Posts Tagged ‘war crimes’
NOTE: The post, below, is from June 2009. To see our most recent post on Aafia Siddiqui, published 1/19/2010, see: The New American Justice: Aafia Siddiqui’s Trial by Water
HAS IT BEEN ONLY 317 YEARS?
From June through September of 1692, nineteen men and women, all having been convicted of witchcraft, were carted to Gallows Hill, a barren slope near Salem Village, for hanging. Another man of over eighty years was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to submit to a trial on witchcraft charges. Hundreds of others faced accusations of witchcraft. Dozens languished in jail for months without trials. Then, almost as soon as it had begun, the hysteria that swept through Puritan Massachusetts ended. (“An Account of Events in Salem,” from the University of Missouri — Kansas City website)
The hunt was characterized by unrestrained torture and and an obsession with getting tortured witches to name other witches. (from Witch Hunts in Europe and America: An Encyclopedia, by William E. Burns)
By now, most Americans — having heard the word “waterboarding” at least 183 times over the past month — seem to have grown immune to the visceral horrors attending to that particular techinque that the International Red Cross terms “suffocation by drowning.” We’ve surely grown immune to human suffering. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have reduced the topic of torture to a mere parlor game — an exercise in sophistry — as the left and the right mentally wrestle with questions whose answers have been known for centuries: Is waterboarding torture? Does torture ‘work’?
[Click here to read the rest of this introduction on U.S. policy and torture. Or just skip the intro entirely, and keep reading onward, into the stories of several individuals (with particular focus on Aafia Siddiqui) who have been falsely arrested, illegally imprisoned, "disappeared," subjected to extraordinarily rendition and/or tortured over the past 8 years -- and counting.]
An American Story
Imagine this: You are a 41 year-old man, a U.S. citizen, born in Kansas, an Army veteran, married with three children, practicing family law in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon; you pay your taxes on time, have never had a brush with the law. You are the quintessential “average American citizen.” Imagine, then, your surprise when the FBI descends on your home and fingers you as the mastermind of the 2004 Madrid train bombing that killed 191 people and injured over 2000. Your name is Brandon Mayfield, and it’s official: You have just been arrested as the mastermind in an international terrorist plot.
“But I haven’t left the country in over 10 years!” you protest. “And I’ve never even been to Spain! How could this happen?”
Turns out it was your fingerprint. The FBI’s Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) identified your fingerprint as a possible match to the one found on a plastic bag near the Madrid bombing. The match was then verified in quadruplicate by FBI fingerprint experts, which lent full credibility to the claim in their affidavit: “….the FBI lab stands by their conclusion of a 100 percent positive identification.” It was the fingerprint, see.
‘Lucky’ for you, your incarceration lasted only 2 weeks. The Spanish police identified the real mastermind (some guy from Algeria), prompting the FBI to dismiss the charges against you. In return, you file a a civil-rights lawsuit against the U.S. government. Herein, more facts emerge. Turns out, the Spanish police had already rejected the FBI’s identification of your fingerprint — twenty-three days before your arrest — as “conclusively negative.” Perhaps that would have been the end of that, if not for the smoking gun: you were also a Muslim convert.
Convinced of your guilt, the FBI spent those twenty-three days doggedly pursuing a case against you, with an intensity that the Spanish Police found perplexing. As one commissioner said, “It seemed as though they [the FBI] had something against him, and they wanted to involve us.” Lacking probable cause for search and seizure, the FBI turned to the nifty new provisions in the Patriot Act, which allowed them to entirely sidestep your Fourth Amendment rights, via “sneak and peak” warrants.
Turns out, you and your wife hadn’t been imagining things. Your door lock had been tampered; someone had been in your home. You were being watched. It was the FBI who, in your absence, snuck into your home, your office, and even the family farm in Kansas,“surreptitiously, photographing papers, downloading hard drives, and planting listening devices.”
But you were ‘lucky.’ You had, at your disposal, due process — stuff like habeas corpus, and an attorney to represent you in a U.S. court of law. Your case was fairly clear-cut, too. That is, once the facts were allowed to see the light of day. In the end, the FBI aplogized and you were awarded a $2 million settlement. And in 2007, a federal judge ruled that those nifty Patriot Act provisions used by the FBI to sneak into your home actually violated the U.S. Constitution.
Now imagine that you are a 34-year old man — married, a father, a Canadian citizen for 17 years, Syrian-born. And, oh, a muslim. Imagine yourself going on vacation with your family to Tunisia in 2002 and, upon your return flight home to Canada, passing through the JFK airport in New York City. Here, you are detained in solitary confinement and interrogated for 12 days, then shackled and flown to Syria, where you are imprisoned inside a coffin-sized underground cell for 10 months + 10 days, being subjected throughout this time to beatings and torture sessions to extract information which the U.S. government is certain you own.
While you initially refuse to admit to something you didn’t do, the torture finally becomes so unbearable, that you will say anything to make it stop — up to and including making false confessions, admitting guilt to whatever terrorist acts your torturers accuse you. Your name is Maher Arar and — even as you are ultimately determined to be 100% innocent — your case is not as clear cut as Brandon Mayfield’s. You are, after all, a Canadian citizen. And, oh, a muslim of Arab descent.
Still, the facts of your case do eventually see the light of day. The Canadian government launches a Commission of Inquiry into your case and, in 2006 (three years after your release from your extraordinary rendition to Syria), you are cleared of all accusations. The Canadian government issues an official apology, and you are awarded a settlement of $10.5 million Canadian dollars. For their part, however, the U.S. government and the FBI refuse to extend an apology, official or otherwise (even as there were a few notable lawmakers of integrity on Capitol Hill who did issue personal apologies on behalf of the U.S. government).
