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Old 01-18-2009, 02:05 AM   #541
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Yes, I saw an article in one of the Israeli papers and a link to the clip, which was almost unbearable to watch.
YouTube - Israeli TV airs telephone call to father after children killed -English

Everyone should watch and listen to it.



Quote:
Aboul Aish was a single father. His wife had died of cancer. He made his daughters sleep close to the walls of their home in hopes that would keep them safe if airstrikes or artillery collapsed the ceiling.

"I don't know how this man will stand on his feet again after this tragedy," Dr. Liat Lerner-Geya, an Israeli who worked with Aboul Aish, told the Hebrew-language news website Ynet. "He would come to Israel and sleep at friends' houses for three nights. Even though he had all the necessary permits, they always gave him trouble at the crossings. But he believed there should be coexistence and practiced this in his work."

After the newscast, Eldar met with reporters. He said the doctor told him that evening "that since his wife's passing, the girls had been his entire life. He said his eldest daughter wanted to study at Haifa University. Just today another one of his daughters had told him she had gotten her period. 'In the middle of a war you get your period. You are a woman now.' "

She and her sisters are dead.
Gaza: Israel TV news broadcasts a Gaza father's heartbreak - Los Angeles Times
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Old 01-18-2009, 09:14 AM   #542
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You don't need to take sides to take a stand. Act. STOP THE MADNESS.


Soldiers' mother: Stop Gaza doctor's propaganda - Israel News, Ynetnews

Soldiers' mother: Stop Gaza doctor's propaganda

Confrontation at Sheba medical center: Mother of three soldiers interrupts press conference convened by Gaza doctor who lost his three daughters, says 'why is he engaging in propaganda? Have you all gone crazy?'

The Sheba medical center was the site of a confrontation Saturday, as Israeli visitors to the hospital slammed the "propaganda" of a Gaza doctor who lost three of his daughters after an IDF shell hit his home in the Strip.

The doctor, who works at Sheba, convened a press conference at the medical center where he spoke about his daughters. At one point, he was interrupted by a mother of three soldiers who said: "Why is he engaging in propaganda? He's talking against Israel at the Sheba hospital. You should all be ashamed. All my children are serving in Gaza. Who knows what he had at his home?"

During his press conference, Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish, said that his children were involved in peace missions.

"They participated in peace camps everywhere. Were they armed when they were killed? They were not armed with weapons, but rather, with love; love for others. They planned to travel to Canada; I got a job in Canada and they wanted to come with me. Why did they ruin my hopes? My children."

"Why they did kill them? Give me a reason," the doctor added. "That's what I awnt. I want the reason. These Israeli soldiers, the IDF, they know my house. Only a few days ago a tank was deployed across my home. I immediately called the journalists. Israeli officials did everything and moved the tank. They moved and I gave them the description of my house, a five-story house on Salah al- Din Street."

Dr. al-Aish also noted that in the past he was photographed with Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

"I was the only Palestinian in Soroka Hospital who went to wish him well on the occasion of the Sukkoth holiday, and he was surprised that a Palestinian from Jabaliya works in Soroka. He came and sat next to me, and asked me how I managed to become a doctor."

At that point in the press conference, the doctor's words were disrupted by Levana Stern, a mother of three soldiers.

"What's wrong with you, have you all gone crazy?" she said. "My son is in the paratroopers, who knows what you had inside your home, nobody is talking about that. Nobody is talking. Who knows what kind of weapons were in your house; so what if he's a doctor? The soldiers knew exactly. They had weapons inside the home, you should be ashamed. I have three soldiers, why are they firing at them? All of you should be ashamed."

'They don't want to see other side'
After Stern and other visitors at the hospital demanded that the press conference be terminated, the Palestinian doctor said: "I turn to all of you, to the entire world, so you know that my children were the ultimate price, and I don't want anyone to taste what I suffered. I want them to be the ultimate price for a ceasefire, that's what I want. The Israeli government should tell the truth. I want my children to be the victims of peace…I am armed with love and peace; this is what I'm armed with. My children were armed with love and peace."

Referring to those who interrupted his words, the doctor said: "They don't want to see the other side; they only want to see one side. They don’t want to see the others."

Stern spoke with journalists after the doctor left the site and said: "I pity him. I'm completely feel for him. My heart aches over what happened to his children and I know what it's like when children die and a family is ruined. Yet I don't understand why the people of Israel give him a platform at the hospital while our soldiers are lying here wounded. He needs to tell the story, but tell it once, and that's it."
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Old 01-18-2009, 09:48 AM   #543
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"He needs to tell the story, but tell it once, and that's it."
This woman has already lost her soul. It's very sad.
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Old 01-18-2009, 11:15 AM   #544
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An end to the fighting?

