Thursday, January 31, 2008

A voice from the other side : Seth Freedman






click on the picture

OK, he is an enemy, but he is honest and makes for interesting reading. The comments on his articles are also one notch above the ones you can read at As'ads blog of whom I am a daily fan

George Habash

George Habash's contribution to the Palestinian struggle
As'ad AbuKhalil, The Electronic Intifada, 30 January 2008

Palestinian women in Nablus demonstrate to remember the life of George Habash, the founder of the PFLP, 27 January 2008. (Rami Swidan/MaanImages)

I lived more than half of my life in the US and I never felt the alienation that I felt on the day I read George Habash, the Palestinian revolutionary who passed away last week, labeled as a "terrorism tactician" in a front page obituary in The New York Times. What do you when they want to convince you that a kind and gentle man you met and respected as a person is a terrorist when you know otherwise? Do you quibble with their definitions to no avail? Do you go back and see how they wrote glowing obituaries for Zionist militia leader and later Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, a man whose record of killing civilians is as horrific and grotesque as that of Osama Bin Laden, former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, Fatah Revolutionary Council founder Abu Nidal or Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet?

But they can't invent facts, and they can't distort the narrative of Palestinian history. Many of my generation and older knew and respected George Habash. We did not worship him or declare him infallible. We respected that on the personal level he was incorruptible. Here was a man who refused more than the $300 monthly pension he was receiving in Amman, Jordan. Once, a group of wealthy Palestinians schemed to try to pay him in his later years because they did not want the symbol of the Palestinian -- the Arab -- revolution to die in poverty. He would not budge, not even to accept funds to hire a research assistant to help with his memoirs.

George Habash was the antithesis of Yasser Arafat: he was honest, while Arafat was dishonest; consistent when Arafat was inconsistent; principled, while Arafat was shifty; transparent, while Arafat was deceptive; sincere, while Arafat was fake; dignified while Arafat was clownish; modest, while Arafat was arrogant; tolerant of dissent, while Arafat was autocratic, and on and on.

George Habash embodied an era that extended from the Nakba, or mass expulsions of Palestinians from their homeland in 1948, until the beginning of the Lebanrse civil war in 1976, when the decline of the Left, and the launching of Sadatism began. Up until that time, when a deep ideological transformation took place in the Arab world, Habash was a major actor on the Arab political stage. He was feared by Arab regimes, and respected and loved in the refugee camps. I don't believe I have ever seen the ordinary people of the camps react to a person as they reacted to Habash. Their love for him was genuine because they felt that he was genuine.

If there is a world revolutionary symbol for the second half of the 20th century, it should be George Habash. He may not be widely known in 2008, but anybody who read a newspaper prior to the rise of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, when Islamism eclipsed the Arab Left, would know him. Habash is one of the main makers of Arab contemporary history and one of the handful of names who changed the course of the Palestinian political struggle.

It is often said that Habash's "Christianity" -- as if he was religious -- was the only reason why he was not the leader of the Palestinian national movement, instead of Arafat. I never agreed with the view. Habash's sincerity, honesty and integrity were the reason why he did not lead the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), while Arafat's "skills" kept him in power for all those decades. For those who were privileged to have met Habash, his sincerity and honesty came through, as did his natural modesty, and clear sense of himself. Shafiq al-Hout wrote in As-Safir that Habash was a distinctive kind of revolutionary, but then added that he was how a revolutionary should be.

George Habash was shaped by the Nakba. He was born in al-Lydd, Palestine, and his middle class family, like thousands of other families, were violently evicted from their homes by Zionist militias led by Yitzhak Rabin.

Habash was at that time a student at the American University of Beirut (AUB), where he had already been inspired by the Arab nationalist ideas in the student club al-'Urwah al-Wuthqah. He did not wait long to initiate action in revenge after the founding of Israel (we should refer to it as "the destruction of Palestine," as Zionist propaganda in the West has succeeded in portraying Palestinian national aspirations as an act of "destruction") -- and revenge was his motive early on. He joined ranks with an Egyptian activist to engage in small-scale bombings in Lebanon and Syria. Some of the attacks were actually terrorist: as when a synagogue was bombed. The early Habash was anti-Jewish, but that would change with time. But this small group, Kata'ib al-Fida' al-'Arabi, was easy for the authorities to dismantle.

