Michael Riordon

the view from where I live


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Gaza: Why do Israel and the U.S. insist on war?

Gaza, July 27Gaza City, July 27, 2014.  Photo: Oxfam International.

“For the last eight years, Israel and the U.S. had repeated opportunities to opt for a diplomatic solution in Gaza.  Each time, they have chosen war, with devastating consequences for the families of Gaza.”

Why?

The answer is here, in a well-documented account by Sandy Tolan, author of The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East, and an associate professor at the University of Southern California

The only practical response that does not depend on goodwill or common sense from the Israeli or American authorities: the growing international grassroots movement for BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions.

 


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Silence for Gaza

Gaza, Shujaiyya 2Shujaiyya, Gaza, August 1, 2014. Photo: Mohammed Saber.

Silence for Gaza, a poem by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, 1941 – 2008

Gaza is far from its relatives and close to its enemies, because whenever Gaza explodes, it becomes an island and it never stops exploding. It scratched the enemy’s face, broke his dreams and stopped his satisfaction with time.

Because in Gaza time is something different.

Because in Gaza time is not a neutral element.

It does not compel people to cool contemplation, but rather to explosion and a collision with reality.

Time there does not take children from childhood to old age, but rather makes them men in their first confrontation with the enemy.

Time in Gaza is not relaxation, but storming the burning noon. Because in Gaza values are different, different, different.

The only value for the occupied is the extent of his resistance to occupation. That is the only competition there. Gaza has been addicted to knowing this cruel, noble value. It did not learn it from books, hasty school seminars, loud propaganda megaphones, or songs. It learned it through experience alone and through work that is not done for advertisement and image.

Gaza has no throat. Its pores are the ones that speak in sweat, blood, and fires. Hence the enemy hates it to death and fears it to criminality, and tries to sink it into the sea, the desert, or blood. And hence its relatives and friends love it with a coyness that amounts to jealousy and fear at times, because Gaza is the brutal lesson and the shining example for enemies and friends alike.

Gaza is not the most beautiful city.

Its shore is not bluer than the shores of Arab cities.

Its oranges are not the most beautiful in the Mediterranean basin.

Gaza is not the richest city.

It is not the most elegant or the biggest, but it equals the history of an entire homeland, because it is more ugly, impoverished, miserable, and vicious in the eyes of enemies. Because it is the most capable, among us, of disturbing the enemy’s mood and his comfort. Because it is his nightmare. Because it is mined oranges, children without a childhood, old men without old age and women without desires. Because of all this it is the most beautiful, the purest and richest among us and the one most worthy of love.

We do injustice to Gaza when we look for its poems, so let us not disfigure Gaza’s beauty. What is most beautiful in it is that it is devoid of poetry at a time when we tried to triumph over the enemy with poems, so we believed ourselves and were overjoyed to see the enemy letting us sing. We let him triumph, then when we dried our lips of poems we saw that the enemy had finished building cities, forts and streets. We do injustice to Gaza when we turn it into a myth, because we will hate it when we discover that it is no more than a small poor city that resists.

We do injustice when we wonder: What made it into a myth? If we had dignity, we would break all our mirrors and cry or curse it if we refuse to revolt against ourselves. We do injustice to Gaza if we glorify it, because being enchanted by it will take us to the edge of waiting and Gaza doesn’t come to us. Gaza does not liberate us. Gaza has no horses, airplanes, magic wands, or offices in capital cities. Gaza liberates itself from our attributes and liberates our language from its Gazas at the same time. When we meet it – in a dream – perhaps it won’t recognize us, because Gaza was born out of fire, while we were born out of waiting and crying over abandoned homes.

It is true that Gaza has its special circumstances and its own revolutionary traditions. But its secret is not a mystery: Its resistance is popular and firmly joined together and knows what it wants (it wants to expel the enemy out of its clothes). The relationship of resistance to the people is that of skin to bones and not a teacher to students. Resistance in Gaza did not turn into a profession or an institution.

