They just got a different tool to use than we do: They kill innocent lives to achieve objectives. That's what they do. And they're good. They get on the TV screens and they get people to ask questions about, well, you know, this, that or the other. I mean, they're able to kind of say to people: Don't come and bother us, because we will kill you. Bush - Joint News Conference with Blair - 28 July '06

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Patrick Cockburn: An obvious first step – close the jihadis' highway

Over the past year, Turkey has done something, but not nearly enough to close the border to jihadis. The problem is that the US, Britain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and others have pretended that they are backing a powerful non-jihadi opposition movement capable of displacing Assad. This was the justification for keeping the border at least partly open. But the rebels are dominated by Isis, Jabhat al-Nusra (the official al-Qa'ida affiliate), Ahrar al-Sham and other jihadis. The Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has still not quite taken on board that his campaign to get rid of Assad by backing the jihadis is bankrupt and has failed.  Read more

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Patrick Cockburn: ISIS consolidates

Over 3,000 words from Patrick Cockburn. A small investment of time required and well worth the effort.  Don't be put off by the somewhat dry headline.

[...] For America, Britain and the Western powers, the rise of Isis and the Caliphate is the ultimate disaster. Whatever they intended by their invasion of Iraq in 2003 and their efforts to get rid of Assad in Syria since 2011, it was not to see the creation of a jihadi state spanning northern Iraq and Syria run by a movement a hundred times bigger and much better organised than the al-Qaida of Osama bin Laden. The war on terror for which civil liberties have been curtailed and hundreds of billions of dollars spent has failed miserably. The belief that Isis is interested only in ‘Muslim against Muslim’ struggles is another instance of wishful thinking: Isis has shown it will fight anybody who doesn’t adhere to its bigoted, puritanical and violent variant of Islam. Where Isis differs from al-Qaida is that it’s a well-run military organisation that is very careful in choosing its targets and the optimum moment to attack them. Read more

Thursday, August 07, 2014

'You can shoot' - was Gaza killing a war crime?

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

How to Fix It - by Jimmy Carter, Mary Robinson

Foreign Policy: Israelis and Palestinians are still burying their loved ones as Gaza's third war in six years continues. Since July 8, when this war began, more than 1,600 Palestinian and 65 Israeli lives have been sacrificed. Many in the world are heartbroken in the powerless certainty that more will die, that more are being killed every hour.

This tragedy results from the deliberate obstruction of a promising move toward peace in the region, when a reconciliation agreement among the Palestinian factions was announced in April. This was a major concession by Hamas, in opening Gaza to joint control under a technocratic government that did not include any Hamas members. The new government also pledged to adopt the three basic principles demanded by the Middle East Quartet comprised of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia: nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and adherence to past agreements. Tragically, Israel rejected this opportunity for peace and has succeeded in preventing the new government's deployment in Gaza.

Two factors are necessary to make Palestinian unity possible. First, there must be at least a partial lifting of the 7-year-old sanctions and blockade that isolate the 1.8 million people in Gaza. There must also be an opportunity for the teachers, police, and welfare and health workers on the Hamas payroll to be paid. These necessary requirements for a human standard of living continue to be denied. Instead, Israel blocked Qatar's offer to provide funds to pay civil servants' salaries, and access to and from Gaza has been further tightened by Egypt and Israel.

There is no humane or legal justification for the way the Israeli Defense Forces are conducting this war. Israeli bombs, missiles, and artillery have pulverized large parts of Gaza, including thousands of homes, schools, and hospitals. More than 250,000 people have been displaced from their homes in Gaza. Hundreds of Palestinian noncombatants have been killed. Much of Gaza has lost access to water and electricity completely. This is a humanitarian catastrophe.

There is never an excuse for deliberate attacks on civilians in conflict. These are war crimes. This is true for both sides. Hamas's indiscriminate targeting of Israeli civilians is equally unacceptable. However, three Israeli civilians have been killed by Palestinian rockets, while an overwhelming majority of the 1,600 Palestinians killed have been civilians, including more than 330 children. The need for international judicial proceedings to investigate and end these violations of international law should be taken very seriously.

The U.N. Security Council should focus on what can be done to limit the potential use of force by both sides. It should vote for a resolution recognizing the inhumane conditions in Gaza and mandate an end to the siege. That resolution could also acknowledge the need for international monitors who can report on movements into and out of Gaza as well as cease-fire violations. It should then enshrine strict measures to prevent the smuggling of weapons into Gaza. Early discussions have already taken place. The Elders, an international group of elder statesmen of which we are a part, hope these discussions will continue and reach fruition.

At the Palestinians' request, the Swiss government is considering convening an international conference of the signatory states of the Geneva Conventions, which enshrine the humanitarian laws of warfare. This could pressure Israel and Hamas into observing their duties under international law to protect civilian populations. We sincerely hope all states -- especially those in the West, with the greatest power -- attend and live up to their obligations to uphold the Fourth Geneva Convention, which governs the treatment of populations in occupied territory.