Habash subsequently realized that mass movement and collective action was required. He joined forces with his fellow AUB medical student, the brilliant tactician Wadi' Haddad, who wanted action and was impatient with theorization and ideological squabbles that occupied hours of meetings. (Haddad's slogan, "Going after the enemy, everywhere" became the motto for his organization when he was forced to split off from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in 1971.)

Habash and Haddad joined with other students (who were influenced by the writings and ideas of AUB history professor Constantine Zurayq) to form the Movement of Arab Nationalists. This movement was one of the early political and organizational echoes of the occupation of Palestine in 1948 and left a mark on Arab contemporary politics, inspiring and initiating political organizations throughout the Arab world.

After their graduation from AUB, Habash and Haddad established a clinic for poor refugees in Jordan. There they contributed to the Arab nationalist stirrings that forced King Hussein to oust Glubb Pasha, the British officer who commanded the army, in 1956.

Habash and his comrades also tried to reunite with the Ba'th but came away with the impression that the liberation of Palestine and "armed struggle" were not a priority for the Ba'th or for its founder Michel 'Aflaq.

Any evaluation of Habash's career should also take into consideration the mistakes, errors and shortcomings of the experience -- some of which can only be seen in hindsight. The Movement of Arab Nationalists was late in realizing the desire of Palestinians for an armed response to the Zionist occupation and threat. It also was not clear in formulating a political explanation of "liberation." "Revenge" was one of the mottos of the movement, but that scarcely amounted to a political program.

The Movement should also be criticized for developing into an arm of the Egyptian regime; Habash met Egyptian president and symbol of Arab nationalism Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1964, and the two men clearly hit it off. In his later years, Habash would cry whenever Nasser's name would be mentioned. Habash put a high premium on an Arab sense of dignity, which he felt Nasser represented in his dealings with the West -- in contrast to the behavior of Sadat and other Arab rulers. One wonders what Habash must have thought when he saw Arab oil rulers literally dancing with US President George W. Bush.

Even in the wake of the Arab defeat in the 1967 War, Habash did not want to break with Nasser despite rising political disillusionment and even anger among the refugees. Habash's only serious disagreement with Nasser was when the latter accepted the 1969 Rogers Plan, a US political framework for ending the Arab-Israeli conflict.

After the war, Habash founded the PFLP which quickly become the second most important Palestinian organization after Fatah, and held that place until the rise of Hamas and the Islamization of Palestinian and Arab politics in the 1980s. The Movement of Arab Nationalists had effectively decided to transform into Marxist-Leninist organizations and adopted the belief that guerrilla warfare against Zionism would achieve the final liberation of Palestine. Unlike Fatah, the PFLP stressed political indoctrination and carefully screened recruits. Young Arabs from different countries joined the struggle, receiving training in camps in Jordan, and later in Lebanon -- this was well before the emergence of Dubai as the object of aspiration of Arab youths. Palestine was the destination then.

The PFLP quickly suffered from schisms and defections; the first was by Ahmad Jibril, a recruit of Syrian intelligence, who formed his own splinter group, the PFLP-General Command in 1968 when Habash was in a Syrian jail. The following year, Palestinian politician Nayif Hawatmeh, who was mystified by Habash's enormous charisma especially as a public speaker, split off and formed the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). Other smaller defections followed, and the DFLP would not have long survived if it was not for the support and funding from Arafat who encouraged, funded, and armed many defections in Palestinian organizations to keep himself in control.

The PFLP argued that the liberation of Palestine would be impossible without the liberation of Arab countries from the regimes imposed by the West and Israel. Looking to Vietnam, Habash called for Arab "Hanois," and stated that the liberation of Palestine passed through every Arab capital. "Armed struggle" was the major path to liberation.

In its early phase, the PFLP showed the promise of charting an independent leftist path, not loyal to the USSR and even flirted with Maoism. But by 1973, it had joined the ranks of Arab communist organizations that pledged allegiance to the Soviet Union.