It did not accept anyone’s tutelage and did not leave its fate hinging on anyone’s signature or stamp.

It does not care that much if we know its name, picture, or eloquence. It did not believe that it was material for media. It did not prepare for cameras and did not put smiling paste on its face.

Neither does it want that, nor we.

Hence, Gaza is bad business for merchants and hence it is an incomparable moral treasure for Arabs.

What is beautiful about Gaza is that our voices do not reach it. Nothing distracts it; nothing takes its fist away from the enemy’s face. Not the forms of the Palestinian state we will establish whether on the eastern side of the moon, or the western side of Mars when it is explored. Gaza is devoted to rejection… hunger and rejection, thirst and rejection, displacement and rejection, torture and rejection, siege and rejection, death and rejection.

Enemies might triumph over Gaza (the storming sea might triumph over an island… they might chop down all its trees).

They might break its bones.

They might implant tanks on the insides of its children and women. They might throw it into the sea, sand, or blood.

But it will not repeat lies and say “Yes” to invaders.

It will continue to explode.

It is neither death, nor suicide. It is Gaza’s way of declaring that it deserves to live. It will continue to explode.

It is neither death, nor suicide. It is Gaza’s way of declaring that it deserves to live.

[Poem translated by Sinan Antoon From Hayrat al-`A’id (The Returnee’s Perplexity), Riyad al-Rayyis, 2007]

Thanks to Mondoweiss.


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Gaza: what next?

According to mainstream media, the terms of a ‘cease-fire’ are currently in negotiation between the elected government of Gaza and the elected government of Israel.

In a tweet posted August 5, a spokesman for the Israeli military wrote: “Mission accomplished.”

Gaza in ruins“Mission accomplished”

What the latest Israeli mission accomplished:

  • 1,938 Palestinians killed, 1,626 of them civilians, including 460 children and 246 women
  • 7,920 wounded, mostly civilians, including 2,111 children and 1,415 women;
  • 800 houses destroyed and thousands of others severely damaged
  • Many thousands of Palestinian civilians forcibly displaced
  • The impact of Israel’s intentional destruction of health and education facilities, and water, sewage and electric infrastructure is beyond imagining.

August 5, the same day Israel declared “Mission accomplished,” US President Obama signed a $225 million cheque, approved by Congress, to resupply Israel with missiles.

What next?

In a searing cry for elemental justice, Raji Sourani, director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, writes from inside the “cage” that is Gaza: “A ceasefire is not enough.  It will not end the suffering.  It will only move us from the horror of death by bombardment to the horror of death by slow strangulation.  We cannot go back to being prisoners in a cage that Israel rattles when it chooses with brutal destructive offensives.”

Please read his eloquent call to the world, and give it wings by passing it on.  It’s the least we can do.


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“Crimes against humanity”

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is notoriously fearful of scolding Israel, even as it commits overt war crimes.  But he was sufficiently shocked by Israel’s August 3 bombing of a UN-run school in Gaza (the 6th attack by Israel on a Gaza school) to call it a “moral outrage and a criminal act”.  He confirmed that Israel had been “repeatedly informed of the location of these sites.”  UN schools are designated safe areas for people fleeing Israeli attacks.  An estimated 10 people died in the latest school bombing.

Calling the attack a “gross violation of international humanitarian law,” the UN Secretary General demanded that those responsible be held to account.  More detail here.

International legal authority Michael Ratner puts these charges in a longer perspective. President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, based in New York, and Chair of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, based in Berlin, he explained in a July 27 interview:

“These killings are part of a broader set of inhuman acts by Israel constituting international crimes, carried out by Israel over many years, going back to at least 1947 and 1948.  They include crimes that aren’t talked about that much in the media or the press, the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and apartheid.  These crimes can be prosecuted in the International Criminal Court.”  The interview is here.

All attempts to prosecute Israel for war crimes have been blocked for decades, primarily by the United States, to ensure that Israel enjoys the same blanket impunity from international law that the US assumes for itself.

After Israel’s 2014 invasion of Gaza, the same could happen again.  And again.