Unity between Fatah and Hamas is currently stronger than it has been for many years. As Elders, we believe this is one of the most encouraging developments in recent years and welcome it warmly. This presents an opportunity for the Palestinian Authority to reassume control over Gaza -- an essential first step towards Israel and Egypt lifting the blockade.

The Palestinian Authority cannot manage the task of administering Gaza on its own. It will need the prompt return of the EU Border Assistance Mission, an international effort to help monitor border crossings that was launched in 2005 and suspended in 2007. EU High Representative Catherine Ashton has already offered to reinstate the program, covering not only Rafah but all of Gaza's crossings. Egypt and Israel would, in turn, Egypt and Israel would, in turn, cooperate with international monitors to be deployed in Gaza and along its borders, backed by a U.N. Security Council mandate to protect civilian populations. A valuable precedent for trust-building between Egypt and Israel is the international peacekeeping force operating in the Sinai, mandated by the peace treaty signed by the two countries in 1979.

The international community's initial goal should be the full restoration of the free movement of people and goods to and from Gaza through Israel, Egypt, and the sea. Concurrently, the United States and EU should recognize that Hamas is not just a military but also a political force. Hamas cannot be wished away, nor will it cooperate in its own demise. Only by recognizing its legitimacy as a political actor -- one that represents a substantial portion of the Palestinian people -- can the West begin to provide the right incentives for Hamas to lay down its weapons. Ever since the internationally monitored 2006 elections that brought Hamas to power in Palestine, the West's approach has manifestly contributed to the opposite result.

Ultimately, however, lasting peace depends on the creation of a Palestinian state next to Israel.
Leaders in Israel, Palestine, and the world's major powers should believe that policy changes are within reach that would move Israelis and Palestinians closer to a day when the skies over the Holy Land can forever fall silent. Link

Sunday, August 03, 2014

When dead children have no names: Israel's terrifying descent into numbness

Haaretz: Nearly a month into Operation Protective Edge, Israeli ground troops have begun withdrawing from Gaza. While it remains to be seen if the operation makes Israelis any safer, we can already discern one legacy. It seems to have brought Israel one step closer to an emotional numbness that blocks out [discounts] any suffering but our own, as attested by a new, violent voice in the public discourse.