The PFLP was active in Jordan, and played a major role in Black September -- the series of massacres committed by the Jordanian regime in 1970 (with the support of the United States and Israel) against the Palestinians and their fighters. The PFLP like other organizations targeted during Black September relocated to Lebanon and helped agitate the Lebanese political situation.

Earlier in 1970, Habash and the PFLP became famous worldwide when the group orchestrated the hijacking of several airliners to Jordan, releasing all passengers and crew before the planes were destroyed. I once met a German flight attendant who told me that she became a supporter of the Palestinian cause after she heard Habash speak in English to a group of hostages in the Intercontinental Hotel in Amman -- and she was one of the hostages. Habash would be a bit defensive about the hijackings in later years; he would hate to be associated with the terrorism of Bin Laden or Abu Nidal. He would argue that the practice was limited to a specific reason (highlighting the plight of the Palestinians when former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir insisted that the Palestinian people did not exist) and for a limited duration. But no fair evaluation should, for better or worse, ignore or gloss over that experience.

Habash also had to deal with Wadi' Haddad who insisted on continuing with "international operations" despite directives to restrict armed actions to within Palestine. As a result of several actions seen as reckless, Haddad's membership of the PFLP was "frozen."

Haddad's standards for action against Israel and its allies were different from Habash's. Habash believed that high ethical and political standards should inspire any political and military action. This is not to say that his organization did not commit some acts that violated those standards, but Habash tried not always successfully to reign in the adventurist tendencies of his friend and comrade. For several years, Haddad continued to carry out operations using the name "International Operations of the PFLP" without the blessing of the organization until he was finally expelled.

George Habash was hit hard by the Mossad's assassination of his PFLP comrade the writer Ghassan Kanafani in 1972, and he suffered a debilitating stroke. Habash himself survived several Israeli assassination attempts; in one, Israel hijacked a plane that it thought carried Habash (he had switched planes only minutes before the flight).

In 1974, Habash froze the PFLP's membership in the PLO when he realized that Arafat was working for the two-state solution. Habash was instrumental in forming the Rejectionist Front which advocated a non-compromising stance on the liberation of "every millimeter of Palestine," as Habash was fond of saying in his public speeches. But here was one of Habash's major mistakes: the front included many organizations that were loyal to or creatures of Arab governments. This gave the Iraqi, Syrian and Libyan regimes tremendous influence over the organizations, including the PFLP.

Generous financial subsidies were too hard to resist, and the corruption of the revolution, which had hit Fatah much earlier through Saudi and Gulf funding, also hit the PFLP, and compromised its political independence. The Lebanese base of operations, especially after the eruption of the Civil War in 1975, also compromised the revolution. It quickly became too comfortable a base and the PFLP, like other Palestinian and Lebanese organizations, did not want a radical shift of power on the battlefield. (But the major responsibility for that lies with Arafat and the Syrian regime who did not want to create a radical political order that could trigger a confrontation with Israel.) The PFLP, at least, pursued a policy of supporting the Lebanese National Movement, while Arafat and his associates dragged their feet.

The Rejectionist Front was disbanded in 1977 when Syria and Iraq briefly reconciled following Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's trip to Jerusalem. This period marked the beginning of the decline of the Left and the rise of the Islamic Revolution. Habash began a gradual withdrawal from politics. He had tried for years to leave but his comrades would not let him. They knew that his symbolic presence was too valuable for the PFLP, and feared it would collapse without him. They were right, of course. One can't speak of the PFLP since 2000, when Habash's voluntarily resigned from the leadership.

I last saw Habash a few years ago in Damascus, after his retirement. It was very sad for me because I had to compare the last image with the first image when I first met him as a high school student in 1977. His revolutionary impulse and his passions had not waned, but the empty office spoke volumes. The PFLP was almost dead, and Habash was politically irrelevant. I shared with him some of my criticisms of the Popular Front's long experience, and typically, he was open-minded and very democratic. I was bothered that he seemed too resigned to the rise of the Islamists (Hamas and Hizballah). In my judgment he was too uncritically supportive of both. "We have tried, so let them now try," he would say, "It is their turn." I was hoping to hear words regarding the revival of the Left but I did not.

