Wednesday, January 21, 2009

1 more hour of George W Bush...

...and then it's

President Barack Hussein Obama!

Sue and I have been up all night watching the coverage - and wishing we were there - and it's getting quite exciting now...

Back to the TV I think. More later!

Technorati tags: , , , .

Read the full post

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The trouble with Israel

There's a stunningly awful piece in the Guardian's Comment is Free section today, written by one Elizabeth Wurzel, entitled Standing against a tide of hatred, which includes the remarkable subtitle: It is not Israel's action, but the vitriolic reaction to it that has been disproportionate. There's only one explanation: antisemitism.

Not surprisingly it has received a heck of a lot of comments, one of which I would like to quote in its entirety, because it neatly (and with links) summarises Israel's breaches of international law - and encapsulates exactly why the international community is appalled and outraged by Israel's actions against Gaza.

Thank you PaulLambert - a great comment indeed:

Elizabeth Wurtzel:
'The trouble with Israel is the trouble with Jews'.

No, the trouble with Israel is that it's an increasingly aggressive, violent and rogue state that treats the Palestinians abominably. It illegally occupies and colonises their land:
'Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory (including East Jerusalem) have been established in breach of international law.'
Ruling of the International Court of Justice, 2004.

It treats the Palestinians in the West Bank as second class citizens in their own country, with a set of laws that resemble aspects of apartheid:
'Israel's settlement enterprise has created two separate systems of rights and privileges, favoring, for the most part, Israeli citizens, at the expense of the over two million Palestinian residents of the West Bank.

The privileges accorded to Israelis for movement and access, along with the use of two different sets of laws for each population (Israeli domestic law for Israelis and military orders for Palestinians) constitute the most pronounced elements of this institutionalized discrimination.'
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs report, December 2008 - page 3.

It collectively punishes the Gazan population, over half of whom are children:
'The blockade has effectively dismantled the economy and impoverished the population of Gaza. Israel's policy affects the civilian population of Gaza indiscriminately and constitutes a collective punishment against ordinary men, women and children. The measures taken are illegal under international humanitarian law.'
Report by Amnesty International, Care International UK, Cafod, Christian Aid, Medecins du Monde UK, Oxfam, Save the Children UK and Trocaire, March 2008 - page 5.

Its soldiers and settlers regularly beat and kill Palestinians with impunity:
'Settler violence is not random criminal activity; in most cases, it is ideology-driven, organized violence, the goal of which is to assert settler dominance over an area. IDF Commander of the Central Command Major General Gadi Shamni, responsible for the West Bank, recently argued that the increase is due to the encouragement [the settlers] receive from the settler leadership, rabbis and [the] public. A root cause of the phenomenon is Israel's settlement activity...

...The absence of law enforcement against settlers was again raised in 2005 by Advocate Talia Sasson in her report on the construction of unauthorized settlement outposts that was commissioned by the Israeli Prime Minister. Sasson's report makes clear that there is a problem in terms of enforcing the law on Israeli settlers in the West Bank. According to Sasson, IDF soldiers are ignorant of their law enforcement responsibilities in this regard. Moreover, they are not interested in assuming such roles. In the Executive Summary of the opinion, she notes: The attitude towards law breaking settlers is mostly forgiving. The result is a large increase in law violations.'
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs report, December 2008 - page 2-11.

And it bulldozes Palestinian homes without warning or compensation:
'In the last three and half years, Israel's armed forces have bulldozed or blown up more than 3,000 homes - an average rate of more than two homes a day. This has left tens of thousands of men, women and children homeless or without a livelihood... Often the only warning is the rumbling of the Israeli army's bulldozers and tanks and the inhabitants barely have time to flee as the bulldozers begin to tear down the walls of their homes.'
Report by Amnesty International, May 2004.

This kind of thing has been going on for forty one years now. To say that those who recognise the injustice and brutality inherent in the four decade old Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, and want to work to put a stop it, are somehow anti-semitic, is misguided at best, and completely shameless and dishonest at worst.