The Economist (UK), Jan 18th


Israel and Hamas have separately announced ceasefires in their three-week war in Gaza. Hamas’s announcement of a one-week halt in hostilities came from a spokesman for the Islamist group in Damascus on the afternoon of on Sunday January 18th, some 12 hours after a unilateral Israeli “cessation of aggressive operations” went into effect in the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli ceasefire was broken within hours by Hamas rocket fire across the border and by sporadic fire-fights within Gaza, some triggering Israel air attacks. Nevertheless, the overall intensity of the fighting has dropped markedly, and the hope is that with Hamas’s announcement it would subside completely. Israeli troops remain deployed around Gaza City and to the south, across the middle of the Gaza Strip. Hamas said it “gives them a week” to withdraw. Israel says it will leave “at a time of its choosing” contingent on the truce being kept.

The ceasefire came in response to Egypt’s diplomatic efforts. The leaders of Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain attended a summit with Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Sunday to demonstrate support and discuss ways of helping to block arms-smuggling into the Gaza Strip. Britain has offered naval units to patrol the coast and Germany has promised technical assistance to help seal smuggling tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border. America, in a memorandum of understanding signed with Israel on Friday, pledged to step up its co-operation with Egypt, Israel and other states to stop the flow of arms from Iran to Hamas. Western and Arab governments, together with the UN, are also discussing proposals for short-term humanitarian aid and longer-term economic reconstruction for the Gaza Strip. More than 1200 people were killed during the 22 days of warfare in Gaza, at least half of them civilians. Damage to government buildings and to some residential areas has been devastating.

Western diplomatic sources say that an undercurrent of international consultations was the hope of restoring the Palestinian Authority (PA) to power in the Gaza Strip, on the back of the reconstruction effort. Mahmoud Abbas, the PA’s president, whose forces were defeated and ousted from Gaza by Hamas in 2007 “could hardly ride back in on Israeli tanks,” a diplomat observed, “but he might be able to on a wave of Arab and international aid to the people of Gaza.” Reconstruction, he said, was “not just a humanitarian issue; it is a strategic-political issue.”

In Israel, where support for the war has remained high despite the scenes of carnage in Gaza and mounting international condemnation, the public was jarred by the tragedy of one Palestinian family. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish, a doctor who lives in the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza and works in a hospital in Israel, lost three of his six daughters and a cousin when an Israeli tank shelled his home on Friday. His anguished, desperate phone calls were broadcast live on Israeli television. Too late, he and surviving family members, some injured, were ferried by ambulance into Israel. His tear-choked remonstrations from the hospital were screened over and over during the weekend. “This is our victory image”, wrote Yossi Sarid, a former leader of the left-wing Meretz Party, who opposed Israel’s military action. The party’s present leader, Haim Oron, was more representative of mainstream opinion in the peace camp, which favoured the war but grew increasingly uncomfortable as it dragged on. “As one who supported the use of force,” he said on Saturday, “I am seriously concerned that we may have violated the limits that we impose upon ourselves.” Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, and the defence minister, Ehud Barak, appearing together before the world press to announce the ceasefire, both insisted that the Israeli army had tried to minimise civilian casualties.

Unfortunately for Israel the rest of the world will remember the heavy civilian casualties without necessarily accepting Mr Barak’s attribution of most of them to Hamas’s “murderous cynicism” operating out of “schools, mosques and hospitals…using the civilian population as a human shield.” Mr Olmert said the organization had “held the Gaza population hostage” and he gave warning that if Hamas ignored the ceasefire “it will be surprised again by Israel’s determination. I do not advise them to try us.”

With the war probably winding down the Israeli election campaign will now quickly pick up. Polling day is February 10th. The opposition Likud Party, under Binyamin Netanyahu, has already begun criticising the government for stopping the war too soon, instead of driving farther into Gaza and dismembering Hamas rule there more completely. But the party’s strategists will need to be careful to avoid criticising the army, which is widely felt to have performed well.
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Old 01-18-2009, 07:58 PM   #545
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ok what is Israel to do? they have had a cease-fire in effect for some time, but obviosuly hamas doesnt swing that way and continue to lob mortars and missles into israel. Seriosuly. How would you feel if your neighboring city or town was launching missles at you?