George Habash lived his life for Palestine -- every minute of it. He represented a model of revolutionary struggle that is exemplary in its dedication and asceticism, no matter what one thinks of the PFLP or its long political and military experience. One should not hesitate from rendering a harsh judgment against the PFLP; ultimately it failed politically and militarily. And any evaluation of Palestinian political violence must be made in the context of Zionist mass violence that for decades had set out to destroy Palestinian society and resistance and replace it with its own exclusivist vision. But whatever that judgment it should not detract from an appreciation of the profound influence of the PFLP's founder who helped shape the politics and worldview of a generation. The present political scene is devoid of any leaders of such character.

As'ad AbuKhalil is professor of political science at California State University and founder of the Angry Arab News Service (http://angryarab.blogspot.com/)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

From the BBC : Gaza

Shopping and shooting on Gaza's border
With thousands of Palestinians attempting to cross from Gaza into Egypt, or back again, and Egyptian troops trying to stop them, BBC correspondents on either side of the breached frontier say the scene is at turns tense and bizarre.

ALEEM MAQBOOL, GAZA

Here on the Palestinian side of the border, the deadline for the border closing has passed.

Egyptian troops confront Palestinians on the border with Gaza
Tensions have risen, with Egyptian troops trying to force Gazans back

But Palestinians are still coming and going into Egypt. They are crossing through many of the gaps in the border fence.

An hour ago, it was very tense. There were lots of masked gunmen on the Gaza side of the border. There was some gunfire but it wasn't clear from what side.

Earlier, the Egyptians used a water cannon and sprayed the crowd. There was a lot of pushing and shoving. Some of the Egyptians used batons to hit the crowd.

The Egyptians soldiers then stood, shoulder to shoulder, and inched towards the border, pushing the Palestinians back into Gaza.

A bulldozer driven by a Palestinian entered no man's land and started opening a hole again in the border.

As it approached sunset, it appeared that the Egyptian forces were giving up for the day.

People are still moving back and forth - some with mattresses on their heads, others carrying fuel and food.

The Palestinians here are saying that it's a demonstration of people power.

They say that, despite Egypt wishes, they have kept the border open for another day.

IAN PANNELL, EGYPT

Here on the Egyptian side of the border, thousands of Palestinians are now streaming back across into Gaza - mainly men, but also some families.

Earlier in the day, megaphones in Egypt announced that the border would be closing today.

A woman carries goods from Egypt across the border with Gaza
Many Gazans have tried to stock up with goods during the border breach

Palestinians have been buying anything they can lay their hands on in the last few hours of this bumper Gaza-style shopping spree.

Three camels are being herded back into Gaza, people are also carrying bags of cement, computers tucked under their arms, and white plastic chairs.

Many Palestinians have spoken about their sense of freedom in the last few days.

But the mood here keeps fluctuating between periods of calm and then violence.

At times there have been clashes between large of groups of Palestinians, caught on the Gaza side of the border, and Egyptian security forces.

Stones have been thrown from both sides and gunshots have been fired.

The Egyptian troops are wielding batons to march some people back into Gaza.

Many Palestinians here are angry. The closure goes against an Egyptian government promise not to shut the border.

But the Egyptian government is unwilling to negotiate with Hamas, so it was left with very few options to regain control of the border.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Operation Desert Slaughter

Felicity Arbuthnot
Uruknet.info
Sun, 27 Jan 2008 18:31 EST


As I write, on Holocaust Memorial Day, it is impossible not to reflect that it does not take forced labour camps, forced transport and Zyclon B to create a holocaust. When the figures of the dead in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gaza, reach six million, as the world stands by, will they too get their own Holocaust Memorial Day? Will we all, regardless of colour or creed, ever learn, before it is too late?

******

It is seventeen years since America and Britain embarked on their 'Final Solution' for the population of Iraq. The forty two day carpet bombing, enjoined by thirty two other countries, against a country of just twenty five million souls, with a youthful, conscript army, with broadly half the population under sixteen, and no air force, was just the beginning of a United Nations led, global siege of near mediaeval ferocity. Having, as James Baker boasted they would, reduced 'Iraq to a pre-industrial age', the country was denied all normality : trade, aid, telecommunications, power, sanitation, water repairs, seeds, foods, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment.