Seeking to clear your name, you file a lawsuit against the U.S. government for violating your civil rights. But the Bush Administration refuses to allow your case to come to trial, for reasons of “national security.” To this day, you are still on the U.S. terrorist watch list and are forbidden to enter the country.
The likelihood of your case going to trial in the U.S. is slim, as the Obama Administration has, so far, aligned itself with the Bush Administration, — having recently used the “state secrets” argument to deny trials to 5 other Bush Administration victims who were similarly flown to other countries to be tortured. According to Obama, the Bush Administration was right: allowing these innocent victims a trial could threaten national security.
Now imagine this: You are a 31-year old man, an accredited freelance cameraman and photographer, working for Reuters in Iraq. On September 1, 2008, U.S. forces, accompanied by dogs, storm your home in the middle of the night — breaking down your door, barking orders and terrifying the grandparents, children and grandchildren inside. You are taken into custody and thrown into jail, without charges. Three months pass. Still, no formal charges, no evidence, no due process.
In a stroke of democracy, the Iraqi central criminal court orders your release, for lack of evidence. The U.S. bars your release, however, saying you are a threat to Iraq security and stability. The protests of your family, of Reuters and international human rights and media rights groups fall on deaf ears. More months pass. To this day, you are still in jail, without charges. Your name is Ibrahim Jassam, and you are but one of dozens of journalists imprisoned — without charges — under the Bush Administration.
You are, so far, luckier than some. According to Reporters Without Borders, hundreds of journalists have been killed in Iraq, with many more forced into exile, imprisoned or simply disappeared. Too, some have been imprisoned for much longer than you. Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, Bilal Hussein, for instance, was imprisoned for two years. Al Jazeera journalist, Sami al-Haj was imprisoned for over 7 years, with 6-1/2 of these years spent at Guantanamo, where America sends “the worst of the worst.”
[Here it must be said that Sami al-Haj's story, alone, is evidence enough that our leaders and media should give pause to the Bush Administration's "intelligence" that has effectively colored the entire population of 240 Guantanamo detainees -- including those who have been long-pronounced innocent, but also those whose guilt was cemented under confessions extracted through torture -- as a mix of terrorists and men so dangerous that they cannot safely be released anywhere on the planet Earth, much less allowed fair trials that would, in all likelihood, clear the names of some of these prisoners, the only "threat to national security" being that their trials would reveal the extent of the U.S. government's tyranny.]
(video, above) Associated Press report (39 seconds long) on Bilal Hussein’s release in 2008, with footage of his reunion with his AP colleagues and his family
Both Bilal Hussein and Sami al-Haj were released in 2008. Neither was ever charged with a crime, even as their incarcerations were justified by a series of shifting accusations, based on top secret evidence that, for national security reasons, could not be divulged: Bilal Hussein (see AP timeline of his case here) was accused, at one point, of being caught in possession of bomb-making materials, while Sami al-Haj was alternately accused of videotaping Osama bin Laden, sending money to suspicious Muslim charities, and arranging for the transport of a Stinger anti-aircraft system from Afghanistan to Chechnya. Despite these ludicrous accusations, in appears that these journalists were guilty of nothing more than practicing journalism.
Your name is Ibrahim Jassam, and you’ve been in jail for 9 months, without charges. Your misfortune is that you are being detained by the U.S. government. Had you been detained by, say, Iran you would have been afforded at least some semblance of due process — formal charges, an attorney, a trial, an appeals process. Had you been detained by, say, North Korea, your injustice would be given a voice in the U.S. media. Had you been arrested by anyone but the American government, you would be a poster child, of sorts, for media suppression under tyrannical regimes.
Your name is Ibrahim Jassam, and your story is almost, but not quite, unknown in America. According to your family, which has been allowed only a handful of visits, you used to be handsome. “But now he’s pale and he’s tired,” says your brother, describing one of these visits: “Every now and then while we were talking, he would start crying. He was begging me: ‘Please do something to get me out of here. I don’t know what is the charge against me.‘ I told him we already tried everything.”
Now imagine this: You are a 31-year old mother of three; you are also an MIT graduate with a PhD in cognitive neuroscience. [In hindsight, there is cruel irony to the topic of your dissertation, in which you explored how people learn -- specifically, the interaction between visual memory and perception. In your abstract, you wrote, "Without a visible trail, it is difficult for the subject to form a picture or story."] . It is late March of 2003. Just a few days earlier, the U.S. went to war in Iraq and — as is now known — the CIA, the FBI and the Bush Administration at large were working around the clock to put together the intelligence necessary to justifying this war.
Up until a year earlier, you’d spent 12 years living in America as a dual citizen of the U.S. and Pakistan. You’d originally moved to the U.S. in 1990 to attend college and be nearer your sister and brother — a Harvard-trained neurologist and a Houston architect, respectively. While living in the U.S., you married a medical student in Boston, who went on to work as an anesthesiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. You gave birth to 2 children. Neighbors and friends described you as a devoted mother, spending the bulk of your time in the everyday routines of raising your children, overseeing play groups with their friends. You were also a devout Muslim and donated both time and money to charitable causes and missionary work to help less fortunate Muslims.
Because contributing to Muslim charities constituted a red flag in post-9-11 American, the FBI was watching you and had been since the fall of 2001. According to U.S. intelligence sources, your husband purchased night goggles and body armor off the internet in 2001, which he claimed were intended for big game hunting. Because of these purchases, you, yourself, were brought in for questioning by U.S. officials. Although you were released after questioning, this interrogation served as further evidence that the post-9-11 hostility toward Muslims was escalating. This factored into your decision to return to Pakistan — a debate that had already caused considerable strain in your marriage: you you wanted to raise your children in America, while your husband wanted to raise them in Pakistan. In 2002 — with your marriage now on the rocks — you and your husband returned to Pakistan.