Oh and btw, the American media is not biased towards Isreal, rather it is agianst it. All they've talked about is all the civilians killed by Isreal. Frankly, I think its Hamas fault. They are terrorists who are using Gazans as human shields. Innocent people die in war. Its a sad but true fact. Cant prevent it.
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Old 01-20-2009, 11:47 AM   #546
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Originally Posted by yolland View Post
Yes, I saw an article in one of the Israeli papers and a link to the clip, which was almost unbearable to watch. That doctor has also been a peace activist and longtime advocate of and participant in various Israeli-Palestinian joint projects, making the irony, if that's the right word, all the more vicious. And speaking of irony, when I watched the clip last night, we'd just taken our own son to the hospital (nothing serious, he'll be fine) and I'd brought my laptop knowing I'd be spending several hours in a waiting room, so I'm sitting there in this hospital with all these doctors and other sick children's parents milling around, watching as this doctor and father thousands of miles away in Gaza takes an interview call from Israeli TV at home while still in the moment of grasping that the shell which just hit the house has killed his daughters, brother and nephews, as the overwhelmed anchorman gropes and stumbles for words before coming to his senses and offering to summon transport to a hospital for the remaining wounded. I don't know which clip you saw, maybe there's one with subtitles available now, but anyway you don't really need any Hebrew to grasp the emotional weight of what happens.

And once again, from the IDF there was this "Oops sorry, there were militants firing on us--don't blame us, it's all their fault!" rationalization; you get the unnerving and deeply disturbing sense that this has become a kind of reflexive mantra meant to beat away all suggestions that Maybe we've gone too far, Maybe the IDF aren't adequately implementing their own ethical guidelines--even among those who supported the operation, the bombing of Hamas buildings etc. but (one would hope) are nonetheless still capable of being moved to re-evaluate actions with high 'collateral damages.' That kind of thinking can so easily slide into a full-fledged collective-punishment mentality, where the truth is that pretty much anything and everything which might 'hurt their morale' starts to sound good.

This is not aimed at you personally, only the quite common sentiment you're referencing, but I just want to reiterate that while these frustrations and internalized inhibitions are understandable, they're simply not a morally acceptable rationalization for becoming so cynically apathetic as to not personally take action though the usual citizen participation channels--watch your local newspapers and check this calendar for information on organized protests in your vicinity, contact your Congress(wo)men, contact the President-Elect (shortly to be reachable at the White House), and donate to and sign petitions and letters for J Street (there are many pro-peace organizations focused on Israel/Palestine, but this one is especially important since they're also a lobbying group/PAC, and are therefore directly engaged with Capitol Hill). Congress.org also has a national and local media contacts page where you can write to presidents and editors of major media outlets to share your concerns about bias in coverage. I don't personally advocate grassroots across-the-board boycotts or divestment at this time, since the prior possibilities of intense diplomatic pressure and conditional foreign aid cutbacks haven't even remotely been exhausted yet (especially by our own government, the one best-placed to do so); however, several of the major US pro-peace organizations have for several years now advocated at least divesting from and boycotting companies like Caterpillar and Motorola, whose equipment is used extensively by the IDF as part of the maintenance apparatus of the occupation. No one is or has been stopping anyone from doing all of the above, and we have only ourselves to blame if we haven't been doing them. If everyone who wants to see a change in US Middle East policy were willing to take these steps regularly, then we could at the very least certainly have a much bigger impact in Washington than we've been having.


---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The unilateral ceasefire Israel declared today is, unfortunately, almost certainly doomed to be short-term, because there's still no negotiated agreement with Hamas, whose leadership currently appears fatally split on whether to accept the restoration of Palestinian Authority control over the Rafah crossing called for by the Egyptian ceasefire proposal's anti-smuggling measures. Which in turn means that Israel is unlikely to reopen its own Gaza crossings...which in turn means a continuing humanitarian crisis and no peace. I guess for now we can only hope that one of the Obama Administration's first priorities will be to strongly pressure Israel to reopen their own crossings, even if their troops remain in Gaza pending a viable negotiated agreement.
Thank you for the information. And no, I did not take it personal. I do feel, at least with the people I know. We want to see peace between Israel and Palestine. I think there are many Jewish Americans who would also like to see this happen. As Anna said in her video.
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Old 01-22-2009, 12:01 AM   #547
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Ha'aretz (Editorial), Jan. 22

...The questions are plentiful and troubling: the mass killing of civilians, among them 300 children and 100 women; the shooting at medical crews; the use of illegal munitions against a civilian population, including white phosphorus shells; the prevention of the evacuation of wounded; bombing and shelling of schools, hospitals, supply convoys and a UN facility. These questions cannot remain unanswered. The suspicion that Israel committed war crimes in Gaza is liable to cause it great damage. This is precisely the moment at which Israel needs to preempt the others and investigate itself. It is impossible to ignore what has already been reported, and one must not leave the task of investigating solely to foreign bodies, some of whom are hostile. Israel also needs to ask itself what was done in its name in Gaza. Were deeds that are never to be done, even in a time of war, perpetrated? Has the IDF crossed the line according to international law? Was there no other way apart from such widespread killing and destruction?