As I write, seventeen years ago, Iraq would be entering the second week of a barbaric, near twenty four hour a day, carpet bombing, which, then, as now (lest we forget - yet again) scrupulously ignored Protocol 1, Additional to the Geneva Convention of 1977: 'It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless objects indispensible to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestocks, drinking water installations and supplies such as irrigation works (denying them) to the civilian population or to the adverse Party ... for any motive.'

The blitzkrieg on Iraq deliberately targetted all 'indispensable to survival'. Within twenty four hours, most was destroyed. The electricity went off within two hours, leaving patients on life support machines and vital equipment, babies in incubators, or those on oxygen to die. Refrigerators defrosted, all medicine needing refrigeration, blood banks and vital saline solutions for the injured were destroyed. Food rotted and between the bombing and the bank closures (latter for fear of looting) replacements were scarce to unbuyable.

In Najav, seventy dialysis patients, 'old friends', said the senior nurse in charge of the unit, died for want of electricity. The water supply was deliberately destroyed, parts denied subsequently by the pathetic, US-UK dominated Sanctions Committee - a Committee without a backbone between them - and remains lethal to this day. The plan, by US Central Command, it seems, all along. (See: How the US deliberately destroyed Iraq's water. by Thomas J Nagy) The destruction of Iraq's water system has been described by Professor Nagy and Stephanie Miller as: 'a slow motion holocaust'. Few could have put it better.

The telecommunications tower was also one of the earliest casualties, an elegant, soaring, structure on the edge of Baghdad's Mansur district. It lay, broken and crumpled, as did the remains of those who worked inside it. Iraq was thus cut off from the world, the extent of the bombing and atrocities largely unknown for considerable time. Iraqis throughout the world had no way of knowing if their families, friends, loves, were dead or alive. Radio and television stations across Iraq were blitzed so no warnings to populus could be given (journalists too have special protection in wars, but decision makers, seemingly are not only illiterate, but ignore legalities.)

Hospitals, health clinics, schools and kindergartens were bombed, education eradicated so totally that the stores for educational materials, in buildings separate from the schools (usually in a central distribution point some miles away) were also bombed.

Agriculture in all forms was deliberately targetted. Chicken farms bombed, flocks of sheep and goats, broadly half of all buffalo were killed, dairy farms obliterated. Crops, food processing factories reduced to rubble. A war crime stupendous in its immensity, for which not one murderous, genocidal, infanticidal, decision maker or pilot has stood trial. Pharmaceutical factories were bombed, the medical syringe factory was destroyed. And in an especially psychotic policy, the countries who were Iraq's trading partners and had built factories and installations for the country, bombed those which they had built. America's gung-ho goons whoopeed over bombing the Pepsi and Coca Cola factories. 'Bravery' doesn't come more deviant, sub-normal and retarded than that.

Due to the use of defoliants and napalm, half of all Iraq's trees, including the great, ancient palms, died. Remaining palms did not bear their succulent fruit for about five years. In the tranquil, family farming settlements, amongst the palms, women and livestock alike aborted and often died. Survivors consistently described a 'vapour' coming from the 'planes, then the horrific aftermath, affecting those living in the shelter of the palm groves or copses of trees, where dwellers settled for relative cool from Iraq's searing summers. And,of course, in this decimation from above, which dropped more ordinance daily than was dropped daily in the second world war, five times more explosive power was dropped than on Hiroshima. The weapons used were depleted uranium, which continues to irradiate Iraq and the region, the people, flora and fauna - and will continue to do so for four and a half billion years.

'..protection of the natural environment against widespread, long term and severe damage', is another absolute dictate under the Geneva Convention. It proscribes absolutely '... damage to the natural environment (prejucing) the health and survival of the population.' Contraventions don't come bigger than condemning inestimable generations yet unborn, to death and deformity.

The Nuremberg Principles are exercised by the treatment of both civilians and prisoners and the: '... murder or ill treatment ...of prisoners of war ... further, extermination ... and other inhuman acts against any civilian population'.