By March of 2003, you’d been estranged from your husband for over 7 months, during which time you lived with your mother and gave birth to your third child, who was now 6 months old. Three months earlier, in December 2002, you’d returned to the United States to apply for jobs in the Baltimore area, where your sister was now working at Sinai Hospital. After making several applications — and interviewing with both Johns Hopkins and SUNY — you opened a post office box to receive replies from prospective employers, then returned to your children and your mother in Pakistan.
Now imagine that the FBI believes the only reason you opened that post office box was to receive communications as part of an al Qaeda plot to blow up gas stations and fuel tanks in the Baltimore area. Imagine, too, that during the course of the FBI’s 18-month surveillance of you and your husband, they discovered that, during the summer of 2001, one of your former Muslim acquaintances from Boston had been wired $20,000 from Saudi Arabia (a sum which, according to the explanation given by a Saudi official to the Boston Globe, was sent to pay for medical treatment for the man’s wife). Lastly, imagine that, the FBI believes that this $20,000 is connected to a purported diamond smuggling trip, made by a mysterious woman in the summer of 2001, to fund al Qaeda operations. According to the FBI, that mystery woman is you.
To this story add water, then quickly spin
It is now March 28, 2003. Just a week earlier, on March 20th, the U.S. invaded Iraq. Several weeks earlier, on March 1st, the alleged architect of 9-11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was captured. It seems that — during one of his 183 waterboard interrogation sessions — your name came up.
“Cowardice asks the question – is it safe? Expediency asks the question – is it politic? Vanity asks the question – is it popular? But conscience asks the question – is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.” ~Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In case you missed it, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (so often the running joke between politicians and talking heads) once again stood firmly on the side of right this past week, as he spoke twice on Capitol Hill, arguing for the rule of law from our lawmakers on Capitol Hill. It seems that, in the midst of so much condemnation of Israel’s war crimes by the international community, the Senate and the House felt inspired to draft an official Resolution to pledge their “unwavering commitment” of support for Israel’s war on Gaza.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s statements were directed — not only toward the contradictory message this resolution sent toward our supposed goal of peace — but to the actual U.S. laws that govern how Israel is allowed to use the billions of American dollars worth of F-16s, tanks, Apache helicopters, phosphorus shells, depleted uranium, cluster bombs, and so on that Israel is using in violation of the Geneva Convention to commit said war crimes against the mothers, fathers and chilren of Gaza.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Friday, January 9, 2009
Silly Dennis. Will he never learn? We’re not a nation of laws. The tinkering of the past 4 administrations has left us a nation of endorsements, with the greatest deference given to those with the deepest pockets to fill our politicians’ campaign coffers.
In real-speak, this means that our politicians (now having much in common with trained seals) clap on command — indifferent to right or wrong — their job reduced to authoring (or subcontracting this work to lobbyists) and authorizing bills, resolutions and laws that will best serve their most generous benefactors — oil & energy moguls, media magnates, pharmaceutical & insurance industry titans, financial & banking tycoons, Zionist-AIPAC barons (the latter being of special importance to this week’s resolution, as the Israel Lobby provides upwards of 60% of the campaign contributions to our Democratic lawmakers).
A little man like Dennis Kucinich doesn’t stand a chance among big men.
Even armed with the law of the land, or with big documents, such as the U.S. Constitition or the Bill or Rights, Dennis Kucinich nearly always comes up short — his voice carrying about as much stature as a blue-bottle fly, buzzing about a putrid feed trough. He is nonetheless to be commended for his ethics, his patriotism and, most certainly, his bravery.
According to Ronnie Lipschutz, professor of politics at UC Santa Cruz, withholding support for pro-Israel, AIPAC measures is not common, and often carries grave political consequences for members of Congress. “They are thinking what are the costs of voting against it, not what are the benefits,” said Lipschutz.
Perhaps this is what inspires statements, such as the one that Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, proclaimed before the vote: “Our resolution reflects the will of the state of Israel and the will of the American people.”
The will of the American people? Au contraire, Mr. Reid. Your resolution reflects the will of your biggest campaign supporters: the giants. In this case, AIPAC.
Because, make no mistake — your resolution passed, despite the will of the American people. Your resolution passed despite the protests of the American people in every major American city. Your resolution passed, despite thousands upon thousands of phone calls, faxes, letters and emails sent by the American people to their Senators in Washington. And, as if it mattered, your resolution passed, despite the United Nations resolution calling for an immediate truce (a resolution passed, no thanks to the U.S., on the same day you passed your resolution of praise for Israel); and your resolution passed despite that Israel has fired on and killed several United Nations workers in Gaza. Your resolution passed despite Israel’s refusal to allow Red Cross workers to reach the wounded women and children of Gaza. Your resolution passed despite that Israel has been repeatedly accused of war crimes and violations of international humanitarian law and the Geneva Convention. These accusations have come from the United Nations (from the onset of this war, up to today) and from humanitarian workers and the Red Cross in a statement released 2 days ago:
The Red Cross “believes that in this instance the Israeli military failed to meet its obligation under international humanitarian law to care for and evacuate the wounded. It considers the delay in allowing rescue services access unacceptable.”
Harry Reid, your resolution does not reflect the will of the American people!
A wounded Palestinian boy is helped as he arrives at a hospital on January 4 in Gaza City.