Israel does not need this probe solely because of image considerations. Its moral profile in its own eyes is invaluably important. Now, the time has come for a Winograd committee for this war: an independent legal official who will probe all accusations.


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Reuters, Jan. 22

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- The PLO said Wednesday any resumption of peace talks with Israel would require the Jewish state to commit to withdraw from land occupied in 1967 and freeze all settlement activity. The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) issued a statement in the West Bank city of Ramallah after new US President Barack Obama telephoned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in his first full day in office Wednesday.

"The Palestinian leadership are not ready to return to political negotiations with Israel unless there is a new basis for talks," the PLO said, without elaborating. It said it wanted to conduct talks on the basis of the Arab peace initiative of 2002 which offers Israel peace and normal relations with all Arab countries in return for withdrawal from all territory captured in the 1967 war. Successive Israeli governments have either ignored or rejected the offer, which would require Israel to dismantle settlements which house hundreds of thousands of Jews.
Quote:
New York Times, Jan. 21

With the rule of Hamas in Gaza apparently unchallenged and its popularity growing in the West Bank, the new Obama administration faces an immediate policy choice: support a Palestinian unity government, as Egypt and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, want, or continue to isolate Hamas and concentrate on building up the West Bank as a political alternative to radical Islam. The issue is urgent because of the international effort to rebuild a bombed-out Gaza while trying to avoid letting Hamas take credit for the reconstruction, as Hezbollah did in southern Lebanon after the 2006 war. But the choice is more fundamental. It goes to the heart of what President Obama can accomplish in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process when the Palestinian side remains violently divided against itself.

In a series of calls to Middle Eastern leaders on Wednesday, President Obama did not tip his hand, simply calling for a role for the Palestinian Authority in Gaza’s reconstruction. But many Middle East experts are eager to hear whether the Obama administration will try to create a credible, unified Palestinian government that could negotiate and enforce a state-to-state relationship with Israel, the essence of the so-called two-state solution that has dominated peace negotiations.

...Egypt, Saudi Arabia and even some in Israel favor a national unity government that would enable the Palestinian Authority to be seen as at least notionally in charge of the rebuilding in Gaza. But even if the antipathies between Hamas and Fatah, which controls the West Bank, could be overcome, a deal would almost certainly entail early elections that Fatah might very well lose. The Gaza war has been bad for Fatah, and its popularity is plunging. Hamas is feeling victorious after surviving the Israeli pounding and is unlikely to allow Fatah to restore its presence, even for an election, in an angry Gaza. The essential issue, and not for the first time, is whether Israel and the West should engage Hamas as an indisputable fact, in the hope that Israeli military power and political reality will trump Hamas’s religious conviction that Israel must be destroyed, or instead continue to confront and isolate Hamas, in the hope that Fatah can somehow be resurrected or some third force be created around Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who is seen as a more capable leader.

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France is trying to get ahead of the argument, suggesting that France would deal with Hamas as part of a national unity government that rejects the use of violence. But putting such a government together will not be easy, and Hamas has said its demands will be tougher than before the war. These will include the release of all Hamas political prisoners held in the West Bank and the opening of the crossings into Gaza. “Hamas feels it has come out unbroken and popular among Palestinians and Arabs,” said Khalil Shikaki, a Palestinian analyst and pollster. “French statements also embolden it. Hamas won’t accept a government led by Fayyad and would want to lead it,” a prospect, he added, that Mr. Abbas “would find hard to accept.” Part of the deal would be early elections in the next six months, he said. Hamas no longer recognizes the authority of Mr. Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, whose four-year term as president should have run out on Jan. 9, but which he insists has been extended under emergency procedures. Hamas has never recognized the legitimacy of the unelected Mr. Fayyad.