The 'inhuman acts', committed against the Iraqi people in 1991 constitute war crimes which, since no one was brought to justice, one can only hope haunt those responsible for all time. The slaughter on the Basra Road, after the ceasefire, the fleeing civilians and retreating troops, ripped to pieces, or incinerated in General Norman Schwartzkop's 'turkey shoot'. The whole war, of course, was nothing else. Saddam Hussein had offered, indeed, started to retreat from Kuwait before the carnage began, but as ever, for the United States, conciliation was 'too late'.

Buses, lorries, cars were also targeted throughout the forty two day massacre. Lorries carrying medicines, meat, essentials were burned, with their drivers.Western troops took their repulsive 'trophy photos', with the pathetic remains of the incinerated and dismembered. When the (UK) Observer, to its credit, printed the picture which became the symbol of the 1991 atrocities, the Iraqi soldier, with his near melted face welded to the windscreen of his vehicle, there was an outcry. The sensitivites of readers should not be exposed to such horrors.

Maggie O'Kane, writing in the Guardian Weekly (16th December 1995) describes searingly, reality. Relatives, praying, hope against hope, that those they loved, had somehow miraculously survived the hadean inferno that was the Basra Road massacre.

"On the day the war ended, at a bus station south of Baghdad, dusk was falling and the road was covered with weeping women. The Iraqi survivors of the 'turkey shoot' on the Basra Road were crawling home with fresh running wounds. Their women were throwing themselves at the battered minibuses and trucks, pulling, pleading, begging. 'Where is he, have you seen him ? Is he not with you ?' Some fell to their knees on the road when they heard the news. Others kept running from bus, to truck, to car, looking for their husbands, their sons or their lovers - the 37,000 Iraqi soldiers who would not come back. It went on all night and it was the most desperate and moving scene I have ever witnessed."

There was worse. Think of the excesses of horrors the Western media has deluged its readers with over the years, those perpetrated by people of other cultures, with other features: Stalin, Pol Pot, indeed Saddam Hussein and consider this in Maggie O'Kane's article:

'When Sergeant Joe Queen returned to his home town of Bryson City North California, after the Gulf war, the first thing he saw was a huge banner draped outside Hardees Burger Restaurant, which read: 'Welcome Home Joe Queen.' Joe Queen, who'd been awarded a bronze star, wanted to chill out after the war, but Bryson City wouldn't let him Joe, 19-years old, had gone straight from Desert Storm to become one of the first American troops to cross the Saudi border in an armoured bulldozer. His job was to bury the Iraqis alive in their trenches and then cover over the trenches real smooth so the rest of the Big Red One, as The First Armored Mechanized Brigade is called, could come nice and easy behind him.

'Joe Queen doesn't know how many Iraqi troops he buried alive on the front line. But five years later, in his military base in Georgia, he remembers well how it worked: 'The sand was so soft that once the blade hits the sand it just caves in right on the sides, so we never did go back and forth. So you are travelling at five, six, seven miles an hour just moving along the trench... You don't see him. You're up there in the half hatch and you know what you got to do. You did it so much you could close your eyes and do it... I don't think they had any idea because the look on their faces as we came through the berm was just a look of shock.

'While I was retreating, I saw some of the soldiers trying to surrender, but they were buried. There were two kinds of bulldozers, real ones, actual ones, and also they had tanks and they put something like a bulldozer blade in front of them. Some of the soldiers were walking towards the troops holding their arms up to surrender and the tanks moved in and killed them. They dug a hole in the ground and then they buried the soldiers and levelled it.'

One survivor described the friends buried alive, who he had laughed with, eaten with ...'I really don't know how to describe it. We were friends. I ate with some of them. I talked to some of them. I cannot express how I felt at that moment..... I saw one soldier and his body was just torn apart by a bulldozer. The upper part was on one side and the lower on the other side.'

I hope your nightmares and those of your colleagues haunt for all time Joe Queen. May the spectre of those for whose live burial you and your murderous colleagues were responsible, follow in all your footsteps, for all time.