Your resolution — and the relative complicity of so many Americans — reflects the success of Israeli-U.S. propaganda campaign. (Because, you see, the American people don’t know the truth this war. But you do. What’s your excuse?) It also reflects the success of the fearmongering campaigns that you and your esteemed colleagues, most notably George W. Bush & Dick Cheney, have ‘unwaveringly’ perpetuated over the past 8 years — a heaping dollop of which you, yourself, served-up in your rhetorical WWJD-esque question, posed in the final minutes before the passage of this illicit resolution:
“I ask any of my colleagues to imagine that happening here in the United States. Rockets and mortars coming from Toronto in Canada, into Buffalo New York. How would we as a country react?”
And then, as if responding on cue, the trained seals echoed something to the effect of “Hear! Hear!” and “The Israelis are responding exactly the same way we would!” before voting unanimously to approve the resolution.
Of course, there was no mention of war crimes during all this praise, nor in the language of the Senate resolution. Instead, the resolution went onto the House the next day and passed with flying colors, as 390 approved the resolution, 22 voted present, and a pathetically small, but courageous total of 5 voted against it:
Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)
Ron Paul (R-TX)
Maxine Waters (D-CA)
Gwen Moore (D-WI)
Nick Rahall (D-WV)
To this, I have a few rhetorical questions of my own to ask:
What would the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. do? What would Mahatma Gandhi do? What would Abraham Lincoln do? Or, to put it more succinctly, what would George W. Bush do?
Americans well-learned the answer to that last question. But what many Americans have yet to learn, is that (the will of the American people be damned) the answer to the question is the same today — and has been for years now — no matter who we turn to in Washington: Bush, Bush, Cheney, Reid, Pelosi, Clinton, Clinton, and so on….
And this is especially true in matters of U.S.-Israeli policy because — when you get right down to it — the same giants who have so generously lined the pockets of Bush-Cheney & Co. over the past 8 years are the same giants who line your pockets, Harry Reid, and who also line the pockets (or scare the bejeebers out of) all but 5 of our representatives on Capitol Hill — not to mention the past 4 presidents of the United States and, apparently, our current President-Elect.
In response to the start of Israel’s ground campaign into Gaza this past Saturday (January 3rd) Hamas spokesman, Ismail Radwan, warned Israel that they would pay a “high price” for the invasion, saying:
“Your incursion into Gaza will not be a walk in the park, and Gaza will become your cemetery.”
Reading this, I recalled the fierceness of fiddler crabs. Growing up in the U.S. South, one of my world classrooms was the coastal marshlands. The ground in these tidal mudflats virtually teems with fiddler crab populations as far as the eye can see. These crabs are fairly tiny — their shells about the size of a toe nail. Step into one of these mudflats, and you will see jillions of toenail-sized crabs scurrying sideways to the safety of their holes. Jillions, that is, except for a few fiddlers who are either the fiercest or most foolish souls on earth, as they stand their ground, menacingly waving the ‘big’ claw to warn away the intruder: a pair of human feet, each of a size that could effortlessly crush a dozen fiddler crabs in one step.
Still, the claw waves. Roughly translated, the fiddler crab says, “Your incursion into my mudflat will not be a walk in the park, and this mudflat will be your cemetery.” A sadistic, heartless person might choose to step on the fiddler crab, simply because he could. A sadistic, heartless person of questionable sanity could respond by uprooting the entire fiddler crab colony and crushing it into oblivion. Which brings me to the topic of Israel’s recent incursion into Gaza.
The citizens of Palestinians are as fierce as any population when attacked, but are as powerless against Israel’s war machine as the fiddler crab is to a human bootheel. Lacking a military or any modern-day weaponry & war equipment (much less the depleted uranium and the illegal cluster bombs and phosphorus shells Israel is using against the Palestinians) the citizens of Gaza are using the only things available to defend themselves: rocks and stones.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to appreciate the sheer brutality of this imbalance: one of the worlds most powerful war machines embarks on a campaign to slaughter innocent civilians armed with only rocks and stones. (note: see more photos of the stone-throwers, below, at the end of this post)
But what about Hamas — the stated target of Israel’s bombing? Compared to the stone-throwers, Hamas wields a slightly bigger claw with its arsenal of homemade rockets, capable of traveling 2 to 10 miles — each a hit or miss proposition, as they have little to offer in the way of accuracy. Israel predicts, however, that Hamas will one day have missiles capable of traveling greater distances and with greater accuracy, which is part of Israel’s justification for this war.
Having said this, I’m not going to sit here and argue on behalf of Hamas, nor weigh the relative crudeness of their weaponry vs. Israel’s, drawing overly simplistic conclusions about whether this war is ‘justifiable.’ I’ll leave this to someone who is empowered and authorized to make such assessments — Professor Richard Falk, the United Nations special rapporteur for human rights in the Occupied Territories, who said of this war:
Certainly the rocket attacks against civilian targets in Israel are unlawful. But that illegality does not give rise to any Israeli right, neither as the Occupying Power nor as a sovereign state, to violate international humanitarian law and commit war crimes or crimes against humanity in its response.
In his statement, Falk cited the following three violations of the Geneva Convention:
• Collective punishment: The entire 1.5 million people who live in the crowded Gaza Strip are being punished for the actions of a few militants.
• Targeting civilians: The airstrikes were aimed at civilian areas in one of the most crowded stretches of land in the world, certainly the most densely populated area of the Middle East.
• Disproportionate military response: The airstrikes have not only destroyed every police and security office of Gaza’s elected government, but have killed and injured hundreds of civilians; at least one strike reportedly hit groups of students attempting to find transportation home from the university.