Mr. Abbas has proposed early elections for his office and the legislature, which Hamas won in free elections in 2006. But he also wants to change the electoral rules to benefit Fatah, making the election a straight vote for parties and removing the constituency voting for individual candidates that so benefited Hamas last time. Hamas rejects the changes and elections for legislators before their four-year terms expire a year from now. Yet if Hamas did accept early elections as part of a negotiated national government or accord, it could win the presidency, said Zakariya al-Qaq, a political scientist at Al Quds University in Jerusalem, for Mr. Abbas is considered a spent force. His months of negotiation with Israel and the United States have been fruitless, while he has failed to reform Fatah, which many Palestinians still consider to be collaborationist and corrupt. Many Palestinians also think he was too passive and too late in protesting the Israeli war in Gaza and the civilian deaths because he secretly wanted Hamas eradicated, Mr. Qaq said. “Abu Mazen looked weak and had nothing to say, and Hamas comes out looking like the leader,” he added. “People think the man is over. It’s not a question now of the legality of Abu Mazen, but his legitimacy as a leader.”

...Mr. Obama is not the only new leader on the horizon. Israeli elections are scheduled for Feb. 10, and the conservative candidate, Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud, is expected to win. Mr. Netanyahu supported the war and believes that Hamas is an eternal enemy, an ally of Iran, and must be defeated.

Mr. Grinstein, of the policy research group in Tel Aviv, said that in the current confusion, it might be better for Mr. Obama not to reach for “unobtainable objectives,” but instead to explore an older idea: recognition of Palestinian sovereignty while the borders are still being negotiated and Israel unilaterally pulls out of more West Bank settlements. Ziad Abu Amr, an independent legislator from Gaza close to both Fatah and Hamas, said he hoped that this time the international community would support a Palestinian unity government and open the crossings. Negotiation will be difficult, he said, but Hamas is a reality, and “maybe this is the time to engage Hamas and the other factions, since Hamas showed a lot of pragmatism and accepted this cease-fire.” With Mr. Obama, he said, “this idea may be revived—it requires some wisdom and flexibility, and the international community should respect the choice of the Palestinian people.” As for Israel, he said, “we’ll just have to see what emerges on the other side.”
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Old 02-01-2009, 02:02 PM   #548
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Such a "reasonable" organization to deal with...

Hamas leader praises Iran's help in Gaza 'victory' - CNN.com

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Hamas leader praises Iran's help in Gaza 'victory'

TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal on Sunday praised Iran for helping Hamas achieve "victory" over Israel in Gaza, according to Iranian media reports.

"The victory of the people of Gaza was a miracle of God and the Islamic Republic definitely has a share in this victory," Meshaal said after meeting with Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency.

Meshaal arrived in Tehran for his first visit to the country since Israel's recent military offensive on Gaza, Iranian media reported. He also met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

Meshaal -- who lives in exile in Syria -- is the head of Hamas, which rules the Palestinian territory of Gaza. Hamas has claimed victory over Israeli forces, saying the Jewish state failed to destroy its ability to fire rockets at southern Israel. But Israel has said it achieved its goal in Gaza, which was to change the security situation for southern Israel.

According to Fars News Agency, Khamenei congratulated Meshaal, saying, "The people of Gaza and the Islamic Resistance made us all proud and with their patience and perseverance successfully passed this very difficult test."

The Iranian leader stressed that that the war in Gaza has not yet ended, noting that "the Islamic Resistance must, with full alertness and in proper ways, prepare itself fully for the possibility of the beginning of another war," Fars reported.

Khamenei denounced some Arab countries for criticizing Hamas, and called for Israeli leaders to be tried for war crimes.

Meshaal vowed that the "Palestine government has not, and will not, accept any of the enemy's conditions, including the 2005 agreement regarding the Rafa crossing and the permanent cease-fire."

The Palestinian government is split between Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Fatah, which controls the West Bank. Israel and the United States do not directly negotiate with Hamas, which both countries consider a terrorist organization.

Iran has supported Hamas during and since the 22-day Israeli military operation, which ended more than a week ago after Israeli forces pulled out of Gaza. Tehran held a day of mourning for the Palestinian victims, and protested the Israeli operation.

U.S. and Israeli officials have accused Iran of providing weapons, training and cash to Hamas militants in Gaza.

Israel said its goal was to stop militants in the territory from firing rockets on southern Israel. But Palestinian militants on Sunday fired 10 rockets and mortar shells into Israel -- in violation of the cease-fire -- slightly wounding two Israeli soldiers and one civilian.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised a "sharp Israeli response" to the ongoing strikes.