“Mohammed Malaka, two years old. Seraj Abdel-Al, eight years old. Sara al-Eid, nine years old. Saher Abu Namous, four years old. Ahmed Mahdi, 15 years old”. For 90 excruciating seconds, the woman’s voice - mimicking the detached tone of Israeli radio newscasters - read names of children killed in Gaza during the last three weeks. “This is only a partial list,” she stressed over and over again.
That was an ad submitted on July 23 by human rights organization B’Tselem to the Israeli Broadcasting Authority, which barred it from airing on the grounds that it was “politically controversial”.
The ad does not ascribe blame. All it does is list the names of children killed during the latest Israel-Hamas skirmish. Its title, “The children of Gaza have a name”, is derived from a line by Israeli poet Zelda, originally written about the Holocaust: "Every person has a name given to him by God and his parents.”
The censorship of the B’Tselem ad seems to signify a deeper, worrying trend. Last week, referring to the UN decision to investigate civilian casualties during Protective Edge, the prime minister's office called it a farce and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni wrote in a Facebook post that she had only two words to say about the decision: "Hapsu oti" – sort of a scornful "lots of luck to you."
And that was relatively moderate.
“We're under attack everywhere for our brutality, our cruelty, our disproportion and you say to yourself: Screw this… let them bar each and every one of us from flying abroad, let them do whatever they want, because all this together isn't worth a single Israeli soldier’s life,” wrote Ben Caspit, a senior columnist and TV personality, in Ma’ariv.
Some uncensored reactions to reports of civilian deaths were much, much worse. In today's Internet culture, opinions one used to keep to oneself now get posted publicly on Facebook or as comments to media reports. “Only four dead children? What a bummer". “Today a child, tomorrow a terrorist. Better they die now”. “That’s the price of war - next time don’t start one with us”. “So what”. Others accuse Hamas of lying. One post shrugs, “When you chop wood, chips fly."
The way we were
Of course, those are extremists, not representative of the great majority of Israelis. Many mourn the tragic senselessness of children dying on either side. But the thing is: Israel’s scum used to be less scummy.
The fact that people are openly posting things like that tells how far the social pendulum has shifted in recent years.
In the past three weeks, it seems emotional numbness has overtaken Israel.
“Dead children? Tragic, but to be honest, I couldn’t care less. If they didn’t want their children to die they should have thought twice before starting this war," said a middle-aged man in Tel Aviv this week. He used to vote for left-leaning Labor. "Why should we care about their children, when they target ours? … But no, we have to be more moral than anyone else. Screw that.”
Once, the accidental death of children, and civilians in general, would shock. The army would apologize, or answer tough questions. The media would cover the story at length. Even during the panicked, ultra-militaristic atmosphere of the Second Intifada, dead children were not shrugged off.
Now, as of writing, more than 1,700 Palestinian civilians have died during Protective Edge, accounting for 80% of Protective Edge’s departed. At least 300 were children.
This is a shocking, gruesome, frightening number. Yet it elicited few media reports. The military has not been taken to task.
Every person has a name, yes, but it turns out not all names are worthy of being read on TV.
To even express doubt as to the righteousness of our military has become so taboo in Israel nowadays that it has led to actual violence by right-wing groups determined to silence every “demoralizer.” The mere mention of innocents dying is labeled “leftist” and “hate speech”, including by elected officials such as Knesset member Miri Regev.
It’s not that most Israelis don’t care about the killing of children. It's that if they are, they're not vocalizing it.
It’s not that killing children is not wrong anymore. It’s that killing children used to be wronger.
It seems that the more children die, the less outrage sparks. Two weeks ago, when four Palestinian children were killed by an IDF airstrike while playing football on the beach, the case was widely reported and commented on. But as the list of dead children grew, most remained nameless casualties. Mere statistics, disputed statistics.
Once upon a time, they used to have names, and faces. That’s a fact.
Inured through despair
There are many possible reasons for this seeming apathy, this willful, blissful ignorance. Facing daily rocket attacks and fearing for their own children’s lives, it can be hard to feel sympathy toward people, even children, on the other side. Plus, after years of no progress towards peace, the mix of despair and anger could have led us to a collective imperviousness. The unilateral disengagement from Gaza was a bust, with the Strip turning into a "Hamastan", exactly as opponents of Israel's withdrawal warned. And while Israel's south is bombarded with rockets on an almost-daily basis, criticism from the international community seemed to point fingers only at one side. Then there's the sharp right-wing turn Israeli politics has taken in the last decade, which seems to have birthed a difficulty in distinguishing between innocents and non-innocents in Gaza.
Whatever the cause, the result is that the accidental killing of innocents during military operations, long considered a tragic cost of waging war on terror, has become "cheaper."
Though it's only plateaued now, this emotional numbness was years in the making. With each round of fighting - with each spouse, son, sibling, parent of friend, child lost - it seems more and more Israelis become deadened themselves. The danger is that over time, more and more people will go from caring less to not caring at all. And total apathy can descend into hate.
Meanwhile, in the most extreme margins of Israeli society, it has become okay to post hateful posts on Internet calling for “revenge”, celebrating the deaths of civilians, even children:
“Why are you reporting this? For a minute there I thought I entered the website of Hamas”. “Very good, destroy Gaza!”. “Four less murderous psychopaths, good riddance”. “Let Hamas learn their names”. “Who cares?”
This is only a partial list. This is only a partial list.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Obama heartbroken. Restocks Israel with ammunition.

2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner US President Obama has described the massacre of 1500 civilians in Gaza as 'heartbreaking', whilst US  Rear Admiral John Kirby has confirmed the restocking of Israel's supplies of ammunition "The United States is committed to the security of Israel and it is vital to US national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defence capability,this defence sale is consistent with those objectives" he said.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Just 140 Gazans permitted accross Rafah border

As the death toll in Gaza passes 1,400, Egyptian hospitals have treated more than a hundred casualties of an Israeli military campaign drawing an otherwise muted response from Egypt, as its political establishment weighs humanitarian responsibilities against domestic politics.
Egypt's Rafah border crossing – Gaza's only exit route not controlled by Israel – has opened sporadically since Israel began Operation Protective Edge on 8 July. According to Egypt's health ministry, 140 people have entered the country for treatment since then. Link

Anti-Semitism on the rise? Genocide?

If anti-Semitism is 'on the rise' in the UK I saw no evidence of it at the recent demonstration in London on July 19th. Surprisingly, given its incendiary nature, neither the JPEG below nor the text, contains much information that would enable one to verify its authenticity. Anything helpful has been cropped. Who the hell is holding the offending A2 page? How many people are on the march - where are they? What is the location/when is it taking place? What's the number of that bus?

I filmed perhaps a full Kilometer of marchers streaming past at London's demo  last weekend.  I had a good look at the file in premier pro that evening. I saw nothing that could be termed anti-semitic whatsoever.

Is anti-Semitism on the rise in Britain - I have no idea, but the dodgy JPEG below does little to advance that premise.

In the interest of balance you might like to view a piece from a 'Times of Israel' blogger (subsequently removed from the site) - 'When Genocide is Permissible'