It is no secret that Israel’s military is — by comparison to any defense system in the world — a state-of-the-art war machine, funded by billions of U.S. dollars. Should Israel choose, they could track the coordinates of the hair on a gnats ass and hit it from hundreds of miles away, and with astounding accuracy. Which makes all the more sadistic, heartless and insane, Israel’s decision yesterday to bomb Gaza’s schools, crushing them into oblivion, even as they were filled to capacity with innocent civilians.
This was no accident.
A Palestinian medic carries the body of a girl killed in an Israeli air strike on the UN school in Gaza on January 6, 2009.
Palestinian relatives from the Deeb family mourn on January 7, 2009 near the bodies of a total of 10 people from their family who were killed yesterday in an Israeli strike on a UN school in Gaza.
A Palestinian man, Mouen Deeb, mourns next to the bodies of two of four children and his wife who were killed with 42 people yesterday in an Israeli attack on a UN-run school building, on January 7, 2009, during their funeral in Jabalia refugee camp, northern Gaza, An Israeli attack killed at least 42 people who had sought shelter in the UN-run building after they fled their homes at the Jabalia refugee camp. The United Nations has denied Israeli army allegations that militants were inside the school compound.
BELOW: Palestinian medics examine the body of a boy (the same child from the photo, above) who was killed by the Israeli forces’ bombing of the U.N. school on Jan. 6, 2009 where hundreds of Palestinians had sought refuge on Tuesday.
A Palestinian boy walks on the rubble of the Israeli-bombed U.N. school where hundreds of Palestinians — most of them women and children — had fled to safety.
After all, Israel knew the GPS coordinates to these schools (the United Nations had already provided them with this, just to be safe). And Israel knew these schools were being used as United Nations shelters, because the UN told them, plus the school roofs were well-marked (again, just to be safe) with bright blue United Nations flags. Isreal also knew, with cunning accuracy, that those schools were filled with with babies, children, mothers, fathers. Israel knew, too, that these families had already fled their bombed homes, fled the bombed streets, the bombed mosques, the bombed universities, the bombed hospitals. These families were trapped out in the open — like arcade targets — with absolutely no means to protect their children from the bombs. In desperation, they fled by the hundreds to protection of the schools, believing that the UN flags promised some assurance of protection, even as they prayed to God that the their children would be safe in these schools. Israel knew this.
Israel knew this and, yet, they dropped bombs onto the schools — raining death and suffering onto hundreds of mothers, fathers, children and babies.
Israel’s defense? Their PR spokespeople refer to the bombs as hitting “near” the school yesterday, as if the school were somehow incidental to their bombing targets. And, in an even greater lie, Israel insists that Hamas was shooting mortars from the school and using the children as “human shields.” The United Nations has flatly denied these Israeli army allegations that militants were inside the school compound.
But of more importance to this lie about “human shields” (and here’s where Israel’s propaganda takes an insidious turn, as it’s designed to make the parents of these children appear less than human to the rest of the world) is the fact that the ‘civilians’ inside this school were parents, desperately trying to protect their children, not offer them up as fodder to a terrorist cause.
But even if those atrocious lie were true, as even the rawest of rookie hostage negotiators could tell you, you don’t risk murdering hundreds of children to smoke out a few hostage-takers. Even as this truth is self-evident to any rational person, the international community has nonetheless established a system of international laws, called the Geneva Convention, to govern countries in times of war. In bombing the school yesterday, Israel committed a most atrocious act of savagery.
Not that the world is inclined to bat an eye, anymore, over such things as war crimes. It’s now been 11 days since United Nations special rapporteur, Richard Falk, made his statement on Israel’s war crimes. Since then, Israel has responded by calling Falk and other like-minded UN officials “Israel bashers,” and has forbid international journalists from covering the war inside Gaza. One can only presume that Israel does not want the world to know the truth about this war — a truth that has been there for the plucking for months and years, but only to those willing to suspend disbelief long enough to disregard the propaganda and learn the facts about the relationship between Israeli-Palestinian. There’s no need to go back to the 1st century BCE, when this whole mess started, or even to 1948, when Israel was formed. You need go no further than two years, or six months, or even two months of truth to understand how the Palestinian’s responses to Israel’s surreptitious bombing campaigns and their ongoing blockade of food and medical supplies to Gaza (both of which were in violation of the terms of the ceasefire) gave Israel the justification they sought to wage this war. Falk touched on the blockade in his statement:
“Earlier Israeli actions, specifically the complete sealing off of entry and exit to and from the Gaza Strip, have led to severe shortages of medicine and fuel (as well as food), resulting in the inability of ambulances to respond to the injured, the inability of hospitals to adequately provide medicine or necessary equipment for the injured, and the inability of Gaza’s besieged doctors and other medical workers to sufficiently treat the victims.
Israel has also ignored recent Hamas diplomatic initiatives to re-establish the truce or ceasefire since its expiration on December 26.”
That last sentence is as important as the rest, because it hints at the underlying truth of this whole damned war, and of every war between Israel and Palestine since 1948. The truth is this: Israel does not want peace. Israel does not want truces. Israel does not want ceasefires. Israels wants the Palestinian’s land, and Israel will do whatever it takes to get it — up to and including uprooting and crushing the entire population into oblivion.
Which brings me full-circle back to my original observation on the fiddler crabs in the mudflats of South Carolina, which I liken to the helpless stone-throwers of Palestine, as well as the the reckless bands of Hamas radicals bandying ludicruous threats (Your incursion into Gaza will not be a walk in the park, and Gaza will become your cemetery) as they are crushed under Israel’s boot-heel. This is one perspective on the war: that of a 1″ fiddler crab, menacingly waving its tiny claw at a 6-foot giant.