Some analysts have said that Israel was sending a message to Hezbollah when it launched its military offensive in Hamas-ruled Gaza. Iran and Syria are key supporters of Hezbollah, which is considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the United States.
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Old 02-01-2009, 03:35 PM   #549
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Iran is to Hamas as the USA is to Israel.
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Old 02-01-2009, 04:40 PM   #550
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Iran is to Hamas as the USA is to Israel.


so one isn't any better than the other, then? we're all on equal footing?
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Old 02-01-2009, 05:01 PM   #551
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some times you only have to choose one thing

and one easy choice is
that the Israeli assault on Gaza was an abomination, replete with War Crimes
funded with some U S dollars and supplied with U S weapons

Quote:
We know that several hundred children lost their lives in the assault, and that some appear to have been shot at close range. There are reports of family members being shot in front of each other. Israeli forces entered Gaza homes and apparently used people as human shields. Israel is now being investigated for using unconventional weapons like white phosphorous and dense inert metal explosive (DIME).
http://www.mecaforpeace.org/article.php?id=423
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Old 02-01-2009, 05:30 PM   #552
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I think whoever in the Israeli government who was responsible for the attacks needs to be sent to trial for war crimes. They could have done a much better job attacking Hamas, without killing innocent civilians.
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Old 02-01-2009, 11:47 PM   #553
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Unfortunately it won't be that simple; neither party to the Gaza conflict is a party to the Rome Statute, so the International Criminal Court has no jurisdiction in the matter unless granted UN Security Council authorization--highly unlikely to happen, not least because the US, itself not a party to the Rome Statute, would almost certainly veto it. (Technically an authorization could proceed if the US opted to abstain, as we did during the referral of Sudan's president to the ICC, but again this is highly unlikely.) The Security Council could alternatively establish a commission of inquiry or ad hoc tribunal of its own to investigate, as was done in Rwanda's case for example, but this too is unlikely. The International Court of Justice could issue an 'advisory opinion' with referral from the UN General Assembly, but those have even less practical force. The most likely route to a war crimes conviction would be via one of the half-dozen or so countries recognizing the controversial 'universal jurisdiction' principle, which would almost certainly mean Israel refusing to allow any of its defense or military officials to travel to the convicting country (for fear of their being arrested), but other than that, wouldn't have nearly as much perceived moral force as an ICC/UN conviction.



Israel responded to the recent rocket and mortar strikes from Gaza by bombing the buffer zone near the Rafah crossing (where the smuggling tunnels are located), and once again conflicting statements from Jerusalem suggest a split over how to proceed, this time between Kadima (Olmert-Livni) and Labor (Barak). Hopefully the ongoing Cairo talks will yield something more conclusive later this week. FWIW, since the ceasefire Barak has been talking relatively less bellicose than the other PM candidates; unfortunately, he's slipped well behind them in the polls. In fact, based on the latest projections, the ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu party might well wind up outperforming Labor in next week's elections, which is, frankly, a revolting prospect.
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Old 02-02-2009, 12:26 AM   #554
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An interesting recent article from Ha'aretz about the Israeli government's role in the illegal settlements:

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Secret Israeli database reveals full extent of illegal settlement


Just four years ago, the defense establishment decided to carry out a seemingly elementary task: establish a comprehensive database on the settlements. Brigadier General (res.) Baruch Spiegel, aide to then defense minister Shaul Mofaz, was put in charge of the project. For over two years, Spiegel and his staff, who all signed a special confidentiality agreement, went about systematically collecting data, primarily from the Civil Administration. One of the main reasons for this effort was the need to have credible and accessible information at the ready to contend with legal actions brought by Palestinian residents, human rights organizations and leftist movements challenging the legality of construction in the settlements and the use of private lands to establish or expand them.

The painstakingly amassed data was labeled political dynamite. The defense establishment, led by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, steadfastly refused to publicize the figures, arguing, for one thing, that publication could endanger state security or harm Israel's foreign relations. Someone who is liable to be particularly interested in the data collected by Spiegel is George Mitchell, President Barack Obama's special envoy to the Middle East, who came to Israel this week for his first visit since his appointment. It was Mitchell who authored the 2001 report that led to the formulation of the road map, which established a parallel between halting terror and halting construction in the settlements.

The official database, the most comprehensive one of its kind ever compiled in Israel about the territories, was recently obtained by Ha'aretz. Here, for the first time, information the state has been hiding for years is revealed. An analysis of the data reveals that, in the vast majority of the settlements--about 75%--construction, sometimes on a large scale, has been carried out without the appropriate permits or contrary to the permits that were issued. The database also shows that, in more than 30 settlements, extensive construction of buildings and infrastructure (roads, schools, synagogues, yeshivas and even police stations) has been carried out on private lands belonging to Palestinian West Bank residents.