These mass graves also carry the names of the leaders who ordered the decimation of Iraq in 1991,their military Commanders and soldiers, on every one of them. Ironically, the mass graves of Saddam Hussein have seemingly not materialised, just war graves and those from the uprising encouraged by the US and UK at the end of the 1991 decimation.

The war, of course, never ended. The thirteen year subsequent embargo cost maybe one and a quarter million lives. Additionally, the US and UK, bombed Iraq (illegally) until the (illegal) invasion of 2003. In 2002, they stepped up their destruction of life, limb and of entire housing projects with families within, children playing, doing homework, flocks of sheep and goats with their child shepherds.

'Approximately a year before the United States initiated Operation Southern Focus, as a change to its response strategy, by increasing the overall number of missions and selecting targets throughout the no-fly zones to disrupt the military command structure in Iraq. The weight of bombs dropped increased from none in March 2002 and 0.3 in April 2002 to between 8 and 14 tons per month in May-August, reaching a pre-war peak of 54.6 tons in September 2002.' (Courtesy Wikipedia.)

A recent study by the Centre for Public Integrity, has also uncovered lies of impeachable stature, leading to invasion, by the Bush Administration.. ' The study counted 935 false statements in the two-year period. It found that in speeches, briefings, interviews and other venues, Bush and administration officials stated unequivocally on at least 532 occasions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to produce or obtain them, or had links to al Qaeda, or both.

'Bush led with 259 false statements, 231 about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 28 about Iraq's links to al Qaeda, the study found. That was second only to Powell's 244 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 10 about Iraq and al Qaeda.' (link)

Iraq's post invasion (2003-2007) excess under five mortality has been estimated at over one million. In Afghanistan, post invasion, at 1.9 million (2001-2007.) For another humanitarian abomination of our time, the Israeli siege of the Gaza strip (June 2007 and ongoing)total excess death figures are elusive. CIA figures for infant mortality, however (2004) are woeful at 23.54 per thousand births. Sweden (2007) just 2.76 per thousand births. Given Israel's withdrawal of electricity and just about all needed to sustain life since last June, some serious statistical data is needed - and relentless and absolute demands for humanity and human rights for our global neighbours in Gaza, Iraq and Afghanistan, the forgotten of Lebanon's 'Simmer Rain' decimation, by 'we the people ...' Like Joe Queen's genocidal actions, the atrocities committed in these countries are being carried out in our name. 'Silence is complicity'. (For much more shameful complicity - since 1950 - please see Dr Gideon Polya: 'Body Count', an academic, key and indispensable work.)

'There was no one left to kill', declared General Norman Schwartzkopf after the Basra Road bloodbath, where even the injured holding white flags, and doctors accompanying them were obliterated. 'Morally, we won', an Iraqi doctor told me shortly afterwards. Indeed. 'We are the new Jews', is an oft heard, Arab refrain now.

As I write, on Holocaust Memorial Day, it is impossible not to reflect that it does not take forced labour camps, forced transport and Zyclon B to create a holocaust. When the figures of the dead in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gaza, reach six million, as the world stands by, will they too get their own Holocaust Memorial Day? Will we all, regardless of colour or creed, ever learn, before it is too late?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A new album : Qalat al-Husn

A new album here

Please note : this is the English version of my blog in the French at http://syrie.be
The two versions will not always be identical.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Appeal for Gaza

Joint call to end isolation of Gaza Strip


The following joint statement by 40 international, Israeli and Palestinian development and human rights agencies will be published in Israeli and Palestinian newspapers to coincide with the Middle East conference in Annapolis.


Call to end the isolation of the Gaza Strip


The political, economic and social isolation imposed on the occupied Gaza Strip violates international law and has dire consequences for future peace, development and security in the region.


We, the undersigned international, Palestinian and Israeli development and human rights organisations urgently call for an end to the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, an end to the international isolation, and dialogue and reconciliation between Palestinian parties. We also call for an end to 40 years of Israeli occupation in the interests of peace and justice for all.


'We are living in fear of the devastation of our society. The siege of the Gaza Strip is a terrible crime. I want to tell the world: don't say that you didn't know.'