Here is another perspective:
Several days before Christmas (back when this war was still just a twinkling in Israel’s eye) I read a story about a former Palestinian stone-thrower from the West Bank. The first few paragraphs to his story are inspiration enough:
If no one had handed Ramzi Aburedwan a violin when he was a stone-throwing teenager in a refugee camp, he might’ve ended up languishing in an Israeli prison cell. He might’ve become little more than an obscure fatality lost amid the thousands of young Palestinians killed in the seemingly intractable conflict.
However, music teachers from Ramallah to Boston saw something else in Aburedwan’s arm: a natural, if unrefined, ability to play classical music.
With some doing, these mentors convinced the skinny Muslim teenager to put down his stones and pick up a violin.
That’s how a 9-year-old Palestinian refugee with an ear for music grew up to found a classical music school that’s become a cornerstone for a West Bank cultural revival.
The article’s last paragraph is a quote from the violinist, himself, Ramzi Aburedwan (pictured in the two photos, above and — in a snapshot from the stone-throwing days of his childhood, below). Speaking from the perspective of a once curly-haired 9-year-old refugee, he told about the day his outrage was born and he became a stone-thrower. He had just witnessed one of his schoolmates, shot in the head by Israeli snipers as she was walking home from the bakery. Today, Aburedwan speaks of the potential to transform Palestinian children of war, through music:
“Palestinians put culture aside for a long time because they thought this problem would be solved soon. People who came in 1948 said it was going to be solved in one or two months, one or two years. Now it’s 60 years and the people say, ‘No more time for waiting. Waiting is just losing time.’ “
It seems that what burns in the hearts of most Palestinians — stone throwers, claw wavers and fiddlers alike — is the same stuff that burns in the heart of most every living being under the cosmos: life, itself. Perhaps, one day, Israel will find itself in concert with this life. Until then, Israel will apparently do what Israel apparently does best — continue to commit the brutal, senseless crushing of life.
On a brighter note, there is a light at end of this particular tunnel, and you can bank on this: Israel will *miraculously* agree to a ceasefire no later than January 19, 2009, which is precisely one day before Barack Obama’s inauguration.
In the wake of this ceasefire, Israel’s immediate legacy will be a continuation of the legacy they’ve spent the past 40 years building: a legacy of untold human suffering, with many of their victims and their witnesses retaliating with more violence, which will only serve as more fodder to the Israeli propaganda machine.
Israel’s long-term legacy is more promising, as their aggression will serve as a standard by which mankind can forever measure its brutest levels of inhumanity — much like Mussolini, Hitler, and (as we can hope Tevye would attest) Nicholas II of Russia. Hopefully — and hopefully very soon — Israel’s lies and propaganda about their deeds will be fully revealed and will inspire the powers-that-be to once again proclaim before all the world, “Never again!”
Because, fact is, this war is but a ripple in Israel’s 60-year Zionist campaign to crush the Palestinians and take their lands. This is holocaust. In the words of Israel’s esteemed 20th Zionist-movement leader, Ze’ev Jabotinsky:
“Culturally [the Palestinians] are 500 years behind us; spiritually they do not have our endurance or our strength of will . . . They look upon Palestine with the same instinctive love and true fervor that any Aztec looked upon his Mexico or any Sioux looked upon his prairie. [Thus] we conclude that we cannot promise anything to the Arabs of the Land of Israel or the Arab countries. Their voluntary agreement is out of the question.”
Which brings me to the third perspective on this war: Israel does not want peace. The Palestinians do. The Palestinians want peace, even as their people have been persecuted, ethnically cleansed, starved and killed by the Israelis. The Palestinians want peace, even as the Israelis have discredited their plight with propaganda, and slandered their humanity slandered with lies. The Palestinians want peace, even as their own voices are being crushed, one by one, to silence.
by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers
YouTube Video in which Palestinian violinist, Ramzi Aburedwan, can be seen/heard playing. Of interest to this video is a news item from the December 17, 2007 Palestine Monitor, which reads: The international orchestra, which refused to perform in the Gaza Strip yesterday after its sole Palestinian member, violinist Ramzi Aburedwan, was barred from entering the Strip by the Israeli authorities, performed a concert in solidarity with the people of Gaza from Ramallah [the West Bank] today. The orchestra had been due to perform at the Latin Church in Gaza City yesterday as part of a Baroque Music Festival which is taking place throughout Palestine and Israel.
The stone-throwers of 2008-2009:
Palestinians carry the body of Ahmed Moussa during his funeral in the West Bank village of Nilin near Ramallah July 30, 2008. Israeli soldiers shot dead the Palestinian boy during clashes with stone-throwing protesters on Tuesday in the occupied West Bank, hospital officials and witnesses said. An Israeli military spokeswoman said the military had begun an investigation with the cooperation of Palestinian authorities to determine how the boy was killed.
An Israeli border police officer takes up position during clashes with stone-throwing Palestinian youths in Shuafat refugee camp on the edge of Jerusalem (Gaza territory) on March 3, 2008. [editor's note: What part of "Stay the hell out of Gaza and quit tormenting and shooting at its people -- then no one with throw stones at you!" do the Israeli's not understand?]
Injured Palestinian and foreign activists stone-throwers lie sprawled on the ground after Israeli troops responded with tear gas and rubber bullets during a protest against Israel’s security fence February 22, 2008, which cuts off Palestinian farmers from their land at the West Bank village of Bil’in. Hundreds of villagers backed up by foreign and left-wing Israeli supporters marked three years of demonstrations against Israel’s controversial barrier.