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The information contained in the database does not conform to the state's official position, as presented, for instance, on the Foreign Ministry Web site, which states: "Israel's actions relating to the use and allocation of land under its administration are all taken with strict regard to the rules and norms of international law--Israel does not requisition private land for the establishment of settlements." Since in many of the settlements, it was the government itself, primarily through the Ministry of Construction and Housing, that was responsible for construction, and since many of the building violations involve infrastructure, roads, public buildings and so on, the official data also demonstrate government responsibility for the unrestrained planning and lack of enforcement of regulations in the territories. The extent of building violations also attests to the poor functioning of the Civil Administration, the body in charge of permits and supervision of construction in the territories.

According to the 2008 data from the Central Bureau of Statistics, approximately 290,000 Jews live in the 120 official settlements and dozens of outposts established throughout the West Bank over the past 41 years. [ ** That figure doesn't include East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights; the number would be roughly half a million counting those. --y. ** ] "Nothing was done in hiding," says Pinchas Wallerstein, director-general of the Yesha Council of settlements and a leading figure in the settlement project. "I'm not familiar with any [building] plans that were not the initiative of the Israeli government." He says that if the owners of private land upon which settlements are built were to complain and the court were to accept their complaint, then the structures would have to be moved somewhere else. "This has been the Yesha Council's position for the past years," he says.

You'd never know it from touring several of the settlements in which massive construction has taken place on private Palestinian lands. Entire neighborhoods built without permits or on private lands are inseparable parts of the settlements. The sense of dissonance only intensifies when you find that municipal offices, police and fire stations were also built upon and currently operate on lands that belong to Palestinians.

On Misheknot Haro'im Street in the Kochav Yaakov settlement, a young mother is carrying her two children home. "I've lived here for six years," she says, sounding surprised when told that her entire neighborhood was built upon private Palestinian land. "I know that there's some small area in the community that is in dispute, but I never heard that this is private land." Would she have built her home on this land had she known this from the start? "No," she answers. "I wouldn't have kicked anyone out of his home."

Not far away, at the settlement's large and unkempt trailer site, which is also built on private land, a young newlywed couple is walking to the bus stop: 21-year-old Aharon and his 19-year-old wife, Elisheva. They speak nearly perfect Hebrew despite having grown up in the United States and having settled permanently in Israel just a few months ago, after Aharon completed his army service in the ultra-Orthodox Nahal unit. Now he is studying computers at Machon Lev in Jerusalem. Asked why they chose to live here of all places, they list three reasons: It's close to Jerusalem, it's cheap and it's in the territories. In that order. The couple pay their rent, NIS 550 a month, to the settlement secretariat. As new immigrants, they are still exempt from having to pay the arnona municipal tax. Aharon doesn't look upset when he hears that his trailer sits on private land. It doesn't really interest him. "I don't care what the state says, the Torah says that the entire Land of Israel is ours."

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Two years ago, Ha'aretz reporter Amos Harel revealed that the main task given [Brig. Gen.] Spiegel was to establish and maintain an up-to-date database on the settlement enterprise. This was after it became apparent that the United States, as well as Peace Now's settlement monitoring team, was in possession of much more precise information about settlement construction than was the defense establishment, which up to then had relied mostly on information collected by Civil Administration inspectors. The old database had many gaps in it, which was largely a consequence of the establishment preferring not to know exactly what was going on in this area. Spiegel's database contains written information backed up by aerial photos and layers of GIS (Geographic Information Systems) data that includes information on the status of the land and the official boundaries of each settlement.

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[Ha'aretz:] Who is keeping track of all of this now?
[Spiegel:] I suppose it's the Civil Administration.

[H:] Why was there no database like this before your appointment?
[S:] I don't know how much of a focus there was on doing it.

[H:] Why do you think the state is not publicizing the data?
[S:] It's a sensitive and complex subject and there are all kinds of considerations, political and security-related. There were questions about the public's right to know, the freedom of information law. You should ask the officials in charge.

[H:] What are the sensitive matters?
[S:] It's no secret that there are violations, that there are problems having to do with land. It's a complicated problem.

[H:] Is there also a problem for the country's image?
[S:] I didn't concern myself with image. I was engaged in Sisyphean work to ensure that, first of all, they'll know what exists and what's legal and what's not legal and what the degree of illegality is, whether it involves the takeover of private Palestinian land or something in the process of obtaining proper building permits. Our job was to do the meticulous work of going over all the settlements and outposts that existed then--we found what we found and passed it on.

[H:] Do you think that this information should be published?
[S:] I think they've already decided to publish the simpler part, concerning areas of jurisdiction. There are things that are more sensitive. It's no secret that there are problems, and it's impossible to do something illegal and say that it's legal. I can't elaborate, because I'm still bound to maintain confidentiality.