Culture and Free Thought Association, Gaza


'The blockade makes export impossible so farmers are abandoning their crops. Israeli incursions result in huge destruction to lands and enterprises. Almost every industry in Gaza is facing ruin. This is collective punishment and must end.'


Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC), Gaza/West Bank


'Gaza alone without the West Bank cannot survive. It needs free borders and access. 1.5 million people cut off with no trade or water, it’s impossible.'


Palestinian Medical Relief Society, Gaza/West Bank


'Gaza is a prison. There is no other way to describe it. 1.5 million people are trapped in Gaza and the result is violence. I’m not just talking about factional violence, domestic violence is also increasing.'


Women’s Affairs Centre, Gaza


'How can Gaza be a normal place, how can we live a normal life here? Firstly there has to be free movement between Gaza and the West Bank and open access to the outside world.'


Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Gaza


Israel’s 40-year occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, and its policies of closure and isolation have resulted in fragmentation across the occupied Palestinian territory.


Israel first imposed its closure policy on the Gaza Strip in the early 1990s and since then it has had a steadily worsening impact on access to education, medical care, employment and the economy.


Now effectively imprisoned and with only a drip-feed of humanitarian aid, 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are entirely cut off from the West Bank and the outside world, facing a life without the essential requirements for survival let alone development. Over 80% of the population in Gaza live below the poverty line.


By sealing off the Gaza Strip, declaring it a hostile entity, cutting fuel and threatening to cut electricity, Israel is retreating from its responsibilities as the occupying power. Not only does it make a mockery of international humanitarian law, the illegal policy of collective punishment is only serving to deepen despair and frustration in Gaza. It does not provide security for either Israelis or Palestinians. Crucially, the security of one is indivisible from the security of the other.


The international community has exacerbated this situation by further isolating Gaza and pursuing a 'West Bank first' approach to aid and diplomacy that abandons 1.5 million people to poverty. The violent collapse of the Palestinian national unity government in June 2007 and split between Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank has further entrenched the isolation of the Gaza Strip at the expense of an already impoverished population.


Continuing the isolation policy is illegal and will only lead to more suffering and take the whole region further away from peace.


The right to work and to an adequate standard of living: The economy has been decimated as 85% of manufacturing businesses in Gaza have closed down, over 70,000 workers have lost their jobs, imports and exports remain blocked and production has ground to a halt.


The right to health: Deteriorating conditions and a lack of medical supplies are diminishing the capacity of hospitals to treat patients in Gaza, while patients seeking medical care unavailable in Gaza are frequently denied permits to leave.


The right to education: Students are prevented from studying at universities in the West Bank or abroad, while school textbooks cannot be printed due to lack of raw materials. The next generation is being held back which will have serious implications for future development.


The right to life: Isolating Gaza has not stopped Palestinian rocket attacks into Israel and the entire population of Gaza remains vulnerable to continuing Israeli military attacks. All civilians, Israeli and Palestinian, must be protected under international law.


The organisations listed below are signatories only to the English version of this statement:


Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Al Haq, Al Mezan, Arab Human Rights Association, BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, Broederlijk Delen, B’tselem, CARE International UK, Christian Aid, CODA International, Council for Arab-British Understanding, Culture and Free Thought Association, Defense for Children International-Palestine Section, Diakonia, European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine (ECCP), Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, Gisha: Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, HaMoked, Housing and Land Rights Network - Habitat International Coalition, Ittijah-The Union of Arab Community Based Associations, Medical Aid for Palestinians, Medico International, Near East Council of Churches, Norwegian Church Aid, Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC), Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, The Palestinian-International Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza, Palestinian Medical Relief Society, Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO), Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, Plateforme des ONG fran├žaises pour la Palestine, Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Quaker Peace and Social Witness, Swedish Cooperative Centre, Tr├│caire, War on Want, Women’s Affairs Centre, World Vision UK, YMCA Rehabilitation Program and Beit Sahour YMCA, YMCA–YWCA Joint Advocacy Initiative.

Going international

From now on, I shall publish my posts in English here. Sorry, this is still blogspot/blogger, so you will have to navigate if you want to read me.
annie