Palestinian men throw stones at Israeli military armoured vehicles in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, 28 January 2008. Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian teenager during clashes in the biblical town, Palestinian medics said. Qussai al-Afandi, 17, was mortally wounded and another Palestinian was injured after Israeli soldiers opened fire on stone-throwing youths in Bethlehem.
An Israeli soldier jumps from an armored vehicle to fire teargas towards stone-throwing youths during an incursion into the Ein Beit Elma refugee camp on the outskirts of the northern West Bank city of Nablus on February 23, 2008. [Again, what part of "Stay the hell out of Gaza and quit tormenting and shooting at its people -- and then no one with throw stones at you!" do the Israeli's not understand?]
A Palestinian youth runs for cover after throwing a stone on an Israeli army vehicle during a military operation in the village of Jabaa, near Jenin, in the occupied West Bank on May 10, 2008. Eight Palestinians were wounded in confrontations during the incursion, according to a Palestinian medical source.
The grandfather (R) and friends of Palestinian teenager Qussai al-Afandi from the Dehaisheh refugee camp, mourn during his funeral, 29 January 2008 in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. Israeli soldiers shot and killed the Palestinian teenager after opening fire on stone-throwing youth, who were protesting Israel’s military incursion into the town.
UPDATE JUNE 5, 2010. This page gets linked to by a lot of lunatic sites. Pearls before swine. I considered removing this post, just to avoid fueling the fires of the racist, anti-semitic, xenophobic, tea-bagging, hood-wearing, “take back my country” mob who visit here and somehow feel vindicated in their hatred and violent rhetoric after viewing these photos. Earth to anti-semites: I’m not on board with you. I don’t hate Jews. I don’t hate anyone, and neither should you. Problem is, you do hate. You wish ill-will and death on total strangers based on… what? Their ethnicity? Their skin? The country they were born to? Their religion? Your religion? Don’t even try to make like you’re serving some greater cause. It was a cause like yours that murdered the innocent children you see on this page.
I could write until I’m even bluer in the face, but the fact is, I’ve been profoundly ill over the past month and don’t have the mental or physical energy I’d like to devote to writing on Israel’s deplorable, reprehensible, illegal slaughtering of the citizens of Gaza. Here, I’m going to work from the axiom that a picture is worth 1,000 words, prefacing the horrors, below, with some comment on one of Israel’s more reprehensible lies: “human shields”
Israel would like the world to believe that the pictures of these children serve as further indictment and evidence of Hamas terrorism. What a clever propaganda ploy: blame the deaths of women and children on the enemy. Tell the world that Hamas is using these people as “human shields” so that, when the photos of mangled babies, children and women arrive over the news wires, it can all be blamed on Hamas, not on Israel’s bombs, which are blasting Gaza’s hospitals, mosques, universities and homes into oblivion.
January 5: The body of one of three Palestinian siblings from the Al-samoni family, killed by an Israeli tank shell, lies in the mortuary of Al-Shifa hospital, on January 5, 2009 in Gaza City. Seven members from the Al-samoni family were killed including the mother, three children and a baby, when an Israeli shell struck their house south of Gaza city.
Of course, it goes without saying that it would be difficult to engage in a wanton, fullscale bombing campaign on one of the most densely populated regions on earth — with 1.5 million people packed into 146 square miles — without killing babies and children, who comprise nearly half of the entire population. It also goes without saying that those who persist in blindly supporting Israel’s hideous war crimes would need some justfication for condoning the killing and maiming of the innocent women, children, babies and, yes, men that compose the “collateral damage” of Israel’s bombs and the “human shields” of their propaganda campaign.
And speaking of propaganda, check out the photo, left, of NY Mayor Bloomberg, visiting an Israeli child in the hospital — the photo-op intended to leave us with the impression that this child is somehow a victim of the war, which is a lie. This is simply an Israeli child in the hospital (perhaps getting his tonsils removed?) , as contrasted with the photos, below, which are real-life photos of children maimed and killed by Israel — just over the past 2 days, alone!
I encourage you to look at these photos with both eyes open, and then write your legislators, write to your editors and, most importantly, write to Obama, via change.gov. He needs to hear our outrage over the ongoing U.S. support of Israel’s reprehensible behavior, both in general and, specifically, their genocide campaign against the people of Palestine.
January 5: A wounded Palestinian boy is treated at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, after an Israeli missile strike early Monday, Jan. 5, 2009.
January 5: A dead Palestinian infant is brought to the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, after an Israeli tank shell hit a house early Monday, Jan. 5, 2009.
January 5: Wounded Palestinian children arrive for treatment at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, after an Israeli strike early Monday, Jan. 5, 2009.
A relative reacts in front of the bodies of three children killed by an Israeli tank shell, Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, early Monday, Jan. 5, 2009.
An ambulance worker carries the body of a boy from the Al-Samoni family as he arrives at the Al-Shifa hospital on January 5, 2009 in Gaza city, Gaza Strip.
January 4: Palestinians carry a boy into Shifa hospital in Gaza City, wounded during the Israeli army operation in Gaza, Sunday Jan. 4, 2009.
January 4: Palestinian medics carry the body of a boy, killed by an Israeli shell, at the hospital in Gaza January 4, 2009.
January 4: A Palestinian medics wheel a boy, injured during the Israeli operation in Gaza, into Shifa hospital in Gaza City, Sunday, Jan. 4, 2009.
A wounded Palestinian boy is carried into a hospital in Gaza January 4, 2009.