Dror Etkes, formerly the coordinator of Peace Now's settlement monitoring project and currently director of the Land Advocacy Project for the Yesh Din organization, says, "The government's ongoing refusal to reveal this material on the pretext of security reasons is yet another striking example of the way in which the state exploits its authority to reduce the information at the citizens' disposal, when they wish to formulate intelligent positions based on facts rather than lies and half-truths." Following the initial exposure of the material, the Movement for Freedom of Information and Peace Now requested that the Defense Ministry publish the database, in accordance with the Freedom of Information law. The Defense Ministry refused.

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Among all the revelations in the official data, it's quite fascinating to see what was written about Ofra, a veteran Gush Emunim settlement. According to a recent B'tselem report, most of the settlement's developed area sits on private Palestinian land and therefore falls into the category of an illegal outpost that is supposed to be evacuated. The Yesha Council responded to the B'tselem report, saying that the "facts" in it are "completely baseless and designed to present a false picture. The inhabitants of Ofra are careful to respect the rights of the Arab landowners, with whom they reached an agreement regarding the construction of the neighborhoods as well as an agreement that enables the private landowners to continue to work their lands."

But the information in the database about Ofra leaves no room for doubt: "The settlement does not conform to valid building plans. A majority of the construction in the community is on registered private lands without any legal basis whatsoever and no possibility of [converting the land to non-private use]." The database also gives a detailed description of where construction was carried out in Ofra without permits: "The original part of the settlement: [this includes] more than 200 permanent residential structures, agricultural structures, public structures, lots, roads and orchards in the old section of the settlement (in regard to which Plan 221 was submitted, but not advanced due to a problem of ownership)." After mentioning 75 trailers and temporary shelters in two groups within the old settlement, the database mentions the Ramat Zvi neighborhood, south of the original settlement: "There are about 200 permanent structures as well as lots being developed for additional permanent construction, all trespassing on private lands."

Yesha Council chairman Danny Dayan responds: "I am not familiar with that data."

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Beit El, another veteran settlement, was also, according to the database, established "on private lands seized for military purposes (in fact, the settlement was expanded on private lands, by means of trespassing in the northern section of the settlement) and on state lands that were appropriated during the Jordanian period (the Maoz Tzur neighborhood in the south of the settlement)." According to the official data, construction in Beit El in the absence of approved plans includes the council office buildings and the "northern neighborhood (Beit El Bet) that was built for the most part on private lands. The neighborhood comprises widespread construction, public buildings and new ring roads (about 80 permanent buildings and trailers); the northeastern neighborhood (between Jabal Artis and the old part of the settlement) includes about 20 permanent residential buildings, public buildings (including a school building), 40 trailers and an industrial zone (10 industrial buildings). The entire compound is located on private land and has no plan attached."

Moshe Rosenbaum, head of the Beit El local council, responds: "Unfortunately, you are cooperating with the worst of Israel's enemies and causing tremendous damage to the whole country."

Ron Nahman, mayor of Ariel, was re-elected to a sixth term in the last elections...When told that dozens of settlements include construction on private lands, he is not surprised. "That's possible," he says. The fact that in three-quarters of the settlements, there has been construction that deviates from the approved plans doesn't surprise him either. "All the complaints should be directed at the government, not at us," he says. "As for the small and communal settlements, they were planned by the Housing Ministry's Rural Building Administration. The larger communities are planned by the ministry's district offices. It's all the government. Sometimes the Housing Ministry is responsible for budgetary construction, which is construction out of the state budget. In the Build Your Own Home program, the state pays a share of the development costs and the rest is paid for by the individual. All of these things are one giant bluff. Am I the one who planned the settlements? It was Sharon, Peres, Rabin, Golda, Dayan."

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Most of the territories of the West Bank have not been annexed to Israel, and therefore regulations for the establishment and construction of communities there differ from those that apply within Israel proper. The Sasson report, which dealt with the illegal outposts, was based in part on data collected by Spiegel, and listed the criteria necessary for the establishment of a new settlement in the territories:

1. The Israeli government issued a decision to establish the settlement
2. The settlement has a defined jurisdictional area
3. The settlement has a detailed, approved outline plan
4. The settlement lies on state land or on land that was purchased by Israelis and registered under their name in the Land Registry.

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The Civil Administration, which was first asked for a response regarding the database more than a month ago, has yet to reply.
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Old 02-02-2009, 12:30 AM   #555
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The settlement building, aside from being illegal, is also incredibly incendiary and a clear act of provocation. It absolutely does not get adequate coverage in the US at all.

I like this article because it talks not only of infractions of international law, but of basic private law of land ownership. That gets missed a lot.
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