Hear! Hear! I absolutely agree PaulLambert - and thank you VERY much for the links to sources which even the most virulent pro-Israeli supporter would be hard-pressed to refute.

Technorati tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Read the full post

Monday, January 12, 2009

Gaza - the oppressed have become the oppressors

Warning: Fairly graphic images. Don't scroll if you don't want to see them.

I'm speechless about what's happening in Gaza. Up until now I haven't known what to say, it's made me so sad and angry. So now I'll say something controversial. Actually, I don't think it's possible to talk about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict without saying something that someone will find controversial, so there you go.

Was it completely naïve of me to hope that the Jewish people who have been through so much torment and hardship, a people who have been so appallingly treated throughout history, that those men, women and children who have made Israel their home might wish to treat others the way they would like to have been treated themselves?

I have Jewish friends who are sickened and appalled by what the State of Israel is doing (and has been doing) in Gaza and the rest of Palestine. I agree with them. They feel that in no way do Israel's attacks on the Palestinian people represent them as members of the international Jewish community.

It seems to me that attacking and killing innocent people - and then going on TV and lying about it - is no way for a "civilised" country to behave. Israel, have you no shame? Have you no heart? No soul?

From The Guardian:

9 January 2009: Children make up more than half of Gaza's 1.5 million inhabitants, and as such have found themselves in the firing line since Israel began its offensive against Hamas. Using unprecedented force, the Israeli army has launched raid after raid against the tiny, overcrowded territory, with the inevitable consequence that children have figured heavily among the casualty numbers. According to UN figures, more than 250 children have been killed and 1,080 wounded - about a third of the total casualties - since the offensive began on December 27.

I've been looking at pictures online because I wanted to show you what this war really looks like, but there are many I just can't include. They are too terrible. I'm sitting here in tears. I don't think I need to show you a picture of a decapitated child for you to understand that war is hell, and that the innocent are suffering and dying.

Is this child a terrorist?

1 January 2009: A wounded Palestinian child screams as she arrives to the al-Shifa hospital after an Israeli air strike in Gaza City.

Is this one?

29 December 2008: A Palestinian man carries his wounded child to the treatment room of Kamal Adwan hospital following an Israeli missile strike in Beit Lahiya.

Was this child a terrorist too?

A dead child's hand is visible beneath the rubble of a building in Gaza.

From The Independent:
Rules of engagement: Is Israel in breach of the laws of war?

Critics of the Israeli invasion of Gaza say that the military response has been disproportionate and in breach of international rules of war. According to international agreements based on principles dating back to St Thomas Aquinas and enshrined in the Geneva Conventions, Israel should adhere to rules on:

Proportionality - No more force should be used than is necessary, and casualties should be kept to a minimum. The response should be in proportion to the level of the threat.

Civilians - Should not become victims of the war and have the right to be protected and their safety ensured.

Children - Are not to be treated as combatants; medicines, food and clothing should be allowed through.

Targets - Only military targets should be attacked and indiscriminate bombing is forbidden.

Weapons - White phosphorus should not be used as a weapon of war in civilian areas, but Israel has argued that there is nothing to stop it being used as a smokescreen.

I know there are many who live in Israel who do not agree with what their government is doing to the Palestinian people. I know there are many Jews around the world who think it's wrong. And there are certainly millions of non-Israelis around the world who are condemning Israel's actions in Gaza and elsewhere right now.

But insofar as the Israeli government represents the will of its people, I have to ask the question "why have the oppressed become the oppressors?" Why is it that the Jewish people have, for so many years, caused so much hardship, torment and death to the Palestinian people? Shouldn't simple human empathy and understanding have stopped Israel from behaving that way? Or is it true that - like abused children who grow up to be abusers themselves - the State of Israel just cannot help itself?

You tell me - because right now, that's what I see. I see the Jewish people who have suffered deeply and horribly, turning around and treating the Palestinians in a way that - although not comparable in scale or atrocity to what the Jews suffered during the holocaust - is nonetheless unacceptable, inhumane, cruel, and arguably illegal.