January 4: A wounded Palestinian boy is helped as he arrives at a hospital on January 4, 2009 in Gaza City, Gaza.
A Palestinian medic carries a wounded boy into a hospital in Gaza City on January 4, 2009.
A wounded Palestinian boy is carried into the Al-Shifa hospital on January 4, 2009 in Gaza City, Gaza Strip.
January 4: Palestinian doctors attend to a wounded boy in Beit Lahia hospital in the northern Gaza Strip .
January 4: A Palestinian medic carries the body of a girl, killed by an Israeli shell, at the hospital in Gaza January 4, 2009.
January 4: A Palestinian girl cries during the funeral of a relative that was killed in an Israeli air strike in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Sunday, Jan. 4, 2009.
January 5: A wounded Palestinian girl is tended to as she arrives at the Al-Shifa hospital on January 5, 2009 in Gaza city,.
Palestinians try to get an ambulance to transport a badly wounded girl (top) and a man following Israeli artillery shelling in Gaza City on January 4, 2009.
A Palestinian girl cries during the funeral of her brother who was killed after an Israeli air strike in the northern Gaza Strip January 4, 2009.
January 4: A wounded Palestinian girl is carried into a hospital on January 4, 2009 in Gaza .
January 4: A body of Palestinian girl is carried into a hospital on January 4, 2009 in Gaza .
A Palestinian woman sits on the floor of the Shifa hospital in Gaza beside her baby, who was wounded by an Israeli tank shell on January 5, 2009.
A Palestinian baby wounded by an Israeli tank shell is treated by doctors at Shifa hospital in Gaza January 5, 2009.
January 5: The bodies of three Palestinian siblings from the Al-samoni family, killed by an Israeli tank shell early on January 5, 2009, lie in the mortuary of Al-Shifa hospital, Gaza City.
A relative sits next to body of one-year-old baby Farah Al-Helo as she lies on the body of her uncle, killed by an Israeli tank shell early on January 5, 2009.
A Palestinian father carries his wounded baby daughter into a hospital in Gaza City on January 4, 2009, as Israeli troops continue its ground assault in Gaza. The half dozen hospitals in Gaza cannot cope with more patients, and casualties are overflowing out of regular wards into corridors as Israeli troops push deep into Gaza.
January 4: (two photos, above) Medical workers carry wounded Palestinian babies into the Al-Shifa hospital on January 4, 2009 in Gaza City, Gaza Strip.
A wounded Palestinian woman lies with her baby at the Al-Shifa hospital.
Palestinian boys wounded by an Israeli tank shell wait for treatment at Shifa hospital in Gaza January 5, 2009.
January 5, 2009: Congratulatory spirits prevail among European and Israeli power elites, posing for a photograph at the Jerusalem office of Tzipi Livni, one of three candidates for Israeli Prime Minister in the upcoing Feb. 10 elections. (PHOTO: From right to left, European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero Waldner, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and EU Foreign policy chief Javier Solana).
After all, it took Israel only 18+ months of starving the people of Gaza, and depriving them of medical supplies, water and fuel — along with the two Israeli bombing campaigns (in August and on Nov. 4, 2008, in which Israel broke the terms of the ceasefire) — to finally provoke Hamas into returning fire (with its pathetically weak arsenal of rockets, sticks and stones) on November 5th, thereby giving the Israel the necessary justification to kick this well-planned war and propaganda campaign into high gear. If all goes according to plan, the politicans up for election in early February will reap the benefits of showing the Israeli people how very committed their parties are to slaughtering Palestinians. The contest boils down to this: which politician promises to slaughter the most Paliestinians? From the expression on her face, candidate Tzipi Livni (above) is feeling a surge of confidence in the wake of the deaths over the past 2 days.
January 4, 2009: Still more jubilation from Livni’s opponent, Israeli Defense Minister candidate Ehud Barak (r), as he hams it up for the cameras in this January 4 photo-op with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (l) in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Israel’s third candidate in the upcoming election, Benjamin Netanyahu, takes a different tack altogether in this tender photo-op from last week, as he talks to Israeli children while holding a goat, presumably hoping to impress upon Israeli voters, and the world at large, that he is *not* part of a cruel terrorist state that slaughters innocents, but that he really likes children, and (much like his crony, George W. Bush) is rather fond of goats, too.
by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers
For more reading:
The Guardian: Gaza: the logic of colonial power (by Nir Rosen) As so often, the term ‘terrorism’ has proved a rhetorical smokescreen under cover of which the strong crush the weak ….
The Nation: This magazine continues its usual offering of quality journalism in its coverage of this war. Scan through the headlines to find articles on Israel, Palestine and Gaza.
Chris Floyd: This site offers an excellent collection of reputable news articles on the Israeli attack (along with news articles on the other wars). Today’s installments include an article on Israel’s use of phosphorus shells over civilian populations — a *special* type of bomb that inflicts hideous burns to the flesh. Using these chemical weapons over civilian populations is illegal according to the Geneva Conventions, but Israel has so managed to sidestep this law through clever semantics. (NOTE: Chris Floyd’s website, dubbed “Empire Burlesque: High Crimes and Low Comedy in the American Imperium,” is an important addition to any newsgatherers “favorites” list. You may need to scan down the page to find the beginning of the articles.)
More reading from the blogs:
Lenin’s Tomb: A credible and informative blog, sourced with sound links, with analysis and history of the Israeli-Palestine conflicts.
Dennis Perrin’s view on Israel, Palestine and Hamas:
Jon Schwarz talks about why the UN caves on Israel:
Bernard Chazelle on the attack as dangerous political strategem: