fume filled the place , the flat next door were largely damaged (it is the next to the building that was targeted),where a family with 6 children live ,there was large fire, the firee brigades used her flat, to put off the fire, the Ministry of interior building was empty during the attack !!!!,the aim was revenge and destroyingof the building ,i live 150 meters from Hoda place, no body is safe no one is immune .what happened with Hoda reminded me with the night when late president Arafat headquarters in Gaza were attacked, 2 years ago, I lived nearby, and too close, that night 37 shells hit that building.

The power is still off ... we had it for 3 hours yesterday, enough to recharge my laptop, and mobile phone and to do some cooking. I am highly concerned about the hospitals, the fuel supply to run the local generators is running down ,the borders are completely sealed since the attack, no fuel was allowed inside Gaza since that date, the medication and medical supplies are running down too, We do not have enough strategic storage, because of the previous ongoing sanctions, our drug stores are exhausted, the water supply is scarce too, we need to rationalise our water use,we are going through big humanitrian disaster.

Sonic booming
When the get fighters ,go fastly through the sound barrier, we expereince this sort of terrifying raids at least 7 times, in different times of the day and night, many international human rights orgs. appealed to Israel to stop this raids, knowing its harmful effect on people, they never used it before withdrawal from Gaza.

How can i let you know what is my personal feelings? During this raids, if I am sleeping my bed shakes tremendously, my dauhgter jumps to my bed, shivering with fear then both of us end up on the floor ,my heart beats go very fast , and i had to pacify my daughter, now she knows we need to pacify each other , she feels my fear, if I am awake i flinch up and scream loudly, i cannot help myself, ok I am a doctor and mature middle aged woman with large experience and an activist too, but with this booming i go hystirical, after all we are all humans and each have its own threshold, hearing the sound of breaking windows is frightening too, many tin roofs in the refugee camps collapsed on the heads of families, as a result of this booming, hospitals received large number of psychologicaly traumatised children.

1.5 million residents in Gaza face COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT, feelings of hate will grow larger, and all these assaults and savage agressions against population will not bring peace or security to Israel, only justice peace will.

Israel is talking about security of its citizens, against militiamen, who are armed with some home made fire sticks rockets. Israel is talking about terrorism, what can i call this sonic booming and power plant attack, but STATE TERRORISM

Yours in love and solidarity

Mona ElFarra