Or not.


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STOP IT!

In my opinion, the resistance is just a temporary phenomenon to achieve particular goals: to end the blockade and allow Palestinians to live in freedom and dignity in a state of their own.” – Nour Omar Shaban, 16 years old, Gaza, August 2, 2014.

When the current attacks are called off, Israel hopes to be free to pursue its criminal policies in the occupied territories without interference, and with the U.S. support it has enjoyed in the past.”  – Noam Chomsky, 86 years old, Lexington, Massachusetts, August 3, 2014.

Under the Israeli bombsUnder Israel bombs, Gaza City, July 2014.

Day 25 of Israel’s assault on Gaza.  So far:

  • 1,888 Palestinians killed, 1586 of them civilians, including 447 children and 235 women
  • 7815 wounded, mostly civilians, including 2079 children and 1398 women

Through the toxic fog of propaganda, compelling voices speak out for truth and sanity.  Here are two:

From a young Gazan: http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/25118-war-and-peace-the-youth-of-gaza.

From the venerable Noam Chomsky: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/25343-noam-chomsky-|-nightmare-in-gaza.

What is to be done?

Israel’s war crimes will only end when its illegal occupation of Palestine is stopped.

The occupation will only stop when it becomes impossible for Israel to sustain it.

The ruling authorities in Europe and North America offer no solution; they continue to support what Israeli historian Ilan Pappe calls “Israel’s incremental genocide on Gaza.”

For now, the only effective lever we have to end the occupation is the ever-growing international movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions.


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A pledge…

“…to the family of the one thousandth victim of Israel’s genocidal slaughter in Gaza…”

Ilan Pappe, Israeli author, professor of history, director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at the University of Exeter, England.

On Day 20 of the Israeli assault on Gaza, the toll:

  • 1,014 Palestinians killed, 832 of them civilians, including 221 children and 121 women
  • 4,706 others wounded, mostly civilians, including 1,263 children and 939 women

Gaza, ShujaiyyaShujaiya neighbourhood, Gaza

In the face of such overwhelming crimes, words seem painfully inadequate, even pointless. But Israel’s colonial war on Palestinians is partly sustained by words, in torrents of propaganda from governments and the corporate media. In resisting it, words can also have immense power to convey facts, reason, and compassion.

Ilan Pappe has just written such a message “to the family of the one thousandth victim of Israel’s genocidal slaughter in Gaza.” A fragment:

“…I feel the urge today to make a pledge to you, which none of the Germans my father knew during the time of the Nazi regime was willing to make to him when the thugs committed genocide against his family. This is not much of a pledge at your moment of grief, but it is the best I can offer, and saying nothing is not an option. And doing nothing is even less than an option…”

Pappe’s pledge is here.

 

 

 

 


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War crimes

Day 19 of the Israeli attack on Gaza. The toll until now:

  • 928 Palestinians killed, 764 of them civilians, including 215 children and 118 women
  • 4,663 Palestinians wounded, mostly civilians, including 1,358 children and 932 women
  • 561 houses destroyed and hundreds of others extensively
  • thousands of Palestinian civilians forcibly displaced
  • Source: Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), a non-governmental organization based in Gaza City.

PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-CONFLICT-GAZAThe Israeli military assault also continues in the West Bank: Six Palestinians killed (on July 26) in West Bank protests against Gaza slaughter.

These war crimes could not continue without enablers, accomplices.

On July 23 the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) met in special session to consider the matter of war crimes, and decided “… to urgently dispatch an independent, international commission of inquiry, to be appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council, to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, in the context of the military operations conducted since 13 June 2014, whether before, during or after….”

The 47-member council voted 29-1 in favor of the resolution. 17 members (11 of them European) abstained. Only one country voted to oppose the commission of inquiry: the United States. (Neither Israel nor the Palestinians are members of the council.) Despite the US, the commission of inquiry will proceed.

For people of conscience who feel helpless to stop these war crimes, the international boycott, investment & sanctions (BDS) movement offers these suggestions for action.