And until the US stops with the unconditional support of all actions Israeli, and until both the Palestinians and Israelis can stop with the fighting and start with the talking, and until the rest of us have the courage to stand up and say what we think - even though we know we'll probably get accused of being anti-Semitic for saying it - I don't know how peace can ever come to that part of the world.

And every day until then more children will die, and more hearts will be hardened against Israel and everything it stands for, and the possibility of peace in the Middle East will move further and further away.


More Links

And a couple more...

January 6 - The Israel Rules
Because Israel came into existence in the shadow of the Holocaust, and because it was immediately attacked by Arab states bent on destroying it, it has become an eternal victim in America's eyes. The historical truths of Israel's creation, above all the fact of Palestinian dispossession, simply cannot compete with the tragic, beautiful myth of an embattled people, the survivors of one of the worst genocides in human history, returning to live in their historic homeland.

The enduring power of this myth is understandable. The idea that history's "ultimate victims," as the late Palestinian-American scholar Edward Said sympathetically called the Jews, created their own state by expelling its native inhabitants, is appalling. It seems almost cosmically wrong: A story this dark should not, cannot, close without a happy ending.

January 6 - The Gaza Bloodbath
If Israel wants to prevent Hamas from "obtaining legitimacy," then the real objective of the invasion is to either severely undermine or topple the regime. All the talk about the qassam rockets and the so-called "Hamas infrastructure", (the new phrase that is supposed to indicate a threat to Israeli security) is merely a diversion.

What really worries Israel is the prospect that Obama will "sit down with his enemies" - as he promised during the presidential campaign - and conduct talks with Hamas. That would put the ball in Israel's court and force them to make concessions. But Israel does not want to make concessions. They would rather start a war and change the facts on the ground so they can head-off any attempt by Obama to restart peace process.

January 7 - What Kind of Security Will This Barbarism Bring Israel?
Israel's disregard for innocent human life is not motivated only by a desire to forestall the political consequences - especially during an electoral campaign - of Israeli military casualties. It is also a clear indicator of the contempt that Israel has for Palestinian life in general.

The cold, hungry, tired, desperate, and terrified men, women and children that Israel is now sweeping away by the dozen in balls of fire and showers of shrapnel are the very same people that it had already reduced to what one UN official months ago warned was "a subhuman existence," the deliberate product of the siege that Israel has imposed on Gaza for over three years, beginning in 2005, before the election of Hamas.

They are the same people whose political and human rights Israel has been stifling since the occupation of 1967 - twenty years before the creation of Hamas. They are the same people who were ethnically cleansed from their land in 1948 because, as non-Jews, they were inconveniently cluttering up the land that European Zionists wanted to turn into a Jewish state, no matter what the land's actual population had to say about it.

Technorati tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Read the full post

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I have an otter for you

Time to get back into blogging, I think. How was your Christmas and New Year? Mine were nice, thanks for asking.

So... 2008. What a funny old year that was...

  • My old tenants moved on, got new tenants and completely fucked up my arm in the process of redecorating the flat ready for them. Couldn't work for a while. Couldn't do anything for a while. Not fun.

  • Missed 3 or 4 months of Batucada because of my arm and then because I was scared to go back cos I'd forgotten everything. Got persuaded back by a txt from Mike. Thanks, dude!

  • Finally earned my trousers sometime in November. Yaay! [Translation: earned my trousers means I got good enough at Batucada drumming to earn my uniform and be allowed to do performances with the band. Go me!]

  • Took Winnie back to the vet mid-year to check on her weird eye specks. Was enormously worried about what he would say. Went in there in tears, came out all smiles. Vet decided he didn't need to see her again for another year, and that he didn't need to remove her eye. Thank God.

  • Became entirely and utterly obsessed with the US election and with Barack Obama. He won!!! OMG what an awesome day that was! I still have a whole lot of txts on my phone from friends congratulating me on his win. Funny! Sue and I took the day off work to watch the results come in.

  • Lost my job. Oh yeah, did I tell you I got made redundant at the end of the year? Heh.

I've decided that 2009 is going to be much better. And in the spirit of new and positive beginnings, here's an otter for you. Just because.

Technorati tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Read the full post